Attention Deficit Society & former Toxix vocalist – Charlie Sabin
Interviewed by Alan Gilkeson
Some time back I happened upon a small local music venue with some friends looking for conversation and some cold Diet Coke’s, unaware of who’d be on stage that night. However, when headliner Charlie Sabin busted out an acoustic version of Ace of Spades I was quite taken with his powerfully passionate vocal. Then as his set ran through a bunch of tracks from his band Attention Deficit Society (ADS), I knew I had to learn more about this young fellow and why his name seemed so familiar. Those of us deeply entrenched in Metal circles may recall the band Toxik from the Roadrunner label where Charlie recorded the classic record Think This, a huge critical success at the time. In the years since Mr. Sabin has graced the stage with the likes of Ace Frehley, Joe Lynn Turner, and Mike Suppa, as well as countless others, sort of a Who’s Who of Rock royalty.
ADS are currently working on their first album Songs From The Manor, an eclectic mix of Metal and Rock styling that’s quite hard to pigeonhole genre wise, but surely worth some spins on your iPod or CD player. To quell the buzz happening here in the tri-state ADS have released a three song sampler for purchase on Itunes , and . One of ADS’s tunes is even featured on the Fox News show The Red Eye. Charlie recently spoke to us at Metal Rules about his life in music, from Toxik to his work with guys from Skid Row, Overkill, Kiss, Rainbow, Page & Plant… just to name a few.
I was totally blown away by your performance a few weeks back when I stumbled into that small Richie Scarlet gig. Your acoustic set really ran the gamut of Rock and Metal and then the Zeppelin stuff, powerful and fun. It was great to see you in that setting.
Thank you Alan, Yeah, I have been doing this acoustic thing for a while now. I play a lot of songs you wouldn’t expect to hear done on an acoustic! I like to call it “GOTTA EAT”! People look at me funny sometimes, ya know? But, I get to play songs that I really dig, like Zeppelin, Megadeath, Motorhead, ADS, etc. It is a blast!.
Nowadays of course you are primarily known for your band Attention Deficit Society, and you are really making a name for yourself on the tri-state circuit. Even when you do your solo acoustic shows the ADS acoustic versions are the big hits of the night.
Yes, we are finishing up “Songs From The Manor” our debut record as we speak. We do have a few pre release tracks available on I-tunes, etc now . Come to think of it, I have only done acoustic shows to promote ADS so far, as we have been busy in the studio writing and recording. However, I have been in front of some great crowds already, opening for some pretty heavy bands with nothing but myself and an acoustic guitar, and oddly enough, it seems to work well.
Let’s face it, you’re a real working musician, making a living playing with your solo gigs, and various other gigs you front from time to time, so what’s the biggest obstacle as you try to secure a solid deal with a label.
I have always been “that guy”! The one who works while others sit at home or paint houses every day because their “ego” is to big to let them do anything but the whole “rock star” thing! I just want to play music. Whether it is acoustic, with a rock band, metal band, r & b band, singing/writing jingles, producing other artists, sound design, whatever! It’s all the same to me. Hum, sounds familiar? Lemmy? Perhaps? Ha! Thanks for the video by the way!
As far as a label is concerned, we have decided to self finance and produce this record ourselves. It’s just easier to shop a finished product nowadays. Easier for the label, easier for us, I would be happy with a P & D deal and a promotional budget. In the past, I have been involved with projects that spent money like it was growing on trees, for no reason at all, other than the label was giving it to us! All I kept thinking was RECOUP!
In my opinion, the tracks I’ve heard, Attention Deficit Society should be on a major. Tell me about the stuff you’ve recorded so far and the studio and people your working with. It’s great production, it seems mostly ready to be packaged to me.
Let’s see, there is Tarik Solangi;, Co producer, engineer, & owner of Prime Time Studios in Mt Vernon, N.Y. He and I have been pretty much joined at the hip for the last few years producing this thing. We began recording demos at first and thought, wow, this stuff is pretty good. Why don’t we do a full length record? We put together a list of all the best players around and at the top of that list was drummer Mike May & bassist Jeff Scott. I believe it was Tarik who reached out to see if they would come down and track a few songs with us. Some where around 35/40 songs later, we are still at it! I have been playing guitar on all the tracks, bringing in friends to do some of the solos, to give it some more”flavor”. So far we have had Richie Scarlet (Ace Frehely/ Sebastian Bach), Artie Dillion (Carmine Appice’s “SLAM”), Mike Suppa (Mike Starr of AIC/ 5 Revolt), & Mike Miranda (Snappahead) come down and play! I’m f*ckin psyched!
Tell me about the little piece of your music that’s running on Fox news recently.
We just placed a track (or part of) on a show called “RED EYE With Greg Gutfeld” on The FOX NEWS Channel. It’s kind of Tom Green meets The O’Rielly Factor! Did I tell you, I’m F*ckin Psyched!
So Charlie, how often do you get an email or a letter from an old Toxik fan waiting for some kind of reunion?
I get hits all the time on Facebook! Josh and Tad do as well. I guess there were 20 something dates, confirmed in Europe a few years back. The band had to pull out due to a personal issue of one of the members! And it was not me! LOL! I heard some of them actually sold out in one day!
You sang on the second record ‘Think This’ a great critical success. The guy who appeared on the first record wasn’t an awful singer, but you showed up with range and a great sense of melody, and not just over the top 80’s prog Metal falsetto crap. Yet, Toxik never really broke through. What are you thoughts on Toxik looking back.
Thanks again Alan! Mike did an awesome job on the first record, but the label wanted something different on the second one. Josh, who was living up the street from me at the time, had heard a demo of the band I was in and gave me a call. We started writing the next day and jumped on a plane to Morrisound Studios in Tampa Fla. to record with Tom Morris (Seven Mary Three) a few months later.
I believe there are many reasons TOXIK never really broke out. We were obviously an “acquired taste” with the over the top vocals, guitar riffs, & time changes and all. Although pretty innovative, I just think we were too much for the average listener. Everyone in that band was exceptional at what they did. Not to sound cocky, but I think we all played that way because we could. We were young and wanted to show off our “chops”. That would have been fine had it been used as “flavoring”, but we took it to extremes! One of my main gripes was that there weren’t enough grooves in the music. Occasionally there would be and then it would go into left field. Kind of like “math rock”, before there was “math rock”.
I have a quick road story that kind of sums it up. I remember sitting in the dressing room at a show here in NY one night with my ear pressed up against the wall, listening to the opening band in the next room, going over / writing new songs. I remember thinking to myself, wow, these guy’s just drove up here from Texas, all alone, not knowing anyone, and are writing songs before they go on stage to do a set. I grabbed Josh to show him how hungry these guy’s were, specifically pointing out how much groove the riffs had! He just kind of looked at me like I was nuts before we both went back to our dressing room that was filled with people because “we were on Roadrunner and they were not”. That band was PANTERA. They played simple, groove oriented, riffs in 4/4 time with amazing solos. I also remember saying that night “this is where music going, this is what we should be doing!” It fell upon deaf ears. I left the band. They (PANTERA) blew up! LOL!
Dude, so where do you go after Toxik? What came of projects like Strength and Barfly?
I left TOXIK for a band on RCA records called BARFLY. They too evidently had a singer that their label was not happy with, so Nick Bowcott (Grim Reaper) the band’s guitar player asked me to come down and check out his new project. Once again, I started writing with them the next day and a few months later I was in a van to Toms River N.J. to record at Ocean Gate Studios with Producer Jack Ponti (Bon Jovi, Alice Cooper, India Arie). When it was finished Jack had sent a copy of the roughs out to Michael Wagineer (Metallica, Extreme, Skid Row) to see if he would be interested in mixing the record. He agreed and the masters were sent out to L.A. and mixed by him at The Enterprise. We had all the right people involved with that one. Walter Obrien & Andy Gould (Concrete Management) managed us, John Ditmars (Pinnacle Entertainment) booked us, Michael Wagineer mixed us, Wendy Goldstein (NIN) was A & R, The label was giving us money etc. Then one day we woke up to a label that had completely changed hands. Everyone from the president on down to the A & R department was new. Literally over night! We went from having pretty much anything we wanted/ needed, anytime we wanted it, to who is this? Oh, you have to contact so and so (he shall remain nameless) for that! Walter talked to a few other labels. Atlantic was interested, I think Inerscope, but RCA would not let the masters go. We were f*cked! So we started fighting amongst ourselves, with management, the Falafel guy, and even the homeless guy that lived underneath the stoop in our building! The band simply imploded!
I went around the country looking for a band. Talking with everyone from Jeff Young (Megadeath) to CC Deville (Poison) until I got a call from Jack Ponti’s partner Vic Pepe about a band he was working with in N.J. The band was to become STRENGTH. The original line up was Tony Palmucci (Baton Rouge, Keel, Dee Schneider’s SMF’s) Guitar, Derik Tailer (Dee Schneider’s SMF’s, Overkill) Bass, Dennis Zimmerman (Lita Ford) Drums, and myself. We wrote for a few months and recorded a demo. Dennis, the drummer, lived about 70 miles away from the band house and wanted to make money with a cover band, so we started looking for a replacement. Vic or Tony called Snake Sabo (Skid Row) to see if he knew of any one. He referred us to Charlie Mills (Dee Schneider’s SMF’s, Skid Row). No lie, within 45 min. of talking to him on the phone he had arrived at our front door. He was obviously the guy! We spent the next few years living in the band house, recording, and touring without a label. Our motto was: UNSIGNED, UNLOVED, UNBREAKABLE! Until we weren’t anymore! I was burnt on trying to get a deal and tension was high within the band, so I did my final show with them in N.J. We were opening up for Dee that night. He had gotten wind that the band was splitting up and asked them to be the SMF’s. Derik is now playing guitar with Overkill, Charlie Mills went back to Skid Row for a while and Tony opened a thriving music school in South Jersey! We were negotiating a deal with Pulse records to release the material a few years back, but I have not heard anything lately.
Another thing I like about the ADS tracks Charlie is that it’s tough to pigeon hole your sound. Sure, you’re definitely in the Metal/Hard Rock/Alternative arena, yet ADS isn’t really definitively any of those genres. How would you describe the ADS sound?
That is a good question Alan. I have heard everything from Tool meets Bon Jovi to Three Days Grace, AIC, And Incubus? My favorite one so far has to be Kings X because of the vocal harmonies! It’s funny everyone seems to have their own take on it, which is pretty cool. Those are some serious bands damn it, I am honored to even be mentioned in the same sentence as them let alone compared to them! I just like to think we are a good hard rock band.
If you had to choose one artist, who would be your biggest influence on how you write songs musically and lyrically?
Lady Gaga! For sure!!!!!!!!!! Maybe Taylor Swift, Oh wait…..they don’t write their own songs, do they? Ha,ha. I’m just being a dick! I really don’t know, there are too many to mention, I can’t give you just one! But I will show you my Poker Face if you want!
As someone who knew you from the Toxik era, you’ve obviously expanded vocally since then. It may surprise some people how you use a more passionate vocal as compared to the ‘power’ of that high 80′s Metal styled vocal, yet I’ve watched you cover Zeppelin and you can handle all styles. What kind of training have you had over the years and where do you feel most comfortable, or even challenged vocally?
I studied with Don Lawrence in NYC. Tony Harnell referred me and everybody from Bon Jovi, Sebastian Bach, Christina Aguilera, and a laundry list of others have used him. My bass player at the time was in a band with Tony before he was in TNT called The Jackels. He would show up at shows every now and then and I would just shit myself! Here is this “Rock Star” showing up to support his friend’s band and I would have to sing in front of him! FUCK! It’s funny, I actually just played guitar in that band at first. We were in the studio recording tracks, and the singer’s voice shit the bed during the vocal sessions. Everyone kind of looked at me and said why don’t you give it a shot? I was like, what? NO! The next thing I know I am up front playing and singing. I remember our first show was at the hottest club in NYC at the time and Tony was there. I was like, alright I can do this, so what this dude is like the greatest rock singer on the planet, I can do this. As I kept telling myself “I can do this” in walks our guitar tech saying “you’ll never guess who’s out there in the crowd”. I said who? Joey Ramone? He is at every show in the city, he lives in the clubs! Na, he says, Geoff Tate is out there! I’m like what? No way! Now there are two plus Joey Ramone! LOL! I was scared shit to say the least. I got through it though! What a way to begin your singing career! Huh?
With regards to my “comfort zone”, so to speak I can sing a pretty wide range of stuff, but I really had to work on adding a bit of rasp to my voice. I always admired guy’s that had that natural dirt on their voice a la John Corabi and Cory Taylor. I’m not sure Don would approve though! LOL!
I’ve heard stories about some other gigs you’ve been in the running for at times, including the Skid Row job before Bach, and work you did with some of the STP guys. Care to elaborate on any of these stories?
Yes, I did audition for the Skids back in the day and was called back a few times. I was really young and in experienced though. I was told Sebastian got off the plane looking and acting like a “rock star” form jump, so he got the gig. I still have the demos! LOL! Some years later, I was playing an acoustic show on the Jersey Shore when in walks these three guys and a girl. We proceeded to get totally hammered and they asked me if I would go out to La Jolla Calif. with them to work on this project the following week. One of the guy’s grew up with Robert & Dean of the Stone Temple Pilots in Pt. Pleasant NJ, not far from where I was playing, and actually turned down the gig because he did not want to move out to LA! BAD FUCKING MOVE! So, he wound up being their drum tech for years. LOL! Anyway, I guess Dean wanted to help him out and was trying to get him a deal, so the band re located to Calif. The bass player and I get out there ready to work and all the other two guys wanted to do was party like rock stars! DRAMA! Don’t get me wrong, I was not afraid to partake by any means, but the music was and is ALWAYS FIRST with me! What a fucking waste! Here you have the biggest band in the world at the time wanting to help you out and everyone is out of their minds on drugs!
Having been around as a working musician all these years you’ve met a lot of guys along the way. Who have you met that you were most in awe of and who were most excited about having the opportunity to work with?
I am grateful for having had the opportunity work with of the biggest names in rock! I recently sang on a record with Joe Lynn Turner. He sang the verses and I sang the chorus. That was great! I also got to sing a whole set of R&B songs with him at a benefit here in NY last year! I had not yet met him at the time. After a few songs we looked at each other and were like “cool”! I was blown away that he gave me the thumbs up! I asked him to play some guitar on ADS, he said he would. I am just waiting for the right track to call in that favor! LOL! I guess the first time I looked to my left and saw Ace Frehley standing there was pretty cool! LOL! I also had the pleasure of meeting and hanging out with Michael Lee of Page/ Plant, Thin Lizzy, & The Cult for a good amount of time before he passed. I was truly in awe of his stories of Page & Plant! That was the closest I have ever come to the ”inner circle” of the mighty LED ZEPPELIN!
Learn more about ADS and Charlie Sabin here: