A Get Together With Man's Best Friend (Part 1)

WILD DOGS are back! In fact, they have been touring in the USA with DOKKEN and GREAT WHITE recently. Vocalist Matthew T. McCourt is the only original member in the band. We decided to let Matthew tell us the story about WILD DOGS and of course we also asked him about DR. MASTERMIND and MAYHEM. Matthew is a very busy man and his middle name is 'heavy metal'. Read the story, told by him in his own enthusiastic way. The world has got to know that WILD DOGS is back again, but before we go to that subject, we asked him about the early years of WILD DOGS. Read on and hear all the facts about 'Man's best friend': WILD DOGS…

How did it all get started for you?
"It all started for me with THE BEATLES. I used to strum my shirt, when I was four years old. I began playing drums at age eight and by the time I was fourteen, I was seriously into music by doing SCORPIONS songs from "In Trance", "Taken By Force" and JUDAS PRIEST "Sad Wings Of Destiny". I was a huge HENDRIX fan and loved KISS. I used to hang out at the local live rock bar on Tuesday afternoon and offer to help them set up. That's where I learned a lot. A local radio disc jockey produced a number of demo tapes for me, when I was nineteen. It got me a record deal with Matchbox records - a new small independent label - before the term was really invented (1979)."

Did you play in other bands before WILD DOGS and if yes, tell us about it. Who actually played in the very first WILD DOGS line-up?
"I was a teenage rock'n'roller and got 'a pick of the week' in Cashbox, a great up and coming review in Billboard by meshing heavy metal with pop and good ol' rock and roll. Our producer was Andy McKaie, who is now head of the Universal Music group (MCA/Polygram). The band broke up and I hooked up with Mick Zane, who was in need of a bassist. In its original form, we were known as the RAVERS with Pete Holmes (BLACK 'N BLUE) on drums, Mick Zane (MALICE) on guitar, Jeff Mark on guitar and myself, Matt McCourt on bass and vocals. Jeff's sister-in-law was at a local recording studio and they needed a band to record. Picking up Danny Kurth on bass, I switched to guitar and we recorded "Fugitive Of The Law". I let Kip Doran (EVIL GENIUS) play my lead part. We recorded three more songs with Pete Holmes before BLACK 'N BLUE snapped him up. We got their singer Jaime St James (who is actually a killer drummer!) and we recorded the original WILD DOGS five song demo tape with only Jeff on guitar."

Why did Jaime St. James leave the band so quickly, even before you released your self-titled debut album?
"Jaime and BLACK 'N BLUE were moving to Los Angeles, California and when he did, we lost not one, but both drummers. We kept searching and found Bryce van Patten, who has a band called PIPE DREAMS (it sounds a bit like a cross between IRON MAIDEN and HELLOWEEN)."

How did you get in touch with master drummer Deen Castronovo?
"I found Deen at a club after Kip told me about this drummer. I was into killer drummers like Lenny White and Billy Cobham, and I saw this kid who wailed! Everything I needed in a drummer was there, so we hooked up together. I gave him a tape of the WILD DOGS demo. Jaime had left by then and we had already appeared on "US Metal vol 2" with "Tonite Show", so I had a little bit to offer. So did Jay Reynolds. Kip Doran and I did the MALICE demo twice, once with the drummer I am working with now (Pete Laufman) and once with Deen. MALICE chose Pete and moved to L.A. and Deen came to play with us. The other guys, who weren't into such a progressive player took awhile to warm up to his "overplaying" - ha ha there is no such word - … I had a drum fetish. We found Deen in a club with about five people. He was singing and playing drums. The other two guys in his band, THE ENEMY, were on the floor because he had two timpani & xylophone gongs and about a million cymbals.. hahaha… He took up the whole stage! The other two were on the dance floor."

How did you get in touch with Mike Varney?
"I saw a bit on MTV back in 1981 about a guy in California, who was looking for hot guitar players. We had one and we had just finished our first demo "Fugitive Of The Law". We found a SM picture, with a couple in black rubber suits on it and send it to him. He called us in two days and wanted to hear more. I suggested that instead of a compilation LP, he should pick out the best two bands (with the best response from "US Metal 2") and do a whole record."

How did the first album sell worldwide?
"We were Shrapnel's first group album and I think we sold about 40,000 copies all together. It has never been officially reissued on CD on Shrapnel or Roadrunner, but thankfully King Fowley thought it worthy and took it upon himself to do it."

With whom (name bands) did you play live in those days?
"Our first show we played with CULPRIT from Seattle and Mike Varney's band CINEMA. In San Francisco, California we played with SLAYER and METAL CHURCH a lot, QUEENSRYCHE (then called MYTH), SHADOW with Mike from PEARL JAM, RAIL, RANDY HANSEN, STEELER, DIO, GIRLSCOOL, LAAZ ROCKIT, TKO, ANTHRAX, and RAVEN. We were supposed to tour with METALLICA on the "Ride The Lightning" tour. However, our truck got stolen in New York. We also played with lots of local bands, like BONDAGE BOYS in Seattle (featuring FASTER PUSSYCAT's member Taime Down). A funny road story from that time. Once in San Francisco, we played at Bill Grahams 'The Old Waldorf Club' with LAAZ ROCKIT. Danny, our bass player (the cute one of the band) picked up a girlie, which was quite rare as our audience was mainly guys. He was shagging her in Jeff's van with the guitars and amps. He had a girlfriend at home and felt guilty when this happened, so I grabbed the rest of us (seven people or so) and circled around the van singing 'come all ye faithful'. He wasn't too happy with that. That same trip later that night Deens drum tech, called Shawn fell asleep (Deen was a tyrant on his techs, made 'em drive everywhere and work their ass off for no money). After driving twelve hours straight to this gig, setting up the gear to do the gig and tearing it down (we had like eight guitar cabs and six bass cabs and a huge drum kit with lots of cymbals). While being asleep, Deen wrote all kinds of things on his face like 'kill me I'm gay'. He also put big stitches down his cheek, stuff on his forehead. It looked like a real mess, all in permanent ink. He was supposed to meet a friend in a little town about forty miles north at a denny's, so Deen wakes him up, gives him the keys and sends him off to the denny's in redneck California. He gets there and his friend starts laughing and Shawn goes to the bathroom to finds out that he is in need of a complete erasure! The people gave him shit and he was really pissed off, left for Oregon - six hundred miles north. Finally turned around, picked us up and we left for a gig with BLACK 'N BLUE and STEELER; Yngwies first gig with them. I am real close to our old crew. These are the guys I rode and roomed with on the road. Deen took the Pepsi challenge and wrote on Shawn's face a second time that trip outside Yngwies hotel room. They didn't want to go in and party. They stayed outside in the parking lot. Jeff, Danny & Deen wouldn't go in. They weren't real 'friendly' with other bands at the time backstage in the party room. That night we played the country club: Ronnie Dio, Blackie Lawless, Jake E Lee, Chris Holmes, the RATT guys - It was cool."

"Man's Best Friend" received bad reviews in the European press. Who was responsible for the (almost) poppy sound on the second album? Why did you decide to change styles on this album so extremely?
"Mike Varney and the rest of the WILD DOGS (excluding me) were responsible for this change. I have a demo to prove it. It's a rough copy of what the second LP would sound like. Varney had just signed the school boys band ICON to a major deal and was thinking of a formula. We were a much different animal, so it failed. I hated those vocals. They were hired singers Mike knew. Press reviews and outside comments made the others question the validity of innovation like "The Tonite Show" or "Never Gonna Stop", because someone told them the way to get a major record deal is to do this, this and this and it all depends on the record company to make or break you… Wrong! Instead, just keep being what you are and one of these days…."

Was this the reason why you left the band after the release?
"I started EVIL GENIUS without Deen. Originally, I wanted to get away from the whole major label ass kissing contest and work with people, who were more into a group effort. So I put a trio together with me on bass, which developed into a five piece two guitar band. We recorded a nine track album that was never pressed or released, other than on demo. It got some good reviews and we gigged all over the North West. The band broke up and about six months later, I was offered a solo deal with Varney, if I re-record the songs with a few censored parts, wear a wig and don't use my real name. Mike had Curt James in mind for guitar, I was hanging with Deen at the time. Varney wanted Deen for McAlpine to replace Tommy Aldridge. We recorded DR. MASTERMIND and Deen moved to San Francisco. The album was received quite well and no one even knew it was me! MAYHEM came out at the same time with a few of the same songs."

Jon Tejeda took your place for a short period of time. Where did he come from and how come he wasn't part of the band for a long time?
"The band was getting told 'no' by major record labels and one of them said it was because the lead singer is a big guy with short hair... (forgetting that I was the manager, booking agent, publicist and contact for the moment). They went out looking for a replacement and came up with this guy. He had long hair, a small ass and a high voice. About six months later, he didn't show up at a gig and Jeff called me at 5:00 am to see if I would cover for him. I did the gig in California and we ruled! I thought I was back in - at least they let me do the work like I used to - and found out a day before a gig here at home (on Deens birthday) that they were replacing me with Michael Furlong. I asked Jeff, but he denied it. I asked two more people and they confirmed it, so I played the game. I went to the gig and got dressed (our intro had a bunch of noise and fog and flashing lights). Well, I said 'thank you and good night' and walked out. I got in my car and left. I figured they had it handled. The next year I recorded and released MAYHEM "Burned Alive" (POISON IDEA's trio) and DR. MASTERMIND."

What do you think about "Reign Of Terror", which WILD DOGS recorded with Michael Furlong? In my opinion, it's a good album that gets WILD DOGS back on the heavy trail again.
"I agree, "Reign Of Terror" is a pretty cool riff record. A bunch of those songs I recognize. Parts of it were written by Danny and me. They just added a new chorus or verse…. It's a different album."

How did they actually get in touch with Michael Furlong? He made a mainstream rock album called "Head On Rock And Roll" in 1984. Not an obvious choice, if I may say so.
"Michael Furlong was found by their manager along with Tom Moller replacing Deen, whom I'd gotten into Tony McAlpine's band."

--->WILD DOGS interview Part Two<---