After "Man's Best Friend" you left the band and formed DR. MASTERMIND. The man on the album sleeve impersonating DR. MASTERMIND is you I presume, am I right?
"Yes, I am the "dummy in the middle" on the cover in wig and costume. I made everything by hand. The dummies are Varney's. He is a collector of weird stuff. The band consisted of Deen, Curt, Matt and a bassist, Craig Lower, from MAYHEM. We did one gig only (which will be released on CD and video soon! TvP) and I had Michael Brown and Rick Hofert on guitar and drums."
Why did you never come with a follow up to this brilliant album?
"I never did a follow up, because Varney didn't renew my deal. It didn't sell well enough. I didn't have any backing or budget, so I rented a warehouse and sub-rented rehearsal space. I had wailing metal parties with touring bands such as APOCRYPHA, WRATHCILD (USA), AGONY COLUMN and CRUELLA. I promoted the shows and lived there - It was the best!"
In that same period, you sang on the MAYHEM album "Burned Alive". How did you get in touch with them? I know they opened for WILD DOGS once.
"I knew Steve Hanford as a fan, since he was eleven years old. He took photos of our shows and became a promoter at age sixteen. Those guys liked me a lot and when I was managing the villa (see DR. MASTERMIND song). They used to come over and we jammed in an empty unit on the weekends. I played a lot of gigs with them. MEGADETH, KING DIAMOND and HIRAX also opened for them. MAYHEM later became the infamous punk kings POISON IDEA. I taught Tom Pig how to play guitar. He used to be a roadie for RUDE AWAKENING, a band I was in when I was eighteen."
Did WILD DOGS play any covers in the early days or did you stick to the songs from your albums?
"WILD DOGS used to do "Fire" by HENDRIX (a pretty good version), "Children Of The Grave" (BLACK SABBATH), "Eighteen" by ALICE COOPER and "Dazed And Confused" (LED ZEPPELIN). Usually, it was just Danny and I at the end of the show, until they turned us off! We'd see how long we could go… MAYHEM did two covers "Ace Of Spades" (MOTORHEAD) and "Love Me Two Times" (THE DOORS) on "Burned Alive"."
What's the new line-up of WILD DOGS?
"There's Michael Brown (DR. MASTERMIND) on guitar, Peter Laufman (MALICE) on drums and myself, Matthew T. McCourt on vocals and bass guitar. Up until a few months ago, I worked with Jeff as the crew for a 50's 60's variety band. I was the road manager and he was monitor engineer. I quit to work for arena shows and the stagehands union to pursue this. We made a hard attempt at getting the original guys together and after two years and conflicting schedules, it just was never going to happen. Jeff has a recording studio and formed a group called ZOOMLENZ with Willie D. from CAPTAIN BEYOND and has no interest in the old stuff anymore. Danny is a manager of a plumbing supply company and Deen is the drummer for a well known cover group, called JOURNEY. Deen was supposed to leave us passes, which he didn't, so we snuck in and made it all the way into the dressing room. Even Todd Jensen, ALICE COOPER's bass player (from Portland - He was in HARDLINE and PAUL RODGERS with Deeno) had a hard time getting in. Jeff and I just got whisked back by Deens brother. I thought Deen was gonna shit his pants seeing me! He was surprised!"
What are your personal fave WILD DOGS songs?
"I would have to say "Evil In Me" and "Believe In Me" are my favorite songs."
Did you record anything with your other bands?
"After the first go round of WILD DOGS, I started EVIL GENIUS. The entire band wore wigs and make up a la Blackie Lawless of WASP and ELVIRA, the spooky movie host from L.A. We always used limos and were a real life Spinal Tap in mockery to Varney's insistence that every rock band had to look the same and like poodles. That just isn't and never will be me. We had a lot of fun and recorded a nine song demo album, that never got picked up. Also Varney didn't like the fact, that the guitar players were not stick skinny... I wished a lot that those who were supposedly into it 'for the musical aspect'…… I mean look at Shrapnel, they are dedicated to promoting the unsung guitar hero (if he fits the Johnny Bravo costume). Mike is bald and overweight and very conscious of it. In fact, he quit playing, even though he is as good as any of the players on the label. Because he didn't 'look right'. Well, bollocks to that! We listen with our ears, remember? After that, I went back to 'the dogs' and then gave in and went with Varney for DR MASTERMIND. It was kind of a deal to get Deen to move to San Francisco to play with Tony McAlpine, I believe. Extremely frustrating, because I had recorded such a kick ass record and there was no band whereas with EVIL GENIUS. We all lived together. After that I joined MAYHEM and recorded "Burned Alive". DR. MASTERMIND, "Reign Of Terror" (WILD DOGS) and MAYHEM all came out the same month and in a few European mags, the albums were reviewed in the same section by different people - very amusing that none of them connected the dots until later….I got tired of the whole biz and quit trying to get a band together. A local band called LOVELODE, who had an extremely gifted guitarist, Robert Robinson, asked to be my backup band doing WILD DOGS and DR. MASTERMIND. That got me back into it for a while. We got kicked out of our apartment, because of my beloved cat Barnaby (who has been my best friend since 1985!). We found a warehouse (I was married at the time - never again...). I started Allied Artists, a rehearsal/performance facility and put on concerts. WRATHCHILD (USA) & AGONY COLUMN, DOGYARD and a bunch of other touring acts played there. It was a 5 US$ door charge and bring your own - whatever - like a big big house party- 10,000 square feet! for 500 dollars! I really loved that!! I would go out at 2-3 am and pop a cassette of backing tracks into the PA and turn the lights right on auto and sing my ass off! We did a WILD DOGS reunion, when Deen had time off from BAD ENGLISH and then continued with drummer Tom Moller. We toured a bit (mainly Seattle gigs) and then the lease was up and poof, no more dogs. I took a job managing a coffee store and got together a hi-tech blues band for something to do. We played an empty club every Wednesday for about a year, but had a blast. I got back into metal with an outfit I started, called MEATHOOK, doing material similar to DR. MASTERMIND. We did all new material, nothing spectacular though and we never recorded anything. I was also producing bands at several studios around town and helping to write songs with some of them. I wrote for a local magazine and a few international mags, like Metal Forces and Aardshock. I desperately wanted to make some money by playing music after never getting paid! I joined a few cover bands. We played Top 40 stuff and alternative rock tunes, like ALICE IN CHAINS and stupid BON JOVI songs (with Jeff Mark and Tony McAlpine's singer Al Seahorn ). I hated it!! And again Jeff didn't tell me, when I was replaced. The lighting guy from another band, who wanted me on bass, told me. I didn't talk to Jeff for three years after that accident and only because I wanted to get the road dog job for the fifties band - Ironic isn't it? After this shock treatment fiasco, I started the VULTURES after swearing off music. That was also an answer to Varney's obsession with girlie looking guys. I thought bloody hell, why not get real women? There was a band, called VOODOO DOLLS. The guitarist used to be married to one of THE MENTORS (the hooded rape rock band!). I played guitar in that one and we were called the VULTURES. The drummer hooked up with the guitarist and the bass player took a shine to me (breaking up my relationship with my girlfriend for a while). Hey, it's hard to turn down a good looking woman you can jam with! Anyway, that was the signal of the end, really. We never recorded anything, but we came up with some great songs and played a few huge gigs with Kurt Vanderhoof from METAL CHURCH. Another band I had at the time was MATTISON AVENOO - a character I started when I was rebelling against my ex wife's obsession with GUNS 'N ROSES. I wore thick glasses and a red tuxedo. It was a lot of fun and pure comedy. At the time I was also experimenting with stand up comedy at local clubs (rock audiences don't really appreciate a weirdo comic). Pete and Kip and I performed on a popular cable access show, called Jimm Spagg, whose big claim to fame was that he was always nude on his show. We donned masks and became the 'skeletons' doing DR. MASTERMIND songs. Deen insisted, I'd try out for bass for OZZY OSBOURNE. I really wasn't into that, so I sent OZZY a video of that as an audition. His office sent me a nice rejection letter…"
You even tried to become the new singer of JUDAS PRIEST. How did that go? And do you like their new singer Ripper Owens?
"I really did make a good stab at joining JUDAS PRIEST, although the vocal range is way out of my league. They even sent all my stuff back - tapes, photos, etc. - very nice. They said, they weren't going to continue with the band. Then they found Ripper - he's great! He performed after the JUDAS PRIEST concert here in Portland with a PRIEST tribute band, called BRITISH STEEL. Jay Reynolds of MALICE plays for them. I think he is fucking awesome! I also like Rob and FIGHT. Actually, I go way back with PRIEST and saw them for the first time third on a bill with MAHOGANY RUSH as headliners."
You've started WILD DOGS (with a new line up) again. Can you tell us who's in it and from which bands they're from?
"On drums, there's my long time friend Peter Laufman (MALICE). He lived in Los Angeles for a long time and was MADONNA's limo driver. Further we have Michael Brown on guitar. Michael is one of those guys, who came from a small town. He was doing MICHAEL ANGELO stuff at age thirteen and won many statewide guitar competitions but never really got a break. We played together in DR. MASTERMIND, but he lived fifty miles away. This is the first time ever in my life, that I can honestly say I am in a band with 'friends' - guys who like and care about each other - it makes all the difference in the world. We are like the three musketeers. I never had that with Jeff, Danny or Deen. And of course, I play the bass guitar. By my own account, I'm a monster bassist and have a great sense of rhythm and with a headset microphone, I can be the lead singer on the prowl, too!"
Could you tell us a bit more about your work for cable TV?
"In 1995, I went to film/video school, because I love the medium and that was the first in a series of events that literally restarted my life. Working on big films (I have appeared in a film with David Carradine as morning radio talk show host) and infomercials upped my standards and showed me that the music biz I knew was kid's stuff. I started to build computers. I had been in that, since I published my magazine Channel 69 (paper and on television in '90). We covered all the national acts and printed on slick paper and then we got on the internet. Phil Grasso told me there was a market for the 80's metal. I actually went and interviewed him for my cable TV show. I did a little research and found an audience hungry for this and tried to get the original guys together. We tried for about two years to make it happen but it didn't work out. Jeff and I continued to record at his home studio, mainly songs I did in the VULTURES. We wrote one or two new songs, but there was just no spark..."
Tell us a bit about your internet site (www.usmetal.com)
"Officially, I started US Metal in January 1999. I had a free page and I was just seeing, if I could get any bites for old tapes, I did. My girlfriend sells computer parts and software and got me a CD burner and voila, I started a new way of doing a record/store. I believe that in the future we will have a store not stocked with CDs, but computer jukebox like machines that have custom size printers. So you go up, select an album and hit enter. It burns the CD and prints out the covers. You assemble it and away you go…. Everything would be cheaper, because you don't have to figure in returns and stocking and shipping and all the rest of the wasted expenses. An online record keeper would keep track electronically. You could do market research from that data as well as out the prescribed money into the right account cutting out countless middlemen, who raise the price of music. It sounds so good. If I am thinking this, someone surely must be doing it. I hope really so."
Do you think there's still a market for a band like WILD DOGS (= heavy metal) in the US?
"You better believe it!!"
What does the new WILD DOGS material sound like?
"It sounds very true to the style we created once. Think about kind of in between DR. MASTERMIND and WILD DOGS. "King Of The World", "Hot Wired", "Perfect Stranger", "The Fight Song" and "Dirty Dawg" were the first five songs we recorded last year."
How did you get on the tour with DOKKEN and GREAT WHITE?
"The concert company Double Tee put us on the bill. They promote all the big shows in Portland. They asked us to open for BLUE OYSTER CULT last minute, but I couldn't find my guys, so I put MONKEY FUR in there and was their road manager for the night. They are on my website - DEVO meets THE INSANE - with good remakes of Cheech and Chong and Spinal Tap, they could use some recognition. They are hard workers….. Jack Russell from GREAT WHITE is a really cool guy. We didn't talk too much to the DOKKEN guys. They kinda came in and swooped on the women. I was entertaining (and getting quite a steady stream of laughs - I might add) and split to do the nasty….."
How long did you guys get to play and which songs did you play during these shows?
"We got a thirty minute set: "Tonite Show", "Believe In Me", "Life Is A Game", "Livin' On The Streets", "King Of The World", "Domination", "Freak Of Nature" and "Man Of The Year"."
How did the public react on the resurrection of WILD DOGS?
"They loved us! Only one person in Portland asked where the other guys were. I signed lots of autographs."
What's your goal?
"The first six months I wanted to dedicate to making the music sound good and then get into producing a show. Now is that time. So out come the spikes and the fog and the special lights, that go boom!!"
Are there any other touring plans yet after this tour with DOKKEN and GREAT WHITE?
"We will be appearing with Ronnie James Dio in this area soon, too. We get a thirty minute set. I'm really looking forward to support DIO. I played with him in 1983 on the "Holy Diver" tour. I love all the people. We will be playing new songs. We just wrote songs like "Ridin' The Rails" and "Rock My Blooz Away" and the drum and guitar solo teasers that lead into songs. We are trying to get on the Metal Mania Series Festival in Los Angeles, if we can get there. It's an eighteen hour drive!"
What about a record deal?
"We don't have a record label yet. Until we do, the CDs will be available through US Metal, my web site. I do have a business manager and he will be making the rounds. We have a lot to offer in the way of promotion and that is a plus. Record companies like you to be self motivating and promotion is a love of mine, too. I always wanted to be a guy like Tom Parker (ELVIS' manager) or Shep Gordon. I learned a lot while making my RAVERS record with Andy Mackaie of Universal Music."
What are your future plans?
"WILD DOGS are planning two new records: a live one, featuring all the killer stuff, some DR. MASTERMIND and a new cut as well and a new studio CD. We are planning to record twenty-five songs, so that we have plenty of stuff to go on about. The DOGS second album was a hurry up and it killed the energy. We want to be able to tour and concentrate on that without having to write a CD on the road or in a hurry. I think OZZY did it that way and it worked out well. You can release a second album, when you need to and timing is everything."
Anything else you have planned?
"The DR. MASTERMIND video will be available and I will probably put a bit on CDs. I have been making mixed CDs with photos and music. You can play them on your car stereo or computer and watch the videos and see the pics and biography. We have the technology! We're looking for a label to release our new full length CD. It has no title yet, but it contains a good variety of tempo songs and it's a great deal for the buyer. Like a two for one.."
Any messages or final thoughts??
"I want thank all of the people, who have written me over the past. I just got mail from a guy from Russia yesterday and it makes feel so good to know heavy metal isn't lost on deaf ears and that it is alive again. I originally started US Metal to promote other bands and it took me on a journey that has just begun. Hopefully, we will be making it to Germany for the Wacken Open Air festival and any other festivals. If you want to see us, tell the promoters! We are available and they surely can afford us!!! We have passports being processed as we speak, so we will be bringing our rain gear! It rains nine months of the year here, so I see a long winter of songwriting. If you like it hot, fast and hard, we are the band for you!!! Thanks and good health to you all!!!"
Interview by: Toine van Poorten
(originally appeared in SNAKEPIT, issue #7, 2000.)