Monday, January 7, 2013

Meister's "Views of the Cruise" - Volume #2 - Jason McMaster



Last week I featured an article concerning a recap of my drunken rock & roll adventures from the inaugural Monsters of Rock Cruise:  Let’s start off this week with a band that I'm highly anticipating seeing for my first time on 2013’s Monsters of Rock Cruise: The Lost Weekend, Dangerous Toys and my interview with lead vocalist Jason McMaster.

Dangerous Toys formed in 1987 when Tim Trembley invited Jason McMaster to join his band called Onyxx.  McMaster was the vocalist for the progressive rock outfit Watchtower at the time.  Jason made the jump from Watchtower, joining Tim Trembley (guitars), Scott Dalhover (guitars), Mike Watson (bass) and Mark Geary (drums) in Onyxx and they soon changed their name to Dangerous Toys. 

Shortly after being signed to Columbia Records Tim Trembley left the band, but Dangerous Toys still exploded onto the rock scene in 1989 with their self titled début recording.  Veteran producer Max Norman (Megadeth, Ozzy) helmed the project and Dalhover played all the guitar tracks.  The album credits cite Danny Aaron as guitarist, he joined after the recording, but before the release of the record.  Videos were made for both Teas'n Pleas'n and the song Scared which is dedicated to Alice Cooper.  The same year saw the band contribute a song to the soundtrack of the Wes Craven slasher flick Shocker which also featured Megadeth, Alice Cooper and more.

Their second album hit store shelves two years later in 1991 called Hellacious Acres.  The album contained some great tracks including the song Line ‘Em Up which received mild video play up here in Canada on Much Music, the Canadian version of MTV.  Sticks and Stones was also released as a single and a cover of Bad Company's Feel Like Makin' Love also appeared on the record, but neither helped the album in the charts and it didn't sell as well as its predecessor.  The liner credits cite The Waste 'O' Skin Choir as the gang vocals on the track Sticks and Stones.  The Waste 'O' Skin Choir included Michael Hannon (Salty Dog/future Dangerous Toys/future American Dog) and George Dolivo (Rhino Bucket).  Many years later Jason McMaster's Broken Teeth would go on to play shows regularly with American Dog and Rhino Bucket.

The next year saw some line up adjustments as Danny Aaron left and Kevin Fowler stepped in for some 200 live shows, but never appeared on an album.  Fowler left in 1994 and Paul Lidel of Dirty Looks fame came in.  This line up brought forth the third record entitled Pissed which had a bit of a harder edge and more attitude than previous efforts.

Bassist Mike Watson departed after the album was released making room for former Salty Dog and future American Dog bassist Michael Hannon.  Hannon, like Fowler never appeared on an album, but played over 200 live shows with Dangerous Toys.  For Michael’s own comments on his time in Dangerous Toys see my interview with him back in August:

Hannon moved on in early 1995 leaving Jason McMaster to take over bass duties in addition to his vocal position and they continued as a four piece band. Their next and final release was a remarkably different style to the previous efforts and they even briefly considered changing the band’s name, but instead chose some tongue in cheek humour calling the record The R-tist 4-merly Known as Dangerous Toys.  The title and album cover are also a bit of a parody of Prince’s Lovesexy album from the same era.  The record boasts some excellent tracks like Cure The Sane, Share The Kill and To Live The Lie.

Aside from a live album in 1999, entitled Vitamins and Crash Helmets Tour-Greatest Hits Live, Dangerous Toys have been rather dormant with the members moving on to different projects.  Paul Lidel is a music instructor and formed the band Adrenaline Factor, releasing it's self titled album in 2007.  Mark Geary and Mike Watson perform as a part of Proof of Life, an Austin Texas based band.  Jason McMaster performs as a member of several bands including Broken Teeth (originally formed with Paul Lidel in 1999), Evil United, Ignitor, Sad Wings (Judas Priest cover band), Capricorn USA (Motorhead cover band), SSIK (KISS cover band) and Ghadzilla Motor Company to mention a few.

The Toys reunite from time to time for live shows, most notably playing in their hometown of Austin Texas and also Tokyo Japan in 2001 and again in 2003.  2005 saw them play in Austin again and 2006 brought Bat Fest (an annual Austin Texas event) where they played with fellow cruise mates Rhino Bucket.  In 2007 they performed a surprise short set at the end of a show featuring Adrenaline Factor, Broken Teeth and Proof of Life.  2008 saw all original band members back for the 20th anniversary and 2013 finds them joining the ships registry for The Monsters of Rock Cruise: The Lost Weekend.

I'm sure that many of you may know Jason McMaster from Dangerous Toys, but that’s only scratching the surface of the busy and storied career of Pastor McMaster from the Church of Disaster as he is known.  I was able to catch up with Jason for this email interview recently.

MEISTER:  How did you come to be dubbed “Pastor McMaster from the Church of Disaster”?

JASON:  I am ordained, I am not a religious man, non denominational services , I can do. I usually only official weddings for my friends, or friends of friends.  Scott from dangerous toys called me Pastor McMaster one day and it just stuck.

MEISTER:  Who are some of your greatest influences, both musically and otherwise?

JASON:  Elton John and Queen were my first musical freakouts. Alice Cooper and Kiss came soon after. It just got heavier after that.  I have three brothers, and their record collections were my biggest influences, they turned me on to so much music.

MEISTER:  You’re the première vocal instructor at the Austin Texas Chapter of the School of Rock.  Can you tell us bit about your role there and your experiences?

JASON:  There is a great staff of teachers at the school in Austin, there are a few other voice instructors there that have my respect, but we are all truly different. Ya gotta have that when you're teaching, there is not one way to get any job done.  The thing about vocals is, as long as you're breathing, and you're not thrashing your voice, you can sing anything.  Seeing some of the kids become excellent singers , there is nothing more inspiring.

MEISTER:  You’re an extremely busy man, also being involved with eight or so bands at the same time!  How do you keep them all straight?  Juggle your time with each one?

JASON:  I am not as busy as people think. I play music, lots of music by choice. Writing and recording, rehearsing, teaching is pretty much what I have to do or I just go crazy.  I don't have a deadline on my music. Releasing material on my own time, is closer to what its like these days, its easier to make time for it all.

MEISTER:  In considering all of your bands, how does the creative process work for you?  What comes first, the riff, melody, the lyrical idea or a shared mood or tone?

JASON:  Sometimes it's the riff before the lyric, sometimes it's a verse lyric before the chorus hook, or lyric.  Differs a lot.  In Ignitor and Evil United, most of the music is written and recorded before I hear it so as to write lyrics and melodies to the songs.  In broken teeth, I get riffs from the guitarists, or write riffs to lyrics I have.  There are no rules. Sometimes there will be a vibe that a lyric is calling for, so if its a gut feeling or mood as you said, that's about right.

MEISTER:  Let’s dissect them a bit more here starting near the beginning with Watch Tower:


MEISTER:  You were quite young when you joined this band, how old were you?

JASON:  I was 17, or had just turned 18.  It was May of 1982.  By 1985 we had gone through a lot of writing and had recorded material for two records. Most of the early material had been trashed and some of the riffs ended up on Energetic with a new lyrical approach, all written by Doug and Billy.

MEISTER:  I have seen “Energetic Disassembly” referred to as the first progressive metal album.  Would you agree with that statement?  Why?

JASON:  When I hear that, I have to respect who it's coming from, if it's someone who has been around that long.  If it's being hailed as the first prog metal, or prog thrash by a young person, they may have read it somewhere and are making the statement.  But, when we started hearing that from Mike Portnoy and Chuck Schuldiner and Gene Hoglan, it made us think about it.  I would agree either way, and still say its all about who you talk to.

MEISTER:  Has “Energetic Disassembly” been released on CD and where would be the best place for one to purchase a copy of it?

JASON:  Yes, its been released and released on CD a few times.  First issue in 1993.  You can find it on-line  Amazon, wherever.  Its out there.

MEISTER:  Is there any truth to the rumour that you were approached by Pantera to audition for their vocalist?

JASON:  Yes.  It was 1986 or early 1987.  I got a call from Mr. Abbott (Vinnie and Darrell's dad).  He told me they had a deal and were looking for a front man.   I turned down the offer for an audition.  Vinnie called me himself a few weeks later.  Same thing.  It was an incredible offer in retrospect, of course.  No regrets.  I love Pantera and I don't need to say anything else about it.  They got the right singer.

MEISTER:  So Watch Tower is still active today?  Are you still involved with the project and if so can we expect any new material in the future?

JASON:  I am not involved with Watchtower.  Neither is Alan Tecchio, or any other vocalist as far as I know.  I think there is some obvious confusion to any release in the works.  The material is recorded, with vocals and all.  It's up to the nucleus of the band to figure out the future of that material.


MEISTER:  So, you left Watch Tower in 1988 and joined a band called Onyxx which turned into Dangerous Toys.  Why did you leave Watch Tower?

JASON:  Something like that, close enough.  I was in both bands from '87 into 1988, but who knew Dtoys would get offers from Columbia as well as others 6 months into the formation of the band.  It was a lifetime chance I wanted to take.  I was a novice song writer at that time and there was a lot to learn.  I rolled the dice.  Watchtower was my life and I missed it and I always was quick to promote Watchtower and I helped them all I could, finding a singer or whatever.  I was happy that the Noise Records deal happened that same year.

MEISTER:  How did you meet Tim Trembley and join the band?

JASON:  I met Trembley in Austin, just out and about. He told me about Onyxx and I had heard they were a fun party rock band.  Something I wasn't really doing, but sounded like they were doing well in the bars.
I met bassist Mike Watson soon after Tim.  Good guys and having fun.

MEISTER:  Why did Tim depart before the first record came out?  Have you heard from him since?

JASON:  I still feel guilt , to this day, for Tim's departure from Dtoys.  We were recording some pre production demo's and for the first time had heard some of Tim's playing.  As a band we felt it wasn't as strong as it needed to be.  That's pretty much when we realized, it was turning into the ultimatum to try to tighten it up before we have to replace his position.  We ended up recording the first Dtoys record with just Scott Dalhover doing all guitars.

MEISTER:  On the first Toys record you worked with Max Norman, legendary producer of Megadeth and Ozzy, were you nervous to work with such a heavy hitter?

JASON:  It was crazy. lots of Randy Rhoads stories and fun times.  He was a slave driver.  We recorded so many takes of those songs just to get the right one.  A lot of work, but I think it toughened us up for the road ahead.  We learned a lot.  It reminded us how green we were.

MEISTER:  The second record, “Hellacious Acres” came out at the beginning of the grunge style movement, how did that affect the sales of the album and touring for Dangerous Toys?

JASON:  Honestly, we were not paying a lot of attention to how bad the music business might have been changing around us.  But, alas, it was.  We were a rock band, not planning on changing anything or having anything to do with any trend following other than the ones we were already following.  But, the Hellacious record didn't move sales like the first record did.  Still did better than most of the bands of our ilk at the time, but it's not a contest, we were still just celebrating rock 'n roll.

MEISTER:  You've said previously that on “Hellacious Acres” you don’t think that the Toys were at their best due to the pressure of the record company.  What was the story with writing and recording that album?

JASON:  We were on tour with The Cult in the USA.  The label wanted us to go home and write the new record.  We were not ready.  That was our opinion.  Reluctantly, even though we were selling good while on the road, we went home and started writing and doing demo's.  Some of the songs had time to bake, we played them live, etc., others did not.  I'd say about half of the material is good.

MEISTER:  Paul Lidel from Dirty Looks replaced Danny Aaron for the “Pissed” record, how did you meet him and what did he bring to the song writing process for the band?

JASON:  We met Paul in October of 1989.  We had started a tour with L.A. Guns, and he and Dirty Looks bassist, Jack Pyers, came to see us play in Austin.  Dirty Looks was playing in Austin, different venue, the same night.  We were all big Dirty Looks fans, as well Max Norman was their producer as well.  Paul joined in January 1994.  He was already friendly with the band, so, as soon as he was here in Texas, we started working him in.  There was no audition process.  The Pissed record was material already written with Danny Aaron.  But, Paul's style was very similar to Danny, writing and all. 

MEISTER:  The record company released the band at your request and you toured and released “Pissed” on your own.  What are some of the advantages and disadvantages to not having major label backing and doing it yourself?

JASON:  As long as you can afford to tour, that can sell your record.  As long as you can afford to have press agents, and booking agents working together in markets that you have that show sales, you can do it all yourself.  The landscape of the whole game has changed.  But, you still gotta be able to afford publicity.  Its a full-time job for someone.  We kept it going for a long time.

MEISTER:  After the record was released, Mike Watson decided to move on, being replaced by Michael Hannon of Salty Dog, why did he leave?

JASON:  Hannon did the tour, and literally saved our ass.  Mike Watson was tired and was ready for some time off to go to school.  We did 200 shows with Hannon and that was a great time.  We were already friends with Hannon, once again, no audition.

MEISTER:  What was Michael like to work with?  I see that you've done some cameo appearances in his current band, American Dog’s DVD “Hard on the Road”.

JASON:  Hannon is a ball of energy and a great rock n roll enthusiast.  I have a lot of respect for his ethic on playing rock music.  He did a great job on the tour with Toys.  We are still friends and Broken Teeth play with American Dog any chance we get.

MEISTER:  The feeling and sound of the fourth CD, “The R-tist 4-ormerly Known as Dangerous Toys” is rather different from the earlier releases and I've heard rumour that you were considering changing the band name?

JASON:  Yes, hence the name of the record.  We probably wouldn't have sold as many as we did if we would've changed the name, even thought it was the same line up just without Mike Watson.  We were just writing whatever came naturally, which was a great feeling.  As opposed to just trying to sound like the band we were almost a decade earlier.  It's different for sure.  I like the record a lot.  Growth in our writing as well as showing some trend following, and so much so we were reviewed as an industrial band in some articles.

MEISTER:  I understand that you were poking fun (parody) of Prince’s Lovesexy record, did that illicit any response/comments from him?

JASON:  Yes. The cover art was great.  The title of the record went with it perfect.  No response from him, but I saw some blogs about people in record stores discovering our cover and knowing its recognition immediate. 


MEISTER:  How did Broken Teeth come about?

JASON:  In 1999 me and Paul Lidel were asked by Perris Record label to write a record of sorta dirty biker rock music.  It was a great offer to do a project like that.  Dirty Looks meets Dangerous Toys meets AC/DC etc.  The record started to sell, so we had to start playing live, which was not in the plan.  Eventually, we made another record, and another...

MEISTER:  How would you describe the music and direction of Broken Teeth?

JASON:  Dirty rock n roll.  Back in Black turning into Screaming for Vengeance.

MEISTER:  Paul Lidel moved on in 2006 to start a new project with Adrenaline Factor, have you heard any of it and what do you think of that band?

JASON:  Great band.  We played many shows together.  Another record on the Perris Label.

MEISTER:  I see that Danko Jones provides guest vocals on two “Viva La Rock Fantastico” tracks-Viva La Rock Fantastico and Big Spender.  What’s your relationship with him?

JASON:  I was turned on to Danko Jones by a fan of his and mine in Scotland.  His records he had out at the time, blew my mind.  It wasn't long after that he came through Texas with Turbo Negro and I went and saw him and was confirmed a huge fan.  We exchanged info and stay in touch sometimes.  As years went by, we had been in touch and I decided to ask him to join us on viva, and he said yes.  His tracks were done in Canada and emailed to us.  We love it.

MEISTER:  I understand that there has recently been some tragedy in the band with the sudden passing of bassist Travis Weiss, may I ask what happened?

JASON:  Travis was a great addition and great man.  He is missed.  There was no foul play, he was not on drugs, out of respect, I won't give any more info than that.  Let's just say it was an unfortunate accident.

MEISTER:  Broken Teeth have just released a new single, “Devil On The Road”, featuring Travis Weiss and a portion of the proceeds going to his family, where is the best place to purchase the track?

JASON:  Yes, the track is all over the place., Amazon, I-tunes, etc.

MEISTER:  What does the future hold now for Broken Teeth?

JASON:  We are writing, and working in new bassist Rob Lampman.  We plan on releasing more new material asap.

SAD WINGS (Judas Priest)/KILLA MAUL (Metallica)/CAPRICORN USA (Motorhead)/SSIK (Kiss)

MEISTER:  Why play in so many tribute bands?

JASON:  It's fun to play music with your friends.

MEISTER:  Have the actual bands ever been to see one of your tribute projects and if so what was the reaction?

JASON:  Not yet.


MEISTER:  For this band you stepped in, replacing Erika as lead vocalist and yet she is involved in writing your book?

JASON:  Yes.  Erika is a wonderful friend and one of the greatest singers I have ever heard and seen.  She has transcribed interviews done for a possible book, which is basic stories of my life.  I don't know if it will even be released to put into a serious project, but we worked on it for months.  As far as stepping in, Ignitor had no singer for over a year, auditions were not going well and they would tell me about it.  My heart went out to them to help with the new record and I ended up loving the material.


MEISTER:  This is a fairly new project for you, with the début album recently being released?

JASON:  Evil United released over a year ago.  We are already recording the new record as we speak.  No deadline or release date.  You can get on-line  I-tunes, Amazon, etc.  It is available in most stores that specialize in metal.


MEISTER:  You've toured with many, many great bands. Who was your favourite band to tour with and why?

JASON:  The legends, Motorhead, Judas Priest and Alice Cooper.  That was with Dtoys.  Watchtower has done shows with all my metal faves, Anthrax, Slayer, Exciter, King Diamond.

MEISTER:  I've read about a couple of tour moments that made me laugh, The Cult’s Ian Astbury in Disneyworld and Lemmy’s sun tanning, can you share both of those with our readers?

JASON:  Ian and I got along great on tour.  He invited me along with his friends to Disneyworld and they wouldn't let him take a bottle of water into the park.  He was a bit angry, but I would've been as well.  And Lemmy wears little red swimwear, a speedo to tan out by the buses.  That's OK, he is Lemmy and he can do whatever he wants, but, all true.  Both wonderful artists that I highly respect.

MEISTER:  How do you get your energy or prepare for a live show?

JASON:  It doesn't take much.  I love rock 'n roll so much, so its automatic.  Some warms ups help, but sometimes it's just the fact that I get to release my inner soul.

MEISTER:  In considering all your touring gigs, what has changed now about being on the road and playing gigs from when you started?

JASON:  It's the same thing, other than I know more now than what I did when I started.  Should go without saying.  You respect the crews that load in and set up and tune and take care of your gear, but, ya gotta pay them.  When I am on the road now, that's not really happening.  On the fly in dates, the gear is provided and already set up.  Playing Broken Teeth shows is like the old days when we were young, we set up our own stuff and tear it down and sell the merch ourselves, no crew at all, just a bus driver.

MEISTER:  I'm looking forward to seeing Dangerous Toys for the first time on the up coming Monsters of Rock Cruise in March.  How did you get on the monsters of rock cruise?

JASON:  Broken Teeth has done three Shiprocked Cruises.  The promoters at MOR (Monsters of Rock) were involved with that, and knew me from Dtoys, so when they started the MOR Cruise, they called me to get the Toys on the MOR Cruise.  Funny thing, its the same ship I've been on three times with Teeth already!

MEISTER:  This isn't your first trip on a rock cruise, you were a part of the Shiprocked Cruise with your band Broken Teeth.  Tell us about your shipboard experiences and shipmates Queensryche and Tesla (who are both on Monsters as well).

JASON:  I've seen Geoff Tate dressed as a full on pirate on one of the themed nights.  And I saw Tesla sound exactly like the record.  That's about it for Tesla and Queensryche.

MEISTER:  Any recommendations to first time cruisers?

JASON:  Bring a skull cap.  Bring anti motion sickness pills and start taking them the day before the cruise.

MEISTER:  Thanks again for your time with this.  First round’s on me aboard ship!

There are still some spots available for 2013's Monsters of Rock Cruise, so visit the link below to join me and Jason McMaster and the rest of Dangerous Toys aboard the MSC Poesia ship sailing March 16th-20th, 2013.

Stay tuned here next week for Meister's "Views of the Cruise" Volume #3.

The Meister

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blogger Template by Clairvo