INTERVIEW: JEFF LABAR, August 2014

There are bands that you like and bands that you love.  Cinderella is one of the latter for me.  I know the words to every track and sing along whenever I hear them on the radio or when I slam one of their CDs into the Bose at home.  Guitarist Jeff LaBar is finally gracing the fans with what he has been promising for years… a solo disc.  After the great reception afforded one of his band mates on a disc last year, we get a disc full of nuggets that are more akin to what the fans want, while giving Jeff the opportunity to make something that is all him, all the time.  I recently got a call from Jeff to discuss the disc and so much more…

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Toddstar: Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule today. We really appreciate it.

Jeff: No problem. Thanks for having me.

Toddstar: Let me say from a personal and fan standpoint I’m talking to Jeff Fucking LaBar, man. This is huge, man; been a fan for a long time.

Jeff: Oh, cool. Have we ever met?

Toddstar: No, we haven’t.

Jeff: Oh, okay I was looking at the info here and I saw Toddstar Photography. I was like, “That sounds familiar to me.”

Toddstar: No, hopefully soon though. Let’s kick off with the obvious, man, One for the Road. The album’s ready to come out. What can you tell us about this release?

Jeff: I’ve been threatening to do a solo record for a long time; many years, and basically, threatening my wife. And she was like, do it. She was like, do it. I’m like, well, I’m kind of busy right now. You know, the ‘Cinderella’ tour every summer. Then I would get lazy every winter. Another summer would come around and, but in 2012, I’ll try; it’s a long story but I’ll try and condense it. In 2012 we got off the tour bus from our last tour, “Cinderella” tour and Tom announced he was going to put out a solo record. So, Debbie my wife and my Miranda, my manager said, “Now. You have to do it.” They basically kicked my ass into a studio and I started recording. They offered me a record with RatPak. I said, “Look, let me try and record a few songs myself, see how it goes.” I recorded three songs with the help of Troy Luccketta from Tesla put down some drum tracks for me. My engineer, Ronnie Honeycutt and Frank Gore who actually mixed the first song for me. I was like, okay, I can do this. I signed a deal with RatPak, they asked for an EP at first. I thought, maybe an EP. Made five songs with a full-length to follow but then he, I did five songs, he said, “Ah give me two more.” I was like, “How about I give you a whole record?” “Nah, nah two mores’ fine.” Joe O’Brien at RatPak. I did, so we figured, I’ll do seven songs for the short attention-span theater that music fans are these days you know and I’ll do an EP with you know and maybe figure it’s “Side A.” I’ll, if people like it I’ll throw down another seven songs. Call that ‘Side B.’ Or we’ll call it ‘Two for the Road.’

Toddstar: Sure. You say you’ve gotten lazy over the winters but you’ve been far from lazy in addition to, and you mentioned Cinderella you’ve been all over the place. Naked Beggars, you’ve done Freak Show. Are side projects like Freak Show something that you’re never going to stop, no matter what the project is?

Jeff: I don’t take everything I’m offered. It’s like an actor taking every bad script he’s offered. Yeah, I mean Freak Show was awesome. Freak Show was with Frankie Banali. That sold me on that and the songs were great. Naked Beggars was me and Eric. Eric and I do a lot when Cinderella’s not working. I actually just got done with a band called Cheap Thrill with me and Eric. Yeah, it’s there’s a few things like I’ll probably always work with Eric and whatever he’s got going on the side if he, if I’m lucky enough for him to involve me. Because that’s usually how it’s been. It’s usually him coming to me with something. I think because I only had the opportunity to offer him a few things, because we both, we do, we both do tribute records like people will come to us, “Oh, will you do something now for my Kiss tribute record, that is going to benefit a hospice?” That’s happened and other things. I think I actually did a side, what was it Back Street Boys? Or *NSYNC? *NSYNC. I did an *NSYNC song. Covered an *NSYNC song for some record but yeah, you know I try to keep busy. I try to keep working. Try to keep food on the table. Try to keep my kid in school. There you go.

Toddstar: There you go. The disc has got seven tracks and the bits and pieces that are coming out from Rat Pak and your various publicists are phenomenal but what I have found is that as diverse as they are? They don’t sound anything like Cinderella. How did you escape that sound to give it your own stamp?

Jeff: I think it’s just the music that I’m into is not always the same as Tom’s Keifer and although you know because when I do; I pull off I actually started playing acoustic guitar and singing on my, in my bedroom of my parents’ house when I was like 9 or 10. That was like folk music. It was like; not folk music, like folk rock like Jim Croce, Al Stewart, Cat Stevens, Fleetwood Mac, Eagles; that kind of stuff. Then I got into prog-rock like Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd. Emerson Lake and Palmer. And graduated as a teenager to Zeppelin, Black Sabbath. Then I discovered Alice Cooper and I’m like, “Oh, this is it. This is what I want to do.” I’ve gone through a lot of musical changes. I discovered Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and then when Anthrax and Metallica came out so I think my tastes are a little heavier but they’re also a little lighter. I can go from listening to Metallica or even Mercyful Fate and then listen to a Stevie Nicks record. It’s just all the different music. I’m into good music. Even if it’s pop music. Even pop music that you make fun of these days if you’re a rocker. I love Miley Cyrus. I think she’s pretty awesome and the idea of putting out EP’s is not new but it’s current. A lot of artists are putting out one song at a time to iTunes and a lot of them are putting out EP’s. So did Colby Caillat, who’s also another artist I love. Such a great singer but you wouldn’t think someone like me would be into her. She was doing a talk show in the morning and she was like she put out an EP. I think it’s a five-song EP and she called it “Side A.” I was like, “See? That’s what I wanted to do.” A sign of the times. Yeah, the difference; the different styles on it are just the different kinds of music that I like.

Jeff Labar CD Cover

Toddstar: Okay. Yeah, because like the title track, “One for the Road,” is I don’t want to say night and day but it’s definitely a different end of the spectrum then say, “No Strings,” which is the first single. These have a different vibe. One comment that I’m hearing from a lot of people that I’ve been able to get to check this out is how different the vocal tracks are with you as compared to anybody else from that genre that era; it’s what I call the good old days. You’ve been able to retain your vocal quality and your drive and your vocals. Is that something you constantly have to work on for yourself or is your voice just what it is and it always has been?

Jeff: I think my voice is what it is. But it always, but it hasn’t always been this way. I think as I get older and the more I smoke and the more I drink it’s gotten a little raspier. My God I saw Jeff Bridges on a show today and I have seen his latest movies and he’s; his voice is just he’s starting to talk like Al Pacino. Al Pacino used to have a real high voice. Now he’s talking with this deep gravel-like voice. But I haven’t always been a singer. This is the first time that I’m the singer. I’ve sang quite a bit with Cinderella but that’s all been background vocals. Yeah, I’ve always been into the raspier singers. I’ve always, well, Keifer being one of them and Brian Johnson. My favorite singers are David Coverdale and Ronny James Dio. I’ve been compared to I’ve been doing this interviews for a couple weeks now and I’ve been, well, even before these interviews, even my friends are like, “You know, you kind of sound like Alice Cooper.” I’m like, “Okay.” Because Alice Cooper and Zeppelin and Alice Cooper are probably my biggest influences when I was young. Then I get a cross between Alice Cooper and Stephen Pearcy. Yeah, it is what it is. I mean this is just’ this is the way I sing. This is the way, I could probably try and clean it up but I don’t want to.

Toddstar: No. I don’t think it needs to be. And I’ll tell you what just listening to different tracks I think leaning heavier to Cooper but definitely a Cooper-Pearcy sound is probably right on the money. Well as far as this goes what’s next? This thing can hit the road? You going to take this out? You going to bring it to the people?

Jeff: I’m thinking about it. I did the record by myself. I played all the instruments except for the drums. I got a few drummers and I produced it with my engineer Ronny Honeycutt and so I did form- have you seen the video [HERE]?

Toddstar: Yes, I have.

Jeff: Okay, that’s my son Sebastian on guitar.

Toddstar: From Mach22.

Jeff: Yes. Great band. Mach22. It’s got Jasmine Cain on bass he’s a great solo artist, singer, songwriter in her own right and Matt Arn, Matthew Arn is on drums and he’s in the best rockabilly band in the land called Hillbilly Casino. I’ve talked to them, I’ve talked to each one of them briefly about maybe taking this on the road so, but they all have their own bands so it would have to be something solid for them to be able to leave, take a sabbatical. I’m thinking about it. If not them, I now Sebastian, I mean, I’ll just make Sebastian do it, but the already said he would take a leave of absence it we do like a month or two or whatever. I don’t know what he’s going to do if I actually get on a major tour. You know we’ll see I’m thinking about it and I’m going to have to get my chops up to par as far as my vocal, my singing and I’m going to have to carry a show. That will be a challenge but I think I can do it. Singing every night. I’ve seen Keifer is going through his whole career, sustaining that voice and yeah, it’s rough. It’s rough and he’s a master at commanding an audience, too. Yeah, I’d love to take the challenge.

Toddstar: Cool. Talking about going out on the road, let’s talk about you for a minute. Going back over the years you’ve been doing this a long time. You’re working on thirty years. If you’re thinking about going back out on the road now you had a look around your house and you thought, “Man, I can’t leave home without these essentials.” What couple things would you have to with you at this point?

Jeff: First it would be all my guitars. My guitars are piled, they’re piled in my office. Like floor to ceiling. All my gear is in storage but my guitars I keep in with me. I keep close to me and but, aside, obviously aside from that being obvious, you know what? I don’t really have any essentials. I just pack a bag and I go. I pack a bag of clothes, maybe hair tonics? I don’t know what else. I don’t know what else there is really. Nothing, I’m trying to think of a clever answer and I don’t have one.

Toddstar: Fair enough, fair enough. You talked about Alice Cooper and Led Zeppelin being influences on you but who is it that actually made you want to pick up that guitar and do it for a living?

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Jeff: My brother. My older brother, Jack made me want to pick up a guitar. He’s about five and-a-half years older than me and he played guitar. I was like, “Wow. How cool is that?” I started taking drum lessons in grade school. My grade school offered drum lessons and they were lame. I was like, “Where’s the drums?” “Oh, no you get this practice pad.” I was like, “Wow that kind of sucks.” My parents bought me a toy drum set, like you know from Sears or something. I beat the crap out of that thing. Then I was just like, “The hell with this.” I started playing my older brother’s guitars when he wasn’t home. He started working after school and I was probably like 9, 10, 11 years old I think. Nine, ten, eleven, somewhere around there my memory’s terrible but I started picking up his guitar and putting on records and dancing in front of a mirror. He caught me a couple times he wasn’t happy about it but one time he said, “Do you want to learn how to play that thing or you want to dance in front of a mirror?” I was like, “Ahh, okay.” He sat me down with songbooks. He showed me three chords, three open chords and he showed me songbooks that, his songbooks that had diagrams with like dots on the lines where your fingers go. He goes, “This is how you do those chords.” He goes, “If you know how the song goes, pick out songs that you know in your head and then you know what to look, what your right hand should probably do.” I was like, “Oh, okay.” That’s how I learned how to play guitar. Listening to records, listening to his records and some of the songbooks and then I started learning by ear but by ear was learning Zeppelin. Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. Jimmy Page and Tony Iommi basically taught me after that. They were my next teachers. When Alice Cooper came into my life that’s when I said, “This; this is what I want to do.” Back then I was scared of Alice Cooper probably like ten or eleven years old. I was like, “Oh my god he’s so evil. I want to do that. I want to have hair down to my waist. I want to wear all that crazy jewelry and weird ass makeup and do that and be kind of evil. Kind of scary.”

Toddstar: Then you wind up in a band called Cinderella.

Jeff: Yeah, yeah it didn’t quite work out I mean, it worked out well but, you know I went through a lot of bands growing up. A lot of different styles. A lot of different groups. I even played in a prog band when I was twenty and a lot of different things, and before I got into Cinderella I was in a band that did like Mercyful Fate and Metallica and Anthrax and some of the evil originals that I wrote and I, after that I got into a band that opened for Cinderella. I was in that band for two, maybe three months before I got an audition with Cinderella and then it was game on.

Toddstar: Cool. Looking back through the history of music Jeff and especially with your influences if there was one album that you could put your stamp on throw your licks on it or create a new lick for it what would be that one album that you think was influential enough that you’d want to be a part of it?

Jeff: That I’d want to put my stamp on? You mean that I would change?

Toddstar: You’d want to, yeah, you’d want to play on it. Something that wasn’t yours. Something that just shook you and you just wished you could have been on that disc?

Jeff: Oh, the first one was Zeppelin II but I think my favorite record of all time is Physical Graffiti. Oh my god, Physical Graffiti to me is awesome. I didn’t get to play on it although my son, Sebastian was in School of Rock in Philadelphia where it originated? They have schools all over the country now you know where you take a lesson one day and then another day/week you get with the other students put a show together. They put together a show and took it to Friday and Saturday night two different clubs and it was Physical Graffiti beginning to end. I was like, “I’m flying home for this.” He, so the first night I watched him and I’m standing there with his mother, “I’m going, oh my god he looks just like-” and she goes, “I know.” Like, me and his mother aren’t together yet, anymore but she’s like, “Oh my god, I know.” He looks, he stands like me, plays like me, moves around like me and I was like oh my god he really look, picked it up but the second night he’s driving, me and him are driving to the second show and somebody called in sick. The other guitar players like, I can’t make it. You’d better be dying you know? To call in sick for a show. I’m like, man I’ve been playing for thirty years. I never missed a show because I was sick. Put a, bring a bucket on stage. Anyway I was like well, I know all the songs so I was like let’s ask your teacher and see what the others would, the students, how the students would feel about it. I didn’t want to steal the thunder or anything. The teacher was like oh my god, really? Would you do that? I said yeah, but ask the students and make sure they’re okay with it. They were thrilled so I got to go up and do like half of the record. It’s a double album but I got to do five or six songs you know, jamming with my son. I was like, oh, I don’t know if that answers your question?

Toddstar: Yeah it does. It does.

Jeff: Another record I wish I’d played on was Billion Dollar Babies.

Toddstar: Well, very cool. Well, listen, I know you’re a busy man so I’ve got one more for you before I cut you loose, if you don’t mind? Things have gone your way for thirty years man, you’ve played on some of the biggest records. You played on some of the biggest tours and you’re finally putting out your solo album; your debut: One for the Road. Things are just looking up for Jeff LaBar at this point so for you, in 2014 what’s the meaning of life, Jeff?

Jeff: Wow. Holy cow. How do you come up with these questions? What’s the meaning of life for me? I think being in love, loving music and cherishing family. I think I’m going to try and do that better, all three of those? I think I’m going to try and do them better.

Toddstar: Well, that’s as simple as you can get because I’ll tell you what for all the guys that came out of the ’80’s you’re one of the few guys that you never hear about. You’re not on Big Brother, you’re not in rehab you’re just plugging away doing what you do best. Again, as a fan, that’s awesome to see and hear because so many of our idols and probably many of your friends have gone by the wayside. Again, I thank you so much for taking time out, Jeff. We appreciate it. We cannot wait until everybody out there gets their hands on their copy of One for the Road which they can pick up at RatPak Records America.com.

Jeff: Yeah, comes out August 26th.

Toddstar: Awesome. Again, thanks Jeff and we’ll talk to you soon. Hopefully when you hit the road and you come to Detroit.

Jeff: Thanks a lot, Todd.

Toddstar: All right Jeff, we’ll talk to you, man.

Jeff: All right. Bye-bye.

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INTERVIEW: JEFF LABAR, August 2014

Filed Under: Interviews

About the Author: ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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