Wayne Perez Interviews Brian MacLeod
(Special thanks to Herring405 for his assistance)
MacLeod: I was in Wire Train when I met Kevin. He was in a cover band with my girlfriend at the time. My girlfriend, Michelle, was a drummer . . . a great drummer. She still is a great drummer. She was in a band with Kevin, and they were playing at hotels and weddings and stuff but I knew Kevin, well, I could tell Kevin was a genius back then.
WP: What was their band? Would they play covers and such?
MacLeod: Oh man! They were doing Prince, The Police–all that kind of stuff.
WP: Was he singing and playing?
He was singing and playing with Robert who is in that picture (points to a 1986 High School photo of four guys posing at a school dance)
WP: Robert Ferris.
MacLeod:. . . whom my girlfriend used to go out with. That’s kind of how she got into that whole scene there. They had their skinny ties and their new wave haircuts. They were a great band and they were amazing. Michelle was singing the chick tunes, and Robert and Kevin were splitting vocals on the other tunes. They were making good money and hanging out. At that point, it was right before Kevin started playing with Eddie Money. I think right after that he joined Eddie Money, and I remember all of us were like "Wow, man. Kevin is playing with Eddie Money. He’s arrived." He laughed about it then. "Endless Money," as Kevin used to call him. I remember he even took out his Eddie Money gold disc and he put it on the turntable and played it, and I think it was The Tijuana Brass album or something like that.
WP: Are you serious? It wasn’t even an Eddie Money album? You know, his stage name he had in Eddie Money’s band was Kai Gilbert.
MacLeod: Yeah. He was very embarrassed about that. I don’t know why he had changed it.
WP: So then how did Toy Matinee form?
MacLeod: Ok, so Wire Train, we had lost our deal with CBS. I was living in Berkeley. Kevin would come to see us play. I don’t think he was a big Wire Train fan. His friend and my girlfriend would bring him, and he became a fan of mine and he liked my drumming. He knew I was in Group 87. I remember him actually at the Berkeley Square coming up to me and going, "You’re a great drummer. I love your drumming and want to work with you someday," and I said, "Sure, I’d love to." We never really did anything. [Time passes: Brian and Wire Train are still playing shows but have been dropped by CBS Records.]
MacLeod: I get this anonymous call from Kevin out of the blue, "Brian, this guy named Pat Leonard is going to call you. He’s going to act really humble. Do you know who he is?" and I go, "No, never heard of him." "He’s Madonna’s producer and songwriter, but when he talks to you he’s not going to tell you that. He’s just going to say that he’s putting together a band in L.A. He wants me to be the singer. Actually, Kevin called up for Terry Bozzio’s number. He said "Brian, do you have Terry Bozzio’s number?" I said yeah, so I give it to him.
WP: So he said "Brian I don’t want you, I want Terry Bozzio?"
MacLeod: He actually said that. He says, "Yeah we’re looking for Terry Bozzio for this thing." I had Terry’s number so I give it to him. This is how insane this is, this is how incredible this story is. I give him Terry Bozzio’s number. Terry goes "Ya know, I’m really busy right now. I can’t do it. But I got the number of this guy, Kurt Wortman. You can call him up." Who is Kurt Wortman? My next door neighbor in my apartment building! (Laughs)
WP: So you can hear the phone ringing next door for Kurt.
MacLeod: I’m not kidding you! He’s an amazing drummer, great guy, really funny. Great jazz drummer. He was actually in Group 87 before me. It was Terry then Kurt then me. Kurt gets the call: "Join a band in L.A.? I don’t think so. I’m pretty happy here in Berkeley. But I know this great drummer named Brian MacLeod."
WP: So let me go knock on his door!
MacLeod: Yeah! Because what Kevin said was if we can’t get Terry Bozzio, let’s get Brian MacLeod, and Pat said "Who is Brian MacLeod?" Kevin would build me up, "He’s this great drummer in the bay area." And Pat’s like "I don’t know about that." So then when it came from Terry to Kurt to Kurt telling Pat "I know this guy Brian MacLeod" then Pat went "Wait a minute. Kevin wants Brian MacLeod. It came full circle from Terry Bozzio. I gotta audition this guy." So I fly into Burbank for the day. Limo picks me up. I am like "Awww, no. This is too Hollywood." I walk into his studio and I see him. Pat’s in his army fatigues and tennis shoes and T-shirt. I go, "Oh. This guy is pretty cool." Full gym, sauna, studio.
WP: Was it his house?
MacLeod: No, it was in Burbank. Right off on Hollywood Way. I show up with my stick bag. I play a song and a half . . . maybe two, and Pat hits the talk button, "Brian, can you come in here for a minute?" So I say "That’s it. I’m fired." Obviously. So I zip up my stick bag and go walking into the studio and I am waiting for him to tell me that I am fired, ya know? Humiliation! You don’t even have to tell me. I’ll just walk out. He goes "So . . . you’re hired. I love the way you play. You sound great, man! You’re awesome! You’re the man for the job. I’m gonna pay you this much, and I’m gonna put you up at The Oakwoods. Do you need a car? I’ll rent you a car. Blah, blah, blah . . ." It turns out . . . this is a fluke too. I was playing with Jane Wiedlin from the Go-Go’s and we were rehearsing for our two weeks in Japan. I thought I lost the gig because he wanted me to move here tomorrow and I went "I can’t believe this." With Japan, the paperwork is so stiff. You have to put the paperwork in two or three months in advance. I said, "Pat, I would love to start tomorrow, but I gotta go to Japan with Jane Wiedlin for two weeks. I have to do it. All the paperwork is in, I can’t stiff her." And he looks at me and goes, "Yeah. You’re right. You can’t stiff her. That would be uncool . . . OK, we’ll start in two weeks." And I was "Uhhhhh . . ." Then Pat says, "By the way, you wanna hear this single I just did with Madonna? It’s called ‘Like A Prayer’" He turns it up full volume. Nobody has heard it yet . . . wasn’t out yet. Turns it up full volume, hands me a glass of cognac, and I’m sitting there with him and Guy Pratt, the bass player for Pink Floyd. Guy and I bonded instantly! Guy says "Why don’t you stay in L.A. tonight? Stay at my place. I’m going to this party." So he took me to this party and I was like a deer in headlights. I was saying "What happened?" I was this hippy in Berkeley, teaching drums with a beat up old Volvo and now I’m in L.A. They got us at the Oakwood Apartments, me and Kev. But we’re on salary basically. We didn’t have a record deal. Pat just out of his own pocket basically said "I’ve done all of these pop records. I’ve got millions of dollars. I’ve always wanted to be in a band." He’s a band guy. You know when he [lived] in Chicago, he was in progressive rock bands and stuff like that.
WP: Yes, Trillion
MacLeod: Yeah, Trillion. And he was, "I want a band." Like he had gone full circle. He wanted to go back into the garage and be in a garage band and didn’t want famous players. He loved Guy because Guy was an amazing bass player. So Guy was kind of like the most famous one in the band because he was connected to Pink Floyd. Tim was kind of corky. Just coming up as a session guy. Tim’s huge now, but he had a really odd sounding guitar style. I will tell you . . . to this day, when we play together, it sounds like Toy Matinee. It is a band sound. It’s a real distinctive thing. Pat put together a really cool band, and Kevin’s responsible because he dragged me into the picture. Bill Bottrell was really instrumental in making us play rock or pop music and not fusion. We are all really talented players, and we all could have gone over the top. Kind of fusiony, beyond TOTO, progressive rock. Bill was the meter. He would look at us and go "You guys are wanking. This is bullshit." So Bill Bottrell was very instrumental because he produced the record. That was the cool thing about Pat too. Here he is a huge record producer, and he hands it to Bill Bottrell. "I don’t want to be producer. I just want to be the keyboard player and writer in a band." Me, Kev and Guy got into so much trouble. Here we are on salary, in this cool band in L.A. I had never seen this kind of money in my life that I was making. It was right when heavy metal broke. Guns-N-Roses and Poison and everything. So here we are kind of the outcast because we aren’t "metal" guys. But we had long hair and we were hanging out at the Cat Club and all these places and getting into trouble. We always thought Pat was going to fire us. "We’re gonna get fired today!"
WP: So was Pat Leonard Toy Matinee per se? I mean, he organized the band.
MacLeod: I would say the foundation for Toy Matinee is Pat, Kevin and Guy. Guy wrote some of the lyrics. People are always pitching Pat against Kevin, and it’s just one of those crazy things like John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Who were The Beatles? Was it Lennon or McCartney? Granted, Pat was the producer in the sense that he put it together. The sound and the qualities of Toy Matinee are Pat Leonard’s amazing arrangements, amazing chord structures, and Kevin’s cynicism. Like 3rd Matinee. I’m a huge Richard Page fan. I think he’s awesome. I like Richard and everything, but that record sounds more like Mr. Mister. It has the elements of Pat: the element of me, Pat and Guy, but . . .
WP: Richard uses more of his religious aspects and optimism
MacLeod: Yeah! He’s a little more serious. Kevin was a cynic. The most cynical person I knew. Very deep but also very cynical. A kind of Mozart thing, you know? A crazy, cynical intellectual.
WP: So was all the material written when you returned from Japan?
MacLeod: Pretty much, because I was in Japan for those two weeks. Kevin and Pat really honed in on the lyrics and the music. When I got back, we started immediately. I think I flew straight to L.A. and started.
WP: One of the rumors floating around is that Toy Matinee’s music and lyrics were all written and conceived in a beach house where all of you were residing. Is this correct?
MacLeod: No. All done in Pat’s studio. He had a lot of ideas and pitched them to Kev. He definitely had a lot of the music done. He would hum along, and he’s got a decent voice. He would hum melodies and stuff, so he did have a foundation done, but you can’t deny Kevin’s input. The guy was stubborn. Very musical. Very challenging. Kevin wouldn’t just be a side man and say, "okay, I’ll sing that Pat." There’s no way. They were butting heads through the whole record. Which to me, that’s great, that’s good. That’s how you make great art! There’s gotta be that conflict going on. Me and Guy Pratt were the jokers and total cynics sitting back there saying "When are we going to be fired?" and "Let’s get out of here and go to a club." I remember one time Guy didn’t show up to the studio. We were waiting and waiting and waiting. I don’t remember if it was Pat but someone said, "Let’s go to his house." So we go up to his house. He was taking care of a house for a friend in Hollywood Hills. The door is open, we walk in. There’s a guitar and an amp. So we tell Tim to plug in the guitar. He walks into where Guy is sleeping, plugs the guitar and amp in, and WAAAAAHHHH! Guy gets up "What’s going on?!" We are all sitting in the living room and he’s shocked. That’s the kind of stuff that would happen. In the middle of recording "The Toy Matinee," Pat got super pissed and drove off. We all looked at each other saying, "It was nice knowing ya."
WP: Why did he get pissed?
MacLeod: I don’t know. Because we were fighting or we couldn’t get the song right. It was a totally legit thing he was pissed off about. I can’t remember what it was . . . OH! We were drinking because we couldn’t get the song right. So let’s have some red wine because you know the song "The Toy Matinee" is such a mellow song, and we had some hyper version of it. Bill was saying "You guys, that sucks, that’s a muso-wank fest." Bill was always a guy like a beatnik, "that’s too fancy, that’s too clever. Get stupid." So we were drinking wine. A bunch of Pat’s expensive wine. He cracked his Rothchild’s open and we drank the whole thing. We still couldn’t play, or we played worse or something, and Pat stormed off. We all looked at each other . . . "Uh-oh. We pissed off Dad.’
WP: "Last Plane Out"
MacLeod: "Last Plane Out" really sums up the band.
WP: When you guys recorded that, was that the known single to be pushed?
MacLeod: No. In a weird way, I think "Remember My Name" was the song we thought was going to be the one. Or Bill thought that was going to be the single.
WP: "The Ballad Of Jenny Ledge"
MacLeod: I remember the first time I heard that on the radio. I didn’t realize the musicians that I was playing with. The producers I was working with. Remember, I was a kid up in Berkeley thrust into L.A. One guy used to call us the "Anti-TOTO" but that’s the kind of band it was. All super musicians but I didn’t realize it. I was in a fog. Overwhelmed. I was up in San Francisco. I heard "Jenny Ledge" on the radio. I pulled over because of the production of it! Bill Bottrell is possibly the best mix engineer in the world, I think. Personally, I think he’s top. You hear that song next to any other band’s song on the radio. He mixes for the radio. It just popped out of my car radio, and I had to pull over and go "That’s me! I don’t believe it. It sounds amazing!" So "Jenny Ledge" is one of my favorites, and plus that’s about Kevin’s ex-girlfriend which really kind of sums up Kevin’s cynicism. There’s a lot of Kevin in that song.
WP: The humor is there also
MacLeod: Oh yeah!
WP: "Blank Page"
MacLeod: I don’t think I was there for that. That might have been done when I was in Japan. ["Blank Page" begins to play on his CD player] It’s perfect. See, now that sound is Toy Matinee right there. Yeah, I think they did this when I wasn’t around.
WP: "Turn It On Salvador"
MacLeod: "Turn It On Salvador" was fun too because we kind of whacked it out. I remember we had…what’s his name? Robin from "Batman" . . . Ward . . .
WP: Burt Ward?
MacLeod: Burt Ward. We had him come in and do voice-overs on that one. We didn’t use anything, but I got to meet him. **This may be the origin of the reference to Batman in that song when performed live, as well as the verse that goes "Holy rotting donkey carcass," imitating the lines Robin would say in the series**
WP: How did Julian Lennon come to be involved in that song?
MacLeod: Pat had just produced Julian’s record. The irony for me was that when I was a little kid, my grandmother had this magazine. I saw a picture of Julian in it and it said something like "Julian Lennon has been learning guitar with his dad." I told my grandmother, "I’m going to be in a band with him!" I was 6 or 7. I said I was going to play music with him, which is really odd. So, Pat had just done a Julian record . Pat called him and asked if he wanted to do backing vocals on his solo stuff. He shows up on his Harley. I remember walking out in the back and seeing him and his Harley pull up. I remember instantly bonding with him. He was just instantly a "dude." He became really good friends with Kevin and became really good friends with me. To this day, though, he thinks I am completely out of my mind.
WP: Why is that?
MacLeod: I don’t know. Because I am I guess! (laughter) I did the Tonight Show with Julian and Paul [Ill] about a year ago . . .. So he just came in [to the Toy Matinee sessions] for a day. But me, Guy, Julian and Kev were hanging out and going to Hollywood clubs and parties. There was this one club at the end of Hollywood Boulevard, it’s changed names millions of times. We’d show up with Julian . . . you show up to a club with Julian Lennon and you’re right in, red carpet. So we’d walk right in and have a table, a quart of whiskey right on the table and four shot glasses. Julian, you know . . . he’s calmed down, not the party animal he was. Hopefully I have too. It was a lot of fun making that record. Half of that time I was out partying and learning about L.A. with Kevin and Guy and getting into trouble.
WP: "There Was A Little Boy"
MacLeod: That song is about one of Pat Leonard’s friends who died of AIDS. One of his childhood friends. He was a painter, an artist. That song sums up the 80’s look on AIDS. It kind of changed radically in the late 90’s and to this day. People look at AIDS totally different now. It is a very personal song to Pat. The drumming loop on it . . . a loop of me . . . it’s interesting. It was when drum loops were just starting to be used, and Bill Bottrell learned all that stuff from Jeff Lynne. Jeff Lynne was his mentor. That’s where he learned his production, and it shows. He surpassed him. This song is how genius Bill is. Drums are slowed way down. Makes them big. We were actually sitting in the control room, we all had headphones. I was actually playing the hand drums live while they were all in there and Kevin was singing. We did the other "Little Boy" [the version on the Deluxe Edition], and Bill was like, "Do it like this: We’re gonna do a drum loop. You guys have some wine. I’m gonna put some candles out, and we’re all going to sit in the control room and re-do it. You can’t sing about a guy dying of AIDS and be so happy."
WP: Now many have stated that the song "Queen of Misery" is about Madonna. Can you shed light as to whether it is in fact about her?
MacLeod: You know, I can’t verify that. I wish I could . . .
WP: You cannot confirm nor deny . . .
MacLeod: No, I can’t confirm that. I have a feeling it might be. I can’t confirm it. I wish I could downright say, "Yeah, that’s about Madonna." It could be about any chick singer. (Brian looks at camera) It could be about Sheryl Crow . . .
WP: Uh-oh! Not back then.
MacLeod: No. I’m just teasing.
WP: So there weren’t a lot of outtakes of songs?
MacLeod: There wasn’t a lot of outtakes. We were pretty focused. Bill was a real slave driver. He didn’t keep a lot of stuff So the next thing you know, after we finish the album, I thought I was going to go back to Berkeley. Pat says "Oh no. We’re gonna tour and we’re gonna do all this stuff. By the way, if you stay in L.A. I’ve got a lot of session work for you." [Brian ends up going back to Berkeley and then on tour with Andy Summers, then with World Party. He then signs with Wire Train on MCA Records]
MacLeod: The reason I did it . . . there was turmoil between Pat and Kevin and I didn’t foresee a "real" band. I never felt like it was because I didn’t write the material in Toy Matinee even though I loved it. Stellar band. But I knew Tim was doing other stuff. I knew Guy was going out with Pink Floyd again so I knew Guy wasn’t going to be in the band. I remember Pat and Kevin were having some squabbles. So between Kevin and Pat and World Party and Wire Train, I just went with my instincts. Wire Train are like my brothers and I signed a deal with them and Pat was furious! Pat wanted to sue me. We’re buddies now. Very close. But he was pissed that I went and signed a record deal. He’s cool with it now. But he was just pissed! He felt like all his allies were jumping ship. But at the same time, there wasn’t a real band bond. I mean we made a great record. Musically we had a bond. But business-wise and stuff like that . . .
WP: What did he want you to do when you originally joined on? Did he just want you to drum?
MacLeod: Oh, no, no, no. He wanted to tour and he wanted to be a real band. He wanted to do a legit thing and then him and Kev . . . I saw the writing on the walls. I had that instinct. It’s like a survival instinct. If I see a ship I go!! It’s a terrible thing. [We both laugh]
MacLeod: It’s nothing I’m proud of. I was hanging out with Guy in London (during the World Party Tour), and I remember Guy saying "Oh yeah, I’m going out for a year with Pink Floyd" so I asked "You’re not going to do Toy Matinee?" and he said "I can’t. Gotta go out with Pink Floyd."
WP: So you wished Toy Matinee had stayed together?
MacLeod: Yeah. I remember Tim not being sure because he had a lot going on. That uncertainty scared me to the point where it’s like, "do I want to hang with the guys I am uncertain with, or do I want to go back with the guys I’ve changed tires with at 4 in the morning in Finland. We all lived off $20 a day and we all took care of each other. Kind of a loyalty thing to Wire Train.
WP: So why didn’t Pat and Kevin continue it?
MacLeod: Pat and Kevin had problems. Without me, Guy, and Tim there, Kevin and Pat were just oil and vinegar. Great musical collaborators. They needed the cut-up humor of me and Guy because we were total cards. I think, literally, our light outlook on life. The fact that Guy had to go out with Pink Floyd, I signed a deal with Wire Train, I think it really hurt Pat and pissed off his feelings. He said, "I’m not going to do this with just Kevin." I think they tried to do something and just had a falling out. I don’t really know the details because I have never really talked to either one of them about it, really. Interesting. I think I was so disappointed that I didn’t want to talk about it. Like a bad marriage.
WP: So Kevin re-formed Toy Matinee with other musicians to do a tour.
MacLeod: With his buddies. I understood why he did it. Pat, I know, was pissed. Which I understand because he put a lot of time and money in. He put it together. Understand his outlook. I think that’s why I didn’t get between them. I also understood where Kevin was. Kevin was desperate, "I’ve got a record deal. I’m signed to this thing and I have no band. I’m screwed. I can’t get another record deal. I’m stuck, Brian." So I was like, "Hey man, you do what you got to do." He had called me and said, "I’m putting this band together. I gotta do this." I was supportive. I think I was probably the only one of the people in the band that was. I understood who Kevin was. He was a singer. He had Giraffe. He wanted to do his thing. Then Pat brought him into this project. They both had legitimate gripes.
WP: Why didn’t Tim sign on to tour?
MacLeod: Tim saw that Guy and I weren’t involved and saw Kevin and Pat and kind of got out of it. Poor Kevin was left with the bill, really. Pat got his money back. Kevin was a singer with a record deal and no band–and a great record at that! The record was getting airplay. In hindsight, maybe I shouldn’t have signed with stupid MCA. I felt very pressured. There was no time-tested waters with Toy Matinee. I think we all would have gotten into a fight after the second gig on the road and all gone home. As Guy Pratt put it: "We’ll be on tour in the back of an ice cream truck, and Pat will be on Air Force One." (Laughs) Which is not true, but I had to make that quote to rub it in.
WP: So how did Sheryl Crow get the gig to go on tour with Toy Matinee?
MacLeod: Sheryl auditioned. She had been on the road with Michael Jackson, came home, was depressed. Huge Toy Matinee fan. She probably wouldn’t say that now.
WP: So she heard the record and really liked it?
MacLeod: She loved it. I remember seeing them at Concorde Pavilion. Kevin had invited me to come see Toy Matinee perform. I was going backstage and Sheryl walked up to me very timidly and goes, "You’re Brian MacLeod? I’m a huge fan. I love the record. I love your playing. It’s a pleasure to meet you." I think that’s when they hooked up romantically on that tour. Then Kevin introduced her to the Tuesday Music Club.
WP: How were you guys forming that?
MacLeod: It was the brilliance of Bill going "Hey I’ve got this great recording studio. Let’s drink some beers and write some songs."
WP: At Toad Hall? [Bill Bottrell’s studio]
MacLeod: At Toad Hall. I had just met Irma (Brian’s wife) who lived in Arizona. I had a small studio apartment in Burbank and was pretty much hanging out with Irma in Scottsdale. I was so into it (TMC) that I would just fly out on Tuesday nights.
WP: So how was that first Tuesday night?
MacLeod: The first one I think they wrote "Leaving Las Vegas", and I wasn’t even there. No, no. That wasn’t the first one. I take that back. The first one they wrote a song called "Fun." Then I started showing up. Then Kevin said "Hey my friend Sheryl, she has a record deal on A & M and it got turned down," and Bill is the kind of guy who loves underdogs.
WP: Which is this one [I pull out the unreleased Sheryl Crow CD]
MacLeod: Oh my god! You have it! Yeah all of these [tracks] are from the other album. So she was down and out about all that, so Kevin wanted to cheer her up. He said "Why don’t you come to these Tuesday night jams and forget about your record and just make music with us?" So she came down and she was a total sport. Totally hanging with the lads . . . doing whatever. Somebody would have a topic "Did you see on the news today, Bush did this . . ." "Oh, let’s write a song about it." So whatever came up. Unfortunately, one day David Baerwald came in and said, "Hey, I got this title ‘Leaving Las Vegas,’" [from a novel] which his buddy wrote. So they wrote [the song]. I didn’t write on that one. I wasn’t there every Tuesday. I wish I was. I’d be a richer man. Ohhhh! Damn. A couple of those Tuesdays I was getting drunk in Scottsdale at some Italian restaurant, and I should have been in Pasadena. I couldn’t afford a ticket every week.
WP: So from those sessions, how did Sheryl’s album get started?
MacLeod: What happened was we recorded all these songs. Generally, Sheryl would sing. Everyone would pick their strong area. Like I play drums pretty much exclusively. I did play some other things, but I was pretty much the assigned drummer. Sheryl just became kind of the singer. I know David sang on some stuff.
WP: So it just evolved to that.
MacLeod: Yeah. It was a free for all. Sheryl started singing some stuff. Then one day she said "Hey, you guys mind if I play this stuff for A & M and see if maybe I can put out another album?" Because they didn’t like that first album. They were gonna drop her. She played it for A & M and they were blown away. They said to keep doing it. So everything kind of changed. The big let down for me was when I found out she was going to call her album the Tuesday Night Music Club. I can say this. I was the only one that was bummed out. That takes the mystique out of our thing. The club. The Tuesday Music Club is now a small title under Sheryl Crow. I said "Can’t you call her album something else?" I wasn’t mad at Sheryl. There was no anger involved. It was just a bad idea. I was proud of what we did and I wanted Sheryl to be successful.
WP: So those sessions turned into focusing on completing an album for Sheryl?
MacLeod: Yeah. So it got a little more fine-tuned. It would turn out that Tuesday night would be the [recording] of drunken demo versions of the songs. Bill with his fucking brilliance would take the tapes and fix stuff. Fix tunings. The guy was a genius. Him and Kevin both. Because Kevin couldn’t help himself, he was always looking over Bill’s shoulder. They would always fine tune the songs and make them more perfect. Sheryl would bring in some of her own stuff too. It wasn’t always just us. There were some of her own songs too. I am one of the few people, even though Sheryl and I aren’t best friends . . . to this day there [is] so much luggage and bad vibes over that whole record. I can’t even tell you. Basically what happened is that, according to everyone else but not according to me, according to TMC, Sheryl took the ball and ran with it. But to me, it was very similar to Kevin with Toy Matinee, "Well, if you guys aren’t gonna stand by me, I’m gonna go do it myself." Well, Sheryl did that with her record. She took me out to dinner and said "Brian, will you go on tour with me? I want you to tour with me. I don’t have any money and it will be $1,000 a week. We will be in a band and we will be in Motel 6’s and you’ll have to double up with the bass player." At the same time she asked me this, Tears For Fears rolled out the red carpet. Sending me to London first class. Putting me up in this huge suite overlooking Hyde Park. Offering me tons of money. Who else? This was an amazing time . . . on the phone was John Hiatt, Paul Westerberg, Sheryl Crow and Tears For Fears all wanting me to tour with them. I remember I didn’t sleep for two or three days, pacing back and forth. I said "Ya know what? I have never done a big, big stadium tour with a big name act. Some of those songs are challenging with Tears For Fears." So I told Sheryl, "I am supportive of you. I want this record to be great. I’ll help you find people, but I’m going on the road with Tears For Fears." She holds that against me to this day. She was pissed off about that. She brings it up.
WP: Was that same option there for everybody? For David Baerwald? For Kevin?
MacLeod: I don’t know. I think she might have done a show or a video with the guys. They will have to speak for themselves. She might have not. Maybe that’s why they were bitter. There was a lot of bitterness towards Sheryl after that because she would go on talk shows and not mention us. I said, "What do you expect? Madonna doesn’t talk about Pat Leonard, but he’s making all the money. That’s how I saw it. "Wow, I got publishing on a record. I don’t care if she goes out and kisses babies and says she wrote on everything and played drums on the record. I still get the check in the mail. She’s better looking than me. Better to see her on Letterman’s couch than me.
WP: Well, on certain nights she is . . .
MacLeod: Ohhhh! Hahaha . . . That’s why if you notice, I’m on the second record and nobody else is. I felt bad for her and Kevin breaking up. Kevin was one of my closest friends, so I was bummed out about that. But I wasn’t bummed out about her promoting the record.
WP: What time frame was it that Kevin started to be a perfectionist?
MacLeod: Giraffe. Kevin had the same kind of thing that Prince has. Kevin started hanging out at a recording studio. He had keys to a recording studio when he was a kid. What that does, for someone who is really inspired, they sit in there and perfect themselves. That’s like what Prince did. That’s how Kevin was with Giraffe. Kevin never let his music rest. It was very hard for Kevin to master a song. The Kaviar stuff . . . I remember the last thing I ever talked to him about, him going, "Yeah, ‘Picnic’s’ not right. We gotta re-record it." Everything he worked on. I think the closest he came to imperfection was Kaviar. Now I listen to it and I go, "Amazing!"
WP: It’s great. MacLeod:
I use to bug him about his perfectionism. So did Bill Bottrell. "That’s bullshit! You’re over thinking." He couldn’t help himself. Those kind of intellectual minds, they’re going five times as fast as yours and mine. They can’t stop. He was like that. The kind of guy that didn’t sleep. Just lyrics and everything. He would call me in the middle of the night, "I’ve changed the lyrics to this. Now I got this going now." Unstoppable.
WP: "THUD – The Album"
MacLeod: I remember playing on THUD: Kevin had his studio next to Bill’s. Kevin was dragging me over there to play on it. I said "Kevin, I’m not a good enough drummer to play on that." "No Brian, you can do it, have another beer, c’mon! Just keep trying." He had to force me to play on some of those songs. It was over my head. All the fusion I had learned as a kid, I lost it all. Between Bill and the fact that I was never in a fusion band, and then Kevin coming in with his odd time signatures and his advanced perfection. I said, "Damn, I can’t play drums with you. You’re way above me."
WP: "Joytown "
MacLeod: That was kind of a TMC thing we did in Bill’s studio, another time when people left the room and it was just me, Kevin and Dan. In New York I saw these guys playing on trash cans. So I went to a hardware store and bought a bunch of plastic trash cans. I brought them in and said, "Kevin check this out!" So Kevin put a microphone up inside and goes "Oh, that sounds amazing!" So I was playing that groove . . . Dan Schwartz started playing the bass . . . Kevin put up a mic and hit record, and he just recited those lyrics out of his head. Right there on the spot. He might have fixed up a couple of little spots, but I don’t even think so. He wrote those on the spot. I think that’s why he was very proud of it.
WP: So when he starts singing "Joy To The World" at the end of one version and on another version he says, "I’m going to go to ‘A’ for a while" that’s just him rambling it out?
MacLeod: Yeah, we were jamming. Like if we were in here and just turned on this tape player and started jamming. I think for him, he shocked himself. He was a very crafty guy and was always nit picking and fixing stuff, perfectionism. I think for the fact that just spewed out of his mouth he was "WOW!" I didn’t think he would put that on his record. He said, "That’s a great groove, I’m putting that on my record." Kevin and Dan sound great on that record. When we were doing TMC, we wrote "Ghetto Of Beautiful Things" and nobody liked it except for me and Kevin. We thought it was awesome. We thought it was great. Bill didn’t like it and he even played guitar on it. He thought it was too dark, cynical and morose. Kevin and I loved it. Dan Schwartz and David Baerwald were upstairs arguing, and me, Bill, and Kevin wrote and recorded that. So that’s kind of how Kaviar started. We made that recording and thought it was cool. TMC dissolved because Sheryl named her album that, everybody was fighting. Bill tried to keep it going. We almost signed this multi-million dollar deal with Apple Computers to be their first online band. This was way before . . . the Internet was a baby, it was a fetus. They were flying down. Literally, we were each going to get almost a million. Somehow it exploded. One reason: Baerwald wanted to go do a solo deal, he didn’t want to be part of a band. Then Bill got pissed because he thought Kevin and I were too cynical and dark. It was just this weird explosion and so TMC dissolved and we were like "Woah, what happened? We want to keep going." So we went over to Kevin’s studio. We had done "Ghetto Of Beautiful Things" already so then we came up with "Pretty." Then we came up with "Picnic" because Irma said something about picnics and Kevin said "That’s a great idea for a song." So we wrote "Picnic," and the next thing we knew we had close to a record here, let’s keep going. Nick was playing bass and various things. We invited Dan Schwartz.
WP: So why the harder edge away from all the material Kevin had done before?
MacLeod: Kevin was burnt out. He was heartbroken, never thought he was going to be famous. I said "Screw that stuff! Let’s make music that is cool, funny and fun and hysterical" I think for him it was new and different. And I think it was his frustration. He had done all that stuff. He had been sensitive. He had been progressive rock. It was kind of Kevin Gilbert’s punk rock era. He was frustrated that Thud didn’t take off. At TMC. All these frustrations. Me, I was frustrated too. I said, "Screw it, let’s just put together this crazy band" Marilyn Manson was just barely around then. Kevin’s vision was kind of like Marilyn Manson’s. He wanted to be anonymous. He didn’t want people to know it was Kevin Gilbert.
WP: Didn’t he say he wanted to wear a gas mask?
MacLeod: He wanted to wear a gas mask with a microphone in it, full rubber suit with platform shoes and he didn’t want anybody to know it was Kevin Gilbert. I’d said, "I will do anything to help you remain anonymous." He didn’t want it to be "Kevin Gilbert."
WP: He wanted the vocals to be like the vocals in "Picnic." I remember him saying that to me.
MacLeod: That was the idea. That was going to be our sound. He just wanted to reinvent himself. He wanted it to be fun. He wanted it to be a band. He had ‘done’ the solo thing. I know a lot of solo artists who do that. They do a solo thing and then they go "Hey man, this is really hard. I need input. I need a partner or a band or someone to write with." He and I both missed TMC so that was our new TMC. Since all these songs had started with this hard edge, we kind of invented the band around the songs and our attitude about the music business and our hatred and the disgust for the music business in this town. We were jaded. We started doing this stuff, and then all of a sudden it started getting really serious and it actually scared him.
MacLeod: Yeah! We had a whole album done. His last phone calls to me, he was really nervous, "Brian how am I going to do this? How am I going to go on stage?" and I said, "Just wear your gas mask." And he goes "But if my fans find out it’s me, they’re going to be disappointed.
WP: Because of the different and drastic change in the music?
MacLeod: Yeah. So I said, "We’ll play under the name Kaviar. It’s not ‘Kevin Gilbert,’ it’s Kaviar. It’s going to be fun." He was really nervous. He didn’t want to do it. At the last minute he was backing out. "Oh my god, I gotta get out and do this?" He had fun in the studio but he was like "I gotta go out on stage in a gas mask? I don’t know about that" I talked him into it "Let’s go man, it’s gonna be hysterical."
WP: So Nick and Dan were there for Kaviar also?
MacLeod: Dan came one day and he couldn’t hang. "Dan don’t let the door hit your ass when you leave." He was really miserable. We kind of laughed and were like, "Well, we still have the TMC spirit. Those guys can go lick their wounds and cry over Sheryl, but we’re gonna continue on. So we invented Kaviar as a catalyst to just keep making music. I remember "Picnic," he was always bummed out about that song. He thought that was a single. So he really wanted it to be perfect, "The tempo is messed up . . ." "Kevin just leave it. It’s good." You know a lot of people were going to cover that song. Slash [of Guns-N-Roses] was interested, and also Aerosmith.
WP: I asked Slash about it.
MacLeod: Did he remember it?
WP: He said, "I can honestly say I have never heard that song." Which I thought was legal terminology in the tone he said it in.
MacLeod: Right. They rehearsed it. Aerosmith, I think they would have done an amazing job with it.
WP: So then what happened to Nick being in Kaviar?
MacLeod: Nick was playing with us. The band was going to be Nick, me, and Kevin. We didn’t really know who else at that point, it was just the three of us doing that. So I came in one day frustrated going, "Tears For Fears is going out on tour again, they called me. I don’t want to go Kevin. I’m having too much fun." He says, "Don’t go" He was really supportive. "Stay here. Do this, man. If you don’t want to go . . . don’t go." I talked to Jeff Trott, he said do your own music. Irma was supportive. So when I told Kevin, he said, "Why don’t you just send Nick out on tour. You know Nick’s a huge Tears For Fears fan. He knows all the songs. He goes, he’s got the new record that you’re on." I go, "He knows all those songs too?" Roland [Orzabal] loved him. It was perfect. It made me look good. Nick showed up, great drummer, great guy. Roland just fell in love with him. I set him up with a great guy. Roland was always good to me. Nick was just blown away. "Nick you’re doing me a favor. We’ll save you a chair for Kaviar when you get back," So I stayed with Kevin and we kept working on the material. Then somehow Paul Ill called me up. I used to play with Paul. I knew Paul’s cynicism and craziness. It’s just me and Kevin now, we needed a third party. Let’s have Paul come down. Paul hit it off instantly with Kevin. Like buddies.
WP: So "The Ghetto Of Beautiful Things" has always been a Kaviar song?
MacLeod: Well, it was a Tuesday Music Club song but was the baby of Kaviar. That’s what started Kaviar. I’m happy it’s on "Shaming" because it gives you a little insight into where we were headed. I think the Kaviar record we made with Kevin is just remarkable. I love it. Kevin had the best microphones, the best gear.
WP: "Fall In Love With Me" is a song that none of the band members in Kaviar wrote. Why was that song chosen?
MacLeod: It’s Iggy Pop. It was my idea. I ran into Tony Sales (who co-wrote that song) I said "Hey man, if we get a record deal, we got one of your songs on here so you will make some money!" I didn’t pick it [that particular song], I brought him Iggy Pop’s "Lust For Life." I said, "Kevin, here. This will be a good influence on you." He goes, "Ya know what, I like this song. Kind of just a weird B-side." So we just recorded it.
WP: That’s been my favorite since I heard the Kaviar material.
MacLeod: You know who else’s favorite that is? Randy Jackson. A & R man for Sony who was considering signing us but you know how everything kind of fell apart. I would love Iggy to hear it. He would probably love it.
WP: Is that David [Levita] doing the guitar on that? I love the way the guitar creeps up on the vocals in the beginning.
MacLeod: Yep. I know. It’s David and Kevin. Actually . . . you know what? There is a man who played guitar who is on that record, I think on that song, who is an old friend of Kevin’s from the bay area, who just happened to be there on that day. I hope he gets credited.
WP: I think David is a great guitar player. I told him I never heard the tone he could get, especially performing live doing "Fall In Love With Me."
MacLeod: Yeah, he’s an amazing guitar player. I really think the spirit of Kaviar was me, Kevin, David, Paul and Nick. I wanted to do double drums. I wanted to have two North drum kits up there. I wanted to have Nick.
WP: The heavy Grateful Dead!
MacLeod: I wanted two drummers, bass, guitar, and Kevin in his full rubber gear. That would have been . . . but Kevin was really worried about his persona being tainted or people making fun of him. Or whatever. You knew how Kevin was.
WP: Right. I am a fan of all of Kevin’s music. But, to me, Kevin doing music that I was more into, since you know I like heavier, more guitar driven music. Kaviar was a blessing to me, like a present.
MacLeod: To most Kevin Gilbert fans, Kaviar is like, "What’s that? It’s crap!" But it’s not. It was a fun thing for Kevin. You know if he lived to this day, I don’t know if we’d still be doing it. We said, "Let’s do this for six months. If we don’t get a record deal and nothing happens, then we’ll move on." It was just a project. It was a fun outlet. I think he got a lot of his aggression out. It was like primal scream therapy for him to just yell and be a rock star.
MacLeod: Broken" came because I had my studio downtown and I would come up with ideas and bring them to Kevin and play him stuff. One day he called me and I go "Oh, every piece of gear in my studio is broken right now. Everything is broken" He goes, "What?" I said, "Everything in my studio is broken. Everything in my life is broken!" and he started laughing and goes, "No it’s not. Hey, that’s a good song. Come down here. Let’s write a song called ‘Broken.’" He wrote all the lyrics but I came up with that "Everything in my life is broken."
WP: Did you know that the music for "Broken" is in the movie My Teacher’s Wife that Kevin did the score for?
MacLeod: Wow, That’s a trip. I got to check that out. Now another thing that was happening with us was that we were writing really funky stuff. We had this disco/funk thing. I think that’s why we decided "Fall In Love With Me" was between the two. There’s a song called "Horizontallized." It’s kind of funky. So we had all this funk material and all this harder stuff. So we had to go, "Ya know what? We can’t do all this funk stuff. We gotta do all the harder stuff." We spent three days in the studio. The band M.I.R.V. used to stay with me when they would come down. We are all from the bay area. Kevin and I got on the phone with them and just said, "Come on down here." We literally locked ourselves in Lawnmower for three days solid! We brought sleeping bags. We recorded for three days. It’s called the Tofu Lesbian Sessions. Twenty hours or more of music. Craig McFarland [bass player for M.I.R.V.] and I are like "We gotta edit that stuff and put that out. It’s gotta come out It’s amazing. It’s so comical." We were drinking. We were up. We were partying. Three days solid. We had food delivered. It was stinky in there. One morning we woke up, probably 8 a.m., we had been up till 4 a.m., and Mirv Haggard goes, "Let’s do a song on the toy instruments." So we did about 3, 4, or 5 hours on toy instruments. Recorded really well! It’s a whole record. It’s gotta come out. Me and Craig want it to come out. We had called Keith Emerson, tried to get him to come down and play. He wouldn’t come. We got Gail Ann Dorsey, bass player for Bowie, to come down and play. Mike Ward from The Wallflowers came down. We just kept calling people. There’s a whole hour of us doing crank phone calls. I have that. We were calling up radio stations and people. We were going to put those in between the songs. That was the Tofu Lesbians.
WP: How did the name Tofu Lesbians get thrown out there?
MacLeod: Me, Craig, and Anders [of Wire Train] and this amazing violin player went up to my cabin one time. We jammed for three days. Then Anders came up with the name The Tofu Lesbians. We were thinking up crazy band names and he came up with that. So Craig and I said, "Well, if we ever do this kind of crazy music together, we got to call it The Tofu Lesbians."
WP: "Sultan Of Brunei"
MacLeod: Basically Paul had a lot of influence on a lot of the songs. Paul’s brain is its own thing. He writes all kinds of weird melodies. He came up with the melody for "Making Christy Cry." Paul’s just got an amazing brain with kooky melodies and that’s why Kevin liked him. Paul was so outside and left field. Kevin was, "How do you come up with this stuff?" Kevin had a friend who went over there to Brunei for $10,000 for about two weeks. She was a model. She had to sign a release that she wouldn’t talk about it. Then we started studying up on the "Sultan of Brunei" and then started writing the song.
WP: How did Susie Davis and David Levita become members of Kaviar?
MacLeod: Susie was working at the local music store in Pasadena. I had met her at a show. She gave me a tape of her music, sort of funk stuff. She had wanted me to work with her. She was from the bay area and I was, so we had a nice chat about that. So Kevin and I were in that store and I saw her putting sheet music away. "Susie Davis?" She says, "Brian! What are you doing here?" I said, "This is Kevin Gilbert and he has a studio around the corner, you oughtta come join us" She didn’t come over for the longest time and then one day I went into the store to buy some strings. I said "Susie, it’s right around the corner. You have no excuses. You’ve gotta come visit us. You’ve gotta come by the studio on your way home." So she said, "Okay, I will tonight, I promise." So she came and heard the music we were doing and also bonded with Kevin and what we were doing because she was kind of jaded and over music. She was ready to move back to the bay area. She was sick of music. That’s how we met Susie. I think Susie brought David Levita in. He was instantly in. I think we played him "Picnic" and that guitar part on "Picnic" was his audition. He layed it out and Kevin and I looked at each other and said "This guy is hired. He’s awesome!" It was really an amazing energy. For the moment that it existed, it could have been a really cool band. To this day, the concept was Nine Inch Nails meets The Tubes. Because there’s comedy in it. We weren’t serious. You know how Marilyn Manson and all those guys take themselves seriously? We weren’t. It was a comedy band about serious issues.
WP: As in "Indian Burn"
MacLeod: Right . . . OH! Did you ever meet Anthony? The singer we had before we got Vincent Kendall? He is now living in the bay area and he is doing a cover of "Indian Burn". Kind of trip-hop/hip-hop version, and this guy who does commercials is going to do a video of it. Which is awesome.
WP: I know the lead singer of Buck Cherry auditioned for Kaviar.
MacLeod: Yeah, we had a lot of singers come in.
WP: What is Keta Men?
MacLeod: That was an off-shoot of Kaviar. We did a version of "Strong Enough." We had so much fun doing that. We called Bill Bottrell in the middle of the night when we finished it. That was gonna be our side band. Do you know what ketamine is? I think Kevin and Jon [Rubin] came up with that name. That tranquilizer that was really big in clubs for a while. They are called "Special K." WP: But you guys just spelled it different.
MacLeod: Yeah. We kind of wanted to make it different.
WP: So Keta Men only recorded "Strong Enough"?
MacLeod: We only did "Strong Enough." It was going to be our side project. We had Kaviar and then we did "Strong Enough" and said, "Oh, We gotta follow that up with something!" We never got that far unfortunately.
WP: Was that version a total rip on Sheryl?
MacLeod: For Kevin it probably was, but for me, we owned the publishing . . . so why not a gay disco version of it so it’s played in clubs all over Europe. And yeah, maybe it will piss off Sheryl! The aim was not to piss off Sheryl, we thought it was funny for a guy to sing "Are you strong enough to be my man." Kind of like a tribute to the Village People. Kind of a joke Village People thing. We thought if it gets played in clubs, we get the publishing. We thought it was so clever, people might buy it.
WP: So that was about 1995?
MacLeod: Yes. WP: Anything else you’d care to share? Any other anecdotes?
MacLeod: I remember the happiest moment I ever saw Kevin: He and I were sampling horns, I think I still have that video tape. We rented Spartacus, the movie. We are sitting in his studio in the middle of the day sampling horns off of Spartacus and he goes, "You know I’ve never seen this movie." and I said, "Oh, this is a great movie, we should watch it." He said "Okay." So we got all our horn samples done. We’re sitting there eating popcorn and he looks over at me. You know how his eyes, he could have that sparkle, and that smile?
WP: Yes, definitely.
MacLeod: He looks over at me and says "You know Brian, this is true success." and I go, "I know Kevin, this is it." Kevin says, "We don’t even have to make music. We’re not on a clock. We can just watch Spartacus." I said, "I know. We’ve arrived Kevin, we’re done." He looks at me and says "This is true success."
©2001 Goblynz Groove Media and The Estate of Kevin Gilbert