BROKEN TEETH - “Knuckle-Dragger, Mouth-Breather Rock ‘N Roll”
March 24, 2010, 5 years ago
By Aaron Small
“I love DANKO JONES,” exclaims Jason McMaster, vocalist for the Austin, Texas based BROKEN TEETH. In fact, McMaster was so impressed by Danko’s inimitable brand of rock ‘n roll that he managed to corral the Canadian into recording vocals for two songs on the new Broken Teeth album, Viva La Rock, Fantastico. Jones lent his pipes to the title track as well as ‘Big Spender’.
“The first time I heard Danko was about five or six years ago, from a friend of mine in Scotland named Allison who burned me some shit,” reveals McMaster. “She sent me THE DARKNESS and she sent me Danko Jones. The Darkness flew out the fucking window of my van! I couldn’t even get through the first song. But Danko Jones lived in my CD player for months and months. Then he came through Austin not that long after, supporting TURBONEGRO. It was almost pre-destined. I was so excited because I was so into it! No one I knew had heard of Danko Jones. But when I went to the show, there were people that knew all the fucking words. They were completely celebrating his set. He literally is an underground favourite. Much like myself, his band are metal heads. They love CATHEDRAL and SLAYER."
Before seeing Jones live and meeting him in-person, McMaster "read an article that Danko wrote for Rock Hard Germany about how shitty metal got in the ‘90s – rap metal and nu metal being sold as metal but it wasn’t metal. It was just somebody in California trying to come up with a new flavour; and it wasn’t a very good one. Danko’s article touched on that. It wasn’t slamming anything, it just removed the mask from what people were calling metal in that decade. It was a passive aggressive type of article that was very to the point, saying he gave up on metal because it was so bad and it wasn’t real. Then all of a sudden in the early 2000s, he started realizing there’s a lot of kick-ass shit out there again; and I feel the same way. That’s what I love about bands like Danko Jones and Broken Teeth – we’re not afraid to be heavy metal and still keep the blues. That sort of knuckle-dragger, mouth-breather rock ‘n roll, but keeping it clever like the good old KISS and AC/DC songs. That took a back seat just like real metal took a back seat. When I first heard Danko, he reminded me of the bands of the late ‘80s like CIRCUS OF POWER and JUNKYARD. There was a lot of shit back then that was timeless.”
Viva La Rock, Fantastico (the song) is inspired by “the French band TRUST. I love that record Savage. The version of course that’s all in English. My old band WATCHTOWER used to cover ‘Repression’ off of that album. Of course ANTHRAX does ‘Antisocial’. I love how Bernie the singer’s fucking accent – and he’s not even thinking about it – is so rat-a-tat-tat machine gun delivery. I wanted to do something like that in a song, but I didn’t know how to apply it being just a dumb American. I don’t know French. I might as well be Mexican. I was born in Corpus Christi, Texas. I don’t know Spanish – strike me down for that. Texas is Mexico. The only thing I could come up with to celebrate what we have going on in Broken Teeth was the phrase Viva La Rock, Fantastico. I started to sing it and it took me to where I needed to go to feel what Bernie was doing in all those kick-ass Trust songs. Even though it’s bastardized and is closer to a dumb Tex-Mex flavour, I think it came out really fun and cool. It’s kind of a little punk rock song and I was glad that Danko wanted to be on it and humour us with his stuff.”
Writing for Viva La Rock, Fantastico (the album) happened on the road. Not an ideal scenario for numerous bands, yet for Broken Teeth, it facilitated the creative spark. “I’ve got this little digital recorder made by Boss, it’s a BR600. All the gear heads out there will know exactly what I’m talking about. It has so much potential… you can record your album on this thing,” explains McMaster. “It’s got any application you would want, especially if you’re on the road in the back of a bus or a hotel room. It runs on batteries. It’s got a drum machine, a built-in microphone as well as microphone inputs and guitar inputs. It’s got a tuner on it. What else do you need? So I just plugged into this thing whenever I felt there was something bubbling. I was singing into this little box. It’s as big as a library book. I was just fucking this thing in the back of the bus off and on for about a year and a half. Some of the songs that made the record, I wrote the night before the last day of tracking. Overall, we had 30 songs. Some of them obviously better than others, some of them a little bit unfinished, but anything that was recorded on that little portable studio, turns into a skeleton anyway. If I felt some inspiration, I would literally plug into it, find a beat and five minutes later I had a fucking song.” Talk about capturing the moment. Thanks to technology, scribbling down notes on bar napkins and then revisiting them at the end of the tour is a thing of the past. “You’re right. I could be in the dressing room with a bunch of people around and hear something that would inspire a lyrical idea or have a riff just ghost into my head and I could record it right there on the spot.”
The name Broken Teeth implies that this is a band not afraid to take a beating and look ugly, plug in and play – no matter what. “That’s right. I don’t mind emulating some of the music that I grew up with in my song writing because it makes me feel good. I can press play on a video in my head of the first time I heard that song that’s influencing me to sound and feel whatever I’m trying to conjure up. It’s important that people realize that’s what I’m doing. I’m conjuring up a memory or a moment in rock ‘n roll history and serving it to you hot and in your face.”
Although Broken Teeth released a live album, Blood On The Radio, in 2004 and a compilation disc, Electric, in 2008, Viva La Rock, Fantastico is the first full, new album in eight years; the proper follow-up to 2002’s Guilty Pleasure. “That’s a scary reality that I guess I’ve been in denial about admitting to, but that’s exactly right. The scary thing about Viva La Rock, Fantastico is there’s no Paul Lidel at all. When I was writing a riff, it was like, what would Paul play? His influence is forever in stone in the attitude and vibe of the guitars in Broken Teeth. All the way from DIRTY LOOKS and the songs he wrote in the later era of DANGEROUS TOYS – bluesy, dirgy, heavy Joe Perry (from AEROSMITH) on Quaaludes. I think the song on Viva La Rock, Fantastico that I’m literally trying to emulate something Paul would write is ‘Dressing Up In Flames’, which is quickly becoming known as the song that has a JET guitar riff with me screaming old KISS album titles over the chorus – which is perfect. I’ll take that! I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”
Since the recording of Viva La Rock, Fantastico, Broken Teeth has undergone a lineup change. “Unfortunately we’ve had to replace our bass player Brett (McCormick). He’s kind of tied up at the moment and has to deal with some things. The new guy we have now is Travis Wife. He’s a friend of ours who’s been playing in bands his whole life. He’s a dog just like we are. We’ll be hitting the road a little bit. It’s just so expensive in this do it yourself rock ‘n roll world. Diesel fuel is still a little pricey. This is all by the seat of our pants. None of us have real good jobs or anything, but we are supporting ourselves. I teach vocals at a chain called School of Rock. There’s 50 schools nationwide. I’m the vocal coach at the Austin chapter. I’m getting more and more students as the months go by. I also work at a really cool heavy metal shop called Encore Records in Austin. David teaches guitar and Travis is in school. Jared’s an engineer. We’re fighting to survive and be a rock ‘n roll band and that’s ok. It gives us character and makes it real because we mean business. When we get in a room together, it’s fucking on!”
Delving further into the Broken Teeth live plans, McMaster admits to “a two-week tour in the summer – late May, early June (dates can be found here). There’s also going to be another Broken Teeth tour in the fall. Last year Broken Teeth was on a cruise called Shiprocked. The bigger bands were: RATT, QUEENSRŸCHE, TESLA and SKID ROW with a bunch of b-level bands. Man, that thing could literally save rock ‘n roll! It’s this thing you can go on for five days and call it a vacation – but you’re wearing a laminate and you’re backstage. It’s like riding on a giant fucking tour bus on the ocean with all your favourite bands for five days, partying balls with them. It’s pretty cool. I’m excited that we got asked to do that again. That happens in November (11th - 14th onboard the MSC Poesia). The headliners they’re talking about getting this year are just as cool or even cooler than the other ones” - CINDERELLA and HAIL! have since been confirmed.
Although the majority of cruise-goers enjoyed the rock ‘n roll, not everyone was pleased with Broken Teeth and McMaster’s banter. “Granny and Grandpa are sitting by the pool while you’re doing sound check, letting the f-bombs fly. They’d go tell the shipmaster and you’d get in a little bit of trouble. That literally happened to me! Broken Teeth actually kicked off the whole thing. It was five o’clock in the evening, we hadn’t even got away from the dock yet and I’m like, ‘check one two, motherfucker, hey motherfuckers.’ I thought this was a rock ‘n roll thing, but there’s still that element on the ship. So I had to reel it in a little bit but that’s ok. By the time the show started, Granny and Grandpa were done and the little kids were done, so it was safe to throw the horns!”