PUNKY MEADOWS – “No Way Will ANGEL Ever Open Up For KISS”
May 24, 2016, a year ago
Hard to believe, but essentially, once legendary progressive hard rockers Angel put themselves asleep in 1980, we never heard much from any of the guys again (save for Gregg Guiffria), and that includes guitarist Punky Meadows, famed for being name-checked in a Frank Zappa bit due to his beyond pretty boy looks.
“I was done with the music business; I washed my hands of it,” explains Punky. “I started my own business and I was very successful, happy and the whole thing. And I just didn’t want anything to do with music anymore. Once I left LA... I mean, I love music, but I hate the music business, you know what I mean?”
But now he’s back with his first solo album, 36 years in the baking and making, called Fallen Angel, amusingly, just as his lead vocalist cohort in Angel Frank DiMino, has launched a solid record of his own under the DiMino brand.
“Well, it’s a hard rock album,” begins Meadows, asked to describe the thing. “I wanted to do an album that would be a fun album too. I didn’t want it to be so serious that it... I don’t know, I want people to enjoy this album and have fun with it. So all the songs that are heavy... even the heavy tunes have anthemic choruses and hooks to them, and verses too. I like a really good song. I don’t want to hear a heavy riff and then into the stratosphere. I want songs with good riffs and choruses, you know what I mean? So even the heavy songs are very commercial-oriented, which I like. I see nothing wrong with being commercial. I like to sing along with the radio and sing along with songs myself. So there are heavy songs, there are power pop songs, there are a couple ballads too. It’s very diversified, this record is. You’re not going to listen to it... like a lot of bands, you listen to the album, you have the verses... the songs all kind of sound the same, but it’s just a slightly different chorus. This record is so diverse, you’ll have a power pop song that is almost like a heavy Beatles song, that is heavy but it’s also very, very pop, that you would hear maybe almost in the ‘60s. But it’s still current for today’s sound and heavy. So that’s really cool. And then we have heavy, heavy songs that are just really guitar-oriented, with heavy riffs. But even those songs are very, very commercial and singable. Like I say, you have songs you want to sing along with and hear again. But the songs are all well-written. Danny Farrow is my partner, and we wrote all the songs together and we produced the album together. And we came up with the concept for the album cover and everything else too. And so he’s my best friend and partner, and he’s a great songwriter in his own right. So we have a really good chemistry. I’m happy with this record.”
And judging from that, one might surmise that Punky was in the camp that thought that Angel’s left turn from the Purple-like heaviness of Angel’s first three albums into the pop of the band’s last two, White Hot and Sinful, was justified. Was he on board with that direction, one that still has fans coalescing into opposing armed camps?
“Yes, well, I was. I mean, I played in club bands my whole life. I was like the hardest working musician. I had a group in the Washington DC area and around there, so I would be in the house band. We would play in one club for three years straight. And in those days, there weren’t DJs and the only time the band would have a break, they would have like a little jukebox in between the time. You could play five or six sets a night and you could learn your craft well. We had to play everything from the Beatles to Zeppelin to the Stones, even some country songs, a lot of Motown stuff. So I learned to play everything. I love nothing more than a cool Motown song with great background vocals. So I learned all kinds of different styles of guitar, and appreciate and love all that stuff.”
“So I’m kind of putting all that into my record, like I said, to please a lot of people, not just one genre of people,” continues Meadows. “And I just love music. And to me, melody and rhythm will always live on. I think a lot of trouble with a lot of bands, especially metal bands today, there’s not a lot of melody going on, so that’s why they tend to stay underground. So I think more in the ‘70s... of course, in the ‘70s, there was so much great song writing in the ‘70s. That’s where all the pioneering was really happening. There are so many great songs in the ‘70s and the groups were so diverse. There were so many different kinds of bands. Even in the ‘60s you had Hendrix, The Doors, the Stones, the Beatles; everything was so diversified. But in the ‘80s, all the bands kinda sounded the same. It was all anthemic rock, tapping the fret all over the place, playing all the classical scales. And while it was impressive, it wasn’t an inspiration to me. My thing was, don’t impress me, inspire me, you know what I mean? I can hear a lot of guitar players, and it sounds like a lesson in manual dexterity. It’s impressive and it’s fast and it’s shredding, but it doesn’t inspire me. But when a guy like Stevie Ray Vaughan comes along, I’m inspired. Because the cat really knows how to play.”
And from the clubs, Angel found themselves signed to the notorious Casablanca Records...
“Yes, what happened was, we had just put the band together and we were blowing up the nightclub with flash bombs and all kinds of stuff, knocking all the whiskey bottles off the shelves, and we had lines around the block, people coming to see us. And Kiss were playing at the Capital Centre, in DC. They showed up that night. You know, they went out to a nightclub, and they wound up at Bogeys, and we were playing. And Gene and Paul and Ace came in. I’ll never forget it. Because I’m like 6’1”, 6’2”, and they had their platform shoes on, and I had to reach up to shake their hands, because they were so tall. I thought it was so cool. But Gene looked at me and said, ‘You fucking guys are fucking awesome.’ He looked at me... I used to do this move where I hold my hand over my head and play with my other hand. And Gene looked at me and said, he made that move, that I did, and he said, ‘That’s classic.’ And they just raved about us. They thought we were so great.”
“And so then what happened was... so they split and the whole thing, and then we started to… We had different managers come up to start to see us. And it started a bidding war, at Bogeys, between Leber and Krebs, Toby Organization and Sandy Pearlman. Leber and Krebs managed Aerosmith, Nugent, the Dolls, all those guys, and then Toby Organization was out in California; they had managed Gary Glitter and they had Quiet Riot at one time before Quiet Riot made it. And Sandy Pearlman had Blue Oyster Cult. So we kind of had a bidding war with management teams and stuff. So we wound up going with Toby Organization back in California. Those guys wanted to see palm trees, I guess.”
And then it was time to find a label. “Right. We were sitting in our manager’s office, and we were thinking about showcasing ourselves to record companies. Ahmet Ertegun wanted to hear us, and so we were talking, and our manager David Joseph said, ‘You know, Neil Bogart has this new label called Casablanca, and Kiss is on the label.’ And so we told our manager that Gene and Paul and Ace came out and saw us and raved about us and this and that. And he says, ‘I’ll tell you what, let me call Neil Bogart and see what he says.’ And so David calls Neil Bogart up at Casablanca, ‘Say, I’ve got this band, they’re called Angel, they’re from Washington DC, and they’re out here, and we’re shopping a record deal. Gene and Paul and Ace had come down to see them when they were back in DC and said that they were great. Why don’t you check the band out?’ So Neil Bogart said to our manager, ‘I’ll tell you what. Kiss are playing out in Anaheim this next week. I’ll have Angel open up for them, and that way I can see them play.’ So we said, that would be great.”
“And he says, ‘Let me call you back. I’m going to call Gene and talk to Gene about it.’ We hang up, and then Neil Bogart calls back about 15 minutes later and says, ‘I’ll tell you what. I’ll sign the band sight unseen. Because Gene Simmons said, “No way will Angel ever open up for Kiss.”’ So that was great. And so he was going to sign us right away to a seven album deal. But we actually did play for him a couple weeks later. He came down to the rehearsal hall and we played for him and he just loved it. So he was behind us 100% then. And so that’s how we actually got that record deal.”
Zoom forward to the present day, Punky’s got with him on the album, Angel alumni Felix Robinson, bass player from the second half of the band’s run.
“Yes, he lives in New York, and everybody else is in Jersey. I’m in Charlotte, North Carolina, so I’m flying up there, and I was up there for the last three weeks, just doing the final mixes up there. And I stayed at a hotel up there. We all get together and we record and I did some of the guitar tracks down here in Charlotte. And basic tracks up in New Jersey. And so I’m flying back and forth. I’m probably going to have to move to New Jersey pretty soon, I’m thinking, just to be closer to people up there. But back to Felix, Felix is a very talented musician. Not only is he a great bass player, but he’s a really good singer, he’s a great keyboard player. I mean, and he can play guitar well too. So he’s an all-around talented musician. So I wanted Felix on this album because just because of his talent, his pure talent. He’s underrated. Nobody knows what a great musician Felix really is. He used to intimidate Gregg. Felix and I would show up to rehearsals early, and he would sit down at the piano and we would play like Ray Charles songs, and he would sing them too; he can sing all that stuff. Felix comes from the same school I come from, where he plays all different types of music. And so we relate really well with him. He can play blues, rock, Motown, country, everything. And he appreciates all that stuff too. So we kind of bonded over all that stuff.”
Sounds like we’re going to hear that creative spirit on this new record.
“You are, you are, and like I said, there’s a lot of great guitar stuff on it as well. I don’t want to sound conceited, but I’m very proud of the guitar work that is on here, and I’m proud of the songwriting too. And I have a killer singer—Chandler Mogel is a great, great singer. He delivers the goods, and Charlie Cav, who is a really great keyboard player, and then there’s Felix, and then my partner, Danny is really great, too. So there’s a lot of good musicians on there. And Bobby, also Bobby Pantella from Monster Magnet is playing drums and he’s great too. We’re actually headlining BB King’s June 14. We’re going to be doing that show, so that’s exciting. They’re selling tickets right now for that. And the album is doing well. Actually the album is the largest pre-order sale they’ve had in the history of Main Man Records. Pre-orders went out a month ago, and it’s been selling really, really well. Which is really great. And then the album, of course, drops on the 20th of May, and we’ll be promoting that, between now and then. So we can get some sales, get touring and start playing again.”
(Top photo by: Danny Sanchez)