SOUTHERN GENTLEMEN - Good Ol' Boyz
March 21, 2003, 18 years ago
by Carl Begai
Although guitarist David Chastain is perhaps best known for his power metal mastery during the '80s - what we now call "old school" - he has continued to make keep things burning going into the 21st century. In the latter half of the '90s he brought out two Chastain albums (Sick Society and In Dementia) featuring a much heavier, more aggressive and ultimately stronger sound, assembled a new power metal outfit called Zanister, devoted time to promoting bands like Vainglory and Firewind through his Leviathan record label, and founded Diginet.com to promote and sell guitar-oriented metal over the internet. His biggest triumph, however, came in 2000 with the unexpected success of a heavy blues rock project called Southern Gentlemen. Many fans of Chastain's large body of work and rock fans in general were drawn to Exotic Dancer Blues, which was essentially a new take on '70s-based blues rock in the tradition of Hendrix and ZZ Top. As such, it stands to reason that Chastain would try his luck again, and so he has with Double Your Pleasure, a heavier, raunchier and if possible, bluesier follow-up.
Like Exotic Dancer Blues, Double Your Pleasure is a record of three musicians clearly having a blast playing their hearts out. This time out, though, there seems to be more of an improvisational vibe to the music, as if the songs were created around a few beer-soaked jam sessions."Well, as far as the guitar solos went it definitely was a jam thing happening," Chastain agrees. "It was all improvised; I never work anything like that out. This band was put together with the idea of playing the local club on a Saturday night. I wasn't worried about anything more than having a good time with the music."
Originally meant as a one-off project, the success of Exotic Dancer Blues is what spurred Chastain on to do a second Southern Gentlemen album."To be quite truthful, I actually had a whole different Southern Gentlemen album written," says Chastain. "I have another band that is supposedly more blues-oriented called that Georgia Blues Dogs, and I recorded an album with them, but after I heard the songs I decided to re-record them with much heavier guitar. I was originally planning on releasing Double Your Pleasure as a two-CD set, with one being the clean version of the songs and the other being the heavy version, but I scrapped that idea in the end. So, in reality, this was never the second Southern Gentlemen album; it just evolved into that. Now the Double Your Pleasure concept refers only to the cover art (laughs)"
Although Southern Gentlemen was never geared towards the metal crowd, it was the steel-chewing rivet-heads that bought into it. One of the reasons for a slightly heavier touch this time?"We got a very good response from the metal crowd, not such a good response from the blues purists," Chastain explains. "You know, the B.B. King fans out there didn't like what they heard because they hate anything with big distortion (laughs). So, I decided we'd make this one heavier. That's where I'm more comfortable anyway, but I kept the framework and ideology of the first album intact."
So, at this point in what has been a long and fruitful career, is Southern Gentlemen where Chastain's head is at in terms of his playing even though he's literally surrounded by full-on metal, including his own?"Well, it's more enjoyable for me right now," Chastain admits. "I do have a new Chastain album recorded - it'll be out by the end of the year at the earliest - but when I sit down to write music doing the Southern Gentlemen is a much easier operation. There are fewer people to deal with; everybody lives close by so it gets done with a minimum amount of trouble, and everyone is thrilled to do it. That makes things so much more enjoyable."
"The thing is, I can change gears any time I want; it's always been that way and I'm very lucky in that," Chastain adds. "Twenty years ago, when I was doing stuff like For Those Who Dare and 7th Of Never, I was demoing stuff that was very Southern Gentlemen-y. Chastain and CJSS were quite popular at the time so I continued down that path. I've always loved and recorded th0is type of music on the side, only no one knew about it."