of the Coolest and sought after session bass players and regular 4
string twanger in Crown OfThorns, Michael Paige has a new solo release
just out. He gave us an exclusive interview that went something like
to catch up again Michael. Just before we talk about the new solo
release letís just re-wind the clock back because you learned to play
violin and saxophone etc at a young age. When was the last time you
actually played violin or sax?
MP: I havenít played either in quite a while. And that phrase at a young age means that it was a looooooong time ago!!!
With a little practice do you think you could get up to recording level again?
MP: I would love to do that!!! I just wish I had the time to dedicate
to it. Life in here in LA tends to keep you on your toes and busy with
things that you need to stay viable. I figured out long ago where I
wanted to go with this music thing, and decided to concentrate on what
it would take to get me there! Violin and Sax, although were a passion,
wouldnít get me to where I wanted to be.
We are interested to know what you recorded with Julian Lennon. Was he there whilst you were laying the bass down?
MP Yeah, that was round 1993 or 1994. It was just for some single that
Tony Thompson had gotten me in on with him. Tony was my hero. He got
me involved in several things including that Badly Drawn Boy and others.
I always thought he was a dead ringer for his dad John. Did you enjoy working with him and on the release?
MP Didnít do too much hanginí per se with Julian, just worked on my
parts while Tony was cutting his tracks and I popped in to throw my
parts down after that. It was released in Japan.
also played on Badly Drawn Boy album which is a change from the rock
roots we associate you with. How did that project come about?
MP As I mentioned Tony got me in on this one, and it was for LA Producer Tom Rothrock.
Once again, Tony and I popped in did our thing and bounced! LA is full
of opportunities when your best friend is one of the world greatest
drummers. We did countless sessions as such.
was cool to finally see you laying the bass down on one of my songs
when we hooked up at Paige 1Studios. It was very much old school ethos
because you had not heard the song before just like the old session
guys; just feel the track play along a few times and down it goes. Is
this how you like to work or would you rather have the backing track to
spend time working your parts out?
MP I love doing it in either way itís very easy to work with. You can
tell me what, how, where to play and I do my best to give what you want.
Or I can give you what I hear and think would work as well. Due to
modern technology, what I often do is give the producer/artist several
tracks, via the web or hard drive shipment with different feels that I
think would work. That's how we did the last several COT records. Then
they have the option of picking, choosing and cutting whatever it is
they want. I have even had producers point out to me exactly where they
want the finger, pick, thumb or pluck!!! I am from the organic old
school of thinking/playing. Many times recording on a track I havenít
heard before, where Iím completely lost in the song; it turns out to be
the best take ever. Iím not a believer in over thinking or -overdubbing
a track. Keep it organic and let the spirit of the track come out. The
song will dictate what I play.
talk briefly about Crown Of Thorns. The Baileyís met Jean and Tommy
over 20 years ago with Voodoo x, we thought he was one of the coolest
looking black dudes we had ever come across and he also happens to be a
nice guy too. How did you first meet and what was your initial reaction
to being in a band like COT?
you know the story or do you???? I was this green wet behind the ears
kid from punk/funk/rockiní Austin Texas who got the chance to meet and
play with several of my long time idols!!! As a bass player Iíd always
been a fan of Tony Thompsonís, since Chic and all of his recordings up through Power Station and the Distance. I saw Jean Beauvoir in Austin TX my freshman year of college at a punk club called Club Foot when he was playing with the Plasmatics.
Holeeeey Shit was all I could say when my ears stopped bleeding from
the explosions!!!! Everybody used to play there. I even still have my
original album of Drums Along The Mohawk that I bought several years later!!! (Hey, I need to get him to sign that!!!) Obviously, I was a huge fan of KISS and Shalimar as
well. Iíve always been sort of an anomaly. A black guy that who not
only digs funk and soul, but hard rock and punk! I got the call from my
friend Tori Ruffin that his buddy Micki Free
was in a black rock band and they needed a bass player. It had me
written all over it!!! For the audition, I walked into a room with Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley (who were our managers at the time!), Tony Thompson, Jean Beauvoir, and Micki Free,
totally freakiní out!!! (But not letting on that I was, had to stay
COOL!!) I felt immediately comfortable after Tony came over and
introduced himself, smiled and said, all ya gotta do is follow me.
Nicest fuckin guy in the world!!! Little did he know that Iíd been
playing with him most of my life!!! Following him was my forte!
Needless to say, I got the gig!!! My lifeís been one helluva ride
note you speak very highly of the late Tony Thompson. It would appear
you guys who started out together in Crown Of Thorns remained close
throughout the years?
Mp Yes we did. After Tony left the band to hit the road again with Power Station,
we did remain best of friends and constantly talked about forming a
band. He even gave me a call to join Power Station after the touring
bass player that they had didnít work out, but I wasnít able to make it
in time to the south of France where they were rehearsing. Robert Palmer
pulled in a friend of his to take over. (Damnit, I already knew all of
the songs from playing them in cover bands in Austin Texas!!!)
had planned to do a band together called NON TOXIC what was the meaning
behind the band title and what were you looking to achieve musically?
MP no meaning to the name at all! It just popped into Tonyís mind and
it stuck because we needed a name. We had already recorded and were
about to sign deals and move onwards when Tony was diagnosed with kidney
cancer and passed away. To this day that music is the dearest to my
heart and I feel is some of the best music Iíve ever had the joy to be a
part of. I have the original tracks and someday, his widow and I will
figure out a way to get them out for the world to enjoy.
So back to COT you have enjoyed many releases which one gives you the most pleasure performing on and promoting live?
MP Still to this day, I get Goosebumps when we play the title track to
our first album, Crown of Thorns! I play constant 16 th notes
throughout the whole song! A bass playerís workout!!! Itís just so
powerful and grooving and it makes me quiver!!! My newest favourite is
Rock Ready our latest single, which you know I co-wrote with Jean. The
video makes me giggle and is quite titillating!!!!!
latest COT album has been a long time coming. Was it frustrating not
getting another album done with the band for such a long time?
MP Of course, but we all still have the fire burning in us as brightly
as ever. Time doesnít really quell what is meant to be. Timing and
opportunity are still very important in being really successful!
Hopefully our time has come again, because weíre always prepared!!!
It has been well received by the fans and critics. Has it been cool to get back on the road with the guys again?
Mp Yes weíve done several gigs, but not really any touring like the old
days. You remember those wild times!!! When we all get together now,
itís like nothing has changed!!! We have a fuckin blast! We rock hard,
bag on each other, talk shit and pretty much cause trouble where ever
we go, STILL!!!
Letís get up to speed with your new release It Is What It Was. Well, It was 7 years in the making; how come?
MP Well for one Iíd gotten involved with several other projects after COT slowed down. Brindle Creme a rock soul band that Hawk Lopez (Crown Of Thorns drummer) actually turned me on to. Wenty Morris, a band mate is featured on Teacher and extra guitars on All in Vain. I also submerged myself into doing the local club scene with several theme band companies including the guys from Steel Panther (those are some crazy mofos!). Then I formed Non-Toxic
with Tony. All the while Iíd been doing solo acoustic shows with my
own music that I never stopped writing. Iíd also gotten into computer
recording and started recording all my stuff. Paige One Studios
has had several different incarnations! Including turning my kitchen
into a drum room in one residence! My Aquarian nature dictated that I
did everything myself, so I started playing drums several years ago on a
kit that Tony left me. J As my studio grew and changed I constantly
recorded. These songs are a collection of songs that I just needed to
get out! I finally decided to actually do it a couple of years ago when
I finished building my in home studio here in Pasadena, CA. (You
remember, we were both in the middle of construction hell?!!!) (Yes I
still am bro) It wasnít necessarily meant to be a cohesive flowing
album, but more like a regurgitation of whatís been rattling around in
my head and sitting on my computer for all these years. It was kinda
like throwiní up a bunch of feathers to see which one the wind would
carry off into a successful direction. A Movie soundtrack? Commercial?
A Television theme song? Catharsis ya know? Anybody got a
played me the ballad ďWithout My HeartĒ in your studio and I was really
taken back with your vocals, not what I expected. Itís a really nice
ballad not the most impressive guitar solo I have heard LOL but a nice
arrangement and I like the way the drums come in later at the start of
the song. Do you feel you wanted to do everything yourself to have full
control of getting the music with in your heart recorded?
MP I carry the Austin Texas independent spirit with me where ever I
go. That means I hate depending on others and I can do it myself,
damnit!!! And we all know the musician breed isnít always the most
dependable animal! I needed to be able to record when I wanted, what I
wanted, and how I wanted it. That solo, I did and developed thinking
along the lines of Pink Floyd. Not too many notes. I
like solos that you can hum and have a semblance of a melody. Besides I
just wanted to finish the damn song!!! My motto is right now is the
only time. It means just do it NOW!!! (Ironic that it took me so long
to finish this, hehe!!!)
In LA is an up song your Texas buddy Derrick Edmonson played saxophone
on the song? It was my favourite bit so how come you didnít lay the sax
MP As I mentioned before, I havenít played sax in years, besides when I
really need some good shit, I know when to call in the big guns. Just
like most of the solos on the CD. Derrick and I played Austin's famous
6th street club scene for years. We both moved to LA in the early 90's
and just kept on doing our things. When I felt" Life In LA" needed something special, Derrick immediately popped into my head! My ego doesnít blind me to my limitations!!!
love the chorus to This Time - itís also an interesting chord
progression in the verses how did you come about choosing that groove to
MP Iíve always said every band/musician should have at least one 6/8
song in its repertoire!!! It actually started out as full
instrumentation from the beginning of the song. I wasnít feeling it
that way so I stripped it down and threw in the loops and samples and
made it build up to the big out.
So out of the songs on this release which bring you the most pleasure and why?
MP Actually, one of the earliest songs written on the album. ďAll in VainĒ.
It really hits me the hardest because I think it has the deepest
message. No matter how bad things may appear, all of our efforts arenít
in vain. Never give up.
thing about recording over several years is the recording equipment
changes either out board or plug ins and then you want to go back and
remix with all the new shit to play with. Did you find yourself going
back and remixing to balance out the album?
MP As a musician you know you can chase your tail around forever This
album was recorded with 4 different operating systems (yup loss of plug
ins!) 4 program upgrades, 3 different audio interfaces, 3 cutting rooms,
3 computers, 2 different vocal mics, at least 4 different drum mic
configurations, glitchy sound cards, noisy preamps, an ex wife and a
teething puppy!!! I finally had to say just finish it! Otherwise I
would spend more time remixing, re-cutting, overdubbing, etc. Do I
overdub the performance but lose the vibe??? Do I hide the rattling
snare and lose the nice overtone??? Believing in being as organic as
possible, I left many things as they were, IT IS WHAT IT WAS.
The Prophet I have to say, sounds like you turned the wet button on
the Lexicon reverb to MAX rather than Min with the drums mate. It was
really heavy on effect and for me it lost all separation and the crash
symbols were so in my ears I felt it didnít do the song justice as itís a
cool little tune. Now I could of course kiss your ass and not challenge
your thought process with the drums but I know our readers also record
music and engineer so itís a good topic for discussion. Whatís your
approach to mic placement and recording drums?
MP Iíve learned a lot doing this CD. One thing I learned is that doing
your first album is a lot like having sex for the first time. You ask
your friends for advice, you read all you can about it and you go in
with a naive confidence that carries you thru to the end. Even if you
donít know what youíre doing and make a few awkward moves, it still
feels pretty damn good when youíve finished!!! Just hope that your
partner enjoys the outcome as well!!! If not, oh well, what can ya'
do????!!!!! The in your face-ness of the cymbals and hats,was left in
that way as a kind of amusement to myself. Iím a very loose drummer
(i.e. I am not a fraction of a fraction of the drummer that Tony was!)
and to me it kinda accentuated that aspect. It was almost a sort of,
tongue in cheek poke at myself. I had to force myself NOT to mix in
flanger on the drum track! (Listen a little closer and you will hear a
little phasing, heeeheee!) When I mix I try to bring out the
personality and vibe of the song and thatís how I heard it!
technical bla bla we can save for the musicians but back to the album.
All in Vain for me is the best song on the album and benefits with
introducing a guitar player. Was that Bart Ryan doing all the nice lead
guitar harmonics and lead soloing at the end? Itís a cool song; tell us
how that all came about and your choice of musicians?
MP As far as choice of musicians, Iíve just been blessed to have some
very talented friends that decided to help a brother out!!! Yeah, thatís
Bart on all of those swells and soloing. Heís awesome. Bart Ryan
is a blues-rock musician here in LA that I met and played with years
ago during my solo acoustic gigin. He came down one night to my Wok N
Roll Sushi nights that I was hosting to hang out and sit in. After
several bottles of sake, I talked him into coming over to record on this
tune. We were hammered!!! I just plugged him in and coached him thru
several passes. He went on his way and afterwards, I passed out on my
couch. Woke up the next morning not knowing what the hell we had
recorded. As I fired up the computer, lo and behold, ďAll in VainĒ. There are about 4 tracks of parts that I mixed in and out to get the final mix. I love his playing! Tori Ruffin is an all around badass! He taught jazz and funk at the world famous MIT here in Hollywood. He has been the guitarist for Morris Day and the Time since the early 90's ,
Pushit is very sort of dated early 80ís rock a bit AC/DC in places; did you just let loose all your influences on this album?
MP Thatís exactly it. They used to call it cock rock in Texas!!!
AC/DC is one of my all time favourites. Can you hear this one in a
NASCAR commercial??? Or an Ultimate Fighting promo???!!! Most of the
songs on the album were written on acoustic guitar. Thatís where I
usually start. Instrumentation changes as I feel the personality of the
song mature. puShit was written because I was fooling around with
alternate tunings and wanted a cock rock feel!!!
Teacher - now this I like, very Doug like vocals from Kings X;
anything from Hendrix, to Living Colour to of course Kings X how did
this collaboration come about with Vocalist Matt Mayes?
MP Matt Mayes came as a recommendation from my friend Tori Ruffin
as a vocalist for Non-Toxic! He moved here too late to get things
going with Tony and I, but weíve remained friends and have played
together many, many times. I had the track and wasnít really impressed
with my vocals for the track, so I threw it his way and he knocked it
out of the park!!! Iím sure I will be doing more with him in the
future. Heís killer to work with!
thereís a diverse mix of styles on this release and i think its hats
off to you Michael for finally letting the public see thereís more to
you than just being a cool bass player. Letís just quickly wrap this
interview up with some info on those cool open mic things you have been
doing in LA etc. I remember a flyer you sent us way back something like
WOK N ROLL - I think you had a meal then there was a band on? Anyway you
have done some cool nights tell us how that started and where you are
with it now?
hosted any nights or promoted any live music events since MCing Tony
Thompsís Memorial Benefit at the Hard Rock CafE here in LA. Nile
Rogers, Jean Beauvoir, Michael DeBarres, Eddie Martinez, Carmine Rojas,
Tal Bergman, and a host of others were there. I have been spending my
time running a well known steak house here in LA with plans to open my
own venue sometime in the future. THERE WILL DEFINITELY BE LIVE MUSIC
THERE!!! You can bet yer sweet ass there will be!!! Iím pulling out
the Gretsch acoustic as we speak to prepare for doing some live shows
Whatís next for the Crown Of Thorns and Michael Paige musically?
MP COT is looking forward to doing more touring and festivals next year
to bring Faith to more and more crazy rockin folks round the world!!!
Michael itís always a pleasure to hang with you bro good luck with your
new album ďIT Is What ItWasĒ and we look forward to catching up again
in the near future bro
MP Once again thanks for the support and I appreciate all that you've done for us!!!!! Rock on Brah'!!!!
Interview by The Bailey Brothers
Photos by The Bailey Brothers and the archives of Michael Paige
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