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Interview With Chris VanDahl, Vocalist For Angels In Vein

XSROCK recently posted the announcement of the new band, Angels In Vein, featuring former members of L.A. Guns, Faster Pussycat and White Lion.  We were immediately bombarded with questions from our readers demanding to know more about this new group. Angels In Vein have generated more buzz in the hard rock and metal scene, than anyone else that we can think of in recent memory. And though they reject the title of “Supergroup”, they are definitely overloaded with talented veterans of the rock scene. Angels In Vein are: Chris VanDahl (L.A. Guns) – vocals, Stacey Blades (L.A. Guns) – guitar, Eric Stacy – bass (Faster Pussycat), Tod “Taz” Anthony – guitar (Cherry St.) and Troy Patrick Farrell (White Lion) – drums. Recently, I had the chance to catch up with lead vocalist, Chris VanDahl and talk about the new band, his musical history, and his take on the current music scene. Chris is an incredibly nice guy and was more than happy to fill us in on the new record and what’s next for Angels In Vein.

XSROCK: So tell me about how Angels In Vein came about?

Chris VanDahl: It originally started because I had been performing as Steven Tyler with Legends in Concert and traveling the world for like 3 years straight. I woke up one day and just decided that I needed to do something that was all me.
– Of course back then I didn’t know what the band was going to look like in the real world, it was just an idea banging around in the back of my head. – I reached out to my long time friend and writing partner from back in the Cherry St. days., Todd “Taz” Anthony and told him what I was thinking. The following day he sent me like 13 rough drafts of song ideas that he had written over the years but had just sort of filed away. The first single the band is about to release “1973” actually grew from one of those ideas. Over the past year and a half or so the two of us have quietly been working on this record in our free time.

XSROCK: So you had previously played in the band Cherry St. with Taz. How did you know the rest of the guys? When did you solidify the current lineup?

Chris VanDahl: Stacey Blades and I have been friends for years in fact we even recorded a number of tracks for the recent KISS 40th anniversary tribute album together. Stacey moved to Las Vegas about two years ago and we’ve been in close touch ever since. Not long ago he reached out to me about a possible David Bowie charity event that he wanted me to sing for. While the event never happened, we got to talking about what each of us was doing and I told him about the record I’d been working on. He asked to hear it so I sent him some tracks. Not long after, he got back to me and said, that he and Eric Stacy who was the bass player scheduled to do the Bowie event wanted to be part of the new band. The three of us got together and started writing. I can tell you after having done this as long as we have you just know when there’s magic in the room. And there was definitely magic! Originally Vikk Foxx from Enuff Z Nuff and the Vince Neil band was going to be our drummer. In fact he was already committed for the video shoot that we just did. At the last minute something major came up and he was called away to deal with it. Vikk actually recommended Troy Patrick Farrell to take his slot. While we all wish Vikk the best it seems that everything happens for a reason because TPF is a monster behind the kit  and a perfect fit for the band. At the end of the day (at least where the players are concerned), it’s kind of a small community and everybody pretty much knows everybody.

XSROCK: Obviously, everyone in the band is a veteran of the music scene, and have played with many other bands. Will Angels In Vein be a side project for everyone or is this a full time band?

Chris VanDahl: What I can tell you is this, AIV is definitely a REAL band. We’re finishing up the first record, have shot two videos, are preparing to release the first singles plus we’re currently in talks with booking agents and management companies about scheduling upcoming tours. If that’s not enough we’re also getting ready to launch our merchandise line “AIV t-shirts etc. in conjunction with Rock N Roll Gangstar. “Who everybody knows makes the best stuff out there.” Check our FB page for updates… (Unabashed self-promotion. Lol!)  How full-time this becomes is really going to  be about the fans.  The amount of support and demand for the band is directly proportional to how much time and energy we’re able to commit to it.  I don’t think i’m going too far out on a limb here when I say I don’t think there’s anything we’d like better than to have this be the only thing we need to focus on. For most if not all of us I’m pretty sure that’s already the case.

XSROCK: The teaser track that you just released sounds incredible. When can we expect to hear a release date for your debut album?

Chris VanDahl: First of all, thank you! That’s a small cut of one of the tracks that will appear on the album. It’s entitled ” No One Gets Out Alive” and while it definitely gives you an idea of what we’re about, it in no way completely defines our sound. There’s a lot more going on in this band then you’re getting in that 6o second clip. So be prepared!
As far as the album release date goes, that’s a little tricky. We’ve talked about a number of different ways we could go with it. We’re actually thinking we might do things a little differently and release a new track every month until the entire album is out and then do a full hard copy release.  The main reason is that very few people buy full albums anymore. It’s all about the single. And while this may come across as a pretty ballsy statement, Pretty much every song (so far) on this record is a single.

XSROCK:  So, “1973” is going to be the first single released. Can you give us some other song titles from the new album?
Chris VanDahl: Sure, just know I’m holding some things back because even though the cat is kicking and screaming to get out of the bag I don’t want to give away the surprises.
Some of the track titles are,
“With Me Tonight
“No One Gets Out Alive”
“Run Rebel Run”
And we’re currently working on one that just may be the title track. It’s called,
“Love Dies Screaming”

XSROCK: Where do you find inspiration for writing lyrics?

Chris VanDahl: Everywhere, but mostly from the music itself. When I sit down to write I’m generally in front of the microphone working the actual song in the moment. The killer thing about music is that it speaks to us. Not words necessarily, but most definitely feelings. I just do my best to interpret how what I’m listening to makes me feel and write the lyrics coming from that place.

XSROCK: Who’s producing your debut release?

Chris VanDahl: On the production end it’s been kind of a partnership between Todd (Taz) Anthony and myself. It’s a pretty natural progression. We both have studios and when we’re not together we bounce stuff back-and-forth. There’s definitely no shortage of ideas there but at the end of the day even though we agree on most things Taz pretty much has the final say because he’s also the engineer. So, alongside being a badass guitarist and performer he’s actually a killer engineer. Taz is the CO of Blue Ocean Music and has produced and recorded a lot of the bands that most of your readers are probably fans of.
Just for the record (literally) the album is being mastered by “Anthony Focx”.  Anthony has been responsible for mastering everybody from Guns N Roses to Aerosmith, so sonically speaking you can expect it to be huge.

XSROCK: Looking back on your time in L.A. Guns, what was that experience like?

Chris VanDahl: It was a total grab bag. Some of the best and most challenging times of my life to date.  When I joined the band they were already well-established and the fans definitely had certain expectations. When Tracii (Guns) asked me to join, he told me that they had essentially broken up. He was already moving on and establishing Killing Machine but said that if I was willing to join they would keep the band together and move forward. At the time I was fronting a band called Boneyard. It was one of those groups with amazing chemistry but because of internal issues was always just on the verge of breaking up. Musically we were somewhere in the middle of Mother Love Bone and GNR and I’m pretty sure that’s what Tracii was drawn to.  So after he brought the rest of the band down to see me perform and they asked me to join and I said yes. What I didn’t foresee at the time was how drastically Tracii’s vision for the band had changed. I had it in my head that we are going to make this killer rock record and it turned out to be a completely different animal.  In hindsight I think it was more of an experiment that anything. Trac’ saw what was on the horizon with the change in music and was trying to reinvent the band to get out ahead of the curve. In theory it was brilliant but in reality it was more of a disaster. Things are always changing especially in music. The old fans wanted what was familiar and comfortable and the potential new ones we’re too busy discovering recent artists to care very much.  It’s not that it was bad, it was just too much of a departure from what made them great in the first place. I think Kelly Nichols saw it coming. He left the band early on which is when we became a four piece. For the record I think Kelly pretty much took all the cool with him when he left.  I also think as much as I wanted it to work, in the back of my mind I knew better. Probably, we all did. For what it’s worth I’ll say this. “Those guys are definitely some of the most talented musicians I’ve ever had the fortune to play with. I learned a lot from that experience and my years with them and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

XSROCK: You’ve had the experience of being in a situation where there were two bands named L.A. Guns at the same time. Now, we’re seeing this happen in other bands as well. Currently, there is Stephen Pearcy, the voice of Ratt, Juan Croucier, the other voice of Ratt and Ratt with only one original member, Bobby Blotzer. Just recently there was an attempt to reform the band Dirty Looks with no original members. What’s your take on all of this? Did you find it difficult being in a competitive situation with various members using the same band name?

Chris VanDahl: Oh man,
Here’s the thing. Say you and I started a business together and it became extremely successful but we couldn’t work together anymore because of personal issues. Does that mean that one of us no longer has the right to use the business name?
My point is, it’s complicated! I know there are issues with legalities. Who owns the rights to the name etc. but at the end of the day we worked together to make it what it was.  You’re right for wanting to move forward but in my mind so am I.
I think the real question here is, is there room for three Ratts in the world? Apparently, the members of all the different versions don’t seem to think so. Still, at the end of the day it’s going to be the fans who decide if any of them are worth seeing. For the members of those bands part. I think they’re all just trying to get by the best they can.
For my part I only found it difficult when I showed up at a venue and Phil’s picture was on the poster… Lol!

XSROCK: What’s your relationship with Tracii Guns like these days? Do you ever talk to each other or was the split a bad situation?

Chris VanDahl: It’s been a while since we’ve spoken but I’d hug him if we ran into each other. I don’t love him any less today than I did then, he saw something in me and was willing to gamble on it and that says a lot.  Still, these things are strange ya’ know?  You spend years living and playing with these guys and then you go your separate ways wondering to yourself if you’ll ever see them again. I don’t know that I would call the split a bad one but unusual, definitely!
Originally leaving the band was my choice. I called them up and explained that I didn’t feel like it was working and told them I believed it would be best for everybody if we went our separate ways. They called me back and said let’s meet about this. Of course I said OK. We got together and there was a lot of talk and heartfelt feelings. They asked me to stay and I decided to give it one last shot. About two weeks later I got a phone call from Tracii telling me I was out of the band. I think after he hung up I just stared at the phone and started laughing. Not so much because it was funny but more because it struck me as so surreal.

XSROCK: So can you tell me a little bit about your Aerosmith tribute band? You do look remarkably like Steven Tyler at times.
Chris VanDahl: Aeromyth started like this. I had left LA and moved back to Michigan where I’m from. I was in the process of recording a record with my band Pack Of Wolves.
Kenny Olson, Kid Rock guitars
Adam Kury Candlebox bass
Shannon Boone Puddle of Mudd drums

When I received a phone call.
The person who called me was Neal Shelton
He had gotten my number from a mutual friend and he was looking for a singer for his tribute band. I think I actually laughed. I told him thanks for the call but the last thing you’ll ever catch me doing is performing as Steven Tyler in a tribute band. (Little did I know)  I had grown-up hearing that I looked like Steven and it’s followed me through my entire career. You look like Steven, you move like Steven, you sound like Steven.  That’s actually the main reason I did the dread mohawk and all the piercings back in the early 90s. I was just trying to get away from the comparisons.  Fast forward a couple of years. Neal had stayed in touch and we became friends. I eventually made my way back to California and he hounded me relentlessly. I finally went to check out the band and actually had a great time.  I told him if he was serious we needed to make changes and he agreed.  We brought in the right guys, changed the name (The band was originally called Pump) and started to nail down the details. The band went from playing $50 a night local dives, to touring internationally, to packed houses sometimes upwards of 10,000 people.

XSROCK: Have you and Steven Tyler ever met? If so, what’s his take on your performance?

Chris VanDahl: Yes, Steven and I have spent time together and I love him!. He had me as his guest backstage at the MGM here in Las Vegas. In fact we even pranked his son Taj. I sat in his make up chair and he called Taj on the radio and told him to come to the dressing room. When he showed up, I slowly turned towards him in the chair and said “Daddy doesn’t feel like himself what do you think the problem is?” His jaw hit the floor. Steven jumped out from behind the curtain he was hiding behind with tears in his eyes.  We were practically rolling on the floor!  Also, a few years back we hung out in Maui on New Year’s Eve. It was so funny because everybody was freaking out that I was at this private event. They were all afraid Steven would be upset. What they didn’t realize is that I was his guest. I’m pretty sure it even made the papers.  As far as his take on my performance goes, I’ve been told by his oldest friend “Raymond Tabano” who now also happens to be a friend of mine. That Steven is the one that told him to come see me when I was performing at the flamingo in Las Vegas.

XSROCK: What’s the strangest request that you’ve ever received from one of your fans?

Chris VanDahl: I think signing body parts so people can get them tattooed over is pretty high on the list.
The others I think I’ll keep to myself for now.

XSROCK: When you were growing up, which band or artist inspired you to perform? Why?

Chris VanDahl: There are definitely a number of them.  I was a pretty socially awkward kid.
Fully hyperactive but also kind of an introvert. I have an older brother who I shared a room with.
He had this killer record collection. Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Cheap Trick, Bob Seger, The Doors, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, Kansas, Peter Frampton, The Cars, The list goes on and on….
When he was away I would just pick up those albums and stare at the covers for hours. I would play them when nobody was in the house and picture myself performing those songs. I think I pretty much always knew that this was what I was going to do with my life.  The why part is easy to answer. it’s my drug of choice and nothing else makes me feel this way.

XSROCK: If you could design a dream tour for Angels In Vein, which other bands would be on the bill?

Chris VanDahl: I think as far as current bands go I would have to say Sixx AM is at the top of the list.
Part of the reason is because I’m blown away at how relevant Nikki (Sixx) has been able to stay in the music scene and how consistently he’s able to produce badass music.  From an outsiders perspective people may not realize this but he’s actually a genius. He has his finger on the pulse and always has. The only thing even better is that it’s genuine and I love to be around that.  As far as touring goes, for me it’s not so much about the size of the crowd but the energy they’re giving off. It drives me to be better and to give even more.

XSROCK: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far?

Chris VanDahl: You mean other than the fact that I’m still alive? ?  I guess it would have to be that I’m still in love with what I do.  No matter what the obstacles I always seem to find a way to continue making music. For anybody that doesn’t see that as a big deal. Try living out of the back of a car for six months, showering at rest stops and sleeping any place you can find to put down your head. Got it? OK, now do it for 20 years straight!?

XSROCK: If you weren’t performing in a band what kind of career do you think you would have?

Chris VanDahl: I love to work with my hands so I would have to say either a gynecologist or an architect.

XSROCK: What do you think of the current music scene?

Chris VanDahl: It’s really sort of all over the place isn’t it?  With everything available at the click of a button and record companies folding in on top of themselves. As artists we’re kind of back to the 70’s. When you would be selling your own records out of the back of the van hoping that people would catch on and things would take off.
There’s not much left in the way of developing bands out there anymore. It’s more about finding different ways to get it out there yourself. You create your own product, you get behind it and do everything you can to share it with the world. Then you sit back and pray that they’re going to give a shit because you put everything you have into it. And, hell yes, I’m talking about myself!

XSROCK: For anyone that doesn’t know you, what would they be surprised to know about you?

Chris VanDahl: That I once owned a poop scoop service called the Number 2 Crew. It was a shitty job but somebody had to do it! ?

XSROCK: Is there anything that you’d like to promote or say to your fans out there?

Chris VanDahl: Mostly I’d just like to say thank you! Since the band launched publicly a little over two weeks ago the response has been enormous.  We’re all very grateful for the amount of love and support we’ve been receiving.
Not only from the fans but from publications like yours around the world. It tells us that the time is right and that people are hungry for some good hard rock music.  The other thing is we can’t do this without you.
So please keep spreading the word, hitting the Facebook page and sharing the demo teaser!
Tell us what you want and what you think. We are listening!

XSROCK: Best of luck in everything, Chris. Thanks again for taking the time to talk with XSRock!
Chris VanDahl: The pleasures all mine! ???

Angels In Vein On Facebook

Interview by Bobby Caughron

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