Wednesday 5 August 2015

'Death Acoustic', Not for an Over Sensitive Barista': A Conversation with Nick Oliveri

By: Marc Gaffney

If you have listened to anything my band has churned out, a lot of it has an ode to the stylings of Nick Oliveri. I was a huge Queens (QOTSA) fan while he was present and totally destroying bass lines as well as great vocals, especially on my favorite tune, ‘Millionaire’.  Therefore, when approached about chatting with Nick before his 38 day overseas tour, I jumped the fuck at it.

It is not every day you can converse with someone that you revered for the music he has put out and music that has clicked in a part of your growing up as a musician from 20 something into your 40’s.  I am going to say that this was an interview that flowed and weaved in and about such subjects as Ian Gillian singing for Sabbath or what songs are pleasures to sing when doing an acoustic gig.

The thing that levitated higher than anything was when we spoke about what that Nick loves to play and truly loved making music with the gentlemen he grew up with. There was no guarding; rather he openly discussed his love for Brant, Josh, especially Mario Lalli and others.

Sit back, relax and make a smoothie of sorts, or a jack and coke or whatever floats your boat down Oliveri lane.

Sludgelord: Hi Nick, thanks for taking the time and having a chat with us while you are getting ready to hop on a plane a few hours from now.

Nick: You think it would be harder getting stuff together with a full band, but here I am just myself and an acoustic guitar and it’s not an easy thing (laughing.)

Sludgelord: You have more shit to worry about since it is just you?

Nick- Yeah, I have my stuff on my shoulders to get ready

Sludgelord- So hitting the road on your own, there is a ton of material in your catalogue, are you picking and choosing from Kyuss to Queens…, to your last record, in which I fucking loved that sum bitch?

Nick: There are some set some songs I am gonna do you know, some tunes that have to be in the set, people in Europe come to see me and will want some Kyuss stuff like ‘Green Machine’, so I will make sure I will play that, you know if I am in Ireland, and we are having a great time and everyone is singing along too, if someone yells out a Ramones song I will play that too, It is part my show and part their show and we are all doing the ‘Death Acoustic’ thing together is what makes it work. I love it when people are singing along and if they ask me to play a song, if I know it, I am gonna play it. But like I said there are certain songs I like to play, like I have a certain opener and a certain one to close with. Singing wise I have to throw a few of the rougher ones closer after I fry my voice my bit, it starts to sound good and raspy so I will put them there. There is stuff for later for when my voice sounds stressed and stuff that sounds a little nicer in the middle, sing a little softer, actually I put the raspier stuff very much in the beginning, the middle and I guess the ending too(laughter from both.) I am doing 36 shows in 38 days so I am gonna go over there and it is gonna be a good time. A lot of hurry up and wait. I have a person that will be driving me, but when you are by yourself you are sitting there, do I drink a beer, talk to people, I love talking to people and for me that is a lot of fun. You know I actually did an acoustic tour in the states when at the end I was actually driving myself and then you go everywhere, it was a hard one. Your shows start to falter too when you are staying awake just trying to get to the gig. You start asking yourself what are the words to that song again?

Sludgelord: What was the impetus to do this tour by yourself and not with a full band?

Nick: Well, when I do my band, in which I love doing as I have a few of them, when I do my own band, I make sure my band makes money as they have kids and I don’t. I am gonna be ok at the end of the day, but I always wanna make sure that my band goes home with something. They get paid before I get paid. So for right now, for lack of a better word I need to do these acoustic tours and make some money and that is the god’s honest truth. I am gonna have a great time, have fun and meet some great people, but it is also work you know. When you are up on stage by yourself, you have no one else to depend on, you can’t look at a band mate and say wow, you killed it. If you hit a bad note or sing a bad note you have no one getting you ought of it. Its there and people are seeing and hearing it. The rule I have, Mistakes, don’t make them.

Sludgelord: That’s a great fucking shirt, ‘Mistakes, Don’t Make Them’

Nick: it’s truly what a stripper feels like when she gets up on stage, it’s all eyes on her. I didn’t appreciate strippers as much as I do now, because really it is them all alone on stage.

Sludgelord: Are you a big gear head when it comes to touring?

Nick: I am down with gear, I like gear. I collect stuff mostly old stuff, some of the cheaper bass stuff like the acoustic 360’s, well they are not cheap anymore, but the old Sunn Heads, Entwistle used Sunn’s and John Paul Jones played an Acoustic Head, those things sound great, Used to be able to find them at pawn shops for 160 bucks, now they are all sought after. Tubes sound warmer, but for traveling I have been going with Solid State lately. They can bounce around, take the heat and be practically fine. With tubes, you gotta match them if something goes wrong and fix it and who am I kidding, I do not have anyone carrying my gear at the moment.

Sludgelord: Back in the day, were you running 2 8-10s with a Mesa Boogie and SVT head?

Nick: My band was doing quite well so I used a lot of stuff. The Mesa was a 400 t with 20 tubes in that thing, was bad ass. Remember they used to make Mesa’s with the road case built right in it. Those things, you could get in a car accident and the mesa was still ready to roll. But like anything they are a lot of money to make and fix, but they seem to be a sought after amp. They sound great and they are awesome.

Sludgelord: I saw you guys tour, in which I think was the start of the tour when you came out with all white tolexed cabs

Nick: That was fucking sick, so awesome

Sludgelord: Then I saw you later on that tour. You were playing 2 Ampeg cabs and that 400t and it was so fucking loud.

Nick: Yeah, I was facing my cabs at each other with an omni mic in the middle and were so loud before that we could not hear the vocals, so that was why we started facing the cabs at each other, Josh was playing a v4b, so he was cranking that up for tone, we turned it up to get the get the crunch and for our sound man to be able to do his thing and have a little to play with.

Sludgelord: It sounded im- fucking- peccable my man, insanity, and you also had the Brian Wilson pic on the cab also.

Nick: Our sound man Hutch is one of the best in the bizz for sure. I think he is still working with the Queens, I saw him recently and it just sounded so good. I forget whom he was doing sound for but it was amazing, I walked around the Wilshire and would notice where it would sound like shit, Hutch walks around the whole room to make sure it sounds good in every part of the club. 

Sludgelord: So the person driving you around, will they also perform as your snd person?

Nick:  She is a friend of mines girlfriend who tour managed the Dwarves so she is gonna drive and also help with the selling of merch. I am going to rely on this little Di I have, this little electric acoustic amp with a mic and if the sound guy can’t get that going, I am going to be bummed. If you can’t get the vocals up over the guitar we are in for some trouble. We are going from Romania, Croatia and Iceland. The language barrier sometimes, you ask for the guitar to be brought up, I have learned to be patient and point at the instrument, and it turns out all good. They for the most part all know how to speak English, I wish I knew how to speak another language, but hey the more they know, the better my night will be imagined,

Sludgelord:  What you bringing over for guitars?

Nick: I have a Hofner and they are great, I have yet to get one of the Paul McCartney ones not for playing but would love to record with one. I also have a Maton from Australia which I use. It has a whole in it, stickers all over the thing, it has been through the ringer and back.

Sludgelord: So you are doing ‘Death Acoustic’ and just before the end of the year you come out swinging with a bad ass rock record, 'Leave Me Alone' .  I thought it was better than the last album from the other band you used to play in and my band gets lumped in with Queens all the time and Kyuss.  So for me, your album really brought a lot of emotions from high and low and had some bad mother fuckers playing on it. Hit me with how you came up with the idea of the album and how you came up with the guests to lay down their style and mesh with yours.

Nick: Lemmy got sick and Phil Campbell who is a friend of mine text me while I was making the record and I text him back and letting him know I was making it, he replied back, what do you need done on it? Do you need guitar and I was like ‘yes, you kidding me’, one of my heroes, would you play a solo on it.

Actually I was gonna do another acoustic album but then I decided I would make an electric album and play drums on it, then I thought it would be even more interesting if I played drums, bass guitar and sang on it. So I needed some solos and would have never thought of asking Phil because I thought he would say no, and he did. Once that happened I started Calling friends, I called Dean Ween, he did his right away, I let them have full creativity as far as the solos and wanted them to put their signature solo on there, I wasn’t gonna say, can you put a bend right here, and a pull up. You can hear the other guitarists know that the other players are on it and everyone was going for it. I got 15 seconds to shine so I am gonna show my thing and they are really going for it. I was so happy how it turned out.

Sludgelord: You can tell it’s a communal album and has a nice grooving vibe, you are like a heavy Todd Rundgren.

Nick: It was short and sweet and to the point. I was gonna make a longer record but kids today don’t have time for a double album. People are digging vinyl but are still listening to a song or two. Fuck, I could definitely sit down and still listen to a whole record. But I do understand people do not have that time and it is what it is, so I figured if I put out a few shorter albums this year it would be better than one long one. I’m trying to work on a new now, Joey Castillo on drums, my band is gonna do a split with EyeHateGod. Looking at doing a new Dwarves record. Trying to stay busy and keeping the ball rolling. The key is playing in stuff that I like. 

Sludgelord: That is the key, if you can smile at work, you are beating the system.

Nick: If it’s not something I love, I can’t do it with conviction. I can’t get behind it and I can’t do it. I have been fortunate enough to have some great friends that will have me on their records and in their bans,

Sludgelord: It definitely shines through in everything you have done. I was chatting with Mario Lalli about ‘Millioniare’, its one of my all-time favorite songs, and your delivery is a mother fucker on it.

Nick: It is badass. I love Mario. I have known him for a long time. He is a great inspiration from the desert scene, where we are from down there. He is a bad ass man, been making great songs for a long time. I saw him in 9th grade at lunch time, they were called Across the River and it blew my mind, Alfredo on drums, Reeder on bass either Mark or Mike Anderson I can’t remember his name and Mario on guitar. It was badass. Mario went through this phase when he wouldn’t sing for a while, he was doing an instrumental thing with a mic set up but wouldn’t use it. Everybody would go and wait for him to sing because when he sang it was great. Then one day he started singing again and it was amazing.

Sludgelord: Because you are in 9 thousand bands, there is a similarity but sonically they are all on a different palette. Is that something you strive for? Because each time I see you play, no matter whom it is with you have a huge fucking smile on your face.

Nick: I really get off on playing. I get so many different things for all the bands I have been fortunate to and still play with. I don’t play in another band that sounds like the Dwarves, I don’t play in another band that sounds like Bl’ast. The thing is, some of these guys are my favorite musicians so why would I not play with these guys.

Sludgelord: You as a musician, as there certain cats that you site as humungous influences? There are a lot of different things I hear coming via musically and vocally.

Nick: I am a huge Thin Lizzy fan so I hope that comes through. There are not a lot of bass player singers as there are guitar player singers and I don’t think Phil is one of those that gets enough praise for his bass playing. There are a lot of opposing notes in his bass lines while he is singing when you try and dod that as a player and singer is really hard, how is he doing that. Of course I like Sabbath, Black Flag, I love Rose Tattoo, and I love the simplicity of Rose Tattoo. That is a lot of what drives me. ‘Rock and Roll Outlaw’, ‘Nice Boys’ ‘Don’t Plat Rock n Roll’. I throw that shit on when I’m in different moods, Motorhead, you put on ‘Bomber’, it’s got everything, just killing it. ‘Volume 4’ by Sabbath, ‘Highway to Hel’l, Then the Brian Johnson era ‘Back in Black’, takes me through my childhood. I slept with this girl for the first time and the song was by AC/DC. I was so lucky to grow up in a time with such great music. We had the Ramones AC/DC and Evil Kinevil growing up and kids don’t have that growing up. They have time outs. We learned the hard way.

Sludgelord: A thing that pops up to me, were you a Deep Purple fan as a kid

Nick- Fuck yes, I will have no idea where things come from at times and then I will listen back and will say, that sounds like Devo or Deep Purple. It’s a tip of the hat and obviously came from a great place. Bringing up Deep Purple, the Born Again album by Sabbath, that’s a good record. For a later band with three singers, that is a great record. You wouldn’t think because they got the singer from Deep Purple to sing with Sabbath you think it might be ok, but that album is rocking, it kills it. I’m putting it on after I get off the phone.

Sludgelord: So you are touring as a singer, guitar player, bass player, writer, drums on the last album, do you see yourself as one of the above or a guy who simply fucking loves everything about playing music?

Nick: All of the above, I am the best at playing bass, I am aware of that, however, I write songs on guitar, and drums are fun. I once had a person tell me you better get a punching bag or a drum set, well drums are musical so I will get those. So I can hit them hard and playing is a really good time for me. The last record I wrote some of the riffs while playing drums so it’s a little different than I am used too. Then when I transposed it on guitar, it sounded like a cool riff. I had to practice to get my stamina up so I could make sure I could play them in the studio. I was really happy with the way it turned.

Sludgelord: So you have this tour, are you looking to bring this show west coast and even east coast or what are your plans?

Nick: I would like to do it. In September, October and November I have stuff with the Dwarves, not every day but we will do shows on weekends, 5 show clips.  I wanna do some shows out East and try on days off to set up some solo shows with whatever band I am with.  Plus Fenway, one of the original ball parks left. That and Wrigley, They tear them down, there would be an issue. Speaking of Boston I loved Draw the line by Aerosmith, they rocked so hard back then.

Sludgelord: So for guys our age, you must have been a Van Halen fan.

Nick: They fucking Rocked. Everything about them was so huge, it wasn’t the Beatles but you could listen to the band with your parents, Zep was like that too, was so fucking good. I got to hang out with Jimmy Page and he was so nice. The guitarist I was hanging out with said Jimmy, “I grew up with your music, and Jimmy said, I did too mate” and left, was amazing.

Sludgelord: So having the utmost privilege to converse via interviews with other musicians you are from, Tony Tournay told me once that he was with Josh in 98, just the 2 of them were up, touring overseas and he looked at Josh and said. “Do you believe we are touring and playing music for a living with guys we grew up with” Are you still close with people you grew up with?

Nick: Yea I am. I just did a guest Dj thing at the Monty Bar and I saw Josh and Brody and I see Tony every now and again. Tony will come out to see an acoustic show and show support. I really think it is supportive to stay close, I saw Brant not long ago at a Bl’ast show, invited him on down, put him on the list, It’s important to stay close with your friends, even if you have had a falling out at times. You are living your life, hanging with each other, on tour with each other, and sometimes we have an argument but its more like brothers fighting, no big deal, right?  We still all love each other like bros and I know in a real fight they would all have my back and I love them for that.

Sludgelord: Well my man I know your flight is gonna leave in about 11 hours so I just wanna say Thank you so much for taking the time and I wish the tour is an amazing success and above all else, life lets you rock the roll

Nick: My pleasure and thanks again for speaking with me and take care.

As you can clearly see by the words and heartfelt answers, this man is a musician that has his hands in many pies, some custard, some apple, some pumpkin, the thing is, taken out they are all a delight to eat. They leave you simply wanting more.  Nothing is better than listening to an album or a live show and you simply get in your car or on a train and need to turn that shit on, so the ultra high of the melody stills spikes a place in the medulla and cochlea.  The boogie keep on racing at a 4x4 tempo or at an outright 7/8 jam of proper and nut slapping proportion.
If you are overseas and Nick pulls into town with his acoustic and you miss it. Take yourself to the nearest ER and see if your nuts still work and if you still have a beating in your heart, because to miss these shows is to miss a man on a plan and also on a journey of letting rock n roll be his muse, and the key is, to have fun with the audience.

This is not as common as you think; some cats get up and will not deviate from that list, even if the crowd is yearning for it, like the characters from 28 Days Later. They have a rage and a few songs can turn that rage into a head bopping and locking groove of the funk stature, because the fan has come first and this has been relayed to them.  So when you go to witness an artist like Nick, enjoy what he does and have fun with it. The more fun you have, the way more fun he will have and this is simply called a connection. Connect and let the music be your Sherpa through the valleys and peaks of rock n roll.

I truly wish you the best in all you do, ‘The names Dalton,’ ‘Man, I’d thought you’d be bigger.’

Full list of Remaining Tour dates:

August 5th: Jagerklause (Berlin, GER)
August 6th: Ostpol (Dresden, GER)
August 7th: La Casa (Cottbus, GER)
August 8th: TBA (Bucarest, Romania)
August 9th: Chez Heinz (Hannover, GER)
August 10th: Hafenklang (Hamburg, GER)
August 11th: DB’s (Utrecht, NL)
August 12th: Gebr De Nobel (Leiden, NL)
August 13th: De Pul (Uden, NL)
August 14th: The Lane (Oostburg, NL)
August 15th: De Hip (Deventer, NL)
August 16th: Leperfest (Leper, Belgium)

'Leave Me Alone' by Nick Oliveri’s Uncontrollable is out now on both regular LP/CD and collectible leather sleeve LP through Schnitzel Records and is available for streaming at the link here and you can read your review here

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