AARON COLLINS/WHITE TRASH
Photo by Austin Longo of Stubble Zine
INTERVIEW BY PETER CRIGLER
Aaron Collins is a man of many bands: White Trash, Hash and Butterbrain. White Trash are a white funk band from New York that hit it big in 1991 with their massive MTV hit "Apple Pie." The band were quite successful until 'musical differences' split the band in two in 1992 with frontman Dave Alvin (not the singer/songwriter from the Blasters) keeping the name with a new lineup while Aaron and drummer Mike Caldarella hooked up with singer/songwriter Seth Abelson to form Hash. Quickly signing a deal with White Trash's label Elektra, the band released their self-titled debut in 1993. Full of influences from folk to punk to metal to rock, the record failed to find an audience and the band split by 1994. The album has been rediscovered on YouTube and White Trash successfully reunited in 2008 to release their third album, 3D Monkeys in Space. In the spring of 2014, Aaron agreed to talk about his musical journey.
PSF: When did you first become interested in music?
AC: As a young kid, my parents were "semi-professional" small club players, in the early '60's. Mostly hippie and "folk" type stuff. So grew up with them playing piano and guitar in the apartment. Then, my brother Ethan- guitar player for White Trash - was my big influence. He originally played drums, and I played piano (classical, forced by my mom). When he was about 14, and me 10, he convinced me to pick up the bass, while he picked up guitar. We went on to stay on these instruments - LOL, 'til this day I guess.
PSF: How did White Trash come together and what was the scene like?
AC: Dave (singer) lived up the block from Ethan and me. We all went to grammar school together. I met Mike Caldarella (drummer) in HS. We hit it off immediately, and he was the best drummer around, so after a few initial drummers in the mix- Mike became the permanent drummer. The scene was much different back then. A lot of places to play, that people were excited about. L'Amours in Brooklyn, L'Amour East in Queens, Sundance - LI, CBGB's , and Raw in Queens. Now the clubs are dominated by DJ's and not as much excitement about live venues in the NY area.
PSF: When did you guys sign with Elektra?
AC: I believe it was 1989 or 1990. The CD came out in 1991.
PSF: What was success like with Apple Pie and how do you feel about it now?
AC: It was pretty cool. Locally, we were celebrities. and on tour once the video came out, and was played on MTV regularly, our shows went from 1/2 full to sold out- LOL. We all love those days, and always play Apple Pie still to this day, but musically we have all kinda "grown" from that, and want to expand our sound.
PSF: What caused the rest of the band to leave in 1992?
AC: Ethan, Mike and I all left Dave with the name of the band. He put out a 2nd White Trash album, while Mike and I went on to play with Seth in 417 (what became known as Hash). Ethan went on to form a group called Cosmic Box. We were not getting along with Dave at that point, although he and I are getting along great again now. We are all a bit stubborn, and wanted to make music our "own" way. If we were smart, we would have kept White Trash together, and all just put out the other stuff as side projects.
PSF: How did you and Mike hook up with Seth to form Hash?
AC: Mike played with Seth prior to White Trash. I saw them play a local battle of the bands and they were great. The 3 of us played a bit on the side while White Trash was going on. When White Trash broke up, we devoted ourselves to playing together. Our management, and record company (Elektra) liked our demos, and agreed to re-sign us.
PSF: Where did the musical inspiration for the album come from?
AC: From me- Beatles, Funk music. From the other guys- shit you'd have too ask them-LOL.
PSF: What was the reaction from Elektra when you turned the album in?
AC: I don't think they were ever fully behind it. It was our management, Q-Prime (particularly Cliff Burnstein), that really liked it and was behind it. They were pretty powerful, so they are able to call the shots at Elektra. However that left a disconnect between the band and the label.
PSF: Was there any real promotional effort from the label for the album?
AC: Not really
PSF: Did the band split or get dropped first?
AC: I left the band first. Mike and Seth got the original bass player back- Eric Brodin (who played on the 2nd White Trash album). Later, I believe Elektra dropped both Hash and White Trash
PSF: What prompted the split?
AC: I was not happy with the musical direction. I enjoyed playing with the horn section, and more "funk" based stuff. I went on to record some music with the sax players - Terry and Chris from White Trash. It was never picked up by a label, but I put it out independently. It is called Butterbrain. More similar to White Trash sound. It is available on CD Baby and iTunes.
PSF: What did everyone do after the split?
AC: Dave went to film school. Ethan is an electronic engineer. Mike is part owner of a Mexican Burrito chain in NJ- Tito's Burritos. And I went on to do a lot of drugs and fall out of society- LOL. Nah, that's true- but I also went on to play with the punk rock bands Murphy's Law and Skarhead. And started my own production company, Gotham Gold Music Productions.
PSF: Any chances of more work with Seth?
AC: Mike is actually recording some stuff with him now. He and Ethan have left White Trash recently. Dave and I are recording some new stuff to put out for White Trash with a new drummer and Craig LeBlang on guitar. He played on the 2nd White Trash album.
PSF: What prompted the White Trash reunion?
AC: Upon hearing that we were recording some new songs for Butterbrain (around 2007), Dave, through a mutual friend, asked to come down to the studio. We had been out of touch for about 10 years. We hit it off again, and shortly after, a promoter asked us to play a club in Long Island, for another re-union for the band Scatterbrain. It was like a double reunion show- LOL. The show went so good, that we decided to get in the studio and put out a new CD. We have been playing sporadically since then, and are just starting work on a new CD.
PSF: What are you currently up to?
AC: Working on new White Trash CD. And occasionally DJ'ing and putting on events through my production company.
PSF: What do you hope Hash's legacy will be?
AC: I hope that they continue to put out new music. I think it was a great, overlooked band, that I was honored to play with, and it is a shame that both bands have not been able to get the proper publicity or support from the industry. We kind of shot ourselves in the foot with the management and record label, splitting up, switching members, etc. However, more importantly, we have preserved our friendships and still continue to make music to this day. Hopefully there are people like you out there that appreciate what we are doing. It makes it all worth it :)
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