Mouthful of Cavities: A Chat with Christopher Thorn
by Pete Crigler
Blind Melon were one of the most successful bands of the '90's post-Nirvana alternative boom. "No Rain" became one of the most recognizable songs of the entire decade but they were so much more than just that one song. Frontman Shannon Hoon, full of charisma and wit became so dynamic on stage that he fell victim to a rapidly exceeding drug habit. Dying in 1995, two months after the release of their brilliant sophomore record doomed the band to seemingly live forever in his shadow. The band's album, Soup, was a catalyst for my friends and I in middle and high school and is still one of the most underrated alt rock records ever. I became obsessed with this disc and still am, all these years later. After Melon's demise, Thorn went to form Unified Theory and then got involved with production, working with Cheyenne Kimball and Anna Nalick among others. He played a pivotal role in the success of AWOLNATION and is now guitarist in Afghan Whigs. In 2019, I got the chance to interview guitarist Christopher Thorn while sitting on my couch, and chat about the band's history, Shannon, the future and everything in between. I considered it one of the top interviews I had ever conducted.
PSF: So, what got you interested in playing music? Christopher Thorn: Well, the very, very beginnings for me were being a young boy and my mom playing acoustic guitar for me, and playing Jim Croce songs, and she was into the folk scene and bluegrass, so that's my very first introduction into music, is hanging out with my mom as a really, really young kid and her playing songs for.
And then probably at the age of 12 or 13, I got a guitar for Christmas and a little amp, a little Hondo guitar and then I was just obsessed, man. It just changed my life, getting that guitar. I was always attracted to my mother's acoustic guitar. I'd pick it up and pretend like I was playing even though I couldn't play and at about 12 or 13 like I said, I bought an electric guitar and that just changed my life, and I became so obsessed after that.
PSF: How did you guys come together as Blind Melon?
CT: I moved to Los Angeles in 1988 and Brad had moved there around the same. There used to be a musician magazine called Music Connection in Los Angeles. This was pre-internet, so the only way of hooking up was an ad. I did a bunch of auditions and I placed an ad looking for a bass player and that's how I met Brad and we became friends. And then, maybe six months to a year later, my band never really happened. He auditioned for us and for whatever reason, I think I stopped working with the guy I was working with, but I still hung out with Brad. And he met Shannon at some point, six months, a year later or something like that and called me and said, "Hey, me and Rogers met this amazing singer. We need a guitar player. Just come hang out with us."
So, I went and jammed with them and immediately, the second I met Shannon, I was like, "Jesus. You're a fucking star." By then, I was obsessed with rock and roll history, and I read every biography I could get my hands on and so when Shannon walked in the door, I'm like, "Oh, you're exactly what I've been reading about." And I really mean that. I'm not just saying that because he's gone now. He literally was a legend the second he walked in. He just had the biggest personality. He was making everybody laugh. He just had superstar written all over him. And then that same day, the day I met him, he sat down and was like, "Oh, here's a song I just wrote. It's called 'Change.'" I'm like, "Fuck you. You just wrote that? Holy shit." He was obviously the best song writer in the band. So he played me "Jane Says" by Jane's Addiction and then he played me "Change."
PSF: Did all you guys move from the mid-west to L.A.?
CT: I moved from Pennsylvania. Rogers and Brad moved from Mississippi. Glen moved from Mississippi and Shannon was from Indiana. So, we all met in Los Angeles. Right after we got a record deal, we split from L.A., but we all met in LA. But the three other guys from Mississippi knew each other.
PSF: How did you guys develop your sound?
CT: Well, it happened organically. Even to this day, we don't really discuss things. It wasn't like, "oh this is how we want to sound or what we want to sound like." We all had similar things that we were listening to, certain records we were loving at the same time. When Glen came in, because Glen wasn't there at the very beginning, we had another drummer named Howie Bosean and then Glen came... I'm trying to think, right after we got a record or deal or right before we started doing showcases, we got Glen.
Glen brought in so many amazing records that we didn't really know about, you know what I mean? Glen is such a historian that he was turning us on to all these great Allman Brothers records and just stuff that I didn't really know about. So, I would say Glen had a lot to do with our sound in that sense, as far as turning us on to cool records and stuff, but besides that, that's just how we sound. That's the five of us in a room. It's not like, "Oh. We want to sound like part this, part Zeppelin, part this." It wasn't premeditated. We didn't think of it that way. It's just, we got in a room and that's the shit that we made.
PSF: Did Shannon hooking up with Guns N' Roses have anything to do with you guys getting signed so quickly?
CT: Absolutely. Absolutely. I'd be crazy to not say that, but Shannon was a superstar in town and everyone had their eyes on him and Blind Melon, we had three or four song, four track demo tape that we were passing around and we were getting a buzz. People were like, "Oh shit. Who's this band? Blah, blah, blah." We had never played a live show and the around that same time, Axl calls Shannon in to sing on the Use Your Illusion records at around the same time. So, at the same time that we're trying to get a record deal, suddenly Shannon turns up in the Guns N' Roses video of "Don't Cry."
Did it help us? Fuck yeah, it helped us incredibly. Definitely helped us get a record deal.
PSF: Do you think signing with Capitol was a good move?
CT: I really loved Capitol and they were wonderful to us, and I wouldn't know any other way. I can't compare it to anything... Well, that's not true. I can compare it. I've played with AWOLNATION, we were signed to Red Bull Records, so I've been a part of other record companies. But you know that, they were fucking amazing, and I know these days people want to say, "Fuck major labels." People want to talk shit. Honestly, they were our friends. We loved them. They supported us, and we had great times with Capitol, man. It was the '90's. Things were a little looser, we could go in there with a joint in our hands and go hang out in the President's office, you know what I mean? It was really loose and cool. Shannon walking around naked in the parking lot.
Yeah, you know what, they put up with all of our shit, and they were lovely to us. There was a great guy named Simon Potts, he was our A&R guy who we just adored and had so many amazing times. And the President of Capitol was a guy named Hale Milgram, who we just adored too. He was wonderful to us. And most importantly, they let us alone, you know what I mean? Making the record, they said just go be a band, go make your record. There wasn't a bunch of discussions about a single or this or you don't have it or sound this way. None of that happened. It was just go make your record, and you're going to go tour your ass off. That's all we did.
PSF: What was it like making that first record?
CT: It's frightening, your first situation, you know what I mean? It's a big deal and what happened is we did six weeks in the studio and then we got the 120 Minutes Tour, so we went out and toured for six weeks and then came back, came right back in the studio with no days off and tried to finish the record and I remember we had a little bit of a problem getting our shit together after we got back from that tour. But it was really good for us because it made us better players.
But we had prepared and done a bunch of pre-production and after we got a record deal in Los Angeles, we moved to North Carolina and all lived in a big house together. And we just jammed every day, all day long. So that was probably the best preparation I would say for making a record, is that we had been hitting it hard every day just playing. So, by then I felt like we could play pretty well by then.
But it was a great experience. We worked with this great guy named Rick Parashar who was just a fucking... He's gone now, but he was a fantastic producer, wonderful guy.
PSF: Was it a struggle when the record first came out?
CT: It was and I'll tell you why. For the same reason you said "did Guns N' Roses help you," of course they did, they helped us get a record deal and in our minds, because everyone was telling us we were going to be the next big thing. We were like, "Oh man, this is going to be great. We're going to make a record. It's going to come out and we're going to be superstars a month later and everything is going to be great." Well, the record came out and no one gave a fuck. We were doing okay. Before "No Rain" hit, I think we had sold 70,000 records. You can get dropped from selling 70,000 records. Absolutely. That's not enough of a 'you paid your debt back yet.' So, we were like, "Oh shit. This is not taking off." And it wasn't just because Shannon was in the "Don't Cry" video, we're automatically going to sell records. People knew about us but it wasn't like we were selling a bunch of records.
So, we were humbled quite a bit. It took a year. After that record came out, it was a year before we broke, before "No Rain" happened for us. We thought the record was over because was "No Rain" was our third or fourth single from that record, and nothing was really blowing up yet. And we were like, "Okay. Let's just do one more single, 'No Rain,' and then we'll go make a record."
But that then that blew up and we wound up touring for another year before we got to make another record.
PSF: How did something like "No Rain" come about?
CT: That was a song that Brad had that he actually brought in. Most of the songs on those records were written in a collaborative way. We jammed a lot and a lot of those songs are written that way. But, "Change," Shannon brought in and "No Rain" was a song that Brad was playing on Venice Beach. He was busking with the song. So, we were like, "That's a fucking killer song. Let's do that one." Never realizing that it would be the song. It was a weird song and didn't really sound exactly like our band, so we never imagined that was going to be a single.
PSF: How did you guys react to the success? Shannon went off on this weird thing, but how did everybody react to it once it took off?
CT: I think we all reacted in our own different way. It's definitely a mind fuck, you know what I mean? It's definitely a mind fuck, and we were all happy it was happening. And we were really tired because we had just toured two years straight and thinking we were getting ready to go back home and go write songs and go make a new record, and then suddenly, "No Rain" becomes a hit, and we go back and tour for another year. So, we were really burnt out I would say.
But it also was magical time because the shows were fucking electric. They felt like little mini riots many nights, where it was like, "Hey man. We got to get people to chill out. This is too crazy. Somebody's going to get hurt." You know what I mean? The shows became really nuts. What happened is we had booked a tour playing clubs because that's where we were in our career and then as we got into Buzz Bin, which was the MTV thing where basically meant we're going to play the fuck out of your video and make everybody hate you but also buy your record. They play it to a point of just exhaustion. So what happened is we booked that tour in clubs and then suddenly, we overnight, there was lines around the block, and it was just inside. There were more people outside of the club than inside the club. It just became really crazy in a really fast way, I would say.
PSF: For anybody that grew up in the '90s, that video is seared into everybody's memory.
CT: Yeah. Whether you like it or fucking hate it, you have no choice with that video. You had no choice because they just played it all the time, and I don't even really listen to the song anymore, but you still remember it. It's wild but it definitely feels like it's part of the culture now, I never imagined that at the time but it definitely seems that way now.
I was watching a Travis Scott documentary, who I fucking love. Watching the Travis Scott documentary, and he's wearing a fucking Blind Melon shirt in his documentary and I'm like that's cool.
PSF: In my alternate reality, "Galaxie" and "Toes Across the Floor" would have been as big as "No Rain."
CT: Yeah. Thank you and I think people were expecting another No Rain when we came out with that record and we went the opposite direction. We went weird.
PSF: That album [Soup] united me and my friends in high school.
CT: Oh. That's great.
PSF: We all discovered it around the same time, '96, '97. It's like, "Dude. You got to hear this."
CT: That's cool man. The Soup record is really my favorite record, more than the first one I would say. I feel like we hadn't completely developed our sound on the first record as much. The second record feels like who we wanted to be the most liked with.
PSF: How did it feel playing Woodstock in '94?
CT: My God. They're just dreams come true. I was just telling my son the other day; he was asking me about Woodstock. And I'm friends with some of the Blind Melon fans because they've been fans for 20 years, so some of them have my phone number and we communicate. So, my one buddy Dave was just like... Whatever the anniversary was a couple days ago or last week, whenever it was, he said something like, "25 years ago, I was sitting in my living room trying to watch the feed," and it was scrambled because it was a Pay-Per-View, he's like, "I was sitting there with my friends, watching Woodstock." And I wrote him back, "25 years ago, I was getting ready to go on stage, shitting my pants."
That's what it was. It was the most overwhelming feeling because for one, we flew in on a helicopter, which I had never flown on a helicopter. The only way for us to get to the stage, because it was so crowded, we went to a meeting spot and they helicoptered us in to the stage, behind the stage. So, you're flying in and you're seeing more people than you've ever seen in your life. Then Joe Cocker opens the show and then we go on after Joe Cocker. It was a really intense frightening performance.
We couldn't hear very well because you don't get sound checks at those things. Honestly, more than anything, I think I was just freaked out. I think I was relieved when it was over so I could enjoy my time there.
When I do see some of those clips, I'm like, "oh we were doing pretty good." I thought Shannon was on fire and I thought he did an amazing job, but in the moment, it just felt like "oh my God, are we even playing the same song." It felt like that because the stage was so enormous and we didn't have a soundcheck.
PSF: What was it like when Shannon started getting into trouble? That was a troublesome time for you guys?
CT: Well, you know what, he was always in trouble. People are like, "Oh, he did get that way when he became a rockstar?" It was like, first of all, he was a fucking rockstar when he was construction worker in Indiana, you know what I mean. He was. He was born with whatever that X factor is, so selling a bunch of records didn't make him a rockstar, that mother fucker was born a rockstar.
He left L.A., I'm sorry, he left Indiana in whatever, '88 and by then, he had a track record and rap sheet from the police in Indiana that was many pages long. He got out of Indiana because he got himself into so much trouble and then he got himself in so much trouble in LA, that's why we moved to North Carolina, to get him out of the city. So, it was always crazy with Shannon and he was a sabotager. So, we would have something really great happen or we had an amazing opportunity, and he would blow it. He was definitely a sabotoger. It's a miracle we had any success, because so many times, it would be like, we had this great opportunity...
For example, Guns N' Roses is playing some enormous place, the Forum or something in LA. And this might be either when we're trying to get a deal or right at the very beginning of the career, and Axl's like, "Hey. I want you to sing with on stage tonight, blah, blah. I'll send a limo for you and your Blind Melon guys."
He sends a limo, we go. Shannon gets so wasted, he fucking passes out before the show starts and then he comes to, in the limo, on the way back after he completely blew it. He got into a fight with the Guns N' Roses manager. It was total mayhem. He comes to in the limo and goes, "When do I go on?" We're like, "Bro, the show's over. We're going home. You missed it." So things like that happened all the time.
Trouble was nothing new for us. It's just you were finding out about it because finally people were talking about him so anytime he fucked up, the universe knew about it. But, three years earlier, every time he fucked up, no one knew about it but us.
PSF: What was the impetus for going to New Orleans to record Soup?
CT: So, after we made the first record, we made it in Seattle, I wound up staying there and living there and three of the guys went to New Orleans and just wanted to go and live in New Orleans. So, Shannon went back to Chicago, I stayed in Seattle and Glen, Rogers and Brad all moved to New Orleans. So, it just made more sense that they were there and also we were in love with New Orleans. It was just such an inspiring place and they went by and saw Daniel Lanois' studio and sent us pictures and we're like this place is a mansion in the French Quarter, looks incredible and we were like, "Fuck yes. Let's record there, that looks amazing."
Because three of the guys were living there, we were running our business out of there. Any time there was a tour, Shannon and I would go to New Orleans and live in a hotel and then we'd have rehearsals and then we'd go on tour. We were basing our business out of New Orleans because three of the guys wouldn't need hotels. So, it was smarter business for Shannon and I to fly in and hang out in New Orleans.
We're wrote songs in New Orleans before making the record there. It was home base for the band, I would say, New Orleans for a little bit.
PSF: Did you guys know that the record was going to change so suddenly musically and get a lot darker?
CT: All that happened organically. We knew-Yeah, it's a dark record. I guess I didn't see it in the moment, I just felt like, "Oh, we're making really great art." It felt like our version of Exile on Main St. They were very decadent sessions; I would say and there's was way too many drugs. The drugs changed at that point because there was more money in the band and drugs got better, meaning worse, you know what I mean.
More expensive drugs will kill you. Weed ain't going to kill you. You can smoke weed all day, it ain't going to kill you. But the wrong hit of cocaine will kill you. The drugs changed and that made for a really crazy recording session. It was a tough one. Soup was a tough, tough record, because... I don't want to just say Shannon, but I want to say some people in the band were out of their mind, so it made it a harder process. But I knew we were getting great stuff. I was really proud of everything we were doing.
PSF: Was there a disappointment when "Galaxie" didn't take off and the record didn't do as well, initially?
CT: Yeah, man. We were devastated, because we're a bunch of 20 whatever something year old guys with enormous egos because we had just sold 4 million records, so, we're like, "Man, the shit that we just made is fucking the jam. This is the shit. People are going to love this." Then it came out and Rolling Stone gave it two stars and was misquoting lyrics and didn't get it in any way. They just did not get it anyway.
And then of course, 25 years later, they put us on the '90s best records which is just weird, but that's just how that works, you know what I mean. It's so ironic, but whatever.
But yeah, I got to tell you man, it fucking hurt us pretty bad because you got to remember back then, you didn't have the internet, so you had one or two or three people telling the universe if something was good or bad, right? So, Rolling Stone, who had put us on the cover a year before, comes out and tells everybody our record is shit. That's the go-to place for people to get information. That and Spin. That was really the two big ones. It fucking devastated us. It fucking crushed us and we were like, "What? Really? People don't like it?" We thought it was amazing, so we just felt confused.
PSF: Back then, once a record was dead, it was over. There was nothing, streaming or anything that could bring it back.
CT: No and then what happened is the record came out and Shannon died one month later. So, basically Capitol Records just pulled the plug immediately. They just said, "We're not putting a dime into this record at all. Your singer's gone. You're over."
PSF: Tell me about how Shannon's death impacted you.
CT: It impacts you in every way. It's just such a big broad question that's almost impossible to answer, but I'll say this, it's bad enough when your best friend dies or whatever, somebody you know dies, but the difference is he's the CEO of my business of my company, he's my life source. We were making a living. The dream came true. So, suddenly, to lose your friend, which is bad enough but then to lose, basically the president of your company, or however you want to look at it.
We lost everything. We lost our business overnight. We lost our best friend and our business overnight. Everything we worked so hard for, we finally got there and even though the Soup record got some bad reviews, we were more bonded after those bad reviews came out. We were like, "You know what? Fuck everyone. We're going to make a great next record. Let's tour the Soup record, maybe something will catch fire, maybe it won't." We heard that Quentin Tarantino wanted to do a video for the song "Skinned." So, we were like, "Oh, cool." There was talk of that. It never came through obviously, but we're like, "Maybe that will jumpstart the record."
We hadn't given up. Matter of fact, we were more bonded I would say. We were like, "Okay. Cool. All right. Whatever, we'll make another record." But all that goes away in one moment. You lose your friend, your singer, you're fucking main dude, the singer is the most important thing in your band. So it was tough man. It was really tough. Everybody dealt with it in different ways. I just became a workaholic and went and started producing records nonstop for 25 years basically.
But at first, I was paralyzed. I just didn't even know who I was anymore, because my whole life revolved around Blind Melon for five years, every day was Blind Melon, I couldn't escape it. I just couldn't escape it and then in one day for it to just all go away, it's just a heavy thing for a 27-year-old kid to deal with. It was just so bizarre. Things that happened so fast for us the last couple years with the success, the crazy success and all that happening, it was happening so fast that I felt like I was digesting it all, so then out of nowhere, he dies and then suddenly I'm like, "Was all that a fucking dream or did that really happen." Because, it happened so fast, it just feels like it's not even reality. You're on the cover of Rolling Stone. You have platinum records all over your house and you're just like, "Wow did that really happen?" Because, it just disappears overnight. In one night, it all disappears. It's just a mind fuck, you know?
PSF: What was the process like putting together Nico?
CT: You know what? It was a great. It was of course hard, and excruciating and painful and all that but it also was super fun, because it felt like we got to hang out with Shannon one last time, you know what I mean? Because Shannon was such a bullshitter and a talker and can never stop talking. We were working off of these recordings that I had recorded in hotel rooms and things like that and lots of times the beginnings of the recordings are Shannon fucking talking or telling some story. So, we had some nice moments in the studio. We were all just laughing at him.
But also, laughing with fucking tears in our eyes. Just like, "What the fuck? Where are you? What happened?" But, I'm really proud of that record and there's some real gems on that record. I got to say, you know?
"Glitch" is one of my favorite songs he ever wrote and I didn't know that song ever existed until after he passed away.
PSF: What was the search like trying to find a new singer?
CT: I'll be totally honest with you, right after Shannon died, Rogers is like, "We're going to put an ad out in Rolling Stone and we're going to find another singer. We're going to continue." And I went along with it, but here's the truth- I didn't have it in me man. I just didn't have it in me. And back in those days, we were getting tapes. Boxes and boxes, because Rolling Stone ran an ad or said something about it with an address. So, we were getting boxes and boxes of cassette tapes to go through. And here's the truth- I never listened to fucking one of them. I just didn't, you know what I mean? I couldn't do it. It was too painful. It was too painful for me to be like, "I'm starting over right now? Are you fucking kidding me?" I couldn't do it. I just couldn't do it.
And Rogers, bless his heart, he was doing more of the work and going through it and saying, "Hey. I think this guy's good. Check this guy." He was pre-screening shit for us and stuff. And we had worked with a couple guys. We had worked with two or three guys as a matter of fact. And every time, man, my heart was just breaking in the room, because I just felt like someone is missing here. It was just too fresh and too soon to have Shannon gone but to have the four other guys in the room. It just felt weird every time.
I let it go away, man. I let that dream die. I just thought, "oh that will never happen again." That was that and it was painful though.
PSF: I remember hearing about one prime candidate was a singer/songwriter named Gus.
CT: Well, kind of and kind of not. Gus is actually still one of my best friends, as a matter of fact. I started producing some stuff with Gus and then I would up joining Gus's band and toured with him and stuff and we did a song with Gus I would say, but I don't know that he was ever going to be the singer. He has a beautiful low, low voice. The problem with Blind Melon is those songs are impossible to sing- Shannon had a higher voice. I would love to be able to sing like that and I can't. It's a rare thing.
So, it just was really fucking hard for us to find a singer. And some of the guys that I did hear, I just couldn't imagine them ever singing our songs. So, honestly, I let it fade. I let the whole dream fade and I let go of the Blind Melon thing. I just had to, at that point.
PSF: Tell me a little bit about Unified Theory. I love that record too.
CT: So, then three years later, I had been producing between '95 and '98, just producing records nonstop at my house, but I guess I still had the itch and I still felt like I wanted to go out and tour and I just missed it so fucking much. So, I moved back to LA just by myself. I had a family at that point, well at least a wife. But I move back to LA and I just went out every night and made a zillion phone calls and tried to find another singer, again.
But, the difference was, I wasn't trying to find another Blind Melon singer. I just wanted to find somebody I can make records with. And when I met Chris [Shinn, singer], I was like, "Holy shit. That voice is unbelievable." And we hit it off, became best friends and that's how Unified Theory got started. And I pulled in Brad [Smith, bassist] because Brad and I were best friends living in the same neighborhood in Seattle and then I pulled in [drummer] Dave Krusen because Dave became... Around that time I met Dave Krusen... Oh, I know what it was, I produced the band Dave was in. That's how I met Dave Krusen.
We had fun in Unified Theory. It was a great run, man., we got singed to Universal. We didn't sell tons of records. It was weird time in the music business. It was right when Napster was happening. So, it was bad timing on our part, but it's a good record. I'm proud of it. We went out and toured our asses off for a couple years and had a great time.
PSF: How did you get into the production side of things?
CT: I would say right around, at some point during Blind Melon, even making the first record, I was always that guy. I always had a four track and I was always making demos. I was really into it. But, at some point during Blind Melon, I just thought, there's no way this lasts forever. You know what I mean? Shannon is crazy. My inner dialogue is "Shannon's fucking crazy." The truth is, you really didn't know if he was going to be alive or dead. He was like that a lot of the time where you hoped he wake up, but there were many nights when I saw him go down that I'm like, "Damn dude. You are living way too hard. You're way too close to the edge. You stepped over the edge."
So with that in mind, I just knew I always wanted to make records forever. So, I was buying gear when we first made some Blind Melon money, I wasn't buying fancy cars, I was buying gear like crazy. And I just thought, if I buy gear, I'll get to make records the rest of my life and I don't need anybody's money to make even my own record.
These days, you can buy a fucking computer and an Apollo and have your own little system for $1000. But back then, it was a little bit harder to have recording gear. But I put money into that and when we made the Soup record, I just said to Andy, "Can I talk to you every night and just ask you bunch of questions." Every night after recording, I just was like, "Why did you use that compressor. Why did you do that?" I just sat there and I learned everything. I watched Andy and the people at Kingsway, all the assistants worked for Dan Lanois, who was at that point, one of my favorite producers, so they just were teaching me how Dan works and what Dan does. "Oh, Dan uses this mic." I was like, "Oh. Okay. I have to buy that mic then. Okay. I need that mic then."
So, I didn't know a lot, but I knew if I buy this gear, my shit will at least sound good once I figure out how to use it. And that's how I got into it. But like I said, I was producing... Not producing, but I was recording Shannon in hotel rooms and stuff all during the touring cycle. Once "No Rain" hit and we were staying in nicer places, I used to tour with a road case that was five feet tall, it was a recording studio. And I would pull it in my hotel room. That's the reason why the Nico record is half those sounds are from my recordings just being on the road and stuff.
PSF: Was it unique having success on the other side of the board working with Cheyenne Kimball and Anna Nalick?
CT: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I guess so. I really loved producing; I still do. It's what I do everyday so, yeah it was a trip man. We started producing, Brad and I. We had a hit with Anna Nalick immediately and then I went on to produce Sail, AWOLNATION, I'm a co-producer on Sail and play guitar on the song Sail by AWOLNATION. You know what, it's really satisfying because I've had hit on both sides of the glass, so to speak. And yeah, I'm really proud of that to be honest, yes, I am.
PSF: How did you guys come back together and find Travis?
CT: So, at this point, Brad and I bought a building in North Hollywood and built a studio called Studio Wishbone. And that's where Anna Nalick sessions were done and a bunch of shit like that. So, around that time, around 2007, as producers, you're always getting a phone call from an A&R guy going, "Hey man. I got this kid. Maybe you guys should write with him." So, anyway, we get a phone call from a great friend to this day, Kevin Carvel, who was working for Atlantic Records and he said, "Hey man. I just had a meeting with this guy. I just think he's a superstar. He's incredible. He's 20-something years old. He said his favorite band is Blind Melon. Can I hook you up? Do you guys want to have a meeting?" We're like, "Yeah. Sure. Great." So he comes over to the studio and immediately, of course, reminds us of Shannon in his just intensity. He just has that other thing, you know?
And we were just blown away by him. At that point, this was Brad and I writing songs and producing him for his own record. So, we dig in. I think we did three or four songs producing and at some point during those sessions, and I got to be honest, I've been thinking it but was just almost too afraid to say it because it was such a crazy idea but at one point, Brad just looked over at me and goes, "This guy can sing Blind Melon songs in his sleep." I'll never forget. That's what he said. He said, "This kid can sing Blind Melon songs in his sleep. What do you think about putting the band back together?" And I was like, "I've been thinking it. I've actually been thinking it."
And it was the first time that I ever, after the Rolling Stone [ad], getting tapes from people and after all of that, it was the first time I finally felt okay to go back to those songs again. There had been enough time. This is 2007, you know what I mean?
So, there's been enough time where it wasn't as painful to sit and hear those songs. So, sure enough, we call Rogers who I think was in law school or something, we call Rogers and Glen and we say, "I know this sounds crazy, but we feel like we found a Blind Melon singer." Sure enough, they fly out to Studio Wishbone. We play 2 X 4. At the end of 2 X 4, Rogers and Glen were like, "We got to go do this."
PSF: What was fan reaction like when you guys started playing shows again?
CT: Man. I tell you; I wish we would have filmed it because those first shows were so magical. Because you got to remember, our career ended in one night. I never got to say goodbye to fans. I never got to do, "Hey, this is my farewell tour. We're going to go say hi and say goodbye to everyone and then you won't see us for a while." We just were a band one day and disappeared the next day.
So, the fact that I got to go out and play these songs again that got to come back years later and I got to thank them, it was such a celebration and Travis was so good with the audience. Because, of course, he's walking into a situation that could be really awful for him, you know what I mean? People could turn against him at any point. Like Travis always says, "Look man. I'm the biggest Blind Melon fan. There's not a bigger fan in this room than me. I wish Shannon was up here, on stage and I was in the audience, but he's not, so I'm going to do the best I can do." And he won every fucking fan over. He won everybody over.
And the shows were crazy and manic and people were crying and bawling. It was a very intense tour. It really was. We purposely were playing these tiny little places. Playing these 200, 300 seaters and people were just so excited to see us again and to hear those songs that became a part of their lives, you know?
PSF: What was it like making the For My Friends record?
CT: It was tough and I'll tell you why and it's okay for me to talk about because Travis is out. Travis was going through some problems, substance abuse problems so it was a very, very, very hard record to make. It was just a tough process. I wish it was easier. But Travis wound up going into rehab during the making of that record, so it was a tough record and I honestly don't think it was our best foot forward. I think in a weird way, the band was starting over and it felt like we totally different have our legs. These are some great songs on that record but for me, it's not fully realized. It doesn't feel fully realized. It feels an A&R guy or a producer should have said to us, "Hey guys. Good effort, Go write 20 more songs and you'll be there." It felt like we needed to write more songs, but I feel like that's the process we're doing now. We're making record now and it feels like we're there now. I feel like we found our legs. We know who we are. Obviously, the band will morph and evolve because it's not all the same members.
I wish I could maybe go back and redo that one but it is what it is and we learned a lot from it. But the band is better than ever now and we're writing amazing songs now and I'm excited about it.
PSF: What is the current status of the band? I know you guys play here and there but not all the time.
CT: Well, you know what, we're gearing up to have really big year next year because we're finishing up our record. We're going to release a single. I think next week, we're playing Kaboo Festival in San Diego. Coming up in a couple weeks and then the weekend after that, we play See Hear Now festival on the East Coast in Asbury Park. And then next year, we'll be releasing a record, a full-length record and going out and touring a bunch.
PSF: There's also the Shannon Hoon movie.
CT: Yeah. So, there's going to be people thinking about our band, so we just thought, well we should be available to go out and tour and do stuff. I think we're going to be working a lot more next year. We also have some B-sides and things that we can release from the old catalog and stuff. I have this acoustic record that I'm dying to release of Shannon's that would be incredible.
PSF: What are you guys up to outside of the band? I know you're producing. Rogers is a damn lawyer.
CT: Glen is an artist. Glen spends a lot of his time... He's an incredible artist and does these amazing paintings, so I think he puts himself on a work schedule of doing paintings and things like that. Travis works on music every day like myself. Travis and I are just always at it. And Nathan, our new bass player is the genius of the band, plays every instrument better than all of us and he makes his living doing music as well.
PSF: What do you think of the impact of alternative rock in the '90s?
CT: Well, it seems like it's still sticking around and people still care about. I didn't realize it at the time that anyone would give a fuck about our band 30 years later. But, it's surprising and it's amazing. It felt like during the time, I can say this, and maybe every generation says this, but I'll say this anyways, in my '20s, living in Seattle, making records, it felt important. It really did. It just felt like what Pearl Jam had to say, what Soundgarden had to say, what Alice in Chains had to say, what Nirvana had to say, it just felt like a moment. It felt like a movement in a moment and I did feel that back then, you know what I mean? I did feel that. Sometimes, you don't feel that until years later, you're like, "Oh. That was a really special time." But, at the time, I remember feeling this is a really special time in music because we had the '80s with all these hair metal bands and I was just so not inspired by that and then suddenly you have these bands that kind of feel like classic rock but also are moving the ball forward. They have something to say, it's not about girls and fast cars and money, it's about real shit and it definitely felt like it was important, but you never really know. History decides whether you're worthy or not to talk about 25 years later, really.
PSF: What do you ultimately hope the band's legacy will be?
CT: Well, ultimately, I want people to just know... And that's part of my reason for keeping the band back together and going out and playing the old songs, I guess I don't want anyone to ever forget about Shannon as my friend, as the singer of my band, as my collaborator. I don't want anyone to ever forget, you know what I mean? Don't we all feel that way though. No one wants to be forgotten, so that's the reason to go out and play those songs and I'd also like to justify the legacy and those records with a new great record that people go, "Yeah, okay. It's not the Shannon years." AC/DC had two different singers. There are plenty of bands who've done it and as long as you can match, continue to keep your bar high and make a great record that change people's lives, then there you go, you've done a great job.
And if we can write some new ones that also make people feel that way, then great. There's the legacy of the band, they had incredible success with Shannon and then the band still goes out and continues and plays the songs and makes a great record. That's what I want.
Also see Blind Melon's website