A Conversation with Blind Melon's Christopher Thorn
Mike Ragogna: Hey Chris, how are you?
Christopher Thorn: I'm doing great. How are you doing?
MR: I'm doing well. Let's start right from the beginning with the news that your self-titled '92 album has been remastered and is coming out with the Sippin' Time Sessions EP.
CT: You know, our very first experience in the studio after we got signed was in '92. We went into the studio with this great producer named David Briggs, who was Neil Young's producer, and we made this EP. Around that same time, we had gotten these new managers, and we all felt like we should not release an EP and do a full length record. So in the meantime, this EP sort of sat in the vaults for twenty-something years. Capitol came to us and said, "We want to celebrate the fact that your first record came out twenty years ago." Then they asked if we had any extra stuff to put with it. So we all remembered this EP that no one has ever heard--it's the one thing that hasn't been leaked, you know? This EP was just sort of hibernating in the Capitol vaults on two-inch tape. We had them transfer the tape to Pro Tools, and then Brad and I mixed this EP that we hadn't heard in literally twenty years. We made it, it was shelved, we went on to make our first record and we never really looked back. It was exciting, and it was great to hear. It was better than I thought--better than I remembered it being. I was really excited to hear it, and it sounded great.
MR: What stood out most about hearing these tracks from twenty years ago?
CT: It felt really good to hear the stuff. You could just hear us being so pumped on the tracks. You could really hear all the energy we had because everything was fresh to us. I just have the best memories of David in the tracking room with us. He was super intense, flailing his arms and banging his head, and he was really in there with us and it was just an incredible experience that I think really comes off on these tapes.
MR: This has also come out on vinyl, right?
CT: Yeah, it's a special thing we wanted to do for Record Store Day. It's a double vinyl--it's the first record, and then it's this EP on the other LP. We're really grateful that Capitol came to us and wanted to do something like this. It's exciting for us.
MR: What is the story behind your debut album?
CT: After the EP, like I said, we had these managers, and it didn't really feel like we were quite ready to do a full length record. So after we finished the EP and realized we weren't going to release it, we all moved to North Carolina, and we lived in this house together, which we called The Sleepyhouse--that was in Durham, North Carolina. We wanted to go to Chapel Hill, but we couldn't find any houses. That was really the best thing for us because we learned how to play. We woke up at three or four in the afternoon everyday, smoked a lot of pot, and then we jammed and wrote songs. That's what we did to really get prepared for this full length record that we were about to do. That was probably the smartest decision that we made, which was to leave Los Angeles. We weren't getting anything done in Los Angeles--there were too many other distraction, parties, meetings and bullshit for us to do. We just figured, "We're country boys. Let's go out in the country and live in a house together." Of course, we romanticized bands like The Band and other groups that kind of did this back in the '60s and '70s. So that's what we did, and that was part of the process to get us ready for our first full length record. Rick Parasher flew out to North Carolina to hang out with us--he was the producer--and we really liked Rick.
In the meantime, while we were at that house, every week, we were going and trying out material at this place called The Brewery, which is this tiny little club in Raleigh. Once a week for about a month, we went out there to try out material. The first week we played for twenty people, and the next week there were fifty people--you know, we started to build a little thing there--but it was mostly just playing together all day long, staying up all night, listening to records with each other and jamming. We got a lot done, and we just became brothers there too. One of my best memories is living in that house with those guys. We all just went and focused on the band, and it really was the best thing for us. After that, we flew to Seattle to make the record, and it felt like we were a lot more prepared after doing that.
MR: Seattle was, at that time, was the ground zero for the flannel sound.
CT: Yeah, there was no better place to be. We weren't necessarily a part of that scene, we were the hippies on the outside of the grunge scene, but we were accepted by those guys, and just by nature of releasing records around the same time we were sort of lumped into that. Seattle was just exploding with creativity, and there was this sense of excitement in the city. I wound up moving there and living there for seven years, but at that time it was what San Francisco was in the '60s--there are those times when, for whatever reason, there is an epicenter, and for whatever reason that seemed to be Seattle at the time. So we were sort of inspired just to be there, and to be running into all those bands around town.
MR: Did you ever happen across Nirvana?
CT: I didn't know those guys until after Shannon died. I became good friends with Chris, the bass player for Nirvana. He really helped me because Kurt had died about a year before Shannon died, and he lived in my neighborhood. It was great because he just kind of warned me about all the stuff I was about to go through from dealing with Shannon's death.
MR: I want to ask you about the iconic "Bee Girl" that everybody associates with the band. Was that a metaphor for something?
CT: No, we weren't that deep, man. Before we actually moved into the house in North Carolina we all moved to Mississippi first, before we got to Durham. One day, we were hanging out at Glen's house, and they had all these pictures as you went up the steps in their house. I just remember walking up the steps and seeing that picture of Glen's sister, and it just hit me that that had to be the cover. Everybody has that shot that they're a little embarrassed of. It's that shot before you become self-conscious, and before you start thinking about what's cool and what's not cool--you're just completely authentic. That's what that shot meant to me when I saw that. It just really hit me, and I started a campaign to make that our album cover and everyone went along with it. None of us had any idea that it would become such an iconic image. We got lucky with the combination of a great song, an image that everybody related to, and a great video--and a band that stayed on the road for years. All the stars lined up, and now we're still talking about it twenty years later. Who would have known?
MR: When you look back at the band's career, obviously this first huge album and then all that came after it, what are your thoughts?
CT: It was a crazy, surreal time in my life. I guess it looked like it came out of nowhere, but by the time the record hit, we had been on the road for a long time. We were really grateful for the success of "No Rain." Without "No Rain" we never would have been able to make a record as daring as the Soup record. "No Rain" allowed us to have complete control over our career for the rest of our lives. Creatively speaking, that was the greatest thing about "No Rain." If we hadn't had that success, I imagine the next record we made would have had a bunch of A&R guys crawling up our ass, telling us how we should sound and who we should be, but we didn't have any of that. I'm really grateful for "No Rain," I really am. The rest of the story becomes sadder. Shannon passed away and we weren't really looking out for one another like we should have been. I guess we felt immortal and we weren't really paying attention. We knew we were getting crazy, but when you're young, you just don't think about consequences. It was a very crazy time, but in the end, I can't speak badly about "No Rain." Some people want you to slam your hit song, but it's one of the greatest things that ever happened in my life. Today, I'm still making records because of the success of that record.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
CT: It sounds so simple to say, but it's totally true--you really just have to write a great song. You can be the world's greatest guitar player, with the coolest scarf, best hat and greatest shoes, but in the end, if you don't have a great song, no one cares. So my advice for anybody is really to write a great song. That is the most important thing. You have to write as many songs as you have to in order to hit that song that feels like magic. There's really nothing else to do but to put the time in to write a really great song. You just hope you find your muse, and you hope that you're able to find that little thing that makes a song live on and touch people. You've got to write a great song--it really is that simple.
MR: What's on the agenda? Will you be supporting this album with a tour?
CT: We're doing some dates. Everybody has so much going on. Every week, we still want to find time to play for the fans, play for ourselves, and just sort of hang out as brothers. We all have our own projects, so everybody is busy, but we always want to go out and play these songs. It's fun as hell for us to play them. We have a bunch of stuff in August. We just played a show with the Smashing Pumpkins in Vera Cruz, which is a couple hours outside of Mexico City. We just want to keep going. We want to get together and release singles every once in a while. We still want to get together and be creative and go out and play these songs for people. We just feel lucky that anybody cares all these years later, so we just want to honor that and go out with the fans.
MR: All the best with everything, Chris.This was great.
CT: Thank you so much. I really appreciate talking to you.
1. Soak The Sin
2. Tones Of Home
3. I Wonder
4. Paper Scratcher
5. Dear Ol' Dad
7. No Rain
9. Sleepy house
10. Holy Man
11. Seed To A Tree
14. Dear Ol' Dad (Sippin' Time Sessions EP)
15. Soul One (Sippin' Time Sessions EP)
16. Tones Of Home (Sippin' Time Sessions EP)
17. Seed To A Tree (Sippin' Time Sessions EP)
18. Mother (Sippin' Time Sessions EP)
Transcribed by Ryan Gaffney
DROP OUT ORCHESTRA FEATURING VINNY VERO
photo credit: Johan Mauritzson
"I've been asked about the inspiration for 'Be Free With Your Love' quite a lot," says industry Big Guy, Vinny Vero. "There's something about it that seems to connect with people. And now, with France just having passed same sex marriage, the song is even more timely. The idea came from a news article I read about two gay men in a relationship who lived in the US, one of whom was an American citizen. The other guy was a British citizen and was in the process of being deported. Since the US doesn't have rights of citizenship for married gay couples, the British guy was forced to go back to his homeland. The man from the US gave up his job and moved to the UK to be with his partner. I co-opted a phrase from a sentence in the the article for the title of the song. As the fight for same sex marriage found its way to the top of the 24/7 news cycle, I started to pull more inspiration from that while simultaneously making the song about the power of music on the dancefloor. In times of struggle, people like to let loose, dance, be free and have a good time. So, the song has a double meaning."
And now, said song...
"Be Free With Your Love (Coqui Selection Remix)"
SPRING BREAK WITH PARTY POLICE
"I wrote 'Spring Break' on February 3rd, the same day we shot our first Party Police video for Totally Bitchin'," says The Warden. "I was inspired by all the fun we had shooting that video with our friends and wrote it in like 3 minutes. I called up DJ Pegasus and said, 'Dude, we are gonna have to push "Pool Party" and record this new one for our second single so we can drop it in time for Spring Break!' Well, it is almost May now so we probably should have stuck to the original plan but 'Spring Break' is really a timeless theme. Hopefully, people can watch this video at work throughout the year and make them feel like they went on a little 4 minute vacation to East Dallas with the Party Po!"
The Warden continues, "We shot the entire video in 4 hours on March 30 in Dallas, TX with the same badass crew of our friends as we used for 'Totally Bitchin'--Oliver Peck (directing), Zach Warner (filming & editing) and Casey Kinney (filming). I am the executive producer and developed concept and arranged locations. I recently made business cards that say 'Music Video Producer, Legendary Rapper & BAMF' as my titles, in that order. They are awesome. I am definitely proud of being a legendary rapper, but I am a music video producer first. I found the plane and our new pilot friend Bobby White by posting a request on Facebook. We have become good friends and I'm hopeful he will be in many future videos. We tried Craig's List to find strippers but that didn't work. I learned that strippers typically do not wake up that early (we shot at noon). Thankfully, we know lots of hot chicks that aren't strippers, so we were good in that department. In case you can't tell, ShitKray got a spray tan for the occasion so she looks smokin' hot as usual. Party!"