|Alex Mitchell – Circus Of Power|
|Written by Gaz E|
|Sunday, 22 June 2008 00:00|
Circus of Power were one of those bands that dripped cool and oozed attitude. They disappeared way too quickly but some rock ‘n’ roll justice appears to have been served with a welcome reissue of their classic self-titled debut album, complete with bonus tracks and a deluxe booklet. I caught up with vocalist Alex Mitchell on the eve of this release…..
In 1988 you described Circus Of Power as “a big, loud blues band” – over two decades later, are you still happy with that description?
Not really. I’d say we were a heavy rock band, and one of very few around…..
The NYC grit that you and your contemporaries were dealing in at that time was definitely chalk to the LA glam cheese……
I never really paid much attention to the scene that we were supposed to be a part of. So I wasn’t one to stand there and go “Poison sucks” or that kind of thing. From that scene I liked The Four Horsemen, Raging Slab, The Cult, Zodiac Mindwarp, Cycle Sluts From Hell, Guns N’Roses……some others too, but my brain is somewhat burnt. But I’ll tell you this; if I like a song then it doesn’t matter to me who the fuck does it – music is music and it’s all good, from Abba to Zappa.
The band must have been blown away when Kerrang!, the UK’s biggest weekly music magazine, gave COP a front cover so early in your career?
I would be a lot more blown away now by a Kerrang cover! I can’t even remember what I was like back then, only I know that I appreciate things more.
The buzz about the band in Britain at that time actually caused the UK release of the first album to be brought forward from an early 1989 release date…..
I didn’t know that. But I’d love to play England again, I would kill for that.
Reading about a definite Black Sabbath influence on COP’s sound, it must have been great when you got confirmed as special guests for their European tour in support of the ‘Tyr’ album?
The tour with Sabbath sucked for us – we were already in disarray as a band. I think I was probably to blame for a lot of that. But other things were contributing too. You can never lose your hunger in life or you’re fucked.
I saw you on that Sabbath tour and, after witnessing their unashamed use of sampled backing vocals, was wondering what your thoughts were on the direction of the Tony Martin fronted Sabbath at that time?
I have a lot of respect for Iommi, Butler and Ward – I grew up on their fantastic music. So, the only singer for that band is Ozzy. End of story.
How did classic COP song ‘Machine’ end up – alongside a number of Jetboy tunes – in Joe Dante’s 1989 cult movie The ‘Burbs? It must have been great knowing that the legendary Corey Feldman did his chores listening to you?
Don’t recall how the song got in The ‘Burbs. It’s a horrible movie. How ‘bout Scorsese next time?
I’ve read that you were not wholly satisfied with the ‘Magic & Madness’ album. How do you feel about this album today?
I enjoy all of our records more than I used to, especially ‘Vices’. I like ‘Magic & Madness’ but it doesn’t compare to the first two.
Circus Of Power split in 1995 – what were the main reasons behind the split? Was the changing face of rock music to blame or, maybe, more personal demons?
We weren’t a band anymore; a band that was really together would have weathered the changes in music – look at Anvil! But what’s done is done, the planet is very alive and there are things to do, places to rock.
Tell us a little about your post-COP music projects; Uncle Max’s Cosmic Band, Fat Nancy and Plastic Gator Machine…..
There are some good songs on the other CD’s I did without Circus.
You also recorded a couple of cover tunes for all star tribute records to Ted Nugent and Bon Jovi – ‘Wang Dang Sweet Poontang’ and ‘Runaway’ respectively – how did these come about and how do you feel about the tunes now?
I did those songs for the money – it was like a musical form of prostitution. 500 bucks a pop. Bad-a-bing.
You have also had a book published – the incredibly titled ‘ Life is A Phantom K-Mart Horse Starting Up In The Middle of the Night’; how was this experience?
I’m into writing. I write for the local hipster rag here in Topanga where I live – it’s called Far West Almanac. My first book, I think you can still get it on Lulu.com but I have a new one coming out called ‘Working Class Superstar Redux’, it’s a novel. 188 pages. I think it rocks.
Circus Of Power reunited for a couple of 20th anniversary shows in 2006 – one in Texas, one in New York – with a couple of Cycle Sluts From Hell providing backing vocals at the latter date! How were these shows?
They helped the band, yeah. I guess that’s one reason we’re playing this show. We need to play more and make new music. Life is short, make art.
Gary Sunshine didn’t take part in the reunion shows, with Monster Magnet’s Phil Caivano taking his place. What were his reasons for not celebrating the anniversary of the band?
I think it’s pretty simple; Rick (Ricky Beck Mahler) wants us to do his songs, he wants to be the lead guitar player. Otherwise there are no Circus shows, nothing happens. Gary is very good, he’s played with a lot of other bands and I hope he does that again. I’d like to record with him again. Who knows?
Daniel Rey who – apart from producing work for Ramones, Misfits, Richard Hell and White Zombie amongst others – produced the self-titled COP debut and ‘Vices’, also played guitar for the band at those shows. Is he now considered a member of your live line-up?
He is for this gig, that’s the way I look at it. If we do anything else and Rick wants him, great. I just want to play.
What can you tell me about the reissue of the debut album with a wealth of fan-friendly extra content?
The re-release is cool! It includes the original four song demo that got us signed – ‘Motor’, ‘In The Wind’, ‘Dreams Tonight’ and ‘Backseat Momma’. Very punky, great versions of the songs. Different pictures, it’s remastered, and a fresh interview by Malcolm Dome of Kerrang.
When all this is over, what one song would you put forward to represent the Circus Of Power legacy, and why?
Jesus, that’s a tough one. I dig the song ‘Vices’, also ‘Heart Attack’. But ‘Vices’ is very original sounding – deadly riff. It should be sampled! Gangstas, where the fuck are ya! Get hip to it!
Do you have a particularly horrific gig experience to add to our Hell Is Gig Shaped section?
There were a lot of bad ones. Rather not remember them.
Finally, the ÜBER RÖCK ‘N’ RÖLL Test – 10 questions to see just how cool you are?
Bon Scott or Brian Johnson?
Bon – dig his voice and his craziness.
The Clash or Sex Pistols?
Love The Clash, love the Pistols.
New York Dolls or New York Loose?
Ozzy Osbourne or Ronnie James Dio?
Ozzy, but give Dio credit – he’s 67 and still kickin’ it.
Johnny Thunders or Johnny Ramone?
Thunders. Love Thunders.
Ted Nugent or Bon Jovi?
The Nuge, even though he’s a demented Republican like Johnny Ramone. Full of hate, not good. The world is fed up with hate. Hate sucks.
Cheap Trick or Kiss?
Love Cheap Trick, love Kiss.
Rolling Stones or Faces?
Shit, love the Faces, dude – fuckin’ love them. Huge Stones fan as well. ‘Sticky Fingers’ is one of the best albums ever.
Junkyard or Faster Pussycat?
Tie between Junkyard and Pussycat.
Magic or Madness?
…..and may the gods bless the protesters in Iran. Down with tyrants, in the US, in Iran and everywhere else. Fuck them!
Alex Mitchell scores 666% on the rock ‘n’ roll test and is a lifelong friend of ÜBER RÖCK!!!
Check out www.myspace.com/circusofpower