Sin City Sinners
This is potentially the best band you’ve never seen, at least in their current incarnation. Comprised of former members of Faster Pussycat, Age of Electric, Raging Slab, and Static in Stereo, the Sin City Sinners are probably the most gigging band in Las Vegas. With regular weekly gigs at the Rio Hotel and Green Valley Ranch and being the first “house band” at the new Hard Rock Cafe on the world-famous Las Vegas Strip with frequent shows at the rock bars in the Venetian and Hard Rock Hotel and other places around town thrown in for good measure, they are probably the one band in Glitter City with a significant steady following, yours truly included.
The Sin City Sinners’ debut CD, “Exile on Fremont Street” will be available at Midnight on February 13, 2010, with a live DVD to follow. If you’re in Vegas, the CD release party and live DVD filming is at Ovation at Green Valley Ranch on February 13th -starts at 11pm. Otherwise, you can order it online.
I recently sat down with Brent Muscat (guitar), Todd Kerns (vocals), and Michael Ellis (bass) backstage before a gig at the Hard Rock Cafe to let you in on some of what the “Sinner Girls” (and Boys) already know.
Interviewed by: Jessica Messina | February 2010
Since the majority of the readers of TheyWillRockYou.com have never seen you guys, what can people expect when seeing Sin City Sinners for the 1st time?
Todd: Shenanigans, full-on, loud, shenanigans. When you think about the fact that it started at the Divebar as a good time, I wouldn’t call it a party band, that gives it too many Bob Seger connotations..
Brent: A Jam band….
Todd: Yeah, it was built around jamming, having fun, looseness and alcohol.
Ellis: Keep in mind, I was a fan of this band before I got this gig. I used to go all over to see them.
Todd: Because he likes alcohol, insanity and having fun. I think that’s essentially what it is though. Ultimately at the heart of it we’re all serious about what we do, serious about our craft, but none of us actually take the whole thing so seriously that we can’t have fun. I hope that translates the second that somebody walks in the door, even if they don’t like the loud rock n’ roll music that we play or the genre, at least I think they would have a good time being there in the midst of it.
Yeah, you do get sucked in and caught up in it…
Ellis: The only thing we’ve taken seriously thus far since I’ve been in the band is the album. We took that seriously.
Todd: And even that try to figure out how do you capture that into this? And at the end of the day, it’s a collection of songs that you hope people will love and then come see you do what you do. The live show has always been the beginning and end of this band anyway.
What do you hope they come away from a live show thinking?
Todd: I hope that they have a great time! That they have a blast, and that they think “I can’t wait to do this again!” We have a skeletal framework of a set list that’s similar, but we try to change it up, so last night is different from tonight and tomorrow is different from tonight, because we know we have a core group of people that are always there and we always try to keep that in mind. Even though you’re saying something that everybody’s heard a thousand times, you’re always going to get someone new who walks in and there’s somebody out there that’s never heard that before.
Ellis: With as much as we gig, if we didn’t change it up, we’d get bored. The last thing that people want to see is just bored guys up there.
Well, yeah, because if you guys aren’t having fun, then people are going to think “why bother?”
Ellis: Right. So, I try to have more fun than anybody up there.
Todd: People will say that to me, “You guys look like you’re having a good time up there…” and I say, “Well, because we are!” And I think that’s sort of the key thing, as opposed to thinking about how much money you’re making or when can I get the hell out of here. Generally, the most fun I have in my day is right after the first four-count of the first song until we leave. Then, OK, back to real life.
Ellis: The cliché is the truth. We get paid to set up and wait around. The playing part? Psshhh. I’d do that for free!
Brent: Yeah, that’s true.
Todd: Touring was the same thing. Being on the road, traveling, that’s what we get paid for. Playing music in front of people who actually have a good time, I’ll do that all day long, for nothing.
Brent: It’s the getting out of bed….
Todd: Yeah, if you could play from your bed…
Yeah, usually at this hour, I’m already in bed!
Todd: Me too… WINK!
Since today is Super Bowl Sunday and so many athletes have superstitions and rituals, do you have any pre-show rituals or superstitions you’d like to share with us?
Brent: I usually try to psyche myself up. Try to get into a certain head space. Because I think I’m kind of a shy person and when you’ve got to go onstage and perform in front of people, you’ve sort of get into it. Or, sometimes you’ve got other shit going on in other parts of your life that maybe that isn’t so fun, so when you come to work, you’ve got try to leave all that other bullshit behind for the night. So, it’s that you’ve got to get into that certain head space before you get onstage…
Todd: It’s like I said before, when you get out there onstage we’re in our bubble. Its fun, it’s cool and then you can walk off and go “Aw. Flat tire.” or whatever you’ve got to deal with but up there, you’re kind of in your untouchable little space.
Brent: It could be the same day, but it’s like starting a new day when you walk up there.
Todd: I don’t have any rituals. I used to be pretty anal about getting my energy up, and my voice, but generally the trick is not to exceed your own expectations. “I’m going to say this, and everybody’s going to cheer, girls are going to throw their panties at you…” It’s never quite what you expect anyway, so you just go out there with that thought. Sometimes the reaction’s way better than what you thought, sometimes the reaction’s less than you thought and you’ve got to work harder to get them to that point. To me, it’s like you’re on the couch watching something and then, okay, you’re onstage rockin’ at the top of your game, it has to be like the same thing.
Ellis: It depends on the gig. Take this gig, it’s a different ritual for me. Tonight I’ll wash my hands and go smoke five minutes before we go out. Green Valley Ranch, I have to walk up the stairs onstage. But that’s not a ritual, that’s a mental problem. I feel like I’m going to do a better show if I do these things.
Brent: That’s superstition. I do that kinda stuff too. I do certain things too. You look in the mirror and go “I’m gonna ROCK tonight”.
Todd: Well, you’ve got to psyche yourself up or something.
Brent: I always do that… <makes fist bump gesture>
Ellis: We do little fist bumps before we start…
Brent: Yeah, I always have to do that… It’s like “Gimme some!”
Todd: Gotta make sure Rob ( Cournoyer -drummer) knows what he’s doing.
Brent: That’s true…
Todd: Y’know, where he is, the song he’s doing. ..
For the longest time, you guys had special guests pretty much every show. How did that come about? Was it planned as part of your schtick or just sorta happened?
Todd: The very beginning we had Phil Lewis from LA Guns and Louie Merlino from Beggars and Thieves.
Brent: And Ron Jeremy was there.
Todd: And Ron Keel. We we’re always kind of established as a let’s have fun and play band and that just bring guys out, just like a party.
Brent: It was a party. Me and Todd were there and it was like “who do we get?” We got D (ex-bass) and Brent Fitz from Alice Cooper’s band, and we just started calling. “Hey! You wanna job?” That was the very first one. I don’t think we were called Sin City Sinners yet…
Todd: We weren’t Sin City Sinners until we were at the Divebar.
Brent: So, we had fun at the first Divebar show and thought “What’s open on Tuesdays?” and I remember the guy goin’ “Tuesdays? You’ll NEVER get people in here on Tuesdays!” I was like, Fuck Yeah! Let’s just do it! It was like a challenge. You say I can’t do something? I’m like fuck it, let’s see Tuesdays happen! And we did. It was fun.
Todd: Suddenly, it was the thing to do on Tuesday nights.
Brent: It was fun. That’s how the guest thing started. We’d start picking people out that we liked and we’d email them saying, “Hey, you wanna come jam with us?”
Anyone on the “wish list” for guests?
Brent: Yeah… That would be good.
Todd: Does he jam?
Ellis: There’s definitely several people that I would love to have come out. Try to get Steve Jones, Johnny Rotten. We got to the point where we’re getting at least our heroes. We had Sylvain Sylvain, I mean, Jesus Christ, we were on cloud nine.
Brent: I heard that Michael Monroe is gonna be in town, that for me would be huge.
Brent: Even though that maybe Hanoi Rocks isn’t huge for some.
Todd: Tiffany was the biggest guest we’ve had. We thought great! Bring her out! That’ll be awesome. We’ll play some Tiffany songs. Next thing you know, we’re totally psyched. And Ron Jeremy. Those are like the big, the big money guests. Vinnie Paul, and a lot of those people have become friends now.
Ellis: For me, anyway, people I wasn’t necessarily a fan of, became some of the nicest guests.
Todd: And you ended up loving them, It’s not about not being a fan, just not being familiar.
Well, it’s got to be kind of cool having your stuff sung back at you.
Todd: Yeah, that’s pretty cool. It’s only been happening in the last six months or so.
Any guest stand out from the others? Why?
Todd: For me, it was always Sami Yaffa, Sylvain Sylvain, Eric Dover. I was a big fan of those guys.
Brent: Eric’s fun, yeah.
Todd: Those three are always the three I go to. Cheetah Chrome from Dead Boys was huge for me. Bruce Kulick was a big deal for me as a Kiss fan, I saw him play at a hockey arena when I was 14. Those guys, the ones I looked up to as a kid, that”s who I get really excited about.
Brent: For me, it was Annabella Lwinn from Bow wow wow. I was a huge fan of hers. I had a huge crush, so to have her onstage and to jam with her, that was pretty cool. Kathy Valentine from the Go-Gos was cool too.
Todd: That was really cool, yeah.
Ellis: Sylvain. Slim Jim Phantom -from the Stray Cats.
Todd: Jim was cool.
Ellis: Vinnie Paul
Brent: There’s been so many of them.
Ellis: Jeff Watson was an incredible hang. Pete Loran still hits me up. Ted Poley was a lot of fun.
Todd: The Sister guys are great.
A cover of “Ah! Leah” (originally by Donnie Iris) made it on to the new CD? Where did that come from?Ellis: All him <points at Todd>
Todd: Yes. I heard that on Solid Gold as a kid and I loved that song from the beginning. Everything I’ve ever done ends up that way, as a jam sort of thing. Whatever little group I was in, they loved that song. It just kinda became one of those things where people loved it. And I think there’s probably a 75% range of people who don’t know it’s a cover.
Brent: To play it live though, people are always going to love it.
Todd: There were people who were aware of it and appreciate it.
Ellis: People think it’s a Sinners’ song.
The the first time I heard it, I knew there was something familiar about it, I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
Todd: I stole that song! <chuckles> No, it’s just one of those songs. And the fact that it was never really overly huge, it was kind of like an underground hit, it was a hit, but it wasn’t a massive hit.
Ellis: It wasn’t Brickhouse.
Todd: No. It was regional. And maybe that’s why. We’re bringing it back to the masses, if it ever reaches beyond the 702.
Will we see a cover of “Pants on the Ground” on the next one?Todd: <singing> Pants on the ground…
Ellis: Catch me at 4 or 5 in the morning at Divebar and my pants are probably on the ground!
Todd: Pants on the bar!
Brent: there was some crazy underwear on the stage last night.
Todd: Yeah, like the one you had… It was… yeesh.
Any parting words?
Brent: Go to our website: thesincitysinners.com and our CD ” Exile on Fremont Street” will be there by the time this is out. Check it out, it’s a really awesome CD. The songs are killer.
Ellis: The songs are killer because we wanted to make a good rock and roll record and that’s what we did. There was no label breathing down our necks looking for hits. It’s a good rock record.
Todd: There’s more to come. There’s videos and more. It’s just you climb the first mountain and realize there’s more mountains to climb. And I like climbing mountains with these guys!
If you’re visiting Las Vegas, catch them at Voodoo Lounge at the Rio on Tuesday nights beginning at 10pm or Ovation at Green Valley Ranch on Saturday nights, doors at 10pm or the Hard Rock Cafe on Las Vegas Blvd, next to the MGM Grand on Sunday nights, doors at 8pm. Check their myspace and Twitter pages for other gigs, because they frequently play Thursday nights at Wasted Space at the Hard Rock Hotel and Friday nights at Smokin’ Hot Aces at the Venetian, with a smathering of other gigs in between. And, you never know who will show up!