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Catching Up With…Louis St. August of MASS

Louis first off, some hearty congratulations to you and to Joey, Gene, Mike and Jeremy on “When Two World’s Collide”, which I believe musically is your strongest effort to date. You must be both thrilled and relieved at the same time at the initial responses/feedback the band has been receiving from both fans and media alike?

Thank you very much. Absolutely.  We’re really excited and overwhelmed at the response so far.  Old fans and new fans alike.  We knew we had something special but we didn’t expect this type of response on the whole.  The orders are pouring in from all over the world.

Now it’s been eight years since your last release “Sea of Black” and some might say what the hell took so long? But on the other hand given the quality of this release I would say to those critical of the delay hey the proof is in the pudding. Good things come to those who wait. How do you answer that question?

We’ve been writing here and there since the release of “Sea of Black” but I’d say in the past year and a half or so I’ve really encouraged the guys to get back in the studio to record a new album. So “WTWC” has only been in the works since early 2017.  I suppose each of us was guilty of being a bit lazy in the approach to “WTWC” but on the other hand we are all involved in the raising of our ever growing families and careers outside of music.  It’s a big commitment to get all 5 of us together on a fairly regular basis.  We used to get together 3-4 a times a week when we were 18/19 years old to work on new material.  We could travel to California or New York for gigs without much hesitation back then.  Now at this stage of our careers and personal lives that type of freedom/flexibility is limited.  So there wasn’t just a single factor in a nearly 8 year break in recording new music but we weren’t completely dormant during that period. We did record a single for “Outside Looking In” in 2015 an older song that I had brought back to the band because I thought it deserved new life.  We also recorded a few Xmas related tunes for our fans of which a portion of the sales of these songs went to Toys for Tots a charity near and dear to each of us in MASS. We sold them online at www.massrocks.com.  So we were very aware our fans were craving new music. But in the end I hope the fans feel the wait was worth it.       

Was the vast majority of the material recorded on WTWC written post Sea of Black or were any of these songs parts of older material possibly demoed but never used?

Nine of the 11 tracks were all written post “SOB” in fact most in that roughly 18-month period I spoke of earlier.  There were two songs I brought back to the band that I felt strongly about.  One was ‘Second Hand Rose” and the other was ‘Stand Alone”.  Older songs that we had written that really required a bit of “arm twisting” on my part to convince the guys that these songs deserved to see the light of day.  So after they were convinced and we went it to record them upon hearing the finished versions played back they agreed that both fit the vibe of the new record and should be included.  I thought we really needed a slower sort of ballad like ‘Second Hand Rose” and I always envisioned ‘Stand Alone” as a mid-tempo rocker as having that huge hook and build up which happily is exactly how it turned out.  Two tunes I really was eager to pull out of storage and didn’t want to see left by the wayside.

How far back or in what era of MASS were each of these tracks written?

“Stand Alone” was the earlier of the two and our original bass player Kevin Varrio might have still been in the band when we originally wrote that song.  I listened to the demo tape shortly before presenting back to the guys and almost positive it’s Kevin on it. ‘Second Hand Rose” was written shortly after Mike joined the band.  We might have done it first with Rob Stevens and then Mike came in around 1994.  Just a demo of it in our rehearsal room.

So “Second Hand Rose” could be a “Mother Train” tune that’s finally going full steam ahead?

HAAAAAAAA.  Sure why not.

When you went into the studio this time around how many completed written songs did you have at your disposal that eventually came down to the lucky 11?

We had about 15 or 16 written songs but we had already chosen these 11 prior to recording.  We didn’t record any extra songs this time around. We narrowed it done right at the onset of day 1 in the studio and that made the focus easier.

I’d like to go track by track and just get a few brief thoughts on each of them.

“Just Can’t Deny” –  Troubled times and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  My lyrics and my melodies are often autobiographical so most are about something that happened to me or to the band or a friend.  The bad trying to win over the good but I see a light shining though and that’s the direction I chose to go.

“Only a Dream” –  Sort of a mythical song starting with a story I had inside my head.  The verses are all dream like in their descriptions.  My life in music has been like a dream and this song is an example of that.

“Falling In Love” –  We went into the studio the first time to record this song and one other that we felt really didn’t fit ‘WTWC” so we changed it to a Christmas song called ‘Holding on to Christmas” which we thought was a better fit as a Holiday track.  It’s really about anyone who might be missing a past love and the only way he can be with that past life is in his mind.

“Alive” – Basically about myself that path or that goal of wanting to get my band and my music to the next successful level.  When I’m getting close that level or read a great review about the new album I feel so “Alive”.  I’ve had this dream for a long, long time.  The band has been on this level several times in our careers I’m almost breaking through but not quite getting to the ultimate goal. So close. If we get over that hump remains to be seen but we’ll never stop trying.

“Second Hand Rose” –  When I wrote the lyrics to that song a friend of mine was going through a divorce.  Close friend.  Kind of put that story into how I would feel.  He didn’t want to settle for being second best in her life.  He basically felt like you either love me all the way or let it go.

“Turn It Over” –  A great rocker tune with a few story lines to it.  It’s about a relationship and it’s not going to work out.  He was hoping it was going to work out and just felt that in the end he was just being used.  It’s ultimately about saying goodbye and moving on. (This one sounds more like old school MASS than any other on this record!. Raja point)

“Revenge For The Maiden” –   This is a fast hard rocker that Gene has been dying to record so I tried to come up with a storyline that came up with who clearly the riff borrows from! A guy who falls in love with the wrong woman who is already involved with somebody else and the other guy is out to get him.  Scorned lover out to cause him some harm.

“Some Time Ago” –  Basically about the band MASS and everything we have gone though.  All the way back to the beginning with our first deal in the early 80’s with our RCA contract even though we had also signed one with A&M back in 1982.  We were so young, so naïve about the business.  All the hardships with all the crooks and thieves.  Arbitration being in court for over three years and finally having to declare bankruptcy to rid ourselves of so many bad deals.  Took many lawyers, a lot of time and money to move on. But we are here in 2018 and that’s what this song represents.

“Stand Alone” –  As previously mentioned an older song so I did have to rewrite some of the lyrics because they were very dated.  I did keep the original chorus because that was the basis for the entire song which I had really liked.  Made it more of a relationship type of song where he’s not afraid to be alone necessarily.  He’s moved on from his love and isn’t afraid to stand on his own.  (Not only my favorite track on WTWC but ranked in the top three MASS songs eva! Extra Raja point.)

“Time Marches On” –   Basically three little stories on the first and second verses. Time waits for nobody.  One focus I was trying to create was a guy with all of his riches on earth has to understand you can’t take it with you and try and move on with your life.

“When Two Worlds Collide” –   I came up with the title first and thought to myself this would make a great name for the album. The guys agreed and then when I sat down to write the lyrics (on the beach I might add.  My office away from home) I started to try and compare all of the craziness that has been going on in the world all at once.  One day the world is going to come to an end.  You have to make a choice.  Are you going to be on the good side or are you going to be on the bad side? Basically my “Heaven or Hell” type of song.

 The CD release party is set for June 23 at MIXX 360 with special guest Charlie Farren. How many tracks can fans expect to hear from “WTWC”?

We want to do all of them but we are planning on working towards a goal of playing probably at least 9 of the 11 tracks.  We have been working though these at rehearsals for the show and we picked nine.  We obviously will include MASS favorites as well with a roughly 90-minute set.    All originals no covers.  We have so many songs with 9 albums that it starts to get tough to pick a set list.  Everybody that has heard the record has their own favorite tune and that’s great because it makes us all the more motivated to make sure we include as many off WTWC as possible.

You also have a local radio promotional appearance scheduled soon correct?

Sunday June 3 on WAAF Bay State Rock w/Carmelita show runs from 11pm to 1am so I think Gene and I are going to try to play around 3 or 4 songs.  Who knows may even work in a new track!  Possibly do a medley of some older tracks. Be some giveaways of some tix for CD release party and maybe some copies of WTWC.  Should be fun looking forward to it.

Will there be any new merchandise to coincide with the new record such as t-shirts, posters, or other promotional items?

We have new t-shirts that are being made and will be available at the show.  Coozies with an alternative cover of “WTWC” are being planned.   Stickers, lanyards and maybe some posters as well.

Also there is a plan for a vinyl release of “WTWC” correct and will that be available for the release party?

Yes, there is a planned vinyl release for WTWC but I’m not certain when it will be made available.  It went to pressing but don’t have the details yet or if it will be available in time for the release party.  Process usually takes about 4 to 6 weeks so not sure.

I’d like to play word association with you and just want the first thing that comes to mind when doing so:

The Channel.  Great club in Boston.  My favorite.  We did so many shows there over the years.  Lot of fun and success there.  The guys from WBCN would hang out with us there.  We did the WBCN lunch time show from The Channel once.  We would do matinee performances and then play again at night.  Sold out both.

Kevin Varrio.  Talented guy loved the kid.  Miss him.  Miss him dearly.  Don’t get me wrong we all love Mike (Palumbo) in fact he’s been in the band longer than Kevin was.  Try to reach out to him as often as possible but with busy schedules it’s not easy to catch up.  He lives down the cape and has two children and seems very happy. Usually we will throw each other a text every now and then to say hello.  He’s one of my brothers.

The Tank. It was a fun spot in my hometown of Revere right on the Beach.  Many many sets we had there.  I’ll remember the mingling with our friends after each gig more than anything else. Miss that place. Period of life I’ll treasure with fondness.

Michael Sweet.  Sweet guy!  Been dear friends with Michael for many years.  For two months we basically lived at his house while we recorded “Voices”.  We were pretty much strangers but because we wanted to save a bit of cash on the recording budget he allowed us to stay with him. I’ll never forget that.  The EM Lowe’s gigs with Stryper and others.  Will never forget those times. He’s a big supporter of ours and play’s a great solo on WTWC with ‘Stand Alone”.

Do You Love Me?  That was the song that broke us.  We really didn’t want that song to be released as the first single off “New Birth” because we considered ourselves a much heavier band but we were naïve and young so we allowed the record company to call the shots.  They were ultimately right because that song opened a lot of doors for us.  That 45 single sold about 40,000 copies and pushed the record to over 100,000 units sold.  Also our first MTV video and was like a #1 song in Boston on WBCN for like 6 weeks in a row.

V66.  Spin off channel from the MTV days but local here in Massachusetts.  Huge exposure for our videos on V66.  I’m pretty certain we did a few spot ads in studio there as well. Fun times.  Huge supporter of MASS.

Any thoughts to a Live release either from the label or maybe an independent project?

No doubt it.  We all hear that a lot.  MASS needs a live album.  Are we good enough to put a live album out?  I’m not sure.  I’ve heard stuff our fans post and say Oh God why did this come out?  It has to be the right place, the right time and recorded well.  MASS Alive!  How does that sound?  Too much like KISS?  HA HA

What’s ahead for 2018 for MASS?  Local shows only or are other offers being considered?

The door is always open to any opportunity.  If promoters approach us with what we feel makes sense and is worth it and everybody is available, we’ll consider it.  We are playing Rock n Skull in October 26 opening night headliner and we’ll see what else is coming in 2018.  We turn down shows that we don’t discuss publically all the time because we all have very active personal lives and careers.  But we communicate everything between the band members and always talk it out.

 

Keep updated on all MASS activities at www.massrocks.com    

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