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Black Bambi Interview

BLACK BAMBI

Interview with Steven Ray Anastos

By: Nina McCarthy, Sr. Music Journalist

Boston Rock Radio

 

 

Imagine your dream about to come true and then the bottom falling out.  Steven Ray, lead singer of Black Bambi tells me how this happened to the band and why they released the shelved album almost 30 years later.

 

BRR:  Black Bambi played their first show at Whiskey A Go-Go in 1987. Tell me what the music scene was like back then on the Sunset Strip.

 

SRA:  It was exploding.  It already exploded obviously.  The early 80’s exploded with Ratt and Motley Crue, Dokken and bands like that, that we all saw come up big. By the late 80’s it was Poison, Warrant, Winger and stuff like that.  Black Bambi wasn't that. We definitely had a bluesier and much darker sound, a little more sound like was going to happen in the early 90’s.  Our lyrics were kind of twisted and dark.  We were not a glam band like the other bands that were popular back then.

 

BRR:  So you were a little ahead of the times actually.

 

SRA:  We were.  There's no doubt about it.

 

BRR:  By 1989, the band was signed by John Carter at Atlantic Records.  How did that come about?

 

SRA:  John Carter knew us and started coming to our rehearsals and he loved the band right from the get go.  He mentored us for a couple months and he was head of A&R at Atlantic so he brought us to Atlantic and signed us.  It all happened pretty quick actually. I guess within a year and a half from our first show the end of ‘87 and we were signed by early ‘89.  

 

BRR:  That's amazing.

 

SRA:  Yeah, we did some showcases for different labels but we didn't have to do many when Atlantic picked us up and we liked Atlantic anyway, who wouldn't?

 

BRR:  What was it like recording with the legendary producer Beau Hill at Enterprise Studios?

 

SRA:  It was awesome.  He was incredible.  We saw a few different producers.  I  think Bob Ezrin came in and a couple others, but our management and Concerts West was doing Warrant and they had a bunch of other big bands.  Beau had just done one of their albums and came to one of our rehearsals and loved the band.  He was so big that we were happy to use him as our producer.  We became very good friends with him too.  Jimmy Hoyson engineered, who was the engineer for all those platinum albums that Beau was doing at the time, so we had a blast.  It was right at the end of recording, Christmas time of ‘89 when John Carter left Atlantic, or we don't know if he was fired, but they parted ways and we were left orphaned.  Other A&R guys aren't going to pick up a band that another guy brought.  They want to bring their own to the labels, so we were orphaned.  No one else took us under their wing.

 

BRR:  That stinks.  How were the songs created.  I know I read that you were reading a lot of vampire books and poetry back then.

 

SRA:  Yeah, I was a big Jim Morrison fan.  I read a lot of TS Eliot and I was very into poetry and philosophy and that kind of stuff and I was reading a lot of the Anne Rice books.  They were really hot then.  A couple of the lyrics were about that.  I used to just write lyrics on a pad all the time, pose stuff and I'd use that for the songs.  But Ronny Jones would write the guitar part and come in with the beginning of a song with a guitar hook and then I would write the melody and lyrics.

 

BRR:  I was going to ask about how the album was supposed to be released in 1990 and it never happened, but you said how you ended up orphaned.

 

SRA:  They delayed it once, delayed it twice, and then they just shelved it.  It was perfect timing because at the end of the year they need write offs anyway.  So we got lumped in with a few other bands that didn't come out.  It happens every year.  Sadly enough, this is not really a unique story, but it was unique in the fact that we had all the big hitters and all the boxes checked.  We had Concerts West with Tom Hulett who did tons of top bands.  We had Atlantic Records. We had Beau Hill and a big publishing deal, so we had everything and then it went to shit.   But a lot of bands did get dropped during that time, their albums got shelved after they were done, which is bad.  It breaks your heart.  A dream crusher.

 

BRR:  I can imagine.  Black Bambi had major press and you were selling out shows.

 

SRA:  People were waiting for us to come out with that record.  We were doing shows opening for Badlands and we opened for The Black Crowes and we were doing shows all over L.A. at The Palace and Whiskey and all that stuff.

 

BRR:  Even after all that happened, the fans kept asking for a release, correct?

 

SRA:  Oh yeah, all these years.  Honestly, it's never stopped.  Every year I get people emailing me, hundreds and hundreds from all over the world, asking, “What happened?  Where can I get the album?”  They'd tell me that they had a bootleg cassette they got 20 years ago and they're trying to find out where they can get a good copy of the album on CD or digitally.  That's good for me.  It's business closure.  If nothing else now people can at least go buy it and listen to a good strong example of what our music was, not some shitty bootleg cassette.

 

BRR:  What made you decide to release it almost 30 years later?

 

SRA:  Well, every couple months a new small label would email me and I'm so busy with different businesses.  I'm kind of an entrepreneur, so I'm really busy, and a lot of times I'd just blow them off.  But Dave Tedder was really cool.  He contacted me through Facebook and then called me and he was very flattering. He always loved the album and he really, really wanted to release it.  We had a copy of the master, a DAT (digital audio tape) after it was mastered at Sterling Sound.  They're gone now.  People don't use those anymore.  My bass player had it in a drawer in his office for 27 years.  It had never been taken out.  So when I told him what was going on, he pulled it out and sent it to me and it sounded perfect.  It hadn't lost any quality.  I went through various photos, actually they were slides and I had to do it with a loop.  It was old school all the way.  I picked out some photos, wrote the bio, and helped lay out the CD along with the guys at 20th Century.  (The lost album, is now available either on Limited Edition CD or digitally on iTunes. )

BRR:  The bio was really well written.  I enjoyed reading that.

 

SRA:  Thank you.  I kind of slapped that together. It's a condensed story but with the CD, it's that big production with a lot of effects, so it's indicative of that era back then.

 

BRR:  I think it is fitting for today because a lot of that type of rock is coming back.

 

SRA:  It is.  Perfect timing.  That's what Nikki Sixx was saying.  He's been pushing it really well.  Our bass player, John Grimmett is one of Nikki's best friends.  Their kids go to school together and grew up together and they live nearby each other.  Nikki has been really cool and he really wants us to talk to this guy at NBC about doing a documentary of the band and stuff like that.

 

BRR:  What would you do differently if you were just entering the music business today?

 

SRA:  Today is completely different.  What music business?  I don't know how these record labels are even staying in business, to tell you the truth.  With the digital age, it's nothing like it was back then.  I think I wouldn't have listened to so many A&R guys and managers.  I think I would have stuck closer to what I believed in. The whole band took a lot of advice from people who didn't quite understand us.

 

BRR:  I hear that a lot today from bands now that are up and coming.  A lot chose to remain independent and say “stay true to yourself.”

 

SRA:  Absolutely.  When you have all these big shots, too many cooks in the kitchen, trying to put in their two cents, sometimes it doesn't turn out so great.  Do the band was over four or five months after it wasn't going to come out.  We just kind of separated.

 

BRR:  Are there any future plans for Black Bambi, like a reunion?

 

SRA:  We just don't know.  Everyone is working. I know Ronny Jones, the guitar player, still plays and produces.  Dave Casey has been in different bands and he also has a studio and produces all kinds of stuff.  I have a couple of businesses and John, the bass player, has an automotive garage in Beverly Hills, West L.A., so we're all really busy.  We'll see what happens.  If they do decide to do the documentary and all that stuff then we'll probably get together and rehearse and at least do a couple shows for the movie.  As of right now, we just don't know.  Everything is kind of up in the air on that.

 

BRR:  That would be exciting.  I hope that happens for you guys.

 

SRA:  It would be fun, yeah, so we'll see.

 

BRR:  Dave Tedder is a good guy.  I do a lot of interviews for him, so I'm glad he talked you into releasing it.

 

SRA:  Yeah, he is a great guy.  I get along great with Dave.  He's been really easy to work with. It's been fun.

 

BRR:  That's all the questions I have. I appreciate your time.

 

SRA:  Anytime Nina I appreciate you.  Thank you very much.  If you ever have any more questions, you can call me anytime.

 

BRR:  Thanks I appreciate that.

 

 

 

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