Music: Q & A with The Last Vegas’ Chad Cherry

  • The Last Vegas to perform at WXRX’s ‘The Concert’ with nine other bands May 14 at Rockford Speedway

By M.J. Parks

The Last Vegas is a Chicago rock-and-roll band with ties to the Rockford area. The band has released several albums and toured worldwide, both as headliners and as openers for acts such as Mötley Crüe.

The group is coming back to the area Saturday, May 14, to take part in the big show at Rockford Speedway—“The Concert,” presented by WXRX.

Other rock bands performing at the event include Sick Puppies, Black Stone Cherry, Pop Evill, My Darkest Days, Adelitas Way, Taddy Porter, Nonpoint, Egypt Central and Scarlet Haze.

All the bands involved are nationally known. Tickets are $15, available at Kelley’s Markets (all locations); Paradise Guitars (cash only), 921 E. Inman Pkwy., Beloit, Wis.; BMC Tickets (cash, debit/credit), 4437 E. State St.; The Beer Gear Store, 4060 Rock Valley Pkwy., Loves Park; Rockford Speedway (cash only); and WXRX Studios-Maverick Media (cash only), 2830 Sandy Hollow Road. For more about tickets and the event, visit or call (815) 874-7861.

I recently had a chance to chat with The Last Vegas lead singer Chad Cherry about the show, the band connection to Rockford and many other topics. Following is our conversation.

Q: How did you come to join The Last Vegas, and what are the band’s ties to the Rockford area?

C.C.: How did I come to join TLV? Hmmmm, let’s see, what is the legend, anyway? [Laughs] In the summer of 2005, I had recently moved to Chicago with my girlfriend at the time, who got signed to Elite Modeling Agency, and my friend Billy Velvet from the Crank County Daredevils told me the only rock-n-roll dudes in Chicago were the bastards from a band called The Last Vegas…

He was right. I checked out one of their shows, and was impressed with everything they were up to. I rarely am impressed. It was real—except the fact they didn’t have a lead vocalist. So, at the after-party—I think it was at The Liars Club—we all got together and, among the chaos surrounding us, I told them this: “You need a lead singer.” I was in The Nastys outta the “Dirty Mitten” (Mich.) at the time, and the boys were very aware of me. I could tell they wanted to steal me for themselves. Long story short, they did.

The band ties to the Rockford area? Adam D’arling and Nathan “Wolfgang” Arling were the hippie punk, over-the-edge-lookin’ kids drooling over Rick Nielsen in line at your local Rockford grocery store back in the day.

Q: I like the pre-Chad stuff the band did. Some people might not even be aware the band did have quite a bit of material already before you joined the band. Were you a fan of the older recordings and do you still work any of it into the set list?

C.C.: I was aware that they had put out prior material but never actually heard anything by them til I saw the guys live. So, after that first show I witnessed, I became a fan, because I joined the band. [Laughs] After the jump, I got familiar with the best of the older tunes and hit the studio to do the vocal work on the record Seal the Deal, which they had wrote and recorded (all but vocals) just before my arrival. We did videos for a bunch of those tunes and “Raw Dog” was a big song off that record. So, for back-catalog live stuff, we sometimes pull that one out.

Q: You’re one of those bands people love to label. Some of it is because people haven’t heard this kinda rock in a while, some of it is your look. When you listen to The Last Vegas channel on Pandora, a lot of bands I cannot stand come on. You remind me of a louder Stones, something that has also been used to describe Aerosmith or, more recently, Pussycat or Buckcherry. You’re from Michigan, though. Do you think some of that Alice Cooper, Iggy, Mc5 swagger crept in when you joined?

C.C.: You have to put a label on things so you know what to call it when you either “love it” or “hate it.” I’ve heard TLV called just about every category ya got under the sun. Just silly buzz words for music to me. Do you want to know what it really is? I’ll let ya in on the secret. It’s called rock-n-roll. Simple as that. And pretty self-explanatory.

We grew up and have rocked with all the bands you have mentioned in this question. If that is boring to anyone, then you don’t get it. But you eventually will, and it might save your soul—or steal it [laughs]. We get lumped into a lot of “active rock” or “throwback” or “whatever the markets want to call it at the moment” stuff because nobody knows what to do with us. Everything media is so controlled by tradition and greenbacks, and it’s hard to break away from that. This is confusing to me because I feel that there’s too much soulless rubbish that all sounds the same going on so it’s hard to find a real identity in any of it. I don’t listen to Pandora or the airwaves, so I’m not familiar with what’s goin’ on. Just as long as somebody is playing TLV on the radio, I guess that’s all that matters. We truly are the misfits in that game, maybe too unpredictable at this point for some people to want to take chances on. Who knows?

And yes, I’m originally from Michigan. I don’t f— around.

Q: Adam from Lust Killers has told a story here on the page of going to a show here where Mother Love Bone played an amazing show in front of literally 12 people. You guys have played everything from Madison Square Garden with Mötley Crüe to big festival shows on your own. Is there still something to be said for being able to waltz into a town nobody knows you in and deliver to a crowd of few that had no intention of being a fan of yours? Is that a fun challenge?

C.C.: In the early touring days of TLV, we were kinda like that. It was the wild…west. We would stroll in to some middle-of-nowhere town in Europe or America and bring ’em to their knees unexpectedly. That’s how we made a name for ourselves. And that’s what we did. The more we kept at it, the bars and the clubs turned into theaters, theaters into arenas, arenas to festivals. We had to eat a lot of s— to get where we are. Life on the road can take you to hell and back; beat ya six ways to Sunday. We’ve seen stuff that nobody else in the world could understand because of this. The music has taken us to some strange places. As for waltzing into a town where nobody knows you and grabbing unsuspecting fans, well, that’s always a fun challenge. Just make sure you win. It’s all part of the brutal training to see what you are really made of.

But it’s better when a ton of fans are already waiting for you with anticipation and know all the words to your songs. Trust me.

Q: The Last Vegas has a bit of a reputation as being rough around the edges and ready to party, which is historically pretty rock and roll. I’ve seen plenty of bands in my 36 years that forget you have to show up and perform well live, especially singers. Is that party atmosphere conductive in an era where every show gets bootlegged, every show ends up on YouTube?

C.C.: If you can party like John Bonham and still nail it live, then you are a rockstar. You can do whatever you want if you rock it like that. If you party like somebody that thinks they are Keith Richards in the ’60s-’70s but then suck at the music live, then you just suck at music live. You probably shouldn’t party before the show if that’s the case. Not many can get away with being hammered and drugged up all the time and still kill the songs on any level that wow the adoring fans that might worship your tunes.

I am no angel when it comes to this, and as you know, TLV has been known to “be out of our skulls” in more ways than one. We have a notorious lengthy insanity file on us that is stupid but also priceless; but you have to remember music fans are there for “the music” and they can see through bulls—. You better be good for them ’cause they are all you have. Getting ripped off stinks, and nobody forgets that. And nobody forgets your s—ty performance that’s on YouTube FOREVER, either.

You gotta have fun, but I’ll say it again… there’s more to it than just being tipsy in leather pants. Or no pants.

Q: I think it’s cool that you guys have made as many videos as you have since you’re a real visual band. They’re sort of expensive as far as promotion here in the States since MTV and VH1 don’t really play them much. Was it fun doing them, and is there a much better stage for them in other places around the globe?

C.C.: Videos will always be a way to express your music, more than just hearing it. The music video to me is very crucial, even if there isn’t a lot of music TV. It doesn’t matter anymore if there isn’t a form of MTV or VH1. We have the Internet. Everybody is online. This is how everything works now. Social networks. Everybody is a superstar on the Internets [laughs].

If you have an amazing video and an amazing song, it will undeniably get people’s attention. If you can make a statement through your vision that gets people to “think,” makes them “happy” or takes them somewhere else, be it fun, scary or to sexy land, then that’s entertainment, baby. Video helps punch through a heart of a song and visually turn you on. The imagination and the art is still very important.

Q: We’re from Rockford, you’re from the Midwest. Of course, we all adore Cheap Trick, but as a rule, people just don’t [care] about how hard-rock is in the water here in the Midwest. Even the bands that have made it out have been criminally underrated. Yet, if you ask a huge band where the best fans are, they inevitably say Japan, South America and the Midwest. Does the fact that places like Chicago or Milwaukee don’t really have an easily identifiable “scene” hurt? Chicago kind of comes off indie and “too cool for school,” which is not my bag.

C.C. Well, it’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at. I’m not sure what other bands are influenced by nowadays, but it seems music is lacking of character and spirit. The bands I grew up on were out-of-control maniacs that wrote timeless music with passion and a lust for life. Wild and brilliant. Now, everything is set up “safe” or set up to sell “dangerous,” but it’s really just soulless and boring. There’s not a whole lot of edge to a lot of s— anymore. I used to level strip clubs, do drugs on naked ladies, wake up in the wrong hotel room in the wrong state, steal promoters’ cars and destroy them via racing, take risks, get into amazing fights! The list goes on. Not saying this was cool or smart, but it was fun. Now, what do folks do to get riled up? Drink energy sodas? Blog? Delete people off their Facebook page?

Wish I was too cool for school…boring.

Q: I love your band, but I don’t really get that amped up about too many bands anymore, which is unbelievably depressing to me. Since you guys get to do a lot of touring worldwide, have you gotten to see anyone that got you excited enough to be a fan?

C.C.: To be honest, I haven’t been amped up by new music in a very long time, either. And I truly hate to say that. You are right, it is depressing. It seems rock-n-roll has almost become a novelty in certain markets. There are some serious rock warriors coming about, though…I can feel it. But I’m still waiting for something to just blow me away and make me feel like I’m 15 years old discovering the Sex Pistols or Alice Cooper. Being a fan of music, I feel like I’m jonesing.

Q: What was more bizarre, the hopelessly romantic situations they put you in for the “Apologize” video or looking across the control room to see the guy who lit his legs on fire in “Livewire” working on YOUR songs?

C.C.: Well, there was nothing bizarre about either of those situations because I wrote the script for the “Apologize” video and I can write songs with Nikki Sixx. That’s normal stuff that goes on in my life. What’s bizarre are the people running around my neighborhood right now with guns.

Q: Any last words to us hard-working Rockfordians or anymore plugs?

C.C.: Rockford will always be a town that has had our back from the very beginning. So we look forward to giving all of our love this springtime and really playing our hearts out for ya! So thumbs up to the ever-so-badass Rockfordian TLV WARRIORS!!! We are coming back in 2011 to rock with you all.

From the May 11-17, 2011 issue

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