Legendary Rock Interviews: Q & A with Faster Pussycat’s Chad Stewart and Ace Von Johnson
By John Parks
Faster Pussycat rose out of the same L.A. sleaze metal scene that produced Guns N’ Roses and countless other Sunset Strip acts in the late 1980s. The band experienced a couple of lineup shuffles over the decades, but has remained fairly stable in recent years with its current lineup featuring original singer Taime Downe.
The guys are out on the road (including a stop April 18 at The Back Bar, 1901 Beloit Ave., in Janesville, Wis., www.thebackbar.com) performing all the songs that made them an MTV favorite, as well as newer material, and are also readying a new full-length album.
I spoke with longtime drummer Chad Stewart and guitarist Ace Von Johnson about their roles in the band and more. Read on …
Q: Thanks for talking with me tonight. I understand you guys are in Vegas. What is going on?
Chad: We’re getting ready for a rock and roll show, man! Tonight, we are playing a show downtown at Freemont Street, and last night was the kickoff of the tour in Tucson, Ariz., which was fantastic.
Q: I love Faster Pussycat, but I think the last time I talked to Taime was back in the Newlydeads days. Chad, you were a part of that band as well and have been a part of playing that more evolved kind of music from the Whipped album to the Newlydeads stuff — and of course, the classic Faster Pussycat stuff from the 1988-1990 period. Do you ever think there is a tug-of-war between the two styles within the band’s presentation?
Chad: I would agree with you, actually. I think from Whipped on, it was clear that there was a progression. I actually think the Newlydeads band was a natural part of that progression for Taime but also, the Power And The Glory Hole album from 2009, which was really the next Faster Pussycat mutation or evolution after Whipped. I don’t know if it’s necessarily a pull or tug-of-war between us, we just all have our own influences — like Ace is the king of punk rock, whereas I love R&B and old funk — so it’s hard to not let those influences creep into what you do.
Q: That makes sense to me. The last album certainly cranked up the sleaze factor to the level of the first album or higher. It makes me happy to see you guys out there, not only playing the hits, but still creating and being a real active band. Is that important to you as a band?
Chad: We are really high on this new record, and the entire process of creating it, let me put it to you that way.
Ace: We are really excited and really putting a lot into it. I think you’re going to find it’s a little less electronic than the last album and has a little more of that dirty punk rock New York Dolls feel of the first album, yet it still sounds like contemporary music because of our influences and where we are. All of those influences are definitely a part of it across the board, but it’s definitely a ROCK record.
Chad: Also, I don’t know if a lot of people know this, but we kind of do everything backwards when we record. Taime has a studio at his house, so when he’s writing, he comes up with some good ideas and puts them down and we kind of expand on them. And the drums actually work out to be the last thing we work on, which is the complete opposite way that most bands work on songs. As a drummer, I can attest that it’s kind of strange, but it works for us.
Q: Are the fans coming out to shows a pretty good mix of old die-hards and new, younger fans?
Chad: There are a LOT of new Pussycat fans. A lot, actually. So, it’s definitely a mix of the two generations — it’s a mixed bag. Doing these higher profile gigs like the Monsters of Rock Cruise or some of these other shows we do allows us to reach a lot broader fan base, and when you put us in front of that big of an audience, we’re gonna kill (laughs). It has been interesting seeing the fan base diversify over the years, though.
Q: This is a question for Ace. You are part of a band that is kind of known for its twin guitar attack. Was that a part of something that attracted you to the band?
Ace: You know, when I first discovered Faster Pussycat, I was probably in my teens, and it was the 1990s. I had always dug their vibe, because they kind of had that Guns N’ Roses, dirty Aerosmith feel to it. It wasn’t just happy, glammy, hairspray music in, my opinion. That stuff was there, but with Faster, it was definitely more street and more gut level. I come from what I consider more of a punk rock background, and that first Faster Pussycat album, I tell people all the time, reminds me of the first New York Dolls album. I think that Greg Steele was really underrated and was kind of the underdog of that twin guitar lineup, and I think a lot of his stuff is really unique and special.
Chad: I agree completely.
Q: Of course, I have a question for you, too, Chad. It is a pretty cool thing to be a part of a band that has a song that has a signature drum lick. Quiet Riot has the opening of “Bang Your Head” and Pussycat absolutely has one in “Bathroom Wall”; is that opening drum lick an absolute blast to play every night?
Chad: Sure! (laughs). “Bathroom Wall” is the signature Faster Pussycat and sort of encapsulates everything that Faster Pussycat is. It’s a special song, and I am honored to be a part of that every night. Every night, the crowd hears that intro, and it is magic.
Q: I think triggers and samples can definitely have their place in a show, provided that the rest of the evening feels absolutely live. Obviously, a band like Faster Pussycat has a certain legacy to live up to, and you guys aren’t going up on stage with your sweatpants on and setting on stools noodling away on guitars. Do you think Taime and you guys still love all the visual elements of the rock show?
Ace: Without a doubt. On my behalf, I try to kick it up a notch from what we’ve done in the past, if anything. We pride ourselves on keeping things interesting, and always like to have a few looks up our sleeve.
Q: Thanks for talking with us, guys. I look forward to reviewing one of the shows on the tour and seeing you again. Last question: Are the girls still showing up at Faster Pussycat shows in various stages of undress after all these years?
Chad: YES! (laughs).
Ace: Of course, we wouldn’t have it any other way (laughs). We’ll see you out there!
From the April 16-22, 2014, issue