Catching up with Dirty Look Drive By’s Paul Church

By Todd Houston
Exclusive to TRRT

Rockford Rocked Interview: You’re a classic rock guy like me. What is about the raw sound of guitars and amps that makes it so difficult for guys like us to get away from?

Paul Church: That’s a great question. It’s hard to pick one single factor really, I remember hearing The Raspberries’ “Go All the Way” with the power chord guitar intro and the 4/4 drum beat when I was like five years old and it instantly grabbed me. Also there is something soothing and exciting every time you plug a guitar into an amp and dial in that dirty crunch sound and feel the vibration from the amp and the tone wash over you. I’m still chasing the perfect tone.

RRI: Is there any new music out there today either on the internet or radio that catches your ear?

PC: I really like the Canadian band Zeus. They’ve got this great Badfinger meets Queen meets Supergrass sound. I’m still a fan of Wilco too and Blackberry Smoke are great.

RRI: Your new band is called Dirty Look Drive By. I was able to see one of your shows last month and I have to say I really liked the song selection. Who chooses what songs make it into the set list?

PC: We started DLDB to be a 1990s cover band. If you think about it, from 1990 to 1999 there was just this great mix of music. The ’90s started out with the metal bands still putting out some great records and then out of nowhere grunge kicked the door in and really brought back the straight forward true rock guitar sound. It was like plugging a beat up pawn shop guitar into a Fender amp in your buddies garage or basement, you know? Also around that time MTV’s Unplugged was getting popular so you had people doing some great things with acoustic guitars which I love a lot.

All five members bring up songs they want to try and we’ll pick five or six of them and work them out at practice to see which ones are good fits. It’s pretty cool too because someone might bring some obscure, long forgotten but awesome song to the table that maybe I haven’t heard before. Or the other way around. We can’t stop coming up with songs we want to try.

RRI: Who are the members?

PC: Well, it’s myself on guitar and some vocals, John Guler on bass and the majority of the vocals, Ray Aukes on keyboards and horn, Mike Ashley on lead guitar and of course Mr. Pat Clark on drums.

RRI: You and drummer Pat Clark have been banging it out around the area in bands for years. There must be some artistic chemistry there?

PC: Absolutely! I’ve been playing music with Pat off and on for almost 25 years now. Wow, just saying that makes me feel old (laughs). But yeah, there is definitely a naturalness to our playing together. Plus he was the first guy I saw that actually tuned his drums. Very early on he stopped a song at practice to tell me I was out of tune! The audacity (laughs).

But seriously, we click well and Pat is a very talented drummer and songwriter. He continues to impress me to this day.

RRI: The band seems to be more song orientated than most of the local bands I’m used to seeing. It appears that you guys actually put the time and effort in to work out vocal harmonies and stay true to the original recording. Thoughts?

PC: Well first off thank you. Yeah, I just love hearing harmonies from a live band. We worked really hard on harmonies in my former band No Dice. We always got a lot of compliments and we ended up getting pretty good at it. I guess it naturally carried over into other music projects we’ve done since. But again, with Pat and me in the new band we just picked up where we left off before. And John is a great singer so it’s easy and rewarding when you nail a harmony part, it really adds so much to a song. And as far as staying true to the song, I’ve always tried to do that. It makes it easier and more enjoyable for the audience I believe when they hear you cover a song pretty close to the original recording. It tends to draw them in.

RRI: What are your thoughts on some of the cookie cutter “create a star” shows like American Idol and America’s Got Talent? Have they helped or hurt the industry and some of the artists/songwriters that helped build it in the first place?

PC: Don’t even get me started on that. I was amazed and depressed every time I heard that American Idol was returning for another season (laughs). It was a popularity contest for the record labels and songwriters. The winner was a guaranteed sell for the record he/she would put out. The ‘winner’ of the show would go into the studio and lay down their karaoke vocal to an already recorded song and then smile pretty for the album cover. Record labels: 1 Struggling talented artists: 0. I’d rather watch cartoons.

RRI: If you were banished to a deserted island and could only take one album with you what would it be and why?

PC: Man, I always hate these questions because it’s really hard to pick. I could think about it for a month and change my mind several times. However, one record always makes it into my top three everything and that would be Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti. First of all it’s a two record set so you’ve got double the music. I think some of Jimmy Page’s best, creative music is on there. Everyone is playing in top form.

RRI: What is your favorite Saturday night album? Something you would put on to get ready for a gig?

PC: Hmmm, I would have to say either The Black Crowes By Your Side album or their Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. Mark Ford and Rich Robinson kick ass! The songs “Horsehead” and “Sting Me” make you want to play guitar, hands down!

RRI: Who would win in a guitar war B.B. King or Eddie Van Halen?

PC: Well, it would certainly hurt a lot more to be hit with Eddies guitar vs. B.B’s hollow body. Not to mention Eddie has the obvious advantage since we lost B.B. this last year.

Seriously though, after months of waging war I think they would have to draw a truce. B.B. is by far the master of the clean, bluesy bend. I recently picked up Live From Cook County Jail from 1972 and it’s just great. He really cuts loose on that record. Some great, play along licks on there. And then Eddie? Well, Eddie is the man. He basically invented the hammer on as we know it today. He made kids want to learn how to play guitar again in the late ’70s and ’80s. They are both winners in my history book.

RRI: Favorite place around town to relax with a basket of chicken wings and a cold beer or beverage of your choice?

PC: Rocky’s in Loves Park is always my go to bar for anything. But I do enjoy the wings at Cronies a lot. Mary’s Place has a great beer selection too. It would be between Rocky’s and Mary’s Place.

RRI: Where can we find out more about Dirty Look Drive By and keep track of upcoming shows?

PC: For the time you can get our schedule on our Facebook page, Dirty Look Drive By. Hopefully we’ll set up another avenue for people to check in on upcoming news, pictures and shows.

RRI: And finally, what do you call someone who hates operas?

PC: I give up.

RRI: An operator! Get it? “opera hater”?

PC: (laughs) I love it! Kind of like “Why did the drummer keep knocking?” Because he didn’t know when to come in! Get it? It’s funny because it’s true.

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