Fleur the Kiwi
On our way out of town (driving back to the Bay Area) the day after the Rockers Against Cancer benefit show at the Key Club in West Hollywood in early January, we stopped to interview Lonny Paul, guitarist and backing vocalist—and all-around multi-talented musician!—for one of our favorite bands, Adler. Many thanks to Lonny for taking the time to talk to us. Part 1 of this interview ran yesterday.
DGT&G: You were instrumental in bringing Adler into being. How did everybody kind of come into that?
Lonny Paul: Well, as you know, ’cause you’ve seen me in Adler’s Appetite … wasn’t it Vegas?
DGT&G: It was Vegas, and Rumbo Studios too; we came down for that one.
LP: Oh, nice. Well, I joined up with him just once before that. They needed a second guitar player to go on a two-month tour doing Adler’s Appetite stuff. I joined up then; spent a couple of months on the bus with Steven. He didn’t seem that happy doing what he was doing. For selfish reasons, I looked at his situation as kind of an opportunity for me also—to launch a career, basically. And between the combination of him wanting to do something new and me wanting to try and start a career with him—when we got back home he basically fired everybody but me and said, “Let’s start a new band.”
He originally wanted me to sing. But I just didn’t feel like I had the voice for this. I met Jacob Bunton, our singer, out at the Key Club one night. I went to go see Jani Lane’s memorial at the Key Club. I ran into my friend Jay Ruston, who is a mutual friend of mine and Jacob, who ended up mixing our record. Jay asked me what we were up to, and I said, “Steven and I are starting a new band, we need a singer.” He said, “How about this guy, Jacob Bunton. He’s here tonight. I’ll introduce you.” As soon as he walked up, I knew that he was the guy. I didn’t even need to hear him sing because, coming from Jay, he’s such a powerful producer and so good with all that, I just took his word. He said, “This guy is incredible.” And I just knew he was. So I texted Steven that night, saying, I found our singer. The next night I introduced Steven and Jacob, and sure enough, they hit it off right away.
Then I was at a Christmas party at Jeff Pilson’s a few months later and we were talking about doing some recording with Jay as the producer. Well, we needed a bass player and we hadn’t quite decided who we wanted on bass yet. So I asked Jeff if he would be interested in playing bass on a couple of tracks just so we can find our sound. He said he would love to; he was very excited about it. A day or two later he asked me if we had a studio picked out. I said, no. He said, “Why don’t you guys record here, at my house.” He had a beautiful drum room, a great studio. So we recorded the first two songs with Jeff playing bass and producing. And it felt so right, we talked to Jay about our agreement that he was going to be the producer, and we got his blessing. He said, “No, go ahead and have Jeff produce the whole thing, and I’ll just mix it.” And that’s how the team came about. After the record was done, I invited my friend Johnny Martin, who plays bass with us now, over here to the house, and I also invited Steven over, and we ended up in my office. Johnny grabbed the bass off the wall and started playing some Rush songs, and Steven said, “That’s our bass player.” I knew that. I just needed him to hear it.
DGT&G: Orchestrated it.
LP: I needed him to make up his own mind.
DGT&G: How would you compare Adler to other bands you’ve been in?
LP: Well, obviously there is an advantage of having somebody that was in Guns N’ Roses and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in your band. But on the other—on the flip side of that, there are expectations that may be unrealistic. But to my pleasant surprise, when we do play and people hear the record, they immediately don’t compare us to Guns N’ Roses, because we don’t sound anything like Guns N’ Roses. So, I feel very fortunate about that, and lucky that I picked Jacob. And I really hit the mark, ’cause that’s precisely what we were going for. One of the attractions about Jacob’s voice is that he sounds nothing like Axl or really anybody. He’s got his own unique sound, so that alone is our sound. As soon as I heard him, I’m like, Oh my God, he not only looks great, he sounds great, he can write great songs. He doesn’t drink or smoke or do drugs. He’s the perfect frontman. He can talk to the crowd. I couldn’t dream of a better singer.
DGT&G: He seems really outgoing and vibrant.
LP: If Axl Rose called me today and said, “I want you to be in my band,” I would say, “No, I’m sticking with Jacob.”
DGT&G: What is the most richly productive collaboration you’ve ever experienced?
LP: Oh, I suppose in recent times, it would be the song “The One That You Hated” that’s on the record. When I picked up Jacob from the airport, to start recording the record, we came back to the house. He set his bags in my guest house and came in the house, picked up my acoustic guitar and started playing the beginning of “The One That You Hated.” As he’s singing it, he says, “I don’t have a chorus yet,” so when he hit the chorus, I sang, “I’m the one that you hated,” and that was—we wrote that song in 15 minutes. It was the most pleasant experience that I’ve had, and I think the song turned out great. And it was our first single.
DGT&G: You’ve worked with Jeff Pilson and other producers as well. Is there a producer out there that you would still like to work with?
LP: I’d like to work with everybody. I think the more people that you work with, the more you’re gonna learn. The more experiences that you can take away from that. So yeah, I’d even work with unknown producers as well as known, just to work with people. See how they click; maybe I can learn something from them, and vice versa.
DGT&G: Now, the first live show, was that on Dec. 17 at the House of Blues?
LP: No. We played on the Kiss Kruise. Well, technically, we flew out a week before the Kiss Kruise and we played Cape Coral, Florida. And that was technically our first show.
DGT&G: And how did that go?
LP: It was great, except the power went out after the first 30 seconds of the very first song. [Laughs] I immediately went into panic mode. And then, fortunately for all of us, Jacob is a great talker. I realized what a great frontman Jacob was. Because he took over, and he just kept everybody busy; he didn’t miss a beat. He just talked his way through it. Finally, the power came on, and I was so relieved not only that the power came on, but that he could handle that situation. He didn’t even panic. It was second nature. In fact, he could talk for two hours straight.
DGT&G: So after that, everything went really well?
LP: Well, the power went out again on that show. But all in all, yes it was great. In fact, the best part about that show was afterwards. Because again—keep in mind that it’s the first time anybody has seen us. And I had a half a dozen people come up to me, saying that they came out to see Guns N’ Roses songs, but by the end of the set, they couldn’t give a shit about Guns N’ Roses; it was all about the new band.
DGT&G: That’s what you wanted.
LP: That’s exactly what I wanted to hear.
DGT&G: And have you played since? Have you played another gig?
LP: No, we’ve only played five shows total. We played one before the Kiss Kruise, played three times on the Kiss Kruise, and then once at the House of Blues.
DGT&G: Do you find that as the four of you are playing together more, you’re refining your sound?
LP: I don’t know that it’s necessarily refining our sound, as it is simply getting more comfortable with each other on stage. So, yeah, obviously we’ll get tighter. Now, since Jacob lives out of town, when we rehearse, it’s just Johnny, Steven, and myself. So we get the music really tight and I sing when the parts come up. But until you’re actually singing in a live situation with Jacob—he’s so laid back, I find myself on top of the beat a little too much with my vocals, so I really need to lay back and sing with him. He’s just so comfortable with singing. So, that took a couple of shows to get used to. But I think I’m finally finding his style.
DGT&G: And we can’t wait to see you. Speaking of which, Adler announced you’re going to tour in 2013, this year. We’ve read that you’re starting in Japan with Duff McKagan’s Loaded?
LP: That was the original plan. But fortunately, we’ve got a booking agent that is booking stuff as early as February 14. We’re going to be doing some shows locally, as well as Vegas. We’re going up and down the coast. We’re gonna be playing Vamp’d, and we’re playing the Whisky. Just to start playing and get tighter. So we have two weeks of shows before Japan and then, yeah, we do a couple of shows in Japan. We’re talking about going to Australia. I’ve seen emails recently. I know we’ve got two months in Europe, after Japan—that starts in April. April, May—we won’t be back to the States until around June.
DGT&G: If you hit Australia, you also have to go to New Zealand.
LP: Sure. Is that where you’re from?
DGT&G: Bands always do shows in Australia and don’t do New Zealand. Yes, that’s where I’m from.
LP: I’ll put in the good word. [Laughs]
DGT&G: So you expect to be back in the States around June/July?
LP: Yeah, June.
DGT&G: But you’re playing Vamp’d in Vegas and the Whisky in February?
DGT&G: What is the most memorable gig you’ve ever played?
LP: Probably, not necessarily the most memorable, but one of my favorite gigs was the first summer that I played with Steven. We played a place called Danville, Illinois. We played with Skid Row in a hockey arena. It was sold out. There were probably 5–7,000 people. The only reason that gig sticks out to me is because my father had never seen me play in the 20 years that I’ve been doing this. And he came to that show. After that—he always discouraged me from doing music because it was such a hard life. But after that show, he came up to me and said, “I get it.”
DGT&G: That’s great. So you are from Illinois?
LP: Well, I was born in North Dakota, but we grew up in Southern Illinois, and that’s where my father lived up until last year, and then he moved to Florida.
DGT&G: It’s warmer.
LP: It’s much warmer.
DGT&G: What are your thoughts about music today? Are there any bands that you like?
LP: I like lots of things. Like I said, P!nk is one of my favorite artists. I like Kelly Clarkson, all that pop stuff. As far as bands, I like some of the stuff that I’ve heard off the new Black Veil Brides record. Papa Roach. I really like a lot of what I hear from Papa Roach. He’s got great songs. At least a couple of songs on every single record sound great to me; I just like his voice and stuff. Drop C tuning.
DGT&G: When you’re having a down day, what song do you put on to bring you up?
LP: I generally don’t put on a song when I’m down. I just write.
DGT&G: You create.
LP: In fact, I don’t listen to music as often as you would think. I mostly listen to talk radio. And then I write music. So when you say, what new bands, I don’t really go out and buy records anymore. But I do listen to radio a lot. I go back and forth, top 40, rock radio, just to see what’s out there, and the ones that always catch my ear are the P!nks and the really popular songs. I understand why they’re popular. But I don’t like rap.
DGT&G: Is there a song that would describe you now?
LP: That I’ve written? Or by someone else?
DGT&G: The world is your oyster.
LP: That’s a hard one. Maybe an old Sinatra standard: “That’s Life.” That describes me.
DGT&G: You’ve talked about this a little bit. Can you go into more depth about what it feels like when you’re on stage performing?
LP: Oh, what it feels like. Well. [Laughs] It all depends on where you’re playing, I suppose. Quite often I find myself looking out into the crowd just thinking about my day or what I’ve got planned tomorrow. [Laughs] I find it hard to be in the moment most of the time. Even when I’m on stage.
DGT&G: If you could no longer perform live, would you still play?
LP: Of course.
DGT&G: Have you had a Spınal Tap moment?
LP: Yeah, I think the first time I played the House of Blues on Sunset. I couldn’t find the stage. It’s very tricky. [Laughs] They all look the same. But I think that’s happened to just about everybody. And I’ve played out of town too, where they put you in some room, and the wrong person comes to get you and they don’t know where they’re going, and you end up spending a lot of time just trying to find the damn stage. [Laughs]
We trust that Lonny, Steven Adler, Jacob Bunton, and Johnny Martin will have no trouble finding the stage at the Whisky A Go Go on Friday, February 15. We will be there … come join us! (Editor’s note: This show has been postponed.)
Adler released their debut album, Back from the Dead, in early October 2012. Read spandexpanda’s review of the album (including an annotated track listing).
Visit adlerrocks.com for tour dates and other information.
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