Many things can change in the course of a year and life can take you down many unexpected roads. No one is more familiar with unexpected twists and turns that life hands out than Lovehammers frontman, Marty Casey. When we caught up with him a year ago, he was about to set out on a world tour with one of rock’s most notorious bands, LA Guns. At that time, the future of Lovehammers was anything but clear. Flash forward one year and Casey has completed his tenure with LA Guns and the Lovehammers have returned with their amazing new album, ‘Heavy Crown’. Regrouped, recharged and more determined than ever, the boys in the band are ready to take the world by storm. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Marty Casey to catch up on all of the happenings of his whirlwind year. In the interview they discuss his time with LA Guns, the spark that re-lit the flames of Lovehammers, the band’s new album and everything that falls in between.
The last time I spoke with you (in July of 2008), you’d just started with LA Guns and you were getting ready to take off on a world tour, what was that experience like for you?
I mean it was really an amazing year long adventure, it came out of no where. I got to write a record, I got to record a record with LA Guns and producer Pete Thompson, and then immediately upon finishing the record I got to go on tour and go to different continents that I’ve never been to in my life. We pretty much played 13 out of 14 days, we basically got one day off every two weeks that’s how much we played. We did it non-stop through the summer and through the fall all through South America and then came back and took a little time off for the holidays and then were back at it. So it was just full-on insanity and it was great to experience that!
I’d say Lima, Peru. The first place we played in South America. Just because we landed and you know there were people waiting at the airport and there was a big party thrown for us the first night before our show for that whole South American tour, and then the next night showing up and playing at the club and the club was amazing. It was packed and we had a great show. It was just such an amazing thing to come from the U.S., land there in a completely different world and the shows were great, the people were great and it was just a great introduction to the continent in general and we had the time of our lives down there.
You mentioned when we originally spoke that the album that you did with LA Guns had been completed, any idea when that record may see the light of day?
That’s pretty much up to Tracii Guns and the label, you know that was their deal. I was kind of brought in from the outside, just having been the songwriter on the record, and then as a result of their former singer leaving and they brought me in to sing. So it really isn’t my deal, it’s kind of like I got to do what I did and I’m happy to be a part of it, but it’s really up to them to decide how and when it gets released and whatever they would like to do. I’m just kind of the add on to the project you know, it’s not my band.
In the time that you were with LA Guns you were taking a break from Lovehammers, you guys seemed to rekindle the spark and keep the band going. Was there a certain thing that kickstarted that process?
Yeah, I think our bass player Dino (Kourelis), who basically kind of does a lot of business for the band, just said “Well I’m going to release a record of Loverhammers b-sides and different versions of songs that people haven’t heard before just to keep momenum of the band in motion.” And then we got such good reaction from the presale which was way back at the end of last year, we got such an amazing reaction and so many presales that when they mentioned it to me I said “I think we need to do an entirely new record, we’re not the Chili Peppers with a bunch of great b-sides. We need to do a new record!” [laughs] And that is just what kickstarted it, people were like “Wow, a lot of people want to hear what we’re doin next!” We put everything towards making that record and we did it fast. We wrote it and recorded it and put it on the shelves in a matter of months, so that’s pretty amazing.
What was the songwriting process like for this record?
I got back from New Zealand on February first of this year, and this record was supposed to come out in June. It got delayed and was basically July so we had February, March and April to write, record, mix, master, do the art work and get it to Universal. So I just startin sittin down and writing songs every single day, and then bringing them to the band and you know just basically choppin em up and adding to them or taking away or just completely throwing them away. It was fun and that’s how I do that, I didn’t work a job I would literally just wake up every morning and write, go to the studio- write, go to the park- write, and that’s what I did everyday. We just put it all together and there was a lot to say, and the songs are cool and the guys would bring me riffs and I’d work with those and write riffs of my own and it was just full-on I loved it. I liked having that crunch time line, so it’s not just like “Ahhh I’ll do it tomorrow.” There was no time for that, it kicks your ass and puts you in gear.
Where do you think ‘Heavy Crown’ stacks up to your previous albums?
I think it’s the most diverse record we’ve ever done and we took more risks in doing songs that…with the Lovehammers being together for so long it’s like you’re kind of anticipated every move you’re gonna make because there is such a time line, but I think this one was fun that it took in some directions a leap into new shit and then it kind of remained true to what we’ve always done. So I think I like this one the best; it’s the most recent it, sounds the best, has the best production on it, I think everybody offered more to this record than previous ones, everybody actually threw a song into the ring on this one to be worked through. It’s just a lot more of a fuckin’ bonafied group mentality “Let’s make a killer record!” kind of idea than previous ones just kind of floating along and writing tunes and seeing what happens.
I would say “Heavy Crown”, for some reason it’s really potent to people, it’s very simple and just always gets such a great reaction. I love playing it and by the end of the song just kind of looking around, people are always so in tune and not wandering off, their very much in tune with that one. And I love playing the song “Guns”, usually we open up with that because it’s just so on fire, has so much energy and is kind of what the Lovehammers have always done. Very straight ahead, kind of bad ass powertrip so we just start out with that tune and take it from there, those have always won at the shows. And then I like a song called “Oh My Baby”, because it’s so different than anything else the Lovehammers have really done especially live and being so chill, so mellow with a mid-tempo tune that I kind of like doin it because I like people kind of wondering what’s happening throughout the evening.
You mentioned “Guns” which is the first single off the album, do you have plans for making a video for the song?
Yeah, we’re going to make a video for it, we’re kind of playing catch up. We’ve been trying to get the record done because there was a radio release date, and now the single is being launched to radio and we’re doing a radio campaign which is just about to begin. As we get that going and we’re working with the team that does that now we’re like “Okay we’ve got to get the video together.”, and so it’s always like we’re playing catch up but I like it because there’s always so much to do. It’s not like “Ok now we just sit around and wait for something to happen.” It’s just continually working to make new things happen and give people new things to check in on and be interested in and always forward momentum.
I’d say you’d probably see a video in about six weeks.
What about touring plans? I know you have some shows lined up, but are the Lovehammers going to be heading out on a national tour anytime soon?
We offered some opportunities to get out there, but what we were really trying to do is tagteam with somebody that is at a similar level that can go around to the small markets and grab a couple hundred people a night, or go along on the big markets and grab a thousand or more people a night and get a tour together. That’s kind of a similar level band, not an exact sounding band. And you know we had some offers to go on tour with some different groups but it just really wasn’t the right fit, it’s not right for what we wanted to do. Basically running a label, a joint venture with Universal and being the label at this moment is about running the label, selling the cd, promoting the cd, promoting the single and basically working with the teams that we’ve hired to do that. We’re in the business aspect of what we do in the band, which is basically getting this product released. And then once that’s in motion then we get to do the next portion of it, which is live touring. It’s what we’ve always done and always done best. So that’s just the next step. I’m hoping in the fall we get out and are on a good tagteam bill with another band and we just start hittin’ it live- what we’ve always done best.
What role do you think your fanbase has played in the success and longevity of the band?
From the very start, which was 18 to 20 years ago, the great thing is that the Lovehammers has always had such a strong fanbase and a big fanbase. Originally, it was just our friends but we had a lot of them, you know everybody from high school wherever we played they would go. And then eventually you see them move along with their lives or go to college and go do whatever and you see new people that came across the band and start following. When you’ve been together this long you see people that come in and then there’s those that have children and take a different avenue and they come and they go. There’s also people that have never left, and it’s just kind of a continuance of that. When we perform at shows in Chicago I see people that have been watching the band for 20 years, that when I play “Into the Deep End” I know they were there the first night we ever played it in 1988. So it’s really cool, and you know I did the reality television show and a great crew of fans from that now exists, and then I did the LA Guns thing and there’s a crew of fans that exist kind of from the metal scene that now comes out to the shows. So the cool thing about the fanbase is that it keeps evolving, it’s never been the same, it’s always filled with the most random grouping of people in the world of every age, of every different demographic of every color. That’s the cool thing about the band, that we’re lucky enough to work towards but also fall into. The reason that this record got made is because thousands of people bought it and said “We want to hear it.” That’s why it got made and that’s why we continue.
The energy you have on stage and the command you have is mind blowing, with that said have you ever had a “Spinal Tap Moment” where something totally bizarre is going on something completely unexpected happened to you?
One evening when we had a big record showcase when the band had just started, I remember walking out and we had all these smoke machines going and everything is going on and I remember when the music kicked in I had forgotten every lyric, every melody, I had nothing! The music is goin, it’s thumpin along and I look to the left and the right to the guys and I’m just like “I’ve had a brainfreeze, I can’t think of anything, I can’t think of any words, any melodies!” So what did I do? I just made it up! I made up the song on the fly! And I remember my sister running to the front of the stage and just looking at me like “What’s going on, what’s wrong with you!” [laughs] I remember the lights and the smoke and I just blanked out, and then eventually after that I finally kicked back in and everything was fine, but I remember for that brief moment feeling just like Spinal Tap where I’m like “Where’s my mind?!”.
How do you think you and your bandmates have grown musically since you first started out?
We started out not knowing how to play, everybody bought an instrument, so we started out at ground zero with no training no nothing. We didn’t know any songs, we didn’t even know any chords. We just bought the instruments and said “Let’s do this!” That’s been the exciting thing throughout the years, seeing everyone independently get so much better at their instrument. But I think more than anything it’s just collectively as a group and how we play together has gotten so much better. I think that’s why it’s a unique thing and why we’re a unique sounding band. I don’t think you can pinpoint us and say “This band sounds like…”, it’s because we’ve never known anything other than playing with each other and being in this band. That’s the sound that was developed together since 1988, just us playing together. It’s not like we were classically trained and then we joined a band together. We didn’t know shit. We didn’t know notes, we didn’t know progressions, we didn’t know theory, literally we just learned as a group of people being creative at our own institution of music. We didn’t know anything else. We just started jammin and over the years it’s developed into what the Lovehammers sound like.
You’ll make it further than you ever expected if you just stick together with your group of friends. If you have launched everything and can keep it together then you can raise your flag high enough so that enough people will find your band and like your sound and music. It just takes time. There are so many millions of music fans that want to hear great music, whatever your music style it has no difference, it’s just you have to stick together long enough and raise your flag high enough and just say “This is what we do, this is what we’re like, if you dig it come and check us out.” That’s what we’ve done long enough to get a mass of people to find the band interesting and keep checking out our shows. If you’re always changing, and always starting out a new band and always in a different project it’s really hard to lock people into really forming a fanbase. Because it’s always changing and there is nothing to follow, it’s always different. It’s really all about sticking together.
I also wanted to talk about your Silver Elements Collection, how did that originally come about?
A fan came and saw that I was always wearing unique stuff on stage and she mentioned it like “Oh you should have a t-shirt line or something.”, and I was like “I’m not really interested in doing a t-shirt line or clothing line” She pursued it for a while, mentioning different things and eventually I said “You know what would be cool? It’d be cool if we had a dogtag.” I like silver, I like dogtags, there are no sizes and it doesn’t matter if a girl or a guy or a kid that wants to wear it, it’s just one size fits all and something cool. I said I’d like to do that and raise some money for planting trees, let’s do something for charity because that sounds like a cool idea. So we just came up with that idea and we did it, we made our trees dogtags, we sold it and gave money to American Forests and it went so well that we eventually said “Well what do you want to do next? And let’s tie it into music, let’s tie it into a song or a theme of a song.” That’s exactly what we’ve been doing, turning a fun idea of something to do and it’s done well enough where it keeps on continuing. It’s been great to step out of thinking about music every second of the day and get to jump over to another creative side and make some cool stuff and just have fun with it. It’s kind of just taken off and we really haven’t planned anything with it, it just kind of took off. It’s done really well and we’re excited to give a large portion of it to charity, plantin a shitload of trees and it’s just been workin’ out.
Do you have any new upcoming items to the collection? Also, I spoke with Cheryl Spelts, who has done some spectacular photography of you in the past, and she was inquiring about a specific metal and leather cuff bracelet.
We just did a bunch of new stuff that we just launched about two weeks ago, a bunch of different things themed around some songs that I’ve written. So that’s what was just released, the new collection kind of for summer. There are some sunglasses, there’s a really killer necklace called “The Waves Necklace” that is my favorite thing. We’re always coming up with new ideas, we’re coming up on fall and we’re coming up with new stuff.
You know that is the awesome thing about doing this whole thing is that so many people come up with ideas. My niece comes to me with ideas, and Cheryl, who’s an unbelieveable photographer, has come to me with great ideas. That is what it’s all about. This is an open floor, it’s just something great to do and for a great cause for charity. So people come up with great ideas; a leather cuff, I love it, I wear one you know? Maybe we’ll do it, do you have an idea you want to throw in, maybe we’ll do that too? [laughs]
Well now I know how to get in touch with you and I’ll let you know about that! Is there anything we should be aware of coming up on the horizon?
I’m really excited about our live dvd that has concert footage on it from a number of different shows including some full-on over the top, big show rock n’roll and an acoutic show as well. I think it’s probably the best thing we’ve ever done. Not only does the music sound great but you get the visual with it which I think just turned out great and gives the definition of the band the Lovehammers. So that’s gonna be coming out hopefully later in the year and is something to look forward to.
I really appreciate your time, I’ve had your album for about a week and would agree that it’s your best work to date. It sounds amazing with so many great songs and I think this is going to be the big one for you guys that launches you.
I appreciate you keeping in contact from when I was doing the LA Guns metal and now back here with the “Hammers”, and you were mentioning Silver Elements which I think is cool that you actually interview enough to know what’s going on with the person that you’re kind of diving into. So I appreciate and respect that man, thank you!
A special thanks goes out to Cheryl Spelts for the use of her amazing photography! Along with being a Lovehammers fan, Cheryl is a Southern California photographer specializing in actors, models and musicians, fresh and modern portraits, and fine art. Check out her amazing work at www.cherylspelts.com!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.