Velvet Revolver guitarist Dave Kushner has never been one to shy away from exploring new creative ground. His latest outing is no exception to that rule and blends two of his loves, music and art. One might ask, “What is PusherJones?” Simply put, it is the brainchild of Kushner and ‘The Simpsons’ Creative Director Dave Warren, PusherJones is a virtual rock band originating from Los Angeles that is backed by real life musicians. The cast of real-life musicians includes Franky Perez of Scars on Broadway on vocals, Dave Kushner of Velvet Revolver on lead guitar, Joey Castillo of Queens of the Stone Age on drums, Scott Shriner of Weezer on bass and Dave Warren on rhythm guitar. The rock supergroup–whose members have sold over 17 million records worldwide, garnered 3 Grammy Awards and 8 nominations, 2 MTV Awards and 10 MTV Award Nominations — recently released their debut single “Count Me Out” on May 1 via Hollywood Records and iTunes as part of ‘Avengers Assemble’, the soundtrack for the star-studded film ‘The Avengers’. Co-creators Kushner and Warren currently have a TV pilot for the “PusherJones” animated series and a music video in development while the band is putting the finishing touches on an as-yet-untitled 5 song EP to be released in early summer 2012. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Dave Kushner to discuss the origins of this exciting new project, what fans can expect from it sonically and what the future holds for the world’s most kickass animated band!
We always like to give a little insight into an artists life. What are your first memories of music coming into your life?
My earliest memories of music in my life are from my parents. My mom used to have 8-track tapes, which her and my stepdad would listen to in the car all the time. I remember there was Neil Young, Boston and James Taylor. Those are my earliest memories of music. My mom actually had a record player that could record onto 8-track. It was awesome! I would get in trouble all of the time because she would have an 8-track of some band she actually liked, and I would stick a piece of tape on the little thing and record over top of it. The first record I ever bought was Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid.” I wanted to have it on 8-track, so I recorded over her Blood, Sweat and Tears 8-track and got in a whole lot of trouble! [laughs]
At least you put that love of music to good use! You crafted quite a career for yourself at this point. To what do you attribute your longevity in such a competitive industry?
Not really making any money until about eight years ago?! [laughs] I don’t know, I guess it has just been a matter of persistence, naive persistence.
There’s nothing wrong with that!
[laughs] Ya know, I grew up in Hollywood. I had gone to art school since I was a little kid, so I always knew that I would do something with visual arts or with music. I have really been fortunate in the last 20-some years that if I wasn’t playing in a band or doing something where I was making money doing music, I was building sets or doing something creative with visual arts. I have always been able to go back and forth and both have been good day jobs for me.
That is a great segway as your latest project, PusherJones, combines visual and musical elements. What can you tell us about the project and how it came about?
It all started a few years ago. There is a guy named Don Bernstein, who buys all of the memorabilia for The Hard Rock Cafe. Any of the guitars, instruments or outfits you see hanging in there, he is behind it. He had all of these really great stories and we became really good friends because he would buy stuff from Velvet Revolver. We became great friends and when he would come to LA, he would stay at my house. At one point, he said, “Oh, you have to meet these two friends of mine. They work on ‘The Simpsons.’” We went out to see Chad Smith’s [Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chickenfoot] band at this place called The Baked Potato. I met Ralph Sosa and Dave Warren, who is now my partner on this project. Again, we got along really great. We were swapping stories and hanging out. At some point I said something like, “Oh yeah, I would really like to do something like the Gorillaz because you could pick and choose your band.” I was in VR at the time. Obviously, growing up in Hollywood, I had a lot of favorite musicians. As a musician, you always look for an opportunity to work with different people and not have a big commitment. People shy away sometimes by saying, “Well, I can’t really tour now or I can’t do this or that … ” because everyone is busy and has so many things going on. We just started developing and from that experience with “The Simpsons,” I really got into developing story ideas and the story behind each character. We just kinda kept going with it and it became this idea for a TV show. We were always kinda working on one phase of it as we went along, whether it was drawing the characters, writing songs for it, recording music for it, getting different guys to play on it or writing different stories for the character backgrounds. It was a great experience because there were all of these moving parts and you could always jump to different things if you got stuck on one. We just kept going with it and going with it and then one of the old managers from VR sent me an e-mail a month ago asking if we had any songs for “The Avengers” soundtrack. I sent him our song, “Count Me Out” and they apparently liked it enough to use it on the soundtrack. That kinda kick-started everything! We were kinda at the point where were we going to start trying to debut this thing anyway as a show or whatever. There are just so many heads to it, we can kinda go in a lot of different directions.
What can you tell us about the characters who make up the band, both the animated form and the players themselves? How does it all tie together?
Well, that is a really good question because I don’t really have a good answer. Like I said, there are a lot of moving parts. The characters in the story — the story is very similar to my story. It is basically about a band that has been established for a while and they lose their guitar player. The singer has an old friend that he played little league with. There is a guy he knows that is a solid guitar player. This is the kinda guy who has been in obscurity for a while and they basically call him up from the minors to the big leagues, ya know? It kinda goes from there. There are different elements to it. It is basically a comedy but it is based on my experiences in Velvet Revolver, whether they are stories that I have heard or stories that I have experienced by being in a band at that level and for lack of a better term, being in bands with people with substance abuse challenges, drinking problems or whatever else. There are many trappings in being in a band at that level but it is kind of a funny way of putting it out there!
You are working on an EP. What can fans expect sonically?
Sonically, it is going to be like “Count Me Out” as far as the sound goes. We basically recorded the whole thing all at once with myself, Joey Castillo from Queens of the Stone Age and Scott Shriner from Weezer. We recorded all of the basic tracks for five songs at Josh Abraham’s studio, the guy who did the VR record. We did it a couple months ago and now it is at the point where I did vocals with Franky Perez of Scar on Broadway last night for a song. I think I have got just a few more things to fine tune as far as overdubs and vocals. It should be ready in the next couple of weeks.
It sounds like things are moving pretty quickly at this point. How long do you think it might be until this project is in full swing and might end up on TV or wherever it may take you?
I really don’t know. I am hoping it is very soon. Anything is possible. Fortunately, because of the “Avengers” attachment, it has happened so quickly that there are two or three directions we can go with this thing and now it is just a matter of picking which one is the best. At this point, it is like, do you go focus on the TV show aspect? Do you focus on the music because that is what is purely getting the attention right now? Do you just focus on finishing the EP and getting that out there? Like I said, it is like a two- or three-headed beast! [laughs] We also have to figure out how to do this thing live and we have a few ideas on how to do that. How do we present these characters to the world? There are just so many moving parts!
That sounds like a pretty good place to be and having options is never a bad thing.
Yeah, it is great. I couldn’t be any happier.
Have you given any thought to potentially playing the EP live, even if it isn’t the full blown version of the band you are working towards?
I’d like to but it is a matter of not what is the best way but what is the coolest way. For example, I saw Dethklok on tour, you know, the “Metalocalypse” band?
Oh yeah, sure.
I actually went with Scott, our bass player. It was like a year ago at The Palladium. They had an interesting way of how they did it between having video on a big screen and having the band play in front but the band was kinda in the dark but you could still see them. Nowadays with technology there is so much you can do. In Japan, they are doing a lot of cool things with holograms live. Obviously, everyone has been talking about the Tupac thing but before that we had seen this more animated looking style in Japan. People are going to these sold out shows of this animated character, a girl singer. So we are just trying to figure out the coolest way to do it because that is where I come from. All of us are guys who have played in bands and there are certain things you enjoy about that but, then again, can you pull everyone together at the same time? If you can’t, then you figure out a way to present this thing live so that it is really cool and it gives people maybe a lot of what they are not expecting.
Sounds like you definitely have a full plate at the moment. Do you have any other irons in the fire musically?
Right now, I am still kinda talking with guys in Velvet Revolver to see what is going on there. Still trying to figure out that stuff. I talked with Duff [McKagan] today about it and anything is possible. As far as other projects, I have been doing a lot of composing for television. I am actually doing music for Vince Vaughn’s production company for a show called “Sullivan and Sons,” which is on TBS. It is kinda like “Cheers.” So I am doing all of that and just trying to keep everything going!
I know we are short on time but thanks for talking with us today! PusherJones sounds like it is going to definitely be a project to keep an eye on! We look forward to spreading the word!
Thanks so much! I really appreciate it!
For the latest news and developments with PusherJones, visit the official website of the world’s most kickass animated band at www.pusherjones.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.