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SoulMonster

The Compulsions - Frank and Richard's other band

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The Compulsions - Frank and Richard's other band

Post by Soulmonster on Sun Jun 10, 2012 8:25 pm

Rob Carlyle of The Compulsions
By Leslie Michele Derrough
June 11, 2012


If you live outside the New York City circumference, there is a good chance that The Compulsions is not in your rock & roll vocabulary. Not that they suck, it’s just a simple case of a band that has not had the luxury of venturing out of their backyard. But that may be coming to an end as there is positive label interest in their debut full-length, Beat The Devil.

Rob Carlyle, the birth father of The Compulsions, took some time recently to talk about his beginnings in music, his band and the musicians that finally solidified its line-up: Richard Fortus and Frank Ferrer of Guns N Roses, and legendary Hanoi Rocks bass player Sami Yaffa. After playing with numerous other individuals, it was these four men together that finally put the exclamation mark on the music. With songs such as the Doors-ish “Easy Money”, the nasty sleazy “Yer Too Good Fa Me”, the bluesy “Dirty Woman Blues” and the lightspeed punker “Eat My Dust”, The Compulsions are climbing over the NYC fences with music that is far from the processed pop that has invaded the rock & roll charts, and having a good time while doing it.

“The Compulsions is basically a good excuse for a group of friends to get together to play some fun music that turns us on,” Fortus explained recently. “That's pretty much it. It's a blast to play tunes that remind us of the classic shit we grew up with. We're not trying to do anything that hasn't been done before. Not trying to change the world or have any agenda other than reaching for the perfect rock groove. Pretty simple!”

You have some great guys in your band.

Oh yeah, the guys are great and it’s no wonder that they’re among the top, most in-demand session players out there right now. Once you get to know them you'll see why.

You have put out a couple of EPs in the past but this is your first full-length CD. Is it only available for download?

Right now it is. Actually, I take that back. If you go on to Amazon, they have a thing called Amazon-On-Demand where if you order one they will literally print them up one at a time and send them out to people. There are still quite a few people out there that still want CDs but I keep hearing rumors that the music labels are not going to be making CDs anymore. I don’t know how I feel about it but obviously I prefer having a product in my hand as well. But this time around I just didn’t go that way. When I can get the band out on the road, then for sure I would undergo the expense of making a whole bunch of CDs. But right now, without that happening, it just doesn’t seem necessary to spend that kind of money.

So where can people go to order your music?

The main place is iTunes. I know we’re on Amazon and Amazon-On-Demand where you can get a hard copy. You can also go to our website o our Facebook page and Reverb Nation.

Beat The Devil has a very old school vibe to it but the word that keeps coming in my mind is fresh. It sounds so fresh amongst all this processed music that is prevalent today. How do you see it?

I know you said it was old school but I didn’t want us to be just another retro type band. But the fact that it also sounds fresh at the same time, that means the world to me. So if it can sound like all your favorite bands from a certain period of time but have a fresh spin on it, that’s always the aim. We always do things that let you know that this is not 1973 and that we know it’s 2012. If you heard that one song we have called “She’s So Fucking Sexy”, there is no way anything would have sounded like that in 1973 (laughs). Even if you look back on some of the older EPs that we did, like we did a cover of “Cocaine” but we put a modern spin on that. There’s a song called “Nasty Bitch” that we did that definitely sounds like it’s influenced by some of today’s modern sounds. Even on “Dirty Woman Blues”, there’s stuff we did on that and I don’t know if anyone was doing stuff like that back in the old school days, as you say. So if it can sound old school and fresh at the same time, that’s just amazing. I’m glad you felt that way.

By old school I meant that it kind of has a garage feel to it, kind of raunchy and wild and free.

Good. Rock & roll should be that. I put on my favorite records from back in the day, like Skynyrd or Zeppelin or Aerosmith or Jimi Hendrix and when you put that stuff on it still sounds fresh. Rock was not supposed to really age somehow and if we can still sound fresh in ten years that would be great too (laughs)

These songs are not all new, you’ve had these around for a while. So what made these ten songs stand out that you wanted to put them in this grouping together out of all the songs you have in The Compulsions repertoire?

That’s a good question. I’ve been writing and recording pretty much non-stop since I started the band for real in about 2002/2003. I’ve just been writing and recording and putting out EPs; we’ve put out three EPs with six songs each leading up to this full-length. I just picked the ones that seemed to work together. Half the record has been made over the years and then half the record was just made in 2011. Hopefully you can’t tell the difference, which ones are the older ones and which ones are the newer ones.
When I look back at the older EPs there is definitely a darker vibe in those songs. We sound a little bit more like an underground band in those earlier EPs. These just seem to work a little more positive, definitely sounding like maybe more ready for the mainstream without sucking (laughs). But yet these seem to work so I held them back. Like the Hubert Sumlin song “Shut Yer Hole”. That’s been in the can since 2004 and it killed me not to put that out. But I was like, man, this song is really good and I wanted to save it for something a little more meaningful than an EP. And I knew it should be the last song, because that’s a last song if I ever heard one (laughs). That’s a closer.

Some of the older Compulsions music, like you said, seems to have a darker vibe and a very bluesy feel to it.

Yeah, I think the blues runs through everything that we’ve done. It’s such a big part of rock & roll, that combination of the blues; like I guess what you would call the black man’s blues and the white man’s folk music. You take those two together and that’s rock & roll. This record has maybe a little more of a punk influence here and there than some of the other ones. The songs are faster. I don’t know, it just felt like the time was right.

Why put a 46 second song [“Eat My Dust”] on there?

Well, you know, getting back to what you said, as an artist and a creative person and as a songwriter and a musician and everything, you always try to surprise the audience. Just when people think they know what you stand for you kind of want to throw them a monkey wrench. When The Compulsions first started out, I think a lot of people saw us as this very Stones-ish/Black Crowes type of band and that’s great, that’s exactly what I was going for. But then I knew that as a songwriter, I knew that the musicians I had around me were capable of even more than that. So if you listen to the CDs and the progression of them, it builds off that bluesy foundation. Then we started experimenting with a little bit of punk and a little bit of industrial and things like that. I just thought it was kind of funny that I put the fastest song on the record in between probably the two slowest songs (laughs). Just to keep the audience guessing and sort of slap you in the face just when you think you know where this is going.

It’s like you break your neck listening to this song whiz by you.

(laughs) Yeah. That’s a fun song. The last time we played we did it twice in a row on stage. It goes by so quick you’re like, let’s just do that one again.

With the guys in the band doing all these other projects, how do you get together to play a gig?

It’s a real struggle, it’s not easy. I wish it wasn’t the case but there’s really nothing I can do about it right now. I’ve had different guys in and out of the band over the years but once I hit upon sticking with these guys, once I got these guys involved, I saw there was a pretty big difference in the level of professionalism and also in how the audience really, really reacts big time when Sami and Richard and Frank are involved. People come out for that show. It’s definitely not easy but I have to be patient and I have to wait. I’m not going to lie, I wish I had access to them whenever I wanted but I’m not in that position right now but hopefully I will be soon.

So what do you do while the guys are out with their other projects? How are you feeding your musical appetite to play?

That’s a good question. Right now, as far as the record is concerned, it just came out at the end of last year so I’m doing everything I can to promote it. For instance, this conversation will give us press for it. I’m always writing. Last week a good friend of mine, this guy named Hugh Pool, who is one of the co-producers of all The Compulsions stuff, he played a gig and said, “Why don’t you come up and do a couple of Compulsions songs with me and my band” and that was a lot of fun. But I’ll be honest, I’d like to be out on the road with this line-up of guys and playing these songs. I think people would get a big kick out of it.

So to answer your question, it’s not easy and I’m not sure what else to do. Like I said, I could find other musicians, I’ve already done that. I hooked up with Frank and Richard, the Guns N Roses guys, very early on in like 2002/2003. They got involved in Guns and I soldiered on with other players around town. I tried out a bunch of different guys and I thought each line-up was going to be the definitive Compulsions but things didn’t work out. Then around 2007/2008, I think Guns N Roses had a little bit of down time so I called up Frank and we had a show and sure enough he did it and little by little I ended up getting Richard back involved and then they recommended Sami as the bass player.

You do everything for The Compulsions. You do the promotion, the publicity, the booking. Do you find this is like a double-edged sword where you get the frustration but also the satisfaction of doing everything yourself?

Honestly, I just want to play my instrument and be on stage and write and record. I don’t like doing any of that stuff but that is the position I am in. I have a little bit of help these days behind the scenes but not to where I would like it to be. No, I really don’t get off on doing all that stuff. I just want to play. But if you look back at the history books I’m sure everyone from Bob Dylan to Mick Jagger, all those guys, Steven Tyler, they’re all very hands on with their bands. You’re going to have to be hands on to a degree but I would much rather be able to concentrate on playing and writing and that kind of stuff cause that is way more fun to me.

You’re New York born and bred. What were you like growing up?

I was born in Staten Island. My parents were from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Back then it was pretty common for kids that grew up in Brooklyn to move to Staten Island. I don’t know why but that is the way it was and that’s where me and my brother were born. My dad was a real creative guy. He was an art director and he had an amazing record collection. Both me and my brother used to pretty much raid it as little kids and that’s where I discovered The Beatles stuff and Pink Floyd. My parents liked a lot of other stuff that we didn’t really get into like Barbra Streisand and Johnny Mathis. But any of the rock & roll stuff that he had of course wound up in my room (laughs).

Then we moved when I was in 4th grade to Rockland County, which is also in New York, and I remember pretty vividly a friend of mine who’s older brother was like the rocker kid in the neighborhood and from him is where we got a lot of the like Jimi Hendrix and The Doors and Zeppelin. My parents weren’t really into that cause that was like the quote/unquote dirty stuff (laughs). I remember my dad, and I don’t think he even knew the difference between Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, but he would refer to it all as acid rock (laughs), which is a phrase you don’t hear that often. It’s not really acid rock but you know. But from my friend’s older brother, we got into a lot of the more dirty kind of rock & roll stuff. I used to listen to the radio like non-stop and New York rock radio was way different than it is now. You’d tune in and it would be like Creedence and The Pretenders and Blondie or Led Zeppelin, just one after the other. It was just a great education. We used to go to the record store and buy the stuff that we’d heard on the radio and just discover everything through that.

But I played saxophone for a while and that was kind of cool. Eventually I got tired of lugging the instrument around. But I was always an artistic kid. I remember in 4th grade being voted Class Artist and I’ll tell you the truth, I was mortified and I never drew again. I used to draw a lot and I don’t know why but I was really embarrassed to be singled out like that. It took years and years and years and eventually I wound up going to art school after high school. I went to a school of visual arts here in New York City, which was amazing. I was really comfortable in that environment and I was really glad that high school was over and all that kind of shit cause I just hated it, hated the way things were. My dream was to get to New York City, live in Manhattan, play in a rock & roll band and then basically do everything that I’m doing now. Moving into Manhattan and going to art school was just an amazing experience.

So what was your primary focus in art school?

Advertising and graphic design. They start out at the very base level the first year and they give you a taste of everything: photography, painting, sculpture. But I knew that design was going to be more of what I’d be interested in and as you go along in the years of studying there your focus becomes more and more specialized. It was just great fun and I made a lot of great friends there. Got my first real exposure to New York City life and it was just amazing.

When did you start playing guitar and what turned you on to being an actual musician?

I’ve been listening to music ever since I can remember. I started out with reruns of The Monkees. I thought they were a real band (laughs) and then shortly thereafter I discovered The Beatles and I realized, oh The Beatles are the real deal and The Monkees is just a phony TV show. So I turned my back on The Monkees but now I look back and of course those songs were genius.

As a little kid, I started with The Beatles and from them I discovered everybody else. But I never really thought about playing music, though. I was just a fan. I would sit in my bedroom with the headphones on and listen to Dirty Deeds over and over and over again. But I never thought about actually picking up the guitar until I was in my early teens and I saw that Stones concert film, Let’s Spend The Night Together, on HBO. I was a huge Stones fan and I was buying records and everything like that. But I never thought about actually playing until I saw Keith and Ronnie on stage. I was like, oh that’s what it looks like (laughs). That looks cool. I just had it in my head that I wanted to try and learn how to play the guitar like that. A couple of years later I convinced my mom to rent a guitar, then I eventually bought my own little acoustic and the rest is history. I’m still trying to learn to play the damn thing (laughs). Yeah, it was seeing the Stones live in action after hearing them a million times but never putting a visual to it. It was seeing them and it just looked like so much fun. I was like, I got to try that. I was about fourteen/fifteen/sixteen when I got my first guitar.

When did you start writing songs?

I started trying to make bands when I was in my early twenties. Living in New York City there was a lot of failed attempts behind the scenes. I had no aspirations of being the lead singer. I felt like I could come up with some pretty cool riffs and in those early bands I had some attempts at trying to write songs and stuff. And they weren’t as good as I’m doing now but I kept doing it, kept writing. I wrote a lot of bad ones. I had no interest in being in a cover band and still to this day I don’t really know how to play anybody else’s songs except mine. I just did it.

Were you ever nervous on stage? And how did you end up the lead singer since you said that was never your intention?

I couldn’t find anybody and I looked for people for years. And this is going back to the mid-90’s, long before the computer, long before craigslist, long before sacebook. You placed ads in the Village Voice or put up flyers. I was looking for like the next Steven Tyler or the next Axl Rose or the next Iggy Pop or the next Bon Scott or any one of those types of guys but nobody could really do it. I’d meet a lot of guys that looked really cool but they had no musicality or they were amazing singers but they just didn’t look the part, I hate to say. So out of frustration I was like, you know what, I can at least sing as good as Bob Dylan, who I love by the way. I think his voice has got incredible style.

So I thought I could at least do something like Bob Dylan meets Keith Richards meets Izzy Stradlin, that kind of voice. So I bought a 4-track and I started trying to teach myself how to record at home. I never was a technical whiz at it but I just started using my own voice on it and a former lead singer that I used to play with heard the recordings and said, “Man, you sound like Keith Richards on his death bed” and that’s when I knew I had something (laughs). I never wanted to be the lead singer of a band. I wanted to be the rhythm guitar player or the guy in the background; that was more of what I wanted. I couldn’t find the type of guy that I was looking for so I just did it myself.

What was your first concert?

The very first concert I went to, my parents literally dragged me and my brother to Madison Square Garden to see the Bee Gees. Me and my little brother, we hated disco, we hated the Bee Gees, and this was at the height of the Bee Gees career with Saturday Night Fever and the white suits and Andy Gibb was opening up. We went to the Garden and we just sat there with our arms folded. We were these little rocker, punkish, little wise-ass kids. Now I would kill to see that show (laughs). But at the time, it was like disco sucks. If you were rock & roll, which we were even though we were like eleven years old or nine years old or whatever, we were little rock & rollers, and we did not like the Bee Gees. Now, I’ll be the first one to tell you, the Bee Gees are musical geniuses.

That was the first show we went to but the first show I went to by choice, it was one of the older kids in the neighborhood took me to go to see Roger Waters, the Pros & Cons Of Hitch Hiking tour with Eric Clapton guesting on guitar. That was a thrill cause I was a huge Pink Floyd fan. I mean, I can tell you every lyric on Wish You Were Here and Dark Side Of The Moon and The Wall. I was a huge fan so that was just amazing.

Who was the first rock star that you ever met?

When Keith Richards’ Talk Is Cheap record came out, I was in art school at that point, and me and some friends went up to Tower Records cause they did an in-store meet & greet and signing and all that. I think I was the last guy in line and I remember going up to the table and there was Keith and Waddy Wachtel and Charley Drayton and Steve Jordan. I was speechless and all I remember is that I finally got up to the table and I extended my hand and I shook Keith’s hand and I said, “You know, I play a little guitar, man, and I just want to tell you that the whole reason I do it is because of you.” And just like in all his interviews, he just looked at me and said, “That’s what it’s all about, Baby. They pass it on to me and I pass it on to you.” (laughs). I was like, “Jesus Christ, that was amazing.” That was just great. I don’t know if I’ve met anybody other than that.

Well, you have Sami Yaffa in The Compulsions.

Oh yeah, totally (laughs)

A lot of people would love to meet him.

Sami is 100% the Finnish Keith Richards (laughs). Almost the same guy.

How did Sami come to be in the band?

Yeah, Sami is great. I had recorded a bunch with Frank and Richard in about 2003. We didn’t do any gigs but I had them in the studio and we did about five or six songs. Again, I lost track of them. They went off and did their thing and when I finally reunited with them, I needed a new bass player and Richard said, “Why don’t you get Sami”. I had known Sami, I knew who he was for years. At the time he was bit of a fixture on the club scene and we had a lot of mutual friends. I literally hit him up on Facebook (laughs) and he was like, “Yeah, I’m down” and he knew Frank and Richard from other projects that they’d done together and cover bands and stuff like that so they all knew each other. I was really blown away by Sami because he has this sort of very cavalier attitude, seemingly, and I wasn’t sure how together he was going to be when he showed up. But man, he knew my stuff better than I know it. All three of them are really 100% professional. They really get into the material and they know the songs inside and out and that was really impressive because I got to tell you, like I said, I’ve played with about fifteen to twenty guys, maybe more, and I’ve seen every different type of attitude you could possibly imagine and these guys were just amazing. Frank and Richard and Sami were just amazing.

Have you ever thought about moving out to Los Angeles to try doing your music there?

I love New York, I was born in New York, and I just had the feeling that it would be the same shit but on a different coast so I figured I would just stay here (laughs). The Compulsions stuff is kind of punky and it’s kind of bluesy at the same time and there’s a lot of guys that can do the punk thing and a lot of blues type guys, but that combination of the two is very hard to find and I figured it would be pretty much the same problem on the west coast if not even worse. That’s just what I assumed and I’m definitely glad that I stayed here.

How did you get Hubert Sumlin to play on a song?

This is going back again to like the mid-90’s. I saw that he was playing at a place called Terra Blues on Bleecker Street and I recognized the name in the paper and I was like, wow, that’s obviously Hubert Sumlin from the Howlin’ Wolf records. So I went there and saw him and was blown away. I actually think he had a little bit of a residency there cause I went more than once. Years later I wrote that song “Shut Yer Hole” and the band didn’t really have a solidified line-up so we were kind of toying with the idea of special guests and stuff. Hugh Pool, one of the co-producers, he seemed to be pretty tapped into that world so I said to him kind of like a goof but serious, I said, “Do you think we could get Hubert Sumlin to play on this? I have a feeling he lives in the area because he did a residency at Terra Blues. Would you happen to know how to get in touch with him?” And sure enough, Hugh knew Hubert’s manager and we called him up and he came down. He had never heard the song before, he came in pretty much cold off the street and he just nailed it.

I bet that was exciting having him there with you playing on one of your songs?

Yeah, it was fun. He was a blast. We had no idea how he was going to react to the lyrics cause we didn’t warn him at all (laughs) but he thought it was pretty funny.

Did you get him to tell you any old stories of playing with Howlin’ Wolf?

I do remember he did the song with this guitar he had that had like everybody’s autograph on it: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Steven Tyler, Johnny Winter was on there, like just every amazing guitar player you could think of had their autograph on that guitar. As far as telling any stories, I’m not sure we got into that. Should have but we didn’t.

Out of the ten songs that you have on Beat The Devil, is there one that is the most special to you?

I think “Dirty Woman Blues” is probably my favorite just because it’s such a surprise. I think that when you hear the title you think it’s going to sound like one thing but it ends up sounding like something else and it takes you to some pretty far out musical places. That’s one that I really love. I would probably love “I Was Right, You Were Wrong” even more than I do except that it’s been around for so long (laughs). “Easy Money” is another one that I really loved. That one came out very different than any of The Compulsions songs so far and that was a surprise. And “Shut Yer Hole” is just hilarious. But I think my big favorite is “Dirty Woman Blues” because of the places that it goes to musically.

On “Yer Too Good Fa Me” there’s that dirty, slinky Keith Richards feel going on.
(laughs) Yeah, Keith is a huge influence but I think I’ve heard us compared to about every single classic rock & roll band in history (laughs), which is awesome. I’ll take it.

What is your all-time favorite album and why that particular one?

That’s a tough one but it’s got to be Exile On Main Street. It just has to be. I’m a huge Stones fan and it’s a double record so you have the quantity and the quality there. It’s just an amazing sounding record. It’s the whole world that they create with that record. I think it was Keith Richards who said it was the first grunge record and it kind of is. Yeah, I would say that. Other big favorites are Physical Graffiti, which is a huge one, The White Album. I’m picking these mainly because they’re double albums of my favorite bands (laughs). If Led Zeppelin IV was a double album that would probably be in there as well.

Who would you say has been your biggest inspiration to be a musician and to continue to be a musician? Is it Keith?

It’s got to be Keith. He is a huge inspiration to me and to a lot of people in rock & roll. His name comes up a lot, especially these days. He has certainly done a great job getting a lot of attention for himself but there is something about the feel of just the way he plays and the guitar sound and the subject matter of the songs; whatever he is involved in always seems to come out awesome.

Now that you have the CD out, what do you hope to do with The Compulsions for the rest of this year?

It would be great to get the band out on the road for real. That would be awesome if we could make that happen. That is something I am trying to make happen behind the scenes but that would be part of the dream. I think whether you’re a fan of this band or any other band, I just think that people more than ever need to like support the bands that they love because it’s tough out there and if you want to see your band on the road or to continue to make records, then people have to buy the music.
Source: http://www.glidemagazine.com/articles/58545/rob-carlyle-of-the-compulsions.html
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