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A Shot Of Gin

Tina Alvarez

Faces Magazine, April 04, 1994

The multi-platinum Gin Blossoms have finally gotten past their New Miserable Experience, and on their way toward international success. Now, after two years of non-stop touring, the band plans to take some time off to record their new album (after Christmas) and rest. Drummer Phillip Rhodes drowsily (he was sleeping when we called) let us in on what was going on in the band's life, as well as giving us an inside peek at his own personal, and sometimes strange history.

FACES: I heard you performed at a benefit for a waitress who was a fan of yours.

Phillip Rhodes: She was a bartender at this place we went to. She was killed in a boating accident. They couldn't find her for a long time. The whole thing was crushing for her family financially, paying for the divers. It was a benefit with a bunch of other bands that were in on it too. Everybody donated everything. It was great. A sizable chunk of change was handed over to the family.

FACES: What interested me in the record, was that when I first heard the songs they sounded like something I heard before. They gave me pieces of tunes I recognized, and they seemed to encompass all the things that I liked. What is the response from people that hear your music?

Rhodes: Mostly, what I say about bands that I like. That we play rock and roll with a nice melody. Nice vocal harmonies. Pop rock and roll. I love that shit.

FACES: I think that is what hooked me too. The music wasn't too complicated for me to figure out. The lyrics are real straightforward. The music is the same. You either get it or you don't. Of all the songs on the album, I love "Cheatin'."

Rhodes: Oh yeah! That song was a joke too. It is a parody of all the cheesy country music out there today. "Hair dark as midnight? Can't call it cheatin', because she reminds me of you?" Come on! That song was a goof. We knew we were stretching it just a bit! We figured, "What the hell! It's not like it's going to be a single or anything!"

FACES: When you were putting everything together for this record, did you have one purpose in mind, or did you toss in the best stuff you had?

Rhodes: The best stuff we had. We didn't want it to be real slick, production-wise. We just wanted it to be an honest sound. We went through one producer that didn't work, and wasted a whole lot of time and money. Then, we ended up meeting John Hampton, who produced it for us. He was just a really cool cat who really wanted to make our record, where the other guys wanted to make his record. So, he just worked with us. He's from Memphis, Tennessee. The vibe there was just great. It was really raw, not slick or anything.

FACES: No overdubbing or anything?

Rhodes: We did some overdubbing, but not like a whole shitload of stuff to make it sound real slick. It's a wide open sound.

FACES: What's the difference from when you did this record and when you did Dusted? Did you bring anything from that record over to New Miserable Experience?

Rhodes: Lord! Dusted was a pretty accurate cross-section of where we were at that time. We recorded and mixed thirteen songs in a few days. All of my drum tracks were done in one night. We didn't work through a quick track or nothing. I was relatively a rookie. The tempos go up and down. It's all a million miles an hour. "Found Out About You" on this record, we thought about tempos and stuff. On that record, it was like we were playing on speed or something. It's fucking crazy!

FACES: That was one of the songs you brought over. Any other ones?

Rhodes: "Found Out About You," "Lost Horizons,"...what else? I haven't seen a copy of Dusted for so long. My mother's got mine. I forget! There were definitely a few.

FACES: Does it make you laugh now that "Found Out About You" is so popular now, considering that you did it so long ago?

Rhodes: That one was written by Doug, the guy that recently passed away. He wrote that about ten years ago. That song has not been changed very much at all, except the tempo. In my opinion, that is the best song he ever wrote, and it is the best song on the record.

FACES: The touring before this record really hit, you were doing it for a year and a half. How do you feel that helped you with the things you are doing now?

Rhodes: It was kind of good that it happened that way, looking back on it. We, as a band, played night after night. We got really tight and were able to make the transition. It is really different going to larger venues, just feeling comfortable with each other. If the monitors stop and we can't hear each other, we can still do it. We can still groove. It also kind of made us feel like we earned all this. Now, we're starting to see some success.

FACES: I wanted to bring up the KISS tribute album. To have them ask you to be on the record is very cool.

Rhodes: Gene [Simmons] is great! He is a really cool guy. I was a really big KISS fan when I was in fifth and sixth grade. Growing up in Minnesota, I hung out with this guy who was really into KISS. He had no feeling on one side of his finger and used to poke needles into it to show me. I used to think he was wacky. We got into trouble shooting off fireworks in his house. He and I were just holding Roman candles and shooting them in the house. We listened to KISS a lot. We had to. It was cool. We got to pick the song we wanted to do for the record, and we chose "Christine Sixteen." We just did a pretty straightforward version of it. Toad the Wet Sprocket's version of "Rock N' Roll All Nite" is great. They toaded it up.

FACES: Were you a member of the KISS Army?

Rhodes: I wasn't an official member of the KISS Army, but I might as well have been. I was hanging out with this guy, and that was all we listened to.

FACES: Does the band generally do covers on the tour? Is there one cover that you play more often than usual?

Rhodes: We do a lot of Tom Petty when we do covers. We've done Johnny Cash. One song I wish we would do again is "Don't Fear The Reaper" (Blue Oyster Cult). We used to play it years ago, but we never worked that middle part out. So, we did a ska thing. The body of the song, I think we did that really well. If we could work out that middle part...Robin always sang it really well. It's a hit.

FACES: I get a kick out of watching you on the videos.

Rhodes: We hate doing videos. They suck donkeys. I hate making them. You have to go in there and they want more than we'll give them as a band. We give them one day, but then, they milk that day. Mostly, we do a lot of waiting around for them to set up shots. Meanwhile, you have to look like you've got a whole bunch of hate in your face for hours, in case they need you.

FACES: Don't you wish it was like it used to be, without videos?

Rhodes: You know, it's a new age. MTV is a huge, powerful medium and you have to do them, in order to have any success. It's just a matter of compromising without railroading you into anything.