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Vain, Davy - 2001 Interview with Davy Vain

INTERVIEW: Vain, Davy (May 2001)
In the name of Vain.. Davy Vain that is!

This is the 'In The Spotlight' page. Vain burst onto the rock scene in 1989 with their classic 'No Respect' debut. MTV videos, magazine covers and worldwide tours followed, until the band fell victim to record company politics. After a brief hiatus, Davy Vain is back with the excellent 'In From Out Of Nowhere' Davy chatted with GLORY-DAZE's Andrew Ellis to tell us about the new record and the highs and lows he has experienced in the music industry. (May 2001)

It's a pleasure to interview you Davy. Let's start with the latest CD 'In From Out Of Nowhere'. A lot of people have been saying it's your best album since your blistering debut 'No Respect'. Do you see it in similar terms?
Yeah, I think so. I spent so much time making sure I had the right amount of great, off the floor songs and production. 'No Respect' was recorded that way. It's cool that people think that.

I remember reading in a 'Kerrang' interview in 1989 that 'No respect', (which was co-produced with Paul Northfield) was as close as you could get to a 'live' studio recording. 'In From Out Of Nowhere' has a similar vibe to it. Did you follow a similar track when recording it?
A little bit. Every song was different. The last song we recorded for 'In From Out Of Nowhere' for example was 'Push Me Over'. On that song we were rehearsing it and everyone felt that we had the vibe right. So we threw some mics up and recorded it right there and then through the PA so everyone could hear the vocal. I think the vibe we had in the studio really comes through on that track.

You enlisted the help of Devin Powers and Jerry Marquez to co-produce some of the tracks on the new record. How important was their input?
Devin did some stuff on the early sessions for the record. He was more involved with the recording and overseeing it, on songs like In From Out Of Nowhere and Trinity. At that time I was the only guitar player in the band. We cut it off the floor. Jerry is a great producer and he worked more in our studio with me, and he did a lot of the mixing. I was too wrapped up in it, completely losing my mind, y'know. On 'Electric' I had been in the studio for 3 days, and I just called him and said 'Dude, you gotta come over.. what do you think of this?' He was producing it, so that way he could bounce ideas of us and give us feedback. It was really cool to have someone else there as every song had it's own way of being recorded. Jerry worked on 'Move On It' too.

Drummer Louie Senor and Guitarist Craig Behrhorst are great players. How did you hook up with them?
Louie played on Fade, and we initially got together through a mutual friend. After Roadcrew fell apart I just wanted to jam and not make records, just get back to what I like about music, away from all the bullshit. So me and Ash (Mitchell) would just jam with him. However then we decided to do Fade, so it became a little more permanent! With Craig, I was looking for another guitarist, and when I talked to him we realised we knew each other from around the scene. He's a great player. He does the lead on 'Yellow', which I think is great, I really like that a lot.

I think the new record is a sign that you have matured as a songwriter. Songs like 'Push me Over' will always bear that classic Vain hallmark, but stuff like New York and Fly Again demonstrate a new poppier side to your writing. Is this simply how your writing has evolved?
The songs just kinda come to me. Obviously I think a bit different to how I did when I was writing 'No Respect' and the guitar sound is a little different. We did have mellower songs on No Respect, but the guitars were just so giant sounding all the time! It's just evolving really. I've never really second guessed the things I should or shouldn't write.

Actually, the songs 'New York' and 'Trinity' are very intriguing lyrically. Are your songs mostly autobiographical?
Most of the stuff is. There might be a twist or something in there, but sometimes a song can be about a couple of things at the same time. Most of them have something to do with how I feel at a particular time. For me to really channel a lot of energy into singing, the songs have got to come from experience.

The song 'New York' is particularly intriguing. What is it about?
That's hard to pinpoint, but it's really about this one point when I was thinking about the stuff Vain first did when we toured everywhere and every show was great. We gave it so much, then rock just sorta went down like the Titanic. We'd believed in our music for so long and then people were making fun of it. I integrated all those feelings, so it's really a song about the past.

Ashley Mitchell and Jamie Scott from the original band play on this album, but you released it under your own name instead of just 'Vain' or the other potential name, 'Dragonfly'. Why did you decide on the change of name?
Dragonfly was just a jamming name really. At the time, we played as a trio and we weren't playing Vain songs. It was sort of a Dragonfly project, then Jamie started playing with us again and I wanted to play as a 5 piece where I was just singing. He was just gonna do it for a couple of gigs but he hasn't left yet! The only reason we never called the band 'Vain' when we were recording 'In From Out Of Nowhere' is because we didn't want it to be some cheesy reunion thing. Lots of bands are reforming and we wanted to distance ourselves from that. It was sort of a compromise in the end as people that like Vain can find the band and we can play old and new songs. We just played a show recently and played 4 old ones with all the new ones.

I have mentioned it a few times already, but 'No Respect' is still regarded as an all time classic by fans and critics eleven years after its release. How do you look back on that record now?
That's so cool that people say that. It was such a special time. We were all from the same town near San Francisco, sorta like Def Leppard were from the same town in England. There's something kinda special about that as we had a tightness and camaraderie other bands didn't. We got to do the first record in Canada and I remember we pulled the car over on the way to the studio and vowed to remember that moment, as we didn't know at that time if we would be huge or not, but whatever happened, we knew that no-one could take away from us the fact that we grew up together and were living the dream. So that was the spirit the record was recorded in and we thought it was coo that so many people were moved by it. So many people thought it should have done so much better and the only plus side with the fact it didn't is that if No Respect was on a better label we would have achieved more, we may also get lumped in with the lame bands of that whole late 80's era. We were coming from a different place to all those bands.

Vain was always grouped in with the 'hair' bands of the late 80's, but really you were a world away from them as most of them were all image and no substance, whereas Vain was the exact opposite. Did this classification bother you or did you see yourselves as a Glam band?
When we first started we had pretty big hair, but that was the way we lived! The picture on the back of No Respect didn't really look like us at the time. We felt the whole look got us notoriety. We weren't trying to be like anyone else, we just wanted to do what we wanted to do. We weren't sitting around trying to figure out how to sell millions of records. We always thought glam was cool, then it turned cheesy. To us it was a radical, waving your freak flag high thing, not the 'Hollywood glam' it turned into. I remember when we were making the record, we heard the Skid Row record and how they were getting hyped by Bon Jovi and everything. We listened to it but never thought 'we should make a record like this'. We knew what we wanted to do and we knew our record was more real, less commercial than theirs.

What do you remember of your tour in England with Skid Row in 1989? That was one of the hottest tickets around that year as I remember.
It was great man. It was one of the first big places we played. The first gig was Sheffield or somewhere like that and I remember Skid Row had taken so long on their soundcheck and things were pretty unorganised. We went out there and the sound wasn't great but our first song was Secrets, and as soon as it ended all we could hear was the crowd and the sound problems were just forgotten. We were like, 'Oh My God'! I remember a lot of that tour. I had a real good time there. We had a whole tour booked for Europe a year or so later but it was cancelled when Island Records got screwed up.

I recall you saying in an interview at the time 'No Respect' was released that the rock scene was over-populated. Do you think this was the reason why Vain never made it as big as you should have been? It definitely wasn't for a lack of talent.
Yeah it was that and the fact that we weren't on as powerful a label as we might have been. That has so much to do with everything. If your record company isn't kickin ass you're not going to break through. All that stuff like promotion. Island told us that we had complete control, and that's why we signed there. U2 were allowed to make their records, not to make a forced sounding record, and then you build on that young and hungry sound and success follows. That was what we wanted to do. We weren't thinking it was gonna be the biggest record ever. If the second record had come out, I think it would have built from there. When Island was sold to Polygram all the distribution changed and at times we were touring and the record wasn't even in stores.

Onto your post 'No Respect' days. It seemed as though Island Records were really supportive of 'No Respect', and that they saw the band as a long term investment and prospect. Then they dropped the bombshell and never released 'All Those Strangers'. Why did Island take that decision? Having heard it, I believe it was perfect to take Vain to the next level.
By the time we made the second record, we'd gone through three label Presidents. It was that unstable there. The second president was cool and talked us into staying at the label when we were really thinking of leaving, then just as we were mixing 'All Those Strangers' the label decided not to release it and not only that, but to not release any rock albums. I don't know if it would have gone on to be a huge success, because I don't think it would have mattered because of all the problems at the label at that time. Just to put it out would have been great, but you really need the right promotion, airplay and marketing. It wasn't a coincidence Geffen had all the best sellers. They knew how to market them, so it's not all about the music on it. It's what goes with it.

A couple of the 'All Those Strangers' songs (namely Shooting Star and Planets Turning) surfaced on later Vain albums. Do you think it will ever see the light of day officially?
The record is owned by Polygram now and we've tried a couple of times to get it back but it's really complicated. We've been trying to figure it out, but it's such a big hassle. To me, re-releasing No Respect would be more important to us. There's some stuff on 'All Those Strangers' I don't really like now, that no-one who's heard it will notice. Just some production stuff. I'm not really sure that it will end up coming out.

After this major disappointment, the band broke up temporarily and you formed Roadcrew, with some of the guys from Vain and the famously Steven Adler, who had recently left GNR. What happened to that project?
Basically we spent so much time trying to keep Steven keeping it together. He was pretty much a mess. Initially, he convinced us he was better and everything was cool. We got going and made some great stuff, but Steve couldn't really keep it together. We didn't wanna abandon him at that time as we'd come to be close friends and it was a tough period. A couple of the Roadcrew songs made it onto Move On It in the end. Steve did some cool stuff on songs like Breakdown and it was an interesting time. But we were basically babysitting as well as trying to make records!

Of course, you have also released the excellent 'Move On It' and 'Fade' albums during the mid 1990's. Did the support you have in places like Japan keep the band active over these years?
Probably, yeah, but we never thought about it like that. We just kept doin' what we always did. Record Companies were interested in Roadcrew because of the Steven Adler connection. Then when all that fell through, we got Danny West back in the band and played shows, the reaction was great, so we went into the studio to do a record. We just wanted to get back on track and make music rather than thinkin' about the other crap.

Do you still keep in touch with the other ex members such as Tommy Rickard and Danny West, or even Steven Adler? What are they up to now? I hear Steven is making a movie about his life.
I see Tommy quite a lot, and Steven not so much, but he came to LA to play with us and wanted to get on stage and play with us so much! I think Steve is writing a book or something. He did so much crazy stuff before, during and after Roadcrew so it will be interesting!

Not a lot of people know that you had produced records for Thrash metal band Death Angel before 'No Respect' came out in 1989. You have also recently produced a band called 'Romeo's Dead'. Do you see yourself moving more into the production side of things over the next few years?
Maybe, I've just always kinda done that, but now I have my own studio I do a lot more of it. I just did an album for Sub Pop with this band called The View, which is Nirvana's first label. I'm also working with Linda Perry from 4 Non Blondes in the next couple of weeks. I've always done that type of stuff, but now I'm a little more savvy in the studio on the engineering side as I've learnt so much stuff. I think the more I work with other people's stuff, the more I learn how to make my own stuff sound great and not have to rely on others to do my own things. I mean that's one of the things I didn't like about ATS. Some of the vocal sounds I'm not keen on. I don't think the producer did a great job on the vocals. At that time I wasn't really sure about a lot of studio stuff and different mics, compressors and whatever, so with the knowledge I have now I could have had more input into the way they sounded. And it's fun as well, I love doing it.

If you got the chance, would you like another shot with a major label, or would you prefer to do your own thing like you are at the moment?
I don't know. Major record companies are such a gigantic rip off. They can make you famous, but unless you are become really massive you are getting ripped off. You end up paying for everything. I don't wanna mention the band's name, but some friends of mine sold 2 million records. They made videos and toured a lot but remember you pay for everything, tours, promotion etc, so the only money they made was on publishing and merchandise. I'm not sure the guys in my band would wanna go do that, you know? I'd have to really look at the deal. Just because it might be a record deal, doesn't mean I'm gonna go 'Oh yeah!' y' know. I have complete control over everything now but if it was the right situation obviously it would help more people hear my music. But if it was the wrong situation I'd almost be scared to do it because I have a bad taste in my mouth because of what happened with Vain. So many people I know have had the same experience and they never even got as far as Vain did. There's no more career building in the industry. Even if you do well with 1 album, whose to say you'll last another?

I believe your cousin Lana Lane has covered your song 'Without You' from 'No Respect'. Have you ever worked with her on any other projects?
Yeah she covered that. It's a lot different, much like 'Yes' or something. It's kinda cool though.

What will 2001 have in store for you? I hear you have been busy in the studio over the last few weeks. Is that for new Davy Vain material or were you working with other bands?
We've been in the studio. We have some stuff on tape that we will develop and I've been in the studio a lot by myself just working on stuff we came up with when we've been jamming. We've got a lot of stuff we're very excited about. Jamie will play a lot more guitar on the next record too. We're also thinking of doing a live record as well. We'll see what happens. I'd also love to do an unplugged type thing. It's kinda interesting to hear that stuff, as we tried it before and the melodies and stuff have a whole different vibe to them. The main focus though is on the new stuff. We've gotta see about the balance between the darker, stuff and the more upbeat stuff. I have a tendency to write a lot like that for some reason, I don't know why! There's one song we've done called 'Turn To Sand' which is gonna be really cool. Everyone's getting so psyched up to record again as it's already been a year since we did 'In From Out Of Nowhere'. It's just flew by! There's no real deadline as we're free to do what we want in the studio without any pressure.

Finally It's been 15 years since you formed Vain. Despite not having achieved the success you deserved in terms of sales, you and your music have survived. What do you attribute that to?
I think it's the fact I still love doing it. I've been lucky enough to move people and get a reaction with my music in the same way music I liked did to me. I mean there's some music that's just fun to listen to, then there's other stuff that you listen to and always like it. As long as I can still make an impression like that, and people are in the front singing every word, that's cool. I feel like I have so many more songs to record, there's a lot more to come! I'm not doing it just for the hell of it as I feel like I can make a record that's even better than anything I've done. A lotta people think my voice is original anyway, but am still improving on it. We don't sound like anyone else, so yeah I think it's cause I still love doing it so much.

Well thanks Davy for the interview.
You too man, and thanks for the great review. My manager and everyone in the band really liked it. Keep in touch!

Check out Davy's website at and be sure to buy a copy of 'In From Out Of Nowhere'.

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