I recently interviewed Kenny Ozz, lead singer of Cincinnati-based Drugstore Valentine. We met last Thursday at a small bar just off a freeway exit within walking distance of Hustler Hollywood. Talk about glam! Kenny spoke about the slow process of recording a debut CD and the talents of his bandmates. Exact transcription follows.
BBG: Tell me about the CD your band is recording
Kenny: Well, it’s coming along very slowly. We started it two months ago, and, we laid down all the scratch tracks in two or three days, and then drummer went back and laid all the drum tracks. Now we’re having scheduling conflicts, because the guy who is recording our band is in another Cincinnati band, Deadly Seven, and we weren’t going to take any shows until the CD was done, or at least for awhile, but when you get called to do C.C. DeVille, Britny Fox and Hookers n’ Blow, you’ve got to those shows, you know? It’s just a long process, we hope it will be good, but we’re really taking our time on it.
BBG: Why don’t you put up some of your new songs on your Myspace page?
Kenny: That’s a very good question. Because I don’t have a copy of the scratch tracks yet.
BBG: Where are you recording your album?
Kenny: It’s just like the mobile studio of the band Deadly Seven, that’s the band recording us. They have like a practice space where we set up, it’s not a studio per se.
BBG: So you’re just using your computer with ProTools?
Kenny: Yeah, because nowadays you can record a professional CD in your living room, but the drums we had to take a basement, and hang up blankets and stuff to get a better sound. Now it’s easy, because with the guitars we can plug right into the computer, but for me we have to create some sort of vocal booth. You know a small room somewhere, it will be easy.
BBG: How many tracks will be on this CD?
BBG: All originals?
BBG: Can you name them?
Kenny: Uh, oh my god. I’d have to write them down.
BBG: Let me guess, “Lies” and Backstage Bombshells” –
Kenny: Right. I don’t know I’d have to write them down, but if I did I’m sure I could name them.
BBG: Ok then.
Kenny: We have 12 original songs, but only 11 will be on the album. The newest one we are not going to use.
BBG: Maybe you could embed it as a hidden track?
Kenny: We could. What we might do is a cover. I don’t know if you know about the legality of putting a cover song on a CD, but it you list the track, you have to pay for it. If it’s a hidden track that you didn’t list, you don’t have to pay royalties. It would just be like a live thing. We do a lot of really funky covers. Drugstore Valentine started as a cover band. We played nothing but covers for like a year and half and it got really boring. So then we started writing stuff.
BBG: So you’re the main songwriter?
Kenny: Yeah. I wrote…let’s see, we’ve got 12 originals and I wrote ten of them myself. I wrote one with another guy who used to be in the band and the newest one, the one that won’t be on the CD, me and my guitar player wrote that. He actually wrote most of it.
BBG: Tell me about the other members of your band.
Kenny: Well, Lee Pierce Johnson, the drummer, he’s actually been a really good friend of mine for like, seven or eight years now. It’s kind of interesting, because for like years and years I’d wanted to start a band and get rolling, because everywhere I’d go people would ask, “Are you in a band?” and I’d get that a lot, so I was always like “No, I’m not in a band” so finally I started a band, but I couldn’t play drums or guitar or anything. So, long story short, I started the band, I found a couple guys, and we needed a drummer. It just so happened that I was sitting around with Lee at his house and we were getting ready to go to a club or something, and I just happened to be bitching on the phone, talking to one of the guys in the band, like “yeah, we need a drummer bad” and Lee looks at me and says “I’ve been playing drums since I was like, five.” I thought he was messing with me, and I almost dropped the phone! So we went to storage and got out all of his drums. He’s been playing drums forever, so, I mean, it was a natural fit. My guitar player, Mike, he, actually went to high school with Lee. So me and Lee were with these other two guys and we never really played much, and then that kind of fell apart because they lived in Akron. I mean, we were driving like four hours just for band practice, and that’s ridiculous you know? So, we needed a guitar player and Lee said “I know this guy I went to high school with.” So we invited him over and we tried him out and he’s unbelievable. He’s one of those guys – I can play him a song he’s never heard before, and he’ll listen to it, and he’ll be fiddling with it, and then he’ll listen to it again, and then he breaks it down. By the third time, he’s still messing with it, but after that we can play the song. Unbelievable. Like the C.C. Deville song we do, “I Hate Every Bone In Your Body (But Mine),” he’d never heard that before, we listened to it three times, and he started playing it. Then Curly, he’s the bass player, he’s like our fifth bass player. It’s unbelievable, like a Spinal Tap thing. He’s actually been with us for about two years now. He’s just a guy that I’ve actually known for like ten to twelve years. I’ve known him from the club scene, rock concerts, stuff like that. I know he doesn’t, compared to the rest of us, look the part of the band, but he’s a good kid, he’s got a real rock n’ roll heart, he’s a really good bass player, too.
BBG: You called Curly a kid, how old is here?
BBG: So he’s younger than you?
Kenny: Oh, yeah, other than him I’m the baby of the band! How about that?
BBG: You’re 29?
Kenny: Yeah. Lee and Mike are both 30.
BBG: That’s old! (Sarcasm folks).
BBG: Who is your favorite band?
Kenny: Man, that’s tough.
BBG: Tuff is your favorite band?
Kenny: No, I mean it’s a tough question. Like, all time favorite band? I’d probably have to go with Poison. That was the first band, even when I was younger, that I ever really grasped onto. The first time I saw their video, I thought they were girls. I remember being real young, and they looked like girls, and I thought the drummer looked like my aunt Lisa. So I thought they were cool. Now, things are full circle, when fans tell me I look like Rikki Rockett, I wonder if that means I look like my aunt Lisa?
BBG: Back to the CD. Do you have a name for the disc?
Kenny: I think it’s just going to be self titled, since it’s the first disc. We’ve talked about, you know, we might call it The Island of Misfit Toys because when people look at our band they see me, I’m the glam rock guy and Curly looks like the punk rock guy, and Mike looks like the southern rock guitarist, and Lee looks like he just stepped out of a Marilyn Manson video, so it’s like weird. We’ve been called the rock n’ roll U.N. We’re representing every nation of rock n’ roll!
BBG: That would be a good name for a CD!
Kenny: So, we’ve thought about calling it The Island of Misfit Toys, but we don’t know if that is trademarked or anything.
BBG: So, it’s a slow process. Are you hoping to sign with a label after the CD is finished?
Kenny: A lot of people have been chomping at the bit to get it. Our demos on Myspace just are not very good. The drums are really hollow, and I was sick when we recorded those songs. It was just something. If you are a band you have to have something to stick up there or you can’t get shows. At least with the demos up, we can prove that we’re actually a band but now I think the demos might be so bad, maybe they are hurting us, but it’s better than nothing. I do need to get those scratch tracks, and get a new track up. Everyone is always asking about “Backstage Bombshells,” it’s probably our best song. I have been in contact with a few Indie labels, but it’s tough. You don’t want to sign anything because they might want us to make a CD and they sell it. I don’t know. You just never know. I’m going to have to…when the CD actually comes out, if we get more interest than we’ve already had, I’ll have to look into some legal stuff. Maybe a lawyer to look over a contract. I remember I got a packet, just as an example, from a little Indie label out of Chicago, saying they were interested and they wanted to hear our stuff. They sent me this packet, and it had this contract, and I swear it was 45 pages long. I’m not going to sit there and read 45 pages over a distribution deal for a CD that – at the time – wasn’t even started yet. You just don’t know, and you don’t want to get screwed. I hope the CD comes out good. It’s already been three months now, you know what I mean?
BBG: Are you planning on doing a mini-tour to support the album?
Kenny: Well, that’s tough too. We really hope to. I travel a lot and I go to a lot of shows, and I have some connections with bands and stuff. I really think I could put something together. Even if it was just a week, and played, you know, say, for example Dayton on a Monday, Columbus on a Tuesday, Toledo on a Wednesday, Detroit on a Thursday. I mean, I’ve got connections in all these towns where I can do a run. I’ve also got decent connections with bands that are like, not big, but bands that tour. Like, well like I had a good talk with Joe Leste of Cockfight and Bang Tango. I know him and I know Troy Patrick Farrell of White Lion. Anyway, Joe said honestly - I’m not bragging or anything - but I could make a few phone calls and, probably get on a run with them guys for like 20 dates or so. I mean that would be really cool as long as more people showed up than showed up for the Ohio shows. Ohio is just really lame. You know you put a band like L.A. Guns or Faster Pussycat in Cincinnati. If it’s not on a Friday or Saturday night, people won’t go. Cincinnati’s really conservative that way.
BBG: So, you want to become a rock star and quit your job? Laughs.
Kenny: Laughs. That would be the end goal. We’re a band that, always, you know, sets the bar low. I get a lot of flack for this, especially from other musicians. We like to keep our goals low so we’re not disappointed if we fail. Every time we reach a goal it seems like, wow, look what we’ve done! It seems like a lot of bands come out and say “We’re going to be bigger than KISS!” Well, no you’re probably not going to be. So, from that they’re going to be bitter in their basement when they’re 40 years old. When we first started, we just wanted to get out and play some shows. That happened. Then, a few months later, we wanted to do some originals. That happened. Then, we had enough originals, and we wanted to record a CD. That happened. You just keep taking steps. We want to be big, but we want to keep it realistic too.
BBG: So you don’t have a manger?
Kenny: No, we’ve had several offers from booking agents and managers, but right now, I mean, I’m lucky enough to have some good connections, just from being around the scene so long now. Look at some of the shows we’ve played: C.C. DeVille, L.A. Guns, we can play really cool shows without me having to pay a manager 15.%
BBG: Do you see the same faces at all your shows?
Kenny: Yes. After the recent Whiskey Dicks show, on Myspace, we got anywhere from 20 to 30 new friend requests. Say if only five of those 30 come to the next show, still progress. When you just start with your friends out of the basement, you’ve got to play on a Tuesday night in some lame bar, and there are only four people to watch. Hopefully, people keep coming back. We don’t claim to be the best band in Cincinnati by any stretch of the imagination. We’ve had really bad shows. One thing I will say for Drugstore Valentine is that it seems like we always have a good amount of people turnout to see us.
BBG: Heather did you have anything to add?
Heather: No, I’m not even awake yet.
Kenny: Isn’t she the one that was enamored with the drummer?
Heather: He’s very good.
Kenny: For real, he’s very good.
Heather: You can tell by watching him that’s he’s very good, he’s got natural talent regardless of what he’s playing.
Kenny: Well, I think all drummers have a natural talent. It’s either there or it isn’t. I never wanted to be a front man, I wanted to be a drummer. I don’t understand how you get your legs to do one thing and your arms another. So I just had to settle for being a front man.