Somewhere in the late 1980s, a record executive missed signing a sure thing. Tonight You Rock (or T.Y.R.) hail from the Bay Area of California...and worked the Sunset Strip just like every other Glam act of the day. Two decades later, their album All Comes Down to You is finally available. Bring Back Glam! recently spoke to lead singer Joel Valentine about the scene on the strip, releasing All Comes Down to You and how their name has evolved. Transcription follows.
Bring Back Glam!: Tell me about All Comes Down to You.
Joel Valentine: Basically All Comes Down to You is a best-of T.Y.R. (Tonight You Rock). The album was recorded at Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles and the Banquet Studios in Santa Rosa, California. It’s taken a quite awhile for the material to see the light of day. Obviously, the material was recorded back in the late 80s so everything was on analog – it was on physical tape. To get things going with today’s way to editing we had to mix down to digital which required our guitar player Gregg Michaels to get the physical tapes – find the tapes – and take to a studio in northern California then mixing to digital. He then sent the files to me on a hard drive and then I meticulously went through and fixed up the songs. Some of the songs were rough, some were overproduced and what I did was make them sound as true to form as T.Y.R. back in the day.
BBG!: How long did the process take?
Valentine: The mix down process took the better part of a month. Recording the actual songs...we went in spurts, meaning a few at a time. Some of the songs we did on a spec deal with Cherokee Studios. That basically meant the material/band had potential to get signed by a major label which would then turn around and pay for the studio time. That in itself was really cool because there were some really big bands recording at Cherokee at the time. They’ve torn it down now, but the history of the place is phenomenal – everyone from Frank Sinatra to W.A.S.P. recorded there.
BBG!: Now how did you get involved with Retrospect Records?
Valentine: Basically the wonderful little Myspace tool. If Myspace had been around in 1989, I’d probably be releasing our version of Chinese Democracy at this point! Seriously, we had Ron Keel as a top friend on our Myspace page. We played a few gigs with Ron Keel back in the day and he was slated to do some production work with us before we broke up. At any rate, Ron is a friend of Sam and Aaron (McCaslin, owners of Retrospect Records) and they saw us on Ron’s Myspace page. They listened to a few songs and liked what they heard. Aaron got in touch with me and we had a lot of phone and email conversations. What they offered seemed like something really nice so we were able to work out a deal with them to get our material released and finally see the light of day.
BBG!: So, is T.Y.R. going to be playing any shows soon?
Valentine: There’s the big question! I knew it was coming! We don’t have any set plans to play some live gigs. There’s been a lot of talk about it. Retrospect Records has expressed a lot of interest in us doing special shows and there’s a lot of interest in us doing festivals. The band is interested. It’s hard. I’m in the Midwest and the remainder of the band is in California. Logistically it’s a little difficult. As crazy as it sounds, we’re going to let the fans decide and if there’s enough interest or people are really pushing for it, then it would probably be a possibility.
BBG!: You have good stories from back in the day! I’ve lived a vanilla life – you have not! So, share.
Valentine: I do have good stories! Do they have to be PG?
Valentine: Well I preface every story from back in the day the same way: everything you saw in the Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years is true. Everything you read about the era is true. It was a totally different time. Drug use was really prevalent. Everyone was sleeping with everyone else. We’re talking about the 80s so HIV and AIDS hadn’t really impacted the world like today. There was a lot of activity...more than one occasion and I’d look to the side and back of the stage during a show and people would be having sex, more than one occasion...uh, I don’t want to get myself into trouble! Let’s just say party supplies were very much in abundance and a lot of bands had people that traveled with them and their sole job was to keep the party going. That’s all I can say without getting myself in trouble! I don’t want my kids to read this! It is hard to understand. If you were in a band that pulled decent numbers...it was all there for you. We used to joke when it got really close to us signing...in the late 80s, labels were going nuts to sign people. You would see waves: “We’re going out to dinner with Warner Bros. We’re going out to dinner with Atlantic. We’re going out to dinner with RCA.” Someone would take us out to dinner...we used to joke that we had every perk of being a rock star without the bothersome article of actually having a record contract. There was probably a two and a half year period where I didn’t work a day job. I existed with what we made on the road and we were paid quite well. Chicks would support me - and that’s a horrible thing to say - but it’s true. I became very well known: you show up after a show with some Chinese food, a six pack, some cigarettes and Valentine is yours!
The first time we played the Whisky (a Go Go)...my drummer and I walked into the bathroom and there’s three guys in there, doing blow off the toilet. One of the guys lifts his head up and says “Hey dudes!” It’s Steven Adler with big, huge bits of coke hanging out his nose. Little did we know that 20 years later we’d see him on Dr. Drew.
Watching the guys in Tora Tora totally cut this chick with a look like you’re just lower than a piece of shit because all they wanted to do was sit around and talk guitars and the blues. These little 18, 19 year old kids. I have lots of stories like that.
BBG!: Oh, Valentine. I bet in 1988, you didn’t think that 20 years later you’d be talking on the phone to a nut job that runs a Glam website.
Valentine: Well, I wouldn’t say you are a nut job. I’ve talked to some real nut jobs, believe me. I used to get phone calls at 12, 1 at night that wanted to interview us for newspapers. That was the media we had then...papers like The Recycler. Things that were steps down from Rolling Stone, but helped get everyone out there. We had the DIY version of everything. Metallica got huge because of tape trading. Now you can look at downloading as the same thing. It just kills me when I think about Lars (Ulrich, Metallica) and the whole downloading thing. It’s like “Wait a minute, fucker. Your band wouldn’t be where it’s at if it wasn’t for this 14 year old kid having a sixth generation tape to send to someone else in Germany, you know?”
BBG!: So do you support downloading?
Valentine: I know how you feel. I’ve got mixed feelings...I can see from a fan’s point of view when they don’t want to spend 20 bucks on a full CD when ¾ of it is crap or they are not interested in...and they only want three songs. I can understand downloading. From an artist point of view, though, I want to get paid. An album is nothing more than a moment in time. It’s where an artist is at that point in their lives, and I think that is how people should take it. People shouldn’t think one album is the end-all, be-all. It’s like Axl Rose taking 15 years to make Chinese Democracy. That’s not where he is today. That’s where he was in 1998, or 2002.
BBG!: You have other music interests outside T.Y.R. – tell me about those.
Valentine: I left T.Y.R. to join the band Northrup, their singer was Johnny Edwards and he left the band to join Foreigner. Northrup had a spec deal with Geffen Records - that didn’t pan out. We played together for about six months and then Jeff Northrup disbanded the group. He’s played with Terry from XYZ, Paul Shortino... Anyway, I left Northrup. One of the famous last conversations I had with Jeff was him telling me I’ll never be a rock star, never get signed. Two months later I signed with Mike Varney of Shrapnel Records. When I was with Shrapnel, we put in a year and half putting together a band. Shrapnel is predominantly a guitar-oriented label and Mike Varney wanted a band that could compete – something like Southgang. So, we finally put a band together with some people from Minnesota, Oklahoma...and we kept writing at Prairie Sun Studios. That’s where I got my education that music...is a business. That’s how I learned that a song might be the greatest fucking song in the world, but that doesn’t mean I won’t have to rewrite it 20 times because the label says, “No, it’s not what we want.” I reached a point one day where I pulled my waist length hair into a ponytail, looked at my wife and said “Cut if off.” And I cut off my hair and I quit the music business. That lasted three years...then I played in some cover bands. I moved back to California as I’d been living in the Midwest. Back in California I hooked back up with Kevin St. James, the drummer for T.Y.R. He and I were in a punk-danceabilly band... We were in a band called Bonedance, with a bunch of really great musicians that were on the verge of getting a record deal – but we decided we wanted to play for fun. So, we took a bunch of songs from the 80s and 90s and reworked them, just like Social Distortion. If music is really a part of you...it’s really in you. I can’t imagine not being able to perform and sing. Luckily I was born with just a little talent and ability. You know, what people hear on All Comes Down to You just really scratches the surface. I’ve performed with symphonies. I’ve done quite a bit in theatre. I’ve really followed that...and that’s what I’m doing now. I do a lot of theatre in the Midwest. I’m involved in a community theatre that puts on some really superb shows. Now I’ve got a one year old son that needs to learn how to sing and play guitar!
BBG!: Ok, this has been bugging me. Why the initials T.Y.R. over the name Tonight You Rock?
Valentine: That’s a story in itself! Gregg Michaels started the band as Tyr (tear). Tyr was a Norse god of war or thunder or rock or some shit... Anyway, when Gregg and I got together – it was a cover band. The first time I saw Gregg Michaels play, he did the solo from “Bark at the Moon” and I looked at my then- girlfriend and said “I should be singing with that band.” So, we got together. We met at my work. I was working at a porno bookstore at the time – so amid all the pictures of cocks and tits, T.Y.R. was born! So yeah, we got together, wrote, were completely locked into what we wanted to do. So, we started playing as Tyr. Everywhere we went, it was mispronounced. People called us “Tire” or just asked “What does Tyr mean?” We would just say “The Young Rebels,” or “Tight Young Rectums.” Anyway, we played a gig in Los Angeles, the announcer asked the name of the band. I said “Tyr. T-Y-R, Tyr.” So, he announced us and says “All the way from San Francisco, T-Y-R!” And we just said “Fuck it, we’ll go with it.” So, we just had to determine what it stood for. Gregg kept saying “The Young Rebels” and I told him that was lame so we just decided it would be “Tonight You Rock.”
You can purchase All Comes Down to You by Tonight You Rock by clicking here.