Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A Ripple Conversation with Chris Taylor, vocalist, guitar player for Blue Snaggletooth

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.

What have been your musical epiphany moments?

Some of my earliest musical memories are of my Mom driving me to pre school blasting the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. We would sing along to the radio together. The neighbor kids also had Kiss Alive I and II and we would rock out to those albums almost everyday after school. Their father would even paint our faces like our favorite members of Kiss, mine was Gene, and we would leap around their bedroom with broomstick guitars dreaming about being rock stars. My Dad did not approve of the face paint at all!

A huge musical epiphany for me happened when I first heard the Stooges. I was 13 and I had just gotten into punk rock. I was listening to the Sex Pistols covering the song “No Fun”. An older friend stopped by and noticing my music selection, told me I had to hear the real deal. He ran out to his car and brought back the first Stooges album on cassette. It blew my mind. I had a guitar at that point but hadn't gotten very far with it. Ron Asheton’s guitar tone and approach to playing changed the way I thought about playing guitar and writing songs. While all my friends were trying to learn to play super fast arpeggios and metal licks, I was into playing super simple heavy sludgy groovy riffs and feedback solos. Later I switched to bass and vocals. At that point I was listening to a tone of Black Sabbath. When I learned the song Rat Salad off Paranoid it was like a key that unlocked that whole album. That was like a lightbulb going off in my head.

The sounds of the Stooges and Black Sabbath are never far from my mind when I’m playing and writing music.

Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?

The song ideas usually start off with a riff or two brought in by one of us. Then the band will work them out and I will finish it off with a vocal part and lyrics. Sometimes one of us will bring in a mostly complete song that doesn’t need much work.

Who has influenced you the most? 

The Stooges, Blue Cheer, The MC5, Radio Birdman and Black Sabbath.

Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?

The best inspiration for me comes from right at the beginning of band rehearsal, when I first plug in my guitar and feel that initial excitement like when I was a kid. Usually the first riff or guitar noodle I play will lead me to something that becomes a song. I try to not listen to too much contemporary music or what other bands are doing. I don’t want it to seep into my own music. Most of the music I listen to is old classic stuff.

For lyrics and song ideas I get inspired by the books or comic books that I’m currently reading.

We're all a product of our environment. Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music?

Ann Arbor is the home of the Stooges. Like I said, growing up here, they were a huge influence on my friends and I. Many nights in our youth were spent driving around back roads, smoking weed, listening to the Fun House and mythologizing the Stooges and the MC5. Ann Arbor is also home to the University of Michigan so although it’s a small town, it has a cosmopolitan feel and a diverse make up of people.

Where'd the band name come from? 

The band name comes from my love of Star Wars. The name Blue Snaggletooth is borrowed from one of the most rare Kenner Star Wars action figures. The character was supposed to be short with a red suit, but due to an error and lack of production photos, the figure was molded tall with a blue suit and silver boots. This version of the figure was only available in 1978 included as part of a Sears exclusive set and was discontinued and replaced with the short red version of the character.
At one point before Blue Snaggletooth got going, my wife and I were going to start a group she wanted to call “Blue Unicorn”, but when that didn’t happen I thought about the name Blue Snaggletooth and that it would be good name for a stoner rock outfit.

Tell us about witchcraft, what it means to you and your life?

I’m not really into religions or any of that sort of stuff. The band Witchcraft is awesome though!

You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?

Would love to score a classic biker movie like the Wild Angles, or a crazy sci-fi movie like Star Crash.

You now write for a music publication (The Ripple Effect?). You're going to write a 1,000 word essay on one song. Which would it be and why?

Third Stone from the Sun by The Jimi Hendrix Experience. I love that song. It transports me to another head space. I love the mellow intro and goofy extraterrestrial voice over. Hendrix's use of feedback and the strat dive-bombs through the middle till the end of the song are pure guitar tone gold. I also love the main guitar melody and the bass line.

What is you musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?

I want the audience to feel like they can let go and escape the day to day doldrums. When they listen to our songs I want the listener to take a break from whatever is bothering them or worrying them and to allow the music to take over.

I want them to get the same feeling I have when I hear music that moves me. I’m not sure how to explain that feeling but you know it when you hear / feel it. I want the music to make the listener feel empowered and on top of the world.

Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?

Once I was leaping around on stage in total Pete Townsend mode and I started swinging my guitar around by the strap. Well that wasn’t such a good idea as the guitar headstock came down and smacked the stage and busted the neck and then came up and hit me square in the face.

Tell us about playing live and the live experience for you and for your fans? 

Playing live is like an electric shock to my brain. Everything is going light speed and slow motion at the same time. I totally zone out sometimes and don't realize it until after it’s over. The fans seem to enjoy it because they can tell we’re having a good time and getting into it.

What makes a great song?

How can I answer that? The song has to move you emotionally in some way. Good clear vocals with relatable lyrics. A killer riff, a great drum part. These things make up a good song for me.

Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?

At the time I was the singer in my first band in high school. The song was a silly Misfits inspired punk rock song called “Student Bodies” that the guitar player and I wrote. I ripped off the first lyric line from Bobcat Goldthwait. It was some line he spouted off in the 2nd Police Academy movie.

What piece of your music are particularly proud of?

I’m really proud of all the Snaggle music. Especially the new stuff because we’re all contributing something and it’s been a real collaboration. I guess if I had to single out one tune it would be “The Last Voyage of Amra” off our latest EP by the same name. The song has been evolving for a long time and it’s one of our more complicated songs. I am really happy with how the recording turned out.

Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?

There are a ton of groups writing killer jams these days. Our good pals BoneHawk are really great. I love their dual guitar harmony stuff.

There are way to many groups to list.

Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice? 

Whatever works. I love listening to vinyl most and I love the packaging. Digital is great because it’s easy and on the go.

Whiskey or beer? And defend your choice 

I’m not a big drinker. I like beer at rehearsal or during a gig. The other Snaggle dudes like all kinds of drinks and craft beers. I prefer some sinsemilla

We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?

Ann Arbor is our home town. You should check out these bands. Human Skull, Wizard Union, Wild Savages, Disinformants, Superthing, and Junglefowl. There are 3 record stores to check out, Encore records, Underground sounds, and Wazoo. They are all within several blocks of each other and each offer something special and different.

What's next for the band? 

We’ve got some songs coming out on Ripple Music on The Second Coming of Heavy Vol. 4, and some other comps. Other then that we’ll be playing gigs, and working on writing our 3rd album.

Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?

Thanks for the support!

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