‘Blackout in the Red Room’ is 25 years old this year, which is freakish to me because it makes me feel very old. But it also makes me feel young because the record still sounds fresh and as good as it did back then. And people are still enjoying it, so it’s a pleasure for me to be able to come out to the UK and celebrate it with the fans later this year.
We did our first in-store in the UK when the record first came out, and anybody who’s seen the movie Spinal Tap can understand why we were worrying about no-one coming out. That’s always in the back of your mind when you’re a band starting out. You have no idea!
I remember we were walking through a park and girl came up to us and asked if we’d sign her cigarette packet. Her hand was shaking, and I thought she was a drug addict or something, but she was just nervous to meet us. That never dawned on me back then, that’s how naïve and innocent everything was. Anyway, we turned the corner on our way to the record store and there was this huge line of people queuing around the block, and it was just the greatest feeling in the world.
The record was received extremely well in the UK. Other places liked it too, obviously, but the response was really special over here. I think we won ‘Best Album of the Year’ from Metal Hammer that year as well. It was like going from nobody liking you to everybody liking you in warp speed; it went from 0-10 quite fast, and the English press had a lot to do with that. We were very embraced as a band over here after Blackout In The Red Room came out. It was a very special time in our lives and to be here 25 years later, still talking about it, is pretty amazing.
As you get older as a musician you learn to appreciate the fact that you’re still able to do what you do. A lot of my friends have fallen by the wayside, just because either they gave up or they’re disillusioned, or they feel like music screwed them over. Music is just there, you know. It’s up to you to get out there and hustle and make it happen. Music doesn’t owe you a career or a paycheck, or anything like that. So I’m blessed that I still get to do this at a professional level. And these are the songs that I’m most fond of playing…
BLACKOUT IN THE RED ROOM (Blackout in the Red Room, 1990)
I remember Skid [Rose] bringing this song into rehearsal, and it was just so easy. There were some partially written lyrics, and I basically just finished the verses. As a songwriter, the ones that come the easiest are usually the best, and this song came together really, really fast. We played it for hours, and it’s only a two and a half minute song so that’s a lot of repetitions. I don’t know how it ended up being the title track of the record, but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time.
ONE MORE ROUND (Blackout in the Red Room, 1990)
This was a drinking song for sure. The Blackout record has been criticised and categorised as a drinking record and a pot record, but at the time we were young and we were partying and having a good time, so that ended up being what the subject matter was. I don’t think that bands could get away with that now though, because of the Internet and YouTube and stuff like that. It’s all a lot more intrusive into musicians’ private lives today, and you can’t get away with anything anymore. Back in the day 25 years ago, you’d go and see a band and they’d be up there wasted as hell. But it was cool back then, and everyone did it. If you did that now you’d be a bum. I just assume these days that every time I’m up on stage I’m going to be filmed, so I take that into consideration when I play. I don’t know if that makes things better or worse, but it is what it is. It’s crazy, man!
SPIT (Wasted in America, 1992)
We decided that we wanted to go to New York for the second album to record in a different location, so we rented a loft in New York City and lived there for three months whilst we made it. It was a great experience, and the New York rock scene was completely happening at that time. You could go out every night and drink until 4am, which is what we did. It almost got to the point where making the record was a distraction from all the good times that were to be had, but it turned out good and there are a lot of great songs on there. It’s not my first love though. The Blackout record was the first, and although Wasted in America was good it just didn’t have that same special place in our heart. But it’s still a valid record, and I’ll probably end up doing a 25th or 30th anniversary tour of that one. If I live that long!
FUEL TO RUN (Blackout in the Red Room, 1990)
Both One More Round and Fuel to Run were lyrically based on a movie that we were watching at the time called Barfly, about the author Charles Bukowski. I ended up emulating him when I started to become an author myself, and some of the lyrics to this song are just taken verbatim from the movie. They’re just drinking songs that really touched a nerve in the UK for some reason. The punters still sing along like they did back then, and it’s just the greatest feeling.
MARY JANE (Blackout in the Red Room, 1990)
Mary Jane is obviously a pot song about getting high, which we did a lot back then. I quit smoking weed so many years ago now, so when I talk about it I just don’t have the same frame of reference as I did when I was a pot smoker. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think the song is great and I don’t love it, because I do. Smoking dope got us through the poverty and the despair, and the not getting signed and the record labels hating us. It was a really good way to keep the band together, and it helped us focus on the positive rather than everyone telling us that we sucked. It took us years of living together before we got our record deal – it didn’t just happen overnight – and weed helped us get through that long slog together as a band.
SPINNING WHEEL (Let’s Rumble, 1993)
By the third record, times had changed and the whole musical climate was veering towards the Seattle grunge sound. Music is cyclical though. Hard rock comes and goes. It always comes back into vogue, but there’s always a flavour of the month too, and at that point it was the Alice In Chains thing. If you weren’t that then you were instantly un-cool. We were still popular at that time though, and nobody wanted to give up except for our guitar player who quit, so we carried on without him. We wrote a new batch of songs for a third record, and Spinning Wheel was one of them. It’s one of my favourite songs because it’s simple – there’s only like four chords throughout the whole thing – and it was a popular song that helped us keep doing our thing during that weird transition time.
TUMBLEWEED (Blackout in the Red Room, 1990)
This song is about being an outcast. It’s about being alone. Back then, we really had to struggle to remain positive when we didn’t have a lot of money and record companies were turning us down. It was rough, and hard at times to not give up. Tumbleweed is about being an outcast from society, and being on the outside looking in.
SHE’S AN ANGEL (Blackout in the Red Room, 1990)
An earlier version of this song appeared with different lyrics on the soundtrack to one of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies. I actually heard it the other day. I hadn’t heard it in years and I thought, ‘This is terrible.’ When we re-recorded it for the record we made it better. We cleaned it up a little bit to the version that’s on the record, and it’s a very popular song. It’s a good song, too. We put it out as a single, and back then we had it written in our contact that we had a say in what our singles would be. So we obviously liked it.
STRAIGHTJACKET (Blackout in the Red Room, 1990)
This is a crazy, out of control song. It’s about being out of control and partying. Those early days were very liquor-fuelled, and boys will be boys. Every band fights all the time and we were no exception. We had our conflicts, but it never got to the point where anyone wanted to leave the band. We kept it together for a long time even with all the conflict, because the band was the most important thing in our lives. And then as we all got older and started getting married and having kids, the band stopped being the most important thing in our lives and we eventually broke up. These days on tour it’s strictly business. I do the gig, have a glass of wine and then I go to bed. There are no more orgies. But back in the ‘90s it was full on. It was like ancient Rome every night. It was a good time to be young and full of testosterone, for sure. I think that a lot of bands come out now thinking that they’re going to have the same experience as bands from the past, just because that’s what they were brought up on and that’s part of the fantasy. But it isn’t like that anymore. Bands don’t get to do what we got to do. They don’t get to experience the rock ‘n’ roll fantasy: the hammer of the gods, the Alpha and the Omega. And that’s a shame. But it’ll never be like that again.
WASTED IN AMERICA (Wasted in America, 1992)
Back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the Sunset Strip on West Hollywood was an amazing community of people. You could go out every single night and see live music – seven days a week. You could go to the Strip any given night and there’d be thousands of people walking down there networking, and handing out flyers about their band. Everyone would be dressed up to the nines, and there was electricity in the air because at that time in history it felt like the Sunset Strip was the most happening spot on earth. It was Guns N’ Roses, it was Faster Pussycat, it was LA Guns – it was the place to be. And it was the right place at the right time for bands to do their thing and get a record deal. Then it changed, and the city just got tired of all the longhairs, so they started to legislate and made it impossible to flyer your band. The cops would pull people over right and left, and it became way more of a Police State because after a couple of years of 24-hour partying the city had had enough. So Wasted In America is a commentary on the times and that generation. It’s similar to what Baba O’Reily was to The Who. Same thing. And it’s my favourite song off the second record.
WHY DO YOU THINK THEY CALL IT DOPE? (Blackout in the Red Room, 1990)
Obviously this is a pro-drug song, but whenever people would interview me they’d say how great it was that we’d done this anti-drug song, because this was around the ‘Just Say No’ time in the US. I’d just nod my head and say yes. What else was I supposed to say? So they’d play the video with all the green imagery in the background, and I’d sit there and chuckle. It was so obvious what we were really saying. But that song sticks out because it’s just so different with the bassline and song structure and everything. When it came out a lot of people didn’t really know what to make of it. But it’s really lasted the test of time and I still love it, even though I don’t indulge anymore.
Jizzy Pearl was talking to Matt Stocks. Jizzy Pearl’s Love/Hate will tour the UK in November. For more information, visit his official website.