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Hail Caesar!: An Exclusive Interview With RON YOUNG Of LITTLE CAESAR

By Ruben Mosqueda, Contibutor
Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 8:37 AM


"We got involved with people with egos and frankly everything that could go wrong with us on the business end of things did go wrong."

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Singer Ron Young just got back in the United States from a tour of Europe with his band LITTLE CAESAR. The band is a about to release their 8th recording titled Eight via Golden Robot Records on March 16th, 2018. Ron spoke with KNAC.COM on March 15th on the eve of the album’s release date. “I’m so thankful to talk to KNAC, I have such a great relationship with KNAC. They helped launch the band and got us airplay back in the day. I love Junkman and Long Paul. Thank you for talking to me.” The singer goes on to say that there’s a fair amount of interest in LITTLE CAESAR in 2018. “You’re not going to believe this but I’ve done more interviews for Eight than I ever did for the Little Caesar record.” Young has been keeping the spirit of LITTLE CAESAR alive over the years by releasing studio records and album, “ I have been releasing records when and where I can. We do this for the love of the music. I didn’t have the energy to look for someone to release the albums, I just did it myself. Until we spoke with Golden Robot Records, I’m really excited to work with them, because they get it.”

KNAC.COM: I remember picking up the LITTLE CAESAR EP Name Your Poison at this indie record store in Portland, Oregon called Dudley’s. There was this creepy old dude behind the counter and I had to ask him to get the album from behind the counter. He gave me this really strange look and said “this?!” I guess he wasn’t a fan of the artwork? He put the CD in their trademark pink paper bags.

YOUNG: [laughs] He was sanitizing it for your protection! [laughs]

KNAC.COM: The production on Name Your Poison was handled by Joe Hardy who is known for his work with ZZ TOP and Steve Earle. How did you land him to work on that material?

YOUNG: Well, we were fans of his work so that was one reason we got him. The thing with working with guys like Jimmy Iovine or John Kalodner is that when you’re linked to them, people will take your calls! [laughs] They don’t want to piss off powerful guys in the industry. So we sent Joe some demos and he checked them out. If you remember back at that time there weren’t a lot of ‘bluesy’ rock bands that had the support of the record label. It was more of the ‘hair metal’ kind of thing and he wasn’t a fan of that stuff.

Joe as you said worked with ZZ TOP and Steve Earle and here was no way a guy like that was going to work with bands like POISON or WARRANT. We wanted him to do the debut record but we actually wound up working with Bob Rock as a compromise between us and John Kalodner; it turned out to be a slick sounding record.

We went to Memphis at Ardent [Studios] to meet with Joe and he was just a super good guy. Joe totally got the band and he was super fun to work with, but Geffen [Records] didn't care for what we had come up with. So they had decided that they would ‘let’ us put out an EP from the material that we had recorded. The Name Your Poison was a totally contrived thing, man. We were trying to follow GUNS N’ ROSES; we’ll put out an EP on Metal Blade [Records] and make it look like it’s ‘organic’. It wasn’t! [laughs] It was totally contrived! [laughs] We felt that this was a great opportunity to introduce the band then we’d follow it up with the debut album.

KNAC.COM: I can’t imagine that you [the band] selected Bob Rock to produce the album? At that point he was best known for his work on [MOTLEY CRUE’s] Dr. Feelgood and [THE CULT’s] Sonic Temple.

YOUNG: We wanted a guy like Joe Hardy, that was more us.

We were about ½ done tracking the Little Ceasar record when Dr. Feelgood went to number one and it went from Bob Rock making a ‘CAESAR record’ to CAESAR making a ‘Bob Rock record’. We had these big fights over what the record was sounding like and it wasn’t what we wanted.

We were getting ready to go up to work with Bob Rock [in Vancouver] when John Kalodner and Bob got into a fight over BLUE MURDER. John wanted Bob to get back into the studio with them and we just sat around with our thumbs up our asses when that got resolved. There were all of these spats and fights that delayed things… Jimmy Iovine felt that if we had John Kalodner onboard working on the project we’d improve our powerbase at the label. John started to stick his two cents in and things just went ‘downhill’. I clearly remember walking down the hallways of the Geffen Records offices and he was having a little listening session in his office for the first BLUE MURDER single. So he pulls me in there and he has all the label guys in there and they’re all bobbing their heads, the song ends and they’re all like “Oh, it sounds amazing” and this and that. Then he asks me what I think. I said, “There’s no hook!” It was like I farted in church! [laughs] He looks at me as says; “What are you talking about?! Don’t you hear those drum sounds?!” I said, “Kids don’t buy drum sounds?! I don’t know what you guys think?! I mean it sounds good, but there’s no hook!” [laughs] It was from there forward that John was really angry at me. [laughs]

We got involved with people with egos and frankly everything that could go wrong with us on the business end of things did go wrong. Our label manager got fired for masturbating on his secretary, that was two week into our single release! [laughs] Three weeks into our single release David Geffen sold the label. In the meantime our records weren’t on shelves, but in a Warner Brothers warehouse and the new distributor was now BMG. So, we’re on MTV and in the stores there’s no product! As a result we drop off the charts and everything comes to a grinding halt. Then a marketing guy came along and cut budgets and the final nail in the coffin was Jimmy Iovine leaving Geffen to launch Interscope Records. David Geffen asked Jimmy if he would give the distribution to him and Jimmy said ‘no’. So all of a sudden David hates us and Jimmy didn’t have a band. It was all of these things that happened in a period of 6 weeks that pulled us into the swamp!

When you get involved with guys with egos and they hit a bump in the road, they can’t recover from it and they want to bury it. For them, it easier to bury it than to try to breathe life back into it. So away we go into the toilet, it didn’t just happen to us, it’s happened to millions of other bands.

KNAC.COM: Were you in favor of the label launching the Little Ceasar record with the cover of “Chain Of Fools”? Was it the good move or would you have gone with something else?

YOUNG: No! [laughs] I didn’t want to record it! [laughs] It’s so funny that you brought that up! “Chain Of Fools” was was the first thing we played when I first put the band together. I was sitting here in L.A. I was thinking I can’t tease up my hair I don’t look good in spandex, I don’t want to lose my goatee. I wanted to find four other guys that were gritty that looked like men! [laughs] I wanted to find guys that wanted to play bluesy, soulful music which was so far removed from the ‘pop-metal’ market that was happening at the time.

I wanted to take an Aretha Franklin song and make into a hard rock song. That’s just what we did and it stuck with us. It became our moniker. John wanted us to record it, we didn’t want to track it and then he decides to use it as the first single! It’s a great song but as a song, it’s ‘not a great song!’ [laughs] Aretha Franklin made it a great song because she’s Aretha Franklin! John kept on saying “It worked for VAN HALEN, it worked for VAN HALEN.” I was like “John, that’s VAN HALEN!” It was building momentum right out of the box. We sent people the video and the single and two weeks later things just fell apart.

We were on regular rotation with Z-Rock, they loved and supported us. When our label manager began to make an effort to break us as a Top 40 band, well then Z-Rock said “Fuck You” and we dropped from their rotation. I mean the label wanted to turn us into a pop band and two weeks later stations dropped us out of their rotation. As a I said the label manager got fired later for jerking off on his secretary. Needless to say, his judgment wasn’t great at that point in time! [laughs]

KNAC.COM: It’s funny you brought up VAN HALEN. There is a ‘Rothesque’ moment that takes place on that track where you hit that high note. Totally reminds me of David Lee.

YOUNG: [laughs] This is a great interview! You’re picking up on all of these subtle points that I love to talk about that I haven’t talked about before. We were in the studio to do vocals with Bob Rock, I went to do a scream and somehow that came out! [laughs] I’ve never, ever been able to do that again! We caught it on tape and we used it. Never again! I remember thinking at the time, “That’s so DLR! It’s unbelievable!” [laughs]

KNAC.COM: I remember the first time I heard that the hair on my arms stood at attention.

YOUNG: Yeah, me too! [laughs] That was just so unbelievable! [laughs]

KNAC.COM: By the time that Influence was issued in 1992, the line-up included Earl Slick. How did he become involved with that record and retrospect how do you feel about that album now?

YOUNG: Unfortunately, everything was in the toilet by that point. We didn’t even know if the record was going to be released. We had brought in Herbie Herbert at that point who had managed JOURNEY and SANTANA and he was very blunt with us. Things didn’t look good for us. We brought Earl into the band, everything was in disarray and I’m sure he thought “What the fuck did I just get myself into?!” We brought Howard Benson on for that record to co-produce. That was a great experience, as you know he went on to do some great records.

If you listen to my vocals on that, I was an angry, bitter dude. I even added a lyric about David Geffen and some other people. It was shortly after that I became a heroin addict for 7 years. It was the beginning of the end. As soon as we finished that record and we delivered it to them, we asked the label how they intended to promote it. They said they didn’t really have the money! We got a chance to go to Europe and we had lines around the block! 1,000 people at the shows. The European reps called the U.S. offices and said “There’s a buzz around this band!” We were offered to do The Monsters Of Rock Tour that year and Geffen wouldn't give us tour support! David wouldn’t give us $5,000 a week for tour support, it was at that point that we knew David Geffen just wanted us to go away.

Oddly enough, a year later when our records were out of print we were the band whose records were never reissued. He’s held the grudge for years. We came back from Europe we met with the label along with Herbie Herbert. We asked if they were picking up our contract? David Geffen said “Listen, I collect artists like I collect artwork. This got off to a bad start, we know there’s other labels that would sign you tomorrow, but I have to look out for my best interest. If you guys go to Atlantic or Elektra and you become successful, everything that you’ve been saying in the press will be proven true. What I’m going to do, I’m going to let you out of your contract but I’m holding you Ron Young to a ‘key man clause’ and you can submit stuff and if it’s good, great, but it won’t be called LITTLE CAESAR; if you don’t think I’m going to do it just look at Neil Young’s career. He hasn’t put out a record in 10 years because we had a fight. You tell me who you think is going to win? A billionaire or a tattooed rocker?” And that’s when I went home and smoked heroin! [laughs] That’s pretty ruthless!

KNAC.COM: You were a part of MANIC EDEN which featured Adrian Vandenberg, Rudy Sarzo and Tommy Aldridge, all who had previously played together in WHITESNAKE. In retrospect what do you think about that album and your time in MANIC EDEN?

YOUNG: Yeah, it was basically me and the WHITESNAKE guys; I’m proud of that record. JVC issued it in Japan and SPV released the album about a year later. That was really weird, because I got a call from Adrian, we were acquaintances. He said he and the guys were going to do a record with James Christian from HOUSE OF LORDS. They had done some demos and they didn’t think that he had the ‘bluesy’ feel that they were going for. They wanted a more stripped down sound than they had with WHITESNAKE. He sent me some demos and there were some really fun songs on there. We finished the songs and we went into the studio to make the record. There was a deal with JVC in Japan and Adrian had the rights to market the record outside of Japan. Adrian thought that was a great deal since it would get the record paid for and then we’d shop it with the majors in the United States.

We get the record done and they were bummed out because it wasn’t some overproduced fucking WHITESNAKE sounding record. You have to keep in mind, that kind of stuff kept going for another 10 years, they never got the ‘grunge’ thing there. They wanted a ‘classic metal’ kind of thing. It was shy of gold in Japan. Once we started shopping it with the majors here in America they were like “Nah, that’s not really what we’re into anymore.” They never even heard it! They wanted nothing to do with us based on who was in the band, they didn’t think anyone was going to buy ‘WHITESNAKE with another singer.’ It was incredible! Between the three other guys combined they’d sold 20 million records! No one would pick it up. I remember we had one meeting where this guy was like; “Okay guys we want to do things but we’re going to market it as Ron Young’s project, because you other guys are kinda dated!” I thought Adrian’s head was going to explode! [laughs] It went nowhere and everyone went their separate ways and did something else, because they all had families to feed.

KNAC.COM: Ron you have a new album Eight, I imagine you're going to promote this with live performances. Do you have any apprehension about performing alongside 80s rock acts or some of the various 80s themed festivals?

YOUNG: We do, we’ve been ‘shackled’ with this label of being a ‘hair metal’ band---we’re not. We’ve actually always tried to be the antithesis of that; there’s nothing wrong with that genre of music and the people who make it, but that’s not what we wanted to be labeled as. We got offered a record deal from Frontiers Records which is basically the home of all those bands and we passed. I don’t want to be lumped in with those bands. We do play some festivals with some of those bands, and what I have found was that music was more segmented back when it was happening. Back then POISON, PRETTY BOY FLOYD, they all looked the same and the production values were all the same. Now, the people that go to these music festivals, they are really dedicated music fans; they get the difference between us, PRETTY BOY FLOYD and JETBOY. They’ll listen to us, AD/DC or POISON because it is a fabric of their youth. Now as adults they still come out to shows because music is still very much a huge part of their lives, both socially and culturally.

Listen, we're not doing 75,000 people, but we're doing a viable business, because for these people music is still a viable part of their life. We're generally well received, because we’re not trying to stuff ourselves into spandex pants and dying our hair. We are who we are and we let the music do the talking; it’s been the mantra of the band to be honest with the fans. We take the approach with our social media like with our shows, we don't charge fans to meet us or get stuff signed. We can't try to convince you that were are larger than life---it’s bullshit. We're not a party band, I wouldn't even try to lie to fans and say that we are. There are some of our counterparts that are doing just that, I don't know how they do it! [laughs] I don't have the energy or desire for that! [laughs] God bless them.

KNAC.COM: I love that you kept to the classic formula of 10 tracks. Records that feature over 9-10 tracks tend to be filler heavy. I didn't find that to be the case with Eight. The tracks that made the cut, were they written specifically for this album?

YOUNG: They were written with the new record in mind. We haven't released a new studio album since 2012 and that was done by design. I was just tired of having the revolving guitarist in the band, we’ve had 7 guitarists in and out of the band over the years. Apache left after the first record and since then we’ve we gone through all of these guys; all great people and fantastic musicians but they do this for a living and they have other things going on. I told the guys I wasn't going to make another studio record until we have 5 contributing members in the band. We're fans of music and you can hear that in our music. There's things that sound like Angus Young, Chuck Berry or Mick Ronson, we can't help it’s who we are.

KNAC.COM: At the moment I'm really digging “21 Again”, “Mama Tried”, “Vegas” and “Crushed Velvet”.

YOUNG: Thank you. We did this record in 22 days and they weren't full days, our day started at like 5 pm when we got off work. We just needed to get a warm sound on this record and if you have the right producer and the band goes in knowing the arrangements of the songs there's no reason why you couldn't get a great sounding record in the same amount of time. If you don't overthink it or overproduce it you’ll be fine.

KNAC.COM: I think you were just describing BLUE MURDER.

YOUNG: [bursts into laughter] Listen, if that works for you fine, but all I've ever wanted to be is a black guy in a shiny suit in 1968. If I'm a white guy then I want to be Paul Rodgers or Rod Stewart or Bon Scott who worshipped the black guys in the shiney suits in 1968. That’s who they worshipped they wanted to be blues guys. They just cranked up the volume did some drugs and called it rock ‘n' roll. In the 80s all of that went away, everyone wanted to be Eddie Van Halen and they wanted to impress people with their prowess. We wondered what had happened to the songwriting. I mean “Cherry Pie” isn't going to be remembered as a lyrically inspiring song. It was great for its time. We were and still are more old school based and we’re still working at writing ‘the song’.

KNAC.COM: There's a number of songs on the album where there's a Billy Gibbons tone on them, which I haven't heard before. If I didn't know better I'd say Rev. Willie G is guesting on Eight.

YOUNG: That's a great compliment. Thank you, I'll pass that along. Loren [Molinare] our anchor guitarist who has been in the band since day one is a U.S. rep for Blackstar amps and he is an absolute tone junkie. That's part of the warm and honest sound that I was talking to you about earlier. In the 80s guitarists had this processed sound and guitarists moved away from the honest sounds of guys like Ronnie Wood or Mick Ronson.

KNAC.COM: There's a lot of stuff happening on “Mama Tried”. It’s punk rock, it's old school country, it’s rockabilly. It reminds me of…

YOUNG: SOCIAL DISTORTION doing “Ring Of Fire”? KNAC.COM: Exactly.

YOUNG: It's a Merle Haggard song! You picked up on what we were trying to do there. That's great, that was another intuitive observation. We were in rehearsal and I brought in “Mama Tried” and said “Listen to this. I want us to do to this what SOCIAL D did with “Ring Of Fire”, can we do that?” I don't think the writing credits are in the liners so unless you're an old school country fan you probably won't know, but your ear picked that up.

We were sitting around the studio one day just talking about how bad country music has gotten. It's a fucking crime! We miss the old school country guys who weren't incredible musicians but were fantastic song writers and knew how to deliver a song in story form. That's gone away and now it's this ‘hip-hop, tractor rap’ shit. So that inspired me to look through my collection and play some old school country. Merle was a guy that was in prison and he saw Johnny Cash perform while in San Quentin. He was inspired by Johnny and he later contacted him when he was released and they went on to become friends and contemporaries. That's the song written by a ‘real American outlaw.’ This isn't C.C. Deville or someone like that! [laughs] We used to do gigs with SOCIAL DISTORTION back in the day, they're an honest rock ‘n' roll band that carved out their little niche and it worked for them.

KNAC.COM: Ron can you give us a little bit of the backstory on “Vegas”?

YOUNG: Sure, I have noticed and it's been bugging me for years; it’s the ‘Kardashianization' of America. I think this has something to do why people don't follow rock ‘n' roll bands in America. It's gotten into people's psyche because everyone is trying to be a star on YouTube, the ‘duck faces’, and the ‘selfies’. There's just a lot of 'plastic' people on Instagram. If you type GUNS N’ ROSES “Sweet Child ‘O Mine” on YouTube, you're going to see several videos of people doing covers of the song before you even get to the official video! It's crazy, you'll have a clip with a woman with a huge rack that plays guitar that is getting more plays than a band like RIVAL SONS?! It strikes me as being very bizarre.

The song is about a person that lives in middle America and they decide to move away from their small town to be a star. They find that they're not quite attractive enough to be a movie star and not quite smart enough to know how to hunt! [laughs] So they wind-up in Vegas which is the horror version of L.A., which horrifying enough! [laughs] I never mention Vegas in the song. I hate that fucking town. I was stuck there for work for about 8 months and I just about put a bullet in fucking head! [laughs] It's so fake, so plastic, so greedy and misogynistic. It’s everything that I hate. [laughs] No offense to people that live there but it's not for me.

KNAC.COM: A triple bill with JUNKYARD, CIRCUS OF POWER and LITTLE CAESAR would be great show. All three bands have new music.

YOUNG: We did a tour last summer with JUNKYARD and it was a lot of fun. We shared equipment and it was great time. Funny you should mention CIRCUS OF POWER because now that they are up and running again we've mentioned doing something with them. I think that would be a great and undeniable rock tour.

KNAC.COM: Last thing Ron, LITTLE CAESAR got to open for KISS on the Hot In The Shade Tour. What was that experience like for you?

YOUNG: We went out with them for like 6-7 weeks through the Midwest and the Northeast. Being around Gene Simmons for 6 weeks was a weird exercise in observing a larger than life character control the universe. It was a lot of fun, but strange. This was pre-internet era and we were often times going on before the tickets even said the doors were open! Gene would come up to me and say stuff like “Hey man, you need to shave the goatee and drop that ‘blue collar’ shit. You guys need to be larger than life.” What he was doing was setting us up to kick us off the tour because once WINGER left the tour ticket sales went into the toilet. We replaced WINGER for the rest of the tour. I think the best line was when Gene called Jimmy Iovine and said “Jimmy I need to pull your boys from the tour. They're going over like pork chops at a bar mitzvah!” [laughs] That's a great fucking line! [laughs] Which was untrue because as the reviews began to show up the reviewers would say how much of an honest band we were. They just wanted us off to get WINGER back. They were cancelling shows because the ticket sales were so soft.

KNAC.COM: Kind of ironic that Gene was pointing out the ‘blue collar’ look and the goatee because that's what KISS did for the following record. Gene even grew a goatee!

YOUNG: [bursts into laughter] Dude, that was hysterical wasn’t it?! I remember running into him 3 months later at The Rainbow [Bar And Grill] I said “Gene, how you doing? What’s with the goatee, dude? Do you remember telling me to shave it off?!” He replied, “Well, if you can't beat them join ‘em!” [laughs]

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