The New Czars
By Dave Schwartz
Photo by Neil Zlozower

The New Czars is a new band from Los Angeles.  Guitarist Greg Hampton along with bassist Paul Ill and drummer David ďChili" Moreno have united to record an eclectic group of songs.  The record, "Doomsday Revolution," was released on September 14th.

Recently Greg Hampton called and we had a chance to talk about all things, well, all things Hampton actually.  Heís an interesting guy with an amazing depth of knowledge and musical ability.  All this combines to make a fascinating interview.  Speaking of interviews, it went something like this: 

DB:  Hi Greg.  Thanks for calling that time from your busy schedule to call.  First of all, congratulations on the new record, "Doomsday Revolution."  Iím real excited about it and I bet you are too.

GH:  Yes I am.  Itís been a hell of a ride to get this far. 

DB:  What do you mean?  It sounds like youíre saying that this was a struggle for you to get this record out.

GH:  Well, no.  Itís been interesting because this has been a very liberating experience as far as the creative process.  I was given free rein,  anything that I wanted to do was completely my call.  So it wasnít like if I was producing Alice Cooper or working with Bootsy Collins where there are certain limitations.  You know, a heritage that you have to abide by and certain ground rules.  In this particular project, it was my record and I could call all of the shoots, have any musical style I wanted. 

DB:  Now youíve already alluded to the fact that youíve worked with many other artists in many capacities, but that work has all lead you to this, The New Czars' record.  How did that come about? 

GH:  Iíve been friends with the owner of Samson Records for a long time.  I was in the middle of doing the Lita Ford record and he and I started talking.  Danny Carey has a side project called Volto! and they were playing in Hollywood one night.  My friend called me and asked that I meet him down there.  I mean I didnít even know the band existed.  So went down and met him (the Samson Records executive) and he asked what I was doing.  I told him about Alice Cooper and Lita Ford and he asked if I was interested in making some music or a record.  I was interested.  He and I are both fans of eclectic music, progressive music.  He loves King Crimson and Ramstein and lots of different types of music like I do.  We had similar interests in music and he wanted to know if I wanted to make a record.  I said sure!  I had a body of material that I had been stockpiling,  you know, things that were not appropriate for certain artists.  These were songs that were more progressive or industrial or instrumentals.  I mean, for some artists that stuff just doesnít work, you canít have an instrumental on an Alice Cooper record--   Iím thinking a fusion track on an Alice Cooper record might not work either!

DB:  At this point Iím shying away from asking my next question.  Admittedly itís a bit candid, I was going to ask how "Doomsday Revolution" is different from your past work, but your history has been so diverse that it may not be a relevant question.  Your background is so broad.  Perhaps the proper question would be why did you choose to do something that is slightly more progressive, slightly more metal?

GH:  When I was a kid I was influenced by so many styles of music.  Tommy Bolan was one of my biggest influences.  I love Todd Rundgren, Deep Purple, Aerosmith, ZeppelinÖ  RUSH was extremely progressive.  That was the thing that I latched onto.  There were so many progressive bands out there at one time, bands like Gentle Giant and I saw those bands as a kid.  I was fortunate enough to go to all those concerts between the ages of 9-13.  I remember RUSH because they were heavier and more guitar oriented, but they were progressive too.  That was the kind of thing that really stuck in my mind.  YES was cool, but they were pretty keyboard heavy.  I met Rick Wakeman when I was a little kid.  I got to attend their sound check once, tt was the tour where Wakeman returned to the band after being away for a while.  So I thought all of that was cool, but RUSH was the stuff,  I mean their songs, still to this day I think that certain songs are a huge influence. 

DB:  You know, In all of the interviews that Iíve done I think you íre the first person to come up and call RUSH an influence.  Like you, I am a big fan.  I know Iíve seen them nearly 20 times.  I first saw them on the "Farewell to Kings" tour. 

GH:  Oh man!  And that live album that came out just before thatÖ  I mean that album was nuts! 

DB:  I think people look at RUSH today and say, you know, itís classic rock and nice background music, but they were so innovative back in their day.  The odd meters and their ability to transfer melodies between the three instruments or and members.  All of that sound coming from three people.  It was amazing. 

GH:  Geddy Lee, dude!  His singing and playing all the weird time signatures while singing over that?  Are you kidding me? 

DB:  Sure, playing the bass, the keyboard, and foot pedals in odd meter, all while singing.  Insanity!

GH:  Iím telling you, they were amazing and they still are.  Have you seen that new documentary?  Itís killer that they were able to go all the way back to the beginning with the band and show everyone where this great music came from. 

DB:  I agree, but you know what, were here to talk about you!

GH:  Oh, thatís right, I forgot! 

DB:  Itís interesting that you have love for progressive music, but you end up working with Bootsy Collins.  And Buckethead?  You were in a band with Bootsy AND Buckethead?  There are some dots there that need to be connected. 

GH:  It definitely was interesting.  I had initially approached Bootsy about doing an old school funk record.  I was a big fan of the Funky Grooves in the '70s and I remembered seeing the "Maggot Brain" (Funkadelic - 1971) cover.  I was in the sixth grade I think and one of our neighbors had the record.  I was like, wow!  And then I heard the Eddie Hazel guitar solo, it was this whole Hendrix thing.  So I was really into that in the '70s.  It wasnít funk like the Commodores or the Temptations, this was like rock and roll!  So Bootsy and I had some mutual friends over the years through the Funkadelic camp so I approached him about doing an old school funk record.  Bootsy told me that he really wasnít into it.  He said that he wanted to work with me, but he wanted to do something more modern. 

At that point I told Bootsy about some modern rock things that I had written for soundtrack submissions.  So I sent him three to four pieces I guess and heís like, (Bootsy imitation) "Whoís the singer on that baby?"  So I said that itís me and thatís sort of what I used to do before I became a full time producer.  And Bootsy said, "Well youíre our new singer.  What do you think about that?"  I asked who else was in the band and he told me Buckethead and Brain (drummer, Bryon ďBrainď Mantia).  I love those guys, so the next thing you know were exchanging ideas and then he came out here to Southern California.  We would play with different riffs and I would make arrangements here in my studio.  Later I would fly out to where he lives, in Cincinnati. 

That all became the band Science Faxtion.  It was some futuristic stuff.  A lot of it was based on the "Age of Spiritual Machines" by Ray Kurzweil.  It was set in 2099 where there were half-man cyborgs.  The album was met with mixed reviews.  We wrote something like 45 or 50 songs for the album, recorded 23 and finished like 17. 

DB:  It would be interesting to see if more of those songs ever see the light of day. 

GH:  I donít think it will happen.  Weíve all sorta moved on.  If they do I would be surprised.  That album was really a moment in time.  Everyone from the band are all into their own thing.  I mean Iíll admit that most of us musicians are really quite self-absorbed! 

DB:  I understand!  At the same time, just from this interview you come across as a very busy guy. 

GH:  I hear you and I would just like to say that Iíve been very fortunate.

DB:  I agree, there are a lot of starving artists in this industry.  It must be nice to be multi-talented and be able to work so many environments.  So I anticipate that you handled all of the production duties on this new record, "Doomsday Revolution"? 

GH:  Yeah, I did.  Again, with my catalog of ideas.  I mean a lot of my weird ideas wouldnít fit onto some of the other albums that Iíve been producing.  And to be honest I was kind of sandbagging a few of the songs!  Besides some of these weird time changes that I do arenít going to work for Lita Ford or Alice Cooper. 

DB:  The research that I did for this interview left me with the understanding that you started this album as a project and somewhere along the way it became a band. 

GH:  Well, Paul Ill and I worked together in Razor Ball.  That was kind of a one album thing.  So met back then.  He was the first guy I approached.  This was still in the middle of working on the Lita Ford record.  I reminded him that we saw each other at NAMM 2009 and that I had a project that I was going to start.  I told him that I would be in touch when I finished Lita Ford.  Her record took longer than I anticipated, but literally the day I returned from Florida I called Paul.  So we got together.  Then I called Adrian (ex-King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew).  We talked about Adrian getting involved in some capacity.  Weíve been talking about working together for a long time.  Iíve always wanted to work with him.  Iím just so impressed with his depth.  Heís so brilliant, a genius, and a great person too.  And the last guy I called was drummer David ďChiliĒ Moreno.  I brought him in because he is such a great rock drummer. 

DB:  You mentioned that Adrian Belew makes an appearance on this record.  Thatís a name I havenít heard I a while and a bit of a surprise.  How many songs did he play on and how did all that come about? 

GH:  Of the 24 or 25 songs that we cut Adrian played on 10 or 11 I think.  I just called him.  The songs that I had been cataloging were mostly progressive ideas and some of them had a Crimson flavor or maybe RUSH or Porcupine Tree.  Iím a big fan of Porcupine Tree as well.  I saw Adrian perform down on the Sunset strip in 2007 and he was amazing. 

DB:  To me Adrian Belew has always been this guy who has been on the fringe, an absolute musical genius, but far enough removed from the mainstream that the average person never really knew or understood who he is. 

GH:  Oh yes, Adrian is very avant garde.  Thatís one of the reasons I wanted to work with him.  My background is so diverse and Iíve always had a commercial feel to my music.  I knew that he would add a twist to this record.  I wasnít intentionally trying to stay away from writing commercial songs but I also wasnít trying to confine my work within the medium of an artist that has to abide by their history or past.  So I let my muse take me where ever it went.  I mean I donít know what wouldíve happened if I woke up one morning with the burning desire to bust out the accordion.

DB:  Come on now, a little accordion in 11/8 may have been fun!.

GH:  You know if you put two bars of four in there youíll be OK.

DB:  Alright, Iím down to my last question, touring? 

GH:  Weíve been talking about that right now actually.  It used to be that we would go right out and work a record.  My day job as a producer affects our schedules, but we definitely want to go out and tour on this record.  We would like to go out with someone like Government Mule because theyíre some of our dearest friends.  And there are other bands that we would like to go out with as well.  Weíve been debating touring and certainly a tour of Europe is part of the discussion.  We donít just want to release the record and then just walk away. 

I want to thank Greg Hampton for calling me and giving such a fun interview.  I look forward to catching The New Czars when they come to Phoenix.  Until then check out the band and "Doomsday Revolution" at the following: 

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