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
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
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
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
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
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
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: