Part teen idol and part rock star…. Marc Bolan was glam’s answer to Beatlemania. He had the swagger that rock stars only dream about and the presence of a young movie star. His life was unexpectedly cut short due to an auto accident in September of 1977 while driving home from a night of frolic and merriment. The accident occurred two weeks before his 30th birthday and he was killed instantly when the car he was in hit a tree. During many interviews he would elude to the belief that his life would be short and would never grow old. His fear of aging was his motivation to always evolve as a musician and entertainer.
It’s certainly no hagiography; Bolan was hard to love unless you were actually in love with him, which most people were – including and especially himself. He was self-obsessed, narcissistic and cynical about his success. But he was also undeniably brilliant, a true original whose influences ranged from Ravi Shankar to JRR Tolkien. David Bowie was one of his closest friends and they shared the same manager for a number of years. Bolan rethought what it meant to be immortal long before everyone else did. When preforming he was almost hypnotically beautiful and he had written a slew of fuckin’ great songs taboot! His former publicist puts it well: “It’s easy to underestimate him because he overestimated himself.” Urban legend claims that he had followed the late Eddie Cochran from gig to gig offering to carry his guitar…It twas’ Cochran’s final show in London and while driving in a taxi he would be killed in an auto accident … This was how Bolan wanted to go…and he did…
Seattle rock and roll stalwarts, STAG have this cohesive atmosphere with an unhinged symbiosis of glam and punk rock. No, it’s not like the New York Dolls or Mott The Hoople…they are seductively silly and that’s why we love them…. Their recent E.P. “Electric Mistress” prances with undeniable swagger and hip-grinding phantasmagoria that varies in tones from the sultry to fluffy nursery-rhyme surrealism. It romp like nobody’s fuckin’ business! The title track, “Electric Mistress” is painted with neon tapestries of sultry street life and wavy dream confections.
We were lucky to have Steve Mack… singer in STAG answer a few ferocious questions..
Rock Bands of L.A.com: Young music fans .. are out of touch with the “Glam” movement.. They forget Bowie… Roxy Music … T-Rex.. and Slade…. All British! Did you set out to be a glam band??? And of all places Seattle??? Where were you brought up? What music were you raised on as kid?
Steve Mack:Well… no, we didn’t set out to be a glam band. But we all grew up on British invasion stuff and we’re all voracious music fans, with wide musical tastes. All of us have been in bands since the early 80s, and originally got together just to have some fun. We knocked around some power pop covers and started writing together. Or, I should say, Ben London our guitarist started bringing songs in for us to work on. It became pretty obvious what our aesthetic was going to be. Start with The Who, add some Cheap Trick, work in a little glam, a dash of humor, and a dedication to strong hooks, and presto – you get Stag.
From time to time we mine a particular vein of guitar rock and lately glam has been coming on strong. It started off with The Bedazzler. Ben brought this pretty silly song to rehearsal, but with killer lyrics. I loved the slightly creepy aspect to them. But it wasn’t really going anywhere, it was more of a joke, until one rehearsal we were jamming on it a bit, and Ben came up with the riff in the coda. That took it to a completely new place. Then we added the power chords at the start. And then… the brass in the studio was the final ingredient. I wanted the end to be like the Stooges, discordant and really noisy… and then of course it resolves, coming back full circle to the start of the song. Honestly, it just took on a life of it’s own. Sometimes you’re just channeling what the universe wants you to do.
“Electric Mistress” was a bit of a follow up, coming from the same sort of shuffle-beat start, but it’s a lot more playful. The Bolan vibe was strong, so we decided to just go with it in the studio, with the backing vocals, the double tracked lead vocal… all the tricks. That’s John Roderick of the Long Winters on harmony – I specifically wanted his nasal vocal character. Mistress was easy – it just fell together.
As for where it all started – we’re from all over the place. One native Seattleite, one Californian, two Ohioans, and I lived all over the place: Puerto Rico, Japan, California, New York. Japan in particular was great. I was a ‘tween there and it’s where I discovered Zeppelin, funk, and glam rock.
Rock Bands of L.A.com:Let me get the time frame right… You go to England.. and you start a punk band, That Petrol Emotion….. then you come back to the U.S.? What’s the story behind The Petrol Emotion? Can we call it “glam punk”? I love the song, “Big Decision”.
Steve Mack: Back in the early 80s Seattle was a sleepy town. Not a lot going on, although there was a great underground scene. That’s where I met Mark Arm initially, at an all-ages show. We all went to college together, the Young Fresh Fellows rehearsed in my basement, we all threw parties and jammed and went to the punk shows that came through town. I blew a gasket my last year of college and decided I would travel for a year before finishing college and dealing with real life….When I got to London, I never wanted to leave. There were punk girls everywhere, there were hundreds of shows any given night, and the club scene was unlike anything I’d ever seen. I decided to stay. Nine months later, through a series of coincidences, I met the guys in That Petrol Emotion. They asked me to try out, and three days later I was in the studio cutting the vocals to our first single. A couple of months later we’re selling out pubs, then clubs, and… before you know it we’re signed to a label and touring the world.
We were a really good live band! That’s where I cut my teeth being a front man. All those years stage-diving in Seattle really helped. At the time, the vogue was to stand still and play – I just couldn’t do that. Folks wanted to see that “new Undertones band with the crazy American singer.” For a brief moment I was “the most shaggable man in pop” according to the Melody Maker. It was a wild ride, and so, so much fun. But alas we never cracked the charts, and we were always slightly out of sync with the mainstream. We got in to dance music and samples a bit too early – folks were confused. Then we got bored of samples and went back to guitars – when folks started taking “E” and wanting to dance. We had a great run – ten years – but I still feel like we squandered an opportunity. We didn’t tour enough, we didn’t work hard enough, we made some dumb decisions (turned down support slots with Bowie, U2). Sigh. The arrogance of youth.
But hey – we wrote some really great songs, were a really good live band, and still have dedicated fans. Check out the Chemicrazy and Fireproof albums. Killer.
Rock Bands of L.A.com: What inspired “Electric Mistress”? .. “She’s so electric”… great hook..Who produced the record?..
Steve Mack: I think I covered this above – yet another simple Ben London shuffle-beat pop gem, and to me it was immediately obvious the direction it had to go. Bolan! As for production, we’ve been fortunate enough to work with John Agnello for the last two EPs. He’s worked with Dinosaur Jr., Kurt Vile, Mark Lanegan – lots of great records. He’s super fun to work with and totally gets our aesthetic.
Rock Bands of L.A. com:What are your plans for touring? Any chance you come to L.A..?
Steve Mack:Oh man. We’d love to. Given that we’re not 20-somethings, we can’t really tour. We all have families and kids and jobs. But we’ll play any place that will have us! For example, WFMU in New Jersey loves us, so we went out there and did a session. Two years ago we played London and Dublin. We’ve played Austin, as we have tons of friends out there. If you know someplace that likes our kinda stuff, or a local band that we could support, we’d totally come down! It’s all about putting a bill together that gets folks out. That’s why every year we throw our own mini-festival called the Summer Stag Party. We invite 4-5 other killer bands and stuff a local club that has an outdoor stage. It’s so popular that now folks call us to get on the bill. We just need to find the right band down there to play with. Are the 88 still playing? We love them. That would be killer. We’ll see!
We want to thank Steve Mack for his great help… and a big shout to Marco Collins…