The Toadies Interview with Clark Vogeler
It must be an unwritten rule of pop culture that bands from 20 years ago are destined to get popular again. Can anyone out there explain this phenomenon? Is it because old folks (like me) want to remember their youth, or the youth who weren’t born yet the first time around need to somehow seem credible in their fanhood? A bit of both, perhaps? Doesn’t matter to me all that much, especially when bands like The Toadies team up with a band like Helmet to do a co-headlining tour. Kudos whoever thought this one up!
You will most likely remember the group for their biggest commercial hit, “Possum Kingdom.” You know, the one about the dead girl. Anyone want to take a stroll behind the boathouse? What you may not realize is that the long-running group, formed in 1989, has a total of 10 releases, including studio and live albums and EP’s.
Though the group took a brief hiatus from touring for a few years and had a few lineup changes, they are just about to release their 5th album, “Play. Rock. Music,” in late July via Kirtland Records, and hitting the road once again. I got a chance to speak with guitarist Clark Vogeler prior to their tour kickoff to discuss the new record, going on tour with Helmet, and their musical influences.
G- Hi Clark and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five. It’s great to have you guys coming our way in the near future. How has everything been going in Toadies land?
C- Busy here. We took a lot of time off last year, played a few shows and not much of anything else. This year we’ve done a bunch of writing and recording and played a bunch of shows. We did a tour with Social Distortion and that was a whole lotta fun. So it’s been a great year! We’ve got half a year left and lots of stuff to do, so we’re gonna get this record out and hit the road with Helmet.
G- That’s awesome! The Toadies have been a band since 1989 and, besides a small hiatus, have been actively recording and making some festival appearances, notably Lollapalooza 2008… Are The Toadies now back to being a full-time band?
C- We are. We have this thing now… We say ‘We are STILL back.’ We broke up in 2001 and kind of informally got back together in and did a few shows in 2006. It wasn’t until, like, 2007 that we said ‘Wow! People still want to see us and we probably still have some songs in us, so let’s get back together and do it.’ We’re just happy to be here, really. We didn’t expect to still have the ability to tour, fill some rooms, sell some records and t-shirts, make people jump up and down and have a good time at the shows. We’re surprised this is still possible for us, so we try to respect the opportunity and make the most of it. We’re going out there to have a good time and play some great music.
G- That’s great, man. It’s great ot have you guys back. I never thought I’d get a chance to see you because I missed it back the first time around, and uh, this tour is… You are about to embark on a summer tour with alt-metal heavyweights Helmet, and the combination of both groups makes for A sick bill… Just an awesome bill! How did their tour come about and who do I send a thank you card?
C- You know I have a feeling it was Page Hamilton’s idea. We had just been asked to so the Social Distortion tour, and we have not done an opening slot for a tour since 1994 or 1995 or something, so we said let’s do the Social D tour., that’ll be fun. Then Helmet reached out to us and said ‘Do you guys wanna tour with us,’ and it just made so much more sense than a Toadies/Social Distortion tour. It was good that people liked it and we played for some new fans, but Toadies and Helmet together just made sense the first time I heard it. Just an evening full of loud guitars and hard Rock and Roll.
G- I mean, I was very, very impressed. I think it’s a really good package, and it’s loud guitar rock like you said. It’s gonna make for a party, a wild show all around. You are set to drop your 5th album, “Play. Rock. Music.” on July 31st. Can you tell us a bit about the musical inspiration for the album and what your fans can expect?
C- Well, the driving force creatively behind this album was something we haven’t done before. Previously, we’d spend x number of months or even years writing songs for a new record, and then we just had to go into the studio and lay them all down. This time, we kind of went into the studio with some ideas… We didn’t know where it was going to go.
We got in their and set up all the mics, and just worked it out right there on the spot… I think we might do this again in the future.
G- It’s cool to hear that you’re doing it like that. One of my questions was what is the writing process like when you guys start creating new songs, who in the band typically comes up new music, and whether it was more organic through jamming, or do you have a primary songwriter and fill in from there.
C- It’s a little of both. I mean, our singer Todd writes all the lyrics and a good majority of the music, you know. One of the riffs off the new albums is one that I wrote during rehearsal 14 years ago (laughs). It came back at sound check and back in the studio, and we had to make a song out of it.
G- Speaking of albums, when I was doing some research for the interview, 2010 saw the release of “Feeler,” an album that was supposed to follow up your breakthrough album, “Rubberneck,” but was shelved by Interscope. What was it about that album that the major didn’t like, and how did it feel to finally see it get a proper release on Kirtland Records?
C- We don’t really know why they shelved the album in 1998. We can only assume that they didn’t hear another “Possum Kingdom” style hit on the record. We’re just kind of putting out music that comes out of us, so I can only assume that they didn’t hear a hit. Either that, or they were sadists, because it was very painful to go through that many years without putting an album out.
We the re-record clause had expired and we owned the songs again, we thought let’s record it and get it out there, because people stood behind the songs and said ‘I don’t get what Interscope’s problem is with this record was.’ That was very vindicating for us.
G- Good man… Stand your ground! You guys have had a lengthy career and probably played some pretty ridiculous shows… Can you tell me about the craziest or most memorable show The Toadies have played to date?
C- Off the top of my head, I’d have to say playing Lollapalooza in 2008. We had just got back together and just released a record, and wanted to see if their were any fans still out there for us, and Lollapalooza called and said they wanted us to play at 7:00, right before Rage Against The Machine on the main stage. We were like ‘How did that happen?!’ It was definitely one of the most striking things I’ve done. You stand up there and literally see 40-50,000 people.
G- That’s incredible, and I’m totally jealous! Lastly, I wanted to ask your advice. There are a lot of kids out here that want to try and make it in the music business, and people still have the dream… Can you give some guidance to the young, up and coming bands out here that want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician?
C- First and foremost, I would say just make the music that you would like to hear, as opposed to trying to make music that’ll get you signed or get you on the radio or get you a hit single. It’s not going to work. The listener can smell bullshit a mile away. If you play music you want to hear, it’s going to stand out in the crowd.
Secondly, I’d say get out there and tour and get in front of people’s faces. It just doesn’t work anymore where you can get signed by a label off a demo… You really have to get out there and work… Make the music you want to hear, and go play it!