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xmag.com : June 2000 : Slow Rush to the Top

Slow Rush to the Top by Jeff Hudis


Before grunge broke in Seattle in the early 90s and Portland became desirable to the alterna-lifestyle culture mavens, precious few local hard rock acts had been able to separate themselves from the barrage of pop-metal sludge grinders that record companies seemed to throw daily at the music weary public. Only Portland bands like Black N' Blue and multi-ethnic forerunners the Dan Reed Network seemed to successfully break through the silicone umbrella for at least a brief twirl with the freakish muse of fame.

Portland's latest offering, Slowrush, and their first Sony/Epic release, Volume, listen like a Techno Buttrock excursion through the smiley-faced depths of 70s power pop. Imagine Trent Reznor and Rob Zombie jamming with Cheap Trick at Ziggy Stardust's house. Along with frontman Rob Daiker, Volume features two other Generator alumni--Dan Pred on drums and Blake Sakamoto on keyboards--rounded out by Garth Parker on guitar and Caleb Spiegel on bass. Portland showbiz luminary and OHM nightclub impresario, Dan Reed, shares some musical and production credits on several songs as well. "Junkie," the first single off Volume, can be heard on KNRK and KUFO. It has reached 46 on the national airplay charts at this writing. Epic is planning to release the next single, "Breathe," within the next few months.

With most record companies scared clueless by the potential loss of product control due to the MP3s and Napsters of the world, execs are under pressure to deliver blockbuster hits. Amidst the interchangeable homogeneity of a seemingly endless group of Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Green Day postgrunge wannabes drifts a sizable scrapbarge of white, cock-centric, bitch slappin' rap metal screamers. Along comes Slowrush, who differ from both in style and tenor. Daiker looks to 80's hard rock and 70's power pop for inspiration and to lend an ass crunching heavy techno guitar vibe. Songs with guitar and vocal hooks along with vocal harmonies piled on top of rhythmic heaviosity come hard and fast throughout the CD. Two respectably written acoustic guitar, airy space ballads, "Star" and "Weight," lend sensitivity mojo to Volume's continuous industrial pop plunger throb.

Whether Slowrush's debut succeeds in leaving an imprint upon the musical ether, it stands out and rocks harder than any Portland major label offering has in quite some time. But the accidentally Darwinistic music/radio business can deliver the swiftest death blows. Wherever Slowrush ends up in the vast pile of releases that major labels throw against the wall, hoping for one to stick,Volume will still be one CD that had what it takes from the beginning.

Jeff: When you were growing up what was your favorite band?

Robb: Around the time I was 14 or 15 I really got into AC/DC. I was listening to Van Halen and the first two or three AC/DC records. I taught myself how to play guitar to that stuff.

Jeff: How were you affected by the so-called "grunge" Seattle thing?

Robb: When it kind of broke out in '91 or '92 I was listening to nothing near that. I was listening to old Sly and the Family Stone and old Chicago records. I never bought a Nirvana record. I missed the whole thing and I don't think that I was too heavily affected by it, although some amazing music came out then. There was a huge chunk of bands that made some great shit. It just got so diluted with everybody else trying to sound like that.

Jeff: I hear kind of a Bowie-esque Ziggy vibe to your vocal approach. Do you agree?

Robb: I agree but I never really listened to Bowie that much. To be honest, I never really thought of myself as any kind of singer. It was just that when I wanted to put the band together I didn't have anybody to sing and I just thought to myself, 'Well...I better sing.' It's been a progression with me as far as getting better at it.

Jeff: I noticed that Dan Reed co-produced the CD, co-wrote some of the songs and there are members of the former Dan Reed Network playing on it. What is the deal there?

Robb: When I first put Generator together it was basically myself and the drummer Dan Pred. I had written a bunch of songs and we had wanted to go into the studio and make a record. Blake (Sakamoto, keyboards) expressed an interest in playing with us too and we thought we might as well go and play a couple gigs; so I hired a bass player, John Stanford, and we started to play shows around town as a four piece. We were getting ready to go in and do the record and I had been friends with Dan for quite a while and he's got a lot of good ideas, so he added some things to some of the songs. That's basically how that came about.

Jeff: How did you get signed to Epic?

Robb: We released the first Generator record and it was okay; you know, it didn't go crazy or anything. We had a couple labels that sort of said 'That's cool, we'd like to hear some more.' We came across John and Tommy Thayer with the Eon label around early '98 and they approached me with going in and making a whole new record that would come out on Eon. When the recording for that was all said and done some of the rough mixes got out to a friend of a friend and got flipped to the next guy and next thing you know there was a radio station up in Seattle that was really into it and a lot of people got excited which sparked a management deal that came to us pretty quick. It's two guys based out of Seattle and they're pretty heavily connected in the radio industry and the labels and they went out and shopped the demo. Epic was the only one who stood up and said 'We definitely want to sign these guys.' In the midst of all of that I was still signed to Eon.

Jeff: Did Epic buy out your contract from Eon?

Robb: Yes.

Jeff: When did Epic release the CD?

Robb: February 22nd.

Jeff: What happened then? Did you get any airplay? Did you go on the road?

Robb: A month before the CD came out it started to hit air. We got a lot of play in Portland and all around the nation, actually. Then we hit the road for a month and a half.

Jeff: How was the support from the label? Did you have a bus?

Robb: It was pretty good, actually. We had a big-ass van, like an 18 passenger with a trailer. It was comfortable. There were only six of us so everybody got their own little area. As far as support from the label goes... It's tough on our label because we're on the same roster as Korn, Incubus, Pearl Jam and Rage Against the Machine. All those bands are constantly fighting for priority status and obviously some of them have priority status. Sometimes when you're at the bottom you have to scrape a little bit and you have to fight to be heard.

Jeff: On the tour were you opening for someone or were you playing alone?

Robb: A lot of them were our shows. We opened for this band called Caroline's Spine and also Nickelback. Some of the rooms were like the size of the Roseland and some were just smaller clubs like an EJ's. This band Caroline's Spine is really popular in certain sections of the Midwest and they would sell like 1500 tickets. It helped because we had airplay in most of these spots... also most of the shows were all-ages.

Jeff: Did you hit any strip clubs?

Robb: Yeah, we have a remix CD of the first single and we would go to each strip club in town and give the strippers free CD's. It was a cool way to meet them and a cool way to have the music heard, too. I would have to say I think the best strip club was in Toledo, Ohio. St. Louis had a couple cool ones, too.

Jeff: So I guess the next step would be for them to put you on tour with somebody big.

Robb: That's what we're looking at right now. We're trying to get a supporting slot with a bigger band. You can go out and beat yourself to death playing small shows for a year or try and be smart about it and get the right tour that will get you in front of more people.

Jeff: What kind of wacky shit happened during your tour?

Robb: In general, because the shows were all-ages, there was definitely a danger of like, 'How old are you?' We were literally checking ID's backstage. I wasn't really into that whole thing but the girl situation was pretty awesome. There was a pretty good stretch for like two or three weeks where there were just huge parties in our hotel rooms.

There was one funny story. We were playing in Colorado Springs and there was this young girl--I swear she looked like she was thirteen. We were playing and there was like a thousand kids there. I noticed this girl and she was singing along with every word. We were all talking afterwards and she's trying to act older, smoking a cigarette. So there was a huge party back at the hotel afterwards and there were all of these kids there. She started talking about how her Dad is the program director of the station that's playing our song, and I looked at one of the other guys in the band and said like, 'She needs to get out of here.' So she finally gets home at like seven in the morning and gets in a huge fight with her Dad and runs away from home for two weeks. I don't think that station kept playing our song.

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