Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The CROSSWIND interview! On Their Stompin' Ground!

As you’ll remember from June’s blog (Grand Halls 26), I unearthed a major discovery while on a trip down to Williams burg, VA. On a trawl through the “local” section at a CD store there, I came face to face with an interesting looking disc by North Carolina band CROSSWIND, entitled “Stompin’ Ground.” This innocent-looking circular piece of plastic ended up being a complete hard rock classic that, despite it’s ’98 imprint, holds it’s own with a lot of the big boys from the ‘70’s and ‘80’s. Not willing to let a sleeping band lie, I dove into the ‘net and began a search for these guys (and a girl), intent on finding out more about the CROSSWIND story. That search led me to crossing (ouch!) paths with guitarist Scottie Jordan and drummer Dan Ross, as well as finding a copy of the ‘WIND’s rippin’ debut disc “Can You Feel It” in my player as well. I lobbed some questions in the direction of Mr. Jordan and he was more than willing to field ‘em. Here we go!

RAY - I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know a whole lot about CROSSWIND (some people may imply I don’t know a whole lot about anything, but that’s another story!) So, that in mind, how about we start at the beginning and take things from your perspective. How did you come to take an interest in music (was your family musical?) and how did that grow from simply listening to playing to being in bands, etc. Give us the history, man!

SCOTTIE - My mother and her mother were both piano players and my father and his brother could play guitar and my Uncle was a big Beatles fan at the time so I have been around music all my life, I originally wanted to be a drummer and when my dad left home he left behind this really cheap guitar and the rest is rock n roll history. I also realized I could get closer to the girls with a guitar in my hands than sitting behind a set of drums LOL.

RAY - How did everything finally lead to the formation of the band CROSSWIND?

SCOTTIE - I started playing in bands around 12. You know the neighborhood band thing and I was terrible LOL but, my passion for the instrument kept me practicing like crazy. The Crosswind story is really interesting on how it happened. Dana and I were in a band called Lady Luck at the time and I left the group because I didn’t like the direction it was heading in so I called my good buddy Dan Ross (Crosswind’s drummer) to see if he would like to play some music with me and we formed a little trio that played every Tuesday night at a Pub called Omalley’s where our good friend Rich Barefoot would come out and join us on stage. We realized that we sounded pretty damn good together so we decided to get more serious and we wanted a good singer slash front person and Dana was the only name that we wanted in this project. She was just better than any singer in town male or female so it was never a gender thing with her it was just a good thing with her and we played several shows before we had our first rehearsal LOL. We were able to stay together as Crosswind for 9 years because everyone was a natural fit together.

RAY - Who are your influences as a player? What guitarists (if anybody) impress you these days? It seems as though, as things moved into the 00’s, guitarists lost their desire to really “play,” you know solo, and you sound like the kind of guy who just loves to break loose.

SCOTTIIE - Well I’m from the old school where solos to me were a very important piece of the songs in rock music. The players that impressed me the most were Hendrix, Page, May, Townsend and a whole host of others that would take me a while to list LOL. The newer players seem to have lost the art of the solo in music which is very disappointing to me. Either they aren’t good enough to do it or just don’t put the time in on the instrument to be able to do it. I love to solo and cut loose because to me that is what rock guitar is all about but, the solo has to say something in the song. When I solo I try to play something that will make the drums bass and vocals stand out. I think if you approach guitar like that good things will happen in the song.

RAY - Can you tell us a little about the history of Dana Hall as a singer? Was CROSSWIND her first band or did she do much before that? I have to say that she has impressed me, on the 2 albums, as one of the very best female rock vocalists I’ve ever heard. This is especially true on “Stompin’ Ground,” which was recorded basically “live.” When you first heard her, was your instant reaction “Jesus Christ, I have got to play in a band with somebody who can sing like that?”

SCOTTIE - Believe it or not she didn’t have a whole lot of experience in being in a band until she played with me in Lady Luck and believe me when I heard her voice and feel when she sang, I felt like I struck gold because she was better than any male or female singer I had ever played with before. Not only that but, she wrote to my music so well and we became a really good song writing team much like Plant and Page in my eyes. She knew how to write to my crazy music and she loved writing originals and that was a huge plus to me. She was enthused about what I was writing so I was free to create the music I wanted with the singer I always dreamed of having. She loved to perform live and really knew how to take the bull by the horns on stage and get the crowd pumped up to a fever pitch. A very beautiful thing to watch I must say.

RAY - As a raging guitar god in the heart of the North Carolina rock scene, do you think the presence of a woman in the band encouraged or inhibited the female audience’s interest in the male members? (Male members?! Odd choice of words, Ray) Be as creative as you can without getting yourself in trouble!

SCOTTIE - Well our style of rock was very hard and you have to remember that hard rock is mainly I male dominated business so I always felt we had a unique edge with a female singer who could belt it out better than the males in our town so I was quite proud of that. She would just put them to shame, you know set them up and Dana will knock them down kind of thing LOL. In that respect I felt I owed it to her and the band to try and be the best Scottie Jordan (whatever that means LOL) that I could be. Because all my band mates laid it on the line each and every show I felt I didn’t need to hold back. If you’re good at something people will notice it no matter what but, my main focus has always been to be a good band mate first and a rockin’ guitar player second.

RAY - I’m glad you were able to send me a copy of the first disc “Can You Feel It.” It’s pretty surprising for a debut, in the strength and maturity of the songwriting. Still, I think you guys really opened up the jets and let loose with “Stompin’ Ground.” Before I ask about any of the songs, I just wanted to touch on the story behind the album itself. It is your 2nd album of new material and yet it was recorded live. That’s different. What led to your decision to make a record of new songs in front of an audience and, in fact, in a church that had been converted to a recording studio?

SCOTTIE - Great question Ray. Well people would listen to our first effort and tell us that we were just great live and the energy was different with us live as would be with any band. Dan came up with the brilliant idea of our second record to be live. At first we didn’t know about that suggestion but, the more we thought about it we said why the hell not. Let’s get a venue, drag the amps out, crank them up until your ears bleed and let it all hang out full throttle. TAKE NO PRISONERS. When we played live it was our philosophy that if you were in the room with us, there was no talking to chicks or conversation, if you were in the room with us all you got was us, see volume is a powerful tool in rock LOL. So our engineer for the first record worked at Reflection Studio, which by the way has produced some grammy winner in the past, told us that the studio was taking an abandon church and making it a recording facility. Now when we did Stompin’ Ground construction hadn’t ever started yet so here was the empty shell with all the pews taken out and I stage about the size of a normal theater stage. They took their moble unit much like what the Stones loaned Zeppelin for recording at Hedly Grange, parked it out back and set up the gear and we invited our fans and friends to come be apart of this record. When we started hearing the play backs from those performances we knew we had made the right choice. We now had the powerful sound of Crosswind on tape.

RAY - “Stompin’ Ground” shows a band who are definitely right on their…er…stompin’ ground. (Ouch!) One thing that impresses me a lot is the variety of the material. You’ve got something like the title cut that has a G&R sort of swagger, you’ve got several kinda multi-layered epics like “End Of The World” and “Remains” and then you’ve got cuts like “Money Talks” where Dana and you just completely let rip on vocals & guitar respectively. How important is variety in hard rock songwriting & why?

SCOTTIE - Well we never put ourselves in a corner musically, what I mean to say is our philosophy was that if it sounded good to us then play it. Hell if we wrote a good polka it probably would have ended up on Stompin’ Ground LOL. We collectively as a band liked bands that had many musical layers to them. Like a Queen or a Zeppelin where one minute their rocking it out and the next they are tearing it up acoustically and everything in between. One sound throughout an album to us just got boring. So we liked to try any and everything musically we could and we felt we had the musical muscle to pull it off with the line up we had in Crosswind. Every one was very open minded to different music maybe too much at times LOL.

RAY - I think I’m right in that the record was recorded over 2 nights. Was that done for the reason that you’d have at least one alternate take of each song so you had some room for choosin’, shall we say?

SCOTTIE - Absolutely correct. We wanted to make double sure, pardon the pun, that we had the best tracks available for our fans. They deserved the best we could give them and on a footnote it snowed both nights of recording and the fans made the trip anyway so again I say they the fans deserved the best of the best.

RAY - What was Surf Records all about and what was their role in the release of the record? Did they finance it, did they help you do any touring to support it? What kind of touring did CROSSWIND do overall, what is the farthest you got away from home base?

SCOTTIE - Well we signed a distribution deal with Surf. They would put it out but, we had total creative control of our band period. We wouldn’t have it any other way. About the 4th year into this band we started opening for a lot of national acts and as we started playing to bigger crowds we realized that there were more places to explore. I remember my our first trip to NYC, for a country boy like me it was like landing on mars and taught me a valuable lesson in the since that what it felt like to be a tiny fish in a big ocean LOL. We traveled a lot and to a lot of different places and that made us a much better band by far. Because when you play a town where no one knows you that is when you find out just what your band is made of and we found out we were pretty damn good at this LOL. We preferred to play out of town because each time we did it made us a better band and when we would come back and play our hometown the audience could see and here the difference and maturity we gained from that. Surf was great about getting our music to different stations in different markets and that also helped when we would go to a place we had never been before about creating a buzz for us.

RAY - Give me a gear run-down for what you were running guitar/amp/effects-wise on “Stompin….” You have a real nasty-ass tone on that record!

SCOTTIE - 2 100 watt Marshall halfstacks, Gibson Les Paul, and the truth. That’s it. I am a firm believer that a guitar players sound is in his or her hands period. The less you have in the signal chain the better and more in your face tone you will get. I threw away all my effects a long time ago and when I played straight into the amp it was like playing naked. I could hear all the bad habits I had and was able to correct my playing. It was a huge adjustment for me but, well worth it in the end when it came to my sound. I remember opening for .38 Special and Don Barns looked at my rig after our set and was blown away by what I didn’t have LOL. He said, “your tone is massive and huge how do you achieve it?” I just held up both my hands and said, “I get it from here LOL.”

RAY - You’re offered one of the following: 1) A Strat signed by Jimi Hendrix 2) A courtside season seat for Duke NCAA basketball 3) A chance to give Angelina Jolie a week of private guitar lessons. Which do you choose & why?

SCOTTIE - First of all I am a Tarheel all the way LOL. To answer your question I would definitely take the Hendrix Strat hands down. He had a huge impact on me at a young age and I think A Band of Gypsies is a must listen for anybody wanting to play rock guitar period. Simply a talent lost WAY to early.

RAY - I think I’m right in that “Stompin’ Ground” was CROSSWIND’s last recording. What happened, why, etc.?

SCOTTIE - Well it was and we had about 17 songs we were planning on for future recordings, that being said, we were together 9 years. Dana had been away from her home Mississippi all this time and wanted to go be with her family. We still remain in touch with each other to this day, we forged very strong friendships in the time we spent in Crosswind and had been through so much together. They are my best friends. We were fortunate to not have an ugly break up, we were just tired and needed to get back to our families for a while especially Dana whose people were so far away. I like to say this and I hope you quote me on this LOL. We are all good enough to go and play with other players but, when we are all in the same room together, whether we are playing or not, we are Crosswind. Much like McCartney and Ringo, they have different projects but, when they are gathered in the same room, their the fuckin’ Beatles LOL.

RAY - What have the members of the band gone on to do since CROSSWINDS’ passing?

SCOTTIE - Dana is raising a family in Mississippi, Dan is in a really good band Swill, and Rich is playing in a band called the Newz. I have been teaching guitar since Crosswind’s split and I play with a friend of mine around town in an acoustic act. I am really digging making the acoustic a rock instrument LOL.

RAY - Could you ever imagine the members of CROSSWIND taking the stage again, even just once and dusting off any of the old gems?

SCOTTIE - We are planning to get together sometime in the near future to do some more writing. I have learned one thing in this world and that is you never say never. Who knows we might look at each other during these jam sessions and say, “we still got it, lets go and flaunt it LOL.”

RAY - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE: If a Carolina Panther is divided by the cubed root of the number of “z’s” in Coach K’s name, what is the radius of a 1:3 scale model of the Charlotte Motor Speedway?

SCOTTIE - That’s easy, the answer is, a half past a monkey’s ass and a quarter to his balls.

RAY - What is the music scene like in your area in particular and the whole of North Carolina these days? Is there a place for a band doing hard rock the style of what CROSSWIND was doing?

SCOTTIE - Let me put it this way, if you don’t know funky music white boy or brickhouse you don’t work in this town and it’s a shame because this used to be a really great town for original music.

RAY - Here’s the one we’re all waiting for. Tell us a story or anecdote about something that happened in the past of CROSSWIND (live, studio, on the road, at home, whatever) that was crazy, weird, odd or just plain disgusting and vile. Be as honest as you care to or as your reputation can handle.

SCOTTIE - WOW this is probably going to bore you but, we were so busy and going from town to town that we didn’t really have time to stop and experience the weird stuff. I think the most exciting part of being on the road for us was sneaking in us and all our roadies in a hotel and only paying for 2 occupants. I hope I didn’t blow your entire image of us with that answer LOL. That is not to say we didn’t have fun because we had a blast and if I had it to do all over again I would in a milla second.

RAY - Any final comments?

SCOTTIE - I just want to say thanks to you and for what you do for bands that are trying to make it out there. Your work is crucial to our survival and our music. I appreciate you taking time to experience Crosswind and our hard work. Thank you Ray we and all other bands you write about owe you big time.

CROSSWIND is awesome, as both their albums prove. They are a major proof of my contention that any music lover worth their salt will never meet a “local,” “used” or “budget” section they won’t love enough to scour from one end to the other. To top it all off, they are a great bunch of people and you can contact ‘em via drummer Dan Ross at:


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