Gunnar Nelson

   

    The eighties were winding down, but the metal scene was on fire and, among our first decisions as our hearts started beating each morning (or afternoon, depending on how hard we rocked the night before), was which cassette to throw into the boom box and crank up to ten. Nelson? Slaughter? Night Ranger? Or maybe that awesome mix we taped from the radio. Still going strong, they filled our days, nights, and cars with their incredible sound, and we just couldn’t get enough. Multiple-bill concerts sold out to tens of thousands because, after all, how cool was it to have a bunch of top names playing the same place in the same night? Anyone ever wonder what would happen if they all decided to take the stage together and jam to each other’s music? Fast-forward to the age of CD’s and MP3s, Sirius and Myspace and, yes kids, one ass-kickin’, all-star band called ‘Scrap Metal’.
    Formed in Nashville, TN, the line-up for the promo show on February 3rd in Uncasville,CT consisted of Matthew and Gunner Nelson, Mark Slaughter, Kelly Keagy, Eric Martin, Dave Marshall, and Steve Hornbeak on keys. Pretty impressive, yeah? We thought so, too!  But there’s more…The band is, in Gunner Nelson’s words ‘a revolving door for visiting cast members’ with possibilities I’ll let him fill you in on as you walk through this very in-depth look into Scrap Metal with him.
    The boys are packin’em in to huge crowds, and stellar, well-deserved reviews, and this is just the beginning.  Read on for Gunner's thoughts on the band, the shows and the future of Scrap Metal…

 Blast: Gunner, to begin with, I have to tell you that this is, hands down, one of the most enjoyable reviews I have done. The show at Mohegan Sun, which I understand was a promotional show, and the site for a Scrap Metal video, was absolutely phenomenal! What made the Wolf Den the choice for that?
Gunner: Well, thanks for the compliment! The Wolf Den was the natural choice for some very good reasons, the first being, the sheer logistics involved in pulling off this first show and first video shoot at the same time were intimidating, to say the least. Because of our schedules, we weren't all able to rehearse in the same place at the same time...ever! Matthew and I were out of the country gigging and unreachable for the two weeks prior to the show, Mark was out and about doing shows, Eric was in San Francisco, and Dave was at NAMM in LA., so we knew we needed as many 'together' people around us as possible to help things go smoothly. The Wolf Den is the best place I've ever played with regard to the crew, support staff, and overall professionalism. Actually, if it wasn't for the sound, lighting, and hospitality crew going above and beyond, there was no way we could have made the show, and the shoot, shine. It also doesn't hurt that the stage already looks like a video set.

 Blast: Who came up with the concept for Scrap Metal?
Gunner:  It's something that Mark (Slaughter) and I had been threatening to investigate for about five years, after we'd done a couple of acoustic shows together in the three states surrounding Tennessee (we both currently live in Nashville). We'd just had such a great time playing and singing together and we were on one of the long drives up to a duo show, and the conversation just turned into a 'Hey, wouldn't it just ROCK if....?"

Blast: The name is perfect. Who's suggestion was it?
Gunner: That was actually mine, I think. I remember hearing the name years ago as the punch line of a slag from someone who was wearing a lot of flannel at the time; it was 1994, I'd guess. They meant it derogatorily; I just loved it! I think it perfectly describes what we're going for; it's descriptive, yes, we're all key remnants of other bands, and it lets you know we're the first ones in on the joke, especially with so many other groups out there taking themselves way too seriously. Don't get me wrong, we take the music and the fans verrry seriously, not just ourselves, and that’s what makes us work. Without a profound sense of humor, you could never have up to eight multi-platinum lead singers in the same room at the same time, let alone in the same band!

Blast: The line-up is an incredibly impressive combination of talent. Who are the core members of the band?
Gunner: Well, if you mean who are the cats who take care of the logistics and funding, that would be me, Mark, and Kelly. But it's important to note that I believe that everyone who was on stage the other night is crucial to the magic, and therefore an important part of the 'core'. I know that both Eric and Matty went in kind of wide-eyed and somewhat skeptical, kind of like "oh God... is this going to be a total trainwreck or ego nightmare?" After that show, they were completely different people, totally on a high, asking “So when’s the next gig?!" We're all so pleased. They did so well, we consider them an integral part of Scrap Metal from this point on. Lord knows I love looking over to my left and seeing Matty looking back at me with a mile-wide grin on his face. And I've been humbled by Eric's voice, both as a fan and a peer, for fifteen years.

Blast: Can you tell me a little about the other musicians involved in the project, and why they were chosen?
Gunner: Well, the intention at first was to have a core that could be counted on to be there for every show. As I'd mentioned, Mark, Kelly, and I all live close together and have the same strength of belief in the project, so that was a given. Then we were going to have a revolving door policy for our visiting 'cast members’; yes, we consider 'The Scraps' to be much more than a band; we consider it an ongoing theatrical production, before, during, and after show time. Our visiting cast members all had to fit certain criteria first, and that still holds true:
1.) People have to know who the hell you are. You had to have been a lead singer for a band from 'our era' that had real hits... I'm talking about the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, not just the Rock 40 Chart. During the decade of decadence, there were a ton of bands who had 'hits' on the rock chart that no one knows or remembers now, because that chart was for a niche market. If you had a top ten song in the Hot 100 Pop Singles chart, that means you made the big time. It means that people in the real world, not just hardcore rock fans, know who the hell you are.
2.) You have to still look like you give a damn. Looks are important. No one wants to see their favorite star from their high school hit parade looking like bloated road kill onstage. It reminds fans, too starkly, of their own mortality. We're here to help people escape and feel unstoppable, like they did during the best times of their lives when the promise of their futures were down the road ahead, and they were rockin' out to our tunes in their spiritual convertible Ferrari.
3.) No substance abuse issues are tolerated in The Scraps, whatsoever. That eliminates about half of the potential candidates, right off the top. Oh well; life's too short. Same thing goes for being known for being an asshole. If you're famous for being a prick with 'Lead Singer Syndrome', you AIN'T gonna get a call to play with Scrap Metal, regardless of how supposedly talented or marketable you are. We want everyone, including ourselves, to have a blast doing this, you know? I also believe that above all, ATTITUDE is King. Talent is Queen.

Blast: The band’s chemistry onstage was amazing. You guys look, and sound, like you’ve been playing together forever.  Has it been that way since day one?
Gunner: Actually, yes. Our first gig ever was at the Mercy Lounge in Nashville last year, and it was the rush of energy we got back from the fans that got us completely addicted! When you're a bunch of fellow survivors out there on that stage, there because you love what you do and you love the music, I think it shows. What you're also feeling is the fact that we all truly, and deeply, respect each other as both people and performers. My band mates are pros. I know I can rely on them completely, both personally and professionally, and I think they feel they can do the same. We've got each others' backs on so many levels, and believe me, coming from a lot of the 'band' situations we've all been in and the perils that came with them, Scrap Metal is refreshing to be in. Once we're on stage, it's one-tenth of the pressure of anything we've ever known before. That makes for a fun, confident, mind-melting show. 

Blast: The show is definitely an ‘expect the unexpected’ kind of deal. As the songs change from one to the next, the roles within the band do, as well, from vocals, to even drums. How did you decide who was going to do what?
Gunner: That's the beauty of it all, we're all lead singers. Cool huh? All of us are comfortable taking center stage, and giving you the songs you know and love, sung by the dude(s) who sang them on the radio. Aside from that, we all play at least three instruments each. Before Nelson, my first instrument was drums, so now, for the first time, Kelly can get off the drums and come out front and be a lead singer, without the physical or spiritual barrier, between him and the concert goers, that naturally come from being 'stuck' back on the drums. He gets to come up front for a song or two, like he just told me he's always wanted to, and I get to play drums on one of my favorite songs ever, ‘Sister Christian’. Hell yeah! A total win-win! I promise, as much fun as it is for you in the audience, it's twice as much fun for us on stage!

Blast:  Scrap Metal’s cover of Cat Stevens, ‘Wild World’ was absolutely beautiful. What made you decide to do that one?
Gunner: That was Eric's call, and a good one at that. Mr. Big cut it years ago, and had a big hit with it. I love Cat Stevens, and I love Eric's spin on it; it was my pleasure to play it.

Blast: AC/DC Whole Lotta Rosie as an encore was great, too. Who’s idea was that?
Gunner: That was Mark's idea; it just kind of fell into place. Great song, great energy, and Dave Marshall kicked the crap out of the solo. It leaves everyone in the audience going 'What the hell was that?'
(*note: It did!!!)

Blast: Will the set list continue as it is, or will the songs change from show to show?
Gunner: The staple songs from the core members will always be there; our franchise hits, you know, like ‘Love and Affection’ and ‘After the Rain’ from me and Matt, ‘Up All Night’ and ‘Fly To The Angels’ from Mark, ‘Sister Christian’ and ‘Don't Tell Me You Love Me’ from Kelly, ‘To Be With You’ and ‘The Electric Drill Song’ from Eric. The other songs in the set are flexible and will vacillate, depending upon which 'special guests' we have at each show. Like, if we have C.J. Snare join us, or Steven Pearcy, or Nuno Bettencourt, you're going to then also hear the franchise Firehouse, Ratt, or Extreme songs added to our songs. It keeps it, not only fresh for us as performers, but fresh for the fans, too. No Scrap Metal show will ever be the same. It scares the crap out of the promoters, but the fans love it!

Blast: Everyone seemed to be having a lot of fun up there, and Mark Slaughter’s stand-up comedy moments were hysterical. Was that planned?
Gunner: It was planned spontaneity! We want a Scrap Metal show to be an experience, not just a concert. Our goal is to one day, be known as the Heavy Metal Rat Pack. Comedy's going to be an integral part of the evening. Again, refreshing!

Blast: As we spoke about earlier, the show at the Wolf Den was recorded for a video. Can you tell me what the result will consist of, and where it’s likely to be featured?
Gunner: It's for three videos, actually, all for internal use only. We're making a 'superpromo' DVD to get bookings, because the promoters really need to see what they're getting. We're making an electronic press kit that we can send out to media outlets so they can see what we're promoting. And finally, we're putting together a TV pitch piece, so we can get a reality show going centered around all that is Scrap Metal. 

Blast: Is there anything in the works for an original Scrap Metal CD?
Gunner: Yes, we've been writing together now for the past six months, and the new songs are coming out great. Stay tuned for songs like "I'm An Idiot", "Psycho Ex-Girlfriend", and "How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away". Oh, I love the classics!

Blast: I can see why! (…LOL). How long will the tour run?
Gunner: As long as it takes to fix the faucet.

Blast: Are there plans to return to the cities Scrap Metal has already played, for additional performances?
Gunner: Absolutely, spreading the gospel is important and all, but so is going where you're wanted. This is a new trip; fortunately we haven't had to dodge bottles anywhere yet. But again, give it time.

Blast: Will you continue to do Nelson shows, as well?
Gunner: Of course. We all feel it's very important to continue working on our own individual projects at the same time. More successes for any individual just makes it an even more special event when we all come together as Scrap Metal.

Blast: Is there anything you want to say to the fans?
Gunner: Yes, I know it sounds trite, but THANK YOU! If we're all survivors, that makes you a survivor too, and my hats off to you. Weathering the storms of life and coming back time and again with a fist in the air, and a scream from your lungs is what makes us all who we are. We're ALL 'Scraps'. We're the cogs in the machine that makes life a hell of a lot more fun to live. I've always wanted to be someone somebody else can look forward to. As a fan, friend, and supporter, I look forward to YOU, and to seeing you at the shows, on MySpace, spreading the word. We want to make this something that we’d want to see, you know; a trip that we’d want to be part of. I'd much rather see six bands at an event, than one band any day, wouldn't you.

Blast: I’m sure I’m not alone in saying I’m with you there! Thanks for your time, Gunner. Best of luck, and we’re looking forward to hearing much more from Scrap Metal in the future!
Gunner: Thank you! Good luck to you all, too... see you out there... and remember, as quoted by the late great Buckaroo Bonzai: "No Matter Where You Go... There You Are!"  So, I'll add:  If this is the case, you might as well BE HERE, NOW.  Ah... so deeep. My brain hurts. Ooh! Song idea! Where's my guitar…?  Peace!

Well, that about wraps it up! Well informed? Still laughing? Thought so! Hope you enjoyed Gunner’s take on the ground covered!  I know I did. Til next time…


 LINKS:
Scrap Metal on the web: www.scrapmetalband.com
Scrap Metal is now at myspace at www.myspace.com/scrapmetalband
Nelson at www.thenelsonbrothers.com

Interview conducted by Meri Ballou.  meri@blastmagazine.net