Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Talkin' Trash With Louis St. August (MASS)

Today, we shine the spotlight on the front man of one of the most underappreciated...yet still active...bands of the whole 80's scene, MASS.  Louis St. August was kind enough to give us a ring, so let's give him a chance to Talk Some Trash...  Oh, and if you want this to sound REALLY authentic in your head, read his comments with a Boston accent!

G2G:  First, man, I have to ask you go by Louis or Louie?  Your email says "Louis" but the albums say "Louie".  I just don't want to call you the wrong thing...

(Louis is the one with shades...)
Louis:  (Laughing)  Not a big deal.  Yeah, I go by Louis.  I know some of the records say Louie, but that's just the stage name, you know, something the record company came up with back in 1982 or 1984 that I've been using ever since.  But either one is fine, really...

G2G:  Well, Louis, thanks for taking the time to call us and talk to Glitter2Gutter.  How have things been going in the MASS camp recently?

Louis:  Things have been going great, Arttie.  We've just been so busy.  It's just been a great roller coaster ride for MASS over the years.  We're just happy to still be doing what we're doing, but you know, lately, things have been so busy it's been kind of crazy for us.  MASS is working on our 9th album, we've been writing songs, you know.  The last album came out over two years ago, with Sea Of Black, so we've been working on new music, and between doing interviews like this one, and working on some publications, it's just been so busy.  Now that we're older, we all have families and fact, I just had my daughter's twelfth birthday party this weekend, and that's crazy...and, you know, it's just...there's always something, always something happening with MASS.

G2G:  That's good to hear.  Now, Louis, I'm going to put you on the spot immediately with this next question, but I know a lot of people want to know:  why isn't...or wasn't...MASS bigger than they were?  You guys had the look, the sound, the songs...was it just bad luck, bad timing, what do you think it was?

Louis:  I think, well, I think you're absolutely right on a lot of those things.  I think it was definitely bad timing, but we've also had some bad problems in the past with management contracts, I mean, our first contract was so bad I think it hurt us right from the beginning when we signed with A&M Records.  I think if that record had came out when it was supposed to come out, things would've changed for us.  It just seems like we were tied up in legal situations in court for three years, then we finally got out of that contract via bankruptcy, then we signed with RCA Records three years later.  That went well, actually, and our record with RCA, called New Birth, was set to take off and we got dragged  back into court for using a couple of songs that our first management had a piece of, so that kind of put a stall on us again.  Then, when we got that resolved, umm, RCA was bought out by General Electric...  It's just seems like a lot of bad things happened to us so early on, but we somehow managed to roll with the punches and go with the times and just continued doing what we were doing.  Everybody asks me this question or tells me, "you guys shoulda been a lot bigger, you're a lot better than so-and-so," and, you know, that's great, but its just all about timing and being who you are and, you know, that's what I think it's all about...being at the right place at the right time, and unfortunately I guess we weren't sometimes.  I really can't put my finger on one specific thing, though, so I think that we do have the songs and the music, but it just didn't work out like we hoped.  And, you know, it's's really, really tough to say what went wrong, if you want to look at it like that. 

G2G:  Do you think that possibly part of the problem was that people didn't know how to approach MASS?  There was some confusion among a lot of people at the time, you know with the name, the association with Michael Sweet of Stryper, the imagry, as to whether or not you guys were a "Christian" band.  What's your take on that situation?

Louis:  Absolutely.  I mean, the fans were a little bit confused on that take.  When we first...let me say this...we've always just been a melodic rock band from Massachussetts.  So, originally, people thought we called ourselves MASS because it was short of Massachussetts, but, you know, not really.  We came up with the name because we always thought the band had a really big sound, you know, a massive type of sound.  So, when we were coming up with names and I heard that, I thought it sounded really cool. 
Umm...I didn't really mind the church influence at all, I thought it would make for good talk or gossip, which never hurts.  And then, when we became friends with Michael Sweet and the rest of the guys in Stryper after doing some shows with them here in Boston, he approached us and said he loved the band and that he'd like for us to talk to his band's label, so we ended up going to Enigma Records back in '87 after we left RCA.  We ended up doing a couple of records with them, and of course Michael produced Voices In The Night, so, yeah, I think some of the bands started thinking we were a Christian band, the label started trying to shop us as a Christian band...our album cover for Take You Home, if you saw that cover it had a big cross on it, and we kind of chuckled and said what the heck, go with it, because it also reminded us of the Madonna, this big cross up in the hills around yeah, that all kind of fed into that Christian band marketing which did confuse some people.  But, I want to say...we've always been believers in God, maybe some of the members more than others, but we've always believed in God and we've always been Christians as people, but we just never considered ourselves to be a "Christian band".  A lot of the songs that I write, you know, my lyrics are very positive and uplifting, and they do reference God at times in a subtle way, so I guess...  You know, we gained the Christian fans and we gained non-Christian fans, so I don't think its hurt us a bunch.  I think that maybe, if anything, it helped us to get to the level of success that we have managed to get to, if you think about it, so...

G2G:  Well, I want to say that I think it's refreshing to hear you not shy away from the fact that you're Christian, and while this isn't specifically a Christian website, we do review a lot of Christian bands.  I just think it's cool to hear you say, "I am a Christian, and I'm not ashamed of it, but that's not necessarily where we were trying to go with this"...

Louis:  Absolutely...absolutely....

G2G:  You guys have managed to maintain a very consistent line-up through the years.  In fact, unless I missed a change somewhere, you've only changed bass players, and just the one time, correct?

Louis:  Correct...

G2G:  Where do you think your consistency comes from?  I mean, so many band out there now have just one or two original members left...

Louis:  Umm...well, you know, we're from a small town called Revere.  Me and the guitar player grew up across the street from each other.  He actually wanted to become a drummer and I said, no, you're gonna be our guitar player, and we stole his Confirmation money and we went down and bought him an electric guitar!  Now, neither one of us could play the guitar, but we got the $50 or $75 or whatever it was, bought this little guitar, and we taught ourselves, you know, "Smoke On The Water" and a few other songs, you know, and that's really how the band started.  We got a drummer and turned him into a guitar player, and I was the singer and could play some guitar, and then we got our drummer a couple of streets away, and our first bass player another street past that. know, we all went to school together and grew up together like brothers.  Yeah, we fought a lot sometimes, but we all had the same goal and I think that's what kept us together like a family, and has kept us basically all together for all these years.

G2G:  Now, despite that band consistency, you guys actually went a long time without putting out a new album...ten or twelve years, or something like that...what was going on for MASS during that time?

Louis:  During that time, you know, the guys were getting married, having children, and of course there was a big decline.  You know we lost the...well, Enigma, our record company when Voices In The Night came out in the late 80's, and then into the early 90's...around 1991 or so, Enigma went bankrupt and they folded, so we didn't have a record company or contract anymore, and music started to change.  You know, the grunge started to come in, umm, and our style of know, I hate to put a label on it, because I don't really consider our music to be "hair metal" or "80's metal", but I guess that's what it is, because that's the era we grew up, there was a change, so we actually tried to sit down and go about writing our songs a little bit differently.  We thought about changing the name because times were changing and we were considering trying to shop our new music to a different label, and we did all of that for about three or four months and, you know, it just didn't feel right to us; it just wasn't coming from our heart because it wasn't music that we were meant to play and record.  So, a producer friend of ours who worked on our Take You Home record, flew us out to Jersey, and we did some demos that eventually became our 2007 release, Crack Of Dawn.  Anyway, this producer said, "guys...just stick with MASS and play it from your heart like you always do", and you know, he was so right.  So that's really what we were going through...we were growing up, there was a change in the music, and we didn't have a record label or contract to do our thing, and we didn't know if we even wanted to continue as MASS or go in a more aggressive direction.  But, I will say, I am very glad we stayed true to ourselves and our roots because even though none of the labels in the United States were looking for our type of music, I started shopping our stuff around in Europe and overseas, and I got about four or five record companies that were interested in us and we eventually signed in 2006 for a three album deal, and put out Crack Of Dawn, Sea Of Black, and we're writing the new one now.  So that's what we did...but you know, we continued the whole time to write and perform locally, and we added a few songs to some compilation albums that came out, and stuff like that, but pretty much, yeah, we didn't have a major album out through that lapse in time.

G2G:  Speaking of performing, does MASS continue to play out or have you become more of a studio band now?

Louis:  We play out.  We've done...well, we do about ten or twelve shows a year.  We've done shows around the New England area a lot, we've done the M3 Festival, we've also done the Rocklahoma Festival twice, umm...we've done quite a few shows.  We've played with Stryper and Cinderella.  We've got shows coming up with Tesla.  So, yeah, we've been busy playing, so we're not stuck to the studio or anything, we're just more choosey now, more picky now, at our age with what we've accomplished and what's going on in our lives...we're not 18 any more and we can't just jump in a van and go to New York for a night and play there, and then go somewhere else.  When we have offers from promoters we look at them as a band, see what makes sense for us or if its something that would help us or if it's something we want to do, like Rocklahoma or some festival out in California or something, we see if it's something that would be the best for MASS to make an appearance.  So, as a group, if we say "yes", then we'll do it.  So...

G2G:  Now, I know that you guys were always "hometown favorites" and that you guys had big, BIG radio support back in the day.  Does Boston and the surrounding New England area still take care of MASS as sort of local celebrities?

Louis:  You know, the WAAF's still play MASS pretty well, ummm...the local college stations do, but you know, that whole scene has kind of died here.  With some of these stations now being bought out by the big corporate stations, it's just not like it was, that's for sure.  So, yeah, we still get some airplay, but it's definitely not like it was back in the day or anything.  You know, the stations that do still play rock up here do still play MASS, but we're not getting the play on the KISS108's or stations like that that now play the more poppier-type stuff.  I don't know if that's because we don't have a record label behind us that is pushing for that stuff or if it's just a change in the times or what.

G2G:  On an individual note, you recently did some work with Justin Murr and Liberty N Justice, correct?

Louis:  Yes, yes we did.  Justin approached me and asked me if I would do a song.  I actually did a song called "Stretch Armstrong" on the album that just came out (Hell Is Coming To Breakfast) and I just recorded a song for the upcoming Cigar Chronicles, which I believe will be coming out next year, which will be called "Daddy Long Legs".  That song has Timmy Gaines from Stryper playing bass, and JK (Northrup) playing guitar, and I do the lead vocals and backing vocals as well.  That's a fun song...

G2G:  While we're talking about vocals, that's actually where I was going to go you do anything special to maintain your voice?  You've managed to keep your range intact through all the years, which I think is amazing.  Do you have a special regimen you go through?

Louis:  Thank you, first of all.  Umm...well, I just try to keep in shape the best I can.  I do breathing exercises that I've learned.  When I was 16 and 17 years old, I studied with an opera singer and I, to this day, still do those exercises before I perform or before I go to the studio to sing a song or something.  Even if I just have some free time I try to do some of those exercises to continue to keep my voice strong.  Ummm, I don't smoke, so maybe that's helped.  I try to eat right and exercise as much as I'm also just blessed, I guess.  (laughing)  I just thank God that I can still do it.

G2G:  Do you have any MASS horror stories, of maybe I Spinal Tap moment that you could share with the readers?

Louis:  Oh, God.  (laughing)  Do you have like, about a year or so?  It just depends on the year or the era.  Gosh...there's so many, Arttie.  I guess one of the ones that's pretty funny now, it wasn't then, but we were doing an East Coast tour for RCA Records, we were going up and down the east coast, and for one of the stops we were playing The Ritz, and it was us and Kix and a band called Rodinelli, and things were going really well.  So anyway, we were getting ready to load in and our guy goes out to  get the equipment, and our whole truck was stolen with all the equipment...our guitar rigs and our special white Marshall stacks, and drums, and stuff like know, they just took the whole truck and everything in it.  And, the funny thing is, our roadies, our guys, had even removed the battery from the truck, you know, to make it harder to steal, but still these people were able to get into the truck, get a battery into it, and then take off with it.  Ummm...luckily, the next day, RCA ended up buying us new equipment so we could continue with the tour.  That's know, there are just so many, from being in court and going through know, here's another one.  We were up on stage and a sheriff came in and made us stop playing because we had a TRO, a temporary restraining order, put on the band, and we had to stop performing, which meant we had to go back into court and take care of that.  We had to declare bankruptcy at one time to get ourselves out of some terrible contracts....just many, many things like that go along with the crazy stories from the road and stuff...

G2G:  You have to definitely love what you are doing to continue to perservere through all of these problems, correct?

Louis:  Absolutely, Arttie.  That's what it was always about.  It was never about a big paycheck or making that big, big rockstar lifestyle come was always about the music and the love of the music.  It still is.  I mean, I still get excited to go perform, whether it's in front of a hundred people or five, ten, fifteen thousand people, whatever it is I still get that excitement and that love to go into the studio and create new music.  You know, once the guys have gone in and laid down the basic tracks, I just can't wait to get in there and create and do my vocal tracks and start adding the harmonies and start "layering the cake" as I call it. It's always been a love and that passion has never left myself or the other guys.  I actually feel like the passion has grown at this stage in our career.  Umm...I see a resurgence of MASS fans, from the older fans who are in their late 30's and 40's now to the younger kids who are coming to the shows at ten, eleven, twelve years old sometimes, and they're learning about MASS from their parents or the internet, and we're seeing a whole new generation of MASS fans, which is exciting for me and for us as a band.  I just having a ball now, and with the re-releases of all our old albums, like Take You Home, and our EP, and our Fighter album, which were never available on CD before, you know our music is getting out there to people again that couldn't get it before.  It's just been great.

G2G:  How long do you envision MASS continuing on?  Is there an end-goal of some sort for the band or are you going to do this for as long as your voice holds out and you have stories to tell?

Louis:  (Laughing) You know...that's a good question.  I guess if I get tired of it, or if I can't sing anymore and I can't perform the way I think I should be able to anymore, then, you know, I think we'll call it a day and walk away and give it up.  But, ummm, I think we still have another ten years left in MASS if the people still want it.  I see a lot of musicians that are a lot older than me that are still doing it and having fun and sounding great.  But once we aren't doing the best that we can any longer, you know, our goal is always to make the next album better than the last one, so if we can't do that any longer, I don't see why we would continue to do this.  And, you know, I think Sea Of Black has done that, and I am very proud of that record, but I think we can take the band to another higher level still, up another notch.  If we can't, then maybe it's time to sit back and think about it and see if it's the end of our time, but for now, I think we still have things to do.

G2G:  I saw on your website that you are just a general fan of music of all styles and types.  Is there anything that you are listening to now that you are really getting into?

(Lizzy Hale of Halestorm)
Louis:  Ummm...let's see.  Like you said, I love every type of music.  The latest CD that I bought was the new Halestorm album...Lizzy Hale, I think she's great.  I've been trying to get ahold of the Poodles, I don't know if you've heard of the Poodles, but their lead singer, who I think is great, just came out with a solo album I'm wanting to get, but it's not available on iTunes yet, so I'm waiting on that one.  It's available in Sweden, but I haven't been able to get it here yet.  I've been listening to a lot of Winger lately, I like Kip's solo albums, especially his new one, the name escapes me now.  I know that when I hang up with you I'll say, "why didn't I say that album or that one or that one". (Laughing)  My library is so big, its so huge, I just listen to whatever I'm in the mood for.  But, you know, currently, its Lizzy and the Halestorm album...oh, and I've been listening to the remix I just received from JK of the "Daddy Long Legs" song for Liberty N Justice.  And, I just sang on a good friend's EP called "Scottie Dunbar, In A Mellow Mood", I sang a duet with him on that record which just came out on Down Boys Records, the label from the Warrant guys, so I've been listening to that stuff.

G2G:  On a closing note, Louis, how do fans stay in touch with you and the band?  Are you Twitter Tweeters and Facebook fans?

Louis:  Yeah, basically that's what it is.  I'm on Twitter and on Facebook.  Of course people can email us through our website, our personal emails are on there, and we do our best to respond to everyone.  You know, the internet, it's's been great for MASS because we've reconnected to a lot of people.  A lot of people didn't think we were together anymore, you know...some people didn't even know there was anything after  Voices In The Night.  And, you know, in that lull there that we talked about, a lot of people thought MASS was done or broke up.  Then, with the internet, especially Facebook and MySpace when it was going strong, we reconnected with old fans and also established a lot of brand new fans.

G2G:  Louis, it's been great getting a chance to talk to you.  I've been a fan since Voices In The Night, and it's been a lot of fun for me.  Thank you for taking the time to call us and I hope we get to do this again when the new album goes gold or platinum for you!

Louis:  You got it, Arttie!  Thank you very much, man...thank you for taking the time to talk to me and thank you for all you do.  Thank you so much....

Well, folks, if you thought MASS was dead and gone, it is obvious they are not!  I believe everything MASS has ever recorded has been reissued and made available on CD now, so if you are wanting to upgrade your collection, are looking for some stuff you've missed in the past, or want to check out what MASS sounds like now,...or if you want to contact them...check out their website at .

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