Tuesday, June 23, 2015

TALKIN' TRASH WITH....Rex Carroll of Whitecross/King James!

Whitecross founder and axe-slinger, Rex Carroll, is one of the most talented guitar players to run the fretboards, not only in Christian hard rock and metal, but in hard rock period.  But a lot of people don't realize there was life BEFORE Whitecross...and AFTER as well!  Rex was kind enough to open up on a number of topics with me in this extensive interview, which was conducted over the course of a few days.  Find a comfy chair, grab something cool to drink, and settle in as we talk some trash with Rex Carroll!
G2G:  Rex, it's great to get a chance to catch up with you again!  On social media it seems like you are a man constantly on the go.  How have you been, my friend?

Rex:  Arttie, my friend, it's always good to chat with you.  Yeah, I'm busy, but I'm good, thank you.
Rex and I clowning around at SkullFest in 2013

G2G:  There has seemingly been a lot of renewed interest in Whitecross lately.  I saw a new poll about the band's Top 10 songs on Facebook the other day, and threads pop up on The Christian Metal Realm and various other sites from time-to-time.  How does it feel to still be in the minds and hearts of people after all these years?  What do you attribute your longevity to in an industry where, let's be honest, not a lot of bands survive?

Rex:  I am continually grateful and humbled by the Grace of God, who used whatever we did to reach people for His purposes.  I don't think of us as "spiritual giants" or anything like that, but I can tell you that in spite of all the many mistakes we made collectively, at the core we were truly about serving the Lord and we were, and are, excited about ministry.  For whatever reason, people made a connection to our music and I'm thankful for however God has used us, in any small way, to impact somebody's life in a positive direction.

Not trying to dredge up any old memories or hard feelings, if they still exist, but what exactly led to your leaving Whitecross?  Was it the musical direction, wanting to get off the road, wanting to do something new...?

Rex:  Back around 92 and 93, we toured...A LOT.  Now, I love touring, I really do.  However, we got caught in a situation where our fans expected a big show with big production, but we never made enough income to really afford it.  So eventually, we were just losing too much money.  After a time of no income for Scotty or myself...on the one hand, we just couldn't do it any more.  On the other hand, Scotty and I have never gotten along all that well; we're just different people and we both have differing ideas about how to go about doing things.  So the tipping point came when my daughter required a major medical procedure.  I wasn't able to support the band, and the band was more or less just angry with me.  And, I realized that was not where I needed to be.  You could say we jumped the proverbial shark and I needed to reset and regroup.

G2G:  Stryper is still going strong...Petra is back playing shows again...Bloodgood and Guardian did new records recently, so I ask you, why not Whitecross?  Any chance of a new record at any time in the near future?

Rex:  I love how Stryper has been able to keep going.  That is fantastic!  As far as the music industry and music business is concerned, as soon as somebody makes a legitimate offer to make a new record, it's easily doable.  What I'm NOT interested in is a situation where a small label says, "you make the record at your own expense and take all your own time, we will sell it and then we're not going to pay any royalties anyways!"  I can assure you, I've done that enough already!  (Laughing)  So THAT is not happening any time soon.  But, any serious offers and of course we're interested in it.
Whitecross debut

G2G:  Your last band effort, 1987, was basically a remake of the debut, self-titled album and the highly sought after "Love On The Line".  I'm going to be very honest with you, my friend...I was VERY happy the ballads were left off of 1987, as they always lacked something without you tearing up the fretboard, at least for me.  Was there a specific reason the ballads were left off?

Rex:  Hmmm...I'll give you a very political "answer without answering response".  There was a collective discussion, and the collective thinking was that it would be fabulous to have a new recording of "Love On The Line".  (Laughing)  I hope that helps!  (Laughing)  In all seriousness, I've heard from people who were actually UNhappy with us not including the ballad.  I guess you can't please all the people all the time.  I'm jut happy we did the record at all.  I really like it, speaking for myself...
1987 re-record of debut record

G2G:  I like it a lot as well.  Let's switch gears for a second because Whitecross is certainly not the only thing you have going on.  You have another really good band called King James that is actively recording new albums.  I actually have the newest disc, Maximus, playing in the background as we chat.  I have to tell you, the more I listen to this record, the more I love it.  The song, "Waiting For The King" is just AMAZING in my opinion.

Rex:  Thanks, Arttie.  I think you are correct...the more you listen to this album, the more you realize it's pretty amazing.  There are several reasons for this.  Some really great songs, yes.  Fantastic musicians and singer, yes.  Hey!  I'm not being egotistical, I am really speaking the truth here.  The support we received during the recording process totally helped, also.  Having the GREAT John Lawry assisting us in the studio...yes and yes again!  But, most importantly, there was a decision made at the very start of the record that we were going to honor God, honor each other, honor the songs, check all of our egos at the door, and we were going to treat each other with respect, love, and doing what was best for the album, as well as doing things in as Godly a way as we knew how.  For all of these reasons, we made what is undeniably a great album!  As you can tell, I'm extremely proud of the guys and of the record.

G2G:  You just recently released a new video for the album, correct?

Rex:  Yes, that's correct.  In January, we went to Nashville and filmed two music videos for the Maximus album.  I could not be happier with the videos.  They're pretty awesome.

G2G:  Have you ever taken King James and Whitecross out at the same time, one opening for the other, for example?

Rex:  Yes, actually, we have done that a couple of times.  There was a festival in Switzerland that liked the idea of having King James on Friday night, and Whitecross on Saturday night.  It went great and everybody benefited.

G2G:  What would you say are the key differences between working in King James and working in Whitecross?

Rex:  That's a difficult question to answer, because there are so many differences!  Where to start...

In the Whitecross albums, it seems like the various record label people always wanted to get involved, so you see on the different albums where there are guest musicians, studio musicians, songs written by people who are not in the band, all kinds of things.  To be fair, sometimes we NEEDED the help.  But it also became a pain in the rear end, too.  And everybody wanted to take the credit!  (Laughing)  At times, it became a big corporate production where the band is just one element and there are WAY too many people having too much input.  I can't say that was all necessarily a bad thing....I would have to admit, I like it when there's a big fuss being made about the band.  But, it's not healthy when other people are deciding who plays on the album and who doesn't.

The first thing to my mind in regards to King James was the desire to put an end to the Merry-Go-Round.  We are actually a band of four guys who work together, and do things together as one unit.  I know, I know, basic stuff, right?  But here's the thing...the same guys who are in the picture are the same guys who play on the record, are the same guys who play at the gigs.  I believe that one reason it's hard for new bands to succeed is this: when you fall in love with a band, you have to make an emotional commitment to the songs, the sound, and the guys in the group.  Think about it.  If the Beatles show up to perform and casually say, "Oh, George couldn't make it tonight...we have a fill in...", yes, there will be a riot in the street!  If Led Zeppelin shows up and says, "oh, Robert Plant isn't here, so we have so-and-so to sing tonight..." (Laughing)  That doesn't work, does it?  So my point is we really wanted to make sure that King James is a band that will be around for a long time.  Unlike previous situations, it's a real band that you can sink your teeth into and we do what we want as a group.  I'm a fan, too; once I latch onto a group that I like, I want that group to be there for me.  So that's probably the single biggest difference from Whitecross to King James, the stability of the line-up.

G2G:  That being said, the two bands are actually the same now, only with different lead singers, correct?

Rex:  Yes, and there you go.  There's a reason why I work with the guys I work with.  Michael and Benny are some of the best musicians in the world, and it took a long time to find them and get a chemistry together.  My desire is to keep a core band together for the long run.  We actually took our time and spent a lot of effort, time, and money to make sure we had the right lineup for King James.  As it so happens, there is a continuity from Whitecross to King James.  But, don't comfuse things by saying, "same band/different singer".  The mindset, the musical goals, the way we go about doing things....all very different.

G2G:  Rex, let's go back a bit, if you don't mind.  A lot of people probably don't realize there was life before Whitecross for you, correct?

Rex:  (Laughing)  Yes, there was me and my guitar...

G2G:  Let's talk a little bit about Fierce Heart, a band that I really like, but that disappeared almost before you even really had a chance to get started.

Rex:  (Laughing)  What a mess.  First, let me start off by saying this isn't just me and sour grapes.  People will probably say, "Oh, Rex is just pissed off at Larry," but there is so much, and it's all true.

G2G:  Larry refers to the singer, Larry Elkins, correct?

Rex:  Yeah.  He was a trip and a half.  I mean, Larry always needed two limos when we went anywhere...one for him and one for his ego.  (Laughing)  They had to widen all the doorways at Unique Studio just to fit his head through!

G2G:  Ouch!

Rex: (Laughing)  I remember him and the drummer...they NEVER had any money.  (Rex talking in his redder-than-redneck southern accent) "Ray-ex, I GOT to go to the club tonight...loan me some money."  So, I'd pull out a five, knowing full well it's gone, and he'd look at me, "Ray-ex, man, that's not enough.  Make it a ten!"  Never once did he thank me.  It's interesting that he always thought of us as a group, except when it came to himself.  "We gonna be a super-group, Ray-ex!"

G2G:  (Laughing)

Rex:  One thing he and Scotty (the drummer) both seemed fascinated by was the idea of firing people.  I remember one time, Larry was with Tom, the bass player.  "Now, listen, Tom...you can either do it MY WAY or you can GO HOME!"  One time, he got about an inch away from my nose and said, "Now, Ray-ex, ah can git me anutha gitah playah, but you CAIN'T find anutha singah!"

G2G:  (Laughing)  You have to stop with the accent, Ray-ex!  

Rex: (Laughing)

G2G:  What do you think of the record, though?

Rex:  I'm disappointed with it, honestly.  (Laughing)  Now you got me going, man!  Here, let me give you some background.  Jim Delehart, the great A&R guru at Atlantic Records called me on the phone because I had sent in a cassette tape to the label.  I wanted to get an audition with Whitesnake, and he personally listened to my cassette.  When I realized who I was talking to, my whole body started shaking uncontrollably and I dropped the phone...CRASH!!!...on the floor.  (Laughing)  I didn't have a singer, so Jim said, "let's build a band around you."  Mind blowing, right?  Or maybe not...you really can't appreciate that unless you lived in the era where having a record deal with a major label actually meant something HUGE!

G2G:  I'm that old, Rex...I remember!  

Rex:  Jim Delehant, by the way, is the man who personally signed AC/DC to their American record contract.  He also signed Foreigner to the label.  One experience I'll never forget.  I was sitting in his office and he played the cassette tape for me of Foreigner rehearsing in Mick Jones' basement!  It was totally...unreal.  They were all playing and singing on the cassette tape, live, doing all the songs from their first album, and there was no AutoTune, no time-correction, no cut and paste, no ProTools....just 5 guys.  It was absolutely amazing.

G2G:  Wow...that would have been amazing!  Foreigner is one of my all-time favorite bands....

Rex:  Anyways, from the time he contacted me I was driving all over Chicago with the Illinois Entertainer "musicians wanted" ads in one hand, and my tape recorded in the front seat.  I never did find a pro-caliber singer the whole time.  Finally. Jim called me and said he had found Larry Elkins, from Virginia Beach.

G2G:  So the idea was to build around you, right?

Rex:  Pretty much, yeah.  So, once we had Larry, well...Larry assumed that the entire universe revolved around him "becuz I am the sangah!"  (Laughing)  You know, Larry used to lecture me about marriage.  (Laughing)  I've been married for a LONG time, but good ol' Larry made it clear to me, "Ray-ex, ah KNOW about mah-ridge.  Ah've been engayeged FIVE TIMES!"  (Laughing)  Then, him and the drummer would get into typical rock band conversations about girls they liked, and then he would say something along the lines of "oh, Ray-ex, y'all wouldn't know about THAT, now would ya?  You bein' the mahreed man and all..."  (Laughing)

So, anyway, once we had the deal in hand. Larry threw his weight around progressively more and more and more.  Finally, he made that comment to me about getting another guitar player.  But, I was young and, in reality, I had spent years of frustration actually trying to find a singer and couldn't do it, so it's partly my fault because I allowed it to happen.  I allowed him to get away with his "Larry-all-the-time-show" which I guess is the same thing as "enabling".  Anymore, I would just say, fine, whatever you need to do, you can pick up and go home RIGHT NOW if you think that's what you want to do.  But that's too logical, right?  (Laughing)  Besides, it doesn't make for a very good read, huh?  And, if there's one thing people want, it's drama.  Or even better, stupidity AND drama.  But, I digress...

G2G:  (Laughing)

Rex:  Coming to New York to live in Times Square for eight weeks was an eye-opening experience.  I lived at the Edison Hotel, on the corner of the Square.  To get to the studio, all you had to do was cross the Square diagonally, walk one block, and take the elevator up to the 4th floor.  Our recording schedule was 11 to 11 every day, but it was PM to AM.

G2G:  Yikes!

Rex:  (Laughing)  So...the education of Rex continued.  Every...single...time...I had to cross the street.  Two hookers and three drug dealers and a couple of muggers would literally come out to meet me in the middle of the street, because why else would you be there at 3 am, right?

G2G:  I hate cities!  (Laughing)

Rex:  My Christianity was put to the test, early and often.  Somehow or another, I made it through all of that.  I guess God was with me!  Maybe that and the fear of "social diseases"!  (Laughing)

G2G:  (Laughing)

Rex:  So, Jim Delephant and the mighty Chris Lord-Alge were the producers.  Chris did the mix on the record, and believe it or not, Tom Lord-Alge was the assistant.  Talk about the Council of the Engineering Gods, or something!  So, anyway, what they wanted me to do was record every song with multiple guitars.  No song had less than 32 tracks of guitar.  Some of them, I was required to play the solo 16 times in a row...and then they played them all back at the same time!  People walking into the studio would usually stop in stunned amazement.  My jaw was on the floor!  It was so...HUGE!  It was the most amazing thing I had ever heard in my life!  One song, I counted, had 164 tracks of just guitar!  It was just in different dimension altogether!

G2G:  That's like Blind Guardian kind of stuff!  (Laughing)

Rex:  And, to my everlasting disappointment, the biggest mistake of that record, probably, was the decision to mix all those guitar tracks down to two tracks.  A single track on the right and one on the left.  And then they did the typical 80's thing where the drums are the loudest thing on the record.  Larry, of course, sang his brains out, and you've got this never-before-heard sound that would have been just amazing, and they actually turned the guitars down kind of quiet, and ruined it, in my opinion.  Anyway...

G2G:  Wow...
Rex and Larry on the ORIGINAL album cover

ex:  The record was supposed to come out in October of 1984.  That fall, we go the call that we were booked to be the opening act for the Deep Purple reunion tour of 1985, which was huge!  But, then there was a problem with the cover.  And they didn't like the pictures, which didn't surprise me at all.  I thought the pictures were rather horrid, myself.  (Laughing)  So, they delayed the release until February of 1985....3 months...

G2G:  Ouch...

Rex:  ...and with that, we lost the shot at opening for Purple.  It just steamrolled from there.  The president of the label went and got a nasty divorce, our contract was sold to Polydor, things went downhill, and BOOM!...that was the end of that...  Scary how fast it all went in the toilet.

G2G:  (I show Rex a copy of the above picture)  Isn't the Internet a beautiful thing, Rex?  (laughing)

Rex:  See, told ya!  HORRIBLE picture!  However, the photo girl was waaaay into the guitar player!  (Laughing)  She kept going, "oooh, you look like Luke from General Hospital!"  I couldn't quite tell if she was hitting on me or if she was just trying to add some positive flow to the otherwise horrible photo shoot. (Laughing)  It didn't matter, anyway, because as you can see the picture sucked.  By the way, notice how Larry HAS to be in front in the picture?  Typical...

G2G:  Wow is about all I can think to say....

Rex:  I knew the photo shoot was a bad idea in the first place, but I didn't have the confidence to voice my opinion. let alone veto the cover photo idea...let alone insisting upon having actual input into the cover art.  I knew it was just all kinds of wrong, because anybody who looks at an album cover with only two guys on it knows immediately, "okay, this is not a REAL band", right?  This is why, in my opinion, the Black Keys...sorry guys, you can call it a band all day long, but no.  Sorry.  Number 1, you are disrespecting actual bands that work together, live together, fight it out together, and make it work with four or five people and personalities.  Number 2, you are nothing more than a duo, so in a sense you are somewhere on a scale between being disingenuous and out and out lying to the fans.  So, to recap, two people attempting to represent as a band...NO.  Glad to straighten that out for you.  (Laughing)

G2G:  (Laughing)

Rex:  See, I knew these things instinctively, but at the time I didn't know how to speak up.  Too bad, because that picture cost us.  (Laughing)  One thing I CAN say is Larry did nothing but make me miserable, 24-7.  It was a living nightmare.  I was SO happy to get back into a Christian rock band, which was Whitecross.  And, everything that I learned about life, people, the studio, how to play guitar, songwriting...I mean EVERYTHING...helped me in so many ways that I was able to guide Whitecross, at least to the point of getting us through our first album.  And, if I hadn't had that experience with Fierce Heart, I'm, quite sure I wouldn't have been able to do the Whitecross band thing, no question.

I've honestly got a lot of Fierce Heart stories.  I've been trying to write them down in a book, you know, for the half-dozen or so people that are intrigued with this kind of stuff.  I know I am.

G2G:  I'd buy the book!

Rex:  Well, there's one...  (Laughing)

G2G:  So, Fierce Heart basically implodes, but you aren't ready to give up on music yet.  How is Whitecross born from all of this?  

Rex:  When Fierce Heart was done...well, we actually did four shows first...but when we were done, there was no clear path to move forward, so I just went back to guitar teaching, waiting for another opportunity.  One day, Scotty Wenzel came through my door looking to bone up on his guitar skills.  "Christian music" was such an underground thing at the time that you didn't talk about it much in public, but Scotty had a Petra shirt on, so that was the cue for me that it was okay to talk about it.  So, anyway, we talked a bit and I found out he had a group together jamming in his basement.  I suggested we should get together so I could hear him sing...boy, he resisted that idea!  He did NOT want to do it, and he cancelled out on me 3 or 4 times.  Finally, I nailed him down.  He claimed he was sick, etc., etc., but he finally opened his mouth and did a little bit of "Dust In The Wind".  (Laughing)

G2G:  Your first listen to Scott was some Kansas karaoke?

Rex:  I just wanted to verify if he could hit pitches, and then get an idea of the sound of his voice.  From there, I went to his band practice.  On the one hand, when I heard him at rehearsal, I knew, "yep, this voice will definitely work in a rock band".  But, on the other hand, the band...wow...what a mess.  It was about a twenty year process to get to where Whitecross is now with Michael (Feighan) and Benny (Ramos).  We didn't start at "zero"...more like from way behind zero....

Ratt's Pearcy
G2G:  One thing that always seems to come up with regard to Whitecross is you were so frequently labeled the "Christian Ratt".  (Laughing)  What do you make of that?

Rex:  Yeah, I heard that a lot.  I'll be honest...I used to sit around my trailer park home with my guitar and a Marshall half stack, tweaking the controls all day long, trying to get that Ratt guitar sound.  For weeks on end!  (Laughing)

Scott Wenzell of Whitecross
G2G:  I love Ratt, man...always have.

Rex:  Yeah, so did I.  You know what?  Whitecross and Ratt should swap singers for a month, just because!  (Laughing)

G2G:  Yes!  Finally, the Christian Ratt is a reality!  (Laughing)

Rex:  Scotty would come out on stage with Ratt and go, "are you ready to worship the Lord tonight!", and the crowd would be like, "What the...?!"  (Laughing)

G2G:  (Laughing)

Rex:  Pearcy would come out with us and go, "How the 'F' are ya?!"  (Laughing heavily)  The Whitecross crowd would also go, "What the...?!"  But the singers are IDENTICAL, right?!  (Laughing)  Listen, I know Whitecross gets compared to Ratt.  Let me tell you, I've seen Ratt.  I get the impression that Stephen Pearcy has a two word vocabulary, and one of them is the "F" word.  I know it's hard to imagine, but there is a certain percentage of people that are not all that impressed.  I love the music, I just want to live for something larger than my own little kingdom of being a rock star.  But, other than the language, the vocal resemblance between Pearcy and Scotty is uncanny.

G2G:  Honestly, I never really heard it.  Some similarity, sure, but not like some people who made them out to be vocal clones...

Rex:  Thing is, Scotty actually had no idea who Ratt was.

G2G:  Really?

Rex:  Nope.  No clue.  But, I liked it when people compared us.m  I took it as a compliment, actually.

G2G:  I've heard that for all intents and purposes, you played virtually everything on that first Whitecross record...

Rex:  Not completely true.  I wrote most of the songs, arranged most of the parts, and ghosted all of the bass parts for the first two albums.  Then, starting with Triumphant Return, the record company
insisted on bringing in Rick Cua to play bass.  I resisted it at first, but I'm very glad it happened.  I ended up learning a LOT from Rick, and he's a really nice guy on top of that!

G2G:  That's funny to me.  I remember hesitantly liking Rick's song, "I Can, I Will", but not admitting to it because it wasn't hard rock or metal at all...

Rex:  Well, yeah.  (Laughter)  There's no question I pushed him HARD to bring out his rock side.  I think Rick is a guy who was a rocker at heart....don't forget he played in the Outlaws...but he wrote the kind of music that he felt he needed to do to sell the most albums at that time so as to take care of his family.  I don't fault him, or anyone else, for doing that.  But, like you, I'm not much of a fan of the AOR sound.  To put it differently, I like MY music, which ranges from hard rock to blues.  Some metal, but I'm not a "core" guy, either.  I like melody and soulfulness.  I LOVED the whole 80's/90's era Whitesnake vibe, for example.  Soulful vocals, melodic songs, incredible musicians, and guitars to melt your brain...and make you practice!  I'm also really into Stevie Ray Vaughn and blues in general.

G2G:  I've always been curious as to why there was a lyrical change in "Stoplight" from the Axemen compilation to the version on Triumphant Return.

Rex:  Is there?  (Laughing)  I don't know...

The Axemen cover
G2G:  Yeah, the line on The Axemen goes, "He said 'I am the way to God'", but on the album it goes, "'I am the way to God' he said..."  I always thought maybe someone was giving you or Scott flack for the phrasing...

Rex:  No, that would just be Scotty doing the things that he thought were important....

G2G:  Getting back to your statement about the record company telling you to bring in Cua...  Is there a lot of pressure to be Biblically sound and Scripturally accurate when you're on a Christian label like Pure Metal or Word, or were they really all that involved?

Rex:  It was a weird mix.  Yes, there was incredible pressure to be Biblically sound.  Way past the point of hypocrisy from the labels.  They put EXTREME pressure on the artists at all times.  Funny thing, though, whenever royalties are due, they (the labels) don't seem all that interested in stepping up.  Or, there are always "inaccuracies" that "will be fixed on the next statement".

That's a twisted, murky rabbit hole right there....the tightrope you try to walk representing CCM on the one hand, versus being real with all of your own shortcomings on the other hand.  But people don't want to see that.  They want to see perfection at all times...and, of course, inevitably you make a mistake of one sort or another and are revealed as who you really are...just another sinner who desperately needs the blood of Christ to cover a lifetime's worth of not making the grade.  In my case, it happens that my sins come with a skill to play guitar a little bit and a desire to at least point people in the right direction, towards Jesus.

Anyway...now that I've put a flame thrower on the labels...(laughing)...I would say that just as the dog is the natural enemy of the mailman, the label is the natural enemy of the artist.  BUT...if I was a label, I also think I might say to an upcoming artist, "What?!  You want me to give money to a ROCK band?  What are you?  Crazy?"  (Laughing)  "You'll just blow the money on motorcycles or something!"  (Laughter)

But, back to your point...I believe that, by and large, we upheld the ideal that we wanted to make music that was solid spiritually and would give people something positive to hang on to.  We WANTED to point people towards Christ, so we put as much pressure on ourselves as anyone else, including the people at the labels.

G2G:  We've spent so much time in the past, I want to make sure people know what's going on with you now.  You have a pretty big event coming up, right?

Rex:  You mean Rock Academy?

G2G:  Yeah!  What is it?  Are we talking School of Rock kinda stuff here...?

Rex:  Rock Academy is an event I started a year ago to offer a chance for musicians to come together and get some incredible interactive master classes with top-level instruction.  The whole flavor of the event is guided by my ideas and philosophies, so that's why it's called the "Rex Carroll Rock Academy" as opposed to any other "school of rock" out there.

Last year was phenomenal for us, and this year I'm looking for the same.  If people are interested in direct learning for guitar, drums, bass, and voice, that's who Rock Academy is for.  Really, it's an even for your whole band.  That's one of the ideas...to have the entire BAND making better music together.

G2G:  So, people are actually encouraged to participate as a band, if possible, correct?

Rex:  Oh, yeah...

G2G:  Who do you have participating as instructors?  I know you just announced Michael Feighan, right?

Rex:  Yep.  Benny will also be there.  Tamara Anderson is teaching voice this year.  She has a long list of successful students.  And then there's additional guitar instruction, not just from me.  Our local amazing prodigy, Straten Hammond, is gonna show us his Yngwie-like shred techniques...without the attitude (laughing).  And Peter Stenlund from Sweden is amazing at getting bands to play better and more as a unit, and he will be here as well.

G2G:  I know some people are going to ask, so I'll do it for them:  is this a Christian-only event?

Rex:  No, it's not.  It's a musical event.  (Laughter)  But, it is at the Christian high school in Kenosha, WI, so if that's okay, then we're good.

G2G:  So how do people find out more about the event, the activities, sign-ups, etc.?

Rex:  I need to do an update, but the basic rundown can be found at http://rexcarrollmusic.com/rock_academy_2015/ 

G2G:  Sounds like a lot of fun!

Rex:  It will be, Arttie...you should come.

G2G:  (Laughter)  Trust me, you don't want me singing or playing a guitar!

Rex:  (Laughter)

G2G:  Rex, this has been a lot of fun, and thanks for being so candid about things.  We need to do this again sometime...maybe when you...or WE...get done writing that book!  (Laughter)

Rex:  I'd love to, Arttie...  Thanks!



Since Rex and I last spoke, some pretty cool stuff has happened, as Rex's original band, Fierce Heart, has had its one and only CD officially reissued in Limited Edition format on AOR Boulevard Records.  I got the chance to chat with Rex about that briefly, and here's how that conversation went:

G2G:  Rex, thanks for taking a few minutes to chat with me about this reissue of the Fierce Heart record.

Rex:  Sure, Arttie!  Thanks for asking.

G2G:  So Fierce Heart is FINALLY going to get to see an official, proper reissue!  I want to start off by saying that I noticed that there are three new songs on this record...taken from a demo...but they are NOT of the original version of the band.  Can you tell me about that?

Rex:  First, as I mentioned before, you have to know that Larry Elkins was THE WORST NIGHTMARE anyone could ever ask for!  Made everybody miserable, and made my life a living hell, even while we were all trying to get to the "promised land" as a band.  

G2G:  (Laughing)  Yeah, I remember...

Rex:  So, once things fell apart with the label, there was nothing to hold us together.  Larry went back to Virginia Beach, and I stayed in Chicago.  Then I recruited a singer by the name of Bob Reynolds from a band called Grave Danger, and I asked him to join the band, which he did.  We played gigs together for a year or so, and we also made demos of new songs.  There were a couple of additional songs, but the three on this new release of the album are what survive.

G2G:  I guess I didn't know the band really went on after you and Larry split ways.

Rex:  Well, if it were to be put into a timeline, it would look like this.  1984, Fierce Heart records in New York City, then in 1985, the album is released.  By Fall of 1985, Larry has bailed and Bob Reynolds comes in.  In the Summer of 1986, Bob and I, along with our band, record some new songs and attempt to get the band re-signed.  During that process, in the Fall/Winter of 1986, and through the first part of 1987, I started working on a, at that time, side project called Whitecross.  That band's debut album came out just in time for Cornerstone 87.  (For those unaware, Cornerstone was a HUGE Christian rock festival that ran for many years just outside of Chicago).  I may be biased, but based solely on the three demo songs on this new reissue, my personal belief is that it was a mistake for Atlantic Records not to resign Fierce Heart...but what do I know...  I do think there's a valid argument that the label gave up to easily on the band, but hindsight's 20/20.

G2G:  Would Reynolds have been available to go forward with the band...and was it actually a band at this time, or just you and Bob...kind of like it was with just you and Larry?

Rex:  Yeah, with Reynolds it was a full band and we would have been able to go forward.  We had a bass player and drummer, although there were some maturity issues all the way around the board, including with the guitar player.  

By the way, speaking of the guitar player, for diehard fans, you can hear several Whitecross riffs in those three demo songs from 1986.  At that point I was really starting to come into my own style.

G2G: Rex, was there EVER an official reissue of this album prior to the one out now?  Even the Retrospect Records version?

Rex:  Official?  No.  Not what you would call official.  There was a German bootleg, then the Retrospect bootleg...pure, unadulterated crap of a bootleg if I ever heard one.  For the record, and ON the record, the Retrospect version is very, very weak on the details and is NOT authorized by myself or anybody else.

G2G:  Here's the most recent version I picked up, Rex.  (At this point, I snap the following couple of pictures with my phone and send them to him to look at....)

Rex:  Who put that one out?  Is that vinyl?!

G2G:  Someone called Unidisc made this one.  Its a CD made to look like vinyl, right down to the way they labeled the CD and the slip-cover styled packaging.  It's kinda cool in its own way...

Rex:  Okay, well I guess that's one MORE bootleg version!  (Laughs)

G2G:  Made in Canada, it says...

Rex:  Well, I was thrilled to do my version with AOR Boulevard, because I got to oversee the audio re-master, participate in creating the new artwork...and there's a story THERE!  If the (original) artwork on that one album had been correct things might have turned out quite differently.  I have to trust that God, in His infinite wisdom, had a better idea than I did.  Anyway, I also got to write the liner notes and tell the story of the band from MY perspective, which was cool.  I'm happy with how it turned out as a package.


Well, there you have it, folks...  What a GREAT guy to meet and talk to.  Very humble, very down-to-earth, and also very honest and willing to talk a little "trash" when necessary.  Check out his website at www.rexcarrollmusic.com , check out Rock Academy at that same site, AND follow the link to snag a copy of the BRAND NEW, OFFICIAL REISSUE of the Fierce Heart record while supplies of this limited edition release last.  You can also find him on Facebook, along with his bands, Whitecross and King James.

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