He has achieved more than most. Playing with the likes of Foo Fighters and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, guitarist Chris Shiflett is now exploring his fondness for country with The Dead Peasants. Killyourstereo.com recently sat down with Shiflett to discuss new album, ‘All Hat and No Cattle’, his upcoming plans for a podcast and the state of Foo Fighters album writing.
G’day Chris, how are you?
Good, how are you?
Going really well thanks.
You’ve got the album out now, I’m always interested to gauge musicians thoughts. What’s the feeling?
It is pandemonium my friend (laughs). There’s riots in the streets, there is line dancing down Sunset Boulevard. America is abuzz with Dead Peasants fever…
…I might be exaggerating a little bit (laughs).
It is better than underselling it.
That’s true. I’m just trying to put my best foot forward.
As a musician, how important is it to have a change of pace because the bands you’re involved with are all distinctively different from one another.
It is really good. I think it’s important as a player to go out and play different styles of music and play with different people, and work. It’s good to have to go out and work for it. It keeps you on your toes.
Talking about working and everything, you’re obviously a busy man. How is the balancing act with everything? I read the article, I think it was in Rolling Stone, work is underway with the Foo Fighters album. I saw on Twitter that you’ve been tracking guitar with Me First and the Gimme Gimmes [too].
It has been really, really busy, but it’s good. I’ve been working a lot. I was thinking about it recently, I always dreamt when I was younger that I would play music full-time for a living and that would be my life. That is 100% my life nowadays. Pretty much everyday I’m rehearsing or recording or playing a gig with somebody, whether it’s Foo Fighters or Dead Peasants or the Gimme Gimmes. I might be playing a pep rally at my kid’s school (laughs). Pretty much everyday I’m doing something that involves music and playing my guitar. It pays my mortgage and it’s just the greatest thing in the world.
Like you were saying there, the goal was to make it 100% full-time. Is it fair to say music is 24/7? On top of it being your profession, it’s also a lifestyle, it’s also a passion. Do you really feel it takes up pretty much all of your life?
It takes up a huge chunk of it. I grew up so totally defined by my musical tastes. That was the only thing I ever really cared about all throughout my childhood and into adult life. Things change when you get a little older and your perspective changes and once you have kids that changes a lot, but the great thing is now I get to turn my kids onto music and I get to see their tastes evolve. It is just great. It is still the most important thing in my life.
That’s interesting about the family life. A lot of bands when they’re around 18 or 19 can almost afford just to focus on the music because it’s just themselves. They are not married, they don’t have kids. As you get older, how is it juggling family life with music life?
My days are pretty compartmentalised. Over the last 10 – 20 years my lifestyle has dramatically changed. A lot of that is when you have kids; it just turns your world upside down. You’re not the priority anymore, there’s just stuff that has to get done. If you also want to go create music and work on music and have that time to do that, you have to just plan everything. At least that’s how it works for me. I have these windows where I can go and get shit done. So for me, I just want to go maximise that time. When we have Dead Peasants rehearsal, we aren’t fucking around. “I have two hours, we have to get through this set (laughs). Let’s work this shit out now. I have to go pick my kids up and I can’t be late for that, so we’ve got to get to work (laughs).” That’s how things are now. But, I like that.
‘All Hat and No Cattle’ was released on Side One Dummy, which is a cool independent punk label. What has the experience been like working with an independent like that as opposed to the more major labels?
Working with Side One [Dummy] has been amazing. I’ve worked with a lot of labels throughout the years – some very big, some very small and everything in between. I have to say, the crew at Side One and the people that they work with, and the crew over at that office, they handle their business so great. They’re amazing. They’re all really motivated and it has just been a thrill to work with them. They’ve done such a good job for my record. It is great to have a team of people helping you get your music out there – that’s what the Side One crew is like….
…That’s how we are having this conversation right now (laughs).
Going back to something I saw on your Twitter page, I know you’ve got the podcast and sometimes you’re on the other side of the fence getting to interview various musicians. How is that?
It is an interesting thing man. I’ve done a bunch of interviews now and I haven’t cut any of them up and actually put the podcast out yet. I’ve just been so busy with other things that I haven’t had time to do that [yet]. I’m working on it. I’m chipping away at it because I have hours and hours of interviews. It is really fun – I really dig it. I have basically approached it like,” who do I want to talk to? What do I want to talk to them about?” I got to go interview this guy, Red Simpson. He is kind of a legendary Bakersfield country singer-songwriter. He had a bunch of hits in his own right, but he also wrote songs for Merle Haggard and Buck Owens and guys like that. I just called him out of the blue. He didn’t know who the fuck I was (laughs). I just drove up to his house and sat in his kitchen and [talked] with him for a little while. It has made me appreciate how hard it is to interview somebody (laughs). Because you go in with all these questions and you want to get to all these specific things. Every time the conversation goes into some territory that you weren’t expecting. It’s hard, but it’s great – it’s super fun.
I also got to interview John Doe from X, who is one of my all time musical heroes. I did a phoner with him and I was doing it via Skype so I could record it into my computer and my Internet picked that day not to work. It was so fucked! I was like, “This is a good lesson learnt. I’m never going to do this again if I can help it. If I can be in a room with someone, I’m definitely going to do that.” It was so frustrating trying to talk to one of my heroes and I don’t know him personally, and he was just being cool by letting me interview him. It dropped the call like three or four times.
I must admit I’ve had similar stuff like that happen before and it is that real heart sinking moment.
Yeah, it was like, how many more times am I going to drop this call and he is still going to pick up when I call him back (laughs).
Talking about your influences, what were some of the records growing up that really got the ball rolling for you?
My early, early memories are just listening to my brother’s records and also my dad’s records. I didn’t think my dad has good taste in music when I was a kid, but then I came to realise he did. My dad was really into Bob Dylan and old blues records, and Stevie Wonder and Bob Marley. That’s the kind of stuff he would play around the house. My brothers had like Rolling Stones records and Beatles records. The first person that really made me want to be a guitar player was probably Ace Frehley from Kiss. He was just a God to me when I was kid. He was always my favourite member of Kiss. But, then the real turning point was when Randy Rhodes came out on those first couple of Ozzy records. That was the moment for me. He was my absolute guitar hero. There are so many others after that. Brian Setzer was a huge influence. Andy McCoy from Hanoi Rocks, The Clash. There are just so many.
You’ve been fortunate enough to achieve quite a bit through your musical career so far, but are there goals that stick out that are still high on the priority list?
It is hard to say because the things we’ve gotten to do over the years has so far exceeded anything I could’ve ever imagined doing. Sure, there are still a million things I’d love to do. We’ve just been so lucky already, who knows (laughs). Things just keep getting better and better, and more ridiculous. I love it.
Before we were talking about record labels and you said you’ve worked with the big labels and the small labels and everything in between. For an up and coming musician, what do you think is the biggest mistake they should try and steer clear of?
The industry has changed so much over the years. In all honesty, from a business side of things, I wouldn’t know what advice to give anyone these days. It is just so different from when I was 16 or 18 or 22 or whatever. But, I always tell people the same thing, play music because you love it and if you just do it for the right reasons – obviously there is a hard work element of it, but I never thought of it like that when I was a kid because I had to do it, I love it so much. It was the only thing I wanted to do. It didn’t seem like hard work at the time. You look back and think, “Fuck man! We covered a lot of miles.” I lifted a lot of amps and drums sets in and out of vans for a long time and slept in a lot of shitty hotel rooms. At the time I just thought, “Woo hoo, I’m so lucky. I can’t believe I get to do this. I’m so lucky (laughs)” Just play music because it’s what your heart wants to do.
What are the plans for the next 6-12 months? Is it going to be touring or are you going to be focusing on Foo Fighters towards early next year.
A little bit of both. I don’t know how much touring, hard touring we’ll be doing with the Dead Peasants. But, we’re doing a bunch of shows. I think we are going to do a West Coast [US] run. We’ll see what comes our way.
It has been a real pleasure speaking to you today Chris. Really appreciate you taking the time to chat with us.
Thank you so much man.
‘All Hat and No Cattle’ is out now via Shock.