BY: JIM VILLANUEVA
Buddhists believe the lotus flower represents rebirth. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus believed that the only constant is change. In the case of Lotus Crush, the rock unit anchored by former Candlebox guitarist Peter Klett and ex-Driveblind and The Voice Season 3 runner-up Terry McDermott, rebirth and change came by way of the release of the band’s second album, Rabbit Hole, available now on CaviGold Records. In the three years since the release of the group’s debut, 2011’s Half Light Morning, Klett rejoined Candlebox, only to recently announce he once again was leaving the multiplatinum-selling band far behind, while McDermott attempted to turn chairs and turn his second-place finish on The Voice into a successful solo career.
Today, Klett is confident this second Lotus Crush collection will win over the hearts and minds of longtime Candlebox fans, plus garner a whole new group of followers, while McDermott is banking on cashing in on his national television exposure by winning over fans with his voice and songwriting. I recently spoke with Klett – whom as a member of Candlebox, I hosted numerous times during my stint producing the nationally syndicated Rockline during the mid-90s – about Rabbit Hole, Lotus Crush’s current U.S. tour, future touring plans, and much more.
I was a huge supporter and big fan, and I’m proud to say I have a triple-platinum plaque of the debut album hanging in my office, just to the left of me. So, it’s great to talk to you again, my friend.
Yeah, you, too, man.
So after 20-plus years you and longtime Candlebox drummer Scott Mercado recently decided to stop touring with Candlebox to concentrate on Lotus Crush and this new record. How tough was it to make the change and leave Candlebox behind – at least for now?
Well, the partnership there just kind of ran its course for a while, so we thought we’d all just kind of take a break and so something else. Scott has actually moved on from Lotus as well, to focus on other stuff, so it’s just myself. But, you know, sometimes it seems a little odd that I’m not in the band, but for the most part I’m real excited about kind of starting fresh and building something new and different.
Very cool. Yeah, I was gonna follow up by asking you to confirm that Scott was no longer in Lotus Crush, because I just got that news last week. Anyway, enough with the past; let’s talk about the present. Introduce us to the other guys in Lotus Crush.
Ok, so Mark Mattrey is our bass player and he was a friend of our engineer doing our record, and brought him in to play bass on the record, because we didn’t have a bass player. So after the record was done, we needed to put a band together, so it was a no-brainer to bring Mark onboard. I knew Island Styles (rhythm guitar/vocals) from pervious bands and friends, and he actually came out to tech for Candlebox for a small period of time. So I called him, and he was interested and came and talked with us and played with us and decided he really liked it, so he’s our second guitar player. And then we have Ehssan Karimi, who is a friend of Mark’s, our bass player, and he’s our drummer. Mark suggested he come and tryout, so he came and – poor guy – his tryout was basically filling in on this tour. So he had to learn the songs and get acquainted fast, which he did really well.
Nice. So we haven’t mentioned him yet, but I’ll segue into asking you to tell everyone how you and frontman Terry McDermott first met and eventually started kicking around the idea of forming Lotus Crush.
When Candlebox got back together in 2006, we toured and Terry’s band Driveblind had been signed to Geffen and was put on that tour. We loved the band, we loved the guys in the band, it was a wonderful tour and we remained in contact after that tour was over. Before we [Candlebox] got back together and the period between breaking up the first time and getting back together, I had formed a band called RedLightMusic and put out a record, and terry had heard some of that after us getting together on that 2006 run. I saw him in a New Orleans show with Candlebox and he had mentioned that he liked what I was doing and we should collaborate sometime. So eventually when (Candlebox frontman) Kevin (Martin) went to do The Gracious Few (2010 self-titled album) I called Terry, I sent him some songs, he sang at home on them, he sent them to me and I was immediately excited about them. So we got together, we recorded the first record Half Light Morning at my house, we did some touring, I went back to Candlebox for a while, he went to do The Voice, and then here we are. We had a chance to do another record and now we’re a full band, back together and on tour.
Let’s talk about this new album, Rabbit Hole, which holds 11 solid rock songs, starting with “Hearts and Minds.” The video for “Hearts and Minds” is intense, to say the least. Talk about the storyline and how it fits with the song lyrics.
The song is really about how in our culture and all the media outlets, there is this constant pull for our hearts and minds. Opinion, social views, political views, the things going on across the globe, the conflicts; everybody’s got an opinion and everybody’s being barraged by opinions, and so we’re constantly being pulled in one direction or another. [Actor] C. Thomas Howell got involved through a friend and said he’d love to do the video, so we tried to mold the video based upon conflicts of character, and just kind of reflect what’s going on in parts of the world. He came in and they did this big long front to the video, and we all just couldn’t believe how cool it was. So that’s the gist of that, really.
Another standout track on the record is “Blood in the Water.” To me, it’s a U2-worthy, arena-ready anthem. Tell me about the recording of that one.
That song is a musical brainchild of our producer Todd (Burman). He had this guitar thing he’d been working on, we brought it to the table and I started doing something on top of it, Terry started singing and it just kind of came together in a way that it’s hard to explain. It’s got such a feel to it, and it’s actually one of our favorite songs.
Amen, man, because I think that’s the one that really, really stood out for me on this record.
Yeah, me too. And I guess it’s one of those things where I like the listener to interpret what they think the story is saying, you know what I mean?
Yeah, it’s funny you mentioned that because as I was tuning into the title, “Blood in the Water,” immediately I go to a shark…
…and I was gonna say, help me out with trying to figure out who or what is the shark in this scenario, but it could be a number of things, so maybe we’ll let the listener decide.
Yeah, that one I think is really up for interpretation. “Hearts and Minds” is very straightforward story.
In the bio for this album you said: “We like a lot of layers and colors…this band has something for everybody across the board. We had a true vision of where we wanted to go for this record.” In your mind, who is your – I’ll use an industry term you and I are very familiar with – so-called target audience for this album?
Oh boy, it’s so hard these days. Back when we were doing these interviews, there wasn’t the internet, there wasn’t Facebook; there wasn’t any of that. There was limited sources for people to get music. Nowadays, I don’t even know how to (pause) is there any categories anymore, you know what I mean? What do you categorize any music as these days? There’s the stock rock, alternative, you know that kind of thing, but you know, I would like to say that the band has something for from 18-50. And that’s the difficulty of having a record that’s so spread out, genre-wise, and dynamics and styles that you have a hard time going, okay well we’re gonna place it and we’re going down this road for promotion. You know what I mean?
So that’s actually been difficult for us to find out where to put it.
I can imagine. So Peter, I don’t think I’ve ever had the opportunity to ask you this question; when did you have your proverbial Beatles on Ed Sullivan moment? When did you say to yourself, I wanna make music?
Yeah, I mean there wasn’t a lot of music from my folks, but I had an older sister and brother who played music and I remember, especially my brother’s room, just hearing these records come out of there and thinking like, what is that, you know! But I never even really thought about playing an instrument. I was at camp one summer and somebody had a nylon acoustic and they taught me to play “Smoke on the Water.” So I played it over and over and over again and I probably drove everybody nuts, but that was it. So I went home and I asked for a guitar – that was summertime – and I asked for a guitar for Christmas. I got a Yamaha 12-string acoustic and off I went.
So let me ask you about a couple of other tracks on the record. Sonically, “On and On” starts off very quiet, very pretty before it explodes about 45 seconds in. And this pattern goes on and on, pun intended, for the rest of the song. Talk about the construction of this tune.
Oh boy, it’s like pieced together from so many different avenues. Again, I think our producer had a weird tuning that he’d been messing around with, and so I started picking along to what he was doing which created that pattern to the verse. And then Terry starts dabbling with the vocals as we go. And then I don’t really know who came up with it or where it came from, but we just said let’s pick it up, let’s do this, here’s some chords and before you know it you’ve got the chorus and the drop down and that big middle section that builds up. It’s really just that you piece things together as you go. You get your basic structure and you get these melody lines working. Before you know it you got the basics and then you get in the studio and everything starts revealing itself and it just starts coming together.
I guess those are the layers and colors that you referenced in your quote in the bio.
I want to ask you about track nine [“I Potest Non Spirant”]. It’s only 45 seconds long and I’ll let you translate the title for us.
Well, it’s “I Can’t Breathe” We have a couple of songs on the record in that tuning and I started dinking around and I had some lyrics pop into my head and I just started singing. Todd loved it and he said, let’s record that right now. What we were basically gonna do is have two or three things like that segue into songs, but we just ran out of time and space but that one had been recorded and they decided that they really liked it, let’s put it in there. So, that’s why it’s there; it’s just real quick and to the point. Yeah, it was cool to have my voice on another record.
I should add that it segues into the song “Bye Bye.” Now there was a gap of about three years in between the release of Lotus Crush’s 2011 debut, Half Light Morning, and this new record, Rabbit Hole. I’d say that most bands wouldn’t have survive the lull in activity. What did you learn about yourselves during the break, and why was now the right time to regroup and record?
Obviously from Half Light Morning to Rabbit Hole there’s a timespan of growth. Candlebox did another record and it was just one more canvas to paint on and try new stuff as a guitar player and writer. And Terry went to do The Voice and it just seemed to work out. He’d been done with The Voice and he’d been doing Terry McDermott and The Bonfires, and was enjoying that, but we’d always kept in touch and we had always planned to do another record, and the timing worked that we were ready and able to do it, so that’s how that came together. As far as the music goes, we always had some ideas. Literally we started doing demos at my place after that first record was done, for another record, but Candlebox called and then he went to do The Voice. So some of those songs were already there.
Well, this tour goes through September 19, and then everybody’s gonna go off and do whatever they need to do. We’re working in November. December looks like Europe again. We’re gonna try to make it next year so that we can get over to do the European festivals. That’s a huge goal for us. So right now there’s no other touring, other than we’re doing a benefit show for C. Thomas Howell. We just recorded a song for his charity [This Time Tomorrow Foundation]. What he does every year is he has a band rerecord a song written by a friend of his, and then you do your own interpretation of it. We’re beyond excited about it; it really turned out good.
Well Peter I wanna wrap with a personal note. I wanna take this opportunity to tell you that in my humble opinion, “Miss You” off Candlebox’s 2008 album Into the Sun is one of the best rock songs written and recorded in the last 20 years.
I’ve had the opportunity and pleasure to tell Kevin that same thing, at one point. And the guitar solo stands out as one of my all-time favorites. So thank you for that song.
Wow! Well you’re welcome.
“Criminally overlooked” is probably an overused phrase, but until someone comes up with something better, I’ll keep saying that when I talk to people about “Miss you.”
(Laughs) That’s great, dude!
It’s a great, great song. Alright, Peter, it was great to talk to you. Safe travels, and hopefully we’ll get a chance to say hi face-to-face another time very soon.
Alright, cool. One more thing; I have another project coming out in a month or so called Apollo Under Fire and I would love to get you some of that when it comes out and maybe do an interview on that one, too.
I’d be happy to, man. It’d be great.
Great. Alright, thanks, man. Bye.
**To hear more audio of my extensive conversation with Peter Klett of Lotus Crush, please “LIKE” Facebook.com/CurrentClassics and look for a link to an upcoming episode of my weekly Current Classics podcast. Listen HERE.