INTERVIEW WITH
Paul Mars Black

 By: Scott Redeker

What years were you in each of these bands?
Also can you describe the type of music each of them played?

Sonic Boom
1998-2001, great songs, old blues, rock and country, rhythm.
Influences: Dylan, Stones, The Faces, and old acoustic blues like Lead Belly

Black Cherry
1988-1991. Hard rock

L.A. Guns
1985- March 1987. Hard rock

The Joneses
1983-1985. Trash rock

Mau Maus
1980-1983. Punk rock

What was it like playing shows in LA?
A lot of fun, especially through the 80sthere was more of a cohesive rock n roll scene, not like today, where bands in the club scene have diverged into more isolated categories. The shows and the crowds were a big part of it too—we were all hanging out and doing and creating something new. Fashion-wise, style-wise, party-wise, everything was more extreme, and therefore more fun. Plus, girls wore less clothes. And were a lot sluttier. Just kidding—I think.

Was it different for each band you were in?
Yeah, with the Mau Maus it was the beginning of LA punk, and most of our shows were at underground venues (like Godzilla’s and Cathay De Grande) because of the riots that would break out at nearly all of our shows. Police were regulars, and had to break up the chaos at every show, usually before we even had a chance to finish our set. But that’s ok.

The Joneses were trash rock, a transition from punk into the LA Glam scene. We were borrowing from Chuck Berry, Stones and Aerosmith, and  that was completely new to the scene, which was then mostly pushing punk or heavy metal with nothing in between. The Joneses were more refined than punk, going in a rock n roll direction, but with the same punk attitude, and that built a whole new scene. We started moving up to the more famous venues like The Troubadour and The Roxy that were inaccessible to most punk bands, and we also supported acts like Johnny Thunders.

While I was drumming with The Joneses in 1985, I formed my own band, LA Guns as a singer.  So the scene was still pretty much the same. There was a big crossover from the punk and trash scene. My original intention with LA Guns was to have a punk version of The Rolling Stones. Though I was headlining a lot of sold out shows at The Whiskey and The Roxy, pretty soon I was moving onto bigger shows like The Palace with Iggy Pop, and Fender’s Ballroom with The Lords Of The New
Church. Our following became huge.

After I left LA Guns, I took a six month break from the music scene, and left LA.  When I came back I started Black Cherry. But in that short time, LA and music had changed. People were flooding LA from all over with big hair and rockstar visions. There were so many bands now dying to play shows, that promoters implemented everyone’s favorite term “Pay to Play.”
Since I had already built up a reputation, my new band Black Cherry was able to book shows on bills with Jane’s Addiction and Iggy Pop, and headline shows at The Whiskey and The Roxy. However, pay to play made it impossible to control the billing for supporting acts that were playing with us. It was like an auction, and playing with us went out to the highest bidder. We ended up sometimes with the most random opening acts. One night a lounge act with a one legged pianist and tambourine man was our opening act. Aren’t those promoters genius?

Sonic Boom was years later.
Sonic Boom started out as a song writing project between me and Jo Almeida (Jo Dog from Dogs D’Amour), and was completely different from anything else I’d done.  We used a stand up bass, a Hammond organ, and piano. It was much more eclectic and went more in a blues and country and experimental direction. We did a few shows in 2000 and 2001 at The
House Of Blues and The Dragonfly.  But we are concentrating more on being in the studio rather than playing clubs, and working on putting together a new record.

Did you get out to tour other places?
Funny thing. One of the things that was most appealing to me about playing in a band, was the idea of living the gypsy life and touring the world playing music. But actually I’ve never played outside the US, even though my records have sold worldwide. But I do plan on touring UK and Japan later this year with Sonic Boom to promote our record Sundown And Yellow Moon.  And if anyone wants to set up a tour anywhere else, let me know. I’m there.

How would you describe the Strip in the 80's?
During the 80s you could go up to the Strip anytime on a Friday or Saturday night or even during the week for that matter, and it would be a big party without ever having to step foot inside a club. It was great, unless there was a band that we really wanted to see, we all just partied in the streets, occasionally ducking into alleyways and parking lots to do our thing.

Was it as wild as everyone says it was?
I don’t know what everyone says, but from my point of view, it was pretty crazy.

How did you go about promoting your bands?
Press Releases, graffiti, full page ads in BAM, LA Weekly, Rock City News.  Flyer wars, plastering billboards, flyering cars at The Forum parking lots during good shows. And radio promotion with ticket giveaways.

Are there any bands you saw that should have had much more success?
Oh Yes. As a matter of fact, Black City Records (www.blackcitymusic.com) was founded because of this. Our mission is to
find these bands, and recover the stories, recordings and performances of some of LA’s true underground, ground breaking bands, like The Mau Maus and The Comatones, and give them back to the world.

Any bands you still wonder how they ever made it?
With a record industry that likes to manipulate what’s hip and what’s not, there’s nothing to wonder about. I think we all know there are a lot of horrible bands out there, that “made it” riding the record label paddy wagon.  If you’re looking for true, unadulterated rock n roll, don’t assume you’ll find it on a major corporate label.

You Web Site mentions Black Cherry being one of LA's top-drawingbands.
What happened to Black Cherry?
What do you think stopped Black Cherry from becoming bigger than they were?
Unfortunately for Black Cherry and the rest of the world, BC was buried underneath a pile of shitty politics. When my former band LA Guns, recorded 9 of my songs, and didn’t credit me or pay me, I filed a lawsuit against them and Polygram Records, which was one the biggest labels at that time. Although other major labels were interested in Black Cherry, no one was going to make a move until the lawsuit panned out. 3 years later, the band dissolved.

Were any Black Cherry songs ever recorded?
One song was actually released on a Metal Blade compilations record called Street Survivors. The song was called “The Devil In You” and it got a lot of radio airplay And got us a lot of recognition, but the record deal was still on hold. I have BC demos that were recorded for A&M Records and other labels over a 3 year period--about 2 albums worth of material. I plan to put
it out on my own label, Black City Records.  It will be available at www.blackcitymusic.com.

Did you help write any song that appeared on a L.A. Guns cd?
I wrote and co-wrote most of what appeared on the first record, and one song on the second record. The LA Guns the world saw was not the same group that I had led to the top of the LA Club scene. Shortly before signing with Polygram, the main core of the band left—Robert Stoddard (guitar), Nickey Beat (drums), and myself. A remanufactured version, created by Polygram, emerged shortly thereafter, which then embarked on a career based on a foundation of songs I had written with the original lineup. Between the record company, the producers and the new lineup, they kind of did a hatchet job on my songs. I put out a limited edition CD and some free MP3s of the songs in their original version on my site , www.blackcitymusic.com, but I’ve had such a huge response and a flood of requests for more material, that I’m planning on putting out a 21 track CD of material from the original lineup. You know the most absurd thing that I’ve ever read in an interview was a quote from Phil Lewis regarding a song I had written a year prior to the formation of LA Guns, called “Love And Hate,”  when he said “The original singer Paul wasn’t quite getting what the song was all about so I changed his words”. “Love And Hate” was a song that I wrote which clinched the record deal with Polygram, the title was changed to “Sex Action” and they released it as their first single.

Do you talk to any of the members of L.A. Guns?
Sometimes, but not often.

Why did you leave L.A. Guns?
I didn’t like the musical direction the band was going in after Robert Stoddard left. Plus by the time I left, a lot of personal bull shit had built up, and being in that band was more like showing up every day for a shitty job, than having fun playing rock n roll.

Are you disappointed you were not in L.A. Guns when they were signed to a major label?
Actually it was a big relief to get out, Polygram was trying to tell me how to write my songs, and were trying to point me in the direction of Bon Jovi and Cinderella, enough said. But I did give them permission to do my material. Though in retrospect that was not such a good idea.

Are you planning on recording a new cd?
If you are, who would be in the band?
I’ve already started on my solo album with guitar great Jo Almeida (Sonic Boom, Dogs D’Amour). Rusty from The Eels is playing on bass, and me on drums, percussion and the vocals. Also, I’m trying to track down my former Hammond player, keyboardist Dave Sobel (The Freewheelers, Gordon)—so if anyone’s seen him, tell him Im looking for him!   I’d also like to include some other guest stars, just a mix of friends.

Which group did you have the most fun in?
That’s hard to say—it’s close, but I’ll say Black Cherry.

Copyright 2002, Perris Records