GREG HAMPTON – What makes “the complete package” when it comes to being a musician? Everyone and their second cousin’s extended family would have a different answer for that. My answer is to look at Greg Hampton, the founder, lead vocalist, songwriter and guitarist for The New Czars. Trust me, I’ve probably left out many more Rockin’ hats that Greg wears in directing The New Czars to their Hard Rock heights… he is all about “hands on” with an old school work ethic, approach and mindset.
To incorporate relevance into a modern Hard Rock sound, while weaving a bit of experimentation into his music, Greg Hampton has seemed to tap into a realm of Heavy Music that has for too long been “the best kept secret” in the Rock Music world. Where the likes of King Crimson, RUSH, Nine Inch Nails and Tool (to name a few) have led the way and reaped the rewards for exemplary dives into Progressive, Industrial, Alternative and Experimental Heaviness, there are those “other” musicians and bands that have followed with the same attention to detail towards the Avant-garde. Greg Hampton and his band, The New Czars, are carrying that exploratory tradition onward, to shatter the normalcy that seems to blanket the Rock Music that has invaded our mainstream and subconscious.
The New Czars debut album, Doomsday Revolution, (Samson Records), was released on September 14, 2010… to an enthusiastic response amongst critics from the mainstream to the underground. I certainly applauded the diverse approach to what Greg Hampton set out to accomplish on Doomsday Revolution, the combination of music influences from Industrial to Funk are evident and transforms into what I would convey as… Hard Rock Cool and Hard Rock new… 2010 style.
Doomsday Revolution is sold just about anywhere… from itunes to Amazon. After The New Czars introduced the world to Doomsday Revolution, Greg Hampton wasn’t about to sit idle… it’s just not his style or character. I even question if Greg could spell the word idle… he’s that loyal and enthusiastic about the music he loves. Greg was soon busy on compiling and writing songs for the forthcoming EP from The New Czars, titled: Mining The Ruins. This EP is scheduled for a November 30, 2010 release.
On September 22, 2010, I received a very special surprise in my email inbox… an mp3 sent by Greg Hampton, it was his cover song of the ultra classic – Hey Joe. Now, you can either “cover” a song or you can cover a song while adding that “extra special” Rock ‘N’ Roll dust to it. Greg Hampton obviously had a jar full of special Rock ‘N’ Roll dust, just waiting for his cover of Hey Joe. I can remember vividly, the first time I listened to this mp3, on my computer that night. Honestly, I was stunned. Greg’s vocals were unreal… no, his guitar licks were unreal… no, it was both.
Greg was never trying to sound like or remotely copy the late and legendary Jimi Hendrix… Greg was only paying tribute to a Rock Star who started it all for the Hard Rock and arguably, the Heavy Metal movement, as we all know and love it today. As Greg expressed to me, “I have been a lifelong fan of Jimi Hendrix. With the fortieth anniversary of Jimi Hendrix’s passing approaching, I’ve been listening to a lot of his music. I wanted to do something to commemorate Jimi Hendrix on this important anniversary, through song. This cover of Hey Joe I’ve been working on for quite some time and I am very proud of it. I hope the fans will appreciate this cover of Hey Joe and like it as much as I do.”
Greg decided to give the “world premiere” of his cover of Hey Joe to Metal Odyssey… and on September 26, 2010, this amazing song was available for the world to hear. Metal Odyssey will forever cherish this moment… I can’t state just how honored I felt to have Greg put his cover of Hey Joe in my hands first. (Metal ostrich bumps moment, whoa). Greg played all instruments on Hey Joe, with the exception of drums. Chris Collier, (The New Czars alumni and multi-instrumentalist), was the drummer.
For those of you who may have missed out on hearing this ultra-terrific cover of Hey Joe, please feel free to click on the very large header below. I have a suspicion you might dig it:
World EXCLUSIVE Premiere – The Jimi Hendrix Experience “HEY JOE” Is Covered By THE NEW CZARS! LISTEN HERE FIRST!
Another exciting and historic Rock Music project that Greg Hampton has been working on, is his upcoming Tommy Bolin “Tribute” album he’s co-producing with Warren Haynes, along with associate producer/mixer Fabrizio Grossi. Once again, it is the genuine excitement and infectious urgency, in the voice of Greg, that let’s me know just how much he loves Rock ‘N’ Roll… and his allegiance to the late and great Tommy Bolin. If you’re to measure a man’s character, based on the number of his friends, well, the list below tells all about Greg Hampton.
Here is a rundown, of the beyond fabulous Rock musicians that have already completed sessions or are committed to this Tommy Bolin “Tribute” album: Steve Lukather, Warren Haynes, Brad Whitford, Nels Cline, Glenn Hughes, Oz Noy, John Scofield, Prairie Prince, Slash, Billy Gibbons, Ben Harper, Tom Morello, Derek Trucks, Steve Morse, John Scofield and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. I do apologize, if I missed any names here… this is as up to the minute as I have available.
By now, you should agree that Greg Hampton is a veteran of the Rock Music industry. Working alongside the likes of Alice Cooper, he wrote songs and played lead guitar for 2008′s Along Came A Spider. To say that Greg Hampton holds the deepest respect and admiration for the legendary Alice Cooper is factual. Just the tone in Greg’s voice alone, when he speaks of Alice Cooper, tells the whole story. Greg speaks of not just writing songs for Alice Cooper. As I’ve interpreted it, from our conversations, he speaks of creating works of art for him. One listen to Along Came A Spider and you probably will agree. I know I sure do.
In October of 2009, Lita Ford returned, only this time there was some wickedness involved… Lita’s Wicked Wonderland album that is. Lita Ford had not released a studio album since 1995′s Black, regardless if you loved or hated Wicked Wonderland, the real Queen of American Hard Rock and Heavy Metal was back. Greg Hampton co-produced, mixed and played a variety of instruments for Wicked Wonderland.
As Greg has reflected on his working on the Wicked Wonderland album, he has done so with the upmost pride in it’s music that he helped create. Certainly, there have been some critics that have put down this album since it’s release, thus pushing Greg Hampton’s buttons. It is understandable, this album Greg Hampton worked tirelessly on, any album that has his signature on it he rightfully should defend. I’ve told Greg, it’s all a matter of personal interpretation, that music is art and open to critiques. I just hope Greg can forgive me, for my not liking Wicked Wonderland.
In 2007, Greg Hampton put together an “All-Star” band if you will, of musicians who seem to carry the same open mindedness to music exploration as he. Enter… Science Faxtion. Greg Hampton provides guitar and vocals, with Buckethead, Brian “Brain” Mantia, Tobe “Tobotius” Donohue and of course, Bootsy Collins. In October of 2008, they released Living On Another Frequency.
Of course, there are many other projects (both past and present) that Greg Hampton has been involved with as both a musician and producer. I’ve attempted to cover some of Greg’s works above, to give you a better insight and understanding of this tremendously skilled musician. In the past couple of months, I am very appreciative to have spoken with Greg Hampton, on many occasions. Greg’s candor and friendly approach to conversation does not get taken for granted by me… I’ve really enjoyed and appreciated speaking to him. Here is what Greg had to say, with some questions I asked of him:
Stone: Doomsday Revolution, your debut album with The New Czars, describe how excited and proud you are of this album… as you rightfully should be.
Greg: Very pleased! I went in with no set of rules. Be it good, bad or indifferent, people can perceive this album the way they want. I’m happy with it. I do hope people dig it still! Going in there were no pre-conceptions or guidelines. I’ve already had a little criticism about this album having uninspired lyrics.
Stone: What? Uninspired lyrics? Are you kidding me?
Greg: You know what, I have to please me first. At the end of the day, I’ve learned not to get too caught up in the reviews. I used to want to search out the guy and kick his ass but I’ve matured and I’m not like that anymore.
Stone: Is there a significant meaning in your band being named The New Czars?
Greg: No, not really. I was stuck in traffic, on Sunset Boulevard, on a Friday night and this band name just popped into my head! This album is a changing of the guard, musically, I guess. It has Metal and Progressive elements… and we’re all pretty good players doing it!
Stone: The more I listen to your vocals, which I admire, the more I hear some Ian Gillan influence. Am I off track, right on or kind of close in my opinion?
Greg: I’m more influenced by Glenn Hughes. Glenn is a great friend of mine. He came in to sing on a Tommy Bolin tribute album we’re doing. I’ve known Glenn for years. I had Trapeze albums when I was like, twelve or fifteen years old! One of my most favorite Glenn Hughes album is “Soul Mover”, Dave Navarro and Chad Smith played on it. It’s too bad more people don’t know about this record, it’s probably over their heads or something.
Stone: What is your idea or prediction of a Doomsday Revolution?
Greg: Well, I mean, the irony is my birthday is on December twenty first, it lands on the end of the world. As I blow out the candles, we’ll wait and see if we all implode! (laughs)
Greg: There’s a lot of conceptual things coming out. I’ve been researching and reading about more things, all of the elements I take in have opened my mind. “Doomsday Revolution” is no conceptual album though.
Stone: What motivated you to write “Why Do U Have 2 Lie”?
Greg: My good friend Billy Bob Thornton, he made a movie called “Daddy and Them”. It was an autobiographical situation about his life, a story that Billy told me about, it was about recollections of Billy’s life. That’s all I have to say about it really, I can’t elaborate any further.
Stone: “Brush With The Devil” takes me on an old school ride which I don’t mind taking. Was there an old school intent here, on your part?
Greg: I don’t know, in the early ’80′s, it was Pop stuff for me. My influence lies in the ’70′s, with the Beatles, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith. This song has an interesting meter and chord progression, I had to deliberate as how to sing it, with the melody over it and the chorus over it. It was a challenge.
Stone: “Time Stops” has many cool elements going on and is my favorite song on Doomsday Revolution. Which song is your personal favorite?
Greg: I like so many of them, “Crotch Critters”, “Don’t Watch Me”, “Time Stops” and “Why Do U Have 2 Lie”. The bridge on this song I could never get a handle on. I had the basic chords down. Paul came in and seemed to gel it all together. The initial verse came together on the piano, then I worked with the electric sitar for the basic elemental music. It’s hard to know! I wrote 25 songs, recorded nine or ten instrumentals, with another two or three vocal songs and two instrumentals on the digital bundle. Plus there are remixes on the digital bundle too. There are so many songs I like.
Stone: It’s understandable, Greg.
Greg: I can’t approach my music like when I write for Alice Cooper or Lita Ford, it just doesn’t make sense. They are different types of music. The instrumental things I really enjoy, it brings me thinking about Rush, I’m a big fan of Rush. I love the counter melodies Rush played. You know, I listen to the songs and re-learn my vocal bits. It’s a challenge singing on some of these songs! It’s the heat of the moment on recording them. I really do like neurodelica, it’s a crimsonesque (King Crimson like) instrumental. It’s not even on the record, it’s on the digital bundle.
Stone: Between Paul (Ill), David (Moreno) and yourself, there is a cornucopia of music styles you all are very well versed at playing. Can “Doomsday Revolution” be considered the consensus favorite style of music you guys really want to play?
Greg: There are so many different and eclectic musical variables in this new album. There are influences from Nine Inch Nails, the Beatles, some Jeff Beck fusion, Rush, King Crimson, Reggae and Funk. The song “Doomsday Revolution” has a funky Rock thing going on. I’m into too many types of music to be narrowing it down to what I play. When I’m driving the car, it could be Jimi Hendrix and Rammstein that I’m listening to! “Time Stops” has a Steely Dan-ish vibe happening with the verses and sitar parts. After “Time Stops” the songs get a little heavier though.
Stone: Having been influenced by King Crimson, describe how you felt having Adrian Belew contribute to “Doomsday Revolution”?
Greg: I always wanted to work with Adrian. Yet, I’m a huge fan of Rush too! I always liked Adrian’s solo stuff, I dug it all my life. I’ve always had a Beatles influence too. It’s more of a broad based influence with Adrian, he is a multi-instrumentalist like me. Adrian and King Crimson have held a depth of broad based musicianship over the years and that’s incredible. Adrian made me feel good that he compared our stuff to Nine Inch Nails and heavier King Crimson. Adrian is a great human being and an amazing singer too.
Stone: Being a multi-music talent, what is your favorite instrument to play and why?
Greg: Probably guitar. Right now, there are four sitting around me. It’s an immediate thing, I turn on my little amp on my desk and start writing and jamming.
Metal Odyssey Note: (Greg now picks up one of his guitars and breaks out into the opening riff from Alice Cooper’s – “Vengeance Is Mine”… and it kicks ass too).
Greg: “Vengeance Is Mine”… I wrote this song for Alice Cooper’s Along “Came A Spider” album. I never played that riff in my life, then one morning, with no coffee and barely awake, that riff just popped in my head as I was halfway down the stairs. This riff was of the instant gratification variety, I had three cups of coffee and finished the whole thing! All the main music was written and done before I recorded with Alice Cooper for “Along Came A Spider”. Most of the guitar parts I never changed a note. That album is all basically from the original first take. Don’t screw with it if it’s already good, why reinvent it?
Stone: That makes sense to me.
Greg: When Alice asked me what I had for “Along Came A Spider”, I had “Vengeance Is Mine” first. Eric Singer came over to my house and I played it for him, he said, “that’s the song man”! Eric played the drum fills, we did two takes on drums and then Eric walked out the door to tour Australia with KISS. Things went so well with it because I’ve known Eric since ’88, so I can communicate with him. I spent fifteen or sixteen hours of tracking this entire song, (“Vengeance Is Mine”), Alice’s vocals, mixing and everything else.
Stone: Wow, Greg. Most people would never know just how much time is spent in making a song, let alone an entire album.
Greg: I know.
Stone: What was it like to record with Alice Cooper on “Along Came A Spider”?
Greg: I’ve been a huge fan of his since I was a kid. Alice is the greatest guy and his stories are great! After so many years and probably thirty albums or so, there are so many stories. It was a gratifying and defining sort of experience for me. I wanted to deliver and I did. Rick Derringer and Pat Travers were big influences on me, so working with these guys over the years along with Alice… it’s check it off my bucket list so to speak! Alice would produce me! Danny Saber, Alice and I wrote all the songs for “Along Came A Spider”. Alice is a true professional and a legend. His memory retention of what he just sang is astounding! He’s a brilliant guy and a wonderful human being.
Stone: Does Alice Cooper belong in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame?
Greg: That’s a criminal thing, really. There wouldn’t be a lot of these people in the industry without Alice Cooper. It’s just stupid and ridiculous that he’s not in there. Obviously, somebody in that committee over there has it out for him. It’s embarrassing to all of us in this business and it’s pathetic. You would think that someone on that committee would have the balls to do the right thing. It’s such a political mess going on with that place.
* For more info on The New Czars, just click on the link below:
The New Czars
From left to right: Paul Ill (bass), Greg Hampton (guitar), David “Chilli” Moreno (drums)
LONG LIVE GREG HAMPTON & THE NEW CZARS.
Thank You, Greg.