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Hardly a "glamour" band, the Gin Blossoms are as real as it gets, as I discovered when I spoke to their drummer, Phillip Rhodes. Even though I woke him with my phone call, Phil was more than willing to chat--for a good forty minutes (after which he invited me backstage following the concert!)
DAZE: Just to start off, could you tell me how you got started and how you rose to where you are now?
PHIL: I joined the band when everyone but Scott [Johnson] was in it...I'd just gotten out of the Navy, believe it or not, but I'd played with Bill once when I was sixteen--I was twenty when they called me...A few years later we, we made the EP (Up and Crumbling)..."Allison Road" and "Mrs. Rita" were both off that. Then we were introduced to [producer] John Hampton...so we went out and made the record...That's when we started touring, like, forever (laughs)...!
DAZE: How was that?
PHIL: It SUCKED! (Laughs)...[It was] the five of us plus a crew guy, a sound man, and a road manager...all crammed in a van with our gear in the trailer. We were touring about half the time with Toad the Wet Sprocket...then we toured for a while with Del Amitri and ...we went out with the Neville Brothers for a while, then back with Toad again.
DAZE: Who did you like touring with the best out of those groups?
PHIL: Oh, Toad--those guys were really cool, you know, because their audience was really receptive to us and that's where it started...And then we went out with UB40 and that was the first tour in a bus...it was a piece of shit bus, but it was a bus!
DAZE: So, how does it feel now--you know, you turn on the radio and your song's playing all the time, you're making all this money...?
PHIL: Oh, well, just a second, we're not making shit for money here--I don't know why it works like that. I mean, I'm in for the long term as far as hoping to make money but, not yet. I mean, we've made little chunks here and there--the biggest chunk we made, I got a check for, like, 8 grand and I put it all down on a new car and (laughs) I still gotta pay that off!
DAZE: So, out of all the benefits of what you're doing now, what would you say you're in it the most for?
PHIL: It's _not_ the videos...they SUCK! ...That's the worst part of it...It's like waiting around all day for hours for them to call you to do, like, one passage of the song and then wait another hour...It's just boring, man!
DAZE: So what _is_ your favorite part?
PHIL: Well, playing...when the crowd's diggin' it and people are body-surfing and they're just getting into it...Just playing to a crowd that wants you there, you know.
DAZE: Is there anything when you go on tour--any personal things you ask for backstage?
PHIL: I don't know, just tons of beer. Since the early days, right when we started touring, a case of Budweiser and we'd be happy...and now we've got [all kinds of beer] and a bottle of Jagermeister, and lots of food--the deli tray and peanut butter and jelly and cereal--the whole spread, you know. Chips and salsa--God, I miss Arizona--you can't get good Mexican food anywhere else.
DAZE: Is there anything else you miss from Arizona or the good old days?
PHIL: I miss my car, I miss my girlfriend, I miss my Mexican food. (laughs) You know, the road just makes it really tough...Bill and Scott are married and it's tougher on them because Scotty's got a four-year-old daughter (Rachel) and...his wife's gonna be having [another baby] in June, I guess, and Bill just had a little girl, she's, like, 10 months old...It's that time that we're on stage, that hour and half that we're playing...[that] makes us keep doing it.
DAZE: When is your new album due?
PHIL: Well...we've got one batch of new songs that we're breaking in and then we're going to go back home and get another batch of songs ready to go. ...Probably the end of the year, winter of '94...we'll pack up our shit...again (laughs)...and make a damn record!
DAZE: So, aside from the new record coming up, what's next for you guys?
PHIL: Well, what's next is we're doing Letterman again a week from Tuesday (April 26). Dave's cool, I like Dave!
DAZE: Any long-term goals?
PHIL: Stay out of a day job! (laughs) Oh, I don't know, do whatever comes natural, you know...Just play, play, PLAY, PLAY!!!
Misery Loves Company
by Allison Torrillo
Though their debut album, New Miserable Experience, has gone platinum and they're about to make their fourth Letterman appearance, the Gin Blossoms still can't stand making videos, still crave the great Mexican food they used to eat back in Tempe, Arizona and, most importantly, still love playing to an enthusiastic audience.
And that's exactly the image that came across to the near-capacity crowd at Bailey Hall last Sunday night. The Gin Blossoms brought more than their music to Cornell--they brought their personality, too.
Unfortunately, Gin Blossoms fans had to first tolerate the ear-piercing vocalizations of the Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies, whose name fit them quite well. Tossing his long brown hair at every opportunity, the lead singer proved more that he could scream in any key than that he had any actual musical ability. His saving grace was the band itself, whose ability to jam--albeit extremely loudly--may have prompted a good part of the crowd to stand up and clap along towards the end of the set.
But perhaps this was all just in anticipation of what was to come, as the Gin Blossoms kept their fans on their feet the entire time. From the opening driving beat of "Hold Me Down," a connection was established between the five guys on the stage and the hordes of people dancing on the floor and in the balcony.
This was constantly reinforced by the group members themselves. Lead singer Robin Wilson, in his purple Rock-n-Jock softball jersey, jeans, baseball hat and Converse sneakers, cracked jokes and, several times, tossed Beatles trading cards out to the audience, stating, matter-of-factly, "The Beatles rule." Guitarists Scott Johnson and Jesse Valenzuela demonstrated their instrumental prowess as far to the front of the stage as the setup permitted, while, towards the back, drummer Phil Rhodes and bassist Bill Leen never failed in maintaining the band's characteristic beat. Although critics might comment on the similarity of their songs, the Gin Blossoms managed to vary the concert somewhat, moving from slower tunes like "29" into harder rocking songs like "Hands Are Tied," while incorporating new tracks from their upcoming album, as well. Also successful was their spirited version of the Kiss classic "Christine Sixteen."
Naturally, the greatest crowd reaction came from the band's energy-ridden performances of their two biggest hits, "Found Out About You" and "Hey Jealousy," the latter being their final song before initially exiting the stage. A thundering created by audience members clapping and beating on their seats produced the desired result and the band emerged for an encore, in which they, once again, provided the right combination of laid-back attitude, humorous entertainment and musicianship.
The folks back in Tempe would be proud.
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