By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Back in 1992, Slammin’ Gladys released their self-titled full-length record (executive produced by Jani Lane of Warrant) and it sparked a wave of success, with regular rotation on MTV’s “Headbanger’s Ball” and acclaim from Metal Edge.
When the music industry shifted its mainstream focus from hair-metal to grunge acts like Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam not long afterwards, the group slowly faded into obscurity and retired in the mid-1990’s, but have now returned with their original lineup and a comeback album through Jib Machine Records entitled ‘TWO.’
Known for their blend of rock, blues, pop-metal, 70’s glam stomp and pure party music, the Los-Angeles based quartet had the chance to deliver a true followup that won’t disappoint fans.
Slammin’ Gladys are frontman Dave Brooks, guitarist J.J. Farris, bassist Al Collins and drummer Stephen DeBoard.
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with DeBoard about ‘TWO’ and more.
Music Bugle – How did you guys decide the band name? Is there a real “Gladys”?
Stephen DeBoard – Gladys was the name of Elvis Presley’s mother, who gave birth to the king of rock and roll. “Slammin'” was a term we used a lot back in the early 1990s as an adjective of excitement, instead of “cool,” “amazing” or “rad.” For example, “Man, that band was slammin’!” We were in a meeting with our record label Priority Records when we put these two words together and it just clicked. Everyone liked it. For me, it means that Gladys rules because she was the genesis of my favorite music. John Lennon once said, “Before Elvis, there was nothing.”
Music Bugle – How would you describe Los Angeles to someone who has never been there before?
Stephen DeBoard – Los Angeles is the melting pot of the United States and the world. It has the most extremes of every topic conceivable, from people to cultures to terrain to the weather. It has the most generous, loving people and also the most selfish, self-absorbed people. In Los Angeles, you will find the most real, individualistic and holistic people you could ever hope to have in your life and just around the corner will be the most fake and shallow human beings you could ever imagine. All of us are both to a degree, but in Los Angeles, the extremes of the extremes exist. While not a perfect place by any means, I feel the current atmosphere of desiring diversity and inclusion have already been in practice in Los Angeles for many years. The many cultures that live and thrive in Los Angeles was one of the reasons I personally wanted to move here. You can go surfing in the morning, get in the car and go skiing in the afternoon if you want to.
Music Bugle – What was it like putting together “TWO”?
Stephen DeBoard – Putting together ‘TWO’ felt like the phoenix was rising from the ashes! J.J. Farris and I have been friends, neighbors and even housemates this entire time since Slammin’ Gladys called it a day back in the mid-1990s. I remember many conversations with him, wishing we would have at least finished on a Dave Brooks high note. I was always telling him that I didn’t think we were done yet. I don’t think he meant to, but it always seemed like he blew me off whenever I brought it up. I eventually dropped it, thinking what is done is done and there is no going back now. Too much time had passed. Out of the blue one day, J.J. called me up and said that he and Dave have written a couple of songs, which were “Toxic Lover” and “Dragon Eye Girl” and wanted to record them as Slammin’ Gladys. Around the same time, Dave mentioned this guy Charlie, who ran an indie label called Jib Machine Records out of Cleveland, who was asking about re-releasing our debut album and possibly including a bonus track or two. One of my first questions after my excitement and disbelief was, “What about Al?” J.J. answered that Al was already on board. Yes! Once we started discussing this with Charlie and ourselves, I went through my “vault” – aka storage unit – and found some old demos and videos that I had saved from our first trip to the rodeo. We went through those and sifted a few pieces of musical gold and realized we had a lot more to work with than we may have realized. We rehearsed all of our ideas and decided to record as many songs as we could in the allotted studio time, instead of just the two Charlie asked for. We ended up recording the basic drums, bass and guitar tracks for seven of them!
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?
Stephen DeBoard – What excites me most about Slammin’ Gladys’ music is combining the organic energy of loud guitar-based rock music with the grooves of dance music. I feel Slammin’ Gladys creates the perfect blend of music to support a singer like Dave Brooks, who embodies the charisma of David Lee Roth, the raw energy of Axl Rose with the soul of Marvin Gaye. Dave can sing any musical style successfully and as Slammin’ Gladys, we allow him to sing in all of those styles he embodies simultaneously.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Stephen DeBoard – Personally, I’ve been listening to Twenty One Pilots, 311, Green Day, Muse, Sabrina Carpenter, Jesus Culture, U2, The Police, The Beatles, Bob Marley and Rush, among many others lately.
Music Bugle – Which of your songs were the hardest to write?
Stephen DeBoard – The song “Lost In Texas” has an interesting story. It started as a song we had back in 1992 or 1993 and was based on a true story. We played it many times in our live set while on tour, introducing it as a new song. We never recorded it though. When we were looking through our archives, we were all bummed that we had no recording of this song that we all loved playing live. None of us really even remembered how it went. J.J. believes and I think he got it mostly right, if not completely right, that he was able to recreate the guitar riff the original song was based on. Dave and J.J. rewrote the song with new lyrics, while still staying faithful to the original story and vibe. I know that the rhythm of the song is intentionally different. I remember the original version had more of a Motley Crue style “Looks That Kill” driving kind of beat, compared to the more swinging, swanky and swampy beat the song has now. I’m guessing and hoping the version of “Lost In Texas” on ‘TWO’ is better than the original version anyway!
Music Bugle – What are some of the biggest differences you’ve noticed in the music industry between when you first started and nowadays?
Stephen DeBoard – Everything is different! The internet has opened up everything. Back when we started, we had to shamelessly self-promote on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, just so people would know we existed. We had to beg and plead for people to come to our shows. Even still, we tried our best to keep our shows to once a month to make them an event and also to keep an aura of mystery surrounding the band. Now, you don’t have to pound the literal pavement, but you do have to know how to navigate social media. Marketing is marketing. The tools may change, but the principles stay the same. In a kind of paradox though, the major record and main music industry companies have consolidated. The people who decide what music will get heavily promoted to the general population is a smaller group of people than it was 20 or 30 years ago. The irony is that yes, anyone can create an album in their homes, put it up on the internet and make their music available to the world, where this was virtually impossible when we started, but the marketing machine to let people know about you and your music seems even harder to access now than it was before. Another thing that has changed drastically is the music itself. Most popular music is created in the studio using computers to generate the sounds. My original goal when I moved to Los Angeles from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was to become a studio session drummer. As soon as I got here in 1988, computerized music was just getting started. I hear more computer-generated sounds on modern recordings than actual bands playing their instruments. Even when there are guitars or live drums on many modern recordings, they are put to a grid in a computer, chopped up and edited to the point where it is indistinguishable from the electronic sounds anyway. I try to stay open-minded though. I remember when I was learning to play drums, I would be inspired by electronic music with cool programmed drums, as well as real drummers bashing away. A good song is a good song.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Stephen DeBoard – The Pandemic 2020 tour was cancelled! While I am and we all have been conscious of all the loss, suffering and chaos that has been happening, I’ve been doing my best to also look at the silver lining. I have a great family and I’m very thankful I’ve gotten to spend so much time with them. I was able to transition working in an office to working at home, pretty much overnight, successfully. There has been some rough terrain to cross while searching for that silver lining too. It appears that life in quarantine has had a way of sorting through the fluff and getting to the heart of what is real, namely who to, how to and what is love.
Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt musicians?
Stephen DeBoard – Social media is like any other tool and it can totally help a musician. I’ve learned a lot just from how Slammin’ Gladys has been exploring how we use social media to promote ‘TWO.’ We have had some great people teaching and helping us navigate this, including Andy and Kevin at HIP Video and Charlie and Melissa at Jib Machine Records. We have done our best to do our best using social media to help us spread the word that we’re here and we want to rock! I know I’ve also learned from my kids and J.J.’s kids how to embrace social media and make it your friend. However, just like everything, there needs to be a balance. If you have a great social media strategy, but your music is not really up to your highest standards, you may possibly lose your chance to make the most of that very important first impression. On the other side and this is much more common with my musician friends and me is that we focus on making the best music we can make and then stumble with promoting it. Who is going to know about it or hear it? I’ve helped make a lot of great music that I love that nobody has ever heard.
Music Bugle – If you had to pick your own theme song, what would it be?
Stephen DeBoard – It would probably be “What I Like About You” by The Romantics. I’ve been the drummer in a lot of cover bands over the years and in the bands I’ve been in, I have been given a handful of songs to sing lead on. I started singing lead on this song in high school with my brother and have been singing it in pretty much every cover band I’ve been in since, the last one ending in 2016. I’ve most likely sang this song more times live than The Romantics have!