by Blade Mancano
Chris Holmes is a heavy metal guitarist and songwriter who started his musical career in the Pasadena, California area in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He is best known as the lead guitarist of heavy-metal band W.A.S.P.. Prior to meeting Blackie Lawless and Randy Piper, and joining W.A.S.P., Holmes played guitar with L.A. bands Buster Savage, LAX, and Slave. Holmes was a member of W.A.S.P. first from 1983 to 1990, and again from 1996 to 2001. Chris Holmes joined W.A.S.P in 1983, and remained with the group until 1990. In 1996 Holmes rejoined W.A.S.P and remained lead guitarist until 2001. Holmes has not played with W.A.S.P since. While a member of W.A.S.P., Holmes participated in the filming of the documentary film, “The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years“. The film included interviews with many well-known heavy metal personalities of the era discussing their lifestyle and the metal scene in late 1980s Los Angeles. Holmes’ contribution to the 1988 documentary is perhaps the most memorable, as he was interviewed while floating in a swimming pool, fully clothed and visibly quite intoxicated while his mother sat poolside. The interview stood out in stark contrast to the more light-hearted and humorous interviews conducted by director Penelope Spheeris, which mostly portrayed rockers as good-natured, though often dimwitted or deluded, party animals. During the interview, Chris Holmes smiled drunkenly at the camera, deeming himself “a full-blown alcoholic” and “a piece of crap” despite his band’s success, and punctuated his remarks by guzzling from three bottles of vodka. At the end of the interview, Holmes upends a full bottle of Smirnoff over his head as he rolls out of his inflatable chair and into the water. After he returned to Los Angeles in late 2003, he began working with several Southern California-based metal groups, producing and contributing guitar tracks. In 2007, Holmes was involved with the filming of a Randy Rhoads documentary directed by Peter M. Margolis, which has yet to be released. Holmes appears briefly in a 2009 episode of VH1’s Rock Docs, “Do It for the Band: The Women of Sunset Strip.” In the Summer of 2009 Holmes released Secret Society’s “Death by Misadventure.” In 2010, he joined Where Angels Suffer with Randy Piper (W.A.S.P.) on guitar, Steve Unger (Metal Church) on bass, Rich Lewis (Animal), on vocals, and Stet Howland on drums (Blackfoot, Lita Ford, Killing Machine, Belladonna, Impellitteri, Sister and W.A.S.P.). On November 26, 2012, Chris released his first solo album “Nothing to Lose” and decided to produce, manage and distribute it himself along with his wife. After the success of his first LP, Chris started recording his second solo album “Shitting Bricks” which was released in May of 2015. It’s time to prime yourself for a fucking decibel shower, as Chris Holmes is our guest today in 10 Questions.
BM: “The Headless Children” and “K.F.D.” were particularly heavy W.A.S.P. albums. What were the circumstances under which they were written that resulted in those records sounding so angry and relentless?
CH: On the “Headless Children” I did most of the guitars. It was written in 1989 and recorded the year analog about died. “K.F.D.” was all digital. “K.F.D.” was written in an era of Marilyn Manson type of music, and Blackie was trying to branch out with a sound that was different from “The Headless Children”. Personally “K.F.D.” is not a real guitar-oriented album for me. I’m a guitar player before everything else and I love a real heavy guitar sound. To me “K.F.D.” was not a guitar record. It was a stepping stone in W.A.S.P.’s catalog.
BM: Your solo releases, especially songs like “Way to Be”, and “Let it Roar” are as catchy as anything Blackie has been putting out lately, if not more so. Was the decision to not go out and hire a lead singer intentional; and was that something you’ve always wanted to try?
CH: On the first record I sang – if you call it singing – “They all lie and cheat” as a joke. For some reason I got enough confidence and sang on “Way to be”, one thing led to another and I ended up singing on the whole record. Since my departure from W.A.S.P., I tried to find a lead singer to work with and never found one that fit with me. I never planned on singing before I was 54 years old, so it is something new to me. I’ve done few shows singing and I enjoy it.
BM: What was the inspiration for the lyrics to the song “Born, Work, Die”? What gave you the idea to go with the concept of a motorcycle repair shop as the theme for the video?
CH: “Born, Work, Die” was an old song with my band Psycho Squad I had back in 1992. As for the video, it was an idea of the producers Antoine Montremy and Laurent Hart. Jeff from Kustom Art in Nantes who is a friend of a friend that let us use his shop.
BM: You have one of the most distinctive guitar tones out there…What are you using for pickups these days?
CH: I like to use Seymour/Duncan inventor pickups because they have a really high output…If you know about electronics the output is about 19 and half K.
BM: Lita Ford’s biography is coming out in the fall…How did your paths cross in the first place; and are there any stories which probably won’t make the final cut of that book that you’d like to share with us here?
CH: We met by mistake and left on bad terms…This is in the past and I look toward the future.
BM: You were part of the scene that produced heavy hitters like Quiet Riot, Van Halen, Ratt, and Motley Crüe…However, there have been rumors that you’re not much of a Randy Rhodes fan…Is there any truth to that; and if so, why not?
CH: First of all, I auditioned for Ozzie back in 1979 and Randy Rhodes got the gig…How could I not be jealous of that? Second, I grew up with Van Halen in Pasadena. Quiet Riot grew up in Burbank which is next to Pasadena, and in the 70’s there was a big rivalry between Van Halen and Quiet Riot – even with their fans. Van Halen fans drank Schlitz Malt Liquor and smoked dope, Quiet Riot fans drank Perrier and smoked cigarettes. Where do you think I hung out at?
BM: Can we ever expect to see a small Mean Man tour here in America? Would you ever consider playing a festival in the states?
CH: Yes, when the time will come…
BM: Your split from W.A.S.P. has been well documented in the press, but was there any tour or a specific time in that band that you still look back on in a positive way?
CH: You can’t change the past…I had some really good times in W.A.S.P., and I was half of that band. I’m learning if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all…
BM: As the industry has changed so drastically in the last 20 years, how do you view things like music streaming and YouTube? You have gained a lot of recent notoriety from YouTube specifically…Do you think fame in that context is a good thing or a bad thing?
CH: In the 80s we had MTV, but then it became so corporatized with commercials and reality shows. In 2000 the digital age came in, and I think Youtube is good because MTV will not play me anyway. You have to keep up with the time and what’s going on. Nobody turns on the TV to watch bands anymore, so you have to go online and see whatever you want there.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
CH: I’m gonna tour in Europe, and then the door is wide open for me at that point.
Official Website: http://www.chrisholmesofficial.com/
Chris on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChrisHolmesOfficial
Chris on Twitter: https://twitter.com/chrisholmes2012
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