The last couple of months I finally got to live a small little dream of mine by not only seeing Face Dancer play live again, but actually sitting down and interviewing all of them, minus David Utter; twice as matter of fact.
You don’t know this band because you’re not from the MD/DC area? Well, let me educate you with a fast history. Face Dancer was a rock band back in the day (late 70’s, early 80’s, to be exact) that played hundreds of shows and released two albums on Capitol Records, This World and About Face. After a lengthy break up, they got back together, released two more albums, Midnite Raid and Alive, and then called it quits again. Late in 2013, core members Jeff Adams, Billy Trainor, and David Utter resurrected Face Dancer yet again. Now in 2016, they are joined by PJ Lee, Charlie Thomas, and vocalist John West and they are here to stay.
Are they playing live again? Yes. Are they having a blast doing it? Hell yes. Do they have new music? You bet. Now this interview is kind of in two parts as you read it. Part of it is from their first show with the new lineup in August and the other part is from the beginning of December, with the release of their new album Brave New Faces. I only see great things to come from the revamped Face Dancer in 2017 and beyond. Enjoy.
[Note: At the time of this portion of the interview, guitarist David Utter was in the hospital for broken ribs, and a punctured lung, and is still currently recovering with a hopeful return soon.]
Shockwave Magazine: So, how fun was that, being on stage again? Was that the first time with this lineup?
John West: It was great. We had a great time. We actually haven’t played since 2014 and this was the first time this version of the band performed. We’re loving it and having a great time. This is the band now and we couldn’t be happier.
Billy Trainor: We look forward to Dave returning, so when that happens it will feel right.
Now during the set, which you played new songs, you mentioned something about a new album coming out. Is that true?
John: Actually we had an album out and we decided to change the name of the band. This was about three years ago, and then, what happened was we decided we were going to do an experiment and go incognito. So, we called ourselves: Smashbox Symphony. We did the album then played two dates, and I got in a car accident and couldn’t do anything. The band went back to Face Dancer, I sat home, and now I’m back. Now, we are going to take that album, and redo some things, and mix it up, and that’s gonna be the new album. You heard a lot of the new songs tonight, actually.
When is About Face going to be released on CD?
Jeff Adams: Rock Candy Records has been in touch with us recently about re-mastering it and releasing it, so what they are doing now is going after the masters and the licensing which we don’t own, unfortunately. They really want to do the album though, so I hope it is taken care of sometime in the next year.
What is the difference between Face Dancer then and now?
PJ Lee: What is coolest about them is that they may have had their big shabang years ago, but I love that there are people now, in this generation that I come from, that love the music. So, they understand musicianship, and talent, and charisma, and band camaraderie. I love that so much. Face Dancer is not some band that was, and now just plays. Face Dancer is a band that’s relevant now and everyone can relate to the songs. When you listen to the words in “Time Bomb” about a crazy chick, it doesn’t matter what your age is. You get that. When you listen to the song “Words,” everyone can relate to that. I love that we are not some classic rock vintage band that was, and just plays a couple of shows, but that this new generation, the generation ‘X-ers’ or whatever you want to call us, they love and respect the music and get that Face Dancer has paid their dues and they know what they’re doing.
John: It’s a really unique thing about this band. It’s a totally new resurgence for this band. We’re doing what we really, really like. It’s not Top 40 stuff, but it’s good music and that’s what matters to us in the long run. We’re not trying to conform to anything. Everything fits together with this band.
Tell me about the chemistry you all have.
John: It’s really special. There is no ego here whatsoever. It’s mutual respect and attitude to a song on what you can bring to it to make it better. That’s hard to find. We have a great time working on the material. Tonight was the ice breaker definitely.
What’s in store for 2017?
John: No limits right now. This train isn’t stopping anytime soon. The main thing is to rekindle the fire in the area with Face Dancer.
[The next few questions, listed below, are about the new album and it was just one on one with lead singer John West later in December.]
Shockwave: The new album. It’s called Brave New Faces? Tell me about it.
John: Yes. I actually did all of the artwork on the album itself because I was thinking of the Brave New Faces thing there has been so much controversy over the years with revolving members and everything else. So what I wanted to do was to come up with something that was unifying because when you look at the band, it definitely has its own personality. It’s different than the older band, so it’s like we are pushing a rock uphill with a band that’s known. You have to come out with something just as strong, so I thought, we are all new as a band, and we are brave new faces, as a band. That’s what hit me. The material Jeff (Adams) and I had already written with the Smashbox project originally, I didn’t know what we were doing, because it was really Face Dancer and we should have just stuck with that. Face Dancer back in the day was kind of an artsy rock band and we are all in that same vein, but it has a flare to it, a little bit of zing. We asked ourselves what would Face Dancer sound like in 2016, or whenever we started writing it. I had material that was kind of flat and Jeff had some material that was flat also. They were good tunes, but when we put them together, they melded into this thing that was unique sounding. It definitely has that classic feel to it, but yet it’s a modern classic. There is still that root rock thing that we grew up with, that’s on the album. When you hear it, then you will know and understand.
What was the writing approach?
It was like Queen meets… Queen meets somebody (laughing). It’s innovative retro rock. It’s still hip enough for the younger fans to enjoy it as well.
Please go to their webpage, www.facedancer.com, for links to order their new album and find out where they are playing. I cannot stress enough how good this band is to see live.