WELCOME TO THE AMERICAN UNDERGROUND (Pt.9)
Chris Taylor talks with Racci Shay of DOPE
In Part 9 of the series ‘Welcome To The American Underground’ Kickin’ Valentina’s bass player and specialist of the American underground music scene, Chris Taylor talks with Racci Shay of Dope. Many years ago I was thumbing through a rock magazine and saw a live shot of this new band called Dope. I thought to myself, “Who in the hell are these guys because they look like they are killing it on stage?” I picked up their debut release ‘Felons and Revolutionaries’ and it was everything I hoped it would be. Over the years Dope has had several lineup changes, but founding member Edsel Dope recently reunited the classic lineup of the band featuring Acey Slade, Virus, and Racci Shay for the upcoming “Die Motherfucker Die” tour. I recently caught up with Racci to discuss the reunion, upcoming tour and reminisced on some old school Atlanta bands and hangouts.
Racci, always good talking to you. You’ve been in quite a few bands over the years. For those who don’t already know, who are some of the bands you’ve played with?
,,Well thanks for the kind words bro! I know it took a lot for you to find them! HAHAHAHA!!!! Ok let’s get serious(ish) here. Let’s also see just how many “names” I can drop here! We’ll play a drinking game. Every time I name drop, the reader has to do a shot. You should be hammered halfway thru reading this. Here we go…
Well, some of the “bigger” bands I’ve been a part of are Dope, The Genitorturers, and a side project of Joey Jordison (formerly Slipknot) called The Rejects that eventually became known as The Murderdolls. I joined Dope during the transformation of The Rejects into The Murderdolls and thus wasn’t part of the first incarnation. However I was brought in to tour on the second album some 9 years later. In the middle of all of that mess, I also did a few tours with the singer of The Murderdolls’ solo project Wednesday 13. After all of that, and before the recent Dope reunion, I was in a band with some of my very close friends here in Atlanta called The Luchagors. It was produced by Rachel Bolan (Skid Row) and comprised of Jay Hedberg of theCrush, Shane Morton of Super X13 and Amy Dumas who was Lita in the WWE back in the late 90’s early 00’s and recently inducted into the WWE hall of fame (how many readers are already drunk? Keep up the game, it’s still on).”
Dope recently did a small reunion tour in Russia. These shows were the first time this lineup of the band has played together in 13 years. How did it all come about, and why Russia?
,,Well, I don’t really have a direct answer to that so I’ll give a typical “show business” answer to that HAHAHAHA!
Dope had continued on well after I left and had done two short runs in Russia and were accepted very well. The people in Russia are awesome, and are starving for good live music. Growing up during the Cold War in the 80’s, we in the states were given this image of the “Ruskies” and had a predisposition of them as all being evil communists. The reality is they’re no different from you or I. Yeah, their government has been through a lot of changes over the last 20 years, but the people just want to live their lives like anyone else and be entertained in the same way. Playing there felt a lot like playing small towns in the mid-west. People that were just excited as fuck that an international band was willing to come rock the fuck out and they reciprocated the sentiment as well. We went in the crowd every night and met the fans to sign autographs and say hi and I shit you not, almost every single person at the shows lined up to say hi and/or get a pic. Very similar to going to Japan my first time, I was very surprised at just how many people spoke English. It really opens your eyes as to how lazy Americans can be, when most of us refuse to even just learn Spanish.
Back to the original question though, Edsel called me out of the blue one day and said, “Hey man, I’ve talked to Acey and Virus and we’d like to get back together and play some shows.” At the time it was only an idea with the possibility of doing a European tour with Coal Chamber, which happened by the way, minus Virus as he was doing the Broadway musical “Rock Of Ages” and then Russia which happened also, but with the four of us that time. It was really cool getting us all back together, as we’d all been in many different endeavors since all being in the same room together, let alone on the same stage together.
Acey had a stint with Joan Jett, Virus did the Broadway stuff along with the band Device with David Draiman from Disturbed, and Edsel carried on Dope while writing and producing music for various artist as well as for ESPN and WWE. It was interesting though, because when we all got together it was like we’d never left. The jokes were all there and reminiscing was a plenty. The only difference was we’d all grown out of the stupid things that would have caused problems in the past. It felt really awesome and I’m really excited to get back out and continue.”
Dope has a new album `Blood Money Part 1′ being released in October, followed by an extensive tour planned for the U.S. in the Fall. Any plans on touring other countries in 2017?
,,We hit the road September 13th and don’t have a day off until we finish in Los Angeles at The Whisky on October 30. We then fly straight to Russia for a week of shows, and from there to London for our only show in the UK on November 7th at the O2 Academy. From there we fly home and the door is wide open. There’s been talk of more shows, but nothing is confirmed as of yet so we’ll all have to wait and see what happens. I have a feeling that there will be a few more dates though. Or at least I hope. I’m having a lot of fun playing these songs again as well as reconnecting with old friends. Not to mention seeing some of the old, die hard fans in addition to some new ones. I’ll add that the new record is awesome! In true Dope fashion there’s all sorts of different types of music on there. I’m positive that the fans who have been around since 99′ will dig it, and I think people new to the band will find some songs on there that they really dig as well.”
After leaving Murderdolls, I’ve heard you say that you were retiring from music. Fast forward to the announcement of Lemmy’s death, and you posted on Facebook that it made you want to play music again. What was it about Lemmy and his death that inspired you to continue on?
,,Well I was laying in bed when I heard about Lemmy, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. It’s like hearing that Keith Richards died, ya know. These are people who just CAN’T die! People that party so hard and have made it WAY past the “live fast, die young” mentality. I guess it just really sank the idea of mortality in. Not to mention that even though I wouldn’t consider myself to have been a friend of Lemmy’s, I did spend a lot of time drinking whiskey and laughing, while he told stories during the time I basically lived at the Rainbow back when we recorded the ‘Life’ album with Dope. So, fast forward to my epiphany or “Lemmy’s Divine Intervention” if you will. I had been working at a live audio production company for a few years, basically steering the ship while the owner was out touring. My drums were in my basement collecting dust and I’d put on 20 plus extra pounds from stress and kegs upon kegs upon kegs of beer. All of a sudden I had this realization that over my life, I had achieved this talent of not only playing drums but entertaining folks as well. Not only as a live performer, but as my crazy, alcohol fueled persona that hung out after shows and made people laugh. It felt good to be able to help people escape from their day to day, even if for just one night, ya know?!! It just so happened that it was around the same time that me and Edsel started talking again on a frequent basis, and it all just sorta lined up. Almost as if Lemmy looked up from Hell and made it so. Ha!!! I’m really happy though because I was letting a good thing go to waste simply because I was upset about “the state of music” or all of the negative things I’d uncovered about the music “business.” Well fuck all of that. I was born to rock and dammit, that’s what I’m gonna do. Lemmy once said “If you think that you’re too old to rock & roll, then you are.” Well dammit, he rocked literally until the day he died, so why can I? Hell, why can’t anyone?!!!”
I’m not saying this because we are friends, but you are one of my favorite drummers to watch live. Most drummers can be very boring and predictable to watch, but visually you have a very flashy style and can literally steal the spotlight. What made you decide to become a drummer? Who were some of your initial influences, and who are some of your favorite drummers out there now?
,,Well thank you Chris! Allow me to start my answer off with another quote from Lemmy Kilmister who said “If you’re going to be a fucking rock star, go be one. People don’t want to see the guy next door on stage; they want to see a being from another planet.” Me personally, I feel like it takes very minimum effort to pretty much learn to do anything. Especially to just get up on stage and only play a song. However, it takes a little more effort and willingness to try to put a little extra on it to make it more enjoyable. In a Paul Stanley voice, “You know, it’s a lot like having a burger. Sure you can just put some ground beef in a pan and slap it on a bun. But that burger is so much better with some seasoning, some cheese, ketchup and then once you put bacon on it… forget about it! Now it’s an amazing burger.” I know that’s a little contrived and slightly silly, but who wants to see some jabroni that looks like he’s coming to repair your toilet get on stage and just go thru the motions with zero excitement or conviction?!!! I think early on I was really taken away with seeing the big Peter Criss drum solo with the levitating riser and the fire. Even though I’m not a huge fan of The Who, I remember seeing live stuff from them as a kid and seeing Keith Moon flail around the kit like Animal from the Muppets and thinking to myself, “damn, that was amazing.” Then I saw Neal Smith with the Alice Cooper band, and he was spinning sticks and throwing them in the air and I was like holy shit!!! I’ve had the distinct privilege of touring with Alice a few times, and he’s told me how I remind him of Neal, I assume that he meant the drinking? HA!!!! That was one of the utmost complements ever. Then came along Tommy Lee who not only spun sticks and spat beer, but epitomized what it means to be a Rock & Roll drummer. In the summer of 83, after a few years of beating on cardboard boxes, and my mom’s pots and pans, I finally got my first real drumkit and the rest, again as Paul Stanley would say, was Kisstory!!! Ha! I kill me sometimes!”
You have been a part of the Atlanta music scene for many years. I’m going to give you a list of 10 now defunct bands / venues / party spots, and I want you to give me a brief memory of each:
The Point— ,,Sleazy shit hole that I got into many fist fights at and still miss with all of my soul. Saw Manson there before ‘Smells Like Children’, amazing show, also saw Korn, Deftones and many other bands there before they were huge. I also had the pleasure of getting wasted with Cheetah Chrome from the Dead Boys there as well.”
Shok L’Amour — ,,My foot in the door of the music world. We had a great time and had a pretty good following for a pre grunge/ to grunge era of music considering that we had bigger hair and wore more make up than Poison, except it was all black. Not to mention our big black psychedelic, yes I said black psychedelic school bus that we all lived in between strippers.”
Sex Cab— ,,Ahh Jett Bryant before the beard. Knock on wood bro!!!”
Wreck Room— ,,My first real stomping ground. Played so many shows there. I don’t even know where to start. Miss this place dearly as well. I did see a guy wreck a motorcycle out front doing 100mph running from a cop, and his head was completely gone after hitting a brick wall head on. Gave a whole new meaning to “Wreck” Room to me.”
Tazzberry Blue— ,,My best friend and “brother” from high school’s band. Silly and fun. Like a multi colored Punk Popsicle on acid. ”
Backstreet— ,,Two words… cocaine, hookers. Miss that place too!”
The Chamber— ,,I helped to build that fetish club with my own sweat and blood. Then after it was open, I left a lot more of my body fluids on the floor of that place besides blood and sweat!!!!!”
Moonwater — ,,Amazing evil, psychedelic rock. They opened for the Manson show at the Point that I spoke of earlier and may I stress MAY have blown them off the stage. Still talk to my buddy “Christian”/ Adam from time to time. Great guys. Still call them all brother!”
Vagrant Justice— ,,These guys fucking slayed! We played so many shows with them it was silly. Dave “davee g” Gara (formerly Skid Row and now playing with my previous bassist Jay from the Luchagors in the band theCrush” was, is, and will always be a beast of a drummer, love that guy!!! Their singer, C.C. Is the fucking man. What a powerful, angry voice on such a beautiful, sweet human being.”
Charley Magruders — ,,Three words. First Fake ID! I don’t remember much of this place except being 16, looking like a cross between a “then” Sebastian Bach and Axl Rose. Drunk out of my mind with women all over me. It was my first real taste of Rock & Roll debauchery!!!!!”
If I looked at your iTunes library, who are some of the unexpected artists I would find?
,,Kickin Valentina, ha! No seriously, probably shit like Waylon Jennings, The Gap Band, The Commodores, early Duran Duran, Billy Squier, and of course my hometown boys, with Charlie whom I played with several times in bands when we were in high school, Blackberry Smoke!!!!!”
You’re usually involved in various music related projects at any given time. Besides Dope, is there anything else you’d like your fans to check out?
,,Not really anything personally that I have going on right now. I am hoping to put some shit together after all of this Dope stuff slows down, but just for fun. As far as local up and coming bands go though I’ve got to say that Death Of Kings is brutally awesome, so is theCrush as well as the Casket Creatures. Plus I can’t leave off Bigfoot and of course your band Chris, Kickin Valentina (second plug of the interview by the way, you’re welcome!).”
How can people find out more info about the upcoming Dope tour? Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, and I look forward to seeing Dope in Atlanta.
,,Well there’s the main page at www.dopearmy.com
There’s the Dope face book page
As well as on Instagram and Twitter.
Here’s a link to our show at the Masquerade in Atlanta on October 17th.
It’s the day before my wife’s birthday and we’re gonna make a big party out of it, so please come wish her a happy birthday and kick back a few cold beers with us!!! I hope to see all y’all there. Thanks for the time to read about my crap, and listen to my foul potty mouth. I tried to keep it somewhat fucking clean!!!!” —Racci Shay