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The Rock Of It All

(Interview Keith Morgan Taken From Black Velvet 31 - Feb 2002)

By Shari Black Velvet

HANDSOME DEVIL are one of the hottest new pop-punk rock acts on the block. Signed to Jeremy Popoff of Lit's label Dirty Martini, the band have a scorching debut out entitled 'Love And Kisses From The Underground'. But although the band have only been together a couple of years and the album's only been out for six months, Black Velvet remembers one of the members from a previous outfit almost a decade ago. Isn't it great when hard working souls such as these finally hit the big time?





Keith Morgan was once a drummer for Big Bang Babies, one of our favourite unsigned LA bands in the early 90s and the brainchild of Keri Kelli, guitarist with Slash's Snakepit. Prior to that Keith had also been in a band called Razmataz, who we'd caught live at The Troubadour on New Years Eve 1992. Keith, who used the name Alan (his middle name) as a surname back then, is blasted into the past.

"When Big Bang Babies split up, Keri and I started this band called Rubber and found these two other guys and did that for a while. It just kinda got weird and we split up. Actually the three of us besides Keri moved and did this thing called Orangemen. It lasted a couple of years and after that whole thing went down… two of the guys in Handsome Devil I've been friends with forever anyway, so they just told me about this opportunity they had coming up here. They really liked my drumming and that whole thing so they said "do you wanna come and check it out?" We rehearsed and it just kinda clicked. It was like magic again. But I was still playing. There was never a time when I kicked back and did nothing."
"The two guys were in a band together. When they would come off tour, they would give me a call and say 'hey man, do you want to come down to the studio and just jam" and we'd play all these old cover songs or just work on their new ideas. I was in Orangemen at the time so I would just jump in and jam with them. This was like two years before anything happened. We just enjoyed playing together. So that was the first thing. What made me join was that it was a better opportunity and I always dug these guys playing. I thought they were pro to begin with and the situation I was in seemed really redundant. Not that it wasn't fun, I don't want to put anything down, but this just seemed like a better situation and opportunity for me. I was ready to do something new and I'm completely stoked I made the decision."
"It was just the three of us and then we were on the search for a bass player. We finally found him in September."
Not soon afterwards the band were picked up by Jeremy Popoff's own record label, Dirty Martini.
"I really thought it was about time. I definitely felt I had paid my dues and was capable of handling this whole situation. I was just really stoked, you know what I mean? Here we are, we have a genuine opportunity and I knew I was with guys that felt the same about me as far as pursuing a career in this area. I was just stoked, really happy and just glad we got the opportunity to prove ourselves."
But things hadn't always been that easy. Keith had had times when he'd questioned his choice of career. Thankfully he never gave in to these pessimistic emotions.
"I thought about maybe throwing in the towel a few times but then I moved out here specifically to make it on one level or another and again, not to toot my own horn and say that I'm bad-ass, I know that I can play. I knew that being with the right people, being at the right place at the right time, who you knew, all this stuff, it would have been cool if it had happened back then but I might not have been prepared for it at the time; too reckless and not really mature enough. Maybe that sounds cheesy but I think that now is a good time.
"I would just realise that this is what I came here to do. The second you give up you've thrown in the towel completely and you have no chance of making it. I just would still do my little activities within my life beside music but still when it came to music I always gave it 100%. I think just a lot of hard work paid off. I knew somewhere, sometime or another, somehow I would get my foot in the door and then just kinda branch off, in one way or another"
And he sees this as only the beginning…
"The thing that I think is cool is that when we play in front of people, people who are there actually seeing us like us. The people that like us love us and they come back again to the shows, they talk to their friends. So I think it totally has potential there. I think every song on the record doesn't really sound like the next one. It's not like one song and everything sounds like that with a little twist in the vocal. This is only our first record and I think as musicians we're going to grow together. We're all good players and I really do think it has the potential of a career out of this, like big time… if we're in front of the right people, we can get the tools that we need. Without them I think we can manage it but MTV and things like that, those are always a bonus, but if we don't get all that love, we can do it on our own. We're gonna just tour constantly and make it happen.

As mentioned, two of the members were in a band together before Keith came in. That's Billie Stevens and Danny Walker who were previously part of the band Wank, signed to Maverick Records. They released an album amusingly entitled 'Get A Grip Of Yourself'.
Keith says Billie, Danny and also Darren on bass are awesome to be in a band with.
"Every band I've been in, we've all gotten along but then eventually something goes weird. We're all smart now and we've all been through all kinds of bullshit so we get along really good. We're always joking around. We comment even amongst ourselves that most bands aren't like us. We totally get along, we have each other's back if we have a problem, which is very rare. We just talk about it immediately and it's solved… rather than sitting there and harbouring that and taking it out and maybe fans finding out that you're upset with this guy, we just take care of it. But it's constantly tons of laughing, tons of joking. It's a ball. I love all the guys."

So after the band had gotten signed, the first thing to do was to go out on tour.
"Before we started recording, we went out with Zebrahead just to kinda get tight with each other 'cause again with the four of us playing as a unit we didn't have much of the live show thing and we busted our ass. We didn't have 10 years to get this thing ready. It was like 'here are the four of you, bam, you have to act like you've been together forever'. So we got our chops down, got our moves down, got augmented into playing in front of a lot of people together, the four of us…"
Then, and only then, did they hit the studio to record their debut album. 'Love And Kisses From The Underground' was produced by Jeremy Popoff and Ed Stasium. Most of the songs had been written prior to the full line-up, by Billie and Danny.
Keith says "Danny obviously is the main songwriter - or at least the ideas that we've used thus far, he'll go in his room and 4-track a bunch of ideas and bring it to us. I can't play guitar or anything so it's real hard for me to write songs. I can hum melodies and stuff but I'm more into piecing together different segments of the song or little accents here or endings like this, beginnings like this. But for the most part it was all pretty much written before I came in. As I said, Danny and Billie and I used to play a lot on the side so we knew each other's chemistry anyway. The drum machine stuff that Danny would put down on some of these songs were almost what I would play anyway. I know 'Everything', 'Barbeque' and 'Bring It On' were three songs we all worked together on after, the four of us.
"To us the whole recording experience was laid back, since we knew Jeremy. Since we knew he was an artist his ideas were valid because he's been there, he's having success with his thing. The things that he'd say, we'd take it in, listen to it, if we didn't like it, it wasn't like 'dude, you've gotta do that", it's just "ok, whatever". So it was real laid back, real cool, he was a lot of fun. They (Lit) were recording their record at the same time so I thought it was real cool how he would come down and spend several hours with us in the morning, go and do his thing and then come back and hang out."
The album was distributed through RCA.
"Right when the album was being released, our first tour which got us a lot of exposure was going out with Lit… and that rocked. It was playing in front of a lot of people who totally accepted us with open arms, we had a great time. It was really cool. We're actually doing some more shows with them and every time we pop back through a certain town the crowd's double and triple. The word of mouth thing is really happening for us.
"We're stoked that we have an album out there and whether people hear it or not, if they're at the show we capture them… and then they go get it. I'm happy with the way things are going. We've got a single coming out here in February or March and hopefully it will re-ignite the whole situation and break out money again.

So, any clue when the band will get to the UK, Europe or any other country?
Keith replies: "There's talk about it. I would probably think we'll do a Japan/England thing pretty soon. I don't see why we wouldn't. It would seem like the obvious thing to do.

Finally, does Keith have any messages for a) people who haven't heard the band yet and b) their own Handsome Devil fans?
"Current Handsome Devil fans I'd say we love and appreciate everything that they do. We have a street team out here that busts their ass to get the word of Handsome Devil out and they're called The Hellions. Definitely like to say hi to them and again we appreciate everything they're doing. For people who don't know about us, if you like rock 'n' roll at all, it's definitely a must to check out. The songs are all poppy, catchy and attitude and live it's even more in your face. We put on a hell of a show. We get crazy, get everybody involved and it's just a good time. We wanna bring back the rock of it all."

For more information on Handsome Devil visit their official website at www.handsomedevilworld.com and grab their 'Love And Kisses From The Underworld' in shops now.


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