|Myke Gray - SKIN - Interview Exclusive|
|Written by Dave Prince|
|Tuesday, 19 October 2010 05:00|
During the later half of the 80's guitarist Myke Gray had a bit of a revolving door policy set up around the world-class band he had formed called Jagged Edge. After an E.P. and one full-length album ('Trouble' and 'Fuel for Your Soul 'respectively) they unfortunately called it a day. One band mate stayed strong and Andy Robbins (ex Tokyo Blade/Shogun) stuck with Myke awaiting the arrival of vocal powerhouse Neville MacDonald (ex Kooga) along with drummer extraordinaire Dicki Fliszar (ex Bruce Dickinson/Vamp). With the band's line up now complete they returned like a Phoenix from the ashes of Jagged Edge - which seems quite appropriate considering Phoenix was one of the names the band choose to use at the time, along with Bad 4 Good, Obsession and Taste.
With SKIN, Myke showcased his talents to the world stage having many highs along with a couple of lows along the way. SKIN disbanded in 1998 due to the pressures of not having a record contract and 6 years of relentless touring finally taking their toll. Myke wasted no time in continuing with music and hitched up with Right Said Fred co-writing their biggest hit since the 'I'm Too Sexy' days in 'You're My Mate'. Even an appearance with his band Schism on Channel 4's 'Faking It' was not enough for Sickboy (Myke's handle at the time) and he quit the music business and became a personal trainer to the stars and people with lots of money (check out www.mykegray.com for details)
Soon to be touring their comeback/farewell album 'Breaking the Silence.' Myke is a busy guy who is taking the time to answer some Uber Rock questions ahead of said tour, which also sees support from Matt Alfonzetti and Toby Jepson.
Hi Myke - thanks for taking the time to answer a couple of questions?
Can you give us an insight into the young Myke Gray mindset from around the Jagged Edge days and the backing of Ron Smallwood?
I was a very self absorbed and selfish person, who only cared about what I wanted and doing what ever it took to get it. I left school at 13 and played guitar all day, and that was all I thought about and had very little interaction with other people, and as a result was emotionally stunted, with very little social skills. Everything that happened, touring with Ozzy, getting Rod Smallwood as a manager, seemed perfectly natural to me. Looking back I must have been a nightmare.
After the demise of Jagged Edge and your resurrection with SKIN. Myke Gray must've been on top of the world. To us on the outside the band was making big waves around the world, yet it has come to light that you were all on £150 a week. How does that make you feel now looking back on the financial side of the band's matters?
At the time I didn't really think about it, I had never had any money so it was no different, but we were doing what we wanted to do, we loved playing music and we loved being in SKIN, we were naïve and didn't see it as a business, we just wanted to travel the world playing Rock music, it was our dream. We trusted people to look after our business but life has taught us that you can only rely on yourself to have your best interests at heart, so we look after ourselves now.
Now I've got to ask you about this... One of the proprietors of Uber Rock supported SKIN back in 1994 at a show in Bristol. The band in question were 'The Wild Family' who were halfway through their set when you came to the side of the stage and called for their set to be cut due to a disparaging remarks in their fanzine which one of the members gave to you... apparently forgetting the remark about SKIN was in there... Can you remember this incident and if so, can I have your side of the event?
I don't remember the incident, but it sounds exactly like the sort of thing I would do. I have lost count of the number of incidents where I would and have flared up over something that I think is wrong. I have never been shy in speaking up for myself and if someone wrote some shit about us and then had the cheek to support us, sounds perfectly reasonable to me.
Before SKIN disbanded - due to financial reasons - was it true that you were forced to refuse a support slot for Whitesnake? How frustrating was it from the bands point of view? Because as a fan I would have loved to seen you open for the 'Snake.
We had supported Whitesnake all over Europe and the tour was going great, we were asked if we would like to do the British leg, which involved us paying what is called a buy on, it was about £12,000 just for the privilege, as well as all the normal touring costs. We were signed to an independent label and they simply could not afford to pay it. From a business perspective it was completely understandable.
During the wilderness years - you joined 'Right Said Fred' and started a pop punk band Schism ('Don't Try This At Home' which is another of my favourite pop punk albums) around this time I understand that you started drinking and got involved with drugs? Now to me that was shocking given that you were alcohol/drug free during the SKIN years. Was this a low point in your life?
I never actually joined Right Said Fred, when Skin finished I had to make a living; I had no desire to join or form a Rock band. When you have worked with one of the best singers on the planet, it is a tough act to follow and still is. I was asked to do a couple of shows in Texas with them, and because I am good with computers I put their studio together and became their in house engineer, and ended up writing about 35 songs for them. One of which went on to be a big hit. The world of dance music is dominated by a drug culture, and I fell into it, and fell deep. Then I created Schism, which was totally fuelled by drugs and fell even deeper. It was a dark time, but I learned my biggest lessons from it, and it made me who I am today
With your appearance on Channel 4's 'Faking It', which was one of the most controversial episodes in the series' history, due to the sheer volume of irresponsible drinking! Can you tell us what that was like and what ultimately made you kick the drink and drugs to become a fitness instructor?
I have very little memory of that entire thing, as I was a very heavy user at that time, I never even saw it, and have no desire to. I am a different man now and have a completely different lifestyle, Thankfully.
Having received a call from Live Nation's Andy Copping asking you get the band back together. Was it a case of feeling like Bad News (as in the Comic Strip Presents fictional band that reformed at Donington Park's Monsters of Rock in 1986)? To me there were many similarities with them, is so much as Dicki lived in L.A. (okay maybe not with him), Andy has his own company, Neville works with young people, and you run a successful life coaching/personal trainer business. What was the initial meeting with all four band members like? Was it a curry in the pub or something more straightforward?
The first time we all met was three days before the first gig, I think all rock bands are a mixture of Bad news and Spinal tap, so I guess we are no different. We met at the house we rehearsed at, and it has been nothing but fun ever since.
After the rapturous reception SKIN received at Download 2009 and the following tour, along with the new album and the upcoming tour. Do you feel like you are thanking the fans for their loyalty and belief in the band?
That is reason we are doing it, it has been a lot of hard work to make it happen, with sacrifices being made in our work and to our families, but all of us felt that we owed the fans, that have stayed loyal to us for 13 years, a new album. We hope that we haven't disappointed any of them.
Was the recording of the 2 reunion albums ('Up Close & Personal', 'Breaking The Silence') a reminder of how great SKIN as a band were/are? Was there any chance that you could return to the music business on a full-time basis?
I am enjoying playing music again, but I love my day job. I am a personal trainer and work with amazing people, I have 22 years of martial arts training, I am a nutritional advisor and help people with addictive behaviour. It is all about balance, and I am lucky that I have a very balanced life at the moment
Are there any surprises/the old b-sides coming out for the farewell tour?
I think we will be playing 'Unbelievable', the EMF song, but we have been asking the fans what they want us to play, so the feed back from that will dominate the setlist for the farewell tour.
After seeing you play with Matt Alfonzetti on the last tour and playing guitar on 'You Don't Love Me' (which is one of my favourite songs EVER!) I feel as Myke Gray as a person has gone full circle and become the man he always wanted to be. Do you feel better as a person now that the end is in sight?
Thank you, I am very happy now, and enjoying music now more than at anytime in my life. I feel very proud to be a member of Skin and walk out on stage with those guys. I am definitely trying to be a better man, but there is still a long way to go.
Why no Welsh dates on the final farewell tour?
We actually had a welsh show booked in Cardiff, it was the first show we booked and built the tour round it, as we wanted Neville to be home for his son's birthday, but then something happened with the promoter and we were forced to find an alternative. We were gutted because we wanted to play in Wales for Nev's family.
With that my time was up, but not before Myke asked me to give the December Farewell Tour one more mention, and especially to anyone who currently hasn't got a ticket for one of the shows. Tickets are selling fast for these shows and Myke doesn't want anyone to end up being disappointed and miss their final live hurrah. You can read more about this here.
So all that is left for me to do is extend my sincerest thanks to Nicky at Two Side Moon for setting this interview up for me, and also to Myke Gray for being such a stand up guy and model interviewee...