INTERVIEW: Brett White-Lead Singer/song writer/guitar for "GREN"
By: Alex Steininger
Alex: What inspired you to write the songs on Camp Grenada?
Brett: There was a few different things. A good portion of it was from an experience I had with a live in girlfriend. She stressed me out a lot and there was a lot of problems. She didn't listen, so I put it in songs. Also, people who piss me off, I like to put myself in their minds and write from their viewpoints.
Alex: Is there any road experience that stands out?
Brett: Off the bat, touring with the Ramones. Twenty-Five to Thirty shows. There were some definite highlights. Now the drummer and bass player have girlfriends, so I don't want to get anyone in trouble. Let's just say we did lots of things and the road was good to us. One day we were coming from Olympia and we had two days off, until our next show in San Francisco. So we decided to spend a day in Portland. We got there and it was late. We had been out drinking at a bar, and we just wanted to go and find a place to sleep. We came to this little hotel and went in to get a room. The guy behind the counter started telling us that he didn't want any trouble and for us to just go to our room and be quite. So we got our rooms, and when we got there we were hungry, so we decided to order room service. We called down to the main office, and the guy down there told us room service was closed for the night. So we said, "OK..fine." Then we tried to order some of those pay-per-view movies. It wasn't working in our room, so we called down to the main office to see what was up. The guy down there told us it was shut down for the night and to just go to bed. This pissed me off, so we started throwing things out the window, because we were pissed. Well he called the cops on us. The cops came and told us to pack up our things and leave town. I told the cop I just wanted to go to bed, and he said we couldn't, that the old man wanted us to leave. So he told us to get in our van over there and leave. I told the cop, "Look...I am not stupid. The moment I get in the van, your gonna pull us over for drinking and driving." So the cop gave us an escort out of town, where we stayed in this little hotel. And then the next time we came to Portland (with the Ramones) we stayed at a totally different hotel, and guess who was behind the counter! The same guy. As we were checking out he started telling the guy next to him not to let us check in, because we will cause a lot of problems. The guy told him to come down, that we were checking out. I then asked the other guy (not the angry old guy) if we had paid him on time and been totally cool. He said yes, that we were great. So I shoved it in the old guys face.
Alex: If you tour with any other band, who would it be and why?
Brett: Right now...the Pixies, but they aren't around anymore. I am a big Frank Black fan. Van Halen with David Lee Roth.
Alex: Do you like Van Halen better with Sammy or Dave?
Brett: David Lee Roth was Van Halen. This whole Sammy Hagar thing gets under my skin.
Alex: Who are your major influences?
Brett: Van Halen was a big influence. In High School I listened to them a million times. Even though you can't tell in the music, the Van Halen influence is there. The Pixies were a big influence. Also 80's pop, and early 80's stuff. Even cheesy stuff like Rick Springfield and Hewie Lewis.
Alex: What are your band goals for 1997?
Brett: We are going to concentrate on a bigger label. EMI, the parent company of I.R.S., still holds the rights to us. We want off EMI, and we have some good lawyers. I am sure we can work something out. Also, we want to get a record out by January.
Alex: What labels are currently looking into you guys?
Brett: Um..Electra, Columbia, Island, Mammoth, and I forgot the fifth one.
Alex: Have you ever been in any previous bands, or is Gren your first?
Brett: Gren is the first band I have fronted. I was in two other bands on guitar. Tram Driver (which was called "Made of This" when I was in it) is about to sign to Geffen.
Alex: Do you still talk to the guys in Tram Driver?
Brett: Yeah...they are my roommates.
Alex: When you tour, what do you do to cure boredom?
Brett: Drink. We also rag on each other. We try to make others feel as small as possible. We rip on them when they get totally shot down by a female. To be in this band, you have to be able to take it.
Brett: Sorry I was late. On the way over here to call you, I got pulled over by a cop car. My registration is out.
Alex: That's OK.
Alex: What is your favorite city to play and why?
Brett: Atlanta. I grew up there. Also, we have a lots of fun in Pittsburgh. Every day I have off, and when we are near there, I go there. Manhattan is a fucking great town. We met this these females there so when we go we get $40 suites at the Hilton.
Alex: Is there any modern bands you like, but really don't influence you?
Brett: Not specifically a band, but there is a few songs on the radio I have heard that I like. "Popular" by Nada Surf, and "Suck Out" by Super Drag. Also, I like Beck. But its more respect for him than for his music.
Alex: Tell me about how it felt when I.R.S. went under, and what went through your mind?
Brett: Panic at first. When they finally called me off the road, and told us "Don't go to your next show. Just come back. I.R.S. has closed its doors." We were supposed to be on the road all summer. I gave up my apartment, because we were supposed to be on the road for at least 5 months. We came back with no place to live. All my stuff was in storage. I am pissed off at EMI, and I am dragging them along, until they let go of us.
Alex: How long did it take to write the songs for Camp Grenada? Was it really 35 minutes like you said last night in the chat room?
Brett: Someone asked how long it took to write "Pop Songs." It was about 35 minutes. Some songs were old and I had for awhile. Half the record was written before the band even got together. It took less than a year, about 6 months, to get together.
Alex: Tell me about your new material. What is it about, and what (if any) events in your life will play a role in the writing of the new material.
Brett: The songs are a little different. Different life experiences. They are not all written, so it is tough to say. I like to write from other peoples perspectives. Put myself in their shows and write how they see the situation.
Alex: Do you consider yourself a rock star?
Brett: HELL NO!!!!! Rock stars have money!!!!
Alex: Out of all the places you have lived, what place was your favorite and why?
Brett: L.A. I haven't been here for the past year. Talk to me in 3 months and I will hate this fucking place.
Alex: What does into good music making?
Brett: Your heart and honesty. It must be honest. No fabricated, but it must be honest!!
Alex: What is fun about the music industry, and what just plain fucking sucks?
Brett: The fun part is being able to do what you want to do for a living. The whip cream is the touring. The bad part is the business. I took a crash course in that subject. Ninety percent of the people in the business are assholes. Money grubbing assholes. As for radio, it is the same thing. They are slim balls.
Alex: What do you say to people when they start turning their backs on bands because they "Sold Out."
Brett: It hasn't happened to us yet, but we aren't that big. They have their own opinions, but I don't know what a sell-out is. I can see if the record label is yanking them around by the dick and making them change their music, but other than that, I don't understand.
Alex: If you could change anything about Camp Grenada, what would it be?
Brett: THE ARTWORK!!! It is the worst artwork on an album. It is kindergarten artwork. I wouldn't be surprised if we lost sales because of the artwork. The real artwork was supposed to be a postcard with this real stupid kid on a bench. But we couldn't get the rights to the real artwork. So they said we could either delay the album for 3 months, or take the drawing.
Alex: What are the lowest and highest points in your musical career?
Brett: The lowest point and the highest point was the same event. We were in Louieville, Kentucky. It was supposed to be a big event. Ticketmaster and everything! We were going to play at this major venue with another national act. At the place we were playing there was a major venue on top and a cover band bar downstairs. We get there and find out we only sold ten tickets. So we played our set, and then partied with the ten people who were at the show. Then I was standing there and I heard "She Shines." I thought, "Cool...someone is playing my song on the jukebox downstairs." Then I realize, that isn't my vocals. Matter of fact, that isn't me playing guitar. So I go downstairs and see this cover band playing my song, and the place was packed! There was like 100 people there hearing a cover band do my song, when the real thing was just upstairs. So I go up to the singer and tell him he is playing my song. He said, "that is your song? I just heard it on the radio and liked it." So it was flattering hearing them cover us. I have never heard anyone cover us before, so that was nice. But it was also a low point, seeing a cover band have more people than us.
Alex: On Camp Grenada, why does Marcus and Possum give some no thanks, but you don't?
Brett: I didn't feel the need. I am not a vindictive person. I do it covertly. I will get back at them and do it in my songs.
Alex: How did the record deal come to be with I.R.S.?
Brett: It was the quickest thing. April 25, 1994 was our first show. Three shows later the record label executive had came out to see us, and then four weeks later we got the deal. He wrote a rough draft contract on a make-shift napkin, and the final contract was 60 pages. It took four weeks to get signed, and nine months to negotiate the deal. When we sat down to go over the contract, all I wanted to see was the money!
Alex: How did the band form?
Brett: I did a demo in my closet with a drum machine. I did 3 songs. Then I was going through a magazine called "Music Connection." I called a drummer in the ad. He listened to my tape and liked it. He came over and jammed. He knew a bass player in another band, and got him to cover over and play. It was originally supposed to be a side project for him. Then it all worked out.
Alex: I read somewhere you used to work at Robinson's-May, and that they unjustly fire you. Why did they fire you?
Brett: It was nothing big, really. I stopped people from stealing $500 in merchandise. I turned in a chinsy report, since I was lazy. The fired me because I "lacked detail." It used to be only Robinson's and then it merged with May, and I was one of the last employees, and they didn't like me and wanted to get me out of there. Nothing big and exciting.
Alex: What is your personal favorite song on "Camp Grenada?"
Brett: Uh...I have two. Lyrically it's "and (it's had.) It was what I was feeling at the time. Every line means something to me. It was how my heart felt at the time. For music it is "Pop Songs," and "The Crush."
Alex: I'm out of questions. Next time you are in Portland, tell me and we can get together.
Brett: OK. That would be cool. Bye.