Jeff LaBar Interview
Written By Alison “MetalBabe” Cohen
Promo Photos by Nadine Joy
Jeff LaBar has been playing guitar for Cinderella since they made their debut in 1985. LaBar recently recorded a CD with Markus Allen Christopher’s band Freakshow, is starting to record his 1st solo CD, and has an online radio show with his wife called “Saturday Nights with the LaBars.”
Metal Babe Mayhem: There is a lot of drama on myspace and Blabbermouth about Freakshow. I’d like to get your insight. Frankie Banani has posted his story; Markus Allen Christopher has posted “The Truth” and is corresponding with fans. What’s your side of the story?
Jeff LaBar: As far as I know, Freakshow is non-existent. My Freakshow story started on myspace. I get a lot of people sending me their songs, check out my band, big fan… And I got one from a band called Miss Crazy. I check out all my myspace stuff as much as I can and I write back to as many people as I can. Facebook, Twitter, all that stuff. When I heard Miss Crazy, I was like, wow, that’s kinda cool… It was reminiscent of the 80’s, yet still kind of cool, and a little current. I wrote back to him and told him I dig your band, thanks… Markus Allen Christopher wrote back to me and said he wants to do a solo record, how would I feel about playing on it? Quite frankly, I asked, “how much money you got?” He said he’d fly me out to San Jose and all I’d have to do is solos. About a year later it all came together. He called me and said, guess what, I got Frankie Banali on drums. And then Frankie got Tony Franklin involved and it just snowballed. Before I even recorded a note, it was like, we’re gonna make this a band, and we’re gonna call it Freakshow and we’re gonna tour. Frankie and I toured together with Quiet Riot and Cinderella and always wanted to play together, and Cinderella wasn’t doing a lot these days.
Frankie did his drum tracks before I even got there. I did my guitar solos, and then after I left San Jose I went straight to L.A. and met up with Frankie and started jamming. Unfortunately five days before the CD came out, Frankie’s wife passed away. We were doing a lot of press and promoting the hell out of it, and Frankie dropped off the face of the earth. This is like, “Mr. Myspace.” It devastated him… Obviously. He said, don’t tell anyone, but this is what happened, and I’ll talk to you in a couple months.
Tony Franklin was never gonna tour. He just did the record and said that up front. But Markus and I promoted the hell out of it. We were looking at bass players and giving Frankie space. A few months went by, and when we caught back up with Frankie he was pretty much not into it anymore. He wasn’t into anything anymore, really. He has a pre-teen daughter he’s raising by himself, and he said if I’m gonna do anything, it really has to be worth my while to take me away from my daughter.
We did get some offers to do some things. Nothing very lucrative, but some things that Markus and I did want to pursue, and Frankie didn’t feel it was worthy of his time away from his daughter. I really can’t place any judgement the way Markus is. Markus is very bitter. I understand. I’m bummed, but I understand. When Frankie and Markus started battling on the Internet, I dropped out of it. I just stopped talking. No comment. And that brings us to where we are now.
MBM: Do you see yourself ever wanting to find another drummer and a touring bass player and give it a go, or are you just going to call it a CD and move forward?
Jeff: I told Markus that a long time ago that, Frankie’s situation aside, that you’re not gonna get Frankie off his couch for less than what Quiet Riot would get paid. Me, on the other hand… I’ve done things that have paid less than Cinderella. I played with Eric Brittingham’s wife’s band, Naked Beggars. It was back to basics… back to humping your own gear, playing for 50 to 100 people a night, it was fun. I still dig it like a youngster. I know Frankie, and he’s not gonna go for anything less than a tour bus and a four-star hotel. Markus said Frankie was on board. I still said we might want to think about getting another drummer. That’s when Markus broke it to me; we can’t do that because Frankie owns 50%. I didn’t know that. I was hired and paid to do a record, and it was done. It is what it is. Things were promised to me that never came to be, as far as money and stuff. From what I heard, Frankie said if you guys really want to go out on tour without me you have my blessing, and I’ll even suggest a couple drummers. But, then again, he gets 50% of it.
MBM: Have you thought about playing with Markus in Miss Crazy?
Jeff: He brought that up. We were just getting frustrated with the whole Freakshow thing and he said he was just going to make another Miss Crazy record and asked if I’d play on it. I was like, yeah, I’ll play on it. Same story as last time… You pay me and I’ll play on it. I am a professional musician. If you pay me, I will play. (laughs) That’s what I do for a living. Sure. When you talk about touring, that’s a different story… I’m in my mid-40’s and people know who I am. I’m not about to go out and put make-up on and try to reinvent myself. He was trying to get Eric Brittingham involved too. He talked to Eric, and Eric was like, yeah, I’ll play on the record. The same thing… I’m not trying to be in Miss Crazy and put make-up on. It took us 25 years to get people to know who we are. Markus said something like, just me and the drummer will wear make-up. I’m like, dude, that’s ridiculous. And I thought it was kind of silly when he was wearing make-up for Freakshow. It’s like Jeff LaBar and Frankie Banali with King Diamond. (laughs) But that’s his persona, and if we did tour, he was still going to carry that persona, you know as opposed to who he really is and his real name. You know Markus Allen Christopher is the guy with the make-up on. I grew up a big Alice Cooper fan and a Mercyful Fate fan, so I guess I can understand it. Not too much for me.
MBM: It looks like you and your wife, Debby, had a radio show a while back and are starting that up again. Can you tell us more about “Saturday Night with the LaBars?”
Jeff: Debby and I had a radio show for a little less than a year. It was a couple years ago on Reality Radio. We did an interview here in Nashville with Naked Beggars and I pretty much took over the whole interview. Nobody was talking, I had a buzz on…I was going off! In the meantime, my wife Debby was talking to the CEO of the radio station. The four of us just hit it off and they said I should do a radio show and within a few weeks, we just joined the team. We put on a four hour late night radio show “Saturday Night with the LaBars” from 10PM to 2 o’clock in the morning. We just talked and played music. I based the format on “Regis and Kelly.” For the first hour they just talk about what was in the news, what happened overnight, and what happened that week. Debby would put together play lists, without even telling me, of all 80’s music. She would play a song… Say she played Poison, and I would be like, remember the time… We would just tell stories, amusing antidotes that people would get a kick out of. When I first met David Lee Roth, Bobby Dall getting busted… We had a chat room, phone line, games…
MBM: That sounds fun.
Jeff: During all the interviews I’m doing for Freakshow, people keep saying, you gotta bring your show back! Finally, a station grabbed a hold of us hardrockradiolive.com. Hopefully it will take off in the next couple weeks. We are still going on Saturday nights, but from 8:00 PM – 10:00 PM EST.
MBM: So is the Radio Show your main focus right now, as far as what you’re personally working on?
Jeff: I’m also working on a solo record. For the past three months I’ve been in three bands, Cinderella, Freakshow and another band called Rufus Fontain. I can’t get any of these bands to work, and go out and play. So my wife and I were in the car one night and one of my demos came up on her iPod. She said I should go in the studio and re-record all my old demos. I never actually thought of that. All my old demos are all me. I programmed a drum machine and played guitar, bass, keyboards, and sang everything. Thanks to Debby, I transferred to digital, and I’m getting ready to go into the studio and re-record and rework all these old songs that I’ve recorded over the last 15 years.
MBM: Do you have a goal in mind or an idea as to when this will be finished?
Jeff: I have a goal. My goal is to actually do it.
MBM: That’s exciting. That’s something Cinderella fans and your fans will be looking forward to.
Jeff: It’s going to take a while because I’m gonna play everything. I’m gonna get my buddy Shawn Hughes from the Naked Beggars to do all the drum tracks, and then I’m just going to go in the studio everyday and overdub everything that I want done. Play all the bass, guitars, keyboards, vocals… That’s the way I always did it back in the day. I am looking forward to it. So no, I don’t have a time frame. (laughs)
MBM: Well at least you’re getting it started and getting the word out there. What is going on with Cinderella and how is Tom Keifer doing?
Jeff: He tells me he’s feeling good, and he’s been working out, as far as vocals, and he’s getting ready to hit it. I’m like, come on man, bring it! It’s quite possible that we may start rehearsing the next couple weeks and ease back into it and do some fly dates on the weekends. I’m not promising or telling you, hey, we’re touring. Maybe some casino stuff in November, December… who knows. It would be really good to get back out there with Cinderella. It was such a bummer Keifer blew his voice out. He was devastated.
MBM: The good news is he’s back on track. How about recording? Any talk of a new Cinderella CD?
Jeff: No, no talk about recording, Tom’s been working on a solo record for quite some time. It actually started out to be a Cinderella album when we were signed to Sony and the first five or six songs were for our demo. Then the Sony deal fell through… He just turned it into a solo project and has been working on it ever since.
MBM: Is there anything else you would like to add or tell our readers?
Jeff: Make sure to check out my websites (listed below) and my radio show “Saturday nights with the LaBars” on hardrockradiolive.com. Also, regardless of the Freakshow situation, I’m still really proud of the CD. I think that it’s pretty much the best thing that I have ever recorded. Nothing against Cinderella, but it’s up there, I think.
MBM: Sounds great. Thank You for your time. Best of luck with everything you’re doing and with your radio show.
Jeff: Alright Alison, you take care.