Interviewed by Absalao Da Silva (Criss)
Date: August 2011
Stevie Rachelle and Todd "Chase" Chaisson were kind enough to receive me in their hotel room to give me an exclusive interview on TUFF’s past, present and future, on the previous day to their show in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I was the one who gave them the sad news about WARRANT’s Jani Lani passing away. I interviewed Stevie and Todd separately, which made it even more interesting!!!!!!! Enjoy!!!!!
Criss: What can you say about the early days of the band? What do you remember, the good things, the bad things…
Stevie: Well, you know, the band, the earliest days of TUFF, was before I was actually in the band, because Todd and Jorge formed the band, pretty much while like I was still in High School, I was just getting out of High School, like in 1984 / 85, and at that point, I was still in Wisconsin playing with my band, but they went through a few different singers and moved to Los Angeles, Hollywood, from Phoenix, and that’s when Jim Gillette was in their band, and he played, if my memory is correct, probably better than Todd’s, they played for shows in Hollywood with Jimmy. I think the Troubadour show, the Gazarri’s show, the Country Club show, and maybe one other. And then Jimmy wanted to go and form his own project, and go solo, and they started looking for a singer. So, they were advertising looking for a singer, and like, in the spring of 1987, like May, June, and at that point I was playing, actually, what was to be the last show of my other band, because we were kind of breaking up as well, and I got a flyer that said "wanted lead singer – David Lee Roth / Vince Neil / Bret Michaels type", you know, and that was exactly the kinds of bands I was into in Wisconsin, and everybody compared me to David Lee Roth or Vince Neil, and at that point, this new band called POISON had just come out, and everybody said "Stevie looks like the singer from POISON, you know, so I hadn’t even heard of them, so when I had this opportunity I found TUFF they were looking for a singer, I thought "that’s the perfect band for me". I saw their pictures, they looked the way I was looking, they were into the kind of bands that I liked, I think that I also said they liked CHEAP TRICK, Billy Idol, VAN HALEN, which I also loved as well, so I basically made the decision of flying to L.A., on a one way plane ticket, five days after I saw the flyer. And I moved there, in hopes of meeting them to audition. So, fast forward one week, I flew to Los Angeles, a couple of days later I tried to reach out to them, and they contacted me and said "we wanna meet you". They came to where I was staying, we traded demos, talked about what they liked, what I liked, what kind of direction I was looking to go in, and they said, "OK, let’s do a rehearsal, learn these songs", and, about a week later I rehearsed with them, but they didn’t give me the job after the first audition, they made me audition twice, two days, you know. And then, after the second audition, they said "we wanna have a meeting out in the parking lot, so they went to the parking lot, and I was in the rehearsal room by myself, and then they came back in, and I think then Todd said, "we want you to be our lighting guy". You know, and they were kind of joking, and I was like, "what?", (laughs), "No, we want you to be our singer!", and I was like, "Ok, Cool!", and then Michael was the businessman, he kind of managed the band, he booked our first show, which was to play with WARRANT, at the Roxy, and recently we learned that Jani Lani just died, RIP to Jani… but that was TUFF’s first show with me, WARRANT with TUFF opening at the Roxy in August 1987. And once we played that show, it was on! And we suddenly became very popular… WARRANT was the biggest band, without a doubt, in Hollywood and the plan was to try to open for other popular bands and steal their crowd, or like, to impress their fans to go "wow, who’s this band? We like TUFF too so that was the plan for us to play with anybody that was big and little by little I guess that’s what happened with TUFF.
Criss: So you got signed by a big label and you released "What Comes Around Goes Around"… and then we talked a little about Todd’s departure…
Stevie: Well we got signed in the summer of 1990. So that was a full three years later. And we put out the record in the spring of ’91 and we toured all over the U.S. We went to England and at that point it was a really weird point for music in general. Because in the fall of 1991 it was when NIRVANA came out and PEARL JAM and ALICE IN CHAINS had been out for about a year and a lot of things in the music world were changing to grunge also METALLICA had became really big. METALLICA was already a big band, but the "Black" record" just became massive! So this new thrash, METALLICA’s "Black" album changed the band, but they still looked as an underground heavy metal thrash band, and so they became the biggest band in the world behind GUNS N’ ROSES. Todd was affected towards heavier music and so was Jorge. Todd’s and their original interests were much heavier. They had friends they grew up and used to hang out with like Jason Newsted from FLOTSAM AND JETSAM and Todd’s brother was in KEEL, his other brother Greg was playing with BADLANDS, and in one point was up for the Ozzy Osbourne gig, so Todd and Jorge had originally really been into more metal bands… actually myself as well. I was exposed to JUDAS PRIEST before RATT, you know? So, at this point in 1991, the glam thing, the hair band thing, the headbanger thing, had just become so overdone. Every singer had blond hair, every guy had cowboy boots, everybody was singing love songs, and party songs, and we were a band that was like that as well, then it got to the point that everybody had beaten us to the punch! And Todd was the first one to just kind of go ". He didn’t wanna do this anymore. I don’t wanna bleach my hair, I don’t wanna wear hairspray, I just don’t wanna play this kind of music. So we were all evolving, but Todd was becoming more absent. He was into PANTERA, SUICIDAL TENDENCIES really heavy sTUFF! MEGADETH… this heavy music, which we were like, still trying to maintain some of the TUFF sound which was a pop rock band. And, at that point Todd and I were fuming at each other. We both didn’t get along and at one point we had a fight, argument and blowout in Denver, Salt Lake it got to the point that we were grabbing each other’s jackets not violent, but getting a little physical at the end of that tour we all wanted to take a break for the holidays in December of 1991, let the holiday go by and we’ll make a decision on what’s gonna happen in the beginning of the year. Todd made the decision that he didn’t want to be in the band. Michael and Jorge wanted to continue being in the band.
Criss: So you mentioned the grunge movement is the blamed it for the extinction of the glam bands in general, from the 80’s and 90’s, except for the really big ones, so that’s why you decided to change a little bit when you released "Fist First" and "Religious Fix"?
Stevie: Well, I don’t think I made a conscious effort in TUFF to go "hey, TRIXTER and DANGER DANGER are not popular anymore, let’s be more like SKID ROW or STONE TEMPLE PILOTS", it was not what we were thinking. We were just doing what we liked I mean even when UGLY KID JOE came out… I remember hearing them and thinking, "hey, this is good!". They had good melodies here was heavy guitars, they weren’t wearing spandex, they’re just cool hard music even SKID ROW. SKID ROW had a very heavy sound but there was some ballads, they played power ballads and love songs, and Sebastian had this long hair and eyeliner and was looking pretty in pictures but since they were heavier and he had this amazing voice, they were able to kind of get a little more acceptance from some heavy crowds… "Fist First" and "Religious Fix" came out, it wasn’t like we just said one day "hey, let’s not be like POISON let’s be like METALLICA, that wasn’t really what happened. It kind of gradually changed. But the time that "What Comes Around Goes Around" came out in 1991, we had already grown out of our original glam roots and anybody who ever saw the band, even back then, we were normally heavier than POISON, or heavier than WARRANT or DANGER DANGER we were a harder band. People were exposed to us because of pictures "Oh, look at they all have their hair sprayed up and make up", and one of the biggest songs we had was like a power ballad, it was like BON JOVI, but many other songs on the record were heavier – "Good Guys Wear Black", "Spit Like This", those were more metal songs…
Criss: Yes, they were…
Stevie: By the time we did "Fist First" and "Religious Fix", that was just more of the metal side, and less of the pop side and I like both records, but it was not like there was a conscious effort. We were just doing what everybody else was doing, we were evolving. BANG TANGO evolved, WILDSIDE evolved. A lot of bands progressed, we got a little heavier… even SKID ROW did. From "I Remember You" and "18 & Life" to "Slave To The Grind" and "Monkey Business", it was a much heavier band.
Criss: Talk about your solo projects, when TUFF was not around anymore…
Stevie: Well, after TUFF took a break I just decided to do a couple of solo records. The first one was "Who The Hell Am I", which was released in 1998, I think 13 years ago, that one is a lot of singer-songwriter sTUFF. I’d compared it to Tom Petty, John Cougar, Bryan Adams, and those songs to me, meant something. They were softer a lot of acoustic kind of organic feeling. To all the diehard TUFF hair band fans were like "what is this? I don’t like it but I loved that record…
Criss: It’s really good…
Stevie: yeah, it’s got pretty good stories, there’s a song about my grandpa, there’s a song about my dog just good sTUFF! The second one I did was a little bit heavier, a little bit more rock. Gilby Clarke produced a couple of tracks, Brian Tichy played some guitars, oh, played drums on some tracks, Gilby played guitars, and so on, the second one was just a little bit more rock, and that came out in 2000, and right about that time, it’s like at the turn of the millennium, in 2000, it’s when I suddenly decided I wanted to do TUFF again and the initial idea was in the fall of 2000 that I was gonna redo the band, and call it "TUFF 2000", like "TUFF 2 K" and if my memory is correct, I did try to reach out for Michael and talked to him about it, and I did reach out Jorge. Todd and I have had some communication over the years, we’d say hello once in a while or go to dinner but he was still very much into his, his own project, he didn’t even have any interest to do it. So I basically recruited a new group of guys and then wrote "The American Hair Band" and released a record with that song on it, And that kind of pushed TUFF back into it. So that was the second coming of TUFF, you know.
Criss: Is there any possibility of the original members coming back together?
Stevie: Well, we’d love to do that! and I say "we", meaning me and Todd, I think even Michael would entertain it, but Michael is a very successful businessman. He has three restaurants and responsibility on a daily basis running three businesses with dozens and dozens of employees. To do a TUFF show, even one or two shows there is rehearsals and putting some time into it. And for Michael, it doesn’t seem likely for him. Jorge from what we know he’s in Florida playing with friends, working, not really sure, he hasn’t done anything we’ve seen on YouTube, or facebook, or any press or anything. He’s been living there for 15 years, so for him to be living in Florida 3000 miles away from us, it’s really hard to do that, but if the time was right, I know that I would do it, and I know that Todd would do it. (Todd in his room: I might think about it…)
Criss: Talk about the future…
Stevie: Well I think going forward musically for me is a combination of things. I like playing with TUFF, we don’t do it full time, I have children, I have other things to do like running metalsludge.tv, I have a couple of other projects. I manage the band VAINS OF JENNA from Sweden and a lot of my energy is put into different areas and the future for TUFF in general, I can tell you right now that me and Todd have been working on "What Comes Around Goes Around" again, the 20 year old celebration re-record of the debut record, but we’re not gonna rerecord the whole record, we’re recording half of it, we’re recording five songs of the original record, and then a few select tracks that were popular in the set, 1989 -1990, but never made it on to the first record, which we felt were cool songs, so we are doing a few of those, and I can tell you one of the tracks lead the title track, "What Comes Around Goes Around", never, never was on the record but ended up being the title of the record, so we’ll be recording that, and we’ll have some guest guitarists on the record, Jeff Loomis, who was in NEVERMORE, plays guitar on "What Comes Around Goes Around", Steve Brown from TRIXTER plays the solo on "The All New Generation", Keri Kelli, who’s played with Alice Cooper, plays the solo on "I Hate Kissing You Goodbye", it’s being produced by Michael Raphael, who’s in JAILHOUSE, he plays all the rhythm guitars, we’re gonna record a couple more tracks, including "Put Out Or Get Out", one of my old favorites.
Criss: Any last messages or any final words?
Stevie: My last words are visit metalsludge.tv, visit TUFFcds.com, find me or Todd on facebook, or MySpace, there’s videos on YouTube, twitter, use the social networks, look for us, we’re out there, you know.
Criss: thank you
Stevie: and thank you to all the TUFF fans in Brazil, and in Europe, and in America, everywhere else, thank you.
Criss: Can you say something about the early days of the band? The good things, the bad things...
Todd: Well, that’s a pretty little statement, brother! Good things: It’s been my life. TUFF’s been my life since I was a teenager, it’s in a lot of different forms but in the stage of when we were recording the record, maybe next to my marriage the best time of my life. I loved the guys, I loved the music, and moreover I really loved the fans of the band. We played all over the world and have met including yourself tons and tons of wonderful people and I’m very grateful and very lucky to have had the success I had. We’re not as big as MÖTLEY CRÜE or POISON but nonetheless in my heart I feel like a rock star from the love that I get from people that like our music. The bad sTUFF: when I was a kid maybe when I was in my 20’s and sTUFF, I had a big ego, did lots of drugs, drank too many "cervejas" (NOTE: "cervejas" is the word in Portuguese for "beers"), I still drink too many "cervejas", but I have some regrets how I carried myself and how I behaved. Maybe some of the ways I may have treated some fans back in the day when sTUFF was really busy or maybe the way I treated some girls and definitely the way that me and my band mates interacted. I remember me and Stevie getting in fights at rehearsal and sTUFF like that, so those would be the downsides, but they’re really truly overshadowed by the good times. The good time is what I focus on and I’m just happy to be around and very happy that I’m almost 45. People still wanna come see my band play, they still like the songs I wrote 20 years ago, and I, I love being part of TUFF.
Criss: Tell us about your departure from the band.
Todd: That kind of rolls so early about me and Stevie fighting when I’m in a band, I like to consider the guys in the band like my brothers. And while I have some Scottish war in me, Scottish are known for fighting, I don’t like to fight with my brothers, and Stevie and I both growing up, literally growing up in a rock band with a record deal and on the road times were very very hard. So what happened was we did the record "What Comes Around Goes Around", we recorded that record, we put all the songs to put on it, and the label wanted to release "I Hate Kissing You Goodbye" which is a great song, I love this song, but the deal was that we’d do "I Hate Kissing You Goodbye", and then we’d do a rocking song, like maybe "The All New Generation" or "Good Guys Wear Black", and then maybe go to "So Many Seasons". Well, the label decided that we were going to release "So Many Seasons" as the second single, and aside from the fighting, that was very disappointing for me, because I didn’t wanna be known as a ballad band. I decided we’re not going to do "So Many Seasons" as the second single, they said "you don’t really have a choice", and I kind of said "yeah, I do, fuck off, I quit!" TUFF was known as a glam band a hair band and I really craved recognition as a musician. My brother Greg is the best literally. He’s the best bass player I’ve ever heard or seen. My bother Kenny is right up there as well, and I kind of wanted some of that recognition, and TUFF was only getting known for being pretty, or for having big hair, we weren’t known for being good musicians I was just like being on my own and kind of getting that recognition and credibility for being a good bass player so, I left TUFF to form SUBSTANCE D, which is as much as I love TUFF, I really love SUBSTANCE D. SUBSTANCE D is my baby. I grew up listening to ACCEPT, IRON MAIDEN, I didn’t grow up listening to NEW YORK DOLLS and POISON, and whatever glam band. I grew up listening to heavy metal and I wanted to be known as a very skillful heavy metal bass player and SUBSTANCE D. While it never sold more than a handful of records in my heart this is the best thing I ever did. What I miss and a little bit regret is not being in TUFF for those years. I think when it all comes full circle I’m a better member of TUFF as a result of leaving the band and coming back and SUBSTANCE D is my precious, precious baby that I love. Michael my guitar player and Tod T. Burr, my drummer, who also plays in TUFF now, I love those guys and I love that band and fighting and my desire for recognition, that’s why I left TUFF.
Criss: How was it coming back together with Stevie Rachelle?
Todd: It was great! Well, I love the band, we didn’t talk for a long time, I was very angry. They were very disappointed that I left the band the way that I left it… We started talking a little bit, started going out for lunches or dinners, he’d ask me once or twice to come back and I would say "no, I’m not going back to do that", and then at one point, I’m not sure when it was, I changed my mind and said "I wanna come back into this", and get back to my roots and we had a show in Mexico.
Criss: Do you see the other original members coming back together with both of you guys?
Todd: Well, that would be great, I don’t see it happening, I mean, I never say never, but nobody knows where Jorge is and what he is doing, and Michael is a successful businessman as Stevie said, I just think he would have the time to dedicate to being in the band. All I do is playing music, TUFF is my number one priority right now, I wish those guys would come back, I wish it could be as the best part of the day, but it’s not gonna happen. I don’t think.
Criss: What are your feelings about Jani Lani’s passing away?
Todd: It’s hard for me. I almost cried when you told me, because you were the one who told me. I wouldn’t claim that Jani and I were friends, but I knew Jani back in L.A. we partied together, we did cocaine, we fucking drank beers, we were at parties together… I have nothing but fond memories of Jani, I was really sad to see his fall with alcohol, getting overweight, whatever was that he went through, but none of that, I never gave a shit about any that, what I remember is me hanging out at parties in the Valley and being buddies, and I’m deeply saddened by his death.
Criss: Just talk about the future of TUFF, and of your other projects.
Todd: Ah, well, let’s just talk about the future of TUFF. "What Comes Around Goes Around" again, that’s what’s it all about. Retouching and basically, rerecording a handful of prime cuts from the original record, in celebration of its 20th anniversary, bringing some cuts that didn’t make the record back in line and if things work out great we’ll maybe record a new song or two, but I think the future right now is really issuing out the record, and getting back out on the road to support that record and I’ll keep on doing that as long as people keep buying tickets to coming to see me.
Criss: Thank you so much!
Todd: Criss, thank you, brother.
THE TUFF GIG
São Paulo, Brazil ( August 13th, 2011)
Stevie Rachelle (Vocals) and Todd Chase (Bass) spent four days in São Paulo, Brazil, for their first ever TUFF live performance in Brazil. Stevie Rachelle had come here before in 2006 with Steve Summers (PRETTY BOY FLOYD) but this one was the real deal, folks… I had been in touch with Todd for months, before the TUFF gig in Brazil was confirmed. Being a long-time TUFF fan, I wanted to meet him and Stevie (again) as a fan, and I ended up having one of the greatest experiences of my life. These guys were so cool, as musicians and as people that one wouldn’t believe it he was not there! I ended up covering whatever I could for RockEyez.com. Enjoy!
THE IN-STORE SIGNING SESSION
One day before the show, Stevie Rachelle and Todd Chase were kind enough to go to Animal Records, Sao Paulo downtown, to meet and greet their fans, who had been waiting for a real TUFF gig for years! It was great seeing how people here are into the band, and how the band was kind, lovely and respectful to each one of the fans that were there for them. They spent more than two hours taking pictures and signing autographs. TUFF is also known for their vast merchandise catalogue, which was available for sale there. There were CDs, DVDs, T-shirts (about five or six different models), and even some other CDs that were released on Stevie’s RLS label for sale.
The prices were more than fair, and it was nice seeing most people there spending their hard-earned money on TUFF items. Some of those attending the signing session ended up getting each and every item available. To be honest, the guys in the band did deserve that. They were so cool to everyone and made no difference between the ones who bought sTUFF and the ones who didn’t. They were always there available for a picture or an autograph, no matter who it was for. It’s great seeing there are bands that still care and respect fans nowadays. TUFF might never had made it as big as MÖTLEY CRÜE or WARRANT, but they surely deserve to be recognized as one of the most important bands of their generation.
After the two-hour signing session, TUFF went to Inferno Club, the place where the gig was going to take place on the next day, for sound check. The place itself was really nice, and it is said to be one of the coolest places in town to go to. Stevie and Todd spent a couple of hours there setting up gear, checking on the sound and giving the last instructions for the back up band that was with them. I was impressed that the TUFF backing band was formed by guys who are between 19 and 25 years old but, honestly,
it didn’t affect the final result at all. Julio Mendoza and Arthur Concer (Guitars) and Caio Gaona (Drums) performed songs like “So Many Seasons” and “God Bless This Mess” as any skilled professional musicians. Compared to some recent TUFF live videos on YouTube, I really think this backing band sounded tighter and heavier than their own backing band in the US. So it was only a preview of what was about to come on the next day – the gig.
Show time was supposed to be at 2:00 a.m. on Saturday, August 13th. I got there a couple of hours earlier and had the chance to experience what was going on before show. Inferno Club is really a cool place for a gig. The venue’s structure is quite impressive, not to mention its organization and staff. Having gone to so many gigs, I can tell that Inferno Club is really one of the hottest places of Sao Paulo. The TUFF show was a Glamnation event – a hard rock party that is on every two weeks. Thanks to Joey (Inferno Club’s owner), Angie (Inferno Club’s press assistant), and everyone else at Inferno Club, who made it all happen, and who were more than willing to help this guy here cover the whole story. Stevie and Todd were there selling TUFF merchandise themselves for a while, and once again were totally available for each and every fan that came to them for either a picture or an autograph, no matter if they bought something from them or not. And let’s say that there were about 250 – 300 people attending the event – let’s say it’s a pretty good number, considering that there was another show in Sao Paulo on the same night – Zakk Wylde’s BLACK LABEL SOCIETY.
The show started at 1:00 a.m. with the opening act SLEAZE VICE who played a nice gig and warmed up for the fans that were anxiously waiting for the TUFF show. 2:10 a.m. was the time TUFF got onstage. It was really exciting seeing Stevie and Todd playing together again, after almost 20 years. People went wild as the band played the first chords of set opener “God Bless This Mess” (from “Fist First” / “Religious Fix” albums), breaking into crowd pleasers “Spit Like This” and “Ruck A Pit Bridge”, both from “What Comes Around Goes Around” album. Stevie and Todd even being in their mid-forties rocked just like they did 25 years ago. “In Dogs We Trust” came next, sounding heavy, tight and brilliant. Stevie still has everything a front man should and had the whole crowd in his hand. What came next was a good surprise. Stevie and Todd found out the day before about WARRANT’s Jani Lani’s passing away (Actually, I was the one who told them about it), and Stevie made sure everyone remembered Jani as one of the most talented musicians of their generation. He also mentioned that TUFF’s first show with him as their lead singer was opening for WARRANT back in 1987 and it was clear he was touched remembering that. Stevie and Julio Mendoza (one of their back up guitar players) performed parts of WARRANT’s “Blind Faith” and “Heaven”. After all these years it was really touching getting to know Stevie was still thankful to the friend that helped him in the early days.
“I Hate Kissing You Goodbye” (TUFF’s biggest song and only MTV video hit) came next, followed by “So Many Seasons” (both from “What Comes Around” album), were sung along by every single person there and one could easily see some people with tears in their eyes. TUFF came back to rocking hard with “Good Guys Wear Black” and “Tied To The Bells”, two of their best songs ever. A cover of Michael Monroe’s “Dead, Jail Or Rock N’ Roll” was also a nice surprise and the set ended with “The All New Generation”, also one of TUFF’s greatest and most popular songs, once again driving the crowd wild.
After a brief intermission, TUFF was back onstage for the encore. They rocked hard again with “American Hair Band”, from their “The History Of TUFF” – this is the song that brought them back into the scene, a parody of Kid Rock’s “American Bad Ass” with accompanying music of METALLICA’s “Sad But True”. It was clearly one of the top moments of the show – you could barely hear Stevie’s vocals, due to the crowd’s singing along to it! MÖTLEY CRÜE’s “Live Wire” came next with a local singer fronting the band and having Stevie backing on it from the middle of the song on.
They closed the set with POISON’s “Talk Dirty To Me” mentioned as “the local party song”.
It was definitely one of the best shows Sao Paulo has ever seen, if you’re talking about 80’s American Hair bands. We’ve had PRETTY BOY FLOYD, ADLER’s APPETITE, Tracii Guns’s L.A. Guns… but TUFF was more than special. Stevie’s hold over the crowd was already mentioned, and it was just perfect. Todd’s also worth being mentioned for his down to earth performance and bass playing – he’s not only a rock star, one can say he can really play the bass, he’s an awesome musician and human being. And the backing band also deserves some good credit – drummer Caio Gaona and guitarist Julio Mendoza’s performances were far above average, and it was clear why TUFF had them play with them here.
In short, TUFF’s coming to Brazil will not be forgotten by the ones who witnessed in any way, any part of this adventure trip back to the 80’s. It’s only hard to understand why this band did not become the next big hit of their time – they could have easily been the next GUNS N’ ROSES.