Counting three decades of history on a path with many ups and downs , the veterans of the metal scene FLOTSAM & JETSAM manage to keep alive the flame of metal in the hearts of their fans , producing albums with intense mood of experimentation and dignity , ignoring stereotypes and making their own original sound. Last month they released a new version of the ultra - classic second album , "No Place For Disgrace". On the occasion of this re-release and shortly after the end of the first part of their tour in Europe, RockOverdose had the opportunity to talk about all these and many more ,with the band's drummer Kelly D. Smith, who answered our questions honestly and spontaneously ...
RockOverdose: 30 years after, would you say life has treated Flotsam & Jetsam well?
Kelly D. Smith (FLOTSAM & JETSAM): Well I think that being able to still make records and tour with devoted fans says it all. We have been privileged and blessed.
RockOverdose: "Wikipedia” describes you as a trash, power, speed & progressive metal band. How would you present yourselves to a new metal fan?
Kelly D. Smith (FLOTSAM & JETSAM): When these types of questions come up, I chuckle a bit. I am not sure when this splitting hairs came in to play but at some point we all needed to be categorized. Based on our variety of styles in our music over 30 years we fit them all and then some. We are fortunate to have a real singer that can be aggressive or quiet in his delivery, melodic and angry. So we have a great advantage as we can play with a larger span of bands based on our repertoire. I would describe us to a new fan as melodic hard rock, metal.
RockOverdose: 2014 finds you with the release of the re-recorded of “No Place For Disgrace”. Do you believe re-recordings is a good way to attract new metal fans or is going better through remixes or remasters?
Kelly D. Smith (FLOTSAM & JETSAM): I think that it is an individual thing based on the circumstances. With Doomsday we had an open channel with Metal Blade and no debt to overcome and a label that was into it. With NPFD there were a lot of outside obstacles in order to make this work. We could remix or remaster, Elektra had been collapsed into a conglomerate of labels. When we left Elektra they stopped pressing NPFD sometime in the early 90’s. So when you don’t press you don’t sell when you don’t sell you can’t pay back debt, when you can’t payback debt, you can’t do much else.
The audience wants to stay with the energy they felt when a record comes out. It means something to them and a reproduction threatens that memory so fans get upset. I get it. It is being open to a new experience. Music is a spiritual thing, it connects souls and memories come to life. I would be dead without it. Music is the internal worl wide web of our lives.
To answer your question, our reasoning was to rerecord NPFD so it sounded correct and precise like it was meant to sound. If new fans came of it that was great. A lot of the fans reported that it wasn’t found anywhere for sale. If Elektra wasn’t going to release it then we had to get it back out there somehow. Also with the reintroduction of Michael Spencer it made perfect sense with the exact line-up that was there at the time.
RockOverdose: If we suppose that one of your live gigs becomes a movie, would Elton John’s cover be the end credits soundtrack? I’m asking that because this song describes the atmosphere of a live gig … Have you ever considered doing something like that?
Kelly D. Smith (FLOTSAM & JETSAM): Not the SNAFF part but that does sound like a great idea. I have wanted to write a book or create an overture of Flotsams career from my perspective for people. We have been through a lot, more than people know. I haven’t found the time yet but I have a friend that has a producer making a movie of his life, when that is done, I may seek him out. There is a lot unsaid.
RockOverdose: What’s the difference between 2014’s tour and the one that followed your first release? How is the crowd reactions, the atmosphere, your feedback from it …?
Kelly D. Smith (FLOTSAM & JETSAM): This is kind of vague so I will do my best to answer what I think you’re asking. If we are talking first release of NPFD, much different, in 1988 there was a lot of pressure to produce a follow up to DDFD. Jason had left and DDFD was the first release to get 6k’s in Kerrang. We were a big deal and people expected greatness. We were also jumping to a major label so they were expecting to make something on it as well as they now had Jason in Metallica. The tours were great, the market then was much different as well you actually sold records and did in-store signings at “record store” which as you know are nearly extinct. The last tour we just got off of was great as the fans were stoked to see us, not a huge amount of pressure on the release we knew already that there would be haters out there the new found critics of the internet whom seek to destroy whatever they can behind a keyboard and a screen. So we didn’t expect much as far as sales and expected mediocre response because people are glued to history. It’s not good or bad it’s just change.
RockOverdose: The speed trash metal sound of your latest release could result on new material on that direction or different?
Kelly D. Smith (FLOTSAM & JETSAM): We have some material in the works now, we are hoping to get something ready for 2014 but the schedule for touring keeps changing it may be 2015 before we release new stuff. I think the re-release of NPFD has brought some new inspiration to our future direction. We never set out on any one direction we allow the music to take us there. We believe in the organic
process not over focusing and Pro-tools programming. Old School all the way.
RockOverdose: Ι bet that re-recording the same album on studio, brought lot of memories. Could you tell us some remarkable moments while recording that album back then and nowadays?
Kelly D. Smith (FLOTSAM & JETSAM): Yea it was strange for me, I had no idea that I would float back to those days during this process. One thing is we ended up just by chance getting a rehearsal space in the same complex we wrote the original NPFD, about 4 doors away so that added to it. It was an amazing time for us, I was 23 and on a major label. We recorded it all in Los Angeles with Bill Metoyer who also did DDFD. Felt like we had made it and were on the top of the world.
One memory I do recall was in the mix room and Michael Wagner and Michael Gilbert were arguing over his guitar tone and that it had been altered. Wagner said it hadn’t been and we were sure it had changed from rough mixes Metoyer had done. We were very new to Elektra and the major label scene so we just settled with the sound, another reason to rerecord.
RockOverdose: Ιf you were a producer for a new group or if you were asked to review a new album, what would you mention first about it?
Kelly D. Smith (FLOTSAM & JETSAM): It would depend on how it sounded; I would see how it made me feel. If it doesn’t move me it won’t make it too far, could end up flying out my car window on the freeway. I support many bands but only if I believe what they are doing. Imperfection is what makes it real; there doesn’t seem to be enough real in the studio tracking going on these days, so there isn’t a whole lot I am down with. I still listen to the same stuff that got me here, Rush, old Megadeth, Slayer, Metallica(old), Missing Persons, April Wine, Cheap Trick, KISS, old Ozzy to name a few.
RockOverdose: It seems that on the last decade you release more live CD/DVD’s. Should we expect something like that after that tour as well?
Kelly D. Smith (FLOTSAM & JETSAM): Those were released after I was out of the band, but…….This year we are co-headlining on Keep it True 2014. It will be video and audio recorded in its entirety. The set will be only the songs from DDFD and NPFD. We hope to release this sometime in 2014 with a live CD included. Once we have that ready we will make it official, no time frame is set. We may add in some special footage from 2013/14 tours. Nothing is set in stone.
RockOverdose: Give a message to your Greek fans. Should we expect you in our country soon?
Kelly D. Smith (FLOTSAM & JETSAM): We are definitely doing our best to make that happen, I think the economy of your country makes doing shows there much harder for a promoter to do. I have only heard great things about the fans there as I wasn’t able to make the shows prior. I am looking forward to checking that out. Keep the Flotsam spinning we will get to Greece sometime soon. \m/