Phil X, guitarist of the recent Rock and Roll Inductees Bon Jovi, sat down to have a chat with National Rock Review.
Phil X is a busy man. Now known to many as Bon Jovi’s guitarist, he is also known as the frontman of The Drills and his videos on FrettedAmericana. He was recently featured in the music documentary, Hired Gun. Phil took time out before joining Bon Jovi onstage at Chicago’s United Center to discuss how he joined the band, his plans for The Drills and what it was like having his own custom guitar made for him by Framus.
NRR: First things first, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. You got to get up on the stage and play at the Rock Hall. What was it like?
Phil X: It’s kind of funny cos you feel like an outsider, cos now you have the original line up. And then when you come in, and you know we rehearse and everything, but once you get on that stage you kind of feel like “am I even supposed to be here?” kind of thing. But at the same time, my family was there and my mom was there, my wife was there, my son was there, my brother was there, so it was kind of like an incredible moment that I got to share with family. So, that part of it is awesome. And musically you’re up there kind of like “wow….” You don’t feel like quite the same obviously as an original member, and I never will be and I accept that. And I accept that when I play live. When I’m on stage and people are like hey, where’s Richie, I’m like whatever, you know. Talk to Richie! He’s the one that split. But at the moment, I’ve created a space for me in the band when we play live and it’s home now. It feels like ok, I’m up here and I kick ass every night and I sing my brains out and I play my brains out and I work the crowd, I’m doing my job. Now, I’ve got like this much room and there’s the original line up and John Shanks to my left, and I’m like ok I need elbow pads like hockey or something, right. I’m like ok, just do your thing, man, it’s all good. And it was fun. I had the hair whips in and I got a solo in the new song, so you know. But it was weird, I had to flip switches. I don’t want to be the guy on the stage cos I don’t want to take attention away from the guys, you know. And Richie did all the solos, so I’m like “how does this rhythm go cos I play solos every night?”
NRR: That must have been cool getting to stand on the stage and listen to how he played live cos that’s a different thing, right?
Phil X: I’m used to playing the solos like the record cos I think that’s what’s expected. “Livin’ On A Prayer” you don’t want to mess with that solo, you know, “Wanted Dead Or Alive” you don’t want to mess with that solo. “Born To Be My Baby” was one of my favorite solos so I’m not going to mess with that. But Richie’s been playing the songs for 30 years so the solos tend to go off the map, right? So it was interesting listening like “Wait, what? Dude, that’s not how it goes!” But if anybody’s going to redo the solos, go ahead, you do it, you’re allowed! I’m not allowed, you’re allowed, you can do it.
NRR: So when joined the band, when you started rehearsing, was it just sort of an unspoken thing like I’m going to play these solos, like the really big songs, I’m going to play those solos the way they were?
Phil X: There was no meeting. I walked in knowing don’t mess with that. I love music, I love songs. I grew with “Livin’ On A Prayer.” I know how that solo goes. I knew it before I learned it, you know, so that was unspoken. It was.
NRR: We saw you last time you were in Chicago, and I remember saying at the time, the only time you went full “Phil X” was on the “Keep The Faith” solo, when you just jam at the end of that solo, it was phenomenal.
Phil X: They give me a little bit of time off the leash – you know, exactly 30 seconds. It’s one of those things where you know when you can’t. Even back in 2011 when I walked out my door to cover13 shows before Richie left and came back, you know, two pieces of advice I got was respect the music and don’t draw attention away from the guy that the band is named after. Cos when I’m in my band, The Drills, it’s full out kill everybody, kill the audience, kill the band before you, the band after, KILL THEM! When I play with Bon Jovi that’s Jon’s job, and let it be Jon’s job. I take the back seat and do my thing. But my thing at a fraction of my thing.
NRR: The Drills have one of my album names – We Play Instruments And Shit.
Phil X: We got the title from England. We were doing shows in 2012? 2011? Yeah, the record came out in 2012 so I think I probably got the record title in 2012. So, we were in a restaurant or a “pub” – I have a terrible English accent, so I won’t try. So I was there, and we were all at the table and we were having a bite to eat and we were about to start doing the tour. The server comes over and she’s like “You’re all in a band?” and I’m like “Yeah….” and she’s like “so you play instruments and shit?” I’m like “Thank you for the album title! We play instruments and shit!”
NRR: So, I read that Jon had seen you do the Fretted Americana videos.
Phil X: It was John Shanks. It’s funny how the thing with John Shanks happened because he had a studio at Henson and I was working a lot there out of Studio D or Studio A, and it’s kind of like a really cool community of recording because there’s a place to have lunch where you see other people that are in other studios. And because he had a studio there we’d be having lunch and he’d walk by, and I was in a session with Kenny Aronoff and Chris Chaney on bass from Jane’s Addiction, and he knew those guys so “Hey Kenny! Hey Chris! Hey guitar guy!” because he didn’t know me at the time. But then two weeks later he hunted me down in Studio D and he came over and he said “Man, you are f***ing funny! And it sounds like you can play absolutelyanything. I couldn’t stop watching your videos last night.” And two or three weeks after that he got my number and he called and he said “I think I have a gig for you. I can’t tell you what it is over the phone so come by my studio tomorrow” and that was it. Jon Bon Jovi took John Shanks’ word like no higher. It couldn’t have been like a higher wordreference because there was no audition, it was just here’s the contract, here’s the statement of confidentiality. You can’t tell anyone until you actually walk on stage. I was like “What about my mom? Can I tell my mom?”
NRR: My wife? My kids?
Phil X: I didn’t have a wife and kids then, no.
NRR: The second run, when you got the call when you were walking around Trader Joe’s, when they said we’re going send a jet, we need you tonight, and you didn’t make it in time.
Phil X: Right.
NRR: That was the first time I saw you in an interview when you said you were kind of happy that you didn’t get there that night just because you didn’t feel fully prepared because it had been a big gap.
Phil X: It had been two years since I played a Bon Jovi song. It was literally like that. I was calling Scott Casey, he was the road manager at the time. I’d gotten, I’d arrived at the Signature airport in Van Nuys. I was working on the Scott Stapp solo record at the time, so all my guitars were at a studio. So I had my tech go to the studio, get my guitars – and I couldn’t finish the record, by the way. But that’s a pretty good excuse, sorry guys I’ve got to go on the road with Bon Jovi. So my buddy, who is now my tech, Marc VanGool, he went to the studio, grabbed my guitars, met me at the airport. We loaded up onto a plane and they were like “There’s something wrong with the plane.” Well….let’s not take it then. And then they go “it’s going to take another hour for a plane” so I call Scott Casey… “something’s wrong with the plane, it’s going to be another hour…” “Ok, as soon as you get there, you jump on stage!” I’m like “Hello? Pressure? Thank you!”And then the plane comes, and then ok the plane’s ready but it’s a slower plane so it’s going to take three and a half hours instead of two and a half hours. So I call Scott Casey – “you hear about the slower plane?” “Yeah, when you get there, jump on stage!” So that was my day…… But it was a slower plane, then you arrive at the airport in Calgary, and then the van takes you to the venue which is 20 minutes away, and we’re running red lights and stuff and you still walk out of the plane and it’s “thank you, goodnight!” and there’s a sense of “Ah, I didn’t make it” but there’s also a sense of “Thank God!”
NRR: How many was that in front of? 20,000 people?
Phil X: 20,000 people. And thing is that makes it complicated, even to add onto the complication of everything is I’m trying to listen to the show from 2011 but it’s a smaller jet so you can hear the motor ERRRRRRRR! And you’re hearing a song ERRRRRRR! So your brain is about to split into a million atoms.
NRR: That’s pressure.
Phil X: That’s crazy.
NRR: So soundcheck the next day you got to work through everything?
Phil X: Well not everything but some of it came back really quick and some of it was like, well this is going to need some work. And there were three new songs that Jon wanted me to learn from the new record that’d just been released, What About Now. So, pile on. And then, people are like “once you got it, you got it” and I’m like “I didn’t get a chance to get it!” As soon as I was comfortable, Jon was like “hey, can you learn this song for tomorrow?” And as soon as I was comfortable, “can you learn these two songs on the day off?” I’m like “Then it’s not a day off is it?!” So, and then that happened. And then there were a couple of times where like, you know “I want to do Bed of Roses. Can you learn Bed of Roses?” And I was churning out new songs because it was so much information but Bed of Roses I’d heard when it came out. And it wasn’t something I wanted to read. So I had to learn that and memorize that and ingrain it into my being to like hit it right because the reason why he wanted me to do it – cos he said “you know, you can take a break and then Bobby will play because he knows it.” But Bobby didn’t really know it so he was fishing around for the licks and then Jon said, “You know what? I think you could play it better and I miss Bobby playing acoustic in that so let’s learn it.”So I mean, Jon’s really specific with stuff. And for him to be specific and me walk up to him everyday, I’d go “How am I doing?” and he goes “You’re doing great” – “ok thanks!”
NRR: Having listened to you play a lot, the technical stuff, I guess with this stuff it’s more about feel. But also at the beginning it must have been about sheer volume of stuff to learn. You’ve had to learn a huge back catalog.
Phil X: It is, quantity. And again, there’s learning stuff and writing it out because I once I had 25 songs down in my brain, and then it became 30 and 35, and 40 and he goes “hey, can you learn a song?” you don’t want one to fly out. So this new songs going in, I don’t want “Dead or Alive”escaping my brain! So let’s make some charts, right? It’s that kind of thing. And then I got out the charts, and then when we learned the whole record, This House Is Not For Sale, I go ok, you’re not doing charts too. Let’s do this whole record, you know, commit it to memory. Just do it. And because of that he could just call, like the other day, Jon sends an email out “Hey, I want to do “Devil In The Temple” tonight. So John Shanks calls me, he goes “Dude! We gotta do ‘Devil In The Temple tonight, did you hear?!” I like, “Dude, I got it. It’s in there.” He’s like “Shit, I got to go listen to it!”But Jon does that a lot. Even in 2013, it became 30 to 40 to 50 songs because when they play Europe and the UK it’s 3 and a half hours, because it’s festivals. So, ok…I was constantly under the gun, and they “Hey, learn ‘Hey God’” and then I’ll learn “Hey God” and we’ll play it once and then we don’t play it again and I’m like “That’s a lot of brain power for once, Buddy! Can you select with a little more thought? Put a little more thought into these selections!”
He actually turned to me on stage during an encore in front of 60,000 people saying “You know ‘Wild Is The Wind’?” I go “No!” “Learn it for tomorrow!” And he pulls another song, I’m like “What the f**k?!” And then I do learn it for the next night, and it’s one of those songs that’s got a very intricate solo, and I want to nail it, I want to, again, respect the music, do it right. If Richie wants to stray from the original, he can because he wrote it. I can’t. So I’m on stage, he goes, “Ok, ‘Wild Is The Wind’” so I said “OK,” I get my iPod in just make sure I’m fresh from the night before, and then we walk on stage and he goes “Wild Is The Wind.” And he looks at me and goes “You got it?” I said, “I got it!” and I do it and he goes, “Wow!” I mean, if you do the job right it’s nice to get the applause.
NRR: So now that you are a full member of the band, how did it work on This House Is Not For Sale? Were you involved in the writing?
Phil X: Not in the writing, cos the record was already written. And it was actually already recorded but Jon felt that there were four songs that could use my touch. So he called up and said “Do you want to come to New York and record on four songs? I’ll send MP3s so you can just come in and lay it down.” I came in and we were at Electric Lady in New York, in the Hendrix room, which what a field in which to frolick So that was awesome. And then it was a really cool vibe, you know. Jon was “I want you to have moments on this, so then just feel it out” then “Ok, do a solo,” then I’d do a solo. He goes “Wow, that was good. Do another.” And I would do twenty solos and he was like “Wow, they’re all great, but Iike this one of this, and this one of that” and then we’d comp it together and then I would lay it down as it would be performed. I’ve done it like that before and I haven’t done it like that before. Usually what comes out first, which is gut instinct, has usually done the job with every other producer that I’ve worked with. They’re like “We’ll do a couple more, just in case” and then we always go back to number one. Because number one is instinct and number two, three, four, five and as it keeps going it’s your brain getting in there and clogging it all up, you know.
NRR: Going forward, is the band still writing while you’re on the road?
Phil X: They could be writing. I think Jon Bon Jovi and John Shanks have this chemistry and they really like it and stuff. Because they wrote those two new songs that were released this year for this tour. Yeah, but he and I went into the studio and we played on those. So writing, I don’t know yet. I don’t know if I’m going to be included but it’s definitely neat to have my face on the t-shirt. You know they come onto the stage when I’m tweaking guitars with my tech and I go “change the pick up in this one and this volume pot is sticking on this one if you could fix that” and then the VIP tours are coming through and “Hey! We want pictures!” and I’m like “That’s my face on your shirt!”
NRR: You’ve got to pinch yourself sometimes. I read when you said that still when you do the voice box bit on Living on a Prayer that you still get goosebumps.
Phil X: It’s approaching 200 times and I still get goosebumps. It’s an amazing thing, cos I remember being early on in my youth, being in a bar and that song coming on and me and all my friends just singing it at the top of our voices to each other and that was our rock song, you know. One of the best rock songs ever written.
NRR: And the crowd always go nuts for that one.
Phil X: It’s an electrifying moment because …. electric is the word, actually. The whole crowd, even if they were sitting down all night and still getting into it, and you kick into that part and the whole room rises and becomes this electricity, it’s unbelievable.
NRR: And it must be really cool for you now, having a tech and having access to all of that where you can say “Change these pickups out, do this, do that…”
Phil X: I do my own. I’ve always been a tinkerer, since I was 17. And it’s funny, I come from Toronto, Canada. So when we play in Toronto, I always walk to Steve’s Music Store. Cos when I was 17, which was a really long time ago, I was living on Mississauga and would take a really long bus ride and then really long train ride, and then a shorter train ride, and then you walk a half block to Steve’s Music Store to buy a Seymour Duncan Pickup. And the cool thing about that is when you get into a position, and some of it’s because of Bon Jovi, some of it’s because of FrettedAmericana videos, some of it’s because of my band, now a lot of people are like “Hey, I watched your Hired Gun video” so there’s so many avenues where the fans pop up, you know. So when I met Seymour Duncan and he saw me play somewhere and it was a Drills thing, it was an event at NAMM, and he was like “ I haven’t seen someone play like that in years! Thank you!” And I’m like, “I walked to Steve’s Music Store in Toronto, when I was 17, to buy Seymour Duncan Pickups. Thank you!” It’s that kind of, not only do I get to meet a lot of my heroes, but they, it’s really gratifying when they speak highly of me. And it’s like what?! Come on! It’s unbelievable sometimes for me.
NRR: What was it like to go into Framus and just get to build your dream guitar?
Phil X: That’s it, it’s my dream guitar. The finishing that they do there is unbelievable but it was, to be honest, and I don’t think they get mad when I tell this story because it gives you an idea of how they work. So, I was talking to Hans Peter, the whole top dog, and the luthier, Marcus, who is unbelievable. We all sit down, “so we want to build you a guitar” and I’m like “What?” So I’m walking around the showroom, and to be honest, I don’t like any of the Framus guitars, but you do have Warwick Jack Bruce limited edition bass, and if you turn that into a guitar, I would play it. And they were like, “Done!” Then Marcus was like, “What type of neck do you like?” “I like the ’58 Les Paul,” a little wider at the nut. And he disappears and I’m talking to Hans Peter about the details and what else I’ve been doing, and how I like doing this. And within an hour, Marcus came back with a neck, with frets. I’m like, “What?!”
NRR: He just went off and made it?
Phil X: He made my dream neck in an hour. And by the end of the day I had a body and the next day it had a pickup and hardwire and I was playing it. And I was like, it wasn’t finished, it was rough, but I’m like “What?! How do you guys do this?” you know. But as they call it’s “German Engineering.” So that was my dream guitar and then we put a finish on it. The second one they made me, is still my favorite. You know, I have all these amazing finishes that people are all “That’s my favorite” “No, that’s my favorite,” “That’s my favorite.” But I mean, that’s one of those things, those finishes that I get for me, that’s a really expensive guitar. So the kids all like “Hey! Is there an affordable model coming out?” I’m like “No….It does not.” Cos the guy spends 72 hours on it and it costs a lot of money. And it was funny because they did showcase the affordable model at this year’s NAMM in January and they had two on the floor and sold them like that. I’ve been wanting an affordable model of the Phil X guitar for a really long time. I know kids can’t afford it. And that’s why I started selling my pickups online in the Phil X store, so that if people can’t afford my amp or my guitar, then go buy a pickup man. I was there for the inception of it, I was there for trial period, I was there when I said this is the one. So you’re buying that, the one that’s in my guitars.
NRR: After speaking to the likes of Nita Strauss, John 5 and Paul Gilbert, the thing that comes out that from whatever age it might be – 4, 5, 6 years old – there’s this single-minded, from the second you pick up the guitar, this is what I’m going to do with my life, this is all I’m going to do and all my energy is going to get focused on this. Is that what it was like for you?
Phil X: It was but my dad was the reason why I did it in front of people. He was a Greek, loved music, he played Bouzouki, so I play some Bouzouki, but he…. I saw him entertain. So when I was a kid, if you walked into a party with his Bouzouki it was like Elvis was in the building. He knew like 500 songs and I saw early on when I was a really young kid, I wanted to play guitar when I was 5. And I saw him play, and he could make people laugh, and he could make people cry, cos he was playing political songs from the 40s, you know. Troubled Greece, happy Greece, all that kind of stuff. And it really made me… wow, when he sings that melody, I feel really sad, when he sings that melody, I feel really happy. So that introduced minor and major to me. And then when I started playing I was really into Elvis so I learned to play and sing a couple of Elvis songs. One was “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Teddy Bear.” So he’d get people to come over and he’d go “Phil, get your guitar. Play ‘Blue Suede Shoes,’” “Play Teddy Bear!” And that would be it. But then we’re at a wedding and there’s 500 people, and I’m 8! And he’s like, “I think you should get up.” I go, “There’s a lot of people here!” He’s like “No, I think you should get up and play and sing. Show ‘em what you got.” So I did. The band took a break. The way my dad is, is very authoritative no matter who he’s talking to. “Hey, guys. My son’s goingto get up and play some songs.” And they’re like, “Oh, do you want us to play too?” “No, no. He’s got it. But he just needs your guitar.” “Ok, mister. Go ahead.” So I get up. I turn the PA on, I start playing, I play my two songs and the response I got…. Obviously, because it was an 8 year old, right, so they’re all freaking out, but now it’s like girls from my age to way older, you know, are all like freaking out and almost wanting my autograph. Some wanted my autograph, and stuff. And I thought, this is DEFINITELY what I’m going to do.
NRR: In terms of rock music, was there something you heard? Or was it that moment on stage?
Phil X: The next time that happened, again I was young. We’re going way back cos I’m like 52. We’re in grade 6 and there was a talent show, no the 5th grade, where I got up. And I had learned, I had strayed from Elvis and I did, I think, “Hotel California” by The Eagles and I did “Magic” by ELO, and I don’t even remember the third song. But when we took a break, which in Canada we call Recess, you know there were girls who wanted my clothes! So that was amazing too! I’m like walking to the next class with a torn shirt and shit, and “What happened to you?” “I guess I ROCKED!”For me, it was seeing, like we didn’t have YouTube or MTV when I was that young. So it was all albums and live photos and posters and then I finally went to my first concert when I was 14. It was Cheap Trick. Yeah, but then it was followed by Van Halen, and that changed mylife. Seeing Van Halen with Roth in ’80, ’81, ’83 and ’84, that changed my life, cos to me you didn’t just have the best guitar player in the world, you had a showman, and he was running around. How do you play all that running around? So that made me nuts. And Dave epitomized the frontman to me, right. The lyrics and the way he sang, and the way he just worked the stage and he was a chick magnet and all that stuff. But seeing Eddie the first time in 1980 when I was 14, that was like, that just hit me. And my dad, I was still shy so I would perform at a Battle of the Bands and he was like, “You can’t just stand there kid! They don’t want to see you concentrating. They want to see you ROCK!” And I’m like, “OK!” So the next time he goes “What are you doing?! You’re doing like gymnastics now! Somewhere in the middle!” I went from one extreme to the next. I was jumping round, I was a jumping bean. He’s like “Stop! Somewhere between nothing and too much!”
So he was a great guy for me, but didn’t – at the point when he goes “What college are you going to?” And you’re talking about a man who had a grade six education who migrated to Toronto, Canada and became successful. At first, he was a shoemaker then he had a couple of restaurants, and we had a big house and a pool when I was 14 and he a success, you know. A lot of people would call that a success. So, he constantly “You’re going to college. I didn’t go so you’re going.” I’m like, “But Dad, I don’t want to. I just want to be in a band, I just want to make music.” And then he went from being “you’ve got to play music,” to “I don’t want you to be professional. I just want you to be a great musician for us” essentially. But I’m like, I want to play for the world! I want people to know who I am! I want people to see this, what I can do, you know. He wasn’t happy cos he really didn’t want me to be a professional. But then I convinced him to like…he always told me you have a better chance winning the lottery than becoming a successful musician. He was pretty much watching my back, right. And then, you know, he saw I had some success up in Canada playing with some Canadian bands, then I was in Triumph for a while and then when I moved to LA I started doing all these big records with my heroes like Tommy Lee and stuff like that. And it’s funny because he’s playing poker with his buddies in the coffee shack, and they’re Greek, they’re like “What’s Phil doing?” and my dad says “playing with Tommy Lee” and they’re like “Oh Tommy Lee! He’s Greek!!” Yeah, yeah, not Greek, easy! But, you know what I mean? He was very, very proud and my mom, she comes to see us when we play in Toronto, and she came to the Hall Of Fame, like I said. It’s a very, very proud moment but it’s a very sad moment because she says “Oh, if your dad saw this…” I’m going to get emotional now. But she said “If your dad saw this,” I go “Mom, he’s watching every night, I play for him every night.”
NRR: You are an example of just going after it and working at it, and working at it, and working at it. That work pays off in the end. For you, you see like the kind of guy to me where, even if Bon Jovi hadn’t happened, you were so happy in what you were doing. Every time I saw you on YouTube, you looked like you were having a great time. I can imagine you getting on the stage in front of two people and being the same guy who jumps around with The Drills.
Phil X: You’re right!! Good assessment! I feel like anytime I get to play, I feel blessed. And that’s what happens. My prime example is that the twelfth or thirteenth show that I did with Bon Jovi in 2011, was St Louis, 20,000 people. It was my last show so Jon said “Hey, why don’t you sing the second verse of ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’” which was like okay…… It’s like I don’t know what just happened but I’ll do it. And what it felt like, five days later when I had a Drills gig in LA, in Hollywood on the Sunset Strip at the Roxy, and it was a big fundraiser for something that just hit Japan. So 20,000 people with Bon Jovi, 200 people with The Drills, and to me, it was as invigorating. The only thing I missed was I had to carry my own gear. So I missed Takumi, my tech. Where’s Takumi! I don’t want to lift this shit! Now I do it for fun. I carry my own gear. The thing about having my own side project, which I don’t, I’ve loved The Drills being an underground thing. But I think in 2013 when I was in the lobby of a hotel, in Madrid, Spain, and somebody was running up to me going “Phil! Phil! Can I get an autograph?” I’m like, “Yeah, sure.” And they pulled out three Drills CDs. It was like, wow. They were talking about the lyrics, and I was like, “You, listened to it, and you like it?” I feel like I like The Drills being underground but I feel like the more people that hear it, the more people… and I don’t care if more people turned up at shows, I just feel like, I think everybody should hear the song “Air Hockey Champion Of The World.” Know what I mean? Just drop the needle once. And if you’re a rock fan, you will like, I KNOW you will like it.
NRR: Any rock fan will like it. And your lyrics as well, the lyrics for The Drills songs, not just the titles to the albums, you make it different and I like the fact that you do that because there’s so many songs out there with the same old lyrics etc.
Phil X: I love to live by example, for instance. So when people ask me about songwriting just out of the blue, I feel like, you know what, everything’s been said. So even if you want to say something that’s been said, just say it different. Like, and I had never heard “Kiss My Troublemaker” before, right? But that can mean a lot of things. 90% of the public goes “Oh, that’s about a blowjob,” and I’m like “No, actually it’s about taking risks in life.” You know? And everybody has met somebody like, you know, “I Wish My Beer Was As Cold As Your Heart.” And everybody can relate to that! But nobody’s heard it like that, you know? And I was going through a messy, emotional state when I left my first wife, you know. And so I was writing all these songs with that mind frame, but then, even when I was happy I thought, you know, people really like this comical look at being sad in a relationship. Something would inspire something and now it’s like my current wife, who I love to death, and now we have these little kids together and I hear a song about a similar situation, she goes “What’s that song about?” I’m like, “Oh, come on! You don’t think it’s about you, right? This is a Drills song! It’s what people expect!”
NRR: So are you still writing for The Drills?
Phil X: I wrote last week! I wrote a song, and it was funny because me and Shanks we hang outa lot on the tour, right, and sometimes we just run into each other by the elevator, and the one thing that I do do is I’ll be in my room, and I play guitar, and I would do the hotel room bathroom jams and stuff like that. But now I’m writing, and we were in, you know, it was funny because I play in front of 100,000 people in Rio at the Rock In Rio in Brazil, and then the next morning I wake up and write a Drills song. We meet at the elevator and he goes “What did you do?” I go “I just wrote a song.” He goes, “Just now?” I go, “Yeah.” He goes, “Lyrics and everything?” I go, “Yeah.” And he’s like “Get out!” He couldn’t believe it! It was like not even breakfast time and I already wrote a song and recorded it in my dictaphone. And he was like, “Wow, what’s it called?” And I go, “I Want My Money Back.” He’s like, “That’s even a good title!” I’m like, “What are we in a competition?!”
NRR: When you come off stage it must be hard, you must have to do something because I guess the old guys used to go out and get trashed….
Phil X: That’s why, man. I think about it now, and I think those guys wanted to keep the high going and that’s why drugs got involved and drinking and all that stuff. I’m not big on any of that, never been. And it’s funny because somebody asked me the other day, because I’m at the airport and I looked at the board of flights and I’m like, “Dude, I have 15 minutes. Ask me a question.” And then a bunch of them would ask some questions. And some of them take some thought, but, you know, 144 characters, and others are like the first thing that pops into their head. And somebody said…. see now it’s popped out of my head! What were talking about? So the question was “How do you wind down after a show?” – “I hydrate. Anything else is futile.” It’s true! You got to drink water because you’ve just sweated it all out. And then, I don’t want to eat, I don’t want to do this, or I do want to eat but I can’t late, and then…. I don’t want to play guitar right now because I’ve just done it for two and a half hours. And there’s nothing else! And I can’t sleep! Don’t try to sleep because you’re AMPED! So anything else is futile.
NRR: It must be a weird feeling. I read Bruce Dickinson’s autobiography, which is awesome. He says the same thing. He says, “I’ve come up with some ideas, some strategies for doing it” but he’s like, “Really, all I do is get a glass of red wine and I go and sit in the shower, with a glass of red wine and I’ll drink that.”
Phil X: That image alone is awesome. I don’t know if I want to see it but…… Bruce Dickinson was one of the best interviews I ever did, in my life. And it was with my old band, Powder, in the early 2000s when we went to the UK to do some shows. And they go, “Hey, you’re doing an interview at BBC 6” or something, and I’m like ‘Ok, great.” “And it’s Bruce Dickinson” and I’m like “THE Bruce Dickinson?” I’m like, “I want to interview HIM.” But he, not only was he a great interview, but he was like looking at his notes, and he’s like “So Phil, you worked with Tommy Lee. What was that like? Or how did that even happen?” And I go, and I’ve told the story many times. In ’99, I moved to Los Angeles in ’97 and in ’99 I started working on the Tommy Lee Methods of Mayhem record at the studio. And the way it came about was I knew the engineer and they needed stuff done around the studio. So I was painting the garage, and so I’m telling the story, and Tommy’s like he’s talked to Scott Humphrey, the producer, and goes “Hey, we need a guy, we need a killer guitar player on this.” And Scott’s like, “Let’s get Phil.” And Tommy’s like “The dude painting the garage?” Scott’s like, “Er, yeah…” So I come in and I start playing and Tommy’s like “Dude…! You’ve got to play on the whole record!” And, you know, that’s the end of the story, usually. And Bruce is the first guy that asks, “Did you ever finish painting the garage?” To which the answer is… actually, yes! They were like, “Hey, I know you’re playing but someone’s got to finish the garage, ok? After you’ve done this song, go paint and then come back and do the next song.” That kind of thing.
NRR: I just think he’s hilarious. If you read his book, do the audiobook because he narrates it himself and he’s just the funniest guy.
Phil X: You know, I’m buying that now! I have a $50 coupon at Amazon right now. Audiobook – Bruce Dickinson, I’m ready!