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  • Interview: Shiny Toy Guns

    Thu, 03 Sep 2009 20:17:43

    Interview: Shiny Toy Guns - Shiny Toy Guns Jeremy Dawson talks the <i>Sunset Strip Music Festival</i> in this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor Rick Florino

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    Shiny Toy Guns don't play around.

    The Los Angeles electro alt rockers mix incendiary synths and keyboards with an edgy presence for a sound that's surprisingly dancefloor- and moshpit-ready. The Oklahoma quartet has made a name for themselves in L.A., and the Sunset Strip definitely provided a launching pad for them.

    Bassist and keyboardist Jeremy Dawson spoke to ARTISTdirect.com about the Sunset Strip Music Festival and much more in this exclusive interview.

    You can catch them on Saturday September 12th at the Festival on the street stage!

    Does the Sunset Strip hold a certain significance for you?

    Not in a super-significant way, but we did start over there. We mainly played at the Viper Room. Our roots were more embedded in the Echo Park-area when we were a baby band. This guy Joe, who I think now works at House of Blues, was booking the Viper Room at the time. He got a hold of either our MySpace page or one of our demo tapes, and he took us under his wing. Anytime he had an opportunity to throw us on a show, he would do so. We had a chance to play with bands, who were much bigger than us at the time like Maroon 5. At the time, we were up there blowing ass and sucking really bad live. We had to grow up and be a band. It was always cool to walk around that area and go to places like the Roxy though. That was another club that was there for us early on. It was cool to be a whole part of that mesh of music that came out of the Strip in 2002 and 2003.

    Is it inspiring playing over there?

    Hindsight's always 20/20. I think the Strip doesn't have as good of a reputation as it used to, considering the long-term, incredible bands that have come out of the area over the past 40 years. Especially with the recession, there are a lot of things those clubs have to do to keep their doors open that don't directly always help new bands. Surprisingly, under the radar, there's talent that plays in those clubs every week. Those bands are going to appear on the radar in two or three months and none of us know who they are yet. They're the guys paying money to play at 6:30 or 8:30 and selling their own tickets. Their parents are huffing them around in the pickup. That's still going on, but I don't think there's as much media attention to the area as there used to be. It's sad. I just write music and don't think about it; it's depressing how fragmented things are.

    What Sunset Strip shows are particularly memorable for you?

    I don't remember what year it was, but I remember walking down Sunset one night when I first moved to LA about ten years ago. I heard this familiar voice, and I was like, "Oh, that's REM!" I started thinking about it, and it wasn't a car playing REM—it WAS REM [Laughs]. I want to say it was at the Viper Room, but I could be wrong. It might've been at one of those other little bars down there. It was freakin' REM in a 50- or 60-capacity room! I went to the door guy, and I didn't get too far into the club because you couldn't even walk in there. REM had just decided to play a show for no reason. They popped in, played eight or nine songs and popped out. They were probably playing a bigger show later on. Being from a very small town in a different part of the country, I moved to LA not knowing anyone with my tail between my legs. Seeing that was mind blowing. You don't find Michael Stipe singing for free in a small club anywhere else in the world. That's not happening in Missouri or anywhere. That's very West Hollywood—very Sunset Strip. That set the standard in my head. I knew if I walked down that street every day, I was going to find something that would lead, move, shake or twist my head as I tried to figure out this thing called life and this thing called music.

    Was there a memorable show you played?

    We spent about nine months playing the Key Club, and it was a really great time. It was so new and so exciting at that time. We would get all of our friends to show up. We sat around on our computers and our cell phones trying hard to fill the room up. They have this beat-up train car in an alley behind the Key Club that they use as a Green Room. We'd go in there, and it was such a big deal to get a free case of beer [Laughs]. All of our friends would show up, and we'd play the best we could. People would help with sound and lights even when we couldn't afford to pay them. We did that about four or five times before we were able to take off, leave the LA area and tour on our own. That was a home base for us.

    During those days, I was so nervous-slash-excited. I'd sit there on Sunset Blvd and say, "We're playing down the street from where Mötley Crüe, Stone Temple Pilots and Guns N' Roses were doing the same thing we were 15 or 20 years ago." We knew we had to kick ass because you never know who's having a drink there or sitting at that bar. There's a fire and mystery to playing a show and knowing it's not just for music fans, but there could be some dude in attendance that could change your life with a sentence. That's something I want back. I'd like to bring that feeling back to a lot of things—not just my band but a lot of bands that may have forgotten that fiery drive you get when you're first starting out. It's that teenage love moment. That's what I remember about those shows.

    —Rick Florino

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