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Todd Youth

You played with some legendary NY hardcore bands when literally still a child. That had to have been scary? It was quite a macho, intimidating scene back then. How was that looking back?
Chelsea Smiles
I grew up in the lower East Side and my older brother was really into that era you know - CBGB's, Ramones, Dictators and he was really good friends with the guys in The Heartbreakers so because of him I was always aware of the scene and knew about Punk Rock from when I was about six years old. We used to share a bedroom so I'd hear Iggy Pop and Stooges records, The Dolls and MC5 and all that stuff. So it was just one of those things that when I started to hang out it was the early days of hardcore. The first gig I went to was to see The Bad Brains at CBGB's and this was The Bad Brains in their prime! I got in because my brother knew everyone so it was like 'Hey, it's my kid brother let him in!' And it was a life changing moment you know. I'm gonna be on my death bed and I'll remember seeing those four guys hit the stage and the audience just exploding! I started out at the front of the stage and by the time they'd done with their second song I was way back at the pool table just going 'Oh my God!'.

Three blocks away from me lived Harley Flanagan who went onto be in The Cro-Mags. We hung out together and we were probably the two youngest kids on the scene back then. He played in a band called The Stimulators and through him I used to start hanging out with Bad Brains all the time. If they ever did a 21 and over show they used to hide me in the bass drum case cause I was so tiny and they'd carry me in and put me in the dressing room where I'd have to sit until the band hit. They used to open up with a song called 'The Big Takeover' and as soon as I heard the intro I'd fucking go running out of the dressing room and flying off the stage going nuts and hopefully not getting kicked out!

Chelsea Smiles

Everybody in my family is a musician. My dad is an unbelievable guitar player who kicks the shit out of me so it meant I had a guitar in my hand from when I was about five years old. Back then and especially in the hardcore punk scene, people couldn't really play that well. So the fact that I could play a bit made it easier. Agnostic Front had lost their bass player so at twelve years old I was like 'I'll do it!' and they were like 'Really?'. I grabbed the bass and started playing something like 'Ace of Spades' and they wer elike 'Holy Shit dude, you're in!!'  

You replaced Richard Bacchus in D Generation how did that role come about?
It just goes back the hardcore scene. Jesse (Malin) was in Heart Attack and we all kinda knew each other and hung out on the same scene. So when Rick left the band I ran into Danny one day at a guitar shop and there wasn't even an audition, it was like 'Dude, do you wanna be in the band?' At that point Murphy's Law had been around for about ten years and I'd been out of them for a while so now it was time for a change. It was just a no brainer, there was no weirdness and I even remember Rick coming up to me to say it was cool and there was no bad vibes.

Where do you stand on the arguement that D Generation were a band ahead of their time and deserved a lot more success than they received?
I just think it's one of those things. A lot of the successful bands that came out of New York post D Generation I don't really consider them true New York bands. The majority of them didn't grow up there. They came there for college or moved there for some other reason and I just think there's sometimes a certain curse with some bands. You can say why weren't The Dolls bigger? There's a lot of bands should have been huge out New York but never were. I think part of it's bad management or record label fuck ups but the thing is that ten years later people still talk about the band so to me I kinda measure that as success as opposed to record sales.

You've played alongside some pretty huge personalities such as Glen Danzig and Lemmy from Motorhead. How do you approach each role in a different band and relate to new people?
Chelsea Smiles

I just do the gig! With Danzig, it was just after D Generation had broken up and myself and Michael from the band did a band called Chrome Locust. I was going through a divorce and got a call from Joey who was the drummer for Danzig at the time. I known Glenn since I was a little kid so it was another of those things were he was like 'Dude, if you want the gig it's yours'. That very same week I got the chance to audition for the Foo Fighters! I'm the kind of person that when it comes to music, if I make money at it then great, but I have to be happy doing what I'm doing. So I sat down and listened to the new Danzig record that was coming out and listened to the Foo Fighters and asked myself what I was gonna be happy doing. Obviously The Foo Fighters would have been a hell of a lot bigger payday but I just knew I would have had more fun going on tour with Danzig. Anytime I do a gig like it I always look at it from if I'd gone to see that band play as a fan. I wouldn't want to see the second or third guitar players interpretation of the songs, I wanna hear that solo I've been listening to for twenty years. So with Danzig I made sure I was really respectful of John Christ's guitar playing as close as possible to what was on the record cause that's what those kids know. The same thing with Motorhead. I'm a huge fan and I think over the years they've turned into more of a metal band as opposed to a fast, dirty speed freak rock n roll band so when I went in to do those gigs I made sure I went and played that shit note for note like 'Fast' Eddie Clarke! I came out wearing a fucking cowboy shirt, bullet belt - I did it right you know, the way I'd wanna see it if I was in the audience! I mean I love Phil Campbell, he's a great guy but I prefer 'Fast' Eddie Clarke as a guitar player. That's what I do.

I saw you perform a few years ago back in Hollywood with the resident Cat Club band The Starfuckkers. Do you stay in touch with the whole LA Scene?
Chelsea Smiles

Yeah, I've been lucky. It's were I'm from and as fucked up as the music business is right now I've fallen into doing a lot of session work aroudn there. Right before we left for this tour I played on the new Cheap trick song that's on the new Transformers movie soundtrack. I'm lucky I get work.

Tell us a little about the new Chelsea Smiles record. Is it all new material?
When we signed to Capital we did a record that was never released. Two of the songs from that record are on here but other than that everything else is new. The line up on this tour is slighty different to the new record though because Skye who was on 'Thirty Six Hours Later' is back in the band although he didn't perform on the new album. What happened was I got a throat problem and the doctors were all freaking out and told me I wasn't gonna be able to sing like I did before so Skye came back and is singing for the band again. 

How was the recording process?
Two of the producers on the record I worked with the Glen Campbell record and I also did a bunch of work on the new Cheap Trick record. So as a favour to me for doing that they agreed to work on the Chelsea Smiles record. We worked pretty fast we did all the drums, bass and half of the rythmn guitars in seven hours! It's a slamming record. You don't have to spend a bunch of time recording if you know what you're doing and you've done your home work, it shouldn't take that long.

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Interview by Rob Lane / Live Photos by Andy Nutter

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