Flotsam and Jetsam Interview
The following interview was conducted by Sheila Rene' and is taken from Hard Radio
Flotsam & Jetsam
Home base: Arizona
Lineup: Ed Carlson, guitar; Mike Gilbert, guitar; Eric A.K.,
vocals; Kelly Smith, drums; Jason Ward, bass/keyboards
Label: MCA Records
Producer: Neil Kernon
Q&A with Ed Carlson
SR: Hello! Ed where are you calling from?
EC: I'm at home in Phoenix getting ready to leave on
Saturday to join up with Megadeth, Fear Factory and Korn
for tour that kicks of July 12 in New York.
SR: I guess you're really happy about this one.
EC: Oh, yes I'm really looking forward to this one.
SR: When did you know that music was your path?
EC: I was about 15, a freshman in high school. All my life
up until then I was playing baseball and was damn good at
it. I had no intentions of playing guitar or having long hair. I
hurt my back really bad right before the season started and
had to set out. I couldn't walk and pretty much had to quit
the team. At the same time I met a friend who had drum set
and I had always thought I'd enjoy playing them. Beat up
the drums and get out your pent up aggressions. My friend
was good on the drums and suggested that I pick up a
guitar so we could jam. Then another friend shows me his
KISS Alive album. Whoa. Who are these guys? He plays it
and I had never heard anything like it before. I knew of
KISS before but it was the whole crowd thing and power
they had. That was it for me. Fifteen years later and we're
talking on the phone about my band.
SR: I just got the new Gavin and you're at #5 on the hard
rock chart and #5 in requests. Up there with Monster
Magnet, Fight, White Zombie and Fear Factory.
EC: Wow! That's pretty good news. I'd say it beats out the
Cuatro album this early on. The new record is only two
months old. I'll take it.
SR: Do you like to know where you stand?
EC: Well, I like to know how we're doing and then
sometimes I just like to stay at the music level and
remember why I'm doing all this. I really love to play guitar,
but you know it's always great to know we're doing well.
It's my main goal and sometimes I just don't care about the
business end of it.
SR: Critics are saying this is the one that'll launch you in
the mainstream but then I thought Cuatro would do it for
EC: Let's hope so. Cuatro could've but we had dug
ourselves into a pretty deep hole with the record label on
the album before, When The Storm Comes Down, and
Cuatro really got us out of that hole into being able to see
above ground. The regression we made-made up for that
otherwise it would have done a lot better.
SR: Cuatro was the tone setting record.
EC: Definitely. It set us up completely for this one and we
made sure we didn't mess around. We got right off tour
and we wrote for three and one half months then got into
the studio. We got it goin'. We didn't want to lose the
momentum what so ever.
SR: Do you all write together?
EC: Yeah, there's the whole band and then Eric Braverman
our manager. We're like a machine now, it's kind of scary
how well everything goes. We wrote this whole this whole
record in about four months and it took almost seven
months to record and mix. That's definitely a first for us.
Usually it takes a year to write the record and three months
to record it all. The band is more solid as a unit now. We
finally filled the bass player gap a couple of years back. We
finally got over the bass problems.
SR: This should be a unit of players that go on for quite
EC: We're having a lot of fun. Everyone's head is clear and
focused. It's a lot easier to do that now because the band
running like a band. None of us have any ideas in the back
of our head that we're going on the road and our bass
player is tripped out or he leaves.
SR: You guys have been dealing with the D-hell. divorce,
death, deceit, damn bad timing, difficult business
decisions and bad emotions. How did you keep it going?
EC: Yep. (pause) The bass player stablization was the start
of the comeback. Always for me, when I hit low or bottom I
actually get inspired because there's no where to go but
UP. For some crazy reason that always seems to stick in
my head and it keeps me going. I'm sure it's true for the
rest of the guys too. We've had a lot of crap handed to us
and I guess we're just pretty tough.
SR: The first cut , "Me" with those double guitars gives us
an idea of what's in store. That's certainly become a
trademark for you and Mark.
EC: Right. It's Mike and me and we're so completely 360
different personality-wise, playing wise. One of my greatest
friends except we're two totally different people and it
comes out in the guitar. When we play as two we definitely
play as one. It's kinda cool just us being so wacked out
from each other with our different styles. We really
compliment each other.
SR: Your tunes go from 3:17 to 6:08 in time. Was there a
conscious effort made to keep them shorter? Or did they
just fall that way?
EC: No, it was probably more conscious than just falling
that way. In the past our songs have been long. Six
minutes eight seconds would have been a short one. I
think we just got the point across. We didn't have to repeat
as much stuff as we used to or throw in parts that really
have a place. We said what it was going to say and that
was it. It's easier to keep people's attention span when it's
a bit shorter. You hook them right away and leave them
SR: Who's voice is that on "Empty Air?"
EC: The whisper in the back is Eric just using another
voice. He plays a lot of people on the album. It's really cool.
SR: "Pick A Window" stands out as one of my favorites.
EC: It's actually funny. The first European tour we did was
with Megadeth. We were sharing a bus with their crew and
the saying from this Irish crew guy was 'pick a window
cause now you're leaving, can your mother sew and then
you butt heads and then you tell her to 'stitch this.' That
phrase has never left our vocabulary since 1988.
SR: Now you're back with those Megadeth boys in 1995.
EC: That little saying just came up in some of the problems
that were drifting through the band in the last year. Whoa. It
was blatantly obvious. These are all sayings that they used
over there. I was quite happy to have them tell me about
them and not show them to me.
SR: On "Missing" and "Blindside" we have Jason Ward
playing keys for the first time. I think it gives your some
cosmic values here.
EC: He didn't want to get too crazy with it. He's a bass
player. The whole "Missing" and outro with that piano and
guitar thing is all for his brother, Jeff, who just recently
died. He had to do it. I'm glad you enjoy that and say oh,
keyboards, whimps. I don't care if people think that. We're
all musicians and that piece is a deep and special part for
SR: I thought you might have even taken the name of the
album from the special piece written for Jeff on the album
EC: It kinda fits that whole drift thing which has been
Flotsam & Jetsam's theme. We're trying to keep rockin'.
SR: You guys are past the purge. You've been able to
remain truly rock and roll with a surge of power that's
being accepted by the hardcore fans.
EC: Yeah, that's true. Those kind of fans like what they like
and it's really cool to please that stubborn/fickle listener.
On our first couple of records we were pretty out and out
thrash/speed metal -whatever your call it. I don't like to get
into all the categories, but that's what they were. A lot of
those fans don't like for you to slow down or start using
acoustic. We must be doing something right.
SR: "Destructive Signs" is another favorite of mine.
EC: That was the one song I wrote for this record that took
off. It helped me out a lot just writing it down. I wrote on
paper what I was living and realized then what was going
on. I couldn't do it with my own head even though it was all
in there. It's pretty neat.
SR: What about "Smoked Out?" What's all that talking in
front about service?
EC: You're going to love this. We were in the studio
recording and it was near the end. We were messing
around with sounds and machines, just having fun. We put
together that noise and then Eric picked up the telephone
book and began reading the front cover that was all about
termination of service paragraph. On the inside it says how
they'll disconnect your phone and weird stuff like that. He
reads it in his kooky announcer voice. It's one of those
crazy things that just fell together. "Notice Of Termination"
was the name of that little part even though we didn't list it
on the CD. It goes right into 'Smoked Out' which is pretty
much the harshest song. It's like we know what's going on
and you're done. It was really wicked how that all
happened that day.
SR: I don't think I would have ever come up with Neil
Kernon as a producer for you.
EC: The reason Neil is working with us is that he's
happening. The reason we picked him was because of his
background. He's worked with every possible style and
artist from Queen to the Sex Pistols to David Bowie to Hall
& Oates to us. Now he's working on a new Skrew record.
SR: What I remember him for was his pop stuff.
EC: He did that. We saw his resume and at the time we
were talking to Mark Dodson and Terry Date. They're both
good producers and make their bands sound like their
own trademarks. We didn't want to be chunked up with
any other band. We taked to eight or nine producers before
we talked to Neil. We talked to him two minutes on the
phone and we knew he was the one. We thought Neil
could bring the versatality in the production end of it to
how we are musically. It actually worked out for the best
for us. He was the missing link.
SR: You give Eric Braverman sixth member status in your
band and he's now managing you plus some writing. What
does he bring to the table?
EC: Eric is the thread in the fabric. He keeps everything
running smoothly for us. He's the gate keeper. The man.
He gives us pep talks and kicks our ass when needed.
SR: This will be your first tour with the new album.
EC: We haven't been out. We did some warm-up dates in
California but that was all. We'll go out on Saturday and do
shows on our own all the way to New York where we hook
up Megadeth on July 11. We couldn't be happier. I listen to
Fear all the time. This will the biggest tour we've had. Right
after this one we're supposed to be doing a full Canadian
tour. We'll either come back here and headline our own
shows and then Japan or vice versa. Then we'll be ready
to go to Europe again.
SR: Do you have your own ramp on the superhighway?
EC: We're on American Online. The number is on the CD
package. Kelly has a lap top and he brings it into practice
and we answer all the letters. I've never done an interview
for the on line services. It's been press or radio or fanzine.
SR: You're not surprised are you that the computer is
EC: Not at all. Bring it on. Since we've joined America
Online we've gotten more letters and response from our
fans than our fan mail in the last year. We answer the
letters and it gets real personal on the computer.