Gary James' Interview With Chris Wasmer Of
The Rolling Stones Tribute Band
Dead Flowers are not your usual Rolling Stones tribute band in that they don't try to mimic the appearance of The Rolling Stones. They just concentrate on the presentation of The Stones' music. Chris Wasmer of Dead Flowers spoke to us about his band.
Q - Chris, who are you in Dead Flowers?
A - I play guitar. I do the Keith Richards part.
Q - You're not trying to look like The Stones, so when you play a gig, you're really forcing people to listen to The Stones' music, aren't you?
A - I think so. It's not anyone's style in the band to wear the wigs and copy their look, but we do take the music very seriously. We definitely have that '70s sound that they had 'live' in the '70s. Our personalities are more comfortable doing it that way than trying to look like them.
Q - How'd you come up with the idea to do a band like this?
A - A bunch of us were friends. Everyone's doing the original band thing and the other guitar player and I decided let's just have some fun 'cause trying to do the original thing is so challenging and can be stressful. There's a lot of band drama in it. So, let's just sort of do a Blues project. But we decided to be more narrow than just a Classic Rock band or Blues band. We both grew up learning how to play guitar doing The Stones thing. So, it became, "let's just try to do a Stones thing for fun." We knew the singer, so we got him onboard. We auditioned for the drummer and bassist and found people that were into it.
Q - Is there enough work to keep a band like this together?
A - No. Everyone in the band has some sort of original project going on which does take precedence. This isn't like a full-time job or a full-time band, but what we're finding is, and I was so surprised, we basically started gigging last year, there aren't as many places for cover bands in the City (New York City) that there were ten to twenty years ago. It's mostly like Indie bands. You do like one set with four or five bands playing sometimes. We don't really fit in that mode. To me, it's sort of ridiculous to put us in the middle of Indie original bands. So, I've been trying to find venues that will let us do two sets or either at the beginning or the end of the night. We want to be sort of, in the bar, like a jukebox, a 'live' jukebox playing, and there are not many places like that in Brooklyn and Manhatten.
Q - So, you guys have to get out and travel?
A - The goal would be like to play a B.B. King's, but we just don't have those connections yet. Playing Long Island, New Jersey, there's probably more of a venue for that. That's actually what we're looking to do.
Q - Since you have a website, you must've gotten some attention from potential buyers.
A - We have. Our next gig is at Fontana's Manhatten and the woman who booked us does book bigger venues like B.B. King's. She organized like a "cover" night, a Tom Petty tribute, a Fleetwood Mac tribute, but that makes sense to put us in something like that. So, I'm hoping we do well and she likes us and she'll get us some gigs and we make some cash.
Q - You have a residency at Spike Hall in Brooklyn. What kind of a place is that?
A - We had that last year. Last Summer they gave us four months there. We do just like a Sunday show once a month. It's really an Indie band, original music place in Brooklyn. The booker just thought it would be cool to have us there. So, he would give us an early show to just try and get a lot of foot traffic. It's on a busy street in Brooklyn. We'd start at four o'clock and do two sets and try to get the people walking by to hear the music and come in. It's a great venue. But typically that place is like a regular Indie original spot.
Q - You performed at the Rockwood Music Hall. What kind of a place was that?
A - I'd say it's probably the best venue for up and coming original bands before they get to the next level like a Joe's Pub or a Mercury Lounge. It's a small venue, but the owner is very serious about getting good music in there. Again, that's really for original music. Other guys in the band have played there. So, we knew the owner and he just gave us a night. It really is a special place to play because they really take the sound seriously there. They lower a Baby Grand from the ceiling for the piano player. It's a nice place to play, but it's really not a "cover" thing. Sometimes he let's these other guys do a "cover" thing there, but he's not about that. That's what we're finding, most of the places are not about The Stones thing. They just don't want that.
Q - How much material are you drawing from? Do you ever go back to The Stones' line-up in the '60s with Brian Jones?
A - We do a couple of Brian Jones numbers, but we're mainly '70s. The only song we won't play is "Start Me Up". We just think it's a little too cliche. We do a couple of "oldies" from the '60s, but it's mostly '70s with Mick Taylor. I would say that's probably 90% of the set.
Q - How many songs have you learned?
A - The band could probably do like twenty-five. Normally we do two sets of nine or maybe ten (songs). I know probably forty, fifty songs myself. I'm totally obsessed with learning all of them, so I know more. The band itself probably knows twenty-five I'd say.
Q - When you're not working in Dead Flowers, you probably have a "straight" job?
A - I do. I have a straight job. Everyone in the band has a straight job. The other guys have original projects. I'm a video editor. One guy works in publishing. One guy's a bartender. One guy works at Sam Ash. Everyone has a day job.
Q - Chris, you're really in a special position with this band. It is unique. People expecting to see a group that imitates The Stones are not going to see that kind of group. That's what separates you from everybody else.
A - You're totally right. Trying to dance around like Jagger, no one can do that but him. That's my opinion. We really honor the music. Our singer doesn't really sound like Mick Jagger, but who does? He's a great Rock singer. But the other instruments, it's really about honoring the music. We auditioned people who like wanted to do their own thing and we're like, "No, you gotta get into the head of each musician and really be able to nail it."
Q - Do the musicians in Dead Flowers play the music of The Stones note for note like on the records, or do you allow them to bring a little of their own personalities into the songs?
A - The way we look at it, you could do whatever The Stones would do 'live' or on the album. There's a little room there to wiggle, but it's not like playing a lead like you think you would play it. Play a lead in the style of Mick Taylor, or play a lead in the style of Keith Richards. But we really try to stick to what they do 'live' or what is on their studio albums. I tell you, when we auditioned people, a lot of musicians don't want to do that or can't do it or weren't really into that. They want to do their own thing and it's "no." Honestly, you're not going to play anything better than those guys. You're probably not going to do a better job. I'm not Keith Richards, so I'm never going to play the guitar exactly how he plays it. To me, there's always a little wiggle room anyway because of that. Physically I'm not him. I don't have the exact same gear. But to me, that's enough of a variable.