20 QUESTIONS WITH…
Britny Fox bass player BILLY CHILDS!
In all of Metal Sludge’s history, we have never done 20 Questions with a member of Britny Fox! Oh, wait, we take that back. We did in fact do 20 Questions with their drummer Johnny Dee back on November 16, 1999, but other than that guy, we’ve never done 20 Questions with anyone from that band. We tried to get an interview with Britney Spears this week, but that fell through, so you get someone from Britny Fox instead. Hey, we tried. So, with great pleasure, we’re proud to present today’s 20 Questions with none other than Britny Fox bassist Billy Childs! Here it is.
1. What are you currently up to? This is your one and only chance to plug whatever it is you have to plug. Update us on what’s been going on in the world of Billy Childs.
Not much really, as far as anything concrete, but I been writing alot and getting alot of help from different guys around Philly. Been working with Rick Crinetti, whos a great guitar player, theres also a band in Philly called Still Standing who just may be the next Sugarcult, if they get a break, who’ve been helping me a bit. Also recording with a friend of mine, Tommy Krash, who does a million different things. I just really want to get a batch of tunes recorded and see what happens, cause that’s where the power lies. You got good tunes, things can sometimes happen unexpectedly. Also give lessons and play silly gigs, anything to not work, keep playing, and pay the bills. Being a single guy gets pretty fuckin expensive ya know. Anybody thats interested can shoot me an e mail and I’ll give ya a progress report. Hope to have this all done by Spring, 2005.
2. Tell us about the beginnings of Britny Fox and the early years. How did you guys first get together, when did you start playing out, and how did the band evolve from that point?
The original 4 first jammed at the very end of 85. I guess you could call that our first practice really, cuz Dean had a few tunes and what we did was work on them as opposed to actually jamming. Glad for that cuz I hate jamming, fucking boring I always thought. Think most people who like to write tunes aren’t that into jamming. At any rate, MKS and Tony Destra, our first drummer had been out of Cinderella for 4 or 5 months I guess, and Dean had some half decent tunes, so it was about the best thing to get into at that point. I didn’t know how far we would get, but at least somebody else was good enough to give it a shot. Cinderella left to do their first album and that was when we had just started to play. That was around spring -summer of 86, and soon we were getting pretty big on the east coast and playing a few times a week, practicing the other days. This was the time when our manager Brian Kushner entered the picture and began to organize our biz and start getting the labels out to see us. We definatly worked hard from the start, as none of us had a job and we had plenty of time, so we made up alot of ground really fast. By the end of 86 we were playing for labels and it was pretty obvious something might happen. Thats also about the time we started having problems with Dean. Then in early 87 we had just played for RCA and our drummer Tony left the club and was killed in an accident on his way home. That was a pretty sad thing to be associated with, as you can imagine. People actually thought we might quit because of that, and it may sound cold but that never entered our minds. We were getting very close at that point, and knew that Tony wouldn’t have quit if it was one of us, nor would we have wanted him to. We got a sub drummer in and were back to playing 2 weeks after that. The guy did a great job, and as anybody ever in that posistion knows you can’t let the ball drop when your that close, or you run a good chance of blowing it. That guy was Adam Ferriolia and he played with us for about 9 months, and we actually got our first Sony deal with him on drums. The label insisted he be changed tho, and we brought in Johnny Dee. Me, John and Adam are all from the same hood and more or less grew up together. We opened for Cinderella in mid 86 and got Sony to see us and that was a success, so they never did much for us, but the one thing they did was the one that counted. I always gotta thank Cinderella for that. After that we started our first album in late 86 and when it came out we got pretty big. You guys pretty much know the rest.
3. How is it that Britny Fox went from a Platinum act on tour with Poison, to an almost overnight demise? Please don’t forget to elaborate on the ‘infamous’ scuffle where Dean broke Michael Kelly Smith’s arm while on tour! We want to hear all about that shit.
Well, I dont think it had anything to do with Dean leaving, as Bite Down Hard, our first album with Tommy, was better than anything we had done with Dean. I still think BDH is one of the better rock albums of the glam era. Unfortunally for us, everybody else was into the grunge era when it came out. What cost us was when Dean left, the scene only had a couple years left and we used them finding Tommy, getting a new deal with Atlantic, and recording that album. By the time we started touring for BDH it was 91, and it was over. If the scene had remained what it was for the 10 years before that, I think we would’ve had a good chance of getting radio, and probably gotten bigger as we had gotten much better and were still fairly new. We did alot for a band who’s singer quit 4 months into the release of it’s 2nd album. We just didn’t have enuff time to finish the job and get as big as we could have been. As far as Dean’s departure, we had just come back fom Europe after 2 months with Alice Cooper, and were supposed to go out on the 1st Kiss farewell tour. The tour got pushed back about 2 weeks before it was going to start, and we lost our slot to another band who had just come out really hot. Slaughter or Tesla maybe, can’t remember. We scrambled and got about 6 months of really well paying club gigs lined up. Tuff had come in from L.A. to open the East coast leg where we were starting, and things were ready to begin. Things between the band and Dean had been bad for a long time, and we really had problems even before our first Sony deal, so that had become normal for us. By this time, tho, it had gotten really bad, to the point where we had our manager out with us and were going to have a meeting to determine the bands future, and if it came to it, how we would finish the tour, keep doing videos and let the album go gold, which is where it seemed headed, and then part ways. And also keep making cash, of course. The meeting did not go well, as Dean was a real prick, to put it mildly by now, and we left his room in single file as he ranted about something. The next 30 seconds are kind of a blur, as it was a long time ago… I was last in line out of his room, and we kept walking that way down the hotel hallway. I felt this whoosh go past me and looked up to see Dean running with just a towel wrapped around him. What the fuck I thought, as he slammed MKS into a door. He was like a nut and as everyone ran into there rooms he was yelling at John " your next!" I didn’t know what happened, but all of a sudden I was where Mike was laying asking him if he was OK, as he really didn’t look too good, and Dean and me are staring at each other from about 20 feet away. By this time there was only MKS on the ground, and me and Dean left in the hallway. He was fucking hyperventilating or something, and I thought " here we go", but instead he turned around and ran down the hall into his own room. MKS is still on the ground and I’m standing there thinking what the fuck just happened? Everybody else started coming out of there rooms and I think I went to the bar. Can’t remember, but that sounds like what I’d do. I also remember sitting in the restaurant at the hotel seeing him get into a cab to go to the train station and home. I think this was in Rhode Island or maybe Boston, I’m sure Stevie remembers as Tuff came out and only did 1 or 2 shows when this happened, and I felt sorry for them, as that must have sucked for them too.
4. Name the biggest regret you have about the music industry and your place in it.
I guess you can’t regret things that are out of your control, so I guess the biggest ones I have are that I settled for a good paying cover gig in 92 and stayed way too long. I should’ve continued to write and try to have a real career, as that was what I always did before. I was way on top of my game at that point and would have probably landed in something, but I got sucked into the money angle. I think the whole scene dying like it did fucked with my head, looking at it now. There’s also the old saying about hard work beating talent if talent doesn’t work hard, and as trite as it sounds I think I could’ve done alot more if I would’ve just worked harder and kept trying. Alot of things always came so naturally to me in this field that I don’t think I had to work at it as hard as some, and as a result didn’t really know how to when things got a little tough. Perspective really sucks sometimes.
A happy moment with Britny Fox
5. Rate the following bassists on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 being a broken fingered hack, and 10 being a bass god.
Well, I don’t think I have the right to judge some of these guys, but since you ask…
Billy Sheenan = Best chops ever, no doughts. Very nice guy too.
Nikki Sixx = Great 80’s rock star
Gene Simmons = Great 70’s rock star
Bobby Dall = Amazing image, never much of a player and couldn’t care less. This guy is a great entertainer and, also very cool guy.
Jerry Dixon = Decent player, nice guy.
Lemmy Kilmeister = Really good at what he does, I was just never too into motorhead.
Eric Britingham = Good player, nice guy
Tom Hamilton = Icon, I guess.
Rachel Bolan = Good player, nice guy
Chip Z’Nuff = A cut above most of the other 80s guys as a player and writer. Also a very cool guy who worked his balls off to stay in the game. Much respect for Chips attitude and wish I had more of that. Boyakasha, brother.
6. After Dean left, you guys found a new singer in Tommy Paris. How hard was it hard to replace a vocalist who sounded like he ate shards of glass for dinner?
Not as hard as it sounds, took too fucking long tho.
7. KISS did a reunion tour, then Poison, followed by several others, including Britny Fox with Tommy. What are the chances of Britny Fox doing a full blown reunion with Dizzy Dean Davidson in the future?
I think you got a better chance of meeting the Easter bunny. Ah, who the fuck knows? I really doubt it, though. I think Britnys done.
8. Of all the bands Britny Fox toured with, who was the coolest to work with, and who were the biggest bunch of dicks you ever met?
Poison was our first tour and we got treated really good,altho none of them were bad. I guess the worst were these guys from L.A., Tuff All the singer talked about was how big his cock was! Man, what an asshole! He even broke that thing out a couple times ( only when he was really drunk tho ). Thinking back, I guess it was pretty big. Nah, just kidding, those guys were way cool. That band Extreme opened for us once, and I don’t think they were too cool. Since everybody else was, I guess that makes them the worst. They seemed like dicks, but that guy Nuno got alot more dough than me so who cares what I think?
9. Speaking of other bands, Johnny Dee has been playing with Doro, Michael had worked with Razmanaz, and even Dean went and formed Blackeyed Susan. What has Billy Childs been doing musically for all these years?
Well, to get it straight, Dean formed BES in 89 or 90 and has done about 5 other name/ image/ musical changes since then, MKS formed a glam band called Razamanaz in 93 or 94, that was such a good idea I still can’t believe it didn’t get huge. We all know glam did great up until 97-98, right? In 92 I started playing covers with Lecompt and brought Johnny Dee into that in about 93. He started doing Doro as well ( joke alert ) around 96 or 7. I stayed in that until 2000, John until about 2001. All thru that time I would go thru varying degrees of interest in doing other things but could never get the right guys, or seem to fall into anything that I felt had all the pieces together. There were a couple that were real good tho, this band Scarecrow from NY was real good, and had a deal with a major, can’t remember who, that was around 95 I think. Unfortunatly I couldn’t commit because the cover band where I made good money were real pricks about letting me do those kind of things. Looking back, I should’ve told them to go fuck themselves, but like I said, I was sucked into the money. Besides, Scarecrow never did much anyway. They were good tho. Also another guy I was working with was Sal Scoca from NY. His band is called crashbox now I think. He’s a great fucking writer who just hasn’t been lucky enuf yet, but hopefully will be cuz I haven’t met too many who deserve it more than this guy. A definite sleeper in the Butch Walker style, great pop tunes that go a bit deeper than average. If your near NY check him out, you wont be dissapointed. But as far as me I’ve been writing and recording, so we’ll see what happens. The last couple years away from playing everynight have been good for me, as I was pretty burnt out. I had been working for almost 15 years straight between Britny and the cover band, with only a couple weeks in between them where I didn’t work. That was more than the other Britnys did, as John had about a year and a half between Britny and Lecompt to decompress a bit. I didn’t have that break, and like I said was pretty burnt. But I’m pretty fresh now tho, and think I have some good shit piled up. One other thing that has probably hurt alot of 80’s guys, as I think it hurt me a bit, is that it was really hard to get people to take you seriously as a real musician or writer. It cost me a couple auditions with well known bands, who as soon as they found out I was a hair guy would never even get to the audition stage. I would lose opportunities without them even playing with me because of my glam past. Oh well, that’s life, and our scene did have alot of posers, but fuck, some of us were very good players that got stygmatized along with the guys who weren’t so good. I always enjoyed the glam side of it, but really you had to do that or you weren’t getting a deal. The downside was it was hard to get taken seriously after that.
10. On a related note, you use to play with LeCompt. The band featured former Tangier frontman Michael LeCompt. Are you guys still jamming together, if not, when was the last time you talked to Michael?
I started with Mike about a month after the final BDH tour ended. Rick Criniti was playing guitar with them, I had only met Mike once or twice before that, we were both in different scenes. I was always trying to get a deal, and he was making a ton of money in the cover clubs. Rick’s an amazing guitar player who’s played on everything from Boyz 2 men to Cinderella who actually got me in that band. I played with them from 92 to 2000, and Johnny Dee was in it from about 94 to 2001.Mikes a nice guy and a real good singer, but we could never get anything going with the writing, so it was pretty frustrating for us to have this great band ( Jimmy Marciano from Black Eyed Susan replaced Rick a few years in) and have to play tunes we didn’t like. We had never really done that before, except when we were kids, as we both went towards the original clubs. So, once again I haven’t talked to Mike in a couple years cuz I dont go the places he plays, and he doesn’t go to where I hang.
11. Give us a touring memory about the following cities:
Los Angeles = Seemed like we always worked hard in LA. Alot of photo shoots, did all our videos there, etc. Also recorded Bite Down Hard there. I’m more of an East coast guy so I never really got used to being there. I was always very aware that I was in LA. Great weather, tho.
Phoenix = A week off, great weather and a great pizza girl. We called up Dominoes and tried to trade tickets for pizza and the girl that brought my pizza was a big fan, and very fit. She ended up staying with me all week.
Seattle = Stayed with a girl for a couple days at this great house on the bay
St. Louis = Always went to Ampeg and re-upped with free gear
Milwaukee = What else, Summerfest. Green Bay was our first arena tour gig also
Detroit = Renee Gretzky, and harpos of course. Great club.
Atlanta = Saw one of GG Allins last gigs at a club we were playing the next night
Dallas = Great clubs, great girls. Nice city. But I’m an Eagles fan, so…
Denver = Freak snowstorm canceled a gig there once, so we got drunk in the hotel hottub for 2 days with a bunch of English people, Tommy and I, and we would run out into the snow and then jump back in the tub. Thats why you always save all your leftover rider booze kids, cuz the bar was closed.
Chicago = Broke my finger there playing football and had to do 2 months with 2 fingers. Good thing it was Britny, nobody even noticed.
Cincinnati = Seemed like a nice place, but nothing comes to mind, sorry
Philadelphia = Always hectic playing your hometown, everybody wants tickets, peeps you never really liked are your best friends, and it also seemed like we were always working like 10 days in a row and would go to Philly. We just wanted to sleep for a day but would have to bust our balls with all that bullshit, woulda been cool if we weren’t always so beat up when we got here.
New York = I love NY. They say you either love it or hate it, and I loved everything about Manhatten. We spent alot of time in NYC as well, as all our biz was located there. Lawers, etc., and it’s close to Philly so if someone wanted to go home they could. We also knew all the people that ran the good clubs like cat club, Limelight and would get hooked up real good. We also recorded Boys In Heat there and theres so much to do it’s insane. Girls all over the place, and it never closes. What else could a guy hope for? As odd as I feel in LA, thats how at home I am in NYC.
12. What "rock star" deserves and a big smack in the mouth and why?
I never liked metallica and could never figure out why anybody else did, but that movie, I mean really, who gives a fuck? When you can afford to pay a guy what, 30 grand a month? to be your road shrink, and you put out 20 albums that all suck and people keep buying them anyway, let alone the sold out shows, you don’t have no problems that I wanna hear about. These guys are redefining the phrase self important. But once again, they did alot better than me so what the fuck do I know?
13. Kill, fuck, and marry: Of the following people, you have to fuck one, kill one, and marry one. Who gets what?
Pamela Anderson, Dizzy Dean Davidson, Carrot Top
Guess I marry Pam, obviously kill c-top, but that would be tough. Have you seen that guy latley? He’s all bulked up like he’s on roids or something, and like everybody says, fuck Dean Davidson.
14. Yes or no, has Billy Childs ever:
Shot Heroin = Nah, seen to many friends get all fucked up on that shit.
Punched Dean Davidson = Sometimes I wish, mighta changed things, but I don’t like to fight outta my weight class.
Saw Johhny Dee naked = I’m not getting a visual, I’m glad to say, but if you tour with a guy that long, probably yea
Farted in the tub = I’m more of a shower guy, but I’m sure I have.
Wanted to kill yourself = Probably more than most, but I’m just not a very pro-active kinda guy
Paid for a hooker = Surprisingly, no
Stolen a jacket = Not that I can remember. You know something I don’t?
Earned your "red wings" = Nigga pleez.. if theres a poonanny wing I aint earned I’d like to know what it is
Helped Michael fix his hair = I didn’t have the proper building permit
Ate sushi in Japan = Ate alot of sushi in Japan. Is that what they call it now?
15. Not too many hard rock or metal bands came out of Philly in the 80s. There was Cinderella, Britny Fox, and of course, Mr. John Corabi and Heavens Edge. Speaking of which… where the hell is Heavens Edge these days?
I just ran into Reggie Wu abou a week ago, what a cool guy. He was always a really nice guy. Also have seen the bass player GG a couple of times over the last year. They both still look cool, and I think GG is playing covers with a band here now, can’t remember who. That was a shame, I always thought that band was very good and woulda been huge if the scene didn’t quit or they were a couple years sooner. Timing is everything they say, right? Speaking of which, Corabis one of the most talented guys I ever met, let alone am fortunate enough to be able to say I was even in a band with. Me and John were in a band for about 6 months in the early 80’s, I think it was, and bluntly he should be as big as fuckin Chris Cornell or something. John is as real as it gets, and those Union albums are great I think. He’s done so much good shit at this point that whoever aint checked him out yet, or think " Oh, hes the guy that took Vinces place for a while" owes it to themselves to listen to what this guys done over the last 10 years. Hes the real thing and more people should know it. A little known fact is that he was our first choice to replace Dean in Britny, but John was way too smart for that move.
16. Was there any one musician or celebrity whom you really wanted to meet, and when you finally did meet them, they were a complete ass to you?
No, I guess I got lucky in that area. I met alota icons actually, and they were all really cool. A couple of the lower level guys were dicks tho. For example, I was in NY one night hanging out at the Limelight where I already mentioned we got treated really good, blah, blah, blah and I go up to the VIP room and there’s Blackie Lawless over at the bar. It’s odd to see a West coast guy in NY, so I figured I’d be cool as I never met him and thought wasp was ok. I ordered a drink and said " exuse me, your Blackie Lawless, right? The fuckin guy don’t even look at me and just does a real long nod kinda thing and walks away. I thought " what a dick". So no sludgers, it’s not just fans he treats like shit, cuz at the time Britny was smokin fuckin wasp in sales and videos and shit, and he even treated me like that. I guess you can file that under the" Blackies an Asshole" or whatever its called section you got. Unless you don’t like me, than I guess it’s cool.
17. Name the 3 highest points and the 3 lowest points of your musical career to date.
I guess the top 3 would have to be, in no particular order, 1. Our first sony deal. 2. Seeing the first album really take off and the videos getting huge. That was surreal. It’s one thing to get a deal, but another thing to watch the shit explode like that did. 3. Even tho it wasn’t big, and we didn’t make much dough, I’m really glad we did that live album in 2002 or whenever that was. I know our last studio album in 2003 or 4 wasn’t so good, but theres alot of reasons why, most of which boil down to money, time, and being unprepared. The live one is great tho, our best tunes for the most part, and it also sounds the closest to how I always hoped we sounded. Please check it out before you say " Oh, the girlschool band, they suck". Thank you, that’s all I ask. Theres also a #4, and thats pretty much every second between 85 and 92, what a ride!. As far as lows its Dean leaving. That sucked cuz we were becoming what we always dreamed of being, and even tho I knew we would continue I also knew we would never be that big again. Next would be finding Tommy, realizing we were going to be better than before, doing an album that proved that, and then finding out everybody dug Nirvana now and hated us. I felt like the last guy to leave the party and was asked to shut the door on my way out! I guess next is when we did those albums for Spitfire and did nothing at all to support them. That really sucked, to watch everybody else go back out and tour, obviously not as big as it was, but still, a bad tour is better than no tour. I thought we would do okay tho, and it kinda sucks to see people forget about you just cuz you don’t do anything. We were bigger than alot of the bands I see on sludge, not all but some, but cuz we don’t do anything I don’t know if people are aware of that.
18. For what amount was your biggest musical related check, and what did you do with the cash?
A couple were pretty big, can’t remember the exact amount, 30 g’s or so, but we never made the really big money. Too many interuptions. And also we were only on a salary of 4 or 5 hundred a week most of the time. Christ, we weren’t even getting paid for half our first tour, we lived on 25$ a day per diem. Were we fuckin idiots or what? Oh well, nature of the beast, as they say. I try not to think too much about that kind of shit, but I guess that goes into the regrets stack at this point. And believe me, that’s a big fuckin stack. Oh, when we were writing Bite Down Hard we were all on unemployment for the max, before we got some recording money from Atlantic. Labeland aint all it’s cracked up to be, sometimes. Also we "rented" alot of shit for BDH, as far as Atlantic knows.
19. The Last of Billy Childs:
Last fast food you ate = Hate that shit, but I had a burger and a Mcchicken a month ago. I was starving.
Last concert you played with Britny Fox = I think it was a voices of metal show in Maine about 2 years ago
Last CD you purchased = I usually download. Think it was the acoustic godsmack, cuz it was only 10 bucks and I wanted to hear it
Last rock star you shook hands with = Ran into Jeff LaBar a couple weeks ago. Cool guy.
Last royalty check you received = Whats a royalty check?
Last time you spoke to Dean Davidson = Oh, we just went turd farming in W. Virginia last week. Great guy.
Last time you aimed an Aquanet can at your head = I don’t know of any 80’s bands that actually used hairspray. I think thats just a myth.
Last concert you watched from the audience = Finch at TLA in Philly
Last time someone asked you for your autograph = Couple weeks ago. I always meet people in clubs that think its cool to meet me. Guess it’s cuz I’m still living in Philly.
Last time you logged onto Metal Sludge = Couple times a week, I always got a kick out of sludge. BTW, props to Stevie for comin out, I always heard he ran it, but I live in Philly so I’m not really close to any of it and was never really sure.
20. Time for Metal Sludge’s Word Association. We mention a name, and you give us your thoughts.
Dizzy Dean Davidson = Could somebuddy please give that guy a piece of gum? Or a mint?
Ozzy Osbourne = Really nice guy, very funny as well. Also seemed very smart.. When I met him around 90 he was nothing like the guy on TV.
Rikki Rockett = Down to earth nice guy. Actually the whole bunch are cool, at least they were to me.
Gerri Miller = Glorified groupie. Dont dislike her, tho
Steven Tyler = I know everbody loves him, and in alot of ways he really is the prototypical rock singer, but I was never a big Aeorosmith fan and he’e a little too cliched for me. Much respect for his career.
Johnny Dee = Very underated rock drummer. Great feel, pocket player.
Brian Kushner = Really couldn’t imagine Britny without Kush, he was a huge part of everything we did, good or bad, and was like a band member to us
Axl Rose = Never met him, but the other guys were cool, and if they don’t like him, and with all I’ve heard I guess he’s pretty odd. Kinda reminds me of someone I used to play with.
Richie Wuestenberg = He was my tour manager and roomate for about 2 years. I like to think we kept each other sane. Man, did we smoke alot of weed.
Tom Keifer = Dont really know him. Always seemed nice enuf tho
Riki Rachtman = This guy was really good at changing gears to keep himself current and in the game. Don’t really know how or what he does that’s of any use, but he is good at staying there. Wherever that is.
Like Johnny Dee, Billy Childs had no problem ripping on Dizzy Dean Davidson, so we applaud him for that. Plus he doesn’t mention anything about hoagies, cheesesteaks, or gay sex in theatres, so he manages to transcend all stereotypes about his native city of Philadelphia. In the end, he answered all our questions and gave us a decent interview, which is all we ever ask.
It doesn’t sound like you’ll be seeing him out on the road with Britny Fox anytime soon, but for a look at Billy’s history with the band that made him a household name, feel free to check out the official Britny Fox Web site at www.britnyfox.com. Billy also invites you to e-mail him at [email protected].