Here’s a Metal Sludge exclusive with Cinderella guitarist Jeff LaBar, who has a new solo CD called ‘One For The Road’
By Gerry Gittelson
Metal Sludge Editor at Large
LOS ANGELES – Jeff LaBar is on the phone, a rock star in every sense of the word considering he is the guitar player for multi-platinum band Cinderella, one of the most popular glam outfits in history.
In the baby-boomer era, few have had more staying power than Cinderella, a band that jumped to prominence in the late 1980s thanks to a string of hits like “Gypsy Road,” “Night Songs,” “Nobody’s Fool,” “Coming Home,” “Shake Me” and others. The band has been playing arenas for years even though the hits have dried up – and that’s because Cinderella was that good in the first place.
With singer Tom Keifer taking a stab at a solo run, LaBar is doing the same thing with a new record called “One For The Road,” and the guitarist was only too eager to check in with Sludge for a lengthy talk about all things good.
Jeff LaBar and Fred Coury live
JEFF LABAR: This is so weird. I’m wearing a Metal Sludge t-shirt, as you called. I was outside, and my neighbor said, “Metal Sludge? What’s that, a band?” I said, “No, it’s a rock and roll web site, you should check it out.”
METAL SLUDGE: Yeah?
Yeah, I didn’t know when you’d be calling so yeah, that’s weird.
SLUDGE: That is weird.
SLUDGE: So I guess we should start with the new record. Tell me about the new record. Did you enjoy making it?
It was a labor of love. I’ve been threatening to make a solo for years because in Cinderella, I don’t do a whole lot of writing. Then, when Tom Kiefer announced he was doing a solo record, I told my manager, Larry Morand, and my wife, that now was the time. I got to work in the studio, threw down some drum tracks, and started overdubbing everything myself with keys and vocals and background vocals, and kind of produced it myself. I was signed to Rat Pak Records for three albums in three years, but they said they wanted just five songs, then they said, “How about two more?” I said, “Hey, I’ll give you a whole record if you want,” because at the time we were talking about just an EP, kind of short-attention span theatre, then follow it up with another seven songs and make that side B.
SLUDGE: Well, I guess the other guy in Cinderella, Eric Brittingham, he’s been busy, too, doing Devil City Angels, who just put out like four songs. Have you heard them? It’s pretty good, especially the first song.
I haven’t heard anything yet, but Eric and I, we’ve played together in side projects for many years now. Cheap Thrill, we’ve been doing that together, and then yeah, when Tom left to pursue a solo record, this is the next thing. I haven’t heard from Eric in a couple of months, but of course we do talk a lot when we’re working together, but I don’t know too much about what he’s done with Tracii (Guns) and Rikki (Rockett).
SLUDGE: It’s an interesting combo.
Yeah, Eric and I have done a few things without well-known rocks peeps or whatever, but it’s always like “the two guys from Cinderella,” so it’s good he’s doing something with a guy from LA Guns and a guy from Poison ‘cause that’s cool do some stuff with other, like, rock stars, other than me.
SLUDGE: So you’re in Nashville with Tom Keifer and Eric, you’re all there in Tennessee now. Do you run into each other still?
Well, now, whenever we bump into each other it’s on purpose. At one point when I first came to Nashville, we all lived within a mile or so of each other, so we used to bump into each other at the super market or the restaurant all the time. But Eric moved like 30 miles one way, and I moved like 30 miles the other way, so now not so much anymore. It’s not like we see each other at the mall.
SLUDGE: So do you like it there?
I like it here because I work here, but I still love and miss Philly. This is where I work, and yeah I have some good friends here, but I came from Philly, which was different, kind of a big mecca, so I do miss that.
SLUDGE: You ever live in Los Angeles through the years?
Never did, never lived anywhere else except for Nashville now. But I’ve thought about it, thought about maybe moving to L.A., but if I did, I would probably be dead by now. The way I am, that’s probably what would have happened if someone had coaxed me into it. A lot of musicans move to Nashville, a lot of them from L.A., like Paul Taylor, and Slaughter and Kip Winger, so many of ‘em. They’ve all kind of had enough of L.A., and they came to Nashville to write and record, and plus it’s a cheaper cost of living.
SLUDGE: Yeah, a lot have moved to Vegas, too.
Yeah, that’s another thing.
SLUDGE: So what are the plans with Cinderella? Is everything on hold now?
Well, we don’t have any plans. Tom is still touring, my solo record just came out, and I’m thinking of getting out and doing something. I think Tom has plans to tour into next year, so for now there is no Cinderella. I do have a band that was on the video, with my son Sebastian on guitar and Jasmine Kain on bass and Matt Arnn on drums. Matt is in a great rockabilly band called Hillbilly Casino, and Jasmine, she plays bass, and she’s also a singer/songwriter.
Cinderella listening back to mixes on a phonograph, decades before iTunes
SLUDGE: What about your son? Is he a good guitar player?
Oh my god, he’s better than me. He’s 21 years old.
SLUDGE: Can he fling the guitar around 360 degrees like you? The classic Cinderella maneuver?
Of course he can. That’s the first thing I taught him. He’s in a really good band himself called Mach 22. You gotta check it out, it’s like Velvet Revolver but with a Lenny Kravitz-type singer, a black singer with all the soul of Sly Stone and with guitar tones like Slash.
SLUDGE: Sounds interesting.
SLUDGE: So I’ve got to ask you more questions about Cinderella. Especially in the beginning, how much fun did you have?
Oh, too much. I had all the fun I could have, and we took every opportunity to have fun. I just love being in the band, incredibly so.
Cinderella rocking with Wayne’s World stars Wayne (Mike Meyers) & Garth (Dana Carvey)
SLUDGE: I think I saw the very first tour you did with Bon Jovi at a shed in like San Bernardino in California. Does that ring a bell?
Well, I’m not exactly sure because we did like seven months with Bon Jovi back in ’87, but our very first tour was actually with Poison and Loudness in small theatres and auditoriums for like five months.
SLUDGE: And then you got the David Lee Roth tour, his first solo tour, and that was a really big tour.
Yeah, I remember it was between Poison and us, as to who was going to get that tour with David Lee Roth, and we got it.
SLUDGE: That was a big break.
Yeah, we had big breaks every step of the way. First it was recording the record and getting a push from Polygram, big time, because the record company was really behind us, and then when David Lee Roth chose us to open for him, that was a huge break, and then it was us and Bon Jovi going out, two bands on the same label on the same tour, and that’s where it really blew up.
SLUDGE: You were very blessed.
Absolutely. I’m the luckiest motherfucker on the planet, so blessed that I felt guilty, like why me? I mean, half my friends played guitar way better than me, really.
SLUDGE: The band did a good job of building on every record, a really good job of kind of adding layers.
Well thank you.
SLUDGE: I mean, you did a really good job evolving, would you agree?
Yeah, I think so. Thank you very much for saying that because we all feel that way, too. The first record was adolescent, but it was still rock. The second record, we grew up and were a little more adult about it, and by the third record, we were adding acoustics with horns and strings and a couple of ballads. Plus, you’ve got to remember, each record, we had a little more money to play with. By the third record, John Paul Jones was coming into the studio arranging a string section, and that was pretty awesome.
SLUDGE: Now, as far as Tom Keifer is concerned. He’s incredibly talented. You have to realize that.
Absolutely. Tom is probably the biggest influence in my life, especially as a musician but even off stage. He’s been like a mentor to me. I don’t think he knows it, but I’ve pretty much been watching his every move for a really long time.
SLUDGE: But his image, he kind of has a reputation for being dark and moody and somber, you know what I mean?
I know he’s perceived that way. I’ve seen that guy, but I don’t know that guy, so it would be just speculation on my part. I mean, I’ve seen Tom do interviews as a solo artist, and he looks like he’s very uncomfortable and shy when he doesn’t have his brothers from Cinderella with him. But the Tom Keifer I know, he’s the funniest motherfucker on the planet when his brothers are with him. All we do is laugh together, and that’s why we’re still together after all these years. We still ride on the same bus, and we still enjoy each other’s company. By ourselves, it’s not as much fun. I saw Tom with Eddie Trunk on TV on That Metal Show, and Tom looked so uncomfortable. He had Rob Zombie right next to him, and he’s cracking jokes, Rob is, but not Tom, and that’s not the Tom I know. I think he was feeling the pressure without his three buddies.
SLUDGE: Also, it seemed like Cinderella was an overnight success, but the band had actually put in a lot of hard work on the old New Jersey circuit, playing covers, right?
I don’t know if we did any more work or paid more dues than bands like Ratt and Poison. I think the difference is, we did it on our own turf and didn’t move to L.A. to make it. We stayed where we were and decided we were going to make it in Philly or die trying. We played clubs for years in Philly and South Jersey, so compared to L.A. bands, it’s all relative.
SLUDGE: Did you go through some hard times on your way up?
Absolutely. All of us did. In my late teens and early 20s, we all did that, waiting out back at McDonalds for them to throw away their burgers.
Oh yeah, in Philly and South Jersey, it’s tough when you’re trying to make it as a musician, but actually I did have day jobs most of the times, but when I didn’t, it was almost cliché, trying to make it on the club circuit. But you’ve also got to remember, I joined the band a little later after they had been playing clubs for a while, so Tom and Eric, they really paid their dues. I wasn’t playing clubs for as long. I also had really supportive parents who had been taking me to rock concerts since I saw Yes in 1973, sitting between the both of them.
SLUDGE: Were they smoking pot?
No, but the people around us were. I smoke a little every now and then.
SLUDGE: Did your parents enjoy your success?
They still do. Years ago, my dad bought a van and a PA and carted us around. My dad was like my first roadie. He never got in my shit and told me to get a real job, but like I said, I had little day jobs.
SLUDGE: What are some of things you did for work?
Oh man, I delivered Chinese food, worked in an auto detail place, worked in a print shop, did a bunch of stuff. By the time I was 23 though, I was signed, so my parents, they never had to rag on me about anything.
SLUDGE: So Gene Simmons just proclaimed that rock is dead. Your thoughts?
All I can do is laugh at that. It’s never going to be that bad. It’s not pop anymore like the 80s, with hard rock topping the charts. Pop has been king the past decade or maybe two, but rock is by no means dead.
SLUDGE: Here is a question only someone like you can answer: What does it feel like to have 15,000 people in an arena cheering for you and singing along?
It’s probably the coolest feeling in the world. It’s hard to describe, and the bigger the crowd the better. It’s got to be the most gratifying feeling in the world.
SLUDGE: The song “Don’t Know What You Got (‘Till It’s Gone)” has touched many lives. Would you agree? And have people told you that?
I guess it has touched a lot of people, and some have tweeted it and some have told me in person and pointed out what it’s meant in their lives because it’s a universal theme. Don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone, that’so true. In the context of the song, it’s about a girl, but it’s relavent to a lot of things.
SLUDGE: I guess we should talk more about the new record. What’s your favorite song?
You have to check out “Nightmare on My Street.” Some of the record is pretty heavy with double bass, almost like speed metal, and the song is about a serial killer. And another song “Asking For a Beating,” that one might be politically incorrect, but it’s all tongue in cheek.
SLUDGE: Speaking of politically incorrect, what are you thoughts on the Ray Rice situation, not just about him but on the victim, because she did forgive him and marry him one month later, so what does that say about her?
The thing is, I know Ray Rice, and he’s a good guy. He doesn’t beat her, he just lost control and hit her.It was an isolated incident. He was a model citizen in the Baltimore area with the children, and he was never in trouble. He never did drugs. He was a model NFL player who made a mistake, and Janee knows that. They’re fucking with his life, and of course I don’t condone that behavior. I’m just saying he’s being vilified. As for every battered woman, I’m sure I have a very unpopular point of view, and yes, he should be punished for what happened, but not hung in public, and now his wife is suffering more. It’s not a pattern of behavior for Ray Rice to be compared to wife-beaters. He hit his girl once, and he is paying for it. I doubt he will ever do it again, and I’ll probably get a lot of flack for having this point of view.
SLUDGE: It seems like there isn’t much peace in the world. I talked to Chip Z’Nuff about this, how there is so much violence in Missouri and in the Mideast and with Russia and Ukraine. Why so much violence in the world? It seems like it’s getting worse, not better.
Well, it seems like the middle east is getting crazier as we get older, but there was almost a terrorist threat, first Al Quida, and now ISIS. I was like, “Now we have to deal with somebody else?” The more the U.S. tries to get out of the middle east, the more we get dragged back in. Now it’s Syria and Irag again. Really? I’m just waiting for it to hit home because ISIS scares me. As far as the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, that shit is going to happen when one asshole does something wrong that affects the whole nation. But it’s true, one guy can affect the whole country, and that’s always gonna be there, that threat. I don’t know.
Gerry Gittelson can be reached at email@example.com