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Special: Indie Rock - Coast To Coast
Los Angeles rockers Madison Paige
by Keavin Wiggins

For the past few months we have taken you from the east coast of the US to the west, highlighting some of the standout indie rock bands in each region.  This month we finally set down on the west coast with an interview with Los Angeles rockers Madison Paige, a band that bridges the best elements of 80s rock with modern melodic rock. A hard balancing act? You bet but Madison Page pulls it off flawlessly. 

Rocknworld caught up with Madison Paige guitarist Damon Valley and drummer Richie Rivera for the following interview.


Madison Paige 

Rocknworld (RNW): Where did your name come from? 

Richie Rivera (RR): We'll spill the beans on that one day, but, unfortunately, today isn't that day.

(RNW): How did the group come together? 

RR: I moved back home to L.A. after a brief stint living on the east coast in the summer of '99. I immediately threw up a bunch of ads online and I got an e-mail from this female singer from Wisconsin. I thanked her for responding, but I decided to pass. She understood and referred me to her boyfriend, who played guitar and had a lot of the same tastes. That turned out to be Damon.

Damon Valley (DV): I flew to L.A. to audition. We got along well and clicked musically. I moved to L.A. in September of '99 and we began the search to complete the line up. Over the next 3 years, we auditioned numerous singers and bassists. We went through a couple of lineup changes to arrive where we are now. It was a frustrating process, much more difficult than I expected it to be. 

(RNW): Who would you list as influences? 

DV: I have two types of influences: songwriting and guitar playing. My songwriting influences are Layne Staley & Jerry Cantrell, Geoff Tate & Chris Degarmo, and Chris Cornell. My guitar influences are Vito Brata, Reb Beach, Jerry Cantrell and John Petrucci. They're all amazing.

RR: For drumming, it would have to be Tommy Lee, Mike Portnoy and Carter Beauford. For songwriting, I'd have to say Jani Lane, Cary Pierce and Butch Walker.

(RNW): How would you describe your music to someone who hasn't heard it? 

DV: Our music is versatile; the melodies are memorable and the lyrics are meaningful. 

(RNW): What inspired you to begin making music? 

DV: Actually, my father is the only reason I play. He was a great bass player for few local bands in Wisconsin. When I was 4 or 5 years old, I would stand on stage with him and play a plastic Stratocaster. He pushed me at a very early age into music. Richie Sambora also played a small role: he was one of my guitar heroes. He's a great player and singer.

RR: For me, it's like asking, "What inspired you to breathe?" Well, if you didn't do it, then you die. I know that sounds melodramatic, but it's accurate. It just came from a very instinctive, necessary place. The chicks in Poison's "I Want Action" video didn't hurt either. 

(RNW): You are based out of Los Angeles, a very competitive market. Some musicians hate playing LA for some reason, saying they have to work extra hard to impress or win people over. What's been your experience in the LA scene?

DV: I don't hate it, but I don't like it either. L.A. is a fake, plastic city so many people and bands are more concerned with image rather than the songs. I find that annoying. As far as impressing people, I don't know. I haven't had a problem impressing the audience, but then again, I'm not trying to.

RR: I would add that the talent pool in L.A. is very wide, but not very deep. Thousands of musicians with stars in their eyes migrate here every year because they think this is where they need to be to get discovered. Unfortunately, they don't hold auditions to cross the state line, so 80% of them are as talent less as they are delusional. Because so much of the industry is based here, there is a tremendous amount of pressure to succeed. And if you've been out here for a while and you haven't "made it" yet, there is a tremendous amount of temptation to jump of the latest trend and ride the wave to stardom. I saw it time and time again in the '90s when grunge first hit, where I saw local bands wishing they were Guns N'Roses and then six months later they're all supporting flannel shirts and aping Pearl Jam. So if you actually have talent and stick to your guns, word will get out because it's such a rarity in this town.

(RNW): You guys recently got a major boost when one of L.A. biggest rock stations KLOS selected you as a Featured Artist for their local licks show. How did that come about? 

DV: Richie arranged that. He is the most dedicated man I've met in regard to the music business. He probably made 20 calls to make that happen. I don't know how he does it.

RR: Once our package got in the right hands, the response was overwhelming. Bill Hartew, the show's producer, loved the band and essentially put us on the "fast track" to coincide with a gig in Hollywood later that week. His only complaint with us was that there were too many good songs to choose from. They ended up playing 4 songs from the album. It was fortunate turn of events, but I can't really take the credit for it. Hopefully we'll be doing more with the station in the very near future.

(RNW): What's your take on where rock is at the moment and how you fit into that picture? 

DV: I like it. There's so much going on - melody is coming back, but it's different than it was in the '80s and early '90s. It's a little heavier and more rhythmic. I like it a lot, especially the energy. We fit somewhere in the middle: we're not Simple Plan, we're not Damageplan. We're somewhere in between. I think it's a great place to be. 

(RNW): You guys aren't shy about your 80s influence but you also put it in a modern context. Is this something that you consciously work to achieve or is it just naturally your style? 

DV. It's definitely natural. As a band, we all come from very different backgrounds, musically and personally. We all like the '80s, obviously, but we also like many other styles from other decades and genres. When we write, it's a combination of these various styles that go into the song. So it's not something we work at, it just happens. 

RR: We were only little kids just discovering rock music when that style became popular, so it was intrinsic in forming our individual identities and sounds. While we're very proud of where we come from, we're not interested in retreading old ground (or we would just be a cover band). Screaming, "Metal health will drive you mad" in 2004 doesn't carry quite the same weight as it did in 1984. All we want to do is take what a lot of those bands stood for in terms of songwriting, musicianship, and showmanship and do it our way for today's listener.

(RNW): One of the things that really got my attention about Madison Paige (aside from the music) was how you guys financed your debut album "Famous Last Words". It was truly a grassroots effort, can you describe for our readers how that came about? 

RR: The single most important thing to this band is our fans, as it should be for every band. When we were first kicking around the idea of doing our own full-length album, we threw the idea of putting out our own album to the mailing list because if there wasn't enough interest on the street level, then going through the time and trouble to record a whole album would be pointless. But people flipped out over the idea. A few months into the process, we offered our fan base the ability to purchase the album in advance. In return for their order, they would get 20% off the normal price, plus receive their  autographed copy of the album several weeks before the street date. But we weren't happy with just doing that. We felt that if people are going to fork over their hard-earned money for an album they won't hear for a while, then we really have to make it worth their while. So in addition to the discount, the advance date and the autographs, we supplied our mailing list with an exclusive code word somewhere in the text of every bulletin: if they used it when pre-ordering the album, they would receive a free "bonus CD" as well. We didn't tell them what it was going to be, just that it would be a CD of unreleased material. What we ended up doing is going back into the studio and recording a live, seven song acoustic EP we called "Any Day Now," featuring unplugged versions of some of our songs, as well as some well-known covers. It was a win-win situation: we raised enough money to finance the entire album and the people who really believed in the band from the start got something special for their faith in us (and their patience). 

(RNW): Where can people purchase "Famous Last Words" 

DV: It's available in the greater L.A. area at Tower Records, Amoeba Records and Aron's Records. It's also online at amazon.com, towerrecords.com, and cdbaby.com.

(RNW): You guys also seem to be ahead of a lot of people in another way. We run a series here called inside track where we ask bands for insights into each song on their CD, I'd do that here but you already did it on your website! So I'll skip to next logical question, Any favorite tracks from the CD? Any song you think people should check out that would give them an overall feel for what Madison Paige is all about? 

DV: The instrumental, "Ella Sabe Solamente," is my personal favorite track, but it doesn't represent the band as a whole. "Hold Me Over" and "Stay This Way" are good examples of what we're about: strong melodies and interesting arrangements. 

RR: I have a ton of favorites on the album for various reasons, but I'm especially proud of how "Hold Me Over" and "Fear And Storm" came out. Those two songs really redefined what the band was capable of. 

(RNW): Any label interest yet? 

RR: Honestly, it's not something we're actively pursuing right now. These days, the notion of artist development at the major level is nonexistent. If you don't sell certain amount of records with your debut album in a certain number of weeks, you're either dropped or left for dead. We felt that the smart thing to do would be to put out a record on our own establish a track record of sales, radio play, and concert attendance. Plus, we can also get a better sense of who we are as artists before approaching the majors, which we fully intend to do with the next record. For now, we're focused on continuing to build the fan base and to get a great team in place in terms of management, booking, and legal. From there, the sky's the limit. 

(RNW): What's been your proudest moment as a band? What's been your worst?

DV: Releasing the album was a great accomplishment for all of us and I am proud of it. However, the making of it was a painful process. We had a tremendous amount of bad luck and I was dealing with a lot of personal problems. So that was a difficult time for
me. 

RR: The release of the album was real source of personal pride for me as well. But there were several points at its various stages of creation where the limits of my sanity were severely tested. The upside is that the next album will seem infinitely easier to do.

(RNW): What has Madison Paige done to help set you apart from other new bands and get noticed? 

DV: I don't know. We strive to be interesting. I hope that sets us apart from other bands. 

RR:  Everybody in the band is an accomplished player for our age, so we have a musical vocabulary beyond our years. Combine that very accessible melodies and you have a sound unlike any band in L.A. right now. 

(RNW): What do you hope people take away from your music? 

DV: Energy and honesty. That's what I care about the most.

RR: All I can hope for is that people can throw our music in their car and it makes their drive to work or school go more quickly. 

(RNW): What's next for Madison Paige? 

RR: Playing live and working on songs for album #2, which will definitely be done in conjunction with a label.  Check out www.madisonpaige.net for all the latest.

DV: Growth as songwriters, growth as a band. I hope we just keep experimenting and growing. 
 
 


Learn More

Visit the official site for Madison Paige to learn more and purchase their CD
 
 

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