Interview with Regent St. Claire & Mathias Montgomery of Castle Blak

With the infamous box set "Glamour And Damnation" now available... the hits just kept on comin... eh Rege, it was time for me to come out of glam exile and hook up with my old buddy Regent St. Claire, Castle Blak's enigmatic front man, who I met originally back in Shades Records, recommended to me by San Francisco's answer to Mike Shannon, owner of legendary Record Exchange Store, Bill Burkard. Incidentally Bill was managing the band and brought over Regent and bassist Kev Mueller to shop second opus "Babes In Toyland".

Drummer Mathias Montgomery, I met playing drums for Ruby Slippers at The Roxy in LA, those were amazing times... many memories. In my best Kim Fowley style comparison I matched Regent up to the genesis of pretty boy and bastard son of Wrathchild... Mr. Kerry Doll.


KH: Regent I originally called you San Francisco's answer to Kerry Doll, did you know who he was?

RS: Of course! I loved Kerry! I even still have some old live performances by him on VHS. So whatever happened to him anyway?

KH: Did you have hard time livin' up to that comparison?

RS: Not at all. I think me and the boys in Blak were pretty effective at creating a band that was just a little bit larger than life. Not so much in a theatrical way, but in other, more subtle ways.

KH: You were already a name on the San Fran scene, what was the catalyst for the 'Babes In Toyland' LP and your legendary visit to the UK, in which half the band, yourself, Kev, Chive and manager Bill Burkard promoted up a storm?

RS: Before Castle Blak, when I was 18, I was drumming in a band called Escort Service (doing nearly all my songs) with a bunch of well-known guys from other notable local bands who were also all at least 5 - 10 years older than me. We were quasi-managed by Bill Graham Presents soldier Toni Isabella, who would later go on to work with bands like Exodus etc. Toni was booking Metal Mondays at The Old Waldorf, and she invited my band down to see this weird new band from LA called Motley Crue.

Now this was back just after "Too Fast For Love" was released on Leathur, and they were just another club band from LA. It was also back when Crue was a lot more Punky, Poppy, and a lot less Metal. They had no money for expensive stage clothes so they were wearing stuff like gym shorts and cheap grocery store nylons. They did somehow manage to splurge on the hooker thigh boots tho (LOL).

So we get to the show, and Crue comes on, and WOW! These guys were actually FUN. They were totally loaded and falling down on stage, and Nikki's nuts were hanging out of a hole in his pants, and I think they even encored with Alice's "Dept. Of Youth." I thought to myself: "Hey! If THIS is what 'Metal' is like now, I wanna do THAT!"

A few days later, I quit Escort Service, despite the fact that we had just won a local band contest wherein we won a little record deal with a great local studio, sold my drum kit, and bought my now infamous pink and black Charvel Destroyer. I was really fired up about doing a new, harder edged Power Pop/Glam band.

I sat down over the course of the next 6-8 weeks and wrote everything on "Babes..." and a few that we actually didn't have enough time to finish recording for it, which is why that LP has only 8 tracks on it. I was always overly ambitious in the studio.

So I guess that was the catalyst for the "Babes..." album, so to speak. Seeing Crue for the first time in a little club way back when. It was inspirational!

MM: The catalyst for "Babes..." was Regent St Claire's overwhelming thought process of how to create an engaging band that was already a success out of the gate.

RS: The catalyst for our promotional trip to Europe and the UK in 1987 was that we were trying to drum up foreign licensing interest in our forthcoming 2nd LP, "Another Dark Carnival," whose demos we had already recorded and brought with us on the trip.

KH: You have an affinity with the San Fran scene, particularly 'Head On' that once contained Ruby Slippers bassist DJ, Slippers then went on to feature yourself Matt, considering your from the Terry Bozzio school of drumming, what's the deal with the glam bands?

MM: We seemed to gravitate towards the local bands like "Head On" that not only looked cool, but could answer the call with their song writing. I always felt Castle Blak was one of those rare groups that had the complete package consisting of songs, image and players. When I met Regent I was a confused teenager into Rush, Missing Persons and Prince. I always was a serious musician, but he didn't have to twist my arm very hard to put on a little eyeliner! Androgyny is my friend.

KH: Personally I preferred the demos of 'Another Dark Carnival'.

RS: So did I, in fact, the version of "Don't Tell Me Bout Your Boyfriend" that appears on the new Blak Box Set came from those demo sessions. Because we recorded the LP "Another Dark Carnival" on a spec deal, the owner/engineer at that studio (a much older guy), was a bit... "resistant" to a lot of my production ideas and instructions, and frankly couldn't even pull-off many of the effects that I asked for, like backwards reverb which was all the rage at the time. On the other hand, the demos for that album were recorded fast and dirty at our usual studio, Dangerous Rhythm (Faith No More recorded a bunch of stuff there too when we were all veeeery young) engineered by our long time pal and producer Kevin Army, and he and I were always in perfect sync with each other creatively, so those demos came out much more like what I had in my head, with a lot of energy.

KH: What was the natural progression on the 2nd LP from the first?

RS: In a nutshell, I think the 1st LP ("Babes In Toyland") had a real innocent, almost Punkish naiveté' and youthful exuberance, and the 2nd ("Another Dark Carnival") was quite a bit more finessed and restrained.

KH: Do you wish you had pushed the horror theatrical angle a bit more back then?

RS: Although we wore quite a bit of makeup, we were never an overly "theatrical" band. For some shows we used lots of candles, other shows we used tons of streamers, balloons and smoke machines, but at the end of the day we were really about the songs.

KH: I wanna mention Scott Sanders, drummer and super nice guy when we hung out in LA.

RS: Scott was a classic drug casualty, plain and simple. If he was hanging out with only us, he was a great guy. If he was hanging out with drug dealers/pimps/junkies, he became like them. Towards the end, I even caught him stealing other bands' gear to pay for his habit. Ultimately, I had to kick him out of the apartment that he shared with Kev and me and out of the band. He then moved back up to Northern California and in with his dad, and that was when he really hit the skids, killing his girlfriend and then himself. It was a bad situation that I've seen too many times, but never before or since at such close range.

MM: RIP

KH: Monster Island and Femme Fatale followed, they were your new poppier projects; you were also collaborating with Taylor Rhodes and Donnie Purnell from Kix?

RS: Actually the extent of my contact with Donnie & Taylor is pretty limited. I had gotten my hands on a copy of a demo tape that Kix had made at Donnie's home studio of some potential songs to be considered for a forthcoming Kix album back in the day. I really dug one song on it: "Fire Engine #9," which to this day is still my favorite Kix song, so we (Blak) recorded that tune for our "Serious As A Fucking Heart Attack!" demo. But because that song had never been commercially released by Kix at that point, we would've had to go thru hoops of fire to get the rights to release our version of it, and probably pay some cash up front as well, and that just wasn't going to happen. So our version of that unreleased Kix song remains sadly unreleased by us as well. Too bad tho because; I would've loved to include it on the new Blak Box Set. I tried contacting Donnie about doing just that a couple of times via emails, but never got a reply. From what I hear, Donnie won't even talk about Kix anymore, and is the only member not involved in the current reformation of that band, which is truly a damn shame. I really loved Kix, and as most people know, Donnie wrote most of their music.

KH: I remember an infamous party with members of Kix, Castle Blak and Steevi Jaimz?

RS: Are you sure that wasn't a dream? Sounds like a party I would've wanted to be at!

KH: Matt, where were you when all this was going on and what made you decide to call it 'A Day With Castle Blak'?

MM: I was young, naive and did not focus on BLAK and their needs as much as I should have, which led to us parting ways. I immediately moved to the trenches of Hollywood and dug in for a long battle. There were so many memorable moments such as a session with Michael Schenker, Ruby Slippers, Stevie Salas (Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart) I became a true professional and in the process mended my relationship with Regent and reunited with my boys from Blak.

KH: You guys missed the MTV thing and still had the chance with Blak for a major deal as well, what happened?

RS: By the time that we had our whole package together enough to BE a major label band, Glam and Hard Rock were well on their way out with the majors. Grunge came into vogue for about ten seconds at that time, just long enough to kill the Glam scene, and then it conveniently disappeared as well.

KH: Blak "No Bed of Roses" was a monstrous affair only on bloody cassette, a real masterpiece.

RS: Thanks man!

KH: You seemed to turn your back on the world after this (who didn't, grunge aaaaaarhhhhhh)?

RS: Yeah. "Roses..." is easily my favorite release we ever did, except for the recent box set. By that point in my life and career, I took a long hard look at what I had given up to play music. I'd been a gigging drummer since I was about 15 years old, opening for bands like Tommy Tutone and Eddie Money, and by 1993, I just felt that my musical endeavours had taken everything I had. Every minute; every dollar, every relationship. I look at it like this: Doing music at the level we were doing it, is like keeping a monster for a pet. A monster that will only eat YOU. So every day you feed another piece of yourself to it, hoping that it will be enough to keep the monster alive, and still leave you with enough of you so that you can live another day to feed more of yourself to it again tomorrow. In many ways, it was like that Greek myth about the guy chained to the rock where the giant bird flies over to him each day and eats his liver, and each night he heals, and it just goes on like that for eternity.

My friends were all telling me at that point, that I should just take a break from it, let myself heal for once and recharge my batteries, and then come back to it, stronger and refreshed. But I knew that it wouldn't work that way. I knew that if I ever stopped and looked it in the face, I'd realize that the price was just too high, and that I wanted to have a life, not just career. And sure enough, that's exactly what happened.

After one, final, particularly insane record deal negotiation with an Indie label whose owner should be anally raped with a broken bottle, I disbanded Blak, took a few months off, and during that time did wacky things like slept more than four hours a night, ate a meal every now and then, went to the movies, got a girlfriend, a car, the kind of stuff that non-musicians take for granted. And guess what? I liked it. A lot. I liked having a normal life.

I mean, there are people who really dig waking up in a different city every day, living out of a suitcase, being away from home for months on end, but I'm not like that. I know it flies in the face of my somewhat wild image in the band, but I'm very much a homebody. I also love writing songs, and that was actually my ultimate goal all along.

Of course being in a band was fun sometimes, and I've made some very cherished and long- lasting friendships with many of the folks I played with and/or met thru the band (like that Glam maven Kelv Hellrazor!) over the years, but at my core, I'm just a quiet, shy guy from the suburbs who writes rock and roll songs.

MM: If I can say one thing about Regent's genius (and mind you I do not hand out this title to people other than Prince or Wayne Gretzky) it is that he may have shifted gears now and then, pulled inspiration from the artists he admired, however, he never scripted our journey to follow grunge, goth or any trend other than what he knew best, writing kick ass songs that move people.

KH: Matthias, were you recovering from having to wear DJs nurses outfit in Ruby Slippers, just kidding?

MM: Those outfits were work! I had to de-spackle my left testicle off my leg because of the tightness of the pants. I loved every minute of it!

KH: When was the time right for the box set?

RS: I think the right time for it is now. It took over eight years to put together, and its one of the best collections in every way by any band that I've ever seen or heard. The Blak Box Set ("Glamour & Damnation: Greatest Hits & Dirty Little Secrets") is exactly the kind of collection that I wish any of my favorite bands had made.

KH: Tell me about the various incarnation of releases you were gonna do?

RS: It really ended up right where it started. I started out wanting to make a really special collection, with tons of rare versions of our songs, rare photos, insights into the songs themselves, and even a 1990 radio interview. A sort of document to the time that we were part of the scene. But altho several Indie companies expressed interest in putting it out, they always just ended up wanting to instead re-release my old records, with a couple non-LP tracks slapped onto them, and that was never what I wanted to do.

So after several false starts with said companies, I just did it all myself, released it on my own label (The Good Intentions Paving Co.), and made a limited edition of 1,000 units of these things.

KH: And the Sybil project?

RS: Sybil was the band that James Ray did after the legendary Head On broke up, and "Every Parent's Dream" was the LP that they recorded, but never released in 1987. Its a magnificent thing to behold, and after I was finally able to find James last year, I began looking for a distributor to release it for him. After wasting six long months dealing with a European record company who ultimately wasted my time and then flaked out on us on the eve of signing their own contracts, I'm currently in final negotiations with a domestic distributor to get the thing released.

The music is like a dirtier, rougher Cheap Trick, and the cover art is by my Candy Apple Black cover artist Marc Sasso. Sasso has recently done artwork for the likes of Dio, Halford, and Priest, and oh baby, are you gonna love the art he's letting us use for the Sybil cover!

KH: Tell us how Candy Apple Black project evolved?

RS: You mean the comic book? I wrote its treatment about 15 years ago, and along with Anthony C. Ferrante wrote the film script about a year after that. We've been trying to get that film made for many years now, but getting someone to put up $15 mil. for a movie about suicide isn't an easy row to hoe. Anthony has now become a director with quite a nice little resume, and it seems likely that within the next couple of years, he will be able to choose what movies he makes, and when that day comes, he'll make Candy.

KH: What do ya think of the horror/theatrical/goth thang that has replaced glam so to speak and all the ambulance chasers involved?

RS: Realistically, Glam had to evolve in order to survive. The next generation had to make it their own and that's how they did it. They had to distance themselves somewhat from those who came before them. Old School Glamsters might find the current face of the genre a bit less "glamorous" than ours was, but hey, that's the nature of the beast.

KH: Is Castle Blak back together, is there gonna be a retro worldwide tour?

RS: Last year we all got back together for the first time in almost 15 years to record a new song ("Whose Little Girl?"), and that song was included on the Box Set. We are prepping right now to record another new track, and may post that online when its done, probably by this summer.

As far as a tour, we've discussed it a few times recently and would love to do it. Beyond the fun of performing again, it'd also be a great excuse for me and the boys to hang out together, which is sadly a very rare occurrence indeed. If you know of any promoters that want to make a Blak tour happen, by all means send them our way, post haste!

MM: It will happen if I have to finance it by working a part time gig @ Hot Dog On A Stick while escorting rich divorcee's come night watch!

KH: BTW, why was it called 'Quest for Pelts' on those tour shirts?

RS: In 1984, before we recorded "Babes..." we decided to make up some faux tour shirts, for a tour of Canada that we had never done. We called it "The Quest For Pelts Tour." It was supposed to be a not-so-subtle sexual reference. The weird thing was that we actually got a couple of letters from people who claimed that they saw us on that tour...

KH: Ok guys, make comments

KH: Poison or Jetboy?

RS: Jetboy. Did you know that Fernie Rod was originally Frank Wilsey's (Head On's lead guitarist, now in Stephen Pearcy's band Nitronic) guitar tech? And that Billy Rowe is actually James Ray's cousin?

MM: Jetboy on the hair alone. Although I hung with Bret Michaels in LA a few nights, I think we shared a few girls?!! He was a very nice and decent man with great lips.

KH: Sybil or Ruby Slippers?

MM: I never really listened to Sybil enough to warrant a decision & I was in Slippers for a flash... so I pick Hanoi Rocks.

RS: Sybil. James is my brother in arms. Always will be.

KH: Monster Island or Blak?

RS: Cripes! I feel like Meryl Streep in "Sophie's Choice" here! Blak then!

MM: Monster what?!?!? To quote Geoff Tate, "Blak is the last thing you'll see!!!!!"

KH: Alice Cooper or Marilyn Manson?

RS: Marilyn is a fun guy, truly, but to me, Alice is all about the songs, so I'll go with Alice.

MM: Alice was a great performer and had catchy tunes, although Manson has cool eyes and I liked his beaming red locks look.

KH: Dale Bozzio or Terry Bozzio?

RS: I'll take Dale. Terry's a great drummer, but I could stare at Dale allllll day.

MM: I've stolen just about all I can steal from Terry, so I guess the chick from Hustler wins!

KH: Shades Records or Bill Burkards shop, what was that called again?

RS: It was called The Record Exchange, and for my money, both shops were just evil twins of each other! Loved them both!

MM: Both legendary and will go down in vinyl history in my mind.

KH: Glam or Goth?

RS: Goth is fun to look at, but once again, Glam has always been about the songs for me, so I'll go with Glam.

MM: Goth has moments, Glam turns heads and has more rich musical history.

KH: Films or Music?

RS: As far as doing one for fun, I'd take music. As far as doing one for a job, I'll take film (screenwriting).

MM: Music gets chicks and I'm good at it (the music part) I'm currently still working on the chick thing.

KH: Stevie Rachelle or Metal Sludge?

RS: I love The Sludge! Best thing Stevie ever did! When I found out it was him/his, I instantly developed a deep respect for the guy.

MM: Tuff?!?! Who, what... Sludge… get back to me

RS: I'm back!

MM: Back in the New York Groove!

*************

RS: Thanks for taking the time to do this man. Its appreciated, and I can't think of anyone better to do it than you.

RS: Very best

Regent

Interviewed by Kelv Hellrazor

Visit the Castle Blak Website

Visit the Matthias Montgomery Website

Visit the Good Intentions Paving Website