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3 Ring Circus: An Exclusive Interview With ALEX MITCHELL Of CIRCUS OF POWER

By Ruben Mosqueda, Contibutor
Sunday, December 10, 2017 @ 3:07 PM


"I have to be honest, I don’t think we reached our potential at all....Being away for a while has made me hungry."

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Alex Mitchell and CIRCUS OF POWER landed on our radar in 1988 when we saw their music video for “Call Of The Wild” on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball. The clip became a staple on the music network and was followed up by “Motor” which also was well received. CIRCUS OF POWER went on to release two more albums before disbanding; Vices followed by Magic & Madness. Mitchell reformed CIRCUS OF POWER in recent years with new members but with the same attitude. CIRCUS OF POWER are set to released their latest effort Four which is appropriately titled as it’s their 4th album. “It sounds like a CIRCUS OF POWER record because it’s me. I mean, I’m the only original member left in the band, at the same time it’s different, we’re using keyboards on the record. I think Four reminds me of THE CLASH’s London Calling because there’s different moods on this album---it’s a very unconventional record. Like ours! I love records like THE (ROLLING) STONESSticky Fingers, THE DAMNED’s Machine Gun Etiquette and THE BEATLES’ White Album which are records that are all over the place and I love that,” says the enthusiastic frontman. KNAC.COM caught up with Mitchell about the new album, the old days and to revisit the Four album review. I must add addendum to my review of Four. While my initial review was ‘lukewarm’ at the time I wrote it, in the past few weeks the whole album has grown on me. In fact, the second half of the record, specifically “Hot Rod Girls”, “Love Sick Blues”, “The Tea Song” and “Blood At Standing Rock” have replaced my initial favorites and more accessible tunes on Four.

KNAC.COM: You released your debut album Circus Of Power and the follow up Vices on RCA then moved to Columbia for Magic & Madness, then shortly after, CIRCUS OF POWER disbanded. What precipitated the band’s demise? Was the end sudden or did it happen progressively?

MITCHELL: First of all, I’m not going to lay blame on anybody or the record company or anything like that. I have to be honest, I don’t think we reached our potential at all. I’ve listened to the new record over 100 times in my car and probably another 50 times in the studio. In my opinion this is our best record. There are 5 songs I like on the first record, 1 or 2 songs on the second record and 2 to 3 songs on the third record, that’s me being very honest with you.

I think the first thing that began the demise of the band was us getting rid of our drummer Ryan (Maher)---he was the heart and soul of the band. That was stupid. I have since had many a drunken conversation with him on the matter. While it wasn’t my idea, I went along with it and that was a mistake. I have to own that. We had a session drummer that came in, the vibe was dead and that was the end of the band. Also, I have to say I had something to do with that too, I can be a real pain in the ass! (laughs) The dynamic was like having five girlfriends in the band! (laughs) Do you know how hard that is?! (laughs) It wasn’t working anymore and I’m glad that it ended to tell you the truth. I’m also glad that it allowed me to go back to work, I have worked as a carpenter for all these years.

KNAC.COM: What was motivator to get the band back together? What inspired you to write new material and release new music?

MITCHELL: You have to remember, it’s been 25 years since I released any music under the name CIRCUS OF POWER. I asked the guys, the original band to play on this record, they either didn’t want to do it or couldn’t geographically, I said fuck it! I’ll do it! (laughs) I remember it was late at night and I was watching Almost Famous on TV, I recall it was during the scene when the bus is going down the desert and LED ZEPPELIN’s “Tangerine” starts playing and I said “That’s It! That’s It! I’m starting CIRCUS OFPOWER tomorrow!” (laughs) The next day I started working on songs and artwork ideas for what would become Four.

One of the songs that was laying around was “Half A Dozen Roses”, which was a song that I had written with (former CIRCUS OF POWER bassist) Gary (Sunshine), it’s a Stonesy song, it wasn’t used for anything so I decided to have that on the record. We went into the studio with 15-16 songs, one of the songs we recorded was BLACK SABBATH’s “The Wizard”. If you can believe this, we didn’t have one rehearsal for the record and we didn’t do any pre production for that record. I gave the songs to (drummer) Brant Bjork and he just nailed it and then the other guys who also nailed the songs. Let me put it to you this way: Four was recorded, mixed and mastered for $1500.00. Dig that! (laughs) And the video for “Fast And Easy” was done for $600.00! Can you imagine that?! (laughs) The whole recording of this album was just magic. I think I did about four hours of vocals total on the entire thing. I don’t think we got ‘lucky’ or anything like that, I think it’s because we have such great chemistry as a band which helped a lot. Being away for a while has made me hungry, we already have ¾ of the next record written.

The people that have been coming out to the shows over the past couple of years are rabid. They aren’t the fans from the old days, they’re younger fans and they love to hear the old stuff but they also want to hear new music. That’s a huge motivator, it keeps us hungry to do this some more. I have to say that there’s a couple of guys from the old days that are happy that we’ve move on with the name and there’s a couple that aren’t. I’m happy doing this and I just want to keep making music. I wish they’d all be happy about it but there’s nothing I can do about that.

KNAC.COM: What has happened with CIRCUS OF POWER isn’t too far removed to what transpired with JUNKYARD. David Roach got some guys that wanted to play the music and record new music and they’re out there doing it right now.

MITCHELL: We love JUNKYARD they’re alright people, they gave us a hand when we got back out there. We played some gigs with them, we were so nervous and really rusty! (laughs) I recall we weren’t that good that night but we did some more gogs and we began to hit our stride. The shows were hard, heavy and fun. I’d invite everybody on stage to sing “Motor” it was great time.

When I got the guys in the band I let them know that we weren’t going to be a CIRCUS OF POWER ‘cover band’, I wanted to be relevant, I wanted new music and I wanted to start fresh. I don’t want to be nodding off while I’m going through the set list! (laughs)

KNAC.COM: I have to say that some of my favorite songs have become the songs on the tail end of the record. It wasn't that way at first; I really have grown to enjoy “Hot Rod Girls”, “Love Sick Blues”, “The Tea Song” and “Blood At Standing Rock”.

MITCHELL: You should have mentioned those in the review, dude! I know you mentioned the songs you liked in the review, but those are the most obvious. As we’re talking right now, I know you’re getting the record! (laughs)

KNAC.COM: If this were vinyl or a cassette, I’d say that side B would be my favorite. I listen to an album 6 times while I go out for a run before I write anything. The second half of the album has grown on me over the course of the past month.

MITCHELL: Fair enough. I have to say that I Love this record! (laughs) I really like “See The Sun” that's one of my all-time favorite CIRCUS OF POWER songs. “Rock Show” is great and I also enjoy “Sin City Boogie”. I can't enough of “Love Sick Blues”, also “Princess Of Mars”. I love the whole record man.

KNAC.COM: Aside from interviews, how do you plan on promoting Four? I assume that any live shows will take place in 2018 since we’re nearing the end of the year?

MITCHELL: We are absolutely looking forward to playing some shows. Ideally, we’d love to land a tour and play several shows, because that's the best way to promote the record, followed by word of mouth. I remember how that worked for METALLICA early in their career. They had no airplay and it was all word of mouth. I truly believe that if you have a good product and people hear it they'll buy it. There's a lot of diversity on this record and I feel that Four will appeal to people that are fans of all genres not just metalheads.

KNAC.COM: Daniel Rey produced the first two albums. Was he considered to work on Magic & Madness?

MITCHELL: Speaking for myself; I didn't know what a producer was supposed to bring to the table. I will give you an example of what a producer ‘should do.’ Chris Goss’ (MASTERS OF REALITY) production on the QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE album Rated-R, that's a producer! He wrote on it, he sang on it and he played on it. His influence is all over that record, you can hear him on the whole thing. Rated R sounds completely different from the debut record and it's because of Chris.

In some cases the producer takes on the role as coach, just to keep the band in line. The producer will suggest a bridge here or add a chorus there and that's the extent of it. Todd Rundgren is another producer that is all over the records he’s produced. I've always admired his work as a producer. Just listen to (MEATLOAF’s) Bat Out Of Hell. Getting back to Daniel Rey he helped us get signed, he was there and he worked on the first two records with us. Was he the ‘right' guy for those records? I don't know, I really can't say. As for Magic And Madness, was Thom Panunzio the best guy for the job? I can't really say, I'm in a different headspace now. On the new record I handled a lot of the production along with (John) Sharkey helping me. I think if we were to use an outside producer we’d have to use Chris Goss or someone like him. I would love to use someone that would bring in a 6th member mentality, otherwise I’ll just do it myself. KNAC.COM: Were all the bands from the NY scene really as tight as we perceived them to be? Was there a competitive nature there?

MITCHELL: We really were. We’d hang out and go to bars; THE CYCLE SLUTS (FROM HELL) is who we were the closest with. WHITE ZOMBIE came in on the tail end of that, they were also the ‘biggest' band to come out of the scene. Oh, also RAGING SLAB! I love those guys! (laughs) I actually just spoke with Greg (Strzempka) and I stay in touch with Alec (Morton) from RAGING SLAB. It was a great scene, it didn't last forever but it was good.

KNAC.COM: Last thing, on Magic And Madness you had a couple of guests; Jerry Cantrell (ALICE IN CHAINS) and Ian Astbury (THE CULT). How did they get involved on the album?

MITCHELL: I met Jerry at The Limelight in New York. I saw him there I introduced myself and let him know how much I loved his band. As it turns out he was a huge fan of CIRCUS OF POWER and he said “Hey man I want to work on your record!” (laughs) I was honored. The same thing happened with Ian Astbury, I met him and found out he was a fan and he wanted to help out.

I'll tell you an interesting story about Layne Staley, what a talented kid. All these guys that died way too young; Layne, Kurt Cobain and Andrew Wood from MOTHER LOVE BONE. With Chris’ (Cornell) death, they're all gone except Eddie (Vedder). So the story; I was on the ALICE IN CHAINS tour bus one night, they're drinking, I'm drinking. Layne is there and he has a bodyguard that’s there trying to keep him under control, because of his substance abuse problems. So as you know, when you're wanting to get high there's no motherfucker on earth that’s stopping you! (laughs) I mean, you’ll jump out of a 10 story building if it means getting high! So Layne reaches into his pocket and pulls out like 50 different color pills! (laughs) I'm like “No thanks dude!” (laughs) So he sits down and starts doodling around on an Etch-A-Sketch, after a few minutes he gets up, he wobbles toward me and he hands me the Etch-A-Sketch. I made eye contact with him and then I look down and look at the Etch-A-Sketch and it's a portrait of me as Jesus Christ! (laughs) It was ‘fine art’ quality, like Picasso type shit! (laughs) I look at Jerry and he says “I know dude he does this type of shit all the time.” (laughs) He was such a talented kid.


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