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Setting Things Straight: An Exclusive Interview With Former RED DRAGON CARTEL Vocalist MICHAEL BECK

By Larry Petro, News Monkey
Thursday, April 30, 2015 @ 4:00 PM

"He is who he is for a reason. He is the phenominal, top-tier guitar player that everyone thinks he is"

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Photo Credits: Tammy Buckner

Few bands have been in the news as much since their inception as has RED DRAGON CARTEL, the band formed by former Ozzy Osbourne guitarist extraordinaire Jake E. Lee, who had reemerged on the music scene after a couple decade absence in late 2013.

Originally comprised of Lee, bassist Ronnie Mancuso, drummer Jonas Fairley and vocalist Darren James Smith, the band recorded and released their self-titled debut album and went out on the road in support of the release. Despite a shaky debut performance by Smith, the band seemed to gel quite nicely as they toured the country to positive reviews.

Then came the lineup changes. In August of 2014, bassist Mancuso left the band to return to his production career and was replaced with Jake's former BADLANDS bandmate Greg Chaisson. In March of this year it was announced that the band had parted ways with vocalist Smith and that former SCARY HAIRY frontman Michael Beck would be taking over. Barely a week later Greg Chaisson announced his departure from the band and was replaced by Anthony Esposito (ACE FREHLEY, LYNCH MOB). Of course there were the cancelled tour dates scattered throughout as well. Then just a couple days ago came word that the band had enlisted Chas West (JASON BONHAM, LYNCH MOB, 3 LEGGED DOG) as the vocalist for the next leg of RDC tour dates, replacing Beck, who had only been with the band for a few short weeks.

Within an hour or so of this last news item being posted, Michael himself reached out to speak with KNAC.COM exclusively. As Michael would explain, "I have nothing negative to say at all. That's not why I'm doing this. There's a lot of negative stuff out there but there's also some stuff that's flat out not true. Anthony did an interview and said some things that just aren't factual and I just want to clarify. whether it was that he just didn't know or what, I just want to make sure that the factual part of it comes out."

What Beck was referring to is an interview that bassist Anthony Esposito, a new RDC member himself, gave to Rock Star Music last week (video HERE). During that interview Esposito is quoted as saying "Greg (Chaisson, bassist at the time) offered a singer to Jake, and that would be Michael. I don’t think Jake ever heard him sing – he went on Greg’s word.", something Michael says simply isn't true.

"I have no idea where he got that. Who would ever do that (hire a singer without ever hearing them), especially Jake E. Lee?" (laughs)

Beck goes on to recall exactly how he met the band and got the gig:

"I first met the band when they played in Phoenix, a one off show that they did with Greg (Chaisson). They actually used my studio to rehearse for that show. That's how I met Darren and got to know Jake a little bit. Me getting the gig was facilitated thru Greg. He didn't necessarily recommend me, he basically just told Jake 'Hey, I know a guy, he's a super nice guy and he's got a great voice'. Jake doesn't make any decisions unless Jake wants to make them. I sent him some material, he listened to it, he liked it and I got the gig. That's part of what I'm trying to clarify. It wasn't a 'Hey, this is my guy, take him based on my word' type of thing. I sent material in, Jake liked it and told me that we were touring. It was as simple as that."

In still another portion of Esposito's interview he says “He had a horrible first show, singing the wrong lyrics. It’s just not a good spot to be in. He kind of got shredded too.” Of course the first show he's referring to took place in Miami on April 16th in what's been widely reported as Michael inexplicably singing the words to "Now you See It (Now You Don't)" instead of the actual set opener "The Ultimate Sin". Some sites, like Ultimate-guitar.com, have even gone as far as to imply that Beck was dismissed from the band in part due to this screw up. But Michael says nothing could be further from the truth.

"None of what has gone on has to do with Miami. I was priveleged to be able to share the stage with Jake. He told me on multiple occassions, 'Hey, you're doing a really good job, sounding great'. If I can't take Jake's word I don't know who else's to take, it's his band. Overall, throughout the whole tour he'd tell me 'You know I forgot to tell you the other night so I'm telling you now, great job'. I'm taking Jake on Jake's word. I mean, who else's would I take? It's all that mattered to me."

So what really happened in Miami? Beck gave a perfectly logical rundown of what went wrong that night:

"It was an unfortunate situation that, in this day and age, happens in front of 5 cameras. When we went onstage, immediately something went wrong with one of Jake's cabs and it was howling like a wolf in the wind. We went on at 2:30 in the morning after sitting on the bus for 5 hours waiting to go on. We were the headlining band after 11 bands that started at 2 in the afternoon. Anthony's (Esposito) bass rig was so hot you could fry an egg on it and basically sounded like one note. But that wasn't the problem. The problem was that the moment we went on, no soundcheck, we're 5 hours late and I had no monitors at all. All I could hear was one bass note, regardless of what he was playing, a howling guitar and no drums. Because we had gone on so late I didn't know if we were starting further down in the set or if we were starting where we were starting. It hit me literally like a ton of bricks, I couldn't hear anything and I couldn't really hear anybody else. I picked up what I thought was there and I picked up the wrong thing. I own that, that's my fault. I've been calling it the 'no monitor ozzy mashup' for weeks now." (laughs)

"After that first initial song things got straightened out to where you could hear things a little bit and get our bearings and the rest of the set was fine. It wasn't the greatest first show, but none of them are as a first show. It was a debacle but I'll own it, I have no problem with that."

Of course, our readers will recall that the first show with Darren James Smith wasn't the hottest either, and many YouTube videos of that performance were less than complimentary, but he ended up doing alright, which is exactly the same scenario that unfolded for Beck.

"Every song, every show after that was better, and it just got better and better and better. I didn't pay attention to the negative press about it. People are gonna say what they're gonna say and it really doesn't concern me. I just wanted to do my job, my gig and have the opportunity and I did."

So what about his departure from the band and being 'replaced' by Chas West? It was actually a situation that Michael was completely aware of almost from the time he joined the band and he's a bit perplexed as to the attention that the news has received.

"That's another thing I want to clarify. I haven't been replaced. I knew the way that it was unfolding that there was a strong possibility that they were gonna use multiple singers. They told me about it, they let me know and I talked with them about it. These were the dates that I could do and it worked out. I knew there were more (singers) coming. If Chas (West) is the guy I wish him all the best, but I think there's probably 1 or 2 more behind him. So it's not like he's replacing me any more than the next guy will be replacing him.

I'm not privy to all the information, I'm only privy to mine. Before I went on tour that's what I was told, that was another 1, 2 maybe 3 different singers that were going to be taking some of the dates in the itinerary that was set up and I didn't know if I was gonna do the west coast run or if I wasn't. They were simply trying to fill the dates they had and I'm totally okay with that. I knew this wasn't a replacement situation."

And in an exclusive revelation to KNAC.COM, Michael has decided not to return to the band if the opportunity presented itself.

"So they're going through multiple singers and there was a chance that I might do some dates in the future, but I think I'm going to take myself out of that running. I've got some other things that I've got cooking that I'm really excited about. As much as I love singing the BADLANDS stuff and I love singing Darren's stuff, even the Ozzy stuff, I want to sing my songs. There's some opportunities that are being presented and I'm really excited about one of them and I'll give more information about that as it comes up. So, I'm unfortunately going to take myself out of the running, if I was, for anything in the future. I'm telling you, right now."

Still, Michael has no regrets about his time in RED DRAGON CARTEL.

"All I know is what I know from my end and what I know is the time I spent playing with Jake was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I've always loved him as a player, I loved him while I was doing it and I love him now that it's done. He is who he is for a reason. He is the phenominal, top-tier guitar player that everyone thinks he is, it's exactly what he is.

I've had a great time and I've shared it with some great people and I'm grateful I got the opportunity to do so and I'm really excited about the stuff that's coming up. I've got nothing to be upset about at all. I had enough on my lap and I was just worried about me and how I fit in with what was going on."

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