It’s funny, really. Do any research about the band Little Caesar, and you’d be hard-pressed to find any article, anywhere, that doesn’t obsess about the band’s image, and how their tattooed biker look was at odds with the hair-metal bands of the late 80’s. The music always seems to get lost in the shuffle. Well, Little Caesar has come roaring back with their latest release, American Dream, and anyone who likes good, honest, real hard rock simply has to give it a listen. As far as image goes, lead vocalist Ron Young, would be the first one to tell you that if you like–or dislike–Little Caesar because of how the band looks, he doesn’t want you as a fan.
If honesty in your music is important, with that has to come the visual aspects as well. I don’t want to have graying hair down to my ass.
“We caught a lot of grief back in the day because we looked so rough and scary, whatever adjectives you want to use. Most of that was an overt attempt to stand out from everything our contemporaries in Los Angeles were doing. We wanted to be very honest, down to earth and accessible, so that people could relate to us. We did not like the whole rock star thing and the glamor thing. We felt things were going to change–and lo and behold, the whole alternative/grunge thing, with the flannel shirts, the facial hair, it proved us right on that aspect. Here it is, 25 years later, and I have more respect for my fans… I’m trying to be age-appropriate. Grow old gracefully. I’m not trying to fool anyone like I’m 29. I don’t want to dye my hair, I don’t want to wear tons of Affliction and Ed Hardy wear and wallet chains and patchwork leather pants and put tons of eye makeup so you don’t see the wrinkles around my eyes. If honesty in your music is important, with that has to come the visual aspects as well. I don’t want to have graying hair down to my ass.”
That philosophy carries over as to how the band, which, in addition to Young, is Loren Molinare and Joey Brasler on guitars, Fidel Paniagua on bass, and Tom Morris on drums, created American Dream. “We do this now just because we love making music, and we love making music together,” says Young. “There’s no big record deals, there’s no A&R guys and managers, or attorneys, or anyone who gets in the way or dilutes the process or dynamic. So it’s really just a bunch of guys who get together in a room and write songs, and from there its ‘let’s make a record the way they used to do,’ the way they made all the records that we cherish. And you go in, you get some good sounds, and you leave it pure and honest and spontaneous and don’t over think it, and then just move on. There’s imperfections, and yeah, we could have done this or that a little different, but a record is supposed to be that–a moment in time.”
“One thing about Little Caesar is we were always a classic rhythm and blues-based rock band, which allowed us at the time to be true to our roots, and allows us 25 years later to keep making straight rock & roll, and not stuff that was heavy production-influenced music, or flavor of the year type music, which makes it difficult for these other bands.” When Young refers to “these other bands,” he is talking about 80’s metal bands that continue to tour, make music, and dress as if they were frozen in time in 1989 and just thawed out yesterday. Young will, very diplomatically, not name those bands on the record, but catch him in private and chances are he’ll give you an earful. “They have to keep all that stuff going, because they are trying to be capture a moment in time. Not to mention that in these bands, there’s only one or two original members, anyway. I’ve always found that a bit strange. It should be about the music…it should always be about the music. That emphasis on looks, unfortunately killed hard rock and heavy metal in the 80’s. It was all about the external, and very little about the playing or the songwriting. You can’t hang out at the Rainbow every night of your life until you’re 55 years old. I’m not going to even try to fool you into thinking that’s the way I still live, or that’s the way the band still lives,” he says with a great laugh.
The band kicked off touring to promote the new album in Europe, which seems an odd place for a Southern California-based band to start. However, there is a good reason for that. “People really took to our music early on in Europe. Because we were more blues-based than the pop-metal stuff that was going on, and there’s a much stronger blues and R&B fan base in Europe that appreciates that kind of music, it’s logical for us to go there. Also, you could overlay the state of Texas onto Europe, so from an efficiency standpoint, you can go and hit a lot of towns, and play to a lot more people. Logistically, it not only makes more sense, it’s more feasible economically. The press is more responsive. It’s a smaller community of more passionate fans. People in the States tend to be more fickle, more jaded, a lot more lackadaisical in their passion for music. I know a lot of bands that will do a Friday and Saturday night show here in the U.S., and make a pretty good income, and the rest of the week they’re starving. We don’t do this full-time. For us, we’ve all got jobs, we all need to pay our mortgages, we all need to be functional adults. We get a couple of weeks that we all take off work, we all tell our bosses a year in advance ‘this is the window of time we’re all going to play music.’ Everything else is weekend-warrior stuff. We can do a festival or one-off shows here and there.”
Not exactly the life of a rock star, right? Mentioning that really gets Young chuckling. “Knuckle down and write songs, record the songs, jump on a plane and go on tour…that’s hard enough when we did it full-time! Now we’re doing it while working full-time. It requires patience, and to remember why we’re really doing it, because it really can kick your ass. It’s funny…you hear about ‘backstage.’ I’m still waiting to see what that glamour is all about, because it’s mostly about moving gear, not forgetting stuff, trying to keep that drunk guy away, cramming into a dressing room, figuring out where I can stash the guitars without them being stolen… it’s like yeah, this is really glamorous,” he laughs. “That’s one thing that never changes. The gear’s breaking down, you don’t get a sound check because you’re not the headliner, and there’s that drunk guy again in your dressing room after the show that won’t leave. I can’t sit around until 3:00 drinking and telling stories. I’ve got to get to bed so I can get a decent night’s sleep so I can get up at 7:00 and get on the bus and make it to the next stop on the tour and do the whole thing all over again.”
“When people come up to me with serious questions, deeper conversations, I can totally relate to that. They say ‘Hey man, the year your record came out I was working this shitty job and I listened to the album all the time and it got me through it.” I love to hear that stuff, because that’s the connection that I always had to music. I can picture myself when I used to sit there and close my eyes and totally relate to a Zeppelin song or a Bad Company song or a Muddy Waters song. So when people come up to me and they’re totally sincere about that stuff, or they have really serious questions, that’s really a blessing other than just [imitates deep, drunken voice] ‘you guys rock!'”.
Talk to Young for a while and you really begin to appreciate his sense of humor. No rock star attitude for him. As passionate as he is about his music–and make no mistake, he most definitely is–he doesn’t take things so seriously that he can’t go for a laugh at his expense. “We do shows and the promoter says ‘You’re going on at 12:30.’ And we say ‘No. We don’t go on past 10:00 pm.’ Why? A–it’s past my bedtime, B–it’s past our fan’s bedtime!”
How can you not like a guy like that? Tell it like it is, Ron…tell it like it is.