New Jersey has been home to some of the most influential punk and rock bands in the United States. The notables spanning over the decades who call the Garden State their home, is an impressive list to say the least; from The Smithereens and The Misfits to Bon Jovi, Trixter, Skid Row and Tyketto.
Tyketto released their first album, Don’t Come Easy, in 1991. When they shot the video, for the single, Forever Young, the amount of attention and madness around them at that time was daunting. Laughing with Drummer, Michael Clayton, about Tyketto’s early years and how “green’ they all really were at that time is like sitting with an old friend. “Yes…I remember!” laughs Clayton. “It was actually a huge sound stage on the outskirts of LA…. And we had to get there like 6:30 in the morning and it was just so… so over the top with everything there was a full construction crew and lighting, make-up crew, hair crew… it was like a mini movie set! I think it was the video director who had the idea of running video montages of the storyline while we were playing. It was an amazing time because it was our first video and we didn’t know what to expect. I think they went with the actor and actress the day before and shot it the desert; all that footage that they were in turn playing on the screen, once we got to our part of the filming. So it was interesting to see the whole process.”
When we thought about doing a new record, we couldn’t even think about it without Brooke.
Throughout the years, the members of Tyketto have always been in touch one way or another. Though everyone is spread out and living in different parts of the world, when the band decided to record new music after eighteen years, for their newest release, Dig In Deep, they wouldn’t do it without each other. “We have always kept various friendships, “says Clayton, “Danny and Brooke coincidentally moved to Nashville about twelve to fifteen years ago and they ended up having dinner together a couple of times. Jimmie and I stayed in Jersey together so we’re always bumping into each other. He plays in a couple of area cover bands for fun. Danny and I had a good five-year run with the Vaughn records that we did together. So over the years we all kind of brushed into each other but never collectively. When we decided to do this Tyketto thing, Brooke had just landed a very well-paying job in Las Vegas in a very big classic rock show band called, Yellow Brick Road, that he made very very good money in and very much a full-time effort. He actually passed on playing with AC/DC; he recollects it as… the worst decision he’s ever made in his life! Yeah, cause when we played the Down Festival, it was Rage Against The Machine, AC/DC, Aerosmith… it was crazy! I think it was the old Donington Park festival and it’s now called Download and they do about… about ninety-odd-thousand people a day. So we started hitting the festival circuit. Maybe about four or five years ago we did Sweden Rock and Hard In Rio. When we thought about doing a new record, we couldn’t even think about it without Brooke. About three or four years ago, Danny and I just decided that we didn’t want to keep playing the same old recycled songs for everybody so we decided to see if a new record was in us. Danny and I flew out to Vegas about two and a half years ago and we just sat around writing. And it was like getting together with an old girlfriend or an old boyfriend; it was very comfortable… we know each other very well; we’re very dear friends and we decided to give the record a shot so… we’ve all been bouncing around the last decade or two but we never really came together until two years ago.”
With everyone living in different parts of the country, it made the writing and recording process a bit unorthodox as everything was done from homes or “skyped.” There were times not more than possibly one or two people were in the same room at the same time. “We were a band with a first album that was written and recorded with us living in the same house together,” laughs Clayton, “all of our equipment was right in the basement so Danny would kick the door open at two in the morning and write down a song idea, I’d be excited about it and run downstairs with him and by three in the morning we’d make a pot of coffee write a song and play it. We didn’t have that opportunity with this record; it was much more difficult. Brooke, his wife and two kids relocated to Wisconsin, Jimmy and I am here in Jersey and Danny is in Malaga, Spain” States Clayton. “Yeah, he went from Nashville to Ireland; he lived there for a while, then he lived in Gibraltar for a while… yeah so he’s been bouncing all over the place. We definitely made sure to record together; definitely the rhythm tracks. We toyed around with different ideas, we flew everybody here; just with the difficulties of sorting the travel out, we figured we’d need to do everything in one sweep. So the guys lived at my house for two months. We wrote the record, left to record the record, rehearsed for the record and then headed out to Europe to do live shows. So I think Brooke came to my house mid to late September… and then he went back to Wisconsin a couple of times. He actually has a full studio in his house so he was sending us guitar over-dubs and solos remotely. We did most everything at Millbrook Studios in upstate New York where we did the two solo Vaughn records. Brooke mastered the whole thing once we laid down the tracks at Millbrook.”
Frontiers Records, Tyketto’s label, wanted to do a video for the first single, Faithless, but the money involved just to bring the guys together again from their distant locales, would have cost an arm and a leg. Clayton knew there was just no way, without unlimited funds, to fly everyone back together again. “We just couldn’t logistically make it work,” says Clayton, “and the label doesn’t hand out videos to everybody but once they heard the title track; Faithless, they said, ‘We have to do a video for this song.’ So I told ‘em, ‘Your budget would have to be double what you’re expecting to spend just to get everybody together.’ We let the label decide what the single would be ’cause they know their market better in Europe than I do in New Jersey so we just gave them thirteen great songs and they picked the single and the running order of the record. They gave us full artistic license on the album cover; they had a hand in it but they let us make the final decision so it was a good barter system. In retrospect, I think they picked the right song because they wanted to pick a song that the old-school Tyketto fans would be comfortable with. Tyketto was never really a big radio smash hit… besides Forever Young being a big MTV hit, we didn’t have that mainstream visibility that a lot of the bigger bands have so our audiences are very grass-roots; ya know we book a tour and need eight months to promote it; and we’ll always sell out a club but we need the eight months. So to have Facebook and the other social networks… don’t forget when we started writing the record it was all done through Skype sessions. Brooke and I and the keyboard player were in my living room and we were Skyping Danny; we were writing a song that way. So I don’t think this record would have happened for us if it weren’t for the digital age. We were really put to the test.”
Another fun track off Dig In Deep, Here’s Hoping It Hurts, is classic Tyketto and a favorite with most everyone who hears it; reactions to the lyrics have been quite interesting to say the least in the Tyketto camp. “Everybody loves that one!” Clayton says with a hearty chuckle. “That’s the one that kind of snuck up on everybody like ‘this song is fantastic!’ It’s really… well, it’s catchy and it’s poppy but if you listen to it, the lyrics are very dark! It’s wrapped up in this pop package that ah… you don’t quite notice it until the third listen… this guy’s talking about his ex in the ground and he’s talking about having a drink on her grave! Like none of us have ever thought about that once or twice after harsh break-up.”
So what now for Tyketto? “I want people to know that this isn’t one member with three unknown guys onstage… those are cover bands to me… this is the same four guys that started this and we wouldn’t have it any other way; gotta keep the family together,” Clayton states with conviction. “We’re very proud of the fact that we’re one of the few bands out there that can do that… nobody’s suing anybody or punching anybody in the face and the way I equate the band as a manager is, I love the fact that I can just throw four hotel keys or two hotel keys on the table and there’s never an issue with anyone having to share a room or ‘room together’ cause it’s four friends and it’s mix-n-match cause any of the two of us or three of us could take off and do things together… so the family is kind of back together… I do think and I’m very proud of the fact that the record takes a couple listens… the songs are very diverse, we didn’t stay within our 1990 Tyketto confines. It reminds me of a Led Zeppelin album… you can listen to it over and over again and still find new things about it every time you listen to it… we’ve made something real special here and I think it’s going to be around for a little while and I’m very proud of that. I’m 50 in September, Danny just turned 50, Brooke’s gonna be 50 in October; we’re all very close in age… the Tyketto boys have aged quite well,” laughs Clayton, “someone asked me last week what our goal was with the record and to be honest with you, at this point in my life it’s already been met. I’m very proud of this record… it doesn’t have a time stamp on it, I think it’s Danny’s best lyrical outing that he’s ever attempted; his lyrics are phenomenal on this record and I think we all just kind of went in with a very relaxed attitude . I think we do have another record in us… but for now… our label has been phenomenal setting up press world-wide, we’ve got rave reviews on the record… in a sense, I’m good!”
Whether the members of Tyketto are going on fifteen or fifty, nothing seems to be slowing them down; nobody’s killing each other or “stuck on stupid” but living the best lives they can, making the music they love and for the people who love them—Tyketto: Dig In Deep.