One of the first people in the local music scene I have had the privilege of being introduced to since moving to Windsor was none other than Alex Petrovich (a.k.a Al the Yeti Bones). Known around town as the vocalist for Gypsy Chief Goliath and a talented “mixer/masterer” for many other recording bands, he is also the brains behind The Yeti Agency. What follows is my very own “Interview With a Yeti.”
Rees: First let’s talk about Gypsy Chief Goliath. Tell me a bit about the music. What can first-time listeners expect?
The Yeti: GCG came about after all our previous bands came crashing down. The way things fizzle out sometimes leaves with an “unfinished business” type mentality. A band can take years to fully “hit their stride” and I feel that I haven’t hit mine yet. I write songs every day, of all genres. Some get tossed into the “band mix” and some never make it off my Pro Tools. Gypsy Chief Goliath came about as a concept where I wanted to hand pick the members of other bands that happened to have fizzled out the same way Georgian Skull did. So I asked Dave Ljubanovich from Blood Runs Cold, and Adam Saitti from Georgian Skull to join, alongside John Kendrick from Keef, and a schoolmate of mine who played the harmonica named Brodie Stevenson also got brought in. We’re from all parts of the province and being so far apart I think keeps us united and focused on the main goal. Music is an evil quality in my life, it tends to take over when I’m in that mode, so to have everyone live down the street from each other, would probably (and has at times) ruin my life. It’s like having to be Batman all the time. Although it would be cool, a real life has to be lived as well. So when the “Bat Signal” is in the air, that is when we all unite and do Gypsy Chief Goliath. It’s a band, but more importantly it’s turning into a monster. When we hit the road this summer for the Band of Gypsies Tour 2011, we’ll show you exactly what I mean.
Rees: What unique perspectives are brought to the band by each of the other members?
The Yeti: I think we will be jamming a lot more, and the clean and “separation of the parts” that we write after recording the album, all became a lot tighter. The elements each guy brings to the table is unique from the other. We all have an understanding for what to play in a song to help that song be the best it can be. No one shines over the other, cause we’re playing to the song and not for the parts we play to shine. We’d like to think that the song is shining on its own.
Rees: As vocalist, what do you find is the hardest part of a live show?
The Yeti: Personally, I have a real love/hate relationship with music, but do agree that performance is a different beast entirely. If you successfully integrate the two into one show, it is quite amazing. Alice Cooper does it to the extreme, and guys like Neil Fallon do it more to a raw, stripped-back, barely-speak-between-songs approach. Whereas Cooper’s performance is almost a broadway musical. I’d like to think that I give it 1000% all the time on stage, but I know there is always something more I can do. It comes with being comfortable, and you have to possess a certain type of arrogance (which I don’t believe I have) to try and not come off pretentious when you are up there acting like something bigger than you really are. That is my problem sometimes with performing. I often feel like I’m out of my head and think “How do I appear to others?” It’s a lack of connection that I feel on some nights. And on other nights, its a total connection. I think the honest approach is best. I’ve had my best performances on nights where I was really sober and able to hear and separate all the parts going on when played, and understand a more technical view of things. It makes you connect more. You are inside the moment, and feel that moment almost fuses with what’s happening outside the body. With what’s actually coming out of the amps. With what’s honestly being heard. I’ve had nights where I was too hammered to be up there, or on something else, and I’m not listening. At all. I’m up there spewing out the lyrics but I’m slightly off time, I’m screaming more then I usually do, and not watching how the band is playing with each other. I lose my voice and I lost the connection with the audience. Because I simply wasn’t there… the hardest part of a live show is delivering the goods every fuckin night and still being able to connect.
Rees: How much time does the band spend writing original material? How much original material has never been played live?
The Yeti: We spend a lot of time writing original material. Dave and I are always sending each other demos back and forth through email, and adding to them, then sending them back to each other. Once we get something viable and ready to be brought into the mix, we’ll bring it up with the band, then the parts start getting arranged, and hooks start coming into their own. I think the next album is going to be half written in the cottage studio next time. We’ll have tapes upon tapes and cell phone recordings, and Pro Tool demos, MP3s and CD-Rs filled with riffs, vocals, drum beats, and tons of melodies that we’ll already have halfway put together, but come time to record, we’ll be approaching those ideas with fresh intentions, and new found arrangements. There is a lot of songs we haven’t played live yet, that we’re currently working on in rehearsals for the tour. About a week or two before the tour begins, I’ll be in Toronto with the guys rehearsing every single day for tour, then meeting up with Pigeon Park in Windsor on August 4th which is a Thursday night that will kick off the tour this summer. It’ll be down at the Coach.
Rees: Where did the name Gypsy Chief Goliath come from? Does it have a specific meaning to the band?
The Yeti: Long story short, I wanted this name to be something bigger than the last. Georgian Skull was a great name because of the meaning behind it. It had a historic meaning that was very fitting and no one had taken it yet. Which was really quite shocking under the circumstances of the meaning. So I wanted this one to be more mythological sounding and more of everything that we wanted to do musically. Each word can speak for itself and each word could be a band on its own. But we felt that one name could not pin point us as well as three could. Gypsy Chief Goliath. Its perfect for who we are.
Rees: Describe your vocal “style”… do you have anyone else you like to compare yourself to, or do you prefer to be classified as incomparable?
The Yeti: My vocal style comes from a few places that I had worked on for years. It comes from the blues, specifically, and guys like Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, and Jim Morrison of course, but the heavier aspect of me comes from guys like Neil from Clutch, Alice Cooper and Phil Anselmo. But I definitely try to NOT do what they do, and have tried to find my own way through. I haven’t listened to my influences in a very very long time, I refuse to nowadays simply because my own style is what I’m developing, and I develop each day by listening to other things now. I’ve honed my skills to the point where I feel comfortable to not play guitar and sing at the same time, and just focus on being a vocalist. As of late, people I’m in awe with are guys like: Mike Patton, Miles Kennedy, and even the guy from the band Graveyard. I’m definitely in a stage where I am listening to different things. All the time. Instrumental music as well. But I don’t compare myself to anyone else, I compare me, to me. The Yeti. That’s the only person I compare myself to, everyday.
Rees: Now let’s discuss The Yeti Agency. Describe the kinds of services you provide and what a band can expect when they deal with The Yeti.
The Yeti: Well we are a full-on management agency for bands across Canada. The more communication you have with us, the more we can do with you. If you don’t keep the lines open for communication it becomes very difficult to help build you. We all have to start somewhere, and our job is to take you from that place and bring you to somewhere else. Hopefully higher. Benefits from dealing with us are that you have a site that attracts a lot of viewers from sponsorships, and movie and television companies coming to our site on a daily basis, as we also license out music for television, commercial, and film. Now while I can’t say we’ve placed anything in the past, we are currently in the process of placing some music as we speak. Very exciting things are happening in our first year of business. We’ve lost a few bands along the way; it is only normal at this stage. To make sure our priorities continue in the right direction, some ties have to be cut. Like I said, its only natural these things are definitely expected. We book tours, we book out of town shows, we push your music to labels and A&R reps, we are also working on sponsorships and endorsements for tour packages ie.. strings, sticks, picks, and chicks. Haha… Like I said, we’re also placing music into film, and T.V. The next step in the agency will be to form a Publishing Company/Record Label. Everything is pointing to that direction. The Yeti Agency is also advised through the experience of Mia Tyler (Steven Tyler’s daughter, ONR Management Co-Founder) and Morgan Lander from the band Kittie. We are focused on developing a community of bands that are all trying to climb this ladder together.
Rees: Tell us about your education background and how it affects the music you record for others, and the music you make with Gypsy Chief.
The Yeti: Well, I have a diploma in Music Industry & Arts. It’s an audio engineering program that also specializes in Music Business. The president of Sony was a grad, Survivorman was a grad, and the producer who did the Ozzy and Rob Zombie records as of late was also a grad. And plenty of other ties to the music industry through this program. It’s pretty badass, when it comes to our professors too, cause they were all guys out in the industry kickin’ ass for years before they got jobs with the college. Plus, a lot of them are still working in the industry. Our production teacher just won another Juno this last year. I came from a heavy touring background and played in bands on a national level before I got into school so that helped me progress along quickly, because I had already had my name on 4-5 records and ended up recording my own album for Georgian Skull deep into my 1st year of school, and it was being sent out to Scarlet Records/SPV label. So there were things I had been busy with all throughout school. I didn’t have much time to spend worrying about projects for school, as a lot of things were on my plate in those years. But I finished, and when I did, it took about a year or two to really let the pieces fall where they did. I had a job in New York at a studio there, and a publishing job as well in New Jersey. The internship at Indie Pool, that pretty much saved my life, solidifying a great friendship with Mia Tyler, and even made it through several hundred writing auditions for an interview with the show “Out There: w/ Melissa DiMarco.” All these things played a HUGE roll in the business that I eventually went on to start. My goal is to keep as busy as possible, I’d say I’ve managed to do that quite well. In Sept. after the summer tour, I fly to British Columbia with our harmonica player Brodie to produce the next Pigeon Park album, which is going to be so heavy. Compared to the last one which ultimately came out like a Black Crows or Chilli Peppers sounding record, this next one is going to be much more Graveyard, Witchcraft, meets Big Business.
Rees: You recently moved back to Windsor. What do you hope to do for the local scene? What do you hope to see change?
The Yeti: Well I just want to get re-familiarized within the scene and go out to as many shows as possible. Get talking to everyone and push some business, but also spread some advice too. Windsor always had the best scene in Canada, and it goes unnoticed a lot of the time, because other town are just so much bigger. I’d like to see Windsor change in the regard that big promoters and big festival people should have more faith in their locals and give the opportunities that are deserved by our locals to play these big shows that come to town. There are a lot more acts in Windsor that are doing things on a national, and global level that are basically being shoved under the radar, and dismissed. I think Windsor could use a festival where all the big bands and bars take part in it, and everyone comes out to play including the majors of Windsor. But the locals will be what steal the show.
Rees: What is your overall opinion of “friendly competition” amongst bands?
The Yeti: I’m into it. I like it. You hear legendary stuff about the L.A Strip because the bands all hated each other, but still did shows together. The fans not knowing what would happen was what made it exciting. I think here, we tend to try and be too nice to one another, I like the mutual respect factor and I like everyone getting along to a point, but I also like knowing there are bands here that are united and are against other bands here. Shit-talking helps sell things. If we had a bigger scene, where you didn’t have to see everyone each night if you chose to go out, I’d say it would be even worse. I remember years ago I started a lot of shit with bands, and to a point I still don’t regret it, but on certain aspects I can see now, that I was just being young and stupid. But if to be young and stupid isn’t rock and roll, then I don’t know what is.
Rees: Would you say that you are proud of what Windsor has accomplished with music?
The Yeti: Yes. Very proud. I just wish that it wasn’t always the same people you keep hearing about, as they are not the only ones making waves. I feel sometimes I live and breath in the underground and no one else knows about anything I’m doing.
Rees: Say a new band wants some advice from you on how to be “successful.” Define success and tell me what you would say to them.
The Yeti: I’d say if you can make money playing music, you are successful. Have dreams that are realistic, and go for them. Be an opportunist, and never let one slip you by. Also understand that music costs money and making music costs money, so don’t spend all your money on drugs and alcohol. And save a little bit more each week to buy a van.
Rees: What can we expect musically from Gypsy Chief Goliath over the next while? Do you guys plan on changing it up a bit, or sticking to that same style everyone’s come to love?
The Yeti: New album: “It’s A Walk In The Mist” on Black Vulture Records Sweden, coming out this year. Summer tour from Aug. 4th-28th from Windsor to Prince Edward Island and back. You can expect the next record to be much more soulful, integrated with more jazz and more blues. But its going to definitely be heavier. Heavier on the soul, that is. Musically it will delve into many different styles, but the one thing will remain… Our input will still be channeled through what it is we do. And that’s just rock and roll. We’re just going to get better. That’s our goal.
Rees: If you could pick any other city in the world to live in with the purpose of enjoying the local music, what city would it be?
The Yeti: Stockholm, Sweden. I think that Sweden has been consistently the greatest music scene. All genres of music have been coming out of there, forever, and they go on to be some of the coolest bands on the planet. From Death Metal to Rock n’ Roll, they’ve been proving that a lot of different kinds of genres can survive in one scene, it doesn’t all just have to be from one style.
Rees: Any final thoughts?
The Yeti: We’re playing Coach N’ Horses with Pigeon Park and a few more bands for our tour kickoff party Thurs. Aug. 4th 2011. Please come on out, we will have merchandise FINALLY!
We need your money to help us go on tour!