Beasto Blanco – Checking In On The Beast During Covid-19

Beasto BlancoIt’s been one year since Beastö Blanco stormed across Canada in their Canadian touring debut with Halestorm and Canada’s own Palaye Royale, including an electric show at London Music Hall. The band, consisting of Alice Cooper bassist Chuck Garric, Calico Cooper, Christopher (Brother) Latham, Jan LeGrow and Sean Sellers offers a gritty, in your face, back to basics rock and roll style that sets them apart from other bands, and their stage show is a sight to behold. We talked with Brother Latham and Calico Cooper recently to look back on that tour and talk about all things Beastö.

Beasto Blanco - Brother LathamBrother Latham Interview

How are you doing?
I’m doing good, real good, just trying to navigate the times like everybody else.

You have some other business and projects you do outside of Beastö, right?
I do audio editing for TV and film on the post production side so a lot of that has been on hiatus until things get back to normal because most production companies are shut down right now. Hopefully those things will be picking up again mid summer or end of summer once people start getting back to work.

Tell us, how did Beastö Blanco begin? You and Chuck go way back, right?
Yeah, Chuck and I go back to, I’m dating myself, 1986/87. I’m an Alaskan transplant and Chuck’s a Tahoe transplant and so when we both moved to L.A. to pursue music and whatnot we were one of the first people each other met and we’ve just been best buds ever since. We really hit it off and what stemmed Beastö is we had a band prior to this called The Druts in the late 90’s and it was a three piece and had a lot of fun with that but a few years back Chuck was working on some songs and he’s like man, I’ve got some songs, I want to record them, just do something fun with it. We only had 4 or 5 songs and we ended up recording those and they just came out really good. We were recording with Tommy Henriksen from Alice Cooper’s band as well who’s also a wonderful producer and mixer. And so we did these four songs and said holy cow, listen to what we’ve done here and that’s where Calico got involved as well because we had her come in and put her flavour to a lot of that first record, and it was really our way of suckering her in to being a part of the band.

Was she reluctant to join the band at first?
Well no, I don’t think she was reluctant. I think at that time Calico had been touring with her dad for quite some time and she was taking the time off to work on some of her own interests and career. I think that pretty much fell in line with when Beastö started up and once we got her out and she heard what’s happening you could see her eyes light up and she was yeah, this is so me, I’m part of this.

I read somewhere that she didn’t think of herself as a singer
Calico has definitely become more at the forefront of singing the songs. When we were doing the second record, we came up with some songs and she got into the studio and I knew she could sing well but she was doing all sorts of really cool stuff and really opened our eyes to the potential of what Beastö could be as far as future music and getting her more involved singing those vocals. She has a great range of ways to sing. If you want her to sing really soulful she can do it, if you want her to sing like a snotty brat character she can do it. It definitely helped us tailor songs and grow in our song writing and try different things. She has a lot of great ideas as well and I think we’re always evolving as song writers. We’re getting her more into that now. We’re actually writing a batch of tunes now that we’re just saying, here you go, would love to hear what you’ve got and man, there’s this one tune we’re working on right now that I really like that she came up with and so does Chuck so we’ll just move forward with this and involve her as much as she wants to be involved.

Your first album was great with some killer tracks. What stands out for me is how the album opens, with a spaghetti western style instrumental, then wham, hits you in the face and says we’re here to rock your ass off. I love it! You basically came charging out of the gates screaming we are Beastö, hear us roar.
That’s exactly what it was, and again, we didn’t have any intent in how this was coming out. We’re in there with Tommy and Chuck and I were looking at each other like oh my god, this is something really special. Maybe we should take this further instead of just having fun, and not only having fun and recording as we always do together but let’s see what we can do. In fact, we booked our first European tour back then and we didn’t even have a band yet. We got offered a tour and just said let’s do it, and we only had a portion of the songs that were on that record about to be released. That’s where Jan LeGrow, our bass player came in the picture and at that time and Tim Husung came on as our drummer. So we got those guys from Europe and bam, we hit the road. Then the second run we had Calico and we had the full show and that’s when things really started coming together for us and we became a real cohesive unit.

Tell us about the Live in Berlin album and the tour you guys did with Böhse Onkelz.
Yeah, saying they’re a really big band is an understatement, they’re like the U2 of Germany and that region but it’s funny because you get them out here or other places in the world and they might draw 5 people. Over there, they sold out this tour 10 months in advance, every arena throughout Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. So it was a real privilege to be with those guys and when Chuck said hey man, I think we’ve got this tour, I was like who? So I looked them up and I saw this festival that said it was named after them and this festival had 300,000 people!

So have your biggest shows to date been in Europe?
We have done a couple festivals but we’ve played a lot more in Europe, so we just started to work our way out here The Halestorm camp let us be a part of their thing and it was just such an honor as well, so that opened up a lot of doors. We also did some Monsters of Rock cruises and we found out that people actually like us here.

It’s a challenge for any band to get exposure so that must help a lot as well as the connection with the Alice Cooper Band. I first learned of Beastö from catching one of Chucks guitar picks at an Alice show about 7 years ago so advertising on picks does work.
It really does you know and we’re fortunate enough with Chuck being with the Alice camp and doing that sort of stuff that we’re getting the visibility through that and he’s been able to promote the heck out of it as best as he can and it’s really gotten the word out. It helps get bodies out so they’re like, I’ve heard of this band because Chuck’s in it or Calico and it’s growing and growing and it seems like we’re an underground band.

It’s good to have that connection to draw interest but the band has definitely separated itself and created its own style.
Absolutely, and when we did our first couple tours I felt that this band, the songs and the way we are as people, I don’t know, there’s something about the vibe of it and I always say I feel like we’re kind of bringing the culture of rock and roll back to the music. I very much think that Beastö is standing on its own two feet and it’s great to have a coat tail or two to get you right there but we are definitely our own entity and we love what we do.

How did you enjoy touring Canada with Halestorm and Palaye Royale?
Enjoy is an understatement, it was absolutely awesome! We’d been wanting to get to Canada and again, thanks to Halestorm and Palaye Royale for having us a part of that whole thing. The only thing that was kinda crappy was I am an Alaskan native as you know and I’m very familiar with the weather so I was thinking late April/May, spring weather I’ll probably be ok with a light jacket. Dude, it was blizzards all over the damn country! None of us had winter clothing. It was so funny we were driving through Ontario and we just went through our second blizzard. I’m not kidding when I say blizzard. Windshield wiper broke off the bus, my ass on the edge of the seat trying to find one little clear spot on the window to drive up this pass. Get to the top of the pass, hit a Wal-Mart so I can get a jacket and I go in and say “Where are your jackets? Something wintry.” She says oh I’m sorry, we had that sale back in January. I said, “Have you been outside”? Besides that, the Canadians have always been warm and I have a real soft spot for Canada in general just being from Alaska and spending a lot of time in the western part of Canada in Vancouver and Yukon Territory, I pretty much grew up in that area.

A lot of bands are doing live streams right now and you guys did one for Rolling Stone Germany and it sounded amazing. You were asked to do that on short notice as well, correct?
We had about a day and a half to prepare and one of those songs we have never played live. I don’t think we’ve even jammed it in a rehearsal. So, it’s a little nerve wracking because you have to sit down and really practice because you don’t have the loud PAs and everything that if you mess up a little bit you can hide behind it

I love the sound of the band as a whole and Sean your drummer but it was cool to hear just four of you and Chuck didn’t even pick up a guitar. It was cool to hear you each individually basically shine.
Every member of this band is so awesome, Sean, Jan, Cali and Chuck, and I’m very privileged and blessed to say I’m in a band of badasses.

You guys are nice badasses. You guys have a great relationship with your fans. Some bands develop an ego or an attitude; you guys don’t seem to have any of that.
No, you know, we are fans. When we put these shows together we think, if we were sitting out in the crowd, we want to be taken away. Chuck and Cali obviously they’ve been taking notes over the years of what’s good and what’s not good. It’s not like we plan things out, we may have a blueprint of things but every night changes. We could try to rehearse a dance move or something and never get it right or something else will evolve during a show. We might have the bullet points of what we’re going to do at a certain part of the show, like during Perception of Me we have this section where we know she has the chair and we know she’s going to step on this light and it’s going to flash, but what’s going to lead up to that, we have no idea.

Have there been any accidents on stage, any blood spilled?
No blood spilled, some really close calls. I remember playing Monsters of Rock and Cali’s bat, it’s not a fake bat and neither are those spikes in it and we’re all pretty conscious of where it’s at but there was one point, I forget which song, I think it was Death Rattle or something and Calico was swinging a haymaker with the bat and I was in motion and I just remember doing this whole Matrix bend and could feel the wind from the bat over my head and I was thinking oh my God oh my God that was close! She knows she’s baring a weapon in her hands so she keeps her space in mind during a performance. She has actually hurt herself more than anyone else in the band. I know that bat has stuck her a couple times.

Running around in those heels has to be hard as well. I remember being in awe of her and Lzzy last year during that tour. I can’t believe how well they move in those huge heels.
I think they were trying to outdo each other every night. I don’t know how they get out of those shows without a broken ankle.

Do you have a good road story?
We had a speaker catch fire in Spain. Tim was playing and his drum monitor caught on fire and it caught the set list on fire as well. I don’t know how it happened, some wires crossed or something and flames started busting out.

So nobody knew what was going on, the fans probably thought it was part of the show?
Well Calico did because she’s the one that turns around and the rest of us are facing forward rocking out and she’s tapping Chuck with the bat to let him know and he’s like leave me alone kind of thing. So then she comes over to me and hits me in the back of the leg with the bat and I’m like what the heck are you doing? So I turn around and she yells FIRE! And I look and I’m all holy shit! It could have lit these curtains up and that wouldn’t have been fun. So, we’ve got a lot of stuff like that, we always have fun.

What do you miss most being on lock down?
This whole thing’s a trip, in Los Angeles or California State you can’t go to the beaches, I love the beach, I love the outdoors so for me, I love to surf, I’m not very good at it but I can’t even do that right now. Touring, we got called off this last tour because everything got shut down and we do like to be around our fans. We have a lot of fun with them and many have become friends over the years so not being able to see some of these folks is tough. We will some day when everything gets back to normal or somewhat normal.

Beasto Blanco - Calico CooperCalico Cooper Interview

You’re hunkered down with the entire family, right? What have you been doing during this lock down?
Yes, we made a pact at the beginning of all this to do it together at my parent’s in Phoenix and let me tell you, it’s been so great. In this position we’re in there is so much work to do. My dad is finishing his record in the house. We’re both talking to Bob Ezrin over the phone and we’re shooting music videos and luckily there are so many people in the family with the capabilities of knowing how to do that. My husband owns a commercial production company, I know how to direct and we’ve been shooting every day. It’s almost like being on a film set where there’s a schedule where we’re doing this at 2:30, something else at 3:00 and this at 5:00 etc. By the time you go to bed at night you’re exhausted. I’ve also been working nonstop with Beastö. We did our lives stream for Rolling Stone Musikexpress and that was something. We’ve never done any of our songs acoustic before.

You sounded really great during that! Just Brother Latham and Jan LeGrow on guitar and bass and you and Chuck on vocals. It sounded really clean and tight.
You know it’s a learning experience for us too because no matter how cool you think you are or how good you get there’s another challenge dead ahead for you and for us it was such a vibe that you forget that these guys are really good musicians and you forget that I really can sing but the show is so big and the production on the records is so big and the test of everything is if you unplug, what do you sound like? I was probably more surprised than anyone else, I said “Oh wow, look at that! I guess I can sing” (laughing)

Other people such as Chuck and even your dad thought you were a better singer than you thought yourself, correct?
Yeah, I think it’s because I never wanted to be a singer. I don’t think that was ever anything I was super passionate about. My grasp about it was more on the performing side. The very first Beastö record my voice was nasally because they asked me to do a character, then the second album when we did (Feed My) Frankenstein, nobody had any idea that I could do that sort of smokey lounge singer voice, including me.

So all you have to say to me is, sing like “blank”, and it’s better if it’s not a singer, if it’s just a vibe of a person. So he said, sing like Mae West and I just thought of her sort of oozing everywhere and then the last record, “We Are”, Chuck said, “I want to know, what you can do.” So we did stuff like “Solitary Rave” and “Perception of Me” and there’s a line in Perception where I sing “Let me hear you say my name” and they didn’t tell me how to sing it and my chest just burst open and that came flying out and we kept the first take.

Did you have any part in writing that song (Perception of Me)? Chuck’s wife Lindsay writes most of the lyrics, correct?
Yes! So basically how the machine works is Chuck, Chris and Jan come up with the grooves and lines and all that and Lindsay is more of a poet so she’ll go poetic into it and then it’ll have to get modified to fit in the song. Then they’ll bring the lyrics to me and I say yes, I love that, I feel that but I would say “this” or my character would say this instead of that and then it’s the way that you sing it. It’s a lot like acting really. I get a script; it’s just words on a paper even though the writer could be brilliant. I have to read it the way the writer intended it and then put my own personality into it, and that’s when you get magic. So, I’ve kind of brought that over into the music world.

You do sound like you’re talking about yourself in the song Perception.
I remember the exact night. We were in a bar in Nashville and I said, “You know how when girls are in a fight and they say, I’m outta here! And they walk away, and you’re supposed to follow them? I guess? Is the unspoken rule? I’m like no no, don’t go! And I never learned that and she was laughing and I said, “If I look you in the face and say, I’m outta here, do not follow me! Because where I’m going is for your safety.”

I’m going into this headspace and then I tell her I’ll hold it together and then I get into my space and I’ll yell and scream and create and break stuff and take a nap, wake up and do it again. And then I come out of the room like steel, I’m good. What happens in there is such a mystery, she thought that was great so she wrote from the stories I was telling her, the song, and when I sing it, it has to be truthful so it has images in my head from times that I’ve done that and it came out in the attitude of the song.

Was acting your first passion?
Yes, I think it still is because in Beastö, I as Calico am in the shadow of whatever character I have created here. I am so classically trained in acting, I’m talking 20 years of the best schools and teachers and when I commit to something I go in so hard, first one there last one to leave kind of thing and pushing my limit. And so I took everything I learned, and I still do in film and television and applied it to Beastö, but Beastö became a platform where a writer wasn’t giving me lines and direction and I was completely able to create what this was. It was such a unique opportunity I literally built her live as the shows were happening.

Something would happen and I’d go, that’s it, I get it. So I’m understanding this part of myself more and more, and now it’s always going to evolve but I feel like it’s the most powerful, dark side of me that I feel completely confident to let her do what she wants for an hour.

It sounds a little bit like your dad.
Yeah, a little bit, I get now where it comes from because he more controls his environment, he is the showman. I feel like the difference between that and the Machine Girl really is I’m partially worried about what she’s going to do, you know what I mean? I don’t know, and in an Alice show it’s very important that certain things happen at certain times. In his show it looks very free and off the cuff, but I heard an old saying that’s always going to be true and that is the harder you work at something, the easier it looks.

You did choreography for Alice.
I did for years so I know how the machine works and so for Beastö, I took the idea of an alter-ego but ours is more chaos. You see a Beastö show and it’s never the same twice ever because how am I going to tell you what she’s going to do, I don’t know.

Have you had some close calls on stage?
I’m usually never in the same place twice so it you’re in Beastö you have to be a musician and a dancer because if I’m coming forward you have to know the ratio of that bat. I’m aware of where I’m at but every stage is different and sometimes someone will blast a spotlight and blind me. There’s a lot of chaos but it’s controlled chaos. Most of the time if anybody gets hurt it’s myself. He had a close call on that one.

Tell us about the video for The Seeker. You wrote, directed and produced that, correct?
I did, I heard the song and once they said that was going to be the single, I wasn’t sure. I said really? Not let’s Rip or any of those other songs? No no, the label and test audiences say it’s the Seeker. I liked the song but I was trying to fall in love with it the way I loved some of the other songs and I was driving home from my parent’s house across the desert listening to it over and over and then that sky cracked open moment of aha and I saw the story. All of a sudden it clicked in my brain and I saw this girl running through the desert with no shoes on, beat up and I’m desperate to know where she was going, what she was running from and boom, The Seeker just appeared in my head. Try calling Chuck up from the middle of the desert and say “Hey, I’m going to rent an old western town”. (laughing).

They let me do what I want, but this was kind of big. This was the single for this album and a lot of work went into the album so I sat everybody down and I just had a Rudy moment where I said, you have to trust me, I’m good, I can do this. I’m confident in my directing ability, I’m confident in the story, the visuals, the editing, I can do this. I need you to promise me though I don’t get 75% creative control, I get 100%. It’s hard to describe to people the process you know, they say “why are you doing this?” or “That’s not going to look good”, but I see it from the perspective of someone’s who’s in the video, in the band, wrote the song, but I see it from an editor/director point of view where you gotta trust me, it looks weird here but it’s not going to look weird on camera.

So after about maybe 20 minutes pep talk they said it’s all yours. After the video came out my phone was ringing off the hook not from our band but from other bands going hey, how much do you charge to direct videos {laughing). I was so proud of myself at the end of it. I sent it out and I got emotional because it was exactly the way I had seen it in my head. We’re currently working on the video for the third single, the ballad Down, and it’s really beautiful.

How was the tour last year with Halestorm and Palaye Royale and how did the band like performing in Canada for the first time?
I’m so blown away how certain things come together and you would never think to put Halestorm, Beastö and Palaye Royale together on a bill. The thing is it went so well and that really is Halestorm. They saw our show and Palaye’s show and we’re all rock and roll but different kinds of rock and roll, but what we all have is a stage show.

That’s what links it all together. It’s like seeing a triple feature, you know, horror movies are not just horror movies, there’s all different kinds, same with comedies, so opening the show with something as visually assaulting as Beastö with a woman up front was a statement. And then to follow it up with these guys, I mean, I had no idea. I heard of Palaye Royale but it was a completely…we are Motörhead, they are Iggy Pop and Halestorm is Van Halen, and it works.

Just think of the fans that went to see one band and were exposed to two other completely different bands.
Don’t you love that though? I remember the first time that ever happened to me. As a teenager I went to Warped Tour and it’s no secret I’m a huge Blink 182 fan and I went to see them and I got there early and I was never a get there early, opening act kind of person and I got there when it opened and I saw Taking Back Sunday, Jimmy Eat World, all these bands that ended up being up to this day, some of my favorite lyricists, favorite bands and those are the experiences that I think you take with you in life and say, how did I not know about this band?

I love them!

It’s the discovery process. I think a lot of people who put together tours look at the draw and Pollstar and this and that and the experience of that tour was so great because we all have such a passionate love for rock and roll and putting on a show. Every person that walked off that stage from their respective sets was thrashed! I mean sweat, blood, everything every single time and we would go sit out in the parking lot out back after the set and have drinks and cool off and it was such an amazing experience, I would do it again in a second, absolutely loved it. It couldn’t have happened in a better place than Canada, I mean they got it, they completely got it.

Do you have any good road stories?
There are a million stories. We’re such a group of insane people that it’s impossible to not happen. I don’t think we’ve ever had a tour where something didn’t happen like it belongs on Seinfeld, there’s no way that this is real. We were driving through Canada on last years tour and Chris (Brother Latham) was driving and the driver’s compartment is separate from the rest of the bus so we have no communication with him.

We all have U.S. cell phones which normally work pretty good but on this day we were caught in an ice storm, snow sleet, rain and Chris is driving about 20 miles an hour because he couldn’t go any faster. I wouldn’t trust anyone else with driving because Chris grew up in Alaska and we call him Wilderness Chris because he could kill a bear with his bare hands. So we’re looking out the windows and there are all these trucks in the ditch on both sides and we’re counting them, ten, twenty, thirty trucks and all of a sudden the bus slows down and pulls over. So we’re going uh oh and Chris comes in and he’s completely covered in ice and snow.

He’d been driving with the window down and his head out the window because one of our wipers broke. He couldn’t stop because he couldn’t see in front of us or behind and kept going until he was frozen and couldn’t take it anymore. What ensued was the band, and you’ve seen these rock and roll dudes, rock guys in a band, well what I saw was their inner, blue collar working man, caveman come out.

Every single guy dressed in as much clothing as they could, including mine so they were wearing pink hoodies and stuff, got out of the bus and were chipping ice off the windshield as trucks are flying past the bus and working away and taking breaks and we’re thinking we’re going to have to cancel the show. So during all this our bass player Jan is sitting on the bus in his sweat pants drinking a tea, and they must have been working at it an hour, he finally let’s out a sigh, puts on a hoodie and goes out to take a look and comes back 5 minutes later and says, “fixed”. He says, “I don’t understand what the problem was, it was very easy”.

Speaking of Jan, your German bass player, you did a big tour in Germany and recorded a live album there. How did that happen?
We did our Beastö Blanco Live in Berlin there and it was our second night at The Mercedes Arena. We were on tour there with a German band called Böhse Onkelz and they’re like the U2 of Germany as far as popularity, so we were playing these sold out hockey arenas two nights in a row every city we played. The first night, someone says good luck and kind of shakes their head, and we’re like, what do you mean by that? Well, it’s tradition at the Onkelz shows to completely terrorize the opening act, you know, throw things, boo and they said they had other bands like Limp Bizket and other bands open and the fans just decimated them. They’re a great band but this was just the tradition. They boo the opening band off so they can get the Onkels on. So they tell us this right when we’re about to go on stage and I remember thinking in my head, not today! So the lights went out and out intro started and I thought, I’m going to go deeper than I’ve ever gone and I’m going to demand that you eat out of the palm of my hand, I’m going to command you to bow down, right? So the lights came up and I just went blind, I don’t remember any of the show and we came off stage and all the road crew were hugging us and they’re saying it was unbelievable, nobody threw anything (laughs). Afterward people were coming up and saying we loved the music and we loved the show and we sold so many records, it was so great.

Which do you prefer playing, smaller venues or a big arena?
You’re never going to get the same performance but it’s the same intensity. I feed off of a crowd completely. If we’re in a theatre and there’s 500 people, it’s going to be different than if you’re in a little rock and roll dirtball with 100 people, not any less intense, it’s just different because it’s real, I’m interacting with who I can see. I become something different in an arena because then I’m doing it for the people in the very back. So that’s fun, it keeps it alive and fun for me.

Last question for you, how was it playing your dad’s Christmas Pudding show for the Solid Rock Foundation?
We only did it the one year because other years we were on tour in Europe, but the year that we did it was so great. That show is notorious for being a potpourri of performers. You’ve got everything from KISS and Rob Zombie to Kenny G but it works. Half the people knew who we were basically via Alice but the other half of the people who didn’t know, those are the faces that I hung on. Those were the big eyed open mouth looks and we’re not doing anything shocking which is funny, it’s just the way we are. That’s the reason we named our latest album We Are. People say define Beastö Blanco, I don’t know, we just are, we are Beastö. You can’t fake the funk. If we were phoning it in or any of it was not authentic, I think people can read that. When it’s really coming from a place of discovery and explosive energy and that’s another thing that Halestorm and Palaye had in common with us, it was all real and I think every generation relates to that.

You’re also very real with your fans.
Absolutely, that’s something else that my dad taught me that it’s so much harder to be a jerk, it really is a lot of work. And he says, your number one detriment is A, if you buy your own hype, which means if I walked around as the Machine Girl, if he walked around as Alice, and you never gave yourself a break, you’re going to self destruct, you’re going to implode.

Be proud of what you’re selling but you’re a human, there’s more to you than that. So being a human you’ve got to interact with other humans, thank you for liking what I did, thank you for loving my art, of course I can sign that, of course I can take a picture, thank you for listening. There is no us without them.

Beasto Blanco

Beasto Blanco - Calico Cooper

Photo: Victor Chalfant
Photo: Dan Boshart
Photo: Dan Boshart
Photo: Dan Boshart
Photo: Victor Chalfant
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