An Interview With Lizard Skynard Guitarist Mossy Vaughn
Lizard Skynard sounds like a reject Lynyrd Skynyrd cover band, but behind the gimmicky name and eccentric frontman Erik Sprague, aka The Lizardman, is a legitimate force to be reckoned with. Their sound runs the gamut from blasts of hardcore fury to ambient space rock. Lizardman’s spoken word style has a Henry Rollins flavor to it and helps to make the band stand out from the rest of the pack. With their self-titled debut being released a few weeks back, guitarist Mossy Vaughn spoke to Metalunderground.com in early October about the new album, having a frontman like Lizardman around, and the dangers of vomiting during a live Lizard Skynard show
Heavytothebone2: How did the band come together?
Me and Lizardman both worked the Jägermeister Music Tour for a bunch of years. We met on the Disturbed tour and just became friends. I saw Lizardman one night in Portland, Oregon completely take over this whole crowd of 1,000 people. He had them eating out of his hand. Anything he did, they loved. Behind him, the band was set up, ready to go. I was up watching the show, like I usually did. After the show, I told him, "If you did that by yourself without a band, imagine if you had a band behind you."
We talked about it and laughed about it. He said come up with a good name. Lizard Skynard was better than Lizard of Oz or REO Meatlizard, that one didn’t work either. Lizard Skynard was it, plus I actually really like Lynyrd Skynyrd, so it worked out fine.
Heavytothebone2: When you made that name, were you worried that people would think you are some random cover band? Did that thought ever come to mind?
No, you know what? We really didn’t care about that. We kind of thought it was funny. Like I said, I’m a fan anyway. No, we really didn’t think about it. We kind of did it as far…it worked, it worked for Lizard too.
Heavytothebone2: What can somebody who has never heard of the band before expect out of Lizard Skynard?
I think it’s new. The music is heavy. Lizard’s not singing per say, like a normal vocalist. It’s more spoken word, he’s kind of speaking the songs rather than singing it. I think it has a new, a fresh sound.
Heavytothebone2: Was there any struggle at all as a musician to incorporate music around the spoken word? Is it different than the traditional means of singing, trying to build music around it?
No, it worked out good for us. The band pretty much is located in the Chicago area. So we pretty much jammed for a bunch of months before Lizard even came into the whole mix. We pretty much write all the music and then he comes in and lays stuff over the top of it. On these first recordings, at least, pretty much what he wrote, he was able just to fit over the top of what we wrote. It came across pretty easy. It definitely is a little different, not knowing week to week exactly how it is going to sound until it is done, until Lizard puts his stuff on it. It’s worked out real good so far. It’s definitely a different writing process than a normal band I’ve been in before, but it’s good.
Heavytothebone2: In the future, if you guys eventually do a second album, will you change the writing style to have Lizardman more involved right from the gecko?
You know what? I don’t think so. I think the formula that we’re doing right now works real good. With technology and the way things are today, we can write a song on Monday and Tuesday and I can have it recorded and sent to Lizard by Thursday. It’s not like he doesn’t hear the music, but thus far, I think we’re going to keep the formula the same. It worked real good on this one.
We didn’t start writing per say until January. January 2nd was the first real jam for this band. Me and Lizard had been doing stuff for about six or eight months prior to that, just like when we meet up. I used to drive the Jägermeister bus around the country. I would meet Lizard in Texas or if he was on one of the music tours, we spent a lot of time together on the Hatebreed tour. We kind of jammed a little bit on the bus and did what we could, but the real band as far as throwing my cousin and my brother and Russell into, we didn’t start playing until January and then we recorded in March. It had already been a couple of months. I think we are going to keep the formula the same for this next thing we do.
Heavytothebone2: How much of those early jams were incorporated into the first album?
We only took two of the songs that me and Lizard did on the bus, the last two songs on the album, the more electronic-sounding songs. We actually used what we did on the bus and we just remastered it. The rest of the songs were written throughout January.
Heavytothebone2: What did the band set out to accomplish with their first self-titled album? What kind of statement did you want to make?
With the first album, we wanted to get across that we are a band. A lot of people when they first heard it thought it was a joke, just because they know Lizard does stand-up comedy and they know kind of from what he has done before. We kind of wanted people to make sure that they knew that we were taking music seriously. I think we have a pretty unique new product for people to listen to. As far as success wise goes, I don’t think you can ever judge that. We just wanted to get it out and make sure people are aware of the band for one and just to know that we are going to take it seriously by recording it correctly and that kind of stuff.
Heavytothebone2: With Lizardman’s reputation and the way he looks, do you think that it’s an uphill climb to be taken seriously? Do you think the band is trying to claw your way up there?
Yeah, I think so. I think definitely for publicity reasons, we’re getting a lot of people interested because of how he looks. Also, on a whole other spectrum of that, I think we kind of have to work harder because people right away from the beginning I think are going to call it a gimmick. I think it’s going along great. The live shows, thus far, we’ve only done five shows, I think the live show is going to speak for themselves when they see it. It’s definitely an uphill battle.
Heavytothebone2: What influence, if any, did producer Greg Norman have on the creation of the album? What did he bring to the table for the band?
I went to Electrical Audio just because of the sounds that I know a lot of bands that I respect have gotten great sounds out of that studio. I know what the drums are going to sound like. My old band, The Heavils, had previously recorded there with Steve Albini, so I knew what I was getting into. It’s close to home, close to where we’re from. Greg is awesome. He brought…the mix, the way he did it, I definitely think he captured the way the band sound off the floor. He definitely captured the band the way that we sound live.
Heavytothebone2: As a guitarist, what does this band allow you to do that you can’t do with The Heavils?
It’s kind of the same writing process. I write the songs and I bring them to jam. With The Heavils, me and Brian would compete for space on the CD. With two guitar players in the band, you both can’t be going off and going crazy. With this one, I had a little more space and a little bit more time to think about my parts. Being the only guitar player, having full control of what you do is definitely part of the fun.
Heavytothebone2: The band goes from furious hardcore to ambient noise, sometimes in the course of one song. Is there any challenge for you in going from one style to the next or does it come naturally?
No, that definitely comes naturally. I’m really into jam-oriented bands, like Clutch and some of the hippie bands as they call it, Moe, I’m a really big fan of those guys. Seeing some of these jam-bands live and the way like Clutch or other bands, it’s organic. It just comes out how they do it. It’s easy for us because we’re all on the same page now. It took a little while, but I think everybody is in the same mindset of a little bit of space rock, some heavy stuff. My cousin, the drummer Johnny, came from the band Waco Jesus, and they’re a death/grind band. For him to come from that into something like this, for him, it was a little scary. But yeah, it works.
Heavytothebone2: Is there one particular track that you are most proud of?
I really like the song “Ocean Electric” a lot. It’s one of my favorites playing it live and just hearing it recorded. It’s just one of those songs that came out great on the CD, lyrically and musically.
Heavytothebone2: You alluded earlier in the interview to the fact that you guys have had five live shows so far. How have those gone for you? Have they exceeded your expectations?
The first couple of shows we did locally. There were a lot of people there. We did a lot of promotion for it, but we had never played before. The live show for this band is amazing. If you listen to the disc, it sounds like that live. The guys playing are amazing. With Lizard, you never know what you’re going to get, and that’s another thing I really like about it. I can tell you this; we haven’t had a show where someone hasn’t puked yet and not a band member, but someone in the audience. Lizard pulled stuff out of his sideshow with our live show. He did this thing called the gavage, where he sticks a tube through his nose and down into his stomach. He sucks out all this liquid and he forces it back into the cup and then drinks it. The first night he did it, someone lost it completely right there at the front of the stage. It seems that at every show we’ve had somebody do that (laughs). We just played in upstate New York and he did the same thing and a couple of people just went running for the door, so it’s been a mixed reaction for sure (laughs).
Heavytothebone2: When you first saw somebody vomit like that, what was the band’s reaction? Did you keep playing, did you stop, did you wonder what the hell just happened?
I’m seen Lizard do that stuff a bunch of times on the Jägermeister Music Tour. I kind of knew what to expect. We’ve built some of the show around some of his performance art, so he is able to do all the stuff that he does, and we’re able to control the music up and down with the emotion of what he’s doing. It’s a little planned out too as far as that, but it’s definitely spontaneous. With Lizardman, I’m never totally sure what he is going to do. I don’t know what I’m going to get everyday. I’ve known him for seven or eight years, and I still don’t know what I’m going to get day to day.
Heavytothebone2: Are there any long-term touring plans on the horizon?
We are actively looking for booking agents. Lizard has a standing October run every Thursday through Sunday right now, so October is out. Definitely by the end of November, we’re going to get out and do some touring. We’re just going to take it month to month based on Lizard’s schedule, but I hoping after November, things should be wide open for us to go out and do what we want. We’re still actively looking for a booking agent and a label as well.
Heavytothebone2: Do you have any projects on the side or are you putting all your focus on Lizard Skynard?
Right now, I’m putting all my focus on the Skynard. My brother plays keyboards in the band as well and me and him have an ambient project we’ve been talking about. As far as right now, we’re both busy and the Lizard is taking up a bunch of my time.
Heavytothebone2: If you could tour with one band, past or present, who would it be and why?
Slayer, just because of their fans. Their fans are so fucking loyal. Yeah, it would be Slayer. Or, if I could pick another one, it would be The Doors. I think we would pick The Doors just so that people could realize that Jim Morrison is a buffoon and Lizard is the true Lizard King (laughs).
Heavytothebone2: You know, you could tour with Slayer and The Doors at the same time if you wanted to.
I don’t think that Kerry King and Ray would get along (laughs).
Heavytothebone2: Do you have any final thoughts?
Lizard Skynard is the future. That’s it.
Heavytothebone2: The future of music or the future period?
We’re just the future period.
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