Interview with Guitarist Dave Baron of Last Chance

By Mick Michaels

Cosmick View: Hello, Dave! Welcome to The Cosmick View. Thanks for taking some time out of your day to speak with us. It's greatly appreciated.
Dave Baron: Thanks for having me. We appreciate it!

CV: Many songwriters add a piece of their soul into the music they write and perform. How much of your soul was put into the writing of Last Chance's debut record?
DB: I think soul means different things to different people. I can tell you that we put every ounce of blood we had into these songs and the making of the album. The emotional energy and intensity in our songs is real and heartfelt. They come from personal experience. If that’s what you mean by soul, we’d certainly like to think we put it into the album.

CV: As a songwriter, does drawing upon real-life personal experiences make the music more authentic in your opinion? In comparison, can a level of authenticity be had with music that is written from a more fantasy or surreal type of approach?
DB: I’m usually open — especially as a listener — to any and all approaches. For example, I adored Ronnie James Dio as a singer and songwriter, but I can’t write about crossbows in the firelight or dragons and kings.  He could pull that stuff off brilliantly. If you do it really well, fantasy or sci-fi topics are not inauthentic! It’s wonderful escapism! It can take you out of your own dreary life and away from your problems for 5 minutes! In that moment, as a listener, I’m right there with Dio, fighting the dragon. Those are great, grandiose, musical meals. But, as Poison guitarist, C.C. Deville once said, by comparison, “I’m serving hamburgers, here!” So while I don’t think fantasy topics are categorically less authentic, I do think that if you can write about the things that most people experience, and can relate to in their own lives — the human condition — it probably resonates with more people.

When we started writing, we didn’t have any pre-conceived notion of what the songs would or should be about. But we started working just around the time of the COVID lockdown, and that time and mood certainly colored everything! So everything we were going through personally — every stressor — all the anger, pain, and loss went directly into the songs. And before we knew it, we had a very dark set of songs on our hands.

Sick of it All came directly out of the frustration of that lockdown period. That’s something everyone went through.  And Anything but That is a very literal song about the pain of losing my father — horribly — to Alzheimer’s in 2021. It doesn’t get much darker than that one! But I think anyone who’s lost a loved one that way may relate to that song.

Frankie (singer) and I (guitarist) wrote all of the songs, and they come from adult experience, and deliver an adult perspective. We’re not kids. We’ve both lived and experienced a lot. So our songs are mostly about real-life pain. At the end of the day, we think it’s an honest album, filled with real, raw emotions that we hope most people will be able to relate to. 

CV: With a heavy punk background and edge to the album, do you feel the record has a greater mass appeal than what most listeners would consider punk-rooted music to be?
DB: It’s an interesting question, and I’m not sure I have a good answer. Everyone who hears our album has a different take on what genre it is. If you listened to our backing tracks without the vocals, I’m not sure people would consider Last Chance a Punk album at all. The musicianship is more along the lines of heavy rock, complete with a virtuosic rhythm section, and guitar hero-like guitar solos. Not the hallmarks of punk rock! But the minute you hear Frankie, that punk energy comes through loud and clear! And all of the sudden, it’s a punk album! Just not in the traditional sense. I’m actually fine with that, but to some, that musical mix is like chalk and cheese.

We didn’t think so.I come from the heavy rock/melodic metal side of things when guitar heroes ruled the planet. Frankie Rage is an original NYC punk rocker. We thought by blending our differing styles, we created something a little different. But once done, we’ve often felt like a square peg facing a world of round holes.

CV: What do you feel is more important in the grand scope of songwriting...the lyrics or the riff...especially when it comes to listener satisfaction?  Or is that even a concern for you?
DB: It’s absolutely a concern, and something we pay close attention to. I think the most important thing is the hook. A song’s hook is what makes it catchy, or sticky. So that it stays with you after the first listen. The best hooks can get stuck in your head for hours or even days.

A hook can be anything — a guitar riff — like Smoke on the Water, for example. That riff is a hook that most people know.

The best hook is a great, catchy chorus with simple melodies that repeat. The simpler, the better. Overly wordy lyrics, or busy melodies do not make good hooks.

And yes, lyrics are often hooks, too.  A simple lyric, or lyrical idea, that even someone with no singing skills can sing along with…no matter how poorly or off key. For example, "You shook me all night long," "Run to the hills, run for your life,"…both of which follow the vocal melody. Or "The boys are back in town," "Here I am, Rock you like a Hurricane,"…both of which do not.

The best songs have great hooks, and often combine more than one type of hook. We try to put as many hooks into our songs as possible.

CV: Still, even in 2023, the debate over whether Rock is dead or not still comes up in a conversation.  If Rock is dead, why are so many bands still releasing rock inspired albums? Is there something those "in the know" are missing?
DB: Pete Townshend sang the lyric “Rock is dead,” in the song Long Live Rock back in 1972. That’s funny because that 71-73 period is now generally considered the absolute peak of Rock music.

So I don’t think Rock is totally dead today. But it’s not young people’s music. They didn’t grow up with it. They didn’t live, breathe, and die for it. Unless they were exposed to it by their parents…or similar, it’s just not part of their life experience. They have to be turned on to it by someone. But once they hear it, there’s ample evidence to support that great rock music still pushes all the same emotional buttons in human beings that it did when it was the music of youth. You need look no further than the phenomenon of young people doing reaction videos on YouTube. Hundreds of them now — all getting turned on by bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Queen, Rush, and Iron Maiden. And while they clearly enjoy it, you can also sense a palpable frustration from them, because they’re realizing that they missed all of it. And what they’re being fed today isn’t nearly as compelling…IMO.

But to get back to your question, I think it’s because in this age, where electronic music and DJ culture is predominant, seeing hand-crafted music, played on real instruments, by people and bands who put in the time to learn how to play, is still inspiring. And like I said, Rock, done well —still pushes all the buttons, and makes you want to pump your fist in the air, headbang, or whatever. My hope is that these Rock reaction videos will inspire some percentage of the people watching to pick up the gauntlet, then pick up guitars again with the goal of rocking out. 

CV: Is having a multi-laced music styled album more beneficial in today's record industry given the diversity of worldwide listeners and their tastes? Does it give the album more of a chance to get notice than those releases that have a niche sound or style?
DB: Sadly that has not been our experience.

Decades ago, Last Chance would have just been labeled “ROCK.” Back when Rock meant everything from Abba to Zeppelin. Back then, Rock radio would play a Joni Mitchell song next to a Black Sabbath song. It was ALL considered “Rock”—and the world didn’t end. Listeners from that era will have zero trouble recognizing, and enjoying that Last Chance delivers rock music with SCOPE. We have songs that lean a little Metal. We have songs that lean more punk. We have songs that are kind of Stonesy. We have a couple you’d call ballads. This used to be quite common and desirable. Classic albums Zep IV and Sticky Fingers sold millions of copies, while delivering a different flavor with each track on the album.

Unfortunately, if you try and deliver that kind of scope these days, we’ve found, it tends to confuse the under-35 crowd, because everything has become so sub-genre’d to death. What do I mean by that? Last Chance doesn’t, for example, fit neatly on Spotify Punk playlists. Sometimes it’s because our songs have guitar solos. Sometimes it’s because they’re not fast enough. We also don’t seem to fit on the Metal or Hard Rock playlists, because our lead vocals come from the Punk side of the tent…or because we don’t sound like the sons or cousins of AC/DC.

We are a prowess-driven rock band, with a badass, funky rhythm section, heavy guitars, and (gasp!), Punky vocals on top. It’s a little different, and we think that makes us a little unique. But the very things that make you a little different can work against you in an age where —because of the way people consume music these days —like on Spotify playlists —they don’t want a little different. They only want what they already recognize.

We’ve received some of the most beautiful rejection emails you could imagine from playlist curators. Things like, “we love the song, love the production — love everything about it! But it’s just not exactly what we’re looking for our playlist. So we won’t play it.”  That’s defeating. Because it's not that average listeners don’t like us if they hear us – they usually do. But these days, it’s quite hard to even get your music heard when you don’t fit neatly into one specific genre box.

CV: What more can fans expect to see coming from Last Chance in 2023?
DB: We have the first three songs of our follow-up album demoed, but the second album won’t be done this year. The first album took two years to make because we had two major hurdles: first, COVID, which meant for about a year, we couldn’t get together in the same room to work. Second, all of us live in different cities so all of the songwriting, arranging, pre-production demos, and preliminary mixing was done over Zoom. The first time we all got together in-person was to record Frankie’s final vocals.

Fortunately, we’re not under COVID lockdown anymore, but we still work remotely. It shouldn’t take two years this time, but it’s still a slower process than it would be otherwise.

CV: Thanks again Dave for taking the time to share with our readers. We wish you all the best and continued success.
DB: My pleasure. Thanks very much!

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My name is Mick Michaels...I'm an artist, music fan, songwriter, producer, show host, dreamer and guitarist for the traditional Heavy Metal band Corners of Sanctuary. Writing has always been a creative outlet for me; what I couldn't say in speech, I was able to do with the written word.  Writing has given me a voice and a way for me to create on a multitude of platforms including music and song, articles, independent screenplays, books and now, artist interviews. The Cosmick View is an opportunity to raise the bar and showcase artists in a positive and inspirational light. For me, it's another out-of-this-world adventure.

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