Featured Artist

Cosmic Rock

Our Featured Artist this friday night on Cosmic-Rock.com is long time veteran rock musician, guitarist Gary Sunshine. Gary is known and loved, respected and admired by fans worldwide from his groups like the swamp metal kings Circus of Power, the popular NY Loose, The Silos and others. These days after many adventures, misadventures and years of blood, sweat and soul poured into his music, Gary is writing new songs and releasing solo albums. Long time fans of his music, we really enjoyed catching up with Gary and talking about his influences, history, reflections on music and news. From young days standing to watch the Allmans, Zeppelin and more to his days in Circus and the NY scene, to playing and recording with Axl Rose and GNR, touring with Black Sabbath and more..Dig this interview with a real guitar lone wolf professional musician.. the great Gary Sunshine.

 

1. Hey Gary good to speak with you man how have you been?

 

I’m good Gideon, nice to catch up with you again. I’m keeping busy, writing, living, ups and downs, normal things. I’m excited to blab a bit, thanks for asking!

 

2. Anytime brother and it's great to catch up with you too. We have a lot of cool things to talk about today. Getting started, tell us a little about your background, did you grow up in FL? How did you get into playing music?

 

I grew up in New York, first Queens then Long Island. I didn’t get to Florida until I was 17 or 18. I was an absolutely obsessed music fan as a kid, started playing guitar in my early teens, I think, or younger. My house had Sinatra and Streisand and the usual soundtracks playing, I guess I absorbed a bit of that too. TV was big and all the cool bands and singers were on pretty often at the time; The Stones, The Beatles, James Brown, Dave Clark Five, The Kinks, The Monkees, Sammy Davis Jr., Sinatra, I ate it up. The first guitar things I remember learning, were the Satisfaction riff, the Dirty Water riff by The Standells, and I’m Free, by The Who. I also have a very vivid memory of seeing my first live band at a beach club outside near a pool, doing songs by my favorite bands at the time (guessing The Stones were prominent) and just being in awe of them. The Stones, and later the Allmans, led me to all the blues guys, and I was soon obsessed with blues music. I tried to steal everything I could and played every minute I could. I didn’t play in an actual band until I moved to Florida, was in a pretty cool cover band with a few friends I grew up with in NY. We played everything from Barry White to Johnny Winter, played 5 or 6 nights a week on Miami Beach AND got paid. It was the greatest thing at the time.

 

3. Yeah for real. Any classic concerts you saw back in the day that inspired you and in what way?

 

There is one plus side to being a little “older”, I got to see Led Zeppelin at the old World’s Fair site in Queens, touring for their first record and soon after at Madison Square Garden. I was a huge Zeppelin fan in those early days. Ten Years After, Grand Funk, Mountain. Also got to see Sly & the Family Stone there. The Band at the Felt Forum, NY. Janis at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium. The Allman Brothers Band at the Fillmore East a few times, with Duane. They usually had Albert and or B.B King opening. The Faces and Savoy Brown together at The Fillmore. Johnny Winter back then. Black Sabbath at the Fillmore too. We used to take the train into lower Manhattan to get tickets as soon as they went on sale to make sure we had great seats, they usually were. Later it would be Bad Brains, Ramones, The Replacements, Public Enemy at The Ritz, Leonard Cohen, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle. But then there’s all the Blues and Jazz artists, I’ll stop for a moment. So much inspiration on every level and from every direction.

 

 

4. Mighty. Yeah man I can dig it. That's amazing you saw so many great at the time. What were some of your favorite classic albums over the years?

 

The Stones’ Out of Our Heads and Some Girls were really influential. Dylan’s Highway 61 and Desire stand out. The first Allman Brothers records went a long way in teaching me how to play guitar. Zeppelin’s first three, definitely.  Later on, John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and Gil Scott-Heron’s Pieces of a Man were huge for me. Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, Stevie Wonder’s Music of my Mind, Wave by Patti Smith, early Blondie, Ramones, Elvis Costello, Buzzcocks, Public Enemy, Replacements, Albert King’s Live Wire, Freddie King’s Getting Ready. So many important records.

 

5. I'm with you bro all of those are brilliant. You ended up moving to NYC in the mid 80’s and formed Circus of Power with singer Alex. How did you meet Alex and the band come together?

 

I moved back to NY and was working as an art mover/handler. A cool time in NYC, saw a lot of cool art and artists and their studios and the galleries. I knew Alex, Ricky and Joey from Florida and they had just started the band. They asked me to join, luckily an ex-girlfriend encouraged me to, as I am notoriously indecisive. They needed a bass player at first so I faked my way through that and then moved over to guitar once Zowie joined.

 

6. What are your memories of those early days? Being around the NY scene at the time with you guys, Raging Slab, etc. was an exciting time.

 

Hard to explain or do it proper justice, it was such a vibrant, cool and motivating time in NYC. It’s sort of a very small “town” when it comes to downtown and art and music, you tend to know or come across most everybody when you get involved. At least then it was, it has changed. Our first high profile show was with Iggy and Jane’s Addiction, hard to top that. We played every club around NY, CBGB’s, Lismar Lounge, Limelight, Cat Club, The Ritz, as many times as they’d have us. Opened for The Ramones, The Cult, the Divinyls, Dead Boys, Johnny Thunders and a whole bunch more, but as cool as those shows were it was just as special to play with all the “up and comers” at the time, Raging Slab, White Zombie, and all the other great NY bands. There was a lot of support among the bands, we’d check each other out, play shows together. Joey Ramone was very present in those days, he’d come see us and was always very supportive of local music. I don’t remember any obvious pettiness or jealousy between bands either. Hard rock, Hip Hop and Hardcore were alive and well in NYC and it was both cool and an honor to be a part of that “scene”.

 

7. That's excellent. It's rare people in band culture can avoid the pettiness and jealousy in scenes like that and it seems like that era of bands in the NYC scene at the time was really great as far as music and on a personal level. I loved all those artists and the ones I came across and met were always cool to me. Great music and good attitudes for each other and their fans. Those were magical times from a fan's point of view too not being there like you were, seeing from the outside. I loved having those records on vinyl or cassette, getting to see the bands when I could. Later Circus made several major label albums and toured all over the world. Looking back what are some of your favorite memories of the journey?

 

I guess I’d have to include playing with and getting to know The Ramones, Alice in Chains and The Cult for starters. I got to watch an incredible Ginger Baker every night from backstage, not far from his kit, when we toured with Masters of Reality and Alice. The New York shows we’re almost always highlights. I mentioned the Iggy Pop and Jane’s Addiction show; well backstage at the end of the night, near our “trailer” (it was an outdoor show on the Pier), I was leaving with my girlfriend at the time, and Iggy and David Bowie walked by, a few feet from us, and I just froze, but never forgot it. Didn’t say a word. Hi David? Hello Mr. Bowie? I was onstage, I play guitar, how are you? I’m a big fan I just opened for your friend Iggy, how are things? Nothing came to mind. Like I said I’ll never forget the image. Anyway, our first tour in Los Angeles, in preparation for the first record, was a lot of fun. Hollywood was buzzing and we were kind of fired up to “represent” the east coast, in a way. We met so many cool bands and friends out there during those days, Junkyard, Little Caesar, Faster Pussycat and on and on. London shows were also special. Watching Brian May sit in with Black Sabbath when we opened at the Hammersmith Odeon. Also, having Tony Iommi rest his arm on my shoulder and wish me well, as I walked onstage at one of the shows, was kinda nice. I felt like a little kid. I could go on and on. Zowie and I had to present an award at the New York Music Awards, a night we lost a best debut or new band award to Living Color. We were backstage waiting to give out an award, lined up between LL Cool J and Sinéad O’Conner (she was accepting for Public Enemy). We were on the stage for a minute or two but a good and memorable minute or two. The Beacon Theater I think.

 

8. Man those are all priceless classic moments in your story. Too cool man. Tell us about your time as guitarist in the groups NY Loose and the Silos?

 

    I loved playing with NY Loose. I had played in a female-fronted pop-punk band called Screaming Sneakers earlier in Florida and this was somewhat similar. I moved from Los Angeles into the Chelsea Hotel to join the band. We did some independent records, went to London to record for Fiction Records playing a bunch of shows over there at that time. I’m really proud of the songs I wrote with Brijitte West and those were really good days. We did an American tour, did shows with The Cult, The Ramones, D Generation, then I moved back out to L.A. with them. We recorded the Year of the Rat record, I finished up my guitars but decided to move on right after putting the finishing touches on it. They went on tour with Marilyn Manson then, I still regret leaving that soon, I would have liked to have done more, coulda, woulda, shoulda.

    I’ve been friends with, and a fan of, The Silos for years and years. They recorded for RCA right after we did our first one. I did one record with them, Heater, and toured the US, Europe and Spain that year. Walter and the band are still strong as ever and he remains an influence on my writing to this day.

 

9. I know you were Axl Rose’s guitar teacher for awhile and didn’t you record some songs with GNR? What was it like being part of the band at that time?

 

GNR! Well, I was pretty competitive when Circus started out and was more in the NY camp and not too receptive at first of bands from Los Angeles. So I was dumb and didn’t realize how great GNR were at first. Went to see them at The Ritz, thought they were great. Later on, as I “matured” and saw the ways of the world, I soon understood. I worked a bit with Axl and then recorded some songs in the late ‘90’s for the band. I played on “Oh My God” for the “End of Days” soundtrack and another tune that may or may not have ended up on Chinese Democracy. Working with Axl and the organization was super professional, but at the same time personal and a lot of fun. Nothing but respect and love for them. When it was in the press that I had worked with him, I was inundated with inquiries and requests for interviews, it was kind of funny, but I’m a private guy and they weren’t gonna get anything from me. Axl is a super talented and interesting guy and that’s that.

 

10. Yeah that's amazing man. I know Alex is back doing Circus with a new line up, it’s great to see him doing it and I know you are encouraging and supportive of the new stuff. Any chance you will jump back on the band’s new recordings or shows? I know the fans would love to see you up there again.

 

I really miss playing with them, not sure what’ll happen down the line. I had to pass on a few shows over the years, just odd timing. I really like what I’ve heard, I know Alex is working on a new record now and he always has great guys with him. I’ll be watching. I think it’s great they’re doing it, we broke up too early anyway. Great to see!!

 

11.Of course yeah, it's fantastic to see Alex playing and recording, the new stuff is awesome. These days you record your own solo material. How did you become inspired to write and release these recordings and as a solo artist?

 

The music world and industry is so frustrating, at least the business side, it eats up a lot of musicians with dreams and doesn’t really take care of those who put their heart and soul and sweat into it. It’s really a tough time to get paid and survive. For me I was all in, it was never a hobby or a weekend fling. Life changes, I was single with little responsibility and then had two little girls, they’re 8 and 11 now. Everything changed, but my desire and need to make music only increased. Talk about a crossroads, or challenge, or extended and never ending mid-life crisis. So there’s no answer except to write and record what I write and on my terms. I have no real plan, no intentions, no expectations, but I need to do what I do. I see music as art, art as music, blah blah blah. It doesn’t need to have a reason or an agenda or a plan, it is what it is. (This is mostly my defensive posturing, my rationale for not having a plan). I probably could use one though, but I’m happy with what I’m doing, I have a good group of friends and a few fans, here and there, interested and supportive of what I do. I would like nothing more than to release records, play here and there, again on my terms, but you got to get paid sometimes, life costs money and can fuck things up if you’re not careful.

 

12.Man you have many fans and people who love what you do. Its great to see you recording and playing as you're releasing material on your own time and inspiration. What inspired your songwriting with your solo material?

 

Writers tend to be technicians and craftsmen, very deliberate and strategic, or they can be a little bit mixed up, difficult, unfocused, emotional wrecks in need of an outlet. I think I’m that one. (I’m simplifying and generalizing of course). So I write what’s in me, a combination of the hours and hours of listening, watching and absorbing all kinds of music and things, along with some degree of emotional “messiness”. I’ve made enough mistakes, known enough people, watched enough things, married, divorced, back and forth; add some occasional frustration, sadness, loss, anger, hope, optimism, negativity, sarcasm, futility, ego and you may or may not get at least a couple of song ideas out of it. Some tunes are just plain accidents that happen, those are always fun and a surprise, and others are painfully real and sometimes hard for me to revisit. Then there’s always a few that are just dumb but sound ok. It takes all kinds.

 

13.Well said man and I think many artists could totally relate to that man. How would you describe the influences of your solo material to old and new fans?

 

There’s always a blues and somewhat Americana base to begin with I suppose, but thrown in are some of the noises and elements of New York, maybe a little Lou Reed meets Dylan, The Stones, The Clash, Lucinda Williams, The Replacements and everyone else I ever heard. It’s become a more eclectic mix of things as of late. Whatever comes out gets recorded if I find any redeeming qualities in it. I write and record very quickly, somewhat lo fi. Guitars, drum and voice. I’ve been using acoustic guitars more, but not really in an overly soft or obvious way I hope. Not forgetting the electric though and I’ll be adding more and more.

 

 

14.You have a few releases “The Nerve Of Some People”, “The Lucky Side”, where can listeners check out your solo records?

 

I have some things, as you mentioned, available at the usual spots, iTunes, Noisetrade, Facebook, Spotify, YouTube, ReverbNation. I have most of my songs and even a few odd covers, at the Soundcloud site https://soundcloud.com/garysunshine. I test things out there and have some collaborations up as well. I recorded with Steph Casey from New Zealand for her debut record a couple of years ago. I met her there, as well as a few other cool artists. You can find most of those at that site. Also I’ve been adding a bit here lately at  https://www.facebook.com/Gary-Sunshine-Music-289888707751471/

 

15.Any solo acoustic shows?

 

I played a couple of shows at The Mint in Los Angeles a few years ago. Ricky from Circus sat in along with a few other friends. I’d love to do more like that if anyone knows how why and when and can kick me in the ass to do them. I’ve also done a few online “concerts” from my home to yours at stageit.com. I’d like to do that again, those were fun and odd. About as intimate a setting as you’ll find.

 

16.That's great to hear Ricky sat in, wish I had seen that. Yeah man acoustic intimate vibes are so natural and people love it. What are some of your favorite films?

 

My heart is with 70’s films, mostly NY themed or based, I like and need reality, I don’t escape easily and was never much of a fantasy guy. So Scorsese, Coppola, Woody Allen.

I’ll try a few. Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, Midnight Cowboy, Annie Hall, Last Tango In Paris, The Godfather, Raging Bull, King of Comedy, Lenny, Goodfellas. More recent, I’d say Lost in Translation, Eternal Sunshine.

 

17.Favorite books?

 

Like I mentioned, I’m not a big fantasy, escapist, fiction guy. Not sure why. Attention span? I like biographies, politics and books of poetry and music, the creative process. In high school, or around that time, I was reading books by Abbie Hoffman, Bobby Seale, George Jackson, Eldridge Cleaver. Was more of a reader and thinker then, I think? Lenny Bruce “How to Talk Dirty and Influence People” and the Albert Goldman autobiography about Lenny. I don’t hate self-help books.

 

 

18.What is one life skill you think everyone should have?

 

The ability or skill to decipher lies and bullshit would be nice. One more, the skill or ability to show and feel compassion for all living things. Ok one more, to appreciate music and art and culture. Use turn signals when you cut me off on a highway. Cooking Italian food is an important skill.

 

19.Haha yeah good ones for sure. How do you feel about the music business today with social media craziness, the changes, and music scene compared to the early days in your music and years in between? What advice would you give a new artist just starting out?

 

It’s an odd time; transitional, political. Things change fast, the music world is very different for me now, I’m not in the center of it, I don’t have a real accurate understanding of it anymore, maybe functioning in spite of it. I am writing these days for personal reasons, not to make smart moves, I don’t do them well. Social media and technology have provided new opportunities to get the word out but it’s just so massive and wide it’s hard to know what’s effective or necessary. There are unique opportunities to meet and work with people you may never ever meet, to record and write via email, the internet, websites, social media sites. I’ve written and recorded with several unique, creative and talented musicians across the world in this exact manner. In the end, you got to be true to yourself and do what you were set out to do, it’s in the cards, or destined to be, or it’s something you’ve become, but you’ve got to follow your heart and your needs. New artists starting out should be careful not to listen to the wrong advice. I’ve ignored most logical advice and have made really dumb and costly mistakes, but I’ve learned from them, a little late is the problem. I’ve learned that listening to as much music as you can is like music school, if you really pay attention, music gets in you, if you let it, and it’s hard to shake. Write and play as often as you possibly can, you never stop learning.

 

20. Really well said again bro, I understand all of that for sure and I know many people would feel the same. It's awesome to hear your new stuff and we'll look forward to more. Any last words or news for your fans?

 

Thanks for this opportunity to talk. I’m hoping to release a few records or collections of songs in 2019. To anyone who may have listened or shown appreciation for any music I have been a part of, or my own music, please understand it means the world to me. I am forever grateful and appreciative. Plenty more to come. Thank you.

 

Hey Gary we're grateful for you and your music and the kindness you show your fans. Keep us updated on your music and very cool to speak with you today. - G