INTERVIEWS

Cosmic Rock

On a hot thursday afternoon guest contributor Gail sits down with long time Charlotte based guitarist DZ Mauldwin (Shotgun Saints, Union Jax and Anacreon) for a very interesting talk about his history, favorites and thoughts on many subjects. Check out this very cool talk with DZ and Gail about all things rock and roll and more.

 

You are currently in three different bands: Union Jax, Anacreon and Shotgun Saints. Is it difficult to juggle three different bands? What kind of difficulties do you run into?

 

Hahaha… yeah, it’s difficult and sometimes it can be downright challenging! Obviously there are the typical issues just like with any band I’ve been in but in this case, it’s times three… Lol! Just getting several musicians assembled in the same room to write music or learn covers can present a lot difficulties. Creative and personal differences of opinion, music genres, individual attitudes and drama as well as a plethora of others issues can all influence the outcome of just how difficult it can be to move just one band forward into the public. Add two more to that equation and it can become a nightmare! The key for me has been to select musicians who want to be part of a “team”. People who have similar musical interests, backgrounds and don’t mind working hard together to make something positive come out of the negatives. Outside of those typical band issues scheduling and booking are perhaps the toughest of all difficulties I encounter being the leader of 3 bands. Communication is paramount and I keep in constant contact with all the members through text messaging, phone calls, Facebook and emails. I also keep an Excel spreadsheet for the entire calendar year and all three bands are on it as well as the bands that some of the other band members play in so that we all know each other’s availability for rehearsals, shows and for personal time.

 

 

How did your bands form?

 

Shotgun Saints was formed in 2011. The intent was to put a band together that would bring back the “concert” feel or atmosphere that was a part of the music scene in the Charlotte area from 80’s. I wanted to give “live” music listeners a show that would allow them to escape their 9-5 lives for 3-4 hours. That meant big sound, big lighting and dressing the part. I’d grown tired of seeing bands doing the cargo shorts, t-shirts, flip flops and low fi production shows where they were simply background music for the TV screens in the bar! I’m not saying that the musicians weren’t great, most really were but most were just going through the motions. I did that too so I know.

 

Union Jax was formed when Freddy Trumbower and I began tossing around ideas for a new band. The idea was to do a tribute style act but not a tribute for just one artist. Instead we chose to do it based around the geographic and musically rich British rock scene from the 70’s and 80’s, particularly the British hard rock and metal bands. So we assembled a number great area musicians and we all put band ideas down on paper and began rehearsing. We had a few personnel changes in the first couple of months but once those were done the band gelled and has quickly become a large drawing, really good “live” band playing music from musical greats like Deep Purple, Rainbow, Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden, Uriah Heep, Bad Company, Def Leppard, Queen, AC/DC, Whitesnake, Judas Priest, Foghat, The Cult and many others.

 

Anacreon is an original band that I’d started around 2014 with former Shotgun Saints bassist James Eaton. James and I began writing together before he actually became a member of Shotgun Saints and I really loved his attitude and thrill of playing. We assembled a band in spring of 2014 and quickly put together enough material to do shows and record a debut CD when James passed away in September of 2014. After nearly a year of inactivity I assembled another band and began working on the songs again. We did a couple of shows, had a management company ready to take us on and had started preproduction for the CD but the chemistry just wasn’t there. In 2018 I decided it was time to try and get it resurrected and to finish the goal of recording the CD that James and I had always wanted to do. Right now I’m in the process of tracking guitars in my studio and I have a some guest musicians who will be providing bass and drums for the CD. Once that is done we’re talking about doing some shows and we’ll see where that takes us.

 

 

 

Your band Union Jax is a tribute to British hard rock and metal. What are some of your favorite songs to play live?

 

I’d have to say some of my favorites are “The Boys Are Back In Town” by Thin Lizzy, “My Women From Tokyo” by Deep Purple, “Stone Cold” by Rainbow and “Flight of Icarus” by Iron Maiden to name a few… obviously my love for British hard rock and metal is undeniable! I love the twin guitar attack of bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy.

 

 You have been a staple on the Charlotte music scene. How much has it changed since you started playing out? How much has it remained the same?

 

Yeah, I’ve been here in this scene for 40 years now. I played my first bar gig when I was just out of high school in the summer of 1979. From ’79 through ’83 we played hundreds of shows in lots of bars all across the Charlotte region. At that time there were dozens of great local area bars that supported “live” music. Not sports bars like a lot of places in the 90’s and into the 00’s. We could play 3-4 nights a week and never play the same bar twice in 6-8 weeks! It was a great time for local music through the 80’s. Even the local original music scene for bands was fertile. With bands like Firehouse, Animal Bag, The Vandals, Fetchin’ Bones and many others getting signed or having label interest it was a great time for artists, musicians, bands and venues.

 

In the 80’s the dram shop laws and lowering of the blood alcohol legal limits along with harsher DWI laws began slowly taking affect on the local bars who had long supported “live” music. As the 90’s came in the landscape changed a lot. Most of the places that had once been great venues for “live” music were gone and the bands were migrating more towards cover material and playing the sports bars or as we called it, “the chicken wing circuit”.

 

Today the scene is starting to turn around. Some will argue that but I proved that it is through my DZ’s Weekly Carolina’s Music Listing on Facebook each week. More and more venues are featuring “live” music and newer music venues have opened. I’m playing more now than I probably did when I was in my 20’s so that’s the upside of it all. I guess that if there was “same as it ever was” caveat to what I’ve seen is that the pay scale hasn’t gotten a lot better.

 

Potential bar customers have so many options for their entertainment dollars now. The business model has changed and it’s harder now for a venue to keep its doors open. I’m a big supporter of venues who support “live” entertainment and we all don’t support them, we’ll lose them!

 

 

 

Being in three bands, you must have a lot of different influences. What are some of your influences and what is it about their music that inspired you to make your own music?

 

I do. As a guitarist it’s obvious that I’m influenced by guitar oriented rock bands. Many of the same bands I play songs by in Shotgun Saints and Union Jax are influential to me. I began playing violin at 7 years old so classical music I still love. But at the same time I love country, blues, jazz, rock and pop music. My influences are wide and I accredit that to growing up in a household where music was not only listened to but played. I’m a creative artist and I began writing music and riffs on guitar as soon as I picked up the instrument. Having the classical music background from playing violin taught me music theory so it became easier for me write and compose my own arrangements. I never really think of my influences or how I’m going to write this song or that one. It’s just happens. In the late 90’s I wrote 60 songs in a year but there was a lot of personal things I was going through so it was like a flood at times. I play guitar every day and sometimes I can go weeks without a good riff or song arrangement and then at times it comes out really easily.

 

I guess for conversation sake some of my biggest guitar influences would as follows.

 

Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top – incredible tone and feel for blues rock. Few do it better!

 

Richie Blackmore of Deep Purple and Rainbow – his guitar playing defined a style that most now know as neo-classical and was very influential for me.

 

Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy – twin guitar attack bands have always been a favorite of mine. The layering of guitars, the interplay between the guitarists are all influences.

 

Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad – I had an uncle who turned me on GFR when I was 10 years old and Mark’s singing and playing have been an influence that a lot of people recognize once they know of his impact on me.

 

Jeff Beck – The man… no one has as unique a voice on the instrument as he does!

 

There are lots of others but we could talk for weeks on that subject alone… Lol!

 

 

 

What are some of your favorite venues to play live? What venues would you avoid playing again?

 

Some of my favorites on the schedule today would be, in no particular order…

 

Apps & Taps

Stooges

Moochies Tavern

Pineville Tavern

Garvey’s

Rocky Knoll Bar

Xtreme Wings N Things

 

Venues I would avoid playing again… as a supporter of “live” music I won’t name any of those… Lol! Most know who they are and some have even closed due to their business practices but I’m not wanting to name anyone at this time.

 

You are very active in charitable causes. What causes do you support?

 

We do a lot of charitable work locally. Over the years I’ve been involved with these charities…

 

St. Jude’s Children Hospitals

Cancer Society

Leukemia Society

Muscular Dystrophy Association

Relay for Life

Kid’s First of the Carolina’s

Autism Society

 

Also many lots of biking community fundraisers and events for individuals.

 

 

 

What bands have you played with on tour? What bands would you like to play with?

 

Autograph, Blackfoot, Blue Oyster Cult, Firehouse, Honeymoon Suite, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Mother’s Finest, Pat Travers Band, The Outlaws, Nantucket and Nazareth as well as many other regional/national recording artists

 

Your guitar collection boasts 40 guitars. What are your favorites and why do you like them so much?

 

I’ve been a long time Gibson player so a lot of them are my Les Paul’s but I also own several Flying V’s as well as Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters, ESP’s, Charvels, Carvin but my favorites right now that I play in most shows are…

 

PVX Guitars DZ Signature Flying V Custom – this guitar was built by Paul Vogt, a local guitar manufacturer and luthier. This guitar is the first he built and I spec’ed all the wood, components and the look. It’s a truly one of a kind guitar and a beautiful piece of guitar artistry. The tone of this guitar is big and fat!

 

Epiphone Richie Faulkner Signature Flying V Custom – this guitar isn’t the most expensive one I play onstage but it’s an incredible axe. It’s got a the great qualities of an instrument costly double or triple the price point and plays amazing!

 

Gibson Les Paul Custom – this guitar is a newer version of perhaps the most iconic guitar in the history of electric guitar. It’s black with nickel/chrome hardware and it’s just rock machine. Great tone and the super-fast neck!

 

Gibson Les Paul Traditional – beautiful guitar, honey burst finish and heavy. Sound great with lots of tone and attitude!

 

I have a couple of Strats I play which are a Fender Custom Shop Jeff Beck Signature and a Fender Player series with a Floyd Rose. I sometimes use a Gibson Les Paul Junior which is nice and I have modded it to my liking. I’m constantly rotating other guitars in and out of my onstage setup so a good many of the ones I own get played and aren’t “case queens”. They’re tools and I use them!

 

 

 

There are a lot of complaints about the state of rock music today. What do you think about the state of rock music today?

 

I think the state of rock music today is strong. It seems to me that we have a lot great younger bands both on a national and regional level who are producing some pretty damn good music! The thing I like is that there are a lot of young bands carrying the torch for hard rock and metal. That’s something that makes me happy to see!

 

 

 

What equipment do you currently use?

 

Lately I’m using a Line 6 Helix floor unit modeler with Ownhammer Impulse Responses loaded into it. I’ve been quite happy with this setup because it’s easier to setup/tear down and gives me an incredible amp selection and tone night after night. In fact, most longtime fans and musicians say that they can’t tell the difference between me using the Line 6 Helix and my old school Marshall half stacks.

 

These days lots of the venues have their own production so we’re at their mercy so we decided a while back to go totally in-ear monitoring with a rack mounted Presonus RML32AI digital mixer with Shure PSM in-ear transmitter/receivers and a splitter snake. Now we roll into a venue and hook all the instruments/modelers into our stage box and hand the other trunk end of the splitter snake to the FOH technician with a track listing. Doing this gives each band member control of what we’re hearing in our in-ear monitors via iPhone, iPad or android devices onstage.

 

As far as gear goes I’m still definitely a lover of Marshall amps. Hard to beat a tube amp! For decades now I’ve used Marshall amps and cabinets and still do occasionally. I own a number of Marshall heads which are JCM800 Lead Series 2204’s, JCM900 4100’s, a JVM210, a 1959 Series Plexi and 6 Marshall 4 x 12” 1960A cabinets. I do have a Marshall 4104 2 x 12” combo and number of other vintage combo amps that I use for recording every so often.

 

 

 

You are currently working on a solo project. Will it be a departure from your other bands? What musicians will be playing on it?

 

I don’t know if I’d call it as much as solo project. It’s really going to go under the Anacreon band. All the songs on it are written, composed, recorded, engineered and produced by myself. I will have a very well-known producer and former guitarist from an extremely well-known band co-producing the effort. As far as musicians guesting on it I have former Shotgun Saints and Union Jax bassist Dave Meyers playing on it. I’ll have a couple of different drummers involved on it but no one I can name at the moment.

 

 

 

With the debate constantly raging over who is the greatest guitar player, who do you consider to be the best?

 

Wow! That’s a very subjective question depending on the genre but I guess my personal preferences go back to the influences you asked me about earlier in the interview. That all being said, I don’t think many people will disagree with my pick of Jeff Beck. He’s an innovator and not an imitator. As far as different genres there are so many incredible guitarists that it’s really unfair for me to pick an ultimate favorite because each do an amazing job in their respective genres.

 

 

 

How do you approach songwriting in Anacreon?

 

Typically with me it starts with a great guitar riff. I almost always compose the music arrangement before ever concentrating on the lyrical content. Once I’ve got a nice arrangement I may go back to a book I’ve read for lyric inspiration and sometimes it will just come to me out of nowhere. I can’t say there any one way or formula. It’s just something I been blessed with. The biggest thing for me is that I’ve had to “get out of my own way” to write. If I sit down and just try to write a song it’s possible but not always the outcome I want. So I find if I just let the inspiration come to me it’s more from the heart.

 

 

How can people follow your music?

 

You know I can’t say. I know the bands have more than 5-6 thousand followers between them. I do have a Reverbnation, Twitter, Instagram and a Number One Music site all with followers. Lately the Number One Music site has been getting a lot of plays.

 

 

 

Any upcoming shows?

 

We have a lot of upcoming shows with Shotgun Saints and Union Jax. The event dates are listed on the Facebook artist pages for each band.

 

Shotgun Saints page is https://www.facebook.com/ShotgunSaintsRock

 

Union Jax page is https://www.facebook.com/UnionJaxBritishRockTribute

 

 

 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

 

Play music, read, write and enjoy time with my wife and our pit bull sweetheart Princess Aayda.

 

 

 

Is it hard to juggle being in a band with having a family?

 

Yeah, it can be especially when I was a lot younger. Now with all my children grown and out of the house my wife and I are enjoying playing music and it’s pretty much our life and hobby in one.

 

 

 

What level of success do you wish to accomplish?

 

I’m a very humble person and very fortunate to have been able to have the success that I have had in all the years I’ve been doing this. At my age if I could accomplish anything I’d have to say that I’d like to be able to play music for many more years and hopefully see the Charlotte area music scene continue to grow!