An Interview with 'Saliva' guitarist Wayne Swinny:
An exciting new chapter has been written in the Saliva saga that entails a sensational new singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, a brilliant new CD that may be their finest recording to date, a new record label, and the launch of a new tour. Saliva is back with rock ‘n’ roll vengeance!
SALIVA has been conquering audiences with their eclectic mix of rock, metal, grunge, rap, and hip-hop … ceremoniously labeled as nu metal or hard alternative …since the band’s inception in 1996. The Memphis based band released their self-titled debut album the following year under the Rocking Chair Records label. Saliva’s second studio album Every Six Seconds would not be released until 2001 but had catapulted the band into the mainstream while achieving commercial success. The album spawned the proverbial favorites … “Superstar,” “After Me,” “Click, Click Boom,” and “Your Disease.” Many of the songs were featured in such motion pictures as The Fast and the Furious and Dracula 2000. Saliva also financially benefited with their music by being featured in various video games and sporting events including Monster Jam and WrestleMania. Every Six Seconds also instituted the band’s relationship with Island Records.
In 2002, Saliva scored commercially again with their first single entitled “Always” from the Back into Your System album. The single reached #1 on the Modern Rock Tracks and became Saliva’s biggest hit to date. The track was also featured in the game Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock. The album also spawned the hit “Rest in Pieces” penned by James Michael & Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe and a third single “Raise Up.” Saliva was also chosen to support Kiss and Aerosmith on tour in 2003.
Survival of the Sickest (#20 on the Billboard 200) was the group’s fourth studio release in 2004. The album launched two singles …"Survival of the Sickest" and “Razor’s Edge.” The band continued to reap rewards for their music being included in video games and pay per view specials. Guitarist Chris D’ Abaldo parted ways with Saliva in 2005. Jonathan Montoya (Full Devil Jacket) eventually replaced him as the new rhythm guitarist.
Saliva released the single “Ladies and Gentlemen” in 2006 reaching #2 on the U.S. Mainstream Rock charts and became the band’s best- selling single. The single was followed-up with the album Blood Stained Love Story in 2007. The release sold 31,000 copies in its first week.
In 2010, Jonathan Montoya exited the band and Saliva announced it would continue as a four piece group.
In 2011, Saliva released Under Your Skin their seventh studio effort. It would also be their final studio album with longtime frontman Josie Scott. The album spawned the single “Nothing.”The track “Badass” co-written by Wayne Swinny was featured in the film Saw 3D.
SALIVA TODAY: Their back to rock basics line-up is … Bobby Amaru (lead vocals), Wayne Swinny (guitars), David Novotny (bass guitar) and Paul Crosby (drums/percussion). Their brand new single “Rise Up” is available to purchase at all digital stores. Rise Up …their incredible new CD on their new label… Rum Bum Records will be available to purchase on April 29th. Saliva is currently on tour and recently performed several dates in Florida.
I had the great privilege recently to chat extensively with original Saliva guitarist Wayne Swinny. Wayne and I chatted about Rise Up… their latest album and its lyrical meaning, new lead singer and songwriter Bobby Amaru, the departing of Josey Scott, touring with Kiss and Aerosmith, a rock and roll comeback, Football … and so much more!
Here’s my interview with lead guitarist and songwriter for ‘Saliva’ and die-hard Oakland Raiders fan…WAYNE SWINNY.
Ray Shasho: Hello Wayne, how you doing man?
Wayne Swinny: “Hi Ray, I’m all good, sorry about the mix-up, my daughter’s afternoon nap kind of screwed up my schedule (All laughing).”
Ray Shasho: That’s all right, how old is she?
Wayne Swinny: “Two and a half, she’ll be three this June. She’s a hoot right now; it’s really cool, something new every day almost. When you get time you’ve got to just get with your family, fast forward, and spend as much time together as you can. And thank God with iPhones you’ve got Face Time to try and see your family when you’re away. So it’s a little better than it used to be and don’t have to go to a pay phone (Laughing).”
Ray Shasho: So where are you calling from Wayne?
Wayne Swinny: “I’m in Gulfport, Mississippi, that’s where my daughter and wife live. I’m a Memphis boy who moved south in my later years. There are a lot of characters down here that make for some great stories. I did find that out in my years … I meet some unusual characters the more southern that I migrated. We’ll be performing in Memphis in a few days to rework the entire show. It’s going to be a completely new deal and our fans won’t have to worry about seeing us play the same thing they saw before, that’s for sure.”
Ray Shasho: Saliva’s new lead singer Bobby Amaru is terrific and such a great find.
Wayne Swinny: “He’s got a great voice and is an all around professional. The guy can write songs and is a great producer in the studio in his own right as well. But just having him in the band is an adrenaline boost … just getting new blood. With Bobby it’s great and he has respect for all the older Saliva music and he’s not coming in with an attitude. He actually enjoys doing the older material, so he’s the perfect balance. I tell everybody all the time that we hit the lottery when we found Bobby.”
Ray Shasho: Is Bobby also playing rhythm guitar in the band?
Wayne Swinny: “He hasn’t started playing live yet. We do some songs that include a medley of some of the slower songs and covers that we do, so I’ve been on him to grab an acoustic guitar and help me out on that. There are some songs that would be really cool for him to play, so I’m going to stay on him and see what happens with that.”
Ray Shasho: So what is Josey Scott doing nowadays, I heard that he was into Christian music?
Wayne Swinny: “The last I heard, that’s where he was headed. I’m not even sure if he’s still doing anything to be in the business that way. I just know that he got to the point where his family and personal life became more important to him than his musical life, and you’ve got to respect a guy for that. It works for some people and doesn’t work for others, if it wasn’t working for him than I think he made the right decision. It’s a good thing, it appears to be that he’s very happy and content now, and we got very lucky to keep going too, so it worked out for both parties involved, and we’re all very lucky to be where we are in life today.”
Ray Shasho: Wayne, who were some of the artists that got you interested in playing guitar and becoming a professional musician?
Wayne Swinny: “It’s a laundry list of all the classic rock guitar heroes… Angus Young, Randy Rhoads, Jimi Hendrix. Then you’ve got the metal guys … I was a huge early Judas Priest fan so Glenn Tipton and K .K. Downing … all the pre-modern era of metal. I was able to catch some of those guys live early on and made quite an impression on me. I tried to soak in everything, from early Kiss stuff to listening to Rush and Ted Nugent. I was a huge Michael Schenker fan of UFO. The way Michael Schenker played sort of spoke to me, just an awesome player. One of these days I’ve got to get on with Eddie Trunk on ‘That Metal Show,’ I swear, I could probably talk with him for an hour just about UFO. He’s the only guy that knows more Michael Schenker and UFO trivia than I do.”
Ray Shasho: Have you had any kind of formal musical training?
Wayne Swinny: “I didn’t, unless you could call when I was a kid; my father and his father before him were both song leaders in church. Our whole family sang at the church, so all that traditional music was either based on old classical songs or based on traditional blues and gospel. So man … what great knowledge! The ABC’s of rock which is blues and a little bit of classical thrown in to give you a little schoolin’. It was a great place to learn music and that was really the only formal training I had. If you put down sheet music in front of me, you might as well put down Russian dialogue and ask me to speak it, I’ve got nothing there.”
“Literally, when I got my first electric guitar and amp, it was the cheapest one they had. I also bought the Dressed to Kill album, and that is how I got started. So Ace Frehley taught me how to play guitar. I didn’t read music. For me it was the best way to learn. And from there I went to a Kiss concert, I think the ‘Love Gun Tour’ and there was this band from Australia opening up called AC/DC. And holy cow dude! So from Ace Frehley to Angus Young… it just exploded. Those two guys were amazing!”
Ray Shasho: It really is amazing how so many legendary musicians haven’t had any kind of formal training.
Wayne Swinny: “You are right, it’s amazing how many guys aren’t trained, but also intentionally didn’t seek musical training. I kind of wish I hadn’t had this philosophy because it would have been good to be able to read music at this point in the game. I intentionally refused to go back and learn it, even earlier on in my career. I felt if I had that regimented technical knowledge it was going to affect my improvisation or the way I naturally interpreted music. So I stayed away from it literally on purpose.”
Ray Shasho: The bands brand new CD… Rise Up will be officially released on April 29th. It opens up a whole new chapter for Saliva. There’s not a sleeper track on the album and I truly believe its Saliva’s best work to date! I’m giving the album (5) stars!
Wayne Swinny: “I have said that myself. The first album you do, you’re always kind of partial, like your date at the prom. But honestly, I had more fun doing this record and I actually listened to this record. I enjoy listening to this CD more than anyone we’ve ever made, and maybe because I felt more involved and hands-on with it.”
Ray Shasho: The music and lyrical content on Rise Up are extremely intelligent with a clear-cut agenda and definitely not a headbanging rock album.
Wayne Swinny: “We can credit Bobby for bringing in that fresh attitude in the songwriting aspect. I’ve got to hand it to the guy; he’s an all around great musician. He can play anything; he’s also a great drummer. He was a drummer for Burn Season back in early 2000 and can session drum with just about anybody. He can also pick up a guitar or a bass and lay down tracks on a record with no problem.”
“Bobby Huff was also quite an asset in the studio too. As a producer he didn’t over produce, he kind of let us by ourselves with Bobby Amaru. Being his first record with us, he knew there was sort of a growth process. I think we were actually able to give each song the time that it deserved in the writing process …so credit to both Bobby’s.”
Ray Shasho: Did Bobby Amaru write most of the lyrics on the new album?
Wayne Swinny: “He either wrote or co-wrote on a lot of the songs. I don’t think there was a single song that Bobby didn’t have his input on. There were several that he already had written before he got in the band. When we heard demos of them we thought they were really cool. So we kind of reworked them with the Saliva twist. Bobby was open to changing things up and making things work. It was the most enjoyable process that I’ve had in the business to date, and I think everybody in the band would say the same thing.”
Ray Shasho: There’s an obvious strategic message or theme to the new album. For instance, a few sample lyrics off the newly released single “Rise Up” … It's time we choose a side … It's time for do or die… Some things are worth the fight… It's time to set it off. Talk about the meaning and intention behind those powerful lyrics?
Wayne Swinny: “I think there are multiple levels to the message. It not only applies to us as a band, to rise up from the reformation of the band sort of speak, but it also speaks to the times right now. There’s so much turmoil in the world. You can either let it all get you down or you can take it and let it inspire you to rise to new heights. That’s kind of where we are as a band, as a country, and a world … we’re all kind of in that same spot too. If the message reaches one person, than it’s worth it, so hopefully we can reach a few people.”
Ray Shasho: Some other tracks on the new album … “She Can Sure Hide Crazy” features awesome guitar licks with Soundgarden overtones.
Wayne Swinny: “A little bit … I broke out the effects for that one and had to do a little whammy. I had fun doing that one.”
Ray Shasho: “No One But Me” was probably my favorite track.
Wayne Swinny: “Wow, no kidding? Thank you very much. I actually had a slightly different form of that music. We put out three records since I wrote that music and it just kept getting passed over. I threw it out there this time and Bobby Huff and Bobby Amaru took the idea and sat there right in front of me and turned it into the song that it is now. So kudos to those guys and Bobby for coming up with the whole direction of the song.”
Ray Shasho: Another track that I really enjoyed, and also think should be played on mainstream radio is “Redneck Freakshow.”
Wayne Swinny: “We had a thought that with all the reality TV that is happening, maybe eventually somebody might grab a hold of that and use it for a theme song.”
Ray Shasho: Talk about the meaning behind “1000 Eyes.”
Wayne Swinny: “That’s a good question. We had a friend of ours that’s a writer and does screenplays. One of his ideas was getting looked at for a zombie show on TV called The Walking Dead. He had a script that was being considered and wanted to get music for it. So literally … that quick, Bobby took the idea and ran with it. He came back with a song and we’re like, dude, that’s freaking amazing! We loved it and it made the record. We’re still hoping with all the undead stuff out there we’ll get usage in a show, a movie or something. So the song is from the point of view of the last guy that’s not a zombie …and he’s fighting his way through all the zombies.”
Ray Shasho: I think teens today are way too passive when it comes to issues affecting our country and the rest of the world. They’re not getting involved and I think Smartphone’s are probably partially responsible for that. My generation got involved and inspired because of the lyrical content in the music recorded by our favorite bands or artist …and then it became ‘us and them.’
Wayne Swinny: “We have these electronic pacifiers now. I love technology, don’t get me wrong, and I’m just as guilty of having a version of each kind … I have a tablet, iPhone, and all the other electronic pacifiers. So I am guilty, but I do feel like you may be right, it sort of keeps people from stepping out physically and doing something. You can blog or rant about it on your Instagram, Facebook or Twitter account all you want, but it actually takes getting out of your house and doing something to get it done sometimes. I think we are lacking a little bit of that, but as soon as we say that, somebody’s going to step out and prove us wrong.”
“I really don’t even remember my life before rock. I was around thirteen when I got a guitar. All I remember before that was riding my bike and going fishing and that’s really all the early memory I’ve got. So all of a sudden, when I found music is when my eyes became open. I became aware of not only music itself, but issues outside of music.”
Ray Shasho: The music industry definitely hasn’t been a factor for inspiring young minds nowadays.
Wayne Swinny: “My big soapbox is with American Idol and all these popular shows. Music is not a competition and it’s not a sport people! They’ve turned it into something that it’s not. But if people want to watch those shows, I won’t judge them. It’s kind of the sign of the times and they’re just trying to make it in this world and it’s a great jumpstart. To me, the experience more people should bring away from competitions are not who wins or loses, but it’s about meeting other musicians and expanding your horizons.”
Ray Shasho: A lot of the greatest musicians in the world were discovered in their garages.
Wayne Swinny: “That’s it. You got in your garage, turned it up as loud as you possibly could and attracted as many angry neighbors and teenage friends as you could. That’s how I did it!”
Ray Shasho: Can rock music make a comeback in the mainstream?
Wayne Swinny: “As far as the cycle goes we’re at six o’clock right now. I think it’s working its way back around the cycle. As long as there are still a handful of us out there still rockin’ it will survive. It may be in a little bit different shape or form, but if the idea, the feeling, and the emotion of it survive … it will live on!”
Ray Shasho: You’re right, we may be in one of those cycles. Between Elvis and the Beatles there was a cycle, and during the disco era there was another cycle. Today’s mainstream radio is reminiscent to the disco phase.
Wayne Swinny: “Right, we are kind of in that phase right now. I’ve had that same thought myself. I was a kid, and I remember slapping a ‘Disco Sucks!’ bumper sticker on my mom’s car. She got really mad when she found out, but I had to do it to support rock. (All Laughing) But it also seems that people are listening to a much wider range of music. So you have to catch people when they are in that rock mood and give them something to hold on to.”
Ray Shasho: One of the financial advantages to modern technology is that you can collect music royalties from video games.
Wayne Swinny: “Absolutely! We pay a lot of bills with video games and movie soundtracks. I remember seeing a comment from one of the fans that said, “Hey man, can’t you write anything that doesn’t have anything to do with sports or wrestling? (All laughing) But I am a big sports guy! I wake-up every morning and watch ‘Mike & Mike’… that’s a big part in my everyday routine.”
Ray Shasho: Wayne, are you a Tennessee Titans fan?
Wayne Swinny: “I’m not an anti-Titans fan, because I am a Tennessee boy. I was an Oakland Raiders fan way before the Titans were even a franchise. I’ve got two Raiders Tats. And I’m talking from back in the day when “The Snake” Ken Stabler was there. Kenny Stabler was the guy I wanted to be when I was a kid. He was like the rock and roll quarterback of all-time. Kenny Stabler and Fred Biletnikoff were probably the reason I grew my hair long in high school.”
Ray Shasho: In 2003, Saliva supported Kiss and Aerosmith on tour … what was that like?
Wayne Swinny: “Crazy and most surreal time of my life. It’s insane to even think about it now. I had to wake up every day and pinch myself on that tour. Joe Perry was just too cool for me at first. Aerosmith had a reputation and they lived up to it for being a little out of it. Every single night, just because the way the stage was laid out, Gene Simmons setlist would be out there every night on the stage, and I don’t recall a night where I didn’t rip his setlist completely to shreds. It was right where my effects board was and my backup mike and close to his too. It would strike all of his stuff, but his setlist would be taped down. So right where I planted my left foot every night was usually at the Kiss setlist. As soon as I did a turn or spin it would just tear to shreds. I was always terrified that Gene was going to get mad because when they were in their garb he was like twelve feet tall and they were quite imposing figures. He was my first rock idol. Luckily, Gene was very cool and he laughed it off. He always had a stack of extra setlists on hand. It was never intentional, I wanted to make sure he knew that, and it wasn’t me thumbing my nose at the man or anything like that (All laughing).”
Ray Shasho: Wayne, here’s a question that I ask everyone that I interview. If you had a ‘Field of Dreams’ wish like the movie, to play, sing or collaborate with anyone from the past or present, who would that be?
…And it can’t be Kenny Stabler; it has to be a musician. (All Laughing)
Wayne Swinny: “If I built a band on stage … “I’d like to hangout one night with Bon Scott, write some music, and just see what that was like. That guy was crazy! He would have been fun to be in a band with. As far as drummers, I would have to say John Bonham… Are you kidding me? John Paul Jones on bass, he did some really cool and innovative stuff. He could play progressive and play straightforward rock songs too. If we started adding guitar players, that would be a crowded stage … Angus Young, Jimmy Page, Joe Perry …and the list goes on and on …all the guys that laid the foundation for where we are now.”
“The most star struck I’ve ever been in my entire life was a surprised meeting. We were staying on Sunset Boulevard and I’m out walking the halls on my cell phone and I come back around the corner toward my room. Coming out of the room across the hall from ours was Little Richard. He had the two biggest bodyguards I’ve ever seen in my life. When I saw him I literally dropped my cell phone and I know my jaw went wide open and I started pointing and saying … You! You! I was just in shock. And he had the biggest grin from ear to ear and motioned for me to come over. He gave me a big hug and handed me three of his prayer books. Maybe he took one look at me and said one of these isn’t going to be enough. It was the greatest rock star moment of my life.”
Ray Shasho: Wayne, thank you for being on the call today but more importantly for all the incredible music you’ve given us with Saliva and continue to bring.
Wayne Swinny: “Alright man …thank you brother!”
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