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Articles: Blind Not Deaf (Oct 17, 2007)


Blind Not Deaf

By Ryan A Bunch for the Toledo City Paper      Read the original article

After a full decade of inaction, Blind Melon is breaking its silence. One of the most underrated bands of the '90s, Blind Melon's national appeal fell off, at least commercially, once the charm of the hit "No Rain" began to wash away. However, the perceived 'one hit wonder' put out two of the most unique and interesting albums of the grunge era, side-stepping the collapse of that doomed movement by focusing on roots-oriented classic rock grooves held together by celebrated vocalist Shannon Hoon's unconventional and innovative stylings.


TA chance at repeat success died with Hoon (an Indiana native), when he fell victim to an intense affair with drugs in 1995, putting an end to the band's career. Over the past 12 years, Blind Melon has become a cult favorite, with an audience of devoted followers tuned into the quality of the group's music and Hoon's soul-touching lyrics. Last year, bassist Brad Smith and guitarist Christopher Thorn happened upon a devoted Melonhead in their production studio who offered an opportunity to put the band back together They took it. Smith spoke with us from his home in Beverly Hills about the reunion.

Blind Melon plays Frankie's on Friday, October 19. 9 p.m. $10 advance, $12 at door. www.frankiesinnercity.com.

Toledo City Paper: Have you all been playing together over these past years, or is this the first time you've got the band back together?

Brad Smith: This is the first time. The truth is I haven't even laid eyes on (drummer) Glenn (Graham) in 10 years. And (guitarist) Rogers (Stevens) is in a different band in New York City. And I'm out here in Los Angeles. Christopher and I kind of hung together as production members for the last five or six years, we were in another band called Unified Theory and we were producing bands and this Travis thing happened where he was just the biggest fan of Shannon Hoon. The more we started working with him, the more we got to know him, we were like 'Man, this guy could pull the band together.' He wanted to do it and we were like 'It's been enough time for the legacy of Blind Melon with Shannon to solidify,' it was like 'Let's do it man, let's go out and have fun, let's have an adventure!' So, we wrote a bunch of songs.

TCP: The thing everyone wants to know is how can Blind Melon reunite without Shannon Hoon?

Brad Smith: We did reunite and the fact is that we wanted to go out and play Blind Melon songs as well, 'cause Travis has that same kind of range to his voice and we wanted to write new songs and show a progression. It was really tough, because we were considering not using the name Blind Melon we had long band meetings about this. It wouldn't make any sense to not call the band Blind Melon, because if we go out and we do half old songs and play songs like "Change," "Time to Go," "No Rain," all this old stuff, "Galaxy," "Toes Across the Floor," and we don't call ourselves Blind Melon, then it's like we're our own cover band. If we didn't call ourselves Blind Melon, I think we'd get questions going the other way. I think a lot of people ask that question because they were very, very attached to Shannon like we were. It wasn't an easy decision to make. I think at the end of the day, we didn't want to feel like a cover band, we wanted to feel like a band that's honoring the past, and moving forward and honoring Shannon.

TCP: Where'd you run into new singer Travis Warren at?

Brad Smith: Christopher and I were gonna try to help him get a record deal. He came in on a suggestion from a record label A&R person. Chris and I were in production mode still, we just got through producing Under the Influence of Giants. We have a studio in North Hollywood. That's been our carear for the past 7 years or so, since Unified Theory broke up. This kid came in and just his attitude and his crazy I mean the guy is stone cold crazy, he really is. I mean, there's just no bones about it. And his intensity and stuff, I was just like 'Man, he reminds me so much of Shannon.' He was the biggest Shannon Hoon fan ever. Christopher and I were calling each other every night after the studio, after working with Travis and we're like 'Man, this guy could sing Blind Melon songs in his fucking sleep. He really could do it. If we wanted to get the band back together, this would be the only time that we could do it, that we could ever do it for the rest of our lives.' I think that bug just really got its hooks in me. So, we asked him. He stood up and kind of freaked out and said 'Man, that'd be fucking awesome, dude! Do you think the other guys would want to do it.' And we were like 'We don't know.' We haven't asked anybody.' So, we called Rogers and Glenn. They flew into town and we set up in the studio and we worked up like ten Blind Melon songs and could play 'em in 3 days. We could have gone out and played a set after three days. It was that close. Over the past year, we've recorded 20 songs and we're about to go out, play some new songs, play some old songs and release a record by the beginning of next year.

TCP: From Shannon to Unified Theory and Travis, there is a vocal similarity, is there a particular kind of vocal style that attracts you to want to work with it?

Brad Smith: Yeah. It's funny you ask that, because I've wondered that myself. For me, personally, I can say yes. My favorite vocalist growing up was Robert Plant. He's a tenor, he sings a little bit like a girl ... you know, the guys in the '70s like all the classic rock stuff, like Steve Miller and Steely Dan, they sing like real men sing. Robert Plant and Perry Farrel, they sing like girls, like screaming girls and I love that. I've always loved that. For me, I can honestly say that I like that raspy tenor, Janis Joplin, Shannon Hoon had that in spades, Robert Plant, Perry Ferral I like those screechers, dude, that get in your bones. I like that type of vocalist. I can take it one step further and say that every vocalist that I've been in a band with has been stone cold crazy. It's that lethal combination for me: You got to be stone cold crazy, you gotta have pipes like Janis Joplin and then we can work together.

TCP: It sounds like Shannon is still a big part of your life.

Brad Smith: You can't take away what we owe him as a band. He took songs that were kind of loose in form and gave them a voice. The closest things that we wrote to pop songs were, well "No Rain" just as a fluke. Shannon had this innate ability to reel the song in and make it sound like a song even though it was taking a left turn and going into different time frames and had little jam elements and stuff. I don't know how he did it man, but he made it work. I still feel like I owe a lot to Shannon, I really do. I'm still fucking really pissed at him, for getting so deeply involved in drugs that it killed him, I'm really pissed off at him about that. I'm really sad for Nico (Hoon's daughter, who Smith still visits) and Shannon's family that he left behind. I'm really saddned by that. It's just senseless for someone to die that young because of a choice that he made. He messed up. Everyday, or everytime I think about Shannon it's one of those three things: I feel like I owe him for putting our band on the map, because he was such amazing front man and such an inspiration to people, and I'm pissed off at him and I'm saddned by the whole situation.

With this new Blind Melon thing, we definitely have a sense of honoring Shannon. I'm sure Travis is going to have some words from the stage how much Shannon meant to him and make the crowd believe him that he's not an imposter. He loved Shannon as much as we did.




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