Welcome one and all to the fantastically glamorous world of Creem Circus. A world full of colour, glam, guitars and great rock n roll music, what else do you need? They are on the verge of releasing their second LP ("The Gltterest, Sladest, Rockin'est, Laidest, Overtime-paidest, Boogiest Band in town"). So what better time to catch up with the man at the healm of all things Creem Circus, Mr. Chris DiPinto to chat about what was and what is about to be, read on it's fun and isn't that what it's all about? Oh and did I mention guitars?
Hi Chris thanks for joining us here today, much appreciated! I think it's time the world got hip to the awesome Creem Circus and being as your second release is due soon, what better time to do so. So could you tell us how and when music first got you and who were the artists that tripped your trigger in the beginning?
Chris DiPinto ; So great to be talking to you Darren! So my aunts and uncles were teen glam fans in the seventies and they would dress me up like Elton John at age five! I loved the song "Crocodile Rock" and in '76 they took me to see him in Philly at the Spectrum. That show is what got me hooked! He opened with "Funeral For A Friend" with smoke machines and double necked guitars....awesome. By fifth grade I'm all Boston, Cheap Trick and Zeppelin and I get my first guitar. But it was guys like Brian May, Randy Rhoads and Eddie Van Halen that set the template for me. Wear cool clothes, write catchy riffs and make your own guitar. My real immersion into seventies glam (not to be confused with mid-late eighties hair glam, that I don't like) happens in the early 2000's when I re-discovered Sweet, Slade and Bolan.
Yes seventies glam is a very different beast to the eighties version for sure. So it was Sweet, Slade and Bolan that got you submerged again into the fabulous seventies glam period. Ok as you re-discovered it who else popped up to influence you, also after being dressed up as Elton John at age five is that when image became important to you or did you get more serious about when you re discovered it all?
C . D ; Getting dressed up was always step one. But it was the seventies and the regular clothes our parents put us in were already pretty dope!
Chris in his seventies finery, old school photo album style!
C . D ; But the book "Performing Glam Rock" is what really got me inspiered to start a band. It delves into Suzi Quatro, Roy Wood and Roxy Music as well as Bowie and Bolan.
Yes a great time to be a child, but there were also some horrendous things we had to wear also, it wasn't all glitter and glam, more two tone brown hahaha. Ok I've not heard of that book, what's the story with it?
C . D ; It explains how there was a break in pop culute in 1970. The lunar landing was a huge deal and the young generation saw themselves different from the previous introspective, shoe-gazing progressiveness rock of the Woodstock generation. They now had Bowie with Space Oddity, and homosexuality became legal in the UK around that time. It all changed and the kids wanted to rock with glitter and the shock value associated with it. Great book! Here in the USA we didn't have glam the way you did in the UK. We had to dig up those bands like Mud, Hello, The Rubettes and then of course junk shop glam like Hector, Brett Smiley, and the original Angel.
Yes we were lucky in the UK glamwise.
C . D ; O.K. Playing an instrument.... I got the bug for guitar in '78. My parents were listening to the first Boston album in the car and that record sealed it for me. The expolsive lighting bolt pick-slides, the crying dual guitars and screaming harmony vocals. I still love it to this day. Then Randy Rhoads and his polka dots and Rick Nielsen, the way he strapped three guitars on at once! Too cool! But these guys often had a guitar they made or desgined. I just figured that's what you did..so I started building "guitars" out of tennis rackets or hockey sticks. Later, in '92 I made my first guitar. Today I own DiPinto guitars and I've made guitars for Rick Nielsen, jack White, Elliot Eaton, Earl Slick and BOWIE! I still can't believe it to this day as I am here typing it out!
DiPinto Guitars on Facebook click here
Nice work!!!!! Which guitars did you make for Earl Slick and Bowie. I hear ya! All totally pinch me moments!
C . D ; OK here is Earl on stage with bowie playing his DiPinto. I never got any shots of Bowie with his. He went into open heart surgery right after I sent it him. I don't think he toured much after that.
C . D ; Here is Rick Neilsen from cheap trick with a Steven Colbert guitar I made him. He used it on the show.
C . D ; Me and Elliott Easton from The Cars (and The Empty Hearts) discussing lefties.
All very, very cool indeed! O.k. back to your journey leading up to those out of this world moments. So at age twelve you grabbed your weapon of choice, the guitar. How did your musical journey progress from that point? Did you start writing on your own or did you form a band first? Can you tell us how it all came together?
C . D ; Well let's see, I got my first guitar at ten and by thirteen I played my first show with my band Cloven Hoof (we pre dated the British Cloven hoof). It was mainly songs like "Paranoid" and "Tom Sawyer".
Cloven Hoof, Live.
Was it all covers or were there some originals also?
C . D ; Cloven Hoof had only one original. A love song the singer wrote for a girl he liked. HAHAHA! Not that bad from what I remember.
O.k. what came next?
C . D ; I was heavily into multi track recording and I had many four and eight track machines in high school. I went to college for jazz guitar at Berklee College of music in Boston. I wanted to be a jazz guitarist and Charlie Christian was my hero. I moved home and started playing in a band called Funkenstien...very Parliament / Funkadelic. This is when I really started dressing it up.
'88 Funkenstien live!
Wow! So not straight to rock 'n' roll then. How long did Funkenstien last and did you record anything or was it just playing live?
C . D ; Yes they released a great demo on cassette before I joined. Very Punk-Funk. That lasted until '91. After that I started a band with my wife (my girlfriend at the time) called O Mighty Isis, named after a seventies Saturday morning cartoon and not the terrorists! We released a 7" and a CD. It was lo-fi indie pop. We opened for the Dead Milkmen, Pavement and Stereo Lab. It was very Sonic Youth / Dinosaur Jr. sounding. That's also when I made my first guitar...a ten string Jetson's looking thing.
O Mighty Isis 7" vinyl release and live shot
Funkenstien sound way before their time, what with Fishbone and the like in the mid nineties. O.k. O Mighty Isis, great back then to have that name but more of a hindrance nowadays though ahaha. Ok does the 7" and CD sound as cool today as it did back then?
C . D ; Yes, OMI still has a following here in Philly. The ten string gritty guitar and angsty lyrics and the Velvet Underground overtones help to keep it fairly timeless, yano?
Yes sounds like it, must get to hear that stuff, always like some Velvet Undegroundess going on.
C . D ; After that I got heavily into traditional bluegrass and I played fiddle in Jim and Jenny and the Pinetops. But I got kicked out because they were really good and I was not great on the fiddle.
O.K. So velvet underground inspired pop onto the fiddle? That right there is a full hop skip and a jump from were you were before, how did that all come together?
C . D ; I'm good friends with Jim Krewson (From Jimmy and Jenny and The Pinetops). He is a great artist too and in fact he desgined the Creem Circus logo and did the 7" single cover. He also wrote "Rock 'n' Roll Band Revisited" on the first Creem Circus CD. He got me into Old Flat and Scruggs and Bill Monroe. Check him out @jimkrewson on Instagram. Genuis! By the way our approach to bluegrass was more a foot stompin' "Deliverance" vibe rather than all the soft stuff you hear today.
So more of an edge to it, yeah? So not that much of a jump at least vibe wise. So you leave your fiddle now what comes next? I have a feeling it could be anywhere from Punk rock to classical jazz hahahah, so please tell.
C . D ; Oh! Its gets better! In '95 I meet a young nineteen year old guitarist by the name of Little Jimmy Satan, who at the time was an unabashed Ozzy and Maiden freak. At the peek of grunge, this was pretty much unheard of. He gets me back to my roots and we start a band Wastoid; a leather and studs, satanic New Wave Of British Heavy Metal act with smoke, lights, a nine foot cross and a disembodied goats head on the stage. The band was no joke though! We opened for Dio, Judas Priest, Monster Magnet and a lot of others. In this band, Sophy, my wife was on bass. Check out the album "Say Your Prays" Catchy riffs, dual leads and also smokin' leads!
Wastoid with Ronnie James Dio
Wowie it seems like you have touched every base and all inbetween. Nice work playing with the big acts. How did that happen were they just one offs or was it the whole tours?
C . D ; All one offs and local Philly gigs.
Watch YouTube here for a full show!
Still a great experience for the band. So when did you move on from that and what to..could be anything hahaha?
C . D ; That band morphed into a short-lived anti Iraq war, political power metal band called La Resistance, but then Barak won and I wasn't feeling angry anymore. That's when I read the Performing Glam Rock book. I teamed up with another Philly guitarist named Psycho Mike from a band called Bad Luck 13 (on Creep Records). He was notorious for almost doing major jail time for inciting a riot at a wharehose party in Philly a few years before. Bad Luck 13 were known for destroying everything when they performed and in the process injuring themselves and the fans. Mike was also a brawny construction worker who was born with a permanent scowl on his face....but a very nice guy! I asked him to start a glam rock band with me where we dressed in women's clothing and he jumped at the chance! He said I have the perfect name Creem Circus. I gave him a demo of about six or seven songs, (most of which apperar on the first cd "Rock and/or Roll") and he dug them and then added a bunch of his own. We added another consctuction worker on bass named Kevin LaBree and an artist/noise musician named John Vitale on drums. Once everyone learned the songs and raided their girlfriends closets we were ready to rock!
Creem Circus second ever live show 2011
Brick layers in drag for real!!!!! Everyone loves a bit of glam don't they hahaha!
O.K. so lets get onto the first CD and do a track by track. First up is "Rock 'n' Roll Decree". First of all I really love the record and the whole vibe of it it just fits so well with the name. The track reminds me of Cheap Trick crossed with Sweeney Todd. I love the drum break down part and the guitar lick to clinch the piece, can you tell us about this one?
C . D ; Thanks! I'm glad you dig it. It was written in the mid nineties but it didn't fit in with O Mighty Isis at the time. Plus I couldn't seem to finish the solo section. The key changes so often in that song that it was hard to make it come full circle back to "B". I love Cheap Trick but I only learned of Nick Gilder (Sweeney Todd's first singer), besides "Hot Child In The City" like ten years ago. I'm glad my main influence isn't obvious here but I was trying to write a Boston style tune. Maybe like a lost track from the second album. I dislike bands who have so few influences that their tunes sound exactly like their favourite band. I can think of one very Led Zeppelin sounding band out right now. I would love that band if they showed some Montrose, Humble Pie or hey even Cheap Trick in their too. But I see bands fall into that trap a lot and I am not interested in hearing that at all.
Boston, wow I never would have heard that, but hey I don't like em but, I really like this song. Yes totally get the influences thing, not cool to totally rip off a bands style and sound, not cool. Next up "Turn Me out". I am hearing a heavier Hanoi Rocks, Michael Monroe vibe here but with a killer Slade vibe to the solo, thoughts?
C . D ; Ha! Cool I love all those bands so I'm glad it comes through. The guitar work here, once again is all Tom Scholz, even the "yeah, yeah, yeah" is ripped from a Boston tune, but that band lost whatever youthful punk attitude they might have had so long ago, but mixing in a little grit and angst goes a long way. If this track was all sugar and cream with a Steve Perry style vocalist you'd probably hate it. Don't get me wrong I think I suck at signing but I'm a fan of the guys and gals that belt it out with little or no training. Keeps it in the punk realm and I think people who hate corporate rock can enjoy it.
Totally man, real gets it everytime. A great song is a great song no matter how its played where as a crap song played brilliantly is still a crap song. O.k. next "Teenage Rules" LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this, it's like The Sweet with a little Billy Idol sneer in there, yeah?
C . P ; Totally! The line "products of a degeneration nation" says it all. This one really tips the hat towards Slade and Alice Cooper. "Love It To Death" is one of my favourite albums (ours too!). Also all the classical melodies come from a bunch of Mozart, Vivaldi and Schubert that I was into at the time. I wrote this in '89 when a friend showed me a VHS video he had called "Glam Rock Sampler". It was a comp of old "Top Of The Pops" footage of Gary Glitter, Sweet, Slade and Roxy Music. It totally changed my life. But it still took many years of album hunting to find all that stuff and for the idea of this band to gel in my mind.
Nice, those old "Top Of The Pops" clips were like the bands promo videos and all the glam was not only accepted it was encouraged to outrage all the "greys" and at the same time try and move things on socially yano? Next "Rock 'n' Roll Band Revisited" it has such a cool vibe and a killer line...."another band here to lend a helping hand" says we are here for you but in a totally non cringe way, a very street "nod of the head" to the fans. I heard Thin Lizzy and Kiss a lot here, thoughts?
C . D ; Yes, I'm a huge Lizzy fan, And Kiss themes are all over this record. This song was actually written by artist/musician Jim Krewson. Like I said he designed our logo and he has done covers for Ryan Adams and Tenacious D. This song was written as a country acoustic waltz. I added revisited to the title and changed the sound to an uptempo, tandem lead rocker with new guitar riffs. I agree on the lyric too. Great stuff!!
Yes Kiss are everywhere on here but more of that later. Next up is "Riff Mountain" this track could be a advert for your guitar line hahaha. Big riffs are there as you would imagine. Brings Zeppelin to mind but also a little dusting of Nazaerth too? Love the line "spent your life worshiping plastic".
C . D ; Yeah, well this song was written for the Riff Mountain DJ's in Philadelphia @riffmtn. They spin old-school, B-side, deep cut, riff rock on vinyl only (hence the plastic reference). Those guys rule! I wanted to write them a theme song worthy of the tunes they spin. Calling a song "Riff Mountain" takes a lot of balls so I knew the riff had to be monstrous. It took every ounce of my being to write the riff hahaha. I think it paid off. Then I went through a period of writing theme songs for DJ's. The new record has a song called "Guitar Army" written for the Philly DJ of the same name, who also was the singer for An Albatross, Edward Gieda. And "The Glam Rock Junkshop". He now goes by the handle of Dandy Gregory on 8tracks.com. But the "Riff Mountain" tune was supposed to rekindle in the listener every big riff of the seventies, Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, ZZ Top, UFO and Nazareth to name but a few. A lot of people hear "Stranglehold" (Ted Nugent) and I agree but it wasn't where I was going with it, in my mind anyway.
Nice work indeed! Talking of theme tunes next up is "R U With Us". My notes just said Chinn and Chapman and this is YOUR theme tune and from the last answer that makes total sense, yes?
C . P ; Ha! Yeah, I wrote a Creem Circus theme too, I forgot haha! I love all the Chinn-Chapman stuff.. The Sweet, Mud and many others. This one also makes references to different areas of Philidelphia; "Tight gold glitter down below L" refers to us loading into a club located under the elevated train we call "L" in a bad part of town..wondering if the locals are "with us" or they will kick our asses. But we have a tradition in Philly called "Mummers Parade" that occurs on New Year's Day were the locals get dressed up in huge flamboyant glitter outfits and dress like women and strut down the street playing banjos and saxaphones. So we haven't had our asses kicked yet!
Sounds like a cool place to live, well at least one day a year hahaha. Everyday is a good day for a little glitter, in my book anyway.
C . P ; Yeah the bad part of town is called Kensington. Not quite like your kennisgton hahaha!
No not quite hahahaha. Next is "Rock and/or Roll". This is kiss and classic Gene simmons era Kiss at that and the lick is very Ace Frehley, thoughts?
C . P ; Yes, lots of Gene in the vocals right off the bat. And the guitar lick has that Ace thing going on..with a little Randy Rhoads speed mixed in. I also think there is some Sly Stone in this tune and definitely some Brian May in the solo, too. But that goes back to the idea of the mixing of styles that is so important in song writing. Keeping it fresh is key, especially when you have set out to do a throwback project like this. I always look to the Stray Cats and the B52's and think how great they were bringing exceitment back to an old look and sound.
Yes right on. To make a retro record is easy but to make it also current with an edge is difficult but you have done it in spades here and then some! Ok "White Lighting" a much heavier track, killer guitar work and kind of a latter day Sweet with a little Judas Priest in there also?
C . D ; You nailed it! I love that era were Sweet are trying to sound like Deep Purple or Priest. This tune is a hold over from my Wastiod days..it has a real NWoBHM drive. Kind of Ricthie Blackmore vibe here. Kevin LaBree plays bass on most of the record and he really shines on the intro and on other parts of the tune as well.
Yes great tune and great work. Next up probably my favorite (or one of) "Sister Transistor". A great title and to my ears "Christeen Sixteen" meets the New York Dolls with a little "Bitch Is Back" in there for good measure?
C . D ; Ha! Yeah, totally all that! But the Kiss song is actually "Plaster Caster" and it's almost criminal. Good thing we never made any money because I understand Gene is a pretty litigious guy. But that's the joke in this song; take a Kiss song and wipe out all the toxic masculinity and write lyrics those guys would never sing.."he makes me wanna kiss her" hahaha no way would that appear in a Kiss song. In that sense Kiss is not really a glam rock band...hell, even Alice wore a tutu on stage! And yes, I ripped that "bitch is back" line right out of that tune hahaha.
Right album wrong song but yes I totally hear it. I (as well we all do) love Kiss but they took glam to a different place entirely especially compared to the UK glam rock stars. Ok last up "Kenisington Rollers", love the "Diamond Dogs" inspired cowbell, again Kiss are all over this and the Queen ending is killer. A little of the Runaways in there too. Was it influenced by the bad side of town you escaped from (Your Kensington)?
C . D ; Yeah, Kiss in droves on this one. Ace stlye lead work most definitely. I love the Runaways and all that Kim Fowley stuff, especially the original "King Of The Nighttime World". So great! This tune was really supposed to be a play on the whole Kensington Philly / Kensington UK theme. Our Kensington is full of people who would roll you for some spare change. Quite the opposite of your Kensington. But actually since writing the song that whole area is being gentrified, so the joke is going to be lost soon unfortunately. Oh well, that's the record. I hope people find it and listen to it. It still gets played on lots of little stations and we had to do a second run of the cd.
Check it out on YouTube here!
But the new record is out in the spring and it's called "The Glitterest, Sladest, Rocikn'est, Laidest, Over-time paidest, Boogiest Band In Town!"And its killer. Recorded and released by Creep Records and I think it's even better than Rock and/or Roll!
check out the single Rock And Roll Party on Spotify
Can't wait for this next slab of glitter to hit the streets. You will have to come back when it's out so we can rap again. It's been fun talking to you Chris, be well and hey keep it CREEM CIRCUS!
C . D ; Thanks!! Most fun interview ever!!!!!!
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Interview conducted December 2018
photographs courtesy of Chris DiPinto