Michael Hannon - American Dog

February 14, 2004

How did you get interested in playing bass?

Gene Simmons. I was brought up in a real small town in southeastern Ohio. All we had was an AM radio and a car. Radio was really shit, especially in those days on AM. You got to figure this was 1977 or 1978 and all they were playing was The Bee Gees and Hall & Oates and garbage like that. Amongst all that crap I heard a song called "Rock And Roll All Nite" and that song was like wow, that's different. It was really, really good. KISS Alive! wound up being the first real album I got that I really listened to all the way through that was one band. Before that I had shit, like there was this company called K-Tel that had these various artist things. About two minute versions of the songs. That's all I had for rock and roll at the time. It depended on where you were living. Fuck, where I was brought up was called Barnesville, Ohio and we only got two stations. There was no cable TV in that town until even probably 1990. The radio station we had to pick up was in Wheeling, West Virginia and you didn't hear much.

In 1977 I was 10 years old and my parents were in the Army. They were stationed at Fort Bliss and we lived in El Paso, Texas. All the radio stations you got were these country stations except at this time you could actually listen to it. It wasn't the kind of stuff they have now.

Yeah, I like old country. Have you heard Hank III yet?

No, but I saw him play with Superjoint Ritual.

He's really weird. He does real good old school country. He sounds more like his grandpa than Hank Jr. He's great. I would recommend him if you're in the mood for country.

He was in town but I was too sick to go see him.

He's in Pittsburgh tonight but that's just too far for me to go. I got a show tomorrow night anyway. I know better. I'd go out and get drunk in Pittsburgh and wouldn't be able to play tomorrow.

We can't have that.

No, that's just dumb.

Your musical influence was KISS?

KISS was the one that got me started. The stuff I grew up on is what I still like. I still like AC/DC, Motorhead, Ted Nugent, and the old Aerosmith stuff. That's my favorite stuff to listen to.

You were the bassist for Salty Dog and you're the bassist and vocalist for American Dog. Is there a reason for the similarity in names?

Nah, didn't really think about it. After Salty Dog broke up, I was the bass player for Dangerous Toys for that year on their Pissed tour. I was the bassist. Then after that was over, because I was just a hired gun for that tour, it was like well, what do you do next. That was in the grunge era. That was in 1993 or 1994. I toured the whole country with Dangerous Toys and it was like rock and roll was dead. The East coast and West coast was completely dead for rock and roll, especially the West coast. It was really rotten. The Midwest seemed to be really healthy still. The most healthy of any place in the States so I came back to Ohio where I was from.

Jason has a lot of irons in the fire. Gahdzilla Motor Company, Dangerous Toys, Broken Teeth and something called Hellpig. What happened to Salty Dog anyway?

Heroin. I wouldn't recommend it to anybody.

Nah, that's some dangerous stuff. Ask Layne Staley.

Oh, yeah. Well, you can't ask him anything anymore.

If you were in a seance you could.

I don't smoke that much fucking psychedelic drugs to fucking actually talk to people in seances.

How did American Dog start out?

Just picked up the best local guys I could find. They're pretty damn good. We just kept plugging away, playing new originals and that's a tough gig to get with a new name. Shit, everybody wants you to be a goddamn jukebox and play cover songs so that took us a while to break into our own backyard and we just kept playing, playing, and playing. We've been doing this for five years now. Got three albums out and we just got picked up by Sony/Phoenix out of Hamburg, Germany.

That's your latest record deal.

Yeah, we just got signed. We just announced that. That email just went out in a mass email two days ago. That's done. We're going in, in March to finish this album up. It should be out in June for Europe. Then in August we're going over to play a bunch of big outside biker festivals in Germany, Italy, and Spain. Those are going to be filmed for a DVD that's going to come out in December. That's going to be matched up with a greatest hits package that's going to be called Foaming At The Mouth.

I often wonder why people want to hear cover songs because I usually enjoy the original versions. When I see a band come out, it's cool to hear the music they write.

Yeah, stupid bar owners is what that is. They're like "well, people aren't going to know what that is. Why are they going to come out?" It's just idiots. There are bands that want to play all the songs on the jukebox and there are the bands that put the songs on the jukebox. I go for the latter.

Yeah, I think that's always the coolest.

What the hell. What are you going to do? You're probably going to be paid more to be quite honest if you're in the local scene playing covers, but what are you accomplishing? Not a goddamn thing, that's what. What are you going to do? Look back three years later and say "man, we did those fucking Loverboy songs great." You get nothing out of it. You're going to play your clubs and you're going to be forgotten the next day because you're just a fucking jukebox. If you fail miserably monetarily, at least you've got something to show for yourself. You made a CD where you've done your own original songs.

In your case, you've done three.

We've done three in five years and the fourth one is going to come out in June.

Your last one was Red, White, Black & Blue.

Yeah, and that title came from our guitar player. Steve got run over after a gig. See with American Dog, we thought red, white, and blue. That makes sense and since he got run over by a Buick, we thought that black would be pretty funny.

Is he all right?

He walks kind of funny. Kind of like Fred Sanford. He's okay. He's got a bunch of screws and pins in him now. He got hit changing a flat tire. Some guy swerved off the road, ran him over, and left him for dead. Broke both his knees, broke his legs, smashed his ankles, broken rib, concussion. His hip was cracked. Other than that, he was okay though.

Did they ever catch the guy?

Hell no, the guy left him for dead. On the Red, White, Black & Blue album, he finished it. He played the guitar on that in a wheelchair. We had six months down. We were going to leave him alone. We fucking stuck with him. We'd probably have five albums out if he didn't get run over by a car. I told him no more getting run over by cars. It slows us down.

Exactly, plus it's dangerous to your health.

Yeah, it's not good at all. You can only wrestle with Buicks so much. The Buick's going to win. Wrestle a Toyota or one of those Yugos.

Take on a Honda.

Why not?

You guys just got back from Europe. You did a show in Paris with Paul Di'Anno.

That was great. He's a good guy. I heard all kinds of horror stories about him. Everybody says he's an asshole to work with and all this stuff. Just the opposite. He was a hell of a good dude. Very laid back. We drank a bottle of whiskey together upstairs. The place we played is called The Locomotive or should be La Locomotive as they say it over there. That's hooked onto the Moulin Rouge, the famous strip joint. It was a great time. We had a blast.

People like to say this person's an asshole or that person's a dick. Then the person turns out to be totally cool.

You've got to wonder about the person saying it. Maybe they're the asshole. I'll make my own judgments on people. A lot of times some people will stand up for themselves. Say if somebody's an asshole to you and you're a celebrity. Somebody's being an asshole to you and if you stand up to them, all of a sudden you're an asshole. That's just the way it works. Paul Di'Anno was a perfect gentleman. He was great. Hell, he even wore an American Dog shirt on stage for that show.

You guys did a tribute CD to Harley Davidson.

Yeah, we got one song on the 100th Anniversary CD. We're on there with Molly Hatchet, Rose Tattoo, and Motorhead. All kinds of good bands. That's on the Phoenix/Sony label which we just got signed to. They liked what we did and we worked with them. They came to bat for us.

You also did a Black Hills motorcycle rally last August with Tesla and Alice Cooper.

We've played Sturgis twice. Sturgis is a town in South Dakota. It's the biggest motorcycle rally there is in the States. They're spread all over the place. Where we play is a place called The Buffalo Chip campground. The biggest show we did was with Billy Idol. There were 10,000 fans when we went on stage. It was pretty fucking huge. It's the biggest outside stage in North America. It's a big, huge deal basically. We didn't play with Alice Cooper. That got canceled. We did the Billy Idol one. Alice is one of my favorites. I love Alice. My nickname was Alice when I was growing up as a matter of fact.

The coolest Cooper show I saw was with Dangerous Toys opening in 1999. Are you guys doing any other major tours?

Right now I'm taking very few shows just so we can get this album done. I'm going to book up May basically here in the Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia area. I've got a few big outside bike shows here around Ohio in June but I'm really laying off booking anything right now because I don't know our exact dates for leaving for Europe. You don't want to book Billy Bob's fucking Bar & Grill here in West Virginia and then all of a sudden they say "well, you're booked to play for fucking 10,000 people in Germany." I don't want to blow anybody off. I'm taking it easy. I don't know exactly what our plans are for touring. I just know May we're going to book up like crazy. I've got some Indiana shows, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio coming. That's all I know really.

Your audience is mainly just biker people?

No, we get all kinds of people. With the Salty Dog and Dangerous Toys connection, we get that hair audience just for lack of a better name. We get that kind of crowd. We do play the bike circuit quite a bit because they pay real well. Then we get the southern rock kind of crowd because we play with Jackyl. They're one of my favorite bands. We get the southern rock kind of people. Then you get just plain old hard rock and heavy metal people who like us too. In Europe we really seem to get the Motorhead crowd which is fine with me. They're one of my favorites as well. It's a mixed crowd which I like. We played shows with David Allan Coe and Overkill within six days of each other. Both of those crowds liked us. I don't know too many bands that can play with both Overkill and David Allan Coe.

That's definitely unique.

That's kind of odd. We've got that southern twang on our rock but it still kicks ass. I guess it just works. One guy called us redneck metal which I thought was a great name for us. I used that phrase in a song we got called "Shitkicker". It was a review out of Sweden or Finland. One of those places where they reviewed the album. They said we were the kings of redneck metal. I took that phrase and put it in the song, "Shitkicker".

Redneck metal. You could apply that to Jackyl too.

We're very much in the same boat as Jackyl or Nashville Pussy. We're not as punk as Nashville Pussy.

American Dog