Firehouse gets bad advice from Jon Bon Jovi?

CJ Snare's new band, Rubicon Cross, readies heavy debut
By Peter Lindblad

Firehouse singer CJ Snare leads Rubicon Cross,
a new band that includes guitarist Chris Green,
bassist Simon Farmery, drummer Robert Behnke
 and guitarist Jeff Lerman.
To get as far as he has in the music industry, it stands to reason that Jon Bon Jovi is pretty shrewd when it comes to instincts about songs and the business in general.

And yet, as singer CJ Snare remembers it, had Firehouse heeded some advice he gave them long ago, the chart-topping '90s glam-metal stars might never have gotten off the ground.

The story has to do with the ubiquitous Firehouse smash hit "Love of a Lifetime," which Snare penned in a West Virginia bar. He then shared writing credit on the song with Firehouse guitarist Bill Leverty when the band was playing as a hotel lounge act to scratch out a living.

"Jon Bon Jovi heard it and said, 'Throw it away, it’ll ruin your career,'" said Snare.

Snare still fronts Firehouse, but he also has a new band called Rubicon Cross, which bears little resemblance to his other, more famous one. Rugged, crushingly heavy and emotionally intense, Rubicon Cross will release its self-titled debut album May 19, and it is driven by massive, roiling guitar riffs and pummeling rhythms while still possessing a keen melodic sensibility. Get a taste of it here:



In the distant past, however, when he was just starting out, Snare used to play solo gigs at a piano at a Holiday Inn. That's when he got the inspiration for "Love of a Lifetime."

"And the club owner there, he would come down and he would let me mess around, get a beer, and I’d be writing songs and go on back in the cooler, do whatever you want to do. And I would get free draft beer or whatever, and he’d say (whispers), 'Go ahead and do it.' And I’m like, 'Okay.' So I went down there, and I wrote 'Love of a Lifetime.'"

With some embarrassment, Snare recalled how the core group that would comprise Firehouse formed a lounge band. "Don’t tell anybody … sshhhh," laughed Snare.

Along with a keyboardist, the act included Bill Leverty on guitar, Michael Foster on drums, and Perry Richardson on bass guitar, " ... and we were doing all kinds of variety of jobs … anything to support ourselves while we were trying to get White Heat going, which became Firehouse. We had to change the name because the record company thought it would be confusing with White Lion, Whitesnake … there were too many 'White' bands out there."

A demo was recorded with Slaughter's Dana Strum and Mark Slaughter producing it.

"At the time, we shared a two-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles," said Snare. "We recorded it in Cherokee Studios out in Los Angeles, and they had boxes and boxes of cassette tapes, and 8x10s of people who were trying to be in what was going to be Slaughter."

Slaughter won the American Music Award for Best New Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Band the year before Firehouse followed suit in 1991. "Love of a Lifetime" had a lot to do with it, but that song almost didn't see the light of day.

"We had done a different ballad altogether because of Jon’s advice, and the record company came to us, and they said, 'You know, how about a power ballad? You know, they’re really hitting big on the top of the charts and everything, so we just don’t think you have one quite strong enough. Maybe we could bring in some outside writers and help you out,'" related Snare. "And I kind of really reluctantly raised my hand and said, 'Well, I’ve got another one.' And the guys said, 'No, no, no, no.' You know what that song was? It didn’t ruin our career. It actually helped make our career."

It was always a favorite among fans, even before Firehouse reached dizzying heights of fame and fortune in the '90s, before grunge came along.

"Yeah, back in the lounge band days, man, we used to pack the dance floor with that one," said Snare. "Yeah … oh yeah. It was big man."

The logo for Rubicon Cross
Now comes Rubicon Cross, a group Snare formed with London-born guitar virtuoso Chris Green. The release date for their new album, due out on INgrooves Records, a Universal imprint, is about a couple weeks away, but a few days beforehand, on May 15, Rubicon Cross will play a record release show in the Chicago area with Fozzy and Heaven's Basement. Visit www.rubiconcross.net for the particulars.

Of the upcoming Rubicon Cross record, Snare said, "It’s more aggressive. You listen to this record, it sounds almost live. It’s in your face. It’s got a 2014-2015 stamp on it, it is way heavier, but you can’t hide my voice, it is what it is. But it’s in a different vehicle, and I think that makes all the difference. We’ve already got a Firehouse. We don’t need another one."

And yet, after doing a double-take at hearing the new stuff, fans of Firehouse should find something to love about Rubicon Cross.

"Yeah, it’s going to surprise a lot of people when they hear it in this particular vehicle," said Snare. "But then again, I think they’ll get used to it very quickly, because it’s not unnatural. It’s very organic."

Snare also revealed that physical copies of the new record and a deluxe edition of it, with bonus tracks, a poster and lyrics included, will be available at 600 Best Buy stores around the country and prominently displayed in the "Nikki Sixx Sixth Sense" area. 

As for Firehouse, they're not sitting idly by this summer.

"Now I’m hoping to make a new and different contribution with Rubicon Cross, and I just will say [to Firehouse fans], don’t despair," said Snare. "Your Firehouse band is still here and we’re coming at you, just like we always have, like in 1990 when the first album came out. We’re coming at you. We’ve got a full touring schedule. I just spoke to our agent today and my tour manager, and we’re going to be out there."

Keep watching this space for a more complete version of our interview with CJ Snare.

1 comment:

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