Face Dancer - 2003 Interview with Billy Trainor: Part 1

richardbrichardb Poole, Dorset
edited December 2020 in Interviews all

EDITED BY: Gdazegod

Here is the first part of our three-part installment with Washington DC legends Face Dancer. The band have reformed, due to an unprecedented level of interest, culminating in a live show later this month. Our thanks to Face Dancer drummer Billy Trainor for the wealth of material.

1999 was the first foray onto the web for our previous site HEART of the ROCK. Since then, we've progressed the site and its content to its current incarnation: being Glory Daze.com. Through those 4 years of activity, a handful of bands/acts have captured the imagination of our readership: in a faithful and revered sort of way. Let me name some for you: Balance, Dakota, Duke Jupiter, Strangeways. But one band that has, for whatever reason, developed a thread/life of its own on our site is the Washington DC based outfit Face Dancer.

If we wind back the clock, the band have been inactive for many years. They released two proper studio albums for Capitol Records back in the days when TV stars regularly appeared on Fantasy Island and the Love Boat was cruising the waves, and since the early eighties, Face Dancer have been technically defunct. Though they have occasionally gotten back together for the 'odd stint', there has been nothing serious happening with Face Dancer, until now that is.

The unprecedented interest in the band, the ongoing dialog as to their whereabouts, and fans trying to track down a copy of their hard to find third album 'Midnite Raid', has all resulted in numerous discussion threads and inquiries on the old HOTR site. That level of interest did not go unnoticed by some of the ex Face Dancer personnel, as long time drummer Billy Trainor explains.

'It's really very humbling' he says. 'It's also the device I used to coax the rest of the boys out of retirement. My point was that for what ever reason, this level of interest continues. There are people out there who just refuse to let this music die.'

Yes, why this is so, we haven't got a clue, nor obviously have the guys in the band, undeniably happy but bemused nonetheless. 'We owe these folks a tremendous debt of gratitude and the very least we can do is get together one more time and play the songs for as many of them as we can reach this time around, and make all our material available to all the folks that can't make the shows.'

It's been a long time between drinks, and despite the passing of time (twenty five plus years in fact), the band still remain quite tight-knit. Even though the duration has been a long one, the history has accumulated to a converging point where something just has to give. And that has resulted in a fresh new burst of activity from Face Dancer, as Billy explains.

'We've been together one way or another over the course of time. The past two years of inactivity has really been the longest hiatus. I think we may have been adjusting to the idea that our playing days might possibly be over. But guess what? The mighty FD lives to fight another day.'

'Guys will drift in and drift out depending on their situation and circumstances. For the last 17 years the line up has been pretty consistent with Carey Kress on vocals, David Bell from the Rayvns playing guitar, BJ Weigman on bass (we knew BJ from our bar days in DC) and myself playing drums or attempting to play drums! Guitarist Jeff Adams and bassist Scott McGinn no longer live in the area so they make the shows when their schedules allow. It's funny but in looking back, this 17 year period has been the most stable as far as personnel goes.'

Billy also goes on to reveal what everyone is doing for a 'crust' these days. 'Well, Carey is involved with a business that sells high end professional audio equipment. Scott is living in Virginia Beach VA and writing movie and TV screenplays, Jeff now lives in Florida and is very active in the music scene there. He has a band and has released a couple of CDs. Dave Bell is very involved in the Baltimore music scene and plays in more bands than anyone I know. BJ has a couple of bands, a recording studio and a very successful kitchen remodeling company. I have a computer consulting business.'

Now we begin the juicy part of the interview. Discovering the origins of this revered band. Billy says the history goes way back, long before 1979. Five years earlier in fact. So what are the earliest origins Billy? 'That's a big question and as we used to say: Face Dancer was handed down to us from our Dads. Here's the deal..'

'It's mid 1974. Carey Kress (who played drums) is attending college at the University of Rhode Island. He meets a few guys, they start a band, one of the band members had a brother living in the Washington DC area, they decide to leave Rhode Island and move to DC. At this point in time Face Dancer was very much like King Crimson, Yes and Genesis (pre Phil Collins). Basically a progressive band. They played very interesting covers and had some unique originals.

It was hard to find work but the band soon found their niche with the university crowd, especially on the campus of Georgetown University. As time went on the original bass player returned to Rhode Island. They recruited a fan they had met by the name of Scott McGinn. The band continued to play and their popularity began to grow. Scott began writing songs for the band and became the major creative force in the band.'

'The originals began to overtake covers. At the time the DC area had a very robust music scene. There were some incredible musicians, many places to play, you could actually make a living playing music. I was involved with one of the more popular bands at the time, which was more a rock based group than Face Dancer. I kept on hearing about Face Dancer and finally went to see them. I hung around for a set, thought they were OK but I was a 'rock guy' and really wasn't into what they were doing.

Eventually my band broke up, I was totally disillusioned and ready to quit playing forever. I was looking for a job when a buddy of mine told me Face Dancer was looking for a sound tech. I thought about it and it seemed like the perfect fit. I didn't want to play anymore plus there would be no way a basher like me would ever be in a progressive band so I took the job.'

'My first night was New Years Eve 1975. The next day we were in 1976 and little did we know the beginnings of the 'modern day Face Dancer' were in place. In those days Carey played drums and sang many of the songs from behind the drums. One of the highlights of a Face Dancer set was a medley of Bowie songs where Scott would play drums and Carey would come out from behind the drums and sing the songs.

It was a huge crowd pleaser and it became very apparent that Carey had amazing talent as a front man. One night Scott approached me and asked if I would play drums for the Bowie medley, I said what the hell, and that's when Face Dancer began the metamorphosis from progressive to rock.'

'The other members of the band weren't too keen on the transformation to rock so eventually one by one the original members from Rhode Island left, leaving Carey, Scott and myself to carry on. We were actively looking for a guitar player and Jeff Adams was referred to us by one of our girlfriends at the time. I still sometimes wonder how she knew about Jeff!

Anyway, Jeff came over and we immediately knew he was the one! At the time the plan was for Scott to move from bass to rhythm guitar so we found a bass player named Dale Marks to join the band. We played with this configuration for a while; we became incredibly popular in a very short period of time.'

'It was during this time period we hired a new sound tech named David Utter. A familiar story, it seems we promote from within. Can I get some romantic music behind this story here!!?? Anyway as time goes on we become more and more popular. Two very important things happened at this point: we start generating some record company interest at the grass roots level, and the quality and quantity of the babes that came out to see the band improved dramatically.'

'Within a very short period of time we had new management in place, an almost done deal with Capitol Records and one more personnel change to make. Hold on, here is our first experience with the cold reality of the real music business. Business people are around to make decisions and consolidate their power base so they can function in a creative musical environment most of them are not very comfortable in.

They also want to make the point that they are in charge, but it's always in your best interest. They take a look at a situation, give you advice and hope you take it. If you don't take it sometimes they force the point. In this case the point was forced and Dale Marks was asked to go, Scott was moved back to bass and David Utter moved from sound tech to guitar player. Faced with that decision again I don't know if that's the course we would take.'

Billy has already touched on the band's previous inclination toward progressive styles, but hearind the band in their past context, I'm gonna suggest that some of the guys also have a very strong Beatles thread running through them. I asked Billy if I was correct in that assumption?

'I can't speak for the rest of the guys but I know The Beatles are the reason I'm playing music. I think I was in 5th or 6th grade when they appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. Once I saw that I knew what I wanted to do. Much to the chagrin of my parents I didn't waver from that course and I made my first dollar at 14 playing in a band.'

Also, were there any other US bands doing the rounds at the time that caught your eye musically? Perhaps doing something similar. 'Not for me. I was always and probably still continue to be, a British music fan' says Billy. 'For me it was the first two Jeff Beck albums with Rod Stewart and Ron Wood, The Who, Mott the Hoople, Bowie, Argent, Queen, Cream, Hendrix, Alex Harvey and of course Led Zeppelin. You have to take into consideration the time period, there really weren't any American rock bands, Aerosmith was just beginning to break, Van Halen wasn't around yet so I my influences were entirely British.'

[Part One] - [Part Two] - [Part Three]

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