Face Dancer - 2003 Interview with Billy Trainor: Part 3

richardbrichardb Poole, Dorset
edited December 2020 in Interviews all


OK folks, here's the final segment in our Face Dancer interview series with Billy Trainor. Don't forget the gig at Rechers Theater, for all those living in the Baltimore area, Sat 13th September!

In between years though, the band would 'resurrect itself' occasionally for one-off gigs. Purely due to the desire of playing music, though during this time, the music was slightly different to what Face Dancer fans would've been used to.

'After we put FD to rest, Scott and I started experimenting around with electronic music and had a pretty cool very 80's kind of band for a while' says Billy. 'It actually became quite popular, and we got a singles offer from a record company in England. Like the dumb asses we are, we held out for an album deal in the US which never came about.

After we got over that little interlude (we are probably in 1985 or 1986 now), Scott had moved out to LA and a promoter in Baltimore got the wild idea of getting the 'This World' line-up of Face Dancer back together. Now's a good time to give you a little insight on how and why Face Dancer works..'

Billy continues: 'Face Dancer's powerbase is in Baltimore MD. We owe an awful lot to the people of Baltimore and the surrounding areas. These folks are incredibly loyal and they are really only interested in the 'This World' version of Face Dancer. None of this other stuff will do. They weren't too keen on Milsap or that version of the band, in fact they hated that version of the band. They really didn't like the post Capitol period Face Dancer either.

So the promoter knew what he had to do to have a successful show, he needed to deliver the 'This World' version of Face Dancer. This guy handled all intra-band negotiations as I don't think we were talking to each other at the time. It seemed that we needed a damn professional mediator and an act of Congress for us to speak to each other!! Gee we are such rock stars, legends in our own minds!.'

'Anyway enough sarcasm, we got together and the old FD magic was there, the show was a big success. The problem was, Jeff lived in Florida and Scott had moved to LA. There's a lot of distance between us. The band is now revived and we wanted to take advantage of this new momentum. We wanted to play but some guys couldn't make all the shows. So we enlisted the services of David Bell to play guitar'.

'Dave's a local guy, his main band is the Rayvns one of the most popular Baltimore bands which is famous for the song 'Raised On The Radio' which was in the Sean Penn movie 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High'. David is a great guitar player, sounds great with Jeff when he's around, and allows us to still perform when Jeff is not available. David's been with us so long and has been so important to our long-term success I doubt I could think of Face Dancer without thinking of him.'

As part of this mini-revival, the band got around to putting out some new, and some rebadged material. This resulted in a a local-area release from 1990 called 'Midnite Raid', an album which is a bit of a rarity. Most people thinking Face Dancer were a two-album band were quite shocked to learn of this 'not very well publicized' third album. The circumstances behind it were as a local release I understand, via Red Shoes Records. Billy picks up the story.

'With our new found momentum in the mid to late 80's we started thinking it would be great to record some old FD standards that never got recorded, throw in some new songs and redo some of the ones from the first record. We also had issues with the sound of the first record and really felt we never truly captured the essence of the band'.

'So that's what drove us to get 'Midnite Raid' done. Overall I think 'Midnite Raid' is pretty good. I don't like the way 'Time Bomb' or 'Red Shoes' turned out and I think we may have gone a bit crazy with the echo, but hell it was the late 80's early 90's. Overall I think it's a good effort. There is some brilliant guitar work by Dave Bell on there' he says.


As Billy mentioned, the band were huge in the Washington DC/Baltimore area. Gigging wise, I asked Billy whether the band got the opportunity to travel beyond that area during their heyday?

'Yeah we did, but it was very hard because we had a ton of production travelling with us and absolutely no support from the record company. One thing that really pissed me off was the record company only wanted to promote us in the DC/Baltimore market. We didn't need that kind of help, that job was already done.

Face Dancer couldn't get anymore popular in Baltimore at the time. Hell we drew 10,000 people to an outdoor show before we were even signed. This kind of popularity was unheard of at the time. We needed help in Cleveland, Philly, Detroit, Chicago, LA. I remember saying that to a Capitol exec, it didn't go over too well.'

We take a look at Billy's personal background related to his drumming. His trademark sound is one that is quite brash and powerful reminding us of the late great John Bonham and Bobby Chouinard (Billy Squier, Illusion, Gary Moore). Looking back, Billy tells us who have been the great shakers, movers and bashers for him over the years.

'Really only four main ones. My first big piece of advice came from a very weird place. When I was a teen I got a job working stage for a local promoter. He'd book unknown British bands in these tiny Youth Centers in the DC area. Well these unknown bands were Jeff Beck with Rod and Ron, Led Zeppelin, Atomic Rooster (when Carl Palmer was playing drums) and a million others. I not only got to meet these guys I got to hang out with them as well. I remember a very young Ozzy showing me his Ozzy tattoos on his fingers in a parking lot in a teen center.'

'Anyway to get back to the story, Procol Harum did one of these shows. I remember not being too excited about this one, but at the sound check, the drummer (I think his name was BJ), was just incredible, he was beating the crap out of his kit. I went over and talked to him a bit and he gave me a pair of his sticks. They were Ludwig 3Ss. He told me if I stuck to these big ass sticks I'd never have hand problems. Well damn he was right I still use them to this day.'

'My three biggest influences from a playing perspective were Barry Brandt, John Bonham and a guy you've never heard of probably, named Stanley Moreson. You might not know of Barry, but we were in the bars in DC together. He was the guy that got me into big bass drums. Barry and I were playing with old 28' marching style bass drums in 1972. He played in a band called the Cherry People in DC in the early 70s and I can still remember the first time I saw him. He absolutely blew me away, totally changed the way I approached drums. Barry was probably the most powerful live drummer I ever saw'.

'These guys were Van Halen before there was a Van Halen. Barry and the guitar player Punky Meadows left to form a band called Angel which you may know about. Bonham of course is Bonham. Everything's already been said about this guy. The first and probably only, rock drummer to have a trademark sound and style. I've saved my biggest influence until last because he's a keyboard player. I've got you confused now haven't I? Here's the deal..'

'..when I was 18 I ran into a group of older guys that played all the time and needed a drummer. They invited me to join and being a young exuberant kid I just overplayed the hell out of everything. Well old Stanley was a bear of a man. He was in his late 30's early 40's at the time, about 6'4, 250lbs and had a giant beard. A pretty frightening looking guy!'

'He had been in the club scene for 20 years and knew everything there was to know about that line of work. Stanley had an old Hammond B3 and because it was so big, and the stages were so small, he'd end up setting up right beside me'.

'As I mentioned I was just 18 and a fairly exuberant kid, that really didn't know much abut playing drums, or being in a band, but I sure thought I did! One night Stanley comes roaring off the stage gets in my face just screaming at the top of his lungs at me. I didn't really understand what I had done until he calmed down a bit, but I soon learned Stanley didn't think too highly of my meter or my overplaying'.

'So from that point on, Stanley would give me the absolute look of death every time I sped up, slowed down or overplayed. Not wanting to incur Stanley's wraith ever again, I learned, listened and watched. Stanley was the man that taught me how to play drums in a band. He gave me two very important gifts. Meter and the self confidence to underplay.'

After so much interest registered in the band, particularly from the readers over at the old HEART of the ROCK site, they are over the moon about a return to action by you guys. What bought about this latest return Billy?

'This outpouring of interest has truly been amazing. Sitting here having not played music for a living in many years I can't express to you how thankful I am for the opportunity to play these songs again. It's such an incredible feeling that this group of people just refuses to let our music die. That's the emotional side, from a business perspective it takes a tremendous amount of work and effort to get something like this rolling again.'

'The majority of this work has been put forth by 2 guys: our bass player BJ Weigman and our manager Harry Repas. By the way, for those of you who don't know BJ, he's been with us for about 6 years now, but he's been around the band since our early days in DC. I met BJ when he was 16 and playing with bands around DC'.

'When Scott moved back to rhythm guitar and keyboards a few years ago BJ was our only choice and has stepped in and done a tremendous job. Harry has been with us since the very beginning. He started out as my drum tech then moved to road manager and now he handles all the business aspects of the band. Without these 2 guys pushing us along, I don't think we'd be having this conversation today.'

Given the level of interest of the band, perhaps there is an opportunity for the band to develop a fresh approach with their music, and to take advantage of burgeoning support both locally and abroad. Advances in technology, and the ever popular 'classic rock' radio format, makes Face Dancer an ideal proposition. Hell, when you look at it, if old fogies like The Rolling Stones, ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd can still get out and play, then FD could very well follow suit.

'It's kind of funny but every spring there seems to be a rush of interest in the band' muses Billy. 'Everyone's phone starts ringing, people are throwing dates around, but you always end up with the 3 month negotiation period with the band members on whether we want to do it or not. It's not that we don't want to do it, it's the fact that we all now do other things for a living and it takes a tremendous amount of work to get back into shape so that we can be Face Dancer at the level we'd like Face Dancer to be.'

'You have to remember Face Dancer was a band that played 5 to 6 nights a week 52 weeks a year. We did that for years. You get yourself into pretty good shape playing that type of schedule. For the guys in the band, that's how we remember Face Dancer, that's our perception of the band, so it's a huge commitment from each of us to try to get to that level of playing in a very short period of time'.

'From a long term perspective we'll just have to see what happens. I'll be honest, we're pretty long in the tooth now so I don't know if we have a long term, but our initial plan was to get the cds available and play a few shows between September and Christmas. Who knows will lightning strike twice? man if it did I'll be happy to turn my business over to my partner and let him have those headaches for a while, as I relive my childhood.'

The new website www.face-dancer.com> makes mention of all the FD albums getting a re-release. What will that entail? Professionally remastered CD's or some other arrangement?

'What we want to do is get everything on cd and available to the people who want it. Our best delivery mechanism will be the Internet so that's where you will find us. With all the amazing advances in audio I don't know what's professional anymore. You can make a great sounding track right on your computer. To tell you the truth I didn't think 'This World 'or 'About Face' sounded professional and we went to very professional places to get those records done. I do know BJ's got a great studio and that's where we're putting all this together.'

Can you whet our appetites and tell us a bit more about the new material? I understand that there may be a new version of 'When You Said My Name' from the 'This World' lp?

'Yeah, 'When You Said' never had drums, which has kind of bugged me for years, so I thought it might be cool to put some bad boys on there and drown out the vocals. I'm still fooling around with that one. We are finishing a studio version of a song called 'Night Shift'. This song has been around forever and we've got a great rhythm track laid down. BJ and I were fooling around with it one night and it sounded great so we let Dave Bell tear it up and he did'.

'The original plan was to add it as a bonus track to the live CD but now there's a few other conversations on where to put it, but it will end up somewhere. Scott told me he's got a couple of new songs and Jeff has already sent us one to work on for the shows coming up' says Billy.

By the time you read this third part interview, Face Dancer are readying themselves for a reunion gig at Rechers Theater, in Towson MD, right in the heart of FD territory in Baltimore. Billy says that Jeff and Scott will be joining the band for rehearsals a few days in readiness for the gig. The line up according to Billy, is pretty much the way it's been for the last 17 years: Carey Kress - vocals, Scott McGinn - rhythm guitar, keyboards, Jeff Adams - guitars, David Bell - guitars, BJ Weigman - bass and Billy on drums.

The band will also have a brand new CD out, simply called 'Face Dancer - Live'. No doubt all the FD classics will be rolled out. We ask Billy if there are any special surprises in store. Like a combined medley of old classics, similar to 'The 60's Never Died' off 'About Face' for instance?

'You know, we reckon Face Dancer would sound quite good bashing out some old Zeppelin tunes for instance! 'I'll tell you a little secret..' says Billy. 'I played 'The 60's Never Died' one time ever in my life and that was in the studio. I don't know what the damn thing sounds like! To get back to your question I've only heard the live versions of 'Time Bomb' and 'Sphinx'. So I'm not sure what we've got at the moment'.

'I know there's a conversation about possibly delaying the release of the live CD and recording the performance in September, then sorting everything out and releasing it later in the fall. Anyone who's been to a Face Dancer show will tell you that we will play any song at anytime. In fact that's what the live version of 'Can't Stand Still' is all about. During the guitar solo we'll usually break into 4 or 5 different cover songs that have no connection to anything jam out on them and then end up back in 'Can't Stand Still'.

As the band have been playing these tunes since time immemorial, the Rechers gig will see Billy back behind the kit, and he'll obviously be taking a leading role providing the backbeat on some of those classic FD standards. Does Billy have any favourites he likes to bash out?

'We've been playing these songs for a lot of years now so it's a bit hard to be objective. I did change my drum set around this year. For years I've been using a very small set, basically the Bonham set; 1 snare, 1 rack 2 floors and a big ass bass drum. Over the last year I've added a rack and a bass drum so now we've got the big double bass drum rig going on. It'll be interesting to see if I survive! This is a pretty wordy answer to your question but now that I've worked up new drum parts for most of the songs incorporating the other bass drum, I'm not quite sure which one's gonna be my favourite.'

We look forward to hearing a report, and hopefully one of our local spies will be in attendance. Thanks a lot Billy, and we'll be in touch for sure! 'Thanks again to the Glory Daze team, and all the others that have kept our music alive over all these years.' Regards - Billy Trainor and the guys from Face Dancer.

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

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