Little Caesar - 2014 Interview with Ron Young

edited January 2020 in Interviews all


ARTIST: Little Caesar
ARTICLE: Interview with Ron Young
WRITTEN BY: David Shaw
YEAR: 2014




Out of all the bands that came. out of the 80s and early 90s, there are only a handful of groups that I keep coming back to, music that is 20 years old and still sounds refreshing, has soul and emotion. Little Caesar is one of those bands.

Having known Ron Young, lead singer with Little Caesar via Facebook, I can account to what a highly intelligent, amusing man he is. With the recent release of their 4th CD 'American Dream' I had the opportunity to put some questions to Ron Young.

The Interview

When I was 12 years old, I saw Marc Bolan and The Sweet on television, back in 1973. It was a defining moment for me and shaped my musical taste for the next for decades. What was your defining moment?
When I was 13 a friends brother took us to see Led Zeppelin at Madison Square Garden in NYC when they were filming 'The Song Remains the Same', it blew my mind and awakened to the magic of a live concert and how it takes music to whole new interactive level.

Lets fast forward a few years, I understand that you moved from the East Coast to LA, was Little Caesar the first band you joined or did you guys do the LA circuit?
I was in few bands in NYC and we toured around the States a bit, I got to open for Stevie Ray Vaughan before he was signed, that was the next transformative moment in music for me, best shows I have ever seen in my life. When I got to LA, I played briefly in a few projects and then formed a band with Tom Morris.

After that broke up we started looking for guys who wanted to put a proper blues based rock band together with a bunch of guys that weren't dressing up like women. It only took a couple of months to find likeminded guys. Since a bunch of us had motorcycles we had a group of guys we rode with that would come out to see us.

The first couple of shows had a hundred bikes parked out front. By the third show we were in negotiations with Jimmy Iovine to manage us. It happened very quickly. Our desire to write solid songs with an emphasis on soul with a very organic approach stood out amongst the 'rock star' mentality with over produced music approaches.

How did your parents feel about you giving up pre-med school for rock n roll?
At first they were apprehensive, they figured I was just living out childhood fantasies. When I moved to LA and got a record deal, I think they finally figured out it was no longer a fantasy. Then my Dad would come to shows with fake tattoos on his arm, so I guess he approved.

I remember Donnie Purnell from Kix, once telling me to check out a band called Little Caesar, just before you released the EP on Metal Blade, what apart from the image set LC apart from all the other LA Bands?
In those days bands were focused on creating larger than life impressions and making the listener feel like they were already playing in arenas with a glamorous excessive lifestyle. We wanted to show our working man's roots.

We wanted to put some soul back into the current pop field with bluesy riffs, soul melodies and guitar playing that moved you with emotion rather than dazzle you with prowess. We wanted the listener to be able to relate to us rather than look up to us as some sort of made up, asexual glamour icons.


LC image seemed more suited to the East Coast/NY area with bands like Circus of Power, would you agree?
I agree, but remember Hollywood was known for the Sunset Strip bands with the hair and make up, but there were great bands that played the dives on the east side of town.

We loved playing shows with Junkyard, Rhino Bucket, Little Kings etc, they were bands that thought of glam as the NY Dolls and T Rex, rather than what it mutated into up on the Strip. We related much more to those bands than any of the Gazzarri's crowd.

Back 20 years ago, record companies and lawyers called the shots, nowadays bands can record, release, self promote on ITunes without any record company backing. Both have their pros and cons. You guys seemed to have faired much better with the second option, what are your thoughts on the way music in general is managed in this technical age?
It's a double-edged sword. We got caught up in the height of Corporate Rock. The egos, the battles that were unrelated to music that filtered down into our business that no one knew about was the commercial death of our band.

These days a band who have a social media presence, a musical and production vision, own a computer, software and a few good mics, can make some great recordings on their own terms and get heard.

The lower sales without a Corporate machine behind is offset by not getting a crappy royalty rate and paying for your over paid A&R guy to fly first class to come see you play whether you want him to or not. With a Go-Pro camera, you can shoot an amazing video for next to no money and that keeps $100,000 in the bands accounting sheet.

Little Caesar has been self-funding and self-producing for 5 years now and we have been self-sustaining and slightly profitable. If we had more to devote to the music, we could probably grind out a measly living, but we leave that to the younger lads, we wouldn't want to infringe upon their efforts to be miserable and broke ;-)

How did you hook up with Derek's label Rock Candy?
A friend in Europe told me he was a fan of the band. I sent him the songs for the album 'Redemption' and he really liked it. He is a great guy that is really passionate about music, and since we weren't delusional about asking for big advance and wanted to do a more symbiotic deal than most bands, we came to a business relationship pretty quickly.

We are friends now and to be able to do business and be able to say that is a new experience for me compared to my previous music business relationships, and I'm really grateful for that on many levels.

How did 'American Dream' come about, was it self-financed?
'American Dream' was self-financed, we then did a distribution deal with our Producer Bruce Witkin's label Unison Music as a bit of a side deal. We hired his studio after Aerosmith went over down at Swinghouse Studios and we found Bruce through a mutual friend.

Once we got to talking we realised we had a ton of good mutual friends and he is such a great musician in his own right, we felt really comfortable working with him. We recorded and mixed the album in 20 days and it hit the 'streets' 3 weeks later.

We always wanted to make records like that, all of our idols made records like that. You keep it quick, real and honest and leave some jagged edges for some personality.

They stopped doing that in the 80's and 90's and I think it hurt the music business. There is a personality that comes across when you leave the imperfections, that got lost for too many years in the recording and mixing process.

image image

I also noticed you guys do not have a record label affiliated to 'American Dream', was that by choice?
Not really, just a handshake deal with another friend that matched the money we put up recording equally with some funds to shoot a video and do a bit of marketing and we split the profits.

You spread the burden and share the spoils and everyone has a reasonable amount of skin in the game. Then you don't need to knock it out of the park to call it a success.

To me, the song writing has matured since the early years, your song writing seems to take on a more of a social awareness, especially the tittle track 'American Dream', even the cover has a rather tongue in check meaning. Who came up with that idea?
I write all the lyrics. I was getting caught up in watching all the polarization in politics on social media and how everyone points fingers and has a hard time looking in the mirror and owning their part in the creation of the atmosphere and actions our Country was experiencing.

We are so conditioned in America to be self-righteous, to the point of self-delusion. I wanted to point out our history and current reality to be self-reflective and honest.

When I came up with the video concept, I just typed in 'American Dream' into Google and went to the images section. I let a computer algorithm decide what it all meant devoid of human emotion and put together a montage of stills and video footage from it, and then let the viewer decide what it all means.

The responses we got were interesting. I always said it was just a mirror, and if you don't like what you see you need to go inward and find out why a particular image bothers you, don't shoot the messenger.

I know that you are heavily into your metal fabrication and restoring cars, what inspires you today?
I revel in all forms of creative expression, from creating something beautiful or functional from a pile of metal, to sounds, tones and words. There is no greater feeling or freedom than turning nothing into something and have it make some statement or new form.

I have learned how to adore the journey of creativity rather than use it as some metaphorical vehicle to arrive at some destination. I learned that the hard way when we got a record deal.

I should have bathed in the beauty of the experience than mentally fixate on selling records and becoming successful. Now I enjoy every second of it, even the humping of heavy gear out of the back of a van in some little town in a far-away country. There are musicians that would kill for that opportunity, and I try to remember that as I take a hot bath and complain about my aching muscles.


Tell me more about your side project, the Blue Eyed Devils?
BED is a group of friends like Bruce Witkin, our Producer, Rob Klonel who is a killer drummer I have known for years and is a friend of Bruce's.

Joey Malone who has been a musical cohort of Bruce's, and Kevin Lawrence who is a really talented young keyboard. I have always wanted to be a black soul singer from Detroit in 1968, but was born too pale and too late.

We would sit around talking about the magic of that musical period and all the talent behind it, so I suggested we put a cover band together to pay homage to it and reap the pleasure of getting to play it. I love it.

In fact, we had to replace Joey Brasler in Little Caesar due to many scheduling conflicts and Joey Malone from Blue Eyed Devils has replaced him.

He's a great fit with his musical background and since we are so family oriented, he's a perfect fit as he is in our extended family.

What's next for LC, a New Zealand date perhaps?

I wish I could say yes. We get so little time to make music, and it is so expensive to travel and recoup the costs of such a long trip, those exotic destinations make it very difficult for us to pull off.

Let's find a rich New Zealand Little Caesar fan who will fly us there and put on a few 'private' shows that we allow the regular folks to attend!

In Summary

Now for some gossip.

Its been well documented about LC and its relationship with Geffen and the label manager spraying his DNA over his secretary. I have to ask, was that a random act of insanity or was it a joint effort?
That was a random act of drug induced folly, one could say he had a 'thing' for his secretary, and it was in the form of reproductive fluids.

Tell me 5 things we would not expect from Ron Young?

1) The tattoos, motorcycles and hot rods give the impression of a hard ass that doesn't exist.

2) I am a performer that understands the fans are more important than the players.

3) I would rather be laying on my couch with my dogs than sitting at a strip bar surrounded by naked women faking that they like me more than my dollars.

4) I feel more at ease standing on a stage than in a crowded room of people at a party.

5) I have an espresso machine and make latte's every morning for myself and get pissed off if the milk doesn't foam just right.

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