Several years ago, Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan complained that the band’s native Chicago was turning its back on them, citing waning local album sales and radio airplay.
Some Windy City musicians didn’t understand Corgan’s beef, considering the Smashing Pumpkins were a smash global success. More Gen-X whining, they thought.
Now that Chicago’s thundering rock quartet Loudmouth is making waves nationally, guitarist Tony McQuaid finally knows what Corgan means.
“I remember when (Corgan) said that,” McQuaid said recently, “and he took a lot of heat for it. I thought, ‘There aren’t a lot of acts that come out of this city, so why are you saying that?’ I didn’t understand it at the time, but now I totally understand what he means. It’s so true.
“We don’t get played at all in Chicago. It’s very strange. We made it on our own. We had a couple of people, like Joe Shanahan at Metro who was very supportive of the band, but it’s very few and far between. The rock station finally put us on but hardly played us and now they don’t play us at all. In Chicago, we get no support at all. It’s sad, because it’s a great city. There’s a lot more exciting things going on there now than Styx and REO Speedwagon. There’s a lot of talent there, it just goes unnoticed.”
McQuaid and his band mates – guitarist-singer Bob Feddersen, drummer John Sullivan and bassist Mike Flaherty – certainly aren’t going to lose any sleep over it. They’re too busy at the moment. The group’s self-titled Hollywood Records debut album has helped lead a hard-rock resurgence since its March 23 release, while the single “Fly” (first heard on the “Varsity Blues” film soundtrack) has soared up Billboard’s mainstream rock tracks chart, positioned this week at No. 11.
It also didn’t hurt that members of Metallica have championed the band. James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich were blown away by Loudmouth’s fiery display at Chicago’s Double Door last year and invited them to attend a few gigs. At the end of one set in St. Louis, Metallica paid them the ultimate compliment, launching into a version of Loudmouth’s “Not Free.”
“That’s amazing to get plugs from those guys and hang out with them. Who could ask for something better?” McQuaid said. “That was such a nice thing for them to do. I’m reading Guitar World and they’re talking about us. How many people even take the time to mention somebody they do know let alone an unsigned band just out there plugging away? That just shows how cool those guys are. There are no egos in that band.”
Loudmouth formed in 1993 at a time when the popularity of grunge, rap and hip-hop made loud, aggressive rock ‘n’ roll expendable. The foursome labored on the club circuit and eventually developed a core of fans who, like them, were starving for melodic hard rock with a positive message.
“We grew up listening to Sabbath, Zeppelin, the Stones, Beatles, AC/DC,” McQuaid said. “It’s hard and cool, but there’s also songs there. There’s melodies. There’s a reason those bands are great.”
Feddersen, Flaherty and Sullivan have known each other since kindergarten. McQuaid is the odd man out; he answered their newspaper ad for a new guitarist. All four hit it off immediately, McQuaid said.
“I’ll always be the new guy,” he said, with a laugh. “When I met them, it was weird. I jammed with them for the first time and there was this feeling like you had known them all your whole life. It was very instantaneous. Actually, I talked to Johnny over the phone first, that’s how we hooked up. I was in a different band at the time. Even on the phone, I knew I was going to be in this band and we hadn’t even played together yet.
“We’re so tight. It’s like a family. We’re all friends, and we’re all friends with our girlfriends, wives, whatever. When we’re together, this is the music we play and we’ll play no matter what because we enjoy it as a band and being around each other. Even as we were working our way up and not seeing as much success, that feeling never went away. That was the main factor for us staying together for so long.”
For an unknown rock band to be doing so well is a bonus, McQuaid said.
“We’re grateful to be able to do it,” he said. “We’ve been together almost seven years. We were always plugging away and doing it, working jobs, sometimes two jobs, practicing at night. You look back and think, ‘It sucked back then. It was hard work,’ but that’s why you work hard to get to a certain point.”
THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: “Beatles’ ‘A Hard Day’s Night.’ I was about 6 or 7. I also remember getting – when I was really young – Elton John’s ‘Greatest Hits, Vol. 1.’ Then I got into heavy music, like AC/DC and Kiss. My whole room was all Kissed up. I used to put on the makeup and jump around with the Hot Wheels track.”
THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “Ozzy (Osbourne) with Randy Rhoads in 1981. I was 12 years old. We went there and I had no idea who Randy Rhoads was, and they had these cool Randy Rhoads T-shirts. I walk in and I’m thinking, ‘Who’s Randy Rhoads?’ After the show, I ran around that whole arena trying to find one of those T-shirts, but they were all gone.”
BWF (before we forget): Open up and say ahhh to Loudmouth on the Web @ www.hollywoodrecords.com.