WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT
A Conversation with Rocker TOMMY LONDON of THE DIRTY PEARLS
A Nitecap with Brian Newman
I first met Tommy London about 5 years ago in the LES. I was knocking them back at my favorite rock and roll bar, now affectionately known to us as the “Clubhouse,” because so many of our friends have come into their own out of the boozy, smoke-filled church of Rock. I found out we had some mutual friends and we started talking. We probably were jiving about the two birds looking at us from the corner of the bar, when the subject quickly turned to the record spinning on the turntable. As Thin Lizzy’s “Toughest Street in Town” blasted from the DJ booth, I found out that we had much more in common than I thought: a love for good music.
We talked about music, business and life in general. He is the lead singer of a New York City rock and roll band called The Dirty Pearls. As the whiskey drained and the hours waned, the leather-clad denizens were roughly shuffled out to make room for the real rock and rollers. Although the hours between last call and leaving the bar were a bit hazy, I do remember walking out to a street filled with early morning deliveries, horn-honking and a sudden need for some sunglasses.
Mr. London and I returned to the scene of the crime many times over the years and I have watched him achieve things very few New York bands have done in a long time. The Pearls have sold out Bowery Ballroom numerous times, one show overtaking Amy Winehouse’s previous attendance record. In the past year they made a record with legendary producer David Kahne (Paul McCartney, Tony Bennett, Sublime). They also released an amazing, epically shot video filmed at the late preeminent rock club “Don Hills.” They performed “Walk This Way” live on WRXP with hip-hop king DMC to a packed house at the Studio at Webster Hall.
Tonight we’re back at the “Clubhouse” for a few cold ones and another late night session about Tommy’s hair, the band, the boys, twitter, the future of The Dirty Pearls and the future of Rock and Roll in New York City.
Brian Newman: Hey Tommy, what’s shaking baby? How’s life in the Big Apple treating you these days? Steak dinners and champagne?
Tommy London: Hey brother! Things are great! I don’t have any complaints. I’ve just been jamming with The ‘Pearls, hanging with the Rebels and just enjoying life to the fullest, which of course includes steak dinners and champagne!
BN: The band has been sounding super tight lately. Does any of this have to do with your recent recording sessions with David Kahne?
TL: Yeah, it does. Thanks for noticing! David really helped to take the band to another level with songwriting and with our playing. The songs sound so much bigger and we are so much tighter as a unit due to working with David and from playing out so often live with the newly structured songs.
BN: Practice makes perfect. What kind of beer do you think John Wayne would drink if he were still slinging them back?
TL: Without a doubt, it would be a Bud Light! HAHAHA! No one is going to laugh at that besides you, me and the rest of the Rivington Rebels.
BN: Who are the Rivington Rebels?
TL: The Rivington Rebels is what we call our crew of hell-raisers. The core being myself, you, Marty E, Ian Eldorado and Luc Carl. We drink, gamble, smoke, eat steaks and just create havoc. I’m actually getting my Rivington Rebels tat in a few weeks.
BN: I know that you wrote a lot of the music with one of the Pearls guitarists, Tommy Mokas. Man, he shreds his ass off. How did you guys approach writing the new material and working those new songs into the set?
TL: A lot of songs that we write in the band usually start off with a chorus I wrote and then we develop it from there. Though songwriting can go in any direction. A song can be inspired by a title alone or from a simple guitar riff or melody. It all depends really. All our songs have started with any of those. We approached the current songwriting thinking we needed some new, fresh, over the top rock songs. The album is full of them from start to finish! Full throttle, non stop, put the top down, press the gas and just drive kind of rock n roll! I can’t wait for everyone to hear it. As for writing the set, there’s an energy you feel when you write and jam a song with your band. Just from that alone you sense and hope that the audience will feel the same. So you throw it into the ring one night at a show and wait to see the reaction. We’ve gotten a huge response to the new material especially for our new single/video “Who’s Coming Back To Who,” which you actually star in!
BN: Tell me about the record? When does it come out? Where can I buy it?
TL: As of now, the plan is to release our album, Whether You Like It Or Not, in early 2012. In the meantime, we will be releasing an EP this October that will feature “Who’s Coming Back To Who,” “Static,” “New York City Is A Drug,” and a few new songs, maybe our videos too. The EP will be available online and at our shows. As we speak, we are putting together a full tour for the fall.
BN: Do you have anything to say to any haters that may or may not exist out there?
TL: The more people hate the more it makes you realize you are on the right track with things. So lets just say I’d be more worried if they weren’t hating! Ya dig?
BN: God damn right! You’ve got a flair for style. What’s you favorite thing in your closet?
TL: My boots! Love my white boots and my blue suede shoes, well they are actually boots too. You know, funny story: I actually bought my blue suede boots on January 8th, which is Elvis’ birthday! If that’s not an omen then I don’t know what is.
BN: I see that you’re on the twitter a lot talking about your hair. What is the deal with twitter and why do you care if your hair is sticking up in the back?
TL: HAHAHHAAHA! I’m on twitter due to you, Marty E and Luc Carl. I got jealous of all you guys talking to each other via twitter so I traded in my Fisher Price phone for an upgrade to join the party! As for the hair, it’s important for it to look just as cool when you walk away as it does when you walk up, so it’s gotta look great all around baby! By the way, how does the back of my hair look right now? HAHAHAHAHA!
BN: I’m gonna say a word and I want you to say the first thing that comes to mind. Ready?
TL: Sex. Makes ya wonder what I would have said if you said Brunettes…huh?
BN: HA! Tommy, always the consummate wild man. I’ve seen the Pearls rock a lot of rooms with only one or two opening bands. What do you think it takes to sell out the kind of rooms that usually take 4 or 5 bands to even come close to getting the kind of numbers The ‘Pearls attract?
TL: The one thing I can say about my band is that from day one we worked hard at getting the music heard. We plastered the streets with flyers and hung posters all over town. We worked the social networks online continuously. We hit up all the rock blog sites about touting The Dirty Pearls. WRXP DJ Rich Russo calls us “The hardest working band on the rock scene.” When the biggest rock station in NYC notices how hard you are working and they start playing your music, it really makes you feel like it’s not all in vain. But even more so, when you sell out rooms like Bowery Ballroom, Gramercy and Irving Plaza and you have the crowd singing your songs, it’s the biggest high in the world and just makes you work harder to get to the next level.
BN: Where are you cats playing next?
TL: We have a few shows left until the fall tour starts off: 8/9 at Irving Plaza with Cinderella, 8/24 in Foxboro, MA, 9/1 in Hoboken and 9/8 at Mohegan Sun. You can see find all our tour dates right here: www.thedirtypearls.com
BN: You have been working your ass off the past few years. That’s one reason you and I always got a long so well. Not very many bands have a leader that goes the extra yardage to make shit happen. Can you talk a little bit about your work ethic i.e. “the hustle” ?
TL: Working my ass off? I’m usually drinking and gambling with you! HAHA! But when I’m NOT doing that I am working on the band. First thing to do is to put the right team of people together. I have a great manager, agent and lawyer, though I didn’t find them overnight. We had to get the band name out there to gain their attention. Also, I’m VERY fortunate that I found four band members who want to achieve the same goal as I do and are willing to work hard to get it. I’ve been in bands before where no one in the band gets it or wants to do any work besides playing live. But there’s more to it than that. Being the leader of the band there is one thing to always keep in mind, a quarterback is only as good as his wide receiver and his front line allow him to be. ‘Nuff said.
BN: Are you cool to go to Atlantic City after this interview? The Caddy has a full tank and the suite is comped.
TL: If you would’ve told me that at the beginning there would have been no interview! Interview is over now! Let’s roll!
Tommy London is the quarterback, frontman and lead singer for the rock band The Dirty Pearls. His duties include: vocalizin’, memorizin’, hypnotizin’ and socializin!!! He’s always on the move and coming to a city near you.
Written by Brian Newman
Photography by Coco Alexander
Design by Marie Havens
Tommy London, NYC, August 2011, Photography by Coco Alexander