It’s always good to see some Blount County bands get love from the Knoxville press. Matthew Everett over at Metro Pulse has long been a fan of Maryville-based glam-metal revivalists Gun*Slinger, and this week’s edition featured a story on the guys, who perform tonight at the Longbranch Saloon on “The Strip.” However, the very next day Everett blogged about an e-mail he received that stated singer Cole Graham is no longer with the band.
WTF? When I wrote about the band back in August, things seemed good; even after the brouhaha at Irish Times that same weekend, the foursome seemed more determined than ever. So I set out to get to the bottom of what happened.
Graham was the first to get back to me, and he was adamant about one thing — despite the wording of the e-mail Everett received, he was not fired from the band.
“You can’t fire someone who created the whole thing,” he told me. “I quit because these guys wanted to spend $80 of my hard-earned money to go up to Nashville and play a battle of the bands. I guess me and my insolence caused them to go get a new lead singer.”
According to Graham, he disagreed with the decision to make the trip to Nashville to compete and was vocal about his opposition. In the end, however, he said he showed up to the home of guitarist Marcus Ott to make the trip … only to find the rest of the guys ready to leave without him.
“It was just desperation — everybody was wanting it to go somewhere and wanting to break through, but I told them I thought the trip would be a waste of time,” he said. “And it was — they came home and didn’t win anything, and no fans showed up. I told them that would happen, because we’re a Maryville-based band, a Knoxville-based band. We needed to work on it locally.”
Before the rest of the band pulled out, however, a heated exchange followed, and when the dust settled Graham and his former bandmates went their separate ways.
“I told them to keep the name, if they have to, but all of the songs — even the stuff that’s unreleased — are mine,” he said. “Considering all the songs are mine, if I could find the members, I suppose I would go under a different band name. I’m considering going under my own name and hiring a backing band.”
According to the rest of the band, however — Ott, bass player Ryan Scott and drummer Blake Rider, speaking in solidarity to me via an Internet chat conference — the issues go much deeper than Graham’s resistance to the Nashville contest.
“The last couple shows we had, his attitude and his performance was not quite what we felt it should be,” the guys said. “For example, his excessive cussing and vulgarity toward the audience was above and beyond what is ‘rock and roll,’ and we watched over half the crowd get up and walk out over it. After the crowd reacted to Cole’s antics by walking out on us, Cole decided he did not want to finish the show. He decided he didn’t want to put on a good show.
“We felt his performance ‘give up,’ and he would leave the stage in the middle of songs. He became overly intoxicated so that he could keep on going. We had to finish songs on our own. After that gig, we were to go to Nashville for a battle of the bands. Cole refused to go. But it was too close for us to cancel without damaging our name, so to prevent that we decided to go and take a fill-in singer to honor our committment. Upon finding this out, Cole decided to quit, but not before cussing and insulting us. So we decided to fire him. Unfortunately, he quit first.”
According to Graham, his on-stage persona exemplifies what made glam-metal, or hair-metal, great in the 1980s — an abrasive attitude, an in-your-face personality and an anti-authoritarian air about it all.
“It’s the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, man,” he said. “There’s nobody out there who’s doing rock ‘n’ roll right, representing what rock ‘n’ roll is the way they should. And people who try it are gonna get condemned for it because it’s more than what the indusry will accept immediately. The guys didn’t have the guts to stick with it, so I told them to get Mr. Rogers for the frontman.”
Of course, those who keep up with Gun*Slinger may be just rolling their eyes at this point. After all, the band went through this once before; Ott, Rider and Scott went on to back country act Jennetta Leann as the band Tipton Station before eventually reconciling with Cole. Both sides, however, say such a reconciliation probably ain’t gonna happen this time around.
“As for Cole ever fronting Gun Slinger again, short of a miracle – unless God appoints him our lead singer – there is no chance of Cole fronting Gun*Slinger,” the band said. “Three strikes, come and gone. He’s out.”
On that point, they agree — Cole has no interest in going back, either.
“Even last time, I said let’s give it time and we’ll talk about it,” he said. “Not this time. They just don’t like my frontman style, but a lot of people who are in the industry, who know it and have been around it have told us time and time again that there’s a fire with this band, and it wasn’t them. I wish them luck and hope that they do well with their new endeavors, but as far as to say what they’re doing right now is Gun*Slinger – it’ll never be Gun*Slinger.”
OK, so maybe they aren’t in total agreement. Ott, Scott and Rider — who have tapped Ott’s brother, Daniel, as the new lead singer — are enthusiastic about their collective future, even if the old songs like “Pick Ur Poison” won’t be part of the Gun*Slinger recorded repertoire.
“The songs lyrically were his; musically, they were a collaboration. However, we agreed to take them off our websites and off our album,” the guys said. “But we will play them live (if we feel like it) just as we do cover songs. We have new original songs in the works. Fans will not be disheartened. We are sticking to the same Gun*Slinger style. Pure rock and roll!”
For tonight’s show, Daniel Ott has a work commitment he can’t get out of; singer Cortni McAndrews is (tentatively) filling in. In parting, the band had this to say:
“Please continue to stick with our band. We thank you for your continued support even amidst all of our trials. We apologize to any one who has been offended or cursed at by our former frontman. As for Cole, we wish him well in his life and his endeavors from this point on.”