luckyPRICK Interview w/Brian Dempsey
luckyPRICK
By Todd Millenacker
Transcribed by Todd Millenacker
49 Cover Image
Recently, our resident interviewer, Todd, got the chance to talk to original Lucky Pierre drummer Brian Dempsey. Brian shed some much needed light on the inner workings of the original line-up for us, and we can’t thank him enough for his time & insight.

Todd Millenacker: Could you tell us a little bit about your musical background? Were drums always your main instrument?

Brian Dempsey: I started out as a drummer and got my first set at age 7. The first song I leaned to play was "A Well Respected Man" by The Kinks. Kinda funny seeing as how much of a Kinks freak Kevin is. That Cats On Holiday thing he was going to call the band is from an old Kinks Album cover. Anyway, after The Beatles of course, later influences became The Who, Led Zeppelin and Grand Funk. I also liked Motown and actually got to play with James Brown as a young kid. I loved funk, so Grand Funk and bands like Left End were right up my alley. So are bands like Living Colour and The Chili Peppers.

We had a lot of great local bands in the mid/late seventies: Glass Harp, Left End and Atlantis Philharmonic were the top 3. I loved them all. They had great drummers and I sat there as a kid and stole every lick I could get from those guys. The James Gang also had a great drummer. He was also a big influence.

At about age ten, I started playing guitar and stole lead solos from the likes of Free and Grand Funk because they were melodic and easy. Lead guitar is cool because you can express yourself more than playing drums and create all these neat sounds. My favorite guitarist at the time was Glass Harp's Phil Keaggy. That was, until I heard John Guciardo. I used to just sit back behind my drums, grooving on what John was doing with this big grin on my face!

I also play bass but hate it. It to me is the most thankless job in a band unless you're Sting or Geddy Lee. And they're famous for their singing (and sexual prowess)...

TM: How did you and Kevin/Lucky Pierre cross paths?

BD: I used to hang out at this local music store called DiFiore's. They had a musician board where you could put up an ad to find a band, etc. Kevin had an ad up for a drummer and I answered it.

TM: At the time was the band called Lucky Pierre or My Stars? I hear rumors about an old demo tape Kevin was hocking called "My Stars".

BD: You know... I'm not sure. When I met Kevin & John they were throwing around the names My Stars and Cats On Holiday. I didn't like COH because it was stolen from a Kinks album cover and I thought it was lame. It would be like calling a band Dark Side Of The Moon or Crazy Train, or..... I know for a fact that by the time Dennis DeVito joined and we started playing out it was Lucky Pierre.

TM: What can you tell us about the early days of Lucky Pierre? Where did you meet, how often did you get together, any early songs?

BD: I met them initially at a house on Allen Court in Rocky River, Ohio. It was just John, Kevin & myself. Then later, Craig Bell was brought in on bass. He was a super nice guy and we became very good friends as did John & I. The three of us used to hang out and go to concerts together. Kevin mostly liked to drink in bars that had no entertainment (old man bars) so we rarely hung out. I don't drink so if there wasn't a good band, I wasn't interested in being there. Still, Kev & I were close and I liked him very much. He was very funny and unique. First songs were Mad About You, I'm So Tough and Alusha. We moved to an abandoned school on West 25th Street in Cleveland. It was a lousy neighborhood but a great space. Eventually, Craig quit the band because he couldn't handle Kevin's constant criticism of his playing. He got a job with Conrail and left town. I never saw him again. I was bummed because he was a great friend and a really cool guy.

TM: Did you ever make any 4-track recordings of these early rehearsals?

BD: Kevin recorded all the time. We also recorded everything we did at West 25th with Craig Bell. Kevin would never let us have tapes of anything. I would love to hear those just for fun. We used to goof around on breaks and play Sparks songs and Lou Reed stuff too. That would be fun to hear. McMahon singing "This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us" was a riot! He did it really good. I have no idea where those tapes might be... I heard once that Denis had some...

TM: Can you tell us about your first show?

BD: It took forever to do our first show. After Craig Bell left the band, John had quit (again) and I had joined a cover band with the guitarist from Rick Derringer's band called Renegade. Don Conte, Lucky Pierre's manager booked us. We got back together finally and Dennis DeVito was brought in on bass. We were now practicing on Wooster Avenue in Rocky River which was the home of Steve Bixler, one of Kevin's friends. There, we finally came together as a live band and played our first gig at the Pirate's Cove in the Cleveland Flats. It was a big event for all of Kevin's gang because they were starting to think Lucky Pierre was a myth. It took what seemed forever for this band to get out of the house and into the clubs. It wasn't from musical issues. It was all the fighting between Kevin & John. Those two were breaking up every other day like a bad couple that likes abuse. It was setback after setback. But we needed John because NOBODY plays like that! I just stayed out of it and went with the flow.....Anyway, the first gig was amazing. Standing O's and two encores. It was a great night!

TM: What are some of your favorite Lucky Pierre songs? Did songs come together through jamming or did Kevin have quite a bit of it mapped out?

BD: I liked Actress, Alusha, Pi Squared, The Flight of Lawrence and Constantine, and Power Of Rock N Roll to name a few. Most songs were brought to us by Kevin on an acoustic guitar. He'd map out the basic arrangement and we'd take that and put our own spin on it until it became the songs you hear now. We were all from different backgrounds musically and the combination of all those influences I think made this a great band. Plus, thanks to Kevin, we had great songs to start with.

TM: You mentioned Craig quitting due to Kevin's criticizing... was Kevin always striving to make Lucky Pierre a "professional" band from the get-go or was he just very specific in his vision?

BD: Well, both in a way. He was a real Nazi at practice. But, neither Kev nor John knew how to tune a guitar. I had to do that for them and they had very little knowledge of sound quality like what amps to use to get a certain sound or which guitar pickups sound good, etc. They were "arteests" and I was more a musician. I was the perfectionist in the band and Kevin was the creative genius. John was just an amazing, raw guitarist and Denis never knew how great a bass player he'd become. The stuff he did off the top of his head live was brilliant!

I was the guy who after two encores at The Pirates Cove would be like "Gawd. We sucked! We blew that intro in Pi Squared" or whatever. I was always analyzing everything and could never take a compliment. When we played with The Police, Stewart Copeland came up to me and said how much he enjoyed my drumming. I thought he was drunk or tone deaf cause when I heard him play, it sounded like three people! I affectionately punched him in the arm and said "get the hell outta here." Years later, I realized he probably thought I was an asshole. He's British and may have not gotten the slang I don't know why I just couldn't say "thank you" and shut up back then.

Kevin was a perfectionist especially when it came to his recordings. So much in fact that they lost the feel and came off sort of rigid. Plus, Cleveland has lousy recording studios. They refer to it as "The Cleveland Sound". Translation: cardboard boxes for drums, way too much compression and no guitar sustain. Still Kevin's songs are so good, they overcome bad production. How can you ruin “Match” or “Into My Arms”? You can't! Even with a sub-par band and bush production it kills! Kevin's music is like the analogy that there's no bad pizza or no bad sex. There is... but when you're not getting any, you'll appreciate whatever comes along! Our version of the band was a really good, Chicago style, deep dish with extra cheese. As far as the sex part.... I'm taking the 5th.

TM: From what I understand, shortly before recording "Fans & Cameras" you left Lucky Pierre. Without going into tabloid fodder, could you tell us a little bit about your departure? Did you ever play with Lucky Pierre again?

BD: I left because the band broke up (again). I never actually left the band intentionally. It just kept breaking up for various reasons and sometimes by the time they'd get back together, I was doing other projects. The time you spoke of, they reformed with a drummer named Gary Shea. He was an excellent, classically trained drummer that I heard had played in the pit orchestra at the old Front Row Theatre in Cleveland. He did the drums on Idlewood and Fans and Cameras (the single) in the studio and did a handful of gigs with Kevin. When Gary left, I was asked to come back. My band, City Kids had just broken up, so I rejoined them. I think that was time #4 but I lost count.

TM: Kevin's music has obviously changed quite a bit from your days with him. What are your opinions/thoughts on the Prick/Lucky Pierre discs (especially in comparison to the older stuff)?

BD: I loved the Wreckard. I was not a fan of the first Prick CD because I felt Nothing was trying to turn Kevin into a NIN clone. He's much better than that. Matter of fact, I told him that and he took it the wrong way. We haven't spoken since, but I was trying to be supportive and wanted him to find himself again. The new Lucky Pierre CD I've only heard sound samples from, but I didn't care for the parts I heard. It sounded nothing like Lucky Pierre and no original members are on it so it's hardly a Lucky Pierre project. I didn't even bother to get a copy. Why?

TM: Yes, the Wreckard is brilliant... Did you keep track of any of Kevin's other musical projects we've read about (Broken Man, The Struggles, the Pyramid Club, Master Cherry, Fear of Blue). If so can you tell us anything about them?

BD: No. Not really. They were all little side projects. I bought all the singles he did on his own like Chilly Willy, etc. I loved the Communique EP as well. Guciardo did some great stuff there. And it was Kevin's best recording sound wise, I think. But those others, I didn't really get to hear them.

TM: Have you had much contact with Kevin recently? If so, what has he been up to? Is he planning on releasing more music anytime soon?

BD: No. None. As I said before, he got upset when I didn't like Prick and we haven't spoken since. I moved out of state and have no idea where he is anyway. I assume still in Lakewood but..... I've been out of Cleveland now for 3 years. I only miss it when The Indians do well. And I do miss DiFiore's Music. It was like a second home.....

TM: Musically, what have you been up to? Are you still involved in the Cleveland music scene? I understand you're a writer, correct?

BD: I was heavily involved in the Cleveland scene for more than 20 years after Lucky Pierre. I founded The Cleveland Underground Punk Club. Also was a talent buyer for a huge metal club called Flash's. I had an artist development company called Invisible Management and had many local bands on my roster. I put out a compilation album of local bands called Exhibit A. I also wrote a local music column for Alternative's Magazine for four years and was a contributor to Scene Magazine, Youngstown's Speed of Sound, and many others. I recently was assistant editor of Citi-Music Magazine and a writer for Utter Trash until both folded. Writing as an art these days has unfortunately been cheapened by all the blogs and message boards out there. Now, everyone thinks they're a writer and it's devalued the craft. Much the same way digital cameras have devalued real photography. Everybody has a blog on MySpace or in the case of photography, photos of their cat on PBase. It's quite the same as how digital recording has ruined creativity in music. People used to spend months in the studio perfecting a sound that was truly unique and their own. Now, they just hit button number 3.

Musically, I got sick of all the seriousness of The Cleveland Scene. It's all BS anyway. Big egos, very little talent and nowhere to go, so I formed The Bambies. We were billed as Cleveland's Ugliest All Female Rock Band. Course, we were a bunch of fat, ugly guys in drag. We had songs like PMS Attack and I'm Not Loose. Girls used to come & heckle us and call us sluts. It was a riot! This is when I finally had fun playing in a band in Cleveland. You can't take yourself too seriously. It will eat you up. Just ask Kevin. I'd like to get HIM in a dress. It would be good for him!!! He has great legs too!

[SIDE NOTE: TM: Ha Ha... One of the reason I really like Kevin's music/persona is because he seems like an extremely unwilling/uncomfortable rock star... am I correct in that assumption?

BD: Yeah, he was telling me how miserable he was on the Prick tour. All the band members were young, happy and on the bus partying and here was Kevin wondering what it all had to do with his art? Kevin is the consummate tight ass. But he can be hilariously funny and warm too. He has that Irish temper and reminds me of Dennis Leary quite a bit. Very talented but you wouldn't want to be on his shit list! I'm a huge Leary fan and have always been a Kevin fan too. Even when he's being a Prick (sorry... bad pun). Love him or hate him, there's no one like him.]


Later on, I came up with a promotion called Battle Of The Worst Bands. I figured that since all these local bands were trying to be famous, I'd do the opposite and try & find the worst band in Cleveland. It was a huge success. Real area bands would make up these hilarious concept groups and enter. One was called "Pull My Finger". All they did was play In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly for about an hour until we couldn't take it anymore and unplugged them. The band that won was a spoof on Metal like Spinal Tap, Gwar, etc. The band called themselves Ouiphucter. They were supposed to be from France. It was hilarious! The Bambies came in second BTW.

Recently, I've been writing music, practicing guitar and learning the violin (badly). I play drums when asked to and have done a lot of studio work. But it's hard to write a song on a drum kit so the guitar is my thing for now. I'm still managing Youngstown's Left End and we're working on a DVD of live performances and a CD of unreleased material. I also work with the band dada from LA. They had the hit "Dizzkneeland" (I just flipped off President George) and have 8 CD's out. Not a bad song among them. They have one of the world's greatest guitarists (Mike Gurley) and their drummer also plays for The Blue Man Group. New CD should be out soon. Website is www.dadatheband.com (shameless plug). Great Stuff!!!

TM: Cool, I still hear that song on the local alternative station.

BD: You can't beat em. Go to the site and click on their player. There are some really cool unreleased things, some live stuff and some unplugged versions there as well. They inspire me. Very few bands are that good any more. I do LOVE Flyleaf though too. Have you heard them? Lacey Mosley is a killer!

TM: That's about it... Thanks again, this has been fun!

BD: Thanks! It's been fun here too. Good luck with your band Avenpitch. Nice stuff!!