Dan Laudo - Subsonic, Prong, Big On Mars Project - Back
Interviewer: Cameron Edney - http://insideout666.mysite.freeserve.com

Drummer Dan Laudo is no stranger to playing in the big arenas and traveling all over the world to perform for millions of adoring fans. Dan who was long-time Prong drummer announced a little over a year ago that he would no longer be continuing as the backbone for Prongs rhythm section which was sad news for many of Prongs worldwide fans. Since leaving Prong Dan has taken on touring duties for long-time friend Ron Marks band Subsonic and is also currently working on his very own solo project Big on Mars which is due to be released very soon. I recently caught up with Dan for an in-depth chat on Danís musical career, speaking about his solo project ëBig on Marsí, drumming, going back to his teenage years playing with Trent Reznor [Nine inch Nails] and Ron Marks [Subsonic/Celtic Frost], to touring the world with Prong and much more. Marking the second anniversary of the death of Pantera/Damageplan guitarist Dimebag Darrell this week, I also took the opportunity to talk to Dan about his long-time friendship with Dime, which was moving to say the least. Before we get ëBig on Marsí lets take a rocket ride on a trip through the life and times of Dan Laudo.

Metal Fanatix: Hi Dan, it’s great to finally catch up with you for an interview. First of all I want to thank you for putting time aside to answer these questions for our readers and also congratulate you on your marriage a few months back. Before we get into your background with Prong, I would like to talk to you first about one of the latest projects in your life ‘Big on Mars’, I read that you have done all of the work on the album yourself so far, what else can you tell us about it?

Dan Laudo: Hey Cameron thanks, it is great to speak with you also. I started writing songs for the ‘Big on Mars’ project a few years back during some of the down time from my Prong obligations. I’ve always had song ideas and riffs rolling around in my head. I decided it was time to get them out of my head and into the recording studio. I wanted to have complete control over the project. Very early in the process of recording these songs, I decided that it would be best to play every instrument and sing every note myself. The only opinion I counted on was my own and my “gut” feeling towards this music. I was not really a guitarist when I started this, but I knew what kind of guitar I wanted to hear. I have played with some great guitar players over the years and I would study what they do and learn from it. Little did they know I was taking “notes”. For better or worse, what came together in the recording of these songs is “all me” and I’m pretty happy about that. It was very liberating.

Metal Fanatix: I believe the album is due to be released pretty soon? Has there been an official date set yet?

Dan Laudo: We haven’t nailed down an exact date yet. It will most likely be around Christmas or early 2007. It will be available on my web site first and then in other retail outlets shortly thereafter.

Metal Fanatix: Musically will it be compared to your work with Prong or have you taken it in a whole new direction?

Dan Laudo: I think there are certain elements that would remind one of Prong. After being around the Prong guitar “sound” for so long, it kind of crept into my psyche. There’s a lot of influences all working together in the material. Perhaps some Nine Inch Nails and a little Rob Zombie. It’s pretty much a hybrid of sounds and beats. I tried to lyrically write about subjects very close to me and at the same time, write about matters affecting the world at large.

Metal Fanatix: Now Dan since leaving Prong as you mentioned you have been working on the ‘Big on Mars’ project and you are also hitting the skins in Subsonic, what updates do you have from the Subsonic camp?

Dan Laudo: Ron Marks [Subsonic] and I have been great friends for many years. I was more than happy to help with his band. We shot a music video together [Dream American] that came out really cool. He is putting together a lot of the business elements for the band right now. We are hoping to put together some kind of tour and take the Subsonic beast out on the road in the near future. Ron writes great songs and is one of the best guitar players I have ever heard.

Metal Fanatix: Yeah he is a great guy and the last album rocked!

Dan Laudo: I also filled in on drums with my friend Pat Lachman’s band The Mercy Clinic. Pat was the singer for Damageplan as you know. We played a show in Hollywood and it was a blast. It was a nice diversion from working in the studio on my own project. It was good to bash it out in front a live audience.

Metal Fanatix: As people may or may not know, you grew up with Ron Marks [Subsonic] and Trent Reznor [NIN], during those teenage years you were all in a garage band together. What comes to mind when you look back at those early experiences?

Dan Laudo: The first thing that comes to mind is how young we were. We rehearsed in my parent’s basement at the time. I’m sure they enjoyed all the noise we made. I was trying to put together a band that would go out and play the local club scene. My idea was to play the top 40 hits of the day. Trent came in and wanted to play the stuff that was interesting to him at the time, which was the new wave and synth pop songs that were just coming out. Ron wanted to play heavier stuff like Judas Priest. We sort of compromised and worked out a set list that included a little of everything. I will never forget playing “Electric Eye” by Judas Priest with Trent Reznor singing lead. If only I had made the effort to record some of our rehearsals. That would be quite an archive.

Metal Fanatix: Oh man that would be awesome to hear!

Dan Laudo: Even in those early days, I could sense that Trent knew exactly what he wanted and that he was not going to stop until he succeeded. He was very focused and had a lot of ideas for staging that were way ahead of their time. He would draw diagrams of the staging and what he wanted to project. Eventually, he made it all happen.

After that band fizzled out, Trent asked me to do another project. Stupid me chose to go and do another cover band and passed on Trent’s offer. If only I had a crystal ball at the time. I think I would have made a different decision.

Ron was also a very good player back then. He had already begun writing and recording original songs. The man hasn’t stopped since.

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] Yeah you’re right! Ron has quite the archive collection! Now Dan lets talk a bit about Prong. I believe Ron actually played a substantial part in you becoming Prong’s drummer? Do you want to tell us about that?

Dan Laudo: Ron was friends with Prong’s then manager. He was from the same area that I grew up in western Pennsylvania. I had drinks one night with Ron and this manager while I was home for a visit. When I returned to Los Angeles, my band was breaking up and I was looking for a new gig. Wouldn’t you know it, the phone rings the next day and it’s Prong’s manager. He tells me to learn twenty two songs in a day and go down and audition. I went down and played with Tommy and that was it. We were on the road in a week doing a six week US tour. Prong’s manager asked Ron if he knew any drummers in Los Angeles, and Ron replied “call Dan” he’s your guy. For that I am forever grateful to Ron.

Metal Fanatix: Can you tell us a little more about your first encounter with the guys, did you all get along from the get go, want to punch each other out? [laughs]

Dan Laudo: The 1997 version of Prong consisted of TV on guitar, Riggs from Rob Zombie’s band, Frank Cavanaugh from Filter on bass and Bill Rettie on keyboards. Everyone was a little skeptical of me at first. They were thinking, who is this new guy we have never heard of? I tried to just go in and play the songs well and be a good guy. No rock star ego here. Everyone was great and we had a lot of fun on that tour.

Metal Fanatix: Awesome, Dan you were in the band for seven years in which time you released two albums, a live DVD and did countless tours. Were you happy with the material that was released during your stint with the band or do you feel more could have been accomplished?

Dan Laudo: I was happy with the sound of the live CD and the live DVD. I think some more thought could have gone into some of the overall package concepts on both. I’m not a fan of the production on the studio release “Scorpio Rising”. I thought that the guitars were too loud and buried the drums on a lot of the tracks. I liked the songs on that release. I just thought they could have been better served with a good mix. My thoughts on the subject were pretty much vetoed at the time. We shot a video for the track “All knowing Force”. It was filmed live in upstate New York. I shot the close-ups of Tommy back in Los Angeles. The video was put together by Rich Stahle at UVTV. He did a really good job mixing it together.

Metal Fanatix: I’ve read interviews were it’s been noted that after one of the American tours the band was in indefinite hiatus, how frustrating was that for you? I mean you ended up forming another band [Pile of Heads]. At this stage did you think it was all over?

Dan Laudo: Yes, after the fall 1997 US tour there was a giant question mark as to the future of Prong. I was very much in favor of continuing with Prong but, Tommy had some things to sort out. It was pretty frustrating to say the least.

I was in contact with Bill Rettie, the keyboard player/ programmer from the Prong tour. We started to collaborate on some material. He would fly in from New York and we work on songs and look for other musicians to fill out the line-up. This is when Pat Lachman came into the picture. He is a great guitar player and we knew he was the guy right away. The work he did in his band Diesel Machine just blew me away.

We eventually found a singer and demoed a bunch of songs. Things were moving very slowly because of the sole reason that half the band was on the east coast and the other half was on the west coast. We were sending recordings through the mail and collaborating and recording that way. It was very unnatural. It was around that point that Pat Lachman got the call to work with Rob Halford’s solo band. I went off and did a project with my friend Josh Fields that was called March Hares. We were produced by Gilby Clarke from Guns and Roses.

It was around 2000 that I reconnected with Tommy to put together a new version of Prong. We got Brian Perry and Monte Pittman in the band. We rehearsed for about six months. We were trying to write new Prong material at this point with little or no results. The band sort of disintegrated. Monte joined Madonna’s touring band. I pretty much stuck around the longest. In the fall of 2001, Tommy and I were working on some new material and Pat Lachman came in to help on a few songs. After a new demo was completed and new management and a label were secured, we put together a live band for a spring 2002 tour. It was at this point that Brian Perry and Monte Pittman came back to the band. The great resurrection had begun. And the rest, as they say is “history”.

Metal Fanatix: Now just over a year ago you announced to the world that you were stepping down from the stool as Prong’s drummer, a year on do you feel you have made the right decision?

Dan Laudo: I absolutely feel it was the right thing for me to do personally. I had pretty much had my fill of everything Prong at that point. I love the music and the fans but, as great as it was to be in a very influential band, I was pretty frustrated with the way things were going on every level and had seen enough of the ugly side of human nature. I became more and more interested in what I was creating by myself then I was with the collective of Prong. I was burnt and it was time for a change. I’m sure I’m not missing a thing being on my own now. I have a great sense of freedom and a new passion for what I’m doing. It feels good to be the one in the driver’s seat now.

Metal Fanatix: Dan, this week marks the 2nd anniversary of Dimebag’s horrible death. I know that you guys were friends; would you like to share some thoughts on Dimebag with us?

Dan Laudo: Dime was everything you have heard he was. What I mean is that he treated everyone the same and that is to say, with great friendship and just a great fun attitude. The first time I met Dime was in 2000 on the “Reinventing the Steel” tour in Long Beach, California. Pat Lachman and I went down to the show and rocked out to Pantera. It was an amazing show. We went back stage afterward and met the band. This was Pat’s first time meeting Dime as well. As soon Pat told Dime that he was playing guitar for Rob Halford that was it. The party was on. Dime showed us the Halford tattoo that he had on his leg. I told Dime that I was playing with Prong and he says “you’ve got to be shitting me”. Prong and Pantera toured together back in the day and he knew Tommy Victor very well. I said let’s call him right now. So, we call Tommy and the voicemail picks up and Dime leaves this great heartfelt message about how much he respects Tommy and loves Prong. It turns out that Tommy never got the message. It was lost in cell phone hell somewhere. We had a great time that night. Of course, we end up on the bus drinking many blacktooth grins and watching “Vulgar Videos”.

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs]

Dan Laudo: When Prong played Dallas a few years later, Dime came backstage before the show and found me and said “Man, you weren’t kidding. You really are in Prong!!” Then he said “Man, you better kick some ass on the drums, you’ve got some big shoes to fill”. He paused for a couple of seconds and said “Why am I telling you this? You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t tear it up, rock that shit son”. During the show I could see him banging his head and playing air guitar to all the songs.

The last time I saw Dime was about three weeks before the incident. Damageplan was playing in Los Angeles. I went down to the show and had a blast. The band sound great. I was cheering on my friend Pat Lachman. Dime played his ass off. We had many drinks after the show and I got to talk with him for awhile before the night was done. He was telling me how much of a driving force Pat Lachman was in the band and his great enthusiasm. We had one last black tooth shot. I remember telling Dime to “be careful out there” on the rest of the tour. I don’t even know why I said that. Then a few weeks later, I got a phone call about what had just happened in Columbus and it seemed like some kind of bizarre nightmare that I had just stepped into. The sickening thing was that it was all real. I was just stunned and angered by the whole thing.

I still think about it. That night I was devastated by the news that Dime was gone and then to make it worse, reports were unclear the whole night concerning the other band members and crew. At one point there was a report that my friend Pat Lachman had died. I was a mess the whole night until the next morning when I got text message from Pat saying he was alright.

I can’t believe it been 2 years. I hate the fact that we will never hear that man play guitar again. He was a legend in every sense of the word.

Metal Fanatix: He sure was mate! There is no doubt he will be missed and adored by fans all around the world for many years to come. Dan, let’s lighten the mood a little bit and discuss life on the road. What is the most ridiculous thing you have ever asked for on a tour rider?

Dan Laudo: Well, actually I never asked for a thing on the tour rider. I’m pretty low maintenance. Whatever was backstage when I arrived was fine with me. No special herb teas and fried pork products for me [laughs]. Touring can be somewhat “fun” when there is a budget. When it’s a “bare bones” tour, it can be kind of “interesting”.

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] I bet it can! What was your first experience of playing outside the USA like?

Dan Laudo: Well, it was Canada. But after that it was across the pond in London with Prong... What a blast that was. I had never been there before that and it was quite an experience. We played the Underworld and it was packed. I blew up a few electrical items in the hotels on that tour because I didn’t have the proper wattage adapters. A big “cheers” to all my English friends! We played all over Europe and had a great time and got to see a lot of really cool cities. Prague is probably one of my favorites.

Metal Fanatix: Over the years you have shared the stage with so many great bands. Who have you enjoyed touring with the most and could you share a funny road story with us from the tour?

Dan Laudo: There have been some very cool bands. I had a great time touring with a band called Hanzel und Gretyl. What a bunch of characters they are. We had a lot of fun on the road. We would go to strip clubs in different towns and also had a great Thanksgiving dinner back stage before a gig in Las Vegas. We were all doing stand-up comedy while we were eating turkey.

Metal Fanatix: Do you remember the first show you ever played can you tell us a bit about it?

Dan Laudo: I was sixteen and my first band played a corner tavern in Sharon, Pennsylvania. I wasn’t old enough to be in the place to begin with, but since I was in the band it was okay. I guess there were other underage people there as well. The police raided the place and arrested a bunch of people for underage drinking. They didn’t hassle me because I was behind a drum kit at the time. What a night that was. That was the beginning of many bizarre nights to come over the years.

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] Do you have any plans to tour Australia in the future?

Dan Laudo: I would love to tour Australia. Either with Big on Mars or perhaps Subsonic. Only time will tell. I hope we can line something up “down under”.

Metal Fanatix: It would be great to see you guys heading our way! Dan, we both grew up listening to one of rock n rolls greatest bands Kiss. I believe that Alive! Is the album that sparked your drumming career? No doubt Peter Criss was a huge influence on you?

Dan Laudo: Oh god, yes. Peter Criss was a giant influence. He was at the top of his game on Alive. The whole presentation that Kiss put on got me hooked on playing rock drums. I still listen to that album today. Sorry, did I say album? I meant CD. I actually don’t even own a record player anymore.

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs]

Dan Laudo: I do miss the artwork being so large then, instead of the shrunken art that comes with CDs today.

Metal Fanatix: Oh me too, another great band that influenced you was Angel, which is a band that many people today still don’t really know about! What other bands, drummers inspired you?

Dan Laudo: Barry Brandt from Angel was a big influence. John Bonham of course. I got heavily into Neil Peart for awhile. Then it was Stewart Copeland from the Police. Tony Brock from the Babys. Later on it was jazz guys like Dave Weckl and Vinnie Colaiuta from Zappa’s band. Chad Smith from the Chilli Peppers. I like Morgan Rose from Sevendust quite a bit. The list goes on and on.

Metal Fanatix: I have always thought of Def Leppard’s Rick Allen as an amazing drummer, a true inspiration to drummers all over the world. Would you agree with that or do you think he is overrated?

Dan Laudo: Rick Allen is a great drummer and a true inspiration to anyone, musician or not. I liked his early work on Def Leppard’s first two records. After that Mutt Lange pretty much replaced him with a drum machine for a few records. I can’t figure out how he plays with one arm and different trigger pedals. He’s got my respect.

Metal Fanatix: As a drummer mate, do you do anything specific to warm up and prepare for a show?

Dan Laudo: I warm up on a drum pad for about a half hour before the show using heavy sticks. I try to do some stretching and running in place as well, to get the blood flowing. It helps calm the nerves and I can get focused. I also like to some stand up comedy routines backstage as well. You have to keep the jokes flowing before the going on stage for the very serious business at hand [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] Have you ever had to deal with repetitive stress injuries from drumming? If so what have you found has been the best way to treat them?

Dan Laudo: On the first Prong tour in 1997, I had a bad case of “tennis elbow”. It’s a really a sore elbow from too much hard drumming. I was in constant pain. The adrenaline of playing the shows made it go away until I got off stage and then the throbbing pain would start again. I would wake up in the middle of the night on the tour bus in the worst pain. “I know, poor me.......wah!”

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs]

Dan Laudo: I rested my arm after the tour. Here’s the weird part of this story. I started dating my now wife Marie after the tour and the bad elbow went away immediately. I think she used some kind of voodoo on me [laughs]. I still get the occasional aches and pains from playing. I guess it just goes along with this line of work.

Metal Fanatix: What was the first kit you owned?

Dan Laudo: My first kit was a white CB700 kit. I think they were Pearl’s budget drums. They didn’t sound that great but I didn’t really care at the time. I was just happy to have them to beat the hell out of. I moved up to Yamaha drums after that. I recently started playing a Ddrum kit. I had been using their triggers for a while. When they came out with acoustic drums, I gave them a try and they are actually very good drums.

Metal Fanatix: What hardware are you currently using?

Dan Laudo: I use all DW hardware at the moment. They make some pretty sturdy stands and their kick pedals are the best. I also use Sabian cymbals, Aquarian drumheads and Vic Firth sticks.

Metal Fanatix: I would imagine your rehearsal equipment wouldn’t be too different?

Dan Laudo: My practice kit is actually my recording setup. I have a studio with everything wired for sound. A lot of times, I will be practicing and I’ll hit “record” just in case I stumble upon some cool groove of fill that I don’t want to forget. I use the Ddrum kit in the studio and the Yamaha kit, I lug around for shows.

Metal Fanatix: Cool, mate what's the funniest drum-related thing that's happened to you?

Dan Laudo: On one of the European tours with Prong, there was a guy who was supposed to be my drum tech. Usually, the drum tech stays close to you during the performance in case something breaks or needs adjustment while your playing and obviously the drummer can’t stop in the middle of a song and fix a piece of equipment. You have to keep playing no matter what. So Prong is playing this big festival and in the middle of the set, one of my cymbal boom arms goes down and the cymbal is facing the floor making it unplayable. I turn to get my drum tech to fix it and he is nowhere to be found. I look around and he is standing at the front of the stage just kind of enjoying himself, watching the audience. So, I look to the side of the stage and Evan Seinfeld from Biohazard is standing there watching us play. I begin motioning with my head trying to communicate to him that I have a problem and can he please get the guy standing next to him who just happens to be MY drum tech, to come over and do his job and fix my cymbal stand. Keep in mind this is while the song is playing and I’m trying to do “sign language” in its most primitive form. Somehow he figures out what the problem is and gets my guy’s attention. The moral of this long story is never trust a “wandering” drum tech.

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] I’ll keep that in mind! Mate, have you considered doing an instructional drumming DVD?

Dan Laudo: I have actually been shooting a lot of video from the Big on Mars drum sessions. Who knows what will become of it? Perhaps a documentary!

Metal Fanatix: You have performed with many talented artists over the years. Has these experiences helped to develop the drumming techniques that you are using today?

Dan Laudo: Oh absolutely. I have had to learn and adjust to each new group situation and style of music. It wasn’t always rock bands either. From the beginning of my career, I’ve played in different styles of bands, Yes, even country!

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs]

Dan Laudo: You learn to be a better musician and a more rounded musician by playing with good players and learning to really cop the style to fit the situation.

Metal Fanatix: What advice would you give to up and coming rock/metal drummers?

Dan Laudo: Stay in school kids...... just kidding!! I would say, First- love what you do. In the end that is what matters the most. Practice hard; make yourself known in the music community. Network with as many musicians as possible. Be a hard worker. Show up on time. Don’t be a flake. Leave the ego at the door. Get ready for a few disappointments along the way. Just keep playing. Things come around eventually.

Metal Fanatix: From all the albums you have appeared on what one would be your favorite to listen to and why?

Dan Laudo: ‘Big on Mars’ of course [laughs hysterically].

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs]

Dan Laudo: No, I would say the live Prong DVD. It sounds and looks great. It catches the energy of the band in top form.

Metal Fanatix: Over the years you have recorded tracks for various albums paying tribute to some of rock and metals greatest acts such as Pantera and Iron Maiden, is there one song that you would like to cover but have not had the chance to do as yet?

Dan Laudo: Maybe “Parasite” by Kiss. That has always been one of my favorite songs. It has a great groove and is a lot of fun to play.

Metal Fanatix: In your honest opinion what do you think about the direction that Hard Rock and Heavy Metal music has taken over the last few years?

Dan Laudo: Wow, that’s a tough question. I like a lot of the bands that are out today. I like the extreme stuff, but I also like to hear a good hook. A good chorus never gets old as far as I’m concerned.

Metal Fanatix: If you could put a band together consisting of musicians passed and/or present who would they be and what would you call the band?

Dan Laudo: That’s easy Kiss.

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs]

Dan Laudo: I’m just kidding. Let’s see. How about Steve Marriott on vocals, Geddy Lee on bass Ace Frehley on lead guitar and Pat Travers on second guitar. And Ron Burgundy on jazz flute (laughs). I know it sounds like a weird combination. I would call the band “Van Fahtur”. The name is known to anyone who has toured extensively in a van.

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] it would sure be an interesting band mate [laughs]. Dan thanks again for your time today it’s been a pleasure. Do you have any last words for our readers?

Dan Laudo: Thanks for chatting with me and your interest in the ‘Big on Mars’ project. Thanks to all the Prong fans all over the world. You guys are great and I had a blast playing for everyone. Be sure to check out the Big on Mars project and keep on rocking. Cheers and high five!

Dan Laudo’s Big on Mars Project will be released soon on Kooklavu records!

To keep up with all the latest developments on what Dan’s up to make sure you check out the following websites:

http://www.danlaudo.com/ - Official Dan Laudo Site
http://www.myspace.com/danlaudo - Dan Laudo MySpace Site
http://insideout666.mysite.freeserve.com - Inside Out 666

© Cameron Edney December 2006 Not to be re-printed in any form without written permission.