If you listen to any rock channel on SiriusXM then you’ve heard Tommy London playing your favorite music. But have you ever heard Tommy’s own music? London just released his debut solo record, Emotional Fuse, written and performed alongside guitarist and musical partner Matt Hogan. Both gentlemen recently took some time to talk about the record.
Please press the PLAY icon below for the MisplacedStraws Conversation with Tommy London & Matt Hogan –
On how Tommy & Matt began working together – Tommy – Well, it’s funny, I brought that up to Matt before when we first met. My earliest memory of seeing Matt, a friend of ours, Tom, a bass player, amazing bass player, used to DJ at Niagara in East Village. I remember seeing Matt hanging out by the DJ booth every time I would go to visit Tom. Now, we could have met prior or maybe Matt’s memory serves him after it or not then, but we just hit it off as friends, drinking buddies. Matt was doing his musical endeavors, I was doing mine, we supported each other and then that was in the Dirty Pearls there for a bit towards the end of the band and then Matt and I decided to partner up and do something together.
Matt – That’s spot on. It’s actually funny, but I will tell you this, so that was the first time Tommy and I started hitting off and hanging out all the time, and mutual friends. But my best story, this goes back a while, but I was in a band, I remember me and the lead singer, we just got off the road, we did a couple of weeks run or something, and we’re walking around the East Village looking to go out, it’s what you do. We turn the corner, and we go down Houston Street to a place called the Mercury Lounge, which has been there for a long time. We go, “Look at this”, there’s a whole line, it’s freezing out, it’s raining. So we’re like, “Who’s this band?” It’s like the line goes all the way to the corner, which it’s rare when you see it there, “It’s this band the Dirty Pearls”. So it was one of those classic, rock kind of nights because it was like, “Well, I’d go check him out, but I’m not waiting on this line, I’m not doing that”. All of a sudden we saw a couple of friends that we knew, these two girls who were at the front who were friends of ours, and we’re talking, next thing you know, we got in. So that was my very first time seeing Tommy because I had never heard of the Dirty Pearls before it. So anyway, that was just something after when we became friends, “Oh, that’s the guy Tommy from the Dirty Pearls”, one of the first things I said to him, “You know what, I went to go see you”. 1:18
On the delay in releasing the record – The record was supposed to come out right before Covid, not knowing Covid was coming out, so I had all these shows booked and hoopla, and then the pandemic hit. I pulled it back and released one song during the pandemic, which was called “Say Whoa”. then as things kinda started to slow to get back to normal, I was trying to figure out, “How am I gonna initiate this properly?” Then it was the wise words of Matt Hogan, my partner in crime, who said to me, “Hey, let’s just put this fucking record out already”, and that’s exactly what we did. So we just dropped it and anticipate having a lot of great stuff happening this year with the record, performing live, and everything else. 4:00
On if they changed the record at all during the delay – I can’t speak for Matt, for me, when I would listen to the record, I just was really perfect. I keep in mind, the one thing I wanted to be known too is that Matt and I wrote all these songs together with the exception of the Rod Stewart tune. Matt produced the record too. He did a lot of work behind the curtain with the album, so if anybody was gonna tinker with anything, I think would be Matt before me. I don’t know if Matt felt that way, did you?
Well, it was one of those things, even to this day, I can listen back and to me, Tommy and I used to joke around about it, because the record’s been in the can and sitting here, and I actually for a while there every couple of months or whatever, because I just sat here and just said, “Okay”, envision, the programming of the drums and the beats, and coming up with all the guitars. Having the time to sit here and work on it, that gave me the ability to say, “You know what? It’s truly done in my mind”. I felt like I tried so many parts right here, in this room I’m sitting in and I’m trying this part, and then I’d walk away from it at that time, so I’d work on a part and I would just walk away from it, even like go do a gig, or even go on the road for like a week or something and come back. So by the time it was ready just to get cooked and mixed, it was like I can sit here and say, “You know what? That’s the right part”. That was that. I got nervous about that because as time set, Tommy and I would be listening to the record, and I’m scared to listen to the record because then I’m gonna hear something and go, “I should have done it this way. It’s not out yet, I could just track it right here and throw it in”. But I never did that. I haven’t heard it in a while, and I went back on Spotify when it came out, and I sat here going, “Good, I’m done. That’s it”. So I’m very proud of that. 5:20
On who else performs on Emotional Fuse – So drummer-wise, here’s a good thing you’ll know about this, so drummer for the majority of the record was a dear friend of mine, actually a drummer I used to play with for a long time, Mark Slutsky. Mark was actually in a band that was pretty popular in the early 2000s, named Splendor, and I’ve known him the years, he’s an amazing guy, amazing drummer. But the song “Make You Love Me”, which is on the record features the incredible Mr. Johnny Pisano on bass, and Jon Webber on drums. That was so fun, of course, having them was great. When Johnny cut his bass part, he did it here, and kudos a Johnny, actually, you can’t see but I have a whole wall of guitars here, so I figured it was interesting, someone who was coming over here tracking bass for that track. But we went to a studio, whether that was the bass part or not, we cut the drums and bass, actually probably the real part to it at Avatar, which I don’t think exists anymore. So that’s an interesting thing. Avatar Studios used to be the famous Power Station. But I heard recently that Berkeley College of Music bought the studio. So the studio still exists, but I don’t know, as a commercial capacity. But it’s now apparently called back to Power Station, which is just cool. We got to record in there. 8:17
On the song “Vampira” – Well, Matt and I would experiment with a lot of different songs, not only for me to sing per se, Matt and I would just songwrite and say, “Hey, who could we get to sing on this, who could we write this one for?” “Vampira” is one of those songs. I remember when Matt and I were going through what songs to record for the record, I had mentioned “Vampira” because I just thought it was that good of a song. I remember Matt and I kind of questioning, “Well, we do agree it’s a great song. Will it fit with the scheme of things? Will it gel with the rest of the record?” I go, “Well, I guess we’re gonna find out”. Honestly, I think it does gel with the record, maybe the sequence that it’s in helps to feel that way, the way the record moves. If it started off with that song and went into the rest, maybe not so much, but I think it’s a stand-out track it’s a little different than the rest. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being different, but I’m really proud of that song because it is different than something that I would normally do as a singer. It has that New York late-night vampire, even though it’s “Vampira”, club feel and what goes on in the city. That’s what the song is all about actually, and yeah, that was a cool track to throw on there, and like I said, I think it gels perfectly with the album. 10:25
On the importance of sequencing – That was important to me, even though it’s not necessarily important anymore, which kind of sucks. Think of Van Halen’s debut record, “Running With the Devil”. If you’ve never heard the band Van Halen, and that was the first record you picked up as soon as you put the needle down, you here “Running With The Devil”, that takes you off on that roller coaster ride that they want you to join with them. You’re leaving the gate, you haven’t gotten to “You Really Got Me” and everything else on that record yet you’re just leaving the gate. I think that’s important with an album that maybe is lost, maybe not to the older artists maybe, I don’t know, but this day and age, you just go right for the single or just skip around, which there’s nothing wrong with that either, but I still miss the journey. I’m glad that you notice that about the record, I’m glad that came across. The thing about Spotify is people can still listen to it in that way. Because pretty much you go to the album, you hit the first one, it’s gonna automatically play, I believe so. Every time I do, when I’m hitting on Spotify, I’ll go outside or something’s playing in sequence. It’s great.12:22
On recording Rod Stewart’s “Infatuation” – So when we started working on this, and I sat in this room and like we were talking about earlier, going from part to part, I got to the point where I was curled up in a ball and I cannot do any more parts on this, I was freaking out. So then at that point, it was like, this needs someone to help drive it right into the basket, and that’s the incredible John Fields, who is an amazing producer, produced so much stuff. Amazing musician. So Tommy and I, for maybe like a week, a little over a week or something, we went, I said, “Okay, I’m gonna take everything here and just need help, someone clean this up”. It’s like imagine cutting a lawn and you’re just moving the lawnmower going “This part works, this part works”. Okay, now we can need to clean up. So it’s funny, so we were in there one day as this was in Minneapolis, and I guess Tommy was having this conversation with John and it was like, “Oh yeah, I love that song”, and I remember that. Then the very next day, we come in, John is like, “You wanna do it?” I’m sitting there thinking, “You know how long it took me just to get all these tracks laid out?” He had almost all the drums and bass laid out.
What happened was when I was testing the mic, I was singing “Infatuation”, and he said to me, “What a great song”, and I said, “Yeah, I’ve always wanted to record it”. He said, “Me too.” We were contracted for 10 songs in the studio, that was the goal we had, which did not include “Infatuation”, and he said, “I’ll tell you what, if we get these 10 songs done, I’ll throw this one and will knock it out real quick before you guys head back to New York”. So Matt and I talked about it in the car, I remember playing him the song, “Get a little feel for it, maybe we’ll get this done and we’re out of here”, honestly thinking that it wouldn’t happen because we had too much work to do. We go back the next morning, and that’s what Matt was saying, to our surprise, John already recorded the drums, the bass, the keyboards. He goes, “You know the words to “Infatuation”? Get in there and sing it. Matt, get the amp ready, you’re gonna play some guitar”. It was a happy accident. What was great about that song, it was almost like it was meant to be, because we had a 10th song, guess 11 in this case. We had a tenth song called “I Need a Heartbreak”, that’s a fun song, very Ramones song, wouldn’t have gelled with the rest of the record. That’s why it’s not on the record. “Infatuation” came in the last minute and filled that void. Down the road, we’ll probably just put that song out at some point, but it just didn’t fit with the record, so it’s almost like a blessing in disguise how it worked out. It was pretty cool. Yeah, it was very spontaneous and the guitars, it was just something where you got the iconic riff. It was one of those, which is rare for me in the studio when it comes to laying out melodic ideas in solos, and it was just like one of those, actually, probably one of the most live type of (things). (I) did a whole bunch of passes, I wanna build tension here, I wanna release and then I wanna let it go towards the end. So like Tommy said, it was a happy accident. I remember sitting there going, “Wow, this came out so great”. 14:31
On playing live – Matt & I have been talking about some live shows, whether it be unplugged or full band. I’m trying to work out something in New York, we’re looking at LA, a couple of festival opportunities, and we’ll see what happens over the course of the year, but I definitely wanna get out there and get these songs heard once again. Well, it’s different than before it was we would perform live and we only had maybe a few of the songs out, so you knew maybe two or three, and now you can sing along to every single fucking one, so we’ll get a show going soon. 18:28
On his SiriusXM gig – Oh yeah, well, I just love talking in general, so it’s a dream gig. But yeah, no, I’m very blessed and lucky, fortunate that I got that opportunity, I look forward to it every day and talking about all these bands, and I’ve always admired and had hung on my wall and owned all their records. Then when I get to interview them too, that’s always a plus. I recently interviewed Brett Michaels, which was a lot of fun. So yeah, so I’m very lucky and I appreciate that you tune in, thank you so much. 19:15
On Matt’s time with Hannah Montana – It’s funny because it really is so amazing that she’s just a megastar. Prior to her, I started getting now and I started playing with a lot of the Disney scene, a lot of these pop acts and stuff. When I first got called, they mentioned the name, but they always would mention Billy Ray Cyrus. One time I’m out on the Lower East Side, and I’ll not forget this, they said, “Oh, who are you playing with?? I’m like, “Oh, this girl named Miley Cyrus”. You would have to say, “Billy Ray Cyrus’ daughter”. A friend, like a music friend who had daughters, he pulled me aside one night, he goes, “Did you just mention…?” I’m like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah”. It didn’t really sink in until the first gig, and we did very short amount because, at that time, she was still filming the show. I’ve always told this story, we were doing Good Morning America. You have to be there like four in the morning, and so I’m in a cab because I live in the East Village, so taking a cab and I got my coffee, I got what I need, I know what I gotta do. The cab driver is like, “I can’t go any for you gotta walk around. We gotta go around”. This is annoying. I’m just like, It’s four in the morning, I got gear with me. So I had a walk, and sure enough, I had to cut through a police barricade, and the guy saw I had a guitar, and this is a true story, the guy was like, “It’s a big show. Good Morning America this morning”. It just didn’t really sink in and then it was outside in Times Square and that was just like what an amazing experience. So it’s really great to see how big she became. 20:05