THE period after Cinderella’s ill-fated 1994 Still Climbing album was particularly fraught for guitarist Jeff LaBar.
“Lost our record deal, me and my wife split up, I had a very young son – my only kid,” he says of personal battles which informed his new solo offering, One For The Road.
“It was when Seattle and heroin became the thing to do – grunge rock, grunge metal – and I got caught up in all that. I got caught up in a divorce, in a child custody battle, in heroin.”
While LaBar only began seriously planning for a solo record when he heard bandmate Tom Keifer was doing the same, the songwriting enjoyed a long gestation period.
He explains: “Some of the material is actually from that, from that time in my life. (But) the two heaviest songs on the record, “You’re Asking For A Beating” and “Nightmare on My Street” … I wrote the lyrics to those two songs in about an hour and a half, just sitting in my living room watching TV.”
“Nightmare On My Street” is a reflection of LaBar’s life-long Alice Cooper fixation – he once actually asked the veteran shock rocker to adopt him.
“Asking For A Beating” is worryingly open to misinterpretation. “People say ‘you sound really evil’. I’m like, no, I was just laughing my ass off when I was writing those lyrics. It’s all tongue in cheek.
“I’ve had to do some interviews about that because as soon as it came out, all these NFL players got arrested for domestic abuse.
“I was like, ‘oh great, that was perfect timing’. When I wrote it, it was very tongue-in-cheek. I’m not advocating domestic abuse. Then I get some people saying ‘I think I dated her too.”
While The Way Life Goes showcases the songcraft of Cinderella, seven-track One For The Road is dripping with the band’s sonic signatures. LaBar has not tried to reinvent himself.
It’s halfway between being an EP and an LP; ‘side two’ is already on the drawing board. “I haven’t started recording it but I’ve started writing it,” he says.
As if to underscore the domino effect of Keifer’s decision to pursue a solo career, LaBar quit Cheap Thrill – a band he shared with Brittingham – to concentrate on his solo debut.
“I do a lot of commercial work. I do a lot of, like, tribute records, TV commercials, theme songs for TV shows, you name it.
“In three or four weeks, I recorded three songs with the help of Troy Luccketta, from Tesla – he threw me down some drum tracks from some of my demos.
“Then I sent a song out to Fred Coury to mix for me – because I really wanted him to mix the whole record but he’s kind of busy.
“I had three songs record, one song mixed by Fred, “No Strings” by Christmas.”
LaBar has now played a handful of solo shows with singer-songwriter Jasmine Caine and her band. They marked the completion of a glacial-speed progression from the back of the stage to the front.
“I actually took drum lessons, starting in fourth grade but they bored me,” LaBar recalls.
“My older brother was a guitar player and I thought ‘that’s what I want to do’. My older brother Jack … .as soon as I learned how to play guitar, I started singing, I was like ‘to hell with guitar, I want to sing’. Basically it was steps – the guy in the back behind the drums, and then I wanted to be the guy in the front with the guitar and then I was like ‘to hell with that, I want to be the guy in the middle!”.
“It only took me 50 years.”
This story was commissioned by Classic Rock presents: AOR magazine. It was never published because the title was mothballed.
- STEVE MASCORD