Fueled By Death Cast Ep. 70 - DAVE KUSHNER
MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER - DAVE KUSHNER
"Being of service to people that I come in contact with because that's what makes me feel good. That's what gets me right with the world." Dave Kushner, guitarist, and composer, Velvet Revolver, Sons of Anarchy
This week on Science Dustin and Jeff discuss the first crops harvested from EDEN-ISS - a greenhouse project set up in Antarctica. These crops were produced with no soil, sunlight or pesticides to learn how we can recreate this method on the moon or Mars. Conor McGregor and his recent criminal actions are on The Roast, and the newest freebie is revealed in The Update from The World's Strongest Coffee.
ABOUT DAVE KUSHNER:
Dave Kushner is a musician, guitarist, and composer with an incredible career. Most widely known for being a part of the supergroup Velvet Revolver with members of Guns N' Roses and Stone Temple Pilots, Dave got his start playing in the Hollywood punk scene in the 1980s. He joins the show to talk about his beginnings as a musician, the rollercoaster ride that was Velvet Revolver, and how he started composing music for TV and Film like co-writing the theme song for Sons of Anarchy, and writing music for F Is For Family.
Jeff: I'm always curious taking to musicians, especially musicians that have been in the business for a long time, because you guys have a better perspective of it than most. I want to talk about when you were a young kid, where was that moment where, "I want to be a musician, I want to pick up an instrument and I want to go out there and perform"? Did you have a moment like that?
Dave Kushner: It's funny I had the same conversation yesterday with this writer guy that was interviewing me. It's clear in my head that I wanted to be a graphic artist. I started doing that when I was four. Not graphic art, but like drawing and taking classes and panting. That was my thing. I went to Otis Parsons for a summer. Until I was about 14, that's all I wanted to do. I have no interest in playing music. I loved music, but I didn't want to do it. My mom had a nylon string acoustic guitar that my dad bought her, and I started messing around on that. I tried to learn how to play Stairway to Heaven.
Jeff: Of course.
Dave Kushner: It was too hard, too hard. Then I took some lessons in school in junior high, and they're like, "Oh, you can't play with the pick. You gotta just play with your fingers." I didn't want to so I ... Between that and not being able to learn how to play Stairway to Heaven, I just gave up. Then a year later ... I grew up in Hollywood, so there was ... When I was starting 10th grade, it was like a cut my hair, like punk rock over the summer, looks like. Now I'm in the Black Flag, and the Circle Jerks, and all those bands. There was this band, this kid punk called Mad Society, and they all went to Fairfax where I went.
I started hanging out with those guys, and this girl showed me how to play barre chords. At that moment, as soon as the barre chord thing happen for me, I was like, "I can play any song barre, with just these two shapes?" Really, at that point, I never stopped. It was like, "I'm just going to play all the time." I loved it. That was kind of the thing. As I was learning to play, I was singing very badly in punk bands, but that's kind of how I started, at least learning how to write songs or shape songs or whatever, until I got good enough where I could I actually play a guitar in a band.
Jeff: That's awesome. You just talked about how you picked up the nylon string guitar there. What was your first electric?
Dave Kushner: It was a fake strap. I have a picture of it somewhere, like me sitting on edge of my bed with it. It was like a Sunburst strap with a KLOS sticker on it. It was great. I bought it for ... Like you do when you're a teenager, some friend of yours has a $60 guitar, because he doesn't play it anymore or whatever.
Dustin: Yeah, there's a lot of that. You pick up guitar, you start playing barre chords, you start playing in punk bands. When did you start to see your music career as a career, as like, oh, his is something that's actually sustainable?
Dave Kushner: I got really into playing guitar and I was a terrible student at that point because I was just, you know, I was drinking a lot and whatever in 10th, 11th grade. Basically I didn't ... I was like, "Look, mom, I'm not going to college. You know I love playing guitar. I play it all the time. I want to go to music school. I want to go to MI, instead of going to 12th grade." She's like, "You're a terrible student, so you might as well do something. If you pass the GED," which is like the high school equivalency thing, "you go to music school." That's what happened. I passed the test. I went to music school for a year and just played like ... and practiced 12 hours a day. That's how I really got into it.
I think the first time was really when I joined Wasted Youth with Joey Castillo, that's where I met him. It was the first band that, where we played gigs and actually made a little bit of money and made a record, where it was like, "Oh, wow, this could happen."
Jeff: Yeah. We've had Joey Castillo on the show too and we talked a little bit about those early days with Wasted Youth, and I want to hear kind of your perspective of that too. What was it like being a part of that punk scene in the late '80s in California? What was that like for you?
Dave Kushner: It's funny because I listened to those, because I was in a band when I was in Danzig it was me Blasko and Joey.
Jeff: So cool.
Dave Kushner: That was the lineup. It was killer, and I love those guys so much, so I listened to those podcasts, the Deathwish ones last week after I knew I was doing it, and all the stuff Joey said is totally false.
Dave Kushner: It was killer, dude. Like I said I grew up in Hollywood, I went to Fairfax and all that stuff. Like the Decline movie had just ... I remember the premier of the Decline movie on Hollywood Boulevard and going to see it. They premiered in at midnight and they wouldn't ... and there was so many people there. That's the closest I've felt to like really feeling like there's something really bad could happen, like a fucking riot or something. It was so packed outside waiting in line that you couldn't move your feet.
If the crowd started to kind of tilt one way, you couldn't put your hands down or even move your feet to steady yourself. You were literally just in this fucking sea of people, sea of punk rockers. They were only showing it once at midnight, and there were so many fucking people there that they had to show it twice because there were kids like sitting in the aisles, and it was awesome. Like that kid Eugene I'd see around, hanging around Fairfax and my junior high, it was fucking awesome. I'll just say that.
You know, I was a 16 year old kid, going to the Starwood seeing Black Flag and Circle Jerks and Agent Orange and all these killer bands, and it was just, it was amazing. And being a part of, you know, just being able to see all of it firsthand and going into a slam pit for the first time in a Circle Jerks concert, like, "Oh, they're playing Red Tape. I'm going in." And you just fucking go in. I got socked in the eye, walking around the Starwood with a cup of ice on my eye, but still there. It was a whole ... it was a movement.
And it's funny because now as a parent, I think about ... like I remember I had these engineer boots and I cut up ... I think I bought them off some other dude and there was like cut up American flags hanging off the back, it's like decoration, and I didn't get any of it at that point. And my mom would be like, "You're going to get beat up," because I had to take the bus everywhere. I'm like, "No, it's cool." I just fucking didn't get it, and it was just trippy to like think about my mom's perspective, and just sending her kid out into the world every day with spiky hair and getting sweaters from my grandfather to wear, just like all this shit.
It's just like ... God, now I feel bad, like all the torture them through. Not just with my drinking and my drugs and stuff, but just the whole punk rock thing at the most of any musical part of my career, but was amazing.
Dustin: Speaking on the drinking and the drugs a little bit, which you've had your fair share of run ins with that, at what point in your life did you decide to step away from that and really clean things up?
Dave Kushner: After Wasted years, I got in this band called The Electric Love Hogs, which was like an L.A. band ... It was kind of like Faith No More type band. The drummer went on the go to play in this band Orgy and the singers was in that band Goldfinger and he's like big producer now, but we're still ... I still hang out with the drummer Bobby and Feldie, the singer. We're still friends. But during that band, I was really like bottoming out. I worked in Tower Video on Sunset and I just sat in the basement.
Jeff: You were working at Tower Video while you were in the Band?
Dave Kushner: Yeah. You know, dude, like back then, it was like ... We got a record deal with the Love Hogs, but it's just like ... I think we just were all had enough sense to keep our jobs until ... I don't know why, but we were like, "Well, if we split up all this money, what if the bass player spends all his money? Then what are we going to do? Then we're be fucked." So we had like a stipend and we would all still work, worked our job. But my job was killer, dude. I sat in the basement and fucking made signs for the store and drank all day long.
Dave Kushner: It was killer. But, having said that, it was like really ... I really bottomed out and just, you know ... For me, it's a very common thing, I think, when you bottom out on drugs and alcohol it's like ... I never woke up in the morning and said, "I'm going to cheat on my girlfriend today and I'm going to crash my car and I'm going to do all this heinous stuff that isn't okay with my moral compass." But I would do it because I'd be drunk all day long, every day, in a blackout half the time and doing shit that I regretted all the time.
And then it's like you wake up the next day and you hate yourself and then you do it all over again and then it's just like this downward thing. And for, me I was just, from the minute I woke up to the minute I passed out at night. You should interview Joey after and he's got to tell you about the times he had to like carry me. Like he had my hands and this other friend of ours had my feet and he would throw me in the back of a pickup truck, and I would just be laid in the back of a pickup truck after having just tackled some friend of ours in the parking lot because I was happy to see him.
That was where I was at. And I just stopped, I just hit ... A friend of mine was not drinking and I just called that dude and was like, "Dude I can't do this anymore." He really helped me up, and that was it.
Dustin: It's so important to reach out in moments like that. Almost always when people find success with going clean like that, there's almost always somebody by their side to kind of help them through that. It's just so important to reach out, I guess, when you get to a spot like that. And I think we saw a little bit of that in Velvet Revolver with Scott, and he kind of seemed like Duff really reached out and was that guy for him, and it really seemed to work out eventually with Velvet Revolver.
Can you talk a little bit about like ... I don't know, it seemed like there was a lot of drama tied up, first off with this band. It looks became like this really awesome thing. What was it like to be part of that rollercoaster?
Dave Kushner: Fuck, it changed my life. You know what I mean? I was in that point. I played in Wasted Youth with Joey, that's how I got in Danzig. When I was in Danzig, you know ... I was in the Love Hogs, but for me, at that point, it was always, I was in a band, we got a record deal. We didn't care, we could kind of sustain. We'd go on a tour, we'd tour for nine months and then it would be done, like whatever. The record would get dropped or this or that. And then I'd have to just work, and I used to build sets and stuff, basically [inaudible 00:14:21] until that point, like I was playing Duff.
They had started the band with the two guys from Buckcherry. That wasn't working out. Duff called me, he's like, "Dude, you should learn these songs. They had like eight songs, original. You should learn these, dude, because I think we're going to split from the guitar player like next week." I was like, "All right, cool." And mind you, for me it was easier, I think, than a lot of guys because I've known Slash since I was 13 years old. We went to junior high school, we went to high school together, we knew each other. We had gone to parties together. We had done stuff together.
Duff, I was playing in one of his bands at the time. Scott, I'd known since 1989 because our bands would play ... Like that band I was in, Electric Love Hogs, was playing little clubs with Mighty Joe Young, which became Stone Temple Pilots. I saw Scott the day he got signed to Atlantic, and I remember him telling me like, "Dude, I just got a record deal, and it's on Atlantic Records. It's like not a lot of money, but it's going to be fucking awesome." "But you're like so, like a kid."
So I've known Scott forever and we've been friends. When I came into it, it was like ... Duff calls me the next day after he'd given me songs, like, "Dude, I just fired the guitar player. You got to come down tomorrow." I was like, "What? Like, F=fuck, dude." And this was my new ... there is no singer at this point. I came down and I just, fuck, I don't know. I just did my thing and I never left. They never tried anyone else out. At that point, we just started working, like we would literally rehearse five days a week writing songs and looking for singers, and we did that for ten months before we found Scott.
So it was just the four of us, but it was hard because it's like I didn't have a job, we weren't making money, we didn't have a record deal. Duff and Slash were footing the bill for the rehearsal, but I would get a job offer and I'd be like, I wouldn't want to take it, because I didn't want to lose my spot. I started working at the rehearsal studio where we were rehearsing just so I could keep my spot. And then Izzy came in, dude, like six months in, Izzy comes in. Like, "Izzy wants to come down and jam."
Like, "Oh, fucking great." And Duff was like, "Dude, it's going to be fine. He'll come into town, he wanted to work on some shit for a week or two and then he'll bail, because he can't just stay in one place." That's exactly what happened, but I was kind of freaking out. I'd seen Scott at the gym and I gave him a CD of songs, and he was like, "okay, cool. I'll check it out." He was it still in SEP, then a couple of months later, he came down and we gave him the CD and he picked a song and he put vocals on it like in a day, and we were like, "This is it." It was set me free on the first record, it was just undeniable.
That demo sounded exactly like the track on the record ... But obviously we were super ... because I think at that point, no one was drinking on the band. Everyone is clean at that point. We were super pensive. It's funny there's this documentary on VH 1 called The Rise of Velvet Revolver.
Jeff: I actually watched that today, it was really, really good.
Dave Kushner: Dude, it's so stressful watching that, like when Slash is sitting there on the phone and he's like playing with that little plastic candy wrapper, and he's like, "Oh, okay. So he's got the flu? Oh." And which is like every junkie story when they're sick, because when you're at that point, you get flu-like symptoms. So it's like you just say you have the flu, and he was like missing and we're like, "Really? Are we going to do this? It was fucking stressful. And then we did it, and he was fucked up, and he got arrested like two weeks into it. He went to jail because he got pulled over with drugs on him.
And then the next three songs he wrote were Slither, the fucking ... I don't know the ballad song, I can't remember. Fall to Pieces and Big Machine. Those were the next three demos. So, we were like, "What the fuck? This is it. We're doing this." Scott knew me and knew that I was drinking and stuff, so we talked about that and he stayed at my apartment because he wasn't ... I don't know where he was living, but it's like ... I'm like, "Really dude? All these guys got houses, you want to stay in my fucking apartment?"
So we started there, and we just started ... and then Duff and I tried to help them as much as we could and then we were off and running and it was like a fucking episode of Behind the Music for the whole time we were ready to launch. It was like, I remember times where he was in rehab and was leaving. I was going to a tasting at a caterer for my wedding, and my manager called and she's like, "You have to go get Scott. He's leaving rehab." And I'm like, "What?" And I'm like, "Fuck me."
I'm telling my wife and my wife, my fiance, and she's like, "Well, you got to go. What are you going to do? It's your band." Okay, let's go. So she drops me off and I'm sitting there trying to talk to them. There was a lot of that kind of stuff. There was a lot of craziness and people falling off the wagon. But then again, that was the stressful part, a lot of Scott not are showing up to shows and playing at Stubb's and ... where is it? It's somewhere in Texas, I forget. We were like 20 minutes late and we had no clue where he was. And he had gone to score something. The tour manager called him and he actually answered his phone and he's like, "Oh. Hey Pete." "Dude, where the fuck are you?"
He's like, "I'm not really sure," and he's just like, "Dude, look around you. What buildings do you see?" He's putting him on speaker asking the security guard that's local, "Where is he, dude?" And he's like, "Oh, he's like 34th and whatever street." And so he's like, "All right. Stay there and we're going to come get you." His fucking tooth had fallen out and he was singing with ...It was fucking crazy. So there was a lot of that. But there was a lot of amazing stuff too, like we won a Grammy, and we did this thing on the Grammy's where we played with ... we were the bad and it was a song with like Brian Wilson and Stevie Wonder and Bono and Steven Tyler.
Jeff: That was nuts.
Dave Kushner: Yeah. It was like stuff like that where ... The coolest thing was my wife had just gotten into photography and so she had a camera everywhere and she came with us like everywhere, because she got along with everyone. So she was on tour for 60, 70% of the time. Like I have the raddest pictures of like me with Paul McCartney or just all those people I listened to growing up, like Roger Daltrey or Jimmy Page and Robert Plant and fucking Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder. Just all these heroes of mine. To me, that's probably one of the best things besides the cash and prizes.
Dustin: I'm curious, how much of that stress and pressure contributed to the success and awesomeness of Velvet Revolver?
Dave Kushner: It's weird man. There's always that word dangerous and you hear it, and it's like I would hear it and I would just roll my eyes because I was in the band. You'd hear some guy in the band like, "Oh, it's dangerous. This band's dangerous, " and they are just like ... "What? Come on dude," like be dramatic, I guess it was, in a sense. And I'm not sure if I don't know. I don't know if honestly speaking, if that element of the wheels ... the fear of the wheels inevitably falling off, and your fucking car. It's like riding in a Maserati that's like duct-taped together, like is it going to fucking fall apart.
I honestly I don't know how much of that actually added to the awesomeness, obviously, I guess in a big picture, it draws people in. I don't know if the music was better because of that. I don't know if the songs were better. I'm sure that Scott was really introspective, so obviously that turmoil ... because he just wouldn't let anyone else write lyrics, like even when we tried, and we're like, "How about this thing?" He's like, "Dude, I got it." And a lot of that introspection was obviously because of his journey.
So guess it did contribute.
Dustin: Speaking on Scott not allowing other people to write lyrics and stuff, in a band like Velver Revolver, you're all huge personalities both onstage and off stage. What was that writing process even like? It's not, I'm sure, like a conventional band in a room writing a song together.
Dave Kushner: Well, it's interesting because like the first record, it was like that. It was very like ... Like I said, it was easier for me. I wasn't as nervous, I had known those guys forever, even though I wasn't a name. It was just the four of us writing songs with no vocals for ten months. Like when Scott came in the band, we had 60 plus songs.
Dave Kushner: We had a huge dry erase board and we'd come up with these stupid names for them. It was hilarious, you know. We gave him a CD with two CDs with all 60 songs, and then he picked out like Slither and Big Machine, with no vocals, and then he wrote those. And then we wrote like maybe six songs with him, and to be honest, it was just like it was the same, because I've known Scott for so long because even though the personalities were big, it was still like when you meet in that ... Because it was like Scott was in, he was excited. He was like, "I'm doing this." He didn't come in like some jaded dick.
He came in like, "I see this as an opportunity to fucking get my shit together. These guys have their shit together, I think they can help me." I remember seeing Dave when he was fucking out of his mind and now he's semi-responsible and whatever." He saw it as an opportunity to get clean, he saw it as an opportunity to move on from STP. He was in, and everyone there was like, "All right, cool. Let's fucking do this." We were relieved that we weren't just still looking for a singer and that we had found a fucking awesome one. So it was the same.
We were just all five guys in a room, just writing shit and coming up with shit, and saying like, "Oh, what if we do this here?" It was super like it's supposed to be. Like five dudes all contributing, Scott, not writing lyrics on the spot, but just coming up with melodies like on the spot, just singing weird shit or saying like, "What if we kept going right there. What if like then we went like this." It was awesome at that point. We did the same thing for the second record, but then it's like that's when it started getting a little weird. We started out the same way, like the four of us just writing songs.
We had like 40 songs, and then he came in, and then it was like [inaudible 00:29:02] off the wagon and then it was like ... Then he was getting a little fucked. And it got weird too, like we were supposed to use Rick Rubin, and we had started with Rick that second record. We split from Rick abruptly and Scott was like, "I'm calling Brendan O'Brien," and then Brendan was like, "I'll come out next Thursday and let's start." We were like, "oh, okay." It was this like a weird thing. And then Brendan was in the room, and then we were writing songs and Brendan's like the best musician in the room.
He's sitting there watching and listening and going, "What if we do this? What if you sing this?" It was really different than ... Which usually that's the way it goes, you spend forever writing your first record, and then you go on tour and you're doing ... Then the machine's going and then you've got to make a second record. You don't have all that time, and all the songs and all the ... like, "Oh, let's just try this, let's try that." It's like, "We've got to go," it's different.
Jeff: You talked about a taped up Maserati. When did the tape kind of start to let loose?
Dave Kushner: I have this fear like I'm being too candid, but fuck it. Really, on the second tour is when we had heard some rumblings that Scott wanted to do STP, he'd quit STP or gotten kicked out, one or the other right before Velvet Revolver. Then we were going along and then we went from like late 2002 till 2006. It was just on till then, but then we started hearing some rumblings of those guys. I honestly don't know exactly how it happened, but we started hearing rumblings of him wanting to do another STP record or tour, and stay in Velvet Revolver. That was the thing he wanted.
He wanted to do both bands and we are like, No. Because it was too much and also because to be honest, that's when things started getting segregated within the the five. He would, specially after the second record, he was traveling very separate. I think part of it was he was just doing his own thing. I don't know, maybe he was afraid that we are going to be like, "Dude, what is up?" Or whatever it was or he just needed to be separate so he could do his thing, when he was drinking or doing whatever. He just got super segregated and he started getting super introverted. It was like a microcosm of how I heard G&R was in the end.
And so those guys had like PTSD basically from going through stuff that they went through with G&R, and like waiting, him showing up late. I was speaking of Scott, like he would show up late and then he would just not say anything to us. And just like have to get ready and have sunglasses on because that when we were on stage, buddy, you just felt like, "Really dude, We would get nothing, like no apology? No, hi guys, I'm sorry, I'm late. I just fucking lost track of time or." It was just like blank. Like, "Here I am, fuck you guys." Like that's how it felt. Like, " All right, let's fucking play, are you guys ready? because I'm fucking ready." It really felt not cool.
And so, we were getting more and more resentful, and he was getting more and more segregated, and it just fucking you know, it just built up and built up and we're just like, "Dude, you can't, you know." There's a lot to it. There's money issues and then it's like someone renting a limo in fucking ... It's like stupid shit. Like, "We're going to go to New York, I'm going to rent a limo and drive around in New York and then I'm going to charge the band for it." And the band was very aware, so we're like, "No dude, you can't fucking charge us. That's your money, I'm not paying for that."
And that kind of shit too. [inaudible 00:33:59] keep staying in hotels and it just got really hard, then it got really frustrating, and we just the four of us were on one bus and he was on another bus. And we just started talking and just being like, "Dude, we can't do this. This is too fucking hard." To be honest with you, we fired him, and that was it. We fired him, we thought we could replace him. And obviously, we couldn't. We could never find anyone that was on that level or someone that was equally as awesome in a different way that we were like, "This is the new guy." We looked, when we tried for like a year and a half.
Dustin: Wow, you had tryouts and everything?
Dave Kushner: Dude, we tried, we worked with fucking ... we recorded like eight songs with Corey Taylor. We had this guy Franky Perez, who is still a good friend of mine, who's a fucking amazing singer, but like the first ... we actually told him he was in the band. He was the only guy that actually got hired, but then we kept recording stuff with them, and it just kind of ... The longer we worked with them, the less it felt right. And there was other factors, like I think Slash was kind of getting ready to do a solo record and I think his head was already kind of over there at that point, but we worked with like the singer from Big Wreck.
We worked with the singer from Spacehog. We even talked, we didn't work with Lenny Kravitz, but there was like some talk about us doing stuff with him. There was a lot of talk and there was a lot of dudes trying to get that job too, like the first time, but obviously, at that point, people knew and you know, but it just didn't happen.
Dustin: Where did things progress from there? Velvet Revolver kind of fizzles out and it kind of seems like you get more into the writing side of things with you know. We see that you co-wrote the Sons of Anarchy theme, how did that timeline progress?
Dave Kushner: Well, Franky Perez got hired by the band, he moves from Las Vegas to LA. He has no money, and then all of a sudden, he's not in the band. And I felt horrible for him because I've always, I was kind of like the underdog in the band and I'm like, "Dude, that's so fucked up." But by coincidence, he moved like six blocks away from my house and I just had my first kid, and I really loved Franky and we just started writing songs. He would come over to my house every day and we would write songs and we would hang out.
It just got really more focused on writing, and then by super serendipitous man, like my friend Bob Thiele who was the music supervisor and composer on Sons of Anarchy. It was me, him, the bass player from Weezer and this other guitar player, a friend of ours that plays with Paul McCartney. And we were all have been friends before we all got like our gigs, and we were all at Johnny Rockets hanging out, and Bob was like, "Dude, I think I'm going to do the show. And it's kind of like the Sopranos meets the Hell's Angels."
And they hadn't started filming anything yet, and he was friends with Kurt Sutter and Katey, and he was like, "You know, I've got to come up with like bands and stuff," and I was like, "You should get bands, you should get some fucking songs like from Monster Magnet and Clutch and bands like that, that are fucking like this got vibe to me." And he was like, okay. And he said, "You know, if you have any stuff, like if you want to write some stuff," because he had a little studio in his house. My default is no, because I'm fucking scared, like that's all I'm wired, so I say yes to counteract that. And I was like, "Oh, okay."
I've been friends with Shooter Jennings for a long time. And I had written that main riff for Shooter, and wanted to do something with Shooter because he and I had been hanging out at that point. So that's why it's kind of country-ish, kind of rock thing. And I just went to Bob's and we fucking wrote the song in that day, we wrote the vocals, we wrote the whole thing, because you're granted, you're only writing a 30 second song, you're not running a fucking two and a half, three and a half minute song.
I tried to get Shooter to sing on it, and just didn't work out at that point. So that happened, it got on the show, we got nominated for an Emmy for that song. And then it was like, "Oh shit, I need to do more of this." And I kept doing stuff here and there for the show with Bob, and then I was like, "Maybe this is where I need to be," and then the next thing was Bob was a music supervisor on this show for ABC, this cop show, and this like my best friend, this guy John O'Brien. He was like, "Do you guys think you could compose for the show?" We're like, "Fuck yeah." And we sent some stuff in.
And they loved it and then we did 18 episodes of that show, like we did all the underscore.I didn't know fucking what's a cue, I didn't know what the fuck I was doing. And my buddy John was like, he just basically showed me how to do it and, or writing music to picture, or lining up the session with time code, and all that shit. I had no fucking clue. I just did it and that's where I learned how to do it, and I've just been really fucking fortunate.
I've just met and known a lot of great people growing up here, and I've just been able to make it work man. My friend Peter Billingsley runs Ralphie for ... No, was he Ralphie? The little kid from A Christmas Story.
Dustin: Yeah. That's Ralphie. I think that.
Dave Kushner: Wore glasses.
Dustin: Yeah. Peter Billingsley.
Dave Kushner: He's my boss. He runs Vince Vaughn's production company. And so I ended up doing a show for them on TBS. That was kind of like Cheers and then now doing F Is for Family on Netflix with Bill Burr.
Jeff: Yeah, that's a great show.
Dave Kushner: It's fucking, thanks. It's awesome. It's like again, a dream job. Like, "Make a bunch of stuff that sells like the '70s. We need songs that sound like the Allman Brothers." I'm like, "Okay, yes we do." And I got to be friends with Bill and now Bill and I hang out, we play together. It's great, man, I don't know. When I talk about it, I get really stoked because it's like when I look at my life and my career since Velvet Revolver and I've been so fucking lucky to be able to make a living playing music, and sometimes in a very different way than what I was doing for.
Dustin: It's such a cool journey that you've been on, you just like a roller coaster that was Velvet Revolver and then the fortune of really finding your niche within the composing world for TV shows and the Sons of Anarchy theme. It's such a cool story and I'm curious looking back, what was like the fondest moment of your career, where you are like, "This is the coolest time of my life right now."?
Dave Kushner: Oh boy. I don't know, dude. I honestly I don't know if there's one. I remember some things that stand out like, I remember my buddy ... Like I said, there is three guys, me, Scott Shriner from Weezer and Brian Ray from Paul McCartney. Like before, we used to all three hang out when none of us had those gigs, and then we got our gigs like within the same year.
Dave Kushner: And we kind of like ... because those are big gigs man, it's like you're coming into things that are already somewhat established and you're ... not with VR so much, but like the heaviness of the dudes that you're playing with. And we would help each other out, like talk each other off the ledge. Like fucking Paul didn't talk to Brian that day, like, "Oh dude, I think I'm going to get fired. Slash was looking at me weird, I think I'm out, whatever." You're like, "Dude, stop, you already played on the record." "Oh, yeah. Okay. All right."
But I remember Scott telling me ... Like I'd got my first check, it was like for twelve grand or something and he was like, "Dude, I'm just going to tell you this now, enjoy it, because it's never going to feel the same again." And it was fucking true, man, I remember calling my mom and calling the automated bank teller thing that says, "You're checking account balance is $12,000.49 or whatever." And I kept calling it, dude like, "What? Really, are you kidding me?" And I called my mom on three way, I'm like, "Listen man." Funny thing was, I called it so much that it doubled, and I didn't get like, oh, how the whole thing worked back then, like the accountants and this.
Maybe they put more money in, and oh, I don't know what happened. And I call the person in the bank, they're like, "Oh no, that's a mistake, you just have 12." I was like, "Oh, fuck."
Dustin: Still awesome about that.
Dave Kushner: I know. It was like ... I'd always wanted a Cadillac STS. I'm like, "If ever get money, that's the car I'm going to buy," and I remember the day I got my car and I was just like ... that was huge for me, when I bought ... When the new Chargers first came out like 2006, I remember going to a Dodge dealership and there was an SRT 8 Charger, literally in the showroom and I fucking bought it, and it was like I was really good with my money, but there was a couple of times I was like, "I want that fucking car." And that was like our biggest year and I'm like. And they just like driving that car off the showroom floor ...
I didn't drive it off the showroom floor, the guy had to drive it out for insurance reasons, but like driving that. My wife had ... I forget, she left separately, and so it was just me in the car, driving through LA where I grew up in that fucking car, it was magic. That kind of shit stands out to me or being in the room with [inaudible 00:46:41] When we did that Grammy thing, we hadn't rehearsed with those guys, ever. We had just played across the universe with the four of us.
So the day of the Grammy's, we were all in a room and it was just Slash playing acoustic. Me and Duff weren't even ... we were just standing there and we were in a room with all those people, and they all had like a stage where, like "Okay, this is my part in the verse and I'm this," and standing like literally afoot, I was right behind Stevie Wonder, and I'm like, "That guy is my fucking hero." Before I even started listening to music, when I first started listening to music, the first stuff I was turned on to was Ohio Players, Earth, Wind and Fire, Stevie Wonder, because my best friend had older brothers that just listened to all that shit and that was my shit. It still is, like the Meters and all those fucking bands.
And just to be standing behind that, that was a huge moment. And one more that was amazing like that was, we played Live Aid, you know that Bob Geldof, the second time thing in London, and my wife was there and we were ... The thing about it was, the backstage were trailers, but they were all in a big circle, so there was this huge like a quarter of a football field area, where it was just a common area where every fucking celebrity you've ever thought of was there. And I remember viscerally walking in, me and my wife, it was like 3:30 in the afternoon and we were so fucking overwhelmed, our brains couldn't take it.
If you look to your left and you're like, "Oh, there's Brad Pitt, oh, he's talking to Gwyneth Paltrow and they're divorced, is she with the guy from Coldplay and there's Madonna, and there's fucking Harvey Weinstein and there's Sting. And there's Bill Gates and there's Snoop Dogg, and there's ... " It was like, "There's a fucking dudes from Pink Floyd and there's Elton John and there's Paul McCartney." Dude, it was like no experience I've ever had being on backstage area or open area in the daylight, just seeing all these people talking to each other and being in the fucking middle of it, it was fucking crazy.
Dustin: It sounds like a dream sequence almost, like you're just there with everybody.
Dave Kushner: It was.
Jeff: It's so weird.
Dave Kushner: And then, the funniest part is, it all ends because my wife is trying to take pictures backstage. In mind you, it's daytime and it's outdoors and she had the big cameras, so she kept taking pictures, and then, at one point, the security guards were like trying to kick her out, and it's like me and two managers are like, "No, no, that's my wife, and blah, blah, blah. I Promise she won't take any more pictures." Very funny.
Jeff: That's funny. Through it all, through from the early beginnings with the punk scene to Velvet Revolver and beyond, and everything that you've gotten to do with your career, what fuels you to keep doing it, to keep striking out on a new path maybe or even just picking up that instrument every day and playing, what fuels you to keep going?
Dave Kushner: Coffee.
Jeff: Shitty answer.
Dave Kushner: It's funny because it's like I say that jokingly, but it's actually kind of serious, because ... Hold on one second. My kid's got the flu, he's home from school. He's like, "Hey, where's my Rubik's Cube." I didn't know kids are into those again. I drink so much coffee is not even safe, I don't think, but it's like ... Honestly, part of it is just being a parent, like you've got a big life now, and you got to, I don't want to say, maintain it, but you've got responsibilities. I've got two kids, I've got a wife, I've got a house, I've got all this grownup stuff. And that's the funny part, I don't really feel like a grown up, even though on paper I am.
Jeff: That's a good thing to be though.
Dave Kushner: It's [inaudible 00:51:45] trying and helping your kid, and you're like, "oh, that guy is way more cool, that guy is probably an accountant or." I think that [inaudible 00:52:02] inspires me or she gives me a sense of [inaudible 00:52:05]. It's part of gratitude, service, [inaudible 00:52:16] a big thing. It was a big proponent of my way of looking watched. It was kind of through the people I was around, like kind programmed me that way, or the things I've done, certain things you do that you're not supposed to talk about, like anonymous things that help you ...
I don't know, man, it's like being of service to my kids, being of service to my wife, being of service to people that I come in contact with because that's what makes me feel good. That's what gets me right with the world. It's like talking to someone alcoholic just in his third week and has no idea how he's going to make it through week four, and giving some kid like that hope. Honestly, that's what fucking fuels me. Like being able to change, not change lives or save people, like I coach my son's baseball team and it's fucking gnarly, it's getting to the next level like two games that we can practice and there's a full on draft and there's this, and there's that, and there's managers meetings and all shit.
When I see a kid that can't hit the ball to save his life in the beginning of the season and then three games in and he gets a hit, that fucking feeling of joy is unmeasurable. There is no better feeling than seeing the light come on in someone's eyes or seeing that kid get a hit that never got a hit or, that's why they make movies about that shit, but that's what fuels me to leave my ... Get up in the morning because, it sounds corny, and I never think about it, but I know when I talk about it, I know every day I have that opportunity if I do all the things I need to do to get my head right.
And musically, I've just been so fortunate to fucking make a living doing this shit and to come up with new projects and do things, and to just do it all like the way ... it's not like, "Oh, I could do it all exactly the way I want it," but it's kind of worked out that way. I wanted to start this all-star cover band, to do events and stuff like that. Play with all my favorite people, and it's like I was able to do that, play like a huge Nine Inch Nails fan and a huge Robin Finck fan.
I had a gig where I was like, asked Joey for Robin's number and talked to him, got to meet him and play with him, and just fucking watched him from the other side of stage would be like, "That guy is still rad, I'm fucking playing with that guy right now, this is happening." You know what I mean? I met with some friend of mine yesterday that does all the stuff for NFL channel, was like talking about doing some shit, potentially with that, it's just like, I don't know, man, it's pretty great.
Jeff: That's freaking rad.
Dustin: It sounds really cool and it must take a lot of coffee to keep you going. I'm curious, how much coffee do you actually consume in a day?
Dave Kushner: Dude, you know when you have the drip coffee maker, I do six. It's on like six cups, I guess. I get up at 6:00 in the morning, I meditate for 15 minutes before everyone gets up. Then I wake up the kids, but before, I always have to have the coffee set up the night before. It's like, I set it up six cups, wake up, drink that as fast as I can, meditate, so that by the time I'm done meditating, the coffee is kicking in. And then wake up the kids, get them do the lunches, go to school, take them to school, then I get back and go work out. And I'd say about noon, another cup of coffee, then around 3:30, another cup of coffee, and then sometimes in the evening, more coffee.
Jeff: Sounds like us. That's pretty normal.
Dave Kushner: I knew I was talking to the right guys.
Dustin: We haven't died yet, so you're good.
Jeff: That's all good. It's all good.
Dave Kushner: Dude, it so funny, I always find these like fucking articles, you get all these speeds on your phone, and it's like every once in a while, because a fine article that says, "The benefits of coffee; cures cancer and does all the shit." and I showed it to my wife because she's like, "You drink too much coffee." "Yeah, but look, I'll never get foot cancer, because it says that it will stop it, and it's good for lycopene, for your eyes or whatever." It is fucking retarded things.
Jeff: Well, we're happy to keep you caffeinated and I can't thank you enough for taking time to talk with us today. Finally, for our listeners and our watchers out there, where is the easiest way that they could find you? Do you do social media? Or do you have any upcoming projects that you want to plug?
Dave Kushner: Like I said, I have an all-star cover band called the Hellcat Saints. You can just look that up if you google it and you can see we've done a bunch of stuff with Chester Bennington, and Joey, and a bunch of different people. What do I do? Dave Kushner on Instagram, Dkushner66 on Twitter. But you know when a guy goes in waves, it's hard. My wife, the other day, she is like, "Don't you have a website?" I was like, "Yeah, I think I do." And then we looked and then it's like the fucking domains, it's just like three dudes, pictures of like ... What do they call that, like the Geek Squad? It looked like three dudes from a Geek Squad, just like, "Hey, do you want to buy this domain?" I'm like, " Ah, fucking great."
Basically, it's just Instagram and Twitter when I'm doing it. We got the next, we're actually composing the music for Season three of F Is For Family, which I think comes out later this year, 10 new episodes. That's kind of it for right now.
Dustin: That's a lot. that's awesome. Again, man, And it was such a pleasure to talk to you. It really was. Thank you so much for taking the time.
Dave Kushner: Yeah. Thanks for asking, I really dig the company. I loved the coffee. It's like you get the heavy ... I was drawn in by the art, and then it was like, "Oh, wait, fair trade, organic. Oh, oh, wait, this taste really good." It's just funny like why you get drawn in, and for the subversive nature of it all. And then it's like, "Wow, this is fucking probably some of the best coffee I've had and drink on a daily basis." And everyone there's been super cool and Blasko and those guys being tied into it, and Zach. It's really cool, man. Any time I can support you guys as well by doing whatever you do, it's all good.
Dustin: Well, I'll say this right now, you are officially part of our family, for sure.
Dave Kushner: Yes.
Jeff: We're super grateful to be a part of this company, and like it's really cool to be in such a happening spot, but I have to say that the coolest part of this gig is getting to talk to my idols, my heroes, awesome talented people like you. We're just so grateful that guys like you and yourself take the time to stay here and bring us through their journey of life, which is just so awesome man.
Dave Kushner: Yeah. You don't make it hard when it's like, "Oh, you're going to get free coffee, you're going to get a mug," and you just get to talk about yourself for an hour. Oh, okay, cool.
Dustin: Cool man. Well, thank you so much. I hope one day we get to meet. Like I said, just such a big fan and thank you so much, man.