In between working with The Dirty Heads in the studio and having a very busy schedule, I recently got the chance to talk to one awesome dude, Stan Frazier, the original drummer (from their start in 1986 up until 2012) for one of the biggest bands of the 90’s, Sugar Ray.
Alex Obert: Tell me what it was like playing in a cover band in high school and what you learned about being in a band.
Stan Frazier: Well, my brother was really into music and he got me into listening to some of my earliest memorable music, which was like Devo, Elvis Costello, The Blasters, which is a California band. So, growing up, you just hear stuff, and I was so young, it was like sixth grade or something like that. I said, “I want some drums.”, and my parents went to a pawn shop and they picked up probably the worst kit that they could find. But to me, it was like a brand new sparkling, magic, beautiful kit. So, it was great playing in a cover band. It was all I knew. Of course I knew you could write original songs, but I thought, “Well, we could start here.” So, we had a lot of fun doing it. I was in the band with Rodney, who plays guitar in Sugar Ray, of course. And then another guy named Mick. It taught me everything, really. It taught me how to, first of all, play music, and second of all, hustle and try to do everything you can to get as good as you can, whether that means practice or putting flyers on people’s cars or working hard and just trying to figure out the gigs and all that stuff. But yeah, it taught me a lot about music and a lot about the industry, even at an early age. So, it was a great experience. It was great groundwork.
AO: What is your opinion of, one of my favorite albums and Sugar Ray’s first album, Lemonade & Brownies?
SF: Lemonade & Brownies will always have a place in my heart as very, very important and very special. We hadn’t really cracked the code of how to go about recording music. We thought we’d go into the studio and basically just record everything and then that’s what happened. We had a rock song, we had a punk song, we had a country song. We really love to rock and play heavy music, but when we got into the studio, they had technology and different types of equipment and so we were like kids in a candy store. We just experimented and it wasn’t a very good marketing plan because we were all over the place. No one knew how to categorize Sugar Ray. But all I know is that we really like Lemonade & Brownies and a lot of people do. It was truly raw and truly ourselves.
AO: How did you stay motivated as a musician when that album had failed to chart originally?
SF: I stayed motivated because I didn’t wanna give up. One of my biggest slogans in life is, “Never give up.” and “Don’t let people bring you down.” and that’s what I took to my heart. Even after Lemonade & Brownies didn’t sell many copies, we were still on a major label and I felt, “They’re gonna give us another chance, so we’ve gotta do everything we can, everything in our power to make this happen.” So, whether it’s work twice as hard or write three times as many songs. That was my motto, just never give up, man. So I stayed motivated by just working harder and writing more songs, staying later in the studio, picking up the guitar, instead of just staying behind the drums. Just trying to find a spark or find a piece of magic and luckily, that happened to us with the song, “Fly”. We found a spark, we found some magic, and we just ran with it and we got lucky. But we also worked really hard for it.
AO: In regards to playing shows, how do you feel playing in a small venue compares to playing in a big arena, and how do they differ?
SF: I think my first love will always be playing in a small club or a smaller theater, something like that, just to get more intimate with the crowd. But don’t get me wrong, opening for The Rolling Stones at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas is one of the most thrilling feelings you can have in the world. So, there’s magic and there’s positivity about both of those, however if we had to do it on a daily basis, the big arenas, the sound could get weird, the connection with the audience becomes funny sometimes. So for me, it’s small clubs or theaters just because I love the way that it makes me feel as a musician and as an artist, I can relate a little more to the people I’m playing to.
AO: And in regards to touring, which bands do you wish you could have toured with, one that is active and one that existed at some point in time?
SF: I think that a band I would really like to tour with that’s active and still just releasing great music and still pretty current, I’ve just been a fan of U2 since the beginning, since Boy and War. I just think they’re amazing and it would be a pretty incredible arena tour. That would have been amazing to watch those guys every night and just see the crowds. But then again, we got to tour with bands like 311 and they’re such a great live act.
And if you were just kind of pie in the sky, tour with if you could, I would have loved to have played with The Police. They’re my favorite band of all time and I think those guys put on the greatest show. I saw them on their reunion tour back in 2009 and it was just really, really cool.
AO: Who are some of your favorite frontmen?
SF: Without a doubt, probably my favorite ever is Freddie Mercury from Queen. He just has such a connection with the audience and he was so passionate about his music and so passionate about his playing and performing. I really don’t think you can find anybody much better than Freddie. I appreciate lots of frontmen, all the way from a guy like Roger Daltrey from The Who. Again, Sting comes to mind. He’s one of my favorite frontmen, from The Police and from his solo stuff. Iggy Pop. I could name two dozen of them. Those are some of my faves. David Lee Roth was an amazing frontman for Van Halen. So, there’s a bunch, but those are some of my faves.
AO: What do you think of Mark McGrath (singer for Sugar Ray) as a frontman, since you have the best seat in the house to see him do his thing?
SF: I think Mark was an amazing frontman. I’m currently not touring with the band at this time and I don’t know if I ever will be again. We’ve had a long run and the people are kind of doing their own things now. I had a really good opportunity to watch Mark from behind. However, it’s interesting because I did actually go to see the band after I had stopped performing with the band recently last Summer and I got to see the front. I was sitting at the front of the house and Mark does a really great job. He’s a showman and he’ll tell you that. He says he’s not a singer and all these things, he’s a showman. He can put on a great show and entertain the crowd and he does all of his dances and his mimics and all that stuff. I never got to see that from the front. It’s very interesting for me to see that because I would always see it from behind and it was pretty funny, but seeing from the front, I didn’t know it was such a comedy routine. The whole show is really fun. It was half vaudeville, half music.
AO: In regards to music and putting together a song, who are some of your favorite songwriters?
SF: I really like Neil Finn from Crowded House, he’s one of my favorite songwriters. Elvis Costello, one of my favorites. Sting, one of my top favorites. There’s dozens and dozens and dozens of songwriters that I admire. There’s a whole slew of guys from the punk rock era that I love. There’s jazz writers that I really admire. As far as singers/songwriters go, Neil Finn, Elvis Costello, Sting, Nick Lowe, guys like that. They really speak to me and that’s probably my best answer.
AO: If I recall correctly, you wrote “Fly”, correct?
SF: You know, we all wrote “Fly”. I came up with the chorus and the lyrics for Fly. And everyone else had a part in writing in the band. Craig, who was our DJ at the time, he came up with the drum parts and Murphy (the bassist) came up with the original bass line and Rodney came up with a lyric and Mark helped write lyrics. So, we all had a hand in it. But, the genesis of the song popped into my head first and then everyone else sort of wrote around the song.
AO: How did you respond to when that song became a huge hit and how did you handle the fame and the press and the exposure and all that?
SF: Well, it was like a dream come true because from the earliest days I can remember, back in fifth or sixth grade, getting those early drumsets, all I was able to dream about was to make it big and having a hit song on the radio and playing big concerts. It was a dream come true. Nothing can really prepare you for what you’re about to experience people will tell you, “Oh, get ready for the ride of your life.” and until you actually do it, it’s pretty hard to achieve. The fame and stuff to me, we had fame definitely, a lot of it sat on Mark’s shoulders. He’s the frontman, he’s the attention. He’s the guy that gets all the attention and the interviews and all that stuff. We had our share of it, the other guys in the band, but he was definitely the focal point. I didn’t have to adjust too much to quote unquote fame, it was just really, really nice, but it wasn’t like we were getting mobbed everywhere we went. It was so nice to actually be acknowledged after years and years and years of working really hard and putting everything you have into your music and finally you have a hit song and you get recognized. That was probably my favorite part about it.
AO: Songs like “Fly” and “Every Morning” and “Mean Machine”, they all have music videos. How can you describe the process of filming a music video?
SF: Well, it’s such a fun process filming a music video and it feels to me like it’s such a dying art. Not a lot of bands, unless you’re Rihanna or you’re Green Day or something, a lot of people don’t have the money to make the videos anymore, and there’s really not an outlet for them. MTV doesn’t really play videos, so that’s a sad fact. But back in the day when we were making the videos, it was one of our greatest highlights because what would really happen is you get a video budget from the record label and you get to pick a director and basically pick the concept and go off for two or three days. We shot the video for “Someday” down in Miami, Florida at a very exotic beach and they’re wonderful experiences that I look back on with fond memories. I really, really enjoyed doing the music videos. I feel sorry for bands today that don’t get to make music videos. I mean, maybe they get to make them, it’s definitely not as grandiose as they used to be, that’s for sure.
AO: Now on another note, I recently researched that Mark McGrath is basically responding to the Summerland tour he was on last year by starting his own tour, Under The Sun, with Smash Mouth, Vertical Horizon, Gin Blossoms, and Fastball. What’s your opinion of him starting his own tour?
SF: I wish nothing but the best for that. It’s Mark and Rodney, they’re still doing it. Murphy and I and our DJ have all left the band. If that’s what they wanna go do, then whatever, that’s something that they have to go do. To me, I’m forty five years old and I enjoy playing live, but I really like smiles and everyone getting along and sometimes, it’s hard to do that out on the road. People get really upset and angry and they go crazy. I’m all about “wag more and bark less”, that’s my slogan right now.
AO: Alright, before we wrap this up, I just want you to explain how you’re still involved in music and also your culinary career which I didn’t get to touch base on.
SF: Sure, no problem. I’m still involved in music quite a bit. I’ve got a production company that I run with my partner, Steve Fox, and we’ve worked on everybody from Ashlee Simpson to Eric Hutchinson to The Dirty Heads. We’re working with a band from Canada right now called Smash The Sun. So, we have projects all the time. I produce, arrange, write, record, and live music twenty four seven, in that regard. And then in addition to that, I’ve got another project, it’s kind of confidential, but it’s a rock and roll project, it involves a film, rock and roll, and a whole immersive environment, so that’s also something I’m developing. As far as the culinary stuff, yeah, I’ve always been an avid fan of cooking and food. I guess the term “foodie” would pretty much apply to me for the last twenty five years. I’ve really been interested in cooking. I almost went to culinary school, but instead, Sugar Ray took off, and I had a lot of success with Sugar Ray. But I always felt like I needed to pursue my culinary stuff. I went on a reality show last Summer called Chef Race and I was one of sixteen contestants to race across the country, exchanging your culinary knowledge in exchange for money to get across the country, sort of doing culinary tasks and out of the sixteen contestants, I ended up winning the show, which was really, really great and I’m pursuing more culinary as we speak. I have a restaurant idea in the works and doing some private events and then in addition to that, working on possibly a cookbook, and some other culinary stuff. So that’s really exciting, that’s the other side of me. So when I’m not doing music, I’m in the kitchen for sure.
AO: Alright, so I’d like to thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate you giving me the opportunity to interview you.
SF: Of course, man.
AO: And if you’re ever on a stage nearby, like near Connecticut, then I’ll be sure to check you out.
SF: You got it, brother.