Patt Fontaine Interview

As rock groups go, they don't get much better than XYZ. An L.A. group, with a debut album on Enigma Records, produced by Don Dokken, these guys have everything going for them.

Bassist Patt Fontaine took some time out from a very busy schedule to talk to us.

Q. You started the band in Europe, moved to New York City, then up and moved again to Los Angeles. Where do you get all the money to do this globe-trotting?
A. That is a very good question. I'm gonna be very honest with you. We didn't start the band in Europe. We put the project as a band together in Europe. I was thinking about doing something but I wasn't quite sure where to do it. The reason I was in Europe was, I was living in New York, and spending my vaca­tion in Europe. My mother used to work for a U.S. company here and I would go back home just for summer vacation. I met Terry, my singer one summer and then we started talking about it. I was living in New York, and I told him if you want to spend a couple of weeks in the city, then we can sit down and write and see if we get along, and see if we can write something decent. If it sounds good we can demo it, and if it still sounds good we'll see if we can call it a band or a project. The money was so tight when we got back to New York that we had to sleep in the car. We strug­gled a lot. When ya want to do something you find a way to do it. Where there's a will, there's a way. I quess the music we put together ap­pealed to a lot of people. So, a lot of people helped us financially. But, it was a struggle, it was hard.

Q. What about the whole "Pay to Play" club circuit in L.A. Just how healthy of a situation is that for a band to deal with?
A A. When we got to L.A. six years ago the "Pay to Play" situation was not in place yet. It was a difficult situation. As XYZ grew as a band, we never had that problem. We were lucky enough to have a following and to have plans. Today, it's a dif­ferent situation. It's a shame that bands actually have to pay to get the exposure. I don't think it's healthy at all. I don't think it's healthy for the music of it or for the art of it. I think it creates a financial competition which is not healthy for the music. There's not a lot of ways around it. There are so many bands in L.A. I guess pro­moters are finding a way to make money and to make a natural selec­tion — only the strong and the rich will survive. There're so many bands that want to play, it comes down to money. I don't think there's any way out of it. It's a rock n roll thing. It's a business thing. If there are a lot of people wanting to do the same thing, then eventually it's going to come down to big money. If you build a following, if you have a "buzz," if your band is fit enough to adjust to any market you're in, and build a following in clubs where you don't have to "Pay to Play," then when you hit the (Sunset) Strip and the ex­pensive clubs and you have enough of a following, then you don't have to "Pay to Play."

Q. You were together four years before you got a deal?
A. Well, Paul our current drum­mer joined us about 2'/2 years ago. So, we had a different drummer for awhile. But, basically, yeah, it's the same band.

Q. Since XYZ was turned down by everybody, why did Enigma Records stand up and pay atten­tion to you?
A. I guess Enigma Records, thank God, has a reputation for finding "the acts." They're out there, and they keep an eye on what's going on. The reason we didn't get signed right away is, when we got to town, Poison was all over the place. Poison was doing great. Record companies didn't want to take a chance. They were only signing Poison clones. And, a couple of years later it was Guns 'n' Roses. Everybody was sign­ing Guns 'n' Roses clones. We were not a clone at all. We had our own individuality and style. We always refused to follow the trend.

Q. Did Enigma bring Don Dok­ken in as your producer? Did you ask for him? How did that work
A. It is like a slow process. We were looking for a producer and no one seemed to be available, or in the right price range. Enigma, Bill Hein (President of Enigma), said what about Don Dokken? He's a friend of mine, and he's been trying to keep an ear open on what's going on in the L.A. circuit. We said why not? We met the guy, had dinner with him, started to hang out with him. We didn't make a commitment to him right away. Naturally, things started to fall into place. It was more like a fifth member of the band. It was not like a producer.

Q. In your bio, you say attitude is only the tip of the iceberg. You have to be able to deliver the goods or sink. How then does that ex­plain all the groups that are being signed to major label deals, who have no talent?
A. Well, I guess talent is a very subjective thing. You like it or you don't. It's really a matter of taste.

Q. The public would like to believe a band is signed because of their musical talent, you're good musicians.
A. I guess that's what the public wants. Well, reality is so different. Good has nothing to do with it. (Laughs). It's such a big business now. You need everything now. You need the look. You need the music. You need the connection. You need the timing. You need luck. You need a lot of work. You need everything you can possibly think of.

© Gary James All Rights Reserved