In the early 90s, before everybody was looking for the next Nirvana, rock radio was alternative radio. Listeners could listen to grunge, Brit rock, singer songwriters, and classic college rock without turning the dial. No one really wanted to hear a new Nirvana, because the old one was readily accessible. The format was fresh, exciting and open to all ideas, from both artists and fans. Buzz was created quickly, and no band benefited from a video as successfully as Blind Melon. They had a certain amount of notoriety, no doubt because of singer Shannon Hoon’s association and video appearance with Guns N Roses. The “bee girl” video gave them their own spark, and the Melon was soon burning bright. That spark wasn’t meant to burn as long as the band had planned. Shortly after the release of their second album, Hoon overdosed on the band’s tour bus. His death curbed careers, shattered families and extinguished the potential the short-lived band promised.
The new millennium has been more kind to Blind Melon. Band members Christopher Thorn and Brad Smith had better luck with producing and forming new bands. The band has now gotten back together, with frosh singer Travis Warren. Their new album, ”For My Friends”, has ignited interest in the band, and they are touring all summer. Christopher rang me up and we chatted about all things Melon.
Why is Blind Melon back together?
It kind of happened to us. We didn’t plan on it. Brad and I have a studio in North Hollywood, somebody at a record label said ,“There’s a new kid, Travis, you should check him out. So we started helping him with his record, and we knew immediately that he had “it”. During the process, Brad and I thought about bringing in Rodgers or Glen to play on various tracks. One night, Brad said “This guy could swing Blind Melon songs in his sleep, we should get the band back together”. I had been thinking it, but didn’t want to be the first to say it. I didn’t dare bring it up, but Brad had the balls to say it. We talked to Travis about it, and he was super pumped about it. So we made a new record with him, which was important because we wanted to have a reason to get back together. We flew the other two guys out, and halfway through the first song, they were convinced, and that is how it happened.
What do you want fans to know about this new record?
We just want them to give it a chance. On paper, this sounds like a really bad idea, we’ve said that ourselves. Everyone should come to the show, and then judge. We playing all of the old songs that Shannon wrote, and the crowd loves the new stuff. That should help to erase any skeptics, and I know they’ll be convinced how sincere we are about this.
Have you encountered any resistance to the new singer?
No, not really. We were concerned about it, but thanks to the Internet, people who went to our first little tour were blown away and got online and gave it their seal of approval.
That really helped some fans that were on the fence to give us a shot. We were fortunate, because a lot of people find music on the Internet, and a lot of it is really bad. But if a friend suggests it, you can usually get turned on to music in a positive way.
Was Shannon Hoon an inspiration for any of the songs on the new record?
There is a song called “Laugh Last” which is about the way I felt after he died. That song is very therapeutic.
Do you keep in contact with his family?
We see them all the time, and we’re going to play a vigil that his mom puts on once a year, and donate all the money to her cause. She has been to half a dozen shows, and she has given us her blessing. That was powerful, and meant a lot. We wanted to make sure that she thought we were doing the right thing. Shannon’s daughter, Nico, came out to a few shows, and she has sung with us a couple of times at those shows. We’re all really close, still like a big family.
Even though Blind Melon is an established name, does it seem like now you guys are starting over?
We discussed that. The name helps out, and that is great. But it does hurt sometimes. If you have a critic that didn’t like the band before, it doesn’t’ matter if you make the next Sgt. Peppers, he is still going to hate you. That’s frustrating. People have preconceived notions, and sometimes that’s really hard to overcome. But if we don’t use the name, some of our fans might not find out about us getting back together.
Is the new guy, Travis, involved in the songwriting?
He’s more involved than anybody. He’s really prolific. Songwriting happens a few different ways. The first is he will bring in a song and we will melonize it, and the second is that we bring a piece of music to him and he will add lyrics. He wrote 85 to 90 percent of the lyrics on this new record. That’s great for us, because we don’t want a puppet, we need someone to be his own guy.
How would Blind Melon and his family like for Shannon to be remembered?
We want people to realize what a great artist he was. Those are powerful songs. I get chills when we play those old songs, and thousands of people are singing those songs back to you. He was great at writing lyrics that helped people relate to him and understand him. He touched people in a big way. Of course, it was sad how it ended, but he was such a lovable guy. He got in trouble, did crazy things, that is all absolutely true, but he was such a super human being. We still talk about him all the time.
Blind Melon has been blessed with a second chance, and they feel certain that they can recapture their former heights. Given their situation, most would feel that they deserve that chance. True artists are rare, and fans are fickle. Hopefully, this new record and tour will be the last chance they will ever have to ask for.