Aeroluvr’s Candid Conversation with Jack Douglas (April 29, 2002)

April 29, 2002 – Before we began our brief chat, Jack wanted to share some great news regarding one of his more recent projects.  He recently completed the score for an upcoming film ‘This Thing Of Ours’ which was one of the featured films at the recently held Back East Picture Show Film Festival in New Jersey.  The film won awards for Best Feature Film: Drama (written and directed by Danny Provenzano) and for Best Feature Director which went to Danny as well.  In addition, Frank Vincent, one of the actors in the film was honored with the Back East Lifetime Achievement Award.  This award is presented to someone who has shown excellence in film, serves as an inspiration to aspiring filmmakers and actors, and lastly has an affiliation professionally or personally in New York or New Jersey.
A little more about the film and yes, there are a few Aerosmith ties. The film is about a 21st Century breed of gangsters who use technology to their advantage as they steal millions of dollars from American banks by rigging satellites and computer systems. ‘This Thing Of Ours’ is a film about hustling for the big score, doing the right thing, broken thumbs, taking care of your friends and family, bullets to the head, loyalty, honesty and dishonesty.  It’s also about the Feds, moving up in the world and grabbing a piece of the action, but, ultimately, and with no hard feelings, it all boils down to business. It is a mob picture with some of the most realistic dialogue and situations that we’ll ever see.  It stars Danny Provenzano (who also wrote and directed), Frank Vincent (Casino, Goodfellas), Vincent Pastore (Big Pussy – The Sopranos), a cameo by James Caan (The Godfather) and even an appearance by Aerosmith’s guitarist Brad Whitford.  Word has it Brad gets a bottle smashed over his head in a fight scene.
Thirty-eight year-old Danny Provenzano’s 44-count racketeering indictment hasn’t hurt his movie-making career. Provenzano, a great-nephew of mob boss Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano, is one of nine people charged by New Jersey prosecutors with using kidnapping and beatings to extort $1 million from their victims. He even used various elements of his own indictment in his picture. For instance, the court papers charge that he strong-armed $182,000 out of a businessman, a scenario he’s put in the flick, with the exact same dollar amount. And, after prosecutors said he smashed someone’s thumb with a hammer, he wrote an identical scene for the movie. Of the similarities, Provenzano says, “There were certain glaring things in the indictment that I thought were ripe for Hollywood.”
Not sure what music will end up on the final soundtrack (forgot to ask) but Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry scored and performed some for it, as did Slash from Guns N’ Roses, Cheap Trick and the band Skindive, last I heard.   The film should be out in the fall of this year.  Now onto the more general conversation with Jack. Please note, this is not a professional interview – just a candid conversation with Jack with a few insights for fans included here and there.
TR:  You and Rick Dufay attended the MTV Aerosmith icon show recently so a few questions about that. First, who was your favorite performer?
JD:  The X-Ecutioners – liked them the best.  Everyone else sounded like a bar band trying to do Aerosmith. They did something that was completely different so it stood out.
TR:  What about a favorite moment during the show?
JD:  My favorite moment was when Joe (Perry) gave a nod to Rick (Dufay).
TR:  Was there anything that went wrong during the show?
JD:  I dug the show actually – it came off great there.  The sound was much better there versus on TV.
TR:  Now a few questions about the upcoming VH1 Behind The Music special on Aerosmith that you just did your interview for while here in L.A.   First, what do you hope for sure gets included from your interview?
JD:  What I hope isn’t mentioned so much is same old boring drug stuff.  Hope they use everything else, especially about how there would be no Aerosmith without me (laughs).  No I didn’t really say that.
TR:  What did you think of the VH1 producer who interviewed you?
JD:  He was really good and he really knew his stuff.  I liked him.
TR:  How much editing do you think the band will do to the taped interviews after VH1 is through with them?
JD:  Yeah, they’ll edit out a lot of course.  Steven gets really…well…ya know…he wants it to be the same old fairy-tale.
TR:  Who do you want them to be sure to include comments from that perhaps the band does not?
JD:  I think they should have Leber and Krebs.  They have already contacted David.  Let’s just see what happens when Steven sees what David has to say though.
TR:  Any thoughts on Brad’s comments in the non-aired portion of his MTV interview about not being included in the writing process anymore?
JD:  Brad and I were talking about that just the other night.  He was at the film festival awards dinner and we sat together.  He told me what he had said and that he knew none of it would get included.  (TR:  Told Jack how it had made its way out there to fans via the internet anyway which he will likely pass on).
JD:  Regarding songwriting, the band should write by themselves again.  We used to be able to take a wreck and turn it into something.  Steven is just too concerned about what Columbia Records thinks instead of….  He’s got these guys writing cartoons of and for him.  (Mimics) “Wow, here’s what Steven should be writing about”.  Steven is not writing about what he feels.  I mean WHAT THE HELL does ‘Girls of Summer’ have to do with how Steven feels?  
TR:  So….what did you think of ‘Girls Of Summer’?
JD:  I think it’s awful.  
TR:  Have you heard Climbing The Walls or any of the other new tunes yet?
JD:  No, haven’t heard those yet.
TR:  Do you think it is more Marti’s input or Steven’s on these songs?
JD:  It’s more Marti’s input and the record company loves it.  Steven was just saying the other night “Wow, what’s his name (Columbia Records President) loves this song (Girls of Summer).  Maybe I shouldn’t say his name but…well…Donny Ienner.  “Yeah Donny loves it!”  Donny doesn’t know his ass from his elbow about what’s a hit single from Aerosmith.
TR:  That seemed obvious in reference to Fly Away From Here.
JD:  Exactly.
TR:  What would you like to see the band do?
JD:  I’ve been telling them we should go in and do some straight ahead recording – like we used to. Everybody in the band has some great little riffs and stuff.  Steven says it sounds like a good idea.  But so far it hasn’t happened.  I’m still working on it though.
TR:  Since you are good friends, do you ever tell Steven the truth about how you feel about what the band is doing now?  That a song sucks for example?  If so, how does he usually respond?
JD:  Oh yeah, I tell him.  His main response is that it all has to be commercial – that the record company has to like it.
TR:  As long as they’re with SONY, do you think things will remain the same?
JD:  I don’t know.  There’s an outside possibility we might go in and do just what I told you while I’m doing the 5.1 mixes.
TR:  Describe the 5.1 mixing process you will be doing for them.
JD:  5.1 means surround sound.  It’s 5 speakers and a subwoofer.  Jay Messina and I are going to do each album individually.  We’re going to make them sound just like the original mixes only it’s gonna be in surround sound.  It’s gonna be wacky and crazy.  You’ll get them on an audio-only DVD.
TR:  Why do you think the band changed direction yet again to release another Columbia Greatest Hits package instead of a live DVD and/or blues album?  To get even with Geffen?
JD:  That one I can’t figure out.  Geffen put out that one and that kind of torpedoed this whole thing I guess.    
TR:  Do you think it’s the label and/or management behind it?
JD:  I think it’s both.  I think there are certain pressures.  Steven felt like he would not be able to come up with a whole album by summer.  They felt this was a shortcut I guess.    
TR:  Do you know anything about the live concert DVD project?
JD:  No, I don’t.
TR:  How about the blues album – do you think it will see the light of day while they are with SONY?
JD:  I don’t know, I don’t think so the way things keep going now.  
TR:  If you were in the studio with Steven and he came to you with ‘Girls of Summer’ for example and wanted to do it with you, what would you say to him?
JD:  I would have to tell Steven he’s got to tell the truth.  All of those early albums came from places he was comfortable with.  I would say, “Steven, does this really mean something to you?  Tell me honestly, is this something you’re really feeling?”  
TR:  And musically you would hope it got the other band members off right?  The guitarists look bored when they play some of these “hits”.
JD:  They are.
TR:  Any comments on Steven doing a solo project?
JD:  Well yeah, he wants to do that.  He does, but he doesn’t.  He’s got ideas for it but he really needs Joe.
TR:  Do you know what Joe thinks of  ‘Girls of Summer’?
JD:  He didn’t really say anything but he played me a bunch of really good stuff of his own (laughs).
TR:  If he comes up with a really great sounding lick, does it get watered down in the process these days?
JD:  I don’t know what happens as I haven’t been in that process in a long time.
TR:  But you’re willing to, right?  If they would do it as a band like you used to?
JD:  Yeah, put the whole band in a room.  Get a band sound and a band album.  The input of the whole band is what makes it cool.
TR:  Do you think Steven has it in him to stand up to SONY?
JD:  I would think so.  I don’t understand why he lets them push him around so much.
TR:  He must think ‘Girls of Summer’ is a really great song though right?
JD:  I can’t imagine that.  I don’t understand it if he does (laughs).  
TR:  Commercially, they don’t seem to be attracting any one audience segment too much these days anymore.  I would think that might be a concern to the label.    
JD:  The label won’t tell them that though.  The label just takes the crap and tells them, “That’s great!  Keep writing with Marti”.
TR:  If they have to use an outside writer (you and I both agree they don’t), who would you think would be best?
JD:  You know I really don’t think they need an outside writer AT ALL.  I mean, to be clever and commercial, yeah I guess they need outside writers.  But to be Aerosmith, to be good and have truth and to listen to a song that really affects you and that you can identify with…you don’t need any of that.
TR:  How close are we then to you locking them in a room and doing what needs to be done?  
JD:  I’m working on it.  The label would hate it.  So they (Steven) would have to stand up to them.  The label really doesn’t like me you know.
TR:  You know what you could do Jack?  You could do a studio session and have someone leak it out on the internet as an MP3 and have everyone write to SONY what they thought about it (hint hint).
JD:  That might do it.
TR:  Seems, even many of the 13/15-year old young girl fans don’t like ‘Girls of Summer’.
JD:  Yeah I know (laughs), the guys at VH1 also said to me “What is that!?”.
TR:  DVD technology has been out there quite a while now.  Aerosmith has an incredible history and tons of concert footage that most bands would kill for.  Why on earth would they shelve that project and release another greatest hits audio CD instead?  Just don’t think it makes good business sense but hey that’s just my opinion.        
JD:  Your opinion is worth a lot.  You’re a fan.
TR:  Even the die-hard fans may not buy yet another greatest hits package necessarily.  
JD:  Well they would if there were three really good songs that I produced on it (laughs).  I would produce three really cool songs that would be totally Aerosmith.  If Steven wanted G.O.S. on there too, Marti’s name would be on that one, not mine (laughs).  
TR:  Remember when the article came out in the Florida paper about you and Vesica Pisces recording in the kitchen?  A lot of fans thought (me included) that might be pretty cool if you could do that with Aerosmith.  
JD:  You know what happens when you work in the kitchen?  You put the fire on!  Turn up the burners!  (TR: Translation – A real Aerosmith album!).    
TR:  How come Joe doesn’t stand up to the label and/or Steven?
JD:  You know, it’s all business.  It’s not fun anymore, it’s just business.  
TR:  But music is an art, you’re supposed to love your art.
JD:  Right now it’s not.  If they worked with me, I would convince them of that again.
TR:  Have you ever talked to anyone at SONY about that?
JD:  I don’t talk to the people at SONY, they don’t like me.  They’re mad at me all of the time (laughs).
TR:  Speaking of which, what happened to the Mob Hip Hopera project?
JD:  Well, (knocks on table), it will be out very soon.
TR:  Does it still have Steven and Joe on it?
JD:  Uh….no.  Well you know what?  Let’s put it this way, you listen to it and you tell me if they’re still on there. Their names are not on there.
TR:  I saw a program on MTV very soon after the first internet release of Mob Hip Hopera that sure seemed to be a copycat of the project turned into a short series.  
JD:  It was a rip-off.   They totally ripped me off.  But that’s OK because our thing is the coolest and it’s coming out very soon.  It will only be available on television.
TR:  Do you think you can make that into some sort of HBO movie?
JD:  After it comes out and it’s successful and I prove to people that it’s viable and really cool, then I want to do an animated version of it for HBO.  Yeah, it will be an animated musical, really edgy, very cool.  The Hip Hopera will come out the same time as the Sopranos in the fall – a little bit before actually.
TR:  You hang out with the cast of the Sopranos a lot, huh?
JD:   Yeah, I was with them the other night at the film festival.  They are a very fun bunch.  You know the Aerosmith/Sopranos party right? Steve Van Zandt (Silvio) just had a really cool party because of his new radio show.  Everybody was there – the whole cast and myself.  Get a copy of my Christmas card from Rick and scan it – me and “the family” (laughs) (TR: See bottom of this page).
TR:  How about the album you just did for Vesica Pisces?  Is it done?
JD:  Yeah, it’s a killer album…a great album.  It’s on Big Three Beyond Universal.  Universal is distributing it.  It will come out in September.
TR:  What’s the name of the album?
JD:  Halfway To Naked.
TR:  What genre would you put them in?
JD:  Kinda like Sheryl Crow.  Girl singer.
TR:  What was the recording process like with them?
JD:  Very cool.  We did it in an old club.  The whole band was there.  Brought a truck in.  Kinda like doing Rocks ya know.  Very atmospheric.  
TR:  What do you think about Pro-Tools, computers and all of that in recording?  I know it made it easier to record the Hip Hopera project for example.
JD:  Yeah, sometimes you use it and sometimes you don’t.  But I’d rather go to tape.  You still have to use a little bit of new technology but very little really.  The original track comes from tape only.  Computers have their place for convenience but not necessarily for creation.
TR:  Jack, it’s been great talking to you.  Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions and sharing some of your valuable insight.
JD:  I enjoyed it!
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