Let us introduce you to Chicago's own Marty Casey. Primarily known as the lead singer of the band Lovehammers, Marty was also involved with L.A. Guns, and was on the first season of the reality TV show Rock Star: INXS. Marty, while with Lovehammers, toured with Nickelback, Jerry Cantrell, and Interpol to name a few. Lovehammers' released their first major label album in 2006 (Marty Casey and Lovehammers) and have just finished wrapping up another album due to be released this summer.
Marty talked to our CEO Ysmay about his music, the new album, Dave Navarro, and making a life in the Windy City.
Tell me how you got into music. Was it a childhood passion or did it develop later?
My siblings all gave me these hand-me-down instruments they'd play for a period of time and then move along. So they had all these different instruments, but nobody was really into it, aside from music listening. I have five siblings who listen to everything from really dark metal to really pop pop and early rap, and everything in between. Eventually people would grow older and move onto different music styles, and everything was handed down to me. It just grew from there.
When did you start playing guitar?
I think I started playing guitar when I was in 8th grade.
Who were some of your early influences?
Early influences were varied. I'd have to say Guns & Roses, AC/DC, my sister and her love of Cyndi Lauper, Rob Bass, Joe Cocker, and Accept, a metal band from Germany, I believe. I always wanted to love what my brothers and sisters loved because I just thought they were the coolest, and I looked up to them. I always listened to a little piece of everything they listened to and loved. I kind of took it all in and then started spitting out my own stuff.
When you're not playing, who in Chicago do you like to go see?
I've been seeing a lot of music lately. A lot of the national touring acts have been having a lot of local bands open up for them which I dig because they definitely can put together their own bill. Last night I saw Empires from Chicago, which is doing really well. They are really growing and getting the word out. I've really been digging that and getting involved in that.
I saw the overly promoted and heavy handed Gotye show at the Aragon. I wasn't really blown away by it. I thought it was too much, too fast, and too big of a room. Everybody was just there for that one song, and he played it, and half the people left. I did see the Noah Gallagher show just before that which was great. Small show, all about the music. There is a lot of great music passing through town, and I love it.
How did the Lovehammers start?
We had a half day of school and the drummer Bob was telling me how he got a new drumset and I said, "I just got a guitar," so he said, "We have a half day of school, let's jam. Bring your guitar and amp over." So I brought 'em over, and then Bob's brother Dino said, "I wanna play too," so he bought a bass the next day, and then Bob took out a marker and wrote "The Swinging Lovehammers" on a sheet of paper and he put it on his drum, and from that day, when we were thirteen, we were The Swinging Lovehammers.
The band name you choose when you're thirteen is not necessarily the band name that you want twenty years later.
The necklace is from the Marty Casey Silver Elements Collection
What does the name mean? Where does the name come from?
I think it just came from Bob who has a creative mind. He just came up with it and said it. "Hey, the name is The Swinging Lovehammers," and we were like, "Ok, whatever." So he wrote it on that piece of paper and put it on his bass drum and to this day we still have that piece of paper, believe it or not.
Is it framed or still on the drums?
Definitely not on the drums! It was in a desk drawer and we found it so we made a poster out of it last year at one point, even though we dropped "The Swinging" years ago, but it's still neat to see it as an original poster from so long ago.
Why did you drop "The Swinging"?
It was back in the day when everybody was into the big swing movement, well, we were getting booked as a swing band, and we'd go in and start playing our alternative rock, and people would be like, "You're supposed to be a swing band." And we weren't, so we thought maybe we should drop "The Swinging."
What's your favorite memory from the road?
One of my favorites is right after I came off of Rock Star: INXS and played for 30,000 people in a big outdoor arena here, and the funny thing about it is the band got to experience kind of what I got to experience being on the show, which was such a fun experience, but it was an independent thing. Coming back and seeing them a few days after the show ended and playing that show was like all of our dreams come true, the vision or fairy tale we had when we were thirteen playing Led Zepplin covers in Bob's basement, and to be with them years later and playing in front of 30,000 people who were screaming for us... it was the one and only time we ever felt like the Beatles.
How did you get involved with Rock Star: INXS?
I got an email that said, "try out for this show," and I was at the point with the band that we had been together for a long time, and I thought maybe it was time to get a real job and start a family, and I thought that was maybe my next step. We had done everything we could and we couldn't get anywhere. And I didn't really watch TV, especially reality TV, so I didn't even really consider it. And then the email was sent to me twice, and the second time I was like, "well, yeah I guess, I'll try out." And once I tried out I was addicted to the whole process. Then I thought there couldn't be a better candidate than someone who has done it for so long and has so much stage experience and so much confidence. I thought maybe it would be something great to do, and then maybe if it didn't work, it would be a great way to go out.
What was it like working with Dave Navarro?
He is so sweet! I was a huge Jane's Addiction fan back in the day, and his persona then was so drugged out, mysterious, and dark. Then getting to meet him, he was sober and always smoking a cigarette. He's really a classic cool guy, but also he was so sweet, and concerned, and he would say things like, "how are you handling all this?" It was a lot of pressure on the show and he had a good understanding of that. He was more like a big brother than the cool hipster friend.
How did you get involved with Tracii Guns' incarnation of L.A. Guns?
I was doing songwriting for L.A. Guns, and I had a friend in the band, Jeremy Guns, and he was on tour with the Lovehammers. He got back into touring with L.A. Guns, and then he said, "Why don't you come up to Canada where we are recording this album and help me do a few tunes?" So I did that and then in the course of talking, the singer left, so I jumped in and sang.
What was it like working with the band?
It was fun. Tracii is a veteran touring musician. All he knows how to do is tour. That's his occupation. He just tours, tours, tours, and never stops. There was a really dynamic group of people from age 19 to 40-something, all with this fresh new music we created under the name L.A. Guns, but it was more like a Foo Fighters' record. I think we broke through how they wrote and went more from the grunge alt rock era to a slightly different sound with classic Tracii Guns solos. It was a really cool, fun project. And then we toured around the world playing L.A. Guns songs and the songs we wrote, playing a few Lovehammers song, and playing a few covers. It was great.
What's up next for Lovehammers? Is there a new album in the works?
The new album is completed and being released this summer. It's called "Set Fire."
What can the fans expect from this new album?
Really aggressive, and a lot of high energy stuff. The really aggressive stuff is what our fans get off on, so we kind of took our aggressive songs, and left it at that. It turned out really great. We created a really exciting record. I love the title. I love the energy of the record, and I think the fans are going to really appreciate it. There aren't a lot of bands with our style out right now, so it's nice to get to be that band, and produce music for the aggressive music lover.
What kind of themes does this new album explore?
It's a very personal album for me, a lot about personal demons and opening up your eyes. Instead of running away from the past it's about building on top of it.
What can we expect personally from you in the next year?
I've been working to get the stage show a little more wicked. There's a lot of getting yourself in mental shape for the stage and doing some crazy things and getting your voice in shape and being able to blow people away, and getting your physical self in shape so you seem almost beyond human when someone is watching you under a bunch of crazy lights. Almost like a circus performer. You just try to be sharp in mind, body, and voice so you can make it appear like you're levitating when you're really not. The more circus-like you can make it without being ridiculous I think is just perfection.
We are at the point now where we can spend money on interesting lighting and different backgrounds and building a good stage because it adds so much just making it not an every day experience. For us it's not four or five guys standing around stage looking cool. It's a lot of explosions and color changes and we're really into it because we're trying to blow you out of your mind.