Outside of the Gateway Cafe, where tables and chairs were still damp from the rain earlier, I spent some time talking with Mike Simmons (bass and backing vocals) and The Bagman (main vocals) of the hard rock/metal cover band, Full Metal Jackett. Not present for the interview were Art (drums) and Kevin (guitar). It was just after their 1st of 3 sets for the evening, which included some old school AC/DC, Alice In Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Motorhead, Godsmack, Guns & Roses, Soundgarden, and many more - All performed with a little more drive and a little more aggression than you're used too. With the music blasting between the sets, this was the quietest spot around. Not the most ideal setting for an interview, however the only distractions were the chilly night air and the occasional patron stepping outside for a smoke.
I 1st met Mike in the early nineties when I was homeless and sleeping on a mutual friend's couch. We stayed up late nights talking about music and his many adventures in the music industry working for some highly recognizable names. We lost touch with each other for many years, but recently connected online and then he showed up at the Agrippa93 show at Cherry Street Station where we met again face to face. I got the invite to his show at the Gateway Cafe and was interested in seeing what he was doing musically these days.
Bob Bagman used to do an internet radio broadcast dedicated to Connecticut metal, but has since moved to OFNR Internet Radio, where he's continued the theme with his show, The Bagmen's Nation of Decimation. He'd play a couple of our songs on a regular basis on air and we did a call in interview with the band as well. Also a regular at Cherry Street, it was at one of our shows that I met him in person for the 1st time.
I'd never been to the Gateway before, and to be honest I didn't even know the place existed until my band was booked there for a show for January. Gateway has a real traditional tavern atmosphere with pool tables, couches, and the bar itself being the central focus of the room. Tucked away in the corner of the room at the top of a short flight of stairs is the stage making it clear that bands are there for the atmosphere, not the focus. This is where Full Metal Jackett performed the fringe collection cover songs that they're known for.
Agrippa: Tell me the genesis of your band. How did you get together?
Mike: Well basically we came together about a year ago.
Bagman: We're just trying to come out with something a different, a little bit newer. We're all seasoned musicians. Mike has played with Ace Frehley on stage, Kevin is from local bands, Spirit Shaker and Society's Children. I'm an original musician, but I do cover bands too. I've had bands on WCCC with Crossed Off and working on some other projects and stuff. Art was working with me on Crossed Off as well. There's at least 20 years a piece in experience playing thousands of shows by now, right?
Mike: Not at all. I actually accidentally came up with the name. I was saying, "We're all rehearsed and we didn't have a band name, so when we do our 1st gig we're gonna go out there and we're gonna fucking rip man. It's gonna be FULL...METAL...JACKET."
Bagman: In your face.
Mike: That's how it became the name.
Bagman: That's why we put the extra "t" at the end.
Mike: So people don't get it confused with the movie, or there was some other group along time ago with that name, but they only had one "t".
Agrippa: You guys are playing cover songs.
Mike: Yes we are.
Agrippa: What are your plans for the future?
Bagman: Our plans for the future are to play as many clubs as we can around here and give people an injection of something new. We are all musicians and we see a lot of the bands that are playing the same stuff. We've purposely decided that our set lists are going to include the OTHER songs rather than the ones that everyone is playing.
Agrippa: The B-sides?
Mike: Yes. the B-sides.
Mike: Some songs bands do a lot because they're staple songs. See, it's like going to the grocery store to buy staple foods. We're not that. We're the encore frozen dish. You know what I mean? We're that other thing in the freezer. A different taste for a different pallet. ya know? I see a lot of cover groups around, I'm not going to say any names or disrespect any bands, but I'm getting tired of seeing these aging hippie dudes with the tie dyed shirts on and their feet like this and they're standing like this [wide stance and air guitar] and they play they're guitars. I'm very tired of them.
Agrippa: They're playing the music, not performing it.
Mike: Right, They're playing and not performing it.
Bagman: And we're tire of seeing bands wearing what they just got out of work with.
Mike: I can't stand that.
Bagman: We're trying to bring the lights, the smoke, the whole show, the whole deal.
Agrippa: There's a lot of bands out there just starting out. What do you have for advice for them?
Bagman: Practice. Aside from this band I support local metal in this state. I'm on a radio station I do (OFNR Internet Radio). I firmly believe to just keep doing what you want to do and keep doing it no matter what anyone tells you, because there's a lot of great bands in this state that need to be heard and seen. They'll get their due if they keep going. There's a lot of drama going around and stuff, so get passed all that. Think about the band - What you guys can do with that. That will get you passed any hurdles at all. Just think about what's important.
Agrippa: I notice you guys are playing some Alice In Chains, AC/DC, and stuff like that. Who are your biggest influences?
Mike: For me Jimi Hendrix started it all. Jimi Hendrix scared me in to saying, "Look, black people could play rock music too." So, I stopped playing sports. I picked up a guitar and said, "This is what I want to do with my life." I like The Doors. I like The Who. A lot of the British bands. I like the Beach Boys and also Megadeth and Sodom. I like bands like Napalm Death and all that. And Jazz.
Agrippa: I bet you guys have an extensive music collection between the two of you.
Bagman: Hell yeah.
Mike: Oh God yes.
Bagman: I could be here all night telling you about that.
Agrippa: If you had to get rid of everything except for 1 album, what would it be?
Mike: For me? Believe it or not, I could get rid of every one of my records...I have 5000 albums...I could get rid of all my albums, but I have to keep Pet Sounds by Beach Boys.
Bagman: I'd have to say Stained Class by Judas Priest.
Agrippa: There's a lot of bands in Connecticut right now. A lot of them are doing the exact same thing. What makes Full Metal Jackett stand out?
Bagman: Well we're trying to bring something different. We got the lights. We got the smoke. We brought the power. We try to bring aggression to what we do, so it's not just another night where theres dead time and quiet in the bar. We basically just want to make the crowd part of the show; a spectacle that they can come and check out.
Mike: Also, we don't play the same songs that a lot of these bands are doing. I've been all over the state of CT. I've seen bands all over. A lot of them play Enter Sandman.
Bagman: You can almost anticipate what the next song is going to be with a lot of cover groups. That's not to say that we're the shit or anything. There's a lot of really great bands out there that play covers and originals. We just want to give people something different that's all.
Agrippa: Who's the jokester in the band?
Bagman: Shit, we're all fucking jokesters
Mike: Well, Artie's out of his mind.
Bagman: and so is Kevin.
Mike: Kevin's a one man act. You could put him on stage with a guitar and send him off. He'll entertain the whole room by himself.
Agrippa: Who's the serious guy?
Mike: I am.
Bagman: He's probably the most serious in the band. I could be that way if I have to, but I kind of just take it slow and enjoy the ride.
Agrippa: Do you guys get nervous before a show?
Mike: I used to. Not any more.
Bagman: I think it all depends on how you plan out the night before, like I didn't tonight.
Agrippa: How do you deal with it?
Bagman: Shit, try not to piss off your girlfriend.
Agrippa: What's the one band that you'd love to open for?
Bagman: Bring Dimebag back and it would be Pantera all the fucking way, man. If i had an original band, or even a cover band that could play somewhere and had the opportunity. I'm the Bagman, basically because Dimebag gave me the name. I was hanging around with the guy a lot whenever he came to CT. It was either the "Bagman" or the "Bagfan" and he thought Bagfan was kind of gay, so...We were drinking a lot. I could never drink as much as those guys do. I didn't even try, but we were pretty shat when we came up with that one.
Mike: Those guys, when they party, they primer themselves up with a pint...each. Band I'd like to open for. Mine's going to be a bit off kilter. If I had any choice to open for any band, I would like to open for the Goo Goo Dolls, actually. I like them.
Agrippa: Strange pick.
Mike: [Laughs] But I like them.
Bagman: We're very much into a lot of different kinds of music. We're not just into metal, even though, Me myself is metal 100%, I like other stuff.
Agrippa: It's good to bring that diversity to the table.
Mike: I even listen to rock bands from Finland. I sorta speak the language, so I kind of understand what they're saying.
Agrippa: There's about 20 venues throughout CT that will book hard rock/metal bands. Which is your favorite to perform at?
Bagman: Toad's Place.
Mike: Toad's Place, yeah.
Bagman: The place is really, really sharp. They've fixed it up a lot. It's a great room if you get a good sound man to run the night. It's awesome. I've been fortunate to play there a few times and it was just fucking awesome.
Agrippa: What's that one piece of equipment you can't live without?
Mike: Well, My bass. I have several different kinds now. I have an Ibanez and I have a Washburn that used to be my brother's. My brother passed away in May, so I have both of his basses. I have one of the 1st Squires ever made at home. Basically, my Washburn.
Bagman: My microphone, a working cord and a guy that can adjust the sound right. You can combine all those together into one. I don't require a lot.
Agrippa: That's all you need. The CT metal scene: You've seen it. You've experienced it. What's you're opinion of it?
Bagman: I'm a supporter, like I've said before. I know a lot of the local bands. I do a radio broadcast and stuff like that to try to get them heard. I think we've got quite a few really great bands in this state. I was able to be a part of a broadcast the other night with the singer from Motograter. He had happened to take out Eyes of the Dead on tour with them for few weeks and I think that's incredible. A band that's an Ozzfest alumni would come to CT instead of NY or MA and take them out. We got a hot bed here, but I think being stuck between NY and MA is kind of hard when we really only have 2 bands that we can boast about coming out of this state: Fates Warning and Hatebreed. That's about it right now, but I think it's going to change. I think it's the next Springfield or whatever.
Agrippa: Thanks a lot guys.
About the author
Agrippa is a the general adviser, internet tech sorcerer, and a reporter for the Metal Cyndicate of Connecticut, as well as the author of his own blog about music and music production, Agrippa: Thought Manifest. He can also be found fronting his own band, Agrippa93, on vocals, synths, sequencers, samples, and piano. Agrippa also has an industrial solo project called, Agrippa's Laboratory. Both projects are produced through his label and studio, Sickle Pation. You can follow him on twitter via @agrippa93, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.