Calif. -- The
Unforgiven were a country/rock band made up of six members from
the inland empire area of southern California. They had a two-record
deal with Elektra Records and existed from 1985 to 1988. Band
members include Steve Jones on lead vocals and guitar while Johnny
Hickman does guitar and vocals, Mike Jones on guitar and vocals,
Jay Lansford on guitar and vocals, Larry Lee Lerma on bass and
vocals and Alan Waddington on drums and vocals. The Unforgiven
are getting back together for one show only -- April 29 -- at
band actually started recording as The Choir Boys," said
Steve Jones, who uses the stagename John Henry Jones. "Then,
when our image developed the way it was there was another band
in Australia called The Choir Boys. We started looking for names.
Essentially, we got a big book of western movies and we went down
the list. We considered The Professionals, The Wild
Bunch and at one point we considered Once Upon A Time
in the West, very lame I'm so glad that didn't go. When we
hit on The Unforgiven, which was a film I was very familiar
with, I saw it as a kid. My dad had a lot of cherokee blood in
him. That film, which was a John Huston film, really dealt with
racial intolerance. Not only did it have a great ring to it, The
Unforgiven, it also spoke to me on a heart level from the time
I was really young. We all just sort of looked at each other and
that was it."
you guys get started in the music business back in the 1980's?
and I started in the punk rock world when we were very young--we
were teenagers," the lead vocalist explained. "I played
in a few bands and eventually formed a band called The Stepmothers.
Although Jay didn't start that band with me. He was in a band
called The Simple Tones. We played together at the Hong Kong Cafe
in L.A., which is a big punk-rock club and really appreciated
each others bands and liked each other personally. Eventually,
we joined forces at The Stepmothers and we recorded that record
added: "I had met Steve and seen The Stepmothers when we
were playing together. I read about them in flash magazines and
everything. He gave me a cassette tape and was kind of persistent.
Come on Jay, we've got to do something. We were trying to do some
Judas Priest-AC/DC type of music. He was persistent and said,
'Come on down and let's play a gig with The Stepmothers in San
Diego, travel with the band.' I got in and I liked it. Ironically,
we started to develop a little bit of a Spaghetti Western look
and a little bit of this Spaghetti Western sound. We focused not
only on Hollywood, but also on the inland empire with doing gigs
and meeting fans. When our paths split and I left the band in
1981, Steve just forged on with it and developed this Unforgiven
that point, I formed this new band The Unforgiven with all new
people," Jones continued. "I never played with anybody
in that band before--all inland empire guys. The Unforgiven became
the toast of the town for a couple of years. It's still the biggest
bidding war of all time. Jay was watching it from outside the
band before he came into the band."
added: "You guys were great. You destroyed every audience.
Every guy in every band was immediately jealous and said look
at them with their so many guitar players. Why do they have so
many? Look at that image and oh, my goodness. Man, look at all
of those chicks and that full house. Geese, they're kicking ass
every night. Yeah, I was envious and proud. The second time he
asked, I didn't say no."
some of the bands that The Unforgiven sounds like?
like Lynyrd Skynyrd a little bit," the guitarist and vocalist
and I definitely drift into The Outlaws," Jones replied.
"I think that there's a lot of Americana in The Unforgiven.
Although there's a very heavy aspect to the band, we drift into
very Bad Company-style playing. There's also a '80s Springsteen
thing in there, an 80's Tom Petty thing in there. All of that
drift into what we do and also the country stuff. Not only were
we influenced by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings and Johnny
Cash, the irony is for a bunch of punk rockers from Los Angeles,
we ended up playing with Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash and Kris
Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings, which was a thrill beyond what
you can imagine."
festival will be The Unforgiven's first performance in 25 years.
Unforgiven songs have always kind of remained with us," Lansford
said. "Steve and I had met intermittently over the years
and we'd always kind of sit around. When I sit around in Germany
with my buddies, eventually I end up playing these songs. I was
thinking one day it's going to happen again. I think it was more
like the Stagecoach festival gave me the opportunity and that
was the final kick. Once there was an opportunity there, we said
we must seize this and go there and have a blast."
added: "I've got to say it has been healing for us to get
together at this age and do something that we were actually doing.
A lot of what country music has become is actually a cross between
country music and arena rock. That's really what it has become.
We didn't necessarily sound like Kenny Chesney or Tim McGraw.
There were a lot of elements of that we were doing five or six
years before that really happened in Nashville. In a way it's
a full circle thing. For as heavy of a band as we were, we were
also a band that could play with Willie Nelson and the next day
play with Mötley Crüe. That's happened."
give me a preview of what the fans can expect to see at the show
on April 29?
lot of guitars -- three guitar players maybe a couple of special
guests that will come up there with us," the guitarist and
vocalist answered. "A lot of sing-a-long vocals, a lot of
great songs. Some danceable rock music, some great storytelling
and some great lyrics and a good time."
you guys are reuniting for this special show, what are the chances
of a new record?
remains to be seen," the lead vocalist responded. "We're
solely focused on surviving this gig first. If that goes well,
we'll see what else can maybe happen. We have been writing new
songs. We will be playing new songs. Who knows? I don't think
anybody is looking beyond this gig. This reunion was put together
by Paul Tollet, a great guy who has become another inland empire
guy done good. We're focused on doing the very best job we can
for the Stagecoach festival. If anything happens after that, we'll
see. No predictions at this point."
more information about The Unforgiven, visit their official website
alternative group Bears Eat Me attacks SoCal music scene
credit: Stagecoach Festival
more information about Stagecoach: California's Country Music
Festival, visit www.stagecoachfestival.com.