Blues-based, classic-rooted rock ‘n roll is timeless. And the present musical climate is especially good news for a band like Bad Attitude, whose sound is current while being firmly rooted in the pervading influences of rock through the decades. And with a recording contract in hand from Toronto-based, EMI-affiliated a-ttack Records and Filmworks and debut album Riddles in the Dark set for release this fall, these Jersey rockers may be on their way.
The line-up of Jamie Heath (vocals), Mike Leonard (guitar), Rich Wittek (guitar), Pat McFadden (bass), and Tom Corea (drums) is a lean, mean, rockin’ machine, riding a balancing act between finesse and raw power.
The story of Rahway, New Jersey’s prodigal sons goes way back. Says Jamie, "(Rich and I) have known each other since ’71. In ’83, he came over to my house with a guitar and made me buy one." And a path was started.
Rich recalls, "I still remember the first time we met Mike. I thought, ‘Hey, this guy can play.’"
"I knew two chords," quips Mike.
"We met the kid (Mike) at a party," Jamie adds. "He was fresh outta high school."
After the group formed, Jamie continues, "Our first gig was a wedding."
"We had 10 songs," notes Mike.
Rich continues the explanation of the band’s assembly: "We met Pat because we had a real musician’s musician for a bass player -- we had him for a couple months..."
"(Pat) joined the crew in ’90/’91," notes Jamie. "Our bass player quit, and I walked up to him and asked him to join."
As for the exploding drummer situation (a la Spinal Tap), Jamie says Bad Attitude’s had fifteen of ‘em.
But, Rich notes, "Tommy’s been with us a long time. He really stabilized the drum situation."
Also, says Rich, "We had a keyboard player for about a year. Can you guess how that ended?" (As is the case with many early Bad Attitude stories, it involved a fight.)
And through the years, Bad Attitude rocked all over the area, building a solid fan base in Rahway and around New Jersey. But how did the extensive preparation lead to a record deal? What turned the corner?
"The PMC," says Jamie, referring to the November 1996 Philadelphia Music Conference.
"(Half of Bad Attitude’s management/booking team) Mike (LaFalce) wanted us to go two years before," adds Mike (Leonard).
"We produced our own first album, and we went through DiscMakers," says Jamie, providing more details, "and they hosted the PMC, so we finally decided to do it, and we met you. (That’d be me, yours truly, the interviewer.)"
The exact setting was a daytime showcase in a conference room at the hotel where the PMC was being held. I had met the band that day in the hotel between conference events and made an effort to catch their set; I was one of only about a half dozen people there.
"I don’t need to tell you," adds Rich, referring to the small attendance at Bad Attitude’s showcase, "we left there and thought ‘What a waste.’"
Jamie continues, "Then we had two reviews in the Renegade (one review of the showcase and another of a demo tape in two separate Industry Editions). And you did that article (an interview in the November 1997 Industry Edition), and Mark Berry (of a-ttack Records) called us about two weeks before Christmas after seeing the article, and (the other half of B.A.’s management/booking team) Pat Desmond called me and said there’s a guy interested in Canada."
Says Jamie, "It was a joint venture contract. We sat on it for two and a half months. Then (one of the band’s fans) went to all our fans and raised money for us. And a lot of ‘em don’t want their money back; they want shares in the corporation." The advantage of Bad Attitude’s deal over more common deals, in their eyes, is that by sharing the risk, they also get a much larger share of the profits than is provided by the typical record deal.
"One major thing we’re looking for in this deal is the distribution outlets (that a-ttack has)," explains Pat.
Jamie interrupts, "We could’ve been signed six times over..."
"...but no one else had the distribution outlets," Pat finishes.
"So we left that Sunday, April 26th," Jamie recalls. "We drove to Canada with all the equipment."
"When we were at the border," adds Pat, "they let the twenty cars ahead of us through and stopped us."
But, Jamie continues, "We get to Phase One (the recording studio), and this is like a palace."
Says Jamie of the band’s label guy/producer, "The first thing Mark Berry got credit for was Carly Simon’s ‘You’re So Vain.’ He’s got 23 platinum records to his credit."
Bad Attitude hopes its album adds to Mark’s platinum totals.
Says Jamie of getting the band's tunes heard, "You get emotional attachment to the original songs -- especially when people dig ‘em."
"The reason we stay together is the three of us are really good friends," laughs Rich, referring to the original trio of himself, Jamie, and Mike, "‘cause it ain’t the money. And it ain’t the women -- we’re all married."
As for the band’s future together, Mike quips, "If this doesn’t make it, we’re in debt -- we’ve got to play for two or three years just to pay everyone back."
As I speak with Bad Attitude in late August, the band is on its way back to Canada "to do some minor touch-ups," says Rich.
"We’re still looking at a September 15th release date," adds Jamie. "Canada first, then to Page EMI in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Then to the Pacific Rim, with some crossover into border markets in the northern U.S. Limited distribution here (in Jersey, though the CD is available directly from Bad Attitude -- e-mail BAJAMIE@aol.com for more information). We’re counting on distribution trickling down from the border markets.
In closing Pat sums up the strength of the band in one word, "Garlic," then reconsiders, "You can get a lot of talented players, a lot of good writers, put together a great band, but the strength of this band is that everyone has his heart in the project."
If heart counts for anything, Bad Attitude will be multi-platinum in weeks.