What do you get if you take one part New York Dolls, one part Iggy Pop, the grit of a garage band and some old school kick-ass rock and roll mentality? If you mix it right and allow it to marinate, then you are going to get a killer band from LA who go by the name of Prima Donna. What’s that? Did I hear someone say ‘who is that?’ Wow, if you were one of those people then you don’t really know what your musical world has been missing. Please, grab a beer, sit back and relax and allow me to educate you on this band. You and your iPod or MP3 player or stereo or whatever the hell you listen to music on will thank me.
Prima Donna consists of Kevin Preston on lead vocals and guitar, Davis S. Field on drums, Aaron Minton on sax and keyboards, “Lights Out” Levine on bass and Erik Arcane on guitar. The five of them came together back in 2003 and have never looked back. Europe may be a second home for the band as they have toured there probably more than here in the US. They opened for Green Day when they toured overseas and have become pretty buddy buddy with the guys. In fact, they used Green Day’s Jingletown Recorders in Oakland, California to record their newest album Bless This Mess. I talked to the band before their show in Charlotte, NC opening up for Adam Ant and they schooled me on all things Prima Donna.
JP: Hey guys, thanks so much for giving me a few minutes of your time today. I know you have to do your soundcheck and get ready for your show tonight, so we will try and make this as painless as possible.
Kevin Preston/Prima Donna: Hey Johnny, no, thank you for wanting to talk to us man, we really appreciate this opportunity.
JP: With every super hero or, in this case, great band, there is always an origin. How did the five of you come together?
Kevin Preston/Prima Donna: There are a couple of different versions floating around, but the jest of it is that Dave, Aaron and myself were playing in his garage a couple of years ago. We met Eric and Levine through rock and roll shows and all the cool things that we do and here we are now opening up for Adam Ant on this tour. That’s the abridged version of how it happened.
JP: Now, this lineup is the one that recorded the new album Bless This Mess, correct?
Kevin: Yes, this is the golden lineup as I like to call it.
JP: So on that album, you used Green Day’s engineer Chris Dugan to produce it. How different was it to work with him as opposed to what you guys have done in the past?
David Field/Prima Donna: I think the whole experience is different because we were living in the studio while recording as opposed to when we recorded After Hours. It took us a while because we had to do drums one week, bass the next week and then the guitars, so it took a long time. This time, we went in for about three or four weeks and we worked everything out. We stayed in there and focused on just recording.
Kevin: Chris is a vintage equipment expert, so it was one of those situations to where we wanted a specific sound and usually it takes some time to put our heads together to figure out how to make it happen. Now, when it comes to Chris Dugan, you tell him that you want the organ to sound like this or the guitars to have this kind of crunch and he tells you what you need to make it happen. That’s the kind of guy he is and we haven’t worked with anyone quite like him before.
David: The gear and equipment that we had access to was pretty incredible too.
JP: Did Chris push you out of your comfort zone any?
David: Oh yeah, especially on “Broken” and “Tryin”. He masterminded some of the things that we wouldn’t have necessarily thought we were capable of.
Kevin: Those are definitely two songs that, as a producer, he added things to the arrangements.
JP: Little Steven named “Devoted” as his #2 Coolest Song of 2010. How did you guys find out about that and what was your reaction?
David: I think people started emailing us and telling us that they heard us on his Underground Garage show. I don’t think any of us had satellite at that time. Then, somebody sent us a link showing us that we were named Coolest Song of the Week and then a link that we had been nominated for one of the Coolest Songs of 2010. Yeah, it was basically our fans who told us about it all. It was pretty exciting; it was a really cool thing.
Kevin: Little Steven was really hot on that CD and we didn’t believe it at first, but then we started getting those emails from the fans telling us that they heard it on his show. We met him not too long ago and he plays the hell out of both of those albums.
JP: I guess that just goes to show you that even when you don’t think that people are watching you and paying attention that they actually are.
Kevin: Yeah, you’re absolutely right, you just never know.
JP: I had a fan on Twitter who wanted to ask about the tour that you are doing with Adam Ant. They wanted to know what it was like playing in front of a crowd of middle aged women?
“Lights Out” Levine/Prima Donna: I love it and they love us (laughs).
JP: Maybe it should have been called the “Welcome to Cougartown Tour 2013” (laughs). As for another tour that you were on, opening for Green Day must have been a surreal experience for all of you.
Kevin: 1994 was our 1964, they were like the Beatles for us, so getting a call from Green Day to be their opening act for six weeks in Europe and two in Asia was insane. You know, things like that, you’re just not prepared for them. We rose to the occasion although we still have doubts that it actually happened, although there is video to prove that it did.
JP: You guys have actually spent quite a lot of time touring over there haven’t you? How different are shows over there for you as opposed to here in the US?
Kevin: We’ve done five tours in Europe in the last eighteen months. I think the main difference is that live music is their main way to let loose. In the US, you may just stay at home and watch tv, but in Europe they go see live music before anything else. If you can imagine, their energy less is so intense and they’re more passionate somehow.
JP: Do they have the opportunity that we have here to see shows? I mean, depending on your city, you can walk down the street and there’s a club here and a club there and they all have live music.
Kevin: Yeah, we’re spoiled, just like you said (laughs). You open up your weekly and you may have 20 options tonight for live music.
David: I also think that a lot more bands tour Europe and not the US. I think the money is definitely over there, so there are a lot more options as far as bigger bands to see.
JP: You guys do something that I think is really cool and that’s releasing vinyl only music. The seven inch singles that you release have non-album tracks. Will those ever be available for digital download or will they remain vinyl only?
Kevin: We just released a new single called “Like Hell” and it’s just a seven inch vinyl single with two songs. When we do them for vinyl, we really want them to stay on vinyl, so we hope they don’t become available for download. Then again, you never know because the decision may not be ours. We’re all vinyl junkies, so we think it’s really cool. It’s the only format that has increased in sales over the last few years.
JP: Alright, here’s a fun question for you; what are you personal essential items when you are packing for a tour?
“Lights Out”: Bandanas, Old Spice and razors.
David: Boots, jeans and jacket.
Kevin: Yeah, those are pretty good, boots, jeans and jacket.
JP: I know you guys have to do sound check now, so we’ll wrap it up. Any message you want to throw out there for the fans who will hopefully be reading this?
Kevin: Yeah, please go check out the new video for “Sociopath” and our new album Bless This Mess. It’s brand new and the pressing is almost sold out.
David: Make sure to check out our website and stay in touch with us on our Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram and all of that stuff. We love hearing from everybody and we like to see the same faces when we come back and visit some of the same towns.