A lot of supergroups come off like they were created in a record label board room or lawyer’s offices. That’s not the case at all with Motor Sister, a band featuring Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian, his wife Pearl Aday, Armored Saint’s Joey Vera, and drummer John Tempesta. The singer and guitarist of the band, Jim Wilson, led the Los Angeles-based band Mother Superior for eight albums before disbanding. For Ian’s 50th birthday, he assembled the other musicians for a jam at his house playing his favorite Mother Superior songs. That led to an album, Ride, being recorded a few weeks later in just two days with producer Jay Ruston. On the eve of their first public performance at Brookyn’s Saint Vitus, the band sat down to talk about how Motor Sister came together.
So what made you decide to take this from a one-off party to a record and more live dates?
Joey Vera: We didn’t necessarily have a reason to go forward, but after we heard it, we said ‘we’ve got to play for as many people as we can.’
Scott Ian: Joey said after the party, after he played, the ‘world needs to know about this’ so we listened to Joey.
JV: This is all my fault. [laughs]
Jim Wilson: You were really drunk too. So it’s pretty good that it was remembered the next day that Joey said that.
JV: Probably the first time I actually went on those words. Usually you say that and you’re trying to remember the next day and you’re like ‘ah, that was just drunk talk.’
Usually it’s something else like ‘we should open a bar!’ or ‘let’s go to Mexico!’
JV: It’s outside things though that made it go even further. Our friend Neil Zlozower, the photographer, talked to someone at Metal Blade after the weekend and yeah, it was all meant to be.
SI: I wasn’t thinking anything past that initial party honestly. I wanted to jam at a house but I didn’t know it was going to actually turn into something more real. All the ways it came together it was for the right reasons. It’s not like we had some master plan. Everyone just got really into what we were doing each step along the way. We went in the studio and made the record, and it sounds exactly the way it should sound. Then people started getting excited about what we did. So it’s just cool, the way it all happened. Us friends just got together for my birthday and got drunk and played a really rad show in the jam room at our house in front of 15 people. It doesn’t really get much more organic than that.
Was there any hesitation behind actually recording an album and making it an official thing?
JW: Not to me. If there was it may been temporary, but after we recorded and heard some stuff back, it pushed it forward. There wasn’t like ‘Oh I don’t know’. The music was powerful enough.
SI: If someone would have come in the picture and said “do you really want to make the record in two days? Why don’t you spend three weeks and track it like a normal album?” then I would have been ‘no absolutely not.’ There’s only one way this should be done and that’s exactly how we did it at our house.
How much rehearsal was there before the initial show and to make the album?
SI: One rehearsal, and we had no rehearsals for the album. Just set up in the studio and started playing. It was only a couple weeks later.
And I guess it’s because you had those songs with you forever.
JW: Well yeah, these guys all did homework too, and everybody brought it together and it’s so exciting to hear it more full with good singing and two guitars. So it’s different but it’s better.
So you put out eight records as Mother Superior?
JW: Actually ten if you count the demo CD that’s all different material than was released anywhere else and then there was a compilation in France with some new songs on it. So I guess eight is a good representation of it.
So this is essentially a re-recorded greatest hits almost.
What went into choosing the songs? Was it just, Scott, your favorite songs?
SI: I picked my 12 but we just kind of sat around.
Pearl: And Joe and Andrew, we went to dinner that night.
SI: Afterwards, I had approached the initial idea with Jim to see if he’d be interested, because we weren’t going to do it without Jim being involved. Then we went out to dinner and I think I had thrown out a bunch of song titles already knowing which ones. A whole bunch I knew I wanted for sure. And then it was ‘what do you think of this one? Or that one?’ It wasn’t much thought going into it. I knew what I wanted to do. What songs I wanted to play.
JW: I think it was a testament to the songs too, that we were able to bring them back to life because it showed that Mother Superior did some good work even though it might not have been as recognized as we wanted at the time. I put a lot of time into the riffs and the lyrics originally so it was nice to know when we got back together to play it just kind of came back.
So Mother Superior has been around for a long time, put out a bunch of records, and for the most part, didn’t really get to that level of success.
JW: Rock stars in Spain. That’s kind of what it seemed like at the end of the run. We have been around for such a long time that whenever we would approach a label or something it was like ‘oh you guys have another record?’ So it works both ways. It’s like when you want to get a credit card but you never had credit and you can’t get a credit card because you don’t have credit. It was kind of the same way with Mother Superior – everything we did people liked it and we somehow kept going but it was frustrating too. It was frustrating for a band to put a record out and it almost seemed like it didn’t come out. We had our hardcore followers and people who were listening and that’s who we did it for. It just was something we had to do inside.
Is there anything you attribute to not getting larger when you were a band or was it just the way the industry was at the time?
JW: Well, it was the way the industry was at the time and there’s also that we were lucky that we got hooked up with Henry Rollins to play as his band. But even though we were writing the songs with Henry as well it was still different because my voice wasn’t in the front. We were obviously trying to write more punk rock stuff for him. Punk, rock and roll or whatever. So I think that we were lucky that we had a few different things playing with Daniel Lanois in the early years, they took the whole band, but we started to sometimes feel like a side band. It seems like it just took a little time for people to realize that we did some good things.
SI: It was sort of like the Motown house band.
JW: I know that was cool for a while too. That was amazing. We had some press in L.A. at the time and somebody said “they’re like a session band now” and I was like ‘ah, that doesn’t even happen anymore.’ So things like that kept us going, but when you’re making a record fast to release in Europe to go to Spain for four weeks and then you get done with that tour and then you come home and go ‘well I guess we got to make another record to go to Spain in a couple months.’ So it was just kind of in a circle.
I mean I guess it worked out because you got enough people to listen and build up a following.
JW: I love Spain. Thank God for Spain.
Is Motor Sister going to play in Spain?
JV: Oh I hope so. They’ll freak out.
And how much did you know that people missed the band?
JW: Well people would say here and there but in my mind the end of the band wasn’t the greatest so I never felt like, ‘Well it’s going to be a long time before anyone gets to hear those songs again.’ It’s a nice surprise for me to be here and tomorrow night we’re going to play these songs for people. It’s very important to be in a band with your friends. I mean, you can be in a band with anybody you want to be but to try to keep that going is hard.
SI: We probably won’t be friends after the show [laughs]
JW: It’s different but it’s similar.
P: It’s changed. It used to be much more hard rock and now it’s more California country kind of stuff.
JW: There’s elements of rock and roll in it, but it’s more based on harmony singing and good songs. The whole band would go to that place and there’s even songs on the Motor Sister album maybe that aren’t as much of bashers. I listen to a lot of different kinds of music so sometimes different kinds of song just come out and with Pearl it’s easy to. She’s a great singer so we just play songs and work on it together and she writes the lyrics for those and I can’t wait for people to hear that stuff too.
SI: I mean you think about the Stones, something Pearl’s brought up a lot over the years, go back through the Stones catalog and they’re obviously blues but also they had their foot in the country door. And if you listen back to some older Stones tracks they, like “Dead Flowers,” it’s way more country than what’s even country music now.
P: Country’s pop now.
SI: That’s kind of the way I look at it as an outsider. It’s all just another branch on the tree of rock music. Whereas Motor Sister, even Pearl’s earlier stuff, is way more rock and roll or hard rock and their new stuff is just a different branch on that same tree.
P: It’s rock and roll.
JW: And in the past when we were a little more rock with Pearl, that was kind of the end of the Mother Superior era too. Playing that stuff with Pearl gave us another outlet to keep that going too.
P: We had a little traction with that too. We opened for Heart at the Gibson Amphitheater. It’s meshing with that sort of stuff. People were liking it.
JW: And Joey was involved with Mother Superior stuff in the past too. He did mixing and some mastering. He’s been part of the family for a long time. So I think that’s why it’s easy to play with him. I mean, we’ve played with him a lot with Pearl and studio stuff.
Everything about this seems really organic.
SI: [producer] Jay Ruston as well.
P: And Joey plays on the new Pearl stuff.
SI: Yeah I mean, Jay’s been working with Pearl. Jay has done Mother Superior stuff in the past. Its all very incestuous, in a good way. We’re the Lannisters of rock and roll! [laughter]
Pearl, are you hoping that this band calls attention to your project?
P: Yeah. I think you can’t help that from happening. If one helps the other then that’s great. They all deserve attention.
JW: And that’s what we were working on before this came up. So it’s not like we put that aside because we don’t like it anymore. It’s going to be back.
SI:And there’s still two more songs to record for the record.
P: Yeah. People are going to love Motor Sister, Mother Superior music as much as we all do they just maybe don’t know it yet. That’s why we’re trying to make it possible for more people to hear it because they’re going to go “I love this! I didn’t even know I needed this.” And that’s what’s maybe going to happen with the Pearl and Jim stuff too. ‘That’s going to turn me onto this and this is really good stuff too. I wouldn’t have known of this if I didn’t know this.’
Are you viewing Motor Sister as a one-off album? Would you do more?
All: Yeah we’ll do more.
Pearl: We’re already talking about it. Jim’s got some ideas for some new originals.
SI: The thing about making records is, I went through this with The Damned Things. We made an album and we actually had a window to tour at the time because all of our bands, whether it was Anthrax, Fall Out Boy, Every Time I Die, we had time off. Whether it was a hiatus or we were working on records. We all had a window of time and, of course, that window at some point closed. But making records is a different story. You can write songs anytime and anywhere. I absolutely want to move forward. For me, in this Motor Sister record, I’m just the dude playing rhythm guitar on a bunch of cover songs that I love. So it would be great to move forward and actually write music as this unit as well and see what kind of rock and roll we can make.
JW: And what’s cool about that too is that we know it has got the goods so it’ll make us work that much harder because you can’t put out a second record of inferior music. So it’s going to be when it’s right.
SI: We have been jamming together for so long, between the four of us in so many different configurations. Jim and I playing together with Pearl or Joey and Anthrax. We’ve been playing together for so many years and in so many different ways. Just hanging out with Jim and his wife Angie, hanging out, having some drinks, and jamming in the living room. We play together a lot. So it only makes sense for this unit to write some songs and make a record at some point. Whether or not we can go on tour for a year, there are the odds for that. No, we can’t, but we can find windows to go play shows. We’ll always be able to do that.
JW: I was just talking to Johnny about it on the drive over. He seems to think that his schedule might be open for the whole rest of the year for doing some recordings.
So you haven’t written original Motor Sister songs yet. Do you think the next record would be some other Mother Superior songs and a few originals?
JW: It’s possible. It depends if we can. We’re already playing one extra song at the show than what’s on the album. It’s one of Scott’s favorites that we missed.
SI: It was actually Pearl. We were actually playing it one day in the house and she said ‘Why didn’t you choose this song?’
How much more touring do you have or how many more shows do you plan on playing?
JW: Right now there’s two after New York. L.A. and San Francisco and then the record will be out and take it from there with everybody’s schedules.
SI: There are a couple windows throughout the year where we can fill with dates in between our day jobs.
And I guess I’ll end by asking about your day jobs, how things are going. Anthrax, I talked to Jay a little bit last week, he said everything’s coming together really well. Do you have anything further to add about it?
SI: I have two more songs, Joey’s in L.A. singing right now and Jay sent two vocal roughs last night so now he’s got three done. It’s amazing when you hear that final piece of the puzzle fitting in because I get so used to hearing the things instrumentally for so long and then I write the lyrics and I get used to hearing it with my crappy voice yelling it in my head and then I get to hear Joey singing it and it’s like ‘wow there it is. It’s a song now.’ It’s pretty amazing. So yeah, it’s going really well.
And that Game of Thrones song, do you know when that mix tape thing is coming out?
SI: Yeah we’re waiting to hear from them. Our experience, other than being a fan of HBO, working with them is that they move a little bit slow. We’re just waiting to here. We have nothing to do with that. We gave a song and they’ll let us know what’s happening and when it’s coming out.
P: Well we have nine songs finished and I think we just decided to add two more that we’re probably going to be recording in March or April. Then it’s just trying to find a home for it.
JW: It’s really cool, it has a lot of different flavors and sounds. Fred Mandel plays keyboard on it. He’s played with Queen, Elton John, Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, he’s so great. There’s steel guitar on it from a guy that used to be in the Bucaroos and we’re trying to get a little serious.
SI: [gesturing to a poster on the wall] Not to be a dick, but in a world where Mumford and Sons can be huge, their record should be huge. And it doesn’t sound like Mumford and Sons. When it comes to their song writing and just making real music, if that can be big in the world, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be.
Well maybe this could serve as a platform because a lot of people probably have known about Pearl but haven’t gotten a chance to hear them. It might make some people give another listen when it comes along. How about Armored Saint?
JV: Yeah. We just wrapped up the new record, mixed by Jay Ruston also. And Pearl sings on a song.
P: It works so well. We all gel together so well and it’s so easy.
JV: It’s great to work with friends that you get along with, that you actually like.
P: The talent pool is very deep.
So when’s that coming out?
JV: That will be out in June. We’re doing some shows with Saxon, we’re doing some shows in New York, Worcester, we might do D.C., Some other shows out West as well in May and then doing some festivals in the summer in Europe.
Ride will be released on March 10th on Metal Blade Records.