Well, I've had the chance to hear Last Stone Cast for a few minutes in their most raw form. No crowd and, to tell you the truth no lyrics. It was a jam session I hung out at one night at Crossroads Concert Club in Akron. I must say though that, even though I had no idea what I was listening to, they perked up my ears. I've been around Akron for a few years now and, I'm familiar with who's who pretty much. And, although I might not have known these guys in person before that night, I for sure knew who they were once I saw them on stage. Having a chance to talk with Jon Epstein was pretty cool. He filled me in on his new project in the works with Josh Lipply and Scott McConnell. So, being the curious one that I am and knowing that NorthCoast Rockers can be the ones to say "We introduced them before they were big stars", I had to jump on it. So ... here's a few questions that I asked Jon and, well, here's what he had to say about Last Stone Cast:
Annette: Well, of course, we have to go with the obvious question ... WHO is Last Stone Cast?
Jon: LSC is Scott McConnell, Josh Lipply and Jon Epstein. How the hell do you answer that? "I yam what I yam nyuk nyuk nyuk." ... "We are our brothers keepers." ... "We represent the lollipop guild."
Jon Epstein - Bass
Annette: The three of you; Josh, Scott and yourself are no strangers to the Akron/Cleveland music scene. We, as well as others are going to want to know, what brought about this band?
Jon: Josh and I have been jamming together for going on a year now at the Crossroads where Josh has become the house drummer, more or less, since heís ALWAYS there for jam nite, as was Scott who knows more cover tunes than anyone Iíve ever met. Josh and I had been talking about putting together a band for about the past 6 months, but both of us had other commitments; him to Meltdown, and me to Fast Chester, made it almost impossible for us to find the time to do anything together. Eventually, circumstances on both of our previous bands lead us to believe that it was time to make a change and begin working on a new project together. We spent about two months looking for a guitar player until eventually what should have been obvious - that Scott was the guy for the job - became totally obvious and the three of us started working and writing together. We auditioned a number of vocalists, and second guitarists, until we settled on just the three of us.
Josh, Scott and Jon - Last Stone Cast
Annette: Fast Chester, you were in that band for quite a while. Is there a reason it was time to go?
Jon: The time I spent in Fast Chester was extraordinary. Angelo (Incorvia, the bands superb guitarist) was beyond a doubt the most proficient guitarist Iíd ever worked with. I learned more from him the five years I played with him than I probably ever had before. His level of virtuosity is what eventually lead to my leaving the band. Ang had a very clear vision of where he wanted to go musically, and it was a vision that I simply didnít share. He was moving towards a more technical speed metal kind of thing at the same time that I wanted to simplify and write more accessible music. At the end of the day those two points of view turned out to be incompatible and I decided that it was time for me to move on and find a new group of musicians that shared a similar aesthetic.
Annette: Is there a particular reason you wanted to stick to a three-piece?
Jon: Yeah. A couple of reasons. First, I have ALWAYS been in the three piece. To me it is the purest and most fundamental type of rock band. Guitar, bass, drums. Stripped down to the basics, I guess. I really hate keyboards in a hard rock context, so that has always been out as well. Second, a three piece actually requires more work, effort, and planning since there is no where to hide! And last, a three piece band is a democracy. There can never be a tie, but two against one isnít fair either. Our basic rule of thumb is that if all of us donít agree on something, we donít do it. The only exception is when one of us feels really strongly about something. In that case we defer out of respect. For example the other day, Scott and Josh were trying to get me to learn a Twisted Sister song. Thereís no fucking way thatís ever going to happen. Iíd prefer a bullet to the head before I play that.
Scott McConnell - Vocals, Guitar
Annette: Is this project something that the three of you wanted to do for some time now or did you just get together one day and say, "Hey! Let's start a new band!"? (gee, didn't I already kind of ask that already??? lol)
Jon: Well, like I said earlier, (told you I already asked this one!!) Josh and I have been working together for a while now. I actually tried to get him into Fast Chester for a while. We had wanted to work together full time for months. Last Stone Cast gives us that opportunity. I think I can safely say that all three of us are both surprised and excited about just how good what we are doing is. Itís damn close to magic. Of course that might be the drugs talking.
Annette: Who's doing the writing? Is it a group effort?
Jon: Itís definitely a group effort. For this first batch of songs we have been working primarily with Scottís music, since it is obviously what he is most comfortable with. We write as a team though. Scott brings an idea for a guitar part, I might have some lyrics or a riff Iíve been messing with, and Josh is just constantly bursting with idea. We also do a ďround robinĒ kind of lyric writing thing where someone will come up with a line or idea and then the three of us sit there spitting out ideas, most of them pretty fucking bad, until we arrive at the basic lyrical structure of the song. It then is up to Scott to finalize it, since heís the one who has to sing it at the end of the day.
Annette: Of course, you knew we'd ask you to tell us about the inspiration and influence behind the music from LSC.
Jon: Thatís the hardest question in the world. All three of us have such broad tastes in music, and the influences come from the strangest places sometimes. We know when we started that we wanted to play hard rock with a southern rock kind of vibe that would appeal to chicks. We like girls. Theyíre our favorite gender. Scotts playing in strongly rooted in the eighties and nineties, hence the florescent yellow Ibanez with the Floyd Rose. My bass playing is strongly influenced by more melodic players like Paul McCartney, John Entwhistle, Phil Lynott, Pete Trewavas (Marillion), and Geddy Lee. Josh is just phenomenal. Heís one of the best drummers Iíve ever played with, and heís no slouch on guitar either -finger picks country stuff that just confuses the hell out of me- I even answering this question? I guess that we sound like everybody and nobody. As long as butts are shaking, weíre cool.
Josh Lipply - Drums, Percussion
Annette: You're all pretty busy. Scott from Ripcored and Josh from Meltdown, and you being the busy owner of Crossroads. Will you all be able to do the Last Stone Cast thing and still maintain your other band/club obligations?
Jon: Absolutely. It's a absolute pleasure working with these guys. Ripcored has been around forever, and pretty much have their thing sorted out. Meltdown is no longer together (actually Josh and Scott were 2/3 of meltdown). Can I maintain? Of course. I live for this shit. The Crossroads has an excellent staff, and we all work really well together. Since all of us are musicians, there's a lot of support. For example, the guys from God, Guns and Glory are covering the bar Friday while I'm at the Hi-Fi, and Saturday I'm covering on Saturday while they play their gig in Wooster.
Annette: How about you? What other "projects" have you guys been involved in? Give us the short bio's of each member.
Jon: I've been in a number of projects over the years, most of them not even worth talking about. There were a couple that stood out, though. I was the guitarist for the North Carolina band Haymarket Riot for most of the 80s and 90s. We did pretty well. We actually had a top 10 single in Germany, and our short film/video "Machine" ended up being shown at indy film festivals all over the world and ended up on MTV's, Out From the Underground. I was also the guitarist for the blues band, Code Blue here in NE Ohio for awhile. I think they're still around. Their blues harp player, Rick meineke, is amazing.
Scott and Josh were in Meltdown together, and Scott was in Avitar as well. He had a song on the Akron Metal Meltdown Cd with Ripcored. Josh has been involved in a number of different things as well. He's an extremely well-rounded drummer. I think he even did a Country thing for awhile.
Annette: No funny "on the road stories" yet, huh?
Jon: Not yet. We're working on it, though.
Annette: Here's a quote from the LSC myspace page: "The band was formed with the purpose of giving the three individual members an opportunity to write and perform the music that they wanted to play, without having to be whores to trends and fashion." ... Can you explain that? Do you really feel as if bands today in the local scene are being "whores to trends and fashion."??
Jon: Some of them DEFINTELY are. No names, so donít ask! Thatís their thing, not mine, which I guess is the point, right? I think that many younger bands get caught up in what they are suppose to LOOK like, and fall into a very narrow window of influences musically. For us, at the end of the day, itís about the music, not about what we look like. The other day I was listening to the album Champagne Jam by the Atlanta Rhythm Section. Man! They were tight as hell. Have you ever seen their bass player? Wow! But who the hell cares cuz that boy can PLAY man. He had the stuff, man.
Annette: Tell us about the CD that's in the works?
Jon: We have a CD in the works. Weíve done some tracking at our studio but are thinking about possible going to the Lava Room or with Curran Murphy to finish it simply because when you record at home youíre HOME, ya know? Itís too easy to wander off and start watching TV, or doing dishes or something. Going to an outside facility makes it WORK, and makes the recording a PROJECT, which seems to motivate the three of us.
Annette: With all of you being from other bands, do you feel that LSC will be accepted well on the current music scene?
Jon: Well, I sure hope so. We think weíre really onto something here, and I havenít been this happy to go to rehearsal in a long time. One of the benefits of moving away from the more virtuoso stuff I was doing with Fast Chester is that I am now much freerer (is that even a word?) to move around on stage and actually enjoy myself. Hopefully itís contagious.
Annette: What are your thoughts about the local music market today? What can we be out there doing to revive the local music scene?
Jon: I think that the Cleveland scene has been almost totally destroyed by money grubbing weasels masquerading as ďpromoters.Ē I guess they think that ďpromoteĒ means ďmake people sell tickets, take their money, and force them to play empty rooms because you didnít actually promote anything at all.Ē The shame of it is that this really screws it up for everyone, but especially the bands. There are a couple of local promoters who really work hard and do an outstanding job. Those are the people that I tend to work with. I wonít sell tickets for a promoter, period. Iím not a fucking Ticketmaster outlet, Iím a bass player. Akron hasnít gotten that bad yet, and hopefully it wonít. Actually, in my experience the Akron scene is much less fragmented than Cleveland.
Annette: Who do you see your fans being? What listening market do hope to capture with LSC?
Jon: I vote for hot chicks! I think we will appeal to hard rock and southern rock fans of all types. Our songs tend to deal with themes that everyone can relate to - falling in and out of love mostly, followed by dealing with relationships, drinking too much - you know, stuff like that. I mean itís a ROCK band, ya know?
WOW!! There's a LOT going on with Last Stone Cast!! You will not want to miss out!!! So, here are some live dates!!! Check 'em out!!!