Friday, March 9, 2012
"Weakness" by McRad/Chuck Treece
ARTIST: Chuck Treece of McRad
WRITERS: Chuck Treece, John Wagner
ALBUM: Absence of Sanity on Beware Records
SITES: McRad, Chuck Treece
BUY: Absence of Sanity - McRad
This is my very first interview for this new project of mine. I figured there was no better place to start than with an artist for whom I have tremendous admiration and respect, Chuck Treece. Treece is one of the most recognizable faces and voices of the early crew that made skateboarding a worldwide phenomenon. His band McRad's song, "Weakness," was the unofficial anthem of a generation of skaters and fans, appearing in the legendary skate videos that Powell Peralta was producing at the time. One of my musical projects, They Rule, has recently finished recording a cover of this treasured piece of punk rock/hardcore history, adding our own booty-shaking spin on its existing radness. We are honored to have some guitar tracks on our version by the man himself.
Chuck and I did this interview via email, during his last of eight weeks out on the road as the drummer for The Lemonheads. Just when you think he can't get any cooler, he does.
BA: First of all, thanks so much for taking the time to do this. I know you’re a busy man, on all fronts. This is very cool to be able to ask you these questions about your work.
CT: BA, thank you. Without music I would be a bit lost for words. I like poems when I am in the proper mood, but I like music 24/7. Poems come out of great music and that's what "Weakness" is all about. John Wagner co-wrote the lyrics with me. I still believe in a good message and this interview will be about my message back to music. Glad people can pick up on a good message . . . music.
BA: "Weakness" is such a beloved song among your fans, myself included. Do you feel like this song has been a constant presence in your music career, since you released it?
CT: From the first time that I played the guitar riff, I felt like I needed to give this song the best energy I could. I started writing the song in '85 after I moved back from San Francisco. I was in a band called the M-80's. I remember telling the lead singer, "Keith" that I had this song and it was real close to me. I wouldn't play it for anyone. Then I started McRad back up again after the original line-up had went its separate ways. I started getting the songs ready to fit around "Weakness." So, I had all of my dreams in this body of music that was to be Absence of Sanity, and I knew "Weakness" had a pulse. All it needed was the lift. Then comes Stacy Peralta, Beware Records and Ray Stevens. Those three folks had just as much to do with the song being embraced as I did. Every songwriter needs a good team of people to believe in a song's life history. Twenty-eight years later and I still love playing and singing the song - and I am completely blown away that other people still love the song also.
BA: Does it ring true for you today, all these years later, or does it feel like a
time capsule from your past?
CT: Music means positive power to me until I listen to what people have to say. Most say things about music because music doesn't speak to them, so they speak through music, not along with music. I feel that "Weakness" is music first and story second. The world of skateboarding embraced it first, and then the art of video/film making with Stacy Peralta took the song to a whole new level. I will play this song 4-eva.
I still love to play "Weakness" live, and I will always make small changes and add parts to the sections when I am not singing. It's music - and almost a theater approach to music. That way, I change it when I feel like it. Kind of like what we all do to the spoken word. We all create catch phrases to make the art of talking to people more interesting.
BA: The lyrics have a universally relatable message. I think we all apply our own stories to your words. Can I ask you what the original inspiration was – more or less?
CT: John Wagner, the drummer of McRad was into R.E.M. and I was into Hüsker Dü. So, when we collab'ed on "Weakness," we met in the middle. Bob Mould had such a big influence on my songwriting and guitar playing, so any chance to be a bit like Bob, I would go for it. R.E.M. at that time was the new underground pop rock band that all the educated punkers were getting into. I started to listen to R.E.M.'s first LP after John was after me to check them out.
The lyrics in "Weakness" are about young life. That's all we have - young life, until we decide that it's older or boring. My goal is to have "Weakness" be a pure sign of youth. It's an honor to co-write a song with a great musician, drummer and songwriter. John Wagner was completely into the art of songwriting, and I was just into keeping McRad alive after the break-up of the first line-up.
BA: Did it take ten minutes to write, or more like ten hours?
CT: To write "Weakness," in total, took about five hours. That is, to perfect it. The album track is one version live, and the vocals, guitar solo and rhythm guitar were overdubbed. We recorded it in San Francisco. Also, we had been playing the song for about six months before recording it . . . it had to feel right before we recorded it.
BA: The first time I heard the song, I remember your vocals jumping out at me. They had such a soulful, emotional tone that stood out against the structure of the music. I also like that the vocal is doubled. Was that your decision?
CT: Ray Stevens produced the vocals and knew what to do by double-tracking them. When he heard "Weakness," he told me to double-track the vocals which gave it this Ozzy vibe. I did them all the way through and then did some punch-ins on my mistakes or the notes Ray didn't feel were right for the song. It all happened so fast. I knew it and felt the direction of the song while being completely nervous about recording my voice. I made it happen and am thankful for that.
Thanx to Ray Stevens for producing the LP. I still remember listening to the ruff mix and being thankful that I made the right choice to record and write this song for that LP. So priceless . . . the memories of growing and learning through the art of recording.
BA: Who were some of your influences at the time?
CT: Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone, Bad Brains, Hüsker Dü, Blue Öyster Cult, Def Leppard, Ted Nugent, Metallica, Slayer, Artillery, James Taylor, Stevie Wonder, Descendents, The Dickies, 999, Buzzcocks, Void, Dio, Holy Diver and Motörhead.
All I would do was listen to music loud before my mom and the rest of the famz would get home from work. So, I had to crunch as much of my music as I could. Once they came home, I went to sk8 and think about music. Philadelphia is amazing for being and thinking creative. It's so fast and exact. No filler in the overall vibe/vine of Philly musicians, players and writers.
BA: How many different covers have you heard of "Weakness," over the years?
CT: I have heard about ten covers . . . most of them live, and one band recorded more of a metal version.
BA: How do you feel about a “roller-skating” version of your song going out into the world (by my band)?
CT: I like the roller-skating version. I used to go roller-skating when I was kid, and before I started skateboarding. You understand music and I heard that through yer version of "Weakness." I am glad ya did the version you wanted to do. That's what "Weakness" is all about. The first verse of the lyrics describes the entire song:
"My weakness is I can't say no . . ."
In other words, when I am thinking of music, my thoughts were to let my music be what it is inside of me. So, when I talk about it through singing and playing the song, it comes from within. That's the best place for music - within, before you let it out. Once it's out, the story has to be a bit of everyone's dreams. The art of making music . . . we want people to hear it, feel it and love it the way they want to.
BA: What’s your favorite song right this minute?
CT: "Frank Mills" by The Lemonheads. I wanna do a ska version of "Frank Mills." The melody is so nice. Evan Dando is a good one with his music and believes in collaborating with songwriters to create great music. That's what we all want - great collaborations that make great music . . . big stories without all the news or banter that comes along with scenes, and styles of scenes. Music is listened to, regardless of all of that opinionated noise.
BA: Thanks for talking with me, man. And thanks for making great music that we all get to sing along to, at the top of our lungs. It’s a gift.
CT: BA, thank you for loving music the way you want to. At the final sound of what we call life, music always makes the most sense. It's my quest to make sure me and my family understand how important music is for us to survive. The hits and the attention are great, but if we couldn't listen to each other it wouldn't matter. Music makes listening a pleasure. The choice is up to the person involved with music. Thank you.
I would like to thank Stacy Peralta, Thrasher Magazine, Ray Stevens, Tommy G., Ray Barbee, Brian Ware, Deluxe Records, Thunder Trucks, Ace Trucks, Pocket Pistols, Bones Wheels, Nike SB, and all the folks that have listened in for so many years.