Flotsom & Jetsam
Home base: Arizona
Lineup: Ed Carlson, guitar; Mike Gilbert, guitar; Eric A.K., vocals; Kelly Smith, drums; Jason Ward, bass/keyboards
Label: MCA Records
Album: Drift
Producer: Neil Kernon

Q&A with Ed Carlson

SR: Hello! Ed where are you calling from?
EC: I'm at home in Phoenix getting ready to leave on Saturday to join up with Megadeth, Fear Factory and Korn for tour that kicks of July 12 in New York.

SR: I guess you're really happy about this one.
EC: Oh, yes I'm really looking forward to this one.

SR: When did you know that music was your path?
EC: I was about 15, a freshman in high school. All my life up until then I was playing baseball and was damn good at it. I had no intentions of playing guitar or having long hair. I hurt my back really bad right before the season started and had to set out. I couldn't walk and pretty much had to quit the team. At the same time I met a friend who had drum set and I had always thought I'd enjoy playing them. Beat up the drums and get out your pent up agressions. My friend was good on the drums and suggested that I pick up a guitar so we could jam. Then another friend shows me his KISS Alive album. Whoa. Who are these guys? He plays it and I had never heard anything like it before. I knew of KISS before but it was the whole crowd thing and power they had. That was it for me. Fifteen years later and we're talking on the phone about my band.

SR: I just got the new Gavin and you're at #5 on the hard rock chart and #5 in requests. Up there with Monster Magnet, Fight, White Zombie and Fear Factory.
EC: Wow! That's pretty good news. I'd say it beats out the Cuatro album this early on. The new record is only two months old. I'll take it.

SR: Do you like to know where you stand?
EC: Well, I like to know how we're doing and then sometimes I just like to stay at the music level and remember why I'm doing all this. I really love to play guitar, but you know it's always great to know we're doing well. It's my main goal and sometimes I just don't care about the business end of it.

SR: Critics are saying this is the one that'll launch you in the mainstream but then I thought Cuatro would do it for you.
EC: Let's hope so. Cuatro could've but we had dug ourselves into a pretty deep hole with the record label on the album before, When The Storm Comes Down, and Cuatro really got us out of that hole into being able to see above ground. The regression we made-made up for that otherwise it would have done a lot better.

SR: Cuatro was the tone setting record.
EC: Definitely. It set us up completely for this one and we made sure we didn't mess around. We got right off tour and we wrote for three and one half months then got into the studio. We got it goin'. We didn't want to lose the momentum what so ever.

SR: Do you all write together?
EC: Yeah, there's the whole band and then Eric Braverman our manager. We're like a machine now, it's kind of scary how well everthing goes. We wrote this whole this whole record in about four months and it took almost seven months to record and mix. That's definitely a first for us. Usually it takes a year to write the record and three months to record it all. The band is more solid as a unit now. We finally filled the bass player gap a couple of years back. We finally got over the bass problems.

SR: This should be a unit of players that go on for quite some time.
EC: We're having a lot of fun. Everyone's head is clear and focused. It's a lot easier to do that now because the band running like a band. None of us have any ideas in the back of our head that we're going on the road and our bass player is tripped out or he leaves.

SR: You guys have been dealing with the D-hell. divorce, death, deceit, damn bad timing, difficult business decisions and bad emotions. How did you keep it going?
EC: Yep. (pause) The bass player stablization was the start of the comeback. Always for me, when I hit low or bottom I actually get inspired because there's no where to go but UP. For some crazy reason that always seems to stick in my head and it keeps me going. I'm sure it's true for the rest of the guys too. We've had a lot of crap handed to us and I guess we're just pretty tough.

SR: The first cut , "Me" with those double guitars gives us an idea of what's in store. That's certainly become a trademark for you and Mark.
EC: Right. It's Mike and me and we're so completely 360 different personality-wise, playing wise. One of my greatest friends except we're two totally different people and it comes out in the guitar. When we play as two we definitely play as one. It's kinda cool just us being so wacked out from each other with our different styles. We really compliment each other.

SR: Your tunes go from 3:17 to 6:08 in time. Was there a conscious effort made to keep them shorter? Or did they just fall that way?
EC: No, it was probably more conscious than just falling that way. In the past our songs have been long. Six minutes eight seconds would have been a short one. I think we just got the point across. We didn't have to repeat as much stuff as we used to or throw in parts that really have a place. We said what it was going to say and that was it. It's easier to keep people's attention span when it's a bit shorter. You hook them right away and leave them wanting more.

SR: Who's voice is that on "Empty Air?"
EC: The whisper in the back is Eric just using another voice. He plays a lot of people on the album. It's really cool.

SR: "Pick A Window" stands out as one of my favorites.
EC: It's actually funny. The first European tour we did was with Megadeth. We were sharing a bus with their crew and the saying from this Irish crew guy was 'pick a window cause now you're leaving, can your mother sew and then you butt heads and then you tell her to 'stitch this.' That phrase has never left our vocabulary since 1988.

SR: Now you're back with those Megadeth boys in 1995. What fun!
EC: That little saying just came up in some of the problems that were drifting through the band in the last year. Whoa. It was blatently obvious. These are all sayings that they used over there. I was quite happy to have them tell me about them and not show them to me.

SR: On "Missing" and "Blindside" we have Jason Ward playing keys for the first time. I think it gives your some cosmic values here.
EC: He didn't want to get too crazy with it. He's a bass player. The whole "MIssing" and outro with that piano and guitar thing is all for his brother, Jeff, who just recently died. He had to do it. I'm glad you enjoy that and say oh, keyboards, whimps. I don't care if people think that. We're all musicians and that piece is a deep and special part for us.

SR: I thought you might have even taken the name of the album from the special piece written for Jeff on the album cover.
EC: It kinda fits that whole drift thing which has been Flotsam & Jetsam's theme. We're trying to keep rockin'.

SR: You guys are past the purge. You've been able to remain truly rock and roll with a surge of power that's being accepted by the hardcore fans.
EC: Yeah, that's true. Those kind of fans like what they like and it's really cool to please that stubborn/fickle listener. On our first couple of records we were pretty out and out thrash/speed metal -whatever your call it. I don't like to get into all the categories, but that's what they were. A lot of those fans don't like for you to slow down or start using acoustic. We must be doing something right.

SR: "Destructive Signs" is another favorite of mine.
EC: That was the one song I wrote for this record that took off. It helped me out a lot just writing it down. I wrote on paper what I was living and realized then what was going on. I couldn't do it with my own head even though it was all in there. It's pretty neat.

SR: What about "Smoked Out?" What's all that talking in front about service?
EC: You're going to love this. We were in the studio recording and it was near the end. We were messing around with sounds and machines, just having fun. We put together that noise and then Eric picked up the telephone book and began reading the front cover that was all about termination of service paragraph. On the inside it says how they'll disconnect your phone and weird stuff like that. He reads it in his kooky announcer voice. It's one of those crazy things that just fell together. "Notice Of Termination" was the name of that little part even though we didn't list it on the CD. It goes right into 'Smoked Out' which is pretty much the harshest song. It's like we know what's going on and you're done. It was really wicked how that all happened that day.

SR: I don't think I would have ever come up with Neil Kernon as a producer for you.
EC: The reason Neil is working with us is that he's happening. The reason we picked him was because of his background. He's worked with every possible style and artist from Queen to the Sex Pistols to David Bowie to Hall & Oates to us. Now he's working on a new Skrew record.

SR: What I remember him for was his pop stuff.
EC: He did that. We saw his resume and at the time we were talking to Mark Dodson and Terry Date. They're both good producers and make their bands sound like their own trademarks. We didn't want to be chunked up with any other band. We taked to eight or nine producers before we talked to Neil. We talked to him two minutes on the phone and we knew he was the one. We thought Neil could bring the versatality in the production end of it to how we are musically. It actually worked out for the best for us. He was the missing link.

SR: You give Eric Braverman sixth member status in your band and he's now managing you plus some writing. What does he bring to the table?
EC: Eric is the thread in the fabric. He keeps everything running smoothly for us. He's the gate keeper. The man. He gives us pep talks and kicks our ass when needed.

SR: This will be your first tour with the new album.
EC: We haven't been out. We did some warm-up dates in California but that was all. We'll go out on Saturday and do shows on our own all the way to New York where we hook up Megadeth on July 11. We couldn't be happier. I listen to Fear all the time. This will the biggest tour we've had. Right after this one we're supposed to be doing a full Canadian tour. We'll either come back here and headline our own shows and then Japan or vice versa. Then we'll be ready to go to Europe again.

SR: Do you have your own ramp on the superhighway?
EC: We're on American Online. The number is on the CD package. Kelly has a lap top and he brings it into practice and we answer all the letters. I've never done an interview for the on line services. It's been press or radio or fanzine.

SR: You're not surprised are you that the computer is taking over?
EC: Not at all. Bring it on. Since we've joined America Online we've gotten more letters and response from our fans than our fan mail in the last year. We answer the letters and it gets real personal on the computer.