Nothing But Trouble!
TROUBLEMAKER hails from Houston, Texas. They exist for over fifteen years now and shared the stage with many well-known metal acts like ACCEPT, VICIOUS RUMORS, KINGS X and WATCHTOWER. They’ve already got three albums on their name (and are in preparation for a fourth album!), so I think it’s about time to introduce these five Texas metalheads to you. Guitarist/vocalist Kathy James told us all you need to know about these four troublemakers....
Please introduce the band to us and the instruments, that you play.
Kathy James: guitar/vocals
Michelle Passantino: guitar/vocals
Woody Woods: bass/vocals
Darrell Stone: drums
Can you tell us something about the history of the band?
Kathy: “TROUBLEMAKER has been around for a good while now and has always been a really great band. I get on really well with Michelle. The band is definitely my way of ‘release’ and is a creativity pool. I could never imagine life without TROUBLEMAKER in it. Playing music is what keeps me alive.”
Have there been any line up changes over the years? And if yes, please tell us about it.
Kathy: “TROUBLEMAKER has went through several member changes through the years for various reasons. We have had to do what any other band would do in order to keep TROUBLEMAKER in good working order and the creativity flowing. We are a family and you really have to want to be a part of it in order for us to gel. We are lucky with the fact, that any member that has ever been a part of TROUBLEMAKER in the past, is still our closest friend and we stay on great terms with the current lineup. We visit with each other as often as possible. I love them all. They are a part of me.”
Who came up with the name TROUBLEMAKER and why did you choose this name?
Kathy: “TROUBLEMAKER was name that was pinned on me by my grandfather, when I was a young little hellion growing up. It has sort of stuck with me ever since and when we were looking for a band name, it just came up and everyone liked it and wha-la. Speaking in the words of the late great Wendy O. Williams: “So it was done!”.
How would you describe your music?
Kathy: “Our music is hard to define exactly and I have been asked this so many times. We are a very melodic band, but we do have a bluesy side and we also have a hard edge. We really like to power groove on a lot of stuff, too.”
Who are your musical influences?
Kathy: “There are a lot of different musical influences in my life and they stem from one extreme to the other. I was always a huge Randy Rhoads fan, but I was influenced by BLACK SABBATH, OZZY OSBOURNE, DEEP PURPLE, JUDAS PRIEST, WASP, SLAYER, SAMMY HAGAR, Wendy O. Williams, Lemmy (MOTORHEAD), etc. I also have a bluesy side, which has been influenced by such people as JANIS JOPLIN, ZZ TOP, and OTIS REDDING. Pretty diverse, huh?”
How did your first self-titled six track EP sell (’87) and what can you tell us about the songs, that are on it?
Kathy: “The first EP/CD did get welcomed very well here and was received well by the critics. It is one of my favorites as far as mixes go, but then again it was totally analog. This CD still sells very well here in the States, as well as overseas.”
Your second release “How Does It Feel”, an eleven song full-length album, was released in ’91. What can you tell us about that one?
Kathy: “This CD was a real fun to record and I was going through a lot of changes in my life at the time, which really influenced my writing direction, I think. If you really listen to this CD and the lyrics within it, you will hear about a lot of what I was going through at the time. I am a very emotional driven person and as I said before music is my life. Some of these songs will always be so very, very close to my heart. It is hard for me to even express to you just how much so.”
It took you nine years to come up with a follow-up, but in ’00 you released your third album, “Nothing But Trouble”. Why did it take you so long to record this?
Kathy: “Well, that is a long story and I hated the fact, that it did take that long to complete. I guess to make a long story as short as possible, I would have to say because of a combination of personal family problems and also reorganization of the band. These were hard times for me as well. They say, that god will not give you more than he thinks you can handle, but there sure were many times during that era that I was wondering if it were so. I was happy with the CD and I think it has a lot of great songs on it.”
What are (in your opinion) the main differences between “How Does It Feel” and “Nothing But Trouble”? (songs, music style, etc.).
Kathy: “I would say, that “How Does It Feel” was a more rounded and mainstream CD and “Nothing But Trouble” was a much more angry CD. I had went through a difficult divorce and many other things as well and I had a lot of emotions that needed to come out. I guess, I needed to say some things in order to keep my sanity. That was just my way of grieving. I do love both CDs equally, but for different reasons naturally as they are very different to me.”
You did some label shopping for the third album. Did you succeed in any way or why did you decide to release it independently again?
Kathy: “I did shop with some labels. We did not exactly hear what we wanted to hear in negotiations, so in the end we did decide to release the third CD independently. There were a lot of factors that came into play here. You’ve just gotta do what you gotta do.” I noticed that you have been playing with the likes of ACCEPT, VICIOUS RUMORS, LEGS DIAMOND, KINGS X, PAT TRAVERS, LILLIAN AXE, and many, many others. You must have some nice stories to tell about being on the road.
Kathy: “Yes, there are always a lot of road stories to tell. Some are very funny now, but they were not exactly funny then. Then again you always have that horror story or two. We have been most fortunate to have shared the stage with a lot of great bands and musicians alike through the years. We have seen some sights, that is for sure. As far as other stories, well, I would have to tell you those ‘off the record’, because well, they are kind of x-rated.”
Any gigs you have very fond memories about?
Kathy: “I have quite a few, but the ones that stick out the most are the ones where like the guys from LILLIAN AXE, ACCEPT or DANGEROUS TOYS would walk up to me and tell me, that “you just played the shit out of that guitar” or “you just whailed your ass off on those vocals”. They said “they were not expecting that from a chick”! That really did make me feel good. I had put my heart into it.”
Is it easy for you to play live on a regular base or do you only play ocassionally?
Kathy: “I have a home studio, so I am out there several days each week writing and working on new pieces and I gig just as often as I possibly can. Guess I would do that all the time, if I had it my way.”
Where do you get the inspiration from for your lyrics and what are they about? Are they fiction or true told stories?
Kathy: “As I said before, you can read so much about my life in my song lyrics. Yes, they are not always but usually from true stories or true life experiences from within my life or those that are close to me and have in some way affected my life.”
How does a TROUBLEMAKER song come together most of the time? Can we talk about a certain writing formula or do you just start to play until something nice shows up?
Kathy: “I really have no certain formula. Sometimes I write a cool hook and build around it and then again sometimes the hook might be the last part to evolve. I feed off of the percussion side quite a bit also. Sometimes I have the lyrics already arranged and the music is just sort of destined to be a certain way. Sometimes someone else in the group has something and I just feed off that. There are no set rules. You just have to be able to flow with it.”
What can people expect when they come to one of your gigs? Do you use any show elements and do you also play any cover songs? And if yes, which one(s)?
Kathy: “I think when people come to our shows, they can expect us to pull off a great show. We are a little loud at times but hey, we are a rock band! We try to have as much intensity as possible into each show and I usually go into my own little world during a song and try to recapture that feeling that inspired me to write the song to begin with. We do occasionally play covers at our shows depending on the show and we receive requests from those whom have seen us do them and have their favorites. As far as songs, we stretch from PANTERA, SLAYER, RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, and AC/DC to NICKELBACK and JANIS JOPLIN and many more. Quite a variety of songs from various time periods.”
In what way does TROUBLEMAKER differ from all the other metal bands worldwide? In other words: what makes this band so special in your opinion?
Kathy: “Probably the main thing, that would stand out in my mind is that we have two females on guitar on the front line handling all the guitar work and all of the vocals. That alone freaks a lot of people out. TROUBLEMAKER also does have a unique style of music about it and we have a high energy level.”
Do you have any specific goals with TROUBLEMAKER?
Kathy: “My only goal is write music as long as I can and to keep this band together for as long as possible in order to perform the songs live. Hey, hopefully the people will even like it.”
What’s your favorite TROUBLEMAKER tune and why?
Kathy: “I really do not have one favorite TROUBLEMAKER song. The reason is, as I have said before, there are so many that are very close to my heart. They all have a personal meaning to me of some type. Some of them make me cry, some make me drool and some just almost make me orgasm. Some of my favorites are “How Does It Feel”, “Tell Me Tonight”, “Nothing But Trouble”, “After All This Time”, “Bad Sugar” and “Cry For The Night”.”
Have you recorded any new songs lately (for a possible new album) and do they sound any different from your previous stuff?
Kathy: “Yes, we have been writing and recording in preparation for a fourth CD. I think some of the CD will have some different sound to it, but overall I believe it will still sound overall like vintage TROUBLEMAKER.”
What are your future plans with TROUBLEMAKER?
Kathy: “As I said I am really getting excited about recording another CD and I am really hoping that we can keep the same lineup that we currently have. I want to expand myself as much as possible and expose myself to as many styles as possible. I do set in with other bands occasionally for that very purpose.”
Do you think that women in the rock scene are accepted in general or is it still difficult for a woman to prove that she’s a good musician?
Kathy: “I think there will always be a little bit of gap there, but a lot of this depends on the style of music also. I think women have been much more accepted and have done excelled in country, pop, jazz, etc., but the rock/metal scene is a very male dominated genre. I think for the people out there that still want to hear some balls to the wall rock/metal, they may have their doubts when seeing a female onstage. I hope, that one day that will be a thing of the past. But to answer your question, I have to say yes, women have came a long way, baby.”
Do you have any messages for the readers of Metal Maidens?
Kathy: “Please keep up the support for Metal Maidens magazine. This mag does support women in rock and so do I and all of TROUBLEMAKER for that matter. There are a lot of great articles in this magazine and a lot of female musicians, whom would go without notice otherwise. I salute Metal Maidens and all those whom subscribe to it.”
Is there anything you want to add to this interview?
Kathy: “I just want to thank Metal Maidens for your interest in TROUBLEMAKER and thank all of the people out there so very much for all of the support, that they have given us. It really means a lot to us. We will continue to try and help hold the flag for women in rock throughout the world. We are always there to support that. Horns up, people!”
The final words are for you....
Kathy: “Thanks for all of the continued support and remember women can rock, too! See you at the shows. Scream like hell for me!"
Interview by: Rita van Poorten/courtesy of Metal Maidens, December 2004.
S/T ('87 EP; independent)
HOW DOES IT FEEL ('91 CD; independent)
NOTHING BUT TROUBLE ('00 CD; independent)