Billy Tsounis

Captain Zapped

By Geordie Pleathur
(SugarBuzz Nation)

SugarBuzz Magazine



II understand why some of the confederate-flag waving, devil-horns throwing, cowboy hat wearing, kid-bands saw CIRCUS OF POWER as the godfathers of redneck-punk, having preceded the whole tongue-in-cheek, "lowbrow art", krazy kar kulture influenced, Rev. Horton Heat/Zeke/ Nine Pound Hammer/Supersuckers/Nashville Pussy/Kid Rock hillbilly devil-metal scene by nearly a decade, with their brazen hybrid of Lynard Skynard southern raunch, with retro-regal, hallucinatory, British-blues-influences, and enough cocky, Aerosmith multiple-entendres to make ole Steven Tyler blush, it was like these guys lived at the Morrison Hotel, but they were always too Blue Cheer/Stooges influenced to be a full-on, hillbilly, Allman Brothers tribute, jam-band, like summa these other guys, who came after 'em. They were always too catchy to be a straightup Sabbath-sludge/stoner-rock/doom-punk band. I'd say they were equal parts John Fogerty, Iggy Pop, AC/DC, and the Dictators. So, yeah, I guess I understand how some say they were grunge, before grunge, stoner rock-pre-modern-stoner, and redneck-punk, before there really was such a thing. Man. Wish I woulda been there for some of these kooky anecdotes, and bruising free-fall misadventures, so potently described in Circus Of Power frontman, Alex Mitchell's automythological novel, "WORKING CLASS SUPERSTAR REDUX"-if only, to hear old Showbiz Al singing all the Wings and Morrissey songs. Alex Mitchell is the reckless Steve McQueen, slam-bang, soulman, survivor of the eighties sleaze-metal set. The barbarians are inside the gates, eating your leftover pizza, and doing snakebites on your coffee table, with the full breasted, teenage pillhead, from next door. He's got a head full of majick, and quite an assortment of wild experiences to share with us-this old road-pirate looks at fifty, through a rose colored tint, gratefully, recalling all the highs of being a KISS pinball machine tilting teenager, feeling up all the love beaded and bell bottomed foxes that Florida beaches had to offer in the seventies, and the harrowing, unhealthy, terrifying lows of killing rats to make a desperate-living, in those grinding NY winters, of the "greed is good" Reagan-eighties. A wild and windy ride on the rock'n'roller coaster, from seventies A.M., through seventies punk, and a big belly-flop smack dab in the middle of the Metal Years....Good yarn. It's the passage of time that really puzzles both Mitchell, and myself. In my head, I'm still skinny, in my twenties, and all these old rock heroes of mine are in their thirties, or maybe just forty, right? But in the normaloid-reality, I'm forced to inhabit, against my will, I'm forty, and all those other cats are in their 50's, 60's, 70's, and there's a few, even in their 80's and 90's. Keith Richards released his memoir this week, but it'll be a long while before I probably find a used copy on my budget, he still gets his kicks, at the tender age of 66. Cheetah Chrome is currently on the road, also(!!!) promoting a book, and a new band, THE BATUSIS, with Sylvain Sylvain-they've gotta be pushing sixty, summa these guys....My back hurts, as I write this, I'm having a tough time shaking off this third or fourth bout of mutant-bronchitis. It's raining. My head hurts, fever, Thera-Flu cough syrup tastes horrible. The packets of yellow powder are the way to go. 'Been reading "Working Class Superstar Redux" a couple chapters at a time, for about a week....

It's one of those books you can leave in the can, and pick-up, and start reading anywhere. Lots of laugh out loud passages. Reminds me of Hunter S. Thompson's "Kingdom Of Fear", mixed with "Just For The Record", the autobiography of David Allen Coe....A real laugh riot, actually. Alex has had one of those lives that seem at once, charmed, AND cursed. The novel takes-on a more solemn tone towards the end, as he starts grappling with both morality and mortality, he recalls meeting, and falling in love with, a sexy goth girl who dies in a car-crash the very next day, and struggles with the pain of losing close friends, both human, and canine, as well as the health problems of his Pop, who is an outrageously stubborn, stylish, proud, and funny ole character, in his own right. Ultimately, Mitchell has been blessed with a great family, some eccentric friends, some adoring pets, and while many less talented people wallow in mega-fortunes and the illusory maze of shallow fame, these days, he easily recognizes them as drips, and drags. Cool guy, cool book. Get it. He reminds us all to get it, while we can. Carpe Diem. As Joe Strummer sang, "loving life-that is paradise..." May The Road Rise With You, Alex Mitchell!


"Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds. Pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice, while communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters, looters, rapists, and those who prey on the poorest of the poor, roam free." (---Arundhati Roy)

I really thoroughly enjoyed Fat Nancy, and loved Circus Of Power so much, I puked in their dressing-room when I was nineteen. My blessings, in those daze. CAPTAIN ZAPPED is a whole new can of day-glow green Slime, however. I mean that in a good way. This is heavy space rock, kids. The first song, "Sugarbox", is mellow-yellow, lo-fi, pop-fuzz with a bright, pink bubblegum feel-sortof like a profane Archies, or those more upbeat, old Jim Morrison singles, like, "Hello, I Love You", and "Love Street". "Touch The Sky" is an optimistic, inspirational, jangly, sixties protest-anthem. Think: Standells "Riot On The Sunset Strip" or Arthur Lee's "Maybe The People Would Be The Times Or Between Clark and Hilldale". It even boasts some really mod Aquarian keyboardage. "You can't change the world unless you try!" Ian Astbury never wrote anything this intensely reminiscent of our other favorite Florida boy gone wild on the West Coast, but it's probably due to all those L.A. Blues that Mister Mitchell's been marinating in all these years-the drunkard palm trees and dirty hot-tubs of phantastic El Lay. "Captain Zapped Goes Wild" makes one wish some hipster animation team would pitch this as a theme-song for an actual adult cartoon, on that cable channel. "Hot Rod Girl" is pure gold, easy action-all swanky swagger and T.Rex glam-rawk boogie. Rodney's English Disco strut that reminds you of Suzi Quatro, Slade, and the Sweet. "Ragtime Rita" is dull razored riff metal like you heard on punk labels in the nineties-like, say, Zeke, or the Supersuckers...that opens up on the chorus, releasing all the black butterflies into the marmalade sunset...and suddenly, you've already segued into "New America", a collect call from the Weather Underground, a strawberry alarm clock waking you up from this modern nightmare swirling all around us, where everyone's on Prozac and Kent State has become the new normal, Dick Nixon has had his vengeance on the flower children, through his mutant crony offspring, Rumsfeld and Cheney, big-oil companies rule the world, while honorable whistle-blowers and righteous truth-tellers are slandered in the rightwing press. "New America" finds our heroic acid-heads, and leather-clad bonfire king, chrome pilgrims, climbin' on the back of old Indian metal dragons, and hittin' the highway, in search of long-gone, permanently outlawed, beat-poet thrills. Now that truth is outlawed, only outlaws tell the truth. "New America" fast-forwards through a jumbled-up montage of big-media and government collusion on behalf of covering up B.P.'s toxic oil-spill catastrophe, that was never cleaned-up, only buried; the endless erosion of our civil-rights as guaranteed by the Constitution; the patently-false justifications for murdering millions in needless wars of occupation; the private-prison lobbyists paying knob-suits like Beck and Dobbs to drum-up more racist, anti-immigration hysteria, even though it was irrefutably, these very same corporate whitemen in navy blue suits, who sent all those misguided tea partier's jobs to China; the whore-lawyers undermining the Geneva conventions and legalizing child-torture; the crooked Supreme Courts steady 5-4 rulings on behalf of multinational corporations allowing limitless campaign spending in our already rigged elections; Show-Biz Al wonders whatever became of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Black intelligence-agencies, and billion dollar mercenary contractors raiding peace activist's homes, eavesdropping on every law-abiding, minimum-wage earning, American's e-mails and phone calls; storm-trooper cops cracking skulls and tasering tax-payers for fun and profit. It's a damned, damned shame that more folks don't get to hear songs like Captain Zapped's "New America", because the good, just, and noble, free-wheelin', Easy Rider spirit of resistance lives on, in this dreamy, idealistic call-to-action. The Media-Monopolies really do poison the way we Americans think, with their constant barrage of lies, distortions, and terrible music-all that Brett Michaels/American Idol/Sold-out Hip-Hop bullshite. They TOTALLY segregate the information-flow, ESPECIALLY in the fly-over states, where blue collar dupes are sold a false bill of goods, by billionaires and war criminals. We could all use more light, truth, music, and soul in our lives, and less "Guitar Hero", Wal-Mart shopping, cell-phone babbling, and corporate propaganda.

"Sweet Topanga Blues" stirs up plenty of my own personal memories of my own action-packed stint in L.A., Heck, I remember running into Gary Sunshine (!) on the street, my first day in town, and asking him to play in my sophomoric glam band, such was my ceaseless teenage vainglory, but he went with W.axl, instead, poor guy. Reminds me of Venice Beach, Laurel Canyon, Houdini's mansion, the taco buffet with El Duce, smokin' crack on the sidewalk with the last-call losers of glam-metal, right before the whole shit-house went up in flames, grunge was shoved down our throats, and N.W.A. became the most popular band in Hollywood. "She Is My Everything" is beautiful, neon poetry that totally underscores why we all believed so much in CIRCUS OF POWER. They always meant so much more to us, than the dumb, macho, Sunset Strip cock-rock bands, like Junkyard and Little Caesar, or the phony grunge metal that followed. They were just more sophisticated, more soulful, and creatively, in league with Jane's Addiction, The Nymphs, The Cult, and Warrior Soul. Circus Of Power had so much substance, heart, imagination, and artistic VISION! Brilliant musicians, really, even while singing about backseat mamas and turnin' up the jams, goddamn, you always knew they meant it, man! People move on, all things must pass, etc., etc., but CAPTAIN ZAPPED sounds both vintage, and futuristic, proving that sacred life can, indeed, live again. The Good Times Are Comin' Back, Good People...(If You Want It)! Circus Of Power Is Dead/Long Live Circus Of Power! CAPTAIN ZAPPED are the next thing. Beyond the beyond.

Alex Mitchell's more-recent collaborator, in CAPTAIN ZAPPED, Fat Nancy, etc., Billy Tsounis, is an insanely creative guitar player, drawing from every era of classic rock----sixties punk; Hendrix Experience/Band Of Gypsies/Parliament-Funkadelic psychedelia; MC5 jam band pyrotechnics; Tommy Bolin super heroics; Robert Fripp prog rock; sinister Jimmy Page occult menace; Marc Bolan's spaceball ricochet; Daniel Ash artful-experimentation; Mick Ronson stardusted catchiness; roadhouse-brawling, dart pitching, pitcher-spilling, Bad Company cock-rock; Steve Vai sci-fi wankery...Darkwave, Poe-channeling, like Frank Gerace from Dreamchild; Billy Duffy's big, glittering, love vibrations; Cobalt Stargazer styled biker-punk rifforama; goofy Lemon Pipers radio pop-rocks; It's all here. Like Mitchell, Billy the guitarist is a full-on space-hun/intergalactic conjuror, and a time traveling, technicolor story-teller. They really compliment one another. They're TOTALLY like comic book characters. Ready for prime-time CARTOON NETWORK "ADULT SWIM" animation. Remember "Heavy Metal" magazine? So, ya know, I was thinkin' we all needed to learn more about Billy Tsounis, so I went lookin' for him, and this is what I learned, thusfar....Enjoy Yourself!


BILLY TSOUNIS: I was born in Athens, Greece, and grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, a very unique place, with an amazing energy. You almost always wanted to get in trouble, and it felt good. At the time, there was not much on the radio that I enjoyed, but I discovered bands like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Budgie, Led Zeppelin, Golden Earring, Lena Lovich, Ian Dury, Bowie, Funkadelic,Ted Nugent, Japan,The Damned,The Police, Van Halen, Adam and the Ants, Frank Zappa, AC/DC, and of course, disco music. It was the 70's.You could go into a record store and listen under headphones, before you purchased the record. After high school, I left the country, as I was not interested in going into the army to support stupid ideologies, followed by a life living in propagated fear of other humans, so I went to Boston to go to school, make music, and have fun.


BILLY TSOUNIS: When I was in high school, not many kids wanted to jam with me, as they though I played 'weird', whatever that is.They just wanted to play the popular songs/covers of the day-you know, who can play it better than the recording, and you get to jizz in your hand 3 times a day, high five your buddies, and repeat twice before dinner prayer or something, and I was making up my own songs, about pizzas copulating with cars, fat chicks sitting on my face, and making me pass out, flies brainwashing me, stealing bananas, muffdiving, etc. I just figured that if you played an instrument, you were supposed to try to create your own music, just like the people on the records. When I got to Boston, I played in a power metal type band called BlewVein, and then, in a heartland style hard rock/cock rock band by the name of Kid Crash, and that was popular for like 5 years, we played around town, and in New York city, mainly, and got a publishing deal with Virgin music, and a demo deal, and then, blah blah...I got bored, the creativity had expired, 'got a little taste of label politics, developed a few anxiety attacks, had enough of the snow, shaved my head, and moved to lovely Los Angeles, my favourite place on the planet, period, believe it or not, and I started playing with a band called Tribe after Tribe for a while, and just jamming around town, and writing songs for what would be Vasoline Tuner.


BILLY TSOUNIS: Yes,I went to the Berklee school of music, and that was in the 80's. I think it was a good time to be anyplace. The party went on and on, but like I said, I had enough of the snow, and darkness, and moved. Made great friends there, though, and Boston has a great creative energy, and the local music is really supported. And the pizza and chinese food is the best. I want to go back sometime, get rich, and buy a place in the back bay.


BILLY TSOUNIS: I met Al through an ad in the music connection magazine, he was looking to put a band together, and do something different from his work in Circus of Power, so I went over to his place, and I think we wrote a song called '"Letters From The Inside" that same day. I was familiar with his work, as I had seen him perform at the Limelight, in New York city, as well as in Boston, and at a live radio show as well. I had a friend who lived in New York, and she always used to tell me that that is the guy whom I should be working with. Funny enough, we met and started writing. Al is the real rock and roll deal.


BILLY TSOUNIS: Our first band we called Uncle Max's Cosmic Band, and we definitely recorded some of my favourite songs that we have written like, "21st Century Dinsaur Man", "Monster", "Auntie Ray's Box Of Magic"....We played around Hollywood, for a while, and that just changed climate, and I started to do the Vasoline Tuner band. We did get together every once in a while, to write some new songs, then, a couple of years later, we got the original Uncle Max lineup to jam, and that became FAT NANCY, but with a new rhythm section. I liked the Fat Nancy cd, it has some cool tracks on it like, "Dance Little Suzy", "Lonely Fucked Up and Blue", "Secret Love", and "American Monster" are my favourites. Perris records ended up distributing it, and you can actually find all those cd's on cdbaby, or itunes, where we sell them. Plastic Gator is more like a collection of bands, or writers, that Alex has written and recorded with, and that has a few songs that we did together. Last time we jammed with Fat Nancy was like 3 years ago, then, I just went into another head space, started recording some music with no vocals on it . I was sending out a mix of my music to TV/film placement companies and one of them, Five Alarm music picked 3 songs to license/represent, that we had written together, so I figured that was a good sign we should continue writing. I called AL, and told him I had some new music that I had recorded, he came to the studio, and we did the whole Captain Zapped cd in maybe 2 months.Thats how that got going initially so it was good to take a break.


BILLY TSOUNIS: Well, like I said, I love the Uncle Max, also the FAT NANCY. Also, a cd I did with a band called Why Things Burn, 2 years ago, called "My Flowers Your Soul", and I love "Rock Out With Your Cock Out", and "Beyond Repair", by Vasoline Tuner. I have 6 Vasoline Tuner cd's out there. I enjoy all the things I have recorded, otherwise, I would not do it. I have to enjoy it, otherwise, I have no interest at all, or my interest will wane pretty quick, so you got to catch me before I might get bored.


BILLY TSOUNIS: Ha.Well, Vasoline Tuner started out just as me on the premise of channeling a stoned ghost from a planet adjacent to the one we are on, a planet with meat and bubbles growing on every tree, and where imagination is king.This stoned ghost would get me to make love to a watermelon, which in turn, would open the gates of inspiration, the contact channel with him, so to speak, and the stories he had to tell me, that I would put to music. In the beginning, I would write most of the songs, using differently tuned guitars and using my various influences from Frank Zappa,AC/DC, to Sonic Youth.Kool Keith ,Helios Creed,Capt.Beefheart ,Devine, UFO's,conspiracy theories, Village people, rap video big butts, and cheesy 80's metal for the music. I saw Hollywood as a multi ethnic, and multi entity channeling area, in the sense that so many type of people, artists, opportunists, dreamers, scammers, pimps and prostitutes, monsters, gurus of sorts are here, have been here, died either happy or confused,horny, dissapointed, or a combination thereof, and the fuckers will not move on to another plane, body, or vibration, so now, their frequency still lingers on, looking for temporary hosts, and so if you can tune into that, then you get to spark some songs,ideas etc. So thats where I take it from. The lyrics may seem funny, or antisocial, or just plain weird, but that is all from the stream of consciousness I tap into, and that can also be the catalyst, of sorts. I get inspired by observing forms of self slavery to archetypes- be they organized religion, or social stratas, and that usually can take on a form of ass kissing, subservience, wishing and wanting at the cost of self dignity, in the hope of something in return, where when you pee your bed, and its warmer than usual, or somebody elses pee. I dont see or keep anything as sacred, and challenge taboos, within the songs, be it gold-diggers, and their wiggers, Beverly Hills plastic surgery disasters, used celebrety dildo yard-sales, or the biblethumper up against his most recent past incarnation as a cocksucker.They're both on their knees, right? I've had many lineups, but the last few years, I've just been performing the Vasoline Tuner with cheesy backing tracks of drums and bass, until a new rhythm section comes along, and can see that its done for fun, and not a 'career' step. Its fun, though.The latest cd is called, "More Religion More Money More Sex". You can buy all the Vasoline Tuner cd's on itunes or cdbaby.


BILLY TSOUNIS: Its usually different. If we are in a room with other musicians, I usually start jamming off the top of my head, and maybe it clicks into a groove, then Alex does his thing, and cleans it up later. Other times, he may sing a melody, and I find the chords, but usually, I send him music that I do on a portable little studio, and he messes with it, or completely turns it around to something I did not expect. Regardless, I always look forward to hearing what he came up with, as he does take some unexpected turns with it.


BILLY TSOUNIS: Oh definitely, I have all the Bowie cd's that he did with Mick Ronson, who was a very under-rated player. He had some very clever and creative parts and the high heels rocked. Seventies glam had great melodies. I also liked The Sweet, Roxy Music, T.Rex, BeBop Deluxe with Bill Nelson, and E.L.O., though I would not call that glam. But it's bombastic, and I love it.


BILLY TSOUNIS: Funny you should say that. I love all three. I have almost everything that Tommy Bolin recorded, that is available, as well as live bootlegs. I had purchsed "Private Eyes" after noticing he played on the Deep Purple "Come Taste The Band". Another great cd that he is on is Alphonse Mouzons "Mind Transplant". Blackmore, I loved all of Deep Purple and early Rainbow. Jimmy Page of course, is my all time favourite, and then, guitarists like Frank Zappa, Snakefinger, Andy Summers, Nile Rogers, Andy Gill, Jimi Hendrix, Helios Creed, David Torn, Thurston Moore, Sonny Sharrock,Ted Nugent, Angus Young, Buckethead, John Frusciante, Adrian Belew, Dave Mustaine, those are the ones that come staight to mind.


BILLY TSOUNIS: I enjoy Black Keys, Anthony and the Johnsons, Manu Chau, Mars Volta, Flaming Lips, Blk Jks, Gogol Bordello, Muse, MGMT, Cage The Elephant, Disco Biscuits, Hank III, Electric 6, Foxy Shazam are some.


BILLY TSOUNIS: I am a full time guitar instructor at the Temecula Music Academy, teach like 5 days a week. I also do music therapy for adult day care and rehabilitation centers.


BILLY TSOUNIS: Whatever is around, or that I own, but it's usually, a Tele style ESP, or my Takamine acoustic. I mainly record with either a Fender Stratocaster, or my Les Paul, and the Les Paul is primarily, used for live gigs


BILLY TSOUNIS: Well, definitely, to try and do the most with Captain Zapped.That's my main thing, right now. We have started working on some new pieces, and will most likely begin recording early 2011, again. We are sending the cd out to radio stations etc. and trying to get as many people that we can to be aware of ,and check it out. We may even put a band together and do some shows.You never know but that would be fun.I am also planning to release an instrumental guitar cd in a Glen Branca/ Fred Frith/Eno/Merzbow style of weird jazz, noise, and lo-fi experimental pieces that I have. I got blenders going through phasers and other effects, tv static and delays, atonal solos over it and all the good arty farty stuff to help one expand or diminish any personal psychosis or problems they may have or feel a need to develop.That music may assist them and then they can seek trendy therapy sessions or find a religion to make contributions to.


Van Halen-all with David Lee Roth
Zeppelin-all of it
70's preservation society-the disco years
Bob Marley-"Legend"
Ted Nugent-"Double Live Gonzo"
Japan-"Adolescent Sex"
Best of Donna Summer
Bill Withers-best of
Black Sabbath-"Sabotage" and "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath"
The Cult-"Love"
Terence Trent Darby-"Introducing The Hardline According To..."
Sonic Youth -"Daydream Nation"
Hey, thats quite a few cd's, but what else would there be to do?


CAPTAIN ZAPPED are inter-stellar!

SugarBuzz Magazine