Bobby Schneck (Slash), George Potsos (Devon Allman’s Honeytribe) (INTERVIEW)

It is a beautiful day in St. Louis, Missouri. After a stormy weekend, the sun has come out and people are happily walking about an area of the city known as The Loop. And inside a little guitar shop called Killer Vintage, two friends are laughing and talking and remembering their days as struggling musicians.

Bobby Schneck has been playing guitar alongside Slash, helping the man do what he does best. George Potsos is the bass player in Devon Allman’s Honeytribe, a great up & coming band with the strong potential to break big any day now. Both men have been musicians since their teens and know what it’s like to be famous and not-so-famous.

So in a double-dose installment this week, I sat down with these two rock & rollers to find out about their roots and their early days as musicians.

So how did you guys get started?

Bobby: Actually, George and I share sort of a parallel path. We were both in St Louis in the mid-eighties and he could probably tell the story quite a bit better than I can, about the story of King Of The Hill.

George: Yeah, I was playing in a local band here called Broken Toyz and that band was super hot around here. Then we started doing original music and then we brought those people into the band, into listening to us. Then a major came out and saw us and then we got signed and then we went out. And that’s like a super condensed version of it, but that’s basically what happened. That was like 1987 through 1992, I guess. Showing my age but (laughs) whatever, I don’t give a shit.

Bobby: Yeah, that band became King Of the Hill, with Jimmy Griffin on guitar and Frankie Muriel …

George: And Vito Bono. And we toured with Lynch Mob and Extreme was the big one. We were actually at The Fox or somewhere and Extreme was there and they were looking at their feet because they weren’t very happy and they weren’t selling any records and then they put that ballad out that went number one in the world. And we just happened to be out on tour with them when it did. They were on SBK Management and we were on SBK Records and so the record company got a favor from the management company and put us out there and that’s how that happened. But before all that happened, we were playing twenty-two shows a month in St Louis, working our asses off here. It was packed everywhere we played.

Did you get to see them play, Bobby?

Bobby: I saw Broken Toyz once.

George: You were in another band playing around.

Bobby: When I moved here in 1983, I met some musicians up in North County and was playing a lot of metal covers and stuff. I remembered hearing about this band called Ocean and they were playing a lot of originals and some covers. I went and saw them one night and was like, this is pretty good. The singer was like really great, really reminded me of Bruce Dickinson a lot. Real powerful voice, small but all over like a pit bull, and that was Tom Bryant. Eventually he asked me to join that band. The other guitar player at the time, and this is kind of funny, I went to a rehearsal and there was this kid down in the basement that was playing a Dean Flying V and he had real long black hair and he looked really cool and he was a burning guitar player. I happened to pick up a guitar that was sitting next to his and was playing and he started playing along and it was like (snaps fingers) that. We had this telepathy and his name is Mark Crowell and he’s one of my favorite guitar players.

George: A figure in St Louis. Plays in like eight tribute bands. An encyclopedia of music.

Bobby: He’s a big scary monster of a guitar player. He’s really one of my favorites ever. So him and I really tried to just push the boundaries of what the two guitar thing was. At the time, bands like Night Ranger were getting hot. Priest, we always loved Priest, and we were even trying to go past that in not just complexity, not necessarily that, but melodically and trying to put a sense of humor into it.

George: And that’s some tough guitar playing.

Bobby: It was hard. We eventually moved to LA in 1987 and we would get a twelve pack of beer and spend five hours a day in my room and just be cooking up stuff and just laughing all the time. That band got a deal for a little bit there and we were halfway through the record and we got dropped (laughs) cause the record company lost their funding. Then I went on to The Buddaheads and that band got a deal in Japan, then with RCA and touring and eventually that fell apart too. So I just mainly started doing the sideman thing, like for Eddie Money. I did some recording with Warren Zevon out there, which was really fun.

Was that frustrating? Not having your own band?

Bobby: No, not at all. I’m not really that guy. I like being in a band. I’m not like the controlling guy like you hear about in a lot of bands, where you have one guy that kind of runs the whole show and tells everybody what to play and writes all the songs. I’ve never really enjoyed bands like that. I’ve been pretty lucky but it’s beautiful being a paid sideman sometimes because there’s not really any pressure there. You just have to do your job, which is play the songs however they want you to play them. And show up clean, dry and serviceable and sober every day, depending on the band (laughs). But yeah, it’s important. It is a job and a business. For like Slash, everybody’s got their act together in that band.

George: In King Of The Hill we had all the bells and whistles and all that stuff and it’s worse for me cause I still got the taste in my mouth still. I had everything, I had it all. But I love to play so whatever I got to do to do it I’ll do it. I’m still luckier than a lot of guys. There’s a lot of guys that don’t even get to go out on tour. At least I get to go do it.

Bobby: We’ll always do this. It doesn’t stop.

Like Gregg Allman will be on the stage till he completely falls off the stage.

George: Gregg hates being at home. He is sixty-two years old and he lives for going out there. He’s smart, though. He’ll go out for like two weeks, maybe three, and then he’ll be off for three weeks, and then he’s ready to go back out again.

Bobby: Antsy. I get really sometimes irritated to where I get pissed off when I hear people ask, “What are you going to do when you get old?” Like, “What are you going to do later?” It’s like I have to bite my tongue. I’ll tell you what I’m going to do, I’m going to fall over and I’m going to die when I’m sticking my cabinet in my car.

George: Exactly. Great answer. I’m with you, man.

Bobby, do you remember what song or band made you want to pick up a guitar and become a musician?

Bobby: I always had a feeling I was headed in that direction but when I heard Hendrix and Rick Derringer play that was it. Then it was Johnny Winter and Aerosmith…I HAD to figure out how to do THAT.

What about you, George? When you first started out, you said you played guitar for a little while.

George: Barely. I just only played for a little bit and then I went right to bass. I liked it. It wasn’t a reason like, Oh, there’s a million guitar players or anything like that. I just liked the bass, liked hearing the bass, it just went through me and that’s kind of when I started playing it. I just wanted it. I wanted to play. As soon as I heard like Led Zeppelin I and II, you know. My brother and sister are older than me and they both had massive album collections and I would sit there and listen to them play them and I always felt the bass upstairs when they were having their weed parties or whatever they were doing back then. It stuck in my head and so I’m like, I want to learn how to play bass. And then when I picked it up and started playing it just hooked me.

Do you remember your first bass?

George: I do. I had a copy of a SG and that was my first bass. My second bass was a copy of a Fender Precision. Those were the two first basses. I played Fender Precisions for a really long time. Now I play Fender Jazz Basses solely, cause they just feel right.

Do you remember the first album you bought? Or the first one that made you want to play music?

George: I’m going to have to say like Led Zeppelin, the first two Led Zeppelin albums, really did it for me. I was always listening to rock & roll because of my brother and sister. There were so many that hit my head but I remember Led Zeppelin really, really hitting my head, and Cream also and The Who. Those three bands, still to this day, the three guys that played bass in those bands are my idols: John Paul Jones, Jack Bruce and John Entwistle. Those are THE three rock & roll bass player guys. But when Van Halen I came out, that really got my attention. And I went out and bought it on vinyl and I played it till it wore out, cause I just loved the sound of it.

Bobby: The first album I ever bought was Yes Fragile….everything about it just sounded great. I remember telling my Mom how much I loved it. She took me to the store and kicked down, bless her. I grew up around a lot of jazz so I totally got the progressive elements of it. The first guitar player to ever blow me away was Terry Kath from Chicago. Listen to that lead break at the end of “I’m A Man”….whoa…..

What about your first concert?

George: Well, let me think. It’s kind of fuzzy. I really can’t remember my first concert. I didn’t live very far from this giant concert venue that was called the Arena and that’s where The Blues played hockey. I would walk to the shows and I couldn’t get in because one, I didn’t have the money to do it and I remember that there would always be somebody that would slam the door open and we would rush in and the security guards would run after us but we always got in. So I went to so many concerts. I also went to Six Flags when I was a kid and saw lots of concerts there. I saw Kansas there the first time they came to St Louis. I saw KC & The Sunshine Band there (laughs) Yeah, I’m showing my age now. I saw a lot of bands but I saw so many at the Arena it was unbelievable.

Bobby: It was KISS at the Spectrum in Philly…Kiss Alive 2 tour. The show started and I though wow, ok….by the end I was over it. Very Barnum and Bailey. Shortly afterwards I saw Johnny Winter and the J. Geils Band at the same show and thought THIS is the SHIT!!!!

Was there one concert in particular that you remember to this day because it was just that great?

George: Probably the band Rush kind of blew my mind when I saw them and I saw them six times. Those guys were unbelievable. I also saw The Police and they floored me too. Loved them.

So when was the first time you guys played together?

Bobby: It was last year and I remember that night well because I destroyed my back doing something at home that day. And I was in so much pain that I called the singer who booked the gig, Tom Bryant, and I said, man, I might not make it. And I’ve never missed a gig in my life, ever. Advil wasn’t doing it and I was stomping around the house and finally I just said, fuck it. I took a shot of Vodka to take the edge off, started loading the truck and I came down and everybody was really cool cause they helped me move my stuff around but that was a fun night … I have to tell you, George came in and played and I think he played somebody else’s bass, somebody else’s rig, and it sounded like him. It sounded like George. It was just big and meaty and it was like Jack Bruce on steroids. And I thought, this is the guy I want to work with someday.

You seem a lot alike.

George: Yeah, because he gets it. Bobby’s from kind of the same era as me and he’s a rock & roll guitar player, I’m a rock & roll bass player. We both probably got a foot in the blues, both of us do, and we kind of have similar amount of time playing. We’ve both been playing for around the same amount of time. And like I said before, he’s eaten a ton of crap and so have I from doing this for so long. We have a lot of the same musical tastes too. We’re going to do something and I think it’s going to be awesome too. I think we’ll have so much fun doing it.

Bobby, what has it been like playing in Slash’s band?

Bobby: It sort of went from Slash being supported by a singer with three guys to a band really quickly. He gives me pretty much all the leeway I want with the songs. I mean, I try to keep, especially with the Izzy Stradlin stuff, I really respect and admire Izzy Stradlin; he’s like one of the weirdest guitar players ever. I can never ever sound like him or be as cool as him. But I try to get those as close as possible because that interplay between Slash and Izzy on those Guns N Roses songs is really a huge part. It’s very push-pull sort of thing. Slash is playing way on top, real energy way on top a lot of times, and Izzy was way back. That was part of the sound. You know, the Velvet Revolver stuff is a little different because the rhythm guitars in that are more like an atmospheric sort of thing but it’s pretty wide-ranging.

But I’ve come offstage some nights just shaking my head and want to quit [because thought had played so bad] and then you hear people go, “That was the best show I ever saw” and I’m like “Really?” I don’t say that but my point is that I didn’t realize how tight the band had gotten and how much it had elevated until I started playing with other people in other bands. I’d be like, “Wow, I really miss the Slash band” (laughs) It’s crazy, Fitzy and Todd, their energy and the way they propel the rest of the band is just scary. Todd and Slash are just the two pinballs on stage and then Myles and I are the bumpers. We’re just kind of hanging back and letting those other guys bash into us and we kick them off again (laughs).

George, how would you describe Honeytribe?

George: It’s a meat and potatoes rock and roll band. It’s powerful and it’s really basic but it’s good. Three piece power trio. Devon’s got a good voice and I got freedom to play the way I want to play and that’s huge to me.

In next week’s installment we’re talking to bass player Cale Gontier of The Art Of Dying, a hot young Canadian rock & roll band that has been killing it on the Uproar Tour this year.

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