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Oh Brother....can this guy rock the guitar!
Chris 'Brother' Latham of Beasto Blanco talks guitars, life and yodeling with Tru Rock
In July 2018, I had the chance to speak with Chuck Garric and Calico Cooper of the rock band Beasto Blanco. Unfortunately, guitarist and co-founding member Chris Latham wasn’t available that day. I finally had the chance to catch up with Chris on a break from Beasto’s current tour.
TRR: Hi Chris.Welcome to Tru Rock Revival Magazine. I’m glad we finally get to meet and speak.
BL: Me too, Craig. I appreciate you taking the time and having me be part of Tru Rock Revival Magazine.
TRR: Our pleasure. I heard some pretty cool things about you from Calico, Chuck and Cara. From what I’ve read about you, you first picked up the guitar at the age of 13 after listening to Ozzy and Dio. Both bands featured very riff-oriented guitarists in Vivian Campbell (probably known more for his work with Def Leppard) and Randy Rhoads.
BL: Well, back to the first question, yes, I started to play the guitar when I was 13. Dio and Ozzy were my curse and blessing.
TRR: Why do you say that?
BL: Well, you know, getting into the whole music and entertainment industry can be a bit of a chore-in itself, but, it’s also a lot of fun at the same point. The inspiration of the players in those bands is life-long. And listening to Randy and Vivian play, that was a milestone for me; wanting to pick up the guitar and try to learn everything they did. At the time, I sort of felt like, not only in their guitar playing, but I just wanted to be everything they were. Listening to the Holy Diver record, Blizzard of Oz and Diary of a Madman, those 3 records were really life changing for me.
TRR: Was it at that moment when you thought to yourself, “That’s what I want to do?”
BL: That’s the moment, yeah. That’s when I just wanted to pick up the instrument and I knew it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
TRR: Did you ever get to see Randy Rhoads live?
BL: Sadly, I didn’t. Where I went to school, in Alaska, all the concerts would come to town and play in the auditorium at my high school, because it was the biggest auditorium in town.I did get to see Ozzy come through there, but it was with Brad Gillis playing guitar. I believe it was a few years after, that a plane crash that took Randy’s life.
TRR: Yes, that was the tragedy then. Ah…Brad Gillis is a tremendous guitarist, too.
BL: Yeah, he sure is.He’s phenomenal.
TRR: I read that Ozzy didn’t treat Brad very well, because he was still trying to get over Randy’s death and, in his opinion, there was no one else who could play the songs the way Randy could. So, Brad’s stay with Ozzy was pretty-short-lived?
BL: You know, I really didn’t think about that until recently.I read an article not too long ago about Brad’s time playing with Ozzy, and Brad did catch a lot of slack from him, just for filling in at those big shoes.It’s a shame, because Brad was really an awesome player, and still is. And, at the time, not knowing the difference between Randy and Brad, (since I was just a kid), listening to both, I would have never known the difference.I mean, Brad was just on fire.
TRR: What’s the first concert you ever attended?
BL: The first concert I ever attended was Molly Hatchet, at the West High Auditorium in Alaska.
TRR: Was that a high school auditorium?
BL: Yep. My high school auditorium. That’s where all the local concerts were held until they built the first semi-arena, which was probably in ’83 or ’84. Once that was built, that’s where all the concerts were held. West High got stuck with only the high school plays after that. (laughing)
TRR: Molly Hatchet was a pretty cool band, lots of guitarists in that band.
BL: Yeah, I love Southern Rock. was another one with the 3 guitarists exchanging leads and, musically, I love them. I would put on my turntable and fall asleep to those records.Great memories. I’d usually fall asleep to pretty much, every night. I just love that style of music and have always been a big fan of theirs.
TRR: How about bands like? They had that cool Southern Rock sound, too.
BL: Yeah, I did like , but they were just a bit too commercial for me.They did have great songwriting.
TRR: Your first guitar was anything rock ‘n roll. A classical with nylon strings.
BL: Wow! You studied for this! That was my first guitar, and my dad did get it for me, and at the time, I really wanted to play drums.But I looked at it and thought, “What are you gonna do with this thing?”
TRR: Were you disappointed it wasn’t a Flying V?
BL: (laughing) Yah! Of-course! (laughing) It’s like going to a bike shop, and you really want to get that nice diamondback, or whatever was the popular bike back in those days, and you leave with a big trike! (laughing)
TRR: (laughing) Oh man, that sounds like some kind of cruel joke.
BL: Yeah, exactly! (laughing) I wanted to play rock! Yet, the next thing I know, I’m strumming on it, I ended up getting a summer job, saving some money, and I bought my first electric. I still have that Hohner though.
TRR: You still have it?
BL: Absolutely, I do. It got me through the beginning and made me really appreciate classical guitar.
TRR: What is the first band you played in?
BL: The first band I ever played in, that would be in Los Angeles. It was a band called Pandemonium. They were pretty big in the early 80’s, and they were signed to Metal Blade Records. That was the first band I was in. They were looking for a guitar player, and one of the guys in the band worked a day job near the place I was living, and we met. He mentioned they were looking for a guitar player, and the next thing you know, I’m in Pandemonium.
TRR: Are you still in contact with any of those guys?
BL: I am with the other guitar player. He’s up in Fairbanks. He’s from Alaska, as well. A pretty cool coincidence. We still speak ever so often. It was a really fun band to be in at the time.
TRR: In college, you joined a classical guitar ensemble, tell me about that.
BL: Wow! Man you really did your homework! I came down here from Alaska, and there wasn’t a big music scene up there, so I moved here and studied music, went to college, and I joined a classical guitar ensemble. My Hohner came in very handy. It was a really cool experience because, we would go up and down the coast in California and play at all these different schools. And, when you play behind an orchestra, there’s probably 25 guitars, a 40-piece orchestra behind you, and the sound of all those instruments together is really one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever heard.
TRR: So, would you consider yourself classically trained?
BL: Nope. No. I’m rock n roll trained. The classical training that I did receive taught me musical theory and that type of stuff, and some light jazz. Those were the types of classes they were offering, and I wanted to take something that would help me hone my skills as a guitar player, and that’s what I wound up signing up for. It was either that or taking a piano class, which I did as well, yet, my foremost attention was with the guitar.
TRR: Do you consider yourself a lead guitarist, a rhythm guitarist, or maybe a hybrid?
BL: I would definitely say I’m a hybrid. I’m a good utility guitar player. In Beasto, I play lead and rhythm. You know, I play for whatever the song needs. If the song needs a lead, then I’ll put in the lead. If it needs some holding down that backbone, then I’ll do that as well. So, it’s really up to the song and what’s needed in that song, and that’s the kind of guitar player I am.
TRR: You’re originally from Anchorage. There aren’t a lot of famous rock bands from Alaska, although 36 Crazy Fists have been at it for almost 20 years. Do you still have family there? How did you grow up around there? Any skiing, or Olympic downhill aspirations as a kid?
BL: Actually, I did plan to be a pro skier. I don’t know if I saw myself going that far, toward the Olympics. When I started playing the guitar, that became my primary focus and really, my only focus. But, when I was going to school, my school was at the base of one of the main ski resorts right outside of Anchorage, so, every day I skied. I mean, every day. It’s still one of my favorite sports today. One of my goals at that time, was to follow winter around the world, and ski for a whole year in different places.
TRR: That sounds like it would have been incredible.
BL: It would have. But here we are now. I’m not complaining at all.
TRR: While you were growing up, listening to Ozzy and Dio, what about your friends? What were they listening to?
BL: You know, when you’re in high school, you’ve got the jocks, the metal heads, the in-betweens, but most of my friends, we were all kind of listening to the same thing, the same music. Metal, Zeppelin, Classic Rock. You know, I grew up listening to rock. My dad was in the music business, so he was a big influence on me, and I was always listening to music. The first thing that really got me into the music business and is a very vivid memory, even today, when I first heard Layla on the radio when I moved to Los Angeles. It was life changing hearing that.
TRR: I guess it’s a good thing you grew up when you did. or you may have grown up listening to yodeling. You walk outside and there is Jewel with her sweet voice, yodeling a little.
BL: (laughing) Yah, you know, I wouldn’t doubt it. She was in a city about 2 or 3 hours from where I grew up. I used to do a lot of fishing near there, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we had actually crossed paths, though I’m sure I’ve got a few years on her.
TRR: How about you? Do you Yodel?
BL: (laughing). No, I don’t. (laughing) I’d love to be able to yodel, but, no, I don’t. Sadly, I can’t yodel.
TRR: You know, Chris, maybe if you just worked on it. There really aren’t a lot of rock songs these days that feature the art of yodeling.
BL: (laughing) You know, I think you’re on to something, Craig. That could be a whole new section in Tru Rock Revival Magazine, a yodeling section.
TRR: This could bring Christopher Walken back to SNL, “We need more yodel!” And, in walks Brother Latham to lay down that yodel!
BL: (laughing) The King Yodeler!
TRR: (laughing) OK, now, where did you get the nickname “Brother?”
BL: I got the nickname Brother…. Chuck and I were playing in a band at the time called The Druts, it was kind of like a first-time incarnation of Beasto Blanco. Our management at the time, every time he’d say something to me, he’d say, “Brother Latham, Brother Latham,” and the name began to stick. And, I thought, “You know what? Maybe I’ll make my email with that name or whatever, let’s just keep it going.” So, it just stuck.
TRR: What do you prefer people call you, ‘Chris’ or ‘Brother?’
BL: You know, we’re all brothers and sisters in this life, Craig. We all bleed the same color, but whatever floats your boat. I’ll always answer to both.
TRR: You first met the very-unique Chuck Garric while working in a record store in LA. What was your first impression of Chuck?
BL: When I first met Chuck, we were both kids. I thought he was a pretty cool guy. Since neither of us were originally from Los Angeles, there was a certain vibe we both had, all our own. He had just moved from Tahoe, and I had must moved from Alaska. We were both starting at a new school, and he needed a job. I worked at a record store and, next thing I know, I’m knocking on his hotel door with a 12 -pack going, “Hey man, want a beer?” And, there you go, the rest is written in stone.
TRR: I had a great time when I interviewed Chuck and Calico. We were laughing the entire time.
BL: Yeah, they are characters, and really good people, too.
TRR: Who came up with the name ?
BL: We tossed around several names, and Chuck said, “What about this?”I really liked the meaning and what it stood for.You know, we all have some hurdle we need to get over in life, whatever it may be, and we sometimes have to summon that inner beast to help us get past those hurdles. And, that was. You know, there’s no color to it, no race, or anything like that. You’re summoning your inner courage. And, for Chuck specifically, he had to put everything in his background, in the sense of being a bass player, in a box. Being a front man, and playing guitar, instead of bass. So, that’s a pretty nerve-wracking spot to be in, I would think. I mean, he’s right there, out in front, all eyes are focused on him now. There’s a lot of courage that has to be summoned up for that, hence, Beasto Blanco.
TRR: What’s your opinion regarding rock music these days? Do you feel it’s becoming more mainstream again?
BL: I don’t know if it hasn’t been as popular. Maybe it’s that it hasn’t been pushed as hard the past several years, like it has been in past years, by the record companies. I don’t think rock ever died, it’s still in the forefront. Personally, I listen to all kinds of music, but for rock, it’s still right there for me. The sound of rock music has “definitely changed” but, it’s not a dying breed like some people have said to me. Personally, I think that’s a bunch of bullshit. It’s still very much there, and, not to toot my own horn, but I think Beasto is a band that can definitely bring back the culture of rock and roll, and what it’s about. You know, it’s still there, and one day we’ll all look down and say, “Hey, there it is.
TRR: Craziest thing that’s happened with you on or off-stage. This can be with or any other band you’ve been with. GO!
BL: Oh man, there’s a lot that’s happened. You know, you come to a place like L.A., there’s so much. Let’s see, the 6’3 black guy who frisked me at the L.A.X. airport when I was about 19, and then followed me around the whole place and stalked me in a bathroom.
TRR: Really? Why did he follow you into a bathroom?
BL: Man, I have no idea. But he was persistent. Let’s see, one of the craziest things, with the band. We’re touring in Switzerland in the Alps, in a really big tour bus. We are driving on this little road, our bus lost power, and, somehow with how the tour bus is set up, nobody can get in or out. The whole band was locked inside with no power, no heat. Meanwhile, I’m stuck outside -in the middle of winter- pounding on the door trying to get in, freezing my ass off outside. The wind is blowing about 25 to 30 mph, and you can’t hear anything except for the wind. I’m pounding on the door yelling for them to let me in! I look through a window, and can barely see in, but there’s Chuck and the bus driver, both in their underwear, yelling back and forth. Chuck is screaming, very dramatically, “Oh... my... god, we’re locked in!” I ended up having to climb through this tiny little luggage hatch, maybe 14 x 14 inch square, squeezing inside through that to get into the bus and get a jacket on, and climb into my bunk. It was freezing! We got up in the morning to the Swiss version of Triple A, coming up the hill, (yodeling) to charge the battery of the tour bus.
TRR: Wow! Hilarious and scary. What are you playing on stage? What’s your gear?
BL: My rig is Marshalls, JCM 800 or 1000 or Silver Anniversary, and a few Marshall Cabs. My pedal board, I run it through my Electro Harmonics Synth 9, a Micro Pod, and use my Icon Gold Pedal for my gain and boost. I have a Vox Wah, and TC Electronics for my delay, and that’s really about it. I like to keep it pretty simple.
TRR: Yah, I was going to say that. Your setup seems pretty simple compared to a lot of other guitarists. But you get a really nice sound from that setup.
BL: Thanks. Yah, the setup is pretty simple. I like it like that. We just did a gig, a Christmas charity event with Alice Cooper and Gretchen Wilson and a lot of other folks and my board had gotten stolen. But, since I keep it so simple anyway, I just plugged straight into some Marshalls, and the only thing I was really missing was my Wah. There’s something about a Wah pedal that I really like. There are probably times when I may use it too much but, there’s really something about the sound from clicking that, running it off really slow, I just dig it.But I keep it pretty simple.
TRR: During the video for, I believe it was, Live Fast Die Loud, Chuck had this ooze dripping all over him. I asked Chuck and Calico about that video and it was a riot. What did you think when that cannister of ooze shot all over Calico’s face? Chuck was pretty descriptive.
BL: (laughing) I can only imagine what Chuck had to say about that, I’m sure it was a very dirty sexual description. Calico is a lot like Lucille Ball so I’m sure there was some sort of comedic undertones from her. Calico, that girl cracks me up (laughing). The stuff that can happen to her. It’s like watching your own private I Love Lucy show all the time. The video scene! It’s like she’s getting dressed up for her first prom date, putting on her eye makeup, and then that thing explodes all over her face, and then her date comes knocking on the door. (laughing)
TRR: That must have been a riot.
BL: Oh man, it was. We were all dying.
TRR: During breaks from Beasto, do you have any side- gigs or do any studio work?
BL: Yah, when I get a break, I’m an audio engineer as well. I do a lot of bouncing across the country, doing a lot of mixing, and that keeps me pretty darn busy.
TRR: What do you do to relax? Spend time with the family?
TRR: Or is that something that’s non-existent?
BL: Well, if you were to ask my girlfriend and son, they would say that word is not in my dictionary. What I do though, I’m very nature bound, so surfing is something I really enjoy. That’s a big one, so if I’m not surfing, I may just be at the beach anyway. Today, it’s been raining all day, so Netflix has become a very good friend of mine.
TRR: Beasto has been on a pretty cool tour for the past several months. In February, will you guys be going on the cruise?
BL: This is actually the 3rd time we are doing it. Last year we did the Pre-Party, and also played on the boat. This year, we’re only doing the Pre-Party. Are you going to be there?
TRR: Yeah, I’ll be there with Abbe Davis.
BL: Awesome. I look forward to meeting you in person.
TRR: Yeah, we’re looking forward to meeting you, too.
BL: Unfortunately, we won’t be on the ship this year. We’ve got some other gigs lined up in the Florida area, heading up toward Orlando. I think we have a couple of other shows up through Florida as well.
TRR: When’s the next album coming out?
BL: We just got the finishing touches off of our 3rd studio record, so, we’re working on that. We’re shooting for an April release and getting everything geared up for that release. We’re always writing so we’ve actually got material for the next record after this one. We just have to get this one out and get it promoted and probably start shooting for the next one sometime at the end of the year.
TRR: Real quick, tell us something your fans don’t know about you that would surprise them.
BL: I believe in God? Something my fans don’t know outside of that, I’m a nature boy. I don’t know if they know that about me. Another thing, we’re doing this interview over the phone right now, and I’m standing here in my underwear.
TRR: Thanks for sharing. Whitey tighties?
BL: Actually, stripey tighties!
TRR: No other hobbies besides the skiing or surfing? Knitting?
BL: You know, ya never know. Maybe I’ll learn to knit some onesies, pot holders, gig bags.
TRR: Perfect. With Beasto Blanco logo.
BL: (laughing) There you go!
TRR: What are your plans for the rest of 2019?
BL: We’ll be going through the East Coast, then on to the Mid-West. We’re getting a lot of stuff on the books.Our new record is being polished up now for release. We’ve got a full plate. So, we’ll be playing out a lot.
TRR: Chris, this has been a lot of fun. You’re a cool dude, and I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me. I’m glad we finally got to do this.
BL: Hey, likewise Craig. This has been fun. I’m looking forward to meeting you at our show in Florida in February.
Craig Marks, Publisher
Tru Rock Revival Magazine
For further information about Chris Latham and , go to www.beastoblanco.com