Former W.A.S.P. Guitarist Chris Holmes Just Went Viral, and He's Also Feral
Peeking into the mind behind the amazing "Let It Roar" video.
Photo courtesy of Chris Holmes' wife
If you’re a heavy metal fan and have glanced at the internet in the last few weeks, the chances are excellent that you’ve seen Chris Holmes’ “Let It Roar” video. The critics agree: It’s an instant classic. Shot in his new home of Cannes, France, the viral clip features the former W.A.S.P. guitarist drinking coffee, eating breadsticks, feeding his dog, air-drumming, fishing, flipping the bird, eating soft serve, and walking along the beach with his guitar while he yells about turning a virgin into “a two-bit whore.” Incredibly, it’s only Holmes’ second-best onscreen appearance—the first being his infamous interview in Penelope Spheeris’ 1988 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, during which he floats shit-hammered in a hotel pool while pouring vodka over his head and slurring incoherently as his quietly horrified mother looks on.
“Let It Roar” will appear on Holmes’ forthcoming solo record, Shittin’ Bricks, which… uh… you know, I don’t really have anything to add here. What could I possibly add? The album is called Shittin’ Bricks. It’s better if Holmes explains it. So I asked him to. Which led to a conversation about being chased by police, getting arrested, and drunk driving—all things that Holmes used to excel at. But he quit boozing back in ’96, so he can laugh at all that hilarious stuff now. And he does. Ladies and gentlemen, Chris Holmes…
Noisey: You moved to France last year. Why did you want to leave the States, and why did you pick France?
Chris Holmes: Well, my wife is from France. But since I left W.A.S.P. I dangled around in L.A., trying to find musicians to play with, but it just didn’t work out. The change of culture in the last ten years… my kind of music isn’t played that much—not like it was in the 80s. About two years ago I pulled into a 7-11, and this kid got out of his car. He wasn’t listening to rock. When I was his age, that’s all I listened to. That made me realize the kind of music I do just doesn’t work here anymore.
What was he listening to?
Hip-hop. And I just don’t play that kind of music. I was talking to one of my friend’s kids—he’s in high school, and I asked him, “Why don’t you listen to rock, like Deep Purple or something?” And he said, “Man, that’s pussy music.” This is a white kid. So I thought, if people don’t listen to this kind of music anymore, why should I even be here? I’m in my 50s, but I want to still keep on going kind of. So I talked to my wife and we decided to move. They listen to rock more over here. There’s lots more concerts and stuff.
Do you feel like you made the right decision?
Oh yeah. You just gotta get used to the culture. They don’t have watered down coffee here. [Laughs] They drink espresso. But the French people are real nice people.
Do you speak any French?
Parlez-vous Francais? Merci beaucoup! [Laughs] Oh, yeah. I’m learning it. I don’t know if I’ll do it in any of the songs. I’ll always do English, I guess. That’s my favorite language.
Have you been playing many shows since you’ve been over there?
In the last year, I probably played about ten shows. Not that many. I’ve been mostly trying to get my record mixed and just finalizing everything on that. I’m also trying to get together with the band members so we can go out on tour. They’re all from Nice and Cannes. I was up in Finland for a while—I was gonna work with a band up there, but it just didn’t work out. The problem was, they wanted to play W.A.S.P. songs all the time, and I wanted to play my songs. It was fun playing the W.A.S.P. stuff, I guess, but you get tired of playing the same old songs, you know? I wanted to play some new ones. In June, I decided to come down here.
Your new album is called Shittin’ Bricks. What inspired the title?
Well, the song “Shittin’ Bricks” is about getting chased by the cops. You’re in the moment of running from them, but they haven’t caught you yet.
Is it based on a true story?
Oh, yeah. I used to run from the cops in L.A. all the time before every city got their own helicopter. Where I lived, they didn’t have a helicopter. I grew up La Cañada Flintridge, right near Glendale. It’s right by Jet Propulsion Laboratories. You could throw a rock from my backyard and hit that place. When I was a kid, I had a bunch of dirt bikes and I’d use them all over the horse trails out there. The cops would chase me all the time, but they couldn’t catch me. Then Pasadena got a helicopter, but by then I was old enough to drive. When you start driving a car, you gotta do things just a little bit different. [Laughs]
So the cops never chased you with a helicopter.
No. I’m stupid, but I’m not that dumb. You’re not gonna get away from a helicopter. Actually, there is one way you could do it: You’d have to go down into a tunnel out by LAX or something, because the helicopters can’t fly into the airspace over there. Then you’d have to drive out on Sepulveda or something, crash the car, and change cars. That’s the only way you could possibly do it.
You’ve given this a lot of thought.
[Laughs] Well, you see a lot of chases in L.A. Every other day on TV, right? And nobody ever gets away. I guess you could jump out of your car and climb down a storm drain, if you know where they go. But you usually get caught. You know, I saw a guy on Cops once, he had a four-by, and he went on this dirt road and went flying across the river. The cops were chasing him and they had to stop at the river. The guy got away. [Laughs] I’d never seen that before.
Speaking of crazy, the video for “Let It Roar” has been getting a lot of Internet mileage since you released it last month. Were you surprised by the attention?
No, I think it’s just because people are talking trash about me. You know, once it gets on Blabbermouth, they start talking about how crappy it is. They’re always gonna compare everything I do to W.A.S.P., no matter what. So they start bad-mouthing it. That’s probably why it’s gotten so viral. But you know, [the video] is just what I do in Cannes here. It’s a beautiful city. You see me fishing and stuff. I think one part of the video shows a wave hit the rocks and almost knock me off. [Laughs] It’s a neat town. You can’t do the same things in L.A.
There’s another song on the record called “TFMF.” What does that stand for?
Can I swear?
By all means.
Okay, it stands for “Two-Faced Motherfucker.” It’s about people I’ve been around in my life. Not just one person… but I don’t like saying names. If you listen to the lyrics, you can tell who it’s about.
Most metal fans know you as a guitar player. What inspired you to start singing?
I kinda thought I’d be most known as a drunk. [Laughs] Then the guitar playing second, right?
[Laughing] I like that you have a sense of humor about it.
You were gonna ask me why I started singing, right? It kind of happened by accident. I was working with Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor from Motörhead a few years ago, and I had an idea for this song. We recorded it, and I totally blew the song off until I found it on the computer. I listened to it, and I had an idea for lyrics, so I sang to it and it sounded kinda cool. Then I ended up singing on another one, and it wasn’t too bad. And it just kept going. I like putting words together with the melodies. I know I ain’t the best singer, but usually when you see a guitar player do a solo album, they don’t sing on it. Like when George Lynch [of Dokken] does a solo album, he doesn’t sing on it. But if you don’t sing on it, it ain’t a solo album, right? So that’s why I sing on it. Plus I don’t have to put up with a lead singer. You’ve heard of this problem called “LSD”?
Lead Singer’s Disease.
Right. So I don’t have to put up with that anymore. I’ll do it myself and I’ll either stand up or fall down. Who knows?
Tell me about some of the other songs on your new record.
There’s one called “In Your Mouth”…
I can’t imagine what that’s about.
[Laughs] Yeah, it’s a funny song. You gotta listen to the lyrics. A friend of mine, a girl, is singing backups on it, going “In my mouth…” And there’s another one called “Don’t Care” which is about not paying the rent to the landlord and having cockroaches on the walls. It goes, “I rub my balls and I smash them on the walls.” Like, rubbing my eyeballs and smashing cockroaches.
Is it true that you’re doing a reality show called Holmes Sweet Holmes?
That’s a reality show that my wife and this producer are putting together. You’d have to talk to them about it. I should know more, but I don’t. It’s in the planning stage, though. I think the idea is to show what happens on the road, things that go on backstage. If it’s done right, it could be good—comedy stuff, things like that. I don’t know where they’d show it, but put it this way: MTV ain’t gonna play it.
Aren’t you a little wary of having cameras around after that pool interview you did in The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II?
[Laughs] After that thing, I could give a crap! I could care less, man. Nothing’s gonna embarrass me now.
Plus you don’t drink anymore, so there’s no chance of a drunken interview or pouring a bottle of vodka over your head.
No, but I do some pretty stupid things sober sometimes. [Laughs] You know, you drink, you start feeling good and you think, “If I drink twice as much, I’ll feel twice as good!” But it don’t work that way. That reminds me: There’s another song on the record called “502.”
What’s that about?
It’s about getting a 502, driving under the influence. They pull you over and read you your Miranda rights. It’s been done to me so many times I know them by heart.
How many times have you been busted for drunk driving?
Oh, I’ve got six DUIs on my record. But I couldn’t even tell you how many times I got pulled over and got away with it, man. I used to love drinking and driving. I always thought when I drank and drove, I was a better driver. [Laughs] But I stopped drinking in ’96. Now I see all my friends do such incredibly stupid things drunk. I’m not against anyone who drinks—I’ll buy you a drink or two or three, depending how much money I got—I think it’s funny. I’ll watch them fall down. I’ll pick you up so you can fall down again. I used to enjoy the hell out of the transition from sober to hammered, but it just got to be too much.
Gotta be tough hanging out with drinkers when you’re sober, though.
Well, you just gotta remember that you’re gonna wake up the next day and not have a hangover.
J. Bennett can’t believe this conversation is a thing that happened.