On the bus with Circus Diablo
By Dave Schwartz
Circus Diablo is the newest of the super groups
that have captivated Americaís attention. Their self-titled release dropped
July 3rd and has raced into the charts on the strength of the single,
"Loaded." So naturally thereís only one place for band with a new record and
hot single-- Ozzfest.
I know this will seem a bit like vegetable soup when I try to name the
entire band and their associations, but Iíll throw caution to the wind and see
what happens. Circus Diablo was founded by The Cult guitarist Billy Duffy and
ex-Cult touring bassist/current Camp Freddy guitarist Billy Morrison (vocals).
Within a year The Almighty frontman Ricky Warwick (guitar) was added leaving
only former Fuel/current Riders on the Storm frontman Brett Scallions (bass)
left to round out the line up. Onetime Cult drummer Matt Sorum (now in Velvet
Revolver) played drums on the record courtesy of RCA but Charles Ruggiero of
Slunt, will be taking up the drum stool for the tour. And since I mentioned
the touring lineup, Cult guitarist Billy Duffy wonít be joining fellow Circus
Diablo members on stage either. Touring duties are being ably handled by
former OTEP guitarist and KORN touring guitarist, Rob Patterson.
I caught up with the entire band at the Phoenix, Arizona installment of
Ozzfest where, just an hour before, Circus Diablo blistered through their set
in front of several thousand fans. As I climbed onto the tour bus, Billy
Morrison was finishing a sandwich and Ricky Warwick was sitting quietly in the
corner, consumed by e-mail. Brett Scallions introduced himself and took
position on the couch across from me. Morrison, Scallions and I made small
talk as I fumbled for my recorder. Morrison apologized for his lunch as I
reassured him that I didnít mind the delay for a moment, for this bus was an
oasis of pleasure. Why, you ask?
Outdoors = a sunny yet relatively cool 98 degrees and 70 percent humidity.
Indoors = Air Conditioning.
I wouldíve been happy to wait all day!
With the last couple bites of a sandwich gone, we settled into the business
of doing an interview. Motioning to my recorder Morrison asked, "Is this
interview going to be read or heard?"
Read, I replied. We here at DaBelly still have our feet firmly planted in
the last millennium. Someday we will take that leap of faith and begin
offering audio and video snippets online, but until then-- Happy Reading!
I opened the interview by pointing out the obvious success of the new
single, "Loaded," and asked if the response to this record was something that
"First of all, just starting this band was a success for us. Everything
after the release date of the record is just icing on the cake!" Morrison
exclaimed. "Iím not fucking around when I say we didnít really think we were
even doing a band. Me and Billy Duffy started by writing one song. Ricky
joined us a year later. During that year we thought about maybe just releasing
three songs on the Internet. Then Brett became a partner with us and we
thought, letís just do a Web-based EP. So the fact that were sitting on our
tour bus in the middle of a national tour with a Top 40 Active Rock single is
And the bonus that Morrison speaks of has come in the form of Ozzfest. As
most everyone knows, this yearís perennial mega-tour is being presented as a
free show. The result is opportunity for both the fan and the young band to
see and be seen. Most of the bands in this yearís lineup have accepted little
or no touring revenue for the opportunity to play in front of sold-out
amphitheaters. That financial reality has effectively shaken up the typical
Ozzfest lineup, offering many new bands the much-coveted stage.
I asked if Circus Diablo had yet felt the reward of the Ozzfest experience.
"With a show like this, since it is free, a lot of people are here that
couldnít normally experience this concert," Scallions explained. "People are
coming out of the woodwork! I mean Iíve seen people show up here and theyíre
already dirty! Maybe theyíre that poor but they love music and they just want
to be here. So now that itís free theyíre here and itís just over the top!"
Morrison smiled, "Imagine living somewhere for like five years. Youíre
about 15 and youíve just become aware of loud guitars and what theyíll do to
you below the waist. And for five years youíve watched these concerts come
through your town and you havenít got the money to go. And thatís when Sharon
and Ozzy Osbourne step up and say, ĎKnow what motherfuckers, this one is
free!í Thatís what weíre playing to out there and itís so great."
I wanted to ask Morrison and Scallions about the evolution of Circus
Diablo, but not in the sense of how the band was formed. Most fans know that
story, as it is fairly well documented. I found it interesting that the
touring lineup was different than the recording lineup and I wondered if, with
that change, the songs had begun evolving in performance.
Morrison was quick to acknowledge, "Well first of all, Iím sure you know
that Matt Sorum was never a member of Diablo. But there are a number of
reasons Matt Sorum played on the album. First of all, he is one of the best
fucking drummers in the world. Secondly, heís my mate and Billy Duffyís mate.
Third, I was in the Cult with him, Iím in Camp Freddy with him and heís got a
great studio in his home. You donít really have to think too hard about this.
We started doing some demos and we decided to put some live drums on them to
see how they sounded, so we called Matt up."
"Billy Duffy is chief songwriter with us," Morrison continued. "Heís a
partner in this band and probably one of the luckiest men this year because he
has two albums on the shelves, or will when the Cult record comes out. Heís
part of a band with a 25-year legacy. You donít not tour with the Cult if
youíre in the Cult. What you do, or what he said to us was, letís move on;
letís create a new model. He asked us to find someone we wanted to bring into
the family and that was Rob Patterson, he used to play with KORN and now we
have this new model. The other night we played at The Roxy, we had Rob
Patterson and Billy Duffy on the same stage. Weíve done this a few times and
if you really want to promote an album you have to be on the road and you have
to have your fingers in about 10 different pies. I mean Brett here is in
Riders on the Storm. Heís the lead singer of Riders on the Storm! We all have
similar stories and Iím sure now youíll go yes, well tell us about your other
As it turned out thatís not the direction I was going to take the
interview. While the musical legacy of each member of Circus Diablo is
significant, I find it refreshing, even remarkable that the band is touring
solely on the strength this record. Perhaps Iím jaded, but all too often when
a super group is formed a couple of legacy singles manage to find their way
into the set list. Itís tempting for the artists because it can move a few
more bodies to the show and the fans usually love it. But to me itís more
significant when a band like this says, ĎThis is who we are today, accept us.í
"I donít think it wouldíve worked," Morrison declared.
"This band isnít about what weíve done in the past. This band is about who
we are today and about letting Circus Diablo move forward into the future."
Scallions explained, "We like playing our music and maybe paying homage to the
Sex Pistols or maybe Adam and the Ants. I meant we play Ziggy Stardust in the
clubs! I think pulling a Cult song out, a Fuel song out or an Almighty song
out really isnít the right thing for us to do."
"And along with what Brett is saying, I think thatís why the albumÖ Letís
face it, the album has been critically acclaimed. That was my main goal,"
Morrison admitted. "Christ, if youíre in this business to sell unitsÖ I mean
we all would like to make some money, but if youíre in this business to sell
units, youíre in the wrong fucking business. When we finally decided that we
were going to release this as a record, we wanted to release something that we
could stand behind. We wanted something fresh. The point is we only managed to
do that because we did say, ĎLetís not play a Cult song'; 'letís not play a
Fuel song.í You know, what you see here is a brand new band and weíre working
"If youíre playing for units, then youíre starving the art out of it," I
Scallions returned, "And I think if youíre working hard to only make money
then itís going to show in the music. And when it shows in the music, itís
obvious to the fans. Nobody ever wants to hear a song that was written for
absolutely one reason-- radio. Itís stale and boring. Weíre about making great
songs and doing records for ourselves."
If itís any kind of measurement at all, the Circus Diablo CD has made it
into heavy rotation in my car. Given the number of CDs weíre sent that go on
to become drink coasters, I have to believe this record has legs. The first
video was shot in L.A. only days ago and Iím certain there will be others.
And, perhaps most importantly, the band is having fun. I canít count the
number of times that weíve interviewed bands that have only been on the road a
couple of weeks and theyíre already crispy! To that point, Morrison admitted
to me that he was crispy long before they ever started!
I want to thank and wish continued success to Circus Diablo. Donít forget
to check out their Web site at