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original site launched April 1, 2004, .com relaunched October 1, 2004
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|New Everclear? No Thanks.
Old school EC superfan Ashley Graham weighs in on the new line-up and pulls from the archives her favorite interview to date, with former EC bassist Craig Montoya.
by Ashley Graham
A little over a year ago, I trekked to Portland, Oregon to conduct an interview with one of my favorite people from my teen years, Craig Montoya. Most widely known as the bassist for pop/rock trio Everclear, Montoya remains one of the coolest cats to ever emerge from Spokane, Washington.
In mid-2005 when we spoke, Craig was pushing his band Tri-Polar, but the bulk of our time was spent on his years in Spokane, and his days in Everclear. Craig was candid on the past, present and future of his musical aspirations, and though Tri-Polar is on an indefinite hiatus, Montoya soldiers on in the Portland music scene with his new project, Castella.
Now, the week of the release of Everclearís Welcome to the Drama Club, my interview with Craig is presented to you in its full form. The words are being allowed to stand for themselves, bias (mine) free. Or at least Iíll try. Wait, nope, okay, I have to say that Wig Headquarters received the new Everclear disc a couple of weeks ago and itís totally, surprise, boring and bland. So, with all due respect that it, and the horrifically re-cast Everclear, deserve, here are the words of someone who lived the drama, and came out on the other end stronger. Letís celebrate that, and not those trying to live in the past, eh? Happy release day.
Ashley Graham: Letís start with Spokane. Tell me about Spokane.
Craig Montoya: I was born and raised there. High school was segregated--you were either a jock, or a stoner, or a nerd.
AG: Letís take a guess of your status.
CM: Stoner, yeah. They actually had a smoking area where you could smoke and they never checked IDs. Everybody in the smoking area was a musician, so thatís where I ended up. All my friends were guitar players, my brother and my father were guitar players, everybody in the í80s was a guitar player, so I bought a bass guitar.
AG: How long were you in Spokane?
CM: I was there until 1991. I moved down here when I was 21. I graduated high school, I was a janitor for awhile, then I got a job at Olympic Boat Centers washiní boats, then I moved down here. Iíd never been to Portland in my life. I saved three grand and moved down here with a band I was in called Soul Hammer. We were down here for about six months and they kicked me out! We all lived in the same house and they kicked me out of the band! I donít know whyÖ
AG: Were you out of the house too?
CM: NO! Still in the house!
AG: Thatís brutal!
CM: They kicked me out of the band and I got in Everclear the next day. I found out about it through The Rocket--just an ad looking for a bass player. We hooked up and wrote some songs together.
AG: And you hated Spokane, right?
CM: Iíve always hated Spokane.
AG: Do you have family there still?
CM: My sister and brother, my nieces and nephews, yeah. My mom runs my coffee shop here in town, so I see more of her.
AG: Stay away from it pretty much though.
CM: Yeah, I was up there last year and played the B-Side, but yeah.
AG: Why the hate?
CM: It seems so dead-end to me, not a lot of opportunities musically. At the time that I lived there, the early í90s, there wasnít a lot musically and I needed to be in a bigger city. I never felt like I was going to get anywhere if I stayed in Spokane. Opportunities were elsewhere. Seattle was too big, San Francisco was too big, Portland is a nice in-between and a step up from Spokane. It was the best decision I ever made.
AG: What was your attraction to working with Art [Alexakis] originally?
CM: I needed another band! It happened! Dumb luck! Total dumb luck. To be real honest we never became good friends, we just kind of wrote songs together and I started making all this money and I was like ďWoah! Woah WOAHHHHHH!Ē and then it started going in a direction I didnít like but I was making so much money it became a lifestyle and was hard to give up. I did it for way too long.
AG: How did you hang in there for so long, Craig?
CM: The money was good. Basically what happened was I had made enough money to go ahead and do my own thing. Then I got divorced and my wife took everything and I was in a rough spot and had to basically start over. I had no money and I had to stick it out with Everclear, which was really tough because that was when, musically, it went downhill for me.
CM: 2000. Songs from an American Movie. When he released ďWonderfulĒ as a single, that justÖ
AG: That whole album isnít your speed.
CM: Yeah, Volume 2 is something I got more say in.
AG: Volume 1 was [Artís] solo album, though, right?
CM: Yeah, it was the solo album. I came in and rewrote some bass lines but it was pretty much set in stone.
AG: Why did everyone get on board if it was supposed to be a solo?
CM: The label didnít want it without the Everclear name on it. So we redid the drums and bass, but it was pretty much set in stone. I had a little bit to do with it.
AG: What about up until then, writing-wise?
CM: World of Noise I had a lot more say. Sparkle and Fade about the same. Then once there was some success, there was more pressure on Art it seemed like. He really felt the pressure and once he got some success he became more difficult to deal with.
AG: Was that everyoneís experience? Was it focused on you?
CM: It was everybody.
AG: Did everyone want out or just you? You wanted out, right?
CM: I wanted out a long time ago, yeah.
AG: So at what point after you were making money again, did it become not enough for you to hang in there. I mean, how bad did it get?
CM: It became a lot of personal things between Art and I. It was just a different vision of what we wanted to do musically. He had a financial plan for the band that made no sense to me, and I didnít want to be in a band that was about money. His financial records show exactly where he sits on his decision making. Financially and musically, our ideas were so totally different. It was one of the easiest things Iíve ever done, walking away.
AG: When did Greg leave?
CM: Same time.
AG: What was Artís reaction?
CM: He was shocked at first, but once we laid all the reasons out, we made an agreement to finish the tour and it was over.
AG: Whereís Greg?
CM: Greg has a band called the Oohlas now. O-o-ooooo, uh, O-o-h-l-a-s. Itís a great band. Heís playing guitar, not drums. You should check out the website.
AG: Any idea what Artís up to?
CM: No. I canít say I care either.
AG: On to Tri-Polar. Tell me about this.
CM: Iíve always wanted to front my own rock band. I originally was going to play guitar and sing, I wrote all the songs on guitar, and then brought on Brian, who toured with Everclear and was in one of my favorite Portland bands. Brian is a really great song arranger, knows how to structure it. We took them, dissected them and put them back together and it just totally gelled. Then I realized that I wanted this to be so big that I needed a really great guitar player, and I had Scotty Heard come in. We both sang for awhile. That was a year ago.
AG: Were you asked to be involved in the Everclear greatest hits disc?
CM: No, and wanted nothiní to do with it.
AG: I saw a show on that tourÖ it sucked. My cousin and I were big fans back in the day and we saw you guys on that last tour in support of Slow Motion Daydream.
CM: We were supposed to play Spokane on that tour, at the racetrack or something.
AG: OH YEAH! We went to Seattle to see you. The highlight of that show was you performing ďSurrenderĒ at the end of the night. We sort of always believed Artís vocals to be a little sketchy liveÖ Off the record?
CM: I honestly canít say. After a couple of years I just tuned him out. I blocked him out on the monitors, locked in with the drummer and did my partÖwhich is really sad.
AG: It is REALLY sad.
CM: It is. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, which I could have really enjoyed. But the whole experience was so sour to me. It was something that could have been so great, but certain peopleís egos just made it a pain in the ass.
AG: Were you and Greg close?
CM: Yeah, very close. I just talked to him the other day and heís doing really well.
AG: Youíve got a new guitarist right?
CM: Yeah, I had to fire Scotty for personal reasons. Heís a lead guy, he didnít want to just be a guitar guy. Heís doing a new thing. Kevin Hahn used to be in a band called Red Sector, he has his own studio here in town.
AG: And itís working out good?
CM: Itís been great.
AG: And the album came out in May. Whatís the goal fro this band, do you have one?
CM: Weíre going to play a lot of shows, thatís the plan. I put the album out on my own because I could. I just want to try to do the whole grass roots thing here and Seattle and Spokane and Idaho. Just watch it organically grow. Let it build itself. Itís a new band, thereís no master plan. Itís just rock Ďní rollÖ and nothing like Everclear.
Read more in the archives.
Tri-Polar - Tri-Polar
Out With the Old, In with the New - January 11, 2005
Everclear - November 16, 2004