Tyketto Michael Clayton Interview



For 30 years, Tyketto’s life is like a Rocky story. A band that has been knocked down, gotten back up, and refuses to give up. They are the band that are still rocking with no signs of slowing down. Tyketto (Danny Vaughn-Vocals, Chris Green-Guitar, Greg Smith-bass, Michael Clayton-drums, Ged Rylands-keyboards) have had a busy year touring. This year will see the release of the band’s upcoming DVD, “We’ve Got Tomorrow, We’ve Got Tonight” and next year, the 25th anniversary tour of their sophomore album Strength in Numbers. I had an opportunity to catch up with Michael Clayton to talk about the DVD and the upcoming tour.

Angel Alamo: How did the idea for the live DVD come about?

Michael Clayton: Once we got back on the world stage and started doing the big festivals, we were exposed to a multitude of different bands. Some just kind of phone it in and are doing whatever to make their money. Then we see several bands that are playing wonderfully, but when you see them from show one to show two and year one to year two, it’s the same cut and paste show. Even though it’s quality, it’s the same thing. The bands we like to go see are the bands that always try to mix it up. We’ve been together 30 years, so how many people in our genre haven’t seen us live?

With the challenge of once again reinventing ourselves, the first dialogue was to record an acoustic DVD where we’d do different arrangements unplugged. We soon remembered that we’d done that once or twice over the years, so it didn’t seem special.

So, the idea started: Let’s get backing vocalists. Great, okay, we’ll do that. Let’s get a horn section. Okay, we’ll do that too. And let’s get a string section. Once everybody got all excited about it, we just started throwing these crazy ideas around. Fast forward six months; we’re in Wales and we’ve got a 14-piece band on stage! We then added the extra pressure of recording it in front of a live audience, so it just became this monster. It was born out of wanting to give our longtime fans something that they never saw before.

Angel Alamo: What can fans expect on the live DVD? Will they get to see, like the backstage stuff, of the band preparing?

Michael Clayton: Our first thought was to look through the catalog and pick obscure stuff, but we then thought that doing stuff that’s lesser known and doing it differently may really throw our fans. I think Chris and I started talking and agreed on just doing our most popular songs. I’m not sure if you remember Bon Jovi doing an “Unplugged” show on MTV many years ago, where and he and Richie did this acoustic version of Livin’ on a Prayer that had this somber feel to it. It was a melancholy version of that beautiful pop song. I never forgot it, because it was a song I knew and loved for many years, but suddenly it became a new song again because they did it differently.

So that became our mindset, and we just started throwing around crazy ideas. I suggested Kick Like a Mule, (which is a flat out, balls to the wall rock tune), but wanted to do it like a big band, with horns and real campy backing vocals, like The Andrew Sisters.

In addition to the live music, there is a ton of interview footage and band commentary, as well as one of the rehearsal days where the five of us did a few songs without the extra members.

Angel Alamo: And then, what were some of the other ones that really stuck out?

Michael Clayton: The Last Sunset is a pure acoustic song. We decided to put instrumentation behind that, and make that a kind of Keith Urban, pop country tune.

Faithless always had a Zeppelin-esque feel, and we just heard these big strings ala, “No More Tears” by Ozzy (Osbourne). The big metal strings sound. So, we put that in.

Wings was one I was pushing for that Danny and Chris weren’t initially hearing. I wanted to do it like a flat out, late 1950s, early ’60s, Frankie Valli doo-wop feel; playing up the backing vocals a lot. Once we got rolling with the idea, they were like, “Wow, okay, this is cool. We’re gonna do it this way.”

The one that was scary for us was Forever Young, because that’s something that you’re just not supposed to touch. That’s the big song. Chris sent this idea over, and in my stubborn, New York head, all I was registering was the word, “Different.”  He asked, “What do you think?” I’m like, “I hate it!” It was such a left turn! He loved it, so he asked, “Without giving Danny your opinion, would you mind if I sent it to him?” I said, “No, of course I don’t. It just sounds so radically different, I’m not sure if the fans are really going to embrace this.” So, he sends it to Danny, who immediately calls me up and goes, “I think you’re fuckin’ nuts dude. I love it.”  I got outvoted, and the more I listened to it, I very happily admitted that I was wrong. I’m glad they talked me into it, as it’s a DVD highlight.

Angel Alamo: There’s nothing wrong with that, because I mean after 30 years, it’s okay to want to do something different.

Michael Clayton: Danny and I are the only two original members left in Tyketto. With our genre getting a little bit older, I can’t think of many bands that have all the original members. It seems like the fans are a bit more understanding of change, whether you do a song differently or have different members on stage.

Angel Alamo: What has been the key to keeping the band together?  The band, it’s like you guys seem more like a family than a band.

Michael Clayton: We’re all busy in our lives and in our own businesses. We’re all doing well out on our own, so Tyketto is a very elective decision. Danny said it best in an interview back in June that it’s like a family reunion we don’t get to do all that often.

Chris brought his son to M3 this past May. I was flashing back to our M3 appearance a few years prior. That was the first time my son Ryan saw Tyketto, and now here’s Chris’ son Sullivan seeing us for the first time. It is very much a family thing. We say it so much; we’re always paranoid it’s gonna come off non-sincere, but it’s true.

Angel Alamo: Is he the one that got to sing with Slaughter?

Michael Clayton: Yeah, Sullivan went up onstage and sang with Slaughter! He’s a rock star. We do phone Q&As and trivia contests discussing his faves; KISS and Alice Cooper. He’s a beautiful boy.

Angel Alamo: Back to the DVD. Any release date in mind?

Michael Clayton; We were talking about maybe an October release, not realizing this is 14 songs. It’s mixing a 14-piece band. It’s new renditions. There’s probably an hour, hour and a half of interview footage, behind the scenes stuff and the artwork to tend to. I would say a late fall release is probable,

Angel Alamo: Was there any reaction to how the fans would feel to the arrangements of the songs on the DVD? Like you mentioned they don’t like the songs being messed with, but was there anything in the back of your mind saying, “Is this a good idea?”

Michael Clayton: We were petrified! This could have derailed in a thousand different ways, and I can honestly say I’ve never been more nervous behind my drums. The event ended up becoming very personal. Each band member took turns introducing a song and adding in their own personal thoughts. It was very emotional for all of us. When we went into the audience for the post-show dinner, fans were saying, “When you did that version of Forever Young, I was crying.”

We struck a personal chord with people. Doing the songs stripped down and hearing what went behind these songs when they were first written, it became this special moment in time. I can’t even describe what went on that weekend, but we all felt it. If people listen to it and hear the same thing that we all felt that weekend, it was worth all the stress. Logistically, it was very risky and there were many times when we thought we were in way over our heads, but I think the fans are gonna absolutely love it.

Angel Alamo: The band are actually going on the road to do the 25-year anniversary of Strength in Numbers. Besides the European tour, is the band gonna do any other tours beyond?

Michael Clayton: That one we totally stumbled on. I went to do a Facebook post, and I really had nothing to say. Nothing was really going on to report, so I went through my laptop, looking for a picture to put up. I wasn’t even thinking about any kind of business. I just put the Strength in Numbers album cover up and wrote something like, “Holy shit, next year’s 25 years.” That’s it. And it got over 800 likes in two hours. Suddenly, people are saying, “You have to tour on that album!” It just lit everybody up. We got to talking about it, and agreed it was a great idea. A few weeks later, the March 2019 tour was booked! We’ve also signed on for a September 2019 festival in Hamburg Germany. Once we can take a breath from the DVD, we may add a few European dates onto that.

Angel Alamo: What are your memories of making the Strength in Numbers album?

Michael Clayton: Misery!! For many years, that record represented us getting dropped by Geffen and the advent of grunge music, (which put us out of business for a while), a few of us ending long term relationships and Jimmy leaving the band. All that is the Strength in Numbers era.

I think it wasn’t until Chris and Ged came into the band that I changed my outlook. With new blood comes new energy. Watching the new guys play the Strength In Numbers songs, and seeing the fans going nuts was amazing. I thought to myself; Don’t Come Easy was always my baby. That was the good life, big advances signing to Geffen, our first major deal. That has all the positive connotations with it. Once I listened to the Strength In Numbers record without judging all the circumstances around it, I’m like, “Man, this is a fuckin’ good album.”. A lot of fans in England prefer it over Don’t Come Easy. My memories of the making of the record aren’t really that great, because there was so much other shit going on, but my current memory of the album, as far as body of work, is wonderful. I’m looking forward to playing that whole album. We’re doing the record in its entirety on that tour.

Angel Alamo: Like you said, it’s still a great record because at the time you were going through the thing with Geffen, I remember Nelson was like waiting and waiting for the follow up album.

Michael Clayton: We finished the album right when things started turning. We had a fully mixed and mastered record, we had the artwork done, we had the photo picked for the cover, we had a full press schedule ready to go. This thing was as ready as ready could be, so we figure let’s go visit our team. They haven’t seen us in a while, as we’d been on the road and we’d been working on this record.

We went to some journalist friends, and they “weren’t available” to see us. We then went to our accountant’s office to play him the mixes. We weren’t into the first chorus of the first track, and he left! Brooke and I sat there, listening to our own record by ourselves in this huge conference room. He came back in, and I thought it was to say, “Oh sorry guys, I had a call, let’s listen to this.” He came back in to get a folder he left on the desk, grabbed it and fucking left again! We were sitting there like, “What?” That was the beginning of the end of that chapter. Overnight, it was gone. That was devastating for us.

Angel Alamo: Then?

Michael Clayton: The European market didn’t feel the hit as much as the American market did, so we just took it elsewhere. That year when we were in that state of flux, we just hit the road. We toured England relentlessly on that record. We toured Europe and The States too. We’d go out for four or five months at a time and just play anywhere and everywhere. That’s how we survived. And then things went quiet after that. For a band to sustain themselves purely on playing live is exhaustive. You gotta be out on the road how many days a year just to pay your rent?

So that ended. It got us through ’94, but by the end of that year, Danny had just had enough. That’s when he quit. Everything came at a price for us over the years it seems, but we’re still here.

Angel Alamo: That’s the great thing, like when I was talking to Danny at the M3 festival, it was like, wow, you know, it’s kind of cool to have grown up reading about you in Metal Edge magazine, and reading your interviews, I’m here face to face, laughing with you, I’m like, “Who would’ve thought?”

Michael Clayton: No, we never would’ve thought. This whole thing came just as we started getting a little bit of gas in the tank. That’s when the genre just exploded, with the M3 and the Monsters of Rock and all the festivals going on all around the country. It was so weird because we’d go to those Monsters of Rock cruises, or even the M3 festivals we were on. I looked at the bands on those bills, and we’re probably one of a handful of bands that doesn’t have a gold or platinum record. We never achieved that status.

What’s happening now is people like yourself saying, “Holy shit, I get to see these guys finally.” That happens a lot. But in addition to that, they’ll come up and say, “Dude, I’m a Y&T fan, I don’t know who the hell you guys were, but holy shit!” Every night on that cruise, our dear friend Dave Meniketti from Y&T would announce, “If you haven’t seen these guys, go see them!” He was just such a great supporter of us, as are band members from Firehouse, Faster Pussycat, the other members from Y&T, Winger and Queensryche. Many had never seen us live, and just recently discovered Tyketto. The old fans are coming back around, saying “Wow, it’s great to see you again,” and there’s new fans discovering us for the first time.

Angel Alamo: Fans are always curious to know, does the band ever check out what the fans are saying on Facebook?

Michael Clayton: I love our band’s social networking although I’m personally not into it too much. I think Jon Bon Jovi said that it’s much more interesting to be a voyeur, and watch what other people are saying versus you, because right now, if you put your opinion on social media, you’re looking to get your head handed to you! I think our Facebook page is about 18,000 people now. We didn’t go trolling for any names, that’s truly our fan base. One of the many things I love about our British fan base is they give it to you straight. They’ll tell you if it’s good and they’ll tell you if it’s bad.

There was a fan named Luna. Many years ago, on the Strength in Numbers tour. He came to see us, and I remember asking, “Luna, how was the gig?”

He goes, “Eh, you kinda sucked.”

I reply, “Excuse me?”

And he goes, “Dude, you look like you were gasping for air up there.”

Well, I was. I was smoking a pack of Marlboro reds a day. He was being so brutally honest with me. It really hurt me that my smoking had deteriorated my performance to the point where a fan recognized it, and I must have told him ten times over as many years that I quit smoking that next day because of him. Now, that’s a REAL fan!

You gotta take it as it comes. Some fans will tell you you’re the greatest thing in the world if you’re not, just because they’re your fans. You get the pessimists out there, and the haters, that nothing you can do is right. We listen to everybody, but at the end of the day we make our own decisions. But yeah, we are very active, we always want to know what our fans want to hear. We respect them. They’ve been with us for 30 years. When we did that DVD in June, I think there was maybe 120, 130 people a night. I knew 90% of them by first name.

Angel Alamo: Did you know that one of your friends is involved with a Tyketto fan page?

Michael Clayton: That’s Julie. Julie is Wonder Woman! She handles our merchandise, our website and is involved on the fan page. She and her husband Darren are just sweetheart people, very intelligent and get the business side of things. They are both indispensable members of the family.

Angel Alamo: Would the band ever do a residency, like your peers, much like in Vegas or in any venue? Like a residency type of thing?

Michael Clayton: In Tyketto, one never says never! Anything is possible. Danny and I are like Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons. Little bit younger and not as many zeros in the bank account, but Danny likes to be an artist. He wants to create. He said the business circles give him a headache. I’m a very active businessman and told Danny on many occasions, “‘Til the day I’m in the ground, I’m gonna look for something to spark us,”. That Anvil documentary comes to mind. It just blew them up. We’ll look at any opportunity, residency included. I will always be looking for that one thing to turn our tide, but in the meantime, we’re just enjoying the ride.


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Angel Alamo

I am a journalist at BallBuster Music, Co-Host of The Metal Summit, Producer/Host of On the Road with Angel Alamo, The Movers & Shakers.

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