Besides living the Hollywood dream, what does Christopher Wicks, founder of Los Angeles–based Defiance USA, (whose bowling shirts Charlie Sheen made famous on the sitcom, Two-and-a -half Men) maker of the English Laundry and Fender apparel lifestyle brands, have in common with Mick Rossi, one of the true founders of punk rock in Britain, (as a guitarist and original founding member of Slaughter and the Dogs), and prolific screenwriter, actor, and producer with such credits as "Played," "2:22," and most recent work, "A Kiss And A Promise?"
And okay, they did grow up around the corner from one another. Though it took a lifetime of independent achievements and the will of the gods for them to cross paths and discover kindred spirits in each other. Wicks and Rossi ran in the same circles all their lives, from the streets of the legendary town of Manchester England, to the glitz and glamour of tinsel town, yet never met until one warm and clear Hollywood Christmas party.
As young boys, both Wicks and Rossi dreamt of escaping their designated lot in life. For Wicks, his passion for scribbling sketches would launch him from designing for casual labels, LA Gear, Hang Ten, and Ocean Pacific, to launching his own label, English Laundry, catapulting him into international fashion status. Wicks would go on to become known not only for his holding rights of Lennon and McCartney lyrics for apparel, but for his philanthropic tendencies. Recently, Wicks was honored for raising the remaining funds needed to complete the Fashion Industries Guild's pledge to build the Fashion Industries Guild Pediatric Acute Care Unit at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
For Rossi, the teenaged angst cathartic release he shared on stage with fellow punk rock musicians, Wayne Barrett, Howard "Zip" Bates, and Brian "Mad Moffet," that is believed to bear responsibility for launching, or at least stoking the fire of the the punk rock movement in Britain, would give birth to more intense expressions on the big screen. Notably, Rossi found a brother-in-arms in director Phillip Guzman, whom he worked with on "2:22," a follow-up to Rossi's critically acclaimed and star-studded screen-writing debut, "Played," a film he co-wrote with Sean Stanek. "2:22" took top honors at the Malibu International Film Festival for Best Feature. Rossi's most recent project, "A Kiss And A Promise," is his and Guzman's sophomore project, about a love triangle featuring Rossi as a seemingly normal B&B owner/family man but who is really an antisocial killer, that opened in theaters early last month.
Inevitably, these were two powerhouses fate would demand meet. Back to the cosy Christmas party in the Hills. After discovering their mutual love of bands The Verve, Oasis, and The Doves, and realizing they shared the same iconic zipcode, and maybe a woman or two ( I'm making that part up) the two newfound best friends didn't waste anytime in putting together their band, The Glorious and snagging a dream-team special guest lineup for their debut album, Stories From a Fractured Youth, which boasts some of rocks most notable musicians, including longtime friends, Scott Weiland, Steve Jones, and Billy Duffy.
Must be nice living in Hollywood with that kind of financial flow to throw into a studio recording whenever the whim strikes. Lucky for us they did. The Glorious' Stories of a Fractured Youth is a heartfelt collection and rumination of growing up in Manchester, England and detailing the loneliness and isolation both Wicks and Rossi felt growing up.
antiMusic caught up with the pair for a little chat about where they've been in life, where they are currently, and what the future holds.
antiMusic: You both grew up in Manchester, only blocks away from each other. Did you have different memories and impressions as teenagers about your hometown? What were your impressions of the music scene growing up? Who did you follow? Who did you want to be most like?
CW: We grew up in a tough environment, but I personally loved the power of
Manchester with it's past and subsequent future.
MR: Growing up in Manchester was tough, I came from a working class family who lived from week to week as most people in my neighborhood did. You learned to adapt to the streets which helped you survive & ironically gave you a determination other kids weren't fortunate enough to inherit. Overall it was a great place to grow up, it was mainly all about the street you lived on, it was "our street" "our world". For me the music scene was a little stagnant, my entire focus was on David Bowie & in particular the famed guitarist Mick Ronson. I use to watch Mick on Top of the Pops as a kid, that world of their's seemed so far away from me, so out of reach but I was fascinated by it.
antiMusic: What prompted you both to start playing music?
CW: You don't choose it, it chooses you. I always had the desire and talent for writing and singing and Mick has it all. He's a great composer, producer and musician.
MR: Music was my way out, most of my friends were in jail or doing hard drugs. Mick Ronson gave me the light & hope that I could play, that I could be good & he opened up the portal into the music world for me.
antiMusic: It would appear you lived parallel lives, growing up in Manchester, living in LA, both success stories in your own rights-- Wicks-- you a prolific designer, and Rossi a noted actor, how did your paths finally cross?
CW: We spent as many years living near one another in Manchester as we did in LosAngeles, until finally meeting at a Christmas Party in 2009. The rest is Rock & Roll history that culminated in the Album ("Stories from a fractured youth").
MR: I think we were meant to meet each other; we met at a party at Christmas time, Ifelt like I'd known Chris for many years immediately after meeting him. He looked like arock star and was kind, funny & endearing. I knew we would hang out after that first meeting.
antiMusic: Had you known of each other's passion for playing music prior to joining forces?
CW: I followed Mick's exploits with Slaughter and the Dogs back home in Manchester, but me putting music down for others to hear, didn't truly start until I met Mick.
antiMusic: What did you discover about growing up around the corner from each other but never meeting? Did you share the same friends? Hangouts? Women? Did you find you shared the same tastes and dislikes of your hometown?
CW: We do have friends in common but didn't know this until meeting in '09. They're all playing on our album as a matter of fact! The music and club scene being fairly small in Manchester, we certainly went to the same places; I did go see Mick play though back in the days. And finally, I never touched her!
MR: That's a very good question and I think we have a lot in common, an innate
understanding of each other; whether you live 2 miles apart or 20 miles apart, we are both from Manchester and a Mancunian dances to his own beat always and we recognize that in each other.
antiMusic: Wicks-- Can you please talk more about English Laundry what inspired you, how you got as far as you did with your clothing line, and what making patterns does for your psyche? Does music and fashion bridge somewhere along the way?
CW: I think I was a designer from birth. It's same as with the music, it chooses you! English Laundry is the amalgamation of my design in clothing . The Brand has now become a global success because it was always done with a lot of love and authenticity, and the success of it has allowed me to indulge in my passion for music.
antiMusic: Wicks--You've met with incredible success along the way with English Laundry--producing for John Lennon Collection and designing for Fender; what were some of your challenges you faced? Did designing ever eclipse your love or drive for music? Or reverse that, did having friends like Scott Weiland make you pine for a rock and roll lifestyle and image instead of the design image?
CW: I have been blessed to work with such Rock Icons as Fender® The Guitar
Company, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon and Lennon/McCartney by designing Clothing Collections around these Legends. I've also had the pleasure of working Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver) in both the clothing- & music
business which has only enhanced the experience. I believe that Rock & Roll and
Fashion are inexplicably linked.
antiMusic: What has been your favorite part about life so far?
CW: Living life to the fullest every minute of the day in both work and play, I have (3) beautiful children and my best friend, my "Soul Mate" (track 9 on the Album): Hermansson whom I live and work with everyday.
antiMusic: Rossi-- You started out with a bang in the music scene, being heralded as one of Britain's punk rock founders. How do you feel about that distinction? Do you think it's apt?
MR :I love it, I'm very proud that Slaughter And The Dogs were one of the first bands outof the gate in Manchester. It told kids that "yes, you could do it!" It didn't matter if you were poor or had a bad education or you were marginalized by the man, music could change your life.
antiMusic: What was it like playing with the illustrious Sid Vicious? Or sharing a stage with the Clash? Were you all on the same level? DO you feel you achieved what you set out to achieve as a youth?
MR: Never played with Sid, but met him & Nancy a few times, we played with the Pistols when the original bass player Glen Matlock was with them. There was a real sense of a movement happening at that time with one factor in common : CHANGE.
antiMusic: What are your fondest memories of that whirlwind time?
MR: Friendships & meeting Mick Ronson & subsequently becoming his friend.
antiMusic: You've also tallied up quite a roster of film credits, from writing, to production, to acting. Can you talk about how you fell into the acting world? Can you talk more about some of the projects you are most proud of?
MR: I always followed acting, but was too shy to admit I wanted to be an actor. Certainly living in Manchester at that time made entering the world of acting an impossibility to someone like me. Seeing Al Pacino in "Dog Day Afternoon" had a profound effect on me, I was fascinated by the story & Al Pacino in particular. I met the English actor/ director Keith Allen and he gave me my first job on camera, I think I had 3 lines and I was s***ting myself but after I had done it, I was hooked. When I moved to Los Angeles I began to write screen plays, I also met producer Lenny Bitondo and he took a gamble on me, we've made 3 films together and its a very successful partnership. Of the projects I'm most proud of, I would have to say all of them. Its really really difficult to make a movie, let alone 3 of them & I'm really proud of each and every one of them.
antiMusic: Can you talk about your current project with Phillip Guzman, "A Kiss and a Promise?"
MR: I've done two movies with Phillip Guzman, he's my writing partner and a brilliant director. Phillip and I previously wrote & worked on the feature 2:22 together. Our latest movie is "A Kiss and A Promise" - it's a very dark thriller, its been called Hitchcockesque, we recently opened in Los Angeles to wonderful reviews and we hope to open on the east coast soon, its a very creepy movie.
antiMusic: Where did you pull from to play a violent sociopath? What kind of life experiences helped you play this role?
MR: Living in LA!
MR: I played the role of "David Beck" in a "Kiss and a Promise", he is as you say a violent sociopath, yet he had another side, that of a loving husband and good neighbor. I tried to seek out the good in him, he was a tortured man and he had an addiction. I approached the role internally first: seeking to understand his thought process, how he operates, how he sees things, how he feels, etc. Then for me came wardrobe, I wanted him to be very ordinary, very the man next door.
antiMusic: So you guys meet, and hit it off. How does a cocktail party turn into studio recording time with some heavy hitters like Weiland, Jones, and Duffy come into play?
CW: I think it was realizing initially our mutual musical influences and love for music in general that lead to us talking about my lyric/poetry writing. I sent him (Mick) some of my poems and he called me back in a matter of hours and played me the melody to our first song together. Quite brilliant really and that's how it went.
MR: I agree with Chris.
antiMusic: Talk about the creation of the album. What were the driving voices?
CW: The stories.
MR: For me, it was to be faithful to the song, always be faithful to the tunes & I wanted it to be a great experience for Chris, he put a lot of faith in me. Its hard to capture personality on a record but I think we achieved that on this album.
antiMusic: Is this meant to be an album where each track stands alone or a series of tracks represent a deeper story? If there is a story you're wanting to be told, what is it?
CW: They're sometimes separate stories, but they all come back to the same person/s,the same life and the continued experience of being who we are and where we came from.
MR: The album takes you on a musical journey with vivid images & great stories, I think they can stand alone certainly or hang out together.
antiMusic: There's a Beatle-esque quality to the songs, is that purposeful or to be expected living so close to the music of the fab four?
CW: We didn't set out to write "Beatle-esque" songs, but thank you most kindly for saying so. That is a huge compliment! It's just who we are, what we listened to and was influenced by and still are to this day.
MR: That is a massive complement to us, thank you! Again we just stayed true to the songs, and the Beatles influenced the whole world, sometimes it rubs off on ya.
antiMusic: I was surprised by the melodic lyricism and layered compositions of the album and was expecting something a little edgier and harder than what you've tracked. Possibly from knowing there was a punk background I was ready for some of that influence to filter in. Do you think this will be a common reaction?
CW: It's a combination of the writer having been a Mod and the composer a Punk I suppose. Also taking into consideration a vast library of influences ranging from the Motown of the 60's to the Beatles, David Bowie through to Oasis of recent.
MR: Could be, who knows! My older brother Ray, was a massive mod & motown fan, as a young boy I would always soak up these incredible melodies from the records he was playing, I've always been a fan of melody. To this day my favorite song is "A Change is going to come" by the awesome Sam Cooke. How punk is that!
antiMusic: Having being accustomed to pretty much answering to yourselves in your respective careers, talk about the recording process--what was it like working with each other and getting to know one another on this level? What obstacles, expectations did you have to overcome? What differences did you have to accept?
CW: To me the process was exhilarating. Having Mick produce the album and working with Craig Parker Adams at his Studio (Winslow Ct. Studios in Hollywood, CA) combined with some of the most amazingly talented musicians out there…There are no obstacles.
MR: My process as a producer was to track lay all the songs with a great band I put together: Dave Raven on Drums; Zac Rae on Keyboards; Cedric Lemyone on Bass and myself our guitar, we worked with our engineer Craig Parker Adams who also mixed several of the tracks on the album, and together we were a solid tight unit with great feel. Then Chris would come in & track lay his vocals. Once we nailed that I would then layer harmonies, string arrangements, percussion parts etc etc. Chris has in-built soul, it was my job to get that out of him. Once I confiscated his iphone, his blackberry, his blueberry, his bluetooth, his gordon geckko phone, took offthe jangly chains & stopped him doodling on pads....we were good to go. He nailed it,I'm very proud of him.And having Steve Jones from The Sex Pistols & Billy Duffy from the Cult & ScottWeiland amongst our guest musicians was just icing on the cake for us. I've knownSteve & Billy for many years, it was great fun for me.
antiMusic: What would you do differently knowing what you know?
CW: Get Noel Gallagher to play and write with us.
MR: Get Liam Gallagher to guest on a track.
antiMusic: Was there any point where you thought this project would not get off the ground?
CW: Never. It sounded too good from the get go not to continue with it.
MR: I agree.
antiMusic: What track is your favorite and why?--Can you pick a particular song that has a deep meaning for both of you and share the story behind it?
CW: "Fractured Youth" is about Mick's past, but mine was very similar so I think
collectively this would be the one.
MR: I was very touched when Chris wrote this song for me, its a lump in my throat when I play this song still.
antiMusic: What track showcases your unique talents?
CW: 1 thru 13
MR: Track 2, Dancing Angels. I'm really proud of my guitar solo on that track. I thought to myself "what would Mick Ronson do"?
antiMusic: Talk about the track "Help." What motivated you to record it?
CW: We wanted a song that Scott (Weiland) felt comfortable with and this was it.
I never thought a song by John Lennon and Paul McCartney could get any better but I have to say, Mick's composition of this is hauntingly beautiful!
MR :I wanted to approach "Help" differently, its the only way with any classic song - try &make it your own. So, I did an arrangement where it was just very simple & sparse.
antiMusic: What track keeps you up at night? Are either of you perfectionists?
CW: Not the stuff we've already recorded, but I write lyrics 24/7. I can't stop. I send them to Mick at all hours. 5-6 at a time.
MR: Once the album was mixed & pressed, it no longer belongs to us. It's out there in the universe so I've learned to let go at that point. And yes I am a perfectionist or at least I try to be.
antiMusic: What track are you most proud of? The one that you listen to over and over and say, "Damn I nailed it?"
CW: "Schizophrenic Billy". I can see Billy in my minds eye as I sing it - every time!
MR: "Warriors of Peace" It has such depth to it.
antiMusic: What's next musically? Creatively? Together? Separately?
CW: "More Stories…." We've already started recording and writing for album #2.
Definitively working together.
MR: Yeah, album # 2 is on the launch pad, we just hope to grow & get better &
antiMusic: How are you supporting the release?
CW: Various forms of PR; viral, hosting radio shows, billboards and editorial and live shows of course.
MR: Stories from a Fractured Youth. The Glorious. It's available on itunes.
antiMusic: Any chance in seeing a follow-up?
CW: Fxxing definitively!
MR: I agree Mister Wicks.
The Glorious Interview