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Music by VICE

Tribute Bands

Since Rock Band allows friends to form their own living-room tribute bands, we thought we'd pay tribute to some of the originals… or, rather, some of the best who pay tribute to the originals.

by VICE Staff
Jan 1 2000, 12:00am

Since Rock Band allows friends to form their own living-room tribute bands, we thought we’d pay tribute to some of the originals… or, rather, some of the best who pay tribute to the originals.

Thanks: Mötley Crüe
Location: New York

Why form a tribute band?

Nikita Seis:
The universe kept sending awesome female musicians my way! First I met Tawny [Lee] at a fundraising event for Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls. Then I took out an ad seeking a “loud, rude and aggressive female guitarist,” in keeping with the original ad that found Mick. Once Mistress Mars joined, it was game on. We auditioned about 10 different singers before we found Vixen on MySpace.

What other bands have you played in?

Seis: Does playing Rock Band count? Actually, I guess that’s still playing someone else’s music. The answer is officially no.

Neil: When I was 19, I joined an Omaha-based band called Jimmy Skaffa. We were an original ska band with some punk undertones and a horn section.

Mistress Mars: I was the guitarist/co-songwriter in the seminal, underground punk/rock group the Stimulators back in the early punk-to-hardcore days of NYC, in which we played a major role. Our motto and direction was Loud Fast Rules! It stuck, and many people still remember that group.

Who in Mötley Crüe have you met?

So far, we’ve met Vince and Nikki. They both seemed genuinely interested and said they want to see us play and love the idea of the band. I have this hilarious fantasy that during one of their concerts, we put trench coats on and take their places on stage for half a song and then the guys in the Crüe come out and rip our trench coats off and expose that we’re four hot sexy chicks rocking one of their tunes... Wouldn’t that would be awesome?

Have you ever played a Crüe tune on Rock Band?

I tried the drums on “Saints of Los Angeles” at Crüe Fest. Only on easy, but I made it through the song. I guess I have to upgrade from PlayStation 2 if I want to download more Crüe tunes!

Neil: As a professional singer, I actually find singing on Rock Band a little difficult. You really have to hit the exact note on time with no room for improvisation.

Do you feel threatened that Rock Band might encourage more Mötley Crüe tribute bands that never leave the living room?

Tawny Lee:
I think Rock Band is revolutionary and is bringing music to a whole world of people, who never would have picked up an instrument. Particularly for drums—there will be a lot more drummers out there going forward. And the world can’t have too many drummers—especially females ones!

Thanks: Madonna
Location: San Francisco

Why “Mandonna?”

Jimmy Wiz (Mandonna Eugene):
We started the band out of complete irreverence for tribute bands—in particular, all-female versions of all-male acts. Madonna was the likely candidate as she and her music are well known. Plus, she is irreverent on her own. Mandonna is the ultimate anti-tribute.

What was Mandonna’s original mission?

We would play the music flawlessly but with the decidedly heterosexual swagger of straight men. We began rehearsing a variety of Madonna tunes for four months as a three-piece, then brought in another guitarist, a keyboardist and two backup singer/dancer types. The lineup was complete and after another four months of intense rehearsal, Mandonna debuted to a packed house at a club in San Francisco’s Mission district. The crowd was anxious and did not know what to honestly expect, but when the band came on, the crowd was floored, and Mandonna exploded in their proverbial faces.

What’s the difference between playing in Mandonna and original bands?

The main difference is that audiences are larger because they are looking for that certain freak factor that keeps their interest for longer than a nanosecond. Also, people already know the music and even if you mangle a song, the audience still tends only to hear the original song in their heads.

What do people misunderstand most about tribute bands?

That the band members generally loathe the music that they are playing. That the fans have absolutely no taste in music and wouldn’t even know good music if Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart himself rose from the grave and farted in their faces to the tune of Don Giovanni.

Thanks: Kiss
Location: New York

What is it about Kiss that made you form MiniKiss?

Joseph “MiniGene” Fatale (Gene Simmons):
There’s no other band like them. I was so inspired by them after seeing them many years ago with the original members, I just went home and bought a drum set, guitar and bass and played them all by ear.

How did the band come together?

I was moving and was putting away my vinyls and had my still-sealed Kiss Alive! with the original lick-on tattoos and, bam, it just flashed and the name came with it: MiniKiss. It was the first and only littlest tribute band in the world.

What do you like most about your audience?

We get a lot of different fans—young, middle-aged, older—who were into old-school metal. And the greatest part is seeing them really into us. Especially the young ones, ’cause I grew up on Kiss, and they’re growing up to MiniKiss, and we are about to write our own songs. Kids accept us as MiniKiss, which is so great to watch their smiles. We’re not just some Mini-Me/Oompa Loompa band. It’s cool. I still do that on the side, but MiniKiss is my first love.

What does Gene Simmons think of MiniKiss?

I’ve met the whole band, and they all know us big-time. But Gene has been great toward us, and we were even on his show Gene Simmons Family Jewels… Nick [Tweed-Simmons, Gene’s son] said, “Wow, you play just like my dad.” That was so cool to hear.

You ever played Kiss songs on Rock Band?

Yeah, I’ve played that. I do ok. It’s a game.

Could Rock Band ever replace MiniKiss?

Don’t think so. That’s a game. We’re real. We’re unique and we’re a fun group to see live. But that’s their choice. Also, people must get out of the house like we did and watch all the bands. It’s just fun to see live action.

Thanks: AC/DC
Location: San Francisco

What brought your band together?

Riff Williams (Cliff Williams):
As young girls, Bonny [Scott, vocals] and Riff embarked on a friendship based on their mutual love of AC/DC and of Bon Scott. AC/DShe was born in the whiskey-drenched summer of ’99. There’ve been many lineup changes along the way, but we’ve never turned back, cause “it’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock ’n’ roll!”

Have you played in non-tribute bands before?

Yes, most of us have over the years. The biggest difference was having an instant fan base and everyone in the audience singing along at our very first show. We’re performing for AC/DC fans so it’s extremely important for us to do AC/DC justice. Playing the songs note for note and capturing the same high-energy presentation is essential.

Do AC/DShe fans do anything shocking?

We’ve seen quite a few exposed bosoms and AC/DShe tattoos!

What do you want people to know about tribute bands?

Some people seem to think tribute bands are trying to take the place of the bands they pay tribute to, which is ridiculous. We play to give people the opportunity to see and hear AC/DC tunes played live when AC/DC isn’t around. AC/DC hasn’t been on tour in our part of the country for eight years! There are kids coming to our shows that weren’t even born when AC/DC was last here and they’ll all be going to see the real thing coming up on the Black Ice tour.

Have you ever played AC/DC songs on Rock Band?

We’ve all aced our parts playing “Let There Be Rock” on expert—what else would you expect?!