Respected Montreal rock journalist, Mitch Lafon was nice enough to talk with me from his home and share some insights into the world of rock journalism, concert etiquette, KISS and his musical predictions for 2018.
Ron : Mitch, you are certainly one of the most respected rock journalists out there. How did it start?
Mitch : I lived in an area where there was nothing to do at all so it gave me a lot of time to come up with ideas to do things. I decided at eleven years old I was going to interview Gene Simmons of KISS. Being at that age and living where I was it didn’t dawn on me that they were any different than me or unapproachable. I looked on the back of my Dynasty album and saw contact information for Aucoin management, so I called them.
I’ve always had a very good sense of speaking well and vocabulary. I told them I wanted to set up an interview with Gene and they said “Sure, why not.” It was just that simple.
That interview I did at eleven years old took me a long way because it had been played somewhere on a CBC show. Then my reputation grew from there. I started to become known as ‘this is the guy who spoke to Gene.’ My reputation had grown to the point even Tracci Guns wanted to have me interview him because I was ‘the guy’.
Ron : That’s so cool. Almost like the story of Cameron Crowe in Almost Famous.
Mitch : I get that all the time.
Ron : So you decided to go into music journalism over a music career?
Mitch : (laughing) That fact that I have no talent made me realize that. I picked up a guitar and thought I was going to sound like Ace Frehely and did not. Whenever I took guitar lessons with someone it just didn’t vibe. I tried the drums because I thought well anybody can play like Peter Criss that’s easy. Turns out, it’s not so easy.
I then started doing more and more interviews and got comfortable with record labels. It turned out that this was a good fallback into the music business. If you want to be in the business you kinda have to do something and I know how to talk and I know how to write. I’d even been hired to write band bios, PR sheets and stuff like that, but it’s just not me.
What I can do is tell a human interest story. I don’t care if an artist’s album is horrible. I can get on the phone with them and we can have a great conversation about the love and passion for music.
Ron : How did your Rock Talk with Mitch Lafon get started?
Mitch : I was writing for Bravewords and some other sites when I was approached around 2012 or 13 by someone saying I should do a KISS show on the air. So I did it. In the end it was about 62 or 63 KISS episodes. I got tired of it because every week it was just about KISS. I started to lose out on other interviews and stuff because our main focus was only KISS.
Then I left that and started my own thing, One on One with Mitch and that I did almost 400 episodes. From out of that Chris Jericho the wrestler who is also the lead singer of the band, Fozzy completely e-mailed me out of the blue. He explained he had this Jericho network thing going on and he was looking for a rock show and would I be willing to come over. Since he has a couple of million followers on Twitter and a whole infrastructure of people and booking agents it was easy for me to decide that “Yeah sure I’ll come over.”
Ron: When speaking with musicians I’m always curious about what song or album sparked them into a career in music. For an example I remember The Police Synchronicity being the first album to really impact me. For you, Mitch what was the first album to impact you in your life?
Mitch : Right. Growing up my brother had the KISS albums Love Gun and Double Platinum lying around the house. Love Gun impacted me from a visual standpoint.
Although I have to say KISS Dynasty was really the first album I bought on my own with allowance money. It was the one I listened to the most. I had a great affinity for songs like Charisma, 2,000 Man with Ace singing, Dirty Living done by Peter Criss.That was also going to be my first concert. So it was the whole package with Dynasty. I was like “Ok we’re in.” I was also listening to Aerosmith and Cheap Trick In Color, but KISS Dynasty, that was the one.
Ron : Correct me if I’m wrong but it also contains they’re biggest hit, I Was Made For Loving You.
Mitch : That one and Beth are probably the only KISS songs to crack the top 20 or 10 even. I prefer I Was Made For Loving You over Beth. Fans still love it to this day.
Ron : Being a music fan and journalist you have probably been to so many concerts.
Mitch : Thousands.
Ron : Is there a a number one favourite concert of all time for you? Or even a top three?
Mitch : As far as 2017 is concerned I’d have to say the Guns N’ Roses show in Ottawa was absolutely glorious on every level. They rebuilt the stadium. You get there you park, and then they have a walk in area with all kinds of shops and restaurants. You can have any kind of food and it’s exceptionally clean. I had VIP for that show so it was convenient to watch the show and be able to walk out get a drink and come back with ease. After the show I got to meet Slash. So the whole thing was just phenomenal. The other cool thing in Ottawa is that you are not allowed to smoke at the show even if it’s an outdoor place. In Montreal it kinda sucks that you go to a show outside and you’re stuck around ten people who are smoking all night.
Looking back I have to say the first KISS show I saw was just spectacular from top to bottom. It was my first one so of course it was exciting.
Then I got to see the first show with Eric Carr at the Paladium in New York. I might not remember let’s say all the songs they played but I do remember where I was standing and the mystique of Eric Carr’s first show so there’s a kind of coolness associated with that. People are like “Wow! You were at that show?”
I saw the first show of the KISS reunion tour at Tiger Stadium. It was hotter than hell, pun intended. The band came out and were playing together for the first time in years and they were not on it. They were sloppy and all over the place, but to be at that show was special. It lives on in infamy.
I have to say every time I’ve seen Metallica play it’s always glorious. They always deliver live. When they played Heavy MTL a little while back they delivered a great set.
I even remember the first time I saw Cheap Trick was another one where they had an opening act, Teaze that I also liked.
Ron : Of all the people you’ve interviewed do you have any favourites?
Mitch : I have to say I always enjoy talking to Alice Cooper because it’s always a complete professionalism in the way it’s set up, organized and conducted. You understand their needs they understand your needs. He’s also one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet so that’s always good.
I’d also have to say, Rob Halford of Judas Priest is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet as well. He always tells a great story you can ask him anything and he will answer anything.
David Coverdale of Whitesnake. They’ll tell me I have 15 minutes with the guy and he’ll give me 45 minutes. You can ask him any question and he’ll answer it. He’ll go anywhere it needs to go to make the interview interesting.
Rudolf Schenker of the Scorpions was great because all you have to do is wind him up and he’ll go for half an hour.
Ron : We see so much of today’s charts dominated by pop and rap that some people are saying rock is dead. Is rock dead? If not what band do you think can carry on the flame of rock for the next 20 or 30 years?
Mitch : There’s a band out of England called Inglorious that just put out a great record and are kicking live.
There’s a band out of Atlanta called Biters that put together a great album. They really know not just how to craft a song but how to crash it.
There’s a band who’s been around for a while like Airbourne who still have a lot of potential to get bigger.
Ron : When it comes to attending a concert what are some absolute do or do nots.
Mitch : A do is certainly enjoy the music and get into it. Support the band. Even though you’ve bought a ticket go and buy a T-shirt. Enjoy the overall experience.
As far as do nots are concerned there’s so many. I’d say number one is to not ruin the concert experience for other people. When you go there remember you are not the only one there. Don’t take out your iPad with the screen on full brightness and take pictures all night. The people behind you don’t want to see the concert through your iPad screen.
Don’t be an idiot waving your arms in the air holding two beers with beer splashing all over those around you.
Don’t be singing the song as loud as you can into the ear of the person in front of you.
In general just be respectful of the people around you. Let everyone enjoy the experience.
Ron : You are mainly known as a rock guy but are there any guilty pleasures for you?
Mitch : You know I really love and respect Duran Duran. They wrote really solid pop songs. They are fabulous. I saw them and I even have all their CDs right here in front of me. I also like Huey Lewis.
Ron : So what’s your predictions for 2018?
Mitch : I certainly feel that Van Halen is going to get active in some form or another.
I feel that KISS will have some kind of shake up. I think something will happen to put them up at another level.
With all the years of talk about the Gun N Roses / Metallica tour in the early 90’s I think they might get together and do a one off show or a couple of shows together.
Ron : Do you think Guns will do a new studio album?
Mitch : I don’t know. I sure hope they do. I’d even love to see some of the Chinese Democracy songs reworked with the current line up. I think the best we’re gonna get is a new live package from this tour now like a double or even triple CD set.
Ron : I want to thank you so much. I respect and appreciate you taking time with a fellow journalist such as myself.
Mitch : In this business we all have to support one another. Thank you.