Stories

I have always been a huge No Use For A Name fan, but I never got the chance to see them. I cried and cried when I heard Tony died, I thought I'd never be able to stop. His lyrics are so magnificent, and Hard Rock Bottom expresses my feelings every time I have a broken heart. So yesterday I decided to get his name tattooed. My tribute to one of the greatest, or maybe even the greatest, singer songwriter ever. I'd love it of course would it be in his handwriting but I'm not so lucky to have that. Heaven was needing a hero, so it took Tony away from us. RIP Tony Sly.

Via Munich
 
When my band was just getting our feet wet as part of the FAT Wreck Chords family, Tony took us under his wing and had us play several shows around California with his band. Later that year, when our first album was released, Tony invited us to tour Europe supporting his band. We had never been overseas and we were really stoked to get the chance.
 
Our first album was a collection of songs cobbled together by various riffs brought in by various members over a period of 3-4 years, with me writing lyrics and melodies over them. As we were writing our first album, I began picking up my guitar (which I could barely play) and tried to write more complete songs. I didn't consider this "songwriting" per se, it was more for expediency's sake. While in Europe, Tony and I had several conversations about music and songwriting. He gave me tons of insight and advice, although I don't know if he realized at the time how helpful he was. He asked me about our songs, which he knew surprisingly well, and who had written them. It turned out that he particularly liked some of the songs I had written start to finish, as opposed to the collection of separate riffs strapped together. He told me something I will never forget: he told me that I was the songwriter of the band, and that I needed to take the reins and assume that responsibility. He told me to start thinking of the process in terms of writing complete songs, rather then just bringing a riff or two to practice. It was completely new information for me, but it helped shape the way I have approached songwriting ever since. He believed in me as a songwriter, and he believed in our band at a time when we were still unsure if we'd be able to make a real go of it. 
 
I will always remember his calm demeanor and his understated humor. He always had a way of making the endless monotony of tour seem fun and adventurous. He found the wonder in everyday things and helped everyone around him enjoy them that much more.

 

I've always really been a huge fan of NO USE FOR A NAME, from back when Fat Wreck Chords released their first compilation that contained Feeding the Fire. But one personal story and encounter I had with Tony comes to mind. It was November 16 2000 and No Use played with Good Riddance at the Huntridge in Las Vegas. It was one of the best shows I had ever seen. I remember it like it was yesterday. No Use had just finished there encore and had said good night to the crowd , and I went to see if I could grab the set list. The crowd had to clear out and the house lights had turned on when from the backstage area Tony came walking up to shake peoples hands. There was few of us there and when he came up to me in front of the security rail I said "hey Tony your lyrics and music have inspired me to play punk rock music and have helped me in so many ways."  My girlfriend at the time said it was my birthday, and he asked to see my drivers license and then he asked if I wanted a shirt for my birthday. Hell yes, I said!  Tony said happy birthday and told the T-shirt guy to give me a shirt. He was such a great guy to me. I mean somebody I had never met before that day made me feel totally rad and comfortable. I still have the ticket stub and shirt.

 So Thank you again Tony for inspiring me to play the guitar and write music, I will never forget that night for the rest of my life.

 Yours truly, Rich Peterson: Guitarist and singer of  When It All Falls Down

So a couple of weeks ago I bought the Tony Sly tribute album. To be honest I didn't know what to expect - as a general rule I don't really like covers so it could've gone either way. But I was curious to have a listen and really liked the idea that the proceeds are going towards helping to support Tony's wife and kids, which is a great thing to be part of. So I went ahead and bought it. And guess what, it's great. Really, really great. If I'm being totally honest I'd probably rather listen to all of the original No Use / Tony Sly versions of the same songs, but on the other hand it's great to see the respect so many bands and artists in the scene have for Tony's music and how many of them wanted to contribute a song, and it's interesting to hear other people's take on Tony's stuff as well. But the main thing this album has done is make me fall in love with Tony Sly's music all over again. I kind of lost track of the scene a few years ago, so a lot of the material (the newer No Use stuff and all of Tony's solo stuff) was new to me. And just like the first time I listened to a No Use album when I was a teenager, I just couldn't believe how good it was. Songs like Fireball, Via Munich, Already Won and the absolutely stunning Feel Good Song of the Year just jumped out and grabbed me and I literally couldn't wait to track down the originals. It's pretty mindblowing really to think that one man could have so much talent. In fact, in terms of the quality of the melody and lyrics, Feel Good Song of the Year may well be the best song I've ever heard. I seriously mean that. It's heartbreaking to wonder how many more great songs Tony might've had left in him that we'll now never hear, but at the same time I feel incredibly proud to be one of a small and loyal band of fans who got to hear Tony's songs and appreciate the work of, in my opinion, a songwriting genius. Thanks for the songs Tony. They mean more than you could ever have known.

The Biggest Lie

It was always an honor and a pleasure when Tony would invite me to sing on one of his solo records or a No Use for a Name album. It was easy and fun to work with him and the lads, and I will always be especially grateful for the time they gave me the the lead singing role for the Sinead O'Connor song, "This is a Rebel Song."

Back in the day, we did a lot of touring together, Dance Hall Crashers and NUFAN, and it was a good fit because everyone got along really well. The NUFAN guys were good hardworking family guys, dedicated to music rather than the scene, and they were wicked funny. It was during that time that I learned Tony and I had a couple of random things in common. Our British background (his parents being English and the fact that I was born and raised there), was an underlying common ground that made me really appreciate him as being different to some of the other folks we toured with. He had a self-deprecating humor that was uncommon for most Californians but so funny and familiar to me. Also I felt that for an American touring at a time when the economy was good and we had it pretty easy, he somehow understood the 1980's working class political struggles of England (and Ireland), and the depressive state of the early punk roots that I had grown up around in London's East End. He must have seen and heard about it from his family or perhaps it had seeped into his psyche from movies and records, but I heard it in his music from covers he chose including Rebel Song. This ethos is also apparent in intros to songs like Mike Leigh's Naked excerpt for "On the Outside" and in Tony's own songwriting. I always found that really interesting. 

Another thing we bonded on together as people playing fast punk rock music is that we shared a strong interest in non-punk songwriters and bands like the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and Elliott Smith, among others. Those influences are present in Tony's music to me, especially as he started doing more acoustic material. His chord progressions, harmonies and melodies go other places then an average punk rock tune. Though as is obvious in the Tribute record, his acoustic songs can still be performed fast and punk with no loss to the song's overall effect. 

When Fat Mike asked me to contribute a song to the Tony album I was deeply honored. Yet it was a tall order because I would want Tony to like the way it was done. I suppose it might have made sense on some level to do "On the Outside" or something more mellow since I was doing this solo rather than with a full band. Yet Biggest Lie is a song that I always thought of as pretty sad lyrically, and one that I thought might lend itself to a slow and spooky version. I fell back in love with it after singing back up on it with Matt Riddle for Tony's tribute concert in Montreal. An event that was heartbreaking and beautiful in so many ways. The song's subject matter is biting, smart and to the point and yet so real and heartfelt which I always thought Tony handled so well lyrically. It's a very hard thing to accomplish all of that without sounding preachy yet that is really what epitomized Tony's songwriting.  On this song I love the chord progression and harmonies so I wanted to try it more stripped down with an eerie ominous feel, as that's how I hear the lyrics. Getting my vision to be right was harder then i expected, because at first it wasn't quite eerie enough. I think the addition of the vibraphone and the Lowry organ (with a bit of a carnival tone) helped steer it in the right direction. This whole sound is a bit of a nod to Elliott Smith who i know Tony loved, so I had that in mind. Elliott Smith used a lot of organs and layered vocals and tons of harmony and reverb and even did some a cappella songs. Anyway, since I don't play guitar super well, I had to use my voice, as it's my most reliable instrument. Ha! 

It's super hard to think about Tony being gone. From his lovely family and friends, to his peers, to his fans, the loss felt is so huge. I only hope we can find some solace in this amazing tribute to him. He would really love it I think and be amazed at the amount of people and bands who think so highly of him and his talents. But they do, and I do. 

Cheers to you Tony!

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