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The Chaz Interviews - July, 2003
by Chaz and the artists

It was the summer of 2003 and's active message board community was heating up as well -- with flame wars. Along came Chaz Fanaro, looking to cut through the negative noise. He began to interview many of the musical artists who pitched a tent on the popular indie music forum. Others pitched in with questions of their own. July of 2003 could have turned ugly, but thanks to the interviews blanketing the forum, it became a home for insight and mutual respect. The forums were wiped clean by Vivendi in December, 2003. The interviews live on.


Artist description
I find it hard to describe my own music beyond the normal, "it's rock". It's the result of many years of listening as a fan to the many bands I admire and trying to find my place right in between them without copying them.

Music Style
Rock and Electronic

Musical Influences
The Doors, Tom Petty, Love and Rockets, Audioslave, The Cult, John Lennon, The Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, Hendrix, Radiohead, Red Hot Chillipeppers, Beck, David Bowie, Neil Young, T-Rex, Mott the Hoople, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, MC5, Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stoneage

Similar Artists
The Doors, Tom Petty, Love and Rockets

Artist History
I began playing bass in a band with my brother Bob called Walk Don't Walk back in about 1980. It was a all original music band in Birmingham, Al. I then went on to play with Ripchord and the Jukin' Lizards who received airplay back in the late eighties on college and alternative stations. After that I took up learning the six string and recording. I then recorded as the Cove for a couple of years. I produced a few punk rock bands during this time and alternative bands. I then moved to Florida and toured playing a festivals up and down the east coast. My wife became ill and I stopped touring and moved to Houston TX where I now write and record my tunes. I hope to be out playing soon. Until then these demos are all I have to communicate with an audience. I hope you enjoy them.

Group Members
Les Lewellyn

Guitars, Bass, Keyboards, Lead and Backing Vocals, Percussion, Recording and Production

ManicD-, This is Houston Goahead

Additional Info
Please visit

Katy, TX - USA

Chaz the Spaz
Les, your recent recordings are reminicent of your earlier works. Are you planning to create more original music that's as 'on the edge' as the ManicD- project?

For sure Chaz. I am currently working on an album which is mostly my earlier works and also an album of originals with Circle of Friends. When these two projects are completed I will finish my third album of Experimental works. It's going to be a welcome change by then for me and I plan on it being much more experimental than the past two cds with no loops this time around. STrictly keyboards, bass, guitar, drums and whatever instruments I feel like kicking in. I had fun with the loops but want to explore more on the keyboards with different synths. I've been getting into creating weird sounds and love pitch bending.

Chaz the Spaz
That's something to look forward to. I think that you will find experimenting with sounds on different synths can be exasperating yet fullfilling.

Tripped out is more like it. I can make noises like humans have never heard. LOL.
I'm off to sleep. Thanks Chaz.

The Lord Dog Almighty
Les is one of the kooler peeps here.

one blue nine
Single or double coil?

Von from ONOFFON
I've always liked the way you push your ideas to the edge and still maintain instrumental credibility. Do you like working alone more or would you prefer working with a band of different players on their individual instruments?

"Les is one of the kooler peeps here."
Why thank you Dog. You are much too kindly sir. I honor your integrity and wisdom.

"Single or double coil?'
Hi TK...I use both on my Strat. I have two single coils, one at the neck and one in the middle. At the bridge I have a Seymour Duncan HotRails Humbucker which I totally love. I play all of my leads with the switch in the bridge position. I screw around with flipping the switch to change the sound with the other pickups and I go right back to that pickup. It's what my ears dig. For rhythm guitar I do use the other two pickups from time to time.

"Do you like working alone more or would you prefer working with a band of different players on their individual instruments?"
Hi Von,
I've worked with bands in the past and loved it. I do miss it. I got a taste recently of how good it felt to play with a band when I went up to Iowa and recorded with Ricky and the Circle of Friends. It's was a huge reminder of how cool a band can be. There's something about the energy that a band creates that's very hard to capture as a solo artist. I've been jamming locally with a band as often as possible and I'm liking where that's going. It's hard rock and all original.
I enjoy doing my solo stuff but would much rather have a band of musicians who liked playing similiar music and also write and sing. In the past the bands I did play in played all original music for the most part and everyone was capable of playing their parts without someone teaching them to play it note for note. We'd just jam and it would fall in place. Each player basically wrote their own part to the tune and that's how I like to work. I wouldn't want to be a dictator or leader because I've been in bands where there was one or two of each and it sucks. I think each member should be equal except for maybe the drummer...unless the drummer shows up to all practices and on time.

The Lord Dog Almighty
Oh, come now, Les, Moi?
Do you miss the Buttermilk days?

Actually no. The band was me(meaning I played all instruments and sang..except the special guest here and there) so it's really no different now.
Thanks for asking.

"I think each member should be equal except for maybe the drummer...unless the drummer shows up to all practices and on time."
Sounds like you know the same drummers I know! HAHAHAHA! So drummers are the same all over?

I think so Larree except maybe in Canada. Mark Hewer has told me "It will be a couple of weeks before I have the drum parts down" and then two days later..."I have the drum tracks ready!!!!"
If Mark is a example of Canadian drummers then I might be moving up there

Les, what kinds of gear do you record with?

Kathy, my setup is very simple. I use Cubase as my multitrack recorder. To get the sound into my computer I use a MidiMan Audiophile soundcard. I've tried others including the Lexicon Core, Soundblaster Platinum, and a Tascam. I ended up selling them off and using the MidiMan. To my ears...especially the vocals sound better with that card.
To get the sound into the soundcard I use a Behringer 602A mixer that cost $59.
For my keyboards I use a MidiMan Oxygen 8 which I love to death. It cost about $90 but feels like a thousand. It's small but the keys feel great and the knobs and controls feel strong. I'm certain it will last for years.
The Oxygen comes with no's strictly a controller so I use the Software Synths in Cubase and ones I got free from Computer Music magazines. They come with a cd with cool stuff for free. Some are full version working synths.
For my bass guitar I play a Jackson bass and play direct into a Korg Toneworks bass processor known as a Pandora's Box. The processor is the size of a pack of cigarettes and is awesome. However my Jackson Bass is not awesome. The pickups have a lot to be desired. I will change them out one of these days or buy another bass down the road. I feel it is the one area of sound still lacking in my recordings. Even with new strings the Jackson bass sucks in my opinion. But it's been on all of my recordings you have heard and it's gotten me by so I shouldn't bitch because it was a gift.
My guitar is a Fender Strat which I'm in love with. It's really all I play. I either play direct into my Boss GT3 floor processor which has some great amp and speaker simulations(mods) or I play into my Sano vintage tube amp and mic it with a shure sm57.
For vocals I am using the preamp on my Behringer board with a MK319 Oktava large diaphram condensor mic. Those can be bought new for a little over a hundred bucks now.
I love mine. It's the best vocal mic I've owned and one of the best I've ever used. It compares to the ones I've used in commercial studios. The price of things these days blows my mind but I can tell you that ten years ago the mic would have been an easy $600-$700 and it would be worth it.
I have a Stratocoustic but don't use it to record with. So basically that's all of my gear. The effects on my recordings are coming from the VST racks in Cubase. I own no outboard gear any longer. I sold all of it.
One thing I did do is max my computer out with RAM. Ram makes every difference in the world when using VST racks and instruments.
For drums I have used ACID for loops or Realdrummer which I love. But as long as Mark is willing to add his drumming magic to my tunes I think you'll be hearing him on my songs.
I do use a Sony stereo poweramp to push my studio monitors which are Energy bookshelf monitors. They sound very true. I have some other Infinity studio monitors but use them on my home theatre system.
Thanks Kathy.

jaw knee
Les, I really enjoy your lyrics... So my question is….Do you write the music or the words first?

I do a bit of both but most of time it happens all at once. In other words I'll just be jamming around on my guitar and I'll sing along with nonsense until all of the sudden I'm actually writing down lyrics. It can take minutes and sometimes hours and days to polish it up.
I do carry around paper to write down lyrics that pop in my head and I have notebooks full of these. But I rarely go back and use them.

ricky boy circle of friends
Very cool bro! This is a great forum!!!!
Who started this???? Chaz??? Very cool.... damn shame I am off line so much anymore.

Thanks Ricky man. Yes Chaz did start this. I'd say he's a pretty cool cat.
I got the vocal track finished on "It's About Nothing" this afternoon and I'm working on the keyboard part tonight. You guys did a great job on the other tracks. I don't think I need to do anything else. Tank's guitar part is very cool and your acoustic sounds great! Everyone sounds perfect. I cannot thank you enough!!!! I'll post a rough mix of it somewhere tomorrow for you to hear and mail you my tracks so you can mix it and send it back. Then I'll master it and it's finished. Too cool.

Go Chaz - Interview's are cool
How did it feel to hear your music being played on Les?

really enjoyed reading about how you record...ManicD, sounds like you got it all down..!!

"How did it feel to hear your music being played on Les?"
It was very cool. I'm glad I took the time to send Jeff a cd via the mail. I could hear the difference in the stream opposed to an mp3 file.
Back in the late eighties the band I was in at the time, The Jukin' Lizards, got airplay on the College and Indie stations across the U.S. and other countries. We even showed up in CMJ.Getting a break on radio these days is almost impossible. What Jeff is doing is very cool and very much appreciated!

"really enjoyed reading about how you record...ManicD, sounds like you got it all down..!!"
Thanks 7Mama! I don't have it ALL down though. I spend hours mixing and sometimes end up remixing a tune several times until I can listen to it all the way through without something bothering me. That's always the clue for me that I've got it right. I sometimes will be lazy and upload a tune knowing damned well the high end(or whatever) is bothering me. Then someone posts that they dig the tune but the high end(etc...) is too much. I'm like "damnit" somebody noticed besides me and of course I fix it. I'd end up fixing it without the feedback but the feedback places an urgency on it.LOL.

Les, You seem to have the knack at getting big sounds with a small budget. You have some of the fullest/hottest mixes that I've heard at What mastering plug ins are you using? When mastering do you use a frequency analyzer or do you do everything by ear? Do you use any particular references? Since your system is all set up in one box do you find yourself going back to the mix at times and tweaking or do you keep your original mix in the mastering domain once there?

Wilke thank you very much!
The only mastering software I use is T-Racks. I am using the older 16bit version. I strictly use my ears and no analyzer. I add no eq to anything when recording or mixing. I try to get my sound as it's played. That way mixing is just a matter of getting the correct balance of each track and then mastering is a matter of sweetening it for my ears. I'm always anxious to finish a tune up and get it out there but lately I've been taking more time and not rushing the process and I think it's showing in my mixes. Right now I have four songs going on at once. While working on one I'll take a break to tweak another one I feel is finished or near finished. I try to keep enough tunes in the works to keep me from rushing any one and from getting bored. I always save my song files on a cd so that if in the future I feel for some reason that I can mix it better I'll have them.

gray martin
Les...two questions:
1) I'm a fan of your music and I really love your vocals. You have a very distinctive style that reminds me of a cross between Tom Petty & Roger McGuinn, but still all your own. Is this something that you've worked at and developed through the years, or were you just born with an exceptional vocal style?
2) I love your guitar work. I might be mistaken, but alot of your stuff sounds like you actually plug into a real amp & mic it. (I'm an advocate & practicioner of that)...Do you mic an amp or is it a direct patch?

Gray, first let me say thank you!!! The feeling is mutual, I totally dig your music. Now that that's out of the way I will answer both of your questions.
1)I have had to work very hard to develop my own style of singing.
Basically I've developed my voice by the response I've gotten over the years. If I sang a song live and somebody walked up and said "you sound like Jagger" I'd do everything in the world not to. In my ears I sound nothing like Jagger or Bowie or whoever. In my ears I sound like me. I don't try to mimick anyone and never have. I guess it's hard not to sound like my influences because they are the ones I sing along with. I especially enjoy singing along with the Byrds and Tom Petty. But I also sing along with Radiohead, Pearl Jam, and other modern bands. When I sing along with these artists I don't try to sound like them but instead try to find my place with them.
Recording has really helped me develop my own voice because I can hear it back and figure out what I like or don't like about my own vocals. I can hear when it's flat, sharp or right on. I work on it daily and gave up cigarettes a year and a half ago and took up excercising to increase my vocal power. I'm nowhere where I want to be with my voice and hope to continue to improve.
2)I actually do a bit of both. I use a Boss GT-3 floor processor that has some great amp simulation and effects on it. It would be easy to just rely on it. But I'm old school in the fact that I was mic'ing back before COSM(modeling).
I have two guitar amps, a Kustom Twin from the eighties and a Sano from the sixties. Sano was made by Ampeg and it's a tube amp I picked up last year at a yard sale for $20..the Kustom is solid state and 260 watts rms and I'm the original owner. My favorite to mic is the Sano because it really gets a great sound at lower volumes and that way I don't drive my wife and neighbors nuts. The Kustom is what I use for live jams.
Because the Boss GT3 is stereo I sometimes will run the left out into the Sano from the sixties. Sano was made by Ampeg and it's a tube amp I picked up last year at a yard sale for $20..the Kustom is solid state and 260 watts rms and I'm the original owner. My favorite to mic is the Sano because it really gets a great sound at lower volumes and that way I don't drive my wife and neighbors nuts. The Kustom is what I use for live jams.
Because the Boss GT3 is stereo I sometimes will run the left out into the Sano and the right out into the Kustom and mic both to get a fat stereo sound with effects. Being one that wants to be unique, I will most always modify the GT-3 so that I get my own patch/sound.
Thanks for asking man.

ricky boy circle of friends
Les..... what is it that inspires you when you write your lyrics?

Hi Ricky, thanks for asking. I'd say whatever is going on in my life or in lives around me is the simplist answer to that question. I approach each song individually but do have a certain standard I place on all and that is that I am able to listen back without being embarrassed by the words I am using.

Hey ManicD, I just listened to Breaking Relations, I was glad the lyrics were available on this one, because I couldnt really tell what the lyrics were except for the chorus, the lyrics are really great, why do you put it in the genre that you did?

Chaz the Spaz
A lot of people that live on the East Coast visualize Texas as cowboys with six-shooters and spurs rounding up herds of wild Mustangs, what is it really like where you live and have you ever been to a rodeo?

Hi 7mama...I put the tune in the AAA/Adult Alternative genre because that stands for "adult album alternative" which I consider most of my music. It's not music for kids, although kids seem to dig it, and it's not pop singles's more album oriented.
Glad you dug the lyrics and oddly you are the first person to not hear the lead vocal that I know of. Everyone who has heard it says the vocals are way out front as they should be but I do appreciate your feedback.

Chaz where I live, in Houston, there are 4.5 million people and it's very international.
Musically the city is intense. EVERY night a major artist is in town and on some nights you have a choice of several. Then you have the indie artists with strong followings playing nightly. Of course you have the local bands which are plenty. A artist here could most likely play a different open mic each night for a month straight before returning to the same venue. There are a number of clubs which hire in local bands/artists too. Texas itself has so many places to play that a artist/band could tour Texas alone and make a good living if they put on a great show.
There are three areas of Houston that look like a downtown skyline and the city keeps growing. It's a sprawling metropolis rich in culture and diversity. I'm proud to live here and call it home.
Yes,I have been to the Houston Livestock and Rodeo twice. My brother gets free tickets where he works and passes them my way if I want them or I'd never go. I saw some country singer I've never heard of once and I was bored the whole time. Then I saw Hank Williams Jr. who was suprisingly good. I do like watching bull riding and women's barrel racing because Dixie use to barrel race many years back. But like Houston, the rodeo is not full of cowboys for the most part. It attracts all kinds of people so it's not like "redneck heaven". In fact a real redneck would feel uncomfortable in Houston for the most part.

Chaz the Spaz
"It's a sprawling metropolis rich in culture and diversity. I'm proud to live here and call it home."
Sounds like Houston is a really nice place, Les. It's a good thing there are no six-shooters at open-mike nights.

Chaz the Spaz
How did you first become interested in music?

I have a sister who is ten years older than me who was into the Beatles and other early sixties rock. She had lots of forty fives and played classical piano.(45 rpm records made of vinyl.)
Then I have two older brothers who were in bands as guitar players. They had lots of records too and would hand them down to me. I totally dug rock music as early as the age 8 and could sing along with everything on the rock stations.
When I was thirteen "Are you Experienced?" by Jimi Hendrix totally blew my mind and I knew then I wanted to play an instrument.
So I took up drums in the school band. Despite the fact that I made A's at school in drums my parents refused to buy me a set and I gave up on the idea of playing an instrument. I didn't want to play guitar because my brothers played and I wanted to be different.
I did however mess around with my brothers guitars every now and then and learned a few chords. I'd do the campfire thing with "Horse with No Name" and "Helpless,Helpless".
But basically I did not play and had very little interest in playing guitar.
Then at the age of 23 I was asked to play bass in an all original progressive/alternative band. Not only had I very little experience on bass I also had no bass guitar. So I went down to the music store and bought a Rickenbacker 4001 Fretless bass not realizing how difficult a fretless was. But ignorance was bliss and I fell in love with the bass.
But, after years of playing in bands as the bass player I found that the guitar player was the one who controlled what songs we did. I guess it was who I was playing with at the time but I began writing tunes on the bass while jamming with the drummer and when presented to the band basically they'd be rejected by the guitar player. So after a while I was like f&ck this shit I'm gonna play guitar.
In a nutshell that's how I got into music.

Chaz the Spaz
What are your goals and what do you have planned for your music?

My goals right now are stretching me thin but I'm working on them nonetheless.
I have an album in the works as a solo artist which includes guests like Mark Hewer and Ash Ferry. I am only about a third of the way done with the cd and it's my vocal/rock stuff.
Then I have an album in the works with Circle of Friends. It is a mix of my originals and COF's. It will include all new material.
Then I have a song or two where I'm taking on the lead vocal duties which will be released worldwide next year with label backing. It's an interesting project but is still up in the air so I'll not mention names here.
I've also been asked to join a local band which I've been playing with as much as possible to see how it jells.
Then, I've been offered a spot in a local female artists band who is about to begin touring which totally interests me because she has the gigs already booked. This is an offer I will be persuing very soon. Her music is similiar to folk/rock stuff I play too so playing guitar with her will be fun. But what got her interested was my voice and she is wanting me to sing backup also!
These are all not so much goals as they are projects. The only goal I really have is to continue learing my instruments and improving my voice. I'm nowhere near where I want to be but better than a year ago so that inspires me! I've also come to the conclusion that I must be in top physical shape to really give it my best so I work out at least three times a week very vigorously and that's really helping my vocals.
I also will be playing out as a solo artist when my album is completed. I hope to do nothing but music for a living by the first of the year! That's a tough goal in itself but one I plan on accomplishing because I'm dedicated to achieving it.
As far as "planned for my music"...well I get bored very easily so expect the unexpected in the future. Maybe a hybrid mix of my Experimental stuff with my rock vocal stuff with my rock vocal stuff after I finish my solo album and the COF's album.

Chaz the Spaz
Practice makes perfect, do you practice?


  -- Rick Munarriz

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