INTERVIEW: Phil X - The Drills, Bon Jovi

He’s was one of the first prolific session guitarists in Los Angeles, having worked with some of the greats in the music industry from Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper to Chris Cornell and Halestorm. In 2016 he became an official member of Bon Jovi, he invented the ‘Flip Stick’, has amassed over 30 million views on Frettedamericana, and he’s now a Gibson Artist. He is the one and only Phil X.

We sat down to talk with Phil about his new single release with The Drills, his inventiveness on guitar and his relentless passion for fans, so much so he put them in the new video.

Elle Jay: Hey Phil, thank you for talking to The Rockpit

Phil: Hey, how are you doing?

Elle Jay: I’m good thank you, how are you?

Phil: Yeah, I’m good, there’s a lot of weirdness, but we’re doing our best right, everybody is, you’ve gotta learn to roll with the punches (Phil air punches)

Elle Jay: It’s definitely a weird world at the moment.

Phil: So, where are you?

Elle Jay: In Perth, Australia

Phil: Perth, you have the rock n roll statue there!

Elle Jay: Yeah, we have the statue for Bon Scott here

Phil: I knew it! Yeah Bon Scott, yeah! I played in Perth with Bon Jovi and they were like there’s a statue here of Bon Scott, and I’m like let’s go and they go no we don’t have time.

Elle Jay: Hey you can see it next time when you come with The Drills

Phil: Dude, I want to come over with The Drills so bad, people don’t understand how bad I want to go to places with The Drills. I’ve been to these places with Bon Jovi and it’s amazing. The Drills are my passion, I’m telling a story, I’m the narrative and I’m delivering the goods as a lead guy, with Bon Jovi I’m kinda in the back seat of the band adding colour. With The Drills I’d love to go to Australia, Brazil and Europe, we were supposed to be in Europe in March and we did eight shows in the UK then instead of going to Amsterdam we had to come home because of Covid, so we only toured part and it was really disappointing. And even now as an artist and as a musician, it’s very challenging every morning to wake up and think I’m not playing a stage until next year, I mean that doesn’t sound right but if that’s what it is, it is what it is. I’m sat playing guitar every day, I get to work on music every day, I get to be home, I get to be a dad with my kids which is amazing (Phil’s face lights up at this point) That’s the saving grace of this, it’s all about being positive, I mean hey, check out this Segway, that’s what Right On The Money is about! It’s all about being positive, things could be worse, put everything in a bright light and move on man, that’s what it’s about.

Elle Jay: It’s a really awesome song and I love the video with your fans, you all look like you’re having so much fun.

Phil: You know I really wanted to do something as a thank you to the fans because they’re so supportive, no matter what’s going on they’re always there and they’re always supportive. I launched the Phil X App last month so I wanted to do something special for the premier members with some exclusive content, so we put it out [to them] and said ‘hey if you send me a video of you singing the chorus we will put you in the video’ and surprisingly enough a lot of people, they started coming in and coming in and then I think my last count was fifty fans in the rock video and I that’s crazy, some of them were really quick with ‘Right’ and then they’re out but it’s a pop song, well I mean [deep voice] it’s got a heavy rock bridge but you know, it’s a catchy tune right?

Elle Jay: Yeah, I love it, it’s got everything there’s even swing jazz there in the drum solo

Phil: Is that what you’d call it?

Elle Jay: Yeah

Phil: Maybe, a little

*Phil breaks into an ad-lib scat jazz vocal*

Phil: Hey you know, if that’s what you say it is then that’s what it is. I think it’s an energetic track and I feel that came together because we recorded it live off the floor, we were lost, it was a brand new song, no body had played it before. As we we’re figuring out the arrangement, Chris Lord Alge, Grammy Award Winning Engineer (Green Day - American Idiot, 21st Century Breakdown, Boulevard Of Broken Dreams & American Idiot Theatre Album.Steven Curtis Chapman – All Things New) walked in and said ‘hey after that heavy section instead of going into the solo or the bridge we need a drum break’, and we were like ‘what?’ Brent then said ‘something like this?’ and he goes back into the control room and we play the song, we get to the second chorus and I’m (Phil’s acts like he’s biting his nails) but I’m playing guitar so I can’t bite my nails so you know what I mean, we’re looking at each other, Brent (Brent Fitz) over there, Dan’s (Daniel Spree) over there and they’re looking at me and I’m like ok, so I go to Dan ‘start playing bass’ and he started playing bass and I started getting feedback and I’m like how am I going to let these guys know when to go into the solo (Phil clicks his fingers with inspiration) I scream! So I get on the mic and I scream and we all go into the solo, then I had to signal everybody again and now I’m doing the chorus, I love that we didn’t fix that, the way we recorded it with all that animosity toward the arrangement, all those feelings of what the hell was happening, I think that’s how you hear it and I love that about that track, it adds an energy to it, I believe.

Elle Jay: You got that whole track in one take?

Phil: No but yes, there was two takes prior before Chris said let’s do the drum break, so the drum break was the first take. As I sit here now, I still get goosebumps because it was such an incredible way to lay it down, Dan was like ‘what just happened’? And I was like I don’t know but it sounds great and then I get it home, so the main guitar that you hear on the left and drums and bass, that’s the track, that’s what we laid down at Capitol Records. Then when I got it home, I wanted to balance it out so I put a guitar doing the same thing on the right and then sang it and we had some friends over and they did some ‘Right, Right, Right’ and that was it. I mean the solo on the track is the solo I laid down on the floor with the guys in that take, it was all meant to be. My favourite records are (Led) Zeppelin recording at the same time, Black Sabbath recording at the same time and Van Halen recording at the same time, people don’t do that anymore, so when I can I try to do that as much as possible, I just love the energy that comes with it.

Elle Jay: You can see that energy transfers over in the video, everyone looks like there having a ball and it’s the first time you have played it together

Phil: Yeah I felt like how would I have felt if one of my favourite artists was like if you send in a video you might be in the video, then if I saw my face in one of my favourite bands video, I’d be freaking out, calling my Mom ‘Hey Mom I’m in the video’! You know so I can only imagine what it feels like, you know our fans are amazing so sending them a thank you and having them in something like this is fantastic. Also the premier fans that are in the video, they got the video before any one else, like you guys have it (The Rockpit) because you are so far ahead in the time zone (15 hour time difference) the rest of the US wont see it until tomorrow morning but our fans got it today, so that’s exclusive for them.

Elle Jay: You also have the new album Stupid Good Lookings, Volume 2 coming out soon as well?

Phil: Yeah but with that I want to clarify that ‘Right On The Money’ is a standalone single, so it won’t be on Volume 2 and I’ll tell you why, there’s another six songs that will go on Volume 2 that have six other drummers and since Brent is on ‘Right On The Money’, he was also on ‘I Want My Money Back’ on Volume 1, he’s on all the money songs, so I have to get more money songs haha. I, love Brent and he’s fantastic but I didn’t want to repeat drummers for Volume 2 so it’s six different drummers, including Tommy Lee, Ray Luzier from Korn, Gary Novak, Kenny Aronoff who’s worked with everyone, Ryan MacMillan and Liberty Devitto. I met Liberty Devitto who played drums for Billy Joel for thirty years whilst we were doing content for the ‘Hired Gun Documentary’ and we totally hit it off, I said to him if I ever have any work and get a studio, will you come and play on a Drills song and he was like yeah man. So, I ended up doing that before I played Madison Square Garden with Bon Jovi in New York so that was pretty exciting.

Elle Jay: Will Daniel and Brent tour with you when The Drills go out?

Phil: If Brent can, he plays with ‘Slash’ and well it’s the dynamic of being a drummer in LA, if you’re in LA and you’re a great drummer, you’re playing in ten bands which is why we don’t have a drummer, we always have different drummers. I’ll be like ‘Hey Man we’re playing the Viper Room on Friday night’ and I’ll get ‘I can’t I’m playing with somebody else’. So then I’ll go to drummer number two and he’s playing with someone else and then you’ll get to drummer number five and he can do it but he wasn’t your first choice haha.

Elle Jay: How about Daniel?

Phil: Daniel is always out, he’s the consistency for me, he is the glue between me and any drummer like musically, energy wise, because I can be a wild spoke in the wheels sometimes and he’s the one that just keeps the wheel together. It’s pretty insane, and we’re like brothers it’s an incredible relationship, if I booked a tour and he said he couldn’t go I don’t think I would do it.

Elle Jay: He is a phenomenal bassist

Phil: He is and he’s the funniest guy on the road, which is more important haha

Elle Jay: We have spoken about the fans in the video, and you’re an artist who has had an incredible career working with everyone from Rob Zombie to Alice Cooper and Chris Cornell and now working with Bon Jovi, but whose video would you want to be in?

Phil: Ok first to play that game I have to be 14 again and then it would be Van Halen, I saw them in 1980 with Roth (David Lee Roth), I know you’re like man that is way before you were born, haha

Elle Jay: Only 2 years, I was born the year you formed Sidinex (1982)

Phil: Look at you doing your work, do you know what ‘Sidinex’ means?

Elle Jay: Yeah it’s cool it’s your last name reversed.

Phil: Yes, it is

Elle Jay: So, about Van Halen in 1980?

Phil: I saw them in 1980, 81, 83 and 84. I’m just going to go out and inject, that changed my life, Eddie (Eddie Van Halen) was my favourite guitar player, it wasn’t like he just got on stage and just stood there and played amazing guitar, he played amazing guitar whilst jumping off drum risers, sprinting across the stage and jumping on PA stacks. I was like ‘I want to do that’ it’s like a superhero, putting a cape and I can save the world!

When people ask how am I so energetic onstage, it comes from being a huge fan and being in the audience and projecting what I want to see on stage, which is energy you know. Whether I’m singing, I mean it’s hard being on a mic all night and that’s what I do with The Drills, I don’t get to run around as much, but when I get to do it, it’s an incredible feeling of control and loss of control, it’s a balance.

Elle Jay: So, what’s next for The Drills? I understand with Covid there’s disruptions to touring, maybe you can come here to Western Australia, we can have 30,000 people at a stadium within the month due to the success of our restrictions.

Phil: Get out, I’m going to talk to my manager as soon as I hang up, I’m gonna call my agent in Australia cos that would be fantastic, but we would have to quarantine for two weeks before we could play, then do the shows and have to quarantine to come back home. That makes sense man but 30,000, I have a theory that the smaller venues would be allowed to open first?