Interview and Photos by: Robert Cavuoto
One of my few regrets was never seeing the 70’s commercial rock band Angel play live with their extravagant costumes and visual illusions. By the time I started attending concerts they had broken up and disappeared in a cloud of smoke like one of their illusions.
Angel was on Casablanca Records, the same label as KISS and put out five LPs in their short time on Earth. They went out with more of a heavenly look with white and silver compared to KISS’s black and silver. They had Frank Dimino [vocals], Punk Meadows [guitar], Greg Giuffria [keyboards], Barry Brandt [drums] and Felix Robinson [bass].
If ever there was a band ahead of its time, it was Angel. Breaking up in the early 80’s; had they hung in there a little longer MTV and the explosion of the glam metal scene may have carried them on to being a household name.
Leading Angel’s quest for stardom was legendary guitarist, Punk Meadows. Fast forward 36 years and he now has a solo band and just released a CD on May 20th called Fallen Angel via Mainman Records. Punky and his new partners Danny Farrow [rhythm guitar], Felix Robinson [bass], Chandler Mogel [lead vocals], Bob Pantella [drums] and Charlie Cav [keyboards] enter another realm of songwriting with songs that are melodic, fast-driven, and neatly tied together. “Straight Shooter,” “Lost and Lonely” and “Shake Shake Skake ” are hard edged songs with great riffs married with pop sensible melodies; something that has been missing in rock for a long time.
To most Punky was considered a mythological guitar God who simply disappeared leaving many Angel fans scratching their heads. To say I was extremely excited to speak with Punky is an understatement. During my chat he told me how his musical roots and love for pop music help shape Fallen Angel as well as shared his perspective on the old question; “Whatever happened to Angel?”
Robert Cavuoto: I’ve been looking forward to the release of Fallen Angel for quite some time. Why is this your first release 35+ years?
Punky Meadows: I left LA in 1988 as I got tired of the whole music scene. Musician getting screwed left and right by management and record companies. So I left and started my own business but never stopped playing guitar. I love music; I just don’t like the business side of it. I spent a lot of those years learning and honing my craft. I would play every night even while watching TV on my couch always recording my riffs. I would also visit my friend’s bands and sit in with them to play. In the 90s’ the scene started to change with the whole Grunge and Rap thing which made it more difficult for an artist like me. I wasn’t into the new heavy metal scene as it was all about how fast you could play, how much you can finger tap, and with a singer who sings in the stratosphere with no sense of melody. I didn’t want to do anything like that as I didn’t find it inspiring. To make a long story short, I joined Facebook about seven years ago and started seeing how all these fans loved Angel! I started to see how the band and I inspired people. I never realized that before because when you are out touring people come back stage and say “You were really great tonight.” You would go to the next town and same thing. Once the tour was over you never heard from those people again. So you really didn’t know how much they cared as you were just another band. When social media came along you started to see how much they did care. I was really impressed.
A couple of years ago my best bud and guitarist in my band, Danny Farrow, asked me to do a radio interview with Keith Roth of WRAT radio. The night of the interview, the website crashed because they couldn’t handle the volume of people going to the site. I was completely dumbfounded. Keith said in all his 17 years of hosting the show, that had never happened and he interviewed heavy hitter like Robert Plant. Because of that I started getting record offers. Danny and I started writing and instantly we knew we had something special. Danny liked the same type of music as me, David Cassidy, ABBA, Elvis Presley, and songs like “Yummy Yummy Yummy I got Love in my Tummy”, I got no shame. [laughing]. I told Danny I would really like to make a CD that kicks ass. That is melodic with good choruses and hook so people can sing along with them like the way rock n roll used to be. Songs that had a commercial feel and I think we accomplished it as this CD is very diversified. Every song is good from beginning to end. It practically wrote itself and we had so much fun doing it. It will chart on Monday May 30th as we already got a letter from Billboard.
Robert: Are there any unused Angel riffs or song ideas on this CD?
Punky Meadows: Nothing from Angel. There is one song called “Shadow Man” that I used to play in bars as I wrote that chorus and hook when I was 18. It was always in the back of my mind to play in a band. The other riffs are from writing on my couch. Most of it is done from the past year when we were recording. Songs like “I Wanna Be Your Drug” is a like a pop song, it’s an ode to The Beatles and then you go from “Shake Shake Shake” which is a like a Lynch Mob like song to “Shot Down” and “Loaded Gun” which are two killer fucking driving rock tunes.
Robert: Two of my favorite tracks are “Lost and Lonely” and “Shake Shake Shake.” What can you tell me about their creation?
Punky Meadows: “Lost and Lonely” was Danny’s riff then we put a chorus and bridge to it. “Shake Shake Shake” is an epic, melodic rock song. The other songs aren’t as anthemic as that one. I knew we need something like that on the CD and it came together pretty quickly. Danny came up with the lyric and the rest was from writing on my couch. It’s also a kick ass song to do live on stage.
Robert: Do you have a favorite track?
Punky Meadows: I don’t have a favorite song believe it or not. Every song on this CD is a winner.
Robert: Who inspired you play guitar growing up and who inspires you now?
Punky Meadows: I grew up on blues players like Clapton, Beck, and Page and Gary Moore. They played with feeling, melody, and heart. Now I really love and inspired by country music like Brad Paisley and Vince Gill; those cats can play guitar.
Robert: I know that you always played a Strat with Angel, what was the reason for starting to play it?
Robert: What did you use to track the CD?
Punky Meadows: I have a Carvin guitar that I played on the CD. It single coil pick-up which are the best I’ve ever heard. The guitar on the CD cover is a Strat body with Carvin guts, neck, and a Super V tremolo bar. It’s a Frankenstein guitar with a Strat sound.
Robert: Over the last 36 years did you ever receive offers to join high profile band other than Kiss?
Punky Meadows: David Krebs who is famous for being Aerosmith’s manager at one point he asked Mickie Jones [original Angel bassist] and myself to join the New York Dolls. We had just started Angel so asked him to come down and check us out. He fell in love with the band and ended up getting into a bidding war with Sandy Pearlman of Blue Oyster Cult’s management and Casablanca to sign Angel. I think the guys in the band wanted to see palm trees and ended up signing with Casablanca but I always wanted to sign with David. I knew he had the muscle to do what we needed. We always stayed friends, so when Joe Perry and Brad Whitford left Aerosmith he asked if I would play with them. At the time I was out in LA with Greg Giuffria trying to shop a deal on a band called Legend which was after Angel. My stupid loyalty got in the way again like with Kiss so I turned it down. David also asked me to join up with Michael Bolton when he started out. He wasn’t the crooner he is now, he was a hard rocker but that never worked out either.
Robert: Where you ever asked to join Giuffria with Greg?
Punky Meadows: Greg and I were in LA with the band called Legend with David Eisley, Bobby Benjamin. We did a demo with the band and shopped a deal but it was turned down. I then went and tried to put together another version of Angel with Frank and Barry which didn’t work out so I decided to head back east. Greg got his deal with Gene Simmons because of the demo we did with Legend. After I left and Greg, he enlisted Craig Goldy and changed the name to Giuffria.
Robert: Angel’s music varied from CD to CD with progressive, pop, and rock songs, do you think that hurt Angel in any way?
Punky Meadows: When Angel first came out we were a progressive rock like Queen, we didn’t want to be a singles band. We were more like Yes meets Led Zeppelin. People liked those first two albums best but we never got a single from it. Casablanca wanted a single so we started to write single orient songs. I’ve always liked all the pop rock stuff with my favorite song of all time being “Go All the Way” by the Raspberries. When I hear that song I get chills. So when White Hot came out it was more pop with catchy choruses. Back in those days they weren’t playing bands like us on the radio, they were playing Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles. We had a stigma attached to us. We had to go out and tour like crazy to build a following, just like Kiss. Their first three albums did anything until Alive which really captured their sound and then things blew up for them.
If we would have had MTV at the time, I think it would have been a different story for us as we were prime for it. We missed it by a year or two.
Robert: What is about the mystic of Angel that people are still intrigued about the band 36 years later?
Punky Meadows: When we first put Angel together we knew we had something really cool. We were the first glitter band in Washington DC as everyone was in t-shirts and jeans. We had flash pots and blowing the whiskey bottles off the shelves in the clubs. After the bidding war for the record deal we added the stage illusions and it was pretty impressive. If you witnessed a show it was almost a religious experience. When we were on stage doing it, that was much different than watching it or hearing it. When I saw all the photos of Facebook I got excited again and really became a fan and fell in love with the band again. I think people appreciated our music ability and find our fans to be really loyal and fierce. We did our last tour out of costume because we wanted to break that mold. Fans would ask why we stopped wearing the outfits as we wanted to be just a straight forward rock n roll band. Looking back I can see that it set us apart from everyone else.
Robert: Is there a possibility of any other Angel members showing up for a mini reunion at BB Kings in NYC on June 14th?
Punky Meadows: Barry said he was going to come to the show put who really knows. They haven’t said so I really don’t know. I gave all of them a copy of my CD so I hope they listen to it. Greg said that he would like to bank roll the whole Angel thing and do two shows at the House of Blues or Hard Rock Cafe. I always said that I would do a reunion if it was with all the original members and done right, not just up there in white jeans and a t-shirt. I don’t want to tarnish Angel’s past, I would rather leave it there in its glory days than do it half-assed. We would have to put a lot of money into it and have a lot of rehearsals.
Robert: Do you see your solo band doing more dates that the one NYC show?
Punky Meadows: Yes we are pushing the CD and we’ll have a radio guy coming on board now to help us. Next is to get a booking agent and schedule a tour.
Robert: Speaking of costumes do you still have any of your old costumes?
Punky Meadows: At the end of our Sinful tour, Felix got a hold of all the old costumes and put them in a trunk. He stored them in California and then ended up moving to New York. After all those years he went out there and discovered the costumes. He gave me mine and I gave one of them to Danny Farrow because he is a big Angel fan.