Britny Fox – Michael Kelly Smith Interview

While the turn of the music scene separated the band more than eight years ago, they never truly called it quits. Aside from their solo efforts, Britny Fox always had hoped to one day reunite, and had even joined together to write during their hiatus. And when Spitfire Records approached them to record a live album, which was later released as Long Way to LIVE! (Spitfire), guitarist Michael Kelly Smith said that the time was right to regroup.

The History
After the release of their self-titled gold album, Britny Fox had toured extensively with the likes of Poison, Joan Jett, and Ratt, and followed-up their success with Boys in Heat (Columbia) and additional touring, adding a European jaunt with Alice Cooper to their repertoire.

Despite their success, vocalist “Dizzy” Dean Davidson had wanted to move on by completely changing the sound of the band to reflect his current influences. Smith says that while were not opposed to maturing, doing different things, and growing as a band, Davidson had wanted to change their style to the point that they would not be recognized as Britny Fox.

He believes that Davidson’s solo effort, Blackeyed Susan is a good representation of the direction that the vocalist had hoped they would go, but instead of making that change, the band parted with Davidson and recruited vocalist Tommy Paris to join them for their third album.

One of the trademarks linked to Britny Fox had been the vocal style of Davidson, and Smith explains that it had evolved through his early influences, which had included Tom Keifer (the singer of Smith and Fox’s original drummer Tony Destra’s first band, Cinderella), as well as AC/DC and Accept.

“He came to us with the songs, and that’s how he sang them. I mean he chose to sing that way – you know, raspy vocals are cool and everything. But, I mean, we weren’t apposed to him branching out from that either, which you can hear more of on the second album, songs like “Long Way from Home” and different ones where he could sing in a lower register without the screaming. And once again, we were all for him changing that up a bit, but that was completely by choice for him to scream like that and people either loved it or hated it,” explained Smith.

The Transition
Smith said that after Davidson quit, they had put out the word (actually the word got out) that they were looking for a new singer, and they had received a tremendous response from vocalists around the world. After reviewing the demo tapes, Britny Fox had narrowed the search down to a handful of potential vocalists that might fit the style of music that they were known for.

That handful included vocalist/guitarist Tommy Paris, who had played locally in Las Vegas with several unsigned acts. Smith says “We flew Tommy in, and from the first rehearsal, we knew he was the guy. He just nailed the old stuff great, and he just had a great personality and a cool look – you know, you just kind of tell, the chemistry was right, so we were really blessed to hook up with him, the fact that we found him.”

Unfortunately, while looking for a new singer, the band was also shopping for a new record deal after being dropped by Columbia when Davidson left. It took some time before they had signed with Atlantic records, because of the time the band spent filling the open slot, recording demos, and showcasing for record labels. Though there has always been a handful of people who prefer the band the way they were when they started, when the album was finally released, Smith says “the vast majority of the people were like ‘wow you guys sound better than ever’.”

For Britny Fox, it was a nice welcome, the fact that people really accepted Paris in the band and thought that their third album was their best one, especially since they had more to do with writing the album. Though they toured on that album too, the release didn’t do nearly as well as they had hoped for, and the band’s new version was short lived due to the backlash on the glam rock scene. However, the energy behind their new live album enables fans old and new to witness their rejuvenation.

The Future
Britny Fox recorded during four of six reunion shows last spring, and kept the Philadelphia and North Jersey shows for the live album. While the band did spend plenty of time mixing in the studio, they pretty much left the songs they way they were, since they felt that it truly captured the essence of the band. Smith says that they got really lucky, because the shows went real well musically despite them only having a few days of practice prior.

“I think everybody is really shocked and surprised by it, especially people who hadn’t heard our third album (our first album with Tommy), I think people are shocked at how much better of a singer Tommy is – he does the old stuff great. He’s just such a great singer.

And I think looking back on it even though we were really bummed at the time Dean quit, because we were really on a roll, in the middle of a tour and this and that, but I guess looking back it was kind of a blessing in disguise. I think Britny has a lot more potential now with Tommy and that we’ll be able to take this thing to a whole new level with him. Nothing against Dean, but I think general consensus is that Tommy is just much better, much more pleasing to listen to,” explained Smith.

He added, “I think a lot of people are also surprised at how good the songs are too. People that weren’t familiar with the band from before or had never heard the third album, people that maybe never heard any of the albums.”

Right now the band is focusing on getting on a tour package for the spring and summer. In fact, he says that their first big tour was with Poison, and it would be cool to hook up with them again.  But, if they aren’t able to join a larger tour, they will tour the club circuit on their own. After that, they hope to begin work on a studio album in the fall, which will possibly be released in early 2002. He says that they’re problem has never been coming up with new material, it has been choosing which songs are the best for the album, and anticipating a future release, they have already written a ton of material.