Photograph by Carlie Statsky
Happy Camper: Smash Mouth guitarist Greg Camp wants to turn his Westside Santa Cruz studio into an incubator for up-and-coming bands.
Greg Camp of Smash Mouth
The guitarist responsible for all those catchy tunes opens a new Westside Santa Cruz studio.
By Don O. Marino
It's like a kids' game of tag: You're minding your own business—maybe doing your grocery shopping, maybe channel surfing, maybe waiting for the guy at customer service to take you off hold—when without warning, a maddeningly catchy pop song takes hold of you. Tag! You're It. You're screwed now, sonny. Get ready to spend your day with this melody playing on endless loop on your mind's iPod, dominating your consciousness, causing you to inadvertently "tag" countless other people by humming the tune.Somewhere along the line, you've probably been tagged with a song written or co-written by local musician Greg Camp, guitarist for the multiplatinum-selling pop rock band Smash Mouth. At the tail end of the 20th century, hits like "Walkin' on the Sun" and "All Star" were enthusiastically pumped into millions of minds via America's movie theaters, TV sets and sports arenas, making Smash Mouth as easy to avoid as a mullet at a tractor pull. Most everyone will acknowledge that Camp's songs are infectious, but not everyone appreciates that it takes actual talent to make bubblegum this sticky. Whether or not you like commercial rock, you've really gotta wonder how he keeps coming up with the stuff.
To be perfectly honest, so does he. "I don't know," the slick-haired musician says as he sinks into a couch in his 3,000-square-foot Westside recording studio. "There's just always stuff bouncing around in my head. Our bass player, Paul, is the same way. I think that most people who write a lot of songs are like that—they just can't get music out of their heads. It's pretty annoying when you have, like, some really super-cheesy song in your head when you wake up, like 'My Baby Takes the Morning Train' or something."
Yeah, Metro can relate—just the other day we woke up haunted by the idiotic intro to the Marcels' "Blue Moon": "Bom-b-b-bom, ba-bom-b-b-bom, ba-ba-bom-b-b-bom, Da-dang-a-dang-dang, da-ding-a-dong-ding..." Seeing as how Camp has just sent "Morning Train" chugging through the tunnels of our mind, it seems only fair that we tag him back by sharing this bit of information with him.
Amusement and agitation commingle in Camp's face. "By the way," he shoots back, "it's rude to tell someone else what stupid song is stuck in your head, 'cause then it gets stuck in their head."
Hey, you drew first blood, Greg, not me. "I know," he laughs. "I do that to [his new wife] Gina [Marie Young]: 'Do you want to know what song's in my head??' She's like, 'Don't tell me! Don't tell me!'"
Camp, who's just returned from a honeymoon in Hawaii and Fiji, explains that he met Young on the set of the TV show Charmed when Smash Mouth was making a guest appearance: "That was in L.A., but it turned out she was from here." The common ground didn't stop there, though. "We're both into old music," Camp says. "I'm into old bossa nova and a lot of '60s stuff, and she likes swing music." Thus was born the lounge pop group the Gobax (www.myspace.com/thegobax), fronted by Young and featuring Camp's compositions and guitar work. "She's got such this cutesy little voice," Camp says, "and then we tried to make the lyrics a little dark, so it sounds kind of spooky with this cute little girl singing."While still cooking up pop confections with Smash Mouth (the group released its last album, Summer Girl, in September 2006), the prolific Mr. Camp is also putting together a solo album (samples can be heard at www.myspace.com/gregcamp; there's talk of a record deal with Warner Brothers) and playing in the rock band Maids of Honor (www.myspace.com/themaidsofhonor), known as much for the wrestling masks they wear onstage as for their feisty, pop-punk-tinged sound. Consisting of Camp, Survivor's Lex van den Berghe, Smash Mouth bassist Paul DeLisle and Kelly Castro of the band Skycycle, the Maids formed at Camp's old studio in Scotts Valley, where friends would converge once a month for a musical gathering they called the Man Jam.
"All the guys who wanted to play music all their lives but ended up having day jobs, getting married and going through a normal, nine-to-five life would get together and play," Camp recalls. "There would just be this room full of 20 guys banging on stuff, a couple of drum sets set up, and the Maids of Honor basically came of that."
Apparently something of a workaholic, Camp also composes music for other bands (he mentions Nickel Creek as a group for which he's recently submitted a song) as well as for television and film. The composer explains that he recently created the entire score for the independent film Valley of the Sun, about a porn star living in an old folks' home after spending time in a mental hospital. "[The filmmakers] will say, 'He's walking down the street, and he's having these delusions that old people watering their plants in their front yards are dressed up in bondage [gear],'" he says. "So I'm kind of making [the music] hip-hop funky, but it's got this Lawrence Welk vibe about it, too. The beats are kind of Dr. Dre, but then it's got strings going over it."
Send a Kid to Camp
Somehow, in the midst of creating his own copious works, Camp has found the time to record local bands like the Formaldebrides, Nobody's Own and Luxury Sweets at his own Seavolt Studios. The guitarist explains that it's a win-win: The band walks away with a demo, and he and engineer Chris Chase work out the kinks in the studio.
Having tested the waters to his satisfaction, Camp, who has been creating music at Seavolt Studios for the past year and a half, is now opening his studio's doors to the public. Interested parties are invited to check out the space, mingle, and hear some live music at an open house this Saturday. Camp mentions Nobody's Own, the Formaldebrides and Maids of Honor as bands that may play at the event. Camp says that along with being a recording studio, Seavolt will be a publishing and production company by way of which he plans to help develop bands and use his industry connections to try to get them signed. "We want to start a musicians' collective where people can come, and this will be home," he offers. "They can record and hopefully feel artistic here. ... It's just going to be an all-inclusive, in-house—hopefully—hit factory."Thus, the man who's tagged millions of listeners takes the next generation of tunesmiths under his wing, seeing to it that the game continues long into the future.
SEAVOLT STUDIO's open house is Saturday, Nov. 11. For details, visit www.myspace.com/gregcamp.
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