As I made my way back toward the hotel room, with the Shane Carwin interview in the can, it was impossible to ignore the utter pandemonium taking place on the second floor. The music was deafening, frenzied fans were lining up for something, but I didn't know for what (or for who) and the overall energy was just electric.
It didn't take long figure it out: It was the official Bud Light "Check In" for the Battle on the Bayou sweepstakes winners. Several fighters were there to greet them, sign autographs and even serve as celebrity bartenders. I wasn't an official winner, so I figured standing in a line one mile long wasn't necessary and/or could wait until later when it was shorter (Note: It never got shorter).
So I continued on course, back to the room to drop off my bag and relax a little before the UFC Fight Night 25 weigh in, which was set to take place just outside the hotel in about two hours. Then, it happened again. While in the elevator, I opened another email from the fine folks at Bud Light, "The Chevelle interview has been bumped up to 3:30 p.m., meet you downstairs by the concierge?"
Uh ... Who? What? When?
Let's be clear: I was made aware of these great opportunities prior to the trip. I just never took the time to read through all the materials and actually digest what was planned. My fault. In my own defense, I was aware that a concert would follow the weigh in, but I just had no idea I'd been booked to interview the rockstars before they hit the stage.
Especially in 30 minutes or less.
I did what I could to delay the meeting, hoping I could buy a little time to come up with at least five solid questions that didn't make me sound like a total douche. I also didn't want to waste their time, or mine, with an awkward, silent interview about a band I didn't know much about.
Perhaps if I could just see them in concert first, at the very least, it could give us something, anything to talk about. Despite my best efforts, however, the time could not be changed. It was now or never. So I did what any "experienced journalist" would do: I hit YouTube, and then Wikipedia, for inspiration. There had to be a song or some nugget that would trigger a a line of questioning.
It never came. But the good news is it didn't even matter. These cats were so cool, relaxed and passionate about mixed martial arts (MMA) that questions weren't even really required. The conversation flowed, basically uninterrupted, until it was abruptly stopped because we had simply run out of time.
Chevelle (Pete, Sam and Dean): We don't get behind a lot of sports, but MMA is one that we love. This and curling [laughs]. We spend a ton of money of pay-per-views (PPVs) and throwing parties. It's great.
Thomas Myers, MMA Nation: That's music to my ears. You have no idea. Is that the reason you're down here to play live at a UFC weigh in? It's pretty rare, if not a first.
Chevelle (Pete, Sam and Dean): It was super short notice. We had like a week or something crazy like that. We got a call and it was like, "Hey, Bud Light is interested in having you do a show ... and it's for a UFC weigh in." Before I could even answer, Dean, who was in the bathroom, shouted, "WHAT!" So, yeah, we're really excited to be here. We're really into MMA.
Dean: The best stuff happens to me in the bathroom [Laughs].
Sam: We did a Baltimore Ravens kickoff party event last week, and don't get me wrong, it was fun. But they were telling football jokes in the interview and it was kind of over our heads. This is something we can rely get behind.
Thomas Myers, MMA Nation: Now did Bud Light or the UFC have any idea you guys were such big fans?
Chevelle (Pete, Sam and Dean): I'm not sure. We talk about it a lot. We've had different booking agents in the past, and we've had to tell them all the things that we like. Dean usually Tweets when we have a UFC party at one of the houses. We take pictures of people falling down the stairs [they all laugh, an inside joke apparently]. It's usually one of the main reasons we get together when we aren't on tour and are all at home.
Dean: Hey, you want a beer or something ... you hungry?
Thomas Myers, MMA Nation: A beer would be great right about now (finally), all things considered. Thanks.
Thomas Myers, MMA Nation: So ya'll truly are huge fans?
Dean: Oh yeah, I've seen every event probably. Unless, like last time, we don't have a bus with a DVR. I'd have to call my wife at home with an emergency request to record it. Someone has to get it.
Sam: To expand on that, when on tour the other bands kind of all get together and find out which bus is parked in a place where we can get satellite and watch the events live. We'll open the windows and turn the TV so folks can see outside.
Dean: I'm sure you guys get it. You get the shakes when you know it's about to come on and you can't see it. And it never does it any justice when you watch it after, either. There's nothing like watching it live. As a matter of fact, when we were all in Las Vegas a few years ago, there was the fight between Rich Franklin and Anderson Silva. Their first fight. We brought our girls there and we were all staying at The Palms for five weeks while recording an album.
Sam: If you have the means to ever do that, by the way, I highly recommend it.
Dean: Anyway, we got the hook up, and went to see that fight, which was just so special. You look back in time now and that run is legendary. We were there ... where it all started. I mean, he fought Chris Leben right before that fight, right? So when I saw that I was like, "Wow, this is going to be a treat to watch."
Sam: Funny story: After that fight, I was in the shower, getting all lathered up and Chuck Liddell pops his head around the corner and throws up his fists like he wants to punch me. No joke, he almost slipped and fell.
Thomas Myers, MMA Nation: How did Chuck Liddell end up in your shower?
Sam: We were backstage getting ready to do a show at the Hard Rock a few days later. He apparently wanted to meet us before we went out. Total surprise.
Dean: We made some real good friends while we were out there like Josh Koscheck, who actually ended up being in one of our music videos. He actually put Sam in a choke hold one night, someone told him he wanted to learn the move. He really didn't ... poor guy could barely talk for two days. I mean, we're musicians, not fighters. As a matter of fact, I recently got a weight bag at home because I want to train so bad. But being musicians, we apparently have weaker wrists from having to do dexterity stuff all the time. It's a bummer. I try and hit the bag and my hole wrist just buckles. I can feel it when I hit the bag. And I can just see it now, "Hey guys, you gotta get someone to stand in on the tour because I broke my wrist on a weight bag." They'd probably punch me in the face for real.
Sam: Nah, we'd just lock you out, make you sit in the front seat of the semi-truck [laughs]. This actually worked out really well for us, too, because we literally finished mixing our new record last week. I think, right now, it comes out Dec. 6 and goes to radio on Oct. 10. And Spike TV actually called us recently and told us that they may want to use our first single of the record for something. It actually worked out really well.
Thomas Myers, MMA Nation: Spike TV called you for a certain show or what?
Sam: I don't know. I don't know what they want to possibly use it for. I can only assume it would be for something like this [MMA].
Thomas Myers, MMA Nation: Well, the UFC is leaving Spike TV and is headed for FX in 2012. Word on the street is the Bellator will now be featured on Spike.
Chevelle (Pete, Sam and Dean): Oh really? There you go! That's got to be a huge loss for Spike. Brutal.
Thomas Myers, MMA Nation: So you rubbing elbows with anybody else in the MMA world or just Koscheck and Liddell?
Chevelle (Pete, Sam and Dean): We're pretty close with Alex Karalexis. But he's been doing stuff and training people lately. We talk to him every once in a while. One night, he was in the middle of a training camp, and we were out drinking all night until about 7 a.m. He was a few days out from a big fight in the WEC, but we bumped into him and made him sit down and eat breakfast at McDonald's. He wasn't too happy with us. Poor guy.
Thomas Myers, MMA Nation: I'm not even sure what he's been up to lately.
Dean: Well, I talked to him recently and he was getting ready for a fight, so I should probably check in on him. Usually, when you don't hear from a fighter, it means he lost ... or is in the middle of training.
Thomas Myers, MMA Nation: Any favorite fighters to watch?
Dean: Alan Belcher is a great fighter. We're real close with the guys who train with the Duke Roufus camp in Milwaukee. They're awesome: Pat Barry, Anthony Pettis, all those guys. We're also good friends with Clay Guida, who doesn't train very far from where we live. He's a Chicago guy.... I'm really excited to see these fights because it always works out that when we are on the road we can't catch a live event in-person.
Sam: We work a lot. So we're stoked this all worked out.
Thomas Myers, MMA Nation: Have any fighters ever used your music to walkout?
Chevelle (Pete, Sam and Dean): I don't really know, that's a really good question. But, we have heard a few things. I'm all for it, though. We wrote that one song for "Sci-Fi Crimes" that would be perfect. But, again, I have never heard anything official. "The Clincher" would actually be a perfect song to get fired up -- hard riff on that one. But I can't remember the last time I heard anyone come out to rock lately, though, to tell you the truth. I've heard people come out to Johnny Cash a lot, which is cool. Maybe some AC/DC. Definitely not a lot of metal.
Dean: We went to Hawaii a while back. And I knew that this Hawaii trip was happening right before a B.J. Penn fight. He was fighting Frankie Edgar I think. Anyway, I said we're going to go to Hawaii and we're going to meet B.J. Penn. Well, he ended up losing the fight, and we didn't want to say anything because everyone was so bummed, but we were so excited to be there. The car the gave us that week actually had a little B.J. Penn air freshener hanging from the mirror.
Thomas Myers, MMA Nation: So are you guys ready to win over some new fans?
Chevelle (Pete, Sam and Dean): Yeah, can't wait, we go on right after the weigh ins. We got into some trouble, actually, during the sound check. We decided to step on the scale and weigh ourselves and we got yelled at. The guy [Burt Watson] went crazy. And he apparently doesn't accept apologies. But there's probably a couple of things you should do there if your scale is that important. Maybe wait until we are finished. Or put a little sign on it that reads, "Please Don't Touch." Anything. Whatever. It's not like there are any title fights this weekend.
Thomas Myers, MMA Nation: Any plans for afterward?
Chevelle (Pete, Sam and Dean): Yeah, we're going to come back up here and drink everything. Pass out. Wake up tomorrow at about 2 p.m., have some eggs and do it all over again. Maybe we'll even get to party a little with Dana White. Who knows. Joe Rogan is also doing stand up at the House of Blues, so maybe we'll go check that out. We got a few wristbands for a pub crawl on Bourbon Street, so I think we're booked until early tomorrow morning.
Sam: At this point in our career, being able to do this is so great. It's different. To be able to break up a tour and do something this fun is just awesome. We'll probably have to switch to soda in a glass at some point later tonight. "Bartender, give me another Crown Royal and Coke!" but whisper, "Hold the Coke." I was actually in Chicago doing a show, and afterward, Dimebag Darrel showed up at The Foundation Room in the House of Blues and ordered a round of Black Tooth shots. It's basically just Crown Royal with a dash of Coke. That's his drink. So we're downing them, thinking we're about to get hammered, and he leans over and says, "Don't worry, these are all Coke." He always did it to make the nights last longer. I mean, these guys were legendary, they would just take you for three days and you'd disappear. Nice guys, they can be scary, too, but that's how they were able to do it. It's a good little trick.
Sam: You train? Dean is actually looking to spar.
Thomas Myers, MMA Nation: With those limp wrists? Bring it!
Thomas Myers, MMA Nation: So aside from the bag you can't hit, what about you guys ... any training?
Pete: I have an indoor half-pipe that I skate, but that's about it.
Sam: The truth is, as a musician, we really have to be careful. We call dangerous things that can cause us harm, "tour-enders."
Dean: It's not about any one individual. If anyone of us gets hurt, it puts a stop to the train. A tour-ender can be anything from jumping the campfire to hitting a heavy bag wrong or having a problem with your wife.
Thomas Myers, MMA Nation: Wives can even be band-enders, right?
Sam: I mean, I guess, we can find a stand-in for anybody with the exception of Pete singing. I mean, we're pretty much screwed if something happens to his voice.
At this point the manager politely steps in and notifies us that we have run out of time.
The band has several other commitments that must be satisfied before they hit the stage. Do they ever: As we shake hands, exchange business cards and make our way to the door, a throng of media has assembled outside the lavish suite, with floor-to-ceiling windows perched along the Mississippi River.
These three unassuming, laid-back guys, it seems, are a pretty big deal. And as I'd later find out, one helluva' MMA-loving rock band.