Local artist Scott Alvarez graciously opened his doors to celebrate Skin & Bones Tattoo Parlour’s Grand Opening in Downtown Pensacola. The night, featuring music by Travis Legett (Boneless Rats, Company of Ghosts) and local legend Kent Stanton, contained a steady flow of Gallery Night traffic while Alvarez greeted everyone with a humble smile and a tour of his new business.

The socializing and entertainment continued well into the evening as friends poured in to show their love and support. Located next door to the venue that used to hold Knuckleheads and across the street from the Seville Inn that once housed the swanky bar and music venue, The Basement, Skin & Bones definitely opened with a bang on the Downtown Pensacola landscape.

Exactly one week after his performance at the Skin & Bones Tattoo Parlour Grand Opening, Kent Stanton sat down at Sluggo’s Vegetarian restaurant for an afternoon interview that turned into an evening where we discussed his music, his art, the Pensacola music scene, the beautifully crazy highs and lows of life, love, family, singing backup for Harry Chapin and being a teenager hanging out with one of the greatest Rock n’ Roll frontmen of all time, David Lee Roth during the height of Van Halen’s glory.

****Kent Stanton interview****

TCAS: What was life like growing up in the Stanton household? You moved here in 76?

KS: I grew up in a pretty traditional household…hardworking dad, creative mom. An unfortunately it took me way too long to realize there’s no such thing as a traditional family.

TCAS: When did you start performing music? Is there someone that influenced you? What got you on stage?

KS: My first ever moment on stage…do you know who Harry Chapin is?

TCAS: Yes.

KS: When I was in fourth grade, my mother said, “I got you some tickets to a show.” He played at the UWF (University of West Florida) Field House in 1976…

TCAS: I saw a list of performers at UWF, a lot of guys came up there, yeah…

KS: So I had no idea. I knew the song I heard on the radio, “Cat’s in The Cradle”, but anyway I was in fifth grade…young. My mom convinced my dad to let her buy another ticket to take us and she really wanted to go and he was so in touch with the audience, the whole thing with story-telling, I’d never seen anything like that, but at one point before the song “Taxi,” he said, “I need some people to sing with me.” So he picked out some people and he picked me out and I got to go up on stage and sing backups (at this point, Kent smoothly transitions from conversation to song as he sings). But anyway, I got to sing and I was just like…he was so nice, I was stricken. This is what I want to do. I went into theatre, because I couldn’t play music.

TCAS: I didn’t know you did theatre.

KS: In high school and stuff. Because…there was a time when, like in the 80’s… each high school, it seems there was only one band or maybe two that would play at a party, like a garage band. In 82, I remember there was one band at our high school and they were friends of mine and I was “I would give anything to be able to do that,” but I can’t play guitar. You know, it seemed unreachable and then at one point, Jeff Raun who was our drummer for The Unemployed, who was one of my best friends in high school…he had a drum set and I had acquired a guitar and we were working in a steakhouse with Michelle Shoop. We were all about 18 and basically we would all go out after work and jam. We just play these bar chord songs and people from work would start coming over to hang out with us…”I don’t really like it, but it’s kind a cool…but that’s how I met Michelle. And it gave me the…”Wow. This can actually be done.” And it sort of progressed.

TCAS: Were there places to play?

KS: No. There really weren’t. Back then, anytime there was a show, it was at someone’s house. At the time when the scene, our scene started picking up there was maybe Headless Marines, us and maybe three other bands. So pretty much any show was always the exact same lineup and we all switched around and we ended up all playing together at the end of the night. The scene used to be a lot different. It’s never easy, but there are a lot more opportunities for musicians.

TCAS: Do you think because of technology…

KS: I think technology and when grunge and alternative…when they realized they could market it. I think a lot of people realized, you know…”anybody could do that.”

TCAS: I remember how I got into it, it was like, Jimmy Lamar and Distant Silence. We were in the same high school. I lived across the street from Jimmy. He gave me fliers, gave me tapes, went out to shows…

KS: (At this point during the interview, Kent pauses, looks up at the sky and briefly begins to think out loud) I think even Distant Silence was before the explosion….around the time the Café. Back in the old days it started with a guitar, drummer and I remember this guy came up to the ramp one day…and I don’t think The Unemployed would have ever really gotten out of that garage, if it weren’t for a fellow named Danny Holmes who was an oldish skateboarder…I just admired the heck out of him. He was a phenomenal guitar player…phenomenal! He could play Bad Brains note-for-note…he could play originals, he could play anything. He could re-create any Descendants songs and sound like his and so basically, we had another guy named Dave Kober who used to watch Jeff and I play in a house drinking coffee…and Danny came over and I just started singing and Danny would be so awesome.

He could play that rhythm and lead at the same time and it would never drop out. And I would take a two chord song and I would give it to Danny…and he’d make it sound like something and Dave used to come watch it and say “man, I’m going to learn how to play bass because you need a bass player. I’ll learn how to play so I can be your bass player.” So that’s how he learned how to play. For awhile it was Danny, Dave, Jeff with just me singing. Everybody loved Danny. He definitely got us…if it wasn’t for him we wouldn’t have nearly been as noticeable.

TCAS: Did you guys have goals outside of playing the garage? Could you see what was going to happen later on?

KS: No. It was always…I think I was just so damned thrilled to be playing and have people listening, you know. It’s not that we didn’t have goals. It was never “Oh, I hope we get a record contract. Man I just hope we have some people to play for.”

TCAS: How is playing back then different than playing now for you? You always seem so casual, do you ever get nervous?

KS: Yes. Well, I do get very nervous. I…because I don’t play as much now. And it’s not so much nervous. I’m about to perform my stuff for people…and looking at all that. There is so much happening.

TCAS: You were into theatre. How does it compare, the nervousness in theatre and playing your music.

KS: I think one of the biggest misunderstandings that people ever had about me because I was a performer and I’ve heard this from other (people) “You’re on stage…so you can’t be shy.” But you’re in a costume, or whatever, a microphone. Not so shy on stage, but very shy one on one. I’ve always been kind of shy, but not as like I used to be. When we started Unemployed, the first time I ever played music and played in front of people, I remember I would usually be so scared that I couldn’t remember anything before, after or during…

TCAS: Blackout.

KS: Yeah. Absolutely terrified. Because I’m really a lot shyer than most people ever appear.

TCAS: Have you ever had to work on it? I would never think of you as a shy person.

KS: Yeah, I did have to work on it. The main reason I accepted a job as a clerk in a liquor store in 98…as opposed to kitchens I always worked in…was I knew I would have to communicate one-on-one with complete strangers all day long. It was a tremendous learning experience.

TCAS: What were some of your most memorable shows? Favorite memories.

KS: See, that’s one of those ones where I can’t answer that. Seriously, I just couldn’t answer that. I mean from way back when…there’s different aspects of what’s memorable and what’s not. Like singing with Harry Chapin. You probably know about David Lee Roth, right?

TCAS: Tell the tale!

KS: Bottom line. Any show from the Café to the houses to the clubs, where there is just a sense of rapport between…the band is with the audience and the audience is with the band and the crowd is all together, like those are my most memorable. As far as shows I’ve seen…man, I don’t want to leave anything out because there have been some incredible moments. But…I was a 15 year old Van Halen freak. I just loved them. And I’m also an artist so my outlet then was art. I drew and I couldn’t talk to people…I’d sit at parties and draw and that’s how I socialized. I did Van Halen airbrushed stuff and I’ll try to make this quick, I drew this huge…I was 15 and I drew a big old poster board of Van Halen…they looked like comic stars with VH in the middle and they way more muscles than they actually had. And I was carrying it around…my friend and I were over there in Biloxi to try and find where the band was and we found their hotel was and I remember I was carrying this poster board and this guys goes “Hey man, where’d you get that?” and I said, “I made it.” “Holy Sh*t! You made that? You made this!” I was 15 years old and I was like “Yeah.” He’s like “What are you gonna do with it?” I was like “I want to give it to the band.” “I can arrange that.” He was the bass technician. So he said, “See that bus? Wait there and basically he walked Michael Anthony (Van Halen bassist) out and we went on the bus and Michael Anthony’s like “Oh my God! Who f*ckin’ drew this?” And you know, I was “Wooh!” and ended spending the whole weekend in Biloxi. It was a Ramada Inn. Biloxi don’t look anything like it used to, but it was one of those drive-thru two story and they let me hang out. Valerie Bertonelli (Eddie Van Halen’s wife from 1981-2007) was in town, her parents were in town, David Lee Roth (lead singer of Van Halen)…there was some serious tension that I didn’t understand as a 15 year old…at all.

TCAS: Between Eddie and…

KS: And David. Because they told…again, I didn’t understand sh*t about…

TCAS: You were just hanging out…

KS: With Van Halen. “Yeah, Dave’s pissed ‘cause the family’s here.” But the one thing I really remember, like David Lee Roth came out of his hotel and walked down the stairs and…he somehow…I think I was wearing a marker draw shirt and marker draw tiger stripped pants and he said “Hey, are you that kid that drew that poster?” And I was like, “Yeah.” He’s like, “Oh my God!” And he actually sat down…and there were people all around…he’s like, “How old are you dude?” And I remember I said, “I’m 15 going on 16.” And he kind of goes, “Yeah…most people are.” Sort of nicely though and he’s like “Dude, you’re an incredible artist.” And he basically was talking to me…

(to be continued in Part 2)

– Michael L. Smith

NOTE: If you are the person (or know the person) who took any of the Unemployed photos above, please contact me so that I can acknowledge and give them photo credit for their work. Thank you! Michael (mls61@students.uwf.edu)