The Glam Skanks’ Veronica Volume on Crafting Rockin’ Riffs

There’s a temptation to slide into cliché-speak, and view the saga of guitarist Veronica Volume and the Glam Skanks as an “L.A. story.” Or perhaps it’s more of a sweet father/daughter tale. In any case, it could only happen in Tinsel Town, as Volume’s father is producer/multi-instrumentalist Bruce Witkin—a member of the Hollywood Vampires, a buddy of actor Johnny Depp, the connection for the Glam Skanks getting a song in the 2016 Kevin Smith film Yoga Hosers, and the bassist/mellotron player for Adam Ant’s 1995 release Wonderful. All of the above certainly didn’t hurt the Glam Skanks big chance of nailing down the opening-act slot for Adam Ant’s sold-out American and U.K. tours last year. 

But the Glam Skanks’ tough and glittery guitar-driven music is all their own, and it also fits right into the mythology of Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, as the band could have performed at Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco in the ’70s. Of course, the Skanks—vocalist Ali Cat, bassist Millie Chan, drummer Cassie, and Volume—were born one or two decades later. But if time travel were a reality, they could zoom back to the “Me Decade,” and become easy contemporaries of the Runaways, the Sweet, David Bowie, T. Rex, Mott the Hoople, the New York Dolls, and other glam-rock legends.

Your V-style guitar looks awesome and it sounds amazing.

My friend Matty Baratto built that for me as a gift—he calls it the Red Rocket—because I go by “V,” and the Flying V has always been my thing. He designed it for my tiny body and small hands—it’s nice having a luthier who understands you’re not a six-foot tall dude. My amps are U.S. Maxwatts and British Hiwatts, because I’m all about the ’70s classic-rock vibe, and I wanted an amp that could go from not being too crunchy to f**king growling.

What artists influenced the riffs you write for the Glam Skanks?

Led Zeppelin is my all-time favorite band, and Jimmy Page is my biggest inspiration—not just as a guitar player, but also as a musician, songwriter, and producer. I’m a huge David Bowie fan, as well, and Mick Ronson had a massive impact on me. But bringing my influences forward is never a conscious thing for me. They are just a part of who I am, and their music comes out in its own way. I’ve been fortunate enough to take what I like from the players I’ve been listening to since I was a little kid, and incorporating those elements into my own style without stealing too much.

Now, there are certain riffs I had to learn note-for-note, because they’re just so good, and I feel the best way to learn how to write your own riffs is to learn somebody else’s. Then, you go, “Okay. That’s how they did this riff. Maybe if I move this note around, or play it backwards or whatever, I can come up with something of my own that sounds reminiscent, but not completely like it.” I’ll also combine two different riffs from two completely different bands that normally wouldn’t make sense together. I’ll say, “Well, I’m influenced by this, and I’m influenced by that. What would it sound like if I put these two things together?”

Does it concern you if a riff sounds too familiar?

I think everybody probably goes through that. I’ll get excited about a riff I’ve written, and then I’ll realize it sounds good because it has already been done. Getting other people’s opinions helps, because everyone hears things differently. I might go, “I think this riff sounds like ‘Cherry Bomb’ [Runaways],” and a friend might say, “It sounds nothing like it.” Of course, there are times when you just have to let a riff be what it is, and not get too self-conscious about it.

What were the adjustments the Glam Skanks had to make when the band went from playing small L.A. clubs to opening in theaters for Adam Ant?

We went from playing to an audience right in front of us, and everybody being into the show, to large venues where no one knew us, and we had to get people’s attention all the way to the back rows. Also, moving across big stages is tougher than you might think, so we had to improve our stamina. Then, there’s the fact that people are either in the lobby or looking for their seats when we go on, so we saved our more high-energy songs for later in the set.

When you’re opening for someone who has an entrenched audience like Adam Ant, are your sets fast and furious to keep people interested? Do you take a risk playing a ballad?

We tailored our sets to what Adam was doing. When he did the Kings of the Wild Frontier tour, his show was all of his upbeat punk songs. We noticed quickly that our slow-paced songs weren’t exciting those audiences, so we shifted our set to play our high-energy songs. But when we did the Anthems tour with him, he included more mellow songs in his set, so we were able to bring in a few of our less in-your-face songs, because the crowd was more into the diversity of the show.

You May Also Like