Known the world over for appearing in movie favorites like The Lost Boys, Gremlins, The Goonies, Stand By Me, Friday The 13th The Final Chapter and The ‘Burbs, Corey Feldman has been entertaining fans for more than 30 years. Feldman kicked off his career making guest appearances on classic TV shows like Mork & Mindy, Eight Is Enough and The Love Boat. While acting was clearly in his blood, he was soon to discover another passion: music.
Inspired by pop icons of three generations, the turning point came while watching Michael Jackson perform on the Motown 25 television special in 1983. “I’d never seen anyone perform like that in my life,” enthuses Feldman. “I wanted to do that. I wanted to be able to dance and sing and make magic like that.” He was 11 years old.
Now, with over 80 films and three full-length albums under his belt, Corey Feldman is set to release his still untitled solo album. Featuring guests like Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst and Kaya Jones from the Pussycat Dolls, his new project blends rock n’ roll with a pop dance vibe. The first single, “Ascension Millennium,” debuted on MTV earlier this month. While he’s hardly new to music videos – check out Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night” video – Feldman has never made a clip for his own music until now. Taking a nod from his own cameo appearances in other videos, he enlisted fellow Goonie Sean Astin to make an appearance in “Ascension Millennium” – their first time on screen together in 25 years.
Rock Confidential sat down with Corey Feldman to talk about his musical influences, growing up in Hollywood, and his passion for creating music.
You’re one of the guys in Hollywood that’s never been satisfied just being an actor. You’ve always had a passion for music, too. Who are some of the first artists you remember listening to growing up?
I was inspired by a lot of oldies when I was younger. I spent a lot of time at my grandparent’s house. They had one of those old Turnstyle record players. I used to play my grandmother’s old 45s and 33s. I’d go through all of their albums and find bands from the fifties, like Bill Haley & The Comets. I watched a lot of TV as a kid and I instantly recognized the guy on that record sang a lot of songs associated with Happy Days and the movie America Graffiti. I put it on and instantly knew what it was. I thought it was so cool to find those songs on a record. The next thing I remember getting into was Kiss. I remember my sister and her friends, who were a few years older than me, were really into Kiss. They were the happening thing at the moment. From a pop perspective, Shaun Cassidy was also happening. I really got into him, Kiss and Bill Haley & The Comets. Those are the first three artists I really noticed. Beyond that I guess the next one was Michael Jackson.
That’s a pretty diverse group of music styles. You were even able to bring it full circle by singing the classic oldie “Tutti Frutti” as part of the Eradicators in Rock And Roll High School Forever, for anyone paying attention!
That’s right! (laughs) It’s been a while!
What really got your attention and made you think, “This is something I want to do”? Was it a particular album or artist?
I think it was Thriller. The moment I decided I wanted this was when I saw “Billie Jean” performed on Motown 25. I saw it as it happened on television. It was one of those moments … we didn’t have cable yet. We didn’t have 50 or 100 stations. We had 13 channels and that was it. When Motown 25 premiered on NBC it was a huge event. Everybody wanted to watch it. My grandparents, uncles and aunts and everybody gathered around in the living room of my grandmother’s house to watch it. I was popping in and out of the room as I was playing with my friends. I wasn’t taking it too seriously. I just remember being glued to the TV when Michael and the Jackson 5 were on. I was like, ‘Oh my god, who are these guys?” Then when Michael performed “Billie Jean” I’d never seen anyone perform like that in my life! I wanted to do that. I wanted to be able to dance and sing and make magic like that. That’s the thing that really inspired me and took me off in a new direction. I actually became obsessed with it. I went out and bought the VHS of Motown 25 and I wore that thing out, man. I would play it over and over and over just to learn that dance.
Did watching Michael’s performance make you want to take dance lessons?
I’d taken tap and dance lessons as a young kid. My mother always told me I was terrible and I had no rhythm, you can’t do it, you can’t do anything. She was not the biggest supporter when it came to my music. I was pretty discouraged as a kid. But the more I did it the more comfortable I felt. I was going to all these Hollywood parties and people were tripping out on Michael Jackson. Everywhere you’d go people were watching his “Billie Jean” performance from Motown 25. Everybody was trying to dance like that. If you were a kid or a teenager back then you were definitely trying to moonwalk. I was just a normal kid trying to do what all the other kids was doing. Somehow I ingested this ability and was able to do it and do it spot on. I’d go out to these parties and kids were dancing and I ended up dancing to “Billie Jean.” I remember people gathering around watching me: How is this kid dancing like that? People were in awe and ended up cheering for me. Then, every time I would go to one of these parties they would expect it from me. As soon as I would walk on the dance floor the DJ would put on “Billie Jean” and someone would toss me a fedora. If I walked into a party I was going to be dancing to “Billie Jean.” This is when I was 11 and 12 years old. I started doing charity events where I’d go out and lip sync “Billie Jean.” It just kept escalating. I remember being about 13 or 14 years old, performing at the Rose Bowl. That’s an 80,000 seat venue in Los Angeles. I remember sitting there looking at this huge audience for this daytime charitable event and my gig was to come out and do “Billie Jean.” I did that and people went crazy for it. It kept growing and growing and the idea hit me to do that for the rest of my life. I knew I couldn’t continue emulating someone else and doing someone else’s song. I knew I had to teach myself how to sing and do it the right way and start writing my own songs. I was about 15 when I wrote my first song.
As you grew up in Hollywood were you ever into the rock scene that was happening on the Sunset Strip at the time?
Those guys were obviously older than me but I remember seeing Tommy Lee with Sam Kinison or Ron Jeremy and Ginger Lynn hanging out at the Comedy Store. I spent a lot of time there because the things I was really into was music and comedy. When I was 15, 16 years old – when I got emancipated – I started going out to nightclubs. There was a club on Hollywood Boulevard called Club Hollywood. That was the first nightclub I started frequenting. I also remember my dad was friends with Bill Gazzarri. Gazzarri’s closed down shortly after I moved well into my teen years but I remember judging a bikini contest there with my dad and thinking it was the greatest thing in the world! I got very, very drunk watching all those bikini clad girls! (laughs) I ran out into Sunset Boulevard screaming my head off. My dad tried wrangling me back in, You’re a nutcase kid, c’mon! I was out of my mind already at that time. Fortunately those crazy times only lasted two or three years for me. By the time I was 19 I was sober and done with drugs and alcohol.
Tell me about putting together your own recording studio.
All my life I’ve wanted a studio in my house. I knew if I had my own studio I could increase my productivity ten-fold. If I had access to a computer, a keyboard, Pro Tools, I knew I could teach myself. When I moved into the current house I’m living in about a year and a half ago, which is now called the Feldmansion, a friend of mine said he would help me build a studio. We put some stuff together and it honestly just didn’t work. On Father’s Day I was out with my son and I took him to this local restaurant called Good Neighbor. I ran into my old co-producer David Dunn who did my first album Love Left with me. He also did some work on my Former Child Actor album. He was in Infectious Grooves. He’s a very multi-talented artist. I explained to him that I was trying to build a studio in my house and had some missing links and didn’t know what to do. He said he’d come over and take a look at it. He came over one day and brought some gear. He introduced me to a friend of his, Gregg Sarantino. Gregg’s a great engineer, producer. David said he wasn’t doing as much music these days but suggested I work with Gregg. They both helped me build my studio and supplied me with the missing pieces. We finally had a great studio and I started tooling around with some stuff. The very first thing I did in the new studio is actually going to be on the new album. It’s a song called “Test One.” The reason it’s called “Test One” is because that’s what I called it when we got everything up and running. Let’s see if this studio even works -this is just a test. We started building this song and my friend Scotty Page from Pink Floyd came over and laid down some guitar and sax parts. I threw down some keyboard and Gregg threw down a bass line. It just happened organically.
Aren’t you also working on an album of cover songs?
It’s a tribute album of cover songs. I did “Working Class Hero” by John Lennon and “Who Are You?” by the Who. I started working on those but decided to save them for down the road. I want to do an album of me paying tribute to all the artists that influenced me through the years. I want to do an American one and a UK one. In essence it would be a double album.
Let’s talk about your new material. You recently released a single and video called “Ascension Millennium.” I heard you started out writing that song as a joke and it eventually took on a life of it’s own.
When I was doing “Working Class Hero” I actually got the courage up to play some guitar. I’ve had guitars my whole life and I know how to play certain chords but I’m by no means a guitarist. Since I have my own studio and can fiddle around more and not waste people’s time and money I could just fool around a bit. My friend Jake, who used to be my crazy assistant on The Two Coreys, came over for a visit. He was watching me play this guitar solo, teasing me like ‘Oh my god, that’s so cool! I can’t believe I just witnessed Corey Feldman produce his first guitar solo!’ He saw that I could actually play guitar if I wanted to. It honestly came easier than I thought it would. I said, ‘If you think that’s cool watch how you make a song from scratch!’ I went over to Gregg and said ‘Give me a clean track and a drum sound.’ I put down a beat and we added a bass sound. Those sounds became the base for “Ascension Millennium.” I was just joking around saying, ‘Hey watch this! I’ll make a song … just add water!’ (laughs) I went on a run in the studio for about two and a half hours adding track after track. This started at one in the morning and I stopped about 3:30AM. By the time I finished every single part of “Ascension Millennium” was laid down. I went to bed that night with just the music and kept thinking about those melodies. When I woke up the next morning I knew there had to be a vocal line over the main riff but what can we talk about? Everyone’s been talking about the millennium the past few years and we’re really at the beginning of the new millennium. It’s not just about the year 2000 in all actuality. Everyone’s also been talking about ascension. They thought the world was going to end last December. If we all died right now I guess we would ascend to Heaven. While thinking about the ascension and the millennium it hit me that that was the melody right there. A-scen-sion Mi-llen-nium. And there you have it!