Chris Van Dahl

Metal Express Radio likes to frequently explore the boundaries of this fabulous medium called “Metal.” Over the years, Metal Express Radio has tried to cover the biggest names in Metal, Hard Rock, etc. This time we decided to take a slightly different look or perspective inside the music scene by covering the professional and fine art of being a “tribute band.” Some go as far as being the “ultimate copycat.” There are a lot of great ones out there who enjoy paying tribute to their musical heroes versus self-indulging by devoting themselves to playing all “originals”. California, USA’s Aeromyth is one such band and one of the greatest… join us for this special look into another “side” of Metal as seen through the eyes of Aeromyth vocalist Chris Van Dahl!

Metal Express Radio: Hello Chris! Thanks for taking the time to speak with Metal Express Radio and for giving music fans this special perspective and insight into another side of the world of Hard Rock music!

Chris Van Dahl: Sure man it’s a pleasure to talk with you.

MER: The band just went through a name change being previously called “Pump”, after a classic Aerosmith album, to the much more appropriate “Aeromyth”. How did that change come about?

Chris: Well after I joined the band we went through some pretty significant member changes. In fact the only truly original member left was Neal Shelton (Brad Whitford) in the band. Anyway I had been thinking for quite a while that “Pump” was sort of limiting since we cover music that pretty much spans the band’s entire career. Also, I wanted a name that people would relate to right away not only when they hear it but also when they see it in print or logo form. Sort of like what Led Zeppelin did. Man, I can tell you I spent a lot of time chewing on this before I finally came up with AEROMYTH. I bounced the idea off some people and then I brought it to the band. There was some concern over the fact that “Pump” had already been established for about four years and the name change would cause confusion but like I said, this was a different band by then so…. Since everybody loved the name we just advertised as (formerly Pump) for a while and that was that.

MER: Is Aeromyth a full time gig for everyone in the band?

Chris: No. We all have things that we do outside of the band.

MER: How does a guy like yourself having sung for bands like Cherry Street, Boneyard, and LA Guns, decide to dedicate his professional music career to playing in a cover band?

Chris: Well that’s not exactly accurate. While I love playing in and being a part of AEROMYTH, it’s something that I do more out of love then necessity. What I am dedicated to is making it as true a representation as possible, which in my mind is the definitive line between being simply a cover band or a true tribute act.

MER: Was it coincidence that someone like yourself, who has a strong resemblance to Steven Tyler, actually covers his music or did your looks inspire you to do Aerosmith covers?

Chris: Ha-ha! I thought we might get to this. I’ve been singing in rock bands since I was thirteen years old and of course Aerosmith was a major influence, so when people started telling me with growing frequency that I looked like Tyler at first I thought that’s cool he’s a bad motherfucker! But as time went on (the Cherry Street era) it got to be so much that I started growing concerned that I would simply be dismissed out of hand as a clone. So I started going to extremes to change that perception. Dreads, Mohawks, multiple facial piercing, tattoos. You name it, I did it! That by the way is when I was asked to join LA Guns. Coincidence? I think not. LOL! Still it didn’t stop me from moving the way I do on stage “which I’m told is very Tyleresque”. Tracii (Guns) used to say shit to me every night like “Just stand there and be a badass! And for god sake quit dancing around so fucking much! Then I’d try to stop, but in the end, I’d always just end up doing it again and he and the other guys in the band would be pissed! But the truth is, it’s not like I was doing it on purpose or anything it’s just who I am. The point is though I love Aerosmith! Until AEROMYTH came along I never intentionally set out to emulate Steven, in fact quite the opposite. But when the band, or should I say Neal, approached me, after some serious consideration I was like why fight it!

MER: Did anyone in the band go to any extreme measures to get the “look” they desired?

Chris: Definitely! When I came into the band it was sort of out of steam and what I brought in was a fresh perspective and new energy. I could see past their four years together of just going through the motions to the potential that was untapped. By this time I was excited about the idea of doing it but only if we did it right! The most dramatic example of this is our (Joe Perry) Karim Elgobashi who naturally looked a great deal like Perry but was very much in the background on stage. He had ill-fitting clothes, didn’t sing or play to the crowd and was just sort of there. I know that he sensed my frustration because one day after playing the Classic Rockfest in Tucson he hit me up. “Do you have a problem with me he asked?” It wasn’t an accusation or a challenge but a simple direct question. I respected that a lot and I told him that the band was thinking about bringing in somebody else and that my problem wasn’t with him personally but with the fact that he had all this potential that he was just wasting. Then I ran down the list. I told him to watch some Aerosmith videos, showed him some old pictures of Perry with the blond streak in his hair and gave him a bunch of my old clothes. Beat up leather pants and shit like that. And let me tell you the next time that fuckin’ guy took the stage I didn’t know who he was! It was a complete and mind-blowing transformation. That guy had become Joe “Fuckin’” Perry overnight! If you don’t believe me just look at the pictures! Since then we’ve become really close friends!

Some other examples would be our bass player Sir Robert Warren who is actually the end result of a serious search and seizure campaign! It’s not easy to find a 6’ 6” blond guy that actually looks like Tom Hamilton, plays original early sixties Fender P Basses, and has true talent to boot. With him it was less a matter of a total overhaul then it was finding the right guy. Although I do have to say to his credit that he shaved off his much loved goatee to placate the rest of us! Ha-ha!

On the other hand Neal Shelton, our (Brad Whitford), grew a goatee, bleached his very red hair blond and, being the owner of Neals Music in Huntington Beach, provided us with some amazing instruments like an exact replica of the red B.C. Rich Bitch that Joe Perry made famous in the mid to late 70’s. Tommy Russo (Joey Kramer) sometimes comes out with Joey’s scorpion tattoo on his forearm and all his sticks are embossed with the AEROMYTH logo which people really get a kick out of when he throws them into the crowd! For what it’s worth, I make my own stage clothes. They’re mostly replicates of the cat suits that Steven wore through the bands early years. I mean, it’s not like I can go down to the mall and say “Hey I’d like that one with the black and white stripes and the tail that only goes down one side”. So I bought a sewing machine and taught myself how to use the son-of-a-bitch!

MER: To present that professional look and authenticity on stage did you or any of the other guys put in a lot of time analyzing your counterparts by watching video, etc.?

Chris: I know I already answered this in part when I spoke of Karim’s transformation earlier but the answer is definitely! To do a thing like this really well it’s not enough just to have some of the qualities that the original band possesses. You really need to study the living, breathing beast itself!

MER: Have you or Karim Elghobashi (Joe Perry) ever been mistaken on the street for the real Aerosmith?

Chris: There was a time last summer when the whole band was in Monterey Mexico for a gig and it just so happened that Aerosmith was playing the following night. Long story short, the band decided to do some sightseeing, as it’s really a beautiful place. Anyway we were walking through the city checking out all the little shops and people just sort of started following us. At first it was no big deal they’d just take some pictures and point. But after a while it started to get a lot more intense, more and more people would stop us and large groups started tailing us wherever we went. We tried explaining that we were a tribute band but the language barrier just seemed to fuel the fire! It really got bad when this girl almost got nailed by a car when she ran through a busy intersection just to give me a t-shirt! That’s the point we decided it would be best to call it a day. So we went back to our hotel and just laid low for the rest of the trip. I still have the t-shirt though. LOL!

MER: Given how the band covers Aerosmith to the “extreme”… by following the dress, moves and even body double looks in some cases. Do you consider yourselves musicians or actors?

Chris: Entertainers is how I would put it. It’s really a bit of both. I mean it’s not like we’re the Monkeys or anything. Every member of this band is an excellent musician in his own right but there is definitely a point where the performance moves past the music and into the actual characters personalities and the way they move, speak and interact.

MER: Do you think audiences are more critical of the audio or visual aspects of your show?

Chris: It really seems to depend on the individual. Either way if it’s not a package deal it makes it really hard for people to get lost in the illusion. So we work really hard to bring it all to the table!

MER: In an extreme cover band such as yours one might assume that the vocalist spot is the most likely to come under the most scrutiny. Given that you and Steven Tyler do not have the exact same vocal range how do you compensate for this and how do you handle the criticism?

Chris: You might be surprised by how close our vocal ranges actually are. Most of what people have heard me do in the past was geared toward the music I was doing at the time.

I’m good at that. But just like the image thing, at a certain point I became really conscious of not wanting to sound too much like Steven and maybe even worked a little too hard not to! Although, if you look hard enough you can always find somebody who will say “Man you missed that note!” or whatever else. But I’m always going to be my own worst critic and at the end of the day if the person who is bitching really doesn’t like what I’m doing then why are they still there when the shows over?

MER: Does the band ever play any originals, perhaps songs Aerosmith “could have written”?

Chris: No. Up to this point it’s been strictly tribute but lately we’ve decided that when the band is as tight as we’d like it to be that we’re going to start writing original material and see where it takes us.

MER: Does the band ever get any flax from people who might accuse you guys of not being “real musicians” or being “wimp musicians” since you do all covers?

Chris: LOL! Sure and those are they same guys that have no life of their own. It’s a lot of projection. Otherwise, they’d be too busy turning the music world on it’s fuckin’ ear to waste time badmouthing a bunch of no talent posers like us! Seriously, do you have any idea how many pro musicians are, or have been, in tributes? It’s just a really cool way to do something that you love a little differently. And usually the music that you play is what you grew up with! Here are just a few examples. Tracii Guns was in “Slack Babbath”, Tommy Thayer was in “Cold Gin”, a Kiss Tribute, and is now actually in Kiss. Playing drums in the same tribute was Jamie St James who used to be in Black and Blue with Tommy but now sings for Warrant. Derrick Pontier who’s been playing on and off with Great White for years is in “Pyromania”. The list goes on and on. These guys have all proven that they have the ability to make a living as a musician way outside the tribute gig. The defense rests! Ha-ha.

MER: What do you think is the most requested Aerosmith song you guys get asked to perform?

Chris: Tough question but I’ll go out on a limb here and say “Dream On”.

MER: Have any of you guys met anyone from Aerosmith? Has anyone from Aerosmith perhaps caught the act?

Chris: Hmmmm. Not directly but I have had some e-mail contact with Steven and he is definitely aware of the band. It came about because I did a record with Kenny Olson of Kid Rock for our project band called Pack Of Wolves. Anyway, Kid Rock and Aerosmith toured together quite a bit and Steven, Joe and Kenny became close friends. Sometime later I received an e-mail from someone who claimed to be Steven asking me all kinds of questions and asking me about the band. So I wrote him back talking about a very specific, very private story that Kenny had told me about this little adventure they had been on. When he wrote me back with all the pertinent details that I had left out but knew to be true, is when I realized that it was actually him and not some idiot having a laugh at my expense. Although he was clear that he wasn’t sending me any long past due child support (ha-ha) it was also pretty clear that the band had his full blessing!

MER: Are you guys in high demand? Do coordinators seek you guys out or do you have to do a lot of “legwork” to keep a full schedule?

Chris: It’s definitely getting that way. Neal handles all the booking for the band and deals with the promoters. Just like anything else it’s a matter of supply and demand.

For example, when I started doing this about a year ago we were playing little dives for like $500 a night. Since then we’ve really stepped up our game and gotten serious! So now it’s mostly Casinos, Festivals, and larger venues, quite a few of which are out of state. The demand and the money have all gone up exponentially in direct relation to how good the band has gotten and to how much work has been put into getting the word out.

MER: What’s one of the biggest venues or special moments Aeromyth has played?

Chris: Actually for me it wasn’t so much in the moment but in retrospect. I was hanging out at a party with a bunch of people and there was a video of the band from a live show that we did just sort of playing in the background. When somebody goes “Fuck!” where did you get this Aerosmith video!? I laughed because I thought he was joking but he just sort of looked at me. So I told him that it was AEROMYTH and when I finally convinced him by pointing certain shit out he flipped. That was a pretty cool moment for me. I thought mission accomplished!

MER: Are your audience’s predominately female, male or a balance of both? Any specific age group?

Chris: Same as with Aerosmith, it’s a total mix… male and female, Grandparents to eleven year olds and everything in-between. That’s the coolest thing about paying tribute to a band with their kind of longevity. They have affected so many people!

MER: Was there ever a performance where the audience didn’t take too well to an “Aerosmith copycat”?

Chris: Not so far… likely I’ll keep you posted. LOL!

MER: Have you guys ever played a wedding or been requested to play a wedding as Aeromyth?

Chris: Not since I’ve been in the band and not that I’m aware of.

MER: Where do you think Aeromyth will end? Will it ever truly end?

Chris: Who knows? The only way I can answer that question is to speak for myself. This is hands down the coolest group of guys that I’ve had the opportunity to play with and that’s saying a lot! So aside from the typical bullshit that usually breaks up bands… money, women, egos, etc. I can’t see any obvious reason why we wouldn’t be around for a good long time! It’s not likely that we’ll ever run out of material is it? And there are a lot of things I can still see us doing to continue growing and pushing the envelope such as expanding the live show to include baby-grand pianos and full on pyrotechnics. Most of that comes down to venue size and budget though. So for now I guess we’ll just focus on today and let tomorrow take care of itself.

MER: What are the future plans for Aeromyth, any exciting tours, etc.?

Chris: Right now there are talks of the band flying to Iraq to play for the troops. Also there’s a promoter I met through a contact in NY. That I recently did a Mountain Dew Amp commercial for that is interested in doing 15 really large shows in the Midwest that we’re looking forward to.

MER: In closing, any last words for your fans or even Aerosmith fans?

Chris: The band and I just want to say thank you to everybody including the guys in Aerosmith for their support. It’s a real privilege to be able to pay tribute to the greatest American rock band in History!!!

For anybody that wants to check us out you can do it at You can also follow the link to our MySpace page or even my personal page. Don’t be a stranger!



  • Scott Jeslis

    Scott is one of the partners at Metal Express Radio. He handles a lot of Metal Express Radio's public relations, screening of new music and radio scheduling. On occasion, he also does reviews and interviews. He has been a proud member of the Metal Express Radio crew since 2004.

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