Interview with musician Russ Driver on Stage with Stage Four Cancer

With: Carox Rox
Carox: Russ, tell me a little bit about when you were growing up and when you first got interested in playing the guitar?
Russ: Okay so I was about nine years old and this lady would come to the house. My sister was having piano lessons at the time. When they would leave I would go in there and play all the stuff that she was teaching her. I could hear it and play it. So my mom started me taking piano lessons at nine. Then at twelve, the same thing again. My sister was taking guitar lessons and when she left I went and got the guitar and played all the stuff that she did. So then I could sight read from the piano and the guitar made sense and was the first choice. I picked it up and I had my first band at age 13.
Carox: So who gave you your first guitar?
Russ: So I had a classical guitar first, that was my sisters and she could not play it since she is not musically inclined – I took that way her! I plonked around on that for a while then I mowed yards and did all sorts of thing to save money and buy my first electric guitar and a small amp. So on my 13th birthday that is what I got. I bought it and my parents kicked in a little bit of money I think because I did not quite have enough.
Carox: So what was the name of your first band?
Russ: Steel Wind – we did all original music – I wrote songs. It was in 1978 or 9.
Carox: So you played locally?
Russ: Our first gig was in Clear Lake in a church. We played for the kids, they had a teen thing for amateur talent. We set up there and jammed and played all our own songs.

Carox: Did you ever have a guitar teacher?
Russ: No. When most of my friends were partying on the weekend in high school, I would just go home and sit in my room. There were days it would be for 8 hours that I would just sit in my room and play along to albums.

Carox: What albums?
Russ : So I really loved the Ted Nugent Cat Scratch Fever, I loved that album.  Lynyrd Skynyrd was one of my favorite all times bands. If you listen to the lead on Freebird.. Allen Collins was that kid who was 16 or 17 and he was shredding better than anyone I know … I also loved Gary Moore as a guitar player – he had amazing soul and skill. Then Steve Morse (then of Dixie Dregs) - he plays in Deep Purple now…he taught me about speed. That guy is unbelievably fast. That is what I wanted to do from the very first time I picked up the guitar I wanted to be the very fastest guitar player ever – that was my goal. That is what I strove for. I wanted to play hard and fast and shred.
Carox: So what guitars do you play now?
Russ: Only Ibanez, my yellow guitar because of the neck on it, maple neck is the fastest if you ask any shredder. It is a 1990 guitar. My two favorites are a 1987 one and the 1990.
Carox: So how many bands have you played in?
Russ: We had a good band back in the 80s called Metal Storm – that is how we all got together in Pasadena. It was a good band – all great players. Then our equipment got stolen so that pretty much broke up that band. Then I started the band Lace Dragon in 1986 when we reformed and kept that going until 1992.
We played over and over with Pantera. Vinnie and me were the same age. Dimebag Darrell was two years younger and Philip Anselmo was four years younger than me. They loved my band because we were heavy ass. We were playing out with them while they were playing the Power Metal album and I was hanging out with them while they were writing the album Cowboys From Hell. So I got to hear every new song on that album. They would say “hey listen to Domination” - and so on! We were so heavy and Phil loved my CD. We were heavier than they were at that point and so it sort of inspired them to be heavier. That was sort of the direction everything was going. You were either going to go heavy, heavy or grunge and we did not play grunge. We hated the hair bands and we hated the grunge bands. We were skaters and thrash band. That was our thing. There was one other heavy thrash band Butt Naked and we played in that for a couple of years. I was racing motorcycles at the time and I goofed around playing bluesy stuff with friends. Then in 1988, we got the band Demon Driver together and we stayed together until around 2013.  The band is still around, the music still exists.
Carox: So now you have a solo band?
Russ: Yes, I wanted to do an instrumental band and be known as Russ. I didn’t think it would work – like people would think I was full of myself but it went over great, I have a great following.
Carox: What is special about the place we are at today? (Southside Skate Park - Old Man Bowl Jam Music Festival BBQ Bowl Slalom).
Russ: We had a buddy who died and he was a big part of it. Tim Chason, he owned Propaganda Skate shop.he was a good friend since we were young. His brother Troy Chason is a pro-skater who will be here today. I always skated my whole life. I have been skating since 1992. We all hung out together –we all skated together pretty much our whole lives. A lot of these guys are pros or semi-pros. My band played at all the skate contests in the 80”s – the big Shut Up and Skate contests they had. That was always been my thing to skate and jam. I still do it even though I am not supposed to be skating.
Carox: It is a special place for you. So now we are going to get to that “something else”. Tell me about it.
Russ: So a few years ago I was here, skating for the contest. I fell really hard and broke my neck. I didn’t know it at the time. In over the next month, it just got worse and worse. Finally, I went to the hospital and they told me I had a broken neck, but then they said I had a tumor there. I have stage four kidney cancer that has spread to a tumor in my neck. I have a spot in each lung and it is in my lymph nodes. They did radiation on my neck and it killed that tumor. But the cancer is in my bones and there is no way to cure me. The plan was to cut the bad kidney out where cancer started, but they can’t do it because the tumor is growing up too near my main vein and it would kill me trying to remove it... Basically, I am stuck the way I am. I just do the treatment they give me. My blood work is like a normal person. I am doing good for a stage 4 cancer patient. So I keep doing the things I am doing. I skateboard. I am fine, I am in a bit of pain. In the last few months, I have been in pain in my back and kidney.
Carox: Do you get treatment for that?
Russ: They give me pain pills but I don’t take that, I am a 4/20 guy so that is what I do for my pain.
Carox: So how can people support you?
Russ: Well money is my thing. I am a tattoo artist but I can’t do that anymore because I tore my rotator cuff. There are times when I do need people to help me with my equipment. I try to play all the time so I don’t think about anything. I have a strong mind. It came from the school of life as a child. I love all my friends that I have that they come to my shows. It means the world they buy tickets. Without them, I would be playing there alone.
Carox: Guys don’t ever let him play by himself – go to his gigs and support him.
Cool Russ Driver Facts:
Lace Dragon was formed during the summer of 1983 in Pasadena, Texas by guitar player Russ Robison (Driver), bass player Kevin Penhaker, and drummer Van Eric Turner. The band was a regular in the Pasadena, Dallas/ Fort Worth metal scene for the next decade See footage of their reunion here. And their band bibliography here. They brought out a demo in 1989 consisting of 3 songs - Riding the Fire, Satanic Dreams and Violence. They brought out two albums with Lace Dragon consisting of tracks : Up From the Depths, The Haunting Begins, Violence, Chemical Valley, Reality Session, Satanic Dreams, Child of Evil, Riding the Fire. In 1999 and then a further full length album in 2018, From The Depths which you can purchase in only limited edition from Heaven and Hell Records.  The CD features
• Originally released in 1990
• Fully remastered & reissued
• First time ever on CD
• New cover art by Steve Cobb
• Full-color 12-page booklet
• Including lyrics and photos
• Limited to 500 copies worldwide
For fans of: Slayer, Onslaught, Venom - Includes unlimited streaming of Lace Dragon: Up from the Depths via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

The Russ Driver Band is an all instrumental hard rock/metal from Texas with influences John 5, Gary Hoey, Michael Angelo, Gary Moore and Steve Morse, featuring Russ and drummer Steve Campbell. Russ has supported with such acts as John 5, Michael Angelo, Vinnie Moore, Gus G, Angel Vivaldi, Nita Strauss, Marty Friedman, Immortal Guardian and Tony MacAlpine.You can see a list of shows to support Russ here. There is also merchandise available created by Vixen Tees & Graphics, designed and redrawn from the original artwork, photos are included in this post. Russ is getting to the point where he can longer work and has a large family of rescue dogs that are his life and loves to care for.
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