The current Serious Guise lineup has been around since 1996, but the band’s roots go back to 1986. Serious Guise includes founding guitarist Dennis Gonzales, Rick Williams on drums and vocals, guitarist-vocalist Mark Griffin, and Wolfgang Hopka on bass and guitar.
Their specialty? Covers of ’60s to ’80s classic rock. A perusal of their YouTube videos reveals muscular crowd-pleasers from the likes of .38 Special, Billy Idol, Godsmack, Metallica, and Buckcherry, performed with a creativity uncommon among cover-band musicians with 40-hour-a-week day jobs.
Serious Guise performs May 20 and 21 at Second Wind Santee and May 27 and 28 at Dirk’s Nightclub in Lemon Grove.
I once read, “The only reason to be in a cover band is to make money and watch the crazy shit that goes down at weddings.” True or false?
Gonzales: “False. For me, it’s the music and crowd response. Also, most cover bands do not make a lot of cash.”
Do you ever sneak an original into a set?
Gonzales: “No. However, we do our own version of some songs, which basically comes out to be like an original.”
As a cover band, how far can you stray from the original version before the audience disapproves?
Williams: “For the most part we like to stay in the spirit of the original, but when we do stray or run different songs together, the crowd reaction is very positive.”
Griffin: “We take some songs and make them our own, especially if it’s a song that people might associate with being ‘tired.’ For instance, we’ll take ‘Funky Music’ and turn it into a medley of cool funk songs by bands like P-Funk, James Brown, or Stevie Wonder.”
What’s the strangest thing you’ve been asked to accept in lieu of cash?
Williams: “We were asked once if we wanted to be paid in toilets. One of our band members is a plumber.”
What separates the great cover bands from the so-so ones?
Williams: “Vocal harmonies and regular rehearsals.”
Griffin: “A great band builds their sound around the drums. The members listen to each other and coordinate the focus where it should be. If the singer is singing, you can hear him. If the drummer or the guitar player is punching in a little riff, it sticks out just enough to make you hear it but not notice it.”
Some owners extend a drink tab to bands. Have you ever finished a night owing the club money?
Gonzales: “We had a soundman who drank heavily every night, and at the end of the week he was in the hole. He owed the bar about $50.”
You must get your fair share of classic-rock groupies. Any war stories?
Williams: “None I’m willing to share.”
Griffin: “That’s a dangerous question. You know the difference between a friend and a groupie? A friend has already slept with every member of the band.”
Gonzales: “A woman was following us all over, and one night she decided to share her unique tattoo of a lion — including the mane under her skirt. I don’t know if we were in awe or confused.”
How far will you or have you guys traveled for a gig?
Williams: “Japan, to play for the U.S. military there many times.”
Griffin: “One of the funniest things I remember was going through customs [in Japan], and you have these hard-nosed officials asking for an autographed photo. Seeing them running down the hall like school girls, waving it over their heads, totally made me feel like a rock star. Wolfgang was nearly deported back to Germany that day. I don’t remember why, but maybe that autographed picture had something to do with it.” ■