In 2013, Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian asked fellow guitarist Jim Wilson for an unusual gift. For his 50th birthday, Ian wanted to play songs by Wilson’s then-defunct L.A. hard rock band Mother Superior — with Wilson, who agreed.
Ian created a five-piece group with his wife Pearl Aday contributing backing vocals, Joey Vera on bass, and John Tempesta on drums. The small audience at Ian’s home who witnessed the set on the night of the party spread the word about how special the gig was.
Then, Metal Blade Records called, asking whether the group would re-create the performance for an album. They said they would. Thus, Motor Sister was born.
Motor Sister play the Whiskey a Go Go on Wednesday, March 11, the day after their album Ride is released worldwide. The music is already getting airtime on Sirius, and the buzz among metalheads who saw a Brooklyn show last month has been loudly positive. We spoke to Jim Wilson last week about the serendipitous chain of events that has dusted off his Mother Superior tunes, which date back to the '90s, and introduced them to a new audience.
L.A. Weekly: Were you expecting this enthusiastic reaction when you recorded this album?
Jim Wilson: It’s a complete surprise to me. A year ago, I didn’t even know that this was going to be happening. The original band has been dormant since 2008. I know that we put one hundred percent into the music of the original band. That was the pride for us — we knew we were making good music. It just wasn’t connecting for whatever reason… I knew that the work was good, but I had no idea that I would be singing these songs with a new, powerful band that people are totally psyched about.
What do the original members of Mother Superior think about this?
We haven’t had a lot of conversation since then because it just kind of fizzled out where it was. Everybody’s moved on to do different things. I don’t know if they’ve listened to the record, but we tried to give it a fresh start with a new name, to not be a continuation. It’s not like I went out and said, “I want to put together a new version of Mother Superior with a couple new guys that I’ve been jamming with,” or whatever. It was totally out of the blue. These versions are just more super-powered… Now that we’re a five-piece, and we have two guitars instead of one, it’s a much more dynamic band because we all have to play together, whereas as a trio, it was kind of everybody overpowering each other.
With the original band, did you ever wish that Mother Superior had a second guitarist?
Yeah, we actually started the band together with [four members]. The original drummer — his name was Jason — was working at Tower Records, and I was, too, on Sunset Boulevard, when Tower Records was there, and there was another guy that worked there. He was a guitar player, and we had him in the band for a while. He was kind of a flake. Eventually we found a replacement for him. The second guy came in, and he would bring a 12-pack to rehearsal and drink the 12-pack and pass out on the sofa. We could be jamming, and we would just kind of laugh and keep jamming as a trio. And then we got a replacement for that guy.
This was over the course of the early years, like three years, just trying to get it together and writing songs at the same time. But the other guy that replaced the second guy got married, and he moved away, so we were a trio again.
So the band was initially conceived with two guitarists, and now it’s come full circle.
Yeah, I always loved Thin Lizzy and, I hate to say it, even KISS. Just all the bands that had a good trade-off of heavy riffs. I would never even have conceived that it would be Scott Ian playing the other guitar. It’s a trip for me.
Are you from Los Angeles originally?
No, I’m from Delaware originally, but right after high school, I moved to L.A. I always had a passion for music. I was a record collector and a guitar player, and throughout high school I played in different bands, and we always won the talent show, and people saw me as a guitar player in the school. I knew that if I wanted to keep playing, I had to get away from Delaware because nothing was happening there. The closest big city was Philadelphia. It was like 45 minutes away.
When I graduated high school, I visited L.A. just to check it out for two weeks, and I thought, “OK, the sun comes out every day, and I can walk into Tower Records and see Sherman Hemsley” — you know, George Jefferson, looking at CDs. Elton John was standing at the info counter, and I just thought, “I’m coming to L.A.” Just took a chance, packed up all my belongings, my record collection, and my amplifiers. Bought a van off a guy in Delaware and just did it.
You make connections and keep pushing, and things happen. If you’ve got a little bit of talent and some drive, I feel like you can do something.
Motor Sister play the Whisky a Go Go on Wednesday, March 11. More info.