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Critical Success Story : Seattle-based band rocketed to stardom with a platinum record after being signed by Madonna's recording company.


There's no justice, no one cares, nothing matters, there's no baseball, so why not hang ourselves now and beat the rush? Yet, good happens, too--once in awhile. Something good happened to Candlebox, the Seattle band that headlines the venerable Ventura Theatre tonight.

The band had barely painted their name on the drum set when they got signed to Maverick Records. That's Madonna's label. In no time, they were opening for the likes of Rush and Metallica. And the album continued to sell.

Of course, now almost every other band wants to kill these guys for their instant success.

"In the Seattle area, yeah, some people are jealous of us," drummer Scott Mercado said during a recent phone interview. "I think it's safe to say that there are bands who have been at it longer than we have, but we were never part of the Seattle clique or scene, anyway. We haven't got much respect in the area, but other bands view it as an inspiration because if we can do it, so can they."

The band--Kevin Martin (vocals), Peter Klett (guitar) Bardi Martin (bass) and Mercado--became Candlebox in 1991. They sold everything they owned and bought studio time, which resulted in an eight-song demo tape. Right away, they had fans. EMI flew the band to L.A. for a showcase, but the band ended up signing with Maverick barely 11 months after they began. The self-titled album has just gone platinum and features the hit singles "You," "Change" and "Far Behind."

"We're on the last leg of this tour for the album--three more months," Mercado said. "Then we're going to take a little break, and start on the next album probably around the end of winter. We're surprised that the album went gold, then more. . . . I bought a new truck, and now I don't have to worry about my phone being disconnected, but I do miss my own bed."

Candlebox plays hard rock with a little garage and a little grunge thrown in. Depending upon the critic, Candlebox is really just like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Extreme, Stone Temple Pilots or the Black Crowes. Mercado could care less.

"Critics are kind of a joke. They're either frustrated musicians or debate team rejects," he said. "Most of them just write what other critics write. They can't get specific as to why they don't like a band. I read a review of the Stone Temple Pilots, about three pages long, a scathing review, but it was just pretty much other people's opinions.

"In some places we're marketed as an alternative band, in other places as a rock band, and other times as a heavy metal band. What is alternative? Alternative used to mean music nobody listened to, but now everybody likes it. Basically, we're not affected by that stuff either way. Our music is hard rock, but it's not metal."

Then again, Mercado is the drummer, so what does he know? He's in the back and everybody else gets the girls while he gets to carry the stuff out to the van.

"Yeah, that's pretty much it, except now it's the guitar player who gets all the girls because the singer has a girlfriend now."

Well, since he is signed with Madonna's label maybe he'll at least get a chance to meet the Material Girl.

"We talked to her on the phone once, then she came to one of our gigs in Miami with Metallica, but it was after we had been signed for a year," Mercado said. "She doesn't go out and sign bands--she has other people do that for her. She just puts up the money."

So what advice does Mercado have for struggling musicians?

"I read a lot of stories about rock stars who are always whining and complaining, but I'll never complain--we've worked too hard to get where we are," he said. "I'd say if you want to be a musician, find some people you're comfortable with that have chemistry, then rehearse, rehearse, rehearse and become a tight band."


* WHAT: Candlebox, Flaming Lips, Mother Tongue.

* WHERE: Ventura Theatre, 26 Chestnut St.

* WHEN: 8 tonight.

* COST: $18.50.

* CALL: 648-1888.

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