Alter The Press!


ATP! Interview: Drake Bell

You don’t have to be 12 to know that if you dis Justin Bieber, you dis every one of his 50.8 million Twitter followers. Nickelodeon veteran Drake Bell had to have known what was coming when he did it, but fans’ psychotic devotion to their pop gods is exactly what Bell was condemning when he criticized Bieber and Lady Gaga in a controversial Buzzfeed interview earlier his month.

But it was his insult aimed at fellow Nick star Ariana Grande that earned him the most backlash, having called the singer out for being an entitled, unappreciative star who started out her fame with the help of loads of cash. Allegedly.

“Ariana Grande is a billionaire before she’s been an artist,” the article quoted. “What work did she ever have to do in her life?”

It was the comment that infuriated the Internet. Bell has since backtracked by Tweeting about Ariana’s “rad” talent and their friendship, though, so what does he really think?

“That was so taken out of context!” Bell says about the Buzzfeed piece. He clarified his intentions for Alter The Press: “There are a lot of kids who get famous off YouTube who are entitled. Then what I said was there are exceptions, like Ariana Grande, who someone could look at and say, ‘oh, she’s got it so easy, she was rich before she even became a star.’”

Whether Bell’s words were “misconstrued,” as he says, or not his fans probably weren’t too surprised at the controversy; he’s an open Bieber-hater recently plagued by bankruptcy reports and constant Twitter assaults by a Katy Perry fan account.

Like so many contemporary child stars, Bell was slingshot into fame and onto what now seems to be a star-crossed career path that could lead to money but will definitely lead to enemies. And Bell’s dual branding as musician and actor makes him twice as susceptible to the drama.

Regardless, the challenges of the notoriously dirty business of Hollywood haven’t jaded him, despite what it may seem. “I love this industry,” he says. “Everything is worth it. Bad press or good press, or anything that comes along with it that might be negative, I take it with a grain of salt because I get to do what I love to do.”

While his love of acting and musicianship is fused, and while he says he would love to reunite with friend Josh Peck for a Drake and Josh revamp, for now, it’s his new album Ready Steady Go! he’s focusing on. With influences like Buddy Holly and Elvis, the vintage-inspired rocker had reservations about releasing his latest record to kids whose music libraries mainly consists of hip-hop and top-40s hits.

It was the same concern he had before he kicked off his High School Nation tour last summer, but the response to his style was more than encouraging, he says.

“I’m going, man, I’m about to get on stage and do this stripped down rock ‘n’ roll music with my guitar swung around my neck and I hope they dig it,” Bell recalls of the tour. “And man! They were trying to swing dance and they don’t even know how to swing dance but they were swinging each other around. They were just loving this old school rock. It felt so good to bring that to a younger generation.”

That energy is sure to boost Bell’s morale ahead of his new album release, scheduled for later this month. His third full-length, Ready Steady Go! was largely the product of Bell sneaking backstage at Brian Setzer and the Stray Cats shows to meet his swing revival idol. “I’ve been a fanatic about that band ever since I was a kid,” Bell says. So when Brian Setzer agreed to help him write a record, Bell flipped. “I just jumped out of my shoes,” he says. “I was beside myself.”

With the support of his hero and momentum from the press of a scandal, Bell may just see the benefit to the good and bad of the industry he’s so far accepted. And it could all be worth it, as he hopes, to introduce a new generation to an era shielded from the blinding flair of today’s pop culture so far.

“The way I think of it is, you get into the DeLorean, hit 88 miles per hour and go back to the future,” Bell says. “It’s hotrods and pinup girls and the culture I grew up on. That’s really what this record embodies."

- Carolyn Vallejo

Drake Bell's new album Ready Steady Go! will be released on April 22nd via Surfdog Records and is available now for pre-order through iTunes and Amazon.

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