By STEVE MASCORD FOR TWO members of a gold status rock band, Ian Hatton and Daniel MacMaster aren’t exactly megastars yet.
Bonham guitarist Hatton sits across from me in a Sydney coffee shop with vocalist MacMaster. Unless you were a bigtime fan, you wouldn’t even recognise either of them in the street.
When it comes to Stateside record sales, Bonham are hot property. But when the discussion turns to personalities, well, Bonham is son-of-Led-Zep-drummer Jason Bonham, isn’t it? With the Anglo-Canadians’ second offering, the more adventurous ‘Mad Hatter‘, upon us, MacMaster admits there’s a little work to do in that department.
“Eventually they’re going to identify with the rest of us,” the man recommended to the band by Bad Company singer Brian Howe grins.
BONHAM – Hatton, keyboardist/bassist John Smithson, MacMaster and Jason Bonham – are in Australia to record the first video from Mad Hatterunder the direction of vid-clip svengali Ralph Zimerman. Filmed in an old mansion in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. and near the entrance to Sydney
Harbour, the clip is “gonna be good” says Hatton.
“It’s got a lot of effects, a big crew. We were all quite surprised because it was more like a film set than a video clip. Just working with him you can see his mind’s always going. He’s always thinking of something.”
Bonham’s debut, A Disregard For Timekeepingwas poorly received in Europe, where comparisons with Led Zeppelin were a major drawback. Mad Hatter sees the band stretching out, experimenting with a variety of styles and coming out more or less on top.
“We actually started to record it in May last year,” former Honeydripper Hatton reveals. “We did about eight weeks of recording, and mixed it in LA with Dave Thoener so it was finished in July. Then we took a few weeks off and listened to it, came back and decided it was great but we wanted a couple more tracks to make it right. “We carried on writing and/ the guy we wanted to produce, Ron St Germain, had to keep us waiting ’til January. We went in with him for a couple of weeks, did three tracks and that was it.”
The band only played four shows in Britain when they hit the scene three years ago, despite the fact MacMaster is the only non-Brit in the band. But things’have changed now they have new management.
“Four gigs in England,” Hatton laments. “It was pretty appalling. We’re with Part Rock now. They manage AC/DC and Gary Moore. One of the first things they said was, ‘Great, you’ve done well in the States, but the rest of our acts do just as well in Europe, Japan and Australia as well as America’. I think we really need to push that.”
THREE YEARS is a long time in rock ‘n’ roll, and Bonham are banking that, in MacMaster’s words, “people remember what they like”. The four-piece start an American club tour shortly, and there’s no doubt that they’ll be winging their way across the Atlantic before long.
Hatton: “On the first album we hadn’t played live together. All we’d done was write in the studio. Since then we’ve done nearly 300 shows so it’s turned four people into a good, strong band.”
The new material, such as ‘Chimera’ and ‘Good With The Bad’, certainly shows more subtlety than much of the first album. MacMaster has no trouble admitting they aimed at radio when they started work on Mad Hatter.
“I think it’s in the back of everyone’s mind, because you’ve got to sell your album and if they’re not playing it on the radio you’re in trouble,” MacMaster says.
“If I’m going to go into a record store to buy a CD, I’m going to buy it because I’ve heard it on the radio. Most of us don’t listen to the rock ‘n’ roll of today.”
Hatton: “Jason’s the one new stuff. He knows what’s going on. He was rushing out and getting Pearl Jam…”
BUT HOW do these guys feel about being in a band with a bloke who could jump ship at any time to join Led Zeppelin? The reformation rumours have been around for a decade but were particularly strong 12 months ago. Did you ever fear you’d find yourself without a band after all that hard work? After all, Jason’s been quoted as saying ‘if Zep reform tomorrow and I get the call, I’m off’.
Hatton answers anxiously: “We all pretty much know they’re not gonna tour again, but even if they did they’d only do six weeks and that wouldn’t be such a big deal. I don’t think any of us ever thought, ‘Oh Christ, he’s gong to leave Bonham and join Led Zeppelin’.”
MacMaster: “Sure, we could all go away and do another project, and hats off to it. We all feel the same way; it would be great if that happened. But Jason’s going to want to be back with this unit because it’s ours and it’s t- something we’re becoming successful at.”
HATTON has no doubt where he’d be had Jason Bonham and a record deal not come along. “If we were a band playing together in England, we’d never have been signed,” he says. “I feel real sorry for bands in England because it’s terrible. There’s no gigs at all.”
The only way these guys can beat accusations that they’re in ‘Jason’s band’ is yo outlast them.
MacMaster: “It was great initially because it opened a lot of doors for us in the business. People wanted to see what we were about.”
Hatton: “But the record company look at us as a band that’s going to be here in 10 albums’ time. There aren’t many bands like that now; there’s so many bands that just come and go.
“That’s why this album is different from he first one and the next one will be different again. You move with the people who like you.”
Oe, in some cases, the people who know you. This story first appeared in Kerrang! magazine
DANA Strum is a remarkable talker. There can be no doubt about that. Whether he is the former member of the Vinnie Vincent Invasion who Vincent told us in it 320 joined without once having to play his instrument is anyone’s guess.
But right now, bassist Strum is rather stunned. Here he is, sitting in a Las Vegas hotel room, his new band Slaughter sailing further into multi-platinum territory by the minute. He is doing his first telephone interview with Australia, a place he has possibly only ever seen via Crocodile Dundee. And here I am, only seeming interested in his least favourite subject.
“You’re bringing up all this Vinnie Vincent paraphenalia,” he says, sounding genuinely surprised. “I don’t know how it looked in Australia but the band really didn’t do any business anywhere. It’s funny to hear this stuff, because we didn’t sell any records.”
Strum and vocalist Mark Slaughter have been reluctant to discuss their involvement in VVI since Chrysalis released Stick It To Ya at the beginning of 1990. Their split with Vincent had been acrimonious to say the least but what really happened has never been uncovered.
“The Vinnie Vincent Invasion were damn near ‘f**k you’ed off every stage we ever walked on. And it certainly wasn’t only mine or Mark’s fault. The fans went to see Vinnie and were obviously not pleased with what they saw.”
With the transcript of that interview in front of me, I’ve got a few new questions to ask Dana Strum. But right now, Strum is reciting his Slaughter sales pitch and it would be rather impertinent of me to interupt.
“All the guys in Slaughter are really down-to-earth, real guys,” he says, with not a hunt of a self-deprecating giggle. “They’re not pretentious. We do believe in posing. It’s just a real good honest down-to-earth rock band.
“The whole rock star mentality just doesn’t exist with Slaughter because we’ve been fighting for so long just to be musicians. None of us wants to be a rock star. We just want to play music and make people feel good, make a living a go for it.”
I won’t let him continue. You get the picture … There can, of course, be no doubt Slaughter have moved onto a commercial level far above anything Vincent attained.”We tasted a little bit of success but we had no idea what major success like this was,” Strum says enthusiastically. “You lose a great deal of your life. It’s over. They tell you you’re going to have a day at home and it turns into an orchestrated day of: ‘all the pictures are used up and we need a good day for new pictures and we’re going to shoot a new video because we’ve sold over a million records and there’s no video for sale out in the market’.
“I never quite realised it would be like this. If that’s the price you’ve got to play to have success then, you know, that’s what you pay.”
SLAUGHTER’S success in the US has been nothing short of spectacular. A multi-platinum chart hit powered by dumb-rock anthem “Up All Night” and a fruitful tour with KISS have highlighted a very big year for the screeching foursome. I don’t like them but at least a couple of million shopping mall bound American wet dreamers do.
“At least half of the KISS audience is there to see Slaughter,” Strum says of their tour. The reception has been amazing. It’s not uncommon in America for Slaughter to make $30,000 to $40,000 in t-shirt business – a night.
“It’s changed our lives considerably but we’re quite proud of the opportunity to play on that tour and regardless of the amount of people who come to see us, it’s a learning and building experience every night.But Slaughter have been even more important to Chrysalis, a label on the brink of bankruptcy when Stick It To Ya was released. Chrysalis picked up Mark Slaughter and Strum’s solo option when the Invasion broke up only a couple of records into its contract. Vincent used an army of lawyers to escape his option but his bassist and singer took what must have been a huge gamble and stayed. Chrysalis was subsequently bought out and its artist roster – including Aussies The Angels and Johnny Diesel – queued up to leave. Still, Slaughter stayed.
“Our record company was damn near out of business,” says Strum. “We’re aware of that. “Quite frankly, originally we were very scared we were on Chrysalis because they had a hard time breaking anything.”
But you didn’t have a choice, did you? They had you under contract… “There was a choice. You have a lawyer and you have the ability to fight contracts. You also have the ability to say ‘look, we’ll buy our way out. We’ll make you the only profit you make this year without selling any records’.
“But in America, this is the strongest year they’ve had for 10 years. They’ve made millions and millions of dollars here. For every million the band makes, they make six million. They’ve got Slaughter, Billy Idol, Sinead O’Connor, all selling like Hell…”
WHILE Slaughter are at pains to separate themselves from their previous project, Stick It To Ya carries a somewhat hypocritical credit, saying ‘Thanks to KISS fans around the world’. Isn’t that just name-dropping?
Strum sounds annoyed. “No, since the guys in KISS use our names on there videos to say their favourite band is Slaughter! Is name-dropping?
“We played with this ex-KISS guy and we met a lot of great people, great fans who were KISS fans. They were very supportive. They called radio stations and demanded to hear our new record. When they did that, our record just flew.”
So doesn’t that mean you owe KISS – and therefore Vinnie – more than you’re willing to admit? “We didn’t get a fanbase that way,” Strum stresses. “The Vinnie Vincent Invasion were damn near f**k you-ed off every stage we ever walked on. And it certainly wasn’t only mine and Mark’s fault. The fans went to see Vinnie and were obviously not pleased with what they saw!”
Vinnie now says he was badly advised when it came to hiring Slaughter and sacking Robert Fleischman (who is now reunited with Vincent on his upcoming return on Enigma). Who gave him that advice?
“I admit I brought Mark in but my intention was to have a real band and we were all turned into sidemen,” says Strum. “Mark Slaughter was a young, energetic guy who wanted to go on the road so I went and I met Mark. Vinnie was working with a guy in Europe who couldn’t even pronounce Vinnie’s name!”
Strum says Fleischman had to be outed because of his flat refusal to go on tour, “Mark was brought in at that time because we had to go out on the road to try to suppor that record (Invasion) and there was no way Robert was willing to go on the road.
“He still isn’t willing to go on the road. I’ve heard that Robert sang on this Vinnie Vincent record that’s gonna come out but no-one in this country much cares and Fleischman’s not going to perform again.
“Robert Flesichman’s about 38 years old and looks like an insurance broker.” IT seems that Strum won’t stop talking about this once he’s started. “I think Vincent wanted total control over his records and he should not have told people he wanted a band situation when in fact he wanted complete control. That’s really what it comes to.
“But more than that, even if he had the control, he should have worked on his performing ability a bit more and worried about soloing in the studio less because … we were booed off almost every stage we played on.”
What about Vinnie’s accusations about Chrysalis cutting solos out of the record without his permission? “Quite frankly, the record company was very lenient wit hi over his solos. That second Vinnie Vincent record had a great amount of guitar soloing in it, in fact. More soloing than the craziest guitar record available in your market, other the Yngwie.
“It’s been a long time now since he performed live and he probably can’t remember the disappointment we all experienced, including me. The band was just not good live and he was a big part of that.”
THERE are rumours that financial matters also drove a wedge between Vincent ands band, rumours which Strum is naturally unable to comment on for legal reasons. He answers in a flash, though, when I ask if he and the ex-KISS man are still on speaking terms.
“No and I have no desire to be. For the record, I hope that the guy does whatever he sets out to do and that there’s a market out there for people who like to listen to nothing else but guitar solos.”
Ouch! The bitch…
Slaighter, meanwhile, are touring Britain this month with Cinderella as part of Strum’s grand play to be the ‘rock band of the decade’.
“We want the world markets,” he explains. “The record company was quite happy with us doing the business we were doing in America and Canada. We reminded them there was a whole world out there and North America doesn’t mean Jack Shit if you can’t make an impact on the rest of the world.”
For now, Dana Strum seems to have had the last laugh on Vincent. “In this country, a few hunded Vinnie Vincent albums sold,” he says, “and there’s been over a million of Slaughter records. “You tell me the reason for that!”
By STEVE MASCORD “Camera’s got them images, Camera’s got them all, Showed me everybody, naked and disfigured, Nothing’s Shocking.” – From “Ted, Just Admit It”, Jane’s Addiction PERRY Farrell may not be a weirdo. He may not be a freak, a pseud, a genius, a madman or a lunatic. By his own admission, he may not even be a singer. But he is one thing, and that is a liar. Because some things are shocking. To me, Perry Farrell is shocking. When I first heard the debut album from a bunch ot Los Angeles underground space cadets, I didn’t understand it. When I read
the accompanying prees biography, it made no sense. It wasn’t shocking.
Reaching for another Motley Crue tape, I figure this was all a bunch of pretentious pseudo-artistic compost. At least it you sing
about being drunk and bored. you’re honest. Farrell says his song ‘I Had A Dad’ is about God. What does that make him?
On a boring Saturday morning, Farrell calls me tram Los Angeles and talks. And talks. And talks. He convinces me of my own naivety. Suddenly, it all starts to make sense
“It’s kinda frustrating for me,” he confides in a weird hybrid New York-Florida-Californian accent, “cause I see a lot of faces in the crowd now that I just know I could never be friends with. I look at them and go ‘what the f— are they doing here at 1am in the morning giving me the number one sign?’ It’s like, they don’t understand me and I don’t care to please them. It gets ready frustrating, but what can you do? You know, as a man you have to keep progressing. I’ve slummed it and I’ve been f—king down and out and it’s a great experience and I know I’ll be down and out again, because you’ve got to keep trying things and taking risks.
“I ready don’t went to be accepted. I don’t want to be popular and I want people to like my music but I don’t want everybody to like my music. It’s a bad sign to me.” Farrell’s frenetic thoughts are reflected by his expansive, often rambling speech. He appears to undergo a painful process of self-evaluation with each quote, , almost as if he’s not so much worried that I will find him out will find him out as that he may find himself out.
A former medical student with a tested IQ of 139 (“What does that mean anyway? IQ tests don’t fool me”), Farrell was brought up in Queens, New York in the early seventies before his family relocated to Florida The result Is a muffled, almost wacky speaking voice.
He took off to California as a teenager in 1980, forming a band in LA he describes as being “like The Cure, fring stuff. It was called Psi-com. That band was oven stranger than this one. It was made up of , like, really odd people. We had a guitar player from the
Philippines who weighed about 80 pounds. They all got into the Krishna trip. They all ended up going off to a Krishna farm in Arizona. How sad.”
BEING alternative Is sometimes the best way of becoming mainstream. Perry looks gawky. with bushy eyebrows, plaited hair, and a ring through his noticeably protruding snozzle. Guitarist David Navarro, bassist Eric A and drummer Steven Perkins don’t dress like Guns N’ Roses. But then again. Guns N’ Roses didn’t dress like Ratt. Nothing’s Shocking is strangely unfriendly to the ear but stimulating anyway. Hypnotic? There are songs about being as fat as an
ocean, about a mass murderer, God, and standing in the shower thinking. If that’s what they really are about.
The cover shows two female Siamese twins, joined at the shoulder and hips, naked
sitting down with earrings in their nipples and their hair on fire. As you’d expect, it was banned from someAmerican record stores.
Then Perry told them it was artistic, not pornographic, and they stocked it again. America’s like that.
“I don’t give a shit about what’s happening in rock’n’ roll,” the man of the moment volunteers.
“In fact, I’m not impressed with rock n’ roll those days. I just go after what makes me laugh. I bet everybody’s got the same emotions, jt,et that nobody’s taken time to come out and say ‘I’m not gonna give them the same billshit snare sound’. That was last year. As a result, everything on the radio is so safe. If you try and you don’t sell, look what happens? You lose your recording contract. You’re in your twenties, you don’t have a band, you don’t have any money. Luckily, for me. I’m half out of my mind so it never really bothered me. I never started to think “Holy shit, what am I doing?”
By STEVE MASCORD ON the final night of Vince Neil’s Motley Cruise in 2008, shortly before the aforementioned peroxide imp was about to go on in front of a raucous crowd of heartland head-bangers, a representative of Carnival Cruise lines approached the stage manager.
“I’d like to make an announcement,” said the uniformed official, smiling. “Sure,” he was told.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” several-hundred tipsy-to-slaughtered fans in the Carnival Fantasy‘s ornate ballroom were told, “We would like to thank you for coming along tonight and coming on the cruise.
“We hope you’ve had a great time and have enjoyed yourselves.
“In closing, I would like to assure you this will be the last Motley Cruise. So if they’ve started asking you for deposits for next year, you should think about getting that money back off them tomorrow morning. “Thank you.”
Backstage, according to Larry Morand, who helped organise the cruise, “everyone’s jaw dropped – including Vince’s and (guitarist) Jeff Blando’s. We couldn’t believe someone would get up there and say that.”
While eighties hair metal and AOR may have become – as the name of this magazine suggests – “Classic Rock“, with all the soccer mom connotations that term carries – there was still a major cultural gulf between the genre’s beer-chugging constituents and the ultra-conservative world of cruise ships.
Too big a gulf for Carnival.
“They didn’t tell the other people who booked their honeymoons and retirement parties and things like that,’’ Neil later said in a TV interview.
“Because, my room overlooked the swimming pool and I could see all these people, just drinking and women with their tops off. “And this is, like, eight o’clock in the morning!
“Then, on the other side, you’d see the little old ladies with the cruise director, getting told where the shuffleboard was, what time that’s going to start. They’re looking over the other side, saying ‘who are these people and are they going with us?’’’
But Carnival’s greivances were more precise, Classic Rock presents: AOR can reveal. Like the couple caught having sex in the pool and kicked off the boat at the next port. Or the man locked in the brig for smashing a glass window (“and that’s sea glass – not something that you can do by accident,” Morand admits).
Almost before it got started, Cock Rock Cruising had no future. This story was almost over before it began.
. INDUSTRY veteran Morand, an experienced tour and production manager, didn’t give up so easily. He and his partners just had to find another cruiseline. They also hadto find another name, since Motley Crue were reportedly not all that impressed with their clever pun. Read: possible legal action.
Italian cruiseline MSC, whose first ship burned in port at St Thomas in the 1960s and whose second was hijacked, had a brand new commission in the Poesia. It has a capacity of 3605 passengers and on the first Shiprocked cruise, they included the likes of Queensryche, Tesla, Ratt, Skid Row, Broken Teeth, StoneRider, Endeverafter and Lynam. The sight of Geoff Tate and wife Susan waltzing during the fancy dress eighties school disco was the highlight. The following year, Vince Neil, who shared his stateroom with four strippers, leaving the stage for the bulk of his own show while his band played Led Zeppelin covers was unarguably the low light.
But slowly, Shiprocked was moving away from the original premise of the Motley Cruise by including modern rock acts such as Drowning Pool and SevenDust. Over the course of three years, other things changed too.
The Poesia learned not to close the bar at 2 am – and that drunk people wanted pizza at 1am when the ship cafeteria would normally be closed and ‘normal’ passengers tucked up in bed for the night.
While this writer was offered drugs more than once on the Motley Cruise (one passenger even asked if I knew his Melbourne-based dealer), there was a zero tolerance rule on Shiprocked. Nevertheless, sobriety was not exactly a popular pursuit and it became apparent that there was a core group of fun-loving fans who attended each of
these cruises, along with the M3 Festival in Maryland. “There is no Metal Edge magazine anymore,” says Morand. “There’s no Headbangers Ball. How do these bands reach their fans? That’s what we tell them. This is where you come to find out who your fans are.
“And for the fans, this is their chance to go on vacation with their favourite band. The interaction is a big thing.”
While mostly positive, this aspect of the cruise also has a dark side. Normally, you can have a beer after a gig and whinge about how the band sucked.
On Shiprocked/Motley Cruise/Monsters Of Rock, chances are the band are behind you in the drinks line. When Ratt drummer Bobby Blotzer overheard a damning assessment of his outfit’s performance and was later asked by the critic for an autograph, he replied: “yeah, I’ll sign with with this” and offered his middle finger.
At least, that’s how the story was recounted to me – five minutes after it happened.
. MORAND worked with Ronnie James Dio at the Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donnington in 1987.
“The best thing about it was the vibe backstage with all the bands that was great,” he said. “I mean, Download is a little like that – but not so much.
“I’m not as big a fan of Download but maybe that’s because I’m older and codgier.”
But it was an American DJ, Harlen Hendrickson, who re-animated the Monsters Of Rock brand name. The promoters of Donnington let it lapse and official records show Henrickson – who runs a syndicated metal radio programme – registered it on February 11, 2002.
“He called me saying he’d like to put a concert together,” recalls Morand. “I already had contacts through the cruises and I said ‘nah, let’s make it a cruise!’ He said really?'”
Instead of selling out half a ship – creating the sitation described above by Vince Neil – the new partners decided to take over a whole thing. To pull that off, they needed bands – a lot of bands.
If you are fans of a certain period of time, a certain boulevard in Los Angeles and a certain brand of hairspray, then there is no festival on dry land like this one.
In March this year, the Monsters Of Rock Cruise boasted: UFO, Tesla, Cinderella, Night Ranger, Kix, Stryper, Firehouse, Y&T, Lynch Mob, Helix, Eric Martin of Mr. Big, Ted Poley of Danger Danger, Keel, Black N’ Blue, Faster Pussycat, John Corabi, Bang Tango, Rhino Bucket, XYZ, Odin and DC4.
All on a ship, in three days – seriously.
Whereas previous cruises allowed guests to sleep in or lounge around until the music started at sundown, MOR was more like a three day festival with music kicking off early afternoon and most acts playing twice. For aficionados, there was almost no time for getting drunk.
Here at Classic Rock presents AOR, we are nothing if not aficionados but somehow we still managed to miss one of two of these storied hair metal icons.
And we still managed to get drunk.
TESLA have a loyal following, charge promoters a little more than many of their contemporaries and with good reason. Singer Jeff Keith’s voice is strong, he is more than willing to spend time with fans between shows and the band is as tight as a drum. CINDERELLA are also reliable – as long as Tom Keifer’s voice holds out and the right piano is wheeled out (he tipped one over in disgust during one cruise). NIGHT RANGER included Damn Yankees and Ozzy Osbourne covers. “I
asked my friend Ted Nugent if he wanted to come,” Jack Blades – who was in the super group – told the crowd. “He said ‘can I bring my gun’. I said ‘nope’ so he isn’t here but the next best thing is a Damn Yankees song, right?”.
Morand thought of KIX as a “cult band” and wasn’t disappointed. Singer Steve Whiteman told a delightful story during the outdoor deck show about how he once jumped in the air at the start of a gig and shat his pants – a situation he had to battle through for the remainder of the gig.
Y&T seem to play in Europe more than the US these days but Dave Meniketti was up against driving rain and wind at one stage during their set. It’s sad not to see the late Phil Kennemore anymore but the California act has lost little musically.
HELIX delighted the Canadians aboard with a full tilt, deafening set in the tiny indoor lounge (although the appeal was somewhat lost on the reviewer), FASTER PUSSYCAT continue to impress with their updated sleaze sound –
now tinged with industrial leanings – while BANG TANGO have a great current album to work off (something Cinderella haven’t had in decades) and RHINO BUCKET’s rifferama was reminiscent of Broken Teeth on previous cruises. Each night, after midnight, punters would stagger out of the bigger shows held in multi-storey ballrooms and find the likes of ERIC MARTIN or JOHN CORABI performing in a bar or lounge. The hirsuite Corabi played acoustic versions of Motley Crue’s “Hooligan’s Holiday” and The Scream’s “Man In The Moon” along with classic rock material, while Mr Big’s Martin fronted a full band including his wife Denise on drums.
To hear Mr Big’s “To Be With You” belted out by the ageless and eminently capable singer who made it hit must have beggared belief for some fans who had already seen four or five acts that day and would normally maybe only witness one of these bands live every six months.
After being snowed in following a casino show in Michigan, STRYPER and LYNCH MOB literally missed the boat. They raced the Poesia and each other down the Florida coast in rented vans to join the cruise when it stopped in Key West.
“One minute Lynch Mob was in front, then George saw water and wanted to get out for a swim,” Morand recalled.
When the ship set sail that night, Lynch joined Tesla’s Frank Hannon and Corabi for an all-star jam in a lounge. “My name’s been associated with this but don’t blame this shit on me,” the former Dokken axeman told revelers. “We’ve never met each other and we don’t know any songs.”
Starting with Free’s “All Right Now”, the jam was fantastic.
Fellow absentees Stryper were close to being the band of the weekend. They’ve toned down the bumble-bee look somewhat but still cut a striking figure in their black and yellow accoutrements (and still throw our bibles) and Robert Sweet, with his kit positioned side-on in centrestage, is a mesmerising skinsman.
DJ Luc Carl conducted morning “gym sessions” in support of his book “The Drunk Diet” which tells readers how to lose weight and get wasted at the same time.
There were occasions things did get a little cheesy – as you would expect from one of rock’s most commercial genres. Night Ranger appeared to spend plenty of time striking rawk poses and KEEL frontman Ron Keel’s favourite subjects seemed to be himself and the “rock history” he was making on the deck stage.
UFO were one of the few bands who only played once on this cruise and US DJ and television host Eddie Trunk was slavish in his praise of the veteran blues rockers when he introduced them. The US metal crowd’s reverence towards UFO knows no bounds and they were greeted in deafening fashion. At one stage in a flawless set, vocalist Phil Mogg paused to watch a video on the big screen – opposite the stage – promoting sales for next year’s MOR. In it, a David Lee Roth lookalike posed on his bed surrounded by scantily-clad nymphs and empty whiskey bottles.
“Who’s That fellow?” said Mogg. “My cabin’s not like that at all. There’s a lamp and a couple of books.”
Mogg and bandmates, apparently, had taken the “fan interaction” aspect of MOR to new heights, opening and closing the main bar on the pool deck some days.
Pointing out fellow drinkers from the stage before “Lights Out”, Mogg said: “Just to show that I’m not completely gone … Lulu, Collette and Leabond.
“I’m not doing too bad. Blokes’ names, you can make up as you go along – ‘hi John, awright Fred’, drinks on you, drinks on him’.”
. BUT do most bands enjoy, or merely tolerate, living at such close quarters to their fans?
Georg Dolivo, of Rhino Bucket: “There were certain people, who shall remain nameless, who had rockstaritis going on and were thinking that they didn’t want to be over-run by their over-zealous millions of fans.
“Everybody was respectful. Every now and then they’d come up and want to take your picture but, that’s fine. Plus, we were blind drunk the whole time so I don’t think anyone wanted to come near us.”
A strong indication that rock cruising has moved into the mainstream – after the tetchy start in ’08 – comes with the news that KISS have now done two ‘KISS Kruises’. After all, there’s nothing more mainstream than KISS.
Starting with an unmasked accoustic set outdoors, with a stage built over the pool, the KISS Kruise also features two full shows which must be performed at anchor because the painted ones’ platform boots are so high they make playing at sea dangerous.
The band answered pre-subitted questions after the acoustic show. One youngster said his dad, a veteran, did not want to come because “he thought he wouldn’t get on with people from other countries”. Paul Stanley said those who criticise the continuing use of Ace Frehley and Peter Criss’ makeup “can go fuck themselves”. The band also undertook to send one fan’s entire family on vacation.
When KISS play, the entire deck between their dressingroom and the stage is closed off. Gene Simmons and Stanley were rarely sighted between shows (Eric Singer carries hundreds of guitar picks everywhere, handing them out) but one kruiser told me he was able to get 20 minutes with the demon – by spending $4000 on a Punisher bass.
Simmons’ business partner had set up a shop in one cabin. You negotiated your price for the instrument, and if you bought it, you were taken to a cabin to see Simmons.
Bear in mind the former reality TV star had just been married at the time and was no doubt being paid a fortune to take part in the cruise. But an extra few grand was clearly worth him investing some of his valuable time.
But KISS fans are a different breed (if you were from the same town or country as a fellow cruiser and they didn’t know you, you seemed to be considered nothing more than an insignificant infantryman in the KISS Army).
Generally speaking, says Bang Tango drummer Trent Anderson, fans no longer tolerate such aloofness.
“It’s changed from even five years ago,” he says. “People no longer want the rock star to go hide in the dressingroom or in their cabin on the boat. They want you to be personable, they want you to be real. “These people have supported this music … for thirty-something years. They’re no longer intrigued by the guy who’s a jerk and goes and hides. They want recognition that they’ve been loving that music for 30 years. If you’re not giving that to people, they’re not going to stick around.
“Our theory in Bang Tango is we no longer have fans, we have family and friends.
“We’re not curing cancer. We’re not feeding the poor. We’re just a bunch of monkeys at the zoo, trying to be entertaining.
“Today’s rock star is the guy who sits there and hangs out with you and has a beer.’
Dolivo did admit that by the end of the second day, things had started to become a little “tedious”. “You’re on a floating hotel with the people,” he said. “You start to think …. OK, can we move on now?”
. KISS sold out their second KISS Kruise. The second Monsters Of Rock, setting off on March 16, features many of this year’s acts – along with a reformed Arcade, Queensryche, Lita Ford, Saxon, Loudness, Great White, Dangerous Toys, Nelson, the Quireboys, LA Guns, Enuff Z’Nuff, Femme Fatale, Alcatraz and Russ Dwarf. Shiprocked continues independently. In December, it included Godsmack, Korn, Five Fingered Death Punch, Sevendust, POD, Fuel, Filter, Helmet, Lit, Geoff Tate, Gilby Clarke and The Letter Black.
The KISS Kruise is run by Sixthman, who specialise in this sort of thing. They’ve done similar events for Kid Rock and Weezer.
Morand’s little business is booming, too, a DJ with a keen eye for a trademark has a profitable stake and everyone is getting royally drunk.
“The first Monsters Of Rock, we got beers from around the world and around different parts of the United States to recognise where people had come from,” says Morand.
“But the staff on the Poesia were a bit … European. They hid the beers where no-one could see them and sold what they normally sell. We can still improve them, make them think in a more American way.”
Not that getting wasted is a peculiarly American passtime – as evidenced when Morand received a phone call from security as the first Monsters Of Rock cruise was disembarking in March this year; a phone call that put the smarmy Carnival announcement of four years before very much in perspective.
“This guy says to me ‘we have a problem’,” Morand recalls. “He said ‘I’ve got the singer from UFO here, passed out in a deckchair’. I said ‘well, wake him up. We’re all getting off the boat’. He said ‘he’s unresponsive’.”
Morand responded with horrified silence.
Eventually, Phil Mogg game around. But not before the promoter of Monsters Of Rock had recalled several important plot devices from the movie “Weekend At Bernie’s”.
THE mercury in Minneapolis is plunging mercilessly past zero as Middle America wallows in snow. Vince Neil, however, is waltzing down the hotel corridor towards his multi-room penthouse in a sleeveless v-neck shirt and blue boxer shorts.
His dirty blonde hair spews out from under a neatly reversed baseball cap, just like the one he wears in all those celebrity golf tournaments.
The shortish screamer, 28 and one-forth Mexican, is what hundreds of thousands of white teenage males see as rebellion. American-style rebellion, that is. Capitalist anarchism. Or, as Jon Bon Jovi once said of Neil, “the Rolex Axl Rose”.
“What does that mean?” Neil asks when I repeat that quote safely inside his palatial quarters.
Perhaps it means there is some contradiction about singing about rebellion and life on the streets and being filmed riding in a limousine jacuzzi down Sunset Strip with a bunch of bare-breasted models.
“Everybody’s entitled to their opinion. He’s just run out of insults, he’s run out of things to say.”
The nine-year-old Los Angeles-based quartet, of course, hasn’t seen eye-to-eye with Jon Bon Jovi since last year’s Moscow Peace Festival when Bon Jovi used fireworks and the Crue weren’t allowed to.
They axed manager Doc McGhee – a man with a similarly less-than-saintly past – and proceeded to slag off Jon Bon Jovi as a “candy-ass lying asshole” to the world’s music press.
Motley Crue may now be sober and three-quarters married (bassist and founder Nikki Sixx will marry Brandi Brandt in May) but never let it be said they are candy asses.
Didn’t Vince punch out Guns N’Roses’ Izzy Stradlin in at last year’s American Music Awards for pinching his wife on the breast?
“Izzy fucked around with Vince’s wife so he punched him out,” Sixx says, turning his attention to Guns singer Rose. “And if Axl doesn’t shut up, he’s going to start something too.
“We don’t lie to our fans. We’re an honest band. We keep everything on the table.
“When I heroine overdosed, we told the truth.
“When everything’s gone down, accidents, divorces, bad times, good times, we’ve always told the truth.”
In 1987, the Crue’s severe drug problems forced them to cancel a sold-out tour of Britain that left them hugely out-of-pocket and with a poor reputation in that country.
Clearly, Motley Crue has not ALWAYS told the truth; the band did not admit its drug problems had caused that cancelation until recently.
“Sometimes it’s better not to tell the truth at the time … solve your problems and then talk about it,” says guitarist Mick Mars.
NIKKI Sixx is watching the MTV request program like an expectant father. In between trying to guess the bra size of the female VJ, he is wait to see the chart position of the latest Crue single.
Resplendent in a terry-towelling t-shirt and old blue jeans, he gets up from his couch to turn down request number two, KISS’ “Forever”. “This song blows,” he says with disgust.
His disappointment is short-lived, however, with sickly Dr Feelgood single “Without You” topping the chart as expected.
Sixx was born Frank Carlon Serafano 30 years ago in San Jose, California. He grew up with his grandparents after his mother left his father for a musician in Frank Sinatra’s band.
Motley Crue’s founder and chief songwriter, Sixx claims to have got his first guitar by walking into a music store with an empty guitar case and asking for a job. When the manager turned his back to get an application form, Sixx reputedly stuck the guitar in his case.
Though amiable, Sixx is visibly tiring of my line of questioning, about how much of Motley Crue’s success to date has relied on their decadent image.
“The point is, we just got sick of being off-stage what we were on-stage,” he says, earnestly.
“I don’t think we have an image, I just think it’s music right now. ”
But were you, at any stage, more interested in being rock stars than musicians?
Drummer Tommy Lee would later admit to finding the band’s non-musical influence over its fans somewhat sobering. He comments: “You’ll see a kid with a fag go ‘Crue Rules’ and chug a bottle of Jack. You go to yourself ‘fuck, that kid’s only 15. In two years, he’ll be a basket case’. His dad will beat him for coming home late’. Lee says, however, he’s not responsible for this. “Eveeyone’s responsible for themselves,” he says.
Sixx left LA glam band London in 1981 and set about starting his own band. Lee, who was then a bass player, was the first to come to the party. Next came Bob Deal (aka Mick Mars), who had advertised in a trade magazine: “Loud, rude, aggressive guitarist available”.
The oft-quoted snippet from Sixx, which appears in the band’s biography, says: “We didn’t even have to hear him play. We went: ‘This is the guy, he’s disgusting.'”
As the man who shaped the multi-platinum four-piece’s fearsome image, Sixx is now set on longevity. He sees the success of Dr Feelgood as a sign Motley Crue will now step into some sort of honest rock’n’roll ascention, built by the likes of Cream and Mott The Hoople.
“What ever happened to those bands?” he asks rhetorically. “What ever happened to the Stones, Aerosmith, Mott The Hoople, old Queen? What ever happened to the real shit, living and breathing for one thing that was most important in your life and that was rock’n’roll?
“What’s going on in the music business? Why is everybody so into this, the money, money, money, greed, greed, greed shit?
“It’s so sad, so fabricated, so corporate.”
While his statements appear somewhat shallow in the light of Motley Crue’s shamelessly exhibitionist past, Sixx seems an important difference between his band and other pop-metal acts, like Bon Jovi.
“We never sold out,” he aserts. “It’s never been, like, ‘let’s get in Desmond Child and write a hit single’ As far as we’re concerned, using outside writers is a sell-out. ”
To some Motley Crue fans, however, sobriety is a sellout in itself. American rock fanzines have been flooded with letters from teenagers disillusioned with idols who inspired them to drink in the first place now giving up the habit.
Sixx says staying sober has so far been ‘a breeze’ and he has no trouble with the image of going home after a gig with an orange juice. “An orange juice in a tight black dress,” he smirks.
“If it’s three naked hookers and a fucking midget and three porno movies running simultaneously in our dressingroom that keeps us going crazy, if that keeps us sober, then that’s what we do.
“Just because you’re sober, doesn’t mean you have to be normal. We’re not normal people, we’re a little off the deep end anyway.
“We don’t let those – what we consider – boring people backstage, the people with the drugs, the fucked up chicks that are slurring and can hardly walk.”
Nevertheless, Motley Crue’s image amongst the sober is not being helped by quotes from Sixx like: “This is a male-dominated world and we’re dominant males”. He looks surprised when I tell him some people may find this offensive. “Do they?”
“It’s only my opinion. Women, they have more power and more strength than any man. This is still a male dominated world, man always comes first. Conflict is so fucking important. It creates everything: good, bad, man, woman…”
He will marry his girlfriend, Bandi Brandt, a model he started dating before travelling to Vanvouver to record Dr Feelgood, after the Australian tour in May.
“It’s cool but I’d rather not say too much about it,” Sixx says coyly. “Who told you about it anyway?”
“NIKKI is getting married in May,” Vince Neil says early in our interview the day before. in a southern California drawl that threatens to add “dude” to every sentence.
“Just because you’re married doesn’t mean you can’t rock’n’roll.”
Neil has been married for two years to an LA mud wrestler known mainly as Sharise. Some time ago, it is alleged Guns N’Roses Stradlin accosted here at a famous LA club called the Cathouse.
By means of retribution, the blond frontman approached Stradlin after last year’s American Music Awards and punched him.
Neil: “We never ever said shit about other bands cause we like everybody. But when people start pushing your buttons you have to react. I think it’s pretty immature of bands to do that.
“I only speak out against people who fuck me over, whereas you take someone one like Axl, he gets on the soapbox about everything and everybody in the world.
“When I punched Izzy, Axl made a whole bunch of lies about it and made a big deal out of the whole story, put out a press release that was a complete lie.
‘Funny thing was, you never heard from Izzy. Izzy never put out a press release because he knew exactly what happened.
‘Now Axi has said a bunch of stuff about Nikki. It’s a shame, Axl used to be a nice guy.”
Nell says he is excited about going to Australia, but Sixx claims his singer feels uncomfortable outside the US. “Vince and Mick are American guys, they like their hamburgers at 12 o’clock every day. I like to experience other cultures more.”
According to Vince, 1987’s drug problems not only cost Europe the chance to see Motley Crue live, it also cost Australia.
“We were gonna go on the Girls, Girls, Girls tour and we ended up cancelling the last part of the tour. We were going to go to Australia after Europe. It’s like everybody’s been there but us.”
Neil became withdrawn, grew a beard and pulled out of from public life after his December 1984 accident, which killed Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle and seriously injured two others.
Neil, who had been driving a Ford Pantera back from a beer run, was convicted of vehicular manslaughter while under the influence of alcohol.
He was forced to pay $2.6 million in settlements, do 200 hours of community service and spend 20 days in jail.
Part of his probation was that he was to stay straight on the following tour, the Girls, Girls, Girls tour, but he now admits he was “more fucked up than anyone on that tour”
“At the end of that tour, nobody talked to each other, “he says. “We’d see each other at the gigs and then we’d all go our separate ways.
“It came to the point where we were gonna break up because we just couldn’t go on doing what we were doing and be successful.”
He glares at the ceiling and lets out a light chuckle when I ask if there’s any truth in the rumour he had a luxury jail cell and was visited regularly by Playboy bunnies, compliments of Hugh Hefner.
“Nah, it was jail! It was still jail, I mean it wasn’t like this! I had to feed the other prisoners, clean up the jail cells, wash police cars and stuff like that. I was with two other prisoners. One guy was a Ferrari thief, the other guy was a jewel thief or something like that.”
Neil was even swifter in denying two other rumours — that he takes steroid shots before every show and that all his stage raps are written out for him by Sixx.
“Every audience is different, it’s always all been ad-lib,” he says.
It is hard to imagine how anything in Motley Crue’s state of the art, million dollar arena extravaganza could be ad-lib.
The show begins with a laser image against a suspended screen, the character changing faces from demonic (Shout At The Devil) to theatrical (Theatre of Pain) to sleazy (Girls, Girls , Girls) and finally into a doctor.
Backing singers the Nasty Habits — Donna McDanniel and Emma Canyn — are silhouetted atop the huge catwalks and powerful hydraulic lifts fire the four Crue members up from below the stage.
They kick in with ’Kickstart My Heart, a song inspired by Sixx’s near death, in which Neil sings: “When we started this band, all we needed was a laugh. Years gone by, I’d say we’ve kicked some ass, when I hit the stage, in a fit of rage, adrenalin running through my veins, I’d say we’re still kickin’ ass. ”
At the height of the mayhem, Tommy Lee’s saucer-shaped drumkit rises like a UFO and moves along a ceiling-bound track out over the audience, lowering to within metres of its collective head.
He beats out drum sequences from classic songs by the likes of AC /DC and Cream, and the kit returns to its rear stage slot majestically. Wearing nothing but a studded g-strlng, Lee turns his back to the audience and exposes hs backside.
“I almost got arrested for that once,” Lee, an excitable ball of enthusiasm , says after the show. ‘It’s just ‘fun.”
Of all the members of Motley Crue, Lee is least affected by superstardom’s trappings, despite being married to an actress.
“Being on the road really makes you want to have a girlfriend,” he says. “And hen you’re out there, I suppose the next best thing is getting laid.”
Motioning towards an old brown suitcase, Lee says: “It’s like, there’s my life. It’s really nice to call home and go how are my dogs, how are you. It’s cool, I really dig being married.”
Born in Athens, Greece, Lee took to only coed volleyball and art at school. He was just 17 when the band formed.
Tapping his knee feverishly, he says it’s the first time he’s ever done an interview after a show.
“I would never have done one before we got straight, but I got so much energy now that I don’t know what to do with it,” he says.
“Not one day goes by when I don’t want to rip the fuckin’ door off and scream ‘give me a fuckin drink’. I swear, every day. It’s a disease.
“When this tour is fuckin’ over, I’m going to get fucked up. I swear. I’ve worked hard.”
Lee is distracted for a minute. “Hey, you know Midnight Oil? Can you go out in the desert like that and drive around in one of those those old trucks?”
Tommy Lee’s birthday is on October 3. Last year he had an unexpected birthday present when Motley Crue went to number one on the US album chart for the first time.
“We get no respect, everyone fuckin’ hates us, the press don’t like us, they say we can’t play. Going to number one was like a big “fukk you’!
“It wasn’t … there’s a lot of this shit that goes on, political buying the number one spot. Anybody can have a number one spot. If your record company pulls out enough dough and pays off the right people, it can happen.”
It is hard to imagine a knockabout skin n’bones joker like Tommy being embroiled in the drug-fuel intrigue that almost killed Motley Crue.
“Me and Nikki were slugging it out in Japan, Vince had a gun pulled on him,” he assures me. “This Japanese mafia guy. This is how fuckod up he was. This Japanese mafia guy was at a table with two nice American blondes on (his) arm. Vince went up to him and said ;fuck you’ and pushed over his table, knocked this bottle of champagne over his girls and him. Vince didn’t know who he was, he thought he was some little Japanese man.
“He reached in his Japanese suit and pulled out a gun. Our security guys dove in and eventually threw him out.
“At that same club, Nikki and I were really drunk, we’d been on tour a long time and we were getting on each other’s nerves. When you’re drinking and been on drugs you snap really quickly. I thought he’d said something to me that he said he didn’t really say. And I fuckin’ punched him, and he punched me. These little Japanese girls are crying, seeing two members of Motley Crue fighting, going no, no. People were going wow, what???.”
Lee was the mn who allegedly punched former manager Dcc McGhee in Moscow when Bon Jovi’s fireworks went off at the Peace Festival. Jon Bon Jovi, who it was originally rumoured had been punched by Lee, told Juke shortly after: “Not punching me. If he had’ve punched me, I would have belted his fuckin’ head in, he wouldn’t be alive to talk about it.”
Lee has since denied doing anything but pushing McGhee.
“No-one in our camp has changed,” Lee asserts. “And I’ve seen a lot of people change.
“I remember when Jon Bon Jovi was nothing, nobody knew who the fuck this kid was. He was begging our manager Dcc ‘please, please let me hang out with the Crue, let me spend just a couple of days on the bus. I want to see what a fuckin’ real tour’s like’. So Jonny comes out with us, we show him the ropes of the road, we put him on our bus, get him fucked by this bunch of girls, get him drunk…, show him what the arenas are like, we’re playing these big gigs. He was just like “wow.. .this is great’.
“Then the fuckln’ guy has some success and all of a sudden he won’t talk to us. All of a sudden we’re dickheads. We’re like “fuck that guy, man. We showed that guy what rock n’roll is all about, we took him out and showed him the real shit”. He’s just being too fuckin’ cool.”
Lee’s solo is the highlight of the show. “I always wanted to be a guitar player or a singer- up front. So I decided to take my solo to the people.’
Guitarist Mick Mars, meanwhile, plays a short solo and barely leaves his corner of the stage.
“Mick wanted to do something with holograms where he plays with himself, battles with this image of himself and disappears and shit,” says Lee.
“We never had time to got it together, so maybe next time.”
“YEAH, i guess it pisses me off,” Mick Mars says with a warm, almost shy, grin.
Mars, polite and quietly spoken, is not referring to his solo. He’s refering to the fact that a lot of people think he’s a shitty guitarist.
“I had this guy from a guitar magazine do an interview the other day and he says ‘my editor asked why do you want to interview Mick Mars? He’s a shitty guitarist..
“I felt like going ‘fuck you’.”
At 36, Mars has been changed the most by not drinking. Sitting between two guitars on a sofa, he explains that this is the first tour on which he hasn’t been drunk before taking the stage. He also explains that while the other members of Motley Crue deny that Dr Feelgood was a deliberate attempt a having a hit album, it WAS the goal.
“For me, it was a chance to prove I could play,” he says. “I may not be the fastest guitarist in the world but I do what I do and I do it well.”
Underneath the Dr. Feelgood stage is a small room where the three of them disappear while Mars does his ten-minute solo spot. He’s never been given his solo spot before, and he now realises that he can play well.
Onstage he has a rack of three country-steel guitars set up like keyboards, which he uses to play the opening slide rift of “Slice Of Your Pie”. His love for ‘60s white blues guitarists like Michael Bloomfield, Paul Butterfield, Leslie West and Alvin Lee of Ten Years After has always been there, but it took producer Bob Rock to wring it out during the Feelgood sessions, giving the entire LP a definite punch. Mars was responsible for four of the best tunes on the album.
Although he grew up in California, he was born in Huntington, Indiana. Today, when you drive into town, you’ll see a sign proclaiming Home Of Mick Mars. Another famous person from that town is US Vice-President Danforth Quayle.
Married three times already, he dates Canyn, one of the backing singers. He’s the only one of the four who prefers cars to bikes. He drives a Corvette. The others move around mostly in Harley Davidsons.
Mars and Sixx first hit it off because they shared the same hair dye. Mars’ slide work sounds very much like Peter Wells. He says he hasn’t heard Rose Tattoo records, and that it goes back further to blues guys like John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters.
“Without being egotistical, hopefully I can use whatever position I have, to turn our fans in that direction.”
Three years ago he could not be animated without alcohol. Nowadays he looks at anyone whos strung out on dope or drink and think “they’ve copped out of life.”
AS HE sprints from his limo into the 16,000s eat arena that plays host to Motley Crue tonight, a T-shirt falls from the air and lands on Nikki Sixx’s head. Glancing upwards, he sees three pubescent girls grinning and screaming.
“Here” he beckons “you want it back?”
“Only if it’s been touched by you” the blonde in the middle yells back.
In the dressing room, as he warms up to go on. Vince Neil laughs about the incident.
“I don’t think anyone in the band thinks of themselves as rock stars,” he says. “Pretty much every night we wonder ‘is anyone going to show up tonight.’ I still think of us as the same bone- heads that played the Whiskey A Go Go club.”
In the dressing rooms, all the four put on eyeliners. Nikki, who shed 30 pounds before the tour so he could go onstage shirtless, is the only one who wears leather and studs. Mick and Vince were T-shirts and vests, Tommy a brief bikini and torn off gloves. A string vest is all that covers his 6’4” body. The Japanese tattoo on his arm catches the dressing room’s fluroscent light and looks magnificent.
Outside, the crowd roars louder. The air of excitement thickens. “OK boys” Nikki calls out “lets go and do it”.
They stumble through the darkness, helped along by roadies with torches, up the stairs and then, whooosh!, the spotlight hits, and the crowd’s screams are mesmerising. It’s the ultimate thrill, a moment that the four keep trying to recapture in their lives away from the stage…
DAVE Leslie reclined in his plush seat, surveying the cafe of a five star London Hotel that sits imposingly across the road from Lords. He looked like he’d just won rock’n’roll’s version of The Ashes.
“Yeah, it’s worse than I thought it would be!” Leslie grinned
Vocalist Suze DeMarchi, sitting adjacent, joined in the self-deprecating banter. “This is exactly the way I thought it would be – except I thought we’d be playing Wembley the week after we did the record!”
Despite their nonchalant manner, tonight could well have been the biggest so far in the lives of Leslie, DeMarchi, bassist Eddie Parise and drummer Frank Celenza. It’s one thing to snare a global contract with a new record company, it’s another to have your album go platinum in America and yet another to play showcases in the US just weeks after your first release there.
But tonight, the Baby Animals play Wembley Arena, perhaps the most famous such venue in the world, two weeks before the release of their LP in the UK. The morning interview was hastily arranged but there were little signs of nerves, despite the interruption to their routine.
“Because we’ve been playing every night, you don’t do much press when you’re playing,” Suze, looking typically stunning despite her jeans-and-tshirt mode of dress, said. “You just want to think about the gig. On days off, we do a lot.”
Leslie: “Some days you come off and the company has organised a bit of a shmooze and you you don’t particularly like to greet and meet.”
DeMarchi: “To greet your meat. Hahahaha. Greet my meat!”
The Baby Animals had to do just that tonight at Wembley Arena. Grinning and chatting idly with record company types, retailers and such before their opening set for Bryan Adams inside the cavernous backstage area, their minds were almost certainly elsewhere.
Exploding into tradition show opener “Rush You”, the Animals marked out their territory from the beginning. They are, essentially, a thumping rock band – albeit with radio-friendly ingredients. Leslie’s guitar howls, Parise’s bass pumps.
Perhaps they are a little TOO heavy for Adams’ white bread, Radio One-weaned audience, for many of tonight’s punters began by clapping only politely.
As the show went on, however, the audience grew more enthusiastic. Playing to a new audience is never easy – particularly one which is here to see someone else.
While the superb “Early Warning” didn’t receive anywhere near the accolades it deserves, “Working For The Enemy” was spine-tingling and “One Word” – with pitch-perfect harmonies and and note-perfect playing – would have impressed even the harshest critic.
“They’ve sold 2000 copies of the album on import in England – just in the last couple of weeks!” Suze, lifting a cup of black copy to her mouth a few hours earlier, enthused.
“But now we’re going out on a limb (financially). A very big limb. Now we’ve got a tour manager and crew on the road with us, it’s REALLY expensive.
“But we do deals with the record company. They cover some of it and we cover some of it and hopefully in the end we’ll be able to cover it by record sales.”
So far in Australia, those record sales are over 50,000 – platinum status – while the continuing MTV exposure of “Painless” in the US is keeping the figures ticking over there was well.
DEMARCHI’s luxurious lodgings in London are a far cry from her last visit, some seven or eight years ago, when she was a struggling solo artist under contract with EMI. Now a hard-rockin’ mutha, she quickly rejects theory that there is some dim, dark disco past she is keen to hide.
“The material was pop-rock,” she revealed. “There wasn’t really that much material. I had a few singles released and that’s it. Three and a half years with EMI – it doesn’t say much.
“I was over here, just getting pissed all the time basically.”
The accommodation has changed but apparently the late night habits haven’t. The Animals, who will this year tour the US with Van Halen in surely the most prestigious support slot EVER clinched by a rising Aussie act, still like to drink. Suze and Dave are bleary-eyed and admit to having spent quite some time “hanging out” with Adams, his band and entourage.
“When we left Australia, we weren’t 100 per cent confirmed that we were doing this tour,” Demarchi explained. “It was Bryan’s decision. He got the album and he saw the videos and he put the album on for a day in his kitchen and was rocking out to it. He really loved us and he gave us the gig!”
There is no doubt the Baby Animals were the biggest new act in Australia of 1991 and the way they and manager John Woodruff went about their business is perhaps a blueprint for the future. Woodruff has a major interest in Imago, a company raised out of the ashes of bought-out Chrysalis.
With much of that company’s resources and contacts, Imago has done – in DeMarchi’s words – “a big number” on the Baby Animals. Almost as soon as the LP was released in Australia and a local headlining tour was taken care of, Imago had the Animals out on the road.
First major stop was Los Angeles, where they made an unlikely appearance at the Concrete Foundations Forum – a yearly heavy metal convention that attracts head bangers from across the world. It was not, according to the band, the best of starts.
“It was a joke,” says Suze, stony-faced. “You can quote me on that.
“You can quote us all on that.
“It was badly-organised. It was full of hair farmers. When there was a band playing, half the people didn’t know there was a band playing because there were other events going on.”
Leslie: “We’re not really a heavy metal band. We’re a heavy band but we’re not heavy metal.”
Some more puritan Australian critics have claimed the Animals – whose album was produced by svengali-kike US knob-twiddler Mike Chapman, responsible for Lita Ford and the Runaways – sound American.
If the Animals aren’t heavy metal, what are they?
“Um, we sound Australian when we talk; aside from that, I don’t know,” says Suze.
“I don’t know if there’s a definite Australian sound. There’s definitely personality traits, I guess, in particular bands from Australia. You know, they have a different attitude.
“I guess in some ways it affects the music as far as the intensity of it goes. I think there’s a whole not of intense bands around Australia and that whole live aspect … it’s such a healthy scene. It really builds a strong, solid base.
“I think it’s mainly a matter of who’s in the band. I don’t think it really matters where you’re from, unless you’re doing really generic folk music.”
Leslie, however, sees the sonic approach as being distinctly antipodean.
“I think we’re Australian in that the music is guitar, blues-based through Marshalls. It’s like The Angels, AC/DC, it’s that sort of formula. There’s definitely that sort of ingredient … in MY band!”
THE next step for Imago was to take the band, literally, to the people. If there was any city in the United States where this Perth-born quartet had been given more-than-normal airplay, Imago took them there.
The company linked up with a local station, organised a showcase, gave away a bunch of tickets and hyped the shit out of the Baby Animals.
“At the gig in Pittsburgh, the radio station announced that the couple had won a trip to Australia to see the Baby Animals perform!” Leslie states in astonishment.
“The radio station had given away the trip.”
With the Animals now kicking off a US tour in Dallas on January 28 which included their stint with America’s Favourite Band, the Pennsylvanian couple may have to hang around down under for quite some time before they see Suze and company again.
The “boutique” nature of Imago’s band roster has given these Australian hopefuls maximum effort and resources. No matter what happens now, the decision not to opt for an established label has been vindicated
“I guess in the beginning there was a bit of apprehension but we really liked the idea. It was a new one because a new company is going to work its arse off to get it happening, isn’t it?” Suze, once a 12-year-old Perth folk singer, mused.
“I would much prefer that than going with an established record company that signs 30 acts a week and puts out 130 singles every fortnight.
“You just become part of the machinery. As far as Imago’s concerned, we’re completely involved the whole time. Or, I should say, they’re completely involved the whole time.”
The band holds no fears about losing their profile at home.
“No, ’cause we’ve been around for a while,” said DeMarchi. “You can’t stay in one place. There’s so many places to reach.”
Leslie: “I think it’ll be good because we’re just starting to get the floodgate effect happening, where we were just starting to pull good attendances at the (home) gigs, headlining, and now we’ve pulled it away . So then we drop the album, we play the live-on-MTV thing as well. We’ve really got it happening.”
No doubt about that.
If there’s one thing the Baby Animals still have to work on – and they admit it – it’s their stagecraft in the massive arenas they’ve been frequenting of late. While Suze does her best to be as animated as possible, none of the foursome covered much ground at Wembley and left the punter with the impression they were standing on the edge of the stage.
But then again, Wembley is a long way from Kings Cross’ Springfields Tavern.
“Mate, playing Sheffield Arena is a lot different to playing Springers,” Leslie grinned from across the table as soundcheck time approaches.
“The whole magnitude of it takes a little while to get used to.”
DeMarchi admits the three-year-old band is still somewhat spellbound by the concept.
“Dave’s birthday in London, we got, like, 9000 people chanting happy birthday to him! Dave thought we’d all forgotten his birthday. The whole day he was walking around going, like, ‘wankers’, to himself. So we got him; right in the middle of the gig we got the whole of Dublin to sing happy birthday to him. Boy, was he embarassed.”
The Baby Animals reckon all this talk about the Australian live scene being on its last legs is crap. It’s the best in the world, they say.
“The live scene’s great in Australia,” summed up Suze forthrightly. “It’s the healthiest scene in the world, by far, of anywhere I’ve been.”
And perhaps no-one is better qualified to say exactly that, because the Baby Animals are the biggest living proof we’ve had of it in years.
WE HAD to break the ice, so we DID it,” a buoyant Steven Tyler explains, when asked how he spent his first night in Australia.
The pretty blonde make-up woman next to him doesn’t bat an eyelid. “Yeah, we did it… and, boy was it good,” she says with an unmistakably sordid intonation. . They both grin devilishly at me, like your best mate did when he claimed to have beaten you to losing his virginity.
Nothing happened last night, but that’s beside the point. What about your wife, Steven? Did she come along? “Oh yeah,” the girl says, before Tyler can open those lips, “I love threesomes!”
Without appearing to struggle for a tenuously linked sentence, I must say 1990 was indeed the year Aerosmith ‘did’ it. With a multi-Platinum album, three hit singles, an appearance at Donington and a from-all-accounts cosmic Marquee slot afterwards, last year will be remembered as the one in which Acrosmith went truly global.
Hell, they even toured Australia for the first time in 20 years – and had their first hit single there! The miraculous comeback of Permanent Vacation’gave way to the timeless naughtiness of’Pump. Across the world, Acrosmith were simultaneously cool AND popular, a rare achievement which finally won them a place on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. After 20 years, sudden popularity.
“It’s not sudden,” fires back Joe Perry, who joins Tyler on the couch of a top-floor room at the Sebcl Townhouse in Sydney. “It took us five years to get back together. It’s only sudden because one day you’re not on the cover of Rolling Stone and the next day you are.
“But to get to that point, it took years and years. It started when wc first started putting the band back together in 1984. For my money, I think wc should have been on the cover of Rolling Stone back then, just for the fact we’d && got back together… If I gave that much of a shit about it.”
THEIR TWO year long tour is over, and the ‘SmifFs are set to take some time off then go into hiding to write a new masterwork. But long before their follow-up, there is the Making Of Pump video just out, the follow-up to Things That Go Pump In The Night video collection.
As The Making Of…. hits the shops, it’s time for the Big K! to find out where the Boston noisemakers are going – and where they think they’ve been.
Perry: “What’s happened is, by sticking to our guns, more people have wanted to hear our kind of music. I’m not just saying Aerosmith but our genre. The fact that Motley Crue can come and sell all the records they do and do what they do, or Guns N’Roses, shows that people have finally decided that that’s what they want to hear.
Tyler and Perry appeared on the ‘Cruc’s Dr Feelgood elpce, of course, and seem to have well and truly embraced today’s Top 40 Metal, pre-packaged as it is. They even feature in Sam Kinison videos!
But they’ve managed to do it with their hard-won new ‘credibility’ intact.
Tyler, his jaw going through more muscular contortions than most people’s entire bodies, theorises: “Look at Guns N’ Roses. The reason they’re so popular is that they’re sickeningly f**kin’ real. Slash goes up on TV and says, ‘F**k!’ in front of so many people.”
I’m afraid I have to stop him here. Wasn’t doing something like that simply sickeningly contrived?
“I don’t know if it is,” the scrawnier of the Toxic Twins replies, quickly. “You know what I think is contrived? These managers who go out and say, ‘Buy ’em a set of clothes, cut their hair, sing to some tapes’. That’s contrived!
“But to get abunch of guys up there who’don’t give a f**k but can write some real good songs – now that’s your real meat.”
Drummer Joey Kramer takes the topic on board. “Skid Row, to me, that’s also the real thing, like Guns N’ Roses. The only thing that comes to mind is a band like Warrant, OK?
“To me, that’s the kind of thing that’s contrived. All the leather suits and dyed girly hair.
“Not necessarily to say they can’t play, but it’s something that’s a bit more contrived and the sort of age group they appeal to is that much younger than what we do.”
“ALL OF you together against the wall!” a pushy photographer shouts at the conclusion of another banal press conference. Tyler, shark-tooth necklace a-danglin’, leers back: “That was a big saying in the ’70s!”
Perry doesn’t bat any eyelid: “Yeah, only it was facing the wall.”
Throughout our interview the next day, Tyler – late, as is apparently quite usual – is animated and appears to be genuinely having fun. Kramer is lucid, as is Perry. But when Steve ‘n’ Joe pose for a photograph, Tyler pulls faces at a rather sombre Perry, who’s obviously less than impressed with his partner’s lack of punctuality.
With everything that’s going right, have you ever wondered, Steven, if Aerosmith would be alive today had Joe not returned to the fold?
“It’s hard to say,” he says, chewing on the proposition. “I don’t know if I can answer that. When you’re in the shape that we were in, we would have done anything for the rest of our lives, we would have done it, done it, done it until we had no more fans.
“I was getting fan mail saying, ‘When is Joe gonna be back with the band?’. But we kept it going. There’s a lot of bands… KISS will come back in another five years, these guys will be all old and grey, and they’ll do a reunion tour.
“They’ll always have the core that’ll be there for ’em.
“But nothing would have really happened unless we stopped the substance abuse, cos we were doing that more than anvthing else.”
THE SEBEL townhouse is a plush establishment just down from seedy Kings Cross, Sydney’s red light district. So seedy, in fact, that the band requested to be moved to – and were later moved to – a city hotel to – as I was told “escape the temptations” of the area.
Tyler doesn’t hesitate when I ask him if – after two long, sobre tours – he’s finally recovered from the addiction which inspired “Monkey On My Back”.
“No, and if I ever said I had, I’d be fooling myself,” he says, looking me right in the eye. “You don’t know, because you’re not a drug addic. For me, that’s the height. I love that. I could go grab a gram of blow and some needles and I could go down and get some hookers and have them suck me off while I’m shooting coke.”
But the longer you’re off it, surely the easier it gets?
“I’m no fool, it’s my best friend, that shit. I just don’t see it now. The whole thing, it’s a mind game thing. I don’t really put much weight on it. All I do is, I simply say that I ain’t gonna do any right now, today, until I go to bed tonight.
“Tomorrow, I might do a line with you. You might come back here and we’ll do a line on the table. But today, I just ain’t gonna do it until my head hits the pillow.”
You’ve been through this; could you predict Guns N’ Roses’ substance problems before they happened?
“I could sit here and say on one hand I knew that was going to happen because theywere all f**kcd-up back then. On the other hand, as Joe says, it’s a personal thing.
“We would never tell anyone, “Just don’t!’. That’s like telling a manic depressant to cheer up.”
AEROSMITH’s 173rd show on the Pump World Tour, at the Sydney Entertainment Centre, was probably a long way short of their best out of the previous 172. Tyler gallivanted aaround the mock hotel rooftop like a gymnast on acid, Perry concentrated on his licks, grooved memorably and was maybe the closest I’ve seen to cool personified. But, I suspect, a shadow of how they would have been at Donington and the Marquee.
“Donington was incredible,” Tyler had told the Sydney press conference. “It was the hugest gig. We hadn’t hit our core audience in Europe in 13,14 years so it was good to get back.”
Soaking up the superlatives, Perry commented dryly: “Plus it wass a good warm-up for the Marquee Club!”, illiciting a couple of halfwit giggles.
“We’ve done big shows before and it was another big festival but playing with Jimmy Page was great and playing with him at Donington was a good warm-up and we got into the real thing at the Marquee.”
Tyler: “We cut our teeth on so much Yardbirds stuff that to have that guy with us up there on stage was a magic moment…”