I remember when I first found out about JETBOY, my friend was showing me a few new albums that he just bought and that LP (“Feel The Shake”) intrigued us from the start, Sam Yaffa (HANOI ROCKS) was in the band and their singer had a crazy platinum blonde mohawk. Remember that in those vinyl days, the cover of a record was really important, not to say decisive… Luckily, the music was as good as the image (which wasn’t always the case in those days)!… Little did I know that I would meet Billy, their guitar player almost 15 years later, that my band would open for his (AMERICAN HEARTBREAK) and so on, but this is another story… JETBOY are back and now you understand that we had to give them some space on this website! Billy Rowe talked to us about the band reunion, the past and what to expect from JETBOY in the future…
When did you guys get the idea of a JETBOY reunion ? What about AMERICAN HEARTBREAK?
The JETBOY reunion came together after the owner of Cleopatra Records approached me at an American Heartbreak show at the Viper Room in Hollywood in early 2005. We went to the bar after our set & he said I’m doing a release party for the Hollywood Rocks Cd box set which Is the audio companion to the book, what would It take to get JETBOY as the featured band ??? I said I don’t know & left it at that. A week or so later Brian e-mailed me asking me again, I never responded. Then he called me & said I really want to have you guys get together and do this. I said ok, I’ll call Mickey & Fernie and see what they say ??? I left them both a message after I hung up with Brian & they both called back with in five minites and said BOOK IT !!! So that was how we got it all rollin’. We did a few more shows after the first big reunion which got an overwhelming response, Everything was really feeling great. The three of us said (Mickey, Fernie & Myself), It’s great to be playing music together again, the response has been awesome, let’s do this and be a band again ! and here we are now with a new Dvd/Cd out, a tour already done & we’ve been playing shows nearly every weekend since the tour ended. We have a lot of Ideas and plans In front of us ! Rocklahoma is definitely a big thing coming up for us In July. As for American Heartbreak … It was time for the band to take a break. We were going & going for nearly ten years. So a break was very much needed, we’ll do something again, just not sure when ????
You just got back from a tour with Stephen Pearcy (RATT), how was it?
The tour with Stephen was excellent ! first tour for JETBOY In 17 years ! we kicked ass out there and the response was great. We can’t wait to get on another tour now & write a new album.
Can you tell us what’s in “The Glam Years” DVD?
The ‘Glam Years Movie & Cd’ Includes a vintage show from 1986 at the Whisky A go-go with our original bass player Todd Crew. The Dvd also has a slide show photo movie with great photos of the band In a chronological order as well as an hour long Interview with each member In 2007 telling ‘The Story of JETBOY’ The audio disc has rare demo tracks In a chronological order along with two newly recorded songs which are ‘Feel The Shake and our rocked up version of ‘Folsom Prison Blues’.
What are the main differences between playing a show with JETBOY and AMERICAN HEARTBREAK for you? Is the way you play guitar very different from one band to the other?
Yeah, It is a bit different. With JETBOY my part is playing solid rhythm guitar and a few songs I play open tuning slide guitar. The songs are a bit heavier and more of a big heavy rock sound. I’d say my guitar style with JETBOY Is Malcolm Young (rhythm guitar style) meets Joe Perry (slide guitar style) which are two of my favorite styles to play & really what I feel I do best on guitar. With American Heartbreak I kinda re-invented my style or for better words created a little bit different of a style. The songs with AH are way more poppy & I play more lead guitar, not really solo style leads but more melody leads like Rick Nielsen Cheap Trickish style, which I love as well. At the end It’s all Rock N’ Roll and I just love playing guitar.
Do you think that the recent interest for 80s bands like MOTLEY CRUE or POISON is a good thing for JETBOY, did you see a lot of younger people in the audience during your last tour?
Well, I think so, since JETBOY are a big part of launching that mid to late 80’s glam rock scene. When JETBOY started to play LA In 1985 there were two other bands doing the same thing but In their own way which was Poison & Guns N’ Roses. Now that the band is back together we see us as being very current or I guess the best way to say It is JETBOY is timeless. The songs still stand up today & the the band is playing better than ever. We did see a younger generation on this tour and a lot of people write the band who are In their teens & 20’s ! I think It’s great that this style of music has been passed on and is loved just as It was when It was new by a new generation. My favorite bands to this day are bands that formed in the early 70’s and their still together and doing well, most of them that is.
JETBOY played a lot with the original GUNS N’ ROSES in the past. What are the best memories from those times? Do you still talk to members of the band?
When JETBOY first started to play In Hollywood In 1985, we re-connected with Izzy & Axl who Fernie & I met when we made trips to LA looking for a singer in early 1983. They were still doing Hollywood Rose at the time. Once we had JETBOY going we made another trip to LA and ran Into Axl at the Troubadour and he handed me a flyer & said here’s the new band Izzy & I have going, let’s book some shows together ! and that’s where JETBOY & G N’ R started to do shows together & hang out a lot. Around the same time we meet Poison, and by mid 1985 we were all swapping shows with each other, they would support JETBOY In SF & we would support them In LA until all of us were headlining the clubs. Those were some of the best times, It’s when there were no labels & we were just living the life playing shows. Some of the stand out gigs from that time were when JETBOY supported acts like Johnny Thunders, The Toy Dolls, The Ramones, Iggy Pop, The Cherry Bombs etc ….. As for staying In touch ?? Well, I think most people know what happened to our relationship with G N’R !! which seems to be repeating Itself after reading the Slash biography ! I keep In touch with Rikki Rockett, and I also hang out with Mick Cripps a lot. We see some of the other bands In LA, well everyone who is still playing music from that era that is.
Do you think that JETBOY and GUNS N’ROSES shared a lot of common influences, maybe more street rock’n’roll than most L.A bands at the time? It always seems like JETBOY was the right band at the wrong time and that it could have been bigger…
Yeah I do, It’s why we were so tight through the early years. We both had that punk rock/street edge which most bands playing our style of Rock N’ Roll did not have. As for JETBOY being the right band at the wrong time, It was definitely a timing thing, If our album had come out on Elektra Records In 1987 right after G N’ R’s Appetite JETBOY would have been huge ! I’m sure of that. The funny thing Is, now our history & all that bad timing stuff is working to our advantage, sure seems to be.
Of course, the saddest part is probably when JETBOY’s original bass player Todd Crew died from overdose. Then Sam Yaffa (HANOI ROCKS) joined the band, how did this happen? Did he move to San Francisco?
This is a very sad story and also a very touchy subject. Todd was let go from the band after quite a few warnings, It was an easy job at this point which was to play Rock N’ Roll at our best, look good and show up to a few meetings here & there. The last shot we gave was trying to get the G N’ R guys to help us interview Todd and get him help, they said Todd’s fine you guys just don’t know how to party ??? Unfortunately, Todd took the partying a bit far and at the end he could not handle it & died. Before we let Todd go our management had the one question to ask, If you guys could have any bass player out there who would It be ??? Hanoi Rocks being the group all us bands looked up to at the time of course Sami Yaffa was our first choice. Our manager knew someone at Warner Bros. over In Sweden where Sami was living at the time & when he got word about JETBOY Interested in seeing if he would want to join the band he went for It. At this time the band was now living In Hollywood early 1987, we had a meeting with Todd and let him go, then Sam was in and I gotta say it felt so good to be a gang again. Six months later Todd was In New York hanging out with Slash, they scored some heroin and Todd Overdosed and Slash freaked out and left, very fucked up story which is still suspect knowing Slash got away with no repercussions ??
Do you think rockers really changed their attitude towards drugs? Do you think that most of them are more responsible now?… It seems like it can be used as a way to publicize artists (Amy Winehouse, Pete Doherty…) again.
Drugs will always be around, they always have been. Through all the years of Rock N’ Roll and way, way before. There seems to be someone from each generation that’s falls for it… Some people learn and move on from it and some don’t… If you are any kind of artist whether It be a musician, actor or model, If you get caught with drugs It’s gonna be all over the press because people love reading about it !!
What did you do after JETBOY stopped?
After the band was dropped in 1990 we moved back home to San Francisco, we tried to keep It going but it was clearly time to move on. The Seattle scene took over & it was a good thing because the whole Hollywood glam rock scene became a joke, Spinal Tap nailed It perfect. Now after 15 or more years this style of music from the 80’s is big again along with a new generation of fans, It’s a great thing to see and be a part of again. The cool thing is some of these bands still sound 80’s ….. But JETBOY still sounds just like a good Rock N’ Roll band !
Didn’t you tell me that you also toured with Chris Isaac as a guitar player?
Yes I did ! from 1996 through 1999. It was a BLAST working with Chris and his band ! great guys. I did some touring with them & I also was the tech In the studio for the album Speak Of The Devil !!
As a guitar player, you opened for many bands with your own ones. What would be the dream band for you to open for?
Yeah, JETBOY opened for a lot of cool bands like Johnny Thunders, Iggy Pop, Motley Crue, The Lords Of The New Church, Kix and so on ….. But for me and the rest of the guys, CHEAP TRICK was the ultimate band to share a stage with hands down !!
Can you tell us a bit about Rock N’Roll relics?
Rock N’ Roll Relics Is my custom guitar company, I basically build Telecaster & Stratocaster guitars and make them look as If they had been played on for 40 years ! beat up, rusty & just overall cool looking like you see Keith Richards or Joe Perry play, not a bad thing to do for work.
Any chance to see JETBOY in Europe?
Yes !!! JETBOY plan to tour Europe, hopefully this year !!??