Sister Morphine – Back in the groove and nailing it!

“Ghosts Of Heatrbreak City” is such a good sleaze rock’n’roll album! We had to ask SISTER MORPHINE a few questions about their past, present and future. Singer Gaz answered.

How did you get the idea to give a new life to SISTER MORPHINE?

I found myself nursing a serious knee injury which had me laid-up and looking for something to occupy my time when I couldn’t really move about. I had an MRI scan the evening before my fiftieth birthday and when they put the headphones on me to drown out the sound of the machine ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ was playing – that makes you feel old, I can tell you! So, to fill the time without getting up I decided to convert a load of old tapes to digital with a view to sharing them with my music nerd friends. I was thinking live bootleg tapes which I still have a load of – Hanoi Rocks, Zodiac Mindwarp & the Love Reaction, Quireboys, The Dogs D’Amour, Manic Street Preachers, KISS, to name but a few. However, I found a stack of old Sister Morphine rehearsal tapes from 1989, 1990, and 1991. These C90s contained rough, sometimes incomplete versions of songs that I had completely forgotten about, so I converted them and sent them to my old band mates – guitarists Jamesy and Jonesy, drummer Denley Slade, and bassist “Hollywood” Mike DeSouza. This started a file sharing frenzy with other songs that had seemingly disappeared off the face of the planet resurfacing. I was on codeine for pain relief and this, infamously and painfully, gives you constipation. I don’t know if it was the backing-up that got to my brain but I decided that I needed to get my shit out in different ways, so I suggested to the boys that we regroup to make an album including all these great songs that never got the chance to shine.However

Was it easy to convince everyone in the band?

Easier than I ever imagined! Within an hour of me sending the message everyone was in and committed to making the album. We were in regional lockdowns at the time – this was early 2021 – so we had a million group posts and video calls trying to come up with a plan. Those video calls would result in three brand new songs being written. A finished product still seemed so far away, though – that, two years later, we have, in my opinion, a killer album released is quite remarkable.

When was it when you first started?

Jamesy and “Hollywood” Mike were in a band called Self Destruction Blues; the former singing and playing guitar, the latter providing the eye candy. They decided that they wanted a proper frontman with dazzling good looks and a voice to die for, but they couldn’t find one so they asked me to join. This was in 1989. I joined the band the day before my eighteenth birthday. The band name was changed, Denley and, later, Jonesy joined, and it all clicked and we were away.

Was there a big sleaze/glam rock scene in Wales?

At the time the big thing was Glam Vs Thrash! Two camps at odds with each other – us cool kids and those other sweaty oafs! One Tuesday night James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich walked into our local rock club, Metro’s in Newport, and all the thrashers were treating it like the second coming while I was like, “wake me up if someone from Faster Pussycat walks in!” Ha ha. I actually had a piss next to Lars – the sound of his piss hitting the porcelain sounded exactly like the snare drum on ‘St. Anger’. But I digress; the glam thing was big, with bands like City Kidds and Ragdolls riding the Tigertailz coattails. We would eventually get lumped in with the whole glam thing, but we were always on the Hanoi Rocks/New York Dolls side of the subgenre – really we wanted to be the Stones or the Faces, not leather boyz with electric toyz.

How many shows did you play approximately and what do you remember of them?

In that first year, 1989, we were still really finding our sound so we only did two shows – the second of them a pretty high profile one in London with Last Of The Teenage Idols, back when playing in London with a name band was a bit of a dream for kids from places like ours. We went for it in 1990 and played scores of shows, garnering a small yet fevered following of cultured individuals. A lot of the times the show was a local “Rock Night” so you had all types of rock fans in attendance: you would sell T-shirts to some people who loved your performance, yet have others wanting to fight you for not sounding like the Scorpions… on the same night! Every show or every night of a tour is a constant battle between good times and bad decisions – at our age now even the latter are remembered as the former.

You were probably associated to bands like The DOGS D’AMOUR, QUIREBOYS or GUNFIRE DANCE. Did you play with any of them?

We did several shows with Gunfire Dance as part of a package that saw them as headliners, us opening, with Silver Hearts the prime beef sandwiched between us. It was clear from the first time we saw and heard Gunfire Dance that the band should have been huge. Looking back, they were just a few years ahead of the game. When the alternative culture became the norm in the Nineties their edgier, oft-kilter brand of rock ‘n’ roll would have hit several marks but in the years before that every label wanted its “rebels” to have pop metal hits; stage-managed rebellion. Think the Quireboys having to get rid of their best-ever drummer in order to have that polished sound of the first album – they went from the Faces to ‘Atlantic Crossing’ era Rod in one swoop. I was lucky enough to hang out with the Survival Records line-up of the Quireboys when I was seventeen, but we never got to play with them. We did, however, play with Red Dogs who featured current Quireboys guitarist Paul Guerin – well, one of the current Quireboys line-ups! Paul has always been great and whenever I bumped into him when on Uber Rock duties he always smiled in all the right places when I serenaded him with Red Dogs classic, ‘Sweet Little Ruby’, EVERY TIME I SAW HIM! We were actually booked onto a Dogs D’Amour gig after our Teenage Idols gig in 1989 but it never happened. It’s mentioned in a review of the gig that I have somewhere.

What other bands from that scene did you like or hung out with?

We spent some time with the aforementioned Silver Hearts (who later became Last Great Dreamers) and are still friends with Marc Valentine and Slyder Smith. In fact, our drummer, Denley, was in the regrouped Last Great Dreamers for a few years, and now plays in Marc’s solo band. I’m still friends with a load of the City Kidds – they had around ten thousand band members so it’s hard to walk down the street without bumping into one of them, teasing his hair or straightening his spandex. Former Kidd Matt Blakout (now Tigertailz drummer) was my best man! We played a few shows with a band called Roadhouse that, apparently, Jon Bon Jovi had said good things about – they had the JBJ quote on their posters and everything! He was probably on about the Patrick Swayze movie. Anyway, Roadhouse had a prima donna of a frontman who would smash his micstand into the stage and storm off if the band wasn’t going down well, but a lovely guy on drums named Ramon who, like me, loved comic books and pop culture. We used to correspond and he’d send me Punisher stickers and the like. We also played some shows with a band called Who Cares Anyway? and their drummer now plays in The Hip Priests, who we love. In fact, guitarist Austin messaged me on the release day of our album to tell me how much he liked it – little things like that from cool mofos means a lot.

Did you release any official demos in those days?

We recorded a four-track demo tape in a place called Chariot Studios in Cardiff in 1989. Sadly, due to the gentrification of every cool fucking place on the planet, the location no longer exists. The demo was entitled ‘The Agony & the Ecstasy of Sister Morphine’ and none of the songs made the cut when it came to rehashing some old tunes for our ‘Ghosts of Heartbreak City’ album! We also released a tape entitled ‘Singing Songs ‘Bout Yesterday’ that included a song from the demo, ‘For a Girl Like You’, alongside several live songs recorded in venues across the UK that, again, no longer exist.

Why did the band stop playing?

We found ourselves treading water. We’d had a couple of management “agreements” but found ourselves looking for new representation. We did a 250-mile round trip to meet some prospective management but, predictably, they were just another bunch of chancers and crooks. We were still teenagers and couldn’t even rent a van to get us from gig to gig as we weren’t old enough. An opportunity came my way to write about cult movies and pop culture – my other great passion – so I took up the offer and left the band. I went from being threatened for not whistling like Klaus Meine to dealing regularly with underground filmmakers like Jörg Buttgereit. That seemed like the right thing to do at the time. The band carried on for a little while with a different singer, but it was like that time Mick Hucknall replaced Rod Stewart in the Faces – there was a ginger bloke stood in the same place saying the same words, but it wasn’t the same.

How was it when you first started playing together again?

Everything, initially, when we could eventually meet up and rehearse, was about deciding which songs would make the album. It was great fun revisiting all the old songs, resurrecting some yet showing others the proverbial door. Plus we had three, then four new songs to work on so it was an exciting, productive time. Remember, some of the band members hadn’t really played for three decades so hearing them back in the groove and nailing it was spectacular.

Can you tell us about Big Egg Records?

Big Egg Records is a new Welsh record label that I first became aware of when some friends’ bands got included on a compilation album that the label put out. They reached out on social media asking followers to recommend bands that they should be working with. Sister Morphine had just recorded the scratch tracks for our album before recording proper started, so I sent Big Egg a couple of the tunes and they were interested. The last time we released anything was in 1990 – and on cassette! – so we wanted someone to help us with not only the final physical product, but also all that digital releasing shebang which those of us from the jet age are allergic to. The guys at Big Egg Records are just big music nerds like us so have been great to work with – they just want to help bands get product released. They also tell me repeatedly that I am not only the best singer that they have ever worked with, but also the best looking, which is nice.

You seem to be good at Internet promotion. Do you think that being involved in Uber Rock helped you to stay up to date with the way music and the Internet work together nowadays?

Johnny Hayward and myself founded Uber Rock, but previously to that we had written for the Glitzine website – we had experience of both sending content into an editor, and then being the editors. The latter showed us how NOT to do things. It was a steep learning curve and, like every corner of the music industry, littered with rude bastards. I have tried to use the experience and the knowledge of how not to do things to stir up a little interest in Sister Morphine and the album release. The band’s story made it a little easier, but that ease was nullified by choosing a band name thirty-three years ago that social media search results consider related to drug misuse and continually block! I think I’ve done okay, though… and without spending any money!

You say in the I-84 Bar interview that you’re a “member of the cult of Richey.” Did you get to meet him? Did you see the Manics in their very early days?

I live around six miles away from Blackwood, where the Manic Street Preachers come from, so you would often see them around in the early days: Nicky generally in a shopping centre, James in more random places – I remember him once pushing past us to get nearer to the front when The Black Crowes were playing New port Centre. I only ever saw Richey when he was hanging out before Manics gigs, though. I had written to an address that was on the back of one of their 12-inch records looking for info and Richey replied to me, and sent me a white label 7-inch of the original version of ‘You Love Us’. I have the letter framed on my wall. I saw the band many, many times when Richey was still there: awe-inspiring at times. I have also seen them numerous times since he disappeared. The gigs now are full of people who would also pay £15 to see a tribute band and think that a band must be great because they have paid to put an ad in Classic Rock magazine. Not for me.

Do you have any gigs planned so far?

We had an album launch gig booked, but the venue has closed so that went the way of the dodo. We will consider any opportunities to play live again but are conscious that our huge stage set with mechanical dragon and tank drum riser will struggle to fit into smaller venues.

If SISTER MORPHINE could choose a band to open for, who would it be?

I think we have that crossover appeal that means we’d be equally at home supporting bands like The Dogs D’Amour, The Quireboys, or Michael Monroe as we would punkier outfits like The Boys or The Professionals, or even old school US bands like Jetboy or Faster Pussycat. We’ll consider anything that involves potential more good times… and more bad decisions!

Will there be a vinyl version of the album?

We hope so, eventually. Not having the 12-inch EP that we had planned to release in 1991 in our record collections was a major catalyst for us recording ‘Ghosts of Heartbreak City’ as it happens. That quest for bona fide Sister Morphine physical product has resulted in a cool digipak CD, but we’d love a vinyl release, with lyrics and a huge thanks list included. The waiting time for vinyl to be manufactured at the present time is wild, though – by the time we get the chance to do it a different format may already be the new old thing! It could be 8-tracks! If it is I know a Welsh lyric writer who would claim at least part of the credit for that…

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Enuff Z’Nuff Live in Valencia, Spain / Interview with Chip Z’Nuff

Ever since I started reviewing albums and live shows I decided to write one special article after New Year’s Eve, covering one band. On Nov 20th I got to see one of my favourite bands, Enuff Z Nuff, and I got to interview Chip Znuff. I took advantage of the situation and asked him about several things that I was personally curious about (as a fan) like the story behind “Jani Lane” singing “The Devil Of Shakespeare” or Donnie Vie’s in and out of the band dilemma. Right after the interview I knew this event was going to become “the one” for 2022. Not only I found out that Chip is the sweetest guy ever, he didn’t bitch about me asking personal questions, which is super cool…..but I got to know a bit more about their latest releases. I gotta be honest, when Donnie Vie left Enuff Z Nuff, I was one of too many wondering WTH, like I couldn’t picture the band without him. As Enuff Z Nuff kept releasing mind blowing albums I changed my point of view. That is, my viewpoint was drastically changed by Chip’s version of the band, which has it own vibe, even considering that Chip and Donnie still manage to have a relationship and they contributed on each other’s work, they can walk different roads. Being both of them awesome and prolific at the same time. I doubt their relationship will ever end, both of them are like brothers who at some point decided to go separate ways in life, like Chip said to me “it is like a marriage” Their show was mind blowing including classics like “Baby Loves You”, “Kiss The Clown”, “New Thing” and Fly High Michelle”, mixed with stunning Beatles / McCartney covers (from their amazing tribute album “Hardrock Nite”) like “Magical Mystery Tour”, “Eleonor Rigby” and “Live and Let Die” The band sounds tight as fuck, and one thing that it’s worth pointing out is that they do have fun, they enjoy themselves for sure. This new version of Enuff Z Nuff has already released a few albums, every one of the them is just like everything they ever released, catchy Power Pop / Hard Rock tunes with a meaning. I hope I’ll get to see them again promoting their beautiful and new “Finer Than Sin” album, sometime in 2023. The interview was originally posted on Uber Rock (U.K.) as part of their “Big Uber Rock Interviews” on December 4th 2022. /Juan Pablo Mazzola.

Pictures by Fabio Mogrovejo

https://www.enuffznuff.com/

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Kenward Cooper – Rock’n’Roll Will Only Break Your Heart

Some of you might know Ken from his podcast Glambone but he started rock’n’roll activism at a very young age and later became a musician. Ken has just released “Rock’n’Roll Will Only Break Your Heart”, a great book in which he gives us a lot of details about his various adventures, his personal life and his passion for rock’n’roll.

When did you get the idea of writing your book and how much time did it take?

Ever since being a teenager, the idea of writing an autobiography is something I imagined I would do one day. I just thought I’d be in a different position telling my story, but sometimes the perfect picture of how you think your life would be isn’t always how it adds up. When the pandemic hit in early 2020, that’s when I started reflecting and writing the book. It was a two-year process.

You started being involved at a very young age being the editor of a Sunset Strip publication. Can you tell us more about it?

Yes. In my teens I started a music magazine from my bedroom. A fanzine, basically. After the first couple of issues, record companies began calling to buy advertisements in the publication, full page ads to promote their new releases. Once that started to happen, we were able to upgrade the design and printing quality. So with doing that, it became a prominent paper on the Los Angeles streets and eventually distributed in other music cities around the globe.

How were the musicians’ reactions when seeing that you were so young? Any anecdotes to share with us?

Mostly surprised, but they thought it was cool. I remember before the family uprooted to Los Angeles, I had an interview with the band Dirty Looks that Atlantic Records set up for me to meet them at a night club in Las Vegas they were playing at. Keep in mind, Vegas has a strict age limit of being 21 years or older. Well, the club owner saw me with my tape recorder interviewing the drummer outside the venue, and he says to me, as long as your dad is here with you, you can come inside and watch the show from the sound board, just don’t go anywhere near the bar ! So, there I was at 14 years old getting into my first night club to watch a rock n roll band. It was great !

Then you started playing in bands. Can you tell us about them?

Yeah, two years later I had my first band with my high school buddy Ashley Hamilton. We’re great friends to this day. We basically ditched school one day to go to Guitar Center on Sunset Blvd. That’s the first time we played guitar for each other, and said right there let’s form a band. Funny enough, one of the record companies that gave us recording time to make demos was Atlantic Records. It was a thrill to have been in their office interviewing bands, and then soon thereafter playing our demo in the CEO’s office. Stylistically we were all over the place, a bit of pop, hard rock, ballads, and hip-hop. You hear some bands say that the record companies didn’t know what to do with them, well, that was us, we were trying to find ourselves and which direction to go in. After that, I pursued it on my own, and later on a project with my ex-wife which was called This Episode.

At times, it seems like the book is a story written for a TV series, there are so many ingredients for it, like your different travels (London, Paris, New York…), your bad luck as a musician and heartbreak stories….

Thanks, yeah, it’s quite a visual read and certainly could be adapted for the screen.

The book comes out with a 16 song CD companion in which we can hear a big Britpop influence. Was it your favourite 90s style after the 80s glam metal wave?

Definitely. In America, the 90s obviously was about the Seattle sound. It wasn’t my thing. For me, all the great new music was happening in the UK.

Suede, Pulp, My Life Story, Elastica, David Devant & His Spirit Wife, Oasis. It was fantastic.

Can you tell us about the recording of these songs and the people involved?

It’s a compilation from over the years, various sessions and projects. The majority of it was recorded and produced by Rick Parker. One of the more recent songs is a co-write I did with Michael Lockwood. A lot of guest musicians are on it who’ve played with artists like Beck, Madonna and others.

I first got to know you because of your Glambone podcast. Can you tell us a bit about it, how you started it, etc.?

The first Glambone podcast debuted in late 2008. All I knew about podcasts back then was that it was like an underground way of having a radio show. There weren’t many at that time like there is today. I was living in Nashville then, and in between playing the writer-rounds which songwriters do, I had extra time on my hands. All the tapes of bands from my Rockstar Magazine days were in boxes, and instead of keeping it boxed up, I thought a podcast would be a great way to share this stuff with people.

You’ve never thought about starting an online magazine?

Well, I simultaneously had the Glambone blog up as well. But no, who needs an online magazine from me when you got Veglam ?!

Without spoiling the book too much, did you get your rights back for your song that was “stolen”?

I always had the rights to my song. Even though mine was infringed upon, I could still use it as I pleased. But in terms of royalties from the stolen version, no, I only received compensation from a settlement for it.

Music business has changed a lot. Do you think that things are easier for self-produced artists/bands nowadays?

Yes and no. It’s expensive to solely do on your own. If you’re talking about touring costs, promotion, manufacturing vinyl and merch, this is all out-of-pocket expenses if you don’t have support from another company helping you out and lifting some of the financial burden. In terms of recording and releasing music online, sure, anyone can do that.

Do you still own any demos from the Sunset Strip days? Which bands should have made it but haven’t according to you?

Some stuff, although, each time I move around it gets less and less. I’ve gotten rid of so much. The bands that should’ve made it, Tomorrow’s Child, Rattlesnake Shake, Pharoah from the east coast. Honestly, many of the bands that had records out should’ve made it, Lions & Ghosts, Candy, The Zeros, Dear Mr. President, Vain.

You’ve spent a lot of time in France. Any French bands or artists you like?

Serge Gainsbourg, Raphael, Les Rita Mitsouko, Carla Bruni. Everytime I go back I discover something great there.

You lived in Nashville. It seems like many rockers from California are moving there. Do you think that it’s only a money issue?

Not just from California anymore, musicians from everywhere have been moving there. I don’t think it’s only a money concern, because prices and cost of living in Nashville has certainly gone up since the time I lived there. Not as high as L.A, but it’s climbing. I think for industry it continues to be a place where creativity is alive and well, and that’s a big part of the appeal. I’ll tell you though, if they’re not moving to Nashville, many of the L.A. people are moving to Las Vegas.

Which place would you choose if you could live anywhere you’ve been?

It’s a toss up between Paris and New York. Unless I fall in love with a Swedish girl, then I’m moving to Stockholm !

Looking back at all these musical adventures. Would you change anything if you could?

If I had a voice in my head back at the beginning of 2002 telling me to stay in Vegas just a little while longer, I think I would like to have listened to it, being that the city spawned a few successful bands after I left. But the voices took me somewhere else instead. Luck of the draw.

Glambone

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https://www.kenwardcooper.com/

Bubblegum Slut Zine Archive: Drew Bernstein – Lip Service Clothing

As big fans of the L.A. clothing brand (it was hard not to be if you were into glam/sleaze rock’n’roll in the late 80s/early 90s!), we thought it would be interesting to share this interview of Drew Bernstein (Lip Service founder) by our favourite paper zine Bubblegum Slut. Thanks, Alison for letting us share it.
Read more cool Bubblegum Slut archives at https://bubblegumzinearchive.blogspot.com/

Alison’s intro (August 15, 2022):

t the time this interview was published (2007 / Issue 28), Lip Service clothing’s founder and CEO, Drew Bernstein, aka ‘Lippy’, had no real need of doing press, much less UK fanzine press. 

His L.A-based alt. fashion brand had been outfitting the likes of Axl Rose since 1985, and true to its strapline, ‘The Original Cult’, it boasted a global, cult-like following.  Fans calling themselves ‘Lippy Addicts’ built extensive fan-sites, and traded Lip Service’s limited-edition, highly collectable punk/goth/fetishwear designs for considerable sums. 

In a bid to discover what sort of scheme or sorcery I used to secure an interview with Lip Service’s CEO, I started digging through the old Bubblegum Sl💙t inbox.  The shockingly mundane answer is that I fired off a long-shot email, and three days later Lippy wrote back, apologising for the ‘delay’ in replying, and saying ‘call me tomorrow’. 

While a lot of the fashion content in the zine’s later issues never really worked (eventually, I want to do a series of posts about regular columns which failed, no matter how much I forced the format, and fashion looms large on the list), this feature is a rare exception, which I remember fondly. 

There are a couple reasons for this.

Firstly, I was a MASSIVE fan of Lip Service’s designs.  The attention to detail on this stuff was unmatched by any of the brand’s competitors.

Secondly, having the chance to chat with Lippy himself about the work that went into realising those details – be it sourcing padlocks for a fetish line, or finding the perfect white flocking technique to create ‘lines’ on the controversial ‘Coke Fiend’ collection – turned out to be a rare opportunity, not be repeated.  On 18th August 2014, I was shocked to learn of Lippy’s death by apparent suicide, at the age of 51. 

For a ton of bonus images related to this feature, check out Story Highlights on the Bubblegum Zine Archive Instagram. 

For vintage Lip Service catalogues, head to the Redemption Clothing archive.

Bonus images:

Veglam: I bought my first Lip Service clothes in 1990 at Red Balls On Fire in London and I still own them after all those years!:

The brand has reissued some of their earlier designs these last years.
More info: https://lip-service.com/

Razzle “The Story of The HANOÏ ROCKS legend” – Ari Väntänen

Razzle was the heartbeat of HANOÏ ROCKS, the perfect drummer for the most flamboyant band. Unfortunately, Razzle is also famous because of is tragic death in a car crash in 1984 while MÖTLEY CRÜE’s Vince Neil was driving. Ari Väntänen already wrote about HANOÏ ROCKS and Michael Monroe so he probably was the right person to write about Razzle. We asked him a few questions about this extremely well documented new book…

When did you start working on the book?

I think it was around the late 2018. I was personally interested to learn about Razzle’s life, and around that time it really started to bug me that most people only remember him as the guy who died while someone more famous was driving. The more I looked into it, the more important it felt to write this book. Razzle was all about life, and his life made a great story.

My original plan was to write the book in English only, but then my Finnish publisher Like heard about it and wanted to make a Finnish version as well. So, I translated my own text to my own language, and the Finnish book came out first in September 2020. Svart put out the English version in January 2022.

You say that there was something Dickensian about Razzle that sparkled your interest as a kid. Can you explain?

I guess there was something larger than life in him, you know, the top hat and the striped suit and all, and at the same time he seemed so streetwise. I guess he had to be, because the more he concentrated on his music, the less money he had, before joining Hanoi. Like Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist, he was a kid inside but had learned early to take care of himself.

Was it easy to choose who you were going to interview and get all the photos and documents?

It would have been difficult without the Facebook group Remembering Razzle. That’s where I found many of his friends, band mates, and relatives. Most of the group members were happy to contribute with stories, photos and stuff. I wanted the book to be like a gathering of people who knew him and wanted to reminisce his life, so the more the merrier. What I found curious was that very few people ever argued with him about anything. I even tried to ask people how can it be, but it seems like Razzle just was really easy to get along with.

Is there anyone you would have liked to interview but couldn’t because they didn’t want to get interviewed, you couldn’t find them or because they are not part of this world anymore?

There were a few people who rather kept their memories personal, which they had every right to do. For example, I would have liked to hear Nasty Suicide’s stories because they were close and even shared a flat in London, but he’s not really into dwelling in the past and politely declined. After the book came out he messaged me that he had read it and liked it, which I was happy about.

I also would have liked to chat with Seppo Vesterinen, Hanoi‘s manager, but never heard back from him. Then I found out he hadn’t been well, and he passed away some time later. It was the same with Shaun Newnham of Thin Red Line and Scott Bushburt of the Fuck Pigs, who also died during the writing process. I never got to talk to them, but they or their families sent me some photos for the book. I did a great interview with Timo Kaltio and was in disbelief when I heard he had suddenly passed away, too.

So many people leaving this world before the book was finished made me think that it was high time to tell this story.

Razzle always looked like he should be famous and it seems like everybody loved him. Was it something that also motivated you to write about him?

Definitely. He was a star and very much down to earth at the same time. He had natural charisma but wasn’t arrogant or looking down on anybody. It’s a good combination and made me feel I wanted to know more about him.

Were you familiar with his previous bands before HANOI when you started working on the book?

I knew the bands’ names and I had The Dark live album The Living End, but I didn’t know much about them. For me personally, writing about the pre-Hanoi years were the most fascinating part of the project. I was already very familiar with the latter part of the story, but what did Razzle do before Hanoi Rocks? What were Thin Red Line, The Fuck Pigs and Demon Preacher like? How did he end up joining The Dark? Who did he play with?

Demon Preacher featuring Nik Fiend (Alien Sex Fiend)

It seems like Razzle played an important role when it comes to keeping HANOI ROCKS together through the dark times…

Yes, he got along with everybody in the band even when some of the other guys had issues with each other. They told me Razzle was the glue that held Hanoi together, and they all love him dearly. Like Michael Monroe says in the book, Razzle saved Hanoi Rocks. He kept the band’s spirits up until the end, and it wasn’t easy for him.

Razzle’s drumming really fit HANOI ROCKS’ music. The stories about recording with Bob Ezrin are very interesting.

Ezrin really made him and the whole band work hard. It seemed like the producer tried to bring out the best in Razzle as a drummer instead of trying to turn him into someone he wasn’t as a musician. His playing had a lot of personality and character and I think Ezrin respected that.

It’s funny that he mentioned he would love to play with HEART although his roots were more punk and early hard rock’n’roll. Can you imagine how HEART would have sounded with him behind the kit?

Honestly, I can’t! More punk and rock’n’roll, I guess. Or maybe he would have rehearsed a lot to adapt to their style, like he did when he joined The Dark and Hanoi Rocks. I know he liked Heart a lot, but maybe talking about joining them was his way of saying he wanted to make it big as a musician, like a mainstream big time. Having said that, I have no doubt he would have joined Heart if he had a chance!

Razzle seemed to be very open minded when it comes to music; We also learn that he loved The BIRTHDAY PARTY and a lot of different styles…

Yes, he was and did. Besides the obvious punk and rock’n’roll stuff like The Damned, Johnny Thunders, New York Dolls and Alice Cooper, he liked heavier bands like Iron Maiden, Scorpions, Van Halen and Anvil, and listened to Frank Zappa and The Birthday Party as well.

Have you managed to get more information about this Rebel Yell flyer no one seems to remember?

No! It’s the weirdest thing. Usually, some people online at least claim they know what these things were about, but not in this case. For those who don’t know, there is a mystery gig fIyer about a band called Rebel Yell featuring Razzle of Hanoi Rocks playing a show in London. If someone reading this was in Rebel Yell in London in 1984, please come clean!

Have you ever thought about what Razzle could be doing now if he was still alive?

Pure speculation, of course, but to me he seemed like someone who might have become a family man. I’m 100% sure he would live in some warm and sunny place. He really hated cold!

At the end of the book, we get to think that this story could really be a movie. What did you think of the Razzle scenes in The Dirt?

Yeah, I agree, with all its comedy and tragedy Razzle’s life would make a great movie.

The Dirt… Depends how you look at it. I think Max Milner did a good job portraying the character that was written in the movie script. HOWEVER, I don’t think the character captured who Razzle really was. I believe the real Razzle seemed more friendly, funny and gentle.

But I guess it didn’t really matter who Razzle actually was in the context of that movie. He was just a casualty. That was one of the reasons why I wanted to write this book. I wanted to show the world what he really was like. Full of life and living life to the full, a fun-loving guy who was and still is loved by many.

Not trying to spoil anything, but Cyndi Lauper is mentioned a couple of times in the book. Do you know if they actually met?

I don’t know if they did, but they may have, as Hanoi was on CBS like Lauper.

You wrote a book about HANOÏ ROCKS, the authorized Michael Monroe biography and this book about Razzle. Do you plan on writing on the other band members or related musicians too? Any idea if the Michael Monroe biography will be available in English some day?

I have no plans to do so, but I probably wouldn’t say no if someone asked me to, if I just had the time. I know of a couple of people in the London rock scene in the 80’s who are currently working on their memoirs, so there might more stories on the way without me being involved. And I heard Sami Yaffa’s (& Tommi Liimatta’s) book will be available in English this spring. Yes, I do believe the Monroe book will be out in English some day!

https://www.recordshopx.com/book/vantanen_ari/razzle/#765944

Razzle book on Amazon

Scream Idol – Trash Rock a Go Go!

STAR STAR has morphed into SCREAM IDOL, a scary montster for a new degeneration. We’ve asked Johnnie Holliday (vocals/guitar) a few questions about this new incarnation and the STAR STAR days…

You were one of the first bands I interviewed for Veglam back in 2002. I remember thinking it was so cool to be able to talk to you by email since “The Love Drag Years” is one of my favourite albums. A lot has changed since those days for the music world and especially rock’n’roll. How have things changed for you and your music?

-I like much less of the music I hear at clubs now…and…being that I’m the only guitar player now… we only do songs that can be played with the guitar hung very low. We’ve become so comfortable as a trio that I can’t even imagine playing with another guitar player again. Musically we’re closer to what we sounded like when Mickey Mess and I started Star Star. Long before the Love Drag Years of course.

Can you tell us about the name change, going from Star Star to Scream Idol, will you ever play under the name Star Star again?

-We feel too far removed from the band that was Star Star to continue using that name. We felt like a different band for a while now. I’m not saying that we’ve matured or that we’ve cleaned up or anything crazy like that… but, we definitely feel a rush breaking out as a new band man! Will we ever play under the Star Star name again… hmmm…. kinda’ like if I’ll ever fuck an ex-girlfriend again.

You have re-recorded a few songs from your first album “Go Go Girls In Love”, can you tell us why you have chosen to do so? Did you ever think about a re-release of the album?

-When we did that album I had just started singing and we were in this high lifestyle that didn’t allow us to focus. We’ve always felt that those songs never had a fair chance. So we re-did them….. not that I can sing much better now, but, at least I’m a little sober now….ok, maybe not….but, anyway, yeah, we re-did them the way we sound now..

How do you record music in 2021? Do you have your own home studio?

-We carefully set up our recording situation. We basically bought the gear that we use in the studios. We also built a vocal isolation booth that’s also a guitar booth and a laundry room. Technically speaking…we run Universal Audio and Avalon pre’s through UA and Apogee converters.

Can you tell us why you’ve chosen to cover The PARTRIDGE FAMILY’s “I Woke Up In Love This Morning”?

-The first time I heard that song I thought it was the best chorus ever written..and the singer David Cassidy had the coolest hair on TV. It doesn’t have many chords and I could look cool playing it…and we thought we could bring a fresh feeling to it.

You also covered The SISTERS OF MERCY’s “Vision Thing” live. Have you ever thought of recording it?

-Oh yeah man! We’ve already recorded it. Actually we’ve recorded a Sisters Of Mercy medley that we’ve been playing live. It’s gonna’ be released as a dance Maxi Single along with some club remixes later this year.

STAR STAR was a great mix of rock’n’roll, glam and punk. “Soul Sucker” says “Not a punk, not a rocker…”, is this how you feel in the rock’n’roll world today?

-Music has lost its spirit as it conforms to the guidelines of social and streaming platforms. It has strayed from the culture that influenced generations. The music industry has also been cultivating a mindset so that bands will endeavor to sound like other bands. Do you know where that leads? Check out this years Grammy nominees… that’s where it leads. Generic music without attitude or style! It makes clubs less cool, less chicks, less colorful personalities, more straights, less fun, less artistic spiritual freedom. I feel heartbroken by artists condoning censorship…I feel sad for this generation that is discovering the world through regulated mediums… I feel pissed at punks and rockers that parrot establishment narratives. Other than that I don’t like to talk about what our lyrics mean

I’ve read that you were also a club owner in Greece and I remember seeing some cool flyers about glam/goth/punk nights. Can you tell us more about that?

You didn’t see flyers for that club. It was strictly word of mouth. It was a simple metal door on a street in the center of Athens that led to a staircase going down to the club. We only opened on Saturdays and it was always packed. It was also like 70% dance floor. It was a dark wave, goth, industrial, fetish club so we made sure the atmosphere was comfortable for the regulars. The flyers you did see were for parties that we host at clubs in various cities. We do DJ sets, get drunk and meet chicks… sometimes we’ll arrange fashion or music promotions. Those “Trash City Nights” events always attract very interesting crowds. They are nights of madness

Speaking of Greece. How come you’ve chosen to move there?

I had an uncle that was like a father to me. He became sick and I wanted to spend the time he had left close to him. Weeds, Jay and I decided to do it together and make a new start in Europe. Obviously after Jay’s suicide and my accident it wasn’t such a great new beginning…. but we turned it around man.

These last two years have been difficult for many musicians but have you played live with the SCREAM IDOL line-up before Covid?

We’ve played many shows together as Star Star. Jack was our first drummer when we first got to Europe. We parted ways for a while, then reunited when he got back from Brazil… and Scream Idol was born

I learned in your great interview with Suits and The Platform Boots that you lived in Hollywood. Do you think that New York was better for STAR STAR?

Probably not. We struggled with bad habits everywhere we went. I preferred the scene in LA. Going back to NY was more to straighten up and start fresh, and not so much a musical decision.

Star Star

Last but not least. It happened more than once when pronouncing your name in France that people thought I was talking about French singer Johnny Hallyday who was over famous here!: )… Ever heard of him?

Yes, of course I was asked that question a lot when I did a French press tour. I listened to a bunch of his stuff. Pretty good songs but not enough guitars!

https://www.starfuckerstar.com/

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The Claws – Gut-level Rock’n’roll!

Let’s start 2022 with one of the most interesting rock’n’roll bands from L.A. Chad Cherry (lead vocals) and Gary Martin (guitars & vocals) tell us about the release of their new album “Stars and Broken Stars” and new EP “Hazy Days Wasted Nights” and much more!

Can you tell us a bit about the history of the band?

C.C.: It all started with Gary and I. Gary was living out here in Los Angeles and Sarah and I were out here visiting around 2013/14. We were staying at this place on top of Laurel Canyon. It was right next to an abandoned house that some producer from Walt Disney owned back in the 60’s. Place was trashed and cool. We’re checking it out, sharing a bottle of scotch, moonlight creepin, and we came up with the idea of us getting together to make some kinda noise when I moved out to Los Angeles. In the beginning we were just two guys with an acoustic guitar.

G.M.: Soon, Terry Love (bass) came into the picture, and this formed the core of the band. We recorded the début EP in 2017, and the ‘No Connection’ LP was released in early 2020. With the addition of Tony Pacheco on drums in 2019, and Mike Gavigan on guitar in the lost year of 2020, we began the recording of the follow up LP, which was released in late 2021.

You have two new releases, “Stars and Broken Glass” (album) and “Hazy Days Wasted Nights” (EP). Is this because you wanted the album to be released on vinyl and avoid having too many songs on it?

C.C.: We would’ve had a quadruple record on our hands if we didn’t break it up. There’s no lack of creativity with The Claws.

G.M.: It’s true. At this point, we have more than enough tunes for another full length (& EP!) Sonically and thematically, it made sense to do it the way that we did.

Was it easy to choose which songs were going to be used for the album and for the EP?

It was not a case of the “best 10” make the LP. The sequence needed to flow. The sound of the songs can tell a story. We tried our best to make that happen.

Can you tell us about the recording. Where and when did it happen?

G.M.: We recorded the new music at the same place, with the same producer & engineer as the last LP, 2020’s ‘No Connection’. It’s a cool little studio in the Hollywood Hills called Fox Force Five studios. We began the process in late 2020 and finished in the summer of 2021. The LP & EP was mixed and mastered during the autumn of 2021.

C.C.: That Beechwood Canyon studio is magical.

C.C.: That’s like asking a falling star where it’s going to land. There’s not really a rhyme or reason for anything that we do musically. Gary comes up with nonstop songs and we’re all over the place. We never talk too much about it, we mostly just blend together, push and pull melodies into place. I really don’t think we have a specific anything besides some good synergy going on.. we just do whatever it is we do.

Did you know how you wanted the album and EP to sound before recording them?

G.M.: Our surroundings, our adventures, and our personal relationships between the 5 of add spice to the tunes. Everything has an effect. The studio itself has a great feel, along with some excellent vintage equipment, that really helps bring out the nuance in our tunes. Gabe Lowry (producer/engineer) did a fantastic job of capturing The Claws at our best.

While the 70s influences are obvious, there’s also some 80s ones in the songs. Do you like both decades the same?

G.M.: The keyboard during ‘When The Nighttime Comes’ and ‘Strange Rumblings’ is a vintage synthesizer from the mid-1980’s. Totally. Strictly from a songwriting point-of-view, there’s so much great stuff from the 1960’s through the 1990’s that it is impossible to pick a favorite decade, but I do tend to prefer the production values of the 1970’s.

C.C.: I kinda love all decades, man. But let’s face it.. the 70’s ruled!

Some songs like “High Noon”, “A Song For You”, “Seven Medicines” or “In The Dust” could definitely be featured in series or movies. Did you get any interest from Hollywood film makers?

C.C.: We’re too expensive for them.

G.M.: Yeah, we’re open to collaboration with film makers, but they need to cough up the bread. Besides, we’re telling our own stories, so who needs ‘em?

How is the rock’n’roll scene in L.A. These days? Any new interesting bands? What are the best clubs these days ?

C.C.: L.A. still has just about everything happening musically. Nothing will ever be the past but there’s so many great bands here. Any club that you don’t have to pay to play is a good club.

G.M.: I love the current rock n roll scene in L.A.! Much like the city, it’s spread out. You may find yourself in the suburbs at the Maui Sugar Mill one weekend, and downtown at the Redwood (our favorite) the next. Great joints like Alex’s in Long Beach and the Old Towne Pub in Pasadena always have killer shows. There are many talented players in L.A., so you never know who is going to impress on any given night. Someone just needs to open a genuine rock n roll joint in Hollywood!

It seems like a lot of people are moving out of L.A, especially musicians who seem to have found a new home in Nashville…

G.M.: Don’t believe the hype. L.A. has always been a city with people arriving or leaving. Here today, gone today.

C.C.: That’s news to me.

Chad, you also sing in The LAST VEGAS but you have a couple of other projects. Can you tell us about them?

C.C.: I have some new TLV demos somewhere. Let’s see, everyday is Halloween with the spooky synth/guitar pop sounds of Razor Candy. I’m also doing synthesized music with my director pal, D.M. Cunningham in our outfit called Dreaming In Neon. We’re busy scoring his new film, “3 Demons” at the moment. But I do The Claws on the daily. Gary keeps me busy.

Do any of you play in other bands/projects?

G.M.: I don’t play in any other projects or bands, as everything that I write I consider for The Claws. If my tunes get too weird for The Claws, then maybe I’ll do some acid-jazz solo trip.

Will Europe be on the map when things finally start getting better in the world?

C.C.: Question is, will The Claws ever want to leave once we get there.

G.M.: Would love to do a European swing! I heard that many European rock n rollers have moved to Nashville..true?

Oh! That might explain why I haven’t seen any in almost two years! Haha

https://theclawsrock.com/
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Bad Losers – Paris Dolls!

France has never been the best place for glam rock’n’roll but there were a few jewel bands in the past. Some of you might think of The FRENCHIES in the 70s or bands like TEARS and TEASIN’ BABES in the early 90s but the best French glam band in the mid-80s was undoubtedly BAD LOSERS. Twisted Soul Records has just reissued the band’s album enriched with some great bonus material and a 4 song vinyl EP for Record Store Day on June 12th. Guitarist Mister T.Jones answered our questions…

Can you tell us a bit about the history of BAD LOSERS?

As far as I’m concerned, the story started in 1983 when I joined the band in Paris. BAD LOSERS was originally a garage rock punk band from Toulon (Var) that had explored most of their local scene.

Did you have a precise idea of how you wanted to sound and look from the start ?

It was clear to me as a guitar player that I wanted to play in the spirit of the bands that had influenced me such as The ROLLING STONES , T.REX,the NEW YORK DOLLS and all the band we used to listen to like The GUN CLUB or The ONLY ONES. Since BAD LOSERS wanted to head in that direction, we quickly got along well. The way we looked developped as years went by just like our haircuts! (Laughs)

You recorded the album in London in 1985. How did that happen? How were the recording sessions ? Any anecdotes ?

We recorded the LP in August 1985, we had just signed a record deal with Parisian record label GMG. We wanted to record it with Peter Perett (The ONLY ONES) who had worked with bands we used to like such as WASTED YOUTH (with some future members of FLESH FOR LULU) but the record label decided to send us to Dave Goodman who was the live sound engineer of The SEX PISTOLS and who recorded their songs before “Nevermind The Bollocks”.
Dave was great to us as a producer, always listening to what we had to say, from our arrangement ideas to the production ones. We wanted to have female backing vocals and sitar on one of the songs (“Evil Sacrifices”) and he played it himself. He even went and record traffic jams on Oxford Street (that can be heard as the intro of “On Main Street“.) We recorded 8 songs in 5 days (mix included.) The mastering was made at world famous Abbey Road Studios.

There was The DOGS D’AMOUR and HANOÏ ROCKS among others at that time in London. Did you ever think of relocating there just like HANOÏ did?

We met The DOGS D’AMOUR in Paris before the became a well-known band, we felt really close to the way they played rock’n’roll live as well as the way they looked, the glam image we also had here in France. We wanted to move to London but a few things hold us back in France. On the other hand we really thought of being the French glam band in London.
In late 1986 they sent us Ian Grant who played with GUNSLINGERS. We were HANOÏ ROCKS fans because they were one of the rare European bands playing so tight and so loud at that time, their Marquee show is just timelessly killer!

(Copyrights Richard Gillet)

Were you feeling close to any other French bands?

We were friends with WILD CHILD and a few other bands we happened to play with like The JET BOYS but honestly we were the only band with such a glam image playing NEW YORK DOLLS kind of rock’n’roll in those days. Most French bands at that time were part of the “alternative punk” scene/movement.

Johnny Thunders and Stiv Bators were also in Paris in those days. We can hear Stiv sing “Honky Tonk Women” with you on the CD. Did you happen to share a stage more than once?

Unfortunately not! It was the only good occasion to share a stage together. I think I saw Johnny Thunders at least 10 times when he was in Paris whether it was for solo gigs or with Henri Paul Cosa Nostra or The HEARTBREAKERS. As far as Stiv is concerned, it was a great surprise to play with him! We were invited to play as Johnny Thunders’ backing band at the New Moon in Paris and once we got in, the promoter told us that Stiv Bators would also be there!
During the first part of the night Johnny was playing with only BAD LOSERS’ rhythm section and his friend Henri Paul Tortosa while I had prepared cover song list that we used with Stiv for the second part of the night.

It was memorable and so unique to hear Stiv sing a ROLLING STONES song and even a HEARTBREAKERS song we knew by heart. You can listen to the “Honky Tonk Women” cover with Stiv on vocals on the “Southern Style” CD.

There was several line-up changes in the band. Wasn’t it too difficult to find people who could fit considering your style?

It was indeed very difficult to find a guitar player who could match with our tastes and needs.
I found Jean-Paul (N’Diago Pop) who played on the album and who was a 60s/70s ROLLING STONES fan just like me and a really good guitar player when it comes to play Chuck Berry/famous bluesmen kind of guitar chords.

There were various reasons for these line-up changes and usually personal ones. Jean-Paul went and toured in England, Ian who then played with us had the right image for us and so did Phil. The other ones were either shooting stars in BAD LOSERS or just out of control! (Laughs)

A band like HANOÏ ROCKS kinda suffered from being caught in between several music styles, “too glam for punks”, “too punk for hard rockers”, etc. Did you feel the same thing with BAD LOSERS?

Totally! We were a rock’n’roll band before all and in the middle of the 80s, it was all about the “alternative punk scene singing in French (for most of them)” in France.
BAD LOSERS had several sides, a punk rock side but also a lot of 70s influences. Alike the NEW YORK DOLLS or HANOÏ ROCKS, I don’t think we can use the word “hard rock” to describe us even though we could think about it nowadays mainly because of the way we looked.

“Southern Style” will be out on June 12h. This EP was also recorded in London. How come it wasn’t released back in the day?

These 4 original songs were supposed to be included on a second album that was never released.
We shopped for record labels to get a better the deal so that the band could get bigger. Major labels were asking us to sing in French and we refused because our music style was purely Anglo-saxon. Then we had some line-up changes and desires for a different music for some of us. We got tired of it and the band broke up in 1988.

Both CD and vinyl EP are released by Twisted Soul Records. How did that happen?

We’ve had this project for a long time. We had to wait until the birth of the record label and their start as a professional company. We also had to dig for files like this 1985 “Waiting For The Man” (VELVET UNDERGROUND) cover which was a demo with Richard, a great guitarist from Toulon who unfortunately couldn’t stay in the band. Same thing with our MOTT THE HOOPLE cover “One Of The Boys” recorded live at the Gibus Club when we opened for The CHERRY BOMBZ (Nasty Suicide introduced the band onstage with us before we started playing) or the song with Stiv Bators.

How did the band break up? Was it a brutal stop or was it more a long-run thing?

It was more a long-run thing for several various reasons and a desire to do other things. Also because it was a bit hard to see our future as BAD LOSERS at the end of the 80s in France.

Do you think the band would have explored other music territories if you didn’t split? On the EP we can feel a will to try new things and sounds, a bit like The LORDS OF THE NEW CHURCH or when The DAMNED released “Phantasmagoria”…

The style of these four unreleased songs is a bit different especially in their arrangements. We wanted to have a brass section and a boogie piano for the pure rock’n’roll “Southern Style”, but also some orchestral arrangements for the ballad “Girl In Uniform.” There’s also “Century Jane”, a 70s rock song and another song that can bring The LORDS OF THE NEW CHURCH or The DAMNED (when they experimented with darker influences) to mind indeed.

After the band’s split you went and explored new musical horizons. Can you tell us about it?

At the end of BAD LOSERS I bought a Home Studio which was a very new thing in those days. Bass, drums, everything was in! (Laughs), then I wrote music for advertisements/commercials before forming an electronic music duo that allowed me to travel and play in many different countries. The band (MOOG SPECTRAL) still exists to this day. In the 00s, I got back to my guitar and started a band called The JONES. We played as a backing band for Chris Wilson (FLAMIN’ GROOVIES) or Willie “Loco” Alexander.

I’m also part of an electro-rock project with Holeg Spies, we have some releases out on a British record label and a song remixed by Youth (bassplayer in KILLING JOKE.) I also work on songs at home. They’ll be released this year…

Did you ever think about a BAD LOSERS live reunion?

Honestly it’s almost impossible to get the band back as it used to be in those days full of music, fun and rock’n’roll!!! But this Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/BadLosers) as well as the quality of this reissue with 4 unreleased songs, live material, a demo, a poster and beautiful words from Patrick Eudeline almost make me want to play some good old BAD LOSERS rock’n’roll riffs.

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