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!


Razzle book on Amazon

Ari Väntänen – All Those Wasted Years

HANOÏ ROCKS’ biography All Those Wasted Years is finally available in English. We thought it would be interesting to ask author Ari Väntänen a few questions about the book and how it all came up together. He also tells us about his everlasting love for one of the best rock’n’roll bands ever!

When did you first hear HANOÏ ROCKS?

Hmmm… The first song I remember hearing was “Up Around the Bend”. I think I saw the video on TV in 1984, when I was ten. I couldn’t believe they were Finnish. Unlike most of the bands from my country at the time, they looked cool. But then I heard my parents were acquainted with Andy McCoy’s dad and that our neighbours were related to him, so I had to believe it.

Growing up in Scandinavia must have been quite different from the rest of the world when it comes to HANOÏ ROCKS. What do you remember about them from those days? Were they considered as a famous band there?

Oh yes, they were famous. To us Finnish kids they were real rock stars, and they looked and sounded the part. We’d read about them in magazines. The cover stories were often about them. I had a Hanoi poster on my wall. I used to read “Michael’s Adventures”, a column he wrote for a Finnish teen magazine. Unlike their Finnish peers, they were international. I don’t think they even saw themselves as being a Nordic band or whatever. They’d tour wherever they could, Finland, Japan, the US, the UK, India… They were a wild bunch, strange boys, and I’m sure many didn’t know what to make of them, but they also had a lot of devoted fans. I was always fascinated about Hanoi, but unfortunately too young to catch them live.

How did you get the idea of a HANOÏ biography?

Well, I became a music writer, and I always took writing seriously. I did a lot of work for music magazines, and writing a book was a dream of mine. I was wondering why no-one had written a proper biography of Hanoi Rocks. It was such a fantastic story with all kinds of adventures, and I was certain that soon someone would make a great book out of it. But time went by, and nothing happened. So, I decided to do it myself. I worked on it for a few years before I told anybody. Finally, the Finnish version was released in April 2009.

Can you tell us about the American release of the book?

One day I got an e-mail from Jyrki 69 of The 69 Eyes, whom I know a bit from work. He told me that his friends at Cleopatra Records were putting together a Hanoi Rocks vinyl box called Strange Boys Box. He asked if I’d write the liner notes for it, since I knew the story. Then one thing led to another, and suddenly me and Michael were working on the English version of “All Those Wasted Years” with Cleopatra. The Strange Boys Box liner notes are excerpts from the book. The book was translated by my English friend Andy Stowe. He is a musician himself, a good writer and he even saw Hanoi live back in the day, so he was really on the case. I’m really happy how it turned out. Cleopatra put a lot of love into it.

You co-wrote the book with Michael Monroe and Andy McCoy, how did it all happen? How did you do it, was it based on interviews?

vantanen_monroeI wrote it all by myself, but the book project was a co-operation. When I had the first version of the manuscript ready, I showed it to Michael and told him what I was up to. He liked what I had written, and we got a publishing deal for a official Hanoi Rocks biography. Then I continued writing and started doing interviews with band members and people who were there when the magic happened. To name a few, I spoke with Michael, Andy, Nasty Suicide, Gyp Casino, Bob Ezrin, Tyla, Ginger Wildheart, Dee Snider, Duff McKagan, Overend Watts… I had a job in a music paper back then, which made it easy to reach people in the music business.
So, to answer your question, the book is based on interviews, but also on all kinds of other materials, like print articles, recordings, TV appearances… whatever I found interesting. A British Hanoi fan named Xan sent me her whole huge Hanoi Rocks articles collection, of which I’m eternally grateful. And Mr. Monroe went through his vast archives and found a lot of interesting photos, documents and other stuff that we could use. He also commented on the text, made corrections and gave me many in-depth interviews. Michael put a lot of effort into both the Finnish and the English version.

So it wasn’t too difficult to find never seen before photos, or other things that haven’t been online before?

Not really. My Finnish publisher Like has been around for a long time and is really well-connected, and like I said, Michael had a lots of material at his place. Hanoi’s Finnish record company Johanna also had stuff to share. Seven years ago not a lot of it was online yet. But now it is.

Have you learned a lot of things you didn’t know before about the band when writing the book?

When I started writing, I had a pretty good idea of how the story went. But when you write a book you dig deeper. Of course you have to tell what happened, but when you start writing about why things went the way they did, you’re onto something. I feel like I learned a lot about their personalities, and those explain a lot of what happened. The guys in the band were very different from each other. In some cases, total opposites. But when they made music together, they really clicked. Their chemistry was just out of this world.

Do you have any favourite HANOÏ ROCKS albums or songs?

orientalbeatI used to, but now they all seem like crucial parts of the story. For example, people say that “Oriental Beat” doesn’t sound very good (which is true) but in my ears it captures the mood the band was in back then. They were going through tough times in 1982, and the album is a reflection of all that. I love that record. I love all of them.

Favourite rock’n’roll books?

There’s lots of good stuff out there. I love The Dirt, Neil Strauss did a great job with it. The latest Jerry Lee Lewis book by Rick Bragg is brilliant. Please Kill Me by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain is a classic. The writers interest me, obviously, but sometimes you don’t even know who actually wrote the great book you’re enjoying. Even the “autobiographies” are often not written by the stars themselves, even if they’re narrated in the first person. You need a writer to write a book, just like you need a songwriter to write a song. I think Patti Smith, Richard Hell, Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young write great songs and great books.

What about HANOÏ members’ other bands/projects, have you been into them?

Always. I have pretty much all of their records. I just bought a copy of Cheap And Nasty’s second album “Cool Talk Injection”. It’s hard to find and I’m happy to have it. The Suicide Twins’ “Silver Missiles And Nightingales” is one of my all-time favourites, and Sami Yaffa’s band Mad Juana is great. Michael’s solo career I know through and through. His current band is fantastic.

The HANOÏ ROCKS legacy is very important, and they paved the way for GUNS N’ ROSES and many other bands. Have you ever thought about how they would be/sound nowadays if they could have been still around since the 80s with the same line-up?

mmonroerazzleThat’s always the question with Hanoi: “what if….?” But that’s impossible to answer. All I know is that many things would have had to change to keep them together. There were problems and drama there even before Razzle died. I think it was a good decision to stop when they did, in 1985, because the band was dying or dead already. It would be great to have Razzle here with us. I never got to meet him, but apparently he was a great guy. Everybody loved him and still does.

What would you think if somebody came up to you with the project of a movie based on the book?

Well, it’s not my story at all, it’s Hanoi’s. The book is just my interpretation of it, just like the movie would be the director’s version. If there was a movie project and somebody asked me to, I’d be happy to read the script and say what I think. It’s a brilliant story that could very well be adapted into a brilliant movie. But it also could end up being very corny and silly. There are so many things that could go wrong. You’d have to understand who they were and what they represented. Not many actually get it. That’s one of the reasons for writing the book.

What other books have you written, and are you working on other projects? What other bands would you like to write about if you could choose a few?

I wrote the authorized Michael Monroe biography that came out in Finnish in 2011. It was updated in 2014. That one really should be published in English, too. Then I wrote a book about the band Apulanta, they’re huge in Finland. Who I’d like to write about? I don’t know… I write in Finnish, so I guess it would have to be someone from here. A band with some soul and a story to tell.

Hanoi Rocks – All Those Wasted Years book trailer video:

Hanoi Rocks – All Those Wasted Years book on Cleopatra Records’ web site:

Hanoi Rocks – All Those Wasted Years book at Backstage Rock Shop: