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?
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!