Zrock exclusive! Hanoi Rocks : Michael Monroe SXSW Interview
by Jarrod Vrazel : zrock.com
Photo by Jarrod Vrazel : zrock.com
Legendary Hanoi Rocks vocalist Michael Monroe was in Austin for the South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Conference to promote the new Hanoi Rocks album, Twelve Shots on The Rocks. I met with Michael to discuss the return of Hanoi Rocks after a 17-year haitus and the current state of music.
Zrock: Welcome to Austin and South by Southwest. How is the project going for you so far?
Michael: The project is Hanoi Rocks reborn. It’s a very good record. It’s very strong. The band is especially strong live. I would love to come here and play. I wanted to play here I didn’t want to come here and do interviews, but that’s cool too. I’d rather let the music do the talking. As I’m doing this here, I could say that it’s something that I never expected to happen. Hanoi Rocks was gone and dead and buried. When I stopped looking for a band most of my solo career I was trying to look for a band situation I just wanted to be a rock singer in a rock song. I had already decided that I was just going to be Michael Monroe and then this thing came together by itself. Me and Andy hooking up and started to get reacquainted. Our relationship now is more we can talk about anything and communicating much better. In the past, we didn’t really talk much at all. Communication and collaboration with him is so much better because, with all the experience over the years as songwriters, as performers, as musicians, we’ve gotten so much better. So it’s exciting to see what we can accomplish now.
Zrock: Do you have current plans for a US tour?
Michael: Yes, plans for a US tour. Probably first a handful of showcase gigs, you know, West Coast, East Coast, maybe Toronto, Detroit, and wherever. A few gigs to get the idea to people. Then a proper longer tour later on I believe the plan is for later in the spring to come and play here. That’s the plan. Mind you, I was talking to Alice Cooper during an interview the day before yesterday in New York. Alice is really interested in having us open up for him. They always like to have Hanoi Rocks and Alice Cooper and Hanoi Rocks at the end sounds great. He’s always loved the band and he likes the new album. He has a little station there, I think, in Arizona, or his own program, Nights With Alice Cooper or something like that. He’s been playing people like me. He likes us a lot.
Zrock: Hopefully you ll make it through Texas we’d love to participate with the label in a showcase if it fits the routing.
Michael: Thank you. That sounds great.
Zrock: As things develop, feel free to send an email and we ll pass on the info to the fans.
Michael: I just don’t have a computer yet. I’m old fashioned that way.
Zrock: So far, is the new album progressing as you expected?
Michael: Yes. I really don’t have that much expectation. I just think it’s a good strong record and it’s done for the right reasons. I wouldn’t be doing this if it weren’t for long term. I wouldn’t do just a reunion kinda thing with old guys.
Zrock: Or just come back and collect a few bucks and move on to something else?
Michael: No, I would never do that. I want to maintain the integrity of Hanoi Rocks. I’m not gonna be a band that’s just in it for the money. When me and Andy started connecting and writing songs it was really for the long term and it started happening by itself. When we went into the studio and had like five songs, we took a listen and were like, wow! This sounds like Hanoi Rocks, it sounds great, and it sounds state of the art in today’s standards. As I said, with all the experience, we created some cool music. I always wanted to be a singer in a band, and sometimes when you stop looking for something and trying too hard to look for it – it comes to you when you stop looking for it. All of a sudden, it was like whoa! This has happened. I never considered it a reunion. A rebirth is a possibility. Rebirth. That’s just how it happened. I noticed that some bands started calling their reunions a rebirth and something, which is really phony and whatever. To me, it’s sorta like we get a second chance with a band that we like. Thank you, thank you God that we’ve got this to work. And the way the business has been, the biggest challenge has been people working around the band, like management and stuff like that. That’s still a challenge, to get all that together and fall into place. That’s the biggest challenge. Music is no problem. The band is no problem. We’ve got it together really good.
Zrock: I’ve seen some things in the press that seem like other bands are trying to out battle you or something. Are those things still heating up or have they cooled down a bit?
Michael: Oh, is that about my comments on the metal sludge? Yeah, that’s fucked. I just said my opinions about it. I guess they are trying to cash in or use the opportunity now that I mentioned some names that they asked me about. I just said my honest opinion and they are latching onto it. I guess they’re trying to milk it for their own publicity or something. I wouldn’t have said anything at all if it wasn’t for that stupid song title, I mean that stupid album title that they had, which is very sick and very low. You know what I’m talking about. So that’s why I figured okay, I ll put a little bit of… But then at the same time, I opened the door for a certain type of return from a group of people. I’m surprised the people even have anything to do with it. It’s band members, I mean, writing a big thing about it. It looks to me they’re using the opportunity to get some publicity for their band. I didn’t even know they had a band. I would say there’s no need to thank me, don’t mention it, much obliged, but that’s enough now. If they want to thank me for the great publicity I give them. Besides, what I said about Gene Simmons is very true. In fact, every body knows that I’m true and he should be proud of the fact. He is what he is and he should be proud, I’m sure. A guy like him even. At least he’s busy enough to not lower himself to the level of guys who look at the screens and say oh I know you over one of mine, nah, nah! I don’t have the time. I don’t have a computer. I don’t look around and look at gossip and stuff. I think it’s a waste of time. I don’t know if that’s playing it down or what, but I haven’t paid attention to it. I just answered the questions in a questionnaire and I thought was pretty funny. They had some funny and unusual questions.
Zrock: Earlier you said the music speaks for itself.
Michael: Yes, what does that have do to with rock and roll? I know that opinions are like assholes everybody has one. And there are a lot of them around. I’d rather not even… . If you ask me about those guys, I love them all! They’re brilliant. Great contributions to humanity. I haven’t paid attention. I don’t know what the situation is right now with the gossip club or gossip column or whatever they call it. There’s all kinds of shit flying back and forth here and there. I guess you could say I looked at it and thought I could shake it up a little bit and put some life into the normally boring and repitious website or guest book or whatever it was. I really don’t even know. Even if I had a computer, I could not be sitting in front of it going, oh, he said this, I’ve got to answer him now. I’m a rock and roll musician. I’m not a computer. I’m not user friendly.
Zrock: What about the international markets? Any tour plans over seas?
Michael: Yeah, we’ve been touring Japan and Europe some. The album came out in the UK and we’ve toured there twice. The album is not officially released in the rest of Europe yet. The deal is not also set yet either, so I’m not sure how its going to be released and when. What we’re doing is touring on the records and wherever it comes out, it comes out. At the same time, we’ve got a bunch of new songs. We’re probably going to go into the studio sometime in the fall to start recording the next album. As I said, I’m into this long term.
Zrock: That’s great to hear. Some bands have farewell tours that last six years or they have retired several times and they’re still playing.
Michael: It’s pretty sad to say it’s your farewell or whatever. I guess never say never. If you had asked me if Hanoi Rocks was going to be if the name was going to be ever used again, four years ago I would have said you’re crazy even when we were in the studio. It just hit me when we heard the songs. And we figured all those years we put into Hanoi Rocks that was our little rock n roll dream. And to have that accident happen and take it all away from us and shatter our lives and many other peoples lives why wouldn’t we have reaped some rewards from all the work we’ve put into it, instead of having to start all over as Michael Monroe and Andy McCoy and educate people about that. Hanoi Rocks was one of the coolest names for a rock n roll band, I think, and I always wanted to be in a band. Then we figured, hey, this is us now, and we started it. It was me and Andy before even Sammy and Nasty and everybody else came. It was me and Andy who started playing the band in 77 and then started in 79 as Hanoi Rocks. Nasty and Sammy came in and we became a really tight unit and, especially when Razzzle joined, it was like a family our gang us against the world. Like a band should be. But now is a new day. Nasty came and played with us New Years, and when we played Tokyo, Sammy came up and played a song. You know, they’ve been around, but right now it’s just not in the cards. Nasty has a different life now he’s a pharmacist and he doesn’t play guitar much anymore. It’s pretty amazing that he got his life together I guess it came down to him choosing between sobriety and rock n roll he had a big heavy drinking problem and he possibly wouldn’t be here anymore if he hadn’t stopped drinking. Now he’s got a new life, he’s got a wife and a kid and that’s it. That’s cool. We’ve got new guys. And Sammy he lives in New York he’s got his side project and he’s joined Joan Jett. Sammy’s one of the best bass players in the world and I wouldn’t say no if he wanted to join. But I guess it’s not in the cards right now. But anyways, it’s a strong band and we’re going to keep going and doing this. I think we definitely have a place here in the music scene these days.
Zrock: It seems that a lot of the bands who made an impact in the 80’s are starting to get airplay again in 2004. It seems as if the industry had moved away and now it’s starting to move back, so hopefully that will be a good thing. The music is still standing.
Michael: Yes, I think Hanoi’s music especially is timeless and it stands the test of time. Some bands you listen to and they sound really dated. Some bands, when you listen, nowadays, people just laugh I guess, or whatever, and feel like that was just that period back then. I’d hate to be associated, especially when people say how much we influenced all those bands in the 80’s and stuff. I’d hate to be associated with that, not that I’d want to say anything bad about them, but it’s very different of a thing. It’s a different sort of thing because their music is very different from what we’re doing. We’re doing a rock n roll basic straight, you know, punky, whatever I hate categories anyway glam or whatever you call it we never called ourselves glam or I never claimed that I influenced anybody at all people tell me that, you know it’s very flattering, but I think that as soon as a musical style sort of has a name, like, what did they call it coming out of Seattle grunge or anything like that as soon as it has a name, it’s over. It’s the record companies that tell you to try to tell you to market the product or they’re not going to carry it. Quality suffers and then it becomes mediocre and then it’s enough that we had one Nirvana why do we need twenty or a hundred more? In the earlier years, like during the 70’s even, the bands had more personality and record companies were more involved in the creative process. It wasn’t so much like a business like it is now. Now they don’t care. It’s all about what are the potential sales. But to us, it’s all about the music.
Photo by Jarrod Vrazel : zrock.com
HANOI ROCKS RETURNS WITH TWELVE SHOTS ON THE ROCKs
RELEASED IN NORTH AMERICA ON LIQUOR AND POKER MUSIC
MICHAEL MONROE AND ANDY MCCOY LEAD NEW LINEUP THROUGH
HARD ROCKING, NO-HOLDS-BARRED Rock N Roll
The music world needs Hanoi Rocks now more than ever, and now, 19 years after its original demise, the Finnish band has returned with a new album, Twelve Shots on the Rocks. It is available in North America on Liquor and Poker Music. Once again Hanoi Rocks proudly blends punk and hard rock influences and elements of other styles to create a distinctive, swaggeringly original sound that serves as a defiant example of true Rock N Roll. Hanoi Rocks is one of the leaders of the recent resurgence of rock.
Immediately upon Hanoi Rocks initial formation in 1980, the band was leading Rock N Roll in exciting new directions. By bridging punk and classic rock Hanoi Rocks was a uniting force at a time when these genres were often disrespectful toward each other and suspicious of each other’s motives. The 1981 debut Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks kickstarted the band’s career. Success quickly followed in Europe, Japan and the rest of Asia with the release of several subsequent albums.
The United States was starting to fall under Hanoi Rocks spell and 1984’s Two Steps from the Move was poised to become a major success when tragedy struck. The sad story is well known but it’s difficult to ignore from a personal and historical standpoint. On December 8, 1984, drummer Nicholas Razzle Dingley was killed in a car crash while riding with Motley Crue vocalist Vince Neil, who was driving drunk.
Hanoi Rocks was already dealing with some internal problems but Razzle’s death was the final blow. They lost a close friend and an important musical partner. They toured briefly with former Clash drummer Terry Chimes but everything fell apart by mid-1985. Vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Michael Monroe soon struck out on his own and 1989’s Not Fakin It started to take off stateside behind the standout track ’dead, Jail or Rock N Roll but he says various business and management actions stalled his solo career here.
The history of hard rock arguably would have been completely different had Hanoi Rocks not splintered apart in 1985. Hanoi Rocks is the godfather of glam. The band’s music predated what the likes of Guns N Roses, Poison, Cinderella and, ironically, Motley Crue would create and have enormous success with later in the decade.
Monroe, who sings lead and plays saxophone, guitar, harmonica, keyboards and percussion, and lead guitarist/background vocalist Andy McCoy first reunited in 2001.
We didn’t really keep in touch over the years but a Hanoi Rocks box set was being released in Scandinavia in 2001 so we ended up jamming together at a club where a record release party for the box set was being held, Monroe says. We then played two festival gigs as Hanoi Revisited and they went so well that we started writing songs together again. It was easy and the songs all came together very naturally. A lot of ideas were ones we’d had before the band broke up.
We gave it a lot of thought before deciding to reform Hanoi Rocks. We’re taking this reformation very seriously. I never thought it would happen.
Joining Monroe and McCoy for the recording of Twelve Shots on the Rocks were three members of Monroe’s solo band: guitarist/background vocalist Costello, bass guitarist/background vocalist Timpa and drummer Lacu.
The Liquor and Poker Music version of Twelve Shots on the Rocks has been remixed and remastered in accordance with Monroe and McCoy’s wishes, and includes five extra songs in addition to the original dozen.
The 17 songs on Twelve Shots on the Rocks are: Intro, Obscured, Bad News, New York City, ’delirious, A Day Late, A Dollar Short, In My Darkest Moment, People Like Me, Whatcha Want, Moonlite Dance, Gypsy Boots, Lucky, Watch This, ’designs on You, L.A.C.U., Are You Lonely Tonight and Winged Bull.
The remarkable thing about this album is the musical diversity. Hanoi Rocks admired early punk and glam innovators like Mott the Hoople, the New York Dolls, the Dead Boys, the Stooges, Sweet, Alice Cooper and others while also embracing 50s rock, blues-rock and classic rock notables such as Little Richard, the Rolling Stones and Aerosmith.
Rock N Roll was part of the culture in America. In Finland we were exposed to these bands on the radio — and my father was a well-known radio announcer here — but for a long time Rock N Roll was mostly looked upon as something that strange-looking kids enjoyed in moldy basements, says Monroe.
Hanoi Rocks did not get the chance to fulfill its promise until now. Twelve Shots on the Rocks is the right album at the right time, and Monroe is especially pleased about his development as a songwriter.
I believe I’ve really come into my own as a songwriter. I didn’t really write much for Hanoi Rocks the first time around and, to be honest, I didn’t really like our albums except for Two Steps from the Move. I guess it was a matter of taste. There’s more Michael Monroe on this album, and I’m much more comfortable in the studio now. I even played a couple of the guitar solos, says Monroe, who was hit with yet another tragedy a few years ago when his wife died, thus inspiring the haunting In My Darkest Hour.
Monroe remarried last July and is a happy man again thanks to his new wife and the rekindling of Hanoi Rocks. He is looking forward to the future, especially the road ahead with his partner in crime McCoy. A promotional tour is planned for the duo this spring followed by a full-blown Hanoi Rocks tour.
A new generation is discovering us. There are no limits with Hanoi Rocks, says Monroe. We rock viciously and violently.
Photo by Jarrod Vrazel : zrock.com
: : : : :
Ya know I never really knew anything by theses guys. I must have missed them. But now, I am thinking of getting the disk and playing it. Great interview Jarrod. I will pass it on to others I know for a fact like HR! – said theloudestrock on Mar 03, 2004
Taxi Driver is my fav. – said PAUZED on Mar 03, 2004
took me a while to atch up and find this interview … … i gotta say two things… 1) extremely good interview 2) extremely good pics credit to you. 8) – said rachael on Jul 07, 2009