Fireworks Magazine Online 50 - Michael Monroe


Photo and interview by Sue Ashcroft

Former Hanoi Rocks vocalist Michael Monroe has been touring almost constantly since the 80’s and, after winning the Best Album award for his latest album ‘Sensory Overdrive’ at the Classic Rock Awards, he was more hyper than ever when I met him backstage at Manchester’s Ritz.

What a great show! A couple of surprises with the special guests. How was it for you?

It was such an honour to have such fantastic guests playing like Ginger and Honest John (Plain) from The Boys, one of the greatest bands ever! It was refreshing and exciting.

So, was that your fan-boy moment then?

Well yes, that was one of Hanoi Rocks favourite bands. Jim Casino – the very first drummer for Hanoi got his name from Casino Steel, the keyboard player for The Boys. Actually, I got more familiar with Gary Holton and Casino Steel, they made those albums – three or four albums together. There’s an anthology album that came out a year or two ago, I even wrote some liner notes for it. It has all four albums on it. The song ‘Jimmy Brown’ was written for The Boys, but they never recorded it. It was first recorded for Gary Holton and Casino Steel’s first album but I covered it on my ‘What You Want’ solo album in 2003. There’s some other killer stuff on it. But anyways, Ginger’s back with us!

That’s great news. So, Dragen is your new guitarist – how did that come about?

Well, we had to find someone to replace Ginger. It came to a point where he was trying to stick around just to be a good sport and stuff, but I could tell that he wasn’t really into it and was itching to move on and stuff. I was like “look, I’m not forcing you to stay in this band when you want to move on, just stick around until we find a replacement and we’ll see what happens.” Just about a year before Steve (Conte) joined, we needed a guitarist when the first guy Todd Youth took off a week before the West Coast tour in March 2010, so we were in a bit of an emergency situation. We approached and talked to Dragen for a little while, but he just couldn’t commit to it at the time. He was very excited at first, but he didn’t want to commit to it because he had a solo thing going on and he didn’t want to mess with that basically, which was totally cool. That was very honest and up-front of him. So, I thought that now Ginger was going to move on, the only guy I could think of in the world – you can’t get a regular guitarist, like a session guy to replace Ginger, can you? It needs to be THE guy who has the whole package together. The look, the attitude, the musical taste and the personality, like Ginger has, without trying to BE Ginger. Dragen is his own entity, but he has all that. So, it was a long shot to ask him, but I just thought what the hell. Worst thing that could happen would be that he would say no. So, I called him and it was interesting because he said “Michael, I’m so glad you called, but I kinda feel bad about the last time. I really wish that I had said yes.” I was like “Ok, so what are you saying now?” and he said “I’m sorry, I have to think about it and sleep on it overnight and get back to you tomorrow.” So, he was going to get back to me the next day. I did get a text message from him later that night saying “Michael, thanks so much for asking me” so I thought it was promising. Next morning he called and said “Michael – alright, let’s DO it!” and I was like “yes, yes, yes – it was meant to be!”

He fits very well.

He does, doesn’t he? The only guy I think could replace Ginger, for sure! His style is a bit different – a bit punkyer, a bit trashier, but I’d rather have that than someone who tried to act like Ginger. That would be fake and phoney, but this is the perfect thing.

You recently won an award for Sensory Overdrive at the Classic Rock Awards, which was very cool.

Whooooeee! It was unbelievable! It was a great honour, so amazing!

And to win above people like Motorhead and the Foo Fighters?

Yeah, there were some big, big names. Just goes to show that no matter what the record sells, it’s in no way reflecting how it’s received by the media.

Or what the fans think?

No, we have the substance, it’s just a matter of getting it in front of enough people. It’s most encouraging, not only for the band, but it just goes to show that there is hope for rock ‘n’ roll – real, honest, from the heart rock ‘n’ roll, high energy, in your face, no bullshit – that is so cool!

Glam seems to be making a resurgence at the moment too.

Glam, punk, sleaze – who cares what they call it. As soon as it has a name, it’s over. To me, it’s all rock ‘n’ roll.

Your music though, it always makes you leave the venue with a smile on your face.

That’s the whole idea. Why categorize things, put labels on them – we’re supposed to be open minded! Rock ‘n’ roll’s about freedom, about pure, unadulterated joy of existence and rock ‘n’ roll is about having fun and not labelling things like record labels do. They like to label things when they’re trying to sell a product – they have to be able to call it something, so they come up with ‘heavy metal’ and all those names, which is fine for them, but then again, it’s limiting for the bands. Worst thing is, there’s always somebody who comes out of the blue – Nirvana comes out and sells millions of records – god bless them, they sounded great, but then there are 500 other bands trying to sound like Nirvana and they all sound pretty much the same but not as good as the original. That’s what caused the rock ‘n’ roll degeneration, it gets worse and worse. In the past, bands didn’t even think about it – “are we going to be grunge? Are we going to be heavy metal?” just do your own thing, have your own personality – bands had more personality in the past because they didn’t even THINK about how they were going to fit into a sub-genre.

Do you think that limits the fans too? That way, if your labelling something, people will say “well, I’m not going to see that band because they’re grunge”?

That’s exactly what happens! And the best thing about Hanoi Rocks in the early ‘80’s in London at the Marquee was we were part of the scene there, we had a residency there and EVERYBODY came to see us – teddy boys, heavy metal fans, skinheads, punks, all walks of life. It didn’t matter, it crossed over to everybody. That was the coolest thing about it. When you think about it on a bigger scale – not to get too heavy, but that’s what it should be like in the world. People should be all together, all a great big, giant family. You know what I’m saying? It also means that prejudice and all kinds of narrow-mindedness is out the window!

So, what does 2012 have in store for the Michael Monroe Band?

More touring, working on songs for the new album, playing as many live shows as possible – just getting better and spreading the word! Expanding our fame and hopefully playing to bigger and bigger audiences, bringing more joy to more people through rock ‘n’ roll. We’re just going to keep doing our thing – good vibes, good times. If 2011 is any indication, it’s only going to get better.

Read the full double page spread where Michael talks about jamming with Thin Lizzy, his autobiography, Hard Rock Hell, High Voltage and other memorable gigs in more detail in Fireworks #50.

Read the full double page spread where Michael talks about jamming with Thin Lizzy, his autobiography, Hard Rock Hell, High Voltage and other memorable gigs in more detail in Fireworks #50.

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