PLAYING DIRTY: The revamped Dirty Looks lineup includes, left-to-right, guitarist David Beeson, drummer Gene Barnett, vocalist Jason McMaster, bassist Jack Pyers and guitarist Paul Lidel.
ETERNALLY COOL: Dirty Looks’ 1988 album, ‘Cool from the Wire,’ is one of the great unsung albums of the late-1980s hard-rock explosion.

By Metal Dave

In celebration of one of hard rock’s most revered underground bands, Dirty Looks is set to regroup and perform its classic 1988 album “Cool from the Wire” in its entirety along with songs from its 1989 follow-up “Turn of the Screw” at the Ballroom Blitz Festival March 20 in Glen Burnie, Md. and again at DH&L Fire Company in Selinsgrove, Pa. March 21.

Anchored by classic-era members Jack Pyers (bass), Paul Lidel (guitar) and Gene Barnett (drums), the revamped band adds rhythm guitarist David Beeson (Broken Teeth) and vocalist Jason McMaster (Dangerous Toys/Broken Teeth) standing in for the dearly departed Henrik Ostergaard who passed in 2011.

“As someone who first started collaborating with Henrik in 1986, I couldn’t be prouder to keep his memory alive through our music,” said Pyers. “We’re really excited to be playing these songs for the first time in years and reconnecting with all the fans who put Dirty Looks on the map.”

“Jason and Henrik knew each other for years and had great mutual respect for one another,” added Lidel (who went on to join McMaster in Dangerous Toys). “In fact, Jason used to come hang out with us when we toured through Texas and Henrik would invite him onstage to sing. In my seven years with the band, I don’t recall Henrik ever inviting anyone else up onstage. This is going to be a perfect match and a fitting tribute.”

Thirty-two years since its release, “Cool from the Wire” is considered one of the unsung albums of the late-1980s hard-rock explosion and remains a Dirty Looks peer- and fan-favorite.

Below: Dirty Looks’ ‘Oh Ruby’ featuring late singer Henrik Ostergaard, drummer Gene Barnett, bassist Jack Pyers and guitarist Paul Lidel.

By Metal Dave

I’ve thrown stones at the Black Crowes over the years, but I never expected my most pointed criticism to be so fully validated by the band’s founding drummer.

In his book, “Hard to Handle: The Life and Death of The Black Crowes,” Steve Gorman leaves no feathers unruffled as he expounds on a widely held opinion (mine included) that the Crowes’ ascension as a scrappy rock-n-roll band was far more exciting than their dreary decline into a boring lump of jam. In fact, Gorman writes, no amount of hard drugs or infighting was as damaging to the Crowes’ rising rock credibility as singer Chris Robinson’s stoned infatuation with the godawful Grateful Dead. Bingo!

More central and enduring to the Crowes’ maniacal drama, of course, was the ceaseless and legendary bickering between Robinson and his guitarist brother, Rich. Give them 24 hours (or less) and Chris’ blunt-force audacity versus Rich’s passive aggression would invariably steer a checkered-flag victory into a rollover crash-and-burn. Not surprisingly, the zig-zagging battle lines left the entire band torn and frayed.

While drugs, and the turbulent drama of high-flying success and tail-spinning failure are the blah-blah fabric of every rock memoir, it’s Gorman’s level-headed, yet emotive knack for storytelling that truly makes “Hard to Handle” so irresistibly compelling. When he writes of over-the-moon triumphs (opening for the Stones and touring as Jimmy Page’s backing band), you share his pinch-me exuberance. When he writes of murderous anger (learning that Rich secretly snubbed Jimmy Page, thereby aborting a lucrative tour and songwriting partnership), your blood boils to table-pounding, WTF?! levels. Good news or bad, Gorman makes it feel like it’s coming from your best friend rather than some self-centered scorekeeper.

To be fair, Gorman admits to fleeting moments of rekindled camaraderie (regaining the rock-n-roll mojo for the “By Your Side” album) and heart-swelling gratitude (performing for 9/11 firefighters) that made him re-frame the bigger picture and second-guess his long-planned exit on more than one occasion. He also provides a rare glimpse into the battling brothers’ raw vulnerability when he writes about the passing of their father, Stan. “After everything we had been through together, there was still room for genuine, real-life emotion,” he writes. As it goes with the Crowes, however, such moments were gone in a blink.

Standing fast in the middle of the Crowes’ churning divisiveness is band manager Pete Angelus whose loyal ambition and saint-like patience are traits of miraculous of wonder. Anyone unfamiliar with the critical, behind-the-scenes role played by a hell-or-high-water showbiz manager will marvel at Angelus’ fluid skill as businessman, therapist, referee and babysitter. God bless him!

Front to back, Gorman’s unlabored pacing, unflinching insight and measured capacity for balance and reason (at least from his perspective) lend “Hard to Handle” a tell-all flavor without baiting the hook of sensationalism. He’s rightly proud of the Crowes’ accomplishments, but also saddened that the band’s legacy is forever held hostage by the cruel culprits of greed, delusion and the cancerous need for control. In the end, it was all twice as hard as it should have been.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Easily one of the most captivating rock-n-roll memoirs in recent years

BACK IN BLACK: Following another hiatus, Vancouver’s Black Halos are once again revamped and reloaded for the next chapter in their tumultuous career.

By Metal Dave

Still hellbent after 20-plus years, the Black Halos have (again!) regrouped and issued a three-song teaser in advance of a new album due later this year.

Titled “Geisterbahn II” (translation: “Ghost Train”), the sampler recaptures the Halos’ snot-slinging, vampire, scuzz-punk as pulled from such crash-and-burn influences as the Dead Boys, Stooges and New York Dolls. It also regroups original members Billy Hopeless (vocals), Rich Jones (guitar) and Jay Millette (guitar) with indie/grunge/punk super producer, Jack Endino – the same cast of misfits largely responsible for the Black Halos’ standout 2001 album, “The Violent Years.”

Like the calm before a bomb, the title track opens with gently ringing guitar notes before plunging headlong into a rollercoaster chorus and dizzying drum fills. Even the savage rasp of Hopeless can’t overpower the song’s anthemic aim. In true Halos fashion, there’s a hook beneath the chaos.

“Fossil Fuel” is a scorching rant about something or other that – after repeated and laser-focused listens – reveals barely audible mentions of “the poison heart of Dee Dee Ramone” and Jerry Nolan (we’ll trust that the rest of the lyrics are equally cool?). Some catchy woo-woo backup vocals keep the song on the rails and a flash-tapping guitar solo adds headbanging fireworks.

Conversely, the ballad-y “Tandem Drown” has the cold chills and bleak beauty of the Dead Boys’ “Ain’t it Fun” – right down to a pained Cheetah Chrome-style guitar solo. In this context, Hopeless emotes like a shivering Stiv Bators (or a suicidal Tom Petty).

As a singer, Hopeless is aptly and endearingly named, which is either part of his phlegmy, pack-an-hour charm or reason to run screaming from your speakers like your hair is on fire. When he’s on the attack, his hoarse-throated slur could frighten a stump grinder; when he lets his black heart bleed, he’s beautifully broken. It’s an acquired taste. You decide.

It also must be said that guitarist Jones was a major songwriting force behind Michael Monroe’s fantastic new album, “One Man Gang” – and you don’t have to listen long or hard to hear his stamp all over “Geisterbahn II.” 

Rounding out the current Halos are bassist John Kerns (The Age of Electric) and a roster of guest drummers including Karl Rockfist (Michael Monroe, Danzig, The Chelsea Smiles), TV Mork (never heard of him/her and Google only pulls up Robin Williams references) and Danni Action (Midnight Towers).

If “Geisterbahn II” is the sound of things to come, the Halos’ unholy spirit remains unbroken and wildly out of control. Some things never fall!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

To listen, purchase or learn more about the Black Halos’ “Geisterbahn II,” go here.

By Metal Dave

Few things are more exciting than finding a lost stash, and when the goodies in question come courtesy of Junkyard, you best call in sick and enjoy the buzz.

“Old Habits Die Hard” amounts to what would have been Junkyard’s third major-label album circa 1992 had the greasy, boogie-punk, blooze rockers not been guilty by association when Seattle washed away Hollywood’s hair bands. To be clear, Junkyard was always more “street” than Strip. Uglier, too!

Recorded nearly three decades ago by the mostly-original lineup of vocalist David Roach, guitarists Chris Gates (Big Boys) and Brian Baker (Bad Religion, Minor Threat), drummer Patrick Muzingo, and longstanding bassist Todd Muscat (who replaced Clay Anthony after 1991’s “Sixes, Sevens and Nines”), “Old Habits Die Hard” is a jackpot of hard-bouncin’ rockers (“Pushed You Too Far,” “I Come Crawling,” “One Foot in the Grave”); Skynyrd-style stomp (“Out Cold”); distortion-drenched blues (“Blue Sin”); and punk-tinged rants (“Fall to Pieces”). In other words, it’s the must-have Junkyard starter kit for anyone who missed the band’s early years. 

While highlights await at every turn, the lost-soul lament of “Hangin’ Around” offers the unique twist of a gruff Gates sharing duet vocals with Roach. As the song unfolds, the two Texans tell their true tale of moving to Hollywood seeking fortune and fame, but instead finding themselves “washing windows for spare change and sleeping on the ground.”

“Tried & True,” penned by then-writing partner/current ’Yard guitarist Tim Mosher, is a holdover from his previous band, Broken Glass, and easily could’ve rivaled or surpassed any gritty ballad by Junkyard’s former opening act, the Black Crowes, had it been released on time. Then again, great songs are timeless.

Another track for the ages is “Holdin’ On,” which sounds like it could’ve been co-written by former writing partner Steve Earle given its open-road, Americana vibe.

Hardcore fans will notice “Old Habits Die Hard” is comprised of songs previously released in limited runs across the titles, “Joker” and “XXX.” While true, “Old Habits” deletes the just-for-grins cover songs and edits/condenses the sequencing into a leaner, more focused album that’s been majority-endorsed by the band and collectively viewed as a higher-quality, more official release.

Packaged with lyrics, vintage photos and available in “beer-colored” vinyl (Yes, please!), “Old Habits” perfectly captures Junkyard’s dirt-kicking, signature sound. And, arriving as it does on the heels of the revamped band’s excellent 2017 comeback release, “High Water,” Junkyard proves to be both currently relevant and historically vital.

Rating: A winner. In spades!
To order “Old Habits Die Hard,” visit Acetate Records.

Fun Fact: “Old Habits Die Hard” opens with an “Introduction” by Hollywood scenester Donnie Popejoy who used to introduce the likes of Junkyard, the Hangmen and L7, among others. Arriving in full tuxedo after coming from his gig as a maître d’ at a local fancy restaurant, his habit of holding two beer cans stacked on top of each other earned him the nickname, “Two Cans Donnie.” Sounds like the perfect host.

LIVE AND DANGEROUS: Frontman Danko Jones, along with drummer Rich Knox and bassist John Calabrese, are a devastating live act built on muscular riffs and buckets full of bravado. (Photo by Iturriaga Izarbe)

By Metal Dave

I was literally introduced to Danko Jones on a sidewalk outside Emo’s in Austin, Texas, circa the early 2000s.

The handshake came courtesy of Texas metal hero Jason McMaster (Watchtower, Dangerous Toys, Broken Teeth, etc.) who had been praising the Canadian rocker as the “real deal” thanks to such libido-driven influences as KISS, Thin Lizzy and Motorhead.

Later that night, Danko and his self-named band squinted through sweat-stung eyes while delivering a set of atomic-bomb Camaro rock that included stage-bantered mentions of Cliff Burton and Paul Baloff. Whoa! This guy is legit!

Immediately converted to the ranks o’ Danko, I began collecting the albums, going to the gigs and watching from afar as America’s loss earned coveted overseas tours opening for legendary bad-asses like Guns N’ Roses, Motorhead and Michael Monroe. Yeah, slouches need not apply.

Which brings us to 2019 and a brand new album titled, “A Rock Supreme.” As proven on such earlier releases as “We Sweat Blood,” “Sleep is the Enemy,” “Never Too Loud” and “Below the Belt,” (among others dating back to 2002), Danko Jones is a master of harnessing the pulsing, primal core of rock-n-roll’s inherent strut. It’s sexy. It’s tough. And it’s damn well ready to party! In other words, Danko music demands a reaction and nothing short of death is a valid excuse.

Coming from most anyone else, the celebratory declaration of opening track, “I’m in a Band,” would sound forced and corny (or at least juvenile and painfully obvious). Coming from Danko, however, the rabid conviction of the vocal attack (coupled with the tribal clank-clank of a stalking cowbell) sounds like the Boogie Man is hot on your heels and daring you to doubt him. Hot damn! He’s in a band! And he means it, man!

As always, the trio’s pounding simplicity is used to “supreme” effect as evidenced on two of the album’s best tracks — “Lipstick City” and “That Girl.” Anyone who doubts the weight of muted spaces between power chords hasn’t paid attention to AC/DC or Thin Lizzy (and, for that, there is no forgiveness).

The other standout tracks — “Fists Up High,” “You Can’t Keep Us Down” and “Burn in Hell” — subscribe to another Danko signature; namely, the defiant, tough-guy anthem that curls the lip and tightens the knuckles.

The slinky slither of “Dance, Dance, Dance” is Danko’s invitation to, well, the dance floor (or center-stage pole depending on the venue). It’s a hip-banger that wouldn’t be out of place following Motley Crue’s “Girls, Girls, Girls” or Buckcherry’s “Crazy Bitch.” Admit it! We’ve all raised a toast to this kind of debauchery.

“You’ve Got Today” is a decent, uplifting track, but ultimately is most memorable for sounding like Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher.” Not bad, but you know you’ve heard it before.

On the downside, Danko can fall victim to overplaying the horn-dog lyrics (“I Love Love”) and forced rhymes (“Party”). Musically, “Party” is one of the best songs on the album, but it’s hard to get past Danko’s request to take off “every clothing item?” Item? Who says that?

On the upside, Danko’s motor-mouth vocal delivery is pretty impressive. How does he keep track of all that supersonic wordplay? It’s also worth noting that a cowbell hasn’t been used to such propulsive effect since Peter Criss and Tommy Lee were both scraping for rent.

So, hey, “A Rock Supreme” falls a bit short of its ambitious title, but even the Ramones and AC/DC have second-tier albums. This one is definitely worth owning if you’re already a fan and, to be fair, it makes a better-than-decent introduction to a band that, quite honestly, needs to be seen on stage and in-your-face where Danko Jones, does indeed, rock supreme!

For Danko Jones merch and more info, including his in-the-know, rock-nerd podcast, go here. (And, yes, as a rock nerd myself, I mean that in the most complimentary way!)

SAN ANTONIO SLAYERS: More than three decades after Valkyrie’s initial flight, the Alamo City speed-metal merchants are back with a reworked version of ‘Choosers of the Slain.’

By Metal Dave

San Antonio’s hallowed halls of heavy metal lore are etched with the names of S.A. Slayer, Juggernaut, the Cameo Theatre and Joe “The Godfather” Anthony. Dig a little deeper and you’ll also find thrash warlords, Valkyrie, among the hordes of chaos

Together only three years circa 1985-88, Valkyrie nonetheless made its mark with fist-banging live gigs, a cult-classic demo tape and a Mike Varney-level hotshot guitar shredder named Scott Stine. Fans of early Slayer, Nasty Savage and Watchtower were soon scrawling Valkyrie onto their battle jackets.

And then? It was over.

Well, not quite. Antsy to re-live the joys of yesteryear’s whiplash and bullet belts, lead vocalist Joe Gregory recently reconnected with Stine (who doubles on bass) and added drummer “Ulfr Gustafson” to resurrect Valkyrie. The result is a six-track, reworking of the original “Choosers of the Slain” demo tape with added updates and beefier production courtesy of modern-day wizardry.

Old-schoolers will immediately recognize the screaming grind of the title track; the piercing wail that opens “Reign of Violence;” and the stampeding-into-battle “Nightmare” — albeit all three with updated guitar solos. “Valkyrie” – with its Richard Wagner “Ride of the Valkyries” intro – uses the previously titled “Predator” as a template and adds new lyrics and relentless neck-snap to the music, while opening track “Screams of the Aggressor” stands as a frighteningly fast, hyper-picked testament to what Valkyrie can start from scratch in 2019. Holy yikes! Oh, there’s also a S.O.D.-style spoof called “The Henry Waltz” in “honor” of former San Antonio mayor Henry Cisneros and the PMRC.

Punctuated throughout by Gregory’s bark-to-a-Diamond-esque wail and Stine’s twiddly-dee guitar, “Choosers of the Slain” is a skull-rattling frolic through the past when metal bands ramped up the violence and force in their aim to bury Bon Jovi and keep pace with the emerging new breed of speed-metal assassins. Welcome back to the pit!

For Valkyrie merch and more info, go here. Also stay tuned for possible live shows featuring recruits from another highly respected San Antonio metal band.

GANG OF FIVE: One of the best bands in rock-n-roll is, left to right, drummer Karl Rockfist, guitarist Rich Jones, vocalist Michael Monroe, bassist Sami Yaffa and guitarist Steve Conte.
ON A ROLL: The latest chapter in a four-album streak that’s beyond compare in rock-n-roll.

By Metal Dave

Michael Monroe knows the pitfalls of being an outsider. For all his influence, street cred and legendary swagger, the glam-rock firecracker with a punk-rock fuse remains a perennial underdog — a cult hero, a distant comet, the world’s forgotten, left-for-dead boy.

Undaunted, indeed defiant, Monroe seems to relish the fight. From his immeasurable influence as the leader of seminal glam-rockers Hanoi Rocks (a band that, for better or worse, practically/accidentally ignited the 1980s hair metal scene) to a recent, three-album streak that’s left critics drooling superlatives, Monroe thrives equally well in the best-kept secretive shadows (America) or rising to rule as rock royalty for those who roll out the red carpet (Japan and Europe). His career hasn’t garnered worldwide superstardom, but hell, it ain’t a bad place to be.

With the release of “One Man Gang” on Friday (via Silver Lining Music), Monroe and his always cracking band (take a bow Sami Yaffa, Steve Conte, Rich Jones and Karl Rockfist) aim to keep the hot streak blazing. I recently caught up with the 57-year-old Finnish native to discuss the album and so much more.

Hey, Michael, thanks for taking the time today. Are you calling from Finland?
Yes. I’m at home in the city of Turku where I live.

I’ve gotta tell ya, I think your last three albums are the best consecutive streak in rock-n-roll. “Sensory Overdrive,” “Horns and Halos” and “Blackout States” are fantastic.
Thank you. That’s great to hear. I’m not sure they’ve gotten the exposure they could have (in the U.S.), but I’ve done my best. We’ve got new management, new booking and a new label so we’ll see how it goes.

One of my favorite songs on the new album so far is “In the Tall Grass.” It’s got a breezy, yet sinister vibe — especially because of your hushed vocals.
That’s a (guitarist) Rich Jones song. It’s got a heavy story behind it. It’s basically about being a kid and suddenly the carefree summertime becomes a scary and sinister place. I don’t know how much detail I can give, but basically there was a stalker in his neighborhood when he was a kid who went around terrorizing the neighborhood. Suddenly, the kids couldn’t go out after dark anymore, there was a curfew and they couldn’t take shortcuts. It has a sinister kind of vibe. I wanted to sing it as if I was a child and I kind of surprised myself, because I’ve never sung like that before. It’s kind of soft. It’s a new dimension for my singing. It’s one my favorite songs on the album, actually. It’s got a haunting kind of vibe.

Another track, “The Pitfalls of Being an Outsider,” sounds like the story of your life.
(Laughs). Yeah! That’s one of my favorite lyrics on the album. It’s kind of a piss take on all the hip-hop songs about money and cars and champagne. The line “It ain’t a long way to the bottom” is a bit of a nod to AC/DC and Bon Scott’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top.” The theme of the song is that you better be doing this (performing) for all the right reasons, because it can all fall apart at any time. It’s a bit of advice for the younger bands, too. Plus, what kid doesn’t get a kick out of saying, “I don’t give a ‘F’ if you don’t like me?”

The latest single, “Last Train to Tokyo,” is pure ear candy. It kind of reminds me of “Goin’ Down With the Ship” off the last album in the sense that it’s ridiculously catchy.
It’s about Japan and how the whole country is so hectic. It’s like being on a spaceship. You’re so jetlagged every time you go there for such a short amount of time. Even though you’re jetlagged and overwhelmed by the whole experience, it’s always great going there. It’s such a great, positive vibe. They’re really passionate about rock-n-roll and they’re really considerate and sweet and nice. We always have such a great time there no matter how tired we are. By the time you get over the jetlag, you have to fly back (laughs). That song is basically an homage to Japan.

This is the second album, following “Blackout States,” to feature Rich Jones alongside Steve Conte on guitars after a bit of turnover in that second guitar slot that was previously held by Ginger Wildheart and then Dregen. I know you’ve been with Sami for decades, but I’m getting the sense that Steve may be your secret weapon in recent years.
Well, he’s a good weapon, but I’m not sure it’s a secret. But, yeah, between Steve Conte and Rich Jones, I have the best guitarists going. They’re both great songwriters, too. And so is Sami. Rich really stepped up on this one. I was pulling songs off the album, because he was coming up with better ones. I give everyone the freedom to write as much as possible, because I wanna get all the best ingredients out of these guys. We choose the best songs for the album regardless of who wrote them.

You’ve mentioned that touring the U.S. isn’t financially feasible unless you were offered a tour with a major arena headliner, which got me thinking: Have your old friends in Guns N’ Roses offered you anything? They’re obviously fans of yours and it seems like a great pairing.
That would be a great fit, but no, they haven’t offered (laughs). Of course, all the musicians in both bands say, “Yeah, we need to tour together,” but once it gets to the management and booking level, they wanna know how much we draw and how much we sell and … my visibility doesn’t translate to record sales. Same with Hanoi Rocks. Our fame never translated to record sales and, therefore, we became one of the best-kept secrets in rock-n-roll. It would be great to tour the world with somebody like Guns N’ Roses or Foo Fighters or someone like that. Someone who’s one of the biggest and also one of the coolest.

So, until something like that happens, we probably won’t see you in the States?
I mean, New York, L.A., East Coast, West Coast, Boston, Philadelphia, we do great. I love New York. I used to live there and there’s an audience there for guitar-heavy rock, but (America) is such a big country that touring clubs in the Midwest night after night doesn’t really get you anywhere. You’re paying for the tour bus and playing to a couple hundred people. You lose money. We’ve done it before and it’s kinda like beating your head against the wall. We love America and we’d love to do it. Hopefully one day we’ll get a break.

Your 1994 “Demolition 23” album is one of rock’s greatest buried treasures. Is there any chance of it being reissued?
That’s up to Little Steven (Van Zandt). Me and Steven own the record and I’ve been telling him we need to put it out, because it’s been out of print for so long. We’ve been talking about it for years. Steven hasn’t had the time for it. I’ve got the artwork and everything. I’m, like, “Let’s go!” We’ve been talking about it for years and it just hasn’t happened yet. Steven agrees it’s one of the greatest records so hopefully, someday, we’ll get it out.

What’s the significance of the “23” in the name Demolition 23?
(Bassist) Sami Yaffa came up with the name. It comes from a William Burroughs book. I think it’s called “Exterminator!” or something like that? There was a chapter about an insane asylum where these people could burn you with their eyes. Demolition 23 was the name of some sort of plan. I’m not sure of all the details. Sami came up with it.

You’re often cited as a major Influence on the hair metal scene of the 1980s, but in my opinion, you have more in common with punk rockers like Iggy Pop and your old friend Stiv Bators. Does the hair band connection bother you or do you welcome the recognition?
Well, it’s always nice to be recognized (laughs). I guess it bothers me that most of those bands missed the point. They were more into their hair and partying than they were the music. The music and the attitude were always more important to me. Anybody can party and pose and act like an idiot. A lot of those bands sold millions of records, but they acted like morons and gave real rockers a bad name. It’s almost embarrassing that people might think I would be like that. I’ve never been with a groupie my whole life. I’ve just never been into that whole scene. I guess growing up in Finland gave me a different mentality. I’ve just never been into that pretentious, phony rock-n-roll. I think it’s a crime that phony rock-n-roll sells millions of records and people think it’s real rock-n-roll.

You’re forever linked to Motley Crue because of the car crash that killed Hanoi Rocks drummer, Razzle. Were you close to the Motley Crue guys at that time or was it more of a tragic coincidence?
I never really knew them that well. I never even met the whole band. I met the drummer and the bass player in London once and we hung out at (Hanoi Rocks guitarist) Andy’s place one night. They seemed like cool guys. Razzle was hanging out with the singer, but they didn’t really know each other that well either. My world and everyone’s lives were shattered (following the crash). Everything just went to bits. We didn’t know each other that well, and musically, I wasn’t really into their style of music. It’s not a pleasant subject.

What is your fondest memory or proudest moment with Hanoi Rocks?
“Two Steps from the Move” was the best record. It’s the first album I could listen to without skipping a song. Bob Ezrin produced it and we planned to continue (working) with him on the next album, but that never happened. That was one of the best times. Things were only getting better. Another memorable time was the Reading Festival in 1983 in England. People were throwing stuff on stage – stones, mud, toilet paper rolls, piss bottles. They’d fill these one-and-a-half liter bottles with piss and throw them onstage (laughs). We played the whole show all the way to the end. We had our own fans to a point, but the rest of the audience hated us (laughs). I think you can find it online. There’s a scene in “Don’t You Ever Leave Me” where Andy’s playing a guitar solo and this big bottle hits him on the side of his neck. He loses his balance a little bit, but his facial expression doesn’t change a bit. It’s so cool. It’s, like, “Wow! Look at that! He really doesn’t give a shit!”

What’s your current relationship with Andy? Any chance of a tour or album somewhere in the future?
No. We had the rebirth of Hanoi in the early 2000s and we made three records between 2002 and 2009. We would’ve continued if it would’ve been fun, but it got to a point where it wasn’t and I just kinda said, “Let’s face it. This isn’t fun anymore. Let’s just put the band to rest with its integrity intact and call it a day.” We did a few farewell tours and that was it. The main thing to me is that the band’s integrity is still intact. Me and Sami and (guitarist) Nasty (Suicide) always had a bond, but with Andy it was always more of a working relationship. It’s not like we hang out as friends.

What do you miss or remember most about your late friend, Stiv Bators?
Ah, Stiv Bators. He was one of the dearest and most important friends I’ve ever had. I was always a big fan of his and when I got to know him, we became the best of friends. I miss him dearly and was privileged to have known him. He’s one of the most important people in rock, in my opinion. He’s totally underrated and should have been way more famous than he was. He had a heart of gold and was one of the smartest guys. He was almost too smart for his own good sometimes (laughs). He had all these theories about government secrets and conspiracies. We’d sit up all night talking. He was also very spiritual and aware. He was one of the greatest people ever and I was lucky to have the pleasure and privilege to have known him.

Thanks for sharing so much today, Michael. Congrats on another great album and, with any luck, we’ll see you on tour in the States at some point.
Bless you. Great talking to you. Take care.

For tour dates, news and merch, visit

Andy McCoy taking the piss at the 1983 Reading Festival:

GOD OF THUNDER: Gene Simmons acting shy as ever. (Photo by Jim Dyson/Getty Images)
CALLING DR. LOVE: On the phone with Gene conducting this interview. (Photo by Kim Glessner)

By Metal Dave

Much to my giddy delight, the following interview with my childhood hero, Gene Simmons, was published in three of the four biggest Texas newspapers (San Antonio, Houston and Austin) in December of 2009 as KISS was touring to promote the “Sonic Boom” album.

By Dave Glessner
Special to the America-Statesman

Ask a rock star to confess an addiction and you’re likely to start feeling dirty. Or not.

“I worship cake and cookies,” KISS bassist Gene Simmons says when pressed for a guilty pleasure. “If women were made of cake, it would solve all my problems. I don’t care about pasta and steaks. I don’t eat lobsters or crabs; to me they’re cockroaches. I tolerate food, but I dream about cake.”

Not to be confused with the Cookie Monster, 60-year-old Simmons is the larger-than-life, blood-smeared, fire-breathing demon of kabuki rock gods KISS. Celebrating 35 years as the self-proclaimed hottest band in the world, KISS brings its dynasty of spectacle Friday to Austin’s Erwin Center. Los Angeles bad boys Buckcherry open.

Among KISS’ caboodle of famous tricks and treats, of course, is Simmons’ serpentine lollipop licker.

KA-BOOM!: KISS’ 19th studio album.

“When I was a kid in seventh grade, the girls all used to say, ‘Hey Gene, show us that trick you do,’ ” he says, calling en route to a concert in Canada. “So, I’d stick my tongue out and start wiggling it, and they’d all start giggling like turkeys to the slaughter. I never imagined for a second what they were thinking, but when I figured out, I’d go to parties and stick it out for effect in much the same way girls with big (breasts) make sure they wear the right bra so they can show off their cleavage.”

Forever paired with co-founding KISS guitarist Paul Stanley, the Hugh Hefner of heavy metal, along with first-rate boot-fillers Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer on guitar and drums, respectively, is touring to promote the new album, “Sonic Boom.” KISS also is revisiting the unlikely 1975 career-launching concert album, “Alive!”

STAGED SHOW: According to Gene, this iconic action shot was actually staged in an empty venue.

Financed on their manager’s credit card and released as a last-ditch gamble following three failed studio albums, “Alive!” blasted Simmons, Stanley and original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss into future decades of Beatles-like fame and fortune.

“All we knew was we were making anywhere from $85 to $150 a week and never had to go flip burgers,” Simmons says of the lean years. “We were having the time of our lives, and groupies were raining down like cats and dogs. In hindsight, it was just really a case of throwing caution to the wind.”

As with all things KISS, “Alive!” offered as much for the eyes as the ears. Besides such sonic staples as “Rock and Roll All Nite,” “Deuce,” “Strutter,” “Firehouse” and “Black Diamond,” the Detroit rock city in-concert album cover captured the dressed-to-kill fearsome foursome in all their action-figure glory. And it was staged.

“If you look at it, you’ll see Ace is holding his guitar upside down,” Simmons says. “It was shot at Michigan Palace, although we were playing three nights (and recording ‘Alive!’) at Cobo Hall.”

RIGHTEOUS, DUDE!: These two guys are the envy of yours truly.

The flip side of “Alive!” features another now-classic snapshot of two long-haired, teenage fan-dudes holding a homemade KISS banner in the front rows of a hazy arena. Today, the grown guys still march in the KISS Army, as the band’s fans are known.

“They showed up at Cobo Hall when we opened this (current) tour,” Simmons says. “One guy is in real estate and the other guy is a doctor. The photographer who took that shot said, ‘There’s a weird sense of belonging that all these fans have.’ He looked through the crowd and these two guys stood up and said, ‘Look at the banner we made.’ That was not staged.”

Neither were countless trip-ups that come with KISS’ fiery stage show.

“The first time we played Anaheim Stadium in ’76, we had huge stairs that went up 20 feet high above our amplifiers,” Simmons says. “The show would start with the stage covered in fog and we’d run down the stairs in our platform heels. I promptly fell down the stairs dressed in full armor. We have it on video, and you see me disappearing in the fog and then jumping back up like some kind of jet that goes through the clouds. I’ve gotten hurt in the flying rigs and caught my hair on fire.”

DESTROYER: The demon who stole my teenage soul and turned me into a lifelong rocker. Caught in action circa 1975 (Photo by Neil Zlozower).

In the latest chapter of KISStory, “Sonic Boom” finds Thayer and Singer each taking their first turns at lead vocals. Did the newcomers approach Simmons and Stanley or did the bosses hand down marching orders?

“We told them (to sing) in the same way we made sure Ace and Peter weren’t just side guys,” Simmons says. “We had a point of view of KISS being a four-wheel-drive vehicle like the Beatles on steroids. Ringo may not have sung every Beatles song, but he sang. When you hear Eric singing on ‘Sonic Boom,’ that’s a legitimate lead vocalist. And Tommy is a legitimate lead singer and songwriter all on his own.”

Asked why KISS’ pop-culture appeal persists, Simmons explains by contrast.

“Are you going to line up for the next Jennifer Aniston movie?” he asks. “Does he love me? Does he not? Shut up! Where’s the monster, and how are we gonna survive? Give me the end-of-the-world story.”

HAIL BRUCIFER: With Bruce Dickinson in 1990 outside Sneaker’s nightclub in San Antonio. On a mission to have my all-time favorite album autographed, I caught him at sound check during his solo ‘Tattooed Millionaire’ tour.

​By Metal Dave

The term “game-changer” gets thrown around a lot, but for me, Iron Maiden’s 1982 album, “The Number of the Beast,” is truly monumental.

Until I heard the screaming, galloping glory of “Run to the Hills” on the radio and then saw the leather-and-smoke fierceness of the band on MTV, my world was ruled by KISS and AC/DC. Not after this.

Blown away by this whole new level of slashing, spike-fisted, hair-whipping heavy metal (did I mention the wicked cover art by Derek Riggs? Whoa!), I remember asking my Nana to buy “The Number of the Beast” for me as a Christmas gift when I was 15. And, of course, she did! I always thought it was funny that an album called “The Number of the Beast” was under our family Christmas tree — sent by Nana, no less! Ah, the things a granny will do to spoil her first grandchild.

Pictured above is that very album. Look closely and you’ll see Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson’s autograph scrawled sideways across the band’s mascot, “Eddie” (“To Dave – Bruce Dickinson”). Immediately and always, “The Number of the Beast” is my all-time favorite album. A game-changer, indeed. Up the Irons!