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 michaelmonroe.com

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!

McMASTER OF PUPPETS: Watchtower frontman Jason McMaster rallies his metal militia at the Cameo Theatre in San Antonio circa 1984. (Book cover photo by Jeff Tweedy. Photo staging by David Glessner)
SLAYING THE DRAGON: San Antonio Slayer was almost named Dragonslayer until original guitarist Art Villareal suggested they shorten the name.

By Metal Dave

Remember calling your weed guy from a pay phone on the way to a local metal gig? You were driving a junker that barely passed inspection while following a sketchy map on a hand-drawn flyer emblazoned with skulls and the promise of doomsday (plus beer!).

Maybe you listened to your friend’s demo cassette along the way while pondering the impossibility of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest being challenged by emerging neck-thrashers like Metallica, Exodus and Anthrax.

“As Viewed From The Pit” is a literal snapshot of those times captured in South Texas from 1978-1989 when San Antonio was globally recognized as the Heavy Metal Capital of the World.

Compiled by lifelong Texas metal fan Juan Herrera, the glossy photo book casts its net across South Texas to include not only San Antonio, but also Austin, Houston and Corpus Christi. The bands, of course, take center stage thanks to the photo collections of Jeff Tweedy, Liliana Martinez and Phil Adams, among others, but Herrera understands no old-school music scene is complete without the street-level flyers, ticket stubs, T-shirts and demo cassette artwork, which also get due space.

HIGHLY CORROSIVE: 4th Ryke bassist Al Kelly played his first major show as a member of Morbid Termination when he opened for Juggernaut at the Cameo Theatre in San Antonio.

As for the bands, San Antonio’s bragging rights go to Juggernaut (whose drummer Bobby Jarzombek went on to play for Rob Halford, Sebastian Bach and Fates Warning among others); S.A. Slayer (whose drummer Dave McClain went on to spend years in Machine Head while bassist Donnie Van Stavern joined Riot) and longtime local favorites Byfist, Winterkat, Heyoka, Heather Leather and Wyzard along with Valkyrie, Morbid Termination and Death Tripper.

Not to be outdone, Austin is heavily (pun intended) represented by prog-metal pioneers Watchtower (whose singer Jason McMaster would later be seen and heard on radio and MTV as the singer for Dangerous Toys) and Militia — both of whom opened for a fledgling (L.A.) Slayer at the Ritz on Sixth Street in 1985.

In Houston, the nods go to Helstar and Dead Horse, while Corpus Christi checks in with Devastation and Angkor Wat. And just for good measure, there’s even mention of crossover bands like the Offenders (Austin), Fearless Iranians from Hell (San Antonio), DRI (Houston) and Crippled By Society (San Antonio).

SLAY-ER!!!!: The legendary Slayer vs. Slayer gig resulted in a bootleg recording that is a highly sought-after collectible.

In a book full of cool memories, perhaps the coolest is the legendary Slayer vs. Slayer gig at Villa Fontana in San Antonio on Nov. 30, 1984 (with Militia and Syrus opening). Often remembered as a battle for the rights to the Slayer name, the San Antonio version of Slayer was already disbanded, but reformed for the gig in the name of some spirited rivalry with their Los Angeles brethren. More than any single concert in South Texas metal history, this one is arguably the one most likely to be worn as a badge of honor by all who were there.

Of course, no book about Texas heavy metal would be complete without honoring legendary San Antonio deejay, Joe “The Godfather” Anthony, who not only gave air time to local bands, but also helped introduce international acts such as Rush, Triumph, Def Leppard, Scorpions, Saxon, Accept and countless others who readily admit to owing him and the San Antonio faithful the deepest debts of gratitude. It’s safe to say that without Joe (and fellow deejay Lou Roney), San Antonio would never have gained worldwide acclaim as the Heavy Metal Capital of the World.

As its title implies, “As Viewed From The Pit” lets the photos do the talking, but it must be said that the Forward by Texas metal archivist Reuben Luna does a great job of summarizing this vibrant and legendary music scene. He would know; he was there.

Cover-to-cover, “As Viewed From The Pit” will stir the memory of anyone — Texan or otherwise — who strapped on the studded wristbands, banged their head in the pit and lived hard and fast for another night at the whiplash orgy. Go ahead, dive in!

For more info and to purchase, visit “As Viewed From The Pit.”

THE DEVILS YOU KNOW: Guitarist Ace Von Johnson, drummer Shane Fitzgibbon, singer Phil Lewis, guitarist Tracii Guns and bassist Johnny Martin. Can you guess their favorite color?

By Metal Dave

The glory days of the Sunset Strip produced bigger names than L.A. Guns, but none can match the number of rock-solid albums triggered by the combustible duo of singer Philip Lewis and guitarist Tracii Guns.

Motley Crue? Two or three essential albums. Roth-era Van Halen? Five. Guns N’ Roses? One. Ratt? Quiet Riot? Poison? I love those bands’ signature records, but with due respect, they barely compete collectively with the six-deep stack of L.A. Guns’ 1988 self-titled debut, “Cocked & Loaded,” “Hollywood Vampires,” “Man in the Moon,” “Waking the Dead” and 2017’s “The Missing Peace.” Fighting words, I suppose, but the simple math rests my case.

With new album “The Devil You Know” set for release Friday (March 29) and seemingly primed to continue L.A. Guns’ winning streak, I phoned Phil Lewis at his home in Las Vegas to discuss the band’s ongoing, white-hot re-ignition.

Why the rush to release “The Devil You Know” a mere 15 months after “The Missing Peace?” It seems like the latter still has momentum and nobody would fault you for taking more time between albums.
We wrote it on the road. A lot of bands have a hard time writing on the road. A lot of bands need to come off the road and go on a country retreat and get their head in the right place. We don’t have that kind of luxury and we don’t really need it. Tracii is sitting on the guitar all day noodling away on the bus, plugged into his phone and it starts there. And because we’re all in such close proximity, we hear it immediately and it’s like, “Oh, yeah, do that bit again.” Or, “Oh yeah, that would make a great verse.” Before you know it, you’ve patched a song together.

So the engine was revving?
Yeah. We were in Australia (on a previous tour) and had a day off so me and (tour manager) Scotty went to the animal sanctuary to see the kaolas and the ‘roos, and by the time we got back, (bassist) Johnny (Martin) and Tracii had written “Rage.” We’ve got a great work ethic and Tracii is a slave driver, man. He wants the best out of everybody and it’s always been like that with him. I think that’s a big part of our chemistry.

That on-the-fly approach seems to have lent a certain energy and rawness to “The Devil You Know.”
It’s a fun album. We put a lot of work into it. It’s very different from “The Missing Peace.” Songs from “The Missing Peace” had been lying around with Tracii for quite some time before the reunion, whereas this one was written from scratch with all of us on exactly the same start line. It’s a lot more punky, stripped down, no keyboards or strings. It’s speedy, aggressive and pissed off, but fun.

Expectations were pretty high for “The Missing Peace” considering you and Tracii hadn’t worked together in so long. In hindsight, how do you feel about that album’s reception?
I think that plays a huge part in why we’ve done this new record so quickly. (The reception) was very inspiring. We knew going in that we weren’t going to sell millions of copies and that’s not the point. That’s not why we do it. But to see it being nominated for so many album-of-the-year awards was such a great compliment and, of course, it’s very inspiring. We already had the deal lined up with Frontiers Records for another album so we thought, “Why wait? Let’s do it!”

I dare say “The Missing Peace” is my third-favorite L.A. Guns album.
What are your three favorites?

I’d say the first two and “The Missing Peace,” although “Man in the Moon” and “Waking the Dead” are criminally underrated.
OK, that’s fair. There are so many parallels between the first two records and “The Missing Peace” and this new one. As far as I’m concerned, L.A. Guns 2.0 is really a new band with an old name. As I said a minute ago, a lot of (“The Missing Peace”) stuff had been lying around before the reunion and it was very much the same with the debut album. When I joined the band in ’88, it was something of a salvage job for me to interpret the other guy’s (Paul Black) lyrics and write new ones, and basically make it my own. “Sex Action” used to be called “Looking Over My Shoulder.” Not that there was much salvage required on “The Missing Peace.” And on “Cocked & Loaded,” we all started (writing) at the same time so that’s a parallel as well on this one.

As far as your 2000-era output, I’m partial to “Man in the Moon” and “Waking the Dead,” but a lot of your fans cite “Tales from the Strip” among your top-notch albums. Obviously, that album didn’t feature Tracii.
As proud as I am of “Tales from the Strip,” it’s not an L.A. Guns record and I just have to come to that conclusion. People have been asking, “Why aren’t you doing certain songs?” and obviously it’s because (Tracii) wasn’t involved and I wouldn’t expect him to play those songs. I think it’s really rotten that Axl makes Slash and those guys play songs off “Chinese Democracy.” It’s not Guns N’ Roses! It’s a fine album, but it’s not a Guns N’ Roses album. It’s an Axl Rose record — and a fucking good one! — but it’s not a Guns N’ Roses record. That’s kinda how I feel about stuff I did without Tracii. I like the studio, I like writing, I like the whole process and that was one of my issues that I had with my former lineup. After we released “Hollywood Forever,” which I thought was a great record, everything kinda slowed down and the fire went out. I was trying to light it up again and get us back in the studio and get us writing again and doing something new and exciting, but they wouldn’t budge, man. Even before the reunion, I’d given in my notice because I wanted to do something even if it meant going out by myself with an acoustic guitar. I’d rather do that than the rut we’d gotten into.

When you and Tracii decided to reunite, how was it settled that you would keep bassist Johnny Martin and drummer Shane Fitzgibbon from his band and guitarist Michael Grant from your own? Obviously, Michael didn’t work out for whatever reason and you’ve since added Ace Von Johnson, but how did that initial reunion lineup gel?
As soon as I heard Johnny and Shane play, it was a no-brainer. They’re really fucking good players and they’re great guys. They’re nice guys and that’s really important when you’re going to be spending a lot of time with somebody on the road. Compatibility is really important. Unfortunately, that flew out the window with Michael Grant.

What happened with Grant?
Him and I just did not get along. It was like running a marathon with a stone in my shoe. It was an easy, paying gig for him. I gave him five years’ worth of work and that’s what it was for him. Work. He wasn’t excited. For him, it was better than not working at all. With Shane and Johnny, they’re an integral part of the band. At this stage of my life and my career, I don’t see why I should fuck around and be around people who aren’t 100 percent inspiring and making me laugh. With Johnny and Shane, it’s just an honor. Those guys are amazing.

[2Fast2Die sidebar: Mere hours after this interview, it was announced Shane Fitzgibbon was leaving L.A. Guns — on amicable terms, for a change — and being replaced by former Brides of Destruction/Ace Frehley drummer, Scot Coogan]

On one of your recent tours, I noticed you wore a jacket featuring a picture of Lemmy on the back. Were you close with him? Do you at least have a great Lemmy story?
Oh, my God! I’ve got so many Lemmy stories. I knew Lemmy since I was 12-years-old in London. Growing up, him and my old man were buddies. My old man used to lend him money and hold his passport as collateral. OK, a funny story: I was about 14 or 15 and Lemmy comes over and I’m playing with a slot car racing set and I said, “Do you want to play, mate?” And he goes, “You’re a bit old for that aren’t ya?” And I was, like, “Yeah, ya know what? Maybe I am.” So he goes, “I’ll tell ya what. Pack it up in a box and I’ll trade ya something for it.” So I said, “OK, OK.” And I’m thinking he’s gonna give me a guitar or something. So he comes back about half-an-hour later and I’ve got the slot cars all boxed up and he goes, “Well, there you are” and he gives me a little packet that fits into the palm of my hand. So I’m, like, “What’s this?” And he goes, “Well, open it … carefully!” He gave me, like, three grams of coke! (laughs). He goes, “Yeah, you’re gonna have fun with that!”

Wow! Goodbye slot cars, hello cocaine!
(Laughing) Yeah! Another time he came over … My old man had a music shop where he bought and sold guitars, lent money and stuff like that. So, Lemmy came over to the shop one day and he brought this really gorgeous girl with him. She must’ve been about 20, 21 and she didn’t speak a word of English because she’s from Switzerland. So he goes, “OK, I’m just gonna leave her with you for a little while. Take care of her and I’ll pick up her up later.” I’m thinking he’ll be back in an hour or so. He left her with me for three days! Oh, my God! What a treat. I had my own apartment above the shop so, well, yeah … I made the best of that situation. He was the best wicked uncle you could ask for.

What was your first impression of America when you arrived from Britain?
I think the first time I came over was with (Swedish actress/sex symbol) Britt Ekland. It must’ve been the late ‘70s. It was the palm trees that got me! All these massive palm trees and this gorgeous skyline. It was the nature that struck me first. It was everything the Crosby, Stills & Nash and Joni Mitchell songs said it was. It was just an incredible, big, hippie paradise. By relative standards, I’m sure it was already tainted, but I caught the end of it. When I came back in the ‘80s – maybe eight years later – to join up with Tracii, it was very different from the hippie paradise that it was in the ‘70s. But still, just amazing! Actually, it was even better because I was a part of it. Now I’m in Vegas, but I was back in L.A. the other day because we were shooting a video for “The Devil You Know” in Topanga Canyon and it’s heartbreaking, ya know? All these rock-n-roll landmarks are gone and the ones that are still there are basically just quick stops on these $20 van tours that people sign up for. Sadly enough, even the Whisky and Rainbow are just another quick stop on Sunset. Breaks my heart, but that’s just the way it goes. L.A. has changed a lot, but the same could be said of Austin or London. You just have to accept that.

Your voice is a constant source of compliment, which is quite an achievement after all these decades. Are you a stickler to a strict regime or just blessed with great vocal cords?
I do a few things to maintain it and I do a lot of things to NOT fuck it up (laughs). I do my warm-ups. It’s not much. Maybe 15 minutes before I go on to loosen up the cords a bit. The guys always take the piss out of me ‘cause of my “nay, nay, naying” from the back of the bus. But it’s paid off. My voice has served me well over decades so the least I can do is make a little bit of an effort. I don’t hold court after a show, I don’t do interviews after a show, I don’t do meet-and-greets after a show. I just keep my trap shut and go to bed. I’m strict about that and it’s paid off. In fact, I did the vocals (for “Devil You Know”) with Mitch Davis in New York when we had 10 days off between shows. I literally flew in from our last show, landed in New York, did the vocals and then flew to Chicago, got on the bus and we played Indiana the following night. You gotta be in good shape to do that!

L.A. Guns plays March 29 in Santa Ana, CA. “The Devil You Know” tour kicks off April 4 in West Dundee, IL. Follow Phil and Tracii’s L.A. Guns on Twitter and Facebook, and visit the official L.A. Guns website for tour dates, merch and more.

BLUES BROTHERS: Paul Joseph, left, and DJ Riddick have been cranking out swampy, DIY garage blues since 2013. ‘Holy Water’ is the fifth release from the Florida-based duo.

By Metal Dave

Swamped in distortion and groggy as a hangover, the heavy blues of 100 Watt Vipers conjures images of dusty saloons, road-weary bikers and that morning stumble across the room in search of the day’s first drag.

Lean, but muscular, the fiercely DIY duo (yes, duo) from Jacksonville, Florida merges the howl and twang of the Delta Blues greats with the more contemporary stylings of Jack White — and then piles on the heavy voltage of AC/DC (“Aces High,” “We Ride On,” “My Old Bible”), Black Sabbath (“The Thunder Cries”), Led Zeppelin (“Holy Water,” “Ain’t Got No Golden Cup”) and the stoner version of Corrosion of Conformity (“No Salvation in These Fields”). It’s kinda like the heavy metal cousin of the Drive-By Truckers.

Singing drummer DJ Riddick has the kick of John Bonham and a gritty voice that recalls Pepper Keenan, Zakk Wylde and Ronnie Van Zant. Guitarist Paul Joseph brings a wall-of-fuzz guitar sound that could startle Leslie West (not to mention a psychedelic slide that harkens Jimmy Page).

Cranked to full effect, 100 Watt Vipers would be a suitable opening act for doomy rockers like Black Label Society, Down and the aforementioned COC. Dialed down and acoustic, they’d pair nicely with, say, Blackberry Smoke, Jason Isbell and Steve Earle.

Truth be told, “Holy Water” drones a bit due to the song template of mid-tempo/high distortion and the lack of bass guitar, which would buffer and add dimension to the album’s overall sound. Then again, that probably runs counter to the bare bones intent.

In the end, repeated listens yield hidden nuances and increasing rewards, and songs like “I Am The Traveler” (my favorite) and “After the Storm Comes the Peace” reveal a songcraft that’s worth the dig.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Visit 100 Watt Vipers

FLYING HIGH AGAIN: Jetboy’s ‘Born to Fly’ lineup features, left-to-right, guitarist Billy Rowe,
bassist Eric Stacy, drummer Al Serrato, singer Mickey Finn and guitarist Fernie Rod.

By Metal Dave

Under the radar for most of three decades, Jetboy returns with an out-of-the-blue album called “Born to Fly.” Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit hustling rock.

Led by three original members – singer Mickey Finn and guitarists Billy Rowe and Fernie Rod – Jetboy enlisted former Faster Pussycat bassist Eric Stacy and drummer Al Serrato for the recording sessions. The resulting 12 tracks find Jetboy rebooting its hooky hard rock to such exhilarating effect you’ll forget Lollapalooza ever happened.

Opening track “Beating the Odds” comes out swinging with a vocal cadence that recalls Judas Priest’s “Rapid Fire.” Other fist pounders include the salacious “Old Dog, New Tricks” and the bass-driven social commentary of “All Over Again.”

Some heart-on-sleeve sentiment creeps into the weary Ju Ju Hounds shuffle of “The Way That You Move Me” and “Every Time I Go” (just don’t call ’em ballads, ’cause they’re not); while the title track will stir the envy of worldwide marketing agencies for not penning the swaying singalong as a television commercial. It’s that catchy.

Of course, this being a Jetboy album, it’s only fitting that party favors are offered up in the gyrating “She” and self-explanatory “Party Time!”

For all of Jetboy’s no-frills straightforwardness, the band shows a knack for seasoning its repertoire with Finn’s harp playing, some bluesy slide guitar runs and, perhaps most notably, the well-placed, infectious backup vocals (“Brokenhearted Daydream,” among others) that deftly lend various songs added boogie and lift. Nice touches, one and all.

Like their idols Cheap Trick, KISS, Aerosmith and AC/DC, Jetboy’s calling card has always been instantly memorable anthem rock that’s all about getting your kicks, escaping the grind and fighting the good fight.

For a band that’s endured its share of tragedy and dashed hopes, “Born to Fly” is nothing less than a triumph. It also lands Jetboy alongside late-1980s peers Junkyard and L.A. Guns as a band that today is matching or surpassing the sonic quality of its far away yesteryear.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Visit Jetboy

By Metal Dave

Looking for trouble, punk? Look no further than the latest from Rancid …

THE KIDS AIN’T ALRIGHT: The debut release from Criminal Kids is a hit-and-run blast of garage-punk fury that will probably land you in trouble. Enjoy!

By Metal Dave

Rock-n-roll should be dirty by definition, but in the brass-knuckled fists of Criminal Kids, it’s also greasy, drunk and belligerent. 

Hailing from the southside of Chicago (and probably kin to Bad, Bad Leroy Brown), Criminal Kids peddle the kind of garage-punk fury that makes you wanna ransack your boss’s house before peeling out in a muscle car on a death wish race with the law. Yeah, it’s that awesome!

Clocking in at six tracks of three-minute (or less) gut punches, this dainty little self-titled debut platter (courtesy of Spaghetty Town Records) serves up such self-explanatory titles as “Little Bitch,” “Outcast” and the fair-warning “Takin’ it Back.” There’s also a cover of the 1979 song, “Night,” by old-school Chicago punk band The Exit and the closing one-two of “Vanity” and “Life.”

At every turn, the vocals of Ryan Burgeson have that ready-to-fight Angry Anderson shout. The bass of Chris (no last name to protect the guilty) gets some cool solo runs here and there, and guitarist Mike Van Kley and drummer Anthony (just Anthony) add weight to the hammer and kicks to the ribs. Like a Zippo to a Molotov, it’s straight-up combustible.

If bands like New Disaster, Zeke, Rose Tattoo and Black Actress snap your hinges, then Criminal Kids are right up your alley. You’ve been warned, now get ya some trouble!