The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

Interview - Warrant's Steven Sweet

 

 

By Todd Jolicouer

 

Toddstar: Let me thank you for taking time out for the Rockpit, we really appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule for us this morning.


Steven Sweet: Oh no, I actually, on the same hand, I appreciate you taking the time for me too.


Toddstar: Well, let’s start with the obvious. ‘Rockaholic’ – what an excellent CD, I couldn’t wait for this thing to hit the streets out here in Detroit and now I can’t seem to get it out of my player.


Steven Sweet: Wow, that’s high praise. I appreciate hearing that. It’s funny that you say that because I feel the same way about it and I’ve never, never had such an appreciation for my own band’s music. Then this record came out and the same thing, I listen to it constantly, which is odd to say, but I do


Toddstar: Cool, well it’s funny I read a review or two where the reviewer talked about a return to form and I disagree in that you guys - again in my honest opinion - this is not a return to form cuz you guys were never this good.


Steven Sweet: (Laughing) Appreciate that.


Toddstar: Well there’s just…I’ll jump down a little bit & I’ll come back. There’s just seems to be quite a dynamic in the band now. I mean, you guys went thru three vocalists (Jani Lane, Jamie St. James, and now Robert Mason) pretty quick in a stretch. I actually got to see all three incarnations of the band in three consecutive years at Rocklahoma.


Steven Sweet: Yeah.


Toddstar: Even from the audience you can just see the difference in dynamic. Can you feed into that a little bit? I don’t want any laundry; I just - what’s the feel like now compared to maybe the 2 other incarnations?


Steven Sweet: Well, no disrespect to anybody and that’s sometimes hard for me to say, that sentence at all, but this band is finally, this band, I mean, the four of us that really wanted this to work, are finally firing on all cylinders with Robert. It’s not like he came out of the blue; he’s been a friend of ours for many, many years. We all kinda grew up on the same stuff, um, then Warrant & Lynch Mob with Robert, we all toured together and we’ve been around each other a lot through the years. Having him as a part of the band now is the difference, that is the difference, really. It’s not, um, like I said, no disrespect to Jaime St. James in particular cuz he’s a great guy, but he belongs in Black & Blue and that’s his thing. Robert is just more suited to Warrant and, if anything, it forced us to bring our “A” game to higher level. It’s made all the difference in the world and I hate to give him as high praise as saying he’s a savior of sorts, but he really has made the difference for Warrant. People don’t, people that love Warrant and all the band has taken over the last 20 years or so may not understand that a band is like a marriage. If all parties involved aren’t on board for everything then it just doesn’t work.

 

Toddstar: That makes sense totally.


Steven Sweet: Finally I’m willing to work in full capacity cuz everybody involved is 100% into it.


Toddstar: Ok, well let me then back track again to “Rockaholic.” If you had to pick a track or two that were your stand outs, what would they be?


Steven Sweet: I love “Home.” I love “The Last Straw.” That sorta came to us at the 11th hour, Jerry Dixon brought it to the table and we were actually in the midst of beginnings of pre-production and that song and “What Love Can Do” were 2 songs that he was playing around with. We didn’t know how much time we would have to get to all the songs that we had to get to and not knowing what was actually gonna be on the album itself. So we had all these songs together and then he comes up with 2 more jams that sort of rose to the top, in my opinion, and made it to the album cut. Frontiers Records was on board and they kinda gave us a loose guideline of what they wanted to hear, in terms of a number of songs and what kind of balance of Warrant type material they wanted us to come up with. These songs just kinda had to be, in my opinion. The label was cool in terms of allowing us to put more into this album then they were initially expecting from us. That’s why you get 14 tracks and not 10. I’m so glad because “The Last Straw” just completely does it for me and it is a great album finisher; it’s a great all around rock song. It kinda reminds me of Joe Lynn Turner Rainbow type stuff and that fast drive, which is kinda what the fast Warrant stuff has always been about anyways. These are my favorite tracks, definitely.


Toddstar: Cool. Yeah “Home” is one of my favorites, as is “What Love Can Do” but “Innocence Gone” - to me that automatically thru me back to being 16 years old in the back of a car.


Steven Sweet: That’s great. There you go – and you never forget that, do you?


Toddstar: No, now at 41, I get to relive it every 40 minutes or so when I restart the CD.


Steven Sweet: (Laughing) You get to re-devirginize yourself.


Toddstar: (Laughing) Exactly, exactly. Well, how’s the new stuff coming off live? Are you guys playing more than “Sex Ain’t Love” now live, now that the albums out?


Steven Sweet: It sorta depends on what show we’re doing, meaning when we are the opener we get only 45 minutes to play. We still like to focus on what the majority of the people come to hear us play, which is the obvious songs, the obvious hits. More and more we want to balance it out with newer material and still pay homage to the older stuff that’s been moving forward. So right now, we have at least, we play at least 2 new songs in the set until we get another song out there, you know. Obviously you can’t monitor how many songs people hear that’s not a single. In the old days when the labels release the single, that was all you hear and have to buy the whole record. People are going to listen to what they want to listen to but if we can get another single out, then we’re gonna stick with a couple songs and not overdo it. We don’t want to over saturate people with unfamiliar material. I mean, I’m really enjoying playing the new stuff; it’s a breath of fresh air.


Toddstar: Well, that’s good to hear, um, before I move into some other stuff. Coming off of tour last year, did you ever get that truck traded in for that white elephant?


Steven Sweet: I’m sorry, can you say that again?


Toddstar: Did you ever get your truck traded in for that white elephant?


Steven Sweet: My truck traded in for what?


Toddstar: White elephant.


Steven Sweet: White elephant?


Toddstar: Yeah in one of your blogs, you came back from a tour, or a run of shows, and you talked about your truck smoking.


Steven Sweet: Oh yeah, I don’t remember the exact quote but no, I still have that sucker man. Its paid for, what can I say? It’s been a work horse, so yeah my wife gets the nice car and I take the beater truck.


Toddstar: There you go. Well, let’s talk about Steven for a minute. Something interesting that I read - you paint portraits of pets?


Steven Sweet: Occasionally, yeah occasionally when there’s a need to. (Laughing) I do. I started many, many years ago. I’ll give you a quick background: I was an art major in high school. Art and music were the only 2 things that I excelled in, because that’s what I loved to do. I was sorta torn between going to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and continuing on my path to music glory when I graduated high school. I obviously chose the path of music. Anyways, personally it paid off in the long run, but I really enjoyed painting as a kid and I had given it up for many, many years until I picked up a brush again. Actually I painted a portrait of the 2 dogs that I had at the time and it turned into something that my friends really liked. They were asking me about doing it for them. All of my friends wanted me to do a portrait of their pets and this, that & the other. My dad put together a website for me so I could display some of my work. It’s kinda like a word of mouth thing. If you’re interested in having a quirky little painting of your pets then give me a call, but my website is www.fuzzychildren.com being that a lot of people, their pets are kinda like their young children.

 


Toddstar: We will definitely mention it and get it out. You’re also a musician in your own right. I found a track of yours, that’s a non-vocal track, but I just absolutely loved it. I could even picture being an intro or some kind of interlude with Warrant: “Haunting Love Song.”


Steven Sweet: Oh yeah, yeah I’m a huge Tim Burton fan, I had an idea about sorta the un-dead coming to life and the infatuation with things that go bump in the night, scary monsters under the bed. The theme of it carried through to a bunch of songs that I had written and just all in my sequencer, my keyboard. I don’t play piano fluently by any means, but with the advent of sequencing and computer recording, I’m able to actually put songs together to get the idea across. That was just one of a group of songs that were kinda, um, I haven’t done anything like that in a while, but I’m glad you appreciated it.


Toddstar: Yeah, no it’s very cool. Let’s shift gears back to Warrant for a minute and then I’ll get back to personal. With Warrant, any plans, I mean, the trend now seems to be going back and recording all your hits with a stronger line-up, new vocalist, you know, after you’ve played the songs a million times, you’ve changed your arrangements. Any plans on Warrant maybe picking up old tracks, re-recording them and putting them out there with a 2011 stamp on them?


Steven Sweet: Well, um, it’s interesting that you asked that. We actually have done some re-records recently with Pat Regan who produced & engineered the ‘Born Again’ CD, we did a number of years ago and then more recently he mixed the ‘Rockaholic’ album. We did re-track some songs as well just for us to have. We didn’t really plan on having them play out in the public domain, but as I’ve come to learn…never say never. So who knows. Not to sound cryptic or baiting you in anyway, but who knows. We do have some tracks that are in the can right now.

 


Toddstar: Ok, cuz there are a couple bands that did it and I thought they pulled it off & came off well. I thought with Robert's voice and the way you guys sound on the new album…you could just breathe fresh life in the songs, the hits.


Steven Sweet: The other reason why bands do that is because of licensing conflicts with record labels in that, back in the day you signed a record label they pretty much would acquire all the rights to your material and you wouldn’t make any money releasing. I mean there have been a million compilation discs with Warrant material on it that we don’t see a penny of because the record label owns those rights. So a band will re-record their material, Whitesnake did it where they re-record everything almost to a “T.” Sometimes you don’t know, you listen to a track on the radio or whatever and you go “that sounds slightly different but it sounds like the original but I’m not sure” and it may or may not be the re-recording which they did because they wanted to have complete ownership. Which, by the way, any artist should own their material and we did some things years ago to get signed, like signing away rights to recordings. That kinda the basis why some bands do the re-record - so they have the rights to the material.


Toddstar: Thank you for that insight. I know you probably got a busy day so I just got a couple questions for you. If Steven Chamberlain from 1989 came up to you today, what one piece of advice would you give him?


Steven Sweet: Probably something that I already know, which is just stick with it. I used to, um, that sounds vague, but I used to tell, I swear to god, this is one thing, it’s to have perseverance, stick to your guns and the encompasses all manner of things related to remaining true to yourself and you know, never surrender. But I used to tell guys when I was starting to see a little success with Warrant and I would meet people thru-out the country and would be “I’m thinking of moving to L.A., I’m in a band now & we’re not really getting anywhere, what should I do?” My word of advice that I tell my daughter this all the time is just don’t give up, just stick, you know, stay true to yourself & uh, things will work out. That kinda what “Life’s A Song” is about as well. How perseverance thru the good times & bad times, the ups and the downs but how will you ever know how it will turn out in your favor if you give up?


Toddstar: Ok, well now that you’ve talked about a song. If there’s one song or one piece of music, or one body of music that isn’t yours, you didn’t record on it but you wish you had, you wish you had written it, sang it, played on it. What would one body of music throughout the history of time be that Steven wishes he was part of?


Steven Sweet: The song ‘Hotel California.’ If you can sing almost note for note in your head, a guitar solo to anything, that’s beautiful to me. I mean, I’m all about melody and that song especially with being a kid that was one of the first records I ever bought was ‘Hotel California’ by the Eagles, I sorta taught myself to harmonize with the Eagles, listening to those records, um, I don’t know it’s a haunting story, haunting melody classic, timeless classic.


Toddstar: I agree. I agree. Well last question. Steven Sweet, what is the meaning of life?


Steven Sweet: (Laughing)


Toddstar: Not your normal rock interview, is it? (Laughing)


Steven Sweet: It’s about the ride, seriously. It’s about staying on & enjoying it for all that you can get out of it. And again if things take a turn for the worse or you feel like you’re going thru a dark tunnel… you’re gonna come out on the other end eventually.


Toddstar: Well, very cool. Very cool answer, Steven. Again, I know you’re busy so I’m gonna cut you loose, but I thank you again on behalf of The Rockpit for the time and I look forward to seeing you guys out on the road.


Steven Sweet: I absolutely appreciate it Todd. Pleasure I hope you’re coming out to one of our shows in your area. We’re going to be in Detroit & Toledo.


Toddstar: Yeah, you’re actually going to be in Toledo. It’s funny, it’s an incarnation of the band that you weren’t part of unfortunately back in 2002, but Warrant was out on the road and it was actually my first date with my wife. So Warrant, I mean I loved you guys growing up, but now you guys are just forever in my heart and a part of my life, so…


Steven Sweet: I appreciate it. That’s very cool.