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

MICHAEL MONROE TALKS TO MARK AT THE ROCKPIT

 

There truly are few musicians who have shaped my love of music as much as Michael Monroe and the Hanoi Rocks. So for me this interview is a big part of the reason why I do this: to bring the music I love to people who care. Ever since my Uncle sneaked me into the Fulham Greyhound many years ago I've been a fan, I'm even in the crowd there somewhere on 'The Nottingham Tapes'. There has never been a band like Hanoi Rocks for me and there is no one out there like Michael Monroe. So I'm very nervous about this interview and Jo has already made me scrap three sets of questions for being too obscure! At the end of the day it is after all the music that really matters and the day I put up this interview is the day Mike's new CD drops through the mailbox, so expect a review up soon....

 

On the eve of his European solo tour Michael Monroe took time out to speak with the Rockpit

 

 

 

 

 

Sensory Overdrive Tour 2011
16.03.11 Lutakko Jyväskylä Finland 20:00
17.03.11 Puijonsarvi Kuopio Finland 20:00
18.03.11 Z-One Varkaus Finland 20:00
19.03.11 Old Texas Kaarina Finland 20:00
22.03.11 Hullu Poro Levi Finland 20:00
25.03.11 Pakkahuone Tampere Finland 20:00
26.03.11 Tavastia Club Helsinki Finland TBD
26.03.11 Tavastia Club Helsinki Finland 23:00
31.03.11 Debaser Stockholm Sweden 20:00
01.04.11 Sigurdsgatan 25 Västerås Sweden 20:00
02.04.11 The Rock Copenhagen Denmark 20:00
04.04.11 Concorde 2 Brighton United Kingdom 20:00
05.04.11 Academy 2 Bristol United Kingdom 20:00
06.04.11 Phoenix Exeter United Kingdom 20:00
07.04.11 Wedgewood Rooms Portsmouth United Kingdom 20:00
08.04.11 O2 Academy London United Kingdom 20:00
09.04.11 T.J.’s Leeds United Kingdom 20:00
11.04.11 Waterfront Norwich United Kingdom 20:00
12.04.11 Corporation Sheffield United Kingdom 20:00
13.04.11 Academy 2 Newcastle United Kingdom 20:00
14.04.11 Academy 3 Manchester United Kingdom 20:00
15.04.11 Garage Glasgow United Kingdom 20:00
16.04.11 Rock City Nottingham United Kingdom 20:00
17.04.11 HMV Institute Birmingham United Kingdom 20:00
12.05.11 R'n'R Arena Novara Italy 20:00
13.05.11 New Age Roncade, Treviso Italy 20:00
14.05.11 Rock Planet Pinarella di Cervia (Ravenna) Italy 20:00
19.05.11 Razzmatazz 2 Barcelona Spain 20:00
20.05.11 Durango Club Valencia Spain 20:00
21.05.11 Sala Penélope Madrid Spain 20:00
22.05.11 Kafé Antzokia Bilbao Spain 20:00
01.06.11 Namba Hatch Osaka Japan 20:00
02.06.11 Diamond Hall Nagoya Japan 20:00
03.06.11 Studio Coast Tokyo Japan 20:00

 

 

 

MD: Hi Michael, please let me first say what an absolute honour it is for me personally to speak with you. We get to speak to a lot of cool people at the Rockpit but for me at least Hanoi is where it all really started.

 

MM: THANK YOU, THAT’S NICE TO HEAR.  

 

MD: You have an extensive UK tour scheduled in May tell us why we should all get out there and come and see the new show!

 

MM: BECAUSE THIS IS A KILLER ROCK’N’ROLL BAND WITH A GREAT NEW ALBUM,.SO IF YOU’RE INTO ROCK MUSIC EVEN A LITTLE BIT, YOU’RE DEFINITELY GONNA ENJOY THIS ONE.

 

MD: The tour with Motorhead sounded a little strange on paper but I believe it was a great success. How did you go down with that crowd and how was Lemmy?

 

MM: IT WAS BRILLIANT!  AN ABSOLUTE PLEASURE AND HONOUR. WE HAD A BLAST AND GOT A SURPRISINGLY GREAT RESPONSE FROM THE ENGLISH MOTÖRHEAD AUDIENCE.  IT WAS ALSO A GREAT THRILL FOR ME TO BE INVITED ON STAGE TO SING “BORN TO RAISE HELL” WITH MOTÖRHEAD ON SEVERAL NIGHTS.

 

MD: We’ve seen the cover now and had a few tasters on the Live CD of what we will find on the new album “Sensory Overdrive” but I still haven’t heard it yet. Tell us about it!

 

MM: IT’S A VERY STRONG, “PUNKY”, HIGH ENERGY ROCK ALBUM WITH GOOD MELODIES AND SMART AND FUN LYRICS.  IF YOU LIKE MY PREVIOUS RECORDS I’M PRETTY SURE YOU’RE GONNA LOVE THIS ONE.

 

MD: The new band is an interesting mix of musicians and from reports we’ve heard you all seem to be gelling well live, how are they all fitting in and what’s the dynamic like onstage?

 

MM: THERE’S A LOT OF GREAT POSITIVE ENERGY FLOATING AROUND AND THE CHEMISTRY IS PERFECT.  ALL THE INGREDIENTS FOR A FANTASTIC ROCK BAND ARE THERE, I’M HAPPY TO SAY.

 

 

The Band

 

 

MD: My early teenage years musically were brightened by the first three Hanoi Rocks releases, it was a great time and those albums still mean a lot to me personally. I know in the past the band has dismissed records like Oriental Beat, and of course Self Destruction Blues was really a collection of singles. How do you look back on that early output now?

 

MM: WELL, I WOULDN’T DISMISS THEM.  IT’S JUST THAT THE PRODUCTION OF “ORIENTAL BEAT” WASN’T THAT GOOD, ‘THOUGH THERE WERE A LOT OF GREAT SONGS ON IT.  “SELF DESTRUCTION BLUES” WAS A COMBINATION OF SOME SINGLE B-SIDES AND DEMOS WE NEVER MEANT TO RELEASE, PUT TOGETHER AND RELEASED BY OUR RECORD LABEL WITHOUT OUR PRIOR KNOWLEDGE, SO OVIOUSLY WE WERE A BIT UPSET ABOUT IT.  IT JUST SEEMED LIKE A MISH-MASH AND A MISTAKE TO US AT THE TIME. BUT FUNNILY ENOUGH, IN LATER YEARS I’VE HEARD MANY PEOPLE SAY THAT IT’S THEIR FAVORITE HANOI ALBUM.

 

MD: What songs stay with you from those albums?

 

MM: THERE’S A LOTTA COOL SONGS. FOR EXAMPLE “MOTORVATIN’“ WE STILL PLAY LIVE WITH MY NEW BAND TODAY.  I LIKE “PROBLEM CHILD” AND “CAFÉ AVENUE” AS WELL, TO NAME A FEW.

 

MD: How crazy was life back in London back in those early days?

 

MM: CRAZY ENOUGH…

 

MD: “Back to Mystery City” for me was everything rock and roll should be about, insanely catchy, beautifully written and not caring about what anyone else was doing. Do you have any interesting stories about making that album? Any favourite tracks?

 

MM: IT WAS A COOL TIME.  I HAD PERSONAL FEELINGS FOR “UNTIL I GET YOU”.  MY DEAR FRIEND AND MENTOR STIV BATORS HAD JUST TAUGHT ME ABOUT ARRANGING SONGS, HOW TO BUILD THEM UP AND STUFF TO MAINTAIN THE FEELING AND THE VIBE ALL THE WAY TO THE END OF THE SONG.  FOR THIS ONE I WAS USING ALICE COOPER’S “I’M EIGHTEEN” AS A POINT OF COMPARISON FOR THE ARRANGEMENT.  STIV ALSO TOLD ME THAT IN ORDER TO REALLY “GET INTO CHARACTER” FOR THIS KIND OF MELANCHOLY LOVE SONG I SHOULD THINK OF IT UNTIL I’D BE IN TEARS BEFORE DOING THE VOCAL IN THE STUDIO.  THEREFORE WHEN I WAS DOING THE ADLIBS AT THE END OF THE SONG I WAS ACTUALLY CRYING.  I WAS ALSO HAVING A BIT OF A HEARTBREAKING RELATIONSHIP IN MY LIFE AT THE TIME, SO CRYING CAME PRETTY EASY.  BUT DON’T GET ME WRONG – ALL IN ALL IT WAS A POSITIVE, CREATIVE EXPERIENCE  AND WE HAD A VERY PRODUCTIVE, FUN TIME MAKING THAT ALBUM.

 

MD: Which of your early influences do you feel has had most effect on your career?

 

MM:  LITTLE RICHARD, ALICE COOPER, STIV BATORS, JOHN FOGERTY, MICK JAGGER, IGGY POP, BON SCOTT, IAN HUNTER, GARY HOLTON.

 

MD: The UK press seemed to love Hanoi Rocks and for a press that tends to still disassociate itself with rock music in general, why did you make such an impact in those early days?

 

MM: I’M NOT QUITE SURE, BUT I THINK IT WAS MOSTLY BECAUSE WE WERE PRETTY HEAVILY INFLUENCED BY SOME OF THE CLASSIC ENGLISH BANDS, MORE THAN MOST PEOPLE REALIZE.  AND I GUESS WE WERE “WILD AND WHACKY” IN THE RIGHT WAY, ESPECIALLY WITH RAZZLE’S SENSE OF HUMOUR.  WE WERE ALSO ABLE TO LAUGH AT OURSELVES AND SO ON… BUT YEAH, WE KINDA BECAME THE “DARLINGS OF THE PRESS” THERE WHICH WAS GREAT, OF COURSE.

 

MD: Fourth album “Two Steps from the Move” with Bob Ezrin on board put you on the brink of real stardom. Did you feel that at the time that it was going to be such a huge step forward?

 

MM: YEAH, WORKING WITH BOB WAS A GREAT LEARNING EXPERIENCE AND IT REALLY FELT LIKE WE WERE TURNING INTO REAL PROFESSIONALS AND REALLY “GOING PLACES”...

 

MD: What was it like working with Ian Hunter who if I recall rightly was originally going to produce the album?

 

MM: ACTUALLY IAN WAS ASKED TO PRODUCE THE “BACK TO MYSTERY CITY” ALBUM BUT HE TURNED IT DOWN, SO WE WENT WITH DALE GRIFFIN AND OVEREND WATTS.  BOB EZRIN INVITED IAN INTO THE RECORD PLANT STUDIOS IN NEW YORK TO CO-WRITE SOME LYRICS FOR US SINCE HE KNEW WE WERE ALL HUGE IAN HUNTER AND MOTT THE HOOPLE FANS AND BECAUSE IAN IS A BRILLIANT, GENIUS SONGWRITER.  WORKING WITH IAN WAS VERY EXCITING.  IN LATER YEARS HE BECAME MY GOOD FRIEND, WHICH IS A GREAT PLEASURE AND PRIVILEGE.

 
MD: It’s often said that Hanoi spawned the great hair metal/glam revival on Sunset Strip overnight. From people I have spoken to who were around at the time all I can say is that it must have been true! What is your take on the influence Hanoi had over there?

 

MM:  I LIKED GUNS’N’ROSES SINCE THEY HAD THEIR OWN THING AND THE RIGHT KINDA ATTITUDE.  THEN THERE WERE MANY BANDS THAT I DIDN’T CARE FOR BECAUSE THEY WERE MORE INTO THE POSING, BIG HAIR AND PARTYING AS OPPOSED TO THE MUSIC.

 

MD: Just tell us one story about Razzle?

 

MM: OH… I DON’T KNOW WHERE TO START.  HE WAS SUCH A BRILLIANT FUN GUY WHO REALLY BROUGHT THE GREAT SPIRIT INTO THE BAND WHEN HE JOINED. I STILL MISS HIM DEARLY.

 

MD: I remember shedding a tear watching that last show on TV back in the UK when you broke into “A Million Miles Away”  

 

MM: I WAS SHEDDING TEARS THEN TOO.

 

 

Michael Monroe Band 2011

 

 

MD: Moving to New York after Hanoi split you kicked off a solo career after working with Little Steven on the Sun City Project. Then forming Jerusalem Slim, followed by what I still consider the fine Demolition 23. Tell us about that period?

 

MM: IT WAS A GREAT EXCITING PERIOD AND A NEW START FOR ME

 

MD: Dead, Jail or Rock and Roll looked like it might be the break you deserved at the time did you feel that way?

 

MM: YEAH, IT COULD’VE BEEN.

 

MD: Tell us a little about Stiv and Johnny?

 

MM: TO ME THEY WERE TWO OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PEOPLE IN ROCK WHO TAUGHT ME A LOT ABOUT WHAT’S TRULY IMPORTANT IN ROCK’N’ROLL, LIKE INTEGRITY, NOT SELLING YOUR SOUL ETC. THEY WERE ALSO MY VERY DEAR FRIENDS AND I FEEL LUCKY TO HAVE KNOWN THEM.

 

MD: You also knew Debbie Harry at that time?

 

MM: I GOT TO KNOW DEBBIE WHEN I WAS RECORDING “NOT FAKIN’ IT” AT ATLANTIC STUDIOS IN NEW YORK. SHE WAS WORKING IN THE STUDIO NEXT DOOR.  SHE’S A SWEETHEART AND A GREAT SINGER.

 
MD: I’ve always been intrigued by your song-writing and the fact that in first period of Hanoi you weren’t credited on many songs yet when you went solo you wrote some wonderful stuff. How did Hanoi song-writing take place first time around?

 

MM: I REALLY CAME ON TO MY OWN AS A SONG WRITER WHEN I STARTED MY SOLO CAREER.  IN THE EARLY HANOI DAYS I DIDN’T WRITE THAT MUCH YET.

 

MD: For someone who has been in the spotlight for such a long time you still seem to be a very private person? 

 

MM: YES, I LIKE TO GUARD MY PRIVACY VERY MUCH.

 

MD: Over the years you’ve been involved in a lot of side projects and done your fair share of guest slots, are there any things that particularly stand out?

 

MM: THE “SUN CITY” PROJECT WAS ONE OF THE COOLEST THINGS I’VE EVER BEEN PART OF.  WORKING WITH JOHNNY THUNDERS AND STIV BATORS WAS AMAZING TOO AND LITTLE STEVEN OF COURSE.  PLUS WORKING WITH SLASH AND GUNS’N’ROSES, ESPECIALLY THE “AIN’T IT FUN” DUET WITH AXL IN MEMORY OF STIV BATORS WAS VERY SIGNIFICANT.

 

HANOI REFORMED

 

MD: Was the reformation something you felt was bound to happen at some point?

 

MM: NO. IT WAS A REBIRTH WHICH I NEVER THOUGHT WOULD HAPPEN.

MD: The McCoy/Monroe song-writing partnership started from “12 Shots” and just seemed to get better and better! Street Poetry is a mighty fine album to leave us with!

 

MM: THANK YOU.

 

MD: What are your personal favourite songs from that period?

 

MM:  I LIKE “OBSCURED” AND “NEW YORK CITY”, “THE DEVIL IN YOU” AND “HYPERMOBILE” FOR EXAMPLE.

 

MD: I never got back to see any of those final shows though thankfully I did see you a few times back in the day. Is this the final time or are you not ruling anything out?

 

MM: FOR HANOI?  YES, THAT’S FINAL.

 

MD: Apart from Sami, who is in your solo band are things still good between everyone and you keep in touch?

 

MM: YES, THINGS ARE GOOD IN THIS BAND.

 

MD: I know there is a book “All those Wasted Years” by Ari Vantanen and I’ve read Andy’s “Sheriff McCoy”. Firstly will Ari’s book get an English release and when are you going to put your story in print for us?

 

MM: WE’RE WORKING ON GETTING THE HANOI BOOK OUT IN ENGLISH, WHICH I REALLY HOPE WILL HAPPEN SINCE IT’S A GREAT, VERY WELL WRITTEN BOOK.  I’M WORKING ON MY OWN BOOK AS WE SPEAK.

 

MD: How does it feel to be out there solo again?

 

MM: IT FEELS GREAT! ESPECIALLY WITH THIS NEW BAND.

 

MD: Looking back on your amazing journey must have a fair few surreal moments mixed in with the tragedy and the great times. What is one of the weirdest things that has happened to you?

MM: OH THERE’S BEEN SO MANY WEIRD THINGS…LET’S JUST SAY - SOME PEOPLE HAVE ONE OF THOSE DAYS, I HAVE ONE OF THOSE LIVES.

 

MD: If you could have been involved in the creation of any album or piece of music at any point in the history of music what would it have been and why?

 

MM: JUST THE ONES THAT I HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN. 

 

MD: What would you say that Hanoi Rocks gave to the world? How do you see the legacy of the band at this point in your life?

 

MM: I THINK IT WAS A COOL BAND THAT MAINTAINED ITS INTEGRITY WHICH I’M PRETTY PROUD OF.

 

MD: What’s next for Michael Monroe?

 

MM: TOURING WITH THE NEW “SENSORY OVERDRIVE“ALBUM FOR THE NEXT YEAR OR SO UNTIL WE MAKE THE NEXT ONE.

 

MD: And finally to end with an easy one, what is the meaning of life?

 

MM: LIVING.

 

 

Michael and Sami Viper Room LA 2010

Mike and Sami outside one of my favourite LA haunts The Viper Room

 

 

MD: Many thanks, can’t wait to hear the new album and hope to catch you live in the near future.

MM: THANK YOU.  HOPE TO SEE YOU AT ONE OF OUR SHOWS SOON TOO.  ALL THE BEST! 

 

MICHAEL MONROE

 

www.michaelmonroe.com

 

 

MICHAEL SPOKE TO MARK DIGGINS AT WWW.THEROCKPIT.NET MARCH 2011

 

photos by John McMurtrie or unknown