It’s been well over a decade since the last time former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke released a solo album. Yet even with all the time that has passed, he still maintains his usual cool, with The Gospel Truth further cementing his rock star status, and proving some things are worth the wait.
I’ve got to admit, the first single, “Rock N Roll is Getting Louder,” came off as a bit weak to me; but once you really dive into the album, there’s plenty to unfold. The title track opens the record on a somewhat funky note, and is quickly followed by blues-laden tracks in the form of “Wayfarer” and “Tightwad.” But the two standout moments come in the form of a couple of diamonds in the rough; both “The Ending” and “Rusted N Busted” are undeniably catchy numbers worth blasting.
I’ve long since lauded Guns N’ Roses as one of the first bands to really introduce me to harder rock, and I can still remember Clarke being in the band as though it were yesterday, and where I was when I first heard his debut solo album Pawnshop Guitars. And while he may have already been a force to be reckoned with back then, it’s great to see just how much he has grown as a musician since the early ’90s.
With renewed interest in the decade of decadence continually growing each year, there’s no shortage of various media information on ’80s hard rock (a.k.a. ‘hair’ or ‘glam’ rock) and heavy metal out there these days. But this new book by rock journalists Tom Beaujour and Richard Bienstock (with a brief forward by Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor) is truly the new bible on ’80s hard rock and heavy metal.
Largely tracing it’s roots back to the influence Van Halen had on the movement in the mid to late ’70s, here the two authors put together a collection of interviews that includes numerous musicians, producers, promoters, magazine editors, and the like, to help tell the tale of arguably one of rock’s greatest eras. Various key members of such staple acts as Motley Crue, Ratt, Guns N’ Roses, Quiet Riot, Dokken, L.A. Guns, W.A.S.P., Poison, Cinderella, and Warrant, – as well as numerous Rewind It Magazine interviewees from over the years – including Jay Jay French of Twisted Sister, Jack Russell of Great White, Brian Forsthye of Kix, and Rachel Bolan of Skid Row (among many others), are just some who help recall the foundation of the genre that changed it all in great detail.
The perspective is unique and fresh, despite some of the stories already found in other published works (many of those involved have previously published their own individual biographies). There’s even a brief but brilliant collection of many never-before-seen photos included as well. In short, Nothin’ But a Good Time is a rollercoaster ride of literature from start to finish, and one of the best of it’s kind currently available on the subject. It simply ‘don’t get better than this.’
When I spoke to Quiet Riot/Hookers & Blow guitarist Alex Grossi via phone from his Las Vegas home last week, one of the first things I mentioned was how our paths had already crossed previously back in 2006, when I saw him perform with Quiet Riot on a bill that also included Skid Row in Ormand Beach. To my surprise, he actually remembered the exact show; “Oh yeah, during one of those Bike Week events! I vividly remember going to a Waffle House afterwards with a bunch of bikers and meeting with some fans (laughs). That was a good show!”
While technically it was actually Biketoberfest and not Bike Week (though I won’t fault him for it too much, it does get confusing!), I was still impressed none-the-less for remembering, and knew it was primed to be a good conversation from then on out. So of course I tested his memory further and asked him to recall how exactly Hookers & Blow, his cover band he formed along with Guns N’ Roses keyboardist Dizzy Reed (one of two GN’R members Grossi has worked with extensively, the other being former drummer Steven Adler in Adler’s Appetite) around the same time he joined Quiet Riot (in 2004), originally came together. He tells me; “We met at a place on Sunset Blvd. that’s no longer there called the Cat Club. It was sort of like the local musicians watering hole, where they would have an open jam there every night. I approached him to see if he wanted to maybe do some cover gigs. We exchanged numbers, and a couple of days later he said, ‘yeah, let’s book some shows, but call the band Hookers & Blow.’ And I said, ‘sounds good to me,’ and we gave it a shot, and it sort of snowballed from there. Now seventeen years later we’re finally putting out a record (laughs).”
The band has seen it’s share of members come and go, and Grossi did his best to clarify; “We’ve had a bazillion guys in and out of the band over the years, but the ‘core’ as of right now is myself on guitar and Dizzy on vocals and keys, but we also have Mike Duda from W.A.S.P. on bass, and Johnny Kelly from Type O Negative/Danzig on drums. And as far as who also appears on the album, (late Quiet Riot drummer) Frankie Banali did a couple of songs, and so did Scott Griffin from L.A. Guns. And when it comes to the touring aspect, we’ve had everyone from Chip Z’Nuff from Enuff Z’ Nuff and Todd Kerns from Slash’s band play with us live. It’s been a rotating lineup, but like I said, the core is really myself, Dizzy, Duda, and Kelly, and also Dizzy’s wife, Nadja, on background vocals.”
Drummer Kelly has also been pulling double duty in Quiet Riot along with Grossi, taking over for the previously-mentioned late drummer Banali. I asked if this arrangement would be permanent or not, and he said; “When Frankie got sick, Johnny kind of fell into the spot. At first he was just keeping the seat warm, but now we need him to keep it warm for us every night. He’s been with Hookers & Blow for eight years now though, so it made sense for him to fill that (now unfortunately empty) seat for Quiet Riot. But he’s doing a great job, and he’s family, so I’m really glad it’s worked out the way it has.”
I also asked Grossi for some insight on how H&B chooses the songs for it’s sets, as well as for their upcoming full length album. He explained; “Well, when we initially got together we were only playing live shows, so we basically were sending master lists of the songs we all knew back and forth through emails to each other. And over the years we’ve since added and subtracted songs from the set. But as far as the record goes, I’d say it’s about fifty percent of our live set, and then the other half are songs we’ve always wanted to cover. For example, we cover Body Count’s “The Winner Loses,” and we’ve never played that live before. Then on the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got a track like David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust,” which is literally the first song we’ve ever played together and have played at every single show since.” But Grossi maintains that H&B doesn’t indulge too much when it comes to playing their respective bands’ music in their sets; “We’ll throw in the occasional Guns N’ Roses deep cut, but for the most part we like to keep it completely separate from our day jobs (laughs).”
I was also curious if a cover of Led Zepplin’s “Trampled Under Foot,” which featured the late Banali on drums, was a personal favorite of Frankie’s. He tells me; “That was a really special track. He was given 3-6 months to live in April of 2019, and he recorded that track in November of that same year after about a dozen rounds of chemo, and he still did it all in one take. He was definitely amazing though, just a monster. But we learned that, and “No Quarter” specifically for him, cause Zepplin was obviously Frankie’s favorite band. “Trampled…” we actually played live for years before we recorded it. In 2013 we got hired to do a residency at the Whiskey A Go-Go for a month, and Frankie wanted to come down and play, and asked if we could put some Zepplin in the set. We did, and it just turned out great.”
Before our conversation ended, Grossi clarified that Quiet Riot will still go on, and confirmed some upcoming show dates with both them and H&B; “We’re still going full steam ahead, that’s what Frankie wanted. His wife has taken over as manager and is doing a great job, and it’s nice to be able to still carry on his legacy, and it’s like having him here still in a way. But both bands actually have shows booked for the year already; Quiet Riot has a show March 6 at the Landis Theater in Vineland, NJ. And Hookers & Blow actually have four shows in Texas the following week, in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and Eagles Pass. They’re reduced capacity shows of course, but thing’s are slowly opening up, and wherever it makes sense for us, we’re going to do some shows here and there.”
One final thing I wanted to ask Grossi, was his thoughts on the late, great guitar legend Eddie Van Halen’s recent passing. Grossi tells me; “I was such a HUGE fan of Eddie’s, but I never aspired to play like him, because I knew I never could! There was Eddie, and then there was everybody else. It’s almost surreal that he’s not here with us anymore.”
Those who know me well, know what a huge fan of ’80s metal veterans W.A.S.P. I’ve been since day one (frontman Blackie Lawless was even the first major interview I ever conducted as a professional journalist more than a decade ago). Guitarist Chris Holmes no doubt played an enormous role in their early sound, yet never really got his just due…until now.
Following heavily in the footsteps of Anvil! The Story of Anvil, Mean Man is the ultimate underdog story that finally answers the question (one that I’ve even been asked a time or two over the years) “Whatever happened to Chris Holmes?” perfectly (for those who don’t know, he now resides in France these days with his wife, still making music albeit on a smaller scale).
Current and archive footage, as well as interviews with numerous musicians including Scott Ian of Anthrax, Dizzy Reed of Guns N’ Roses, and Holmes’ own former bandmates Johnny Rod and Stet Howland, help tell the tale of this once revered guitarist, who no doubt got the raw end of the deal from his former band mate Lawless.
I only wish more of Holmes’ former bandmates might have been included, especially early (and somewhat elusive) members like Randy Piper or Tony Richards, or even Lawless himself for the sake of transparency (although I knew going in the likelihood of that wasn’t very promising). Still, this quite possibly might be the closest the world is ever getting to a straight forward W.A.S.P. documentary, and I can live with that.
Tommy Stinson has truly had the kind of career most aspiring musicians only ever dream about (and as one of the many bassists he’s influenced over the decades, I’m speaking from experience). In the early ’80s, he was a founding member of pioneering indie rockers The Replacements, a band that remains a personal favorite of mine to this very day. After their dissolution in the early ’90s, he briefly formed the alternative bands Bash & Pop and Perfect, before joining Guns N’ Roses (another personal fav of yours truly’s) in 1998, stepping in for departed bassist Duff McKagan – a role he occupied until McKagan’s eventual return to the band in 2016.
And if all that wasn’t enough, he’s also done time with ’90s rockers Soul Asylum, and in more recent years, he’s kept busy with semi-recent reunions of both The Replacements, and Bash & Pop, as well as released the occasional solo material. Stinson also has yet another new project called Cowboys in the Campfire that he’s working on, and next month will be embarking on a solo tour with The Lemonheads. Last week, I was able to actually catch up with Stinson over the phone while at his New York home regarding the upcoming tour, where we discussed his many past, present, and future endeavors.
I immediately asked Stinson if he had played with The Lemonheads prior to said upcoming tour, to which he said; “First time playing solo shows with them, yeah, but I did some shows with them when I was playing bass with Soul Asylum for awhile, maybe 10 years ago or so.” Tommy also says fans can expect to hear a little of everything on these shows; “I’ll probably lean a little more on my solo records and Bash & Pop stuff. I might even include some of my new stuff I’m working on with Cowboys in the Campfire, so a little bit of everything.”
As far as what songs Tommy still enjoys playing live, he tells me he’s really excited to get some of these new Cowboys in the Campfire songs out there. He also says, “A lot of the Bash & Pop stuff really translates well with an acoustic. There’s always “Friday Night (Is Killing Me)” and “Nothing” from that first album, those are always fun to play, and I can usually get a rise out of people and myself with them.”
I also had to ask what it was like being a part of the long-delayed 2008 Guns N’ Roses album Chinese Democracy, one of the most talked about (and expensive) rock records ever made, to which he said; “You know, I have a few favorite moments on that record, I suppose one of them would be “There Was a Time.” It got to the point where we were rehashing things so much, and then they kind of went to the meat grinder and they sound like they sound now. It would be cool if one day it actually came out in a more raw form without all of the bells and whistles that were kind of heaped on top of it, you know?”
We ended our conversation on what’s in store for Tommy in the near future, to which he said; “With a little luck, I’ll be finishing up this Cowboys in the Campfire record, and after that hopefully starting to work on a new Bash & Pop album, probably by the end of the summer.” I also asked if there were any hopes at all of seeing another Replacements reunion after their last run ended in 2015; “I don’t really know if there’s any need or want for it anymore after we did that last bit. I haven’t really talked to Paul (Westerburg) in awhile and I’m not sure what he’s thinking right now. Never say never, but it looks like that last run might have been the last one.”
At the time of this writing, the closest Tommy will be coming to Florida on this upcoming tour with The Lemonheads is Atlanta, but you can keep up to date on tour dates, and everything else Tommy is up to at http://www.tommystinson.com, and via social media.