VICKI JAMES WRIGHT INTERVIEW:
June 14, 2007
Vicki James Wright was the charismatic frontman for such underrated bands as Tokyo Blade and Johnny Crash. These days, shortening his working name to simply Vick Wright, he is a busy man, working as a strip club DJ, developing a skit-comedy TV show and releasing his very first novel entitled ‘South Of The Pole’. In this exclusive interview he sets the record straight about his musical career, his upcoming projects and the release of the long-shelved second Johnny Crash album.
SR: What are you up to these days?
VW: I’m working on a TV show called “Village Idiots”. It is scheduled for release in early 2008. We have shot most of the footage for the show. I act in the show and also am one of the writers. For the last 10 years I have been working as a strip club DJ, everywhere from LA and New York and beyond. Also, I have a book coming out June 19th 2007. It’s called SOUTH OF THE POLE (The Life and Crimes of a Strip Club DJ.) It’s a novel and it will be published through MidnightPressBooks.com and Amazon.com.
SR: Give us some insight into what South Of The Pole will be about and when will it be released?
VW: South of the Pole is a first hand account of what it is really like to work as a strip club DJ. It also deals with why strippers and people in this industry are the way they are. The back story deals with why good people do bad things, hence its alternate title, The Life and Crimes of a Strip Club DJ.
SR: Is Village Idiots a real life show or fiction, and has any TV station picked it up?
VW: Village Idiots is a cross between the Ali-G show and Little Britain, we have a producer on board. It originally had elements of reality TV to it, but we pitched it and our producer changed the format to strictly skit comedy.
SR: I assume it will be too raunchy to pitch to the normal networks?
VW: It is going to be on cable TV. As soon as the pilot is finished I will send SleazeRoxx a copy.
SR: During the 80s rock scene it was almost a sin to admit listening to other forms of music, so being a DJ how much of the music that you play do you actually like and what are some of your favorite artists these days?
VW: I’ve always been a music lover, primarily rock. 70s rock to be exact. But I do like many other forms of music. I like Paul Oakenfold, Crystal Method and Kruder & Dorfmeister for electronica. As for Hip Hop, I never really got into it, although I do like Eminem, he’s a good street poet! And “yes” being a DJ I do play a lot of music I don’t really care for.
SR: Aside from writing your new show, do you still write songs?
VW: After I left Johnny Crash I learned to play guitar and started writing complete songs, rather than just lyrics. I have many songs that I’ve written over the years.
SR: Do you have any plans on releasing some of your stuff one day?
VW: Not as of yet. The music business is not what it used to be. I’ve moved onto the other things. I never wanted to be one of those old 80s rockers who was still trying to relive yesteryear. However I did have fun back then.
SR: What do you think of some of these bands coming back with one or two original members? Would you ever consider such a thing?
VW: I think that most of the bands that are doing that are just doing it to make money, so good luck to them. I personally wouldn’t do it. August contacted me last year to potentially do a Johnny Crash reunion. In the beginning he seemed to think that Punkee would do it. When Punkee decided not to, I pulled out too. Johnny Crash was a great young band with a lot of potential. I know Chris Stewart holds some kind of grudge towards me. So it seems that there would be no chance of him getting back together and giving an all original member reunion a shot (minus Andy Rogers of course). Without Chris, August and myself, Johnny Crash wouldn’t be Johnny Crash, with the exception of adding JJ Bolt from the second Album. One thing I’d like to mention here regarding Chris is that I bare no animosity towards him. Everyone who has read his interview has heard his side of the story and there is some truth to it, however some of the facts have been twisted around.
SR: We’ll get to Johnny Crash shortly, but first, when did you realize that you wanted to make a career out of music?
VW: Probably when I discovered I could sing. I’ve always loved music ever since I was a small child. As soon as I was old enough to walk into a record store and buy a record I started collecting records and studying them. By the time I was 14 I started hanging out in pubs and bars with local musicians. I joined my first band when I was 15 and started doing gigs shortly after.
SR: What was the first band you went into the studio with and how was the debut experience?
VW: BoBo was the first band I recorded with when I was 15. The demos were pretty good for some guys in their mid teens. I played with Tim Walker who was the Lead Guitarist. He went on to play with Harlyquin after I joined Tokyo Blade. Tim is now a producer and owns Voltage Records in Bradford, England. I’m very proud of him. He has a lot of good product on his label.
SR: What led to you getting the gig with Tokyo Blade?
VW: I replied to an add in Melody Maker magazine. They called me a few days later and asked if I wanted to go on tour with them in France. I couldn’t believe my ears. These guys didn’t even know if I was the guy singing on the tape I had sent them, and they wanted me to front their band on a French tour. I said “yes” obviously, and I got on a train to London the next day. I learned 12 songs in 24 hours, I was 17 years old and the lead singer of a relatively big band in Europe. It was dream come true. I recorded 2 albums with them, opened for Metallica, Ozzy, Dio at every European festival you can imagine….and then got ripped off! Oh, well you live and learn!
SR: Was it difficult coming into a band that fast and then having to record vocals for a CD that was practically finished?
VW: Not really. When I was 17 I was just glad to be in a band that I could make a living out of. Everyone was way older than me, so I figured I’d learn as much about music as I could. I’d been singing all the songs that I would later record on tour for a month, so every thing in the recording process just fell into place.
SR: As far as I’m concerned Blackhearts & Jaded Spades is one of those great albums that flew under the radar. What was that time like in the band?
VW: Black Hearts was the album that I got to write songs on. Tokyo Blade came from the early New Wave of British Heavy Metal school of rock, with influences like Iron Maiden, Tygers of Pan Tang and Def Leppard. I came from being the only kid in my school who knew who Aerosmith and Rose Tattoo were. It was a little strained writing with the band at first because my style was more sleazy and bluesy. I wanted to be the next Rolling Stones, they wanted to be the next Iron Maiden. Don’t get me wrong, I like all the above bands. The thing was, it wasn’t that easy melding all those styles together, but some how we did it. And it actually turned out to be a really good little album. I was 18 when we recorded it and listening to it now I think it holds up pretty well.
SR: When did it all go bad with Tokyo Blade? How did you get ripped off?
VW: After Black Hearts was finished I was told that we were signing a publishing deal by our manager and Andy Boulton, the lead guitarist. I remember that there was a long period of time where I had a series of unreturned phone calls. I lived in Yorkshire in the north of England and Boulton and the manager lived in Wiltshire in the south. I was completely detached from the band, except for our Bassist, Andy Wrighton. He was my only line to the band at that time. We would talk via phone every week. The thing was, he was being kept in the dark too. The final straw was when I heard that Boulton had bought a new house….with what money I wondered!!! Well your guess is as good as mine. I confronted the manager and Andy Boulton and both of them became defensive. After this I basically was done. I pride myself on having integrity and being straight up with people. And I’ve always demanded the same from the people I work with. That was the final straw! I packed up my bags and moved to Hollywood. I found the most amazing music scene I could ever have imagined. The first band I saw was Guns ‘N’ Roses at the Troubadour. I was sold…L.A. was my town.
SR: What was it like for a young English kid stepping into that whole 80s L.A. rock scene?
VW: Unbelievable! I think that the LA 80s rock scene is the most significant music scene, ever, in the U.S. I’m sure that many people will disagree with me, such as all the Grunge people, or the rap people or whoever. My point is that it was so significant because it was huge. There were so many bands, there were loads of great clubs such as Cathouse, Bordello, White Trash, Scream, Camp Hollywood to name a few. I could go on and on!!! I really felt part of something big!
SR: Was the Vicki James Wright Band your first attempt at getting something together in L.A.?
VW: Yes. I used my own name more for “name recognition” sake. I wanted to get local interest quickly. It worked right away because within a month of playing gigs around L.A. I had been approached by many bands, such as Rough Cutt, Candy (Gilby Clarke’s Band), Driver and L.A. Guns.
SR: Give us the history of the Vicki James Wright Band (members, recordings, etc).
VW: There’s not much to give. Hector Alvarado- Guitar, Rem Anderson- Drums, Dan ?!#?.(Damn! I forgot his name)- Guitar and Jonathan Weber – Bass. We recorded one demo and that was it. I went back to England for a couple of months to see my family, and when I returned to LA, Tracii Guns hooked me up with Chris Stewart.
SR: Is it true that you auditioned for L.A. Guns at one point?
VW: Tracii wanted me to audition. The problem was, I was still in England, so Phil Lewis flew out to LA, auditioned and got the job. I missed that gig by a couple of weeks. I really liked LA Guns and I think it would have been interesting to work with Tracii.
SR: It only took 6 months for Johnny Crash to get signed, what were those early days like with the band?
VW: In retrospect the first six months of Johnny Crash were a roller-coaster ride. I was living on my friend’s couches, on a budget of $7 a week. I’d bum a slice of pizza off people at the Rainbow just so I could survive. Kinda sad to say that a year before I was singing in a successful European metal band. Finally, Chris Stewart tracked me down and asked me to join his band and I replied “If you put a roof over my head and feed me I’ll join!” That was the deal. And so Johnny Crash was born. We came up in the scene really quickly and we had fun doing it. Those were the days before the drugs ruined everything.
SR: How did the drugs affect the various members of the band?
VW: I think that because I never got into drugs I didn’t see the actual negative effects that they were having on the band, until it was too late. I don’t want to point fingers and blame at anyone directly because that’s not my style. However, that being said some of the problems they caused were things like making bad business decisions, i.e., pissing off certain record company people, not being able to play your instrument, missing or being late for rehearsals…you know, the usual band shit!
SR: What is your take on the recording of the debut and the departure of producer Andy Johns?
VW: I’ve always liked Andy. In fact I worked with him a couple of times after the demise of Johnny Crash. We did two sets of demos together, the stuff was really good. Regarding him not producing the first album, I think he was busy and we would have had to wait for two or three months before he was available. Looking back, he probably would have been the right choice. Originally we were going to work with Deiter Dierks, but we decided his production was a little too clean. We wanted Mutt Lange, but that was never going to happen. So we went with Tony Platt, Mutt’s engineer on “Back In Black”.
SR: Once the debut got released you hit the road supporting Motley Crue. What are your best and worst memories from this time?
VW: The Motley Crue tour was great. It was us and Tesla opening for most of it. I think the fact that we were playing huge arenas was one of the best things. I had played some big gigs before when I was in Tokyo Blade, such as the Breaking Sound festival in Paris and the Poperinge Festival in Belgium, but the scale of the Motley tour was amazing. The production alone was mindboggling! As for bad memories, the only one I can think of was walking into various record stores in each town and not seeing our album on the shelves. WTG/Epic seemed to have forgotten that people who saw us on tour with Motley might actually want to buy our product. Ahh! the joys of being signed to a label that doesn’t give a shit about you!
SR: In my interview with Christopher Stewart he claimed you ripped him off, wanted to take Johnny Crash into a more commercial direction and refused to move to Europe to promote the second album there. What is your side of the story?
VW: First of all, I’ve never ripped anybody off in my life. I’ve never been in the position of being able to rip anyone off. In fact I’ve been ripped off many times in my musical career, but then you probably know that already. Chris has said that I sold two of his beloved Marshall speakers without his permission. Well, the truth is I did sell two of his Marshall speakers. But the whole truth is this “Chris and I basically owned all the J.C. equipment. One day I noticed that two of our Metaltronix speakers were missing. I confronted Chris with this fact and he told me that I shouldn’t be concerned with this because I wasn’t a guitar player. I told him logically that the speakers were my property too and being his business partner I wanted an explanation. He never took the time to explain to me what happened to the speakers and brushed it off. After the band was over I took the liberty of splitting the equipment down the middle as fairly as I could. With the exception of two Marshall gray faced speakers which I took and sold off with the rest of the unwanted equipment. The funny thing was, Chris screamed and shouted at me like I was the asshole, when in actual fact all I had done is what he had done months earlier, SELL EQUIPMENT WITHOUT MY BUSINESS PARTNERS CONSENT!!!”. Chris was sometimes a little foggy back then, probably because of his drug use. I sincerely hope that one day he’ll be able to let go of the past and move on. I bear no ill will towards Chris, in fact we were friends once upon a time.
Regarding me taking Johnny Crash in a more commercial direction, all I can say in regard to that is I didn’t write the music. I wrote the lyrics for the band and if you are familiar with what I’ve written you can see that my writing style has never changed over the years. From Tokyo Blade to Johnny Crash, it has remained within a certain style.
Also, the whole “moving to Europe to promote the second album” thing is ridiculous! I had toured with Tokyo Blade in Europe many times and I knew the scene. For us to have gone there with a five man band, plus two or three crew members, including rent and living expenses, pay the crew, pay ourselves and own a van/truck would have been impossible. We would have been on the next plane back from Berlin with our tails between our legs. It was the most insane idea that ever crossed Chris Stewart’s lips.
SR: Bassist Andy Rogers was one of rock and roll’s casualties. What are some of your favorite memories of him?
VW: Andy Rogers was my room mate and best friend. He was a few years older than me, but I always thought of him like a little brother. I don’t have any one favorite memory of him because there are so many. I can tell you this though, Andy was a natural joker. He made everyone around him laugh. He was very self deprecating, so usually the laugh was at his expense…what a guy! I miss him very much and I curse the day when someone taught him how to use a needle.
SR: Dizzy Reed and Matt Sorum both played on Johnny Crash’s unreleased album. What are your feelings on those recordings and would you ever consider officially releasing it?
VW: I think that the second unreleased album was cutting edge and groundbreaking. It still sounds good today. The problem with it being released was Epic records, they shelved the record indefinitely. But Chris and I have started talking again and have decided to finally release the CD on Suncity Records (www.suncityrecords.com). As for Matt Sorum playing on the album, all I can say is that it was a pleasure playing with such an amazing drummer. His playing on the second album was probably the best recorded stuff he’s ever done. Ask him, I think he’ll agree. Oh, and Matt why didn’t you and Slash call me for the Velvet Revolver auditions? Just kidding, he probably thinks I’m a thief. I know him and Chris Stewart are old friends. And as for Dizzy he did some great keyboards on JC 2. He also played with me in the Real McCoys with JJ Bolt.
SR: How did you manage to get the rights for the unreleased Johnny Crash CD from Epic and when can we expect its release?
VW: It’s been 16 years since the album was completed…the rights have reverted to us again. As far as its release date, well, all I can say is it will be soon!
SR: Were the Real McCoys and JJ Bolt your bands after Johnny Crash? Did you ever release anything with them?
VW: Yes, The Real McCoys was the band after J.C. JJ Bolt was the guitar player who replaced August in the second lineup of J.C. He formed The Real McCoys with me. We did two sets of demos with Andy Johns, but nothing was ever released. The Real McCoys was similar in musical style to J.C.’s second album, straight ahead sleazy rock with slide guitar and harmonica.
SR: After all your years in the music business, what stories bring a smile to your face when you look back on your career?
VW: Probably one of the best memories was when I was in Tokyo Blade, 17 years old and opening for Ozzy, Metallica and Dio at the Breaking Sound Festival in Paris. I ran out on stage pumped up on adrenalin, in front of over 100,000 people and knew that music was what I was meant to do. I remember Jake E. Lee and Jimmy Bain giving me the thumbs up from the side of the stage. That meant a lot to a 17 year old kid. I ran into Jimmy a few years later at the Rainbow and he recognized me right away. That meant even more to a 19 year old kid.
SR: At what point did you realize that you would have to do something besides music to pay the bills?
VW: That’s a good question. I don’t think I ever did consciously think that I needed to change professions so I could pay the bills. I think there are two kinds of musicians, the first being the guys who are diehard musicians who play until they drop. Secondly, there are those who maybe have other talents, or interests that take them down a different path. I fall into the latter of the two. I run into people who used to know me from back in the day and they ask me things like “are you still singing?”, and when I tell them “no” they get a disappointed look on their face. I had fun in the music business, and it ends there! Sometimes you gotta know when to move on!
SR: Women are usually attracted to rockers, so being a former major label frontman and working around strippers as a DJ, do you have to fight the dancers off?
VJW: Most of the girls I’ve worked with were babies back in the 80s and early 90s, so the answer to that is “no”. However, there is the odd one here and there that digs an old rocker!
SR: Any last words for your fans out there?
VW: Well, to all my fans out there, if there’s any of you left. Keep your eyes open for Village Idiots and SOUTH OF THE POLE. And after that shameful self plug, I just want to say thank you to Sleazeroxx. This interview brought back a lot of memories for me. Also, for all you myspace junkies, you can catch me at (www.myspace.com/vickvegas).
Thanks to Vick Wright