Eric Greif Interview
ERIC GREIF INTERVIEW:
April 28, 2007
As Allan Coffman’s assistant, Eric Greif got to work with a young Motley Crue and set up their first ‘ridiculous’ tour into Canada. From there he produced and managed several bands, leading to several signings with Greenworld Records. After a stint working with heavier bands Eric eventually entered law school and slowly drifted away from the music business. In this exclusive interview Eric shares some of his memories about the Sunset Strip and life in the music business.
SR: How did a young man from Canada get involved in the music business?
EG: I had played in bands in high school and knew by Grade 12 that I wanted toget the hell out of Calgary and do something in music. As a US citizen itwas easy to contemplate a move to a big American city, and I chose LAbecause I knew that it was where all the record labels were. So, during thesummer of 1980 after grad, newly turned 18, I headed for the States in mytiny Fiat X19.
Within a year I was a student at the University of Sound Arts in Hollywood,originally with the intention of becoming a recording engineer, butinstructor Ron Fair (currently head of Geffen Records) convinced me toswitch to production. He flattered me that I had a decent ear for producing,and that fed my ego in dangerous ways, but it did give me added ball size totry and push myself to carve out a career. I wanted to produce or manage ordo something cool in the music biz, and that’s all I knew.
The early 80s was an incredibly exciting time to be in LA and I hung out inWest Hollywood and went from music club to music club meeting bands. I wasyoung but cocksure & confident and I guess that came off as some sort ofcharisma. Being that the hard rock and metal scene was exploding on theSunset Strip, the attitude of the music and the musicians was equallyassertive & self-confident, so we were made for each other.
SR: What was your first attempt at producing a band?
EG: I had started sound-on-sound recording as a teenager like everyone else did.You’d record something with one machine and then press play while you playedanother instrument along with it and recorded both with a second machine. Ithen moved up to a TEAC 4-track and recorded my own band in Calgary.
When at recording school, I had to produce my first real project. It wasgreat because we got the free use of a killer studio, the old City Recordersat Sunset & Gower, and the only catch was that it would be late at night. Istarted looking for the right band to approach with the deal of a century -free demo in exchange for being my guinea pigs. I saw tons of HR and metalbands, but it was the Greg Leon Invasion that I approached after the show atThe Troubadour. I had heard of Greg’s reputation as some sort of locallegend but I went up to him anyway and told him I’d be his producer and he’dget a demo out of it. I think I’d just turned 19 and Greg was 23. We endedup becoming close friends and I did three songs with him, bass player JoeyVera and drummer Carl Elizondo – they were ‘Stay with me Tonight’, ‘Born toDie’ and ‘Tell The Children’. Lots of reverb, lots of guitartracks. The band seemed to like it and I was happy with myself, as always.Actually, I didn’t realize at the time how influential Greg was on theStrip, plus he was a helluva cool dude. We started hanging out as a resultof the demo, and I met loads of other bands through him. The whole thinggave me instant credibility having Greg trumpet my prowess.
SR: What was it like being in the studio with the Greg Leon Invasion and being relatively new to the production game?
EG: I remember that Greg had a vintage Gibson Les Paul and he was incrediblyfast but soulful in his playing. Because I was confident, I wasn’tintimidated, though obviously I wanted it to work. Joey was even youngerthan me, and he had a big Fender P bass. I had lots of musical ideas, andGreg seemed to dig them, so we got on well.
What I totally lacked was having any sort of technical know-how re: miking,equipment and that sort of shit. I had recently learned it in a teachingenvironment, but that certainly doesn’t substitute for experience. However,I managed to stumble my way through everything on account of the engineer.
SR: I take it that Greg Leon’s connection with Tommy Lee is how you started working with Motley Crue?
EG: One day Greg asked if Joey Vera & I would like to come with him into WestHollywood to meet a former band friend of his. It turned out to be Tommy LeeBass and the infamous apartment at Sunset & Clark that he shared with Nikki& Vince. Greg introduced me as his ‘producer’.
Tommy was a guy operating at 100 mph – very friendly, moving in alldirections every frigging second, constantly tapping his fingers on tables,sitting down/standing up, etc. I think the apartment door was hanging fromthe hinges on account of having been kicked in a dozen times too many. Inthe apartment also was an incredibly sexy young woman who, in my memoryformed from a fanciful teenage mind, only had on a long t-shirt. Tommy satus all down at a dining room table and began excitedly telling us that theirmanager Allan had just put them on a retainer of weekly cash and that he wasbeginning to feel as if his new band would make it, since they were gettingquite happening in LA. In a goofy, teen kind of way – I mean he wasn’t yet19 – he then proceeded to tell us how being in Motley Crue had awesomebenefits, and to prove it he said these exact words: “watch this”. He thenmotioned for the pin-up chick to sit at the table with us, and she did.”Show us your tits” he said, again in a bizarre combination rock star/geekygoofball kind of way. Then, without saying a word, but with a big smile onher face, she lifted up the t-shirt to reveal pristine, tanned breasts. Theywere so big that they kind of flopped right on the table like she hadreleased two big gobs of playdough into a plate. Now, this isn’t exactly thesort of thing I was used to in Calgary, so I just sat motionless in a stateof shock, and looked over at Joey, who apparently didn’t see things likethat very often in Pasadena, as he was sitting with his mouth wide open. Tommytried to top that by taking us on the roof and frisbeeing a Vic Verget albumdownwind right into the intersection of Sunset Blvd., but Joey & I werestill speechless from the tits. That is my first encounter with anythingCrue.
Within six months, I had got to know Allan Coffman, their manager, and foundmyself becoming his assistant and doing band business and speaking withlabels on the phone, organizing gigs, paying band member rents, etc. By thattime Joey had quit Greg’s band to form Armored Saint with his buddies, sothe Invasion was in disarray. Allan was in the construction business innorthern Cali and, although he believed in the band’s financial potential,had no real understanding of their music and admitted it wasn’t his thing.Instead, he was in it for the swinging image that management afforded. Ihate to speak ill of the dead, but Allan was sort of an odd combinationChuck Norris and Chris Farley – he was tall, blond and looked tough enoughin his tan, turd looking long leather coat, but he was also a bumbling drunkat the most inappropriate moments. I had more than my share of mopping uphis messes. I was young but I had a business sense and I hadn’t yet starteddrinking, although Allan and Bob ‘Mick Mars’ Deal changed that on my 20thbirthday.
SR: What happened at your 20th birthday party?
EG: I was staying with Mick and his girlfriend Linda at their place in Redondoand found myself with him & Allan in the afternoon. Allan insisted that wedrink the ‘motley brew’, which was Christian Brothers brandy mixed withKahlua. In all honesty, I’d managed to make it 20 years without gettingdrunk, probably because neither of my folks were drinkers when I was a kid.
Anyway, I liked the taste of the drink and so the three of us proceeded toget smashed. I remember being on Mick’s bedroom phone with a record execwhile Allan was on the other line, the room was spinning around, and Allanwalked in while still talking on the other phone. I was lying on Mick’s bedlooking up at the ceiling while everything was going round and round, Allanwas laughing maniacally with his hand over the phone, all the while with metrying to concentrate on the words coming out of my mouth so as not to sayanything idiotic to Richard Branson or Joe Smith or whatever bigwig fuckheadwas talking to us. The scene in my head was like something from the cultfilm ‘Carnival of Souls’, and Allan was the character of ‘The Man’.
SR: Were you involved during the recording of Motley Crue’s Too Fast For Love?
EG: Production on that album was by German-American Michael Wagener, who hadworked with Accept and the Dokken demo that has Greg Leon on the cover. Ithink all the sessions for TFFL were at Hit City West, but I’m not sure. Iknow the engineer was one of my recording teachers Glenn Feit, though a typoon the credits referred to him as ‘Gleen’.
At the time, the guys in the band referred to everyone as ‘bone’ or ‘boney’.In fact, I think it was Tommy himself who used to call everyone else ‘bone’,so maybe he made it up. It was ‘boney this’ and ‘boney that’. Anyway, theproducer Wagener used to tape up all his meters, which is kind of wacky,claiming that he only used his ears to work and didn’t need the meters.Tommy started calling him FTM Bone, which meant ‘fuck the meters’.
As someone working for the band, I probably went through a dozen boxes ofpromo albums of ‘Too Fast for Love’ from Greenworld! I did every aspect ofbusiness and promotion re: that record on behalf of Crue and Coffman &Coffman, not to mention bumper stickers, posters, pins, shirts, etc. Thezillion aspects of that record included such bullshit as running around tofacilitate re-doing the insert because Vince’s hair looked like cotton candy- I remember that.
After Elektra signed the band, I recall a conversation with their A&R fellaTom Zutaut, who sounded like a fast-talking helium inhaler, and the subjectof the re-release came up. The label had made a decision to have Roy ThomasBaker re-mix the album, as well as re-record some of the more out-of-keyvocal parts. The guys were happy with that arrangement at the time,basically because Baker was famous as the producer of Queen’s ‘Night at theOpera’. But with a June 1982 Canadian tour set up by me personally, andtherefore my nuts on the line, I needed a product out to coincide. So in theend, the Canadian release on WEA was merely the Wagener mixes with analtered Elektra cover, and I’m glad I was involved with that because, backto back, Wagener’s are the real deal and Baker’s sucked, especially trackslike ‘Merry Go Round’. If I remember correctly, the initial Canadian majorlabel release even had the same exact track listing as the Greenworldversion, yet the later Baker releases axed a song.
SR: How insane was Motley Crue’s first venture into Canada?
EG: The tour was hysterical, ridiculous, dramatic and hilarious. The idea onpaper was to get the guys out of California, give them some road experience,and make some news. At that point the farthest away they’d ever travelled togig was the area near Lake Tahoe where Allan lived.
The Canadian venues ranged from a tiny disco in Edmonton that supposedly hada gay following to a small arena in Saskatoon. Crue were completely unknownat that point, other than a positive review in Canada’s Music Express mag. Idid all the promo by driving from venue to venue a day ahead. The road crewdrove a truck up from the US and had both vehicle trouble and a hassle atthe border. There was also a small motor home that the band would travel in,but their arrival to Canada came via a flight to Edmonton from LAX.
I waited at the airport and, to make a very long story short, there was abig problem. As rock stars in training, they decided to wear all their stagegear on the plane, which is the exact opposite of what they would donowadays. Instead of trying to be inconspicuous, Nikki’s hopes were to drawas much attention to the band as possible. The problem was that around theirwrists, arms, & necks were custom-made spiked bands of leather, considered’dangerous weapons’ by Canada Customs. They were detained at Immigration,there was talk of pressing charges, and in the end after a long wait theywere let into the country, sans much of the stage wear. Then, once theyobtained their bags, Vince was lectured at length when one of his smallsuitcases was opened up by a Customs officer revealing dozens of hardcoreporn mags, all confiscated. I think in total we were held up by threehours. Weeks later I found myself in a hassle with the Canadian Governmenttrying to get the spiked leather stuff returned, but by the time I got apositive ruling, they informed me that, following procedure, unfortunatelythey’d all been destroyed.
On one level things got worse, but I fed all of our exploits to my friendsin the press and we started getting daily coverage. Throughout high schoolI’d had a weekly teen column with Southam News, so I knew who to call. Thencame the biggie: It was obvious that the booking into Scandals Disco at theSheraton Caravan in Edmonton was a big mistake. People saw the Crue postersand said ‘what in the fuck is that?’ I had a plan to stir the hornet’s nest.An anonymous call was made to the cops threatening to ‘waste the drummeronstage during the show’, and then a call was made asking for Tommy andthreatening to kill him. He of course freaked out, but what we couldn’tanticipate was the police response. Tons of officers arrived, word spread onlocal radio, and by then crowds of curious people started showing up at thegig. Allan and I kept smiling at each other and giggling. In the end, theshow went on, with cops at either side of the stage! The next day, it was afront page story in the Edmonton Journal with quotes from me and Tommy, andit was picked up nationally. That night was our second gig at Scandals,which of course had to turn people away because it was so well-publicized.We stayed at the hotel, mayhem ensured, and the last act of hell was Tommythrowing a telly out the window from the 8th floor. My memory tells me thehotel had one floor that was utter filth, used for visiting bands & staff,and the sheets were soiled. Luckily we left the city in haste, but knew we’dhave to return to play additionally booked gigs at the Riv Rock Room, whereof course the owner of the hotel showed up with goons demanding money forthe damage!
The band managed to play additional gigs but, after only a week, decidedthey’d had enough of Canada and hit the road back to LA. It sucked because Ihad already gone on to Vancouver to promote that show. The main goal ofseeking attention, however, had easily been met, so Nikki was satisfied, aswas Allan. I had wished we’d played more venues to promote the album, butthat was vetoed. Nikki specifically stated that he did not want to touragain until they were a big band, which is exactly what happened within ayear and a half. Bummer was that, after only ten days physically in Canada,they’d notched up huge bills, including fines, and every single one went tome personally.
SR: What led to the lawsuit between members of the Crue and other individuals?
EG: I can only comment on my own case, and after so many years I really don’tlike to talk about it. The main cause of action was for breach of contract,and it was against a lot of defendants, including the band members, AllanCoffman, the label, and Allan’s replacement partnership. I remember thatthere were bootlegs of the deposition videos of the band members floatingaround, and now and then I’ll see one for sale. They were all made in mylawyer’s office where the band members showed up individually in long, blacklimos.
One little, stupid story: it was during my own suit with Crue that I was outwith friends at the Rainbow in West Hollywood and I thought Mick was atanother table, staring me down. I felt really intimidated, even though Mickis something like four foot eleven plus stilettos, maybe because hisdeposition had been that week. The whole time there I kept saying ‘he’slooking at me’ and ‘let’s get out of here’. Finally, we finished our drinksand food and went to the parking lot, where it’s a poser rock tradition tohang out, be seen, and see others seeing you. To my utter shock, out walksMick – except he’s suddenly six foot five! I think I shit my pants. Turnsout it was Blackie Lawless – same jacket, same hair, same shades. My friendslaughed at me for at least two hours.
I’m not the only person to have ever sued Motley Crue over the years. At onepoint, around the time his services were terminated by the band members,Allan Coffman was raising funds by selling a percentage of the band to eagerinvestors and this led to at least a couple of folks losing a lot of cash.But Crue also have surely had their share of frivolous lawsuits. Didn’t someclown called Matthew Trippe sue them because he claimed to have been Nikki’sreplacement in some ‘Paul is Dead’ sort of conspiracy?
SR: Have you had any contact with the Crue members since then?
EG: I’ve had contact with Nikki and Tommy since those days. My biggest regret islosing touch with Vince and Mick because, easily, I got on best with Vince,as he was the most down to earth back then and would call me up to shoot theshit about any subject, and although Mick was quite a bit older than me, hewas honest and straightforward and worried a lot. Nikki was without doubtthe brains behind everything and it was obvious way back at the start thathe’d do whatever it would take to make it, and anyone in the way was a peonor doormat. Tommy was always friendly but couldn’t concentrate on anythingfor more than ten seconds.
SR: What was next for you after working with Motley Crue?
EG: By 1985 I was producing and managing way too many bands, as well aspromoting concerts. The guys I knew at Greenworld, who had done wonders forCrue, signed contracts literally for every band that I told them about. Forat least two years things went very well, especially with one band out ofthe US Midwest called Vyper, but the bottom fell out when Greenworld wentbankrupt. New label Enigma, in the midst of success with Poison, wasGreenworld’s biggest creditor and they refused to let me get any of themasters back, as well as being disinterested in releasing anything thatGreenworld was preparing to put out. I pleaded with label owners Wes andBill Hein but they claimed lamely that it was ‘in the hands of lawyers’ andwouldn’t budge. Some bands were literally being released the week of thebankruptcy, like Kansas band Shock and Boston’s Tyrus, and others were beingmastered, like Missouri’s glam metal masters Harlow. We were also doing ametal compilation with Jerry Weintraub/Concerts West/Management Three thathad great metal bands from all over the US, including LA’s London, who Ilater managed. A lot of time and effort was spent in the studio on thatproject alone, and it came to nothing. It was a fucking shame.
By then I found myself starting to work with heavier bands as well, whichwasn’t necessarily a musical taste thing, but purely just the way thingswent. Spandex was luckily disappearing from the scene anyway, not that Iever wore it myself mind you!
SR: What is the state of the old Greenworld masters now? Are they still tied up?
EG: In short, I have no clue. For a few years they were kept in a closet at Enigma while I continued to contest via bankruptcy court. Funny, but in 1988 I was at Enigma for business I had with their heavy label Restless Records and there it all was! It was incredible to see all these tapes and piles of artwork that I’d spent so much money and time trying to obtain through the court. I’d figured, from the importance that Enigma had placed on it by denying me access for two years, that it was all in some vault! Yet, there it was, piled from the floor in a frigging closet like so much old garbage. Again, I tried to get in to hassle the Hein brothers, but no such luck.
I ended up only stealing one thing, and that was a treated cover photo of the band Harlow, since I was actually staying with the singer Mickey Kravitz in Sherman Oaks and we’re friends. Believe me: I would have walked out with everything undetected except that, at the time, my first cousin Brian Cohen was working for Enigma and I certainly did not need the hassle for me or for him.
Eventually that office closed, and by that time I’d lost any interest in getting it all back. Maybe it ended up in Capitol Records’ vault, since I think they owned part interest in Enigma at some point. It was shitty, but during that period I don’t think any of the bands in question bothered to fight to obtain their material. Instead, everyone left it to me, so of course I got all the blame. Where is it all? It remains a metal fucking mystery.
SR: Why do you think labels like that sit on releases if they have no intentions or interest in releasing them? Couldn’t they make some sort of deal with the artists?
EG: There could be any number of reasons, and probably most of them would seemillogical. Sometimes it would be to exercise power, pure & simple. In thecase of the Greenworld masters, it was basic laziness. Since they had notsigned these acts personally, they had absolutely no interest in spendingten minutes to listen to these bands, let alone do anything that wouldresemble exploiting the talents at hand by releasing product.
What sucked particularly for me was that, with pressing & distribution dealsas opposed to outright signings, some of the acts had not cost Greenworldany money whatsoever at the point of the bankruptcy, and therefore morallythe property should have been returned to the owners. Enigma’s lawyers sawthe property as commodities that they were entitled to, and even though theydid not put any particular monetary price on these items, and for allintents and purposes saw no value to them, they entertained a power tripnevertheless.
SR: Is there some sort of statute of limitations in the music industry, so that if a label sits on a recording for too long the rights revert back to the artist?
EG: Everything is meant to be found within the four corners of an agreementbetween a record company or some type of business entity, and a band ormusician. In many contracts there are perpetuity clauses, as well as a listof issues of commission or omission that could constitute a breach, in whichcase the other side would have to demonstrate that one had occurred, allowthe party at fault to correct it, and if not to have a court decide the fateof the agreement.
There are some label deals that are so ironclad on the side of the recordcompany that, if the band accepted advance money and ratified the contract,the label could jerk them around for many years. Luckily, artists are morepowerful than they ever were previously, and things do not necessarily gothe way of the company and their lawyers like they did in the old days.
SR: Let’s go through some of the bands you worked with for Greenworld. How about some history and stories about Vyper first.
EG: I was convinced that Vyper were going to be my personal Ratt/Bon Jovi/GreatWhite from the lucrative post-Crue, MTV-inspired signing frenzy in 1984.They were great live, good songwriters, and had a charismatic & energeticfront man in the David Lee Roth-ish Christy Black.
A clothes designer from the Midwest had turned me on to them and I found theband rehearsing in a storage garage in Kansas City, Kansas and I immediatelystarted managing them. We did our first demo together in the summer of ’84and by the autumn I was producing the album. I had convinced Greenworld, whowere a distributor, to start a label of their own and Vyper was the firstrelease on Greenworld Records. The Greenworld people and I had very highhopes indeed for the band, and for a brief moment in early ’85, their album’Prepared to Strike’ did some serious business. However, it was sunk byseveral factors: touring was almost non-existent as Vyper were relegated totheir LA agency’s Minneapolis office, and they sucked in finding a nationaltour; confusion over who was to pay for it meant no video ended up beingmade for either of the two potential singles; the band remained based in theMidwest; and the guys’ heads began to swell to elephantine magnitudes.
We released an EP and then the band fired me because they weren’t yetsuperstars, but the singer refused to go along with it. He and I replacedthe band members with new guys, including Greg Leon, and retained theGreenworld deal, and on the other hand the band replaced the singer andbecame a cover group doing the cover bar scene. So for a short time therewere two Vypers running around claiming to be the original. Of course, bothentities sued the other. Nobody prevailed because Greenworld declaredbankruptcy before Christy’s new crew recorded a single note, and both bandsdissolved. Christy remains a close friend after all these years.
Other Greenworld acts I was involved in that were released includedAvalanche, Shock and Tyrus, with the latter two out right before the label’send. Of those projects that were lost in the bankruptcy shuffle, there wereHarlow, Thunderstorm, Blitzed, Iron Cross, and the compilation album Imentioned. I’m probably forgetting a dozen more, for sure. Harlow would havebeen the biggest success, and now and again I come across their one single,’Rock the Box’. Greenworld also distributed other metal labels at the time,including New Renaissance and early Roadrunner, which included KingDiamond’s first solo albums.
SR: What is your take on Shock? Did anyone actually take these guys seriously?
EG: I have honestly put out of my brain most memories related to that band, so I can’t really remember how they came to my attention. However, they were a great bunch of guys who liked to party with Vyper, and in those days that was probably all a band needed to get heard.
Whatever the case, that first horrific demo that my engineer Mike Frazier and I did while drunk was in my pile that I played for the Greenworld folks, and an eccentric executive there, David Baker, thought they were an avant garde punk band. Baker looked like Rasputin and he was into Captain Beefheart and The Mothers. He said ‘I want them’, and who was I to turn away a contract? The Shock guys consisted of a very, very bad guitar player with a sound resembling a cheap, Slovakian gas-powered saw, and he had a very, very bad dyed afro, and he was surrounded by a very nice but ear-piercing, “I-can-cut-glass-with-my-vocal-cords” singer and a quiet drummer who simply had no clue how to keep time. Only musical saving grace was the bassist Carlos, and he was brought in by me, I think.
For me personally it was never a joke on the band, despite what singer Max stated to Sleaze Roxx. Frazier and I liked them very much as people. The joke really was on Greenworld because they put up the money. I always figured that if the label gave Shock a contract and was willing to pay to master and manufacturer, shouldn’t it be the band members who have the last laugh? Sadly, the band didn’t realize that they were as bad as they were, so they thought we figured they were a joke. When I hear the album now, instead of cringing I smile because I recall how fun it was to record, and how much booze we all went through. In fact, it sounds like a soundtrack to a very wild party…even if they do look totally ludicrous on the cover, by glam, metal or even punk standards. When I see it for sale on eBay at gargantuan prices, I fart with uncontrollable laughter.
SR: What was recording Shock’s demo like? Did you even try and help them musically or just let them do what they wanted?
EG: I can only remember that the year it was recorded was 1985!
Musically, I would have had Max double track choruses and had them go overparts that were blatantly out of key or out of time. But what does one dowhen most of the music is that way? When the producer, the band, and therecord buying listener are all drunk, everything works…
I also think that whenever Shock recorded they also had a collection offriends around, such as appear on the back cover of the album, and that alsocolors one’s perceptions.
SR: I haven’t heard of Avalanche and Tyrus before, what kind of music did they play and do any particular stories involving them stand out?
EG: Avalanche was a more commercial Iron Maiden, and their album ‘Pray for theSinner’ did better in Europe, where it was released on Roadrunner, than itdid in North America. It continues to trade for higher dollars on eBaynowadays. They were a trio and singer/bassist Nikki Van Welden, whose realname was Roger Maynard, was a funny guy I recall, and he was the originalsinger of Vyper when they first formed. Avalanche was the pet project of myengineer Mike, and once the Greenworld deal was done, he managed them whileI managed Vyper.
Tyrus was a metal band from Boston, a bit like an early Anthrax, and theyhad the misfortune of having their album released only a week beforeGreenworld went bankrupt. That meant that it had an initial shipping offirst run product, but it was all either LPs or cassettes, not both sincehalf the stock was trapped in the warehouse under lock & key. Those poor,poor bastards had even worse luck than anyone else from that debacle,including Shock. I actually mixed that record, ‘Masters of Revenge’, and ayear later they came out to the studio in KC to work with me and we did allthe tracking for another better, but ill-fated album that never saw thelight of day. We only managed to mix two songs, at Electric Lady inManhattan, but with Greenworld history, their first album dissolved in theacid before it had any impact, Tyrus had to start from scratch and they weretoo weary to weather it. I met band leader Mike Berardinagelo for dinner inMassachusetts ten years later and he presented me with a manuscript for abook he wrote about the struggles of Tyrus, appropriately entitled ‘From theBasement to Nowhere’. I am happy that a German label finally re-releasedGreenworld’s Tyrus album four years ago.
SR: Did you find your later days working with heavier bands as enjoyable as working with the 80s ‘hair bands’?
EG: There was just something about working with hair bands that I found more fungenerally, but friends of mine would find another reason. Vanity? My owngigantic ego? The power of the mirror? The time I took doing my own hair?
I learned over the years that, whatever genre I’d work with, I wouldpersonally get sucked into the ethos of my clients. Example: if I wasworking with death metal, it was all about who was the most brutal. If I wasworking with a glammy band, it was all about who was the prettiest. And Iadmit that I rather liked trying to be the best looking guy in the room,even if I could change hats at a whim and then be the scariest, in aSopranos or Satan-sense.
I found that I could spot the non-poser found within any genre. He would bethe guy who was so comfortable with himself that he could listen to musicfrom any genre without being concerned what anyone else thought. I workedwith guys creating the most extremely heavy music who had no problemlistening to Pet Shop Boys, and at the other extreme I had some friends whocould very ably recite every single word from Slayer’s ‘Reign in Blood’ orany Public Enemy rap song and were then very naturally applying mascara andpouting their lips in the cheesiest hair metal band. What I couldn’t standwere those folks who would point their fingers at others and say ‘that’s notheavy enough’ or ‘what in hell is that gay shit?’, and they could be foundeverywhere. I thought they were the real posers.
SR: Are you still involved in the music scene today?
EG: For awhile it seemed that the only folks making any money around me were the lawyers involved in the lawsuits, so I guess it was natural that I would eventually go to law school. Actually, it was being roommates with London’s guitar player Sean Lewis, who had decided that he was determined to become a lawyer and was knuckling down to studying for that goal, that got me thinking that I could do that too. So I did. But how far can someone who has done the music biz thing for so long go before beginning to dabble again?
In ’97 I produced my second album for Danish melodic metal band Jackal, who had changed their name to Encore, but mostly I’ve drifted away from production & studio work and kept any musical things on a business or legal level.
On a personal note, the giant ego came down to earth as I realized that power wasn’t about how much you love yourself or who can growl the loudest, but was vested in el hombre silencioso con los cajones mas grandes.
SR: What are some of your most memorable and outrageous stories about life on the Sunset Strip?
EG: I went to the Rainbow a couple of years ago with Greg Leon and another goodfriend, Moni Scaria from the band World War III and, basically, it was likea museum for people my age and older. The hairstyles were the same as wayback when, only faces were wrinkled like used handsome leather, and Icouldn’t tell what hair was real and what were custom-made Dubrow orDokken-like hairpieces. I realized that for some people, time stood still.
As I was walking around I also felt a sense of unease that wasn’t there backin our heyday, as the rap music came blaring from cars creeping around theblock. This was post-Tupac LA. Back in the 80s the streets were filled withthe sound of glam metal, and almost every club had a live scene that washappening. Still, I at least always felt safe on the Strip, and I guess itwas the same for the generation before us back in the days of The Byrds, TheDoors and Love. But nowadays feels different.
I remember in early ’92 I was with a band I managed on an international tourand we were parked in front of the Whiskey in a bus. In struts NadirD’Priest, singer of London, a band I managed until a year earlier when theybroke up. Nadir essentially was a Hollywood icon, as well as a very coolindividual, so I was glad to see him. Anyway, after we had a chat, hecasually walked off the bus, his clothes impeccable and his hair big &flowing. Two girls happened to be walking by, and within seconds of chattingthem up, he had one under each arm and, there he was, turning the cornerwith them, strolling towards a night’s debauchery. Classic Hollywood.
Another funny story was an early Great White gig. They were callingthemselves Dante Fox and because their drummer Gary had been in a band withGreg Leon, he came with me to see them at The Troubadour. Halfway through aguitar solo, the rather chunky guitarist Mark Kendall fell off the stage,practically into our laps as we sat there! We felt bad for the guy, but boywere we hysterical. Marq Torien had also invited me to come and see his bandTorien and I couldn’t believe it – he looked exactly like Eddie Van Halen,from the stripes on the clothes and guitar to the playing style to the hair.I also remember seeing a band called Sarge that had guitarist Chris Hagar init. Chris’s hair was, as one would say to be polite, ‘on the thinning side’.Next thing I know, I go to see Rough Cutt and there he is on stage, fullhead of spikey hair having pulled a Dubrow!
SR: What was it like working with London/Nadir D’Priest?
EG: I actually really had fun working with Nadir and the guys. For some reason, we just seemed to fit together immediately. The way I ended up managing them was that I promoted one of their shows, and then we had a big talk, hit it off and voila. This was in 1990, around five years after I’d worked with Todd Cooper and Concerts West on the doomed compilation album for Greenworld that featured London.
Noise had signed London, there was a new album, a video, and it was an exciting time, albeit the end period of the band. There was also the usual baggage that a band carries around, like drinking problems, money problems, roadie politics, etc. There was even a connection to a biker gang that I had to diplomatically confront. But the guys were so cool to deal with that it made it worth it. Krigger, the drummer, had played with some top musicians and he was a rock ‘n roll gentleman. Keyboardist Vince Gilbert had been in and out of The Cult, I believe, and Brian West the bass player had been in London the longest besides Nadir. Guitar player Sean Lewis was extremely intelligent, and we became good friends and, later on, roommates for awhile. He was the inspiration for me eventually going to law school, which he did as well, and he’s now a lawyer in the States. I only learned in the last few years that he allegedly had a grudge against me, thinking I had done him a wrong, which I hadn’t. Of course there was a rather beautiful girl involved in what I guess was a falling out between Sean & I. Losing his friendship is one shitty thing in my private life that I hope one day to reconcile. I’m stating it here for the whole web to read in hopes maybe he’ll stumble on to it, too.
And Nadir? To me he is a walking, talking living legend. Not only is he a great frontman and singer, but he has always oozed charisma and confidence. I have seen him at his worst, personally, and his best, and I never let him down because I believed in him and respected him. When it comes to Hollywood rock personalities, Nadir truly is the real deal. I’m happy to have just read that he’s reforming London and working with some German company. We communicated not that long ago when he had his Spanish singing career in full swing, which was cool. One night at a gig, Nadir made me come up on stage and sing the song Wild Thing while the band members all switched instruments, and that was one of the goofiest but coolest, drunken things I’ve ever done.
One postscript to my working with them is that, after they split, I continued to employ their road crew for an international tour for the Florida band Death, which was probably quite a shocking change of genre and scene. I also had Death’s label Relativity employ the director who did the ‘Rideyou Through the Night’ vid, David Bellino, to do Death’s first video, ‘Lackof Comprehension’.
SR: Do you think we will ever see a hard rock music scene like that in America again?
EG: Probably nothing like the glory days of the 80s. Just as it was starting toget stale, the GNR/LA Guns/Faster Pussycat/etc. bands revitalized things bythe end of that decade, and it lasted a few years. But how things changed by1993, and I don’t really think it has ever been the same.
That said, would anyone back then have anticipated so many band reunions inthe future? It proves that there remains a market for hard rock and not justwith older fans from the first time ’round – there is remarkably a buzz froma generation who weren’t even born yet. The brief and ridiculous phenomenonin the US over UK band The Darkness proves that the appetite is there.
People seem to be waiting for young, vital acts to create new music that isan evolutionary product of previous HR/HM/glam. I remember feeling that wayabout the UK band Suede, and their single ‘Metal Mickey’ in particular, inthe mid-90s – that they had reinvented and repackaged glam metal in acreative way, and how refreshing that was as a counterpoint to the drabgrunge of the time.
Metamorphosis in music is an exciting thing to witness and experience. Whoknows to what degree today’s emo and its legion of young followersconstitutes ‘hair metal’. I wouldn’t want to rain on their parade bydeclaring that it isn’t related. However, on some days I do wish I couldwalk into a time machine and come out in 1985, at least for one evening, togo to a gig. But is that about the music or about finding youth again? Atleast when I hear the music of that era now my blood pumps and a glimmer ofthe youth emerges.
SR: What do you think of these 80s bands reforming with only one or two original members? Or worse yet when two different versions of the same band are on the road at once, like Vyper many years earlier.
EG: It’s rather sad when a young cover band actually sounds better than the supposed original that is out on the road with one original member. In a way, you can’t blame the aged rocker for trying to ride a mortuus equus. The prospect of prancing around like it was 20 years earlier seems more appealing on paper than working in a factory or donut shop.
However, I would know it wasn’t the original, or even a decent facsimile, so at best I would go see the band merely as a curiosity to hear for myself if the one or two dudes ‘still had it’, and only if I had a comp ticket.
Two bands out on the road under the same band name is lame, as I experienced myself. They should be able to sit down and, whether for the music or for the finances, thrash out a way forward together. Whatever happened to the maxim ‘do it for the fans’? Caveat to that: most of the original members are dead…then I’d give the remaining fella a break.
SR: I once read that you were against the use of hard drugs. Did that make it difficult to be around certain musicians that abused them?
EG: Really? Well, I guess that is true. I have always opposed the abuse of harddrugs, especially after seeing it destroy a few people who I have known. I,as much as anybody, understand the need for escape, or the occasional mentaltransportation that a mind altering agent can offer. But hard drugs leadnowhere other than death or rehab. I don’t think I was ever preachy aboutit, but friends and clients knew that was and remains my stand, and I wasmostly respected for it. The result was that it was done probably inclandestine fashion in closets and tour bus bunks. Luckily, most of myclients had better things to do. Crue, for example, didn’t live that lifeuntil I was long out of the picture.
Contrary to public perception, it wasn’t as if people spent most of arecording session doing lines off the recording console. Shit, of coursethat happened, especially in the 80s, but usually work wouldn’t get done andit was counter-productive. ‘Not on my watch’ was how I thought, because as aproducer or manager it makes no sense to watch your clients destroythemselves or their bank accounts. However, drinking and pot was a differentmatter, and I was certainly tolerant, as the majority of my clients indulgedin the so-called softer options, and for awhile I drank a fair bit myself.
I guess I should mention that I have been an insulin-dependent diabetic formost of my life, and once my clients got over the spectacle of me givingmyself a needle in my leg, right through my jeans, while driving a car 90miles an hour on the highway, they usually never, ever revealed hard druguse to me. Did my own necessary needle use make me intolerant towards thosewho chose to misuse needles? Probably. Funny, but I met some musicians yearsafter working with them who swore I was a cokehead back in the day, mostlikely because they experienced me having a hypoglycemic, low-sugarreaction, which made me jumpy and jittery and I would do business athyper-speed, which some saw as my normal personality.
My business partner in the late 80s had started out as a big ‘straight edge’punk/metal fan who abhorred drugs. The classic cruel tale of dabblingturning into recklessness turning into dependency, and in the end he shothimself in New Orleans the day before Katrina hit, apparently after years offighting hard drugs and the depression that came with them. What an utterand complete waste.
SR: Who do you think had worse luck as far as playing with bands that made it yet never reaching the same level of success themselves, Greg Leon or London’s Lizzie Grey?
EG: In a sad way it can’t really be blamed on luck or chance, but on decision-making. I don’t know Lizzie at all, other than brief conversations around the time of the Greenworld metal compilation album. By the time I managed London/D’Priest, he was out of the band. But I do think London in general was as cursed as a group in Los Angeles could be in that ex-members were finding success, as well as peers all around them, but as a moniker and entity it seemed doomed, even despite appearing in The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. That was actually Noise International and Nadir’s motivation for changing the name to D’Priest. For whatever reason, becoming an ex didn’t benefit ol’ Lizzie, uh, and neither did the band changing their name, unfortunately.
As for Greg, he’s been one of my truest friends over the years, and I do regret that superstardom evaded him with Crue, Dokken, Quiet Riot and others. When I read your interview of Greg I had to give him credit for being so philosophical about it all, but this illustrates his character. He was correct in that life has given him opportunities and blessings few people encounter, and he is richer for it. In the end it is correct that some of the guys who ‘made it’ lost everything and ended up in a dark hole. I think the greatest justice is that metal fans who have heard of Greg’s ‘legend’, if I can use that word to apply to a man who is very much alive, are now able to see & hear him since he’s resurrected the Invasion and is writing new music in his classic style and taking it on the road. Better late than never.
SR: Do you miss the long hair and spandex?
EG: I’m happy to say that I have never, ever placed actual spandex on my body,but I did at one point in the 80s possess a pair of incredibly tight jeansthat had a percentage of spandex in them. Holy shit, you could pull themfrom your skin and they would snap back! At least they didn’t have stirrups,like the female version! I wore Guess back in those days, and here I am inthe present day wearing new styled Guess! Talk about product loyalty.Flashbacks abound.
As for hair, my nickname is Griffy since I was a kid, but there are a fewfolks out there who know me well who still call me Hairic now and then,because I admit I have always preferred long hair, or at least hair thatrequires lots of attention. Man, the days when it took me an hour to getready just to go to the corner store to buy milk! As a joke, a guy from aband I worked with back in the late 80s posted a news report where I wasinterviewed and my hair is so ridiculous that all I can do is laugh(vids.myspace.com).
But I still think so fondly of those days when we all looked like dandypirates. For whatever reason, women loved sharing hairspray with us as muchas they dug our looks, and the androgyny in no way diminished ourheterosexual prowess. I’m smiling just thinking about the evil looks we’dall get when we’d enter a roadside cafe anywhere outside a big city!
Hair, for better or worse, was an integral part of the music, and anyone whosays otherwise doesn’t know what in hell they’re talking about. One finalmini story: I was presenting demo tapes and band photos to Greenworld backin early 1986 and one of the very decent bands, who I won’t name, had afella in there with obviously thinning hair. Immediately, one of the A&Rguys, who I also won’t name, pointed to the hair of this guitarist in thephoto and said “looks like that don’t make it in Hollywood”. Amen and Amen.
Thanks to Eric Greif