Interview with Enuff Z’Nuff guitarist Tory Stoffregen
INTERVIEW WITH ENUFF Z’NUFF GUITARIST TORY STOFFREGEN
Date: February 24, 2022
Interviewer: Jeff Onorato
Photos: Jeff Onorato
PERENNIAL FAVORITES IN THE WORLD OF HARD ROCK, ENUFF Z’NUFF HAVE JUST RELEASED A BRAND NEW COLLECTION OF THE BEATLES COVER SONGS TITLED ‘HARDROCK NITE’ VIA FRONTIERS. THEY’VE ALSO KEPT BUSY WITH AN ACTIVE CONCERT SCHEDULE AND ARE PLANNING EVEN MORE MUSIC TO UNLEASH UPON THE MASSES. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH ENUFF Z’NUFF’S LONG-TIME GUITARIST TORY STOFFREGEN TO DISCUSS THE ‘HARD ROCK NITE’ ALBUM, TOURING, AND SOME FIRST HAND INSIGHT INTO THE INNER WORKINGS OF THE MUSIC INDUSTRY.
Sleaze Roxx: Hey Tory! We appreciate you taking the time to do this interview. Enuff Z’nuff have just returned from the inaugural RokIsland festival in Key West, Florida. With the beautiful weather and sights to take in, how was the first edition of RokIsland from your perspective?
Tory Stoffregen: It was really great. Definitely one of the most well-organized festivals that we have ever played. It was nice to get back on a big stage. It almost felt like we are back to work.
Sleaze Roxx: The promoters of the event booked all of the top-tier talent from the genre. I would imagine that it doesn’t get any better than sharing a bill with Cheap Trick. Do you expect that this will become an annual event like the Monsters of Rock Cruise or the M3 Rock Festival?
Tory Stoffregen: Cheap Trick has been one of my favorite bands as far back as I can remember. It’s always great to see them. They go way back with Chip [Z’Nuff], and Daxx played drums on some of the last Z’nuff album. I did hear some rumors about the festival being an annual event. If it is, I hope we play it again next year. They really know how to put on a festival.
Sleaze Roxx: Just to backtrack a bit, Enuff Z’nuff have just released ‘Hardrock Nite’ — a new collection of songs originally recorded by The Beatles but reinterpreted with a fresh spin. I really love the record. The Beatles are a huge influence on countless bands and particularly Enuff Z’nuff. This release had been rumored about amongst fans for quite some time and I finally started to believe it when I heard you guys open with “Magical Mystery Tour” at M3 last summer. Is it difficult to narrow down the setlist for a show like that where everything runs on such a tight schedule?
Tory Stoffregen: You can really tell, from day one, that Z’nuff were a Beatles band. They really borrowed from the best! Even without the Beatles album, the catalog is very deep. It’s impossible to make a setlist that everyone is happy with, and that is just the band! We throw new tunes in a lot and see what people react to. I would love to go deeper. That is hard, especially at festivals, where you get 40 minutes.
Enuff Z’Nuff‘s “Cold Turkey” single (from Hardrock Nite album):
Sleaze Roxx: It was really cool to hear a few “deep cuts” off of ‘Strength’, which is one of my favorite albums of all time (by any band). I can’t recall ever hearing “Heaven And Hell” or “The World Is A Gutter” at an Enuff Z’nuff show. That album is so beloved and a fan favorite. Are there any plans for a re-release on vinyl?
Tory Stoffregen: I have no idea what Chip is ever up to with the old catalog. I hope there is a plan to re-release ‘Strength.’ It is a masterpiece. We have done quite a few songs from it over the years… “Mother’s Eyes”, “Time To Let You Go”, “Blue Island”, “Holly Wood Ya”…I am always pushing for “Long Way To Go.” That is a great rock song!
Sleaze Roxx: Back to ‘Hardrock Nite’ — leading up to the actual recording, was there any self-imposed pressure to nail the guitar parts 100% faithful to the original versions or did you set out to put your own stamp on the songs and kind of make them your own?
Tory Stoffregen: I was told from the start, to make each song my own. Tony Fennel arranged everything and did a lot of the recording. It was pretty far along by the time it got to me. I was trying to keep it very tasteful and not “shred” that much. It kind of feels sacrilegious to rock these perfect songs up already! Hopefully I shredded just enough to be respectful.
Sleaze Roxx: The guitar tracks are performed in a way that’s really tasteful and allow the songs to shine, rather than just shredding over Beatles’ songs. My personal favorite is the solo on “Live And Let Die.” Did you make a conscious effort to record your parts with that sort of economy in mind?
Tory Stoffregen: I had done “Dear Prudence” before the rest. When Tony started sending me more, him and Chip said to feel free to make it my own. I just put all expectations away and started playing. I felt like I came into my own on this album. I have always loved players that can be melodic and throw in some fast stuff to turn your head a little. When we play live, I usually get a little more “shreddy.” It just an energy thing. I am improvising 90% of the live show. So some nights, you get a treat and some maybe not so much!
Sleaze Roxx: Do you have a personal favorite song on the album?
Tory Stoffregen: I really like the solo I did on “Revolution.” ”Live And Let Die” and “With A Little Help From My Friends” are right up there. I would usually knock out a song a day, but I spent some extra time on those two songs. I think it shows. “Revolution” popped out very quickly, which is nice!
Enuff Z’nuff‘s “Back In The U.S.S.R.” video (from Hardrock Nite album):
Sleaze Roxx: Which Beatles song(s) would you personally liked to have seen included on the album that didn’t make it?
Tory Stoffregen: There are like 300 left to choose from. I don’t see this being the last Beatles thing we do. ‘Hard Rock Nite’ / The Beatles’ Rock Show is something we will definitely be continuing with. We are hoping to do some Vegas residency type of shows, with a full stage show. Tony and Chip are already cooking up the next batch.
Sleaze Roxx: It seems like ‘Hardrock Nite’ has done really well so far. I know that Frontiers were completely sold out of CDs on their website at one point and the white vinyl pretty much sold out immediately. That has got to be gratifying that the fan base is always ready and willing to check out new music by the band…..
Tory Stoffregen: I am grateful that anyone buys physical product anymore. I know that I would rather hold an album in my hands and read the liner notes while I am listening. I think bands have sold some bullshit that they need to be on every streaming service and every song should be available to anyone at any time. Personally, I think every band would be better off tightening their circle, getting of the streaming platforms and concentrating on a stronger core audience. That one guy, probably a paid Spotify employee, that shows up on every thread about streaming arguing that they found the band because of streaming isn’t coming to shows and buying merch. You get a million streams a year? Congratulations! You could sell 100 albums and a few shirts to real fans and make more. It just doesn’t make sense to me unless they update the pay scale. Of course, I have zero control over this with Enuff Z’nuff but I think it’s a scam and I’m shocked that people let it continue. Sorry, I got off on a little rant there [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: Diehard fans will be quick to point out that this is not the first covers album that Enuff Z’nuff have released. ‘Covered In Gold‘ was actually the first. But that was more of a compilation spanning several years, whereas the tracks for ‘Hardrock Nite’ were recorded in a shorter span of time specifically for this record. Is that accurate to say?
Tory Stoffregen: I was not in the band when ‘Covered In Gold’ came out. From what I understand, it was all recorded at different times, in different studios over the years. It was never on my radar. We tried “Everybody Wants You” for one gig and dropped it.
Sleaze Roxx: I remember a few years back, the band recorded a version of the Sex Pistols’ “God Save The Queen”, and it was kind of a teaser in that it wasn’t available everywhere. Is there a chance that the track might see an official release at some point?
Tory Stoffregen: I am pretty sure that will be included on an official release. Another sacrilegious cover for me! I love that band and Steve Jones’ guitar playing. I played it very straight. You may have noticed. I just couldn’t force myself to shred over that! I thought it was a nice tongue in cheek, balls to the wall kinda thing. I love reimagining songs like that. Some people will take it too seriously and that’s ok.
Sleaze Roxx: At this point, the ‘Brainwashed Generation‘ album is only about a year and a half old. With the music having been released in 2020 and the band largely unable to tour to support it, it seems like the album did not get the recognition that it deserves. Chip and Donnie even reunited for the song “Strangers In My Head.” I feel like the album should have gotten more attention than it did. What are your thoughts?
Tory Stofferegen: I had nothing to do with that album. I think ‘Diamond Boy’ is superior in every way and left a much bigger mark. We don’t play any songs off the album. I would consider it a Chip Z’nuff solo record. Kudos to him on it. He is great at what he does.
Sleaze Roxx: Having travelled to Europe, Australia and Asia with Enuff Z’nuff, how would you say audiences abroad compare to those in the States? Also, what have been some of your favorite cities that you’ve played?
Tory Stoffregen: It was a dream come true, for me, to play Japan. I’m sure we will return at some point. London is always special. It’s just a great city. There are so many great rock cities in Europe. I don’t think they get caught up in the trendiness like we do in America. One time when we played Barcelona, they had a disco after our show until six in the morning. The people would dance just as hard to Judas Priest or Whitesnake as they did to Prince or Black Eyes Peas. Everything isn’t put in a box there. [There are] some very hardcore music fans over there. It’s nice to do festivals, cruises and package tours in the US. That way you get those same hardcore American fans all together and it’s great. There was a show in Tokyo, when I was pretty new to the band. We come out and open with “Rock N World” and girls were weeping. That made me emotional. Just to be a part of something that moved people to tears like that is unreal.
Sleaze Roxx: A lot of aspiring musicians dream of getting to record and tour the world. What would you say is the most common misconception that people have about being in a rock n’ roll band?
Tory Stoffregen: I don’t think they see what you go through to get on that stage. The show is such a blink of an eye compared to the rest of the day. That 60-90 minutes, on stage, makes up for all of the rest, usually. People only see the stage shot with a 1,000 people behind you or you kicking back on a beach in January while they are stuck in a snow storm. They definitely aren’t interested in your trials and tribulations! It’s a lot of sitting around, waiting, things going disastrously wrong and trying to stay grateful that you aren’t going through the same thing but doing a job you hate. We just get that one thing and I’m grateful every time we high-five as we walk onto the stage. I still get goose bumps every time. I tend to get a little emotional about it now. The last two years really make you realize how it can all be torn away in an instant.
Sleaze Roxx: You’ve independently recorded and released several country songs (“Love Me Like I’m Leavin”, “Until the Bottle Runs Dry”, “Emmylou”) in the past few years. You sing lead vocals on those tracks in addition to doing all of the guitar playing. Did that music stem from an admiration for country music or were you just expanding as a musician and things clicked?
Tory Stoffregen: I grew [up] in the corn fields of Iowa, hearing my parents listen to classic country in the ’70s. Naturally, I didn’t think it was cool to like the music your parents listened to! But later in life, I realized I loved it. Guys like Dwight Yoakam, Steve Earle and Marty Stuart just to name a few, really showed me how modern country could take that ’70s music and make it new. Then I got deeper into stuff like Gram Parsons and The Flying Burrito Brothers. The newer music that Robert Plant is doing with Alison Krauss is really amazing. Billy Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones did an album called ‘Foreverly’ that is wonderful. I left Z’nuff at one point to start a country rock project called The New Black 7, which is still releasing new music. It’s more of a rock band with fiddles and steel guitar but no finger snapping snares or rapping that seems to dominate country radio. Did that answer the question? I got off on another rant [laughs].
Tory Stoffregen‘s “Until The Bottle Runs Dry” single:
Sleaze Roxx: Your vocal style is well suited to the country genre. Could you see yourself recording a full album of country songs at some point?
Tory Stoffregen: Most of the music I have recorded on my own is country / folk tinged. I did a rock band before Enuff Z’nuff called The Black Mollys and I plan on doing another album of rock songs under that name. During the lockdown, instead of streaming live shows, I started a project with my girlfriend that we called Sneaky Doodle, after our dog Benny. It’s a country, maybe even more folky sounding project that will be out there soon… I look forward to people not being able to stream it [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: What guitarist or band made you want to start playing the guitar and who are some of your favorite up-and-coming guitarists?
Tory Stoffregen: KISS’ ‘Alive II’ is the reason we are talking. I opened that album and I was done. Ace’s guitar playing was perfect. After that, Van Halen’s self-titled [album] blew my little small-town mind! I went to GIT, in Hollywood, right out of high school. Eighteen years old and plucked out of rural Iowa into downtown Hollywood. It was quite a shock! There were so many great teachers there. It really opened my mind to what was possible on guitar. Of course now, you can open up Instagram and there is some 15 year old playing like a complete alien. It really pushes me to keep practicing. I have been playing 40 freaking years and still learn something new every time I pick it up.
Sleaze Roxx: 2021 turned out to be an exceptional year for album releases. What were some of your favorite albums of the year?
Tory Stoffregen: Hands down, Cheap Trick’s ‘In Another World’ was my favorite release. How do they release these amazing albums every damn time! ‘Raise the Roof’ by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, is great.
Sleaze Roxx: Physical media doesn’t sell in the mass volumes that is once did. With the advent of music streaming and live shows / touring hindered by the pandemic, it’s harder than ever for artists to survive off of music alone. What advice would you give to all of the aspiring musicians and new bands out there?
Tory Stoffregen: I think “making it” in the music business means something different to everybody. For me, it is playing music for a living. That means getting out there and playing solo shows when the band isn’t playing. Being able to play shows on your own is a nice way to supplement your income. Some people find that beneath them as a “rock star” but I really enjoy it. Anything you can do on your own is helpful. I’m not a good teacher but a lot of people that I know have been doing a lot of online teaching.
Sleaze Roxx: I know that you have tons of great road stories tucked away, such as the one about ‘Live At Club Citta’ and how the show almost didn’t happen. Is there one story that you can share with us?
Tory Stoffregen: I don’t know why this particular story came to mind first… When we were playing on the KISS Kruise, I was about to do my solo spot when I start looking around the room. I notice that EVERY BAND is in the room. The guys from Kings X are right in the middle of the crowd, up in the balcony is Doc McGhee, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons. Eric Singer is over on the side of the stage, messing with Chip. I just keep looking around and spotting people that I have looked up or been inspired by my entire life! The guys from Skid Row… Doug Aldrich, who is a huge inspiration. Despite shaking like a leaf, I played a good solo!
Sleaze Roxx: Iron Maiden are embarking on a world tour soon and playing their new ‘Senjutsu‘ album from cover to cover. What is your take on bands that focus their entire show solely on one record?
Tory Stoffregen: It’s not something I would enjoy as a fan or a performer. More power to the fans and bands that enjoy it.
Sleaze Roxx: If you could put together your own “supergroup” and money is no object, who is in the band with you? Also, you can record the album at any studio in the world.
Tory Stoffregen: It’s going to sound like a kiss-ass answer, but the guys I play with are top notch. Each one of them blow me away. It’s such a pleasure to share the stage with them.
Sleaze Roxx: Thanks again for doing the interview, Tory. I’m hoping to catch Enuff Z’nuff out on the road this year. What does 2022 look like as far as touring and recording new music?
Tory Stoffregen: It’s getting busier, hopefully we can get back to work full-time later this year. We have some dates with Tora Tora in April. Those guys are awesome. Heading to the Whisky [A Go-go] in Hollywood at the end of April. I love playing that room! So much history there, I can’t even wrap my mind around the band that have stood on that stage. I have a new project called Sneaky Doodle, coming out soon. More new Black Seven music coming out this year, for the people that like rocking country music. I released a heavy rock album from my old Kansas City band Motherlode over the pandemic. I see a new Enuff Z’nuff release later in the year and another ‘Hardrock Nite’ release. Maybe even some new Black Mollys music!
Thanks for having me, wishing us all some extra gratitude and kindness this year and beyond.