INTERVIEW WITH FORMER BLACK ‘N BLUE GUITARIST SHAWN SONNENSCHEIN
Date: March 10, 2017
Photos: Christopher Carroll Rock Photography (photos 1 and 12), Joe Schaeffer Photography (photo 4)
FORMER BLACK ‘N BLUE GUITARIST SHAWN SONNENSCHEIN (2003, 2008 TO 2016) RECENTLY MADE HEADLINES BUT FOR THE WRONG REASONS BY INADVERTENTLY MAKING PUBLIC SOME FACEBOOK POSTS WHERE HE THREATENED TO REVEAL SOME BLACK ‘N BLUE “TRUTHS” AND WHERE HE AND GUITARIST BRANDON COOK WENT BACK AND FORTH ON CRYPTIC ISSUES. THOSE FACEBOOK POSTS WERE ADMITTEDLY FIRST PUBLICIZED IN A SLEAZE ROXX ARTICLE. THE ARTICLE WAS LATER TAKEN DOWN AT SONNENSCHEIN’S REQUEST WITH THE GUITARIST ALSO ISSUING A PUBLIC APOLOGY.
SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH SONNENSCHEIN TO DISCUSS HIS TENURE IN THE BAND AS WELL AS HOW THINGS ENDED FOR HIM.
Sleaze Roxx: The main question I have for you is why aren’t you in Black ‘N Blue anymore?
Shawn Sonnenschein: That’s a good question! I honestly do not know.
Sleaze Roxx: Really?
Shawn Sonnenschein: I really don’t. After the last California cruise [Monsters Of Rock Cruise West from October 1 to 5, 2016], which was kind of a rough one, we came back. I got a phone call from Jaime [St. James]. He told me that I was fired. I was out of the band. I wasn’t going to ruin all the work that he’d done over the years with his position and Larry [Morand] and the Monsters Of Rock franchise, and he hung up on me. I had no idea. I know that we had a rough go on that one. I got seasick on one of the shows. Really, the boat was hopping around quite a bit and I had a rough show. I mean I’ve seen videos of it, fine, but I was about ready to puke the whole time [laughs] that I was onstage. It was all over the place. It was terrible but I loved playing the shows and I loved being on the boat.
Black ‘N Blue‘s “Chains Around Heaven” live at Monsters Of Rock Cruise West on October 2, 2016:
Black ‘N Blue – Chains Around Heaven – Live from Monsters of Rock Cruise, 10/2/2016 – Monsterwood Shot on Zoom Q2 Handy Cam
Shawn Sonnenschein: I brought my girlfriend, my new girlfriend, on that one. You know, there was a little bit of a stir about her. We pulled through. We decided that you know, we would just stick to ourselves and have our own fun. She wasn’t being treated very well on the boat so we kind of escaped away from everybody and kind of did our own thing. We bought some masks. It was close to Halloween. We ran around in masks and had a blast. She jumped on stage with Loudness. I’ve known those guys for a long time ago. In her bikini — it didn’t disrupt the show. She did it between songs. She just wanted to give you know, the lead guitarist a hug. She just thought that he was really amazing. I said, “Go do it!” So she just jumped up there and gave him a hug. The crowd loved it. She went to go off stage and the singer was screaming at her, “What about me? What about me?” So she climbed back on stage and went out of her way to give everybody a big hug. She jumped off stage and you could hear the singer saying, “That’s why we love America right there.”
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Shawn Sonnenschein: “Thank you baby. Thank you.” You know, I think it kind of made their day. For some reason, it got bad PR. Maybe the band didn’t dig her doing that but you know I did. I thought it was rock n’ roll! But there were also some weird rumours going around that she was a porn star and we were secretly filming everybody for her porn site. I was told by one member of the band that it didn’t matter if this was true or not. That it was perceived was bad enough, which was just bizarre to me. You know, it was stacking up. I could see things stacking upon the boat. At one point, she went swimming by herself and some girls threw her clothes in the pool and a member of the Black ‘N Blue entourage actually smacked her on the ass. She was being treated really disrespectfully. We decided that we were going to try to separate ourselves from everybody so she would have a good time. I told her when I invited her to come that being part of the Black ‘N Blue camp was the most amazing thing in the world and she was going to be accepted and loved and taken care of. Boy, it was kind of the opposite so I was king of embarrassed about that.
We were chased around by security at one point that were yelling at us about getting caught on stage with Loudness. We didn’t see anything wrong with that. In the rock n’ roll industry, I just found it very bizarre that anybody would be accusing just a beautiful innocent loving person of anything at all. It was just very very crazy. So we went throughout that you know. We missed our flight actually getting to the boat. We could have waited around for another flight and that would have been free but she actually ponied up the money for fresh flights to get us there so that there was no stress. She just went out of her way and at one point, we went for sushi with my buddy Kevin, the guitar tech for some of the biggest bands in the world — a really good friend of mine — techs for me for free just to help out because I was having some trouble. Just the greatest guy ever and we bought him some sushi and our card was turned down. They were getting really pushy about it. I said, “Look, we’ve got plenty of money on our cards. No problem. Send it to our room and we’ll figure it out later.” It became a very embarrassing moment. I told them, “Hey look. You’re just going to have to put it to our room. We’re going to have to go deal with it at the front counter.” We left and there were charged hanging over at the end that they pulled me out of line for. It was embarrassing. We went up. I took care of it. She checked her cards when we got home. There was an extra $900 charged up on her card from that cruise.
Sleaze Roxx: Wow…
Shawn Sonnenschein: Fraudulent charges! We had to deal with that and this was all of the reasons why we were running into so much drama — financial drama on the boat. It was to us terrible. I don’t know if it was a mistake or what was going on. I don;t want to say that it was on purpose but in my opinion, you know, I can’t rule it out. We haven’t found out what the truth is of all of that yet but you know, we’re still dealing with that kind of drama. So we came back only to find out that I was fired. Patrick [Young] and I have not talked since. He’s not wanting to be friends. They hired another tribute guitar player to come in and cover — Bob Capka. Great guy — I know him. Really cool dude but you know, we’ve been just trying to figure it out ever since. I don’t love these guys any less. I am a little upset with them and as you can see by that post, Brandon and I got into it. You know, maybe I handled that wrong and I will say that I did just to take it on myself. Musicians can be emotional people. We all are. I sent out an apology on Facebook to everybody. I don’t know if you saw that or not.
Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, I posted it as well on the Facebook post [promoting the initial Sleaze Roxx article mentioning some of the publicly available Facebook posts exchanged between Shawn Sonnenschein and Brandon Cook, which has since been removed upon Shawn’s request].
Shawn Sonnenschein: Good. I appreciate you doing all that Olivier. It’s great that you are supportive and helpful like that, and not just a story chasing publicist, which can be terrible for people. You know, especially when it’s a private matter that’s accidentally made public.
Sleaze Roxx: No problem. Were there any problems with you and the band before the Monsters Of Rock Cruise?
Shawn Sonnenschein: If there was, I didn’t see it. Brandon and I — like I said — have bumped heads, knocked heads before. We had a moment on a flight where he said some things, I said some things. Some drinks were thrown on me [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Alright.
Shawn Sonnenschein: He disappeared for a long time. We apologized. It took a while for us to get past that. He’s a very proud person about what he does and so am I. I take my position in Black ‘N Blue very seriously like I said. I’m protective of the band and mostly of Jaime [St. James] who was one of my very best friends for years while we were touring around. We shared rooms and laughed, slept in the same bed at times because we didn’t have enough money, whatever on tour. Shared drinks and starved our asses off. And I fell in love with the guy. He’s just one of the most amazing people that I have ever met. He makes everybody feel great. He’s just an amazing songwriter and performer, and I loved being his lead guitar player. It was a privilege for me and an honour. I always looked up to him with love and respect, and it really broke my heart to get that phone call. And so a lot of it is rooting from things just having been — there’s some deep cuts you know? That doesn’t go away. People get hurt. You put everything you’ve got into something. Now, I did not play in any other bands while I was in Black ‘N Blue for the whole time. I wanted to keep what I did with them pure, not watered down. I was a dedicated and loyal guitar player, and they were my band and I did not want to be seen playing with anybody else. That was my deal. Devotion was huge with me. When there’s cryptic stuff getting thrown around and maybe some old girlfriends might have been involved in it — just going to throw that out there…
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Shawn Sonnenschein: That’s my opinion. They said things to me that there’s no way they could have ever known. The rumours were made up outside and brought in. They were definitely influenced by somebody else.
Sleaze Roxx: What rumours are you talking about?
Shawn Sonnenschein: The porn star stuff. You know, we were kind of set up before we even got there.
Sleaze Roxx: Is the porn stuff true?
Shawn Sonnenschein: No. She is a dancer though. She’s done some stuff on somewhere but that was old things. She’s never done any porn. I mean, for a dancer to come into the rock n’ roll industry, and hang out with a musician, that must be something [sarcastic tone] brand new?
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Shawn Sonnenschein: Nobody’s ever seen that before I guess. So thrown by it!
Sleaze Roxx: Well Shawn, had anyone met your girlfriend before?
Shawn Sonnenschein: She came to one of the previous shows that we had in Portland. You know, ti seemed to be fine but everybody got real serious relationships right now. She’s young and absolutely beautiful. Unstoppable energy and can be challenging for maybe other people to handle but as far as you know girlfriends and things like that can be quite catty. I am not saying that anyone in the Black ‘N Blue camp, any of the girlfriends were that way, because they’re all wonderful. Michelle is amazing and Faith, Brandon’s girlfriend is an amazing person. Patrick’s wife — I have known for some twenty odd years. You know, Alice is amazing. We have nothing negative to say about anybody. I am just saying that, you know, when you’re having a good time, maybe people can take it the wrong way. Maybe that’s what happened. After my divorce years ago, I was destroyed and couldn’t perform anymore so I left the band and they came and pulled me back in. Jamie told Patrick, whom I had been in bands ever since 1990, that he needed me to come back. Woop [Jeff Warner] had quit shortly after that and Jamie was out left in a lurch. So he came and said “We got to get Shawn back.” He called me. He said that he was in tears. He never wanted me to go. It was just a terrible thing for him. He loved me and he wanted me back.
I said to Patrick, “Look, I’ll come back under one condition. I don’t want more money. I don’t want a contract. The only condition that I am going to make is that the only person that can decide if i ever leave this band again is me.” And they agreed to that. The only really negative thing for me is that I did not get the, you know, chance to call on that and they kept it back. We didn’t talk about it. We didn’t sit down and say, “Hey man! Your girlfriend is a porn star! You’re being a dick! You’re not performing well! We don’t like the way you dress!” Or whatever the hell it was! There was nothing. There was nothing like that, which I see as terribly unfair. If there were problems leading up to this, I still wasn’t informed about it.
I know that maybe I was a little hard on Brandon [Cook] as he came into the band and I’ll accept that on myself. But I would have been that way with anybody because I expected as the lead guitar player to improve the band with a new member. Now, I found Brandon and brought him in but we, you know… I told him out of the gate, “Look, I’m not going to be easy on you building this in because this is very serious for me and i want to turn these guitar solos into soaring leads when we work together. He’s amazing at harmonizing and that was a great gift to the band, and I really want to bring that out a lot. So, we worked hard on improving a lot of the live solos and bringing things out into a live arena from albums — things that had never been done before live. We had an opportunity to really push the envelop here, especially the way that we worked together. And we used to sit in the hotel room, and you know, stretch notes together so that we could feel where we were bending — how far we were going to bend so somebody would be sharp and somebody would be flat. You know, it takes years to perfect, especially with somebody new. So we worked hard on that stuff. We worked hard on making the songs amazing. We got together with Tommy [Thayer]. We did video chats and he would send us things saying, “You guys are doing this right. This part is wrong.” We were working as a great unit and everybody was clicking along and we were improving and fixing things, and making it great.
So I really don’t have anything bad to say about anybody. What happened is just passion and people being very passionate about what they do. Some accusations have been thrown around. A lot of that stuff was opinion, opinion, opinion, opinion and some flaring up, you know, and some things had to get… I think this whole thing had to get started. The air has to be cleared. If this is how it’s going to be, there’s got to some closure. There’s got to be some completion to this. And it’s not easy when you’re in a marriage with a bunch of people. You know that’s the old story about a band. If you’re in a band with a bunch of people, you’re basically married to them. I have nothing but love and respect for all these guys but you know, everybody’s got their glitches in a band. Personalities clash at times — whatever. The way that I did this was probably the worst way you could do it.
Sleaze Roxx: With your Facebook posts?
Shawn Sonnenschein: Yeah… The next day, I was like ” Oh Jesus!” This is, this is really confusing you know to a person to feel so passionate and come out and do something like that. You know, I’ve got to get this out. You do it and of course [pause], you come to your senses because you love your guys. And that was unfair you know? That was my fault and I take full responsibility for attacking in that manner. It wasn’t good so my apologies are flying [laughs]…
Sleaze Roxx: Fair enough.
Shawn Sonnenschein: I’ve got some damage control to do! I’ll put it that way!
Sleaze Roxx: Well, let me ask you this. If Black ‘N Blue, would take you back in the band, would you go?
Shawn Sonnenschein: Sure! They’re my friends. I love playing with those guys. I always have. There would have to be some things that we’d have to sit down and talk about. And get through some stuff…
Sleaze Roxx: What kind of stuff do you need…
Shawn Sonnenschein: Talk through some things, you know, and make it a happier environment for everybody. If you’re out working really hard with a bunch of guys and everybody is trying to get into the pole position for the things that they need, when you’re working on bigger stages and things, it becomes a lot more intense. And so, just ironing out how things should go at sound checks — if there should be grounds for what kind of wardrobe, a basic outline for what people should be wearing. If there’s things people don’t like that other people are doing, there’s got to be some meetings where people get down and do these things. Black ‘N Blue doesn’t really have any meetings. We’re basically more or less kind of…
Sleaze Roxx: Just show up?
Shawn Sonnenschein: …let it happen. Yeah, just show up. We don’t do many rehearsals. It’s mostly fly-ins. It’s kind of tough. You have two members that live in L.A. [California] and the other guys live in Portland [Oregon] so communication is at an all-time low when it’s like that. So yeah, messages are going to get crossed. Things are going to get said that don’t get said to everybody and maybe there becomes animosity where there shouldn’t be — where communication should be just rocking you know? Especially in a band, a franchise like this where everybody is working their asses off to make it good. It’s a tough game you know? If I wasn’t pulling through, and I wasn’t performing, then hell yeah, I deserved to be fired. Absolutely, and that band needs to go out and kill it. That’s the important thing for Black N’ Blue is that their legacy is not tarnished. So it’s important that they do what they feel is necessary. But I don’t really feel like I did… I feel like I held it up pretty good for 15 years.
Sleaze Roxx: When did you get the call from Jaime?
Shawn Sonnenschein: I think that it was a few days after we got back [from the Monsters of Rock Cruise West].
Sleaze Roxx: Have you tried to follow up with him to find out more?
Shawn Sonnenschein: I have not.
Sleaze Roxx: Why’s that?
Shawn Sonnenschein: You know, I guess [pause] I’m a bit stubborn, proud. I guess stubborn and proud is where it’s at. I’m proud of where I’ve gone and the things that I’ve done with my career. And locally speaking, it’s a wonderful position to be in. You know, I respect Jaime way too much to hound him like that and at the same time, I’m kinda pissed off at everybody for this. I don’t know why anybody in the band would not have said, “Hey! That’s not cool. That’s not fair. He’s worked hard for this band for many years. There’s no way that you can just cut him without an explanation.” And I don’t know why that didn’t happen but you know, at this point, my head is spinning a little bit about it. It’s hard to figure out where to land on this. It’s hard to know. You’re guessing at this point and I’m just going to keep going. Yeah, I’m pissed off about some things and that is going to come back up again and again. You know, at this point, I can’t just push it back down. It’s not easy to do that so it’s going to come out once in a while. Having helped pull Brandon in, giving him the opportunity to do something like this, was a big deal. I got pissed off at him because I thought that he really didn’t have my back in this and he should of. So that was a hard move for me. That came out. I let it boil up for too long before I talked to him and that’s what happened online.
Sleaze Roxx: Now, one guy that you haven’t mentioned yet is [Black ‘N Blue drummer] Pete Holmes. What was your relationship with Pete like?
Shawn Sonnenschein: Pete is amazing and I would refrain from ever saying anything negative even if I felt it about Pete. Because he’s been such an amazing — I don’t want to say father figure to me — but he kicked my ass into shame at times and helped me become more of a professional musician because he’s been around so many amazing players. He would say things to me. You see, I didn’t have a dad growing up so I don’t want to put that on Pete or anything but when you’ve got an old friend that you respect that isn’t just nice to you but he says the right thing to pull you out of being a dumbass at times, that’s Pete for you. He’s the greatest. What he’s going through with his wife and everything right now is insane. Fighting cancer and he’s still out there kicking ass! He could be you know, “No. I can’t do this. I got to…” But he’s still coming out and playing great drums and driving me and calling me out on things that I’m not doing right. That’s great. Everybody needs that. So I love Pete very very much. He’s an amazing person. He’s just so fun. His sense of humour — if you got around him for a little while — you’d just piss your pants.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] And if I understand well, [Black ‘N Blue bassist] Patrick [Young] is the guy that you have known the longest in the band, is that true?
Shawn Sonnenschein: Yeah.
Sleaze Roxx: How do you know Patrick?
Shawn Sonnenschein: Oh boy! My band Sweet Roxx from the early to mid-’80s, to begin with, we used to open up for Black ‘N Blue here in Portland at the Starry Night. And that’s basically how I ran Patrick the first time. I don’t think that we liked each other very much out of the gate. With any musicians, I think that there were some girls involved in it. On day, there was a show — I think it was out in Silverton [Oregon, USA]. Jeff Labansky — he was playing with Jeff Labansky at the time and they were playing in this bar. There were bails of hay and everything [laughs]. It was a pretty big party and Pat left the stage to go to the bathroom at one point, and I ran up there, grabbed his bass and jammed. I knew Jeff really well on and off on the side — impromptu jams live. And Pat came back and saw me playing his bass and wasn’t too happy about it.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Shawn Sonnenschein: He didn’t like me. I joined a band in Portland after that ended. The ’90s kicked in and I was referred to some other guys here in Portland, which eventually turned into Ten Pound Rain and Plum and stuff. We had this thing going and the bass player wasn’t cutting it so we let him go. I told the guys that I wanted to get Patrick. I thought that he was amazing. We got a hold of him and he came down, and it just clicked really well. Me, Pat and the drummer just clicked really well. We cut the singer. After awhile, we got another guy — the lead singer from a local band called the Beauty Stab — Cor E. Stafford and we changed the name of the band at that point to Ten Pound Rain. We had a good long run. We put out an album [‘Healing The Mud’ in 1994]. It did alright. We did some touring. It didn’t go really far but it was just a great music experience with these guys. We stayed friends and that band transformed into another band called Plum. It was more of a punk thing. Pat and I just stuck it out together. I don’t think that we realized at the time what was happening. It was just one of those things where we were great friends, we just clicked and we just kept going. We just kind of stayed. We worked well together. We respected each other and we just moved along. That came to an end and I opened up a sushi bar in Portland here. Kind of stepped out from the music scene for awhile. And then [guitarist] Woop [Jeff Warner] actually came up to me when the band reunited and that Tommy [Thayer] wasn’t coming back and the band wanted me. They brought me for an audition with Jamie and he said, “That’s our guy.”
Sleaze Roxx: How hard was it replacing Tommy [Thayer]?
Shawn Sonnenschein: [Jokingly] Oh! It was simple!
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Shawn Sonnenschein: [Laughs] Easiest thing ever! I got to say, you go through the ’80s. You’ve got this guitar God thing. Everybody is chasing down and you’re trying to play and be as amazing as you can. You have Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads. All these guys that you are chasing down. You’re trying to be yourself at the same time. And then you move into the ’90s and the grunge era comes through and it’s all about giving up all that, and finding yourself in this whole movement. Just giving up being this lead guitar player and finding rhythms. It was a really great time because it taught everybody to focus more on the song than anything. So, when you go through that, and then you’re asked to join a band where you have to go back to that guitar God era, and absorb somebody else’s style, so that it’s done properly, it’s a hell of a task. And Tommy was not an easy guitar player to emulate. He was very meticulous. His patterns were well thought out. I will have to admit that probably for years, I was doing a lot of it wrong. So, it wasn’t easy at all. But I stuck it out and I was very flattered and proud at the same time to have that position and to be there. But you know, it was not easy and i am not saying that it wasn’t fun because it was a goddamn blast! That music is fun to play!
Sleaze Roxx: What about the fans’ reception at the beginning? Was that difficult or did you feel embraced?
Shawn Sonnenschein: Yeah, I mean. I wasn’t really focused too much on that. I was really just more focused on the music and just performing. I wasn’t too worried about this being a popularity contest too much, you know? I was really just grateful and happy to be playing guitar and performing with a great band. I really tried to focus more on that. I don’t know. i’ve heard — they’ll always miss Tommy. That’s never going to go away. You can either be offended by it or you can embrace it and say, “Yeah. I love the guy too. I think he’s amazing. I am glad to be here.” And Tommy and I have talked in the past learning from each other. He’s asked me, “How’s it going?” I say, “Well, it’s great but have you heard? I’m replacing you in KISS soon!”
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Shawn Sonnenschein: You get the stab here and there, and have some fun with it but yeah, it was definitely fun. I never felt challenged by people saying they missed Tommy, you know. That’s great. The only drag is that when it comes to Black ‘N Blue music and writing an album, it was Tommy and Jamie’s gig. The only negative thing that I could ever say is that Jamie saying that he would never do another album with Black ‘N Blue unless he did it with Tommy is kind of a knock. It’s kind of a hard knock for anybody being in a band because you want to be a part of that legacy. You want to… you’re not just hired. You want to believe that you’re not just hired because you can play or believe that you’re hired because you’re a fully rounded musician and they believe in what you can do all the way around. It’s a tough thing because I would love to write with Jamie and I wanted to. I did do one album. I think I’m the only member that wasn’t an original member to have done an album with Black ‘N Blue [‘Hell Yeah!’ in 2011].
Sleaze Roxx: I was actually going to ask you about that. I think I know your answer but are you disappointed that there was only one studio album during the whole time that you were with the band?
Shawn Sonnenschein: [Pause] I don’t know. It took so long. Now, I was married when we did that album. It put a lot of pressure on my marriage because we were in the studio a lot and I had kids, new kids, and you know, my wife was really cool about it. I gave her lots of breaks when I got home and made sure she got as much time off as I did going into the studio. Because I don’t care what anybody says, going into the studio may seem like work to a lot of people and it is. The work comes from preparing to be in the studio your whole life as a musician. But when you’re there, there’s nothing more satisfying as a musician than sitting in the studio and recording, and getting those things down. It’s the most wonderful amazing experience in the world and getting to do a Black ‘N Blue album was a dream. And being able to add to it, contribute, was mind blowing for somebody. This legendary band and here I was getting to help write music. I helped write some stuff. I got to contribute one hilarious song. We had a lot of fun with that one. [Laughs] We were writing the album at Woop’s house. We were having a lot of fun with it. Jamie left to go get some beer and he never came back.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] OK.
Shawn Sonnenschein: [Laughs] So you know, we were sitting around waiting for Jamie to come back and that’s where this hilarious fun song “Jamie’s Got The Beer” came. I was just walking around the house singing that song playing guitar. [Singing] “Jamie’s got the beer. Jamie’s got the beer. Please bring it here. Jamie’s got the beer.” It was supposed to be like this big Tommy from The Who opera production. It didn’t. It was kind of disappointing but it still came out sounding really fun. You could hear us laughing and having a blast. That’s how much fun the band always had, you know? It was a great time. To be able to contribute and do that album, I am very proud of it. It’s a killer album man! There’s some really amazing music on there. I am surprised that it did not go platinum. Honestly, because it really should have gone out there. A lot of heart felt music… You know, Jamie wrote from his soul. A lot of the lyrics, anybody can identify with if they’ve been through a break up or a divorce, or have been devastated. I lived through a lot of that in my time with Black ‘N Blue — just in devastation from my divorce and things like that. Having to recoup and having guitars stolen and things, and having to struggle through just to get the gigs. That album is really a huge deal when it comes to that kind of thing. The lyrics — if you listen to them — they’re really touching. It’s really amazing stuff and reflects on a lot of the things that Jamie went through a long time ago. We tried to rely on that and it was just an amazing album. So I am proud to be on it. It’s a great album.
Sleaze Roxx: Last question for you — you mentioned that there were some lean times for Black ‘N Blue during your time in the band. What years are those that you referring to?
Shawn Sonnenschein: Lean years?
Sleaze Roxx: Or hard years?
Shawn Sonnenschein: Oh geez. Yeah!
Sleaze Roxx: I was wondering what period of time are you referring to?
Shawn Sonnenschein: Right at the beginning when I joined [in 2003], we really had a hard time getting going. We did a tour with — I am sure that you know about this one. Jamie and I refer to it as the ‘Hell Tour’ because it was insane! We got this call and Jamie, I think, was living in an RV at the time. We had this thing going on and we were just kind of limping along. Jamie came up with this thing where we were invited to go out on tour with L.A. Guns and the BulletBoys. Thirty dates in five weeks cross-country and back — to New York and back. I didn’t have anywhere to go at that point. I said, “I’m in.” Pete, Pat and Woop were not into doing this tour. I didn’t know why. I just knew that I was homeless at the time and I said, “At least I can live on the bus for awhile and eat.” So Jamie said, “I’m going.” He was sort of in the same boat as me and we really kind of fell in love with each other. We were laughing a lot. We were hanging around with each other. He just made me laugh. Still did up to the last phone call that I got from him. I never laughed more in my life then I am on the phone with that guy. It kind of lifted our spirits a little bit to be hanging around with each other. I think that maybe we saw an opportunity to get out on the road and get away from all the pain and suffering that we were all going through [laughs].
Kind of go and play some shows. We went out without a second guitar player. I had to cover everybody’s stuff. I did the best I could. I called it the ‘Boot camp of Black ‘N Blue.’ I got thrown into this thing. It was amazing. I was very proud to be a part of it. I jumped on this bus with Jamie. We took off. We got on tour and shared a bus with BulletBoys. So that in itself was insane.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Shawn Sonnenschein: Right out of the gate, [BulletBoys frontman] Marq [Torien] was absolutely just nuts. He was using Keri Kelli — who was playing lead guitar for L.A. Guns at the time. So he was doing double duty. He was playing lead guitar for Marq, for BulletBoys, and then doing the L.A. Guns thing. Marq was acting really strange. He went off on the bus driver a few times. In the middle of the night, the bus driver jammed on his brakes at one point and sent a microphone stand right through one of my cabinets. I had to deal with that. We did a bunch of shows and they seemed to be going OK. Kevin — the guitar tech that I had been talking about earlier — helped me get through that. We were absolutely broke. Every show we got to, Artists Worldwide has taken our money before we even got to the gig so we literally had no money from this. We had to get to the next show to eat, We got to Peoria, Illinois and that’s where things came to a head. The tour manager and Marq Torien got into an argument with the bus driver out on the sidewalk, and the bus driver pulled out a knife and cut the tour manager over it. The police came out. A private investigator came out. They arrested the bus driver. We had to wait for another one.
At that point, Marq got into a huge argument with the bus driver and he got thrown off the tour. At that point, Marq pulled Keri Kelli — it’s a long time ago so I have to remember. He pulled Keri Kelli from BulletBoys and so Marq asked Jamie if I could play with him and Jamie said, “No.” So that’s when he said, “You don’t have a guitar player. You’re off the tour.” They were arguing nose to nose on the sidewalk. I thought they were going to go. I thought they were going to go for sure. So I had a video camera with me this whole tour by the way so I have a lot of this on video. So when they pushed BulletBoys off the tour, what happened next is that we lost the tour bus because we couldn’t afford it being a supporting act — you know, this expense. So we got dumped off in Philadelphia, something like that — I can’t remember exactly where it was but I think it was Philadelphia. We were just left there. We didn’t know what we were going to do. We didn’t have enough money to fly home so we came up with, “Let’s go rent a U-Haul and a truck/SUV.” And we’re just going to have to keep up with the tour on our own. So we did. Rented it. We chased the tour literally and we had to do it on credit cards because like I said, every time that we got to a place, there was no money waiting for us. We had to eat. Everybody was just skeleton thin by the end of the tour because we were starving. We made the shows. We were weak. Jamie and I had a couple of very stressful moments, you know when we were starving and had a few bucks, and we couldn’t figure out whether we wanted to go get a drink or go get some food [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Shawn Sonnenschein: So we’d make it to the clubs and we’d eat, then we’d go sleep and drive the next day to get to the tour. Go play, go sleep, eat — it was a really horrible schedule. We hired some other local musicians to do this. It was just really a ‘Hell Tour’ and by the time that we got back, we were just, you know, a mess. But we did it and we finished the tour even though it was absolutely a nightmare. The crowds were amazing and we were really well received. L.A. Guns was amazing to us and I am still friends with those guys. Steve [Riley] is an amazing guy. All those guys were just so wonderful and supportive. It became kind of a family thing on the road because at one point, L.A. Guns’ bass player had to fly back home for some family stuff and the bass player that we had at the time — Gavin — stepped in with them, learned their music in one night and did two to three shows with them without a mistake. This guy was great. It was just a great thing where everybody could kind of pull together. Apparently, one of them said, “We never ever thought that we would make it to the next show. We were blown away every time you guys would pull up.” We really had no choice. We had to go to get to each gig to get food and sleep because the hotel was supported, and move on, and just make it all the way back.I got back to L.A. Yeah, it was a ‘Hell Tour’ dude. It was crazy. Like I said, it was my boot camp of Black N’ Blue. I think I earned a couple of stripes on that one.
Sleaze Roxx: That’s a cool way to end things. Is there anything else that you want to add or is there anything else that you want to say?
Shawn Sonnenschein: You know, I just want to say that I love these guys. I always have. This is a very uncomfortable time and I never expected it to come but there’s nobody in the world — in the music business — that I look up to more than Black ‘N Blue. This is their decision. They have my support. It definitely cut deep when it happened and maybe that’s where the flaring up came and the rift between Brandon [Cook] and I. But we definitely have been through a lot together and I love those guys no matter what. So they’ll have my full support. Yeah, I am going to be emotional about it at times because you know, I loved being a part of it and I don’t agree with how things went down. In the long run, I’ll always be seen as part of the Black ‘N Blue family and that is an amazing, wonderful position to be in.