INTERVIEW WITH FORMER ENUFF Z’NUFF FRONTMAN DONNIE VIE
Date: July 18, 2019
Interviewer: Ruben Mosqueda
“I’ve had a busy day, I’m doing a lot of interviews, you’re my ninth today! It’s a great problem to have, after being away for four years or so,” says an enthusiastic Donnie Vie. Most Sleaze Roxx readers will be familiar with Vie’s work with Enuff Z’Nuff and some of his solo work. Vie split from the band in 2013, “I’d like to look at it more as I fired myself, rather than I was fired from the band,” recalls Vie. “I couldn’t continue in that band, we were going in different directions, I wanted the band to grow and Chip wanted to stay on the same path, then there was drug use. I just wasn’t happy with anything in my life.” Vie has a new album titled ‘Beautiful Things,’ which is a poppy-psychedelic rock album, with infectious hooks and colossal melodic choruses. Vie pulls no punches in this honest, candid, revealing interview with Sleaze Roxx.
Sleaze Roxx: You issued a video clip for “Instant Karma.” The clip has an anti-bullying theme to it. This is an issue that you feel passionate about.
Donnie Vie: Yeah, anti-bullying and anti-suicide, I’m all about that. Back around Thanksgiving , my pancreas liquified on me! And I thought I was going to die! I was preparing the release of the album and I was in the hospital for about a month and I didn’t know what was going to happen to me. Then this Pledge Music thing went belly-up and basically fucked a lot of people in the ass. So I had “Instant Karma” recorded and I wanted to use it, but not as part of the record and I didn’t feel that I should release a video for a cover to introduce people to the record. I called a bunch of people that I knew to film themselves playing the song. I really love the footage of me playing the piano on the peer. That really came out well. I’m all about peace and love and all of that. We need more of that. Right now, it just doesn’t seem like we’re going to see that in the world ever again.
So I connected “Instant Karma” to a cause that doesn’t have much attention. One third of suicides that take place in the United States are directly due to bullying. If you see the credits, I roll out like 100 names of people who killed themselves because they were bullied. There’s kids that are nine years old that took their lives because of bullying. These kids are vulnerable and they take their lives because they’re attacked and the bullies? They grow up to become adult pieces of shit! Why? Well, because they were raised wrong. It’s sad. We’ve approached a couple of organizations about teaming up. They’ve watched the video and liked it a lot, but when they realize that it’s Donnie Vie, formerly of Enuff Z’Nuff, they’re like, “No! We don’t want that guy representing our cause [laughs]!” I don’t get it! They only person that I have ever hurt in my life is myself with my past drug use [laughs]! I mean, you won’t even let me help [laughs]? It’s baffling. I’m not the same guy that I was back then. I was self medicating. I have a lot of issues. I was raised in an abusive household. I’m manic depressive, I have ADHD, and a host of other things. Thankfully, I’m much better. I saw the opportunity of getting clean as a ‘gift.’ If you really want to get sober, you take it. I’m glad I did because for years, I wanted to die and I was slowly killing myself with substances. With “Instant Karma”, I just want to help for God sake [laughs]!
Donnie Vie‘s “Instant Karma” video:
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Sleaze Roxx: The album ‘Beautiful Things’ is out, how long has this album been in the making? All fresh material, on this album?
Donnie Vie: I had taken a hiatus from music. I had a motorcycle wreck, hepatitis, I was picked up on an old warrant and was in a mandated treatment program, which I completed. I hadn’t written anything new in years and didn’t know how I would after getting sober, getting well physically and mentally. I was alone, I was a lonely guy, I was always part of a gang, which was Enuff Z’Nuff. I was scared, because when I got sober, it had been so long since I wrote that I didn’t know if I could it alone! It was scary [laughs]! Still, though I was scared, I wasn’t going to go crawling back to Enuff Z’Nuff. There was no going back. When the valve was turned on, I was back in full force. The songs just came out of me. I’m healthier without the buffoonery [laughs]! I’m really proud of this album.
Sleaze Roxx: I imagine you hope to be able to do some live performances?
Donnie Vie: Of course! I go out and do a ‘storytellers’ type thing right now, acoustic with a piano, I do some deeper stuff from Enuff Z’Nuff. There’s stuff that we never played live because they wanted to stick to the ‘hits,’ playing other songs would take us rehearsing, God forbid! Enuff Z’Nuff never rehearsed [laughs]! I wanted to take the band further. The band played the same fucking setlist for like 20 years [laughs]! It had to end. We hadn’t made a new record. They got resentful. Things had to end. I was fired and they’re still touring with one original guy. It was good at the beginning. The end was a bottomless pit of trap doors until I hit rock bottom.
I do want to do some shows. I can’t do a tour, because I can’t put myself in that kind of situation. When you’re playing in front of a packed house, that’s a great feeling, but when you’re in Iowa in front of 20 people on a Tuesday night, that’s when you start thinking about self-medicating and that’s a dangerous place to be, because next [thing] you know, I’m searching for drugs. I have been talking to musicians about being in my backing band. I’m getting top-notch musicians, not guys that are playing with L.A. Guns or every other ’80s band that needs hired guns.
Donnie Vie‘s “I Could Save The World” song (from album Beautiful Things):
I Could Save The WorldFrom the forthcoming album ‘Beautiful Things’Written, arranged and performed by Donnie VieVocals, Guitars: Donnie VieAdditional Vocals:…
Sleaze Roxx: The classic line-up featured a ‘gunslinger’ guitarist, a flashy drummer, a bass player that was in the style of Tom Peterson [Cheap Trick] and a frontman that was heavily influenced by John Lennon. On paper, that shouldn’t have worked…
Donnie Vie: And it didn’t! I mean, we got the deal because we were good, but there were problems early on. I mean we have the flashy drummer [Vik Foxx] who’s throw throwing sticks up in the air and I’m like, “Okay, you threw that stick in the air, but what’s hitting the drums? Get your priorities straight [laughs]!” There was no respect there with him! Then there was Chip [Z’Nuff] who had a similar style and musical influences as I had. Like you said, the guitarist was into Eddie Van Halen. It was destined to fail because we couldn’t work together. We weren’t a team, we were only a team for about an hour or an hour and a half per night, on stage. We were a gang on stage, but outside of that, we’re not a gang. Chip and I would get sent out to do the press together, because the other guys weren’t writing at all. I was like how did the guy, Derek [Frigo] wind up in my band. He thinks he’s Eddie Van Halen but can’t write a song? And the drummer? He’s a total fucking poser. He’s doing all these tricks and stuff. Sure, it’s entertaining to watch and he’s a beautiful guy but a total dick!
We lost the Atco deal and were considering going with John Kalodner until he mentioned that he wanted to break it down and start from the ground up [laughs]! That didn’t sound like the best thing for us at the time so we passed and went with Clive Davis at Arista, but the problem was that they didn’t have a rock roster. God bless Clive. He loved power ballads. He heard “Innocence” and he wanted to know if we could do another power ballad and that was “Right By Your Side” and he loved it! What Clive wanted [was for] me to move on as a solo artist, but when you’re lonely and you’ve been alone all your life, you don’t want to leave your gang, no matter how fucked up it is. So, it didn’t make sense. I was writing all the songs in the band. The only thing was that the guys were fucking up my shit! On ‘Beautiful Things’, this is the record that I always wanted to make. This is the record that I couldn’t make because the band didn’t want to move forward.
Sleaze Roxx: People know the first two records [‘Enuff Z’Nuff’ (1989) and ‘Strength’ (1991)]. The debut did well for you. The band was on MTV in regular rotation. ‘Strength’ was set to be the breakthrough record.
Donnie Vie: Man, I remember Billboard [Magazine] had us as an up and coming artist and Rolling Stone has some complimentary things to say about us. Going into ‘Strength’, Atlantic [Records] had changed presidents, [and] the new one coming in had no connection or ties to us. We were fucked from the start! I got depressed. I started self medicating and Chip started running the show. It is what it is. Can’t change it now. If that hadn’t happened how it did, I wouldn’t have ended up where I am right now.
Sleaze Roxx: Who’s someone that has surprised you as an Enuff Z’Nuff fan of your work?
Donnie Vie: Man, there’s been a few. Paul Gilbert, of course, we have a mutual admiration… Ozzy [Osbourne] liked us. The Mötley guys liked us, but there’s one that really blew me away. We were playing a gig one night that featured Sebastian Bach, Foreigner, Ronnie James Dio and us opening. Sebastian did something to fuck us. We were using the backline that was provided by Skid Row and the guys were cool with us and were letting us use amps, but Sebastian would have no part of that! So we had to use whatever other gear and amps which were backstage, obviously not what we were expecting. He took it a step further at dinner. Chip and I were sitting there with some of the other bands having dinner and he’s at one of the neighbouring tables, being loud like Sebastian tends to be, “Would you look at the pipes we have here tonight? We have Ronnie James Dio, we have Lou, we have Lou Gramm!” Chip was irate and says, “What about your brother over here?” Just then security comes in and says, “Listen guys, we need to clear the room. Ronnie has an interview and we’re using the room.” I’m one of the last people heading out and I see Sebastian Bach extend his hand to Ronnie who walks right past him like he didn’t even exist [laughs]! Ronnie says, “Donnie Vie! You’re one of my favorite singers! Happy to meet you!” He extends his hand and I give him this huge hug. That meant the world to me. That showed that fucking douchebag and we went on stage with broken down gear and we still kicked their ass [laughs]!
Sleaze Roxx: Ever caught Enuff Z Nuff without you in it?
Donnie Vie: Absolutely not [laughs]! I don’t need to be a part of that. I can’t be around that. I’m clean, sober and that’s not an environment that I need to be around. [If] I might be asked to get up on stage and do a song or two, it might end up in drama. I’ve moved on from that. It keeps me positive and that’s where I’d like to be. Chip’s my brother, we’ve made up. His thing was my thing, but I can’t be a part of that anymore. I think they’re doing the setlist that I thought they’d be doing and their new album, is just what I expected.
Sleaze Roxx: Your three favorite albums of your career to date?
Donnie Vie: I would have to say for starters, ‘Beautiful Things,’ I could say the ‘Enuff Z’Nuff’ record, but I don’t think I can say that because that’s my ‘baby record’ and I don’t like all of the songs. I would say ‘Dissonance’ and ‘Paraphernalia,’ those three.
Sleaze Roxx: Do you think politics should be kept out of music? Why or why not?
Donnie Vie: Absolutely, absolutely! You’re too influential. If you’re a big artist or a big movie star, you’re too influential. You shouldn’t vote if you don’t have all the information. I don’t know anything about any of that shit and anything that I find out is just ridiculously wrong! The system is all is all fucked up. It just frustrates me, so I stay away from that shit. You’re an actor or a musician. Do that!
Enuff Z’Nuff‘s “Fly High Michelle” video (from album Enuff Z’Nuff):