Interview with former WildSide guitarist Benny Rhynedance

INTERVIEW WITH FORMER WILDSIDE GUITARIST BENNY RHYNEDANCE
Date: June 19, 2019
Interviewer: Olivier

WILDSIDE WILL LIKELY ALWAYS BE REMEMBERED FOR RELEASING ONE OF THE GREAT DEBUT ALBUMS OF ALL-TIME WITH ‘UNDER THE INFLUENCE’ BUT AT THE WRONG TIME. WILDSIDE’S DEBUT ALBUM ‘UNDER THE INFLUENCE’ WAS RELEASED BACK IN 1992 AND UNFORTUNATELY DIDN’T GET THE PUSH THAT IT DESERVED. THE GROUP RELEASED ITS SURPRISINGLY GRUNGE SOUNDING SOPHOMORE SELF-TITLED ALBUM IN 1995 WITHOUT GUITARISTS BRENT WOODS AND BENNY RHYNEDANCE WHO EACH LEFT THE BAND IN BETWEEN THOSE TWO RECORDS. UNLIKE OTHER BANDS, THE LINE-UP THAT PLAYED ON THE DEBUT ALBUM HAS NEVER PLAYED AGAIN TOGETHER.

BACK IN 2016, RHYNEDANCE WROTE A VERY COMPREHENSIVE FIVE PART SERIES TITLED ‘THE HISTORY OF WILDSIDE’ (PARTS 1, 2, 3, 4 AND 5) WHICH CONTAINS A LOT OF INFORMATION AND REALLY AN EYE POPPING VIEW OF WHAT WAS GOING ON WITH ‘HAIR METAL’ BANDS WHEN GRUNGE STARTED TO TAKE OFF. SLEAZE ROXX RECENTLY HAD THE PLEASURE OF INTERVIEWING RHYNEDANCE TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED TO WILDSIDE AND WHETHER A FULL REUNION WILL EVER HAPPEN.

Sleaze Roxx: For those who haven’t read your in-depth series “The History of WildSide”, why did you leave WildSide before the second self-titled album?

Benny Rhynedance: One word — GRUNGE. The grunge music invasion of 1992 was steamrolling the “flashy L.A. style” hard rock genre that we were all a part of. I finally left WildSide officially in the summer of 1994. Why? Because I couldn’t agree with the new direction the band was taking, and I wasn’t feeling it with the new guy guitar replacement for Woods. I didn’t have anything to do with that indie label “grunge jump” second release.

Our label, Capitol Records, did a 180 degree change internally by 1993. We lost our contract later that year and were swept out the door by new label execs. One minute we were headlining Summerfest rock stages, the next minute we couldn’t get arrested. The change from the high to the low really was immediate. In the ’80s, they called it ‘Hair Metal’, ‘Glam Metal’, ‘Pop Rock’, etc. Grunge made all of it, the “ballad singing, Harley riding, booted and buckled bad boy bands with long hair” irrelevant and clown-like overnight. It was pretty wild. Bands were losing their contracts left and right. Axes were falling like a Lizzy Borden concert.

As much as we tried to pretend the grunge movement wasn’t happening, it really became difficult to continue on and be motivated by ’94. We were all lost and trying to find our musical way. Grunge had won. The band was in disarray, and you could sense the end was near. Drew took off to Australia for a while in early 1994 to chase a girl, which left me with too much time to myself to think about things. I took stock of where I was and what I had accomplished. I felt I had come farther than I ever dreamed as a musician, but I knew the ride was over. I was angry about it. We all were. Our rock n’ roll dreams were achieved, but we were forced to end it before we could realize things to the heights we had imagined since we were kids. That was hard to swallow.

At the end of June in 1994, the singer Drew and I didn’t see eye to eye any longer, and I walked. On a hot summer night, after a final heated phone call with Drew, I broke up with a girlfriend of two years, packed up my 1969 Datsun 2000 Roadster with all my guitars and Marshall amps, and drove off into the warm Southern California abyss down Pacific Coast Highway, wondering what would happen next. Band? Done. Girlfriend? Toast. Great night!

Sleaze Roxx: After the debut album was released, Capitol Records instructed WildSide to come off the road and record a second album. WildSide didn’t follow those instructions and ended up continuing to tour. Do you think that if WildSide had gone back to record a second album at that time, things might have turned out differently in terms of you and Brent not leaving the band?

Benny Rhynedance: Our ‘Under The Influence’ debut had been out for less than a year in ’93 and we had toured most of that time with moderate success despite dwindling rock fans and grunge killing our fanbase. We had exhausted all our Capitol budgets for tour support and such, and they weren’t working our record any longer. We were a “dead stick” on our own and blazing around the country still “living the life.” Capitol did want us back in L. A. and to record number two, prior to the big shake up at the label. Problem was, there was no number two! We spent years in Hollywood in the ’80s, experiencing different things and writing about our lives in Hollyweird. We recorded the songs, they got released and we started performing them. No one was writing the second record yet. When the label asked for 12 new songs, myself, Brent and Drew said, “Wha wha wha?”  We felt like we had just gotten started and we wanted ‘Under The Influence’ to be a platinum record. Giving up on ‘Under The Influence’? Fuck no! It was unthinkable. The only stumbling block with our line of logic was the fact that it wasn’t 1987 anymore! 1993 was a whole different ball game on the musical tastes timeline. If I had a nickel for every comment of “Man, if you guys released this record in 1987, you woulda been HUGE!” That sounds like a great t-shirt.

Sleaze Roxx: During a Colorado Springs gig in 1993 before WildSide’s usual encore, Brent advised the band that his fingers were sore and bleeding, and he then immediately left the building towards the tour bus. You and Drew spontaneously decided to start playing the encore without Brent and Brent eventually came back in time to play his solo. In hindsight, do you regret that move and do you think that was the turning point for Brent leaving the band?

Benny Rhynedance: Naw, and no need for regrets whatsoever. Rule number one with any performer is… The show must go on. You never walk out on the fans. With a nasty influenza diagnosis, I once puked four times in car wash buckets side stage, mid-show, at Harpo’s in Detroit and kept playing “Hang On Lucy.” Fucked up or not, you finish the gig.

At that point in Colorado Springs, all of us were angry most of the time at what we all knew was coming, and it sure as hell wasn’t gonna be RIAA platinum plaques and Ferraris. The vibe between all of us had changed. Some of us had become more snippy than others, and something had definitely gone dark between all of us. The passion for the music was gone. The band camaraderie wasn’t there. Why did we choose a total idiot to be our manager? Where was the fun we used to have? Why wasn’t anyone smiling anymore? Where was the laughter? There was plenty of this on tap when we were a starving local band playing The Whisky every Monday night.

On this particular night, Woods had a callous or blister on his fretting hand — the worst place — and it popped and got bloody. The crowd that night was good, and they wanted more. Chanting… “WILD-SIDE! WILD-SIDE!” When we came offstage and Woods was walking out with a towel around his hand, all of us wanted to run back out and do the encore. It was Drew that said to everyone “We’re going the fuck back out there – LET’S GO!” No one protested. I was pretty sure Woods would come running back, and he did as soon as I started playing the opening riff. Afterwards, he wasn’t a happy camper, but we finished the show proper. Brent left WildSide in 1993 because we lost our contract with Capitol, and he got a better gig with Vince Neil.

WildSide‘s “Hang On Lucy” video:

Wildside – Hang On Lucy 1992 [Best Audio Quality]

Wildside – Hang On Lucy OFFICIAL video clip with the best audio in Youtube and lyrics !!

Sleaze Roxx: Brent seemed to be one of the main songwriters for the debut album. Do you think that it was his departure or the arrival of guitarist Bruce Draper, or something else, that led to the band’s sound changing so much from the debut to the second record?

Benny Rhynedance: The three main songwriters for ‘Under The Influence’ were myself, Woods, and Drew Rosenfeld. We wrote some great songs together. Without just one of the three of us, most of it couldn’t have materialized. We had co-writers with Paul Stanley of KISS, Jim Vallance, and Axl Rose, but it was always us three guys since the later ’80s. Brent wrote music only. Drew wrote lyrics only. I wrote both music and lyrics. I was the ballad guy, and could write sappy love lyrics all day long. Always a good utility writer and melodist, I could read, write and chart music. I was the band nerd from way back! Drew would get “lyric block” and have me finish up songs. Brent would have a chorus idea but no verses. I’d come up with whatever was missing. “Hang On Lucy”, “Just Another Night”, etc… “Kiss This Love Goodbye” is one of my favs that Brent and I wrote, and still is / should be a country hit ballad.

After ‘Under The Influence’, and before Woods quit, he went REALLY heavy with his musical ideas, like industrial metal heavy. Too heavy for WildSide. Didn’t sound like us. I wasn’t down with it. He left not long after.

In ’94, Bruce Draper who joined us from Geffen’s Graveyard Train, was a cool guy, a bluesy rock player but kind of detested hair metal. I think he thought of WildSide as that kind of band. I played one show with Bruce and he brought an interesting Jimmy Page kind of vibe to the band. My exit was right after in summer ’94. The change of WildSide from a hard rock / arena style rock band to a grunge band was all Drew and Bruce on their own. It was released through some producer’s Mastercard financed indie label. Some liked it, some hated it. Most don’t know it ever existed.

Sleaze Roxx: You recently made a comment on Facebook that there would likely never be a reunion of the original WildSide line-up, which turned into an article on Sleaze Roxx. The other four guys have reunited apparently for “reunion” shows at three different points in time, in 2004, 2010 and 2016. Why won’t you take part in a reunion show with the others?

Benny Rhynedance: I’d be surprised if the other guys do any other shows. The number one question at any of these random  four to five reunion shows has always been, ‘Where’s Benny?’ [Laughs] True. The three of us just don’t understand each other any longer, and precisely what each of us are about now. We are slowly pushing 30 years later, and there is anger there that is way too strong for this amount of time passed. I don’t understand it. Kind of a shame and a waste of energy in my eyes. 2022 should be the next round of two reunion gigs in Salt Lake City. I’ll be ready for the call. Ha!

I always wanted to take part, but I wasn’t invited, or even in touch with Drew or any of the other guys since 1994. They all live in LA. I ended up in Las Vegas and eventually back to where I grew up in the Seattle area. 2016 was the closest we ever came to a full original line-up reunion. I was back in the band for about two minutes when Drew and I were talking. Then I wasn’t after Woods got involved [laughs]. Just didn’t materialize. I wish the band still sounded like it once did, but it just doesn’t now.

Sleaze Roxx: It appears that you and Brent have not really spoken and/or connected since his departure from WildSide. Why is that and isn’t it time to bury the hatchet?

Benny Rhynedance: I haven’t spoken to Woods since 1993. He’s moved on and has had success as a session guitarist and touring player. I suppose that burying the hatchet is something that could be done, on paper, but now, at this point in the game? Naw. There really isn’t any reason to. I just don’t care anymore. I’m past it. There are some people in life that you can never make like you, no matter how hard you try, politely kiss their ass, or for whatever history you’ve shared. To some people it carries no value. For me, nothing wrong with moving forward and away from the past. It’s the only way to progress in life.

Sleaze Roxx: WildSide were scheduled to play at the Hair Metal Heaven Festival back in August 2017 but that appearance never materialized. What happened?

Benny Rhynedance: That whole deal was strange. Fans at Hull were saying that event organizers told them that WildSide couldn’t get into the country because of customs problems? Drew Rosenfeld said they were never truly inked to play and never even got on a plane to the UK. I believe that. Woods was definitely playing the festival in another group. The details were sketchy but it seems as if the promoters were confused with conflicting statements.

Sleaze Roxx: Reading your series ‘The History of WildSide’, it seems that there was a real sense of disappointment that ‘Under The Influence’ didn’t go platinum and take the band to that coveted next level of success. Looking back now, do you still feel that way or are you happy with what was accomplished in the very tough grunge era?

Benny Rhynedance: WildSide was a straight up hard rock band. We stopped any guyliner or Aqua Net after 1987. Not glam, not hair band. Yeah, I know I had hair three feet long, but still! Our focus was on creating well crafted anthemic rock hits. We paid our dues on the Sunset Strip in the mid ’80s for years. We played everywhere. Did it by the book. It took four years after arriving in Los Angeles to get a record contract for Drew and I. We worked hard. We learned the business of music. Our lives were about one thing — getting to the highest level we could in the hard rock game. We could do this because it was possible at that time. Signing a $2 million / seven album career contract with Capitol, one of the biggest and most prestigious, time-honored major labels on the planet was more than anyone could have hoped for. No disappointment there.

Having Paul Stanley from KISS, and master songsmith Jim Vallance contribute to our debut was humbling. There are no words to describe what working with legendary rock producer Andy Johns was like. Having Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero mix our record was amazing. These producers were responsible for some of the greatest and most iconic rock albums of all time. Basic tracks at A&M Studios Room A? What? Jesus! Overdubs and guitar at 5150 in Eddie Van Halen’s house for a few months? What the fuck? Let me say that again… hanging out at 5150 for a few months. Heavenly. The famed George Marino at Sterling Sound mastered the debut? The whole package was a Bugatti. How is it that Capitol could not sell this record to the public? We handed them a solid 9.9 out of 10. It was an easy gold medal, top of the podium winner for us. Van Halen wanted us to get our record out fast and open their ’91/’92 tour. Van Fucking Halen! How could ‘Under The Influence’ fail? Simple… no one factored in that the industry had been pumping out this same formula with rock bands for 15 years. The market was flooded with 100 bands that were very similar. It became a parody of itself. The kids had heard enough. They wanted an anti-hero. Kurt Cobain walked through that door.

Looking back now? I marvel at all the band achieved and have a deep sense of pride about how far I got in LA. I have a real appreciation for the journey we embarked on to get to the level WildSide made it to. We went so far and defied so many horrible odds that were against us. How many bands ever get a recording contract with a major label? How many musicians ever get to be on the same playing field as their idols? How many guys ever get to hang around at the house for months of someone that changed the musical landscape of rock guitar and how it’s played, a person they idolized, and one that shaped the path of their hard rock life? Ed Van Halen was the most pleasurable person and most accommodating musician I’ve ever had the pleasure of hanging around with. But he didn’t remember me in 2004 backstage in Vegas. ‘You’re who? Wild What?’ and then denied that WildSide ever recorded at his house. ‘Oh no, only Van Halen at 5150, ever…’ No. Ha! Ed rules! Still love him. Hey, it was 2004. Ed was in his “dark years” then and just a little messed up!

Sleaze Roxx: In Part IV of your series ‘The History of WildSide’, you shared that you were a cocaine addict from 1989 to your near death experience in April 1993, and that you’ve been clean ever since. Do you think that your cocaine addiction had a negative impact on WildSide during that time and if so, what was it?

Benny Rhynedance: I was definitely a young 20 something “party-favor” partaker! Uh, along with WildSide and everyone else in Hollywood! 1980s Los Angeles? Sunset Strip? In a rock band? The streets looked like a ski resort there was so much coke in the gutters of that town. As for most bands back then, when you got a little money, power, and fame, things began to come easy. Women? Everywhere. All sorts of new friends? Yep. Guys giving you free weed or whatever? Pitfall. Around every corner. More guitars, amps, and gear endorsements? Check. Bigger shows, more people chanting your name, tons of admiration, bouncing breasts, even idol worshipping? Yep. The hard part is trying to recognize where that imaginary line is that separates after show party and real life, and not buying in to the hype of people telling you how awesome you are all the time. For WildSide, most of the time we hung out on the party side of that imaginary line, 24/7. It was fun there. Thing is, it’s not sustainable, and it’s a young man’s game. The longer you roll the dice, the higher your chances are of losing it all. I found that out the hard way in 1993, teetered on the edge, but learned my lesson from it. Clean and sober for 26 years.

Sleaze Roxx: Congratulations on being clean and sober for so long! There’s been some comments that WildSide in the 2000s does not sound like the WildSide line-up that played on ‘Under The Influence’ including Drew’s voice. What are your thoughts in that regard?

Benny Rhynedance: Definitely hear a big change in the vocals. WildSide in the 2000s, or the 10s, in my personal opinion, is not what anyone remembers hearing from the original line-up of the early 1990s. How could it be? Time has a way of changing things up for an artist. For some it can be in a great way. Some can get better with age. For others, time is a real bitch. It can steal looks and talent. Illness can also rob someone of what they had in their youth. I see a lot of our old friends that are still out there now, and some of them sound insanely good. There are others that aren’t that great. Some are even dead now. The possibility of any aging group to sound good is there, but the work has to be put in.

Sleaze Roxx: What have you been up to since leaving WildSide?

Benny Rhynedance: Since 25 years ago? How much time do you have [laughs]? Well, it feels like about four lifetimes ago. Like anyone else, you experience all of life’s highs, lows and regularity. After WildSide was over for me, I came back down to earth and reinserted myself back into the matrix. Took some time away from guitar in the ’90s, but it never really left me. Now, I play daily and have more guitar gear than I ever had in WildSide. Guitars and amps are a disease. Chasing tone never ends. I’ll be 80 and still playing “Lad In Sin.”

I started and handle all the social media for WildSide since early on in 1998, became the WildSide historian and curator by proxy, and have spoken with fans ever since. That has been such a great thing. When I talk to a guy in Paraguay, Brazil, or Venezuela, or maybe the Philippines who loves WildSide and has the CD, it  just blows my mind. Fans from 1992 that got their kids, and now grandkids into ‘Under The Influence’ stuns me. Mission accomplished. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Soundcloud… all are at ‘WildSideNews’.

My days now are filled with my wife and I raising our young son, building guitars, and design of my line of guitar cabinets. I found a passion for designing and building guitar speaker enclosures that has become a ridiculously satisfying occupation for me. Over the years, my understanding of guitar tone has flourished and my focus on the speaker cab, how it’s made and what’s in it has become an obsession. Let me roll up my sleeves, give me a 4’x 8’ sheet of void-less Baltic Birch, put me near a table saw, router, a dovetail jig, and look out!

Sleaze Roxx: Have there been any discussions with anyone about getting WildSide’s debut album remastered and re-released, and if so, would there be any bonus tracks available?

Benny Rhynedance: There’s was talk a few years ago with Capitol/EMI, but they consider it ‘dead catalogue’ and won’t license it out at all. Why? Because the cost to produce it outweighs the possible sales — meaning a limited buyer audience. They don’t give away anything the way the music biz is now. Besides that, there are so many bootleg versions of the debut online claiming to be a remaster, or bonus version, limited edition etc. It’s mindboggling. All garbage. Low bit rate mp3 files on Amazon or iTunes, CD box sets, digital downloads. None of it is legit.  All CD sets in tin boxes are illegal copyright violation bootlegs from Euro sellers.

Sleaze Roxx: Where can fans old/new connect with WildSide?

Benny Rhynedance: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Soundcloud… all at ‘WildSideNews’.

Thank you Sleaze Roxx and to the more than 10,000 fans online that continue to show interest in my old band. Although WildSide is a dormant old band from a quarter century ago, I still post from time to time on our sites and answer all questions personally. Thanks in advance for visiting WildSideNews online, and stay ‘Under The Influence’! Keep rockin’ everybody. Never let it go…

From Benny: The above interview content, memories, and recollections are 100% based on my personal life experiences as a musician in a rock band in 1980s and 90s Hollywood. It is my sole opinion on what I experienced, provided to fans of WildSide for historic, informational, and entertainment purposes. My description of experiences in WildSide are NOT in any way intended to malign any individual(s), other band members, nor tarnish the reputation of any individual(s) or other band members. I’m simply stating what I recall.

WildSide‘s “How Many Lies” video:

Wildside – How Many Lies 1992 [Official Video]

Wildside – How Many Lies OFFICIAL video clip in superb sound quality!!