Interview with former XYZ drummer Paul Monroe

INTERVIEW WITH FORMER XYZ DRUMMER PAUL MONROE
Date: June 30, 2021
Interviewer: Olivier
Photos: Courtesy of Paul Monroe

MANY SLEAZE ROXX READERS WILL IDENTIFY THE GROUP XYZ WITH SINGER TERRY ILOUS WHO HAS REMAINED IN THE SPOTLIGHT THROUGHOUT THE YEARS INCLUDING DURING HIS TIME IN GREAT WHITE FROM 2010 TO 2018. XYZ’S CLASSIC LINE-UP, WHICH RELEASED THE TWO ALBUMS ‘XYZ’ (1989) AND ‘HUNGRY’ (1991), CONSISTED OF ILOUS ON LEAD VOCALS, PAT FONTAINE ON BASS, MARC DIGLIO ON GUITAR AND PAUL MONROE ON DRUMS. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH MONROE TO FIND OUT WHAT HE’S BEEN UP TO IN THE LAST 18 OR SO YEARS SINCE HIS LAST TIME IN XYZ’S LINE-UP AND OF COURSE, TO CHAT ABOUT HIS TIME IN XYZ.

Sleaze Roxx: Thank you for doing the interview. I know you want the record straight. So XYZ released three full-length studio albums in their history. Who handled the drums on each record?

Paul Monroe: Yes, that is correct. We recorded three full albums. I was the drummer who played on all three albums. However, the third album [‘Letter To God‘] was really not an official XYZ album as we had different musicians playing bass [Sean McNabb] and guitar [Jeff Northrup]. Terry [Ilous] and I were the only original members. Vinny Appice was supposed to play on most of the songs on the third album but after getting me in the studio, Terry had me record all of the songs and he then chose to use my tracks instead of Vinny’s. So, Vinny only played on one song which was “Letter To God.”

Sleaze Roxx: How did you end up in XYZ and what was your music background coming in?

Paul Monroe: I am originally from New Jersey and I played in many bands back there but decided to move to L.A. to pursue my musical career. I told all of my friends that when I come back, I’ll be visiting them in a tour bus. And I did! I went to Musicians Institute to really focus on my playing and then every weekend, I would go to the Sunset Strip to hand out my business cards to hot babes to promote myself [laughs]. It worked because one of my cards got in the hands of Pat [Fontaine], the bass player who contacted me. We met, exchanged demos, etc and we really hit it off. They told me that they had a show coming up at the Whisky [A Go-Go] and they were going to hire Frankie Banali — rest in peace — to do the gig. I looked Pat in the eye and told him to let me do the gig and I promise I will not let him down. Pat saw something in me and gave me a shot. I rehearsed the songs like crazy for a few days and on stage at the Whisky, they announced me as the new drummer. It was awesome!

Sleaze Roxx: Terry [Ilous] and Pat [Fontaine] started XYZ. You and Marc [Diglio] joined just before the recording of XYZ’s debut self-titled full-length album. Was it an equal partnership in the band during the first two albums or did it feel like you and Marc were kind of the hired guns? What was the band chemistry like?

Paul Monroe: The guys were very cool to me. Marc was already in the band and the band was the house band at the Whisky at the time I joined. We all got along very well and we were like brothers. I still talk to Terry all the time and Marc too. We are still very tight. It wasn’t exactly an equal partnership although it should have been. I was the last guy to join but still feel that it was the sound of all four of us together that got the record deal a year after I joined. So, I was not making as much of the publishing deal as the other three guys but I still had a great time with them and all is good.

Sleaze Roxx: How was it working with Don Dokken who produced the first XYZ album?

Paul Monroe: [Laughs] Thanks for reminding me who produced it!

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Well, the part about producing XYZ’s debut album was more for context for Sleaze Roxx readers….

Paul Monroe: Just kidding man. Don was a lot of fun. He showed up every day, had great positive energy, and actually taught me a lot when it comes to writing drum parts. I really looked up to him and we got along great. In my opinion, he did a great job producing the album and was very easy to work with. I like Don a lot!

Sleaze Roxx: Any funny stories involving Don [Dokken]?

Paul Monroe: Well, the first thing that comes to mind is when we were in pre-production at the studio and Don comes in and says “Hey, we’re going to be in a movie with Tommy Chong!” We all said, “Oh cool! Let’s go!” And then Don said, “Wait, not everyone. You guys stay here and write. I meant just me and Paul [laughs].” So….. off I went with Don to be in a movie with Tommy Chong called ‘Far Out Man.’ We were in the band in the movie in a funny scene with Tommy and Martin Mull. I remember pulling up to the movie set and Tommy came up to the passenger window where I was and said “Hey Man! Yeah, man!  Just park over there man and meet me at the tent [laughs].” He was no different than all the movies I had seen him in. Me and Don cracked up. It was surreal.

Sleaze Roxx: I can’t imagine that you being the only one in XYZ to get that acting opportunity would have went off that well with the other guys [laughs]. Did Don explain why you were the only XYZ member that would be doing the acting?

Paul Monroe: So the deal was that Don at the time had his new “Dokken” band. George Lynch was not part of it. Actually, I think he had all new members and he was the only original but obviously could use the name because well, he’s Don Dokken. So, it was his whole band that got the movie opportunity but for some reason, their drummer couldn’t make it. So lucky me! I made it to the big screen and filled in last minute.

XYZ‘s “What Keeps Me Loving You” video (from XYZ album):

Sleaze Roxx: How come Don [Dokken] didn’t end up producing the next XYZ album?

Paul Monroe: To be honest, I think the band just wanted a change. We had a lot of producers who wanted to work with us and we wanted a bit more control this time so we just decided to do our own thing. I am not even sure if Don was available at the time but I do know that we wanted to go in a different direction to see what would happen. That may have been a mistake. I don’t know.

Sleaze Roxx: XYZ’s sophomore full-length album ‘Hungry’ didn’t fare as well commercially as the debut. That was not quite at the grunge takeover stage yet so what do you attribute to ‘Hungry’ not doing as well and not taking the band to the next level?

Paul Monroe: Well, for one, our record company was very stubborn about what songs to release and timing is everything. We definitely disagreed with them on many occasions and I think they made some bad decisions. The other issue was that grunge and rap were really big at the time pushing good rock bands out of the scene and taking over the music industry so the window of opportunity for us was slowly but surely closing and unfortunately, we just got our deal at the end of the rock era so we had a very small window to make things happen. Had we got signed a year earlier, it may have been a much better story and ending for us.

Sleaze Roxx: What was the issue with the video for “Face Down In The Gutter”? I read that MTV wouldn’t play it as much as it could have.

Paul Monroe: I really don’t know the issue with MTV. Maybe too many hot babes in it [laughs]? I didn’t mind! The funny thing about that song is that it was written about me. We were at an album release party, and to make a really long story short, I drank a little too much and my band was looking all over for me. Many hours later, they found me… face down in the gutter! End of story [laughs].

XYZ‘s “Face Down In The Gutter” video (from Hungry album):

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] I think quite a few people could relate to that one. Why did you and Marc [Diglio] end up leaving XYZ? Did you both leave at the same time?

Paul Monroe: Marc left in the middle of one of our tours to see the birth of his first child. It was something that he definitely did not want to miss, so I called in my best friend Tony [Marcus] from New Jersey who already knew all the songs and the next night, Tony became the new guitar player. I left the band after that whole grunge thing started happening and the band wanted to keep going and fund everything themselves and travel in a van instead of a bus. I unfortunately had bills to pay so I decided to start a business and make some money which I did. I just didn’t want to struggle in the business like a lot of bands did.

Sleaze Roxx: Ten years later, you resurfaced in XYZ. From what I understand, it was supposed to be the classic band line-up for that record but Pat and Marc bowed out and were replaced by bassist Sean McNabb and guitarist JK Northrup. How did that reunion come about and what led to the line-up changes?

Paul Monroe: So, as I mentioned before, this was a weird situation without Marc and Pat. Terry called me and asked me to play a few songs on the album. I don’t even think that it was going to be an XYZ album but more of a Terry IIous album with hired guns. But Pat wrote some lyrics and then I ended up playing on the entire album except for one song so it did end up being released as an XYZ album but to me it felt different. When I talked to Marc and mentioned the album one time, his remark was “We had a third album?” [Laughs] So, yeah, it’s an XYZ album but a bit different because any time you replace band members, a lot of things change. Sound, vibe, feel, songs… You get the picture.

Sleaze Roxx: Is it true that XYZ asked Don Dokken to produce the third album but he declined?

Paul Monroe: I can’t be too sure on that as I was asked after. A lot of it was already written so I came in after the fact and just laid down my tracks without asking too many questions. Terry had a lot of the control on that album and really did what he wanted instead of being told by anyone else so I know he was happy with being able to make most of the decisions.

Sleaze Roxx: What did you do during that ten plus year period between the second and third XYZ albums?

Paul Monroe: Stared at the walls for a very long time [laughs].

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]

Paul Monroe: No, I played with a few bands and again the window of opportunity was just not there for rock. I was in a band called 7% solution with Mitch Perry on guitar, Sean McNabb on bass and Ralph Saenz, who became Michael Starr the lead singer of Steel Panther. This was a great looking band and the talent was certainly there so we did our thing for a while until the scene died out. After that, I just practiced a lot and kept the chops going.

7% Solution‘s “Money” video:

Sleaze Roxx: Did 7% Solution ever release an album? The music from the video footage that is available on YouTube sounds really good! If there any chance of 7% Solution releasing some material in the future?

Paul Monroe: 7% Solution did not release any albums unfortunately. And I don’t see any chance of the band rejoining and making one. The singer is now in Steel Panther so he’s pretty set and Mitch Perry has his own solo project now. I did talk to Mitch about getting back together but because of his commitment to his current project. he really didn’t have any interest. So for now, it’s just a memory of the past.

Sleaze Roxx: What about releasing 7% Solution’s demos, assuming there are some? There are a few labels out there like the DDR Music Group and FnA Records that specialize in releasing that type of material. A couple of years ago, Demon Doll Records [now the DDR Music Group] released an EP from Long Gone, which featured Ralph on lead vocals. Any chance of the public getting such a release from 7% Solution?

Paul Monroe: I love the idea but Ralph is so busy with his band. And Mitch is also very busy with his group and that is his main focus. Those guys consider 7% [Solution] a thing of the past and obviously just want to move on and I’m cool with that.

Sleaze Roxx: Your second stint with XYZ was much shorter. How was it being in the band without Pat and Marc, and what led to the demise of the group once again?

Paul Monroe: I grew up with Tony, the guitar player who replaced Marc. I’ve known him since he was 13 years old. Tony and I used to get stoned, jam in his basement, record our jam, get stoned again and listen to the tapes [laughs]. Tony was a big XYZ fan and when I moved to L.A., I really missed him so to have him back on stage with me living the dream we both had was a great experience. But as the grunge scene took over, we kind of went our own ways and XYZ still continued with the new drummer Joey [Shapiro] and Tony on guitar. It was just a change of the music scene that killed everything for us.

Sleaze Roxx: What’s your favorite XYZ era and/or album, and why?

Paul Monroe: I definitely favor the first album because it was a dream come true. Getting a record deal, going on tour opening for Ted Nugent, and being in a great rock n roll band — I was living the life! The songs were great. We all had input in writing the songs and we all respected each other in the studio making sure everyone had their say and was happy before releasing it. It was an amazing experience. One that I will never forget and always be grateful for.

Sleaze Roxx: You were part of the band Death & Taxes after that. How did that come about and how was your time in that group?

Paul Monroe: Hmmm, I was never actually in that band. Jay [Link], the singer, was a good friend of mine and I think I jammed with them a few times and then he hired me to record some songs for them in the studio. We never did any gigs or anything. It was just a very short time where I was just there to have a good time and record some tunes. Jay, the singer, was a super nice guy and very respectful which always makes things easy.

Sleaze Roxx: You have a very active YouTube page where you post free drumming lessons. What prompted you to start that?

Paul Monroe: Well, I just wanted to take advantage of the social media scene as I was out of the loop for a long time and didn’t want people to think that I disappeared and became a gypsy or something. It was an outlet for me to let everyone know that I am still here and I also really love teaching and sharing. So that is the bulk of my channel although I am going to be doing more drum covers now as there are plenty of free lessons on my page as it is so if you want to check it out, go to YouTube and search for Paul Monroe Drumming. Sorry!  I had to throw in a little plug [laughs].

Sleaze Roxx: All good. That’s why I mentioned it in the first place [laughs]. Correct me if I am wrong but I understand that you have some additional acting credits to your name beside your cameo in ‘Far Out Man’ [that was released in 1990]. How did you get into acting and what kind of acting roles have you played?

Paul Monroe: I really got into acting because my daughter was doing it and I thought that it would be a good way to bond with her and create some memories. I really got into it but most of what I did was theater acting and musicals. I really loved it but knew that my drumming was more important and didn’t want to spread myself too thin. I have been in a few smaller movies but nothing worth mentioning. Acting is something I may come back to but for now, I play my drums every day and there is barely enough time for that so yeah…. But to answer your question, I did play some lead roles like “Rooster” in Annie, “Fagin” in Oliver Twist, “The Pharaoh” in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and the “Lion” in the Wizard of Oz just to name a few.

Sleaze Roxx: Impressive! It’s been almost 20 years since XYZ’s third album ‘Letter To God.’ Aside from what we have already discussed, what else have you been up to during those 20 years or so?

Paul Monroe: I have been building an IT firm called iTechCare 24/7. We provide support, monitoring, protection and updating etc for businesses and manage their computer networks so they don’t have to. We are mainly a cyber security firm so we keep the hackers out! Other than that, just enjoying time with my family, dogs, and keeping my drumming chops loose. I am currently in a Judas Priest tribute band and was recently asked to join on a fill in basis a Foreigner tribute band so that also has been keeping me busy. Tribute bands are really popular out here in L.A. and I love both of these bands.

Sleaze Roxx: When I interviewed current XYZ drummer Joey Shapiro back in November 2018, he mentioned that the upcoming XYZ album, which has yet to be released, would feature guest appearances by past members such as yourself. Did that materialize and if so, who approached you in that regard?

Paul Monroe: Pat did approach me and offered me a few songs to play but he never really contacted me much after that even though I was totally into doing it. I don’t mind. Maybe things changed and they changed their minds. I think they ended up going a different route on the new album and only the new members played on it as far as I know.

Sleaze Roxx: Did you ever want to get back in XYZ? How come you haven’t played in the band in almost 20 years?

Paul Monroe: I thought about it a lot but because of my business, I got really tied down with that so it took up more time than was expected. The new members kept the torch going and I didn’t want to step on any toes and try to push myself back in as I felt that Joey [Shapiro] really earned his spot with them so he deserved to be there. However, things are changing a bit and it looks like I may be playing with them here in L.A. for the Kingdom Come / XYZ shows. We’ll see. I talk to Terry a lot and he’s been very enthusiastic about me playing with him again so we’ll see what happens. I would join the band again if I was asked.

Sleaze Roxx: We’re already one step closer to a XYZ classic line-up reunion [laughs]! You had previously mentioned that you have kept in touch with [former XYZ guitarist] Marc [Diglio]. Do you think that he would rejoin XYZ as well?

Paul Monroe: I do keep in touch with Marc on a regular basis. Still to this day, he’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met but Marc has no intention at the moment of joining back with XYZ or playing hard rock. Marc has always had a blues influence and now he’s a full on blues guy and loves that style. He barely plays hard rock anymore. He’s still a monster guitar player and is always playing and recording but as of now, he’s happy doing his own thing. We send each other ideas here and there but nothing has been released yet. You never know with Marc. He may be back someday in the scene. Or maybe not…..

Sleaze Roxx: Is there anything that you’d like to mention that we haven’t covered?

Paul Monroe: I think we covered a lot. I can go on and on but this was great. Thank you for the interview and keep up the great work. You’re keeping rock alive!

XYZ‘s “Inside Out” video (from XYZ album):