INTERVIEW WITH NEWHAVEN, A.Z.R.O. AND D.F.M. DRUMMER TODD LANE
Date: July 14, 2022
Photos: Alan English (first and fourth photos), William Hames (second photo / album cover), Jeff Tolley (third photo)
BETTER LATER THAN NEVER! THAT IS THE OLD ADAGE THAT CERTAINLY APPLIES TO DRUMMER TODD LANE WHO FINALLY HAD ALBUMS RELEASED IN 2022 FOR NOT ONE, NOT TWO, BUT THREE BANDS THAT HE WAS IN WITH NEWHAVEN DATING ALL THE WAY BACK TO THE LATE ’80S. NEWHAVEN’S SELF-TITLED ALBUM WAS RELEASED VIA FNA RECORDS ON MAY 23, 2022 WHILE RECORDS FROM A.Z.R.O. AND D.F.M. WERE RELEASED LAST SUMMER VIA METALLIC BLUE RECORDS. THE OLD ADAGE ‘BETTER LATE THAN NEVER’ ALSO APPLIES TO THIS INTERVIEW SINCE I SAT ON IT FOR SOME TIME BEFORE GETTING MY ACT TOGETHER AND TRANSCRIBING IT.
Sleaze Roxx: Congratulations on finally getting NewHaven’s album out to the masses. How did this come about with FnA Records?
Todd Lane: OK. Basically, I was approached by a guy that is a rock writer in Los Angeles for Rock City News by the name of Gerry Gittelson. I have been talking to FnA and all these other different labels for a long time and I just never did anything for various reasons. Nothing nefarious. I just didn’t do it. It’s a long story. Anyways, so I get a call from Gerry. He’s like, ‘Todd, you’ve got to release the NewHaven stuff! You’ve got to release the NewHaven stuff!’ I have been hearing about this forever. So, Gerry kind of woke me up basically and said, ‘OK, we’ve got to do this.’ So I had another conversation with FnA and then we started getting the ball rolling. I was just, ‘It’s time to do it! I agree.’ And then we started the process from there. Gerry Gittelson is the guy that kind of kickstarted this whole thing.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! And what was holding you back from releasing the tracks in the first place?
Todd Lane: Errrr. Just like….
Sleaze Roxx: OK.
Todd Lane: Just like… Put it that way. I had other things to do, you know what I mean? But I always wanted to do it. I always had a vision in my head of how I wanted to get it done. I got to be honest with you, I am so pleased with all the hard work… Hopefully, it was worth the wait. We really put our hearts and souls into this.
Sleaze Roxx: So I understand that NewHaven released two demos but never an actual album even though you were courted by Atlantic Records. Take me through the process. The band is releasing demos. You’re trying to get signed to a major label. You got courted by Atlantic Records at one point but it didn’t materialize so what happened there?
Todd Lane: So what happened is this. NewHaven was founded in 1986 by me and Kirk [Samler] after my other band Haven broke up. We had two guitar players prior and then we had to make changes. Robbie Crane and Tim Kelly came in the band and played with us for about a year, and then when we got this line-up, after Tim joined Slaughter and Robbie went to another band, we got this line-up. We always kept writing songs and the songs just got better and better. We were selling out shows all the time from like ’87 to like ’91. Seriously! No b.s. [bullshit] and we played with all those big bands — Tuff, Poison, Warrant, and all those bands throughout the years — and then Atlantic finally came down one night and said, ‘OK, we want to put you guys in the studio and get you guys like a development demo deal.’ We went in to record it. We couldn’t do a record or anything like that until the agreement expired. They had the rights to the thing and then, record companies do what they do. East coast, west coast — ‘My band is better!’ ‘No, my band is better!’ Anyways, at the end, we were the band on the west coast that Atlantic was going to go with when they had that committee for who’s going to get signed in that quarter or that period. Unfortunately for us, New York had a little bit more power than the west coast office so we lost. So that’s basically what happened.
Sleaze Roxx: How long was the waiting period?
Todd Lane: It was a long time. It was a long time. So like in ’89, they liked it and said, ‘We want another one.’ Music was changing and we were trying to evolve. So, if you listen to the first three tracks of the first basic Atlantic demo and the next three… “Rocking Chair”, “Part of Me” and “Draw The Line” are the first set of Atlantic demos. “Long Night Out”, “Who You Are” and “Love On The Rox” are the second set. So we had to wait. We had to wait but we were getting closer. It was a dream come true. I was like, ‘Finally! We have a shot guys!’ And then, I don’t know, maybe a year of waiting… We were still playing shows and more and more people from the west coast office are coming down and getting behind us. When the boat came around, we came up short because the people in New York had more clout.
Sleaze Roxx: So what happened to the band? Finally, you must have found out from Atlantic that…
Todd Lane: Yeah, they said, ‘We lost. We tried.’ We were like, ‘Man, no hard feelings.’ I think we all went out to dinner or something like that. We thanked them. They thanked us. They were like, ‘You’re so close.’ Then you’ve got to understand Olivier at that point, in the ’90s, getting closer to ’91, things were starting to change music wise. So that’s basically what happened but I have no regrets man. It was exciting. Once Atlantic jumped on board, I was doing cartwheels in the dressing room.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] That’s cool. Is that when the band dissolved? When the Atlantic thing didn’t work out?
Todd Lane: No. We continued on, even after the Atlantic thing. We continued on. We were still selling out shows. We got another music attorney to give it one more shot and we were free from Atlantic. We could use the music to try to go to a different label. We just ran out of time is the best way that I can put it. At that point, it was just too late. Now, we’re into ’91. So we just played, played, played. Nothing was happening again because music was changing. We didn’t have a farewell show or anything like that. We just sat down one day and said, ‘You know, times are a changing. Guys, it’s been a great run! Thanks!’
NewHaven‘s “Part of Me” video:
Sleaze Roxx: Fair enough. Had you ever thought of releasing an album on your own kind of like what Mötley Crüe did in ’81 type thing?
Todd Lane: We had offers. We had offers but we were going for the brass ring, you know what I mean?
Sleaze Roxx: Right.
Todd Lane: People were coming at us all the time but our goal, my goal when I got out there in ’84, was to go for the brass ring. I was friends with all those guys in ’84 like Poison, Warrant and stuff like that. But no. We got approached by a bunch of people. I don’t need to run a credit roll but yeah, we just didn’t do that.
Sleaze Roxx: So eventually NewHaven disbanded. With the interest of the album being on FnA Records, has there been any talk of you guys reuniting or doing a reunion show or something like that?
Todd Lane: Yes! Yes! Absolutely!
Sleaze Roxx: Alright. So tell me about that [laughs].
Todd Lane: I don’t want to spill the beans but I have talked to all the guys — Glen [D’mako], Steve [McMaster], Mike [Drake], Kirk the singer. They are kind of letting me run with the football right now. Those guys are very busy with their lives and stuff like that so I am working out something. We are definitely going to try to do it. I don’t know if it will happen but we are definitely trying to do it. I don’t want to jinx it, you know?
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Sure.
Todd Lane: So the answer to your question is a simple “yes”.
Sleaze Roxx: That’s great news! How long has it been since you guys have played together?
Todd Lane: Shoot, probably like back in ’91. We all went into different directions.
Sleaze Roxx: How come you named the band NewHaven and how come it is only one word it seems?
Todd Lane: So when I first moved out from Cleveland, Ohio, in ’84, in September ’84, I was in a band called Haven. We were heavy, a little bit more rock n’ roll. We had a great singer. He sounded like Bon Scott or whatever. We actually did a video for MTV called “Turn It Up.” That’s online. That’s on YouTube [see below]. It’s pretty cool! Wait until you see that video. Haven was together like from ’84 to ’86 because we went to Europe and toured with Heavy Pettin’ I think that we opened up for Paul Di’Anno’s Battlezone. So we had a four to five month European tour scheduled in ’86. I don’t know how old you are or if you recall but America bombed Libya. We were billed over there as an American band from the USA and we had this company that was behind us like MTV called Music Box that started playing our video for “Turn It Up” that I spoke to you about. So unfortunately, when that happened, we were all kind of dejected and I think a couple of the band members’ parents died, grandparents so we broke up. I came back home to see my father here in Ohio.
Actually, this is a funny story Olivier. On the plane ride back from London [England] to New York and then changing planes, I sat down next to a guy named Rex King who was like Jimmy Page’s body man in [Led] Zeppelin. He had a The Firm tour book in his hands. I was like, ‘Do you work for The Firm?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah. I’m Jimmy Page’s guy.’ I was like, ‘Did you work with him in Zeppelin?’ He was like, ‘Yeah.’ I told him, ‘It’s going to be a long flight buddy!’
Haven‘s “Turn It Up” video:
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Todd Lane: I said, ‘I’ll buy the drinks!’ I swear to God man! And when The Firm came to Cleveland [Ohio] afterwards, I got to meet Jimmy Page, Paul Rodgers, [Tony] Franklin and Chris Slade. It was really cool! I can tell you a zillion stories about a zillion things. Anyways, I talked to our manager and she said, ‘Todd, if you want to come back out here and put together a band, I’ll back you.’ So I flew out back to Los Angeles, found Kirk [Samler and] we went into the studio — me, Kirk and the guitar player from Haven, Darryl Swan, and a keyboard buddy, a long-time friend, Mark, who played with Marq Torien, the original drummer for the BulletBoys, Gilby Clarke, all kinds of stuff. Once I got Kirk and Mike, and I called the guys in Cleveland, because they were a guitar player and a bass player. So they flew out and we put together a band. We were like, ‘What are we going to name it?’ I was like, ‘Guys, I don’t have time to sit around in a room and figure out a new band name. Let’s just call the band NewHaven because Haven had traction here and people knew who I was and all that stuff. And it stuck. I just liked it personally as one word. I mean, I didn’t like “New Haven.” It’s just NewHaven. So that’s how that happened.
Sleaze Roxx: So I had a follow up question on the reunion stuff. If you are to play a reunion show, what city or state are you aiming for?
Todd Lane: Well, I’ll give you a little hint. It may not be in a city or state.
Sleaze Roxx: Ooooh [laughs]. That’s not really a hint.
Todd Lane: It could be on land, air or sea.
Sleaze Roxx: Alright [laughs]. You have a couple of bonus tracks on the CD that came out with FnA Records and they’re live tracks. So where did these live tracks come from and has there been any thought of putting out a full blown live album?
Todd Lane: OK. Those things were recorded in 1988 at a Whisky jam. The Whisky A Go-Go used to do Monday night jams. So when bands were playing there, they wanted you to come down and play on Monday nights and promote your upcoming shows. So you’d get up on stage and you would be rushed. You would play like four songs or something like that, and somebody — I don’t know who recorded it — maybe an RPR person. It could have been through the [sound]board. It sounds pretty good. She said, ‘Todd.’ Her name is Rachel. I think she recorded it. As far as more live tracks, we have to dig. I went through everything to find as much stuff as I could, as you can tell from that collage that is in there. I mean, goodness gracious, there’s a lot of stuff in there. So, I don’t know. It’s possible, it’s possible.
Sleaze Roxx: I’ve got to say that the CD booklet is quite impressive.
Todd Lane: Thank you! I am so happy the way FnA did everything. They spared no expense. And they wanted this because they wanted this to look good. They wanted this for forever man. Like the photos that you see on the cover and the back, when you pull the CD out and after you’re done reading it, you see the other things. Those pictures were taken by a big rock photographer — William Hames. I mean, he did the top. He did everything. Mr. Big and [Van] Halen — he’s one of the legends. He’s up there with [Neil] Zlozower and all those guys. We were lucky to get him man! He’s a great guy. He’s been a great friend throughout all this stuff.
Sleaze Roxx: What about the rest of the tracks? Give me the era that the songs were written and stuff like that.
Todd Lane: Sure. You’re talking about all the tracks on the CD.
Sleaze Roxx: Right.
Todd Lane: Right. So the first six are the Atlantic demos basically in sequence. “Rocking Chair” to “Love On The Rox” — all Atlantic stuff. And the next four, those were the original demos that Kirk and I did with the guitar player in Haven that helped me out and the guy Mark that I just told you about. So that’s the sequence. I just put them in that order because I knew the people that have known us over the years — a lot of our stuff got used in movie soundtracks too. So we just wanted to do that and put the live tracks on there. That’s the story of the tracks.
New Haven‘s “Rocking Chair” video:
Sleaze Roxx: And what about the live tracks? When were those written and why didn’t they appear on the demos?
Todd Lane: The live tracks were written — I’d have to to think about it. The first song “Sweet Surrender” was one of the first songs that were played when we were together in ’87. I think that when we played live, that would be song number two. “I’m In Love” — the song, track seven — we opened with that. We opened with that forever and ever. “Sweet Surrender” would be second. “Cross The Line” would have been written probably in ’88 and “[When The] Night Comes Down”, I think that we started playing that in late ’87 ’cause that would be our [set] closer. When you hear it, you can hear Kirk introduce everybody. We had the song for awhile and we used it for a long time because people liked it and it was just a great song to close with. If you listen closely at the end, Kirk is like, ‘On guitar, Steve. On keyboards, Mike. On bass, Robbie Crane. Back there on the drums is Todd Lane. I’m Kirk.’ We always chose to do this little inside joke thing, ‘We’ll see you later” and shit. It was great. It was the perfect closer Olivier.
Sleaze Roxx: That’s cool. Is there any other NewHaven tracks that could surface in the future?
Todd Lane: Hmmmm. I am trying to think. I mean, the stuff that I know is there, there’s maybe one or two songs. I found some videos. There is some stuff floating around but I don’t think so because this is the best polished up stuff that we had. If I just threw out stuff, it would be garbage. I don’t want to do that.
Sleaze Roxx: Do you feel a sort of feeling of like vindication the NewHaven has finally been able too put out the album that you’ve always wanted to do?
Todd Lane: Yes! Absolutely! Good question. It feels like after all these years of everything, personal and professional and everything, the fact that I can hold it in my hand and look at it, just be so proud of what we accomplished. All the band members that were there from the beginning to the end, and just me, because again, when I came back to L.A., I had nothing — nothing. I worked hard and found the right guys to help me. We were a team and we had a lot of fun. We made good music and I am hearing about it online. People are like, ‘Oh my God! Finally!’ I am totally proud and so happy.
Sleaze Roxx: So what did you do after NewHaven?
Todd Lane: I would be delighted to tell you.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Todd Lane: Afterwards, we said our goodbyes. We all stayed in touch and stuff like that. I was like, ‘What the hell am I going to do now?’ I got called by a film production company that was putting out a movie called ‘The Bikini Carwash Company.’ They were like, ‘We want to use all your NewHaven songs in it. It’s girls, it’s bikinis, it’s the sun.’ I was like, ‘Go ahead, go ahead, go ahead.’ And so, the movie came out. It was a cult classic. It was in the early ’90s — maybe ’91, ’92. Then they said, ‘It was so good, we’re going to do a sequel. But Todd, we need you to get together a different kind of band.’ So just by osmosis, just the guys that I met. The last bass player in NewHaven was a guy named Steve Giles. He hooked me up with a singer guy that he knew, and they knew this guitar guy, and we all got together and played. And I said, ‘Look guys, if we can write 12 songs together that are not ’80s glam stuff, they want us to do the soundtrack for the sequel.’ We didn’t pick a name. We were just the soundtrack band. The guitar played said, ‘OK. I was in this old band called AZRO.’ I said, ‘Fine! Let’s just use it.’
A.Z.R.O.‘s “Rock In A Hard Place” single:
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Todd Lane: That’s number one. That’s coming out right now [on August 5, 2022] on Metallic Records [A.Z.R.O.’s album ‘Rock In A Hard Place’]. It’s really cool! It’s slamming! I don’t know what kind of music you like but it’s really cool. We’re at at the end of the movie playing with girls, dancing around. In the ‘unrated’ version, they take off their tops to wash the cars. It’s pretty cool Olivier! It’s pretty cool. When I told Pearl Drums — because I am still endorsed by them — you guys have to see what I just did. They were flipping out! They were like, ‘Oh my God Todd! Only you Todd! Only you!’ After that project fizzled, the same company called me again. ‘Can you put together another band but it’s kind of a karate movie, action, stuff like that?’ So I knew who I needed to keep and move on from. Another thing, we did six songs for a movie called ‘Showdown.’ Billy Blanks, Christine Taylor — probably ’93, right after A.Z.R.O.. It’s called D.F.M. and that’s also coming out on Metallic Blue [D.F.M.’s album ‘Streets of Rage’], and that’s off there too. I am actually going to fly into Utah to play with D.F.M. at the end of the month [July 2022]. A.Z.R.O. was really cool fun rock. D.F.M. was a little darker, heavier but melodic. The singer is just incredible. The songs are pretty cool! I am excited about that!
Sleaze Roxx: You’ve mentioned the music is different for both projects. What’s the style for each of those projects that you did?
Todd Lane: I would say that A.Z.R.O. is like Danger Danger and maybe like Warrant type stuff. It’s more complex. The guitar player, he’s really good! He’s like Steve Vai, not overplaying. He’s really good. He drives the band and of course, there is me behind there kicking ass! The singer and the songs are really good. There’s stuff online. D.F.M. is hard and heavy. It’s not metal but it’s really good.
Sleaze Roxx: Is there anything that we haven’t covered that you would like to comment on?
Todd Lane: I don’t know. I always want to thank the fans all over the place — old and new — because I have met a lot of new people on this journey and it’s been fun. The companies that have stood by me personally as a drummer, I can’t thank them enough. The main one is Pearl Drums out of Nashville, Tennessee ’cause I’m still with them man! I got signed by them in 1986 before I went to Europe. I stayed with them forever and I remember when I went to Nashville to meet the head of FnA [Records], I hung out with him but we went to the Pearl [Drums] corporate office and I had a stack of CDs in my hands. It was just a proud moment.
D.F.M.‘s “Loser Takes All” video:
D.F.M.‘s “Trash King” video: