Interview with Quiet Riot and Hookers & Blow guitarist Alex Grossi
INTERVIEW WITH QUIET RIOT AND HOOKERS & BLOW GUITARIST ALEX GROSSI
Date: October 2021
Interviewer: Ruben Mosqueda
Photos: First photo by Joe Schaeffer Photography, last four photos courtesy of Alex Grossi
Quiet Riot have moved forward since the passing of drummer Frankie Banali. It’s what Banali wanted, and like it or not, they’re honoring his wishes. I caught their sold-out show on October 16th, 2021 in The Dalles, Oregon, USA, which ironically is the hometown of Mark Huff, who sang for the band briefly, as documented in the 2014 Quiet Riot documentary ‘Well Now You’re Here, There’s No Way Back.’ If you recall, the band was dealt Spinal Tap after Spinal Tap type situations. This day was no different. The band flew in from a show in Pennsylvania and had flight issues. The band made it to Oregon with just enough time to play the gig. They had to soundcheck minutes before launching into “Run For Cover.” This was one of the last shows that bassist Chuck Wright performed as his time in the band will come to a close at the end of 2021. Classic line-up bassist Rudy Sarzo will step in going into 2022. Jizzy Pearl is the best guy they’ve had if they can’t have Kevin Dubrow. Johnny Kelly does a respectable job playing Banali’s parts and Alex Grossi? He’s filled some big shoes.
He talks about this here, but first a Hookers And Blow tale. “We were on tour in 2006. We were going to Cincinnati, Ohio. We did the gig and Dizzy [Reed] decided he wanted to stop at McDonald’s. We get to the drive-thru and Dizzy orders two cheeseburgers. The late night menu only had Big Macs and Egg McMuffins! No cheese burgers! Dizzy proceeds to instruct the lady on how to make a cheeseburger through the intercom. He wound up getting a little belligerent in the process and he decided that he was going to call the White House and he was going to file a complaint with the president about it! He pulls out his phone. He calls information and he gets connected! So he says. “This is Dizzy Reed from Guns N’ Roses. I need to speak with George Bush and I’d like to file a complaint!” I could hear the conversation, they said, “Okay Mr. Guns N’ Roses. You can’t file a complaint here!” They hung up [laughs]! So then Dizzy decides to call them back! You don’t crank call the White House. You don’t do that! They monitor the call, they know where and who you are! So basically we got the hell out of dodge! We were being followed [laughs]! We were talking to Golden Robot Records about this story and they wanted to reenact this! We were like, “That’s great, but unless you have a budget, this isn’t going to happen [laughs]!”, recalls Grossi of an incident that spawned an animated clip. Sleaze Roxx caught up with Quiet Riot guitarist Alex Grossi on October 13th, 2021 spoke about Hookers & Blow, Beautiful Creatures and of course Quiet Riot.
Sleaze Roxx: The Hookers & Blow album is such a fun album. It’s got some renditions of some songs from the greats.
Alex Grossi: We didn’t think we’d ever record an album. I think when the opportunity presented itself to make one, Dizzy [Reed] and I said, “You know, I think these guys get it. Let’s make a record!” I think it turned out very cool and I’m very happy with it.
Sleaze Roxx: How about you give me a little background on the band? I know it was a side thing that you guys started doing initially just for fun, right?
Alex Grossi: I started Hookers & Blow with Dizzy in 2004, right around the time that I joined Quiet Riot. There used to be this place on the Sunset Strip called The Cat Club. They had a ‘jam night’ twice a week. Dizzy and I met there. We’d played a couple songs together. We hit it off. I’m originally from Connecticut. There were a bunch of clubs that I worked with that wanted to book some bands. I said to Dizzy, “We could play some shows while you’re not on tour and make a little money.” He agreed, but we needed to find a name. I asked him, “What he wanted to call it?” He said, “Let’s call it Hookers & Blow [laughs]!” I was like, “Okay, then Hookers & Blow it is [laughs]!” We had that logo designed which we’ve been using for like 18 years now. We booked those shows. They were packed and the thing was just one big party. Since then, we have gone out and played shows whenever possible. With Dizzy and I in bands that tour regularly, we’d play when the opportunity presented itself. Dizzy and I have been the core of the band. We’ve gone through various incarnations and here we are 17-18 years later.
Sleaze Roxx: The rotation of songs that you play live, how many of the songs on this album were songs you played live?
Alex Grossi: Yeah, “Ziggy Stardust”, we’ve always played live. The Elton John cover, “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” has been in there for a while. [Led] Zeppelin’s “Trampled Underfoot” has been in there for a bit. Frankie [Banali] played on that one on the record, Frankie would come out and play that with us when we played in LA. I’d say about 50% of them. The Body Count cover I had never heard before, but I learned it and it made the album. “No Quarter” — I wasn’t very familiar with that one. Frankie and Dizzy recorded that while I was out playing a Quiet Riot gig [laughs]! That was interesting because Frankie was home getting his chemotherapy treatment, [and] he sat out the Quiet Riot gig because of it. So we were playing a show in Minnesota and Frankie is posting that he’s in the studio with Hookers & Blow recording, while we were out playing a show! I remember someone asked me, “Why isn’t Frankie here with you guys?” I was like, “Well, because he’s at home getting chemo.” At that time, he had gone public with his cancer diagnosis. Then I was asked, “Okay, well do you know he just posted that he’s in the studio recording with Hookers & Blow?” I looked at the post and I’m like, “Well apparently so [laughs]!” I said to Frankie, “You might not want to post that kind of stuff while we’re out playing shows without you [laughs]!”
Hookers & Blow‘s “Ziggy Stardust” single:
Sleaze Roxx: I think there’s quite a bit of variety on the album. I like the Eddie Money cover of “Shakin’.”
Alex Grossi: Thank you. That was one of the hardest songs to get down, especially the vocals. The vocals sound simple, but they aren’t. There were a couple of songs that we tried, but we weren’t able to get those right and we dropped them. I think we hit the mark with most of the tracks on the album. The pandemic really helped, because it gave an extra six months to really fine tune the songs.
Sleaze Roxx: The Eddie Money tune, was that already in the mix or was it something that you elected to tackle as a tribute to Eddie?
Alex Grossi: I knew Eddie Money and I always wanted him to come out and play with the band. He knew that we were covering the track. Sadly, he was [not] around by the time that the album was released. In a sense, it wound up being a tribute to him, but we had performed that a couple times, before recording it. We wanted it on the album. I wish he would have got a chance to hear this.
Hookers & Blow‘s “Shakin'” single:
Dizzy Reed‘s “Forgotten Cases” video:
Sleaze Roxx: So, Hookers & Blow goes back to 2004, right about the time you joined Quiet Riot. You were also in Beautiful Creatures somewhere in there. You were on the second album ‘Deuce.’
Alex Grossi: I joined Creatures in 2002. ‘Deuce’ came out in 2004. We recorded ‘Deuce’ in 2003. At one point, I was juggling a lot of things [laughs]!
Sleaze Roxx: Beautiful Creatures created a buzz with the debut album. They landed a slot on OzzFest, which was huge for them. Then there was a break or hiatus between the self-titled album and ‘Deuce.’ Pick it up from there if you could.
Alex Grossi: I came in where DJ Ashba had departed. They lost their deal with Warner Brothers and they got picked up by Spitfire for the ‘Deuce’ album. I ran into Joe Leste at The Cat Club, we talked and he saw me perform and he said, “You’re hired!” Right there on the spot! He was drunk so I was like, “Okay, yeah right [laughs]!” The next day, he called me! So I knew he meant it [laughs]! They had never broken up. DJ and Joe were the core of that band. When DJ left, they were between record companies, guitar players, but when I came on board, the band rallied and we began to write together and got to work on a record. Anthony Focx, the other guitar player, really stepped things up on the production end. I think by that point, he hadn’t really worked on any records. When we were recording ‘Deuce’, he really learned how to use pro-tools.
Sleaze Roxx: He’s worked on a lot of records. He’s done some stuff with Ace Frehley…
Alex Grossi: Oh, he’s great! He’s done Aerosmith, Ace, Night Ranger — he’s kickin’ ass! He really cut his teeth when we were making the ‘Deuce’ record. I remember we had the album mixed, we were listening to it and he said, “Let me take a shot at it.” So he took the files home with him and about a week later, he started sending us songs to review. It was brilliant! He’s got such a great ear.
Sleaze Roxx: How much promotion did you guys do for the ‘Deuce’ record, because I didn’t see you guys on that tour.
Alex Grossi: They went out in 2005 with another guitar player because by that point, I was out doing shows with Quiet Riot and I couldn’t participate in that. From what I recall, they did like one or two tours. They made a music video. Then I think Joe went back to work with Bang Tango.
Sleaze Roxx: If you had a chance, would you revisit that band again?
Alex Grossi: Yeah, absolutely! This coming January, it will be the 20th anniversary of ‘Deuce’ if you can believe it or not. We still talk. We’re still close friends. I would be open to doing an anniversary show, if the opportunity presented itself.
Beautiful Creatures‘ “Straight To Hell” video:
Sleaze Roxx: You’re very involved in the behind the scenes business stuff with the bands you work with. How did you get started doing that?
Alex Grossi: That’s right. In 2008, after Kevin DuBrow passed away, there was no Quiet Riot, so I got a job as a booking agent. It’s great to have that in your tool box. These days, bands don’t have these huge crews and you have to do a lot of multi-tasking. I got involved in that end of the business and it turned out to be very useful. So, I’ve been in the role of agent, tour manager as well as the guitar player.
Sleaze Roxx: You have been at that end of the business for a bit. Was Banali a mentor to you in that area, as he was also very involved behind the scenes…
Alex Grossi: Yeah, he was the manager of Quiet Riot for twenty plus years. Well, before I joined Quiet Riot, I did a promo tour with Kevin DuBrow. I was his guitar player. When Quiet Riot got back together, Frankie was the tour manager for the band. Now that Frankie is gone, I do that for the band. Frankie used to say, “If you want something done right, you do it yourself.” I definitely learned a lot from Frankie about handling all sorts of situations. When you’re a touring rock band, anything can happen! You’d be surprised! Spinal Tap wasn’t made by accident [laughs]! That stuff happens [laughs]! Everyday was a learning experience with Frankie. Not only was he the drummer, he’d handle the business end of things, he’d handle settlements, promotion and all of that stuff. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor.
Sleaze Roxx: I was not aware that you were in Kevin’s solo band.
Alex Grossi: Yeah, that was before I was in Quiet Riot. That was in 2003-2004. He released that album ‘In For The Kill.’ It was released on Shrapnel Records and he was doing a tour to promote the album. I started playing with Jani Lane in his solo band… That turned into ‘The Bad Boys of Metal Tour.’ I wound up playing in Bang Tango, Adler’s Appetite, Jani Lane and then Kevin DuBrow’s band! I was doing like 45 songs a night [laughs]!
Sleaze Roxx: How did your fingers not fall off?
Alex Grossi: [Laughs] I was 26 at that time. I was playing with my heroes and was like a kid in a candy store [laughs]! If you can believe this, we were all on one bus [laughs]! You can probably imagine all of the shenanigans that took place on that tour! I could write a book [laughs]!
Sleaze Roxx: How much of the ‘In For The Kill’ album were you guys doing live on that tour?
Alex Grossi: I think we were doing three to four songs off of that album. We did a few Quiet riot songs. We were doing a 45 minute set every night. It was a good little band. It wasn’t Quiet Riot, but we kicked ass.
Kevin DuBrow performing live in Sauget, Illinois, USA on 8-6-2004 (video from Metal militia 11‘s YouTube page):
Sleaze Roxx: How did you meet Kevin?
Alex Grossi: We were using a mutual booking agent. Kevin was looking at doing some solo dates for the album. He was looking for musicians for his touring band and we were connected. I found a drummer. We went to rehearsals. We played some songs and next thing you know, we’re working together. Initially, I was supposed to be part of a ‘pick-up’ band, but we became very close. When he and Frankie decided that it was time to put Quiet Riot back together, he called me.
Sleaze Roxx: Any pressure stepping into a role that Rhoads and Cavazo once held in the band?
Alex Grossi: Those were big shoes to fill. I approach it like this, I will never be that guy. I just have to do the best job that I can. I think for the fans, the best thing to do is to do the songs justice. That’s what they want. They had two great guitarists. Both Randy and Carlos were two of the greatest guitarists of the ’80s, without question. I just do my thing. Kevin used to tell me, “Alex, just be you.” You don’t go changing a song like “Cum On Feel The Noize.” You do it the best that you can. The main thing is to do the song justice and do the legacy justice. It’s a big legacy.
Sleaze Roxx: At this point, you’ve probably been in the band longer than Randy and Carlos ever were…
Alex Grossi: I don’t… Definitely longer than Randy Rhoads… I haven’t sat down with a calculator! 2004 to now, it’s been about 18 years… They have been consecutive years.
Sleaze Roxx: You touched on Adler’s Appetite. How was it for you playing in that band and playing some Guns N’ Roses?
Alex Grossi: I was thrilled! I was like 13-14 years old when ‘Appetite For Destruction‘ came out. That was probably the first huge rock record for me. It was surreal playing those songs with Steven Adler. He’s the guy in the band! There were several ‘fanboy’ moments for me on that tour. And I was a huge Warrant fan too! So to get to play with Jani Lane, it was like having my tape collection with me! It was five years before that, I was in a cover band playing their songs in our set. It was pretty trippy.
Sleaze Roxx: Here you are forging ahead with Frankie’s wishes, carrying the name and playing the songs.
Alex Grossi: It’s what Frankie wanted. I remember when he told me he had stage four cancer, he said, “The show must go on. Who do you think should get on drums? We need to get someone for the shows that I can’t make.” I suggested John[ny] Kelly, who did the first show that Frankie couldn’t do. We didn’t miss a beat. We didn’t miss any shows. He wanted this to go on. If you spend your whole life building a company, a light bulb company or a cereal company and you are no longer there, you don’t want that company to stop, because you’re no longer there, do you? Quiet Riot was his baby.
Sleaze Roxx: You’ve been in the band through a number of losses — Kevin, Frankie, Chuck stepping out and Rudy Sarzo coming back. How have you coped with all of this?
Alex Grossi: It’s tough. You have to take it one day at a time. Things can change in a heartbeat. You’ve got to learn to roll with it. It’s good to have one of the ‘Metal Health’ guys in there, so with Rudy coming back, it gives that to the fans. I think with everything that this band has endured, it makes you really not sweat the small stuff.
Quiet Riot performing “Cum On Feel the Noise” and “Metal Health (Bang Your Head)” live at the Landis Theater in Vineyard, New Jersey, USA on March 6, 2021 (video from Steve Easton‘s YouTube page):