Interview with Tyketto and former Waysted frontman Danny Vaughn

Photo by Christopher Carroll ROCK Photography

Date: August 14, 2023
Interviewer: Marcelo Vieira

Danny Vaughn: There he is!

Sleaze Roxx: Hi, Danny!

Danny Vaughn: Hi, how you doing?

Sleaze Roxx: I’m fine, thanks a lot for joining. There was a confusion regarding the time frame.

Danny Vaughn: Yeah, is it “Marcelo” or “Marcello”?

Sleaze Roxx: “Marcelo”.

Danny Vaughn: Marcelo, ok. I’m making sure. “Marcello” would be Italian, I think.

Sleaze Roxx: Yeah man. You’re about to come back to Brazil — three shows in two cities — with one of them a sold-out date in São Paulo. How do you feel about this?

Danny Vaughn: Well, of course I’m really happy, I mean, the last we were there, I can’t remember, was 2008 or 2009…

Sleaze Roxx: 2009, I think.

Danny Vaughn: Yeah, and of course, that was just the one show in Rio and there was just, it was a great show. We loved doing it, but there was just all kinds of craziness attached to that, so hopefully this one will have a better flow to it, and of course, my main hope is that it’s possible to bring the whole band over next time, so we’ll see what happens.

Sleaze Roxx: At these shows, you will play Tyketto’s ‘Don’t Come Easy’ in its entirety. It’s perhaps the second album I’ve listened the most in my entire life.

Danny Vaughn: Oh, really? Ok, you won’t be… but you will be too bored to hear it again?

Sleaze Roxx: Definitely no.

Danny Vaughn: Ok, good, good.

Sleaze Roxx: Do you think it’s correct to say that it’s the most important or iconic album of your career?

Danny Vaughn: Hmmm, yeah. Most important one, probably, although… it depends on how you’re looking at it, because I mean, you know, the Waysted album that I did, is the start of my career. So that’s pretty important too, you know? Hmmm, that’s the one that kind of put me on the world stage, you know?

Sleaze Roxx: And what does ‘Don’t Come Easy’ mean to you? How do you see the impact of the album still has, even 32 years after its release?

Danny Vaughn: Well, It’s been over, over 33 years now? Yeah, 32 years. I’ve had a different relationship with it, depending on when you ask me. Hmmm, there were times, definitely in my life were I was, ‘Ah, I just don’t wanna hear those songs anymore’, you know? Putting out new albums and new stuff, and people went, ‘That’s great you have a new album. Play “Forever Young”.’ I was ‘Aaah’! And I realised with the help of some friends, that is a very bad attitude to take, if you don’t recognize how important an album can be for some people, or a song. And I understand it from my perspective, like, I know how much Bad Company’s songs mean to me, you know? Or how much Led Zeppelin, or Doobie Brothers mean to me. It’s really hard to understand that is possible that my music means the same to somebody else, so it takes time to get used to that. Now, when I realised that, then I can play “Forever Young” everyday because it means something to people, or “Standing Alone” and probably more than anything else, “Standing Alone”. It’s a song that I still continue to get messages from people like ‘I just wanna tell you how much this song meant to my life’ and all that, so that’s a very big deal for a songwriter. It’s very important.

Tyketto‘s “Forever Young” video (from Don’t Come Easy album):

Sleaze Roxx: Do you feel that the fact that ‘Don’t Come Easy’ is so revered ends up kind off overshadowing your work after it?

Danny Vaughn: Sometimes, yeah it’s difficult. Hmmm… I personally think ‘Reach’ is the best Tyketto album we’ve done. Hmmm, but once you’ve established that, that block, any band that’s had a great first album, they can’t fight against it. It’s interesting because you take a band like, let’s say Aerosmith. If you go all the way back, when I was a kid and the first album came out, it’s a brilliant album that first album. But, the next album got a little better, and then ‘Toys In The Attic’ was amazing, and then ‘Rocks’ came out, it was the best thing any of us had ever heard. So, they didn’t start out with their best piece. Not sure how they would feel about that, hmmm… but there ain’t, it was there not always having to compare. Hmmm, and I think a little bit of that is a blessing. Mr. Big is the same way. It was their second album that was the one that went “Boom”, you know? It’s all of the sudden, and then they just did so many great albums after that. So, it’s a little hard when you’re making more music all the time, new music working and you get ‘Yeah, I like it. It’s not ‘Don’t Come Easy’, though’ and I[‘m like] ‘Ahhh’. It’s not going to be. We did that once, we are not gonna try and do it again. It makes no sense.

Sleaze Roxx: That said, which album or albums after ‘Don’t Come Easy’ do you think could have gotten more prominence or boasted a greater status than they do?

Danny Vaughn: Really? Most of them. Hmmm, ‘Strength In Numbers’, I think was just as powerful [of an] album, and strangely enough, I think ‘Strength In Numbers’ in some parts of Europe was more popular than ‘Don’t Come Easy’. It was in Japan as well. Hmmm, and I love that album because the difference between the two records is that, ‘Don’t Come Easy’, [when] we wrote that record, we had a plan, you know? And the plan was we wanted to write as many, what we thought of as arena anthem songs. That chorus comes in ‘And the wings to fly’ woah, you know? The hands up, and “Burning That Inside” had that. “Seasons” had that. “Lay Your Body Down” had a big chorus, it was all like, ‘Come on, come on, big, big, big.’ And [with] ‘Strength In Numbers’, we branched out, you know? There was a little bit, some like “Inherit The Wind” got heavy and “Why Do You Cry” was blues and we wanted to show that we were not only versatile musicians, but that we could write a variety of styles of music. And so, yeah, I mean, I think it’s just a strong album. It’s different in the way it was composed.

Sleaze Roxx: A couple of years ago, Tyketto hit the roads playing ‘Strength In Numbers’ in its entirety. Tell me how it was to rediscover the album after so long.

Danny Vaughn: Well, that’s kind of the same thing of what I’m gonna go through now, is that I go back and I realise that over 30 years, I’ve developed some bad habits, and I’ve changed a few things and so I have to kind of go back and settle in, particularly for the Brazil shows, make sure that we do it primarily originally. Certain songs that I don’t play very often, “Strip Me Down”, “Walk On Fire”, we don’t play as often, so I kind of have to re-learn them, make sure that I’m battle ready.

Tyketto‘s “Standing Alone” video (from Strength In Numbers album):

Sleaze Roxx: Is it difficult for a singer who has established himself in groups to find acceptance on his solo material? I mean, from your experience, being part of Waysted and Tyketto made things easier or tougher?

Danny Vaughn: Well, it made things easier in that, there were more people that knew who I was… but I’m very lucky, I mean, it seems that my fans are very supportive of my changing directions as often as I do. The last solo [album] of my releases, ‘Myths Legends and Lies’ was so weird as far as the musical styles, it was all over the place, you know? And very little of it was rock n’ roll. It was all songs that I had written over a period of almost, sometimes, 40 years. They had no home, they didn’t go with Tyketto, didn’t sound right with From The Inside, they didn’t work with Flesh and Blood, I was like ‘What am I going to do with these songs?’ and then eventually there were enough of them to put them all under one album. And my fans have really supported it. I mean, it was a fan based project, they paid for it, and I can certainly do another album like that. I have enough songs to do another one. So, that’s kind of on my list of things to do, to try another one of those.

Sleaze Roxx: The fact that you were the only member of the original line-up of Tyketto proves that the name has a lot of power. For you, what’s the importance of keeping Tyketto’s name still active?

Danny Vaughn: Well, when Michael [Clayton] and then Chris [Green] both said they wanted to retire, I said ‘OK, we’ll stop. Tyketto should stop’, especially Tyketto without Michael, and they both said I was crazy. They said ‘You know, people wanna hear these songs, and as long as you’re singing them.’ So it was really more because they pushed me and said, ‘No, don’t stop Tyketto. Keep going. Let’s see what happens.’ So when we got the new guys and we went on tour in the UK, I had no idea if the fans would go ‘Eh’ you know? Just, just not be so excited, [but] it was the opposite. They really supported it and there were people who said ‘Gosh, I miss Michael, but I love this.’ It’s still… as long as everything with Tyketto is — our mission was always to be the very, very best live band we could be. As long as we could always deliver for the fans and never just go through the motions, ‘Here you go, “Forever Young”, how ya doing, rock n’ roll.’ As long as we meant it and it felt strong, then we keep doing it, so now I know that we can, because all the guys that are with me now, are very much the same. They wanna give the audience the best that they have.

Sleaze Roxx: Don Henley of Eagles said that the songs come for us, not the singers or the players. Does that apply to Tyketto, right?

Danny Vaughn: Yeah, I think so. Yeah, which is great. I mean, the songs have stood the test of time for all these years, so that’s, again, something that we can be very proud of.

Sleaze Roxx: I read Pete Way’s biography and his drinking stories took on an almost legendary dimension. How would you describe working with him and your time as the lead singer of Waysted?

Danny Vaughn: Well, the first thing you need to know about Pete, is that his memory is not very good. I’m reading going, ‘That’s not what happened’. He had the wrong band members in the wrong place. A couple of people came to me and said, ‘You know, you only get like one line, two lines in the whole book’, and I said ‘Yeah’. Pete never really wanted me in the band. The record company said, ‘If we keep Waysted, we need…’, cause remember, this was 1985, when I first started talking to them. At that point, Journey was enormous, Night Ranger was out. You had all these amazing, very clear voice singers. Geoff Tate / Queensrÿche was out, Bon Jovi was out. And so the record company said, ‘We can’t do much with what you have’ which is a shame, cause I think Fin [Muir] is a brilliant singer. I love those Waysted albums. But they said, ‘If you wanna stay with us, then you gotta go a little more mainstream. “Heaven Tonight” is a great song, but it needs a more modern singer’. So that’s why they got me. Paul [Chapman] loved the idea. Paul and I had worked together before, but I don’t think Pete ever, ever liked it and what he said about me in the biography is kinda fair. When you come into a situation like that and you immediately know you’re not really welcome, it’s really hard to stay happy, you know?

Waysted‘s “Heaven Tonight” promo video:

Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, there’s a project of yours that I’m a big fan of. And I would like you to talk a little bit about which is Flesh and Blood, the ‘Blues For Daze’ record. Is there a possibility of a new collaboration with the guys?

Danny Vaughn: Ah, I don’t think so. I mean, Al Pitrelli, he works so hard. You could never get him into the studio. I only speak to Mark Mangold once every couple of years, and we did the re-release with the new song, two new songs, but then he disappears into the sky and I don’t hear from him again, so….

Flesh and Blood‘s “Ready To Roll” bonus track (from re-released Blues For Daze album):

Sleaze Roxx: And what’s the story behind the album ‘Snake Oil & Harmony’?

Danny Vaughn: Well, that’s another one where I replaced another singer. It’s very strange how this keeps happening. I had left Tyketto and I was out of the music business. I’ve had enough. I didn’t wanna do it anymore, but I had met Mark on another project, about a year ago, and he called me out of nowhere and said, ‘Look, I’ve got this finished album. It’s all done, finished recording, everything and I took it to the record company and they didn’t like the singer’. He said, ‘How would you feel about just coming in and just singing the songs your way?’ So it was good project for me because I wasn’t in charge which was nice, I got to just sit back and do what I felt then, follow the lead and I didn’t have to write anything. At that point, my mind was a mess. There was so much that — leaving Tyketto was hard — there were problems at home, so I listened to the songs. I love these songs! You know, they had nothing to do with me. They wrote it, and that made it easy. As I mentioned, I’m an enormous Paul Rodgers, Bad Company fan, so to do that kind of blues rock record was just so much fun, and I can’t remember, we did thirteen songs in, I don’t know, I wanna say like five days. I came in. I remember coming out at the fourth day and I was like, ‘Oh Marcus, I think we have to take a rest today’ and he’s like, ‘No, I love that! Get in there, sing like that.” So I think that’s what we did and it came out great. It’s nice because it has nothing to do with the fact that I’m singing on it. It’s an album I can just listen to, and enjoy.

Snake, Oil & Harmony‘s “Cannonball” The Shut In Sessions video:

Sleaze Roxx: In 2009, the original Tyketto line-up performed in Brazil with House of Lords and White Lion. I’ve already interviewed Jimi Bell, Mike Tramp, even Brooke [St. James], and everyone said that that night wasn’t the best. Why?

Danny Vaughn: True.

Sleaze Roxx: What happened?

Danny Vaughn: There were a couple of problems with that one. Brooke was not in the best of health at the time. He was having health problems so he did his best, but there, again, health, personal issues — it was very distracting, I think. We got very, very stressed out because when we were trying to get to the club — I mean I had never seen Rio before — and Rio at night is, is a madhouse, because everyone was out in the streets. Everyone couldn’t move. We sat in our car for hours, and all we had to do was go like, two miles [per hour] — less than that. And you look at the police and nobody moves people out of the way. Nothing. So by the time we got there, I was pretty shaken up by the whole thing and almost all the people who worked on the backline at the club and everything, they were stoned out of their fucking mind. There was like clouds on the stage. It was like, ‘I don’t have any guitar’. And they were like — and they started to move — ‘Come on, gimme some guitar’. So it was a little difficult.

Sleaze Roxx: Despite the setbacks, is there any special moment or memory of your visit to Brazil that you would like to share with me?

Danny Vaughn: Oh man, there are many. We went up to — is it ‘Sugar Loaf’? That’s called? The top?

Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, ‘Sugar Loaf’.

Danny Vaughn: Yeah, we went up on the cable chords to that. We were in the beaches. Honestly, I’ve never seen that many beautiful women in one place in my life — ever. It is Rio, you just… walking around. Girls — they’re like supermodels. It’s crazy. But, my impression of Rio is that it was this very beautiful and very dangerous place, both at the same time, and there’s always, — I always tell people, ‘If you ever go, make sure you have someone there who’s from there to take you around, because there’s places you don’t wanna go by accident.’

Sleaze Roxx: It’s even worse today.

Danny Vaughn: Oh, that’s a shame.

Sleaze Roxx: That’s why I moved to the mountains.

Danny Vaughn: Ah yeah, I don’t blame you.

Sleaze Roxx: During the pandemic, you were one of many artists that turned to livestreams to connect with fans. Could you talk a little bit about your experience with the YouTube lives?

Danny Vaughn: It was a very strange experience. It was something that I had to do. It didn’t have anything to do with trying to prove these people or making sure people don’t forget me. After, first of all, in Spain, we had to stay in our house for 47 days. Nobody was allowed out, so you’d look out of your window and it would look like a science fiction movie, [with] no humans anywhere. So you got kinda crazy and I played guitar, sat there and there’s not much to do, and I started thinking, ‘I need to perform somehow’. So I’d seen a couple of other artists had done 15, 20 minutes and I said, ‘If I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do right’  you know? And so we put it together. Sometimes the show was more than two hours and because I didn’t wanna stop. It’s very strange when it’s just your wife going… you know? And you can’t see or hear anyone.

Sleaze Roxx: But she’s your biggest fan.

Danny Vaughn: Yeah, well, for sure, but I’m still amazed at the amount of people all over the world who said, ‘Thank you so much, that helped us. We look forward to Thursday so much because that was coming on.’ That really means a lot. People could have just not watched, but they really did, even if not live, they were always able to go back and watch later.

Sleaze Roxx: With the resumption of live shows after the pandemic, how do you feel about getting back to performing for an actual public?

Oh, it’s amazing. I mean, we weren’t sure how it was gonna go, but I feel stronger than ever. We did five weeks, starting with the Monsters of Rock Cruise, which were the last two shows for Michael and Chris, and then we went straight on to the new guys and did twelve shows in the UK with FM and Dare, and then we went to Europe and did six more shows on our own with WildHeart. Now that we’re more available and can play more often, it’s opened up a lot of doors. There’re more offers coming in. We’re talking to different people about different things for next year, and we still got some shows in the UK at the end of the year. It seems like there’s just much more possibilities now and we feel very strong live, so we’ll keep doing it.

Sleaze Roxx: But do you feel that touring is different from what it used to be before the pandemic?

Danny Vaughn: Uh, yeah. Right now for instance, I’m not comfortable doing meet and greets afterwards. It’s a disappointment because I, I love to meet people, hum, but you always have to think about tomorrow’s show and the show after that, so with FM and Dare, we didn’t do any meet and greets because first of all, we are all older guys. We don’t wanna get sick and we had weeks of shows to do, so, for now, that’s how it’s gonna be. You know, this is here to stay, so we have to still respect it, even though it’s becoming less and less of a threat.

Sleaze Roxx: From a financial point of view, is it more costly to hit the road today than it was before?

Danny Vaughn: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the airlines, you know, they’re assholes, all of them. I give an example, when we were booked to do the Monsters of Rock Cruise 2020, and of course there was no Monsters of Rock Cruise 2020, so, United Airlines said, ‘It’s ok, here’s your voucher’. We paid like for Spain to go to Miami [Florida], I think it was $900 so ‘We’ve got your vouchers, it’s good for $900, whenever we get back in business, you can use it again.’ Fantastic. I thought that was great, so when it came time, for this last cruise, ‘OK United, I’m gonna book my flight]. Well guess what? The flight’s now $1,400 so now I had to pay $500 more on top of the voucher, and like, they’re killing us out there. In Europe, it’s really bad because of Brexit. Brexit has really fucked things for bands, trying to go between Europe and the UK. It’s twice as much, there’s all this paperwork, basically you’re paying for that wasn’t there before. That’s really bad. Petrol is more expensive everywhere, hotels have become more expensive. It’s gotta settle down because a lot of tours stopped, halfway through, because they’ve lost so much money.

Sleaze Roxx: Two weeks ago, I interviewed Mitch Malloy, and he said that the secret to keeping his voice in shape is eating well and singing regularly. Do you agree?

Danny Vaughn: Pretty good, yeah. I would say, whatever your choice would be, but keeping your exercises going. Initially during the pandemic, during lockdown, I tried to keep exercising at home, and doing different things, but after like the first six months to [one] year, I was just like ‘Aaaah’. So when it came time to go on tour again, I suddenly realized like I can’t breathe, so, it was back in the gym in January and I noticed that since then, I feel much better, much stronger, I have more energy, and I think that’s really important because, on the stage, the hour and a half when that happens, I feel like I’m 25. But travelling and the bullshit and everything in between, then it feels like, ‘Oh God’. So you have to be fit for that too. If you can eat right and, yeah, I agree with Mitch, keep playing, for sure, don’t stop.

Sleaze Roxx: You’re a vegan, right?

Danny Vaughn: Mostly. I’ve changed that a little bit. I’m eating fish again now. I know Rodrigo is very upset when he found out I don’t eat meat anymore. He was like, ‘You’re coming to Brazil, you have to eat meat’, and I was like, ‘Nah, sorry’.

Sleaze Roxx: What led you to make that choice?

Danny Vaughn: Hmmm, I believe in it. Nutritionally, I think it’s for me. I don’t tell other people what to do but the more I learned about the science of it, the more I feel like red meat is dangerous for us, particularly red meat, you know? Chicken not as much but it has a lot to do with various proteins in America, in particular red meat. All red meat is full of growth hormones, vitamins additives, you name it. They’re injecting theses cows with antibiotics. All this shit you don’t wanna have in your system. So, here’s a good — I’ll just give you a quick one. Both, the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association and the whole National Health Service of England, like, five-six years ago, proclaimed red meat as a class one cancerogenic, right? You know what else is a class one cancerogenic? Plutonium. So, it’s kinda dangerous.

Sleaze Roxx: Man, but does that affect your life as a touring musician? I mean, are there any specific challenges you face with sticking to a vegan diet while traveling?

Danny Vaughn: Yeah, it’s almost impossible. It’s very, very hard, you know? It’s for me. I think not eating dairy helped a lot, because I think it keeps my throat clear, and I sing better without it, but try going somewhere in Spain without butter and eggs and, things like that, it’s really hard. There are places in Spain I swear to you where you ask for a vegetarian salad and you’ll have chicken in it. They think chicken is a vegetable.

Sleaze Roxx: We’re now heading for the last three questions. Of all the achievements you’ve made throughout your career, what was the biggest and most important in your opinion?

Danny Vaughn: I think the most important is still being here, you know? It’s not — I don’t have any statues or awards or anything like that, but I’ve been doing this professionally since the early ’80s, and the fact that people still wanna hear me sing and still wanna see what I do and support that, that’s just an amazing blessing to me.

Sleaze Roxx: What was the most valuable lesson you learned over the years?

Danny Vaughn: I think that’s a tough one. I think that it is that you have to do what you believe is right. You talk to any musician who’s had a record deal, and they will tell you at least one story about something in their career where they just went, ‘Oh, I wish I hadn’t done that, but the record company forced me, or the manager said this was a good idea’ or whatever. And so you have this feeling of ‘I gotta live with this decision’, whether is a shitty album cover, or a song you didn’t wanna do, or a bad interview, or whatever it might be, there’s a million things, particularly now. If anybody is trying to get into this business, you gotta stick with what makes you the happiest and what you believe in. [It] doesn’t matter what kind of style is, go do it, because, you know, fashion changes like that. One day people love Iron Maiden, the next they love Jessie J and you gotta live with that. So, as long as you are making the music that excites you and comes from your heart, I think you have at least that going for you. And you’ll find the people that wanna hear it.

Sleaze Roxx: What do you still hope to achieve as a musician?

Danny Vaughn: Hmmm, keep paying my bills. I don’t think I have a particular goal in mind. I just wanna keep making, making music, learning more about music. You never stop learning — never. So during the pandemic, I started composing music for television, and this is so much fun, because I can try anything now. I can try blues, I can try jazz, I can do classical, movie stuff, and just try it. ‘Oh, that’s a good sound, what it that?’ and bring it in. It’s like playing, and that’s what it should be.

Sleaze Roxx: Danny, thank you so much, I’m without words, really. You know my story. You know how much I love your music…

Danny Vaughn: Ah, thank you.

The original interview first appeared at Marcelo Vieira Music in Portuguese.

Tyketto‘s “Reach” video (from Reach album):