MICHAEL MONROE INTERVIEW:
December 18, 2011
Now in his fourth decade as a performing artist, Michael Monroe has gone from strength to strength — whether fronting Finland’s legendary Hanoi Rocks or concentrating on his solo career. He’s had his fair share of rock ‘n’ roll tribulations along the way, including the rise and fall of Hanoi Rocks and the loss of their late drummer, Nicholas ‘Razzle’ Dingley. But two years on, after the band’s final farewell tour, Monroe’s career has continued to rocket — even winning Classic Rock Magazine’s ‘Album of the Year’ award for this year’s ‘Sensory Overdrive’, and with the release of his autobiography it’s safe to say that 2011 has been the year of Michael Monroe. Fresh off the back of tours in both America and Japan, Sleaze Roxx finally caught up with a somewhat busy Michael Monroe on his UK tour with Wednesday 13 at the Electric Ballroom in London, where he talked of his new book, album artwork, the meaning behind ‘razzamanazz,’ and putting Hanoi Rocks to bed for good.
Sleaze Roxx: How are you and how’s the tour been going?
Michael Monroe: It’s been going great! I’ve been working like a dog since getting back from America. In October we did three weeks in the United States and then went to Japan and Tokyo and did some shows there. I got one day off and then I’ve been working everyday till this UK tour (with Wednesday 13). When I go back home I have no days off, I get back in the evening and then I have a book signing to do and the President’s Castle, then I’m doing the ‘Boys of Finland’ TV show which is interesting and fun. So busy, busy, busy… but its good busy.
Sleaze Roxx: Congratulations on winning Classic Rock’s Album of The Year Award with ‘Sensory Overdrive’. How does it feel as a solo artist to win?
Michael Monroe: It feels great, it’s a great honor, it makes you feel nice and makes you feel like it’s all been worthwhile with all kinds of recognition. It’s the first time ever that I’ve been entered into the classic rock awards so it really was cool.
Sleaze Roxx: What was the inspiration behind your choice of band members for this tour?
Michael Monroe: It was a tough call to replace Ginger, but luckily Dregen has it all. He’s the only guy that I could think of who has the personality, the attitude, the image, the musical taste and the sound. He plays with a punkier and trashier kind of sound than Ginger, but he’s got his own style so he fits perfectly. Were still gonna be writing with Ginger though, he actually came to see us in Manchester a few days ago on this tour, he came up to jam a couple of songs — it was great.
Sleaze Roxx: Did your personal life experiences inspire any of the lyrics on ‘Sensory Overdrive’?
Michael Monroe: Life experiences for sure, “Trick Of The Wrist”… I can relate to every word! My life experiences influence every word in my songs. Even writing with Ginger, he has as similar way of thinking so we connected perfectly — yeah, it’s all about real life.
Sleaze Roxx: What or who were you referring to with the word ‘Razzamanazz’ in the song “Trick Of The Wrist”?
Michael Monroe: That’s referring to Nazareth — they had an album called that with the song “Razamanaz” on it. Razzamatazz was what it was supposed to be originally, but when I was talking to Ginger and he said razzamatazz could be ‘check out the razzamanazz’, as in referring to Nazareth, who are one of my favorite bands of all time, and still are one of the best bands ever. So we decided to put Razzamanazz as a tribute to Nazareth. In case Nazareth were not aware of this, Dan McCafferty, Pete Agnew and the rest of the guys… this is in honor of you… (sings) ‘Check out the razzamanazz in place, there ain’t no persuading’… Yeah, that’s why it’s in the lyrics like that (laughs).
Sleaze Roxx: What was the inspiration behind the artwork of the new album?
Michael Monroe: A friend of Steve Conte’s (Michael Monroe guitarist) had a cover design of the eye, which looked just like that with the nail polish and everything. He sent it to us, so I thought it would be cool if it was my eye and my finger, so he took a picture of my eye and finger and we redesigned it and that’s how it came about. His name is Kii Arens from the West Coast in the States, he did the title perfectly and everything.
Sleaze Roxx: What were your thoughts when you decided it was time to put Hanoi Rocks in the closet for good?
Michael Monroe: It was just the right thing to do, it wasn’t going any further and wasn’t productive anymore — we weren’t creating anything new. A year went by and we weren’t writing anything new with Andy McCoy, we weren’t hanging out together and it wasn’t fun anymore. I felt like it was time to call it quits instead of becoming that juke box, you know. I didn’t want to become anything like a one-off tour. I wanted to preserve the name Hanoi Rocks, so we finished it and ended up on a high note and maintained the best integrity by putting it to bed for good. It was cool, we did the last eight shows in six days in Helsinki at the Tavastia Club, it was a nice way to put it to bed for good and it was good to see what we could do after all these years, with some really good records. It’s all done with now and I’m very happy with this new band, it’s more my kind of thing anyway.
Sleaze Roxx: You mentioned to Classic Rock recently that things haven’t always gone well for you… Do you feel that for once, you’re in the right place at the right time and things are happening for you?
Michael Monroe: I am hoping I would be for once in my life, and it would be nice to be (laughs).
Sleaze Roxx: You’re on tour with Wednesday 13 at the minute, we interviewed him last week and he mentioned how he still gets star struck by you. Is there anyone who you get star struck by?
Michael Monroe: Did Wednesday say that? Wow I’m very chuft to hear that, that’s cool to hear, yeah he’s a very nice guy. But yeah, meeting Little Richard, that was a long time ago, but meeting him I remember being quite impressed by his presence and the same with Keith Richards, I got the same kinda feeling you know, eyes tell a million stories — heavy, heavy presence there, it’s cool to meet people like that. But yeah some of the great ones like that, there’s an aura about them that’s very impressive that makes me go wow! Alice Cooper too, he is such a sweetheart and a gentleman, it’s cool when you meet him, he’s what you would hope him to be like.
Sleaze Roxx: Older bands are reuniting and touring which allows younger fans to discover some of the best including Hanoi Rocks, how does that make you feel?
Michael Monroe: If it makes people pay attention to some of the best, like Alice Cooper, then it’s a good thing. If it brings back some of the good stuff and it makes people notice music, that wouldn’t otherwise be noticed, then it’s a cool thing. I’ve never been crazy about fads, because they come and go, and people jump on the bandwagon and want to sound like the good ones who get all the attention, then people start to sound the same and it’s repetitious. I think categories limit music too, sometimes if you start to fit into a category you limit yourself.
Sleaze Roxx: You just got your autobiography published… will you be releasing in English? How has Finland reacted to the book so far?
Michael Monroe: Finland has reacted very well! I was a little bit nervous about writing it, cause it’s revealing a lot of stuff about me that nobody knows. I’ve always liked to keep my private life to myself and I had to be totally honest about everything. But it’s got a great response and sold 10,000 copies already — in Finland 2,000 is a big amount, but I sold 10,000 and the third pressing is going into print now, so it’s done amazingly well. I just did a bunch of promotion for it too (in Finland), but as soon as I get a deal for it to be translated, it will be out in the UK. I heard it takes 6 months to translate, so I’m hoping in a year it should be out in English as well.
Sleaze Roxx: What do you like to do when you’re not writing songs and touring?
Michael Monroe: Oh, stay home with my wife and my cat and watch TV and watch old Colombo episodes on DVD or whatever. Just watch TV, stay in bed and relax, and forget about everything (laughs).
Sleaze Roxx: You’re known for playing a multitude of instruments, did you learn to play them from a young age?
Michael Monroe: Yeah from piano to everything, I can pick up pretty much everything. I was about 5 and learnt to play piano, but I’ve never learnt the mouth piece for the trumpet, that’s about one instrument I can’t say I’ve played. But I self learned guitar, saxophone, harmonica, all by ear pretty much. I took lessons for a year in classical flute which helped with the sax a bit, but most of it I just picked up by ear.
Sleaze Roxx: Since featuring in some movies and working as a solo artist, as well as writing a book, what can we expect next from you?
Michael Monroe: Mainly this killer band is gonna do some killer shows! We’re gonna tour with this album and we’re working on the next one now. We’re writing some new songs and when it’s ready, very soon, we will go into the studio and record the next album. But that’s my main priority — to concentrate on this solo band Michael Monroe. It’s more of a band than I had with the new Hanoi, it’s ironic and great and I couldn’t ask for anything else. Thanks to the fans for all the support too, come down to the shows and keep rockin’… we’ll see you all on the road.