ROCKY SHADES (WILDSIDE RIOT) INTERVIEW:
September 30, 2013
As the ‘Godfather of Glam Metal’, Rocky Shades built a cult following with the band Wrathchild. Unfortunately, legal battles created a four year hiatus between the albums ‘Stakk Attakk’ and ‘The Biz Suxx’ all but killing the group’s momentum. Currently Shades front a new endeavor called Wildside Riot, who released their debut album ‘No Second Take’ earlier this year. Shades sat down with Sleaze Roxx to talk about his new band ( who are currently working on their sophomore effort), life with Wrathchild, and how he would have to restrain himself from violence if he ever came across his old bandmates.
Sleaze Roxx: When did you realize you wanted to be in a rock band?
Rocky Shades: I realized that I wanted to be in a rock band when some girls at a party I was at heard me singing along to my favorite bands (Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, KISS, etc) and told me I should be in a band. I could see that even some of my ugly local bands members were becoming chick magnets, so I decided it was the way to go and have never looked back… I’m no Gene Simmons, but I’ve had my fair share of the ladies.
Sleaze Roxx: What are some of your influences?
Rocky Shades: My main influences are David Lee Roth and Van Halen, KISS, Motley Crue, AC/DC, Sweet, and all major glam bands. I love any kind of rock that creates a foot tapping or rock danceable groove — Toto’s “Hold The Line”, 38 Special’s “Rockin’ Into The Night”, Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever”, Motorhead’s “No Class”, etc. That’s why I prefer Ratt and Dokken to Motley Crue — I’m a slave to the dance metal riff. I’m also am a big fan of INXS with Michael Hutchence, it’s a rock/pop hybrid and I can always be found doing an INXS number on the karaoke.
Sleaze Roxx: When did Wrathchild come about and what was it like in the very early days with the ‘Mascara Massacre’ demo?
Rocky Shades: Wrathchild came about in 1980. The existing members of the band will tell you that they already had the name and I was hired as vocalist — truth is, when I joined they were un-named and the name came about from a brainstorming session at a rehearsal.
The early days were crazy, we used homemade or souped up pyrotechnics which were downright dangerous. At our first gig I had a medieval axe which was rigged to set fire too during one song, I had only tested it in my kitchen at home so when I set fire to it in a venue situation it turned into a raging inferno on a stick. Roadies had to run onstage with fire extinguishers and put it out. We used outdoor pyros indoors and once put a fifteen foot hole in a glass ceiling at one club. We once accidently set fire to the front of a stage when the industrial flamethrower the drummer was carrying leaked fuel — the audience thought it was part of the show until the fire brigade showed up.
Sleaze Roxx: Did the band build a good following early on?
Rocky Shades: We had to work hard to build up a following. When we started people thought we were a joke, we got ridiculed everywhere we went and had many fights with people who thought that because we wore make up we were a pushover… wrong! We were mental — I once shot someone with the bazooka confetti cannon for spitting at me. I once pissed on somebody for throwing beer at me, I climbed up the P.A. Stack to the gallery where he stood and just pissed on him… I did warn him not to do it first. Eventually people got to realize we were the best of our field and if it hadn’t been for all the legal crap we were involved in over the years I think we could have been as big as Motley Crue — we certainly predated them. Our fans were so loyal, many of them are following our new bands now. Many of today’s sleaze bands have admitted to me that we were a big influence — Pete London of Crashdiet was only talking to me about it earlier this year.
Sleaze Roxx: ‘Stakk Attakk’ came out in 1984 on Heavy Metal Records, what was it like recording your debut album and how was it received?
Rocky Shades: Recording the first album was totally mental. When members of the band were not required to record on a particular day the others would go off into London where we were recording and cause as much mayhem as possible. Me and Eddie Starr were once chased half way round Tottenham Court Road by a gang of blood thirsty mods… you try running in 8″ stack heel boots and spray on spandex trousers! Or we would terrorize the young ladies who worked for the recording studio, we were always chatting up females. The album was received with aplomb and caught the attention of RCA America which started the legal avalanche that would engulf us all of our careers.
Sleaze Roxx: There’s video of a show you guys did in London shortly after the release of ‘Stakk Attakk’, are there any memories from that show?
Rocky Shades: The live in London show which was released as a live TV performance was brilliant. The best memory I have of it is before the club was given over to our rock audience it was being used for an Italian disco party which was supposed to end when our show began. The two sets of crowds overlapped and I have a vivid memory of all of Wrathchild, in full attire, dancing around a group of Italian ladies handbags…
Sleaze Roxx: You put out ‘Trash Queens’, a compilation, and there was a legal battle, what happened with that and the gap between albums?
Rocky Shades: We never put out ‘Trash Queens’, it was a bootleg and a damn shit one at that. I cringe when I hear that pile of vinyl embarrassment — it was so badly recorded and badly mastered. The recorded songs were all our early demos and the so called live tracks were taken from a soundcheck at a glam festival in Salford by Manchester. It makes me burn to think that the first real released album worldwide was a crock of shit.
The legal battle is far too complex to explain and the new Wrathchild have put a block on me talking too much about it. In between albums I did some rehearsing with punk band giants Discharge with a view to do some shows with them, and the other members of Wrathchild did their own thing with other bands.
Sleaze Roxx: In 1988 you guys changed your style a little bit for ‘The Biz Suxx’, what was the reason for the change?
Rocky Shades: During the three to four years off the road we naturally evolved and the music on ‘The Biz Suxx’ reflects this. If a band stays together long enough it will play lots of different styles if it is to progress or is innovative enough. We evolved further and the music we played on the ‘Delirium’ album was in a different class. Had we have stayed together long enough to record a fourth album with the original line-up you would have seen yet another change in styles. The demos we did were so far away from our ‘Stakk Attakk’ sound that I think that’s what ran us aground. Our fans didn’t want us to evolve, they liked us the way we were.
Sleaze Roxx: After ‘Delirium’ you seemed to drop off the face of the Earth, what happened and what did you do after Wrathchild?
Rocky Shades: After ‘Delirium’ Wrathchild were in a bad place, we had used all of our band funds fighting one legal battle after the next that we turned on each other — and that animosity and bad feelings unfortunately still exist today. I went off to do a chemistry degree with the Open University to get out of the music biz, had a stream of long term day jobs and eventually put some bands together which stretched my abilities and helped shape me into the person I am today. I had the killer hard rock outfit One Track & Dirty, I had a blues rock band called Groovebreaker, and I learned all of my business skills by owning one half of the tribute act Birmingham Blues Brothers which took me all over the world. Deep down inside I always wanted to get back into rock so I played in a number of bands making contacts which would finally lead me back into the biz where I am today.
Sleaze Roxx: I know you were playing under the name Rocky Shades Wrathchild and a lawsuit came up over the name, why did that occur?
Rocky Shades: This is where the bad feelings really hit home. I was playing under the name Rocky Shades Wrathchild and was told by my record company to be to work under the name Wrathchild, as the original members of the band weren’t using the name. But then the newly put together Wrathchild seeing that I had a lot of worldwide interest in the name and songs, trademarked the name behind my back to stop me using it. During the 18 months I was trying to overturn the trademark I put together Wildside Riot and got a lot of interest, more interest than I had being Rocky Shades Wrathchild, or Wrathchild. So I let Wrathchild keep the name under certain conditions and recorded the ‘No Second Take’ debut album with Wildside Riot — a move I definitely don’t regret in the slightest.
Sleaze Roxx: Even though there are still bad feelings between you and the members of Wrathchild, would you ever consider reuniting if an offer presented itself?
Rocky Shades: Never in a million years! I have not only been betrayed by my former band brothers but I have been libeled and slandered too. I couldn’t stay in the same room long enough to function with them and if I was to find myself on the same bill as them it would take great reserves of self control not to get violent. Only myself and the band truly know what they have done to me, which is why the public doesn’t understand the hatred.
Sleaze Roxx: How pleased were you with Wildside Riot’s debut album and the fan reaction to it?
Rocky Shades: I was very pleased. Usually a band looks at their debut album and makes glib excuses for what it isn’t and what it could have been. Although we had to cut some corners due to time and financial constraints, the overall product is something I am proud of — and I still play the album regularly today, which is something I couldn’t do with any of the Wrathchild albums as they were poorly produced and mastered. As for the fans, they love the tracks live and we have been reducing our Wrathchild covers and replacing them with our own songs and no-one berates us for it. So our songs are strong enough to stand up against any of the Wrathchild classics we have mastered and bettered.
Sleaze Roxx: Are you currently working on new material?
Rocky Shades: My new band Wildside Riot have about 24 new songs written and we are whittling them down to 12 or 13 to put on our second album which we are hoping to release maybe summertime next year.
Sleaze Roxx: How do you think the songs you are working on compare to those on ‘No Second Take’?
Rocky Shades: ‘No Second Take’ introduced our range of songs and gave us our musical identity, the new songs have crossed into further territories of music and have captured our feel good kick-ass factor which lies at the heart of our sound. We now have foot tapping boogie, and even a rock reggae song — and our ‘leaning towards AOR’ songs are leaning just a little bit more than before to that brighter AOR sound, we are not talking Toto or Danger Danger, but a brighter ball park none the less.
Sleaze Roxx: How does launching a band differ today than it did in the ’80s?
Rocky Shades: Launching a band today is easier in one respect but much harder in another, let me explain further… Back in the ’80s there was no internet so the only headway new bands could make in the business was with hard touring slog and the occasional ad or feature in a music mag. If you were one of the lucky ones you got a record company to do it for you, or a manager, or in Wrathchild’s case several managers to not do it for you. Today a new band can publicize itself on social media sites and create a band page to build up fans. There are lots of internet run fanzines which can help publicize a band and merchandise can be sold online. Instead of talent scouts looking for bands from record labels at the odd gig or two, the labels can see at a glance who is making musical waves and sign them without seeing them at all. Recording in the ’80s was done via expensive studios, and unless you had a lot of money to burn, turned out some very mediocre products. Today with the vast array of home studio programs available you can all but record a reasonable quality demo at home and have it taken to a studio for mastering and fine tuning.
Take my own band — we have saved wasting so much time in a studio by getting all our songs together using our drummer’s home studio. When we get into the big studio to record proper we have ironed out all of the time wasting problems you normally encounter while in the studio… and as they say, time is money. Back in the ’80s to have a decent album sound would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, today you can get the same job done for thousands.
I said that it was also harder today… simple reason, because it’s so easy to do far too many bands are doing it so the competition is phenomenal. Also there are far fewer venues today so it’s harder to promote your band live. Another major drawback is the nation has taken to the tribute market in such a way that venues pay far less money for original bands than they do tribute bands, I myself earned more money per gig playing in my ex-Van Halen tribute band than my current band Wildside Riot — hopefully as our popularity grows this will change dramatically.
Sleaze Roxx: What are some of the most outrageous things you’ve experienced being a rock ‘n’ roll frontman?
Rocky Shades: I have experienced, being a frontman, some well crazy things — I will tell you of two. Firstly there was the time one of my fans reached up over our barb wire fronted stage show to shake my hand and he unbalanced me and I ended up falling on him and impaling his hand to the floor with one of the real metal spikes on my stage gear armor plating (as seen in the “Stakk Attakk” video). When he got up off the floor he showed me his hand pouring with blood and what do I say? Whoah stigmata. I met this guy recently again at a guitarist friend’s wedding reception and he remembers the event fondly, fortunately.
Secondly I was playing a gig at a rock club in Bolton and there was a very sexy looking bunch of girls sat at a table towards the back of the room. I decide it was time to leave the stage while the band was playing to sing to these delectable creatures of Gods own creation. While I’m singing to them they grab me and pull me to the floor, ripping off my clothes and touching me! I never missed one line of the next four or five songs of the set but I was happy where I was so just lay there enjoying the moment. The band were so enraged when I got back they gave me a right kicking in the dressing room (laughs).
Sleaze Roxx: What do you love about music?
Rocky Shades: What I love about music is it fulfills all forms of emotion. Bright sounding songs can make you feel happy, heavy songs can make you feel aggressive, sad depressing songs make you feel err… sad. Dance music makes you want to dance and rhythmic music is good for sex. I once tried sex to Motorhead’s “Overkill” — I don’t recommend it, it was tantamount to making love in a sauna while wearing a rubber suit.
Sleaze Roxx: Is there anything you’d like to tell your fans?
Rocky Shades: Live for the moment, life is too short to ponder on stuff. If there is something you really dream of doing then grab it by the balls. I still get a major kick out of doing what I’m doing. Age means nothing, if you are fit enough to do what it is you want to be doing then don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I can still give the younger rockers a serious run for their money and am singing better now than I used to in the ’80s. In short, you better get used to me baby coz I’m here ’til death do us part.