RONNIE SWEETHEART (THE THROBS) INTERVIEW:
October 12, 2009
Interviewer: Grant W.
The Throbs were one of the most promising bands to come out of New York that offered something different to the sound and scene that was happening in Los Angeles in the late eighties. In 1990 after having a handful of offers, the Throbs landed a big name label when they signed to Geffen Records, but just six months after their debut album the Language of Thieves And Vagabonds came out in 1991, the label dropped them. Attempts to carry on without vocalist Ronnie Sweetheart and drummer Ronnie Magri would prove pointless as the soul and essence of the band had been lost – the Throbs were no more. But as Sweetheart reveals in this interview, have we really seen the end of The Throbs?
Sleaze Roxx: Ronnie, thanks for taking the time to chat about the Throbs. Can I take you back to before the Throbs had actually formed? I can gather you originally started off as a guitarist in the band VO5 with Sebastian Bach?
Ronnie Sweetheart: Yes, back in Toronto, Canada, 1987, rhythm guitar with Sebastian Bach in VO5 “The Ultimate Hairspray Band”, which only lasted two live shows, before Sebastian’s departure to Skid Row.
Sleaze Roxx: How did the original line-up of yourself, Danny Nordahl (bass), Pete Pagan (guitar) and Anthony Smedlie (drums) come about?
Ronnie Sweetheart: I was on a weekend trip from Toronto, my first time in N.Y.C. at a Johnny Thunders show at the Limelight. A chance meeting with Danny and Pete just led to a question, “Wanna get a band together, I’ll move down here.”
Sleaze Roxx: I’ve seen a lot of Youtube footage and heard the demos of the very early line up doing songs prior to Language of Thieves and Vagabonds. I think it would be fair to say the band had a New York punk sound but a glammier ‘big hair’ image going on. Was there a deliberate attempt to move away from that sound once the LTV final line-up with Roger Ericson (guitar) and Ronnie Magri (drums) came about or was it just a natural progression?
Ronnie Sweetheart: The first Demos were from the Toronto E.P., PROUD TO BE LOUD, recorded from 1986 in order to get the band playing right away, then writing started within the band and obviously you expand and grow as a team with everyone’s input.
Sleaze Roxx: Prior to the album line-up, Ginger had left the Quireboys and played a brief stint with the band – how come things never worked out?
Ronnie Sweetheart: Yeah, he played a Valentine’s Day show at the Cat Club (N.Y.C.) with us, but with further thought I think it was decided that a four piece Throbs machine was the way to go.
Sleaze Roxx: Have you seen Ginger recently or have you kept in touch with him?
Ronnie Sweetheart: I saw Ginger play at Don Hills a few months back and we had a brief chat. He seems to be doing very well and he popped in to see a recent Throbs show, before heading off to L.A.
Sleaze Roxx: I remember seeing the band when you toured with Mr. Big in the UK. How widespread did the band tour and did you feel that The Throbs had good long term prospects in the business while the success was happening?
Ronnie Sweetheart: We started the European tour with a sold out show at the Marquee in 1991, then joining up as support for Mr. Big, for the next couple months. By this time, we had everything in place, nothing to touch our live show. I actually have a recording of a live Dallas show, which you would think is the album with audience tracks, that’s how good it sounds, hopefully to be released.
Sleaze Roxx: You worked with famed producer Bob Ezrin on the Language of Thieves and Vagabonds. How did he influence or shape the sound of the band?
Ronnie Sweetheart: Actually, the arrangements of the songs were not changed much, if you had heard the demos of the album. Obviously a somewhat polished version. But a funny story during pre-production with Bob-we played Alice Cooper’s IS IT MY BODY, and Bob exclaimed, “how come you haven’t played this for me yet, this should be your first single?” On that note, we dropped our instruments, and walked out, knowing that we didn’t want any covers on our album.
Sleaze Roxx: Eventually Geffen dropped the band, there seems to be a few stories as to why, can you set the record straight?
Ronnie Sweetheart: It was exactly 6 months after the release of the album when Geffen dropped us. All I can remember is a dinner at a Moroccan restaurant with Geffen Records, our lawyer, and Andy McCoy (Hanoi Rocks) and Geffen asking us, “How do we promote or market you?” Thus shocking the band, and mind you the band was not the easiest to mold into the industries standard.
Sleaze Roxx: You left shortly after Ronnie Magri left the band. Were there attempts to keep the band together or attempts to find another label for a second album?
Ronnie Sweetheart: There was what we called a “Desperation tour”. I don’t remember even if Ronnie Magri was in the band at that point. We followed the last American tour, before any club owners even knew we were dropped, in order to make enough money. I guess living in a van, with the band and road crew, will take a toll on you. Next question, please?
Sleaze Roxx: Would it be true to say that the band struggled with some of the excesses that come with a rock n roll lifestyle?
Ronnie Sweetheart: No, it was truly sex, drugs and rock n roll. I still wear ladies bikini underwear to this day, soon to be found on Ebay…
Sleaze Roxx: Tell us more about your band the Strip Club Devils? Is this something totally new or is there still an element of the Throbs in there and what are your future plans for them?
Ronnie Sweetheart: I would still like to have The Throbs re-unite for a European tour.
Sleaze Roxx: I see from your Myspace that there was a Throbs gig recently and that there’s been a few over the last few years. How did these came about and was this mostly yourself or former members performing Throbs songs?
Ronnie Sweetheart: There’s been a couple with the original band, and some without- everyone lives everywhere – NY, LA, London.
Sleaze Roxx: Could you ever see the classic Throbs line-up getting it together again as it seems to be the in thing for bands to reform nowadays and you obviously still love performing the songs?
Ronnie Sweetheart: Like I said, I would like to do it for a European tour.
Sleaze Roxx: And what of your longer term plans? Do you still intend to keep performing?
Ronnie Sweetheart: How much does it pay? Yes.
Sleaze Roxx: Ronnie, thanks for taking time out to talk to Sleaze Roxx. If there has been one thing from your performing career, a piece of advice or lesson learnt, that you would say has remained with you as say a mantra, what would it be?
Ronnie Sweetheart: As far as The Throbs go, and the hardship we went through, I can say we went in to make a Rock n Roll record from our souls, and that’s what we accomplished, with no compromise.
Thanks to Ronnie Sweetheart and Grant W.