Stevie Rachelle of Tuff, Tales From The Porn and Metal Sludge Interview

INTERVIEW WITH TUFF AND TALES FROM THE PORN FRONTMAN & METAL SLUDGE PRINCIPAL STEVIE RACHELLE
Date: February 12, 2019
Interviewer: Olivier

FOR MANY, THE NAME STEVIE RACHELLE IS SYNONYMOUS WITH TUFF. FOR SOME, THE NAME STEVIE RACHELLE IS SYNONYMOUS WITH THE WEBSITE METAL SLUDGE THAT CELEBRATED ITS 20TH YEAR ANNIVERSARY LAST YEAR. RACHELLE IS ONE BUSY GUY AS HE ALSO FRONTS THE BRAZILIAN BASED ROCK BAND, TALES FROM THE PORN, AND REGULARLY HANDLES LEAD VOCALS FOR THE BAND SHAMELESS. LAST MONTH, RACHELLE RELEASED HIS THIRD SOLO ALBUM TITLED ‘BEST STUFF’ WHICH IS A COMPILATION OF HIS FIRST TWO SOLO ALBUMS ‘WHO THE HELL AM I’ (1998) AND SINCE SIXTY-SIX (2000) ALONG WITH SOME NEW TRACKS. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH THE SOMETIMES CONTROVERSIAL FRONTMAN TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT HIS NEW SOLO ALBUM, TALES FROM THE PORN, TUFF, AND RACHELLE’S APPARENT FEUD VIA METAL SLUDGE WITH THE ROCK N SKULL FESTIVAL’S ORGANIZER JUSTIN MURR.

Sleaze Roxx: So you have a new album that’s come out called ‘Best Stuff.’ What made you decide to release this compilation album?

Stevie Rachelle: Well, I’ve been involved in tons of projects over the years. At some point, it’s hard to believe that it’s already been more than 20 years ago when I released my first solo record, which was called ‘Who The Hell Am I.’ The idea behind that was to do something that was a departure from what I had done for a decade previously — the sleaze, glam, hard rock stuff — and I wanted to do a more stripped down, acoustic, Americana, folky type record. When I say that, my thought process was I was going for Tom Petty / John Cougar [Mellencamp] / Bryan Adams. Just something that was a little bit more stripped down and not so much hard rocking. That was in 1998 and then in 2000, I ended up making a second solo record, which was — both of these were done essentially while Tuff was on hiatus because Tuff went on hiatus at the end of the tour in 1995 and didn’t really re-launch until late 2000 / early 2001.

So by early 2000, I had already recorded a whole other solo record and I did have a band that I was playing around with. It was Stevie Rachelle with a solo band. That record was called ‘Since Sixty-Six’ which references the year I was born — 1966. And then Tuff sort of restarted and some other things took place but at some point around 2004 and 2005, I started to record a couple of ideas for what was going to be my third solo release, and that soon got put on hold because I had a daughter, I had a son and then I discovered this Swedish band named Vains of Jenna. And all of these things were happening within a couple of years of each other and at the same time, Tuff had sort of rebooted itself. The “American Hairband” song which had sort of taken off.

So I suddenly had four or five things on my plate and doing the third solo record wasn’t as important anymore. And so a few of these tracks laid around forever and then there was a point where I had this idea to do this song “Shag-A-Doo LolliPop” which I had actually written — God — maybe ten years ago already. And then I recorded it maybe five years ago. This whole record was finished and mastered and sequenced in 2015. So at that point, the idea was, ‘OK, I’m not going to make a whole new record. The demand for CDs and physical product is at an all-time low. Let me just combine things from my first record minus a track or two, things from my second record minus a track or two, and then put up these additional couple of tracks that I worked on and kind of make this a compilation called ‘Best Stuff.’ So that’s kind of how it came to be but you know, a lot of this has been in the works for some time. It started and stopped and other projects took precedence over it kind of and it kept getting pushed back.

Sleaze Roxx: How did you choose which songs to leave off from your first two solo albums?

Stevie Rachelle: Well, I don’t even remember. I think I left “So Many Seasons” off but I added that as a piano version of — I think it’s on the ‘What Comes Around Goes Around’ CD even though technically, it wasn’t a Tuff recording. It was a Stevie Rachelle solo recording. We added that one to the demos. And than there was this thing we put on the second record [‘Since Sixty-Six’] or I should say I put on called “Hot Line From Hell” which is just a whole bunch of voicemail messages on the hotline from years ago. It was related to me and not necessarily Tuff so we did this compilation of all the crazy messages. That was on the Since Sixty-Six record as well but I did not add that. I left off “So Many Seasons.” I want to say that there is one other track I left off but it ended being an even number of 20 tracks, with obviously two mixes of “Shag-A-Doo Lollipop”– the rock mix and the pop mix. So for anybody that missed the first solo record or the second, now you can hear the majority of the songs along with the new tracks compiled on this release.

Sleaze Roxx: Cool! So you have the new song “Shag-A-Doo Lollipop.” I think you co-wrote that one with Adam Hamilton. Is that right?

Stevie Rachelle: No. Actually, that’s my song in its entirety. I wrote the music, lyrics, general arrangements but Adam actually engineered it. He gets co-producer credits as well because he helped me guide through the whole process. You know, he helped record the drums. He did the bass. He was there engineering Mark Ricciardi recording the guitar, and obviously engineering and directing me as far as recording the vocals. It’s a song that I wrote but Adam is the producer / co-producer on it.

Sleaze Roxx: And you have some other known musicians playing on the track, right?

Stevie Rachelle: Yeah. On “Shag-A-Doo Lollipop”, Mark Ricciardi plays guitar. He’s also known for playing with John Waite for the last several years from The Babys. He plays in his solo band. Mark has been around for a long time. Mark used to be in a Hollywood band back in the day called Snake Rock. At some point I met him right around the time I recorded my first solo CD in the late ’90s. I heard him playing with a friend at a party and I couldn’t believe how good they could play and sing, and I made some kind of comment, “I need to get these two guys to play in my band [laughs].” And the next thing you know, one thing led to another. I called a friend, got Mark’s number and I asked him if he would be interested. He knew who I was but he kind of knew me as the glam Stevie Rachelle and so he wanted to hear what I wanted him to play on as far as a live show. I basically gave him the ‘Who The Hell Am I’ record and it was like, “Oh wow. This doesn’t sound like anything that I expected.” And he agreed so Mark was actually in my solo band. And then we did — for the diehards will remember that at some point, we did may years ago, 20 years ago, I did a tribute thing called Mötley Priest. Mark was one of the guitarists in Mötley Priest where we pretty much dressed up as you know, heavy metal tribute ’80s type of band vibe. You know?

Stevie Rachelle‘s “Shag-A-Doo Lollipop” single:

Shag-a-Doo LolliPop (Rawk Mix)

Provided to YouTube by TuneCore Shag-a-Doo LolliPop (Rawk Mix) · Stevie Rachelle · Chip Z’nuff Best sTuff ℗ 2018 RLS Records Released on: 2018-12-16 Auto-generated by YouTube.

Sleaze Roxx: Yes. That’s cool. What about the other new track that you have — a cover of Phil Collins’ “I Can’t Dance”? You have a rather heavy version of it. How did you come up with that one?

Stevie Rachelle: Well, that was originally on a record that came out from a label called Liberty N’ Justice which is Justin Murr’s company. He’s the guy that promoted Rock N Skull. He had released records for some years under the label Liberty N’ Justice. He contacted me, again, this was many years ago, to record on a couple of tracks and at one point, he put together this record called ‘The Cigar Chronicles’ which is available on iTunes. You might be able to get a physical copy on Discogs or whatever. He wanted me to do this cover. Kip Winger sang “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees. I was playing a Phil Collins / Genesis song. I think CJ Snare [FireHouse lead vocalist] is on it. There’s a whole bunch of ’80s guys and all the songs covered were outside the realm of the ’80s or if they were from the ’80s, they were more flav, disco or something really left centre. So I got a version on that record and that record sort of sat and went nowhere at some point while Justin and I were, I guess, still at that point on good terms. We cut a deal that I could reuse the track on a project of mine but I wanted to re-record the vocals. So I redid the vocals and some other extra things with JK Northup, the original music engineer and producer of that track, but then I had Chris Laney add some things to it and he mixed it. He’s most known for being the Swedish guy that’s done — I want to say Crashdïet.

Sleaze Roxx: Yeah. He’s done a whole bunch of stuff [including playing guitar on and producing Zan Clan’s album We Are Zan Clan…Who The F**k Are You??!’ which finished at #1 on the inaugural Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2005].

Stevie Rachelle: Yeah. He’s done a lot of stuff. Chris is awesome. Chris also mixed “Shag-A-Doo Lollipop.”

Liberty N’ Justice‘s “I Can’t Dance” featuring Stevie Rachelle (from The Cigar Chronicles):

I Can’t Dance

Provided to YouTube by Syntax Creative I Can’t Dance · Liberty n’ Justice, Stevie Rachelle The Cigar Chronicles, Vol. 1 & 2 ℗ 2013 LNJ Records Released on: 2013-02-26 Main Artist: Liberty n’ Justice Featured Artist: Stevie Rachelle Auto-generated by YouTube.

Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of your friend Justin [Murr] — or perhaps not such a friend anymore — during Rock N Skull 2016, you were part of the event. After that, something obviously happened between you guys. For Rock N Skull 2017, at least from an outsider’s perspective like what I saw, it seemed that you really had something against him as Metal Sludge really went after Rock N Skull 2017. So what happened between you and Justin, and how come Metal Sludge was putting so much coverage in sort of putting down Rock N Skull 2017?

Stevie Rachelle: Well, for starters, I wasn’t that involved in Rock N Skull 2016. I don’t know if I was “involved.” I was asked to play  on multiple years, which we did. I want to say we played three years in a row. Myself and the band Tuff were asked by Justin to play, which we did. We agreed to it. At one point — I don’t know if it was the first year but I think it was the second year, he

Stevie Rachelle (left) and Justin Murr (right)

wanted to do some sort of extra package that involved the branding of Metal Sludge and advertising. We came up with a deal and at some point, not only did Tuff play but we sold packages that were VIP related. Over the couple of years, I had a good relationship with Justin but at some point it soured. We didn’t agree on certain things related to how he was running the event. Even though it wasn’t mine, I was concerned with the fact that my name or the Sludge name for the VIP packages and I felt there were some discrepancies on how people were getting treated. They weren’t getting what they were paying for. People started coming to me and said, “I bought this $1,500 ticket. Now I’m trying to get a refund.” There were a lot of things.

So at one point, Justin and I had a falling out and the following year, we weren’t involved or I wasn’t involved but I just started reporting on news that started with bands falling off or canceling or pulling out, and obviously, everybody took it that I was just going after Justin for the sake of going after him. But all the articles still exist and everything that Metal Sludge wrote about it were absolutely 100% truthful and the things we said were about to happen or basically saying, “Hey! We’re breaking the news.” Steel Panther is not playing. The event is not going to be at the Avanti Dome. Whatever it was that those articles were basically released as breaking news, 100% of that was accurate and truthful to every detail. And so it’s in the past now. I don’t have an issue with Justin. We had a beef. We essentially resolved our beef and he just wasn’t happy that I was reporting on his event that was obviously going through a rough period. And we were kind of forcing his hand as a promoter to be forthright and honest with the fans, which a lot of them questioned, because we were reporting things that nobody else knew but somehow we did, and at some point, it felt like Justin was trying to — I don’t know — dodge the bullet so to speak. But at some point, he couldn’t dodge it anymore because the things that we said did come true and the bands would pull out. There was no Warrant, no FireHouse, no Dokken, no Steel Panther, etc, etc.

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Yes, I know. Let’s get back to your ‘Best Stuff’ album, your cover is very similar to Ted Poley’s cover on ‘Modern Art’ which came out before your ‘Best Stuff.’ But I understand that you had that cover in the works already before Ted Poley’s cover. Is that correct?

Stevie Rachelle: Correct! Well, here’s the thing. I can tell you where that came from. On the [Monsters of Rock] Cruise from — I want to say three years ago — yeah, it was three years ago this fall. It was the Monsterwood West Coast Cruise 2016. I was on that cruise as was Ted or Danger Danger. At some point, a Chinese fan came up to me and wanted to meet me, wanted some pictures and wanted some autographs. He presented these images to me and I looked at them and said, “Oh my God! These are amazing! What is that?” He explained to me that it was something that he created from some type of a program from a computer. I signed  a bunch of stuff for him and he said, “These are for you as well.” He gave me a couple of images of what you are seeing as a cover on the record. I was like, “Wow! This is like one of the coolest things that I’ve ever seen.” You know, I was thankful. And is I kept it. I took it with me. At some point, I said, “God, I got to do something with this whether it’s an album cover or a t-shirt or a poster or something.” I sat on it for a short period and then I think it was either 2017 or early 2018, you can look at my Instagram, I actually shared it about a year ago or a year and a half ago. I said, “To whomever fan gave me this, I want to talk to you because I was interested to know how he did it and bla bla bla.

At some point last year, I saw Ted Poley’s artwork for his solo CD and I still remember, I said, “Ted! Dude! You just stole my idea [laughs]!” And he was like, “What are you talking about?” I said, “Your solo CD cover is my new CD cover.” He goes, “What are you talking about?” I said, “Where did you get that from?” He goes, “I don’t even know!” I said, “You got to know. You got it from a Chinese fan on the Monsters of Rock Cruise.” [Ted responded] “Oh my God, I did so much stuff. I don’t know where I got that from.” So we were going back snd forth, and I said, “You know, my CD has been done for three years. I even have a mock up that I did for the album cover. with the words ‘Best Stuff’.” And he goes, “Oh my God! That is hysterical!” And I go, “I am literally getting ready to package mine in a couple of months but the art is too good. I can’t change it so I guess that I am going to have the same as you.” He goes, “Those are awesome images.” I said, “Yeah.” So we kind of joked about it and then obviously, since I put it out in the last month, people are like, “Hey! That’s Ted Poley’s idea!” I already know that. He knows that. We know that. We’ve already talked about it in the last six months [laughs]. But yeah, the image is a great — whatever the program that took the photo and manipulated it is pretty amazing looking. I mean, the album cover doesn’t begin to do it justice because the full size picture that I have… I don’t know. It’s just a great piece of art. Ted got a great title for it as well calling it ‘Modern Art.’ That’s essentially what it is. It is a modern way of being artistic.

Sleaze Roxx: That’s cool. So let’s switch to Tales From The Porn. You had that fantastic debut album, which obviously Sleaze Roxx really liked [the album finished at #1 on the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2017] so we’re hoping for a follow up. What’s the status there?

Stevie Rachelle: You know, first of all, thank you for the kind words. You praised it on the site and that’s great. You’re not the only one though. So many people reacted in such a good way. The guys printed it in Brazil. I think they did two pressings of it. Steelheart Records in Italy did a pressing it and I did a pressing of it. For an independent band with no real label and no real distribution, I want to say I believe that we printed 2,500 copies and sold most of it.

Sleaze Roxx: That’s good!

Stevie Rachelle: That’s actually pretty realistic. Those are pretty good numbers for an indie band at this level knowing that there are bands hitting the Billboard charts only selling one thousand records in a week. But yeah, the fans reacted. They loved the record. I had a blast recording it. I had a lot of fun writing a lot of those lyrics. [Tales From The Porn guitarist] Andy [Sun] already sent me a few ideas for what would be a another record or an EP or something but it hasn’t gone beyond him sending me some ideas. Things are just throwing around in my head. We’ve talked about some possible dates that we could do in Europe this year. I don’t know whether that will happen but another record at some point will happen. If anything is going to happen in the next three to six months, I don’t know. I would say we would be hard pressed because it took us a couple of years to get the other one done based on the fact that we’re, you know, a couple of continents apart. We’re basically on different continents and it’s not easy to do with everybody having different projects. The other guys are in another band as well.

Sleaze Roxx: How was it meeting the guys because from what I understand, the first album was recorded without you guys [Stevie and the rest of the Brazilian guys] meeting in person. And then you flew out to Brazil to do a couple of shows with them and finally meet the band after the whole album has been released and stuff. How was that?

Stevie Rachelle: You know, it was awesome. I went there last spring for the first time. I had already been to Brazil twice previously and a few of the members had actually been to my shows but I had never met them. So when I went there last spring in 2018, it was the first time that I physically met them. As a matter of fact, it was the first time that we had even talked as we didn’t talk on Skype. All we did was e-mail and instant message each other for a couple of years. But we had a great time. We did photos. We did a couple of videos. We did a live show. We did some rehearsals. In stores. We just had a great time. And then I went back in the fall. We did a little bit more. We did São Paulo again at Manifesto [Bar]. Manifesto in São Paulo is the equivalent of the Whisky A Go-Go there. It’s been there for like 25 years. It’s the hippest club that all the bands play. There’s John 5, Crashdïet, anybody at the large club level will play Manifesto unless you’re Balck Label Society so you’d play a large theatre or small arena, you know? Manifesto we played. We played a club in Curitiba and another club in Jundiaí. Had a great time! It as awesome and I can only hope that we can make another record and do more shows not just in Brazil but in South America, outside South America, in Europe and possibly play in the States somehow.

Tales From The Porn‘s “Back To The 80s” Extended Version video:

TALES FROM THE PORN – BACK TO THE 80s EXTENDED VERSION (Official Music Video)

NEW SONG ALERT!!

Sleaze Roxx: A little while ago, you started the Tuff Diaries, which is really cool for people to find out about you and stuff. You really could have done a book but you decided to do it online. What made you decide to do it that way?

Stevie Rachelle: You know, people have been telling me for years that I should write a book based on some of my interview questions, details and how I answer stuff. I kept journals about things that have happened. A lot of people do podcasts and blogs and whatever. It just kind of stimulated me one day to do it. Working on one turned to two turned to three. At this point, the first one was basically the spring of ’87 as I was about to audition for Tuff, the opportunity. At this point, Diary #10 takes you the end of 1989. I have already started working on [numbers] 11 and 12. Eleven and 12 are basically the first part of 1990, which has the highlights of our tour with Britny Fox on the east coast. Diary #12 is the summer of 1990 and the fall where we got actually signed to Atlantic [Records]. Diary #13 will be the recording of ‘What Comes Around Goes Around.’ That starts in late 1990 and goes into early 1991. And then 1991 will likely have at least three entries. We did shows in a full US tour. We also went to England. We also did two videos. So from the ‘What Goes Around Comes Around’ era, I would say that there will probably be three or four entries, and then we’ll go into 1992 and at some point getting dropped by the label, grunge taking over… Yeah, I’ll continue to do it. I’ve had some great responses from people so far saying they’ve enjoyed reading it.

Tuff‘s “American Hair Band” video:

TUFF – AMERICAN HAIR BAND video official

FOR YOUR LEARN DOGS AND BITCHES FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/HardRoxx69/ TWITTER: https://twitter.com/Emily_DollZ

Sleaze Roxx: One thing that I’ve always been curious about is when you think Tuff now, you really think of you. But you were the last one to join the band before you recorded your big hit album and stuff like that so how did you end up with control of the band?

Stevie Rachelle: [Long pause] Great question [laughs].

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]

Stevie Rachelle: It’s funny because if you look at bands throughout the history, that particular place [can happen] at a few different times. When you think that Tracii Guns started L.A. Guns, at some point, it seemed that he didn’t have control of [it] or maybe he didn’t care to have control even though it’s his own band. It was Steve Riley and Phil Lewis who were playing as L.A. Guns for the longest time and Tracii was doing Tracii Guns’ version of L.A. Guns, The League of Gentlemen or… Really, those guys came in before the [first] record was recorded. It was Tracii that was playing the Strip before then. As far as how I became that person, I mean [bassist] Todd [Chase] and [guitarist] Jorge [DeSaint] started the band. Todd and Jorge started the band and they were at that point 17 years old. [Drummer] Michael [Leah] was 16 and when Michael came in, Michael took over as the businessman as he seemed to have it more together. Even though he was younger, he was smarter and a little more responsible that way. They played around for a few years with different singers which included Jim Gillette [Nitro frontman and Lita Ford’s ex-husband]. They moved to L.A. in late summer / fall 1986 and were here for almost a year with Jim Gillette but then Jim left and enter me into the picture. Now when I joined the band, obviously I was the new guy but coming from my background and a few bands that I played with in Wisconsin, I was kind of the leader of those bands. I also realized that being the leader of the band from Oshkosh [Wisconsin] is going to be a little different than being the leader of the band that’s in Hollywood.

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]

Stevie Rachelle: You know, with competition from Guns N’ Roses, Warrant, Vinnie Vincent [laughs]… I kind of played the apprentice to Michael for a few years. I was kind of his sidekick. I kind of learned from him and at some point, it was me and Michael that were more so the two business guys who took responsibility for the band and a lot of the business. As time went along, Todd just quit and wanted nothing to do with the band going forward. That left myself, Michael and Jorge. With all respect, Jorge really didn’t care about that stuff except sleeping late and smoking pot. So it was basically me and Michael that were controlling it and then at some point, Michael quit in 1993 to run his businesses and that pretty much left me as the responsible guy. Now it’s 25 plus years later and I have helped continue to make it go. Had a couple of different guitarists and a couple of different drummers along the way, couple different bassists and at some point, it went full circle and I got Todd back. About ten years ago, he decided to start playing with us again and you know, that’s how I guess ultimately gained control — by default. Guys would quit and there was nobody else to be responsible for it so I kind of assumed the role.

Sleaze Roxx: Has there ever been any talks about having a Tuff reunion?

Stevie Rachelle: You know, we tried… I should say I tried when Jorge… In the early to mid 2000s, there were multiple attempts. I want to say that there were three attempts — 2003, 2004, 2005. He was actually even in Hollywood. We even rehearsed but it just wasn’t meant to be for whatever reason. Jorge would always have some sort of reason as to why he had to go home to Florida or he suddenly got a different job. You know, decisions were being made on a turn of a dime. I had even at some point booked a couple of shows as what would been the comeback shows for Jorge and then he basically pulled out saying that he had to go on the road. I told him that he was out of his mind. As a matter of fact, he took a job as a drum roadie [laughs]. He doesn’t own any drums. He was broke. He needed the $800 bucks a week or whatever. He just basically left town and I had to cancel the shows. That happened a few different times so Jorge essentially struck out with all of us more than once and we haven’t looked back since. And Michael — Michael, we’d love for him to come up at some point and play on a song or two but him being in one place and being at a place where we are at is not always easy because he owns a small franchise of restaurants. He’s very successful and very busy. Working on “Good Guys Wear Black” for a short set is probably not a priority for him [laughs].

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Fair enough. And what about some new material for Tuff?

Stevie Rachelle: At this point, no.

Sleaze Roxx: And why is that?

Stevie Rachelle: Just because to make a whole new record, it would take a lot of work. Making a whole record — even the Tales From The Porn record, I was kind of inspired by that because it was something new and fresh. They had a bunch of ideas and we just kind of went with it. But it took a little bit of money. If you heard that record, that wasn’t just a couple of demos. It’s very well produced. The sound is great. You can’t do that for a couple of hundred bucks. It took some money to make that record. So for Tuff to make a whole new record, it would take a commitment on my part, on Todd’s part. I know that Frontiers has offered deals to certain bands. Our name popped up at some point. We could have a deal with them as well. They would want us to have some of the original guys and there would be a specific budget and a specific amount of songs that you have to do in a specific amount of time. It’s just nothing that we can all put our hands and heads together at the same point. It’s pretty complex. Guys living in different cities and different parts of the country. Guys are married. Couple of them have kids. I mean it’s a pretty complex piece to put together. I don’t foresee a Tuff whole record at any point in the near future.

Sleaze Roxx: Getting back to your new solo album ‘Best Stuff’, will you be doing any sort of videos or anything to promote it or just release it and hope for the best?

Stevie Rachelle: You know, I had some ideas for a couple of videos. Maybe the typical lyric video that a lot of companies and bands are doing because it’s just easier to do that. It’s more financially possible as well. Again, you have to get the band to do it. Everybody is getting older. Not everybody wants to spend the day making sure they look good for a video [laughs]. I think that it could be done at some point, meaning a couple of lyric videos and things. I’ve looked into a couple of companies but I just haven’t pulled the trigger yet. I have some cool ideas but nothing that I would discuss here.

Tales From The Porn‘s “Perfect Love” lyric video:

TALES FROM THE PORN – PERFECT LOVE (LYRIC VIDEO)

NEW SONG ALERT!!