News Segment


March 17, 2007

When a Malibu wildfire is just a half-mile from your home, it’s probably no consolation to be reminded that a band named Firehouse is on your tour.

Which was the case this past week for Joey Allen, founding member and lead guitarist for veteran ’80s rockers Warrant, heading up the triple-threat “’80s Invasion Tour” taking over downtown Bloomington’s U.S. Cellular Coliseum for a St. Patrick’s Night show (6 p.m. Saturday; with openers L.A. Guns and the aforementioned Firehouse).

Last Sunday night was the point at which it appeared Allen’s condo might go up in flames.

“I was home getting ready to go into L.A. for a rehearsal type of thing, and I had to call the guys and say, ‘Uh, we may have to reschedule — my hill’s on fire.'”

But then fires on your hill go with the territory.

“It almost happens yearly. It’s just a part of living in Southern California, where it’s beautiful 99 percent of the time, and where you have wildfires and earthquakes the rest of the time,” says Allen.

What hasn’t gone up in flames, fortunately, is Allen’s career with Warrant, even though it was threatened by a figurative “hill on fire” when he decided to give it all up in 1994.

He remained in that mode for 10 years, finally returning to the Warrant fold in 2004, where original band-mates Erik Turner, Steven Sweet and Jerry Dixon remained on board, along with new lead singer Jaime St. James.

“I got an engineering degree and went into private industry,” says the man whose guitar licked away at such late-’80s/early-’90s MTV anthems as “Cherry Pie,” “Heaven,” “Down Boys” and “Sometimes She Cries.”

“I became a certified geek as a database administrator for Microsoft.”

From “Cherry Pie” to certified Microsoft geek in less than four years flat?

Allen admits that the glam-metal resurgence — bequeathed the derisive nickname “big hair rock” per the voluminous coiffures that tended to rule – was dealt an early blow by that “Seattle thing” (that is, the grunge rock movement that came along a year or so later).

“It’s the same with about any type of music,” he reasons. “When we were growing up, it was rock ‘n’ roll, which got replaced by disco. And then disco went away in all its grandeur, and punk came in.”

In each case, he adds, the debunked music form merely had to bide its time, waiting until the time was ripe for a comeback, which was the case, he notes, with disco.

The current ’80s nostalgia kick has ensured a place for bands like Warrant, Firehouse and L.A. Guns in the musical landscape.

“It’s like hanging out with a bunch of old friends, which is a cool situation when you’re so far away from home. And it’s cool for fans to get such a diverse collection of radio hits, of past and present musical styles — which is different from each band. We’re not all just ’80s big hair bands from L.A.”

The only thing that’s really changed over the long haul for Allen is his perspective.

“I have a 15-year-old daughter now, even though it doesn’t seem that long ago that I was still hangin’ out with kids,” he says. “Back then we’d request 12 cases of Michelob on our rider (concert contract); today the request is for Tums, a few Advil and maybe one Michelob Ultra. But I would say we’re 100 percent stronger now than we were then because we’re all healthy guys now.”

Meanwhile, Allen and his bandmates have learned some life lessons, including “not to take things too seriously … and that, at the end of the day, you should still party as hard as you want.”

As for the music itself, Allen says “there are brilliant bands out there like U2 and Pearl Jam singing about important social and ecological issues while Warrant sings about fast cars, hot girls and drinking beer. But we’ve never pretended to be a U2-esque type band. We’re still all about having a great time and forgetting about the daily grind.”

And he’s learned to stop worrying and love the “big hair band” label.

OK, maybe not love, but at least live with it.

“To be honest with you, I can’t remember the first time I ever heard the term,” Allen confesses. “With that kind of thing you don’t pay a lot of attention. I don’t know if it’s a negative thing or not, but it doesn’t affect me one way or the other. We’re still able to go out and play to a club with 500 people one night and an arena with 2,000 people the next night. And now it’s all about entertaining people for a few hours; it has nothing to do with a name or stigma.”

If anything, Allen says, “I find it humorous: I’m in my early 40s now and I’m almost bald … follically challenged. I don’t have big hair. I don’t have any hair.”

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