Interview with: Michael Monroe
Interview By: Marija Brettle
Photos by: Jadranka Jade
Date of interview: 23.07.2011
The last time I had spoken with Michael Monroe was in Nottingham, January 2008, before the final break up of Hanoi Rocks. There and then, I was probably the first – witnessing the beginning of the end of the band, when he was enthusing already over his new project and new solo direction. So, to say at least, I wasn’t surprised when at the end of the 2008, Michael and Andy McCoy announced that they had have decided, Hanoi Rocks would be permanently disbanded.
No for too long, Michael was busy again, talking to the press, that the Michael Monroe band would soon be back with the set of talented musicians, who are all capable enough to lead their own band. Michael Monroe band, with the direction he intended the music to take, and just how he saw the future unfolding.
With the new album ‘Sensory Overdrive’ produced by the legendary LA producer, Jack Douglas, and his all star band featuring guitarists Steve Conte and newly recruited Dregen, , bassist, Sami Yaffa and drummer, Karl Rockfist, the iconic Finnish rocker, Michael Monroe is back touring and playing Festivals before he head out on a U.S. and Canadian tour.
So here I am again with the legendary Hanoi Rocks ex-frontman, the man who loves to talk and plenty to talk about. The man who despite his stage persona and reputation for being a ”Ëthe prima donna’ of rock, in fact is one of the most down-to-earth guys in rock, through and through…
Louder Than War caught up with Michael at the London’s High Voltage (Festival) Press Area, talking about his new album ”ËSensory Overdrive’, his newly recruited guitarist, Dregen, his current and next projects and tour.. And all about his love of cats!
Hi Mike, You are running a lot today?
Michael Monroe: “Running”Ës gooood!”Â
Yeah, just feel sorry for Dregen and Adam (from Universal/press) who are trying to keep up with you all day…
Michael Monroe: (Laughs) “Well, all is part of the game…”Â
Great reception from the crowd earlier today. And true to form, you got everyone dancing in the sun. Seeing you today on stage (during the opening of the main stage) once on site, you got the crowd really rocking. I can see, once again, why your fans here love you and are loyal to you?
Michael Monroe: “Yeah, it was great joy to see all those guys in front of you – singalong with you all the way…British crowd is the toughest audience to please, you know. And they can be brutally honest…I mean, if they think your record is crap they will told you so!”Â
Having recruited a new guitarist in the band, sure contributed to some changes of the dynamic within a band?
Michael Monroe: “Oh yeah…new dynamic and plenty of positive energy! Getting a new gang sure brings new excitement and new ideas…new life in the band! It’s really exciting time for the band! And it’s only getting better and stronger. One of the best things is responds we’re getting for the record! Our life shows been phenomenal! Everybody seems to love the band. Now it’s just to get out there and playing to people as much as possible. Get the opportunity to expand our theme, our band. That’s all we try to do right now. After I finished with Hanoi Rocks, I wanted to go to another level, higher level. I just wanna get better in what I do. So, yeah…I am happy about my new direction and all the feedback we’re getting from people, magazines and reviews.”Â
And you should be?
Michael Monroe: “Yeah…I know… after the Hanoi Rocks broke up there was a big question; ”ËWhat next for Michael Monroe..?’ Well, at first I was very lucky to carry on working with a great bunch of guys, who were also my old mates. The rest just felt in place.”Â
You are often described as a lead singer who has rock in his veins, and the frontman who stuck to his roots.
Michael Monroe: “I am performer and it’s something that runs in my blood…literally! (Laughs) Well, I came from the musical family. My grandfather was professional classical musician. He played the Cello, and double bass in orchestar. My father plays instrument, my mother plays piano and she works for the Finnish radio. So music was something that came natural to me at the very early age. And I got hooked on rock’n’roll soon I started hearing stuff from bands like Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, Little Richard, Faces…great stuff! So when I was listening to his guys I know how important it was for me they stay true and stick to the music I fall for in the first place. Yeah, it’s all down to integrity as an artist …For me performing and delivering my best, connecting with the crowd is something that keeps me on high at all time!”Â
Well, healthy way of keeping yourself on high?
Michael Monroe: (Laughs) “Yeah…despite all those stories about me being deeply involved into drugs, my way and best way of getting on high is my music! Or, when I climb on the latter. (Laughs) Last year I was jamming with Slash at the Festival in Finland and Osaka. In Michael style I landed on one of the steel bars. Yeah, I managed to break two ribs, but that didn’t stop me to solder on and carry on with the show.”Â
I hear Ginger saying that there is not bad blood between him and the band…no hard feelings… very comrade?
Michael Monroe: “Absolutely, yeah! Ginger is still very good friend of mine and we still goanna write songs together and stuff…and nothing really changed, except that he went to do his own stuff and we did replaced him in a band. He is happy doing what he is doing. Yeah, definitely no bad feelings, any animosity, whatsoever! In fact, right the opposite. It was never actually planed for him to join the band in a first place…originally he was suppose to write with us, with me…He started out just writing songs for the band, then surprisingly wanted to join us, as a guitar player. And that worked out for a while, and then it’s run his course. So now we are at this point. We end up with Dregen.”Â(Laughs)
Well, sure you done a brilliant work choosing Dregen as a new guitarist, considering the fact that he is a very talented guitarist and already well proven and popular guitarist in Sweden?
Michael Monroe: “I could not imagine picking any better guy…He sure is the one!”Â
And may I just say, in some ways, he could be easily mistaken with Andy McCoy…there even people already compare him with Andy and wonder if there is the same chemistry between you and Dregen? And he is good looking guy?
Michael Monroe: (Laughs)…”ÂOh really, isn’t he…like I already proposed to him. Uh, shame, he’s already married…No really, I couldn’t think of any better guy to join the band. But any comparison with Andy is just good thing!”Â
Dregen: “Oh well, I am super happy…I don’t know even what to add to this…It couldn’t be better! And I can’t wait to go off on tour…Now we gonna tour again and I am already excited! This album is killer, and we gonna tour as much as possible. We gonna released the album in the States on 23rd of August, and we will do all tour over there and Canada. Then Japan here we come! (Laughs) And maybe for next year you know…there will be a new record. I can’t wait to get in the studio and start working on our next project together with the band.”Â
Michael Monroe: “Yeah, yeah, we will!”Â
In the mean time Dregen, just enjoy ”Ëthe ride’ with the band…
Dregen: “Yeah…like I say, we ”Ër….like… you said Michael…’We’re like ”ËBrothers from another mother…’”Â
Michael Monroe: Yeeeah, ”ËBrother from another mother! You’re my brother from another mother’…”Â (Laughs)
I hear a lot lately from your fans referring to your new record, as ”ËOne of the best product from Michael? What would you say to that?
Michael Monroe: “I would say, thanks to all fans out there for supporting my band…I would not disagree, I would say, if it’s not the best, it’s one of the best I have ever done! To me right now it’s stud the test of time already, you know…To be able to say that now is a lot… yeah… I am happy to say, ”ËIt’s the best record I have ever done, to the best of our ability, for sure! At this point of my life and my career it’s great achievement as a musician and performer. That’s what we try to do as a band; get better in what we do… You know, when you are in this business, you’re never good enough, you always gonna try and try harder to improve. This moment sure is the best moment in my life…Feel very happy, blessed to do something that I love most…well, apart from my wife. And my cats, who I love with the passion.”Â (Laughs)
Tell me more about the whole process of making the ”ËSensory Overdrive’ record?
Michael Monroe: “We started rehearsing with this band beginning of 2010, but the writing process started in the summer 2009 when I hooked up with Ginger. Sami came to join us and then we started talking about putting the band together with Sami. Then I start talking with Ginger about writing the album and that’s when we started working on the first song, ”ËAll You Need’, which actually ended up on the new album. At the end of the 2009, in December, Ginger actually asked to join the band as a guitar player. Up and till then, me and Sami have got this others guitar players we been talking with and working on our stuff…Ginger come to us like; ”ËI want to join the band’. And me and Sami at first we were like ”ËAre you are serious man’!? Then Sami said, ”ËWhy not, maybe will be the best thing for the band’…So we checked it out, it work out perfect. At the beginning of 2010, we started working as a band together with Ginger! Throughout the year, whenever the band was together in one place and the same time, we took advantage of it… you know, booking out some extra dates and seat and work on some new ideas. Some of the songs were written together some of just two or three of us…There were no rules; we just wanna to write some great songs! (Laugs) At the end of the summer we went to make some demos in the studio in Finland. At that point it felt like we have the album…So we did call Jeff Douglas, the producer and went to LA and recorded in two weeks in September. Yeah, we got one week pre-production, and two weeks recording it. However the album was mixed in Finland, at the end of the year. That’s when the final touch and sound came together…Yeah, we wanna to make it good old authentic rock’n’roll, punky,raw, ”Ëin your face ”Ërecord, with all the ingrediance of a great rock record! It was also a great pleasure working with these guys… great two guitar players! So, we didn’t after dues- to many do overs… just base drums two guitars and vocals. Also Ginger and Steve are great singers on backing vocals…We all had a great time together…I thought it was great fun working with such a fine and talented guys.”Â
Well, the album was testament of that… grabbing a great reviews?
Michael Monroe: “Yeah and when you get great response from people…fans on top of that…you get really excited. And you find that, not only from the fans but from album reviewers, Magazines…Seems to be such a great response. That is a best part of it, the best possible things in this business!”Â
How things with your newly released single, ”ËSuperpowered Superfly’? And what was the reason of choosing this track?
Michael Monroe: “Is going strong. Both singles represent the band whatever way you look at it, you know… is not about nostalgia, it’s about the spirit in the late ”Ë70’s…can be about ’77… You know, or ’78. But ’78th seems to rimes best…And I just figured…we figured that would be the best way to start with the present band… you know. I love all the songs..Like, ”ËGone Baby Gone’ great song or ”ËTrick Of The Wrist’ it’s brilliant song, great opener, really. Our single is just our way of showing what we’re really about. Well, the rest let the music talking.”Â
With this record you gone far more punky and sure there is more pumping energy and killer guitar riffs. From legendary glam rock Hanoi Rocks – to hear comes punk/ rock Michael. Where the element of Punks comes from?
Michael Monroe : “I read somewhere like; “Michael Monroe, the guy who put the Punk into the Glam”Â Or, wherever! I don’t care what I am called. To me, it’s all rock’n’roll! Actually, whenever something becomes a name, like a grunge or punk, then it’s over, basically. Because everyone tries to fit into a certain style, genre or package or category, which Hanoi Rocks always defied all that? So this time around, I did it in my own way, done the opposite…I am very proud of this album! Its authentic rock’n’roll project, with a great choice of songs and cool lyrics… killer riffs. Yeah, it’s, punky, raw ”Ëin your face’ record!. I think it’s boring if everyone would want to sound the same, like, ”Ëhere comes the band alike’… So to me is more exciting when bands doing their own stuff… instead of trying to fit in to any new or old trend. Just be individual! ”ËViva la difference’! “(Laughs)
Can you see yourself in a film playing yourself Michael?
Michael Monroe: “What, my life as a movie…!? I living it, I’m being it; I don’t need to make a movie about me. I would say documentaries are interesting… Whenever they make movies with someone acting a guy hardly ever works….In any case, what you suggesting we make it movie about me?
Yes, or maybe you playing Mick Jagger or David Lee Roth?
Dregen: “Actually I like the idea! Would be a great movie!”Â (Laughs)
Yeah…there is one Michael Monroe who really multitalented and charismatic?
Michael Monroe: “Yeah…depense what you like. To me is like… I don’t like to watch movies…I like The Doors movie. I think Jim Morison is the coolest guy, but nobody can really be him! So, I rather watch documentary.”Â
Do you mind when people compare you with David Lee Roth or Mick Jagger?
Michael Monroe: To me, it’s a compliment you know to be compared to these two guys…Mick Jagger is a best singer of his time! Incredible singer and performer…it is like without him the rock world would be veeery different..But I do my own thing. So I am not concerned or insecure when people compare me or accuse me stealing his stage moves or stage persona. Or that I am copying Davidi Lee Roth style…Nooo, I got my own style. But then I have been influenced by Jagger for sure in a way…well, the more singers and artist around like them the better! (Laughs) As I said, ”ËViva La Difference’ it’s all for good old rock’n’roll…try to keep it alive and spread the word.. Keep it fun!”Â
You often say that, Black Sabbath was one of the most influential bands for you?
Michael Monroe: “Black Sabbath was first rock band I saw on TV when I got hooked into rock’n’roll. When I was just eight years old. I saw Black Sabbath and I thought…wait the minute, what’s this? So far, at that point all I want to hear was classical music. So I go like; ”ËO wow, what a sound! Look the face of that singer! I wanna be that guy…That’s what makes me wanna start, make me wanna be a singer!”Â
Dregen: It was different generations for me, you know…For me was, when I saw Kiss for the first time as a kid…And it was just like, ”ËHey mum, I wanna do this, this is what I wanna dooo… when I get home.”Â
Michael Monroe: “Right, so later on I got into Little Richard, Ramones, Stones, The Pistols, The Rats…The Faces…then Alice Cooper, Stooge and Iggy… all those bands… When you hear The Ramones, or AC/DC, that genius… The Black Sabbath was just the first band I got hooked on…so I still love them.. I was actually listening today on the way here. I haven’t heard it for ages… still sounds great!”Â
Well, I grow up listening to Sabbath a lot…
Dregen: Also they are unique bands. You hear things like Stones, when they play instruments separately; you would say; ”ËMaybe they are not the best players in the rock’, but they sound the best when they play together. It is magic…nobody else can do it like they do when on stage.
Michael Monroe: “Like Ian Hunter… he actually told me he once asked Keith Richards; “What’s the secret, when you hear you separately, you all sound like crap, pretty much, but when you play all together, is like magical…what’s the secret?”Â Keith then replay; “Practice. Lots of practice mate”Â (Laughs)
You recently admitted that you were delighted to play together with Foo Fighter, which happen to be one of your favorite bands? And yet, once you were the man that Axl Rose and the guys of Motley Crue and Foo Fighters modelled themselves on?
Michael Monroe: “Naturally, I am very proud to know that they love my music and all that I stand for. It’s flattering and cool to hear them now saying that I was the reason why they got into this business. But then I am their biggest fan now and love hooking up with people like Foo Fighters. Great band, truly talented guys!”Â
You lyrics often describe you as a rebellious…where do you draw your inspirations these days?
Michael Monroe: ”ÂMy lyrics…they actually reflect my feelings, my life in general. My integrity…Rebellious…I just think I am an individual with emotions, views…well I don’t expect anyone to buying into my opinions, my feelings about the world …passing over to people…If people can relate to it then that is one of the best feelings, best rewords out of doing this! When people come to you and say, ”ËI love your lyrics man, really meant a lot to me…I can relate to…you know, that’s the best feeling you can get! Knowing that I am not just talking to the walls! (Laughs) People seems to connect with you and your feelings, opinions…That’s when you know why you doing this.”Â
Well, you often been described as a unique, multi-instrumentalist and all ”âround musician. But also somebody who leads a colourful life style, at least in your early HR days? And yet, during one of my earlier Interview with you, I found out that you are nothing like the guy I always thought you are. You don’t smoke, don’t drink and during the after-show parties, you go back to your hotel rooms to wash your shirts or saw the loose beeds on your stage belts. So who is really Michael Monroe?
Michael Monroe: “Just the guy who before all takes good care of himself. “
So all those stories, names calling in the past, it’s just part of the image you have created in the first place, during your time with Hanoi Rocks and later?
Michael Monroe: “Ah…my reputations of being ”Ëone of the wackiest, craziest sex, drugs and rock’n’roll guy’ (Laughs)…Well, I am not really! I am ante- stereotype of an lead singer, not you’re usual and it is surprising that I am not into your usual clichÃÂ© life style of an typical rock star… superficial life style, That phoney rock star I am usually called. That’s not real life to me…I am just not your average stereotype rock singer. I think a lot of singers and bands that given rock’n’roll bad name is because they act like a jerks! (Laughs) You don’t after be an idiot to be a rock singer!”Â
Thank you Michael for making time for us…now you can carry on running and join Thin Lizzy on stage? (Mike joined Thin Lizzy on stage-on saxophone during Lizzy’s performance of ”ËDancing In The Moonlight’).
Michael Monroe: Yeah…off now…
Interview: Marija Brettle