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Interview: Michael Monroe

vom 2. Juli 2013 via Phone
Der Rock 'n' Roll ist nicht tot zu kriegen! Ganz im Gegenteil, ein neuerlicher Angriff samt Übernahme steht bevor: Mit Hanoi Rocks lieferte er seinen Beitrag zum Glam Rock, setzte mit Jerusalem Slim auf derben Rock 'n' Roll im Hochgeschwindigkeits-Bereich, mit dem Folgeprojekt Demolitian 23 bediente er sogar den Punk, um dann mit seinem Soloprojekt all diese Bands zu einem kongenialen, wie hochexplosiven Rock-Cocktail zu vermischen. Die Rede ist von dem finnischen Multiinstrumentalisten und Vorzeige-Frontmann des Rock 'n' Roll, Mr. Michael Monroe. Die jüngste Veröffentlichung "Horns and Halos" steht in den Startlöchern und mit einer wahren Allstar-Band rockt und rollt er durch die elf Songs auf dem Silberling, dass sich so manche Jungspunde noch eine Scheibe Energie abschneiden können.
Michael hatte ja schon immer gerne Rockstars in seinen Bands, wie bei Jerusalem Slim - Anfang der Neunziger - Billy Idol-Gitarrist Steve Stevens. Und auch seine derzeitige Solo-Band strotzt nur so vor bekannten Namen: Langzeit Mitglied Sami Yaffa und Steve Conte - ihres Zeichen Mitglieder der berühmt-berüchtigten New York Dolls und Dregen von den Backyard Babies, der ja bekanntlich die schwedischen Turbo-Rock 'n' Roller The Hellacopters mitbegründete. Er löste letztes Jahr den nicht minder berühmten Ginger, seines Zeichen Gitarrist der britischen Punk-Band The Wilderhearts, ab. Der Vorgänger "Sensory Overdrive" erreichte Gold-Status in Finnland und somit lastet natürlich ein gewisser Druck auf dem Nachfolge-Werk. Wie er mit diesem Druck umgeht, was die neue Scheibe sonst noch zu bieten hat, warum er sich gerne mit Rockstars umgibt, was die Gründe für seine karitativen Einsätze für Tiere sind und viele Fragen mehr, beantwortet uns der charismatische Finne im nachfolgenden Interview!
Viel Spaß beim Lesen.

The Interview:

Michael Voit: My first contact with you was Jerusalem Slim where you played with Steve Stevens. In 2010 you formed a new band with long time members Sam Yaffa and Steve Conte from the New York Dolls and Ginger from the Wildhearts, who was later replaced by Dregen from the Backyard Babies. How does it come you always have this kind of rock stars in your band?
Michael Monroe: Well, they’re friends of mine and good personalities are hard to find! So when replacing Ginger, the only person I could think of was Dregen. It’s the whole package, you know? He fit perfectly. Also with Steve. Sammy is my blood brother, basically. We grew up together, very dear! My best friend. The band’s got a great positive vibe. I feel lucky to have that! Those kind of guys. It’s really a great chemistry and everyone’s good people. There’s no egos or anything like that getting in the way. I’m lucky to know these guys.
Michael Voit: You recorded a new album called “Horns and Halos” which came out in August. What can you tell us about the new album?
Michael Monroe: We tried not to recreate the same album again. Since Dregen joined the band we’ve been touring a lot. Everyone in the band lives in different countries now, so whenever we got together – like on a tour – we took some days just to sit together and work on new songs, record some demos and that kind of stuff. That’s how we started writing, and eventually it came together really nice. This album kind-of describes how the band has been living together over the past couple of years. I think that comes across in a really nice way. It’s like the next plateau! We’re all really happy about it.
Michael Voit: Where do you see the development or differences compared to the last album “Sensory Overdrive”?
Michael Monroe: Well, obviously Ginger was involved in the Writing of Sensory Overdrive. So that makes a difference in the sound, too. Now with Dregen in the band it’s got more of a punky and bluesy attitude. More so than ever! Nice and authentic. And maybe a little less metal. Yeah, I think it’s more of a blues concept than the last one.
Michael Voit: How do you handle this pressure you have coming from such a highly praised album like “Sensory Overdrive”?
Michael Monroe: Well, one might think that. But we definitely don’t take any pressure about making an album! You know, this is a different record. As I said. We wanted to just start writing music and see what comes out of it. So we really didn’t have any pressure about “topping” Sensory Overdrive or anything like that. There is no point in trying to make the same album twice. What came out came out naturally, and that’s what this band sounds like now. It has its own way, it’s its own album. It’s the next step, moving on. Moving forward. I think this album also reflects the sound of the band as we are now, after the last couple of years with a lot of touring and with Dregen in the band. The band has really grown together and the chemistry is getting tighter. That really comes across in the record as well.
Michael Voit: On Sensory Overdrive you got a lot of guest musicians and guest vocals. Are there any guests on the new album?
Michael Monroe: Actually, no. On this album, there is no big name, guest-wise. They are all really cool people! But we recorded most of it in Stockholm and there weren’t that many people around to isng on it, I guess. And I didn’t want to have guests on the album just for sake of having guests, you know?
It’s just the band really. So no guests, not this time. Maybe on the next album!
Michael Voit: What’s the intention behind your music? Do you want to transport a message or is it like pure entertainment?
Michael Monroe: Well, there’s entertainment of course. But the lyrics are really important to me in a sense that I want to have some kind of a point not to get to heavy or to preachy or anything like that. I need some tension and conviction. Crap is not gonna do it for me, I like to have intelligent lyrics with a point. Raising questions. Ideas and vibes and thoughts. But if I’m getting too heavy you would have to switch out your brain at a concert in order to have a good time.
So I enjoy making points sort of how I’m thinking in my life. As we are, as we live. I am happy if I can be an example of … well, you don’t have to be an idiot to be a rock fan, you know? Though there are a lot, actually. There are a lot who are like “Oh, it’s just entertainment and good times”. But life is not like that all the time. Well, it’s not like that most of the time! (laughs) I like to have a point and have good lyrics as well. It’s part of the thing.
Michael Voit: Do you think that some of your lyrics, especially the older ones, are more relevant today than they were back in the days you wrote them?
Michael Monroe: Oh, well! It depends of the song of course. But yes, some old ones have become even more relevant over time and it’s good to see that! They are basically reflecting life since I’ve always written about what I see.
Michael Voit: Like Jerusalem Slim’s “Rock’ N Roll Degeneration”? That’s more relevant today than it has ever been, I think!
Michael Monroe: Oh yes, I totally agree with that!
Michael Voit: Do you think that being successful with a band is something you can actually plan?
Michael Monroe: Well, that’s out of my hand! And it depends on how you look at it. For me, success is doing your own thing, on your own terms, and you maintain your integrity. First, you do it for yourself. Or for the reason to write music and you don’t compromise. If you can make your living from that, it’s great! If you are successful it’s always great. But you have to be it on your own. Never sell out! And never do it for the money. And then, if you do it, you do it for the right reasons. From the heart! If then money and success come – great! As long as you do it for the right reasons.
Michael Voit: Has there been a point in your career where you actually thought about giving up that whole music business.
Michael Monroe: The music business, yes! But not the music. I would never want to give up music. But music business makes you not want to do music business anymore. It gets crazy. I always said that music has no business in the music business! Which is still more valid than ever, I think. There’s more than enough business out there, if you look at it. But we are here to keep Rock’n’Roll alive. That’s good cause and a worthy cause. As long as there’s great bands that are not blinded by success. You just need to find them. And there are a lot of people out there who still appreciate authentic and honest Rock’n’Roll and music in general and not just the business and the investments by some corporations. I try not to let that bother me. It just gets depressing. I never, ever would give up music! I love music and that’s always gonna be there.
Michael Voit: Do you think that as a musician you have to be more of an entertainer today than back in like 20 years ago?
Michael Monroe: I try my best in every show and I try to get better. I’d like to think I’m getting better at what I do and I think the band I have today really fits with all the chemistry. Of course you will never be good enough, though. We certainly give our best at every show and on every record. You know? Use what we’ve learned. So for the rest of my life I’ll always try harder and harder! But I don’t think I need to be more entertaining than in the past. I always had this thing going on and I’ve always given my best. So it’s basically just the way it always used to be. I always had to be entertainer anyway.
Michael Voit: You have always played this kind-of “punky” Glam Rock which has become really popular today. There are a lot of bands who play this style like Crashdïet or Reckless Love or Crazy Lixx. Do you thinks this is more of a “hype” going back to normal? Or is it actually establishing a new style, this “Sleaze Rock”?
Michael Monroe: Oh yeah. Of course I can’t really speak for those bands. All I can say is that I don’t really relate to that … er … whatever they want to call it. AS soon as there is a style or something that comes along with the music, like Grunge for example, it’s over in my books! Because as soon as there is a name, you’re obviously not strong enough as a band to do your own thing anymore. I always wanted to do my own thing and I think it’s cooler when everyone does. Not jump on a band’s label or something like that or on some bands that are like doing the same kind of music. It’s cool to get the Rock’n’Roll moving, get the action on and having people pay attention to yourself. But … like Glam, you know?
I never considered myself Glam or anything like that. I don’t like categories. If I’m just the guy with the Punk and Glam – Okay! Well, that’s nice, I guess. But I don’t think one should use these categories that much. I’ve always been a rocker and whatever people call it, they can call it Punk or Glam or … Glunk? (laughs)
Or Metal or whatever! But I don’t really feel like being part of this Reckless Love’s and Crashdïet’s kind of style. Well, I know they’re maybe influenced by me a little bit and that’s flattering of course. But I don’t feel like I’m doing the same kind of music at all. I’m not into that style thing. I mean, it never helped me! I’ve always been ahead of my time or wrong place right time, right place wrong time, you know? (laughs again)
But it doesn’t matter! I’ve always been doing my thing. I got my integrity and it’s pretty okay to be me.
Michael Voit: You started out with Hanoi Rocks and went on to Jerusalem Slim and Demolition 23. Did you ever think about reunion gigs with them, like you did it withe Hanoi Rocks?
Michael Monroe: No, not really. When Hanoi Rocks broke up in 1985 and I started my solo career and I was Michael Monroe for 18 years. Jerusalem Slim is just like a band that never happened. The album turned into something that I never supposed to be. In my opinion it actually should have never been released. It was one of the worst thing happening to my career, because it ended up with casting on fortune. We've got wrong producer and the wrong guitar player. It was a good idea originally, but it was an idea that died during this production process. It was my deal with Polygramm Records and we tried to form a band, you know the band name and everything. It was all good until we went to the studio with Michael Wagner, the producer.
To me it was a good idea, but then it became about how many notes you can play in a minute or in a second. We tried to make it ... then I wanted to stop it, but the record hadn't believe me. They said it sounds great and everything is going alright. At the end I wasn't part of this project anymore and it ended up costing so much money, that I had to get off that deal. Otherwise I would have to release a lot more of that kind of records. And it took me over a year to be free. With another producer it would have been a great album, but the record company choose Michael Wagner and he made it something like Ozzy Osbourne or something that was popular at that time. This was a big mistake and the wrong way. A lot of people say they like that record, but to me it's the worst record I've ever made in my career.
Demolition 23. from '94 is another story. It was like an answer on Jerusalem Slim and it was a great record. But it obviously didn't get that much attention. Then that band broke up, too. Jay Hening, the guitar player, committed suicide in '97. He is not alive, but he would have been a super star. It was tragic, that he didn't get anymore famous then he did, because he was really tough. He was a great guitar artist. During our last tour the band drifted apart, so therefore I don't think there's gonna be a reunion. At least I like, that we get the album officially out. A re release of the album would be great, because you can't find it anymore this days.
At that point I'm so happy with my band, that I really don't wanna do things from the past.
Michael Voit: Now I have a completely different question: As one can read, you're doing a lot of charity work for animals. Why is that so important to you?
Michael Monroe: Yeah, I love animals, especially cats! And the more people I meet, the more I love my cats ... (laughs)
You know, animals are totally honest and they don't try to bullshit you. They are totally real and gods creation. I just love animals and I think there should be more attention payed to animal abusion and there should be more punishment for people that abuse animals. They are innocent and part of the nature. They're just lovely. So I'm helping them as much as I can. In my position, especially in Finland, one of the best things about being famous is to use it towards something good. To make a difference, you know? Last year I helped to raise the money for a van for the transportation of animals. That was a big thing.
Michael Voit: Sounds great! I Think our time is over. So I have one final question for you: What about touring in Europe this year?
Michael Monroe: Yeah, the album is coming out at the end of August, so I think we'll be out at the end of October or November. It hasn't been confirmed yet, how we're gonna tour Europe for sure. I don't know any times now, but by the end of this year or by the beginning of next year, we'll surely be on tour. We'll be touring as much as we can and we'll be coming to Germany, because we haven't played there at all. It would be great to have an opening slot for somebody great, too. There are a lot of great bands and musicians out there, like Slash. He's a nice guy and we're good friends. There's a lot in the works, but I can't tell anything yet.
Michael Voit: Thanks again for your time! It was a great honor. Do you maybe have some final greetings for the fans?
Michael Monroe: Oh yes, just wanna thank all the fans for the continuous support through out the years and we love them. That means the world to us. Stick around and keep it up, we'll be playing there as soon as possible. Thank you and god bless you. Thanks for the interview.
Moderation: Michael Voit

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