LA Rock Correspondent- Xombiewoof Magazine
Host- Hollywood Rock Underground TV
Where did you grow up, what inspired you to pick up a bass?
Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Steppenwolf in 1968 - Specifically, their bassist Nick St. Nicholas. When I saw him on television, wearing leather pants and a fringed buckskin jacket with that Rickenbacker bass, he was too cool, and I knew right then and there that that was what I wanted to be.
When did you move to LA, what brought you here? Describe the scene at that time...
Coming right from playing the New Jersey club circuit six nights a week with The E. Walker Band and Aggressor, I arrived on Feb. 4, 1982 at the invitation from Blackie Lawless to audition for SISTER. What brought me? A big jet. The scene? Well, Phase I was my entering the ‘rabbit hole’ in 1975 in the NYC rock scene. Now, I was about to step down into phase II of the ‘rabbit hole’; Motley Crue was headlining the Whisky a Go-Go with Metallica opening and getting booed. I saw several line-ups of RATT play the Whiskey and the Troubadour.
I never realized how two-faced, plastic, petty, back-stabbing and competitive bands could be until I arrived in Los Angeles. Being a New Yorker I was now a stranger in a strange land where people were either intimidated by you or they were irritated at the assertive NY attitude, which, in reality, they still don’t get. Other than that, I did, however, meet some really cool people. I’ll always remember how very cool and genuine Nikki Sixx was to me. Lita Ford, who was dating him at the time, took us both out to lunch. Kevin Dubrow and Frankie Banalli were nice to me. All the bartenders at the Troubadour were pretty cool to me too. After having been a regular at the legendary Max’s Kansas City in NY, comparatively-speaking, the Rainbow Bar & Grill was pretty wild. A lot of strange characters in that place.
I didn’t look like a regular in L.A., but somehow I still fit in; some people were really intimidated by me, I guess the scent of N.Y. was still fresh on me, and I wore a pair of leather gloves that I had studded like right out of the film ‘Rollerball’ and that freaked some people out. I remember Troubadour owner Doug Weston begging me to make him a pair. There was a girl whose mother owned the L.A. Rams football team and her father wrote soundtracks for films and television like The Outer Limits, she began to introduce me to a lot of people.
How did you come together with WASP, how did you come up with the name?
I was invited by Blackie Lawless to come to L.A. and audition for his band SISTER. Apparently, it went from SISTER, to Circus, Circus, and back to SISTER again. A couple of days after I arrived, and I was staying at his little house in Hollywood, we went down to Magnum Opus, Randy Piper’s rehearsal studio in Buena Park, and they ran thru the set once or twice. Then I got up and played with them. I got the gig.
I began rehearsing and writing with the band. About a few weeks after I was staying at Blackie’s house on Las Palmas, I was on his phone out in the courtyard and I kicked over a leaf, I saw a hornet and stepped on it and as it was dying, it curled up as if in defiance and the stinger was moving. It reminded me of the old 1960’s Green Hornet logo. I knew Blackie didn’t want to keep using the old SISTER band name anymore, because he said he was looking for something new, so, I went in the house and told Blackie ‘I have a great idea for a band name’…he asked me and I said “WASP”. He looked off in thought and said ‘that’s a great idea-keep thinking like that.’ He went back to watching the baseball game on TV. Later that night, he told Randy and Tony (Richards), that the band finally has a new name. Randy wanted to use ‘Hellion’ and I told him there already was a band with that name in Hollywood. So they asked what the new band name was and Blackie said “WASP.” Tony immediately asked “who the hell names a band after a bug?!?” So I replied…’The Beatles?’…’Scorpions?’, and everyone laughed. Blackie never even told them about how the name came up so I told them what happened earlier that day. We eventually recorded what is now, a legendary and infamous 3-track demo at Randy’s studio, which has my original bass tracks of about half a dozen of the songs that wound up on the first album.
Blackie was apparently very happy at how the tape sounded and we began trying to shop it to the record labels. I showed Blackie a promo photo of Mel Gibson from the film ‘Road Warrior’ and said that we should look like that, all post-apocalyptic, and he said ‘no, because we’d scare off the record labels’. Ironic huh? What did WASP look like at their first debut to the world…? Did you say ‘Road Warrior’? Uh-huh. I thought so. I took some markers and drew on the cassette flap, my own artwork version of what an album cover would look like around the band photo that Don Adkins took of us and I called it ‘Face the Attack’. Years later that cassette was stolen from a car I left it in and it was pirated around the world, nobody knew that it was copied from my stolen original demo tape, and everyone though that is was an unofficial WASP album demo. We didn’t have the internet back then so nobody knew where it came from or that it was me playing bass on it. When I was let go from the band, Blackie sternly warned me that I was not allowed to own any photos or proof that I was ever in the band. Since then, Blackie has denied my ever having been in the band despite all the documented evidence, which is really stupid. If he finally would admit my part of the bands’ history, he would be looked at as a hero instead of a deceptive liar.
WASP is no longer a ‘band’ it’s a solo project with whomever he hires as employees. To this day, Blackie has lied to everyone, telling people that it was himself who came up with the name, but, when pressed for what it meant, he can’t answer it truthfully because he can’t without revealing my part and rendering the proper credit. Just imagine, what would that band have been called, if not for my creation of the band’s name…The other band members have since properly validated that I did, in fact, create the band name of WASP in their interviews. Thank God for the fans, they get it now.
What artists do you admire? How do/did they influence you?
Wow, there are so many. Having been one of the small group of people who got to see early KISS form in the beginning, they were an influence on me in my professional debut with The Martian Rock Band at the legendary Max’s Kansas City Club in 1975 and then at CBGB’s; I was like a cross between Gene and Ace; a fire shooting, green-blood puking reptilian bassist. From there I was a dyed-in-the-wool ANGEL fan and after seeing them on the cover of ‘Helluva Band’ that was a career path changer right there. At first I looked like bassist Mickie Jones, and in 1976, even designed my stage costuming after his. Eventually it changed again and by 1977, I was nearly an identical bookend to guitarist Punky Meadows from that point on. Everybody in NY dug it. Conversely, when I arrived in L.A. all the other musicians hated me for it for some reason. Everyone tells me it was just pure jealousy. Despite my kicking solid ass onstage with STEELER and then later with my band SIN headlining and packing most of the major venues, all they contemptuously ragged on about was my hair. However, the fans got it, and showed great support; and that, is who I was playing for, the fans, not the other players. To this day, I still hear from people who were fans of mine back then and said that they got involved as being a musician because of me. I was blown away by that because I never thought that I could or would ever have that same kind of positive influence on others, as my heroes had on myself. Musically, I’ve had tons of influences; Uriah Heep, Angel, Slade, Humble Pie, Mott the Hoople, Alice Cooper, Steppenwolf, STARZ, etc., etc. I’ve always tried to bring what I saw in my influences to the stage thru my performances. All my stage movement was learned from my friend, the late Sean Delaney who taught KISS and STARZ.
The sad thing is that rock and theater, which belong together, have, for the most part, taken a long vacation from each other and badly need to be reunited.
How many shows do you think you've played in your lifetime?
Ha! Not enough. There’s been a lot, more than some, not as much as others. There’s something about bands that do not have enough longevity and stay together long enough for whatever various reasons, so I’ve been in quite a few bands. The Martian Rock Band, VIRGIN (the original, which became SIN in 1976-77), The E. Walker Band, Aggressor, WASP, Warlord, Hellion, STEELER, SIN (L.A.), BURN, Surgical Steel, THUNDERBALL, Spiders & Snakes, Flyboyz, Wise Guys…I guess, so far, I’m one of the ONLY musicians who was never a member of LONDON,…I’ve shared the stage with some of the biggest names in the business like Ronnie James Dio, Sam Kinison, Steven Van Zant, Jean Beauvoir, ‘Mighty’ Max Weinberg, Warrant, Guns n Roses, and various legendary members of many bands, so, I’ve been pretty blessed and fortunate. Currently, at the time of this interview, I’ve been spending time with White Lie and I’ve also been invited to join a Steppenwolf Tribute band which suites me just fine. I like keeping my options open and participating in some of the local All-Star Jams. At some point, I’ll get my own band back up and running. The whole club scene in L.A. is on its head and its ass, and needs to be rotated back to the magic it used to be. I’ve seen some promoters who are raping the bands and doing very little by way of actually promoting. This whole pay-to-play status quo thing that was introduced back in the late 80’s need to be eliminated. Some morons have foolishly attempted to sit in judgment of me because they feel that I haven’t performed enough in their eyes to satisfy or justify having received any acknowledgement of my achievements, I mean, really…get a friggin’ life man!
If you had to pick just one, what was the most memorable show you ever played?
I couldn’t pick one, but four come to mind; my L.A. debut with STEELER at The Country Club in Reseda which finally put me on the map, as it were. The second, with STEELER, was supporting Quiet Riot at Perkins Palace which was an insane show. The third was my first headlining debut with SIN at the Troubadour; everyone who was anyone in the business was there and that blew me away. The guys from Motley Crue, to David Lee Roth. Jesus, I heard that EVERYone was there for that; I looked down at the room and it was shoulder-to-shoulder! The fourth was the L.A. Street Scene with my second L.A. line-up of SIN; that was insanity on steroids he had one huge party with several thousand screaming SIN fans chanting our name before we got onstage. Stryper had to follow us. We (SIN) actually did more than one co-headlining show with Stryper which was pretty fun and cool, they are all nice guys. It's really funny when someone I haven't heard from in YEARS asks "So, what have you been up to since we last talked?" Asking me what I'm up to these days is like looking at the cover of a book and asking 'what's inside?'. I have nearly some 70 Face Book photo albums for that reason, for people to go thru and be amazed at what they see. That's a prelim to me writing my book.
How would you compare the NY and LA Rock Scenes?
Very different. In fact, extremely different. In New York, most everyone all knew that with a limited number of clubs to play, everyone was always running into someone else we all knew. If anyone said any crap or talked smack, they got it right back, then and there, in their face and it was over. We were all like one big family, I was hanging with the Ramones, The Brats, The Planets, Wayne County, Tuff Darts, The N.Y. Dolls, Neon Leon, Richard Hell, KISS, and so many of the up and coming NY rock scene legends. Even with the competitiveness it was never as bad as what I experienced when I arrived in L.A.; it was cut-throat in L.A. all that smiling in your face and then back-stabbing you as soon as you turned around. L.A. is apparently full of vexatious litigants; everyone is sue-happy if you look at them wrong. People start crap and expect to get away with it, but there are moments when you can get in someone’s face for messing with you, and show them what the fear of God is.
I was amazed at the variety of bands there were in L.A. and how far and wide people traveled to both perform and see their favorite performers. But the energy and the vibe was very different in NY as compared to L.A. From my experience, most Californians don’t like or have much patience with New Yorkers, mostly because we are a ‘get it done now, assertive’ kind of attitude, versus that stupid, laid-back sunny California, ‘we’ll get around to it’, surfer attitude. Also Californians don’t like it very much when you ask a lot of questions, it annoys the hell out of them for some reason, as if they have something to hide and don’t like being pressed for details. The egos in the L.A. rock scene are, and have always been far out of control. Lots of really petty, stupid attitudes. That crap doesn’t fly in N.Y. Nobody will put up with it. I don’t either.
Don’t walk thru life apologizing for everything you say; small minds will be insulted anyway, no matter what you say. In fact, the more articulate you are, the more they will misunderstand you and take insult. Of course, it’s always the readers’ obligation to ask for clarity if they don’t understand what you are saying / what they are reading. So, you could always say “I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear enough, let me simplify it for you”, but then, they will interpret that as you being condescending. Sometimes, that’s ok; water flowing downhill always overcomes everything in its path. If someone doesn’t understand what you say, that’s their problem, not yours. If you are successful at anything, you will always stand as a reminder to those who have failed at something, and you will always remain a target of resentment to those failures whether you meant to or not, it doesn't matter. Your success will inevitably upset someone. The price of being successful; is that people will take jabs at you. Jealousy is evident where ever there is a man earning greatness somewhere.
What advice do you give struggling musicians?
Hmmmm…well the times have changed and the goals we strove to achieve years ago are not always the same as they are today. “Courage draws critics” so be prepared for that. It takes a lot of courage to stand up and believe in yourself and what you are trying to do. I always looked to the influences of my heroes and did my connect-the-dots homework from there. I had drive and most of all a passion for whatever it was I was doing and aiming for. I’d say never lose that. And don’t listen to what anyone else tells you, stay focused on what YOU want to do, otherwise it will just turn into what someone else wants, and then you‘ll lack what got you inspired in the first place. There’s always time for compromise later on if you want, but in the beginning do what YOU want first; let others follow what you do don’t necessarily follow what someone else did.
I know that sounds a little hypocritical because I was influenced by my heroes, and that will always happen, but you can do that and still make it your won. Everyone borrows, everyone copies, that’s the nature of being influenced, but make it your own and try to add some originality. Never lose sight of your dream and goals. Most importantly, learn the business and how it works, or it will eat you alive. Don’t trust everyone who comes along either. Respect and Honor are two of the most important qualities in this world that have lost their original meanings, and so, their loss has contributed to the decline in this world. Without Respect and Honor you have, and are...nothing. Without your ancestry and heritage, you are...nothing. If you stand for nothing, then you are...nothing. I may not have always walked the path of righteousness, for it is a most difficult one to maintain, but in every step, I have endured to reach out for it for the sake of others, so that they may see my good intentions in being righteous for them.
Besides music, what are your other passions?
I have so many, I’ve always been something of an ‘info-maniac’, and I dig knowledge. Until I finish my book, I guess you’d really have to do an engine search on the internet, maybe Google me, to see most of it. I like being a rocker, but in contrast to most other rockers, I’m and EDUCATED rocker, there’s a huge difference. From age 13 and first listening to Steppenwolf and John Kay’s lyrics about world issues and his escape thru the Iron Curtain in East Berlin as a child, and, I GOT it; I knew what he was talking about and all his prophetic song lyrics.
I guess that’s when it started. I’ve always been fascinated with the tactics and strategy of war, I guess that comes from a distant genetic DNA marker of old memories of other past lives, (or so I’ve been told). I have a vast research library so I’ve been able to soak up a LOT of world history and general knowledge. When I first held a sword in my hands, it felt natural to me and I had an affinity for it. When I rediscovered my Polish noble ancestry, and first saw the winged hussar armor in person, I experienced an epiphany and felt like my fingers were in an electric socket. Again, another past life connection. With that, I created the first ‘officially recognized’ representation of the 17th century Polish winged hussar knights in the United States. Through my educational efforts of over a decade, I have helped introduce and educate thousands about this little-known but important era of European History. The winged hussars were the bad-ass fearsome and majestic rock stars of their day. Since then, most others and rockers too, have seen what I’ve done, and think it’s pretty cool. That’s why I’m now known as ‘The Winged Knight of Heavy Metal’. Now I cross-promote both, my music and the winged hussars. I was featured on The History Channel’s Museum Secrets cable program, explaining this history for the first time in the English language. So, mission accomplished there. I’ve found ways to turn all of my outside-of-rock interests, into a form of education, and I teach others about it.
I take my life’s experiences and use that to help educate others and when they get it, then they walk away feeling amazed because there are so many experiences. Most people look at me now, and, (in my personal opinion), what little I’ve done in the grand scheme of things on this planet, and ask ‘what HAVEN’T you done?!? I guess that’s all a part of what makes me so interesting to so many people. I’m not for everyone, but that’s OK, that just cuts out a lot of the distractions and brings in those who are interested in some higher learning. I take what I’ve learned and dig teaching others so that, hopefully they’ll learn a little something from me and take it and go from there. I like to feel that if I’ve left a positive influence behind me on one person, then my job was done here. If it’s multiplied beyond that, then there’s a place for me in the heavens among the other heroes.
“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived - that is to have succeeded.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Thanks for listening…Keep rocking and see ya in the funny papers!
Editors comment: this interview is written with good faith as the validity and truth of comentary. Xombiewoof Magazine does not support, endorse or deny the statements of the interview subject and is not responsible or liable for the subject matter.