Former Hanoi Rocks frontman Michael Monroe is still, as he says himself, one of rock ‘n’ roll’s best kept secrets. He’s back with a stunning new solo album, Blackout States, so we chatted (while trying to persuade him to tour over here).F
Yellow Scene: We’ve been listening to the new album all week and it’s so good – you must be happy with it…
Michael Monroe: I’m quite pleased. I thought it turned out good. The band is only getting better, the chemistry – this band is exceptional, so yeah I’m very happy.
YS: Your lineup has changed, with Ginger [of the Wildhearts] coming in and out – how do you think your current band ranks against past lineups?
MM: I think this is the best band that I’ve had in my entire solo career. Sami Yaffa, Karl Rockfist, Steve Conte and me, the four of us have been there since 2010. It’s only the guitar player, which was Ginger at first and then he was replaced by Dregen [Backyard Babies] then Dregen was replaced by Rich Jones a couple of years ago. Rich has brought a bit more punk – a melodic, punky vibe. He’s a really great songwriter, and he was already a friend for years before. He was doing our artwork, and he’s a welcome addition to this band. The new album’s sound, we’re better than before, especially with the drums. Finally we have mechanic drums with no need for any mixing, any samples, or anything to enhance the drum sound – they were good enough as they were. That’s a major thing to me. The album sounds authentic. No compression in the cymbals or anything. There are good dynamics on the album, it has versatility while still being consistent, a good bunch of songs – yeah, we’re keeping it up and I’m sure the fans will not be disappointed. This band is evolving and there’s a magical chemistry that’s getting better.
YS: When fans see you and Sami play together, fans will inevitably talk about Hanoi – is the reunion off the table now, or are there plans to bring Andy [McCoy] back?
MM: No, no, no. The whole thing with the Hanoi rebirth, as it happened with me and Andy getting reacquainted and wanting to work together again, it was interesting to me, it never occurred to me that it could happen like that. I would never do a reunion so to speak, put an old thing together. The whole point was that we started to work together on something new and finishing some old ideas that we never finished when the band broke up in 1984. Andy having the respect for me as a songwriter as I came into my own in my solo years, we kind of got to know each other in a new way when we met in Finland in 2000 after all those years. It was a necessary phase, and it was about creating something new. We made three albums and decided to call it Hanoi Rocks – I gave that a lot of thought. I was really in two minds about it and then I thought, “Wait a minute, why not?” We came up with the name and it was really our band to begin with, and then with the tragic accident we lost everything. Not only did Razzle die, Sami left the band too. That’s why it was really hard to keep it together. We lost it back then, and later it made sense to call it Hanoi Rocks. I was prepared to do that for the rest of my life, if it would have been fun. It got to the point, with the third album, where the situation wasn’t fun anymore. We both decided to put the band to bed with its integrity intact. We did some farewell tours and gigs, and I have good memories of a great band. Hanoi has been laid to rest permanently, and it’s not going to happen again. It’s kind of ironic that this Michael Monroe band now is more of a band situation than the rebirth of Hanoi ever was, even though the best version of the rebirth was on the last album. The original Hanoi in the 1980s with Sami Yaffa, Nasty Suicide, Andy and Razzle – that was the band. THE Hanoi Rocks, and that’s never gonna happen again.
YS: Do you have any plans to tour the States with the new record?
MM: There’s been talk. Our manager said that there’s a Monsters of Rock cruise in February next year, and they’re trying to put some dates around it. But everyone said, “Why?” We don’t have the money to go and play there. It’s such a big, vast area to cover. Unless you get on a big tour with big names, and then you get the exposure. Then again, we’re not being defeatist. I’m an optimist, but I don’t think it helps. I’d love to play in the States. The audiences there appreciate good rock ‘n’ roll and guitar rock like the Stones, Aerosmith, AC/DC, ZZ Top and that kind of stuff. I love playing there, but me being a cult figure and Hanoi never making it that big, me as a solo artist always on the verge but never crossing over, record sales never reflected our fame, I’m still one of the best kept secrets in rock ‘n’ roll. In this day and age, our band lives all over the world. Sami’s in Spain now, Rich lives in Berlin now, Steve is in New York, I’m in Finland and Karl is in Stockholm, it isn’t cheap to move this band around. So I don’t know. But I hope they can get some dates, and put some around that Monsters of Rock cruise. I hope we can make it there.
YS: What do you have planned for the rest of the year?
MM: We going to go on tour. The album is released October 9, and that’s the first gig of the European tour. We’re starting in the UK and then go to the rest of Europe. The end of the tour, we open for Alice Cooper in England. In November, we’re coming back to Finland to play some dates, and then in February I hope we’re in America.
Blackout States is out October 9 through Spinefarm Records.