INTERVJU: Michael Monroe och Rich Jones

Michael Monroe om mötet med Mötley Crüe och Vince Neil förra sommaren, kommande albumet, fester med GNR och första mötet med Slipknot:

That guy with the Pinocchio nose (Chris Fehn), he came up to me all of a sudden and he went “You! It´s your fault!” and he looked so dangerous and I was like “Is he going to attack me?” and he went “It´s your fault I´m doing this! Man, the first album I had was “Back to Mystery city” It´s amazing, man! It´s an honour to meet you!”

Last summer you met up with the guys in Mötley Crüe. Was that actually the first time you met Vince?

First time I met Vince ever. I never met him. Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee are the only guys I met in the 80´s, around the time for the accident. I never met Vince. For many years I´ve been thinking that there is no reason to have any bad blood between us. It was an accident and I never blamed Vince. I reached out to Nikki through Joe Elliot. He´s a sweetheart and I love the guy. He was the angel in between. I wrote a little letter for Nikki and sent it to Joe and said “Would you mind passing this on to Nikki?” because I knew they were playing festivals together. I just wanted to reach out and see if we could wipe the slate clean and I basically said that “We´re always going to be connected by that terrible tragedy. We´re always going to have that connection, whether we like it or not, but I´d much rather have that connection be on a positive note. I wish you all the best. A lot of respect.” and he replied immediately and wrote “Thank you, Michael! Thank you for the lovely letter.” It was really heartfelt and you could see that it was sincere. I said “Joe said that you´re coming to the show (in Finland) tomorrow and I´ll see you there. Here´s my phone number and everything.” I went there and we had a show earlier that day in the afternoon and they were going on as we arrived so I didn´t get to talk to them before the show. Otherwise I probably would´ve ended up playing harmonica on “Smokin´ in the boys room” Next time I will because now we´re friends again. It was the first time I saw them play live actually. I think they sounded great and I think Vince was singing great. I don´t know about other gigs and I don´t care what people say, I think he was great that night. I think he´s updated his look too in a cool way for this day and age. Nikki saw me from the stage and then they came off stage and they gave me a hug and Vince came down and it was the first time I ever met him. I said “Look man, great to meet you. Razzle always kept saying to me You´ve got to meet Vince because he´s a lot like you…” Us singers and he smiled when I said that. Then there was like a half a minute of silence where we just looked each other in the eye and I could really see, I could tell, that of all of us affected by the tragedy of the accident, he´s clearly suffered the most. He´s never been the same since then. Really sad. I got really teary eyed and I was really moved and then he said “Good to me you!” and then afterwards Nikki invited me backstage and we had a good talk and we were catching up with everything and I saw Tommy too. Then as I was leaving I said “Hey Tommy, by the way, let´s take a picture!” and Nikki went “Yeah, let´s take a photo! together” later on he texted me “can I have one of those pictures?” and I said “Yeah, of course!” and there´s one of me and Joe and Nikki and people were surprised. I just wanted to clear the air between us. I don´t have any bad blood with anybody and life´s too short for that stuff. I wanted to tell Vince something more and hopefully I could make him feel better about the whole thing, so I wrote quite a long letter to him. I thought about it carefully. A few days went by and then on my birthday I sent it to Nikki and said “Could you pass this on to Vince?” It said things like that I hope, if he hasn´t already, that he has forgive himself and he deserves to live a happy life. That´s what Razzle would´ve wanted. It could´ve happened to any of us. On that tour something bad was bound to happen because the guys were really reckless and crazy more than ever and especially Razzle. Devil may care and extremely crazy. Our merch guy had been really close friends with Bon Scott and he wasn´t there when Bon died and he never recovered from that, losing a dear friend. He saw what was going on and he said he didn´t want to stick around because he had a really strong feeling something bad was going to happen to us, so he quit the tour about a week before the accident. Stuff like that. I told him (Vince) it could´ve happened to any of us and you could tell by looking in his eyes that he´s never been the same and Nikki said it too. I´m really happy we are friends again and I got to meet Vince and I always wanted to meet him and I´m hoping I could make him feel a little bit better. It´s a really rough life to live with that kind of thing and on top of that he lost his child. It´s so horrible. It´s one of the worst things that could happen to anybody. A couple of days after I sent the letter, Nikki picked the right moment and Vince came to his room and he read the letter and after that he had a big smile on his face and said “That´s amazing!”

Now you´re doing these acoustic shows. Playing acoustic stuff, is that more challenging in a way?

Rich: It´s very different from the rock show and in some ways it´s more free, because we can improvise on the spot if we want to, but at the end of the day it´s two guitars and two voices. If somebody sings a bum note or plays a bad chord, it´s right there, hahaha! It´s also part of the charm, right?

Michael: Sometimes the mistake is the best thing.

Why an acousic tour?

Michael: The Swedish promotor went through Warner Live in Finland, who books our shows there, Jake Hannula, and he said to me that this guy in Sweden would like me to do a duo tour in Sweden  with anybody I choose, so I chose Rich my dear friend. We´re like blood brothers and souol mates in many ways and we like the same kind of music. We love Stiv Bators and the ”Disconnected” album is one of the most important albums in my life. It´s been so much fun.

Rich: We have so much musical taste in common. It´s real easy to be like ”Hey, what about this song?” The show camew together really quickly and it flows really well.

Could a thing like this spark anything for the future, like doing an acousic album?

Michael: We were talking about that actually…

Rich: Yeah, we keep talking about that.

Michael: There are two things. An acousic album with original songs and also the cool covers we´ve been doing. We´ve played some acousic shows as a trio with Steve…

Rich: A few years back we did a tour with a full band where in the middle of it we went off stge and came back and did an acousic kind of interlude. I mean, it works, but I think we´re a little bit reluctant to go and just be like ”Here´s some acousic versions of our best known songs. If we did it, we want to do it right and make it like a bunch of songs that we´ve written and then you can go tour and you can also play the versions of your other songs. Because of the way the band is too, we´re busy a lot and you need to get your head in the space to look right on an acousic song or record… it´s something we want to be certain we want to do. I think it´s a good idea though.

Michael: We were talking about doing a bonus cd for our next album in Japan at least , but that would not be original songs, it would be some cool covers and some songs we´ve been playing of our own acoustically like “Can´t go home again”from my “Nights are so long” album. And some cool covers like Sylvain Sylvain and Johnny Thunders. That might happen.

The latest album “I live too fast to die young” came out in June 2022. Have you started working on the next one?

Rich: We just finished recording some tracks for it.

Michael: It´s coming out in November.

Rich: We had this insane month where I flew to Finland from Canada at the beginning of February. We had two days of rehearsal and then we went to Tokyo. We did one night where we played all of “Two steps from the move” and the second night we played all of “Not faking it” plus the regular set. Then we went to Nagoya and Osaka and played different sets there and then we flew back to Finland. The day after we arrived, we started recording this record. That was last weekend and the next day I went to Tuurku where Michael lives and it was like “Ok, we need to rehearse for this tour which starts in five days.” We´ve been busy, but most of the record is kind of there.

Michael: It´s going to be mixed and mastered by the end of April. Completely new songs and its own kind of thing. It´ll be another great record.

Any guests planned for it? You had Slash on the last one.

Rich: Who are we getting this time, hahaha?

Michael: We haven´t planned anybody. Let´s get the album done first. With Slash, we were already mixing and I got in touch with him. He said “When do you need it?” and I said “Well, now, hahaha!” The next day his engineer sent it to us. It´s a great solo and I love it! I said “That must´ve been a one shot kind of deal?” and he said “Yeah, well maybe the second take…” He´s just winging it, off the cuff, spontaneous and it´s great. And he´s in the video too. He was with GNR in Brazil or somewhere and I can see how he was like trying to remember what he did.

Rich: Considering how insanely busy that guys is, he´s so generous with his time. It was amazing that he did it.

Rich, did you ever see GNR back in the day?

Rich: I did. Actually we were talking about this just the other day. I saw them open for Iron Maiden on the “Seventh son tour” They did like six shows or something. I saw them in Toronto. I saw them a few times back in the day for sure.

Michael: I saw them on the “Use your illusion” tour and they were playing the new Ritz (New York) when it was uptown and they even played the song where I play the harp, “Bad obsession” I was like “Hmmm, could´ve asked me to play the harp…” Me and Cheetah Chrome were there and afterwards Axl invited us over to his hotel, with Iggy Pop. It was me, Iggy, Cheetah and Axl with his girlfriend Stephanie Seymour. Sitting there smoking weed and having a great time before everyone else showed up. Then the whole place was packed, but it was a great night. I shared a cab with Iggy downtown because he was living on 8th Street and I was on 3rd Street. The cab driver was going “Whoa!” It was after hours and like “I hope we get there in one piece, hahaha!” I remember when I was saying “Ok, we´re going to leave now!” and Axl had this bouncer. Axl was in the bedroom with Stephanie and I just said “Hey, I´m going to leave now!” and Axl was like “Ok, bye!” and then the bouncer came in and went “How did you get in here?” and he was freaking out. Leaving with Iggy took and hour because everybody was stopping him. It was a great night, but that was the only time I saw them.

So you never saw them before that tour?

Michael: No, because I didn´t know that much about them. Axl happened to be walking by the video shoot for “Dead, jail or rock and roll” He showed up and introduced himself and he was a nice guy and we got along and he ended up in the video. He doesn´t sing on the song, that´s Little Steven and my manager back in the day went “You have to get him in the video!” I had no idea how big they were, but he was a nice guy and he had pre cassette of my album and he liked it and he didn´t know that “Not faking it” was a Nazareth song because that album “Loud and proud” wasn´t that big in the States, like “Hair of the dog” He was like “Oh really, that´s a Nazareth song? Now I like it even more.”, so we got along great. For the first edit of the video in the studio I went “Excuse me, is this my video or Axl Rose´s video?”, hahaha! That gave him some of my street credibility and I got some of his big fame. It worked out for the best. I never saw them live back then, but I think I saw them walking towards Alphabet City once when I was walking down the street. Then I got to know Slash. It was funny… they (GNR) were out having dinner with their management and they were so worried about Slash leaving with me in the night of New York City. We didn´t really know each other, but we got kind of wired and then he said “I think I´m going back to my hotel.” and he asked for my phone number. I asked Jude my late wife “Is it ok if I give this guy my phone number?” and she was like “Michael, he´s only the guitar player in the biggest band in the world! He´s hardly going to be stalking you.”, hahaha! I was so paranoid.

Rich, when you started playing, would you say there was like one specific guitar player that you really looked up to? Someone that influenced you and made you go “I wanna do that.”?

Rich: There was actually a moment. It wasn´t a guitar player that necessarily influenced me, but when I was a kid… I was born in England, but we moved to Canada when I was eight years old and shortly after we moved, my parents took me to see Queen. I remember sitting there in the crowd and it was 81 or 82. It was the first show I ever went to and it was mad, it was Queen, you know! Pretty good for a first show. I remember at one point Brian May doing the solo for “Bohemian rhapsody” and there were these lights behind him and this huge silhouette going across the whole arena of him and I was like “Oh, I think that’s what I would like to do for a job. That seems like a pretty good job.” It was like this moment where a light went on. I grew up listening to those records, but I wouldn´t say he was the guy. Shortly after I discovered The Sex Pistols and The Ramones.

Michael: I saw a great picture of Queen in a magazine and thought “Wow, what a cool looking band!” Then I went to buy the record “Sheer heart attack” and the guy said “Oh, so you went to the show last night?” and I was like “What?” and he said “They played to a half house in Helsinki and it was the best time ever!” Then I missed AC/DC with Bon Scott too and I remember the review said “AC/DC are cheating. The guitar player doesn´t even have a cord in his guitar.” The guy hadn´t seen a wireless guitar before.

Rich: I think he´s managed to prove himself over the years since that review…

Since you play the harmonica so well, have you ever thought of doing a blues record?

Michael: Sami´s been saying that and Steve´s been saying that on the tour bus a couple of times, “You should make a a record with blues harp!” I don´t know. A whole album with that? Harp and saxophone add a nice colour to it and it´s nice to have a song or two. It´s something different and, it´s one of the reasons I picked up the saxophone. Little Richard´s records had saxophone on them and it´s part of the rock and roll thing. Harmonica and harp with my blues punk style, it´s a nice touch, but a whole album of harp, I don´t know. I don´t think I would go for that. Too much of something is always too much.

When you joined the band Rich, had you known each other for a while then?

Rich: Yeah, we were trying to remember. We had known each other for a while. I was playing guitar in Ginger´s band and we played together at Ruisrock in Finland 2009. The Wildhearts were playing and I was there. The Wildhearts´ manager flew me to Finland to basically look after the bass player. He´s an old friend of mine and we were in a band together and the manager was like “Please come to Finland and take care of him because it´s going to kill me if I have to spend a week with this guy!” I was like “Yeah, ok!” I ended up going to Finland for this week with The Wildhearts and we went to Ruisrock and Michael was there. He was hosting. He and Ginger started talking about putting a band together and then we all got up on stage and played “Kick out the jams”

Michael: We did. I played there every summer since 2000 and then the rebirth of Hanoi Rocks happened. Then in 2009 the rebirth of Hanoi Rocks ended and the promotor of Ruisrock asked me if I wanted to introduce the bandsd and be one of the co-hosts.

Rich: I think that was the year I took you to see Slipknot because I knew the guys in Slipknot. I was like “I know Joey loves Hanoi and I know some of those guys are Hanoi fans. Come up and watch the band!” This was when they were really on fire. I took you up on the stage and we stood there watching Slipknot and I could see them all one by one look over and then they came running over in full masks to Michael, shaking his hand and then go running back out again.

Michael: I couldn´t believe it. People were taken away in amulances with broken bones.

Rich: The bueses behind the stage were like swinging back and forth because the crowd was bouncing up and down.

Michael: That guy with the Pinocchio nose (Chris Fehn), he came up to me all of a sudden and he went “You! It´s your fault!” and he looked so dangerous and I was like “Is he going to attack me?” and he went “It´s your fault I´m doing this! Man, the first album I had was “Back to Mystery city” It´s amazing, man! It´s an honour to meet you!” and then Corey Taylor came up to me and said “Wow, Michael Monroe! All I could think about is that Michael Mo0nroe is watching our show.” They were all fans. They totally have their own thing and I couldn´t imagine in a million years that they liked hanoi Rocks. It was so great and they were great guys. The show was dangerous. He´s a great singer. I´m glad that Rich dragged me up to see them. I had never seen anything like it. Really cool and intense.

Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen

Foto: Björn Olsson, Erik Larsson