When legendary Quiet Riot frontman Kevin DuBrow unexpectedly passed away in 2007, the improbably long-running Heavy Metal veterans understandably ceased to exist. However, in 2010, drummer Frankie Banali, with the blessing of the DuBrow family, officially re-launched the group with Hookers & Blow guitarist Alex Grossi and returning bassist Chuck Wright, utilizing a series of different vocalists (including Love/Hate alumni Jizzy Pearl and Montrose frontman Keith St. John as well as the previously unknown Mark Huff and Scott Vokoum) before recruiting former American Idol contestant James Durbin in 2017. Issuing the long-gestating Road Rage in 2018 and the highly-anticipated in-concert testament One Night In Milan (CD/DVD/Blu-Ray, 2019), Banali and his cohorts have once again proven themselves more than capable of carrying on the legacy of iconic group.
Todd: At what point did you realize the group needed to ‘move on’ from (ex-Adler’s Appetite vocalist) Seann Nichols (a.k.a. Sheldon Tarsha of Icon and Steelshine)? Was there a defining moment where it became obvious?
Frankie: “When it became obvious that the individual we were working with was not going to work out on any level, musically or personally. It was just not going to work. It was beginning to turn into a horror story after only a few live shows. …The thing is, you really don’t know what you are getting until you actually make a true commitment. It’s like going on a first date where everybody puts on their best clothes and tries to make the best impression they possibly can. And usually, first dates are not really representative, for the most part, of who the individual you are dealing with really is. It’s only after you spend time with them and you see the maneuvering that’s going on that you understand the quality or lack of quality of certain individuals and why you have to make a change. And listen, it’s the only way you’re ever going to find out. I mean, it’s like a marriage. How many marriages have you seen go sideways? Whether they went sideways in six months or six years. …There’s always going to be situations where a new person is going to come into an established relationship and decide that they’re going to show everybody how it’s done. So you get a lot of that and there’s nothing wrong with it if the person is speaking from experience and if the person is speaking about trying to improve the good of the overall and not just the good of the individual themselves. …And so there’s where some of the demons pop out.”
Todd: Once James Durbin was officially a member, how difficult was it to get the material from Road Rage re-written and re-recorded? With the recording having been recently completed, it must have been a real challenge.
Frankie: “For me, it was all very easy because I’m a very motivated person. I don’t leave anything to chance and I don’t leave anything for tomorrow, so as soon as I saw that there was definitely some bullshit going on and I saw that some of the problems were manifesting themselves, I started putting together together a game plan to see what I needed to do and what was the best way to do it. And I got in touch with the label, and I explained to them the situation, the dilemmas, and the problems. And they agreed with me and they left it in my hands. They said ‘Well, you do whatever you have to do. Let’s see if you can stay on the original delivery schedule’, which I did. And that’s exactly what I did. I plotted everything out. Everything was very methodical. …Again, as soon as I saw that the problems were manifesting themselves, I immediately got in touch with the Engineer and let him know. Well, first of all, I got in touch with the man to let them know what’s going on and then I got in touch with the Engineer to let him know that I may need him at a moment’s notice and to see whatever studios were going to be available to accomplish what needed to be accomplished. All the pieces had been put in place in the event I needed to make a change. .As soon as I gave this individual his walking papers, I re-started the process.”
Todd: How big of an impact did Neil Citron have on Road Rage? He’s been your co-writer for a very long time.
Frankie: “A lot because he really is my songwriting partner. Neil and I wrote all of the music to all the songs with the exception of one song, for which the music was written by Alex. Neil and I are really, really close friends and we trust each other, which doesn’t happen very much in this business. We really work at it and do re-writes and when it comes to recording everything, I work really, really well with him. I’ve been working with Neil on so many projects that it’s crazy. He’s an integral part of the things that I do with Quiet Riot, especially because we write really well together because we’re both older and both come from that generation of loving Rock music from the ’60’s and ’70’s. We have that same background. A lot of Engineers and Producers have lead guitar heroes like (Guns N’ Roses guitarist) Slash, who’s great, but mine were the people that Slash was listening to like Beck, Hendrix and Page. Neil understands all of this because we are from the same generation.”
Todd: Within a live setting, how well has the material from Road Rage been received? Has everyone enjoyed it?
Frankie: “It’s been well received in that I’ve added two songs to the live set list. Traditionally, for as long as Quiet Riot has been recording, at least from the Metal Health record onward, we’ve rarely added more than two new songs to the set list to see if it would work out. So I picked out “Freak Flag”, which I think out of all the songs on Road Rage, that one has the fabric of that classic Quiet Riot sound. And then I also chose “Can’t Get Enough”, which we did a video for. They’re both pretty energetic songs and have been really, really well received. But I’m also well aware that the fans are first of all coming there to hear “Bang Your Head”, “Cum On Feel The Noize”, “Mama Weer All Crazee Now” and “Slick Black Cadillac”, so I knew to stick them in about a third of the way through the set and then make sure that we segue the second of the two new songs right into a well-known song. That way, if they weren’t sure about it, we never gave them a chance to let us know (laughs).”
Todd: Taking into consideration the amount of material you have to choose from, is it difficult to choose a set list? How much of what the group does or doesn’t do live is dictated by the time frame you’re allotted to play in?
Frankie: “Not really. It depends on a couple things. For instance, if we’re going to use the One Night In Milan set list as an example, we’re obviously going to have to play the songs that are expected. “Condition Critical”, “Let’s Get Crazy”, “Mama Weer All Crazee Now”, “Party All Night” “Slick Black Cadillac”, “Thunderbird” and “Wild And The Young” and of course “Cum On Feel The Noize” and “Bang Your Head”. But I wanted to make it a little different and a little more special since we were playing to a European audience. This is the first time Quiet Riot had ever played in Italy and the audience was made up of not of just Italian fans, but fans from Eastern Europe, the UK and Scandinavia. So I added “Whatever It Takes”, which is a deep track from Down To The Bone (1995) and the title track from Terrified (1993). …As far as given time, it really depends. For instance, if we’re playing a major festival and we’re given anywhere from thirty, forty minutes or maybe sixty minutes to play, then I’ll steer the set for the type of festival it is. If it’s a Heavy Metal festival, I won’t include any ballads or anything that is too slow. I want to hit them hard and then keep hitting them hard all the way through the set.”
Todd: In hindsight, once Kevin passed away, was there ever any doubt regarding the group’s ability to continue? There was a significant amount of animosity directed towards you once you had decided to reactivate the group.
Frankie: “That was exactly it. …I’ve been criticized at great lengths for making a statement that I wasn’t going to continue with Quiet Riot. You have to understand that at that point in time, I was blindsided by Kevin’s death because it wasn’t expected by any stretch of the imagination. Kevin was the most alive person I’ve ever known. Kevin enjoyed life more than anybody I’ve ever known, including myself, so his death was not in the equation as far as I was concerned. I found myself at a loss of my best friend and I also found myself at a loss of losing this thing called Quiet Riot. I shut down for three years to a point where it didn’t even enter my mind. It wasn’t until late in that process that I started to put things in perspective. After having a couple of conversations with Kevin’s mother, who’s become like a second mother to me, I decided to move forward. …I think it’s important to understand that fans have this romantic view of a band where the band is what they think they are. They think of whatever members they prefer and imagine that we live these wonderful lives and don’t have a care in the world, and all of that. I compare the loss of Kevin the same way one would compare the loss of a family member. So you tell me, if you lose a family member, whether it’s your mom, dad, brother or sister, what do you do? Do you break up the family? That’s it? It’s done? That one individual is gone, so there’s no more family? That’s not realistic. Having said that, I’m from New York City, so I’ve got a pretty thick skin. A lot of it it hurt, but at the same time, I understood why they were saying the things they were, even though I didn’t agree with them. And then I moved on. Alex put it best after some of the singers we tried didn’t work out and then went on the internet and Social Media, basically saying all the most evil things you could possibly say about me. Alex crystallized it when he said ‘If the death of Kevin DuBrow won’t stop Frankie Banali and Quiet Riot, who will?”
Todd: Have you found it easier to be brutally honest with fans? People don’t necessarily expect that experience.
Frankie: “And here’s the thing with me. You will either love me or hate me for being brutally honest. That’s the way I’ve always been, I still am and always will be. That’s one of the reasons my relationship with Kevin was so strong. It’s because we were brutally honest with each other even when the other person didn’t want to hear what was being said. That’s why with One Night In Milan one of my conditions was that I would not fix vocals, I would not fix guitar solos and I wouldn’t fix or add backing vocals. I also would not add somebody else’s audience from the biggest festival on the planet. And that’s why it’s called One Night In Milan because that’s exactly as it is. And it was the same way with the Quiet Riot movie Well Now You’re Here, There’s No Way Back (2014). I didn’t veto anything in the movie. There’s things in there that make me incredibly uncomfortable, things that make me laugh and things that make cry, but I left it all in. I did not touch it as far as Production, editing or anything. The deal I made is ‘Film whatever you want. Just stay out of my way. That’s just who I am.”
Todd: At this point, what is preventing the surviving members of the Metal Health era from joining you, or you and the other current members, onstage? I would imagine the fan base would be excited with such a proposition.
Frankie: “(Metal Health era bassist) Rudy (Sarzo, ex-Dio, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake) has on occasion. As a matter of fact, Rudy and I live in the same neighborhood. Rudy and I have been friends since 1972, so he’s the oldest, closest and dearest friend that I have. He’s actually more of a brother than anything and we get along great. (Metal Health era guitarist) Carlos (Cavazo, ex-3 Legged Dog, Ratt, Snow) and I were never close even when things were going great. You have to understand that both Rudy and Carlos have been out of the band for fifteen or sixteen years since 2003. Rudy and I have kept a relationship and our friendship is completely and totally intact. That’s not the case, really, with Carlos and that’s by his own choice. But then there’s also a danger of even doing a one-off where it would be the three surviving members and James or whomever singing because people romanticize what they think of the lineup. Once you do a show like that, everything else you do after that with the guys that I have in the band right now is going to be measured up to that one-off and that’s a dangerous proposition. When people say on my Facebook or Twitter pages ‘You really should get Rudy and Carlos back in the band’, I always reply to them by saying ‘Okay, so basically, what you’re telling me is I should fire Chuck, who has been in and out of the band since 1982, but more specifically has been a solid member of the band since 2004, and also fire Alex Grossi who has been the same, because you want to hear somebody else play their songs? Is that what you are suggesting? That I should not be loyal to the people that are loyal to me?’”
Todd: In hindsight, how do you feel about Paul Shortino/QR (1988) era? I’ve always felt it was truly underrated.
Frankie: “I think it was a great record. In fact, I know it was a great record. I knew that it wasn’t going to sound anything like Quiet Riot. The songwriting was different and the vocal styles were different. It had more in more in common with what Whitesnake was doing at the time. The reality of that situation was that after we had to part company with Kevin because of his issues with substance abuse, I didn’t want to continue on with Quiet Riot because I didn’t see how we were going to continue without his voice. But because I was then the point man, I was reminded by the legal department at CBS (Records) that we had a four record deal and if I didn’t deliver the fourth Quiet Riot record, they were going to sue me. So we did the record, but you also have to understand my mindset. Every single Quiet Riot record from Metal Health all the way through to Road Rage always featured the metal mask with the exception of the fourth album. I refused to let the mask be part of the front cover of the record. …That was basically me saying ‘This is Quiet Riot, but it’s also a different Quiet Riot.”
Todd: With the group obviously having achieved a great deal of success in the past (Metal Health was the first Heavy Metal record to reach ‘number one’), what commercial expectations do you have for One Night In Milan?
Frankie: “Commercially, you have to understand that the industry isn’t what it used to be by any stretch of the imagination. …I’m very happy with my relationship with Frontiers. I have a great relationship with them. I don’t know if it’s because my father was born in Sicily, but I’ve got a great working and professional understanding with them. But for the most part record labels don’t exist anymore. The whole idea of signing a band to a two, three or four record deal and then have them develop the band where the label’s not expecting their first record to be a hit…that doesn’t happen anymore. Oddly enough, it happened with Quiet Riot, but they don’t develop artists now, so that’s problem number one. Problem number two is that all of radio is basically programmed by a handful of people across the country. I used to love the format where DJs were basically autonomous. A band would do a new record, release the record and the go out on the road. The then band would hit every morning show they possibly could in every city they were playing at. You’d come in and you’d bring in your product and then they’d play it on the radio. All of that ceased when DJs weren’t allowed to play anything new anymore. You’d come in with your product and they’d take it home, fall in love with it and then send you an E-Mail telling you how much they loved it. …So that doesn’t exist. And for our generation and our genre, there was also MTV and now MTV has nothing to do with music. It should just be called TV (laughs) because it has nothing to do with music. So when you have those things, and then you couple in the fact that streaming services and illegal downloads have left fans unconnected to a band or an artist like they used to be… I’m a music fan. I always have been. I have over thirty-five hundred pieces of vinyl that I’ve had since I was fourteen and I still buy vinyl and CDs. Fans used to be invested. They made an investment in the band. If I knew the Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers record was coming out, I’d only find out about in magazines because there was no internet. I would go to the record store every day until it came out. I would look at all the pictures and read the liner notes and all of that. I’d sit and play side one and side two and then side three and side four and then start all over again. I was making an investment in and a commitment to that band. That just doesn’t happen anymore. With streaming, there’s maybe a picture, if you’re lucky. There’s no liner notes. Everything is so disposable now. If your phone isn’t working properly, you trade it in, you throw it away or you get another one. It’s the same if your laptop isn’t functioning and it’s the same if your big screen TV isn’t functioning. And now, it’s the same way with music because there’s so much available to people. They don’t spend time listening to a whole song. Or, if they do listen to the whole song, they won’t listen to it a second or third time to really get anything out of it. They move on to the next song, the next song and then the next song. Commercially, do I have any expectations? No, my expectations are that the die-hard Quiet Riot fans will continue to buy Quiet Riot releases so they can have a complete collection. And perhaps, if you’re lucky, you’ll pick up new fans along the way while performing live.”