XS ROCK: So, Quiet Riot now has James Durbin as lead vocalist. I’ve had a chance to listen to Road Rage and I think it’s going to surprise a lot of people. I was surprised that he was able to remind me of Kevin DuBrow‘s sound and style while still sounding like himself.
Frankie: Yeah. One of the reasons that I wanted to bring James into the band was that I had to be conscious of two things, one…whoever might be singing in Quiet Riot would have to have an amazing range because Kevin had a ridiculous range. He could sing all of the high stuff, he could sing all of the low growly stuff and everything in between. I needed to find someone that had that kind of a range for the old material live, which is something that James could easily handle. But, at the same time I didn’t want to get a Kevin clone. I wanted someone that reminded people of Kevin’s vocal style and range but at the same time brings something of their own self to the table, because ultimately I think it’s a win-win situation. It’s a win situation for Quiet Riot because it’s similar but not the same and it’s a win for James because he doesn’t have to act out a part and be somebody else that he’s not. And it’s a win-win for the fans because they get the advantage of hearing the old material sung in the manner that it should, but new material in a fresh style.
XS ROCK: You kind of had a one step forward and two steps back with the brief hiring and recording of the album with Seann Nichols. The songs that Durbin recorded are surprisingly very different from the ones that you originally recorded with Nichols. Who contributed most of the lyrical content for Road Rage with Durbin?
Frankie: Here’s how it all played out. When it became apparent the we could not continue as we were. I went to Frontiers Records and I had let them know that I had made a change. I let them know that it was my opinion that we should postpone the release because I could deliver a much improved version. I also let them know that I thought it would be unfair to let James sing somebody else’s material and that if the record came out as it was, I was not going to be able to promote it. So that was a combination that they could understand and appreciate, so they allowed me to go back into the studio on a very short leash, time wise. So what I did, understanding that the majority of the music was written by myself and my songwriting partner Neil Citron, whose also the engineer for the record. He’s a grammy award winning engineer and one of my dearest friends. Alex (Grossi) had written 100% of the music for one song and Chuck (Wright) was a co-writer along with Neil and myself on another one. So all of the music had been written in-house, but not by the singer. To this day, James has never heard the first version of the songs. I only sent him the music, because I wanted to accomplish two things. One…I wanted to give him a completely blank canvas when it came to writing the lyrics and writing the vocal melodies and number two I wanted to make sure that he wasn’t going to be influenced one way or another by what had preceded him. All of the music was already written before the previous singer was involved so it didn’t affect how James was going to be able to work on the songs. For him, it was exactly as it should have been, in the first place. And I think it’s important to understand that James, last year…James was my original choice to bring into the band to replace Jizzy Pearl after he left. But at the time, James had just signed a deal to do a residency in Las Vegas that was going to be on-going and I just didn’t have the time to wait. I went to my second option and unfortunately, my second option had just recently decided that he didn’t want to go out on the road anymore. I needed someone to do the record and tour. Hence, I wound up with the third choice…who ultimately did not work out.
XS ROCK: Quiet Riot has continued as a band through hell or high water over the years, with different lineups, with Kevin, without Kevin, with Frankie Banali and without you for a time as well too. Paul Stanley has mentioned before that Kiss might continue without Gene Simmons and himself. Do you ever foresee a future version of Quiet Riot without Frankie Banali?
Frankie: No. I don’t think that’s going to happen. Once you put into perspective the fact that I am the only member of Quiet Riot that has been on every Quiet Riot record from Metal Health to Road Rage. The fact that I’ve managed the band since 1993, so not only am I a musician in the band but I’m also the business entity in the band. Kevin and I were always the two people who believed the most in Quiet Riot and now that Kevin’s gone, I continue to be the one that believes the most in Quiet Riot. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Listen, it hasn’t been easy since the band became successful with Metal Health. But, I am more than up for the task. I’m here for the duration.
XS ROCK: What are your long-term career goals for Quiet Riot as far leaving a legacy for this band?
Frankie: I always tell people that I’ll retire when they put me in a box and I’ll pretty much guarantee that as they are lowing me into the ground, you’ll hear me tapping from the inside, Led Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks”. As long as I’m healthy and as long I still enjoy it, which I do, I’m going to continue as long as possible. Quiet Riot is a machine. Right now, we’re booked all the way through February of 2018. I see no reason not to continue as long as the fans continue to support us. I’m a realist. I owe my career to two things…hard work on my part and the support of the fans. Without the support of the fans, no band is a real band. As long as the fans are there, I’ll be there for them as well.
XS ROCK: I really enjoyed the Quiet Riot Documentary. I think it was great that it shows a glimpse of what the music industry can really be like. During your search for a new singer after Kevin’s death, did you ever talk with or consider previous vocalist Paul Shortino again?
Frankie: No. The reason that I proceeded the way that I did… I didn’t see bringing Paul back into the situation. I loved the fourth record. We called it the QR record. I think Paul is a phenomenal singer and he’s still a dear friend. But, It was definitely not a Quiet Riot sounding record. I think it had more in tune with Whitesnake than it did with Quiet Riot. And the only reason that I did the fourth record after we had to part ways at that time with Kevin because of his substance issues, was because we owed the record company another album. My position was that maybe after three records it was time to call it a day. But, I was immediately reminded by the attorneys from the record label that we had signed a contract and had to do a fourth record. As the only key member still involved at that time, I was being held responsible for it. I completely stand behind the record. I think it’s a phenomenal record and I still listen to it from time to time. Also, you have to understand that psychologically, Kevin was not on that record. I refused to let the artwork go through that would have the mask on it. It was the only record that didn’t feature the metal mask. What I wanted to do for the new singer was,….wouldn’t it be great if I could find a guy that didn’t have the opportunity to make it in the 80’s and give him the opportunity to have at least, a little bit of his dreams come true. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way because I came to find out, time and time again, that there was a reason some people didn’t make it. So we moved on.
XS ROCK: After so many years of touring, what’s the most outrageous story from the road that that you can tell?
Frankie: I have to sanitize it. There’s a lot of stuff. I’d have to go into the witness protection program if I came out with some of the crazy stuff that used to happen. Okay, here’s one…Kevin used to love telling people about this. We were doing pre-production rehearsals for the QR III tour. The lighting company that used were based out of Knoxville Tennessee and they had a big warehouse, so it made sense to do the rehearsal for that tour in Knoxville. This all coincided with my birthday in November. And for my birthday party, which lasted 48 hours at that warehouse, we had the strippers from 20 of the 22 strip joints in Knoxville. Kevin said it was the single greatest birthday party that he had ever attended in his entire life, including his own. And I’m going to leave it at that.
XS ROCK: What’s the strangest request that you’ve ever received from one of your fans?
Frankie: Ummm…Again, that I can talk about. I’ve been asked to fly Quiet Riot across the U.S. at our own expense to play at someone’s backyard birthday party. Now, there was one time…..this wasn’t a request…but MTV had a contest for Christmas 1984. That had this contest that had Quiet Riot coming to your house for Christmas. The winner got this huge stereo and a bunch of records and cassettes and Quiet Riot would come to your house and play in your back yard…which we did. We were hungover from the night before. We had just played somewhere and had to fly in to do this contest thing and we continued drinking and I do remember throwing up on the father of the winner. And then kissing the mother. It happened. I’m not proud of it, but it happened.
XS ROCK: You did double duty for a while playing drums for Quiet Riot and WASP. Tell me about working with Blackie Lawless. Would you ever like to work with him again?
Frankie: I’m still friends with Blackie and I saw him a couple of months ago. We went out and had lunch. We have that New York thing going. I love him, as much maligned as he sometimes is by the press and some of the fans. I know a different Blackie. I’m really proud of my association with WASP. I’ve played on seven of their records which is quite a few records to do with an outside artist. Would I work him again? Yeah. If the opportunity presented itself. I see no reason why not. We’re friends, we get along and we have similar taste in music. I still think the first record that I did with WASP, The Headless Children is one of the greatest conceptual rock records. I like that one even more than Crimson Idol, which I also recorded drums for. I think Headless Children was the first record that Blackie did that took a step away from the blood and guts, raw meat and all of that. It had a lot more substance to it. It was an interesting record for me to record because I was recording that record at the same time that I was doing the fourth, QR Quiet Riot record. So I was literally in the studio during the day with Quiet Riot and then with WASP in the evening and weekends. I’m proud of my work with the band and Blackie continues to be a dear friend.
XS ROCK: Any thoughts on working with Chris Holmes while you were in WASP?
Frankie: I love Chris! He’s crazy. He’s as crazy as the day is long. I did a solid year of touring in Europe for the Headless Children and at the beginning of it he stuck me rooming with Chris. After about a week, I said to Blackie…You get me my own room or I’m going home. He’s a nut. (Laughs) He’s doing great. He moved over to France and he’s put together a band (Mean Man) where he not only plays guitar but sings too. He’s doing really, really great. People see him as a a bigger than life creature, which he is…but he’s also a really, really sweet guy.
XS ROCK: Were your parents originally supportive of your aspirations to play in a rock band?
Frankie: My mother was always supportive of everything that I did and she really loved the fact that I wanted to do music because she thought that it was very creative and it gives a person a lot of freedom, even though with a lot of freedom can come a lot of rejection. My father was more pragmatic. He supported me once he figured out that I was very serious about what I was doing. I wanted him to buy me a drum set just like Ringo’s when I first saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. And being the pragmatic person that he was, he said if you take lessons for a year I’ll buy you a drum set…thinking that I would quit after a month or so. I took my lessons every week at the Bella School Of Music in Queens New York and and a year later I went up to him and collected. From that point on he was completely supportive all the way until his dying day.
XS ROCK: Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t your father pass away before he had a chance to see you really become successful?
Frankie: Oh yeah. He passed away very young in 1974, so he never got to see any of the success. But, I have one wonderful memory where I had a done a little session while I was still in high school and I was listening back to it in my room and there was a knock on the door and I open up the door and it’s my dad and he goes…Can I come in? I said sure…and he sat down on the bed and said what are you listening to? I told him it was a little recording session that I did and I played it for him and he listened to it and just looked at me and said…you’re really, really good. So, I did get that moment with him.
XS ROCK: Which band or artist originally inspired you to perform? Why?
Frankie: For my generation, it started with the Beatles. I always tell people that Ringo, Charlie Watts and Dave Clark are the three drummers that taught me how to play songs…not drums…but how to play songs on the drums. As soon as Cream and Jimi Hendrix came out and ultimately my favorite rock band, Led Zeppelin with John Bonham hit the scene, I never looked back.
XS ROCK: Is there a musician out there that you haven’t worked with, that you’d really like the chance to jam with?
Frankie: Yeah. There’s two. It’s really funny, because drummers and bass players are usually like a combo. With me, I’ve always paid attention to guitar players. I would love to work with two guitarists that are separated by many generations. One would be Jimmy Page and the other would be Jack White. They’re both very creative and very quirky. For me as a drummer, there’s nothing better than to have a challenge and to be a supportive vehicle for creative artists.
XS ROCK: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment musically and personally so far?
Frankie: That I’m managed to persevere and have Quiet Riot move forward against every single odd.
XS ROCK: If you weren’t performing in a band what kind of career do you think you would have?
Frankie: I can’t imagine me doing anything other than being a drummer since that’s what I’ve wanted to be since I was 14 years old. Having said that, for a while I had the notion that was put in me by my father, which was have a plan B. Have something to fall back on. Originally, my plan B was that I was studying to be an Architectural draftsman. As soon as I figured out that plan B was a safety net that was telling me that I might not succeed at what I was doing…I cut the net loose and said fall if you have to, but do it your own way.
XS ROCK: What do you think of the current music scene? Any new bands out there that you like or are impressed with?
Frankie: I’m sitting here in my office, looking at over 3,000 pieces of vinyl. All I listen to is the music that I always listened to. Which was 60’s and 70’s music. No offense or disrespect to the musicians out there or the music that’s being created now, I’m sure there’s a lot of really, really good things out there, but when I first started doing this, when you first started making records, you had to do it for real. There was no Pro Tools or things that made your drumming more accurate and no auto-tune. A lot of things that people use now days to record an album. It was really honest. It was really good, really bad or somewhere in between. Whereas now there’s so many things that are sanitized and so much of it is created in the studio that it’s hard to say what’s real and what’s not. I’m so old school on the Road Rage record I actually recorded all of the drums on tape. I recorded analog. I’m happy listening to the music that always made me happy.
XS ROCK: For anyone that doesn’t know you, what would they be surprised to know about you?
Frankie: That I would rather go to a museum than a bar.
XS ROCK: Is there anything that you’d like to say to your fans out there?
Frankie: I always tell people that the success that Quiet Riot has had and the success that I’ve personally had both with Quiet Riot and other artists that I’ve been associated with is owed to two things…an incredible work ethic and the fans. I don’t care how some artists think that they’re better than their fans. Without the fans none of us…none of us would sell one ticket or one album period! I’m always very aware of that and I’m always very appreciative of that. That’s why I’ve never phoned in any show that I’ve ever done. When you’ve doing this as long as I have, for four decades, you never know when the last recording or live show that you make is going to be your last and I’m going to make sure that I go out on a high note. Road Rage comes out on August 4th and I’m excited for people to hear it and I think people will be surprised at the diversity of material on this record.
XS ROCK: Thanks again, Frankie for taking the time to talk with us at XS Rock!
Frankie: Thanks Bobby. I truly appreciate you taking the time for this interview and for supporting Quiet Riot.