Words: Brian Fischer-Giffin
Latest release: Rockaholic (due May 13 - Frontiers/Riot!)
After twenty years, Hollywood rockers Warrant will be returning to Australian shores late this month (April) to tour with Quiet Riot and LA Guns. Still remembered chiefly by many for their riotous 1990 hit "Cherry Pie", the band was one of those infamously swept away by the grunge revolution only two years later. So it may come as a surprise to those who know them only for that one huge hit that Warrant has continued to persevere throughout the last two decades. Their seventh album is in the can and is due for release just after their Australian visit. Loud caught up with Warrant's founding member, guitarist Erik Turner for a chat about their glorious past, his impressions of the grunge movement, and their present and found him to be a warm, amiable and self-effacing guy.
Q: Warrant's a band that's probably dropped off a few people's radars, but you've got a new album coming out soon.
A: Yes, internationally it's coming out May 13th. It's called Rockaholic and we spent a couple of years writing it, basically doing writing and pre-production for it. And we're really proud of it. There's fourteen songs on there and I hope people will be pleasantly surprised.
Q: There's probably people surprised that there still is a Warrant.
A: We live in our own little bubble called the United States of America. There's where we play anywhere from 50 to 75 shows a year. We're definitely not as popular as we were in the United States, but we play a lot of festivals, a lot of casinos there and I'm happy to say we're still keeping the dream alive all these years later. Yeah, as far as the rest of the world's concerned, Europe and Japan and Australia, South America... we've never really toured outside the United States. We go to Mexico once in a while and to Canada quite a bit, but mainly you know we've concentrated on playing the States.
Q: It's been a very long time since you've been to Australia. Are you looking forward to getting down here again?
A: Yeah it's been 20 years to the day almost. April 21st, 1991. Somebody sent me a ticket. Somebody sent a ticket via email. They scanned it. We were there in April of 1991. So that was 20 years ago! It's been a long time.
Q: And of course people are going to notice a few changes with the band since then.
A: Yeah, I'm much better looking now! That's one thing for sure. But we've never stopped touring the United States. Recording... we did our last CD in 2006 called Born Again. And before that we hadn't made a CD of original material since 1995 I think it was... 1996, we did a record called Belly to Belly.
Q: But you've been active all that time. A lot of people out of the States probably didn't realise that you've never stopped being a band.
A: Yeah we've done tours with Alice Cooper in 99, tour with Poison in 2000, a tour with Whitesnake in 2003. We did another tour, I think it was in 2002 with Ratt, Dokken, Warrant, LA Guns and FireHouse. This year we've already got five shows booked with Poison and we got a couple with Whitesnake and some stuff with Cinderella. We're on some pretty big festivals with other bands like Journey and Lynyrd Skynyrd. So we're just out there doin' our thing. We got a show with Dokken on April 22nd, we're playing the Hard Rock Casino this weekend in Florida. We manage to stay busy as best we can.
Q: It seems to me the hard rock circuit has been coming back over the last few years. Have you seen that yourself?
A: The last couple of years we've been really busy. I guess we could see a little bit of a resurgence in our shows. When grunge first came out and the 80s thing went away, it was a lot harder than it is now. People are a lot more open to coming out to these big rock festivals and support bands like Warrant and Poison and Cinderella and bands like that.
Q: I was going to ask you about grunge, actually, because it's 20 years since Nevermind came out this year. Obviously you would have heard the album when it came out. What did you think of it?
A: I loved it. It was a great record. But obviously I didn't like the fact that the industry had to sell only one type of music. Just one type of music, grunge. Too bad that the world is big enough for all kinds of music, whether its grunge or rap or dance or pop or rock. In America they don't promote music on merit, it's more based on selling a brand, something that they've branded. They might as well be selling toothpaste. It's just a product to the record labels. It's the new improved Crest! Now whiter. We no longer sell that other Crest. That other Crest sucks. Now we're selling this Crest. They just don't have any soul.
Q: Is that kind of what happened with bands like Warrant? You were just a brand they were selling at one time?
A: Yeah. If the music industry was a church, we would've all been ex-communicated. You are no longer welcome to come bow at the altar. We were branded as harlots. It's funny but it's true. That was it. Bam! You're no longer wanted or needed around here. Bands started getting dropped like flies, and then they went around and signed bands that sounded like Nirvana! And there were some really good ones that I loved... Soundgarden, I love Alice in Chains. Alice in Chains actually got signed opening up for Warrant, ironically.
Q: I remember. They went out with you on tour.
A: Yeah. It wasn't actually a tour. We were on tour, and we were playing a venue in Seattle and our publisher and our record company asked us a favour. "We're flying into town to check out this band, can you put them on the opening slot?" So we did. It was Alice in Chains. And they did really well. I was friends with Mike Starr the bass player for a little while. We lost touch and then I actually saw him, gosh... just last summer, not too long ago, four or five months ago, and sad to say I recently heard that he passed away. He looked great when I saw him.
Q: Yes, a lot of people said that about him. But you have survived, you've come through, and a lot of bands these days now seem to taking a lot of their influences from 80s hard rock.
A: I think there's a lot of great bands from all the different genres you could find an influence from. Whether it's emo or classic Zeppelin or Frank Sinatra and Elvis or the blues... there's all kinds of great music you can go back and listen to. It's always great when we get mentioned as an influence. Obviously I like to hear that.
Q: Does it still frustrate you that many people still know you as the "Cherry Pie" band?
A: It doesn't frustrate me. I feel lucky that we're able to be known as anything! [laughs] It is ironic that that wasn't our biggest song on the charts. "Heaven" was our biggest charting and selling song. But for whatever reason, the video and the innuendo and stuff, well, we embrace it. We play the song every night. We're lucky to have that. The "Cherry Pie" thing kind of overshadowed our first record which had our biggest hit on it, and it had "Down Boy" and "Sometimes She Cries" and our first record actually sold as many CDs as Cherry Pie but that goes largely unnoticed. That goes to show you how big the shadow of "Cherry Pie" is.
Q: A lot of Warrant fans continue to say that there's more to the band than "Cherry Pie", but that did overshadow things a bit.
A: Well some people like Dog Eat Dog, which is one of our darker, heavier records that we did. It seems like there's a small cult following out there that just rally behind that record. They're all guys, by the way.
Q: So what have you been listening to yourself lately?
A: I always have a hard time pronouncing this guy's name: Danko Jones? This three piece band outta Canada. They just kick ass! I love that band. I like all different types of stuff, but I always seem to go back to the stuff I grew up on in the 80s. For whatever reason. Last night I was listening to Appetite for Destruction. Laying in bed, listening to that record. And I love Zeppelin and I'm reading AC/DC's unofficial biography called Maximum Rock right now. Sammy Hagar's book I'm gonna read next. And of course I read Stephen Adler's book and Slash's book. There's some really good bands out there now, but I'm just down with bands I grew up on: Aerosmith, and stuff like that.
Q: When you see those biographies from guys that you played with, do you ever see yourself in there and see something in there are think, "Well, that didn't happen!"?
A: Well, we don't really get mentioned in any of those. It's all good, makes for interesting reading.
Q: It must be a different perspective, not seeing it through your eyes?
A: Who knows, maybe someday we'll write some kind of a book. I don't think it'll be anything like Slash's or Stephen Adler's. We never got that dark into the drug world that they talk about. It was mostly alcohol and chicks.
Q: So what will we get when Warrant gets to Australia. Will we get a classic set and some new stuff as well?
A: You're gonna get a couple... maybe two or three new songs. Depends on our set. I think we're only playing an hour, an hour and ten minutes. So we'll probably play, I would say, two new songs, maybe three and you'll get twelve classic songs from Cherry Pie and Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich. "Heaven", "Sometimes She Cries". We'll do "Cherry Pie", "Uncle Tom's Cabin", "I Saw Red", stuff like that. Probably "Rainmaker" and "Big Talk". We're playing about seventeen or eighteen songs right now.
Q: Well thanks for taking the time today Erik. It's been a pleasure speaking with you.
A: Thank you man. I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. We're all excited about getting down there. It's been a long time.
*This tour has now been cancelled.