By Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
If you live in the Western New York area, one of the biggest and most anticipated events of the summer is the Erie County Fair. This year, the Fair kicks off on Wednesday, August 10th, and will be celebrated with one of the biggest concerts in the 177-year history of the Fair - "ROCKFEST 2016". This event will feature three of the most popular bands from 1980's hard rock/glam-metal era - Bret Michaels, WARRANT, and Lita Ford. Tickets are available for sale by clicking here.
The multi-platinum selling band, WARRANT- from Hollywood, CA- dominated the radio airwaves and rock music charts with such hits as,"Heaven," "Cherry Pie," and, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin," from
their first two releases, 'Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich'(1989) and, 'Cherry Pie' (1990). The band, which at the time, consisted of Erik Turner - guitar, Jerry Dixon- bass, Joey Allen- lead guitar and Steven Sweet- drums and vocalist, Jani Lane. Unfortunately, by the time WARRANT released their third record, 'Dog Eat Dog,' the music scene was drastically changing from the feel-good party rock of the 80s, to the depressing grunge music movement.
However, WARRANT battled this adversity, and continued on. While band members came and went through the 1990s and early 2000s, the original core of Erik Turner and Jerry Dixon remained committed. In 2008, the classsic line-up reunited, to the excitement of many hard rock fans. Unfortunately, vocalist Jani Lane's addiction to alcohol caused many problems. Reluctantly, the band had to ask him to leave only months after the reunion.
Lane's battles with substance abuse continued on, and ultimately lead to his death on August 11, 2011, at the age of 47.
After trial and error with Black 'n Blue vocalist Jamie St, James fronting the band, WARRANT eventually replaced Lane with vocalist, Robert Mason, who was a member of the band Lynch Mob, led by former Dokken guitarist, George Lynch during the early 1990s. With Mason, WARRANT released, 'Rockaholic,' in 2011. This release proved that the band could indeed carry on without Lane. 'Rockaholic' is a 14-track throwback to the style of music that made the band mega-stars during the 1980s.
Since then, WARRANT has played shows every year, rocking the masses anywhere they perform.
What follows is an exclusive interview with WARRANT's - Erik Turner.
Rock Music Star: On Wednesday, August 10th, WARRANT will be performing at the Erie County Fair with Bret Michaels and Lita Ford. Many area rock music fans are very excited about this show.
Erik Turner: Yeah, we are looking forward to it, as well.
RMS: You’ve played a few dates this summer, with Bret Michaels and Lita Ford this summer, correct?
ET: Yes and it’s been great. We’ve done a bunch of different combinations of shows with Bret Michaels- sometimes you’ve got Bobby Blotzer's Ratt, WARRANT- or you might have Firehouse on there, Lita Ford. Every time we do shows with Bret and a bunch of other bands, it’s been very successful and a great time. Nothing but a good time. (laughs)
RMS: Absolutely. I’ve watched some of the videos from your 2016 perfromances on YouTube - it seems like you guys are still drawing a great crowd. A lot of people are still really into glam-metal, 80's hard rock music.
ET: Yeah, we’re stoked. Anytime you go out and play, you hope there’s a lot of people there, and a good crowd. All these years later, we’re still able to go out and tour and play. We do about 50 shows a year, on average. We just feel really blessed, to be able to go out and do what we love, still, for a living. There are a lot of people that seem to still enjoy it.
RMS: It’s been a few years since you released your last CD, ‘Rockaholic.’ which - by the way - I thought was a really solid release. Do you have plans on recording any new music in the near future?
ET: Yeah, yeah. Thank you for the nice words about, ‘Rockaholic.’ That came out in 2011. We’re going into the studio in December of this year- we have it scheduled to go in and record a new CD. So, hopefully by May of 2017, realistically, we should have a new CD out with at least 11-12 originals on it. Some new songs.
RMS: I was just looking at your set list. You don’t really play too many newer songs. Is that just because you have a small amount of time that you’re allotted to play?
ET: Yeah, we have a certain amount of time. When, ‘Rockaholic,’ first came out, we would play two or three songs mixed into the set. The record’s been out for five years now, or so. We basically just play one song off of, ‘Rockaholic.’ We try to play a song or two off of, ‘Dog Eat Dog.’ The rest of it is from our two most popular CDs, ‘Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich,’ and, ‘Cherry Pie.’ We play about 14 songs off of those two CDs. That’s what people want to hear. They don’t want to come to the show and hear eight songs they’re not familiar with, and then finish with, “Cherry Pie.” That’s not happening (laughs). That’s not fan-friendly. So, we know what people want to hear. We know what we want to hear when we go see our favorite bands play. We want to hear all the songs we know and love. It’s totally cool, to get turned onto some new music, as well. That’s why we include at least one song off, ‘Rockaholic,’ in the set.
RMS: Back to, ‘Rockaholic,’ I really thought it was a real solid release. Songs like, “Sex Ain’t Love" is very reminiscent of what you guys did back in the 80s.
ET: Yeah, thank you. That’s the one song we play live almost every night. It goes over really well. I felt like, when the, ‘Rockaholic,’ CD was done, and we had some time to live with it, that it could have really come right after, ‘Cherry Pie.’ We did, ‘Dirty Rotten,’ ‘Cherry Pie,’ and, ‘Dog Eat Dog.’ But, ‘Rockaholic,’ fits right in there, in my opinion. I’m obviously close to it. But, I think it fits right in there, with all of the classic WARRANT songs. There’s a lot of good songs on that CD. It turned out good. You never know what it’s going to be like when you’re done, you know? You have an idea, or a vision. But, you get in there, and start recording, and ideas pop up. You hope it turns out really good. Fortunately, that CD - we’re really proud of it.
RMS: Absolutely. For anybody who doubts that WARRANT can exist without Jani Lane, "Rockaholic" is proof that the current line-up of the band is still a creative musical force.
ET: Yeah. We’ve got four original guys. Robert Mason’s been in the band for eight years. Robert Mason comes from the same school, singing style, and era, and he’s the same age as Jani Lane. So, he fits in really well with what we’re doing. It’s been great.
RMS: Getting back to Jani Lane - anyone that follows music knows that he had problems with substances and alcohol. When did that first pop its ugly head? Was that something that he had problems with right from the beginning, or did that develop as the band went on and became popular?
ET: In the beginning, we all partied and had a good time. I started noticing, around 1996-97, that Jani would drink; it started getting a little more on the darker edge. Not having as much fun. By the 2000s, he was really partying a lot, for weeks, months, at a time. Just non-stop. And then, it became something different. It was something he was not necessarily doing socially; just 24/7. So, that’s when he started trying to get help. In the early 2000's up through 2011, on and off, he would go into rehabs and different things. They would work for a while, and then he’d fall off the wagon, and he’d go back to rehab, or he’d go to the hospital. He’d stay in the hospital for a few days and dry out, and then stay clean for a while. It was a real battle; a real struggle. It was really hard on his family and his friends. Obviously, it took its toll on WARRANT. He quit the band, and then we had to let him go. We didn’t want to wake up on the road, one day, and find him dead in a hotel room. That just makes me sick, to think about. So, we thought it was best, in 2008, for him to stay home and stay clean and sober. It’s hard, to stay sober when you’re on the road. There’s temptation everywhere. He agreed. We left on good terms, as much as we could. It’s just a sad story. We miss Jani, and wish he was clean and sober and writing songs and signing, and doing what he should be doing best. But, like so many others, especially with what we’ve seen over the years, a lot of guys just get hooked on drugs and alcohol, and it doesn’t end well.
RMS: When you reunited with him in 2008, did you ever have a chance to sit down and write any music with him?
ET: We did start working on one song that he had an idea for. We started putting demos down at the studio in 2008. Nothing ever came of it. I don’t even think we played vocals on it. He sang it for us, so we knew what was going on, musically. I think we just started laying down some music. Yeah, that reunion was mostly a nightmare, unfortunately.
RMS: I remember everybody being really excited about that, and it was highly anticipated. It was really tragic, to see it fall apart like it did.
ET: Yeah, it turned into a train wreck. It was awful. But, yeah. Let’s talk about happier times (laughs).
RMS: Okay. Let’s go back to the beginning of the band’s career. You formed the band, back in 1983, correct?
ET: It was ’83, and it wasn’t just me. It was actually five guys in WARRANT, and we played our first show in 1983. The band’s been going, in one form or another, ever since. We had some member changes. From ‘83-‘86, we had Adam Shore, Max Asher, Josh Lewis, Jerry Dixon, and myself. Adam and Max quit in ’86, so that’s when Steven and Jani joined the band. In ’87, we had to make a change. I knew Joey from back in my Orange County days, and I ran into him. So, I asked Joey to join the band in ’87. ’88, we got a record deal. ’89, ‘Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich,’ came out. Been going ever since.
RMS: Once that record came out, your life really must have changed quite a bit. If I remember correctly, that record kind of took off, pretty much right from the beginning.
ET: Y eah, MTV threw, “Down Boys” into heavy rotation. A lot of radio stations played it. “Down Boys” climbed up the music charts and the singles charts. It made it up to the top 20, I believe. Before we knew it, a couple of months had gone by, and we sold over a half a million records. Then we put out, “Heaven,” and the video and the song were a smash. Next thing you know, we’re about three million record sold worldwide after 16 months touring. It was a really successful run there, man (laughs). It was great.
RMS: You had, probably the biggest tour of the time, opening for Mötley Crüe, on their 'Dr. Feelgood' tour.
ET: Yeah, that was the last two and a half to three months of the 16-month tour, opening for Mötley Crüe on their Dr. Feelgood tour. That was an amazing experience. It was very cool. Then, we did our last show- we headlined at Santa Monica Civic in Los Angeles to finish off the tour, and they basically just put us in body bags and sent us home to dry out (laughs).
RMS: How was it, touring with Mötley Crüe on the Dr. Feelgood tour? That was when they were all supposed to be sober. Did they have any rules, that you guys couldn’t drink, or couldn’t be seen with alcohol, or anything like that at that time?
ET: No. Their tour manager walked into our dressing room the first night of the tour with a case of Jack Daniels. I think there were like, 12 or 24 bottles. 24 bottles of fifths, and said, “Welcome to the tour, boys.” So, there you go (laughs). No, we didn’t have any rules, man. They were very cool. We got invited to fly on their plane. I know Joey did, at least a couple of times. I did. Mick Mars let us borrow guitars for a video shoot. They were all really super cool guys. They didn’t fuck with us too much. I think Tommy Lee sent us a shit sandwich one night - literally. They thought that was funny. Anyway, some funny shit happened. You can imagine the height of debauchery back then. Every show that we opened for them was sold out. 18,000. 20,000. 12,000 people every night. It was amazing.
RMS: Last time we spoke, you were big on - not just promoting WARRANT, the band - but WARRANT, the brand. You had a couple of different items out; you had the WARRANT wine. From what I remember, that was pretty successful and had a successful launch. Are you still doing that?
ET: Yeah, we still do a little bit of that. Mainly, we’re just focused on WARRANT (the band). We’re so busy with WARRANT. Jerry and I have a music library called, “Down Boys Music.” We have about 60 composers, and we work on lots of television shows, like “The Wahlbergers,” and “Duck Dynasty,” just to name a couple. That keeps us super busy. Right now, we’re working on three shows for the music library, and then we’re also going out and playing two shows this weekend. I think, we’re about 10 weeks in without a weekend off, touring with WARRANT right now. Plus, the music library, family. We’re busy (laughs). There’s a lot going on. It’s great. All music, all the time, that’s what I like to say.
RMS: It sure beats working a regular job.
ET: Yeah, we’ve all had our share of that. It just makes you more appreciative when things are going good. All the bad times that we’ve had- and we’ve definitely had our share- make the good times that much sweeter, you know?
RMS: Last question for you Erik, Do you have any particular memories of playing in the Buffalo or Western New York area?
ET: Nothing specific, you know? Just on our first tour alone, we did 262 shows. There was a lot of alcohol involved. It’s hard to remember (laughs) everything when you’re playing five nights a week, and you’re in five different states a week, and flying. It’s just a big blur. It’s a good blur (laughs). But, we love playing in the United States, all over the states. We get a lot of love in this country, and we really appreciate it. We’re proud Americans. American Rock Band 100%.
For more on WARRANT, please visit www.warrantrocks.com
Special thanks to Kirsten Turner for setting up this interview. Also, thank you to Dana Kaiser for transcribing it.