Interview By Robert Cavuoto
Enuff Z’Nuff is the perfect example of what a rock/pop group should be. With every album and live performance packed to the brim with rock/pop perfection, there are no signs of the band slowing down.
On December 2nd Enuff Z’Nuff will be releasing a new CD entitled; Clowns Lounge via Frontiers Music. The music is a collection of rarities, demos, and unreleased songs that were recorded between 1988-1989 with their original singer Donnie Vie. There are guest appearances by the late Jani Lane (Warrant) as well as James Young of Styx on “The Devil of Shakespeare.”
I caught up with Enuff Z’nuff’s bassist and founding member, Chip Enuff, to discuss this unique release and cementing their place in Rock n’ Roll history.
Robert Cavuoto: I think this is truly a great idea. Tell me about pulling old songs from the vault for this new CD and what was involved?
Chip Enuff: I had the idea years ago I just didn’t think there was another home for Enff Z’Nuff as we’ve been on three or four major labels and some independents. I got a phone call from Derek Shulman who was responsible for Enff Z’Nuff in the early days. His first signings over at ATCO Records were bands like Enff Z’Nuff, Pantera, AC/DC, and Bad Company. Twenty-seven years later he calls me up out of the blue to tell me he has another label called Frontiers Records with lots of great bands. He knew that Donnie Vie wasn’t touring with us but wanted to know if we had any old material with the both of us on it. I went into the vault and started pulling out these songs that we had on 2-inch tape. They were recorded live in the studio by the band.
Back in the day we would go into the studio at 2:00 AM and leave at 7:00 AM. There would be a big plate of cocaine, bottles of Jack Daniels, and a few packs of cigarettes. We would stay there until 7:00 AM then go back to the hotel to sleep only to get back to the studio at 2:00 AM again. We did that every day. We probably recorded something like 40 to 50 songs.
So here we are taking all of these songs from the vault and making a good record. With the help of some of my friends here in Chicago we were able to put together a rock solid glitter rock record. There are a lot of bands out there that lead you to believe they are writing new songs. Many of their new songs are pulled from old ideas just retouched and tweaked to make them sound current. We’ve done nothing different. It’s a brand new record to us even though it was written a while ago.
Robert: Did you have to re-write or re-record any parts?
Chip Enuff: I didn’t rewrite anything; they are the way they were written. I didn’t want to take away from the original authenticity of those recordings. There were a few guitar parts here and there that we tweaked and a little bit of the bass as it got buried in the original mix. The hardest part was the mastering of the record to make it sound like if it was recorded today; fresh and new. I think we nailed it.
Robert: Why weren’t these songs ever released?
Chip Enuff: I couldn’t tell you as we wrote a lot of great songs. We were writing machines back then. A lot of those songs snuck through the cracks but I was smart enough to grab the tapes and hang on to them. They came in handy now.
Robert: Did you ever perform any of these unreleased songs live?
Chip Enuff: Some diehard fans may have heard them live many years ago just because we wanted to trip our own triggers and mix things up live. What we intended to do was to put a record out that was strong and in your face, to give the fans the best elements of Enff Z’Nuff.
Robert: Was Donnie involved in this project?
Chip Enuff: Verbally he was but I was in the studio working on everything. Donnie and I wrote the songs and his voice sounds great. I think he has one of the greatest voices in our generation. The guy has unlimited talent.
Robert: The band’s unique sound is really showcased on this CD. Was that sound formed from experimentation or a happy accident when the original four members played together?
Chip Enuff: A car is designed with a front seat and back seat, Donnie and I sat in the front seat all the time. We wrote the songs and no one stopped us; there were no handcuffs on the band. When we made our records we looked at our influences like Zeppelin, Queen, Cheap Trick, Squeeze, Mott the Hoople, and Pink Floyd. We wanted to make records sonically as strong as those bands. Not comparing ourselves to those bands it’s just that they were our influences and we loved them. Show me a band without influences and I’ll show you a band without a record deal. We came out with bands like Motley Crue, Poison, and Whitesnake; they’re great bands but we weren’t listening to them. We followed our own path and our influences; we enjoyed playing pop songs. Loud guitars played aggressively with lots of melody and harmonies. We wanted to make sure we made records that sounded good and performed them equally as well live.
Robert: It seemed like the band had a good formula with songwriting, why did you change things up for Strength as it has a different vibe than the first CD?
Chip Enuff: In Sesame Street terms; the first record was a greatest hits record; songs that we wrote in my old apartment on a Fostex recorder. When we got signed we went right into the studio to record it on 24 tracks / 2-inch tape. These songs were very well rehearsed and they sounded great. The record did really well and went gold with a couple of hit singles. Because that record was successful, the record company said we are going to put us in a studio in Los Angeles for the second one. I’m not sure that was in our best interest but the record company thought we should be away from home. With Strengthen we had more of a budget and took more chances. We probably spent double the money on it. We recorded 30 songs and it was supposed to be a double CD. When we turned it in the record company, they were like “Wow.” Derek Schulman flew out to LA said we had a problem; there were too many good songs; so we cut it down to 15. They felt 30 was too much for the average listener to swallow and we could keep the others for a future release.
Robert: Do you have any favorite memories from those recording g sessions?
Chip Enuff: I remember Rick Neilson of Cheap Trick coming down to the studio when were demoing the songs and Derek Frigo was playing guitar. Rick was watching him intently and then told me to get out of the way and said; “I want to see what I’ll never be able to do!” [laughing] I remember singing every single harmony with Donnie through the same mic just like our idols Queen did with all three guys signing at the same time. Donnie and I were the only signers in Enuff Z’Nuff so we made sure we did everything together to ensure it was strong sonically. It wasn’t all milk and cookies; I remember the bad moments too. The substance abuse got to us and we burnt out. A month straight without a lot of sleep it didn’t help either. Great songs came out of those sessions and a lot of them had to do where we were at that point in our lives. The songs we wrote were about our everyday experiences.
Robert: Are you content with the public perception of Enuff Z’Nuff?
Chip Enuff: I’m not content with it; we have been fucked around beyond belief in the record business. It could make you sick but me looking at the glass as half empty is not going to do me any good. I’m grateful that we were discovered. There were a lot of bands that worked their asses off and never got a break. I’m grateful for the opportunities we have been given to tour around the country playing with bands like Skid Row, Badlands, Def Leppard, Kiss, and Cheap Trick. We had plenty of breaks that we fucked up too. We scared away a lot of our contemporaries by our promiscuity and substance abuse. We went through a bankruptcy, tough times with labels, and had to dig our way out of considerable debt. Somebody has been looking out for us because here we are putting out our 20th album. I see nothing but great opportunities for us in the future.
Robert: What are the band’s touring plans?
Chip Enuff: The tour start on January 17th and we are out with Ace Frehley. In mid-February, I’m on the Rock n Roll Fantasy Camp with STP, Buckcherry and Alice in Chains. I’m March we go back out with Ace to South America and then Europe where we are headlining. We have shows all the way up to next September. It’s a great opportunity to take these songs to the streets with all our other material. It’s been a few years since we toured extensively like this and I’m very grateful. I have a great band now with Tory Stoffregen, Tony Fennell and Daniel Hill – Dusty Hills of ZZ Tops’ nephew on drums.