Interview : By Robert Cavuoto
Warrant has sold eight million records worldwide, two Top Ten Billboard albums, five Top 40 Billboard hits, five #1 MTV videos…the list goes on and on. On May 12th Warrant returns with another rock solid CD; Louder Harder Faster with a line-up featuring original members, Erik Turner, Jerry Dixon, Joey Allen, and Steven Sweet along with singer Robert Mason. With the new CD produced by Jeff Pilson, the band is stronger than ever; complete with many rockers that you would expect with a few ballads thrown for good measure. Warrant’s brand of catchy, melodic rock has remained the same for over 30 years.
I caught up with guitarist, Erik Turner to talk about the band’s roots, their longevity, and of course, the new kick-ass CD Louder Harder Faster.
Robert Cavuoto: The song “Louder Hard Faster” seems to perfectly combine the band’s innate sense of melody and ability to rock? Tell me about that approach to songwriting for the last 30 years.
Erik Turner: We all grew up on 70’s rock and were influenced by it. One of the bands that come to mind is Cheap Trick. They’re rock with great melodic sensibility. Coming up in the early 80’s playing on the Sunset Strip there were a lot of bands that we would go see live who were influenced by everything going on in the scene. That affected Jani Lane’s songwriting and he too was a huge Cheap Trick, Cars, Journey, and Boston fan; all great rock bands of our time. When we would start playing his ideas, things would get a lot heavier. When you heard Jani playing these ideas on an acoustic guitar, the melody shined through.
Erik Turner: That’s a song and riff that Jerry came up with. I’m not sure if Robert ended up working on the lyrics with Jerry. To me, it sounds like a Van Halen/David Lee Roth riff. From a guitar player’s point of view, it’s just a blast to play. It’s probably the most up-tempo song on the CD. When you go song-to-song on this CD, you can hear our influences by the bands we grew up with and still love today. I think it’s more prevalent than on any of our other CDs.
Robert Cavuoto: Which song would you say has your biggest imprint on it?
Erik Turner: I co-wrote “Only Broken Heart.” It started out with a few riffs that I wrote.
Robert Cavuoto: Jeff Pilson produced the CD, what did he bring to the table for the band?
Erik Turner: Jeff has a great ear and is a great musician. The biggest thing that he brought to the band was enthusiasm and excitement about the songs. He brought positivity to the songs. He came into pre-production and was stoked on everything that we were doing. He also helped come up with arrangement ideas here and there. His vibe was contagious and we started getting excited about it too. There were some songs he liked more than others. Sometimes you don’t know if you should keep a song or if it sucks, so having a producer come in and help build our confidence to get excited is key. That comes through in the performances when recording to make the record. He got a lot of great performances out of us along with great guitar and bass tones and drum sounds. He has this amazing amount of vintage guitars and basses plus all the stuff we brought in like our GMP Guitars and Hughes & Kemper amps. It was a nice marriage of new and vintage gear on the CD.
Robert Cavuoto: What has made Warrant endure 30+ years?
Erik Turner: Jerry and I have always wanted to keep it going. We are the two guys that kept the band going through all the member changes. For someone who might not know from 1983-1986 we had a singer named Adam Shure, our drummer was Max Mazursky, our guitar player was Josh Cohen. We were building a nice following opening on the Sunset Strip for unsigned bands like Poison. When Adam and Max quit, Jerry, Josh and I continued. We never even thought of quitting, we started putting together a list of singers who were cool in LA and could possibly work. Top of the list was Jani Lane and he was in a band called Plain Jane. We had played with them a few time and after seeing them perform and was blow away by his voice and the vocal harmonies with him and Steven Sweet when they sang together. His showmanship was amazing. We left a note on the door of his apartment. He responded only days before he and Steven were about to move back to Florida. We caught them just in time and they joined Warrant. In 1987, we needed to change our guitarist. We were out one night in LA feeling no pain and saw Joey Allen on the sidewalk. He and I used to play in a band in Orange County. We told him we were looking for a guitarist and he was interested. We auditioned him and that’s the line-up that everyone knows.
Robert Cavuoto: Between Warrant’s debut CD and now, a lot has changed. How have you managed to balance a rock lifestyle and integrating to family life?
Erik Turner: I got married when I was 32; it was quite a drastic lifestyle change for me thank God. If I kept partying and gallivanting the way I was, I probably end up dead. Honestly, marriage really grounded me. From 19 to 32 I was traveling on the road doing all the things the Warrant Down Boys did. I’m enjoying this part of my life and my wife and I are celebrating 21 years of marriage. We have a 16-year-old son. With the band, we have 4 out of 5 original members. There is very little drama, it happens now and then but compared to how it was in the 90’s. Life is good.
Robert Cavuoto: How has touring changed for the band over the years and how do you deal with the travel?
Erik Turner: There is no getting around being tired on tour. It doesn’t matter if you fly or bus it to every show. It’s the nature of the game, going on late and getting up early. Some nights you get to sleep, some nights you don’t. We are rock soldiers and have been conditioned from doing this for so long. We play on the weekends and are home during the week. It works out well; other than the travel. Playing in front of 1000’s of people each weekend where we are getting paid and free beer – it’s fucking great!
Robert Cavuoto: Are you planning to do a more extensive tour to promote the new CD?
Erik Turner: Nope, we are going to continue to do what we do and play as many shows that make sense. We get offers for shows all the time. It the nature of the beast. We are at a point of our career and understand the level of where we are the totem pole of musicians – were stoked. We do our 50 shows a year, sometimes a little more sometimes a little less. We are not going to slug it out in clubs to lose money on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in order to support the record. It doesn’t make any sense.
Robert Cavuoto: One of my favorite Warrant songs has to be – “Hole in My Wall.” Can you tell me about it?
Erik Turner: When I think of that song, I think of making the entire Dog Eat Dog record. I think of working with Michael Wagener, which was an incredible experience. We did the drums and bass in California, then went to Tampa to record and do all the overdubs. We actually played that song this weekend. We try to play something off Dog Eat Dog in each set list but that doesn’t always happen. We recently brought back “Hole in My Wall” this year. It’s a fun song to play and the talk box solo is awesome. The lyric is self-explanatory.
Robert Cavuoto: Is it a true story [laughing]?
Erik Turner: I don’t recall Jani peeking through any holes in the wall [laughing]. He was a self-proclaimed storyteller. The only song he wrote in his life that was based on a true story was “I Saw Red.” He would say, “I still hate that fucking bitch!” then we would play the song, he was funny. He was an amazing talent for writing, his stories, lyrics, singing, and melodies. It was a Top 10 hit and video. I still love playing it live.