Interview By: : Robert Cavuoto
Michael Monroe has long been at the forefront of breaking music barriers from Hanoi Rocks to his successful solo career. He now returns with his highly anticipated CD, One Man Gang, due out on October 11th via Silver Lining Music.
As you would expect, Michael delivers his brand of Rock & Roll in the purest of forms and laced with punk attitude and ethos. Stand out tracks are the title track, “One Man Gang,” “Wasted Years,” and the first single; “Last Train to Tokyo.” This band has an unbeatable formula for writing music that marries killer riffs with memorable hooks.
The rebellious spirits that drive the band are Michael Monroe [vocals], Steve Conte [guitar], Rich Jones [guitar], Karl Rockfist [drums], and Sami Yaffa [bass].
I had the pleasure of speaking to the legendary rocker, Michael Monroe, about One Man Gang, working with a band of like-minded musicians, and having no regrets in his Rock & Roll career.
Robert Cavuoto: Your new CD, One Man Gang, has a raw in your face 70’s Rock & Roll vibe laced with a punk attitude. Can you tell me how you take your influences of rock, punk, and even rockabilly and turn it into your own brand of music?
Michael Monroe: It’s magic! [Laughing]. We took all those influences and put them together, and whatever feels good, we just go for it.
Robert Cavuoto: The band has had most of the same members since for the last 8 or 9 years since Sensory Overdrive. Tell me about the songwriting process for this CD, and does each member contribute?
Michael Monroe: Yeah, it’s like ten years now with Rich Jones, the new guy, joining about five years ago. Anybody in the band can contribute as I don’t want to stifle their creativity. I want to encourage everyone to write. Our drummer Karl doesn’t write that much, but Sami and Steve write music and lyrics too. It’s all about who wrote the best song for the album. It takes the pressure off of me. We wrote 18 great songs and then picked the best 12. There are lots of creative guys in this band, and I’m really happy. Nobody in this band has an ego, so it doesn’t get in the way.
Robert Cavuoto: How important is it to find like-minded musicians with the same vision and passion as you?
Michael Monroe: It is important as we all like the same kind of music and share the same views on life.
Robert Cavuoto: One Man Gang is the lead track, as well as the title of the CD; tell me about the importance of that song to name the CD after it?
Michael Monroe: It just made sense as the band is Michael Monroe, but we are a bunch of guys. Plus, I love to be with them [laughing]. The line in the chorus “…everybody is pissing on their own parade..” is about rising up from that negativity and finding that positive mental attitude. I use that thinking to make my own life better, but it can apply to anybody. The other line, “…I ain’t walkin’ on water like Jesus, but I know a trick or two…” is just fun lyrics!
Robert Cavuoto: I love the CD cover as not many bands still put their image on their CD covers these days. Was that shot taken in Tokyo when you were making the video for “Last Train to Tokyo?”
Michael Monroe: You’re right, it does look like Japan come to think of it, but no that was actually taken in Helsinki at a railroad station. There is this tunnel there that I never noticed before. Rich found it when we were doing some shows in the area.
Robert Cavuoto: “Last Train to Tokyo” and “Wasted years” seem to perfectly combine your innate sense of melody with the band’s ability to rock?
Michael Monroe: Music is all about melody to me. Nowadays, there’s no melody to the music as people are talking over drum beats or growling over some noise; it just ain’t my thing. Think it’s really important to have good energy and strong lyrics in a song too. That’s what melody is!
Robert Cavuoto: In “Wasted Years,” you say that you didn’t have any regrets from those days. Can you share your insight into creating that song?
Michael Monroe: The song is a take on Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” Looking back on the wasted years and not having any regrets. It got me where I am today with all my friends and peers, whether it was Stiv Bators or Lemmy Kilmister. It’s about moving on to better things in my life. I don’t want to go back, but I don’t have any regrets either. I’m not saying we were all messed up and things were crazy, I had to do what I did to meet all those cool people. The verses are about those temptations calling you back “…you’ve been there before, and you are going to stay home tonight…” it’s metaphorically speaking about staying home.
Robert Cavuoto: Was the Rock & Roll life what you imagined it to be when you first started out?
Michael Monroe: I’m just glad I was born during a time with real Rock & Roll! It was a time when people made music for the sake of the music; not for the business side of making a buck. A sign of old age is to say everything was better before us, but it was great in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Then it became a business that affected the quality of the music. I haven’t had the best of luck, but I did everything in my power to make the best it could be. It was built on a strong foundation that I never sold my soul. I stayed true to life. I feel good about my career and life that I never compromised for the wrong reasons. That’s the most important thing to me. The money really doesn’t make you happy unless you are happy with yourself.
Robert Cavuoto: When do you think you will be touring the states?
Michael Monroe: I would love to come back, but it’s hard to get over there as it costs so much money. When you tour, you have to get work permits and visas. It’s great to hit the big cities on the East and West Coasts, but the rest of the country is such a big area that you find yourself playing to a couple of hundred people a night. You’re not going to make a financial dent like that. You have to get on a big stadium tour opening for someone for a year or two before someone takes notice. I’m in a difficult position, trying to get out of the states. I love to play there as well as the fans who appreciate our kind of Rock & Roll. It’s frustrating. Right now, it doesn’t seem like we will be there any time soon, but you never know.