Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Interview: Erik Turner of WARRANT

Antihero Magazine’s Mark Dean had the opportunity to chat with Erik Turner, guitarist and co-founder of American rock band Warrant, about the band’s enduring legacy and the latest full-length album, Louder Harder Faster.

warrantMark Dean: Warrant are about to release a new album, Louder Harder Faster. It seems to mark a new chapter for the band.

Erik Turner: We worked with Keith Olsen on Rockaholic and he’s one of the old time great legends – worked with Fleetwood Mac and Whitesnake and Ozzy and Foreigner, on and on and on – so, he brings a lot of that production value to it and I’m really proud of it, of Rockaholic. I think it still sounds great but on this record, we worked with Jeff Pilson, and the music just turned out a little livelier, a little louder, a little faster.

Mark Dean: Do you think that’s also because Robert has integrated more into the band, because Rockaholic was pretty much his introduction to Warrant?

Erik Turner: That could be, Jerry and Robert wrote all the songs, pretty much all the songs on the new record, and we all grew up in the 70s listening to hard rock like Aerosmith and Humble Pie and Zeppelin, even bands that were on the radio that had big hits like Foreigner, Thin Lizzy and stuff, so I think we probably wear our influences on our sleeve a little more on this record than records past.

Mark Dean: You mentioned there the change of producer; I just wondered if there was anything you did differently with this recording?

Erik Turner: It’s always been pretty much the same approach to recording that we take. Our last three CDs that we’ve done, Born Again, Rockaholic and now Louder Harder Faster were mixed by Pat Regan. That’s the one common thing they have as well as Jerry, Joey, Steven and I, and yeah, I feel like Robert being in the band for 8 years, I think he feels more comfortable now than he did when we did Rockaholic. I mean, I thought he sang his ass off and wrote some great songs on Rockaholic, but I really feel like Rockaholic could have come out right after Cherry Pie. It would have been a more appropriate record than, say, Dog Eat Dog, which took this drastic 180 turn into a darker heavier thing. I love Dog Eat Dog and had a great time making that record, proud of it, but it was a definite departure from what we were known for at the time.

Mark Dean: How do you guys normally set about recording an album, do you all come in with your own ideas, do you even, do you jam out songs in the studio, do you record your parts and submit them via the Internet, how does that all work?

Erik Turner: Yeah, we did on most… well, all these demos and songs were ideas that we passed back and forth on the Internet mostly. Robert would go to Jerry’s house or Jerry would go to Robert’s house, they live in different States so going to somebody’s house to record in another State, it takes some planning. And the band tours a lot and but yes, we would, Joey and I would record a lot of parts for the demos in California then send them to Jerry and then he would mix them, and I think Robert might have even record some of the demo vocals at his house. Typically, we liked to do, what we’ve done on the last two records, is one demo up around 20 songs, maybe a little more, and then the band will vote on what we think are the 13 best songs, and so it’s a democratic process when it comes to what songs go on the CD. And that’s what we did this time and a lot of people were talking about Jeff Pilson, and the label was talking about Pilson, friends of mine had done records with Jeff and he came highly recommended. I met Jeff a handful of times over the years, always had a good impression of the guy, nice guy and when we started pre-production and he started throwing out some of his ideas as far as arrangements and stuff and his enthusiasm, his excitement about the songs and recording the record was contagious and gave us all a lot of confidence.

Mark Dean: I wonder if it’s possible at all for you to pick maybe a couple of tracks out of the album and tell me how they came together.

Erik Turner: Well, it’s pretty much the same demo process, that is how they all come together just sharing ideas, Jerry will write and finish a song and maybe I send some riffs out and Jerry will work on it and put some lyrics and melodies to it, we just pass ideas back and forth. As far as the actual recording process, we load in the drums, we get the drums set up and then we will play live along with Steven and we will get a great drum track and then we will go back and record our separate guitar parts, bass parts and spend a lot of time with different guitars, different amps, I’m trying to get different tones that the song seems to be wanting for and the producer thinks will be cool. So, we started that process in November through early January and just spent all that time in the studio working on the new record, we are all there in the same room when it comes time to make the CD. Very different from the demo process when we are all in different States.

Mark Dean: I wonder if you can pick out just one track and you’ve already said that you wear your influences very much on your sleeves on the album. “Only Broken Heart”, I was getting a little bit of a Thin Lizzy vibe with that one.

Erik Turner: Yeah, that’s the song I was going to pick because that’s the one song that I co-wrote on the record. I had recorded the riff in California, some of the parts, the different parts that you hear and I sent it to Jerry, and Jerry loved it and finished it, and it was called “80s Ladies”.

And then some of the guys didn’t like the title “80s Ladies” and lyrics …. anyway, a long story short, Robert ended up getting involved in the song and only took it to a different place, changed the chorus and the pre-chorus, and wrote the intro and all the verses, and it just kind of turned into this cool thing. And I love Thin Lizzy. We had such a lot of fun recording that song, and like I said earlier, I think we wear our influences more on this CD than when we were kids – from when we were 12/13/14 years old – the bands we were listening to. I think you hear that on this record more than any other record we’ve done in the past.

Mark Dean: You mentioned the former title of that track. The 80s, how did you find that? I mean you had a massive success as a band in the 80s, was that difficult to deal with at the time?

Erik Turner: It was only difficult when there was drama. Like anything in life when things have gone bad and everybody’s dealing with painful situations in our life our band its very hard and your relationships and your friendships and your family suffer. It’s great to be in any band I imagine when the business is good, but then when somebody causes drama it does something, it upsets other people, then its a bummer… the band dynamic is fucked for awhile. But it is what it is, theres no going back, things happened that happened and there was a lot of good times and there was a lot of bad times in the 80’s/90’s for this band. Time has a way of healing wounds in the short term and especially in the long term. I try and remember all the good times when I think back on the 80’s. We are grateful to still be here and touring and making Warrant music in 2017 for our fans.

warrantMark Dean: And then of course the band experienced a lot of traumatic periods in the 90s as well, there was different line-up changes. You mentioned the Belly to Belly album, how would you look at that, in hindsight? It was a departure from your original style.

Erik Turner: We were trying to fit in, we were trying to reinvent ourselves, we were influenced by some of the really cool music that was happening at the time. I / we all really liked Alice In Chains and Sound Garden, so some of that stuff started creeping in our music, there was a real backlash against 80s bands, it was fashionable to hate 80’s bands and say bad things about bands from the 80s. But we were fortunate, Jani quit Warrant around that time and then he came back 6 months or so later and then Joey quit and then we let Steven go and we got these new guys in the band, and we got a new record deal and we basically just kept on going. Thats all weve ever done, just kept on going. Every time somebody quits, like our original drummer and singer quit in ’86 and that’s when we got Jani and Steven. But we just kept on going. And that’s what we’ve done for 35 years, Jerry and I pick up the pieces and we just keep on going. I am happy to say since 2004 we’ve had four out of five original members in the band, and we even had Jani come back for a little while in 2008. At the end of the day we just feel blessed to keep on making records and keep touring every year.

Mark Dean: It’s what the fans want to see primarily anyway from the band most of the original, if not all the original line-up back together.

Erik Turner: Yeah, in an ideal world we all wish Jani was alive and healthy and singing in Warrant, I mean that would be ideal. On so many different levels, he had his demons and I think he couldn’t stop drinking and it finally took his life. It was a horrible, sad thing for his family, his friends and this business as well. It affects everything in a bad way, when somebody has an addiction like that and they can’t stop.

Mark Dean: How was the Born Again album? You did it with a different singer. How was it recording what was a Warrant album with somebody different?

Erik Turner: It was great for us. I mean, I got to write a lot on that record, Jerry and I wrote a lot on that record. Jamie St James who sang and co-wrote the record with us, he was in one of our favorite bands on the Sunset Strip when we were just starting out in the early 80s, a band called Black N’ Blue. Jamie St James sang background vocals on the very first Warrant demos we ever recorded, and Tommy Thayer produced those demos. Theres a history there with Jaime, we had a good three and a half years with The Saint and we did the Born Again record and its cool, a lot of people/fans bring it up and really like a lot of the songs on there. We have a music company DownBoysMusic.com, Jerry and I, we place music on television shows and that Born Again record more than any other record gets more music placement on TV shows than any of our other records…Other thathe song Cherry Pie of course.

Mark Dean: The new album, it’s been what 5-6 years since Rockaholic, why so long?

Erik Turner: Well, put it this way the band started in 1983, 35 years later weve done 8 original studio records. Thats it, 8 records in 35 years, so 6 years doesn’t seem so long… We just don’t spit them out, the songs don’t just come flowing out of us like water. Its a process, to be honest with you. Its not a pleasant process at times… I don’t know, its just not smooth, it doesn’t come easily, its frustrating at times, but when we get into the studio, once the songs are written and we are finally in the studio making the record, the process of working with the guys in the studio is fantastic and the vibe is great, but everything before and after as far as making a record can be kind of a bummer.

Mark Dean: That leads me on to the next question. I see you’ve got US dates. Have you any plans to maybe come over to the UK/Europe?

Erik Turner: We don’t have any plans to come over there now. Back in the day when we had a six-week sold out tour in stadiums opening up for David Lee Roth in the UK booked, and after the second show Jani got hurt and went home the next day. That was, if that hadn’t happened, we might have a following in the UK and Europe and we might be able to go over there and tour, but we just don’t think there are offers for us to go over there and play. To be honest with you it’s rare when we get them and when we do get them we would be lucky to break even. In the US, it’s different. We tour in the US and do around 50 shows a year and we play great venues and great events and everything is good.

Mark Dean: Are you still able, are Warrant able to function as a full-time band? There’s a lot of bands that can’t do it economically.

Erik Turner: We’re lucky, we’re blessed, it’s amazing. Like I said we do around 50 shows a year in the US on average, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. We play a lot of cool Rock Festivals and Casinos and Biker Rallies and State Fairs, and we play in front of thousands and thousands of people. Sometimes thousands and thousands of people a night, we just play, we just got to play at M3, and I think there was fifteen thousand people there, so in the US, business is great. Thank God.

warrantMark Dean: The package tours for a lot of bands of the 80s era seem to be very popular in UK and Europe. Would that not be an option? If you could maybe get on to a billing with two or three other bands?

Erik Turner: Yeah, you never know. I mean, if the right situation arrived who wouldn’t love to go to Europe and play a bunch of great shows? But that opportunity hasn’t shown itself in a long time.

Mark Dean: How do you explain why Warrant are still around in 2017?

Erik Turner: We are tenacious, we just keep on going. There are good times, bad times, when it’s easy, when it’s hard, we just keep on going, we just keep playing. I think we stay in the game every year, some years we might pull it back a little bit, other years we might just go out and work a lot. But I think just staying in the game, all these years just keep making records every five years or whatever and keep touring every year, I think is what, is why we are still here. Because we never quit.

Mark Dean: On the tour will you be featuring many of the new songs in the set?

Erik Turner: I imagine two or three if we are headlining, one or two if it’s an opening set. We need to, people really want to hear songs from Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich and Cherry Pie, so we mostly play songs from those two records. But we will play a song from Dog Eat Dog, we will play a song from Rockaholic, even this last weekend we played three shows, we played the title track from Louder Harder Faster, even though the song is not out yet. So yeah, we will definitely play new music from the new record.

Mark Dean: Is that not a little bit frustrating, the fans generally want to hear the old stuff, they seem a bit indifferent to any new stuff?

Erik Turner: They don’t seem indifferent to it. I just don’t, I personally go to see a band to see artists, who shall remain nameless, that I was huge fans of all these songs, and they didn’t play any of them, and then it’s like this is crazy, I’ll never do that to my fans. No, we really love playing all the old songs and the new songs. We love turning people on to our new music and fortunately it’s a good response. “Louder Harder Faster” we played three times this week and it went over great every night, and I hear people clap and yelling and scream afterwards.

Mark Dean: It’s a sort of energetic song that you would imagine would go down well.

Erik Turner: Yeah, it suits the live setting well. It’s fast and upbeat and sounds like you’ve heard it.

Mark Dean: Who would you like to interview if you had the opportunity? A personal hero or inspiration?

Erik Turner: If I could have a few drinks and a conversation with one person, it would probably be Jimmy Page, because his band and music changed the direction of my life and inspired me to be in a band. I had the chance to meet him in Switzerland in ‘95 when we played a festival with Page and Plant, but I chose not to. I probably should have, but not too long before that I met one of my childhood guitar heroes, and he was a bit of a dickhead. Couple of the other guys in the band did go to Page and Plant dressing room and said he was cool. I met Robert Plant at Barney’s Beanery at 2am one night. We had a mutual friend, so we talked for a bit, that was awesome and unexpected!

WarrantMark Dean: Researching for this, the band have obviously had quite colourful careers with extreme highs and lows. Just wondered if you have any plans personally for a book or maybe even an official band movie?

Erik Turner: You know, we talk about the book thing and it’s just never come to fruition. We just got an email two days ago from a writer who does autobiographies for bands and actors and stuff asking us if we would want to do a book. He said he mentioned us to his Publisher and there’s a lot of interest. So, and ironically the guy is from Sweden, so we will be talking about that this weekend with the band and see if we want to pursue it.

Mark Dean: OK, that’s great, thank you very much. As I say, I love the album, it’s definitely a great album, and hopefully it will explode, and maybe those opportunities further afield, different countries, will open up.

Erik Turner: That would be great, our new video comes out this Friday for “Louder Harder Faster.” We went out to the Arizona Desert and we this video, it looks pretty cool I think people will like it so that comes out this Friday and then we have another video we just put out about a month ago called “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink,” which people can check out on YouTube. It’s new music, new videos and a lot of touring for Louder Harder Faster.

Mark Dean: Great, thank you very much for chatting to me.

Erik Turner: Yeah, thank you, Mark. Alright, take care.

About Mark Dean

I'm a 40+ music fan. Fond mostly of rock and metal - my staple musical food delights. Originally from Northern Ireland, I am now based in the UK-Manchester. I have a hectic musical existence with regular shows and interviews. Been writing freelance for five years now with several international websites. Passionate about what I do, I have been fortunate already to interview many of my all-time musical heroes. My music passion was first created by seeing Status Quo at the tender age of 15. While I still am passionate about my rock and metal, I have found that with age my taste has diversified so that now I am actually dipping into different musical genres and styles for the first time. Photo: Mark Dean with Jeff Kendrick of Devildriver - Photography by Olga Kuzmenko

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