Catching Up With…Erik Turner of Warrant
TWRY caught up with Warrant guitarist and founding member Erik Turner to talk about the show which just so happens to fall on Jerry Dixon’s birthday. Erik also talked about close to three decades of rocking with Warrant, the passing of Jani Lane, their record label Down Boys Records, their new “I Saw Red’ wine…and much more.
For tickets to the upcoming Showcase Live show, head over to their website.
Interviewed by: Roger Scales
The Warrant train makes a stop in New England at Showcase Live in Foxboro, Massachusetts on September 15 along with special guest Firehouse. It’s almost like going back in time some twenty years ago on the Blood, Sweat and Beers tour. Can fans expect history to repeat itself?
Yeah, I think it will! We have been touring with Firehouse on and off for these past twenty years and have remained great friends as well. That tour is also commonly known as “The Cherry Pie Tour” and a lot of those songs remain in our set to this day so fans can expect to hear a lot of those tracks plus a good helping from Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich as well. It will also be a very special night because it will be Jerry Dixon’s birthday and because he will be turning 21 everybody can buy him a drink!!
Rockaholic has been out for over a year now and the band has been touring steadily ever since. Is it satisfying for you to read all the great reviews and see the swell of fan support (both old and new) behind it?
That record was really a labor of love and we spent the better part of two years working on it. When you put that much time, money and effort into something it’s very satisfying to get a nice payoff by reading several positive reviews and seeing the fans singing along to those new tracks as well as the old ones. We try and play at least 3 to 4 new tracks at any given show off Rockaholic. We had hoped for this type of support but you can never predict what will ultimately happen.
Do you think that Robert Mason both as a performer and songwriting contributor has brought some much needed stability to the band and that vocalist slot given the on again off again tenure that the band had to endure previously?
Yes he has. We are now going on 4 years with Robert aboard and what was so obvious from the beginning was that because his roughly the same age as all of us we grew up listening to the same bands and had much of the same musical influences. When he was in Lynch Mob they opened for Warrant on our Dog Eat Dog tour (1992) so we go back at least 20 years and he is our rock n roll brother and it’s been great having him in the band. He adds a different dimension to the Warrant sound because of his vocal style. Sort of like bringing Paul Rodgers into Warrant!
Let’s switch gears a bit and talk about “Down Boys Records”. What’s the biggest challenge in running your own company?
Time. It’s a 24/7 job basically. Things happen and need to be taken care of right away regardless of where you are or what you are doing. The label was started in 2001 with the release of Warrant’s Under the Influence a mostly covers album that had 2 new studio tracks. In 2006 Warrant then released Born Again (w/Jamie St. James on lead vocals) and most recently in 2011 we released Rockaholic although we did secure a distribution deal with Frontiers Records and we are very happy with that partnership. It’s not easy to sell your music in 2012. I cannot think of a worse time (historically) actually than it is right now! The label has obviously expanded to working with other artists and we are working with some really great artists and bands that we are really proud of so please check out our website www.downboysrecords.com. We have an additional side of the label that is securing rights for distribution of music in TV and films and video games as well. That side of the business is showing some signs of life and growing. We are having some great fun with it!
We have some homegrown talent right here in Massachusetts as a member of that heralded “Down Boys” roster and I’m talking about (of course) Scott Dunbar who’s In A Mellow Mood has to be one of the top feel good stories so far in 2012 for your label?
We are real proud of Scotty and it’s been great to finally start to work with him after knowing him for almost 10 years or so. He’s a talented kid and he has a real bright future. I’m hopeful that we will be working with him on some new music very soon.
What time period (then or now) is more fun or maybe a better word would be satisfying for the band Warrant when you compare the late 80’s where the band was signed to a major label with Columbia Records, working with big name producers like Beau Hill and Michael Wagner, you had large budgets for music videos and touring, but little creative control in terms of marketing and sales. In 2012 you’re a self maintained label, you supply and create your own budgets and have total creative control?
The original deal was the perfect scenario for us back in the day, for that time period. That was a machine that truly went above and beyond for us and got our music out there better than anybody else could have. People either bought it or they didn’t but it was a great time to be in the business. Major labels are of course all about numbers. Not about great music or give a damn about the person or persons involved in creating it. If you don’t understand it and can drive you crazy. I look back at that period with great fondness. Selling millions of records, having your band be on heavy rotation on MTV (when it still played music videos) and playing in front of large crowd’s very night. Of course the entire industry is different in 2012. Other than calling it “The Music Business” there isn’t any comparison to now and then. It’s changed so much. There really isn’t even a business model any longer for selling music. Everybody is still trying to figure that out. One thing the major labels still have going for them are these amazing back catalog’s of top selling albums from the past that sell year after year. Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna or whatever. Those acts will continue to sell big numbers and create millions of dollars for these companies.
Do you think Warrant fans ever got frustrated between the years 1994 to 2008 with revolving line-up changes, three different singers and some slight changes in musical direction?
I’m not sure. I know when I’m a fan of a band I respect and understand that at times you might want to try different things musically and grow as an artist. Sometimes personnel changes have to be made. That’s life. Too bad so sad. We are not going to fold our tents and shut down Warrant just because one guy doesn’t want to be there. If the fans want to be frustrated with anybody they should be frustrated at the people who quit. Not take it out on the band. Jerry and I started this band in 1984 and we will finish this band whenever we finish it. Whoever will be here will be here and whoever isn’t won’t. It’s pretty simple. We treat everybody who has ever been in this band with respect and as an equal. That’s the best we can do. If somebody doesn’t want to be here we can’t make them try to be.
The first time I saw Warrant was in 1989 opening for Paul Stanley on his first ever solo tour at The Channel in Boston. Do you recall how you got that opening slot and what memories do you have from that tour?
Our booking agency (at the time) CAA got us that tour. When you’re in a band the booking agent secures the tour and speaks to the manager about it and then presents it to the band. Of course the manager then takes the credit for getting you the tour. We were big KISS fans so it was a no brainer. In some cases the band can create its own breaks. Like getting the Poison tour right after that I had been talking to Bobby Dall quite a bit and Jani (Lane) had been taking to C.C. quite a bit. We did 72 shows with those guys and might have had the biggest exposure of our careers up to that point. That had to do with friendships and personal relationships we had with the band so sometimes that can play a factor as well.
Speaking of KISS didn’t you have a role in the book KISSTORY II-Toys, Games and Girls’ Collectors Bible?
Yes. In 1997 Tommy Thayer got me involved in that project and I worked very closely with Gene Simmons for a few months and it was a great experience. My role was working with computer graphics mainly. I grew up a KISS fan and I’m still a KISS fan so it was something I’ll never forget.
In 2011 we lost Jani Lane. What do you think is the biggest public misconception about him?
I think he was a very underrated and underappreciated singer, songwriter and musician. I’m not sure he ever got the credit he deserved in terms of what he brought to the table in his time in the band. Maybe it was because we were a glam band or how our videos were perceived to the general music critics at large but he didn’t get much respect. The fans certaintly got it and continue to get it as they mourn his loss and solidify his legacy with the many sites, testimonials and pages online talking about Jani and what he meant to people in their lives.
What is next for Warrant a new studio effort or maybe a live record?
Right now we are just winding down and finishing up our summer tour schedule for 2012. Over 50 shows and many happy faces! We have some new song ideas already kicking around and I’m sure we will look to enter the studio for a new Warrant record beginning in 2013 for release hopefully sometime next year. No plans right now for a live record or DVD but things change in this business every 10 days to 10 hours to 10 minutes so I never say never. I won’t lie to you because there have been some offers for a live DVD but nothing has panned out. In the meantime you can always go to YouTube and see hundreds of live videos online for free!
With all of you a little older now and with families does touring become a bigger chore and staying healthy a tougher obstacle for you?
Nope. I don’t think so. You just have to pace yourself. Look we’re all professionals and have been doing this for a long time so we all know what it takes to survive the road. We know what to expect and how to take care of ourselves at this point. Commercial air travel isn’t quite what it used to be..for sure. Basically the customer comes last in that industry. You do feel that strain and what that can bring to your life until you can get some type of “status” then you actually get treated like a human being.
Erik I guess its fair statement for me to invite Warrant fans to come out to Jerry Dixon’s Birthday Bash on September 15 in Foxboro MA at Showcase Live and come join in on the Party..I guess that personifies what Warrant has always been and suffice to say always will be?
Without question! We have always been about a good time. Come out and forget your troubles and struggles and put your drinking shoes and have fun with Firehouse and Warrant. It will be a great “Blast From Your Past” with hit after hit you will remember all the words to.