In His Own Words: Michael Monroe on his headspace after Hanoi Rocks ended
“It was a very significant period of time. Hanoi was breaking up and I was still living in London in the Spring of ’85 – Stiv was really the only friend I had back then. I was obviously still devastated from losing my best friend (Razzle) and having my band break up. Not only did Razzle die, but Sami Yaffa left the band. It was a very difficult time, but also with Stiv being there for me, it was such a help. He actually encouraged me to keep going – my intention was to save the integrity of the Hanoi Rocks name. There would have been some new guys coming into the band, and it would not have been the same as Hanoi had been, and I didn’t want that. I wanted people to know Hanoi Rocks as it was.
“I moved in with Stiv eventually, in ’85, and Little Steven came over to produce the Lords of the New Church, and that’s when we made some demos, which he produced. These two people were like the coolest people in rock to me – I didn’t need anybody else. Steven was doing the Sun City project at the time, and that’s the first thing I did solo since Hanoi had broken up, and I’m still really proud to have been a part of that with all the people that were in it – Miles Davis to Pete Townsend, to Keith Richards to Ringo Starr, to Grandmaster Flash and Run DMC – all these great people. Then, when we went to do the video in New York, that’s when I decided to move to New York and start all over.
“I was still recovering from this devastating blow, and Stiv encouraged me, we made those demos – we did a demo of “It’s a Lie,” where it’s a duet with Stiv. That’s the magical version of that song – it was written by Jimmy Zero, the Dead Boys’ guitarist. As we were recording it, Stiv realized the song was really about him leaving The Dead Boys. For me, it was really interesting because I had no plans and I didn’t know what I was going to do. More signs started pointing me in this direction, especially when I moved to New York. Stiv really showed me the ropes there – God bless that guy, he was really there for me; an important guy in my life and career. Stiv had showed Little Steven a Hanoi Rocks video, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” as Steven had never heard of us. He flipped out and said, “Wow, what a great band – what are you guys doing?” I told him the sad story about how our drummer died and we had broken up. Ever since he heard that, Little Steven has been supporting me in my career.
“I had started writing songs again with the encouragement of Stiv, which I had given up on during the Hanoi years because Andy (McCoy, Hanoi Rocks guitarist) always said he had a better song, and I allowed the situation to get to that point. But now, I was really getting excited about creating my own thing, and those guys had such a great work ethic – and the lyrics of the songs, like Stiv says on the cover of the first Lords of the New Church album, “The truth is destroyed of us all.” Little Steven’s Voice of America album was one of the most important albums to me, and still is – what he says in the lyrics is what I always wanted to do. That’s what the reggae guys do; there’s a message in the lyrics, raising questions – what the punk bands did back then as well, and what the original rap guys were doing. It was from the streets, shaking up the establishment, questioning authority, telling truths. That’s what I thought I should be doing like I had a reason and a purpose to be up there on stage, not just saying, “Look at me, I’m…well, I used to be pretty (laughs).” To me, this was the key to my solo career and I really wanted to start writing songs with strong lyrics. I had something to say, and I wanted to work it into the music. The music I liked was a bit more straight-up and punkier, simpler rock ‘n roll, and with Hanoi, it was great because we defied all categories. We could do anything from punk to calypso. The music closer to my heart is what I’ve done solo.
“Nights Are So Long, Stiv was supposed to produce that, but he couldn’t’ make it to the studio – he had some problems with the law back then. Therefore, the version of “It’s a Lie” that is on that album, I did by myself. That’s why it’s not nearly as good as the version that’s on this ‘Best Of” compilation with me and Stiv singing together. We were living together and we’d sing harmonies, and I can do a perfect Stiv Bators impression – we were the best of friends and I was a big fan. Singing harmonies together every day, that has a certain kind of magic to it – almost like an Everly Brothers kind of vibe. The album was released originally only in Scandinavia and Japan, but with the help of that, I got signed to a major label in New York; Polygram Records signed me worldwide. That led to Not Fakin’ It as the first worldwide release.
“So, with that, it came to pass that I started over. I survived that whole thing, and of course, it’s always a sore spot with Hanoi breaking up and Razzle and all that, but what else was I going to do but keep going? The most important thing about rock ‘n roll is the integrity, being true to who you are, and singing from the heart – that way you can reach people’s hearts. Do your own thing on your own terms – you don’t’ always have to be the biggest and the most famous. If you can do your own thing without compromise, you can be happy and on firm ground. That became very clear to me – no one can take away what I have.
“Right now, I feel like I have the best band I’ve had in my solo career, with Sami Yaffa (bass), Steve Conte, Rich Jones (both guitar), and Karl Rockfist (drums). This band is going to keep doing what we’re doing, get better at it, and expand our fame – let people know. My dream is still to get on a big tour with some of the coolest, biggest bands like Foo Fighters or Alice Cooper or Guns ‘n Roses – bands like that that are really still cool and have the right kind of attitude and know rock ‘n roll. That’s what I’m thinking right now, and letting more people have a chance to know about this band. I guess that’s a long answer, but I guess that covers quite a bit, right?”
MICHAEL MONROEMetal Insider. / Photo comes from MM’s facebook page.
3.8.2018 Porispere, Pori 4.8.2018 Siltakemmakat, Puumala 5.8.2018 Rebellion Festival, Blackpool UK 26.10. Lahti, Sibeliustalo 28.10. Tampere, Tampere-Talo 1.11. Turku, Logomo 3.11. Helsinki, Kulttuuritalo