Quiet Riot has been a part of the rock n’ roll scene for over four decades now. The band rose to legendary status with the release of their 1983 album “Mental Health.” With classic songs like “Bang Your Head (Mental Health),” ” Cum On Feel the Noise,” “Slick Black Cadillac” and “Mama Weer All Crazee Now,” the band’s music has been passed down from generation to generation of the rock n’ roll faithful. Quiet Riot is getting ready to release an awesome live home video/cd called “One Night in Milan.” The collection is a time capsule of Quiet Riot favorites, along with some new music and surprises as well. We had a chance to talk to Quiet Riot’s heart and soul (not to mention drummer) Frankie Banali. Enjoy our conversation and be sure to pick up your copy of “One Night in Milan” on January 25th!!!
The Music Room: Hey man, it is a real honor to get a chance to talk with you. Congratulations on the upcoming live record, “One Night In Milan.”
Frankie Banali: Thank you so much.
TMR: Yeah, it’s a great listen. It’s kind of a time capsule of the band’s past, present, and future. It was cool to hear. There is an obvious chemistry in the band right now. With getting James on vocals…is that something that happened right away, or did it gel over the course of the live shows?
FB: It has to start with the foundation and the foundation starts with the fact that Chuck Wright has been the bassist in Quiet Riot on and off since 1982. He and I have a great working relationship and great chemistry live, and we’re friends. Alex (Grossi) has been in the band, I think its over ten years now. He does the material justice, while at the same time not losing his identity. So all of that was already in place and was the line up that we had in place when Kevin (DuBrow) passed away in 2007. In 2010 when I decided to start up the band again we went through a series of singers and it never really was the right fit. I don’t regret any of it because the only way you are going to find out if something works or not is to do it and to spend time with people. The more time you spend with people…sometimes it doesn’t take long, the more you see who they really are rather than the first-day persona that they put on. By and large, it really wasn’t working as well as it could be. At that point in time, Alex was working on a side project with James (Durbin) and I asked Alex what he thought of him. I was aware of him just a little bit from the one performance I had seen on (American) Idol because I was a casual watcher of the show. He said I should really check him out and I took over from there. He just started his second year with us. We play our first show of 2019 this Saturday in Arizona. It’s been great. He’s got the vocal range that is required to sing the material that Kevin sang. Kevin had such an amazing range and was an incredible performer. James is also an amazing performer. So, so far it has been great. I would be happy to keep this lineup intact as long as everyone wants to be involved in it and everyone’s having fun.
TMR: James does show tremendous respect to the material, and he obviously had huge shoes to fill. But even while showing that respect, he is very much his own performer as well. So that is really cool to hear. Obviously, today nothing can ever be done in private. The uphill climb that went into getting the right lineup in place and making the “Road Rage” record is well documented. Is putting out this live record kind of like putting the flag on top of the mountain?
FB: I’m a real believer that you get out of life what you put into it. There are no shortcuts. I’m really proud of “One Night in Milan” because one of the conditions when I agreed to have Quiet Riot play at the Frontiers Music Festival and to record it, one condition that I had is that I would refuse to bring any of the tracks into the studio and replace any of the vocals or guitar solos. I wouldn’t call the best background singers in L.A. and put on there and pretend that it was Quiet Riot, or take the audience from The Forum and drop it. There are no overdubs. Nothing was fixed or cleaned up. Nothing was changed in the studio because I am a firm believer that once you change one thing on a live record it ceases to be a live record. I’m very proud of all the guys. I let them know that morning…not just before that show, but that morning. I let them know, I want you to understand that my policy is that everyone performs to the best of their ability because no one is great every single time. Having said that, I am not going to bring this into the studio and fix anything so everyone, be on your toes and bring your A game. And they did.
TMR: I appreciate that. There is nothing like a live album that is real and has that soul of an actual live performance.
FB: I always dug those bootleg vinyls that I got back in the seventies. I would hear my favorite songs…let’s say a Led Zeppelin bootleg. I would hear “The Immigrant Song,” and I would be like this is great but it’s different from the way that they did it in the studio. Maybe the solo may not have been quite on the money, but it was a moment. And that is what a live record is supposed to be. It’s not supposed to be a polished record with a million overdubs. It’s supposed to be live. I wanted this to be live, and I don’t regret that at all.
TMR: One thing I really like is that you put some of the new songs on there. “Freak Flag” and “Can’t Get Enough” are on there and they fit really well into the set. How hard is it to put in the new material when you have such a catalog and to balance the material to make it work.
FB: Well, a couple of things for the setlist for this particular show…This is the first time that we ever played in Italy, so it was important for me because I knew that there were going to be a lot of Italian fans. I was surprised at the fans who came from all over Europe, whether it was Eastern Europe, U.K., Ireland…we even had some people come from Canada and the U.S. So my first responsibility across the board was to give them the classic songs from “Mental Health.” Some things from “Condition Critical” and least one thing from “QR3.” But out of respect for James, I also wanted to include two songs from “Road Rage” which came out in August of 2018. But at the same time, I wanted to make it a little more special for the audience, and for ourselves by including the song “Whatever it Takes” from 1995’s “Down to the Bone” record, as well as the title track from 1993’s record “Terrified.” So we gave them not just one color brush on the canvas of Quiet Riot music. I just wanted to make it a little different and special for them and for us.
TMR: Then putting that version of “Thunderbird” on there was a special moment. What did it mean for you to play that song live the way you did in Milan?
FB: That has always been more often than not, unless we’re in a situation where time is going to allow us to play x-amount of songs, “Thunderbird” has been a part of the Quiet Riot set since 1983. What made this particular version important and special for me is that the original studio version was cut with a piano intro and piano throughout the song. We had never performed it live that way. Alessandro Delvecchio, who does a lot of work for Frontiers and actually produced this live record…he’s an accomplished musician and keyboard player and I asked him if he would play piano on “Thunderbird.” He was thrilled and honored. He did a phenomenal job. On this record and DVD is the only time you are going to hear that song performed as it was intended in the studio.
TMR: It’s definitely a special moment on the record for sure. Looking ahead to this year, your Facebook already indicates you are going to be touring in 2019. Are you going to be busy the whole year, or are you kind of looking at spring/summer?
FB: Generally, the touring cycle for Quiet Riot starts with a few warm updates the first few months of the year. Then we start revving up the engines in March thru September. Those are the months that we’re out there a lot. Then we slow down, you know…the last few months of the year. But having said that, the last show we played in 2018 was December 27th at The Whiskey in L.A. The our first show of 2019 is this Saturday at BLK Live in Scottsdale, AZ. So as you can see, there was only a three-week break between our last show of 2018 and our first show of this year. And you know what? Happy to do it.
TMR: Right on man. One of the things that I really appreciate about you is…like I said before, we live in a world where everything is out there. I guess you can say that everyone has a voice, but hides behind the anonymity of the internet. It can be a vicious world out there, especially in rock music with all of the tabloid-type sites out there, but you are always focused and on task. How do you stay at the level that you do? You stay classy and get things done. What do you do in your life to avoid all of the negativity out there?
FB: Listen, there is always going to be the people out there that don’t like what you do. Either because they don’t like the music or they don’t like you as a person. You know what? That’s their problem. That’s not my problem. That’s not part of my life. When they say those evil things about me, I don’t care. I go about my business and my life because I know who my friends are. I know who the fans and supporters of the band are. And the rest of them, they can go about their own business…as long as their interest doesn’t interfere with mine in any tangible way. I don’t really care what they have to say because they don’t know me. You can only value a person’s opinion if you value the person. If you don’t value the person, the opinion is meaningless. So take your best shot. Go on Blabbermouth and say whatever you want and have your minion of internet snipers hiding behind their big vats of cookies and ice cream have at it. But also know as far as I’m concerned, your opinions are meaningless. They do not matter. I do not lose any sleep over it. Go have a happy life. Try that instead.
TMR: Right on! Quiet Riot was ahead of the game a little bit. A few years back you released the documentary about the band, 2014’s “Well Now You’re Here, There’s No Way Back.” Now that is all the rage with all of the rock-docs and bio-pics being released. So my question for you is if there was a Quiet Riot movie to be made…who would play Frankie in that movie?
FB: Ummm….I’m going to go with Johnny Depp (laughs.) I would go with him because he has the rock n’ roll pirate look. I have nothing but respect for his acting ability. Every part that he chooses to portray is amazing, and he’s so diverse…and he’s a much better looking guy than me. You always want somebody better looking than you portraying you (laughs.)
TMR: It really has been a special time for Quiet Riot with getting to celebrate the legacy of the band with the documentary, the new studio record, “Road Rage,” and now the live record. Any thought to after the live record and the next chapter? Will there be a new studio record, or is that on the horizon right now?
FB: I always explain to people that for me, being a musician and a musician for life…it’s two things. It’s having the opportunity to perform live. And in our case, being as fortunate as we have in so many ways, to have all of that material to play. But the other side of the coin for me as a musician is to be able to continue to write and to be able to create, regardless of what the industry is like now. We won’t get into that now because everybody knows how deflated it is compared to what it was two or three decades ago. For me personally, I have to continue moving forward in writing new material. Is there a possibility for a new Quiet Riot studio record to come out in the future? I would hope that there is. We’re just going to have to wait and see.
TMR: That’s alright. We have lots of great things to look forward to right now with the live record and upcoming touring. Thank you so much for your time today. Good luck…not good luck, congratulations on the live record. And come on back to Cincinnati sometime soon.
FB: I look forward to it!
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