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Make A Way: An Exclusive Interview With FRANKI BANALI Of QUIET RIOT

By Cynthia Fields-Jalil, Writer/Photographer
Wednesday, September 20, 2017 @ 5:50 AM


"The one thing I have never forgotten is that every success that I've had with QUIET RIOT, I directly owe that to the fans because a band is just a band without the fan support, all it is is a group of musicians creating music."

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Frankie Banali is the drummer, band manager, producer, songwriter & the longest member of the multi-platinum heavy metal band QUIET RIOT. Banali joined lead singer Kevin Dubrow, guitarist Carlos Cavazo and bassist Rudy Sarzo in 1982. After only six months with the band’s new label Pasha Records in March 1983, together they recorded & released Metal Health, which reached the #1 spot on Billboard’s 200 charts eventually selling over 10 million copies worldwide! Since QUIET RIOT’s inception, there has been a revolving door of some of the most talented musicians in the industry (Rudy Sarzo, Randy Rhodes, Carlos Cavazo, Bobby Rondinelli, etc). Banali himself left the band in 1989 and went on to play with the likes of W.A.S.P., HEAVY BONES, BILLY IDOL, FASTER PUSSYCAT, and STEPPENWOLF before rejoining QUIET RIOT in 1993 and taking over as the band's manager to oversee all of the band's business decisions. QUIET RIOT would eventually change line-ups, disband & reformed a few more times, and ultimately suffer through the untimely death of lead singer Kevin Dubrow on November 19, 2007. What seemed like the final blow and end of QUIET RIOT ended up becoming Banali’s labor of love and tribute to honor the memory of his dear friend and QUIET RIOT’s musical legacy. Additionally, with Dubrow’s family’s blessings and encouragement, Banali reformed QUIET RIOT in 2010. With the Rock-documentary Quiet Riot: Well Now You’re Here, There’s No Way Back produced & directed by Frankie’s then finance and now wife Regina Russell Banali, released on April 29, 2014, and the band’s new albm on August 4, 2017, Road Rage, QUIET RIOT has been recharged and rocking the masses with its current line-up; (American Idol’s Season 10 contestant) lead singer, James Durbin, guitarist Alex Grossi, bassist Chuck Wright, and Banali. I recently had the awesome opportunity to chat with Frankie about the band, and his personal life. Read on Y'all!

KNAC.COM: On behalf of KNAC.COM, all of the QUIET RIOT fans out there, and myself, thanks so very much for chatting with me today about the latest QUIET RIOT release, Road Rage, it is sincerely appreciated!

I’d love to get to know you a bit better and so I thought it would be fun to take a step back in time. How long have you been drumming, and are you self-taught or did you take lessons from a professional?

BANALI: I started when I was 14 and I wanted my parents to buy me a drum set. My father thought it was just a passing thing, so he made a deal with me that if I took lessons for a year, he would buy me a drum set. So we went over (this is in Astoria Queens, New York) to the DE Bellis School of Music aka; DE Bellis School of Performing Arts, and I was enrolled there, and I took lessons every week for a year and a year later to the day I was waiting for my dad to walk in the door. And when he walked in the door I put my hand out and put my fist in my hand, and then I said; “Time to settle-up!” He had forgotten what it was all about and I reminded him. But my father was true to his word, and he took me back to the DE Bellis School of Music and bought me my first drum set!

KNAC.COM: Did you aspire to play the drums or did you fall into playing them by chance?

BANALI: Well, from my generation really it started with THE BEATLES, and when I was growing up I was into playing baseball & hockey, but as soon as that historic performance of THE BEATLES on Ed Sullivan (The Ed Sullivan Show) which I saw in my parents living room sitting on the floor on the TV. I said to myself at that moment in time "That's what I wanted to do, that's who I wanted to be!" And I put down the baseball & the hockey sticks and picked-up the drumsticks, and I've never looked back!

KNAC.COM: So, which pro drummer (you've mentioned THE BEATLES), at the time inspired you to play, and why?

BANALI: Well, it was a progression of drummers. My father wasn’t a musician, but he loved music; he’d listen to a lot of big-bands, and swing and jazz and opera. He’s the one that had turned me onto drummers like Buddy Rich, and jazz drummers like Max Roach and Tony Williams, and things like that. So, I was already acclimated to really, really great drummers. But, as soon as THE BEATLES came on the scene, you know I always tell people that Ringo (Starr, THE BEATLES drummer) didn't teach me how to play drums, he taught me how to play songs. So, initially it was the jazz drummers, but when it started with rock, it was Ringo, it was Charlie Watts from THE ROLLING STONES, it was Dave Clark (THE DAVE CLARK FIVE). And then after that, the natural progression in the late 60’s was Ginger Baker with CREAM, Mitch Mitchell with THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE, but the drummer that really made the most impact on me at the time was this new young drummer named John Bonham in this brand new band in 1969 called LED ZEPPELIN.

KNAC.COM: So, what was the name of your first band and in what way did that first band experience contribute to where you are today?

BANALI: My first band that actually played out when I was 14, was called THE POUND OF FLESH and the first show we ever played where we got paid was at a Catholic church social. We each made $13 and the first $1 that hit my hand I put in my left pocket, and the other $12 I put in the righthand pocket. I framed that $1 bill because the corner Italian deli had the first $1 he ever made framed and I wanted to be professional. So the next day I went to the Five & Dime and bought this little frame and put that dollar in there. And I still have that $1 to this day!

KNAC.COM: Let’s talk about your latest release Road Rage. When did the idea and writing process start for what was to become Road Rage?

BANALI: Well, the writing process started initially with myself and my writing partner, Neil Citron, who is also the engineer that I use. He is a Grammy award-winning engineer, but he is also an incredible guitarist and songwriter, and we started writing early in 2016 for no particular reason cause we write a lot of material. And then when Serafino (Perugino) at Frontiers Records approached me wanting to know if I was interested in doing a deal to do a new QUIET RIOT record - he had reached out to me in the past, but I didn't feel the time was right - but I felt the time was right to do a new record so I did the deal with him, and the writing process continued from there.

KNAC.COM: Did all of the band members contribute to the writing process or did you along with Neil Citron initially bring your own material to the table, and then collaborate on the finishing touches together?

BANALI: Well, I put it out to everybody in the band to submit whatever songs they were comfortable with that they had written. At the end of the day Alex Grossi wrote the music to this incredible ballad called “The Road” and Chuck Wright brought part of a song which Neil and I along with Chuck turned into the track “Still Wild”. But the rest of the material, the bulk of the material was written by myself, the music was written by myself and Neil.

KNAC.COM: What was the creative process like?

BANALI: It's a lot different than it used to be in the old days, and what I mean in the old days, 20 years ago and prior to the 20 years, everybody that was in a band you know, everybody were friends and they lived in the same city and you would get together in a rehearsal studio and work new material, either collectively or individually, and that's how songs were created. But everything has changed so much now that you know, not everybody lives in the same city but with the advent of the Internet you can actually write material and send an email with a file to the rest of the band so that they can check it out and make their contributions and things like it. So it's different in that regard, it's not as homemade in the kitchen as it used to be, it's almost ordered out these days.

KNAC.COM: I've often wondered about that! I've had an opportunity to take a listen to the new release and I really hope that I'm not missing the mark too much but I felt like there were a couple of songs that had the recognizable QUIET RIOT sound to it, but there is a new sound and a different direction that seems to have happened with Road Rage. Am I right? And can you explain the different direction you’ve taken with this release?

BANALI: Yeah, you are absolutely correct! And you can tell me after I say this which songs you are speaking about. But, I think when you listen to the songs on Road Rage, songs like “Freak Flag” and “Wasted”.

KNAC.COM: Those are the ones!

BANALI: Yes, and you’re right on the mark! I consider those songs siblings to the QUIET RIOT of the past, the sound that’s more familiar, and the writing style that is more familiar with the fans that have been with us always since 1983. I think it's also important to understand though different from that, if you listen to the QUIET RIOT Metal Health record we recorded in ’82, and it came out in ’83, and that type of music was not happening at the time. I mean the songs for that record were completely and totally different from what was going on, and the proof of that was the fact that when the Metal Health record went number one in 1983, our competition was Michael Jackson, THE POLICE, Lionel Richie, you know, bands that didn't really have anything to do with that hard rock metal sound. But when you go and listen to our follow-up record Condition Critical, and you listen to the track “Condition Critical” itself, at the time people said; “That doesn’t sound like QUIET RIOT!" because that song was very different than what we had done on the Metal Health record. And if you move forward to the QR III record and you hear a song like “The Wild And The Young”, that was different from anything we had done on Metal Health and Condition Critical. So, my point is that QUIET RIOT has always had a particular type of sound that you will find in every record, but on every record you will also find that we stretch our musical muscles, and try to evolve in and take it further than we took it before rather than try to copy the previous records.

KNAC.COM: Well good, I think it's really worked out well on this particular one. Who are some of the artists that may have influenced your writing style throughout Road Rage?

BANALI: Ummm, I'm sitting here in my office, and I've just turned around…I've got over 3000 pieces of vinyl, and most of them are from the 60's, late 60's, and the 70's. My taste in music and my writing style is deeply rooted in the music that I love. So, it's a combination of the way, I write the way I play, but also my musical tastes, you know? I think if you listen to a song like “Getaway” that has some similarities to maybe some of the stuff that AEROSMITH did in the 70's, and if you listen to something like “Roll This Joint” or “Make A Way”, those songs also are relatable to that kind of an updated 70's feel & style. So, my writing, I always go back to my roots, and that was something that both Kevin Dubrow and I shared, that's one of the reasons we had such a great connection and friendship, because we loved the same bands from the same time period meaning the late 60's into the 70's.

KNAC.COM: So, again while I was previewing Road Rage I felt like the songs thoughout took on several different personalities of their own and so I thought it would be fun to have you tell me what the inspiration for each of the 11 tracks was along with a quick backstory for writing the songs?

BANALI: I could tell you that a song like “Can’t Get Enough”, which again is the first music video we've done in an almost 3 decades, 29 years, yeah! That one, when we finished the last final mix of it, that one is the one that stood out to me as far as being a very straight ahead driving song with great vocal melodies and a great hook. But it's not inspired by anything other than just a solid rock tune. “Getaway” for me is kind of like a late, late 60’s, early 70’s kind of trip time machine song for me. A song like “Roll This Joint” has some similarities to the sensibilities of some of the rhythms and syncopations that LED ZEPPELIN did. “Freak Flag” and “Wasted” I think are the closest to the QUIET RIOT sound of the past, but you know with a different twist. A song like “Still Wild” is pretty much my tribute to my favorite rock drummer, John Bonham and LED ZEPPELIN in general. When you listen to to the rest of the songs, they're all over the map stylistically, but they’re all grounded & rooted to me in that 70’s style.

KNAC.COM: Cool! So, you’ve pretty much gone through all of them! And you have with “Make A Way”, “Renegades”, “The Road” and “Knock Em Down” but I wanna go back to “Getaway”. I love the beginning of that song! Is there a sitar and tabla in that song?

BANALI: Yeah! I'm a big fan of East Indian classical music, and so I wanted to instill that in the intro of the song. Neil has an electric sitar and I play tablas.

KNAC.COM: Oh my God, that’s crazy awesome!

BANALI: (Laughing) So, yeah, I just brought that to the table just to have that flavor of it. And then underneath the track, you know it has that East Indian drone which you hear at the very end of the song. So, that is just what I wanted to do, it was just a personal choice. I knew that it would catch people's ear not necessarily positive or across the board because I think some people will hear it and say "What's that?" and then go to the next song. But I thought it was worth taking the risk. And at the end of the day music is supposed to be fun, and you can't please somebody else if you can't first please yourself!

KNAC.COM: I noticed it right away because my husband is Pakistani and we've been married for 29 years so, I was like "Oh my God, I've got to show it to him!", I know he's going to love it! In the Pakistani & Indian community they love the sitar & the tabla sound, that's what rules in their music!

BANALI: So do I! I’ve been listening to it since the late 60’s and it's something that my ear is accustomed to and all of the different modes and the drones and everything. I’m really accustomed to it, and I really enjoy it. I probably have six or seven sets of tablas with me all of the time.

KNAC.COM: I've simply got to congratulate you for what I feel like was a great choice to front QUIET RIOT as the new lead singer, American Idol's Season 10’s Metal contestant, James Durbin. I'm not a music critic, but as a fan of QUIET RIOT, I’ve gotta tell ya that he sounds amazing! His vocal range is seriously off the chart, his stage presence totally rocks, and so for me he is truly a perfect fit for QUIET RIOT.

BANALI: Well, you’ve hit all of the key components for me! When I first considered having James come on board by asking him to come on board and to see if he was interested, my first consideration was that he has that vocal range that would make it possible for him to sing the older QUIET RIOT material live because Kevin had that incredible range as well. The other consideration was that Kevin was the consummate performer, he loved being on stage! So I needed somebody that was going to be comfortable in that capacity which James exceeded on all levels! But, it also is you know..you spend a lot of time with people in a band on the road when you're not performing, and that time has to be quality time. And if people are uncomfortable with each other and if people aren’t getting along no matter how good somebody is, ultimately it may not work out or it’ll be strenuous and you know..he's been great so far!

KNAC.COM: So, how receptive to James have the fans been?

BANALI: Initially, I don't think they knew what to expect, but right from the first show that we did right across the board from the very first song we played, I could see the audience's reaction and it was complete acceptance across the board. So yeah, it's been a great experience! I mean listen, you're always gonna have critics because there are certain people that if they don't like something, they're not going to like something or if they don't like somebody or a band, they won't even listen to the material or see the band live. But they will certainly take the time to criticize it, and those things don't bother me one bit, I pay no attention to them whatsoever! But the fans across the board have been really, really supportive, and really receptive of the decision to have James come on board.

KNAC.COM: You just talked about how it doesn't bother you. I've heard that a lot about you! It's kinda like you're your own guy, your own man, you do your own thing, you do what you want to do when you want to do it, how you want to do it, and that's pretty impressive!

BANALI: Well ya know, here’s the thing with criticism, people have been criticizing QUIET RIOT from day one even before the band was signed. We had our detractors, and after the band got signed we still had the criticism! And that has happened all the time, and the thing with me is that I always look at the source of the criticism, and if the source of the criticism is biased and based on disliking someone or disliking the band, then the criticism to me is not valid, it carries no weight! And really, I lose absolutely no sleep over it, it doesn't bother me. You know, people are gonna talk, they’re always gonna talk! I'm always appreciative when people have positive things to say about QUIET RIOT and when they have negative things to say about QUIET RIOT. Listen, not everyone likes everything, everybody's entitled to their opinion but that doesn't mean that their opinion is correct or valid.

KNAC.COM: I am personally looking forward to seeing all of you in the next couple of months! You guys are headed to Houston to play at Proof Rooftop Lounge on Thursday, October 19th.

BANALI: Yeah, I'm really looking forward to that show because I really dig the location and I really like Houston! I've spent some time in Houston so I’m very comfortable there and I’m really looking forward to that!

BANALI: Yeah, it’s a great, great venue, it’s really amazing! It’s again on top of a roof and it’s really nice and I know you’re going to enjoy it! And, I know your fans are looking forward to it too!

KNAC.COM: There have been two recent losses due to suicide in the music industry; SOUNDGARDEN, AUDIOSLAVE and TEMPLE OF THE DOG’s Chris Cornell and LINKIN PARK’s Chester Bennington. Both deaths have been attributed to depression and substance abuse. With their untimely and extremely tragic deaths, how has your mentality changed regarding the importance of addressing mental health issues within your community of musicians and friends?

BANALI: I think it's always important, you know? People are very critical of other people and I think it's important to really try to understand what is going on in a person's life before you criticize that person. Substance abuse is a huge problem in America, certainly the world and it's a huge problem in the entertainment industry. And it just seems the substance abuse and depression go hand in hand. The difficulty is that because entertainers are so good at entertaining, a lot of times no one is aware that a problem exists. They may be aware that a substance abuse problem exists because that's usually more well-publicized and documented than mental health is. Most people don't want to put it out there that they have some mental health issues, but unfortunately, unless the people that are close to the people that are having these issues try to get that person to get help and to acknowledge the fact that they have those issues because there's no shame in it. Usually, disaster happens before anybody finds out that it wasn't just substance abuse but it was substance abuse that may have been fueled by or a by-product of depression. That's a very sad situation because it's kept so underground, and because it's such a taboo. Sometimes, some people actually think it's cool to have substance abuse issues. But, it's certainly not cool to suffer from depression, and they hide that aspect of it. So, it makes it really, really difficult to address.

KNAC.COM: Have you used your social media platforms to address your concerns about it?

BANALI: I have been vocal when a tragedy strikes. But, you know a lot of times you don't know who the individual is that is suffering from depression. So, it's really difficult to address and sometimes people get really turned off by somebody trying to address it because they think you're trying to preach about it. So, it's a double-edged sword and is a very, very slippery slope.

KNAC.COM: Did you know either one of those artists personally?

BANALI: No, I did not. I had never met either of them but you know, this is something that's been going..this is not something new. Substance abuse and depression is nothing new, this has been going on and especially with Hollywood celebrities and musicians for probably as long as recorded history when it comes to entertainers. So this is nothing new, that's the sad part about it, that it's nothing new but nothing new has been done to try to try to alleviate the situation.

KNAC.COM: (Deep sigh!) Yeah, you're right, it's pretty sad. So, I'd love to talk about you just a little bit more. First off, congrats and continued happiness & love to you and Regina (Russell Banali, Frankie’s wife)! You will actually be married two years on November 11th.

BANALI: Yeah, it’s our anniversary!

KNAC.COM: That is actually my birthday, and so that’s pretty cool!

BANALI: We’ll toast to your Birthday (both laughing)!

KNAC.COM: I'm so glad that you're happy, that you've both found happiness! Additionally, how is your beautiful daughter? We all had an opportunity to see her in Regina's Rockumentary QUIET RIOT: Well Now You're Here, There's No Way Back. How is she doing? She is a very beautiful young girl!

BANALI: Oh well thank you! She's very strong willed like her father, and she's out in the world discovering the world for herself. And all you can do for your children is do the best you possibly can and try to show them the way, but ultimately they have to make decisions for themselves. And sometimes they have to make mistakes for themselves because that's what we all do to become the people we ultimately are.

KNAC.COM: Isn't that the truth! I've got 20-year-old twins and as of today their birthday! And it's challenging! They're in College Station and it's rough, but just like you said, ya do the best you can and pray that everything works out!

BANALI: Yeah, you can't live their lives for them, they have to live them on their own and all you can hope is that they make the right choices and if they make the wrong choices, that they learn from those choices.

KNAC.COM: Exactly! So, how does Frankie Banali relax and where is your favorite all-time place to relax?

BANALI: Hmmm, you know..I am as comfortable having a drink with friends in a bar as I am being by myself in an art museum. I don't have much time to relax because I've been managing QUIET RIOT since 1993. So, the greater part of my day is involved with some kind of QUIET RIOT business whether it's doing interviews or looking at offers, accepting a contract, advancing shows, buying flights or working on the routing. So that takes up most of my day during the week, and then the weekends I fly away and meet with the guys and we do some more QUIET RIOT shows! But when I have time, my wife and I enjoy going to Hawaii or pretty much going anywhere where we can just experience something new. But by and large, most of my life is spent taking care of QUIET RIOT.

KNAC.COM: That's crazy how multitasked you are! By the way, I hear that you're an animal lover and that you are particularly interested in rescue animals. How involved are you, and do you personally own a rescue animal?

BANALI: Yeah, this is something that Regina and I..(especially Regina) do is to try to make people aware of different pets that are available for adoption at shelters and a lot of them are generally on Death Row at any time. So we try to get the word out of which pets are available, where they are at, what their temperament is, if there is a video or photos, and to try to urge people not to go to the mall and buy Puppy Mill Pets that a lot of times because of the breeding process, they're already damaged goods. They could save a life for a pet that's gonna love them forever while doing it at a fraction of the cost. And, you're doing a good thing not only for the pet but for yourself. As to your question, we have two rescue dogs. We had three, the eldest one just passed away last month. Yeah, it was Stanley Banali, this tiny little 3-pound Senior Pomeranian, and we have a number of cats that we rescue and also foster. Not only do we talk the talk, but we walk the walk!

KNAC.COM: I know that Rudy (Sarzo, former QUIET RIOT bassist) actually does the same thing quite a bit, doesn't he?

BANALI: Yeah, you are correct!

KNAC.COM: Do you guys do that together or...?

BANALI: No, but a lot of times he’ll share some of the pets on my page, and I’ll share some of the pets on his page. You have to also understand that Rudy and I have been friends since 1972 when he was 19 and I was 18! And Rudy is family, we’re like brothers to each other, so it makes sense that he also while walks that path.

KNAC.COM: I’ve had an opportunity to meet Rudy, I've never met you, but I did meet Kevin, Carlos and another drummer named Bobby.

BANALI: Yeah, they had a substitute drummer for a while named Bobby Rondinelli. Yes, absolutely!

KNAC.COM: Yep, I met him but I missed meeting you and was kinda bummed about that. They were all great guys, they were pretty awesome! Kevin was pretty awesome too, and it was a real blessing to be able to meet him!

BANALI: Yeah, Kevin was great, he was a force to reckon with!

KNAC.COM: With the recent demands and challenges for ALL music artists to stay relevant in the industry and to maintain the support of their fans who are now wanting more interaction with their favorite artists, what is the best social media platform for you to interact with your fans?

BANALI: I think with me it’s Facebook and Twitter, Instagram, and things like that. I think essentially the same platform that everyone is using for the most part. I'm very active on both my personal Facebook page and the Official QUIET RIOT Facebook page. So, when you see any content on there it's not some administrator doing it, it’s either myself personally doing it or Regina doing it as well. We're not distant to the process, we're actually hands-on. We're not hiring other people to write or say what we think other people want to hear so all the news you're getting, it's directly from me.

KNAC.COM: Is there anything in particular that you would like to make mention of?

BANALI: I would just like to have people have an opportunity to get Road Rage to listen to it, and I hope they enjoy this record and the natural progression of this thing called QUIET RIOT.

KNAC.COM: My next question was (and I feel like you may have already addressed it) but, do you have any personal message that you would like to address to all of your QUIET RIOT fans out there?

BANALI: I do actually! One thing I have never forgotten is that I'm a fan, so all the bands that I am a fan of when I was a kid and growing up, and to my teens and adulthood, I'm still a fan of those bands whether they're together or not anymore. So, I understand what it's like to be a fan. But the one thing I have never forgotten is that every success that I've had with QUIET RIOT, I directly owe that to the fans because a band is just a band without the fan support, all it is is a group of musicians creating music. But it's the fans that make the difference and to look at now almost 4 decades later that I'm still able to have a life in music and to continue this journey with QUIET RIOT, I owe it obviously to hard work because you get back if you're lucky what you put into it, but ultimately if it wasn't for the fan support that we continue to have with all the older fans that have stayed with us but, also the younger fans whether it be their children, their younger brothers, and sisters, and then the fans that are so young that they weren't even alive when the Metal Health record came out. Those are the ones that make doing this worth doing, and I will forever be grateful for the life they’ve given me!

KNAC.COM: Very quickly, are you a fan of QUIET RIOT?

BANALI: I am, I’m the biggest flag bearer! I still enjoy playing the songs! The last song that we play every night when we perform is “Metal Health” and I still enjoy it as much today as I did the first time we played it! So yeah, I’m definitely QUIET RIOT’s best internal number one fan!

KNAC.COM: Thanks again for allowing me the awesome opportunity to chat with you a bit, it’s been fun, totally rock your day!

BANALI: It is really, really great to speak with you, thank you for the time, thank you for taking the time to listen to the Road Rage record and I look forward to meeting you, and hopefully your husband if he is around, in Houston.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, God-willingly we’ll see you then, and thank you so very much again and God bless you and your family!

BANALI: God bless you and yours as well. Thank you so much, take care!

Social Media:

Band Website: www.quietriot.band
Twitter: @QUIETRIOT
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/quietriot

Cynthia owns and operates Jalil Photos Rock in Houston, Texas and specializes in rock music photography.


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