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Talking "Rehab" With Quiet Riot Drummer Frankie Banali

By Debby Rao, Boston Contributor
Wednesday, October 4, 2006 @ 2:29 PM

" I only visit the past when I

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When I think of one of the most influential drummers of the 80's, Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali is at the top of the list. Banali has a signature sound that was instrumental in launching Quiet Riot into 80's metal stardom. Today Banali is still keeping the dream of Quiet Riot alive with dedication to his craft, and the upcoming release of Quiet Riot's new album, “Rehab” which is slated for an October 3 release on Chavis Records.

Over the years Quiet Riot has had some major line-up changes. These days, the band consists of lead singer Kevin Dubrow, Frankie Banali on drums, Chuck Wright on bass, and Alex Grossi on guitar.

I recently had the opportunity to discuss the making of "Rehab" with Banali, how the music industry has changed since the 80's, the upcoming Quiet Riot "Rehab" Tour, and how Quiet Riot has kept their metal dream alive for over two decades.

KNAC.COM: Quiet Riot will be releasing “Rehab" on October 3. Is it releasing worldwide?

BANALI: Yes, the release date for the US is October 3 through Chavis Records. Internationally it will be released through Demolition Records based out of England. The release dates for international markets will vary starting as early as mid October through at least February or March of 2007 depending on the different requirements per territory. Demolition plan to release "REHAB" in the following territories which includes: Switzerland, Benelux (Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg), Russia, Greece, Italy, Hungary, Norway, Iceland, Spain, Portugal, Australia, Poland, Finland, Denmark, France, Sweden, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Japan and of course the British Isles. The Japanese release will have a bonus track that does not appear on the US release or the rest of the international releases. The international releases will also contain a bonus track that differs from the Japanese release as well and also not found on the US release.

KNAC.COM: How important is Worldwide distribution, especially when Quiet Riot is going through a re-birth?

BANALI: Well, we are now a world economy, so it's world music to a certain degree. Quiet Riot has toured extensively in the United States since 1983 as well as worldwide dates, but in the past ten years we have not been as active worldwide. We have made a conscious effort to develop our presence internationally once more. To that end I wanted to make sure that "REHAB" would be released in as many countries as possible so that we can tour everywhere. And yes, there is a new generation of fans that seem to be interested in and wanting to "Bang Your Head!"

KNAC.COM: "Rehab" definitely generates a new sound and direction for Quiet Riot. With every song bringing a different style, do you think your musical influences shine on the new album?

BANALI: To a certain degree this has been the style of music that Kevin and I always wanted to do for a very long time. We both for years have admired the music styles of bands such as Led Zeppelin, The Who, Humble Pie, Spooky Tooth, just to name a couple.

KNAC.COM: The album has a definite classic feel, but I also like the bluesy touches that highlight the album. Tell me a little bit about the songwriting process.

BANALI: The writing process for these recordings was approached differently from our previous efforts in that Kevin and I started writing new songs in tandem but initially separate from each other. We have always wanted to do a record that was inspired by the British late 60's and 70's influences and at the same time wanted to go into fresh areas we had not done before. It's a very different representation of what we wanted Quiet Riot to be musically at this point in time. We also individually worked with other songwriters and enlisted the services of studio guitarist Neil Citron, the one and only bassist Mr. Tony Franklin, and the outrageously talented Glenn Hughes for a vocal duet with Kevin as well as playing bass on that track. You might call these recordings "New Retro!"

The studio process was fairly simple. We just went in, the engineer pressed "record" and we started playing. Really a basic process, no sampling, no click tracks, just playing for the fun of it.

KNAC.COM: Would you say that "Rehab" is definitely a collaboration of all of the members of the band?

BANALI: Although guitarist Alex Grossi co-wrote two songs with Kevin early in 2005, Free and Strange Daze, Alex did not play on the Rehab record at all so he's not represented musically. Studio guitarist Neil Citron performed all the guitars. What Alex did bring to the table from a songwriting point of view is the song Free that is very "new" sounding and one of the heaviest tracks to date, and Strange Daze loosely harks back to the style of the Randy Rhodes/Ozzy era style of music. Chuck Wright also did not participate in the recordings this time around.

KNAC.COM: How did you come up with the title,” Rehab"?

BANALI: Kevin came up with the title and after we both got off the floor from laughing about it, not making fun of the meaning of "rehab" but just found it funny for a rock record title, I realized that Kevin had just handed me a potential bonanza for press and innuendo.

KNAC.COM: Also who came up with the concept of the artwork for the album cover and CD insert?

BANALI: The artwork concept was something that I spent a lot of time thinking about and putting together ideas, which in turn the graphic artists Jen Yonts of Vision Dance Designs put together for us. She's great to work with and very talented. Do understand that Kevin and I expressly and intentionally wanted a very simple front cover and have the rest of the artwork tie in with associated images.

KNAC.COM: I really enjoyed the duet with Kevin Dubrow and Glen Hughes on the Spooky Tooth cover song, “Evil Woman.” Tell me how you picked that cover song, and how the collaboration between Kevin and Glen came about.

BANALI: Again, Kevin and I have wanted to record the Spooky Tooth song "Evil Woman" for decades, but it was a song that required two great co-lead vocals. Although I've know Glenn since 1982 when I recorded the drum tracks for Glenn and Pat Thrall’s band "Hughes/Thrall” It was Kevin who approached Glenn. He and Kevin have become really good friends. It was Kevin's idea to have Glenn do the duet with him and it was a great idea. Glenn, as everyone knows, is indeed THE VOICE of rock! Glenn was also kind enough to contribute background vocals on several songs and the prefect bass performance on Evil Woman.

KNAC.COM: What other special guest stars appear on "Rehab"?

BANALI: The unbelievingly talented Tony Franklin on bass for one. I have been a fan of Tony's playing since the first time I heard him and then saw him play with Jimmy Page in The Firm. He is without a doubt my favorite bass player and I have had the privilege of playing drums along with Tony on bass on a number of records and some live dates. If you were to ask me whom my favorite bass player is that I have played with, it's Mr. Tony Franklin, hands down!

Neil Citron who is one of my best friends and is the guitarist on the record, and I have recorded with Neil for a future solo record of his which is just great. He is the most versatile guitarist I know. With very few exceptions, he is the only guitarist that would have been able to deliver the goods for this record. His talent is boundless.

Andrea Robinson provided background vocals on the song Old Habits Die Hard, and she was amazing to work with. She was one of the singers that provided some great blues and gospel vocals for the two Sister Act films. Blues harmonica player Michael Fell who recorded recently with Vivian Campbell on his solo record is featured on the end of the track "South of Heaven" and Bob Carpenter from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band provided great Hammond organ work and Wulitzer piano on several tracks, most notably on "Evil Woman."

KNAC.COM: Getting back to how your musical influences shine and are very transparent on the new CD. First of all, I really like how some of the tracks have a real bluesy, soulful appeal. Kevin's vocals remind me a lot of Steve Marriott of Humble Pie, and your drumming style has a John Bonham feel. One of my favorites tunes is "Old Habits Die Hard" and "Black Reign". Tell me about the drumming approach on those songs? Did Kevin write the lyrics first, or did you come up with a certain drum roll in your headfirst? Were there any songs that ended up sounding entirely different from their first take in the studio?

BANALI: There is no secret that Steve Marriott is Kevin's favorite singer and his band Humble Pie really influenced Kevin as a singer and songwriter. It is also no surprise to anyone that knows me that John Bonham is my favorite rock drummer and that Led Zeppelin have and continue to inspire me musically.

The music to "Old Habits Die Hard" was written by Neil and I and we had never intended this song for Quiet Riot as it was written for another artist to record. On the way to an interview I played it for Kevin to see what he thought of the song and told him I was not submitting it for us. He thought that it was perfect for his vocal style and he was right, Kevin just did a wonderful blues vocal on this that really shows his appreciation and respect for Steve Marriott. I approached the drums much like what the song required, a steady blues back beat with added bass drum triplets as a nod to the great John Henry Bonham.

"Black Reign" is another great Kevin composition. When Kevin initially played the demo of this song for me, I knew what the basis for the drum parts would be. Kevin was going for more of a 70's Bad Company/Paul Rogers style of song, but I told him I had something altogether different in mind. Instead of a simple drum track, I took it completely in the opposite direction and stylized it after the bombastic drumming style of The Who's Keith Moon. Really a fun song to play and again, Tony Franklin just floored me with his bass parts. We were like a boxing tag team on that one!

KNAC.COM: Would you say that "Rehab" is one of the first Quiet Riot albums that showcase the unity of the band and feature all four members in harmony more so than in any previous Quiet Riot album?

BANALI: Quite the opposite. Since neither Alex or Chuck were in Quiet Riot at the time that we recorded the record, it is the product of what both Kevin and I wanted to produce. We are really happy with the results, the freedom we had and the incredible performances of the musicians that lent their talent and are included on this record.

We are also very happy to be working once again with Alex and Chuck in the live performance version of Quiet Riot!

KNAC.COM: How do you think Quiet Riot has evolved since the 80's? Do you think constant touring has contributed to the longevity of the band?

BANALI: Like Quiet Riot or not, we have done so much as a band regardless of who was in it or not in it at any particular time to stop now. It's a career that we love, not a job that we hate. I am forever grateful to the fans for helping me realize a childhood dream and to be able to continue to make music and play music. If it wasn't for the fans, we would not be able to have toured and recorded as Quiet Riot for the last 23 years and I hope we can continue to do so for many more years.

KNAC.COM: Quiet Riot was the first metal band to appear on the Billboard and introduce metal on the charts. The band also received major airplay on MTV in the 80's. Do you feel that the success that Quiet Riot achieved in the 80's is one of the main reasons that the band still has the luxury of being able to tour successfully today?

BANALI: We were incredibly lucky to have been at the right place at the right time in 1982/1983 and to receive the support that we did from MTV then. We were so fortunate to have been signed to a label, record, have a song like "Metal Health/Bang Your Head" as a representative song for who we were at that time which then became the hit album, and lucky to have had a hit single with "Cum On Feel The Noize." Again, it's the fans that continue to contribute to our success at any level.

KNAC.COM: Many of the bands of today are dropped right after their debut album, because they do not sell enough albums. I really don't see the longevity of bands breaking into the music business today. Many of the bands of today are one hit wonders, and never heard of again. MTV really doesn't do that much to support bands anymore. Do you see the Internet as a new tool for marketing music and for bands to be able to develop a fan base?

BANALI: Most bands are faceless today, their labels don't invest or support them and they fall by the wayside almost as soon as they appeared. I don't think MTV really lives up to it's name "Music Television" as it once did because taste in programming have changed in that media as much as the same changes have occurred with radio programmers. KNAC was a slamming radio station, but as everyone well knows, KNAC has now utilized the Internet to overcome some of the issues with traditional airwaves. The Internet is a great tool, both good and bad, but a great tool because of its vastness and how quickly information can be transmitted to millions. And by the way, you mentioned "one hit wonders" which Quiet Riot has been often termed as such, but hey, here you are still interested in us two decades plus down the line.

KNAC.COM: Earlier this year, it was announced that Tracii Guns was going to perform with Quiet Riot. What transpired within the situation to make things not work out with Tracii joining the band? I know Tracii is a phenomenal guitar player. I was looking forward to his work with the band.

BANALI: Tracii is a tremendous guitarist and we had hoped for the best in that union. We did one rehearsal with Tracii and we all collectively knew that it was a great idea that was not going to work. We still love Tracii and wish him well.

KNAC.COM: Let's talk about the new line-up of Quiet Riot, and the rebirth of the band. Chuck Wright is playing bass again, and also you have Alex Grossi on guitar. How do you think that the rhythm section between Chuck Wright and you compares to working with Rudy Sarzo? Do you feel that Chuck has more of a bluesy bass style that fits in well with the new sound of Quiet Riot?

BANALI: I started playing in local bands with Rudy when we were still in our teens. I really enjoyed those times playing everything from Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix to King Crimson and ELP songs. Rudy's presence is undeniable and he brought that bigger than life imagery to Quiet Riot during the early stages of the band. We really enjoyed playing together and I am very happy that he continues his musical career alongside the great Ronnie James Dio.

Chuck is a different type of bass player. He is so well versed in so many styles that there is very little that I can ask of him musically that he cannot deliver. I am very fortunate to have Chuck to my right every night we play. I am never unsure of his abilities and I am always amazed that musically he and I are joined at the hip onstage.

KNAC.COM: The core of Quiet Riot still remains intact. Kevin has a signature vocal style that can never be replaced, and you also have a certain classic drumming style that defines Quiet Riot. How do you think the new addition of Alex Grossi is helping reinvent Quiet Riot?

BANALI: Alex is very funny and very personable which makes him easy to be around and to work with. He brings a more youthful vibe and element to Quiet Riot. He has a different musical approach in his guitar playing because he is a product of the 80's music scene by proxy. I think Alex has the potential to really make a difference once he evolves from the bands that inspired him like the great Guns and Roses, and discovers where it all started for my generation, Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Paul Kossoff, Eric Clapton, Peter Frampton, etc. Then if he taps into guitarists like Eric Johnson, forget bout it!

KNAC.COM: When Quiet Riot decided to regroup, was there ever a time when you asked Carlos to Rudy Sarzo to rejoin?

BANALI: Carlos was asked to participate a few years ago and was not interested unless it also included Rudy which was not an option. I've stated in the past that the idea of the so-called "original" version of the band meaning the "Metal Health" era band getting together again will never materialize. We tried it from 1997 through 2003 and it didn't work on many levels. Some people are just not meant to work together indefinitely.

KNAC.COM: Touring has changed so much since the 80's. I know that the band does mostly fly in gigs now. Tour buses have become obsolete. Do you enjoy flying to a gig or do you miss the old days of traveling on a tour bus? I can remember it was right after 9/11, and the band was scheduled to play in New England. Are you still at all a little apprehensive to getting on a plane these days?

BANALI: First of all, I used to work construction; specifically roofing and I also worked the graveyard shift at a plastics factory. Touring isn't that bad! I don't care for flying, not because of being on a plane, but just all the waiting involved, but it's not that bad even with all the security measures in the new millennium for our own safety. I don't like tour buses because that means I'm away that much more from my family. But if you are doing flyaway dates, airliners are an unavoidable asset. If you are part of an extended package tour, the tour bus is also an unavoidable asset. But don't take it from me; ask the millions of blue collar workers that bust their asses ever single day if what I do is tough. It's not that bad.

As far as getting on a plane these days, hey, everyone's going to die; it's only a matter of when, where and how.

KNAC.COM: Also with all the issues concerning terrorism, how has that affected European traveling?

BANALI: Overall not really other than all the lines for any travel are much longer. It used to be that you had to get to a airport for International flights two hours early, now it's more like four hours just to deal with the multiple long lines. Oddly enough, it's harder to travel in and out of Canada because the US shares such a long border. It's also more difficult to get in and out of Mexico for much the same reason.

KNAC.COM: In 2005, Quiet Riot performed at many Military bases in Korea. How did that come about, and how has it changed the way you feel about the war?

BANALI: I don't think that Quiet Riot has ever been much of a "political" band, but we certainly salute our men and women in the military and their families and try to perform shows for them whenever possible as a small thank you for the sacrifices they make for our country and all of us. Our military personnel are what make it possible for all of us to sleep well at night through their sacrifices. It's not an easy job and worldwide often a thankless one. Playing for all of them in Korea was a privilege. I make no judgment to any military conflict the US is or may be involved in, but our men and women are there regardless of the reason and God Bless them!

KNAC.COM: Frankie, you have been in charge of all the business affairs of Quiet Riot. Looking back now, is their anything that you would have done differently?

BANALI: I have not been directly involved in the business all along, but definitely now for nearly 12 years, and no, I just do the best that I can for everyone.

KNAC.COM: One of the most moving highlights in seeing Quiet Riot perform is when the band dedicates "Thunderbird" to the late great Randy Rhoads. This song must be mean so much to the band. I know Kevin Dubrow praises Randy Rhoads and said without him there would have been no Quiet Riot. How difficult was it to move on with Quiet Riot after Randy Rhoads tragic death?

BANALI: In actuality and contrary to popular belief, Kevin wrote the song about Randy after he left QR to join Ozzy. Of course it took a different meaning when it was recorded due to his untimely death. I was not in Quiet Riot when Randy was in the band, so for me the loss was a tragedy because Randy was such a great person, not because of a long musical relationship, which is what he had with Kevin and the other members of the initial version of the band. Having said that, we don't need a song to remember Randy. We each keep his memory and spirit alive in our hearts in our own very private ways.

KNAC.COM: Frankie, you have done a lot of studio work. Let's discuss your work on the upcoming album tribute to The Beatles and Motley Crue. Any idea when those albums will be released?

BANALI: I love to play the drums and especially enjoy recording, so I will try to do so as often as possible. The Beatles tribute track "Magical Mystery Tour" is a track that I always enjoyed listening to because of the whole psychedelic vibe, so I was very happy to have been picked for that one. The track also has a great recording band for this version. I think it comes out October 24.

I really don't have a great deal of details on the Motley Tribute CD. I played on Dr Feelgood, which I think is one of the all time best Motley songs. I heard it would be out on Versailles Records late 2006 or early 2007.

KNAC.COM: "Rehab'" will be released October 3 in the U.S. Will Quiet Riot be embarking on a major tour to support the new album?

BANALI: Quiet Riot is always on tour. With the release of Rehab we have yet another reason to tour and promote the CD. I think it's the best-recorded music to come from the band in a very long time. Since the CD has the official release date of October 3, which coincides with the first of our two show dates at the Foxwoods, (Connecticut) it's really more of a celebration of its release.

KNAC.COM: Any plans to visit Europe or Japan this year?

BANALI: Rumor has it.

KNAC.COM: Quiet Riot has had such an extensive career and has performed on so many great tours. Any special memories or highlights come to mind? What was your favorite tour?

BANALI: 1983 Metal Health tour was the most exciting. The 2005 Rock Never Stops was fun because of working with Cinderella, a great bunch of guys. The truth is that each time I have the opportunity to play, be it a large event or a club, it was time well spent.

KNAC.COM: Although the heyday of the 80's is gone forever, are you finding a resurgence in metal more than ever before?

BANALI: I don't think that there is any resurgence. There are still a lot of people who like this genre of music; it's always been there just like beer. I know it's not the most profound statement, but it's the truth and most people like beer! (Laughs)

KNAC.COM: It's been over 20 years since Quiet Riot made it's debut. How you would sum up the 80's?

BANALI: I don't really think that much about it, I let VH1 think about it. In the 40's the fans were excited by Frank Sinatra, in the 50's it was Elvis, in the 60's it was the Beatles, in the 70's for me it was Led Zeppelin. Each era has it's own music and I'm just happy to have had a small part in the phenomena that was the 80's through my association especially with Quiet Riot and a number of other bands. I only visit the past when I'm asked about the past. The rest of the time I'm too busy with the present and working towards the future.

KNAC.COM: What does the future hold for Quiet Riot, and what do you hope to acomplish this year?

BANALI: To continue to tour and make music.

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