Gary James' Interview With Kevin DuBrow Of
He was the lead singer for Quiet Riot - a band that truly led the way for all of the other '80s metal bands to follow. Quiet Riot's debut album, "Metal Health", was the first Heavy Metal debut album to hit number one on Billboard! With that album, Quiet Riot remained number one in the charts for six weeks, knocking Michael Jackson's "Thriller" album out of that position. "Metal Health" sold something like 5 million copies in the US, went triple platinum in Canada, and enjoyed considerable success in Mexico, Australia, Japan, and England.
Quiet Riot was the band in 1983. Kevin DuBrow left the group in early 1987 and began recording with a new band named Pretty Women, but by 1991, DuBrow had teamed up with his Quiet Riot bandmate Carlos Cavazo in a new group called Heat. Quiet Riot had continued on with new vocalist Paul Shortino of Rough Cutt, but later disbanded. By 1993, Heat had renamed themselves Quiet Riot and rejoined with Frankie Banali on drums. They continued through the 90s in many different incarnations, releasing several albums including "Terrified", "Down to the Bone", "Alive and Well" and "Guilty Pleasures".
In 2004, Kevin DuBrow recorded a collection of cover versions for his first solo album, "In for the Kill". In 2006, Quiet Riot released a new studio album called "Rehab" that featured DuBrow, Frankie Banali, Tony Franklin and Neil Citron.
In this 1987 interview, we covered the rise and fall of Quiet Riot with Kevin, as well as his own future.
Q - The most obvious question has to be, what have you been doing with your life lately?
A - Well, ever since I left the band, we were involved with a lot of bad contracts; it took a lot of time to get out of those contracts. During the time I was hassling with legal problems, I've been writing and recording songs for my album. When we did "Metal Health", it was sort of the culmination of years of playing clubs and writing different songs. And that's why the material was so good. Now, I've had the same opportunity of time to write good songs again.
Q - When you and Quiet Riot were starting out, there was Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. Now there's Thrash, White Metal, Black Metal, Death Metal. Where are you taking your musical inspiration from these days?
A - Classic Metal. The Who, Cream. Hendrix, Humble Pie, Deep Purple. Same place I've always gotten it from.
Q - Weren't you producing an album for a band called Juliet?
A - I produced the album, and they weren't signed to a label. They came to L.A. to try and get a deal, and they got a deal on Enigma. They will make more money if they re-record it. I guess the label didn't like the material, which I think was too heavy. Not heavy compared to Metallica, but it was a Scorpions type heavy. And, I think they wanted them to be more "popish," so they're re-doing it with somebody else. They've been out here for over a year and they still haven't recorded it yet. But the album we did turned out great. I wish it would be released someday.
Q - Just a few years ago, the, public was being told Heavy Metal was dying or dead. Today, there would seem to be a "metal explosion." What goes through your mind as you look and listen to all metal that's out there?
A - I think it's great. It's difficult to make it in the music business 'cause it's not really run like a business. Anybody who can get a record contract or success in this business, boy, hats off to them. It's better for everybody. It's better for the audience. Itís better for the players. It's better for the business, 'cause it keeps out too much of that wimpy, what they call alternative music, which I think is ridiculous. I don't understand it at all.
Q - You knew at an early age you were going to be a singer, didn't you?
A - Fairly early, yeah, my early teens. I started off at eight playing drums. Actually, I started off on guitar and went to drums, and then sort of walked my way into singing. The first band I was in was Quiet Riot, with Randy Rhoads. I didn't really go through Top 40 or anything like that. I just like wandered into this band with Randy Rhoads. People want me to come on stage and jam with them; I don't know the words to anything except for my songs! I never had to go out and play anybody else's tunes.
Q - How did you meet Randy Rhoads? Was he a classmate of yours?
A - No. He went to Burbank High and I went out to Grant in the Valley, totally different ends of the valley. He was in a Hollywood band and I just used to hang out in Hollywood, trying to get laid basically, (Laughs). They were looking for a singer and Randy had heard about me through some girl. They said there's this guy named Kevin DuBrow who looks like Rod Stewart. (Laughs). When I was younger, I guess there was more of a weird resemblance. They got my phone number. One night I got this call that said Randy Rhoads wants you to call him about being his lead singer. I said who the hell is Randy Rhoads? And I called him, and it turned out in the phone conversation, that we immediately struck in common one thing, and that was the first album by a group called Montrose. We both just loved their first album. We both wanted to form a group that was like that album. Then we got together. I was a little surprised by how he looked, 'cause he was very effeminate looking, short, with long blonde hair down to his waist, long fingernails. Then, I heard him play guitar about a week later and I really couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe that here was a 17-year-old kid that nobody ever heard of, playing basically in the style he played with Ozzy. I mean that trip, and nobody knew about it. I thought I was playing off a scam by playing with somebody this talented.
Q - Since you formed Quiet Riot, I assume that you own the name and you could put a group together tomorrow called Quiet Riot.
A - Not true. Actually, the group was formed by myself and Randy. The group that became successful was not the one with Randy. It was the group with myself and the other guys. When the record contract was signed, it said the group retains ownership of the name, which meant the four of us. When Rudy Sarzo left the group, he was aced out of that ownership and it was owned by three of us, which was kind of a dumb thing on my part, considering they never had anything to do with the name. I never retained major ownership of it. It was an equal thing, so they could vote me out. And, that's what happened.
Q - So you couldn't put a band called Quiet Riot together unless you had the approval of the other original band members.
A - Well, now that they've split up, I probably could, but I wouldn't really want to. There are so many negatives attached to the Quiet Riot name now I think.
Q - This is a painful question to ask, but had Randy Rhoads not died in that plane crash, would he have been so highly regarded as a guitarist?
A - Yeah. I think so. I think he was doing something that was drastically different. I still think nobody's done what he's done, and taken it really anywhere. I think when you listen to him and you listen to the guitar playing of other people, he still stands on his own.
Q - Why didn't the first version of Quiet Riot, the one you and Randy put together, enjoy greater success?
A - It wasn't really a very good band. Randy was the only real talented member. My singing wasn't up to snuff at all. And the rhythm section was really rubbish. Our material was mis-directed. We didn't know exactly where we were gonna go with our songs. Some stuff was heavy and some stuff was almost Beatle-ish. After that group broke up, I got real direct in my songwriting. The group had a great image. It was really fun to see in clubs, but we wouldn't have made an album that would have been like "Metal Health". We weren't ready to do that.
Q - When you put the second version of Quiet Riot together, did you feel that this was the band that was gonna go all the way to the top?
A - No, not really. To be honest with you, people won't like to hear this, but to a certain extent I always thought they were backing musicians, because they really didn't write the songs. The drummer was always in 3 different gigs at once. So, he was like a hired guy. The guitar player was in another band called Snow, at the same time. So, he was just doing me a favor. And, the bass player was in two other bands. So really, it was my project and these guys were just helping me along. And then, when I got the deal, mine was the only band that got the record contract, so I said, "You guys wanna stay with me?" And they said, "Yeah." So it wasn't so much I formed a band and tried to be real successful, it was just like go with the flow. And when it happened, everybody was real surprised. Quiet Riot after Randy Rhoads was never known for having a classically great guitar player. We always had somebody who was basically a member of the group.
Q - What do you remember about the U.S. Festival? You played there on "Metal Day."
A - We opened the show. We were added, about 3 weeks after, the bill was already announced. So, it was really like these young upstarts coming in and opening the show. I remember being so nervous. We went onstage at 11:45 in the morning. It was just amazing to see the sea of people. I mean, you see films of Woodstock, and it's like that. I was nervous throughout the whole set. Usually I'll be nervous for the first song and get loosened up. They told me not to go out on the side ramps. They had these side ramps roped off just for David Lee Roth. And I ran right over them! I figured what are they gonna do to us? We're the first band on the show. What are they gonna do, pull us off the show?
Q - And what happened?
A - Nothing. We never opened for Van Halen, but I don't think we ever expected to. It was a big turning point for us. They stuck us on the front page of the New York Times, as the people who stole the show, so to speak. I remember thinking this is what it's all about. This is what I've waited all these years, to get into Rock 'n' Roll for. What a rush!
Q - What went through your mind when you were told Quiet Riot knocked Michael Jackson out of the number one slot, and Quiet Riot had the number one album in the country?
A - I remember the day. We were in Rockford, Illinois when we heard the news. It was just like everybody was screaming and yelling. Nobody could believe it. We were also very frightened, because, where do you go from there? Anywhere from there is sort of downhill. We all had that feeling in the back of our minds, now what? It was basically a feeling of disbelief. Everybody was kind of numb at that point. We had been working straight since March of '83 ("Metal Health" reached #1 in Sept. '83). We didn't even know what was going on anymore. It was very strange. Very other-wordly, so to speak. One of the most fun things about it was calling all of my friends and family who helped me get there, and telling them about it. I refer to it as their album too, 'cause it really was. I got a lot more help from my friends and family than I ever did from my band or management. A lot more. I had a band who only did the minimum they had to really. And not to be really jaded about it. they were not the most motivated people in the world. They were kind of lazy. These guys did the great tour of the shopping malls of America, for buying things, while I was at radio stations doing phone interviews.
Q - When Quiet Riot had all this success, you made the comment that Quiet Riot opened the doors for all of the other L.A. groups to get a deal.
A - Right.
Q - And the critics and musicians jumped all over you. Suddenlv, you were the "bad" guy of Rock. But looking back on it, that statement was true. Van Halen was out there in 1978 with a record deal and they were from L.A.; but it took Quiet Riot to really get the Metal movement underway. So why did they single out Kevin DuBrow for criticism?
A - I was right in what I said. I just shouldn't have said it.
Q - Why?
A - I guess honesty isn't always the best policy. (Laughs). I don't know. It alienated people for some reason. It didn't do me any good. It hurt my career. It wasn't untrue.
Q - Didn't you have someone you could go to for advice on what to say and what not to say in interviews?
A - Quiet Riot had a manager that was so wimpy we used to call him Larry Tate. You remember the Bewitched TV show? Darren's boss who would always go along with what anybody said. That was Warren Entner. It's like Insignificant Management Inc.
Q - He manages Faster Pussycat.
A - They haven't had any success.
Q - And Black 'n Blue.
A - They split up. You're talking about a guy who lets the record company run him around like crazy. I have a manager now named Kim Richards, who is like in that Herbie Herbert school of management. Really push and shove management. He's real classy though.
Q - Why didn't your second album, "Condition Critical" do as well as "Metal Health"?
A - Well, there were things about it that weren't as good. It was released too quickly. A lot of it was left over material from the first album. I think it was a mistake to do two Slade songs. We also went head to head with that group, Mama's Boys, that also released "Mama We're All Crazy Now", which put them in the underdog position and put us in the big guy position, which was a change from the first album. I think the public needed rest from Quiet Riot and my face all over the place. I think the record company pushed us 'cause they wanted some more money. They just kept pushing us into recording. It was released a month earlier than it was supposed to. And I think we went on tour with a show much bigger than we should have taken out. Played places bigger than we were ready to play. I think it was just overkill. I think Americans just said Iíve got enough of these guys already. We didnít have an audience base. Thatís the great thing about a band like Guns Ďn Roses, they really built an audience base.
Q - Did you save your money?
A - Well, there was only so much money to save with the record company contract we got. We got such a lousy deal. We werenít even entitled to keep our publishing income. We had to give it all away to that thief who runs Pasha Records. We got royally screwed.
(Sadly, Kevin DuBrow passed away on November 19th, 2007, at the age of 52)