Interview and questions by Marko Syrjala and Petri Kautto.
Pictures by Marko Syrjala
Hanoi Rocks have had a new guitarist Stevie Klasson in the band for a while now, and they also have a new album underway. Andy McCoy, Michael Monroe, and Stevie Klasson held a press conference in Ruisrock in July, and Metal-Rules.com and Petri from www.Rockunited.com few other reporters were there to get a recap of what’s going on in the Hanoi camp.
I just listened to your new single “Keep Our Fire Burning,” and that song is basically the same song that Andy recorded with Pelle Miljoona back in the early ’80s?
ANDY: We did that song because it has been hanging around for years now.
MICHAEL: That song was originally written in 1984. Or 1983, I can’t remember for sure. Andy has written it, and once, a Japanese singer teenage pop artist recorded it called…
MICHAEL: Masayuki Honda, who couldn’t speak English at all, “laughs.” His version was horrible, “Kep Or Fire Burning”? He could only do one word at a time. Hanoi plays on the backing track there, and I’m on saxophone. I don’t know if it never came out officially?
ANDY: It did in Japan.
ANDY: He was a massive teen pop idol in Japan, you know.
MICHAEL: Why we recorded it? I just got some old demos, and that song was there, and I thought, “we never did this song; why don’t we do that.”
STEVIE: Some of the songs are like fine wine. This one felt really right.
MICHAEL: Yeah. I rewrote some of the lyrics because we wanted it to be more straightforward than the original version.
ANDY: I redid the old solo?
MICHAEL: Yeah, there was that old solo. I forgot it was there. Lyrics were originally very different, some love stuff, you know?
ANDY: Yeah, beautiful love lyrics? (laughs).
It took a while until you discovered a new guitar player after Costello left. How did you find Stevie, and did you already know him from the past?
MICHAEL: We were hanging around 2002 when we were doing a U.K tour, and he was still in Diamond Dogs…
STEVIE: I was in a band called Diamond Dogs, and we opened for Hanoi on that tour
MICHAEL: In November 2002, he was hanging out at our backstage more than his own backstage.
STEVIE: True “laughs.” Michael and I have met before. Was it something like 1984?
MICHAEL: It was when Johnny Thunders played with us in Stockholm.
STEVIE: As you can see, we have known each other…
MICHAEL: We met at the same dealer, “laughs.”
STEVIE: Can’t remember that. Maybe I was blackout then “laughs.” That’s old stuff, you know…?
MICHAEL: Back then, it was…
STEVIE: Old times, old sins, you know? As Andy says, “Stevie, anything you can’t remember, you don’t have to be ashamed of “laughs.”
MICHAEL: I said no to drugs, but they won’t listen … “laughs.”
Stevie, have you already written some stuff for the next Hanoi album?
STEVIE: Yeah, we already wrote some stuff together. Me and Andy we have some half-finished songs, and me and Michael we also have a couple of ideas.
ANDY: We’re taking it one day at a time. We’ll see what happens?
STEVIE: We try to work together. That’s what a band is about.
MICHAEL: We are all working together as much as possible.
Stevie, what were your expectations before joining Hanoi Rocks?
STEVIE: My expectations? I came in with an open mind to it, and you know, I take it one day at a time.
MICHAEL: I will tell you something. We are beating him up every day?
ANDY: It’s just getting better all the time ‘laughs.’
MICHAEL: His character, of course, he’s a very positive kind of guy, so that helps. His guitar playing is rock ‘n’ roll, not a trace of heavy metal in it. It’s a great step forward. He really affected our sound already on “Keep Our Fire Burning” and “Heaven Is Gonna Be Empty,” In those two songs, you can already hear Stevie’s input because the sound is so much better.
Stevie, how many Hanoi songs did you know before you joined Hanoi?
STEVIE: I used to listen to Hanoi Rocks back in the day in the ’80s, you know, I got all the albums. I didn’t hear those albums for a lot of years. I heard the songs when we were on tour ([Diamond Dogs] with them. But in the last couple of months, I’ve been playing the albums constantly. Ask my wife. She knows them by heart.
Yesterday you played a show in Sweden. How did it go?
MICHAEL: It went really well.
Andy: That was a lot of fun. People seemed to like us a lot.
MICHAEL: Yeah, even the guys from Motöhead liked us. The whole band was watching our show there.
STEVIE: It was a really fun show in Sweden.
MICHAEL: Yesterday we played different songs than we play here in Finland because people in Finland know much better our older stuff here. It was a kind of a “best of” set we played there…
STEVIE: You know in Tavastia [a club in Helsinki], that was like the first show for me, and we only had two rehearsals before that … It was like Stevie trying to remember all the songs and all the changes. “laughs” So yesterday’s show was much easier for me, and I felt personally, that I’m now settled in this band. It was good. It was fun. Actually, my grandmother was there, and even she liked it!!
What kind of setlist did you have in Sweden? Was it the same set you played in Tavastia?
MICHAEL: It was a completely different setlist in Sweden. We did more like a “hard-rocking” set there, you know? Like, hit them on the head with a baseball bat instead of doing songs with nicer nuances and melodic stuff.
STEVIE: In Tavastia, we played all kinds of stuff.
ANDY: “Ice Cream Summer,” for instance. Stuff we hadn’t played live in ages, you know?
MICHAEL: In Tavastia, we played many songs we have never played live before. “Sweet Home Suburbian,” “Village Girls,” “Two Steps From The Move,” and?
ANDY: In Tavastia, someone stole my pedals. I lost my “wah-wah” pedal? I miss that pedal.
STEVIE: Yeah. His Vox pedal. Someone stole it in Tavastia.
Michael, you recently interviewed with metalsludge.com, and it concerned a lot about Nikki Sixx?
MICHAEL: It didn’t concern Nikki Sixx. I merely stated that’s the only reason I said anything was that they have that stupid album title “Music To Crash Your Car To,” the compilation album?
ANDY: I thought it was rather tacky and tasteless? We all have our right to have an opinion of our own. I thought it was a shameful and tasteless title.
MICHAEL: I can sum it up in one line: that gave bad taste a bad name. The fact that I described his character as a? you know, self-centered or whatever, superficial and pretentious? The day after Razzle got killed, he shows me the phone numbers of all these girls that can come and do whatever they like. He was like, “you wanna get laid, man?” and I said, “are you serious? My best friend just died!” I was never into groupies, but to say that the day after Razzle died, that’s just the kind of people they are, and there’s a lot of people like that in Hollywood and rock bands. It’s embarrassing, and I think they’re really a no contribution to humanity.
ANDY: They’re making one thing obvious; they haven’t got anything new to come up with.
MICHAEL: Yeah, and nobody even cared? No one even knew about that band before this whole thing started picking up. We were doing too much of a favor to them. You know what? Actually, we’re all good friends, and we planned this whole thing (laughs)?
STEVIE: Yeah, to get some extra publicity? “laughs.”
MICHAEL: People seem to like it when you fight with somebody. When I had a fistfight with Andy, it was big headline news everywhere. Everybody loves when you fight against misery, you know?
There was also some discussion about Tracii Guns?
MICHAEL: Tracii Guns, he does great stuff, and he has nothing to do with the whole thing!
ANDY: He started flipping off about us, I mean? I thought he was a buddy of mine.
MICHAEL: They’re lying. They’re saying that we had asked to be their opening band, which is bullshit. But Tracii Guns had nothing to do with me getting signed to Polygram. Jim Lewis was my A&R guy, not Phil Lewis.
ANDY: And mine was totally different guy too. Who didn’t even know Nikki Sixx? It was ridiculous. I have to say.
MICHAEL: I think it was really pathetic. Who would give a shit about Motley Crue if one guy from Motley Crue has a solo band even later on? C’mon, get a life.
STEVIE: I think that was enough about Motley Crue. Let’s talk about us now?
MICHAEL: Why we should talk about us now? “laughs.”
ANDY: Let’s just everyone now, “laughs.”
MICHAEL: Gene Simmons, for example?
ANDY: He’s a great businessman, but his private life is?
MICHAEL: Bullshit, I didn’t say that. I said that Gene Simmons was that he’s the most arrogant, fat, chauvinist pig I’ve ever encountered. He probably has a small weenie problem because he seems to need to brag about how many thousands of women he’s conquered. And he would probably say, “Thank you, Michael.”
Do you have plans to release a live album or DVD because you have recorded some of your shows already?
ANDY: We do record shows now and then.
MICHAEL: No, we are not releasing those shows, but there will be a live album out someday.
ANDY: We just got a new guitar player, and we’ll see. We might use some older stuff too, but only time will tell. We have a lot of stuff to choose from already, and there will be many more. There are at least six complete shows recorded so far, and they are perfect like we always are. “laughs.”
MICHAEL: We are perfectly flawed; that’s what it is. “laughs.”
ANDY: Well, first of all, there will be a new studio album out & maybe there is a live album after that?
MICHAEL: We have no plans for the live album right now, but…
STEVIE: We have to play some more shows with this line-up and see what happens then.
MICHAEL: We are an entity onto ourselves. None of the usual rules apply when it comes to Hanoi Rocks. We are doing things in our way as we have always done. We never kissed ass or anything like that, you know, and we will stay that way in the future too.
STEVIE: We keep our fire burning.
Is it true that you’ve already finished six tracks for the forthcoming album?
MICHAEL: Yes. But we are going to write lots of stuff more. There are tons of ideas flying around, and we have to work them out until we can decide which songs will make it on the album and which don’t. We are going to Leiden’s studio in August/September, and then we start to work on the album. The new album is coming out probably at the end of January next year.
ANDY: Around that time, it should come out.
MICHAL: That’s what I just said, don’t be an echo “both laugh.”
What kinds of styles does this new album represent?
MICHAEL: New album will be a mix of everything we have done.
ANDY: There will be elements from pop songs, really hard rock roll, bluesy stuff, traditional stuff…
MICHAEL: I think that critics won’t understand it. “laughs.”
ANDY: Who gives a fuck about that? Where’s that guy, who wrote about me when I was fourteen, that this guy is just going to die and everyone will forget about him.
Are there any bands in Ruisrock you are going to see?
MICHAEL: Stray Cats I would love to see, but unfortunately, they are playing a different stage.
Do you like Stray Cats then?
MICHAEL: I love the Stray Cats. And Motorhead is a great band too. I definitely want to see them, and they are on the same stage as us.
STEVIE: We played with them last night too.
MICHAEL: Yes, we did. Lemmy was checking our show, and they are good friends of ours, you know? We had plans to go on tour with them some time ago, but it didn’t work out because of the time limit.
ANDY: We had schedule problems?
MICHAEL: No problems. We just had not enough time then.
STEVIE: Are the Stray Cats on the stage at the same time as we are or?
ANDY: No, I think they are playing before?
MICHAEL: Stray Cats are playing before us, and we are supposed to be starting before they finish their set, and that’s sad.
STEVIE: That’s stupid.
ANDY: Maybe we don’t start then?
MICHAEL: Yes, we will start then. I think that people who like Stray Cats may like Hanoi, may like Motörhead too? We all are rock bands altogether. It’s not fair for the audience. You pay the full price for the ticket, and then you don’t see all the bands you want to.
STEVIE: That’s a ripoff.
MICHAEL: We are the last band tonight.
Yes, you are the last ones.
MICHAEL: How long are we able to play here? 2 AM or?
The festival program says that you have been finished at 1:30 AM. Tell us something about your upcoming tour in Italy?
ANDY: It’s not a real tour. We are just doing a few dates there, something like five or seven shows.
STEVIE: It’s nice food in there, nice girls there?
ANDY: There might be some more dates in Spain after that too?
How did you guys come up with that tour?
ANDY: There is an enormous interest in Hanoi in Italy.
STEVIE: People in Italy and Spain love Hanoi there.
MICHAEL: I want to say something too. I want to go back into negativity? “laughs.”
STEVIE: Yeah, this is getting too positive… “laughs.”
MICHAEL: That parody that Nikki Sixx has said that Michael would probably like to have us call the album “Music to Fuck Your Ass to.” But I was like, “No, Nikki, I would like your album to be called “Kickstart My Fart.” That would be a perfect title. ‘laughs.’
STEVIE: We can come up with a lot of titles but let it be now.
MICHAEL: Yes. Fuck that.
So far, you have done just two shows with your new line-up. Then you are doing that Italy tour. Do you already have plans to do some more gigs before the album is coming out?
ANDY: Well, there might be a couple of Spanish dates?
MICHAEL: We are doing a few shows in Finland. We are doing Parainen next weekend, and then there are some other smaller festivals. One was in Seinäjoki and can’t remember the rest?.
STEVIE: I got a little story to tell you guys? I live in Stockholm, and ever since I started playing in Hanoi Rocks, my friends have named me from Klasson to Klassonen, so they’ve converted me into a Finn. [That’s something that maybe the Finns and Swedes might get, but no point in explaining it for the other nationalities. :-)]
Cool, thanks for your time, guys.
Hanoi: Our pleasure!