GYP CASINO -ex Hanoi Rocks, Live Ammo, Road Rats, Rolene

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GYP CASINO

Interview by Marko Syrjälä

Pictures: Marko Syrjälä & Archives

The Swedish born drummer, Gyp Casino, will forever be best known as a member of the original, and arguably the best, the lineup of the legendary Finnish band HANOI ROCKS. He played on the band’s first three albums, BANGKOK SHOCKS, SAIGON SHAKES, HANOI ROCKS in 1981, ORIENTAL BEAT, and SELF DESTRUCTION BLUES, both in 1982. His tenure with the band culminated in getting fired over an on-stage fight with the band leader Andy McCoy [the reason why he isn’t credited for his work on SELF DESTRUCTION BLUES despite playing all the drums]. Casino then went on to play with the Swedish ROAD RATS and later ROLENE, together with future HANOI ROCKS members Conny Bloom and Andy Christell. Later on, he got to enjoy great success, both in the charts and live, all over Sweden with PELLE ALMGREN before again joining up with Andy McCoy in his band LIVE AMMO and putting out the BUILDING ON TRADITION album in 1995. He currently runs a business in Stockholm where he was gracious enough to recount some exciting tales from his career with HANOI ROCKS, ANDY MCCOY’S ALIVE AMMO, ROAD RATS, ROLENE, etc.

THE PRESENT

It has been a while since anyone’s heard anything about you. Can you tell us what you’ve been up to these past years?

Well, I used to have a record shop for a while, but now I’m having this firm (Deaf and Dump Music) in Stockholm. We are selling merchandise, anything from, of course, HANOI ROCKS to BACKYARD BABIES, HAMMERFALL, HELLACOPTERS, and some U.K bands as well.

Are you at all involved with the playing side of the music business anymore?

Not much. Actually, I last played drums two days ago at a good friend’s wedding.

ROAD RATS

After the breakup with Hanoi Rocks, you used to play in Finland quite a lot with both of your old bands, ROLENE, and the ROAD RATS, didn’t you?

Yeah, with both bands. Actually, in Sweden, we only did two festivals with the ROAD RATS, one in Stockholm and one in the countryside. With ROLENE, we did some club gigs in Stockholm where we were a cult band in a way.

With the ROAD RATS, was that the first time you contacted the current Hanoi Rocks members Conny Bloom and Andy Christell?

After HANOI, at the time, I didn’t do much except drinking for a while, but then I met up with Conny and A.C. and formed ROAD RATS. We started as a trio. We signed a contract with Johanna [record company] with Atte Blom, who fancied the band from the beginning and did a lot of touring in Finland. We were supporting HANOI ROCKS a couple of times. We were supposed to support them in England at their Christmas gigs at the Marquee, but during the same time A.C. disappeared, he had a problem with his girlfriend. So we split up with him, and Danny Wilde took A.C.’s place for a while. We went on for, I think, a year or something doing pretty good in Finland.

You also recorded an album with the ROAD RATS, didn’t you?

Yeah, but it never came out. Of course me and Conny were changing the sound, you know. When Conny wasn’t there, I did some changes, and then I left the studio, and Conny would change it back. When the record label heard the result, ROAD RATS fighting over the mixing desk was sad because some of the songs were really good. I’ve heard some from Conny maybe a year and a half ago, and some of the songs are really good.

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Very early Hanoi promo shot!

ROLENE

What did you do after the ROAD RATS split up?

I just got tired of playing drums for some reason. I don’t know? Conny and I wanted to go on [playing together]. We had kind of a good relationship together. Then A.C. showed up again, and we started looking for a drummer. We had some sessions with five or six different drummers, and finally, we found Ben Tell and recorded an album. We did some touring, and I think it was a pretty good album as well.

Well, I have to ask how you like the cover art for that ROLLIN WITH ROLENE album?

It’s awful! DON’T MENTION IT AGAIN!! (laughs)

Any memories from that photoshoot?

No, but when I saw the cover, I couldn’t remember a picture that sucked harder. I don’t recall who wanted it to be on the cover, and I thought it looked like the cover of this Swedish magazine for young people, really strange colors. Pink, very much pink! The songs on the album were deserving of much more than that kind of cover.

Why did ROLENE break up?

I think we just went in different directions, you know. Conny and I, we had finally had enough of each other. Conny wanted to play some heavier stuff, as you can hear on the ELECTRIC BOYS album, so it was just time to call it a day.

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“Nice” cover art, isn’t it? Gyp is far on the right.

PELLE ALMGREN

You then joined Pelle Almgren’s band, right?

Yes, we did some really interesting stuff with Pelle Almgren and Sam Yaffa. We had a huge hit in Sweden with the band called PELLE ALMGREN & WOW LIKSOM. We had double drums like GARY GLITTER, and it was Dan Lagerstedt and me [who also later played guitar in Andy McCoy’s LIVE AMMO band] that were playing the drums. Jan Solberg was on the guitar, and Carl-Michael Herlöfsson, who produced the album as well, was on the second guitar. He also used to be in the NYMPHOMANIAS (as Kalix Herlöfsson) with Andy McCoy and me, so it was a full circle in that sense. That band was a lot of fun because it was the first time that I went on tour in Sweden, and it was a lot of touring because of the number one hit. I think the band lasted for two years, and we were out on tour for almost a full year. One summer, we had two different singles as number one and number two in the Swedish charts and made a lot of money during that time. It was really good fun, especially touring Sweden and understanding what people were saying.

Did your past with HANOI ROCKS come up at all during this time?

I was surprised that so many people coming to our gigs as WOW LIKSOM recognized me from HANOI ROCKS.

Did you play any shows in Finland with this band?

Not really, we only did play once in Åland.

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Hanoi promo from the early ’80s

ANDY MCCOY’S LIVE AMMO

A little after that, you then joined Andy McCoy’s new band LIVE AMMO. Can you tell me how that happened?

That was fun. That was hard labor, really because Andy was a bit out of it… a lot. I think the album we did [BUILDING ON TRADITION] was very good, but I think I had a bit of an argument with Andy because I thought there were too many songs on the album, you know, ten songs would have been enough. I think it’s a good album, especially when you think about the recording circumstances and everything. Considering how the whole thing started and how it ended, it’s strange that it became an album at all.

Can you tell me about your first-ever meeting with Andy McCoy back in the day?

liveammolive.jpgThe first time that I met Andy was in Stockholm. I used to live with my mother, not far away from where Andy grew up. He was just strolling over a square at Karlaplan, which was, of course, in the punk days. He looked like a very stylish punk rocker with touches of Keith Richards mixed in. There was a kind of an aura around him, and this guitar case he had had some things hanging on it that he had made himself. He just came up to me and asked if I played music. I told him I played drums, and I had for about seven or eight months then. We then went down to a rehearsal place, and we had a bass player and another guitar player. We played the same RAMONES songs all over and over again. Then after two or three hours, we went out, and Andy took me by the side and said, “You and I have got to play some stuff together; the other guys suck!” and that was it. Then we kept in contact via phone when he started playing with PELLE MILJOONA. I guess that based on that rehearsal, the first rehearsal that we did together, he had decided that I was going to play the drums with him in his band, whatever it should be, which of course became HANOI ROCKS later on. There are many stories [about the birth of HANOI ROCKS], some say that Mike Monroe started the band in Helsinki, but I think that, in a way, Andy started it in Stockholm with me.

After over ten years, how did you end up working with Andy again in the first place?

I was visiting Los Angeles in 1993, or perhaps it was 1994. Anyway, we’d had some contact before. Andy had some problems in L.A. and had to go back to Finland to survive. He’d been doing something with Sebastian Bach of SKID ROW before that. When I returned to Finland, he asked me if I could ask Dan (Lagersted) or some other musicians to help him out and just work on some songs. So Dan and I went over there, and Andy was in really bad shape, you know? We did some strange tour. I can’t remember the year. Anyway, it was a start for something good in the end, and the album is very good. There were some incidents on tour, like when Andy once fell asleep during a gig; I don’t remember which city it was. However, there were some good gigs as well, really good. We also had a keyboard player, Christian André, who also used to play as a session musician with us in PELLE ALMGREN & WOW LIKSOM. That’s where I got to know him, and he was actually with me in L.A. when I met up with Andy.

Why did you split up with LIVE AMMO in the end? Was it for financial reasons, perhaps?

I don’t think so. I got a lot of money out of it because I took care of the whole recording session. I got some good money from the label. I don’t know. It was just like that, and something was happening. We were supposed to tour Japan, as the album was supposed to be released when Andy was taken by the police or something, which was a big hassle as usual. I just got fed up with it, you know. It was just that the whole project was like a runaway train. Then there was something else going on as well. Maybe the HANOI thing was starting up again.

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Dan Lagerstedt, Angela McCoy, Andy McCoy, and Gyp around 1995

HANOI ROCKS

Hanoi Rocks did a successful reunion in 2002, with Mike and Andy being the only original members left from the classic lineup. Did they ever ask you to join the reformed band?

Andy did ask me, he did. It’s very difficult for me to recall because it’s been so long, but I guess it was after the HANOI RE-VISITED thing. It must have been around 2001 or 2002? I asked if Sami [Yaffa] and Nasty [Suicide] had been asked and didn’t get a straight answer on that. It was Andy who had the band’s ownership, you know, he was the leader, but the only way for me to do it would have been if Nasty and Sami were there too. I couldn’t understand the point of doing it otherwise, and I can’t understand why they’re doing it [playing as HANOI ROCKS] right now. Of course, it’s a financial thing. I mean, they’re not bad, but it doesn’t matter whatever people say; when you compare the original lineup with this lineup, the first lineup takes the fucking shit out of this lineup! That’s my statement, and I know that Andy feels that way as well very much.

Are you currently in touch with any of the original HANOI guys?

Not much, but I’m more in touch with their manager. Me and Sami [Yaffa], we met up when he was playing here in Stockholm with the NEW YORK DOLLS. With Nasty [Suicide], it’s been too long. I’d like to go to Finland.

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Another Hanoi promo from the early ’80s

Is there any chance to perhaps see you play with HANOI ROCKS for one last time? Many rumors say that you might show up in Helsinki next April, and you might play a couple of songs with them on their farewell shows?

I would love to do it. I’ve heard some rumors, but I’ll wait till Andy or Mike give me a call. I’m ready to rehearse a little bit because I need that, too many good songs. I’d love to do it, but not without Sami or Nasty there. No chance.

On that thought, how do you like the recent Hanoi Rocks albums; TWELVE SHOTS ON THE ROCKS, ANOTHER HOSTILE TAKEOVER, and STREET POETRY?

Oh, I don’t like them. The song “A Day Late, A Dollar Short” that Andy wrote is a really good song and the only one I like from the last three albums. The arrangement on that song is pretty good, and it sounds very much like Andy McCoy. In the old days, when Mike wrote songs, the band would turn them into “Andy” songs because he was behind a lot of the arrangements. In some very strange way, we had a communication going on that made the songs very much HANOI ROCKS. So, it’s very difficult for me to listen to the later albums.

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The classic Hanoi Rocks albums

Hypothetically, would you be willing to record a new album with the original lineup if ever there was a chance to do so?

In that case, it would have to be some good songs, and I know that at least Andy can write. And it would have to be a little more rock n’ roll, I think their current stuff is a little too much, not heavy metal, but something is missing. It has to be more ROLLING STONES, more like it was in the old days, you know.

This one will be the very last question here… There are also many stories about the events that lead to you leaving HANOI ROCKS back in the day. Can you tell me what happened then?

Andy was too much of a good friend to me. I just couldn’t hit him, you know, but I could hit his guitar, which of course, hurt him even more. So, I suppose it was some kind of a fight. I was getting tired of it all, and he was fooling around. He’d have a bad day, and when Andy had a bad day, he’d have a bad sound, so it was no fun to sit in the same bus with him. We arrived at this festival some two hours late. We started up pretty good. The first two songs sounded pretty good, I think. Suddenly, my snare drumskin broke, and I waived to the roadie and asked for a new snare drumskin. Andy then came up to the drums and said something to me, and I felt, “Okay, I can take that.”. Suddenly when the roadie came back up on the stage [with the replacement drumskin], Andy went to him and kicked him in the face, and then suddenly, he was back on the drums again. By now, I’d had had enough, so I just kicked down my drums and took his guitar and threw it in the wall. Three hours later, Andy was in jail, and I was back in the hotel room. I then did everything I could to get my position in the band back, but he had made up his mind the same minute that I broke his guitar. But I think that the LIVE AMMO thing was something that finally showed people that we’re still good friends, you know. He forgave me (laughs)

Thanks, Gyp

 

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Gyp Casino in 2009