Heart of Steel: Interviews

Danger Danger - Still Kickin'
Interview With Steve West

Interviewed by Keith McDonald

CockroachDanger Danger came onto the "Glam" hard rock scene in the late 80's with the release of the self-titled debut in 1989. Riding the wave of MTV and mainstream radio, the band's album sold over 500,000 copies, putting them on the hard rock map. Despite their success, singer Ted Poley, bassist Bruno Ravel, drummer Steve West, guitarist Andy Timmons and Kasey Smith found themselves in the middle of rising tensions within the band. Just as they had completed their album Cockroach, Ted Poley left the band to pursue other interests.

The band carried on replacing him with Paul Laine and re-recording Cockroach. This was at a time that the 'grunge' movement made it almost impossible for bands from the 80's to carry on. Ted also sued the band and record label, preventing them from releasing it with a new singer. Danger Danger carried on releasing new albums with Paul via their own label Low Dice Records. They recently released the shelved Cockroach album with both singers on a two-disc set. I had the opportunity to speak with Steve who filled me in on what's been going on. You can check out their website at www.dangerdanger.com

Steve West

Why did you decide to release an album with two different singers?

Basically just the fans. They wanted to hear both versions. We said why not. Let's get it out there. There had been bootleg copies of both out there. They really wanted to hear both.


Why were there two versions to begin with?

After we had finished Cockroach the first time with Ted, we just had a big falling out and nobody was getting along. It just wasn't happening anymore and we went our separate ways. Fortunately Sony said they were still behind us and to go get another singer. We called Paul Laine and asked him to do the record. He flew out and did the record in a few days. We love what he did and have been with him since '93.


How did you find Paul?

Actually when we on the road back in '90 we were doing some in-stores and happened to see his record, that was produced by Bruce Fairbain. Bruce only works with top-notch guys and (we) checked it out. It sounded amazing. We became friends with Paul and called him years later to join the band. It worked out pretty cool.


It seems so many 80's bands changed members, Poison, Motley Crue, etc. Why do you think so many never kept the original members?

Well that shows how hard it is to keep individuals in most bands, personalities and individuals on the same page. People think bands are in harmony and stay together forever. It's not that way. You gotta find people who really like each other and just get along. Sometimes it's hard and that's why guys cut out. A lot of singers leave bands, Skid Row lost their singer, Motley Crue lost their singer and we did. That has a lot to do with egos, which is a healthy thing. You gotta have an ego in rock 'n' roll. It's also who's writing and who's not. Ted didn't in our band nor did Vince (Neil) or Sebastian (Bach). There's a lot of stuff as to what's going on in a band, power struggles and whatever. With us it just got to the point where we didn't get along. You need to have your piece of mind and guys go their own way.


Did you feel back when you changed singers that you were taking a huge risk, maybe alienating your hardcore fans?

Of course. We weren't happy for a full year and it just got worse after the Cockroach record. You lose fans you lose fans. We have to be happy first and be cohesive. If people dig what we're doing that's great. We hate to lose fans and in the beginning it was rough. A lot of hate mail. Once they got into the Paul vibe and our side of the story and listened to the music, it seemed like nobody cared. They love Ted and Paul. We have fans that love us with Paul that didn't like us before. I compare it to Van Halen with the Sammy and Dave thing. It was two different bands.


Was the tension between Ted and the band or was everybody not getting along?

It just started at the end of the Screw It tour coming back from Japan. The record didn't do what we hoped it would do and everybody was miserable, a lot of fighting. Kasey was miserable; he had a lot of personal problems with his wife. She put him through hell and he was no fun. His playing and drinking got bad and he was angry. I spoke with Kasey yesterday and we're really close. Andy was tentative and Ted was unhappy. Ted split and we were in limbo with Paul. (Andy) went back to Texas.


Why was thew album shelved? Couldn't have Sony released back in '93?

Ted sued us and Sony, forcing them to not release the album with a new singer. The easiest thing for Sony to do was to not release the record. In the contract they had every right to and won the lawsuit. The contract was signed with Danger Danger and had nothing to do with who was in the band. It was sitting around for two years and the music scene had changed.


It seems like with all you had been through it was enough to make you quit the business all together.

It just made us stronger. We have fans, we have a career, we love what we're doing, we're not gonna stop and we have a great record. So we said 'let's go make another record'. That's all we know how to do. Keep making music, we moved on.


How did you end up getting the masters back? It's so hard for a major to had them over.

When we left Sony it was on good terms. It wasn't like 'you guys suck, see ya". We had a lot friends there and we didn't fault them. I called them up a few years later and (asked) for the record. It's not making (Sony) any money and not making me any money and fans wanna hear it. I'm getting emails everyday from fans buying bootlegs for $30 to $50. (Sony) was cool and we worked something out and it's been great, a joint venture with (them). We still have a good relationship with them.


How did you end up keeping such a good relationship with Sony? So many other bands hate their former labels and burn so many bridges.

I think it's because Bruno and I, I like to think are nice guys. We're not assholes. We don't bother people and are straight shooting guys. We appreciate what we have. We keep good relationships and don't burn bridges. We never had a reason to be angry with anyone or said anything bad about anyone. We knew it was a business and treated it like one.


How did Low Dice Records start? How does it give you financial and creative freedom?

It's something Bruno and I started. Self financed and we do it ourselves and see what happens. It's just been great for us; we built our own studio, make our own records and pay for everything ourselves. When we're done we usually license our records overseas to other labels in Europe and Japan. In the States we made distribution deals. Owning your own masters is important and being able to do what you want. It's nice to have that control. We sell all our records, even the Sony ones. We made a deal where we're able to sell our records and the four records we've made since. As an artist we make more money, with Sony you make maybe $1.50 per record. Here we're selling a lot less records but making 90% profit. We work harder because we have to promote ourselves and have record company expenses. The pay-off is better. (Majors) are good for a lot of things, building a career. Making the initial investment, putting up the money and putting (you) on the map. Once you're established you can do it yourself.


What are your tour plans? Do you find it harder to tour than in the late 80's?

It's much harder. There aren't as many clubs and 80's bands like us become a novelty act and can play only certain clubs. It's gotten better because people are coming back. We really haven't been touring, that's because we really don't want to. We're gonna go out on the road in the fall and go overseas where our market seems to be stronger.


Do you speak with Ted or Andy anymore?

Andy we speak with from time to time. He still plays on all our records. We hang out whenever he comes to New York; we're cool. Ted, actually, we've had our problems. We saw him two months ago at a KISS convention we were appearing at. There was a lot of tension; all he was doing was slagging us in every interview he did. We thought everything was in the past and there was a truce. He came over and said hi. He was cool; we're amicable, nice and civil. I like the guy as long as he's not saying anything bad about us. It's great; it was good seeing him. That's the way it should be, we've let it go.


Would you ever consider working with Ted again?

Out of respect, we love Paul. Paul's been in the band longer than Ted was at this point. We've made more records with Paul, the most easy-going singer you've ever met. Fans wanna see that but some don't wanna see Paul out of the band. Right now Paul is our singer and we're happy doing what we're doing. Who knows, anything can happen. Paul's doing a solo record, that's amazing, but he's not leaving the band.


What's the future for Danger Danger?

I can only look a year down the line. I know we have three records we wanna put out, which we've been very slow at doing. We have a rarities thing with unreleased stuff and cool demos that will be out in two months. We have a 'Best of' we wanna put out so I've been talking with Sony (about that). We have a live record we wanna do and we wanna play. We take it day by day. We'll keep making records.


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