WARRANT – Basic hard rock never will die
Basic hard rock never will die. From generation to generation, people pass down great, timeless songs from their youth and turn their sons, daughters, friends and relatives onto this material. There were a multitude of acts thanks to the power of MTV who suddenly could take their local phenomenon in the clubs and transport their songs to an international audience. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, one of those Sunset Strip bands from Los Angeles would be Warrant. Million selling plus albums, hit singles and sold out arenas from coast to coast soon followed. As quickly as their fame came, the grunge movement slowly put their sales on a dwindling course.
Currently back on the market with a killer new studio album Rockaholic- latest singer Robert Mason has given the band the stability they need for 2011. Calling from him home in California I recently got the chance to talk to bassist Jerry Dixon, who turned out to be quite charming and honest about his viewpoints relating to Warrant.
How do you believe Robert Mason is fitting in with Warrant- and what do you think his background brings to the sound of the band?
What it means to the band, at least to me, is first and foremost that he’s reliable. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you aren’t reliable and you can’t do shows and be where you are supposed to be then none of that really matters. It’s fantastic to have both reliability and talent built into one. As far as the sound goes, it’s hard… he has his own vibe but I think he conscious of singing the older stuff, true to the way that was done. He’s a real vocal chameleon, he can do that and some points when we do the older stuff he can break out for a few measures with a killer scream, he’s still himself.
Your new album Rockaholic contains 14 songs and appears to me to be more of a stripped down, roots hard rock record. What was the mentality or the game plan going into the songwriting and performance aspects.
My mentality is that there is no mentality. Sometimes people think you have this big sit down meeting around a table and we all put our ideas together. Music, songwriting and records just start with silly ideas. When you are at the grocery store, when you are at rehearsal, when you are in the car, that idea- you run home, record it and that’s it. There’s not a lot of projection of whether the world will like it or not. I like to look at records as tattoos- they are just different time periods stamped with where you are at and where you are thinking.
Keith Olson produced the album- do you think his knowledge and expertise brought a different side to the band that we haven’t heard before?
I don’t think it brought something we haven’t heard but it certainly propelled this record to that level we used to have. We used to have really good producers, and that shows at the end of the day in the records. It was nice to get that sixth kind of member and that outside opinion as far as the songwriting. It’s hard to be critical of your songwriting- to me that was the most important thing. He has a lot of recording tricks and talent- the arrangements, he stripped down the songs a lot more. I would have never thought of some of the things he did to the songs. Let it breathe here instead of pushing it- it’s priceless that knowledge of having someone like him. That’s why they make a lot of money- they record with brilliant songwriters and artists.
Your first video track for the album is "Life’s A Song"- and it brings back a lot of memories of your entire career. How much fun did you have filming this and what special takeaways do you have from the shoot?
The fun part for me was the idea of the whole video. It came up at the last minute- because we were going to do a video for "Sex Ain’t Love" and we were slatted to do this and that. In the bottom of the ninth, the label and the band couldn’t think of a concept for the video. We didn’t want to put just some cheesy girls in there again, so the label suggested "Life’s A Song", the reaction was immediate and our lives have been a series of good times and bad times. We went in a few days later and did, I dug up a lot of the old footage and photos, it was spontaneous and like all good things it worked out. Sometimes when you over think it turns into a train wreck.
It seems like the biggest struggle in the United States is gaining younger fans to rock bands and sustaining a following in the market place. Does Warrant’s approach differ in 2011 compared to the 80’s/90’s hard rock heydays?
We’ve always had a real forward and open approach with the fans. We’ve gone through changes where they’ve loved us, we’ve gone through changes where they’ve hated us, and where we’ve disagreed on records. The common sense, you do the best you can while being true to what you are feeling, it’s always a conscious thought process. You don’t want to deviate too far when you don’t have to. With Belly To Belly we did that because we were pissed off, the record was angry and it was what we were dealing with at the time. 3 years without drama and cancelled shows we are in a good spot, and this record certainly portrays that.
What are the touring plans for Warrant in North America and overseas? What have been some of your favorite countries to visit and play shows in through the years?
We actually start this coming weekend in Maryland, we are hooking up with bands like Whitesnake, a string of dates with Poison. We are going to Europe in October, working for Australia and South America as well. We plan on touring for over a year, you can check it out on http://www.warrantrocks.com . Favorite countries- we love going to Japan. That’s always just a trip, you really feel like you are in another country. If you don’t have an interpretation, you are lost. I love Germany during Octoberfest, Italy as well. Each place is all cool.
Do you believe being on a strong independent label like Frontiers gives Warrant and Rockaholic a better chance to reach the right fans- considering their affinity and expertise in melodic hard rock?
With anything, the thing we like about Frontiers is they are passionate about the music. It was refreshing to speak to the owner Serafino and talk about music for once and not about money, percentages, etc. We talked music first, and he had respect for Warrant and I had a respect for him and his knowledge of music. If they aren’t passionate about a band, they aren’t going to sign them. Somebody finally got it that bands like Whitesnake and Warrant deserve to make records. We may not sell 8 million records again, but why not around a million or something. It’s a great fit, they are doing a wonderful job. You can’t replace enthusiasm, that’s 99 percent of anything. You could be with a giant and think your band’s name is Warlock…. We are Warrant!
How much time are you able to devote to Warrant versus family life these days? What would be a surprise for people to learn about Jerry Dixon?
Sometimes I’m a freak- I really don’t want to be around people if I’m writing songs, or if it’s an emotional gig. People around me have to put up with a lot around me. For the most part it’s awesome, we work from home so you can be around the family. You find balance, I am a real homebody, I don’t go to clubs or that scene anymore. I have a lot of animals, a little hideaway up here in Los Angeles.
What would be playing on your stereo or Ipod these days for music?
What I have gotten into recently is Sheryl Crow believe it or not. That girl… she can write, a great songwriter. Also a country band called Little Big Town, two guy singers and two girl singers- you want to hear some amazing four part harmonies, that’s a good one. I have the recent Iron Maiden record as well- I am like a sponge, I absorb everything.
Were there any particular songs on Rockaholic that were more difficult to record than others?
"Tears In The City" came out in one take. This record was difficult to write- the main reason is we all don’t live near each other. Robert is in Phoenix, Erik lives down by San Diego, Joey is in Orange County, so we end up writing via email and phone calls. You try to get most of the stuff done before you get together. On "Dusty’s Revenge" most of that was written but I couldn’t come up with a pre-chorus, so I asked Robert for help and he did the job. The baby needed two arms and a leg, fix it! Each song… "Life’s A Song", that was written in one night, believe it or not. We wanted more time to actually write. Then the Frontiers thing came up- and we had to start in two weeks. We didn’t think we were ready, but we did the best that we could.
What concerns you most about the world we live in today?
Oh… well, not to be a downer, what concerns me is that at some point soon we have to learn there are no boundaries in the world anymore. It’s one cohesive place that we all must share. People have to learn that my way is not the right way and your way is not the wrong way. Politically, especially with what we get involved with, it doesn’t concern us. Nuclear warfare, that’s the stupidest thing we can all have in any country. People hitting their buttons, we are all dead, cool. Fabulous, thank you… that should be eliminated. What makes the world interesting is we are all different.