London is a band whose history has been pretty well documented going all the way back to the early press quotes from Motley Crue where Nikki was constantly asked about his history of forming the band in the late 70s to the infamous appearance in director Penelope Spheeris’ movie “The Decline of Western Civilization Part 2”. Some people view them as a persistent pest that needs to be exterminated and some have been proud to call the London guys friends and comrades over the years. They certainly are in the marathon rather than sprint mode and many are surprised to look up the band online and find they are still actively pursuing the rock and roll path they set out on all those years ago. They recently played this past summer’s Sunset Strip Music Festival ( ironically on the same bill as Motley). Along the way they have amassed quite a few stories to go along with all of those songs and we had a BLAST talking to singer and all around good guy Nadir D’Priest about his war stories. Read on……….
Legendary Rock Interviews: Your band LONDON just played the SUNSET STRIP MUSIC FESTIVAL this past summer, how did that turn out?
Nadir D’ Priest: It went really cool actually. There was a real build up of excitement of course because of all the really cool bands that were doin it and all that and it was a festival situation so it was just a real fun thing to be involved in. It was a really busy weekend all the way around even aside from the actual performance, there was the whole induction of MOTLEY CRUE and all of that excitement. The massive line of people for the CRUE induction ceremony went all the way from the bottom of the HOUSE OF BLUES to all the way around the block. It was really busy and everybody’s all dressed up and there’s shitloads of lights and cameras. It was a little chaotic at first because every artist had to figure out where everyone had to enter and some of it was a little overwhelming but overall very, very cool. It was really a great event.
LRI: When I talked to Penelope Spheeris she had told us that the main reason she wanted to make DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION was because she felt she had to capture what was a bona fide scene. It’s not anymore of course but for that one weekend did it sort of feel like a return to that era partially?
ND: Yeah, it sort of did actually. It also did it in a way that was exciting but it was definitely a mixed crowd of kids you know. Back in those days, the demographic was all pretty similar and for this recent event we had the old school 80s crowd, the younger rock kids and it was just kind of this big mix. Also, everything seemed like a lot more in terms of cameras, lighting, presentation and all that. In the old days it was HARD to get a film crew down to shoot a video of you and if there was they weren’t there for YOU!!!! (LAUGHS). Now, everybody’s got cameras.
LRI: Robert Sarzo mentioned that the crowds turning up for the bands shows are getting younger as parents tell their kids or kids discover the old bands.
ND: Right. There’s also a lot of interest in this kind of music again and it’s a WORLDWIDE interest but until recently I REALLY think that Hollywood has been in denial as far as their involvement and place in history and that’s a shame. There’s just not enough shows and events like SUNSET STRIP MUSIC FESTIVAL being put together like there needs to be. The demand is there and it exceeds the Southern California area.
LRI: You’ve said before that LONDON’s always been the dirty little secret, the unwanted bastard child of HOLLYWOOD. I know from crawling the damn internet that you have fans all over but that is just it, like you said, some of them are in EUROPE or SOUTH AMERICA, etc. Was some of that the reason you decided to resurrect LONDON and run it up the flagpole again?
ND: Really, I fell out of the scene as a lot of people did and wasn’t really hanging out a lot in L.A., I sort of stopped that whole hanging out at clubs thing. There is still a little culture of people who jump onstage and sit in on sets or hang out and make the scene so to speak and I stopped. I sort of concentrated on doing my own thing for a while, going quite a ways back to when I was doing computer work and worked with the Rolling Stones there in the 90s. I did their CD ROM projects, made some music for the latin market and kind of stopped doing LONDON. The band coming back together really had a lot to do with me getting back with (longtime member) Brian West and it just sort of happened from that point on. We were really interested in getting back to that era of the PLAYA DEL ROCK album which was an overall good time for us. It took a lot of patience and a lot of work and brokering to make it happen but we just have this desire that I cannot rationalize or explain. I wouldn’t even say we were the dirty little secret so to speak, it’s more like we are the band that everyone LOVES TO HATE. There’s a lot of people who are not too friendly to us, they distance themselves from us and make it known for some reason or another and it’s always been like that. They decided long ago that they’re not going to be nice, friendly, amicable or talkative. If they are shaking your hand it’s not real. I’m the type of person that if you shake my hand or vice versa it’s not just a handshake, it’s a read. I can FEEL the energy or lack thereof that they are putting out and there’s people that are glad to see you and there’s people who aren’t. Sometimes people who you’ve WORKED with who were nobody and became somebody will just wave at you but never talk to you in front of people. So you just acknowledge that and you deal with the people who are genuine. There’s always been this stigma that follows the band and I can only speak for myself but to me I don’t let any of that get in my way and I have this mindset that I just continue to work and work on LONDON. The band should be gone according to some, some people wish it were gone but there is just this unknowing, unseeing machine-like quality about this band and the way I APPROACH it where it just keeps going and going. I really don’t know how to pin it to one specific thing that makes the heart beat but it is just very, very important to me. I’m the guy who’s sort of taking the beating so to speak because I’m the guy who enjoys being up front and dealing with people, being a shield of sorts for the rest of the band. If the other guys aren’t expressing it, it’s because I am doing a decent job of shielding the shrapnel and keeping the machine lubed up and in running order.
LRI: I think there is some sort of unspoken hierarchy between the bands that never got past the gigs to record, the ones like yourself who made several albums and got to tour and the bands that became HUGE. There is this expectation that you will know your role and stay in your given box or in the case of the bands that never recorded at all you will just go away altogether and keep your mouth shut.
ND: Exactly. I am looking at the festival poster and it is just so ironic and poetic and hilarious to me, you’re right. I see in GIANT LETTERS the name MOTLEY CRUE and then on the same day opening for them, NIKKI SIXX’s old band in these tiny, tiny letters, “London”. We are on the exact same bill but we take up less than an inch of lettering on it sooooooo (laughs). Do you think they meant to do that? (laughs). Do you think at least someone noticed the irony besides me.
LRI: Did you run into Lizzie Grey or any of those old London guys there?
ND: No, dude, I never run into ANYBODY!!! That day I just went down and picked up our passes and stuff we needed and that shit and then went across the street and got a room at the LONDON motel believe it or not (laughs) which is ironically across the street from the Whisky which is where we were playing. We set up and just went there an hour before our set. It was amazingly fun and a bunch of people showed up and we all had a blast. That is always our number one goal, to show people a good time and have a good time ourselves. We see money a different way because I’ve had plenty of friends and acquaintances who’ve had lots and lots of money and lost it and been around people who have had none and been happier than any of them. It’s relative and it’s not always all it’s cracked up to be or what people think it is. It’s always nice to make money but you can be happy with or without money.
LRI: Is it getting harder to book gigs in L.A.?
ND: It’s getting harder because of the way the clubs and promoters are back to the whole “pay to play” thing and it’s also like that with a lot of the tours you can get a nice gig or get on a nice tour if you’re willing to pay for it. Some bands are able to swing it and some aren’t. It’s getting back to those days of the original strip scene with the pay to play thing but at the same time it’s not like the scene is back at that level as it was in the old days. It’s just the way the places are controlling it.
LRI: Speaking of the old days, I know you well enough to know you love all the London albums but what do you recall about that original “NON STOP ROCK” session?
ND: I remember a lot actually. It was exciting for me of course and we did it for Shrapnel Records and had Mike Varney producing. It was 1985 and I had been in the band for almost a year or so at that point. It was really cool for me because it happened so fast after joining the band, it was like I joined and we started working on the album. I don’t think I contacted Mike or Lizzy or anything but he and his label had shown some interest in the band and what can you say, it was a deal we couldn’t refuse because at that point the band had been together until then and still had not put out an album. It was a case of either make an album with Shrapnel or don’t make one at all (laughs). We would’ve probably sucked his dick at that point I don’t know (laughs). Or at least Lizzy would have (laughs). I’m just clowning….I have to be sure and say that but to be honest we were MORE than ready to make an album!!! They had gone through so much struggle and so many changes before I joined the band. To me, of course, it was pretty cool because it started taking off a little from the point I joined and we were able to do an album right away. At that point Lizzy and I were having a little beef about credits because I had brought a whole new sound and vibe to the band and he was trying to make sure he got every single song credit. We scrapped about that but in the end Brian West and I ended up getting our credits in (laughs). I know for a fact that if Lizzy got his way we would have been screwed completely out of the writing credits. I don’t like the production values on the album as much as I like the album itself. We were literally put in a recording studio the size of a bathroom to do the basic tracks for instance. I had to travel and lug these tapes all the way up to north California to meet this other guy I had never met who recorded my vocal tracks.
LRI: How green were you as far as studio experience prior to that?
ND: I actually was pretty comfortable because I had some studio work under my belt already in some of my earlier bands like Vertigo and Thunderbolt. The thing is the way I look at it now. I was just a fuckin young man. I just wanted to do it and get my vocal work done and get that album in my hands. I was travelling all the way up there with these heavy ass 2 inch master tapes that weighed as much as me, I looked like a fuckin stick, malnourished. I ended up doing the tracks with the guy and was getting frustrated with the guy and punching a hole through the padding in the sound booth and punched straight through to the nail which went right into my fist (laughs). I did my vocals and went to a place called “Uncle Charlie’s'” and drank and met a girl, went to the hotel, woke up, got my shit and went back home. I still like a lot of the songs on that album, “Party in Hollywood”, “No-tell Motel” is probably one of the most challenging songs for me because my register is super high and I’m singin these notes that are just way to high. Oddly, we are talking about doing a proper live album which is something we’ve never done and that song is one of the old ones we’re talkin about doing. A lot of the old metalheads really like that one, “Radio Stars” is one from there that people just seem to like, that song is actually an old Nikki and Lizzy song.
LRI: I friggin LOVE that song. “TOO FAST” is my favorite Motley album and I don’t know if it’s got Nikki’s stamp all over it or just that he and Lizzy had that same power poppy template but it’s got that vibe. While the lyrics or video might seem super cheesy the music is DEAD on as is your vocal.
ND: Thanks, it IS a good song (laughs), I told you we had to film that video with a handheld video camera and cut the pieces of film with scissors and put it together ourselves. There was no editing day for us, we had no goddamn money so we were in there with scissors and this little screen and added some shitty effects and that was that. True do it yourself, London style!!!!!
LRI: The album cover???
ND: We had that done by hand and the idea, if you will, was that we were in the band and we had the Lear jet and London is burning and we’re flying over everyone that’s on FIRE (laughs hard) !!!! If you look really hard at the cover we tried to have all this stuff in there like it was after midnite but it was 13 instead of 12 (laughs). Believe it or not the guy who did worked and painted from our idea was a guy who worked for General Motors and drew cars and he really enjoyed doing it, I remember that.
LRI: Was there any resentment on the part of Lizzy that things started happening as far as albums and tours and girls when you joined the band?
ND: (laughs). I don’t THINK so. I was so happy and in so my own world that even if Lizzy was resentful I don’t think I would have picked up on it. I mean, he was starting to really enjoy things for his band after working for so long and if there was any of that I don’t think it was really ever verbalized to me. Our tiff over the songwriting wasn’t necessarily a case of Lizzy feeling threatened, at least I didn’t take it that way. We were all so happy to finally be doing our thing and I for sure just rolled with it all. I didn’t feel anything at that time, if anything an outsider would probably notice that tension or something way before I would have at that time. I know for a fact that I was happy and everyone around us could tell you that because I wear my emotions visibly on my sleeve.
LRI: The second album “DON’T CRY WOLF” came out the following year but had wayyy better production and better songs even but was still self-financed right?
ND: Oh hell no, we didn’t have any money. We had some backers and they just basically financed us getting our own label and had someone to keep an eye on us. We had Kim Fowley (legendary Runaways producer and songwriter) doing the production and Gene Merros who had just come off the success of doing Fair Warning for Van Halen and this awesome old school keyboard player David Carr who also produced with Kim. We definitely had more money, better studios and the second time around was just much better. You could tell the difference on the vocals, the melodies and harmonies, that kind of stuff gets cleaned up and pumped up with a better production value. There was a lot of work, a lot of rearrangement during rehearsal, the writing was never as simple as some bands make it sound. If someone had a basic song idea or lyric it was usually a case of me having to rework something in terms of the vocal style or melody to make it “fit” my singing style. It was hardly ever the case of someone just bringing in a song, they always were worked and reworked. We definitely had a lot more money to work with and a lot more freedom in the studio. “Drop The Bomb” is one of the songs we still get a lot of requests for, also we dug deep into the old stuff for “For Whom The Bell Tolls” which is not my song again, it’s a Blackie Lawless and Lizzy song but it really fit the new direction of the band which is something I WAS fighting for. We took a pretty big step away from the lollipop, poppy, happy sound of the early Lizzy London and started going down this dark whore of the 80s vibe. That album is memorable because that was the first step toward that sound that we eventually settled into.
LRI: In terms of image and design the second album cover is just a classic, classic 1980s piece of L.A. rock history. Tell us about the story behind that album cover.
ND: That cover was done at our old friend Larry Flynt’s studios and that was all arranged by our DEAR old friend Althea Flynt, god rest her soul. She introduced me to Clive McClain who was the HUSTLER staff photographer who is probably still the photographer there, that wouldn’t surprise me one bit. Basically, in a nutshell, he shoots PORN and that guy has seen so much pussy that by now naked pussy probably just looks like tomatoes you know? (laughs). We hired a company called “Animal Actors of Hollywood” who brought us two Siberian wolves and six trainers. They put us up on this little stage so that they could control the wolves from underneath because if one of those animals decides to attack they’re going to bite off a body part. They had a couple of guys off camera who basically tickled that wolf’s face to get that response for the album cover. You’re right it is a cool cover even though we look like a bunch of queers in the photo.
LRI: The Motley guys have mentioned it once or twice in passing but how big was Althea as far as the L.A. music scene?
ND: She loved music and she had a LOT of friends and she KNEW music really well. She was a smart and savvy woman. She had her favorites as far as local bands on the strip and also was just tight with lots of rock people. The fact that she was behind the development of RIP magazine, that tells you everything you need to know. She was very proud of her magazine and very dedicated to it, that was all she talked about, it was her passion.
LRI: The band kept making strides with the next album “PLAYA DEL ROCK” and even managed to make some waves on radio and MTV. How did that work out?
ND: It was going well. We were selling better than any of the bands on our label which was Noize Records and had all these heavy bands like Voivod and Kreator and all this stuff. We were doing really well and then shit started falling apart for our label at the same time as we started falling apart on the road mostly just due to stupid stuff. Yeah, we had a nice thing going with MTV playing those videos from the PLAYA DEL ROCK album and ZRock getting us exposure in all of their radio markets. We would go out on tour and hit the areas where they were putting us in heavy rotation and it was just packed crowds and total rock and roll but the band started having internal issues and hard rock in general was just taking a dive when the alternative stuff hit and it seemed like everything fell apart simultaneously, the label, the band, the scene.
LRI: Flash forward. Everyone starts getting bored and dusting off their vinyl and their “Metal Years” video and here we are ironically with London, Odin and Seduce still attracting fans and still even playing gigs. Randy from Odin never really “made it” so to speak but he didn’t exactly kill himself as he threatened to….(laughs).
ND: Right. It’s happening right now. I think that somewhere around 2000 people just made decisions about what they liked and wanted to listen to and a lot of them gave up on what was going on and like you said GOT BORED. The bar scene died and people got fuckin sick of the unwashed quote unquote “real” look of the flannel and the boots and decided that it was just another trend and got tired of it. That whole nasty ass homeless look and detuned guitar thing wasn’t built to last. It got to the exact same point that our original scene got to, where every single band was sounding like those 2 or 3 acts and it had to die.
LRI: You’ve told me before that you guys were SHITFACED drunk for your scenes in DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION 2….THE METAL YEARS so the obvious and stupid question is, what are your personal recollections of that time shooting for the movie?
ND: I think about how great of a time I was having when I was sitting there talking to Penelope, I think about how great I looked at that time and how much fun we were collectively having. I think about all the bands that hated us during that era and how many of them DID NOT WANT us to even be in the movie and how determined we all were to be in it anyway. As far as people not liking the way their scenes turned out in the movie, I don’t get it. It is what it is, once we signed that piece of paper we knew it was all them you know?
LRI: There are a few bands that stand out in that movie for various reasons but honestly you guys seemed the most plausible and realistic of the groups that had long feature segments. Maybe it was you guys traveling around in the beat up camper or admitting all of the bands frustrations but it really came off genuine.
ND: I have a story about that shitty little camper. A little bit after that movie was shot I ended up in the middle of a field surrounded by nothing out in the middle of nowhere and woke up with this gorgeous blond with enormous tits. I have a soft spot for that camper (laughs). We WERE real in that movie, none of our scenes were staged and they could have easily included that scene with the blond, that was just us. We were goofy enough, there was no need to fabricate (laughs).
LRI: I watch you and Brian and Chris Holmes in that movie and I’m glad you’re all still with us on this earth. There have to be a few people who have passed on.
ND: Oh yeah, definitely, there are at least 3 or 4 that I know for a fact are no longer with us and what’s funny to me is that for the longest time during the late nineties I kept hearing that I was dead. That I fucked a few too many dirty birds and died of AIDS or I overdosed, you name it, I heard and kept hearing that I was dead. I think some people were HOPING that I was dead. I was busy working. I was working in computer software and working for the Rolling Stones on the Voodoo Lounge project. Hollywood is fuckin ruthless man (laughs).
LRI: Do you think if you had the massive success of say Jani Lane or one of those people you would be….
ND: I’d be dead. No doubt about it. Things work out in a weird way I guess. I know I have flatlined three times already and i just don’t think I was supposed to make it or have that at that point in time. It wasn’t supposed to happen and that’s why I have this outlook I have today. I am realistic and while I love my band and my music the fact is if I would have hit the big rockstar lotto I wouldn’t be talking to you today. I have no bitterness in my mouth and I am so grateful that I can still hold my head high, I can still sing and I can still get up on stage and play to the amazing people who have supported this band all along or have just tuned into what it is we are doing. To me, in the context of my life and the person I am, it means a lot more to me now to be able to still do what I do and get to play these gigs like Sunset Festival. I don’t think I would have had the perspective then to appreciate what I did the way I do now. I am thankful to still have this band in my life and always looking forward to the next project or the next challenge.
LRI: So what is the next challenge? It sounds like not only do you keep this band going but it keeps you going.
ND: It does. Right now, like I said, we’re looking to once and for all put out an official live album with this lineup, the PLAYA DEL ROCK lineup. We love playing live, it’s what we really, truly enjoy and we are a good live band. We don’t want a cleaned up album or a rehearsal album, we wanna make a real, gritty live album that feeds off our energy and the people in the audience’s energy. It goes along with the fact that we’re really also wanting to book and play shows as much as possible. Like a lot of bands, the live gig is where it’s at. We still write music and I for one am always writing and working on ideas so it seems the next logical step would be to do the London Live package with a few new cuts included. It’s something we want to do and something the fans will appreciate, some of them don’t have copies of the old material or they do but they don’t sound that good and some it just doesn’t have the same energy as our live show. Like anything else though, it will ultimately get done because we WANT to do it!