Guitarist Erik Turner founded WARRANT in 1984 and has maintained and directed the band through top ten hits, sold out tours, lineup and pop culture changes, even deaths. The guy clearly has a well noted and celebrated past but the band has been so closely watched that all of those stories have been told and retold a million times particularly since ex-vocalist Jani Lane passed away. The band parted ways with Jani a couple of years back and the remaining original members released a new album, ROCKAHOLIC with new singer Robert Mason this past year. In many ways, this “old” band is clearly focused on it’s “new” future with ex-Lynch Mob vocalist Mason and it’s with good reason. Having been well aware of the late Jani Lane’s input and songwriting we listened to the “new” Warrant with decidedly low expectations but were surprised to hear ROCKAHOLIC as one of the best albums in their catalog. We talked recently with Erik about his band, his business ventures and what the fans have meant to him. Read on…
Legendary Rock Interviews: 2011 was a pretty eventful year for you guys. You put out a new album with a new singer and toured all summer, how did the shows go overall?
Erik Turner: It was a really busy year, it was a good year for the most part. The shows went well, we did some shows with Poison and Whitesnake. We did some gigs with Cinderella and Skid Row, we got to get the new music out there to some pretty good sized audiences. It was a really great year for us and now that the weather has cooled down we typically take a break and wind down a bit. The crowds have been great and the shows have been packed 90 percent of the time. The other ten percent wasn’t too bad either (laughs). It’s nice to be able to still have the ability to drink free beer and play our guitars for people who wanna hear us after all these years!
LRI: I was happy to see that you guys were able to come out with a totally pro sounding album. It doesn’t sound like you were struggling with budget or struggling with songwriting. I am a huge fan of the old material and everything that Jani brought to the table and Rockaholic really fits in nicely somewhere between Cherry Pie and Dog Eat Dog. Were you guys pretty confident coming out of mixing that the final product would sound the way you wanted?
ET: I think so. Thanks for saying all that about the album and putting it up in the top three of our albums, that’s pretty good company John, we appreciate that! We were lucky enough to work with a great guy in Keith Olsen who was friends with and had worked with our singer Robert Mason. We were really pleasantly surprised when we sent Keith our demos and he liked them a lot and wanted to produce the record. It was awesome working with Pat Regan, who Tommy Thayer and I had gotten real accustomed to working with when we were running a production company together and we were always using Pat as an engineer for our productions. The final mix was something we were very clear about what it was we were going for. There’s a fine line during that final process of getting it mastered. You want it to sound big and loud and still having it retain its warmth and I think we are very pleased with the end result. We went back and forth trying to get that balance, hot enough to be loud but cool enough to still sound natural and warm. We wanted to leave some of that natural “brown sound” that keeps it warm and real sounding.
LRI: One of the things that tended to drag on some of the bands like Warrant was that period where the lyrical content got far too serious and downer”ish” but there seems to be a happy, normal medium on Rockaholic. It’s not “generic” party rock but it’s not a depressing “woe is me” vibe either. It’s a little more realistic and natural. How did the majority of the lyrics come together?
ET: Well, we are what we are and we’re pretty comfortable with that at this point. You’re right, it’s a more organic or natural snapshot of us at this time, where we are in our lives rather than us trying to play to a certain style or content. The lyrics were written by our bass player Jerry Dixon and our singer Robert. Sometimes they wrote together or sometimes on their own.
LRI: Do you guys still have a love for the whole packaging and art and design that goes with an actual physical product? You all grew up on vinyl and elaborate gatefold artwork and stuff right?
ET: Yeah, definitely. When I first started buying albums, before I was even into rock music I picked out my first few albums based totally on the impression I got from the cover art. If they were really cool or dangerous looking that was a definite plus. The first two records I ever bought were Alice Cooper “Welcome to My Nightmare” and Aerosmith’s debut. Of course, from there I’d hang out at friends houses and look through their albums which is how I got turned on to KISS and Queen. I remember a friend of mine telling me “Oh man Erik I just heard a song called Wasted by this band Def Leppard” which was the first time I’d ever even HEARD of that band. Then when and if the bands came through town of course we had to go see them. I remember I used to take the albums that I really liked a lot and hang them on my wall (laughs). My walls were just covered with posters and bitchin album covers.
LRI: Have you and your wife Kirsten now dedicated a room in your house for all of your accumulated memorabilia and crap?
ET: (laughs) No!! I do still have all my records and all that but I don’t have a record player. I’ve had to put all of that stuff out in the garage in a cabinet, all boxed up. Hopefully someone someday will dig em out.
LRI: Any Cheap Trick in the collection? Did you guys hook up with them for drinks or anything when you came through Rockford here back in the day?
ET: I think I played “Live at Budokan” a thousand times or so, probably wore it out. I played air guitar to it for sure (laughs). That record is so badass, I love those guys. I don’t think we ran into them on the Motley tour but definitely we had some memorable times going out with Tom Petersson while we were on the Poison tour. I remember that fondly, Tom was a very cool guy and we all had a blast.
LRI: Speaking of drinks, you guys have also gotten into some new business ventures and have partnered with Kristian Story and Artistwine.com. Is it a little uncomfortable promoting it since the fans are so well aware of Jani’s struggles and associate the band so much with that crazy, party lifestyle??
ET: I don’t think so. I mean, it’s just a matter of making a great wine for people who can enjoy it responsibly. Not everyone struggles with alcohol and lots of people enjoy wine. As for being associated with the band, we moved on after our final attempt to reunite with Jani. We have a new singer and its the WARRANT of now that is associated with creating this new wine venture. Artistwine is a great company, they’ve worked with Bobby Blotzer and Kris Kristoferson and WARRANT Red is a great wine. We live down in wine country and know a lot of people involved in the wine business. My friend just said “Hey, I’ve got this wine company and you have this band and we wanna turn you on to this guy in Napa Valley named Kristian Story.” He and I just hit it off and we started working together and we worked together on a blend we ended up calling Warrant Red. It’s really good. Drink it, you will feel better, you will look better, you’ll be smarter but just don’t drink too much of it.
LRI: You have a lively page with passionate fans on Facebook and some of them are understandably behind the Jani era and have an attachment to all of those hits and others are as passionate about the “new” WARRANT. Do you think that more people are being “converted” so to speak by the more live shows you play? With Jani being such a face of the band does it help to get out there in front of the non-believers and expose them more to the band’s material with Robert?
ET: We try our damnedest to win them all over. Obviously if we’re playing these big summer shows in front of these big crowds it is kinda like shooting apples in a barrel. We just have to make sure our guns are loaded and we have enough ammo to kick ass and win back all of the skeptics. From what I’ve seen recently it looks like we are doing a great job of doing that so as long as we continue to go out there and put on the best fuckin show we can it will work itself out over time. Since Jani has passed on there have been a few, literally a few people, a small minority that have come out to the shows and expressed hate towards us for continuing on for some reason. Which they should have been doing a couple years back when Robert first took over but for whatever reason are doing it now. Like I said, its a small minority and most people of course are there to have a good time and not to hate or vent or whatever. Look, we lived and loved and fought with Lane for twenty some years or whatever. These people never even knew him. If they would have been around to support him as fiercely back then maybe he’d still be around for them today. I am obviously aware of how many people did love him but for us it’s just a sad tale of alcohol abuse and rock and roll tragedy. There’s a long list of guys that are in that club and it sucks for Jani’s family and it sucks for us and our fans. I wanna make clear though that most people are very supportive of us continuing to rock and we really appreciate that. Most people have been super respectful and super nice, we have received tons of beautiful emails and phone calls of condolences and people sending us their support and goodwill towards the band.
LRI: Does that bother you when fans get into tiffs or arguments about which WARRANT they support or crap like that?
ET: No….it’s a free country with free speech and we don’t want to tell anyone what to think or discredit their decision not to support us. If they decide that they don’t like the band after all of these years that’s their perogative . Jerry and I started this band 25 plus years ago and of course the diehards know that we even had ANOTHER singer before Jani, Adam fronted the band for two years before Jani was ever in the band….Warrant wasn’t built overnight. Adam quit, we got Jani, Jani quit we got Jamie St. James, then Jani came back and then that didn’t work out and we got Robert. It hasn’t been easy to be in this rock and roll band which is the ONLY band I have ever been in my entire life but we still love it, we love what we do. Right now we are thankful that there are more positive things happening than negative and we just want to keep moving forward. We had a dream of starting a rock band and touring the world with our friends and we wanna keep that dream alive, as long as people want to come out and hear us play music we are honored to do so. Ironically, Jani and Robert were friends in the early days but of course as time moves on we all lose touch with our old friends but they knew each other and were friends years ago. I did think it was nice that Jani went on That Metal Show on his last appearance and when Eddie mentioned that he liked the new record with Robert it was Jani who said that he thought it was good that we had a great singer with a great voice. He wished us good luck and gave us his blessing and was excited about doing his own thing. We were cool and that shit was in the past. All the mudslinging and lawsuits and infighting was under the bridge by that point and we had both been on our own for some time. People can focus on whatever they wanna focus on and our trouble and history and good times with Jani are all very well documented on the internet but at this stage we just want everyone to feel free to say or express themselves however they see fit. I like that Jani has his supporters, I don’t think that he can hear or read any of it but it’s nice for his family and his kids. People have to remember he has two daughters that have had to deal with all of this and everyone goes through their process of dealing with it in their own way, including the fans. People grieve in their own ways. We are just trying to move forward and keep focused on the band and the music.
LRI: How much different is a day as a member of WARRANT now as opposed to a few years back when you were attempting the reunion thing with Jani?
ET: It depends on the day (laughs). There were some great days in 2008 that I’ll cherish and then there were some really, really bad days where things got so bad that we had to make some changes. The good times were really good and the bad times were really bad. It was unpredictable. For the most part things are usually great now.
LRI: You guys got some airplay with the leadoff single and video for “Life’s a Song” off ROCKAHOLIC, the new album. Anything more like that coming, promo wise?
ET: Yeah, we just shot and edited a video for the song “Home” which I really like, its kind of a performance and on the road style video, a lot of travel, kind of that old school MTV feel. Robert kind of spearheaded that whole video project, we gave him the ball and let him run with it and of course we all threw our two cents in. So, that should be making the rounds on youtube and radio and satellite radio and all that. We are still full steam ahead on the ROCKAHOLIC album but already thinking and writing for the next album. I could see us maybe getting something together by summer of 2012. That’s if all goes well, who knows. It took us freakin two years to write and finish this past album so maybe I am being a little over-optimistic (laughs).
LRI: Were songs coming out in bits and pieces while you were touring this summer?
ET: Yeah, I heard Joey come up with a riff or two and said to him “Hey, keep that, remember that” or I’ve heard something I’ve played and thought the same thing. Jerry and Robert are ALWAYS writing so yeah, there’s a lot of stuff floating around.
LRI: Last question…What about putting out a nice DVD package with the videos and a live show of the new lineup?
ET: That’s a great question. We haven’t really had that discussion as a band or “gotten there” yet. I agree with you that some kind of document is overdue, we just haven’t gotten there yet. Maybe next year that’s something we can really concentrate on in addition to another new album. I know that would be cool, we just need to put it on the calendar and do it. I think we would definitely include the promo clips for the new material and we have a lot of in studio footage of us making the new album. I think we would have to include all of that and then some to make it a worthwhile package. The clips, the interviews, the live show, all of it. I think you’re dead on, we need to get on that in 2012. Thanks for talking to Joey and myself and thanks for your support of the new album. Anyone who wants to check us out online can find us at www.Warrantrocks.com, @Warrantrocks on Twitter.com and www.artistwine.com. Thanks to all of you!!