Michael Monroe (ex Hanoi Rocks) talks Sensory Overdrive, Jack Douglas and staying rock and roll

Michael Monroe (ex Hanoi Rocks) talks Sensory Overdrive, Jack Douglas and staying rock and roll
February 16, 2012 | By More

Michael Monroe is more than the Elvis Presley of Finland.  Michael is a rock and roll statesman, a LEGEND and a hard rock pioneer.   I interviewed his fellow HANOI ROCKS cohort Andy McCoy many years ago and have always wanted to get a few minutes to talk to Michael.  The fact that his latest album, SENSORY OVERDRIVE, is probably the best thing he has ever released is just icing on the cake.  To see Michael and his band (who are pretty amazing in their own right) kicking this much ass at this stage of the game is simply inspiring.  Michael and HANOI ROCKS pretty much created the template that every Sunset Strip rock band and frontman rode to the top and it is extremely satisfying to see that his band and his music is still finding new audiences and touring the world.  Every song on album (released last year) is wicked strong and I talked a great deal about it to the man himself as well as taking a few moments to ask about the recent Hanoi Rocks reunion last decade and a few other things.  Read on….

Legendary Rock Interviews:  Thanks for talking to us Michael.  You’ve pretty much defined my version of rock and roll for decades now and I am especially glad to finally be interviewing you following the release of your last album, “SENSORY OVERDRIVE” which to me was one of the highlights of 2011 hands down.  How is 2012 treating the band and what are your plans for touring and promotion going forward?

Michael Monroe:  Thank you so much.  2011 was good to us and 2012 has started out pretty good!  The band and I will still be touring in support of “SENSORY OVERDRIVE” while we work on new material for the follow up album. 

LRI:  I may piss some people off here but I think that the album is easily the best overall album you have made over a career that spans many, many releases.  I think it sounds better sonically and has the best set of songs you have ever put together.  I  think that if someone was a kid just checking out your career they could easily START with this album and go backwards.  I enjoy your albums with Hanoi Rocks of course but think that the production on this album is also one of many reasons I like SENSORY OVERDRIVE so much.  I think this stands next to the CHEAP TRICK debut as one of the major highlights in Jack Douglas’s catalog.  How was it working with Jack who has such a knack for picking up the energy of a live band and making a great studio album.?

MM: Thanks for sharing your high opinion about “Sensory Overdrive”John.  That’s a great compliment plus I tend to agree that it’s probably the best album of my career.  Working with Jack was cool and a fun experience.  Plus he had some great Aerosmith and John Lennon stories etc… Jack had a few great arrangement ideas for the songs and he didn’t try to change anything just for the sake of changing things, which was very cool of him.  Especially since most of the songs were pretty well together already before Jack’s involvement. I must add that Petri Majuri’s mix also played a key role in the process of making the album sound as good as it does.  But yeah, working with Jack was great. 

LRI:  One of the things I liked the most about the albums you recorded with Hanoi Rocks post 2000 was that you were much more involved in the songwriting than on the earlier pre-1985 albums.  Did it rejuvenate your focus going forward?  Without delving too much into Hanoi Rocks how important was that period of reformation and touring to the songwriting on SENSORY OVERDRIVE?

MM: Being more involved in the post 2000 Hanoi’s songwriting and stuff WAS the main reason I was into doing the whole thing.It was interesting and fascinating to see what I could accomplish musically after all those years, finally working on an equal basis with Andy McCoy, unlike in the early 80’s.  However, that period had really nothing to do with the songwriting on “Sensory Overdrive”.  I had just come to a certain point in my life and career to make such a record, that’s all.

LRI:  I kind of noticed that this album received the most promotion and push here in the states that I remember since NOT FAKING IT which was an album that kind of reaffirmed your legendary status here in our country back in 1989.  Musically and sonically SENSORY is much stronger, grittier and live sounding than NOT FAKIN IT.  With all due respect, this album and songs like “Modern Day Miracle” and “Got Blood” are as heavy or heavier than anything you ever recorded with HANOI ROCKS.  Do you think it’s fair to say that 2012 Michael Monroe Band has a little bit more energy and venom than you did in those days and if so how is that possible, how do you maintain all that energy?

MM: Really?  “Sensory Overdrive” received that much promotion and push in the States..?  I didn’t really notice that…I hope it did too (laughs).  Well, when comparing this one with my past albums one must keep in mind that it was a different time and place in life back then, so it’s not completely fair to compare in that sense.  However, I’d like to think that I’m getting better at what I do, at least I try to, and it’s nice to hear that I seem to be doing so.  Yes, I feel that me and this band have a lot more  energy than I’ve ever had before with any band in the past.  I guess it’s a higher force that takes over. And channelling all my experiences (good or bad) from over the years into positive explosive energy on stage has a lot to do with it.  That, and endlessly striving for greatness, knowing that one can never be “good enough” – there’s always room for improvement.

LRI:  Hanoi Rocks recorded one of the greatest ballads ever in “Don’t You Ever Leave Me” but that was not indicative of the hard rock direction of Hanoi overall or of your solo career.  There are still many of those signature melodic moments on SENSORY OVERDRIVE including “ALL YOU NEED” and “GONE BABY GONE” and it feels like a lot of your personality shines through the compositions.  When you are writing a song does the melody come to you before the riff or do you usually build on a riff?

MM:  Well, melody is always important but then so is the riff.  That depends on the song, the situation, who I’m writing with, if anyone, and things like that. 

LRI:  Speaking of songwriting, you have always made really interesting decisions about collaborations whether in performances, band member choices or collaborative songwriting.    You’ve toured with Motorhead and Lemmy makes an appearance on SENSORY OVERDRIVE.   After all these years do you find it more enjoyable to bounce ideas off of other artists or to create on your own?

MM: I find it more enjoyable, more creative AND more productive collaborating with other artists.

LRI:    You’ve had really good bands like The Last Vegas open up some shows for you.  I know it’s part of your job but are you still a fan of checkin out new bands?  Do you still enjoy taking in a rock show even when you’re not performing in one?

MM:  I do still get excited and go out to a show when I hear a great new band, but that doesn’t happen very often these days.
LRI:  I have to ask you a question I asked Sebastian Bach the other week….Having been on both sides of the “REUNION” fence do you think that sometimes the expectations and real life scenarios involved in doing the big reunion are more trouble than they are worth?  Was it something you would have regretted had you NOT done the Hanoi Rocks reunion?????
MM: I think that totally depends on the situation and the band in question.  The legend of the original Hanoi Rocks is so much “larger than life” that it certainly was a tall order and a bold move to start using the name “Hanoi Rocks” again, when the rebirth happened. Luckily we managed to do it enough justice to make it worthwhile and maintained the band’s integrity in tact at the end of it all.  Like I said, with Hanoi Rocks it was a “rebirth” as opposed to a “reunion”.  It was a fresh new start with no end in sight, which I was ready to commit to for the rest of my life, had it continued being as creative and enjoyable as it was at first.  I would have NEVER done a “reunion” with Hanoi Rocks – meaning a one-off tour or something to make a quick buck by cashing in on the past.  That would have ruined the bands integrity and all that it stood for.  And that ain’t my style, as you know.
LRI:  You guys were involved in the making of a book, “ALL THOSE WASTED YEARS” which basically tells the entire story of Hanoi Rocks.  Was that a therapeutic thing to be involved with finally getting all the facts straight and down on record?  Were you surprised at how much work goes into making or being involved in a book?
MM: That is a great book and the only decent book ever written about (the original) Hanoi Rocks, which is why it’s a shame it has not yet been translated into English.  However, I’m glad there’s at least one “proper” book about Hanoi Rocks.  Actually, making my own autobiography which was released in Finland last fall was when I really had my hands full with making a book.  Then again this book is much longer and bigger than the Hanoi book and has way more photos and stuff in it.  Mind you, it has also sold much more than the Hanoi book – about 20 000 copies already which is a huge amount in Finland.  Anyway, making my autobiography was quite a “cleansing” experience for me.  It put a lot of things in better perspective and certain years, times and events in the right sequence.
LRI:  There has been a lot of people screaming for more official DVD and Blu-Ray releases of the classic Hanoi stuff but I think you guys would make a fantastic subject for a REAL MOVIE like the Motley Crue guys are talking about.  If such a movie were ever made can you even begin to imagine who Hollywood would choose to play you in cinema???
MM: I have no idea.  Most movies about a band with actors and such really don’t work for me.  I prefer documentaries with real footage of the actual band and its members.  For example The Who -movie “The Kids Are Alright” is a perfect movie about a band.  A great representation of The Who as a band. Besides, there can never be another Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Bon Scott, Stiv Bators, Phil Lynott, Johnny Thunders, etc… Nobody could ever act even close to what the true legends were like in real life.  Somehow these “reconstructed” movies always seem corny, phony and fake to me, plus they often mess with the facts, which I don’t like either.  A good quality, thorough Hanoi Rocks compilation would definitely be in order and long overdue, but pretty unlikely to ever see the light of day.
LRI:  You’re still in remarkable shape physically and vocally as anyone who saw you on your last tour can attest.  How serious do you take staying healthy and looking good in 2012 and how is it that you are able to not only focus on the music but living up to that visual image you created decades ago?   Yoga?  Running???  Tea???
MM: I do work out (and always have) in order to stay in good physical shape to be able to perform the way I do on stage. Besides, exercising is good for your head too.  I don’t go out to a gym or go out running, though.  I mostly work out at home and doing a live show is the best kind of exercise for me.  Also, not drinking any alcohol helps.
LRI:  You are of course from Europe but have had a chance to experience the United States through quite a bit of dates over your career.  Is there any food, nightlife or shopping that you have really grown to love and look forward to whenever you know you’re going to be in our country?
MM:  Oh yeah, I love being able to get any kind of berries and fruit all year around and other healthy foods.  The “Whole Foods” stores are my favorites.  And when in New York I love being able to get any kind of food at anytime, night or day.
LRI:  Thank you so much for taking a moment to talk to us Michael.  I am very sincere in saying that I hope you can continue to add to your legacy with more albums like SENSORY OVERDRIVE and I would like to tell my readers that if they haven’t heard it they are really missing out on one of the most honest, real rock and roll albums of your career.  Is there anything that you would like to add or say to my audience or any upcoming projects we should know about?
MM: Thank you kindly John, it’s been my pleasure.  I would like to thank all my friends and fans for their continuing support and for spreading the good word about me and my great new band and record.  Looking forward to seeing you soon down the road!  Stay cool!  

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Category: Interviews

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Mike Monroe is a living legend…keep on rockin’ Mike!