Jerry Dixon is not only one of the most recognizable members of WARRANT since their mid-80s inception but also probably the most underrated in terms of both his playing and business acumen. Everyone remembers Jani as the face of the band for so long and now recognizes the strong presence of Robert Mason in that role. Steven Sweet’s history and connection with Jani, his pal from Ohio, has been well documented and his drumwork and harmonies were missed by many when he was out of the lineup. Having said all that, it was Jerry and guitarist Erik Turner who formed the band and the pair continue to expand on that working relationship with their latest venture, DOWN BOYS RECORDS. Mr. Dixon also provides the sunny smile and personality that has kept the band moving positively forward despite roadblocks that would normally destroy many other groups. We found that guy next door, happy California personality in spades recently in speaking with Jerry about he and Erik’s new label, the new year for Warrant and oh yeah, the shitstorm started by our interview with Bobbie Brown. Read on….. ( Thanks to Bobbie for her part in this and also to artistxposure.com for the lead photo!)
Legendary Rock Interviews: Hey Jerry, thanks for talking to us. 2011 was a crazy year of ups and downs, twists and turns for WARRANT. You put out ROCKAHOLIC with your amazing new singer and played lots of great gigs but the fall and winter suddenly clouded in the wake of Jani’s death. But now it’s spring 2012 and summer is on the horizon as well as all kinds of new things from Warrant.
Jerry Dixon: Thanks man, yeah it WAS a pretty eventful year filled with both good and bad circumstances but we really enjoyed hearing those positive things about the album. That, the fans and live shows really help me personally to keep it all in perspective.
LRI: We should address the elephant in the room, in other words, the shitstorm started by our interview with Bobbie Brown. We run most people’s comments and opinions unedited, including Michael Wagener who had nothing but great things to say about you or the interviews we’ve done with your guitarists. That’s just how we do things but Bobbie’s interview was pretty emotional, raw and subjective. She spoke just a few months after Jani died and she really got truly intense. Bobbie found out that I’d be talking to you today and she wanted me to again apologize on her behalf for any comments she made about the band in her interview, comments she felt strongly about when speaking but later found to be based on misinformation she had received. I also want to say it really wasn’t my intention to injure anyone with my questions. I love Warrant with and without Jani, hell I even have the album with Jamie St. James.
JD: Wow (laughs). Well, that’s nice of her to say that. I did read that interview and her comments really caught me off guard because I always thought she and I were always pretty good friends. I was like, “Wow, where the hell did that come from??” First of all because so much of what she thought about us wasn’t true and like I said, second of all I thought we were friends and she of all people knew us and Lane better than that. But having said that, thank you for being upfront about that and of course, thank you Bobbie for clearing that up. Everyone makes mistakes but that’s cool of her to step back and realize that it really was misinformation and we really did try to help Jani. We couldn’t be at the memorial because we were on the road mid-tour when it was going on.
LRI: We knew you weren’t too happy with the way that the 2008 Reunion went down but it really went unreported JUST HOW MUCH the band tried to avert disaster with Jani during that time.
JD: Oh, absolutely, that’s just it John. For a while there it seemed like that’s ALL we were doing was trying to help Jani. It’s really weird the way people communicate nowadays on Facebook and stuff being all immediate it still seemed like there was a lot of bad communication about that particular topic. For starters, there still seem to be a LARGE segment of our own fans that weren’t aware of the fact that we really tried to do the reunion in 07/08. They would post things about how we didn’t try to get back with Jani after he left and nothing was further from the truth. We really tried to make that reunion and we put Jani into rehab around that time and we visited him, we didn’t ignore him. We even went to the extent of removing all alcohol off the backstage rider and bringing one of Dr. Drew’s counselors out on the road with us and we still only made it through eleven shows. We have historically played at least 40-60 shows a year other than that one year so of course it was a huge blow to us but it wasn’t just business, I mean we have hearts underneath our skin. It’s crazy that people think we didn’t do anything but I guess we just didn’t feel the need to make a big public announcement about it at the time. I mean, myself personally, I just try to speak nothing but facts on topics like this because it’s already hurt Jani’s family and hurt us and as hard as it is, I try to keep my emotions out of it and stick to what happened. The facts are that the Lane era and the new era of Warrant are two totally different eras and the Lane era was SO long ago aside from the previously stated reunion attempt. I mean this as no disrespect but it’s been a long time and it’s basically been as long that we’ve been without him as it was that we were with him. I guess what really upsets me about the people who make comments about us moving on is…. Where were all those people in 2008 when we TRIED the reunion and tried the rehab and he still was in the condition he was in at the Las Vegas show? I thought he was gonna DIE onstage at that show in Las Vegas. I mean where were all these people who claim now to have been best friends with Jani then? It’s really hard and I struggle to understand where all these people who paint us as the “bad guys” were back then because they clearly weren’t noticing how hard we all tried to help Jani and keep it together not only for the sake of our band but because whether people believe it or not we are human beings and we cared about our friend. If I could help a complete stranger struggling with those addictions I would help them because that’s just the human thing to do. When someone like Jani dies it’s just a fact that people don’t know how to process it and immediately try to find someone to blame. The fact is, it’s just a fucking sad, sad tragedy and he had a bad, bad disease which is what I call it and he simply could not shake it. It’s really not something that had very much to DO with Warrant and another thing people seem to forget is that it was always JANI who left Warrant and not the other way around. He literally left the band all the time. He didn’t just bail on a tour or two or three. He left us hanging on a LOT of things because he always envisioned himself as a solo artist. I mean, look at the cover of his solo album BACK DOWN TO ONE, there’s four dead body marks on the cover, who do you think that is? Time and time again, he would have a change of heart and want to come back and we would let him, we were like “Dude, you’re fuckin Jani Lane, yeah of course we want you back”. When we did the BORN AGAIN album it wasn’t by choice that we didn’t have Jani in the band, he left us and I think people really forget about that. It always confused me that he would come and go like that because as a musician or artist you can’t always be stopping and starting like that with no consistency. It makes you not want to be in the band when it’s so inconsistent like that. Jani created this monster success as a member of WARRANT and then he HATED it and shunned the whole thing. That’s the other thing, it seemed like the only thing he was comfortable being proud of was the songwriting because that’s all he ever talked about. It really was all he ever talked about and yes, he was a creative guy but he didn’t need to take it that far that he just took 100% credit for WARRANT’s success while at the same time being totally ashamed of it. I mean, if you go to BMI.com and search the songwriting credits you’ll see his name on a lot of them but you’ll also see the rest of our names on songs like “Cherry Pie” as well. Erik and I have worked incredibly hard at this band over the years with and without Jani’s involvement. There’s a lot more to this band than just one person and I wish sometimes Jani could have remembered that. It’s like a football team, you might have Tom Brady for a quarterback but you need a kickass coach and a great group of guys around him and a stadium and cheerleaders and a front office in order to win. I mean who do people think found Jani Lane??? We found Jani up a fuckin tree and he and Steven weren’t doing shit until we got together to get things done. I’m not just talking shit that’s just me being honest. We formed a great team and one of the things he brought to the team was songwriting, he was REALLY good at that so WHY would we fuck with that? He would write a song like “Heaven” and I would be like “Oh my god dude that is beautiful!” . I’m not gonna let my ego get in the way of someone bringing a good idea to the table. If something’s great, it’s great and we don’t care who gets credit for doing it, it’s all about the team.
LRI: Well, one thing Bobbie absolutely nailed was that to the day he died he really didn’t accept or understand how appreciated he was or how great the music you made together was.
JD: Yeah, and that always blew my mind but then I can’t imagine being Jani Lane or imagine what went through his mind or how uncomfortable he was in his own skin or to struggle with all these questions and doubts he had. I mean the guy struggled with everyday things a person shouldn’t have to struggle with like flying or holidays or things you should just be at ease about and not be nervous about. I wanted to also make a mention to something that I think a lot about and I’m not even sure a lot of people realize. If you ever want to know what happened to Jani Lane it’s all in the songs. What I mean by that is that it was just his nature to let you in a little bit with his lyrics and on ULTRAPHOBIC and especially BELLY TO BELLY you can really hear the story of things going south in his life. As sad as that is, it’s the truth. Everyone wants to know what happened to Lane but it’s right there in those songs. One night I put on “Falling Down” and I was like “Fuck, there’s the story right there” and I don’t know if anyone even noticed. He was telling the whole world how he was feeling and I didn’t realize it at the time and maybe a lot of other people didn’t either. But it’s there. Those are really dark records, we call them the black years and the music wasn’t your typical “pop” Warrant but I really think that both of them were really, really strong records that might have been overlooked. We were really bummed at the state of the industry back then and angry and maybe drinking and getting a little negative but it’s an important part of our history. Dirty Rotten and Cherry Pie are only a tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of our overall output. If nothing else those albums from Dog Eat Dog to Belly to Belly really show you the road Jani was headed down. If anyone has any questions about Jani just listen to his words, it’s one red flag after another on those albums to the point of where I’m hearing it now and looking back goin “HOLY SHIT!” Really all I can say about him I just that I know things affected him in a way he wasn’t comfortable with at all and now he’s in a better place.
LRI: The biggest crime would have been for the new album to go unnoticed or you and Robert’s writing on the record to go unnoticed so it was a little icing on the cake to see you guys make so many people’s top ten lists. Now you’re kicking off the spring with a few club gigs after doing so many of these big festivals. Is it fun or reminiscent of the old Country Club days to get packed into those little clubs where the crowd is right in your face?
JD: Yeah, yeah. As soon as you walk in those places, the sights, the smells and the feelings all start rushing back (laughs). We will play anywhere. We’re not opposed to playing these club gigs if the routing is right and it all works out, it can be a lot of fun. It’s always fun of course to get out and do all the big festival shows and stuff but that’s really more of a summer thing. We’re rehearsing some different tunes for the setlist “Bonfire” and “Inside Out” off of DOG EAT DOG. We’re adding around five or so old WARRANT tunes to the current set which is something we kind of do on a yearly basis. We put stuff in and pull stuff out. We’re gearing up to have some really big shows this summer in honor of the anniversary of the Cherry Pie tour with Firehouse and Trixter and we’re hoping to keep rolling all summer and then get back into the studio to start putting in some serious work on the next record.
LRI: Any progress towards the DVD thing that I talked to Erik about?
JD: You know what? Yeah, we have been working on a lot of video stuff in addition to the actual videos for the songs off of ROCKAHOLIC. We just have so much stuff, much of it really old stuff that we’d like to put together. We actually also have some masters of unreleased stuff and we’d like to put out a duet of Jani and Robert singing together on this one particular track.
JD: Yeah, that’s something that people have never really even heard before, I looked in my closet and found these songs that we did and thought “Fuck, you know what? That would be really, really cool to just put those two together on this track”. I think it would also show people that we really don’t wanna dishonor Jani or get into a pissing match about it because it’s history and it’s a history we have a lot of respect for. We’re also done re-recording a lot of the old material with Robert, there’s about 7 songs like “Cherry Pie” and things like that and that’s in the can. We may just do a little WARRANT compilation and spread a little love around all the singers and maybe even throw a little Saint in there. We wanna do a cd/dvd package and have it be something really special, not just material that we’ve already released before but a lot of unheard or never before seen material. The new package will be really cool and comprehensive. We’re also re-releasing the “They Came From Hollywood” video on Down Boys Records which we put out around the time of the ill-fated reunion. It’s nothing but old, classic Warrant footage. The “Heaven” clip is an example of it on our Facebook page. It really tells the story of that song from the beginning to the end with that old VHS footage. . The weird thing was, like I said, we were on the road when the Jani Memorial was happening and the strangest thing on earth happened. I opened up my laptop as that was going on back home at the Key Club and that video of “Heaven” that we edited with all the old footage from the Country Club days to the big stage just popped on. I usually do all my video editing from a totally different computer so it really freaked me out a little bit when it just started playing like that but that footage is great. I had to smile. We have SO much old footage on that DVD, there’s a lot of really funny stuff like old interviews or us pissing on the wall at the Country Club, things like that and about 5 live songs and photo shoots too. It’s about an hour long and it’s pretty much an insider’s look at the original Warrant.
LRI: Ok, before we move onto your new project. When we talked to your producer Michael Wagener about you guys he really had some strong opinions about the one of the rumors that continues to dog you. He said that he thinks someone was being malicious by saying you guys didn’t play on the original WARRANT albums and that from what he witnessed you were all more than capable of playing ANYTHING you were asked. He thought it was all just a bunch of crap that someone started who had a personal beef with you. I’m a KISS fan and it’s just weird that nobody gives them shit for using outside guitarists or drummers or bassists but people seem to want to undermine WARRANT and single you out for some reason. Do you wanna take a stab at clearing up that shit once and for all?
JD: (laughs). Yeah, I read that Michael said that. I mean, every producer has ideas of using backup singers or session players but we’ve always been a part of the creation of our stuff. From what I know Mike Slamer, the guy who supposedly played, was just our guitar tech back then. Of course C.C. Deville played on Cherry Pie but that was public knowledge. I just know that I don’t remember any shenanigans like that from when I was there. We’re proud of those records and we were absolutely there making those records. It’s really funny because nowadays nobody plays on their records and there’s so much trickery and protools and autotune. I agree with you for some reason we were the whipping boy on that one and it was all done on two-inch tape back before protools and autotune and all that shit. You had to play the song from beginning to end especially on the basic tracks that I was a part of. I really don’t know what else to say except that I guess we’ve done a bad job of defending ourselves against those kind of attacks, many of which erupted around the same time that Jani was going back and forth on whether he wanted to be in the band. We really have had to learn to defend ourselves a lot better than we have historically. It’s not our nature to get worked up about it, listen to ROCKAHOLIC or come to a live show and make up your own mind about whether or not we’re capable of playing that stuff (laughs). We’re just not the kind of guys to stand up and tell people who talk shit to go fuck themselves, maybe we should be (laughs).
LRI: So your new project DOWN BOYS RECORDS is outside of the actual WARRANT deal with Frontiers Records?
JD: Yes, the Frontiers deal is actually a licensing thing. It’s actually a case where we are on DOWN BOYS label but we licensed it to be released through them and that deal will continue to be in place for a few years. We work with them and they’ve done a great job of getting it out there. I will admit that we’ve done a LOT of work on our own as well but the Frontiers people have been very cool to work with. The actual starting of our own label really got going just because of this digital world we live in now. After so many years of being in this business and dealing with other people you start scratching your head and saying “You know what, we could do this, we can sign bands and release our own product and just carry out those functions on our own and do it our way”. There’s so, so, so many bands that are out there and WORTH hearing but they’re not getting a chance with the few majors who are left because those guys are strictly looking at sales rather than actually listening to the music.
LRI: People can scoff all they want at bands who start “vanity” labels but in this day and age it really is possible and makes a TON of sense.
JD: I know, I know. We’re not ever gonna be on the caliber of a Frontiers or a Sony because Erik and I are truly doing this ourselves and we’re not some huge corporate entity. We’re definitely not “suit and tie” guys. A lot of the artists we sign or release might not translate into major sales but we’re very realistic and upfront about that with them. Let’s face it, it’s hard for anyone to sell records, it’s hard for WARRANT to sell records and we have an established brand. We just want to be a home and a help to artists and maybe help them get their stuff out there. We help them clean up old contracts or publishing deals or get out situations or deals with management and all these things that can sometimes get really complicated for a band trying to focus on MUSIC. As a band gets rolling it tends to accumulate all these offers and contracts and deals and lots of them are not in their favor. We go through and secure their publishing for them in their name, and their masters and their musical lives basically and put them in the Down Boys basket. From there, we release their music and the backside and maybe most important part of all this is the music placement business for television and films and commercials and that sort of thing.
LRI: That sounds like a really lucrative and intelligent thing. I actually talked to Robert Sarzo about that in his interview because that’s where he does the vast majority of his work now. It sounds interesting.
JD: It is. We will come up with pieces of music for clients, that’s really what it is. If you watch TV or movies, everything from the commercials to the news to the shows themselves are filled with music. It has to be licensed and it has to come from somewhere. Our vision is that we have album quality, 100 thousand dollar quality records from artists and for whatever industry reason they own the rights to it and their label never capitalized on it. To Erik and I that’s just GOLD. People NEED that music for their projects but there’s a lot of paperwork involved and the legalities have got to be covered or the TV and film production companies will NOT touch it. It all has to be registered properly and secured and often times, in our dealings, that’s where the artists really have been misled or basically screwed. A major network or studio will not deal with a piece of music if there’s any problems with the legal particulars or if the masters aren’t secured and owned or if the contracts or publishing isn’t secure. Pretty much what we’ve done is, we have the studio covered and the musical end of everything has been cleaned up, we have the song publishing for all these brilliant artists and now, between releasing it and making it available for placement, they have at least HALF a chance. Which is more than they had before hooking up with us. Maybe nobody goes to Itunes and checks out the DRUG UNDER record we put out or buys it but maybe a friend of ours in the film biz needs a song off that record and loves it so he uses it in his film. There’s a lot of opportunities for artists other than just Itunes and they need to be aware of them.
JD: Absolutely. Go to Downboysrecords.com and from there there’s a whole other website for the music supervisors to go to that has all that information about the pre-cleared music we have available. The tricky part of all of that business is the licensing and we have all of that paperwork cleaned up. The end result is that our contracts are clean, clear and fair. They’re open-ended so if someone doesn’t want to be here they don’t have to be here and can always have an out.
LRI: You guys obviously had SOME good experiences with Columbia and sold a lot of records and made them a LOT of money but did some of the more negative dealings with the music business in regards to WARRANT prompt you to wake up and want to get into something like this?
JD: Yeah, totally. I have to admit that this ENTIRE project was spawned out of anger and frustration and Erik and I having the experience of getting fucked in no easy terms. We were ripped off like so many artists and now I know that it’s always kind of been the artist’s fault for not paying attention. Noone’s trying to rip you off exactly but it all comes down to registration stuff. People register a car they buy with their label advance but then fail to remember to go out and register their songs (laughs). Things like that have happened to artists since the beginning of time. You can write the greatest songs on earth and never receive royalties if they’re not registered and people don’t know where to pay you at. There’s all these different publishing companies and if you’re not registered and on board the money just kind of floats in the air and eventually disappears.
LRI: Would you agree that so many artists are focused on getting out of the garage that they are just blind to all that shit? The system is sort of inherently set up for you to fail if you don’t have your eyes open.
JD: I don’t think you could put it any better than that, thank you John. That’s one of the things I want to make crystal clear, anyone involved with us will never, ever get fucked over because we remember those days of just trying to get your band started. We teach them, we communicate with them, we share with them, sometimes we make people feel so relieved that we end up feeling like saviors (laughs). People will call us enthusiastically and thank us “Oh my god, I’ve finally got some of this shit cleaned up and straightened out. I don’t know how to thank you” and that feels really good. It’s very rewarding just to help people in this confusing crap. The physical records cost money, the publisher gets a cut and at the end of the day the artist is really either in debt or has 32 pennies to show for it. As an artist you’re thinking “Well, why doesn’t the record company just pay us” not realizing the complexity of it all.
LRI: We talked to one of the guys from OVERKILL who has a movie coming out about all the obstacles facing an artist. Why do you think people are only now starting to realize these things.
JD: I just think, speaking from experience, we are naive because it’s not something we’re ever exposed too. You’re exposed to beer and guitars and girls but none of the things that are actually going to have a long-term effect on you when it comes to the business end of things. If you manage to make it to the sunset of your life and don’t realize all the complexities of it you would never really miss it unless you were on the wrong side of it or people weren’t looking out for your best interests. If you have someone else entrusted to do all of your business so you can rock and roll and you never get a statement or check in the mail you are none the wiser. We got fucked so we know others have and we won’t be a part of it.
LRI: So true. Bobbie Brown also literally laughed when I asked something about people mentioning her being interested in Jani’s financial richies. She said for all the publicity about him being so rich off the songwriting he had his own money problems and there was no money to fight ABOUT.
JD: Thank you. You’re a smart man my friend and Bobbie speaks the TRUTH (laughs). I mean it sucks. It sucked for Lane too. It’s not what people think and he wasn’t rolling in dough. He had possessions for sure but he didn’t go out and buy houses like the rest of us did, Jani just wasn’t like that. People have all kinds of crazy ideas about fame and fortune that just aren’t rooted in reality.
LRI: Tell me about a few of the artists and plug away for a moment. I know you have one of my guilty pleasures in ODIN and I know you have DC4 and the very sexy and talented Nikki McKibbin who is probably the only American Idol worth giving a shit about.
JD: Awesome. Yeah, DC4 is the Duncan Brothers, Jeff was in Armored Saint and Rowan Robertson of DIO fame and they just kick all kinds of ass. Rowan is, of course, an amazing guitarist, he was in DIO as a TEENAGER and he’s on the EXPLODE record from DC4 which is one of the top 5 records I have heard in my life and I’m not saying that to sell records. I’m saying that because the DC4 guys are amazing and they deserve credit. You should really hit me up to interview Rowan. Jeff Duncan was also in ODIN and we have re-released their album, THE METAL YEARS which is basically their entire life on one record. DRUG UNDER is another band we have that has an amazing record but just flew under the radar and we know have tons of potential. Nikki’s band LOVE STRICKEN DEMISE is going to really surprise some people, especially the people who have no idea about here other than IDOL. It’s really, really exciting and we really think they are so loaded with talent, Nikki included.
LRI: Like most people I know of ODIN because of the Decline of Western Civilization 2 movie. We tried to get something from the director Penelope as far as details of the famous ODIN hottub scene when we talked to her. What are your memories of the infamous ODIN?
JD: Yeah, don’t be guilty about loving some Odin. Odin were like the pioneers of that little metal scene at that particular moment. They were kind of glam but were really different from their look because they were actually playing heavy metal as opposed to the hard rock that eventually took off. So, in that sense, they were sort of unique and ahead of their time. People didn’t know what to make of them at the time they came out and then seven years later when the hair metal scene blew up and the movie came out people sort of forgot that ODIN were there before all of us. They sort of were made infamous by that scene in the hottub but I think that scene was really contrived and not indicative of their overall attitude. They sort of conspired to get them drunk and get a soundbite and of course they got that part where Randy says “I’ll kill myself if we don’t make it”. They were way before our time, they were really from that original wave of Quiet Riot and Dokken, RATT and Crue but were much heavier than all of those bands. Fun fact about that band; Randy O is my cousin, I used to idolize them and watch them rehearse and shit. He would pick me up and I just loved watching that band because they kicked more ass than anyone on the strip. I really looked up to them and I’m proud that we released the record because it’s so good. Even still, to this day, I think it’s such a good album. They had a lot to do with me even wanting to start a band in the first place and that’s the truth. I was just at Randy’s house and hanging out and he still thinks that part of the Decline movie is nuts. They just caught them on one bad night and got what they wanted out of them being drunk in the hottub for dramatic effect. I think a lot of the bands in that movie were totally drunk during filming. The other issue I have with that movie is where the hell were GNR or WARRANT or RATT or MOTLEY? It’s not really a definitive document of the whole scene as far as featuring all the bands that were truly happening. I partied like we all did but I do remember the Sunset Strip days because I was there!!