Randy Rand came up in the same late 70s Sunset Strip scene that would eventually spawn bands such as Ratt, Motley Crue and many others. He was already a veteran of several bands and a seasoned studio musician when he rose to prominence as the wild-eyed bassist of Autograph and splashed all over MTV airwaves and national concert stages. We talked to Autograph drummer Keni Richards who went into great detail about the band and have been trying to line up interviews with some of the others ever since. It hasn’t been easy. Randy himself doesn’t give too many interviews so it was very cool to be able to catch up with him and hear his side of the story. He’s toured with Van Halen, Motley Crue and played on American Bandstand for Dick Clark and we had a few questions to get in during a recent opportunity to talk. Read on…
Legendary Rock Interviews: Thanks for talking to us Randy, we spoke with Keni which was pretty crazy. What bands were you involved with and what part did you play in the old Sunset Strip scene prior to joining AUTOGRAPH???
Randy Rand: The first time I played the Strip was in 1974 with the Epic recording band “MASTERS OF THE AIRWAVES” at the Whiskey a Go Go and the Starwood. At the Starwood, I met Ray the manager of the club who was also the manager of a local band “Wolfgang” which featured Steve Plunkett who I met for the first time….So, yes that’s how long me and Plunk knew each other! After my band “Masters of The Airwaves” ended I was offered a gig with “Wolfgang” and so it began…..I played with them from 1974 to 1980. We played all of the clubs on the strip except Gazzaris.
LRI: Keni told us that Autograph’s story was very different from many of the L.A. bands due to the fact that you guys never really played the scene and just went straight into the national tour circuit opening the Van Halen 1984 tour. What was that like? Was that a difficult transition?
Randy: Me and Plunk were always doing demos and writing together so we were just constantly working together. I was on tour with LITA FORD as part of her rhythm section with Randy Castillo on the Out For Blood European tour. We were starting recording for Lita’s second album at the Power Station in NY when Plunk called me and asked me if I wanted to go on tour with our buds Van Halen. I was a bit torn because I was in the middle of Lita’s second album……..But damn how frickin fun is that gonna be. I only knew (keyboardist) Wayne Isham and Plunk in the band, we had a few rehearsals with Keni and Lynch, jumped in a motor home and our first gig was in front of 10,000 crazed Van Halen fans. I had just gotten off tour with Lita opening for Rainbow so I was used to crazy crowds.
LRI: Keni also indicated that he felt their was a bit of a power struggle between the rest of you guys and Plunkett in terms of credits and publishing and that you were all just having so much fun as young partying rockers on the road that he missed out on some of the business angles. Did you ever sense than Plunk wanted you guys to just enjoy the ride and not ask any questions about publishing, songwriting or the business end of things?
Randy: Nah,…dude, mostly because like I said, me and Plunk are the same age and had been doing this scene since the early 70’s. Plunk wasn’t a puppet master to me, we knew about publishing and mechanicals and we kept 100% of our publishing. I’m sure RCA wasn’t happy about that, it’s probably one of the reasons why they didn’t push us as much as they could’ve or should’ve.
LRI: The SIGN IN PLEASE album wasn’t released when you did the Van Halen tour in ’84, did you have any idea how the record might go over BASED on how the shows were going opening for Van Halen?
Randy: We did really well in most cities…. I was shocked!!!! Except NASHVILLE!!!!!!! We almost got fuckin killed there. The stage was ankle deep in cans and bottles that came flying at us on stage, we only got through 2 or 3 songs, I was never so happy to get off a stage in my life. Of course, after “TURN UP THE RADIO” became a hit we played Nashville again and everyone we talked to apologized for that night……..but after that first go-around in Nashville, we knew we could get through anything !!!!!! We were ready to record and I knew we had something.
LRI: I understand the band’s biggest hit “Turn Up The Radio” almost didn’t make it onto the album which sounds crazy to most people. What was it about the original demos for the song that kept it from standing out initally?
Randy: Well….. The original recording was good but the lyrics weren’t quite there yet, you can hear the original demo on the “MISSING PIECES” album…..To tell you the truth, by this time so much was happening it’s a little foggy!! I’m sure the drugs and alcohol at that point didn’t help my memory either (laughs). All I Remember is we got signed at Madison Square Garden on the 1984 tour. Then we went crazy, REAL crazy. Some things I remember and some things I don’t. Rock & Roll! (laughs).
LRI: Did the problems on RCA began when they didn’t pursue other singles or avenues to promote SIGN IN PLEASE after the success of “Turn Up”? Do you think if more time was spent pushing other songs off of the debut album that it would have changed the rest of Autograph’s career?
Randy: Yeah. I was upset with RCA because they fuckin dropped the ball. They didn’t have faith in “Turn Up The Radio” either to tell you the honest to god’s truth, if it wasn’t for all of those great DJ’s that loved the song it wouldn’t have happened. So I thank you guys, you know who you are!! Also, thanks to the people got a chance to hear it and liked us!
LRI: There’s a fine line involved with balancing a career in the hard rock world and having pop elements. The minute the harmony vocals or keyboards overshadow the rhythm section or screaming leads you are in danger of being considered a “fluff” band or shunned by the metalheads. You had a heavy rhythm section and one of the most underrated guitarists of the era, for those of us not lucky enough to make it to a gig…..Were the live shows considerably heavier than the albums?
Randy: We wanted a bit of a pop element to the band but the glossy production of the first album “SIGN IN PLEASE” was a little safe for me. Live, we were loud and aggressive, ask anyone who saw us on tour, Steve Lynch is a fuckin son of a bitch as a guitar player….so underestimated!! He is a true Rock guitar monster…Me and Keni just shoved 2 & 4 beats up Lynch and Plunks asses as any good drummer and bass player should do, that was our job!!!
LRI: The second album “THAT’S THE STUFF” had some really catchy songs and interesting video ideas, the title track and “Blondes In Black Cars” still get some airplay on Hair Nation. Were you as pleased or more pleased with the follow up when it was released?
Randy: I loved “THAT’S THE STUFF”!! We produced it with Eddie Delena. It was just a fun album to do. We may have had a little too much fun (laughs) ……. It was Poppy.
LRI: The band got to go out on another HUGE tour at that point as part of the “THEATRE OF PAIN” tour. Did the level of partying and excess go to unmentionable levels or even eclipse the Van Halen tour by then??? Both bands are notorious for having a good time but Motley was on another level, correct?
Randy: “Theatre Of Pain” was just an extension of Hollywood. Nikki and I had been friends for years so it was like going out on tour with your old friends. The Hollywood credo was “help your rocker buds out”, plus we had a hit of our own so it all made perfect sense. Yes, the partying was EPIC!!!!!! Say no more. We took no frickin prisoners, unlike the Van Halen tour where we didn’t have the money to party…….thank god for the back stage rider!
LRI: You got to work with the legendary Andy Johns (Led Zep, Stones) on the final album LOUD AND CLEAR. There were still some poppy moments and catchy songs but lots of fans prefer that album because it’s a little more raw. Did working with Andy allow you guys to finally sound like the rock band you always heard through your live monitors?
Randy: Working with ANDY JOHNS was what I hoped all of our albums were gonna sound like to begin with. That’s what we sounded like live!! Plus he is so good at what he does and he’s so rude and English and fucking fun…His stories about the bands he and his brother Glenn did in the 60’s and 70’s are stupid good , I loved working with him. Plus he allowed us to keep our catchy/poppy song writing but bring out the raw rock sound of AUTOGRAPH
LRI: Thanks for talking to us Randy….Last question. What kind of taste did the breakup of Autograph leave in your mouth, how long did you take before deciding your next career move and how long did it really take to come to realize how much your music still means to old fans or even new people just discovering you all these years later???
Randy: When the band broke up we knew it was time to move on, the grunge scene took over the Rock world, plus I was tired of chasing success when it just wasn’t fun anymore. Just the smell of a bus generator running makes me sick now (laughs). In other words….. I was done. It didn’t take long to figure out what I wanted to do, I had been doing leather accessories in my spare time so I just put my whole energy into that. Before I knew it, I was selling my stuff on Melrose, then EASYRIDER took me on as a vendor for their stores and their retail catalog. I ran into my competitor Steve and we formed a business together which is a high end dog collar company called “WOOF WEAR” and that’s what I’m still doing 12 years later. I’m also starting a custom guitar strap line made by hand with the finish materials I can find. Facebook has let me know what we meant to our fans and I was surprised by how many young fans love our stuff! That makes all of the hard work worth it. You really never know what effect you have on people………from what I read… “We Did Good”. To everyone out there reading this, ALL OF YOU 80’s MUSIC LOVERS, YOU FUCKIN ROCK!!! Thank YOU!!!!!!!
read Autograph drummer Keni Richards interview here: http://www.legendaryrockinterviews.com/2011/08/06/legendary-rock-interview-with-keni-richards-of-autograph-and-dirty-white-boy/