Metal Edge, November 1997
Warrant fans have two chances to hear the band live this summer, on the road with Alice Cooper and on a new live album that captures them at their in-concert best. Recorded at Harpo’s in Detroit, MI on Nov. 22, 1996, Warrant Live 1986-1997 is a 15-song exercise in in-your-face fun.
“It sounds really live. A lot of bands doctor everything up and re-record parts, smooth out all the edges. We left all the edges there,” said Erik Turner, when we met with him, bassist Jerry Dixon and drummer Bobby Borg at Malibu Juice & Coffee, which Erik co-owns. Nevertheless, “We had to edit a lot of stuff out,” noted Jerry, among them “63 F-words” (though many occurrences of the expletive remain) and snippets of other people’s songs that Warrant often includes in the live set, such as Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” “You can cover a song as long as you pay artist royalties,” he explained, but the same rules apply to just a fragment; that, plus having to do the licensing work, didn’t seem cost-effective. “For 30-40 seconds it’s not worth it. There was some cool stuff though.”
Bobby, who gets a drum solo showcase in “Family Picnic,” remembered the night fondly. “Harpo’s was packed. The audience was great. They were really into it,” he said. “It’s a big hall with great sound.” That’s fortunate, as Warrant “didn’t have the luxury of carrying a mobile truck around. It was pretty nerve-wracking knowing we were recording a live album and putting on a show at the same time," said Erik.
Most of the concert made it to the album, including four songs from the ‘96 studio effort Belly to Belly. “I fought to keep it on there as much as possible,” said front man Jani Lane in a separate interview. B2B song “Indian Giver” has been released as a single and may refocus attention on that album, which suffered from lack of airplay, video play, and attention, possibly, Erik proposed, as a result of being the first record released under CMC’s distribution deal with BMG.
Warrant Live’s Japanese release includes two previously unreleased demos from 1993, the poppy “New World” and ballad “I Can’t Help Myself,” which Jani wrote during his brief departure from the band. The packaging features photos of all members past and present, including Joey Allen and Steven Sweet.
Erik, diagnosed with ulcers last winter, hasn’t been touring with Warrant since January but hasn’t severed his ties with the band. “When it first happened, I’d been thinking of taking a break from touring anyway, I’d been going back and forth and back and forth: ‘I’m going,’ I’m not going.’ Then I got the ulcers and I said, ‘That’s it, I’m not going.’ I made a decision. I haven’t really stopped doing Warrant since we started the band like 13 years ago. I needed a little break from it. I wasn’t sure how they were gonna react but everyone’s been cool and I’m grateful for that.” While he’s feeling better, he’s not doing the Alice Cooper tour but plans to attend the L.A. Universal Amphitheater show and may join in to jam. As for the future, “We’ll see what happens. If the guys want to get together and make a record next year I’m all for that.”
After recent stylistic departures from the pop-metal sound that made them famous and the glam look that went with it, Jani wants to take it full circle and “go back to the early ‘80s and what we used to do, back to everything I’ve always loved – Bowie image-wise, early Aerosmith musically. That’s what I like, always have. Trying to fit into a scene I’m not really part of is boring and not fun. The ‘90s alternative rock bands have done exactly what the ‘80s heavy metal ones did – there’s a million of them, too much of a good thing. Same haircut and goatee, sounding like Counting Crows,” said Jani. “It’s not what Warrant is or what we’re about. Bands like Kiss, Manson, Alice Cooper, Warrant, Poison Mötley Crüe, Psychotica were meant to be over the top, theatrical, not look like the average Joe off the street. I want to be that again. We’ve been having rocks thrown at us for five years and I’m tired of running. I’d rather we make a final stand doing what we love doing. Someone should do it and I plan on it being us.
"How much shit can you get for doing what you did in the first place?,” he asked. “You might as well do what you like. If we have a molecule of success with it I guarantee everyone will jump on it.”
While Jerry jokes that he “could use a little makeup now,” he wasn’t sure about a return to full-on glam. “Maybe we could split the difference, ease into it. But we’ll see, every record is so different from when you talk about it to when you get in and actually start working on the music. You say, ‘Let’s do this,’ and by the time you get on the road you’re back to yourself again, saying, ‘screw it, I’m wearing what I like to wear.’ ”
Speaking of the road, Jerry was looking forward to playing bigger venues with Alice Cooper, though dismayed that Warrant, on the bill with Alice, Dokken, and Slaughter, would only get a half hour set. “It cuts into our drinking time – gonna need one of those Budweiser hats,” he laughed, adding that the band had talked about making the entire show a medley of hits, “and maybe play a couple straight through.”
Jani was also eager to join (and golf with) Alice, to move back to L.A. with his pregnant wife Rowanne (she’s expecting their daughter around Thanksgiving), and continue to work on his Jabberwocky project. “It’s pop songs, everything I’ve always loved. A lot of acoustic guitar,” described the singer, who’s joined by drummer Bobby, Warrant axeman Rick Steier, bassist Bruce Robinson, plus “female backup vocals, keys, sax players. We have 12 songs done, two more to record before the Alice tour,” Jani noted. “It gives me an opportunity to do something different,” said Bobby. “It’s a lot more dynamic, I play with brushes, more subtlety.”
Jerry isn’t in Jabberwocky, but feels part of it because the band records at his Dreamstate Studio, and he doesn’t mind that it might take Jani away from Warrant for a while. “I think it’s good because when you let people do their thing it’s more exciting when you do get back together again,” he opined.
“Especially when you’ve been playing in the same band for so long. A little break gives you perspective,” Erik finished the thought. He has been “fiddling around a lot” with song ideas, but the next Warrant release may not involve new songs at all – they’ll probably release Unwarranted, an album of unreleased older material (like “Southern Comfort” and “Game of War”), followed by an acoustic record. So, while they agree that the musical climate is “kind of confused right now” and “don’t think one band can change the whole scene,” it doesn’t mean Warrant is going to give up any time soon.