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INTERVIEW: ERIK TURNER of WARRANT – May 2017

According to a recent press release: “Under their belt, Warrant has eight million records sold worldwide, two Top Ten Billboard albums, five Top 40 Billboard hits, five #1 MTV videos…the list goes on and on. Now, six years after the release of “Rockaholic,” the album that relaunched the band as a force to be reckoned with in the 21st Century, Warrant returns with another slab of muscular hard rock, aptly titled “Louder Harder Faster”, to be released on Frontiers Music Srl on May 12th.”  With a new video and disc coming, we grabbed a little time from guitarist Erik Turner to discuss the new matieral, touring, and much more…

Toddstar: Erik, thank you so much for taking the time out for us, man. We really appreciate it.

Erik: Yeah. Appreciate you letting me promote the new record.

Toddstar: Oh, there’s a new record? [laughs] Just kidding. This one’s been too long coming, too long coming for sure, especially after Rockaholic, man. Let’s talk about the new album, Louder Harder Faster, releasing about 10 days from now. What can you tell us about this disc that a Warrant fan might not catch the first or second time listening through?

Erik: Wow. I don’t know. That’s a tough question. You’re coming at me with the hard-hitting questions. I can tell you it’s based on, we grew up on blues, hard rock of the 70s, and this record has, shows that influence a lot more than past records. There’s still a lot of great melodies and hooks, but it’s a lot rawer, organic around the edges. It’s not all polished, and it’s just a little more, I don’t know, organic sounding, I guess.

Toddstar: That was going to be my next question. Going into the whole writing and production phase, was that something you guys kind of sat down and said “Okay. Let’s strip this back,” or…

Erik: That’s just the way it turned out, you know? It naturally took that vibe on. The writing process was the same as it has been for Rockaholic and Born Again. It was just the way… we got in there with Jeff and started recording, and we used a lot of vintage gear that he has. We used a lot of our own vintage gear that we have plus some of the newer stuff that we have from GMP Guitars and Hughes & Kettner amps. It was a real marriage of all new and old, but it just naturally kind of took on that vibe. Jeff is from the same era, a little before us, that grew up on 60s hard rock and 70s hard rock, and so it just kind of went in that direction. We were enjoying what we were doing. We were real happy with the tones that we were getting. It’s just such a thing, and I just… It’s an idea in your head, and then you try and make it real and tangible when you go into the studio.

Toddstar: You mentioned Jeff, Jeff Pilson of Dokken fame. What’s it like getting together with a guy like Jeff Pilson. Back in the day, not that you guys were competitors, but he was the competition, you know?

Erik: No. It depends on how you look at it. When I didn’t have a record deal and I was going to see concerts, I’d go see Dokken. For instance, I had front row for Dokken and Judas Priest, so I’d been a fan for a long time. When I first moved to LA, I think Under Lock and Key came out, and I listened to that record 500 times long before we had a record deal, and so I never looked at it as competition. I know some guys do. We’re just all artists, and we’re all trying to do the same thing. I was real excited to work with Jeff. I had met him a handful of times over the years. We never toured with Dokken, with the original lineup, so I didn’t really know Jeff. I met him a few times at Foreigner concerts and stuff like that. Super nice guy, so I had a really good impression of him, and once we got into pre-production, the positivity that he brought to the room, the enthusiasm was contagious and started getting us more hyped up on the music.

Toddstar: That’s a great insight. Warrant is such… it’s really woven into the fabric of our lives, so to speak. I mean, I can speak of so many moments of my life, witnessing you guys at Rocklahoma back in the late 2000s. A Warrant show was one of the first concerts my wife and I ever attended.

Erik: Oh, wow.

Toddstar: But watching you guys grow, not only in age, because we’re all getting older, but sonically, to listen to the difference, to go back to the older stuff which is, I mean, it’s classic Warrant, but again, you take Rockaholic, and this killer album, Louder Harder Faster, with 11 great rock tracks. It slows it down here and there, but this really is a come at you rock record. Did you guys go into this thinking there was something to prove, or did you guys just want to write a Warrant record?

Erik: You know, it’s always strange to me. People ask that question quite a bit, “Do you have something to proof when you go into a record?” That thought at least never crosses my mind. We’re going in to make the best record that we can, Warrant record that we can. Music comes out – we record and demo a lot of songs, and there’s a lot of riffs, and we basically vote on the twelve songs that we want to record. It’s a very democratic process for the most part. People will argue, and if they don’t get the song they want or they think’s great, they might argue their point a little bit, but at the end of the day, we vote on everything, and that’s how the songs are decided for the record. Just like a true American rock band, we do it with a democratic twist. We try and write 20 or 25 songs, rough demos for the record, and then, from there, we’ll pick the 12 or 13 best that we all individually vote on, and the results come in, and we go in and we make them the most kick-ass that we can or the prettiest that we can or the most melodic that we can, depending on the song. We did block out six weeks just to work on, to record the record, make the record, so we did put a lot of effort into the actually recording process as well as… We’re really slow when it comes to writing songs and coming up with ideas, so that process took a good two years, the writing process, and then what happened is we finally committed to doing a new record. Then, that’s when everything ramps up, and it’s like “Okay. Now, we got a deadline, now. Shit. Now we really got to do this. What’d we get ourselves into?”

Toddstar: Going through the tracks on this disc, Erik, what songs do you feel will hold up as well as any other Warrant track in a live setting in another 15 years, when you guys are putting new stuff out?

Erik: Gosh. It’s hard to say. We haven’t had a chance to play anything live for any audiences yet, except this last weekend, we put the title track into our set, and it went over great, which was cool, but I think that’s just something that time will tell. It’s a strange thing, because even with Rockaholic, when it first came out, we were all hyped up on a song called “Dusty’s Revenge.” We played it live a couple times, and it just didn’t go over well, so we just stopped playing it and played other songs from the record and mostly “Sex Ain’t Love” we played a lot. “Cocaine Freight Train” we would throw in the set once in a while, but those last five or six shows, we brought “Dusty’s Revenge” back in. One of the promoters made a special request. It’s one of his favorite songs, so we relearned it, put it into the set, and it’s going over great. I see it staying in our set for at least the rest of the year. You never know with a song, a song like “Dusty’s” that didn’t work at first live. Here it is five years later, and we’re all digging it. But the new record, just, time will tell. To be honest with you, I haven’t really listened to it much at all since we finished it, a little bit here and there. We’re posting songs. Like “Only Broken Heart,” and “Devil Dancer,” and “Perfect,” we’ve put online, so I’ve listened to those when I post them, but haven’t listened to the whole record from start to finish, to be honest with you, since we finished it. I’ll go back do that later.

Toddstar: When it’s time to learn them for the set, right?

Erik: Well, yeah. I had to go back and relearn “Louder, Harder, Faster” for the set and the video, which that’s the first video coming out, May 5th. It’s this Friday.

Toddstar: Alongside these songs and all the stuff, when you’re out there and you’re onstage, first of all, it’s so much fun to watch you, because you are so laid back compared to the guy on the other side of the stage from you. You just lay back, and you put your licks out there and your solos out there, and it’s fun to watch you, but when you’re looking at the setlist, or you’re thinking through the setlist, what song in a Warrant setlist just ramps you up to the point where you want to get there, you want to just tear into a song?

Erik: Well, the song that just really always has since even before we recorded it for the record, we were playing it live, just kind of testing it on audiences, was “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” We were opening for Mötley Crüe on the Dr. Feelgood Tour, and we threw that song in the set, and it’s just, always, always gets my blood going, and the crowd loves it. If I had to pick one, that would be it, but there’s a lot of songs that really rock hard like “Rainmaker” and “So Damn Pretty,” “Sure Feels Good.” “Dirty Rotten” has got a badass groove to it. Love to play that live. It’s fun playing “Big Talk” with all the guitar harmonies and double solos and stuff. There’s a lot of stuff that’s a lot of fun to play live.

Toddstar: Warrant’s just one of those shows. It’s a good vibe from the beginning to the end, doesn’t matter whether you’re slowing the pace down for a ballad or you’re just tearing into even newer stuff, sometimes, if people don’t know the stuff. Again, not everybody was that familiar with Rockaholic if they saw you guys on the tour or in the last few years, but you still hooked them by the end. It’s just something about a Warrant hook and a Warrant groove that draws you in. When it comes to putting together a live show, and, again, you guys haven’t visited this yet a whole lot, but how much weight do you guys put into “Okay, we’ve gotta play this song. We’ve gotta play this song, but we really want to play these songs”?

Erik: It’s a real fine balance. I’ve gone to see artists that I’m very excited to go to their concert, big fans, and they play too many new songs, and it sucks. To be honest with you, just my personal experience. I’m the guy that’s always out there “We can’t play, and we gotta play this and play that for the people.” I think we play three or four or five songs, and then we’ll play a new one. Then, we’ll back it up with “Heaven” or “Sometimes She Cries” or “I Saw Red,” something that was a big hit for us, and so yeah. We balance it out. We’re very conscious of it, but we also want to turn people on to our new music, as well. We’ll do stuff off Dog Eat Dog. We’ll do a song from Rockaholic. We’ll do something from the new record, and then we’ll play “Down Boys,” of course, and “Cherry Pie,” and “Blind Faith.” When we’re headlining, we can play 15, 16 songs and 12 of them were songs from the first two records, which were the ones that were the big multi-platinum hits. We’re very aware of it, and we want to make sure people have a good time at our show and get to hear what they want to hear and, at the same time, we get to turn people on to what we’re doing, so it’s cool. We are aware of it. We want to make sure people are happy, and we’re … This guy introduced us earlier this year as America’s favorite party rock band, and like “Huh. I like that.” Yeah. That’s what Warrant have been saying for years. We’re not about religion or politics. You get enough of that on TV or from other bands that are really good at it. Warrant’s always been about having a good time.

Toddstar: No doubt about that. You guys also, for one of the bonus tracks or the bonus track on this, you guys dipped into someone else’s catalog. Not the first time in your career, but what made you guys pick “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink”?

Erik: Well, we didn’t pick it, actually. It’s kind of interesting. That’s not the bonus track on the CD. The bonus track is “Stop the World,” and it’s on the Japanese version of the CD, actually. Yeah. Song called “Stop the World,” for those of you who want to check it out. We’ve actually been using that song as our intro for the last month or so, so people don’t… I don’t know who’s aware of it or who’s not, but our intro tape is actually one of the songs from our record. Then, we kick into “Down Boys.” It’s kind of fun, but that song kind of reminds us of “Cherry Pie” a little bit. When we recorded the Cherry Pie CD, our record label … You know, we’d already torn down all the drums, and we were doing vocals and started sending rough mixes to the label and the president of Columbia Records, Donnie Ienner, felt like we needed one more song, and he asked Jani to go write a song somewhere between “Love in an Elevator” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” We reset up the drums and went in and just… He wrote the song in a night, and we recorded it real fast and didn’t think about it, invited some friends to come down and sing on it, guys from Danger Danger, and C.C. DeVille from Poison played the solo. It was just a fun, loose thing. We became friends with the CEO of the PBR. You can check him out, pbr.com, the Pro Bullriders Association. We played a show for him, and it went great, and we wanted to do more with them. Long story short, he contacted Jerry and I and said “Would you guys consider recording this song as our party anthem, our official party anthem for the PBR? It’s called ‘I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink’ by Merle Haggard.” We said “Well, we’ll check it out.” The drums, everything were done for the new record, so we reset up the drums, and Steve came in, and Robert and Joey, I think, did the arrangement with Pilson, just real quick, and we just didn’t think about it. We just went in there, played it, bada boom, bada bing, and it turned out great. It’s got the real old school Warrant party vibe about it. Obviously, the lyrics. I mean, “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink” is a party song. It was a number one hit for Merle Haggard, as well, in 1980. That’s how that song came about.

Toddstar: I love it. I think it’s awesome, and I think it really puts a different spin on the whole Warrant groove that you just spoke about. It’s fun for the fans, I think, probably as fun for us as it was for you.

Erik: Yeah, yeah. It was a lot of fun, and it does stick, I don’t know, stick out as the right thing, but it definitely has a different vibe and feel to it than the rest of the record. But it’s the last song on the CD, and we’re real proud of it, and obviously, we wouldn’t put it on the CD if we didn’t love it. It turned out cool, and it was an interesting story, and it wasn’t our idea. It was somebody, Sean Gleason’s idea.

Toddstar: Awesome, and thanks for correcting me.

Erik: Then, you want the bonus track, “Stop the World” is on the Japanese only version.

Toddstar: Well, I’ll have to find that one. Erik, with everything said and done… I mean, Warrant’s been to the top.

Erik: We’ve been to the bottom…

Toddstar: Like, every other rock band that I grew up with, you guys have seen the not-so-shiny parts of life over the years, especially with the change in musical tides, but with everything said and done, looking back over your career, Erik, is there anything that you view as a misstep that you wish you had a redo on?

Erik: There’s a lot of things that happened that I wish we had a redo on as a band, but can’t worry about it, can’t think about it. When everything went to hell in a handbasket and Jani quitting and grunge and losing our deal and big lawsuits from merch companies and all that, just kept looking forward, one day at a time, and get through it, get a new record deal, go out, play live shows, guys quitting, get new members. We’d just, Jerry and I, even way back in the day in ’83 when we started the band, we had guys quit. The singer quit in ’86, and drummer quit at the same time. We never even thought for a second about not continuing on, and we asked Jani and Steven to join the band. That trend has just been going, and I’m happy to say for the last nine years, we’ve had four out of five original guys. Actually, since 2004, we’ve had four out of five original guys, and Robert’s been with us nine years and two CDs now, so the last nine years, in a lot of ways, have been the best years to be in the band, to be honest with you. It’s real nice to be in a group with a bunch of guys that all have the same agenda and same goals and same desires for the band as opposed to having somebody who doesn’t want to be there or is halfhearted or making plans to do other stuff all the time. Yeah. The last nine years, for me, have probably been the best years, believe it or not. The least amount of drama.

Toddstar: I’ll tell you, man, having seen you guys even as recent as a couple years ago up here in Sterling Heights, Michigan, and I can’t wait to see you guys again. I know you’re in Westland. I missed that show, but I’m hoping to get you guys up in the area again in the summer…

Erik: Yeah. June 23rd, we’re in, just outside of Detroit. Warrant, and Sebastian Bach I think is playing, some other bands.

Toddstar: Well, we’ll definitely be there for that one, but listen. We appreciate you taking time out. We applaud you and the rest of the guys for chugging along and doing this louder, harder, and faster, not only for the new disc but every time you guys hit the stage. Your fans appreciate it, and music lovers in general appreciate it. Again, we wish you well with the new disc, with the video that’s dropping Friday that you mentioned and we’ll see you June 23rd outside Detroit.

Erik: All right. Thanks, man, and everybody, you can check out warrantrocks.com for tour dates and social media links and all that good stuff, and thanks again for all the support, man. I appreciate it.

WARRANT LINKS:

OFFICIAL SITE

OFFICAL SITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

INTERVIEW: ERIK TURNER of WARRANT - May 2017

Filed Under: Interviews

About the Author: ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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