Enuff Z’Nuff: Return To The Sunset Strip
Enuff Z’Nuff were back in action on the Sunset Strip, playing a sold out show at the legendary Whisky A G0-Go on October 7th. On the verge of issuing their first album for Frontiers Records entitled Clowns Lounge, Enuff Z’Nuff is primed and ready to take on the world at large. Massive touring is on the horizion, where Enuff Z’Nuff will find themselves on the road with Ace Frehley, L.A. Guns and a whole lot more! 2017 is indeed looking to be an epic year for this long running rock and roll collective. And although Donnie Vie has not been able to participate within a live setting – leaving the band disillusioned by the business and facing related health issues, his presence is very much felt throughout the songs of Clowns Lounge – which was originally recorded back in 1988-89.
Prior to their show at The Whisky, we caught up with Enuff Z’Nuff founder Chip Z’Nuff to discuss their return to the Sunset Strop. Clowns Lounge, working with JY from Styx and the late Jani Lane of Warrant on a song from the upcoming album, current band membership, and a whole lot more! Read on…
Introduce yourself and tell me what you do in Enuff Z’Nuff.
My name is Chip Z’Nuff, I sing and play bass guitar amongst other things in the group Enuff Z’nuff.
Let’s go back to the first time you played The Whisky. When was that, and how did the show go?
If im not mistaken, I’m not Rainman, but it was around 1989. Our first (album) came out, debut record just called Enuff Z’nuff. We played, and I thought it was a great show. About an hour and 15 minutes. Just our first record of solid material, that’s all we had. It was jammed packed, sold out. Our label Atco / Atlantic Records was really behind the band. The old Tower Records had a big sign in the front that said “Get High on a New Thing.” Fans came out in droves and really loved the band, It helped initiate a little spark for Enuff Z’nuff here on the west coast, as no one knew who we were before that because we’re a Chicago band. With the label support and a little bit of help from radio and MTV,
So you’re back at The Whisky tonight. What are you looking forward to the most about your show tonight?
Bringing it back to where we started. I think I’m gonna focus tonight on some earlier material. The first record was a Gold record. Second album was a Gold record, very successful for us. Then there was the change in the guard in the music industry where Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Mudhoney, Nirvana all came out and a lot of those bands fell to the wayside. We were somehow able to stay in the game. We signed with Clive Davis then, back to Atlantic Records. We found ourselves in considerable debt still, even after selling a million records. We signed with Clive, we put out an album called Animals of Human Intelligence, our third album which did a modest success but good enough to where I looked tonight at the show and said I think it’s important to focus in on the singles from those first three records because we certainly devoted a lot of our time and our resources to making videos for those albums. So our focus on the first three records tonight. Maybe a few new ones.
Is there any story or concept behind the title of the new album, Clowns Lounge?
Sure there is. Back in 1987 Donnie and I were recording in a studio called Royal Recorders in Lake Geneva, WI. There was nothing to do with Lake Geneva at that time, it was cold out. It’s mostly a place where people go in the summer time for family vacations. At this time it was the fall, winter. It was very cold out so not a lot of resources. Basically just focused on making a great record, which is pretty smart for a band like Enuff Z’nuff because we all had at the propensity to get into trouble at any single moment. We used to hang at a place, the one place to hang at right outside of Lake Geneva called Lake Delavan. It had a little strip club called Clowns Lounge. Once in a great while, management would afford us the luxury of going to hang out one night. We wrote a lot of songs out there in Lake Geneva. That’s where a lot of this record comes from. It’s an archival record, these are songs we wrote when we were full of piss and vinegar.
We recorded the album, we did all these songs and then didn’t do anything with them because we had the resources to write songs and immediately record them in the studio there as our management owned it. We recorded all these songs and never finished them. When Atco/Atlantic Records asked for a full length record, we never even gave these songs. We gave them new stuff we were writing because we were constantly coming up with stuff. We were very prolific at the time, Donnie was kicking ass writing a lot of good stuff. He had some good ideas together, it was a real nice collective approach we took to making the records. These songs, a lot of them just sat and didn’t do anything because the first album came out and those songs we felt were stronger. However, Derek Shulman who signed the band back in 1988 from Atco Records now works at a label called Frontiers and they have a lot of big bands on their label. Most notably Journey, REO Speedwagon, Sebastian Bach. They approached us and said they wanted to do a record. We know that Donnie isn’t touring right now, however, you have any stuff that you guys have written where he’s singing? I said, I do. I pulled out all the masters that I’ve been saving for years. Went through all the stuff, picked what I thought were the strongest dozen songs and went back in the studio and started re-recording guitars, bass and vocals. Whatever it needed to make the song sound like today. I think it’s a record that has a great energy to it. Wonderful vibe. Strong pop songs played aggressively. It’s basically the original band. We went back in the studio to record a few new ones as well so we can shoot some videos and go out and promote and work on this record, touring around the country. Even though it’s an archival record, it still feel as fresh and new today. I’m sure the die hard Enuff Z’nuff fans will be pleasantly surprised how strong these songs are and how well it’s been recorded.
You have the late Jani Lane from Warrant on the albume. What’s the story behind how he became involved?
Jani was a good friend of the band and we loved his pipes. He’s a good songwriter. We toured around the country a few times. We were able to go out with them on the Glam Slam Metal Champ Tour 2001 / 2002. It was Poison, Quiet Riot, Warrant and Enuff Z’nuff. We did shows in arenas all through the US. I thought it was a successful tour. We really bonded with Jani, so 2004 came around we asked Jani to come down and sing on a song called Devil Of Shakespeare. Jani was kind enough to fly to Chicago, came to the studio and right away it was hugs and kisses. He was so happy to see me, wonderful seeing him as well. He asked if he could take a different approach to the song. He wanted to try and get into the mind of how Bowie would do it. A real English approach, kind of Glam Rock. Talk, singing on the verses.
I said do whatever you want and he just took his own approach, took it in his hands and molded it in his own way. He came up with what I thought was a great melody line and a great approach to the song. It was already written, but I let him get in there and do his own thing to it and try and turn it into his own. I think we captured that. We recorded it in a place called Star Trax in Crestwood, IL. It was just a one night session. He flew back to LA the next day. We mixed it up, called JY from Styx and asked him to be kind enough to come down and play guitar on it. JY said he would love to and came down there and put his guitar parts on it in an hour or two. We finished the song and never did anything with it – it just sat there. I thought when we put this record out, I wanted to put something on the record I thought the fans could really sink their teeth into and get something really special. I thought it was nice for his family as well, and Warrant fans to hear Jani’s pipes one last time. One of the last songs he actually ever recorded in a studio. I think we captured some magic there.
How did Tony Fennell of Ultravox wind up in the current edition of Enuff Z’Nuff?
Tony was in a band called Big Noise and they were signed to Atco/Atlantic Records. In the early days when we met each other it was an instant kinship. He was a believer in Enuff Z’nuff and years past and he called me one day and he says, Chip I’m doing a session with Frank (Ferrer) from Guns ‘N’ Roses and I’d love for you to come down and play bass on it. It was for a girl out in England who was making a record, he was producing it. He’s a record producer as well as a singer/songwriter. Very kind of him, I went down to New York and played on the record. Ever since we’ve been hanging out on and off doing different projects and then when the door was open I asked Tony – would you like to play with me in Enuff Z’nuff? I’ve always wanted to work with him and he says, I’d love to. I love the songs and I love you, let’s see how it goes. You know, if you can’t sing these songs, we gotta go get another singer. That was the first thing he said, which he would have probably been the singer. I said, OK lets try it. We went down, we had a couple of rehearsals in Chicago and it clicked right away. I wrote these songs with Donnie.
I sang on these records. Every single record, every single note I played and worked with him on. But I never envisioned myself as a frontman of Enuff Z’nuff, as far as the lead singer goes. It fell in my lap and I’m grateful for the opportunity to go out and sing these songs that we’ve written. I think we put together a really nice band. We have Tory (Stoffregen) still playing with us as well, who used to be in a band called The New Black 7, and they have a couple albums out. Terrific group. Then we have Dusty Hill from ZZ Top’s nephew, Daniel Hill playing drums with us. He’s solid as a rock, and that rounds out the band. Four piece and I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised when they see the band live. It’s really a strong band, for the first time in 20 years we have two guitar players whereas when we first started, the band was just Derek playing guitar. On the record, Donnie would play some guitars and so would I as well but for the most part, when you go see a band live it was just Derek, myself, Vik Fox and Donnie. It was a three piece band with a front man. Now we have two guitar player and that’s much more powerful. I think it’s easier for us to capture parts that were originally recorded on these records.
You mentioned David Bowie. Did he ever hear or comment on your cover of The Jean Genie and how influential is Bowie to you?
I’m not sure Bowie has ever reached out to us. We’ve had some pretty big stars say good things about our band, most notably Paul Stanley and Robert Plant. The guys in Foo Fighters and Green Day. Some good bands out there that have been very kind to us. They’ve said wonderful things. I’m sure Bowie heard it because he gets the money on the song, but he’s been a huge influence. I remember meeting Bowie back in 1984. My sister brought me to a concert in Milwaukee. I got a chance to shake his hand and say hi to him, real quick, there was a lot of people there. That left an indelible mark with me and I’ve always loved all his stuff, especially the early Bowie stuff with Mick Ronson playing guitar. So when the opportunity came for us to record a cover record, called Covered in Gold, we laid down that Bowie song and I got a chance to sing on it, which was nice. Donnie said yeah, you go ahead and sing on this one. I think we captured the spirit of what Bowie was doing. It’s hard, you take these songs that were written by other artists and try to redo them, it’s very difficult. My recommendation to any artists, on the hit songs that these great artists have recorded, don’t even try. You’re not going to capture that magic, it’s a whole different trip. However, I’m proud of our accomplishments here as we’re trying to cover a Bowie track. I think people really liked it a lot, we took a little heavier approach, maybe a little more aggressive, but it translates well.
What are you looking forward to the most about your upcoming tours with Tracii Guns and Ace Frehley?
I think the Tracii Guns tour is nice, because it’s the first lengthy tour for us in a few years. First one with this lineup the way it is. I feel that it’s gonna be a real good opportunity for us to really tighten the screws. So by the time next year comes around, January, we’ll be able to go out with Ace Frehley and the band will be clicking on all four cylinders. We’re not only doing North America with Ace, we’re actually going over to South America as well. After the North American tour, I think it’s early March. Then right from there we go over to Europe and we’ll be starting in Paris where we’ll be headlining a major tour going through Paris, Scandinavia, Amsterdam. We’ll do the UK, we’ll do England. Scotland. It should be good, we’ll probably do 2-3 weeks out there. Also for the summer time with the Rock Never Stops Tour, which I think next year is gonna be RATT with Stephen Pearcy, the original LA Guns with Phil Lewis and Tracii Guns. Enuff Znuff and maybe a few more bands as well.
Any messages for Enuff Z’nuff fans who are reading this?
I can’t thank you enough for your loyalty, love and respect and years of believing in the band. Without the fans, our band is nothing. The power of our audience is astonishing. I’m very grateful everyone has stuck around. If you go to a record store, you don’t see Enuff Z’nuff albums in the used bin because our fans buy records and they keep them. They love the band and we’ve always been the underdog. We’ve always fought our way to the top. We’ve always had obstacles in front of us whether it’s self-inflicting, substance abuse and our promiscuity certainly has hurt us in some ways. We’ve never given up, we’ve always given everything we’ve got and tried to put the best songs on every single record. We try to bring a great performance every single night. So, I wish them all well and I hope that the last voice they hear is mine.
(Interview by Ken Morton – Live Photos by Jack Lue)
Enuff Z’Nuff on Facebook