The Ultimate Jam Night Interviews with Alex Grossi of Quiet Riot and Maps To The Hollywood Scars
It was time for another chapter of Ultimate Jam Night, with the theme for the 99th edition of the long running show being East Coast Night. One musician with East Coast roots ready to rock was Alex Grossi from Quiet Riot and Maps To The Hollywood Scars, making a special guests appearance at the iconic nightclub in the heart of the Sunset Strip. During the show, Highwire Daze Online had a chance to sit down and chat with Mr. Grossi to find out more about Maps To The Hollywood Scars – his brand new project featuring American Idol finalist (and now Quiet Riot vocalist) James Durbin on vocals. We also found out news about the Beautiful Creatures reunion as well as spoke with Alex about his participation with Ulitmate Jam Night! Read on…
We’re here at Ultimate Jam Night with Alex Grossi from Maps To The Hollywood Scars and Quiet Riot. So, how did you become involved with Ultimate Jam Night and how many shows have you done?
I don’t really know, probably about a dozen or so. I became involved with it through my band mate in Quiet Riot, Chuck Wright, who sort of masterminds the whole thing. He invites me down whenever there’s songs easy enough to play
And when you’re in town!
Yeah, when I’m in town. I also don’t live here so that helps too
Where do you live?
I live in Las Vegas
So for those missing tonight’s show, what can one expect from your live performance?
Well, I just got done playing a Skid Row song. Tonght’s theme is East Coast bands so I’m going to do some Kiss, some Beastie Boys. Just anything from the east coast and ironically, I grew up on the east coast and I happened to be in town this week and rehearsing with Quiet Riot. So it all worked out
What, to you, has been a highlight of Ultimate Jam Night? Any particular highlight from a show?
You know, it’s just a matter of the most random people getting together and playing that you wouldn’t ever see in other circumstances. Combinations of people you’d never expect. Chuck’s done a really good job. They do stuff that’s a little, you know, a little avant garde – a little mixing drummers up and having a theme. Like tonight’s East Coast Night, they had a Doors night, they had a Van Halen night, they had a Kiss night. They’ve got a cool thing going here. Obviously, you can tell. It’s Tuesday night and it’s packed
How did Hollywood Scars come about and where did you meet James Durbin?
I’ve known James since 2011. We met through a mutual acquaintance here in Hollywood. I actually met him when he did American Idol with Judas Priest at The Viper Room in the VIP room right after the show. We kept in touch off and on and I ran into him up in Las Vegas back in October. He was doing this residency type thing, and after the show we ended up at the after party and we kind of hung out. We ended up jamming a song and kept in touch. I ended up sending him 3 or 4 songs I was working on – instrumental only demos, drum machine, guitar, bass. He was sending them back to me with killer lyrics; killer melodies!
Then I sent him 3 more and next thing he said, “Send 12 songs if you can.” I said, “You know what? This is too good, I’m going to make a record out of it.” He had the name “Hollywood Scars” running around and I put Maps To The Hollywood Scars around that to it, based on when you go to Hollywood Boulevard, there are people handing out the little maps. “Oh, you want to go see Bruce Willis?” you know. It kind of happened very organically, we did it ourselves. New Ocean Media is the label – but we control everything, and we own the masters. It’s not like we’re answering to anybody so it’s sort of like a labor of love. We’ve become very close friends because we had a lot of fun making the record.
Is there any overall story on the new music?
You know, the one thing I would say is it’s about the music industry. We both took very different paths. He was on a singing reality show, which metal fans and some of those gossip websites went, “Ooh,” and basically talked shit about him They’ll talk smack about it but the bottom line is – he’s a great singer and we both worked very hard to get where we are and ultimately ended up in Hollywood, where it’s kill or be killed, you know? It’ll eat you alive. So, more about the music industry taken by 2 guys that took 2 different paths and ended up in the same place – dealing with tragedy, you get your hopes built up. Actually, I think anybody in the entertainment business can understand it
Now that James is in Quiet Riot with you, would Hollywood Scars ever want to do a show with Quiet Riot or a tour?
You know, when Quiet Riot is on stage, we want to fire on all cylinders. We kill it. You know, one band is one thing, the other band is the other thing. I never liked the opening for themselves kind of thing, you’ve got to keep them separate. It’s also different types of music. So, that answer would be no.
How did James and you become involved with Quiet Riot?
We’ve been working with James for a couple years actually. He was Frankie’s first choice but because of his Vegas residency that he had signed on for, he wasn’t fully available to meet the live commitments that we had. Seann Nicols was our 3rd choice. James was our 1st choice and once we realized things were not going to work out with Seann – and it’s a capital NOT – I was already working with James on Hollywood Scars so I just made the phone call like, “Hey buddy, what you doing?” “You know, nothing.” “You want to join Quiet Riot?” “Yup.” “Cool.” Literally a week and a half later, he’s learnt the set
And I’ll tell you what, if you walked in there, out of all the singers we have… James is a natural, okay? Some people are born with creating things that they do, whether it would be a sport or singing or acting or painting or whatever. James is a natural front man and a singer. I mean, he’s just one of those guys and he’s got a charisma to him. A front man, I mean Kevin Dubrow – those are big shoes to fill, right? Kevin had that thing. I don’t know how to describe it but I’ll call it “the X factor.” Anybody can do karaoke or Cum On feel The Noize” or “bang your head” or “round and round” or “we’re not going to take it” but to sell the way Dee Snider did or the way Kevin Dubrow did, that’s a different story.
Kevin would be in front of 10 000 people and he’d make all 10 000 feel like he was talking to you. I remember seeing Quiet Riot open for Poison in 2000. I’m like, “That guy is a rock star. I don’t know what he’s doing but whatever he is doing, he is selling it!” that’s the problem we’ve had, you know. When Kevin passed away, God rest his soul, it will be 10 years this year This November will be 10 years since Kevin died. When he died, I was like okay, we can keep going. When Frankie called me and said, “You want to keep doing this band?” I said, “Yeah but who’s going to sing?” because it’s not just about singing, it’s about selling it and owning it and commanding the audience. I mean, one of the last shows we did before Kevin passed – Kevin passed in November of 2007 and we did Rocklahoma in, I think it was, late July or August same year. There were 40 000 people there, the first Rocklahoma before it got, you know, what it is now.
It was just us, Poison, Cinderella, whatever. Kevin came out and he commanded that thing. I watched him go, he’s in his element. There are 40 000 people and he’s like, “Here we go!” Okay, the stage was 45 feet long, he made it 55 feet long. I tell every singer that. You can’t just stand there looking at the person in front of you, you’ve got to sing to the guy all the way in the back buying a beer, you know? Because that makes the show bigger.
Are you be involved with the Beautiful Creatures reunion?
I am involved with the Beautiful Creatures reunion. We’re doing a full reunion minus obviously, I am playing guitar instead of the last guitar player who I replaced. We’re re-releasing the album “Deuce” which I recorded on and we released it in 2003. Since then, the rights have reverted back to us and we’re remixing it, re-mastering it and sort of making it sound the way it should have for digital. Because you’ve got to keep in mind, a lot of albums that came out in the early 2000’s, they were no iTunes back then. So albums weren’t mixed and mastered digitally.
Nowadays when you mix that record, you go, “Okay, how is this going to sound on iTunes?” You mix and master it thinking iTunes. That technicality didn’t exist back then; it’s not even in the record contract. I went back and pulled up our contract. I’m like, there was no digital. I mean, think about it for a second. You think Led Zeppelin contract had iTunes in it? No. You think it had CD’s in it? No. So, you know, our record peaked out technology wise on the compact disc.
So, once it did, we never really got a proper digital release. The engineer, Anthony Fox, was also our other guitar player said, “Why not just remix then? Let’s make it right, you know what I mean? Let’s make it sound the way it should.” I’ve heard, I’d say, about 80% of the mixes. It’s night and day. I mean, it sounds really good. We’ve recorded some new songs as well
Will there be any live shows?
Yes, we’ve just announced our first show on May, 27th in Denver, Colorado. We’re doing a festival there. That’s our first show back, May 27th and we’ve got other offers but then again, it’s up to Quiet Riot. So there’s that whole factor too
So last question, what’s up next with Quiet Riot and with Hollywood Scars?
Well, I could tell you with Hollywood Scars, we’re going to release Volume 2, which is – I’m actually going to the studio this Saturday to start mixing it. We recorded so many tracks. I’m a big fan of recording too much and then peeling them back and then dummying it down to where it should be. I rather have too many tracks than not enough.
As for Quiet Riot, every time I check my email, there are more shows. If you went to quiet riot.band, all the shows are listed there. Also the movie, the Quiet Riot movie, is doing very well for us. It’s still in active rotation on Showtime. You can download it; you can buy it on DVD. It’s quiet riot movie.com. So, mainly going out and just doing our thing. Our first show with James Durbin is, I believe, March 18th in Wichita, Kansas. From there, we just roll
And then you can see you guys down the street live at the Rainbow…
Yes, we’re doing the Rainbow – their 45th anniversary party outside the Rainbow festival on April 23rd!
Thank you to Lisa Woodard and Ultimate Jam Night for setting up this interview. Be sure to check out Ultimate Jam Night, every Tuesday at the world famous Whisky A Go Go on the Sunset Strip!
(Interview and Backstage Photo by Ken Morton – Live Photos by Roy A. Braatz Jr.)