Kevin DuBrow Interview
He was the lead singer for Quiet Riot - a band that truly led the way
for all of the other '80's metal bands to follow. Quiet Riot's debut album,
Metal Health, was the first heavy metal debut album to hit Number One in
Billboard! With that album, Quiet Riot remained Number One in the charts
for six weeks, knocking Michael Jackson's "Thriller" album out
of that position. "Metal Health" sold something like 5 million
copies in the U.S., went triple platinum in Canada, and enjoyed considerable
success in Mexico, Australia, Japan, and England.
Quiet Riot was "the" band in 1983. Kevin DuBrow left the band
in early 1987, but now he's forming his own group. We covered the rise and
fall of Quiet Riot with Kevin, as well as his own future.
Q: The most obvious question has to be, what have you been doing with
your life lately?
A: Well, ever since I left the band, we were involved with a lot of bad
contracts; it took a lot of time to get out of those contracts. During
the time I was hassling with legal problems I've been writing and recording
songs for my album. When we did Metal Health it was sort of the culmination
of years of playing clubs and writing different songs. And that's why the
material was so good. Now, I've had the same opportunity of time to write
good songs again.
Q: When you and Quiet Riot were starting out, there was hard rock and
heavy metal. Now there's thrash, white metal, black metal, death metal.
Where are you taking your musical inspiration from these days?
A: Classic metal. The Who, Cream. Hendrix, Humble Pie, Deep Purple. Same
place I've always gotten it from.
Q: Weren't you producing an album for a band called "Juliet"?
A: I produced the album, and they weren't signed to a label. They came
to L.A. to try and get a deal, and they got a deal on Enigma. They will
make more money if they re-record it. I guess the label didn't like the
material, which I think was too heavy. Not heavy compared to Metallica,
but it was a Scorpions type heavy. And, I think they wanted them to be more "popish, " so
they're re-doing it with somebody else. They've been out here for over a
year and they still haven't recorded it yet. But the album we did turned
out great. I wish it would be released someday.
Q: Just a few years ago, the- public was being told
heavy metal was dying or dead. Today, there would seem to be a "metal explosion." What
goes through your mind as you look and listen to all metal that's out
A: I think it's great. It's difficult to make it in the music business,
cause it's not really run like a business. Anybody who can get a record
contract or success in this business, boy, hats off to them. It's better
for everybody. It's better for the audience. It’s better for the players.
It's better for the business, 'cause it keeps out too much of that wimpy,
what they call alternative music, which I think is ridiculous. I don't understand
it at all.
Q: You knew at an early age you were going to be a singer, didn't you?
A: Fairly early, yeah, my early teens. I started off at eight playing
drums. Actually, I started off on guitar and went to drums, and then sort
of walked my way into singing. The first band I was in was Quiet Riot, with
Randy Rhoads. I didn't really go through Top 40, or anything like that.
I just like wandered into this band with Randy Rhoads. People want me to
come on stage and jam with them; I don't know the words to anything except
for my songs! I never had to go out and play anybody else's tunes.
Q: How did you meet Randy Rhoads? Was he a classmate of yours?
A: No. He went to Burbank High and I went out to Grant in the Valley,
totally different ends of the valley. He was in a Hollywood band and I just
used to hang out in Hollywood, trying to get laid basically, (Laughs).
They were looking for a singer and Randy had heard about me through some
girl. They said there's this guy named Kevin DuBrow who looks like Rod Stewart.
(Laughs). When I was younger, I guess there was more of a weird resemblance.
They got my phone number. One night I got this call that said Randy Rhoads
wants you to call him about being his lead singer. I said who the hell is
Randy Rhoads? And I called him, and it turned out in the phone conversation,
that we immediately struck in common one thing, and that was the first album
by a group called Montrose. We both just loved their first album. We both
wanted to form a group that was like that album. Then we got together. I
was a little surprised by how he looked, 'cause he was very effeminate looking,
short, with long blonde hair down to his waist, long fingernails. Then,
I heard him play guitar about a week later, and I really couldn't believe
it. I couldn't believe that here was a 17-year-old kid that nobody ever
heard of, playing basically in the style he played with Ozzy. I mean that
trip, and nobody knew about it. I thought I was playing off a scam by playing
with somebody this talented.
Q: Since you formed Quiet Riot, I assume that you own the name and you
could put a group together tomorrow called Quiet Riot.
A: Not true. Actually, the group was formed by myself and Randy. The group
that became successful was not the one with Randy. It was the group with
myself and the other guys. When the record contract was signed, it said
the group retains ownership of the name, which meant the four of us. When
Rudy Sarzo left the group he was aced out of that ownership and it was owned
by three of us, which was kind of a dumb thing on my part, considering they
never had anything to do with the name. I never retained major ownership
of it. It was an equal thing, so they could vote me out. And, that's what
Q: So you couldn't put a band called Quiet Riot together unless you had
the approval of the other original band members.
A: Well, now that they've split up, I probably could, but I wouldn't really
want to. There are so many negatives attached to the Quiet Riot name
now I think.
Q: This is a painful question to ask, but had Randy Rhoads not died in
that plane crash, would he have been so highly regarded as a guitarist?
A: Yeah. I think so. I think he was doing something that was drastically
different. I still think nobody's done what he's done, and taken it really
anywhere. I think when you listen to him and you listen to the guitar playing
of other people, he still stands on his own.
Q: Why didn't the first version of Quiet Riot, the one you and Randy put
together, enjoy greater success?
A: It wasn't really a very good band. Randy was the only real talented
member. My singing wasn't up to snuff at all. And the rhythm section was
really rubbish. Our material was mis-directed. We didn't know exactly where
we were gonna go with our songs. Some stuff was heavy and some stuff was
almost Beatle-ish. After that group broke up I got real direct in my songwriting.
The group had a great image. It was really fun to see in clubs, but
we wouldn't have made an album that would have been like 'Metal Health.'
We weren't ready to do that.
Q: When you put the second version of Quiet Riot together did you feel
that this was the band that was gonna go all the way to the top?
A: No, not really. To be honest with you, people won't like to hear this,
but to a certain extent I always thought they were backing musicians, because
they really didn't write the songs. The drummer was always in 3 different
gigs at once. So, he was like a hired guy. The guitar player was in another
band called Snow, at the same time. So, he was just doing me a favor. And,
the bass player was in two other bands. So really, it was my project
and these guys were just helping me along. And then, when I got the deal,
mine was the only band that got the record contract, so I said, 'You guys
wanna stay with me?' And they said, 'Yeah.' So it wasn't so much I formed
a band and tried to be real successful, it was just like go with the flow.
And when it happened everybody was real surprised. Quiet Riot after
Randy Rhoads was never known for having a classically great guitar player.
We always had somebody who was basically a member of the group.
Q: What do you remember about the U.S. Festival?
You played there on "Metal
A: We opened the show. We were added, about 3 weeks after, the bill was
already announced. So, it was really like these young upstarts coming in
and opening the show. I remember being so nervous we went onstage at 11:45
in the morning. It was just amazing to see the sea of people. I mean, you
see films of Woodstock, and it's like that. I was nervous throughout the
whole set. Usually I'll be nervous for the first song, and get loosened
up. They told me not to go out on the side ramps. They had these side ramps
roped off just for David Lee Roth. And I ran right over them! I figured
what are they gonna do to us? We're the first band on the show. What are
they gonna do, pull us off the show?
Q: And what happened?
A: Nothing. We never opened for Van Halen, but I don't think we ever expected
to. It was a big turning point for us. They stuck us on the front page of
the New York Times, as the people who stole the show, so to speak. I remember
thinking this is what it's all about. This is what I've waited all
these years to get into rock 'n roll for. What a rush!
Q: What went through your mind, when you were told Quiet Riot knocked
Michael Jackson out of the Number One slot, and Quiet Riot had the Number
One Album in the country?
A: I remember the day. We were in Rockford, Illinois when we heard the
news. It was just like everybody was screaming and yelling. Nobody could
believe it. We were also very frightened, because, where do you go from
there? Anywhere from there is sort of downhill. We all had that feeling
in the back of our minds, now what? It was basically a feeling of disbelief.
Everybody was kind of numb at that point. We had been working straight since
.March of '83 ("Metal Health" reached No. One in Sept. '83). We
didn't even know what was going on anymore. It was very strange. Very other-wordly,
so to speak. One of the most fun things about it was calling all of my friends
and family who helped me get there, and telling them about it. I refer to
it as their album too, 'cause it really was. I got a lot more help from
my friends and family than I ever did from my band or management. A lot
more. I had a band who only did the minimum they had to really. And not
to be really jaded about it. they were not the most motivated people in
the world. They were kind of lazy. These guys did the great tour of the
shopping malls of America, for buying things, while I was at radio stations
doing phone interviews.
Q: When Quiet Riot had all this success, you made the comment that Quiet
Riot opened the doors for all of the other L.A. groups to get a deal.
Q: And the critics and musicians jumped all over
you. Suddenlv, you were the "bad" guy of rock. But looking back
on it, that statement was true. Van Halen was out there in 1978 with a
record deal, and they were from L.A.; but it took Quiet Riot to really
get the metal movement underway. So why did they single out Kevin DuBrow
A: I was right in what I said. I just shouldn't have said it.
A: I guess honesty isn't always the best policy. (Laughs). I don't know.
It alienated people for some reason. It didn't do me any good. It hurt my
career. It wasn't untrue.
Q: Didn't you have someone you could go to for advice on what to say and
what not to say in interviews?
A: Quiet Riot had a manager that was so wimpy we used to call him Larry
Tate. You remember the 'Bewitched' TV show? Darren's boss who would always
go along with what anybody said. That was Warren Entner. It's like Insignificant
Q: He manages "Faster Pussycat."
A: They haven't had any success.
Q: And "Black 'n Blue."
A: They split up. You're talking about a guy who lets the record company
run him around like crazy. I have a manager now named Kim Richards, who
is like in that Herbie Herbert school of management. Really push and shove
management. He's real classy though.
Q: Why didn't your second album, "Condition Critical" do as
well as "Metal Health?"
A: Well, there were things about it that weren't as good. It was released
too quickly. A lot of it was left over material from the first album. I
think it was a mistake to do two Slade songs. We also went head to head
with that group Mama's Boys, that also released 'Mama We're All Crazy Now,'
which put them in the underdog position and put us in the big guy position,
which was a change from the first album. I think the public needed rest
from Quiet Riot and my face all over the place. I think the record company
pushed us 'cause they wanted some more money. They just kept pushing us
into recording. It was released a month earlier than it was supposed
to. And I think we went on tour with a show much bigger than we should
have taken out. Played places bigger than we were ready to play. I think
it was just overkill. I think Americans just said I’ve got enough
of these guys already. We didn’t have an audience base. That’s
the great thing about a band like Guns ‘n Roses, they really built
an audience base.
Q: Did you save your money?
A: Well, there was only so much money to save with the record company
contract we got. We got such a lousy deal. We weren’t even entitled
to keep our publishing income. We had to give it all away to that thief
who runs Pasha Records. We got royally screwed.
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