Richie Ranno Interview
“In the mid 70's, Richie Ranno played guitar for Capitol recording artists "Starz." Starz did some heavy touring and put out four albums, but they never did go over the top. They did however leave an impression especially on one kid, name of Jon Bon Jovi. Jon introduced Richie at one of his concerts in New Jersey. He told the audience of 30,000 that when he was young he looked up to Starz, and hoped one day he would be in a band like that.
Metal Blade Records recently re-released the Starz catalog on CD. It sounds as good, if not better than ever before.
Richie Ranno, with "Starz" in his eyes, recalls his days as a hard rock musician.
Q. Richie, what's behind the re-release of the "Starz" material?
Why the renewed interest at this time?
A. Brian Slagel (Metal Blade Records executive), has been interested in just getting them out as a fan. It took him two years to negotiate with Capitol, and we finally got them. That's really all it was.
Q. If ever there was a band that had it all, it was "Starz." You
had ATI as your agency, Aucoin as your management, and Capitol, as your label.
So how come the band didn't become more successful?
A. And we had Jack Douglas as our producer. First of all Capitol Records was not a good record company. Aucoin was not a good manager, and ATI was not a good agency. When we put 'Violation' out, which was really a great album for its time, who do you think we went out on the road with? Bob Seger. After two dates, I called up the agency screaming, saying I don't know who you think Bob Seger is, but there isn't anyone under 30 years old in the audience. They said Bob Seger is a rocker, I said yeah, maybe somewhere, but not where we're playin' with him, and that's the whole country. I said you got to get it together, get us off this tour, and put us out with a rock group. Either we'll headline or have somebody co-headline with us, or we'll open up for somebody who plays rock. Those people were looking at us as though we were nuts. So we didn't really tour to support the Starz 'Violation' album, when you think about it, if touring means a damn, which I don't think it does. Groups before us and during that time that didn't even play one 'live' date, that weren't live bands, were having two million record sales, before playin’ one 'live' show - Boston, Foreigner and the list goes on and on. So obviously the power of touring was not really that important back then. Radio play was like what MTV is today. Capitol Records got radio play, but they wouldn’t get Top 40 radio play, and that's what you really need. They always thought Top 40 radio was for light weights like Steve Miller.
Q. How did you get to tour with Peter Frampton, in major halls, if you didn't
have any product to sell?
A. That was right before the first album came out. At that point Kiss had gone over the top. Frampton wasn't that big yet. Our.manager Aucoin had hooked up with ATI for Kiss. And he said will you do me a favor and put Starz out on the road with a main act. We went out with Z.Z. Top, Frampton, and people like that.
Q. You played on Gene Simmons (Kiss) solo album. Do you still keep in
touch with him and the other guys in Kiss?
A. Well about three weeks ago, Peter Criss (former Kiss drummer) was a guest at the New York Kiss Convention. We put a band together — me, Peter Criss, Ace Frehley, and John Regan and Ritchie Scarlet from the Ace Frehley band, I had a lot of fun.
Q. Did I hear right, that you're planning to put the
original "Starz" together,
and tour England?
A. Well about a year ago, Michael, myself, and Brendan along with Doug Mattox, who had actually replaced Joe X. Dobe as drummer, got back together last summer, and wrote a bunch of songs, recorded five of them at the Record Plant with Jack Douglas producing it. We're working on getting some kind of contract. Several labels are interested, including Metal Blade. In the meantime, I’m thinking of doing five or six dates over in England.
Q. So Jon Bon Jovi wanted to be in a band like Starz when he was growing
up. Do you think he got his wish?
A. I found out that Jon and his friends, I don't know if it's any of the guys from his band now, would emulate the group Starz. They actually painted the logo on their drums and learned our songs. That was like the first thing they got into.