Chicago-born rockers Enuff Z’nuff might have been thrown in with the hair metal crowd in the ’80s, but they were always coming from more of a power-pop place — The Beatles and hometown heroes Cheap Trick were clear references. The lineup has changed over the years but last year’s Diamond Boy album proves that they’re still firing and they play the Roxy this week. We spoke to guitarist Alex Kane, who recently returned to the band, about it all.
L.A. WEEKLY: The Diamond Boy album came out a year ago — any sign of new material from the band?
ALEX KANE: Nope. We intend to ride on our past achievements exclusively. Haha. I’m actually at Chip’s as I write this, working on new songs. Diamond Boy sold way beyond expectations (wish I could somehow take credit for that but I wasn’t involved in that record. It is great!) getting Z’nuff back into the Billboard charts for the first time in literal decades, so we fully intend to turn that flame into a blazing inferno like the new LA Guns have since Phil [Lewis] and Tracii [Guns] started back. Expect it in 2020 and expect it to be great.
You rejoined this year after 30+ years out, was that a tough decision? What was the first show back like?
I helped on the songs from the first record and some off the second, Strength. Ironically, and I’d need to check with Chip [Z’nuff], “Baby Loves You” from Strength may have more of my bits than any other Z’nuff tune. But we hear my ideas (Derek’s fingers though!) on nearly all of the first LP. Donnie[Vie, original singer], whom I’m still very tight with to this day, used to call me from Lake Geneva where that first classic EZ record was made and tell me how “The Dude” (that was our nickname for Derek [Frigo]) was learning my parts off the demos as thats what the band had been signed on. We’d already started LSD by then. The band not the drug. I actually asked King T (what I call Tory Stoffregen, my guitar tag team in Z’nuff, and both one of my favorite people on Earth and one of the greatest guitar players I’ve ever seen) for my part back in “Baby Loves You.” He goes “Sure, no one who’s ever played it got it to sound in tune. Take it.” He meant [Johnny] Monaco, himself, and The Dude. I told him “Thats because none of you play it how I wrote it.” God, I’m a dick, huh? Let me answer your question though, playing all over the planet with your best friends who are good people and brilliant musicians and getting paid to do it while playing some of the best music written in decades… It was not hard at all and felt like legit coming home. We spend friend time every day having nothing to do with music at all.
First show, aside from any head trips I put on myself, it was like I’d never left even though the line up the last time I did play with Z’nuff was me, Chip, Donnie and Vik [Foxx] (I can’t call him Vikki…nope). I got the call on a Friday. I’m producing the new Shark Island record which takes all my L.A. time (and its gonna be a stomper for the ages…think of it as picking up where Appetite for Destruction left off but now) and managing The Darbies, so I was like “Whats he want now?” when Chip called. Normally I never answer my phone as ‘leave me a message and I’ll deal with it on my schedule) but I did this time. “Hey brother, wanna be back in the band. People would Hail it!” Me: “Fuck you asshole” (kidding but it’s better for the story). What I actually said was, “I’d love to, bub, but I’m super busy. When’s it gonna start?” “Next Thursday,” came the answer. “Oh, um…when we gonna rehearse?” “You’re a pro, you don’t need to rehearse,” was his response. So, yea, I got up in front of some hundreds of people at the Whiskey playing songs I’d not played in decades learning vocal parts and words I’d never sung with no rehearsal at all. I prefer to rehearse my dick off. And you know what, we fucking slayed. And the chemistry becomes more and more palpable with each gig. So basically, fuck yea!!!!
You’ve done amazing work in-between, with LSD, AntiProduct, three Ramones — what are you particularly proud of?
Apparently being so damn influential to so many multi-platinum acts and somehow maintaining my underground cred and poverty. Haha. I was at the listening party for Marilyn Manson’s Pale Emperor (really remarkable record btw) and found myself alone in a room with him. Manson, right? He comes over and asks me if I’m Alex from Life Sex & Death. Of course I’m gobsmacked by this and THEN, he literally sings the verse and chorus from every single song on that record unprompted. Don’t know what the look on my face was but when he was done, he goes, “Whats wrong with you? Im giving you props.” I go, “Can I just process Marilyn Manson singing me my entire first record at a party for a second.” Super nice guy, btw. Humble and down to earth and kinda shy even. I recently had a similar thing with Corey Taylor [Slipknot, Stone Sour] telling me Silent Majority [by LSD] is one of his all time fave records and he still listens to it regularly. Whats my proudest moment? Being able to name drop. Haha. My actual most proud accomplishment, as you may already have figured, is without a doubt AntiProduct, from the decade I spent in London. The most challenging, demanding rewarding inspired experience I’ve ever had and as complete an expression of my personal artistic vision as we may ever see unless I do more AntiProduct, which I would literally suck dick on Santa Monica Blvd. if it would somehow allow me to make another AP record. That band would never have come to be but for the UK and, dare I say, we were pretty influential there. It was tough but it was life on 11 with people I loved and admired so much. Look at everyone who did time there. Stitch from Defiled. Mixi from Stiched Up Heart. Chris Catalyst from every band I’m not in. Ben Graves (RIP) from Murderdolls and Dope, Greg D’Angelo [White Lion], and the core team of Milena, Clare, Simon The Gonk and Marina. What a family!
It’s all three living Ramones. Did a tour with CJ Ramone in South America with my buddy Jiro last year and he’s on the new Jiro record with me (as is Clem Burke, Steve Soto (RIP) and people I’m forgetting now). Call me Ersatzy Ramone
What’s next (for you and Enuff)?
Enuff Z’nuff is gonna finish this new record and I cant wait for everyone to hear it and we’re already booked for alot of 2020. Then Doug Bord is writing a book about Starz, another great band I get to play with and we’re aiming to release an EP of new songs to coincide with his book. We did a brilliant tour with us and Angel a few months ago, and all but two shows of the whole run were sold out so I know we’re eager to get in front of the fans as much as possible!
As I mentioned, I’m also in Shark Island (playing, producing and writing) and me and Richard Black are making a deep, heavy, relentless and sublime rock & roll record involving everything we’ve learned from lifetimes as musicians. We’ve done a bunch of shows and he is absolutely still one of the most charismatic frontmen of all time (and it’s no surprise why Axl worships him so much). It’s not just “our heaviest most brutal blah blah blah” (anytime an artist says that, its not any of that but desperate Hail Mary to try to rebuild the fan base, btw). We made a commitment to making the best, deepest most real and complete rock & roll record for the ages we possibly could with no room for half measures or weak bullshit and Bloodline (the title) so far is surpassing even our insanely demanding expectations. I can’t wait to have everyone hear it as Im so so so proud of what we’re doing. Then I got my rock & roll babies The Darbies that I produce and manage. These guys (18-23 years old) are utterly the real deal. My mid-life crisis and their musical tastes are in exact line with each other. Haha. I love them so much and they embody the spirit of rock n roll as much as ANY of the awesome younger bands playing rock n roll (Starcrawler, Jason Kane, Greta Von Fleet, Rival Sons…locally Sam Bam Koltun, Danny Hechter, Gabriella Rae. Logan Nikolic..unbelievably talented focused young rock & roll players).
Remember when we were little and just saying “rock & roll” meant much more than just those words. It was a prayer. A way of being proud to be a square peg in a round hole world. Of NEVER quitting or let them grind us down. Of defying complacency and the norm. Of the community of misfits. As I got older, I never bothered to sell out as I couldn’t figure out how to (I thought The Dancing Bum thing from LSD was kinda a crass sell out which shows you what I know about selling out) but I embraced this notion of this is my job and so it is. But being a Viking is a job too and it needs to be done full the fuck on and you cant say “Ok, its Viking time now.” You is or you isn’t. If you say you’re a Viking, be a Viking, not a scared and cowardly Viking looking for more Viking work. I was in danger of becoming that Viking and thats not “rock & roll.” The Darbies rekindled my rock & roll heart and it is full of fire and power and urgency and indefatigable drive to never suck or sell out. To let the people who don’t stay home to watch Netflix when me and/or my rock & roll buddies come to town that THEY are my manager, press agent (no offense…haha), booking agent, friend, hero, support group, life raft, the record label, etc. It’s all or nothing and its always that. God damn my life rules!
Just after going to press, it came to light that Enuff Z’nuff’s show with Sinisters Army on Saturday, August 10 at the Roxy has been cancelled. The band is finishing up an album, as is Kane’s other band Shark Island. Kane is also working on new music with then Darbies and Jiro.