If you’ve noticed the smell of cherry pie in the air, that’s likely because Warrant is coming to town, returning to play the Whisky a Go Go for the first time since their '80s heyday, this Friday, May 15. Longtime members Jerry Dixon (bass) and Erik Turner (guitar), two of the four original members still with the band, spoke with L.A. Weekly about returning to the scene of where it all began three decades ago.
The first time Warrant played the Whisky was 1984, right around the club’s 20th anniversary. The band considers it the spot where their careers began. “We spent a lot of time on the Sunset Strip,” remembers Turner. “Guns N' Roses got signed before us, and Mötley Crüe and Ratt and Quiet Riot and Poison. After all those bands left town, we were the kings of the Sunset Strip.”
The reign of Warrant could be attributed in part to the band’s knack for self-promotion. “Your promotion had to be a bit rude and crude to get the attention,” Dixon recalls. “If you just put a nice happy picture of a band on there, nobody was gonna show up. We started being as crude as possible on the flyers and came up with some creative slogans for each show.” These slogans included “L.A.’s number-one muff-diving team” and “Scratch and sniff.” “If we didn’t get slapped in the face at least once, we knew our campaign was not good. Once one of us got slapped in the face, we knew our show would sell out.”
As the shows got bigger and bigger, the band soon became one of the icons of hair metal. With immortal songs like “Cherry Pie” and “Heaven,” Warrant became the poster boys of pre-grunge rock.
Over the ensuing decades, the band's sound ventured into darker territories. They also went through several lineup changes, including repeated departures of their volatile lead singer, Jani Lane. Turner remembers, “There’s a long history of him… you wake up in the middle of your bunk in Europe or wherever and he’s gone. He just leaves in the middle of the night and we regroup weeks later after the damage had been done.”
The band’s 20th anniversary tour in 2008 saw the classic Cherry Pie lineup reunited for the final time. The band did what they could to assist Lane with his sobriety, including bringing a sober coach on the road and going with him to rehab stints. Unfortunately, Lane’s demons proved to be too much, and the band was forced to dismiss him later that year.
“After that last Houston show, we said, ‘This is not the place for you to be right now,’” Dixon recalls. “It all went unsaid. There wasn’t a giant meeting; we all knew he had to stay home.” Both Turner and Dixon agree that there was no chance of another reunion with Lane after that last run. Lane died of alcohol poisoning in 2011 at the age of 47.
But before Lane’s departure and passing, Warrant recorded an album that was a huge departure from all things “Cherry Pie.” 1996’s Belly to Belly was received at the time as a bleaker, more brooding record than the group’s previous outings, but in 2015 has taken on a much different significance.
“[Jani]’s almost singing about the demise and what’s happening to him,” says Dixon, “The songs get darker and darker and darker. People ask me about him, I say go listen to Belly to Belly, which will tell the story. It’s kind of eerie now to listen to those. You can hear it in the music, the voice and the lyrics.”
Founding members Dixon and Turner have continued to tour as Warrant with drummer Steven Sweet and guitarist Joey Allen, who have been with the band since what they consider the original lineup in 1987, and vocalist Robert Mason, who replaced Lane in 2008. Outside of the band, Dixon and Turner have a music placement business for TV and film, which seems like a natural extension for the group who made “Cherry Pie,” one of the most ubiquitous songs across all media.
When asked for their favorite instance of hearing their trademark song in a film, Dixon says, “If you watch the end of the movie Jackass, in the end when they’re rolling the credits, there’s a kid in the parking lot dancing, singing ‘Cherry Pie.’ It was in the background while they were making the movie, I thought that was pretty damn cool.”
Turner feels hearing it pop up unexpectedly in the Barbara Streisand film The Guilt Trip was a trip in itself. “You would think we would know when the song gets played. It’s always a pleasant surprise. There’s so many, literally 20 or 30 movies or television shows that that song’s been played in.”
The band’s return to the Whisky sounds like a movie in itself — not to mention, a cool drink of water and a sweet surprise.
Warrant return to the Whisky a Go Go this Friday, May 15. Tickets and info.