AN INTERVIEW WITH LONN FRIEND
By David Iozzia
Lonn Friend is a music celebrity, a rock and roll insider, but most importantly, a rock and roll fan with a passion for music. Lonn was the executive editor of hard rockin RIP Magazine. He hosted a spot on MTVs Headbangers Ball called Friend at Large. He also hosted a syndicated radio program, Westwood Ones Pirate Radio Saturday Night. Lonn also had a stint as an A&R representative with Arista Records. His musical journeys covered all four corners of planet Earth, and hes written a book about it called Life on Planet Rock. I was honored when Lonn took the time to answer my interview questions about rock and roll, his musical travels, and so much more.
Dave: Hello Lonn, thanks for letting me conduct this interview. In the introduction to your new book, which well get into a bit later in the interview, you state that if my story touches one person by reminding them how blessed they are to be alive and in love with rock and roll, then it was worth every drop of blood, sweat, and tears. First off, my compliments on a mission accomplished. Your book had that effect on me after I read it.
LONN: Thank you Dave.
Dave: Lets go back to the beginning. Your mother gave birth to you in 1956, which is when Elvis Presley broke out, or as you stated, the year rock and roll was born. Yet, you say you were born on February 9, 1964, the day The Beatles played on the Ed Sullivan show. Uma Thurmans character in Pulp Fiction stated, theres two kinds of people in this world, Elvis people and Beatles people. Now Beatles people can like Elvis. And Elvis people can like The Beatles. But nobody likes them both equally. Somewhere you have to make a choice. And that choice tells me who you are. Lonn, which are you?
LONN: Im a Beatles person because thats where my musical consciousness was born. Its very hard to articulate a memory so clear yet so old. I wrote that line in the introduction to evoke the significance of being a toddler yet still having a clear, concise memory hearing a song for the first time. Of putting a needle down on a piece of vinyl and feeling like somebody picked you up and tossed you into the air. Thats where my journey began. I collected records all through my youth. I spent more time at the record store than anywhere else. Every song and every record by The Beatles I would know, whether I was sitting in a bar in Siberia, or watching Paul McCartney perform live at Caesars Palace. Because of that knowing, its significant. Its something you could hold on to and say that this is where I came from.
Dave: In the early 80s, you werent working on Planet Rock; it was on planet cock, for publisher Larry Flynt and his porno magazines Hustler and Chic. Sex and rock and roll have always walked hand-in-hand but what were your biggest challenges editorially?
LONN: In the early 80s, porn was still deep underground. Mainstream HBO-style acceptance of x-rated content was years and years away. It was taboo, and you were looked at strangely. Hustler and Chic magazine were on the racks, but in the back, the roped-off section in bookstores. My assignments were not for everyones consumption. It doesnt matter how decadent rock and roll is; its still more acceptable than erotica. Those two worlds collided at the moment in time I was floating in-between the gigs at Hustler and RIP magazines. Its like some force of nature put me there to unite them. Porn and metal fed each other. I maximized that synergy by developing personal relationships with the artists and executives of the day who werent intimidated by sophisticated content. It allowed me to be cool a lot quicker than it would have taken had I come out of some less scandalous publication. When Aerosmiths Steven Tyler is in your office and youve shown him a porn video, and youve taken him over to the Hustler photo department, he leaves the building knowing that youre a bit cooler than the guy from Billboard he just did a phoner with.
Dave: You had plenty of opportunity to review porno films, but heres a chance to review a Hollywood film. Did the Milos Forman film The People vs. Larry Flynt and actors Woody Harrelson and Courtney Love capture the spirit of the lives and times of Larry and Althea Flynt?
LONN: The writers of the film were in creative due diligence after I had left the company in June 1994. I was contacted once but never talked to the screenwriters. I thought they did an exceptional job reflecting the madness of the Flynt Empire. They took an exacting look at the goings-on inside the magazine. Larry and Althea were the flame and all the moth/freaks were drawn to them. I attended the premiere in Westwood. I went up to Larry and shook his hand when the lights in the theater came up. He had a tear in his eye; his voice was a bit choked up. Milos really got it, Lonn, he said. I thought so, too. Woody was awesome, but the picture really belonged to Courtney Love. She never knew Althea but she channeled her to the T. It was a haunting performance. Actors usually get to meet their principals, study their behavior. Courtney wore some of Altheas actual clothes. She spoke like her with that southern slur. The film took some literary license, but since were not living it from their point of view, its pretty accurate. Altheas death scene in the bathtub is exactly like I heard it took place.
Dave: In 1987, you switched gears within Flynt Publications and became executive editor of RIP magazine which you turned into the most influential rock music magazines of its time. What was your success formula?
LONN: RIP was defined by its editorial quality and its brazen, balls- out attitude. My staff, the freelance photographers and the stringer writers who did the interviews they were responsible for the killer content. They kept RIP on leading edge of the genre. The column editors had tremendous autonomy. I trusted them. I wasnt on the street, they were. I was on the airplanes and tour buses, hanging out and securing the editorial coups via access that other magazine editors didnt have.
Dave: Youve stated that you logged a million miles documenting rock and rollers. Is there one story that you missed, because you didnt go or refused to go the extra mile, that youll always look back upon and regret?
LONN: I should have been on the plane to Moscow with Ozzy, Motley Crue, The Scorpions, Bon Jovi, and Skid Row when Doc McGhee negotiated his plea bargain following the big pot bust. The Moscow Music Peace Festival that was an event for the ages, steeped in volume, decadence and moral hypocrisy. I received reports of the booze-soaked plane ride, but I wasnt formally invited to document the journey. Thats a festival they still remember over in Russia. They were going over to do an anti-drug thing and everybody was ripped. I also heard about the great rock star ego clashes, bullshit stories like Motley Crue fighting with their management mates Bon Jovi because one band had more pyrotechnics than the other. So petty and pathetic on one hand, but classic, period-debauchery on the other. It was perfect: the 80s in a jet-propelled nutshell.
Dave: Getting on the cover of RIP Magazine was very important to bands, and getting exclusive content and inside information was crucial to your magazine. One hand washed the other, and that process is documented on a few occasions in your book. Whats the one band that couldnt have cared less about the magazine and the publicity; the band that refused to play the game?
LONN: That was Guns N Roses and thats what made our relationship even more unique. They didnt care about press; they hated it. Axl loathed talking to reporters. RIP organically became part of the GNR family following the release and throughout the night train speed success of Appetite For Destruction. I hired Del James as an instinct move. Made him senior editor with zero magazine experience. He was Axls best friend in Los Angeles since Axl and Izzy Stradlin had jumped off the bus from Indiana. I had no expectations. Nothing about GNR was scripted. Just made some moves. Some of them were the right ones. Del certainly was. RIP published the first, full-length interview with Axl. Hes on the cover, photographer Robert Johns classic, wide-angle shot of the rocker with a rifle, clad in RIP tee shirt. April 1989. The cover story was so hot; Rolling Stone came to us to get our photographer/writer team to do their debut feature on the band. That was unprecedented. We were a fledgling metal mag and suddenly the whole world was watching us.
Dave: Im sure it was all about circulation and advertising revenue for the publishers of RIP Magazine. For you as a journalist, was the defining moment hearing feedback from rockers, like when David Bowie called RIP quite a good read?
LONN: Acceptance and acknowledgement from the bands was important to me, but not as important as the fans who drove the content of the magazine. If we got letters encouraging us to take second looks at acts that we might have missed, my staff would follow up immediately. We always strove to portray and convey an editorial respect for the fans. I never believed that metal fans were stoned-out drunken idiots who couldnt read. On the contrary, I thought their passion and loyalty to the bands they loved and the heroes they worshipped made them even savvier and worth speaking to on a higher level than an alternative or progressive rock fan. RIP was never meant to be just a metal magazine; it just happened to exist in the eye of the storm when heavy music was ubiquitous. If you look at back issues of RIP, we had an eclectic mix of features, photography styles and creative reporting.
Dave: In 1990, you wrote a RIP editorial on the dangers of censorship and that issues cover parodied the parental warning sticker being placed on records. Ive always been an advocate of freedom of speech, but as a parent of a 10-year-old daughter, my opinions have shifted. Im all for warnings on explicit lyrical content on records or the detailed movie ratings provided on films being released these days. As a parent, what are your views on parental warning?
LONN: That editorial includes a picture of my 4-month-old daughter and my editors statement talked about heightened responsibility during a media era where free speech was being politically threatened. It was also about taking responsibility for the next generation. RIP Magazine wasnt about shock rock; there was very little tabloid in the magazine. I knew what was going on backstage with bands like Guns N Roses and it wouldve made big headlines. Thats what people with the lowest denominator mentality strive for. Our society is driven by the sexiness of failure feed the tabloid culture, expose the weakness of the spoiled superstar and sell more issues. But thats never been what Im about as a journalist. Today, my relationship with my daughter is that if she has a question, shes to ask me. Ill be honest with her. Shes got a hundred times more information bombarding her on a daily basis than I did in the 70s when I was in high school. Her focus and courage mystify me. Im amazed by the content on network television shows that are geared toward teenagers. Youve got lesbianism on the teen driven Noggin network, drug issues are everywhere. Its hot TV, sadly reflective of the youth culture. Perhaps todays philosophy should be that if you parent them properly, do a good job showing whats right and wrong, then things dont have to stay hidden. Theyll figure out whats good and not good, what works and what doesnt work. I trust Megan. She watched Metallica from the stage at the Monsters of Rock in Donington, England, when she was 14 months old. And to this day, there has been no residual damage from the experience.
Dave: With the advent of the Internet, websites give away for free much of the content that used to be provided by the magazine and newspaper industries. Is there a future for the magazine industry, and if so, what changes do you think are necessary as they try to compete with websites?
LONN: Thats a really good question Dave. What about the future for books? Im doing this interview on a laptop through a Skype Internet phone connection. Our computers have become the vortex of our daily lives. We get our commerce through here, communication, entertainment, even enlightenment. That still doesnt discount the human experience of walking to the newsstand or waiting each month to get something in the mail that you hold in your hand, open up and say wow, this is cool, this is mine, and when Im done with it Im putting it in a box in my closet as a timepiece. Thats where the magazine still has its purpose. When the content resonates as a reflection of the here and now, then you have something beyond temporal. Googling a feature or pulling a link up just doesnt have the romantic feel of opening up a magazine or newspaper.
Dave: In 1994, Clive Davis brought you to Arista Records as an A&R representative to develop his record labels roster of rock bands. Many of the new bands you pitched, Limp Bizkit included, were rejected. Self-admittedly, you werent a record-company creature or a suit, and your outlook on music clashed with the ways things were done inside the record-making industry. Where would you be today in 2006 if some of those bands that you pitched were signed and went on to release successful records at Arista?
LONN: Everything happens for a reason. Ive grown spiritually in the past decade and, therefore, cannot second-guess the decisions that have paved my professional path. I went to Interscope Records in 1999 after 18 months of unemployment on a six-month job to be a sort-of ambassador and project manger for a lot of acts who were being disenfranchised by the merging of Interscope, Geffen, and A&M. Icons like Sheryl Crow, Peter Gabriel and Sting but they were being affected by the wholesale corporate restructuring of the industry. It was the flashpoint where artist became product and the ledger sheet the parchment for the new age of music marketing. I remember being sent by label president and friend, Tom Whalley, down to a production studio to meet with Fred Durst, who was getting ready to release Limp Bizkits Significant Other. It was my mission to encourage him to approve a final cut of the Nookie video. There is a saying among artists: You never finish a mix; you abandon it. That act defines its ready for public consumption. Fred told me that hed grown up reading RIP Magazine. But he also told me that I blew it when I didnt sign him at Arista. I said to him that if I had signed him at Clive Davis institute of disposable pop, he never would have broken. Arista probably would have failed with Limp as they did with almost everything that rocked back then. He agreed. This is a long answer I know, but I just wasnt meant to be a success as an A&R person. Thats the way it is. Thats the way I have to look at it. By the way, I persuaded Fred to approve a cut of Nookie that day. It arrived at MTV at the 11th hour and the rest, they say, is history.
Dave: MTV has really evolved over the years to what it is today, Music Television without much music. How and why did that happen?
LONN: The culture changed, the Internet came in, and MTV became a marketing tool. MTV has to create its own content to keep its viewers. Rather than promotional clips, which became very artistic, very ambitious, and very expensive to make, MTV decided to produce TV shows. They throw their big annual back-slapping, ego-stroking music award show, but MTV is no longer about music. These days, MTV is more about sex and fashion than music.
Dave: You once hosted a syndicated radio show called Pirate Radio Saturday Night with Lonn Friend. Is Satellite Radio a future stop in your musical travels?
LONN: Lee Abrams, co-founder of XM Radio, is an old friend but the stars havent aligned for the Lonn XM experience just yet. When I was in New York City promoting my book in October, I did three different shows in one day at Sirius Radio. I loved walking through those halls on Sixth Avenue. Its vibrant, creative, electric and a free-feeling environment. I have an idea for a Satellite radio show, a bit out there but definitely in vogue for our altering civilization. I want to pitch it properly. Im putting a demo together now.
Dave: Does radio, whether its Satellite Radio or terrestrial radio, give the on-air talent enough space to be journalists, or does radio today only want personalities and voices?
LONN: Thats a very insightful observation. There are only a few guys left who get to be themselves. Most of the time radio has to cater to a demographic or agenda. Under those conditions, you cant be a journalist. Im not a zoo mentality radio guy. Id like to see a higher purpose for getting on the airwaves. Steve Jones, the ex-Sex Pistol, is manning the most authentic two hours on terrestrial radio, in L.A. at least. Joneseys Jukebox on Indie 103.1. Its just Steve, a crafty, somewhat cantankerous 50-something Brit spinning the most eclectic, random mix of tunes anywhere. Sort of like XMs Fine Tuning channel but with personality. I did the Jukebox the day my book hit stores in July. Jonesy was in RIP. Weve hung out over the years in front of the Rainbow, scoping the birds. Thats bold radio. Give a one-of-a-kind bloke his own field of play, no strings, and see what happens. Ill take a shift on Indie 103.1 anytime. Two hours. Bring in guests and raise the roof high enough so the listeners can see the sky!
Dave: Lets jump to your awesome new book Life on Planet Rock, which is essential reading for any rock and roll fan. It should be on everybodys shopping list. Whos the publisher and where can people go to purchase your book?
LONN: My publisher is Amy Hertz, who runs Morgan Road Books, an imprint of the Doubleday Broadway Publishing Group, which is a division of Random House. Their office lobby in mid-town Manhattan has a huge wall covered with titles by John Grisham, James Joyce, Ray Bradbury and a thousand other literary giants. I think its pretty cool that my little book is coming out of that building. You can find it at Borders or Barnes and Noble. But the most effortless path to Planet Rock is through amazon.com, where you might save a buck or two. Theres a link at www.myspace.com/lonnsworld. That page is also a hub where RIP Magazine fans of old have found me and sent glorious messages about the magazine or the book. I also blog there -- midnight, existential ramblings of an author in eternal transition. I had a decade of decadence and then a decade of silence. Planet Rock has brought a piece of RIP back into the public consciousness. Its rekindled some of the relationships that fans had with what they considered a joyous, loud, important time in their lives.
Dave: If I was ever given the chance to write a book about my rock and roll adventures, my reasons would be to document what Ive seen and heard, as well as to provoke some deep thoughts and emotions about the subject material. Youve accomplished that big time with Life on Planet Rock. What were your reasons for writing the book?
LONN: My reasons for sitting down and writing a book were, at first, self-preservation and closure. I had to do something that justified leaving my home. The last few years of my life have been complete confusion. I havent worked consistently since 1998. Ive been writing, mostly for free, columns, Internet posts, e-mailings and essays. After reading The Artists Way at the close of the last decade, I started to compose free form in 2000. I got my voice back, though slightly altered by an elevated sense of awareness. I thought writing the book would help me through a very difficult time in my life. I was getting divorced, away from home and Megan, my life force. I was living the biblical proverb: to find out who you are, go to the place of less comfort. Thats where I went. The desert. Las Vegas. Destination for exiles. My book is far from perfect and far from the real blood and guts truth that a more courageous novelist could have written. Its my toe in the water, and it let me move forward through a certain time. I was never attached to its success or results. I wont see royalties for a long time, I didnt do it for the money, and I wasnt paid that much. I wanted to give the fans of that time something that represents that period so that I could pay them back. The fact that it came out as a memoir is a product of the revision process, which took me much deeper into myself. My first manuscript was called Rock A Mile: Adventures and Observations of a Music Journalist. My inspiration was legendary 70s music scribe Chet Flippos collection, Everybody Was Kung Fu Dancing Chronicles of the Lionized and the Notorious. That was my pitch and thats the proposal that got me the deal with Amy Hertz. She, by the way, is the Dalai Lamas publisher and Im her first music book. Theres something mystical about that union.
Dave: What was the initial process? Did you pitch your idea to a literary agent who in turn pitched it to publishers?
LONN: I was having lunch in New York with Bob Ezrin, the great record producer who made Pink Floyds The Wall and all those vintage KISS and Alice Cooper LPs. When I asked him about his daughter Jennifer, he told me that she was no longer an editor but trying her hand as a literary agent. He hooked us up. Jennifer and I met in Los Angeles and we crafted a 70-page proposal that she shopped to 15 publishers. Everybody passed but Penguin Books and Morgan Road. Penguins editor was a RIP fan and really got the idea. But he didnt have the power to convince the people above him that my tome was worth investing in. Amy Hertz had the power. As publisher, she didnt have to answer to anyone but her own instinct. Shes truly one of the most intelligent and gifted people in the publishing field. Amy had helmed the successful Riverhead imprint and if the Dalai Lama trusted her with the global dissemination of his important words, thats all I needed to hear. I was where I was meant to be; there was no bidding war. An offer was made, we negotiated a couple small points and the deal was done.
Dave: With sex, drugs, and rock and roll as the subject material, your book couldve have been written X-rated or R-Rated, but you chose a more PG-13 approach. Was that your original thought process as you were writing, and did you have to fight the publisher to keep it that way?
LONN: If I wasnt the father of a teenage daughter, I probably would have gone a bit deeper. I wasnt pushed by my editor to add more graphic content. Embarrassing my daughter by including a couple extra scandalous anecdotes above and below the call of duty didnt serve the big picture of the memoirs themes. Maybe I wont be as successful as others but thats the way the book came out. Neil Strauss wrote The Dirt. Its great. But thats not how I excavated Planet Rock. I think the book holds up.
Dave: Life on Planet Rock has been called a backstage journey through rocks most debauched decade. Theres no doubt that its a backstage journey, but its so impressive how you made yourself vulnerable, how you worked your own personal struggles and shortcomings into the subject material. How difficult and how necessary was that?
LONN: It was very difficult Dave. I walked that fine line with how much am I going to reveal about my shit and how much would I indict or judge the musical artists with whom I had kept company. It was necessary because it would have been hypocritical to take shots at Jon Bon Jovi without cutting myself open to reveal that my issues with him may have been a reflection of the shit that was going on inside me. Thats why that chapter is about: my struggle with my own ego, my own self-worth, and ultimately, how I felt let down by a friend. Its possible that I misunderstood certain aspects of our relationship. I bleed way more in that chapter than Jon. Planet Rock would have been a much happier place to roll if it were written back in the day. But my journey, the peaks and valleys, initiated a different take, a richer perspective.
Dave: Every generation has its memories, its struggles, and war stories to accompany it. Why was the 10-year period that spanned the 80s and the 90s rock and rolls most debauched decade?
LONN: The media fed all that was obnoxious, egotistical, greedy, and loud about those times. The videos were pandering and blatant sexual postcards. Theres nothing wrong with sex, but the glorification just to shock and stimulate doesnt hold water anymore. There has to be some underlying spirit or message to the ribald presentation. What MTV did back in those days was glorify the volume, the hair, the dress and the chicks. Thats what was so significant about the grunge movement that followed. Almost overnight, music fans said, wait a minute, what the fuck is going on? and MTV listened and knee-jerked the entire genre of hair metal off the radar with the precision of a straight razor. Sure, some fans stayed with those bands but the music tide, in general, had changed. The music was more introspective, and the musicians, less over the top, party all night- animated. The loudest, wildest fans from back then are now parents. They still see those bands, but they have an elevated lifestyle now. They take their kids because they want the kids to remember how great those love songs were when Mom and Dad first hooked up. Thats why Bon Jovi is the greatest chick band there ever was. They represent that first kiss and that virgin romp in the backseat of a car better that any band in the history of rock.
Dave: Two things in your book that Id like to mention evoked deep thought and emotion. The first is that Ive never been into bands that had dominating lead singers who didnt play an instrument, although I do admit that their voice is their instrument. Whether it was Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, or The Who, those types of bands werent my chosen cup of tea. I always wanted the lead singer to be holding a guitar. You opened my eyes, and my brain, to the values of interpretation and presentation when you wrote about The Who. As you stated, Pete Townsend wrote the songs and played the riffs but Roger Daltrey interpreted the message and delivered the goods. Thank you for instilling in me that awareness!
LONN: Dave, you never lacked that awareness, it just hadnt surfaced. Nothing is more important to me than the archetype chemistry between the frontman and the guitarist. Think of Mick and Keith, Pete and Roger, Robert and Jimmy, The Edge and Bono, Joe and Steven, Axl and Slash, Richie and Jon, Phillip and Dimebag. The unions are magical and essential to the success of the band. Partners in crime wreaking on-stage, on- record havoc. The spotlights on the flamboyant singer with the star appeal and smile that could melt an icecap, while off to the side floats the lead guitarist, steeped in cool.
Dave: Secondly, you state that you cant play a lick or keep a beat, but you feel every note. Although I have plenty of records in my collection, hearing and watching a band play live is where I feel the music. Ive always felt unfit or lacking because I couldnt play music. Thanks for the reassurance that theres a place for me, a non-musician, who still lives and breathes music.
LONN: John Kalodner, one of the greatest A&R people of our time, was not a musician. He feels it and thinks about it, and thats me and you. Theres a different way of looking at music when you are a musician. Bob Rock, in the studio producing Metallica, would pick up a bass guitar at the drop of a hat. He had a way of understanding the fabric of music from being a musician. George Martin was more the maestro conducting the symphony when he produced The Beatles.
Dave: Is that what you meant when you mentioned Epic Records Mike Schnapp, stating hes not a record guy, but a music guy?
LONN: Record guys talk like record guys. They own the vernacular, know the buttons to push, the promo lingo to use, and their gift of hype and gab is endless and perfectly crafted for their gig. Promotion people are the smoke and mirrors heroes of the record business. I mentioned Schnapp because hes not one of them. Hes a fan, a music guy and he loves talking about the acts hes paid to work. When he got on the phone with a program director, it was like Dude, have you listened to this? This fuckin song rocks. Just trust me, put it on. Theres few originals like that left in the industry; the music business has really changed.
Dave: Obviously, a few bands were overlooked, a few chapters were omitted, and there are more chapters still to be written. Will we hear about the continuing story of life on planet rock on the radio, television, through the Internet, or will we have to wait for another book?
LONN: I have this conversation every day about where Im going next. Documentary film makers are talking to me about my book, but I dont think its a movie. That period in history the RIP era -- is a movie and perhaps Im the gatekeeper or narrator that invokes my own sense of perspective to the adventure. Fictionalizing my own personal life is not something I think about. I have about 15 unfinished chapters that didnt make the memoir. Random journeys, so to speak. New anecdotes are born almost every day given the odd nature of my life. The blogs could be the seeds of another book. Im leaving it up to a higher power.
Dave: Before I move on to a couple of quick questions after rock and roll in the 21st century, is there anything youd like to add about your book, Life on Planet Rock?
LONN: There wasnt enough space in the chapter on the 70s, which has become my favorite chapter. I have such fond memories of that time. Someday, I want to write a real intimate book about growing up in the 70s. Bar none, its the greatest era of rock there ever was or ever will be. Prog, punk, experimental fusion, you name it, the 70s birthed it. Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Return to Forever, the Allman Brothers, Rush, and so many other things were born at that time. I was watching it and listening to it. Like a chameleon, I morphed into all of these different fan-states of being. Music, in so many incarnations, moves me. Its a life force.
Writing this book has set me back onto the path that I had been off of for a long time. Doing interviews with passionate people like you, or getting messages from fans, affirms that I made the right decision and that all of the shit I went through was worth something.
Dave: You and RIP Magazine were privy to a lot of inside information from the Guns N Roses camp, especially with the Use Your Illusion I and II. Will Chinese Democracy ever get released?
LONN: To me, Chinese Democracy is almost mythical. It could arrive in the marketplace like a brick through a living room window, without warning, at any moment. Or, like a lost, Unfinished Symphony, rock n roll archeologists will find it buried under the sands of Malibu in 50 years. One thing is certain. Well keep talking about it, and the chatter will keep the buzz bold and beautiful.
Dave: With all of the wait and anticipation, will a couple of bad reviews send Axl back in hiding for a few years?
LONN: Hes hyper-sensitive to the press, he always has been. When things go wrong during a performance, either technically or otherwise, hell walk away. Chinese Democracy, in its own universe, can be a seminal work of rock. Or it could be irrelevant because of the time and drama surrounding its evolution. Its unique. Were discussing it as if its real. It already has a dimension to it that transcends reality.
Dave: How is it that Alice Cooper is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
LONN: How can a dozen other acts deserve to be in before Alice? The hall of fame is a Free Mason institution, insular, powerful, elite and driven by unknown forces and agendas that this veteran rank-and-file scribe is not privy to. Best thing about it are the jams during the induction program. Nothing rocks the soul better than a star-studded, smokin jam.
Dave: Concert ticket prices for major acts are astronomical, and many of those bands are selling VIP packages where you pay for a meet-and-greet opportunity. Have they forgotten that it was the thousands of average fans who purchased their records and attended their early concerts that helped get their bands established?
LONN: They havent forgotten, but they know that a lot of those fans are 20 years older and can probably afford it. Why not milk it for what they can? The Rolling Stones are genetic miracles. Its a time machine going to their shows. Theyre in their sixties and they play two hours and fifteen minutes of classics and kick it out more than most of the young acts out there. The Aerosmith/Motley Crue package seems more like a banking exercise. Smith still delivers live but Steven was pretty sick. Did he have adequate time to heal? I dont know. I cant seem to reach him anymore. They never stay away too long from the concert stage, Aerosmith. Even when faced with internal challenges, theyre out there filling arenas. Tom Hamilton is facing some serious health issues and isnt out there with the band he co-founded. I havent heard one raving report from one friend or fan whos caught Motleys set. They all feel that Vince is struggling to hit the notes and God Bless Mick Mars but hes worn out, not that healthy and apparently it shows on stage. Nikki and Tommy Lee have to work so hard to keep the energy level up. Maybe thats why we have to respect Journeys Steve Perry. He said I cant sing those songs anymore so Ill let someone else do it. There was no drama there, thats how it happened. He just can love, touch and squeeze the way he used to so he stepped away. Thats called respect for the fan. A decision made for something other than the gold. Truly admirable.
Dave: Thanks again for the interview Lonn. In closing, what will have the biggest negative influence on rock and roll in the future: the sex, the drugs, the money, or the politics?
LONN: To me. Its greed. Its almost biblical. As much as I love The Eagles, I didnt really understand why they performed recently for 200 Wal-Mart executives in New York City. Is it always about the check? Even this far down the road to Hall of Fame and Fortune immortality? What was amazing about the set is that they kicked ass because thats how good and how professional they are. They played like it was a stadium gig. When I looked around the room it was surreal. Like something wasnt quite right. Wouldnt the employees of Wal-Mart rather have seen whatever big bucks their company kicked in for the show split up and put in their paychecks? Maybe Im a purist who holds in my heart that a band goes out on stage first to kick ass because they care about us, the fans. And the cash, well, thats secondary. Course, Ive always been a dreamer.