Monday, January 13, 2020

Hollywood Cowboy: Frankie Banali Rides Against the Odds

Frankie Banali (second from right) with the current incarnation of Quiet Riot

Frankie Banali has done the impossible.

A decade ago, the Los Angeles-based drummer and music industry veteran announced that he was resurrecting Quiet Riot – the band he had been an integral part of since 1982 – without legendary frontman Kevin DuBrow, who died in 2007. There he was, a guy nearing 60, attempting to bring back a band already decades removed from massive fame and chart success. It was one hell of a gamble. Would he embarrass himself by giving it another go amidst a scoffing industry and a skeptical fanbase? Not surprisingly, the journey was rocky: A procession of lead singers came and went, reviews were mixed and even fellow Metal staple Dee Snider went on record in the 2015 documentary Quiet Riot: Well Now You’re Here, There’s No Way Back as saying that he didn’t see a future for Banali’s plan. But the timekeeper doggedly followed his convictions, eventually building the Quiet Riot band/brand back up to international status and acclaim.

While still keeping a heritage act alive and relevant in 2020 is a colossal feat, the fact that Banali and his current cohorts recently unleashed one of the greatest albums ever born under the Quiet Riot banner is the true victory. Released last November on Frontiers Records and the follow-up to 2017’s Road Rage, Hollywood Cowboys is the band’s second album to feature singer and former American Idol finalist James Durbin. While Road Rage offered some exciting hints of the Banali-led Quiet Riot’s strengths, the new album easily surpasses its predecessor thanks to instantly apparent boosts in songwriting and musicianship. If fact, album opener “Don’t Call It Love” showcases some of the finest drumming of Banali’s storied career. The song is the first of four consecutive album tracks co-written by singer/songwriter Jacob Bunton alongside Banali and longtime Quiet Riot engineer/writing partner Neil Citron.

“[Neil] and I started working on the music two years ago,” Banali explains. “We worked on these songs for about a year and narrowed it down to the songs that ended up on the record. To me, some of the key songs on the record were ‘Don’t Call It Love,’ ‘In the Blood,’ ‘Heartbreak City’ and ‘The Devil That You Know,’ which is why those are the first four tracks.”

Additional contributors to Hollywood Cowboys include former Anthrax frontman Neil Turbin (who supplied lyrics and background vocals to “Change or Die” and “Insanity”) and lyricist August Young. Citron provided extra instrumentation to “Roll On” and “Change or Die.”

Considering that Banali produced the album himself, it’s no surprise that the drums hit the listener over the head with intensity throughout the proceedings.

“I went into the studio and recorded the drums with Neil [Citron] on analog using two-inch tape. It has a much bigger and warmer sound, I think, than when you record drums digitally. Even though we had to transfer it to digital in order to do the rest of the recordings and the overdubs, it has a very unique sound.”

With Durbin (who joined Quiet Riot in 2017) ending his run in the band prior to Hollywood Cowboys’ release, Banali has brought back Jizzy Pearl (Ratt, Love/Hate, L.A. Guns), who previously worked with the band from 2013 to 2016, to front the ever-resilient machine as it steamrolls into 2020.  

“We had almost three great years in the past with Jizzy. I really like him; he’s his own person, and he’s very quirky. He’s an incredible singer in his own right. He has his own style. He’s not trying to copy Kevin DuBrow, but he does justice to the Quiet Riot material and legacy while at the same time making it his own, which for me is very rewarding. He’s an incredible live performer, and he was a great fit for the time he was with us. So, when I found myself in need of a new vocalist, rather than reach out to a couple of people who I had in mind who had no previous connection to Quiet Riot, I wanted to see if there was a possibility of him returning to the band. I was very happy that he wanted to be involved again; it’s a win-win situation for me.”

Despite frequent shifts in the singer department, the post-DuBrow Quiet Riot has soldiered on thanks in large part to the sonic foundation laid by Banali, bassist Chuck Wright (whose sporadically history with the band dates back to the early ’80s) and long-serving guitarist Alex Grossi.

“I was very conscious of the fact that the last touring lineup that Quiet Riot had [with Kevin] was with Alex on guitar and Chuck on bass. That was Kevin’s favorite lineup, because it was a lineup that functioned well live and as people. Alex and Chuck were the first people I reached out to. I have an incredibly great relationship with [former bassist] Rudy Sarzo. He’s one of the biggest supporters of Quiet Riot and of me personally. But he has his own things going on, so that was not a consideration at the time. I wanted to respect what Kevin felt about that particular lineup, and I was very happy that they wanted to come on board as well.”

Of course, no Quiet Riot gig would be complete without their legendary cover of Slade’s 1973 classic “Cum On Feel the Noize.” Those four minutes and 51 seconds helped 1983’s Metal Health become the first Heavy Metal album to ever top the Billboard chart, famously knocking The Police’s iconic Synchronicity off the throne and kickstarting the commercial Hair Metal boom that flooded MTV and record stores for the remainder of the decade. Nearly 40 years after Metal Health’s monumental success, Banali remains honored to have been part of the historic ride.      

“We were really, really fortunate to have been at the right place at the right time, having written the right songs and having had the opportunity to have a Slade song become a worldwide hit for Quiet Riot. It was a combination of being at the right place, being at the right time, having the right lineup, having a great record and having MTV be a huge part of promoting us. All of those stars aligned themselves to make it possible for us not only to be a different sound, but to be able to have a Number One album on Billboard, which was unheard of. I still love the fact that we were able to do that and were afforded that opportunity.”

Through Banali’s determination and Grossi and Wright’s unwavering presence, Quiet Riot has been afforded a new opportunity to succeed in the present tense. After keeping the fire burning a full decade without DuBrow, Banali insists that the band still has much more to do. 

“What I would like to accomplish is have Quiet Riot continue to record and create new music, even though the music industry is not what it was and most of the recordings are stolen. Streams mean nothing to me; what means a lot to me is the fans’ support for the new material as much as they supported the previous records that have come out. When you write and record new music and release it, it’s like getting a shot in the arm. I’m incredibly proud of Quiet Riot’s history and the music we’ve created, but a musician is not a musician if all they do is just play the same thing they’ve always played. I understand that the fans want to hear those songs, and I’m more than happy to play them because I love all the Quiet Riot songs. But it’s important to me as a musician to continue to write new music regardless of whether the critics like it or not.”

Sadly, the release of Hollywood Cowboys is bittersweet for Quiet Riot fans and band members alike. Just as the group finished recording the album in April 2019, Banali was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. Although he kept the news private for several months, a series of Quiet Riot live performances featuring fill-in drummers Johnny Kelly (Type O Negative/Danzig) and Mike Dupke (W.A.S.P.) raised more than a few eyebrows and concerns. On October 21 – only three days after promo copies of Hollywood Cowboys were sent to the music press – Banali made his condition known to the world. Since then, he has kept fans updated on his chemotherapy via Quiet Riot’s official Facebook page.

“Thank you to all the fans and all my friends for the incredible amount of support and love that they have afforded me once I went public with my situation. Know that it does make a difference. Know that your comments, your prayers and your kind words are not ignored. They absolutely mean a lot to me, and they make it possible for me to move forward with my fight.”

While it is true that Banali is beginning the new year with serious questions about his health and future, the powerhouse that is Hollywood Cowboys proves that Quiet Riot is still a legitimate force in the world of music. If there’s one thing fans have learned from Quiet Riot since 2010, it’s that we should never expect the man keeping the beat to simply accept defeat and ride off into the sunshine quietly.

“Quiet Riot has been a huge part of both my personal and professional life for 36 years since [Metal Health] came out, but even longer than that. I started working with Kevin in 1980 [under the band name DuBrow]. Again, if it wasn’t for the fans’ support, Quiet Riot would not exist. I love the legacy of Quiet Riot, but I also love the fact that the real fans continue to support us by coming to the shows and buying new releases. For me, that’s gratifying. I’m the only member of Quiet Riot who’s played on every single album since Metal Health. I had three years without Quiet Riot after Kevin passed away, and my decision to bring Quiet Riot back had everything to do with two factors. One was the fact that I wanted to see if the fans still loved the band and would support it even if dear Kevin was gone. Two, I couldn’t see myself not playing Quiet Riot songs for the rest of my life. I took a chance, and I rolled the dice. Even though the dice came back as snake eyes a lot of times, I’m not a person you can say ‘no’ to or you can tell, ‘This is not going to work.’ I just go by my gut instincts, and I keep moving forward.”


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Words from “the Other Side:” Bob Daisley Opens Up About Ozzy

The photos above (courtesy of Bob Daisley) are of the "Mr. Crowley" single by the band Blizzard of Ozz, released by Jet Records in 1980. These images contradict the common misconception that Blizzard of Ozz was just the name of Ozzy Osbourne's first "solo" album.  The lineup of Blizzard of Ozz - the band - was Osbourne, Bob Daisley, Randy Rhoads and Lee Kerslake. 

On August 23, Ozzy Osbourne announced the November 29 release of See You on the Other Side, a vinyl box set comprised of his 16 post-Black Sabbath albums, B-sides and more. This was news to veteran Rock/Metal bassist and songwriter Bob Daisley, who performed on – and wrote/co-wrote the lyrics/music for – a good portion of the material contained in the upcoming release. Daisley’s tumultuous history with Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne has made headlines for years (and has been featured extensively on this website). With the impending release of another collection featuring Daisley’s work, I reached out to him at his home in Sydney, Australia for his thoughts on See You on the Other Side, some of the other key players from his time with Ozzy and if he believes his differences with his former collaborator could ever be resolved. (Authors Note: The day after the below interview was posted, a press representative for Ozzy Osbourne confirmed in an email to me that the original recordings of Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman will be included in the upcoming box set.)

So, there’s a new Ozzy box set coming out. Are you generally made aware when these sorts of things come out?

No. Why would anyone bother telling me? (laughs) I’m only one of the writers and performers. (laughs)

You’ve seen the press release about it, and the box set has already received some press. Based on what you’ve seen, what are your thoughts on what’s about to come out?

The first thing that came to mind for me was what versions of the first two albums will be in it. We know that the drums and bass were re-recorded, and that was all that was available for a while. Hopefully, for the fans and the posterity of the music, it will be the original real versions.

Absolutely. I can tell you there has been no information sent to me that indicates which versions they will be.  

I wouldn’t know. I think most people know about what I’ve termed ‘The Holy Grail,’ which are my recordings from those writing sessions and rehearsals and pre-production sessions before those albums were even recorded. It would have been great stuff to go on a box set as bonus material. We tried once before; my manager contacted the necessary people, but they just wanted me to hand it over for a flat fee, which would mean total control for them and an opportunity to rewrite history yet again, so I said, ‘No way!’

It’s reasonable enough for you to ask for something.

Sure. They’re my recordings, and it’s me on them. It’s my writing, and it’s my performances – as well as Lee Kerslake’s, Randy Rhoads’ and Ozzy’s.

Photo courtesy of 

When theyve pertained to Ozzy, a lot of our past conversations have been about the first two albums. With this new box set coming out that features all the Ozzy albums, I thought this would be a nice opportunity to talk about the music you were involved in with him after Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman. Specifically, Bark at the Moon was an important record for all of you –

Bark at the Moon was a real milestone, because nobody knew what was going to happen. Don’t forget, by 1983, Randy was gone, Lee Kerslake was no longer in the band and there were only two original members of The Blizzard of Ozz. Nobody – the record company, management – knew how that third album was going to be received. It could have flopped; people may have thought, ‘Well, Randy’s not on it. It’s not the original band.’ It was almost kind of experimental. Fortunately, it turned out really well. I love that album; it’s a great album. I’m proud of it, because we put a lot into it.

I know Jake E. Lee said that he wrote songs for that. He brought riffs to the table. I remember when we were in New York writing for Bark at the Moon; on the last night in the hotel, I said to Jake that he fitted Randy’s shoes admirably. He did a great job. He played all of Randy’s guitar parts very well, but he also put his own stamp on them as well. I was really pleased with how it was all shaping up. I said, ‘Jake, you’ve brought in some great ideas.’ He said, ‘Yeah, but you turn them into songs.’ I know Jake may have forgotten that (laughs), but I remember that very well.

I liked working with Jake; we got on well. He was a first-class musician. I thought he was brilliant.

The good thing about working with Jake after Randy was that he wasn’t trying to be Randy. He had his own thing. He was Jake E. Lee. He had the Jake E. Lee style and the Jake E. Lee presentation and stamp on everything. It wasn’t about re-creating what we had done in the past, and that was great.

How did working with Zakk Wylde a few years later compare to working with Jake or even Randy?

I got on great with Zakk as well. He was a good guy. We’d go out for meals together and have a good laugh. He was quite young; I think he was like 21 or something when he first joined the band. I think that was in ’87. He still had to follow Jake E. Lee, who was not an easy act to follow. But Zakk did well personality-wise, and he had great riffs and song ideas, too.

Ozzy has put out several albums since you walked away for good. Have you listened to his albums since that time?

Yeah, there’s still some good stuff. I read and listen to a lot of the comments from fans regarding that. There are certain songs that people like, but there seems to be a common denominator that things aren’t what they used to be. It’s hard to see the forest for the trees or look out from the eye of the hurricane, if you know what I mean, so I haven’t really formed an opinion. If you’re part of it yourself, it’s not always easy to judge that sort of stuff. But just by going on what other people think and what I’ve seen written on forums and websites, people tend to think that some of the later albums aren’t as good. I haven’t listened to all of it, but I have heard some stuff.

Earlier this year, Ozzy finally presented Lee Kerslake with his platinum album awards for the first two albums.

That’s because Lee’s dying of cancer. Lee wrote to Ozzy and Sharon and said, ‘Look, I’m dying. I’ve got limited time. Would it be alright if I could at least get my albums?’ He never had one – not one! Not a silver, not a gold or platinum – for any of them! I thought that was just a travesty. Mind you, I’ve never received the ‘four platinum’ award for Diary and the ‘five platinum’ award for Blizzard either, but I got the single platinum and golds when I went back to do Bark at the Moon.  

Here’s a question that I’ve seen a lot fans post online: With all the things you went through with the Osbournes, why did you keep going back to work with them?

There’s a complicated answer to that simple question. To get the full picture of the full story, you would have to read my book, For Facts Sake, because it’s in there. The answer is quite involved; it’s not a simple sentence or simple paragraph. It was quite complicated, and you need to read the progression of what happened and how it happened and why I went back several times. I could sit here for probably three quarters of an hour and tell you the whole story of how it unfolded, but it would be a lot easier – and in detail – to read it in my book.

This image from the October 4, 1980 edition of Melody Maker shows the Blizzard of Ozz album - from the BAND Blizzard of Ozz - in at #6 on the Albums chart. (Courtesy of Bob Daisley)

Sharon’s name has come up a lot in our conversations over the years, but you were in the band with Ozzy – not her. With that said, what would the chances be of some or all of your issues being sorted out if you and Ozzy sat in a room – without Sharon, the lawyers, the managers – and just talked? Do you think that would ever be a possibility?

I would never say it is not a possibility, because anything can happen. Ozzy and I always got on well together. We had a similar sense of humor, and we had similar tastes in music. We got on like a house on fire. I still remember his very words the first time I went to his house in Stafford. We had a play together, and he had a couple of other people there – this was before the Randy days. This is when he had another guitarist and drummer there. I can’t remember their names or where they came from, but Ozzy knew them well and was talking about putting this band together with them. Ozzy had left Black Sabbath for a brief time in 1977, and he was going to have another band then, but it didn’t last and he went back to Black Sabbath. These guys could have been from that band, which was also going to be called The Blizzard of Ozz. He even had t-shirts made; I’ve seen photos of them.

I was sitting in the kitchen with Ozzy, and I said, ‘Look, these guys are okay. But to be honest with you, they’re not great. They’re not world-class.’ He said, ‘Hang on a minute.’ He opened the rehearsal room – which was an integral part of the house – and said, ‘Alright, fellas. You can pack up and go home. It’s not working out.’ It was just like that, just because I said that. When he came back, he said, ‘I know this other guitarist in LA. He’s good; he might work out. His name’s Randy Rhoads.’ I just said to Ozzy, ‘Well, let’s get him over.’ So, The Blizzard of Ozz really started with just Ozzy and me. Then, we got Randy over and started auditioning drummers.

I remember when Ozzy phoned the office at Jet Records and spoke to a guy there called Arthur Sharp. Ozzy said, ‘Me and Bob get on like a house on fire. The fire brigade’s just left.’ It was true; we got on great. Personally, there was never a problem between Ozzy and me. We always had a good laugh, we were productive and came up with good ideas. It was just the business side of things and all the logistics that got in the way.

If a reconciliation was ever a possibility, it could have happened before now. If it happened tomorrow, it would be great, but it’s a shame it couldn’t have happened somewhere along the way without all the other bollocks that went on.