Chris Shiflett veers away from country music and Americana in the latest installment of his Walking the Floor podcast, sitting down with glam-rock king Michael Monroe. The onetime singer of the Finnish group Hanoi Rocks – the greatest Eighties rock band that never was – talks at length about the origins and demise of Hanoi, who fought off drug addiction only to lose their drummer in one of rock’s most infamous accidents in 1984.
Monroe also touches on his own drug use and how he got clean (“Once you decide to stop something, you have to have the will to stop it”); why Hanoi was initially rejected in their native country (“A lot of people hated us for having self-confidence”); and the pop star they asked to produce their 1983 LP Back to Mystery City: Prince. “His answer was, ‘I don’t produce no white boys.'”
Here’s six highlights from this week’s Walking the Floor, which streams in its entirety below.
The Foo Fighters guitarist credits Hanoi Rocks for inspiring him to pick up the instrument.
They were “one of the greatest bands that had ever existed,” says Shiflett. “I don’t know if I would have fallen in love with playing guitar in a rock & roll band if I hadn’t discovered them in the 8th grade … I took a left turn into glam rock and I never came back.”
The Alice Cooper Band heavily influenced Monroe’s style, sound and attitude.
“[Alice Cooper drummer] Neal Smith had the coolest hair. It was the hair I always wanted. … They had the patent leather and all the scarves,” says the singer, who as a kid stalked Cooper at his hotel. “He was in Finland doing promotion for Muscle of Love, I just wanted to see him. When he came out, I patted him on the back so I could say I touched him. That’s the first time I kind of met Alice.”
Hanoi Rocks’ drummer Razzle, who died tragically in a car accident that sent Mötley Crüe’s Vince Neil to jail for vehicular manslaughter, harassed the band to hire him.
“[Original drummer] Gyp Casino was never happy with his playing. He had fits in the studio and would start crying,” says Monroe. “Razzle would show up to our gigs in London, and be like, ‘Where’s your drummer, mate? … I’ll break his fucking legs. Your band is great, but your drummer sucks. You gotta take me.”
Despite the hedonism of the Eighties, Monroe says he never dallied with groupies.
“I never touched a groupie in my life. I guess I’m a freak,” he says, admitting that he charmed female fans for another reason. “I used to pick a girl and speak like I was hitting on her, and when she said, ‘Do you wanna come over?’ I’d say, ‘Yeah, can my friends come along?’ As soon as we got to the house, we’d go straight to the fridge.
Monroe and Hanoi Rocks were a chief influence on Guns N’ Roses.
“They took the influence from Hanoi the right way, the attitude, but had their own thing. I thought it was fantastic that they became the biggest band and not these superficial bands. To me, [those bands] gave a bad name to rockers because it was phony. I can’t believe how many musicians in America say, ‘Why did you start playing rock & roll?’ For chicks!’ To us, it was about music.”
About those bands – Monroe once had a strange encounter with the producer of Poison’s Look What the Cat Dragged In.
“He came up to me at the Ritz … and says, ‘Hey Michael Monroe… I want to apologize to you about Poison … When your drummer died and you broke up, we took your thing and made millions.’ I was like, ‘What? Is that what you were trying to do? You didn’t even come close. You missed the whole point. My sleep is untroubled; I wish you the same.’ He was a nice guy though.”