With a career spanning almost 40 years and over 20 albums, Chip Z’Nuff has seen and been a part of the golden age of hard rock and MTV. Here he walks MetalTalk through it all, from the start of Enuff Z’Nuff, the highs of MTV stardom and the rise of grunge.
Enuff Z’Nuff – Hardrock Nite (Frontiers)
Release Date: Out Now
Interview: Kahmel Farahani
Chip also talks about life in rock ‘n’ roll, from his new Beatles cover album and solo record due for release in March 2022 to living with Guns N’ Roses’ Steven Adler and working with Doc McGhee and Howard Stern.
A man dedicated to his art, Chip, as always, has been a busy man. “We hit the road in June,” Chip told MetalTalk’s Kahmel Farahani. “We were out with Faster Pussycat on the Straight Outta Quarantine tour. We did about two and a half months with them. Then we came back to the States and started recording some more music. When we’re not playing, we’re recording. It’s constantly juggling back and forth.”
To get as much music ready to go is Chip’s mantra. “I just finished my solo record for Frontiers,” he says. “That record comes out in March of next year. It’s called Perfectly Imperfect, but more important is the new record that we have right now, which is Hardrock Nite and all the Beatles songs.”
Hardrock Nite is Chip and Enuff Z’Nuff’s take on The Beatles. A fantastic record. There is also a version of McCartneys Jet, a great song deserving of the heavier treatment.
“I think that McCartney’s solo stuff was very significant,” Chip says. “The stuff he wrote with Linda, fabulous. Those are well-produced records. I’ve worked with those cats in the past. Let’s not forget that Cold Turkey / Shaved Fish record with John and Yoko. I thought that was a fabulous record, too, because it showcases another side of John.”
“The Beatles, they loved the blues, they loved Chicago and Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy and Paul Butterfield. All those musicians would read and find records from the Chicago blues guys, and that would seep into their veins. They would find inspiration in those songs, and then they wrote songs around it too.
“Show me a band without influences, and I’ll show you a musician that hasn’t written one note. So that was nice that we were able to capture a little magic with the Shaved Fish, Cold Turkey song. You couldn’t do a cover of McCartney song without doing a cover of a Lennon one as well.”
With the new Get Back film out, it seems The Beatles still have that charm and magic around them, and we are still taking it apart today. There is something about those songs and those recordings.
“It just shows you how powerful the music is,” Chip says. “Here we are sixty years later, and we’re still celebrating Beatles songs. I just did The Beatles channel on Sirius XM. Not many bands get on there, but I was blown away beyond belief how they embraced this Hardrock Nite record.
“It was at the same time as people were talking about Let It Be and the Get Back documentary, and to find some of the songs that we recorded on this record, coming back out again and people being reminded of how fabulous the Fab Four were.”
In the early days, Chip and Enuff Z’Nuff were playing shows with Alice Cooper, Foreigner and Billy Squire. “At the end of the night, Mick Jones and I went back to the hotel, and we just talked Beatles, Cheap Trick, Led Zeppelin and just all the English stuff that was happening.
“Mick says, ‘Chip, you know how I learned to write songs? I was hanging with the Beatles for six months in the studio.’ How many guys had a chance to say that? I know that Bun E. Carlos and Rick Nielsen did stuff with Lennon, which was fantastic. But to sit in a room with all the Beatles and George Martin and watch how they are a part of things and analyse exactly what they’re gonna do….”
At that point, The Beatles had returned from India. “I know they all had their own songs,” Chips says. “George brought a half dozen songs, I think Paul had seven or eight songs as well, and Lennon had 14 songs, Ringo five. They were sussing out all the material they had, all the inspiration they got in India with the Dalai Lama and trying to put pen to paper and music to tape. I asked Mick how were The Beatles recording when he was in the studio with them, and he said they just plugged in live, and Ringo would come in ‘1,2,3,4..’ and the band would play. That’s pretty much the approach we took on this Hardrock Nite record as well.”
Hardrock Nite has all those big guitars that you would expect with Enuff Z’Nuff. “Yeah, really big guitars,” Chip smiles. “Just picture The Beatles now, if they were playing through maybe Boogie amplifiers and Marshall stacks with big drums and big bass guitar. We’re not a tribute band. It’s an interpretation of The Beatles through our eyes, through my rose-coloured glasses.”
The song selections are the most interesting choice. “We picked nothing but stuff from ’67 above, ” Chip says, “because that’s when The Beatles were experimenting the most.”
Of course, people like Twist And Shout and the earlier pop-orientated material, but for many, the White Album and Abbey Road are the go-to listens. “Yeah, absolutely in my mind too as well,” Chip says, “because I don’t think they were writing for radio back then. They were writing songs about their everyday experiences, and they were fabulous storytellers as well.
“You know, live, you didn’t see the Beatles much after that. They were mostly experimenting in the studio, making records, and they weren’t playing a lot of live shows. In the early days, of course, they went out on tour, but later on, they didn’t. That was surprising to me because I think maybe, perhaps, they felt more comfortable in the studio than they did playing live.”
Not the same for Enuff Z’Nuff, though? “We like to go out there and play the songs live,” Chip says. “We want to meet the people. That’s the most important thing for us, and we want to see the whole world.”
The last time I saw Enuff Z’Nuff was on the tour for the Covered In Gold album, which was a terrific piece too. Hearing the band cut loose in a way that, as Chip says, is not a carbon copy of anything, just Enuff Z’Nuff doing it their way, makes it interesting for the listeners. Whether it’s Jealous Guy or The Stroke, the band taking it into the Enuff Z’Nuff world is an experience with all this material.
“Yes, we were just wearing our influences on our sleeve,” Chip says, “you know, paying respect to our forebears. That was the most important thing on that record and on The Beatles record here. I think it had a little bit more for us to say, but we weren’t exactly sure what approach to take.
“We just wanted to make a record that sounds like Enuff Z’Nuff, not to sound immodest, and I think we captured it here. The guitars are big, analogue recordings. We track a lot of stuff over here, and where I live in Blue Island, Illinois, with a punk rock producer, a guy named Rob Paulsen who did the Midnight Devil’s. This guy is a fabulous producer, and he helped me navigate some of these songs, along with Tony Fennell, who used to sing in a band called Ultravox.”
Great versions of Back In The U.S.S.R, Magical Mystery Tour, and Revolution particularly stand out. “Revolution, which I thought was a good track,” Chip says, “we used to do that in the early days of Enuff Z’Nuff. We recorded about 15, 16 songs and took them to Chris Simons, on the north side of Chicago. Chris took the record and really massaged it. We brought out the old Leslies, but we wanted to make sure there was enough room so that this record would be high voltage and just in your face. I think, at the end of the day, we really captured that.”
Hardrock Nite was recorded in early 2021 and passed to Frontiers in March. “We got lucky enough, where Mario and Sarafino and the guys over at the label said, ‘OK, we got an open window right now to release this album.'”
The great news is a tour is part of the future plans. “We’ve already done a couple of shows,” Chips says. “We played Denver, Colorado. People in the crowd were crying when they heard Eleanor Rigby, Jet and those songs. I was beyond belief. I would like to go out next year. Maybe not even call it Enuff Z’Nuff, maybe just call it the Beatles Rock Show.
“For the promoters out there that want to hear Enuff Z’Nuff, we’ll mix it up. We’ll do Beatles songs and Enuff Z’Nuff because we got plenty of records. Diamond Boy came out in 2018, Brainwashed Generation in 2020.
“And then, of course, this year having the Hardrock Nite record, then my solo record to follow, with a new Enuff Z’Nuff album in 2022, there’s certainly a lot of subject matter there to play.” Hardrock Nite can be ordered from orcd.co/hardrock
In part two, Chip Z’Nuff talks about forming Enuff Z’Nuff in Blue Island, Illinois in 1983. “We just got lucky we did. We captured magic in a bottle.” We also hear about MTV, the advent of grunge and living with Steven Adler for six years.
Cover photo: Dave Stekert
Chip Z’Nuff – vocals, bass, electric guitar
Tony Fennell – rhythm & lead guitar, voice, keyboards, strings
Tory Stoffregen – lead & slide guitar
Daniel Benjamin Hill – drums & percussion
Magical Mystery Tour
Live And Let Die
Back In The U.S.S.R.
With A Little Help From My Friends