Chip Z’Nuff / “We kept these antibiotics in case anybody caught anything”

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. In Part Two of the interview with MetalTalk, Chip talks about the early years of Enuff Z’Nuff and touring with Badlands, through the emergence of Grunge, and living and working with Steven Adler for six years.

Interview: Kahmel Farahani

In the MetalTalk interview part one, Chip Z’Nuff spoke about Hardrock Nite, the new album from Enuff Z’Nuff, recently released through Frontiers. In part two, we begin as Enuff Z’Nuff were beginning the journey to the first record deal.

Enuff Z’Nuff were in the groove of recording the demos, and they embraced the lifestyle. “It would be a party every single night,” Chip says. “We had friends that would come by the studio. We weren’t confused or emotional about progress, but we certainly were captivated by the extracurricular activities because there wasn’t much to do out there. But there were your local pot dealers that would show up in the studio, and we had a plethora of alcohol.”

Lake Geneva turned out to be the perfect place for the band to be at that point in history. “We started recording,” Chip says, “and we’d stay there until 7/8 o’clock in the morning, putting out these demo tapes. Doc McGhee heard them and said, ‘I’ve got three cassette tapes in my car right now, Chip, and two are Enuff Z’Nuff. I have a friend of mine who’s got an imprint over at Polygram. He was responsible for signing Cinderella and Bon Jovi. His name is Derek Shulman. He used to be a lead singer of a band called Gentle Giant and I think he would love your stuff. He’s got his own imprint, now called Atco Records, which is a subsidiary of Atlantic. I think he’d be interested in you guys.’ I didn’t think anything of it except that it was really nice of the Doc to take time out to talk to us and perhaps help us out.”

Two weeks later, Chip would take a call from Atco Records. “They said we like what you guys are doing. We want to fly out to see you at rehearsal.”

Shulman turned up at a rehearsal space in Chicago. “We played two songs,” Chip says. “It was a disastrous rehearsal. Everybody was drinking and partying. There were girls in the room. There were a couple of different bands in other parts of the studio as well. It was pretty much the inmates around the asylum at that time, that’s for sure.”

But Shulman had heard enough. “We talked for a little while, and the next day, we received a fax offering us quite a lucrative deal for our first album. And that’s when we went back to Lake Geneva and started recording the whole album.”

Enuff Z’Nuff “probably” recorded 15 songs for that album. “But that’s the album that had New Thing, Fly High Michelle, Indian Angel, In The Groove,” Chip says. “It was a solid rock record. Not many overdubs, just us in the studio playing live on 2″ tape. Then we got Paul [Lani] who did Peace Sells… but Who’s Buying? to come in and mix the record for us.”

There was plenty going on for the genre. “At the time we were recording that record, the guys from Jane’s Addiction were mixing Nothings Shocking. They were mixing in the studio, as were Skid Row, Survivor and Cheap Trick. There’s a lot of good bands that were making great records over there. We just got lucky. We captured magic in a bottle. We finished the album. We knew we had something good. We didn’t know how good it was.”

Enuff Z’Nuff went immediately to New York to meet the record label. “One of the label guys was Mark Snider, Dee’s brother,” Chip says. “I love him to this day. What a wonderful guy.”

Mark would introduce the band to Howard Stern. “I didn’t know who Howard was at the time,” Chip says, “I’m from Chicago. None of us knew. But we went down there to visit him, and it was an immediate lovefest. He had me at ‘hello’. He liked the sense of balance that Enuff Z’Nuff carried, and he loved the extracurricular activities that followed the band around.

“He doesn’t like anything that’s scripted, doesn’t like anything that’s put together where it’s fake and phoney. We weren’t a homogenised band whatsoever. He likes bands that aren’t afraid to expose their scars and tattoos, and he got that with Enuff Z’Nuff. It was a home run by Mark Snider.”

The Howard Stern relationship was a very important one. “We developed a friendship and relationship,” Chip says, “then Howard would have us on the show all the time when that first record came out. Morty [Robert Morton] and the guys over at David Letterman were obviously big fans of Howards. They heard us too, and he said, you’ve got to have these guys on the show. That’s probably one of the reasons we were with Letterman a bunch of times because of the relationship we had with Howard Stern, and that was good.”

Enuff Z’Nuff would then embark on their first tour. “We were out with Badlands, Jake E Lee and Ray Gillen,” Chip says. “That was a great tour for us. We kept these little antibiotics in case anybody caught anything because it was a very promiscuous tour. We were all living life vicariously through our favourite bands.”

That tour lasted a couple of months. “Every show, because of the support that we received from the MTV shows, sold out beyond belief,” Chip says. “We thought we got something really good here, and we really learned a lesson too from Badlands of what to do and what not to do. That was a pretty formidable team. The solid rock band and the drummer from Kiss [Eric Singer] was there too, you know, a rock-solid citizen, and Greg Chaisson was playing bass with them.

“So, every night, it was a lesson for Enuff Z’Nuff to watch what we need to do to make those shows great. And of course, we’re getting tons of airplay at the time with New Thing as the first single, and that really put us on the map right there. It helped us out significantly. We were able to move the needle.”

The first album had blown up, Enuff Z’Nuff were featured often on MTV, and with the second single, Fly High Michelle, the rock ride was underway. “Everything went through the first record we sold,” Chip says. “We sold half a million records. We’re two singles deep in New Things and Fly High Michelle, and the label said, ‘let’s pull the plug right here and start another record’. We had one more single. We had picked For Now as the next single.

“They said, ‘you know what we’ve had? We’ve hit two home runs right here. Maybe it’s in our best interests to stop, look and focus on the next Enuff Z’Nuff album.’ Don and I were writing machines, and we had put up tons of material. So we said, okay, we’ll do that. Then we went in there and made Strength, but after we made that first record, we found ourselves in considerable debt.

“We found ourselves in a position where maybe it was in our best interests to just go out and just start making another record, and not get into discrepancies with the label, who just absolutely did a great job on that first album. So Donnie and I took the songs and went to Los Angeles and started making a second record. We recorded 30 something songs.”

The record label were very encouraged, saying the band had too many good songs. “We cut it down to a 14 song record and immediately arranged another tour. Right when we started that tour, the change of the guard happened in Seattle with Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Alice In Chains, and a lot of bands got caught in a position where they couldn’t turn it around.”

The music business was changing. “It was flannels and army boots,” Chip says. “It wasn’t about colourful glam and glitter rock.”

Enuff Z’Nuff were one of the bands that stuck at it. “We didn’t quit,” Chip says, “A lot of the bands said, okay, we’re not going to make the fourth quarter, we’re going to move on. We certainly weren’t one of those. We went right back in the studio after that ’91 tour. We were out with Guns N’ Roses and Skid Row. Every night it was a big party. It was just a great time, but we were in considerable debt because of leasing a tour bus, and all the promotion of the label was doing for us, just trying to get through every single day, make it work.

“It was a great record, and it got the critical acclaim. We were picked by Rolling Stone as hot band of the world. We were doing tons of tv shows and press around the country opening for bands like Def Leppard and Poison. We couldn’t turn it around, though, and get the same love that Nirvana and Soundgarden got. It was called grunge, and it wasn’t going away for a while.”

Chip would live with Steven Adler for six years while working with Adler’s Appetite. “Yeah, it’s true,” Chip says. “I had Adler’s Appetite along with Missing Persons and Enuff Z’Nuff all going at one time. We toured a lot, and we did a record with Anthony Focx, who does lots of stuff with the Aerosmith boys and Steven Tyler. It was a fabulous record. We did some stuff, too, with Fred Coury from Cinderella as well. He’s a great guy, a good producer, really, really strong.”

Adler’s Appetite would tour the US and then tour Europe in 2010. “Steven doesn’t want to really tour around the States too much,” Chip says, “but he does love Europe. We ended up playing a bunch of shows with him, which I thought was great. Then we found ourselves in considerable debt on that tour.

“We played perhaps 34 shows on that tour in a tour bus too. Bristol, Newcastle, Birmingham, then went over to Italy, then Portugal, all those different venues. And then, at the end of the tour, we found ourselves in considerable debt. We lost a Brinks truck. Steven, back then he thought that, well we’re gonna go tour around the country, we’ve got to do it in a big tour bus. And so we listened to him (laughs).

“It was a good time on those shows. All the shows were packed, sold out. We’re doing nothing but Appetite For Destruction, which was quite challenging because back then those cats were, you know, twenty-something years old, and then, now, and we’re double that age, all of us.

“We have Michael Thomas from Faster Pussycat was playing guitar, Alex Grossi from Quiet Riot was the other player. Steven and I were a rhythm section. And then we had Patrick Stone from Budderside singing all the songs. Pretty formidable team. A good band live. We just couldn’t withstand the punishment.

“I think Steven was just happy seeing the fans out there. And if he’s just doing the weekend warrior stuff, he’s good because he misses his doggies. Plus, we couldn’t get cable in the bus, and every day he watches American Dad, Family Guy, South Park. He loves those cartoons. So that was a little challenge for him.”

Chip would talk Steven back into working with Guns N’ Roses again. “He said, ‘Axl is in town, the band is playing’,” Chip says. “I said, you have got to go and see him. Thank God he listened to me, took my advice and went to Vegas, went to see the show. Before the concert started, the fans were smothering him like a bum on the surf n’ turf. Steven said, ‘ahh man, this is great, and it’s nice to be recognised.'”

One of the crew guys told Adler that he had to leave because he was causing too much commotion. “So he went home. He was crying, he was bummed out, and when he got home, they called him back and said, ‘hey man, we’re sorry. Axl wants to see you’.

“That’s the kind of guy Axl is, he forgives. You know, he forgives, and he’s respectable. He loves the legacy of Guns N’ Roses and had him go back there and then look what happened. Steven did a few shows with them. The fans love seeing him up on stage playing, but he said that he wasn’t happy doing the reunion tour if he couldn’t play the whole show. He wanted to do all the songs from Appetite For Destruction, and Frank, the current drummer, said, ‘man, I’d let you play ’em, but it’s not up to me. It’s up to the gang.’

“The run was a little bit short. I wish he would have done a little longer. I think it would’ve been nice, but it was good for him to cleanse his soul, to get out there. The fans can see him playing one more time with the band. That’s all he really wanted after all those years. And yeah, I’ve always had a great time playing with him, a lot of great experiences, and we’re still really close brothers to this day.”

Playing those big shows, especially in South America, to 50,000 people, even if it’s just two songs, must have been a great closure for Steven?

“When we were out doing the Appetite For Destruction stuff over in Europe,” Chip says, “we would go to a record store at noon, and there would be like 1000 people out there waiting for him. I mean, people really loved Guns N’ Roses, and they hailed Steven Adler. He’s got his own swing and his own timber, and he was there in the beginning, and those fans came out every day. I think that was good for Steven. He felt good about himself at the end of the day, having a chance to go out there and play these songs again, tour around the country, see the fans and let them know how much he loves them.

“I’m okay with that. I can move on and do what I need to do, just like his book. When he wrote his book, the first thing he did was take his first copy, walk up to the fireplace and throw it in the fireplace and burn it. He said, okay, I finished what I need to do. Now, it’s on to the next thing, so I gotta respect that.”

In a recent conversation with Tracii Guns, MetalTalk were discussing the grunge movement and how, with the exception of Pearl Jam, those bands are pretty much all gone, while bands such as Enuff Z’Nuff, L.A. Guns and Skid Row, all those who were huge in ’89, are still hitting it out of the park right now with live shows and especially what they’re all doing for Frontiers.

“Those are timeless records from that whole Seattle scene,” Chip says. “Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, we were all big fans, despite the fact they took away a lot of attention to what we were doing as a band. But those are great groups, and they’ve left an indelible mark.

“It’s certainly nice to still be accepted out there,” Chip says. “We are at the time right now where there is too much product, not enough demand. It is certainly very busy out there when it comes to music. There’s a lot to grab onto. To be a footnote is better than nothing, but I still think there’s gas in the tank for those bands you just mentioned. God bless them.

“I believe that there’s more to be said, especially with our catalogue of material. We still come up with songs all the time. I’m grateful for the opportunity we’ve had.”

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