Interview / Michael Monroe and the frustrations of Hanoi Rocks Oriental Beat

Oriental Beat is the second studio album by Hanoi Rocks. Recorded in late ’81 and released in January ’82, the album was the breakthrough for the band led by Michael Monroe. Oriental Beat is a story of poor production and lost masters, but on 17 March 2023, the album will finally be presented the way the band had hoped. Steve Ritchie caught up with Michael Monroe in Norwich to find out more about the story.

“The second album is usually key for most bands,” Michael Monroe told MetalTalk. “For us, the fact that the producer completely had a… He didn’t get the band. A guitar rock band, and he was trying to go for, I don’t know what, but maybe some new romantic or whatever was happening at the time. Some Spandau Ballet new romantic kind of stuff or something. Whatever he was trying to go for it, he got it completely wrong.

“We were so young and inexperienced. The first album Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks, me and Andy [McCoy] produced as the Money Twins, and we joked about our limitations. But it sounded good. We went to England and thought we would record the second album. They’re great songs. We had some rough mixes from the sessions, which we thought sounded okay. It was pretty good, and it’s gonna be a great album and all. So then the guy mixes it on his own.”

Michael Monroe and Hanoi Rocks, Oriental Beat
Hanoi Rocks, Oriental Beat Anniversary edition out 17 March 2023

“We’re already touring, and our manager Zeppo came to the hotel in Finland. It was already pressed on vinyl. He had a turntable and started playing it. The guy [producer] had decided on the track listing too. I was like, wait a minute. This is it? Sounds pretty hollow, and where were the guitars? I guess there’s nothing to do any more. It’s already on vinyl. If I knew what I know now, of course, we would have said forget it and probably set us back for a couple of years.”

There are a number of people from that kind of era, who have said exactly the same thing, I say. From the outside, you expect the finished product to better reflect the band. “It’s a crime,” Michael says. You think they know what they’re doing, I say.

“We had a Finnish label,” Michael says. “We had just relocated to London. Then Zeppo, our Finnish manager and I got hooked up with Richard Bishop in London, who was running a label called Armageddon Records. They released The Misfits, Beware with Hollywood Babylon and Attitude. He was a friend of his that producer [Peter Wooliscroft], and so he thought it was okay. We heard that he worked with Slade on some records. I never saw his name anywhere. So we thought, oh, he must be okay. Maybe he was an assistant engineer or a gofer in the studio, I don’t know what. But I mean, you never heard of him after the Hanoi album. You know, obviously, he wasn’t a professional.

“Guns N’ Roses released our European back catalogue on their Uzi Suicide in the States, which was great. We wanted to remix the Oriental Beat album and put it out there. Geffen released all that stuff [Uzi Suicide was a vanity label created by Geffen]. So the head of the Finnish label said he had sent the original multi-track tapes to Germany to this producer guy to remix, and the tapes were lost on the way. Wait a minute, I said. Didn’t you make a safety copy? Jesus, how can it be lost? Now we can’t even remix it. For all these years, we thought it couldn’t be done.

“However, one day, I got this tip from a guy who had been at the Universal Music vaults in their warehouse somewhere in Finland because they own all that old stuff now. He said you might want to check on that. They saw something like multi-track tapes and ‘Hanoi Rocks’.”

Michael Monroe and Hanoi Rocks - Oriental Beat Anniversary Edition
Michael Monroe and Hanoi Rocks – Oriental Beat Anniversary Edition

“I called the head of the label and said wait a minute, would you have somebody go to take photos of those tapes, if it says Vision Studios London, those are the Oriental Beat beat tapes, the multi-tracks. And sure enough, they were there. We found it. It’s like it was about almost three years ago now.

“I was like, wait a minute. Not only that, there were also three reels that had outtakes from the first album and from some demos for the second album. Songs that I didn’t remember that we had done, you know, and that existed. It’s really special that those are digitized now.”

“It’s really cool stuff, and it’s fun, but you know the Oriental Beat tapes? I went with Petri Majuri, who mixed all the Reborn Hanoi Rocks stuff and solo stuff from this band with up to One Man Gang, Sensory Overdrive Horns and Halos, Blackout States and One Man Gang. The last album, I Live Too Fast To Die Young! we did with the different studios and different engineering, which is refreshing and good.

“But Petri is very good. He put the digitized version on, put it in the desk and set it up. I went to the studio, you know, just listen to it. Wow! It was just really amazing to hear this stuff. It was well played. We had decided no samples, no re-recording. I found on four songs there was one alternate lead vocal track. One of them was Oriental Beat, and there’s a scream in the beginning. I didn’t even know. I mean, this guy, the [original] producer, made some choices that weren’t the greatest, I think.”

Michael Monroe - Norwich UEA - 15 February 2023
Michael Monroe – Norwich UEA – 15 February 2023. Photo: Steve Ritchie/MetalTalk

That’s going to suddenly add more depth and another angle to the songs, I suggest.

“There are alternate vocal tracks. Some Oriental Beat and Teenangels Outsiders. There are two other songs, maybe No Law Or Order. There’s a fade on Teenangels Outsiders, No Law Or Order, which we did not do on this because there was an ending on both songs, so we let them be. There’s a scream at the beginning of Oriental Beats, like, wow, what’s that? Put it there, it was cool, and there’s this guitar. I mean, now you can hear guitars, you can hear everything. Clearly, the band is in front of you and Andy and Nasty, incredibly amazing, like weaving. Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood always talk about weaving. But they had their own kind and took it to a different level with their own amazing parts.

“I mean, you can hear it on Teenangels Outsiders on the verse and it figures. It’s so cool to hear them. It’s amazing chemistry, really. The magic and it’s overshadowed by a lot of the hoopla around this. Musically and the Chemistry. Chemistry-wise, this band was a great band on that record now. It’s finally come. It has the sound it deserves. I must point out for me at least, this is the longest and slowest album project I’ve ever done. Forty years in the making now until it finally got the sound it deserves. Longer than Chinese democracy.”

Oriental Beat by Hanoi Rocks gets the redux treatment, officially mixed and revived from the original sessions, and released on 17 March 17 2023 on deluxe vinyl, CD and digital formats. Pre-orders are available from here.

You can read more about Michael Monroe here. The first part of an interview at Michael’s Norwich show can be read here.

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