Interview: Joey Allen (Warrant)

With new singer Robert Mason (Cry of Love, Lynch Mob) in tow, ’80s hair metal giants Warrant show no signs of hanging things up anytime soon. Currently doing shows on weekends at both clubs and as part of festivals, Warrant’s working on new material which they hope to release sometime in early 2011. Of course, it’s the hits the fans want to hear as the band makes stops across the U.S. and Warrant doesn’t disappoint, playing songs from their first 3 albums (the only 3 to feature guitarists Erik Turner & Joey Allen, bassist Jerry Dixon, drummer Steven Sweet, and singer Jani Lane) – Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinkin’ Rich, Cherry Pie, and Dog Eat Dog.

There is no doubt that there have been highs and lows during the history of Warrant, the most recent low coming in 2008 when the band tried to reunite with Jani Lane (this coming after a 4-year stint with ex-Black N’ Blue singer Jamie St. James leading the helm and producing an album called Born Again). Booking a short tour to see how things would go, Jani had a tough time keeping his demons in check and it resulted in what probably is his final chance ever playing live with Warrant. But Joey Allen isn’t looking back when it comes to that brief reunion. Instead, he, and the rest of the guys, are still happy to be out there doing what they love to do – playing in front of fans.

Judging by your tour dates through the end of the year, it looks like you’re continuing to do the Weekend Warrior thing. Is this a good lifestyle for you – getting to go out and play with the boys on the weekend or does it ever wear on you?

The travel schedule is brutal but the shows more than make up for that. We are so “on” right now, the band hasn’t sounded this good since I can remember!

Had I asked this in 1989, you probably would have answered, “Hell yeah.” Had I asked in this in 1999, you probably would have answered, “Hell no.” Let’s see how you answer it now. Would you have ever believed that in 2010 that bands like the Scorpions, Warrant, Great White, Ratt, Cinderella, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Guns N’ Roses, Trixter, LA Guns, Bang Tango, Danger Danger, the Bulletboys, etc. would be touring?

For the most part, yes. Most of these bands are out kicking ass and it is good for the fans that they are.

I remember seeing LA Guns years ago at the Alrosa Villa. These two dudes positioned themselves right in front of the stage before the band went on. They asked one of the roadies if they were standing on Tracii’s side of the stage and the roadie said, “Tracii hasn’t been in the band in years. Keri Kelli is LA Guns’ guitar player.” These guys turned around and walked out of the club, not even stopping to ask for a refund. Are there still people showing up to Warrant gigs expecting to see Jani Lane? Have you ever had to deal with upset fans who want their money back?

That hasn’t happened since we attempted the reunion and Jani decided it was more important to get blind drunk at 9 out of 11 shows then it was to put on a professional show. He has NEVER made a public apology to the fans and has certainly never taken responsibility for his actions in any way, shape or form with the band. Maybe he feels no remorse!?! I think that Warrant fans see we tried with him, he took a different path. Robert Mason is a pro and delivers an A+ show night after night.

I know it’s probably not in your nature to slag Jani and I’m not trying to stir anything up. But, I’m curious, when he rejoined the band and you booked a tour with him, how confident were you that the tour was going to run through to completion? I’m guessing that – because, if I remember correctly, you had Robert waiting in the wings – had you had to bet on Jani making it through the tour, you would have bet against it.

We have made a point in not slandering Jani since we let him go in 2008, no one in this band wishes him bad will. In fact, it is the opposite. We let him go so he didn’t have the temptation of being on the road. When we did tour with him we removed all alcohol from our rider, keep it out of backstage all together. We hired a highly regarded “sober coach” at a high price to shadow him 24/7. There’s so much to that story no one knows, it is really no one’s business but ours.

I recently read an interview that Jani did and he admitted that being on the road is not healthy for him but that he’d like to continue to someday team back up with Warrant and write songs. Is this something you personally would be open to? Is this something that, as a band, Warrant would be open to?

Plain and simple, we already tried that. We have moved on and are very happy with the band as it is.

The last time we talked, maybe 5 or so years ago, I said that while I initially wasn’t real hip on the idea of Jaime St. James (or anybody for that matter other than Jani) fronting Warrant, I thought Born Again was actually a pretty decent record. I was never the biggest Jaime fan to begin with – even back when he was in Black N’ Blue. But, as a Warrant fan, I’m more willing to give Robert a fair shake as he seems to be a true professional. What does Robert bring to the band that differs from what Jani and Jaime brought to Warrant?

Robert Mason is absolutely 110% singer, period! He is a professional that holds his health, craft, and performance to the highest level. His ability to hit the notes on a nightly basis is amazing. He cares about the show so he takes care of himself. If I had to compare the three I would use the analogy that Robert is in the pro league MVP and Jani and Jamie are in AAA, when they should be in AA. Both of those guys could move back into the pros it if they just made a decision between music and booze, period!

There’s a part of me that isn’t terribly interested in hearing a new Warrant album in the same way I wasn’t interested in hearing a Gary Cherone-led Van Halen album or a John Corabi-led Motley Crue album. And yet, as I mentioned, I liked Born Again. I know you guys are working on new material with Robert. Will the new album be a throw back to the DRFSR and/or Cherry Pie sound or are you looking to create a new Warrant sound?

We are not going in with any preconceived idea except that we are Warrant. Warrant was never about one person, even though Jani penned the hits back in the day the band still recorded them, helped with arrangements, preproduction, etc… We have 4/5 of that sound with an exceptional singer now. The demos sound great, the CD will sound great and we will tour behind it. We continue to work, nothing will stop us.

Any time frame on the release of the new album? How many songs have been written/recorded and can you give us a sneak preview of some of the song titles?

Realistically we hope to have it recorded by December. I would imagine it will have 10 – 12 songs on it. Some of the new titles are “Sex Ain’t Love”, “Dusty’s Revenge”, “The Show Must Go On”, “Cocaine Freight Train”. It will be a mixture of straight ahead “rip your head off” rockers with a few gratuitous KILLER ballads.

Have you considered re-recording Warrant classics with Robert on vocals or is a legal issue (Jani having ownership – or partial ownership – of the songs?) stopping you from doing so?

We have already recorded some of the old hits with Robert and it sounds amazing, might I say heavier than ever!?! What we do with them is up to us.

I can understand not playing anything from Ultraphobic or Belly to Belly due to the fact that you and Steven weren’t part of Warrant when those albums were written and recorded but have you considered working anything from Born Again into the live set? And, as far as the live set goes, will the setlist on Friday night differ from the one you played last time you were in town a few years ago?

We will not be playing anything off of BA. Just some DRFSR, CP, DED and a new tune or two. It is a great show and sounds amazing. I don’t think anyone will be disappointed.

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