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I stood nervously awaiting my turn for the allotted ten minutes interview time with Michael Monroe, anticipating a night that was gonna ‘rock like fuck’ at the Islington Academy. The band were late arriving so it was straight to sound check, interviews, perform then fly straight out again that night. Michael extended a wet just washed hand before he sat to eat some fruit and clean harmonicas as he answered questions. He was like a coiled spring ready to rock, no messing about. Best known as the Hanoi Rocks’ front man, multi instrumentalist Michael has a rock ‘n’ roll career spanning over three decades, having worked with the likes of Stiv Bators and Axl Rose, Hanoi Rocks being cited by Guns N’ Roses as one of their major influences, and encompassing solo projects as well as band projects such as Jerusalem Slim and Demolition 23. In January of this year Michael held a press conference in L.A. to announce his new band, called simply Michael Monroe.
As I left after the interview Michael called out “Enjoy the show”. Watching Michael perform along with fellow band members in this impressive line up was as pure a rock ‘n’ roll performance as it gets. Bassist Sami Yaffa is no stranger to Michael, having played together with Hanoi Rocks, Jerusalem Slim and Demolition 23. Joined by New York Dolls’ guitarist Steve Conte, Ginger of The Wildhearts and drummer Karl Rockfist/Rosqvist, this band truly ‘rocked like fuck’!!

LORRAINE: New band, new tour, how’s it all going?

MICHAEL:: Great. Really great. Really happy about it. It’s going to be really cool. It’s starting out great. We did a great West Coast tour in the States, and we did South by Southwest, four shows over there, and we did some different shows in Finland, and we did one in Stockholm last night, and we’re having a bit of a break, and planning to go to the States again, do a little East Coast tour in May, and we’ve got a bunch of songs written already, and we’re going to put something out this year, a couple of songs at least, and a full-length album the early part of next year. That’s the plan.

LORRAINE: Where are you thinking of recording the album?

MICHAEL:: We haven’t decided yet. We haven’t decided on a producer, we haven’t decided on a studio yet, but we will before too long. We’re not in a rush, but we’re not going to wait too long either. There are some great writers in this band, great musicians, everyone’s committed.

LORRAINE: What’s it like playing with Sami  again?

MICHAEL:: Oh, I love it. It’s like a dream come true. He’s the best rock’n’roll bass player alive on the planet.

LORRAINE: You haven’t played the USA since the early 1990s, so how did that feel? And how did playing Redondo Beach feel?

MICHAEL:: It’s great to play in the States, there’s a great rock’n’roll audience there still, and people were going to the places, they were packed, and so people still remember. They’ll be waiting to see me, and I’ll be waiting to get there. Redondo Beach, it was a heavy thought of playing there, a really heavy one first, but then we dedicated a whole show to Razzle’s memory and it was a really beautiful thing: it was all positive. It was cool. It was like it was meant to be.

LORRAINE: In the set at the moment, you’ve got a good selection of Demolition 23 material, your own solo material, and Hanoi, and new songs. Are you going to gradually bring in more of the new songs?

MICHAEL:: Yes. I think it’s a really good mix now, but we’re bringing in more songs: we’ve got three in the set right now and people seem to like them a lot. So it’s a nice balance right now and, obviously, it’ll evolve as we go on.

LORRAINE: So the band is Michael Monroe, but you’ve always said you’re a band person, and that it’s not all about you.

MICHAEL:: Yes. My name is Michael Monroe, and it’s lent itself to be playing all these songs and stuff.

LORRAINE: I know that you love the line-up at the moment.


LORRAINE: Everyone is involved in different things, so do you think it’s going to remain a solid line-up, or will people be coming and going, and maybe changing as time goes on?

MICHAEL:: It feels very solid right now. It’s kind of locking into place with Steve Conte and Karl Rockfist has joined us now, it’s taking shape and everyone is getting into this. I’m hoping it will stay together. And right now, everybody is prioritizing this, so it’s everyone’s priority, and I don’t see why it couldn’t go on.

LORRAINE: We’ve only got the one English date. Are you planning to come back again soon?

MICHAEL: Yes, certainly. We’re going to Download festival, playing for Download festival and the sooner we get the album out, we’ll start playing them all, we’ll start touring heavily. As much as possible, we’ll play now. This first show is just to showcase the band.

LORRAINE: You’re well-travelled. You’ve lived in major cities all over the world. Where does your heart belong?

MICHAEL:: Home. I’d like to be home. Right now, I live in the city of Turku in Finland. I grew up in Helsinki but Turku is nice. My wife is from there, and I’m happy to be there. I’ve a nice flat, so let’s spend time at home. My spare time, I just spend time with my wife and my cat, take it easy, relax, chill. It’s a beautiful city, I’ve a nice private flat, no neighbours. New York, I lived in New York for ten years, and that’s still the city of all cities. I’m kind-of easy. It doesn’t matter where you live, because you can work, you’ve got the Internet, you can work on songs even if you’re not in the same place as the guys. Of course, the best thing is to sit in the same room face-to-face, but you can get used to Skype phone, work late on great ideas, you’ve got the Pro Tools, everyone’s got Pro Tools, so we can work on ideas, send them back and forth and stuff like that.

LORRAINE: You’re very energetic on stage and off. Do you have a rigid keep-fit regime?

MICHAEL:: Yes. Discipline, I guess. I exercise most days of the week, five days of the week at least, to keep in shape.

LORRAINE:  I think you’re a true rock’n’rolla in every sense. Has there ever been an option for you to do anything else, or is that non-negotiable for as long as you can remember?

MICHAEL: Not non-negotiable but I just can’t think of anything else. This is what I do best…

LORRAINE: From when you were about eight years old you got into rock’n’roll…?

MICHAEL:  From then, I didn’t really think of anything much else to do. I’m quite happy to be… this is what I do best, and why mess with it?

LORRAINE: I know you mentioned an autobiography before. Are you going to be doing more of that or are you busy living it?

MICHAEL: I’m still living it, but working on one. It’ll probably be out, at least in Finnish, at least next year. It has to be translated too. There’s a great Hanoi Rocks book, too, that was out in Finland. It hasn’t been translated into English too but it should be… I don’t know what’s going to happen with that.  But yes, I’m working on an autobiography, and I’ll get some funny stories.

LORRAINE: That’s well-awaited. All of us, as we get older, have experienced tragedy. Do you have a philosophy for life that gets you up and pulls you through things?

MICHAEL: I always say “No compromise, no regrets”. That’s what Stiv Bators said. Follow your heart, treat others like you would like to be treated yourself, and stay true to yourself, maintain your integrity, and you’ll be alright.

Interview by Lorraine 09/04/10
Photos by RachelF