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Enuff Znuff : Hoping For Some Luck With Seven.
Enuff Znuff should be bigger than they are. Enuff Znuff deserves success. If you are ever wondering what injustice there is in this world, look no farther than at – Enuff Znuff.
This is a band that I fell in love with in 89/90. I remember seeing my first ever picture of the colourful band, a small piece in Metal Edge, in June 1989, before the bands debut album had even been released in the U.K. and just knowing that I had to hear their music. And when the album finally was released, I rushed to buy my copy and adored it so much that I went back and purchased a second tape version to go with the original vinyl copy! And when I witnessed them in March of 1990 on their first small tour of England, I was amazed that such a cool band, who put on a terrific show, could be such wonderful, friendly people – especially when they invited everyone back to their hotel for a party after the show.
Since then I’ve seen them numerous times. I even bumped into Chip and Donnie while out in Hollywood, CA one year! And remind me to tell you one day about my visit to Chicago in ’93 and how my American pal (who ran the Chip Znuff fan club at the time) took me to Chip’s house to say hi while I was in town!
So when the seventh Enuff Znuff album was released, entitled mystifyingly enough, ‘Seven’, I took it to my heart. And when the opportunity arose for me to do a telephone interview with the most amicable man in rock, Mr. Chip Znuff, I wasn’t going to let it pass me by.
I started off by inquiring about the new album. Why is it called ‘Seven’ and not a more thought-provoking title such as one of their oldies, ‘Animals With Human Intelligence’, and what was that all about?
According to Chip, “We looked at it in Sesame Street terms. We said, well it’s the seventh album and basically not that much of a departure from what we’ve done in the past. Recording technique-wise, it might have been a little different, but it still sounds like Enuff Znuff. It’s the seventh release so it just made sense. Maybe it’s a lucky number, that’s why we had me arm-wrestling on the back of the album. Arm-wrestling, lucky number seven, I know its kinda silly when you look at it. It’s just a simple title – we didn’t think it would confuse anybody. That’s basically what this album is all about. The simplicity of songwriting. Very pop and organic. We used Chris Shepherd who did the last Smashing Pumpkins record. He’s worked with a ton of other bands – The Smithereens, Cheap Trick. And he was kind enough to get involved with, record and mix the album for us. There wasn’t much of a budget on this record. We probably did this record for a tenth of what most bands would put records out for these days, even on an Indie label. We spent very little money on it. We have some friends over here in Chicago, a Chicago recording company in downtown Chicago. ‘CRC’ everybody calls it. They let us in there after the Pumpkins, and Soundgarden were in there too. They let us come in after those guys would leave and track our stuff. We basically recorded the whole album and mixed it in a couple weeks.”
Asked if he’s pleased with the final result, Chip admits “We’re tickled pink that we’ve got the chance to put out another record. I don’t think there’s a bad song on the record, not to sound egotistical, but I certainly think we still have better in us. There’s some very good songs on there and I think Donnie sings his ass off on the record. It was produced very well for the amount of time we put into it and the budget we had. Yes, I’m fairly satisfied with this record, as I am with every record. We don’t put them out unless we like them.”
Enuff Znuff are one of a minority of bands that were around at the turn of the century that are still around and continue to play the same brand of music without changing, either to follow fashion or fads, or merely just to evolve into something new. One thing you can more or less guarantee with Enuff Znuff is that they will always BE Enuff Znuff. And they will always play loveable melodious pop/rock music. But it must have been frustrating when they were being true to themselves yet not receiving the success they deserved in the last few years while other bands would come out of the woodwork perhaps copying a current craze and become almost overnight sensations. I wondered if Chip and the guys were frustrated at not seeming to recapture the success they had gained in 1991 or did they have renewed strength now to make things work with Seven? Had they ever been tempted to change musical styles?
“No, not at all,” Chip is quick to answer. “If we’re not true to ourselves; we play in a band, we put this band together for two reasons: 1) ’cause we love music, and 2) ’cause we want to be the biggest band in the world, as pretentious as it sounds. Rock n’ roll is very territorial, in the last couple of years it’s gotten away from that, everyone’s kissin’ each others asses and being phoney, and all these rock bands, we all wanna be on top of things. We put the band together because we love playing and we love the music first and foremost, the trip that tripped the trigger, and then also it comes down to this business of when you sign with these agencies and organizations and they give you money to and you make your records, and then you’ve got to pay the money back and if you don’t sell enough records you’re in debt. We’ve always been behind the 8 ball. Where most bands would quit and give it up, we’ve always continued to stay focused musically. The most important thing was to put records out and have people hearing the music that took us years to write.”
The thing about Chip is that he’s the ever-optimist. Even when things are bad and everyone else would have given up, he shows strength (to quote their second album title) and the ability to pull through and give all that he’s got.
“Yes, I certainly have the strength to go out and tour. The last time we actually had success was back in 1989/1990. Doc McGhee was our manager. At the same time, he was manager of Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, Scorpions, and an assortment of other groups and was doing very, very well. Skid Row were in amongst them too. After he came back from Russia he didn’t have the time to work with the bands, so he gave us over to another manager who was terrific. His name was Herbie Herbert. But for some reason we never got to the same spot we were at before. Maybe we pigeonholed ourselves with our look. All the records got critical acclaim: Strength, Animals With Human Intelligence, 1985, Tweaked, Peach Fuzz. Every single record seems to take off and do well for us and with the critics but we just don’t get it out there to enough people to hear about us, and that’s the frustrating part. The label we have right now, Mayhem (Music For Nations in the UK – S), it’s an Indie label but they seem committed to work with the band and all we can do is make great records and put them out and hope people hear about them. We’ve always had our cult of fans. Wherever we go to play there’s always a lot of people and the same fans that go out and see the Foofighters or Candlebox or Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, those fans are at our show too, they just don’t always hear about it. That’s the frustrating part. If we got a little help on the radio it would change everything. Our only restitution is that we’ve gotta go back to the old days when there wasn’t really alot of radio and support for the band, and there wasn’t MTV, but there was this thing called touring and you had to go out and tour. Maybe you’d see you favourite band once a year on American Bandstand or Midnight Special, that’s how it is for us guys. We’ll go on certain shows but for the most part we’ll go out and play in every city like we did in the past, and I think we’ll have a good chance again.”
Touring. Great, this is what we want to hear! I knew they were soon off on the road but I didn’t know just how soon. So where and when?! Spill the beans on the touring itinerary, Chippie!
“We start out in Minnesota in the middle of the month, on the 13th of March,” he recounts. Mm, that’s just four days after this interview! Then he continues “And we work all the way through Dallas, Houston, TX, Phoenix, AZ – we do a couple of nights there, Salt Lake City and Wyoming, Washington, Cleveland…the tour’s gonna work it’s way pretty much from the West Coast back to the East and come back here in the middle of April and retrace our steps and play some more shows. We’re talking about going back to Europe. We were back there in late Nov/Dec. It was a really successful tour for us and it seems like they want us to go back over there. If Music For Nations does, we’ll go back over there and support the Seven album in the UK, which is our favourite place in the world to play.”
Fingers crossed Enuff Znuff will make it here in May or June. Chip states “We’ll be ready then because we’ll have finished the first leg of the American tour and we’d be able to come over for a little while then. Maybe we could come out there and play with one of the popular bands out therefor maybe we could just take out some Indie bands in Europe that are good; give somebody a break so they get the chance to play for a bigger audience.”
The band were over here in November for their first UK headline tour in over five years. They had previously crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1993 supporting Poison. Did Chip think England had changed much since they were last here?
“Yeah, a little bit” he answers. “I was kind of shocked when I went to the Kiss show in Manchester at the Nynex. I’d just gotten back from Kiss. I went to see them in Chicago and it was terrific. It was packed. 16,000 screaming people at the Rosemont Horizon and then we came out to the Nynex. I heard Kiss were in town, and Doc, of course being Kiss’ manager, he used to manage Enuff Znuff so I knew he’d take care of us and sure enough he got me nine passes. I’d just gotten into town in the afternoon, went to the show that night, hung out, met the band. And the people at Manchester were much more subdued, they weren’t as wild and crazy as I remember in the past. But Kiss to me were going through the motions that night too, even though I love those guys. They were probably a little tired from playing all those shows. Alot of times the band has to give electricity off to the crowd in order to kick ass. So they had a rough one that night. And I was pleasantly surprised the following night when we played Manchester, the crowd, of course there weren’t 8,000 people like there were for Kiss, but there were a good 800 people and they dug the band! We did a couple of encores and they went wild and fanatical and crazy.”
This of course was Enuff Znuff’s first UK tour with John Monaco in the camp. Chip says “He’s great. We found him in Chicago. We were playing in this place in the Windy City. It’s called Free Fest; they have it every year in Chicago. Usually there’ll be about 10,000 people there. The Smashing Pumpkins have played there and Veruca Salt…and what happened was a promoter called me at the last minute to come out and play, ’cause I guess Veruca Salt couldn’t do it for the second year, two years straight, so I went out there and and it just so happened that John’s band opened the show – opened for Enuff Znuff, and I thought he was terrific and he was a big Enuff Znuff fan. He used to be the guitar tech for Mr. Big, for Paul Gilbert and Billy Sheehan believe it or not. He was right in my own backyard and I didn’t even know it. Great singer, great player.”
Therefore, I ask, has the band changed much since when Vik and Derek were in the band?
“The band used to get into trouble at any moment even though we are really straight ahead good guys,” Chip stresses. “We’re not troublemakers, but sometimes we found ourselves in terrible situations. I think now the band, where we are right now, I’m really happy with because it’s much easier to work with everyone. There’s still tension in a rock band as always, and I love Derek and I love Vikki and I know those guys will do well, but the way we are now, I think it’s the way it should have been before. I think we’re more focused than we were before. If one guy in the band is a troublemaker or likes to get in trouble, that means the whole band gets in trouble. That’s how we were. I really don’t feel I was at the centre of all that turmoil, I just happened to be part of it ’cause I was part of a gang, and I’m going down with the ship if it goes down. But I feel confident that we’ve got alot of records in us, alot of music, and were gonna be around for awhile.”
But for older fans of the band, what exactly are Derek and Vik up to now? We all knew that Vik left to join the Vince Neil Band but of course that didn’t last and now Vince has rejoined Crue.
“Derek has been cleaning up, he’s doing very well. He’s out in Los Angeles now, staying with relatives, still playing guitar, playing his ass off” Chip reports. “Vik on the other hand, he’s playing drums with a guy who his father owns The Old Pineapples! Ha ha ha.” He chuckles. “I had to say that!”
Eh? I’m thinking to myself. Chip elaborates, “The Old Pineapples is a company that sells old pineapples. He’s playing with the guy who owns The Old Pineapples’ son. They’ve got a little rock band together, him and the bass player from Dokken, Jeff Pilson. Those guys are playing together. Vik’s doing a little solo thing I heard too, recording his own material, and Frigo has been doing the same thing too. They’re both at least playing.
But back to the current Enuff Znuff. They too have side projects. Not away from the band, but away from releasing their own album and doing their own tour. The band as a whole are often contributing to soundtracks and tribute albums. Chip tells me they did a song in Jerry McGuire, the movie featuring Tom Cruise. “It’s not on the soundtrack, just the movie” he informs me, “And there was rumour that we were gonna be on the soundtrack of the Howard Stern’s new movie. A lot of people thought we were going to make it but I don’t think we will. But there’s other things we’re doing. We’re keeping busy. But our main priority right now is to go out and support our record. Movies and soundtracks are secondary stuff. We’ve done a ton of stuff we don’t talk about. I will mention that we were in ‘Serial Killer’ though, that was a big movie. Alot of groups are jealous that we are in and they didn’t have a chance. That’s because I grew up with the director!” The song that made the album was ‘Finger’s On It’ from the 1985 album.
I talk to Chip about videos. He reveals that they will be doing a video for the song ‘Wheels’, the first track from the Seven album. I was going to say it would be good to see them back on Headbangers Ball again but at the time of this interview it was announced that Headbangers Ball is being dropped by MTV Europe. “Yeah, that’s pretty sad,” Chip says. “I love Vanessa. She’s always been great to the band. Even when she’s not playing our videos I know she talks about us. She always tells everybody she loves Donnie and myself. But if that show doesn’t work out there are still many other avenues out there in Europe. England’s one of the greatest countries you could ever play. Every band that I talk to that goes over there hails it. It’s a great place where people really believe in music and all the great bands come from where you guys are from. You’re very blessed and lucky.”
I bring the interview to a close by asking Chip a question from a friend of mine, the biggest Enuff Znuff fan in the world, Ian Trigg. He’d like to know what Chip’s all time favourite Enuff Znuff track would be. The super-cool Chip begins by applauding Ian. “I love Ian. What a great guy. I call him my tea-bag brother!…To pick a track from all of our records is almost impossible as there are so many songs that we’ve written and I am very grateful to have written with Donnie. If I had to pick one of the best, one of the most profound in my eyes, it would be a tune Donnie wrote for the Animals With Human Intelligence record, titled ‘Innocence’. For me, it doesn’t get much better than that for a rock n’ roll ballad. Nice little story, it’s very profound. And for the rock side of us guys, ‘New Thing’, first track. Paul Stanley calls it a classic. He drives around in a sports car with ‘New Thing’ on 10! He told me that to my face! And all the guys from Cheap Trick and Aerosmith, we’ve got some pretty cool fans out there. These guys are our idols and they’ve grabbed onto our music and that’s pretty much what keeps us alive right now. And the people like you that love the songs and like the band ’cause lets face it, most bands would have fallen apart years ago if they’d had to deal with the adversity that we have. Nobody stays together unless you really want to and believe in it. I believe that luck is preparation meets opportunity and I wish the best of luck this year and we’re looking forward to coming out there to Europe in May and playing for the best audience you can play for.”
And with that I thanked Chip for the interview and told him that I would definitely be there at those shows when they do get here. Good luck, Chip, Donnie, Monaco and Ricky. You deserve it.
(some of this is not true..this is why it is called fan fiction)
1989: The band makes the musical scene with “New Thing” in mid-summer. Supported by heavy video play and moderate single sales, the song reaches no.27 on the Billboard charts. Their self-titled debut album enters the Billboard 200 album charts at no.176. In September, EZ’N makes the promotional rounds and Atco releases “For Now” as the second single. More radio friendly than “New Thing,” it climbs up to no.6 on the charts. Enuff Z’Nuff goes on tour, opening for several high-profile artists as their album reaches no.42. In late November, Atco is forced to release “I Could Never Be Without You,” due to radio demand. Leaving the girls swaying and crying and the guys grabbing their lighters, “…Never Be Without You” is a show-stopper live. During Christmas, “I Could Never Be Without You” reaches no.1. After three weeks on top and a gold certification, it yields to Paula Abdul’s “Opposites Attract.” The album has by now climbed to a new peak of no.4 and gone platinum.
1990: In March, “Fly High Michelle” is released as the fourth and final single. Despite heavy MTV and radio play, most folks are now buying the album and “Fly High Michelle” peaks at no.18. In September the album is certified double-platinum.
1991: After much anticipation (during the Winger/Warrant/Slaughter/Steelheart boom), “Mother’s Eyes” hits radio and video outlets. While EZ’N aren’t at Bon Jovi status, the song makes an impressive debut at no.37 in April. MTV does a nice story on the frenzy at record stores as people snatch up the ‘Strength’ album. Thanks to the use of Soundscan on the Billboard album charts, and the band’s first national headlining tour, ‘Strength’ debuts at no.1 after selling 312,00 copies its first week (but after only one week, Skid Row takes over the top with ‘Slave To The Grind’). “Mother’s Eyes” loses sales points to the album and drops from no.26. In August, following a cover story in Rolling Stone magazine, “Goodbye” spends two weeks at no.2, unable to dislodge Bryan Adams’ “Everything I Do (I Do It For You).” “Baby Loves You,” the third single, reaches no.39 in late October as ‘Strength’ goes double-platinum. In December, Nirvana releases “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and everything changes…
1992: The final single from ‘Strength,’ “Blue Island,” stalls at no.55 on the charts thanks to the domination of grunge. Things look rough for the band after Vikki Foxx jumps ship to hook up with the Vince Neil Band (on the Bad Decision Scale of 1-10? It’s a 35). Derek Frigo has a growing chemical dependency that the band keeps out of the headlines but which affects the recording of their third album. Late in the year, Clive Davis buys out EZ’N’s Atco contract and signs them to Arista, confident the boys can survive the flannel onslaught of Pearl Jam.
1993: Enuff Z’Nuff, with new drummer Ricky Parent, launch ‘Animals With Human Intelligence’ in March with the single “Right By Your Side.” Going for the big ballad first, Arista expects a no.1 hit. But grunge and R&B have taken over pop radio and “Right By Your Side” is the dying gasp of the ‘power ballad,’ peaking at no.7 on the charts. ‘Animals…’ is released the day before the band’s world tour with Mr. Big begins, and enters the Billboard 200 at no.9. It sinks quickly, going gold before falling off the charts. “Innocence” climbs to no.21 in August, and “Bring It On Home” (Arista’s attempt to put a grunge/metal spin on the band’s promotion) falters at no.63 in November. The band doesn’t like being marketed as a ‘hair-metal’ hold-over and buys out their contract. Derek Frigo leaves the band before year’s end. ’94 may be rough…
1994: Unhappy with Arista’s ‘hair-band’ promotion and coping with Derek’s leaving, Enuff Z’Nuff amicably end their contract with Arista. While they adjust to their personal situation, the band issues ‘1985’ for the fans on independent Big Deal/Caroline Records. While some pop stations play “Day By Day” and rock leans towards “Catholic Girls,” no singles are officially released from the album. Other than some guest stints on MTV’s ‘Lip Service,’ Chip, Donnie, and Ricky do no promotion. Still, ‘1985’ enters the Billboard album chart at no.32—an excellent showing for an independent album. While ‘hair-metal’ has long since been over, bands like Collective Soul and the Gin Blossoms have kept Enuff Z’Nuff’s pop sound on the air. FORTUNATELY, listeners are smart enough to appreciate the difference between cornball metal and Enuff Z’Nuff’s Beatles-esque pop/rock sound [If only that were REALLY true!-eric].
1995: Despite the turmoil of the last year, Enuff Z’Nuff survives. And like true artists, they’re able to channel their problems into their music. In the fall, the band releases ‘Tweaked.’ The album has a harder sound and is much darker than previous releases. It also features the return of original guitarist Gino Martino and begins the band’s association with Mayhem Records. Like Ani DiFranco and The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, Enuff Z’Nuff prove that success can be maintained outside of the mainstream music biz. The eagerly awaited album is previewed by “Bullet From A Gun.” Rock radio and MTV put it into active rotation, and pop programmers begin adding “Has Jesus Closed His Eyes?”. As Joan Osborne is riding the charts with “One Of Us,” “…Jesus Closed…” is part of the religious-themed boom on pop radio. It also helps cement pop/rock’s return to radio. Following the success of Hootie & the Blowfish and the Rembrandt’s “I’ll Be There For You,” radio has finally returned to the melodic rock EZ’N long ago mastered. With both pop and rock fans interested, ‘Tweaked’ enters the albums charts at no.16, going gold before the end of the year. As personal and professional problems continue to plague the band, they are unable to launch a full-scale tour. Several intimate dates and appearances on Howard Stern’s Show are as close as fans can get during this period. In late November, Mayhem issues a commercial single of “Has Jesus Closed His Eyes?/Mister Jones.” The song debuts at no.28, but airplay has already peaked and the song only makes it to no.22. Still, it marks EZ’N’s first major hit in two years.
1996: Gino leaves the band (again), and is replaced by John Monaco. Chip oversees the release of ‘Peachfuzz.’ “You’re Not Me” climbs to no.29 on the rock charts and “Happy Holiday” becomes a Christmas staple on pop/AC stations, but no singles are released. ‘Peachfuzz,’ mostly a trinket for fans, debuts and peaks at no.65 on the album charts. Not being an official new studio album, it’s chart position is still seen as a success for an independent album. Before the end of the year, the band scores a top ten rock track with “Bring It On Home” after it’s included in the smash film “Jerry Maguire.” Since it was not specifically written for the film, the guys aren’t eligible for an Oscar nomination.
1997: Enuff Z’Nuff ushers in the new year with “Wheels,” the first single from their upcoming album ‘Seven’ (maybe Garth Brooks is influenced when he releases ‘Sevens’ in November?). ‘Seven’ is actually an album Chip and Donnie released oversees in ’94 while working out their American contract with Big Deal. “Wheels” is released as a single in late January and zooms to no.3 (unable to get past Puff Daddy & the Spice Girls—aaaggghhh!!!). Radio chooses “It’s No Good” as the next single by mid-February and Mayhem releases it. “It’s No Good” is climbing up the charts in early March when ‘Seven’ enters the Billboard 200 at no.4 (appropriately, the following week, it slips to no.7). “It’s No Good” peaks at no. 10 in late April. During the summer, the band hits the road in support of ‘Seven’ and rock stations latch onto “So Sad To See You.” The next pop single, “Jealous Guy,” debuts at no.9 on the pop charts and peaks at no.4 a few weeks later. By the end of ’97, ‘Seven’ is hovering near double-platinum; fourth single “Downhill” has peaked at no.14; and every magazine in the world is trumpeting Enuff Z’Nuff as the comeback of the year (Comeback? I didn’t know they ever left 8^).
1998: Hard at work on new material, the band releases ‘Live’ to coincide with a VH-1 “Behind The Music” special on Enuff Z’Nuff. ‘Live’ enters the Billboard charts at no.26. The live versions of “New Thing” and “Fly High Michelle” get some airplay but aren’t commercially released.
1999: The band wraps up the decade with ‘Paraphernalia,’ a collaboration with fellow Chicago-ite(?) Billy Corgan, and possibly a boxed set and another studio album. We’ll just have to wait and see!
A few questions for Don E Vie:
Thanks Donnie for taking the time to answer a few questions,
Tell us what’s up? How’s the solo CD going?
The solo cd is going pretty good. The songs are all there, but I would have liked to get real drums on the whole record as opposed to 50% of it. You can really tell the difference.
Will you be producing it?
Yeah I’m co producing the album with my writing partner Andrew Rollins. We’ve got a real strange relationship, but I guess that’s what made the writing so good.
When will it be released? And who will be playing with you on it?
Also it’s mostly just he and I playing on the record. I did all the vocals and keyboards, my share of the guitars (we fought a lot over who got to play what guitar part. You see he is a great technical player, and I’m chuck full of ideas, but sloppy, and together like I said the friction worked well. Also a kid by the
name of Troy Farrel played drums on the songs [Troy played with Mike Tramps band previously and recently with various LA bands including Fain, and Adrian). The rest I programmed the drum machine, aaaahhhgggg!!!!!
You have worked with other writers like Billy Corgan and Rick Nielsen
of Cheap Trick; tell me what it was like to work with them as writers? And was it easy writing with others?
I hadn’t really worked with Neilson or Corgan. In fact I worked on one song with Rick, more with Robin than anything, Rick wasn’t too receptive and Corgan was just a big fat Skip Z’nuff fabrication. Maybe he wrote with him when I don’t know… Billy is a great writer, what would he need me for??
Donnie, name a song that you wish you had written?
If I wrote any song I’d say I wish I wrote Happy Birthday To You or Mary Had A Little Lamb. Every one knows them and that’s my idea of success.