20 QUESTIONS WITH…
This week’s 20 Questions are with former RIP editor and current KNAC editor-in-chief Lonn Friend. Lonn’s been around the business for at least a good 50 years and we thought it would be pretty interesting to get his take on things. Lonn gives us some pretty detailed answers, so if you pay attention you might learn something. Enjoy!
1. What are you currently up to? This is your only chance to plug your shit.
I’m Editor-in-Chief of KNAC.COM, the loudest, proudest, most awesome dot com on the fucking planet! It?s a place where bullshit is kept to a minimum and where artists and music reign. I direct the non-broadcast content on the site, whether that be written, video or audio. It?s like a magazine, but with multi-dimensions. Frank Meyer managing edits the day to day material. He?s amazing. I found him at Pop Smear magazine the week before they folded. I?ve been doing tons of interviews the past few months with many amazing artists. After gathering the material and depending on what format I?ve collected the stuff, I decide whether to put it up as video or audio on demand streams or, in my old school journalist way, write it up as a feature. I still love to write; allows me to wax philosophical on old friends like Pantera, Kiss or Metallica. With time comes wisdom, with wisdom, valid opinion. At least I hope that?s the case. I also host my own weekly radio show called Breath of Fire (a Kundalini Yoga term), a metal-physical two-hour theater of the mind; an adventure where I’m attempting to look beyond the beer and pussy borders of hard rock. But, my most important gigs are probably mentoring the Rack and fucking with Long Paul.
2. Tell us about the rise and fall of RIP magazine? What happened, when, why, etc…
I left RIP in May 1994 to take a stupidly high paying job as VP of A&R for Arista Records, a label that perennially struggled in the realm of heavy music. To put a long story short, I was like a screen door salesman on a submarine. They didn?t get me, or rock and didn?t have the faith or respect to let me sign a bunch of acts and either succeed or fail by being in the game. I pretty much just ran up an expense account and absorbed a valuable education on the internal workings of a record company. But my greatest lesson was watching Clive Davis: he?s the smartest, most articulate, legendary record man I ever met. He also has an ego the size of Phil Anselmo?s dick and that dark, human characteristic blinded him to so many truths. Seeing that kind of power and self-fulfilling agenda made me look deep into my own self when I left the label in January ?98 and spent the next 18 months out of the business. I thank God for my humility. And I thank Clive for showing me the other side. Hey, sorry I?m rambling. Oh yeah, so I left two of my best editors, Kristina Estlund and Katherine Turman in charge of RIP. Within a few months, their cat fights and lack of expertise in dealing with the Flynt corporate publishing power elite (more specifically a controlling, visionless CEO named Jim Kohls) resulted in both their exit. Kohls replaces the girls with a clueless alternative rock editor with no name and no relationships. Into the toilet the once Bible of bang went, finally taking its last newsstand breath some time in ?96, I think. At least once a day, somewhere, somehow, RIP is mentioned to me. I’m deeply honored by that experience. RIP ruled. We were Kerrang! for America: An eclectic, hard rock monthly whose mission was artists, music and fans.
3. Lets break the Gerri Miller and Metal Edge ice now. Give us your thoughts on the Gerri Miller Metal Edge days?
I never thought of Metal Edge and RIP as direct competitors. She was putting together a fanzine for little girls that (for the most part) glorified the personal lives of fun loving hair bands. I had RIP on a slightly higher journalistic path. She was the queen of the hair farmers. They loved her. And she deserved their affection. She was so loyal to the late 80s/early 90s wind machine movement. I used to slag on Gerri, teasing her for being a glorified groupie journalist. She was jealous of my access to Metallica and Guns N? Roses. But as the years have past, I’ve gained great respect for what she did. She kept that magazine afloat and directed toward a loyal fan base even during the leanest days of hard rock. We?ve talked more in the past few months than during the seven years we went nose to nose as editors of our respective magazines. Gerri and I have something in common: zero equity in the publications we built. I didn?t have one point on RIP. When Gerri left Metal Edge, she should have retired. On the contrary, they didn’t give her enough cash to buy a Pretty Boy Floyd t-shirt. She’s still out there grinding, snapping pix backstage at the rock shows. I give her an assignment for KNAC.COM every now and then because she’s still the all knowing, all seeing mistress of metal information and a damn good writer to boot.
4. What hard rock/heavy metal band should give it up and call it a day?
I?m doing my best to take the high road here so I?ll pass on that question. I will say that this should definitely be the last KISS in Make Up tour. Gene Simmons told me a couple months ago they will not go out as KISS, the original fourpiece, ever again. This is it. I will take him at his word. Of course, RIP covered Ozzy?s Farewell Tour in 1991 so who the fuck knows? It?s all about the green. Some pockets never fill.
5. Where do you think the following bands will be in the year 2005:
Korn: If they rise above the amazing ?vibe? they?ve cultivated and write some really great songs they could be around for a long time. They’re awesome live.
Kid Rock: Retired from music and in business with Lars Ulrich. They?re gonna open ULROCK HOUSE, a philanthropic organization for superrich rockers who?ve seen the light and wanna give back some of their wealth to the needy and less fortunate. Yeah right!
Limp Bizkit: Broken up. Fred will be making movies, hopefully about deeper subjects than ?nookie.?
Disturbed: Great record. David has tremendous passion. If the band stays hungry and humble they’ll be in arenas by then, maybe before.
Slipknot: Wishing they never put those Clockwork Orange outfits on. Talk about being locked into an image. Add that to their current arrogant management team and I wouldn?t be buying stock in Slipknot.com. But they’re all great RIP fans and great kids who worked their asses off to get out of the armpit of America, Des Moines, Iowa, so I shouldn’t slag. Sorry.
6. What is your opinion now of Metal Edge with Paul Gargano running the show?
I haven’t seen a copy of Metal Edge in years. Who?s Paul Gargano?
7. And finally, what are your thoughts on Andy Secher and Hit Parader?
Another competitor in the RIP days, along with Ben Liemer at Circus. I had great respect for Ben. Can?t say the same for Andy. I chose to do real, in-depth interviews and big photo spreads; he re-wrote press releases and called them Exclusives. I hung with him a couple times. He’s a funny guy; great, loud, bombastic sense of humor. But a bottom feeder, and there lies the difference between us.
8. Why did MTV kill Friend At Large?
I swear I have not gotten an explanation for that to this day. My guess is the powers there weren’t into my slagging the network in HITS magazine when they refused to play hard rock videos and it was, "Fuck Lonn. He’s gone!" whereupon they made the genius move to bring in a local NY street kid named Dominique, who I personally like but c?mon. I was bringing some real cred to Headbanger?s, inside stuff that most journalists couldn?t get near. Dominique had hair down to his ass. Yeah, that?s what he got the gig. The hair. It?s always the hair. Riki was frustrated he had nothing to do with programming the videos. The end of Headbangers was a foregone conclusion. And MTV was leaving rock behind anyway, so all happened according to the grand plan, I guess.
9. How do you feel about Corey from Slipknot blowing you off recently?
It wasn’t Corey. It was Shawn, the Clown. He promised me in front of Scott Ian at the Rage Against the Machine show in L.A. he would be there. "It’s an honor, Lonn." he said. But he’s got handlers with names like ?Rocker? and ?Beno? (gimme a break!) who don’t have a clue about loyalty, relationship or doing the right thing even if it causes some political fallout. The New School of this business should trade in some of their hubris for humility. If I were Slipknot, I?d hire Warren Entner or Steve Stewart. Shawn was given bad advice. Whatever. He’s a great kid and his not showing made for one of the best spontaneous radio moments in my career. Every dark cloud has a silver lining…
10. Rate these rock bands on a scale of 1-10. 1 being a band that sucks cock and 10 being awesome. Also, give each band 2 numbers. One number for them in their prime and a second number now in the year 2000. Please feel free to comment if needed.
Motley Crue = 10/4. I like ?Hell on High Heels,? but live, they’re not the Crue without T Bone. They’ve had more drummers than Spinal Tap, but I still love Sixx and Vince was cool to me when I ran into him last year. I liked doing Behind the Music on the Crue.
Poison = 7/4 Good guys. C.C. is the funniest man in rock n’ roll: A tragic comic figure. He and Bret?s phone call from my old Pirate Radio show is an underground classic.
Metallica = 10/9 Napster, Lars’ ego, who fucking cares? They’re immortal. My book will have several chapters on ?em.
Megadeth = 8/7 Wasted Dave; Sober Dave. I call the latter my friend and one of rock?s true survivors. On record, they?re a consistently strong, veteran metal band. I think they’re next full studio LP is gonna blow people’s minds.
Skid Row = 8/5 I would take a bullet for Snake, but the Skids have a lot of ground to make up with Miss Texas(that was Kalodner’s nickname for Bas)out of the picture.
Warrant = 6/3 Nice guys. Was it ever real?
Alice Cooper = 10/9 The King of Shock, a God. And Brutal Planet is his best disc in 10 years. He beats me at golf every time but he’s my hero.
Ratt = 8/3 Karma comes to all narcissistic lead singers. I love Blotzer. Him, I beat at golf.
Anthrax = 8/8 Scott and Charlie are like family. They rocked KNAC.COM Karnival One like no one’s fucking business. Haven’t lost a step live. Danny Spitz has turned to Christ for help with his riffs.
Cinderella = 8/? Don’t know. Haven’t seen ‘em live since Don Dokken dated teenagers. What, he still dates teenagers??
Van Halen = 10/4. I live for the Dave records; eternal, blinding masterpieces of rock. Liked one Sammy song, ?Black and Blue.? Gary Cherone? Nice guy but check the blood chemistry of the guy who first pitched that to Ed. I better stop.
Bon Jovi = 9/7 Jon sent me a handwritten thank you note after the Behind the Music aired, one of the coolest things any rocker ever did for me. Richie is a soul mate. They always rock live. The only concert I ever took my dad to. He taught Dave Bryan a few moves on the piano in the dressing room before the show. One of the best touring bands around, past or present.
Dokken = 7/4 ?Burning Like A Flame? was a great song. Haven?t seen Don onstage in eons.
KISS = 9/9 Last show I saw two months ago in Las Vegas was as good as it gets. But, like I said earlier, this better be the final tour, unless they do another stint for charity, which would be amazing but about as likely as snow falling in Hollywood.
11. Who are 3 of the biggest dicks you’ve ever had to deal with during the RIP years and during your tenure at KNAC?
I?ve known hundreds of dicks, but I?m uncomfortable naming names. Even assholes were nice to me. They still are. But I don?t do business with them any more if I can help it. I?ve no patience for ego driven agendas or rockers and executives who think they?re shit doesn?t stink because of how many records they?ve sold or what their title is. There was a time in the early 90s where I believe I was a dick to some people, not in an arrogant way, but like, looking past someone at a party while they?re trying to talk to you. A classic Guy Oseary trait. I love you Guy but look me in the eye will ya! I?m conscious of that stuff now. Like the Dali Lama says, ?Be kind. If you can?t be kind, at least don?t harm.? Hey, you try being born with my last name and not feel the burden.
Lonn and his daughter
|12. What’s the most rock-and-roll way to die?
a) Choking on vomit like Bon Scott and John Bonham
b) OD’ing on Heroin like Shannon Hoon and Bradley Nowell
c) Contracting AIDS like Freddy Mercury and Easy E
d) Crashing in a plane like Randy Rhoades and Ronnie Van Zant
e) Committing suicide like Kurt Cobain and Wendy O’ Williams
Brilliant question. Really. I?d have to say OD?ing, because any normal, everyday Joe or Jane could go down in a plane, get AIDS, commit suicide of choke on vomit. Heroin overdose is so pathetically and decadently ?Hollywood,? so utterly self-destructive, it screams ROCK!
13. Do you think it’s safe to say that Quiet Riot, Warrant, Dokken and Slaughter are the 80s version of Nazareth, Blue Oyster Cult, Uriah Heep and Blackfoot from the 70s?
In the sense of arena bombast, perhaps, but the musicianship and creative abandon of the 70s acts blow away the 80s rockers. Blue Oyster Cult?s Tyranny and Mutation and Agents of Fortune are classics. And where would Quiet Riot have been without Slayde?
14. Name 5 bands who should’ve been much bigger than they became and give us a reason or two why they didn’t become that big band?
1. Motorhead. No one?s even close. 25 years of the most consistent, heaviest, bone crushing, riff and groove laden metal, fronted by the legend of all legends, the great and powerful Lemmy. When I put the ?Born to Raise Hell? track on the Airheads soundtrack and got Ice T and Whitfield Crane to do vocals, I thought Lemmy might have his first hit. Airheads was one of the worst marketed film and record projects ever released. Long Live Lemmy!
2. Masters of Reality. Chris Goss? supercool band who had their shot with ?She Got Me? off the ethereal Sunrise on the Sufferbus but MTV thought they were ?too old? to air their clip. Goss?s production work is legend. Just listen to the new Queens of the Stone Age.
3. Mother Love Bone. One legendary EP, but lead singer Andy Wood dies of an overdose before the full LP is ever released. That?ll kill a band. Of course, Stone and Jeff went on to form Pearl Jam so put a buffer on that pity stream.
4. Armored Saint. Back then with Chrysalis and now with Metal Blade, no promo power behind one of the best bands to ever rock hard. John Bush is the most underrated vocalist in metal.
5. Fear Factory. A slew of heavy LPs and remixes that put ?em in the Zombie world of cred and cool but they?ve yet to break into the big numbers. Maybe next year. The Rack has a poster of Burton in her bedroom.
15. Who do you think has the least hair on their head:
A. Andy Secher
B. Gerri Miller
C. Lars Ulrich
Definitely D, although I stared directly at Lars? head when Metallica played House of Blues and he?s starting to thin big time. One fan once wrote me and asked if I?d had hair extensions! No way, dude. What little I got left is mine and when it?s gone, I won?t mourn its departure. I am more than my hair. You should have put Rick Rubin on the list. There?s nothing growing on that crown any more.
16. We know you have worked in the music biz since the RIP thing as an A&R guy. Tell us about who you’ve signed, dropped, passed on, looked at and laughed at?
I signed one act, The Bogmen, a bizarre six piece from NY, the week I started at the label. You can add them to the list of bands that should have been bigger. That was the only act I signed, even though during our lengthy meetings and negotiations, Clive Davis told me time and again I would have the power to ink acts. Guess what? He lied. I did help my A&R rep, Jason Markey, close the deal on Nerf Herder, whose song ?Van Halen? and ?Sorry? are both fucking classics which, thanks to Arista?s inability to market rock, were heard by next to no one. I pitched Limp Bizkit, the EELs, Goodness (from Seattle) and a bunch of others, all passed on by Clive Davis and his GM, Roy Lott (now pres of Capitol). I was throwing him music from all genres, not just rock. In hindsight, I should have pushed through some real metal, but it was Arista, and they wouldn?t have known what to do with ?em anyway. The record business sucks; A&R is a mine-field of movers and shakers only a few of whom really understand music and know how to relate to artists. So many bidding wars were the result of lemming mentality and folks getting ?spun? by industry tip sheets. I saw high six figure deals go down on bands who didn?t have one decent song, could barely play their instruments or hadn?t put in any time touring. Buzz is illusion. I?m happy to be back in the media world.
17. What do you think about Metallica suing Napster?
I?ve tried with all conscience to stay personally neutral on the subject, making KNAC.COM the forum for the debate. When I flew up to San Mateo with Rob Jones to ambush Lars the day he dropped off the petitions, I wasn?t sure whether I?d get the interview or how the KNAC.COM community would react. The rants on the site were vicious, but I never took sides. Neutrality has not been easy for me. I?m a new media player now, so I understand the Napster/free music file sharing argument. But I also have a 14 year relationship with Metallica and their attorney, Peter Paterno, is also my lawyer and an old, dear friend. It?s a difficult, passionate issue, which I don?t believe will be resolved until more blood is spilled. I told the Los Angeles Times, ?There is no existence without co-existence.? They didn?t use the line. It?s yours!
18. Give us the best story or encounter you had with: Axl Rose, Lars Ulrich, Nikki Sixx, Gene Simmons.
Axl ?- On my 34th birthday in 1990, he showed up at my house in Culver City with Sebastian Bach and Ian Astbury. Maybe a dozen close friends were hanging out and in walks this trio of rock stars with Del James. Axl and Bas sang ?Amazing Grace? in my kitchen. But the highlight was when Axl pulled his BMW into my backyard carport, open the car doors and cranked the basic tracks of ?Use Your Illusion.? There were no vocals on anything so he sang along with the music to ?November Rain?, ?Estranged,? and others. It was amazing. The neighbors were gathering around my back alley. Axl and Bas left my house pretty drunk around lam. Five hours later, they were calling Howard Stern. He put ?em on the air live. It was hilarious.
Lars — Read ?The Memory Remains? article at KNAC.COM. It?s about my life with Metallica. Okay, here?s one I didn?t put in the piece. A few months before he married Skyler, Metallica played Las Vegas. I think it was ?97. I flew in for the show. Backstage afterwards, Lars was in the mood to frolic and Elektra Records promo girl, Margie Weatherly, was there with her company credit card. We ended up at Olympic Gardens, the Dionysian strip club where like a 100 girls walk the floor day and night. Lars was like a lightning rod; the girls could smell his enormous wallet from across the massive room. I?m not much of a drinker but that night I went deep. When we left, the sun was coming up and I felt like shit. But I didn?t spend a dime. Oh yeah, one more quickie: I rode in the car back from Donington, England, to London (about four hours) with Lars and King Diamond. The two spoke another language the entire trip.
Nikki Sixx ?- Motley Crue did a surprise show at The Ritz in New York while on the Dr. Feelgood tour. The place held like 700 people and they completely smoked it. Everyone was in a great mood after the gig so I invited Sixx up to my room to rap. I hadn?t interviewed him before so this was our first on the record conversation. We sat on my floor, I turned my tape player on and off he went. It was effortless. The drugs, the violence, the music. Like magic. Instant trust. It was one of the best interviews I ever did and led to the feature, ?Where the Crue Sweats,? a piece I?m particularly proud of. The belly of Motley?s beast was breathtaking to behold, and they let me in with no filters or barricades.
Gene Simmons — I?m out on the KISS/Slaughter tour back in ?89, I think. We?re in Worchester, Massachusetts. Mark Slaughter and I go in the pit during KISS?s set and Gene is flinging picks at us. The crowd around us gets excited about Mark and all of a sudden, we?re getting crushed up against the stage. Gene is looking down laughing. After the show, I?m backstage and Gene asks me how I?m getting back home to Los Angeles. I told him I had a flight in the morning out of Worchester. He gets on his walkie -talkie and calls his tour manager. ?Hello, this is Gene.? A pause and he says to me, ?Ever been on MGM Grand?? I shake my head ?no? as a voice comes through the walkie talkie, ?Go ahead, Gene.? ?Lonn Friend is flying home from NY with us tomorrow. Book him a seat with me and Paul. And he?ll be riding in the car to NY with us in the morning.? I just stood there and said, ?Cool!? The next day, I spent 10 hours with Gene, in the car from Massachusetts to NY and on the plane home. It was the foundation of a long relationship. There was nothing this man couldn?t talk about. He had an opinion on everything. Still does. He?s a remarkable man.
19. Who would you rather bang, The Rack or Diana DeVille?
You must be kidding?
20. Time for Metal Sludge’s Word Association. We give you a name and your give us your thoughts.
Bret Michaels = Diabetic rock.
Bob Rock = Brought forth the voice of Hetfield
Riki Rachtman = Remember the Cathouse.
Jani Lane = Cherry pie nice guy.
Dave Mustaine = Martial arts metal.
Kurt Loder = MTV?s only journalistic cred.
Fred Durst = Pauly Shore?s agent
David Lee Roth = Sinatra of rock.
Del James = Writer/Gunner/friend
Jason Newsted = Metalli-toker
Sebastian Bach = Insane in the membrane
Mutt Lange = Twain kept a rollin? all night long.
Tawn Mastery = The leathery voice of metal
Nikki Sixx = Soul of Crue
Rob Jones = Friend to Web, Friend to Metal, Friend to Friend. God Bless his bacon burger-loving ass!
Now that was a long ass interview! We appreciate detail and effort, and Lonn had some good stories to share. And he even had this back to us within a few days, so props to him for being quick. Thanks to KNAC founder and metal guru Rob Jones for hooking us up with Lonn.
Of course KNAC can be found at www.knac.com!