20 QUESTIONS WITH…
Spiders & Snakes frontman/ex-London guitarist LIZZIE GREY!
We’re positive that there’s a lot of you out there saying to yourselves, "Who in the fuck is Lizzie Grey?" Well, today’s your lucky day, because you’re about to find out!
Lizzie Grey is the singer/guitarist for the band Spiders & Snakes, which has been floating around the Hollywood underground scene since the end of the 80s. All through the 90s, Spiders & Snakes kept playing their own brand of glitter pop around L.A. even when it was far from being en vogue, and they’re still around today. Do you care? Probably not, but before you go and close your Web browser, you may want to read on a bit more.
You see, before Spiders & Snakes, Lizzie was in the band London, which at various times featured a pre-Crüe Nikki Sixx and a pre-Cinderella Fred Coury. London was also featured in the cult classic film The Decline of Western Civilization Pt. II: The Metal Years. Not only that, but Lizzie Grey also played with people who went on to bands like W.A.S.P., Keel, D’Molls, and probably a few others that you may have heard of. Spiders & Snakes has a new CD out, so we figured it was as good of a time as any to hit up Lizzie Grey for 20 Questions. We thought Lizzie might have some good stories to share, and lo and behold, he did! Here they are.
1. What are you currently up to? This is your one and only chance to plug your shit.
?Hollywood Ghosts? is the new album. It tells the whole Spiders & Snakes story in every way. It includes a 15-video DVD with additional interview footage and a photo sequence that covers the entire history of the band in Hollywood. The new songs on the 12-song CD run from a grinding metal anthem ?Giving Your Life Away? (which is kind of a neurotic State of the Union collage of modern-day American iconic imagery) to a Sparks-esque tribute to legendary Hollywood poster-girl ?Angelyne,? to a Kinks-like spoof on the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal entitled ?Bill?s Cigar,? to a remake of the classic ?50s Little Richard hit ?The Girl Can?t Help It? (I did a killer Ariel Bender-type Mott guitar solo on it that is really out of context to the ?50s cover, but gives it a great twist), to an acoustic ode to my own endless time spent crawling in the Hollywood underground entitled ?Waiting for Me in L.A.,? and finally to a bonafide STOMP, STOMP, LET?S PARTY BECAUSE IT?S FRIDAY NIGHT pub anthem entitled ?Get Outta Here.? What?s really great about this album is that my partner in crime, Timmy Jay, finally took some lead vocals, and the result is a multi-dimensional album that?s unlike any of our past releases over the last decade. We?ve got some guest appearances from Angelo Moore (Fishbone) on sax, Stephen Ellis (Survivor) on harmonica, and Matt Cross (N.Y.C.) on a couple bass tracks. In essence, we?ve put everything we?ve ever had in our bag of magic tricks out there this time, and the eclectic result is probably the best thing we?ve ever done.
2. For those of us who don?t know, please briefly encapsulate your musical history and list all the bands you?ve played with, leading up to your present-day career with Spiders and Snakes.
1. Tear Garden – Doors-like, mystical hard rock outfit
Members: Ian Wolfe, Lizzie Grey, John St. John, Vernon Poole
Despite what you may have read in ?The Dirt,? I don?t recall Nikki Sixx ever being involved with this band.
2. Switchblade – Sci-fi rock, influenced by early Bowie, Jobriath Boone
Members: Jack Blade, Tony Blade, Lizzie Grey
This band got some minor interest from Gene Simmons in the mid-?70s
3. Sister – Dark metal with heavy KISS, Alice Cooper influences
Members: Blackie Lawless, Lizzie Grey, Nikki Sixx
A demo was made, but not much else. After Blackie fired Nikki Sixx from the project, I quit and went on to form London with Nikki.
4. London (original version) – Glitter/glam Hollywood rock stars extraordinaire
Members: Nigel Benjamin (formerly of Mott), Lizzie Grey, Nikki Sixx, John St. John, Dane Rage
This band broke all the rules of the late ?70s disco era by adopting an over the-top New York Dolls/Sweet/Mott the Hoople image with strong pop hooks and big electric guitars/keyboards. This is the band in which I penned ?Public Enemy #1.? This is also the band that launched Nikki Sixx into local notoriety before there was a Motley Crue. After its demise in 1979, Blackie Lawless would join me in a brief version of this band in 1980, but it would fail miserably (he really couldn?t carry the pop thing off). I told him he should just be an animal onstage, because that?s what he did best. He would go on to form W.A.S.P. a short time later.
5. Roxy Roller – Pop radio rock
Members: Leslie Knauer (later of Precious Metal), Lizzie Grey, Randy St. Clair, Dane Rage
This band was my attempt to use the same British glitter-pop image and musical sensibilities that had catapulted London to Hollywood fame. It just didn?t work with a female vocalist, even though we made a fun single of Cole Porter?s ?Anything Goes.?
6. St. Valentine – Glam rock
Members: Desi Valentine (became Desi D?Molls), Lizzie Grey, Donnie Cameron, Nigel Itson (later of Ruby Slippers)
Back to the glam formula that worked. Fronted by Desi Valentine in drag (thank you NY Dolls), this band was yet another notorious Lizzie Grey glitter/glam configuration, although now we were beginning to be eclipsed by the onslaught of new L.A. heavy metal. I?ll never forget the night we played a Red Cross ?Blood Drive? with W.A.S.P. at the Troubadour and Blackie Lawless tore down our balloon drop from the ceiling! I think he later caught the ceiling on fire. Desi dressed up as a nurse that night. It was hilarious.
7. London – Hard rock/metal
Members: Nadir D?Priest, Lizzie Grey, Brian West, Fred Coury (later of Cinderella)
Yet another attempt to resurrect the London moniker. We were now playing catch-up ball with the seemingly endless L.A. heavy metal scene. Nadir had absolutely no sense of the British pop sensibilities that were at the heart of my songwriting, but we struck a compromise that resulted in two pretty decent albums. The first, ?Nonstop Rock? on Mike Varney?s Shrapnel label did fairly well, especially in Europe. The second, ?Don?t Cry Wolf? was produced by Kim Fowley (Runaways, Joan Jett, KISS) for an obscure indie label, but sold decently. Some notables that slipped through this version of London (early 1985) included Izzy Stradlin, Steven Adler (who brought me a bottle of Freixenet champagne as a bribe to give him a chance to audition for London), and Slash.
8. Ultra Pop- Lizzie Grey singing Lizzie Grey songs… HURRAY!
Members: Lizzie Grey, Vince Votel, Chris ?Cupcake? Taylor, Ernie Machado
Right after London appeared in the 1987 Penelope Spheeris movie ?The Decline of Western Civilization Part II – The Metal Years,? I had had enough of playing follow-the-leader to L.A. heavy metal band after L.A. heavy metal band. Inspired by the success of Poison, I saw a bunch of new kids pulling off the same gender bender success story that London had nearly seven years earlier. ?Ultra Pop? was an album I made more or less on my own. After it got 5Ks in Kerrang, my friend Marc Hyman from Ashley Street Talent convinced me that I should put a band together and tour. We did.
9. Spiders & Snakes – Glitter pop/hard rock
Members: Lizzie Grey, Vince Votel, Chris ?Cupcake? Taylor, Timmy Jay
Timmy Jay had joined London in 1988, at the same time that I had quit. Ironically, his falling out with that band soon thereafter would bring him around to offer his services to Ultra Pop. He brought with him some great energy and hard rock sensibilities that convinced me to change the name from ?Ultra Pop? to something more edgy that still had some fun in it. Spiders & Snakes was born. A decades long working relationship had begun, and Timmy would manage to do that which none of my previous band members had been able to do. Stick it out through the tough times. Another ?Super Trooper? who unfortunately didn?t make it to the end was bassist Leigh Lawson, who replaced Vince Votel early on in 1993. He would have been right there with Timmy and me to this day, but he passed away in 2000. We really miss him and always will.
3. You?ve basically drifted in musical obscurity for the last few decades while most of your former band mates have gone on to fame and fortune with their various projects like Motley Crue, Cinderella, Keel, W.A.S.P., etc. You must be bitter as hell! How do you deal with it?
Did all those people really go on to fame and fortune? Damn, I wondered what happened to them! No wonder they don?t hang out at the Rainbow or the Dragonfly much anymore! Seriously though, I?m an artist. Fame and fortune is not an automatic when you create from your heart. The list of now-famous writers, painters and musicians who died in absolute poverty and obscurity throughout history would fill volumes. I feel like I?ve been lucky to have given obscurity and poverty a pretty damned good run for the money so far, and I?m not nearly spent yet!
4. Rank the following singers on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 being someone who sounds like they gargle sulfuric acid, and 10 being someone who has truly mastered the art of voice.
Vince Neil = 7- I love his voice on Public Enemy #1, but I?m biased
Don Dokken = 6 – decent radio voice, somewhat generic
Nadir D?Priest = 5 – it never worked very well on my pop material
Blackie Lawless = 7 – great on the grinding metal, not so great with pop
Stephen Pearcy = 6 – a nice guy with a limited but memorable voice
Michael White =3 – ouch, ?what happened to Nigel??
Bret Michaels = 8 – a really great guy with a great pop voice
John Corabi = 6 – didn?t really work well with Motley, better on his own
Phil Lewis = 7 – a decent rock singer
Axl Rose =9 – wish I would have taken Izzy?s advice and gotten him into London
5. Would you agree that your greatest claim to fame is that you co-wrote ?Public Enemy #1? with Nikki Sixx?
Fame is a subjective issue, especially from the artist?s viewpoint. Somewhere fame and legend become convoluted in my story. For instance, there?s some wonderful girl walking around Hollywood with a picture of Lizzie Grey from the album cover of ?Ultra Pop? tattooed on her shoulder. When I first met her, she hadn?t even heard the album yet, just loved the picture of the guy on the cover! There?s a radio DJ, whose name I won?t mention, who said that the first Ultra Pop album made him so happy that he changed his mind about a planned suicide. He told me about this during a live interview! I was speechless. Malcolm Dome from Kerrang gave the first Ultra Pop album a 5K review in 1988, right next to the chart-topping release from Iron Maiden that year. That was a great moment. I never hear the end of the ?we?re not role models for your life? Lizzie Grey quote from Penelope Spheeris? ?Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years.? The Spiders & Snakes single ?Lost For Words? from the album ?2000 Retro? was the number one import single in Denmark for a month or two in 1994. We should have gone there to tour, but missed it. One night at the Rainbow in Hollywood in the early 90?s, a drunk-as-hell CC DeVille from Poison came over to my table and said, ?You?re Lizzie Grey! Damn it man, you?re a friggin? legend! I started playing guitar because of a pink St. Valentine single I bought as a kid with a song called ?These Are the Good Times.?? These anecdotes are just a fraction of Lizzie Grey ?claims to fame,? and yes, writing ?Public Enemy #1? is certainly among them. I wonder if Nikki remembers the time that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards came to see London at the Starwood in ?79 to see what ?these Americans calling themselves London making a big noise in Hollywood are all about!?
6. Name the three highest and the three lowest points of your musical career to date:
1. Recording ?Hollywood Ghosts? over the summer 2004 with Gavin Ross and realizing that I finally found the magic producer/engineer I?d been looking for, for decades!
2. Filming the ?Lost for Words? video in 1994, with Alyssa Milano working my set as the sweetest, most beautiful grip ever to move a flood light!
Tied for 3:
Attending the premier of ?The Metal Years? movie in 1987 and seeing myself bigger than life on the ceiling of the Cinerama Dome theater in Hollywood after being interviewed by MTV.
London selling out weekends at the Starwood in Hollywood, 1978-1979
1. The death of Spiders & Snakes bassist and my good friend, Leigh Lawson in 2000.
2. The death of Spiders & Snakes bassist and my good friend, Leigh Lawson in 2000.
3. Having my Gibson Flying V stolen from the Roxy just before a video shoot for ?Radio Stars? with my former band London.7. What hard rock or heavy metal band should give it up and call it a day?
I don?t listen to much music that was recorded beyond the early 80s, except for my own incestuous noise. I?m not much impressed with most of what I hear on the radio that isn?t classic rock. Why do you think I?m still making records? Somebody?s got to save these kids from a forgettable, atonal hell!
8. Of the following, which do you prefer and why?
Thin Lizzy or Lizzy Borden = the Boys are Back in Town? Classic!
Jack Osbourne or Kelly Osbourne =Who are they?
El Pollo Loco or Jack-In-The-Box = I?m a ghost. We don?t eat.
Porky’s or Animal House = Animal House. John Belushi was brilliant!
Tear Garden or Sister =Tear Garden. We actually played some gigs! In Sister, all I did was drink vodka and coke with Blackie and go to the Rainbow looking for fluff.
New Orleans or Las Vegas = The Big Easy. Where else can you still find absinthe bars and talk to ghosts?
Randy Jackson or Simon Cowell = Who are they?
Jacking off with hand cream or jacking off with baby oil = I prefer fluff, myself.
Tarantulas or boa constrictors = Both. Something to do with the name of my band.
Quiet Riot or Y&T = Y & T Meiniketti (hope I spelled that right) brothers rock! I used to go see them at the Starwood when I was a teen!
9. What ?rock star? deserves a smack in the mouth and why?
All of them. Just because they?re rich. Rich people need to be smacked in the mouth. It keeps them human
Nikki Sixx and Lizzie Grey
10. It?s been said that you?re highly respected by members of Motley Crue, Cinderella, Poison, W.A.S.P., Guns N? Roses, etc., yet no one in the general public seems to know who you are. How does that make you feel?
It makes me feel like if the general public only knew what Motley Crue, Cinderella, Poison, W.A.S.P., and Guns N? Roses know, I?d need to get smacked in the mouth, too!
11. What do you remember most about the following years:
1978 = Stiletto heels, sellout crowds at the Starwood
1981 = How did Nikki do that???
1983 = I?m sure this metal thing isn?t going to last
1986 = Okay, Nadir, metal it is
1989 =Wow! 5Ks in Kerrang!!! Let?s tour!
1991 = Great, just when metal starts to fade, here comes Nirvana with no image
1994 =I?m sure this grunge thing isn?t going to last, try this silver outfit on
1997 = Tim, have we really made that many albums already?
2000 = London Daze – Leigh Lawson, R.I.P.
2003 = When I get to the bottom, I go back to the top of the slide…
12. This may be a laugh, but for what amount was your largest music-related check, and what did you blow it on?
About $10,000 from Warner Chappell publishing. I spent it on making the second Ultra Pop album, ?Adventures in Fantasy.?
13. What band from the Strip had no business getting a record deal?
Any of them who didn?t realize what a unique moment in time it is when things are really going your way.
14. Rank the following chicks on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 being a bag of dog shit, and 10 being totally and utterly hot.
Paris Hilton = 10 – It?s all good, some?s better.
Britney Spears = 10 – ditto
Pamela Anderson =10 – ditto
Morgan Fairchild = 10 – ditto
Kylie Minogue =10 – ditto
Jessica Simpson = 10 – ditto
Donna D?Errico = 10 (Although, I don?t look at friends? wives that way.)
Heather Locklear = 10 – I wish she would have taken me up on that offer of a date, before Tommy Lee moved in on her
Gerri Miller = 10 – The Queen of Rock and Roll!
Lita Ford = 10 – I should have gone out with her when she hit on me at the Starwood, before she became platinum blonde and famous
15. Yes or no, has Lizzie Grey ever:
Filed for bankruptcy = No. (That?s what chicks with Gold Cards were for!)
Done lines with David Lee Roth = Yes! How did you know? It was at the Troubadour. He was telling great stories about being on an African safari! He?s a great guy!
Smoked a joint with Chip Z?Nuff =No. At least not that I can remember.
Fell down the stairs at the Rainbow = Yes! Doesn?t everybody? A better question would be ?How many women have you done in the downstairs bathroom??? Hee. Hee.?
Been invited to jam with Metal Skool = If you mean ?Metal Shop,? we played the Viper Room together.
Jacked off in a canoe = No. Why?
Shit your pants on stage = No. But one time, I had a miserable cold and snotted all over the crowd. Ny-Quil and Schlitz Malt didn?t help.
Let a chick piss on you = Rev up the waverunner, it?s time for watersports!
Taken a bath with Timmy Jay = No. Have you?
Touched another man?s penis =No, thank you.
16. For a tax free $10,000 in cold, hard cash: In front of you is a jar of all-natural clover honey. You have to immerse you cock and balls into the jar and completely cover them with honey, then place your nutsack on the top of a large anthill for a full 20 minutes. If any ants happen to crawl onto your honey-coated genitals, you have to let them eat their fill if they so wish. You?re not allowed to brush off any insects or use your hands in any way. Deal with this for 20 minutes, and then the cash is yours. Would you do it?
Answer: Add a couple more zeroes to that number and I?ll consider that offer.
17. Finish the following sentence: ?The biggest misconception about ______ is:? For example, ?The biggest misconception about MTV is that they play videos.? You get the idea.
Cocaine is = that it?s great for sex. (OH NO! Where did it go???)
The Darkness is = that they?re a glam band.
Anna Nicole Smith is =that she?s not just a silly slag.
Getting a record deal is =that once you get one, you never have to put any genuine effort into your art again…or again…or again…or again.
Alcoholics Anonymous is = that sometimes drinking IS the cure!
Playing Rickenbacker guitars is = that they can sound okay through a Marshall.
Getting a prostate exam is = that it doesn?t make you feel worse than cancer.
Unprotected sex is = that I?m the father. I?m not! I swear. It wasn?t me!
Tracii Guns is = (I don?t have anything here. He?s always been really cool to me.)
Hollywood is = that there are movie stars and hookers on every street corner. Regardless, avoid anyone standing on Santa Monica Blvd. near Orange. Lola?
18. How do you pay the bills?
With generous donations from all the fans of Metal Sludge. Go to www.spidersandsnakes.com (No checks, please.)
19. The Last of Lizzie Grey:
Last book you read = Edgar Allen Poe, collective works
Last drug you took = Can?t remember, I was too drunk to read the label.
Last CD you purchased = Mott the Hoople, The Hoople
Last fast food drive thru you hit = Vendome Liquor
Last movie you saw in the theatre = Venereal Disease and You
Last concert you watched from the audience = Joan Jett
Last time you thought you?d hit the big time = Isn?t this the big time?
Last time you talked to Nikki Sixx = Last week. Begging him for an opening spot on his tour.
Last time you paid to play = Last weekend in Vegas. Blackjack.
Last time you barfed =Last time I stuck my finger down my throat. Can you say Karen Carpenter? How do you think I maintain my svelte, girlish figure?
20. Time for Metal Sludge?s Word Association! We mention a name, and you give us your thoughts.
Mick Mars = Who?
Rikki Rockett =Bret?s drummer
Gene Simmons =Please release our new album, sir
Sharon Osbourne = Please put us on your show, ma?am
Happenin? Harry = Thanks for letting us play the Cat Club!
Leigh Lawson = Rest in peace, bro.
Alice Cooper = Thanks for getting me into this mess in the first place!
Jeff Duncan = ???
Fred Coury = Were you really dating Christina Applegate? Dude!
Nikki Sixx = When we gonna cruise Harleys on Mulholland??? And how about that opening slot?
That was actually a lot better than we expected. Lizzie told some great stories and put a lot of effort into his answers. And at the end of the day, that’s all we ever really ask of anyone who does 20 Questions.
For more information on Lizzie Grey and Spiders & Snakes, check out their official Web site atwww.spidersandsnakes.com.