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20 Questions with Tony Harnell, 5/11/04



TNT’s Singer Tony Harnell

Tony Harnell recently emailes us and said, "Hey ya! A friend of mine turned me onto your page a few months back and I must say the page is hysterical! Where would the world of music be with the ‘Sludge’! I am up for doing your 20 Questions too, so shoot them over! Keep up the great work!!"

Ass kissing works well with us and as a result, Tony now has 20 Questions and platinum CDs sales to look forward to as a result of this interview exposing TNT to billions of new, rabid fans.

Ok, maybe not, but the 20 Questions part was true. Enjoy!

1. What are you currently up to? Get all of your plugs out of the way now so we can get down to business.
I am touring my ass off with TNT in Europe promoting our new album ?My Religion? which is out now in the U.S. on my label-Crush Records and all other territories through various labels. And if you can?t find it buy it from us at www.tnttheband.com. I am also working on getting my other band Westworld (featuring Bruno Ravel, Mark Reale and John O?Reilly) a new label in Europe and putting songs together for my first solo album. Check out my new website, it?s a work in progress- up-www.tonyharnell.com. There are other things in the works but not confirmed yet so there you have it.
Oh yeah, and I?m playing Sweden Rock with TNT on June 10 with Priest! We?re also playing the Deep Impact Festival in Germany in July and it looks like we will be headlining a festival in England in November and then off to Japan in October.

2. TNT was managed by Doc McGhee Management at the same time he was managing Motley Crue and Bon Jovi. How is it with Doc McGhee behind you at the time, TNT didn’t end up the next big thing?
What with being the third wheel and all? I respected Doc a lot, and especially liked Doug Thayler, but they just didn?t have the time back then to really give us what we needed. The other two bands were exploding and we were on the same label as one of them so I just think we got third priority. There was a tour booked in Europe with Motley and we were the opening act until Polygram decided to pull the tour support in favor of us going back in to the studio to record another album. I was pissed caused I thought that tour was important to our future. I called Doc and bitched and he dropped us. In retrospect I should have been more of an ass kisser in my youth, I?d be richer today:)

3. What the hell were you guys thinking with the "Firefly" album? Even your most hard-core fans tell others to avoid this one at all costs. What’s up with that?
I don?t know. We weren?t thinking. Seriously I think that we are one of the few bands that managed to do some interesting things when we experimented and though the sales sucked I still stand by a lot of that material. It shouldn?t have been called TNT. That was the lesson learned. It?s ok to go places musically but don?t mess too much with the formula of a band with a name. Ronnii and I should have experimented under a different moniker and may do that some day soon.

4. What hard rock/heavy metal band should give it up and call it a day?
Any band that goes onstage without any pride left. Any band that is just doing the grind and taking money without giving the audience their money?s worth. I?d rather see a band take risks and fail than to just do a half ass job of it.

5. Rate the following singers on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 being somebody who needs voice lessons ASAP and 10 being a vocal master!
Do I have to? I hate this part! I don?t think I have the right to rate anyone but since this is metal sludge here goes-
Rob Halford = 10-the definition of metal singing.
Dee Snider = 7-He?s not thought of as a singer?s singer but he is actually really good and I would give him a 10 as a front man and he?s been a good friend through the years.
Vince Neil = 4-I thought he was cool when they started and had an original thing going but I did hear him lately and I think the drinking is taking it?s toll. He was always cool to us way back when.
Stephen Pearcy = 3-never was a fan, but I did like the two biggest albums. He made up for his lack of vocal ability with lots of attitude and good pop songs.
Joe Elliot = 6-on album I loved his voice, live it was a little different.
Kevin DuBrow = 2
Sebastian Bach = 9 in 1989 and 10 in J&H. he used to be a buddy of mine, haven?t spoken to him in a while. I think when he wants to sing great he always has. He has the ability, that?s never been in question.
Jani Lane = 5 -He?s ok. I liked him on some of their songs.
Ronnie Atkins = ?
Dag Ingebrigtsen = 0, and as a person ?0.

And can I add-
Freddy Mercury-10-the best of the best.

6. You teach vocal lessons. If you could help out any 80s hairband singer with free lessons, who would it be?
For free?! Anyway, they wouldn?t want my help.

7. Which do you prefer and why:
Sweden or Denmark = Norway! Norge! But Copenhagen is a nice liberal and fun city.
Odin or Thor = Thor of course.
Erik the Viking or Hagar the Horrible = Hagar the horrible of course. Oh and I LOVE Sammy?s tequila! Sammy I need case of Cabo!
Dream Theater or Queensryche = I?m not really a big fan of progressive music outside of Rush, but if you hold a gun to my head I?d say Queensryche. DT just plays too many damn notes for me.
Frod Lamoy or John Macaluso = Frode-but John is a great drummer.
Danger Danger or Firehouse = You?re killing me! I should have known. I have to say D2.
Doc McGhee or Mark Puma = Puma hands down!
Vinnie Moore or Dinty Moore = Not a canned stew kinda guy so I?ll say Vinnie.
Skateboarding or Surfing = Both are great! Surfing these days is easier.
MTM Records or Spitfire Records = no comment.

8. You were the vocalist for WestWorld, which also featured Danger Danger’s Bruno Ravel. Were you ever embarrassed by that?
Well technically I still AM the singer of Westworld. But no not at all. Bruno is an amazing musician and writer. He?s a really smart guy and a great engineer and producer. It?s an honor to work with him. He doesn?t get that credit because D2 had that pop sound, but he is really talented and Westworld is a great band.


9. What do you remember most about the following years:
1979 = moved to New York from San Diego. Refusing to become a New Yorker I rode my skateboard everywhere and drove my car for hours to go surfing.
1981 = Was playing in one of my first bands in Philadelphia. Also I auditioned and was offered a job in Tom Kiefer?s band Diamonds which I turned down-dumb ass that I am. Typical of me.
1984 = joined TNT and fucked up my life for good.
1987 = TNT?s finest year worldwide. Toured like crazy, played in front of really big audiences for the first time. The there were the chicks, limos, accountants, lawyers. Then, in 89 we exploded in Japan and that was amazing as well.
1990 = bought my first sports car-a cheap one, but it got me laid even more than usual that year.
1992 = TNT released Realized Fantasies and then Nevermind came out. Enough said. The band began to unravel and we broke up after a tour of Japan.
1995 = the middle of a period I like to call my ?lost years?.
1998 = Recorded the first Westworld album, started writing Transistor in Spain and got divorced from my first wife. Crazy year.
2001 = 9/11 visiting my Grandparents in San Diego, had a ticket back to New York that day. I wouldn?t be going home till a week later. However, things looked up in October when I met my current wife.
2003 = Busy fucking year! Released and toured for The Big Bang-Recorded My Religion and got married.

10. It’s well known that your mother was an accomplished Opera singer, so we assume you know at least a little bit about Opera. Please give us your thoughts about the following Operas and tell us if you think they’d be worth seeing for someone who knows nothing about Opera in the first place.
I don?t know that much to be honest. I blocked most of my childhood out! Most Operas can be good if seen with a good production. I say if you?re going to go, go to one at the Met in New York or La Scalla in Milan. But here is what I remember-
The Barber of Seville = yes, it?s great. Especially the bugs bunny version! See it. I was an extra when I was about 10 in San Francisco with my Mom in the lead role.
Don Carlos = can?t remember
Cosi Fan Tutte = My Mom did this one too.
The Magic Flute = always a crowd pleaser.
Fidelio = Tom Cruise?
Faust = Pass
Carmen = Electra
Parsifal = Marsipan?
L’Enfant et les Sortil?ges = Kansas?
Dr. Feelgood = Not anymore.

11. You and Ronni LeTekro once appeared on MTV’s "Headbanger’s Ball," which was being hosted by Blackie Lawless. Did Blackie ask you to touch his codpiece or anything whacky like that?
No but he was cool on the show. Then a week or two later I ran into him in L.A. And he was such a dick. We just spent an hour with him on TV and he doesn?t remember me a week later?

12. What rock star deserves a smack in the mouth and why?
Scott Weiland. How many career chances does one guy need to get his shit together?

13. Yes or no, has Tony Harnell ever:
Had lunch with Yngwie Malmsteen = no. But many drinks with him at the Cat Club in New York.
Shattered glass with your voice = never tried. I?ll get back to you on that one. Pissed off a lot of neighbors though.
Barfed in a Viking helmet = nope, standard toilet barfing for me thank you very much.
Pissed in a fjord = yes actually. Just last summer. It was beautiful.
Jacked off with salmon oil = no, olive oil. I live in New York man!
Thrown up at The Rainbow = no fucking way!
Sang along with a Danger Danger song = Don?t think so.
Been arrested = yes, but not for anything cool. It was for trespassing just to slide an inner tube down a snow covered hill. Very uncool.
Considered suicide = probably. But I?d never have the balls to do it. I?d be too afraid I?d fuck it up and end up paralyzed or brain dead.
Had hair plugs = thank god no. I think that?s at least one thing I won?t have to worry about-knock on metal!

14. Of all the bands TNT played with, who were the coolest and who were the biggest dicks?
We were lucky. All the bands we toured with were cool, but then again we didn?t tour with that many bands. Stryper were the best. 1st class tour all the way and very cool guys.

15. What do you remember about writing or recording the following songs:
Last Summer’s Evil = not much. The lyrics suck. I had to try to fix all the lyrics on that album in a few hours. But the song has a great riff anyway.
Eddie = I was really hung over from a seriously long night and felt like dog shit. I hated the lyrics of the song-I didn?t write them-and resented that I had to record it. The band had already recorded the song two years earlier with their first singer so we used the same recording. The label wanted another ballad. But I sang the shit out of it anyway.
Ten Thousand Lovers in One = I don?t remember writing or recording it, sorry.
Tonight I’m Falling = Written in Spain in 88. Crazy and expensive trip. Beautiful though. I remember singing background vox with Joe Lynn Turner in the studio. We had such a blast and he taught me a lot. Plus the nights in Norway that week were out of control!
Mother Warned Me = I remember thinking-does this song suck or is it cool? I?m still not sure.
Angels Ride = I was at Ronni?s studio in Norway and it was summer and…I don?t fucking remember. I know Varney banned this song from the U.S. release cause he was offended by the lyrics.
The Whole You’re Inn = This I remember. We were all in the studio at the same time. We needed another song. I suggested a heavy one and Ronni started playing the riff-on that first jam we all joined in improvising and after two takes had the song recorded.
I Belong = We needed one more song for the album-story of my life-and I started humming the riff to Mark, ten minutes later we recorded the music track. The melody and lyrics changed a few times before I settled on the one you hear on the album.
She Needs Me = I love this song. Written in Norway-vocals recorded at Bruno?s studio in New York. Bruno and I always have fun in the studio.
My Religion = I love this song too. Written and recorded in Norway. Ronni and wrote it on his back deck in the sun on a crisp beautiful day. Great live song.

16. TNT’s "Big Bang Anthology" went Gold in Norway. How many CDs do you have to sell to go Gold in Norway? 20? 50?
It?s 10 dammit! Get it right! And each band member bought one to boost sales so really we sold 6.
Hey, I don?t see too many other bands around this site going gold anywhere in the world. I?ll take it! And My Religion is on it?s way there as well.

17. The Last of Tony Harnell:
Last time you got gum stuck in your hair = 1987, Indiana, during a show with Twisted Sister. Some asshole threw gum at me and my hair was like velcro. Just grabbed the shit right out of the air.
Last CD you purchased = Katie Melua- Call off The Search
Last movie you saw = House of Sand and Fog
Last interview you did other than this one = the other day for a dutch radio station.
Last book you read = The Da Vinci Code
Last time you went skateboarding = been awhile
Last concert you saw = Francis Dunnery in New York. Fucking amazing.
Last time you were drunk = two weeks ago.
Last time you looked through a Metal Edge = can?t remember
Last porn magazine you looked through = Club magazine the other day.

19. You said in an interview a while back regarding the 80s hairbands, "I didn’t listen to many of our contemporaries back them. I didn’t really like a lot of that music. I kind of resented the fact that we were lumped in with all of them in many ways. I didn’t listen to many of those bands. If I was listening to anybody’s records, it was stuff like U2 or modern stuff or old stuff."
If that was the case, then what were you doing playing in TNT, which was basically a hairband and you were managed by the guy who had Motley Crue and Bon Jovi. What exactly were you expecting to happen then?
Good question…fucker:) I don?t have anything against hair bands! Especially the ones who still have, uh, HAIR. Looking up at my quote it looks pretty stupid I must say. But I really wanted TNT to be more of a metal band. But I also loved good pop songs. And the label was pushing us to be more like Bon Jovi and other bands that were taking off. The label?s favorite comment was ?you guys need a radio hit?. So I kind of slipped into a genre I didn?t really feel connected to. Plus I didn?t live in L.A. So I wasn?t hanging out with everyone at the Rainbow and getting in Metal Edge every week. I was hanging with the guys in the Throbs and Warrior Soul, Sebastian every now and then, Joe Lynn sometimes, Saraya, Malmsteen:) When in New York, but I was in Europe A LOT! More than I wanted to be and I probably would have had more fun in L.A., probably would have ended up killing myself with drugs.
The only thing TNT had in common with ?hair bands? was that we had lots of hair and our were clothes designed by Ray Brown. Other than that we were really more a metal band underneath it all. I think anyone who goes back and listens to TNT would agree that for better of worse we were a bit quirky. I always loved hard rock and metal. Especially 70?s metal like Queen, Priest, Rainbow, Scorpions, UFO and of course the classic bands like Aerosmith, Van Halen etc…
What I meant was that I wasn?t listening that much to what the other bands were doing at the time. OK, honestly, I liked Def Leppard, Motley and early Dokken,. But instead of listening to that stuff I wanted musical stimulation outside our world. I didn?t want to compete with the other bands so I wasn?t listening, maybe I should have been. For pleasure I was more into the 70?s stuff which we were all influenced by anyway. 80?s metal and hard rock was all about the 70?s hard rock. It just got more glammed up and over done.
But really my only regret is that TNT should have been more metal and less pop. But in defense of what we were and are I will say that we have written some good songs and now on the new album the writing is better than ever and sounds very fresh while maintaining the TNT trademarks. I think we have finally found our way after all these years and whether we sell hundreds of thousands or thousands I will be proud of our progress and persistence.
But I think to sum up TNT by calling it a hair band is not giving the band enough credit.

I don?t think I got out of this one did I?
(NOTE FROM SLUDGE: Nah, you did ok. Better than most would have!)

20. Time for Metal Sludge’s Word Association. We mention a name and you give us your thoughts.
Jason Flom = Nice guy, very smart. He deserves all he has achieved in this business.
Joe Lynn Turner = Love him. He?s an amazing singer and one of my favorite people.
Kenneth Odiin = Just saw him in Norway actually. He plays with Stage Dolls now.
Mark Reale = Great guitar player.
Bruno Ravel = Funny guy, good friend and great talent.
Ted Nugent = Hate his politics. Used to love him when I was 15!
Tony Hawk = amazing!
Nikki Sixx = He?s written some great songs. When we were with Doc I was more friendly with Tommy.
Mark Wood = Original, Innovative and a very nice dude.
Mike Varney = Helped TNT find me.

A nice, solid effort by Tony, who obviously knows that page and is a fan, so props go out to him.

TNT’s new CD "My Religion" can be heard on XM Radio’s "The Boneyard" too. And for more info on TNT, you can visit www.tnttheband.com.

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