20 Questions w/ original TUFF skin basher Michael Lean!
Michael Lean sports the skeleton suit 1987/88 era.
Before N. Sixx, Bizkit, Axl or Wednesday 13.
Never fear Michael Lean is here. Michael was the business man behind TUFF and helped the band to gain International exposure years before a record deal. Michael joined the band when he was just 18 years old and with his leadership and hard work helped the band do things most unsigned bands only dream of.
Let’s catch up with the original skin basher and see what’s been happening for the last decade plus with Michael Lean.
Michael Lean @ NAMM 2006 a special guest at the DW booth!
1. This is your chance to plug your shit, your stores, website, & whatever else you want?
I have been a restaurateur for the past 12 years owning Old New York Deli & Bagel Co. www.oldnewyork.com , having one shop in
2. You left the band Tuff in 1993 to pursue starting your own business. That turned out to be a Coffee & Bagel shop. How do you go from tattoos, tours
and heavy metal to selling poppy seed bagels and java?
Good question, sometimes I ask myself that over and over. I guess as I reflect, I had considered joining another group or two as I have a passion for drumming and music in general. After I left the group I wanted to put down the sticks for a while and go into business, I had the music business burn out. I wanted to start several businesses, restaurants, tanning shops, etc. and looked to move out to
Michael Lean, Stevie Rachelle, Jorge DeSaint & Todd Chase on Hollywood Blvd.
3. You were the bands main backer and business liaison during the early years, even though the youngest member. You helped to put the Tuff name on the map big time, and have not been heard from in over a decade. Where the hell did you go, and what was your initial plan with the group when you made the move to
Well time has flown by since the Tuff days of traveling across the county in a van, or a bus and sharing pork and beans four ways in small apartments in the valley! I joined the group in
4. You were also a partner with Jim Gillette in Metal Power vocal lessons. How did that whole venture come to be, and how many lessons did you guys sell through those Rip ads?
Jim came to me with his idea of doing the M.P. and asked for me to put some dough into it. The idea came from Doug Marks Guitar lessons. A great idea, we sold a bunch, Jim made some dough, I did not. Tax loss #1. I just spoke with Jim, he’s been developing an island in Turks N Caicos, married to Litta with two kids, and kicking ass. I should have bought that lot!
5. Rate a Drummer 1-10. 1 being a hack, and 10 being a Drum God!
Tommy Lee = Bomber, mad man, what can anyone say bad about the guy that went up-side down with the kit, Tommy is insane, period!(10)
Steven Sweet = Fucks his drums like an animal, great guy too! (6)
Bobby Blotzer = Not a big fan (5)
Alex Van Halen = His kits are insane, great solid player (8)
Terri Bozzio = My favorite, got to see him on his first clinic tour put on by Pro Drum years ago in Hollywood, unreal in every aspect of drumming (10+++++++)
Rob Affusso = I like the S.R. stuff allot (6)
Jimi Lord = One of the many Tuff drummers since my departure (2)
Vikki Foxx = Solid player, killer tricks, (7)
Rikki Rocket = Makes more money than me! (2)
Vinnie Paul = Pounding, hella fast feet (8)
Michael Lean with long time friend and tech Dennis "Rat" Dudek.
This gig was with Sea Hags, you can see their banner on the left in red.
6. You had a good friendship with Jason Newsted from the bands
How did that start?
I used to go over to his house/apartments and just hang out, being a youngster and just watch the Dogz (Flotsam) jam. I really liked Jason from the day I met him, a kid from
Jason Newsted hangs back stage w/ TUFF at the OMNI in Oakland 1989.
Steve Carson a fan from the UK, Jorge DeSaint, Newkid, & Michael Lean.
7. Okay have at it, everyone wants to know…is Stevie Rachelle a total dick to deal with? Who found him, who put him in the group, and who the hell put him in charge over time? What’s the real on this ass jack?
Sometimes known as a stubborn German I guess, doesn’t that singer ego happen with most bands though! Not really that bad. He actually found us and flew out from
Michael Lean & Stevie Rachelle = partners in crime & friends for life.
8. Now onto the Poison comparison. Was it good, bad or insignificant that many said Tuff was just really Poison junior? And did that have an affect on the band getting signed, or getting bigger over time?
I think we were at least a year late in getting signed and a year late to the real party selling a bunch of records and saying signed. We definitely had that “cloud” over us, but it did not stop us from always selling out multiple nights, and we got massive press and a huge fan base that allowed us to tour across the states multiple times BEFORE we had a record out, in a bus I may ad! So I think it helped and hurt.
9. What rock star deserves a big smack in the mouth and why?
No brainier to say Axl Rose. You go from a heroin junkie to a superstar and can not handle reality, give me a fuckin break! I saw them at the Roxy years ago, the guy was a total superstar back then, ad millions of dollars to the pocket, a set of new teeth and instant asshole!
Lean, Rachelle & Taime Downe back in the day!
10. Memory Lane:
1979 = Turned 12 got my first kit
1982 = Playing at party’s with Metal Maniacs, my first band I think?
1986 = Moved to
1989 = Selling out every place in
1991 = ”What Comes Around” was released, more touring, MTV Video
1992 = Or so, writing songs with Gene Simmons at his house, that was
1994 = Opened our store in
1998 = Got married! Bought my first house
2000 = New Millennium
2003 = Opened our store in Mammoth
2005 = Our condo in
11. Pick your Poison:
Bootleggars or The Mason Jar = Bootleggers, man we had some fun gigs and
fun times there!
Hair Spray or Eye Liner = BOTH
Big Fake Boobs or Small Perky Tits = Perky
Troubadour or Whisky A-Go-Go = Troubadour, paid our rent many of times,
Motley Crue or Guns n’ Roses = Motley
Jet Black Hair or Jet Black Coffee = Love a good cup of Joe
What comes around… or Religious Fix = What comes around
Playing drums or Making bagels = Playing drums for fun, Making Bagels For Dough!
Kid Rock or Eminem = Eninem
Day old bagels or Washed up rock stars = Bagels for sure!
Need anything fixed while I got the ladder out?
12. What do you remember about being interviewed for the Decline of Western Civilization Part II The Metal Years? And how did that come about?
I thought that was a killer idea by Penelope Spears, she liked the band a lot and put us on, I liked the mud wrestling! A trip to be in that Hotel!
13. Tell us about the day the bands truck was stolen and you lost a custom Sonor drum kit that cost a small fortune and more?
That sucked! We had our Rider stolen from a hotel parking lot in
14. Name 2 bands from the Sunset Strip that should’ve got a record deal?
Trip Trigger, Warren Croyle Produced and guided Trip..Chick..oin Should Had Produced “What Comes Around”… and just maybe “Forever Yours would have NOT made the record..Good Guys Do Wear Black, Chick.oin!
The Wild, I liked them, Dizzle went on to sell a couple of records!
Numerous other great bands that I used to go out and check out, the names are a blur now!
A happy gang back stage in the bay area 1993. Left to right are Danny
Wilder (RIP), Michael, Jorge, Stevie & a fan named Riva Nixon (RIP).
Life is short folks, live each day and enjoy it, 2 of the smiles in this
photo are now gone forever. We miss you Danny & Riva.
15. Of all the bands you shared the stage with, who were the coolest, and
who were the biggest dicks to deal with?
I guess I am getting a case of C.R.S. (can’t remember shit), we played with a lot of great people most were very cool, I am sure there were a few dicks in the bunch!
16. Kill, Fuck, Merry! (Jessica Hahn, Jessica Simpson, Oj Simpson)
I guess I’d kill O.J. (do to one as they do to others), fuck Jessica Hahn , merry and then fuck Jessica Simpson too!
17. Name the 3 high points and the 3 lowest points of your music career to date?
#1. Getting Endorsements by D.W., Paiste, Pro-Mark and Sonor BEFORE I was signed, Thanks, Chris L., Rich M. and everyone else!
#2. Finally getting a record deal and a # 3 Video on MTV!
#1.Taking forever to get a fucking record deal and a # 3 Video on MTV!
#2. Having all my shit stolen and burned to ash!
#3. Not having more record sales and staying signed!
18. What was your biggest ever musical related pay check for and what did you
buy with it?
That’s funny! Not much, I may have bought a tire for my Harley!
Michael Lean always stylish. Tattoos, Booze and Bagels?
19. Word Association:
Jim Gillette = Developer!
Todd Chase = BEER!
Brian Kushner = Chicks?
Randy Cantor = Mental Patient
Warren Croyle = Chick…oin
Debra Rosner = Press
Michael Raphael = Talent
Howard Benson = P.O.D.
Jorge DeSaint = Rocker!
Howie Hubberman = CASH
20. The Last of Michael Lean….
Last time you played a gig with Tuff = A long time ago!
Last fast food drive thru you ate = In N Out
Last time you played the drums = Yesterday
Last time you handed out a flyer = A long time ago!
Last time you signed an autograph = A long time ago!
Last 80s Cd you cranked up = Fair Warning
Last concert you watched from the crowd = Tom Petty
Last time you had diarrhea =
Last rock star you shook hands with = Justin Timberlake @ my Mammoth store
Last time you visited Metal Sludge = Couple of days ago
Well of course I have something to say. I have to thank Michael for a lot. Most of what I learned about the music business in the early years was through him. Even though he was younger than I was, I looked up to Michael from day one. I knew he was more than just another guy with drum sticks. And for that again, I want to say Michael Lean you kick ass and it’s been great being your friend for almost 20 years now. Let’s get some dinner this week when you’re down in LA!