BACK IN TIME: Chip Z’Nuff On Raiding The Vault For Enuff Z’Nuff’s ‘Clowns Lounge‘

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Enuff Z’Nuff landed on people’s radar in the summer of 1989 with the release of the band’s self-titled debut album. Their first single, “New Thing,” tore up the radio airwaves and solidified itself in rotation on MTV. In response to its national and international success, the band followed up “New Thing” in 1990 with the release of the bittersweet rock ballad “Fly High Michelle.” The song elevated the band to gold status and in 1991 had Rolling Stone magazine naming Enuff Z’nuff as “one of the more exciting and gifted bands on the scene today.” In the decades to follow, the band created 20 albums, garnered legions of loyal fans and earned the respect and acclaim of peers and contemporaries.

In 2016, the band has gone back to the vault to unearth amazing unreleased material. “Clowns Lounge” is a collection of rarities and early demos that were reworked and re-recorded by the band and was released December 2 via Frontiers Music Srl. The songs are as powerful as the music in their catalog. The exceptional collection, penned by Donnie Vie and Chip Z’Nuff, also features a guest appearance from the late Jani Lane as well as an appearance from James Young of Styx. Serving as the glitter-rock record fans have clamored for, “Clowns Lounge” showcases Enuff Z’Nuff as they were in their creative peak as they continue to rock today! With every album and live performance packed to the brim with rock/pop perfection, there are no signs of the band slowing down.

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Chip Z’Nuff to discuss the making of Enuff Z’Nuff’s new album, “Clowns Lounge,” the challenges he faced in bringing it to life and what else is lurking in his music vault. He also offers an update on his highly anticipated autobiography, Enuff Z’Nuff’s plans for 2017 and more!

You created an impressive body of work. What turned you on to music and set your life in music in motion?

Listening to my mother and father’s record collection had a big impact on me. They had a huge record collection with everything from Black Sabbath to Jefferson Airplane to Sly and The Family Stone to Queen. My family was very diversified when it came to music. We also used to have some great programs like “Midnight Special” and Don Kirschner’s “Rock Concert” where you could see bands like Alice Cooper. That had a huge impact on me in the very beginning and I think that’s what really tripped my trigger and got me into writing songs. At the time, I was playing sports but I became more excited about writing a song. It was more challenging than throwing a curveball, I guess! [laughs] Listening to those bands from the past really stuck with me and left an indelible mark. I really enjoyed a lot of the English music and found it challenging. It was stuff like The Who, Mott The Hoople, Sweet, Queen, Led Zeppelin and David Bowie. I always love the bands that had images outside of the music. It was hard to put a face to the music until you see what they look like. Those are the bands that left a mark on me and Donnie Vie as well. We’re both struck by that English stuff. We love the early Squeeze stuff. I think those bands were a very important part of our early fabric when we were putting together Enuff Z’nuff. When it started offer us, we were a pretty lucky band because when we came out the other bands at the time were Poison, Motley Crue and Guns N’ Roses. We weren’t really listening to that stuff. Even though they were great bands, we were more living in the past. I think inspiration for us came from us finding a common ground of writing songs where we found our own style. If you show me a band without influences, I’ll show you a band that hasn’t written one note and doesn’t have a record deal! [laughs] We had some great influences and I think we got lucky in finding our own niche and not listening to our contemporaries. Coincidently, a lot of those bands that I mentioned I would go on to work with. I worked with Steven Adler from Guns N’ Roses and the guys from Journey. I got a chance to make records and recordings in the studio and play shows with Cheap Trick and Smashing Pumpkins. I think those were all contributing factors to our sound.

You stepped into the lead role in Enuff Z’nuff a few years back. Looking back, what was the biggest challenge for you in making that transition?

Right there, you just said it! I never wanted this fucking job singing in a band. I love the company of my brother. I feel that my bro will go down as one of the greatest singers of our generation. When I go around the country and run into guys like Steven Tyler, the guys in Cheap Trick, Foo Fighters or Green Day, they all have nothing but wonderful things to say about us and are very kind. They love the band. For me to get in the front fare and have to sing the songs is a challenge in itself. I feel that I co-wrote the songs with my brother and I know the songs well. You look at bands like Journey, Styx, Foreigner, Stone Temple Pilots and a bunch of others out there, they go to different ponds to find a different singer to take over. My template was that I looked at all the bands that were out there then I couldn’t think of one band where the singer left and one of the guys in the band took over, except for Genesis. When Peter Gabriel left the band Phil Collins took over. That is the template I chose to take and I found some great musicians to help me out. I’ve got Tony Fennell from Ultravox, who was the singer who took Midge Ure’s place years ago. I got him to come in, play guitar and sing background vocals with us. I went out and got Tory Stoffregen, my old guitar player, who also has a band called The New Black 7. He’s a great singer. I also got Daniel Hill to play drums. I was lucky enough to find great guys who believed in the vision and believed in the legacy that Enuff Z’nuff has left. I think I put together a really strong band and the fans have spoken loudly and seem to like it. I pick a lot of stuff from the earlier records that were commercially successful for us and I’m focusing on that. Once I see how things go, I will listen to what the fans have to say and lay it on to the set list to mix in stuff from the other 17 albums we have recorded. Right now, I have just been focusing on the first three records to be honest with you. It’s been a lot of fun! The shows have been strong! We just got off tour with KISS on the KISS Kruise. It was great! Doc McGhee and the guys in KISS were out in the crowd, along with the guys from King’s X, Skid Row and all these different bands that we grew up. The all came up to me and were very complimentary, especially Doc McGhee. He came up to me and said, “Why weren’t you doing this 10 years ago?” So, I have been pleasantly surprised and flattered that people have accepted us as the band is right now. I have dedicated my life to this band and to this music. Obviously, I have worked with other groups but I’ve never given up on Enuff Z’nuff. I’ve never taken any time off except to tour with Adler’s Appetite or Missing Persons. For the most part, my whole life has been dedicated to Enuff Z’nuff.

Enuff Z'Nuff's 'Clowns Lounge'

Enuff Z’Nuff’s ‘Clowns Lounge’

You have a new album out. What got the ball rolling on “Clown’s Lounge?”

It all came back to the same guy who discovered the band back in 1989, Derek Shulman (Gentle Giant). He used to have an imprint called Polygram Records. He signed Cinderella and Bon Jovi. He did so well with those bands that Atlantic Records gave him his own imprint, Atco Records. Our first record came out on Atco. It had the hits “New Thing” and “Fly High Michelle.” Twenty-seven years later, I get a telephone call at my house in Blue Island, which is also a recording studio. He says, “I want to do another Enuff Z’Nuff record. I know Donnie’s not touring with you guys right now but I would love to have him on the record. Do you have any material with Donnie singing along with you?” I said, “I might have some stuff. Let me see what I’ve got.” I went through the catalog and I have a plethora of material sitting at home. I have a whole catalog of stuff that remains unreleased. I went through and pulled out three songs and sent them to Frontiers Records. They loved it and said, “Let’s do a record!” That’s how it started. It’s really a miracle for us. We didn’t expect to be on another major label at this point in our career. I’m just totally shocked. I’m surprised that out of nowhere the same guy who discovered the band came back years later wanting another record. I gave him a 12 song record called “Clown’s Lounge.” I think it is chock full of strong songs. It’s a great rock record. A glitter-rock record actually! It has pop-overtones and shows the best elements of Enuff Z’Nuff. Donnie’s voice sounds terrific. It really shows the band as it was then. It’s an archival record. It shows the original band as it was then and as we are today.

What were the biggest challenges you faced on bringing “Clown’s Lounge” to life?

Trying to make a record that sounded modern was a big challenge. Listen, a lot of bands put records out and they say it’s a brand-new record but the songs were written 10 or 20 years ago. It’s no exception here with us. There were songs that we had that just slipped through the cracks. We were so prolific back in the old days, not to sound immodest. Donnie and I would write tons! That is all we did! As much as we had warts, scars and tattoos from hard partying in those early days, we came up with some really strong songs. So, the biggest challenge for me was to make the record sound modern and today. I had some great musicians/producers to help work on the record. I got Chris Shepard, who has done some great stuff with Smashing Pumpkins, Flaming Lips and Elvis Costello. I also went to Chris Steinmetz over at Stonecutter Studios in Chicago. He has worked with Styx and Ozzy Osbourne. These guys were able to help me put the record together so it sounded sonically like an album from today. We certainly weren’t trying to sound like anyone else. I wanted a strong, hard Enuff Z’nuff album but I wanted to make sure that sonically it was a record that that we were capable of reproducing live. I think I nailed it! It’s a strong record that shows the best elements of Enuff Z’Nuff and the die-hard Enuff Z’Nuff fans will be pleasantly surprised when they hear this record. For the new fans, who don’t know much about us will hopefully hear it and say, “OK, maybe this is something I can sink my teeth into.” I’m proud of it. We made this record for ourselves and we are very grateful that we got the opportunity to do this one more time!

You also have material on this record from James Young of Styx and the late Jani Lane (Warrant). How did that material come about?

I grew up with Styx, obviously, being a Chicago band. I got to be really good friends with JY, who I still consider not only a great musician but a class act. He played on the “Paraphernalia” record, which I think was our eighth album that we put out back in 1997. We had Billy Corgan, along with JY and Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick on that record. We really develop the great relationship from those early days. When JY went out to do his solo record, he asked if he could do a couple of Enuff Z’Nuff songs and we gave him permission. I thought that was very kind of him to want to record some of their songs. He loved our sensibility. We also worked in those early days playing gigs with Warrant. Jani Lane always seemed to love Enuff Z’Nuff’s music and the pop side of the band. When the opportunity arose to have Jani come down and sing on a song, I jumped at it! He obviously took a different approach to it. He didn’t want to sound like Warrant. He said, “I want to sing it like David Bowie.” I said, “Go right ahead. Sing it anyway you want to!” You can tell it’s Jani Lane as he has his own timber. The guy was a great singer and songwriter. Having those two together I think really help to elevate the record. It’s not necessarily an Enuff Z’Nuff track because Donnie’s not on that song. However, Johnny Monaco, who used to front the band, is on the track singing. I think it shows the best elements of what Enuff Z’Nuff is about which is pop songs played aggressively. JY, as soon as he plugs his guitar in, you know right away who it is! He’s the balls of Styx! It was a nice overtone on the record. When I played it for the label, I think they were surprised and they didn’t think I would give them a song like that. It really elevates the perception of the band having guys from Styx and Warrant playing with us. It’s also special to the fans of Styx and Warrant, who get to hear Jani on one of the last recorded tracks he did before he passed away.

What is your relationship with Donnie Vie? From what I read, he seemed pleased with this record and what you created together.

Listen, I love my brother. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be in this position right now. That’s both good and bad both. I love him dearly and I always look at the good in things. I view the glass half-full as opposed to half-empty. I don’t speak with him much but when we did the record he liked the energy of the record. That’s what he told me and he seems to be happy. Obviously, we would both like to do a fresh, brand-new album but right now he is taking care of his medical conditions and getting better. Maybe he will do another solo record but he’s not ready to come back into the fold right now. I think he’s happy that I’m fronting. I’m going out there and playing shows. As long as I keep sending mailbox money, he will be smiling!

Enuff Z'Nuff

Enuff Z’Nuff

You mentioned going back to the vault to bring these songs to the fans. What else do you have hiding out in there?

Bro, I’ve got so much material but, on this record, I wanted to make sure I had the best recordings. All of the stuff that you hear on this record was recorded on 2-inch tape; analog recordings. Nowadays, it would cost $80,000 to $100,000 to record a record like that. There wasn’t much Pro-Tooling on this record. It’s a real, live record with very minimal overdubs. I probably have another four to five albums in the vault right now. However, I’m not so sure recording-wise that it is up to snuff when it comes to what Donnie and I want to put out. We want to make sure that the records we put out there are as strong as anything you hear on the radio sonically. I may have another album in the can of 2-inch stuff; solid analog recordings. After that, the rest of it is all demo stuff. It’s all quality as all the songs are strong. I have a two-album deal with Frontiers. I think the next album will be a mixture of some of the classic stuff that we have and the rest will be new material.

I’m sure you learned a lot from each project. What lessons did you learn this time around?

What it took away from this experience was that it’s nice to have the band in the same room playing together. That’s the best way to make a record. That’s how these songs were recorded; we were all together at the same time we are making this record. It’s a special thing. Nowadays, you can just send tapes back and forth. You can have guys play a part of a song and have them send it back to you and put it all together but I prefer to be in the room with each other when we are being creative. Those early Enuff Z’Nuff albums came from us being together all the time. We were tracking at the same time and that’s why those records were so special. To any band out there, if you guys want to make a record the right way, hit the same room together and hash out the parts to make a quality record.

What are the best and worst parts of being a working artist these days in the ever-changing music industry?

The best parts of it, if you’re lucky enough and blessed enough to make a record, are the plethora of opportunities that open up. Nowadays it seems like there’s plenty of product but not enough demand. If you can come up with a nice 11 or 12 song record, the opportunities that come along with it are unimaginable; there’s everything from movies, soundtracks, TV shows and commercials. By branding your song well, you can constantly stay out there working. The worst part about it is that you have to leave your family and friends behind because it is a big sacrifice. If you’re not after a 24 hours a day, find another business. Rick Nielsen said it best to me. He said, “Chip, we’re not all built to do this but the ones that are have to take advantage of it and do it all the time.” I have dedicated and sacrificed my life to this and this is what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. I’m going to make records and go out and tour. Hopefully, with good health, you can have a long run. I’m looking at musicians like the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith and Cheap Trick. God only knows how long these guys have. How long can you rock? Until you are 70 or 80 years old? It gets tiring because it’s a very difficult job. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity, so take advantage of it now. Get out there! Play! Tour! The opportunities that will fall in front of you will outweigh the grief.

Last time we spoke you were working on an autobiography. What’s the status of that project?

I have finished the book. I had some great people working with me. I had Jodee Blanco, who’s had a few books that were New York Times best sellers, working with me. I also had James Reardon, who wrote “Break On Through” about The Doors, along with me. He also worked with Oliver Stone on “The Doors” movie. Right now, we are just trying to find a deal for a publisher, otherwise we will put it out ourselves. I think the book is a great story of, without sounding immodest, Enuff Z’Nuff showing all the warts and scars of what we went through. It’s not sugarcoated at all. Every single thing went into the book. It focuses on the beginnings of our career where we played clubs and opened for Bachman-Turner Overdrive and Cheap Trick, playing for no money at all, to us signing a major album deal with Atco/Atlantic Records and having a half million dollars thrown in our face. It also has the trials and tribulations of going on tour with Badlands. It has all the meetings and stuff that broke the band like Howard Stern, David Letterman and everything in between. I turn the pages on everything. I’m free to show myself in an unfavorable light. It’s a real book that shows a real rock band that started from nothing, worked their way up, got a break and had some success.

Chip Z'nuff on stage at the M3 Festival - Photo by Dave Steckart

Chip Z’nuff on stage at the M3 Rock Festival – Photo by Dave Steckart

You are never one to slow down. Where are you headed next?

The record came out on December, 2, 2016. We just shot the video for the first single, “Dog On The Bone.” Starting on January 17, 2017, we start our tour with Ace Frehley from KISS. We go out for a month-and-a-half to two months with him. Then we are going to jump on a European tour and then we will do the Rock Never Stops tour. I can’t tell you who the band is going to be but it’s going to be big! To be honest, we are booked up until September of next year. We are pushing this album full-time, playing in front of every single audience out there and not missing any nook or cranny! We are playing clubs, theaters and some sheds! [laughs] We are really focusing on this album and showing what the band can do live! We are taking it to the streets, bro! Just like they used to do! That’s the only way to do it nowadays! If you sit home and wait, nothing is going to happen! You have to get out there and work!

Earlier in 2016, I caught up with Drew Fortier to discuss a new project you are a part of called Zen From Mars. What’s happening with that band?

That’s a pretty great band! You’ve got guys from Flipp, Bang Tango, Kik Tracee and Fear Factory! It’s a miniature all-star band and all of these guys can sing, play and write! The record is almost finished. The singer from Kik Tracee (Stephen Shareaux) was auditioning for Stone Temple Pilots but we are finishing the record and it will come out next year! It’s a great 10 or 11 song record. I don’t know much more about it and I don’t want to get anybody’s expectations up except for the fact that the record will be out next year. As far as touring goes, that’s up to the record company and what they want to do. I’m definitely interested in going out and playing!

What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey as an artist?

The best lesson you can take from me is that if you want it, you have to work hard for it. You have to work on it 24/7. Listen to all the styles of music that you love, pick out what you enjoy doing and focus your attention on that. Also, try to stay away from the drugs.

Thanks for your time today, Chip! I wish you continued success!

I appreciate it, brother. I appreciate the love and respect because without people like you and the fans out there, I am just another guy playing music at his house! Happy holidays and I will see you out there next year on the road! Bring your peace signs and paisleys!

Get the latest news and tour dates for Enuff Z’Nuff at the band’s official website, www.enuffznuff.com. ‘Clowns Lounge’ is available now via Frontiers Records. Pick it up on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify or Google Play.

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