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Music In The Blood: Chip Z’Nuff On His Career, ‘Covered In Gold’ And New Music


On August 19, Cleopatra Records will release COVERED IN GOLD, the first covers album ever recorded in the 30-year history of Enuff Z’nuff. The 14-track record honors the diverse influences that inspired the band, and includes fan-favorite songs often heard in the band’s live sets.

From reverent takes on classics from The Beatles (“Run For Your Life”) and Nirvana (“All Apologies”) to surprising takes on Prince’s “When Doves Cry” and the blistering “Stone Cold Crazy” from Queen, Enuff Z’nuff demonstrates the core reason for its longevity in music: taking cues from exceptional and broad role models and creating an accessible but unique sound around them. To that end, the band takes a pop TV theme song, “Believe It Or Not” from The Greatest American Hero and turns it into a refreshed pop gem.

In 1989, Enuff Z’nuff released its self-titled debut, and the hit singles “New Thing” and “Fly High Michelle,” which earned them the first of two Gold records, huge credibility in the music video landscape, and legions of fans from the pop, rock, hippie, metal, and glam communities. Rolling Stone, David Letterman, and Howard Stern have all been continued vocal supporters of the band. Founder Chip Z’nuff continues to be the cornerstone, keeping the group active on stage and in studio with fresh musicians coming into the fold as change required. Twenty albums and countless concerts later, Enuff Z’nuff continues to deliver melodic, accessible rock.

In addition to a new career in broadcasting as a go-to guest on Howard Stern’s radio show and co-host of “Mancow TV,” Chip is working with Steven Adler (Guns ‘n Roses, Adler’s Appetite) on two albums to be released this year. Both THE DEATH OF JOHNNY ROTTEN JR. and ADLER’S ENOUGH will feature guest artists like Robin Zander and Dale Bozzio. A new record of Enuff Z’nuff originals is planned for 2015.

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Chip Z’Nuff to discuss his decades in the music  business, his evolution as an artist, the recent release of ‘Covered In Gold,’ the new music he has on the way and what the future might hold for him and the band.

Chip Z'Nuff
Chip Z’Nuff

Let’s go back to your formative years. What are some of your earliest memories of music?

I remember watching Don Kirshner’s “Rock Concert” and “Midnight Special” with my father. He would let me stay up late at night and have the chance to see bands like Alice Cooper, Queen, Mott The Hoople, Led Zeppelin and a lot of the old English stuff. That was really the first thing that tripped my trigger, stuff like Pink Floyd, Sweet, The Who. Those are the first bands I fell in love with. I was bitten and I had the disease! I said, “This is something I really enjoy!” At the time I discovered those bands, I was probably around 11 or 12 and I was playing baseball. I was pitching. By the time I got a little bit older and had some success in sports, it just seemed to me that writing a song was more challenging and exciting than throwing a curveball or a slider.

Was there a particular catalyst or moment that made you know music was the right path for you?

Oh yeah. I was playing a gig on the Southside of Chicago. Peter Cetera from the band Chicago came out to see the band. It was one of our first gigs. He came up to us and was very encouraging. He said, “Hey, you guys are working hard. Keep it up and you are going to go places.” I thought, “Here is a big rock star and he is telling me I have a chance!” That was one of the beginning motivations. My aunt lived outside of Los Angeles in a little town called Norco, Calif. She told my father she would take me in for the summer after I graduated. I was 17 years old. I went to her house and I had a band called Degeneration, the original Degeneration. We had some big management people following us. We were young dudes in what was like a punk rock band. That was very inspiring for me because I realized I was out there playing, doing it every single day and hanging out at places like The Whiskey A Go Go watching Motley Crue play. I thought, “If they could do it, so can I!” I think that was the catalyst right there!

You have been in music for a very long time and have been very successful. What is the secret to your success and longevity?

Chip Z'Nuff on tour in Germany.
Chip Z’Nuff on tour in Germany.

I will tell, luck is the residue of design but preparation meets opportunity. When I first met Bon Jovi, he said, “If you want to be huge, you have to want it 24 hours a day.” He’s not exaggerating. You have to dedicate your life to it. There will be ups and downs and you have to be prepared for them. More than anything, you can’t give up. You have to be determined beyond belief. It is tough out there. It is a big playing field and there is only so much room that is out there but if you write good songs, you are true to yourself and you stay as clean as you can you have a chance for a little career. I’ve been really lucky. I’ve been blessed! We have good people around us and had some great management in the business. When I think of a man who believed in our stuff, I think of Doc McGhee, who used to manage Bon Jovi and now he manages KISS. He was our first manager, along with a guy named Don Bingham. Our second manager was Herbie Herbert who managed Mr. Big and Steve Miller. Our last manager was the late, great Bill Aucoin, who managed KISS earlier in their career. We have had a chance to have some wonderful management and that certainly helped us set the tone for our career but more than anything it was songs! Donnie and I really hustled, built a lot of tunes in the house and recorded them all. That was our catalyst, come up with songs and compete against our idols. There is also a little bit of luck thrown in there as well! You have to sprinkle that in! We worked every single day. That was our job 24 hours a day. We pushed aside our family and friends and that is the hardest part of this business. You really have to focus on the band to be successful, it is almost like a marriage. I think all of those elements, mixed with a little luck, gave us the opportunity to have a career.

Looking back on your life in music, how did you evolve as an artist?

I don’t want to sound like I am immodest but I can definitely play with any band in the world. I have worked very hard at my craft. I play a few different instruments, I sing and I can write songs. I think those tools right there, along with the blessing of The Lord, has helped me. I’m not trying to be religious at all but let’s face it, there is higher power out there and someone is watching over me. Although I feel all the hard work has paid off, I am still unsatisfied but I am grateful. The band has been through a lot of ups and downs. We lost our drummer, Ricky Parent, who passed away in 2007. Before that, we lost Derek Frigo, who was a great guitar player. Don’t think I don’t miss those gentlemen because their contribution is immeasurable and I can’t put it into words. They were terrific musicians. I get a chance to listen to the CDs and see the DVDs and videos and see them. That is something I can keep forever, those amazing memories. No one can take those away from us. Besides that, there are my broken marriages and family strife. Through it all, we have stuck together and worked really hard. That is why I still do what I do. I have dedicated my life to it. As far as being a musician goes, I learned all different styles of music in my early days. I have been playing for such a long time that I have produced and played on over 50 albums. I think my musical contributions speak for themselves, without my trying to sound like I am immodest.

Enuff Z’nuff is putting out a covers collection titled “Covered in Gold.” What made this the right time for the release of this album?

Enuff Z’nuff - 'Covered In Gold'
Enuff Z’nuff – ‘Covered In Gold’

It was our management. Todd LePere, over at PRG Nocturne, has taken the band under his wing. We haven’t had a North American label in 15 years. I’m signed with King Records over in Japan and Enuff Z’nuff is with Rock Candy over in England but we had nothing here in the United States for the longest time. Everybody wanted the record for free. Finally, we found Cleopatra Records. They called me up one day and said, “We licensed your greatest hits record, ‘Favorites,’ and it has done very well for us. I always liked working with you, Chip. Do you have any music?” I told him we didn’t have a lot at the moment, just demo stuff but quality record stuff. It is very important to have music that is going to hold up sonically. I said, “I do have a covers record I am thinking about putting out. I would like to take all of these cover songs we have done in our career and put them on one record. Maybe we could record three or four extra songs for it. Would you be interested in that?” He said, “Absolutely!” I sent him the record and he nailed it! It was the perfect time. It’s like I said earlier, preparation meets opportunity. He had the songs and wanted to put the record together. I went over to Chicago Recording Company on the north side of Chicago. They were nice enough to give me the studio for a week. I put the songs together and I think there has been a resurgence with Enuff Z’nuff. We have certainly been helped through radio and TV. I host a TV show here in Chicago called “Mancow TV.” I think that has helped where people have seen us and know the band is still alive and playing shows. That whole combination made it a great time for this to come out. The record came out and it was at 54 its first week on Amazon and shot itself up to number 28. It has been pretty good for us so far! I think the way to sustain that would be to go out and tour a little bit this year and then come out with a brand new record next year. That is my goal right now, to put out some fresh new music for the fans in 2015. They certainly have been very loyal to us. Our audience has always bought our albums and passed them around to their friends. If you go to a record store, you don’t see us in the used bins because people keep our albums and we are really proud of that! I would definitely like to see a brand new, fresh record out. I was a little concerned about doing it because it is a different lineup right now but the fans have spoken! Next year I am looking forward to putting some fresh new music out and hopefully “Covered In Gold” will hold everybody over.

Chip Z'Nuff backstage before a gig.
Chip Z’Nuff backstage before a gig.

Where are you in the process of creating the album of new material for Enuff Z’nuff? Are you the type of artist who is always writing?

No, I’m not always writing because I am always in the studio producing other bands and helping other artists that need a helping hand. It is very challenging to find a new group and have them say, “Hey, we want to pay you to come into your studio to record our songs. Will you help us?” I give them everything I’ve got, all the bands that come in. I have produced over 30 albums at my house. It is very gratifying at the end when you see how happy they are. They see how it is done and I can really help them in a lot of ways because I have been making records for all these years. That feels really good. As far as songs go, John Lennon said it best, “All the great songs have already been written. It is up to us as artists to bring them down and turn you guys on to them.” There are a bunch of songs that we have, so that is the least of my worries.

Being in the music industry as long as you have, you have seen it go through many changes. What are some of the surprises the industry has thrown your way recently?

Music In The Blood: Chip Z'Nuff and Ace Frehley
Music In The Blood: Chip Z’Nuff and Ace Frehley

The music has changed a million times. In some ways it is better today because of social media where you can reach millions of people instantly. You couldn’t do that in the past, however, the playing field is so packed. There are so many bands and, since there isn’t a lot of room, you really have to have something special. It’s hard to not have a name and get out there to push a new record. You need a tour, you need a video, you need to try and get it out virally. You have to hit all the states and play shows with as many bands as you can and steal their fans. It is really tough out there for all artists. That being said, it is a great opportunity for us. Quite a few people are following us on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter and on www.enuffznuff.com. That will certainly help us in the long run. Listen, we have been through so many tough times and overcome so many obstacles that right now for the new record, as encouraging as all that is, will certainly be a challenge. My manger from the old days, Bob Brigham from PRG Nocturne, said “It’s like bandaging a gunshot wound.” It will take a lot for us to get back into the game, so we are not fooling ourselves but there are enough people out there who do like Enuff Z’nuff that one song could change things. You never know, a director or producer could want to put a song on their next movie soundtrack or a commercial or something and we are back in the fuckin’ game again. That is how it is for every single band out there. We are all one hit away from being back in the game again. I encourage those out there who are making songs to never give up and try to get the songs out there. We are all on the same playing field and you have a great chance out there. There is a book out there called “As a Man Thinkith.” Basically, what the book says is that if you wake up in the morning and it is pouring rain outside, if you are thinking it is going to be a shitty day and you aren’t going to get anything done then you aren’t going to! You have to wake up every day and say, “I am going to make things happen today. It’s going to be a positive day. I’m not going to lose.” If you go in there with great vibes, then you have a real chance. Every single person out there has a chance!

Is sharing your life and experiences in the form an autobiography something that is in the cards for you?

Yeah, I have been working on it for the whole year actually. It takes a lot of time. People think that you simply put a book together and put it out! No! It is trial and error. It is a bunch of stories and you have to find someone to help take your words and put it together in a way that is cohesive. I have this guy named James Reardon, who wrote “Break on Through.” He wrote the book on The Doors and worked with Oliver Stone when they did The Doors movie. The whole movie is based on his book. I just got him involved to help me put this book together. I have another person who is on The New York Times Best Sellers List named Jodee Blanco, who wrote “Please Stop Laughing at Me.” Those two are helping me put this great story together. It is all true, no phony stuff. It shows the warts, scars and tattoos I have acquired through the years with my band, Enuff Z’nuff.


Did you have any reservations about putting yourself out there in that capacity?

I did at first but when I knew I was going to bring up some other people … I am not talking about other bands and their substance abuse or promiscuity. I am talking about my life and my band. I really had to let my hair down on this, for lack of a better term. I wanted to talk about the problems, trials and tribulations of being in Enuff Z’nuff and the very first days of substance abuse this band carried with us through the years. Even though we had issues, we had great songs and four guys who really knew how to play together and had a great chemistry. Along with the good stuff, I wanted to show all the bad stuff like the drug abuse and promiscuity, on both sides of my marriages, and my band’s relationships. I also wanted to focus on the people in the record company, in the very beginning, thinking that was the way to go to vibe with everybody to shows where band members weren’t up to snuff at gigs and we doing less than desirable shows with a great band. We were just not in the condition to play as great as we were on the records. We went through bankruptcies, signed with Clive Davis over at Arista and sold a couple hundred thousand records, which is considered a failure back then! Nowadays, I would be hailed for seeing over 200,000 records! We had two gold records and were in debt three quarters of a million dollars. There are embarrassing moments in there as well. I talked about all those things because I wanted to be honest. I have to be honest with ya, some of it hurt. It wasn’t an easy ride or an easy book to start putting together. However, I am cleansing my soul! It’s kind of like Steven Adler from Guns N’ Roses, when he wrote his book. I was with him when he was writing the book. When it was finished, he had the first copy. I was so proud of him for putting all of that stuff down on paper. He went over and lit the fireplace. He threw the book in and said, “OK. This story is done. Those chapters of my life have diminished. I have the memories and my fans can remember these if they want to but I am on to the next thing!” That is how I look at the book I am working on.

Chip Z’Nuff continues to rock crowds around the globe.

Speaking of Steven Adler, you have been working with him again. What can you tell us about what you have going on there?

There is one record that is already out called “Adler’s Appetite.” It’s an EP on Down Boys Records, which is a label the guys from Warrant own. I think it is a great record, a hard rock record, of course. It is very reminiscent of the Guns N’ Roses sound. Then, Steven flew out here from Los Angeles to Chicago in 2012 and we recorded a five song EP at my house, “Adler’s Enough.” He stayed here for about a month. Every single song that we write together, he played drums first before there was any music or anything. I just gave him an idea and a drum beat. He would go into the room and play his drums. From there, I would write songs around it. There are five tunes and I am really proud of this record. Dale Bozzio from Missing Persons is also on this record. We used a couple of Slash’s guitars from samples because we couldn’t get him down here. I think it is a strong record. I am singing and playing everything on the record, along with Steven. We are hoping to release that sometime this year because I think fans really need to hear it! We did the record in 2012, went out on tour and I brought about 400 copies with me. We sold them out in two weeks on a little small club tour we were doing in North American.

Chip Z'Nuff and Steven Adler
Chip Z’Nuff and Steven Adler

The management company said to me, “Chip, ya know what? People are going to be confused by this record and Adler’s Appetite band, so stop selling them.” I said, “No problem.” When I left Adler’s Appetite and went back to Enuff Z’nuff full-time and started doing the TV show, I was playing the songs for people. Everyone kept saying, “This is a great record. Why don’t you do something with this?” Steven and I deserve to have those songs out there. There could be a movie director, producer or somebody out there who might say, “I like these songs. I want to use them for my next project.” I want to get those songs out there for us. I was lucky enough to cut a deal with Cleopatra Records where I can release that record along with my solo record, which is a different band called Johnny Rotten Junior. That record is a 10-song record. It is all done on two inch tape, analog, here in Chicago. I think it is a strong record but I tried to do something a little bit different than Enuff Z’nuff. I wasn’t trying to write hits. I was just trying to put together a cool stoner rock record. I think I achieved that.

What is the best advice you can give to aspiring musicians looking to make music their career?

Spectacular success is when you can thoroughly deal with problems without letting them pull you down. Don’t stop. Stay positive. You are only one song away from being recognized!

We appreciate your time today, Chip! We are excited to help spread the word on all that you have going on!

Thank you for your time, Jason! God bless you and your family! Cheers!

Be sure to follow Enuff Z’nuff on FacebookYouTube and Twitter. Visit the newly relaunched website of the band at www.enuffznuff.com. Click here to purchase ‘Covered In Gold.’