When it comes to rock ‘n’ roll the members of Warrant are seasoned pros. Formed in the early ‘80s by Erik Turner and Jerry Dixon, the band quickly became one of the most popular and successful rock bands to emerge out of Hollywood in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. In 1989, Warrant released their classic debut “Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich,” which immediately entered the charts and launched the hit singles “Down Boys,” “Sometimes She Cries” and “Heaven,” which climbed up to number two on the US charts. In the summer of 1990, their second album “Cherry Pie” was released. The album was an even bigger success, featuring the Top Ten hits “I Saw Red,” “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and the rock anthem “Cherry Pie,” which received massive airplay on MTV and gets millions of plays on streaming services and YouTube to this very day. Clearly, there is no denying the band’s achievements through the years!
In 2017, 6 years after the release of “Rockaholic,” the album that re-launched the band as a force to be reckoned with in the 21st Century, Warrant has returned with another slab of muscular hard rock, aptly titled “Louder Harder Faster.” Featuring original members Erik Turner, Jerry Dixon, Joey Allen and Steven Sweet, along with singer Robert Mason (Lynch Mob, Cry of Love), Warrant is stronger than ever and continues to rock relentlessly. Mason’s vocals remain a breath of fresh air and his swagger on the songs gives new life and a bright future to the band. With production handled by Foreigner and ex-Dokken bass player Jeff Pilson (Last In Line, Starship, Adler’s Appetite, etc.), Warrant sounds tighter and plays better than ever before. “Louder Harder Faster,” true to the band’s roots, is full of rockers with classic ballads thrown in sure to send their faithful fans into a frenzy. Warrant’s signature style of rock is catchy, melodic and remains the band’s calling card. The band is fired up and more inspired than ever musically! They will be out touring in support of “Louder Harder Faster,” so be sure to catch them when they hit your town!
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Warrant’s Jerry Dixon to discuss his life in music, the longevity of his iconic band, the creation of their new album, “Louder Harder Faster,” and what the futures might hold for Warrant!
You made an awesome career in the world of rock ‘n’ roll. How did music first come into your life?
I picked up a bass when I was around 13 years old. From the first day I picked it up, I never put it down! [laughs] I had a friend who played guitar and another who played drums and they said, “OK, you are going to play bass.” I was like, “What is that?” [laughs] They were like, “I don’t know. It has like 4 strings … ” So, my mom took me to Sears and I got a Sears Special Bass. Ya know, I think music chooses you and once I touched it, I was like, “Wow! Uh oh! This is it!” [laughs] I haven’t put it down since! You just fall in love with music. At that age, I listened to a lot of Geezer Butler, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and a lot of the heavier stuff. I always dug the bass playing on those records. From an early age, about 15 years old, I was in a band playing clubs. Once that started, you practice but you are all about doing shows. You just worry about one show at a time and don’t really look at the big picture, about what is going to happen down the road. I met Erik [Turner] when I was 16 years old and we started Warrant. This is my 34th year in Warrant!
When you look back on the leaner years when you struggled, were there moments that had a big impact on you as an artist?
Yeah. I think we learned, very early on, the business side of it. We learned if you want to do this it takes work. We started out with our little flyering campaigns and would make little game plans where two guys would go to the Poison show and pass flyers out and two guys would go to Santa Monica Civic or the Ted Nugent show to put flyers on the cars. We learned very quickly that none of this works without a fan base and that is something that sticks with us to this very day. It’s very grassroots. We realized early on that if you wanted to do this, you have to have fans and you have to promote yourself to sell tickets or all of it goes bye-bye!
What are some of the other keys to longevity as a band?
You have to be half-crazy, I think! You really do! There’re so many great times and so many horrible, horrific, life-changing events that this band has endured. I think it goes back to those early days where you can get sucked into the negative stuff that’s happening or just do one thing at a time. I think we learned that if you’re going to stay in the business, you just have to roll with the punches. We went all the way from clubs to arenas and back to clubs. Did it suck? Yes, it did but we didn’t give up!
Warrant has a new album, ‘“Louder Harder Faster.” What started the ball rolling on this one and made now the time for a new release?
Well, we have actually been working on that poor bastard for three or four years, believe it or not! [laughs] Finally, we got it done! Thank God for Serafino at Frontiers Records! He just kept bugging us like, “C’mon you guys! C’mon!” We all live in different states now, so it made it a little bit difficult to get home from the touring life and then get in the right mindset to leave your house for a month to go work on a record! It was like, “Ahhhh, we’ll do it next year!” [laughs] We finally hiked our balls up, went back to LA, got in the rehearsal room, banged out all the ideas, demo’d everything up and finally got it all done!
What can you tell us about the songwriting process for Warrant these days? What changed and what stayed the same through the years?
On this record, most of it was written by Robert [Mason] and I. On the last record, I wrote a lot of things by myself and Robert did as well. I really concentrated on lyrics and melody. On this record, what was different, I kind of gave him the lyrics and melodies and I focused on the music. I was going to make some badass riffs, lay the songs out and give them an idea. From writing with him, I knew he would come back and say, “Okay! Cool … ” For example, on “Music Man,” I said, “Hey, I have this idea … ” and he took it to a whole new level! It was cool and it was a great process.
Where do you look for inspiration these days?
I get ideas from just walking around in life, ya know. For me, they just come through me and it’s one of those things I don’t really think about but I will see something and get an idea. An idea might come from seeing something and thinking, “Oh, look at that guy sitting over there. He’s playing a guitar. That’s the music man!” It can be that simple! Then you sit down, crank up a guitar and work out the music. Everything you see or do can lead to something, like that song, “Big Sandy.” I was driving to Robert’s house and I saw a sign that said, “Big Sandy Wash.” I just started cracking up! I don’t know why but I thought it would be a hysterical song title! There ya go!
I’m sure some songs come easier and others are harder to nail down on any given record. Was that the case with this album?
Yeah, you’re right. You always have that one song that is difficult. On this album, I would say it was “Let It Go.” I still don’t think we got that one right. It had a whole different guitar part and then we changed it and we were going to put keyboards on it. That one was kind of the bastard child of the bunch! You always have that one song that doesn’t play nice! [laughs]
You mentioned writing with Robert Mason. Where are you headed in the future in regards to writing with him?
Ya know what? I see it getting easier. Once you write with someone a bunch of times, you kind of know what they’re going to bring to the table. That makes it easier to not have to carry the weight of the entire song or to try and write every single word or melody and map it out. I know I can get things to a certain point and Robert or Erik [Turner] will help finish it and then I can move to the next one. It really makes it a little simpler for me, which is great.
What challenges did you face in bringing this album to life?
There are a lot of moving parts to a record and that can get frustrating. There are little guitar parts; like putting a jingly guitar in a chorus or determining what it should be or what the pre-chorus should be. It’s the little things like that you don’t really map out until you get into the studio and you can hear everything really well. It can be time-consuming. You really just have to dissect each song for what it is and build it into a little monster, ya know? [laughs] Sometimes they go quick but sometimes it can be frustrating. I think we got everything on this album that we wanted and I’m pretty happy with the way it came out! Usually, after we do a record, we are a little burnt out from writing and recording. We will probably take a little break and get the juices flowing. About six months after a recording session, we typically start thinking about the next one!
Bands like Warrant and their peers are doing some of the best work of their careers. Do you think these records are getting enough attention?
I think people enjoy it. I think you get a little more respect if you try to stay relevant and try to put out new product. It just helps your overall career. There’s nothing worse than having a band never do anything. They might’ve had four records out in the ‘80s and just play the same songs over and over again. That’s definitely not what we wanted to do. We had a lot to prove. Jani Lane was a very, very good songwriter. It was like, “Shit!” [laughs] We had written with him before but we have the pressure of having to do the whole thing. There was definitely pressure there but that’s what keeps us fresh and keeps us in the press. It’s a good overall thing to do. Now, we really just do it for the love of music. You’re certainly not going to get rich selling records! We do it for us and we do it for the fans! That’s what we do — we make music! If something comes of it, great, but if not, it’s still cool to do! I think you have to get those ideas off of your chest and the music out of your soul every few years!
How have you evolved as an artist over the years?
Yeah, I think there are milestones in the songwriting area. In the early days, I was just never really into that. It was almost like when I first started playing bass; when I started writing, I was instantly hooked. I was like, “Wow! This is it! This is what music is!” That really opened my eyes to becoming more than just a bass player. I wanted to be able to play guitar, play keyboards, sing a little bit and finish an entire song. It’s something that you get better with over time. Some of them suck but some of them are pretty good! [laughs] You just never know! [laughs] That’s one of the things I really, really enjoy now!
You guys wrote some amazing tunes through the years. Of which songs are you the proudest?
We did that record with [Jani] Lane called “Ultraphobic” and there is a song called “Chameleon” that him, Rick and I wrote. I’m really proud of that song. Off “Rockaholic,” I like “Tears In The City.” It’s kind of an emotional train wreck song for me! [laughs] It’s kind of a “Gotta get the hell out of L.A.” song. I don’t really have a favorite yet off this new record. Sometimes it takes a little while. Sometimes you don’t even truly enjoy a record until a few years later. It’s weird, right now I really enjoy “Rockaholic.” I guess you just have to let it go for a bit. You can listen to it and it’s like, “Wow! There is some really good stuff on there!” [laughs]
You make your living in the ever-changing music industry. What are the pros and cons of being a working artist in today’s climate?
Oh boy, well, the cons are that there is no more radio support or video support with MTV and that type of stuff. Those two things were such a help to a career. The pros are that you have all the social media that takes the place of those earlier elements. If you are on top of your game and you know how to work that stuff, there are still ways to have a career and create buzz. You really just have to do it yourself through those mediums.
I’m sure you learned a ton of lessons along the way. What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey as an artist?
I’m still working on this but I tell myself music is what I do and it’s not who I am. You can’t let it define you. You can’t let a bad review, see someone talking shit get you down. There have been comments like, “This song sucks! You guys should die without Jani.” Or “You guys should change your name.” There’re so many hurtful and good things that get thrown at you. I have completely unplugged from all of that. When I get home, I have my wife and my birds, we have parrots, and that’s who I am. I’ve learned that you have to really separate those two worlds. When you get home you still have to pick up shit and carry your weight at your house! You can’t have that rock star mentality on all the time. It just doesn’t work, you will get sucked into that and eventually you will get let down. I think it’s important for everyone to realize that you have to be yourself first!
Well said! Thanks for your time today, Jerry! I’m digging the new album and I can’t wait to see you all again soon!
Thanks so much, Jason! I really appreciate it!