Interview with Lizzie
Lizzie's Rock Tales
We'll be posting a new installment of this ongoing collection of stories, anecdotes and general decadence involving your favorite metal stars as only Lizzie Grey can tell them.
Lizzie's novel, The Digital Church is now available for sale. Click here for more info and to read an excerpt.
For now, check out Metal Sludge's 20 Questions With Lizzie Grey. You can also check out Lizzie's interview with away-team.com
SPIDERS & SNAKES’ Lizzie Grey
By Editor: Craig 'Bam-Bam' Stegall
The Legend Lives On!!!
Anyone who’s ever stepped foot on The Sunset Strip has heard the name Lizzie Grey. Not only has Lizzie lived through the most raucous and decadent musical times, he has also helped to pave the path for the careers of people like Blackie Lawless, Nikki Sixx, Freddie Coury, Izzy Stradlin, Steven Adler, Slash and more as they were all once part of his legendary 80’s LA sensation LONDON. He is even credited with writing the Motley Crue hit “Public Enemy #1” and has done more to keep the music from that wonderful era alive than any other human being imaginable! So, why is it after all these years that Lizzie would want to continue on in his 70’s Glitter/80’s Glam band Spiders & Snakes and risk ridicule and rejection in a world that only supports what they see on MTV and hears on the radio? Because with this man, it truly is about his love for the music and his eagerness to keep it alive. For those of us who remember the good ol’ days and yearn to have them drop out of the sky again and make the world a better and more exciting place, Lizzie is our savior.
Away-Team.com got the chance of a lifetime when Lizzie’s agent contacted us about doing an interview. What follows is a textbook lesson in how to live life loud and proud in a world that seems to be ruled by an industry riddled with inherent sameness. I give you the very colorful and always honest, Lizzie Grey!
BAM2: Lizzie, I’m a huge fan of all of your work and really admire the fact that you keep doing what you do and not changing your style even though the current climate in music has forced many of the 80’s stars to conform. Let’s talk about what keeps you going and where you find the support to keep recording and releasing your music.
LIZZIE: My music and style of performing is who I am. If you can instantly change your music and your style to fit whatever trend is popular at the moment, then it brings into question your validity and honesty as an artist, and as an individual. Conformity has never been one of my strong points. I make rock and roll music that comes from my heart and my sense of individuality, and I’ve been fortunate to be part of a musical underground that appreciates that, regardless of where that music ends up on the charts.
BAM2: There are many bands who still believe that there is a huge market for the 80’s driven style of Rock-N-Roll, and although I agree, have you found it tough to get labels to listen to your music and consider releasing it? Also, what suggestions do you have for bands that play the same style so that they might be able to get the labels to pay attention?
LIZZIE: I don’t really have an answer to that marketing question, because I’ve never been one to agree with the idea of accountants dictating trends to the recording industry, and ultimately turning musicians into little more than Billboard Chart whores. My music was as underground in the 80’s as it is now! Besides, my influences were mostly part of 70’s Glitter Rock that was only commercially popular for a short time during the early to mid 70’s. Regarding what suggestions I have for bands that play the same style as I do? Don’t worry about the labels, and appreciate your fans simply for their belief in you. That’s an invaluable source of inspiration for any artist. Labels will come and go.
BAM2: You’ve been noted as one of the early creators of the style and showmanship that eventually led to Nikki Sixx’s success and fame in Motley Crue. Since you also had a chance to work with Nikki in the band London, and you wrote the Crue hit “Public Enemy #1”, describe the early days of playing in a band with Nikki. Was is really as crazy as depicted in their book The Dirt?
LIZZIE: I first met Nikki Sixx, aka-Frank Ferrana, when he answered an ad for a bass player in the Recycler, a popular L.A. street mag. At the time, I was in the band Sister with Blackie Lawless, later of W.A.S.P.. We had spent months trying to put a band together in the vein of early Alice Cooper. When Nikki showed up at Blackie’s “dungeon” on Las Palmas in Hollywood, Nikki and I clicked at once, however Blackie remained skeptical. After a dismal demo recording in the South Bay, a few months later, Blackie fired Nikki from the band. I was already disheartened with the project and decided to submit my own resignation to start London with Nikki. We were quickly snatched up by the management of the Starwood Club in Hollywood as the new house band and Glitter/Glam sensation, going against the punk trend of the time led by the likes of X, Black Flag, and skinny-tie popsters The Knack. Being managed by the Starwood gave us a great deal of partying “latitude” at the club, and we took full advantage of it! We called it “promoting” and we certainly mixed plenty of business with pleasure, or perhaps it was vice versa. One of my most memorable acts of decadence during that time occurred in the upstairs bathroom of the club, just on the other side of Starwood manager David Forrest’s office. Turns out, he was entertaining a host of rock superstars including Elton John and Jeff Beck that night, while I was on the other side of the wall in the bathroom having my way with a fluffy young female fan. She was quite vocal about her extreme pleasure with my “company” and the walls resonated with the sound of her stiletto heels banging against them. As we were leaving the bathroom, I was confronted by David, along with his guests, all staring at me and most of them laughing hysterically. David only shook his head and said, “Lizzie Grey, you are the rudest man on earth!” I suppose I was at the time...and as often as possible!
BAM2: (laughs) Damn straight!!! Give us a list of the revolving door of musicians that you’ve played with in bands and a little bit of dirt on each of the situations.
LIZZIE: How about I just give you a nice list, and you make up all the dirt you want? Here you go: Blackie Lawless (W.A.S.P.); Nigel Benjamin (Mott the Hoople); Nikki Sixx (Motley Crue); Fred Coury (Cinderella); Izzy Stradlin, Steven Adler, & Slash (Guns ‘N Roses); Leslie Knauer (Precious Metal); Desi Valentine (D’Molls). What do these metal heroes of the 80’s have in common? Other than Leslie, they were all in the band London at one time or another. I must say that there were high points and low points to my musical relationships with all of them. Still, if I had it all to do over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. They had their influence on Lizzie Grey, and I on each and every one of them. Fair exchange.
BAM2: How long has Spiders & Snakes been around and how did the band come about?
LIZZIE: Spiders & Snakes was the natural progression from Ultra Pop, which was my first album release as a lead vocalist after a decade in Hollywood of toying with fame, but never really putting all the pieces together. Finally taking center stage with my own songs, the first Ultra Pop album sold extremely well on independent label Ultimate Records through Important, which is now R.E.D. Distribution. One of the high points for Ultra Pop was when Malcolm Dome of Kerrang Magazine in the UK gave the album 5K’s, right there at the top of the charts with the platinum release from Iron Maiden that year! When a member change occurred between tours in 1990, and drummer Timothy Jay became an influential figure in the project, the search for a more metal name that still had some pop spark to it, resulted in Spiders & Snakes. The rest is ten years of underground rock and roll history and nearly as many albums!
BAM2: What kind of market is there for the 80’s driven Rock-n-Roll as far as playing out live? And also, where and how often do you guys play live?
LIZZIE: As always in the Lizzie Grey story, Spiders & Snakes never fails to break the rules. Of late, Tim and I have taken to doing acoustic shows as a duo, despite the fact that our new album Hollywood Ghosts is fully electric and runs the gamut from extreme heavy metal (“American Baby”), to alternative country (“Spiders & Snakes”) to punk (“Get Outta Here”), and even includes an acoustic ballad (“Waiting in L.A.”). We’ve been doing shows pretty regularly at the Cat Club in West Hollywood, the Universal Bar & Grill in Universal City, Palladinos in Reseda, and various out-of-state clubs in Arizona and Nevada. There’s some tour offers starting to come in right now, and so we’ve been in touch with our former bandmates Dougie Sexx and Joey Petro about doing a full-band tour in Europe and Japan.
BAM2: Very cool! Let’s talk about the new album. It’s a DVD/CD set called Hollywood Ghosts. Give us the scoop on the record.
LIZZIE: The DVD is a bonus of 15 videos, some really funny interviews, and a pictorial biography that runs the entire decade-plus of Spiders & Snakes history. We’ve been getting some amazing feedback on the DVD, as kind of a time capsule of rock and roll history in Hollywood. The originator of shock-TV, the late-Wally George, even makes his opinion of Spiders & Snakes known on both the video for “Elvis’s TV” and a hysterical impromptu interview. It’s a must see. As for the audio CD, I’ve already told you a bit about it, but I can’t emphasize enough how diverse this record really is. Thanks to the fact that it had two different producers over the last two years of production, it really comes across as a unique release in the Spiders & Snakes discography. This is the first time for Tim taking on some lead vocals, and the result is awesome.
BAM2: Time to play a little game called “Firsts”: What was your first musical influence.?
LIZZIE: Alice Cooper and his band had a profound influence on me from the first time I heard the album Love It To Death. His albums helped get me through what would have been some otherwise extremely mundane teen years. When I saw the Billion Dollar Babies tour in San Bernardino at the long-defunct Swing Auditorium, I was hooked for life. The late-Glen Buxton and his awesome white SG Custom became the model from which I molded my own guitar style. I was totally bummed when Alice went solo for Welcome to My Nightmare.
BAM2: That’s funny because Welcome To My Nightmare was the first Rock album that I ever owned. I was about ten years old and I won it in a drawing at a radio station remote. My parents thought I was crazy, but I loved that album like nothing I’d ever heard before. That one was a big influence on me. What was your first music instrument, Lizzie?
LIZZIE: My first guitar was a ¾ size Stella acoustic guitar. My dad smashed it to bits one day when I was playing an Alice Cooper album a bit too loud over my stereo. It was all for the best, though, because my mom replaced it with a Ventura ES-335 copy that was MY FIRST ELECTRIC GUITAR! Very soon thereafter, it was replaced by a Fender Strat, and finally, a Gibson SG--thank you, Glen Buxton.
BAM2: What was the first album you ever owned?
LIZZIE: Discounting, of course, my collection of Julie Andrews kiddie records, Alice Cooper Killer was the first piece of rock and roll horror to taint my fragile eggshell mind.
BAM2: How about the first gig you ever played?
LIZZIE: The band was called The Other Side. We were kind of a Blue Oyster Cult meets The Doors on acid thing. It wasn’t really a band, because we didn’t have a singer. Still, we really wowed them at Crescenta Valley High School when we played at a battle of the bands.
BAM2: How about the first time you came in contact with a groupie?
LIZZIE: Right after my battle of the bands gig at Crescenta Valley High School. I was really amazed that Pete Townsend had told the truth, and girls really were attracted to guys in bands! I spent the next 25 years of my life proving his theory again, and again, and again, and again...
BAM2: (laughs) Amen! What was the first song you ever wrote?
LIZZIE: Something that probably sucked pretty bad. I really can’t recall. The first song I ever wrote that I really thought was good was “Chasing A Rainbow.” At the time, I was in London with Nikki Sixx. When he heard it the first time, he said, “Damn-it, that’s a good song. If you hadn’t have written that, I would have.” Such was to be our relationship for a long time thereafter!
BAM2: Now, I’ll give you a thought and you expand upon it with your own feelings- -The Video for The Decline Of Western Civilization Part 2
LIZZIE: Thanks for the case of booze, Penelope! London never had so much fun getting wasted as we did in your garage...with cameras rolling!
BAM2: Motley Crue’s Reunion Tour.
LIZZIE: There’s still time to let Spiders & Snakes open some of those shows for you, Nikki! You’ve got my number. Party on, bro!
BAM2: The Sunset Strip.
LIZZIE: 1979 – Awesome. 1989 – Still pretty awesome. 1999 – Where’d everybody go? 2005 – I know if I stay here long enough 1979 nostalgia will kick in and it will be awesome again!
BAM2: (laughs) How about Poison
LIZZIE: Bret Michaels is a really great guy. Thanks to him and to my old pal, and great guitarist, Cliff Calabro for letting us open the 1999 New Years Show at the Roxy! That’s when we got the Cleopatra Records deal to put out London Daze. Bret made sure that Spiders & Snakes got full use of the house lights, PA system, and plenty of beer. Cheers, mate!
BAM2: Sex or Drugs???
BAM2: (laughs) How about Sex or Rock-N-Roll?
BAM2: (laughs) Good choice. Okay, Guns’N’Roses back in the 80’s.
LIZZIE: Damn it, Izzy, you were right! Bill Bailey (Editor’s Note: This is Axl’s real name) DOES have a really cool voice!
BAM2: How about Guns’N’Roses now?
LIZZIE: Don’t you hate it when that happens?
BAM2: (hysterical laughter) So, what are your current feelings about the music industry now? Do you feel it’s better or worse than it was ten years ago and do you think any negative has come from the issues of music downloading?
LIZZIE: The real problem is that the “music industry” has traditionally had more to do with “industry” than with “music.” Of late, the hype machine is on friggin’ overdrive, but it’s got little or nothing to do with music. Now it’s about how much bling-bling or arm candy any given rap, pop or rock star can show off at the Grammy’s! I think the ever-increasing popularity of classic rock should be a clear enough warning to the “industry” that they are dangerously out of touch with the record-buying audience, and their diminishing profits is their just dessert. As for the downloading of music, that too is a curse the record industry brought on itself with its own greed. In the age of vinyl, if you wanted a quality copy of your favorite music, you had to buy the album. CDs have made it so that every unit out there is a master. What could possibly go wrong?
BAM2: Well said, my brother. What are some things that the world may not know about Lizzie Grey that would totally shock us?
LIZZIE: The late-Wally George was my uncle. Actress Rebecca DeMornay is my cousin. I really have done all the things that they say about Lizzie Grey...and I’m really not a role model for your life! Still, better to have raised hell and lived, than never to have raised hell at all. Rest in peace, Wally.
BAM2: Well, Lizzie, I want to thank you for hanging out with us and making this thing happen. I had a blast and we really appreciate your time. Is there anything that you’d like to leave the readers with?
LIZZIE: I hope you have as much fun listening to and watching Hollywood Ghosts as Tim and I had making it and living it! We love you!
And so ended what I felt was an historical event in my life; to have even had the opportunity to interview such a legend in the music world. I want to thank Lizzie for his time, as well as his drummer Tim Yasui for all the great promotional stuff he sent to keep me up to date on what was going on with the band. Thanks are also in order to Dave Tedder of Head First Entertainment for making this interview happen. You all rule!!! For more information on Spiders & Snakes, head over to WWW.SPIDERSANDSNAKES.COM, and don’t forget to pick up a copy of Hollywood Ghosts (see review in our “Reviews” section), which is in stores now.
Mar 04 2005 by Bam2