Q & A with Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali

–Heavy metal band Quiet Riot to play the Back Bar in Janesville, Wis., Saturday, May 21

By M.J. Parks

Quiet Riot has been making ears ring worldwide since 1983 when Metal Health became the first heavy metal album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard charts. The band will be performing a concert in Janesville, Wis., this Saturday, May 21, at the Back Bar, 1901 Beloit Ave., with local opening acts Wide Open and Fatal Agenda.

We recently talked with longtime Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali about the band’s long history, the new movie being produced about their story titled Well Now You’re Here, There’s No Way Back, and much more.

Q: You and Quiet Riot have been in the Rockford, Ill./southern Wisconsin area, but it’s been a while! Can you catch us all up on what you’ve been up to as of late?

A: Rockford will always hold a special place in my Quiet Riot heart. In 1983, when we played Rockford opening up for Black Sabbath on their “Born Again” tour, we found out that the following week Metal Health would reach the No. 1 position in the Billboard Top 100 chart. It was also my birthday!

I continue to take care of all Quiet Riot business as the manager for the past 17 years. I also still do session work when time allows from my Quiet Riot touring schedule.

Q: I know you’ve been working on a really extensive QR documentary film…the clips look AMAZING. I understand you’ve had some help, but that has to be quite an undertaking while still tending to the day-to-day goings on of running a band. How is it coming along?

A: Independent filmmaker/director/producer Regina Russell is at the forefront of the documentary and is the driving force of the film. It’s a lot of work and continues to be a work in progress with ongoing filming, interviews, all the things that make a great historic film.

Q: You guys have never been ones to disappoint, either onstage or at the merch stand (hey, forgive me, I’m a KISS fan). Is this DVD gonna be something we can pick up at shows along with the mask and shirts? Is it gonna have bonus footage like concert footage, official videos?

A: I expect that there will be a lot of bonus footage in the DVD form of the documentary. There is only so much that can fit properly with the story understanding the length of a normal film of this type. I have nearly 30 years of archival footage that we can work with.

Q: My heart sank when I heard Kevin [DuBrow, former lead vocalist] died. Very unexpected to me because while I’d heard all the stories of his being crazy or difficult over the years…he was nothing but kind and humble when I met him. Do you think he really got a chance to enjoy the second chance of connecting with us fans before he passed?

A: Kevin, God rest him, accomplished everything he set out to do before his untimely passing. He wanted to have success and a No. 1 record on the charts. Check! He wanted to be a rock star. Check!! He lived his life as he chose to and enjoyed every minute of it. Check!!! The last five years of Kevin’s life, and especially the final three, were the happiest I had seen him in many, many years. I am gratified that the final Quiet Riot Rehab CD we recorded before he died, Kevin was in top vocal form and was appreciated by the fans and critics for his work on that record. Kevin had no regrets. I only regret that he is no longer with me.

Q: I like to think he’s putting together a jam band upstairs with Randy Rhoads. I understand that you and your amazingly-tight 2011 Quiet Riot got the blessing of Kevin’s mom. Do you mind going into that or what her words of encouragement meant to the rest of the band?

A: This is very personal to me. Kevin’s mom and I are very close. I will only say that I would only continue Quiet Riot with her blessings, which she gave me without hesitation. She’s the best.

Q: When I heard you were gonna continue, I was equal parts thrilled and concerned for the band’s legacy. When I heard new singer Mark Huff on your official website and on YouTube, my jaw—and everyone I know’s jaw—hit the floor. I understand he was playing in a Van Halen tribute band 5150, so I wasn’t expecting him to sound so perfect for QR. What was the process you went through to put together this latest incarnation?

A: I, more than anyone, had feelings of excitement and reservation about starting up the Quiet Riot engine once more. The reason Mark Huff’s vocals with his VH tribute band made sense to me is that Sammy Hagar has a very wide vocal range, as did Kevin. So while stylistically there are measured differences between Sammy and Kevin, there was enough there to give me the indication that this was worth pursuing. As to the process, I chose to include Chuck Wright on bass and Alex Grossi on guitar because they were in the last incarnation of QR and was Kevin’s favorite lineup. Beyond that,  you will have to wait for the documentary for the full story!

Q: We spoke to Eddie Trunk, who also agreed that Huff was an AMAZING singer, but still indicated it would be a tough sell without Kevin. From the performances I’ve seen, I can’t imagine anyone going home disappointed. What can fans expect from the setlist? Does any of the [Paul] Shortino stuff make the show? I may be in the minority, but I like that album.

A: I knew going into this again that there would be some reservation, a wait-and-see scenario on a Quiet Riot without Kevin DuBrow, so that is no surprise to me, and I fully appreciate and understand that. I handpicked the songs I thought the fans would want to hear. Mostly from the Metal Health CD, but Condition Critical and QR III are also well represented, and on occasion, even a track from the Rehab release. I love the fourth Quiet Riot record with my friend Paul Shortino, who is an amazing singer, but to date, we have not included anything from that release.

Q: It’s amazing the market is still available to all you guys…the fanbases for metal are so loyal, and the low overhead to make an album almost weighs out the risk of illegal downloading. We’re seeing new albums from Black ’n’ Blue, King Kobra, Keel, etc. What is the likelihood that we get either a live Huff album/DVD or a new studio QR?

A: I disagree with you on the low overhead issue. While it is cheaper to make records these days, it’s still not cheap if you want quality. It still takes a lot of time and effort, and generally now there is no hope of recouping the expense. Having said that, I expect that Quiet Riot will continue to release new product, but I will take my time to do it and how it will be done. Stay tuned.

Q: When we talked to Johnny Rod, he indicated that the best W.A.S.P. experience creatively for him was his time with you. What do you remember of that timeframe? Was that one of your personal highlights outside of Quiet Riot? It is still considered one of their best albums by many. Was it a necessary diversion for you at the time?

A: To me, The Headless Children is the single-greatest record and lineup that W.A.S.P. ever had. While I really enjoy the W.A.S.P. records before this one, Headless was a breakout record for the group. I love Johnny, he’s a phenomenal bass player, singer, musician and crazy! Chris Holmes’ solos on Headless are the best of his career, and Blackie wrote and sang and created a great record with that lineup. He deserves more credit than he is given as a songwriter.

Q: I refuse to say names, but when I saw you guys a few years back, you were killing onstage…KILLING…in broad daylight opening on a package tour with other “big-name” metal bands. Is that a fun challenge, to try to just flat-out outperform a headliner in a situation like that? Because you did!

A: Thanks. I love doing package tours because it’s like running away from home with a musical circus, and those tours are good for the bands and the fans. Quiet Riot never steps onstage with the objective to be better than other bands on the bill. We step onstage to be the best we can be for the fans. If the outcome is that the fans love what they just saw and heard, then it’s just friendly competition with the other bands on the tour.

Q: Now, you’re back in the position of headlining these more intimate shows. I imagine you’re getting to meet a lot of pretty passionate fans and seeing a lot of young bands open for you. We know of a few local bands who are thrilled to be getting a chance to share a stage with you. Do the people you’re playing with and meeting give you a sense of optimism in terms of not only your band, but rock and roll in general?

A: What is important to me and so gratifying is having the continued support of our older fan base and seeing so many new younger fans at the shows. I always try to find time to say hello to the fans and sign whatever they want, and also try to meet the bands who share the stage with us. It’s sad for me to walk onstage now without Kevin, but he’s still always there with me.

Q: You made a ton of classic MTV videos back when the concept still meant something. I have to ask you about what I consider the most insane and over-the-top one. What do you remember of the filming of “Mama, We’re All Crazee Now”?

A: Oddly enough, the video shoot for “Mama” was probably the easiest video we ever shot, and nothing really extraordinary happened on that shoot other than there was a whole lot of hurry-up-and-wait down time. The most fun video we shot was for “The Wild and the Young,” and that was a two-day comedy show off camera! I have a really great memory for details, and I remember everything!

Q: Thanks so much for talking to us, Frankie. You’re a legend to us. Any last words, final plugs for us long-time Rioters up in Illinois/Wisconsin?

A: Thanks so much for your interest in Quiet Riot and for taking the time to ask the questions. To the fans, all I can say is that Quiet Riot looks forward to have you “Cum On Feel The Noize” and “Bang Your Head” with Quiet Riot as we continue on our musical journey! See you soon! See us at the Back Bar in Janesville May 21! Follow Quiet Riot on Facebook and Twitter!

From the May 18-24, 2011 issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!