By Todd Houston
Exclusive to TRRT
Rockford Rocked Interview: The Eighties. The Decade of Decadence marked by big hair and big guitar bands. When bandanas were a rock fashion statement, when clubs featuring live music were plentiful and everyone seemed to be having way too much fun. Eventually rock music became as depressing as a typical rainy day in Seattle. Fast forward to 2016 and enter the ’80s metal/rock tribute band Sunset Strip.
RRI: You guys play all ’80s covers staying true to the original music and nailing the vocals and guitar solos. How did you go about finding the right caliber of musicians for the band and who are they?
Scotty Von Blazin: Thanks for the compliment. We take great pride in authentically reproducing all the sights and sounds of a rock concert back in the ’80s. It’s no easy task! We’ve spent thousands of dollars and countless hours rehearsing and studying all those bands by watching their videos to get their looks, choreography, attitude and showmanship down as best as we can.
SVB: The band was started by Fret Michaels (guitar) and Chico Torres (drums) who were in another local Rockford area band together. They found Jill Jett (Keys & Vox – formerly of Rockford area Journey Tribute, Frontiers) and Jimi Lloyd (bass), shortly thereafter through some mutual friends. I came in about a year after the band was already out performing live.
RRI: What was it about ’80s rock/metal music that made it fun and made people want to be a part of it?
SVB: I think like any genre, it has its place. The thing about the ’80s hairband scene is these bands took the best of the early pioneers like Kiss and Cheap Trick, and just went completely over the top in every aspect. The shows were more than just “watching” a band play songs; they were events.
RRI: Are you surprised by the number of people that come out to see you guys on a regular basis?
SVB: It’s pretty amazing. When I started out with these guys, we were barely drawing 20 people consistently. Word spread pretty quickly around the Rockford scene and it’s become this juggernaut that just keeps picking up steam. We’ve been fortunate to continually expand our fan base roaming outside of the Rockford area into the Chicago market now too. In addition to that, we’re doing some dates at bars, casinos and festivals in Indiana as well. We’re grateful for all the love and support that our fans give us.
RRI: You guys wear all the cool makeup, spandex and Aquanet onstage and put on a great show. You also have fun names like Fret Michaels and Scotty Von Blazin. Who chooses the set list for a typical Sunset Strip show?
SVB: We all have input into the show. Our songs are a conglomeration of picks by each of us as well as our fans. We’ve also scoured countless online polls of the Top ’80s Hairband Songs of All-Time to pick songs too. We try to have a little something for everyone. There are staples like Sweet Child O’Mine from Guns N’ Roses and Living on a Prayer by Bon Jovi that we have to do.
RRI: Looking back, what was it that made bands like Warrant, Ratt and Great White lose their appeal to kids during the beginning of the 1990s?
SVB: My opinion is that it was oversaturation. As with anything, too much is never a good thing. But look how things have come full circle.
RRI: Sunset Strip is up for several categories for the upcoming 2016 RAMI awards. Thoughts?
SVB: We’re honored to be nominated with so many other talented musicians/bands out there. It’s humbling and rewarding to see the fruits of all our hard work being recognized by the Rockford Area Music Industry as well as the fans and community. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that we can walk away with an award for sure!
RRI: Favorite metal album of all time?
SVB: Mine is probably Shout at the Devil by Motley Crue. It blew me away when it was released.
RRI: David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar?
SVB: Tough one. They’re both masters of their own craft. I’d personally say Roth though since he was pretty much the epitome of what an ’80s front-man should be.
RRI: If push came to shove which show would you choose to watch in its entirety, MacGyver or Knots Landing?
SVB: MacGyver for sure. There was an episode once where he turned a squeaky clean college girl into a groupie with nothing more than two backstage passes to a Poison concert, hairspray, ripped jeans and a fifth of vodka. It was impressive.