Enuff Z’Nuff - Chip Z’Nuff talks about the band’s new album Hardrock Nites, his influences & being inspirational Dash Radio DJ
Iconic Chicago rockers Enuff Z’Nuff have just released their absolutely stunning new album, Hardrock Nite, an album of reinterpretations of some of the best songs by The Beatles and Paul McCartney’s and John Lennon’s later material. What Enuff Z’Nuff have done is to take these tracks and give them a heavier production and one that also brings out the band’s classic sound whilst still be respectful to the originals. We catch up with lead singer and bass player Chip Z’Nuff to get the fully story…
It is such an exciting time with the release of Enuff Z’Nuff’s new album Hardrock Nite, an album of the most incredible covers of tracks The Beatles and members of The Beatles side projects. It’s a record that has created massively uplifting and modern interpretations of the songs but I think with huge respect for the original tracks. Where did the inspiration decision come about to create this record?
Well thank you very much for your kind words! The inspiration came from The Beatles repertoire material that they’ve put out for the last so many years. Obviously the band hasn’t been together for the past fifty something years and here we are still talking about these fabulous, well written, iconic, timeless songs. About three years ago, I had a meeting with these heavy weights out in Los Angeles and they were putting together a super group, they wanted to go out and do a two-month tour. It was the manager from The Police who was putting this whole run together and he wanted to get Paul Gilbert from Mr Big, Gilby Clark from Guns ‘N’ Roses, Mike Portnoy my cousin from a bunch of different bands, but most notably The Winery Dogs, and go out into a two month run. Just get out on a tour bus and play nothing but Beatles songs, and they asked me to be the front man. I thought ‘wow, it would be very honourable to get a chance to play with all these heavy weights’. I’ve worked with some of these guys in the past but what a wonderful idea and then it stalled. I heard nothing for a couple of months and my agent/manager, Chuck, called me. He says ‘Gilby says that he loves you and you’re a great bass player and singer, but they want to get a bigger name’. So I said ‘Okay, no problem!’ and I just sat there during the shutdown here around the country, I decided that perhaps, maybe I’ll take the bull by the horns. I called my guitar player Tony Oscar Fennell and I asked him. Tony used to sing with Ultravox, by the way. He took Midge Ure’s place in that band so he’s the real McCoy. I said “What do you think of this idea I have?” and he says that “It might possibly be the finest idea I’ve ever heard in my life, Chip, let’s do it!”. So, the first song we tackle was called ‘Turkey’ off the Shaved Fish record and I played that one for years. In the old days, we’d throw it in the set every once in a while, just because we needed a break. So, we tracked that song and it sounded fabulous. It had a great energy to it and we listened back to it and the band said “Let’s move forward!” and I just started picking up songs from 1967 up. Nothing before ’67, and maybe there was a divine intervention because those songs in ’64, ’65 and ‘66, they were fabulous songs but real pop oriented and I wanted to do something that was a little bit aggressive on the Beatles songs. I’ve never heard any band ever, maybe perhaps the Beatles in the early days, you know, experimented with heavy metal before anyone else with Helter Skelter but fans interpreting Beatles songs, you just don’t here that very often. I know that Stone Temple Pilots, Styx, Cheap Trick and Smithereens have all recorded Beatles songs or did a live record, but I don’t think anybody’s every done a studio album properly. So we just went into the studio and started bashing out a bunch of songs, all my favourite ones that I thought I wouldn’t have a problem singing, which I was wrong there because they were all very difficult, but on these songs I wanted to sing them live – like I’d be singing them at a concert as opposed to punching it line by line and fixing it making it picture perfect and that’s where we nailed it. It sounds again like an Enuff Z’Nuff album, but they’re Beatles songs and we’re paying homage to our forbearers.
It’s often been said Enuff Z’Nuff have had a strong Beatles influence, and you’ve mentioned that you’ve played songs from John Lennon before in the set, but what are your earliest memories of The Beatles and what impact did they have on you?
Sneaking into my parents’ bedroom when I was a little kid and pulling out those records. They had the Beatles but they also had Canned Heat, Black Sabbath and old Pink Floyd. My mom and dad had real eclectic taste and they would kind of let me listen to those records when I was a young kid and perhaps that just seeped into my veins. And as I got older those influences stuck with me, and The Beatles especially. We’re talking about a profound band that put out all those records. I think are over three hundred songs on Spotify alone. John and Paul wrote a truck full of great songs but so did Ringo and George there, they were formidable writers as well! So, there is certainly a lot of fodder to pick from when it comes to The Beatles, and I’ve always had nothing put respect for Paul. I’ve mentioned before in interviews that I feel he’s one of the guys that has been in ‘my job’ as being a singer and bass player. I just thought ‘this is a record right here that maybe has daddy-longlegs spider legs.’ We can go out and not just play the Enuff Z’Nuff stuff - of which we have seventeen studio albums and a number of live records and greatest hits out there so we certainly haven’t been lazy and sitting on our laurels during our career. But maybe we can take these songs and do these shows on the road where we only play Enuff Z’Nuff songs, but we can go out and do The Beatles catalogue and we’ve already done a few shows where we call it the ‘Beatles Rock Show’ and we go out there and play this record in its entirety.
It’s great that you’ve been able to play this record in its entirety!
Yeah, we just did one a few months ago. We were out with Faster Pussycat on the Straight Out Of Quarantine tour? We went out in June, July, and all the way into the middle of August we were on tour. We took off and we had the old Journey tour bus, which is great. The first time we’ve had a tour bus in twenty something years! (Laughs!) The bus broke down in Denver and then we ended up finishing the tour in a fifteen seat passenger van! (Laughs!) But at Denver show there were people in the crowd that were crying at these songs. That’s how emotional fans are with Beatles material, and we ended the night with A Little Help From My Friends. It was fabulous! Nobody asked for Enuff Z’Nuff that night for some reason although I think I slipped in Get Higher, New Thing and Fly High Michelle out of respect. For the most part we just wanted to see how people would react with the songs in the show because it’s quite a heavy record. If you listen to this band live, those songs really translate. Tony and Tory (Stoffregen, guitar) , they’re both plugged into Mesa Boogie amplifiers and Dan’s (Daniel Benjamin Hill) playing his big drums, I’m playing through an old SVT so it’s a hard rock record, hence the title Hardrock Nite.
Well the new music is absolutely stunning and you’ve covered 10 hugely important and in fact legendary tracks. For anyone to take on these tracks is really brave but you’ve absolutely smashed it. With The Beatles - and Paul McCartney and John Lennon with their other bands – having such a massive back catalogue - and you’ve mentioned yourself 300 songs - how did you decide which songs to cover?
I think I started out with songs that I was familiar with when The Beatles were experimenting. I was hanging out on tour with Foreigner about 25 years ago and at the end of the night Mick Jones and I went back to the hotel with some girls to just hang out and have a few cocktails - no extra-curricular activities just hanging out with the fans (laughs!) - and Mick was so charming, beyond belief. We sat in a room talking about nothing but rock bands that really tripped our trigger: Cheap Trick, Queen, Mott The Hoople, and Mick says, ‘You know how I learnt to write songs?’ and I said, ‘No I don’t but you’re a fabulous song writer’. He says, ‘I hung out with The Beatles for six months in the studio with George Martin while they were recording’ and I said ‘You’ve got to be kidding, not many guys get that chance, that opportunity. What were they like, The Beatles? Were they smoking pot in there?’. He goes ‘We had a little share of fun, but for the most part they’d be able to get in there and Ringo would count the song off: one, two, three four and the band would play.’ I said, ‘That’s fascinating’ and he says ‘minimal overdubs of course, later on George would go in there and give help with string arrangements, or what have you, but it was basically the four lads in the studio like they were playing live.’ That was very inspiring to me and that’s what we did on this record as well. We did Dear Prudence years ago and we throw it in the set. In fact, Enuff Z’Nuff fans thought it was our song! And of course Magical Mystery Tour – that was a no-brainer. I’ve always loved every year of The Beatles but that’s certainly when they were experimenting and the same thing with the White Album stuff that we did like Back In The USSR or perhaps Dear Prudence. Those were songs that to me, was just a band in the studio, didn’t care about radio or anything, they were writing for themselves and that was inspiring as well. So the songs that came up, a lot of them were from material I’ve experimented with in the early days and played in concert and then other stuff was just because there’s a happenstance that they seemed to fit the album and it’s narrative.
Your voice, Chip is absolutely stunning on this record and I think one particular quality is how effortlessly it translates and does justice to the songs. For example, on tracks such as Eleanor Rigby, the vocals is classic ‘Chip’ but you do seem to be gorgeously channeling an authentic Paul McCartney quality. Was this something you consciously thought of or is this entirely coincidental?
It’s coincidental. I’ll never sing like those cats. We’re talking about two of the most quintessential singers of our generation just for the fabulous timbre. Those guys are great liars because every word they sing, I believe them and that’s the sign of a great songwriter and a wonderful singer. I’m singing all the Enuff Z’Nuff records, but I’d always be accompanying my brother and I think I did an okay job. We certainly had a good timbre together and I sang a few songs on the record live as well, but to put the stress on and learn every day, I think I found my way and I sing them like I sing them. I’m not the perfect singer. I’m no Robin Zander or Steven Tyler, that’s for sure. But I think I have my own vibe on these songs and when you come to see us live at least it will sound close to the records. I do the best that I can every single day. It’s not easy singing and playing these songs and playing bass at the same time. Years of experience has certainly helped me a lot and I’ve got a chance to play with some fabulous musicians in my day. After a little while you start getting into it and it turns into like riding a bicycle and I just hope that every single night I stay healthy where I can sing these songs because they certainly are a challenge. I’m not saying they’re easy, they’re not and those other bands that I’ve mentioned that have done Beatles songs like Cheap Trick, Stone Temple Pilots, Smithereens and Styx. Those guys are fabulous singers. They’re fantastic. But I’m not so sure they took a chance to make a record that sounds like their band, and I think that’s the difference on this record. We wanted to make it an Enuff Z’Nuff record, but we want to pay homage of respect and show a reinterpretation of what The Beatles would be like if they were plugged in and playing today in the twenty-first century.
Enuff Z’Nuff had a run of UK shows planned in November but sadly they didn’t take place. What happened there?
Yeah, we did have a UK run in November, but it was pushed back. There’s a lot of restrictions. So, for us to come over to the UK and to play and be sequestered and locked in with handcuffs in the hotel room for ten days wasn’t financially feasible. The anchor date on that tour was Hard Rock Hell, which they have every year in Wales, and I sort of pushed it back to next year. There will be a lot of great bands: the Darkness, Skid Row, Ugly Kid Joe, Vandenberg, Girlschool, Enuff Z’Nuff, Stevie R Pearce. Hopefully things will be cleaned up by that time so we’re looking at some time next October or November, coming back and doing everywhere – not just doing London and Bristol and Birmingham and Manchester but going over to Scotland. Obviously, we’ll want to do Spain and Italy, those are great places. We’ll try to hit everywhere. Not only to support this new Enuff Z’Nuff Hardrock Nite record but my solo record which comes out in March next year as well.
I’ve seen first hand the really special relationship Enuff Z’Nuff has with UK fans. It’s a really wonderful experience. How excited will you be to eventually be coming back to the UK?
Of course, I’m excited to come back to the UK. My father served in the military in the 50s and 60s, so he told me all the big stories about bands, how he smoked a joint with Jimi Hendrix, which I thought was fantastic. Well, he says it was a cigarette, but I beg to differ. He would tell me all the stories about the guys walking the streets, he’d see Eric Clapton and Cream or Yes. He never ran into any of The Beatles guys although he did get me a cap, a John Lennon cap, he got me at an auction. It was £4,000 and it got stolen from me in Saint Louis which is a drag. I had it for all these years. But he told me the stories so when I went over to England he says ‘Chip, those people over in England, those are our allies. Those are our brothers and sisters’, so I always felt a kinship there and then the early days going and playing Enuff Z’Nuff shows when our first album came out in ’89 and we played two thousand seat venues with two hundred people there because nobody knew about us and I’d be pointing to invisible balconies, doing everything I could to get people’s attention (laughs!). Doc McGee used to manage our band in the early days before Herbie Herbert, God rest his soul. And Doc would say to us ‘look, you guys have some success here and in North America but you wanna go over to England to play those places because it’s much bigger over there in Europe.’ And I’m glad that I listened to him because most of the American bands back in those days just cared about instant success and find it anywhere they could, where they could navigate those waters. We intentionally went over to England to play some shows and I think now our relationship with some of the bigger magazines, a lot of the media would come to our shows, radio would come out there. It was very important for us to set our footing as a rock band in those early days. I’m certainly glad we did because back in ‘90 and 91’ we were playing really big venues in England. So we moved our way up a little bit and then of course in ‘93, we came over here and we were on tour with Poison. We supported Poison and they were only touring the UK and those shows were in arenas. There were some wonderful venues we played and that really set the tone for Enuff Z’Nuff and so every other year we would go to the UK and over to Europe to play shows and I think it paid off in a long way. Those managers were right. It was very important for us to get out there and show off our band and of course, we were a very prolific band, we kept coming up with new material, new records. I really think that helped us out a lot and the fans really got a chance to get to know the band. Now when I go over there, I have a lot of fans, but not only fans, but the fans are friends now.
I also want to pick up on some of the hugely inspirational things you do to promote new music and I’d like to talk about the show that you present on – radio. As well as playing incredible tracks from established bands you do champion new bands. How important is it for you to showcase new music?
Well, I am on Dash Radio. I’m on the Monsters of Rock channel 502. If anyone wants to hear me all you have to do is download the app dashradio.com, you’re downloading the app. It’s free. You don’t have to pay money. It’s 84, 85 stations and it’s everything from hip-hop to new wave rock to alternative. My station focuses on heavy metal and hard rock 24/7 365 days a year. A through Z, the whole alphabet of hard rock and heavy metal. I think my station is different because we’re not picking the same songs the terrestrial radio or other stations are playing, which is fine – if that’s what they want to do then there’s nothing wrong with that. Those are iconic songs. I’m picking B sides and C sides of everything that’s out there and although we do play a few of the hits, for the most part, what you get out of my station is it’s commercial free. It’s just playing these great songs that the fans have been wanting to hear for years and it’s a mix up. It’s not just Queen and Metallica and Aerosmith and Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin which are all great bands that are a part of our fabric here around the country, but I’m looking at the newer bands that are out there as well. The Rival Sons and Vintage Trouble and Greta Van Fleet and Dirty Honeys. I think it’s important to play the new bands that are carrying the flag. It’s really a celebration. There are big stars on our show – we’ve had Rudy Sarzo on our show from Whitesnake, Ozzy Osborne and Quiet Riot. He’s got his own programme on there; I know Sammy Hagar’s been on there for a while. The Dead Daisies have got their own programme on there as well. Last week I had Steel Panther on there, John 5 was on, Faster Pussycat. It’s really a celebration of life at the end of the day and it’s nothing but having a great time playing these wonderful, iconic songs that are fabulous.
I think another important point to make is that as well as your radio show and using this to connect listeners to new music, you still firmly believe that bands need to get out there and put on a great show. Would you agree that there is no substitute for live music?
Yeah, that’s the only way to do it nowadays. You can’t just depend on social media to sell units for you and move numbers to get that dial. I really believe at the end of the day that bands have to get on a bus or in a van or a plane, whatever it takes to go out and bring the shows to the people and it’s a proven fact. In the old days the bands did it and what did it do? It moves the numbers of people to come out and see the shows. KISS would never be as big as they are right now if they didn’t go out in the old days and do those shows. If they just made records and had the lipstick and eyeliners and the beautiful accessories those guys carried… It looks good on a piece of paper but to see it in front of your face – that’s the real McCoy. People want to see a live show. They want to see bands, that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day. So, I recommend to anyone out there, any musicians, any artists, you have to go out there and tour. I don’t care how you do it. You find a way, get a good agent out there. Well, I have a great agent with Artists Worldwide, I’ve been with him over twenty years and they keep booking the band and obviously there’s an audience out there that wants to see the group but that’s what it’s all about. Taking it to the streets. At the end of the day, it will pay dividends for all of us.
Hardrock Nite is available now. To find out more, head over to www.enuffznuff.com, and in the meantime check out the video to Back In The USSR below.