Although their debut offering, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich, wasn’t unleashed until the tail end of the hard rock-laden decade in 1989, Warrant succeeded in becoming one of the most iconic and hard-working acts of the entire ‘80s metal era. Perhaps best remembered for the title track to their equally sonically pleasing sophomore effort in 1990, the group certainly didn’t rest on their laurels and were (and still are) much more than the “Cherry Pie” band. Later experimenting with heavier, more ambitious themes (drug addiction, sociopathy and the end of the world as we knew it), and though not as commercially successful as their previous efforts due to a quickly evolving musical landscape (goodbye spandex, hello flannel), 1992’s Dog Eat Dog was still a critic favorite.
Warrant persevered from there, battling obstacles from band departures (original members Joey Allen and Steven Sweet), losing their record label (Columbia) and front man Jani Lane’s struggles with alcoholism, which ultimately led to his untimely death in 2011.
Fast forward to 2017. Former Lynch Mob and Cry of Love singer Robert Mason is the only “new” member and he’s already been part of the group for nearly a decade. Along with originals Erik Turner (guitar), bassist Jerry Dixon (see our Q & A with Dixon on next page), Allen (guitar), and Sweet (drums), the Down Boys have their eight, full-length album, dropping May 12, Louder Harder Faster. For a band that’s been around for nearly 30 years, that’s not exactly Grateful Dead territory. But it’s the quality of the material that counts, not the quantity, and this is a group that prides itself on constant touring and killer live shows.
“It’s a lot of work,” Erik Turner told Royal Flush. “We spent a couple of years on the writing process, we were very slow about it, and we really put our heart and soul into it like we do with every record. It doesn’t come easy for us to write music. Some bands can just spit out new music all day long. For whatever reason, we’re great at touring, we go out and tour every year, but making records, it’s a hard labor of love.”
While releasing new music might not always be at the top of Warrant’s ‘to-do’ list, one thing is certain: this is a band that still believes in the practice of making physical CDs rather than merely putting out random songs here and there. “I can’t picture us not doing full albums,” said Turner. “That’s all we know. I read in an interview that Jerry did where he mentioned the lost art of making full records and how we’re trying to keep that alive and that’s very true. For a lot of new artists and new bands, it doesn’t make sense for them to do full-length records, so they do EPs or singles, but for us, it’s just what we do.”
Louder Harder Faster is the second disc the band have made with current singer Mason, who officially joined the quintet back in 2008 (he was briefly replaced by the returning Lane that year for an ill-fated reunion tour), although didn’t release their first album together, Rockaholic, until three years later.
Comparing the two records, Turner said, “Rockaholic to me sounds a little more polished. There’s not a whole lot of rough edges to it. The new one was produced by Jeff Pilson (Dokken), and it’s a little more bluesy, hard rock. But it’s still got that Warrant melodic, hard rock vibe that we all know.”
Of course, in the band’s “mainstream” years, at the forefront of the “melodic hard rock” that Turner describes was lead singer and songwriter Lane. “I had one of the best seats in the house every night, man,” remembered Turner. “When he was in his prime, he was an amazing singer and front man, and he held audiences in the palm of his hand. He was great, a natural.”
But while Lane’s departure from the band may have been a bitter pill for fans to swallow, for the band, it was almost a relief. “It wasn’t hard,” said Turner. “There was so much pain leading up to him leaving. It was very difficult. If you’ve ever had someone in your life that’s been addicted to alcohol or drugs, it’s horrible for them and their families and friends. It’s a nightmare. It’s very painful for everybody involved.”
The tumultuous end with Lane still haunts Turner. “In a perfect world, Lane would still be in the band and he’d be happy singing his songs, but he wasn’t happy being in Warrant anymore as far as I could tell and I think that’s why he drank himself to death,” he said. “Happy people don’t drink themselves to death. I don’t know what the reason was. It’s the disease. But he sure tried to get sober. He spent a lot of money and time in hospitals and rehabs. He just couldn’t stop drinking. And when I say drinking, I’m talking gallons of hard alcohol, not a few beers. He was basically digging a hole, climbing in and filling it with alcohol. When it started, it was fun. But it gets to the point where it’s dark. I wish he was still here and in Warrant. But we just have to make the best of the situation. We have to carry on like so many other bands have.”
While currently touring in support of the new album, Turner makes it clear what fans should expect. Though the group will certainly sprinkle in a few Louder Harder Faster cuts, it’s the crowd-pleasers from the first two classic records that make up the majority of the band’s set list.
“You could go out and play your whole new record, but that wouldn’t go over so good,” Turner joked. “People want to hear “Cherry Pie,” “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” “Down Boys,” and “I Saw Red.”
Still chugging along after forming 33 years ago, Turner doesn’t see an end in sight for Warrant. “We’re still out playing music and that’s always been our dream.”
Louder Harder Faster Track Listing
1. Louder Harder Faster
2. Devil Dancer
4. Only Broken Heart
5. U in My Life
6. Music Man
8. New Rebellion
9. Big Sandy
10. Choose Your Fate
11. Let It Go
12. I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink (*CD only bonus track)
Click here for Warrant’s Louder Harder Faster tour dates