Enuff Z’Nuff Reveal ‘Warts, Scars and Tattoos’ on New Album: Exclusive Interview
Enuff Z’Nuff are out on the road right now opening up the SiriusXM Hair Nation tour, a bill that also features Jack Russell’s Great White in the headlining slot and Bullet Boys rounding out the night.
According to bassist Chip Z’Nuff, the tour is a throwback to the days of the Sunset Strip, “when it was cool to get high and fuck and burn the candle at both ends.”
Z’Nuff tells UCR those times are in the rear-view mirror for the Chicago-bred band. “The old days of promiscuity and substance abuse, they’ve dissipated," he says. "I’m not going to say that they’re not still there, because how do you think these songs come to fruition? But we’ve really curtailed our partying days and it’s really about leaving a good performance with the audience, and it all starts with a good record.”
A conversation with the band leader unravels a lifetime of colorful experiences from both recording studios and the road. Like the time they were working on a record at Chicago Recording Company and a knock came on the door from representatives for Shaquille O’Neal and R. Kelly, who were next door working on their own music. They asked the band to wind down their non-musical activities.
“They had their people come over to our studio and say, ‘Hey guys, stop smoking pot in here,’" Z'Nuff recalls. We said, ‘What are you talking about? You guys are smoking way more pot than we are. We’re all making records together!’ They said, ‘Well, we prefer that you guys keep your doors shut and don’t smoke anything up there.’ That was the only bad vibe I’ve ever had at Chicago Recording Company where one artist was trying to boss another artist around that was doing the fucking same thing that that artist was doing."
He laughs at the suggestion that perhaps Kelly and Shaq just had better weed. “Are you kidding me? They don’t know the people I know, okay? I’m a High Times Cannabis Cup judge, so all I have to do is make one little phone call and a little meow and the kitty cats come running,” he says. “We’ve always had the best pot. Enuff Z’Nuff is known for smoking great pot. Of course, it’s diminished in this day and age. We’ve curtailed it a little bit, but for the most part we know where to find everything, okay?”
Watch Enuff Z'Nuff's 'Diamond Boy' Video
Enuff Z'Nuff have been incredibly prolific across the years, churning out 14 studio albums, including their latest, Diamond Boy, which was released last month. The new album finds Z’Nuff officially taking the reins of the band as lead singer. His brother, Donnie Vie, had been in and out of the group for years and exited a third time, seemingly for good, on the heels of a “debacle tour” of Europe in 2013, according to Z’Nuff. He found himself at a crossroads in that moment.
“Donnie said he got disillusioned by the business and didn’t want to do it anymore, and he had some health issues," Z'Nuff says. "I’ve got to be honest with you, I was left with a sinking ship and a little bit of fucking crazy glue to cover the holes, and I did the best I could. I was lucky enough to find these great players to go, ‘Chip, we believe in your legacy and your vision. You’re singing the songs. You’ve been writing them and producing these records all through your career. We want to be a part of the team.’ That’s it! There’s no big story.”
Diamond Boy found Z’Nuff looking to make a specific type of album. “Me and my guitar player, Tony Fenelle, who is a former lead singer of Ultravox, we both said, ‘Let’s make a ‘70s record,'" he recalls. "Let’s go back, like Clive Davis used to say, if it’s 20 or 30 years old, it’s new again. So instead of going in and making a Pro Tooled record and making everything so perfect and not showing any blemishes, we said, 'Fuck that, we’re going to make a record that shows all of the warts, scars and tattoos of what we carry as a band.'”
Listening to the results, he says they achieved what they were going for and he’s happy with the subjects they explored on the new record. ”There’s plenty of stuff to write about out there, look at how the world is right now," he explains. "There’s so much subject matter to tear apart. So there was lots of things, where most of the Enuff Z’Nuff albums in the past were all autobiographical, this one, I’m scratching the surface and picking off the bones of my favorite bands of the past.”
While Diamond Boy has its share of Enuff Z’Nuff-style psychedelia, there are also moments where the band digs into subjects with intense fervor -- like on “Metalheart.”
Listen to Enuff Z'Nuff's 'Metalheart'
“A friend of mine was going through a bad relationship and I was just trying to provide the answer on how to get through a torn relationship or bullying for that matter," Z'Nuff recalls. "I could say I stole the riff from Captain Beyond. There’s another one from the past, because these songs come from somewhere. Maybe it’s when I was younger, 15 and 16 years old, listening to certain riffs, it just came back to me again. But when I put the song together, I started hearing stuff like AC/DC and Oasis and I go, nah, I don’t know! But with my voice and the story that’s being told, I think we took it in a good direction, and at the end of the day, when you put the record on a turntable, you can tell it’s an Enuff Z’Nuff song, and that’s the most important thing for me.”
He also has fond memories of the time Beavis and Butt-head took aim at the group’s “Fly High Michelle” in 1993, with Butt-head noting, “Glam rock just isn’t what it used to be, Beavis.” “We first heard about it through my buddy who was running MTV at the time, a guy named Rick Krim," Z'Nuff recalls. "He was the catalyst. He said, ‘Hey, my friend’s got this show called Beavis and Butt-head and he wants to put you guys on.’ I said, ‘That’s great.’
Krim made sure to prep Z’Nuff for what they could expect. He goes, ‘Well, they kind of take the piss out of the artists. It’s a satire thing, but it’s funny and it’s tongue in cheek,’" Z'Nuff remembers. "He said, ‘[Skid Row's] Sebastian Bach got real mad and he wanted to fight me. He was looking all over New York for me and wanted to beat me up, because they made fun of him.’ I said, ‘Rick, any chance we can get to get any help, we’d appreciate it.’
"The first time it came on Beavis and Butt-head, we sold almost 5,000 records that week, just from one spin on Beavis and Butt-head, and we knew that was a powerful show. And it was fine, those guys were just making fun of everything in our whole genre. Sometimes they liked stuff that was heavy and maybe not as flamboyant and colorful, and other times, they would take the piss out of it. You’ve got to take the good with the bad. I thought they did wonderful things for us. I found out later on that [Mike Judge], who created Beavis and Butt-head, was a huge Enuff Z’Nuff fan, so I’m glad I didn’t go after him and attack him or anything. I thought it was great.”
Watch Beavis and Butt-head Talk About Enuff Z'Nuff
As Diamond Boy starts to find its place in fans' collections, Z’Nuff reveals he’s already starting to work on the band's next phase. “I’ve got the next Enuff Z’Nuff album half finished," he says enthusiastically. “I’m on fire with these new tunes. And I’m playing all of the parts on them and they sound great, and it’s wonderful stuff that I went through terrible moments in my life that I’ve said, 'Fuck it, it’s time that you swallow this ego pill and time to heal right now.' These songs are juggernauts. Rock. In your face. Powerful!”
He adds that this new music is like that found on Diamond Boy, "where it’s David Bowie and the Beatles fighting in the alley and Cheap Trick comes and breaks it up. This next record I have, ELO and Led Zeppelin are fighting in the alley and Mott the Hoople comes in to clean it all up. I’m mixing it up good on this one! I’m really excited about what the future holds.”