Interviewed by David Dillon
Date: May 2007
It has been just shy of two decades since WARRANT catapulted into the national scene in 1989. With worldwide album sales approaching the ten million mark, and a laundry list of Top 40 radio singles that includes "Cherry Pie," "Heaven," "Down Boys," "Uncle Tom's Cabin," "I Saw Red" and "Sometimes She Cries," WARRANT may be out of the mind of cookie cutter radio shows flocking to cash in on their modern rock flavors of the month, but they are not out of sight of their fans.
With the current roster consisting of 4 out of the 5 original members, Erik Turner, one of the founding members of WARRANT, has helped keep the torch lit for over twenty years, supporting the group with not only his guitar, but with writing music and assisting with the art on the group’s new CD and their new DVD.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down and discuss a couple of things with Erik. Here is what he had to say…
David Dillion: First, I would just start by congratulating you on the release of the new CD & the new DVD.
Erik Turner: Yeah, we’re really proud of it. We put a lot of love and care into both of them. “BORN AGAIN” is the CD and it has 12 new songs on it. This is our first CD with all original music since 1996. We’ve done some ‘Best Of’ records, some re-recordings, bonus tracks, re-mastering, some covers, some live records, but it’s been a long time since we have done a full-blown, completely original record. We’ve had a lot of material stockpiled to choose from and we’re really excited about it.
David Dillion: Let’s start by talking about the new DVD, tell me a little bit about the concept behind that….
Erik Turner: We rented out a big studio showcase room in North Hollywood at a place called “Third Encore” and we brought in backdrops, walls with cabinets and some lights. Then we shot a performance video for all 12 songs from our new CD “BORN AGAIN” and then Steven (Sweet) shot some extra footage and put together 3 videos. Jerry (Dixon) shot some extra footage and live stuff and mixed that into the DVD. It’s got 12 videos on it. Then we took the camera on the road with us for when we travel for the live shows and we have a lot of footage from backstage, traveling, goofing around and all that stuff. Then, there’s also another half hour of us in the studio with the producer cutting tracks, drums tracks, guitar, bass, vocal tracks, us working with the producer. The viewer kind of gets to be a fly on the wall, sitting in on our recording sessions. It’s pretty cool.
David Dillion: Where did you shoot all the videos and how long did it take?
Erik Turner: We worked on and off on it between shows and everything else for probably about 6 months. Jerry did most of it. I did all of the art direction for it. Jerry and I were executive producers on it, I guess, and then Jerry produced it. It was a team effort amongst all of the guys in the band for a lot of it, but Jerry did most of the work on it.
David Dillion: Who came up with the concept behind your new mascot “Delvis” and what does it mean other than the obvious “Elvis” connotation and “devil” misspelling?
Erik Turner: I hired an art director for the CD art work and we already had the title “BORN AGAIN” for the CD. I had some concepts and the band had some concepts and ‘Delvis’ just kind of came out of that. The art director actually named him ‘Delvis’ because he is part Elvis, part devil. He actually has a little bit of Jack Nicholson thrown in there too. We just gave him a nickname and once we do a new record, we’ll have a different concept and ‘Delvis’ will have his part in WARRANT history and I’m sure we’ll do something different.
David Dillion: Let’s get into the CD a little bit. The title “BORN AGAIN”… any particular meaning behind that?
Erik Turner: Yeah, it just felt like with 4 out of 5 of the original guys back together for the first time in 10 years, it left like a new beginning… like 80’s rock was being born again. No religious meaning behind it, just in the spirit of a new beginning; a new start.
David Dillion: This was your first studio album since Jani Lane departed and your first in almost a decade. What was it like going back into the studio again after such a long hiatus and without your long-time front man?
Erik Turner: Oh, it was wonderful. It was a great experience. On the first few of records, Jani wrote everything and really didn’t take our ideas or suggestions. Since it wasn’t broke, we didn’t want to fix it and he was kind of controlling and didn’t want to share stuff in the song writing process. He was really good at it, so we just went along with it. But he quit the band back in ’93 and Jerry, especially, and I started writing songs. That’s when we stared writing a record called “ULTRAPHOBIC” in ’94 and I think I had one or two writing credits on that one and Jerry had a bunch of them and another guitar player in the band at the time had one too. Then, “BELLY TO BELLY” we wrote as a band… which was our last studio album before this new one. We’ve just been writing songs since then. So it was great to go back onto the studio as a band and make a record with all 5 guys participating.
David Dillion: “BORN AGAIN” is very different from anything you’ve done before. Do you feel this is the natural progression of the band or did it take some effort in the attempt to re-invent your musical style?
Erik Turner: No. You see, that’s interesting to me that you say that because everybody hears things differently. To me, it sounds just like our old stuff with a different singer. It’s just straight up hard rock. It’s not rap-rock, it’s not punk rock, it’s not grunge. It’s just a Rock ‘n Roll record. That is what we do. To me, it’s a throw back to Old School rock and there was a conscious effort to do that. Two guitars, a bass, drums and a singer. No loops, no special effects, none of that stuff.
David Dillion: How did Jaime St. James first get involved with the band and how much does he bring to the table as far as writing goes?
Erik Turner: I’ve known Jaime since 1984 and back then he was in a band called BLACK ‘N BLUE. They did 4 records, I think, for Geffen Records. We knew Jaime for a long time, on and off, and had seen him different places. He was at my wedding and the guitar player for BLACK ‘N BLUE, Tommy Thayer, is one of my best friends. So we would see Jaime from time to time. Jerry and Jamie were friends for a long time. When Jani (Lane) quit in January of 2004, we thought of two singers. We called Jaime first and he came down and sang 5 songs with us. We knew right away that it would work great. So, that was it. We did our first show, I think, in March of that year and we’ve done over 150 shows, a new CD, and we’re on schedule to do another 50 or 60 shows this year. Just moving forward, ya know.
David Dillion: Do you think his style affected the song writing as oppose to what you’ve done in the past?
Erik Turner: A lot! He and Jerry probably wrote most of the CD. I co-wrote 5 of the songs. He’s great! He’s a team player and he loves writing with all of us. He loves being in the band, which is a nice, fresh energy to have around. As opposed to someone who doesn’t want to be around the band, doesn’t want to tour, doesn’t want to make DVDs and doesn’t want to make new records. It’s refreshing to have someone (with a lot of energy) around.
David Dillion: Jaime had some pretty big shoes to fill. How accepting have the fans been to Jaime as apposed to Jani Lane?
Erik Turner: It been great! No one even mentions Jani at our shows. We sign (autographs) afterwards and maybe every 10 or 15 shows or so, someone asks, “Hey man, do you ever talk to Jani?” But I mean, no one seems to care anymore. I think that if we were #1 on the charts and it was still 1992, people would care, but that was a long time ago. People just want to come out and hear some kick ass music, performed by a, hopefully, kick ass band and put out a good show. It’s not like people are not used to singers changing or band members changing. That is just a fact in Rock ‘N Roll. It’s very, very, very, very, very, VERY rare that a band stays together for more than 10 years without losing a member, let alone as long as we have been around. We’ve been doing this for over 20 years. We got 4 out of 5 and that’s not bad.
David Dillion: If there was one thing about the release that you could change, what would it be and why?
Erik Turner: Hmmmmm… I think the art work is a little dark on the covers... on BOTH of the covers. Actually, the US version of the CD cover we fixed; made it a little lighter. The European version is a little dark. I think I’d change the DVD artwork. I think I’d brighten up the cover a bit. It looks great, but to nit-pick it a bit; I think that’s what I’d change. I don’t know what else I’d change. I think that’s it. We made it, we watched it and now, it’s out there and really, there’s nothing we can change about it now. (laughs)
David Dillion: I saw your set list for this tour on your website. It’s a very potent set to say the least and combines a nice mix of old fan favorites with even some of the more obscure songs. How did you come up with it and decide on what songs to keep in and what songs to take out?
Erik Turner: We wanted the majority of the songs to be from the first two records. Those two records sold 6 million copies and had six hits on them. We play all of those hits, plus album tracks off both of those two albums. We play one song off “DOG EAT DOG,” we play a BLACK ‘N BLUE song, one or two “BORN AGAIN” songs and that’s about it. Then, we’re set and done. You have a kick ass song set with songs that people know and, hopefully, love. And we get to play a little stuff for ourselves too… like some of the new songs. Hopefully, turn people onto some of our new stuff from “BORN AGAIN”.
David Dillion: Do you ever get tired of playing any of the old songs?
Erik Turner: No, I don’t! It’s hard to get tired of songs when there are crowds sold out or 1,500 people there drinking, partying and have a great time. It’s just a great atmosphere to be around, no matter what songs you’re playing. People are into it! If I was just playing them over and over again in my bedroom, it would suck. But, you’re playing in front of people and you have that energy between you and the crowd… it’s just awesome! I love it. And we rotate songs in and out of the set a lot. It keeps it fresh for us. Some cities we’ve already played we go back to two or even three times! We change the set up for the people that come out… the die-hards that come out and see us every time we play. It’s cool.
David Dillion: Is there a song that you’ve always wanted to play more live that you’d like to see added to the set at some point?
Erik Turner: Yeah, we’re all pretty good about doing stuff like that. If one of us wants a song added to the set, we’re pretty open to it usually. We’ve been rotating songs in and out of the set. One song I’d like to play is “Cold Sweat” off of the first CD. We haven’t played that in like 15 years…stuff like that. But I’m sure we’ll do it eventually.
David Dillion: Like you mentioned before, you have been doing this for 20 years…
Erik Turner: Actually, we’ve been doing it longer. 1984 is when Jerry and I started the band. So it’s been about 22 - 23 years.
David Dillion: After all these years, are you still having fun?
Erik Turner: You know, I have fun most of the time; close to all of the time! But it’s like anything else, it’s not always fun. Traveling is a little rough; you get a little tired. But yeah, I still love being in the band, I still love playing live for people. It’s great!
David Dillion: How weird has “the journey” been for you… going from small clubs to MAJOR venues and now back to smaller venues again?
Erik Turner: Well, that’s not really true. I mean it is and it isn’t true. We play a lot of state fairs, casinos, festivals. We play a whole barrage of different sized venues. We still get to play a lot of big rooms. We still get to play shows with, festival type shows during the summer. It’s all great. We played at a small club in Dallas recently and sold out 500 people on a Thursday night. It’s great! Then, the next night we were in Boone, Iowa and we had 1,600 people there and that venue holds about 2,000 people.
David Dillion: Despite the metal industries struggle in the 90’s, you guys have always been able to maintain a relatively strong fan base….
Erik Turner: Yeah, every year we’ve always been consistent. We’ve never stopped playing and always managed to stay consistent and I think that’s a big key in it all. Always staying in the game. It might be the big leagues, it might be the minors. But you just have to keep doing what you do. We’ve been blessed! I always tell people it’s a blessing to be able to go out and play shows.
David Dillion: I understand. I was talking to a bunch of the Marines that work for me, who are mostly younger guys and they knew who you were and were really excited about it. Asking me about the interview…
Erik Turner: Yeah, it’s amazing to me when we play these all ages shows, how many young kids are there; teenagers, kids with their parents. Older, younger; it’s just a wide demographic that come out to see us. Obviously, for the younger kids, it’s probably their first time coming out. Maybe, they heard some of our music from their parents. It’s interesting to me when I’ll be driving somewhere and a high school happens to let out and I see guys with real long hair and all these kids with IRON MAIDEN T-shirts and tight black pants. I laugh because I was wearing the exact same things when I was in high school! I mean the exact same thing! Same IRON MAIDEN “KILLERS” T-shirt, the same long hair, riding a skate board. Never in a million years did I think that 14 yr olds today would be wearing the same things I was wearing when I was 14 years old. Into the same bands, the same hair styles. It’s come full circle! They’re stealing all of our styles. They need to come up with their own. (laughs)
David Dillion: Do you find people more accepting now-a-days to your style of music as oppose to the way it was in the 90’s?
Erik Turner: Oh yeah! In the ‘90s, it was definitely in fashion to bash on ‘80s rock bands. Now, there’s a lot of love out there right now and we appreciate it and embrace it. It’s great. It’s not fashionable anymore. It sounds kind of stupid to bash on the bands from our era and you really don’t hear it anymore. And you hear the music more and more… songs in commercials and television, movies and video games. I can’t tell you how many people tell me they play that video game (name) and everywhere I go, people tell me, “Hey! I was playing your song the other day!” I mean, people I don’t even know and that I didn’t think knew who I was! I’m sitting in ‘Starbucks’ or something and people just come up to me. I go into ‘Best Buy’ and I see some dude playing the demo version, playing “Cherry Pie” and I walk up to him and listening to him. It’s such a trip.
David Dillion: So what’s next for WARRANT?
Erik Turner: We’re writing songs and we’re concentrating on playing live. No plans or set dates to make a record. But the song writing process has started. I would imagine sometime in the Fall of 2008, we’ll be putting out a new CD, I imagine. That’s about it, right now. More loud guitars, more beer, more travel, more music. More and more, hopefully.
David Dillion: That’s about it, is there anything else you’d like to say to your fans?
Erik Turner: Yeah, check out www.warrantrocks.com. Stay in tuned with what we’re doing. We’re always updating our diaries and fan mail. News releases and music, tour dates and all that stuff.
David Dillion: Okay, thanks!
Erik Turner: Great talking to ya!