When my fitness friend and fellow NoHo Arts District writer Jack Witt asked me to accompany him on a recent trek to The Viper Room to see one of his favorite performers, Graham Bonnet, it was a no-brainer…yes, of course.
Bonnet and his band were slated to perform ALCATRAZZ’s album “No Parole From Rock N’ Roll” in its entirety to celebrate the 35th anniversary of its release. The gig also featured the talents of special guests Electric Hounds and Descent of Talking Shadows. The Electric Hounds reminded me of my son Joey’s band Skin Flick and The Descent of Talking Shadows really sounded like a mixture of Slip Knot meets Soundgarden.
I likened the experience to eating an artichoke with its many layers and after eating the tough layers to the softer inner layer known as the heart, which, in this case is Bonnet’s show. Indeed, it does take time to get to the heart of the matter…Graham Bonnet.
For the uninitiated, “No Parole From Rock N’ Roll” is a large chunk of Heavy Metal history and carries the DNA from the formidable Heavy Metal bands Rainbow, MSG and Impelliterri. Bonnet’s roots go back to a band that called itself The Marbles.
Bonnet delivered a Heavy Metal feast of tunes from his expansive career as well as the album “No Parole From Rock N’ Roll,” which included one of my all-time favorites “Since You’ve Been Gone,” recorded while with Rainbow in 1979. It also appears on his new album “Meanwhile Back In The Garage,” which is receiving positive reviews by Bonnet’s fans as well as music critics. I must confess to thinking that “Man on the Silver Mountain” was Ronnie James Dio when I first heard it, but of course, it was Bonnet booming that piece of Heavy Metal history.
Bonnet is by far one of the best Heavy Metal singers that can still belt out his hits from 1979 to the present in such a way as to believe you are in a time warp to 1979 and beyond. After The Viper Room show I had a chance to interview Bonnet about his career and grabbed it. Below are the results of the interview with what I can only describe as a Heavy Metal Rock God. I am honored that he allowed me this opportunity.
When queried about the 35th anniversary of “No Parole From Rock N’ Roll” and how it feels to be refocusing on this period of Heavy Metal history Bonnet allowed that ”It’s nice to revisit songs that to me still stand up to the test of time, and it’s great that this first ALCATRAZZ album seems to have taken on a new life.”
Most everyone knows that Bonnet discovered Yngwie Malmstein, that “No Parole From Rock N’ Roll” was the launching pad for his career and we wondered if Bonnet ever touches base with Malmstein these days. Bonnet answered, “No, I haven’t spoken to him for 10 or 11 years.” Many years ago Malmstein was on a tour with Black N’ Blue and Saxon and I did catch his talents and in retrospect, it can be attributed to being mentored by Bonnet.
The major thing that struck me during the show at The Viper Room was how clear and strong Bonnet’s voice was as one never knows how that is going to hold up during a live performance with no breaks in between songs. The urge to ask him what were some of his challenges he’s had with his voice overtook me, “I was told by a voice doctor that my vocal chords at my age (70) are still those of a younger man, much to my surprise as I have thrashed the Hell out of them over the years.”
Every-time one turns around there are at least 100 new acts trying to burst onto the scene and be the next “big” thing. It’s hard to reach that lofty goal and we wondered what a seasoned veteran of the music scene had to say about doing it, “Don’t do it! LOL!!!! It’s a hard road these days and an over saturation of very very good bands which makes the competition tough and hard to be different from what is already out there.”
The Viper Room is set to be closing pretty soon and we could not resist asking Bonnet how it felt to be one of the last acts to be playing there. “It was a great gig. I have never played there and it turned out to be one of the better shows of the tour, as a Hollywood audience can be a hard crowd to please as they have “seen it all.” However, they were very appreciative.”
Yep, that can sure be said of those of us that grew up on The Strip. We are jaded for sure and I was just pointing that out to comedian Earl Skakel at super manager and now record company founder Vicky Hamilton’s launch party this week for her new label Dark Spark Music.
Having been around the Heavy Metal scene for a few decades, we wondered if Bonnet had any great stories of playing The Strip back in the day. Much to our surprise, Bonnet had this to say, “Never played it back in the day. We did the bigger venues with Rainbow so it’s hard to compare and such a long time ago.” I should have asked myself that question as I have lots of stories to tell. LOL
Bonnet’s new album “Meanwhile Back In The Garage” is being critically acclaimed and is being enthusiastically received by fans so we thought it would be nice to know how making this album differed from some of Bonnet’s other solo albums. “I took the same approach to these songs as I did with Rainbow, MSG, ALCATRAZZ and Impellitteri…always reporting on real-life lyrically as opposed to fantasy stuff. The “thinking man’s Heavy Metal” if you will.” Cool answer Graham.
Lastly, we asked Bonnet what his favorite part of touring was as opposed to asking him how he ate while on tour which some people would expect me to ask given a column I wrote in October 2016 on Christy Buss and one’s diet while on the road. To be sure, Bonnet’s answer brought a bit of moisture to my eyes and I so fell in love with him over his simple answer, “The time on stage.”