A rock'n' roll icon, Michael Monroe talked about his career for Music Waves!
DARIALYS - 25.10.2019 -
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Michael Monroe is known to have been the singer of the Finnish glam band Hanoi Rocks. If the band split up about ten years ago, the charismatic leader is happy with his new band to which he gave his name, and is still having as much fun making music! Interview with a legendary rock figure who is never at a loss for words.

We always start our interviews on Music Waves with the following question: what is the question you have been asked too often?

Michael Monroe: (He's thinking) I don't know! (Laughs).

Good for you! That means you don't always get the same questions all the time!

No, I don't think so. Every day is different, every person is different. I like to maintain a certain level of enthusiasm and excitement in interviews!

Do you consider yourself a musical icon, or even a legend?

No ! (Laughs). I consider myself a rocker, but not a rock star. Some people consider me a legend, which makes me very happy! It flatters me a lot, but I think I'm just a rocker, a musician. I do my best to improve all the time, but you can never be good enough! You have to remain humble.


Ten years after the split of Hanoi Rocks, your name still remains associated with Hanoi Rocks. How do you feel about that? Are you proud of it? Or is it a page you'd like to turn?

Hanoi Rocks is a group of which I am very proud. This is the band of my life. For a long time, this group was my whole life. I had to start living on my own again. I managed to survive despite everything (Michael Monroe had serious drug problems and lost his wife about 20 years ago, editor's note).

You've been a musician for 40 years! Do you have any regrets about your career?

No, because if I had known what I know today, I would of course have done some things differently. But as long as we can't go back on what we did, there's no point in having regrets, it's not going to help you.

In that case, what do you think you should have done differently?

Oh, the list would be too long! I shouldn't have done this project, Jerusalem Slim, with Steve Stevens. It was one of the worst things in my career. We made a really bad album. There wasn't much I could do about it, but I took responsibility by letting this album come out. I think we're the creators of what's going on in our lives! What bothers me is that an album has been released from this project. Thank God we called this group Jerusalem Slim. There was not my name in the name of the group! It would have killed me! (Laughs).

Do you consider yourself a survivor of the glam era? Do you miss those years? It is a time that corresponds to a freedom that we no longer have.

I have more freedom now than I used to! The problem is that people have put the glam label on us with Hanoi Rocks, but we never said we were doing glam! For me, as soon as you give your music a name, it limits creativity and ruins the music. Labels, of course, encourage this phenomenon because they want to sell. In the 60s, 70s, and even in the early 80s, we didn't care if a band was doing heavy metal, black metal, grunge, or whatever! There was no marketing behind it. It encouraged the bands to make real music and have their own personalities. The albums of those years always sound better than today's albums, even though we have all the technologies that exist! All this is nothing compared to what we used to do before. I'm not saying that because I'm getting older and it was better before. For the moment, it was really better before! We were making music for the right reasons! And then, from the 90s, music became a business. In the grunge, Nirvana, a group that came out of nowhere, was a hit. And then all of a sudden, someone said it was grunge new wave, and then a lot of bands wanted to sound like them, but they never made it. What a waste of time! Let these guys make their music and play your music!


The name Michael Monroe immediately evokes rock'n' roll. Are you aware that your name has become a trademark in some ways? Steel Panther is a bit in the same situation. Do you consider yourself an heir of this kind?

I've never identified with glam. I was criticized because I wanted to get out of this fashion of putting labels on music. All that matters to me is music. I was asked a question today: "When did you first have a relationship with a groupie? ». But it's never happened to me in my whole life! I wouldn't spend the night with a perfect stranger and never see her again! Many rock singers, at least half of them, are complete idiots. Superficial, narrow-minded, selfish people... I'm here to prove that you don't have to be an idiot to be a rock singer! (Laughs). To answer your question, many bands of the 80s in this kind of music released at least one big hit. I don't, but it's not a problem. I do my thing no matter what! I don't make music to be adored or approved by people. I have always worked on my own terms without compromising my integrity. That's what I'm proud of. When I started my career, the most important thing for me was not to forget who I was, not to become a jerk, not to lose myself on the way.


On the other hand, bands like Mötley Crüe or Guns'N'Roses said they were influenced by Hanoi Rocks!

But Guns'N' Roses has kept its own sound and I am very happy with it! And Slash is the best guitarist in the world. They were able to draw inspiration from other groups in the right way. They were inspired by the attitude of the other groups while keeping their own style. They have a slightly heavier sound than Hanoi Rocks, but their sound is unique. They recognized that Hanoi Rocks was a big influence for them and they wanted people to hear about us. On the other hand, some groups have been inspired by us, but not in the good sense of the word, in a more superficial way. They made a mistake in the way they did it, which didn't stop some bands from selling millions of albums and having millions of fans. It's always flattering to hear that a band is influenced by you! But our only goal has always been to make music and to be honest in our approach. I don't care how many albums we sell. That's not what makes you happy. It's what you do that makes you happy, and you have to do things according to your own rules.

This new album ("One Man Gang") seems to be more of a group work than Michael Monroe's work alone. Is this the case?

Yes. It's a group effort.

Is that how you manage to maintain a certain inspiration despite the years?

In a way, yes. Fortunately, I don't have a big ego, and I don't try to control everything. We operate like a real band, even if our name is Michael Monroe.

Wouldn't you consider changing your name?

No. We started this group in 2009/2010. Michael Monroe is a well established name. Why create a new name that you will have to get used to? It would have taken two or three years for people to make the connection. Michael Monroe is a good name. I give everyone the opportunity to write as much as they want. There is a lot of talent and creativity in this group. I want to give everyone this freedom of creation. It doesn't matter who writes the songs as long as they're good! Many bands from the 80's that released big hits are now making albums just to go on tour behind. In the end, they don't play any songs from their new album, or maybe just one song. I would much rather be in my position where we create new music with the band. Most people say that my best albums are the ones from my solo career. I would agree with that. I prefer to be in this situation, to be enthusiastic and excited when I create.

Punk seems very important in your music too.  There is a guest of the group Captain Sensible on the album. There are also punk influences on'The Pitfalls Of Being An Outsider' and on'Black Ties And Red Tape'. Why is punk so important to you?

I think punk is the only genre that has gained to be clearly identified with a name in the music business. Before punk arrived, there were millionaire groups sleeping in castles cut off from reality. They made albums for themselves, with 20-minute solos. And then all of a sudden, some bands come out of nowhere without being excellent musicians, without being virtuosos, but they have something to say. They write things that mean something. Much like when rock'n' roll first appeared, they raised questions and challenged the things established to tell the truth. Bob Dylan is the one who started writing lyrics along these lines. It revolutionized the approach to composition. Punk was a kick in the ass for all those rich, complacent rock stars. It was something necessary.

And you also get a kick in the ass listening to songs like 'Junk Planet','Wasted Years' or 'Hollywood Paranoia'. These are direct songs written for the stage. There are melodies and choruses that stay in the lead. Like Motörhead, it sounds like you're making songs in that vein. Do you agree with that?

Yes, I agree!

The artwork represents the group in the corridor of a metro. The idea represented is strong, but at the same time, we are far from the clichés of the groups we mentioned earlier where we could see naked women on the covers, or whatever. Do you want to show that you are far from all these clichés?

Yes, in music and lyrics we always try to get out of clichés and reinvent what we do. We're trying to renew ourselves. It's something very important in this group.

We were saying earlier that some groups were inspired by yours, especially Guns'N' Roses. There are many books about your career. Would you like to have a biopic about you and your career?

There is one in reality, but it is in Finnish only! It was released in 2011. It is very different from what we usually read about rock'n' roll bands. It's not about turning your face over or anything, it's not about those annoying things. It was reissued a few years ago with an d part. It would have to be translated into English, but it is expensive. It would be nice if it could be published worldwide. Everyone has their biography now, even Britney Spears, she wrote a book about her life! On my side, I wasn't the type to party all the time and turn my head. I was more of a prayerful, more spiritual type. I spent my time trying to open my mind, rather than drinking and doing stupid things. I had difficulties too, but I'm still alive! At the beginning of the book, I say that I don't want people to do certain things that I could do too. But the book doesn't talk about drugs and all that, it really retraces my career. I have a pretty unique story, and I've had a lot of stories that people wouldn't have imagined!

We know that you are a great singer, but you also play the saxophone, and in particular on a track from the new Black Star Riders album. There are also guests on this new album. Is this all a way for you to stay inspired?

Yes, I like it when there is saxophone, harp... Not everyone can play these instruments! The saxophone adds a real color to the songs. On our album, there were 18 songs and I only kept 12 of them, there were a few songs that were not retained with saxophone. But they're too good to be just B-sides, so they'll be on the next album.

What do you expect from this new album?

Have fun! "All killers, no fillers" is my leitmotif (in French, it literally means that each track is a "slaughter", and none of them are there to do "filling", editor's note). If an album is not good enough, I don't release it. I want to be able to look at my career with a clear conscience and tell myself that I have remained true to myself so that I can fall asleep peacefully!

We started this interview by asking you what the question you had been asked too often was. On the contrary, what would you have liked to answer?

In 1985, a magazine had placed me 5th in their ranking of singers and 1st in the ranking of sex symbols! It embarrassed me because I didn't want to be known for being a sex symbol but for my singing!

Anyway, we were delighted to be able to talk to a rock'n' roll icon! Thank you very much!

Merci Beaucoup !

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