interview by Michael McCarthy
It’s no secret that Enuff Z’Nuff is my favorite band. My favorite solo artist is Butch Walker, but my favorite band is easily Enuff Z’Nuff. The band debuted in the late 80’s and had three modestly successful albums then you could say they vanished into obscurity. However, they proved to be even more prolific during their years out of the spotlight, releasing one melodic rock gem after another. The Beatles are arguably their biggest influence and they’ve never tried to hide it. In fact, they covered Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” on their album Seven and have covered a few songs from The Beatles’ catalog as bonus tracks on various albums. They’re also famous for some of their performances on Howard Stern’s show and they occasionally did The Beatles on Stern. Speaking of Stern, they’re Howard’s favorite band, too. You could call them a “hair band” because of when they debuted, and because they had long hair and started off super glam, but they were always leagues above other bands from back then. More like Cheap Trick than Poison, Cheap Trick being another big influence on the band. In any case, bassist/co-songwriter Chip Z’Nuff, who’s always sang a song or two on most Enuff Z’Nuff records, is currently at the helm of the band and in the following interview we discuss the current line-up, what happened with their former singers, and their forthcoming album Clowns Lounge, due out on December 2nd on the Frontiers. This interview was conducted in Chip’s van after their show with Tracii Guns on October 20th, 2016.
MM: You have a new album coming out on Frontiers on December 2nd. How did you connect with them?
CZN: Believe it or not, Michael, it was a miracle. I was sitting at home in my little town in Blue Island, Illinois, producing records for local bands and bands outside the State that are fans of Enuff Z’Nuff that liked our music and wanted a little touch of Enuff Z’Nuff on their album that thought maybe they’d come to me and I could help them. And I got a phone call from Derrick Shulman. Derrick Shulman is the guy that discovered Enuff Z’Nuff in 1988. Derrick used to be in a band called Gentle Giant and then he had his own imprint and ended up working with Polygram Records and ended up signing Bon Jovi. He heard our demo. Doc McGhee, who managed Enuff Z’Nuff, gave it to him and he loved the band. Flew to Chicago and signed the group. We had modest success with him. A couple of gold records and we left ATCO/Atlantic because we were in considerable debt. We owed three quarters of a million dollars to the label after selling a million records and we signed with Clive Davis and we’ve never seen Derrick again until fast forward twenty years later and he says I want to do an Enuff Z’Nuff album.
“I know Donnie’s not with the band right now,” he says. “And that you’re singing. However, if you have any stuff that you’re doing with Donnie – any music that you might have in the vault in your catalog of material – I’d love to hear it.” So, I sent him three songs. “Giving Good Love,” “Radio” and “Rockaby Dreamland.” And he loved it. He said let’s do a deal. And we were happy because we hadn’t been on a major label in 20 years. We started out with ATCO/Atlantic then we went over to Arista records with Clive Davis and then it was indie labels ever since. Mayhem, Spitfire, Caroline, and then, of course, Brian Perera over at Cleopatra Records.
MM: So, I take it you’re happy with Frontiers?[Frontiers] gave us a nice deal. They said, “Give us a record. Give us 12 songs.” And I went through extensively the whole catalog of stuff I had. I’ve got about six or seven Enuff Z’Nuff albums in the can. Demos are out here and there but nothing of great quality. And it was important to put a record out. And I want to make sure every Enuff Z’Nuff record, the fidelity’s strong and the songs are just as strong. And Donnie and I will not put a record out unless the songs are great and they sound good. After going in the studio for about two months – I went to Chicago Recording Company, my studio in Blue Island, Chip Z’Nuff studios, and Chris Diamond studios – a guy who works with Ozzy Osbourne and Styx and does all kinds of stuff – he’s got a place called Stonecutter – and between those three places I was able to do some overdubs and a little tweaking up the record, mixing and mastering, and we came up with Clowns Lounge. I think it’s a great collection of songs. It’s got a wonderful energy to it. We got together recently and started putting stuff together that might be a little different that showed a time in our lives when the band was very profound and prolific. We were writing a lot of songs and it just so happened that I had a batch of them that I thought were great and I wanted the fans to hear them.
MM: The press release said that you re-worked and re-recorded them. So, did you re-record old Derek Frigo tracks with the new guitarist or how did that work?
CZN: I didn’t touch Derek Frigo’s guitar parts because he’s a motherfucker on the guitar. There’s nothing to touch there. The guy’s brilliant. What I did do is I added. I added some rhythm guitar parts, some colored stuff, just to make it where it was a little more today. I tweaked up the bass a little bit because the bass was real low in the mixes. All these songs were recorded on two inch analogue. I was working off DAT tapes. So, it was very difficult. I could only add. I couldn’t subtract. But that was a nice challenge. The songs were already written – the skeleton was already there – I was just tweaking it up a little bit and giving it a little more punch and power and I think we accomplished that.
MM: Cool. I can’t wait to hear it. So, what’s the status with Donnie these days? Is he in the band? Is he out?
CZN: Donnie Vie’s never been out of Enuff Z’Nuff. He left for a while in 2013, which is sad. I never envisioned an ending for my brother and I. I love him dearly. I think – in my opinion and in other rock star’s opinion as well – he’s one of the greatest singers of our generation.
CZN: Not only a great singer but a wonderful writer and a fantastic musician. The guy can play any instrument there is. But basically in 2013 in Sesame Street terms he got disillusioned by the business. And he had some health issues and he’s been battling them ever since – please say a prayer for him. He’s been playing. I know he’s doing a solo record. He’s been coming up with ideas and he’s got wonderful songs. He does not need me when it comes to songs. He’s a great songwriter. However, together, we’re a pretty powerful team without sounding modest. He’s come up with some good stuff and hopefully we’ll hear another record out of him but right now I’m at the helm. I didn’t want this fucking job, OK? It’s not easy. Most bands out there – Journey, Styx, Foreigner, Stone Temple Pilots –they’ve got to go another place to find a singer. With all bands when the lead singer leaves everybody’s gotta find another singer. It doesn’t matter who it is. Enuff Z’Nuff? I’ve taken the template Genesis has left. When the singer left Genesis – the main guy – Phil Collins took over. Peter Gabriel was the singer in Genesis. He left, Phil Collins took over as lead singer. That’s the template I’ve taken with Enuff Z’Nuff. I’m gonna sing the songs. I’m not gonna find another guy to sing them.
There are other guys who could sing but who’s gonna sound as close to my brother as I am? I know the songs. I know his timbre. I don’t sing as good as he does. I’ve never known anybody that can. That guy’s a one-take mastermind. However, when he said he couldn’t come out and tour, he’s the one who said to me, “Chip, why don’t you go out and sing the songs? You wrote them with me. You sing them.” And I’m in the front now and the show starts and everybody goes, that’s Enuff Z’Nuff when they see my face and the top hat and the sun glasses, they go “Chip’s here” and they know that’s Enuff Z’Nuff. So, I always felt that was one of the familiar faces of the band and I’m grateful that the fans have given me a chance to move ahead and sing the songs and I hope that people enjoy it when they come out and see the show. I’ve got a terrific band. These guys kick ass. They’re all big leaguers. It’s a different day and age right now. There’s a lot of stuff that’s out there. A lot of things for people to pick from. But the Enuff Z’Nuff fans, you go to a record store, if you can find one, you won’t find anything in the used record bin of Enuff Z’Nuff because our fans buy the records and they keep them.
MM: Yeah. I was just looking on e-bay to get Strength on vinyl –
CZN: – You’re not gonna find it. You can find it through Rock Candy Records in England. We re-released through Warner Brothers the first two albums. The first album, the debut, with “New Thing” and “Fly High Michelle” and the second album with “Baby Loves You” and “Heaven or Hell,” Strength, you can get that with bonus tracks on both records through Rock Candy Records. That’s the only place I know where to get it. I got my copies.
MM: Johnny Monaco was your lead singer on and off for years. How come you never did an album with him?
CZN: Johnny Monaco, terrific guitar player, lead singer. He left the band. Early this year. I couldn’t get a hold of him for about a month, a month and a half. You can’t be in a band of this magnitude and not be able to talk to members of the band. He’s been disillusioned by the business as well. Although he made a good living with Enuff Z’Nuff. Don’t get me wrong. I gave him the keys to the car and the car’s designed with a front seat and a back seat and he sat in the front seat and we just couldn’t take it to the next level. Because there wasn’t enough work out there, that’s one reason. Another reason is he got disillusioned with playing small rooms. He decided that he needed to take at least six months off from the band. He also has some health issues with his fingers. He hurt his thumb and he had a trigger finger and he might have to go get an operation. Well, it just so happens after me waiting almost two months to talk to him, getting a text like that, it really shook me up. I thought, this could be the end of Enuff Z’Nuff. This is my whole life. This is the only fucking job I have. That’s all I do. I live and breathe Enuff Z’Nuff. I called him on the phone and talked to him. He said, “I’ve gotta leave. At least for six months.” I said I’ve got shows coming up. He goes, “That’s not much dates. You’ve got a dozen dates. That’s not much stuff. I can’t do them.” He didn’t say I can still go out and sing the songs. He said I’ve gotta leave the band.
MM: Wow. That’s a tough one.
CZN: So, after a night of thinking about it, sick to my stomach, not knowing what was going to happen with my life, I decided to give it a chance and sing the songs. I didn’t know I had it in me to do it. I co-wrote these songs. I’m singing on every Enuff Z’Nuff record with my little brother. Some songs lead, most of them just the harmonies, which are hard parts, of course, it’s very tedious. I called Tony Fenelle from Ultravox. A terrific guitar player and singer. I asked, “Tony, would you be interested in playing with me in Enuff Z’Nuff?” And he says, “Absolutely, mate. I fucking love your band.” My next call was to Tory Stoffregen. He used to play with Enuff Z’Nuff and took a break. For reasons we don’t need to talk about. He just needed to get away. And I said, “Tory, I’m gonna sing now. I’d love you to be in the band and play guitar.” He goes, “I’m in.” It was that simple. And the guys flew into Chicago. One rehearsal. We said, “Fuck, this sounds great. Let’s do it.” I said, “Let’s focus on the first three records. The ones that sold a lot. The ones that people know the songs. The one that Sirius XM plays on Ozzy’s Boneyard.”
Here’s the video for “New Thing,” the band’s debut single. Perhaps you’ll like the song better if you don’t watch the video…
MM: How did you connect with the new drummer?
CZN: The new drummer, Daniel Hill, I knew him from Chicago, he was in a band called Superbig, who were just finishing their record in the studio. I asked him, “Do you know anything about Enuff Z’Nuff?” I was just hired to play bass on the Superbig record. He said, “Oh, man, I love Enuff Z’Nuff. I love the songs.” I said, “Would you be interested in coming down and playing drums with us?” No audition. I knew he was a great drummer. He says, “I’d be honored.” And that was it. He came down and the rest is history. We had a drummer before him. We had Erik Donner playing drums before him and Erik, his father’s the late Ral Donner, Robert Plant’s favorite singer. When Zeppelin got inducted into the Hall of Fame they gave a shout out to Ral Donner as one of their biggest influences. So, he comes from rock royalty. But he’s got some health issues as well and he can’t go out and tour. So, here’s the line up right now: Daniel Benjamin Hill on drums, Tory Stoffregen on lead guitar, Tony Fenelle, formerly of Ultravox, on rhythm guitar and vocals and myself. That’s Enuff Z’Nuff now and that’s the way it’s staying, I hope for a while.
MM: Are you still based out of Chicago?
CZN: Still based out of Chicago and that’s where we make most of our records. We have a couple of singles on the record that are with the new band. The first single’s called “Dog On A Bone” and it’s us as we are right now and the rest of it’s an archival record, which features, basically, the original band, which is a treat for Frontiers to have a record with all the original guys.
MM: Is Chicago one of the places where they’ve legalized pot yet?
CZN: Chicago’s a city, Illinois is the State. I don’t really pay attention to that because I live in one of the most corrupt States in North America when it comes to substance abuse. It’s ridiculous, the laws. I don’t pay attention to that much because I don’t have a medical card. I’m a High Times Magazine Cannabis Cup judge though. But I never fell into drug abuse. I never tasted any of the bad stuff. As my grandfather would say, I’m one of the lucky ones. My band has done more cocaine than Guns ‘N’ Roses. We partied our ass off in the early days. But that’s one of the catalysts of these great songs that we have, too.
MM: Here in Massachusetts, they made pot legal for medical use, but then they’ve made it almost impossible for places to open to actually dispense it.
CZN: I know about this much: if you’re gonna open a medical dispensary it’ll cost you about half a million dollars to open it up. And remember, State law says you can sell pot, but federal trumps State. Anytime they want to snap and come in here and shut things down they’re welcome to do that. There’s no iron clad safe thing that you can do right now that I, and what my attorneys tell me, to have pot legalized where you’re completely safe. It’s a silly law. Alcohol has killed more people than pot. Pot doesn’t kill anybody. Alcohol has killed more people than anything but guns. It’s a debate that needs to be talked about, but I’m not one of the guys to talk about politics. I’m here to write songs and provide people with a chance to get away and let their hair down and hear good music and have a great time and remember the first time they fucked or the first time they went out and partied. The first time they went out on a boat. The first time they went fishing and heard our songs, you know? I’m here to bring back memories.
Strength is and always will be one of my favorite Enuff Z’Nuff albums. Arguably the most under-rated album by any band from the glory days of so-called hair metal…
MM: You have a song called “The Devil of Shakespeare” with Jani Lane and James Young. What’s the story with that song?
CZN: In 2005 my friend had a book he was putting out called The Devil of Shakespeare. He asked me to write a song for the book. He wanted to be the first writer to put a book out and have a CD inside of it with one song. The guy’s name is Billy McCarthy. He’s also known as Billy Dior. He was the former drummer in a band called D’Molls. They were on Atlantic Records. We grew up together, the same block. So, I wrote the song with him and we were gonna get Robin Zander to sing on it and Robin was gonna do it then his management company said Robin can’t do that. So, we reached out to Jani, the second guy we thought would be interested. We’ve always loved Jani’s voice. He was such a good friend of ours. And Jani said I’d love to come down to Chicago. He flew in from Los Angeles. He said, “I want to take a different approach on the song, guys. I want to sing it like David Bowie.” We said go right ahead and he nailed it. He did a great job. A wonderful version of the song. And then we had JY from Styx come down and play all the lead guitar parts. And, boy, no one plays the guitar like JY. Very under-rated guitar player. One of the better league guitar players that I’ve ever worked with in my life. I put him up there with the best. He’s got his own timbre. As soon as he hits a chord you know right away, that’s the fucking guy from Styx. It’s a great raw track. A little different than what’s on the record. I thought it would be a nice added piece on the record for Jani’s family and his fans to hear one of the last songs he recorded.
MM: The artwork on the cover of Clowns Lounge reminds me of the drawings Donnie did for Animals With Human Intelligence. Did he draw the cover?
CZN: No, but he had the idea. He called me and said we need to come up with a title for the record and I wrote 10 titles down for the record. My top 10. And number four was Clowns Lounge because in our early days we were recording our records in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and Donnie and I used to hang out at a place called Clowns Lounge. A promiscuous club slash strip club. And we only went there once in a while because management wanted to keep us away from alcohol and substance abuse. But we’d sneak in there every once in a while and hang out and that’s where the title came from. Because the songs were all written around that era.
MM: You covered Prince’s “When Doves Cry” on Dissonance and you previously covered Bowie’s “Jean Genie.” How affected were you by their deaths?
CZN: Well, Prince, one of the greatest artists of all time. Wonderful songwriter. And the only reason I did the Prince song was I met him one day and he goes, “How you ‘fellas doing?” And I said, “We’re doing great, man. We’re just trying to write another hit like you.” And in front of his people he says, “Why don’t you just do one of my songs?” And everybody laughed and we were embarrassed, of course. And then I went back – we were recording in Las Vegas with Jake E. Lee – and I told our manager at the time, Ryan Johnson, I said, “Ryan, should we do a cover song on the record?” He said, “Yeah.” He said, “Do ‘Doves Cry’ by Prince.” I said, “You’re kidding me. You think so?” Donnie’s like, “We’re not doing that fucking song.” And when he was in the studio I recorded it and the next day Donnie came down to the studio and he heard it and I talked him into playing guitar on it. He was very reluctant to do it. But when all was said and done he was real happy.
And same thing with the Bowie thing. The Bowie song, we never did it in concert. I always wanted to do a Bowie song and I knew all the words to “Jean Genie” – there are quite a few words, it’s a tongue twister – and Donnie and I recorded it in Chicago in one night. Live. I did minimal over-dubs. When Bowie passed away I was so grateful that I had a chance to record one of his songs and put it on a record. I met Bowie when I was 21 years old. Before I put together Enuff Z’Nuff in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And I remember he was charming to a fault. You could feel his aura. I shook his hand – he doesn’t like touching people, I don’t think, but I met him through my sister and he was very, very kind. I’ve seen him in concert quite a few times. I’m a huge Bowie fan. I know the whole catalog. Mick Ronson, one of my favorite guitar players. Just grateful that we put a song out that showed our influences. That’s why we did those cover songs. Not because we didn’t have material. We did it because we wanted to show our influences on our sleeve. And those are big artists that left an indelible mark on us.
MM: If you could bring back any one musician from the dead, who would you bring back?
CZN: Freddie Mercury of Queen. Seen Queen four times. I have Night At The Opera at my house signed by the whole band except for Brian May and Brian told a friend of mine recently, “Have Chip bring it out to me and I’d be glad to sign it for him.”
MM: What’s the strangest gift you’ve ever received from a fan?
CZN: I’ve received quite a few gifts from fans, you know? Bras, underwear, etc. Probably the strangest gift I’ve ever gotten – and I’m not sure it’s a gift – but somebody gave me a vial of her blood. On a necklace. I thought that was interesting. It wasn’t my favorite gift, but obviously, they felt it was important to give it to me. And any gift is a nice gift, OK?
MM: What’s the best gift you’ve ever received from a fan?
CZN: One of the best gifts was from Billy Sheehan from Mister Big. I went over to his apartment one day in Los Angeles on my birthday and Billy Sheehan gave me a 12 string Hammer bass guitar for my birthday. The thing had to be worth 3, 4, 5000 dollars at the time. If I had the bass right now, I could sell it for 20 grand. That was a really great gift and what I ended up doing with that bass – I did David Letterman a couple of times and I got to be friends with Will Lee and I traded it to Will Lee for one of his basses. I couldn’t play the 12 string. It wasn’t set up properly for me. But I’ll never forget Billy Sheehan giving me that gift on my birthday. I love him to this day and he’s one of the greatest bass players I’ve ever worked with. I’ve toured with him. He’s a funny guy. And just a great human being.
MM: What’s the first album you ever bought with your own money?
CZN: First album I ever bought with my own money would probably be Creedance Clearwater Revival. It was a 45 though. It was “Sweet Hitchiker.” That was the first 45 I ever bought. The first album I ever bought with my own money was probably the first Queen record with “Keep Yourself Alive.” Queen I, it was called.
MM: Tell us three things from your bucket list that you’ve yet to do?
CZN: One is have a multi-platinum record. Two, do a long tour with Cheap Trick. We’ve played with Cheap Trick. We’ve toured with them three, four shows in a row. But do a proper tour with Cheap Trick, that would be terrific. And last but not least… Hmm. There are so many good things I could bring up. Stay healthy? Is that a bucketlist? For me and the fans both, not just myself. Stay healthy and continue to have people come out and support us.
MM: One last question. If someone was giving you a million dollars to give to charity and it could only go to one charity or cause who would you give it to?
CZN: It would have to go to St. Jude’s Hospital. They help little kids who have cancer and leukemia and different diseases. That’s where all the money would go to.
Special thanks to Chip Z’Nuff for doing this interview!