interview by Michael McCarthy
I rarely do this, but I, your editor here at Love is Pop, have to start off this introduction on a personal note. Recently, like most people, I’ve been feeling down. As you all know, it’s hard to be cheerful when there’s a global pandemic killing thousands of people every day. And I’m bipolar, which means my lows are really, really low. Being stuck in the house for a month now, I’ve felt myself slowly sinking into a very dark place. And the more I try to resist some days, the faster I’m sucked into it, like I’m being crushed by emotional quicksand. I’m telling you this because I reached a point where I was starting to scare myself and I desperately needed to do something to cheer myself up. Well, I’d been itching to interview Donnie Vie of Enuff Z’Nuff fame again ever since we spoke last August and I sensed that he was a kindred spirit. So, I decided to aim high and see if he’d be up for another chat. I wasn’t sure he would be, given the state the world was in, but I had to ask. And, as you can see below, he was interested. In fact, we had quite an in-depth discussion, covering everything from his getting back involved with Chip Z’Nuff and Enuff Z’Nuff to his solo career to some of those classic Enuff Z’Nuff records we all know and love. And, yes, thankfully, doing this interview gave me one heck of a natural high and I’ve been on it ever since.
Now, it occurs to me that some people reading this may not be familiar with Donnie Vie or Enuff Z’Nuff. In a nutshell, Donnie and bass player Chip Z’Nuff founded Enuff Z’Nuff in the mid-80s and they made a killer power-pop album called 1985 before being swept up by Atlantic Records and delving more into the hard rock direction for their official, self-titled debut, which contained the hit singles “New Thing” and “Fly High Michele.” The album received rave reviews and earned them lots of famous fans ranging from Paul Stanley of Kiss to the one and only Howard Stern, the latter of which has often proclaimed them his favorite band. Their sophomore effort, Strength, received equally positive reviews and garnered them even more fans. And the same continued to happen as they released album after album, proving to be much more prolific than their peers. Although, I’m using the word peers loosely because Enuff Z’Nuff never really fit in with other bands who rose to fame when they did, being much more inspired by bands like Cheap Trick and The Beatles than, say, Motley Crue or Def Leppard.
In addition to his work with Enuff Z’Nuff, Donnie has released several solo albums, his total body of work consisting of roughly 20 records, including last year’s brilliant Beautiful Things, which is a must-hear for anyone who loves colorful pop-rock with killer hooks and moving vocals. I’ve included that and many of my other favorite records Donnie has made with this interview and hope that you’ll give some of them a listen as you read it.
MM: Thanks so much for doing this with the pandemic going on and everything. Do you remember when you first heard about Covid-19?
DV: When I first heard about it? Shit, probably when everybody else did. I don’t remember exactly.
MM: Are you still living in the Chicago area?
DV: Yeah. I don’t want to get too detailed on that, but, yeah, I’m in the Chicago area.
MM: Are you living alone or do you have anyone keeping you company?
DV: No, I’ve got like a little family here with me.
MM: Very cool. Is your State officially under stay at home orders right now or have they lifted that?
DV: I don’t know the extent of that order here because if I’m not doing something or going to the store or something I don’t do anything anyway. [Laughs] I stay at home anyway. I don’t look for trouble so I don’t get stressed out about it because I stress out easily over things. I’ve got bad anxiety so I just kind of stay off the news like that.
MM: So, the big news is that you and Chip Z’Nuff are friends again.
DV: Well, we never weren’t friends. We never weren’t brothers. There were just issues that we didn’t see eye to eye on. And we still have those issues. It’s just, I don’t know, it kind of put that into perspective of where the love and friendship is still and separate the two. There’s still a lot of issues that need to be worked out. Little legalities and things like that. And points of view and things, but I wanted to first and foremost get the bad blood – the pollutant – out of it so we could at least speak and things. And I had to talk to him about the agenda that he was flying under. Because this whole thing that we do, it starts out for us because it’s a goal or a dream or a passion or something of ours, and it always stays that, but after you’ve gotten so many records and so many loyal, dedicated, die-hard fans that keep you in existence throughout 30 years, that becomes the priority. That’s who we’re doing this for now. We did this. We did our thing. We know what we can do. It becomes a what would they want, what would the fans like? And I firmly believe that I know what the fans want. It’s obvious what they would want. But I’m questioning what is his agenda. What is he doing this for? And I’m still not sure that we’ve settled it yet. Like I said, we’ve just opened the doors to communication back up. We tracked a song. I think the best way to ease back into this was through the music. That’s how we got involved. I thought that would be the best way to start to rekindle. That’s when you grow a bond, putting something like that together. It kind of was my idea because I know he’s putting out another Enuff Z’Nuff record.
MM: I figured it was getting to be time for that.
DV: I had put it out there that if you’re going to continue to do these Enuff Z’Nuff records and call it Enuff Z’Nuff, seeing as how I’m the main writer and the vocalist of the band from what you recognize when you hear it I should [be involved]. You can obviously tell from listening to his new record that he wasn’t the main writer and he wasn’t the main vocalist. I said, if you’re gonna continue to do this it should uphold the standards and the integrity and the reputation, which is the only thing we ever really got out of this career. We never got rich. We didn’t get any abundance of fame or anything like that. But we did have quite the repertoire of great songs and consistently. It wasn’t like there was “that’s their shitty album” or this and that. I believe that every one of the records continue to grow and evolve and, in my eyes, get better.
MM: I’ve actually been listening to 1985 a lot lately. I just decided to put that one on one day recently and I’ve been listening to it every day for a week now.
DV: That’s kind of where it all began right there. We had some demos up until then but that was the first studio recordings we did.
MM: How come that one wasn’t released as your debut album?
DV: Because that wasn’t the initial line-up. Those were more or less recorded as demos to shop because there was local radio and things like that going down before we got a deal. We got involved with that and we were on there and got airplay and things like that and by the time we put the new line-up together and got the record deal it was time to make a record. We had so many more, better songs. And the old kind of drops out of the bottom and none of them made the cut.
MM: Well, I’m glad you ended up releasing it eventually. I really love that one.
DV: He’ll find a way to release everything. [Laughs]
MM: Were you involved with that last back catalog album, Clowns Lounge, at all?
DV: Yeah, those were our early demos before the first record. And anything that has to do with me, he has to work with me on that. He has to include me in. I have to be in on the approval and agreements and signing things. So, that’s what that was. I wasn’t any longer in the band and it was some kind of deal he was putting together. I was in a lengthy rehabilitation program at that time so we didn’t have much correspondence. We had to go through other people, actually. But I agreed to do that. I came up with the title for it as well and got my buddy Lee Stokes to do the artwork because Chip has never been famous for his great album covers or album titles or anything like that.
MM: The song that you’re working on, is that something just for you guys that you’re just doing for the enjoyment of it or is that something you’re intending on releasing?
DV: Well, he’s putting out a new Enuff Z’Nuff record in July. I wasn’t aware that it was that soon because I was hoping to get this door opened back up [first]. I am happier, artistically, doing what I’m doing now, my own thing, which is basically what I’ve always done, but without quote-unquote handcuffs on.
MM: You don’t feel like you have to live up to certain expectations or boundaries.
DV: Or have to compromise anything for someone who I feel doesn’t necessarily know as much about what he’s talking about or necessarily share the same vision. And it’s all about the creativity for me so I’m happier this way. When we started talking, I’m not sure how that all started. It started with a happy birthday text, but I know that he was served with some legal paperwork that he had to respond to so I think this might’ve been his way to respond. When it comes down to just me and him talking, I’m a fucking pushover. Anybody is when they talk to this guy. This guy could talk the paint off the walls. He could talk a dog off a meat truck. And so I have to keep management and things like that involved here. But, no, this song is going on that new record, yeah.
MM: Do you think you’ll end up doing the whole album?
DV: Well, the way I look at it, let’s see what happens here. I think this move will be a big move as far as it’ll speak volumes to the fans and to the public and stuff. They’ll see the difference clearly. When you’ve got one thing that stands out on a record that is clearly the thing that you’re known for and God only knows – I haven’t heard the rest of it – but I could imagine. One thing that puzzles me, though, is that he’s doing a solo record, too. And I’m like, what’s the difference between that and what you’re calling Enuff Z’Nuff right now? If you were dead, I still wouldn’t call what I was doing Enuff Z’Nuff. It’s not. It’s not him and me. And regardless of how much input he had or whatever, it still was the two of us. And he doesn’t see things quite the same way. So, once again, we get back to, what’s the agenda?
MM: It would be cool if you guys did another whole album together.
DV: I have the material. Because I write a lot of stuff and I’m writing the poppier stuff, but the newer stuff that I’ve been writing since that record has gone back to the heavier and that’s why I have plenty of stuff to choose from with this. I sent him a couple and he immediately got back and said, I want to do this one. I already had cut it as a demo so I sent him the demo and he added his parts to it and sang on it and then I replayed my parts and we sent it out to my buddy Vinny Castaldo, who played drums and produced and engineered everything for Dissonance, our last Enuff Z’Nuff record, and so he picked it up and it’s amazing.
MM: Can we say what the title is?
DV: Yeah, it’s “Strangers In My Head.”
MM: Is it about anything in particular?
DV: It’s kind of about how everybody hears these little voices in their head. Mine tells me to set things on fire. [Laughs] I’m kidding. But we all have these strange little voices in our head that tell you to do this and that and kind of urge you to do things. That’s basically what it is.
MM: You’d been having some trouble with your hands last time we talked. How have they been doing lately?
DV: They’re back to normal. Everything is good there. I’m playing fine now. As good as I ever did. I’ve never been an amazing player, but I can play as well as I have.
MM: When we spoke last August and your hands had been bothering you, you said you were going to focus on just singing when you performed live now. Has that changed at all?
DV: I’m conflicted with that. Because my main instrument – besides writing – is singing. And we just were getting ready, starting rehearsals for my new band to get out and play and the shows were already booked and stuff and now they have to be rescheduled. And I’m conflicted because it looks cooler and I feel sort of natural playing the guitar. But in order to really sing and do my best, especially getting older now and stuff, I’m much better just concentrating on vocals. And breaking out the acoustic for a couple of songs and playing the piano for a couple of songs and mainly being the frontman. I think that might be the way I’m gonna go, just with the occasional guitar. I’m gonna have two guitar players.
MM: I don’t know if you know them, but Chip has two solid guitar players in his band right now, too.
DV: Yeah, they’re very good players. I played with Tory [Stoffregen] when I was in Enuff Z’Nuff for a few years. I thought he was an amazing player. He’s really full. A great lead guitar player and a really, fat, full rhythm guitar player and so when we first started that line-up out, that was after another long hiatus where I wasn’t with the band for six years then I came back to that and went to the first rehearsal and I was playing and he was playing and I thought, he’s covering all the rhythm as well with the colors and the solos. It sounded really well. I put the guitar down and went through a few songs without it and I said, I don’t think I need to be playing. This will be a little more fun and a little easier for me to not have to worry about that, too. And I started just singing and I kind of liked that.
MM: With the Enuff Z’Nuff record, are there songs where Chip already wrote the music and you would just write the lyrics or would you write all new songs from scratch starting with you?
DV: I haven’t heard any of the record except for that track and I wrote the song and he’s playing on it. That’s what it started to turn into through the years by the time we wrote Dissonance pretty much I was writing the songs and he was just playing on them. Adding little suggestions here and there.
MM: I just didn’t know if he came to the table with a plan where he already had five songs or something already written in terms of the music and he just wanted you to write the lyrics and sing on them or something.
DV: No. In the past, if he had songs, he would try that. I don’t know what the deal was. It usually was the better stuff made the records. And the better stuff would naturally be the stuff that I had written. When we wrote together, it would be that he would show me something like an idea that he had but, like I said, it’s a bonding thing and out of that, the bonding and the love for that, I would take that idea and roll with it and, yeah, eventually I’d write all the lyrics and whatever his idea was – if it was a chorus idea, I’d polish up the chorus and write the rest of it or if it was a verse I’d do the same thing. That was a successful relationship. Now there’s been songs where ego’s gotten in the way with him. His own ego and whatever it was. He’d kind of sneak in with my drummer, Ricky, thinking he was gonna get one. He would try to go about it that way, tracking. So, then I kind of have no choice. That’s the kind of shit I can’t deal with. Where you put me in positions like that where it’s all after the fact and I’m left with no choice or say so in the matter.
MM: Is that how he’d get a song like “My Heroin” onto the album? He’d just make it then you’d have to go with it?
DV: That was one he did like that, but see then I came in and heard it and it was just him singing with an acoustic guitar. Everything else you hear during that song, I applied. A song like “Freak,” it goes, “I’m a freak,” that’s a song he went in and tracked it. I’m listening to his ideas and after I heard them I’m like, what is this? He’s playing it and singing along with it and I’m like, Chip, are you planning to sing this song? He’s like, well, I don’t know. I’m like, well, I’m the singer in the band so I should be singing. I’m like, why didn’t you bring this to me first? Because we could’ve worked it out a little bit better, made the arrangement a little better. So, here I’m stuck with something that’s etched in stone. There’s a problem with that song that most people might not recognize right off the bat but now that I mention it you probably will and there’s no second chorus. It goes right to a bridge. Because that wasn’t the way he had it structured. And as soon as I heard the thing and it was playing, I’m a melodic machine and I started singing something over his music and he was like, oh, that’s great, let’s do that. I was like, that’s how we do things, Chip. I don’t know why you’re trying to do things this back-handed way.
MM: Yeah, I’d think it would be easier for both of you to just sit down together and work on it.
DV: All that is, is just causing friction. Just fucking focus on what works and get rid of this self-agenda. Because that has no place in this. And he can be very upset and very hard to work with. It’s not for the better of the songs, which means it’s not for the better of the band and it’s not the way you go about things, you know? So, I’m left to do the best I can with what we’ve got there. There are other songs like “Ain’t It Funny” or “Sanibel Island” or “Falling In Love Again” or these other songs where he would show me his idea and I could do my thing to it and properly construct and arrange the song. Not just add my ideas but properly arrange it and construct it so it makes sense when you record it. I think the issue with us is that I believe I am more of an artist than he is. He’s more of a player and a quote-unquote rock star. I’m the artist, I consider, in the band, so that’s where I have a lot more instinct and I come at things from a smarter and more artistic approach that makes more sense. This stuff just comes to me naturally and it doesn’t with him and he’ll struggle with it and I won’t. So, why are you gonna struggle with it when you just bring it to your singer, your writer/singer/partner, and it turns into what you’re known for? Now those songs are among my favorite Enuff Z’Nuff songs because I like the collaboration. I always liked the collaboration. First of all, he’s gonna put his name on my shit anyway. So, I liked at least if his name belonged on it and I liked having the camaraderie and the partnership and I liked the ideas where it would start in a different direction for me than I would’ve just naturally just thought of out of thin air. When I have something to start with and work with, that’s fun.
MM: Are you working on a new solo album right now, too?
DV: I have two new singles that are ready to release. That’s another place where I’m on the fence. I’m not seeing the practicality these days of releasing a whole CD anymore. It costs a lot of money to do it, getting the funding for that is tricky. Going directly to the fans with the Pledge thing, in the end, it was a success because of all the sacrifices that I had to make to turn it into a success, but I got fucked completely, you know what I mean? And the fans felt fucked for a while until they finally got their product and everything. Which I really wasn’t obligated to fulfill anymore once the Pledge took all their money. I didn’t get it. I didn’t get any of the money they pledged. The Pledge took it and ran. I made sure that they got all of their stuff. Pledge took the money and didn’t cover the expenses or anything. I was well over the goal and I would’ve made money and I probably would’ve used that money to promote it and the record could’ve had a lot better life. It didn’t get the proper life that it should’ve had. And so, to answer your question, I’m not giving up on that record yet. Because everyone who’s heard it thinks it’s amazing.
MM: It is. I definitely think so.
DV: And so do I. And I’m thinking with the launching of the new live band and the singles I can breathe some new life and support that record once again. More people need to hear that record.
MM: I agree. That would be very cool. But just out of curiosity, you mentioned that you already had 30 songs demoed for the next album when we spoke before. Have the songwriting gods continued to bless you? Or have you had any bouts of writer’s block at all?
DV: I wouldn’t say that I ever have writer’s block. It’s more of a matter of when they come they come and when they don’t I don’t sit down and try to force them. First of all, because when they do come they come in a big wave and there’s a lot of them and the ones that I can’t even tend to yet, I have the ideas down so I can go back and revert to the ideas when I have more time to record songs. So, there’s no per se writer’s block.
MM: They just come to you when they’re ready.
DV: When they come, there’s no doubt about it. They’re there. I know it’s there. It just comes in my head and I’m driven to track it. I have to do this because something’s telling me, here’s this song, and I have to record it. I’ve got everything you said back then plus a bunch more. It slowed down a bit because my attention has been divided in more directions. I still have so much shit to do. This isn’t that much downtime for me because I’ve got these online concerts I’ve gotta get to. I’ve got these video things. These personal videos where I did a thing where you request a song and I’ll make a video of me performing it by myself, but I’m taking that a step further. I’m tracking some backing tracks to these things. I’m not just sitting there with an acoustic guitar. I’ll have some drums behind me and I’ll have some keyboards and do a little bit of bass and maybe some harmonies and stuff in the background filling it out. But I’m still playing it live. But that’s the deal. I still have a lot of those to do. Especially for these concerts. I’m gonna do one for a United States time zone, another one for the Europe time zone and another one for the Japan time zone. So, it’ll be three days in a row. And I’ve gotta get all of the backing tracks done for those.
MM: And when are those?
DV: Well, I had the first show scheduled for May 23rd so I think that we’re slated to do it around that time. And that first show has been rescheduled for August. I don’t know if it’s gonna happen yet. You’ve gotta plan as if it’s going to. A lot of people already got their tickets and the venue didn’t want to just cancel because they didn’t want to return all the money and so we rescheduled it. But probably towards the end of May.
MM: What do you record your demos on? Do you track them to a computer with Pro-Tools or do you use an old 8 track machine or what’s the method to your madness?
DV: Well, I haven’t used the old 8 track machine since years and years and years ago. I use a Mac. A regular, standard Mac. I don’t like Pro-Tools. I know that’s the industry standard. I’m not technically savvy, but I’m learning and I’m better than I give myself credit for. So, I started out basically using Garage Band. But there’s a lot to be said sometimes for your first performances on things and with Garage Band it was very difficult to take these tracks and put them in another session, like a Pro-Tools session or something, so I upgraded that to Logic because Logic is like Pro-Tools on steroids. It’s the same basic principles and if you know Garage Band you can start to get your way around Logic. But those Logic file sessions can be saved and exported. They’re in the same kind of format as a Pro-Tools session.
MM: Oh, cool, I didn’t know that.
DV: They’re swappable. They’re a much more user-friendly program. I’m not a scientist or a technician or mister engineer. I’m learning. I’m taking some courses online. Some tutorials and stuff at it. But I always like to do my job and send it up to somebody to do what they do best, you know what I mean?
MM: Sure. So, have you written any songs that are inspired by the pandemic at all?
DV: No, not really. That’s not how it works with me. These songs, when these songs come into my head, they have an idea of their own. I listen to that and follow what it’s telling me it wants to be.
MM: What’s the name of the last song you wrote and what is it about?
DV: The last song I wrote? It’s called “Motion in the Ocean.” You put the motion in the ocean. It’s about a person in my life who’s been very devoted and very supportive and very loving and has really made a difference of life and death to me. It’s a song aimed at that whole thing.
MM: That sounds like it would be a great one to release at some point.
DV: Yeah, it’s a really good one. I like it.
MM: In our previous interview, you said you’d like to use Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. from Jellyfish a lot more on your next album. Have the two of you been in touch at all lately?
DV: A little bit. I’ll get a message from him or I’ll send him a message. Just, what’s going on, what are you up to? Things like that. Because I’d always been a fan of his. And he’s in a thing right now called Lickerice Quartet with another buddy of mine, Eric Dover, from way back, and he sent me some stuff and I sent him some stuff. Guys like Roger, when there’s no pandemic are out there working constantly if they’re not doing their own thing. We’ve never gotten that close of where we could have conversations like a partnership or anything like that. Basically, I hired him to play on “I Could Save The World,” but after he did what he did I would definitely be hiring him back. It would be great if he ever wanted the favor returned. I would be totally up for that and see what happens in the future. Like I said, we’re touching base a lot more than we ever had because I had never even really spoken to him until I hired him for that.
MM: The great Jake E. Lee played on several songs on the Dissonance album. Was he ever going to be a member of the band or was that strictly a studio collaboration from day one?
DV: That was strictly a studio thing. He hadn’t been doing anything for ages, but he lives out in Vegas and my buddy Vinnie who owns the studio that we did the record at, Jake and him are pretty good friends and he would hang out there. One day I was there and I was doing a song called “Joni Lynn” and I asked Jake, hey man, would you blow a solo on this one? Because he was there and we were partying a bit. And he did and I said, man… That kind of started the idea wheel. And Vinnie got him to play and he pretty much reinforced a lot of the guitar work on that record. Originally, I played all the guitar on it. And Jake came in and he didn’t recut them, but he added to it. Reinforced it and fattened it up with some better technique and tones and did his thing to it. But Jake and I are like venus and mars from different planets. He’s a great guy, though. We got along very well. We did one of our first national tours with Badlands.
MM: Is he somebody you would hire again?
DV: Jake is great, but I don’t really need to hire somebody per se for recording. I’ve done all the Enuff Z’Nuff since Derek was gone. I did all that guitar and played everything. I’m just not as technically great as a player as somebody who’s considered a guitar player. I’m considered a singer then I’m a guitar player then I’m a keyboard and piano and stuff like that. But a guitar player, like for my live band, I’ve got a couple of guys I’ve hired and we can’t wait to get started again. People will know who that is once we do the first show. I don’t want to say anything too soon and that have that not turn out to be the case.
MM: But suffice to say that there are names in the hat that people would recognize?
DV: Yeah. Two guys. If you’ve got your finger on the pulse of what’s going on, you’ll know who these guys are. Very good players.
MM: You recently posted a cover of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” on Facebook, which I thought was pretty cool –
DV: – I’m reposting that. That kind of leaked out. It wasn’t finished. I had just done the first draft of it and sent it to my manager and a couple other people just to hear where I was at with it. And there was a miscommunication. The only reason I did that song is because it was a challenge from my new manager. We were just talking one day about how I could do this or I could do that and he’s like, you probably couldn’t do anything modern. I said, well, who’s the biggest artist? And he said, well, Taylor Swift is one of the biggest ones. He said, I’ll challenge you to cover a Taylor Swift song. So, I put everything on hold and I took a look and asked the fans what would be a good song for me to do of hers and a lot of people came up with “Shake It Off.” I heard it, and I was like, oh, shit, I could hear me writing that song. This would be a perfect one. But there’s like two billion plays on that song on Youtube. So, people are going to be very critical about something like that. It got leaked when it wasn’t finished and it got like 5000 views in one hour so I had to have it pulled down. I said, that’s not done. It’s since been finished and it’s mixed and everything. So, my manager’s going about it the right way. Getting an official release. I’m gonna post it and release it and see what happens. It’s a pretty cool version.
MM: What are your thoughts on performing live again now that this virus is out there?
DV: I’m looking forward to it. I mean, of course, this isn’t gonna last forever. Guys are gonna get back to work again. I’d like to get my live band out and playing, working to support the record. Like I had a new single ready to come out when the pandemic hit and it’s called “Party Time” and it was hardly party time so we had to hold that one back and I’ve got a different one that I’m gonna release, that I’ll probably release pretty shortly. I’d like to get out and play. And Chip and I have talked about doing some events where I would sing with that band. But he’ll play every fucking night everywhere. Like an Ace Frehley tour for less than a thousand bucks a night, six nights a week. And there’s no point in that. Because most fans aren’t there to see Enuff Z’Nuff. They’re there to see Ace Frehley. And they hear “Fly High” and “New Thing” and then they know who the band is. And it doesn’t matter as much who’s singing as long as they’re hearing the songs. When it comes to an actual Enuff Z’Nuff concert, those I think should be me singing. Whether we do a Japan run or a UK run or something like that, that should be me singing. That should be with the band. And if you don’t hear me – if I’m not doing any of those – it won’t be because I don’t want to do them.
MM: Why would it be?
DV: Because he just chose that he’d rather do it himself.
MM: That sucks.
DV: He did go and legally purchase the name. He went and bought the name and the sole rights to use the logo and name and everything, which now if I were to want to use that I would probably get some flack from them but I wouldn’t give a fuck. I would use it. I would say, you did that underhandedly and you had no business using that any more than I would. If anything, if anybody should own that, it should be me. So, if I wanted to do that, I could go out and do the same thing. Now that there’s two Enuff Z’Nuffs out there, I think that’s a conflict of interest and that’s not benefitting anybody, especially the fans. Personally, I think my version would blow his version away because I’m the singer and the writer. Definitely. That’s what they want to see, you know?
MM: I know you had said that you didn’t want to be out touring every night because it would be bad for your health and sobriety. So, if he did offer you 100 dates next year if the virus is gone or whatever, would you be interested in that? Or do you think that would be more than you could handle at this point?
DV: It would depend on what those dates were. It would depend on the reason why he was doing those dates. Is he just out there just to be out playing and playing in venues that hold 300 people with 50 to 100 people in them and making shit money? That, no, I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in doing stuff that’s more quality over quantity. Less shows but better. But say something happened like we’re doing a new licensing deal to try to get all of the Enuff Z’Nuff distribution into one house. We’re just doing a deal with ‘85 and Dissonance right now, which is another reason we started talking again, and with all of that put under one place, if a song did something or this new song did something and there was some heat under it and there was a reason to actually do these shows, like we would be playing nice venues to decent crowds every night then that’s something that I would probably very much consider. But if it’s going out there like he’s been doing, over-saturating, that I wouldn’t do.
MM: And a lot of the shows he’s doing, he’s the opening act. And not only that, he does the exact same set every night.
DV: Yeah, I know. [Laughs] That was another issue we had back in those days. I was like, I don’t want to do the exact same set. That’s the same set we’ve been playing for 20 years. I’m into giving the most bang for the buck to the fans. And I need to be able to enjoy it. So, playing a variety of those songs, there are 260 Enuff Z’Nuff songs and I want to be able to enjoy myself. Because if I’m not enjoying it and I’m just punching the clock how am I gonna sell it to anybody else? But what he’s doing, I don’t even see the point in that. What is the point in you going out when you’re not the lead vocalist – at least not on these songs – and those songs, our actual die-hard fans don’t want to hear that setlist anymore and they don’t want to hear you singing them and they don’t want to see the bad blood between you and me. It’s disheartening and it’s disillusioning and it’s counterproductive. It’s devaluing the name and the reputation.
MM: Good point.
DV: Once you play somewhere for 800 bucks, that’s what you become worth. But I don’t do that.
MM: I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t. And it’s like when there were two L.A. Guns. It was like, people want Phil and Tracii together. That’s always been the core. People want to see you and Chip together when they want to go see Enuff Z’Nuff. They don’t want to just see half the band. Or the band with the backup guy singing lead.
DV: Yeah, those other guys aren’t on anything that are in Enuff Z’Nuff. Who the hell are those guys? It’s just him and he’s not the singer for Enuff Z’Nuff or the guy who wrote all the stuff that people love. I don’t see the point of that except that he just wants to be out playing as much as he can. So, we have differences of opinion and agenda. I’m all about, if I was a fan, what do I want to see? That’s where my head is at. Now, it’s fortunate for me that I happen to be the guy that they would want to see. So, I’m not conflicted with that. With my own personal vanity getting in the way of making smart decisions. Like I said, and I could go over this a million times, I don’t see what his agenda is. There’s only one thing I can deduce from what he’s doing and that’s that his agenda is for him. Whether he believes that or not is another question. He’s a unique character. I sometimes question, does he actually believe the things he’s saying? [Laughs]
MM: I hear you. I’ve met him a bunch of times and interviewed him and he’s definitely a character. I love him, but he’s definitely a character.
DV: You can tell by interviewing him and interviewing me, you can tell what I’m telling you is what you want to hear. This is the real deal. He’s kind of a politician out there selling you a speech.
MM: I love him, but I can see your point.
DV: Yeah, he can make anybody feel like they’re his best friend at that time. He has that gift. He really has that gift. I’m more authentic. He plays the game very well.
MM: Hey, how did a brilliant song like “Fingertips” not make the Animals album when it was first released and wind up a B-side?
DV: The record had already been slated and picked and chosen. And there were already the two power ballads on it. And as far as Clive [Davis] was concerned, all he cared about was those two power ballads. I can continue writing and I kept writing throughout that whole tracking and mixing period and just kept coming up with more. And we were like, we can keep adding songs all day long but we had to pick some and commit. But we tracked it because it was a really good song and we happened to be there and we had the studio time. It was gonna be saved for the future, but the way things went down we just used up what we had and finished up that situation.
MM: I always wondered why there were two producers on that album. There was one guy who did most of it then Richie Zito seemed to produce the songs that were the real single-oriented tracks if I recall correctly.
DV: That was the plan, but that’s not the way it ended up turning out. It turned out – and Rich would be the first guy to tell you – he didn’t really do anything. These songs were produced and arranged already when he was hired to make “Right By Your Side” and “Innocence” – he threw in “These Days” just to add another one to it – but we ended up using the original demos. Clive liked the vibe of the original demos better. So, we ended up mixing those, adding drums to those, replacing the drum machine with real drums and mixing those up. So, he really did nothing except get paid.
MM: Interesting. That’s something I definitely did not know.
DV: That just tells you where Clive’s priorities were. What his vision was. He was like, I’m gonna hire a producer for these songs and you guys can do what you want with the rest of it. Basically, all he cared about was my vocals and the songs that he could work at contemporary radio, you know?
MM: Do you feel like he worked it OK?
DV: No, he lost his passion for it. There were a couple of catastrophes that went down. He didn’t see eye to eye with the vision of the rest of the band and the management and everything, who was focusing on this is not a contemporary band, this is a rock band. So, they didn’t see eye to eye. And you don’t see eye to eye when you’re with Clive Davis. You have to see through his eyes or you don’t see at all. And so it didn’t turn out to be a successful relationship and they really didn’t work anything at all.
MM: I know you talk about your influences a lot, but there’s one band I think is an influence because I swear I can hear them in your songs sometimes but you never mention them and that is The Beach Boys.
DV: Oh, yeah, I love The Beach Boys. I never really focused on them. It wasn’t a preference of mine growing up because I wasn’t hip to a lot of the cooler Beach Boys stuff in the early days. I knew them like anybody else who listened to the radio knew them. But I grew to love Brian Wilson’s stuff. He’s a genius. He’s great. He wrote and produced a lot of really great stuff. I think his influence is more of a case where he was influenced by a lot of the stuff that I was influenced by. I wouldn’t say they were ever an influence. I would say we came from the same area.
MM: This might be an odd one, but what’s your opinion of The Monkees?
DV: [Sighs] Well, I never took The Monkees seriously. I took them as a TV show. A satire kind of Spinal Tap-ish type of thing per se. There are some really good Monkees songs but that wasn’t them writing them or anything like that so I never really considered them a band.
MM: Well, they kind of turned into one after the show. Because the show only lasted two seasons but they continued to be a band for a long time.
DV: I saw one of those performances. It wasn’t the four Monkees, you know what I mean? That wasn’t the situation there. Like I said, I’m an artist and that’s what I go by. My gauge is built that way and I never considered that really a band. The TV show was all I knew of them and some catchy songs, which were hits, but hits and catchy hits per se aren’t always the way that I float either. There’s an integrity. Even since before I knew what that meant, that was already instilled in me and I didn’t pick that up with those guys.
MM: What do you think about Butch Walker?
DV: I’m not very familiar with a lot of his stuff, but the stuff that I have heard, he’s very good. A lot of people mention him to me. I don’t know why. The things I’ve heard of him are great. He’s a great writer, a great producer, a virtuoso instrumental player. I’d love to investigate that. He’s sent some shout outs my way and I’ve sent some shout outs his way.
MM: He’s one of my favorites.
DV: A lot of people have mentioned him when talking about me. I’m not really familiar with a lot of his stuff, but what I have heard I’ve liked it and appreciated it and I’m still trying to figure what is the correlation. What’s the correlation between him and me?
MM: I think one reason people probably bring him up is that he started off in the heavy metal band Southgang. He was the guitar player in Southgang then he and the other guys were still a band – but with him singing lead vocals – called Marvelous 3 then after that he’s been solo now for ten albums. A lot of strong, catchy hooks but substance, not fluff.
DV: I kind of get it. I get what you’re saying. I’d love to work with him someday. I’d love to work with other artists who can contribute to what I do. If it’s not something like that, there’s just no necessity for me to collaborate because I pretty much do my thing. But I’d like to expand and experiment and do other things. And if I’m gonna do that, it has to be with cats that are really good.
MM: Final question. What have you been doing to entertain yourself during the pandemic? Are you binge-watching anything or reading any good books or anything?
DV: I think I’ve watched the South Park thing over and over again a million times. That’s like a comfort food for me. I pirate movies once a week. The new movies come out and I pirate them and I watch those. Right now I’m re-doing a 500 square foot room in the basement here, turning it into my new studio and also building a guitar, an ES 335. I’ve got more to do than I’ve been getting done, though.
MM: I think everybody wishes they were doing a little more but can’t right now with everything going on in the world.
DV: Yeah, but I mean, there’s a lot that I need to do at this period of time that I’ve been lagging on. It’s like, there are days I don’t feel so hot. I’m getting older. I beat this body to shit.
MM: I know you were sick the past few days. Does it feel like the flu or anything like that?
DV: It wasn’t the flu. It was more like a body achey kind of feeling.
MM: Do you feel physical pain a lot?
DV: Oh, yeah. When I wake up in the morning, it’s a shock. All of the pain in the joints and the organs and everything. Mentally and everything. You were saying in a text, and I have that as well, the bipolar thing and anxiety and depression and they just come on out of nowhere for no reason. Nothing’s different today than yesterday but for some reason, I’m down today and can’t explain it. Somebody will be like, what’s the matter? Tell me, what’s the matter? And I don’t know. I don’t know what the matter is.
MM: That’s the thing people don’t get. People who don’t suffer from clinical depression will think depressing thoughts and then they’ll feel depressed, but people who suffer from clinical depression feel that depressing feeling even when you’re not thinking about things like that.
DV: With the bipolar, you’ll get these upswings as well. The other end of the sword. Where all of a sudden everything is amazing. And it’s all go and you’re fired up and shit and it’s really frustrating. And whenever the depression hits. And these things, you can have them your whole life and know this is what it is and this is what I am. But still, you can’t discern it. At the time when it’s happening, you can’t put your finger on it and say it’s just this or shake it off. It doesn’t work that way.
MM: I waited until I was 30 to get help. I was just self-medicating. If I was down, I’d overdose on caffeine pills. If I was too up, I’d overdose on antihistamines.
DV: I did that with a little bit stronger shit. Same thing with me, though. I didn’t really get diagnosed with any of that stuff until the mid-40s. It did help, though. It did help to get my shit under control. To figure out why I was doing what I was doing to myself. It’s just the frustration, trying to find a way to get level, you know?
MM: But you don’t want to get too level because then you lose the creative highs.
DV: That was the problem with the bipolar meds that I had started with and had tried. My first time around, trying to get into that and get to the bottom of that shit, they would do exactly what you said. There wasn’t any creativity. There wasn’t any passion. Any emotion. Whether it’s a dark feeling or depression or whatever, emotion is where art comes from and so those highs and those lows are where the inspiration and all the passion comes from with the art.
MM: I know what you mean. I write books and stuff, too.
DV: Are you good at that?
MM: I’m just self-published. I have a mildly successful book series about teenage witches. So, probably the last thing you would ever want to read, but apparently I write those well.
DV: Are they real or are they fictional?
DV: Oh, OK. That’s cool. As long as they’re entertaining, you know?
MM: Yeah. Because I certainly don’t make a lot of money. But they do have their fans.
DV: There are two ways to go about your art. You can do it to make money or you can do it because you’re an artist. And a lot of times the two don’t have the same result.
MM: That’s the problem I’m having right now. I wrote four books in that series and it’s supposed to end with book five. And I wrote books one, two, three and four for the love of it and I was really into it and then some time passed before I started working on the fifth book and it’s like I had some conflicting ideas in there and it wasn’t my best writing. And I feel like I owe it to the fans, but at the same time, my heart’s not in it.
DV: You don’t want to release it until it’s right. You’ll know when it’s right. When it comes is when you do it. Sitting down to do anything artistically like it’s a job, like I have to create, it just doesn’t work that way. Not anything worth a damn.
Thanks a million to Donnie for taking the time to do this interview! It was a lifesaver!