interview by Michael McCarthy
One of the many reasons why I love Enuff Z’Nuff is that they’ve always been prolific. To the point that they’ve been able to release four back catalog albums over the years, bringing their total number of studio albums to 15 when you count their smokin’ hot new album Diamond Boy, which will be released on August 10th via Frontiers Records. What makes Diamond Boy different than every other Enuff Z’Nuff album is that longtime singer/songwriter Donnie Vie is no longer in the band. Losing him could have been a fatal blow for Enuff Z’Nuff. However, Chip Z’Nuff, the band’s bassist and other songwriter, had always sung lead on a song or three on the band’s albums ever since their excellent, grunge-tinged 1995 album Tweaked. He also handled the band’s backing vocals. And his voice is somewhat similar to Donnie Vie’s. So, Chip decided to try singing lead vocals after the band’s occasional vocalist John Monaco left the band as well.
Being a huge fan of Donnie Vie, I was admittedly a bit skeptical about Chip fronting the band, but I saw them live in late 2016 and Chip proved to be a capable and charismatic frontman after all. Any fans who give Diamond Boy a chance are going to discover a reinvigorated Enuff Z’Nuff. The album overflows with passion, a clear labor of love. Sonically, I would say it’s the band’s most glam album in terms of the vocals, but the music is almost more like power pop than old school heavy metal. To that end, yes, it is a new sound for Enuff Z’Nuff. But they’ve always had a new sound on every album. Besides, there isn’t a a bad song on the record. It’s an A+ LP you’ll want to listen to again and again. You could take any song on it and make it a single. It’s all killer, no filler, as they used to say. And, as always, it was a pleasure speaking with Chip about the record and more.
MM: I love that photo you posted on Instagram where you’re holding the flowers. Where did you get that jacket with the peace symbol on it? Who made it? I love it.
CZN: One of Ozzy Osbourne’s clothes designers. It was sitting in a warehouse there. Ozzy, obviously, didn’t pick it up. He was busy or he’s got enough clothes as it is. Who knows what the reason was? But once I heard it was gonna be for Ozzy, I thought, this is pretty cool. I purchased it from a company out of Las Vegas, actually.
MM: Are you still up in Maine right now?
CZN: No, I just returned. I’m in Chicago now. Frontiers Records has me on a big press junket for the next three or four days.
MM: Do you still live in Blue Island then?
CZN: Still in Blue Island, my friend. Small, little town. It used to be an island and they built it into a small baby, little city and you can have a thriving life out here. Quite a few bands have come out of this little town in the past. The Arrivals and, what’s that band? I can’t think of the name of them. They had a couple of hits. An alternative band out of here. After they had success in Blue Island they ended up moving and going to the West Coast. It’s OK, the memories, they’re a little bit fuzzy, but they’re still with me. You’d be surprised how much entertainment comes out of here. A lot of writers. A lot of book writers. Journalists. It’s thriving with life in this little town here. I wish I could think of that band besides The Arrivals because they’re actually terrific. Joel Hoekstra from Whitesnake came from here, too. He’s from around this neighborhood as well in the early days. Some really good bands.
MM: Do you think you’ll live in Blue Island until you die or do you ever think about moving to L.A. or anything?
CZN: Well, I lived in L.A. for years. I used to live with Steven Adler from Guns ‘N Roses. We lived in Studio City when we had the band Adler’s Appetite. In the early, early Enuff Z’Nuff days I played in a band called Degeneration before I put together Enuff Z’Nuff and we lived in California as well for a few years. So, I’ve got a lot of years in Los Angeles. I’ve played tons of shows out there. Recorded in a lot of the studios. Wonderful moments on the West Coast but I stay on the South Side and my friends and my family are still here, so when I need to go to L.A. I’ll just go out there and I’ll stay wherever I want to. At somebody’s house or I’ll stay at the Grafton Hotel. I love it there on Sunset. I keep myself busy and I frequent the West Coast at least a couple times a year on tour.
MM: Are you on tour right now? I received an e-mail from a friend telling me to ask you about a Sirius XM tour.
CZN: Well, that’s right. The tour starts in September, actually. It’s Live Nation Presents Sirius XM Hair Nation Tour featuring Jack Russel’s Great White, the BulletBoys from Los Angeles and Enuff Z’Nuff and it’s hosted by Eddie Trunk from That Metal Show and he also has the Volume channel 106 on Sirius XM. It starts on the 12th of September in San Diego and we’ll work our way around the country. 42 dates. All three bands have brand new albums out. The perfect time to go out on a tour. Very reasonably priced ticket. A lot of the concerts out there are expensive. It’s expensive for bands to go out and tour. But this is 20 or 30 bucks a ticket and you get to see three national acts. All bands that had hits and were on TV and all have brand new albums out.
MM: Will you be coming to Boston or elsewhere in Massachusetts?
CZN: You’d have to check the website Live Nation or EnuffZNuff.com and all the dates should be posted on there. I know we’re doing East Coast stuff. The record comes out in August on the 10th and I’ll do Howard Stern that day as well.
MM: Are you going to be playing the next Frontiers Festival out in Italy?
CZN: They’ve asked us. We heard about it. The label – we have a very good relationship with Frontiers Records – actually brought us up and said they’d like to have us on the festival. I haven’t heard anything finality on that, but I’m hoping to put that to bed quickly because that’s a big festival. I love Italy. I love their wine, their women. I think it would be a great tour for Enuff Z’Nuff. It would be nice to start out there and then go around the country and play some more shows. I’d be lying to you if I said that wasn’t one of the big things we look forward to next year.
MM: If you could open for any artist on the planet, who would you open for?
CZN: Guns ‘N Roses. They’re one of the only bands I know that are playing huge stadiums to 100,000 people a night. If it was a band from the past, I’d love to do a tour with Queen. We could go out and play opening for Foo Fighters. That would be another one. I love Grohl. I think he’s terrific. There are so many bands that we’d go out and tour and play with. We had one of our bucket list bands last year. We did Kiss. We did four shows with them and then we did 30 shows with the spaceman Ace Frehley. I love touring not just because of the audience – I love the bands as well. They’re great groups. And it doesn’t matter who we play with. We’re ready for any tour that’s out there.
MM: Am I counting wrong or is Diamond Boy your 15th studio album?
CZN: It is. Fifteen or Sixteen. I know we have a lot of live albums. We have some Greatest Hits records as well. We probably put 21 records out or something. It’s a nice catalog, I must say. Just being honest. We put a lot of records out and they’re all pretty strong.
MM: I’d love to see you guys headlining so you could do songs from more of the albums because I know when you’re doing an opening set you focus on the first couple and it would be great to hear songs from albums like 10 and Paraphernalia.
CZN: You’re absolutely right, Michael. We would so some stuff like that if we had more time. I think it’s very important that we give the audience the best songs we have in the short time space that is given to the band. There are shows we’ve done where we’ve played a couple hours and, yeah, people love that. When you get a chance to mix songs from all of our catalog in there. We could play for a couple of days because we’ve got twenty-something records out. But I think a nice little two hour set every night would be up to our expectations. When we go to Japan, we play for a couple hours. You have no choice. When you play out there, they want really long shows. But, then again, you’re starting your shows a little bit earlier than normal. It’s like that with concerts out on the Pacific Rim and over in those countries. You go on at seven o’clock there and you play to nine, ten o’clock and that’s normal out there. But, hey, we play as long as we can every single night until they tell us to get off the stage.
MM: Were you ever on any of those crazy Japanese talk shows when you were out there?
CZN: Yup, absolutely. We did Captain Wada. We did Kolsekai and Nashahito and I did all those interviews as well and we played live and acoustically. I love playing that kind of stuff. It’s important to spread your wings and elevate your perception out there. Those Japanese audiences really embrace their favorite bands and they’re loyal beyond belief.
MM: Are you going to go out there anytime this year or next?
CZN: Michael, I haven’t heard anything about Japan yet. I know we’ve talked about it. Our agency is discussing going over to Japan and supporting this Diamond Boy record, but right now we’re focusing on the United States. That’s where the big tour is, Live Nation’s tour playing with Jack Russell and the BulletBoys. Those are gonna be very well attended shows, I have a feeling.
MM: When you first got your deal with Frontiers you had said Frontiers were just interested in doing a back catalog album with Donnie on it, but, obviously, they changed their mind and are putting out Diamond Boy. Did you have the deal for them to put out Diamond Boy before you made the album or did you make it independently and then you sent it to them and they said we’ll put it out?
CZN: The first record we did with them was an archival record, showing the band how we were in the past. All unreleased material. That did very well for the label. They were very happy about that. The first track we did on that record was a [new] song called “Dog On A Bone” and we did a video for it and we had modest success with that. think the label saw that and they watched the band tour around the country playing shows. I think that showed the label and Serafino and the big bosses over at Frontiers that these guys really work hard. We did all our interviews. We stayed focused on the tour. It wasn’t like it was in the old days when we had a beautiful, primo tour bus and we were traveling around the country. If we want to go out on tour, we gotta do it down and dirty like the new bands where you get in the van and go out to every single city. It’s a lot of traveling. A lot of driving. 23,000 miles on the tour with Ace Frehley. Very challenging.
CZN CONT’D: But after we finished those tours, we showed the label that we were for real. That we were serious about what we’re doing and they said let’s hear some material. We want to do another record. I sent them two songs and the big boss down there, the godfather Serafino, sent me an e-mail back and said Chip, sounds good, let’s move forward. And coincidentally, those two songs that I sent Frontiers to set up this record deal here, those songs aren’t even on this record. It’s all brand-new material. We did the basic tracks over at Chicago Recording Company so we had one room where I’m recording with my band and in one room Chance The Rapper is in there and Kanye West. It was a nice mismatch or mixtape of different genres. It was really exciting. And we recorded the rest of it here in Blue Island, Illinois. All the over-dubs. It’s basically a lo-fi, high-fi record, Michael. We recorded it on analog on two-inch tapes with no room for error. We just left all the imperfections and the scars of what we did on this record. No Pro-Tooling or anything crazy about it. We just wanted to make sure we got good performances and strong songs. I think at the end of the day when the record was finished we looked back on it and said, you know what, we’ve got something nice here. It’s a great representation of where Enuff Z’Nuff is today. And I think the audience will speak loud and let us know what they think.
MM: I love it.
CZN: At the end of the day, it’s about the people. You guys are the ones who make decisions about whether you like something or you don’t like it. I feel it’s another strong record.
MM: Definitely. It makes me wonder why you weren’t singing lead all those years that Monaco was singing lead?
CZN: Well, I just didn’t know I could do it, to be honest with you. And the transition from when Donnie split in 2013 and having Monaco singing, it seems like it was a perfect marriage. I said, Monaco, go ahead, why don’t you try to take these songs and turn them into your own. And I gave him plenty of time. But at the end of the day, he felt like maybe it was in his best interest to go out and do something on his own and leave the shit to me. And I decided after numerous discussions that I’m gonna take a chance on this. I watch all the great bands out there. The Journeys, Stone Temple Pilots, Foreigner, Styx – they’re all great bands, but they all went out and found singers somewhere else. I took the Genesis template. When Peter Gabriel left the band, Phil Collins took over and sang the songs. It was an easy tradition and it’ll be the same for Enuff Z’Nuff.
One of the band’s classic hits:
MM: On the new album, the intro, “Transcendence,” and some of the other harmonies like on “Fire & Ice,” make me think of some of those classic Brian Wilson harmonies. Are you a fan of The Beach Boys, by any chance?
CZN: I certainly am. I love Brian Wilson. I’ve seen him in concert plenty of times. The last time he came to Chicago he played the Rosemont Theatre. Seven or eight years ago. I was sitting in the first balcony and I sat down and sitting right next to me was Billy Corgan from The Smashing Pumpkins. He goes, “Hey, Chip! How you doing?” I said, “Billy, nice to see you, buddy. You look great. Glad you’re here, man.” We watched the show and then after the concert we went backstage to go meet him.
CZN CONT’D: I’ve always been a Beach Boys fan. I love their songwriting. I love the harmonies. I love everything about them. I’ve been a massive fan. My father turned me onto them years ago. And, of course, The Beatles as well. Both bands have pillaged off each other and I think that’s a wonderful template when it comes to mixing pop with rock. Beach Boys and The Beatles are two of my favorites out there, I’ve gotta be honest with you. And when I made the record I wasn’t thinking about that, but Enuff Z’Nuff have always worn our influences on our sleeves. And it’s only fitting that it came out of the box. Instead of coming out with something bombastic on the first song, I thought I’d start with something that sounded like a group of angels singing together. And those angels are me. [Both laugh] It’s a real challenging way to start off a record in this day and age, I’ll tell ya. Acapella, four-part harmonies. There aren’t too many bands that are doing that. But we always like to be a step above. And we always like taking chances in this group. I think that’s what’s brought us to this point in our career right now is that we’ve done that and we’ve done that with good success.
MM: Did everyone in the current line-up of the band contribute to writing the new material or how does that break down?
CZN: Sure they did. I had the templates to all the songs, obviously, but then the guys came in there and lent their craft and I’ve got some good songwriters in the band. Tony Fenelle, my guitar player, he’s a former singer of Ultravox, so he’s terrific. He comes in there and plays great guitar, he plays keyboards, he can sing his ass off. My other guitar player, Tory Stoffregen, is a wonderful writer and lead singer. I gave the guys the songs and showed them what I had and then we took it from there.
MM: That’s cool. Did you write all the lyrics or did they help write the lyrics, too?
CZN: No, I wrote all the lyrics. I always do. I’m the wordsmith in the band. I’ve got all these ideas and the guys know I’m the legacy in the group. We share the publishing, obviously, because that’s the way I like to work. It’s the 21st century. There’s no need to just put my name next to the songs. Everybody contributes. Even if I come up with the basis for a song, I still like everybody to be involved in it. I have a solid drummer, too, as well, Daniel Benjamin Hill. He’s like a little baby Steven Adler. He slams like you won’t believe on the drums. He’s got wonderful ideas and he’s an old-school drummer. You take all of us together and that’s what makes Enuff Z’Nuff.
MM: So, when you write, do you write on bass or do you play a regular six string when you’re writing songs?
CZN: It depends what it is. Sometimes I’m not even playing an instrument. Sometimes it’s an acapella. A phrase I hear or a certain metaphor. It might start off with lipstick on a glass or a joint in an ashtray, there’s so much to write about, to be inspired out there, to choose from. The songwriting comes in all kinds of different ways, Michael. And I can’t just pinpoint how I do it because there are so many components to it, but I will say that a lot of times it might be an acoustic guitar or a bass guitar. That might be the catalyst, but it’s not always like that. Different combinations. If I can quote the great John Lennon, “All the great songs have already been written. It’s up to us as artists to find them and bring them down to you.”
MM: I was wondering if we could talk about a few of the new songs. The ones that I had in mind if it’s cool, are “Down on Luck,” Imaginary Man” and “Dopesick.” Could we talk about those? You could tell me what they’re about or what the stories behind them are. Anything you’d like to say about them.
CZN: I’d like to say, Michael, that I like to leave the songs up to the individuals who listen to them. Because what I think the song is about, you might think it’s not about. You might think it’s about something else. I like to leave it where it’s wide-open to interpretation. That’s the most important thing. And if you listen to those songs, like “Down On Luck,” as you mentioned, it’s pretty self-explanatory. And “Dopesick” as well, too, there’s situations. I didn’t write these songs about myself. I wrote these songs looking through the eyes of somebody else. And I think there are answers in every single song about how to maybe turn things around in somebody’s life. That could possibly give you an idea about what to do to fix yourself or letting people know that they’re not the only ones, that we’ve all been through some tough times in life. Those are the darker sides of the new Diamond Boy, Enuff Z’Nuff album. “Imaginary Man” is the same thing, too. If you hear the words, they’re fucking biting, OK? They’re self-explanatory. I leave it open to interpretation, that’s the best way to go with songs. Any of the big bands I’ve grown up to love, they never talked about the songs – in particular about who it’s about – except maybe Pink Floyd on “Wish You Were Here,” singing about the late Syd Barrett. That was a great story that they were telling, so it made sense. But the songs here, I’d like to leave it wide open. How they interpret the songs, that’s good to me as long as you listen to it and maybe get something from it that will help you in the long-run of life.
MM: That makes sense. I can appreciate that.
CZN: Those are some of my favorite songs on the record, though! That melancholy pop-rock side of Enuff Z’Nuff. We’ve always embraced that. Having those guitars and great melody lines. They all come from somewhere. If you hear every one of these songs you go, awe, man, it sounds like something but I can’t pinpoint what it is. A sign of a great singer is when you believe every word he says. I’m not saying I’m a great singer, but certainly, I’m a storyteller and there’s a lot out there. A lot of places where you can find ideas for songs. And I’m in a good place in life right now.
MM: Before I let you go, I have to ask – Whatever happened to Vic Foxx?
CZN: The first drummer in Enuff Z’Nuff, Vikki Foxx, is now living in Los Angeles. I went out to Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp and he came out to visit me in Los Angeles. The guys from The Eagles and STP were there and Alice in Chains. A lot of great artists come out to play. Steven Adler was there as well. And Vikki Foxx came out and hung out for a couple of days with me at the camp. He sounds great and looks wonderful. I think he wants to get back on the horse again and start writing. I’m not so sure right now what he’s doing musically, but I know that he’s doing very well and I’ll tell him you said hello.
Diamond Boy will be released on August 10th, 2018 via Frontiers Records