interview by Michael McCarthy
On March 18th, 2022, Frontiers Music Srl will be releasing another album from our good friend Chip Z’Nuff of Enuff Z’Nuff. This time around it’s a solo album called Perfectly Imperfect and it’s a delightful joyride showcasing Chip’s wide range of influences, which span everything from Cheap Trick to Guns ‘N’ Roses. And, speaking of those two bands, he has Daxx Nielsen of Cheap Trick playing drums on half the record and Steven Adler of Guns ‘N’ Roses fame on a killer cover of Mott the Hoople’s “Honaloochie Boogie.” And it should surprise no one that you can hear Chip’s Beatles influence in many of these songs, too, considering that his last album was Enuff Z’Nuff’s Hardrock Nite, an incredible collection of damn fine covers spanning The Beatles later days and choice solo cuts from those guys. We were delighted to have another chat with Chip to discuss Perfectly Imperfect and plenty of other things as well. Enjoy!
MM: You’ve definitely got a Beatles vibe going on your new solo album. Were you writing this at the same time you were working on your Beatles tribute, Enuff Z’Nuff’s Hardrock Nite?
CZN: No, I finished the Hardrock Nite record with my band and it was fabulous having Tony Fennell, ex-singer from Ultravox, and Tory Stoffregen from The Black Mollies, who’s known me for years, and Daniel Benjamin Hill, our drummer, all playing with me on that album. It takes a lot of pressure off of you. I just had to focus on the task at hand, which was singing those songs correctly. After I finished the Hardrock Nite record of all Beatles songs then I dove right into this solo record, which was also for Frontiers Records, putting down the material and I got Joel Hoekstra from Whitesnake and Daxx Nielsen from Cheap Trick and I got Daniel Benjamin Hill because he’s a great arranger and he knows a lot about orchestration and putting together wonderful instruments. Harpsichords and melotrons and synthesizers. We made the record. In about a month we put it together. All the songs, all written and then I just started navigating and recording them from there and I started working on the next Enuff Z’Nuff record after that. I haven’t stopped recording. In the last four years I’ve done seven albums. In the last two years, counting the stuff I’ve done with Enuff Z’Nuff along with some of the other records I’ve produced [for other artists] I’ve done seven albums in the last year and a half. It’s pretty cool.
MM: Do you still find a lot of joy in it?
CZN: Oh yeah. It’s a challenge beyond belief. I love coming up with songs. There’s certainly a lot of stuff out there to write about. I’m in the studio here in Blue Island where I live and a lot of people come over here and make records. I didn’t used to do a lot of hip hop stuff over here. Now I’m just doing rock stuff and pop and punk rock and it’s like a house of ill repute here. The house of Z’Nuff. And the bands come by here and the cops are cool and there’s no noise ordinance here and I’ll record until one or two o’clock in the morning, making records. I did The Midnight Devils here on Pavement. A Steve Ramone record over here as well, which comes out in a couple of months. And I also did the Markishi record. Check that out if you like Frank Zappa. I did that record out here as well. Some good friends and wonderful companionship. At the end of the day, it’s all about making records for me. It really is. It’s all I think about every single day. I get up in the morning and I think about the next task at hand. Whether I go to here or sometimes I go downtown in Chicago at Stonecutters Studio. Stonecutters Studio has got a great producer. His name is Chris Steinmetz. He’s done Kiss and Ozzy and Styx. And Cupcake, his hip hop stuff. He’s fabulous. I’ll work over there and sometimes I’ll go over to Chicago Recording Company as well. Cheap Trick and Pearl Jam and a bunch of other artists have recorded over there as well. I like to go to good studios and, more importantly, I like to surround myself with a lot of good engineers and producers so I can make my dreams come true, which is putting together great records.
MM: Very cool. You’ve been putting out some great records and I love the new solo album. Now, in Enuff Z’Nuff there would usually be a few songs on every album that you co-wrote but I can’t remember there being many songs that you wrote alone. Were you discouraged from writing alone back then?
CZN: No, if you look at the catalog of all the material I’m on 95% of the songs of Enuff Z’Nuff. I co-wrote a lot of them. The ones I didn’t co-write, I still produced and put a helping hand in there. We didn’t have a deal like McCartney and Lennon, where whoever came up with the idea they were both writers on the songs. I really wrote a lot of that stuff with Donnie. But he’s a fabulous writer. And you didn’t hear me singing on a lot of those songs because I had the greatest vocalist of my generation singing those songs. I’d sing the harmonies on it and we were gonna be just fine. And it showed a difference sense of balance and what the band was all about. But there were a few songs out there that were written just by me but for the most part it was teamwork. I’d bring a song down and for the most part Donnie had great ideas. And I’m not gonna stop that. I was happy. It wasn’t a case of who drives the bus. Let’s get to the picnic. So, I didn’t care necessarily about getting the credit. I cared about getting the song on tape and having the fans hear it. But most of the songs, though, in fact every single song either I produced it or I’m co-writing it and playing on it and singing on it and playing different instruments. It was more about teamwork right there. There’s no “I” in team.
MM: Gotcha. I just remembered that there were always quite a few songs just credited to Donnie and I didn’t know if it was a thing where it was OK for him to write songs alone but he didn’t want you to write songs alone or anything like that.
CZN: No, he would come up with some great ideas. Wonderful songwriter. He’s a character when it comes to putting songs together. He was really on top of things there. We were writing machines back then but if he came up with a song and he came up with most of the parts he would be the one who would be the writer on the song and I thought that if that was the way that he wanted to do it then I was fine with that. I just wanted to get those songs out there. That was the most important thing. But if you look at the Enuff Z’Nuff catalog, most of it is 95% me, Z’Nuff. We have over 300 songs on Spotify. There’s a lot of material there. A lot of fodder there. There’s quite a distinguishable catalog as most bands will never get a chance to put that many songs out there. A smart manager would go out and buy our catalog. Buy those songs like how bands are selling their catalogs right now. We could house twenty bands for the rest of their career with all of the songs that we’ve written.
MM: As you mentioned, Joel Hoekstra plays on your new solo album, Perfectly Imperfect. Which tracks is he on and did he co-write any of those with you or did he come into the picture after they were already written?
CZN: Well, he certainly wrote his own parts. I didn’t tell him one thing because he’s a fabulous songwriter. But most of those songs were completed then I sent them to him and he listened to them and said, OK, here’s what I hear. And he’d play his parts and I kept every part he played on them because he’s a fabulous musician. And he’s a big fan of Enuff Z’Nuff. He respects the legacy of the band, which I think is quite charming because he plays with Whitesnake and Trans Siberian Orchestra and those bands are quite different from what Enuff Z’Nuff is all about. But we go back a long way. We’re good friends. I do the Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp with him, which is out in Florida and Los Angeles and Vegas every year. We help musicians learn songs and play with your favorite rock stars. I think a lot of the stuff that he did on the record was just off the cuff. He’s on “Welcome to the Party” and I know he’s playing on “3Way” as well and he’s on, I think, “I Still Hail You.” He’s on three or four songs for sure. And he just bashed them out live and then after he played on it I already had drums but I thought maybe I’d have Daxx Nielsen take a stab at it, too. Daxx from Cheap Trick played on half the record as well. That’s a formidable team right there. I think I put together a decent solo record. Much different than the first solo record I put out in 2014, which was called Strange Time, which was on Cleopatra Records.
MM: That one I thought was a little more progressive maybe.
CZN: Yeah, it was more of a progressive record and more of a stoner rock record on that. And I had guys from Guns ‘N’ Roses and Missing Persons and Dale Bozzio and Robin Zander actually sang on a track on there, “All Day And All Of The Night,” the old Kinks cover. So, I think I took a different approach to this record. It’s closer to Enuff Z’Nuff but still a little loosey goosey and it’s real rock performances live in the studio. I love that part of it. It beats those sequencers. No guys backstage. Just four musicians bashing it out.
MM: If you could get any three guitarists still alive today to work on your next solo album, who would you want to work with?
CZN: Slash, absolutely, because I love his guitar playing and I go back a long way with him. And Rick Nielsen of course from Cheap Trick. He’s a fabulous songwriter and he still has it at his young age of 74. And by the way, he has a new vodka. He doesn’t even drink anymore but he has a new vodka out called Rockin’ Vodka; I thought that was interesting. He’s putting together a company that sells alcohol and he doesn’t even drink one inch anymore. That was kind of interesting. And probably the last guitar player would be Brian May from Queen. I’ve knicked off Queen for many years. They were a huge influence on my life and the band. I love his guitar playing. I remember seeing Queen in the old days when they came through Chicago and they played the Aragon Ballroom in downtown Chicago and the opening act was Kansas and the middle band was Frank Marino’s Mahogany Rush and then Queen. It was during the Killer Queen record and they were playing stuff off the first album like “Keep Yourself Alive” and the second album they were doing “Ogre Battle” and “Son and Daughter” and then, of course, they were doing stuff off the Sheer Heart Attack record. Everything but “Killer Queen.” It was a great set list and they were fantastic. And I remember Queen walking off the stage and we were all in an alleyway at the end of the show, waiting to see the band get back in their cars to leave to go to the hotel and Brian May came out and he waved to us and we thought, ah, cool, we were ten feet away from him and we were kids. And Freddie Mercury came out and he gave us all the peace sign, hence the Enuff Z’Nuff logo, the peace sign. So, thank you, Freddie, appreciate that.
MM: You know who I think it would be interesting for you to work with? C.C. Deville from Poison. Because people want new music from him but Bret Michaels isn’t interested in doing any more Poison albums so he’s probably sitting around twiddling his thumbs half the time, just waiting to go on tour.
CZN: Well, Bret is busy working. He’s got a lot of things. He’s got a lot of projects out there and he’s a philanthropist and he does great things for wonderful people, OK? He’s really a guy who’s out looking out for the other person. He’s very unselfish when it comes to that. And his legacy with Poison is cemented. I remember when I toured with Poison. Their only tour in Europe was in 1993. Enuff Z’Nuff went over there and supported them at five shows. And Richie Kotzen was their guitar player when C.C. had left the band and the band left and we were at the hotel for the first show and I see Bret downstairs in the foyer and I walked over and said, “Hey Bret, how are ya?” And he says, “Chip, will you guys give me a ride?” I said, “You’re kidding me.” He says, “No, I’ve gotta get to the venue and the band left me behind.” I thought that was interesting, leaving the singer behind to go to the show without him. It was very strange. But we said of course and he taught me all about diabetes on the way to the venue. He showed me all of this stuff for when he’s gotta take a shot and what he’s got to do and if he has a diabetic attack – what to give him, which was orange juice or a Snickers bar. I thought that was interesting. Here’s a guy out there who’s fronting a band that’s sold 30 million records and he doesn’t have a ride to the venue.
CZN CONT’D: Anyway, that tour was a lot of fun. All the shows were completely sold out, playing three and four thousand seat venues. Glasgow, Scotland was great. All the stuff in the UK was fun. We never went back there after that. That was the only tour we’ve ever done in the UK, surprisingly. And I kept in contact with him and his solo band was doing really well. And he’d call me up on stage to sing with him for the encores. He was always a charming guy who was not afraid to share the stage with bands. Basically, he just does solo records. He’s more excited about that. He knows that if he does a Poison record he’s not going to get the budget that he’d get in the old days because record companies don’t give you the money there. And C.C., I used to hang out with C.C. all the time when he lived on Mulholland Drive in California. I’d go to his house at one o’clock in the morning and there would be 10 musicians there in his six million dollar home with nothing in the refrigerator, not even a bottle of water. But downstairs he had tequila and Jack Daniels and vodka, gin, absinthe, everything was down there. And he’d have Sam Kinison down there and the cats from Toto, Steve Lukather, and of course Enuff Z’Nuff would be down there and we’d all jam all night. Just doing all kinds of songs from Queen to Mountain to Cheap Trick. We’d just bash them out. He loves playing. But if you can’t get the whole team together because of the way the music business is fragmented right now you can’t blame those guys. They’ve got a big tour coming up, The Stadium Tour, with Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Classless Act and, of course, Poison. They’ll make a Brinks truck full of money on that run if it goes as smoothly as I think it can. That will suffice for him. And maybe perhaps after getting together every single day it will bring them back and trigger their memory and they’ll say maybe we should make one more record. I wouldn’t put a fork in it yet. I don’t think it’s over. I think that maybe they will make another record. But right now, in this day and age and time, it’ll take a record company to come to them with a substantial amount of resources for them to get back together and do one more record.
MM: Since you have so many famous friends, I was wondering if you’ve ever thought about putting together a supergroup. I know Frontiers likes to pair up guys from different acts on their roster to do various albums and such.
CZN: I’ve talked to a few guys about that. One of them, most notably, a couple months ago was Michael [Sweet] from Stryper. He’d love to get together and do a record with me. So, maybe that will happen. There’s other guys, too. I’ve played in supergroups. Look, I was playing with Steven Adler from Guns ‘N’ Roses for years and we had members from Quiet Riot and Faster Pussycat in that band. And I played with Missing Persons and we had David Bowie’s guitar player in there and we toured around the country. There’s quite a few guys that I could get in there and play with. I think the task at hand right now is to get the songs together and not worry about any kind of a supergroup because along with a supergroup comes the responsibility of going out and supporting that record and really my focus is Enuff Z’Nuff right now. That’s my life and that’s my legacy so if I can make solo records and play on other people’s records I’m cool with that for the time being. Only time will tell if there will ever be a supergroup that’s out there. I had a chance to do that years ago right before I put together this Hardrock Nite record with Enuff Z’Nuff. I had a meeting with my agency, which is Artists Worldwide, and Chuck Burnell and him and this promoter got together and the promoter wanted to put together a supergroup with me and Paul Gilbert from Mr. Big and Gilby Clarke from Guns ‘N’ Roses and Ray Luther and maybe a keyboard player and go out there and play nothing but Beatles songs. That was the template I used to put the Hardrock Nite record together. We were gonna go out and play and get in a tour bus and go out for two months and play nothing but Beatles songs. And for one reason or another everybody was too busy and they just couldn’t get it together time wise to make it happen. So, I basically nicked that idea and went in the studio and called Tony Fennell from Ultravox and said, “Tony, what do you think of this idea? Let’s do a Beatles record, ‘67 through ‘70, we’ll do McCartney Stuff and we’ll do Lennon stuff and we’ll do Beatles stuff from that era.” And he said, “That possibly may be the finest idea you’ve ever come up with, Chip.” And we went right in the studio and started recording “Cold Turkey” and “Revolution” and “Back in the U.S.S.R.” and such and I think we came up with a great record there, which you can get right now. It’s out there right now on all the social media formats and it’s in the stores, Hardrock Nite, and that would’ve been a good idea to go out with those cats because I’ve always loved Mr. Big and I’m a big fan and friend of Paul Gilbert and I love Gilby Clarke as well – we toured together for years – it just wasn’t the right time. But there’s still gas in the tank here. Something will happen in the future.
MM: You do a new version of your song “My Heroin” from the Enuff Z’Nuff album Tweaked on your new album. You sang that on Tweaked, too, right?
CZN: That’s correct.
MM: What made you decide to release a new version of it now?
CZN: I just thought it would be nice for the fans to hear a version which was how I heard it originally, which was with drums on it and guitars. I wanted to rock it out a little bit. It was a wonderful song, kind of from the old Lou Reed school right there like the Velvet Underground. The track was recorded with some great musicians on there. I said, man, I want to just try a different version of it and rock it out for the record a little bit and I think I succeeded at that. It’s a wonderful pop song with some guitars and it’s a little bit aggressive with it. And that’s Daxx Nielsen from Cheap Trick playing drums on that track. Another song to get out there and let people hear.
MM: In the press release you’re quoted as saying the record is your “heroin letter to the new generation.” What’s the story behind that? I was a little surprised by that.
CZN: Yeah, well, I’m not the best when it comes to quotes and I certainly didn’t write it. I probably did say it to a journalist or somewhere out there. The songs are all fodder. They’re all written about what’s going on in the world right now. How I see it through my purple or rose colored glasses. That was just a simple little tag right there. Perhaps a little silly but there’s some truth in that. It’s a rock record but, yeah, it’s pop overtones and it’s wonderful stories through my eyes and what’s happening in the world right now.
MM: You cover Mott The Hoople’s “Honaloochie Boogie” on the album. What inspired you to do that one right now?
CZN: I grew up listening to Mott the Hoople. My dad turned me onto those records a long time ago. And I’ve always loved Ian Hunter’s timbre. Beautiful timbre, great singer. I love Mott the Hoople. In fact, they took out Queen on their very first tour. I didn’t get a chance to see that tour. I caught Queen when they came through the second time and played the Aragon Ballroom with Kansas and Mahogany Rush. I thought that was great. A 5000 seat venue, sold out for Queen. I’ve seen them four times and I just thought it was wonderful to pay homage to some of the artists that I loved beyond belief. When Steven Adler lived over at my house in Blue Island, Illinois for about a month when he was cleaning himself out and getting away from all the stuff that was happening in Los Angeles, I happened to get him to play drums on a bunch of stuff. He’d come in during soundcheck before I had bands come in here and record albums and he lived in the backroom here in my house and I’d say come out and check the drums for me and I recorded all this stuff we would soundcheck and all the set ups we did for every session. I probably have two or three albums worth of material with him playing drums. So, it was only fitting when I was looking for a track to end the record with that I picked that Mott the Hoople song off there because it shows Steven playing solid as a rock and, although it was 10 years ago, he’s still a wonderful drummer with a great swing and it’s a nice present to the fans out there who follow Guns ‘N’ Roses and Enuff Z’Nuff. Here we are, two brothers who have toured and played together all throughout the country and we’re doing it again. I’m glad the song is finally getting a chance to see the light of day and maybe Ian Hunter will see a little money from single licensing on the song. I’d love to see that. He’s 80 years old now.
MM: The very popular HBO Max series Peacemaker was kind of a love letter to heavy metal and they used Enuff Z’Nuff’s “New Thing” in one of the episodes. Is that something they needed your permission for or did they just have to clear that with Atlantic Records or something?
CZN: Yeah, they cleared that with Warner Bros. I think that’s Warner Chapel that I had for publishing on that. They cleared it with them. They put “New Thing” in there and “Fly High Michelle.” I thought it was wonderful. I’m very appreciative of that. It’s a smash hit series. A lot of bands from that era were played on there and it’s a nice little way of paying respect to bands of that era. I think it fits in the series very well and it’s certainly very good for us because it helps our perception as a band. And I think this year we’re gonna go out and do a tour on that. That would be fantastic. To see that series do as well as it’s doing and take it through until the end of the year. Because people are talking about Peacemaker. It’s a smash hit right there and it’s nice to be affiliated with any success.
MM: When are you going to publish an autobiography? You’re a great storyteller so I’m sure it would be terrific.
CZN: I’ve been writing it for the last four or five years. It’s not easy. I’ve got everything. I’ve got the stories. It’s just a matter of putting everything together and crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s. The whole A through Z of my career. From the earliest stages of Enuff Z’Nuff, recording with no electricity, hooking things up in the hallway of the apartment complex so when the lights would go out we’d have power until it shut off at midnight. And recording these songs with no money at all, just our sheer will and moving forward, trying to make music happening in a day and age when at that time it was all about hard rock and heavy metal – now they call it hair band music but it’s not – we were never a hair band. We were alternative before alternative but who cares what you call us as long as you call us, that’s my thought.
CZN CONT’D: The book will be all the way through from the peaks and valleys, getting discovered by Doc McGhee in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin during the Skid Row debut record to working our way through and touring with Badlands and Mr. Big and Def Leppard and Cheap Trick, playing the big shows and watching the music business change. Seeing how it changed with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. A lot of bands took an ass whipping. We were able to withstand the punishment and we kept moving forward. We embraced the grunge scene. We never scorned it like a lot of bands. Because of that we were able to move forward and we kept touring. We never stopped playing and making records. All the way through until the tough stuff happened with the band and we lost band members, Derek Frigo and Ricky Parent, and we just kept soldiering on and finding ways to make records and play music without being held back and handcuffed and I think we did a fine job. And here we are, all these years later, still moving forward. And Enuff Z’Nuff has now 24 or 25 records in our catalog with more to follow. We’ve certainly been blessed and I don’t take it for granted whatsoever. Because the average life expectancy for any band is four or five years. I don’t see many bands in the future coming out and putting out 24, 25 records. If you do, please let me know who they are.
MM: Final question. I have to ask you because it’s all anyone is talking about – what do you make of the awful situation with the war in Ukraine?
CZN: I don’t like to talk politics but I’m certainly not scared there. I’m about peace and love at the end of the day. No war. I don’t want to see bodies taken. I don’t want to see anybody suffering. I wish they would get together with their constituents and try to work out a deal. It’s in everybody’s best interest. I’m against war. I always have been. My father fought in the military. Thank God, I still have him with me. We’re in a day and age right now where a lot of countries are intoxicated with power. I just want to see people get together. I think that working and talking together – a debate – is the best thing that fixes all. And the common denominator in this world if you want to make things move forward and be happy is peace and love.
MM: I just hope we don’t all get nuked. That’s what I’m losing sleep over.
CZN: Yeah. Don’t look at the glass half empty. I believe that it would take a lot more than some terrible decisions before anything like that would happen. Right now I just think that the parties involved should get together and talk about what they need to do to stop this and get back to our country how it should be, which is our freedom of speech and freedom to move through the streets safely with your children and families. I want to say that I wish everybody out there, our nurses and our doctors and our military and police and firemen – everybody out there on the front lines – all the truckers out there delivering our stuff, people working in stores – I wish everyone well. God bless you all and I’ll see you on the road. Cheers!
If you want to hear more from Chip, be sure to check out his radio show, Monsters of Rock, on the Dash Radio Network. It’s free and it rocks! And don’t forget to check out Perfectly Imperfect when it comes out on March 18th. Much thanks to Chip for chatting with us again!
Great interview. Chip is always a character.