L.A. GUNS' STEVE RILEY Pays Tribute To FRANKIE BANALI: 'He Was The Perfect Metal Drummer'

September 22, 2020

L.A. GUNS drummer Steve Riley has reflected on the passing of QUIET RIOT drummer Frankie Banali. Banali, who joined QUIET RIOT in 1982 and played on its breakthrough album, 1983's "Metal Health", the first heavy metal LP to top Billboard's album chart, died in August after a 16-month battle with pancreatic cancer.

Speaking to Anne Erickson of Audio Ink Radio, Riley said (hear audio below): "[Losing Frankie] is huge, because when I moved out here to L.A. in '77, that's when I got to know him. Obviously, both of us drummers, we gravitated towards each other. He had played in STEPPENWOLF, and I replaced him in STEPPENWOLF. I played in W.A.S.P., and he replaced me in W.A.S.P. So, we were very, very close, and QUIET RIOT and W.A.S.P. were very close bands. We were really good friends. Frankie was a really, really tight friend of mine. Obviously, we pushed each other on drums too, and we had the same style. We liked the same drummers — John Bonham and Cozy Powell and those guys — we looked up to the same people. And Frankie was just a very close friend of mine, and he's gonna be dearly missed."

He continued: "I tell you, I've known him for a long, long time. He was one of the first guys I met out here in L.A., and we stayed close all the way through. So, I just felt so bad that he had to go through that situation for the last couple of years. And now, I'm finding out that he even had more ailments, like a pulled shoulder that he was touring on and he had tinnitus in the ears, like I did, too, obviously, from playing drums all our lives. But I'm gonna miss him dearly. He was a great guy and a great drummer."

Asked how Frankie was influential in the metal world, Riley said: "Oh, man, hugely. 'Cause, first of all, QUIET RIOT opened up the doors for the whole L.A. scene. It was VAN HALEN in '77, but the L.A. scene, this metal scene that came out and went from '82 to '92, that was QUIET RIOT that opened the doors for everybody. They were the ones that got signed first, and they were the ones that charted No. 1 with 'Metal Health'. So they were the ones that completely opened the doors for everybody else out here to have record companies look at us even more closely and want to sign all of these bands.

"Frankie was just a powerhouse on drums," Riley continued. "His style was duplicated by a lot of other drummers. Me and him came up together, so we liked the same people together, so we kind of pushed each other and we replaced each other in bands. I believe a lot of younger drummers coming up really emulated Frankie. His style was perfect for metal. He was not an overplayer. He was just somebody that totally supported a song; he knew how to do that. That's one thing a drummer has to learn how to do, is to learn how to support the song and aid the song without overplaying and stepping on it. And he was just perfect at that. He was the perfect metal drummer, and I think a lot of young drummers looked up to him."

QUIET RIOT announced earlier in the month that it will carry on touring following Frankie's death. The band, which now features drummer Johnny Kelly (DANZIG, TYPE O NEGATIVE),will play a couple of shows in October as well as and a string of dates in 2021. "It was Frankie Banali's wish that the band continue and we keep the music and the legacy alive," the group wrote on Facebook.

At some of QUIET RIOT's 2019 and 2020 shows, Banali was replaced by Kelly or Mike Dupke (W.A.S.P.),depending on each musician's availability.

QUIET RIOT's shows last year with Kelly and Dupke marked the first time ever that the band performed without any of the members from its classic lineup: Banali, singer Kevin DuBrow, guitarist Carlos Cavazo and bassist Rudy Sarzo.

QUIET RIOT initially featured the late guitar legend Randy Rhoads and went through some early lineup shifts before securing the musicians that recorded "Metal Health".

Bassist Chuck Wright has been a part of QUIET RIOT, on and off, since 1982, having initially been involved in the "Metal Health" recordings (he played bass on the tracks "Metal Health" and "Don't Wanna Let You Go"). Guitarist Alex Grossi was in the last version of the band, from 2004 through 2007, before Kevin passed away, and was asked by Banali to return in 2010.

QUIET RIOT went through two vocalists — Mark Huff and Scott Vokoun — before settling on Jizzy Pearl in 2013. Pearl announced his exit from QUIET RIOT in October 2016 and was briefly replaced by Seann Nichols, who played only five shows with the group before the March 2017 arrival of "American Idol" finalist James Durbin. Pearl returned to QUIET RIOT in September 2019.

Photo credit: Cole Riley

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