Niclas Müller-Hansen of Sweden's Metalshrine recently conducted an interview with former HANOI ROCKS singer Michael Monroe. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Metalshrine: [Your new album] title, "Horns And Halos", makes me think of those old cartoons where the character's got the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other one.
Michael: Yeah, for sure. Everybody has them. It was just a great title because it covers everything — yin and yang, black and white, angels and devils, light and darkness. Dregen [guitar] suggested it and I thought, "Nobody's ever used that before. That's genius!" I thought of it as the name for the album right away, but then I thought that maybe it was sort of religious, but as it turned out when all the rest of the songs came together, Steve [Conte, guitar] brought it up again after we'd thought about all these different titles. He said, "I think I've got it! How about 'Horns And Halos'?" So at first I thought it was too obvious to consider or too religious, but when you think about it, the album has songs like "Eighteen Angels", "Soul Surrender" and "Ritual". Stuff like that with kinda religious connotations.
Metalshrine: Are you a spiritual person?
Michael: There is some of it, of course, but not in a religious sense. Religion, to me, is just another government. The church is a government and they wanna keep people ignorant so they can control them and that's the way government acts. I know there's a god force behind all this, but you believe what you wanna believe. I just know it, but it's certainly not a god like the church describes it, one that punishes people. Only people punish people, so nobody has to burn. That's what the lyrics say.
Metalshrine: The album's been a huge success — Number One in Finland. When your making an album, is that something you can get a sense of? That you really have something going here?
Michael: Well, for this record, we just decided to write some music and see what came out of it. We've been touring a lot the last couple of years and writing songs over a period of time, like a year or so. Whenever the band was in the same place. Someone lives in New York, another one in Amsterdam, Dregen in Stockholm and me in Finland, so whenever we were gonna tour, we booked some extra days before and after the tours, to write some stuff and play some demos. Before the American tour, we went to Steve's rehearsal place in New York for four or five days. Wrote some ideas and laid down some demos and after the tour, we finished at the Whisky A Go Go in L.A. and then we had four days in a studio there. Eventually, the album started shaping up and I love being self-contained as a band. That's how the songs came about and we chose the songs we thought were best suited as a whole. I think we did pretty good.
Metalshrine: When you're working on an album, are you the kinda guy that records a whole lotta stuff and then picks from that?
Michael: I don't have the luxury of doing that. I mean, these days you can record almost anywhere. We did a lot of pre-production ourselves before we went into the studio to actually record the album. We recorded it in Stockholm in two and a half weeks altogether, but before that, we had some stuff from the demos we did… we had decided pretty much what songs we were gonna do before we went into the studio. The last song on the album, "Hands Are Tied", was not gonna be on the record. It was like a jam, but then there was a song called "Happy Never After" and a song called "Don't Block The Sun", which didn't end up on the album. In the end, I decided that "Hands Are Tied" was the kind a jam not any band can do. "Happy Never After" is a good song. It's a safe rocker and the kinda thing I've done before, so this one was different for me, so we ended up putting that one as the last song. We had two or three songs where we had a pretty clear idea of what the songs were gonna be like, before we went into the studio. I like doing it that way, because I don't like to muck about too much in the studio. I like to be well prepared before we go in and then capture the performance of the band. I think we succeeded on this album. Better than we have on many records before it. It was, like, keep it simple and not too many overdubs. Like on the song "Horns And Halos", when Dregen goes into the solo, there's no overdubbed guitars. It's just him, Steve playing the rhythm and bass and drums. Then Steve joins him in the solo and there's only bass and drums in the background. I always wanted to have that simplicity.
Metalshrine: Are you still in touch with [former HANOI ROCKS guitarist] Andy McCoy?
Michael: No, we're not in touch, because we have no reason to. I haven't actually heard from him since the last farewell show with HANOI ROCKS. We did a tour in the U.K. and Japan. We did eight shows in six days in 2009 and the last one was recorded and taped. A two-hour show. I was proud I got through it. The last couple of days I couldn't talk much, but, of course, they recorded the last one. [laughs] But no overdubs; it was what it was. Since then, I haven't seen Andy. Good luck to him! He's doing his thing and I'm doing my thing. It was good as long as it lasted. It ran its course. I was ready to keep going and commit to it for the rest of my life, but it just got to a point where it wasn't going any further and it wasn't that much fun. It was best to leave it alone and put HANOI ROCKS to bed, finally and permanently, with its integrity intact and without any shit slinging in the press or publicly. Just in a cool way and honorably discharged. [laughs] I'm happy with the band I have now. I love it! There's a saying: "There's a wanker in every anchor." There's always one difficult guy, but this band has no wankers. [laughs] Every person is just really sweet and nice and there's no mental problems. It's a pleasure working with everybody.
Read the entire interview at Metalshrine.