From the moment their classic debut record kicks off through to the last song on 2020’s Brainwashed Generation, there has been no doubting the influence the Beatles had on Enuff Z’nuff and singer/songwriter/bassist Chip Z’nuff. The band has just released Hardrock Nite, a record of covers from the Beatles and some solo covers as well. Recently, Chip took some time to talk about this record and his biggest influence.
Please press the PLAY icon below for the MisplacedStraws.com Conversation with Chip Z’Nuff –
On why the band chose a covers record now – I think it’s a good time, good as ever. We were going through some difficult situations unprecedented times in the last year and a half, it gave us plenty of time to go into the studio and start recording. After we finished up Brainwash Generation, we just basically found ourselves doing live streaming shows and we had plenty of time. Of course, I got my radio show I stay busy with six days a week on Monsters of Rock, but I knew that we needed something in the best interest of the fans and ourselves to keep busy, and that would be making music. Instead of just sitting back on our laurels and waiting for live streaming shows and perhaps occasional weekend warrior gigs, it was a good idea to go in there and start experimenting with what the next endeavor would be for Enuff Z’nuff. It just so happened to be that Beatles record, I’ve been talking about it for years. I spoke of my guitar player, Tony Fennell, and said, “I have an idea, we should do perhaps a record doing nothing but our influences”, and one of the biggest ones would be the Beatles. I looked through social media, obviously, and talked to a lot of people, and I don’t think any band has ever put out a whole Beatle record ever. In the early days with Enuff Z’nuff we played Beatle songs in our set. Not a lot, but we’d through the occasional “Revolution” in. In the early days, we threw “Dear Prudence” into the set. At that time, MTV was playing our videos, we were mostly focusing on what was on our records, so the first song I recorded was “Cold Turkey”, off the John Lennon Shaved Fish record, and it sounded fabulous when finished up. We were like, “This is something that’s special right here, let’s continue on, keep recording songs”. We just went through the catalog, we picked nothing except for stuff from ’67 above, which I thought was important. We could always go back if there was ever gonna be another record where we come up with (earlier) Beatles songs, there’s plenty of material there for the rest of our careers, but we’re not a cover band, we’re not a tribute band. I look at this record as paying respect to our forebears. The Beatles are very important to us, and I thought of doing a Beatle record, but on 10 with Marshall amplifiers, Mesa Boogie amps, and big drums and big bass guitar, that could be something that is very good for the pallet, and that’s exactly what we did. We started recording one song at a time and say, That’s what you do in the studio, that’s a special thing about making records, and when we finished up, we had about 15, 16, maybe 17 songs, and then we just chopped it down to our favorite 10, and I think we have the juggernaut of an album here. I’m looking forward to going out, and not only putting the album out and having the fans hear that don’t know the Beatles songs but perhaps going out and touring around the country and supporting this record in a way that’s super unique. We can do the Enuff Z’nuff catalog and also play that Beatle record. :57
On looking to other influences, like Cheap Trick, for influence on the arrangements –I can’t say enough about those cats. I’ve always loved that band, they’re good friends of mine as well. In the early days, we used to do a lot of gigs with Cheap Trick, and perhaps because of our behavior, that stopped. I can’t be around them for too long without giving any trouble, I have a propensity to get into trouble at any time of the day. But a big influence, Cheap Trick, from the early days to now. Their new record’s fantastic, by the way. I do a lot of work with Daxx Neilson, he plays on a lot of Enuff Z’nuff records as well. But there are other bands out there that have also covered the Beatles. I know “Helter Skelter” (from) Motley Crue, Styx recorded a Beatle song. I think there’s a Stone Temple Pilots “Revolution”. We weren’t looking at any of those bands, to be honest with you. When we finished the record, I was brought to my attention that, if you put Cheap Trick and Stone Temple Pilots in an ally and let them fight and I came in and broke it up, that would be the new Enuff Z’nuff album. But the influences here were strictly looking at at the Beatles, John Paul, Georgia Ringo, what they’ve accomplished, taking the songs that they’ve recorded that timeless beyond belief and just play them as aggressive as possible. That was it. I try to keep the arrangements real similar, don’t have the same production values, obviously, because there was a long time ago when they recorded those records, but we did go back and fill in some of those ideas as far as the equipment that we used. It was all analog for everything, everything was on two-inch tape, nothing was Pro Tooled to death. We didn’t wanna do that. There’s no AutoTune or anything, so if you hear anything that sounds a little questionable, guess what, that’s me singing, that’s how the band plays. I think that’s the beauty of the record, it’s a nice organic rock record. We went back and did a few little things, analog-wise. Plugged into certain equipment and use certain microphones to get the sounds that we needed, but we wanted to make sure we can reproduce these songs live in concert as well. We didn’t want to overdub, we don’t wanna do too many overdubs and fuck up what was originally was recorded in those songs. I’ll tell you to this day, even the fans that don’t know Beatles, if you like rock and roll music you’ll be pleasantly surprised in what we have right here, a real rock record for the 21st century. 4:35
On creating stripped-down versions of later-era Beatles songs – I mentioned it to somebody recently, back in the 90s, Enuff Z’Nuff was out on tour with Foreigner and Alice Cooper, The Fixx, and Billy Squire, we were doing some festival gigs. It was during our second album, Strength, and I got a chance to hang out with Mick Jones of Foreigner, a wonderful singer, songwriter, producer. He went back to the hotel with me at the end of the show with some fans and we’re just hanging out, talking about bands like Cheap Trick and Queen and Mott the Hoople, the old English scene and he mentioned to me, he goes, “You know how I learned how to write songs?” I said, “No, what did you do you just listen to the other band’s records?” He goes, “No, I spent six months in the studio with the Beatles. George Martin and the guys were there recording and writing songs and making records”. I said, “You’re kidding me, how incredible is that?. We’re they getting high and partying the whole time?” He says “No. The focus and the task in hand was to make a great record”, he goes, “They snuck in the closet a few times, they had a couple of pops of some pot, but that’s about it and it would be the band in the studio and they play at the same time”, and I thought, “What a fantastic idea”. I remember that conversation. He said they go in and do some over-dubs, of course afterward, but for the most part, it was the four guys in the room, count off one, two, three, four, and play. I think that was a wonderful story that he told me and I used that later on on this record, where we didn’t try to muck it up too much, we just play together, minimal overdubs. Tori Stoffregen, my guitar player, he’s got a wonderful sense of balance on guitar, he did a few things over in his recording studio and Scituate, but most of it was done here in Blue Island and over at T Ray Studios in Massachusetts, and then we just took the record after we had all the parts ready to go and we had a mixed over at a place called Stone Cutter Studio, with was a guy named Chris Diamond, who was responsible for Kiss’ Revenge and Alice Cooper stuff, Styx, and a plethora of rock bands. He was able to take this record and bring it to the next level with his sound and solid mixes, pull out Leslie amplifiers and special mics, and re-amping stuff. It was absolutely fantastic. When it was all said and done, I said, “We got a rock record here, let’s go out and play”. 7:36
On not picking any George Harrison songs for the record – Perhaps we’ll save that for the next record. A lot of George guitar parts now, a lot of beautiful solos, and a lot of good harmonies, that’s for sure. So yeah, George is in there too. We focused on the songs that we felt fit the record chronologically, and of course, “A Little Help From My Friends”, that’s more of a nod to Joe Cocker. His version was fantastic. I’ve always loved Joe Cocker’s voice. Mad Dogs & Englishmen was one of my favorite bands when I was growing up as a kid. “Jet” was Paul & Linda, Paul McCartney in the Wings days. I thought that that’s gonna be the first single, by the way. Which I thought was a great one for radio because it was a smash hit back then, and I remember Clive Davis saying, “Chip, if it’s 20 years old, it’s new again”. Well, this is 50 years old, and hopefully, people have embraced it. A lot of fans out there, a lot of the young generations, and I think it’s an Enuff Z’nuff song…To me, “Elenore Rigby” is the highlight. That’s a track you wouldn’t think you’d hear big guitars and drums on. ‘There’s a lot of strings on the George Martin produced track and it’s absolutely incendiary. That was a great idea by my guitar player, Tony Fennell used to sing in a band called Ultravox, he’s got a lot of great qualities when it comes to melody lines and arrangements. I thought on that track right there, that was something that no one’s ever taken a chance on, and I like taking chances. I like the challenge out there and playing these songs, especially going in a studio and laying them down there. In the old days, we’d be in Lake Geneva or A&M Studios in LA, One on One perhaps over at Music Grinder, wonderful studios, but always had a propensity to get in trouble at any single moment. At our age right now, really the task in hand was coming up with great performances, that’s what a producer’s job is. That’s what we thought from the very beginning, let’s just try to nail these songs the best we can with minimal production. “Live & Let Die” was another tough one right there because that’s already been covered by Guns and Roses. As a matter of fact, Paul McCartney said his kids went to go see Guns and Roses, and when they came back, Paul said, “So how do you guys like the show?” They said, “Dad, it was fantastic. The band was great, and they played “Live and Let Die”, and Paul says, “Well, you know, I wrote that song?” They said, “Yeah, I sure Dad”. So that was a challenge out there, trying to say anything that Axl Rose does, the quintessential singer of our generation, but I think we nailed it. If you listen to the record, it sounds like Enuff Z’nuff a little bit it obviously, so I don’t think we stray too far from what we were trying to accomplish. 10:29
On if he thought of reaching out to Donnie Vie to guest on the record – He’s doing solo records and I’m keeping the Enuff Z’nuff name out there. I thought it was a good idea. No one could sing to songs like he could, by the way. He sounds just like John, he sounds just like Paul, He grew up as a little kid with that kind of Beatles stuff, so you’re not gonna match that. The band as is right now, Tony Fennell, Tory Stoffregen, Daniel Benjamin Hill, and myself, that’s Enuff Z’nuff right now. It has been like that for the last eight years. When we did Brainwashed Generation, I thought it was a nice idea, we both talked about him coming up and doing a track with us, he brought the song to me, he sent me a bunch of them, I thought that that was the strongest one that would fit the record. Brainwashed Generation, a solid rock record, I think it came out at a strange time during this whole shutdown, but the fans have spoken. They loved the record, and it was a nice gesture to not only our constituents and fans but to ourselves to cleanse our soul. That led to the next record deal that we had with Cleopatra, where we signed with them putting out the old catalog. So all the albums will be released correctly on cd and on vinyl. I think that’s the best way to go. Him and I talked about it, maybe perhaps doing something in Japan maybe where it’s a great marker for us, but he’s not interested in doing what Enuff Z’nuff would do right now, and that’s why he left a long time ago. We get in the van. We’re not even in tour buses anymore. In a van, A 15 seat passenger van, we put the equipment, it back and we go out with Ace Frehley, Tesla, or perhaps Jack Russell’s Great White, Cheap Trick, whoever is out there is playing shows. We do it down and dirty like the old days, and I don’t think that he wears that dress well, he wouldn’t be comfortable with that. But certainly, a nice nod to him on this record too, because he’s a huge Beatle fan, we both are. 14:30
On what their upcoming tour may look like with the 30th anniversary of Strength and this record – There’s no room to probably play both albums in their entirety because our sets are usually an hour, hour and a half long. On the last tour that we just did, which was in June, July, and August of this year, we were out with Faster Pussycat, on the Straight out of Quarantine tour, trust me, it was jam-packed every night. We weren’t playing sheds and arenas, we were doing large clubs and small theaters. But they were all sold out. Fans have spoken, they love the bands. I believe that that was what we needed to do at that time, the fans wanna hear the early records and we mix it in with some later material that we’ve done. But we’ve also incorporated a couple of Beatles songs in the set as well, just to see how it would react, let promoters know that there’s an album coming down the pipeline. So now, we’ll readjust. We have, I think maybe a dozen shows for the rest of the year, and then next year is when we’re gonna embark on a major tour. It’s gonna be four bands think it starts sometime in March. It’ll be us with Missing Persons, Bow Woie Wow, and When in Rome. So it won’t be a metal tour or a hard rock tour, it’ll just be a to celebrate music like it used to be in the old days when I would go see Queen and you’d see BeBop Deluxe opening for them, or I see Black Sabbath and the Ramones were opening, totally different bands. I think it’s gonna get back to that where it’s gonna be consolidation, where you gonna see different bands playing together and the fans get a bang for their buck. On that tour, you’ll see us mixing it up, maybe some shows to all Beatles songs with a couple of the hits that we’ve had, or perhaps it’ll be all Enuff Z’nuff songs and a few Beatles songs. Well, we’ll see how it goes and how much we’ll get to play every single night, all I know is the fans will be blown away by it to get a chance to the band playing some cover songs in a set. I’ve seen everybody, Cheap Trick, Alice Cooper, Queen, they all do cover songs, in their set. There’s nothing wrong with it at all, as a matter of fact, it’s a nod to their fans and their favorite bands. So for what to expect next year? Expect the unexpected. 17:00