CHEETAH CHROME (DEAD BOYS) Talks 40 years of Young, Loud and Snotty

They inspired Guns N’ Roses and Michael Monroe and exploded brightly with their snarling debut Young, Loud and Snotty. They are back to celebrate its 40th anniversary. Mick Burgess called up guitarist Cheetah Chrome to talk about the tour, the album and their enduring legacy and the prospect of a new Dead Boys album.

You’re over in the UK for a run of shows. Are you looking forward to getting over here to play for your UK fans?

Well, yeah, I never expected it to take this long to make it back over to do shows. I’ve tried several times, but there wasn’t much interest in myself as a solo artist, so it never happened. I have been to the UK a few times since, but not to play any shows. I’m definitely looking forward to it, I have a lot of friends there and I loved the reaction the first time through.

What do you enjoy most about the UK?

Oh, I love the whole thing, the history, the scenery, the venues, even the food. My family is from Ireland, my great grandmother was from Belfast, her husband from the Republic so I have fog, rain, boiled beef and beer in my blood going back a few hundred years.

How do the fans over here differ to those in The States?

They have a spirit lacking in the States, not as pathetically aware of what others think and not giving a shit if they are!

What can your fans expect from you from these shows?

We’re a little more spry than you may think, we still raise a pretty good bit of Hell for old geezers. We haven’t changed really. Age hasn’t mellowed Blitz and I a bit and we still play loud as fuck without earplugs.

On 3rd February you are up North in Newcastle.Is this your first visit to the City?

No, was there in ’77 on the tour with the Damned and played the City Hall. I remember having a good walkabout near the hotel and saw a pistol shaped guitar in a shop that I wanted but it was a bit out of my price range at the time. I still want it.It’s a nice town though and I’m looking forward to seeing it again. I hear the punters get a bit crazy.

Did you know that your mate Sylvain Sylvain recorded the last New York Dolls album in the City?

Oh yeah, heard all about it from him on the Batusis’ tour; he loves it there.

Do you know much about the musical heritage of the Newcastle area?

I know The Animals are from there and The Wildhearts….is there more I should care about?

These shows are to celebrate the 40th anniversary of your debut album, Young, Loud and Snotty. Does it really feel like 40 years since you released that?

No, it feels more like 50 or 60

The album titled summed you up perfectly at the time.Who came up with that name?

A folk singer named Judee Sill. Someone asked her if she’d heard The Stooges, and she said that “all of those rock bands just seem young, loud and snotty”. I thought that summed me up pretty well, and had a tee-shirt made with that and wore it all the time. when the time for an album title came up, we all thought that fitted. So yeah, technically it was named by a folk singer.

The album was so raw, energetic and in your face, what inspired you or fired you up at that time to make such an incendiary album?

Cleveland, I guess. Me and Blitz have never been the most cuddly guys. We had a good bit of anger from our upbringing. We both came from tough neighbourhoods in Cleveland and were genuine juvenile delinquents. Being musicians into the MC5, Stooges and Alice Cooper was not the norm by a long shot. Stiv was from a similar upbringing in Youngstown. His lyrics expressed our feelings and oddball humour perfectly.

Your label tried to soften your edges with the follow up album, We Have Come For Your Children.Was that one of the reasons that the band split?

Oh yeah, it planted the seeds of doubt in a few member’s minds. That’s when people started thinking of how to cover their asses, looking for plan B. When Seymour Stein suggested we change our image, music, and possibly the name of the band, those members expressed interest, and I told them to find another guitar player and walked out of the meeting.

Do you wish in hindsight, you’d ridden in out and returned to your roots with a third album?

Fuck yeah, I do. We should have stuck to our guns and our gang attitude, found another label and moved on. Back then, any Indie label like Stiff could have given us what Sire was, we got way screwed on that deal.

You did a show with John Belushi on drums at one time.How did that come about?

It was before we began to tour behind the second album, Johnny got stabbed. We did a four-night benefit to pay his bail and hospital expenses. We had just about every band in NYC play and John Belushi wanted to do something. He was a good meat and potatoes Blues drummer and he and I had jammed a couple times, so when he said he wanted to do “Reducer” with us, I jumped on it. He did a great job, although the middle breakdown got a little behind at times. Jerry Nolan from the New York Dolls did the rest of the set.

Stiv Bators is considered one of the great frontmen of Punk. How was it up on stage with him when he was in full flow?

Nothing like it, Stiv was the best. He was always totally onstage with the band mentally.He was very rarely on the audience except to sense when to give them something extra. He was a total pro. Jake, our current singer has a lot of the same qualities.

In your view, how did the American Punk of the Dead Boys, New York Dolls, The Dictators and Ramones and the like differ from the UK Punk of The Pistols, The Damned and The Clash?

We were less political, that’s about it. Americans had just got out of Vietnam, we wanted to party.

What was the catalyst to you and Johnny Blitz putting the band back together again last year?

We wanted to play together again, mainly. It happened to coincide with the 40th anniversary. At first Ginchy suggested Johnny guest with my solo band for some shows and do the debut album as part of the set. As it progressed, when Jake came on board, we started thinking of taking it a bit further. Then my manager suggested redoing the album, since the original was originally only supposed to be a demo. We got Ricky in too, which solidified things and we felt like a real band.Since Jimmy can’t tour, Jeff is the wrong guy for this and I own the name, we decided to go Dead Boys Mark II.

How did it feel to tour again after almost 40 years?

Oh, I’ve been touring plenty for the last 10-15 years, both here and places like Spain, Germany, Scandinavia and Canada, like I said, I tried to do the UK several times but there was just not enough interest and therefore too expensive.

Jake Hout has come in on vocals. He has Stiv’s large shoes to fill.Where did you first come across Jake and why did you think he was perfect for the Dead Boys?

I first became aware of Jake when my girlfriend showed me a YouTube video of a band he was in, in California, The Undead Boys.They wore zombie makeup and were really good and Jake impressed me.It turned out Ginch knew those guys from his time on the West Coast and so, when we had some gigs booked out there we thought it would be fun to have Jake and Mike Mcanlis, the bassist, join us for the run.We have had a revolving, Spinal Tap like series of bassists but they came to the first rehearsal and just nailed it and we got along great. Mike couldn’t do any touring as he was about to become a dad, and so Ricky Rat, whom I’ve known since the ’90s and had toured with before, stepped in. That completed the puzzle. Jake has a lot of the same dynamic as Stiv, but never tried to be him, he has his own thing going on which I think works just as well. He is a very good singer in his own right, and a very good lyricist and tears it up live, knows how to get the kids going. I love working with him.

You’ve just re-recorded your debut and released it as Still Snotty: Young, Loud and Snotty at 40.Why did you decide to do that?

The original was only supposed to be a demo, Sire decided to release it against our wishes. Don’t get me wrong, I love the original and mean to take nothing away from Genya’s production, it has stood up better than the bulk of records from back then. It was just that we’d been told we would be rerecording it – we’d never seen the inside of a studio before we did the original and didn’t have the right gear. I hated my guitar sound, though it grew on me.We just thought, “what if” and it snowballed from there.

Did you approach the recording process differently to the way you originally recorded it?

Only with our choice of gear and guitar sounds and we didn’t have a real bass player when we did the original. Jeff didn’t do the first record, that’s Bob Clearmountain on bass. Ricky added a lot, beefed it up, other than that, it was the same thing, three days in the studio, bam!!!We were nowhere near as drunk either when we recorded it this time.

Do you have any plans for an all new Dead Boys album at any point?

I don’t see any reason not to, we have a great band. Jake and I have worked on a few things that we’re pretty happy with and Ginch writes great riffs while I still knock one out here and there.

Your songs have been covered by bands artists such as Guns N’ Roses and Demolition 23.How did you view your legacy 40 years on?

I’m honoured that people feel inspired to have a crack at my songs, especially the calibre of those that have. A lot of people know my songs now that would never have heard them otherwise. I guess I’m grateful to have a legacy. Hopefully I can add to it.

Where do you head when the UK shows are finished?

Back home to Austin, TX, for 3 weeks and then a 3-week tour of the Southeast, Texas, NOLA and Florida.

Will you spend most of the year touring?

Oh yeah, we’re road dogs. Sometimes it feels like the only home I really have is the road.

Have you any plans to work on any other projects outside of the Dead Boys, maybe a follow up Batusis record with Sylvain?

Oh, that’s always a possibility, I don’t limit myself. I’d love to do something else with David Thomas if possible, we’ve thrown it around a bit. As long as I’m playing, I’m happy and so is everyone else. I tend to make people miserable and get in trouble when I’m bored.

The Dead Boys UK Tour starts on 31st January in Leeds.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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