By Andrew Catania
The boys from Warrant are back with their new album, Louder, Harder, Faster that’ll be released on May 12, 2017, by Frontiers Records. I caught up with guitarist Erik Turner to discuss their new album and touring plans.
Robert Mason sounds great! I would go as far to say that this album, I don’t dislike your previous work, but this one is one of your best
ET: Thank you, man. It’s a pleasant surprise, we’re getting a lot of positive feedback from different journalists that have got advanced copies, and it’s always nice to hear
Did you guy’s do anything different this time around with this album that you have done within previous times?
ET: Well, the biggest difference is the producers. We used in 2006 on our Born Again CD we were produced and mixed by Pat Regan. On the Rockaholic CD we did in 2011, it was produced by Keith Olsen and mixed by Pat Regan, and on this new CD, Jeff Pilson produced it and then once again it was mixed by Pat Regan. So having a different producer is a big difference. It’s not necessarily better or worse, you know it’s just different you know Keith Olsen and Jeff Pilson are two very talented musicians
Absolutely! I think Jeff brought out more of the guitar parts on this album than Rockaholic. That’s just from a guitarist standpoint, listening to it
ET: Yes, yes. There is a lot of really cool guitar work on Rockaholic, the whole record I think a big difference is Rockaholic is like this smooth, shiny piece of metal and this new record we left some of the scratches on it and rough edges and dents and stuff
it’s just more organic you know like old school blues band based hard rock the way they did it in the 70’s
Now regarding you guys writing process, do you guys all have an equal say or do a couple of members mostly do that?
ET: Well, there are a couple of guys that stand out in the band that is good at writing melodies and lyrics and riffs, and that is Jerry and Robert. And you know Joey I thought had some great riffs. I contributed and sent a bunch of song idea riffs. Joey and I neither one finish songs, we don’t write the lyrics and melodies and then tweak it as a band you know. I co-wrote one song on the record this time around and in the past on average probably three or four songs that I co-write usually, and that’s just the way it turned out on this record and then what happens is we do all our demos and pass songwriting files and record some guitars at home or a friends studio and send them to Jerry. You know the same with Joey and Robert might sing some vocals and send them to Jerry, same with Joey, Robert might sing some vocals and send them to Jerry and Robert will demo his songs and Jerry will demo his songs and about the time we have 20 to 25 songs is when we think like okay we’re probably ready to do a record. We’ll vote, everybody votes on which 13 songs that should go on the record and that’s how we decide what songs go on the record we just make a vote and a very democratic process there choosing songs
Then we go into the studio and sometimes know when we are working with the producer or something and a song that we thought only three guys voted for might come up and shine and another song that everybody loved you know it’s not turning out as great as we hoped and you just never know until you get in there and start making the record. But everybody was telling us about Jeff Pilson, and his name kept coming up, and we have begun listening to his records, and the label liked him. A friend of mine Vinny Appice recorded with him and spoke highly of him and started recording with Jeff in his studio and so we met with Jeff and started talking, and we just hit it off right away. His enthusiasm and energy and positivity are contagious and overwhelming and his amount of vintage gear is very awe inspiring and amazing to be able to select from and record.
He did a fantastic job with you guys. Before you go into the studio do you guys write the lyrics or the music first? Or is it a combination?
ET: Oh yes. No, the songs are written pretty much. I mean there might be a few lines here a few lyrics there or change the title. You know Robert, Jerry or somebody, the producer, might suggest a different song title but no, we’re 99% done before we get into the studio. We go into a rehearsal room usually for two to three days. We’ll block it out and spend 6,7,8 hours a day in there going through each song from kick jump patterns to bass line to guitars to ideas that come up like hey what if we change this cord here or what if we added this little riff here, and then we just record them really roughly on the computer. A live recording to have a reference to listening back to when we go into the studio so we can remember what changes we made and what we did. So by the time we get into the studio, everything is mapped out you know 90%. There’s always room for magic, accidents happen that are cool or, “wow, wow, wow what was that?” you know! “I don’t know; I played the wrong note.”
Devil Dancer is one of my favorite songs.
ET: Well there you go, how did you know?
Devil Dancer was one of my favorite songs, I think it shows Robert’s voice, and you guys are attracting a new fan base, you know seems we’re in a new millennium now, and we started hearing you guys 30 years ago. I think you guys are attracting new fans. I think with Robert’s voice, your guitar playing and Joey’s guitar playing I believe that it just hits; just everything blends in this album. I think you guys knocked it out of the park with this one with Jeff on there.
ET: Thank you, man! That’s good to hear
When you’re doing your parts, are you doing rhythm or the leads or do you and Joey kind of switch around?
ET: Joey and I what we do is typically we’ll record live with Steven while he is recording the drums and we’ll record scratch guitars and bass and stuff that we’ll go back and rerecord, but we’re all playing along to the song when we are playing live in the studio until we have a great drum track. Then after all the drums are done then, Jerry will typically lay his bass down to all the songs with some scratch guitars on there, so you know he has something to play with another instrument. And then Joey will lay down his basic rhythm guitar and then all this to my thing is always to try and play something different than Joey rhythmically, you know
ET: It may be something as different like playing a different chord in a different position on the neck; it might be a different part you know maybe he’s playing a crunchy tone, I do something that’s just real dry and clean. We always try to play something else, so something is going on there I don’t just go and carbon copy with the rhythm track that we laid down. Then after I’m done doing that, then Joey will go in and play his solos over those tracks, and that’s how it works
What are you using now are you using different rigs in the studio than you do live?
ET: Well, we use some of our Hughes & Kettner stuff that we use in the studio, and then we use a lot of different stuff, vintage gear that Jeff had you know. I use my GMP guitars on a lot of things. I know Joey did as well, but then there’s also that ‘59 Les Paul in there. There’s a ‘52 Les Paul Jr; maybe we need to do something with more of a strat sound, play an old strat 60’s, Tele’s CS335. On one track I’ll play my GMP, and on another, on the next record I’ll play my 69 Les Paul, and then we’ll double on my doubles you know. We typically increase all our stuff all our rhythm tracks are doubled 90% of the time. So instead of doubling it with the same guitar and the exact tone, Jeff will say, “Hey, try that little Les Paul Jr” you know to go along with the track you just did with your GMP. I have a spreadsheet with everything on it, every amp we used on each song, every guitar we used on each song so we can go back and look at what guitar we used on a track.
I would love to see that, that’s like guitar notes
ET: Yes, yes, Joey has that he was a Nazi about it, “Write down what you use! Write down what you use!” you know every day. If he wasn’t there and I was there making tracks, and he wasn’t there he’d text me, “don’t forget to update the spreadsheet!”
We have everything, what amp we used, what effect pedal we might have used. You know Jeff has Echoplexes and Wah-wah pedals. You can hear it all on the record you know all the cool stuff that we use on certain songs. It was just a lot of fun for guitar players like kids in a candy store. And Jeff’s is a real comfortable environment to work in you know. Sometimes you work with different producers and it might be a little more stressful, or the vibe in the room is a little, I don’t know, tense. You know everybody was just really relaxed, we felt right at home in the studio, and Jeff was just great. We got some great performances out of everybody and in my opinion, pushing me and Joey and Robert and Steven and Jerry that extra mile to record some special stuff.
How was it working with Jeff compared to like Beau Hill that produced your stuff for a long time?
ET: You just heard what I said about Jeff. Beau would be the exact opposite.
When you’re on the road, what does your rig consist of?
ET: Right now I’m just using a Grand Meister 32, I believe it is a Hughes & Kettner Amp, and I have a little Shure wireless combo guitar tuner, and that’s what I use. And I have new GMP’s I bring out one of my GMP pawn shop customs and then I have a GMP that’s a Tele-style guitar that has a Floyd on it. It’s a Floyd FU (Floyd Upgrades) I don’t know if you’re familiar with that gear, it’s got so much gear on there so yes, I have a signature pickup that I use by RocketPickups
ET: Rocket Pickups is their name; they are out of Atlanta, Willy Houston is the owner. He hand (winds) our pickups and he did a signature pickup for me called the Dirty Nickel, and we use My Star Sound cables (mystarsound.com). I use Dean Markley Strings; we use In Tune Guitar Picks, I don’t want to forget anybody, we use Hughes & Kettner Amps. Steven uses Pearl Drums and has been forever. Live we all use GMP Guitars, me, Jerry and Joey
What made you pick GMP?
ET: A friend of mine turned me onto them in 2000 and introduced me to the owner, and I saw that Duff Mc Kagan was playing them and gosh who else was playing them? Gilby Clarke and Tracii Guns and Kelli Keri, a bunch of different guys were playing them, and which is cool, I didn’t seek it out, but a buddy of mine was like hey I’m great friends with Cameron, the owner, would you be interested in going down to the shop? So I went down and met everybody and some of the guys that work there used to work at BC Rich when we were there, and it’s just an excellent vibe man, and so I just started playing some of the guitars, and I was like, wow man! All hand made custom made all made right there in San Dimas, California
Do they endorse you?
ET: Yes! And then they just started hooking us up with guitars, and I’ve been playing them on and off. The company went out of business for a while and ironically the guy that bought the company and resurrected it, Dan Lawrence, we had been working with over at BC Rich, and Joey used to work with him over at Jackson Charvel over in 1985 they were working together. So Dan is like, having Dan building our guitars now, is like a dream come true
Very nice! With the record coming out, what are you guys’ plans regarding touring for 2017? Are there any festivals that you are headlining?
ET: We’re going to do what we do every year and yes, everything you just said from Biker Rallies, Casinos, State Fairs, Big Rock Festivals, the occasional night club, if it makes sense, we’re just going to go and play and play and play you know, like we do every year. We typically do around 50 shows a year, so we’re right on track to do that. I think we already have 43 shows contracted for the year and we’ll keep booking year round. So yes, it looks like it’s going to be another good year of touring. The only thing that will be different is all our staging is now the new album cover with all our graphics of the new album cover and you know we’ll be playing songs from Louder Harder Faster as well as all the songs that people want to hear you know. We’ll probably play 2 to 3 songs off the new record, and we’ll play you know 13 songs from the past
Working with Robert, how is it different than Jani?
ET: You know they’re very similar in a lot of ways as far as you find out when they get in a studio environment both total pros, amazing singers you know they can harmonize and just really meticulous, talented guys you know. As far as playing live, you know Jani liked to party, and his approach was I think a little looser you know then when he was on stage you know doing his stick and showmanship, he’s one of the best front men from that era, he’s definitely one of the top guys you know. And Robert takes a little more of a serious approach to going out there and just nailing everything. A total pro, you know! But they’re both you know, how lucky am I to get to work with both those guys? And still do get to work with Robert so yes from a guitar point of view, and all the years I’ve been in this band, and what we’ve done to make records with Jani Lane and with Robert Mason and tour with both of them, I feel very fortunate.