Interview with Frankie Banali of Quiet Riot

Quiet Riot released “Road Rage” earlier this month via Frontiers Music Srl. “Road Rage” was originally scheduled for release in the spring of 2017, but with the injection of new found energy for the band with the addition of American Idol alumni James Durbin in the vocalist slot, the band decided to scrap the original sessions and record the album with the new and improved line-up. The results are everything Quiet Riot fans could have hoped for!

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Musically, “Road Rage” offers exactly what you would expect from Quiet Riot. Arena ready hard rock with strong hooks and infectious riffs, along with maturity in the songwriting that only a band with such a history and pedigree can offer. We had the opportunity to chat with drummer, Frankie Banali, on the latest studio album and more!

At long last, Quiet Riot is in full gear and hitting the pavement hard with their 13th studio album entitled “Road Rage”…what do all the rock fans need to know about it before they give it an earful?

It certainly has been awhile…and actually, it’s been eleven years since our last real record…and that turned out to be the last one with Kevin (DuBrow). That was called “Rehab”. I’m very proud of how this record turned out. I also felt it was the right time to release this record. Quiet Riot has been through a series of obstacles up and to this point. From when I decided to bring it back, it took some time to get to a place now where it felt right to put out new product. I think that perseverance embodies what “Road Rage” turned out to be. We wanted to recapture that classic feel from our early catalog, but also approach it with a renewed sense of energy. There’s a lot of variety within the material. We wanted to make a solid “rock” record. You look at songs like “Freak Flag” and “Wasted”…those to me are reminiscent of the established Quiet Riot sound that the long-time fans may recognize. When you get to a song like “Getaway”, that has more of a trippy and almost 60’s feel. If you’re a fan of Led Zeppelin…I certainly am, especially John Bonham…there’s a little something in there for everyone.

It’s been commonly noted, particularly in the 2014 documentary (“Well Now We’re Here, There’s No Way Back”), about the struggle to find the right vocalist that would carry the touch in the direction best suited for the band. It’s been ten years since Kevin’s passing. Here you are today with James Durbin. He gained previous notoriety with his success on American Idol. How did he come into the picture and how has he fit into the band’s structure?

It’s been more seamless than I ever thought it would be. I never watched American Idol, however, someone had informed me about this “metal” guy on the show. I saw him perform with Zakk Wilde and I thought to myself, “that guy’s very talented”- and that was it- out of sight, out of mind. Oddly enough, I later reached out to James after we initially signed with Frontiers Records, as we were in search of a vocalist at the time. Unfortunately, he had already signed a contract to do some dates in Las Vegas and couldn’t commit to us. Luckily, things eventually fell into place and he has exceeded expectations. I wanted someone who could adequately sing the material that Kevin sang on…but I didn’t want a copycat. I wanted someone who would bring their own personality and style to the table. He has really shined through. For example, I had written all the music along with my writing partner, Neil Citron and also with (guitarist) Alex Grossi and (bassist) Chuck Wright. I basically had painted a blank canvas lyrically and sent the music down to James. We gave him the freedom to write the lyrics and melodies. We couldn’t believe how quickly he was able to compose and acclimate himself to the new material. It’s been great.

You recently premiered a music video for “Can’t Get Enough”. I understand this is the first music video Quiet Riot has done in three decades. How was the experience after all this time and what made you decide that this was the right avenue to do it?

Yes, the last time was for “Stay With Me Tonight”, back almost thirty years ago. It’s been a long time. This one was an absolute blast. My wife, Regina, directed it. I loved the way it turned out. We all look like we are having so much fun, which is how the band is truly feeling at this point. During filming, I found myself looking to the other guys for guidance. I would look to Alex, then to Chuck, and then to James…just to see what they were doing. We all kind of played off each other. It was fun. Also, we wanted to do something different with the color. A lot of the rock videos these days are very black and white…very mundane. So we threw all kinds of color onscreen and it really jumps out at you. It’s very lively. I think it’s a more pleasant representation of rock and roll. I think it looks very cool.

Back in the day, did you guys enjoy the music video making experience or accept it as a necessary evil?

For the most part, we didn’t really look forward to it. There are exceptions though. Kevin and I loved doing the video for “Mama Weer All Crazee Now” (1984). That was a fun time. Mostly though, it was just something bands had to do at that time in order to garner visibility and airplay. We definitely had fun with this new video because we just did what we wanted with it.

What are your touring plans going forward with the release of “Road Rage”?

Well, right now, I’m continuing with the promotional side of the record. However, we have dates lined up already across the country going into 2018.

It’s fascinating to witness, all these years later, the enduring appeal of the “Metal Health” era. It certainly had a huge impact on the music landscape at that time. Yet, those iconic songs still resonate today, including with the younger generation. How do you believe that material has been able to stand the test of time?

I am very proud of that record. What we were able to accomplish is beyond comprehension. We were the first “metal” act to reach number one on the Billboard charts. To surpass artists like Michael Jackson and the Police, was both a surprise and a thrill. It was a wonderful ride. It changed the game for sure. I am still humbled today when I hear those songs in movies, on Super Bowl commercials, at sporting events. I take this band and the work we put into it very seriously. It’s a brand I have helped work nearly three plus decades in building…and to see the success of that effort has been very rewarding to me as well as the others that have been such a big part of it. I don’t take any of it for granted.

Image provided by Hannah Lee Photography

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