Michael Monroe Talks New Album, Demolition 23 Reissue, Revisiting Hanoi Rocks, and Forthcoming Doc

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

The last time the original lineup of Hanoi Rocks performed together was at the Tavastia in Helsinki, Finland on July 27, 1982. On Sept. 23, 2022, the band got back on stage at the Helsinki Ice Hall together for a special occasion. Closing the night, celebrating singer Michael Monroe’s 60th birthday, the original five members of Hanoi Rocks—guitarists Andy McCoy and Nasty Suicide, bassist Sam Yaffa and original drummer Gyp Casino—played through a 13-song set pulled from the band’s first five albums, including “Tragedy,” “Million Miles Away,” “11th Street Kids,” “Malibu Beach Nightmare,” for the first time in more than 40 years.

Throughout the evening, Monroe played with the many pigments of his musical past, and present, from the current solo band of Yaffa, guitarists Steve Conte and Rich Jones, and drummer Karl Rosqvist and past members joining on stage for the birthday bash. Monroe also regrouped the short-lived Demolition 23, formed in 1993 with Hanoi bandmates Yaffa, Nasty, and drummer Jimmy Clark—former guitarist Jay Hening died in 1997—around the band’s recently rereleased self-titled album.

Initially recorded as a tribute to Monroe’s late friend and collaborator, Dead Boys’ and Lords of the New Church singer, Stiv Bators, Demolition 23—a name pulled from the 1973 William S. Burroughs book Exterminator—was originally recorded at the Power Station in New York City and produced by E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt.

Released on vinyl, CD, and digitally for the first time, via Van Zandt’s Wicked Cool Records, Demolition 23 is a collection of covers—the Dead Boys’ “Ain’t Nothing to Do,” the U.K. Subs’ “Endangered Species,” and “I Wanna Be Loved,” originally released by another one of Monroe’s late friends, Johnny Thunders (and The Heartbreakers), in 1977. Several original tracks co-written by Monroe, his late wife Jude Wilder, and Van Zandt, including “Hammersmith Palais,” “Dysfunctional” and “The Scum Lives On,” also appear in earlier demo form on the reissue, along with the Monroe- and Bators-penned “Deadtime Stories.” The reissue also features new detailed liner notes with commentary on each track.

“The album has been remastered, so it’s better than before,” Monroe tells American Songwriter. “It’s stronger with more drums and kicks ass even more. It’s renewed from what it was before and there’s a story around each song. It’s like a book or a movie.”

Recently connecting with former Hanoi guitarist and songwriter Andy McCoy, the two work on the 40th anniversary remaster of their second album, Oriental Beat. When Guns N’ Roses used their then-label, UZI Suicide, to re-release Hanoi Rocks’ out-of-print albums in the U.S. in the 1980s, the band initially wanted to remix Oriental Beat but were told the original, multi-track tape recordings had disappeared in German storage. Several years ago, Monroe got a call from someone at Universal who found the batch of recordings in a warehouse, which was labeled  “Vision Studios, London” along with the band’s name.  

“It was mixed like shit back in the day, and we always wanted to fix it,” says Monroe. “So we remixed it, and then me and Andy went in to finalize it.”

Part of the duo’s work on Oriental Beat in the studio was also filmed for the upcoming documentary on Monroe’s life, set for release in 2023. Directed by Saku Perinnön, the film features archival footage along with new interviews with members of Hanoi Rocks, Def Leppard’s Joe Elliot, Van Zandt, Mott the Hoople’s Ian Hunter, Chris Shiflett of Foo Fighters, Guns N’ Roses’ Slash and Duff McKagan, and producer Bob Ezrin, who produced Hanoi Rocks’ fifth album, Two Steps from the Move, in 1985, among others.

“This is gonna be really exceptional and a very different rock and roll story, and I can’t wait to see where it goes,” says Monroe. “It’ll be definitely worth seeing a different kind of movie, even if you’re not into me or rock and roll in general.”

The film also features one touching scene with Monroe’s mother Toini Marjatta Kiilas as she remembered the late Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle, who died at the age of 24 in a car accident involving Mötley Crüe vocalist Vince Neil in 1984, the tragedy leading to the band’s initial breakup in 1985.

“She remembers when Razzle came over and had this apple rice porridge, and he loved it,” shares Monroe of one more emotional segment in the film. “Then my mother started thinking about him, and how young he was when he died, and she got tearful.”

Interviewing McCoy for the documentary, also contributed to the recent reunion show with Hanoi Rocks since the two hadn’t seen one another in more than a decade. “When they interviewed Andy, I hadn’t seen him for 12 years,” says Monroe. “He called me the next day and he was, for the first time ever, apologetic and said he was sorry for being such a prick. Of course, I forgive but it’s hard to forget all the horrible things … but then everybody has their flaws.”

Now 35 years since his solo debut, Nights Are So Long, nothing has faded for Monroe, and I Live Too Fast to Die Young is a testament to Monroe’s metal and punk roots, from rocker “Murder the Summer of Love,” a moodier “Derelict Palace” and the more punching “Young Drunks Old Alcoholics.”

“‘I Live Too Fast to Die Young’ has a clear beginning and end,” says Monroe. “It’s treated as an entirety as opposed to just one song.”

For the album Monroe says he decided to go into a new studio with new engineering, working out of Inkfish Studios in Helsinki. “It really turned out better than I expected,” he says. “And I think ‘I Live Too Fast to Die Young’ is the perfect title for me now that I’m 60.”

Thinking of his new age milestone, Monroe jokes about a relevant exchange he recently had while on tour with longtime friend Alice Cooper. “He [Cooper] said ‘Michael you’re only 60,'” shares Monroe. “‘I’m 74 and I feel better than ever.’ People keep telling him [Cooper] ‘why don’t you retire. You can play golf all the time, and he says ‘I can play golf all the time anyway.'”

It all has a lot to do with the attitude, says Monroe. “By the time you’re 60 you have the face you deserve, meaning that your personality starts showing,” he says. “You may see some old people crouching down and looking frail. Eventually, it shows how you think about life or your attitude, but rock and roll has provided me a way of staying young forever.”

Monroe adds, “What else am I gonna do? I love making music. I love performing. As long as I love doing this and I’m doing it well, then why not? I’m still trying to get better at what I do. I always strive for greatness, which I’ll luckily never achieve because it would be boring to wake up one day and go ‘I’m good enough. I don’t have to try anymore.’ I always try to do a better show, and that keeps me hungry.”

Photos: Ville Juurikkala

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