One of the best things about rock n’ roll is the nostalgia. With the progression of rock music from the time it began throughout the 80’s, 90’s and present day, rock n’ roll has evolved in multifarious ways and has brought a flood of new bands to the genre. Warrant, which was formed in Los Angeles, CA during the prime era of glam metal released their first album in 1989 and became an instant success. Six years after the release of their last album Rockaholic, Warrant released their tenth studio album Louder Harder Faster which is the second album to feature new singer Robert Mason who replaced the late Jani Lane in 2008. Robert Mason (lead vocals), Erik Turner (rhythm and lead guitar), Joey Allen (lead & rhythm guitar), Steven Sweet (drums) and Jerry Dixon (bass guitar) have embarked on their summer tour to promote the new album which has already begun to get acclaim from critics and music journalists. Starting with the first single track Devil Dancer followed by Only Lonely Heart and the title track Louder Harder Faster, it has never been more clear that Warrant is back and they are here to stay.
Amidst their hectic tour schedule, Warrant’s front man Robert Mason sat down with Screamer Magazine and described the new album Louder Harder Faster as being exactly how the title sounds. “It is a combination of those things. We made the record that we wanted to make without any tension or stress in the writing process. We were ready to write and record and we did it” Mason says. “For me, it was everything I wanted. The song style and writing is a little bit of Cherry Pie and a little bit of Dog Eat Dog which were really successful records for the band before I joined and I was a fan of both. Louder Harder Faster has the big anthemic choruses and a little bit of a harder edge. I think we made the record in a more vintage vibe fashion so it feels more to me like a record from 1978 or 1979 rather than something newer. We used cool vintage instruments and recording gear and we just had fun with it” Mason concludes.
Since live streaming has taken over the way artists and bands release an album, it is common for a record label to decide that rather than release an entire album, they will opt to have them deliver one single available at a time for listeners to purchase and in all cases you can hear each song on an album once it is released and have the option to only buy and pay for the songs you want as opposed to buying an entire album and only enjoying a few tracks. The most tricky part is that there are free sites like YouTube where fans have been uploading tracks or albums and therefore it creates no income for the musicians or the label. The upside is that it enables music to reach the masses quicker especially for independent artists. For an established band like Warrant, this can be beneficial in that if younger rock n’ roll fans are in search of music, they can access older songs and become new fans. When we asked Mason his opinion on the way social media and music sites have affected the industry he said “Am I the first person to say you can only listen to one single at a time because they are all singles in an essence.If you think about using this as a way to draw attention to the band it is a good thing. Is this is a single buying society we live in now? Not exactly because it worked this way in the 60’s and 70’s too.” There are so many ways to bring attention to a band and if you want to promote a new record you release singles and it is more just an ongoing argument about which one to release first or which one is going to make the biggest impact as well as the timing and piecing go.” Mason continues “It used to be that they would let you preview the songs before you bought the album at the record store. You would go in and they would put you in a booth with headphones on and listen to the single or album so not much has changed when it boils down to it. Only difference is now you can do it from your sofa. Time marches on and technology advances and you either have to accept it or be left behind.What’s happening now is a double edged sword in a lot of ways. We are just happy to be able to play live shows where people love to hear the old songs and they also love the new songs.The new songs satisfy your creative soul but I couldn’t be in a situation where I always have to write and come out with new music if nobody heard it. If that was the case I would just do it for my neighbors.”
For those who have followed Warrant from the beginning have witnessed a plethora of lineup changes. Most notably, when Jani Lane temporarily left the band in 2004 and again in 2008, which is when Mason joined the band. Mason begins to describe the story of how he met Lane and how his journey with the band began.”Jani and I met in 1991 when I was recording the first Lynch Mob record and we became friends. Our friendship was partially responsible for Lynch Mob supporting Warrant on tour in arenas back in 1992-1993 for the Lynch Mob and Dog Eat Dog record tour. After the tour some of us stayed friends and some of us didn’t but Jani and I did. Eventually, I ran into them at Rocklahoma and was asked to show up with a band I was playing with for fun and we played a set and noticed they were struggling a little bit. I had actually sent letters to Jani when they got back together with all five original members and ended up being sort of a legacy because I happened to be around at the time of all these changes” Mason tells us. “From the start it was an organic fit and usually you think about it before you make a commitment to something like this but when they asked me to join I couldn’t turn it down.They really needed a fifth member and I was in the right place at the right time and the most viable option at that point.”
We asked Mason if he would have still considered joining Warrant if the offer had come along during the time he was in Lynch Mob or Cry Of Love and his reaction was honorable. “Every band I have been in, I have been 100% committed to. I never thought of it as a stepping off point or this is just temporary. It is just the way things work out in the business for me anyways. Interpersonally, you have four or five or six guys in this relationship plus ego, plus art, plus creativity. A lot of factors play into it and bands don’t always stay together and periodically you do. The best circumstance is when you join a band and everyone is on the same page and has learned from past experiences and are able to find opportunities. I have found that the harder I work, the luckier I become and the more offers I receive. In this case, it was primarily about being in the right place and the fact that we simply get along personally and creatively and I couldn’t imagine being in a band other than Warrant right now” Mason exudes.
Louder Harder Faster being only the second album that Mason has been involved in the writing and recording process, it is unquestionably a contrasting feeling when performing Warrant’s new music and the classic repertoire that put Warrant on the music charts. Thinking back, Mason recalls “when I joined the band in September 2008, Jerry Dixon came over to me and asked me if I would be interested in writing some music and not just stick to the old stuff. For me, the fact that the band accepted me in the role of songwriter or co-writer was prestigious. We all were thick skinned and ready to throw our new ideas down and see what stuck. That is the process I like doing and it is decidedly a lot of work to put together and it is different than merely going out and playing, but I like both environments. Selfishly, in some ways it is validating for me to have these two records come out and for people to appreciate them as much as the older stuff I wasn’t involved in writing. So on that level, I love the process. I was able to work with Keith Olson who was the producer for the first Lynch Mob record and a bunch of other subsequent sessions throughout the years on other records. Always loved how the records came out. Louder Harder Faster features more of a raw, slick vibe than past records. Quintessentially, these songs sort of become your offspring. You push them out into the world and hope everyone likes it.”
Despite the fact that Mason had taken over the lead vocals for Warrant in 2008, it wasn’t until 2011 that Lane passed away which was especially hard for Warrant’s most loyal fans and for the band itself even though they hadn’t worked with him for a few years. In Mason’s own words, he describes what that time was like. “I had been with Warrant for about three or four years at that point and when Jani passed it was truly sad and the guys were in a genuinely dark place. I could not imagine what Jani’s situation was like. I maintained a sympathetic awareness because not only was he my friend, I was a fan and so every night we would be on stage it perceived to be a tribute to Jani and these tremendous songs he wrote and performed. As his friend I was able to see him achieving his peak and I also witnessed him on the downward spiral which was hard to watch. The moment I stepped in, there were four guys with their wheels turning, ready to go, but are just unable to move ahead with everything going on. At the end of the day, nobody wanted to see Jani become a music industry tragedy on the road. Everyone had the utmost hope that he would recover from the situation, but unfortunately that didn’t occur. One thing is for certain, we all wanted the best for him. We all wanted to see a different outcome and we all hold him in the highest regard. The fans see and remember the best stuff and the band sees and remembers the good and the bad and that is the way it should be.” Mason adds “Warrant is band full of classy guys. They have never thrown any real dirt out there and I give them credit for that.”
After discussing how the writing and recording process differed from Mason’s previous bands and how writing and recording with Warrant after he officially replaced Lane, comes the question of the feelings he experiences on stage when they tour. Mason previously mentioned that every performance where they play the old songs instantly becomes a tribute to Lane and with that must bring on a certain pressure of what the fans expect. Was there worry fans might not embrace Warrant’s new frontman or would they clinch an even tighter grip knowing their favorite band would survive the tragedy it faced with the loss of Lane? And would the new music be accepted as willingly? “It is always substantiating when the audience loves the new songs. Gives me a sense of gratification knowing that the music I created or helped create receives such positive attention and to hear the audience singing along to the new lyrics. When fans want to get a Rockaholic or Louder Harder Faster CD or a t-shirt signed it’s awesome” Mason gushes. With the old songs, it brings fans back and it does that for me too because I am also a fan. I want the audience to know that I am not so cocky or selfish or narcissistic that I think that I am doing a better job per say. I look at it as I am merely doing a different job, but the melodies are the melodies and the fans remember those songs mostly the way the original records sound so I do my best every night to do that. I love when fans come and tell me thank you for keeping this going because we love the band and they acknowledge the fact I didn’t write certain songs, but so do I.”
Mason began his obsession with music as a child when he was exposed to artists like The Coasters, The Beach Boys, and also beacuse his father was a singer. At around 1 ½ years of age Mason remembers being one of those little kids who could sing three part harmonies with his Mom and Dad during long car rides. “I learned about music before I understood the math or the theory of it. From there I learned piano and taught myself guitar because I could read music. I was always a singer, I just didn’t realize it until college. Singing was always something I did along with sports and was sort of in the background. From that point I just began teaching myself a couple of instruments which was a cool thing to do since it came pretty easily for me because my ear was stronger than my wanting to learn to read charts. But once I began to heavily get into music, I started playing guitar in bands and singing background vocals. It almost always seemed as though I was being steered to do more vocals until finally I was pushed in the front which led to an epiphany I had when I was singing in my car and decided I could do this, I can sing like these guys. It would be pretty damn cool to be the lead singer and then it all of a sudden just happened one day.” Mason is exceedingly talented by nature considering he took minimal lessons on piano and theory but when it comes to his voice, he took formal lessons which led him to being one step away from a “Julliard stuffed shirt opera” as he put it. “Bottom line is I was always a rock kid. Growing up in New York and New Jersey I didn’t want to wear a tux and sing in Italian (not that it would be a bad thing) at The Met. I wanted to be Roger Daltrey or Glenn Hughes or Lou Gramm or Freddie Mercury or Lennon and McCartney. I finally just accepted who I was and what I wanted to do which was rock n’ roll. Of course, there were a few opera teachers who would refuse to teach me anything but opera because I have this gift they didn’t want me to ruin and I would just move on and finally find someone who would be willing to work with me and teach me.”
Aside from music, Mason loves motorcycles. Despite an accident he had in 2003, it has not deterred him from riding. “Don’t look at the three motorcycles I have in my garage right now” Mason jokes around. “It was rough! I always had fast cars, bikes, snowboards, anything I could go fast on that put me at risk of getting hurt. The biking is fun but I don’t recommend getting hit by a Lincoln when you’re riding a Harley at midnight on a Saturday on the 101” Mason says with a laugh. “I was fortunate and I wasn’t permanently injured so that is good.” Mason also has an interest in taking things apart. Everything from watches to motors and engines including a hot rod he had brought home the morning we interviewed him.
Clearly the music scene here in Los Angeles varies in comparison to the music scene in New York City and New Jersey. Mason describes his familiarity with both. “In New York you have the meatpacking district bars which were local businesses and clubs that would become nightclubs after dark or dancing at The Palladium, seedy clubs, wetlands. You had to play all those spots and I was a kid sneaking into those places in bands and playing gigs. I don’t know if it’s the limelight or the more compact spots or the all night action but there is something different about the club scene in New York. And even though I live in Arizona, I am still a Yankee, I am still an East Coaster.” We asked him which baseball team he roots for and Mason replied with “I grew up going to both Yankees and Mets games.”
Longevity in a music career exposes you to the never ending ups and downs of the industry especially for someone like Mason who has been in the game for decades. His advice to newcomers is to simply write songs. Write as many as you can. “There are so many avenues and technology has brought such an amazing access for people to find music, record music and to get music out there. It is positive on all ends of the spectrum but the truth is it all boils down to someone connecting with a song you wrote, so write songs, work hard and don’t become lazy.
As the interview comes to a close we asked Mason what he would do if he wasn’t able to do music and his reply was similar to what most of us would say. “I would be a professional Powerball winner” he exclaims with a laugh. “I was an English major in school so I would have become a journalist or write stories.” Well, what Mason does is just that. He writes and performs songs which are the best stories of all.
Be sure to pick up a copy of Louder Harder Faster out now and check the band’s website for tour dates and locations.