Not many bands deserve the respect that should be laid at the feet of this Illinois-based rock band. Since 1984, they have worked hard and relentlessly plied their art which is an infectious pop-driven form of accessible and at times quirky style of rock music. Their self-titled debut album was unveiled in 1989 complete with glitter and dazzle and effortlessly sparkled in the hazy afternoon glare of the sun with nuggets like New Thing, Fly High Michelle and She Wants More.
Celebrating their 30th anniversary this year is something highly commendable as so many bands and artists don’t have the luxury of seeing three decades pass them by as they release new material and continually tour. But here they are; battered and bruised, experienced and as enthusiastic as they have ever been. The line-up has changed over the years through misfortune or the usual set of reasons for individuals moving on, yet Chip Z’nuff remains defiant in the face of adversity.
Z’nuff is so passionate about the band he put together all those decades ago that he cherishes the memories and is keen to remain in a positive space when embracing the band’s legacy. Acknowledging the negatives is still important to the bassist, song-writer and vocalist; but perhaps his secret to keeping Enuff Z’nuff on course is simply the way he likes to maintain an eye on the positives from their impressive career.
What better way to celebrate their 30 year milestone than with the release of a new album, and as it happens the band has recorded a set of cover versions. “There are so many bands out there that have put out cover records. It’s been going on for years and we just celebrated our 30th anniversary we thought maybe in our best interest to put out a record that actually has tons of hit songs. Each one of those records have been gold, hence the title Covered in Gold. It was a nice collection of cover songs showing our influences throughout our career.”
Asked whether it just wasn’t simply a moment to celebrate their anniversary, but also a stop-gap between studio albums of all-new material, Z’nuff in good form ponders before replying. “Yes, I guess you could call it a stop-gap, whatever that means.” The Z’nuff main man continues. “Look, what we did is not something that is brand new and fresh, but I thought giving it our own twist would make it innovative enough to where people would hear it and go – hey I’ve never heard this band before but I remember that song. It’s a nice little collection of influences on one CD, that’s all it is.”
Looking at the tracks included on Covered in Gold, fans of Enuff Z’nuff will note some songs which have featured on previous studio albums. Jealous Guy originally by John Lennon is a fine example of the ‘Znuff touch and was added to their Seven album; Queen’s seminal quick blast called Stone Cold Crazy was tucked on their ? album; Smokey Robinson & The Miracles’ Tears of a Clown was covered on the Enuff Z’nuff album 1985 and a magic moment provided by the fabulous Cheap Trick known as Everything Works if You Let It can be found on their Paraphernalia album with a collaboration from The Smashing Pumpkins main brain, Billy Corgan.
“We went in and remixed and remastered them, that’s all we did. We remixed them and made sure Billy Corgan’s guitar was up in the mix so you can hear it and remastered in Chicago.” Those of you that enjoyed their renditions which are all cover versions; don’t need to fear about re-recorded or radically changed arrangements. When quizzed about their version of the Nirvana classic All Apologies, Z’nuff said “We just went into the studio basically and bashed it out live – that’s what you got, that’s what the record is. There’s no overdubs or anything, it’s us playing live in the studio.”
“We listened to it and we said – man, this sounds good let’s leave this alone, let’s not over-produce this or over-think it. The song has already been written and it was written great in the first place. I think that’s why we took the approach of just playing it real organic and simple. Where other songs we took a little more time with; Believe It or Not from The Greatest American Hero. That one was a little challenging, a lot of changes but it sounds like Enuff Z’nuff to me. “
With production credits under his belt in conjunction with so many other experiences and active roles, what would he describe were his highlights from his 30 years to date, the things that Z’nuff digs the most? “Of course getting the chance to play your songs in front of an audience is always wonderful. But probably the highlight besides that would be you get the chance to cross paths with your colleagues, guys you grew up with loving their music. Tour with everybody from Thin Lizzy, playing with Aerosmith on the same stage, doing Donington Download, playing with Cheap Trick, touring with Def Leppard, Poison, we’ve had an illustrious career up to this point – that’s probably the highlight for me. Of course making the records for me is utmost and foremost but getting a chance to run into your brothers…”
After lingering with the thought of these great experiences, the question was raised regarding he had reached a point where he considered enough was enough? “Of course there was times where you’re down on your luck, but there’s a book that’s out, Herbie Herbert from Journey (manager from 1973 to 1987) gave me, it’s called As a Man Thinketh. If you get up in the morning and it’s raining out and its cold out and you say to yourself it’s a terrible day and I’m not gonna get anything done, well that’s what’s going to happen in your life.”
In his croak-tinged voice and sincere tone, Z’nuff pushes further with this reflective line of consideration. “I guess I’m just the opposite. I believe in the band and I believe in the legacy of 30 years. Donnie (Vie) stopped touring with the band recently and it’s just two of us left – Johnny Monaco and myself.” Although Vie no longer tours with the band, Enuff Z’nuff have the novel situation of having Vie on lead vocals when studio recordings take place, and on the road promoting the albums Monaco steps up to the lead microphone.
“It’s not like I haven’t done different things, but my passion and love is obviously for what I put together in day one back in 1984 which is Enuff Z’nuff. So I have the right I feel to go on.” Acknowledging that nobody has complained about this and knowing how audiences still relish hearing such gems as Mother’s Eyes, Baby Loves You, One Step Closer, Right By Your Side and a plethora of top quality melodic-fueled guitar-driven nuggets, he is suitably both humbled and enthusiastic about pushing ever onwards.
When Z’nuff is tackled about the music industry, his thoughts are positive and refreshing. “We’re all one song away from being back in the game again. Somebody picks up something and it’s a big movie or a TV show or any of that stuff, you can be taken seriously again. Every artist has that right; it’s a wonderful opportunity I haven’t seen before. Any band, you can be unsigned, and still get your song out there and be in the game.”
Knowing the prolific nature of the creative partnership shared between Z’nuff and Vie, could fans expect to see another studio album packed with original material any time soon? “There’s four albums right now in the can!”
Throughout Z’nuff’s interview, he exudes a thoughtful response and makes some insightful quotes from such prominent figures as Herbie Herbert and John Lennon. In relation to song-writing, he quotes Lennon by sharing “All great songs are already written, it’s up to us musicians to find them and bring them down to you.” During another moment when reflecting over the luck of a song being picked out and given major airplay the bassist and founding member of Enuff Z’nuff makes a quote from the Herbert outlook. “Luck is the resin of design.”
It is quite clear that in the 30 years of rocking and rolling through the peaks and the valleys of what life has dished out to them, that Enuff Z’nuff are not your stereotypical band. With exposure on major TV shows, playing the biggest tours alongside the biggest bands hasn’t necessarily reaped the sort of commercial results one might expect. To many, this band remain fairly anonymous which to others is pure and unadulterated shame and dismay.
So, before leaving Z’nuff with his thoughts and next activities, how would the man describe himself in 2014 after surviving the many pitfalls, challenges and demands since starting the band 30 long years ago?
“Chip Z’nuff is a musician that dedicates his life to music. I’ve produced and played on over 60 albums. I’ve worked with some of the biggest stars in the world from The Smashing Pumpkins to Journey to Cheap Trick to Guns N’Roses. Sat in the studio and played with these cats. Made music and toured the country. At the end of the day, that’s who I am.”
He isn’t done with that, he adds; “I live for today, and the past was great and I was wonderfully blessed and grateful for what I’ve had the chance to do up to this point. Now it’s on to moving on to fresh new songs and bigger heights and not giving up because luck is when preparation meets opportunity and I’m prepared. There’s going to be some opportunities out there and I’m going to tackle them and smother them like a sumo wrestler and a cupcake!”