Quiet Riot is back and creating a lot of noise! With the recent release of their 13th studio album Road Rage and the addition of frontman James Durbin, Quiet Riot maintains their signature sound with a fresh curve to deliver above and beyond everyone’s expectations, being dubbed as one of the best records they have done in a long time. While upholding the legacy of the late Kevin Dubrow, it’s Frankie Banali’s relentless desire to bring back one of the most successful bands of the early 80s and the greatest indulgence of 2017. The current lineup with Durbin (lead vocals), Banali (drums), Chuck Wright (bass) and Alex Grossi (guitar) is paying off in considerable ways.
On a sunny August afternoon, drummer Frankie Banali discusses their new album Road Rage and what their expectations were when the reviews started rolling in. “I didn’t know what to expect because I know that the whole situation with Quiet Riot has always created controversy even from day one and it wasn’t any different when I decided to go ahead and do an official Quiet Riot record after 11 years and I didn’t know what to expect.” Banali continues, “It was a situation, and again I am not comparing Road Rage to the Metal Health record, I am only comparing it in the sense that when we recorded it, I thought it was going to be a great record. We all did, we just didn’t know if anyone would agree with us back in 1983 and with Road Rage, I felt the same thing when I finished the last mix. I listened to it and was very happy with it, but again I wondered if everyone else would agree with me especially since it is a different Quiet Riot than 30 plus years ago.”
Prior to Durbin joining the band, Shawn Nichols became the new frontman to replace Kevin Dubrow, but circumstances transpired and Nichols left the group raising the question as to whether or not they should postpone the album and re-write it with Durbin, or go ahead and release the record they had set out to release earlier in the year featuring Nichols. “After five shows it became very obvious that the situation was not working between Mr. Nichols and the rest of the band,” states Banali. “We put it to a vote and unanimously voted to ask him to leave. And at that point, I got in touch with our label and explained the situation to them. I also expressed that I had no intention of promoting a record that didn’t reflect the new lineup of Quiet Riot. I guaranteed them that if they allowed me a little time then I would have our new vocalist James Durbin come in and write all original brand new lyrics and melodies to the songs I had already written. My writing partners Neil Citron, Alex Rossi and Chuck Wright, all agreed that it was the right move. And at the end of the day in the final analysis, what James brought to the table elevated the music and the songs to the level they should have been at in the first place.” Banali mentioned what a blessing it was to have the record label on his side and raved about what a remarkable relationship he has with them. “This is the first deal I had ever done with Frontier Records because they didn’t approach me in the past and I didn’t feel it was the right time but they know I am a businessman and they trust my judgement and decisions so it was comforting to know they had my back on this.”
When Durbin was announced as the lead singer for Quiet Riot, there were those who had their doubts because he came from American Idol but there were also those who know how eminent Durbin’s vocal range and songwriting skills are. Banali explains how Durbin was the one that he sought out for the role. “Yeah it’s interesting how things happen. And you know the old saying you know things happen for a reason because what had happened is initially James was my first choice to have them come in into right and to do and to do what became the Road Rage record. But, at the time that I reached out to him he had just finished signing a deal to do some live performance residency stuff in Las Vegas and that particular deal was open-ended making it impossible for him to come on board at that time. But it also made it impossible for me to wait for him. So I reached out to my second choice which was a singer named Jacob Bunton who was with Adler’s Appetite.”
“Jacob is great; a really nice guy really talented really good songwriter really good singer and he wanted to do the Quiet Riot record and while he wanted to come on board and write into the record, he had just decided that he wanted to take some time off the road which wasn’t going to work for me because I needed somebody to do the record as soon as possible and be able to handle the Quiet Riot touring life which is what led me to ultimately the last choice that did not work out. And fortunately for us at the time that I needed James the most to come in and cut new vocals with new lyrics and melodies and he was available. So it went full circle.”
Banali continues. “So again you know they say you know something’s happened for a reason I guess that’s the case here. I had heard James’s solo stuff so I knew that he was a capable writer and that point what I did is I sent him only the music to the songs that we had already written and requested that he re-write the lyrics and vocal melodies and so and it was actually a pretty smooth process. He had a short time to get this finished because I had certain new deadlines to meet but it was pretty amazing that James stepped up to the table and got it done. Oddly enough the first song he actually ever worked on when I was feeling him out to see how he would work with us on a song by not telling him that it would be for a Quiet Riot. I just sent it to him and he was already in the studio working on a side project with Alex Rossi so I sent them the music to this one song and I waited to see what he came up with. It was really interesting because within the same day I sent the music over, I received the demo back of the song with all the lyrics all written melodies all done which included a bonus guitar solo from Alex. Ultimately that song ended up being the first single Can’t Get Enough and was the first music video we had released in 30 years.”
The response from the fans and critics alike has been phenomenal and better than expected as everyone seemed to embrace Durbin becoming the voice of Quiet Riot according to Banali. “I had to find someone who could handle the older songs and match the ridiculous range Kevin had. He could hit the high notes, the low notes and everything in between. Kevin loved being on stage and an incredible performer so we had to make sure but James came on board and he’s really met the challenge.”
Quiet Riot isn’t the only thing that has endured major changes. The music industry continues to evolve on a daily basis and is drastically different from 1983 when Quiet Riot first put themselves on the map with the Metal Health album. “Everything is so different on so many levels” States Banali. “I started working with Kevin after meeting him at a show on January 30th 1980 after I finished playing with this other band and we found out that we had a lot of things in common musically as far as the kind of music we liked. I started working with Kevin ultimately in 1982 when we recorded the Metal Health record which came out in March of 1983 and the rest is history. But the whole industry and everything that happens now is very different because back then you had record labels that would sign you a two, three or four record deal and in radio you could go to a radio station with your new record and the deejays had the freedom to play it. You had a lot more promoters and a lot more venues and all of that has changed.”
“First of all there’s less major labels and most of them are not signing rock bands for one thing,” states Banali. “They’re signing artists for maybe a single maybe a record if they’re lucky and you can no longer go to a radio station to have them play your new record. Everything is programmed by other people and deejays don’t have the power and control they used to have. And with the Internet and the illegal downloading and sharing of files–it has made things difficult as well. An artist and especially a new artist that doesn’t have marquee value, makes it extremely difficult to earn a living as a musician. Fortunately with a band like Quiet Riot who has been around almost 40 years has been able to continue to tour because that can be stolen from you so it’s different in that regard. Geographically it’s different because nobody lives or most people don’t live in the same city which used to be a prerequisite if you’re going to be in a band, Everybody had to live in the same city so you could rehearse and record and do everything. Now people live in different places and it’s a whole different ballgame.”
As Metal Health became the album that made Quiet Riot a household name, it earned them a spot on the Pop charts making them the only rock band to make that list. Despite the death of Kevin Dubrow in 2007, and frequent attempts to replace his legacy, Quiet Riot has stood the test of time. While it had been questionable at times, Banali claims they never expected to be around 40 years later or how huge they would become. After having sold over 6 million records in the United States and 10 million records worldwide, no one could have predicted everything that would happen and the success that the band would have. Banali attributes their longevity to work ethics and not giving up despite the losses. “I’ve been managing the band since 1993 and I’m the only member to have recorded on every single quite right record. So I have that distinction but ultimately I owe it completely and totally to the fans because a band is only a number of members that are working hard and writing music and creating songs and recording them and releasing them. If the fans aren’t there to support it then you have nothing,” states Banali. “So, really the credit for the longevity of Quiet Riot goes as much to the fans. It’s always important to have a solid team and to give respect. I think it’s also important to be honest with everyone that you’re working with. And sometimes being honest with the people you work with means having to make some difficult and some people learn from the experience and some choose not to. Ultimately, everybody has to be in it for the same reason and have passion for it. And while all the guys in Quiet Riot have side projects, the band must take priority over anything else. We are really happy with this lineup and especially happy with James and I hope it continues for as long as it possibly can.”
When Dubrow passed away in 2007, it had a severe impact on Banali both personally and professionally, “I had been performing and working with him for 27 years so every time I stepped up on the stage I would see Kevin and we would always go up on stage together cracking jokes and laughing. You know that was one of the things that he and I had in common was that we both had the same ridiculous sense of humor. But for 27 years the person that I always saw in front of me and the person that I would hear singing was Kevin. So when he unexpectedly passed away in 2007, I was at a complete loss and I was very public making a statement that you know Quiet Riot was over because as far as I was concerned I didn’t see how we could continue without Kevin,” Banali says with a sentimental tone. “Ultimately three years after Kevin passed away and I put everything into perspective, I decided that it was time to continue with the band again.”
Banali paid no attention to the criticism but knew it was going to be different. “It would take the rest of my life to process it because I’m at that age now that I’m never going to have time to develop that kind of working relationship and friendship with somebody over decades. I am still Quiet Riot’s biggest fan and I still believe in the band, the music and our fans so as long as I still enjoy doing it I’m going to continue doing it. Every night that Quiet Riot steps onto the stage and play the classic songs, we will always think of Kevin and every single time we play the song Thunderbird I dedicated it to the memory of both Randy Rhoads and Kevin. In a way that keeps them alive in the band even if just for that moment” Banali concludes.
Banali’s love of music and desire to pursue a career in music all began the first time he played drums. “It was always drums for me once I had decided that’s where I wanted to do. There was always music being played in my house and neither of my parents were musicians but they both loved music and completely separate styles from each other so there was always music in the house. But for my generation, it began when I saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show and it was at that point I knew I knew that that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. And I never looked back from that point. I started playing at 14. My first paying gig was when I was 14 and I had a little band called, Pound Of Flesh and we played a Catholic church social and I still have my first dollar.”
Quiet Riot is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon if Banali can help it. “The main focus is touring and we started this year in January and we’re already booked into April of 2018 so we’ll continue the touring cycle whether we’ll do a follow-up record or not. Time will tell and hopefully we won’t wait another 11 years to release another record. I hope it won’t take that long but it will happen when it happens if it’s right” Banali assures.
Banali sees the time, he’s ready to move forward with his day but wants to give a shout out to their fans because in essence he is one of them. “I’m forever grateful that the fans have given me the opportunity to be able to do music and have it be the force of my life.”