Photo credit: Patrick Harbron/FX
Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll, created by and starring Denis Leary, will air on FX on Thursdays at 10 PM e/p, beginning July 16. Leary stars as “Johnny Rock,” lead singer of a legendary early 90s New York band called The Heathens. Known for living up to their name, the band partied so long and so hard that even Keith Richards thought they needed to slow things down. The Heathens were on the brink of becoming famous for their kickass live shows and the release of their highly anticipated first album…until they broke up. The same day the album dropped. Because lead guitarist Flash (John Corbett) found Johnny in bed with his wife. So the band became legendary for all the wrong reasons – like self-destructing sooner than any group in rock ‘n’ roll history. 25 years later, the only thing bigger than Johnny’s ego is his prostate. The drugs he really needs now aren’t cocaine and marijuana – they’re Crestor, Cymbalta, and Cialis. He’s out of work, out of money, and out of show business options. That’s when a massively talented young singer named Gigi (Elizabeth Gillies) shows up – with a burning desire to be famous, a throwback appreciation for The Heathens’ only album, and a stack of cash big enough to bring the whole band back into the studio. Only this time, SHE’S the lead singer and Johnny’s just a behind the scenes songwriter. John Ales, Bobby Kelly, and Elaine Hendrix round out the rest of this dysfunctional rock and roll family. The race is on to see who gets famous first – and for what reason.
And now, to explain the importance and focus of the music elements of the show, we turn the mic over to Mr. Leary himself:
“In the studio, we had the benefit of great musicians like Greg Dulli and Dave Rosser from The Afghan Whigs, and legendary New York guitarist Adam Roth from The Jim Carroll Band and The Del Fuegos. Not to mention also Alec Morton from Raging Slab on bass, famed keyboard artist Tommy Mandell, and ex-Ozzy Osbourne drummer Charly Roth. We’ve all known each other for decades and have a great studio shorthand, and Adam and Charly Roth were on-set as tech advisors. We aimed from the get-go to capture and use live vocals from the filmed performances, as well as live instrumentation in many of the scenes. I think the audience will recognize that almost every time Liz Gillies and I sing on the show, we are singing live – right in the room. I think film and TV audiences are savvy enough to know what’s real and what’s not when it comes to rock and roll. We also have a secret ingredient that no other music show has: comedy. There are a lot of really funny musical moments on this show – like our bass player Rehab’s rock opera, ‘An Gorta Mor’ – a song cycle consisting of 29 songs about the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840’s. It sends up the pretentious side of rock n’ roll. He dreams of bringing it to Broadway like so many rock artists before him have – from Sting to Paul Simon to Green Day. The only thing missing from Rehab’s plan? Talent.”
“My character, Johnny Rock, writes a song combining the style points of Radiohead and Morrissey. I’m pretty sure its the first time those two names have been included in the same song. Liz Gillies is obviously a massively talented singer, John Corbett sings and plays guitar, and Elaine Hendrix has a gorgeous voice. Those were really non-negotiable requirements for all three of those roles. I do my usual combination of Iggy Pop and Axl Rose – I’m more of a screamer, with a limited crooning range. To their credit, Bobby Kelly actually learned how to play the drums, and John Ales got pretty good on the bass before we started shooting.”
“The other thing that is essential on this show was my working relationship with Chris Phillips. We go back 35 years, when we started writing funny songs for The Emerson Comedy Workshop, at Emerson College in Boston. Chris co-wrote ‘The Asshole Song’ with me – and many others. Having him producing in the studio and co-writing some of the songs with me – as well as penning ‘An Gorta Mor’ all by himself – I could NOT have done this show without him.”
Leary serves as Executive Producer along with Jim Serpico. Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll is produced by FX Productions and Fox 21 Television Studios.
Sample the sound of The Heathens. Check out the main title sequence for FX’s new series, Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll here: