By Thomas S. Orwat, Jr.
Jetboy, one of the most underated bands of the 80's, is back and dare I say better than ever. The core of the original band (Billy Rowe-guitar, Mickey Finn -vocals and Fernie Rod-guitar) just released an hard rocking ep entitled "Off Your Rocker." This release, available as download only,proves that Jetboy are at the top of their game. The three new tracks on "Off Your Rocker" are some of the best songs of their career. If you are into classic rock with hints of Aerosmith, Kiss, AC/DC, New York Dolls and Hanoi Rocks, you must check out this release.
We caught up with Jetboy guitarist Billy Rowe, a few days after the bands amazing performance at the Viper room, to discuss the new ep and much more in this exclusive interview. Check it out and afterwards go to www.jetboyrocks.com and download their new kick ass ep.
RockMusicStar : What lead to your decision to release an ep with three new tracks and some live recordings as opposed a full length release?
Billy Rowe: We were thinking full length, but then we decided to go with the three new and some live stuff, just to get something out there and to see what kind of reaction we would get. A lot of bands would do this in the old days; they would leak out a single, or do an ep and then follow up with a full length. It seems nowadays, it really doesn’t matter what you do in the download world.
RMS: Yeah, I think that’s the future of music. Write a song and then release it. Don’t wait around until you have enough for a full length release. That’s just not necessary anymore. If you have a new song, get it out.
BR: Yeah, that’s how we feel. Unless you’re a real established artist, that’s the way to go.
RMS: You are in the process of re-establishing Jetboy, you were on a hiatus for a while. Last year, you had a killer gig at the M3 festival in Baltimore. You guys got a ton of very positive feedback from that gig. Was that particular gig really what made you think about the great potential that the band had?
BR: It kind of happened a little before that. That gig just helped it move forward more. We did a reunion show and a couple more shows, and then we realized that we still have that chemistry between me, Mick and Fern. We are the guys that wrote the songs and were the core of the band. We all had been involved in other projects through the years. But to get back together with these guys, it was just natural. You could feel the magic and the energy. We just kept marching forward then and we decided –Let’s do this and be a band again. M3 was definitely a pick me up with the reaction we got. We had some new songs that we played for the first time at that show. That definitely took us to another level.
RMS: You’re scheduled to play the M3 Festival again this year, you must be pretty excited about that. Is there anything special that you have in mind for your fans this time around?
BR: Well, the idea is to debut another new song, maybe two. We want to bring the band to the stage the way we are now. We just played the Viper room and it was probably the best show that we have done yet. We do have two new guys in the band that just injected some serious upgrade to the band. So we are really pumped up about the way the band is sounding. It’s really the best the band has ever sounded.
RMS: Tell us about the two new members.
BR: They are from Fresco,CA. We had a few people in mind; a few that we were taking too. Ajax, good friend of mine, who did the artwork for “Off Your Rocker,” suggested these guys. They often played in bands together. I’ve known Jesse our new drummer for a while. They just came in and nailed it. It put us on a whole new level. We were struggling for a bit, we went through a couple of drummers. Its tough finding the right guys that fit the puzzle.
RMS: You had a bit of drama with your former drummer and bassist.
BR: Yeah, it was something that needed to happen. Just like anything, like a relationship or a crap job that you just can’t deal with anymore. Somebody just had to go. We are all still real cool with one and other. These two guys just weren’t working out. I don’t think that they were as enthusiastic as we were. We needed guys that were on the same page as us.
RMS: You’ve been involved in a few different projects over the years, is Jetboy now your number one priority?
BR: Yeah, musically for sure!!!
RMS: Going back to the beginning of Jetboy, the band always had a great reputation as a live band and you put out some very solid records. But, you never really achieved the success that you should have. In retrospect, what led to that?
BR: (pauses) When the band formed in 1983, we were the band that really shaped the whole next wave of 80’s Hair Metal. You know 1985, 86, it was Jetboy, Poison, Guns n’ Roses. We were the next scene after Motley Crue and Ratt and bands like that. We got signed to Elektra Records and went through some political stuff and were let go from Elektra when “Feel the Shake” was originally planned to be released. That release should of came out a few months after “Appetite for Destruction” came out. Once we got dropped, we had to re-group. We did get offers from other labels, we then went with MCA. But, by time that the legal stuff was done, it was a whole year and we lost a lot of momentum. A lot of people don’t know that “Feel the Shake” should have been released in mid-1987, before bands like LA GUNS and Faster Pussycat and Warrant started popping up. These bands started passing by us, while we were trying to get our legal stuff taking care of. By time the Cd came out, times had changed. And we lost out momentum because of this, and that’s really a big thing. Management was a big part of it too. It’s just the way it is. A lot of my favorite bands went through the same thing during the 70”s. Why didn’t a lot of bands become as big as Aerosmith or KISS?
RMS: How frustrating was it to be in that situation. Here it looked like the band was going to be huge and then it’s all derailed by legal bullshit.
BR: Well, it’s definitely a reality check of welcome to life. I look back now and think that we were fortunate to get what we got.
RMS: When you first came out and even now, your singer Mickey Finn sports a Mohawk. Do you think that may have confused some people on their first impression, maybe even into thinking that the band was a punk band?
BR: I don’t know. That’s what really made it happen for the band in a lot of ways, you know with the image. It separated us from some of the other bands that were typical. It’s hard to say, back then that’s what it was all about. It was the shock value. It’s hard to say, back then that’s what it was all about, the shock value. If you look at the 80’s, from new wave to rock to metal, the image of the bands were all over the map. I guess it could have made the wrong impressions, maybe in some places; people just weren’t ready for something like that.
RMS: I remember seeing a picture of Jetboy back in the 80’s, I was little confused on what type of band you were to be perfectly honest.
BR: I think that we were a few steps ahead. I think that now time has caught up with us. We were into the punk scene back then and Hanoi Rocks and the New York Dolls along with AC/DC, Kiss and Aerosmith. We injected a lot of influences into the band. Even Rockability, like the Stray Cats, we were huge fans of them. Throughout the 90’s it was almost uncool if you didn’t have a Mohawk. In 1992, you saw Tommy Lee with a Mohawk. But if anything, that frustrated us the most, people not being able to see past the suit.
RMS: Yeah, but unfortunately whether unjustified or not, image is a factor in the music business.
BR: Well, now I think that’s changed quite a bit. Image wise you have things like Slipknot, which is far beyond anything you had in the 80’s.
RMS: Well music is now such a big melting pot, but at the same time it’s more diverse than ever before.
BR: Yeah, the thing that we are doing is playing straight forward rock n’ roll. Don’t bore us, get to the chorus. AC/DC, Cheap Trick, Kiss, Aerosmith vintage style classic rock, which never goes away.
RMS: The three new songs on your ep really do fit that style.
BR: We just wrote the same way we always did. We borrow from our heroes. You rip things off and make it your own.
RMS: Is writing a song an easy process for you. If you had one hour to write a new song right now, could you do it?
BR: Yeah! Songwriting is something that we know that we have chemistry. We know that we have that magic, that chemistry. The three of us are fortunate that we were able to connect with one another in this lifetime. We will always have that connection when it comes to the writing.
RMS: Yeah, you are very fortunate. My last question for you is in regards to your tour plans. Do you have anything confirmed besides M3 for this summer?
BR: We have some things here and there. From my side of the fence, there seems like there is a lot of hesitation because of the state of the economy. I look at the e-mails I get for show listings and there just isn’t that many people out there touring. But, our plan is to get out there and start working. I think that we could do what a band like Buckcherry did. We have a history in the 80’s, but I think that we are one band from our genre that could break away from that and be completely new and have a whole new fan base. But it’s not an easy thing to do. But we’ll see.
for more on Jetboy check out www.jetboyrocks.com