|Vicky Hamilton - Über Röck Interview Exclusive|
|Written by Gaz E|
|Sunday, 29 April 2012 05:00|
If you heard the speech from the members of Guns N' Roses who bothered to turn up for the band's induction into the Rock 'N' Roll Hall Of Fame earlier this month then you would have heard the name Vicky Hamilton getting a deserved thank you. As well as managing GN'R, Vicky also worked with Motley Crue and Stryper early in their respective careers, managed Poison and Faster Pussycat, and got Salty Dog signed to Geffen Records! Gaz E quizzed Vicky on all of these bands and more as she talked exclusively to Uber Rock in yet another must-read interview exclusive....
Let's start at the beginning: how did you first become involved in managing bands?
I was going to Art School in Fort Wayne, Indiana where I grew up. I didn't like my teachers much as they didn't appreciate my Andy Warhol sort of lowbrow sensibility as a painter, and fine art was not my calling, so I took a job at a record store and started writing for a free press doing concerts and album reviews. I have always loved music, and decided after meeting Bill Graham at a New Music Seminar in NYC that I wanted to be the biggest and best female manager in the world. So I started scouting bands for management and this lead me to California in 1981 as I wanted to promote the bands I found in the Midwest and take them to the next level.
Your work with Guns N' Roses is probably that for which you are most noted - how did you first connect with the band and its members?
One day early in 1984 I get a phone call at my job at Silverlining Entertainment, where I was a booking agent. " Vicky, my name is Axl Rose and I am the lead singer for a band called Hollywood Rose. We are going to be the biggest band in Hollywood. You were recommended to me, to help us get some gigs," he said. "Do you have a demo you can send in for me to hear?" I respond. Axl says, "Yes! How about I just come there now and play it for you?" I laugh, yet I'm already charmed by his enthusiasm. "Well Axl, I think you should just mail the demo to me," I say and he says "Why?" Taken aback I respond "Well, for starters I don't have a stereo here to listen to it on." Axl persisted, "That's OK, I'll bring my ghetto blaster." At this point I give up the fight and give him directions to the agency.
A couple hours later Axl and Izzy with ghetto blaster in hand were in the lobby. I sat with them and looked at band snapshots and listened to the demo. I was blown away by the hard driving beat with thunderous rock guitars with blues undertones and then I heard that voice. Somehow I just knew that what he had said to me earlier about being the biggest band in Hollywood was just a small piece of where this band was headed. I agreed with a handshake to start booking their shows.
I booked them on a show at Madame Wongs with a then popular band named Candy. I had chills up and down my spine as I watched a charismatic frontman command the audience's respect. Though the show was still very raw, the basis of the world's next biggest band was well on its way to development.
I booked several shows for them over the next few months; Country Club, Dancing Waters, Troubadour and Music Machine. I was also booking Christian rockers Stryper and the band Slash was in at that time, called Black Sheep. I had booked Hollywood Rose and Black Sheep as openers for Stryper at the Music Machine. I remember introducing Slash to Axl that night. Who knew that this would be the beginning of Guns N' Roses?
Chris Weber - the guitarist in Hollywood Rose - moved to New York City for a while, which is when Tracii Guns was in the band for a season. Then entered bassist Duff McKagen and drummer Steven Adler. Tracii Guns decided to continue with his vision, LA Guns, and this is when Slash entered the band as its guitarist and Guns N' Roses were born.
Is it true that the classic song 'My Michelle' was written while Axl was living at your place?
Yes, Axl was living at my place after he was hanging with Michelle Young, so it's pretty safe to say he wrote that song while living at my place.
Here's one that I'm sure you can clear up: I was a fan of the band Shark Island, did Axl really steal his trademark dance from that band's frontman Richard Black?
Well, let's just say that Axl went to see Shark Island play a lot and his style in performance changed from a punk rock pogo to an Axl shuffle during that time period...I think if you took Richard's moves, added some Sex Pistols and a little Joplin and Stevie Nicks that pretty much spells it out.
It's (so) easy to look back now and see that GN'R were head and shoulders above some of their so-called contemporaries but, back then, was the success so assured?
It was clear that GN'R were not the typical hair band from the beginning, it felt more dangerous out of the gate. I always knew that they would break big, but I had no idea it would be as huge as it got.
Although you were no longer connected to the band when they sacked Steven Adler, how did you feel when you heard about it? Was he really that much worse than the other band members?
Steven really didn't do anything but drink beer and smoke pot when I was working with the band, so I was shocked that they were saying he was a doing hard drugs and had a problem. I loved Steven, he was always very happy go lucky and brought good energy to the group. When you take away a piece of the magic, you can never get it back.
What are your thoughts on the version of the band that Axl is touring with right now?
All great players and nice guys, but missing the fire in the belly that made the band so explosive and passionate about their brand of rock n roll. They are in it for the pay check, not the music.
I believe that when GN'R got signed by Geffen you secured an A&R position at the label, having a hand in getting Salty Dog signed; what do you remember about that band (remembered fondly here!) and any others that you were working with at that point?
I LOVE Salty Dog! I was their manager before they signed to Geffen. Once they got Pete Reeven as the guitarist I knew they would take off. I mean 'Come Along' and 'Lonesome Fool', so amazing and 'Sacrifice Me' should have been a huge hit! Still to this day it makes me cry a little inside! Fame started to happen for them really quickly and I think it was too much for Jimmi the singer and he got into a bad scene with drugs. The band recently played a reunion show at The Key Club and it was great! Jimmi is healthy and clean now, it was good to see that. I wish all of them the best in their careers and personal lives.
I signed Rick Parker from Lions and Ghost to Geffen too, he made a beautiful record called 'Wicked World' that barely saw the light of day as it came out just as David Geffen sold the company to Universal. Rick is such amazing musician and writer, now he is a great producer.
We're getting ahead of ourselves! Let's get back to another band that you managed at an early point in their career - Poison. How did you come to work with the band?
I met them through a girl named Ann who worked at A&M Records. I went to see them play live and it was such a fun show, I wanted to get involved as the manager. Matt Smith was the guitarist then. They hadn't been in town to long, they were from Harrisburg, PA. The song writing wasn't very developed at that point, so it was hard to get the labels out to see them. Poison were the promotion machine, they were selling out The Country Club before the labels were really interested.
Prior to the appointment of C.C. DeVille, you were actually working with Poison when Slash was poised to join them, right?
Well, they auditioned Slash when Matt went back to PA but Slash was never in the band. Slash didn't want to wear all the makeup and do the glam/girlie thing. So that's when CC came onboard.
With every band on the Strip trying to out-glam each other what do you think it was that made Poison stand out and eventually garner themselves major success?
Poison was driven. They worked the band like a full time job. They knew what they wanted and were not taking no for answer. They worked hard at their craft too, they became a good band.
Does it surprise you to see Bret Michaels forging this new career for himself as a television personality or was he always that driven to succeed?
Doesn't surprise me at all. Bret has always been willing to do whatever it takes to make it. He is very charming on the outside, but more than willing to throw anybody under the bus who stands in his way of getting where he wants to go. Probably the hardest person in my career to please.
Another band that is pretty much universally adored here at Uber Rock is Faster Pussycat: you managed these guys too, right? How did that start?
Yes! I managed Faster Pussycat and got them their deal with Elektra. Actually Axl brought the band to my attention when I was managing GN'R. He saw them play at the Whisky and told me he wanted them to open the next GN'R show, so I went to check them out and he was right. They were really good!
You might find this hard to believe in 2012 but, back in 1987, Pussycat toured the UK with Guns N' Roses and many of us thought Taime and the boys were the better band!
I can believe it! When Faster were "On" they were really "On". Unfortunately, when they were "Off" they were really "Off" too. Same for GN'R.
One part of the Faster Pussycat segment of The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years that I always loved was the uncomfortable silence that fell over the band when they were asked about their drug use - these guys couldn't have been much worse than any of the other bands though, surely?
As my friend Iris Berry always says, "If you remember the '80s you weren't really there." Thank God most of us sobered up or we would be dead now.
What did you think of the Penelope Spheeris film when it was released? Was it a decent representation of the scene? UK fans worshipped it!
I loved the film and I consulted on it. Penelope is a good friend. She shot me for the film but I did it with a veil on and it looked pretty stupid so thankfully it was the cutting room floor for that footage! Penelope is the Queen of documentaries. I can only hope that my documentary 'Until The Music Ends' will look half as good as Decline. I am having a lot of fun making it and Penelope has been supportive.
Odin featured in the film and you later managed their vocalist Randy O in his band The Lostboys - how was the experience and how close were they to actually making it?
I adore Randy and it makes me sad that the Lostboys didn't get their day in the sun. Sometimes it's all in the timing, and unfortunately Lostboys were just a little behind the curve. They had a major deal with Atlantic Records and Godfrey Diamond made a great record with them. I think that if they had signed like two years earlier they would have had a huge career. Odin has been doing some reunion shows and I wish all the guys the best that life has to offer. Randy has a great heart and spirit and I know his greatness is still to come, I don't know if it will be in music, but someone with that much sensitivity and passion is bound for greatness and I will applaud his success when it comes.
You worked with another small band early in their career too.....the name escapes me.....wasn't it Motley something?! How did this happen and how far into their career did you work with them?
I met Nikki Sixx in 1981 and was a management consultant for their first manager Allan Coffman. I worked with the band before 'Too Fast For Love' came out on Leathur Records up until they signed with Elektra. I helped shop their demo to the major label and did a lot of display merchandizing for them. It was the first band I personally knew and watched go from a local scene to worldwide stardom. It was amazing to watch and I learned so much from the experience.
Was there any indication at that time that Motley Crue would go on to become worldwide stars?
It took a lot of guts to be the Crue and wear all the makeup and high heels and things...never mind that music was cutting edge and different. When Motley hit the scene, Hollywood was in full punk rock worship. The punkers were always picking on them and threw punches at them. I think Nikki Sixx is a genius, still to this day. In the early days he would tell me about his dreams and how their sets would look, backdrops, pyro, the girl back up singers all the things he wanted to do. So when I witness his dream come true at The Forum, I cried. I was so proud, even though I wasn't involved anymore.
Another band that you worked with was Roxx Regime, who later transformed into yellow and black soldiers under command, Stryper - what do you remember about the band at that early stage of their career?
One of my first jobs in Hollywood was as a cocktail waitress at Gazzarris and Roxx Regime would play nearly every weekend, as did Ratt. I remember really liking both of the bands. They both did a version of Judas Priest's 'Breaking The Law' and even though Steven Percy was a great frontman, Michael Sweet could sing him under the table.
Was Robert Sweet still playing drums facing forward when you were working with them? Every Stryper article written by an Uber Rock writer is typed side-on to the keyboard in tribute to our favourite visual timekeeper!
No...for as long as I can remember Robert always played to the side. He said he could hear what was going on better that way.
Cards on the table time: do you have any scandalous tales to tell about the members of Stryper from those early years? I promise I'll tell no-one!
Ah...yea ...I've got some funny stories but you will have to buy my autobiography when it comes out for those! I will say, to this day, I still cannot wear yellow and black together. They always wanted the people that worked with them to wear yellow and black and that year I felt like a friggin' bumble bee.
One thing I've noticed from all the interviews I've ever read with you is that you never go down the kiss and tell route - everything you say is professional and business-like and for that I salute you!
Thank you. I've tried to keep my personal life personal and be a businesswoman. It's so easy to be tagged a groupie and I am already blonde, so it's best to keep it separate.
Is this the way that the book you're working on will be?
I am trying to be as honest and factual as possible in my book. It's really making me explore my true feeling about all that happened. I am co-writing it with Iris Berry who is an amazing writer and friend. Iris has lived a lot of the history with me. The book is going to be really honest about the drug abuse and partying and how hard it was for me to get sober; I cried every day for six months! I am also giving true accounts of how I was naïve in the beginning and how suave business executives hosed me. I want it to be a fun read from a businesswoman perspective, but I will let my wall down a little and reveal the things that crushed me. I got knocked down several times, but got back up, managed to find me feet again. It took a lot of therapy, 12 stepping, psychics, and spirituality and good old fashion caring to get my head on straight. I want this book to be REAL. It's important to me that my experiences in this business are told so that young hopefuls can avoid some of the pitfalls I encountered and possibly save their livelihoods and sanity. There are some really hilarious things that happened too, shit that is so crazy it has to be true, coz nobody could make it up! I'm excited to have it out there...I don't think anyone has written a book like this one. I am grateful everyday to have lived such a creative wacky life.
You're still managing bands: I believe that you're currently looking after an Australian outfit called The Art. What can you tell us about them?
I LOVE THE ART SOOO MUCH! I got to a point a couple of years ago where I didn't think I was going to manage bands anymore, then I met Azaria, the lead singer of The Art. I just get what he and this band are about and it's kind of a throw back to T. Rex, The Doors with a little Dandy Warhols thrown in. It's Rock N Roll but it's Glam. They are amazing song writers, performers, and just good human beings. Three guys and a girl, KJ, who is a rad bass player and singer. This band make me want to be a better manager, they are so good! It is so rare for me to meet a band where I dig the whole package and love all the personalities in the band. I was just with them for three weeks, everyday for SXSW in Austin, Texas and then in Los Angeles, CA and we had so much fun and caused such a wave of stuff to happen, it's exciting! Rodney Bingenheimer has been playing them on his show every week for over two months...he sees what I see...they are so talented and making rock sexy again. Check them out! When I put them on the plane back to Australia I felt so proud yet empty inside, I miss my kids.
Didn't Azaria take the lead role in Glitter Beach, the surf musical that you have written with Robbie Quine of The Barbarellatones?
Yes! Azaria played Reef Bedrock, the lead of the musical who invents Glam Rock music and then becomes Twiggy Starlust! Azaria is a triple threat! He is an amazing musician, singer, performer and now actor. Glitter Beach is such a fun project, when Robbie and I started writing this thing, we really had no idea what we were getting into. There isn't really a good handbook that out there to tell you how to write a musical play and get it up on the stage. Luckily, director Daniel Henning came onboard, over saw us in a rewrite and our first workshop production. He really shaped the musical into something viable. I was so proud of the piece and the music Robbie wrote, it's so fun to watch this thing grow and Azaria sang in almost every scene. I'm so lucky to have so many creative people around me.
I love Robbie! How did you start working with him...and how has it been?
I love Robbie too! I met Robbie in 2000 when he was basically a recording studio assistant/tea boy at Satellite Park when I was doing some demos with producer Gexa X. It was one of those strange moments of instant chemistry where I literally said out loud "Oh! There you are..." like the missing link in my life. Robbie is my David Bowie! We both grew up loving David Bowie and Glitter Beach is in many ways of our tribute to him. It's also sort of Robbie's autobiography, as it is about a glam rock surfer dude who has a mermaid muse and lives in this world of colourful characters who invent a west coast sort of Warhol factory. It's a story of misfits coming together, embracing their differences and building a great new scene.
I managed Robbie's band Sex With Lurch that I thought was brilliant! I think the band was a little ahead of its time but I have the greatest respect for him as a creative talent and human being. We had some rocky times in the Sex With Lurch days, but we walked through fire together, he helped me get sober and now I count him as one of my best friends and co- creative collaborators. I am excited to see what the future holds for Robbie and me as friends and writers, we have so much fun working together.
Back to the '80s to finish off: which bands from that time do you think should have made it...but didn't?
Lions and Ghost - Rick Parker has written some of my favorite songs of all time. They were brilliant live band too.
Rattle Snake Shake - Jimmy Quill (Thrill) and company could have been the new Rolling Stones but again, behind the curve, timing is everything. Jimmy is such a fireball and has his fingers in so many pies, he is not only talented but a great business mind. I am working on a new venture with Jimmy currently which is a social media music, art, fashion and entertainment thing. We are currently writing our business plan, I'm excited to get a chance to work with him in this new way.
Altered State - Greg Markel is such an amazing singer and writer. He has the voice that is a mix of Bono and Jeff Buckley. In my mind, Altered State was the band that Tom York listened to for inspiration for Radiohead.
Jetboy - What's not to love about a punk glam rock outfit?
Darling Cruel - Greg Darling, such a big talent. Danny, Eric and Janis amazing musicians...I watched the video of 'Everything's Over' the other day and thought, this could come out today and be current.
Shark Island - Let's give Richard Black credit where credit is due. He inspired a lot of '80s bands, including GNR.
Finally, of all the bands, who was the biggest asshole that you've ever had the misfortune to have to deal with?!
You will have to buy the book to get the true dirt but, let's just say Bret Michaels on many levels made Axl Rose look like a walk in the park. I would have to say June Carter Cash was the nicest artist I dealt with and had the most lasting impact on my life. Having said all that, I am grateful for all my experiences as they have made the person I am today. My career and live has been, and continue to be a crazy roller coaster ride...it's all been incredibly exciting and a lot of fun, and I will stand line to ride again.