|Stephen 'Haggis' Harris - The Four Horsemen - Interview Exclusive|
|Written by Dom Daley|
|Friday, 07 May 2010 05:40|
It's better to burn out than fade away, right? That's what Neil Young said anyway. Live fast and die young is another well turned out phrase and it would be fair to say both can be applied to The Four Horsemen. Their star burned oh-so-brightly for such an all too brief period in time before exploding in tragic circumstances. A band who had it all. The rock 'n' roll outlaw look, the attitude and the damn songs! Then, after just one major release, singer Frank Starr got killed in a motorcycle accident on Sunset Strip and drummer and man mountain Ken 'Dimwit' Montgomery died of a drug overdose way too soon and consigned this legendary band to the history books.
It's funny we're sitting here at the Grand Hotel in Swansea because on the floor over there written in the concrete is 'Ambition Is Critical' (a Dylan Thomas quote - Swansea's most famous son - written in the train station concourse floor) but I don't think when you're a kid of 12 you know anything about ambition. But growing up in Swansea I was into skateboarding, it was like the mid 70's and that was all the craze, then punk came along but, although I sort of missed the first wave of punk due to my age, by the end of the 70's I was old enough to know what was going on and I think my first ever record was 'Do The Funky Gibbon' by the Goodies ha ha! Then of course my second one was 'Rattus Norvegicus' by The Stranglers. So, a few people I hung 'round with started getting into bands and picking up guitars and the whole punk influence meant you didn't have to be great at playing to start a band which was great. I persuaded my dad to buy me a £30 bass from Woolworth on Oxford Street and off I went. The first band I was in was called The Autonomes and there is a Swansea website called swanseapunks.com and there are pictures of me at 12 /13 playing bass in that band....so that was it.
How did you get to move to London and hook up with Zodiac Mindwarp?
I had a mate called Steve and we started a record label together called Fierce Recordings and we put a bunch of records out; one of the bands was the Pooh Sticks, also spacemen 3 and we put a Sonic Youth record out. This of course was back in the early 80's when everyone was putting out 7" limited editions so we sort of made friends with all these people and persuaded them to let us release all these 100 copy limited edition 7" singles. I was busy doing that and I met Youth from Killing Joke and we had become friends and he was playing in a band with Zodiac which I suppose was early Zodiac Mindwarp but nobody knew at the time because Youth was only filling in because he was in another band called Brilliant and they had a deal with Warner Brothers and they wouldn't let him play in two bands whilst signed to them. Also David Balfe was the manager and Balfe screwed me for £600 because he didn't believe in the record I was going to release so we went to David's office and it was the day 'Wild Child' came in to the office, the first Zodiac Mindwarp single. So I persuaded Balfe to give me a copy while I was there and I asked what was the deal with the band and noticed Youth played on it so when I got home I called Youth up and asked him and he told me that Zodiac was this genius and he was going to be looking for a bass player because of the fact Youth couldn't play in both.
I wrote Balfe a letter telling him that I should play bass for Zodiac and Balfe was surprised because there were no auditions or anything and then I got a call back in Swansea a couple of days later from Balfe telling me to get back up to London - it was October 85 and I met Zodiac and, without even playing, I was in. I can remember the dates because two weeks later was the first gig at Dingwalls in Camden. Balfe told me I had a week to pack all my stuff and get back to London before the gig and go straight into rehearsals for two weeks and that was it, I was in. Remember I was this 18 year old kid. The rock 'n' roll gods were on my side because Balfey had just bought this house in Dalston, London and he was living there with his girlfriend and she'd left him with this big house and he was bored so he said why not move in. Balfey was about 29 and Food Records had only just started and he released 'Brilliant' and the Zodiac single and Andy Ross was taken on. Food didn't have an office at the time but he had a car, we would just drive around all day and then drop me off at rehearsals with Zodiac and that was it. I'd been to London many times for gigs but it was really crazy you know, all of a sudden this kid from Swansea was playing in Zodiac Mindwarp and going 'round Suggs from Madness's house for dinner and discovering girls. All of a sudden I was in a band and I was no longer this spotty kid from Swansea and I was being dragged to the VIP room at the Limelight. I was so naive and it had gone from one extreme to the other and looking back that was so great, you know everyone I now knew was so cool, people wanted to be around them and I was so not cool but that's what made it so great.
Oh absolutely. Balfey's partner was Bill Drummond before all the money burning and KLF and I've been friends with him since then (I actually played on his solo album). Bill was working for WB at the time and he was like "hey Haggis, you wanna go see Motley Crue at the Odeon?" I'd be like fuck yeah let's go! I would say Zodiac were different back then, a real rock band certainly not a metal band which they might have become later.
Yeah, I think we invented that if you look at the time line of what was about. The likes of Motley Crue hadn't done 'Girls Girls Girls' which was like the American commercial take on or their version of grebo rock. That was grebo to me not the UK indie bands. On the fringe was The Cult I'd say and they only became "Rock" after 'Electric' - before that they were still wearing the paisley love vibe thing. Crazyhead, Horse London - none of those bands really existed then. If you looked around the bands, Culture Club were huge in the UK and The Smiths, there wasn't really a massive rock band breaking out but all the rock was coming from the US. Sure before you had the Crue coming over on the 'Theatre Of Pain' tour. The two records we had on the tour bus at the time was the Van Halen one with 'Why Can't This Be Love' and Dave Lee Roth's 'Yankee Rose' and over here we were all like - that's what we want to be like, you know this huge world wide band. The UK bands still had like an indie mentality, even The Cult were playing universities on 'Love' and it was that vibe and mentality, but here from the US was something else. I was like, fuck that being an indie band I want to be in a rock band and be big, no huge ha ha!
Well the thing is Zodiac is a fucking nutter! In the time honoured fashion that all great lead singers are, he was! I still have a relationship with him even now. The thing is he's about 10 years older than me and basically I annoy the shit out of him and vice versa and every so often we tell each other to fuck off and we go away and don't speak to each other for about 10 years and that's pretty much it ha, ha, ha!
Zodiac Mindwarp got given an insane amount of money; we were playing like Dingwalls to 50 people then we played the Clarendon Ballroom supporting this guy from Hawkwind and the Ozric Tentacles and 9 major labels turned up to watch us and try and sign us and in the end we signed for PolyGram Records for 600K advance, no strings in 1985! That shit doesn't even happen anymore in 2010 I don't suppose, and it was crazy. I was 18 living in a squat in Rosedale Avenue with Gimpo and some gay Culture Club impersonator guy then suddenly we had all this money and it drove us insane! The Limelight had just opened. I remember it was my birthday on July 1st 1986 and the only band that year in all the press was us. On that birthday I remember getting up, going to the newsagents and we were on the cover of every single magazine - NME, Sounds, Melody Maker. That night we travelled up to Birmingham to play with We've Got A Fuzzbox..... and I remember convincing the bass player Jo that she had to drink a pint of crème de menthe and she threw up everywhere - it was really crazy times.
I thought, this was it, fuck we're going to be massive and break out of the indie scene but Zodiac in a weird way, and I don't mean this in a cruel way or insulting way, but he thought he'd made it, job done and this was it. In a weird way it was perhaps a limited mentality and I'm not being cruel or insulting here. 'Fuck it we've got the money', it wasn't like ok, we've got money let's use it, invest it and get bigger and better and get on top of this business and be really big. Sadly I think our productivity slowed down in coincidence with getting that advance. We did all of a sudden get expensive taste and we'd go to the Manor for two weeks and blow 100 grand then he'd disappear on holiday, buy 3k fur coats and just piss it away. Before you know it the money was going but the band weren't getting anything done. So I started arguing and fighting with him. Let's level here, it was always his band and who the fuck was I, this 18/19 year old kid telling him what the fuck to do and stop fucking it up.
So what happened about me leaving the Love Reaction and joining The Cult is simple. I was then dating this girl who used to be involved with The Cult a lot. It was a bit underhanded to be honest but they (the Cult) wanted to become a five piece after deciding that AC/DC was the way to go for the 'Electric' album. They knew I wasn't happy with Zodiac because of this girl as she was best friends with Billy's (Duffy) girlfriend so they'd been talking and they said to me on the quiet, look if you're really thinking about quitting then you should come and join and that's what I did. I flew out to New York quietly and met Rick Rubin who was producing the 'Electric' album and just stayed in America and that was it really. It was a weird situation because I had joined the band and there were a lot of legal situations that came up. Balfe was really pissed off and was going to sue The Cult because I wasn't free to go, so there was this weird place where I was not in the band but I was. I was only in The Cult for just over a year but it transpired and became obvious that nobody was really in The Cult except Ian and Billy. Don't forget I was still only 19 and still really naive.
No, I don't think I was ever that smart. I'd just think fuck it and live for the moment. I'm a bit of an idealist I always do things (I know this is going to sound pretentious but) for the art of it, it's the creative process. And not to do something with a pretext of being the biggest band in the world. When I joined Zodiac we got into painting the plastic German helmets and the high priest of love was this perfect thing, I always thought it was more than dressing up and making a record. I don't know what any of the others thought it was but I wanted it to be like this Iggy and the Stooges thing and I could see that going downhill. I knew that The Cult weren't in that space, they weren't going downhill and had I stayed in Zodiac I was gonna get kicked out or leave with nothing anyway because of the friction I had with Zodiac.
You certainly left just at the right time creatively with Zodiac (even though the peak success wise was 'Prime Mover' but with less credibility) and to hop on The Cult wagon seemed like perfect timing?
What happened I think was Zodiac lost his sparring partner when I left. There were four of us in Mindwarp. Cobalt and Slam were just easy come easy go and I was like the one always pushing him. You know that friction with any relationship is good but if one person is always right and everyone else just shuts up nothing happens - even if the guy is right a lot of the time he can't be right all the time. Even though Zodiac never admitted it at the time he's sort of admitted that now. I wouldn't take any credit where it wasn't me, it was his name, his band but he still needed that creative friction to push him....I think.
About the songs (in Zodiac Mindwarp) - did he write them all or was it more of a band effort?
No, he wrote those songs.
Not really, which was also a problem not just from a financial perspective with royalties but it quickly became apparent he was just writing the same song over and over again. I was like maybe we should do something different but he was always "no way" and didn't want to know. Without wanting to take the credit for my contribution to Zodiac just look what happened after I left!
Absolutely. When I left they hired two new guys and everyone just did what they were told. Here's the truth, Zodiac Mindwarp would always have been like that had I not been in the band and although I wasn't writing the songs I'd speak up and act like the quality control. For example it was Zodiac's idea to wear the helmets but my idea to paint them. I'd say I was definitely the junior partner, no doubt about that, but when I left he just seemed to not care. I don't think I'm speaking out of turn here but he was from a really, really poor background financially and it was a tough upbringing. He's actually a really nice guy and when he got the 600K it was literally like winning the pools and you know how you read about people who come from nothing win big then flitter it all away and five years later they're broke? Again it's just that whole mentality.
About 2 or 3 years ago. The DVD, well that was like my fixing things with Zodiac and giving something back. In '95 a mate of mine from Brighton who managed a record store, well we used to play the Zap Club down there often and he had a big video camera and he'd take it to the show and I'm talking about 10 gigs into Zodiac Mindwarp so really early on . We'd video tape every night and he (Zodiac) would say I want to watch the video back tonight and he'd take the tape and it would never be seen again. So that night at the Zap Club we taped the show and I never handed it over to Zodiac, I kept it. Being drunk I got the train home, left it in this mate's house and the whole thing was forgotten until the mid 90's and my mate got in touch after clearing some boxes in his attic and came across these tapes on VHS and it was four complete shows. I think nobody really got to see the real Zodiac Mindwarp when we were at the top of our game and I'd never come across any bootlegs especially of the early shows. I knew some shows were taped because we used to go to Camden Market after playing a London show and the tapes used to be on sale the day after a show but I never collected them. Then a few years ago I started looking on the net and eBay and got together a bunch of stuff from fans. On eBay I found the first ever contract for Zodiac Mindwarp. So I put all this together with a 16 page book and audio as well as the shows onto DVD and got Bill Drummond to write the sleeve notes and I made 900 copies and did it for Zodiac and when I gave him a copy he was really made up and touched that I'd gone to all that trouble getting stuff. It sort of enabled us to become friends again. I think I gave them to Zodiac and he sold them at the shows.
No, not really. They do play shows but the DVD really captures what it was really like at the time, which is great to have that.
Oh absolutely, it's a fine piece of work and a great collection of what the band was all about at that stage. I also felt a lot better about that. When I was in the states with The Cult I remember seeing the whole 'Prime Mover' thing with the new guys wearing headbands dancing 'round and I thought what the fuck!
Oh yeah, they were like this metal band (not that there was anything wrong with metal) but it definitely wasn't what Zodiac Mindwarp was about before at all.
When you were part of The Cult set up after playing decent size halls in the UK like St David's in Cardiff and Brixton Academy in London what size were The Cult at in the US?
Oh it was getting huge. It was a whole new world compared to playing the UK. It was Madison Sq Garden. I think 'Sonic Temple' was when they were biggest commercially but 'Electric' was when the band was most credible, I think so anyway. 'Electric' was like 'Rock' and blew the whole thing open for them. Personally I think 'Love' was great and was probably the real Cult, more Ian and Billy's character you know, where they'd come from with their punk background more so than hard rock. 'Love' was not really sounding like anyone really, it was definitely an original sound whereas 'Electric' was a very generic heavy rock influenced album. I then think 'Sonic Temple' was The Cult trying to back peddle and go in-between 'Love' and 'Electric' without losing the newer fans.
To hear the box set they did where songs like 'Love Removal Machine' and 'Conquistador' still had the multi effect on them, I guess that's what 'Electric' was going to sound like before Rick?
Oh yeah, I was at the Manor sessions. I spent a lot of time with the band around then. This was when I was still in Zodiac Mindwarp but we'd go and hang out. I think they had some huge hits with 'Sanctuary' and 'Rain' in the States on college radio. Also the pressure was on with a publishing deal offered them around the time, we're talking about a million pounds between Ian and Billy. And they had to go do another album so the pressure was on and they turned up with Steve Brown and I think it was very intimidating time for them. It sounded like there was this rock band trying to break out from the 'Love' sound so they took a break and went to New York just to speak with Rick (Rubin) about mixing 'Love Removal Machine' which was the original plan and whilst there he said "let's hear what else you have" and when they ran through the rest of the tracks they had he was like, "you need to strip it down and do it like this."
Absolutely, that was all Rick, no doubt about it.
Well, they'd been hanging 'round and whilst I was there the whole time of the recording of both versions of that album it was a case of them trying to find their feet and take the next step, and it's such a tough place to be when you have say Steve Brown who isn't a pushy producer at all - he was very much just a helping hand and a soundboard whereas Rick was like this famous American guy who was very loud and single minded and confident in what he knew and how to achieve it and I guess the fact that we were all in Jimi Hendrix studio (Electric Ladyland), really stoked about what they were being told and Rick is a really confident guy, and don't forget he is really talented as well in what he does, and I think he was like, fuck the white falcon and all the pedals shit here's a Les Paul and a Marshall stack and away you go, and it sounded the absolute bollocks in that studio - it was incredible!
I can tell you being in the room when 'Love Removal Machine' was being laid down was amazing; the sound coming out of the neve console and using the Les Paul just cranked up was unbelievable and so powerful. Andy Wallace who engineered that worked a treat with the sound of that record; the guy went on to work closely with Jeff Buckley and do 'Nevermind' by Nirvana, it really did just blow your hair back at the time, it was literally that good and when the band were comparing the versions it was so obvious as well - the stripped version won every time and it was so exciting.
Maybe, but I think it damaged their career in the long run to some degree. They had this huge wave of success just after when I'd joined the band officially, then they moved on to 'Sonic', which to me was a bit of a back peddle sound wise, then on through 'Ceremony' but I dunno, at the time it seemed absolutely the right thing to do sound wise. Ian and Billy always had that friction going on as well and they'd argue over the direction of The Cult and in many ways the time-honoured musical marriage between the songwriters being the singer and the guitarist; you fight half the time and shag the other half but when the fighting becomes 90% of the time it's not good. They changed management at the time as well, there were a lot of things going on in and around The Cult at the time, obviously when I joined it had gone from four to five members.
When you became a fully fledged touring member of The Cult did you have very clearly defined lines and boundaries of what your roll was?
Oh yes, just turn up and play your bass guitar! I also think Ian wanted a mate, someone to side with him in his matrimonial dispute with Billy, ha ha ha! Jamie and Les had no input either and Jamie had been there for a long, long time with them. What really ruined Jamie and his input and credibility in the band was this...Do you remember Vision On?
Oh absolutely! It was always Ian and Billy no question about that - it was weird because when I showed up out of Zodiac Mindwarp I added them some more credibility in rock I guess but ultimately I knew my place and that was to play the bass for The Cult.
To be honest, after about six months of that tour I was already planning The Four Horsemen. Rick took one look at me and after one of the dates halfway through the tour Ian had taken to wearing big huge furry hats and Billy had slowly gone to wearing leather duster coats and the white falcon was back and I was over here wearing stinking leather pants and a stinky t-shirt and Rick was like "Dude, you need to get the fuck out of here" and I agreed. I'll be honest with you, that tour was such a blast, it was a real laugh, every fuckin' day something would happen - it was a most amazing time.
I remember that show, look don't get me wrong I wouldn't change a second of that time - I was still only 20 and I'm playing Madison Square Garden, how incredible is that? It was a real blast. But yeah, St David's Hall, that was a great show because there was all this panto stuff backstage so it must have been winter time. We had this monitor guy called Yaron and he dressed up in this full size reindeer costume with the antlers and light up horns and everything. Billy would always give the monitor guy a hard time - this guy used to take the fall for every problem onstage and this night Billy turned round to give him both barrels and as he looked up he was met by a fuckin' reindeer - it was classic!
Oh, we'll get to Frank hahaha!
I learned to play bass first but always wanted to play guitar. I'd written all these songs on the guitar so I wanted to play them on the guitar, um, I guess I could have stayed with the bass but had that happened then the Horsemen would have been a four piece as I don't think we'd have gone with a second guitar player and I couldn't play lead as I play like I'm wearing a fucking boxing glove on my hand!
We were in LA it was in 87; the guys present were me, Rick Rubin, James Hetfield and Glen Danzig and we'd been to the Rainbow Bar and Grill because Rick liked it there because of all the stories about Zepplin you hear. Anyway, to give you some idea of what it was like at the time Hetfield was 24 or there about, he's wearing black sneakers, black jeans and a biker jacket that cost $25 and a Misfits shirt he'd cut up the sleeves and was wearing them like an armband that Jerry Only would wear - he was just a kid who loved metal and would hang around taking it all in because he was so in love with metal and the whole thing that goes with it. It was just after the 'Master Of Puppets' tour and they were looking for a new bass player and I was friends with Peter (Mench - Metallica's manager) who had heard all these rumours and whispers that I was about to leave The Cult and there was a brief moment before Jason joined Metallica where everyone was asking about that I'd be the new bass player with Metallica. I'm not saying for a moment they asked me but that was what was being said when I'd go to a club and meet people.....I dunno.
Would you have considered that move??
Oh God no, I couldn't play that shit, fucking hell that's for real men!!! I wouldn't play that shit ha ha, fuck that's like a marathon wanking machine's job right there - that wasn't for me ha ha. Can you imagine me trying to pull off all that? Fuck ha ha! Anyway we were in the Rainbow and this commotion was going on and this guy is standing in the doorway with like this Levi jacket cut off, brown denim pants and this hair, it was like a fucking mushroom - he had this naturally curly head of hair but he just cut it off at his ears. It was a fucking mushroom, he looked insane and funny and his hands were like dripping with blood and he was basically telling this story of how he'd beat the shit out of this guy in the lot outside and when Rick turned round he was like that's the guy, that's your singer! He then waved Frank over and introduced us and it was like "Frank, this is Haggis from The Cult" and I was like "Can you sing?" I didn't know anything about Frank. It was like Frank is your new singer said Rick and Frank said "cool yeah, let's go" and that was it, the start of The Four Horsemen right there.
What about the others - how did you get them to join you and Frank in the band?
Well Dimwit (drummer) was Chuck Biscuits' brother who was playing with Danzig at the time and Rick was moaning to Glen about having to find me a drummer for The Four Horsemen and Biscuits said his brother is an amazing drummer he could do the job. At this time I was still playing with The Cult so Rick was sounding Dimwit out. Oh, here's a true story nobody knows about; At that exact moment when Rick was in the studio with Danzig and Chuck, Dave Lombardo had quit Slayer and so Rick called Dimwit in Vancouver. Rick goes "I want to fly you into LA because this band Slayer have got a tour with Metallica in six weeks" and Dimwit is like "Who the fuck are Slayer?" He didn't have a clue but Rick was like "I'll fly you down and you can do the tour with them" so still not knowing who they were Rick decided to play the whole of 'Angel Of Death' down the line to him and when it had finished Rick got back on the phone all stoked and said so what do you think and Dimwit told him "that was fuckin horrible dude, I never want to hear that shit again let alone play it!"
Ha ha ha, well Rick, somewhat taken aback, told him about this other band he might be interested in and that's how it happened and he was in. Can you just imagine this guy - he didn't give a fuck who Rick Rubin was and neither did he give a fuck about who or what Slayer were about, which is really cool right?
No, not really - it was just the idea. I knew what I wanted and once we had the band we could get down to it. We all loved the same bands, you know we obviously loved the Bon Scott era AC/DC and Dimwit loved early Status Quo. If you listen to the EP we did you can see where we stole all that shit from, I mean 'Welfare Boogie' was 'Rain' by Status Quo - you know that riff. 'High School Rock N Roller', I can't even remember what DC song that was we lifted but you know it could have been any really. 'Hard Loving Man' was a Johnny Moped song we totally stole but just played it faster.
Yup, that's him. To pay our respect to Johnny Moped we put a sticker or something on the EP.
Was it a difficult album to put together, both to write and then record?
Well in the studio it was great, we got on with it but getting there was a different matter.
Oh sure, getting to the point of recording wasn't easy and the story is there right? People always talk about bad asses in rock 'n' roll and in my experience the real deal was Frank! We've all read about Ronnie Van Zandt from Skynyrd being the real deal but if you think about people like Axl, Ian, Zodiac they were all artists who maybe happened to be a bit badass or unhinged at times as a result of the tortured artist thing, but Frank couldn't give a fuck about any of that, he was absolutely unhinged and the real deal. He worked under the principle of as long as I get enough money by the end of the day to eat, I can fix my beat up car and maybe get to fuck a chick then I'm happy. He really genuinely was nothing more than a petty criminal mechanic who happened to fall into being in a rock band.
Oh yes sure, Dave and I have talked about this at length and it's ironic that what made him an amazing singer and what made the band so good ultimately destroyed it. He was a guy who really didn't give a fuck, at the point where the Horsemen needed to give a fuck. Frank hadn't caught on and still honestly couldn't give a flying fuck - it was that simple.
If Frank wanted to do something, it was really easy, it was a breeze but if he wasn't fussed then you had a problem. This was around 88/89, now I'm 22 and Frank was 8 years older than me. At that point I was still young and probably didn't realise that people are who they are and that's how it is and with Frank being a lot older he wasn't going to change not for anyone let alone some Swansea boy living in LA. I was still thinking that this is what I want to do and in order to do it this is how you go around it but I couldn't understand why people like Frank didn't want to do what I did or wouldn't agree with me. If you could get Frank on board it was great but half the time it was tough. I remember one time saying to Frank that I was going to buy him a suit with all these mirrors on it like ZZ Top or Slade and it would be fantastic because it was so ridiculous it would be cool then we'd get it and he wouldn't wear it and it would be like, Frank everyone's trying to be this badass, how cool would it be because you're a real badass and how cool would it be if you came out like some sort of fucking David Essex?! He wouldn't go with it so we'd get into a fight. The rest of us thought it was so funny - not in a laugh at Frank way but a piss take out of all those others but hey, there you go. You look at Bon Scott when DC were at their biggest - he looked ridiculous with those high waist pants and a frilly shirt with a tux and he was badass, it was so funny. I remember playing the Universal Amphitheatre in front of 10,000 people and Frank would turn up in like leather gloves with a t-shirt covered in oil and 'Butt man' on the front with a picture of a butt like the bat logo and we'd be like NOOOOoooo! Looking back it was funny, but at the time.....
What about the song writing in The Four Horsemen - could you get Frank to do his bit?
Some lyrics he would come up with. There was a time when he came to me with this piece of paper and said he had a song but it was just a bunch of words and I'd turn them into a song - 'I Need A Thrill' happened like that. But honestly Frank didn't care, he really didn't give a fuck. I remember being in the studio and I'd go "Frank, we're doing vocals today" and he'd be like "oh, uh we better be quick because I'm going to get my dick wet at 8 so I'll be out of here before then" and it was like Frank you can't, but come 8 he'd be gone. It was like Brendan O'Brian was there, Rick Rubin was there, everyone else and it was literally Frank is halfway out the door and Rick would have to go "Frank, if I give you $100 will you stay?" and Frank would be "Make it $200 and it's a deal!"
Didn't care, really truthfully couldn't give a fuck who was there or any of that.
Mmmm, I don't honestly know. I think if Frank could have made money from racing cars he'd have quit. I think we're discussing this on too high a level to what Frank operated or functioned at. This guy was like a fucking wolf child. I know Ian used to give out he was the wolf child but this guy really was running wild. His whole being, his existence was, do I have enough money to get smokes, some food today and will I fuck a chick at the end of the day. We could be here all day with me remembering Frank stories - honestly, I can't really express enough how fucking mental this guy was. Here, it was Christmas day, I asked Frank what he wanted off the band as we were going to treat each other with presents. His reply? A fucking skill saw and a box of spare blades! Honestly, a fucking skill saw!!! So Frank being Frank I went out, didn't ask why or what for, I just got him the saw and blades and a really long extension cord. I think I knew it wasn't good but said ok it's Christmas and got it anyway. Then four o'clock I'm driving to my girlfriend's place and in the car park of McDonald's there's Frank with his extension cord running from McDonald's and he's taken the roof off his Chevy Nova to make it into a convertible. There was this car, some chick and the skill sawed roof leaning against the McDonald's wall. Totally insane really.
Ah, Rick never gave us any money.
Well we made a little money after it came out but nothing up front.
Actually we never knew because the band broke up and I never bothered to find out - It had gone at that point and I was done, I was totally burned out. It's interesting because recently all the re-releases are totally illegal or home-done; it's not with the record company's blessing or input. We didn't ask anyone's permission because we were sick of fans going on eBay and paying silly money for a Japanese copy of the record and we couldn't find who owned it.
Yeah absolutely, we remastered it and it was like fuck it there are all these extra tracks sitting 'round nobody was doing anything with them so Dave and I thought fuck it. You know I'd had it I was leaving the industry; it had finished me I was ready to get spat out. I didn't think about it and then all these years later I emailed Rick - after finding his email address - about the DVD I had of the Horsemen just basically to ask him if he'd mind if we (Dave and myself) put it out, and he mailed me back to say "I'm in Hawaii, here's my number call me after Christmas", then when I called he never got back so I thought fuck it and put it out. All the Def Jam stuff was put out through Warner Brothers, I guess? Which became BMG and a few years ago; Rick split and the deal was he'd take all the bands who were still active like Slayer but in return he'd relinquish the back catalogue to BMG so I never wanted to put it out and fuck with Rick but when I'd found out it was some multi national corporation in Japan I thought fuck you and we put it out.
No, I doubt they gave it a second thought but the ironic and weird thing is the week we put this out 'Nobody....' went up on iTunes which was kinda strange. I had an email then from iTunes and they asked if they could put the other stuff out but we told them to fuck off. Whilst I know people want the music, it's a lot more than that with the time we put into the gatefold and stuff.
Yes I know but the whole iTunes is bollocks - they make a bunch of money from absolutely nothing. No warehouse, postage, staff of any significant levels to release the stuff, no packaging - it's bollocks. It's not even if it's a crap record you can sell it on eBay - you're fucked ha ha!
Yeah, we put a lot of work into that and I think it's worth it with the extra tracks and the whole package - it's nice. Anyway where were we? Oh Frank, um. I was with him when he pulled guns on people - one time we had a Swat team chasing us after Frank had beaten some guy with a golf club; he then took a guy and dumped him through the pie counter of Dennys.
Well uh, yeah to be honest in a strange way as unhinged as Frank was, he was this gent who was quite a chivalrous guy. If he ever saw a guy mistreat a woman he'd go wild - it would almost certainly send him into this rage and he'd have to step in. It was a Saturday night on Sunset Strip about 8 o'clock and we were in Dennys and this guy is yelling at his girlfriend in the line, so Frank sees this and steps up and asks the guy to shut up and not to speak to the girl like that. Then this guy tells Frank to fuck off! So cool as you like Frank just swings 'round picks the guy up and body slams him like a wrestler through the counter. That was the thing with Frank, he was like this really sweet guy but if you pushed that button you really didn't want to hang around that shit.
Frank!!! He just drove me out of my fucking mind, ha ha . It was really funny because the band reformed after I'd gone. Dave worked with him for a while after. When Dave and I get together we laugh and often say oh it's a shame what happened to Frank because if he and Dimwit were still alive we could get together and organise a tour and all these people could finally get to see what the Four Horsemen were all about, but then we catch ourselves and think could we fuck. No! It was Frank! He was the reason it fell apart No way ha, ha! I'm sure wherever you grew up there was a bloke who was a good laugh but was a fucking headbanger and not someone you wanted to hang around with all the time or even call him a mate but he was funny. Well there's Frank. The problem was the more successful the Horsemen became the less Frank cared. Like Zodiac, after he got the money, you know the bigger we got, the less he worked at it. I thought Zodiac was from a poor background but fuck, Frank was way beyond that and when you gave Frank $100 a day he thought he was Rockefeller. Honestly, it was that simple with Frank. He ate a lot, put on weight and that killed it - he just didn't care.
What was the final straw was none of the band had been outside America and I don't mean touring but literally never been across the border let alone own a passport and we were going to tour the UK with Enuff Z Nuff and we'd sold out Hammersmith Odeon and it was really exciting - it would have been the first time I'd come back since The Cult. Everyone was so pumped within the band and we were sent the ads saying sold out UK tour, Hammersmith sold out and what happened was Frank was running round outside some show somewhere with his shirt off in the middle of a freezing winter half hour after we'd just finished a sweaty show and he blew his voice out and went down with a really bad flu. We got him to a doctor who told him that if he didn't stop talking let alone everything else he was doing and take medication and get treated like a baby then you were going to fuck it up. Frank being Frank had no off button or go slow and carried on raging around and being the non stop party 24/7 and as a result not only did the tour get cancelled, there was then nothing for us to do - it wasn't like we could stay in the US and do some recording or play some gigs, it was everyone had to go back to their shitty flats for a month and that wasn't good at all but all the time Frank was still out partying and fighting non stop and it made us think If he's like this now, when we could comfortably play 3-4 thousand capacity venues, what is he going to be like when we make it to 20,000. He was like the fucking devil right there. Maybe a comparison was that whole thing with Death Row Records where these guys were like fucking gangsters, Suge Knight and Tupac; those guys were the real deal, they were gangsters. It wasn't fake, they weren't putting it on. When they got money, guys like NWA they were still gangsters but with money. Maybe another example is maybe the Happy Mondays guy Shaun Ryder, the more money they got, if you were a normal band with a career you would like, go invest, get a manager, do things sensibly and look after the band but to these guys having money was like every day is a win on the lottery or Christmas day. Some people just can't handle money and fame.
Yes, we could have had a different manager. Due to the circumstances at the time we had a manger who didn't give a fuck about our wellbeing or the habits of the band....not remotely interested. We kind of signed under pressure from the label because when you're at the level we were at you really need some people to take care of that side of it. The album was about to come out and the pressure was on and we just went with the label and what they said. I'm not going to blame the guy but had he taken a more paternal role like some other bands it would have made a difference. We were all out of our minds at the best of times and he didn't do a thing, he just took a back seat and let all this craziness go on. He wanted to collect the cheque - he never said "Are you guys ok? Maybe you guys need a holiday or he needs to go to rehab" but at the end of the day - it gets mentioned in the sleeve notes - we were a very dysfunctional unit made up of lunatics but when you put us together it made this furious noise. Outside of the shows we were really fucked up.
Was there nobody you could turn to or people who you knew from your time in Zodiac or The Cult who could check in to see how you were or offer an outsider's opinion?
Not really. The thing is what kept bands like The Cult together, even to this day, is the money and all the people who get paid. They don't really get along - maybe like brothers perhaps but who is Billy Duffy without Ian and vice versa? Right, they need each other and it works. It happens over and over again, music is littered with examples of bands hating each other even but they stay together and make great music - it's some weird shit.
Oh yeah, from time to time we still get it. I'm not sure about all these bands still doing it, like Quo even. I have fond memories but fuck these sorry fuckers dragging their old bodies around on their farewell tour for the twentieth time - it's bordering on cabaret and you wonder if they check themselves to see if they're still credible in this day and age.
I know The Cult did the 'Love' thing recently and Ian was like getting mad because the audience was just standing there watching and Ian was like "what the fuck, why aren't you going crazy" and someone shouted out "it's because we're old!"
A few years ago they passed through New York and they were at the Hammerstein Ballroom and they had given me really nice seats and all that because where they'd put me I could only really see Ian and Billy. It was strange but great at the same time. They sounded fantastic to be fair but backstage Ian had his room and Billy had his room then there was the rest of the band. When I was backstage I had this fantastic moment and I was thinking after all the interviews I've done and people ask the questions about "oh wow, you're a doctor now and you used to be this crazy rock 'n' roller" and all the usual stuff but there I had this moment and after thinking about some of the questions I got asked I was backstage and I'd just been in to see Ian and say hello and he was dressed up like some Red Indian shaman and all this going on with all this chanting and rain dancing or whatever and he was pissed drunk which was the Ian I remembered and loved, every inch the rock star. Anyway, I go to Billy's dressing room and it's like there's Billy with his six pack and a room full of young fit girls and I was like "Hi Billy, what's going on?" and in front of a bunch of people he said "Oh, this is Haggis everyone" and in all seriousness he leaned over after about five minutes and said "Hey Haggis, didn't you play with us once?" It was this great moment where I realised that all this time and years where I was defined as a guy who played bass and stuff but to Billy I was someone in a long line of guys who'd picked up the bass for five minutes and there and then I realised how utterly unimportant it had all become to me and that I'd moved on and how different my life was now and, after all is said and done, who really fucking cares!
Yeah, there was a brief moment when I played with a UK band who moved to America called Spacehog - we did two gigs. They needed a guitar player for the gigs for record companies and I stepped in but I was never going to join, I knew I was done.
Oh fuck no, never. I was the last person they wanted near that record. I bet they were like fuck that, keep that bastard away from this record and band. I think the only reason they could tolerate being together still was because I wasn't there ha ha ha.
'Getting Pretty Good....?' Oh sure, someone sent me a copy right after it was made. I don't know who but I listened to it and some of it was really good and I enjoyed it. I sent Dave a telegram after it and I think he was really nervous but yes, some of it was great. Dave's playing was great.
Oh I don't know, I never really thought about that, who knows? But we're going to re-release that as well in time.
About 7 years ago I went back to school and, I honestly can't remember how, but I ended up going to his house in Maryland after he invited me. That was where we talked about the DVD because I didn't have anything at all - it was gone - but he had a bunch of tapes and stuff but I kept nothing at all. At that point I didn't even own a guitar. So we looked through these boxes and boxes of stuff and it was like "fuck me, you kept everything" and that's what we did, we searched the lot and put together the DVD and the cd's.
No, you see to me it was done - the only thing I have now is a publicity shot I sent my folks that they found back at their house a while back and that's it. I never did keep anything. I was so over it. I left the band in '92 and I first listened to 'Nobody' again in about 10 years whilst on a flight and I did smile to myself and thing fuck me, this was really badass shit, God! Ha ha. I really believe this right, apart from 'Appetite For Destruction', 'Nobody....' was the only other album to really stand the test of time. I'm not saying there were no good records made because that would be stupid, but a genuine contender - it has to be up there with 'Appetite...' above everything else. I don't think even today it sounds dated.
I think that kind of sound will forever be turned out. It's such a classic primal sounding record, it always was and always will be timeless rock 'n' roll - even today bands go back to that sound with varying degrees of success. Then it's down to the songs, don't you agree?
Yes I think so, but I have to give Rick credit for his job on the sound. Whatever gets said about Rick Rubin, he knows his job and he does have vision. I don't know what it was he captured in that room but you listen to 'Let It Rock' and Frank is screaming his lungs out and it just kills man and, whatever it was, Rick captured it.
Sure, yes. Now, looking back, this stuff would have been lost which would have been a shame and seeing people show an interest still after all these years is really nice.
People in bands always say to me "how did you get that sound? Was it Rick in production? Man, that guitar sound." So we got together and had a bunch hand built so if people wanted to they could get one hand crafted guitar and, believe me, with the amp and the craftsmanship gone into it that's exactly how we sounded.
None!! Ha ha ha ha no fucker into the Horsemen has that kind of money, Jesus Christ ha ha!
No, not really. I'm not being a miserable sod, it's just I don't think about it much. I've not been to a rock show in so long and it's not like this miserable guy who doesn't want to see a band play their greatest hits or remember how they used to sound, it's just not the same anymore. I'm like totally not informed.....until me and Dave looked at your site! Ha ha, you guys know what's out and coming out but I don't have a clue anymore. Even now from time to time we get offers to reform and I'm like do you guys realise some of the band are dead, what do you want us to do? Turn up with a couple of coffins or something?! It's weird, maybe if all the band were still alive and we had an offer I'd be like, fuck it let's do it - I guess I'm just a hypocrite ha ha - it's like yeah let's go play, I can do it but I wouldn't pay to see you do it, ha ha....what a fuckin' hypocrite eh? Ha, ha
I don't know, it was a really personal record, it was never like hey here's the guitarist from that band The Four Horsemen sulking because he wanted to be the lead singer ha ha. I wasn't even sure about putting it on the website for sale because it's not like this loud rock record but, there you go, it's something I felt I needed to do.
Yeah that's a great record there, tracks like 'Waterfront' and 'Orpheus'. It was very personal; I did about 10 shows, very low key and that was it done, I don't want to go back to it.
Have you ever YouTubed your band and checked out other bands covering 'Rocking Is Ma Business'?
Yes I've seen like some kids playing it with full Marshall stacks and nailing the solo which is great - what a legacy, right? Passing on the baton.
Well, when they played the Marquee we (The Cult) were rehearsing and we met up and later we hooked up on The Cult tour after 'Appetite' came out. Duff got married and they asked me to step in for him rather than cancel the show. It was like sure, of course.
Yeah, isn't that hilarious? Yeah yeah I know people say to me man you played in Guns N' Roses and yes, it's true, I did play with them on the 'Appetite' tour, once! Man that gig sucked. I was really crap! It was in the Saddle Dome in Calgary in Canada and I presumed we were going to rehearse because I didn't know what they were going to do and they like gave me a cassette and for at least half the song I didn't have a clue - I swear on half the songs I fucked up completely but there you go. It was a good laugh! I would say I probably saw Guns play over a 100 shows on the 'Appetite' tour and that was when they were on top of the world and they were absolutely ferocious. I remember the first night of The Cult tour and I ran up the ramp to catch them and it was like "Holy fuck, this is the real deal" - it was amazing but none of the other members of The Cult gave a shit or watched them but I thought they were amazing every night, they were really hungry and they wanted it.
'Abuse Your Protrusion' as we were calling those albums, ha ha ha! After Izzy and Steven left the heart and soul had gone. I think they might as well have just got a drum machine - the feel went with Steven. He was so loose but it worked and that was the magic.
Wow, um......Zodiac Mindwarp I think. Maybe 'Nobody Said It Was Easy' would be my artistic highlight but the thing I'm most proud of is Zodiac and what we achieved going from playing to 8 people to being on the cover of every music magazine on the planet - it was the dog's bollocks - this cunt from Swansea on the cover of Sounds and the NME.....it's mental really.
I'm not sure really but I think 'Appetite' was the last great rock 'n' roll record made, more so than 'Nevermind' which was a different kind of album but 'Nobody' is of the same mould as 'Appetite' in it was a real ballsy record that was the real deal unlike many others that came out of the 80's and 90's. I remember having a similar conversation with Rick and he thought 'London Calling' was the last great album - you know the whole thing; the imagery, the band and the music. It was so real, you know? If you were looking through history at the pivotal records from Count Baizie through the 60's through Elvis and so on there are only a handful of records that changed music like The Stooges - 'Raw Power', The Clash - 'London Calling'; something changed after all these albums. It's a weird thing, right? But has there been anything like it since? And it's been a long time now, right.......
You're right. I talk to Francis Dunnery and we talk about this at length and I think our generation are the last ones who really embraced music in any physical form. Once the Britney Spears generation cropped up it's never come back around and cheapened everything. I'm not sure it'll come back around again which is sad. All the shops have gone and how we're forced to buy music has changed. It's become more a business machine and talent and good songs can be secondary.
It certainly went on but are you kidding, nobody was going to mould the Four Horsemen into a neat package - that would have been funny. It certainly helped knowing powerful people in rock like Rick for instance and there were times when bands toured and there were like 24 bands in the running for the support and it wasn't a question of who fitting the bill but who would pay or give the biggest cut or merchandise sold and stuff like that. But in the late 80's you could still tour with your mates like when The Cult took out Guns N' Roses, it was because we were best mates and not because that would make the shows the hottest tickets in the US at the time. I'm not saying it didn't help ha ha! You used to get in a band because you loved the music, it wasn't because of the haircut you had or because it was the fad or trend of the day, we got into it because we listened to bands of the 70's and loved it and did our own take on it. It seems like bands play it safe today and originality had been so watered down and dissipated, it's a really poor facsimile of rock 'n' roll but if it sells the business doesn't care if it's crap, right?!
Maybe, I'm not sure. It's difficult to look at it in any way from an outsider's point of view but it's nice that we get emails saying how much people loved the records. It's good to know that it touched people all around the world which is the reason why we put the records out again so people could have the real thing and some extras all packaged nicely and not get ripped off. So yes it's nice. It's flattering.
So there you have it. It was a pleasure to talk to someone who stood toe to toe with the good and great of rock in an age that spawned such big bands as Guns N' Roses and The Cult and released one of the albums of the decades. As a band the Four Horsemen lived fast and died young - Haggis is now a medical student based in New York City. His is a unique, incredible story and, though still in his early 40's, has lived a life many of us dream about...and survived to tell the tale. As we walked into the April night he went home and I went to a rock 'n' roll show and partied - how times change, eh? Über Röck salutes Haggis and wishes him every success in whatever he chooses to pursue in the future. Legend!