NBFF 2014: Frankie Banali & Regina Russell on the Quiet Riot Documentary

A new documentary about the hair metal band Quiet Riot, titled Well Now You’re Here, There’s No Way Back, premiered at the Newport Beach Film Festival this week. It follows Quiet Riot drummer Frankie Banali’s efforts to get the band back together after the death of lead singer Kevin Dubrow in 2007. Director Regina Russell gives us a history of the band, an inside look at singer auditions, and some of Matt Huff’s disappointing performances. The film ends when Quiet Riot meets Scott Vokoun but fans probably already know that Jizzy Pearl is now the lead singer of the band. While Banali and Russell were in Newport, I got to speak with them about all things Quiet Riot.


CraveOnline: Is there anything like saying no, we’ll never reform Quiet Riot to motivate you to ultimately reform Quiet Riot?

Frankie Banali: Quiet Riot has had a long history of being told no and we can’t do that. Right from the get go, nobody was really interested in signing the band, and if you look at historically what happened, it was the complete opposite of no, you can’t. That has been a common thread through the entire history of the band, so I’m pretty much used to having people tell me no and then I go ahead and do it anyway.


And even when you tell yourself no, you go ahead and do it anyway?

Frankie Banali: Yeah, well, you have to understand, and what most people don’t understand is when I lost Kevin, to me it was just complete darkness. I never really thought I’d see light at the end of that tunnel again. I mean, there really was no light at the end of that tunnel, but as time passed and I was able to reconcile with the situation, I found that I missed Kevin, but I also missed Quiet Riot and at the end of the day, this is what I do and I saw no reason to stop doing it. So I’m not apologetic for my statement. The statement was made, it was very honest and it was made during a period of intense grief.


Nor should you be. It’s just positive to see you move out of that grief.

Frankie Banali: Like I said, this is what I do, this is what I’ve always done and this is what I’ll continue to do.


Regina, how much footage of women flashing their boobs did you have to cull for that brief montage in the film?

Regina Russell: [Laughs] Hours. Hours upon hours. Probably about 15 hours of boobs.


Is that really part of a lot of the old Quiet Riot footage?

Regina Russell: Yeah, they were definitely bad boys and there was a lot of women and drugs and partying, but most of all there was a lot of comedy, a lot of joking around between them and pranks and doing little skits together, jokes. It was a lot of humor.


Was auditioning new singers almost worse than hearing any karaoke rendition of “Cum On Feel the Noize?”

Frankie Banali: I gotta be honest with you, I have never, and this is no disrespect to some of the kind people that came down and were trying to grab that so called brass ring, I can’t remember the last time when I have laughed so much and also felt embarrassed so much. It was an interesting process.


It made me think, usually when people pick that song at karaoke they know how to do it.

Frankie Banali: Well, there’s one thing doing it karaoke, especially after you’ve had several drinks and your audience has had more than several drinks and it all really, really sounds good. I know that when I get in the shower and sing, I sound like Caruso and you definitely want to keep a microphone away from me. But, when these people came in, God bless ‘em but they were not anywhere near the mark.

Regina Russell: One thing that I found that was interesting was when we started talking to singers about coming down to audition, we had a lot of pro singers on the list. When they found out that they had to learn that song, a lot of the really good ones dropped out because they knew that they could not hit those notes. It was the ones that didn’t know that they couldn’t hit the notes that actually showed up.


Is it safe to assume that Mark Huff is not involved with press for the film?

Regina Russell: No, he left the band a couple of years ago and we haven’t really been in touch. He is not really involved in the press for the film.


What happened with Scott Vokoun?

Frankie Banali: There were just some things that were going on with Scott that was going to make it impossible for us to continue with him and out of respect for him, I won’t go any further than that. It was just the situation had become impossible for us to tour with him.


Sure, there’s more to it than just being a great singer.

Frankie Banali: Yeah, you know, part of being in a band is first of all you have to have the right talent to be involved but that is just the opening of the door. It’s the personality, the individual, how the individual looks at a situation, what their expectations are versus reality and being able to get along with everyone in a situation where sometimes things are great and sometimes things are not so great. And it’s not for everyone. If it was for everyone, everyone in the world would be a musician. It’s not as easy as people think it is and personalities a lot of times don’t really work out.

Regina Russell: Not everyone is cut out for road life.


Regina, if Quiet Riot hadn’t found Scott, how would the documentary have ended? Would it have gone up to Jizzy Pearl?

Regina Russell: Um, I don’t know. I guess so. I guess I would have had to wait until they got Jizzy.

Frankie Banali: Here’s the interesting part of the whole situation. You don’t replace somebody like Kevin DuBrow. My decision was that I wasn’t going to try to replace Kevin DuBrow but I thought that if we could find somebody that had been in the trenches, didn’t have the proper opportunity for whatever reason and we got them in a band, that would be a great thing for that individual and it would also make a great story for the band. That was the situation with both Mark Huff and Scott Vokoun. The irony of the whole situation is that we’ve all known Jizzy for years.

As a matter of fact, in 2005, Quiet Riot toured with Cinderella and Ratt and at the time he was singing in Ratt. It never occurred to me to go that route. I was so set to try to make a difference to somebody new, with somebody that didn’t get to make it, but at the end of the day you say to yourself, “Well, maybe there’s a reason why certain people didn’t make it and maybe there’s a reason why somebody who is a seasoned pro like Jizzy could come into the situation and be as perfect a fit as one can be in a situation where you’re trying to fill in some really, really huge shoes.”


Who has the mask from “Metal Health” now?

Frankie Banali: I do.


Did you ever hear Weird Al’s “Metal Health” polka?

Frankie Banali: Yeah, as a matter of fact I did. Also, there was Dweezil Zappa with one of his bands, he did this 12 minute song that had little bits of a lot of bands from the ‘80s, and we were included so I always enjoy stuff like that.

I didn’t know about Dweezil Zappa. That’s something to look up.

Frankie Banali: The thing about Quiet Riot is it goes beyond any borders that you can imagine. It’s pretty amazing 30 plus years down the line.


What was the most memorable show you ever played with Kevin?

Frankie Banali: Three really come to mind. Obviously the US Festival because once we did the US Festival, we went on at 11:30 in the morning to 375,000 people. I mean, that’s a number that even today, we’ve played some huge places, but 375,000, that’s historic. Very few people can say they did that, so that comes to mind.

Playing the L.A. Forum comes to mind because Kevin being the only guy actually from Hollywood, playing the L.A. Forum for us in ’84 in the Condition Critical Tour was major, for Kevin and for me and the band. Playing Madison Square Garden for me was huge and it was huge for Kevin. For Kevin, it was huge because his favorite band, Humble Pie, played there. For me, it was huge because I went to Madison Square Garden with my parents when I was a little kid to see the circus. I went there with my father to see, as he called it, prize fighting in the bloody seats, and I saw Led Zeppelin there, so for me those three stand out.


What years were US and MSG?

Frankie Banali: US Festival was ’83 and Madison Square Garden was also ’83 because we were supporting Iron Maiden at the time. In ’84 we were headlining with Whitesnake supporting.


Are there songs you wish had broken out like “Cum On Feel the Noize” and “Metal Health” did?

Frankie Banali: Yeah, there’s a lot of really great songs on the record. The thing is, I have a very clear viewpoint of the situation with “Cum on Feel the Noize.” We didn’t want to do it, but at the end of the day, it was the song that put us on the map. It was a great song because we made it a great song, far better than the writers did, the guys from Slade, no offense or disrespect, because they had an opportunity to make it a hit and it didn’t happen. We made it a hit.

But, once you have a hit that big in that format, it’s really, really difficult. You sort of get pigeonholed into that and it’s really, really difficult to get away from that, which is why when we did the Condition Critical record, the first song that we wanted to be a single was the song Condition Critical which is very moody and very slow tempo, but the label wanted “Mama Weer All Crazee Now” and that just reinforced being put into that little corner of this is what Quiet Riot sounds like and people ignored a lot of the other songs that were great.

Fortunately for us, they didn’t ignore “Metal Health (Bang Your Head).” To give you an idea how important that song is to the history of Quiet Riot, we don’t end with “Cum On Feel the Noize” which was the big hit. We end with “Metal Health (Bang Your Head).”


But you still do all the hits? You don’t resist them in the shows?

Frankie Banali: Oh no, not by any stretch of the imagination. As a matter of fact, I embrace the history of Quiet Riot and when I set out to do this again after Kevin’s passing, I put together a set list of the songs that I knew that the fans wanted to hear. Most of it comes from the Metal Health record, a good number from Condition Critical. QR III is represented but it’s really what I know the fans want to hear, and we don’t disappoint.


What are your favorite movies about music?

Frankie Banali: I don’t really know. Here’s the irony. In Footloose they use “Bang Your Head” in that one scene with Kevin Bacon. I am probably the only person in the genre that has never seen that movie. I’ve seen that clip obviously but I’ve never seen the movie.

Regina Russell: I really love this new documentary called Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me. It’s also at the festival. It’s really, really good. It’s my new favorite music film besides mine of course.

Frankie Banali: I like the Levon Helm one. I thought that was really good and also very sad.

Regina Russell: And Rolling Stones’ Crossfire Hurricane.

Frankie Banali: Yeah, that is great.

Regina Russell: And Good Ol’ Freda, we love that.

Frankie Banali: Yes, that was great.

Fred Topel is a staff writer at CraveOnline and the man behind Best Episode Ever and The Shelf Space Awards. Follow him on Twitter at @FredTopel.


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