SAMMY LEE: Thank you so much. I really appreciate that and for talking to me about the group. We always enjoy people spreading the word.
GM: Let’s start with Quiet Riot, who you will be opening for on November 6 in Woodford, Virginia. I highlighted songs from their first two U.S. albums last year in my In Memoriam tribute to their drummer Frankie Banali. Let’s move on to a pair of songs from their third U.S. album QRIII, beginning with “The Wild and the Young.”
SL: I bought QRIII when it came out and thought “The Wild and the Young” was a great song. Frankie’s drums were powerful with a good thump in his bass drum. It is such a strong anthem. I have played with Quiet Riot twice. Our singer Bubba McMichael and I, before Red Reign, were in a band years ago called Seth and we played a show here in Richmond with what I would call the MTV Quiet Riot, with Frankie on drums, Kevin DuBrow on lead vocals, Carlos Cavazo on guitar, and Rudy Sarzo on bass. I was fortunate to play with them in the era when “Cum on Feel the Noize” was their big hit and talked quite a bit with Rudy. Then Red Reign played with Quiet Riot more recently and Frankie was as generous as he could be, talking with me and taking photos. It is a sad situation, because the Quiet Riot show we have coming up in November is a rescheduled show, and if we had played it before the pandemic, it would have been with Frankie again.
GM: I like his beat on the flip side, “Rise or Fall.”
SL: He was such a solid drummer with a lot of technique. Seeing him live, I really realized how great he was, and as a drummer, that is who I focus on, when watching a band. Sometimes you don’t know what to expect when you are the opening band, but Quiet Riot were so gracious and took time to sit and talk with us.
Flip side: Rise or Fall
A side: The Wild and the Young
Debut: September 1986
Pasha ZS4 06174
GM: Now let’s talk about your music. “Not That Way” is a family favorite, including my wife Donna and our daughter Brianna. It reminds me of Guns N’ Roses and Brianna’s boyfriend Kevin told me that it reminded him of Dokken. I was excited to share your music with them because they both live in Richmond, like you. I think Bubba’s vocal echo brings a really nice touch to the recording.
SL: Thank you and your family so much. When Seth disbanded, I wanted to have a band playing all original music. Bubba and I had been in and out of bands since the 1980s and I felt that I wasn’t going to do covers anymore. I had enough and if Red Reign were to even try to play covers, the four of us wouldn’t be able to agree on a song, ha ha. When we first got together, “Not That Way” was our first composition and it came together quickly. I knew when I heard it that it had a hit factor. It is interesting that you heard Guns N’ Roses and your daughter’s boyfriend heard Dokken. We are a product of that kind of music from the 1980s. Our influences show in our songs, so they will have reminiscences of those bands. I just get thrilled when I talk with someone about our music and learn what they hear. This is the first time we have been told that we sound like Guns N’ Roses. When I first heard the song, it reminded me of The Cult. Anytime someone compares us to some of those bigger bands, it is such a compliment to us that we appreciate.
GM: Your drums are very percussive on “Toxic” with an intense beat. How intentional is it to have drum parts that are different on each song?
SL: I’m really not a songwriter. I handle the business side of the band. Bubba is the major songwriter, with Larry Moore on bass and Stevie Shred on lead guitar contributing. I’ll play a drum part as a straight beat initially and then add nuances that come to my mind. I just try to play what I think fits and sounds good for the song. I am also a double bass drummer and I don’t play a double pedal. I play two bass drums. A lot of people don’t like to carry around all those drums, but I am most comfortable sitting like that. I love double bass and I love incorporating it anytime that I can, and this song just happened to have that grit where I could add the double bass within the verses and the chorus.
GM: The harmonies stand out on “Chains.”
SL: When we were recording the EP with David Ivory, we laid down the initial tracks and then the band went up to Pennsylvania to finalize the songs, including overdubs. On stage we have the three guys singing, but not me. I wanted to be a singer in a prior band, but they stopped me after about one minute, so I focus entirely on drums. Bubba, Larry and Stevie have worked hard on their harmonies and they do a great job.
GM: The song sequencing on the EP makes perfect sense to me. “Not That Way” kicks things off with catchy power and “What is Love For” is a dramatic finale.
SL: When we were working on the EP, I did the track order listing. Anything we do is methodical. We knew that “Not That Way” was the most radio friendly song and is one of the most requested songs when we perform. It is our last song in our set. We are an opening band, so we don’t have time or permission for encores. So, the EP opens with that favorite. Then we hit the listeners with a little more of a heavy sound with “Toxic.” In the middle we have “Chains” where a lot of my double bass work comes out. Then my favorite song comes next, which is the title track “Red Reign,” and is the heaviest of all. We end it with “What is Love For,” which is more of a ballad, slowing down the pace, and hopefully providing a song on the five song EP for everybody from our power hard rock band. I grew up on David Lee Roth’s years in Van Halen and I heard him say that they were a power band, not a heavy metal band, and that is the style I think we also encompass. Van Halen is my favorite band.
GM: When we were living in Richmond in the mid-1980s, other than saying “Mommy” and “Daddy,” “Jump” was the first word that our daughter Brianna said as I would play that Van Halen 45, often, which I bought at Peaches.
SL: From today’s music, our twelve year old daughter Kaylee loves One Direction. A couple of years ago my wife Tracy and I bought Kaylee a turntable. She asked me, “Daddy can we buy some records?” We went to the record store and on her own, she picked out a vinyl Queen album. She is also a huge Beatles fan. Even though she claims she doesn’t like Van Halen, I have caught her singing “Jamie’s Cryin’.”
GM: I saw them perform that song live in 1978 when their debut album was new, and they were opening for Black Sabbath. I hope that you, Bubba, Larry and Stevie enjoy opening for Quiet Riot again.
SL: Thank you. We are looking forward to it. With the pandemic going on, we have been focusing on writing and have many new songs to add to the EP songs for our upcoming shows and a for an upcoming full length album. We rehearse in Richmond for about two to three hours per session. I think you will really like our new songs. Thank you so much for sharing our music with Goldmine readers and I look forward to meeting you when you visit Richmond.