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20 Questions with Michael Raphael, 5/24/05


20 QUESTIONS with…


Today we’re talking to the one and only Michael Raphael, and if you don’t know who that is, you should be ashamed of yourself! Michael is a legend in the world of hard rock and heavy metal hairbands that were spawned in the Sunset Strip days of the late 80s. He’s huge! So that’s why we’re talking to him today.

But in case you’ve just been released from prison after a 25-year incarceration, or if you’re under the age of 15, we’ll let you know that Michael Raphael was one of the guitarists in the band Jailhouse, which at one time featured 3 members who had formerly been in the band Rough Cutt (including future Orgy guitarist Amir Derakh). Later on, Michael was in the band Neve, which had moderate success in the late 90s. Michael also has his fingers in many other pies, but we’ll let him tell you all about that and much more in this week’s 20 Questions. Yay!

Michael Raphael1. What are you currently up to? This is your only chance to plug your shit, your projects, music, life and more.

Well my plug would be that I run an amazing studio and I am working with great people. The project I?m co-producing now is with a member of ?Boys to Men?. My web-site is http://www.earthtonesounds.com. My life is amazing. I have a beautiful wife and we have 2 really great kids. My life is my family and the studio. I also have a great love for cats. I have several exotic breeds. I love em.

2. Let?s start way back. You?re originally from the Bay Area and played in a popular sleaze glam group called Strange Toys that used to open for Poison and others. Jetboy & Vain were other local popular bands from that scene that went onto the next level. Why didn?t Strange Toys stick it out?

Looking back now, Strange Toys was more of a learning thing for me. Though I thought I was going to be a big star at time, I realize I was learning how to put songs together and was getting better as a guitarist. One cool thing about it was that I was in the 9th grade and Ronnie Montrose produced our demo. One of my teachers was such a fan of Montrose that he let me cut his class for 2 weeks. How cool was that?

Strange Toys
Talk about Exposed! Michael Raphael in his old band Strange Toys

3. Okay, now back to the Sunset Strip. Whatever happened to Jailhouse? The band was gigging as a 4 piece, there was a split, then 3/5ths of Rough Cutt joined the band. Then you released a (partially live) EP on Restless that received some MTV spins with ?Modern Girl? in 1989. Why an EP and not a full length?

I think merging with the ?Rough Cut? guys was a mistake. Now that I know more about how the music business works, I realize merging with a band that was dropped a few years earlier was not a smart move. Danny Simon (singer) and I were already headlining and packing huge places with the original line up when Rough Cut approached Danny and wanted him to leave Jailhouse to join their band. Danny was very loyal and wouldn?t play without me. So we decided to have them join our band. We got rid of our bass and drummer and became a five piece. Although we were a million times better and Matt, Amir and Dave were excellent musicians, I still think it was the wrong thing to do. The original line-up was fresh and young. We had a lot of A&R interest. Then when we merged, the interest was instantly gone. I remained a stranger in the band and that was my fault. I isolated myself because of my ego and basically took 100% control. As I look back on it now, I should have involved everybody and we should have been more of a unit. That?s what was missing from Jailhouse. When I listen to our old stuff, I think it sounds sterol. It was cool seeing the band in huge magazines and our two videos on head bangers ball. We did all of that without a real record deal.

Jailhouse back in their heyday. Note Amir Derakh from Orgy on the far left!

4. Speaking of Jailhouse: The band appears on a new compilation called ?Kings of Sunset Strip? – Vol. 1 on RLS Records. Other bands included are Angora w/ John Corabi, Young Gunns and Tommi Gunn. What do you remember about those bands from the famous Sunset Strip?

Well I remember Angora because John Corabi was and still is an amazing singer so I loved that band at the time. As far as Tommi Gunn and Young Gunns, they don?t really stick out in my memory. (Note: For more information on "Kings of Sunset Strip," please visit www.RLSRecords.com. You know you want to!)

5. Rate the following guitarists on a scale of 1-10. ONE being a sloppy fingered joke and a TEN being an instrumental genius.

JailhouseAmir Derakh = 7
CC DeVille = 4
John Sykes = 6
Warren DeMartini = 9 1/2
Eddie Van Halen = 10
Jorge DeSaint = 3
Zakk Wylde = 7
Butch Walker = 7
Slash = 6
Tracii Gunns = 5
Michael Raphael = 6 ( Note: I even rated myself )

6. Let?s talk about NEVE. The band made its debut appearance on the Faculty soundtrack in December 1998 ? a huge seller with artists like Creed, Garbage, Oasis, & The Offspring. Yet your track ?It?s Over Now? became a single and made quite an impact. How did all this come about from the least known band on the release?

Well I guess it all started when the program director Kevin Weatherly from KROQ fell in love with the song. It was all over KROQ and then the rest of the radio stations fell in line. It was on like a thousand times a week through out America and was in Billboard as ?the most added to Modern rock radio? in year 2000. Once KROQ adds you, everyone adds you.

Arrrggh!! Holy haircuts, Batman! It’s Michael Raphael in Neve

7. The band eventually released its debut on Columbia in 2000. The CD was full of super hook filled modern pop tunes, yet had its fair share of aggressive guitar work as well. NEVE opened for KISS, Rage against the Machine, Hanson & even Jessica Simpson. Why do you think such a diverse set of tour dates were offered? And do you think the niche audience was overlooked or bypassed due to a lack of direction in marketing? Or was the nearly 2 year wait from the Faculty debut a case of missing an open window?

First off, I?ve got to say that Columbia Records is not the smartest record label out there. They passed on, Papa Roach, 50 cent, The Killers, Alica Keys, Linkin Park and many more. They released our CD 2 years after it was on the radio and released the same song for a second time. They were very stupid with Neve. However, Randy Jackson (American Idol) signed us and then left Columbia Records. We were stuck in limbo for a while. John Kalodner, who I have a great deal of respect for, eventually took over as our new A&R guy. He is amazing and a freakin legend. Neve had a add on date with every program director in America to launch our second single. It?s almost impossible to get on the radio and then Columbia decided to drop us. Hmmm, that?s smart. So are second single was cancelled. The whole thing was crazy. Columbia didn?t know how to promote us. We were an alternative band and then they talked about making us a boy band. They were all over the place and didn?t know what they were doing. We played with Kiss because John Kolodner knew what a big fan I was of them. To this day, I think if our album was released when our single came out the first time, we would of done extremely well.

Jailhouse8. Name the 3 highest and the 3 lowest points of being in the music industry:

The Highest was getting signed and riding that wave. We toured the freakin globe and got to open in arenas. Opening for Kiss was a childhood dream of mine and you can?t get any higher then that.

Another high point was the free guitars. Peavey flew us on their private jet to their factory in Mississippi. I remember the jet had purple leather inside and our CD was blasting. I was handed my own shrimp platter! Peavey was good to us.

The 3rd high point was working and learning from some of the best producers in the business. Matt Cerletic (Match Box 20) and Don Gilmore (Linkin Park). I watched and learned.

9. You?ve become a lot more of a songwriter/producer over the last decade. How did that transition sit with the ?live performer? or ?artist? in you?

Well, I have been married for 15 years and we have 2 kids. It was hard being away from them and making little money. I had recorded bands /Artists out of my studio for years before but it wasn?t until I played a demo for John Kolodner and he said, ?This sounds better then most albums we?ve recorded.? Than he looked at me and said, ?Unfortunately you?re going to make a great producer one day.? After Neve was dropped, he let me do a recording for a Columbia Records project and that?s when I knew producing was going to be my next thing.

Michael Raphael10. You co-wrote ?Can?t Break Thru? with the multi-platinum selling UK band Busted. How did that relationship come about?

James Bourne from Busted loved Neve. He said our songs were his inspiration for his multi-platinum selling debut CD. So he contacted me and we became great friends.

11. As a songwriter your songs have appeared in several movies and television shows as well ? including Dawson?s Creek, Flipper, Baywatch, and The Disney Channel. How do you go from being a metal head KISS fan to Flipper? Please explain.

Well I do love all types of music. I remember in 1991 I went to see Metalicca and the Next night I saw Barry Manilow. I loved both shows. I just love great music. I also love a good challenge and if someone from Paramount Pictures approaches me to write a song about a dolphin, you better believe I?ll do it!

12. Riki Rachtman was the mc/host of your taped live show/EP release. How did the then-MTV VJ get involved in that event?

I knew him a little through one of my closest friends, Greg Steele who was in Faster Pussycat. In a way, I owe Greg because we grew up together in San Francisco and when he got signed to Electra Records, I followed him down to L.A. because I wanted to be next.

13. Word Association:

JailhouseMathew Nelson = The nicer twin
Axl Rose = Stupidity
Don Gilmore = Brilliance
Nikki Sixx = Coolness
Riki Rachtmen = A guy on my CD who I don?t think would have any idea who the hell I am
Randy Jackson = God
John Kalodner = Jesus?
Matt Thor = Determination
John Stevens = Perfect pitch
Bill Gazzarri = Pervert?

14. Your live performances over the years have been full of intensity. Your trademark was knocking down mic stands all show long. The road crew would pick them up and you would knock them over again. Is this still an on-going thing with you during a live show?

Well I grew up watching guys like Angus Young, Ted Nugent, Kiss, Prince and they all were nuts on stage and I loved watching it as a kid. When I knocked my mic stands over I was just doing what I saw Ted Nugent do in like 1977, But don?t tell anyone.

15. Time for a walk down Memory Lane! What do you remember about:

1975 = KISS records, Led Zeppelin Records, AC/DC Records, my older brother taking me to see Ted Nugent at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.
1979 = I heard this guy down the street played drums so I put my guitar and amp in a shopping cart and knocked on his door. I asked him if he wanted to play in a band with me. He said sure and we played together for years. His name is Bill Dellara and he is still one of my best friends to this day.
1983 = I played in a band named after my dad which was called ?Myron?. We opened for WASP at the Keystone Palo Alto. So I walk up to Blackie Lawless and say are you Blackie? And he says, ?The one and only?. I told him that he looked liked Mick Mars and he got offended and said that he had been around L.A. for years and that Mick stole his look from him.
1987 = Moved to L.A. My Mom and Dad gave me their old 1979 Toyota and $2,000.00. I remember I was at Mc Donald alone in Panorama City and this old lady was talking to her self and it freaked me out so bad that I called my mom and begged her to let me come back home. I offered to cut my hair and go to college. I am glad she talked me out of it.
1989 = My Jailhouse ?Alive in a mad world? CD was released. It was sort of a fun time.
1990 = Married my wife, Sharolyn
1992 = The Birth of my daughter ?Echo?
1995 = I think I was locked in my recording studio. At that point my son was born and I just wanted to record and stay out of the music biz for a while.
1998 = I met the Singer and Bass player for Neve and said they were too young for me to be in a band with. As it turns out I was too old. HA HA
2001 = Honestly I was sort of quiet and bitter for a few years after Neve but I continued to record many clients.
2004 = December we did a Neve reunion at the Whiskey a Go Go and it was sold out after being absent for nearly 4 years. Fans flew in from all over America. Very cool

Michael Raphael16. Recent pictures on your Web site suggest you to be a normal nice guy. Tell us 3 things about yourself that would surprise us about the bad boy rocker hidden underneath:

Hmmm? sometimes I throw my trash out my car window. That?s sort of my inner rocker who doesn?t give a fuck attitude. I drive like 65 on regular streets. That?s defiantly rock. LAST BUT NOT LEAST, I HAVE A SKULL TATTOO!

17. Pick your Poison:

Playing live or Recording in the studio = Playing live but only huge type of gigs.
The 80s or The 90s = I liked both
Marilyn Manson or Motley Crue = The CRUE
Danny Simon or Simon Daniels = I can?t answer that
Jailhouse 4 piece or Jailhouse 5 piece = Jailhouse 4 piece was fun Jailhouse 5 wasn?t
Los Angeles or San Francisco = Los Angeles
New Wave or Punk Rock = neither
Metal Skool or Name another cover band = don?t know
Porno or Pyro = Pyro
Burger King or Jack in the Box = Jack in the box

Michael Raphael
L.L. Cool J captures Michael Raphael! Too bad L.L. forgot to wear his Metal Sludge t-shirt.

18. You have also done some co-writes with Nelson & Tuff. Anyone else from the super Hair band era that you?ve had the pleasure of working with? Please name drop the obscure, we love it.

Well I wrote a song call ?Shock Talk? With Stephen Pearcy from Ratt. I loved working with him because I was and still am a Ratt fan.

Gene Simmons and Michael Raphael19. What was your biggest musical related paycheck for and what did you buy with it?

The Busted check and the pools going in as we speak.

20. The Last of Michael Raphael:

Last 80s band you saw live = Duran Duran (we opened up for them)
Last Jailhouse gig you played = Dude, I don?t know,
Last time NEVE jammed together = December 2004
Last rock star you shook hands with = Gene Simmons
Last CD you bought at full price = The Killers
Last time you bleached your hair = 2004 now its to freakin thin
Last item of food you ate = Pizza
Last time you smashed a mic stand = Don?t remember I am much more mellow on stage now.
Last song you wrote = I just wrote an amazing new track but it hasn?t been named yet. Before that, I wrote another track with James from Busted called ?End up like this?. You can find it on my web site http://www.earthtonesounds.com
Last time you handed out a flyer = 1988/Good times?

Thanks to Michael Raphael for telling some good stories and taking our silly-assed questions relatively seriously. And those pictures were fun too! What more could you want in a 20 Questions? Alright, more shit-talking, but aside from that, Michael really didn’t do badly at all.

If you’re sitting around bored one day and can’t think of anything better to do, why not drop by Michael Raphael’s Web site, which of course can be found at www.earthtonesounds.com.

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