AIN’T THAT A SHAMELESS
A Metal Sludge exclusive with European glam master Alexx Michael of Shameless
By Gerry Gittelson
Metal Sludge Editor at Large
It’s an uphill battle, but Alexx Michael is trying to keep glam rock alive – all the way from Germany. His band Shameless, featuring mostly American players, has released a string of top-quality glitter-tinged CDs, and there have also been a series of concert tours, some more successful than others, but at least he is giving it a shot.
It’s hard for lipstick rock to be taken seriously these days, but that’s OK with Michael. He continues to produce music that is close to his heart, and frankly there are a lot of good songs on display thanks to such biggies as the late Jani Lane, Steve Summers and Keri Kelli all pitching in their services through the years.
He is in his 40s now yet not ready to give up. One day, perhaps, glam will come back in earnest, and Shameless will find its way to the forefront of rock consciousness. In the meantime, he is doing the best he can, and such a great attitude and work ethic is something to be commended.
Here’s to you, Alexx. Sludge wishes you the best. We touched base together long-distance, and Michael told it the way he sees it.
METAL SLUDGE: First of all, congratulations for keeping the glam torch alive. What’s the very latest with you and your band, Shameless.
ALEXX MICHAEL: We just released our 6th studio album “Beautiful Disaster.” This release was a great thing for me as an artist and a fan, as I got to bring in Cherie Currie of The Runaways. I’ve been a fan since I was kid. She was a great addition for the project. This recording was also much more personal and written based on true life stories I experienced.
We’re going on tour in April with Stevie Rachelle (Tuff) as vocalist. We’re doing most of the dates with Fatal Smile from Sweden. The tour hits Germany, Italy, Switzerland and a couple of other places. I’m trying my best. The music scene in general is down, not just glam rock, because of all the downloading of files. It’s pretty much going down because of that.
SHAMELESS European Tour 2014
10/4 “Garage Deluxe” Munchen Germany w/ Fatal Smile
11/4 “Rattlehouse Rock” Bruckmul Germany w/ Fatal Smile
12/4 “VMax” Leipzig Germany w/ Fatal Smile
13/4 “Futurum Music Bar” Prague Czech Republic w/ Fatal Smile
17/4 “Caos Club” Bologna, Italy w/ Fatal Smile
18/4 “Jailhouse Live” Rome Italy w/ Fatal Smile
19/4 “Grind House” Padova Italy w/ Fatal Smile
20/4 “Venue Kickapoo” Tuoro sul Trasimeno Italy w/ Fatal Smile
21/4 “The Rocker Pub” Bergamo (Milan) Italy w/ Fatal Smile
25/4 “Star Club” Uster Switzerland w/ Cheap Thrill
26/4 “Rockbar Wildside” Munsingen Germany w/ Pussy Sisster
SLUDGE: How did you get involved with Cherie Currie of The Runaways?
MICHAEL: I needed a female singer for one of the songs, and I thought about Cherie. I got in touch with her through a longtime friend David Snowden who works with Joan Jett. And crazy to think, she responded within the hour. She asked to hear the song, I sent it, and she replied, “I love it, let’s do it.” In the end she ended up contributing on 4 songs for the new record including an amazing duet of “Life’s A Gas” with Steve Summers.
SLUDGE: How many times have you been to Los Angeles?
MICHAEL: I’ve been there about 10 times over the past 15 years or so. I’ve recorded all the basics for all Shameless records in Los Angeles and have a lot of friends and contacts there.
SLUDGE: Who are some of the biggest names you’ve worked with?
MICHAEL: I’ve worked with so many over the years. All are big to some fans for different reasons. Members of KISS, L.A. Guns, Guns N’ Roses, W.A.S.P. and Stryper to name a few. More recently Cherie Currie of The Runways. But it’s not so much about names, it’s more about who was able to contribute to the songs.
SLUDGE: And the late Jani Lane, too, right?
MICHAEL: Yes, Jani Lane, he sang for me on a few of the records, “Queen For A Day” (2000), “Famous For Madness” (2007) and “Dial S For Sex” (2012). I appreciated getting to know Jani. I always had the best experiences with him. He was so talented in every way, the way he would come up with ideas in just a matter of seconds.
SLUDGE: And you’ve worked a lot with Keri Kelli, of course, who produced some of your records.
MICHAEL: Yes, Keri is always a lot of fun to work with. On the last record, he had such a busy schedule, his schedule was so tight with playing with John Waite, so it didn’t work out. So I produced the record myself after doing the last four, I think, with Keri Kelli. I’ve lost track.
SLUDGE: Did you enjoy sushi together? That’s Keri’s thing.
MICHAEL: Yes, of course. Pretty much all the time.
SLUDGE: Oh, and American beer or European beer, which do you prefer?
MICHAEL: I don’t do beer. I do mostly sodas. I guess I’m not really into stuff like that. I’m kind of boring. I leave all that stuff to other people. Keri likes it. He’s always going to be like that. He loves that.
SLUDGE: Your early history goes back to KISS, doing KISS conventions in Europe, right?
MICHAEL: Yeah, in the early 90s, I went to KISS conventions in New York and Atlanta, and I thought it would be great to do a KISS convention in Europe, so in 1994 I made some arrangements and brought over Peter Criss. We did the conventions just like a tour, starting in Austria, then Germany, Czech Republic, Denmark, Netherlands and one in Italy. With the success of that first convention, we did more. We did one with Ace Frehley the next year, another with Vinnie Vincent too. Overtime I also brought over Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer for similar tours.
SLUDGE: When are you coming back to Los Angeles?
MICHAEL: Hopefully in the next couple of months. I want to do some more songs with Cherie Currie, but she’s pretty tied up at the moment.
SLUDGE: So have you made any money with Shameless or are you just doing it for the love of music?
MICHAEL: It’s not as good as it used to be. With the illegal downloads and everything it’s hurting the bottom line. But in the end, I am a big fan of music in general. The whole process of writing, recording, touring and performing is more for the love of it – than the money.
SLUDGE: So what is your main gig besides Shameless, or do you have one?
MICHAEL: Everything that makes money, basically, except for selling drugs. (laughs) Somehow, you have to pay the bills. I checked over my Spotify account last night, and it’s just a joke. They’re paying me like $20 for 4,000 plays.
I’ve usually maintained a job in telecommunications. I held a position at Apple for many years. I’ve also done some importing of cars and car-parts from the US.
SLUDGE: Maybe you should have been born in Los Angeles. Do you wish you had been in America the whole time?
MICHAEL: Well, I’m always traveling, so it doesn’t really matter. But back in the day, probably yes. I would have fit right in at “Gazzarri’s” with my love of that style of music and image. I might have even at some point been a member of L.A. Guns! (laughing)
It would have been a lot easier because in Germany, there’s not really a scene for this kind of music. There are a few bands, but it’s mostly progressive kind of music, like Queensryche and all those wanna-be bands. Somehow, most Germans, they just don’t like fun music.
SLUDGE: What got you into rock music in the first place?
MICHAEL: I started with KISS when I was seven years old or something. Back then, they were just such an inspiration but so over the top, so of course that I didn’t think I could ever reach anything like that. But then I saw Poison, and I thought, “Wow, they can’t play either!” I figured all I had to do was let my hair grow and to change the kind of clothes I was wearing. It was much easier, what Poison did compared to KISS, which like I said was so over the top.
SLUDGE: What about Hanoi Rocks? Do you like them?
MICHAEL: Some of it, but not all of it. They’re one of those overrated bands with so much hype. But as far as the music is concerned, they have a few good songs but most of them are just OK or whatever.
SLUDGE: I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. What about Motley Crue?
MICHAEL: With Motley Crue, I love the first two records especially “Shout at the Devil,” but now I listened to “Theatre of Pain” and the others, like “Girls, Girls, Girls,” and there is just so much filler. I can’t listen to them. A few songs are good, and the rest I don’t even remember the names of the songs. I do like “Generation Swine,” though.
SLUDGE: You’re kidding me.
MICHAEL: No, I think on that record, they were still trying to prove something.
SLUDGE: Well please don’t tell me you like “Saints of Los Angeles.” You will lose all credibility, Alexx.
MICHAEL: No, “Saints of Los Angeles” was pretty bad. Yeah, I totally agree with you on that.
SLUDGE: You’re tight with Steve Summers. You guys just did a little tour together with Stevie Rachelle, too.
MICHAEL: Yeah, we did a tour in the UK in October, 10 or 11 shows. It was fun, but some of the shows were not that good. There were a few local promoters who didn’t do anything. We would arrive for the show, and there wouldn’t be any signs or anything that would tell you that we were playing there that night. We had sent promo stuff and posters, but they didn’t do anything or use any of it.
It’s like, why did we even bother? I don’t like those people. Why bring bands over if you’re not going to tell people about it? But it was still a lot of fun, and everyone on the tour had a great time. Let’s just put it that way.
Shameless live ‘Shout It Out Loud‘ Festival Mulheim Germany 2012
SLUDGE: Are you popular at all in Germany, your home country?
MICHAEL: In the beginning not so much as I had restarted the band in 1999 after we originally formed in 1989. But over the last 10 years, most people have heard the records, come to the shows and the band has a similar interest of fans probably comparable to the ’80s bands’ in the US today. Like I said, there are not too many bands doing this kind of music. We’ve been fortunate to get on a few European festivals in recent years and that has exposed the band to many more fans.
SLUDGE: What about Scorpions? They’re huge, right?
MICHAEL: Yeah, but they’re not glam, they’re rock. They’re still pretty big though, yeah. They’re doing another run for their farewell tour, going on three or four years now.
BC & Alexx the core of Shameless
SLUDGE: You must enjoy Project Rock with Keri Kelli. They’re big in Europe, or Russia I guess, right?
MICHAEL: I didn’t go to Russia but I do like them. Teddy Z, the keyboard player, he plays on a couple of tracks on our new record and has also appeared on the first two releases.
SLUDGE: And James Kottak, the drummer. Great guy.
MICHAEL: I’ve never really had anything to do with him. Just from watching that TV show, “Ex-Wives of Rock.” Oh my god, what an awful show. Can’t they all see that the only reason anyone knows who they are is because of their ex-husbands? That’s the only reason people know Bobbie Brown is because of Jani Lane, being the “Cherry Pie” girl.
SLUDGE: I’ve seen every episode of the show. I guess some of the plot-lines seem to be dubbed in later with voice-overs.
MICHAEL: The worst one is the wife of the Warrant bass player.
SLUDGE: Susan Blue?
MICHAEL: Yeah, she’s awful. Give me a break.
SLUDGE: How old are you, Alexx?
MICHAEL: I’m 43.
SLUDGE: But still a teenager inside, right?
MICHAEL: Pretty much, yeah. I still can’t be an adult, even though people will say, “Let’s be an adult about this or that.” I don’t want to be in my 40s but act like I’m 60 or something.
Alexx & Gene
Alexx’s daughter talks horses with The Demon
Paul Stanley, Alexx Michael & Gene Simmons
SLUDGE: Your thoughts on Gene Simmons?
MICHAEL: Gene Simmons knows what he is doing. He’s run a very successful business for the past 40 years. He’s very smart and knows everything. He even commented to me the last time I saw him, “How come Bruce (Kulick) wasn’t on your last record?” Gene is a great guy and has always been very nice to me. My daughter even talked to him backstage in 2010 about horses.
SLUDGE: Any thoughts on Paul Stanley and the rumors he is gay?
MICHAEL: Paul Stanley is cool. I remember at one of the KISS festivals, this girl knew who he was, and Paul, he picked her up so fast, it was amazing. You could tell the guy really knew what he was doing. It was like two seconds, and he picked her up. I know he has the rumors about him being gay or feminine or whatever, but that’s just bullshit. He just acts a certain way because that’s his character on stage, the same role for 40 years, so it’s hard to really change it, the whole sexual image, it’s all just bullshit. He is what he is. He’s never going to be like Burt Reynolds or something, some macho man wearing lipstick.
SLUDGE: Ace Frehley?
MICHAEL: I traveled with Ace in 1995 for 3 weeks all over Europe. He was very disoriented at times. His manager George was with him and had to take care of him. I recall one nite in Copenhagen we all went out to dinner, and Ace went to the bathroom and got lost. We eneded up seeing him out on the street in front of the restaurant and he looked lost – we went to rescue him, Lol. I remember Ace being late every day. Of the 4 original members – Ace was the tardy one, late for everything. I honestly believe as a grown man he didn’t know how to tell time. (laughing)
SLUDGE: Peter Criss?
MICHAEL: There was this big fat girl in Prague back on the first KISS convention tour, she tried to jump up on stage to get close to Peter. The security had to stop her, which then made her boyfriend very angry. He then came backstage fighting mad, it was so crazy they had to call the authorities and lock the guy in an elevator shaft to restrain him until the police arrived. I also recall Peter falling in love with a pillow from his hotel in Vienna Austria. So, he stole it. Lol. He kept that pillow with him for the rest of that tour.
Vinnie Vincent & Alexx Michael Europe 1996
SLUDGE: Vinnie Vincent?
MICHAEL: He had the craziest demands when we did his tour in 1996. He felt that some crazed Ace Frehley fan was gonna try to hurt or kill him. So he requested security and body guards at all the shows. At one of the shows in Holland he wanted to do his signing in the ticket booth. A little tiny space with the window and a little slot to hand his autograph through. The hole was so small people couldn’t get their albums signed as they wouldn’t fit. He was very paranoid. Also, on one of the drives he fell asleep on the bus, and his wig moved. When he woke up, it was turned a little to the side and everyone was laughing. By this time he was a total asshole to everyone, and refused to ride on the bus anymore after the wig incident so he had a driver for himself or took a flight.
Gerry Gittelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org