LOS ANGELES – Michael Raphael’s glam roots run deep.
The guitarist is now a successful music producer for TV shows, but Raphael is best known in rock circles as a founding member of Jailhouse, probably the most popular Los Angeles band in the late 1980s to never sign a full-scale recording deal.
The curly-haired Californian, now in his 50s, is releasing an interesting package of old demo recordings for You Talk We Talk, a 1986 glam rock band from San Francisco that was heavy on lipstick, eyeliner and big hooks.
Raphael went on to play for Neve, a band that was signed to Columbia and had a hit single but ultimately flopped.
He also was the guitarist 15 years ago for the late Jani Lane on the ex-Warrant star’s ill-fated MTV acoustic tour.
Never shy about his opinions, Raphael lets it all hang out in this intriguing “10 Questions With Metal Sludge.” Enjoy.
1, Tell us what you’re currently up to, plug your stuff and give our readers a quick background on this new (old) project?
Well, the reason I am back on Metal Sludge is because of the release of my 1986 San Francisco band You Talk We Talk.
People don’t realize that I was known in the San Francisco scene as Nikki Love. That was a name that my friend Greg Steele (Faster Pussycat) was joking around with one day, and I said, “Hey, can I use that name?”
You Talk We Talk performed in the San Francisco scene for a brief period. Davy Vain approached me to join Vain as the guitarist – which I had no interest in. During that time I would walk down the street as Axl Rose would pass me on Broadway as GNR would play clubs like The Stone.
I remember Axl in the street, asking me if there is anything to do around here, and I simply said, “I don’t know man,” and kept walking because he seemed like a freak to me. If only I had stopped and made friends with the biggest future rock star of all time, damn it!
Anyway, You Talk We Talk opened for Poison when the “Look What the Cat Dragged In” record was released.
You Talk We Talk really was the first incarnation of Jailhouse in my mind. We had all planned on moving to Los Angeles – but I was the only one who made the move. A few songs on this CD actually ended up as Jailhouse songs – “Same The Same” and “Mama and Daddy.” So I thought the glam lovers would enjoy this CD I am promoting from DDR Music Group.
Once I had moved to LA, I dropped the stage name and used my own name and formed Jailhouse with singer Danny Simon and manager Richard Rashman.
2, How sure were you that Jailhouse would make it big?
Well, that changed over time. Once I saw a few videos on MTV without a real solid record deal, I thought there was a very good chance we would make it. I saw colored full pages of us in Circus magazine. I remember people like Joe Leste from Bang Tango asking how we accomplished that, thinking it was paid for, which it wasn’t.
Jailhouse was just starting to have a buzz, but once The Nelson brothers stepped in and tried to take control, it destroyed the band. Nelson took the masters and put their own voices on my Jailhouse songs on the “Imaginator” record.
3, Was there a friendly rivalry between you and the other Jailhouse guitarist, Amir Derahk?
Honestly, I was such a fucking asshole during that time, I am amazed they just didn’t beat the shit out of me. But as David Alford told me years later, he said in his crazy accent, “Mike, you had vision back then and you were so confident about that vision, that we just went along with it.” Amir was always pretty quiet to be honest. He played his solos, and I played mine. He definitely put a lot more thought and time into his solos than I did. My solos were more like a chicken running around with his head cut off. When I would try to do melodies, he would jump in and harmonize on songs like “Sweet Angel,” and add some of his fancy tricks.
4, Who wrote all those poppy Jailhouse hits like “Sweet Angel”?
I wrote “Sweet Angel” but it was a huge mistake that “Please Come Back” was our video. I don’t want to throw anybody under the bus for that decision, but the reality is, if “Sweet Angel” was our single, Jailhouse may have made it to the next level.
5, How good was Neve?
Neve was amazing! John Stephens the singer was extremely talented and we wrote the album together. He had some songs and I had some songs. John knew everything about theory. The drummer was incredible, Brian Burwell. Tommy Gruber was a great bassist and writer as well. Neve was quoted the “biggest fuck up in Columbia Records’ history.”
Who has a billboard hit on the radio – and fails?
Columbia released our album a full year after the single was on the radio. But it was nice to sit and watch people like Michael Shipley, who mixed Def Leppard, and watch Matt Serletic, who recorded “Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” from Aerosmith.
Also have Don Gilmore produce our record – he also produced LINKIN PARK. I learned a lot!
6, Is it true Neve broke up because of the singer’s girlfriend — like the Beatles with Yoko?
Neve ended because of mismanagement I would say. I mean you couldn’t really manage John Stephens at that time. He is a dear friend, but back than it was his way with no highway option. Neve should have shopped to a different label. We had tours and radio under our belt.
7, Neve did tour a bit with KISS. What was the High-light and the Low-light?
Low-light? Opening for Kiss (all original members) I am still high off those shows. That was a dream for me. I remember Gene Simmons waiting for me after our first night. We had opened with Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” Dumb idea, I know now. Anyway, Gene asked me why we did that and I said, “Well, It really isn’t our crowd, and I wanted to win them over.” Gene said, “You’re not a cover band” and I said, “You’re right.”
Gene said it doesn’t mean anything if you win them over with a cover.
The following night, we opened with our own song, and as I walked off the stage Gene was waiting for me and he asked, “How was it?” and I said “Amazing!” He then said, “You see!”
Great story. I love telling that one.
8, Comment on some old names from your Sunset Strip past:
Richard Rashman (manager of Jailhouse and Neve) = Determined and Very Smart.
Danny Simon (aka Simon Daniels of Autograph) = Like a family member I haven’t seen in a very long time.
Dave Alford = Hilarious!
Waddy Solomon = A sweet supportive guy.
Nicollette Knight = Cool with star quality.
Nikki Sixx = You mean Frank? Ask Fred Coury about that joke.
Lemmy = We once had an argument I won’t get into.
Nelly from Whoa Nelly Productions = I freaked out in her office and screamed at her, and she looked like she had seen a ghost.
9, You toured with the late Jani Lane back in 2005, how was that tour?
Geez, How much data can this web site print? I don’t even know where to start.
OK, so Jani came to my house and I produced an acoustic version of “Cherry Pie” for him for Metal Mania on a VH1 cd. He really liked me because I didn’t drink or smoke or do drugs, so he thought that would keep him in line. He calls me and says, “I need to meet you for dinner at the Rainbow,” and I said ok.
He then asked if I would do the tour. So I agree,
OK, Day 1, he asked me to sleep in his room which I thought was weird because I had my own room, but I said OK and slept in the far corner on the floor like a scared puppy. The next mooring there is a knock at the door and Jani couldn’t get up and the tour manager asked if he had been drinking and I got mad and said “Dude, he’s sober and thin and cleaned up.” He had just got off “Celebrity Fit Club.”
First show, I get on stage – NO rehearsal ever by the way – It was mind blowing! Jani was a freakin star! I was waking up now and people loved him also from the TV show, and there were thousands of fans there. Night two same deal.
By Night three, things changed.
He would say, “Hey let’s go to this bar,” and order like five shots for himself and walk out, and I would have to pay for his bill, We were only there for a few minutes, and he just wanted to get wasted.
Then he would start singing only to me on stage, looking at me in my eyes, and then just leave the stage. This went on and on, and I really wanted to play! So one of the last nights, I had to drag him on stage, and he walked off and sat in the front row, and at that point I ask the crowd if anyone can sing “Cherry Pie” and a fan came up, and we rocked the house.
However, getting to know Jani when he was sober, he was a very sweet guy, and I liked him a lot. I feel bad that he couldn’t kick that habit.
10, You’ve had success post Sunset Strip in the industry. What’s your greatest accomplishment?
Well It’s been a long time!
Platinum records, Hannah Montana CDs and Disney projects. I am the main composer on “The Price Is Right” on CBS and have over 11,000 placements on TV, in film and on video games as a composer. I also have a song in the new Thor film “Love and Thunder.”
Michael Rapahel @ about.me – Facebook – Twitter – Instagram – Jailhouse – NEVE –
Gerry Gittelson can be reached at email@example.com.