One of the biggest American metal acts of the early 1990s, glamsters Warrant achieved two back to back platinum albums before the changing musical landscape and the arrival of Grunge brought the party to an abrupt end. Fighting to remain relevant in the years that followed, through line-up changes and the eventual death of lead singer and song writer Jani Lane, Warrant have weathered the storm to return ‘Louder Harder Faster’ with their 2017 release. We sat down with founding bassist Jerry Dixon for a chat about all of the above. Song and dance man; Eamon O’Neill.
How are you today?
I’m doing good, man. I’m just getting the day rolling. I’m getting some coffee and just trying to fix my studio; it’s always broken.
You’ve recently released new album ‘Louder Harder Faster’. What’s the reaction been like?
It’s been great. It’s definitely been a little shocking. You just never know, and it’s so hard to predict what people like. On this record, I was thinking; “Oh, I’m not going to get too attached to it and worry about it”, and we just kind of let it rip. I guess sometimes that’s the best thing to do.
There’s a real Thin Lizzy / AC/DC type, hard rock vibe to it.
The writing was a little different this time the way we thought of the record. Normally, you worry about vocals and you have a title, an idea, and you sketch it out from that point of view, but this time I was like; “No, I’m just going to make this music, and just rip it, and then after that we’ll figure everything out”. That was the concept going into it.
You’re the primary song writer in the band now; is it a big responsibility to carry?
You know what, I enjoy it. It’s kind of a new, and I guess it’s new to me. We got writing credits starting with ‘Ultraphobic’  back in the day. It was just something that I fell in love with, the whole thing, the whole idea of it, and how fulfilling it was. It’s just a real creepy little animal that you play around with. I don’t let it freak me out, because honestly, you don’t know if you’re writing the next ‘Heaven’ or ‘Cherry Pie’, or if you’re writing the next shit pie! You just got to go for it, and trust your instincts.
The video for the title track looked like a lot of fun to make.
You know what, that was a funny day, man. It was half frightening, like; “Is this going to be cheesy, or cool?” It was a trip. We didn’t shoot a lot of footage; we did like, one take of everything. The guy was like; “Walk up, act like you’re stuck and you’re trying to get to the gig”. We just all did our thing and he was like; “Okay, that’s cool”, and we were like; “Serious? Really?!” So that was fun, it was a fun day.
So it’s a bit of a change from the long video shoots of the past?
Yeah, normally they’re so painful. We didn’t want to beat it to death. We wanted to get away from the staging and the lighting and the live stuff, and do something tongue-in-cheek and fun. It was shot in a place called Cave Creek, Arizona. They have mountains, and a lot of lakes, and they have a bike week, and we coordinated it to go with it. So all the bikes were in town and all our buddies, so that’s why we planned it around that.
Going back to the start of your career, and you had two massively successful albums in ‘Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich’ and ‘Cherry Pie’.
Man, it was just… It was kind of like all downhill from there! *Laughing* On the one hand, looking back on it, it was incredible, but while we were living the dream, I guess you could say it was kind of surreal. Back in the day without cell phones and internet, and on the bus and watching VHS movies, we were on tour for probably 80% of those three and a half / four years. The magnitude of it, it didn’t really sink in for us almost until after it was gone and Grunge came out; then we had time off! Then you can kind of look back on it. I walked by my platinum records and I was like; “FUCK! You know, that’s hard to do, man!” We were so lucky and blessed to be a part of that era, and to do that.
Why do you think the band had such incredible success?
That’s like the million dollar question. I think when you get in a band, you’re almost like in a marriage, and hopefully you married the right guys. The best thing you can describe it as, is just ‘magic’. Something clicks; you take the five guys and you put us apart and we all suck. We’re not super talented, but you put us together and something just happens, and I think when you get that line-up, it oozes out into the music, and into the record, and into the videos, and people just identify with that.
The song ‘Cherry Pie’ still endures; does it surprise you that it has lasted so long?
You know what? It surprises me on that particular song, because that song was such an accident. It was such an afterthought. It wasn’t even recorded on that record, really. It was like the label wanted one last kind of ‘We Will Rock You’ type song, and they were like; “Okay, ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ is great, and we have ‘I Saw Red’, but we feel you guys just need one more, like an ’anthem”. So we had go back in the studio, set all the gear back up, and if you really listen to that song next to the entire record, it sounds different. I think we were a little bit pissed off – “Fuck, are you kidding me?” - and we really just went in and just slapped it down, like; “All right, here.” And then the next thing you know, it’s ‘Cherry Pie’ fair!
What was it like being in the middle of change in the musical landscape that Grunge brought?
It was like the greatest thing, and the worst thing. It’s so hard to go backwards; it’s easier to go up and be famous and successful. That was fun, and everything was working as it should be, we felt. We pretty much got blindsided by a whole musical change. I’m not going to lie; we were damaged, and in some ways it tore the band up. Out manager at the time died in the middle of all that, so after ‘Dog Eat Dog’ , here we are; career over - that’s it. You struck out, and it just felt like the world completely collapsed on us. We called it the ‘black years’, man. It was horrible; it was dark and weird. We never in a million years saw it coming.
That must have been incredibly difficult to pick yourself up from.
I don’t know how we survived it, to be honest with you. Looking back now, all we had to do was hang in there, but when we went through it, Lane quit the band, and we lost our record deal because of that. Obviously we got back together, but it was a short lived run to the top.
Jani Lane’s death must have been tough for you to watch; did you see it coming?
Honestly, it was horrible. The whole thing still gives me a stomach ache. I try to tell people it’s not about Warrant; we’re just people. We’re no different to anybody else, and to have a family member suffering like that – and there’s loads of people that are going to read this, and they’ll know what I’m talking about – and it’s a hopeless feeling, because you want to help, and you want to get somebody better, and you want all bad stuff aside; “Dude, just function in life, and get through this, and basically don’t kill yourself!”. We brought sober coaches out and set up AA meetings and took all the fun stuff off the rider – all the alcohol and really tied to create an environment that was conducive to somebody’s being sober.
When Jani re-joined the band in 2008, did you notice a change in him since the intervening years?
Well, the best way to describe it is it was a long, painful death, one drink at a time. He had tried. There was periods before that, he was sober for a while and we had to keep him busy, so he was out tour manager! We went to Hawaii and he collected the money, and you know, it kept him busy. He fuckin’ fought, and he did the best he could.
There were problems on the 2008 reunion, but you must be somewhat glad that you did get the chance to reunite the original band one last time.
Yeah, because he wasn’t in the band four years before he came back. We did a record called ‘Born Again’ with Jaime St. James, and we were rolling pretty good, and we were just going to accept the fact that we gotta rebuild the band with a new singer. There was a lot of loose ends that came when he left in 2002; the business, and just a lot of mess we had to clean up. So it was great that when he did come back, that was the first thing we said; “Look dude, let’s clean up all the business shit, let’s be friends, let’s settle all this shit we got going on, and then we’ll make some music”. So that part of it was nice for him and for us, to finally clean up the mess of the last decade. And it gave us that feeling of; you know what, we really did try. We gave people what they wanted; it was the five original guys. It just came at the end of the day, he was just in bad shape, and it just wasn’t working, and being on the road’s the last place we felt he should be.
You get to celebrate his legacy with the current version of the band.
He’s always a part of me and this band. He’ll always be with us, and yeah, there’s nights where certain songs like ‘Heaven’, you start thinking about shit. It’s a weird situation, and it’s something that, again, is just painful. There’s a lot of bullshit with just being in a band, you know?
With the new album, you’re obviously hitting the road; when are you ever going to return to Europe for some shows?
God, I know, man! We’re trying! You know what, it seems like we get only one or two show offers, that make sense, or the timing’s bad, or something. So we’re definitely making that a priority, and it’s on our list this year or next year.
It’s been a long while since you were last here.
I know, I can’t even remember the last time. I think the last time we were in Europe was the David Lee Roth tour  a long, long, long time ago. It’s been too long, for sure. It’s hard; the distance and the travel and the logistics and the crew and the gear, and there’s just so much shit involved on the other side of it. Everything’s got to line up, so we’re working on it.
What was that David Lee Roth tour like?
Well, we only did three shows, and that was when stuff started going wrong, believe it or no! We woke up after the third show somewhere in Europe, and Lane had decided to go home to deal with some shit at home. We were like; “What?! We’re in Europe!” But the shows we did were fantastic.
Finally, what did you think when the band Dog Eat Dog called their album ‘Warrant’, after you had called your album ‘Dog Eat Dog’?
You know, we actually saw that, and we were like; “Should we do something about it?”, and I was like; “You know what? We’re going to take that as a complement". *Laughing* So that’s all good, dude. Eveybody’s trying, it’s a tough business, so that was kind of flattering.
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‘Louder Harder Faster’ is out now, via Frontiers records.