Quiet Riot Hopes New Documentary, Old Songs Will Help Keep Seats Filled

On May 21 at 11 p.m. PT/1 a.m. ET, Yahoo Live will live stream Quiet Riot's concert from the Bossanova Ballroom in Portland, OR. Tune in HERE to watch!

As Quiet Riot drummer and manager Frankie Banali explains it, this is what most people know about his band: Quiet Riot “came out of nowhere” with the huge hit “Cum on Feel the Noize,” which allowed their album Metal Health to unseat Michael Jackson for the top spot on the charts. The band “became huge,” and then “completely and totally deflated and disappeared.” And then, in 2007, Quiet Riot’s singer Kevin DuBrow died.

In reality, the band never really went away and three years after DuBrow died of a cocaine overdose, they reunited, struggled to find a new vocalist, and after two failed attempts hired ex-L.A. Guns and Love/Hate vocalist Jizzy Pearl. And that’s only the thumbnail version of the story, which is why, in 2010, Banali agreed to let filmmaker Regina Russell — now his fiancé — shoot a documentary of the band. Well Now You’re Here, There’s No Way Back (taken from the Metal Health song “Bang Your Head (Metal Health),” premiered at the Newport Beach Film Festival on April 29, 2014 and is currently airing on Showtime.

“I was having a discussion with Regina about going to Kevin’s mom and asking her permission to continue Quiet Riot because she was like a second mother to me,” Banali says. “Out of respect to her, I wanted to make sure she didn’t have a problem with the band continuing. Regina had already seen my Quiet Riot archives, which go back from 1980 all the way through present times. She made a funny comment that our story would make a great documentary. So that’s where it started.”

It was a poignant moment for Banali. In January 2008, the drummer issued a statement that there could be no Quiet Riot without Kevin DuBrow. The statement read in part: “I reject any and all suggestions to have Quiet Riot continue as a live performing entity. My friendship, love, and respect for Kevin DuBrow as well as my personal love and affection for Kevin's mother and his family makes it inconceivable for me to ever entertain any ovation to reform or to continue Quiet Riot. Kevin was too important to go on without him.”

For three years, Banali stopped playing drums and tried to come to terms with DuBrow’s death, and with the combination of anger and grief he felt towards the late vocalist. “It was a very dark and depressing period of my life,” Banali reveals to Yahoo. “I didn’t just lose a singer, I lost my best friend. Kevin and I were incredibly close and shared a lot together. And suddenly, all of that was gone.”

The more time elapsed, however, the more Banali felt the urge to start playing again. He didn’t just want to play in any band; he wanted to reconnect with Quiet Riot guitarist Alex Grossi and bassist Chuck Wright, find a new vocalist, and resurrect the group. “I found that, with time, I was able to put Kevin’s death somewhat more in perspective, and that is still a work in progress. But I also found that I was missing being in Quiet Riot. It’s the one band I have spent more time in than any other musical situation. It’s not just a band to me, it’s not just the music. It’s a part of my life and a part of my history, and a great part of my life and my history, both the good and bad of it.”

Instead of auditioning established vocalists, Banali opted to recruit an unknown entity, so the band hired Mark Huff, who had previously been in the Van Halen tribute band 5150. As documented in Well Now You’re Here, There’s No Way Back, Huff lacked the charisma of a frontman and sometimes forgot the words to the band’s songs — most inconveniently, the gangbuster single “Cum on Feel the Noize.” He was subsequently fired, as was his replacement Scott Vokoun.

“Some people have different levels of performance, both vocally and stage-wise,” Banali says with the utmost diplomacy about the dismissals of both singers. “If it’s not right, it’s not right. It’s like dating. If you try to make it work but it doesn’t work, you part company.”

When Vokoun left the band, Banali finally decided to hire a veteran who knew how to win over a crowd. Pearl had just released a solo album, Crucified, and was available. “I realized that nobody can replace Kevin,” Banali says. “He was the complete package. Not only was he a great singer and a great performer, but a great person and my closest friend. But the situation with Jizzy is different than the situation with the previous two guys because Jizzy is a seasoned pro. He’s been doing this for a very, very long time. He’s not a kid. He’s a very good singer. He can hit the notes and he does a good representation of the Quiet Riot material without us trying to clone Kevin.”

In addition to questioning Banali’s original choice to hire unknown singers, some have wondered why he didn’t reach out to bassist Rudy Sarzo and guitarist Carlos Cavazo, both of whom were part of Quiet Riot’s most successful lineup.

“Both Rudy and Carlos have been out of the Quiet Riot equation for 12 years now,” Banali explains. “Having said that, Rudy and I met 10 years before we ever recorded the Metal Health record. I’ve got a wonderful relationship with Rudy and we’re still dear friends. We get together and chat and have coffee all the time, and he’s very supportive of this version of Quiet Riot, so there are no issues there. But he’s an iconic bass player who has played with some of the biggest acts in rock and he continues to do that, so it would be impossible to get Rudy to do Quiet Riot and nothing else.”

As for Cavazo, the guitarist was in Ratt in 2010 and recorded on their album Infestation. But really, that’s inconsequential. Banali simply didn’t want to bring him on board. “Carlos and I were never particularly close, he says. “We weren’t enemies, but we weren’t close because we have completely and totally different interests and lifestyles, so it made more sense to continue with the musicians we were playing with when Kevin died.”

It might seem like the Jizzy-fronted Quiet Riot is touring on old catalog material. While that’s true, it wasn’t originally the intention. Quiet Riot wrote a full new album called 10 and released it on iTunes and Amazon.com on June 27, 2014. The record featured six new songs and four re-recorded old tracks. Shortly after putting it on sale, Banali pulled the songs from both download stores and hasn’t reissued the record.

“I ran into two situations,” he says. “First, people were illegally downloading it rampantly, and then I had some of the fans getting all upset because I didn’t make physical copies. So, at the end of the day, there was zero hope of breaking even because the music was just being stolen. Forget making any profit. And after the money I had already spent to make the record and the time I spent writing, recording and mixing the material, I was not going to pour out more good money into it just to have the same outcome if I put out physical copies. So I pulled it, instead.”

The main problem for Banali was that he couldn’t find a record label that would properly promote the album. But even if he had a company pushing for him, he says radio program directors and DJs are completely hamstrung by today’s guidelines.

“DJs today are not allowed to play anything at all,” Banali says. “In the old days, we’d walk into a radio station with the new record and the DJ would play whatever he wanted. It didn’t even have to be the perceived single. That’s gone. So the idea of releasing a new record so you can say you’re touring for a new album is an antiquated equation. It just doesn’t make any sense anymore to make records. I feel badly for the real fans who want the music, but it’s just not worth it.”

By not releasing new material, Quiet Riot risks becoming a nostalgia act. While he’d rather rewind the clock 25 years and play by the old rules of the music business, Banali is OK with staying away from the studio and touring with hits from Quiet Riot’s back catalog.

“One thing I always enjoyed about Quiet Riot, and especially when Kevin was alive, was that we continued to record new music because it was fun for us,” Banali says. “And we could infuse two to four new songs into the set. But in this day and age, no matter what you do, people are only interested in hearing ‘Cum on Feel the Noize,’ ‘Bang Your Head (Metal Health),’ ‘Mama Weer All Crazee Now,’ and ‘The Wild and the Young.’ And if you could add one new song to the set, it might be well received, but it doesn’t make any difference because it’s not going to get any radio airplay and you’re not going to release it. So it’s an unfortunate situation. But that’s the reality we’re facing and we just have to deal with it.”