By Jeb Wright
When Warrant released the album Rockaholic with a singer other than Jani Lane, (Lane was going through terrible addiction problems that would end up costing him his life only a few short months later) I thought it would be a mess of songs and fall short of what the band had done in the past. I was wrong.
Rockaholic was one of the most cohesive albums the band had ever released. Much of the reason the album felt hard, heavy and fresh was the creative energy of new Warrant vocalist Robert Mason. To the fans delight, Mason also could write songs, perform the old tunes well, and be an energetic front man. He has the attitude of a rock star—minus the LSD (Lead Singers Disease).
I caught up with Mason backstage at a casino in Nowhere, Oklahoma for a great chat on that album, as well as what is to be expected from the band in the future and how he turned down joining Ratt back in the day.
If you’ve not seen Warrant with Mason taking up center stage then you’re missing out. No one can replace the original Jani Lane in his heyday, but rest assured, one would have a hard time today replacing Robert Mason!
Jeb: Rockaholic is my favorite Warrant album. I know hardcore fans will say I am wrong, but I really do love this album. You actually emailed me after I ran the review a few years ago, so when you were coming to town I reached out to chat.
Robert: We are writing for a new record now.
Jeb: You knew where I was going…
Robert: This is not my first interview… not even today! We are writing without the pressure of a record company breathing down our neck. It is not like the old schedule we used to have.
We took our time with Rockaholic. Dixon and I got together and started putting ideas together as soon as I got into the band. Everybody threw their two cents in and all of a sudden we had enough ideas to make a record.
We have not been milking this record or taking our time or anything like that. We’ve been playing a lot of shows and are very busy. We get little bursts of creativity here and there. We want the songs to belong together rather than just throwing them together. I don’t mean that in a bad way as some great records have been made that way. We just had the idea of when we have enough we will know. We are getting really close, so we are just going to do it in 2017.
Jeb: Rockaholic sounds like Warrant, but it doesn’t sound like you were trying to sound like Warrant. Do you know what I mean by that? Also, at times that was a really heavy record.
Robert: Exactly. Everybody is older and wiser now---or at least older! That is not the first time I’ve used that line either. That joke is old enough to vote. Be careful with that joke – it’s an antique [laugher]!
We are older. But when you get those four guys in a room it is going to sound like Warrant. It was important for me to not to try too hard because I am me.
When we do the Warrant stuff I do it as faithfully to the way the fans deserve to hear those songs as I possibly am able to do. I do the best I am capable of. Still, it comes out sounding like me. I’ve had people tell me they really like it and it is really cool that they accept me.
Jeb: There is always going to be the one percent that wants only Jani Lane. The rest accept it.
Robert: I can’t please everybody but you do what you do.
Jeb: I love Jani and Warrant and this is no disrespect to him at all. You are a naturally better vocalist.
Robert: That is very nice of you to say. I’ll take that. Lane and I were friends. The people that know the history of the band understand that.
Our friendship is a big part of why Lynch Mob went out in support of Warrant when we both had records out. The seed was planted there with a real organic kind of friendship and comradery.
I spent many nights on the Warrant bus. Some of the guys don’t even know… I stole the back lounge of the Warrant bus a time or two – I think! I was either arguing with George [Lynch] or I was staying up too late hanging with Jani. Like I said, that is when they needed somebody. It was a really natural fit and all of the parts came together. They needed five guys on stage in the right frame of mind doing the songs as well as they were able to do them. They needed to make themselves happy and to make the fans happy.
Jeb: Let me ask you a tough question.
Robert: Sure… I like tough questions. Easy questions mean you just went through the first paragraph of Wikipedia and did nothing else.
Jeb: Did you think you would still be a member of Warrant in 2016 or did you think you would just come in and fill in and then go do your own thing?
Robert: Wow, that is an awfully good question. It is a little bit of a tough one.
Jeb: That situation had to have all rolled around in your head...
Robert: Not to dodge this or cop-out, but you do think of every possibility and everything that could happen. It wasn’t born out of paranoia for me, but… I had that twinge… I will be honest with you. I don’t think I’ve said this to anybody. I had that minute of, “Okay, Lane really needs to get himself together. If he does that, then he belongs in this band.”
Boys and girls out there in Internet land… in the background we are listening to Ratt right now playing before we go on. There was a time when Stephen [Pearcy] had quit Ratt and Bob [Blotzer] and Warren [DeMartini] put the pressure on me pretty hard to replace Stephen, and I told them ‘no’.
I love those guys… I really do. I really do like them all. That is just Bobby out there right now… We get along great… now. When I said “no” to them I told them to go get their singer back because he was right for Ratt. I was not the right singer for that band.
I had another thing I was trying to do at the time. I had a different project and I was writing and doing sessions and doing work for hire stuff, too. I said no to them and in retrospect I think they know I’m right. They were pissed at me for a couple of years. As much as I really like Ratt -I’m a fan- it was not right for me. I am a Warrant fan, too, in a lot of ways.
We were playing last year in Atlanta and Lynch Mob was opening for us. Joey Allen and I were standing behind the stage and George was on stage right.
George Lynch is the reason my left ear doesn’t work as well as my right one today. He used to set up on stage left so I have no idea why he setting up on stage right now. Anyway, we were standing behind his backline watching him. I looked at Joey and I said, “Dude, are you thinking what I am thinking right now? I used to go sing these songs and then go eat dinner and watch you guys sing the songs that I sing now.” Isn’t life weird? It is a fortunate set of circumstances for all of us.
Jeb: You are living the life in the band and I am living it as a writer and a fan. At this point in our lives we’re older. We’re wiser. At the same time we are smart enough to know this business has changed. You have to work differently these days, don’t’ you?
Robert: Well… we take more Advil [laughter]. I get what you’re saying. We have always had to have some business sense, but today we pay more attention to that. We realize that we are fortunate that we are playing a lot. A lot of bands don’t get to do this. We still get to do this.
We’ve found our niche. We’ve found out who our people really are. If you can still get them to come out and you can still put asses in the seats… we do that thanks to guys like Howard, the promoter for tonight. We are really thankful for it. I just go and do my best and earn it one song at a time and try to convince people that they need to come out and see this band.
Jeb: Did you guys do a live album yet?
Robert: We have actually never committed to that.
Jeb: Why don’t you do one?
Robert: Is that your next question? Ha ha. [Turns to Eric Turner who is warming up] Hey Turner… wanna do a live record? He said yes to all of the people out there.
We have had offers to do a live album. I’d love to do a live Blu-Ray. If it was done correctly and it showed how we are as a band, I’d love it.
We are not running tracks, so it is different a bit than the record sounds. We are a real live rock band playing live. We are not supplementing it with anything. I would love to see and hear that. It would be raw in a way--I don’t want to go in and overdub a bunch of crap. I am sure that everyone says that, but I honestly don’t want to.
I would love to do that and I would love it to come out on vinyl. I would like to do a live album and do a DVD. I think our new record will have a vinyl pressing as well. I would love that.
Jeb: It will be out next year…
Robert: It will be out next year.
Jeb: Are the songs written yet?
Robert: A bunch of them are. The thing is there is always a lot of ideas and we bat them about. When the pressure is on we will do it. It is busy now as it is summer. I’m a shitty writer on the road. I will write lyrics on airplanes when I am quiet and I get inspired by things. I sit at home and get out the piano and the guitar and I try to write songs that don’t suck.
Jeb: You enjoyed songwriting with these guys from the moment you became part of Warrant.
Robert: I was in the band just a few months and Dixon goes, “Do you write songs?” I said, “Yeah.” He goes, “What have you got.” That is what started the ball rolling and like I said everybody put their two cents in to make it their own.
There were maybe four or maybe six songs that I brought to the band… complete demos. They didn’t want to mess with them too much and they said they wanted to do this. I think four or five ended up on the record that were just mine.
I’m a better collaborator. I don’t’ fancy myself Paul McCartney by any means. That is just stupid. Maybe there are people out there that are that good and that confident. I’m just not that guy. I like the catalyst process.
I’ve been flying out to Nashville the past three or four years and spending a week at a time. I do that a few times a year just to write with country writers. I don’t even hang out with the rock guys. I just dive right in. They all want to write with the rock guy. It is funny. When you go out there… this is going to songwriting school… that and listening to your record collection.
Jeb: Last one: I like your voice a lot… are you a Paul Rodgers fan? I hear an influence.
Robert: Oh, more than you know. It started super early for me with my dad’s record collection… everything from the Four Freshmen, to Harry Bellefonte, to Elvis, to Sam Cooke. After that I got into the British blues thing. I would sneak into my friends older brother and sisters record collections and I discovered all of that stuff.
Between Steve Marriot and Paul – who I’ve gotten to know… he is the coolest guy in the world. I love Paul’s voice. I got into Glenn Hughes and the Who. The Who were so raw.
Ian Gillan is another great singer. Robert Plant and Freddie Mercury are great.
I am a huge Paul Rodgers and Steve Marriot fan. I have Tons of Sobs and Live at the Fillmore on my phone. That is what I am listening to ninety percent of the time when I am on an airplane.
Jeb: Anything else?
Robert: We are slaves to social media so we’ve got to pimp out Warrant Rocks… www.warrantrocks.com and the same on Facebook and Instagram.
We are concentrating on live shows right now. We are doing Meet & Greet packages and that is so much fun. It is better for us as we can control it. I find that everybody comes into it with a story. Most are from before I was in the band. It is cool to always hear their stories and hear what motivated them.
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