Frankie Banali – Proudly flyin’ the Freak Flag high!

By Jeb Wright

QUIET RIOT will go down in history as the first Metal band to top the album charts.  The album Metal Health will always be considered a shining example of the era from which it came.  The band was wild, loud and fun.  They reached rock ‘n roll heaven and spent some time in hell. In 2017 the band is led by the only remaining member of the classic QR lineup, drummer Frankie Banali. 

Their latest album Road Rage is getting a mixture of good and bad press.  Press does not matter to Frankie…the fans do…the band does.  In the interview below we hit him with a few questions on QUIET RIOT’s decision to change singers and redo vocals with the new guy…James Durbin from American Idol! 

Read on and learn about how Frankie leads the band in the modern day, as well as how he appreciates those that support them and doesn’t lose any sleep over those who do not!

Jeb:  Before starting in…explain the change of singers…what did the old guy to do make you mad?  Durbin was a find! 

Frankie: I’m not in the habit of dwelling on a bad situation. I act at whatever level, and to any lengths, to defend myself at any level, and at any cost, and then move on. It was just not working out. There was clearly no point or reason to continue as it was.  It was put to a QUIET RIOT vote and everyone agreed that change would be good. James has been a blessing in many ways as a musician, a professional and as a person.

Jeb:  This album does not sound like classic QR but it is not THAT far from it.  Did the singer change bring about the excitement?  Is that why you re-recorded it? 

Frankie: The music was already written by Neil [Citron], Alex [Grossi], Chuck [Wright] and myself. What James brought to the table via his original lyrics, vocal melodies and vocal range was to elevate the songs to the level they deserved.

Jeb: “Freak Flag” is my personal favorite.  I love the Alice Cooper like spoken part.  How did this song come together?  I love it. 

Frankie: If there is one song on Road Rage that is connected to the style of ‘80s QUIET RIOT, it is indeed the song “Freak Flag.” When Neil and I started working on the song I wanted a certain tempo, certain feel, certain signposts that said this road leads back to QUIET RIOT. And it evolved from there. What makes it different is James’ choice of melodies which are really melodic classic rock. So it’s part past, part present.

Jeb:  James has a pure rock voice.  Kevin Dubrow has a unique voice that set him apart.  I would imagine James’ voice is so strong singing the classic material is no issue.  When he auditioned were you impressed at his versatility? 

Frankie: James didn’t have to audition. I had every confidence in his abilities. There was no audition. The first order of business was to have James come onboard to do the existing QUIET RIOT dates. I sent him the setlist, links to all those songs, both studio versions and live versions, with Kevin. He absorbed the material. I flew him to LA and we did two days of rehearsals and off we went to play live. He was accepted by the fans from show one, but we accepted him the minute he walked in the door.

Jeb: Talk about Chuck Wright.  Not just his career with QR but his demeanor and participation on this album.  

Frankie: Chuck is one of rock’s greatest bass players. There is really nothing he can’t play and in varied styles of music. Chuck’s bass playing on the record is what he always does, he always plays great bass. It was fun on some songs to ask Chuck to dial it down a bit. But it was also fun to just cut him loose and say, “Impress me like you always do.” I can’t say enough about Chuck. He’s one of a kind and he’s the “Wright” man!

Jeb: Alex Grossi really wrote some big riffs.  As the ‘boss’ do you ever have to guide him to this sound or that?  How do you two work together? 

Frankie: This is some of Alex’s best and most diverse guitar playing. I really challenged him to play out of the box and did he ever! In all fairness, because Neil and I wrote the majority of the music, and because Neil is a great guitarist in his own right, there was already a riff schematic in place because I love riff type songs. But Alex went to work and took some of those riffs and re-invented them to fit his style. Alex is so easy to work with. All he wants is for it to be right. It was easy for both Neil and I to give direction, or suggestions, which Alex in turn made into realities. Alex is a great guitar player and he deserves a lot of credit.

Jeb:  You have made many albums.  You’ve been up and been knocked down and got back up.  You never give up.  Take a moment and tell us how you’ve been able to remain confident in spite of many obstacles.  

Frankie: I have always believed in QUIET RIOT. I believe in myself. I believe in the good fight. I don’t back down. The music business has never been easy even when the state of the industry was more productive than it is now. You can’t be thin-skinned. You have to commit to be there for the long haul, both the good and the bad and the ugly.

Jeb:  We are buds…but I have to ask you to really dig deep and tell me how you deal with some people out there.  How do you answer detractors who say, “No Carlos, No Kevin, No Rudy” No Quiet Riot!  I mean I get what you’re doing…and KD was a friend of mine.  He would want you to do this.  BUT…some people are stuck in the past.  I say as long as you do it with respect and make a good quality album…then it is all cool. What do you think?  

Frankie: It’s all about perspective. If you don’t respect the critical source then their criticism has no value and therefore is bankrupt in content and without merit. When the so called ‘original lineup’…the better moniker is the ‘classic’ lineup… reunited, by and large no one cared…so many said that we were has-beens trying to relive the past.

Fact…we were working musicians.  We were not trying to relive the past.  We continued to record and tour. But those same critics are now the ones who say ‘no this’, or ‘no that’, ‘no QUIET RIOT’. It is meaningless to me.

And you know that sadly in his lifetime Kevin was the most maligned person by so many. Those same people are now the ones that are the most vocal about my continuing QUIET RIOT after his death. I’ve been there for all of it. They don’t fool me and I don’t lose one bit of sleep over it.  

Jeb:  The drum sounds are recorded very well.  I would describe that snare as ‘snapping’ in my headphones! 

Frankie: Neil and I recorded the drums analog, old school. I just sit down and play. I support the musicians I’m playing with and the songs I’m playing while at the same time enjoying myself. 

Jeb:  Last one…if you could enter rock n’ roll heaven and play this sucker for Kev…what do you think he would say?  

Frankie: He would say, “Why didn’t you write these songs sooner for me?”