Billy Rowe - American Heartbreak

July 7, 2003

Give me a little background on yourself.

I guess I pretty much got into music as a kid. KISS and Aerosmith and Cheap Trick in the '70s and it got me into wanting to be a guitar player. That's pretty much what got me into being a player. Those three bands. In the early '80s I really got into bands like Hanoi Rocks and that's when the band thing started like with Jetboy. I just wanted to start a band of that style. A little glammy rock and roll type stuff. That's pretty much when Jetboy was born. Fernie and I had met and had the same idea and we just started putting the band together which turned into Jetboy.

You had Sam Yaffa in the band.

Yeah, that was after we got a deal. Our bassist at the time was into substance abuse. Things weren't in control and we did have to move forward. Having a record deal I think was really the clincher on how we got Sam Yaffa in the band. Once he joined the band it was perfect. We all got along perfect, had the same ideas, and the band really became a strong unit and more of a family. It was also kind of funny because we were fans of Hanoi Rocks and that's kind of how the band started and being influenced two years later with one of them in the band.

That had to kick ass.

Oh it was great. I was 20 or 21 at the time.

I remember when I was a junior in high school, I guess that was '84, a friend of mine got me into Hanoi Rocks and I just fell in love with them and then Razzle got killed.

Right. That was funny because we were actually going to open for Hanoi Rocks a week later. He had died a week prior.

That tore me up.

It was crazy. That's so funny telling Sam that. It was just so funny and now he was in the band. Of course we all keep up too. Actually I just saw Sam about a month ago. He plays with Joan Jett now.

I know Michael Monroe just brought Hanoi Rocks back from the dead.

Yeah, him and Andy are pretty much back together but knowing the inside and being part of that family and family tree, they didn't even ask Sam or Nasty to do it basically. They have their bitter taste towards those guys right now. I think the new record is good. I think it's great they're doing it but when you're so close to it and you know the personal stuff, sometimes you don't want to know that.

Yeah, I think it would only be right to have all four.

Technically the original drummer who played pretty much on everything but the live album and "Two Steps From The Move" is still alive. He's fine.

That would have been the ultimate reunion.

Ultimate. It all comes down to money.

Doesn't it always? Jetboy released an album last year called One More For Rock 'n' Roll!.

Ever since the band ended, not that I ended up with everything, but I always collected and saved everything. I had all these tapes. That's the fourth one I did. I just have all these demos and outtakes and stuff that I sat and listened to. With technology now, I clean these up and make them sound good. At least get it out to people who are into that instead of sitting in a box in my closet. The last one I just did is One More For Rock 'n' Roll!. That was a combination of demos of songs that made the second album Damned Nation and towards the end. I got a good response from it. I love it when my favorite bands do stuff like that. I go buy it. Unreleased material. That's pretty much how all that came about. The first one was A Day In The Glamorous Life and that was more like the early stages. They were released in the stages of how the band went.

How did you guys get hooked up with the Hollywood Hairspray 2 thing?

That's all from Tom from Perris Records. He's done all the releases for me except for one and then he's been doing these compilations of all these bands. He's like "hey, let's pull an outtake song of yours. I'm doing this "Hollywood Hairspray" series." I'm like "yeah, let's go for it." It works out. I can play with my new band, American Heartbreak, and let people know what's up with this. It gets music out there again that's been sitting in my box in the closet. I'd rather people enjoy it.

What song did they put on Hollywood Hairspray 2?

"White Rock Devil" which was later changed lyrically and a little bit musically and it was a bonus track on the Japanese release for Damned Nation. That song never really saw the light of day in the U. S. to begin with. It's cool to have rarities that pop up that nobody has heard.

A lot of good shit from American bands turn up overseas.

On the Japanese market they always want bonus tracks because imports are cheaper than Japanese releases. On the Japanese releases they want to put bonus tracks so that people buy the Japanese releases in Japan. It's a real weird thing. It's the same in Europe. They're just very into B-sides and bonus tracks. In the U. S, I don't know why but they just never were into that.

Tell me about American Heartbreak.

It's a straight up rock and roll band basically. It's like Cheap Trick meets AC/DC. It's kind of the direction we were working towards. Some of the early stuff was a little more pop/punky but it always it had its true rock roots because everybody in the band is just old school rock and rollers. The band just started with the bass player and I. We're into bands like The Wildhearts and D Generation and stuff like that. We were like let's just start a rock band and do what we like doing. Then see what happens. Tom from Perris put out our first EP and then we did our own album. We just recorded it with means of just releasing it ourselves. A small label, Cold Front, came along out of Berkeley in our area here and he put it out. We got a lot of mileage out of it. We ended up doing three European tours and got a lot of coverage. Then we did a split with a band from New York called Libertine and that did us well. We did a lot of compilations and it was really like the punk rock underground thing which was like the rock and roll thing now. Rock and roll became underground. It's pretty weird. From mainstream to underground. We were just into bands like The Wildhearts, Buck Cherry, and D Generation and we're still doing it. It's just been moving forward ever since. Europe really brought a light to it on how you can really have a lucrative career and to a certain point in Japan. We're not there yet but we'll get there.

Japan's a really huge music market.

We've done the 7 inches. We did a split with The Toilet Boys. It's kind of funny on how things have rolled along. We're releasing stuff right now that Tom just released for us. It's five live and five acoustic.

You Will Not Be Getting Paid.

Right. That just kind of fell together. We did a show in France at the end of last year and the club had a Pro Tools recording studio and they said if we want, they'll record the show if it comes out decent. We were like all right, screw it. We did it and we listened to it when we got back. We were like man we can mix this ourselves, fix it up, and actually release it. It doesn't really cost us anything. Then we started recording acoustic stuff. We have our own recording setup and rehearsal studio and we were doing our demos. We're into acoustic stuff and doing acoustic shows once in a while. We were acoustic stuff and our singer was like why don't we do five live and five acoustic like GNR Lies. It just all kind of came together and Tom said he'd be into it if we want to put that EP out because it was out of print and we only made so many and we were like yeah, let's do it. It would be a 16 song CD. Five live, five acoustic, and a bonus EP which I remixed so it sounds like a whole new record. It just kind of fell together. Now we've got this label in Europe that's interested in it and we've been prolonging on the new release of the new record because we're working with this new management. We're trying to get a little bit of a bigger deal to get a little more money to do a better record. We thought well, let's put this out and it'll buy us some time until we get the new album out. Nobody does live records anymore. They're not my favorite thing but at one point they were a cool thing at least to do and get out there.

I've always loved live records for some reason.

They're cool. In the '70s, live records were the thing for me. KISS Alive, AC/DC, and Ted Nugent.

I've got a large KISS bootleg collection of live stuff and demos. My favorite band. You guys released You Will Not Be Getting Paid this month.

Right. It's technically released now. Tom got them in stock for ordering. He's got this overseas mail order and mom and pop stores that order it. We're just going to do our own trip right now with this almost like a self-release through Perris. We're going to see if this label in Germany is going to go for it. If that happens we'll work on booking a tour for early next year to go over there for a few weeks if we can afford it. It's amazing how Europe is so receptive to rock and roll. We play a lot more of the punk rock clubs but we're all long hair rock and roll guys. It's got that attitude in it where it's almost hip. The rock and roll thing with some of the punk rock scene.

That's definitely a change from guys with bald heads and baggy pants. I'm old school. To me guys need to look good.

I agree. That's played out. Last night I went to see Poison, Skid Row, and Vince Neil. Skid Row was great. When Jetboy was around, Mick and I were really good friends with those guys. I hadn't seen them in a while so we hung out last night. I thought they were good. They're doing this and then I guess they're releasing this record on their own in the States. Their new one. Then they're going to do Europe and Japan. That's what Rachel, Dave, Scottie, and I were talking about last night is like let's try to work maybe a European tour with us, American Heartbreak, opening. That would be amazing. That would be great. That's something we need. Something like that. Totally.

On July 4th you got to play on the USS Hornet.

Yeah, we did. It was interesting. It was fun and funny. Let's leave it at that. It was not really our style of thing to do but it was all this radio promo. I guess you learn from your mistakes. It was all right but it wasn't something we would do again.

Sometimes you have to fuck up once.

Exactly. You never know unless you try it.

Who do you think makes the best guitars?

I don't really know who makes the best because I'm very much into Gretsch guitars, Gibson, and Fender. I guess for myself I have always tended to be more of a Gibson and Gretsch person.

Do you have a huge guitar collection?

I don't have a super huge, huge, huge one. I had more in the past than I do now. Yeah, that all comes down with how the funds are doing in the bank. I'm a guitar junkie for sure. Very into the vintage old stuff and even rare guitars like Travis Bean and Dan Armstrong lucite guitars. My favorite right now is the Malcolm Young Gretsch signature model. That is my favorite. They're not making them anymore. They're hard to find but I think they're fantastic. I love it. I've always been a Marshall person. Marshall Amps and Gibson and Gretsch. I've got my Fenders but honestly I just really never played Fenders live and I really don't use them much for recording. For my own fun thing. Just for my playing. Probably would down the line. I don't know. I never was into those guitars as much.

Your bassist used to be in Exodus.

He was in the last incarnation of Exodus. The last album. He and I had a band with Mickey, the old singer from Jetboy, for a while. That pretty much ended. Mick was burned out and wanted to take a break. That's when him and I started American Heartbreak. We're into the rock. What we were doing with Mick was a little more metal. Trying to be what was the flavor of the moment which is the wrong thing to do. I love what we're doing now. I love the music and the style of the band. You gotta do what you love first.

That's right. You guys are working on a live record which of course is You Will Not Be Getting Paid.

That will be it. That's what it was at first. We were going to release it as a live album. Then we were like oh, let's go with this acoustic stuff. It started sounding great so we were like let's do that. It makes it more interesting and different. We're doing a few acoustic shows now. We're trying to put the bug in our friends' bands that are going to start doing it. Like "oh, we're going to do that too."

Do you guys just do gigs in California?

Pretty much right now. We have not toured the U. S. ever as American Heartbreak. We've done Europe three times and we actually make money. It's just real consistent over there. Here it's just so hard to get on a tour and you don't make money. Over there they totally take care of you. It's unbelievable. I know we'll do it soon. That's what I was talking to Rachel about last night with Skid Row. That's something that we would do if it was a band of that caliber that there's like 300 to 500 people coming a night. Something like that is going to be good for us. For us to go out with somebody who's narrowed to 50 people or maybe 100, it's just hard. Financially and mentally.

You guys are working on new stuff.

Yeah, we got about 16 new songs right now. We're just playing them out live. We've got this management talking to Japan on this one label. We just want to get a little bit better of a deal moneywise to go in and do a real cool record and then release it in Europe and Japan. Then management is going to shop it in America as a done deal.

Any other comments or thoughts?

I love all this webzine stuff. I think this is great. When we get this record out, I want to try to get as many reviews on it. The Internet thing I think is just a serious tool for bands at our level.

American Heartbreak