The "James Dean of Rock 'n' Roll"

JR: So how did you make a peace with all the "What Ifs" about Hanoi's premature demise? You can talk about how they would have been really huge; you can quote Axl Rose, who basically said "There would be no Guns N' Roses if Hanoi Rocks hadn't broken up." But to me, the hardest pill to swallow was simply the end of the music. When you look at Hanoi's musical evolution up to the breakup, it just seems like there was much more to come. It wasn't like Two Steps from the Move was the last good piece of music Hanoi had in them - in many ways, they were still jelling musically. As you pointed out, this was the first time in their career that they had a well-funded studio session. You seemed to echo that sentiment in your Two Steps record review, when you wrote "... and this is only the beginning." Do you still feel that way? As a fan, isn't the real tragedy not getting to see that musical evolution unfold?

DD: I was speaking with Michael a little while ago, and we were talking about that whole thing, those "what ifs," and I said to him, "Hanoi Rocks were the James Dean of Rock 'n' roll." And he said, "No no no, we were more like ______," and I can't remember who he said. But I responded, "No, you guys were like James Dean." James Dean was dead by the time he became a star. East of Eden had just come out when he died, and people were saying, "My God, who is this young character, who is this guy?" And suddenly he was dead. He made three superb movies, then he's dead, and all you're left with is the legacy. It's not a question of "Well, what would he have done if he'd made another three or four movies, would they have been shit?" It doesn't matter, because what you've got is three great movies, with this young, beautiful actor who was suddenly killed. He can't get old, and all you're left with is the stuff that he managed to make before he died.

Hanoi had that same thing. Hanoi could have gone on to produce brilliant albums, and done superb shows, and just been huge across the world, or, they could have produced a pile of shit, which would have destroyed the legacy. People would have said, "Well, what the hell was all the fuss about? I heard their last album and it was total crap." Who's to say? Maybe they would never have made another record, I don't know. As it was, they were around for only a brief time. But they shone incredibly brightly. It was glorious to behold; to be even a minor part in this story was wonderful.

When I wrote Razzle's obituary, I said, "This is the way he would have liked to have gone, because he died a rock 'n' roll death." James Dean died doing what he loved doing best, which was driving fast cars, and he wouldn't have wanted to go any other way. Yes, of course, James Dean would have loved to live a long, fulfilling life, but if he had to go early, he went the way he would have wanted to go. The same with Razzle. Because the band destroyed itself at that stage, what we're left with is the memories and the music. If they'd gone on to become huge, I would have been incredibly happy. I would have been like a pig in shit. I would have thought this was the greatest thing on earth, because I could have said, "Yeah, and I was there at the beginning." But if they had gone on and just slowly fallen apart and produced albums that were just incredibly god-awful pieces of shit, then it would have destroyed everything that had gone before.

They had their brief moment, and the fact that it didn't work out in the states is countered by the fact that it did work out in Britain; it did work out in Europe; it did work out in Japan. So they had their moment in the sun. They lived a brief and resplendent life as a band and died suddenly. It's almost better that they died when they did, because what we're left with now is the "what ifs." As it is, we've got a series of great albums, and from my point of view, a series of completely brilliant live shows, and some great memories.

JR: Isn't there a great, honorable lineage of bands like Hanoi Rocks - bands that didn't necessarily break out huge but had an enormous impact on other artists and key people in the industry?

DD: Again, this cropped up when I was talking to Andy and Mike. I was saying that Hanoi is kind of like The Velvet Underground. Not a whole bunch of people have heard of them, but within the industry, they were hugely influential. If there hadn't been The Velvet Underground, there would not have been punk. Influences spread out far and wide - even people who have never heard of The Velvet Underground have been indirectly influenced by them. Everybody's heard of The Beatles, everybody's heard of the Stones, everybody's heard of Elvis and Chuck Berry - we all know that those are the roots of what has become the pop industry. But there are these little eclectic bands that are hugely influential in their time. They don't stick around for very long, but they sound out these ripples that become hugely influential later on.

JR: And is that how you see Hanoi Rocks?

DD: Yeah, there were parts of the Stones in them, and there were parts of the Dolls in them. There was a mixture of all these influences, but somehow they made it their own and came out with something original. Guns N' Roses would quite readily admit that they were hugely influenced by Hanoi Rocks, and they became, briefly, one of the biggest bands in the world. There were a generation of bands that came up in their wake that have been influenced by them, in the same way that Hanoi was influenced by the Stones. It's almost like Hanoi were loathe to admit that they were influenced by the Stones. OK, the Stones were still around, but it's almost like they were too old, and they've passed the legacy on. So although Hanoi was never huge, at least not in this country, you have all these bands that were influenced by them. People will stumble across Hanoi in the years to come.