Two Steps from the Move - "the beginning of the end"

JR: Let's move ahead to Two Steps From the Move. The first album on a major label, the dream of conquering America. A big, full page record review in Kerrang!, followed by a cover story - both written by you, of course. The band seemed to be picking up an extraordinary amount of momentum. What was your mood at that time?

DD: Looking back, it was almost the beginning of the end.

JR: Did it feel that way at the time?

DD: No. It's been said that hindsight is always 20/20. Looking back, I would have thought, "Whoops, hang on, there's something not right about this."

JR: What was "not right?"

DD: When you get signed up for a big label, you start losing the edge of the outsider. You get dragged into the mainstream. Hanoi had always been outlaws, and suddenly, the outlaws had been invited into the cop-shop. At the time, I thought, "Great, they've got a worldwide deal, they have a big record label behind them, now they're going to conquer the world." But with hindsight, maybe that was a mistake. Maybe they should have done it more slowly, done it off their own back. But obviously, they wanted the money, they wanted to be able to spend time in the studio, and they wanted a big name producer - all things that a big record label could give them. Primarily money, they never had any money. But looking back, once you get sucked into that. I'm talking just from a personal point of view, but suddenly there were all these people around them who I'd never heard of. I'd have to go through people to get to them, which obviously I'd never had to do before.

They were being swallowed up by this corporate machine, as so many bands had been before and continue to be to this day. That's the nature of the beast; there's not a whole lot anybody can do about it. If they had never signed the deal, if they hadn't produced the album, then they wouldn't have been doing the American tour, there's all these "what ifs?" "What if Mike hadn't broken his ankle?" If that hadn't happened, then they never would have taken a break to go to Los Angeles, they never would have met up with Motley Crue when they did, and that whole thing would never have happened. You can trace the beginning of the end to being signed to that deal. I'm not blaming CBS for the breakup of Hanoi, because like I said, that's just the nature of the beast.

JR: And Hanoi was particularly vulnerable to that "corporate rock machine," precisely because of the underground, outlaw appeal that was so much a part of their essence.

DD: They came from a small town, and suddenly, overnight, the vaults were thrown open. They're being given all this money, they have a big name producer, they're out in the Hollywood hills - everything anybody ever wanted for them. They'd been working towards this for five or six years, but it came together too quickly - they really weren't quite ready for this. I didn't pick up on these things at all at the time, and can't claim that I did. But looking back, I can see that things were going wrong. The arguments started, the trivial and unnecessary stuff that comes along with these kinds of big deals, it was all sort of coming apart, which to me was a total tragedy.

It was very difficult for me to come to terms with it. Journalists and musicians aren't supposed to be friends, and I agree with that. You're in dangerous territory if you start forming personal relationships with the people who you've then got to criticize. I considered these people friends, and o, in the midst of a crazy American tour, one of them was dead. One of the most difficult things I ever had to do was write Razzle's obituary. It took about three days to write it. I just remember struggling through it somehow, even as the band staggered on for a little while longer. To me this was a huge mistake - they should have just called it quits there and then. Everything they did from that point on was just one huge mistake. It took them about three months to finally call it quits. I don't think any one of them could quite believe what was happening.

JR: So in your heart, you knew it was over when you wrote Razzle's obituary.

DD: It reminds me of talks I had with Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards. They always said, "Charlie Watts is the Rolling Stones. Without Charlie Watts, we would never go onstage as the Rolling Stones." Razzle was the glue that held them all together. They became complete when he joined. He was the right guy at the right time, and he brought the best out of them. When Razzle was suddenly snatched away... [pause] If you take the glue away from any construct, it's going to fall apart. He was just a really great guy. They all knew when he joined that he was the right guy. They auditioned a whole bunch of people, but he was just right. It wasn't like he was this awesome musician who suddenly took them to another level, they really didn't need that. Razzle was the guy you always wanted at a party, he was warm and lovable and just a fabulous guy. Suddenly he was dead, and I knew, deep down, that this was the end.

JR: But isn't that an interesting commentary on Hanoi Rocks? The story of losing a drummer is almost like a rock 'n' roll cliche a la Spinal Tap... you lose a drummer, you replace a drummer, you press on.

DD: Terry Chimes stepped in. I don't know whether you've seen the Europe A Go-Go festival they did, which was pretty much the last thing that they did together...

JR: You're referring to the four song performance where Michael almost falls to pieces in the middle of "Million Miles Away," which was dedicated to Razzle?

DD: Yes. Terry Chimes was the drummer who filled in. Terry played with The Clash, so he had the right punk/rock background. He was a much better drummer than Razzle ever was, and they got him in quickly. They had to do that particular show, and they had some European tour dates they had to finish up which were part of their contractual obligations. It reminds me of Led Zeppelin. When John Bonham died, they actually did try to get Cozy Powell to take over. Cozy Powell was the only drummer in the world who could hit the drums as hard as John Bonham could. If anybody was going to be able to replace John Bonham it was Cozy Powell, but Cozy Powell didn't work out. The same way that Terry Chimes didn't work out for Hanoi. If anybody had been able to do it, it would have been him. Terry Chimes is a great guy, and of course he and Andy played together later in the Cherry Bombz.

JR: Bassist Sami Yaffa was also having some second thoughts about Hanoi, even before the accident. After Razzle died, he took the opportunity to depart as well, and you have the beginning of the end right there.

DD: Even before the car crash, the arguments had started - effectively the band was falling apart from within. When you suddenly get everything you ever wanted, it's like, "OK, we've struggled for all these years, we've finally got it, now what do we do?" The bickering had started. Again, this was all happening in the States, so I wasn't a close part of it. Around that time, I was told that Razzle had actually wanted to quit. He wanted to play for Heart, would you believe.

JR: Heart, with Nancy and Ann Wilson? He wanted to quit the band to join Heart?

DD: It wasn't like he wanted to quit the band and join Heart, but Heart was the band he always wanted to end up with, and Razzle saw Hanoi as a stepping stone towards that. Now, when I heard that, I had exactly the same reaction you did. Maybe it's true, I don't know. [Editor's note: this rumor has since been confirmed by several people close to Razzle and the band.] Once that bickering starts, if you've got any kind of ambition to do something else, then you're going to start thinking about it. Sami was not happy before all this went down. He had always been the most retiring onstage; he was always kind of in the background. Mike obviously couldn't hang around in the background, although personally he was the most reclusive of all of them. So Sami wasn't particularly happy, and Nasty and Andy had always bickered - for as long as I knew them, they had always been bickering. It's those little things. When you've got nothing, you put up with all the little annoyances because you're aiming towards something bigger, but when you finally get there, then all those little things which you've been storing up for years start to come out. If you're strong enough and sensible enough, you work your way through it, but when something as dramatic as death comes along, then you can't work through that. That's not a blazing argument you can brood over for a week and then come back and apologize for. The curtain had finally fallen.

Mike's accident was the catalyst which set everything off. Things were not going well on that tour. I imagine that from their point of view, they were thinking, "OK, we've signed this massive deal, we've got a huge record company behind us, we've got a major album, we've got a major producer, so why are we back playing clubs again?" They couldn't understand why it was that they were back playing to a couple hundred people when they should have been playing to at least a couple thousand. They couldn't understand that yes, they could do that in Europe, and they could do that till the cows came home in Japan, but America was a completely different territory. They had to start all over again here, and that must have come as a bit of a shock. It all fell apart at the wrong time. Mike had that accident, the tour comes shattering to a halt, they go off and suddenly Razzle is dead. There's nowhere to go from there.