HRH Interview With Fernie Rod and Billy Rowe of Jetboy
The M3 Festival in Columbia, MD was a fun and very cool experience. Their was a ton of great music all day, and one of my favorite acts of the day was Jetboy. I have only been able to catch Jetboy live one other time. When the opportunity came up to see the band play again, and also to interview the band in the same day, I could not pass it up. The following interview is the conversation that I had with Jetboy guitarists Fernie Rod and Billy Rowe at M3. Enjoy!
Fernie Rod: A lot of people say we deserve certain things, we should be here, we should be there, and that is not reality. I agree. We are a band that is always going to work hard to get to, where we want to get to.
Since the last time you seen us we have eleven killer new tracks, we played three of them today. One of them “Going Down, Above the Clouds” is going to be our single. We have been writing, the magic between Billy and Mickey and myself is there and really is as good as it has ever been, if not better. We had a great crowd today, and we are making headway to get to the point were we be playing, and doing this feasibly a lot. Our idea is to be on the road 200 – 225 shows per year, that is the goal and we are getting there.
Rob Rockitt: That is good news, you don’t get to the east coast often enough!
Fernie Rod: I know!
Rob Rockitt: Have you been to the east coast since the 2007?
Billy Rowe: No not since the last time we saw you.
Fernie Rod: We still have to work out a lot of things. It is not easy. There are promoters that have heard of Jetboy, but it is not like promoters will give us three grand to play wherever we want.
Rob Rockitt: You have to work at getting your name back out there again.
Billy Rowe: Oh yeah, exactly.
Rob Rockitt: A lot of music fans here today are not familiar with Jetboy.
Billy Rowe: That is a good place for us to be actually. There is a fine line where we can move forward and be relevant at the same time.
Rob Rockitt: You have been together for over 25 years. Most bands that have been together as long as Jetboy start going through the motions and start releasing subpar material. Based on the new songs I heard today, you are writing the best songs of your career right now.
Billy Rowe: We picked up where we left off. We got cut short. We were on hiatus for a while.
Rob Rockitt: Was that due to the stuff with MCA?
Billy Rowe: Pretty much, yeah. It was the contract really. We were living off of the money. All of a sudden you have no money, and you have to go to work.
Fernie Rod: It is a tough life. If a band is fortunate enough early on their career to get a hit single where the record company, like Guns N Roses, Warrant, and Poison. If you can get that early shot where you can get that mass exposure, then you got a great chance to keep doing what their doing, year in and year out. There are a million other stories out there of bands…We know of so many bands that we love, that no one has ever heard of. It could be hit or miss. The good thing is, moral of the story is we are picking up where we left off. We are not a jaded band from the 80′s. The band is on fire, like you said and is writing the best songs ever. Now there is a new window of opportunity to get out there and get exposure. We have a manager and a publicist. When they hear the new songs the momentum is going to roll. The last time you saw us we didn’t have anything new yet, so we were still trying to push the older material.
Billy Rowe: We just decided to be a band again. We didn’t have a manager at that point. We didn’t have anything. We decided we would hop on the tour and lets go do it.
Fernie Rod: Now we have a ripping manager and a great publicist and seeing that the ball is rolling. All I can say is, we are aware of it, and all we can do is try. If the rock gods open the avenues and doors for us, we are going to walk through it. Now we can walk through it confidently. I would like to think at the end of 2009, 2010, 2011 you are going to see this momentum, there is the record, and then you will be seeing more and more stuff.
Rob Rockitt: When do you think the new CD will be done?
Fernie Rod: The goal is in July. With the music industry and the way things are now, we are still trying to decide what the best thing is to do. I have a feeling what we are going to do is release through the internet through ITunes and the website and what not. We are going to do this the best we can ourselves in the since that we are going to record three songs first. Release what we feel is a strong single “Going Down Above the Clouds” and then build off that. But still recording for the eventual album release. Its not that cheap to do a record these days. You can do a record, but if you want it sound good there has to be a little money back there behind that. We want to do good quality work. Its a juggling act. We are trying to do the best that we can. All of that is a very complex process, if you have a limited budget to work with. I think considering that we are doing the best we can. We are seeing the progress. Goal #1 get some new songs. We have surpassed that goal. We have eleven rippers!
Rob Rockitt: So you have eleven songs that are done?
Fernie Rod: We have about five or six that are completely arranged and ready to go. The others need to be condensed and fixed up. Essentially, we have eleven ready to go.
Rob Rockitt: What was the first new song that you played today?
Billy Rowe: Perfectly Wrong
Rob Rockitt: That song was a ripping track. It was unbelievable!
Fernie Rod: That is good. The response has been that way.
Billy Rowe: It has been really good.
Fernie Rod: This time around we recorded everything on a cassette player like the old days. Billy and I had a ton of song ideas, and we went down the mix together. If we could make it sound good on acoustic, it is going to translate on electric guitar five to ten times or more better. Everything you heard was done on acoustic guitars first. We recorded everything, we jammed everything, we did the vocals, we arranged everything on the acoustic, then we sat down with the rest of the boys and then put it through the electric and it came out a lot more intense. Our goal was to do it the old school way and do it that way. If it sounds good on piano or acoustic guitar, I am telling you what the great bands did. AC/DC and Aerosmith, a lot of those bands wrote on the acoustic and piano. If it felt right then, it gets magnified when it is electrified. So that is what we did.
Rob Rockitt: Looking back do you regret signing with MCA?
Fernie Rod: No, You know a lot of bands break up over those situations. We were very hurt. We felt like we got screwed over, but when we went through the history of bands, we saw it everywhere. There have been thousands of bands that have been dropped or had albums shelved, and screwed over and worse. There have been bands that have made a lot of money, but the band got zero.
Rob Rockitt: Kix is a perfect example of that.
Fernie Rod: I wasn’t going to say it, but exactly. That is even more painful. That is a jab in the heart. So fact that there still playing should tell you and everybody, they are not bitter. They were resilitant and here they are now. Otherwise if they were bitter and angry, there would be no band.
Billy Rowe: What are you going to?
Rob Rockitt: You have to move on.
Fernie Rod: You really, really do.
Rob Rockitt: Your first two CD’s Feel the Shake and Damned Nation, do you own the rights to those? Are you able to re-release those some how?
Billy Rowe: laughs
Fernie Rod: There are only a handful of bands in the world that own their publishing. That is not a common thing. The labels when they sign you, they give you the money, and will get you out there. We own the publishing and give you a percentage of it. There are only certain bands out there who own their songs. I think Motley Crue is one of the them, Barbara Streisand is another. It is not common. If you are interested in this material, come to the JetboyRocks site.
Billy Rowe: You can thank Ray Charles. The one guy that made a difference with that. Owning your own recordings.
Rob Rockitt: A lot of bands are trying to do things on their own now and trying to cut the labels out.
Fernie Rod: It is good and it is bad. The music industry is not unlike the car industry. After all these years, they are all about gone. The car industry is filing for bankruptcy. The business model of music, in the 70′s and 60′s and 50′s, unless you have incredible people behind you, the bands got ripped off. To this day, James Brown, Little Richard, The King of Rock and Roll, for years would get on interviews, “I got ripped off, I wan’t my money, GIVE me my money”. Everbody.. Aerosmith..everybody..got ripped off. All of that karma and that whole industry has almost fallen by the wayside. Now there is a give and take, now you can control what is outputting, but to get it out the mass public, the internet is one option, it is a combination of the internet and promotion and distribution. You know, TV is important if you can get your song into movies.
Rob Rockitt: You had a song in “The Burbs” a few years ago.
Fernie Rod: “The Burbs” and She’s Out of Control”.
Rob Rockitt: I forgot about that one.
Billy Rowe: We still get money off of that.
Fernie Rod: We are still signed to BMI, so anytime they show that movie on video, or TV anywhere in the world. BMI and ASCAP keeps track of that. Bands like Avril Lavigne and Ben Folds Seven (Billy laughs). A lot of their songs broke in video games. Kids are playing video games 100 hours a week or whatever. They are hearing those songs over and over and over again and getting a lot of mass exposure.
Rob Rockitt: With the fact that you have new songs coming out, have you talked to anybody about getting your songs into Guitar Hero or Rock Band? These games are huge for music right now.
Fernie Rod: We want to look into that. Its not like we can knock on the door and say hi were Jetboy, can we get a song into that. It is way more involved than that.
Billy Rowe: Its the same kind of thing. Be careful of what you sign. Little Richard did get ripped off. He didn’t read the paper. He didn’t read the fine print. None of us did. That is why we got fucked in a lot of ways. We didn’t read it.
Rob Rockitt: If you are a young band, and a label offers to send you all over the world, you are probably going to sign.
Fernie Rod: You are going to sign, and there are promises. If the labels would have been a little more diligent, we probably would have broke eventually with one of those songs. The label says sorry we are done, we are moving on. Grunge and hip hop are taking over. That has happened in the 70′s with the progressive bands and a lot of bands in the 70′s once disco hit. It is part of the business. If you happen to fall in the right spot at the right time, and all the stars align, you can make things happen. Guns N’ Roses and Poison for example. We were all signed at the same time. Frankly, I am about sick and tired of it of how many people have come up to me and said you guys should have been just as big. Yeah we should have but things happened that blocked it for us in certain areas. What are going to do?
Rob Rockitt: I would rather support a band like Jetboy who is wanting to create new music, instead of a band like Poison were Bret Michaels is spending more time on Rock of Love than writing new music. He is making a joke out of himself.
Fernie Rod: It is true. It is not easy to do. If you are not on top of your game, you can’t write material that is going to be good. Otherwise everyone could do it. It is not an easy thing to do. We live in an world now that there are artists and musicians, and if you are not careful, you become a celebrity. That is what Bret is. I am not putting him down or being angry.
Rob Rockitt: He has reinvented himself with that show, but I don’t think that is what he needs to do.
Fernie Rod: Not as a rock and roll musician. Like Slash, I read a couple of days ago, there is no Guns N’ Roses anywmore, so he needs to find something to do. He played guitar for that guy on American Idol.
Rob Rockitt: Speaking of Slash, I recently finished his book.
Fernie Rod: He got it all wrong.
Rob Rockitt: What do you guys think about what Slash said about Todd ( Crews, Jetboy’s former drummer)?
Fernie Rod: Guns N’ Roses and Jetboy were good friends. We hung out together, we did a lot of things together. He claimed they were really close friends. The reality, unfortunately, he got it all wrong. The bottom line was this we were all good friends, and part of the glam scene. He said in the book we don’t like that stuff, we had nothing to do with it. Jetboy is this and Jetboy is that. I remember us all sitting around and writing songs, jamming, supporting each other. Because Jetboy was thinking about our career we had to let Todd go. At the age of 23, he was already a drunk mess. If we would have kept him the band, we would have gotten dropped. We probably wouldn’t have been able to make a record. We had to let him go. Guns N’ Roses never forgave Jetboy. I still hear the phone call in my mind from Axl and Slash told me, what you guys did was wrong, we are all a family. We would never do that in our band to anyone. What did they end up doing?
Rob Rockitt: They did the same thing to Stephen Adler.
Fernie Rod: They never forgave us, and held hatred and a grudge toward us because of that to this day. They would have to go back on their word and save face. In that book Slash was trying to excercise his guilt. There was a lot of guilt. Todd didn’t die with us. He died in their presense with them. Slash may have been his friend, but he wasn’t a true friend. He was his friend, but they were dysfunctional. Drug addicts don’t make good friends.
Rob Rockitt: Tell me about your new drummer.
Fernie Rod: Doug Hovan was a friend and fan for the last 25 years. He used to play in some of the bands that opened for Jetboy back in the day. In the earlier days, when we played at the Mabuhay, the Stone, the On Broadway when we used to rule the roost back then. He was part of the scene and in different bands that used to play with us. We decided that we needed to part ways with Jeff (Moscone). We needed someone with a different mindset. He became available. He stepped into the role, and he is a beautiful guy. He expresses himself on the drums perfectly. We love him. He is ideal.
Rob Rockitt: You have a bunch of new pictures up on myspace. Your new pictures and design looks great.
Fernie Rod: A gentleman named Noel. He is a friend of Billy’s. He is helping us do all of our websites. Danny Valdez is a friend of ours, when the band first got back together went on the road with us and takes pictures for us. He has developed into a great photographer.
Rob Rockitt: You would expect pictures like these from a brand new band.
Fernie Rod: We are a brand new band. I think if we emphasize that, we are a brand new band. We are an old school, brand new band. Danny has a great camera and a great eye. He knows how to shoot the band. That was simple, that was easy. I wish everything was that easy.
Rob Rockitt: Thank you guys for the interview. It has been an honor!