The former Enuff Z’Nuff frontman surveys his four decades in glam rock and power pop on a generous new digital box set
When Enuff Z’Nuff released their stellar self-titled debut album in 1989, they immediately stood out with their highly melodic glam metal/psychedelic pop rock hybrid.
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Hit singles “New Thing” and “Fly High Michelle” made them popular on MTV and radio stations around the world. What many hard rock fans may not realize, though, is that singer Donnie Vie, who departed the band in 2013, has also released five albums as a solo artist, starting in 2003. To commemorate that side of his career, Vie has just released a new single, “Party Time” (out in October) as well as a comprehensive box set, The Donnie Vie Collection.
Vie, calling from his Chicago-area home, says he’s wanted to release this type of box set for many years, and it’s happening now because “I just finally got in a position where it made sense because I bought all my solo records back from these shitty little labels,” he says, adding that this box set is “a lot of bang for the buck for a hundred and ten bucks.”
Uniquely, The Donnie Vie Collection is being released as an exclusive flash drive, which Vie says gives it yet another special benefit for fans: “The flash drive itself looks like a laminate, which will serve as a pass to the meet-and-greet events we’ll do when we tour for this release,” he says.
The new single, “Party Time,” finds Vie at his raucous best, singing a spirited good-time anthem with the same melodic sense and powerful vocals he’s always had. The hilarious accompanying video finds Vie dressing up as Batman (and it also features the original Batmobile).
“I was going to release ‘Party Time’ a year ago, but with COVID, it certainly wasn’t party time,” Vie says. Through the pandemic, he’s had close friends “dropping like flies from this thing – just losing people left and right.”
Vie responds with a wry laugh when asked how he still managed to keep his spirits up in order to create something as upbeat as “Party Time” during these dark days.
“Who says my spirits are up?” he says. “I just go with the flow. I’ve had a really tough life since I was a little kid. If there’s anybody who’s learned to roll with the punches, it’s me. In my childhood, I didn’t really have any parents. It wasn’t a safe, loving environment, so I was very isolated.”
Salvation came, Vie says, when he realized how powerful music can be: “When I heard my first Beatles record, there was no doubt in my mind what I was going to try to do. But there was no encouragement, there was no help, there was actually discouragement. People say, ‘Oh, Donnie, he was born with this God-given thing, and it’s so easy for him.’ That’s not true. I just wanted it more, needed it more, and started younger and really studied it like a rocket scientist would study school books. I mean, I really put everything I had into it, because it was do or die for me.”
That determination to succeed paid off: with Enuff Z’Nuff, Vie found international fame. Unfortunately, the timing was off – the band’s debut album came out just as the hair metal craze was peaking, so they got lumped in with that movement. Though their music was high-spirited and their image was colorful, Enuff Z’Nuff tended to have more depth than many other groups of that era, and their power pop leanings showed their superb songwriting skills. Adding to the problem, by the time their brilliant second album, Strength, came out in 1991, grunge was wiping all other genres off the musical map.
Vie still sounds frustrated as he looks back on how things panned out back then. “I looked like the glam guys but I was one of those grungy dudes, if you had seen me before and after the set,” he says.
Still, Vie is also able to take a philosophical attitude about things now. “Hindsight is insight,” he says. “You start to see the purpose. Back then, maybe it wasn’t a pleasant experience, but you can see where that steered you and how things make sense.”
Enuff Z’Nuff, and Vie himself, have retained a fiercely loyal fanbase, despite the shifting musical landscape, and Vie says that also helps motivate him to continue creating music. “When you hear that you saved somebody’s life, there’s no price tag you can put on something like that. As an artist, I just wanted to have some impact on people, and I think I’ve done that,” he says.
With the COVID pandemic restrictions easing, Vie hopes to reestablish that bond with his fans on a face-to-face basis, for the first time in a long time. “I haven’t done any live touring in seven or eight years,” he says. “It’s time to start thinking about putting a live act together and get out and support it. I’ve got thirty years of stuff to cover; Enuff Z’Nuff, all my solo stuff.”
Vie is also constantly writing new material, which he hopes will also continue to connect with his fans. “I’m trying to find things that are more lighthearted, more universally applicable,” he says. He says he knows he’s on the right track because his latest solo album, 2019’s Beautiful Things, is “the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Songwriting, Vie says, has always come to him fairly easily. “The ideas come to me, like they were beamed into my head – like I’ve heard it before,” he says. “I pretty much think that I’m a conduit. Something works through me. It’s my job to receive these messages and not fuck them up. There’s something else bigger that comes up with these things and feeds them to me. They keep coming at me, and it’s my job to get them down. It’s what God has intended for me.
“When I’m writing a song, I really feel what I’m singing,” Vie continues. “It’s truthful and it’s real. Maybe I feel there’s no hope for me, but I’m hoping that this empathetic approach will reach out in the dark for these lost souls and let you know you’re not alone in this. There’s other people out here, and we’re fucked up, too. We’re all in pain together — and then we’re all having joy together.”
VIDEO: Donnie Vie feat. Chip Z’Nuff “Party Time”