Enuff Z’Nuff Enters New Chapter with Diamond Boy
Catching Chip Z’Nuff via phone from his home studio a few weeks before his band’s latest, Diamond Boy (Frontiers) reaches the public, it’s clear that he’s not been worn down by the many trials and tribulations Enuff Z’ Nuff has encountered since he founded the group in 1984. There have been lineup shifts, changes in record companies and the usual shifts in public taste. All along the bassist has kept the band afloat, refusing to let go of his dream.
Turns out it’s been a wise choice. The band is experiencing some kind of a renaissance with this latest set of songs. The collection plays to Enuff Z’Nuff’s strengths: A balance of hard rock and melodic pop sensibilities that are as in tune with past hits as they are stretching into contemporary sounds.
Titular piece bulldozes listeners into submission with its heavy riffing and mighty rhythms, Z’Nuff handling lead vocals there and across the other numbers with aplomb. Joined by guitarists Tory Stoffregen and Tony Fennell as well as drummer Dan Hill, the bassist quickly hits his stride with songs such as “Where Did You Go,” “We’re All The Same” and the anthemic “Metalheart.”
The lyrics are littered with hints of societal frustrations with an apparent belief that peace, love and understanding can still triumph, even in a century where reports of racial tensions, global warming and abject poverty abound. One could call it naïve but in truth it’s optimistic. At the end of the day Enuff Z’ Nuff’s music is about unity and triumph over all that ails us.
Aside from a brief discussion about the band’s earliest recording experiences at the famed Royal Recorders in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Z’Nuff clearly remains focused on the present and a future that, in his eyes, remains brighter than ever.
Tell me a little bit about when the material for Diamond Boy started coming together.
After Clowns Lounge we went on tour, had a successful run. We did some shows with Kiss and Ace Frehley. The label decided to have us back and from there the record came quite quickly. We picked about 20 songs, knocked that down to the strongest 11. We thought we’d put the record out middle or end of the year. Out of the blue Live Nation approached us and said, “Would you be interested in going out with Jack Russell’s Great White and the Bulletboys?” We jumped on it immediately.
You’re going out as a band with a history but with new material.
It’s a new chapter. It’s about where the band stands today. We’ll play some of the songs that came out during the Sunset Strip era but we’ll play things from the new record too. That’s the real important thing for me: To go out there, play these new songs and see how they are accepted. We don’t know who’s going to be in the audience. It’s all exciting.
The lyrics on the album seem to draw a lot from current events or at the very least reflect them.
I’m just picking up the bones of everything that’s happening around me right now in the world. There’s social media, the political system and families. I watch mothers out there working two jobs to support the family and fathers who have to leave the family behind, find a gig and keep things going. A lot of our past records were autobiographical. For this record, I focused on other people. Some of the songs are celebrations of life and others are about life on the brink.
Did you know all along that you were going to open the record with “Transcendence”?
Our guitarist, Tory Stoffregen, is a big Beach Boys and Beatles fan. He came to me and said, “We’ve got to open the record with this. It’s like a bunch of angels singing. It’s a celebration of life.” I thought he had a great point. I thought it was a ballsy move. Since this is a new chapter in our life I figured we should take a brand new approach. It’s not real bombastic, it’s life and love. It brings hope. That’s something that we all need.
Enuff Z’Nuff checks a variety of musical boxes. Was that ever a problem with labels? Did they say, “No, you’ve got to be more metal, you’ve got to be more pop, you’ve got to be more psychedelic?”
The labels never came to the studio while we were recording those records. Ever. Maybe at the very end to hear final mixes. That was it.
What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of making records at your own studio?
I see it as nothing but a positive. I opened up my studio about 10 years ago. I wasn’t really trying to compete with the larger studios. I just wanted to have a place where bands could come and make a record for a reasonable price. After I did my solo record, Strange Time, a lot of people started coming out to work here. But I didn’t just do rock records, I also did hip-hop. I don’t necessarily have to create things from samples. If you work with me as your producer, I’ll actually perform. I like having a home studio but I still like to go somewhere else for mixing, whether it’s Chicago Recording Company or Stone Cutter Studio.
Did you always record things on your own or did you pick that up as you made records?
Early on I lived in a small apartment and we’d record everything on a little four track Fostex. We advanced to an eight track just like The Beatles. It gave us a little more separation, a little more room. From there we started to into the big studios and that’s how we learned our craft. One place was in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin at Royal Recorders. It was a great studio. We were around great engineers and producers and we learned from that.
Is producing yourself ever a challenge?
There’s pros and cons. I always have an engineer with me because it’s too much to remember lyrics and guitar parts and keyboards. So it’s good to have a guy there who has a good sense of balance. But I feel pretty confident, when I go into the studio to make a record, that we’re going to be able to take it to fruition.
Did you always want to write songs?
I always wanted to write my own stuff and I had a wonderful writing partner for years in Donnie Vie. Great singer-songwriter. It was trial-and-error. They weren’t all great songs. In the early days we just kept playing and kept writing. We had great influences too. That certainly helped. Show me a guy who doesn’t have influences and I’ll show you a guy who doesn’t have a record deal.
When I look at the story of your band, I think about something Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad told me when I was cub reporter: If you’re in the business, stay. The second you leave you’re going to have a hell of a time getting back in. It’ll be hard but tough it out.
I’ve got to agree with Don. Once you take a break there’s 50 more bands waiting to take your spot. If you don’t want it 24-hours-a-day you better get out of it now because your band is going to last three-to-five years if you’re lucky. You look at the bands from our era that are still out there, Foreigner, Sebastian Bach, Skid Row, Def Leppard. Why are they out there? Because they never took a break. That takes a lot of discipline and a lot of sacrifice. But sometimes the rewards outweigh the sacrifices.