They might not be a household name, but Jetboy sure makes some great Glam Metal. After two decades of on again, off again shows, Jetboy are back with The Glam Years CD and DVD package. Lead guitarist Billy Rowe has kept busy with American Heartbreak, but he's glad to be back on the road with Jetboy for a holiday tour with RATT frontman Stephen Pearcy. Recently, Billy chatted with Bring Back Glam! about the Glam Years, the death of bassist Todd Crew and his relationship with Guns n' Roses. Transcription follows:
Bring Back Glam!: How did your recent tour come about?
Billy Rowe: It’s because of our new DVD (The Glam Years). That DVD has been in the works for almost a year and once we got the ball rolling, our commitment was to get out and there start playing. Stephen’s (Pearcy, RATT) manager is a good friend of mine, he actually managed American Heartbreak for awhile, and that helped him out…land the Percy thing. When I said we wanted to do some dates, I asked him if Percy would be interested since he was always a fan of the band (Jetboy). He was all for it, and it just kind of came together.
BBG: Jetboy has been playing dates recently, apart from the holiday tour.
BR: Yeah, the whole thing came together with the Hollywood Rocks book and the audio companion and we did a compilation release about seven years ago…I was in LA with American Heartbreak and in town for a release party for the box set (at the Key Club). Brian (Perera, Cleopatra Records) said “Dude, what would it take for me to get Jetboy together?” I didn’t think much of it and I went on my merry way…then he emailed me. Then he called and said “Dude, I’m begging you. Please try to do your best and make this happen.” I said, “Alright. I’ll call Mickey (Finn, vocals) and Fern (Rod, guitar) and if they are willing to do it, we’ll do it.” I called them both, left messages and I swear they each called me back within five minutes. It kind of started with that.
BBG: What year was that?
BR: I think the middle of 2005. We did a show, headlined and it was overwhelming. Mickey was living in Hawaii and he hadn’t seen Fern in 15 years. Mickey and I lived together before he moved to Hawaii. Once he came out and started singing…it just clicked. That chemistry clicked into gear. The three of us were always kind of the main guys, the main songwriters. It was just overwhelming. Mickey and Fern hadn’t really been playing rock all these years like I’ve been…people at the shows were feeding our ears with great words. We booked two more shows for the next year. We did one in our hometown (San Francisco) and then another in Los Angeles and then Cleopatra offered us the chance to put out a record. Mick committed. He said he was ready to move back and do this for real. Then, we were offered the chance to play the Cathouse reunion show in 2006. Pretty much after that is when we really sat down and said “How are we going to do this?” We sat down with our drummer Ron (Tostenson), but he just couldn’t commit. We wanted to rehearse, and work on stuff…He has a family, a six year old daughter and a business and as much as he wanted to do it…he gave us his blessing to move forward. So, we got another drummer and our bassist from American Heartbreak stepped in from the first reunion show. Sam Yaffa (original Jetboy bassist) is with the New York Dolls now and he didn’t have much interest and he’s pretty busy now.
BBG: Have you been asked to play Rocklahoma 2008?
BR: I’m getting rumors…we’ve been hearing it too. People want us to do it. I haven’t gotten any phone calls. From what I understand they (Rock Fever) don’t have the headliners secured yet, and they are going to work from headlining down. I would be pretty confident that we’ll do it. I sure hope we do…I think it would be perfect.
BBG: Do you know that Jetboy is mentioned several times in the new Slash autobiography?
BR: Yeah. That’s a very interesting question. We played L.A. Friday and Las Vegas Saturday. A good friend of ours, he’s 25, a huge fan of the band…he helps us out. Anyway, I stayed at his place Friday night and he was like “I got the Slash book.” I looked at it…and I just knew. I guarantee we’re in that in bits, pieces and good size chunks. It’s like history repeating itself all over again.
BBG: Well, it seems like Slash was a big fan.
BR: Yeah. It’s really interesting. Fern read the whole thing on the way to Vegas and back. It so personal because Todd (Crew, bass) died and was fired from the band due to substance abuse, mainly alcohol. We tried to get our manager and the band…we were buddies, two bands connected at the hip. Actually, Fernie and I knew Axl and Izzy before Guns n’ Roses even formed and then once we got our bands going…well, Hollywood Rose was hanging on by a thread. Axl was like “Dude, I got a new band, let’s start doing shows together.” Me and Izzy were pretty tight…it’s kind of funny. We were the two that introduced Todd to Guns n’ Roses and got that whole connection going. You know, Todd ended up just looking at different things… a lot of partying. When Todd joined Jetboy, he wasn’t that much of a partier. It got to the point where we went to Guns n’ Roses and said “Todd is going to die. He’s bad off, you need to something.” They were like “Todd’s fine. We all party. You guys are tripping.” We didn’t know what to do. We were meeting with labels, our producer was making comments that he was cheating the band…we were a team. It was a hard decision – and to this day I don’t know if it was the right decision – but from that day on, the two of us - Jetboy and Guns n’ Roses - were at war. Six months later, Todd was dead. Todd’s family went after Slash. They hired a private investigator and all this stuff. Guns n’ Roses started badmouthing us all the way to the top. They became the biggest band in the world. A year later, they fired Steven Adler for the same reason. Is it the pot calling the kettle black? I say yes all the way around. It’s very personal. I think they have guilt. They know we went to them. He was only 20 years old. He was doing too much and he died. It’s a shame. When I read the book…there’s a lot of stuff that isn’t true. It bothers me. Slash wants the last laugh.
BBG: What is untrue?
BR: First thing, he gives us props, but then he says “I didn’t like the band very much.”
BBG: Well, he doesn’t like glam.
BR: Well, I’ve got photos of that guy wearing lipstick, huge hair and fishnets up his arms. Whatever. He says stuff like “Their lead singer had a Mohawk so that makes them less transparent, like Poison.” Earlier in the book…he talks about auditioning for Poison while he was still in Guns n’ Roses! He contradicts himself. He says he doesn’t like glam but he auditioned for the glam band that was doing the best at the time because, obviously, he wanted success. When he says that he didn’t like the band, that isn’t true. We were all friends, we all supported each other. Axl used to trip on Mick. Mickey used to wear the chaps, then Axl started wearing the chaps. The whole overdose situation that Todd died in Slash’s arms…and that he (Slash) swears someone else was there and gave him some bad dope. Todd wasn’t very experienced. The bottom of the line is the guy OD’d and they revived him and then they put him back in bed. What kind of idiot doesn’t call for paramedics right away? From what I know, the truth is, after he OD’d and they revived him, Slash panicked and left. They (Guns n’ Roses) came back they found him dead, and that was their alibi. It makes complete more sense than him dying in Slash’s arms when he’s high as a kite on dope, probably facing possession, and he got not one charge, nothing. There’s definitely some loopholes in the story.
BBG: So after Todd died, you never had anything else do with Guns n’ Roses?
BR: After Todd was out of the band, they were headed toward their trouble. They wanted to fire Axl – several times – before they even did a record. We all had issues with singers (laughs). I kept up with Izzy (Stradlin, original rhythm guitar for Guns n’ Roses) he’s the guy who definitely started separating himself from the band…especially when they started to get success. I remember we got thrown out of a (Guns n’ Roses) show in the bay area. [Jetboy] had just moved back to San Francisco…in like 1991 and we were pretty good buddies with Skid Row. They were touring with Guns n’ Roses. We went to hang out at the show and we were backstage…and here comes Axl walking by. Mickey said “Hey Axl, what’s going on?” We kind of did have a make-up thing. They made a public apology at the Cathouse one night (in 1988), but we didn’t hang out like we used to. They were blowing up so big they were always on the road. Ten minutes later, I saw some crew guy…go up to Skid Row’s guy and whisper in his ear and I just knew. That crew guy talked to Rachel (Bolan, Skid Row bassist) and he was like “What?!” and he came over and said “Dude, you’ve all got to leave. Axl said he won’t go on until Jetboy is out of the venue.” I was like “You’ve got to be fucking kidding.” He really just wanted us out of backstage. The funny thing is they had given us fifth row seats, so it was almost like a slap. “Get out there and watch what you ain’t got.” The next day I ran into Izzy on Haight Street…me, Mick and Rachel and my sister were all there shopping around. My sister was like “Hey, there’s Izzy!” I was like, “Fuck that!” and I walked out the door, but before I could get out of the door, he started yelling my name. He said “Dude, I’m so sorry about yesterday. I had nothing to do with that. You know it’s not me. If you want to come tonight, you can be my personal guest it’s totally good…” Once that happened, I knew it was all Axl and it was all over Todd. He was never around. He was always in his own world. It was another drama situation for him to embellish and be a part of…to use his wackiness. I never understood that.
BBG: Were you surprised Jetboy didn’t get huge?
BR: Um, you know it’s not that I’m not surprised…I don’t know what the word is. We went through so much crap politically with the label (Elektra) and I think people are starting to see that now. Our album was supposed to come out two months after Appetite for Destruction. Part of me does believe that if our record had come out at that time, things would have been different. I don’t know how different, but it could have been a good chance that Appetite wasn’t what it became. I don’t know. I’ll never know. Even in Billboard, when (Feel the Shake) came out a year later – after we’d been dropped by Elektra and picked up by MCA – that magazine said the album was going to be the most important release since Hysteria (Def Leppard) and Appetite for Destruction. I think the timing sucked and we paid for it – I don’t know if it was bad karma letting go of Todd or if it was the way the planets were aligned for our time in our careers. I really have no idea.
BBG: There is a glam resurgence these days. Do you consider yourself glam or punk?
BR: In the early days, when we first started out, we definitely had that punk rock edge. We didn’t know what we were doing…we were fans of bands like Hanoi Rocks, Girl, Easy Action…cutting edge bands from overseas. I guess we considered it glam. Then we started seeing things pop up in articles like “glam punk.” I just think we’re a simple rock n’ roll band. Simple songs, you know, “don’t bore us, get to the chorus.” It’s just rock n’ roll.
Photo credit: Hiroyuki Yoshihama for Billy Rowe. Copyright 1989.