Since releasing their classic debut album, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich, in 1989, hard rock giants Warrant have gone on to sell more than 8 million albums.
And while songs like “Down Boys,” “Heaven,” “I Saw Red” and “Cherry Pie” have cemented their place in Eighties metal history, it’s their tight musicianship, inspired songwriting and perseverance that sets them apart.
Six years after the release of their last album, Rockaholic (the first to feature new frontman, Robert Mason), Warrant return with yet another slab of muscular hard rock, Louder Harder Faster, which was released May 12.
Produced by Jeff Pilson (Foreigner, ex-Dokken), the new album is full of the familiar rockers and signature ballads the band is known for. Warrant is Erik Turner (guitar), Jerry Dixon (bass), Joey Allen (guitar), Steven Sweet (drums) and Robert Mason (vocals).
I recently spoke with Dixon about Louder Harder Faster, gear and Warrant’s decision to record a rocking cover of Merle Haggard’s “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink."
If you had to describe Louder Harder Faster in one word, what would it be?
Raw. There’s not a lot of repair work on this album or fixing things with ProTools. We all just got in the room and captured the magic without worrying about it being completely perfect. Sometimes when you’re in the studio worrying about wave forms and where they are on a bridge you can actually do damage to a record. We just decided to just say, “Does it feel good? Yeah? Ok, let’s move on.”
Has Warrant’s songwriting process changed much over the years?
I like to think songs just go though you. Sometimes songs can come from just walking down the street, like the song “Big Sandy." I remember I was going to Robert’s house to write another song when I went by this big empty wash that was called the Big Sandy Wash. It just cracked me up and I said, “There’s a song, right there.” So, you take things like that, get on to something and then try to finish it.
Let’s discuss a few more tracks from Louder Harder Faster, starting with the title track. What can you tell me about it?
That was a song Robert had started a few years ago. He never laid it down as a demo and finally told us to come over. He strapped on a guitar and showed it to us and we wound up demoing it at his house. The title and song was so cool that we decided it would also be a cool title for the record.
"Only Broken Heart"
Eric and I initially wrote that song (minus the lyrics), and it was called, “Eighties Ladies." It was a pretty cool tune but Robert wasn’t too keen on the title. So we went back and forth with it off and on and it wasn’t until the day before we went into the studio that we decided to finally address it. Robert said he had an idea—a song with a “Thin Lizzy/storytelling” vibe. We saw where he was coming from, kept the music and started changing up the lyrics. We went in and laid down the track, Robert finished the lyrics and the baby was born.
That song was actually written backwards. I wanted a song that had an old Foghat/Foreigner vibe, so I started on the bass with just one note just doing a four-beat measure. I recorded it and then added guitars to it. It was an unorthodox way to write, but I really wanted that vibe. Then Robert came up with some words for it and belted it out in one take.
Speaking of unorthodox, what made a hard rock/metal band like Warrant decide to do a cover of Merle Haggard’s “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink”?
That’s kind of our “Cherry Pie” of this record cycle. We were pretty much done tracking the record and around the same time were in negotiations with the CEO of the Professional Bull Riders (PBR). They wanted a party anthem for the PBR and let us listen to the original Merle Haggard version. It was right up our alley. So, we just went for it and literally laid the entire song down in four hours. It was one of those things where we just sat back and listened to it afterwards and knew we had just captured a little magic!
What was it like working with Jeff Pilson on Louder Harder Faster?
It was great. I had heard the Last in Line (Dio) records Jeff had produced and fell in love with them. We all knew Jeff but had never worked with him musically. He’s an energetic dude who’s very talented and sings, plays keyboard, bass and guitar. He was the perfect guy to wrangle the songs, trim the fat and made sure it all made sense. We had a really productive, fun time working with him.
What’s your current setup like?
I’ve always been a GK [Gallien-Krueger] guy amp-wise and recently got the GK RB800 and their smaller model, the MB800, which is 800 watts of pure terror. It’s unbelievable. You can actually power two full 8x10 cabinets off this thing. It’s hard to believe you’re playing an arena with a small head that can fit in your backpack. For guitars and basses, we all use GMP.
Of all the highlights of your career, what stands out to you as most memorable?
To be completely honest, I think right now is our time. Everything just feels right to me. I’ve always been a feeling kind of guy and never worry about the details. If something feels good you go for it. Robert’s been in the band for almost 10 years now and we haven’t had any drama and everything in the camp is running well. I remember the last 10 years better than the first 30 in Warrant, because back then we drank every night. Things are really good now. I’m going to go with that.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.