Alex Grossi is considered one of the hardest-working guitarists around. His resume includes working with such artists as Quiet Riot, Steven Adler (Adler’s Appetite), Jani Lane of Warrant, Beautiful Creatures and Dizzy Reed and Gilby Clarke (Guns N’ Roses).
After coming off a grueling world tour with Adler’s Appetite in 2011, Grossi (along with vocalist Rick Stitch) parted ways with Steven Adler and, together with bassist Mike Duda and drummer Mike Dupke, formed Hotel Diablo.
The band would soon join forces with producer (and former Guns N’ Roses guitarist) Gilby Clarke and release their debut album, The Return to Psycho, California, an 11-song arsenal of riffs and grooves.
With a worldwide deal with Scarlet Records and Entertainment One in place, the sky’s the limit for Hotel Diablo.
I spoke with Grossi about Hotel Diablo as well as his work with Adler’s Appetite, Quiet Riot and the late Jani Lane.
GUITAR WORLD: What are your thoughts on Steven’s new project, Adler?
I’m happy for him. Rick and I had both worked with him in Adler’s Appetite. I’ve played with Steven off and on for almost a decade, and this is the healthiest he’s ever been, and that’s what’s important. Now that he’s got Jacob [Bunton], Lonny [Paul] and Johnny [Martin] with him, he’s hit the jackpot. It’s really a great record they just put out.
When did you and Rick decide to form Hotel Diablo?
I had first met Rick back in 2009 when he joined Adler’s Appetite. Then about a week or so after he joined the band, we began a world tour that started in South America and then came back to the States. Once we came back, we went straight into the studio and recorded the song “Alive” to coincide with the release of Steven’s autobiography. We next did two US tours around that, and by the end of 2010 we were just burned out.
We started to record a few more songs with Steven, but it just wasn’t really clicking. In the meantime, Rick and I had started to write a few songs on our own. By the end of that year, we departed the Adler camp and started demoing. Gilby (who’s been a friend of ours for quite a while) noticed we were starting a new project and asked us to come down to the studio. We went down there to demo the song, “Set It Off,” and that’s what catapulted the whole thing. We ended up doing nine tracks with Gilby at his studio, Red Rum Recording, and two more tracks with LA underground producer Matt Starr. Both Gilby and Matt did a fantastic job in bringing The Return to Psycho, California to life in the studio.
Why the name Hotel Diablo?
The name came from our bass player, Mike Duda. He had the name kicking around for years, Even as far back as 2005 when we first started demoing songs together, we called the project files “Hotel Diablo." So when Rick and I started writing and Mike came down with drummer Mike Dupke, we decided it would be Hotel Diablo. It just fell into place. The cool thing about the name is that we’ve applied it to more than one thing. We’re also doing a clothing line with it with Forgotten Saints here in LA. It has really taken on a life of its own.
Let’s discuss a few tracks from the new album: What’s the meaning behind "Psycho California"?
Rick wrote the lyrics to that song. When we all moved out here to LA from different parts of the world, we were all fresh-faced, young kids but quickly discovered how crazy this city can be. We found out how this town can just eat you up and spit you out. For the video, we tried to cover every angle of the city, from the really good to the really bad. This place (LA) has a lot of mythology to it, and that’s really what the song is about. We ended up working with Emmy-winning director Fabio Jafet on the video, who is great at getting the real dirt and grime on film. I think he really captured the spirit of “Psycho, California."
What about "Set It Off"?
That’s the guitar player’s song. For the bulk of the record, I used my Paul Reed Smith singlecut but for this track. Along with the PRS, I used one of Gilby’s Zemaitis guitars with a Dunlop wah pedal. That was the first song we wrote when Rick was doing the Adler gig and his own band. It’s really just a song about being kept down and just going to for it.
Tell me how you first got involved with Quiet Riot.
I first met Kevin Dubrow in 2003 when he was doing The Bad Boys of Metal Summer Tour. I was the one guitar player for a rotating cast of players. It was Steven Adler playing a GNR set, Joe Lesté from Beautiful Creatures, Kevin from Quiet Riot and Jani Lane of Warrant (who both are sadly no longer with us).
In 2004, when Quiet Riot reformed, Kevin asked me to be in the band. I wrote songs for the 2006 album, Rehab, and played and toured with them until Kevin passed in 2007. In 2010, Frankie Banali, Chuck Wright and I got back together along with a new vocalist, and we’ve been going ever since.
What was it like working with Kevin?
Kevin was great. A lot of people only know him as the guy from the '80s or the one they saw from the Behind The Music show. They tend to forget that he was the guy who cut his teeth singing in the garage with Randy Rhoads. He was really cool and helped me find my own style and helped push me to become a better player. If you got to know him the way I did, you’d realize how much he was like a big brother to me. I really miss him.
You also worked quite a bit with Jani Lane.
I did a lot of shows with Jani and his solo band in 2004. If you listen to the song “What You Do To Me” from our album, that song was written right after he passed away. Rick and I were working on the music for it when they found Jani in a hotel room out in Woodland Hills. I remember telling Rick how sad it was that all of these great musicians were dropping like flies. That song was sadly brought together by that turn of events.
Tell me about what it was like for you growing up playing guitar.
I got my first guitar when I was 13 and my first record was, oddly enough, Appetite for Destruction. I started playing in local bands and when I finished high school, I attended the Berklee College of Music for a few semesters. While I was there, I was surrounded by all of these other guys who wanted to learn as much about the guitar as possible. But for me, it was always more about being in a band and going on the road instead of just mastering the guitar. I wound up joining a band called Angry Salad, which ended up getting a deal with Atlantic Records. We toured until the AOL/Time Warner merger cost us and a lot of other bands our deals. From there, I moved to LA and have been here ever since.
It just wouldn’t be right if I didn’t ask you to share a rock and roll story.
There are a lot, but one of the best was back in 2010 when Rick and I were with Adler’s Appetite. Steven wanted to get some things to stock the tour bus with, so we pulled the bus up to a Walmart somewhere in Michigan. We go inside and Steven immediately gets recognized. So we’re over in the CD section and all of a sudden, he starts pulling copies of Guns N Roses' greatest-hits album off the rack, starts signing them and handing them out to customers. He literally started his own meet-and-greet at Walmart [laughs].
Since he was handing out copies of the CD, all of the people were thinking they could just walk out of the store without paying for them. After a while, we (along with the store security) convinced Steven that we really had to leave. So we get back on the bus and drive three hours to the next city only to realize that we left Rick back at the Walmart. [laughs]
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.