Warrant was one of the last hard rock bands to make it big before the grunge movement of the early ’90s. Some even accused Warrant of being the straw that broke the back of hard rock, with tongue-in-cheek hits like ‘Cherry Pie.’ As other bands called it quits, Warrant fought their way through the ’90s, consistently releasing albums and touring.
In the 2000s, hard rock came back into the limelight. A fairy tale ending, yet with a tragic twist for the Down Boys. Lead singer Jani Lane could not shake his personal demons and passed away in 2011. For many bands, losing a main songwriter and singer is the kiss of death. Warrant soldered on. Today, they are still putting out strong albums, like last year’s Louder Harder Faster, and hitting the stage hard. Founding member and guitar player Erik Turner talks to Wisconsin Music about his life in music and Warrant’s upcoming show at the Resch Center on March 11th with REO Speedwagon and 38 Special:
WM: How did you first start playing the guitar?
ET: I fell in love with the guitar with the first two records I bought. I was eleven years old … Aerosmith’s first album and Alice Cooper’s Welcome To My Nightmare. So a couple years later I’m completely obsessed with rock and roll and I started jamming in a garage with some neighbors. They started showing me riffs like Led Zeppelin. I just kept playing and learning until I was nineteen and then I moved out to LA. And that’s where we started Warrant in 1983. I was nineteen and everyone else in the band was sixteen years old, so I was the old man in the band! (laughs) Here we are today in 2018 and I’m still in the same band. Jerry (Dixon) and I were part of the original five, and a couple years later Jani, Steven (Sweet) and Joey (Allen) joined. That’s the line-up that everybody knows, and I’m happy to say we still have four out of five original members.
WM: That’s a long time with a guitar in your hands! What was the first concert you ever attended?
ET: My step-brother took me to see Elton John at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles. It was a great concert even though I was a hard rock fan. It was a magical night. Years later we got to open for Elton at a big festival in Switzerland.
WM: What was the first rock concert you attended?
ET: That’s a good one. It might have been Jefferson Starship at the same venue. I pretty much saw every hard rock band that you can name while still in high school. Back when concert tickets were eight or nine bucks! Tenth row for AC/DC on the Back in Black tour for nine bucks.
WM: What was the first rock star that you ever met?
ET: It might have Ted Nugent at the Country Club. We didn’t have a record deal yet, but we were popular in the area so we got an opening slot for Ted. He was really cool. Still is. We get to play with him every now and again.
WM: You have quite the guitar collection. What’s your favorite one that you own?
ET: Man, it’s hard to pick just one. I guess it would have to be my 1969 Black Beauty Les Paul custom that I’ve played on a handful of songs on each record we’ve ever made. Joey got it from our producer Beau Hill, and I got it from Joey.
WM: Warrant is opening for REO Speedwagon and 38 Special this March 11th in Green Bay. This is a huge benefit concert for the Red Cross hurricane and wildlife relief. Also, a portion of the proceeds from this concert will benefit the Veterans’ Mentor Group of Outagamie County the Jackie Nitschke Center in Green Bay and the YWCA of Green Bay. Have you ever shared a stage with either band before?
ET: I’m not sure about 38 Special, but we’ve played a couple times with REO. Great band, and I’ve gotten to play golf with Kevin Cronin. Super nice guy! I was a fan long before I met him. Nine Lives is a great album. I bought it when still in high school. And they are awesome live.
WM: A few weeks ago was Jani Lane’s birthday. If he were still alive today, what would you say to him?
ET: Keep on making music. You have this amazing talent to sing and write songs. People don’t realize how hard it is to write a song that resonates in millions of people’s hearts. So I wish he was alive, writing songs, sober and in the band. That would be ideal. But as you know, life’s not always ideal.
WM: You’re not a bad songwriter yourself!
ET: Not like Jani, but thank you.
WM: Twenty years ago you self-released Demos For Diehards, featuring songs you co-wrote with Tommy Thayer (Kiss, Black ‘N Blue).
ET: Yes, I only made 500 copies of that. I don’t even think I have one! (laughs)
WM: A song on that album, ‘Faraway Eyes’, was sung by Jani Lane. I always thought that could have been a big radio hit. Great writing, and Jani gave a great performance of it.
ET: He sang his ass off on that song and also another song on there called ‘Don’t Say Goodnight’. He came in, never really hearing them previously, and killed it. It just blows my mind because I was there and I know how it went down. He walked in, sang them a couple of times, and that’s what you hear.
WM: Any chance of Demos For Diehards being re-released?
ET: Nah. People have posted it on YouTube and all the file sharing sites. So it’s out there. The album cover is a picture of a painting I did back when I used to do art.
WM: Do you still paint?
ET: No, I lost the inspiration to paint a long time ago. 1996 was probably the last time I did a painting.
WM: Last year Warrant released Louder Faster Harder, which was produced by Jeff Pilson (Dokken, Foreigner.) How was it working with him?
ET: It was great working with Jeff. It takes us forever to write a record, but once we get that out of the way we have a lot of fun in the studio. This record is a little old school, blues-based hard rock. It’s not overly polished and produced. We’re really proud of it. We’ll play one song off it there in Green Bay. When we’re doing an opening set like that, people want to hear all the hits.
WM: We’re looking forward to your concert at the Resch Center on March 11th!
ET: We are too, it’s going to be a big party. If you’re reading this, you’re invited to the show! Leave all the politics at home and all the other crap going on in the world and come help support a good cause. Who knows, maybe you’ll even meet your future ex-wife! (laughs)