Laaz Rockit/Michael Coons, Bio-Interview,City’s Gonna Burn, Know Enemy, Annihilation
Laaz Rockit Vocalist
FIB MUSIC: What’s new? What’s going on with Laaz Rockit and for you personally?
Michael Coons: Things have been great in the Laaz camp. We just played a couple festivals in Europe, Graspop and Bang your Head, and they were both awesome. Aaron and I are in the beginning stages of writing the follow-up to “Left For Dead”, and we are considering some other tour date possibilities. I have been working on my golf game (watch out, Alice Cooper!), working out a lot, keeping tabs on my mother who is ill, and just enjoying a little time off.
FIB MUSIC: Describe a typical day in the life of Michael Coons, 2009.
Michael: I wake up, lick my middle-aged wounds, decide when I’m going to the gym, check the sports ticker to see what is on the tube that evening, and head to see what L.A. might have in store for me! I do some acting work, so I’ll check with my agency to see if there is anything of interest for me, and so forth. Pretty typical stuff. I really enjoy my time, and feel fortunate to have the life I have. I’ve never been married or had any kids, so I am only responsible for myself, which is probably a good thing!
FIB MUSIC: Tell us about the name Laaz Rockit. What was the inspiration for that moniker and whose idea was it?
Michael: Laaz Rockit comes from the Clint Eastwood movie, “The Enforcer”. It is the weapon he uses to blow up the tower on Alcatraz Island at the end. It sounded really cool to us when we were 17 years old, that’s how long we have been together!
FIB MUSIC: By 1983 the band’s lineup was complete and you signed your first record contract with Target Entertainment. Do you remember what the signing bonus was? Also, how fulfilling was it to be part of a signed band just out of high school?
Michael: I don’t remember the amount of the bonus, but it seemed like a million bucks back then! We were the first of the Bay Area bands in thrash to get signed, so it helped open doors for others. Being fresh out of high school, it was dream-like! I passed up on a soccer scholarship at a Division 1 college to pursue music, so it really pissed my parents off! Back then, I never imagined we would become a band that would be recognized all around the world.
LAAZ Rockit – “City’s Gonna Burn”
FIB MUSIC: In ‘84 the band’s debut, “City’s Gonna Burn” was released. What was that time period like for you? .
Michael: We came to L.A. to do the record, so that was our first experience on “The Strip”. Only Willy was legal drinking age, so we wore him out always getting booze for us. Funny thing, we were in the same studio as REO Speedwagon and Marvin Gaye at the time. I remember meeting Marvin Gaye shortly before his father killed him. It was so tragic. Everything was new and exciting, and our introduction to the er,..”ladies” of L.A. was more than a little enlightening. This was the original “Cougarville”, lemme tell you. We even went to a party at Burt Bacharach’s mansion where our manager jumped off the roof into the pool in full leathers. Good times!
FIB MUSIC: What was your budget, and, were you able to stay under? How long did it take to record the album?
Michael: Budget? Who knows…I know we spent too much! The album took about a month or so.
FIB MUSIC: I loved the thrash scene in the early ’80s. I remember seeing a flyer somewhere for a show you did with Metallica where you guys were the headliner. Any great Metallica stories?
Michael: Yeah, I remember that gig. It was at the Berkeley Keystone. I’ve got tons of Metallica stories, dating back to Dave Mustaine and Ron McGovney, but we’ll save that for another time. It would take up the entire interview!
FIB MUSIC: LAAZ also came out of the scene that spawned Exodus, Slayer, and Testament. Please share a story.
Michael: Same thing, tons of stories, especially with our brothers in Testament and Exodus, but maybe we could do a “Road Stories” follow up to really do it proper justice!
FIB MUSIC: Describe what it was like to be a touring musician.
Michael: It was awesome playing somewhere other than your backyard and getting that crazy response from the fans at the show. Our first trips to Texas were so off the hook crazy! God, those Southern Girls….great times! We have got to do a follow up, because there is just too much shit to talk about! Sex, police, explosives, booze, fights, etc….ah, to be young again!
LAAZ Rockit – “No Stranger to Danger”
FIB MUSIC: “No Stranger to Danger” was released in 1985. Any memories from the studio?
Michael: “No Stranger..” is my least favorite record, and we definitely partied our way through that recording. It is sort of a blur at the moment. I wonder why? L.A., finally drinking age for everyone (except me until we were almost finished!), the 80’s, in otherwords, slightly out of control.
FIB MUSIC: What was your budget, and, were you able to stay under? How long did it take to record the album?
Michael: We actually stayed within the budget, though I don’t remember what it was, and again it took about a month.
LAAZ Rockit – Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister
FIB MUSIC: Tell us about touring Europe in support of “No Stranger”, opening for Motorhead. Any great Lemmy stories? How did the European crowds differ from crowds back home?
Michael: Lemmy was, and still is, so cool to us. We were nervous at the first gig, but the crowd went crazy for us! We couldn’t believe what we had tapped into, this crazy Euro Metal scene. I remember one night at the hotel when Aaron and I had these 2 girls with us in the lobby late at night, just drunk off our asses, and we fell into a plant box laughing so hard that it woke up the whole hotel. Instead of hotel security telling us to shut up, here comes Lemmy, and all he said was, “You lot shouldn’t drink…you’re not very good at it!”. We just laughed harder, and so did he. Classic!
LAAZ Rockit – “Know Your Enemy”
FIB MUSIC: In ‘87 Laaz released the classic, “Know Your Enemy”, my personal favorite Laaz record. Anything stand out from those recording sessions?
Michael: Yeah! “Know Your Enemy”! Our first really cool record. We had signed with Enigma and had our first real budget. We did this one in Northern California close to home, but lived in a guest house on the studio lot. We recorded whenever we felt it, day and night. No night life there, so we really concentrated on what we were doing. Not a lot of craziness, but I did kick a basketball through the hoop from 40 yards away! We wanted to tend to business, and it paid off for us.
Laaz Rockit “Know Your Enemy” Cover
FIB MUSIC: What was your budget, and, were you able to stay under? Also, how long did it take to record the album?
Michael: I think our budget was around $40,000 or so, and we completed the project on time in about 6-7 weeks.
FIB MUSIC: How had the band grown both in the studio and from a songwriting perspective?
Michael: We definitely had grown up, found our direction, and the song writing was maturing in its musicianship. It was really like a debut, though of course we had done 2 previous records.
FIB MUSIC: Do you remember the first time you heard your music on the radio?
Michael: First time I heard our music was 1984. It was “City’s Gonna Burn” on KOME radio in San Jose, and it was a contest between us and Queensryche with “Queen of the Reich”, and we lost. But it was still awesome to hear ourselves. We were waiting on Willy at rehearsal, and he pulled up at 90 mph and nearly driving through the place screaming, “Did you hear that?”. Hilarious.
FIB MUSIC: Tell us about touring in support of “Know Your Enemy”?
Michael: We toured with L.A. Guns on that, believe it or not, and we crushed night after night. We stuffed their road manager in a road case one night because he was always fucking with us, so we got thrown off after 20 dates. He thoroughly deserved it.
FIB MUSIC: How was the experience different being on a major label?
Michael: They got our records in stores, did a little promo, but didn’t really push us as well as they should’ve. The label just didn’t get the genre of thrash very well, so we fought quite a bit about small stuff and it created some animosity.
LAAZ Rockit – “Annihilation Principle”
FIB MUSIC: In ‘89 “Annihilation Principle” came out. What was that time like for you and the band?
Michael: We did “Annihilation Principle” at the same place we did “Know Your Enemy”, so there was familiarity to the process. We knew we had some really good material, but felt some pressure with the follow-up to “Know Your Enemy”. Metallica had shown interest in trying to pry Willy from us, so there was some tension. But we stayed focused, and came out with our best record for that time.
FIB MUSIC: Where did you record it and how long did it take to record the album?
Michael: Prairie Sun Studios, near Petaluma, CA. This one took about 8 weeks.
FIB MUSIC: You also did a video for the song “Fire in the Hole”. What was that like?
Michael: First video, “Fire In The Hole”. Great experience, lots of fun. We had seen other bands beat us to the punch to video and MTV, so we were quite happy to be doing it. Looking back at it, it is a good video. The white haired guy in it is Sting, the pro wrestler.
FIB MUSIC: Tell us about touring in support of “Annihilation”. Any cool stories from the road?
Michael: Those tours were nuts, night after night of craziness and illegalities. Gotta do a follow-up.
FIB MUSIC: Later in ‘89 guitarist Phil Kettner, drummer Vic Agnello, and bassist Will Lange all left the band. Why?
Michael: They all left for different and valid reasons. It is hard to keep everyone happy, especially in a band. We maintained our friendships, though, obviously.
LAAZ Rockit – “Leatherface”
FIB MUSIC: In January 1990 the song “Leatherface” was included on the soundtrack for the film “Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III”. How did that come about?
Michael: Leatherface was actually a movie soundtrack single recorded for “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3: Leatherface” in 1990 or 1991. Enigma secured the sountrack, and we got the title track.
FIB MUSIC: With the lineup filled, LAAZ Rockit released “Nothing’s Sacred” in 1991. Tell us about those studio sessions.
Michael: That one was fun, because we did it at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, CA. World class studio, and produced by Michael Rosen, who is still a close friend of mine. The partying and the girls during that recording was nearly out of hand. I remember Michael challenging me to go to a club and bring back a specific girl, saying I couldn’t pull it off, but I did. He and I still joke about that one. Rapper Too Short was recording there as well, and I drank Old English with him one night. Richie Sambora came through one night. It was like a hotel at some points. We had to pay extra cleaning costs every day because of the mess we made the night before.
FIB MUSIC: What was the budget? How long did it take to record the album?
Michael: I don’t recall the budget from Roadrunner, but it took about 8-10 weeks and we finished on time, amazingly.
FIB MUSIC: Tell us about touring in support of “Nothing’s Sacred”. What was it like playing with the new guys?
Michael: We had a great time supporting “Nothing’s Sacred” worldwide, which included our first trip to Japan. In Europe, I rode on top of a taxi on the autobahn during a snowfall one night. Glad I survived. Touring with the new guys was fun, because it was their first experience. They certainly enjoyed the lifestyle to the fullest.
FIB MUSIC: Tell us about the band’s tour of Japan in 1992.
Michael: First, the Japanese crowds are different, simply in the fact that everyone there is Japanese! They are wildly receptive, and are with you every place you go. They are at the hotel, the gig, train station, airport…everywhere.
FIB MUSIC: What can you tell us about the Gack project? Was it just a new name for Laaz? Why was it so short-lived?
Michael: Gack was simply a name change, because we had changed members so many times, calling it Laaz Rockit didn’t make sense at the time. Looking back, that was probably a mistake. I think that the record is really good, and I believe it is one of those “lost treasure” type of records, one that too few know about. It was short-lived because we all got involved in other things in life, and hung up the music at that point.
FIB MUSIC: LAAZ Rockit re-united in 2005 to play the Dynamo festival. How did the reunion come about?
Michael: The festival organizer is a very close friend of ours, and convinced us that this was an opportunity to thank the fans for their supprt. Not many bands ever get that chance, and we knew we wanted to be a part of it.
FIB MUSIC: What was it like playing together again after 13 years? Any rust?
Michael: Tons of rust, but no lack of love! Playing live was always our biggest strength, so once we got the rust off in rehearsals, we knew we could still deliver the goods live.
FIB MUSIC: How did the deal with Massacre Records come about?
Michael: Massacre came along after we finished the recording, which we did on our own dime. They purchased the rights to the record. They have been awesome to us.
FIB MUSIC: Last year you guys put out the long-awaited “Left For Dead”. How was it recording again? Was it a different process?
Michael: It was great and yes, “Left For Dead” was nothing like previous experiences. We all did our stuff at different times, so there wasn’t much interaction besides daily phone calls. I live in L.A., the other guys in the Bay Area and surrounding areas, so our recording schedules were put together in a way to accomodate that. I was impressed at how far technology has come, though. But no, no craziness this time. We had visitors from other bands like Testament, Machine Head, and others, but life is different now. I don’t even drink anymore, so it was almost all business.
FIB MUSIC: Describe some of the changes in recording gear after a 15 year break from the studio.
Michael: I’m not a tech guy, but let’s say there are many new toys to help out!
FIB MUSIC: Of all the bands you’ve toured with, who were the best and who were the biggest jerks?
Michael: I am the son of a law professor, so I never put my shit-talking in writing, just in case! Testament, Exodus… those guys are the best. Motorhead is awesome, too.
THE FAST 5
FIB MUSIC: What is your most disgusting habit?
FIB MUSIC: What is the most feminine thing you do?
Michael: Douche…just kidding. I don’t know, complain, maybe? Oops, that sounds sexist.
FIB MUSIC: If there is a God, what is the first question you would ask God when you arrive?
Michael: You sure I’m in the right place?
FIB MUSIC: Greatest Rock band of all time?
Michael: Hasn’t been formed yet.
FIB MUSIC: What were you doing 40 minutes before you sat down to do this interview?
Michael: Calling her and thanking her for letting me sleep in and making coffee before she left this morning.