Nigel Benjamin, Mott, London, Nikki Sixx, Rocktober Blood, History – full in bloom
Mott (the Hoople)/ London Vocalist
FIB MUSIC: You’ve been absent from the music scene for a while. What have you been up to?
Nigel Benjamin: I quit the business a number of years ago. I was building recording studios for a long time. Had a ranch in Texas for a while. Worked in TV for about eight years, for Thom Beers. He’s the mastermind behind “Monster Garage”, “Deadliest Catch”, and a slew of others.
FIB MUSIC: Who are some of the bands you listen to nowadays?
Nigel: Not many, I’ve never stopped listening to Steeley Dan. I discovered Thomas Feiner a while ago. Mostly classical, I hear the odd song now and again. My dogs listen to the radio more than I do.
FIB MUSIC: Who were some of your biggest musical influences?
Nigel: Mickey Jupp, John Lennon, Peter Green, Zappa(M.O.I.), MC5, Blue Cheer. Lennon and (Mickey) Jupp were the main reasons I joined the club. I roadied for Mickey”s band, “Legend”, when I was a kid. Now THAT was a band!
FIB MUSIC: You are releasing an album this summer. Tell us about it.
Nigel: The seed was planted a while ago to write again, but I didn’t leap at the idea. I was going to build a studio in Texas and start, but I didn’t start writing until the end of ’07. Then I got too busy with the production company again. I was building a mobile studio in my motorhome so that I could record anywhere I felt like. Then busy again. Then enough was enough. I was working way too hard, so I quit for a year to do the album. I moved to the mountains, put the studio in my house and started in earnest last December. The whole album was done here.
FIB MUSIC: What stands out when you reflect on those recording sessions?
Nigel: Getting snowed in during the winter was a little unnerving at first. But I had plenty of food, Corona’s,and tequila; which is vitally important. I’ve never been snowed in before. It’s only psychological, but I think it did influence what I was doing on occasion. It’s a pretty intense album.
Nigel Bejamin – Mott (Fisher, Griffin, Benjamin, Major, Watts)
FIB MUSIC: How long did it take to record?
Nigel: I’m tidying up and mixing right now, but I don’t record everyday. My ears are a little tired these days, so I take a lot of breaks: long motorcycle trips, tequila runs, that kind of thing.
FIB MUSIC: How did the Mott reunion come about?
Nigel: Verden Allen’s idea, so I heard. He asked Ian, who, surprisingly, said yes.
FIB MUSIC: How did you get the nickname “The Dome”?
Nigel: I’ve only read this once before on some jackass’ web site. To the best of my memory, everyone referred to Morgan as “the dome” 1st, as he was balding, then Overend after his hair transplant. If they referred to me as that, it’s not only odd, but gives you an idea of what dicks they were.
FIB MUSIC: Go back to 1975. How did you come to join Mott?
Nigel: They asked me to. For some Godless reason, I did. Stupid move.
FIB MUSIC: Immediately after joining, Mott begins recording the album, “Drive On”. Does anything stand out from those recording sessions?
Nigel: Recording in the castle was fun, very spooky at times. I had little to do with the album. I wrote a short song ,”Apologies”. Ray Majors took credit for that though for some “publishing reason?” I was naive. I have never been paid a penny for any of my work with Mott.
FIB MUSIC: Where was the album recorded?
Nigel: It was recorded at Clearwell Castle in Gloucestershire in England. We mixed at Air London I think.
FIB MUSIC: What was the transition like for you?
Nigel: What transition? I’d been playing in bands since I was a teeny. We’d been playing with Thin Lizzie and Humble Pie and the like for a few years. Real rock bands, with good guys. Bands used to help each other in those days. No back stabbing grabs for fame. I enjoyed playing back then. It got progressively harder to tolerate certain behaviours. Humble Pie would move their gear to make room for us too have space to perform. Aerosmith would move their gear FORWARD so I had 2 feet of space, and then pull it back after we were done! Revenge from the HOOPLE days I am sure.
Mott – “Drive On”
FIB MUSIC: Who were some of the bands you toured with supporting “Drive On”?
Nigel: Kiss, Aerosmith, the list goes on. Blue Oyster Cult; it’s all a blur now. Good stories? Too many: Gene Simmons was a good guy. Steve Tyler was not. He never spoke to me one time. I stole his Limo in L.A at the Forum. Speedwagon were cool guys too. I got to see an Iron Butterfly reunion, but no one could make heads or tales of what they were doing! One of my fondest memories was using B.L.C’s lazer rig to light up billboards down the freeway from the hotel – light up in flames I mean! Lots of partying, drinking. I even remember seeing some women once or twice!! Police chases, hotel wrecking. All the usual antics, but often way more extereme than average RnR stuff. We’ll leave it at that.
Shouting and Pointing
FIB MUSIC: As soon as the band returns from the road you guys are right back in the studio, recording your second album with Mott, entitled “Shouting and Pointing”. What stands out?
Nigel: The album was written mostly by Overend in a shut room ahead of time, closed shop. I did work on “No Such Thing as Rock and Roll” for a long time, but, when recorded, the band decided it would not appear on the album. I quit. They changed their mind. It then appeared on the album as “Career”. What the fuck was that? I planned to leave at that moment. Sucky moments? Yeah. When you find out youre producer is spending more time on the phone to Led Zeppelin planning “The Song Remains the Same” than he did producing us. Many tracks got wiped and had to be re-done at Air London. We didn’t use songs because they were great. It depended on who wrote them. That was the criteria. It should have been so much better. We recorded it at The Manor. People were more interested in what room they got than anything else. We tossed for it. I got the really good room and boy, that was cause for problems. I thought Overend was going to cry.
FIB MUSIC: Why weren’t they playing more of your songs?
Nigel: Overend told me on the last tour with Mott that he was sorry that they weren’t playing some of my music, but it was because “this was his last chance!” At what? Publishing money? I once asked if the band could occasionally write something that involved singing and not screaching all the time, Morgan asks, “well how many albums have YOU sold”?…..Dick?
Pete “Overend” Watts
FIB MUSIC: What was it like working with Pete “Overend” Watts?
Nigel: I put a smoke alarm on my ass eventually, so much smoke was being blown up it! Look, I know I was the Kid, but I didn’t just hit the ground. I’d been hanging at the Speakeasy since I was 15. I knew all these clowns. I cannot stand ambiguity. I still got a lot of faults, but I’m honest.
FIB MUSIC: What was it like working with producer Eddie Kramer?
Nigel: Uninspiring and annoying, to this day. A total waste of money. If I knew then what I know now, I would throw him out of a fucking window! One story: He likes to have all the fucking lights on all the time. Screw the vibe, screw the artist. It’s all him. We really didn’t need to be there apparently. And his idea to make my voice more raspy(which is stupid anyway) was to run around the building right before singing! And me the idiot tries it cause he’s Eddie fucking Kramer. He had to have a car, but he never drove it. He was a wine “expert”, and would send people out for it every night. I gave him some shitty wine once and he extolled its virtues for 5 minutes! Nonce!
FIB MUSIC: You hit the road following the release of “Shouting and Pointing”. How did that tour go?
Nigel: I couldn’t wait for it to end. We would stop at truckstops to eat at night and be given a pound or two to spend by the tour manager, like fucking children. Then they got pissed cause I didn’t need the money or the embarrassment. I had my own money. When we hit the suburbs on the last night, I said “Let me out here-I’ve moved.” And I never saw them again. I told the label(CBS) that I quit 2 days later, and they were dropped. CBS tried to hold me to my contract for a while,but my new manager Cliff Cooper wanted me out. I still don’t know if that was a good move, but, what the hoohay!
FIB MUSIC: Why did you decide to leave Mott at the end of ’76?
Nigel: Oh, because we sucked. Because I had only heard myself on stage 2 times! Because I was never really in the band, I was just hired for a paltry amount of money to do as I was told. I don’t do that. Because we never wrote together. Because I need a team to be a team player.
The English Assassin
FIB MUSIC: You then form a band called The English Assassin and get signed to Arista Records. What were the terms of the deal and how much was the signing bonus?
Nigel: It was a solo deal. Against the advice of my manager, I made it a band deal at my end and put everyone on salary, everything split 5 ways, so, in the end I was out of pocket. The album and tour with Judas priest soaked it all up. If the contract had not been broken by Arista, the whole deal was worth a lot of money. No signing bonus. All the money was spent on the band, plus what I had, plus I believe my manager was out at the end too.
FIB MUSIC: Tell us something about the recording sessions.
Nigel: T.E.A. was a brilliant band. It should never have failed. At one point I remember we were using all 4 studios at Air simultaneously – Guitar in one ,keyboards in another. Good times. I sang one song “King Crazy” on a ledge outside the window of studio A, 4 floors above Oxford Circus! Arista killed us, like they did the whole “Stiff” entourage.
FIB MUSIC: How long did it take to record? What was the cost? Where did you record it?
Nigel: 3-4 weeks. Everything. Air London. We’d been hanging there way before I joined Mott. Great studio and good friends.
FIB MUSIC: Why was the album never released?
Nigel: Clive Davis is often quite an imbecile. He wanted us to do stuff that made no sense. If I had wanted desperately to be famous at any cost, he would have made that happen. He can do that. But there was integrity involved. Merits. Art ; silly things like that.
FIB MUSIC: Do you have a copy of the album? Will it ever be heard?
Nigel: Not on me. I have a copy back in Texas, if the armadillos ain’t got it. I haven’t been back for a while. I think my daughter has a copy. I’d love to release it. But I’d get sued I’m sure.
London (the band)
FIB MUSIC: Tell us about joining London in 1979. How does all that come about?
Nigel: I’d just moved to L.A. and an ad was put in the paper looking for a singer influenced by me! I thought, that’s odd; so I called and went to a gig, that night I think, soon anyway.
FIB MUSIC: How long were you in London? What memory stands out the most when thinking about those days?
Nigel: A year, maybe? Living in my beach house, splitting up with my wife.
FIB MUSIC: What was the club scene in L.A. like back then?
Nigel: I hung out mostly at the Starwood. Elmer had closed the Whiskey for a while I seem to remember. I wouldn’t call it a scene. The Rainbow was changing in the wrong direction for me. I eventually stopped going there, but I’m still friends with the owners (I think?), I had a free tab at the Starwood up until it closed. Didn’t pay for a drink for years!
FIB MUSIC: London was at the center of the early days of L.A. Glam Rock. What was that like for you? Any great stories or parties?
Nigel: Someone’s been pulling your leg. There was no Glam Rock scene, not in the true sense of the word. Not like Carnaby St, or Chelsea in 60-70 England, or New york wth Lou Reed or the (New York) Dolls. I don’t remember any great parties. I remember going to some lame ass normal parties and leaving. Maybe that’s what they’re thinking of.
FIB MUSIC: Describe a typical day-in-the-life of Nigel Benjamin during this time.
Nigel: Getting up, going for a swim. Rehearsals in Hollywood in a tiny little office. The consumption of huge amounts of gin. Magically getting home most nights about 2am, by the grace of God. Repeat.
Nikki Sixx & Nigel Benjamin
FIB MUSIC: What was it like working with Nikki Sixx? How would you describe him?
Nigel: Nikki wanted SO desperately to be a star. And now he is.
FIB MUSIC: Tell us a good Nikki Sixx story.
Nigel: He liked to throw drinks in people’s faces if they heckled him, glass included! I prefer a more subtle approach. I never saw him drunk or take drugs.
FIB MUSIC: What comes to mind when thinking about your last gig with London?
Nigel: Lizzie and Nikki trying to shove me off the front of the stage at the end of that show, but I and My security had anticipated them doing something stupid, so it failed.!
FIB MUSIC: When was the last time you talked to or saw Nikki?
Nigel: At Heather’s (Locklear) wedding to Tommy (Lee). Previous to that, at the Whiskey where I explained once and for all I did not want to join Motley Crue, or give Vince singing lessons. Oh wait. I saw him at S.I.R studios when we were making Rocktober Blood. That’s when I first met Tommy.
Nikki Sixx, Nigel Benjamin & Lizzie Grey, John St. John on keyboards
FIB MUSIC: What can you tell us about your relationship with Lizzie Grey?
Nigel: I don’t have one. He owes me money. He stole music from me. He is a total parody of a musician. There is less fluff in my dryer.
FIB MUSIC: What was it like working with Lizzie?
FIB MUSIC: Did you ever see Lizzie wasted?
Nigel: I never saw him drunk or drugged the whole time I was there.
London – Nikki, Nigel, Lizzie Grey, John St. John
FIB MUSIC: Do you have a favorite London song.
Nigel: “Nobody Loves You Like I Do”. I wrote it with John St. John. Lizzie says he wrote it all. It has the best structure and keyboard parts. I stress KEYBOARD.
FIB MUSIC: What was a typical London show setlist? Covers, or originals? What covers did the band do?
Nigel: We got slammed by Kevin Dubrow for doing a Slade cover! Then Quiet Riot did what? I think that was the only cover. The whole thing was weird back then, it was Randy Rhoads (Ozzy Osbourne guitarist) that I was looking for when I moved here. One of the girls from the Runaways (Lita Ford, Joan Jett band) said he was the only guitarist worth looking at for a band. Everyone was so contrary.
FIB MUSIC: How often did London play live at that time? Any shows stand out? Were you guys raking it in financially?
Nigel: Maybe 20 shows total! Financially? Nobody told me we were being paid!
FIB MUSIC: Why did you leave London?
Nigel: We were done. It was going nowhere. We could not progress or improve. It was all it was ever going to be. I had taken it as far as I could We couldn’t make the leap. I was frustrated with Nikki’s bass playing and was getting ready to move on. It was Lizzie that asked Rudy Sarzo to come down. I didn’t know the man!
FIB MUSIC: Why didn’t you join Motley Crue?
Nigel: I didn’t wish to go down that road any further. I’d already done a lot of the Glam stuff years earlier, when it was new. I didn’t want to do metal. And you have to trust the people you form a band with. I didn’t trust Nikki. But I became good friends with Tommy. I opened the door when he came for Heather on their first date. I was living there at the time, as I dated her sister for about 4 years back then. It was like Nikki would never leave my life! Look, maybe he’s a good guy now. I didn’t hate him back then really. But he and Lizzie did a lot of backstabbing when I had the nerve to leave. They couldn’t hang, so they blamed me. My marriage was ending, and I had a lot to deal with. I did give Lizzie a second chance with another version of London. He doesn’t mention it much. I don’t want to prattle on too much here, but suffice it to say it was a fiasco. Absolute nightmare. The most unprofessional attempt in the history of ever! I couldn’t get into a gig one night at the Troubador as I wasn’t on the List! That was the same night our old keyboard player showed up for his gear that the new guy was using, because Lizzie had not told him he was out! Sorry, the question was about Motley, but it’s all connected back then.
FIB MUSIC: Tell us about doing the soundtrack for the movie “Rocktober Blood” with the band Sorcery.
Nigel: Nothing to tell. They asked me to sing the songs for Tracy Sebastian to lip-sync to, then somehow thought that I had joined them! When I got asked to star in the movie, they wouldn’t pay me to finish singing because I was being paid to act! I stopped singing, they lost the gig, I finished the soundtrack with Pat Regan, my then keyboard player. I didn’t know who Sorcery was. Nobody I knew did either. According to them they were huge…go figure. Some of the guys were cool, though.
FIB MUSIC: Of all the bands you toured with over the years, who were your favorites?
Nigel: Humble Pie, Thin Lizzie, Kiss, Reo Speedwagon, most of Judas Priest. There’s a few more but I need tequila to remember, hold on… Okay, I’m back…there’s a thunder storm brewing outside…where was I?..oh yes, they were all cool.
FIB MUSIC: Tell us about your experiences in the band Satyr. What stands out?
Nigel: Satyr was another great band. We couldn’t get label interest. Chuck Wright threatened my then best friend backstage at the Whiskey. I quit. THE BAND fired him to get me to stay. He blames me. That was that. He still blames me. Do you really think that was all it took for his own band to fire him? There is always a list.
FIB MUSIC: What was it like working with Chuck Wright?
Nigel: Well I guess you must have talked to him already, huh? He was a fine bass player.
FIB MUSIC: What happened between the two of you that caused you to part ways?
Nigel: Let’s just say he did something very uncool.
FIB MUSIC: Didn’t you guys record an EP in 1982? Tell us something about those recording sessions?
Nigel: I think you mean with Eyes, which was Satyr without Chuck. Yeah, I was talking to Richie Onori a bit ago, and we both agree that our own studio recordings that we did at Technopolis, our own studio, were far superior to the one we released. I think Bobby Stephan the guitarist said so too. The demise of Eyes, which was the end of an era as far as I am concerned, is way too complicated to explain here. Eyes was what everything came to. It was the fountainhead. That band was THE band. That end was a crying shame on all of us. I should mention here though, that I also have a new band, aside from the album project. We’ve also been recording, are currently rehearsing to do a show or 2. I’ll let you know when that’s up and running. There are connections here going back to those days!
FIB MUSIC: Nigel Benjamin is transported back to the Mott days and has to do two things differently. What would they be?
Nigel: I would not return their call. I would not return their call when they called again.
FIB MUSIC: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Nigel: I’ve already bitched enough. It’s just that I’ve been lied to and about for so long, that I am really pissed off. I am no saint, and I’ve created my own mayhem sure enough… and I was and probably still am a bit of a poseur! Of course…priests dont play rocknroll! But I have never crapped on a friend, or backstabbed, or lied, or stolen, or pretended to be anything. I still have the lyric sheet to a song called “Girls Girls Girls” that I wrote in 1979, the year BEFORE I met Nikki Sixx! It was always about the music…the art..the soul of the matter. Never the money or fame. That’s why I’m doing this last album. No compromises. No lies. No pretense.
“London” meant something, though not that much, for one long summer all those years ago. Mott pulled off a few good shows now and then. All of the bands did. “Satyr”,”Eyes”,”Future”,”The English Assassin”,”Fancy”…..They all were great in their own ways, and I thank all the fans over all those years, and all the road crews, security guys, and bartenders for all of the good times. But like I said in “No such thing as Rock and Roll”, 30 plus years ago….”When the lights have all gone down, you’ll marvel at the speed that things turn ’round.” I only play music for one reason. When I release “In The Absence Of God” this summer, I hope that some people at least, will finally understand.
THE FAST 5
FIB MUSIC: What is your most disgusting habit?
Nigel: I eat children.
FIB MUSIC: What is the most feminine thing you do?
Nigel: I have multiple orgasms.
FIB MUSIC: If there is a God, what is the first question you would ask God when you arrive?
Nigel: Why don’t you exist, and if you do, why is it still a paradox?
FIB MUSIC: Greatest Rock band of all time?
Nigel: Iron Butterfly.
FIB MUSIC: What were you doing 40 minutes before you sat down to do this interview?
Nigel: Recording guitar parts, having cleaned my gun and the mess outside from what happened last night. “Look honey! Thar’s a new bump on the hill over near that crazy guys place!” “Come away from the window Sugar, come away”.