Interview: Quiet Riot's Frankie Banali Discusses New Album, 'Road Rage'
Photo by: Henry Lipatov and used with permission

Famously known as being the first heavy metal band to top the pop charts, Quiet Riot became a global sensation in 1983 thanks in part to their monstrous album, Metal Health. The album, led by the hard-hitting title track and the band’s cover of Slade’s “Cum On Feel The Noize” topped the Billboard album charts. It’s follow up, Condition Critical, continued that success by reaching double platinum in album sales.

Although it’s been ten years since the tragic loss of original front man, Kevin DuBrow, Quiet Riot is back with new vocalist James Durbin and an infectious new album, Road Rage [Release date: Aug. 4]. And where songs like “Freak Flag” and “Wasted” continue to pay homage to the classic QR sound, tracks like “Can’t Get Enough” and “Still Wild” move the band in a promising 21st century direction. The result is the next chapter in the evolution of one of metal's most influential bands and an album that's everything Quiet Riot fans could have hoped for.

Quiet Riot is: Frankie Banali (drums), Alex Grossi (guitar), Chuck Wright (bass) and James Durbin (vocals).

AXS recently spoke with drummer Frankie Banali about Road Rage, his career with Quiet Riot and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: It’s been a few years since Quiet Riot’s last album. How did the Road Rage project come about?

Frankie Banali: The timing was right. Frontiers Records had approached me about a new record and the first person I reached out to was James Durbin. At the time, he had already signed an agreement with another project that was opened ended. Ultimately, when I need him the most, he was available and came in and did a phenomenal job writing lyrics and melodies to the music that myself, Alex Grossi, Chuck Wright and my writing partner, Neil Citron had written. It became this wonderful, musical marriage.

AXS: How has the addition of James on vocals affected the dynamic of the band?

FB: James is an interesting person. You've heard the term “old soul” and he does have that quality. It was an easy decision to have him come on board. He has that same kind of energy that Kevin [DuBrow] had. Kevin was the most energetic person I’ve ever seen in my life. He was everywhere all at once all the time and a pure ball of energy. To some degree James is a lot like that, but ultimately it rests on his vocal abilities. And while you can never replace Kevin DuBrow (that’s impossible), I had to find someone who had the range and soul to sing the old material but also bring something of his own to the table as well. Something that would be Quiet Riot plus an evolution of the band and sound. That's what James has done.

Click here to see the video for the single, "Can't Get Enough".

AXS: What was the writing process like for Road Rage?

FB: With me it always starts with the music, and Neil and I had quite a bit of material stock piled before we even had a record deal. Alex [Grossi] wrote this wonderful ballad, “The Road" which is one of the greatest power ballads I’ve heard. At the same time, Chuck Wright had this great riff that Neil and I turned into a song called “Still Wild”. Then when it came time to have James do  lyrics and melodies, I sent him the music as a canvas and said, "Let's see what kind of a picture you can paint." What he came up with was amazing. He took the music we had created in house to a level that the music and songs are supposed to be. I couldn't be happier.

AXS: What can you tell me about track, “Freak Flag”?

FB: There are two songs, “Freak Flag” and “Wasted”, that I consider stylistic cousins to the Quiet Riot material from the past. There were certain tempos, grooves and riffs I wanted to use that were in that style. The lyric content is basically about the outcasts that are told they're not the same or not good enough. Where you have to rally and stand up for what you believe in because everyone is equal. It's a great positive message.

AXS: It’s hard to believe that Kevin DuBrow has been gone for almost ten years. How close were the two of you and what do you miss the most about him?

FB: Kevin was not just my best friend, he was like a brother to me. We actually spent more time together than we did with our respective families. And I don't want to try to rewrite history because we certainly had our problems, but just like family we were always able to overcome them. The last five years of Kevin's life were some of the best he had and the last three years were the happiest I’d ever seen him. What’s difficult is that for nearly thirty years he was a person I spoke with every day and spent all my time out on the road. Sadly, that's the thing I'll never have again.

AXS: Quiet Riot’s Metal Health was the first heavy metal album to reach #1. At the time you were recording it did you know how special it was going to be?

FB: By the time we recorded Metal Health in 1982, we had been playing a lot of the material for at least a year. When we were finished, we all thought it was amazing. We just didn't know if anyone else would get it because at the time, no one was playing what we were playing. If you look at what we had to get past to get it to #1: Michael Jackson (Thriller), The Police (Synchronicity), Lionel Richie, Linda Ronstadt, Paul McCartney; all of them were at the top of the charts. No one could have predicted us to achieve #1 status and to have sold more than ten million albums worldwide, but we did it!

AXS: What satisfies you the most about Road Rage and what excites you the most about this next phase of the band’s career?

FB: All I can do is put out the best possible record I can with Quiet Riot. I understand that some people may be critical and stuck on the idea that if it's not the classic Metal Health lineup or not with Kevin DuBrow, then it's not a Quiet Riot record. But if you listen to any of our past records you’ll get songs that have the Quiet Riot sound, but also many that are different. If you listen to the song, “Condition Critical”, that was very different than anything we had done at the time. The same can be said for “The Wild and The Young”. When you look at it from that perspective, this truly is a Quiet Riot record, and I think it’s a great, honest record and hope people will listen to it and make up their own minds. I stand behind it 1000% and am very happy.