Metal Mofos’ Isaac Sauers recently spoke with Warrant vocalist Robert Mason about the band’s current ongoings, his influences, and the upcoming new album Louder, Harder, Faster. Check it out below.
Metal Mofos: Warrant recently partnered with PBR (Professional Bull Riders) and put out a song. Can you tell me how that came about? Are you guys bull riding fans or were you approached by PBR?
Robert Mason: A little of both. The sport is really cool if you’ve ever seen it. It’s just amazing to watch up close. I’ve been at the edge of the shoots when they let a bull and rider out. I had a bull buck up at me when I was trying to get a shot on my phone to show my friends. I was this close to this amazing monster of an animal and this fearless seemingly crazy guy strapped on top of it.
We had played somewhere in Colorado and got the attention of the CEO of PBR Sean Gleason, and they hired us to play their world finals in Las Vegas last year at the Tmobile Arena. We must have done a good enough job to get everyone’s attention, thankfully, and he approached us with this song. He had this vision that this Merle Haggard song to be the official drinking song of all of our PBR branded bars and clubs. I heard the song and we were in the middle of recording our new record at the time. So it was a no brainer at the time since we were in recording and creativity mode. I think it was a hit song in 1980. Like Merle’s 26th hit if I remember the statistic correctly. It’s your country song that goes around with a verse that tells a story of a guy who broke up with somebody and the payoff is the chorus line. We were tasked with trying to supercharge it and make it sound more like a rock song and reinterpret it. We had the chords and supercharged the riff so now it sounds like a mix of southern rock and what Warrant does. Everybody plays a solo on the song so it was really fun. The first solo was Joey, the second was me, and the third was Eric. Sean loved it. We shot a video for it over a couple of PBR events, and we decided to put it on our record as well. The title is “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink” by the amazing Merle Haggard. We wanted to bring the song up to date. I’m a traditional country and southern rock fan so there are elements of both of those plus the Warrant sound and the song filtered through that. It’s really fun to play live. People really get into it.
I was on Blabbermouth or one of those other websites because I like to peruse the hater comments for some laughs and to keep myself grounded. It’s been misinterpreted and misconstrued with how the song came out about. I read a few comments saying like, Jani and his problems with alcoholism and you guys decide to do a song about drinking. I’m like no it wasn’t really our decision. It was brought to us by the CEO, and you know what? We are guys in a band. We have a drink every once in awhile, and we don’t have a drink every once in awhile.
It’s the one of the official anthems of the PBR this year and a fun drinking song if you’re inclined to have an adult beverage at a bar.
MM: Yeah, I’m sure it will be a fun song to hear at a bar or at a PBR event.
RM: Well, they’re good people too. We met a lot of really wonderful people through PBR and made new friends and fans. It’s good for all of us. I’d love to see people who never listened to Warrant before attract to the band and maybe come out to a show or buy a CD or tell their friends we did a Merle song. It’s a good way to cross promote.
MM: Are you going to be playing at more PBR events this year?
RM: Yes, we’re going to do a few of them throughout our touring schedule this year and will play the finals in Vegas again.
MM: Do you play a full set at the events?
RM: In order to promote and film the video we did short sets but some of them we are doing full sets. Normally we do our full set and we’ll throw that song in since it’s being promoted so much. It’s just like coming to a regular Warrant show except Erik Turner may or may not being wearing a cowboy hat.
MM: Well, you have to wear a cowboy hat to an event like that, right?
RM: Well, you don’t have to but, you know? I can’t wear one because they fly off my head all the time from moving around so much.
MM: So, new album Louder, Harder, Faster coming out May 12. Can you tell me about some of the new songs we’re going to get to hear?
RM: We really took our time and waited until we had songs we liked and saw potential in. The process went on and on for a few years. We weren’t under any pressure to push out a new record quickly. We looked through a bunch of songs we had in every form form finished to skeletal and when we though we had them we called Frontier and said let’s make another record. We recorded it with Jeff Pilson producing. He’s been a friend of mine since the Lynch Mob days in ’91-92., but I’ve never worked with him. We get along really well and he’s got a fantastic studio near his place in Santa Clarita, Californina. It was a great process. I love the recording process. It’s a completely different animal than the touring thing we do year round. We took the whole holiday season off from shows and blocked off the time. I traveled from Arizona to California to hang out with Jeff, everybody did their part, and boom we birthed the record.
MM: You mentioned you love the recording process. What’s your favorite part?
RM: Being finished! I wouldn’t call it a love hate thing, but there are definitely challenges and I appreciate that. It gives you a real sense of accomplishment to be able to do that, and it feeds your creative soul in a lot of ways. I was talking to a good friend of mine last night about it. At shows you play these songs that everybody knows by heart and that’s one animal. Then you have a creative side that I always want to go with. I’ll always write songs. You relish the opportunity to put something new out. Plus we may add a new song or two in that live set. That’s the best way to promote it. Here’s all the songs you know and love by heart, and thank you very much for doing that, but here’s a song off our new record and we hope you like it. It’s art versus commerce all the time I suppose.
MM: How do you think Warrant fans are in terms of being receptive to new songs?
RM: It seemed on the last record Rockaholic that they really were. We would play one or two. They have to work live. You can’t play a ballad they’ve never heard, and it falls on their face unless they’ve seen it, heard it, and it’s been shown to them a few times. We did a few songs off that record live. The songs with energy went well. We did play a ballad, “Home” a bunch of times. It depends on how you present it. By and large our fans are pretty receptive to hearing something new.
MM: I thought Rockaholic was a great record. Lots of nice dirty sounding rock n roll guitar riffs. I’m looking forward to hearing Louder Harder Faster.
RM: This one has got a little more of a raw sound. We used a lot of vintage amps, guitars, and mics. Jeff’s got great gear. We’ve got a collection of great gear. I love the way this record sounds. There’s some really good tones and sounds that we tried not to mess up in the EQ and mix/master process. We had great people work with us. Hopefully fans will like the way it sounds. My vision was to have it a little rougher around the edges. The combination of song writing between the guys brings out everyones different influences. Your true influences can’t help but emerge. We just let it happen. There’s some songs with like a 70s pop sense. Not like bubble gum sugary stuff. Even the rock stuff is more 70s as opposed to 80s because that’s where are influence lies and what we grew up listening to.
MM: That being said who were some of your favorite artists growing up?
RM: Growing up it was everything I heard on the radio. My first influences were Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, The Four Freshmen, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Tom Jones, whatever my parents listened to. There was always music around the house. My dad was a hard working nine to fiver, my mom was a stay at home mom so the record collection always came out. I was really influenced by that. I got on the the 60s and 70s British rock bandwagon kind of late. I didn’t have any older siblings. I had to get turned onto that by friends and their siblings. My parents were stuck in their time and what they group up with, but it was a great foundation. I’ve always loved Free, Queen, The Who, Humble Pie, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and ELO, then obviously the ever present Beatles and Stones. When the heavier stuff came out I was a huge fan of that as well. I remember the first time I heard Van Halen I and British Steel. All those things shape you, I feel. When you start really playing and gigging and you want to write songs you put them through your filter and that’s how it comes out. I stand on the shoulders of giants.
MM: Do you remember the first time you heard Warrant?
RM: The first time I heard Warrant was the first time I saw Warrant. It was on a big cardboard cutout. Remember when record stores had them as promo? All the guys lined up life sized in black leather. It was at a record store at a mall in Pennsylvania. I think they were playing “Dirty Rotten” as a preview.
MM: Did you keep in touch with Warrant throughout the years? How did you get to be the singer of Warrant?
RM: My band Lynch Mob had supported Warrant in arena tours in ’92-93 to support our Lynch Mob record and they were supporting Dog Eat Dog. So we all got to be friends. The Warrant tour was supposed to start with a bunch of Kiss dates but Kiss had to reschedule. Jani and I had become friends in Hollywood when I was working on the Lynch Mob record in ’91. We got a call from the Warrant guys, and they were gracious enough to take us out, and we did a bunch of stuff I can talk about. Saving it for the book. We kind of stayed in touch throughout the years, and I knew what Jani was going through. I ran into the guys at Rocklahoma when Jani was really struggling. They didn’t know whether he could be out on the road anymore. You could say the seed was planted then. When they ultimately made the decision they needed somebody else they called me.
MM: Can you tell me about one of your favorite songs from the new record?
RM: They’re like your kids. It’s hard to pick a favorite. Dixon had been putting a bug in my ear to do a piano ballad. We’ll put a piano song on the new record. I was out in Nashville like I am a couple times a year to work with some really talented songwriters there. There’s a producer/songwriter by the name of Joe West who I met in 2012 or 2013. Joe and I got together on one of this trips and I had thrown some chords and melody together on my piano and put it on my iPhone. I texted him the mp3 and asked him, Joe, is this crap? You can tell me. He was like, no, this is cool. When can you get out here? We finished it up within a couple hours sitting in his place outside Nashville. I came home and refined it a bit and presented it to the band and they loved it. It’s a song called “You in My Life”, and it is on the record. Jeff Pilson had coincidentally just bought a vintage piano. We miked it up in his living room and ran wires to his recording studio and played on that. It’s a ballad but it ramps up a bit like a rock song. Maybe not like a power ballad but that 70s kind of vibe like a Wings or Edgar Winter ballad. It’s a cool meaningful song for me. Hopefully it means something to some other people as well. It’s a point of pride for me that the band trusted me enough to take the reigns and do that. It’s got a note pick guitar solo I played on it. Dixon did an amazing job playing a fretless bass on it. Jerry is my hero on this song. Steven comes in and brings in the drums. It’s surely a piano ballad and it ended up on a Warrant record, and I’m proud of that.
MM: You guys typically play at the M3 Rock Festival in Maryland. What are your experiences at the festival?
RM: It’s a blast. We’ve done it several times. We’re going to be there at the end of April. We play Saturday night. The audience is there for the right reasons. They love those songs. The people that put on the festival take good care of the fans and artists. The show itself goes by like a blur. It’s a monumental task to fit in all those bands on a couple stages. There’s a great backstage catering era where we get this high school reunion thing going on. This festival is the only time I get to see some of these guys. It’s a good communal thing. We enjoy watching the other bands. It’s a great experience, and I can’t wait to go back.
Be sure to check out Warrant live this year and pick up their new album Louder, Harder, Faster on May 12th. Look out for tour dates on their website and social media pages linked below.
Give a listen to the newest Warrant single here: