Hanoi, drugs, and rock 'n' roll - Dave goes "on the record"

DD: I would very rarely write under the influence. It happened on occasion, but very rarely. I said to someone one time, "I don't take what I write about seriously, because rock bands do not change the world, songs do not change the world." If you're writing about great political events, if you're writing about something about the assassination of John Kennedy, that's a world-changing event. That's crucially important. Rock 'n' roll is not that - rock 'n' roll is about having fun and bringing some life into people's lives. What I was writing about wasn't serious. You can live without rock 'n' roll.

JR: You can?

DD: There are billions of people across the world who are living without rock 'n' roll. It's not essential to life; it makes life a whole lot better if you've got it. It's not serious; it's not going to feed people; it's not going to shelter them. What I was writing about wasn't serious, but the way I wrote, I always took it seriously. I would do my level best to spell people's names correctly, get the facts straight, all that type of stuff. That to me was really important. It would just upset me when I read something about a band I liked and the journalist hadn't done their homework and didn't know what he or she was talking about.

JR: Well, you knew what you were talking about in this case. Many years ago, I lost my Kerrangs! in a flood, but your Hanoi tribute haunted me. It took me fifteen years and a lot of money spent on old Kerrangs!, but I finally tracked it down again. Ultimately, the search led me to this conversation. You say that we can live without rock 'n' roll, but maybe that comes down to your definition of what constitutes living versus pure human survival. If not for your articles. Hanoi Rocks were the torch of my youth at a time in my life when I could barely see five feet in front of me.

DD: For me, it was pretty much the same as a love affair. I loved these guys and I loved what they did. I just tried to share that with other people in my own way.

JR: At certain points in your life, your whole life changes because you needed something to care about. Years later, you can remember those pivotal events with the same intensity.

DD: That's probably why I still write about Hanoi Rocks from time to time. Like I said in the Classic Rock piece, even if I had wanted to talk about the drug abuse in Kerrang!, I would not have been allowed to. It was nice to be able to say, finally, that "this is what we did and this is what really happened." The whole truth hadn't come out. All the stuff I wrote about Hanoi was written from the heart. I've written about bands that I liked, or didn't really like, and that's fine, it's a job, and I like the job. The great thing about being involved in rock 'n' roll is that you get paid to go out and have fun - you don't get paid very much, but you get paid. But there were a handful of bands, and Hanoi is at the top of that list, where when I was writing, it was like, "This is it - this is me pouring my heart out." Dante Bunotto, in particular, on the Kerrang! staff, allowed me to do that. He backed me in terms of getting the word out on Hanoi, and I have to give him credit for it.

They were not a band he particularly liked, but he had the balls to back my judgment and allow me to say all this stuff. Meanwhile, all the die-hard heavy metal guys at Kerrang! were saying, "What the fuck is this guy talking about? Who are these people and what the hell are they doing in our magazine?" So I have to give Dante credit, because he backed me all the way. And yet at the time, I wasn't able to tell the whole story. The piece I wrote for Classic Rock was the unvarnished truth. There was a great deal of debauchery that went on. I didn't put it all into that piece, but the point is that we were now all old enough to know what it was really like. At the time, I was not allowed to do that. I could understand, because Kerrang! was aimed at a twelve to eighteen year old audience. The band was about fun, drugs, music - about energy, about raw power. What I tried to do on the written page was to give people a semblance of that. I knew it was largely pointless. Like I said about the live album, you needed to be there. And no matter how well I said it, it was never going to be the same. It was only going to be a partial inkling of the awesome power that I encountered night after night. By the same token, some people got it. Some people picked up on it.

JR: For some of us, the inkling is what we had to go on. We could only envision the rest.

DD: It's great, because I meet people who say, "Oh my God, I read all those things you wrote about Hanoi," - it always tends to be about Hanoi - "and it was so incredible to read about it." To me, it's great, because, for one, people are actually listening; and also, it was a chance for me to give others a sampling of what Hanoi gave me. What I wanted to do was to say to the world, "Let these guys into your life. If they gave to you a tenth of what they gave to me, your life can be so much better."

When it came time to write that Classic Rock piece, I said, "OK, now is the time, not necessarily to write an epitaph, but to tell the unvarnished truth. It's all those years down the line, and some of us survived, and some of us didn't." And like I wrote, Nasty has disappeared back to college and given up rock 'n' roll totally forever and Sami seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth. I don't know whether he's surfaced since I wrote that piece, but Mike and Andy are still out there, which is great. When I look at kids that are sixteen or seventeen now, I think, "What have you guys got?" If you're a sixteen, seventeen year old kid, and you like that kind of guitar sound, what have you got to listen to? You've got bugger all. That saddens me. What can I say? "Well, I'm sorry kids, but you've missed out. You should have been born twenty years ago and then it would have happened." All I can really say is: "Well, in my day, this is what we did, and this is what happened."

JR: That was our time Dave, you've been more than accommodating, I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. And I know Hanoi fans the world over will appreciate it as well. It's an honor to have the chance to speak with you.

DD: It's been a pleasure. I just realized what time it is, and that I've actually missed all the things I was going to do this afternoon... :)