Tracing Hanoi's musical influences

Jon Reed: Hello Dave. My desk is covered in old Kerrangs! I managed to dig up a lot of your old articles.

Dave Dickson: I don't even have all the old issues myself, they're pretty hard to find. Back at home, I pretty much have everything I ever wrote, but that stuff is all 8,000 miles away and so now I have to rely on my memory.

JR: Do people track you down frequently to talk about the old Hanoi Rocks days?

DD: It gets rarer as the days go by. At the time, you couldn't move without someone wanting to know something about Hanoi Rocks. But as the years go by, memories fade, and new generations have their own music to listen to. When I first became interested in Hanoi Rocks, I thought, "Great, well, where did these guys come from, where did they get their inspiration from?" So I had to sort of backtrack. Hearing all this Hanoi stuff, I thought, "My God, this is brilliant. Why have I never heard this before?"

JR: And what did you come up with as far as Hanoi's influences? The New York Dolls come to mind. Were there other main influences that you uncovered?

DD: Well, the Dolls were the obvious ones, both in terms of sound and visual influences. Andy says that his inspiration was Marc Bolan, which I always thought was a little odd. Marc Bolan was a bit of a teeny bop pretty boy. I kind of like Marc Bolan. A old girlfriend of mine was a Marc Bolan fan, so I've been subjected to what Marc Bolan's all about. And behind the facade of the pop music, Bolan did some pretty interesting stuff. I can see, from a guitarist's point of view, that he was an iconic figure. He had lots of girls running around worshipping him, and yet he was also a pretty good guitarist. I don't know how old Andy was at this point - nine, ten, eleven years old or something. It must have been like, "What more could you want? This is great, this is what I want to be."

JR: It makes you wonder if Marc Bolan was more of a reflection of Andy's intense ambition to go "over the top" mainstream, and capture a huge audience, than he was a particular sound Andy wanted to emulate.

DD: Yes it does. At any rate, Marc Bolan was the starting point in terms of searching for Hanoi influences. Then there was obvious stuff like David Bowie and Led Zeppelin, and once I had established those icons as likely Hanoi influences, I started looking around and asking myself, "What else is there?" But once you start chasing Hanoi Rocks influences, you get taken into a completely different direction from where you started. As I said, I started with David Bowie, who was a great rock chameleon. And courtesy of David Bowie, I fell into Alice Cooper. Musically, these guys aren't exactly in the same ballpark with each other, but because I was also interested in theater, I thought of Cooper as someone who was doing theater and rock 'n' roll together. And Bowie was also very theatrical, but Alice Cooper was taking it to an extreme. So I was dragged out to the extreme, and from there, I discovered things like the Velvet Underground, and from the Velvets Iggy Pop, and from Iggy Pop the New York Dolls.

Now, the New York Dolls were obviously a major influence. What Hanoi always said to me was that they liked the Dolls, they liked MC5, they liked Iggy, and they liked Kiss and Alice Cooper. Some people would think, "Oh my God, how can you possibly listen to Kiss AND the New York Dolls, or the New York Dolls AND Alice Cooper?" Everyone likes to compartmentalize these things. I just went out on a general voyage of discovery as far as music was concerned, and all these bizarre things just happened to grab my attention. I was never an MC5 fan, but if Hanoi got off on MC5, I wasn't going to complain and say "What the hell are you listening to that crap for?" For Hanoi, MC5 was great. The one band that we both came across entirely independently was the The Hollywood Brats. The Brats never made much of an impression in Britain, because Britain wasn't really ready for that kind of thing. The same way that America really wasn't ready for the Dolls. If the Brats had come out four or five years later, they would have been huge, but it was a case of "wrong place, wrong time."

JR: I seem to recall in one article that you mention bringing in a Hollywood Brats tape to play for the Hanoi guys.

DD: Yes, the Brats did one album in '72 or '73. They were based in London. They were doing an aggressive, punky thing at the same time that Britain was going through its glitter/glamour rock period. While the Brats did have an androgyny to them, they were also far too aggressive and in-your-face to find any sort of mainstream acceptance. So they pretty much came and went. Later, I just stumbled across them, and said, "Oh my god, yes, this is Hanoi Rocks." It was Hanoi Rocks ten years beforehand.

JR: And had Hanoi listened to them too?

DD: Yes, I can't remember how it came up, whether I mentioned it to them or whether they mentioned it to me. There were four or five members in the Brats, and one of them came from Scandinavia. In the Scandinavian music scene, everybody knows everybody else. Because this guy either came from Scandinavia or had lived there, Hanoi had come across the Brats and knew about them. So now, we had Iggy, we had Alice Cooper, we had Kiss, we had the Brats - there was all this musical crossover between Hanoi Rocks and myself, although I was never a very big Kiss fan. But there were also areas where we didn't get along musically. I think it was Mike who said to me, "You like all that Pink Floyd hippie shit." At the time he said that to me, they were producing Two Steps From the Move with Bob Ezrin. What I probably said to them was that Bob Ezrin had produced, in my mind, three of the greatest albums of all time - Lou Reed's Berlin, Alice Cooper's Welcome to My Nightmare, and Pink Floyd's The Wall. And it was because I dared to mention Pink Floyd, which was taboo to Hanoi, that I was obviously a hippie-loving freak.

My response was, "I don't care if you don't like this album or don't like this band, this is a great piece of music. Bob Ezrin did an incredible job on this album, and now he's producing yours, so what do you have to complain about?" We had an awful lot of crossover, but there was stuff they liked that I thought was shit, and stuff I liked that they thought was shit. You're never going to come across anybody on the entire face of the planet that has the exact same musical taste as you. But they ended up working with Ezrin, and there I was in the studio with someone who I considered to be one of the greatest rock producers of all time. But the point is that we had enough crossover in our taste, enough common ground.