Top 10 Musicians with Hair Metal Pasts
Here at Noisecreep, we embrace all the different subgenres that hard rock and metal have to offer. Whether it’s the sacrilegious fury of Marduk or the thinking man’s metal of Devin Townsend, we love bringing you all of the points of view and styles this music offers.
One of the most polarizing genres in the hard rock realm has to be what people have come to know as hair or glam metal. Groups like Poison and Slaughter sold millions of albums and made the Sunset Strip the destination for every small town kid to go to and try and make their rock ‘n’ roll dreams come true. Many critics say that the early ’90s mainstream rise of bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden killed off the scene. The truth is that a lot of the acts that got signed in the hair metal gold rush of the late ’80s and early ’90s probably didn’t even deserve deals, and the creative well had already been dry.
That brings us to our new list. We thought it would be fun to compile the names of a few musicians who got their start playing in the hair/glam scene. Some of the guys below would probably prefer if we didn’t remind the world about their mascara and lip liner days, but they have nothing to be ashamed about. Let’s be honest, the guys in Immortal wear far more makeup than Pretty Boy Floyd ever did. Ladies and germs, here is our list of 10 musicians with hair metal pasts.
Butch Walker (Marvelous 3, solo)
In the late-90s alt-rock boom, Walker found some success with ‘Freak of the Weak,’ the hit single from his Marvelous 3 project. After that band couldn’t find the charts anymore, he became a sought-after producer and songwriter in the mold of people like Desmond Child and Holly Knight. Walker’s work with Avril Lavigne, Pink and Bowling for Soup has helped make the Atlanta native a very wealthy man.
After mainstream outlets such as Rolling Stone and Billboard started singing his praises, his solo career took off, and he’s been either on tour or in a recording studio ever since. Even though Walker is part of the music industry elite these days, we bet most of the industry suits don’t have a SouthGang album in their collections. You see, Butch cut his teeth playing guitar in the aforementioned band who released two albums at the tail end of the hair metal era. Next time you hear one of his stadium-sized choruses, you’ll know where Walker first learned the art of the hook.
Amir Derakh (Orgy, Julien-K, Dead by Sunrise)
Do you remember Orgy? The Korn-approved quintet had a big hit with their cover of New Order‘s ‘Blue Monday’ in 1998 before slipping away from the limelight after their next album stiffed. In the years that followed, guitarists Amir Derakh and Ryan Shuck started Julien-K, a synth-pop infatuated combo that released an album in March 2009.
Lately both musicians have been working with Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington in Dead By Sunrise, releasing a solid album of modern rock this Fall. Derakh’s tenacity should be applauded because his career continuously reinvents itself. The California based musician first hit the metal radar in 1984 playing guitar with Rough Cutt and after they broke up, he co-founded Jailhouse, a Sunset Strip band that even die-hard glam maniacs tend to forget about. Derakh is proof that not all ex-hair metallers had to get a job at Guitar Center after their bands fell apart.
James Lomenzo (Black Label Society, Megadeth)
During the ’80s, Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine was a vocal opponent of the hair metal scene. Even though he wore fringe jackets and appeared on the poster for the hair metal documentary ‘The Decline of Western Civilization: The Metal Years,’ the guitarist/vocalist loved his thrash and had no room for the poppy hooks of groups like Europe and Trixter. That’s why when it was announced that former Black Label Society bassist James Lomenzo would be joining Megadeth, a lot of people were surprised. It wasn’t because he had played in Zakk Wylde’s roving gang of misfits, but because he spent time in the ’80s and early ’90s with another gang of dudes from Brooklyn, N.Y.
Now, when you think of Brooklyn, you might picture streets filled with tough guys and pizzerias, but Lomenzo was rocking the bass in a band that was the polar opposite of that stereotype. White Lion might have been the house band at legendary Brooklyn club L’Amour’s, but their image had more in common with the Aqua Net crazed masses that crowded the Sunset Strip out in Hollywood. White Lion’s early discography is filled with pyrotechnic guitars and hotshot vocals and is must-have stuff for any fan of hard rock and metal, but their glossy image got Lomenzo on this list.
Brooks Wackerman (Bad Religion, the Vandals)
Wackerman might be ruler of the trap kit for punk legends Bad Religion and a slew of other cool projects but the first time his face would grace magazine racks it was in hair metal tomes such as Metal Edge and Hit Parader. If you go on Wackerman’s Wikipedia page, you’ll see no mention of it, but the drummer played in a little known outfit called Bad4Good.
The quartet was formed by guitar wizard Steve Vai and consisted of Brooks, bassist Zack Young, guitarist Thomas McRocklin and Danny Cooksey on vocals. The oldest member of the band was 16 years old when they released their only album, 1992′s ‘Refugee.’ Another tidbit some of our older readers might get a kick out of, Cooksey played the character of Sam McKinney, the annoying redhead, on ‘Diff’rent Strokes’ and Bobby Budnick on ‘Salute Your Shorts.’
Layne Staley (Alice in Chains, Mad Season)
When Staley died in 2002, after years struggling with drug addiction, the hard rock world lost of its best vocalists. His influential work with Alice in Chains will undoubtedly get the late frontman into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame one day. The Washington state native got his start in the music world playing drums in his teens, and he never looked back.
He played in some hair bands that never went anywhere, and after his group Sleze broke up in 1986, Staley started Alice N’ Chains. Anyone versed in the hair/glam scene knows that when you use ‘N’ instead of an ‘and’ in your band name means you aren’t screwing around! In the liner notes to ‘Music Bank,’ Alice In Chains’s 1999 box set, Staley describes the band by saying that they, “dressed in drag and played speed metal,” but we beg to differ. Noisecreep has heard their 1987 demos and the songs wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Krokus and L.A. Guns albums.
Jason Hook (Five Finger Death Punch)
This Toronto native is playing guitar in the red hot Five Finger Death Punch these days but his past gigs have been very different musical affairs. Not only did Hook do a stint in the Vince Neil solo band, he also laid down fretwork for the Van Halen worshipping BulletBoys in the late ’90s and early ’00s.
Like we said in the intro to this piece, we love our hard rock and hair metal and we know a lot of our readers do too but there is something else on Hook’s résumé that even surprised our jaded asses! Earlier this decade, the guitarist played in Mandy Moore‘s touring band. Yes, you read that correctly folks! We’re sure the paycheck was nice, but it’s hard to imagine Hook not being happier in his current position.
Rivers Cuomo (Weezer)
Although he’s revered by legions of indie rock and emo bands everywhere for his work with Weezer, Cuomo is a metal kid by heart. Growing up in Connecticut, he loved his Quiet Riot and Kiss albums instead of the many college rock bands his alt nation peers did. Rather than cranking out the guitar anthems of Paul Westerberg and Michael Stipe’s mysterious lyrical output, Cuomo was too busy taking guitar lessons from Fates Warning mastermind Jim Matheos. He finally started his own progressive metal band called, Avant Garde.
Even though their material was on the tech side of things, they left the East Coast in 1989 to try and crack the Los Angeles rock scene. Once they got there, they stripped their sound down and changed their name to Zoom. Check out photos from that era and you’ll see the future Weezer leader looking like more like a guy who was trying out for a spot in Roxx Gang than the loveable four-eyed nerd we know so well today.
Dan Donegan (Disturbed)
Boy did Vandal love their Ratt! If you happen to find any of their demos online, you’ll hear how the Illinois quartet ripped many of their musical moves from the ‘Round and Round’ stars. Everything from Lance Thomas’s vocal lines to the guitarist Warren DeMartini aped licks prove where they wore their influences too close to their sleeves.
Still, Vandal were hardly the least original band of that time period and their playing chops showed potential but what got them a mention is Noisecreep is their guitarist, Dan Donegan. Long before he became a millionaire playing in Disturbed, Donegan was just another musician trying to get a major label deal and a tour opening for Dokken. We would pay top dollar to see Dan and Disturbed crank out a cover of Vandal’s ‘Sweet Revenge’ on their next headlining trek. Can you imagine the looks on the faces of those sweaty kids in the pit?!
Tim Skold (Marilyn Manson, KMFDM, Skold)
Goth rock and industrial fiends know Skold from his stints in Marilyn Manson and KMDFM but this Swede first made his mark in the glam rock world way back in 1989. Originally known as Kingpin, his band changed their name to Shotgun Messiah and signed to Relativity Records and released two albums before throwing in the towel.
With song titles including ‘Squeezin’ Teazin’ and ‘Bop City,’ it’s not hard for you to imagine what the guys sounded like. Like Dead by Sunrise’s Derakh, Skold reinvented himself and found a way to penetrate the electro-leaning side of the rock scene and recently announced that he would be releasing a new solo album. We bet there won’t be any power ballads on it.
Vinnie Paul (Pantera, Damageplan, Hellyeah)
We love Vinnie, and Vinnie loved his pop metal in the early ’80s. They might have gone on to become one of the best and most popular metal bands in history, but Pantera’s first few releases were far-removed from the pounding grooves and thrash informed songwriting of their five final albums. Vinnie and his late brother, Dimebag Darrell Abbot, formed Pantera way back in 1981. The Arlington, Texas natives pounded the pavement working the local club circuit and quickly made a splash in the local metal community there.
Fronted by Terry Glaze, the band would go on to make three forgettable albums filled with Mötley Crüe and Def Leppard sound-alike filler before hiring a Louisiana singer named Phillip Anselmo. Their first record with Anselmo, ‘Power Metal,’ hinted at the heavier direction the act would head in, but that doesn’t mean the album would be filed in the thrash and speed metal sections in the record store. One song, ‘Proud to Be Loud,’ was even written and produced by Keel guitarist Marc Ferrari and sounds like an Odin outtake. ‘Power Metal’ is actually a pretty cool little collection, but that doesn’t mean many of their later fans would be caught dead playing it.