When Enuff Z’Nuff rolls through town tomorrow for a show at the Odeon
, they’ll celebrate the 30th anniversary of their classic 1989 self-titled debut, an album which produced two Billboard Hot 100 hits with “New Thing” and “Fly High Michelle.”
As singer-bassist Chip Z’Nuff recalls, the band had a love connection with Cleveland right from day one. They came to the city that year for a show at the Agora, traveling in their tour bus, the “Yellow Submarine,” which had already been dubbed “the house of ill repute,” as Z’Nuff remembers with a chuckle. The tour was set to open in Cleveland, and the band arrived the night before.
As the rest of the group hit the rack to grab some sleep that evening, Z’Nuff slipped out and went to a local strip club.
“The girl there recognized me — even though we weren’t popular or anything — we were just starting to take off. Evidently, she was smitten by my look with the hat and shades on. She came back to the tour bus with me and hung out with me all night,” he says via phone, with a raspy laugh. “The guys woke up to me dining, which was not a good thing, but they were actually pretty happy about me bringing trim on the first show of the first tour.”
According to Z’Nuff, his wallet took a big hit during the band’s time in Cleveland.
“I found myself in debt on the first day, because we were on a salary and we had a per diem every single day and I spent my salary and per diem in one day in Cleveland on fans, just getting the people to come out to the show and hang out with us. I realized, well, I guess a little bit of discipline in rock 'n' roll never hurt anybody, because I’m in fuckin’ debt right now on this show,” he says. “But then right after we played Cleveland, MTV started playing the first video, ‘New Thing,’ and the band took off. We didn’t go back to Cleveland for quite a while after that, for some reason. It was really one of the wonderful moments of the many moments I’ve had in my illustrious career with Enuff Z’Nuff.”
Throughout the history of the group, there have been lineup changes and no shortage of adventures and misadventures. Things came to a head when Donnie Vie, Z’Nuff’s longtime collaborator and vocalist, left the band for a third and (so far) final time in 2013. The bassist made the decision to move to the center microphone and continue to carry things forward. As he quips, “I’m stealing off Genesis. Phil Collins came in when Peter Gabriel left.”
After singing alongside Vie for 30 years, Z’Nuff felt like he was more than qualified to pick up the slack. “If the ship goes down, well, I guess I didn’t have enough crazy glue to patch up the fuckin’ huge bullet holes that we’ve carried with us through all of these years,” he says. “Listen, at the end of the day, will this be enough to lift the black cloud that’s followed us for years? I don’t know, but I know that right now, we’re in a good path.”
, the group’s latest album, was released last August and finds the band in excellent form with a solid mix of psychedelic garage rock and low-fi sounds on display. They’re at their hard rockin’ best on album standouts like the hard driving “Metalheart” and the foot thumpin’ title track.
“I think that we made a great record, it’s solid as a rock, and it’s one continuous thought on how I see the world today. It’s got a lot of balls to it, and I think it’s a great combination of ‘70s and now mixed together,” he says. “It’s kind of like a low-fi hi-fi record. Because we did a lot of it on two inch tape and then a lot of it, we switched over to Pro Tools for the vocals. But when you listen to the record, it sounds like a solid hard rock record. Call it glitter rock, if you want to. I don’t think we’re a glam band, but there’s certain elements of that in our music, but there’s elements of pop, there’s elements of heavy metal in our stuff too.”
The band’s current lineup is rounded out by guitarist Tory Stoffregen, drummer Daniel Hill and guitarist Alex Kane, an original member of the group who returned to the band earlier this year.
“He’s actually the one who started Enuff Z’Nuff with me, with Donnie. Maybe he’d be interested in coming back into the fold again. We reached out to him and he goes, ‘I’d be honored to,’” Z’Nuff recalls. “So how ironic, after all of these years, 28 years or whatever it is, the original guitar player of Enuff Z’Nuff comes back into the fold again. I thought, it’s only fitting. The first shows, he’s kicking ass. People loved it. He’s still got a great show. He’s got a wonderful sense of balance. He loves to play for the fans. He loves the band and believes in the legacy of it.”
The Odeon show will add another chapter to the group’s colorful history in Cleveland — and for sure, there are some past episodes to beat.
In the early '00s at a time when the “inmates were running the asylum,” according to Z’Nuff, the band showed up a week early for a scheduled gig at the Revolution in Parma.
Guitarist Billy Morris, who owned the now-shuttered club, remembers the scene well. “I see the guys walking in the door and I’m like, ‘What’s going on, dudes?’ ‘Oh, we’re here to rock!’ I’m like, ‘I don’t think so!’” he laughs. “The rest is history.”
Morris adds that musically, he ranks them highly.
“I think they’re right up there with every single band," he says. "And you know that I know, because I was in a band with Jani Lane, who I want to put out on record, was the best of the songwriters of the '80s hair metal, Sunset Strip, Hollywood era of rock and roll. Enuff Z’Nuff, being from Chicago, got linked into that, because they wore lipstick and they were a glam rock band on video”
Whatever image the band might have projected visually, their music told the real story, Morris says.
“I’ve run sound for Enuff Z’Nuff tons of times. It’s just amazing to hear the catalog of songs that Enuff Z’Nuff has,” he says. “You go to a show and hear 20 great songs, but you miss another 20, because they didn’t have enough time to play all of those songs.”
Area music fan Corey Hawkins played a lot of gigs opening for Enuff Z’Nuff with his band at the time, Shock Cinema. He recalls several memorable happenings, including a show at the short-lived west side club Sidekicks where a number of fans in attendance had their cars towed while the gig was in progress. When Z’Nuff learned about what had happened, he did what he could to try to help.
“They couldn’t have made that much money that night, but he was giving money to the people whose cars were towed — to try and get them back,” Hawkins says. “Which that said so much about Chip Z’Nuff. You know, there’s Chip Z’Nuff, the caricature. But this is [also] a guy who clearly, he’s got his skin in the game because he fuckin’ loves it. I’ve never seen an artist do something like that.”
“I’m not the only rock 'n' roller that’s like this. I’m sure there’s quite a few bands that are like that as well, but you just don’t hear about them,” Z’Nuff says, reflecting back on that night. “Without the fans, there’s no bands. That’s it, you’re just playing by yourself and you’re making records in your bedroom and that’s gratifying as well, but there’s nothing like having a potpourri of different people coming around and supporting your group and being fans of what you do and supporting you and helping you through your career. At the end of the day we’re nothing without the fans.”
He wraps up the interview with a plug for the latest album from his former bandmate.
“My little brother, Donnie Vie, has got his new record out. It’s called Beautiful Things and he’s got Paul Gilbert from Mr. Big, Matt Walker from Smashing Pumpkins, he’s on the record as well. So if you get a chance, check that record. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. There’s some wonderful songwriting moments on there and the guy is the quintessential singer, there’s nobody like him out there.”
For those who hope that the onetime musical brothers in arms might one day share space on an Enuff Z’Nuff record again, there’s a small bit of positive news on that front as well.
“I’ll actually have a song on the [next] Enuff Z’Nuff album that he co-wrote,” he laughs. “And it’s a good one, too, bro. As soon as you hear it, when the first 10 seconds of the song starts, you’ll know right away, oh, this is the one that they did. You just know. It’s got those cool fuckin’ English chords and all of the augmented stuff in there and just the substance abuse and the promiscuity that the song embraces is brilliant.”
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