By STEVE MASCORD
VINNIE VINCENT’S familiar sharp features are beginning to soften.
Illuminated by a flickering candle in a plush-but-affordable Italian restaurant on Sunset Boulevard, his facial expressions are pained and uncertain.
“I had decided I wasn’t going to trust anyone else, I was going to do things my way…”
His voice trails off, he gazes out into an increasingly blustery night and heaves a barely detectable sigh.
“Okay, if that’s what you think, then, wcll… okay!”
A few days earlier, the lightning-fingered former KISS guitarist had put in a terse callto his record company, Enigma. He claimed I had set him up the day before. It had been Vinnie’s first interview since an acrimonious split with Chrysalis and the rest of the Vinnie Vincent Invasion a year-and-a-half ago.
I was not allowed to ask about the accusations, the inner—band brawls, the legal battles, and — just maybe — the lies that have plagued Vincent since he first plugged in a guitar to record KISS’
‘Creatures Of The Night’ LP way back at the beginning of the ‘80s. I was not allowed to let him defend himself. I was also not told, although I would have laughed in the face of anyone trying to restrain my enquiries
JUST a clumsy stumble from the Whiskey A Go Go and Rainbow Bar And Grill with the sun — and the smog — having freshly settled, we thrash it out over pasta. Vinnie is civil but untrusting, claiming that he never wanted to sink to the level of his accusers and ruing the fact he’d entered into the debate during our first meeting. After all, what does all this ‘gossip’ have to do with music, anyway?
Sitting with his back to the windows opposite us, Enigma international promotions man Glenn Sprenger’s brow contracts thoughtfully.
“I used to like John Cougar Mellencamp,” the South African offers. “But since I read interviews with him and saw how arrogant he was, I can’t listen to him any more.”
Vincent mulls over the comment and after a few more minutes of lukewarm debate, appears convinced he has not
The studio in which Vincent’s first LP for Enigma is to be recorded is in downtown Hollywood. Vinnie and I climb an untidy set of stairs to a dry bar and sip on freshly-squeezed orange juices.
Connecticut native Vinnie has been living in the studio for at least a month, after being reunited with soaring original Vinnie Vincent Invasion vocalist Robert
Fleischman and a 23—year-old unknown skinsman from Virginia called Andre LaBelle, recommended by a friend of Jiminy Page’s.
“On this record, I play bass,” Vincent announces proudly. “When I write, I don’t just write a piece of music and give it to the bass player…
“I write the basslines as, inthe past, they never really quite felt the way they should have to me. So this time, instead of looking around, I decided to play them myself.”
What about playing live? No names yet, but Vinnie reckons he’s already got a bass player lined up…
The album, which the guitarist/bassist/producer describes as “progressive but very heavy” should see the light of day early next year.
“It’s going to pick up where the first Vinnie Vincent Invasion LP left off,” he
“But it’s got a very interesting cover that I won’t tell you about — I hope it gets past the censors.”
Vinnic has little time for what’s been said about him and even less for making replies. As he would later repeat, it’s the music that counts.
But while LA’s tattooed millionaires exchange barbs almost out of habit, Vinnie clearly can’t afford that to happen to him.
“At the moment, probably most of the valets who park cars make more money than I do,” he chuckles.
A few days later, a rumour emerges he has filed for bankruptcy.
BY the time Vinnie’s former VVI band-mates Dana Strum and Mark Slaughter (see box) had their debut Slaughter album Stick It To Ya released earlier this year, Vincent himself was seen s something of a dictatorial megalomaniac who had
destroyed his career by sacking Fleischman.
Read any one of a thousand interviews, and you’ll hear Slaughter and Strum casting themselves as Christians who
escaped the lions’ den…
“You’re the first person I’ve spoken to about this, and many have asked,” Vinnie observes uneasily. “I’m a
purist, as in what I want for my music and who I want around me talent-wise that I can believe in.
“Any time it starts to smell of mediocrity is when I don’t want anything to do with it.”
But isn’t it your fault Robert
Fleischman left in the first place?
“In a way, yes. I had a lot of bad advice from a lot of… used car salesmen.
“He was put in a very awkward position by the label.”
“He’s a very gifted singer, he really is very special as far as I’m concerned. So I was pretty much talked into getting a teenager kind of guy.
“Here was a label that was editing guitar leads out of my records because they felt, ‘Oh, people don’t want to hear
that!’. It was absurd!”
All well and good, but I could forgive you for accusing Vinnie of buck-passing on what’s been said so far. I try to
convince the man who used to have an ankh painted on his face that most people think he’s a big-headed git, and this
is his first chance to speak up on his own behalf.
Without warning, he opens up and admits…
“I WAS AT a vulnerable part of my life during the early parts of my solo career and I was kinda treading water.
“The Invasion was really a bunch of people I found to try and execute my thing. There was this very, very, very sleazy
guy in the situation. He was the scamming genius of all time, the slick talker, the whole thing. A very destructive influence.
“When I put my blood and soul into something and it gets tampered with… It’s like additives. You either get
homemade something or you get chemicals. The public won’t know any different and they’ll eat it anyway. My tastes are more special, so I won’t cat it. I can tell the difference.
“The record company were bystanders. People were painting me as an eccentric artist to the record company and hinting that we should ‘take this into a much more commercial vein, it’s too over-the-top, we need to control Vinnie’.
“All of a sudden I’m being painted as a villain again because I’m doing what I’m doing as an artist. Why? I’m not a villain.
“They took control out of my hands. You can’t take Robert Fleischman away, that’s ridiculous. They were painting Robert to be a villain and he wasn’t. Robert really knew that these people around me were very, very bad.
“The funny thing is, there was always this dubious quality about the whole thing. I remember one person in the band was only in it because he was such an incredible talker! I never once heard him play his f**king instrument! He was an incredible name-dropper. I said, ‘Is this person really a musician?’
“I let the controls slip out of my hands into someone else’s hands and I let someone else make a lot of very very bad decisions. Like, ‘Hey, there’s an angle to this. Maybe if you tell this story that you did this, and you lie here and you get rid of this…’”
DROPPING me back at my hotel a couple of blocks down Sunset, Vinnie recalls a phone interview we did about three years previously. VVI had just issued All Systems Go and Vincent apologises for “bullshiting”. I ask if he really despised that LP so much.
“Yes, it should never have been. There was a lot of good songs but it should have been called Mission Abort. It was a birth defect. I really was counting the days until I was able to say goodbye to it all,” he answers.
“Then again, it’s OK to crash. You learn how to drive better.
“I crashed my car the other day on Sunset Boulevard, right in front of Tower Records. You get up, if you’re still alive, you walk away and say ‘I’m still standing. Thanks very much’.”