It’s a great time to be a Michael Monroe fan — and an incredibly busy time to be Michael Monroe.
The tireless rocker just released his latest solo album, I Live Too Fast to Die Young, in June, and he’s got a slew of other projects in the works for the near future. First up is a remixed, 40th-anniversary reissue of Oriental Beat, the second album by Monroe’s original band, Hanoi Rocks.
While the album helped boost the Finnish glam-punks’ international profile and features some of their most beloved songs, including the title track and “Motorvatin’,” the band members have frequently and emphatically criticized its subpar production.
“The second [album] was produced by this guy, Peter Woolliscroft — it was really horrible,” Monroe tells UCR. “There’s a lot of great songs, but the mix was really, really bad. So all you can hear is like snare drum and vocal, and it just really ruined the whole record, probably set us back for a couple of years because of the sound of that record.”
Listen to Hanoi Rocks’ ‘Motorvatin”
Hanoi Rocks originally wanted to remix Oriental Beat in the early ’90s, when Guns N’ Roses re-released their catalog on their Uzi Suicide vanity label, but the original multitrack recordings were lost and presumed gone forever. But fate smiled on the band when a Universal Music employee uncovered the original multitracks in a warehouse. Monroe says the new-and-improved Oriental Beat — “the remix, the real mix,” with “no overdubs, just as it was” — will arrive this November.
The singer says there won’t be any bonus tracks on the remixed Oriental Beat, but he did find other goodies alongside the original multitrack tapes that could eventually see the light of day. “We’re gonna keep the album as it was, with just a better sound,” he explains. “But at the same time, we found a couple more multitrack tapes with outtakes from the first album [1981’s Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks] and second one as well. There’s a bunch of stuff that I didn’t even know existed. That will probably be out on a box set.”
Monroe will keep his foot on the gas well into 2023. He’s looking for somebody to translate his eponymous 2011 autobiography into English, and he plans to release a documentary about his life and career next year. “We got a cool [scene] with Alice Cooper when we were out touring with him in Milan,” he says. “Early in the day, we were in a hotel, and I filmed a clip with me and Alice in a hotel room talking about rock ‘n’ roll. And he was telling me all these stories about the early days in Detroit when they were playing with the MC5 — Alice Cooper, MC5 and Iggy and the Stooges, a great lineup, and Ted Nugent and the whole Detroit scene.”
The singer’s connection to Cooper goes back decades, as Hanoi Rocks covered the shock-rocker’s classic “Under My Wheels” on their 1984 live album All Those Wasted Years. “When we were doing [1984’s] Two Steps From the Move, [producer] Bob Ezrin was trying to get Alice to come to the studio, but Alice couldn’t make it back then,” he explains. “We were gonna record ‘Under My Wheels’ with Alice, and then that never happened. But then Guns N’ Roses did it later on [for 1988’s The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years soundtrack]. We were supposed to do that first because we used to play it live. I’m glad somebody did it.”
Watch Hanoi Rocks Play ‘Under My Wheels’ Live at the Marquee in 1983
As if that weren’t enough, next year will also see the reissue and first-ever vinyl release of Demolition 23, the self-titled 1994 debut album from Monroe’s short-lived punk band, which featured former Hanoi Rocks bassist Sami Yaffa and was largely written and produced by Steven Van Zandt. The E Street Band journeyman will release Demolition 23 on his Wicked Cool Records in October, complete with new artwork from Monroe’s guitarist Rich Jones and vintage photos from the singer’s archives.
With all these projects in the works, it’s clear that the title of Monroe’s latest solo offering, I Live Too Fast to Die Young, is more than just a tongue-in-cheek inversion of a rock ‘n’ roll cliche; it’s a personal and professional credo. “I never get complacent, always try to go for a better performance live, make a better record than the previous one and never get complacent,” he tells UCR. “I try to improve. There’s always room for improvement, which is good, because that keeps me hungry. Keeps me trying.”
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