DECADES after they burst onto the charts with their landmark album Metal Health, Quiet Riot is still going under the direction of drummer Frankie Banali. Banali is the only member left from the classic lineup, and has forged ahead through some difficult times that include the death of founding member and singer Kevin DuBrow.
The band, which now features American Idol finalist James Durbin on vocals, is set to perform as the headliner for this year’s Tybee Island Pirate Festival on Saturday, October 6.
Now in its 14th year, the annual Pirate Fest on Tybee is a weekend for people to enjoy live entertainment, family activities, food, drinks, and fun all while wearing pirate costumes. Organizers have been known to bring in big names for headliners, and the legendary 80s rockers are no exception.
Quiet Riot, formed by DuBrow and initially featuring the late guitar legend Randy Rhoads, went through some early lineup shifts before eventually landing on the classic lineup featuring Banali. 1983’s Metal Health put the band on the map, providing something of a sonic bridge between AC/DC’s Back In Black and the glam metal that came after it. The band had a hit with the song “Cum On Feel The Noize,” a song originally performed by 70s glam rock icons Slade, which catapulted them into the national spotlight. It also was the first time that Slade, who tried hard on their own to break in the U.S. despite massive success in the U.K., became known to American audiences on a major scale.
“They wrote great songs that were hits elsewhere but not in the US,” Banali says. “I think our version of ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’ was fresh and everyone benefited from our version. It became a hit for Quiet Riot helping to make us famous and Slade made a great deal of money from our version. That’s a win win anyway you look at it!”
Metal Health has maintained acclaim in the years since its release, which Banali attributes to producer Spencer Proffer and engineer Duane Baron – who the drummer says “both did great work” on the album.
These days, Banali is both musically leading and managing the band. After DuBrow’s passing in 2007, he received blessing from the singer’s family to carry on and has been doing so ever since. He says that the band and its fans are “as important” as his own family, and preserving the legacy of Quiet Riot is something “worth fighting for.”
“I have survived the many personal changes and faces of Quiet Riot. I have survived the death of my best friend Kevin DuBrow, I have survived all of the criticism,” he adds. “I’ve always believed in Quiet Riot and I’ve always been up to the task be it the good times and bad times.”
That passion and drive is what led him to Durbin, a former American Idol contestant who joined the group in 2017. Banali said that when he discovered Durbin, he was at a point where he’d went through a number of vocalists who were soundalike singers, to various degrees. When it came time to hire someone new, he decided to focus on “finding a singer who had the range, was comfortable as a performer and had their own vocal identity while still being reasonably faithful to the vocals, the songs and the long legacy” of the band.
“I thought he was the most capable from everyone else we had since Kevin DuBrow’s death,” Banali says of Durbin. With Durbin, the band released the album Road Rage, which was largely completed prior to the singer joining.
As a drummer, Banali’s influences are extremely diverse – something he feels is important for any musician who wants to grow in their craft.
“If you are serious as a musician you have to listen to everything,” he says. “Vinnie Colaiuta and Buddy Rich taught me dexterity and dynamics as well as a different approach to tunings and song arrangements. Ringo and Charlie Watts taught me how to play songs. John Bonham taught me everything else I needed to know in 1968. But the list really goes so deep that this would be an entirely separate interview!”
Banali, who says he’s always treated each song he’s written and/or recorded “as its own person and personality,” adds that he’s learned to view even the simplest aspects of a song differently in the studio than in concert – meaning that there’s always something unique about each Quiet Riot show and it doesn’t subscribe to any sort of template or technical crutch.
“I’m a very big believer that not all songs work at the same tempo on a recording vs the live version and I am never afraid of playing certain songs faster live than in the studio,” he says. “I learned these lessons from everyone from Miles Davis, Led Zeppelin and everyone in-between with studio versions vs live versions.”
For someone whose career has spanned several decades and an impressive list of credits including stints with Billy Idol, W.A.S.P., and Steppenwolf, Banali says that it’s easy to keep his passion for music alive within an ever-changing and often frustrating industry. At the end of the day, it’s about the songs.
“I still love to play the drums, I still love to play these songs, I still love Quiet Riot,” he says.
“From a business aspect, I am dedicated and focused to do the best I can behind the scenes for the band and onstage for the fans because even if only one person paid to see you play, that person deserves the best you have to offer.”
As for performing live with the band, Banali insists that the fans always keep things exciting.
“[We have] great longtime fans that have been with us since 1983 and amazing younger fans that have come onboard along the way,” he says. “That is what keeps me going, that is what keeps me protective of Quiet Riot.”