In its heyday 10 years ago, Chicago’s Enuff Z’nuff was the toast of the rock world. Its self-titled debut Atco album charted for nearly a year and spawned two hit singles, “Fly High Michelle” and “New Thing.”
Bassist Chip Z’Nuff knows things have changed since then, but the passion still remains.
“We went through bankruptcy, in 1991, with Atco/Atlantic,” Z’Nuff said recently. “Then we got signed to Arista; the first single went out and it was a real pop song; it didn’t show our rock roots. The label was turning their backs on the fans we had already acquired. They felt we had a smash-hit, home-run single, and when it didn’t hit a home run, they panicked. The record company and our management didn’t see eye to eye and let us out of our contract.
“We knew it was going to be a difficult time after that because when we sat down with our friend over in Ministry, Al Jourgensen, he mentioned to us that when he was with Arista, it didn’t go very well and it took them five years to turn their career around.
“We didn’t want to stop putting records out so we signed with an indie label and kept touring with no support and no radio. We still sold enough records to stay in business, but everybody was still living in apartments, paying rent and one paycheck away from being broke. A lot of people in the world are in that same position, and maybe that comes out in our music and people relate to that.”
Enuff Z’nuff may not be in the upper echelon anymore, but grit and determination blankets its debut Spitfire/Stoney album, “Paraphernalia,” which features guest appearances from fellow Chicago natives Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, Styx’s James Young and Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins.
“I’ve done 70 interviews in the past three weeks,” Z’Nuff said, “and it’s probably because of Rick Nielsen, James Young and Billy Corgan; people want to talk about them and that’s great, but everyone’s been real favorable about the album. Everyone compares it to our earlier stuff. Sonically, it’s strong, punchy and powerful. The album was engineered and mixed by Chris Shephard, who did the last KMFDM record and the last Wilco record and also the Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Mellon Collie (and the Infinite Sadness).’ We were fortunate enough to work with some fantastic cats in the business to help us achieve our vision with these songs.”
It didn’t take much to get Nielsen and Young involved. They willingly came to the aid of Z’Nuff, longtime lead singer Donnie Vie, guitarist Monaco and drummer Ricky Parent. Amazingly, Z’Nuff said, Corgan was an easy sell, too.
“Cheap Trick was playing a four-night engagement at the Cabaret Metro (in Chicago) and they were putting out a record called ‘Music For Hangovers,’ all earlier material, and one of the nights the Pumpkins played with them,” he said. “I ended up pulling Billy to the side and said, ‘I’d love for you to play on the record.’ I showed him the track listing and he saw we were doing a cover of ‘Everything Works If You Let It,’ and he said, ‘Man, that’s one of my favorite Cheap Trick songs.’ I said, ‘It’d be great if you came down and played it. I already have two of the biggest guns out of Chicago on this record and having you would totally put an exclamation point on it.’ Between the three of them, they’ve collectively sold more than 100 million albums. For them all to play with Enuff Z’nuff was a total honor for us.”
It has been and still is an uphill struggle for Z’Nuff and his band mates, but it has been worth it, he said.
“We thank God we’re still making records,” he said. “We get to cleanse our souls creating music and these songs and touring. We love what we do. When we plug in, we feel it’s magical. What else are we going to do after we’ve been making records all these years? The life expectancy for most entertainers is five years, and for us to still be doing this 15 years later is really a miracle. The reason we’re still in the business is because of the songs and the diehard fans. We’ve always been the critics’ darlings, but it’d be nice to see us latch onto a tour where we can reach more people.”
THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: “Queen’s ‘Sheer Heart Attack.’ Great production by Roy Thomas Baker. Queen set an indelible mark on the history of music with that record, with the operatic vocals and strong guitars. It’s so melodic.”
THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT: “I don’t remember, actually, but there are two that I remember fondly. The first one being Queen and Thin Lizzy in 1974 or ’75. Thin Lizzy blew Queen away, and Queen was my favorite, quintessential rock band. They’re like the Beatles to me, and they got their asses whipped. It was right when Brian Robertson, the original guitar player, got in a bar fight and cut his hand up and tore some tendons, so the guitar player who was filling in for Thin Lizzy on the tour was Gary Moore, the blues cat. Unbelievable. Nobody knew who he was, but at the end of the night, everybody did. The other concert I remember fondly was Golden Earring and Ginger Gurvitz Army, with Ginger Baker of Cream.”
BWF (before we forget): The Enuff Z’nuff album discography – “Enuff Z’nuff” (Atco, 1989); “Strength” (1991); “Animals With Human Intelligence” (Arista, 1993); “1985” (Big Deal, 1994); “Tweaked” (Mayhem, 1995); “Peach Fuzz” (Big Deal/Stoney, 1996); “Seven” (1997); “Live” (1998); “Paraphernalia” (Spitfire/Stoney, 1999).
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