Hard rock sweet spot

I have learned if you want to get paid, play for bikers

Rob Farr: “The ‘90s came and Nirvana f----d it all up.”
  • Rob Farr: “The ‘90s came and Nirvana f----d it all up.”

Rob Farr was embedded in the glammed-up hair metal scene that ruled West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip in the mid-’80s.

“There was band called Ruby Slippers which were basically Poison before they became Poison,” says Farr who grew up in the San Fernando Valley but now lives in Oceanside. “They wore tons of makeup to make themselves look like chicks. They were so made up, they looked like transsexuals. But they end up getting all the chicks.”

He says the decadence displayed in the 30-year-old rockumentary The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years was all real.

“Everyone was wearing leather and Spandex and doing cocaine and Wild Turkey in excess. It got ridiculous.”

Farr says his bands at the time, Detante, Hit ‘n’ Run, and Tiger Rose, were sonically “a little bit tougher” than the Mötley Crües and the Poisons that preened on stage in rouge and lipstick. “We were more harder-edged like early Metallica or Megadeth. We were pretty close to the thrash metal you’d see in punk clubs.”

Farr started playing in bands at 13. He’s still headbanging in his mid-50s. He plays in the internationally famous Warrior and in a tribute to the metal hits of the ’80s he calls Radio 80s.

“I joined Warrior in the late ’90s. It was after their peak, but there are still Warrior fans out there. We still tour Europe every couple of years. Warrior is a power metal band like Judas Priest or Iron Maiden… power metal with melodic vocals. It is very different from the metal that’s out there now which I like to call Cookie Monster metal.”

He says at some point 20 years ago, it became clear his band Hit ‘n’ Run stopped being a viable source of income. “The ‘90s came and Nirvana fucked it up for all us rocker dudes… It seemed like everyone loved us, but we weren’t making any money. We would come off the road from a tour and I’d tell our record label we were broke and we needed an advance. They said, ‘We’re glad you called: We were about to send you a bill.’ There were a lot of shady label people. I signed contracts without a lawyer only to find out I signed my life away to some idiot.”

So Farr took the reins and found his own hard rock sweet spot by managing his own band with its own record label. “National Dust started as an all-original Hollywood club band playing the circuit. That morphed into a biker band that was constantly on tour playing the biker rallies. And we just never stopped.”

That was until about five years ago when an ugly “Spinal Tap moment,” involving spiteful girlfriends caused National Dust to bite the dust. “Then about two years ago I started playing biker shows again. There is a local biker group called the Forgotten Sons who are all bad-ass Marines who put on this Wounded Warriors show each year. I have learned if you want to get paid, play for bikers. They have the money. They can pay for those expensive bikes.”

He formed his Radio 80s cover band “…to play all the great stuff by bands you don’t hear anymore like Thin Lizzy, Great White, the Scorpions, UFO.” He says rock radio now largely ignores ’80s metal. “But you’d be surprised some of the kids who show up at our show in their 20s who know these songs. These young Marines who just got back from a tour of combat just showed up and they know these songs by Dokken or Y&T. I asked them how they would know these bands and they’d say that this is what their parents were playing growing up.”

Past Event

Radio 80s

Radio 80s appears Saturday, November 17 at Ringers in Bonsall.

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