Michael Monroe talks about Hanoi Rock’s ‘Oriental Beat’ reissue

It’s a great time to be one Michael Monroe fan – and an incredibly busy time to be Michael Monroe.

The tireless rocker has just released his latest solo album, I live too fast to die young, in June, and he has a number of other projects in the works in the near future. First up is a remixed 40th anniversary reissue of ISLANDrietal Beatthe 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 best-loved songs, including the title track and “Motorvatin'”, the band members have often and emphatically criticized its inferior production.

“The second [album] was produced by this guy, Peter Woolliscroft—it was really terrible,” Monroe tells UCR. “There’s a lot of good songs, but the mix was really, really bad. So all you can hear is like a snare drum and vocals, and it just ruined the whole record, and it probably set us back 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, then Guns ‘n’ Roses reissued 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 discovered the original multitracks in a warehouse. Monroe says the new and improved Oriental Beat — “the remix, the genuine mix,” with “no overdubs, just like it was” — coming in November.

The singer says there will be no bonus tracks on the remix Oriental beat, but he found other goodies alongside the original multitrack tapes that eventually saw the light of day. “We want to keep the album as it was, with just a better sound,” he explains. “But at the same time we found a few more multitrack tapes with outtakes from the first album [1981’s Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks] and the other too. There are a lot of things that I didn’t even know existed. It will probably come out on a box set.”

Monroe will keep his foot on the gas well into 2023. He is looking for someone to translate his 2011 autobiography into English, and he plans to release a documentary about his life and career next year. “We’re cool [scene] with Alice Cooper when we were out on tour with him in Milan,” he says. “Early in the day we were in a hotel and I filmed a clip of me and Alice in a hotel room talking about rock ‘n’ roll. And he told me all these stories about the early days in Detroit when they were playing along MC5 – Alice Cooper, MC5 and Iggy and Stoogesa great lineup, and Ted Nugent and the whole Detroit scene.”

The singer’s connection to Cooper dates back decades, when Hanoi Rocks covered the shock rocker’s classic “Under My Wheels” on their 1984 live album All the wasted years. “When we were in business [1984’s] Two steps from the move, [producer] Bob Ezrin tried to get Alice to come to the studio, but Alice couldn’t make it then,” he explains. “We were supposed to record ‘Under My Wheels’ with Alice, and it never happened. But then Guns N’ Roses did it later [for 1988’s The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years soundtrack]. We were supposed to do it first because we used to play it live. I’m glad someone did.”

Watch Hanoi Rocks play ‘Under My Wheels’ Live at the Marquee in 1983

As if that wasn’t enough, next year will also see the reissue and the first vinyl release of Demolition 23the 1994 self-titled 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. That 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 of 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 is a personal and professional credo. “I never get complacent, always try to go for a better performance live, make a better record than the last one and never get complacent,” he tells UCR. “I’m trying to improve. There’s always room for improvement, which is good because it keeps me hungry. Makes me try.”

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