W.A.S.P. / Dante Fox Drummer
Tony Richards

FIB MUSIC:  What's New?

Tony:   What's new? Ummmm. Well......There's not a lot that is new. I'm still looking for a good bunch of guys around my age, that are seasoned and wanting to do the type of material that I guess that I'm known for, which is bashing on the drums. Plus, it's the material that I love playing. I am working with a guy named Carl Della Vella, which I believe you know, he's a good bass player, the guitar player is great, he's a younger guy named Lee Oliver, they're excellent players. We just aren't sure of a direction yet. We were going to hang around locally and play a few covers and what not, but we kind of got bored with that really quick. So now the last couple of months, we've been writing and it has been sounding pretty good. We're recording it ourselves.

FIB MUSIC:   ...it's more of a blues band right?

Tony:  Well, (laughs), it started out that way. Because we weren't sure if we were going to hold on to a sax player, who was also a phenomenal player, Terry Anderson. I think he kind of stepped out because he was seeing what we were seeing, which was, I was trying to tell these guys that we were going to end up as a three-piece anyway. We had another guitar player, but he wasn't working out. So I'm thinking, here we are, three pretty damn good players and we all love that sound, that Creem, Hendrix, you know that sound, right? Eric Clapton, Traffic....that's a little more involved than a three-piece, but you know just things along those lines. We were thinking we would add some heavier blues, ZZ Top, Stevie Ray Vaughn and just play the nice paying gigs around here, like up north, in Sedona and Cave Creek. They pay well and they love to hear that stuff. A lot of the bike crowd. Which, I fit in real well with those people (laughs)....they're real, real good people. But we have had as many name changes as we have direction changes, you know what I mean? I think we are going to stick to writing some different things and we have a few people that are interested, in not only backing the situation, but maybe vocally and maybe a second guitar....I don't know, if I should say any names yet. It's kind of soon. But there is one person from the Phoenix area and everybody knows who he is...he's been around. He's in Vegas right now. He's interested. So we'll see what what happens with that. I'm hanging in there for now, you know, I like what we're doing, but I must say it's not quite my style. It can be, we'll see what happens....but you know....I'm a hard hitter and I love the drums....and I love to hear the drums.

FIB MUSIC:  We heard that no one could play on your kit with the way you set them up. Randy joked that everything was backwards.

Tony:  Yeah....oh there's a few out there. I'm kind of ambidextrous. I don't cross my hands to hit a hi-hat and a snare. My hi-hat is on the right, my snare is in the center and my left foot is my kick drum. It is kind of funky. Most people like maybe eight or nine out of ten can't sit behind that kit.

FIB MUSIC:  And you played that way when you were in W.A.S.P.?

   I sure did. I was probably nine or ten when I got my first set. It wasn't even a full set of drums and I sort of didn't know what I was doing.....I had a natural thing going for it and I was able to work out beats, even though I didn't have a full kit of drums. By that I mean, I didn't even have all the hardware. I was ten years old and just not sure what I needed to have. I think we bought them for fifty bucks at a store. Out here they used to have called, Yellowfront. It was before stores like Walmart. I'm dating myself now man....that's the sixties.

FIB MUSIC:  Who were some of your influences, in the beginning?

Tony:  At that age? When I was figuring out how to play and all that?

FIB MUSIC:  Once you began to get into it. When you began to take it seriously.

Tony:  I'm a real loyal guy. When I'm in on something and I'm getting that back from the rest of the guys....I'm like the loyal bitch, I won't leave, you know what I mean? And I put a hundred percent into it. I guess what I mean is, I still like bands that I dug when I was growing up. Well, I'll start by saying, I started playing at ten and kind of messed around on them until I was like fourteen. Then I started to realize I had something. I could keep a really good beat and other guys were telling me that it was sounding great. I ended up playing with guys that were twice my age. By the time I was fifteen, I was playing with thirty year olds, here in the Phoenix area. That is leading me to a guy named Steve Smith, who is long gone. I don't know what the hell happened to him; I wish I could find him. He was a Phoenix freak way back then. He had the hair like Alice & the Boys, you know, when they were the Spiders. He had the hair down to his ass and played the guitar like nobody else. He turned me on to people like Chick Corea - Return to Forever. Just out of the ordinary things that I had never picked up on. You know, I was listening to Black Sabbath, but Steve got me into something really good, that has stuck with me since. Things like Chick Corea and I can't remember some of these other...you know what I mean? The music is very progressive and the musicianship is incredible. But that really helped my drumming and helped me as a person, you know, opened my mind. I was always very open to anything and everything after that. ACDC, Zeppelin, Robin Trower and all that stuff came along, I was ready for it. Obviously it was different; it was rock, or what later became metal. And of course, the beats were more simple, so I kind of picked right up on it. So when I hooked up with these guys that were twice my age, there was no one around. So they went ahead and brought in this fifteen year old kid to play drums for their band. The band was named Teaser and we were busy. I mean we played all the time, because we were playing like out of the way things like, Tommy Bolin, Deep Purple and all kinds of stuff, not your typical stuff on the radio. We were playing off the wall stuff and people were loving it. But that shaped me as a drummer, in the early days. We're talking like '73 or '74. There was a place called the Library that we used to play at. Apparently there is another place called the Library here, but it is not the same one.

FIB MUSIC:   You grew up in Phoenix?

Tony:  Yeah, I just leave it at that, because I was born back east, but we moved here when I was two.

FIB MUSIC:  How do you end up moving to Los Angeles?

Tony:  Well, two weeks after I graduated Scottsdale High....I don't know how. I actually graduated and about two to three weeks after I graduated, I'd had enough. My old man and shit; I just had to get out of the house. I had this '67 Camaro and I had a trailer hitch on it. I rented the smallest U-Haul you could get and I threw my set in the back of it with whatever ripped up clothes I had and I was gone. I went to Los Angeles without knowing a soul and that was in '75. There was nothing here; there was nothing going on. Everyone I had gone to school with disappeared and there were really no bands. I've always been kind of a loner, so I never hung out with the band scene, which was next to none back then. But I figured I had to get out of here and go where something was going on. LA was close and that's where a lot of shit happened, so I went.

FIB MUSIC:  Where do you stay when you get there.

Tony:  Well, I had a gorgeous mexican girl that I was dating; we had just split up, but I was good friends with her mother. So her mother had moved to I think it was Whittier, Pico Rivera, or it may have even been Santa Anna. Anyway, she said I could crash on her couch, until I got my shit together and that's what I did. I didn't know a soul. I remember I got some funky little job. I worked all of about a month maybe and that's when I ran into Jack Russell and Mark Kendall.

FIB MUSIC:   Wow. You were working with them in the 70's?

Tony:   Yeah, the late 70's. I left in '75 and probably hung out and didn't do shit for about a year. Met them, kind of hung out. I don't remember putting a band together with them right away, but there was always talk about it. They had a drummer at the time and I was the new kid in town that had this big old, ugly ass, clear, green set of Ludwig. The Vistalites, like Bonham played, only mine were green. I stood out. This crazy looking kit, with tons of cymbals and shit, but I could play them.

FIB MUSIC:  Did you play with anybody before you hooked up with Jack Russell and Mark Kendall?

Tony:  No, I didn't do shit, because I didn't know anyone. I didn't know where to go. So, I pretty much went to work and I was a good boy. I'd come home and hang out with my ex-girlfriend's old lady, which the girlfriend actually came out there and the mother had a guy living there. So it was kind of like a little family after awhile. We just kind of all worked and shit. I don't remember doing a lot, but you have to bear with me Adam, this was a long time ago. (laughs) These are foggy days man. But I probably didn't do much for the first year that I was there. Eventually, I hooked up with Jack & Mark and that was the first band that I joined. At the time, they had a drummer, well the guy they ended up with, Audie Desbrow.

FIB MUSIC:  Audie was playing with them back then, before "Shot in the Dark"?

Tony:  Yeah, but at the time, the guy couldn't play a note. I thought he was ok, you know? I was hungry and all that and wanted to play, but I wasn't the type of guy that would be like "fuck that dude, I could drum circles around that guy". I didn't do that. I was just a guy that kind of hung around and everybody was like, who is this guy? I remember this, because I was just a loner from out of town, but I could play and people caught on to that. Before I knew it, they were asking me to join. So, I guess the way I remember it is, they got rid of Audie and pulled me in and we were in Dante Fox.

FIB MUSIC:  This is like '77 or '78?

Tony:  Exactly.

Jack Russell and Mark Kendall in Dante Fox
FIB MUSIC:  That's amazing, I just assumed you guys got together in the early 80's.

Tony:   No, I would say that it all kind of changed around '80 or '81. We kind of switched; I went one way and they went another.

FIB MUSIC:   You mean when you left the band to play in W.A.S.P.?

Tony:  I didn't actually leave the band. I kind of got fired, but that's another story. How much time you got man?

FIB MUSIC:   Shit, we got as long as you want to talk.

Tony:  Just a second, let me grab a cigarette......................
Where were we at?

FIB MUSIC:  Let's come back to the part where you got fired. Who was in the original line-up of Dante Fox?

Tony:  Well, we had this guy from Glendora, sort of near Pasadena and he wasn't that good. He looked great though, which of course back then, if you looked great, you were in, you know? Pretty much the majority of the decision making was between Jack and Mark, because they had been together the longest and they started the band. I don't remember what we were calling ourselves at that time. Anyway, we put out this ad and we got this bass player from San Diego and his name was Don Costa. Great. Great bass player, but I mean...the guy was out there. Showmanship all the way and just an incredible player. Of course, he brought ideas along with him. Like I said, I don't remember what we were calling ourselves, until he came along and that was one of his ideas, to be called Dante Fox.

FIB MUSIC:  When you joined W.A.S.P., Don Costa came along with you, right?

Tony:   Yeah, I pulled him along, all kinds of places with me. Maybe we'll get into that later.

FIB MUSIC:  What was a Dante Fox show like?

Tony:   We had a mixture of covers and original material. There was no one else around, it seemed, at the time, that were quite like us. Our song selection, doing the type of material that we were doing. We would pick, out of the ordinary covers. Songs that were hard to do and that other people couldn't do, because of course.... we had Jack Russell's voice. And the guitar playing was nothing to sneeze at either. We were blessed and we were able to do what other people couldn't, so we got real popular; real fast. But as far as touring and shit, no. In those days we didn't. We took care of everything ourselves, we promoted all of our own shows. We did have a promoter for awhile, can't remember his name, but the guy ended up being a crook anyway. But we traveled, Country Club, down to Orange County, over to some place in the east, you know Chino, or some shit. A couple of beach clubs along the west coast.
FIB MUSIC:   What were some of the songs you guys did back then?

Tony:  To this day, I have cassette recordings of this shit somewhere. Boxes of cassettes, not labelled. I even have cassettes of Blackie and us when we were first writing songs for the first album. When we were just trying to poke out parts and what not. But, I would have to think, without sounding like a fool, you know, I would have to kind of mumble part of it or sing it. Some Journey, you know some of the better shit, Slade.....

FIB MUSIC:  Zeppelin?

Tony:   Oh yeah, we did Zeppelin. Of course with Jack. The things we did, maybe there were bands that could do some of the stuff we were doing, but not like us. We just stood out. Me with the big-huge-green drums, Jack with his voice. Mark, the way he looked back then....oh, my god. He looked like an albino. He had a white fro, a naturally white fro. He didn't curl it; he didn't color it. It was just a white fro and he had these piercing blue eyes that were almost pink. I mean, everyone teased him like he was an albino or some shit. But we were different looking. And I had a lot of nice blonde hair, but Don, of course, was Don Juan man. He had this thick black italian hair and he was little muscle bound and he played the bass like a mad man. He played the bass like Jimmy played the guitar.

FIB MUSIC:  You never played with Lorne Black?

Tony:   No I didn't, those people came later. You know, I'm always the first one out, it's weird.

FIB MUSIC:   But you are in Dante Fox for years right?

Tony:  Yeah. Years. That broke my heart man; we were friends. We had a house together dude, we were buying a house together. A big old four bedroom house. We threw parties there, keg parties, rent parties, you know? We had furniture up on the roof and all of our equipment in the living room, a big block wall around the yard...huge yard. It was a corner lot, you know, we had a lot friends. We had some big jock types that would watch the gates and handle the money. Yeah man, we'd pay our rent by doing shit like that. Everyone was doing shit like that back then.

FIB MUSIC:   Why do you leave Dante Fox?

Tony:   I can't remember if I left first. I think it was me and then Don was pissed and he followed. What happened exactly? Ummmmmm. They got picked up; we were being looked at. These guys that wanted to manage them, wanted to totally change the band. They wanted to tone the band down a lot. They wanted them to be very accessible, real commercial. So, the first guy to go was the drummer. The drummer's set was huge, his playing was over the top. It didn't fit. Just me and my style didn't fit for what they had in mind for Great White. So they let me go. Then I guess Costa got pissed off and didn't want to play with another drummer. Well, they got this other drummer who was kind of a pussy drummer, real light on the sticks. But that's what they wanted. They wanted somebody who would play real light beats and straight ahead, almost like a drum machine would do.
FIB MUSIC:  Kind of funny, because they fire that drummer after the first self-titled record.

Tony:  Exactly and then they bring back Audie. Audie is a good guy....a good friend of mine. All this time, Audie had been honing his chops, he had been practicing and he was either going to come back, or get something better. So he ended up coming back.

FIB MUSIC:  By the time you leave the band, they are still called Dante Fox, right?

Tony:  It was right on the verge. That's what their manager wanted them to do. Change the name, get rid of the drummer, tone down the music and all that stuff. They were wanting to get rid of Don too, cause he was crazy.

FIB MUSIC:  It's odd, because that first (major label) self-titled release was the heaviest Great White ever got, even heavier than the previous releases. Was that the direction they were wanting to go? Did they still have the same management by that time?

Tony:  Pretty much. But if you noticed, each album got a little more commercial.

FIB MUSIC:  Absolutely. Do you remember what songs you were doing at that time? Did any of those songs appear on the later Great White recordings.

Tony:   We were working on some of that stuff, but it wasn't the same, it was a little more rowdy. Actually, we didn't have a direction. The originals? I couldn't even tell you what they were, it has been so long. I left right before and during all that.

FIB MUSIC:  But the band was much more aggressive than what they were on the self-titled album?

Tony:  Oh yeah.

FIB MUSIC:   One of the great things about that release, is Jack's voice. That aggression in his voice. He never sung like that again on any other Great White record.

Tony:  I know. I don't think they were too happy with the direction later on. I think there were more and more demands put on them later. I would see Jack & Mark a few times at parties after that and they weren't too thrilled with it all. They were making the money, but their art, their craft, or whatever you want to call it took the bite for that. But they were making money, so they kept their mouth shut. And even then, in the end, I heard they got taken for a lot of cash, so who knows what happened there.

FIB MUSIC:  What was it like working with Jack Russell?

Tony:  In those early days? Oh, it was pure chaos.

FIB MUSIC:  The guy was always in jail wasn't he?

Tony:  Yeah. I mean, none of us were saints, but he just had a knack for it, you know, in and out.

FIB MUSIC:  Any cool memories stand out from the house you guys were living in?

Tony:   Oh Yeah. We were just playing it up; we were bad boys. (laughs, then sings) "It's Closing Time". Sometimes we would buy only one keg, knowing that the party was going to be shut down before we could finish that keg. We'd pack them all in and collect all their money. Knowing that the cops were going to be there real soon to shut it down. But we would get our rent that way....... because it would get old, you know? They would trash the house; cops would come and there would be trouble anyway. So it got to where it was like a business. We would calculate it, we knew that we'd just get this one keg, we'll collect the money; we know it's going to be shut down before that, we'll already have our rent money; we'll keep a few select women behind and drink the rest of the keg, in the house and there you go. Lock the doors, have the cops get everyone off the property. (laughs) And then the rest of the night was ours.

FIB MUSIC:  You guys also played at these parties, right?

Tony:  Oh yeah. The house that we were buying was on a corner lot and for whatever reason, it had a good size lot....I want to say a 1/4 acre, but that sounds huge, but it was big though. It was this corner lot and the house was just trashed. We got in there and fixed it up and got in there real cheap. But it had a huge yard, perfect for partying. Of course, in the end, we trashed it again anyway.

FIB MUSIC:  So when you get kicked out of the band, do you still get a cut of the house?

Tony:  No, I just left. If I had a car that quit running, I would leave it right there where it quit running. If I had furniture at someone's house, I would leave it there. Just move on, that's how it was back then.

FIB MUSIC:  Describe a typical DAY-IN-THE-LIFE-OF Tony Richards back then. From the time you woke up to the time you fell asleep.

Tony:  Well, I move around a lot. I ran into this girl Diana. Her sister, they were both very, very fine looking ladies. The sister had this boyfriend and he was a wealthy mexican. So, what can I say man, for ahwile I moved around from stash house to stash house. I worked for him for a while and just kind of moved pot around for him and did little errands and stuff like that and I would help him keep up his properties. Just doing things to survive back then, you know, in between bands and shit.

FIB MUSIC:  Did you work with any other bands in between Great White and W.A.S.P.?

Tony:  Sure. On and off for years, I kept going back, in between all the other shit that I was doing. I kept going back to a good friend of mine, named Pat Mckeon, who was from Orange County and he had a pretty big band at the time called, Max Havoc. Great guy, excellent vocalist, there was nothing he couldn't sing. We kind of skipped a little, but me and Pat had this band called Max Havoc, right before the 90's hit. Shit like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees, Alice in Chains and all that good stuff. We had put a cover band together, because it was taking a lot of time to write shit. A couple of members came and went, because they couldn't hang. Ultimately, we were just kicking ass, we were doing Nirvana and all that stuff. And I am telling you this guy had a voice and I could play any of that shit. The guitar players we had were phenomenal. We could play all that shit to the "T".

FIB MUSIC:  This is the mid-90's?

Tony:  No, early.....yeah, mid-90's. Early to mid.

FIB MUSIC:  Just to clarify. When you leave Great White, you start working with Pat, right?

Tony:  Yeah, I had worked with Pat before. Somewhere in between Great White and W.A.S.P., I had started working with Pat. Yeah, after Great White........well, this is where it gets real sketchy. I knew Pat and he knew me, but I had never worked with him.....Jeez, when did I hook up with him? I really did a lot of partying back then as did everybody.

FIB MUSIC:  Did you play with any other musicians that went on to be successful?

Tony:  Just locally. I also even gave lessons for awhile. I was living in Long Beach and there were a bunch of kids in the neighborhood. I was just kicking back and not doing much. There used to be a place called Fender's Ballroom, in downtown Long Beach. They used to have a lot of punk shows there. I would hang out with bands like Black Flag, X and all these different people that would come through there. I would go there and have drinks and watch the shows. Sometimes, I would even kind of work there, you know, clean up and shit. Because I used to live across the street and I knew the owners. So, I fucked off a lot of time, where I just sat back and was disappointed because I couldn't find what I was looking for out there. So, I did waste some time.

FIB MUSIC:  So maybe a couple of years before you join W.A.S.P.?

Tony:  No, the thing with W.A.S.P. was pretty much right away. I know I am confusing you, because I'm confused myself. I remember that we pretty much traded drummers.

FIB MUSIC:  Gary Holland was in W.A.S.P.?

Tony:  Yeah, but it wasn't called W.A.S.P. yet. They were called Circus Circus. They had made phone calls; they had seen me and Great White had seen Gary. So they figured, they got our drummer, he doesn't fit with them. And Blackie was like, "Well, you guys got our drummer, we need someone over the top like that". So, pretty much, right after Great White, I went with W.A.S.P. and we fart around for about a year and wrote and played a few clubs. Where Max Havoc comes in....I'm sorry man, it's just such a mess. It was in between and after W.A.S.P.

Rik Fox, Blackie Lawless, Tony Richards & Randy Piper

FIB MUSIC:  When you hook up with Blackie, the name of the band was still Circus Circus?

Tony:  No, they had changed the name right away. When I got in there, they were like we are going to start over and do this. I was there from the creation of W.A.S.P.

FIB MUSIC:  Is Rik Fox in the band at that time?

Tony:  No, we brought Rik out from New York and he didn't last that long. He had the look, but I'm sorry to say, he just couldn't play a note back then. He's better now, but you know, that was a time when everyone wanted to come to LA and be in a band and be rich. It just wasn't like that. But it didn't last long, after we booted him, I think that's when Blackie decided to play bass and we brought Chris Holmes back in on guitar and Randy. Blackie and Randy had their falling out years before I had ever known them.

FIB MUSIC:  Yeah, I got an email saying that Randy had left the band for awhile, just after Rik leaves.

Tony:  That's true. And Blackie had me go crawling back to get Randy back in. Yeah, Randy had a setup in a warehouse, a very nice setup. A rehearsal studio and he lived up on top. That's where he was when I met him and that's where we also rehearsed in the beginning. I've got some old funky cassettes of us back then. Talking, "Hey don't do that, do this here". Weird shit, the songs barely even sound the same.

FIB MUSIC:  How long was Randy out of the band?

Tony:  Couple of months. They were always bickering about something. I was the newcomer, plus I wasn't Mr. Hollywood, I was just some dude from Phoenix, what did I know. I would just sit back and let them hash it out. Then I would start busting out some beats and they would be all happy again and start writing to them.