An Interview with
The Legendary Bassist of W.A.S.P., STEELER and SURGICAL STEEL
Interviewed by Glenn Milligan in June 2013
Glenn: What were the early days like for you growing up in New York and what got you initially into music?
Rik: I didn’t really get into music too much until I was approaching 12-ish, when one of my relatives bought me some albums by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. I remembered how cool it looked that they were all so ‘uniformly’ dressed; they looked like what I thought a band or group should look like; that they all ‘belonged’ together, no mistaking them from the average civilian. I guess you could say when I was in Parochial school, maybe 7th grade? I had an amateur band with my neighborhood schoolmates. John Altyn (the painter) was one of them, on guitar. I dubbed us ‘Phantasmagoria’, LOL. As far as ‘the business’, maybe that was more like when I made my debut performing at the famous and legendary NYC nightclub and restaurant Max’s Kansas City, with a group called ‘THE MARTIAN ROCK BAND’.
From there I jumped over to New Jersey with a club circuit cover band called VIRGIN, and we did all the popular glam type music of the day. This was like, about 1976 and we competed against similar bands like (the original line-up of) Twisted Sister and Harlow... VIRGIN eventually became SIN at my suggestion, and we stayed that way for a few years. That’s around the time when ANGEL came out and played a HEAVY role in shaping my eventual stage image, where I was eventually mistaken for guitarist Punky Meadows quite often. Many years’ later bands such as KISS, STARZ and ANGEL would emphasize more heavily on that concept and I followed suit likewise. Like many kids of the day, I recall fighting with my father about me wanting to be allowed to grow my hair just over my ears like Gary Puckett did and also The Beatles, and with him having been in radio, I couldn’t understand why he disapproved so strongly.
VIRGIN becomes SIN, New Jersey, 1976-77. Phoro (c) Gary Gershoff
So, music didn’t really begin to play any definitive role until my formative years of around 13 and on, when I received my first two ‘rock’ albums from my cousin: The Beatles’ ‘Rubber Soul’ and Steppenwolf’s debut album, both for my birthday December of 1968. That was what I’d classify as ‘my first step into the rabbit’s hole’; Wonderland of rock. I have to say that looking back I was born at a very pivotal point in history as whatever was becoming popular in 1967-68 was really striking a chord (no pun intended) with me.
I mean, I was well aware of the Beatles in the 1965-66 era and whatever else that was popular on the radio, but the approach to and into adolescence was where it all started solidifying. I began following the path of what I was hearing with Steppenwolf, I’d have to say. I loved their look, their sound, and after seeing them on American Bandstand and bassist Nick St. Nicholas was wearing a fringed, buckskin coat, leather pants, boots, etc, playing a Rickenbacker bass, that was it; the definitive moment that I, too, had to look like that and play a bass like that.
Long before anything like MTV was created, around 1969 or so there was a late night TV show called ‘Now Explosion’ (you can Google it) that played many of the popular hits along to various footage of all sorts of thing related to the song or creative imagery and optical effects. I think it came on about 2 am and I’d try to see it when I could. My Mother’s 2nd husband co-managed two Long Island rock bands, Atco recording artists The Unspoken Word and Avco/Embassy recording artists Liquid Smoke. He had tickets to a concert, and took me to my first concert in Hempstead, Long Island, it was a Richie Havens’ concert and I had never heard of him and I was kinda bored. I didn’t like folky acoustic music much.
But in 1970, I went to the now-legendary Shea Stadium concert to see Humble Pie and Grand Funk Railroad and as a freshman in high school; this sort of began putting me ahead of the pack, so to speak, mentally over many of those in my age group. I collected underground Zap Comix and that put me in great with the upperclassmen so I was the only freshman hip enough to be accepted by and hang out with the seniors.
Glenn: What turned you onto playing bass?
Rik: Well, like I mentioned, seeing Steppenwolf on TV and that pretty much set the mark for me. From that point on, I knew my path was being set before me. At that young age, you don’t have all the mental faculties or anything of substance behind you yet to know anything about ‘connecting-the-dots’…your life path is just being set up for you.
Glenn: Tell me about the first bands you were in before crossing over to the big league and how did you initially make that step to the bigger bands?
Rik: Just before coming out to L.A. in early 1982, I was cutting my teeth playing in club circuit cover bands. The E. Walker Band was a six-night a week ‘day-job’ for me.
We played everything from Joe Jackson to Judas Priest, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Ted Nugent, The Ramones, Originals and a lot of that early 80’s dorky punk music, LOL. I like some of it now, but back then, I was a hard-rocker and didn’t care much for punk, although I was friends with The Ramones and we actually did a few Ramones songs in our set. Like Twisted Sister, The E. Walker Band was a glorified bar-band; we were there to provide a live-jukebox experience and help the clubs sell drinks. But for me, it was Madison Square Garden every night. That’s what I got paid to do. PERFORM.
The E. Walker Band's Ray Dahr & Rik Fox, 1980-81. Photo: © Advertising Unlimited/Rik Fox Archives.
That’s what was going on in both New Jersey and over on Long Island, while, in Manhattan, NYC clubs, like The Great Gildersleeves and Traxx, that was the ‘original music zone’ for bands trying to get signed by record labels looking for the next big thing, so, whatever was popular in the clubs we did. Whereas Twisted Sister concentrated on sheer heavy songs and volume, E. Walker was more of a mid-range club band, but for a six-night a week job, it was almost like being on a mini-tour, and on my day off was when I had to do all my laundry for all my stage costuming, LOL…
AGGRESSOR, New Jersey, 1982. Photo (c) Rik Fox Archives
After I left E. Walker, I hooked up with Shrapnel Records New Jersey guitarist Dave Ferarra from the “U.S. Metal” series and we formed a band based on his U.S. Metal cut ‘AGGRESSOR’, and really got down to business doing all the heavy metal cover tunes in the clubs: Rush, Scorpions, Priest, Van Halen, Black Sabbath. You name it, we did it and the fans loved it. Aggressor was the last cover band I was in right before I left N.J. for L.A. But, going back before that, I started out professionally, more or less, debuting at the legendary Max’s Kansas City club, in Manhattan, NYC, with The Martian Rock Band; a sci-fi themed rock band. I took my cue from all that time seeing early KISS in the clubs and developed a painted/costumed character for that gig, since, in my opinion, at that time; they didn’t really have anything outlandish or ultra-showy until I joined.
In our opening song ‘Take me to Your Leader’, the lyrics said that: ‘the bass-player, he’s from Mercury’ so, even though we all know Mercury is a hot planet, I defied conventionality, and I designed a reptilian-lizard-looking character, complete with body scales, green skin, and green tongue, and, in a tip-of-the-hat to Gene Simmons, I puked up blood too, but mine was green, LOL…I shot fire out of my hands and used flash powder and flash paper from the Magic supply stores. It was all theater, from Alice Cooper to David Bowie; I watched everyone and tried to create something different. I got to meet and become friends with David Bowie’s (then) photographer, Lee Black Childers, who shot our band too and we wound up in Rock Scene Magazine a few times which was, more or less like the N.Y. version of Creem Magazine…
The Martian Rock Band in Rock Scene Magazine 1975. Photo (c) Leee Black Childers
So, when I joined them, The Martian Rock band didn’t have too much of an image, but after I got the gig, I had free reign to do so, and brought in my ‘KISS influence’ which, in actuality, made the bandleader, Sebastian, more motivated to up the ante and become more theatrical, so, it worked out better for the whole band really. We were shooting fire at each other and I puked up green ‘blood’ etc…I was definitely getting myself ‘on the map’…It was while I was a part of this awesome and magical NYC scene, that I was also working in a clothing store on 8th Street, in downtown Manhattan, just a few doors down from the legendary Electric Lady Studios where Jimi Hendrix (among many others) recorded and producer Eddie Kramer worked out of.
In walked a guy and his girlfriend and they looked rocker types. We got to discussing KISS (of course), and how I knew them, and that I was a bass player… he said he was in a Glam cover band over in New Jersey, playing the club circuit there, and that they were called VIRGIN, and they mentioned that they’d like to replace their bass player with someone who had a cooler image, asking me if I’d be interested in trying out for them. I said ‘sure’, and we set up an audition in one of the many rehearsal studios in Manhattan. I got the gig and began to learn a truckload of covers from Alice Cooper to Mott the Hoople, Bowie, KISS, hell, we did the original version of ‘Once Bitten, Twice Shy’ by Ian Hunter back in 1976-77.
Ian Chris of VIRGIN & SIN. Photo: © 1976-77Gary Gershoff
Our singer, Ian Chris was a dead-ringer for Bowie and he had ALL the moves; we even did an Alice Cooper set and he came out with a HUGE python snake around him, must have been about eight feet long! We wore glam make-up, platform boots (mine were 8 inches easy), and so, by 1977, after getting a copy of ANGEL’S ‘Helluva Band’ album, I was SO into ANGEL, that I had a costume made, imitating Mickie Jones’ complete with the same hairstyle, (until I grew it out and turned it into a copy of Punky Meadows’ hairstyle). Everyone loved it. We were a hit in the New Jersey Club circuit, right along our competition, a band named HARLOW who did practically the same show, but we were all good friends. Harlow led the way in glam club bands even before the pre-Dee Snider Twisted Sister. So, to say that I was paying my dues long before I ever came to Los Angeles would be a major understatement.
SIN's Rik Fox in ANGEL-ic costuming. Photo: (c) 1977 Rik Fox Archives
Today, for example, people in Face Book, flip out when they see photos of me performing and how I looked back in the 1970's during that, club band circuit! So, you can clearly see that all those ridiculous, petty ‘Rik Fox can’t play bass worth a sh*t’ comments really hold no weight, because they come from jealous losers, back while I was performing long before they ever knew what Rock was, LOL.
Again, I was extremely lucky to be caught up in the whirlwind of the N.Y. /N.J. club scenes in the 1970's, but apparently, I had something that they wanted; the ability to bring in and hold an audience; ergo, whatever it was that I had, it translated to bigger box office receipts, which translates to, (when properly marketed), my name being a money-maker to some regard. It was then, in 1982, I made such a jump to the west coast on an audition invitation from one Blackie Lawless, late of a band at the time called ‘CIRCUS, CIRCUS’, yet seemed to change that band name back to an previously earlier one: ‘SISTER’.
Obviously History bears out that I not only got the gig, but that I also came up with the legendary moniker for the band we all know now as WASP. (I never use the periods because they were added by Blackie after I was out of the band). Here’s the interesting kicker; who knows WHAT they would have called themselves if I wasn’t an original founding band member from the beginning. As well, there’s also that legendary 3-track WASP demo that I recorded with the band (and the obviously more melodic bass lines than what Blackie re-played on the first album). Lots of fans have written to me telling me that they not only hear the difference but that they actually like what I played on that demo better than what’s on the debut WASP album.
Rik Fox in WASP. Photo (c) 1982 Don Adkins Jr.
So I’m grateful for all the new WASP fans I’ve gotten since not only getting on Face Book, but also due to Darren Upton’s new book ‘WASP; Sting in the Tale.’ I guess fate in the bigger picture had other reasons why my path with WASP was to come to such an abrupt close.
What have been your fave bass's over the years and why?
Rik Fox with Ibanez Destroyer Bass in the recording studio. Photo (c) 1976-77 Gary Gershoff
As VIRGIN became SIN in 1976-77, I was finally able to afford an Ibanez Destroyer/Explorer body bass, which was pretty much my main bass until I came to Los Angeles and foolishly, eventually sold it to the wrong person. However, by STEELER, I was able to gain my first endorsement deal with ARIA; since they wanted Yngwie SO badly, to be gracious; they offered me whatever I wanted too. I didn’t know much about their product so I grabbed another explorer body bass in a black/blue sunburst, and those pickups totally SUCKED! Yngwie told the Aria rep to his face, in total Yngwie style, that the pickups in the Flying V they gave him sucked and he said he was going to swap them out for something with more balls, LOL.
Eventually, as I moved on to SIN from STEELER, was able to secure a better model and ARIA (PRO-II) made me a custom-painted ‘Blood Bass’. That was the time I was also securing an endorsement deal from Randall Amps via the good word put in for me by DOKKEN’S Jeff Pilsen and ALKATRAZZ’S Gary Shea. Soon afterward, upon hearing the first 30 seconds of our SIN album master demo, B.C. Rich’s president, Bernie Rico Sr. said to me: ‘Welcome to B.C. Rich, what kind of bass’s would you like us to make for you?’ I’ve been a B.C. Rich player since then, and although B.C. Rich didn’t honor their promise and signed contractual obligation of giving me two basses, I did get a sweet, custom Warlock with my name custom-painted on the headstock. However, I always had a love of the Gibson guitar line and since I first saw Mott the Hooples’ Overend Watts, playing a white Thunderbird bass, I, too, always wanted one. Both Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx and Dokken’s Jeff Pilsen offered to sell me their white T-birds, but I didn’t have the money at the time.
Rik's current basses; Epiphone Thunderbird, Gibson EB-3, B.C.Rich Custom Warlock, Aria Pro-II Custom Blood Bass.
So, I got myself a 1975 Gibson EB-3 (because I always wanted one like Mountain’s Felix Pappalardi, whom I was proud to call a friend), and, more recently, I got an Epiphone Thunderbird which plays very nicely, although it’s not white, it’s a tobacco sunburst. I currently still endorse Randall Amps since 1983; probably their OLDEST and longest endorsee. That’s gotta count for something…
Glenn: How would describe the bass style of Rik Fox?
Rik: Well, although, stage-wise, most of my heroes were guitarists, when I started out, I was trying to learn what the bluesy bass styles were, that were being used on those Steppenwolf albums, and the same with Mountain. I didn’t know what scales were; I was pretty much self-taught, until I was taught more by all the guitarists I was playing with. I used to just play along with the records like many first-timers did back then. As my horizons opened, I began to appreciate the styles of UFO’s Pete Way, Aerosmith’s Tom Hamilton, and so forth. As I started out playing cover songs in the clubs, I began to develop an appreciation for all the many styles of all the bassists I was copying.
I LOVED (Uriah Heeps’) Gary Thains’ playing and his walking styles, and SLADE’S Jimmy Lea and his bottom-groove pounding. Alice Cooper’s Dennis Dunaway had a really an interesting style. Of course, for me, bass took a new approach when I began going to KISS’ rehearsals and watching what Gene Simmons was doing, and not realizing that he was pretty much copying Paul McCartney and Jack Bruce. I also began watching what the other mid-70’s NYC club bands bassists were doing too. I took notes of everything, and it was there, that I began to see how they developed a significant blend of both a stage look and a bass style. How theatrics were joined with musicianship to form a complete package.
SIN'S Rik Fox and ANGEL's Punky Meadows. Rik Fox Archives
And, I watched how the audiences reacted to that. Eventually I learned how to physically interpret the music with my body and, like guitarists such as ANGEL’s Punky Meadows or later, Ozzy’s Jake E. Lee, I found that when opening yourself up and letting the music go THRU you and become a part of you, that the audience responded even more receptively. I was never a fan of guys like, for example, Bill Wyman that just stood there like a rock and did nothing for the overall showmanship of the band. Bassist, I felt, should ROCK just as much as the other members of the band, and stand out for themselves.
Well, my friend, Billy Sheehan is a great example of that. Personally, I believe in keeping that bottom end in tight with the drummer; both your jobs are to anchor what the song is saying, and, even work out some cool accents together much like I did in STEELER with our drummer Mark Edwards, which, if you listen carefully, you’ll hear on our STEELER album. I learned a lot from Mark and QUIET RIOT’s Frankie Banali, when I was auditioning for that band in 1985. You gotta lock and be ‘the machine’ with the drummer, but, do not forget that you’re also a part of the show too.
Glenn: What would you say have been the most challenging songs to perfect over the years and why?
Rik: Early on in the club days, maybe playing RUSH cover songs like ‘2112’, or the repetitive, hand-cramping groove of Ted Nugent’s ‘Wang Dang Sweet Poontang’, LOL. However, that one’s easy, LOL; WARLORD. I say that because up until that point I never really had to look into or play all those ‘dark’ minor keys and phrasings. Virtually everything I played or wrote before or after that time with them were in the major keys, with the commercial exception of, say, Black Sabbath. But with WARLORD, all their material was specifically written and arranged in all minor scales and keys.
So, despite all the previous playing experience I’d had, coming into the world of WARLORD was a real challenging finger exercise, LOL. It threw me at first because it was so challenging to play, yet sounded very cool to the ear. Once I got the gist of what their songs consisted of, it began to come much faster to me, and I began to really enjoy playing that kind of material. It wasn’t like many songs where the bass just carries the bottom; oh no, here, you were playing many of the guitar lines along with the guitarist so it was pretty busy. As I’ve always said, the only real downside to that was that I was told by the two band leader(s) that they had absolutely NO intention of performing out live at all…and that, is NOT what I’m about. That’s tantamount to getting all worked up and hot and bothered and then having your money shot squeezed off and denied, LOL.
What the hell is the sense of gathering up all that great material and then NOT performing it live?!? I mean COME ON; you’re telling me that you actually going to deny a live fan base of experiencing all this material…? How fair is that to both the audience and me? So, as far as challenging material, playing (rehearsing is more like it) with WARLORD would be the best example. Even though playing (rehearsing) with HELLION was much easier after that, (and, HELLION wanted to play out live!) their some of their songs also had a ‘dark’ feel to them, but nothing as overly-complex as WARLORD’S material.
Other than that, I’d have to say that pushing yourself past your own boundaries would be the next challenging issue(s) that I can think of, and that just comes down to your personal writing style(s). In 1984, when the guys from Mongol Horde’s ALIEN came out from Long Island, NY, to L.A. and joined me in reforming the second L.A. line-up of SIN, we added a few of their songs to the set list and there were a few real head-banging songs that, at first were challenging but all it did was make me a better player overall, really. Guitarists J.J. Kristi and Richie Martel were real Iron Maiden-heads, and despite all my attempts at trying to keep the focus on straight-ahead catchy rock material, they wrote some pretty complex material (especially after too many ‘420’ sessions)…and we wound up having a song or two that sounded just like Iron Maiden. But, the fans seemed to like it no matter what we played.
SIN 2nd L.A. Line-up with Frank Starr (center). Photo (c) 1984 John Totten
Glenn: What have been the standout highlights in your career so far and why?
Rik: Wow, as compared to so many other, much more famous people, that’s a lot to encompass, even for me. I’d have to say some of the high points were, jamming with Bruce Springsteen’s drummer the ‘mighty’ MAX WEINBERG, in Jersey, and hanging out and meeting all the cool heroes at NYC’s Record Plant studios in 1976-77, like STARZ, AEROSMITH, ALICE COOPERS’ band members, and all the famous and legendary rock engineers like Jack Douglas, Corky Stasiak and Angelo Arcuri, and Ricky Delano…meeting and hanging out with Felix Pappalardi of Mountain around 1978. Meeting and hanging out with the guys from ANGEL whenever they came to NY, all the early NY KISS Conventions, all the cool people I met and hung out with from the music industry back in NY around 1977-80…
Hanging out with STARZ guitarist Richie Ranno at his home, helping bands get signed, Performing Max’s Kansas City and C.B.G.B.’s, and hanging out with so many legendary bands on that scene like The Ramones, The Harlots, The Brats, Street Punk, Luger, and The N.Y. Dolls, hanging out at The Great Guildersleeves club and meeting (and working with) some of the great bands like TRIGGER and LOVER, and stars who came thru their doors like Keith Emerson, and, of course, it’s a real no-brainer; meeting Peter Criss and hanging out with him (and Lydia), before he was in KISS and then, getting to see KISS being created from the point of before Ace Frehley was in the band.
Once on the West Coast, again, meeting and hanging out with Motley Crue, RATT, Lita Ford, Quiet Riot, etc. In one way, it was similar to the NY rock scene because all the bands all hung out at the same places as the fans, so access to them was fairly easy, but the vibe was entirely different; there was much more competitive, back-stabbing gossip and jealousy of each other. In NY, everyone worked together for the same cause and supported each other like a huge extended family, whereas, in Los Angeles, everyone was out for themselves and condescended to everyone else.
Michael McKean, Mick Fleetwood, Harry Shearer & Rik Fox; SPINAL TAP after show. Photo (c) Rik Fox Archives
Getting the gig with what became WASP, and then STEELER were obviously high points, and that opened access to meeting many other stars. The legendary Rainbow Bar & Grill also known as the ‘home of the moving stars’ (here today, gone-later today) had everyone hanging out there, and on any given night you could see David Lee Roth, and many other famous rockers there. Getting the opportunity and the honor and privilege of jamming live with the likes of Michael Monarch of Steppenwolf, Producer, Jean Beauvoir, ‘Little’ Steven Van Zant, the late Mark St. John of KISS and Sam Kinison, Randy Castillo, and Ronnie James DIO were like, the ultimate high points. And that doesn’t even count all the movie stars I’ve worked with personally, while I was working in the Film Industry as a Property Master and weapons-handler. We’d be here for days, LOL. While working on a film with Harry Shearer, I was invited to come and hang with him and Michael McKean while in their SPINAL TAP guise, and that was pretty cool also.
E-4 Corporal Rik Fox Comm. NCO, California State Military Reserve. Photo (c) 1995-2000 Rik Fox Archives.
I spent five years in the California State Military Reserve with the rank of E-4 (Corporal) as a Radio Communications NCO, and have also been a now-sought-after interview subject for such publications as ‘W.A.S.P.; A Sting in the Tale’ by Darren P. Upton, ‘Bang Your Head; The Rise and Fall of Heavy Metal’ by David Konow, ‘Nothing to Lose; Early KISS’ by Ken Sharp, and ‘Man of War; My Adventures in Re-enacting’ by Charlie Schroeder. Most recently, an extremely high point came, just over a decade after creating and formally presenting the Polish Winged Hussar cavalry representation to America, I was able to be a featured participant in a huge battle re-enactment of The Battle of Kluszyn, in July 2010, in Warsaw, Poland (and many of my fans there knew exactly who I was), and after that, in 2012, I was sought out by Canada’s History Channel and their cable show Museum Secrets, to represent and portray, (for the first time in the English language), the Polish Winged Hussars, for a segment of their episode of going inside the National State Museum of Moscow, Russia. All definitely high points. That’s some of the reasons why I’m writing two books about it all.
Rik (Sulima-Suligowski) Fox on the set of History Channel's Museum Secrets. Photo (c) 2012 Tamara Fox
Glenn: Who have been some of the coolest people you have worked with so far and for what reasons?
Rik: Holy cow is THAT a laundry list, LOL! I’d have to refer that question as partially covered in the previous question and answer above. Although I haven’t worked with them, one of the coolest bands to hang with was KIX, no doubt. But it was nice working with both Tommy Thayer and Patrick Young of (then) Black ‘n Blue when they came in to do some background vocals on our SIN album master demo in 1985. As the world knows Tommy’s been portraying Ace Frehley’s ‘spaceman’ character in KISS for some time now. I got to do some gang-background vocals on the Johnny Crash album song ‘Freedom Road’ and that was a lot of fun. I’d also have to say that early on in my career, working with some of the people who went out on a limb and took a chance on me and were happily rewarded with their choice, like Ian Chris, and Basil Stanley of VIRGIN and SIN, as well as Sebastian of The Martian Rock Band easily come to mind.
Glenn: What would say you have found to be the biggest myths of the music business and why?
Rik: That getting a recording contract with a major record label is the ‘be all-end all’ ultimate destination…This industry is not without its sharks and pimps. One main point that every young, dumb musician who gets involved doesn’t realize that it’s a ‘business’ and it’s a business for a reason; to stay in business and turn a profit. It’s a machine, which will eat you up and spit you out. You need to develop a business-savvy mindset to protect yourself. You’re a product, and in order to be successful that product needs to be (properly) marketed and sold. The record companies only are temporarily investing in you and your material to mass-market and sell. What nobody takes into consideration because they become wrapped up in all the glamour and glitz, is that you OWE all that back to the label until your obligations are fulfilled.
Only then, if successful (and if being a key word here), can you exercise a probability of either re-signing for a longer (and better, more profitable deal), or, go seek another, more profitable label deal and opportunity. If your albums suck and you tank, guess what…you STILL owe all that investment back to the label and are ‘chained’ to the ‘rock’ until your contractual obligations are fulfilled…’Welcome to Hell, boys, now meet Satan’…So, if you are entertaining a career in the music industry, you’d better do some research, and homework before you pick up that pen and sign your life away. It’s all about the music, but, somebody has to sell it. Nowadays, it might as well be YOU who’s selling it. Self-promotion is essential and integral to any success in the music (or any other) industry. Learn how to (properly) package, market, and sell yourself.
Glenn: If you could share a studio or a stage with any particular set of musicians who would they be and why?
Rik: Easily the first two that come to mind would be ANGEL of course and then DIO. As pretty much everyone knows these days, seeing me (or now, photos of me) during 1977 to 1988, knows I would have been an interesting fit in Angel, especially due to my then, more-then-close resemblance to guitarist Punky Meadows. So, having two guys, a guitarist and bassist respectively, who resemble book-ends on either side of the stage, would have been really cool. Today, even Punky himself has validated that point. Having been a huge fan of Uriah Heep, becoming a fan, and then a member of Angel’s progressive heavy rock would be a no-brainer for me; I loved their material, well, especially the first three albums. As the production from White Hot and on, seemed, to me, thinner and less heavy, my interest began to wane.
So, when Angel keyboardist Gregg Giuffria approached me with the offer of having me replace my friend, Rudy Sarzo and join the band in December of 1982 at the Rainbow Bar & Grill took place, it was a definite hard decision between that offer and that of joining STEELER. And it was obvious that history bears out which was the better choice. When I mention DIO as a second choice, it is because not only would have working with Ronnie been a total gas, as far as I know, (at least in the U.S.) only Ronnie, HELLION’S Ann Boleyn, and myself are/were the only high-profile rockers that shared a definitive kindred spirit for all things Medieval, right down to our look and stage persona’s in one form or another.
Having been actually and personally Knighted into The Order of St. Stanislas and bearing the KStS post-nomial, as well as representing the Polish 17th century winged hussar knights, (and owning my own armor!), I’d say, puts me right in the think of the fray on that account and most deservingly a consideration for associating with those two rockers. That is to say that although DIO (the band) may have had some really amazing players, at the deeper core of it all, those guys weren’t really into that sort of thing, they were there just for the music alone, whereas I’d have had all the bases covered, because, at the end of the day, you still have time to spend together discussing other esoteric and higher-learning topics, and that, is where I’d be more on a one-on-one mental and scholastic level with someone like Ronnie. That, is where the true bonding element lies, beyond the music.
WASP, STEELER & SURGICAL STEEL bassist Rik Fox and Ronnie James Dio performing 'We're Stars' at Irvine Meadows Amphitheater. Photo (c) David Plastik
So, it was a dream unrealized at not having been able to share the stage with Ronnie beyond our two opportunities in sharing the stage for the live version of ‘Hear n Aid’s ‘We’re Stars’. Today? If the opportunity presented itself, I’d definitely be up for any possible consideration of coming full-circle and joining Ann with HELLION. Somehow, I know that we’d be sharing some kind of inside display of affection for the memory of Ronnie and what he gave us all; that SPIRIT of rock that never dies. But, that’s Ann call, and we remain friends to this day. Of course, the subject on the lips and minds of thousands of fans these days is ‘will there ever be a STEELER reunion?
Well, as Ron (Keel) says: “September 2013 marks the thirty-year Anniversary of the release of the STEELER album; anything’s possible, let’s see what happens.” I think too much unfortunate negativity on his part has already gone under the bridge (or the bus as it were) for any serious consideration of Yngwie being interested in a STEELER reunion. And drummer Mark Edwards had sustained a severe back injury that prevents his being able to perform with us, so that leaves just Ron and myself as what is now considered the ‘classic’ album line-up to pull it off. Again, it’s all Ron’s call, and with the KEEL show upcoming on June 8th, 2013, and my featured guest spot reuniting me with Ron for the first time in thirty years, performing two STEELER songs with the band, who knows what will come of that one, I only know that the fans are going nuts already in anticipation.
Glenn: You got any cool road stories you can tell? - go on let's hear a few!
Rik: Well, let’s see…I recall when touring thru Toronto, Canada in 1981 with The E. Walker Band (then called SPITFIRE) because we were performing mostly original material, and booked by THE AGENCY, who booked all the top Canadian bands, because of the odd-number of us with the road crew, I wound up getting my own room. So, I stocked my little fridge with food and beer. Being so high up on an upper floor, I felt relatively safe leaving my sliding patio door unlocked. I went out to do some sight-seeing and shopping, ( and, on the suggestion of Jon Mikel THOR), ordered a custom pair of boots to be made at the legendary Master John’s on Younge Street-bootmaker to the stars), and, after returning back, noticed that something was definitely wrong…My entire fridge was empty. Of course the door was locked. I heard a commotion next door and when I went in, the definite smell of pot smoke hit my nose and I saw the rest of the band and the road crew all drinking MY beer, eating all MY food and…playing MY monopoly game!!!
Apparently, while I went out, drummer Scott Carlson, stupidly risked life and limb and climbed over the balconies and opened my patio door, went thru my hotel room and stole everything out of my fridge and the board game and, apparently after indulging in a rather heavy ‘420’ session, they were so engorged, that they raided my room leaving me with no food or drink at all! Suffice to say, that I was absolutely LIVID and no amount of yelling at them did any good, hysterically laughing, they all thought it was the funniest thing. However, we, were NOT Metallica, and I was not being given any ritualistic, rites of passage to earn my way into the band. If this was bonding in any sense of the word, it failed miserably. I never forgave them for that. It took all my weeks’ salary to get all that and now I was starving again to stay alive. That was one of the straws that broke the camels’ back upon returning back to the States.
To this day, after reconciling with me, band leader Ray Dahr claims he doesn’t remember much of that episode. Well, since I didn’t indulge in any ‘420’ activities, we can see which of the more clearer heads prevailed in recalling the incident in question. There was the gig I did as a member of RANDY PIPER’S band KINGS HORSES at the Waters Club and that turned into a mess, with the lead singer totally three-sheets into the wind and rolling all over the floor channeling Jim Morrison; what a nightmare. There was also an interesting incident once, while I was a featured guest performer with Dr. Starr and the Medics in Arizona, but, we won’t get into that one, LOL…Suffice to say, I took my small cordless screw driver and we gently removed and swapped many of the door room number plaques around and then when people ordered room service, well, it was something right out of a Marx Brothers movie, LOL. I won’t go into further detail about several of the other band members dropping LSD and tripping their faces off in Banning, CA, where the giant dinosaur statues are at the truck stop there that was featured in the Pee Wee Herman movie, and my capturing it on video like some grainy Fellini film. I can say no more! LOL.
Glenn: What led to you joining Ron Keel for a special show?
Rik: Well, it’s been almost a year now since the two STEELER Face Book pages were created, one being called: ‘I want a STEELER REUNION…NOW!’, which many fans have joined and are awaiting any possible news of such an event. So this page is essentially for THEM. And although Ron is a member of both STEELER Face Book pages and from time to time keeps abreast of some of the postings there by the fans, it’s a crossed-fingers kind of hopeful page in support of any possible chance of a STEELER reunion. Ron and I have discussed this topic many times and I believe that in some way, he would like to do something to support the STEELER ANTHOLOGY CD album that came out a few years ago.
As mentioned in a previous answer above, the issues of Yngwie and Mark Edwards put a definite KIBOSH on it. However, the door is not closed completely…
KEEL Show Ad with Featured Guest Rik Fox for June 8th, 2013 at the Whisky Go-Go
Recently, Ron contacted me and said that since KEEL are coming to Los Angeles for a gig at the legendary and famous Whisky a Go-Go club, that he thought it would be a perfect opportunity for a reunion of sorts, but on a smaller level, much the same way GREAT WHITE drummer Gary Holland joined bandmate Jack Russell onstage for a show at the same club in 2012. So, maybe this might be a Petri-dish experiment, a testing of the waters if you will, to see if it’s possible for something on a larger scale to somehow become a reality. I’m definitely open to the possibilities and Ron might have to rethink some of his original considerations and make a few adjustments, but even say, a half-dozen or so shows at some festivals would definitely send the fans over the top. I, on the other hand have a few ideas for some charitable benefit shows which would also help do a good thing for others as well as put the legendary STEELER name back out there in a big way.
Since this is such a historical event, I believe that some of it is going to be captured on film for posterity. It’s only too bad that VH-1 will be dropping the ball, IMO, (hell, in EVERYONE’s opinion), because they already completed Season Five of THAT METAL SHOW, (which STEELER and my name have been mentioned several times on previous seasons), and already sent their entire crew and cast back to NY, so this will be an event of such historic epic Metal proportions, that they will have missed being there to cover it. I only wish we could get Jim Florentine and Don Jamison out for the show. That would rock. In any case we’re all looking forward to the show with great anticipation and tickets are selling out fast. It promises to be a massive metal night for L.A. Metal Rock.
Glenn: What are you most looking forward to with regard to Keel and why?
Rik: Well, reuniting with Ron and the fans would be at the very forefront. To this day, I still get Goosebumps and the hairs on my arms stand up when I play along to the STEELER album. There is definitely something magical about that album, something ELECTRIC. All the fans tell me to this day that the STEELER album is their favorite; it’s timeless, and is as strong and heavy today as it was when it was first released back in 1983. It’s just one of those rare classic gems that stand the test of time. STEELER was a seminal, cornerstone of L.A. metal rock that set the stage for many of the bands that followed (and eventually forgot about). And seeing Ron again for the first time in thirty years will have a magical tone all to itself. I know that everyone in the room will be able to feel that moment when we see each other again. However, many fans tell me that was the album that first got them into rock or that they began playing a guitar or drums or bass because of listening to it. Connecting with the fans is amazing…man, to know that you were a part of that kind of positive influence on a persons’ life is incredible, to know that you did that for someone.
STEELER Live, Rik Fox, Ron Keel, Yngwie Malmsteen. Photo (c) Rik Fox Archives
That’s a heavy responsibility. I know how that feels because I’ve told that too, to many of my influences and rock heroes. So being able to give that back to the fans is a reward that money can’t buy, and you can take that with you when it’s time to check out. And hope that you are remembered from bringing some good into the lives of this world. Even if a formal STEELER reunion doesn’t happen, (bite your tongue!), at least this moment in history will have happened and will be talked about for the rest of time.
Glenn: What would the Rik Fox of now, tell the young Rik Fox and why?
Rik: Let me answer that this way…My late father once said to me: “The road that you’re about to take is a long and treacherous one; it’s filled with many holes and pitfalls. Although I cannot stop you from following your own destiny, I can only cheer you on silently from the sidelines. I hope that I can be there when you reach your star.” Although he’s no longer with us, I know he’s nearby, watching me achieve those dreams. (And watch out for the following characters…)
Glenn: How has California stayed the same or changed to you since you have been there with regard to the music business?
Rik: Like many things in life, the more it changes the more it stays the same. What’s old is new again. Some people are still very cool, and the *ssholes are STILL *ssholes, only thirty years later, they’re all older *ssholes, LOL. Some people are still jealous with envy, and hate seeing me get some acknowledgement(s), while others are cheering ‘GO, RIK, GO!!!’ The computer age has definitely dealt a severe crushing blow to the record industry, and may artists now are able to create, market and release their own product without the help (or hindrance) of a major label. Major labels nowadays seem to cater to Rap or some other garbage, filled with Illuminati-like symbolism, or allusions whether intentionally planted or used as a gimmick to look ‘cool.’ I’ve used them too, because, being hip, and as one of the ‘cognoscenti’, and for the most part, generally, it went clueless, right over the heads of everyone. Today, the music business has changed so much in attempts to, (in the motto of the U.S. Marines) ‘improvise, adapt and overcome’, in order to stay alive itself. It’s still very much a machine, maybe moreso then in the past; corporations are running everything today. Even the government…Look around. Get educated. I’m happy to still be able to perform and write, although personally, I’ve pulled back from it for about a decade, I’ve never stopped completely.
Rik Fox, SIN, 1984. Photo (c) John Bruno/Rik Fox Archives
Remember, I’m from New York, and I call it like I see it; I shoot straight and pull no punches. Life’s too short for all that crap. Although the local scene has changed a lot, I find that there are still glass ceilings and clique groups who look to keep certain people (like me) out of their little performance ‘bubbles’. LOL, I’ve even seen such audacity as alleged ‘All Star Metal Jams’ run by various players who have nothing to do with the actual term‘All-Stars’ LOL; they are neither ‘stars’ themselves in their own right, nor are many of the unknown non-name, yet high-profile players they coerce into performing at these little ‘private parties.’ That’s all they are really. Private parties. When inquiries are sent into who’s behind promoting these little festivities and receive absolutely no professional courtesies or response whatsoever, that’s a clear message right there; ‘Keep out! You’re not invited!’That tells you something about the personalities behind these petty little ‘All-Stars.’
All these knuckleheads easily forget who was laying the groundwork for them, while they were still back in the garage trying to learn how not to get their dicks caught in their zippers and which string went where. LOL. Look, just because some guy has played for a week or two with a more-famous well-established name rock star, does NOT qualify some of these ‘hired, side-guys’ as an ‘All-Star’. They haven’t stood the test of time long enough to be considered an ‘All-Star.’ They haven’t paid the same kind of endurance dues as others, yet, because they’re only drinking buddy-buddies with those guys who play these ‘alleged all-star’ jams, they receive top choice at first pick, and screw anyone else.
I’ve seen long-time friends actually play the feigned-ignorance card, and turn their back on me for an opportunity to participate in these little events and, unlike what I did for them in the past, they don’t understand about the concept of ‘turnabout is fair play’; holding the door open for the guy behind you, as I used to do for everyone else; when the door was opened for me, I shared the wealth. But that concept of loyalty went right out the window over the years; everyone is out for themselves now. Of course, if I do that, I’m branded as an *sshole, LOL…Oh well…. The worm will turn and I’ll be back among the alleged ‘peers’ and we’ll see who’s brave enough to call it to my face then, LOL…f*ck*ng pussy sh*theel cowards, LOL.
Glenn: What have been your favorite venues you have played over the years and why would you say this?
Rik: Right off the top, several; The Country Club in Reseda, CA. (now, sadly reduced to a Community Church). That venue was absolutely a blast to perform at. Of course That’s where I got the second opportunity to join Ronnie James DIO, among other stars for a second helping of Hear n’ Aids’: ‘We’re Stars’ which I have photos of, as well as the other nice venue; the former Irvine Meadows’ concert amphitheater. The legendary Troubadour Club was like a second home for me performing there with STEELER, SIN and THUNDERBALL. The Roxy was a hot and sweaty venue when we (STEELER) supported VANDENBERG there in April of 1983, and I performed at the other legendary Sunset Strip club The Whisky a Go-Go with other smaller acts.
I never did get the chance to perform at The Palladium or The Palace. Oh, I did get to perform a real, ‘All-Star’ jam with WARRANT, along with members of GUNS N’ ROSES at The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, that was a real blast. And SIN got to co-headline with STRYPER at the Pomona Auditorium and support KEEL at the Orange Pavilion; the bigger the stage, the better. And I would be remiss and taken to task if I didn’t mention the other favorite ‘rock family venue’ the famous PERKINS PALACE in Pasadena, CA. Promoter Gina Zamparelli was one of THEE most nicest and kindest, most thoughtful people I ever had the privilege to work with; STEELER supported QUIET RIOT there, as well as SIN performing there on a bill with MALICE, ODIN and ARMORED SAINT. So that was one amazing venue to have performed at.
Glenn: Tell us what you enjoy doing when you aren't playing bass and how did these interests come to be?
Rik: Well, John Lennon once sang about ‘keep playing those mind games’, but the ones that interest me are for constructive value. Recently, I’ve come to really like taking the internet Lumosity brain games testing programs. I love games that are something of a mental challenge; I love military tactics and strategy of warfare. I always have, ever since I was a little child, and had no idea why. Here’s this little kid with obviously no formal military training, setting up his toy soldiers in units as if he graduated from West Point. So I love games like Stratego and Risk. Warfare has always fascinated me for some unknown reason, maybe (as it’s been suggested to me), that I’m carrying a strong genetic DNA marker from pervious past lives of being engaged in warfare over the centuries, which might explain all that. I grew up glued to classic Hollywood films like Errol Flynn’s ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’, and, watching it to this day, find myself overcome with emotion when the charge commences and follows through. I can’t explain it; it’s just ‘something there.’ Watching massive historical cavalry charges does that to me.
The same stirring happens to me with the historic charge of the Polish Cavalry (including a famous ancestor) at the Battle of Somosierra during Napoleon’s Iberian Campaign in Spain, when the Polish cavalry cleared the road to Madrid through and past several artillery batteries, nearly decimating the bravely heroic unit. I once met an astrologer in NY, who, upon meeting me said he felt a very strong connection that he saw me dressed as a Napoleonic officer and that all kinds of terrible things happened to and described the death he saw of that officer. When I told my father about it he told me the story of one of our ancestors who was actually a Captain, and an ADC (Adjutant) to Napoleon who was sent by Napoleon on an archeological expedition during Napoleon’s Cairo campaign in Egypt.
Egyptian Expedition; The Death of Rik Fox’s Clan ancestor, Captain Josef Sulkowski
Some historians speculate it was a set-up, but my ancestor Josef Sulkowski was ambushed by a mob and cut down in the street. As my father told me that, I immediately felt a chill in my solar plexus as if something icy cold connection went right thru me. I have no plausible answer for it, but maybe I’m reincarnated from him. That might explain some of it. So that’s probably a natural progression as to why I became a historical re-enactor, and most specifically, one covering my Polish noble ancestry; my family and clan ancestors are all over very specific and integral points in Polish History, both military and civilian. Somewhere back around 1996, with the help of my late father who was the Director of (Polish) Heraldry in the United States, I began digging into our family’s roots and what was going on in Poland during the renaissance-era, come to find it was the largest nation of Europe at the time. I started out portraying a Polish nobleman and, I wound up creating what eventually became the first formalized and recognized presentation and representation of the 17th century legendary Polish Winged Hussar cavalry impression in the United States.
When I went to see a Museum Exhibit of the winged hussars in San Diego’s Museum of Art, I experienced what is referred to as ‘an epiphany’, as soon as I stood there and saw, for the first time, the real 17th century hussar armor before me; once again feeling like my body was plugged into an electric socket. All the hair on my body stood up and again the cold feeling in the pit of my stomach. I heard ‘I’m home’ in my mind and was emotionally moved. So, I have some very large shoes to fill, and, I received a message one night in a dream, from my late Grandmother, that she validated that all the ancestors are very proud of what I’ve done to further raise Polish historic awareness and culture and advance our Polish family surname of Suligowski, (a name I don’t normally use when engaged in my musical career).
Well, quite frankly, nobody can spell it properly let alone pronounce it properly; it’s not your typical ‘rock star’ name either, LOL. That said, I and our re-enactment group, ‘Suligowski’s Regiment of Sobieski’s Hussars’, (named in memory of my late father), after having been advised not to invest in such a foolish venture years ago because we’d be laughed at, have become an award-winning living history group; and, the very first of our kind. I bet most of this will go right over the heads of many of the readers, but if you haven’t walked in my shoes, don’t knock it. Getting into your ancestry can be pretty cool. I’ve been told that I’m probably the most active person in raising Polish Historic Awareness and Culture in the U.S. today with all this. If so, then I’m blessed to be able to have the ability to do so. Being able to use my rock popularity to promote this certainly has its privileges. A Polish-American rocker and a warrior knight of noble ancestry. How cool is that!
Glenn: I noticed you have been featured in several books, how about a book from your good self and if so what would you call it and what would be on the cover?
Rik: Funny you should ask… I’m already in the process of writing two books concurrently…And all of the above will be in it along with a LOT of other pertinent material. In order to clearly understand the context of me today, the reader will be taken back to my childhood and will experience what it was like that set the path to the present day. Some of it will be very upsetting; some of it will raise many eyebrows. I’ll bet Dr. Phil will be telling his people ‘get me Rik Fox here as a guest, I want to talk to THIS guy!’ I’ve never been properly debriefed as to some of what happened to me as a kid.
I did a lot of self-insight assessments to try and get me thru and past most of what happened to me. I’ll tell you this; it will ROCK the Catholic Church with yet, another scandal. If what happened to me back than happened today, with all due respect to their memories, although my father tried to intercede, my parents might have been put in jail. Anyway, digressing, as for the title, it’s a KILLER title and really hits home about my life. It’s called “RIK FOX; THE SINS OF AMBITION”© 2012. The other book ‘EPIPHANY; On The Wings of Eagles’ ”© 2012, will be about my attempts at formally presenting and representing the Polish Winged Hussars cavalry impression to the United States and why it had to be done. The covers are yet to be designed, although I have the design for ‘EPIPHANY’ already concepted.
Glenn: What else would you like to talk about that I have not touched upon?
Rik: That’s probably another whole ‘nother laundry list, LOL! Currently, until I can get my own band back out there, I’m enjoying doing featured guest spots, jamming with this local band and that, kinda like Chris Holmes does when he’s not doing his own gigs. I’d like to set something up where we both jam together on some W.A.S.P. songs, which will really set off the fans. If I can get Frankie Banali in on it, then that’ll be three former W.A.S.P. members doing W.A.S.P. songs for the fans. I’d like to set up some Charity Benefit gigs with some friends too; I’ve always wanted to do some shows for our Troops in service to our country and for the Veterans, and also some other Children’s charities.
I think we covered a lot here, rock and re-enactments, movies, TV, Documentaries…I think I’ll leave it at that so far and not spill all the beans yet. I have to save something for my book. One thing, some advice; over the years, some people have mistaken my kindness (and being a nice guy), for weakness and have walked all over me because I mistakenly allowed them to. That was their biggest mistake, and I will be making up for that. The guilty know who they are and should walk the rest of their days looking over their shoulder; Karma can come in many forms. For everyone else… Let’s enjoy the ride!
Glenn: What are you most proud of and why?
Rik: (In Lemmy’s voice): Well, I guess I could say that after what I’ve been through, I’m, proud of the fact that I made it this far and still have some sanity to fall back on LOL! I guess I’m proud of the fact that I’ve been blessed with a father who saw where I was heading and didn’t adversely alter my path, but ever-so-slightly supported it which gave me the ability to achieve what I’ve set out and aimed for, in some regards. I’ve been blessed with a lot of skills and abilities above and beyond many around me, so that even though I haven’t yet hit all my goals so that leaves me something else to aim for and achieve.
I’m especially grateful that I’ve been able to touch the lives of so many, like my father before me. And somehow, positively affect the outcome of their lives’ paths, whether obviously or subtly…My enemies and my friends both have contributed to making me who I am today; the adversity has made me stronger and wiser, the camaraderie has made me a more appreciative person for good friends and good company.
I’m blessed with a good home and a wife who’s loyal, protective and supportive of my endeavors. I’m grateful that I’m still popular (even moreso now), and for the fans that I still have the ability to make a positive difference in the lives of others. I aspire to treat my fans like Ronnie James DIO treated his. I hope they remember that in the years to come. That I stood for something right and good. And the freedom and justice to enjoy it all. I thank you ALL! Cheers!
big thank you to Rik for an in-depth, extensively brilliant Interview
and special thanks to Manager, Tamara Fox & Promoter/Agent, Joe
'Bear' Devito for setting it up!