Warrant Vocalist Robert Mason Talks ‘Cherry Pie’ 30th Anniversary + More

2020-08-25

Warrant vocalist Robert Mason joins Anne Erickson to talk about the 30th anniversary of "Cherry Pie," the status of new music and more in this exclusive interview.

Warrant – Story by Anne Erickson, courtesy photo

Warrant vocalist Robert Mason joins Anne Erickson to talk about the 30th anniversary of “Cherry Pie,” the status of new music and more in this exclusive interview

Thirty years ago this September, Warrant unleashed a monumental record in the late-’80s, early-’90s hard rock and metal world. “Cherry Pie” arrived on Sept. 11, 1990, and buoyed by its upbeat title track and party-happy songs, the record went on to be Warrant’s highest-selling release, hitting No. 7 on the Billboard 200.

That said, it’s no surprise that Warrant had a massive 30th anniversary tour lined up for 2020– until, of course, coronavirus hit. Lead vocalist Robert Mason, who joined the band in 2008, tells Audio Ink Radio that as soon as concerts return, Warrant will be itching to get on the road and do a proper 30th anniversary run for “Cherry Pie.”

Mason spoke with Anne Erickson of Audio Ink about the landmark “Cherry Pie” album, his work with George Lynch and Jeff Pilson in The End Machine and how he and Warrant are carrying on the legacy of the late, great Jani Lane. Read the interview below, and listen to the full chat via the Audio Ink podcast on Apple Podcasts here and Spotify here. For more on Stryper, go here.

Keep up with the latest on Warrant and connect with them on socials via www.warrantrocks.com, and connect with Robert on all socials at @robertmasonvox.

Anne Erickson: Hi, Robert, it’s great to talk with you. How are you doing during this crazy year?

Robert Mason: I’m doing all right– you know, as well as could be expected. Everybody’s going through stuff, some worse than others. I consider myself pretty fortunate in a lot of ways, except for the fact that doing my job, which involves gathering a few thousand people together — close together — and making them have fun is not allowed right now. So, in that respect, I guess things are not going so great this year for us, but, we had our last show towards the end of February, and we’re looking forward to having some in the fourth quarter, honestly. I’m cautiously optimistic through the whole thing, and we’ve had such great years. Last year was such a great year for us, so in a lot of ways, we’re still on the optimistic high from that as a band, as far as Warrant goes. We put out an End Machine record out last year, and we’re working on the second one right now.

So I have things to keep me busy. It’s just not going and getting on airplanes and playing live shows in front of a lot of people. That’s the bummer about this, but there are people that have it far worse off. So, I’ve been volunteering when I can, hanging in and doing all the things you’re supposed to do. And, yeah, I would love to not get sick. I have been COVID virus-free so far, knock on wood. I’m fine, but I have people, friends and family that have been through it, and some have passed away, and some came through it absolutely fine. So, it’s a very weird time.

You mentioned that you might actually do some shows fourth quarter. Do you think that’s a possibility?

We are just told by our agent kind of on an ongoing basis if shows are holding and if States are allowing any sort of our sort of behavior– big, loud rock shows, distanced, safe, everybody taking precautions, plexiglass everywhere. I don’t know, whatever they’re going to do. Honestly, we’ve just been sitting back and waiting. I have friends like ours and other bands that had a huge touring year– they were actually planning on taking this year off. So, it works out okay for them. Nineteen ninety is when “Cherry Pie” came out. So, this is the 30th anniversary year. The record was released in September, so next month starts the very beginning of the 30th anniversary. So, we had a big deal planned for this year– a whole bunch of shows, all new staging or totally revamped set lists, obviously playing a lot of the songs from that record in order, except for certain ones. Because the record starts with “Cherry Pie.” I don’t know if we could start with that song and then say, “Thank you, goodnight!” (Laughs)

Or play “Cherry Pie” twice! (Laughs)

Hey, why not? Let’s do it in German now!

So, it’s the 30th anniversary of “Cherry Pie.” Is that tour moved to next year, then?

Pretty much. I mean, the first time around, the “Cherry Pie” tour took a year and a half or more. So, that was a big record for the band. I was at a lot of those shows and and then, subsequently, in Lynch Mob, opening up for Warrant on the Dog Eat Dog tour in ’92 and ’93. Those songs have stood the test of time. They’re nostalgic to a lot of people. Those songs reemerge in films and commercials and video games and all that stuff. So, they live a second life. So, since 2019 was the 30th anniversary of the “Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich” record, the band’s first record, that tour went really, really well. So, we figured, let’s follow it with a 30th anniversary “Cherry Pie” tour. Like I said, we’re very optimistic. I’ll tell you what– no matter what, we’re going to make up for all the lost time, once we can get back to doing it. Trust me. It will be the 30th anniversary, “Cherry Pie,” sometime.

When you get on stage and perform those songs, describe the energy that you get from the crowd. I know you weren’t with Warrant when “Cherry Pie” came out, but you’ve been playing those songs for so long, and you’ve helped carry on that legacy.

Over the past, almost 13 years, every time you perform a song… I’m relatively spiritual, but I’m not tree-hugging, crystal-carrying, that kind of stuff. Not to disparage anybody. But, is one thing that I know to be true, and that is onstage, the energy of the audience absolutely fuels you. If I’ve been on four airplanes with crappy weather and delays and blah, blah, blah, and that’s the downside of doing what we do. But once you get there, all of that just melts away and the hour and change that you get to spend on stage doing what hopefully makes people happy is the absolute payoff. It’s the best thing in the world. The most immense part of that is the audience. If they’ve got energy, it reignites you. Like you said, it fortifies you to go, “Louder, Harder, Faster”– see what I did there? (Laughs)

I love it. (Laughs) What do you think it is about “Cherry Pie” that makes it such a classic?

It’s big power chords. It’s simple melody and lyrics– and you know, c’mon, it’s about sex! That’s what rock ‘n’ roll is slang for, anyway. It’s how it all started. It’s one of those songs that just ended up connecting with so many people. And it was a time, too. You have to remember that was 30 years ago. Look at what the world was like. Look at what communication was like. Look at what MTV was like. A lot hinged– that generation that really latched on to that all that late-’80s, early-’90s music caught, maybe it was the last real good gasp of what people call hair metal or L.A., Sunset Strip– all those silly words that everybody likes to label you with. It was kind of nearing to the end of that before it sort of imploded upon itself. I think it was an amazing time. Those songs are about good times and happy and celebration and all of that rather than moody, depressing, introspective, world is awful, wah, stare at my shoes. You know what I mean? I’m not one of those performers. I never was, no matter what the subject matter. All that stuff was still going on then, and if you lived through it the first time with the way the world is, maybe it makes you, at times, nostalgic for that sort of feeling, and I think that’s the majority of the connection. I can get everybody in the crowd to sing along to that one, or at least I think I can.

Yeah. It’s just a fun song, you know?

Well, yeah. And that was the thing. It was about having a good time and about fun and about all of that. So what would you have to remember, something happy or something sad?

When you take to the stage with that track, how do you do it justice and at the same time make it your own?

It’s not up to me, how do I do it justice? That’s up to everybody else. Opinions vary. I’m just thankful that fans embraced me coming into this band when (Jani) Lane no longer could. He even made his peace with it. He and I were really good friends. When we were making a Lynch Mob record in ’91 and ’92 and they were making “Dog Eat Dog,” we got to be friends. That was the reason why my band ended up supporting his band. I just do those songs the best justice I possibly can. I truly do enjoy my job. I was a fan first, so that probably helps. I was a fan and a friend, so I want to see that legacy continue. People want to see it. As long as people want to see it, we’ll keep doing it, as soon as we’re allowed to! (Laughs)

I do think that you guys carry on that legacy of Jani Lane. People did also really embrace you when you joined the band, which must have felt really good.

Look, I’m aware of what I do well, and I truly do enjoy performing and not just singing, but performing for a live audience. I love that. It goes back to that topic before about the energy is, I’m going to sweat and probably bleed up there, and that’s where I get my greatest enjoyment, is being on my side of a microphone screaming in it, and having people on the other side, enjoying themselves on the other side of it. Honestly, it’s the best job in the world for me. I feel like I hopefully make people happy, make them think, make them not think, make them forget their troubles. You’re not hurting anybody, and you’re carrying on– those songs are so well-written. (Jani) Lane was such a great songwriter, and he had that window where he could do no wrong and just turned out some amazing songs, and they deserve to be played.

Absolutely. So whatever happened to the girl on the cover of “Cherry Pie?”

The model that posed the roller skates? I don’t know. I think I’ve met her once. I remember somebody saying the girl they used and then did the drawing, she was not so psyched. Maybe, how a model gets a job and was like, “Well, I really liked dance music. What is it? Oh, it’s for a rock band.” I mean, so she looks good in it as a candy striper on roller skates, and then she’s used, and she’s this iconic figure that ends up being immortalized in an album cover that sells a boatload of copies, and I want to remember that the guys said that at the time, I don’t know whether she stood for an artist rendering, or whether it was just a photo shoot that they then made more like like a drawing and cartoon. But, I have no idea what happened to her. I remember hearing something to the effect of it was not her happiest moment. Maybe she wasn’t the hugest Warren fan. It was just a job for her. But, she did a damn fine job wherever she is. Everyone will forever know that girl.

That is so funny. Isn’t that always the case that the person who is doing it is like, “Who? What band?”

I want to remember that was the situation. I don’t know the details correctly. Maybe Eric knows the details better than I do. Eric and Joey tend to remember all that stuff, but you hear all the stories. What’s really funny is that we had fans that worked at a bowling alley somewhere, and they hand-painted a bowling pin with the “Cherry Pie” logos and artwork, but did a real caricature, almost animated version of the “Cherry Pie” girl, and it is amazing. They gave it to me at the show at a meet and greet. I just took it for a spin around my piano room. It is a bookend in my music room.

I was thinking of being that girl for Halloween. I was trying to think of a unique type of costume. 

Back in the time, everybody went for the video, “Cherry Pie” girl look kind of thing rather than the album cover. I prefer the album cover one, to be honest with you. So, good on you. If we play a Halloween gig within a few hundred miles, I expect to see you and be like, see, I did it.

Fingers crossed that Halloween even happens this year.

Well, it’s a couple of months away. Maybe we can make that happen. Like I said, we’re optimistic for it. Honestly, no matter when we get to start, we’re just going to be, as every fan will be I’m sure, chomping at the bit to go bananas at shows. We’re going to make it worth their while. It will definitely be worth the price of admission. I promise.

What else have you guys been up to in quarantine this year? Are you working on new music?

The End Machine is writing a new record, so we’re going to do the second one of those. I’ve got a bunch of music from Jeff (Pilson) and George (Lynch) that I need to finish a bunch of melodies and lyrics on, because that’s our deal. Those guys just write a boatload of music and then send it over to me. The good part about technology is everybody’s got a studio in their house, and you can do all of this virtually, if you choose to. I still really like getting in a room with a band and the push and pull of hearing the instruments at volume or at least working on things together. I’m a better catalyst for that sort of thing for songwriting than I am just a solo writer. I don’t fancy myself that guy at all, but you kind of get forced into doing it. So, the way we did the last record was a little different than this one, but we’re turning that out. I go through periods of inspiration or lack thereof, as far as writing goes. So, having a bunch of idle time at home and kind of forced off the road, I don’t get those quiet hours on airplanes and in hotel rooms, but I do have some time at home. I always sort of write, but I just go through hot and cool periods of it.

You mentioned The End Machine. Tell me about the new music you’re writing with them.

We’re doing our second record right now. We’re basically going through the writing and arranging process right now, and we’ll record later this year, early next year, and then it should probably be out by next summer. We were very happy to do that. George and Jeff and I have a certain chemistry. I think we may try to tap into a little bit more of the Dokken feel in idea, not to make it dated sounding, but maybe a modern interpretation of that. I don’t think we did that as much for the last record, and that’s an undeniable, huge component of those guys live. So, not to rehash it, but I’m a Dokken fan. So, having those guys as friends and bandmates, and there are certain little things about the Dokken formula that are indelibly Jeff Pilson and George Lynch, musically. So, why not make that a bigger part of The End Machine sound, or at least try to? It’s still going to end up sounding like us, because, clearly my name’s not Don Dokken.

Can’t wait to hear it. What about Warrant? Are you guys working on a follow-up yet to “Louder, Harder, Faster?”

Sort of, casually. We’re really not on a schedule to record a new record. We really, really wanted to come off the 2019 “Dirty Rotten” 30 year anniversary and go right into the “Cherry Pie” 30th year anniversary and really concentrate on that, such that we really put making a new record sort of on the back burner for a while.

With Warrant, we live in a bunch of different States, plus we’re not getting together, anyway, because we’re separated from each other by by mandate. But the riffs are still flowing. The ideas are still there. There’s a few here and there floating around. It’s not enough to put a full record together yet, but that’s what the process is about. We’re not in a rush to put a record out just to have something to sell. I’d rather do the “Cherry Pie” anniversary tour proper service by going out there and saying, “Wow. Thank you so much for allowing this to last 30 years.”

Do you have any idea when traditional live shows will be back?

That, I believe, probably depends upon people being able to actually be safe around each other and not worry about infection. I’m no doctor. But, I have friends in some high places and organizations that tell me the same thing that they tell everybody else. I don’t have any secret information, but I figure it’s going to take until people trust that they can be out in close proximity without catching anything from anybody. You have to trust where everybody has ever been, and everybody that they touched has been. It’s really about it’s about everybody, not just the individual and not being selfish. You see what happens when people mistakenly get told by their government, “Sure, we can open up bars and restaurants,” and then, “Hey, it’s over, everything’s over,” and they hang out like nothing ever happened. Then, all of a sudden, everybody gets this virus.

Well, what does that tell you? I’m not disparaging anybody. Everybody wants out. Everybody wants normal. But you can’t force normal on everybody, all at once. It’s different philosophies, different ideologies, everything like that. I have a really strong immune system. I’m not going to tempt fate. I use my lungs for my living. If this thing attacks my lungs, no fun. I’ve heard it’s no fun. I’ve had friends that lived through it tell me it’s no joke and no fun. I’ve got doctors, friends that work at hospitals, people that work at the CDC tell me all sorts of stuff. But, for now, until there’s maybe a vaccine or they have enough therapies plus vaccines that they say work, all those tests– I watch the news like everybody else. We wait with bated breath.

Would you consider playing a drive-in concert?

Absolutely. I’ve heard (about) the drive-in shows, a few around the country, the golf courses, they’re doing distanced golf cart and golf course shows. At this point, whatever promoters can come up with that’s going to work that keeps everybody safe that we can do, politics aside, we just want to go and play rock shows. All the craziness that’s going on in this country right now, I’d rather just say, if some promoter has the ingenuity to put this together and can make it so people can stay healthy, then I’m onboard.

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