Lethal Lipstick was formed in early 1985 on the streets of downtown Albany, NY. The vision for the band was the brain child Albany rock legend Bob Gori (Albany's Misfits/Tragics). His plan was to combine the sleazy trashiness of the early 70's NYC glam rock with the angry nastiness of punk. He sought to form a glam band with an attitude and a dark sided gothic persona. It would become a synergy of New York Dolls meets Dead Boys.
Gori began dreaming of such a band around 1983 following the breakup of his band The Tragics. With his trashy Johnny Thunders style of guitar playing, Gori would play lead of course. He was quick to recruit his partner in crime, roommate, and former band mate Wayne "Rock" Thomas Haskins for rhythm guitar. Rock had been his bassist in The Tragics as well as guitarist and founder of the Albany hardcore band Thy Sons 'O' God. Both were avid song writers and spent the next year working to smash the two styles together as they consumed case after case of Pabst Blue Ribbon and Piels Real Draft
They mused over this idea in their apartment on lower Central Avenue and thought about who they would start to recruit from the local talent pool to fill out the lineup. That's when they heard that long time Tragics fan, and cousin of their drummer Brian Bolduc, Gary Grafixx had taken up playing bass after getting his degree in graphic arts (hence the name). Having been a first chair violinist throughout Jr. high and high school playing bass came easy to Grafixx. "It's really the same as a violin, except the strings are in reverse order" he said. (Who knew?) Gary welcomed the offer to join his local idols in their new endeavor and the trio continued to work to round out the lineup as Grafixx designed the bands logo. A bleeding pair of mummified lips in black lipstick and lettering reminiscent of a 1950s era horror flick.
They thought about another local musician, Nick Grind, as a possible front man for the band. Grind had been guitarist for the Albany based punk band The Plague and later founded The Grindstones as guitarist and lead singer. He had recently left The Grindstones hoping to give college a try. But having been a high school dropout it was long before he dropped out of school again. When they laid out the blue print for the band to him, he was eager to try out his best Stiv Bators impression and contribute to the song writing talent of Gori and Thomas.
Finding a drummer would take a bit of work for the newly formed foursome. Finally, they hooked up with a local pot smoking gambler and all round dirty rotten scoundrel by the name of Dan Hammer. Hammer had been a local blues/jazz drummer and was looking for something new to reinvent himself.
With the lineup complete, they set about writing more songs, rehearsing, and looking for a gig. They would debut their new incantation at the legendary club 288 on Lark Street to a packed audience with original songs like "Bad Boys", "Sick and Tired", and "Love Kills" (a tribute to Sid & Nancy). They finished off the set with a recreation of the Rocky Horror Picture Show classic "Sweet Transvestite" with Grind in full lingerie drag. The buzz about the new band roared through the downtown music scene like rolling thunder.
After the overwhelmingly successful debut, they decided their mantra would be to "GO BIG". To do everything bigger, flashier, and more outrageous than anything any of them had done before. They knew they weren't yet rock stars, but they would swagger as if they were. They would arrive at shows via limousine, have the biggest pyrotechnics, and record their first single, "Bad Boys", at the legendary Bearsville Studios just outside Woodstock. The financial backing for which would come from, of all things, a priest who also had a love for the punk sounds of Black Flag and the heavy metal of Motley Crue.
When Charlene Shortsleeve was planning the opening of her artists for artists club The QE2 she knew it would be a big event and invited the boys of Lethal Lipstick to have the honor of being the first band ever to take the stage. It was cause for celebration and the Lethal Lipstick would not disappoint the crowd. Ripping out the opening tune with an adrenaline junkie's version of the Alice Cooper classic "Under My Wheels", they sandwiched their original songs by closing with the Dead Boys hit "Sonic Reducer" and set the tone for what would become one of Albany's most legendary night clubs.
Lethal Lipstick continued to wreak havoc on the local scene and began to expand their reach into the NYC club scene for another year or so until the friction of drugs, alcohol, and the clash of egos began to take their toll. Following a New Years Eve show at the QE2, things hit the boiling point and it was decided that Dan Hammer would have to go. And as Gori, Thomas, and Grind fought to influence the dynamics within the band Gori too was ousted. That's right, the founder and visionary was no longer part of the dream he had 'made real. This left Thomas, Grafixx, and Grind searching for a new lead guitarist and drummer.
After a nationwide search for a new guitarist, an unknown local by the name of Kevin Brady (aka Riki Fox) joined the band along with drummer Chris Quinn. This line up however was short lived as Brady clearly wanted to be more like Steve Vai than Johnny Thunders. He left the band and headed for Boston to attend Berkley. At the same time, Rock Thomas decided it was also time for him to quit, leaving Grind, Grafixx and Quinn to replace them both. And so the search began, this time not for just one but now two guitarists.
Nick and Gary led the search and just couldn't seem to find someone who was the right fit. They were just about to give up when Grind met Mike Trash. Trash was just a kid at the time and just out of high school. He had heard that Lethal Lipstick needed a guitarist and approached Grind with a tape of his band Sik Tikit. "When we met, he drove up in a beat up old black and white Plymouth Valiant. He talked about how he just ran over some guy’s garbage cans 'just for the fuck of it', only to have the garbage can get stuck under the car. He had to stop the car in order to get thing out of there while the owner watched and cursed him out. Then we had to push the thing back out of the parking spot he'd pulled into cuz the car didn't even have reverse. All I could think to myself was 'What a fuck up this kid is! What makes him think he should be in our band?"
Things weren't looking good for Trash and his desire to join Lethal Lipstick. That is until Nick got to Gary's house with the tape and they listened to it. Trash and cleverly fast forwarded the demo to the beginning of his best guitar solo on it. Within 5 seconds of listening to it Gary hit the pause button. They just looked at each other and both knew they were onto something. They rewound the tape and listened to it all the way through. They immediately called Mike up and arranged for an audition. Following that jam session, there was no question about it. Mike Trash would become Lethal Lipstick's new lead guitarist. In fact, after a handful more sessions, it was decided that a second guitarist would not be needed. Trash handled both rhythm and lead just fine on his own and his song writing talent would fill the void left by Gori and Thomas.
Shortly thereafter, they joined forces with trusted producer Art Snay at his Arabellum Studios to record what would become their break through demo EP "There Goes The Neighborhood" featuring the fan favorites "Dancin' with Dynamite" and "The King", a song about the hot rods that would meet up in Schenectady NY to illegally drag race down State Street for 'pink slips'. Lethal Lipstick was back in business and better than ever with shows that grew larger and larger, Climaxing in their headline appearance at Albany's Palace Theater.
However, they felt trapped and isolated from the real music business in their hometown of Albany. So Grind and Grafixx set a course for the band to break out of the isolation. The L.A. scene was booming at the time and labels on the west coast were willing to sign a ham sandwich if it wore eyeliner. But the boys decided to set their sights on NYC, where the music scene had a darker soul and even sleazier attitude. In the pre Giuliani days when Times Square was a sex and drug infested cesspool of slime. It was after all, the scene that had given birth to their idols and influences like The Dead Boys, KISS, The Ramones, and of course the New York Dolls. It was where Sid killed Nancy and later killed himself. Where Frank Sinatra's words 'If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere' rang true.
With their financial backing long since dried up, they used their rent money to attend one day of the College Music Journal Festival being held at the Vista hotel in World Trade Center Plaza. They planned to hand out press kits and demos there in hopes of getting some recognition. There they briefly bumped into Gerri Miller, editor of Metal Edge magazine. They gave her one of the demos and a press kit as she quickly disappeared down a long dark hallway in the hotel. About a week later, Gary got a phone call from her at his house. She said she wanted to ask him a few questions and they chatted for about five minutes. Nothing seemingly important transpired during their conversation and it was quickly forgotten.
A couple of months passed by and one day Gary arrived home to find a couple hand written letters in his mail box. The letters were from some random people who lived far away from Albany, NY asking for a copy of Lethal Lipstick's demo. Thinking they were booking agents or someone affiliated in the business, he packaged up the demos and mailed them out. The next day he got some more letters, and the following day too. He even began receiving requests from overseas. With each passing day the amount of mail he received increased. And with each one he did the same as always, mailing out a demo and press kit. Not knowing why there was this sudden increase in interest in the band and why they were coming from so far away, he decided to call one that had included a telephone number. He had expected to reach a club owner or booking agent. Instead, on the other end of the phone was a young teenage heavy metal fan, who in turn was totally stoked to have gotten a phone call from him. After talking for a bit, he learned that Metal Edge had published a small article on the band and done a rather flattering review of "There Goes The Neighborhood". In the article she had included the address found in the press kit. This explained the sudden flood of mail in his mailbox.
The band was thrilled to have gained the added attention as more and more fan mail began to come in. With that came requests from other music publications and booking agents eager to review the material and work with the band. Among them was a small time booking agent and aspiring entertainment manager out of Hoboken NJ named Randy Roxx. He told them he could help the band book some gigs in and around the NYC metro area and North Jersey. They played their first gig for him at a Hoboken night club called Escapades. After the show the band met with Randy where they made a handshake agreement in which he would become the band's manager.
They continued playing in their hometown as well as more gigs for Randy. In the meantime, the fan mail continued to pour in and other national press were giving them rave reviews. Each and every demo the mailed out to their fans they did so without charging a dime, but that could only last so long. Nick went at Gary's after work one evening, as he usually did, to help with the reproduction of the demos and prepare them for mailing. When he got there he found Gary looking completely bummed out and staring at a file box full of the latest mail he had received. "What's wrong man?", he asked. Gary replied, "I've got this box full of mail asking for copies of the demo. I'm completely out of tapes to send, and I don't have a freaking dime to my name to get some more." Indeed, they boys were going broke trying to keep up with the demand for their stuff. They were actually broke before all this started, but now they were really broke.
The only way this would work was if the fans were willing to pay something. The band tapped Gary's expertise as a graphic artist and came up with a mail order form where fans could purchase tapes, t-shirts, pins, & posters. This meant that for every order they would have the money to cover producing and shipping the products, plus a little bit of profit.
A few thousand shipments later and the boyz decided it was time to celebrate, with a road trip to the west coast. They would target a few weeks around the Foundations Forum convention at the Universal hotel in Studio City, Ca. just outside Hollywood. They're goal would be to get a record contract.
From the moment they arrived they were welcomed into the fold of the L.A. scene. Lethal Lipstick would go on party time over drive. Not a party, gig, or show was missed as they got down and dirty in Southern California. They North East crew stood out with their pale looks and dark persona. Everywhere they went, executives, managers, and lawyers from the entertainment industry courted the band looking to cut a deal with them. In the midst of the melee, a few familiar faces from back east emerged.
First Nick ran into his childhood friend Marc, who was working in the marketing department at CBS records. Marc would present the band to his A&R department upon returning to New York.
They also met with Peter Ciaccia from Total Music Management, a NYC based management company. He insisted that he was the right person to take the band to the next level and produce a major studio release.
When they got back to New York, Tommy Gunn booked the band to play the legendary Cat Club. And later a special showcase in Times Square. In the audience were Peter Ciaccia, Marc Reiter, and Epic A&R representative Bob Feinangle. There they met and made a deal between Total Music Management & CBS for funding and releasing the band's first album. TMM would handle executive producing the album and deliver it to Epic for release, as well as act as the bands manager.
First, TMM would get the band prepared for the studio by sending them on the road with gigs throughout the East coast. In between they would work on recording in North Jersey, producing demos of new material for the album. In the midst of the tour the band decided to make a move and, using some of the advance $, took over a loft in The Bronx where they built themselves an office, sound proof rehearsal studio, and a 5 bedroom apartment. The loft was the bands home base in the midst of crack alleys. It would become one LEGENDARY party pad! After a few months, they settled in to their new digs and stayed close to the city began working in the loft with Roger Probert hired to produce the recording.
Maybe it was the stress of having been through so much together, but as the rehearsal sessions with Probert started, it was clear that the band felt like they had an odd man out. Friction between the band members led to the abrupt departure of drummer Chris Quinn. With the loss of a band member, recording the album was in jeopardy. But they would not be stopped. Nick, Gary, & Mike teamed up with long time friend Slammin' Sammy Minelli of Damn Cheetah fame. Sammy quickly moved into the loft and began rehearsing with them and Probert, as Nick, Gary, & Mike sought their permanent replacement. And they knew exactly who it would be. That's right; some 'dude' they partied with months earlier who said he played drums and they thought was really cool. All they knew about him was that his name was Billy Lixx.
Feeling comfortable with Roger producing and Sammy drumming, Lethal Lipstick began recording their first major label release at the former Record Plant studio at 321 W 44th St. in midtown. The studio had a real special feel and ghostly aura about her. Legendary stories of haunting by the ghosts of Lennon and Hendrix. From a 10 story roof top in The Big Apple, they crafted the likes of "Where the Action Never Stops", "Pull the Trigger", "Wild Child", "Time Bomb Baby", and "Yesterday's Gone Tomorrow" along with remixes of "Dancin' With Dynamite" and "Sleaze". It would culminate in a New Years Eve celebration with the band hosting a Times Square party and performing the new album live in the big room of the studio for invited guests and party goers. A spectacle Nick especially enjoyed as it coincided with his birthday and celebrated by riding a motorcycle up the elevator and onto the stage.
Throughout this period, they looked for a permanent drummer, but always with Billy in mind. Every night they would hit the clubs to party, but always looking out for him.
Meanwhile, they didn't realize that things were unraveling, from a business standpoint, at CBS. CBS sold its music division to Sony, who formed Sony Music Corp. With new business leadership, their deal could be in jeopardy. And, indeed it was. What the band didn't know at first was that the owners of TMM also worked for CBS. Both of whom resigned soon after the Sony take over. Not long after, the band's A&R rep was let go from Epic. TMM had produced the album and delivered it to Epic. But since Epic was in the midst of reorganizing, they would not immediately release it. It became clear that the band no longer had support from the label. So Lethal Lipstick and TMM would venture out on their own with album in hopes of releasing it independently or through another major label.
Undeterred, the band hit the road again, showcasing the new material. Peter and TMM strategized about getting the album onto a label. This wasn’t as easy a proposition anymore with an economic recession setting in. Labels cut back significantly on their investments and were limiting signing up new artists, even when the album was already cut.
Pissed off at the shitty bubble gum music that was getting signed, the boyz decided to head cross country for another ditch in So. Cal. for a good time. But this time they would go first class. TMM was still behind them and secured funding for the band. They would also release to radio stations a 6 song CD combining 3 songs from Lethal Lipstick and 3 songs from Damn Cheetah. Carted by limousine, the entire crew settled in to suites at the Mondrian Hotel on the Sunset Strip. While making their way around the L.A. clubs, the bands level of excess was at a new high, and no expense was spared. At the same time, the CD was taking hold on the airwaves. When they wore out their welcome in L.A., they laughed their asses off on the limo ride all the way to the airport and back to NYC and the loft.
When they returned, Z-Rockers were rocking out to "Pull the trigger" and the remade "Dancin' With Dynamite". And being back home felt good. The NYC scene had given the boyz a family and it was great to be among old friends. So much so, that they finally met up with Billy again (yeah, it was at a bar). The next day he would come to the loft to jam. Not only did every song sound perfect, but they all agreed that Billy's drumming was the best they'd ever heard (no kidding, better than ANYBODY EVER!). So Billy moved from Long Island to the loft in the Bronx. TMM couldn't have been happier with the final lineup, and neither could the fans. They immediately went on the road again. Their following had swelled in the NYC and mid Atlantic regions, with Baltimore giving them almost a second home. And TMM was sure they had a deal with a label lined up.
They had developed a deal for distribution of the album through MCA. MCA would take the album and fund one of their heavy metal subsidiaries to handle the distribution. The deal, however, took a long time to negotiate. And as the band continued to perform, it became more complicated. In the end, this resulted in MCA later backing out of the deal altogether. By this time the economic recession was getting worse, sending new audiences in a different direction. Grunge(!) TMM reluctantly came to them asking for a name change to the band, saying that they couldn't sell glam. Locally, among friends and neighbors, the members of the band were commonly referred to collectively as the lethal boys. From then on they would be billed as Lethal Boyz.
They did, however, keep things as glam as ever and kept on gigging. And with all that gigging and road stories, came a lot of song writing. But now the heavy financial backing was gone. So along with TMM they would take the Lethal Boyz underground. They would play the darkest underground clubs, every after hours jam, every celebrity jam, and do it every night. If they weren't on the road they buried themselves in the musical nightlife of New York. Underground methods had served them well in the past with "There Goes the Neighborhood", so the set out to repeat that guttery feel. They would produce a new album themselves in the heart of Soho. In a studio, that was not quite what they'd grown accustom to, they laid down some of the bands' all time favorites like "No Shame", "Dangerous Life", "Let's Play Doctor", "Read My Lips", "Psycho Machine", and a resurrected "Pray for You" from Mike's Sik Tikit days with rewritten lyrics.
And that meant the last of the cash. TMM split their partnership and the band was left hanging in the wind. The loft lease would end and they would have to abandon ship given there was no one to pay the rent. And the band's equipment would be liquidated by TMM who had made the advance on it.
And!!! As all this was going down, Gary became a father. This meant real responsibility. No longer could he live by the seat of his pants like he had been. But the band was determined to stick it out. They all got jobs and apartments in Manhattan and regrouped. They could still keep gigging and release the new demo themselves. Wanting to get rejuvenated, they felt a change of scenery was in order. They decided they would go west once again and release this new album out there.
The plan was, to split up for a while and gather up resources. Then make the move to the west coast independently and regroup out there. That was the plan. Mike went to Albany for work and to get ready for a permanent cross country move. Billy headed back to Long Island to do the same. Nick remained in Manhattan working as a bartender to save money for relocating. Gary was the first to go. With his wife, baby, and Mike's girlfriend they would go and establish a home base for them to work from. The rest would follow later.
But the distance between them wouldn't help matters. Nick was arrested on felony assault charges resulting from a street fight. He would have to remain in New York and face the justice system. As more than a year passed, each of them struggled to get by and getting everyone regrouped just fell apart. And Lethal Lipstick died in 1993.
When the charges were finally dropped, Nick made his way back home to Albany. There, he and Mike formed The Virus and then The Godfathers of Infection with Billy and bassist Dan (Stab) Russamano. Together they cut and released one last recording titled "Welcome to Your Suicide" including "Lover Boy", "Agony & Xtacy", "Wasted Emotion", "Under Your Skin", "Just Another Suicide", and a remake of the Alice Cooper classic "Is It My Body". For this effort, they went back to Art Snay who had produced "There Goes the Neighborhood". With that, they toured for a couple years through many of the old haunts Lethal Lipstick had been through, and in a way, bringing everything back full circle. And with that journey complete, Nick Grind called it quits and retired from music.
Mike Trash renamed the new band to The Erotics, with whom he has been carrying on over two decades of rock-n-rolling. And with that, the spirit of Lethal Lipstick carries on.
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