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Articles Home » Interviews » Adrenalin - 2002 Interview with Brian Pastoria
Adrenalin - 2002 Interview with Brian Pastoria

INTERVIEW: Adrenalin (Sep 2002)
American Heart, American Dream.. shared with Brian Pastoria

In The Spotlight - Adrenalin
Interview with Brian Pastoria
Written by: DangerZone (September 20, 2002)

Sept 2002: Adrenalin are always remembered as the band 'who never made it.' If this is the case then why are we still talking about them more than 25 years later? Possibly because they are one of Detroits favourite melodic rock acts in history, right up there with other hometown greats like Bob Seger and Grand Funk Railroad. Adrenalin's road was significantly more rocky however, with numerous incidents that plagued a promising career leading to the formation of a new band, DC Drive during the early 90's, who suffered similar problems. After years of inactivity Adrenalin reformed for some reunion shows earlier this year and were shocked at the volume of people who showed up to support the band. It was gratification for a band that had seen the death of their lead singer and the loss of lucrative recording contracts in past decades. It was confirmation that they had made it after all. With all this behind them GLORY-DAZE contacted Adrenalin-DC Drive founder Brian Pastoria (drums) to get the inside story on the extensive history of the two bands. Literally, Brian leaves no stones unturned..

The roots of Adrenalin go back as far as 1965. The Pastoria's, (Brian and Mark -keyboards) and the Romeo's, ( Jimmy - sax and Michael - guitar) went to school as far back as the grade level at St Veronica's in East Detroit. 'We played in the school bands together, sang in the choir, played sports, got in trouble together, but most of all shared a common bond from the beginning: playing music together' explains Brian. 'Our parents were also friends, so we've been really close for 37 years. WOW!' Brian shares the lengthy history between the two families. 'One thing I'll always remember is Mrs Romeos cooking' says Brian fondly. 'She was the best. Her and Jack Romeo and my mom Eda have always been huge supporters of the band.'

With history as far reaching as this, it was no surprise that the Pastoria's and Romeo's would one day play in a band together, but the first version of what would become Adrenalin did not feature the Romeo's. 'The first incarnation of the band played at a basement party Halloween night 1974 while Flash (Mike Haggerty, guitar) and I were still in High School. I first met Flash at high school at Grosse Point North' points out Brian. 'We were a four piece then, with Ray Spitzley, who is a partner with us now in the Harmonie Park Creative group, on vocals and Jeff Gerow on the other guitar. We did ten songs and put on a hell of a show in Jeff Lubecks' basement. They loved us so much we played the same set again because we didn't know any other songs! It was all in fun but Flash and I really struck a chord about getting a band together.'

Brian continues. 'In the fall of '76 after graduation, I saw Flash driving down Mack Avenue in Grosse Pointe. He asked me if I'd like to come by and jam with his new band. I stopped by the following night and I knew right away that this is where I wanted to be. Flash was writing some great songs and it was the creative voice that I was searching for. The original band didn't have a name yet, but it was myself, Flash, Glen Young on bass, Kevin Derlon on vocals and Matt Barron on rhythm guitar. I then got a call from a good friend, Mike Smith (drummer for fellow Detroit band Figures On A Beach) who said his mom heard David Larson sing on a loading dock. She said this guy was great and she gave him my number. David called the next day and said 'let's get together, I'm your guy, I'm ready to do this.' We hit it off great from the start. The first song he sang was 'Stealin' by Uriah Heep and we knew this was our lead singer. He had the voice, the look, the attitude AND he was a great guy.'

The desired lineup was not complete however and a new guitarist and bassist were sought. As Brian explains the addition of Michael Romeo and Bruce Schafer brought the classic Adrenalin lineup one step closer. 'A couple of weeks after David joined, we knew we had to bolster up the guitars. We were looking for that twin guitar attack like the Stones and Aerosmith. I suggested an old friend from grade school, Mike Romeo. Flash and I went over to Mikes house (Romeo was still in high school) and he played the shit out of some Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Hendrix and some old Chicago stuff. As a sixteen-year-old Michael was amazing! We were searching for a name and settled on the name we used in high school, 'ADRENALIN'. We were a high energy band and the name fit. We started to play everywhere we could, high schools, colleges, backyards, anywhere. We were growing as a band fast, but it was obvious we needed a REAL bass player.'

Amazingly it was another old grade school friend from St Veronica's that got the gig. 'Bruce Schafer was and is one of the most solid bass players around and his chemistry with the band was great' Brian says of the long serving bassist. 'We were getting a great reputation around town for our live shows and Bruce added that foundation we were looking for. We were doing more recording and starting to find our sound.'

By 1979 Adrenalin were growing more confident and ready to record their own material. Without a manager, a serious search was undertaken to find one. It wasn't very hard. 'I ran into Jimmy Risk at his t-shirt store on the East side of Detroit' relates Brian. 'A rough tape I played for him in my van inspired Jimmy. After seeing us live, he said he thought he could get us a recording contract. We needed someone who believed in us like we did and someone to take us out of Detroit and into the music bus. Jimmy was that man.' There was still one piece to be added to the puzzle and that was Jimmy Romeo on sax. Brian claims the addition of the sax gave them the midwest feel they desired. 'The heartland rock 'n' roll we were starting to write was crying for something different and Jimmy bought that with his sax and vocals. Of course he was a friend from childhood and the chemistry again was awesome.'

Things started moving quickly for Adrenalin following this and before long the band were playing Detroit bars with other opening acts. 'It was a concept that the Rockets had started to do and it was right where we wanted to be' says Brian. 'Jimmy Risk hooked us up with a producer named Jerry Allaer during this time. Jerry took us into the studio for our first real recording with a producer. Those were the sessions that produced 'Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'. We recorded some originals, but it was the 'Crazy Elephant' cover song that caught the attention of W4 Disc Jockey Doug Podell. Jerry played 'Good Lovin' for Doug at a party on the East side after we recorded it. Doug said he wanted to play it on the air immediately. In August of 79' I was driving down the same street that I met Flash when I heard 'Good Lovin' on the radio for the first time. What a rush! We were officially one of the hottest local bands now, thanks to Doug Podell.'

Things were moving along well for Adrenalin and were being courted by several industry heavyweights. 'A production company from Los Angeles was hot on signing us to a deal with Warner Bros' says Brian. 'Dino and John Barbas, both legendary record guys were very excited about this band and came to Detroit to see us at Fraser Hockeyland. We thought this was our big break. We hooked up with producer Howard Steele (Lynyrd Skynyrd, Diana Ross), who rehearsed us for a week in February of 1980 before going into the studio to do some songs for WB. That week was to end with a gig at a local high school where Howard would see us live. Ironically enough, Graham Strachan, who sings with us now, was at that gig. Well David Larson our singer, never showed and two days later was found dead. Needless to say we were rocked to the core losing our best friend and singer.'

This tragedy was the first in a long line of unfortunate events for Adrenalin. A lot of questions remained unanswered about Larson's death though. 'Let's just say it was a very tragic thing. David had his demons and in the end they won' says Brian sadly. 'He was a great guy. He was like our older brother. We all looked up to him. Of the three singers we worked with, David had the whole deal. The voice, songwriting, charisma, looks, the gift of the gab, his stage performance, he had the whole package. He had a lot of pressure coming at him from some bad relationships. When the band first started to take off with the 'Gimme Gimme Good Lovin' record, I don't think he could handle what was about to happen. So he checked out. No doubt drugs played a part in his confusion. Sad story. We'll always miss him. His presence always seems to be with us. Thanks for remembering him.'

Adrenalin were far from finished thankfully and soon found themselves a new vocalist. 'Giving up wasn't an option' declares Brian, 'and we hooked up a short time later with Marc Gilbert, who had recently auditioned for the Joe Perry Project and was working with Bob Seger keyboardist Robyn Robbins. Marc was the younger brother to Dave Gilbert, lead singer in the Rockets, another great Detroit band. Our first gig with Marc was at the sold out Punch and Judy Theatre late spring in 1980. It was back to the live gigs to work out the new band.'

Continuing their resurgence, Adrenalin recorded a new demo late that year officially adding Brian's brother Mark into the band as keyboardist. As a family member Mark was another easy addition for the band and he made his first live appearance with Adrenalin on Valentines Day 1981. With the final lineup complete Adrenalin were on the prowl once more for a major label deal. Results were mixed. 'Jerry Wexler took an interest in the band' recalls Brian. 'He tried to get us signed with the WEA family but it didn't work out. He said we reminded him of the Rascals. The great thing was having lunch with him at his Manhattan loft. A great thrill.'

'Our next major release was an independent record called 'Don't Be Lookin' Back' in 1983. Howard Steele came back into town to produce us, but it was obvious we needed a new producer' says Brian.' A Southwest tour for 'Don't Be Lookin' Back' landed us in Texas performing sold out shows. It bought us to the attention of MCA 's Rocshire Records. Gary Davis and and former all pro football player Cedric Hardman saw us in a club and basically signed us on the spot. The next move was to have Jimmy Risk track down a producer we wanted to work with, Vinny Poncia.'

This was successfully acheived and before long Adrenalin were in New York recording their first major label album. Vini Poncia found fame producing and writing with Kiss, most notably around the 'Dynasty' and 'Unmasked' era. With this pedigree, working with Poncia must have been a coup. 'He was the best' says Brian. 'Our musical mentor, friend and teacher. He lived with us when we made our records; he was a real record producer and a gifted and schooled songwriter. One of the greats of all time. Vini took us to the 'College Of Musical Knowledge'. He showed us how to make records. We'd love to work with him again. Or just go to a great restaurant and laugh our asses off.'

For all the good times things deteriorated again when Rocshire Records went under, just as Adrenalin's first album, the classic 'American Heart' was taking off. What was behind their demise? Brian tells all. 'The owner Rocky Davis' wife Shirley Davis, embezzled big dough from Hughes aircraft. It was kind of a Robin Hood deal where they stole from the rich (Hughes) and gave to the poor (his artists). The slogan for the label was 'Home Of The Artists'. Nobody knew what was happening, but it was kinda strange. Rocky was straight out of the Beverly Hillbillies. He was getting ready to pop some big time dough into us when he got popped. We missed out by a few weeks. Damn.'

Brian also mentions the master tapes in his bio. Were they stolen? 'No' he confirms. 'They went into receivership when Rocshire's assets were frozen and we couldn't use them.'

American Heart (1984, Rocshire)

Despite this 'American Heart' was a vintage slice of AOR magic. Tracks like 'The Pressures On' and 'Michael' contain a lot of tension. Was there a working class ethic to your style coming from the Midwest? 'No doubt, working class is something we identify with. Even today! Ha!' Brian says. With this in mind I ask Brian whether I was on or off-base comparing Adrenalin to Survivor in my Glory Days review of 'American Heart'. 'Way off' comes the predictable answer. 'We weren't into them at all. We were actually more sensitive to being compared to Bruce (Springsteen) and his band, and Seger. Vini Poncia helped us carve out our own identity in that regard. Live I think our shows had a little different feel with the audience interaction and energy and the accapella song we used to do. Also Jimmy Romeo's sax set us apart.'

Were the songs off the debut written a long time before you recorded them? 'Some were, but most of the songs came out of listening sessions with Vini and rehearsals at our studio on 8 mile in Detroit. We learned to really raise the bar with Vini'.

Salvation was soon found when MCA signed Adrenalin in 1985 after a long chain of events. Even this was doomed to eventual failure. I ask Brian how Adrenalin came to sign with MCA and how their relationship with the label was. 'MCA signed us after we recorded 'Road Of The Gypsy' for the Iron Eagle soundtrack. Jimmy Risk went to Don Grierson at Capitol Records to try and revitalise our career with another album deal, but Grierson basically passed in the office that day. Three days later however he called saying 'no album deal, but 'Gypsy' could work for a new Lou Gosset movie'. Soundtrack only, but MCA trumped Capitol by signing us.'

'Capitol did the soundtrack but MCA, who distributed Rochshire, somehow got access to our 'American Heart' masters. Mmm. We were able to get an album release on a major and we thought maybe now those songs from 'American Heart' could see the light of day. So doing 'Gypsy', another new song called 'Summer Nights' and 8 songs that just needed a remix was a quick way to get back out there.'

True to form things just would not go right for Adrenalin. 'Unfortunately the 'Freedom Road' and 'Gimme Your Heart' masters got lost' sighs Brian. 'Richard Palmese who now works with Clive Davis, signed us. We had a great relationship with MCA. Sadly they got caught in a payola scandal just after the release of 'Gypsy' and all the independent money dried up. Without independent promotion we didn't have a shot.' Did you think that inclusion on the Iron Eagle soundtrack was the break you were looking for? 'Not really, we thought it was just another brick in the wall. A big brick. But yes we were excited about being in a movie. What we really wanted was a hit record.'

Road Of The Gypsy (1986, MCA)

With all the talk of Adrenalin's bad luck, there must have been a specific time when they knew it wasn't going to happen. 'It was in 1986 after the MCA payola deal, Marc Gilbert's demons, the Rocshire deal and David Larson's death' says Brian. 'We needed a break and a change. Hooking up with Mark Farner gave us both.' With this in mind, Farner's inclusion was not a case of him joining the band, but the other way round. 'It was actually Mark's band; he was just kind enough to give us billing. We did all Grand Funk material and it was great. We didn't mind at all. We travelled North America and got to think about what we wanted to do next. We had a ball with Mark. On the bus we had a conversation that if we could find a young guy who could sing like Farner, we'd really have something. A week later Jimmy Romeo ran into Joey Harmody (Joey Bowen for DC Drive recording purposes). We actually started out as Adrenalin and later changed to DC Drive at the request of our new manager Frank Rand.'

Thus DC Drive was born and their single album, a self titled affair was released in 1991. Apart from Bowen, the only non-Adrenalin member was Doug Kahan who took Bruce Schafer's place on bass. The question remains, was DC Drive as satisfying musically as Adrenalin? According to Brian, certainly. 'The band really rocked and a great time was had by all. It was very satisfying because the band was really great live and in the studio at this point. We did a great video for 'U Need Love' that featured Motown choreographer Cholly 'Pops' Atkins. We had the experience of wroking with a new manager Frank Rand who regularly brought us down to reality and brought a great A and R perspective to us. He was brutally honest with us and it helped us big time. Dean Cammerone and Tim Trombley signed us to Capitol in Canada and we had a hit with 'U Need Love'.

DC Drive (1991/92)

But as Brian found later on, the magic that Adrenalin had was somewhat lacking with DC Drive. 'The camaraderie wasn't there that we had in Adrenalin. DC Drive could have blown up with 'U Need Love' and 'All I Want' (somehow doubtful given the hard rock climate of the era) but Joey had his own ideas of the music business and how he wanted to operate. Doug was extremely talented, but after Joey left to go on a solo trip, he moved to Nashville.' Yet again, on the verge of another major deal, Bowen quit the band. 'He said he was tired of singing soul music and he wanted to sing songs of hate' says Brian. 'Whatever it was I couldn't relate. Anyway he wanted to do his own thing. God bless him. But at this point it was 16 years running and we were ready to get on with it and focus on our families and start a new life.'

They did just that. Adrenalin went their separate ways and resumed regular lives, far removed from the music business. Brian and his brother Mark formed Harmonie Park recording studios in downtown Detroit, keeping their links with the music industry. With the others pursuing various careers, Doug Podell, the DJ who first introduced Adrenalin to radio, contacted the band about performing a reunion show in May of this year to commemorate 25 years of Adrenalin. The band agreed and the show was a major success. For Brian it was an emotional occasion. 'That show was a very special night for all of us. It was like the worlds largest family reunion. We couldn't believe how many people showed up AND sang all the words. At the end of the day we did this to make a connection with people. To be a voice in some way. Knowing that we did is gratifying. The biggest kick is that our kids get to see us now. All thirteen of them!'

Adrenalin's new CD 'Twenty Five Years 1977-2002' has been attracting attention also. For many it will be the first time they have heard Adrenalin in any form. Does Brian think with the right distribution Adrenalin might attract a new audience? 'I think we could' he replies positively. 'We are getting a great response from Australia, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Poland, Sweden and New Zealand. We had no idea we would get this response. It's inspired us to get back in the studio, and to come up with some new songs with Chris (McCall) and Graham (Strachan, Robb Roy) on vocals. We're very excited about the new songs. The melodic rock tag is something we didn't know about until recently. We would love to find a distribution partner to keep our music out there. Although selling CD's directly has been way more profitable than ever!' So you're happy with the AOR tag? 'Yes, we had our focus on recording and writing great songs, not just singles. Album orientated songs. It works for us.'

With as many years on the road as Adrenalin have notched, there must have been many moments that stand out. 'Opening for Aerosmith and Bob Seger comes to mind right away. Any time you play with your heroes it's a trip. The best part of the road experience was the people that helped our machine run over the years, people we travelled with and were there for us night after night. The 'Midnight Express'. My brother David 'Dangerman' Pastoria, Thom 'Kuch' Kuchulan, Tony 'Veal' Vitello, Bobby 'Lites' Piva, 'Flip', 'Rooster', Rudy, Dave Bernas, 'Hot Sam', Jimmy Pal, Jimmy Risk, Vini Poncia, Bobby Schaper, Frank Rand all helped make it happen for us. The memories are a lifetime worth.'

Last year Heart Of The Rock interviewed the band Sweet Crystal, also Detroit natives. The city plays host to many talented artists, both current and yesteryear. 'White Stripes and a whole generation of Garage bands are coming out of Detroit. Also the RandB and gospel scene are strong. Of course Eminem, who used to cook our hamburgers at Gilbert's on Harper in St Clair shores. Bob Ritchie, now known as Kid Rock, who we now call Rich Bobbie, the Winans and D-12 who use our studio in Harmonie Park. Uncle Kracker, who is the most underrated songwriter in the bunch, Insane Clown Posse, the list goes on.'

Clearly proud to be part of the Detroit scene, Brian continues to reflect on the past. 'The musical heritage in Detroit is awe inspiring. The 60's rock era with Iggy Pop, the MC5, and what that inspired in the 70's. Little Willie John and John Lee Hooker, Berry Gordy and Motown, George Clinton, Grand Funk, Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder.. just think about the way these artists influenced popular music. We're just happy to play a role in that legacy. Detroit is starting to really dominate again, and I think it could go to another level.'

For all that however, Harmonie Park has many projects of it's own, perhaps even playing in the melodic rock style? 'Not hearing too many bands striking that chord. Maybe someone ought to come up with some new shit!'

All that leaves me to do is thank you Brian for your time and answers. From us at GLORY-DAZE it's been more than a pleasure! 'Thanks for your interest Alun. We should have something new to listen to soon..'

Adrenalin-DC Drive website

Related Articles:

Adrenalin (USA) - 1984 American Heart
Adrenalin (USA) - 1986 Road Of The Gypsy
Adrenalin (USA) - 2002 25 Years
Adrenalin (USA) - 2002 Interview with Brian Pastoria

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