INTERVIEW: DONNIE VIE - July 2019

July 29, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

According to a recent press release: "Original songwriter/lead vocalist of Enuff Z’Nuff, Donnie Vie, is back with his latest solo album, Beautiful Things, which was released on June 7th via Deko Music on CD/LP/Digital, with the first single "I Could Save The World" out on May 24th. The album also features special guests Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big), Roger Joseph Manning Jr. (Jellyfish) and Mike LePond (Symphony X), and will be issued as limited edition LP bundles." We get Donnie to discuss new music, touring, and much more...

Toddstar: Donnie, thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule for me.

Donnie Vie: Thank you for caring.

Toddstar: Hey, we always care - I've been rocking and rolling with Donnie Vie for a long time.

Donnie Vie: Well, that's awesome. That's why I do it.

Toddstar: I'm really excited that you're still doing it and that you've got this great new album, Beautiful Things.

Donnie Vie: Thank you. Yeah, I'm really proud of it and happy to be a part of it too.

Toddstar: Well, it was released back early June, so you're about a month and a half in, month and a week in. What can you tell us about this album that your fans may or may not grab the first or second time they listen to this disc?

Donnie Vie: Well, if it's a new listener, I think there's nothing to know. You just listen to it, and you like it or you don't. So far, everybody that's heard this said really nice things about it, and I'm very happy with it, and I think I'm not too shabby of a writer and a singer, and so that's my thing is I have to be happy with it. I haven't felt 100% on any of the Enuff Z'Nuff records. I haven't felt like I got to really make the record I wanted to make. It started off with the wrong lineup of guys to begin with, but it was nothing against those guys, but that doesn't gel. It doesn't make sense on paper. It doesn't make sense. Everything's got to gel and work together, and that's how things become something, you know what I mean? Not with everybody working their selves, but there's agendas, and there's egos, and there's this and that, and also mine. I'm an artist. I'm not a rock star. I'm an artist, and I get into the passion of the art. It's my blood, sweat and tears that goes into these songs, and for somebody to cockblock my creativity, after a while that wears thin on you. This is the record I always wanted to make. This is a really good, solid record. It's very melodic. It's got a lot of harmonies, a lot of cool things in it, a lot of colors, no buzz saw guitars drowning everything out, and it's still in the fashion of what anybody likes about me. I took all that with me, you know? I think it can appeal to a broader range of people because it's, we're kind of in the middle there. It's like the pop people that love pop music, it was too heavy for them, and the ones that like heavy stuff, it was too poppy for them, so we're kind of stuck in the middle there once we got rid of Frigo and all that shit. This is a regular pop rock and roll record. I know a lot of heavy metal guys and stuff that love this record because they're musicians, and they've been influenced too. They just went different directions. They do different things, but I think it's really great. I think that some cool people got involved and helped me make it, and the songs came. I went four years without writing a song. Four fucking years, and that's never happened to me in my life since I started writing. I always got a back fucking log of my brain. I have to shut my brain off, there's so many. These ideas are beamed into me from somewhere else, and it's my job to follow the song and let it take me where it wants to go. And I don't fight the song, and I don't write like other people. I write with the vibe and the inspiration of the song, you know what I mean? For me, it's a life. Every song is like a little life, like my children and my creations, and I don't want them... If you have children, you don't want to send them out into the world unprepared or half-cocked. You want to give them the best upraising, and that's what I do. I don't sit down with the intentions of writing a song. When it comes to me, then I get to it, and I do my job to it, and hopefully I don't fuck it up with my buffoonery, you know what I mean? I took a couple, three, four years to do some self-improvement. Some health issues, Hepatitis C. My teeth, I ground those down in a motorcycle accident. My bones were all, I busted a bunch, a shattered ankle. Plus, the motorcycle accident fucked me up, and then I got arrested and a warrant. I had an old warrant in Michigan for some shit my sister did, and the only way to get out of that would have been to have her put to jail, and she just had a baby and just got out of that shit and she's just got married, so I figured I had been praying for God to change my life. It was so, so desperately terrible and just despairing, and I was so sad and miserable, and just every day would just wish that I wasn't here. Why would you leave me here like this, and then some father or mother on their way home gets smashed by a truck in a car, and they're fatherless, and stuff, like a family? So why would you leave me here? Because you're not letting it go anywhere, but they still keep me. It's cruel, but I said to whatever the higher power, I said, "Take me or fucking do something to help me change this because I can't do it myself." God knows, after that one, it's hopeless, and I was getting off the plane coming back from like Europe, and they were waiting for me because I had an old warrant. I prayed for that. You've got to be careful what you pray for. But everything, hindsight is insight, you know what I mean? At the time, things might not be pleasant, but you've got to go through unpleasant things to get to the other side of things, and God knows I needed it. It was like a 15 month program they offered me, and I took it, and it was all about just taking time for you. Everything else has to be put on the back burner. All of the chicks, all your... whatever you do. So, I could never do that before because there's always something that has to happen. Maybe there's not a bunch of it, but there's enough of it that you don't have the opportunity to do these things or can afford them. And so, I got my Hepatitis C cured, got my teeth all fixed up again, my bones and shit back in order. The sciatic shit and all this other stuff, my eyesight. All this stuff I get. I cost Michigan... "You're going to arrest me? Well, I'm going to cost you three quarters of a million dollars." And that's what I did. I also enriched and found my spirit and got it back, man. You can lose your spirit. You'd be walking around, and you're dead. Your body's still walking. Your brain knows enough to know that you're dead, you know what I mean? And you're walking around still, and you're dead. It's like, that's when your spirit or your soul or whatever, it's just taken enough abuse. It's just like a battered wife, "I've just had it with this", and they leave, and it left me. And so I'm in this program, and I finished it up. I did everything successfully, got all healthy and clean, and this and that. And then, I was debating on... When this happened to me, I didn't think I was going to be doing this anymore. My intentions were not to, like, "If they don't love me now, they're never going to love me," and, "This is pointless." It's like, "I can do this for myself and not be disillusioned or heartbroken." But then, after the program, I hadn't had a song idea in all that time. I was like, "Well, maybe it's run its course. Maybe it, all this, everybody always gets, "Oh, he writes it so effortlessly," and stuff but maybe that's all turned off. Soon as I was in that position and questioned that, as quickly as that, the song I Could Save the World popped into my head, and I was like, "Fuck," and I demoed it and I said, "This is a cool song." And then, the next one came, a song called Breaking Me Down. That came a couple of days after I finished I Could Save the World, and I was like, "Well, these are cool." I said, "These are really cool." And then came a song called Fly, and then on and on and on. I was like, "We're back in business. We're going to do this." And I'm going to do it in a positive way and do it right this time. No buffoons, get out of the clown car, fucking do it right and present myself and what I do in the best possible presentation, what makes sense and everything, and that's what I think... It far exceeded my expectations. It really sounds like a really good rocker, and the guy that co-produced it and mixed it did an amazing job, and the guys that contributed, like Paul Gilbert and Roger Manning from Jellyfish, and these guys from Symphony X. There's fucking guys from all different kind of shit playing on this thing, but we're all meeting at the one thing, it's like a good song. It's a good song no matter what style it is, and everybody... Jonny Polonsky, all the guys, it sounds great. I didn't intend to play as many instruments and stuff as I ended up playing on this because I'm kind of a hack. I never really sat and practiced and noodled because that's not my thing. I'm a singer, and I play the guitar and stuff, or piano, out of necessity to have something to sing to while I'm writing, you know? I've gotten better and better and I get by on it, but I'm playing a lot on there, but I really like the way it all came together. And it's all vintage stuff, vintage gear. There's no Mesa Boogies and Marshall Stacks and shit like that. It's all really cool, older stuff that sounds cool like 1960 guitars and shit like that. It's the real deal, and it sounds like the real deal, you know?

Toddstar: Listening to it, I dig it top to bottom.

Donnie Vie: Are you satisfied with it? You said you've been a fan.

Toddstar: I dig it and I've been a fan. Again, it's hard to mention Donnie Vie and not talk about Enuff Z'Nuff, but I've been a fan from the early on through. Never been fortunate enough to see a Donnie Vie solo show, and hopefully we can get you back in Michigan.

Donnie Vie: Oh, I forgot you're in Michigan. I should've seen the thing. Good thing I didn't say the line about, "I got captured by hillbillies, and then held for ransom."

Toddstar: Here in Detroit, we'd love to get Donnie Vie in one of these venues up here.

Donnie Vie: If something makes sense to do it, I do a storyteller's thing with acoustic guitar and a grand piano, and I just touch on all of the stuff that I only got to sing one time in my whole life when we recorded it and never sang it again. Out of all those songs, there's so many songs that I did with Enuff Z'Nuff. And the fans, they're just tired of hearing the same old... If you want to hear the same old songs that we played for 20 years, Enuff Z'Nuff's still out there. You can go get your 80's on. You can go check it out, and me and him have buried the hatchet, and so nobody's... I give my blessing. Do your thing. That's what you want to do, and I'm moving on. I need to evolve. I need to go, "I've been there, I've done that." I know where that goes, and it's unhealthy for me. And so, the live band I'm putting together right now.

Toddstar: Well, you mentioned piano. "Instant Karma" is amazing. I love the video itself. I love the musical piece of the video, but the pictures of you on the pier with the piano, to me it speaks volumes not only about the direction you're headed personally, but also musically. I just love that visual. What's it about that track that made sense for you at this point? Because it's not your first Lennon cover - you've done "Imagine." What about "Instant Karma" spoke to you at this point in your career and in your life?

Donnie Vie: Actually, it was completely by chance that I even ended up using that because I ended up... I was in the hospital since right after Thanksgiving for like a month and a half with my pancreas that liquefied on me, and so they told me I was going to die and everything. We had already started to try to launch the record, and I had to pull back on it because I can't do anything. And so I was frustrated, and so I said, "Well, I got this demo sitting around," and he said, "I like it." Obviously, I think I sing it pretty well. And so, people came to my aid and in a big way. Somebody decided to put a grand piano out on the fucking middle of Lake Michigan on a pier. Who does that? The other guys with the studio, and we got 500 kids in the student body of the school singing, "We all shine on", with the posters. It really came together by chance, and out of a bad thing came a good thing. And when we were done with it, I'm like, "What am I going to do with this, though?" It's not on my record, and I don't want to just put out a John Lennon cover with a video, because like, "Who's this guy? Who does he think he is?" Shit like that, right? So I was like, "All right, well, what would John do with it?" He would go with a cause. Some kind of cause, something that could help something. And so, I know I can't do anything about cancer or leukemia or this and that. I started looking into other things that need awareness and one was anti-bullying. The statistics on that are ridiculous. One third of all youthful deaths are suicide, and half of those are from bullying, and if you look at the end, when he rolls the credits... Have you seen the video?

Toddstar: Yes - really like it

Donnie Vie: When the rolls of credits start, I just do that to show you how young these fucking kids are, man. From like nine years old. My nephew's 11 and I don't think he knows what suicide means, the word, but kids at nine, eight years old, killing themselves, committing suicide because of these punk pieces of shit that pick on them because they weren't raised right because we've done away with the spanking. You know what I mean? And so, I figure among like two cousins, one hung themselves and the other one overdosed himself on purpose because of this problem. And they even left notes saying, "I couldn't deal with this anymore." I didn't have a very pleasant childhood and I was scared of people and stuff. I got bullied a little bit, but mostly by my mother. But you know, so, so I'm definitely the anti-bully, but you know something that I can't really do anything about, like maybe help bring a little bit of awareness to it even in a small way. But we haven't really pushed that thing yet. It's kind of sat and floated it out there. I got people that are going to different organizations in support of them, and one of them, there's one of them they went to, my PR chick, she goes to, finds this one organization, this anti-bullying thing and like we got, we did this video... "Who's the artist?" And she goes, "His name is Donnie Vie. He was in a band called Enuff Z'Nuff." "No! No, we will not have that guy!" And I was like, "Wow. Ouch." You know, it's like, "Sure, all right, well, it's come back to bite me on the ass. When you're trying to do a good thing." But obviously, I won't be doing it through those people, but they may jump on later if they see that things have changed, everything's changed. I'm not that character, I'm not frustrated, I'm not miserable any more. I'm healthy now, I'm sober now, I've got good people around me and good things are starting to happen, and we're snowballing in a better direction than I used to snowball into avalanche of bullshit, you know what I mean? So, I'm not biting off more than I can chew, I'm not setting my sights on anything further than tomorrow, and today just take care of, live in the moment. I've never done that voice traced this back to a certain thing. It's like, "You're just going to get heartbroken and heartbroken and heartbroken," and I was killing myself doing that, so now that the ego is gone, all that stuff, there's nothing too small. I'm not going to sit in a fucking 500 feet place and play to 50 people. I'm not going to do that, that's disheartening. And, I'm not going to go on a tour because you might have three good shows that we... but then you've got four or five nights that you got to go pay the bus and shut, you got to go play Joe's Burgers in South Dakota for a fucking $750 for the whole band for the night, so that's when my demons start float to the top, because my spiritual alley and my spirit, my soul, can't deal with that. And you know, it's like the temptations around and it's not healthy for me to be out there doing that. There's no reason to be doing that, because you're not really playing anybody, you're not making any money, its like, "Why go kill yourself for nothing?" But you know, that's my whole approach and you know, the album cover's really cool. It's all the fans, and that's what they believe was beautiful, and that's what I set out to do and it came out really looking nice. It's on vinyl too, which is been a long time since I got one on vinyl. They're asking me, "What color are you wanting the disc?" I go, "You mean, what color I want the disc? It's black. What color of records did you listen to when you're growing up? You got pink records? Bloody green? Clear?" I said, "It's black records!" And I want to see them scratched in a couple of years because people play them so much.

Toddstar: Until recently the whole vinyl experience was lost on a generation.

Donnie Vie: Ain't it how funny that CDs took over vinyl, and now vinyl's taking over CDs taking it back?

Toddstar: Yeah, I'm just hoping cassettes don't make a comeback.

Donnie Vie: Oh my God, I used to love cassettes though. I used to love cassettes because I can record something and go listen to it in my car immediately, you know? Everything sounds good if you listen to it full blast in your car.

Toddstar: Definitely. Donnie, as an independent artist now, you rode the wave of late 80's and 90's with bands and labels, and you know you were on Arista - a big label at the time. What for you is the biggest change being an independent artist now, versus riding that wave that happened back then? Because now, nobody gets those big contracts and long term contracts.

Donnie Vie: Yeah well, me personally, now that I'm thinking clearly, you know when you're in with the big machine behind you and stuff like that, you're a product so you're churned out like whatever else is out there. You are in a band with other guys and stuff that aren't necessarily the right guys, you can't do what you set out to do. If you start out with your intentions of, "I'm going to be a rock star," when then you're not going to be an artist. You're going to be a, you're going to be inside there, you're going to be replacing this guy in L.A. Guns, shit like that. But if you stick to your guns, and that's what being an independent artist, at least I'm fulfilled with what I'm doing. I don't care about money, I never did care about money. And if I had money, I would have killed myself with it, you know? So everything's for a reason. Hindsight is insight, and it's a big difference, so certain perks to one thing, but the perks to the big thing, being on TV and all that shit, are kind of very detrimental to your soul and your health. You know what I mean? Because if you're caught in a tornado of bullshit and drugs and partying and chicks and fucking and sucking and all this shit, your craft, your art, takes a big back seat. It gets on the rumble seat. It's sitting in the back seat. It's way back there. And it's like, it's playing so little part in it, you're just doing enough to get by now, just to keep going. Keep the money rolling and shit like that, and that's not what artists are in it for. Like a guy that paints paintings and stuff, you don't sit there and paint the same fucking painting over and over and over again because one sold. If they do, I guess it's another thing I don't know what I'm talking about. So that's why I don't talk about too many things that I don't know what I'm talking about. Which is most things.

Toddstar: I know you're busy and I know you have got things to do, but with this album coming out what's your hope with this album? Are you hoping that more of the people who kind of know who Donnie Vie is reconnect with who you are now;, are you hoping to kind of marry old fans with new fans?

Donnie Vie: I just hope that as many people can hear it and appreciate it as possible, that's the intentions when I'm writing, just to, you know, because you always hear, people tell you, never fail to tell you, "You changed my life with this," "You changed my life with that." But you don't realize that when you're an artist and stuck in rock band stuff, how important these songs, you know, we're buffoons. Buffoons like me write these songs, but it's changing and saving somebody's life, and you don't realize, you don't think about that. And so, when you do think about that, you do get letters and you do get people telling you, "I would have killed myself this day," and this and that, "But I listened to your shit, and I knew somebody else understood," and that's why I put them out there. I write from the soul. I write from my hip. Shoot from the hip, you know. I don't hide anything, I've never been ashamed of anything. It is what it is. That's the thing. You've got to do things for the right reasons, and you can't bite off more than you can chew, and you can't be looking at anything that you can't see in your present vision, you know what I mean? Don't be looking over something and trying to look over this to see... you're just going be disappointed and you're not going to do a good job. And don't be writing for money. You know, Jani Lane saw me there. He goes, "There's a difference between writing for yourself and writing to make money," and I said, "Well, I guess go," and he went the money route, but look what happened to him, he was miserable. He fucking hated “Cherry Pie” and those hits, more that I hate “Fly High Michelle” and “New Thing” and stuff like that. “He really hated them and look what happened. He ended up dying alone, the alcohol poisoning, broken hearted in a fucking Motel 6.

Toddstar: His album Back Down To One is one of my favorites.

Donnie Vie: Yeah, he's amazing artist and I never knew it. I used to slag those, I used to slag everybody, I was a total asshole. Then you'd meet them and you find out. I'd be in doing interviews and they'd be asking me questions. “Why you keep asking me about these turds?” Shit like that. Nobody tells me that we start to tour with them next week and I might as well talk some shit and I got to hide for a couple of weeks, so Chip smooths things over. I can't come out.

Toddstar: When the day is done and you take that stage for the final time and the lights go down, what's the song that you would want, that you written, that you would want as your epitaph? What's the one song you want to be remembered for, whether people know it or not?

Donnie Vie: I would like to think it hasn't been written yet. I don't think I can pick one of all of the songs that I have that I would say, you know, “After this song I'm done, I'm going to die." I don't think I have that one yet. I've got another one coming in right now. So that's, it's like I say, I'd like to think of it as it hasn't been written yet. I got another call coming in right now, we good?

Toddstar: You got it, we're good brother.

Donnie Vie: Thank you. Have a good day.

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