QUIET RIOT guitarist Alex Grossi spoke to Talking Metal about the band's decision to carry on after drummer Frankie Banali's death. The group, which now features drummer Johnny Kelly (DANZIG, TYPE O NEGATIVE), played a couple of shows in October and has a string of dates booked in 2021.
Banali, who joined QUIET RIOT in 1982 and played on its breakthrough album, 1983's "Metal Health", died in August after a 16-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
Asked if QUIET RIOT's continuation was something that he and his bandmates discussed with Banali before the drummer's passing, Alex said: "It was never flat-out discussed, but he just kept accepting dates. And he told me, 'Look, when I can't play, you have the trademark sewn up,' this and that. It was always just business as usual, like it's gonna keep going. Let me put it to you this way: one of the last conversations we had, he e-mailed me about a show that was booked for August of 2021. He said something like, 'I won't be there, but you're playing in Wyoming on the 21st of August' — something like that; kind of making a little joke about it.
"He handled it so bravely and so well," Grossi said about Frankie's cancer battle. "I don't know too many guys who could have fought the way he fought that thing. The kind of cancer he had was gnarly. Stage four pancreatic is no joke. And he was given three to six months to live, and he did 18 months. And he was still playing drums after 12 months — still banging on the drums. Amazing."
Alex also confirmed that there are plans for QUIET RIOT to release new music featuring Banali on drums. He said: "We were always recording, we were always working on new music. And, yeah, there's a lot of tracks in the vault that were being worked on. We're a rock band — we always have stuff going on. And yes, there will definitely be new music by QUIET RIOT, and it will have Frankie on drums. And it wasn't like we planned it or anything.
"Most of the time, you're always working and recording ideas, and Frankie loved to play drums — he was always recording stuff," Grossi explained. "We're trying to figure out exactly what to do. I mean, it's such a weird time with the pandemic right now, and we do have some tour dates coming up to kind of wipe the cobwebs off, but in the next two months, there'll probably be some more solid news on that front, for sure."
Regarding how Kelly came to join QUIET RIOT as Banali's replacement, Alex said: "I met John in New York. We were doing a HOOKERS & BLOW run, and we needed a drummer on the East Coast. And Dizzy [Reed, HOOKERS & BLOW frontman] recommended him. He's been in the band, with HOOKERS & BLOW, for, like, eight years.
"When Frankie first got sick, the very first show he was unable to do 'cause of his health was in Dallas, Texas. Johnny had just moved to Dallas. So the show's on a Friday. I get a call from Frankie on Monday, going, 'We have a show on Friday.' And at this point, we didn't know how sick he was. He goes, 'I don't think I can make it. Do you know any drummers that can get to Texas and know the set by Friday?' And I go, 'John Kelly.' And Frankie loved Johnny; they were friends. They play a lot the same. And he goes, 'That's perfect.' So I call Johnny. I go, 'Can you learn 10 QUIET RIOT songs in a week and be there on Friday with no soundcheck and no rehearsal and go and play in front of 10 thousand people?' And Johnny goes, 'Okay.' That was it. He really saved our us.
"Johnny is such a pro, and he's definitely the right guy for a lot of reasons," Grossi said. "He's East Coast, he hits hard. He's not one of those guys that's in a gazillion bands, mercenary drummer that will play in any band. Even though he's been in a lot of bands, he's not one of those guys. And we all know who we're talking about. And he's a great friend. He's a hard-working guy. He's family to me, and Frankie said that's the guy, if he wants to do it. And he hasn't left yet."
QUIET RIOT played its first concert after Banali's death on October 9 at at the Grand Stage Amphitheater near Urich, Missouri.
At some of QUIET RIOT's 2019 and 2020 shows, Banali was replaced by Kelly or Mike Dupke (W.A.S.P.), depending on each musician's availability.
QUIET RIOT's shows in 2019 with Kelly and Dupke marked the first time ever that the band performed without any of the members from its classic lineup: Banali, singer Kevin DuBrow, guitarist Carlos Cavazo and bassist Rudy Sarzo.
QUIET RIOT initially featured the late guitar legend Randy Rhoads and went through some early lineup shifts before securing the musicians that recorded "Metal Health".
Bassist Chuck Wright has been a part of QUIET RIOT, on and off, since 1982, having initially been involved in the "Metal Health" recordings (he played bass on the tracks "Metal Health" and "Don't Wanna Let You Go"). Grossi was in the last version of the band, from 2004 through 2007, before Kevin passed away, and was asked by Banali to return in 2010.
QUIET RIOT went through two vocalists — Mark Huff and Scott Vokoun — before settling on Jizzy Pearl in 2013. Pearl announced his exit from QUIET RIOT in October 2016 and was briefly replaced by Seann Nichols, who played only five shows with the group before the March 2017 arrival of "American Idol" finalist James Durbin. Pearl returned to QUIET RIOT in September 2019.