JB Frank was on the front lines of Heavy Metal's late 80's pinnacle with the equally famous (and infamous) Led Zeppelin-esque, Kingdom Come. But in the two decades since Kingdom Come's stunning debut and subsequent breakup, Frank has overcome the heartache of divorce, a devastating addiction, and the fickle tastes of music fans. He's found clarity, embraced a deep rooted faith, and now shares an insight into life and forgiveness that's nothing less than inspiring. His firsthand experience with the seductive temptations that accompany L.A. rock stardom provide a startling glimpse into the seamier side of the sunset strip glory days. And yet he's not only lived to tell the proverbial tale, he's managed to channel his suffering into music and art. His brutal honesty regarding drug addiction and recovery, is refreshing, and his roots in metal run deep. Deeper than even die hard metal fans can imagine. Did you know he was the voice behind Solid Gold ?
Neither did we.
Describe your musical experience prior to Kingdom come.
I was in a band four years before that which had a number one song. I was working with Diane Warren as her producer, so I was pretty plugged in to the music business. I already had several gold and platinum records on my wall from singing on stuff like Beverly Hills cop. I was the voice on Solid Gold. SOLID GOLLLLD!! Played twice on Saturday mornings! So I was already doing pretty well when I got in Kingdom Come. I was playing bass locally for fun with a couple of bands called Johnny Crash and World War III in the local circuit. David Geffen wrote in 1986 that he was going to sign a hundred bands off the streets of L.A., so at the time L.A. was jam packed with everybody and their brother trying to get a record deal. The Rock City News looked like War and Peace. Three years later, it couldn't hardly get an advertiser.
You've described in previous interviews, the difficulty working with Kingdom Come lead vocalist Lenny Wolf. Was there a specific moment where you realized it was completely over ?
We were in Tennessee playing this poor man's Woodstock. Some farmer had turned his farm into a place that hosted concerts and was pretty successful. They let some people in while we were sound checking. Lenny was such a jerk he told them “Nobody sees us sound check! We quit!” The entire band quit at that point. The farmer pulled a shotgun on us, so Lenny told him “I'm not afraid of guns, I'm German!” Lenny has some serious psychological problems. But, he's a very talented guy. He could sing those high notes, was a really good musician, and a decent songwriter.
Have those feelings subsided over the years? Do you keep in touch ?
Once in a while I see him. The whole band, aside from Danny Stag, got together at one James Kottak's shows when James was still married to Tommy Lee's sister Athena. They had a band called Kottak so we all went to see him at some L.A. Club. There was four out of five of us that night and it was the first time in fifteen years we'd played together. It went pretty good and we've gotten together several times and discussed doing a reunion tour in between James touring with The Scorpions and everybody else working. But it's never come together. Lenny's kind of a greedy person, too. They put Axl Rose down for the 'Axl Rose Agreement' where he took fifty percent and the rest of (Gun's and Roses) split the remaining fifty percent. Well in Kingdom Come, Lenny took seventy percent and the rest of us split thirty percent. We still made pretty good money, but the guy was really greedy. There was a lot of shady shit going on with the management hooking us with accountants that charged us $600 a month that we didn't know we were being charged. I had screen actors guild insurance and he let that let go. Just stuff I can never get back. To be candid, when Kingdom Come broke up I had several offers to play. They all came in to Marty Wolf's office and were never forwarded to me. Alice Cooper wanted me to play bass for him, but I never even found that out until a year and half later. Everybody was out for themselves. The management was on drugs. And Lenny should have been on drugs.
How did drug use affect the band ?
Me and Lenny were semi-sober. We weren't using hard drugs, just the occasional beer, occasional joint, and Lenny wasn't even into that. The other three members of our band were pretty drugged out, and out management was drugged out. The majority of the Monsters Of Rock Tour was using drugs. Don Dokken and maybe Klaus Meine were sober. But everybody else on the tour was fucked up out of their minds. We had a limousine follow us with the cocaine in it.
If you could go back what would you do differently ?
It would be a whole different ballgame. This might sound weird, but I've evolved to a higher level of consciousness. I'm more into unification, seeing people deeply with compassion, love, and forgiveness. I would have tried to be more loving to Lenny, because that's all he really needed was somebody to love him. People who need love the most in this world, seem to push it away the fastest. And Lenny was definitely that, he definitely had anger issues. I was the oldest guy in the band and already had the most success. I would've taken more of a role in working with the insanity, the drug addiction. Maybe try and help the three guys that were on drugs to look at their lives. Bring a little more love to Lenny, because Lenny was a really disturbed person. Most people that are angry and act out like he does, they just need love. And I think Lenny didn't have any love in his life at the time. He was one of those people that isolated and treated everybody like shit when he just needed someone to be kind with him. Now, I would have tried to bring more love to Lenny, tried to help him. Maybe help him realize there's more to life than paying attention to the part of your mind that just wants and needs and hates. I have no doubt the suffering I had as a child made me rise to be a rock star, because I needed to prove to all those kids in school that I could read. I was dyslexic when I was a kid. Lenny had a rough life and I believe he could have used somebody to be on his side. And that could have been me if I hadn't been so worried about my own problems. People say to me “JB, your like having a dog around, you calm people down”. I wish I could have brought that to Kingdom Come.
You've were quoted in previous interview as saying '$12,000 a gig wasn't enough to work with Lenny Wolf'?
That's right. It wasn't.
How much money makes it worthwhile ?
I don't know. That's a tough one. It's hard to be around people with that bad energy. He even took separate planes, separate cars and separate buses sometimes to spare us all his insanity. It's hard to put a dollar figure on it. I'd do it now for twenty grand. He called me about ten years ago and offered me a Russian tour for $375 a week to go play Russia in the middle of the winter. Are you kidding? Guess some Russian women would've kept me warm, but I couldn't take it. Little story about Lenny Wolf, you could play anything on guitar and he would tell you “That's great!” and turn it into a song. He's one of those megalomaniac, divine inspiration types. I predicted this guy's gonna take a shit some night and put it in a box and declare it god. And then when we were in Japan and he comes into my room “Johnny you have to come over to my room and see this!” so I come over to his room. And he shows me this giant shit he took in the toilet. “Is that the biggest turd you've ever seen !?!” That's what an egomaniac he was. He'd take a shit and think it was great.
Which Kingdom Song are you the most proud of?
Probably 'What Love Can Be'. When I auditioned for the band, I didn't know he was the guy, although I had seen him before in Stone Fury. He was sitting in the other room when I set up my equipment. I played a 12 bar blues, and he came out and told me 'You have the gig, I'm very impressed'. The fact is they were looking for someone who knew the John Paul Jones riffs, and that was kind of the school I came out of. He never auditioned any other bass players besides me. James Kottak was about the tenth drummer that came in. We hired him and never looked at another drummer. We looked at probably 150-200 guitar players and decided on my best friend since high school, Danny Stag, who is a brilliant guitar player, into Hendrix and fit the bill. They were looking for a Jimmy Page type. So yeah, 'What Love Can Be'. Every time I went to a strip club, some stripper would tell me 'Oh yeah, I strip to your song'. It's always rewarding when someone strips to your song. I was pretty proud of the whole thing. We spent six months up in Vancouver with Bob Rock. He was a quarter million dollar engineer on Bon Jovi and Cinderella's albums, but this was his first one where he was the main producer. Everything Bob Rock touched was the biggest albums anybody had. Motley Crue, Metallica . .
Tell us about you're painting.
It's pretty crazy. I started painting back in college. When I got a divorce, my wife threw paint all over my paintings. I thought “that's fucked up those were my masterpieces!' But then I painted over a lot of them. I've done a hundred paintings in the last five years and sold nine. Not near as much as Lars Ulrich sold his paintings for. I saw he got $5.1 million for twelve paintings. They were huge and they were pretty good. My shit's a little more original, maybe. I do acrylics. I have been diagnosed, I'm a savant. Everything comes out of me in math, music, and art. My work is like surrealistic land and seascapes from other planets. I have like fifteen mile mountains and weird stuff in my paintings that doesn't exist on earth.
What inspires you ?
I'm not sure. I'm a pretty cosmic dude these days. I've opened my third eye. I do third eye meditations where I just visualize whats in my head. I've had a few bouts with drugs after Kingdom Come. I got in a car wreck in 1993 and they put me on percosets. Next thing I knew, I was 'chasing the dragon' with every L.A. loser there was. Did a seven year bout on heroin addiction and pain pills. In the year 2000, I made a commitment to stay off all that stuff and managed to stay sober for about four years. Then I did a three year bout with crack cocaine. Now I got three years of sobriety again, and things are looking good for the first time in my life. I realized I didn't need all that stuff to evolve out of my ego and find my higher self and that's where I'm at right now. And I feel pretty good about it.
Do you have an addictive personality ?
I think human beings, all mammals have addictive personalities. We're herd animals. One horse jumps off a cliff, the other horses follow him. It's kind of the way the world is set up, were all addicted. We need to evolve. Were all caught up in false self, and our ego, and our identity. We forget there's a lot of life in between good and bad. We have binary minds that put everything into a good or bad character. Good or evil. There's a lot of life in between that. I'm trying to anchor those beliefs. There's more to life than just getting a paycheck.
How did dyslexia affect you growing up ?
It made me gravitate to the things I could do. If you have dyslexia, you have to find something you're good at. Just like bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia, if you pay too much attention to your mind. Highly intelligent people that pay attention to their minds become schizophrenic. Like in a beautiful mind, the guy was so intelligent and paid so much attention to his mind, he actually saw people that weren't there. Dyslexia is a lack of focus on what you have to do. For me now, I realize that most of my education was bullshit. I must have realized it then but didn't have the balls or individuality to say it then. Most of the people who taught me were heroes in school? Those people weren't heroes. They were people they ran up the flagpole. George Washington? He was really serving the queen. Paul Revere? He was a no hero, he was a Thirty-Three Degree Free Mason with an agenda to take people's right away from them, become rich, and serve the queen. What about the nine presidents before George Washington? All that math I had to take? All that English? Why cant I spell proportion with an 'f', and lots of stuff that didn't make sense to me. I find when I can accept who I am in life, I get a lot of gifts out of it. If I can accept that I'm not the greatest reader in the world. And I can accept that I don't know everything, then I do learn stuff. But if I sit there and put all my focus into the confusion of life, and the things I don't know, then I stay right there in that insanity. If I can step out of that, that insanity and accept the way I am, then I intuitively know things in life that come me. You have to get rid of your ignorance to be brilliant. A lot of us are walking around with a lot of ignorance. We walk around judging, taking things personal. You put all your energy into assumptions and things you don't know, that's a really crazy lifestyle.
What was the highlight of your time with Kingdom Come ?
I'd have to say my birthday, July 18th, 1988. I was playing Candlestick Park for 85,00 people, and fifty people came up from Los Angeles to see me. It was towards the end of the Monsters of Rock tour. We often went on at 1:30pm and Van Halen didn't go on until 10pm. So a lot of the shows were about half full when we went on. But this show was on a Saturday and their were 85,000 people there to see us play and it felt really good. The wind was blowing 35 miles per hour, it was my birthday, and it was just amazing. I almost got in a fight with Sammy Hagar that day because he needed our dressing room to put his family in. So, I got into this little tiff with Sammy. But, ended up about a year later being in a celebrity golf tournament with him and giving him the finger. He's a decent singer, but I just hate it when people say 'he's a good ol' boy'. No, he's a whiny, fucking brat. Plus I was really good friends with Dave Roth. I had a lot of good times with Dave Roth back in the Starwood days. I was looking forward to doing a tour with him, then Sammy showed up. I love Van Halen. Michael Anthony was an awesome guy to hang out with. He bought all the bass players dinner. We had 'Bass Players Dinners.' I liked getting my paycheck.
If we sum up all of the money you made, strictly from being involved with Kingdom Come, what amount would we arrive at ?
Maybe $500,000 over two and a half years. They kept raising our salaries to put up with Lenny's bullshit. Toward the end they offered a lot more money to stay, but nobody would. No amount of money could have kept anybody in that band. We'd all had offers and I was dying to do my own project.
You describe Danny Stag as being your best friend growing up. What's he up to these days ?
He lives back in Pittsburgh. He was one of the guys that did a lot of drugs, lived a hard life, drank a lot. That was his identity. He was a hard drinking, hard drugging' kind of guy. Brilliant guitar player, though.
Are you still close ?
I brought him out here (California) for a project in 2000 with my wife who was a brilliant singer. We worked as a songwriting team, and got some work for some movie soundtracks like 'The Hillside Strangler'. After I got sober, he started dating my ex-wife. We had gotten divorced, but were still working together. Her and Danny got strung out on heroin, and Danny ended up stealing all my shit. I had a 24 track recording studio, some vintage guitars. I forgave him though though. I love the guy, and I wouldn't be who I am if it wasn't for him. He's one of the biggest influences on my life, has a IQ of 155,and he was abducted by aliens when he was nine years old. This guy was reading Carlos Castaneda in 1980. He's kind of like a wizard who lost his power. He talked me into coming to Hollywood, so I came out here kicking and screaming. Once we got out here, he said “We have to create success. We can become rock stars, we can create our own reality!” So we did was create a rock star realm for ourselves, and it actually worked. The problem was you can find a lot of spirituality in this world, but drugs take it away from you too. It takes away that freedom of higher self and the ability to create your own reality.
Why is heroin so attractive to musicians ?
For me, I needed to try it because Miles Davis had done it, John Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix. All my heroes did it. And, when I tried it, I became the greatest musician in the world. All of a sudden, I would have better groove than anybody. Heroin is just like alcohol or any other drug. It anesthetizes your fears, so that you can be fearless. When you liberate yourself from fear, that's a miracle. If you can liberate yourself from fear, people your around are automatically liberated from their fear. It's a pretty amazing thing but there's a way to do that without drugs. Evolving into a higher consciousness will get you out of fear or at least let you recognize it and separate it. There's only two emotions in the universe: love and fear. And if your in one, you're not in the other. The only way life really works is if you can get rid of fear. Because nothing works in your body, your DNA doesn't pick up light protons, you can't dream, fear keeps you from everything. If we can stay out of fear and find love for our brothers we improve our immune systems our brains work better.
Who will play you in the film version of 'Get It On: The Story of Kingdom Come' ?
I don't know. Brad Pitt maybe. Adrien Brody?
for the DRB
*Edited for clarity and content*