Chip Z’Nuff! You know him as that shaggy-haired bassist with the pink shades, co-founder of glam rock music marvel Enuff Z’Nuff, and supreme rock and roll advocate of peace! If you don’t, then consider this your first lesson!
He’s a legend! Musician, songwriter, and producer, Chip Z’Nuff is a towering, lanky, beanstalk of a gentleman; chic, kind-hearted, and centered, like an almighty hailed Guru who can tell you just what the meaning of life is.
Acclaimed for his ultra distinct performance style, and in recent years known as popular Chicago radio personality on MANCOW 97.9 The Loop, Z’Nuff is the real deal.
At his home studio in Blue Island, IL, where Enuff Z’Nuff formed in 1984, Chip sat upright and cozy at the soundboard ready to take on his favorite roll as producer. Having worked with leading names in the rock industry such as Guns ‘N Roses, Missing Persons, Journey, and Cheap Trick, Chip is currently co-producing a fresh track for Europop sensation Right Said Fred. Smoking his 5th non-filtered Camel of the hour, and ready to answer some of my questions, I noticed the sign hanging on the wall, appropriately placed next to an autographed picture of Howard Stern:
WELCOME TO CHIP Z’NUFF’S HOUSE OF ILL REPUTE. NO RULES. NO REGULATIONS. WHATEVER YOU WANT TO DO IS FINE WITH ME, I WON’T TELL ANYONE.
He’s one of Chicago’s best-kept secrets, and easily one of the greatest bassists in rock history.
You’ve been on Howard Stern and David Letterman. Which show did you have the most fun being a part of?
Howard and David have always been great to us throughout our career, but if I had to pick one show it’d actually be Donnigton Download over in England – 100,000 people show up there for a weekend of debauchery, and promiscuity and substance abuse. We happened to be one of the only bands that played two nights in a row. And some of the bands that played there happened to be some of my favorite bands that have helped set the tone throughout Enuff Z’Nuff’s career. Most notably Aerosmith, AC/DC, Stone Temple Pilots, and the list goes on.
Some of your band mates have made quiet the reputation for themselves with drug abuse and outlandish behavior, and some of them have even lost their lives because of it. Would you do it all again if you could?
Of course. Every single thing. Except tying to find a way to keep my guys alive. There’s nothing worse than seeing your band members trying to score drugs in front of Jeb Bushes office on a tour. But I get to put the records on every single day and watch the videos and really suck in the contributions those guys have left with the band. They’re missed every single day, but the great thing about being a musician is sometimes you can be immortal. And you get to watch those videos and get to listen to those records. Those memories are all on video, and it’s great to be able to look back on that and say I played with such wonderful musicians and friends.
Do you still talk with Donnie Vie, and are there any plans of an Enuff Z’Nuff reunion tour in the future?
Of course I still speak to Donnie… periodically. Look, he’s sitting in a sand box at his house, with his little fat feet in the sand, smoking cigarettes, singing to angels songs that probably no one is ever going to hear. Wonderful talent, my favorite songwriter by all means, and I think we together have left an indelible mark. I’m very proud of our accomplishments. Whether if we get together or not in the future? I can’t answer that question. Only time will tell what’s going to happen. However, we’ve got about 20 albums out, we’ve said a lot, we have nothing to fucking prove.
I’m here with you in your home studio, Chip Z’Nuff Sudios. As a bassist and a producer, you seem to always be involved in a project. What artists have walked through these doors to work with you?
Let’s just say I wasn’t just the founder and bass player of Enuff Z’Nuff. I played guitar on the those records, I sang on those records, I co wrote those songs… I produced every single note on every single record. And I’m so proud of that, and no one else is gonna brag about that but me because I was there! And I don’t want to sound immodest, but I’m a six trick pony. I do a lot of different things. And people are starting to realize that. I’m blessed. Work is starting to come in the studio. I’m currently producing Right Said Fred. Before that I did stuff with Kanye West, and Twista, which is hip hop and rap, and most guys in my field don’t touch that genre. I’ve taken chances, which is what Herbie Herbert, Journey’s manager who also managed Enuff Z’Nuff, taught me. Luck is the resin of design. I’ve been through a lot, and if I can help any artist out there, that’s what I try to do. I love to grab music and work on anything that could be a challenge.
Which current bands in rock have really grabbed your attention recently? Which bands do you feel are bringing back the sound of rock?
Quite a few great artists who have really tripped my trigger in the last year. The Struts have real straight-ahead, organic sound, kind’ve like The Rolling Stones. The Orwells are from Chicago, they’re making a lot of noise. And I quite like The Nationals a lot. I’m a big Royal Blood fan. And there’s Rival Songs, The Last Vegas, The BITERS. Also, I’m still a big fan of a lot of the English stuff that came out years ago, like The Darkness, and Oasis. Those bands can do no wrong in my eyes. We’re at a time where there are too many groups and not enough demand, it’s almost overly saturated, but the great ones always seem to slip through the cracks.
What’s in store for you in 2016 as Chip Z’Nuff, as well as with the full band?
2016 looks pretty promising for Enuff Z’Nuff. We actually start off on our first North American tour in years on March 3, 2016 with LOUDNESS, and The Bullet Boys. We’re going out for a good 30 shows. I’m very excited about this opportunity because usually when you tour in the United States, if you can just cause a little spark, it can lead to bigger shows and better places to play. I’m looking forward to possibly heading over to Europe, too. As far as new records go, I can’t tell you anything except that I’m writing songs, and I have a ton of ideas. What’ll be next, I couldn’t even answer that as I’m producing tons of projects at this time. However, I’m hoping next year will be a year when I can put out another record and can go out and support it.
Chip is a one-of-a-kind talent, a listener, a teacher, and a storyteller. And he can comfortably sit for hours telling you hundreds of untold stories! Rock My World sends a proper rock and roll shout out to the man, the myth, and the legend himself for taking the time fill us in on what makes him that real rockin’ legend!
Photos: Getty. Dave Stekart
Story: Kate Catalina