Philadelphia-born power rock band Britny Fox is back, again. Having released a string of solid albums, rife with rock anthems, between 1988 and 1991 (including the RIAA Gold-Certified eponymous debut), Britny Fox seemed poised for a lengthy career. However, the band could not withstand the strength of the grunge movement and disbanded, as many bands of the era did. They reformed in 2000, when nostalgic reunions became vogue, toured for several years, and quietly dissipated.
Now, nearly thirty years after their original formation, Britny Fox has resurrected again, this time, for the sake of sharing the joy of music. Forming the ranks of the band are vocalist/guitarist Tommy Paris, bassist Billy Childs, lead guitarist Chris Sanders, and journeyman drummer Johnny Dee.
Read on, as we speak with Johnny Dee about the fine art of musician longevity.
Mark Morton: Do you have a priority of loyalties among all the bands you are involved with?
Johnny Dee: I try to be loyal to any band I’m involved in. Since Doro has been loyal to me for over 22 years and kept me very busy, that would be my #1 priority. We’ve done some amazing stuff together over the years. Played some of my biggest shows and have gone to far off places like Russia, China, South America. Britny hasn’t been active during much of that time but we’re easing back into working again.
MM: How are you managing to make proper time to devote to Britny Fox, while you also have a good thing running with Doro, as well as touring regionally with “KICK” the INXS tribute band?
JD: It’s not easy, but I just try to keep everyone in the loop of what is going on. If there are gaps in one band’s schedule, I can try to fill in dates with the others. I had one schedule conflict so far and missed my first Doro gig in forever. That was weird.
MM: What makes 2015 a better time to reunite Britny Fox than 2000?
JD: I don’t think it’s necessarily a “better” time. We could have kept this band going in some capacity, but couldn’t agree on how to do it. So, I feel that we lost any momentum we created with the original success of the band. In 2000, when we reunited with Tommy and did the live CD, there weren’t as many opportunities to do weekend “fly dates” or festivals. Our only option was to continue driving to half-filled clubs on weeknights to get to the better weekend shows. We would have been losing way too much money and getting burned out. Now there are some more chances for us to do better shows in front of bigger crowds.
MM: I read that there were a couple of attempts between then to bring the band back, though unsuccessfully. Were you approached for either the 2007 Billy Childs-headed one or the 2010 Dizzy-led one?
JD: 2007 could have been handled better. It was assumed I was “too busy” with Doro and didn’t get a call until they’d already had a band and dates in place. Caused a lot of resentment and legal bullshit due to the inability to sit down and discuss options and work it out with everyone’s commitment level and scheduling considered. That was more of a coup or hostile takeover [laughs].
As for 2010, that was a non-event. After Dean proclaimed he was “back”, on Facebook, I called him and asked why none of us were informed. I think he had other plans, but I managed to get him and Bill to sit down with me and talk. After that one night, we never heard from him again. I’m still not sure wtf that was all about.
MM: Is there a specific purpose to the new reunion?
JD: To create some new music and keep the name out there and active. There are many fans that still enjoy this music and we dig playing it.
MM: Have you remained in touch with the guys throughout the years, or are these reunions true “reunions”?
JD: I spoke to everyone off and on over the years. But I haven’t spoken to Mike or Dean in over 4 years.
MM: So much time has passed, that people no longer seem to laugh at the 80s glam/hair metal movement, but look back on it with fond memories of fun times and a sense of innocence. Do you feel this way, as well?
JD: I sure do. Some of the best times ever.
MM: What do you think it is about the songs on the first album that have helped them stand the test of time? Even though they were recorded nearly 30 years ago, they still retain their freshness and exuberance.
JD: None of it was forced or over-produced…just a band playing good tunes and recorded as such. The songs were simple and they were proven live so there was no need to go into the studio and change much. Captured the spirit of the band and the energy & sound of what was happening at the time. We were so psyched to finally be doing it on a major level!
MM: Why is Michael Kelly Smith no longer involved with the band? I was always under the impression that Britny was his baby.
JD: Mike initially expressed his disinterest with touring when we got together in 2000. We did some shows to record the live cd and he just wasn’t into continuing. He even suggested getting someone to sub for him. I don’t think he wanted to forfeit a steady living that he built up with all of his guitar students.
MM: On whose shoulders did it fall to find Michael’s replacement, and what led you to Chris Sanders?
JD: It just kind of happened. Our manager knew Chris and suggested he could be a good fit. Then worked on the rest of us to get us all into a room together. It just took off from there.
MM: You were not a part of Britny Fox during its demo days, as I believe you were with Waysted at the time. How were you brought into the Britny fold, and what has kept you loyal to them after all this time?
JD: We all knew each other for years. Billy was one of the first guys I ever played with. I replaced Dean on drums in the Philly band, WWIII. I knew Michael from Cinderella.
When Tony (Destra) was killed in the car crash and the guys decided to continue, they reached out to me to join the band. I still had a commitment with Waysted and we were out on tour with Iron Maiden. I really didn’t feel like missing out on that haha. So they asked another friend Adam (West) Ferraioli to join and continued to showcase for labels.
By the end of that Maiden tour when Paul (Chapman) was fired, I felt a bit unsure of the future of Waysted. Meanwhile, Britny had landed their CBS deal and were told to “replace the drummer”. I got another call, they asked me again and I made the move. The timing was just right.
MM: Is there anything you miss about the old days that you wish you retained today?
JD: Is this a reference to HAIR by any chance? [laughs]
MM: Are you doing anything special to ingratiate yourselves to new fans? Have you noticed if younger people are latching onto Britny Fox?
JD: I think it’s a bit early to tell. Of course we would love that, but we’ve got a lot of lost time to make up for. I can only hope younger fans know who we are or are turned on to us now that we are active again. When we get some new music released, that should help as well.
MM: You are performing in Philly with Heaven’s Edge. Do you have any special history with that band?
JD: Long-time friends, really good guys. Played many shows together back in the day and they were one of the next bands signed after us. We became label mates and even used the same producer. Looking forward to sharing the stage with them again after all these years.
MM: Are there any bands from that era you would like to perform shows with today?
JD: We got our first chance to at Farm Rock in Atlanta last weekend. Kip Winger, Kix, Slaughter, Great White, Femme Fatale, Autograph, Lynch Mob, LA Guns, Warrant, Tom Kiefer, Night Ranger.
It’ll be cool to be back in the mix. But it would be very cool to do a whole tour with Poison or Kiss or any of the bigger bands of the day. I like the rhythm of a string of dates…you get a change to improve your show from night to night and really perfect a kick-ass show.
MM: When all is said and done, what would you like people to remember about Britny Fox?
JD: Hopefully the music…not just the hair.
Keep up with Britny Fox on Facebook and at their official website.