Finnish rock star Michael Monroe enjoys new respectability
By Antti Tiainen
A spoon presented to Matti Fagerholm in connection with his birth bears the engraved image of the cartoon character Donald Duck. Now at 50, Fagerholm, better known as the rock star Michael Monroe, says that the engraving was an omen.
“Donald is an important figure for me. I have always liked Donald Duck and identified with him. He isn’t always the luckiest guy around; sometimes he has it rough, but he nevertheless has a good heart, although he can be a bit irritable at times”, he explains.
The story of Hanoi Rocks is a familiar one. Two young men - Michael Monroe and Andy McCoy - went off to London, via Stockholm, to conquer the world by playing a glam-rock version of rock n’ roll.
In the midst of their international breakthrough, during the band’s first tour of the United States in 1984, drummer Razzle was killed in a car crash, and their dreams were crushed.
Hanoi Rocks lived on. The band served as a prototype of sorts for Guns n’ Roses, the world’s most popular rock group of the early 1990s.
Monroe’s career never really caught up to where it was back then, but the man who sits down for a cup of coffee on the banks of the Aura River in Turku is in a good mood.
“First of all, I am alive and healthy - touch wood. My life has stayed interesting, and I have maintained an open and unprejudiced mind.”
And then there is love. Monroe’s first wife Jude Wilder died in the early part of the new century of a cerebral haemorrhage. Now he is married to Johanna.
“I have a wonderful wife, and we have two cats. That is the best that there can be. If someone gets a second chance it really is a great blessing. I consider myself lucky.”
Monroe also enjoys life in today’s Finland.
He is a familiar sight riding on his Chopper bicycle in the centre of Turku.
Just over 30 years ago, he only wanted to kick the dust from his heels and get out of here. “In the late 1970s I couldn’t even walk in Helsinki because there was always the danger of getting beaten up. Andy and I were seen by others as so freakish. The prevailing atmosphere was so depressing and stressful - nothing but brown and grey.”
Finland has changed, but Monroe has not. He even looks just like he did before: long bleached hair, tight leather trousers, bright red pointed boots, and plenty of makeup and jewellery. Only the creases in his face have become deeper.
Last year he got his first invitation to the President’s Independence Day reception. He was very taken by the invitation, and felt himself appreciated.
“I had secretly hoped for an invitation. I am also happy that it was during the term of Tarja Halonen. I have been proud that Finland has had a woman as President, who was so good, and who digs rock n’ roll, and is open-minded.”
“On the other hand it is kind of ironic and funny, because I have usually rebelled against the system.”
Monroe then becomes more serious. For him, Independence Day is above all a show of respect for Finland’s war veterans. He is grateful to them.
“At the reception, my interviews were always cut off when I was getting to the topic”, he laughs.
Monroe’s biography was published late last year. At first he had qualms about the whole project. “I was so worried that I might be a bad influence on my young fans. I have done some stupid things and I did not want to be responsible if any kid thinks that it was cool.”
He read the text written by Ari Väntänen at least five times.
Monroe’s story, including a good deal of drug-induced craziness, was wrapped up in a volume more than 500 pages long.
“The book clarified my own history to myself. I’m glad I went with it.”
In early June, Michael Monroe was back where it was all supposed to begin: at the Whisky a Go Go club on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard.
During his sold-out gig he leapt from the stage onto the sound monitors, ran along the bar table, jumped on the second floor banisters, pretended to fall, and climbed up to the mixing console.
Monroe has always been known for such stage acrobatics and endless energy, and these tricks have led to two broken ribs and two ankle fractures.
Towards the end of the gig, former Guns n’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan joined in for two numbers. One of the pieces that he played was the Hanoi Rocks classic Taxi Driver.
“Now I have the best band that I’ve ever had during my solo career. We’ll just keep spreading the reputation around the world, and keep it moving forward.”
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 17.6.2012
More on this subject:
BACKGROUND: Michael Monroe at 50
Previously in HS International Edition:
Hanoi Rocks to break up (again) in the spring (22.10.2008)
Former Hanoi Rocks frontman Michael Monroe sets up new band (26.1.2010)
Hanoi Rocks bids farewell with series of eight concerts (14.4.2009)
Michael Monroe (Wikipedia)
Michael Monroe website
ANTTI TIAINEN / Helsingin Sanomat