Chrome Molly on Van Halen, Def Leppard and how grunge finished them off

Press shot of Chrome Molly

Back in 1988, Leicester band Chrome Molly were on the cusp of mainstream breakthrough. Falling somewhere between the grit of the NWOBHM and hair-metal’s pomp, their single Shooting Me Down was a guaranteed smash. But success eluded them, and in 1991 they split. Now they’re back with new album Hoodoo Voodoo. Frontman Steve Hawkins fills us in on the band’s return.

How did re-forming Chrome Molly come about?

A friend was turning fifty and he said he’d like us to play a show for his party. We played some Molly tunes and some covers and really enjoyed it. We started playing some AC/DC and UFO, and then thought: “What are we doing? We can still write our own songs.”

Your second album since re-forming, Hoodoo Voodoo, is out soon.

We recorded it with Toby Jepson. He gets what Molly is about, he isn’t trying to turn us into something we’re not. Back in the eighties we tried to chase different sounds, and that was a mistake. Now we’re true to what we are.

And what’s that?

We’re an anthemic rock band that writes some decent tunes. Back then everybody was trying to chase Def Leppard. Thinking we could chase Def Leppard on a small budget beggars belief, really, though. There’s no desire to chase anyone now, we’re totally happy.

You released Shooting Me Down in 1988 and seemed destined for big things. What went wrong?

The record company said we needed a radio single. We had songs from Bon Jovi and all sort of people, and this song from [Slade pair] Noddy Holder and Jim Lea (Shooting Me Down) showed up. That single was fantastic. It was just a shame that there were political issues with the label and distribution that meant it didn’t get the push that it needed. It was getting radio airplay, but the records were sitting in a warehouse. Fans were telling us that they couldn’t find it anywhere. That would have opened some doors for us.

Why did the band split in 1991?

We were tired. We’d gone from an indie label to a major and then back to an indie. The music scene changed, grunge happened. Grunge finished us off; nobody was taking hair-metal seriously. We’d had ten years together, and we had no money and no jobs and we drifted apart. Grunge was like someone putting their foot on the brakes for British bands. Even at the end of the NWOBHM, people wanted American bands like Bon Jovi, Ratt and Poison.

After the split you played some shows as a Van Halen tribute band.

We did a few gigs as Von Halen. We loved early Van Halen, so we got our hand back into music by doing the Roth-era Van Halen stuff – none of the Sammy Hagar rubbish. We did two or three gigs but our hearts weren’t in it, we wanted to play our own songs.

Now you’re back, but juggling gigging, recording and day jobs. Is that difficult?

Not really. We just pick and choose what we do. Last year we did Hard Rock Hell, toured with Graham Bonnet, and hopefully it’ll carry on into 2017.

Hoodoo Voodoo is out now via earMusic.

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Rich Chamberlain

Rich Chamberlain has written for Classic Rock,, Total Guitar, Nuts, FourFourTwo, Billboard, Classic Rock Presents The Blues and Classic Rock Presents Country.