Rock Legend Erik Turner talks wine and the music industry

Posted: October 18, 2012 in Interviews
Tags: , , , , , ,

Chris Shapiro
October 2012

Warrant guitarist Erik Turner with his Erik Turner Wine collection available at South Coast Winery

I’m sure it’s happened before in the music industry.  An artist, producer or engineer is in the studio and they record what they believe to be their best take of a song only to find out that when they play it back there’s a glitch.  Whether the glitch is through faulty equipment or human error, the artist or produce has to go back and recreate their master piece.

Such was the case for me, yet under slightly different circumstances.  Last Tuesday, I had the pleasure of conducting a follow-up interview with Erik Turner of Warrant during my radio show on 88.9FM WFSE.  However, after the interview I tried playing the interview only to have the message “File Corrupt” appear on the computer screen.  I tried my luck on another computer.  Lightning struck twice.

I’m now relying on my notes from the interview to reconstruct the twenty plus conversation with Turner in the form of an article.  I’ll begin this article with the same introduction I gave Turner during the interview.

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Rock Legend Erik Turner

            There were few bands in the late 80’s and early 90’s who could compare to the band Warrant.  They scored top ten albums, top ten singles on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Mainstream Rock Charts and received multi-platinum, platinum and gold certifications from the RIAA.  The co-founder and guitarist behind this phenomenal band is Erik Turner.

Since the glory days of the 80’s and 90’s, Turner and Warrant have continued to perform across the country in front of thousands of dedicated rockers straight through to the current day.

Yet, in the last few years, a new hobby has emerged for Turner, wine making.

Don’t picture Turner in the back yard crushing grapes with his feet in some wooden barrel.  Turner’s wine production is not a small operation.  His is first class set up and something Turner is very proud of.

He teamed up, through recommendations from friends, with South Coast Winery in Southern California to create his own brand Erik Turner Wines.

Turner’s wines are appropriately named, I Saw Red, named after one of the band’s top ten singles and Rocker Red.

I asked Turner what makes his wine stand out from the rest.  He told me that he isn’t “some wine snob” he just knows great tasting wine and wants to share it with everyone who has a similar love.

Turner also said the great thing about his wines is that they are “social” wines and you can drink them when you have get-togethers with friends.

South Coast Winery is the force behind the production while Turner is the wine artist.  Turner has a specific quality and taste he wants poured out of each bottle and South Coast helps him achieve that goal.

Numerous stores throughout southern California are stocking Turner’s wine including Whole Foods.

Although Erik Turner Wines are only sold in California stores, fans (of both wine and rock) can purchase a bottle through the South Coast website.

Much like his music, Turner is touring in support of his wine brand by attending wine tastings at South Coast where he interacts with customers by signing bottles and posting for photos.

Recently, Turner agreed to be auction off during the  Wild Women of Wine Country Luncheon at South Coast.  The proceeds from the auction went to Susan G Komen for the Cure.  The $3,400 bidder won lunch with Turner and two other members of South Coast.

I asked Turner if he ever saw himself giving up Rock ‘n Roll and opening his own winery. He told me that rock is in his “DNA” and that he won’t be giving it up anytime soon.

For the remainder of the interview Turner and I discussed the ins and outs of the music industry.

Having heard horror stories of how artists have been taken advantage of by record labels, I asked Turner what a fair record contract should include.  He told be that a fair record deal was an “oxymoron.”  There was no fair deal or perfect formula that bands should look for before signing.

Turner explained there are many details still included in contracts that are no longer practical.  Such as, a percentage of revenue going to cover the “breakage” of vinyl records.  In today’s world, that clause no longer serves a purpose but Turner said many contracts still include it.

Turner said there are now contracts called “360 Deals.” In such a contract, the label receives a percentage of the tour and merchandise profits.  A very inclusive deal.  Turner said he’s never signed a “360” deal.

To explain the topic of artist royalties, Turner worked with the example of 16 points (or percent).  Turner explained that out of those 16 points a band has to pay for all of their expenses.

Off the top, the producer receives six points, a number that can vary depending on agreements, leaving the band with roughly ten points.  Those ten points have to pay for tour expenses, loans the band took out, pay for all the managers and staff members a band has and then finally what’s left gets split by the band members.

Should a band receive a million dollar contract, they have one million to create an album.  Turner said a band can use however much they want hiring a producer and buying studio time to recreate the record.  Yet, a band doesn’t necessary get to keep what’s left over.

Turner said that if a band still had three quarter’s of a million left after creating an album, the money is divided between business mangers, who may take fifteen percent, lawyers, accountants and Uncle Sam.  Turner said it isn’t rare for each member of a band to walk away with only sixty grand from the one million total.

Turner also said that before a band can receive any royalties, they have to make sure their 16 percent covers all the money the record label provided them with.

So in the one million dollar contract, a band has to generate high enough sales to make sure their 16 percentage equals one million dollars before they receive any royalties.

Things can get more expensive for a young band who has to borrow money from the label in order to go on tour in support of an album.

Turner said it’s important to remember that every penny a band borrows from the label has to be paid back before those royalty checks start flowing in.

Though a band does stand to make more money from a tour than albums sales, Turner said a band always starts in the red.

Turner said only artists like Michael Jackson, who have over “50 Million” in record sales, have the leverage to negotiate more lucrative deals with the labels.

Having noticed all the”thank yous” and dedications bands list in the credits of their albums, I asked Turner who the key people are for a band.  At the end of the day, who are the people essential to keeping a band together.

Turner responded by saying the whole music industry is the “like the Wild West” and that there isn’t one particular titled person who is essential.  It varies by band.  He said some producers are extremely important, especially those who are with bands before they get signed.  Other times it’s lawyer, managers or friends.

In closing, I asked Turner a hypothetical question.  If he had choice of working with any artist or producer to create a song with, who would he choose.

His first response was “Dead or alive” to which I thought he was referring to the 80’s band.  Then, I realized he was asking if the artist had to be living and told him he could pick any artist, “Dead or alive.”

Turner said he would have to pick Led Zeppelin.  Having the chance to work with the original four members “Would be a religious experience,” Turner said.

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            I want to take a moment and say Turner is truly a stand up guy.  He’s taken the time to speak with me on several occasions for over twenty minutes each time.

Warrant is very much a powerhouse force in the music world with a newly recorded album recently released and tour dates across the country.  I can only imagine how busy his schedule must be with the band, launching his own wine and everything else life includes.

I’ve been a fan of Warrant since I first heard their single “Heaven” on the radio back when I was about to graduate from high school several years ago.

I can still remember that moment, standing in my bedroom, looking out the window and hearing that song for the first time.  It impacted my life.  I went from just listening to music to loving music and not just music but Rock ‘n Roll.  I saw Rock ‘n Roll as more than just a genre but a discipline where truth and emotion can be expressed without restraint.

At the time, I was struggling with the loss of a family member and upon hearing the chorus of “Heaven” play over and over I felt a connection and a healing power come from within the song.  From that point on, I started taking Rock ‘n Roll serious.

I also have a personal connection with their album Cherry Pie as it was released the same year I was born.  Guess you could say 1990 was a great year for music.

So, I’m honestly honored that Turner was willing to speak to me, a young journalist.  I can tell that Turner remembers what it’s like to be a young kid just starting out.  Thanks Erik.

Rock guitarist Erik Turner

If you haven’t listened to his music, do yourself a favor and buy a copy of Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich or Warrant’s new album Rockaholic.   Listen to their songs “Heaven,” “Life’s A Song” or “Tears in the City.” It’s my opinion that, years from now, critics will look back and say that it was some of the best music ever recorded.

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