The 1980s glam metal scene is retrospectively revered by some and derided by others. While it ultimately may be diplomatically viewed as a mixed bag, one thing is certain – the scene still has legs to this day.
One of the more interesting bands of the decade was Jetboy, San Francisco natives turned Los Angeles. transplants. The group’s eclectic mix of punk-infused glam presented something of a different spin on a bustling and overcrowded late ’80s scene.
Looking back, Jetboy’s 1988 debut record, Feel The Shake, is a true outlier, a gem of a record that not only warrants repeated listens, but seemingly gets better and better as more intricacies become heard. At the heart of it all is Mickey Finn, Jetboy’s vocalist and de facto leader. Their most recent album is Born to Fly, released in 2019 through Frontiers Records.
While Jetboy would experience only modest ’80s success, their latter-day rejuvenation has seen them exceed previous expectations. A hot ticket on the festival and supporting-act circuit, Jetboy has seen something of a revitalization among a nostalgic fanbase. And Philadelphia Flyers fans may know that “Feel the Shake” is the song played whenever their team scores a goal. Although the future currently seems murky for Jetboy, Mickey Finn is ever-optimistic for what’s to come, and thankful for what he has.
I recently had a chat with Finn, where among other things we discuss his origins, the life and times of Jetboy during a buzzing 1980s heyday, the peaks, valleys, and pitfalls of Jetboy’s journey, and more.
Andrew Daly: Mickey, thanks for digging in with us. Going back, what events first sparked your interest in music?
Mickey Finn: Radio and commercials. As a child, I sang everything instead of talking! Then I was attracted to slightly strange pop stars like [David] Bowie and Elton John.
AD: Prior to the formation of Jetboy, what were some of your earliest gigs where you first cut your teeth?
MF: Well, I started in [a] garage jamming with friends. Then, I was in some punk bands like Reign of Terror, Executioner, and my first metal band, Sweet Evil. These were all South Bay Area bands.
AD: Unlike many of your metal contemporaries, Jetboy’s rise began in the San Francisco Bay Area, rather than in LA. Paint a picture of the scene around that time.
MF: Our shows right from the beginning were an amazing mix of punk, metal, glam, and everything alternative. The North Beach scene of Broadway was a great spot for alternative music. I mean, you had the Stone (the Keystone family of clubs), the Fab Mab (Mabuhay Gardens), and then the On Broadway literally across the street from each other. Every weekend was an experience of awesome music, drunk kids, and sometimes violence (laughs). San Francisco was a great music city at that time.
AD: Walk me through the initial formation of Jetboy. How did the puzzle pieces first fall into place? The band was initially the brainchild of guitarists Fernie Rod and Billy Rowe, right? How did you come into the picture, and what were your first impressions?
MF: I was friends with (bassist) Todd Crew through our girlfriends, and at the time, I was playing in a South Bay band called Sweet Evil. At one point, I had Todd come audition for us, and afterward, he thought I would like Jetboy better, who he had just recently started jamming with. After some coaxing and unorganized planning, we finally all got together, and I was the last piece to complete the lineup that would go on to success and a major label record deal. Although initially reluctant, I instantly felt the vibe of the songs they had written, and on the spot, during the first rehearsal, I started writing the lyrics needed to complete the songs. I probably even started singing that first day as well, and we all knew it clicked and felt amazing.
AD: I know this is going back a bit, but what do you recall regarding Jetboy’s first official gig?
MF: It was a high school graduation party, I believe, and then what followed was the first of our many performances at the Fab Mab, which was North Beach Broadway’s famous underground and punk music spot that had to be witnessed to be believed. That spot was also the location of my first punk rock show a couple of years before. RIP Ness Aquino and the glory of the Mab, and Piss Alley. (laughs)
AD: The Bay Area was bursting with thrash bands around this time [the early-to-mid 1980s], but Jetboy found itself a band that embraced its influences, including blues, metal, and punk. Was that a conscious choice to try and break from the established mold?
MF: No, not really. We were all into metal, thrash, punk, and every kind of cool alternative music we could devour. However, our musical taste definitely could not be satisfied with just thrash metal, so we just did what felt good as well as what was emanating from our many influences to produce what was Jetboy. Our fashion and look were equally important to us.
AD: Initially, Jetboy garnered a lot of attention from record executives, but being in the Bay Area, you were away from the action on the LA strip. What made you decide to inject yourselves into the bustling Hollywood scene?
MF: Our manager pushed for it, and it just made sense, as that’s where all the [record] labels were located. It was easier to get them out to see the band perform there. We had also conquered the NorCal music scene, so moving to LA was the first step to spreading our wings to see if we had the mass appeal to succeed.
AD: Jetboy signed on with Elektra Records around the same time the band moved to Hollywood. What did the courtship look like?
MF: It took forever; it was something like a year for them to finally commit, and then for the lawyers and contract negotiations to be completed. They started meddling and criticizing every move we made, and as they say, too many cooks in the kitchen can spoil the recipe, which is kind of what happened. We got through it and came out with a decent first record, although much different than [what] we had imagined.
AD: My understanding was there were delays in regards to the release of Jetboy’s debut, Feel The Shake. Did the parting of ways with original bassist Todd Crew have anything to do with those delays, or were there ongoing issues with Elektra?
MF: Our record was shelved a couple of weeks shy of its official release date due to the East Coast parent company firing all of the West Coast branch, along with our A&R guy, and the president of Elektra. This was also around the time that Todd became out of control, and we were advised to find a new bass player or risk our careers, but that’s a story in itself. My love for Todd runs deep and we did what we could to help him, but it wasn’t enough, he overdosed and died way too young. I wish to god we could have known what was to come and tried to help more, but we were all kids. (The band subsequently signed with MCA Records and the company released Feel the Shake.)
The delays resulted in us losing momentum. While all the other bands [who were] signed around that time went on the road and did their thing, we were left behind. This was [a] critical [blow], as our collective glory days were short-lived and would burn out in just a couple of short years. Also, when Sony Music came in and purchased MCA Records, everything changed at the label, and once again, the timing for us could not be worse, we got zero support and literally no push for our records. At this time, we were in every rock magazine and were critically well received by the music world, yet we had no label support, and that was that, [the] end of the road in the flash of a second.
AD: Jetboy’s first chapter came to an end in 1993. After the breakup of the band (which reformed in 2006), grunge and alternative rock moved in, in full force. The 1990s were a proverbial minefield for rockers of your ilk, Mickey. How did you ride the decade out?
MF: In the wake of all that went down, we then relocated back to the Bay Area and reformed, even changing our name to MindZone, working with Bill Graham Management, and changing our style to full-blown metal. We created some of the best music of my lifetime, some of which was released on indie labels, and if you can find it you will be impressed. We came close but failed to secure a new deal in ’97. I called it quits, got married, then divorced, and for about ten years worked as DJ Melo, establishing myself and my products and clubs in Hawaii. In 2006, we found ourselves answering the call to reunite after Brian Perera at Cleopatra Records offered to work with us, and convinced us the time was right.
AD: After a long absence, 2010’s Off Your Rocker was a return to form for Jetboy. After so many years away, how was the band able to recapture the sound of its heyday so clearly?
MF: Easy. We had gotten cut short and had more to say, and Billy, Fern, and I were always a magic combination for writing music. We also had grown and became better musicians, so we had no struggles when we began working together again.
AD: I wanted to touch on the 25th anniversary show Jetboy put on at the Whisky A Go Go, which was a big success, in celebration of Feel The Shake. The years have been extremely kind to that record, and retrospectively, people have grown to understand its importance to the genre. If you can, walk me through some of your emotions during that performance, and your overall feelings regarding the record.
MF: Yes, I agree. However, there are really only a few songs I like to perform from Feel The Shake. The title track is a timeless anthem, which I hope never dies. I hope to play that one ’till I’m in the grave. The Damned Nation album actually has more of my favorite [songs]. But yes, that show saw us come full circle, and showed what some might have missed, as well as what we got cut short of completing.
AD: A lot of so-called legacy acts sit back and rely on their older material but not Jetboy. 2019’s Born To Fly is proof that the band is stronger than ever. Walk us through the intrinsic musical relationship yourself, Billy, and Fernie seem to have.
MF: When we wrote Born to Fly, the [record] deal came out of nowhere, through our manager Chuck at Artists Worldwide, and we just flowed like always. I was still in Hawaii, Billy, and Fern in San Francisco, and we just started sending music files back and forth, and working [via] phone calls. We wrote, demoed, recorded [and produced] the whole thing in less than three months, including artwork, all with a very limited budget from the label. And then we waited for about a year for Frontiers Records to release it. (laughs). It’s still one of my favorite pieces of work, and I wish more people would check it out! We also did five videos, all on a shoestring budget, but with lots of cool personality. They’re great and entertaining videos.
AD: Having weathered many storms, Jetboy seems like a band poised for continued success in an era where nostalgia for this music is king, but things have been quiet. What’s the status of Jetboy?
MF: Unfortunately, Jetboy is on hiatus, as Billy is always busy with his guitar [manufacturing] company, Rock N’ Roll Relics, and is also now in Buckcherry, and constantly touring. Fern has retired, and if we are to continue, we will have to find a new lead guitarist. So, anyone interested, please contact me!
AD: What’s next on your docket, Mickey?
MF: I now reside in Las Vegas with my beautiful wife and our beautiful little monsters. Damian, my son, is 6 and is in kindergarten, and Evie is 3 and keeping us busy. I long for music projects, but for now, being a dad is the best thing I almost didn’t do, and love it more than anything!