Turning The Past Into The Present & The Present Into The Past

“Born To Fly” to be released on January 25, 2019 via Frontiers Music Srl


As one who was friends with the band Jetboy long before they released their 1988 debut album ‘Feel The Shake’, I was pleased to hear of their upcoming album release of ‘Born To Fly’ via Frontiers Music Srl.  Mayhem Music Magazine reached out to do a sit down with guitarist/songwriter Billy Rowe to discuss what’s been going on with both him and the band. We discussed how Jetboy modernized their sound for their new album using parts of their signature blues rock riffs from the past. We also talk about how Billy’s guitar making company “Rock N’ Roll Relics” takes newly made guitars and gives them the nostalgic look and sound of the past. Even with all the guitar building, song writing, and recording that now takes his time, Billy still finds time to jam with mates in a side project The Butlers as well as teaming up with long time friend rock n roll comedian/ “Let There Be Talk” podcasting host Dean Delray to rock out to some AC/DC. As we sat down in a coffee shop in San Francisco, this is what Billy had to say.


I know that Jetboy was been recording new material. What’s going on with that?

Actually it’s completely finished with twelve new songs. We got an offer from Frontier Records out of Italy. They put out the new LA Guns, Whitesnake, Def Leppard, Journey, their rosters huge. We were like “alright, let’s do this”.


Enough to get Mickey over here huh. (Singer Mickey Finn now lives in Hawaii)

Yeah, It’s kind of funny how it happened because I always wanted to do but once we signed this deal then it was like “oh shit, now we have to write songs”. I’ve always written and always did my own stuff, a couple things with Mick and just a lot of demo stuff. I had a few songs that were complete except for vocals. We were like we can work this one song or rework this old song and then the flood gates opened man. We didn’t dive into any old. It’s all new. Everybody probably says “this is the best record we’ve ever done” but I really believe this “IS” the best shit we’ve ever done. To me in my head the record and the sound is always how I wanted the band to sound like.


Your career spans several decades of writing music, what took it from where Jetboy was to where Jetboy is now?

It’s going to be that four on the floor rock stuff for the most part. I think musically we’ve all kept in music separately on our own that has helped us grow as players and writers. I like to keep it simple. The influences are shining of AC/DC, Cheap Trick, Aerosmith, Kix, and even like early Judas Priest. Point of Entry era and even the (Rolling) Stones stuff. I think people will be like “we hear the classic Jetboy but they took it to a place they couldn’t before” or never thought we would have.

The first song we’re going to release is “Beating the Odds”. It’s a hard rock up tempo song. It’s got its flavor like early Priest like a cross between “Hell Bent For Leather” and “Point of Entry”.


Great time period though.

Yeah, exactly. But there’s some straight forward AC/DC stuff. There’s a ballad acoustic that’s very The Faces/ Rod Stewart / Stonesy meets like The Babys. I can’t wait for people to hear it. So it’s all done, we really wrote everything within a three month period and demoed everything at my place. All the way down to every detail for the most part; down to shakers, tambourines, vocals and harmonies. Then we went down to LA and we recorded it with Luke Teirney, who had a band called Silver Jet in the nineties. The guy that mixed it was Rick Parker who was the singer of Lions & Ghosts.


so the albums is completely mastered at this point

Everything’s done. It’s called ‘Born to Fly’.


What about a release date?

We thought it was going to be this year and then when everything started falling into place, the label feels that January is going to be better and a lot of it fell on that we were announced for the Monsters of Rock Cruise. I think around that same time they are going to release the single that will be on Spotify and iTunes and all of that. In between we’ll kind of spit stuff out. We did a short documentary on the making of the album that’s eight minutes long but it’s pretty cool.




When the albums released, will you start doing tours?

Yeah, we want to. We all want to go out and do shit. Everybody’s asking questions. I just use the famous quote “let’s let the hour guide us” and what we’re gonna do. Once the albums out, let’s see what happens with it. Let’s see the reaction. Who knows what will happen.


I know that you recently did a show with Dean Delray, the Bon Scott Tribute. How did that come about because you got some pretty, crazy players.

Actually this is the second time we did that in LA. We did one two years ago but it really started twenty years ago here (San Francisco) where Dean Delray used to put on his birthday bash at The Stone (Famous San Francisco club on Broadway). He use to do AC/DC covers and mix up bands and we’d all do songs from AC/DC albums. Fast forward to the nineties, him and I and Josh Z who is from here does all the Angus stuff. He’s a phenomenal guitar player. He was in the band Protein. He now has a band Mother Truckers with his wife. We did something at the Bottom of The Hill and when Dean wanted to revive it two years ago. We did it at the El Rey. We’re going to try and do it yearly but it’s a lot of work and it’s around his birthday. He’s been doing comedy and been doing great with it. He’s got his podcast and he’s interviewing all these people. He friended Nikki Sixx so this thing came together and all these people came on board. There was Bill Burr, Marc Maron, Nikki Sixx, Scott Ian, Scott Gorman from The Black Crowes on drums. Greg Dulli from the Afghan Wigs sang a song. It was amazing. We rehearsed the day before. We did the ‘Powerage’ record plus a few extras. Since Nikki did it, we opened with “Live Wire” by AC/DC and second to the last song “Live Wire” by the Crue which was fucking awesome. I did “Kicked in the Teeth” and “Live Wire” with him. It was great, It was pretty killer! It was mind blowing, everybody hit it off great.





It would be cool if you started doing it yearly.

I told Dean we need to do “Let There Be Rock” next year. Michael Devan on bass, he plays with Whitesnake now. That guys so good. So as a band, this core rhythm section just click. We all meet, we rehearse one night and go do the show. It gets bigger each year, within LA we get the right people we could probably build up to like The Forum.


You also have a present day cover band called The Butler with Craig Behrhorst. You actually have a long history with Craig (former guitarist of Ruffians & Laaz Rockit) as well.

There use to be this thing called One Night Stand that was held at Slim’s our friend Cherry use to do for fifteen years or more. I would always do it with the singer of The Butlers Graham Shaw and his brother Michael Shaw. We would do (Def) Leppard, Queen, Cheap Trick, it would be that kind of shit. People would do like four songs with guys from different bands.  Graham and I decided one night we should put this together as a cover band. We just started rehearsing covers and booking shows like a normal band. We play a lot of the geek tracks, the deep geek tracks. We don’t always do the hits. Not everybody in The Butlers likes the hits like I do so we’ll do the obscure stuff. It’s fun, you know.


Let’s talk about your guitar company Rock n Roll Relics. I started seeing the guitars and checking them out and thought they were cool as fuck. I didn’t even realize it was your company at the time. When I found out I was like “Billy, this is gold”. How did this come about as well?

I was into this shit when I was a kid. I’d be spray painting guitars in my garage at my parent’s house when I was like fourteen or fifteen. Pulling pickups out of old gear and fucking up vintage guitars as they are now back then in the 70’s. I built a guitar in high school as one of my projects. I guess fast forward to after the Jetboy days going into the 90’s, sitting on the bed scratching my head thinking “what am I going to do now?”.

I slowly started seeing this aged guitar stuff, so I got into it. Found some old vintage guitars, restored a couple and sold them. I just kind of started it for fun. Built a website and slowly just kind of built it and built it.






What’s really cool about the guitars is that it’s not built back to like when it was first bought and in the same shape as when you walked out the door when it was first bought. They’re distressed, with all the wear and tear on them. Your guitars look like they’ve been played for twenty years.

Yeah, that’s the idea. There are a handful of companies that do it like Gibson and Fender that do their aged stuff. Mine definitely stands on its own in a lot of ways. Everything that we do is custom cut, it’s raw when we get it. It’s basically a brand that we’ve built it up. I do all the finish work. I’ve got good guys playing it and I’ve got big names playing stuff. I’ve done one for Stevie D. of Buckcherry but my big one is Billie Joe Armstrong, he’s got four or five of them. One of them he played the whole last Green Day tour which got me a shitload of attention. Done stuff for Gilby Clarke, Bruce Kulick, Glen Campbell, Tracii Guns, and a couple country guys.

One of my models is my ‘Thunders’ model which is made exact to what Johnny played. Some of my models are named after rock guys. My tele is my ‘Richards’ model. My strats my ‘Blackmore’ model. I just kind of named them after people I thought really introduce me to that guitar and made it more iconic. Like Ritchie Blackmore is well underated, too underated of a guy that played a strat the whole time. Why call a telecaster a telecaster, it should be called a Keith Richards. He’s the guy that made it what it is. It’s been good man, the guitar thing keeps me busy as Hell.


As far as people getting their hands on Rock n Roll Relics, what’s the best way to do so?

I use to do direct orders. Then I hired a sales rep so basically ninety percent if not more of my builds all go to stores all over the world from Australia, Japan, the UK, to a lot in America. We’re just looking to get more dealers and eventually get into bigger stores and Guitar Center and all that.


The great part is you love what you do.

Yeah exactly. Right now I’m at the big crossroads and want to move back down south. I’d rather be down there because what I do industry wise. Like Marco Pirroni from Adam Ant played one the other night and was like “I’m here until Monday, I’d love to come by the shop”. He didn’t realize I’m not in LA. (since this interview Billy did make the move to LA)


So Pirroni has one of your guitars?

He borrowed one.  Billy Morrison of Billy Idol/Royal Machines reached out to me because he said “when I come out this is the kind of guitar I’d like to use’ so he asked if he could borrow one. I was like “fuck yeah, no problem”. It so happens I’m doing this Johnny Thunders estate guitar and have a couple prototypes.


I only got to see Thunders play once when I was working at the Cactus Club (hotspot in San Jose, Ca during the 80’s & 90’s). That was just insane, that was like 1989.

We were gone then, we were in LA. Cause we played with him in LA in 86. It was Jetboy, Guns n Rose, & Johnny Thunders. I saw him at the Mabuhay (Gardens). He was great. He created a sound that everybody wanted to copy but no one could do it like he did it.


It seems with everything going on in your life, you’re having to do a lot of juggling.

It’s a lot of juggling. The Jetboy stuff hasn’t been too demanding yet. When we were doing the record I get so passionately into the song writing and into the demos. Even on this record, I wrote every drum part. Every fucking kick pattern, every crash, I sat there in Logic and I told Mick and Fern “if we’re going to do this, we have to handle shit”. Our drummer and bass player would be like “here it is, learn the songs”. We can’t get together and bash it out for six hours a night. We all live in different places. I’d rather do it the way we did anyways. It works. I think I’ve got a good grip on the focus that part of the band, where it needs to go.


Plus you’ve worked with Fernie (Rod) & Mickey (Finn) long enough to know what works.

Even if we had a ton of money, I’d still kind of prefer to do it this way. It’s how a lot of bands do it. Fern would come over a lot and bounce stuff off of or it would get sent to Mick. Then he’d send it back and it’s all done. It was inspiring doing that record. I spent hours working on it but I loved it. It’s fun.


It would have been nice if you could’ve got (Sami) Yaffa to come record on it a bit.

He got up with us a couple years back and did one song at The Whisky. We keep in touch. He’s got a couple basses I built for him. One’s his main bass. He’s out with Mike Monroe all the time.


One last question. What do you think of the recording industry from the early days of Jetboy to what it is today?

For Jetboy’s thing, there was a moment in time where all that was great. The industry has changed but is exactly the same in a lot of ways. Instead of magazines and records stores, you have the internet. Your magazines are your webzines and Facebook, and your stores are Spotify and iTunes. It just doesn’t sell as much because there’s so much out there now. When we were growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, it was still relatively small but it was still humongous in America’s pop culture. Today it’s probably bigger than it’s ever been. There’s more option so less things sell. There are people doing very well in music.



For more on Jetboy:

Website: www.jetboyrocks.com

Facebook: jetboyrocks

Instagram: jetboy_rocks

Facebook: Billy Rowe

Facebook: Rock n Roll Relics


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