Former ENUFF Z’NUFF Singer DONNIE VIE – “I Wasn’t Happy Being Alive Anymore”
July 17, 2019, a year ago
Former Enuff Z’Nuff singer/guitarist Donnie Vie returned on June 7th after a four year hiatus, with his latest solo effort, Beautiful Things. And the release will certainly be of interest to fans of hard rock and heavy metal - as he enlisted quite a few renowned special guests, including Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big), Mike LePond (Symphony X), and Roger Joseph Manning Jr. (Jellyfish). Having exited Enuff Z’Nuff in 2013 (singer/bassist Chip Z’Nuff is the lone original member left in attendance), Donnie endured a rough period in both his personal and professional life, before getting back on track - as he very openly and honestly discussed with BraveWords correspondent Greg Prato.
BraveWords: Let’s discuss your latest solo album, Beautiful Things.
Donnie Vie: “Well, number one, it’s not Enuff Z’Nuff! Number two, I think it reflects where my spirituality and my emotional state and health is very positive. I got to work with a lot of great artists that contributed, and I’m very proud to be a part of this thing. It was written and made after a three-and-a-half/four-year hiatus from writing and performing. Once I was out of Enuff Z’Nuff, I was in a pretty down place. Doing a lot of praying - I wasn’t happy being alive anymore. Just like, ‘This is pointless. I’m miserable.’ And some miracles happened. I finally for the first time in my life got it together. I started developing young and everything happened so quickly, that I didn’t get that chance to naturally evolve or work through these things. I was a very insecure and shy kid, and then I’m the lead singer of a professional band. So, I took a lot of substances, and before you know it, those are taking over, and they’re driving the bus instead of you.
“Once I got it together, I hadn’t written anything. I had a lull. And I never had that in my life - if you know how many records we have, I’ve always had song ideas coming to me. But since nothing was coming, I was like, ‘Was it the drugs and the alcohol that was writing these songs?’ Because I definitely know that a buffoon like me couldn’t be responsible for all that killer work. Maybe my voice, or something, but that’s no thanks to me either - I chain-smoked cigarettes for all those years. But all of a sudden, time was right again, where I was like, ‘OK. I did this. Was this worth it? I certainly can’t think of a Plan B or anything else I can see myself doing. Am I still doing to do this?’ All of a sudden, the track that is the single, ‘I Could Save the World,’ that song came to me first. Just basically right after I asked that question into the powers that be, that song came. I was like, ‘This sounds cool.’ I tracked it, and a couple of days later, ‘Breaking Me Down,’ the second song, came. I was like, ‘Well, now we’ve got a coincidence happening here.’ And then the third and the fourth came, and I was like, ‘Well, they turned it back on. I’m back into this thing. Let’s see what we can do with it - now that I’ve got my head on my shoulders, I’ve got a good circle around me.’
“I just figured it was time to get a positive message instead of just empathizing and sympathizing with others out there, because I would write stuff that was kind of aimed at me, and always hoping that I could reach somebody out there that would hear this, and it would affect them. And at least if nothing else, know that there are other people - even people that they admire - who have these issues and problems. Now, I’m kind of coming at a place where there is a song called ‘Fly’ on there, to show, ‘Hey, if this was possible for me, anybody can do it.’ Because I was helpless and hopeless, and had great faith in medicine - partying is still up there as one of my favorite things to do. But for now, that’s such a dark, ugly, sad, and lonely world - when basically all you’ve got in your life is that. I just wanted to make a positive record, and it wasn’t even a conscious thing - it was what started happening. Even on the negative songs, like where I’m talking about breaking up with somebody, there still is a positive connotation in there, as well. It’s like, ‘Everything will be OK.’ I’m still trying to reach people, still trying to empathize - but in a positive way. Especially because a lot of my fans were ‘the broken people,’ y’know? It’s like, ‘Hey, how are you doing now? Here’s how I’m doing now. Did you get through it? And if you didn’t, then you can, and I’m here for you.’ I’m accessible, and if you’ve got something just devastating going on in your life and you’re ready to take your life, I’m available to talk to you in one way or the other. That’s where this record came from. A lot of great players and really good guys. I think it’s the best thing I’ve done to today.”
BraveWords: You mentioned that you were suffering from depression, that led to about three years of you not doing music. What brought on that depression?
Donnie Vie: “My life. My life in general, the people I’d done business with - every single thing that I could think of, right down to screwing my own self in the ass. Just everything I could think of was bringing me down. It kind of felt like a lonely world to begin with for me, because that wasn’t what I envisioned myself doing when I was five years old, and I realized, ‘This is what I’m going to do,’ and I set out for that with no net, with no Plan B. But I didn’t envision playing with guys like Derek Frigo or Vikki Fox, and that style, that sound, and that look. So, I kind of had a gut feeling that all of this isn’t what I should be doing...but how do you walk away from a major record deal, #1 on MTV...how do you walk away from that and go, ‘Stick to your guns.’ And especially being broke, white trash from Blue Island, to all of a sudden, it’s a party for us wherever you go. That was good and bad. But we made a lot of fans along the way. And most of the good things in my life, I don’t remember - I’ve just got little glimpses or I hear about them. And some of them, they’re funny...but a lot of rumors turned to fact. And I’ve never lied or was never secretive about what I do and why I am what I am, because why do that? I had never been ashamed of anything - hindsight is insight, and everything happens for a reason. Just this record and talking to you today was something that was in the cards down the line eventually, and it all adds up and you get to these places. Every single thing in my life, I’ve learned - whether I’ve acted on learning or not - there is some little thing that if I hadn’t of done this, this wouldn’t have taken that turn there, that wouldn’t have taken that turn there. Whatever turn it didn’t take, I wouldn’t be here right now. And if the band had been very successful, I would have been dead, because then nobody would have been able to stop me, and I’d have unlimited access - and I’m excessive.”
BraveWords: How did you come up with the idea of covering John Lennon’s “Instant Karma”?
Donnie Vie: “Well, I have a friend who what he does is he knows a few singers - and I’m one of them. He likes to track music for power pop songs. So, he asked me, ‘What would you like doing?’ And I was like, ‘I don’t know.’ He said, ‘How about John Lennon?’ I said, ‘How about ‘Instant Karma’?’ So, he sent me the music to that, and I sang it, and I had this demo laying around. Then earlier this year, my pancreas liquified, and I was in the hospital for like a month, and almost died. The doctor told me I was going to die and all that shit, and I was like, ‘Get the fuck out of here. I’m not going to die.’ So, all of the fans, their energy...I posted ‘I’m in the hospital,’ and I posted pictures from there. But I was still working from the hospital - doing this and doing that. I was thinking, ‘I should put something out right now. The record’s done, that’s not coming out yet - because of the Pledge Music thing. I’ve got that ‘Instant Karma.’ So I was just going to have my friends in the business do a quick cameo of themselves, put it all together, and make a home video for it. A couple of good friends like Vinnie Castaldo - Vinnie worked on the Dissonance record with [Enuff Z’Nuff], he reached out and said, ‘I’ll replay the drums for real on there.’ And he said, ‘With that video, I can do one better - I can get all these fans in the studio to sing along with you, to get you on the track, and videotape it.’ And another friend of mine reached out and was like, ‘I’ve got an idea idea, too. Do you want to play on a grand piano, out by a lake?’ And I was like, ‘That sounds pretty cool!’ So, I showed up. And this is a week after I got out of the hospital.
"Two days after I got out of the hospital, I shot the scenes where I’m singing on the mic outside. I should have waited - everybody told me, ‘Wait Donnie. You’re too thin, you look like shit.’ I was down 35 pounds, but I did it anyway. And then a week later, my buddy calls and says, ‘My son goes to high school here, and he’s got his whole student body, they’re having a rally.’ And he agreed to film a clip of the whole student body with the signs and everything, singing, ‘We all shine on,’ too. And then of course, there was the lake scene with the grand piano - I showed up to that, and there were drones and cameras and stuff. After that was all put together, then I was talking to the kids, and I found out some statistics about suicide due to bullying. I had experienced that - I have had relatives and friends who killed themselves because of that same thing. I was like, ‘This is a John Lennon song. John Lennon was all about peace and love, and all about caring and standing up for something. Let’s do this.’ So we did, and when we rolled the credits - just to show the ages of twelve-years old, eleven-years old - kids taking their own lives because of bullying.”
BraveWords: Early on in the band’s career, I remember Enuff Z’Nuff appeared quite a lot on The Howard Stern Show.
Donnie Vie: “I did not know who Howard Stern was the first time we went on. I just know the label - knowing me and knowing us - was very apprehensive, and were constantly letting me know, ‘Hey, listen. This is one time you need to be careful.’ So we went on there, and Howard had already loved the record. I didn’t know that and I didn’t know how big he was. There’s always a guitar there, and he was like, ‘Will you guys play something?’ I started playing some songs in the studio, and we just became really tight with him. We were on a lot. To the point where I had been to his house - he invited me to stay at his pool house, and demo there. He would come out to our shows in New York, and Howard has to get up early, and we wouldn’t start playing some of these clubs until midnight. And he would come out to these things, and halfway through the show, we’d call him up, hand him my guitar, and we’d do ‘Wild Thing.’ Chip has kept in contact with him and been on a bunch - I’ve left him alone for 20 years. I just contacted them recently, and just said, ‘Will you listen to this new record? I miss you guys. I’ll let you take it from there - if you like it, maybe you can have me down. You have Chip come down all the time...what about me?’ So, we’ll see what happens. I guess they still remember me - Howard mentioned us in his book. It was a great relationship, and I later learned how big he really is.”