[MUSIC INTERVIEW] TUFF – Glam Fest 2023 Interview

When it comes to America’s glam rock scene the genre itself is littered with household names. One band though that never really reached the heights of say KISS or Twisted Sister was Tuff – although their hardcore fans say they should have certainly done so.

Tuff hailed from Phoenix Arizona but soon found themselves playing with the big boys on Sunset Strip during the late 80s and early 90s – especially after the success of their debut album, What Comes Around Goes Around, in 1991. The big singles off the album – which included I Hate Kissing You Goodbye – found the band rivelling Guns ‘N’ Roses and Metallica on the MTV charts.

The band have found mixed success from then on but a renewed interest in them, thanks largely to the band reforming in 2001 and doing a mountain of shows to reintroduce them to a new generation of fans. Now Tuff are hoping to extend their army of fans even further as they arrive in Australia (for the first time as Tuff) to play as part of GlamFest next week.

“I am super thrilled because I have only been to Australia for one time,” says energetic front man Stevie Rachelle when I sit down to talk to him about the upcoming shows. “That was like 15 or 16 years ago but I am even more stoked to be able to finally bring Tuff down there, especially because my partner Todd Chase, who founded this band, will be there alongside me. He is actually the guy that hired me into the band back in the summer of ’87… and this will be his first trip to Australia. We’re stoked because when we are in a festival style atmosphere it is always a great thing.”

The fact that this is the first time the full Tuff band has hit Australia despite having many fans here is not something that is lost on Rachelle. “One hundred per cent,” he screams when I ask whether finally being able to repay those fans for their loyalty is one of the things that makes playing at GlamFest so exciting.

“You know I have played in I think it is thirty countries,” he says. “Every time I go somewhere, whether it be Brazil, Hungry, Romania, the Czech Republic, Mexico or Sweden, someone will roll up and tell me a story. They will tell me something like when I was 15 I bought your record or when I was in college or High School I did this or that – and a lot of the time it is grown men or grown woman that are telling me these things – people that are in their 40s or 50s. Equally I have kids come up to me, and I say kids because they are kids to me, who are 16 or 20 and they will know ever word and they will bootleg Tuff shirts on and I will be like ‘how do you know about us?’ And it ends up that they have discovered us on Youtube or that their Dad has given them so of his old records and I think that social media has really helped expose what we did 25-35 years ago to a younger generation. If there are 800 each night at these shows then chances are 90% won’t have seen us live and we can’t wait to kick-ass in front of them.”

The wave of younger fans though hasn’t made Rachelle want to jump into the studio anytime soon though. “I get asked a lot if I want to make a new album,” he says as we continue to talk. “And I have to be honest and say that the new music does not sell anywhere near what the classic does. If I made a brand new record today and put it on the internet and then I did a re-release of one of our classic albums with some new linear notes or something like that the re-release would out sell the new release 40 to 1 so you know along the way I have been inspired to put out a specialty song – things like American Hair Band.”

As we talk about that track in particular and the message it sent – as Rachelle puts it the song was a “fuck you to the people in the industry that shunned everything we stood for during the 90s” – we begin to talk about what it was like for Tuff in the early days when they were playing a style of rock that was unconsidered ‘uncool’ and whether he is surprised that 40 years later people are now embracing it.

“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t shocked,” he says after thinking for a moment. “If you had asked me in 1985 or 1995 or even in the early 2000s where do you think I would be in 2023 or do you think you would be heading to Australia to play alongside Faster Pussycat I would have thought you were crazy. “

“And I probably would have thought you were even crazier if you had said hey between 2004 and 2020 you are going to play in Brazil seven times,” he continues. “Two weeks after I play in Australia I am heading to Thailand to play in Bangkok, so I have played in Prague and I have played in Barcelona and I’ve even been to places like Hungry and Romania, and sure I am not playing in stadiums and we not as big as AC/DC or Guns ‘N’ Roses or Motley Crue but there is a mark that we made with our band – myself and Todd – and we are proud of that. We have continued to fly the flag and say ‘this is who we are take it or leave it and if people don’t like that band then I don’t care.”

“I mean there used to be pigeon holes,” he says after taking a deep breath. “And there still is I guess. But in the 1980s when Metallica where on the way up and even Megadeth I guess – those bands weren’t taken seriously by the industry. Yes they were critically acclaimed and they had some fans but Armoured Saint, Metallica, WASP, Anthrax, Overkill and Slayer they were playing large clubs and theatres and eventually they got snuck on as an opener on an area tour – you had things like Metallica opening for Ozzy – but at some point they had to stick to their guns – and it is good that they did because look at Metallica they became one of the biggest bands on the planet. Even WASP they are heading to Europe at the moment and I think they are playing 15 shows in Sweden alone, so there is room for everyone. The one thing I don’t think the fans realise is that the business is small and at one time one person from someone like Metallica or Megadeth or Poison or Bon Jovi or Skid Row or Warrant are all friends. Just because someone’s music is heavier doesn’t mean they discount that person in life or as a friend and their used to be a little bit of a competitive edge that we had when we were in our 20s or younger but we are all passed that now. There is a respect right across the board for anybody that has done this for a long period of time.”

Next week Australia finally gets to see Tuff ply their trade live for the first time at GlamFest so make sure you grab your tickets now.