By: Lucy Hall
Paul Sabu Promotional Photo
Paul Sabu is an accomplished singer, songwriter, producer, and guitarist. He has contributed a tremendous service to the hard rock community. He has provided the genre with not only his own brand of straightforward, unadorned style of rock which has never gone out of fashion; but in addition, he has contributed his writing, production skills and music to a variety of hard rock headliners such as Alice Cooper and Gene Simmons.
Sabu, the original “AOR Rocker” has been making and producing flawless hits for over thirty years. Sabu’s anthem infused rock riffs, along with his melodic vocals quickly became his trademark, which created a polished FM radio style sound and has made him a well-known figure in the field of hard rock-AOR music.
During his early beginnings on the L.A. rock scene, Sabu recorded both disco and rock, often mixing both genres. He released his first self-titled album in 1979, which was a heavy guitar driven disco record. It produced two hits, “Rockin’ Rollin’” and “We’re Gonna Rock”. During this stage of his career, Sabu also produced and wrote several songs for other well-known disco artists. Although, his first record was disco, Sabu’s hardcore guitar hooks, and solos along with his vocal range attributed to his sound becoming more akin to that of Billy Squier or Sammy Hagar rather than Harry Wayne Casey or Barry Gibb. Sabu’s album releases afterward became more rock driven, with big arrangements, blistering guitars, and catchy choruses.
Sabu Album Cover
In 1980 it was the beginning of a new decade which rushed in new musical concepts. At this time Sabu released his sophomore album, Sabu with MCA Records and began his progression back to his hard rock roots. When he auditioned for Motown Records rock search for which he was chosen, he took on a updated persona and sound releasing the self-titled album Kidd Glove in 84'.
Kidd Glove Album Cover
In 85' he reformed the original Sabu and released his second emotion filled solo album, Heartbreak which produced the hit single, "Angeline". Nearing the late 80's, Sabu formed his four-piece band, Only Child and in 88' the self-titled Only Child Album was released. He evolved from bands such as Kidd Glove and Only Child in the 80's to going back to self-titled names such as Sabu and Paul Sabu well into the 90's.
Only Child Band Promotional Photo
Whenever an artist enlists Paul Sabu to work on their album the bar is always raised. Sabu’s production is unrivaled, and every musical work he has been involved with has been lucrative. Sabu’s body of work is powerful, authentic, and definitive. He makes hits, not just any regular pop hits but music which over time has developed cult followings.
He has been credited with production/mixing on fourteen platinum and eleven gold records. The Emmy winning, music guru has collaborated with a long list of artists such as David Bowie, Little Caesar, Lee Aaron, Madonna, The Nelsons, John Waite, Elvira, Prince, Alice Cooper, Nelsons, Sheena Easton, Dennis Churchill Dries, Shania Twain, WASP, and the list goes on.
Paul Sabu Performance Photo
Apart from bands like Goblin or Tangerine Dream, no other artist has made so many film soundtracks that have captivated cult movie fans. Sabu has had a lengthy career in film and television music.
Early in his career, Sabu performed on The Mike Douglas Show. He went on to write and produce music for a variety of television shows, including popular programs such as Baywatch, Sex and the City, Beverly Hills 90210, and Kids in the Hall.
Although, he worked on “A” list films with “A” list stars such as The Accused and To Die For. He has become an icon with cult movie lovers for his work on the films, Vice Squad, Twin Sitters (featuring the Barbarian Brothers), Meatballs IV, American Drive-In, Assault Of The Killer Bimbos, Ghost Town, The Kindred, and Ghoulies II. In addition, he worked on the Bill and Ted soundtrack with the Nelsons. However, most notably, he has risen to cult status due to his work on the soundtrack for Hard Rock Zombies and he also had a song in Trick or Treat, the two Holy Grails of horror rock films.
Sabu has had several connections to other fellow rock horror icons. Not only did he have a song in Trick or Treat, which would be the movie theme song, Gene Simmons whom he would go on to work with starred in the film as a D.J. who played Sabu’s “Scream Until You Like It” on the turntable in a scene. In 89’ Sabu went on to work with Gene to produce Silent Rage’s, “Don’t Touch Me There”. Bassist for Silent Rage, E.J. Curse was additionally linked to Sabu when he played Jessie in Hard Rock Zombies. Lastly, Sabu produced Dennis Churchill Dries’ (the singer of White Sister) solo album, “I”. White Sister appeared in the horror film, Killer Party.
In recent years Sabu teamed up with Franki Benali to write and produce the song, "Rock in Peace" for the documentary, Quiet Riot: Well Now You're Here, There's No Way Back, which honored frontman, Kevin DuBrow's legacy.
Paul Sabu Promotional Photo
Sabu's lucid AOR legacy has been accredited by many melodic rock magazines and AOR lists. Classic Rock Magazine awarded Paul Sabu for having the highest rated album of all time and the fans of Kerrang Magazine voted Paul Sabu their second favorite vocalist of all time.
I caught up with the AOR guitar hero for an interview:
HEAVY MAKEUP: Is there a facet of the music business that you prefer? Recording, performing, touring, producing or writing?
Paul Sabu: Probably ninety percent of everyone is likely to go with performing which puts me in that group as well, however, the other categories follow suit and are equally if not more important. One of the worse things you can do is be onstage playing a song that no one likes...I learned this the hard way. Therefore you need to make sure your songwriting skills are up to speed. Now that you have written a song you love, your next problem is hoping the recording sounds right, so the recording aspect goes hand in hand. Then there's the problem of the song coming out like you hear it in your head; so you best have some way to express your opinion to the producer or be ready to jump in and grab the wheel. Bottom line there's a close synergy with all these elements, but again, I love to play.
HEAVY MAKEUP: When writing songs where do you get your inspiration? Do you write from personal experiences?
Paul Sabu: Oh Hell NO! That would be a disaster…I can’t imagine anyone having enough backlog of experiences that would be interesting without the redundancies’ in a prolific songwriting career. That would be like saying Marvels Avengers is based on a true story…it’s way too confining. You need to be able to use your imagination and come up with the story that's best for the artist and the song.
HEAVY MAKEUP: If you could go back in time to the beginning of your career, what advice would you offer yourself?
Paul Sabu: Well, a couple things come to mind…probably write myself a note to put a contract out on whoever indoctrinated streaming and remove the horrific idea before it ever started! And secondly not to sign with two managers that shall remain nameless.
HEAVY MAKEUP: You have had collaborations with an impressive list of artists from Alice Cooper to Shania Twain. In your career thus far, who have you enjoyed working with the most?
Paul Sabu: WOW! Can those words be used in a sentence together? The artists/friends that I’ve had the good fortune to work with are completely unique and really can’t be compared. But, off the record, I thought David Bowie was the coolest and a most eloquent human being and Elvira for being the funniest. Shania also ranking top five having some of the craziest escapades during my time working with her in Canada one could imagine. My favorite moment being where she rescues me from a moose.
HEAVY MAKEUP: You started out in 79’ playing disco. Later, playing rock you released solo albums and band albums under Paul Sabu, Sabu, and Only Child. Looking back on your musical career how do you think your musical styles have evolved?
Paul Sabu: I'm not sure evolved is the right word. I was playing bars by eighteen and a record deal is really the only thing I ever thought about. The place I was playing was a pretty heavy rock vibe club…Marc Kreiner was a patron who would stop by the club a lot but never let on he was a big promo guy in the music biz. He just came up to me one night and asked if I wanted to work for him at his label. I had no idea what I’d be doing but of course, I said yes. I didn’t even know it was dance label until the next day when we met. That being said, I would have said yes if he wanted me to do Chinese folk songs. The next couple months he introduced me to some major heavyweights and I watched and soaked in as much as I could and then started re-vamping and writing songs in that genre. A couple of years later when disco/dance was labeled taboo, I just went back to what I had always done.
HEAVY MAKEUP: Your music has appeared in some of my favorite cult horror movies. Hard Rock Zombies, Trick or Treat, Ghost Town, and Ghoulies II. Are you a horror film fan? If so, what is your favorite horror film and why?
Paul Sabu: That’s very kind of you to say but cult horror films happen by chance most of the time. Hard Rock Zombies is a perfect example of that. It was first released as a serious drama horror film that lasted ten minutes. Cannon Films comes along and repackages the film and releases it as a comedy horror film and people loved it and still do. But I did seem to get labeled as a "get this guy if you're doing a B grade horror film."
HEAVY MAKEUP: You produced three albums for Elvira. Did you enjoy working with the Mistress of the Dark? Do you have a favorite memory of that work you could share?
Paul Sabu: Hands down the funniest person I ever worked with. The key with her was to have the tape rolling as soon as she walked in the room because you never knew when she was going to spurt out a one-liner that would lay you out. But her whole campy tongue in cheek persona is not something that just happened…she originally came out here with a comedy team from New York. A three-man outfit that consisted of John Paragon, a guy everyone knows as Pee Wee Herman and Elvira. Paragon was the main writer and continued to write for both of them after the team was dissolved. It was through John that I actually met her. He was directing a film I scored called Twin Sitters featuring the Barbarian Brothers in 94’. Elvira had some problems with past producers but wanted to get back in the studio again so John asked me to meet with her. We hit it off great and made three stellar albums together.
HEAVY MAKEUP: How did the project of Hard Rock Zombies come to you and how did it affect your career?
Paul Sabu: It was totally my mom's fault!
It started out as an invitation to dinner from the producer who happened to be friends with my mom. It wasn’t any big conspiracy. He just wanted to ask me if I’d be interested in starring in the movie. My dad was an actor so I guess he thought acting was passed on genetically. I bowed out of it before he got the question out of his mouth but then later he says I understand you do music...
I don’t think this could be classified as a career builder but it seems to have a lasting effect on people who come in contact with it.
HEAVY MAKEUP: One of my favorite songs from the Hard Rock Zombies soundtrack is “Street Angel”. Did the character, Street Angel in the lyrics have a real-life model? Did you actually know a girl that had the mark of the devil?
Paul Sabu: I think this is a trick question because I don’t know anyone that hasn’t had some femme fatale in their life that they don’t refer to as Satan. Even biblically, every great King had a falling out with God because of a woman. I’ve had many friends screwed by this type of feline not to mention they’ve caused a great many bands to break up!
HEAVY MAKEUP: What is your favorite memory of working on the Hard Rock Zombies film?
Paul Sabu: The wrap party…Hard Rock Zombies was originally background noise on a drive-in screen while they filmed the real movie, American Drive-In…So everything from the start was upside down but somehow the focus shifted completely to a 20-minute background film that was then turned into a full-length movie and won a die-hard following.
HEAVY MAKEUP: Have you ever had any mishaps or Spinal Tap type moments?
Paul Sabu: Yea, every day! Nothing in music is constant, stable or lasting! I think the music business actually coined the expression “SHIT HAPPENS!” But if you love music, you deal with the weirdness.
HEAVY MAKEUP: What else do you do outside of music? Anything that would surprise your fans? Also, do you have any upcoming projects?
Paul Sabu: Not really...I do music 24/7.
You might just check my website for current and upcoming projects. I am always working or playing somewhere...and always looking for the next! I have just recently ended a horrific contract that tied me up nicely for the past couple years so I'm looking forward to getting started on a new CD as well!
Thanks Lucy for your time!
Paul Sabu Promotional Photo
Due to possessing a wide range of talent, no other artist than Sabu could be so versatile to have gone from uptempo disco to rock and metal; then back to tender ballads and pop songs. Whether you are a fan of melodic hard rock, AOR, or you are building an AOR, Hard Rock, or film soundtrack collection set out to include Paul Sabu’s essential work in your collection.
- Sabu (1980)
- Kidd Glove (1984)
- Heartbreak (1985)
- Only Child (1988)
- Paul Sabu (1994)
- Sabu (1996)
- Between the Light (1998)
- Strange Messiah (2007)
- High & Mighty (2009)
- Call of the Wild (2011)
- Bangkok Rules (2012)
Album Song Producer/Contributor Credits:
- Ann-Margret - Ann Margret (1980)
- The Vapors - Turning Japanese (1980)
- John Waite -Ignition (1982)
- David Bowie - Dance (1985)
- Heart - Heart (1985)
- Glass Tiger - Don't Forget Me (When I'm Gone) (1986)
- Robbie Nevil - Wot's It To Ya (1986), Wot's It To Ya: The Best of Robbie Nevil (1999)
- Silent Rage - Shattered Hearts (1987), Don't Touch Me There (1989)
- W.A.S.P. - Live...In the Raw (1987)
- Shania Twain - Beginnings (1988), Final Beginnings (1991)
- Alexa - Alexa (1989)
- Little America - Little America (1987), Fairgrounds (1989)
- Lee Aaron - Bodyrock (1989), Some Girls Do (1991), The Best Of (1997)
- Malice - Crazy In The Night (1989)
- Kim Carnes - Crazy In The Night (1990)
- Little Caesar - Little Caesar (1990)
- The Motels - Vacancy: Best Of (1990)
- Alice Cooper - Hey Stoopid (1991), Spark In The Dark: The Best of (2009)
- Tattoo Rodeo - Rode Hard Put Away Wet (1991)
- Elvira Presents Monster Hits (1994), Elvira Presents Revenge of the Monster Hits (1995)
- Jesse Damon - The Hand That Rocks (2003), Rebel Within (2006)
- Hard Rock Zombies Soundtrack (2008)
- Fatal Smile - World Domination (2008)
- Throne of Vengeance - Flesh Engine (2011), Live Evil (2013)
- AOR - L.A. Temptation (2012), L.A. Connection (2014), Return To L.A. (2015), L.A. Darkness (2016)
- Quiet Riot - Quiet Riot 10 (2014)
- Teri Tims -Teri Tims (2014)
- Dennis Churchill Dries - "I" (2015)
Music in Film and Television Credits:
- Vice Squad (1982)
- American Drive In (1985)
- Hard Rock Zombies (1986)
- Trick or Treat (1986)
- Ghoulies II (1987)
- Million Dollar Mystery (1987)
- Real Men (1987)
- The Accused (1988)
- To Die For (1988)
- Vice Versa (1988)
- Ghost Town (1988)
- Diving In (1990)
- Reason for Living: The Jill Ireland Story (1991)
- Meatballs 4 (1992)
- To Die For (1995)
- Twin Sisters (1995)
- Jack Reed: A Killer Among Us (1996)
- Kindred: The Embraced (1996)
- A Child's Wish (1997)
- George Burn's Early, Early, Early Christmas Special (TV Special)
- Beverly Hills 90210
- The Kids In The Hall
- The New Mickey Mouse Club
- The New WKRP in Cincinnati
- Sex and the City
Check Out Paul Sabu's Official Site: