Steppenwolf | Detective | Michael Monarch | Interview

Uncategorized January 7, 2023

Steppenwolf | Detective | Michael Monarch | Interview

As the original lead guitarist with Steppenwolf (1967 through most of 1969), he played on all their hits, while still a teenager. He also played on Janis Joplin’s album ‘I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!’ and was a member of the Michael Des Barres-fronted band Detective.

Monarch also worked with Roger Glover of Deep Purple, Andy Fraser of Free, Chris Hillman of the Byrds and others including many recording projects throughout the years. For more than fifty years, Michael has been writing and producing music and for over two decades has been performing with Randy Meisner (Eagles), Denny Laine (Moody Blues/Wings), Spencer Davis, Aynsley Dunbar (Journey), and musicians from Toto (Bobby Kimball & Fergie Frederiksen), Steppenwolf (Nick St. Nicholas), Foreigner (Ron Wikso), Santana (Alex Ligertwood & Greg Walker), Boston (Fran Cosmo), Kansas (John Elefante) and Lynyrd Skynyrd (Randall Hall) as the World Classic Rockers. Michael Monarch is also playing locally in Florida with the Peyton Monarch Band. They have had regional radio success with singles in the last few years and the new Peyton-Monarch album was released in October, 2021. 

Steppenwolf promotional photo

Were you interested in music from the early beginning?

Michael Monarch: I was interested in music and wanted to play drums from an early age. At school I saw a kid with drum sticks in his back pocket and I thought that was so cool. I asked my parents for a drum set and lessons, but they said if you want to learn music you have two choices … classical piano or violin. I opted for piano and started taking lessons. After many years of piano lessons, I finally got a drum set. I switched to drum lessons and started to play in a local band with friends. In the meantime I had picked up guitar and taught myself. I am very grateful now for the piano lessons. I still play keyboards in my studio for writing and recording.

How old were you when you picked up your first guitar?

I think the first guitar I played was my friend’s Fender Mustang guitar through his brand-new Fender Deluxe Amp he got for Christmas. His name was Lyle and he lived across the street from me. I would play drums and he was learning guitar and we practiced in my garage (much to the other neighbor’s chagrin). By the age of 15 I had switched to guitar.

Steppenwolf promotional photo

You became a member of Steppenwolf at the early age of 17.

I had been playing guitar by this point for a few years in different local L.A. bands. I was introduced to the band Sparrow who were down from Toronto, Canada trying to get something going in the L.A. music scene … actually without much luck and had decided to break up. I originally met Nick St. Nicholas, the bass player who wanted to start a new band with me. Sparrow’s original guitarist Dennis Edmonton had decided to leave the band too. I ended up replacing him and they (The Sparrow) found a new bass player and we started rehearsing and playing clubs in California. One day while rehearsing in a tiny one car garage in Hollywood filled with amps, drums and a big Lawry organ, a neighbor who was passing by heard us and got interested. He happened to be a young record producer and he wanted to get us signed to the label he was working with, ABC Dunhill Records. He liked the music but he thought we needed a better name for the group. He had just read a book by a German author called Steppenwolf (Hermann Hesse) and thought that would make a great name for us.

“Over the years I have met so many people who were affected by that song”

How does it feel to be playing Lead Guitar on one of the most well known Rock songs, ‘Born To Be Wild’?

Of course it is amazing to be a part of music history. Over the years I have met so many people who were affected by that song. I guess it brings back certain memories of a time passed when they were young. It was a big hit in 1968 and it was used in the soundtrack of the movie “Easy Rider” released in ’69 and then in countless other movies, TV shows and commercials. Steppenwolf’s recording of ‘Born To Be Wild’ was the first song to ever be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame so it has taken on a life of its own.

What led you to play with Janis Joplin on her ‘I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!’ album?

I played on the recording sessions for that album. It was produced by Steppenwolf’s producer Gabriel Mekler. He used part of Steppenwolf for the basic tracks for the album. Jerry Edmonton played drums and Goldy McJohn was on keys and I played guitar. Don’t recall who was playing bass for those sessions but it was just the three of us from Steppenwolf. Eventually many other musicians were used to finishing the project. I do remember being in the studio when Janis Joplin came in to do a vocal on one of the songs. I remember the engineers scrambling to record her first take because they knew she was giving 110% and wanted that captured.

How did the project with Michael Des Barres come about? Tell us about Detective?

​Well it started out great. I met him after living in England for a year. I was forming a band there with Roger Glover (of Deep Purple fame) at that time. Roger suggested I check out a singer that he liked for the project so I went to see Michael in his band​ ​Silverhead playing in London. I didn’t meet him then but when I moved back to the U.S. I did happen to meet Michael who was starting a new band and we began working together. We went through a​ ​number of band member changes until we had the main Detective lineup. We were rehearsing (this time at a big rehearsal complex called S.I.R). Jimmy Page came to see us there and shortly after we were signed to Swan Song/Atlantic Records.

Detective in 1977 | Michael Des Barres and Michael Monarch

What are some tracks that you enjoy lately?

These days I listen to a lot of old Country … like Merle Haggard and others. I also love guitar jazz or jazz/rock fusion so I would probably pick from that.

Are there any artists you would like to collaborate with?

I really appreciate great drummers, keyboardists and bass players. There are so many I wouldn’t know where to start.

Tell us about the supergroup, World Classic Rockers.

I have been playing for over 25 years with the World Classic Rockers featuring former member of Journey (Aynsley Dunbar) and former members of Lynyrd Skynyrd (Randall Hall), Boston (Fran Cosmo), Santana (Greg Walker) and Steppenwolf (Nick St. Nicholas). At one time of another we have also had from the Eagles – Randy Meisner, Spencer Davis (of the Spencer Davis Group), Vanilla Fudge and Rod Stewart band (Carmine Appice), Alex Ligertwood (Santana) and from Kansas (John Elefante) We are an “all-star” band playing the hits from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s that we helped make famous. We have travelled all over the world and are still going strong.

Peyton Monarch Band

What are your future plans? Are you currently touring?

I moved to Florida about 15 years ago and when I’m not traveling with World Classic Rockers, I play with singer Jimmy Peyton in the Peyton Monarch Band. We play locally and have put out albums worth of original music. We have had regional success with that including many local radio chart topping songs.

Klemen Breznikar

Headline photo: Steppenwolf from session for first album cover around 1967-68 | Photo by Tom Gundlefinger O’Neal

All photo materials are copyrighted by their respective copyright owners, and are subject to use for INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY!

Michael Monarch Official Website / Facebook
Peyton Monarch Band Facebook

Detective | Interview | Jon Hyde

The Steppenwolf Story – Chapter One

The Steppenwolf Story – Chapter Two

The Steppenwolf Story – Chapter Three

The Steppenwolf Story – Chapter Four

The Steppenwolf Story – Chapter Five

The Steppenwolf Story – Chapter Six

The Steppenwolf Story – Chapter Seven

The Steppenwolf Story – Chapter Eight

Steppenwolf – ‘Magic Carpet Ride-The Dunhill/ABC Years 1967-1971’ (2021)


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