Denis Leary gets the band back together in his new musical sitcom
Author Nicholas Derenzo Photography Patrick Harbron/FX/FX Networks
In his new FX sitcom “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll,” Denis Leary stars as Johnny Rock, the washed-up lead singer of early ’90s band The Heathens, who never quite hit it big due to the aforementioned sex and drugs—and booze and egos and in-fighting. In fact, the band self-destructed so spectacularly that they split up on the very day their critically acclaimed debut album dropped.
The story picks up 25 years later, when a daughter he never knew existed shows up with an offer: She’ll pay Johnny an obscene amount of cash if he makes amends with guitarist Flash (John Corbett) and they reunite as her songwriting team and backing band.
With guest appearances by Leary’s real-life rock star friends (including Dave Grohl and Joan Jett) and original songs co-written by the comedian himself, the show offers a true insider take on the ins and outs of the rock world. Here, Leary dishes on band family dynamics, his character’s over-the-top fashion choices and his decided lack of rock ’n’ roll nostalgia. (July 16)
• ON GETTING THE LOOK RIGHT
“Some of these guys pick a look, especially in Johnny’s case, that’s the look that made them almost famous. In his mind, he’s never giving that look up, because if he does, it’s like he compromised on what he originally thought was going to work—even though it never worked! So he’s still walking around with the David Bowie/Rod Stewart haircut and snakeskin pants.”
• ON BAND DYNAMICS
“Coming out of Boston in the late ’70s/early ’80s, there were a lot of guys—Aerosmith, The Cars—who we all knew who became big rock stars. I got to see the band dynamics, because I was hanging around with them. They’re like these big dysfunctional families, and it’s always the lead singer and the guitar player who are just like bickering parents. I think people are going to be surprised at how much of that stuff is like being in a real family—only worse, because there’s ego and fame involved.”
• ON STAND-UP VS. ROCK
“In stand-up comedy, it’s a strange individual mentality, because everybody’s on their own when they’re up on stage. So when guys don’t make it and were hell-bent on being famous, they tend to blame the world and not necessarily take a good look in the mirror. I find that in rock ’n’ roll, there’s a family there, so they want to blame everyone else in the family for what went wrong. And then they look at Dave Grohl—or whoever the guys were they knew that got famous—and say, ‘That should have been me!’”
• ON MISPLACED NOSTALGIA
“I think Johnny is a guy that says, ‘Oh man, in the old days, it was really great.’ For me, personally, I just think it’s never been greater in terms of music and availability. I totally understand the attraction to vinyl and all that stuff, but to me—it’s probably because of my kids, who are 25 and 23—I just keep moving forward like a shark with music. The more digital, all this technology, it’s fantastic. I’ve never been able to get music faster, and I think some of the young bands are the best bands.”
• ON THE NYC ROCK SCENE
“I’m old enough to have been through CBGB, man, and I got to be honest with you: CBGB was a horrible place. But they had good bands, so nobody cared! That’s the story of rock ’n’ roll and comedy: For us, it’s not the places but the people.”