Chip Z'Nuff Steps Into Frontman Role For New Enuff Z'Nuff Album 'Diamond Boy'

Alex Ruffini
Enuff Z' Nuff

"We're back, motherfuckers!"

So says Chip Z'Nuff, co-founder and lead singer-bassist of glam metal band Enuff Z'Nuff. The group just released Diamond Boy, its first new studio album in eight years, on Aug. 10 through Frontiers Music Srl. — and it marks the first time Z'Nuff has handled lead vocals on every song.

"It's a new chapter," he tells Billboard. "I'm replacing [original singer] Donnie Vie, who is one of the greatest singers of our time, in my opinion. But whether it's been harmonies or occasional lead vocals, I've always sung on every single Enuff Z'Nuff record over the past 30 years, and I co-wrote and produced all the songs, so why shouldn't I step up?"

The Chicago-area band first burst onto the hair metal scene in 1989 with "New Thing," the catchy lead single off its self-titled debut album. The colorfully trippy, peace sign-laden video was immediately put into heavy rotation on MTV. Follow-up power ballad (and biggest mainstream success) "Fly High Michelle" reached No. 47 on the Billboard Hot 100 the following year. Since then, the band has released 13 albums, including its most recent.

Z'Nuff calls Diamond Boy “a great representation of picking the bones off some of the bands we love — ELO, The Beatles, Cheap Trick, Mott the Hoople. Put it all in a blender and you have Enuff Z'Nuff." Indeed, the band has always had more in common with the psychedelic '70s than the teased-hair, leather-clad '80s counterparts it was originally lumped in with. The new album has a steady-handed consistency that sounds like vintage Enuff Z'Nuff, at times throwing back to its 1991 album Strength. And while Z'Nuff's voice is a bit more gravelly and rough around the edges, it's similar enough to Vie's that the transition between the two singers is palatable. "I just sing 'em like I sing 'em and do the best I can," admits Z'Nuff.

Over the years, Enuff Z'Nuff has experienced hardship and multiple personnel changes. Original guitarist Derek Frigo died of an apparent drug overdose in 2004, and longtime drummer Ricky Parent, who replaced original drummer Vikki Foxx, succumbed to cancer in 2007. In 2013 — after exiting the band twice before — co-founder and singer Vie departed, leaving Z'Nuff as the lone original member.

After replacement singer Johnny Monaco quit due to medical issues and a difference of opinion on the direction of the band, Z'Nuff decided to step into the spotlight as the group's latest frontman. "Three's a charm — and three strikes, you're out," says Z'Nuff of the decision to personally fill Vie's shoes. "Donnie left in 2002 after we did an incredible tour with Poison, then split again in 2004/2005 after getting married. Our last tour with him was in 2013 in England, and it was a debacle, it just fell apart — and that's when he left again."

In the past decade, Vie has allegedly struggled with personal demons and even publicly lashed out at his former bandmate. Still, Z'Nuff notes, "I wish Donnie nothing but the best. I have no room to sling mud, because I live in a glass house. But he's put me through hell, and it devastated me beyond belief when he left the band. He chose to move on with his life, and I had to move on with mine as well." 

When Monaco departed, Z'Nuff did some soul searching and decided to give being the frontman a shot. “The template for me was Genesis,” he says. “When Peter Gabriel left, Phil Collins took over, and the band was bigger than ever. I'll never claim to be the singer Donnie is, but nobody wanted to do it anymore — and I'm still hungry. I thought, 'Hey, I can wear this dress, and I can wear it well.' "

Z'Nuff sees Diamond Boy as a new beginning for the band — one that includes a multi-city U.S. tour that kicks off Sept. 12 with Great White and BulletBoys. "We're moving forward but understand that it's very important to hold on to our legacy," he says. "It's the first time in almost 30 years that I'm putting a record out with a tour to follow. It's a great shot in the arm.”

Part of that legacy is about bringing back the glory days of Los Angeles' Sunset Strip. “We embrace promiscuity and substance abuse," says Z'Nuff. "Of course, we're older now and not as bad as we used to be, but those memories have stayed with us, so it's only fitting that we go out there and play 'New Thing' and 'Fly High Michelle' for the fans while mixing in some new songs. I hope it's like a mini-Woodstock… only indoors and without the mud."

For a list of tour dates, go here.