The ‘80s hair metal scene produced its share of reckless hedonists who adhered to a strict diet of sex, drugs and booze. Some, like Nikki Sixx and Slash were able to kick their vices. Others, such as Warrant’s Jani Lane, were never able to abandon the rock and roll lifestyle. Lane died on August 11, 2011, of acute alcohol poisoning. He was 47.
Lane’s descent into oblivion was neither sensational or romantic. He died alone, with no money or ID at a Comfort Inn in Woodland Hills, California. Police reported that Lane was surrounded by liquor bottles and pills.
The singer had always taken a firm stand against drugs, but when it came to alcohol there were no limits. “If anybody was caught with [drugs] they were immediately fired,” he told Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal. “I didn’t tolerate any of that stuff. But drink ‘til you puke, pass out, get up and do it again.”
Like many of his peers, Lane basked in cash, booze and babes well through 1990, when Warrant released the hit album Cherry Pie. He blew his first big record label paycheck on a sports car and promptly totaled it. At the time, it didn’t seem to matter. There were always more personal possessions to be had.
The band’s first five albums sold over 10 million copies around the world. And in 1991 Lane married steamy model Bobbi Brown, who had starred in the sleazy and suggestive “Cherry Pie” music video. Then, at the end of that year, Nirvana released their second album Nevermind. It marked the symbolic end for hair metal. Almost overnight Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains took over the rock charts and metal bands were seen by the mainstream as self-indulgent, misogynistic Neanderthals replaced on the evolutionary ladder by a more cerebral breed.
Warrant, “Cherry Pie”
The climate shift was hard enough on bands like Guns N’ Roses, Motley Crue and Scorpions, but groups like Warrant and Great White, who weren’t as wealthy or well-known, took a major hit. Whether Warrant’s rapid descent played into his worsening alcoholism or marital problems is unknown, but in March 1993 the singer left Warrant to launch a solo career. Later that year Lane and Brown got divorced. By year’s end Lane was back in Warrant and helped them secure a new record deal with independent label CMC, which put out the widely ignored Ultraphobic (1995), Belly to Belly (1996) Greatest and Latest (1999) and the covers album Under the Influence in 2001.
Argumentative and controlling, especially when he was drinking, Lane frequently fought with his bandmates about their image and musical direction. He put out a power-pop solo album Back Down to One, which tanked in 2003, and entered rehab for alcohol abuse that same year. He left Warrant in 2004 due to personal and creative differences and, as a solo artist, dropped off the Bad Boys of Metal tour, which also featured Kevin DuBrow, Steven Adler and Bang Tango, in August 2004, after eight shows.
The next year, Lane briefly revisited the limelight as a participant in the VH1 series Celebrity Fit Club 2. During the show he talked about his alcohol addiction, and viewers seemed to sympathize with his struggle. Even so, his musical career failed to reignite. In an effort to capitalize on the success of the TV show, Lane reissued Back Down to One in 2006 and called his touring band Jani Lane’s Warrant. Almost immediately, the rest of Warrant hit him with a cease and desist and Lane was forced to scrap tour posters that featured the band’s logo and stop using the name.
Lane made several guest appearances on albums by Liberty and Justice and Saints of the Underground in 2007 and 2008, respectively, and in 2010 he filled in for vocalist Jack Russell on a tour for Great White.
Lane died quietly and tragically. After the vocalist’s body was identified, Warrant guitarist Erik Turner issued the following statement: “This is an all-too-sad ending to what started out as a great career with Warrant, and what could have been, and should have been, a long life filled with great music and great shows.”
KISS guitarist Paul Stanley was equally sympathetic: “Jani was a terrific writer and singer who seemed to see his successes as a cross to bear. He fought his enemy within, and he lost. A very sad end to a tortured life.”
On August 29, 2011 Quiet Riot, Great White and LA Guns performed at a public memorial concert for Lane at the Key Club in Hollywood.
Loudwire contributor Jon Wiederhorn is the author of Raising Hell: Backstage Tales From the Lives of Metal Legends, co-author of Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal, as well as the co-author of Scott Ian’s autobiography, I’m the Man: The Story of That Guy From Anthrax, and Al Jourgensen’s autobiography, Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen and the Agnostic Front book My Riot! Grit, Guts and Glory.