TOMMY GUNN* INTERVIEW
JayQuan : Before you got involved with the Furious 5 what was your Hip Hop background ?
Tommy Gunn : None what so ever , I didn’t even like rap music at that point. This was like ’83 or ’84. I got recruited into the band by a guy named Mick Rock , who was like the tailor & manager of the band at that point. I used to run night clubs at that point and I would always let him get in free. He was always telling me that he was gonna make me a star one day. He came in one night with Mele Mel & Scorpio and he introduced us. He told them that I was gonna be the new guy in the band, and they were like "why? we don’t need anybody else". He introduced them as guys from Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5 and I was like "who is that ?" Mel was the the one who actually convinced me to try it out, because I had a nice job , money & lots of girls; so I needed convincing . They asked could I sing or play any instruments and I said no. The band was like why did you bring us this guy who can’t do anything. At that point I was doing magic – guillotines and sh*t like that, so they said that I could do magic in the band. Three weeks later was like the first mini tour and at the first show I dived right into the crowd – this was way before stage diving became popular. It became a trademark with the band – doing crazy stuff with the crowd.
JQ : Was it just the look you had the reason that you were still recruited even though you didn’t sing , rap or play instruments?
TG : Yeah more the look , because those guys had a crazy look in those days too. It was just showmanship. They wanted a lot of diversity – that’s why Kama Kazi came in. The other guys were pissed too – like " why aren’t you bring any brothers into the band?"
JQ : Did Mel seem to have most of the power in the group?
TG: Yeah Mel had 100% of the power in the band. He and Scorp were the leaders, and Cowboy would be third.
JQ : I know that you were in the movie "Beat Street" , did you do anything on the Beat Street / Internationally Known 12" single.
TG : I did backup vocals on stage , I didn’t do anything in the studio at all.
JQ : Did you have any contact with the record label side of things like Sylvia Robinson ?
TG : Yeah , Sylvia controlled the purse strings. I had a good business mind and I knew that we were getting jerked . The guys weren’t getting royalties. She would give them a Mercedes Benz instead – all those guys – Sugarhill Gang , all of ‘em. They were leasedunder her name , so that when the records weren’t selling the cars were pulled. She gave them money for sneakers and clothes to look good , but everybody still lived in the Bronx. Some of those guys had food stamps – you’re on tour walking around with food stamps !!? We were making really good money (from touring). We were fed so there was no need to buy food, and we stayed in hotels.
JQ : So where was all that money going ; was it drugs?
TG : Not at first.I remember Sylvia Robinson fired Mick Rock because we did that song "Jesse" for the Jesse Jackson presidential campaign. We were gonna get paid $10,000 tofurther help him campaign and Sylvia said no, that wasn’t enough money. Mick said that it was a good cause and that we should do it , and they got in a big fight about it. She didn’t like Mick because he was always trying to get the band bigger and push us to that next level. She fired him and got this guy Cecil. He looked like a nice guy , but he was not at all. We would do a show and he would claim that the promoter shorted us , but that it would be straight by the next show. By the next show the money never materialized. Mick used to tell us "hey this promoter ain’t gonna pay us – lets go get'em". Cecil would never do that. He was cutting deals behind our backs. He was dealing drugs to the guys too. He didn’t want me in the band because I was bringing up sh*t that I didn’t like. But Mick was cool – he made all the clothes for those guys – even when you see the Message video he made all those – then he went on to make Eddie Murphy’s stuff.
JQ : Are you doing anything with music today?
TG : No. I ran night clubs until about 1990 – heavy metal stuff. I was the biggest promoter in New York for heavy metal for years. Even when I was in the band I was promoting. I used to hang out with Motley Crue and Poison – all those guys. After that I got into the porn industry as an agent . I had about 22 girls working for me. People like Lois Ayers , Megan Leigh – I even dated Lois for awhile. Heather Hunter worked for me.I even worked with Nina Hartley for a bit. I was in the business about 5 years. Then I got into computers, which I still am , but now I am more into fishing. I drive a 100 ton vessel. And I have a website - www.fishseekers.com.
JQ : That a pretty interesting life – for a guy who didn’t even like Hip Hop to just fall into the Furious 5 , to heavy metal , porn , computers and fishing. Did you hang out with any other acts on the Sugarhill label ?
TG : Just Sha Rock of the Funky 4 – she was cool. We used to tour with lots of bands. Roger was big all over the world , and he had a great stage show. I saw New Edition get slapped around by their manager. We toured Hawaii with Run – DMC they were nuts – riding mopeds around – I remember Jam Master J fuc*ed his chin up when he fell off of his moped.
JQ : How was it working with Keith Cowboy ?
T.G. : He wanted to fight everybody. He was the kind of person that settled his differences by fighting. We had a few problems. I let him borrow a few things that I never got back.
JQ : Thanks for your time……
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