Interview: Phil Varone on 'Groupies: The Music From Behind'

Though there’s no such thing as a standard trajectory into porn, Phil Varone’s path is certainly one of the more interesting ones. As a drummer in the band Skid Row, his access to willing sexual partners surpassed even that of the average male adult performer. Varone took full advantage, estimating that he has bedded some 3,000 women. Not a bad background for someone looking to get into adult entertainment.

The former Skid Row drummer made his mark with Phil Varone’s Secret Sex Stash, released by Vivid Entertainment in 2011. But unlike most of the celebrities whose private lives become public on a Vivid sex tape, Varone stuck with it, starting his 100% Real Swingers series, which already has five releases out. And as Varone revealed in a recent interview, there’s much more to come, including a brand-new series that debuts in September and harks back to his rambunctious days as a rock & roller.

Though it’s more like a third or fourth career for him—after rock star, reality TV personality and stand-up comedian—his current work as an adult director seems to afford Varone the chance to “follow his bliss,” to quote writer and mythologist Joseph Campbell. Varone, who is still active with his band Saigon Kick, called AVN from his current home town of Las Vegas, which has seen an influx of not only porn performers but also musicians. He explained that it’s an easy commute to Los Angeles, and hard-working musicians who wouldn’t get much for their money in L.A. can get a “palace” in Vegas. And he’s also a published author, having released his first book, a memoir titled Un-Philtered: Real Life On and Off the Rock’n’Roll Tour Bus, last year.

His fame as a rock cocksman led to both his directing gig and a line of branded sex toys from California Exotic Novelties, but in conversation Varone provided a more nuanced view of his fabled sex life. As much as he enjoyed getting it on with groupies, what really got his engine running was watching his own partner have sex with other people—which made him a natural for the swinger lifestyle. And that enthusiasm is documented in his 100% Swingers series.

As a director for Vivid, Varone jets around the country in search of people in the lifestyle. Although the first few movies were shot in larger cities, these days Varone stays away from big cities and hits lower-profile towns—shooting in Kentucky, Tennesse, Indiana and Ohio—but he still finds a lot of common ground in all the communities. The main difference, he explained, comes in the ages of those participating. In Atlanta, for instance, he found a lot of young swingers; Vegas, on the other hand, has an older demographic. And though Varone hesitates to make blanket characterizations, he has noticed that younger swingers tend to be more “like the 1960s … peace and love” in their approach to the lifestyle. And they also are very health conscious, showing up with test results in hand prior to playtime.

Varone explained the organic way in which the lifestyle nurtures his series. His most recent release—which he cites as the most fun he’s had while shooting 100% Swingers—was set in Kentucky. From the contacts he made there, he got a line on a swinger club in Tennessee, where he will be shooting next. And after that he’ll head to Florida, as well as a place closer to home: Freedom Acres, a newly opened swinger haven in San Bernardino, California. And farther into the future he’s got a really big trip planned, if the logistics work out: a jaunt to Colombia, a Central American country with its own sex-positive subculture.

Varone’s work for Vivid also reflects his other passion: reality-based entertainment. Asked whether he watched porn before he got into the business, Varone recalled that when he was younger, he enjoyed the movies produced by Shane’s World Studios. These reality-based titles, which first came out in 1996, broke new ground with their mix of real college kids and adult performers. “It was like a group of friends having a good time,” Varone recalled. A “voyeur by nature,” he said he enjoys all aspects of reality-based entertainment. What excited him about making movies is watching his cast members enjoy themselves and capturing the “fly on the wall” vibe of reality TV. That doesn’t mean he won’t get into the action—“my dong usually makes its way on camera at some point”—but only when there’s something (or someone) that really catches his attention.

One would expect that Varone will take a more central role in his new series, titled Groupies: The Music From Behind series (a sly takeoff on VH1’s Behind the Music series). Asked why he decided to revisit his original field of sexual conquest, Varone explained that it came about when he started touring again with Saigon Kick. Vivid Vice President Marci Hirsch, who is also a “big rock fan,” suggested that his travels with the band would open up the possibility to capture some groupie sex on camera. Varone began by asking women who’d expressed an interest in hooking up whether they’d be amenable to doing so on camera—and the new series was born. (Click here for the press release on the new series)

So far there are four installments of Groupies, each shot in a different city. The first one—releasing online on on August 26 and then in September on DVD—focuses on a fan who saw Varone play five years ago and had been waiting ever since to “get girth” from the well-hung drummer.

According to Varone, the new series will heavily mine the reality vein. He described one scene in which a Florida stripper agreed to do an impromptu oral scene for the movie. “There’s some real shit in here,” Varone said, sounding confident that fans of reality entertainment will be entertained. He knows that he’s not alone in his fascination with everyday Joes and Jills in front of candid cameras. “Is there another culture where Honey Boo Boo could become a star?” he asked.

Speaking of fans, there’s another subject the rock star can speak on with authority, having interacted with many over the years. Surprisingly, Varone said that many of his music fans “don’t understand” his work in the adult world, even though he believes that many rock fans also watch porn. He believes this stems from the stigma attached to porn, which Varone can’t relate to at all. “Watching an R-rated movie or an X-rated movie, it’s all entertainment to me,” he said.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it now: I’ve done way worse things in rock than I’ve done in porn,” Varone said fervently. As someone who has been involved with both businesses, Varone said, he can attest that there is less craziness—whether it’s sex, drugs or general scumbaggery—among denizens of the adult world. In fact, Varone says, his life now is mild by comparison.

But one thing that isn’t mild is his willingness to put his opinions out there. Speaking heatedly about the nature of online culture, with its haters and trolls, he said, “If I make a comment online, I put my name and number on it. You can call me up and I’ll tell you why I think you’re an asshole.”

Fittingly for someone who freely shares both his opinions and intimate aspects of his life, Varone is fully enaged in social media. His official website,, offers details on all his ventures as well as an online store, and Vivid also runs a member site, Fans can follow him on Twitter (@ThePhilVarone), and wannabe exhibitionists can email [email protected] to make a bid to appear in one of his Vivid productions.