Hanoi Rocks was formed in Helsinki in 1979 and the first line-up included vocalist and saxophone player Michael Monroe (Matti Fagerholm), guitar player Nasty Suicide (Jan Stenfors), guitar player Stefan Piesnack, bass player Nedo and drummer Peki Sirola. The following year Piesnack, Sirola and Nedo were replaced by guitar player Andy McCoy (Antti Hulkko), bass player Sam Yaffa (Sami Takamäki) and drummer Gyp Casino (Jesper Sporre). In 1981 they moved to Stockholm and in 1982 to London to take advantage of the livelier music scene in these cities. Later that year Casino was fired and replaced by Razzle (Nicholas Dingley).
Although the band never gained significant commercial success, they have a considerable cult following and critical acclaim for their 'sleazy' yet melodic style of music. They were chosen the second-best band of year 1984 by readers of famous Sounds magazine, Marillion receiving the first place of voting. They have been cited as an influence by major bands such as Mötley Crüe, Guns N' Roses and Manic Street Preachers. More recently, artists such Fenriz, from Darkthrone, Joey Jordison, Chris Shiflett and Mike McCready have cited Hanoi Rocks as an important influence on their musical career. The re-release of Hanoi Rocks' albums on CD was in large part due to efforts by Guns N' Roses via their own record label UZI Suicide. In Finland, however, Hanoi Rocks is known as the Finnish rock band who at their time had come closest to real international fame, only much later giving way to such groups as HIM, Nightwish, Sonata Arctica, and Children of Bodom.
In 1983 the band signed to CBS Records and appeared to be on the cusp of gaining commercial acceptance. They recorded their fifth album in January 1984 with producer Bob Ezrin in his home town Toronto. The album had just been released when disaster struck in December of that same year: Razzle was killed in a car accident (the driver was Vince Neil, singer with the band Mötley Crüe). Vince Neil was charged with vehicular manslaughter and spent 15 days of a 1 month sentence in a minimum security prison and ordered to pay $2.6 million in damages to Razzle's family. Razzle was replaced by Terry Chimes, drummer on The Clash's first album. Sammy Yaffa left the band and was replaced by René Berg from the Idle Flowers. The band never recovered; Monroe left. In May 1985, after their last show at the Rockerina Festival in Poland, Hanoi Rocks disbanded. This show was recorded for the album Rock and Roll Divorce.
The members spent the next 15 years in various short-lived projects, and although they worked with numerous artists including Iggy Pop, Stiv Bators, Steve Stevens, Little Steven, Samantha Fox, Sebastian Bach, Sylvain Sylvain, Nicky Hopkins, Joan Jett and Guns N' Roses, they never achieved anything resembling their earlier success.
In 2002 Monroe and McCoy reformed the band, with two members of the Electric Boys, and a drummer who had previously featured in Monroe's solo project. They have released three new albums and toured heavily since then in Europe and Japan.
2005 and beyond: Nasty Suicide works as a pharmacist. Sami Yaffa did play in a band called Mad Juana with his wife, Karmen Guy, and is based in New York City. Yaffa is currently touring and recording with the reformed New York Dolls. Sami was also part of the band Vasquez (with former DGeneration guitarist Richard Bacchus) and also toured with Jesse Malin in 2006. Suicide and Yaffa have appeared onstage with the reformed Hanoi although not at the same time. The single "Fashion", released in May 2007, went straight to #1 in the Finnish singles chart.
On August 8th, the single "This One's for Rock'n'Roll" was released to be downloaded from selected sites. This is also featured in the album Street Poetry, which was released in early September 2007. The album is regarded as being in the same vein as the classic material from the 80's.
It was announced on January 26th that drummer Lacu was to leave the band after the bands European Tour. A replacement was named on June 4th, 2008 - a Swede named George "Jolle" Atlagic.
On October 21, 2008, Hanoi Rocks announced that the band will break up. Monroe and McCoy agreed that they had "taken the band and music style as far as possible". In April 2009 Hanoi Rocks played 8 sold out farewell gigs in 6 days at Tavastia Club, Helsinki. The original guitarist Nasty Suicide appeared as a special guest on 3 of the last gigs.
Musically the band is influenced by artists such as the New York Dolls, The Stooges and The Rolling Stones. Their music fuses elements of blues, punk, garage rock, glam rock as well as the original rock 'n' roll of Chuck Berry and Little Richard. Lyrical themes revolve around the topics of love and its trials and tribulations, and suburban alienation.