Interviewed by Brian Rademacher
Date: January 9th, 2006
James it’s a pleasure to talk with you. This interview is going to be a little difficult because you go into such detail on your site, it will not be easy to go into your past, But we will do our best.
I always wanted to do a page on my site JamesChristianMusic.com on the history on what it took to get from point A to point B. Most people never talk about it. I mean I played with so many musicians and I really don’t know their past I just know what they done.
Were there any bands that you were in before Hooka that you just goofed around in?
I was in a band called Silvermine. It was put together just before Hooka. We had one gig; it was basically a band that just played in a garage. We really did not get the chance to go out and play.
Did you sing in high school or church chorus?
Yes. I sang in chorus. I didn’t do it for the love of music but because the music they were, doing was so hokey. I sang in it because it was easy credit. Ha-ha. School chorus had nothing to do with what I was interested in. My daughter does it now. I encourage her because it is good for teamwork and participation and harmony -- being able to hold on to a harmony note when another person is singing a note. I started singing when I was four or five years old.
Did you play sports in school?
I was a heavy baseball player, as a matter of fact, that is what I wanted to do in life. I was really good at it. I was first string in Babe Ruth league, a home run hitter. One day I got to see The Beatles... that changed my life instantaneously. I wanted nothing more than to play music after that. That’s a question that nobody asks me. That’s a really good question. There is a turning point in everybody’s life and that was mine. I had to quit baseball and my coach was saying why are you quitting baseball, you’re a good baseball player. I want to play music. To a sports guy that’s the last thing they want to hear... is that you want to play music. That was my calling, no doubt about it, in order to stay with something in as many years as I did. It was a time you couldn’t make it unless you had talent. The difference in today verses back then: there’s a large, large difference in the pool of talent that is happening today and back then, you really had to have the chops. You really had to have the talent to get somewhere. As the years progressed, if you had a garage band, you had a chance to get signed and that is still happening today. I guess because the budgets are so low. They’re able to pump out a hundred signings, and if one hits, great! It is cheaper to get that one hit than to sign two major acts… the day of the half a million dollar deals are not around for new bands.
What kind of kid were you growing up?
I was a jock for sure, for sure. Until I saw The Beatles and my focus changed. Back then my brother Gino was a singer, but back then he would be considered an oldies band singer. Those type bands use to rehearse in my cellar. I was watching this stuff; they were doing Bobby Darin songs. I was just a kid sitting on the stairs getting a whiff of it. Never sunk into to me until that day I saw The Beatles. The only way I knew how to get what I wanted is to learn guitar. So I learned guitar and that became the instrument for me. So most of the bands I was in, I was always playing an instrument... except in House of Lords.
Do you remember singing at home in front of mom and dad?
Oh yeah! Not just that oh my god I sung at weddings, Oh my god. Things I didn’t put in my bio is that I was in a show band. I was in show band that used to do three shows a night. We used to do Tom Jones and stupid shit. It paid a lot of money. I wore a tux and went through so many changes. It wasn’t until Jasper Wrath came around when they pulled me out of that band and said you got it, you have to do this stuff. Then I started to take it seriously.
When you started in music how was the family support?
Family support was awesome. Can’t complain, they preferred me to have a job along with it. I knew I couldn’t have a job and be a full-time musician. I dedicated myself to being a full-time musician.
Do you remember the first album you bought?
“Beatles 65.” I didn’t buy it. I got my parents to buy it and I played it over and over.
How about the first concert you attended?
Jethro Tull. He was awesome. I didn’t go to many shows. But when I was in Jasper Wrath, our manager at the time said I had to go see this band that was playing at the Waterbury Theater. It was Kiss when they first came out. I went with my friend Jeff Canota and saying Oh My God! what the fuck is this?! They were unbelievably wild. We didn’t realize what kind of musicians they were, nobody really cared. It was such an awesome show to watch, you couldn’t believe what you were seeing. It’s so funny, Gene ended up being my manager after that. They were a spectacle and through the years as I grew up, their musicianship wasn’t that great, but it didn’t matter. For what they did, no one else could do it; it was just great. The concept and the show - I loved it. I saw Black Sabbath in the early days. I saw Yes, but I only saw Yes because I was going to see another band and they cancelled; it might have been Iron Butterfly.
Is it hard for you to hold down your emotions? Because in your bio you said that the band you sung for, LA Rocks, was not that good of a band, and you knew you would not make it in that band, but you stayed with them.
I tell my true feelings. At this time in my life, I have to. When I was in that band, it was my gut feeling and there were a lot of bands in LA, which I said how the hell did they make it, ‘How did they get signed?’ But I was in a band that was playing in Connecticut that was twenty times better and LA was the scene. LA is where it had to happen.
What was the first recorded material you sung on that was released?
It was in a studio in Bridgeport. I recorded on my own. I played all the instruments; I had them pressed on my own. It was a song called “Looking On.” I don’t know who has a copy of it. I don’t know where they are. They all got sold, there was only a thousand made. The band was called Majic.
When you first met Greg Guiffria, formerly of Angel, what was your impression?
He was an intimidating figure. He’s a tall man with long blonde hair; he comes off as a very confident person. Basically, I was the new kid on the block. I did not feel totally at ease until I got to the point where I could get behind the microphone. The people that were up against me – there were 500 people to get the gig; they got down to four or five people. One guy was a Ford model. This guy was chiseled, his face was perfect; his hair was down to his back -- blonde. Perfect shape. The only thing he didn’t have was a great voice. You know there was a time where looks were just as important as the voice. Luckily the boys in the band wanted the talent and so did Gene Simmons. We really needed top class talent. I’m not a bad looking guy, but I’m not a Ford model.
Tell us what the meeting was like with Gene Simmons before he gave the approval for you to join House of Lords?
He was unbelievable. He was impressive and so sharp. Knowledgeable and he knew what he was looking for in a band. House of Lords had a big monstrous sound and I like big harmonies, big vocals and lots of range and I thought - I’m the guy. Gene really had the vision, and Gene was the guy who created House of Lords.
When you were touring with House of Lords what band that you played with was the most fun?
Hands down, Cheap Trick. They are the heartiest party band I know. We had the best time I can remember on tour partying on their tour bus. Greg and Rick Nielson were good friends and Robin (Zander) and I became good friends. That was a great tour for me.
How was the chemistry writing songs with Mark Baker for “Demons Down”?
We had immediate chemistry from the first time we met. We couldn’t be the two most opposite people between personalities. Mark is a neurotic. I’m sure he will not mind me saying that but he is. I am a more easy going guy. If we’re writing, I can wait until it just happens. Mark on the other hand will stay up until five in the morning, until he gets it right. Mark has a side of him that is very nervous and I’m not. I am laid back. But when you get us both in a room to write, it’s incredible. Mark is a seasoned pro when it comes to writing.
Tell me your impression of Chuck Wright and your history with him, from the first time you left the demo tape at his door up until now?
No. I didn’t have anything to gauge it by. When you think about it, I was a green horn from Connecticut. I didn’t really know if I was stooping too low to go to someone's house to drop a tape off. Hey listen, I would do anything. If I didn’t do it, I didn’t know if someone else would do it and get the gig. I went to the door and I was wondering why he couldn’t at least open the door. It could have been because he was hung over, could be a lot of things. Chuck comes from a military school. He is a very, very structured person and a lot of people take that the wrong way when meeting him. But deep down he’s got a heart of gold. That incident was a turning point for me. But in order to whet my whistle for the band, one night prior to meeting Greg Guiffria, Chuck took me out to Vince Neil’s bachelor party, which was on a boat Motley CRUË rented to go out in the middle of the Pacific and the girls came out, all the girls were naked. Billy Idol was there also. Every Rock Star was on that boat. I was so impressed. I was still someone that nobody knew about. I had to look into this future and that is when I went out again to meet Greg at the Mexican restaurant. Then when I got the tapes from Greg, it was all over for me.
The new House of Lords album is it done?
Yes. It’s in the can almost on its way to be mixed.
What’s the name of the album?
Good question. We haven’t come up with it yet. It’s such a great record with Greg in the band it’s just amazing.
Your wife Robin Beck is another amazing singer. Would you or have you ever wanted to record together?
Yes, absolutely. Robin is going to work on a solo album now. She’s going to do one song on my new solo record. A duet called “When the Last Tear Drop Falls.” It’s an awesome song and I will do one on hers. We did one together on “Radioactive.”
Has Robin critiqued the new House of Lords CD?
She was there for everything. She loved them. You will hear Robin singing in the background on a lot of the songs. She blends in so well.
And what songs do you like the most on the new release?
I would say “I’m Free,” but I have a lot of favorites like “SOS,” “All The Way To Heaven.” It’s so deep; twelve songs on it with an added bonus thirteenth track.
Since you were so high on Mark Baker, how did Jimi Bell come to collaborate on 9 of the 12 songs on the CD?
Because Mark and I are not working together anymore in that capacity, so Jimi came into the picture. You have to remember Jimi and I go way back, we’re from the same town. We played the same clubs, we did the same thing, it’s just that I left for California earlier than he did. I didn’t want to get eaten up in that club circuit. So we ran into each other now and we ended up making a great record.
What is your impression of Jimi Bell?
Have you heard Jimi Bell play? He is one of the best around, he’s awesome.
What is the first single called and can you tell us anything about it?
“Your Eyes.” I would say it is a cross between Heart and Journey and it has some great moments in it.
How many ballads on the release?
Two ballads, “Your Eyes” and “Field of Shattered Dreams,” which is dedicated to our troops and the people that sacrifice everyday in their life for us. But in a way that is not political. Our hearts go out to them.
Where did you record it and how long did it take?
We did some in Florida, some in Connecticut and some in Las Vegas. Three different studios and mixed in Germany.
Will there be a US tour and video?
There will be a video and their will be a European tour. If we can get a big show in the US, Yes. But we don’t want to play clubs.
Do you foresee a follow up album?
Oh yeah. All I am waiting for is the buzz. I want people to say this was the record they've been waiting for. Jimi and BJ are hungry and never had the opportunity… these are hungry musicians. They are now where I was fifteen years ago. Not that I am not hungry, I am, but I made my investments in life with House of Lords, publishing deals, so life’s been good to me. I want it for them. They’re great guys.
What about a House of Lords website. It seems I can’t find one?
Where talking about that now. I am just trying to incorporate House of Lords on my site and then try and split it off. I am getting a huge response on the new House of Lords T-shirts. I sold so many I couldn’t believe it. When we were in Europe and Greece, they made up a thousand t-shirts and they were sold out in an hour. That’s a lot of t-shirts.
What is the best advice you can give a singer trying to break into the music business?
Keep singing no matter what. Do as much as you can. If someone offers you a demo to sing for them, do it for free. Do as many things as you can for free to get yourself exposure. A lot of people don’t do that. If you get your name out there, people will get to know you and if you have the talent that is even better. If you do something long enough you will reap from it. It’s almost a law. If you do something long enough, you will achieve that goal. How big that goal is doesn’t mean your going to make a million dollars, it just means you will reach that goal.
For all fans of House Of Lords, the new album should be released in March 2006, and we at Rockeyez.com hope that all our readers and the House Of Lords fans will check out this amazing release. Best of luck to James and the band.