Fireworks Magazine Online 58 - Interview with James Christian

JAMES CHRISTIAN


The House Of Lords front-man is taking a break from the ‘day-job’, and releasing his third solo album, the excellent ‘Lay It All On Me.’ Ant Heeks phoned James to ask him all about it…

I’m the first person to quiz James about the album, and he’s really pleased that it hits the mark.

“I’m always a little concerned about things because I like to try things a little differently, I didn’t want to make a House Of Lords record, I wanted to make a James Christian solo record. It’s very difficult to find that place sometimes, where you’re doing what you love, which is the melodic music, but you’re not doing the same thing over and over again. It’s always tough to really know if you’ve achieved what you’re after. There’s a couple of things on there that for me, they hit the mark, I guess at a time in my life with what I went through recently, in the last year or so, and they really just made sense to me to do on this record. Like the title track ‘Lay It All On Me’, I thought the lyrics were a little more personal this time, which was good to me.”

So why a solo album rather than a House Of Lords album?

“Well, the last time I did a solo record was ‘Meet The Man’ in 2004, and the record company said ‘James, you should do another solo record.’ And I said I would do it, as long as it didn’t sound like a House Of Lords record with the James Christian name on it, it wouldn’t make sense to do that, why not just do another House Of Lords record? So this record, I got a chance to do things that were a little bit more deeper lyrically, not to say that House Of Lords doesn’t have deep lyrics, but in a different way, there’s almost a darker edge to House Of Lords lyrics these days. But this stuff was uplifting, positive messages, ‘Let It Shine’ was a beautiful song, to me it’s a great melody and a great theme, and also ‘Believe In Me’, a song I wrote with the Australian Chris Pelcer, a great writer and a really great guy, and that was another song that to me really hit the mark. So having those types of songs on there made me think doing a solo record would make sense, if I could do stuff that’s not the same as what House Of Lords does.”

I ask how James differentiates between what is a solo song and what should be a House Of Lords song?

“Well, I mean obviously the voice has got to be intact, I wouldn’t want to change the style of singing, but it’s all in the production, the guitar sound, the heaviness of what a House Of Lords record should sound like, and more the personal messages I can get through as a solo artist. I could never do a song like ‘Believe In Me’ or ‘Let It Shine’ on a House Of Lords record, or even for that matter there’s a song called ‘Day In The Sun’, which when my record company first heard it they said ‘that sounds a little too modern James!’ And I’m like ‘hmm, that might be O.K. then!’, because it’s still melodic. Something doesn’t have to be locked or ingrained in the Eighties, and not have a melodic edge, there’s a lot of music today that’s very modern sounding, but still has a melodic edge, it crosses that border, and most of the time I’ve never done that, taken a song that’s more on the modern side. I don’t know how people will react to it, they might go ‘oh, it doesn’t sound like an Eighties style melodic song’, but I think that’s good in a sense, we shouldn’t all be locked into one type of thing, it should just be a great song that works. Most of all the lyrics to that song are fabulous, I didn’t write the lyrics, but I certainly get it. Everybody has that feeling in life, and I hope that everybody does get the message. They shouldn’t expect to hear another ‘Meet The Man’ record, which is a very Eighties sounding record. But this record couldn’t have been done in the Eighties because that musical style wasn’t around then. And the title-track ‘Lay It All On Me’, it was a weird way that came about, it was about the time when I found out I had gotten cancer, and I just thought to myself ‘well you can just lay it all on me!’ Because at this point, what else can you do? So then the lyric came to me, but I thought I couldn’t write it about everything bad happening, there’s got to be a positive message if you want people to feel good about it, and not feel sorry for the person singing it. So that’s where the lyrics started to evolve into something a little bit different.”

Were these songs all written specifically for this album?

“Every song was written for this album, there isn’t one that we used from the past. There’s only one, it was just a track and not a complete song, it’s called ‘Sacred Heart.’ I was going to use it on a House Of Lords record, but I’d never written a song to it. So I found the track when I was going through some things, and I just decided to write a song to it, and that’s probably the only song that could be on a House Of Lords record. If people want a House Of Lords record then we’ve got one coming out in six months, but for a solo record it should be a little bit more personal in as many ways as possible.”

James’ House Of Lords colleagues Jimi Bell and B.J. Zampa are featured on the album, which will inevitably lead to comparisons with the band, but he doesn’t think that is an issue.

“Everybody has a place of reference, and they’re always going to reference what I do to House Of Lords, that’s a given. If they find that’s what they hear, that’s cool, I don’t have a problem with that. You know, a lot of people like it when I use the higher range in my voice, and ‘Day In The Sun’ is very low, it’s almost like speaking, and that was very challenging for me. To sing in a lower range and actually have a conversation with what you’re saying and make it come off like you’re singing, that is an art. It’s not something I’m used to doing, and now I really respect more of the modern artists where their vocals are not like wailing, so they’re showing not so much their power, but their emotion. And there’s something to that.”

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music


Who else was involved in the song-writing?

“Jeff Kent, who was with me on House Of Lords records in the past, Chris Pelcer, and myself. Jimi Bell contributed to a couple too, but it was very close-knit family on this one. And Tommy Denander was involved, the song ‘You’re So Bad’ is one of Tommy’s tracks, when I heard it, I thought it had a Foreigner feel to it, and Foreigner was one of my all-time favourite groups, and I liked the fact that it had that element, that it could sound like an old Foreigner song.”

Since the re-birth of House Of Lords in the early noughties, there has been a string of excellent albums, including James’ solo records, so I ask what inspired the surge in creativity.

“Writing and choosing the material I love has really been the difference, from the ‘Power And The Myth’, which was really not something I liked when I was doing it, not that the songs didn’t have merit, but it wasn’t where I was at that time. People didn’t like the record, and they thought that we didn’t care anymore, but that wasn’t the case. So from that point on I made it a point that I would always do what I loved, and to the best of our ability, and I guess that translates when people listen to it. They might not love every song, but who does? And they get that we’re serious about this, it’s not just put out a new record and make a few dollars, you wouldn’t be able to do that because you wouldn’t have an audience.”

The last time House Of Lords toured, to promote ‘Big Money’, the U.K. was missing from the schedule, I ask if there was any particular reason for that?

“We had dates set up, but there weren’t enough to warrant the flights over from Germany or wherever we were for just two shows, we normally like to do five shows in the U.K., but we weren’t able to put five shows together in that one particular week. Basically what happened, I got sick, and prior to that we’d had to cancel the tour and re-schedule it, so the original tour had five dates, and when we re-scheduled, those venues weren’t available. It’s one of our favourite places, and there were some places we loved playing, I mean JB’s in Dudley, the Limelight in Crewe, awesome places, but they’re not around anymore. So there are just a handful of places you can play, and you’ve got Firefest, if you agree not to play anywhere else then you can play Firefest.”

In fact James’ last appearance over here was last years Firefest show, when he played bass for wife Robin Beck’s set. So was it good for James not to be the focal point?

“It was phenomenal, I haven’t had that much fun in I can’t say how long. Probably because the pressure was off me, and on Robin, but I was so nervous for her, because she puts a lot into her shows, but she hasn’t been doing it for a long time. But she came out swinging, and she’s just fantastic, so playing for her, there wasn’t so much pressure for me, I’ve been doing this for I don’t know how many years, but I still get nervous when I perform. But I guess that’s a good thing, because I never take it for granted, anything that I do I take it as a blessing, ‘thank God I got through that one’, you know? I appreciate it so much, I mean now more than ever. I still love to be in the limelight and be the guy up front, but in Robin’s case, I enjoyed playing bass, singing backgrounds, there’s a lot to be said for just sitting back and playing rather than always performing and singing for an hour and a half each night. And Firefest is so meticulously run, as far as any festival I’ve ever done, and I’ve done many. I wish other festivals were like that.”

I ask what it’s like to have a wife that you can have such a good working relationship with.

“It’s great, it’s terrible, it’s all of the above! It’s like in marriage, there’s ups and downs, and having two creative people in a room together, when she’s doing vocals and I’m producing them it can be a catfight sometimes, because she has her own ways and I have my own beliefs, but in the end, it’s the end final result that is the most important. If we kept doing things and never getting it right then I’d say it was probably not a good idea, but what we’ve been doing has really been working, so we’ll just continue doing it. She’s surprising, the first time I really saw her do her stuff was Rock Meets Classic in front of 10,000 people a night, and she was kicking ass! She shouldn’t have been out of doing it for so many years, and she has her vocal chops, it just hasn’t changed at all.”

So the inevitable question is will they ever consider doing a whole album of duets?

“Yes, you’re not the first person to ask that. It just has to be the right selection of songs, do I write them, or find them, that’s the question. And how many people would want to buy it? I know Robin’s fans are very dedicated, but I don’t know if my hard core of heavy rockers are gonna buy an album of duets unless they’re kick-ass Rock’n’Roll songs. We’d have to find out what the right balance is there. We did one on her album, ‘Till The End Of Time’, that’s a great song, I would have loved to do that one live.”

And on that note, with new albums imminent from either party, what about touring together?

“That’s something we’ve discussed for the next tour. Robin just went out, she did a couple of weeks right after Firefest, and that’s when we started discussing it, we should team up and have House Of Lords and Robin Beck, or depending who draws more in that particular area, and build a tour round it. You have to package things these days, it’s not easy to get people out of their homes and into nightclubs these days, you have to sweeten the pot a little bit. That’s our goal, something we’re definitely looking into, and you’re the first to know!”

James-Christian-Interview

(photo by Richard Jones)

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