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Fireworks Magazine Online 78 - Interview with House Of Lords
19 March 2017
HOUSE OF LORDS
Interview with James Christian by Steven Reid
Melodic Rock masters House Of Lords may have a history that stretches back to the late eighties, but with their output since the turn of the decade being just as strong as their classic-era albums, this is one band refusing to live off past glories. Their latest offering, the enigmatically titled 'Saint Of The Lost Souls', is the perfect bridge between the band's early keyboard heavy sound and the guitar led approach recent albums have been built on. What has never changed though, is the unmistakable voice that has always been the House Of Lords calling card. Fireworks speaks to the man behind the mic, James Christian...
Although they've always evolved from album to album, House Of Lords have, with one notable exception, always stayed true to the core Melodic Hard Rock sound that their fans love. However, with their new album, 'Saint Of The Lost Souls', there's a stronger focus on keyboards than there's been for quite some time in the band's catalogue. "The return to a more keyboard leaning sound, was not intentional but just a way to mix it up," the band's lone original member, James Christian, explains. "We have a fabulous guitar player in Jimi Bell so there is no shortage of choices, but the songs this time around all seem to be complimented by having keys on them. I have always loved the sound of keyboards on songs, but it is not always necessary to have them so prominent in the mix. After the amount of CDs we have released, nothing is etched in stone. I am open to moving in the direction that the song takes us. I'm not concerned about staying within any guidelines just to keep the sound consistent to what people expect. That's not writing, that's calculated writing," the singer continues, giving an insight many bands would do well to take heed of. "We have in the past been reviewed where the person reviewing the CD will always compare it to the last or first CD we have done. What a crock of shit. Each CD should be different. We feel we are in a good place to write what we feel is keeping us motivated."
As you'd expect, the keyboards on the album are excellent, the only surprise being that for some time now House Of Lords haven't had an official keyboard player in their ranks. Internet chatter has suggested that Jeff Batter, who James worked with previously in both Arc Angel and Cannata, has been involved, but we all know how reliable the internet is... "Actually Jeff did not do keys on this CD," James reveals, dispelling the rumour. "But he is and always will be one of my favourite keyboard players. The guest keyboard players are Michele Luppi (Whitesnake) and Alessandro Del Vecchio (Frontiers perennial go to guy). The rest were done by yours truly. I am not a monster keyboard player but I hear what I want and I am able to get that across thanks to working with such great players such as Greg Giuffria and Jeff Batter." And there isn't a better example of the album's keyboard prowess than the excellent, and dare we say it, Progressive song, 'Reign Of Fire'. It's also one of the standout moments on a thoroughly excellent album. As James reveals, the song was part natural evolution, part cunning masterplan. "This song took on so many forms before being finished. When I received the track from Jimi it was more of an AC/DC type track. As much as I loved what he did I could not bring myself to a chorus which moved me. So I rewrote a few chords to the chorus which I was only intending to use as a tail to the end of the original. Somehow I was able to come up with a melody in the chorus of just two chords that made the whole thing work. Sometimes accidents happen and this was really a welcome one. The mini Moog on the chorus however was completely intentional. I grew up on that mighty sound and wanted it somewhere on the CD. This was the perfect song."
However, with all this focus on keyboards, we're being hugely unfair to guitarist Jimi Bell, who has really outdone himself on this album. Something James completely agrees on. "Jimi is a force on guitar," he says, proud of the talent House Of Lords has it their disposal. "I sometimes look to my right on stage and realise how much sound he covers on stage. He has a guitar in his hand even when he is not on stage. Always playing, always working on the next great riff to be made into an HOL song."
Aside from James and Jimi, the band has had a really solid line-up for quite some time, so it's been a bit of a surprise that bassist Chris McCarvill is now no longer in House of Lords... "The parting of ways was because Chris had an offer to work with Dokken and he also wanted to concentrate more on his Maxx Explosion project," the singer explains, talking about the outfit that both his ex and current bandmates Chris McCarvill, Jimi Bell and drummer BJ Zampa rather excellently fill their non-HOL time with. "We wish Chris the best as he was an important part in the rebirth of House Of Lords."
However, as one Chris waves farewell, so another is introduced to the House Of Lords faithful in the shape of new bassist Chris Tristram. "Chris is a seasoned musician from the same 'School of Rock' we came from," James says of his new bandmate. "His last project was working with Jack Russell's Great White! He is an easy going guy, which fits perfectly in our family."
And another part of that family is James' writing partner on this new album. "I teamed up again with Richard Hymas who also was my co-writer on 'Precious Metal' and 'Indestructible'," James adds. "He is amazing to work with and a no stress type of guy."
Long a band with a fearsome live reputation, if there's one question their fans will want to know the answer to, it's whether House Of Lords will be hitting the road in support of their new release. "Yes," the frontman says enthusiastically. "Our first show will be in August at the Hair Metal Heaven Festival in Hull UK. Hope we see everyone come out and support this awesome lineup of bands," and with the likes of Vain, TNT, Disneyland After Dark, Treat and Danger Danger also on the bill, he's not wrong.
For the band's many British fans it will be too good an opportunity to pass up, especially when you remember that House Of Lords had to cancel some of their UK dates a few years back. "You know things happen in life that you really have no control over," the singer mentions honestly. "We can only hope that fans in UK know that we were more disappointed than anyone, we don't like backing out of shows and I hope we never have to again."
Key to the success of two House Of Lords albums, 'World Upside Down' and 'Come To My Kingdom', the keyboard playing and songwriting of Jeff Kent touched the life of many Melodic Rock fans and beyond. However, as James remembers, the one-time HOL man, who sadly died last year, also played an important role in his musical life. "Jeff Kent will always be remembered in my life. Jeff was one of the first guys to hire me as a session singer before I was even in House Of Lords and together we recorded some my songs, that one day I will release. He was an extraordinary person and artist. I Love him and miss him dearly."
Much though House Of Lords is always James' main focus, over the years he's also released some excellent albums outside of the band. Something we can, thankfully, expect to continue in the shape of a future solo album. "Yes, I am working on one now," he confirms. "It is my passion to write and record as much as I can while I can still do it." Although don't expect the prolific singer and songwriter to pop up on one of the countless 'project albums' that make up a huge number of Melodic Rock offerings every year. "One offs are not my thing," the singer says by way of explaining why one of the biggest names in the genre hasn't appeared on this type of release. "I don't mind doing a a song on a CD but one offs rarely do anything but fill some time. I like being part of a band. Working together and knowing the guys who you record with. I'm a creature of habit that way."
Never a band to simply slap a name on their albums for the sake of it, House Of Lords always look to give their fans something to mull over and as their leader confirms, 'Saint Of The Lost Souls', an album that's set to be one of 2017 most enthusiastically received releases, is no different. "The title has deep meaning to me because of the message; St Jude is the saint of lost souls, the saint of hopeless cases, in your hour of need it is this saint that you will call out to," James explains of a topic clearly close to his heart. "If you are someone who has faith it can be reassuring to know he is listening."
House Of Lords will be appearing at Hair Metal Heaven in Hull over the weekend of August 25th, 26th & 27th and their latest album 'Saint Of The Lost Souls' will be released on March 24th through Frontiers Records.