An Interview with Heavy Metal Vocalist
of 'Helstar' & 'Sabbath Judas Sabbath'
& many more Metal bands that took place via telephone on Wednesday 14th August, 2013.
Interview by Glenn Milligan.
Glenn: Hi James, how are you doing?
James: Glenn. Hey how are you?
Glenn: I'm good man. What was your introduction to music in general?
James: Well if you wanna get into specifics, my introduction to music as far as interest, well you know I should just start it with The Beatles back when I was a kid. But if you are talking the music business, I mean, you know, it started in the 80's when I was influenced by all the pretty much British wave of Metal that was hitting America at the time and joining a garage band doing cover songs and that kind of thing. But that's kind of how it started. You know, just kinda doing a demo.
James: Back then we didn't really know what we were doing. We just did a demo and the odd thing about that demo is that it ended up being number 1 here in the UK which is odd in Metal Forces. We were like the number one demo for three months in a row and it's odd that we never broke big here. I think it was just the management - the whole situation back then. If we'd have made the right move and then we came to the UK and started playing I think Helstar would have blown up like Metallica and the rest of 'em.
Glenn: Yeah it was like a lot of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands. It was like two or three bands cut through and then you find there were tons more that you never even knew existed which is a sad thing sometimes because some of these bands were just as good as the Metallica's, your Def Leppards, your 'Maidens and everything else but that's how it goes.
Glenn: So many stick and so many dissappear as well.
Glenn: It's funny you mentioned The Beatles as well because most people always quote a British band such as The Beatles or The Rolling Stones or someone like that, that gets their attraction to music in the first place so that's cool.
James: Yeah. I really would have to say that that was my first influence and singing as a kid and just... I remember being mesmerized and still to this day. In fact somebody just asked me this the other day out of curiosity what was my favourite band and I said, "Well you know, there's too many and far in between", and usually I hate that question in an interview even. I mean it can't be... you can't be partial but I had to say, "Well I still say after all these years even through Metal, no matter what kind of music I listen to which is not only to Metal, I would still say The Beatles is still the number one band that is my favourite."
Glenn: Yeah they are one of my faves. I mean I collect all the bootlegs and I've got hundreds of bootlegs and not just that but also albums by Ringo Starr and George Harrison and this and that as well so I know where you're coming from altogether.
James: Yeah exactly.
Glenn: Yeah. What were the first songs that you liked singing when you first realised you'd got a voice?
James: The stuff that I really first started singing was a lot of the Phil Mogg UFO stuff and a lot of the earlier Klaus Meine Scorpions stuff. It was kind of those singers that really inspired me and I think it was because at that time stage my vocals were... well especially Phil Mogg was a very comfortable range. I hadn't quite developed the stuff that is really high pitch - the really powerful DIO'ish range and all that so I think it ws very comfortable to song a lot of the UFO when I first started singing in a garage band. So anything... like my first garage band, I think that 80% of our set list was UFO because it was like, 'okay... Doctor Doctor', you know?
James: And then some of the Klaus Meine stuff and then somewhere along the line I started going when 'Heaven & Hell', I started to realise that that was really kinda where I wanted to go and then of course Priest and all that. I don't know how to explain it but somewhere along that line that all those different voices started coming out of me around like '82 or something and before you knew it the Helstar demo was done and when it was all over and done it's like, 'wow this guy sounds like Bruce, Klaus, Phil, Halford all in one and Dio - so yeah - those were the first for me to sing.
Glenn: Yeah. Did you find that when you got to your late twenties and touched about thirty your voice sort of threw itself up an octave - it changed and opened up?
James: Yeah, yeah and then it's when it really matured and then it was really on fire and to be honest by the time I hit my forties is when it really took off like a rocket and it's still... it's still learning new things. It's like I never stop learning new things and I never stop increasing a range or a different tone or something else and it's like I've noticed that... I mean like some people are like 'Jeez, how in the hell did you go from that? How did you even duplicate that Dani Filth kinda voice in your last album of that song, 'All Your Negative' - it's completely Black Metal?' I would have never imagined me doing that in a million years. But I have so... and I do it very well.
Glenn: How were your first gigs as a garage band? Obviously you did quite a few different shows as a garage band yeah?
James: Yeah. Well you know what, with the big circuit thing in a garage band -it was doing the backyard parties and doing the high schools because at that time a lot of the members were still in high school and you always did the big talent show or in some cases you did a concert at that high school and you know, it was like $2 a ticket or something crazy like that and we set up the whole auditorium like a concert hall and believe it or not because, you know, it's a high school, I mean, jeez, you know, you had a thousand people watching you. Now you can;t even get a hundred people to come and watch the real thing.
James: That's the sad part about it and we were just this garage band back then with the fake lights made out of coffee cans and everything you could do to just cheaply make a Heavy Metal show. You'd learn from watching an Iron Maiden concerts and Judas Priest concerts and everyone dressed up in the damn leopard spandex and the whole whatever you know and you went out there and played the high school auditorium to a thousand people and you really thought you were somebody you know?
Glenn: Yeah. You've got a captive audience right there.
James: Yeah exactly.
Glenn: It's perfect.
James: That was party style man. We used to play in front of five or six hundred people. Whoever was throwing the backyard party obviously would go around to the nearest neighbours and say, "I'm having a big backyard party, we're gonna have a keg, gonna have a live band". They'd build a stage out of egg crates and milk crates and just platforms and turn it in to a backyard outdoor what we call now an 'open air'. (We laugh) It was just somebody's backyard that had a decent sized backyard and before you knew it there were 600 people coming back there.
Glenn: Yeah I remember reading that people like Tommy Lee and Slash said that they'd played these backyard parties and it'd be like 500 people turn up. It's like 'What!' You just can't do it these days.
James: Yeah that's it. It's crazy. I know Motley Crue started out of backyard parties and so did Poison and a lot of bands in LA where it was very popular. What it usually was, was almost like a block long party because everybody, like I said, once you lived around some cool neighbours, you'd get everybody involved and then you don't have anybody calling the cops and shutting it down.
James: Of course these things
started at 8 o'clock or something and were over at least by 10/11 -
they didn't go on til 3 in the morning. (We
Glenn: Yeah cool. How did you go from your backyard parties as a garage bands to breaking into the big...
James: Well you know what happened is.. once we did enough of the backyards and once we did enough of the high schools and we weaned ourselves to realise we were a very talented cover band that's now at this point where we're doing everything pretty much from 'Number Of The Beast'; 'Heaven & Hell' - I think at this point 'Mob Rules' was already out.. yeah course it was.. we were already doing stuff from 'Blackout', just about anything from Judas Priest and all that. So we're like, "okay, now we wanna hit the club circuit" and the thing about back in the 80's, the club circuit unfortunately was for the bands who were doing the Journey and Loverboy.
James: So we showed up with our set list, they're like, "Oh no this is way too heavy, we want people dancing in here". So they wanted bands going in there doing Journey, Foreigner, Loverboy.... all that.. just going on down the list. So we had a hard time getting into the major club circuit so we could actually earn money and become a... which in our eyes when we saw these bands play the clubs... they were playing the clubs and the clubs back then were packed no matter who was playing anyway. There was alway a thousand people crammed in there on a Friday or Saturday night and that was the place to go. You know, you wanted to be one of those guys - but you know, we wanted to be one of those guys doing our songs and it just didn't fly. So we got so frustrated with that, that I think we all started getting too old for the backyard parties and the high school gigs which really being in your early twenties isn't too old but now you're past nineteen and eighteen.
Glenn: Yeah, yeah.
James: So we just got frustrated and started writing our own material and we created the demo - the first Helstar demo which is called 'Burning Star', wrote our own songs, wrote eight songs, went to a place, recorded all the songs. Somehow that demo ended up in the hands of somebody that got it into the UK and around that time was when that whole underground Heavy Metal thing was hitting really hard and it got just all this attention. Then somehow because it was number one for three issues of 'Metal Forces' in a row itgot into the hands of somebody that was really from Germany that moved to New York and was kind of a middle guy for these weird labels back then called 'Combat Records' and 'Relativity' and 'Megaforce' and that's how that demo ended up in the hands of the owner of 'Combat Records' and boom - they offered us a record deal.
James: The downfall of that is that at that time, what the hell did we know about the music business.
Glenn: You kinda fell into this, this is what you like doing and the right people heard you one way or another.
James: Right. Exactly.
Glenn: And the rest is history so to speak. One of my buddies Mike from Cape Coral in Florida is just amazed by how many bands you've been in and was saying, "How do you manage to juggle yourself with so many bands? Your schedule must be crazy.
James: Yeah. Well you know it does look like it's confusing but at the end of the day really all it comes down to is.. starting around 2003 I started to realise singing for two national acts was the only way to survive and then it wasn't enough and that's how the tribute bands stuff started getting a little bit more of my attention for another way to fill the gaps. So it's always been, which Helstar has always been my baby and it's always been either Helstar and Vicious Rumors or Helstar and Seven Witches or Helstar and Malice. It's never been all these at one time and that's what people get confused about and they're, "Oh my god, how does he do that - balance 'em?".
No it's really just the two bands. You see the things have changed from the 80's and if you think about it to this day, if I do a Helstar record, let's say I devote September to Helstar, we do the record which is what we're doing when I get home and then that's done and then we turn it in in November and then the record will come out next March. So there's a month of recording - a month and a half of recording is gone of my Helstar time, the record won't come out 'til March. When the record comes out in March we'll do a European Tour, we'll do a couple of select shows in the US, which the US is a hard market so that's why you do a select market - of course Texas where we're from. But the tour in Europe will be two weekends, two full weeks so let's say three weekends of shows and then you put the other little markets of America and the recording. If you put all that together and if it was all consistent in a row, you're looking at three months.
Left - Vicious Rumors / Right - Seven Witches
James: Okay, now there's nine months of the year left so I do the same thing for whatever National band I'm with - it's the same thing. So now there's six. Okay, so let's just even hardball it - there's eight months gone between the two national acts - there's still four months left of the year and that's when the tribute band comes in and fills in the gaps.
Glenn: The first time I actually heard you was when you did vocals for the band 'Killing Machine'.
James: Oh yeah man.
Glenn: From that band for me.. I've not put it on for a long, long time but the song that often comes in my head for no reason at all is that 'Loop Garoo' track.
James: Oh I love that track.
James: That's my favourite. You know that to me, that's one of the best songs I have ever written. As far as I'm concerned, a very catch tune. I was very surprised with myself and to this day I still listen to this song and go, "wow what a masterpiece - you f*ck*n' *ssh*le Peter Scheithauer - and he's the leader of that band and he's just got some weird business tactics. You think about that album dude - that album was destined to fly like a rocket especially with Jimmy Degrasso, Dave Ellefson, Juan Garcia from Agent Steel. We could have been... we're superbowl and by now no telling where we'd be.
Glenn: Yeah, tell me who is or what is 'Loop Garoo' because it's like 'What?' I'm so curious.
James: It's a werewolf.
James: Yeah that song's about a werewolf. It's about the movie, 'The Wolfman' with Lon Chaney Jnr. Yeah 'The Wolfman' movie.
Glenn: Right got ya.
James: It was the term the gypsies used. if you go back and watch that old black and white 1941 classic of Lon Cheney. He goes to that gypsy and she sees the pentagram in his hand... and I was like wait dude, look how long ago that was - that's pretty Heavy Metal back then you know?
Glenn: Yeah, yeah.
James: And then he was wondering what was wrong and she goes, "You are loop garoo", and he's like "What's loop garoo? Who are you talking about?", she goes, "You're werewolf" and he goes "Werewolf, pentagrams - I'm going mad". He didn't wanna believe it you know?
(Scene from the movie 'The Wolfman')
Glenn: Yeah. I kinda know Peter through Stet Howland.
James: Yeah Stet was a really great guy. He did that other project with Peter. 'Temple..
Glenn: 'Temple Of Brutality' yeah.
James: That's what happened. Peter actually put more attention to that and I think it's only because he prefers more of that... we call it American... I call it American just average Metal these days because it's all 'Rarr, Rarr', you know? - the way they do.
James: There's no melodies... but he did the 'Killing Machine' thing because his heart is into old school metal.
Glenn: Yeah I mean I've known Stet since 2002. I mentioned 'Killing Machine' to him and he goes, "Oh dude, I did that first album".
James: Yeah he did the first album and he wanted to do the second album but it didn't happen and so Peter went for a bigger picture of it because my connection with Dave Ellefson is how all that came together.
James: And then Jimmy Degrasso was doing nothing so it was perfect timing. I mean it's a great album. Unfortunately you know.. yeah 'Killing Machine' was killed.
Glenn: It's sad that.
Glenn: I was just gonna ask you, when is the next 'Killing Machine' album gonna come out?
James: We were supposed to get back together again and then he dropped it and I think now he's doing some kind of a... he's getting on that or he's trying to get on that... well now he's got another new band...
James: Well he moved to Europe. So now he lives somewhere between the French & German borders and he's trying to jump on that Steel Panther bandwagon. But he is a sweet guy and I really wished that we could do something together again.
Glenn: What would you say your favourite tours and festivals have been over the years?
James: My favourite tours?
James: Oh man, it's hard to say but I would say that one of my favourite tours was when I was singing with Flotsam (and Jetsam). When I got the Flotsam gig that was not just another notch in my belt that was like three more notches in my belt. It was in the US. At least I finally got to join a band that was a real tour with a real tourbus and ever since that time I've never been able to do that again (in the US). I don't do it with Helstar even now so that was one of my favourite tours. It was a really good tour for me and it really put my name out there pretty big once I joined and got that gig. But for Helstar I'd say my favourite tour was probably the last tour we did in Europe. We had our own headlining tour - we did have our tour bus here and we two openers that did the whole tour with us but that was kinda putting us on another level again you know?
Glenn: Yeah. Any favourite tour stories that you can talk about?
James: Well it's not really a favourite story or a funny story but it is a crazy story and it does involve the UK.
James: What happened is, the promoter that brought us over - we had been in contact for a long time... when we started finalising everything I asked him, I said, "Now one thing is, did you look into this little temporary little work permit thing that we need as musicians because we're American." It has something to do with earning money - at least that's what I thought. I mean that's what my only concern was. But then he said, "Well, you know we made an agreement", and what we did was we needed also to rent a sprinter van for our tour and he happened to own one and I found a driver who was a long time very, very dedicated fan and friend to Helstar and Viscious Rumours and everything I've done. His name is Randy Rand. Everybody knows him in the UK. He works for Demon a lot and I asked him if he would want to go on the tour and be our driver for this van and he was totally down for it.
So I said, "Look I got a guy in the UK that can get the van, he can come get us in Dusseldorf, he's from the UK... everything". I said, "How much are you gonna recieve?" and he says, "I'll rent you my van", which it was a lot cheaper than renting a van anywhere else in Europe but then he wasd also doing the gig at The Purple Turtle in London. I said, "Why don't we do this - we do an exchange instead of you paying us". You know I told him what I wanted for the show - this/that. He told me what I wanted for the van. I said, "Why don't you just give me the van and the show - you keep the money and you don't pay us for the show?". "Ah sh*t, that works, I like that idea". So with that going on we thought for sure, "okay well you're not earning any money because I'm lending you my van and I'm not paying you in the UK". So he thought, 'Oh we're not gonna need that thing'. I caught it that, 'Well he may be right with that and that does make sense'.
But the reason why I knew that it was primarily about earning money here because one time I was flown to Slovenia to do a show and my connection was in the UK and this was the first I had ever heard of this and when I got to the immigration guy with my passport he said, "Oh hello how are you doin'?", I said, "Okay", he said, "What are you doing in the UK?", I said, "I'm not, I'm just here for a transfer, I've just come in from Amsterdam and I'm going to Slovania". "What are you going to Slovania for?", "Oh I got a gig with a Slovanian band over there and it's my premier gig". I could have said 'I'm going for a wedding", I could have said anything.
He goes, "Oh you are - do you have your visa for that? Are you on a work permit?", and I go, "What work permit?", he goes, "You know because here in the UK if you are an American musician you need this... and that and that and that", and then I'm like, "I've never heard of all that. Dude I've been to Europe 50 times - look at my passport and I've never needed anything like this and I've played Slovania I don't know how many times with other bands and I've never needed that". Anyway this guy just wanted to be a stiff shirt. So he's like, "Well, let me tell you the problem - if you do need this thing in Slovenia, like you need here, what's gonna happen is, they're gonna send you right back to us and then from here we're gonna have to send you right back to America on our dime", and then he made me go sit down. They held me there for two hours dude.
James: So they finally found out - no you don't need it over there and that was the first I heard of it so that's why. He goes, "If you come here and you earn money, you need this thing". Well he kept emphasising 'earn money, earn money', so when we came from Calais to get on the ship for this London show, it was three in the morning, they look at us and say, "You a band?", we're like, "Yeah sure". They're like "Alright pull over there", so then we had to go inside the building. It was not crowded at all. The guy asked for this thing and I said, "Oh we didn't really need it because we're not earning any money.", I said, "Look this is the deal - the guy lent us his van and instead of paying us for the show, we get the van for free and he keeps the money so we're not earning anything here in the UK." He scratches his head and he goes, "Hmm - hang on a minute", so it sounded like, "Hey that could make some sense". No he goes to the back, then he comes back and he says, "No - just even to perform in the UK ona street corner you need this thing". I'm like, "Oh my". So they wouldn't let us on the ship".
So we had to go back to Calais, rent some hotel rooms, now at four in the morning we're waking this promoter up telling him the problem, he's freaking out and now we've missed our ship that we'd already paid for - they held us there and couldn't get on the ferry. So he finally gets all the paperwork sorted out, we go back to try and get on the ship again - it's full we can't even get on it. Now they want to charge us an arm and a leg - we wouldn't make it in time if we did catch this one, so then we had to drive back around to another thing to take the fast train under the tunnel. We did that, we get to the f*ck*ng gig dude, we barely made it 30 minutes before we go on and I'm shoving jaeger and stuff down to keep awake.
We didn't get to eat our dinner - nothing and then we do the gig - the gig was amazing, we go, it's over, we go check into our hotel rooms. Not even 10 minutes after we've left the van just to go check into our hotel rooms, come back and get our bags, some guy broke the window out of our van and stole all kinds of sh*t out of there - one of the things being one of my bags with my wallet, my id's, my green card - everything.
Glenn: Not good.
James: This was in Kings Cross. That's where it happened.
James: But the funny thing is, one of our members comes out of the hotel and he sees the guy in the van and he's like, "Oh what are you doing?", he tries to grab him, the guy runs with his last load of our sh*t, hey dude he came to do a couple of loads. Well they were staying at a homeless place right down the street so we had to report of all this stuff. So the cops come. We're up all night trying to figure out what have I got this/that. I'll be damned if these damned Police don't do their job - they do. They found this guy, they found where he lived. The next day they called us to come to the Police station and they had everything of mine.
Glenn: Awesome - that's a good thing. That's lucky.
James: Yeah. So that was a crazy story.
Glenn: Just a bit.
James: First time to play the UK - we've waited 30 something years and this happens to us.
Glenn: It's mental.
James: Yeah it's mental. So yeah, so now I know the ropes and how everything works around here and now having a UK band, you know everything's gonna.. but before too long everyone's gonna start knowing me when I come through the border checks. "Hey you're back to work again yeah?"
Glenn: On first name terms and all that.
James: You're welcome yes. You can get on our cruise ship, you're welcome my friend. We've already put you through the test, you can handle it - it was all a joke really. (We laugh) The robbery and everything - it was all just a staged thing just to see if you guys can handle it. There was a movie like that with Michael Douglas called 'The Game'. Have you ever seen that?
Glenn: Not seen that. I'll have to check that out.
James: You have to. It's crazy - this movie is so f*ck*d up dude and it's his brother for his birthday that got him and he's a real, real stiff shirt, very wealthy executive and it might have come out in the late 90's/somewhere early 2000 but it's called 'The Game' with Michael Douglas. Look it up and look at that and that makes me wonder if that's what they really did to all.
Glenn: There'll be one or two songs of this no doubt.
James: Yeah maybe hah.
Glenn: Yeah it's worse than the old Spinal Tap thing with the border control and the cucumber incident.
James: Exactly yeah.
Glenn: My buddy Mike in Cape Coral, Florida is asking, 'Andre Corbin' - what happened to him?
James: You know, we don't know. He lived in Florida for a while and we became acquainted again and he had opened a compnay and he actually had me and a couple of guys from Houston come work for him but then the company got shut down and the last I heard is he lives in Dallas now - that's all I know.
James: To my knowledge he's not doing anything musical or anything like that. I know he's wanted to or something but he's got a lot of stuff on his plate with family and whatever he always does with his self businesses because he's been into his own self businesses for a while and he did make a mint with the one when he did have that one company but I think that the whole problem with that is that the man for the product that was going on - it bacame extinct. So once that happens - I mean how many things can you think of that were very popular on tv and you've gotta have one of those and no one ever has one anymore.
Glenn: So 'Sabbath Judas Sabbath - I guess that came together because you loved both bands yeah?
James: Oh yeah.
Glenn: So how did you put it all together because you've got various chapters in different parts of the world as such?
James: Yeah. It started off in Houston of course as two different tributes altogether - one was called 'Children Of The Grave' - it was all Black Sabbath and one was called 'Metal Gods' which was all Priest and once I got busy with two national acts I didn't have time for one national act and two tributes so one had to go. The first time that it actually came to birth which is weird is that it gave the base in Tampa, Florida but with the Houston band that I chose to be the Sabbath & Priest combination.
When I came up with the name, I cleverly came up with the name one day when I was partying with some friends and like "Yeah I'm just gonna combine the two - it's too much" because I'd just gotten the gig in Seven Witches is what it was. I thought, 'well you know, I'm gonna pick the cream of the crop musicians and some will have to go and some will have to stay - that's just the way it is' and I think what made it easy with some guys were already wanting to get out of music anyway or something like that that would make it very easy. I didn't know what it was, it was like I had to come up with a clever name for the band and the 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbarth' song came to my mind and I thought, 'Oh I know what I'll call it 'Sabbath Judas Sabbath'. Yeah so I'll change it to Black Sabbath & Judas Priest.
James: And it's very unique and I even had some really cool logos and artwork made out of it now that people are really diggin'. But you know, it started off really in Tampa and then once the Houston band went home because I was getting popularity in Tampa it became too expensive to keep bringing them back so I created a band made locally with some musicians in Florida. That's what gave me the whole brilliant idea of like 'Hmm, I'll just have a band here and a band in Texas'. That way I'm only spending money on a flight for me to go back to Texas and play because that was my market anyway and then when I play in Florida it's all great because everybody's here. So it became my smaller company and then before too long the poularity started reaching the people.
Then the next thing you know I had people from different areas contacting me about different regions. Then it turned into Las Vegas and it was very popular in Las Vegas with 'Sabbath Judas Sabbath' and I first I started it with some guys from Phoenix who were ex-Wardog guys that was a metal band signed to Metal Blade who now have a band called 'Razor'. We started doing it. We started doing it in Phoenix and El Paso and Vegas and that gave me another market but then they got too busy with their band 'Razor' and after our first show in Vegas - shoot I had like 500 people there, the main promoter said, "Dude, I got a great idea - I can hook you up with these killer Salt Lake guys and these Salt Lake guys would love to do this band with you and Salt Lake's propably about four hours/four and a half from Vegas so you can go to Salt Lake and Vegas", so that's how it started. So the Salt Lake guys became the next chapter and then because of the show we did in El Paso there was a man in El Paso but the thing is you gotta realise, El Paso was in a part of Texas that is like eleven hours from where I live, six hours from Phoenix - in every chapter it was just too far.
(El Paso Chapter)
Then all of a sudden I started asking around and thinking, 'Sh*t maybe I should start an El Paso chapter just for El Paso and then I had a band fall to their knees and go, 'Dude we'd love to do it'. So then that started the next and then it just started growing and growing and growing. Then as it stands now, I have an LA chapter which has Emilio (Marquez) from Possessed, Bobby Cardenas from Agent Steel and a couple of other guitar players from the area. Then we have the Salt Late Chapter and then I'm starting a Vegas chapter now too which is wild because I am going to have Craig Nielson from Flotsam and Jetsam. Then I have Pittsburgh Chapter which is Pittsburgh, Ohio and then of course I have the El Paso one and the Houston one and the Florida one has just revived itself and I do those shows when I go home this weekend.
James: Yeah this weekend I do Birmingham and then Rotterdam and then I fly in from Amsterdam and have a few days off and then I fly right back out to Florida and I knock out three shows with these guys and that'll bring that back to birth and now I have the UK one, the German one and the Slovanian one which was my first European one. So that's how this whole idea arrived and it just started expanding.
Glenn: How do you put it together, do you put the word out or do people come to you or do you just search out various bands who aren't working?
James: If it's a region of the world that I think is worth doing... now all of a sudden there's some interest in Australia and I'm like, 'Ahh.. bring it on, I've always wanted to go play a kangaroo'.
Glenn: So have do you go on with regard to rehearsals? Do you just send them the songs...
James: Yeah send them the set list and that's it and you know what you get to do or die everytime I get with a band. It's very rare I will rehearse with them unless it's just because like I can or it's meant to be but maybe I thought maybe I should or but you know most of the time it's like, 'Here's the set list, learn it, learn it backwards like you know it is just cover songs, I'll see you at the first show'. I've done it with a lot of bands and everytime I've done it, I've never felt like 'Oh my god what have I got myself into'.
Glenn: They are all season pros that you work with anyway.
James: Yeah they are all seasoned musicians who are gonna be able to pull it off.
Glenn: I know it's a hard one but what are your favourite shows that stand out of 'Sabbath Judas Sabbath' and you can talk any chapter you want?
James: God you know they've all been really great. I mean I just did that really big show in Slovania with the Slovanian one at the 'Metal Days' and I mean god that was killer and it was almost six thousand people you know?
James: And then we also did a big New Years Eve show in Slovania at one time in the middle of the city but it's because they're there. But I would have to say too that the last little show we did in Belgium with the two UK guys and the two German guys was really awesome. They even did an unplugged version of 'Sabbath Judas Sabbath' which is becoming popular now.
Glenn: That's cool.
James: Yeah so it's been quite a few different shows that have been my favourite but it's hard to say. I mean the Vegas shows have always been really big for me and of course when I play Houston they're huge and the Houston Chapter is probably the most extreme chapter because it is two other guys from Helstar along with me. So then you are talking about really, really seasoned guys.
Glenn: Yeah, yeah - awesome. What do most look forward to when you do your 'Sabbath Judas Sabbath'?
James: Well what I look forward to is the audience knowing all the songs. The big grin is from are to ear. Each song goes by the grin gets bigger and bigger and you feel like the grins going around the whole head and make I look like aliens. That's the part that I look forward to the most - the familiarity of the songs that you deliver to them.
Glenn: Do you find that there is a major difference between one band from one country to another?
James: No. Actually the one good thing about is.. like to ask me what band is better or what band do you prefer is... someone asked me that before that's like asking do I like my mother better than my father. Each band has a special place in my heart. They are all great musicians and I can't say what band is better - they are all great at what they do. Every band plays a little differently but the one thing that is the same everywhere you go. I don't care if it's Vegas, Houston, El Paso, Slovania, Hamburg, Einshoven - wherever it is - it's the same feeling and it's the same energy.
(The Slovenia Chapter)
Glenn: Yeah got ya.
James: Beacuse what else do you expect? Especially if the band is good and these people are hearing a justified version of the Ronnie James Dio era of Sabbath and justified version of older Judas Priest - they can only be happy and they get ecstatic. That's the part that is always the same across the board.
Glenn: Yeah I think that's the same about Rock & Metal fans - it's a big unison - it's a big brotherhood and sisterhood - it's a big melting pot of the same people.
James: Exactly and you know what - it's not different than anywhere. Okay, so what audience gets more radical? They just all get into it. It could be a small audience, it could be a hundred people, it could be a thousand people but whatever it is man, they are just going bezerk. There are some people that are on the verge of crying when you start doing 'Children Of The Sea'. You see people... you see grown men hugging each other (going), 'Ohhhh yo.. they're doing that one, they're doing that one' - you can always tell you know?
Glenn: Yeah. Which songs do you like doing most and why? Are there any that stand out to you and you are like, 'Oh I can't wait to get to this one in the set!'
James: Oh well dude it's always just so awesome when we finally get to 'After All' from 'Dehumanizer'. 'NIB' is such a popular song that everybody is just gonna go crazy on anyway but when 'NIB' ends and we start that 'After All', dude that's when you really see the mouths open like 'Ohhhh!' like 'They're doing that one' and then of course when you do 'Metal Gods'. But the one song that always goes over better than any other songs in the set list and it's not even a Sabbth song or a Priest song is 'Holy Diver'.
James: I throw that in just for the respect of Ronnie.
James: When we do that one, that's when you start eveing seeing the new metalheads jumoing up and down like jumping beans.
Glenn: Yeah I was watching some footage last night. It was pretty good - I enjoyed it.
James: Yeah I mean everybody loves that song and it seems to really kill them.
Glenn: And it's amazing as well that all the bands are starting to put that in their set - like you've got Dan Reed doing an acoustic version and there's a band here doing it as well (Crimes of Passion from Sheffield) and because of the loss of Ronnie it's become such a major song. I mean it was big anyway but even more so now. It's incredible.
James: Oh yeah. What I'm doing now is actually.. that's what's making it easier to sell a little bit more because it's when you mention that part of it - just that part of it alone is like, "Oh that would be awesome to see that" because you're not gonna see that no more regardless you know?
James: And you know, true you can go and see Black Sabbath with Ozzy now any old day but the Dio era has been gone for a long time and you could only see that again when they went under the monicker of 'Heaven & Hell'.
Glenn: Yeah I saw that.
James: But yeah man. So other than that, I guess we are getting really close for dinnertime now.
Glenn: Yeah no problem.
James: Yeah, yeah.
GIenn: Cool I'll let you get off.
James: I'm glad you enjoyed the interview. I enjoyed it very much. It was nice talking to you Glenn and thank you for the interview. Alright. You take care.
Glenn: No problem. You too man. Thanks. Bye.
Special thanks to Anna Di Laurenzio of ADL Management for setting up the Interview & James Rivera himself for a Monster Metal chat indeed!