Blastmagazine Interview

DF: I would like to say first. This is a thrill, your probably one of my favorite vocalist, if not my favorite.

JLT: Well thank you very much Darrell. I really appreciate that.

DF: How's the recording process going?

JLT: Well we finally finished and mastered this latest CD which is kicking fucking ass. It is like, I guess like a return to Rainbow type stuff. There was a guitar player from Japan named Akira Kajiyama who plays like Blackmore meets Malmsteen but with like sort of a nineties flare and he's got a couple tricks of his own and his brilliant. He wrote a bunch of tracks on his own in the style of like Deep Purple, Rainbow which is like that melodic hard rock stuff. So you know I put all lyrics and melodies over it. And then the rest of the album I guess is about half-Heart "bluesy" rock kind of stuff, sort of like Bad CO. with an edge. You know a little heavier more melody. So it's probably as I have even been saying to myself probably what I think everybody wants me to get back to you know full swing because I was dabbling with this and that wanting to do other kinds of stuff as most artist do. And then I realized hey what the fuck am I doing let me get back to where I belong, and I had so much fun doing it, that it absolutely feels natural. It feels right and I can't wait for you guys to hear it.

DF: Cool, I'm really into the Rainbow stuff.

JLT: Yeah well this is the shit. This is sort of like, your gonna hear this and go well this is kind of Rainbow 2000, and your not going to miss Blackmore or anything because it's like he's there. It's crazy it flips me out just to hear it, cause it's kinda ghost like, but with a modern twist and it's like O.K. man this shit is rocking.

DF: Well maybe if it's got that nineties edge, we can get some of this stuff played on the radio?

JLT: Well you know this is very true, there is a couple of cuts off the top of my head, I already say hey this fits right on the alternative stations or what ever. I mean it's just heavy, it's metal and it's melodic, so but it's dark specially the title track which you're the first one I'm even telling I think, it's called "Holy Man" and it's about a TV evangelist and I'm kinda kicking the shit out of these guys, you know. Kinda like saying, like, you know, all these TV evangelists wanna do is get money and save your soul.

DF: Somebody needs too.

JLT: Yeah. And it just kinda came to me one night when I was flipping the channels like three or four in the morning and there was this "Reverend Whomwhatchacallit". He was going off about sending your money and all of this crap and I thought of all the Jim Bakers and Jerry Farwells and everything and I said, "And this mother-fucker thinks he's a holy man." And I went "that's it" - I wrote a song about it.

DF: Yeah, God told me I needed a Ferrari.

JLT: Yeah. (laughter), and a couple of hookers, Ferrari, and what-not.

DF: Well, that was going to be my next question, is if you have a working title yet?

JLT: Yep, well, you're the first one to hear about it honestly and the early bird catches the worm, so the working title is not only working but I think we're going out with it because I did have a couple of other titles I wanted, but when the "Holy Man" track came up and it was so strong, and it's one of my pet peeves, so I said, "Look man this has a strong title and it's a strong song, and it has an image, so let's just call it "Holy Man".

DF: I'll make that a Blast exclusive.

JLT: Great. This thing was a real joy to make and I gotta tell ya another couple of significant facts. We did this whole record, and I mean without any lack of quality, in twenty-three days which is amazing because we beat our old record which was, I think, twenty-six days. And it's been my contention ever since wasting money and time with big bands like Purple and Rainbow and Malmsteen and shit. We would do million dollar records and all this and take six months, a year, and you'd forget who you were.

DF: That's quick.

JLT: So, twenty-three fucking days, man, check it out. We're talking about, ok the songs were being written, we wrote one of them up 'til the last moment and I sang vocal which is called "Midnight in Tokyo", which I just had to get one of those out 'cause it just felt right. But to make a long story short, "quick" ain't the word, but the thing is that you're going to hear quality. A lot of these guys with the smaller labels and record deals, they get a budget and spend half of it on the album and keep the other half and I don't play that shit. You know it sounds like they do it on A-dat systems, you know it sounds thin and shit like this. I take it right up to the 24-track, you know, and use pro-tools and everything else and go right in with the big stuff and pay for it because to me there's no substitute for something that lasts the test of time. And if this CD's going to be around after I'm gone, man, it's gotta sound great, ya know. So that's where I'm coming from. So I'm real proud that, as far as the team I work with, real proud of everybody who's put in like extensive hours to make this thing happen in like twenty-three days.

DF: That's (whew), I'm shocked

JLT: But when you hear it you're gonna call back and say, "I can't fucking believe this." This took twenty-three days from soup to nuts, you know from start to finish.

DF: Did you have the material wrote before you went it?

JLT: Well, yeah, I did a lot of it. Let's put it this way, everything but one lyric. We had two or three different lyrics over this track that Akira wrote and we finally did settle on "Midnight in Tokyo", only simply because it was an experience that, it just sounded like it, you know. And it was kinda like a real raucous, rocking track and, uh, being a big market in Japan, I know they're gonna eat it up. So, it was kinda of a return to almost like "Woman From Tokyo", or something like that. But, anyway, everything else was written and just needed to be rehearsed and recorded. And everybody that came in, I mean we did things like sending tapes down to Andy Timmons (Danger Danger) in Texas and Andy was gracious enough to play guitar lead. and Joe Bonamasa who just got signed to Epic Records. He's a smokin' blues player he use to be in a band called Blood Line with Robbie Kreger's kid actually Waylen Kreger was his name the kid I think he is in an alternative band now that's doing pretty well and Barry Oakley Jr. you know it was like the Allman Brothers and Mils Davis's kid on drums , this was a band called Blood Line and they had this seventeen year old blues rock guitarist called Joe Bonamasa, 'Smokin' Joe Bonamasa and now he's twenty years old and he's got his own record deal and he's a bad ass. So he's on it, it just a lot of fun, man this record is killer from start to finish.

DP: I'm familiar with Andy, he's a local boy from Evansville Id.

JLT: That's right, he's a bad ass. He was gracious enough to throw lead down on a track called "Something New", it's just chalked full of fun and rock. It's gonna knock peoples shocks off, I think their going to be real surprised, since I had a couple departures before this. Except for the "Undercover" stuff that I was doing. You know it was pretty much when I would come to an original album I would kind of water it down a little bit commercially and what ever this is that but it's all heavy metal shit. When I say it ain't Judas Priest because it's more Rainbow, Deep Purple you know that kind of stuff, and the bluesy stuff like I said is Bad Company with a real hard edge. You know if Bad Company could get hard and tough this is what it would be.

DF: Cool, I didn't really care for their new material Bad Company put on their anthology, myself.

JLT: Yea I know it was a little lip rested.

DF: A lot off times, I hate to say old, but when you have a artist such as yourself, when they get back into it, even though you never left.

JLT: No not really, I've been around, underneath you know, just sort of (laughing) hanging out in the shadows.

DF: Right I was listing to an Interview with you conducted by Kicker's Magazine the other day, your music's retro rock and I just don't understand that?

JLT: Right, yea I know but they had a call I guess these fucks out of collage, or something so right now I though we where classic rock but they said "Oh no, Led Zeppelins classic rock and your kind of retro rock". And I thought where in the fuck are they coming up with this crap.

DF: It's mainly because your material is not here.

JLT: (laughter) Well you know I try to get it available. In fact, we're working on getting it available in the States here, licensed in the States, I mean my "Undercover" stuff was licensed in the States through Shrapnel Records which is actually a guitar label by Mike Varney and he liked it so much he had a similar idea but I beat him to it. So he says "hey, look I'll put your record out here in the States". And I was thankful for that, but at the same time he really didn't do any publicity or anything like that. I've never had an original album released here in the States by any label. I was talking to Frontiers the other day and Mario over there is real interested in maybe putting it out here. They've got a distribution deal with a label called "Something" and Nile Rogers he's the head of this label, so we're into negotiations I'm trying to get it here, South America, and Canada, because I already have Europe and Japan covered. Then again it's tough to even get a radio play because the play list are so tight. And where are you going to get retro rock played on a classic rock station.

DF: Your version on Malmsteens "Trial By Fire" blows me away.

JLT: Oh, great I appreciate it. It's got a little more soul in it.

DF: I know how basically this is set up with the record label, but you sell you CD's via your web site does all that money go to you?

JLT: Well first of all you have to have the rights and the territories to sell it. Right now there is no define rule because the web is like a frontier you know, kind of like a wide-open territory. So as far as I know this is the first time that I have my rights back to all the old catalogs from Pony Canyon and Japan. Which was the mother company that was actually giving me the money to do the records, then I would license them out to other territories so I have my rights back and we will be able to take the back catalog and sell it over the internet. And because we have the rights to sell them it all depending on my cost I'm going to make them available and much cheaper. And I would probably be able to make more money out of it simply cause I won't have any of the record labels to deal with. The record company always gets the lion share of it, and we're talking major lion share. The artist really gets maybe a 11 to 14 point deal which really is just a percentage.

DF: Me personally would rather want and be safe to know you got the majority of the money, simply because you're the one that done it.

JLT: Well that's true and I appreciate that, because that is the artist lively hood. And the only thing that keeps us alive is sweating between records and hopefully that the people pick up on it and we can make a living out of it. So you know it's tough and I'm just glad this is the first year I got my rights back so I can make my own licensing deals and what not and I feel a little more free. Also fan wise these people will be able to get on my web site and buy these records, which all I need is a fulfillment House which is somebody that will actually ship them out, and they get like a small percentage for doing that.

DF: Do you feel it was harder for you to break into the music business in'77 with say 'Fandango', then say it is now with you being established?

JLT: Oh no, let me put it this way they did four albums with Fandango that was basically unsuccessful from a monetary commercial stand point. All though we had our pockets in certain areas of the country even the world where people had heard of us. But we where not a big band. Great material but all over the place, and we really didn't get the support we needed from RCA. But on the other hand you look at today and you try and get signed. And first of all their signing these no talent motherfuckers who can just barely fucking play guitar or sing a song. Which has lowered the complete standard of the industry. So now you've got these kids who are listening to this shit and they think they can get away with sounding like shit. To me we use to have to at least be aspired and admire Jimmy Hendrix, Eric Clapton and these guys on guitar and great singers like Robert Plant and people like that. Now days there isn't none of that.

DF: Music today doesn't really have a point.

JLT: There ya go, it's pretty point less. It's screwed so to where now I think because there is so much of an influx, I mean there was all ways a lot of people in bands and such. I think it really has increased in the last twenty years, increased incredibly so the point is that that if there is one million bands there is twenty million bands and their all trying to get signed. Which leads piranha like MP3 and people, who are getting sued now, and people like that. That say oh yea give us your music for free they make a whole bunch of fucking money with it and you get shit. Once again the artist gets stepped on and shit on.

DF: I don't know why, take someone as your self for example go into the studio record an album, and do everything yourself and be able to survive? They won't let you.

JLT: No they won't, they have to be in control and bless the thing, and say ok we're going to do this now. I know a lot of executives here in New York for example, that love my stuff and every time I do a new CD. Their always going "Oh, can I have one", and pretty soon it's a dozen, two dozen that are going out to all these a & r and top record executives and they play them when they get home. But as far as signing me to their label u-uh forget it never gonna happen.

DF: They want free material

JLT: Not only that they saw well we're not doing this kind of stuff. They're personally at the age group where they love the shit we listen to, but they can't sign it as a job. They are signing all the grunge and alternative shit, another Backstreet Boys and that kind of shit.

DP: What as been your greatest accomplishment would you say?

JLT: Survival!(laughing) you know to survive in a fickle environment in sort of a foppish world, a world that's full of no talent assholes, business greedy fucks. It's piranha out there and I feel like I swimming up stream in river going down stream with piranha, and just to keep going back and forth across river, as to supposed, you know I'm just trying to constantly trying to get across to the other side. Which means I'm always trying to make the music I love, a lot of people love. But it's always a fucking hassle. At the end of it, even though you put your heart and soul into it, you know that it's not gonna get the recognition it deserves. That's defeating So I guess survival would mean encompassing the fact that of having a great attitude about it and knowing that, Shakespeare said "What fools these mortals be", and that's kind of true. This whole record company thing it's just foolish. They're just assholes and your fighting a never ending battle which is a lot bigger moneywise than you are, a lot more powerful than you are, you know and dictates to the people this crud that they're putting out and I'm still out here making music. And I'll tell you the one reason that I do survive is because I have a legion of fans, like yourself, who are actually interested and believe in me and that gives me a spiritual lift where I can actually go on and sort of, you know, kind of cut through the dark. Because otherwise it's pretty defeating when you know it's kind of like having a baby and you know it's gonna die. You know, what's up with that? That's tough, you know. You're so proud and so happy and so full of love for it and you know once it gets out there it don't have a hell of a chance for survival.

DF: Right, well I've also noticed, I'm sitting here looking at your discography now and I'm like, you know, man I've never seen anybody release so many albums. (laughing)

JLT: (laughing) Well, yeah, I work. See I believe in working and to me, I love music and I love all kinds of music and I've probably worked with some of the biggest stars that ever were and that's to my credit. But also that's because I'm out there. I'm not like one of these singers who just does what he does and can only do that. You know, it's like I have an eclectic, unlimited -- I hate to blow my own horn -- but it's kind of an unlimited range talent and I wanna use it.

DF: Yeah, I was just saying that the other day. You have a very wide range.

JLT: Yeah, diversified. Yeah, I can sing - I love the R & B shit. I love the hard rock metal shit, jazz. I grew up with classical, you know. So, I mean, whatever it's worth, I'm a music man and I just love it and uh when Cher or somebody ask me to sing on the album, what am I going to say? No? You know what I mean? So I love all that stuff, plus it gives me an incredible depth of experience because the more experience you have with anything the deeper the better you're going to be at it. And looking at that discography in front of you, you're going to see a hell of a depth of experience. And everybody from Cher to Michael Bolton to, I mean people hate to people you love to a legendary band like Deep fucking Purple. You know it's kind of like you can't put me into a corner, if you know what I mean, and label me, like maybe, with all due respect, and I mean a lot of respect, like Ronnie Dio or somebody like that. They don't do this shit cause they can't. They got one sound. They got one color and that color's great, but not diversified.

DF: Yeah right. Your sound from Rainbow to, say, Yngwie Malmsteem are two different vocal styles.

JLT: Right. Two different entities. And I think you're probably gonna hear something more again on this new one, on "Holy Man" because it's like, I just opened up, I took it up a couple of notches and got off my ass, to be honest with you. Like my old friend - co-producer Bob Hale said, "You've never sang better." And I was looking at him like, what are you talking about and he said, "No. I'm serious. You've got a fire up your ass again." And I have to agree that, after the last five years I just got a little bit tired of doing mediocre type shit and putting out good records, but not like stellar records and, I'm just, something just clicked inside of me and I went, that's it, let's go. And I started to dig in on the writing and dig in on the performances and I think you're gonna hear it.

DF: It's time to get back into the groove.

JLT: Exactly, that's a good way of putting it, it's time to get back into the groove Joe and stop fucking around here, and doing something half ass and whining about, "Oh, the business" and this and that just put your ass on it and see what happens.

DF: When you get ready to go on tour, and your figuring up the set list. Do you add the Rainbow and Deep Purple stuff?

JLT: Well I try to give the fans a well rounded, because some people want to hear the Malmsteen, some people want to hear Purple, some people want to hear Rainbow, and some people wanna hear solo shit. So I try to speckle it with a little bit from each.

DF: So live you do perform songs like "Stone Cold"?

JLT: Oh Yea, I was just in Paris last week doing that one, and I also did a couple Purple things. This may be of interest to you. There is now a web site called Rock Forever ( I just had my first gig with them, but they've been around now for about 6 months to a year now, I guess. It's Mikey Reno from Loverboy, Micky Thomas from the Starship, Bobby Kimball from Toto, Ben Orr from the Cars, and John Caferty from Beaver Brown, Larry Hoppen from Orleans. All this lead singers came together and formed a corporation called V.C.R. (Voices Of Classic Rock) and I'm one of them, We where in Paris last week singing for a private party for Richard Branten with Virgin Records. He had a private party and flew us all out to Paris and shit which was great. Mikey Reno did two or three Loverboy songs, each singer does two or three songs.

DF: A question I was curious about when you first started singing with 'Ezera' and you where doing covers of Deep Purple what was that like when you started singing those same songs with Deep Purple?

JLT: Pinch me I'm dreaming, it was very much pinch me a I'm dreaming, because here I was a kid in my home town playing CYO's and YMCA's and shit like that with this Ezera band. Which I'm glad you even know about it by the way. We were playing Deep Purple covers, and originals like Deep Purple. There was three big bands back in my day, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Led Zeppelin, and my favorite even though I love them all was Deep Purple, for what ever reason that's the one I generated towards as far as the number one on my list of the heavies. And that was when we started Ezera it was a heavy band, and had a big show and all that stuff smoke, and bombs al that stuff and we would emulate these guys. To make a long story short, when I got the call, well first of all just playing with Blackmore and Rainbow was close enough right, I was like, "Wow this is fucking great", right. But when I got the call to play with Deep Purple I was like, "You got to be kidding". I was like I don't care what the egos are like, because there was many and very thick but, I said, "I've just got to do it to say I did it", you know to prove myself. And to prove myself in that kind of situation, which I think "Slaves and Masters", has done.

DF: "Slaves and Masters" is an excellent album.

JLT: Excellent album, I mean not for nothing but if you listen to the Deep Purple that's out there today with Steve Morse and everything it's another band. Don't even sound like Purple, sounds like the Dixie Purples or the Deep Tricks or something. It sounds like an Ian Gillian solo album with Steve Morse on guitar.

DF: (laughing) No it doesn't. Not to put anybody down but there couldn't been nearly as many egos in Deep Purple as there was in Yngwie?

JLT: (laughter) your probably right about that all combined. Yngwie was a nice bunch of guys. I gotta tell you I love Yngwie because he's so nuts, but he is just nuts a mad genius I guess.

DF: You said it best he is god or thinks he is.

JLT: Well you know what. This is what I tell the press. "Me and Malmsteen had broken up over religious reasons". They said religious reasons? What the Hell is that all about? I said, "Well he thought he was God and I didn't agree.

DF: (laughter)

JLT (laughing) So they were like, 'Oh ok we got it.' We where a good team man there was a lot of tension and chaos. But out of the chaos comes order and out of the fire comes steel. Blackmoore always taught me, he said, "Man if you don't but heads, you ain't butting nothing."

DF: I noticed on like Yngwie's "Odyssey", you didn't write the lyrics? (some of the information I ran across happen to be very wrong)

JLT: I wrote every lyric. Every lyric and every melody that is on there is mine. Yngwie would come to me with the track and I would take these and sit with them night after night and come up with the messages, the lyric. To be honest and fair he threw a couple of titles. He would say like, "I would like a song called Déjà vu." and I went, "Ok, I'll write you a song called 'Déjà vu'", but it was my interpratation of what he wanted. And that is why I'm such a good team player to becvause you can throw something at me. You can say ok I want something called "To Hell With You" and I will write it, and it will come up better than your best expectations. So I pride myself on that kind of shit. He threw a couple titles at me, but the rest was mine, as far as "Heaven Tonight". "Crystal Ball" was another title he threw at me. I was also the one that said look we need a song called "Rising Force", because this is "Rising Force", and that's when I worte "Rising Force". So I mean you know on and on and on, "Dreaming" was mine. All the lyrics and melodies are mine, all the tracks and guitar basics are Yngwie's.

DF: O.K. through all of your material how much of the music do you actually write?

JLT: Occasinally I would come up with a part musically because I am a guitar player first. See I was a guitar player who turned to a singer. That's really freaky because I ended up playing with some of the best guitar players in the world. Something cosmic going on or some shit.

Most of the time like I would be sitting around with Blackmore or something, and he would come up with these riffs, and I would be singing something and he would go "Where do you wanna go from here". And I would go, "ba,ba,ba,ba,ba". Then he would kind of like bring the chord in, or I would get the guitar and say "no over here". And he goes "Oh, you play guitar pretty good." And I'd go "Well ya, I'm a guitarist." In fact that's my claim to fame. I'm the only person to ever play guitar on stage with Richie Blackmore, ever. I'm the only person to ever play acoustic and electric and that's very unheard of.

DF: Yes it is.

JLT: But he respected me and I've got to give him credit for that, and I thank him for that. So yes I come up with an occasinal piece of music, here and there. But I try to let the musicians do that because I was in there as the mouth piece, singer. And if they didn't like a certain lyric or something, I'd change it, because you have to have respect for each other. Because you have to work as a team, and there ain't no I in TEAM. So, I try to check my ego at the door and do what's right for Purple, do what's right for Rainbow, do what's right for Rising Force, and now I'm doing what's right for me.

DF: That's the only way to be.

JLT: So you know I know a lot of guys that will impose their own sort of flavors and it won't necessarily be right for the band. And that to me is just a big sin. It's like now, with Purple, they don't sound like Purple. The only time they sound like Purple is when they do the Blackmore riffs, when they do the old stuff. You know then the crowd goes, "Great".

DF: Right, I think Blackmore now sounds more like Purple than Purple does.

JLT: (laughing) Yea, of course, cause he was. He was the guy that evented the riffs.

DF: I like Richie's new stuff.

JLT: Yeah, Richie's Renaissance shit's great. Let me tell you, Richie has been loving that kind of music for years and it's good that he gets the opportunity to play it. You know, and everybody says, "Oh well he should be rocking and rolling." Hey, you know what, some times you get tired. You gotta make a change and then change back or whatever.

Darrell Finley, Blastmagazine July 2000