Thursday, June 23, 2011

Jaime St. James of Black N Blue: It May Not Be The 80s, But The Attitude Is Still The Same

The 80s were known as the decade of excess. It seemed as if everything was over the top; the fashion, the music and the attitude. Jaime St. James could have been the poster child for that decade. He and his band Black N Blue seemed to have it all together. They blazed out of the gate strong with their self titled debut in 1984 and seemed destined for greatness. Their next three releases seemed to falter and soon they were lost in the oversaturation of “hair bands” that were popping up everywhere.

The band went on hiatus and ventured into different projects. Jaime actually took over the lead singer role in Warrant and recorded “Born Again” with them in 2006, but left in 2008. The fans knew that there was unfinished business with Black N Blue and had been craving new material from them for years. Their prayers were answered in 2011 when Black N Blue reunited, minus Tommy Thayer, to finish recording Hell Yeah. I had the privilege to talk to Jaime about this crazy rock and roll road that he has been travelling for close to 30 years.

I have to tell you what a privilege it is to sit down and talk to you. Black N Blue are back and stronger than ever and I have to say that Hell Yeah is an amazing CD.

Jaime: Thanks man! The reaction to the new album has been amazing. We have been getting input on my website and my Facebook page, plus the band’s page. It has just been over the top positive. I would say 80% to 90% of the feedback has been favorable. 10% have been ridiculously positive saying it should be album of the year!

This album has been a longtime in the making. Can you catch us up to speed on how it all went down?

Well, first I got a solo deal and I started writing material. I wrote “Hell yeah” and “So Long”, which both ended up on this new album. Then, I joined Warrant and it all got put on hold. The Warrant gig lasted a few years and I left and decided to finish my project. Well, it actually turned into a Black N Blue deal. It took eight years from start to finish, but there were four years that we didn’t do anything with it. The actual recording part of it only took a couple of months. We never lost sight and the end product is how we really wanted it to sound.

This album in my opinion, along with many of your fans, should have been released back in the day. I think it would have pushed you guys to that next level. I have to ask you a question, on behalf of the fans. How much did the “suits” have to do with your sound being more polished and commercial after your first album was released? You guys seemed to lose your rawness on your second album. It was a great album, but it wasn’t true Black N Blue.

We chose to work with Bob Rock and Bruce Fairbairn on our second album. They seemed to be taking us in a different direction. We had some other material like “Swing Time” and “Blame It on the Neighborhood”, but they didn’t want it on there. I guess we were being steered by the people that we paid a lot of money to in order to tell us what we already knew in our own minds. You and the fans are right; this IS the album that we should have released back then.

Do you think that your new label Frontiers may have underestimated how this was going to sell in its first week? I read many comments online on the release date that said people were having a hard time actually finding it in the stores.

Oh, absolutely! Amazon sold out of it by 8:00 AM on the day it was released! I heard from many fans saying that they got the last copy at the store they went to. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Frontiers is a great label, but I think they underestimated our fans.

Can you tell me about Shawn (Sonnenschen), your new guitarist? How did you guys get together?

It’s funny because Shawn has been with us for eight years and he is still considered the new guy! Whoop (Jeff Warner) and Patrick (Young) knew him and Patrick had actually played with him. They told me that he would be a great fit for us and that he could do the job and I trusted the guys. It looks like they were right.

I read on your website that you actually played drums on some of the tracks?

That’s right; I did play drums on the basic tracks. Pete (Holmes) loved it and told me to keep it on there. I told him that he could rerecord it if he wanted to, but he told me that he would play them the same way. That was a huge compliment for me! I was a drummer up until Black N Blue; that’s when I decided to be out front and be a lead singer. I love drumming, but lead singers get laid more!

Do you have any personal favorites on the album? Is there anything that you are exceptionally proud of?

I pretty much love everything on there. I think “Monkey” is an excellent opener and it really kicks ass. There are also a few surprises in there. The guys really wanted to include stuff like “Jaime’s Got the Beer” and I was ok with that. I really do like the lyrics in “Falling Down”; I think they’re really killer. We opened M3 with “C’mon” and the crowd loved it. I think “Hail Hail” will be added to the live show eventually.

You brought it up before I could. I wanted to ask how M3 went.

It was pretty amazing! The crowd started chanting our name before we even hit the stage, so we knew it was going to be good. We could feel their energy and they were glad to see us. It was a 45 minute set and it felt really good. We sold out of the new CD in 20 minutes!

What are your plans for a first video from the album and touring in support of it?

There really hasn’t been talk of a video just yet; we’re just seeing how things go. Frontiers may decide that they want to do one, but for now we are going to let the album do its work. There have been some radio stations that have added “Hell Yeah”, but we will have to wait and see. We have some live plans that we can’t mention just yet. We are up to touring, but we’re not going to pile up in a van and play dirty little clubs.

The industry has changed so much since you guys started back in the 80s. What are your thoughts on the state of the industry today?

Well, people are going to continue to download for free and it makes it tough on us. That’s just what happens, but it’s not going to stop us. It’s 2011 and that’s the reality of it. I was talking to Juan from Ratt the other day and he told me that our new album will never sell what it could sell and he’s right.

So, when it’s all said and done and you have done your last encore and it’s time to call it a day, what do you want the legacy of Jaime St. James to be?

Wow, that’s a tough one. I guess I would want people to remember that I never gave up. I kept chugging right along and never quit. Our band has always been the underdog, but we never gave up.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today Jaime. We can’t wait to see you guys tearing it up live. Do you have any last words for all of your fans?

I want to thank everyone for the overwhelming response to the new album. If you don’t have it, go out and get it. Call your radio stations and request us too. The stronger the record gets, the more opportunities it creates.

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