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| 10 June 2020 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “New World – New Eyes is House Of Lords’ 10th studio album, following the well received release Saint Of The Lost Souls. Recorded and produced by the band’s singer and mastermind, James Christian, this collection of songs has an incredible flow of up-tempo and mid-tempo rockers mixed with power ballads, which lean a bit more toward keyboards this time around, but without compromising the band’s trademark sound, which is based around Jimi Bell’s guitar work. New World – New Eyes is already one of the year’s most anticipated melodic rock releases and will not disappoint fans of the band or genre. James Christian’s well crafted and smooth vocals bring the band’s craft to new heights. Guitarist Jimi Bell is on fire and the melodic riffs throughout the album will leave you breathless. Chris Tristram on bass is more solid than ever and BJ Zampa brings a solid and powerful rhythm foundation to House of Lords.” We were able to grab some phone time with frontman James to discuss new music and more about a week before the new  material is released…

Toddstar: James, thank you so much for taking time for us. Really appreciate it.

James: No problem.

Toddstar: Exciting stuff going on in the world of House of Lords right now. You’ve got a new disc, New World – New Eyes, coming out. What can you tell us about this album, James, that your fans may not grasp the first or second time they listen through it?

James: I don’t know. No one has ever asked that question. I guess, you have to listen to the record to see if it’s anything you’re interested in purchasing, I guess. The albums run in the same stream of consciousness as we have from prior records. We like to stick to the fact that we all enjoy melodic rock music and like melodies and good hooks and everything else that we’ve done on the previous records. I don’t think there’s going to be a surprise there. They’re still going to have that some elements.

Toddstar: Cool. How different was this album for you guys from a production and writing process than your last album, Saint Of The Lost Souls?

James: Not much difference at all because we exchanged our ideas, our song ideas, sometimes melodies, but most of the time the melodies and lyrics will happen with me and a co-writer that I work with and the tracks will usually be done by Jimi. Then I’ll edit them to where I think the edit should be made and then we’ll start working on that part of the song. There’s a lot of different processes, but they all are enhanced via Skype and online.

Toddstar: As far as the music, you’ve had three songs out there, radio singles out there, “New World New Eyes” and one of my favorites, “Chemical Rush.” I hate asking what’s your favorite song, but what are the songs that once normal tour and normal music life for everybody resumes, what are the couple songs on the album that you really can’t wait to get out there and play live for the fans?

James: That’s easy. “New World New Eyes,” “One More,” “The Both of Us,” “Chemical Rush,” and “We’re All That We Got.” I would say those would be the ones. That’s more than we’ve ever done on any record as far as touring. We normally pick a couple of songs from each album and put it into the tour. On this one, I’d like to do five of those songs.

Toddstar: Okay. What is it about your and Jimi’s relationship that makes it just work?

James: We were friends before we became band mates. We’ve known each other since the 70’s, not to date it back, but we go way back. Our agent was the same agent. We all worked with him. I was doing a band called Eyes. We were running in the same circles. It wasn’t till years later, after the breakup of House of Lords, that I reached out to him again to possibly work on doing the new incarnation of House of Lords.

Toddstar: It was weird to hear you call it the new incarnation. Normally people just roll with it. What in your mind made it a new incarnation? Is it simply new band members or was there a whole new mindset?

James: No, the mindset was the same, but the band was different. For me, going out under the name of House of Lords and being the only member was a little intimidating for me. I didn’t know whether I really wanted to do that or if I wanted to call the band James Christian’s House of Lords. I had no idea. 12 years ago, or 13 or whatever it’s been, it still mattered that a band was together. Maybe you’d replace one member or two, whatever, but not a whole band, and just leave the lead singer. I call it a new incarnation because it was a rebirth of an idea. We brought it back together and tried to continue the work that we did in the 80’s.

Toddstar: That’s fair. You’re talking to a guy that’s been there. I’ve been there with you guys from the beginning with the Simmons record release and both Sahara and Demons Down are still regular spins in my personal collection. I was a big fan of the last album. I’m looking forward to the world to get subjected to the new eleven tracks. Going through, what song would you say flowed the most naturally through you during the writing process of the new eleven, James?

James: I would say “Chemical Rush.” A couple reasons is that it was a feel that when Jimmy sent me the track I immediately said, “Now, this is a song that I want to write. This is the song I want to work on immediately.” I worked on it with Richard Hymas, who was a songwriter I worked with in the past. I wasn’t quite sold on a lot of parts, so I ended up going back to the drawing board and working on different ideas and different arrangements. I didn’t give up on the song. It was complicated because there were certain elements of the song I wanted to have in it, which was a little bit of a Zeppelin vibe. It had immediately a kind of a Whitesnake vibe, only because of the verse, which had that “Still of the Night” kind of feel. I didn’t want it to sound exactly like that, but when you break down the drums and vocal it’s either going to be Zeppelin or it’s going to be Whitesnake, because Whitesnake got it from Zeppelin. I would say I got it from Zeppelin. On the pre-chorus, again, I didn’t know what to do. It was one of those pre-choruses where if you listen to the chorus and actually tried to put a melody on it you’d be stumped. I’m pretty good at being able to decipher a melody out of chord pattern, but for some reason the chords that Jimi was using were so different that everything I put on it didn’t work. One day, I got up on the mic, turned on the tape recorder, and I sang through the part and that’s what came out. Not that particular performance, mind you, but the whole melody and the lyric, all of it, came out in that one pass. I was really pleased at that. I have no idea where it came from. I’m just glad it happened. It doesn’t happen often.

Toddstar: You have a storied career with House of Lords, like I said, going back to the days the original releases up through Saint Of The Lost Souls in 2017 and now the new one coming out next week with New World – New Eyes. You’ve also had some killer solo albums in the middle. How different do approach the material for House of Lords than you do for an album such as Rude Awakening or Meet the Man?

James: I like to think of it as being my place and my little time to do what I love doing that I know that House of Lords wouldn’t attempt to do because it might be leaning a little too commercial, it might be leaning a little too funky, or whatever it is. The material that I write on the solo records is, I guess, is my commercial side. I guess that’s what I would have to say. I was always a fan, back in the day before I got a record deal, when I was in cover bands, I would always be the guy in the band that wanted to do the most popular song on the record where everybody else wanted to do the obscure songs. I never understood that. I said, “Nobody knows this song! There’s a reason.” But no, no, we’ve got to do this song, nobody’s doing it. I wanted to do the fucking hits. That’s exactly where I’m going. That’s where my mentality is. That’s where I feel when I do a solo record, I like to think of songs as being small singles.

Toddstar: Rude Awakening for me was another album that, again, still gets regular spins. I love that album. Going back to you personally, let’s talk about that. What’s the first moment you remember thinking, yes, rock and roll is for me? What was going on with you that you knew this was where you were headed?

James: It’s so easy to detect that because it was The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. I must have been not a teenager yet, but very close to it… I remember it vividly, going, “I would love to be able to do that.” It seemed like a very logical step for somebody who actually could sing. Back then, I didn’t know I was going to be a professional singer, but I certainly thought that maybe this is the road I would take. I started getting guitar lessons and started there. From there, everything just started evolving. I became either lead singer, bass player, or rhythm guitar player in bands. It was always because, not because of my guitar playing talent, but vocal ability back then. It was a natural progression. I never swayed from it ever.

Toddstar: I’ve been lucky enough, and it’s so hard to catch a lot of the bands, especially bands from your era, in the US anymore, I was lucky enough in the late 2000’s to catch you guys onstage at Rocklahoma and was able to meet you guys at one of the merch tents. But flipping the coin, you guys, you’re just huge in Europe. What is it about that market that just really screams pleasurable for the House of Lords?

James: I really don’t know. It might have been that during the first album, Gene Simmons had, he was very instrumental in getting them. As a new band, you just don’t get those kind of tours, but we were doing tours with Scorpions, we did tours with Ozzy, we did shows with Queensrÿche. At a time when we were the brand new band coming out of the box, yet we were getting the primo tours. I think our exposure in Europe was instantaneously, playing for those audiences, with major festivals. I think that had a lot to do with it. For some reason, they really, really were attracted to what we were doing musically. UK, I don’t know, maybe because the name of the band was House of Lords, but whatever, we were very welcomed there when we went there. Everything about Europe, they remembered the band. Even ten years of hiatus, when we came back into the pros, they were ready for a new record and they were out there buying them. It’s more European now than it is American, yet my airplay in the States is mostly from “Can’t Find My Way Home.”

Toddstar: I dig it more than the original, but that’s me. Maybe that’s showing my age and my love of the heavier sound and the heavier guitar woven into it. You guys kept the spirit of the original alive, but you put your stamp on it. I love it.

James: Right. That was the whole idea is that song, that little three minutes or whatever it was, was so magical. It just needed an extra part to bring it over the type in the modern age of what we were doing back then. I call that the modern age, but compared to “Can’t Find My Way Home” came out, it was.

Toddstar: Definitely. You guys did another cover that wasn’t really a cover until later when you guys did “Heart on the Line,” which is another song that just, it floored me. Years later, actually I think decades later when I heard the Cheap Trick version, I thought, wait a minute, wait a minute, they ripped off that old House of Lords tune.

James: Yeah. No. Rick Nielson urged us to do it. We were on tour with them at that time, actually prior to it. Robin Zander and Rick were actually very close friends and we were on tour. “Heart On The Line” came out of that. We toured with them for quite a while. Rick gave the song to Greg. Greg gave it to me. I said, “Yeah, this is a really cool song.” Rick ended up playing the guitar solo on it. It was a nice little family after a while.

Toddstar: Getting back to you personally, how do you and your Robin [Beck, James’ spouse] do it? You guys are both rock stars in your own right, and there’s times that you have to be the boss. I know you’ve been a producer on some of her releases. How do you guys keep that division of personal versus business when you guys are not only at home but also in the studio?

James: The fact that we have our own studio takes a lot of stress out of things, so we’re not running into studios to do things. Whatever we do, we’re doing here at the studio at the home. The stress comes in when two singers butt heads as to how something should be done. You’re dealing with a girl who can sing her ass off. There’s nothing she can’t sing. It’s not like I’m ever dealing with that. It’s always like, I might have an idea that maybe she should try this or do that, and the ego clash will happen, which is normal. That’s going to happen. We do have our moments of getting on each other’s nerves in the studio, but for the most part I’m just fixing things that might need a little tweak here, a little tweak there. We’re prepared before she goes in to sing, that she knows what she wants to do and what we would like on the song. It works out pretty well. My daughter is the same way. You’ve got to remember, I have a performing daughter who works on a national tour of Les Misérables, which is a huge tour. It’s an amazing show. She’s also in her own right a fantastic singer. It all works. We make it all work. It’s a tight family. We’ve been doing this for 23 years, 24 years. That’s how long we’ve been together.

Toddstar: I was going to say, with the pedigree of James Christian and Robin Beck I would only imagine your daughter can sing her ass off.

James: Yeah. She’s turbo charged, let’s put it that way. Between the both of us, she got the best of both. I like to think that she’s got Robin’s range and my feel. I put her on songs sometimes and I go, “I didn’t even tell you what to do there and you just did it naturally.” I think that that’s the test of a great singer because singers get hired to make a song, even if it’s mediocre, sound better than it is. That’s what we do. Olivia did that for me so many times for people that had sessions that they wanted done and wanted a female singer. She’d go in and sing this and make it sound like they were something special.

Toddstar: Cool. Looking back over your career, James, is there a misstep that you wish you had a second crack at? Even if the end result wasn’t different?

James: Yeah. I would have liked to have gotten to California sooner than I did. I don’t know if it would have changed fate to me being in House of Lords or what, but at this moment I do believe that. Back then, I wasn’t sure. I was really afraid of the fact that I was a big fish in a small pond in Connecticut. I didn’t want to leave my little success that I had in the state of Connecticut to move out to big Los Angeles and get buried. Everyone was urging me to do that. I did it later in life. Had I done it ten years earlier, I know I would have still gotten a record deal, I just don’t know who it would have been with. Because I got the record deal regardless, even though I went out there in my 30’s, which is unheard of. Most people go out there in their teens, 20, 21. I think I missed an opportunity and I spent those years, formative years, in nightclubs doing covers but still gaining a reputation, but still I could have used that time better.

Toddstar: Again, as a fan of you personally and House of Lords, but how different did your musical career turn out than you thought it would when you were back with Jasper Wrath putting music out?

James: I thought Jasper Wrath was going to be the be all and the end all, thought it was going to be the next Yes. That’s exactly what I thought. Not only did I think it, but many producers, Phil Ramone being one of them, who produced Billy Joel, numerous artists. Phil Ramone was coming out to see us maybe twice a week, to see the band. Before, it was a month and a half, two months that he did this and then finally offered us a production deal with him. Now, it was an amazing thing. The guy believed in us so much. When that happened, we thought that we had found our perfect match producer that knew what to do with Jasper Wrath. It turns out, at the same time, his partner, I guess, had decided they were either going to do one of the two. They had Janis Ian and Jasper Wrath. The consensus came down to Janis Ian, and the rest is history. We didn’t get signed to that production deal. I was really saddened by that. Jasper Wrath was such an amazing band. Have you ever heard anything by the group?

Toddstar: I actually do have a copy of the anthology that was put out back in the mid 90’s.

James: There was a lot of progressive overtones in that band. Every which way, it was just a very progressive band. Much better live. The only good live recording of that group was a song we did called You. Other than that, maybe General Gunther. We were definitely ahead of where we needed to be at that time. Eventually, it just broke up because we just couldn’t get it off the ground, no matter how hard we tried.

Toddstar: That’s why I asked the question. As you indicated, it had kind of a progressive overtone, which is not totally different, but it’s definitely a left turn from what you’re doing now.

James: We were into bands like Yes and Genesis. Those bands, they were definitely the influence of what Jasper Wrath was doing. We were from Connecticut. We had close people that really wanted us to work out, Rick Wakeman being one of them. We had the broadcasting group, which did the King Biscuit Flower Hour in New York City. Very, very influential people. It’s not like we didn’t have all the elements together, but for some reason we were just not getting that deal. I don’t know why, but we didn’t get the deal we wanted. DIR wasn’t going to settle for. We got a couple of shit offers, but not what they were looking for. Eventually, it just turned sour. So much rehearsal to keep that band tight and to be onstage and play that stuff. I couldn’t even imagine learning it right now, that’s how it was. It was so musical and very challenging. I remember it, but I think to myself now, it was a great learning tool for me in the future. House of Lords is the most progressive that it’s come… House of Lords was, in its sense, a progressive band, not as progressive as Yes and Genesis. More on the commercial side.

Toddstar: I’ve dug most everything you’ve ever put your voice on. I think a lot of it speaks to the voice itself. Closing out, when people grab New World – New Eyes, if you could pick one song that they would listen to that you think is representative of House of Lords in 2020, what song is it?

James: I would say, I’d have to say “We’re All That We Got.” It has nothing to do with vocal performance. It has nothing to do with anything. It’s just a great song with a great message. It’s put together so well because it’s simple, yet it’s intricate. You can hear that there’s a lot of elements that make the song work. Usually songs that give me a great message and a good melody, the melody, the hook of the song, you hear it once and you’ll remember it.

Toddstar: It’s definitely got that for sure. I’ve been able to listen through the disc and I love it. Here’s hoping, when this comes out next week, the world wakes up, grabs a copy of this and digs into it the way they should and that soon life will resume and we can get some touring out of you guys. Again, I know Detroit would love to get their hands and ears on some House of Lords, but we need to get you guys up there and get your music out there some more.

James: Absolutely. I thank you for the interview. Hopefully we’ll be out there soon.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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