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INTERVIEW: JIM PETERIK – April 2015

| 12 April 2015 | Reply

Legend – what does it mean?  It has different definitions, depending on who you ask.  When it comes to music over the last 50 years, you get a lot of answers, but how many are still doing it this many years later?  In melodic rock, the list is short.  Jim Peterik is one of the legends that is still creating new projects, new music, and keeping older bands together as well.  I was lucky enough to speak with Jim on the eve of leaving to fly to Milan for a big melodic rock festival being held by Frontiers Records.  Let’s see what Jimbo had to say about all of his “stuff”…

Jim Peterik

Toddstar: Jim, how are you doing today?

Jim: Great. Where are you located?

Toddstar: I’m just north of Detroit actually.

Jim: Very cool, very cool. Well thank you for talking to me today.

Toddstar: Oh no, it’s an honor man, it’s a total honor.

Jim: Thank you, man.

Toddstar: Am I calling you in Chicago or are you out and about today?

Jim: No, Chicago. I leave for Milan on Friday for a big Pride of Lions gig. We’re headlining a big stunt there, but I’m chilling and trying to… Got a sore throat and trying to get that thing cured, but yeah, everything’s good really.

Toddstar: Awesome. Tell us more about this festival. We’re going to talk about a little bit of everything, but tell us about this festival you guys are heading out to play in Milan.

Jim: Yeah, well I think you’re probably aware, if you’re into at all Melodic Rock at all, a label called Frontiers. They’re really the only label that’s really doing anything with the bands from the 80’s and even newer bands that have that sound. I’ve been with Frontiers for 15 years. Pride of Lions, the Jim Peterik album, the new Peterik/Scherer record, and they’re just good folks. This is the second year they’ve had this festival in Milan and most of the acts, probably all of the acts are Frontiers artists. There’s this giant club in Milan, I can’t remember what it’s called right now but it holds 2,500. It’s a 2-day fest … Last year, Night Ranger headlined it and they said it was just insane. This year, Pride of Lions is headlining it. We’re the final act on the second day, April 12 and we’re bringing special guest Marc Scherer up. Frontiers is just about to release Jim Peterik/Marc Scherer, a new singer I discovered. Pre-reviews are just incredible. We have a video up for the first single called “Cold Blooded” which is getting great, great views so we’re pumped.

Toddstar: Well let’s talk about the Jim Peterik/Marc Scherer album album Risk Everything. You talk about the first single, the first video “Cold Blooded” yet this thing comes out the gate with title track “Risk Everything” and it just doesn’t look back. It’s got that classic Jimbo sound to it.

Jim: Thank you man.

Toddstar: How is it … excuse me for sounding like every other journalist out there, but how is it that you can churn out album after album of huge melodic hooks without repeating yourself?

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Jim: [laughs] Well, thank you. I don’t know. Sometimes you do find yourself going, “Holy shit, I wrote that already.” Then you have to take a step back and go, “Okay.” No, but new ideas are always popping into my head. It’s all about the singer really. When I’m inspired by a great singer, I can do great things. I’ve been blessed to write for some of the greatest singers in rock, starting with Dave Bickler and then of course the great Jimi Jamison, Don Barnes [.38 Special] and Sammy Hagar and Toby Hitchcock and now Marc Scherer. Writing for my own voice is a lot of fun too, and certainly I’m a decent singer, but I really get off on the guys that have the four and a half, five octave ranges that I can really go crazy. That’s when my melodic sense really kicks in and I can write some really good melodies. My heritage is Czech. You can be from anywhere and be a good melody writer, but a lot of my ancestors in Czechoslovakia were very melodic writers. I’m talking about the 1800s, 1700s. Maybe I got a little of that in me, but for me, you put a great melody with a great uplifting lyric and you make some magic.

Toddstar: It’s funny because you made the comment that you’ll write something and think, “I already wrote that,” but, I think it’s that magic you’re talking about; the combination of a different hook with a different lyric, with a different melody with a different vocal. All of a sudden something that you may perceive as rehashed, somebody else is going, “Holy Mackerel!”

Jim: It’s funny because sometimes I’ll do a prototype on a song and I’ll get it, it will be good. Then the next one will be better and the next one will be better. I was perfecting the great power ballad ever since the first days of Survivor, when I would write on the first album, “Nothing Can Shake Me (From Your Love)”. Then second album, another ballad. Third album I had a thing called “I Never Stopped Loving You”. I kept refining the ballad until finally on Vital Signs … I hit pay dirt and it was the ultimate distillation of everything I’ve been trying to do and it’s called “The Search Is Over”. Bingo, I had a classic hit. Sometimes you just work at a certain genre until you get it just fine tuned.

Toddstar: You’ve definitely done that, but let’s be honest you’ve been doing it 50 years.

Jim: [laughs] Yeah, pretty much. The Ides Of March just put together a 50 years compilation, the box set. That’s coming out next month. It’s 50 years of The Ides. From the first single we put out called “Like It Or Lump It”, which we financed by playing gigs and saving up our money, to the big one, “Vehicle,” then into the future with three brand new songs that we’re putting on the record. It just keeps coming. Inspiration comes from different places. I love the melodic thing that I do with Pride of Lions, Survivor, and now Peterik/Scherer. But I also love the Ides of March thing which is, with me singing, the range of the melodies aren’t going to be the same. But you get the brass and you get the excitement of that kind of a little bit of R&B/Soul thing mixed in. I’m not a snob with one genre of music. I love so many different kinds of music. Something that keeps me fresh is the variation.

Toddstar: You talk about loving different kinds of music, but it shows in what you do. Not everything has that three chord rock sound. Not everything has a huge guitar sound. Not everything has the overbearing keyboard sound. Even the vocals, whether you’re doing something with Lifeforce, or you’re doing the Pride of Lions, or the new Peterik/Scherer album, everything changes and picks up on these different influences that you had. What about music now? Is there anything out there that you still draw influence from in the newer music that’s out today?

Jim: Oh yeah. My son, Colin, is always bringing stuff home. I’m not going to be able to cite a lot of… I really like the new Beck album. He’s not new obviously, but he’s just making some terrific music. A group called OK Go that combines really good rock music with incredible visuals. I’m blanking out but I’m always re-energized by new music. Especially the stuff that he plays for me because Colin has really good taste. He really brings home some good product.

Toddstar: You mentioned all these things, you mentioned the Ides of March and we talked a little bit about all of that, but your real passion comes through. It came through for me when I recently traveled on vacation. I was able to enjoy your book Through the Eye of the Tiger on that trip. I couldn’t put it down. The book was phenomenal.

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Jim: Oh cool, thank you.

Toddstar: What I like is that it did give everybody an insight into what ‘drove’ you to write “Vehicle”. Everything that came before that, the work and everything. I like that it helped others understand that you weren’t a flash in the pan that was big from ’82 to ’88 with Survivor. Looking back, if there’s anything you could change about the book, what would it be?

Jim: Well, I haven’t read it in so long. By the way, I wrote every word of that book. A lot of times when an author says, “With so-and-so…” Lisa Torem was a really good guide post and editor, but I wrote every word. I don’t know that I would change anything about the book. I would like to change a lot of things about my life, but that’s a different story. The book, I wish I had another 200 pages. They held me to a certain amount of pages. There are a lot of stories that didn’t get printed, a lot of insights that I would have liked to have shared and a lot of stories that I could have gotten sued for. That I couldn’t put in. I’m creating a website, it’s all there but it’s not very filled out yet. It’s going to be called, Through the Eye of the Tiger: The Book and it’s going to be linked off of my site. I’m going to do a lot of the stuff that got left on the cutting room floor. It could have been 2 books. How do you condense a life in 300 pages?

Toddstar: Especially a life like yours, let’s be honest. You’ve had the highs, the lows, and everywhere in between. I grew up in the late ’70s and ’80s. You’re part of the soundtrack of my life, Jim, so it’s kind of cool.

Jim: Cool.

Toddstar: Looking back now, if there were a couple of songs… If you had to pick for the book part 2, what song title would there be for part 2 of that book, Jim?

Jim: I don’t know if I’ve written it yet. I’m very fond of a song that I wrote with Brian Wilson that became the title of their 2012 comeback album “That’s Why God Made the Radio.” Being able to write with one of my heroes like that and the song going to #1 in many parts of the world, that was an achievement that I didn’t think I would reach. I never think that it’s over for me; I always know that there’s going to be new horizons, but that one was particularly satisfying. I’d probably call the next book “That’s Why God Made the Radio,” because radio is really what lit the flame. When I was 5 years old and my parents had the little radio in the living room and we’re listening to Elvis Presley. Then The Beatles came on. I had my little transistor radio underneath my pillow. It’s all about the radio. I remember the first time I was driving down I-55 and they said, “New from The Ides of March, “Vehicle” (singing). I just about ran off the road. Those are the things you remember. It’s all based on the radio.

Toddstar: That’s a great analogy and a great insight into the way that you’ve come full circle in everything that you do.

Jim: Yeah.

Toddstar: Speaking of full circle, let’s get back to “Risk Everything.” This album again, I’m listening to “Cold Blooded” right now, just with huge hooks. Looking back at the assemblance of this album, are there any songs here that just fought you tooth and nail from inception to completion? It didn’t wind up the way you wanted or you had to rework over and over?

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Jim: Yeah. The song called “Broken Home.” I knew there was something in that song that was really special. It’s really Marc’s story because he is divorced and he has the children and shares the children. It’s very tug-of-war. We started talking about that and we wrote the song “Broken Home.” But getting it right… Serafino… he’s the head of Frontiers, Serafino Perugino. He’s kind of my mentor in a way because he’s really hard on me, which is really irritating, but at the same time he expects the best from me. If he wasn’t so demanding, I probably wouldn’t write as good. I just know he’s going to throw it in the trash can if it ain’t great.  I sent him a demo of “Broken Home” and he kept going, “My system is broken. Send it again. It sounds like shit.” I’d send it again and he says, “There’s something wrong with this recording.” I’m going, “There’s nothing wrong with the recording.” The bottom line was he didn’t like it. He didn’t like the way it was recorded. I said, “No, you’re hearing what I sent you, but if you don’t like it then I got to start over,” and I did. The first version was trying to be trendy. It was the same melody and all, but it was trying to be modern. I can’t describe it, it’s very subtle. I realized, “No, if this song’s going to fly, I’ve got to play by the rules.” I re-cut it like I would as if I was back in 1988 doing Too Hot to Sleep or something. It worked out great. Everybody loves it.

Toddstar: It’s a big track and the emotion of the lyrics definitely come through in the vocal and in the playing as well.

Jim: It has a mood to it. It’s a very moody song.

Toddstar: It is, but it’s not one of those moody, where you want to hang your head moody.

Jim: I like the emotion of a bitter sweet thing. I like that feeling like we got on “Desperate Dreams” on Too Hot to Sleep. It’s happy sad. It’s in between. It’s a cool mood.

Toddstar: That’s what you do well.

Jim: Thanks.

Toddstar: On the other side of the coin, any songs on this new disc, where they just … Couldn’t get them out fast enough? They were just ready to go the minute you thought of them?

Jim: Yeah, I think “Risk Everything” is that song. I was in Italy with my family just on vacation. It was really funny, I ran into Jack Blades in Florence. He had just done that same festival that I’m doing on… coming up. The next day, we took a train. Not me and Jack, but me and my family, took a train to Rome and while I was going through Vatican City, that day, I wrote 2 songs. I wrote “Thee Crescendo” in Vatican City with my little iPhone. People thought I was cray and I didn’t care. Then going through the streets of Rome, I wrote “Risk Everything”. I go, “Marc is an unknown guy. I don’t care. I’m risking everything. I’m putting my face behind this voice, this guy.” Marc, by the way, is just a super human being as well. As soon as I got home, I played them for Marc. He goes, “Okay let’s go. Let’s go.” I assembled the troops and we cut both of those on the same day. It was just magic.

Toddstar: Like I told you, I thought “Risk Everything” comes out both guns blazing and just captures the mood. It really sets the pace for the rest of the disc.

Jim: Thank you. It also inspired the album artwork. It was one of the first songs we finished. Mellum Delomo, he was the art director for the project. He wanted to hear some music, so we sent him “Risk Everything” and the verse, “If the world would come to fire, I would find you in the flames, lift you from the smoke and ash and breathe new life into your veins.” He took that phrase and created the cover of the world in peril with this scarab beetle holding it up and a car coming on the horizon. It’s almost like the end of the world. He created it from that lyric. It was pretty cool.

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Toddstar: It’s cool artwork. I’m glad you pointed that out. It’s a great insight. You have so many accolades, you’ve had so many awards, but rumor has it that there’s another award that you either just got, or is right on the horizon with young kids… [leading Jim]

Jim: Oh yeah. Boy, you’re up to date, Man. I just found out about it. About 5 days ago I was at the bar having a martini and I had a call from Matt Engelbert who is Ariel, Zoey and Eli’s dad. “Jimbo, Jimbo!” It sounded like there’s a party in the back, everyone’s screaming. “What? What? Cool down.” He goes, “You won’t believe this. We just got nominated for a Daytime Emmy for our series ‘Steal the Show.’ For a particular episode called Keep on Swimming. I was blown away. I said, “Is this what I think it is?” He goes, “Yeah, this is a big deal.” We’re going to Hollywood. We may not win but the nomination is enormous. We’ve been doing the show for two years and I love doing it. It’s just a real cool thing and this season’s going to be better than ever, with better production. I love the kids, there’s a lot of growth there. To be recognized out of the millions and millions of shows and products. I’m really proud of the kids, proud of the whole team.

Toddstar: What’s next? You’ve done everything Jim. There’s no stopping you. What else do you still want to do?

Jim: Well, I’ll tell you what. I’m going to do a Broadway show eventually. Hopefully be on Broadway. I’m definitely going to do a play, in conjunction with some people that I know with the University of Michigan. I’m not sure exactly what it’s going to be yet. It’s going to be based around my music. It’s going to be probably on the order of what they did with the ABBA songs, with Mamma Mia; wrap a story around the songs. Everything from “Like It or Lump It” to the newest Ides of March song “Last Band Standing.” That’s the goal. That’s in the distant future, not this year and not next.

Toddstar: Sure, sure. You’ve written for, recorded with, shared the stage with so many of today’s stars and stars of the past. Is there anybody out there that still is on that get list, you want to share a studio with or share a stage with?

Jim: Yeah, so many. Unfortunately, a lot of them are dead, but of the live ones, I’m a big fan of the Rolling Stones. I was a Beatles guy growing up and I liked the Stones, but now the Stones are like cockroaches. They won’t die and their music’s still great and vital. Big Keith Richards fan. I would love to just… I don’t care if we write a song. I just want to hang with him. I want to swap stories and grab some of that wisdom that they have. You only get that through living it. I’m reading a book now called, Keith Richards on Keith Richards. You’ve got to pick it up. It’s all his interviews from ’64 to the present. That guy is such a wise man. Such a talent. I never realized what a huge part he was in the song writing process of all those great Rolling Stones songs. Irreplaceable.

Toddstar: I’ll definitely pick it up. If it’s anything like your book, I’m in.

Jim: Cool.

Toddstar: Looking back Jim, if there were 1 or 2 things personally and/or professionally that you’re most proud of or that you want to be remembered for, what would you want your epitaph to be?

Jim: Wow. That’s a pretty heavy question. I think I always thought this, that the words on my tombstone would be, “The Search Is Over.” It’s such a message because so many of us search all our lives and it’s right in front of you the whole time. That line in the song, “I’ve been around the world but looking in the wrong places. You’ve come full circle and you find it right in your heart. It’s inside you all the time.” To me that’s the best message anyone could ever get, is that it’s all there. You just have to find it within yourself. I could write a song in a prison cell. It doesn’t matter where you are, it’s what’s inside.

Toddstar: Wow. Hell, I couldn’t have said that any better Jim.

Jim: Cool.

Toddstar: With everything that’s going on, you’re traveling now to Milan for this festival that you’re going to headline with Pride of Lions. Any chance the Peterik/Scherer album will get any tour support stateside?

Jim: I hope so. I hope so. You know that he’s joining us on stage in Milan, we mentioned that. Right now my sights are set on other things. I want to get the Peterik/Scherer thing out and promote it, but I also have a really busy summer of promoting the box set. The Ides of March box set Last Band Standing. If we do anything with Marc it would probably be later in the year. Say if it was Pride of Lions, I’m putting that a bit … I’m going to start an album with Pride of Lions late this year but we wouldn’t be touring til next year. The Ides is a big priority. You only turn 50 once.

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Toddstar: Sure. Well then, how do we see you in places like Detroit?

Jim: We’re booking shows now. We never stop playing, but our sweet market of course is Chicago land. We’re trying to expand beyond that. For a band like The Ides of March, you have to realize you’re pigeonholed in to the oldies thing and that means casinos, it means conventions. I don’t mind any of that. Free festivals, things like that. Performing Arts Centers. It’s not the Ides are going to go out and play 100 dates a year. We do our 40 shows a year and we have a blast. They’re big deals. In Chicago, we can fill up just about any place. We’re working on it. Hopefully the box set will shed some light on the history of the band and we’ll get more shows.

Toddstar: I’ll make sure everybody checks out theidesofmarch.com where they can see that you’ve already got 3 dates booked in Illinois for the year and another up in Minnesota. They can get the information on the 50 year box set and also make sure that they know that on top of The Ides of March stuff.  You also have the Peterik/Scherer album, and  a new project in the works from Pride of Lions.  You are one of the busiest men in music.

Jim: I intend to keep that way. I love it too much. It keeps me going. I have a great family, I’ve been married, as you know because you read the book, 43 years in September. Colin is 25 years old, bright as a whip, great singer/songwriter, engineer. Has a couple of bands he plays with. He is married to Meredith, a wonderful gal. Every day you have to count your blessings. I always say, “If God sees that I’m appreciating it, maybe he’ll let me keep it.”

Toddstar: Truer words have never been spoken. Well listen Jimbo, we appreciate you taking time out. We appreciate everything you’ve done and I personally appreciate you being a part of my life through your music and through your words.

Jim: Thanks Todd. It was a pleasure talking to you.

Toddstar: Safe travels to Milan and I look forward to the next project.

Jim: All right brother. Thanks man.

Toddstar: Thanks Jimbo.

 

JIM PETERIK LINKS:

OFFICIAL SITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

 

IDES OF MARCH

PRIDE OF LIONS

Todd ‘ToddStar’ Jolicoeur

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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