Intervju med Jake E Lee.
Jake E Lee, som under många år varit frånvarande i musikbranschen, är nu tillbaka med ett nytt band, Red Dragon Cartel. Självfallet ville jag snacka med honom. Han spelar ju bl a på en av mina absoluta favoritlåtar med Ozzy Osbourne, "Bark at the moon".
Jag höjde lite på ögonbrynen när jag insåg att jag skulle ringa upp honom halv ett på natten i Las Vegas. Efter att ha försökt ringa i en kvart och antingen fått upptagetton eller ingen ton alls, svarar hans flickvän Amy. En mycket trevlig kvinna som börjar småsnacka om allt möjligt då Jake inte riktigt var redo. Hon är en enkel flicka från mellanvästern, hon gillar katter och hon nämner i förbifarten att de nyligen kommit hem från studion och en cocktailbar. Hmmmm... Nåväl, hon berättar om en japansk tidning som publicerat ett specialnummer om Jake och att hon var lika stolt som en mamma är över sin son och bär med sig ett exemplar i handväskan så hon kan visa alla hon träffar.
Efter ytterligare några minuter är då gitarristen redo för ett samtal och inleder skrattandes med att berätta att han är ganska onykter. Hmmm... dock visar det sig inte vara några större problem och vi har ett avslappnat samtal om lite allt möjligt.
Are you a bit of a night owl since I´m calling you at 1 am?
Jake: Yeah, ever since I was a kid. When I was like 8 or 9, my parents would tell me to go to bed and I´d go to bed and I´d lie there in bed bored. Eventually I started sneaking out my bedroom window and just wander the streets at midnight when I was just a little kid. I think I was born that way.
Is that the time when you´re the most creative as well?
Jake: Yeah, everything happens at night. To me, rock and roll is a night time thing. I never understood the KISS song “I wanna rock and roll…”
"All night and party every day"?
Jake: “Party every day and…” Oh, ok I understood that. (laughs) I don´t understand the partying every day, but I understand the rock and rolling all night. The first time I got in a band I was 15 and that entailed me playing from like 8 or 9 at night until 1 or 2 in the morning and that´s when rock and roll happens to me. Every time I´ve recorded, be it “Bark at the moon” or all the Badland stuff, it would never start earlier than 6 in the afternoon, early evening and it would go until 5 or 6 in the morning. To me, that´s when rock and roll happens. Rock and roll is not a day time thing to me. I don´t know if anybody else thinks that, but to me it´s a night time thing and maybe it is because I´m a night owl? Rock and roll is supposed to be dirty and mysterious and dangerous and that´s all more of a night time thing.
Jake: No, no regrets. I was very content with having nothing to do with it for the 15 or 20 years that I didn´t. Now seems right. It seems like if I´m ever gonna do anything it should be now in my twilight years. In the late 90´s early 2000´s, I wasn´t cool. To be Jake E Lee was to be lumped into hair metal or at best blues rock and musically I´d already done those things and I wanted to expand somehow and not be confined to that. The industry was only gonna relegate that to me at that time. Now it´s been so long and I´m such a wild card whether I´m gonna do anything or not and now it feels more freeing as far as I can do whatever I want and not have to conform to somebody´s preconceptions on what it is I should be playing.
Still, there were a lot of musicians that went through times when their name wasn´t as exciting anymore and still they kept playing and doing their thing, but you just kinda left it all?
Jake: Yeah, yeah… hmm… that is an interesting observation that nobody else has made. Hmm, I think that my motivation for doing this is solely about the music and the music is entirely how it makes me feel. I started playing piano when I was six because I asked my parents to buy me a piano because I felt that I needed to play music. If you believe in that kinda shit, I think that´s why I was put on earth. “Here you are, you´re gonna make music!”. My motivation was never about being popular, it was never about money and it was never about particularly pleasing the masses. It was about music and what it meant to me and just making an artistic expression. A lot of my contemporaries in the 80´s and early 90´s… I can´t speak for them, but I don´t think their motivation was so much making something they felt was an expression of art, so much as remaining contemporary or making money. I´m not bemoaning them as far as being “Sure, you should be able to make some money and make a living”, but to me that was never what music was about. It was about doing something with integrity and with some meaning to somebody, as opposed to “Well, I need to pay this month´s rent.”. A lot of people kept on going, but by the early to mid 90´s I realized nobody was gonna take me seriously as far as what I had to offer and I felt like I had to offer, but everybody was pigeonholing me as far as that being a hair metal guy or at best a blues rock guy. I didn´t think I was either… I was both of those, but I didn´t think I was only that and since I wasn´t being offered anything that would help me expand musically, I figured I would just bow out.
On the new album, there are two tracks that really stand out for me and that´s “Deceived” and “Fall from the sky”. What can you tell me about those songs?
Jake: That´s really interesting that you would say that and I appreciate it. “Deceived” was the most recent track we wrote. The oldest one was probably the one that Maria Brink did, “Big man”? “Big mouth”? (Girlfriend Amy corrects him in the background.) “Big mouth”, right. That track is probably the oldest one on the record as far as when I first came up with that riff and the song, whereas “Deceived” is the newest one and people listening to that might think the opposite. “Deceived”, I wrote going to the studio. I was listening to the radio and “Bark at the moon” came on and I hadn´t heard that song… I don´t even have the CD and I don´t listen to shit that I did before because I already did it and it kinda bores me, but I heard it on the radio and I was like “Wow!”. It was really a distinctive, as far as guitar progression and riff, as far as that stamp the guitar made, it was kinda unique and I realized that, as I was listening to it, that I should make another one in that vein. I don´t listen to radio that much and as far as I knew, nobody else had done one in that vein and since I wrote that, I thought it would be interesting to write one 30 years after and recognizing that particular pattern. I went to the studio that night saying “Ok, here´s the guitar stamp! I ned to come up with a different pattern.” And we came up with a different one from one of my old tracks that I had on my computer. The chord progression was a lot more different and it was a much more keyboard oriented and a lot slower, but I took that and put the pattern of “Bark at the moon” over on top of it and thought it was really cool. Hopefully people won´t think it´s a rip off, because I don´t think it is, but it is a nod to what I had done previously and it is in actuality the newest song on the record. “Fall from the sky” I think is a really good song. As far as I am concerned, that´s one of my best solos on the record. That one I probably wrote like 12 years ago or something. I was trying to be Prince. (laughs) I was thinking “Purple rain” and I wanted to write something like that and that´s how I came up with that progression. Ron (Mancuso) wrote the melody and the lyric over that progression and it came out really cool. In my original writing of it I just had a chord progression and I didn´t have a solo on it, but once Ron had written the melody and lyrics to it and it was time for the guitar solo, it was just off the cuff. I plugged in and just went “Let´s see what I can come up with!”. I think that was the second take on that and I really love that solo. To me that´s what music is all about. It´s about expressing, in an audio form, human emotions. To me it was never about technique or how fast can this guy play? It´s all about expressing emotions in an audio form and to me, I think that in that solo in particular, I came close.
The name of the band then? It makes me think of some Asian mob or something.
Jake: I know! Gambling, hookers… (laughs) It sounds really cool. I wish I could come up with some really cool story about how it came about, but it was really Kevin Churko. Once we realized it should be more than Jake E Lee, because originally when we started doing it, it was gonna be Jake E Lee and a bunch of guest vocalists, mid way through that we realized that we should get a band going. That way we could tour and we needed to come up with a band name and that´s really hard and the further along it goes, it gets even harder because all the cool band names have been taken. “Black Sabbath!”. How are you gonna come up with a better name than that? You can´t. Well, “Shotgun Messiah”, if you remember them? That was a really great name and eventually all the really good names are gone and you can´t think of any, so we were racking our brains. Kevin has his studio right next to Ron´s and he came over and we were going “We´re trying to think of a band name!” and he just came out with “What about Red Dragon Cartel?” and we were like “Wow! Really?” and we said “Where did that come from? And he just went “I don´t know!”. That´s how we came up with the name. We played around with the colors, like Black Dragon Cartel, but there are too many band names that start with Black, so it came back to Red because Pink didn´t sound right. (laughs) If we decide to be a blues band we can always be the Blue Dragon Cartel.
A different question. That first “Metal massacre” album which features Ratt´s “Tell the world”, did you play on that one?
Jake: No and I´ve heard that before. I never played that song, I don´t know that song and I definitely didn´t record that song! I didn´t record anything with Ratt other than a rehearsal we recorded one time on a boom box. I think Stephen Pearcy did release those tapes, but I did not play on that. And there´s another thing, “Dr Rock”, where people say I played on it, but I have no idea what that song is and I´ve never played that song. The only recorded thing I ever did with Ratt is that recorded rehearsal on a boom box where it´s obviously me, whereas “Dr Rock” and “Tell the world” doesn´t sound like me because it isn´t.
What was it like growing up in San Diego ?
Jake: San Diego is awesome although I didn´t think that growing up there. I grew up in Imperial Beach which is 2 miles from the border. San Diego to me was the boondocks. It was hillbilly California as far as I was concerned. The whole time I was growing up and playing in bands in San Diego and getting to the level where I was in the band Teaser… we were the biggest band in San Diego but it was still just a covers band and nobody cared, nobody was listening to us, to me it was always about eventually getting to LA and the big time. If I could get to LA and make a name for myself there, then I did something. It wasn´t until 1980 that I finally decided that I was gonna go to LA and go where the big boys are and see if I can do something there. That is what happened. I got to LA and played with the big boys and became one of them and it all worked out, but there were a lot of lean years. As far as San Diego, I didn´t appreciate it when I grew up, but now me and Amy have been down there a couple of times on vacation and San Diego is awesome! More than anything I took the weather for granted. When I was a kid you´d go “Oh, it´s winter time and it´s only 60 degrees!” and then in summer time it was like 80 degrees and I thought that was hot. It wasn´t until I moved to other places in the world that I realized that “Damn, that was really good weather!”. When everybody talked to me when I was younger going “You´re from San Diego? That´s so cool!” and I would go “No it´s not! What the fuck is your problem?” (laughs). Now I realize that it is cool. It´s just too bad that the prices are so high. I would love to have a house there. If you like Mexican food, San Diego is the place! It´s only a couple of miles from Tijuana and they have the best. I remember growing up as a teenager we would sneak into Tijuana because you could drink there and they didn´t care how old you were and they had these food carts and they had the absolute best tacos in the world, but it was always a 50/50 chance that you would get sick. (laughs) Either way they were the most delicious tacos in the world.
Jake: Is that the one where the drum riser didn´t come down from the ceiling?
Exactly and there´s also some footage at the beginning of it of some girls driving around in LA.
Jake: I think one of the girls was Moon Zappa. That show was early in the tour and I don´t understand why they shot it? It was like our third gig on that tour and shit hadn´t been worked out yet and that was the first time that happened. We´re starting and we´re playing and Randy´s (Castillo) supposed to come down from the ceiling, so we could actually look at him and he was still way up there. When you have that kind of a stage set up, it´s very disjointed and especially back in those days when there were no backing tapes or click tracks or anything. It all depended on the drummer´s beat and that´s the beat you played to and when he´s way up in the ceiling it makes it a lot harder. Sure, he´s still coming through the monitors, but you still wanna be able to peak over your shoulder and see the drummer. It was really weird. It was a weird gig. The sad part of that is that it´s the visual documentation of that tour and it was very early on before we synched up and did really good shows. That was a sub par show and in retrospect that´s kinda sad that that show is the one that represents that tour. It was probably one of the worst shows we did. They should´ve taped it six months later when we were on our game.
Still they released it? Was it a money issue?
Jake: It´s always a money issue. Not so much with me now or even with Badlands, but when I was with Ozzy it was always a money issue. Like the “Bark at the moon” album, I hated the way it sounded. It was remixed by Tony Bongiovi and when he first played it for me and asked me what I thought, I told him “I hate it! It sounds wimpy! It sounds pussy! What happened to my guitar, it sounded good before?”. At that point Ozzy kinda looked at Sharon and said “Maybe we should redo it?” and Sharon said “No! There´s no more money and it needs to come out. This is what it is.”. It´s always about money with Ozzy. Well, I don´t know if it always is, but it was then. “Bark at the moon” could´ve been such a better album, but it came out because of money issues.
I know that Sharon contacted you a couple of times over the years about playing with Ozzy again, but nothing came of it. If she called you six months from now, saying that Gus G has left, they´re thinking about bringing you back in and do a tour, would you do it?
Jake: No, I don´t think so. I did that for four years and it was a great time in my life. I played at the first Rock in Rio in front of what I think was like 500.000 people and I played the US Festival, which was like 300.000 people and I played all over the world. It was a wonderful time for me, but I did that. For me to rejoin Ozzy… hmmm… would be like trying to relive my glory days and I don´t feel the need to do that. Musically I just wanna go where I feel I need to go. It would be like taking a step backwards for me, unless they were willing to do a new record and… hmmm… I would think about it! (laughs) To answer your question, I would think about it because obviously the money would be good and although I never ever will preface any decision I make musically, on money, because it would be like whoring out the one thing I have to offer the world. I wouldn´t do that for money, but I´m not opposed to it either as long as I can do it with some integrity. Money wouldn´t be a bad thing, I like money because money buys things… I would consider it, but I don´t think it would ever happen because artistically I don´t think we could ever come to terms, really.