An Exclusive Interview With:
Eddie St James is a veteran of the 80s LA metal scene. Having re-located to Germany some years back, his music has gone through different stages and he has carved out a new career there. Early last year he released the double CD “Living With The Bomb”, and is currently working on another 2 CDs of music.
For more on Eddie – check out my previous interview with him at Universal Wheels and check out info and music at: http://www.myspace.com/eddiestjamesband
You had a car accident and some other changes prior to Living With The Bomb. What happened? How did the accident affect your playing or outlook?
ESJ: Yes, with the car accident it was pretty bad: I had been gigging 3 or 4 days straight and was on the way to last gig for that week, which was a Sunday morning brunch Type of thing in the Mosel area-by Trier (well known wine area of Germany). Unfortunately I drove completely in the wrong direction (at that time-2003 I didn’t have GPS) I know my way around Germany very well, but I was in a tired daze and went the wrong way. When I noticed I was about 100km off course I had to cut across some back country roads and that’s when it happened. I came around an off canter corner and a car had stopped in the middle of a 2 way narrow mountain road and I knew that was it, all you could say was OH F**K. I slammed the breaks (no ABS in 2003 - but I’ve got it now) and my bus slid naturally with the momentum into the oncoming traffic. I was actually lucky that there was an oncoming car or else I would have gone off a very high cliff. So after it was all said and done, I had a multiply fractured hip, kneecaps, rib fracture, concussion-etc…I spent 3 months in the hospital (intensive care for a week- because the ambulance driver shot me up with way too much morpheme, they thought my heart was going to stop. It also turned into a very weird, bad LSD type of experience, I was seeing and hearing things that were indescribable) and then 3 months at home in bed. After I was out of I.C. the doctor walks into my room and says to me, “by the way Mr. St. James, you’re not going to be able to walk again”- I told him, we’ll see about that. It took awhile and a couple of operations and working out-etc. but I got 80 to 90% back, and I’m still working on it but I’m satisfied with my recovery. How it affected my playing? Well, first off- thank God that my hands didn’t get broken and I had a lot more free time to practice and that’s what I did, so that was a positive side effect. My outlook now was: I thought man; it’s a lot easier to die than it is to live. But I’m glad to be alive and I have a lot to live for.
Living With The Bomb was recorded fairly quickly [24 hours?]. I presume the songs were well written ahead of time? What do you recall of recording this album [and a 2 CD set, no less]?
ESJ: Yes, I had the songs written (partly years before) and some were relatively new, I am constantly writing material- it just comes to me. When I sit down to practice guitar, there’s always a riff or a chord progression that jumps out at me and I immediately hear a new song. I have a tremendous back-log, I find it strange when I hear that a lot bands or musicians have writing blocks and sometimes it takes them years to come up with something. The thing that I remember the most about doing this CD/album (Living with the bomb) was, that we only had one good microphone, no headphones, no outboard gear (compressors, gates-etc.) for the drums and that I was producing it all on my own. I have to say that I consider this album to be of a very good or decent demo quality, I’m not real happy with the drum sound for obvious reasons. I also did the mix down in 2 days, a rush job, because of financial reasons, otherwise I would have taken at least a week. I talked to the very well known producer Michael Wagner and he told me, “Whatever you do don’t spend more than 8hrs a day on the mix, after that you wont be able to hear anything anymore”, so I took his advice.
You sang as well as played all of the guitar. Do you consider yourself a singer as well as a guitarist, or a guitarist first – who sings his stuff?
ESJ: I started out just as a guitar player- I never had the intention of becoming a singer, but through necessity and the fact that I didn’t want to be dependent anymore on some arrogant, moody person to be able to do gigs and make a living, made me become my own singer. At first I considered myself a guitar player trying to sing, then after a few years and a lot of practice-etc. I started to feel comfortable and confident with it. So, now I consider myself a singing guitar player and also a singer and guitarist. I know I’m not the greatest singer in the world, but at least I know I can depend on myself.
You have a real knack for coming up with some cool riffs and great solos. How do you usually put together a song [as I think your licks are your best features]?
ESJ: Thank you very much for the compliment, it’s always nice to be appreciated for any aspect of one’s artistic output. It’s very funny about coming up with the riffs, I don’t consider myself to be a very good cover musician, when I try to learn somebody else’s chops I end up playing it completely wrong (although now, I’ve also improved greatly in this area) so, I end up creating something original a lot of times by accident. In my earlier days, I use to just shoot from the hip- in regards to creating the solos, but now days I can hear what I want to play before I even pick up the guitar and that makes it a lot easier. I also listen to everybody that I consider to be exceptional guitar players for inspiration (regardless of style), i.e. Lynch, Benson, EVH, G. Moore, Montgomery, Montoya. I love all types of music, rock, blues, jazz, flamenco, etc. especially when there’s a good guitar player in the mix. How I put the songs together? This is also a bit of a transcendental experience for me, the music writes itself, the song will always tell you where it wants to go- all you have to do is listen and follow it. I’ve noticed that a lot of times when a song isn’t working it’s because I’m trying to force into a direction it doesn’t want to go. Basically it’s a very easy philosophy, there should be a strong melodic opening theme, a melodic verse and chorus that steps up a notch and repeat till bridge-etc. Bono said it best, “all you need are 3 chords and the truth!”
You’re also currently working on another 2 CD set – on electric and one acoustic? You’ve stated the electric disc will be a modern rock album and the acoustic disc essentially uses up a backlog of songs you had!? Will the electric disc be heavier than Living With The Bomb, and will the discs be released together or separately?
ESJ: Yes, there is a 10 song full out rock disc and a 10 song full out acoustic disc. Yes, the electric disc will be as modern as possible in terms of using some modern keyboard sounds, maybe a loop or two and production wise. I am still an old school type of musician, but I can also appreciate some of the newer or modern sound and production trends. The acoustic disc will consist of some songs that I use do as electric songs with the band (that also work well as acoustic numbers) and others were simply written a while back and left on the back burner until now. The electric disc side will be a tick heavier than the L.W.T.B. disc and this will all be released together as a complete 20 song CD package.
You’re working with your keyboard player Mike Leukel on the new album? Will the keyboards have a slightly different or more prominent role on your new electric album?
ESJ: Mike is a very talented musician and producer; he’s also worked with members of Eric Burden’s band, members of Iron Butterfly, etc. The keyboards do sometimes play an important role in my music, but also sometimes are used just as an under-lying fundament. Mike is also a very good guitar player, so if a song has to be guitar dominated, than Mike can jump in along on his guitar. Although his primary function on the CD will be keyboards, co-arranging, backup singing and also very importantly co-producing/engineering, etc.
Can you tell me about a few of the new songs, from each disc? Any titles? Any songs that stand out for you? Any stories behind them?
ESJ: The CD is called “Streets cry freedom” and that is also the title track. There will also be an acoustic song called “Why should I believe” Along with 2 other cuts, the James Bond theme (our own very rocked out version), I’m a J.B. fan. The 4th cut on the promo-CD will be a number called “Rock & Roll ain’t dead (it just smells funny)”. Of course there’s always an inspiration or story behind the songs, “Streets cry freedom” deals with all the current issues: War, 3rd World slavery, the loss of basic rights, etc. it sounds like a drag of a song, but it’s actually sarcastically upbeat. James Bond is just a fun thing to play and we re-arranged it for us- I want to send a copy to the producer of the films and see if they would interested in using it. Rock & roll ain’t dead… is an upbeat sarcastic type of song- the song is here, because I feel that the good old rock style the I (we) grew up on is pretty much on a very low ebb right now. Not too many bands or kids that want to really learn or play a real instrument by hand- not talking about the guitar hero game either.
How is the current live scene in Germany for your band?
A: For bands it’s difficult, with the economy and this and that, nobody wants to take any chances right now. But for me as a solo “singing/guitarist” I do very well- ok, I gotta play some silly songs once in awhile to make everybody happy-But that’s better than digging a ditch for 10hrs a day, aint it? No girls show up to flirt and party with you while your doing construction work either. I’m very happy with the way it’s going and I always working and that’s a good thing in this business. You also get to drink on the job, where else can you do this and still get paid.
Do you ever foresee yourself returning to North America to record or perform someday?
A: Yes, I was invited last
year to play at the Rocklahoma Festival, but was not able to go, I had a
very tight schedule over here, so we’ll see if it happens this year or not.
I wouldn’t mind going to Canada and doing some shows there. I would very
happy to record again over in America; always had good experiences and
Review: © Kevin J. Julie /
Thanks to Eddie and to Ron Mann.