HOUSE OF LORDS
vocalist James Christian
INTERVIEW AND PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJALA
House of Lords is a Californian hard rock band formed in 1987. The band released its self-titled album in 1988 through Gene Simmons record label Simmons Records. The record sold respectably and included hit singles “I Wanna Be Loved” and “Love Don’t Lie”. SAHARA followed one year later and it included another successful single “Can’t Find My Way Home”. At this stage, the band and went through several line-up changes and eventually they split soon after the release of 1992 album DEMON’S DOWN. The original band returned in 2004 with album POWER AND THE MYTH but it wasn’t long after until the band disbanded again. In 2006 vocalist James Christian assembled a brand new version of House of Lords where he was the only remaining member of the original line-up. The renewed band released WORLD UPSIDE DOWN followed by COME TO MY KINGDOM (2008), CARTESIAN DREAMS (2009), BIG MONEY (2011) and PRECIOUS METAL which came out just a few months ago. The album release was followed by an extensive European tour which this time reached also Finland, for the first time ever. I sat down with James before the bands show in On The Rock in Helsinki and we discussed about the tour, PRECIOUS METAL, solo career and other things in life. Read on!
Metal-Rules.com: Well tonight you’re playing the very last show of your current European tour. How long you have been on the road by now?
James Christian: 48 days.
Metal-Rules.com: Well, how do you feel now after a long tour begins to be finally over?
James Christian: I’m actually a little depressed, because midway through we were really hitting our stride and we were starting to sound amazing. Everything is coming together, because you are doing it ever night. And now, this is going to be the last night we are in Helsinki and then we go home and kind of have to crash a little. So it’s a little depressing. I’m happy to be home, to come home but at the same time I really love being out here.
Metal-Rules.com: You have played now in many countries and different type of venues. So, which have been the low and the high points on this tour so far?
James Christian: Low point? If I say the low point then I’m probably never going to go back there again anyway. There was a place in Germany; I can’t say the name of it, the name of the club. But it was a low point for me because it not just up to my standard, I mean I’ll play any place where there is an audience. But when you don’t have a stage for the band, and you are playing and all you can see is two people and the rest are behind walls. It’s like, what’s the purpose of even being on the stage. And that really got to me a little bit, but everything else has been amazing. All the other venues have been fantastic.
Metal-Rules.com: I remember seeing some clips on YouTube where you performed acoustically in Planet Hollywood in Germany. That sounded just fantastic.
James Christian: That was acoustic show. It was an amazing show, because we actually only rehearsed a few times and it came out so good as far as even the sound, the sound system. All the songs translating to acoustic. It was really fantastic.
Metal-Rules.com: I have seen this current line-up of House of Lords performing in few occasions during the past few years. How many tours you’ve actually done in Europe with this line-up?
James Christian: Four.
Metal-Rules.com: So, do you see that fans in Europe are now more familiar with the current band than the original one?
James Christian: Yes, they are. But there are always those people who remember the old line-up, and everybody come see the band based on the old line-up. And then they realize “Wow, this is a new line up” and they enjoy both. So, it’s a good marriage, you get the old and you get the new.
Metal-Rules.com: But there are always old school fans who only care about the original band, right?
James Christian: Right. Like these two guys that just came in now. The first album he ever bought was the first, House of Lords record and that’s his favorite. So, obviously tonight those are the songs he’s going to want, you know. And that’s the whole purpose of touring. To let them hear the new material as well as the old material.
Metal-Rules.com: How much do you play shows in the States nowadays?
James Christian: We tour less in the States than we do in Europe but we record more in the States. We spend more time writing, recording. We do selected shows in the States. So, we do casinos, festivals, we did Rocklahoma. Anything that has to do with more, three or four or five to six bands. We are doing Skull Fest in October with Lizzy Borden, not really the best match up because it’s kind of different music. But that’s going to be a good show.
TOURING WITH ROBIN BECK AN WORKING WITH SWEDES
Metal-Rules.com: Most of the gigs on this European tour were co-headline shows with Robin Beck, who happens to be your wife, and you did play on her band as well. How it worked ?
James Christian: It worked really well because we were both, I played in her band and then I came out and did my show or I did my show and then played in her band. We’ve been together for a long time and we worked together well, musically. So, it was a no brainer for me to go out there and just have fun doing those a lot of Robin’s material. I love those songs; I fell in love with that first album before I knew Robin. So, to me playing songs penned by Desmond Child and Diane Warren and Alice Cooper. I’m okay with that.
Metal-Rules.com: Wasn’t that challenging to change your role from lead vocalist to bass player or vice versa during the same evening?
James Christian: You know what? It wasn’t so hard, because I know when I have to be the person who has to draw the attention and I also know when I have to be the person…. When I just got to lay back and play, so I get to play guitar which I don’t get to do in House Of Lords, except when, let’s say if we do “Can’t Find the Way Home”. So, I love it, I love playing bass, it’s just where I started.
Metal-Rules.com: And in fact, you have played bass on latest Robin’s albums anyway.
James Christian: Yes.
Metal-Rules.com: In the summer you coming back to Europe with Robin and you play in Sweden Rock Festival in June. Do you have more shows planned at the moment?
James Christian: We are doing Vasby festival with Europe and that’s in July.
Metal-Rules.com: Two shows in Sweden, alright. It seems that Sweden is really close to your and Robin’s heart because you both are working with Swedish musicians and partners nowadays.
James Christian: I’m like yeah and I think because she works a lot with Tommy Denander, and a lot of the people who she associates with are Thomas from Finland and Thomas is her road manager. So, I think it could be gigs on Legends of Rock, we did a lot of shows and Robin did those shows also. So, I think that’s why there is association.
Metal-Rules.com There are lots of world class musicians and songwriters coming from Sweden nowadays and somebody said recently that Stockholm is currently the capital of hard rock / melodic rock. Do you agree with that?
James Christian: I probably agree. Yeah. I guess they got more time on it by the end, because really don’t have a lot of daylight hours “Laughs” So, they spend a lot of time rehearsing but they are really good players. I play with people like Tommy and Tommy is really amazing, he really is amazing. I like… I also worked with Rob Marcello, he’s also a Swede. He’s fucking amazing. I couldn’t get over his good he was and I didn’t really know him on that well. But Jim had something he couldn’t do on one of the tours, family issues or whatever was going on in his life. So, Rob Marcello came in. And I think, well these Swedes are just really incredible. Those are good musicians.
Metal-Rules.com: Have you ever been thinking about moving to Europe and Sweden? I mean, on recent years many musicians have moved over to Scandinavia from US because the state of music scene changes in there?
James Christian: No. I’m good where I am, I like living in the States.
THINGS IN LIFE
Metal-Rules.com: The last time we talked two years ago in Stockholm and then we also discussed about your health problems. May I ask, what is the situation now with it?
James Christian: I’m going through it right now. I have cancer, and once you have cancer it’s kind of thing that you just got to go day-by-day, because you never know. And so, recently I’ve had some treatments and it takes a lot out of me. I get tired faster, but I always seem to bounce back. So, I’m fortunate right now, I’m still here, I’m still doing it.
Metal-Rules.com: But situation is now stable?
James Christian: Yeah, it’s sort of. There are days that are better than others, and then you wake up and you go, “Fuck!” Something happens, something changes. So, you just have to learn to accept it.
Metal-Rules.com: You still have to go through treatments all the time?
James Christian: Yeah and it’s bullshit…Because there is nothing you can do.
Metal-Rules.com: But it’s a blessing you are still able to work?
James Christian: That’s right. And I’m able to work, because I have a positive attitude. And sometimes I get a little tired and then this tour took a lot out of me. That was like 48 days in a row and sometimes seven shows in a week.
Metal-Rules.com: You now did a tour of 48 days in a row. It’s hard for just anybody so I can only imagine how hard it was for you?
James Christian: I know, the healthy it would make not good. I remember seeing Erik Mårtenson from Eclipse and we were doing a show in Zaragoza, Spain. And he was like looking at me and he wanted to come over and say hello, but I had a stomach flu so bad that I couldn’t even go over and say hi graciously. I felt so bad and I wanted to tell him, “I’m really sorry, I’m not like that.” But I was going to throw up, I was shivering and everything caught me. The flu for four days in Spain, we had four days of road shows. And I was on stage, they had to give me needles to get me through an hour and a half show and then I passed out afterwards. That was the worst part. And they were great shows, they were like very well attended shows and I got fucked up.
Metal-Rules.com: Well that sounded bad…
James Christian: Yes it was really bad.
Metal-Rules.com: But maybe it’s overall a good thing that people don’t know about your issues?
James Christian: No, they can’t know and that’s good because they don’t appreciate the show if they are thinking “He doesn’t feel good” you know?
Metal-Rules.com: You’ve been dealing with this thing for a while now so you probably have learned how to live with it but how do you see the future from now on?
James Christian: Nobody knows. Really, nobody knows. I sang the whole album PRECIOUS METAL, and I was able to get through it and I actually felt really good at times. I was really hitting the notes that I wanted tohear. So, you just got to choose your time and choose it wisely. And then if you don’t feel so good, don’t do it in that day.
Metal-Rules.com: Then do it on the next day.
James Christian: Right, exactly.
Metal-Rules.com: You just said that you had to choose carefully when to do recordings etc. But after all, PRECIOUS METAL was finished really quickly and the whole process took only like few weeks to finish?
James Christian: My God! Because I caught a good spot and I kept singing and I kept singing and like wow, everything is coming out good. So, I just kept going.
Metal-Rules.com: I can honesty say that PRECIOUS METAL is the best album from the new era of House of Lords.
James Christian: I agree with you. I agree with you, because it kicks ass. And not that the other records don’t have a groove, but this album has a pace.
Metal-Rules.com: The album a great mix of different styles of which the House of Lords is well known, from really heavy stuff to melodic stuff and back. Do you agree with that?
James Christian: Yeah. I got you. But this is a direction I like better for the band.
Metal-Rules.com: And there is certainly some “old spirit” from the early albums there.
James Christian: Yes, of course. That’s where we all got the inspiration from the first and the second album.
LAY IT ALL ON ME
Metal-Rules.com: It wasn’t long time ago when you released your third solo album LAY IT ALL ON ME. Tell me something more about it?
James Christian: The solo album was done when I was diagnosed with cancer. So, it became a record of thinking about life and death. And so, a lot of the songs have a meaning. What I said was you’ve done everything you possibly could to me now, what else can you do? “Lay It All On Me”. Give to me all you got, so that’s what I meant. “Lay It All on Me” was a song like I said, meaning that no matter what comes your way you got be able to take it. And don’t be afraid, lay it all on me. If there is mountains you can’t climb, la it all on me. All those kinds of things, I try to use images trying to be stronger instead of weaker. I try to keep that in my mind to be positive, and I think it was good therapy for me.
Metal-Rules.com: Musically that solo album is not much different to House of Lords. How do you decide which song is a House of Lords and which one is a James Christian song because some of the album material could easily have been on PRECIOUS METAL as well?
James Christian: Yeah, some of it might have been. But I think… I wrote it by myself and I had different ideas of how I wanted it to sound, more keyboard layered than guitar layered. Those are the differences between House of Lords and James Christian. I use more keyboards, yeah.
Metal-Rules.com: This is question you hear a lot but will we ever see James Christian’s solo gig?
James Christian: If anybody wants to come I’ll do it, but I don’t know. I keep thinking that they, the fans, want to see House of Lords.
Metal-Rules.com: How about a festival like Frontiers Rock festival? That would be ideal place for your solo show I think?
James Christian: You mean the one in Madrid and in Milan. They asked us to do that one this time, but because we had already done four shows in Italy. They said, “Well, you can’t do four shows in Italy and then in one month later come back and do the Madrid and Milan show. So, we said, “Well, next time. It’s not going to be the last time that they do it.”
THE ANNIVERSARY AND SOME KISS TALK
Metal-Rules.com: Let’s go back a little in time… House of Lords was originally formed back in 1987, right?
James Christian: ’87 and maybe in ’86? Maybe 1987 is good. “Laughs”
Metal-Rules.com: Anyway, three years from now the band meets a respectable thirty years. Do you have plans to celebrate that anniversary somehow?
James Christian: Possibly. We’ve had offers to do the original band live and offered a lot of money for it, but I’ve said no to that for many times. Because I feel at loyalty to these guys, you never know what happens in the future.
Metal-Rules.com: I think if you are ever going to do it then that’s the right time to do it. I mean everybody from the original band are still in the business. Chuck is playing with Quiet Riot, Ken Mary is doing some studio work and…
James Christian: Yeah, he does production and Lanny still plays and Gregg plays occasionally. But if we are going to do something, it would be something bigger. It would be a big and we would make it something special. We would get Gene Simmons involved.
Metal-Rules.com: That sounds very interesting. Maybe you could try to make another album with him?
James Christian: Right. Or maybe open up with Kiss?
Metal-Rules.com: Do you think that they are still touring three years from now?
James Christian: Kiss? You bet they will. They’ll not stop, I’m telling you. Their farewell tour is not in the horizon for a long time. But we would be glad to do it.
Metal-Rules.com: One question I have asked from everybody. That Hall of Fame thing with KISS, did you follow the drama what happened in the overseas between Hall of Fame and KISS?
James Christian: I heard about it before the media heard about it. I am still speaking with Gene occasionally, and they’re happy to be inducted. But at the same time they were like, “What took you so fucking long?” They really deserved to be in there a long time ago. And Paul Stanley was all resentful about it, and so were the other two members, the former members. But I really don’t know much more than that for what they were saying in public.
THE LAST WORDS
Metal-Rules.com: You are going back home tomorrow. Do you have gigs or any other music related things in the calendar prior to the Swedenrock gig in June?
James Christian: I’m going to take some time off and do nothing, and then Swedenrock will be the first thing I do with Robin. I need some more time to take care of myself. So, nothing for me for a while.
Metal-Rules.com: But do you already have ideas for some new music?
James Christian: I’ve got plenty of music that I have in my head, but I don’t want to in studio because I won’t get out for a while. So, I just keep it in my head.
Metal-Rules.com: That’s about it by now. Thank you James.
James Christian: Thank you. Appreciated.
MORE PICTURES FROM HELSINKI SHOW !!!