Hello My Friends,
It was 1988-89 that my musical career had taken that giant step to the big-time. When it happened it was faster than I could ever imagine. But what I want to let you know is how Sloooow the process was to getting there.
I started playing in clubs when I was 16 years old. I was not old enough to perform in a club yet but that never stopped me. I was playing 3-4 nights a week and we would be doing 4-5 sets per night. That's a lot of songs to memorize. Everyone in my band was much older than I. They were already out of high school yet I was just starting. I never had a hard time connecting with them or the audience in spite of the age difference.
Somehow by the grace of God, I was given a natural ability to sing. I never knew what I was doing but when I opened my mouth, it just came out right. In the early stages of my career I was able able to sing Led Zepplin songs with such ease, that we ended up doing the whole first record. This was before tribute bands were even popular. The band was called HOOKA (yes like the pipe) In spite of the name, I was never into smoking the stuff, not that I did not try. It just never did anything creative for me.
Anyway, HOOKA was always booked and we had that great reputation, word of mouth, people would say "you got to see this band they do a killer Led Zepplin set and the lead singer sounds like Robert Plant. Well, I didn't know how difficult this kind of vocal was until all these singers started showing up asking me how I could do that. By this time, I really had the passion and I knew this is what I would be doing in my lifetime.
And just for the record It was never about money, It was about being up on stage and playing in front of an audience, A true passion that stays with me to this day. In the beginning I never made any money because we always paid our road crew, and any money we had left we bought equipment.
After a few years with Hooka, A local band approached me that had already had a record deal with MGM . The drummer at the time came up to me and asked me if I would like to be the lead singer of the band. That band was called "Jasper Wrath" because they were the most popular band in the area, I decided to make the move. it was a very difficult move for me as I was always the loyal one in the band. But now I needed to make career decisions.
Jasper Wrath was a band well ahead of it's time. we were compared to bands like "Yes" and Gentle Giant" yet it was a tender ballad that brought us a regional #1 hit.
That song was called "You". I gotta tell you, There was something magical about this song. It was simple yet intricate. It started out as an acoustic ballad and ended up as a total balls out rocker. We were filling clubs six nights a week and they all came out to hear us perform this one song. We gained the attention of many major labels during that time. Unfortunately, because of dissension in the band, we broke up before we could reap the benefits of all our hard work. We were literally on the "Verge" with Jasper Wrath, but we just could not keep it together. Keep in mind that whenever we were not playing, we were rehearsing. And when we rehearsed, it was 8 hour days. We were together practically 24 hours a day. Jasper Wrath was one of the most innovative bands I had ever heard and I was so proud to be a member of that band.
From the ashes of Jasper Wrath, came a group called "EYES". This was the name that Aldy Damien would later rip off from me. (more on that later).
Eyes started out being an original group where we were able to attract a good audience each night who wanted to come and hear our original songs. We wanted to pick up where Jasper Wrath left off. For a couple of years, things went quite well. We even recorded our first album with a Label called "Quiet Cannon Records" We had developed quite a following. We still had to play the "Jasper Wrath" hit "You" every night as the crowd demanded it. Somehow during all of this new success with "Eyes" we started adding a few cover songs to our set. Once we did that, the crowds got even bigger. We started doing "Journey " songs as well as Led Zepplin's classics such as "Kashmir". I must say when we covered a song, it was amazing. We did as close as possible to the original.
After a while the group got so popular that we never had to ask for any money from club owners. We would just tell the club owner, just book us and we will charge a cover charge for people to get in. Whatever we collect will be ours, so you the club never had to guarantee us anything. We were cleaning up. We were making about $2500 per night and we worked 6- night a weeks. In 1985, that was a lot of money for a club act to make. There were literally lines around the club to get into an 'EYES" performance.
At this time of really making great money playing clubs, the band sort of put the ambitions of being a recording act on hold. During this time, there was something that was really tearing away at me. I felt that I could get caught up in this night club circuit and never break away. A few of my close friends would always say to me, James, you need to leave Connecticut. You have the talent to go all the way but you will never realize your dream here in these night clubs. I always believed what they said but to be honest, I think I was scared to leave Connecticut. After all, I was the BIG FISH here. I was somebody in Connecticut. But if I left home and gave it a shot out in California where the music scene was really happening, I might get eaten alive by all the talent there. I was scared.
A few years later, A woman names Judithe Randall (God Rest Her Beautiful Soul) had heard a recording that I had done with "EYES" An original song I wrote called "Candle In The Window" She called me and asked if I would consider coming out to California to record some of her songs. I said yes without even thinking about it. I told my band that I needed a few weeks off to go to California and that I would be back right after that. I think they knew better.
Anyway, I was off to California, little did I know that when I got there, I would actually feel like a man in a different country. There was absolute culture shock on my part. It is hard to explain but believe me, they acted a lot different than East Coast people. Once I got off the plane, Judithe Randall and her daughter Robin were there to meet me. I thought I was staying at their house, but instead they had arranged another place for me to stay. The house I was taken to was that of "Lawrence Juber" and for those of you who do not know who Lawrence Juber is, he was the guitar player for Paul McCartney and Wings. My jaw dropped when I met him as I was a fan of his guitar playing. I stayed in his guest house and in that Guest house were thousands of photographs of his time with Paul McCartney. Photos of private gatherings, birthday parties, you name it!. I spent hours looking at all this incredible stuff. I was such a fan of the Beatles that this was like being a kid in a candy shop.
While I was staying at Lawrence Juber's house, I was doing a lot of session work for Judithe and other writers as well. My name got around the area pretty quickly because of Judithe's help. I was really starting to love Los Angeles and what it might offer me.
After living in LA for three weeks, it was time to go home to Connecticut as I was running out of money as most of the session work I did was for free. After all, I would have sung for anybody who would listen as long as I thought it would eventually help my career. As I said before, Money was NEVER my motivating factor. Love of music and singing is what drove me. As long as I had that passion, I felt everything else would follow.
The day before I left to go back home, Judithe Randall called me and told me that Quiet Riot was looking for a new lead singer, She gave me an address to drop off a tape. I was really excited about this, so I got in my rented car and drove to the address. Once I got there, I knocked on the door and in a bellowing voice I hear, "Who Is It"?
I reply, this is James Christian, Judithe Randall mentioned to me that you were looking for a singer and I wanted to personally deliver this tape it to you. The voice answered, "Leave It At The Door" I thought, well, this is better than nothing so I left it there. Come to find out a few months later, that door I was knocking on was the home of Chuck Wright who eventually turned out to be one of my closest friends.
The seeds were planted in LA, now I only had to sit and wait to see what happened.
A week went by, two weeks, went by. By the third week, I had received a call from Aldy Damien, who at the time had a group called LA Rocks. he asked me if I would be interested in coming to LA to sing on a few tracks to see how the chemistry would be. My answer was a resounding YES. I only had a few days to learn the material, so the on the Flight back to LA, I had on my headphones and really honed the songs I was to sing. I really like to memorize my lyrics before I sing them so that I am not looking at a paper while I am trying to get a heartfelt performance. By the time we landed, I felt ready.
Aldy Damien was there to greet me at the airport. We drove directly to the studio. Once I got there, I was introduced to the members of the band. A real nice bunch of guys.
After all the hellos, they asked if I was ready to do a song. I said yes, and asked if we could start with the ballad first. The song was called "Nobody Said It Was Easy"
As I was doing the vocal, I knew I was really nailing it. Some things you just know. After a few takes, They asked me to come into the Mixing Room. Aldy told me they were replacing their old singer Jeff Scott Soto and would love to have me as the new lead singer of LA Rocks. I accepted as I really felt this was the next step I needed to take.
Aldy's parents owned a Hotel in Burbank and put me up there. I was happy to have a place to stay, but was not crazy about the accommodations. I was given a room which was used for storage on the top floor. There was no bathroom so I had to use an outhouse on the roof. This is not what I called luxury, but at least it was a place to stay. In all honesty, I hated it, but it was all I had to work with.
For the next six months, LA Rocks opened up for bands like "Bad Company, Robin Trower, and various other bands.
Now, I feel enough time has passed that I can make this next statement without feeling it would hurt anyone. I did not think that LA Rocks was a very good band. I though the song-writing was average. As a matter of fact, my band EYES in Connecticut would have blown their doors off. But, LA Rocks was ensconced in the music scene in LA and poised to do something in spite of the lack of strong material.
We played many shows and rehearsed quite a bit. We also did a ton of showcases at the same time. During this time there were a lot of bands on the strip (Sunset Strip) that were playing the same clubs. Warrant, Poison, Pretty Boy Floyd, Shark Island, Ratt, Great White just to name just a few. They were all getting signed. We were getting close, but there was something in my gut that told me, This is not the band I will "Make It" with. I just did have as much faith in the band.
Around a year after being with LA Rocks, our bass player left, which left us looking for a new bass player to fill in for the showcases we were doing for record companies. They called Chuck Wright as he was the type of player who could learn material quickly and perform just like a band member as he was that seasoned. After our first rehearsal, he came up to me and said, You know, I recognize that voice, I told him that I was the one who came to his door to give him a tape. He said, he loved that tape and thought I would have been a perfect choice for Quiet Riot, but they had already chosen a singer at that point. He did however keep my tape, but the number I had on the tape was my number in Connecticut which had been disconnected as I was now living in LA. He had been trying to reach me all that time. The reason he was looking for me is, he had left Quiet Riot as he was concentrating on something that he called a Monumental Band. He told me of Gregg Guiffria and Gene Simmons idea to put together a band that would be considered a Super-Group. The musicians had to be the TOP of the Line and the singer had to be a voice that was in his words "World Class" My first thought was, could that really be me?
The first thing Chuck did was introduce me to Gregg Guiffria, we met at a Mexican restaurant and talked about the group and what they were trying to achieve. They sent me home with a tape of four songs. Pleasure Palace, Under Blue Skies, Edge Of Your Life, and Jealous Heart.
My first listen was a turning point in my career. I knew this was the band I would "Make It" with.. Incredible musicians, expertly crafted songs, and a drummer that just blew me away. I have to tell you, the singer on the tape was also very good. His name was David Glenn Isley. I knew this band would somehow make an impact. My time had come and I was going to seize the moment.
After meeting with the Big Man "Gene Simmons" I got a thumbs up from him and a very nice welcome into the "House Of Lords" I was in House Of Lords. there were hundreds before me who submitted tapes to front this Monster band, but I got the gig. I am forever grateful.
Next I called Aldy Damien from my rooftop makeshift hotel room. I was very gracious. I told him that I was leaving the band to pursue another option. Aldy found out very quickly what that option was and the next day offered me 10,000 USD to stay with the band. He also offered to have me moved to a real room in the hotel. I graciously declined and told him I would be leaving in a few days. When I look back at it, How hard would it have been to give me a decent room in this Hotel which the family owned. It was time to go.
I had signed my part of the contract to join House Of Lords and immediately received an advance which allowed me to find a place to stay. The Oakwood Apartments in Hollywood. Completely furnished and also had maid service. Now we're talking.
One week later I am told we will be in the studio to do the vocals. They told me that because they were behind schedule they needed the vocals done in five days. Five Days? to do my first record? I had a lot of preparation to do to pull that off. I stayed in my room and did nothing but Listen, Practice, Listen, visualize myself finished with the vocals and loving everything I did. I really wore myself down. As a matter of fact, two days before I am to start recording, I wore myself down so much that I caught a very bad chest infection. It was very serious, I could barely breathe let alone sing. This now called for drastic measures. I went directly to the emergency room and they certainly could see that I was very sick. The only remedy they could suggest was for me to take a very large needle in the Butt, filled with a very potent Antibiotic. There was no other way as Antibiotics by mouth would have taken a week to work. I took the shot. it was the most painful needle I had ever gotten, But it did the trick, within 24 hours, I felt incredible. The vocals were done in the five days I was given, and I was happy with the performance. My producer "Andy Johns" was also very pleased. Andy Johns and I developed a nice relationship during that time. He has the most incredible stories you could ever imagine. After all, He recorded, The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, and my all-time favorite band, Led Zepplin.
I could not believe the caliber of people I was working with.
House Of Lords first album was released and was met by critical acclaim. Everyone loved this record. MTV was playing "I Wanna Be Loved" in heavy rotation. We went on tour that year with "Cheap trick, Ozzy Osbourne, and The Scorpions. All at different times but what a great year. I never felt so good as I did on that first tour performing in front of thousands of fans.One year later, we start recording "Sahara". There is a one member change in the line-up. On guitar we now had Doug Aldrich. Doug did most of the guitar work on that record. We also used a few other guitar players for various parts.
Sahara is released, and Gene Simmons throws us a huge Album party in Las Vegas at none other than the "SAHARA HOTEL" and he books us the suite that was used by Elvis Presley. The Hotel also had a beautiful restaurant called "The House Of Lords" Gene invited every program director in the U.S.A to this event. House Of Lords did a performance at the hotel for all of the invited guests. Gene comes backstage after the show to tell us that everyone was blown away.
One Month later, Can't Find My Way Home " is the first release. the record company did not want to release this as the first song. We insisted, we were right. It took off so fast that the company could not keep up with it. We had not even done the video yet for this song and it was already the #1 song on AOR Radio.
The second single was "Remember My Name" which reached #2 on the most requested songs on MTV USA. We were now getting huge recognition. We accept to do a tour with a band that I thought was a mismatch. the group was called "Nelson" They had just released a huge record here in the states. Now the Nelson guys are really great people and we ended up having an incredible time on that tour. The girls were screaming so loud during our shows, that we ended up changing sound systems twice. Even though the Nelson audience was much younger than we expected, They all knew "Cant Find My Way Home" and "Remember My Name", thanks to MTV.
After the tour with "Nelson" We were put on another short tour with 38 Special. I really hated this leg of the tour, it was not a good match. We played for a southern rock audience. Here we were coming on stage in full "Big Hair" and leather. They took one look at us and probably wanted to beat the shit out of us. We only stayed with 38 special for a couple of months.
Our final show during Sahara was with Warrant and Tesla at the Universal Amphitheater in Hollywood. It was one of my favorite shows with "House Of Lords"
Once that show was over, we took some time off to concentrate on the next record. We decided to leave BMG as we felt they really were not handling the group well. They made many mistakes in promotion and distribution. Many of the cities we were touring in did not even have our CD's in stores. BMG was going through some real serious internal problems at that time. We felt we were better off looking for another Label.During our break, I met a guy named Mark Baker at a party that Judithe Randall was throwing. Mark and I hit it off pretty well and suggested that we try writing a few songs together. The first two songs we wrote together were "What's Forever For" and "Demons Down" I played these two songs for Gregg and he says, I will get us a new record deal based on these two songs.
We gave Gregg a tape of the songs and he immediately goes to the home of "Phil Carson.
Phil Carson used to run Atlantic in Europe and now had a new label supported by Polygram America. Phil heard the two songs and offered us a recording contract on the spot. The deal was twice as big as what BMG gave us. Phil wanted a few changes. He wanted us to bring in a drummer he thought would be perfect for the project. The drummer was Tommy Aldridge. I knew of his work with Whitesnake and thought that would be fine with me. We made a change on Bass as well as Gregg and Chuck were really not getting along very well. The new bass player was Sean Mcnabb, the new guitar player would be Dennis Chick. The songs were written in about two months time by Mark Baker, James Christian, Gregg Guiffria, and Mark Spirio. This album turned out fabulous. We had a great budget and turned in a beautifully crafted album with great songs, no fillers. I was totally happy with the record and hoped we could really take this album right to the top of the charts.
The evening of the album party for "Demons Down" is a night I will never forget. As we were playing the new record for all of our guests, one man came up to me and said, "James this is a great record, but it is too bad it will never get any airplay" I said "What? and he responded. This is a great record, but there has been a radical change called "Grunge Music" Enter "Nirvana"
Demons Down would never get the airplay it so deserved. By far that record was one of our best and I believe that the songs on that album will resurface again.
After Demons Down I took some time off for myself. I started thinking about putting together a solo CD and thus "Rude Awakening was born. It was a CD full of songs I wrote with Mark Baker. These were songs that I really loved recording as we did them in a very Raw form. It was as live as we could get.
During the time of recording "Rude Awakening" I was approached by the guys from "Whitesnake" Adrian Vandenburg, Rudy Sarzo and Tommy Aldridge. They asked me to be the singer of their new band called Manic Eden. At that time David Coverdale decided to do an album with Jimmy Page so the rest of the band was left without a singer. I was very excited at first to be working with these musicians as I was always a big fan of Whitesnake. I accepted their offer and we began rehearsal for the new CD. I was given 5 songs to learn. I was very disappointed in the songs and thought that maybe I could contribute to the songwriting with my partner Mark Baker. It turned out that Adrian was really not interested in having any other writers on the CD. I always wondered why the quality of the Manic Eden songs were not up to par with the songs from Whitesnake. It was not until I looked at the writers credits that I noticed that the "Whitesnake Record I loved so much was really written by "John Sykes" ALA "Still Of The Night", "Is This Love" "Here I Go Again"
The songs I received we no where near that caliber. I was not a happy singer. It only took a few weeks for the writing on the wall to appear. Adrian became very frustrated with my desire to have my writing partner (Mark Baker) contribute to the lyrics. The only song that Mark actually helped write was an awesome song, But it never made the CD.
The stories I have heard from the ex bandmates were that I was difficult to work with and that is why it did not work out. Anyone who knows me, will tell you that I am a very easy going person. Bottom line is, the songs were not strong, they were nowhere near the caliber of House Of Lords and that did matter to me. I was relieved that I did not have to do that CD.
A few years pass and what happens? I meet a a girl singer And what do I do? I marry her and have a child shortly thereafter. Actually my wife (Robin Beck) and I are so very much alike. We both love the same music and we actually have a similar vocal style. We came together at the right time and made it work.
Our daughter Olivia, is truly a blessing in our lives. If you have never been a father, then it would be impossible to understand. But I tell you this, It was the most amazing event in my life. Everything I have ever accomplished in life does not even come close.
Robin continued to
do some records and I decided that the time was just not right
for me. Until I got a call from Chuck Wright . He called
to ask me if I would like to do another CD together. I said "that sounded like a good idea", and
We released "The Power & The Myth". Directly after, I released my second solo CD " Meet The Man" which was another labor of love for me.
The New House Of Lords CD which will be available in 2006 will be one of our best. You heard it from me first.
In closing let me say that my dream was fulfilled on the day I signed my first legitimate record deal with RCA/BMG. Everything prior were the dues that had to be paid in order to get where I needed to go. Every night club and every grungy hotel was part of the plan.
Every rejection along the way only made me stronger. I was driven and I wanted it.
I've been asked by many If I believe in GOD. You bet I do! and I am grateful for all he has allowed me to do in my life.
Take care my friends.