"Sebastian Bach and I are the only two Caribbean-born boys of hard rock!"
Greetings JR and thanks for getting involved with our Metal Origins series! What are your earliest memories of heavy metal – was it love at first sight/hearing? “Hearing Iron Maiden’s Number of the Beast for the first time caused something to snap in my still-developing brain and I haven’t really recovered since. I’m lucky to have grown up in a time when you had to work hard to discover new bands and new music, it steels your commitment to the art which naturally led me to Helloween’s Keeper… albums. The rest of my developing brain was then annihilated by Black Sabbath’s first album. Those are the three main early influences for me and it shows in my singing and song writing”.
What was the first metal album you bought with your own cash? “Can’t really remember. I would love to say that it was Defenders of the Faith but it was more likely to be Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet or something along those commercial lines”.
Nothing wrong with a bit of Bon Jovi. Nineteen eighties Bon Jovi anyway… Are there any bands you loved as a youngster that cause you to wince now and ask ‘what was I thinking’ ? “See New Jersey band above. No, I love all of my influences in heavy metal to this day but it’s easy for me because I grew up listening to Whitesnake, Guns n’Roses, W.AS.P. et cetera, at their peak. I mean bands like Winger for example would get criticised, but I saw them play recently and their stuff is excellent and the songwriting holds up well. So maybe there are bands like that when I tore them apart but later came to appreciate their influence. One other such band is Ratt. I didn’t get them but listening to their stuff it has a rough and ready LA vibe about it that just works especially after having visited California and retracing some of the steps from that scene. I have a wide variety of music interests and tastes and its most of the non-metal stuff that’s cringe-worthy really”.
True that. A lot of old pop music seems to date very badly. Away from recorded product, who were the first band you saw live? “First ever live performance was Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and to this day, Joan is the standard to which I hold all performances up to, including my own. She was a tiny powerhouse of attitude, leather and sweat, the bloody guitar was bigger than she was but she played it and the audience to perfection. As Animal would say ‘whadda woooman!'”
How hard was it growing up to get info on the bands you loved- was there much mainstream media coverage where you lived? “Sebastian Bach and I are the only two Caribbean-born boys of hard rock! Ha ha. Growing up in the Caribbean there was a strong army of American influenced heavy metal fans who often travelled to the US and brought back the good stuff. In my circle of friends there was tape trading, making lists of your favourite bands, drawing their logos in your Trapper Keeper, the occasional and ultra-rare copy of Hit Parader; those were the days. A lot of metal heads have the story of the metal-guru, the Yoda-like figure who seems to know everything about heavy metal and who never had a job and lived with his parents! I knew such a dude and he had a wall stacked with original cassette tapes, arranged in alphabetical order with boxes of vinyls on the floor, and a huge poster of the Seventh Son… album cover on the wall. Yeah I was lucky to have access to that kind of influence”.
Mine was a Welsh bloke called Will whose mum and dad ran the local Post Office. I wonder what happens to those characters? My bet is they are all together in sheltered accommodation somewhere looking at each others’ Kerrang! collections… Do you think the internet has taken away the mystique of being in a big band for young people today ? Do we know too much about our heroes in 2016? “Yeah, definitely there is over-saturation and although everybody has an opinion, which they think is important and the internet provides a space for that indulgence. The situation with AC/DC hiring a replacement to fulfill their tour dates was blown way out of proportion by people who think they have possession over the band. It’s the attitude of the band “sounds this way and has done since before the dinosaurs, therefore I as a fan know what’s best and right for these guys”, not the band itself. The other problem is that the ageing bands have probably written their stories which are known to the public inside and out, so any changes to that formula gets a reaction online. There used to be relationships in the industry making many good decisions, not great ones always, but the A&R guy at the label checked out a band and he would contact his media people and arranged a photoshoot and there were many layers and professional filters before a finished product got into the hands of the public. That isn’t happening these days, now we get the direct-to-public brain farts of Gene Simmons. Also, look out for my sex tape in 2017, its gonna be epic with me keeping it 100! (I enjoy that it’s still called a tape)”.
We’ll gloss over that if you don’t mind. Were you a big festival goer as a junior headbanger? “No I wasn’t, there were not many festivals where I grew up unfortunately but there was the odd concert from touring bands”.
How hard/easy was it for you to get to big gigs growing up? Would you have hitched hundreds of miles to see your favourite bands if necessary? “Nah, hitching is for countries that require it. On a tiny island if you hitched you would reach the coast rather quickly”.
Fair enough! What five albums have stayed with you since your formative metal years? “1. Number of the Beast (Maiden is the greatest band ever, let’s face it), 2. Black Sabbath (Sabbath is the greatest band ever, let’s face it) 3 and 4. – Keeper of the Seven Keys I and II, and 5. Appetite for Destruction.”
Did you have a metal crush? “I thought I mentioned Kip Winger earlier? (laughs)… no; Joan Jett, Lita Ford, Anne (the voice!) and Nancy Wilson (the corset!), Doro, and any or preferably all of the girls from Vixen”.
Anything else you’d like to reveal about your metal upbringing? “My upbringing did not contain nearly enough gloom, industrial steel fabrication or reasons to wear leather but it still didn’t stop me from discovering the best music on the planet!”