INTERVIEW WITH DARREN JAMES SMITH OF RED DRAGON CARTEL
Date: August 6, 2015
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES! OR IN THE CASE OF DARREN JAMES SMITH, WHAT A DIFFERENCE THAT FOUR A HALF MONTHS MAKE! BACK IN MID-MARCH 2015, SMITH LEFT JAKE E. LEE’S RED DRAGON CARTEL CITING A NUMBER OF REASONS SUCH AS ISSUES WITH A SPECIFIC STAFF MEMBER, BEING SUDDENLY OUT OF WORK FOR MONTHS, AND THE WRITING OF NEW MATERIAL BEING REPEATEDLY PUT ON THE BACK BURNER. FOUR AND A HALF MONTHS LATER, SMITH HAS REJOINED RED DRAGON CARTEL AFTER THE BAND WENT THROUGH NOT ONE, NOT TWO, NOT THREE BUT FOUR DIFFERENT LEAD VOCALISTS. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH THE ALWAYS CANDID AND HUMOROUS SMITH TO DISCUSS HIS RECENTLY ANNOUNCED RETURN TO THE CARTEL!
Sleaze Roxx: Well, congratulations are in order! You are back with Red Dragon Cartel. What led you to come back to Red Dragon Cartel and how long has this been in the works?
Darren James Smith: Aaaah. I would say a month. I got a call from Jonas [Fairley] saying maybe I would reconsider coming back and to think about it. And then I never heard anything from him. And then Diana called, and then Jake [E. Lee]. I don’t know the reasons why but I like to think it’s because I’m the guy for the gig I guess [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: When we spoke back in April of this year, you had just left Red Dragon Cartel and cited a number of reasons why you left. Have those various issues been resolved?
Darren James Smith: Yes!
Sleaze Roxx: How so?
Darren James Smith: I don’t want to get into it because I don’t want to dredge up the dirt. I am not one to hold grudges. I am not one to hold anything like that. Well, the right people are involved and I really love the songs man, you know? And I really love Jake and Jonas and Greg [Chaisson], and I am sure that I will love Anthony [Esposito]. I met Anthony and he is a great guy so we will see what happens.
Sleaze Roxx: Red Dragon Cartel just announced less than 36 hours ago that a new album is in the works for early 2016. When we spoke back in April, that was one of the issues that you had that there was no new music forthcoming or it seemed like it. So what has been your involvement with the new album coming up?
Darren James Smith: Well, Jake just asked me if I would write it with him and Jonas as well so it is going to be a band effort. I haven’t heard anything yet as I have been away but I am hoping — I’ve got my fingers crossed — that it is going to be a little Badlandsish. I really love that stuff. Who knows? I mean, Jake is quite a creative guy so who knows what he is going to toss at us. Whatever it’s going to be, it’s going to be.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! Will you be singing all the songs this time or will there be guest vocalists once again?
Darren James Smith: Well, I am assuming so but that does not mean shit, you know [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] fair enough!
Darren James Smith: You know what, I think so. I think so. You know, he asked me to help write it and I don’t see why he would want to use other singers. He’s already used other singers and it didn’t work the way he wanted it so I am just assuming so. It could be presumptuous for me to do so but I am just going to hope for the best.
Darren James Smith: Honestly, just seeing the guys and being in a room with them and creating. And even — I am not a big fan of rehearsals but for some reason, I loved rehearsing with those guys. It’s always an adventure. I am looking forward to seeing the guys and picking up where we left off because we were all really tight friends, you know, and I haven’t seen them in a while. And I have a great time with them and just playing music with them in general. It does not really matter where or what stage or what size of venue, I just wanna play music. That’s what I do!
Sleaze Roxx: It certainly appears from an outsider’s perspective that Red Dragon Cartel had a tough time replacing you with the four different lead vocalists [Shawn Crosby, Paul D’Eath, Chas West and Michael Beck] used in four and a half months or so. What’s your take on the revolving door of lead vocalists during the time that you weren’t part of the band?
Darren James Smith: Hmmm. I knew a couple of them. I am friends with a couple of them. We’re still friends. Hmmm. I don’t really have a take and I am just fortunate that it worked to my advantage. And I am fortunate to be asked back. I am not going to speculate and I am not going to say something that I think because it probably isn’t true. So I would rather not answer that [laughs]. That’s my answer, right [laughs]!
Sleaze Roxx: Fair enough. You must at least be able to relate to some extent to what Michael Beck went through since during his first gig with Red Dragon Cartel, he sang the lyrics to the wrong song and was criticized for that. So what’s your take on that?
Darren James Smith: My first show was less than stellar [laughs]. Hmmm. Michael is a wonderful fella. I love the guy. He owned a studio that we rehearsed in Phoenix when we were rehearsing with Greg and I became friends with him then. He is a great guy and he can sing so I really don’t know. I just think that Jake had a vision and that is why I got the gig in the first place and he thought that maybe he could have that vision and you know, it just didn’t work out in his head I guess. I don’t know. [Laughs] I am really not going to question it man! I am back in the rock shoes!
Sleaze Roxx: You’ve played a few gigs with Harem Scarem in the last four and a half months. When we spoke back in April, you had indicated that you had never ever left Harem Scarem.
Darren James Smith: Hmmm. Well, I did leave them. I did leave them in 2000 something to pursue a solo career — well, not so much a solo career. I was in another band that I was fronting called Juice, an industrial heavy hard rock band. And it was us up against Linkin Park for a deal and they had better songs so that is why they got it. They [Harem Scarem] did one record without me and I sang on every record and played drums on some of them too. But I mean these are my lifelong friends. These are the guys that I am going to be sitting on the porch with when I am 80 if I make it and be talking shit with them. Like these are my childhood friends. I’ve known Harry [Hess] since he was 14 years old. Peter [Lesperance], I’ve known since he was 18. They will be in my life forever. I mean, if I can do anything for them, I will.
Sleaze Roxx: Has there been any talks with them about continuing as their drummer?
Darren James Smith: Hmmm. Well, there always is. It is sort of a revolving door for me. If I can do it, I can do it. But you know, they always want the best for me and they have always advised me. When I was going to leave the band in the first place back in 2000 whenever it was — I can’t remember — Harry was like “Darren. You’d be a good frontman. You should really give it a shot.” He did not want to lose a drummer and have to look for one but he looks out for my best interests and that is probably the reason why I am so dedicated to them, you know?
Sleaze Roxx: What else have you been up to in the last four and a half months that you were out of Red Dragon Cartel?
Darren James Smith: What have I been up to? Well, I have been vacationing a lot. I have been taking off to lakes up here in Muskoka. I’ve been hanging out with my friends. I’ve been jamming with just about everyone and anyone. You know, just having fun. Just keeping it alive really.
Sleaze Roxx: Your first show back with Red Dragon Cartel is not until September 6, 2015. What are your plans from now until then?
Darren James Smith: Well, I am going to get my stomach muscles back in shape [laughs]! Hmmm. Just get back to where I was when I was in Red Dragon. I felt that every show, my voice was getting stronger and better because it is quite demanding stuff. And I am going to start ahead of time and be extra prepared so that when I hit the stage at the Rainbow, people will not be disappointed.
Sleaze Roxx: Do you have anything else you want to add that we have not covered?
Darren James Smith: Hmmm. Well, I have been sitting on the couch all day. I have not even covered what I am doing today.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs].
Darren James Smith: I am just really really happy to have the opportunity to come back and do this. I would like to thank everybody involved and for thinking of me. And all the fans out there that are happy that I am back. And the ones that aren’t happy that I am back, well, tough shit [laughs]!