Back in 2017 when we caught up with Black ‘N Blue frontman Jaime St. James, I asked him if there were any unused songs in the Black ‘N Blue ‘vault’ and he replied, “Tommy [Thayer] and I have… from ‘82 through ‘88, we have enough songs that we could have put together two more records. We recorded everything really cheap during rehearsals on a four-track tape player. There’s tons of songs that were never used. We would write for a record with nine-ten songs. We’d write 20-22 songs. They’re all on cassettes in a box in my garage. I see those songs as a time capsule, because I can’t write like I’m 22 or 25 years old anymore.” Well, on June 3rd, Jaime St. James and Tommy Thayer released a five-track CD (“Sweet Sensation,” “American Man,” “Time, “ “Ballad of The Bullet,” and “Work It”) with some songs that he and Thayer cut shortly after getting let go by Geffen Records. We caught up with St. James to talk about ‘The Lost Tapes,’ how they were unearthed amongst other things. There’s stuff that we didn’t ask him here, but we have in previous occasions, check those interviews out (March 2011, April 2011 and July 2017).
Sleaze Roxx: You released ‘The Lost Tapes’ which is a collection of five unreleased tracks that you wrote and recorded with Tommy Thayer. These were recorded after the ‘In Heat’ record.
Jaime St. James: Correct. ‘In Heat’ was done and gone. I guess it was around the end of ’88? I thought that it was more around ’89 and so did Tommy [Thayer] but then we looked at that two-inch tape. I took some photos of it to put on the CD packaging and it says ’88 [laughs]! I was like, “Wow! We did this in ‘88? [laughs]” I couldn’t believe it because we’d done ‘In Heat’ and we did some touring behind that. It must have been toward the end of ’88, I suppose. It’s five songs that Tommy and I wrote. It’s what we started doing after Geffen [Records] had dropped us. So we started working on some new songs in an effort to try to get another deal. Gene Simmons was working with us at the time, he had that label that he was working with at the time [Simmons Records] and he would have put us on his label.
I want to point out that these are songs that were written by me and Tommy and the performances are pretty much me and Tommy. There’s a song on the CD, which I haven’t told anybody… because I kind of forgot. Jeff Labansky [guitarist] from Oregon, he was playing in Black ‘N Blue, he had replaced Whoop [Jeff Warner] at this time. There’s a song on the CD called “Sweet Sensation” that he gets writing credit on. It was his title and he had a chorus, but Tommy and I took it and made a song out of it [laughs]! It is basically me and Tommy. I don’t know if Pete Holmes ever heard the songs — he probably didn’t. Patrick [Young] has heard them because he stops by the studio and listens to them from what I recall. These songs are what Tommy and I were doing to try to get Black ‘N Blue back on track.
Sleaze Roxx: I know you play drums. You did this in Cold Gin, ironically the band also featured Tommy Thayer. I know you said it was basically you and Thayer on these recordings. Did you wind-up playing drums on these recordings?
Jaime St. James: No. No. We actually programmed a pretty cool drum machine called a Studio 440. I think that’s what it was called. Me and Pat Regan programmed stuff. He was ‘the brains’ and I was just the beat [laughs]! I did go in and overdubbed cymbals, physically a few months ago when we started working on this project. It just needed ‘real’ cymbals on it. I could have played drums on it, but the studio we used at the time wasn’t set-up for drums and it was a really small studio. It was so small that I don’t even know where we would have set-up drums! I do have to say that the drums sound killer on these recordings. They sound amazing. They don’t sound ‘stiff’ or ‘weird’ at all.
Sleaze Roxx: When did these get recorded and when were they unearthed?
Jaime St. James: These songs got forgotten about over the years. Tommy was moving and he asked me if I wanted some of his Black ‘N Blue stuff that he had been storing for years. He had a lot of stuff in storage and he was downsizing. I said, “Sure! Send me whatever you’ve got!” I got a bunch of boxes and I started going through them and I found this two-inch analog tape! It had all of these songs on the tape and there was a final mix of them. I listened to the songs on a cassette that I had. I didn’t even have all of the songs myself. I just had two of them. I said to myself, “These are good. It would be great to do something with these.” I didn’t recall what the others sounded like, because as I said I only had two on a cassette that I had. It brought back all sorts of memories listening back to these 30+ years later. I got in touch with Tommy and I said, “We’ve got to release these. They’re really good! I know how to do it and we’ll do it ourselves.”
Sleaze Roxx: The next thing I wanted to touch on was much ‘sweetening’ did you have to do to the recordings? It sounds from what you said earlier that you just overdubbed some cymbals?
Jaime St. James: No. Nothing other than the cymbals and then going in and mastering the recordings. We re-mastered them and made them sound really big. It sounds great. It’s album quality. It doesn’t sound like a demo at all. They sound so great that I was adamant about getting these recordings out. We did very little other than just mastering the recordings. We worked with Pat Regan, the original engineer, when we re-mastered it. You can do some amazing things these days. What happened was the ¼ inch tape was no good. It had been sitting too long and it had disintegrated! The sound quality was terrible! Thankfully Tommy had a DAT of it and that’s what saved us. So he took the DAT which was of the same mix… He can pull stuff up like a guitar part or a vocal part up individually! I don’t even know how that works but you can do that now [laughs]! So we tweaked it a little bit in the studio just to bring it to life. We didn’t do any more recording, it was all there.
Sleaze Roxx: “American Man” was used by you at one point with St. James. I have the album on order. Is this the same tune?
Jaime St. James: No. Here’s what happened. These recordings which we’re offering now were originally paid for by Gene Simmons. We didn’t follow through with anything because Tommy quit the band. He told me at the time that he wanted to go on and do other things. So once Tommy left, we owed Gene some money. I didn’t have the money to pay him at the time, so I offered him the song “American Man” as payment and he could use it as he wished. So when I did my solo thing in the 2000s, I just did a different “American Man” [laughs]! I loved the title. I wrote one, I’ll write another [laughs]! Since then, Gene has given everything back to Tommy and I. He was like “It’s all yours guys. Do what you want with these recordings.”
Sleaze Roxx: Pete Holmes is back now that Ratt has been put to rest. You had drummers fill in because he was gigging with Ratt. How excited are you to have him back?
Jaime St. James: It’s great to have him back. He’s been through a lot. We love him. There were some conflicting dates during the time he was in Ratt and we had to use other drummers. They were great drummers, but there’s something about having Pete in this band. He makes us better.
Sleaze Roxx: How excited were you to perform the ‘half-time show’ on the Monsters of Rock Cruise? It looked like the Rams had their hands full, but they pulled off a win.
Jaime St. James: Well, it was exciting but I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I could have. I found out that I had Covid going into that performance and I wasn’t feeling at my best. I didn’t really watch the game. I did go back later and watch it. What a great win! I just wasn’t in a place to celebrate at that time. I put everything into that half-time performance.
Sleaze Roxx: The set was way too short!
Jaime St. James: It was. It was due to the fact that we were performing in real time while the Superbowl halftime show was happening. Since we were live while they were live, there wasn’t much we could do. I think my performance was good all things considered with feeling sick, so maybe it was a blessing that it was short and I could head back and rest afterward.
Black ‘N Blue performing “Miss Mystery” live at the Monsters of Rock Cruise during Super Bowl half time on February 13, 2022 (video from thepatester‘s YouTube page):
Sleaze Roxx: You were in a KISS tribute band called Cold Gin. I saw you guys one time and it was a fantastic show. Tribute bands are now all the rage. What ended Cold Gin?
Jaime St. James: Yeah, you know back then, there weren’t many bands paying tribute to bands like that. Now they are all over the place. We were sanctioned by the band [KISS] and whenever we played, Gene and Paul would come out to see us. They encouraged us and were very supportive. There was talk about taking us to the next level with a big stage show and the whole thing, but we started to say to each other, “This is fun, but is this really what we want to do with our lives for the next 10-20 years?” We shut things down and shortly after, they [KISS] put the make-up back on and reunited with Ace and Peter. Then there was no need for Cold Gin, you know?
Sleaze Roxx: You were Peter Criss in Cold Gin. Do you think you could have stepped in and been ‘The Cat Man’ in KISS?
Jaime St. James: [Pause] I think I could have, but would I have done it? I don’t know? That’s a good question…
Black ‘N Blue with Tommy Thayer performing live at KISS Kruise X in October 2021 (video from ALF‘s YouTube page):