Interview with WildSide drummer Jim Darby (Part 1 of 2)

Date: March 8, 2021
Interviewer: Olivier



Jim Darby: It’s just really weird for all of us to read some of these stories of something that we all lived together and hear these whacked out versions of it. Some of the stuff that he says is true — Benny, the person telling these stories — but a lot of it is really made up parts of it, if not the whole thing. But I’ll answer whatever you want to know. You’ll get the real deal.

Sleaze Roxx: Alright. Why don’t we start with what you just started from what I understand which is the 80’s Metal Recycle Bin. So what prompted you to start that and how is it going so far?

Jim Darby: Yeah, so Drew and I had this idea. When we were touring on our first several tours with WildSide promoting ‘Under The Infuence’, I would bring along a little Super Eight video camera and filmed everything. I mean, backstage and tour bus stuff. We’d have one of our road crew, whomever was available, to film the show or just put a camera on a tripod and we had hours and hours — hundreds of hours of footage from touring. And along with that, we were always considering somehow sharing that, releasing it, in some format but then we also had this idea of doing a documentary of sorts with the subject not necessarily being, ‘Hey, look at what we did’ or about WildSide in particular but more about the reason our band did not break bigger than we did. And that reason for the most part was grunge coming in and all of that.

So in preparing what we figured was going to be that story, we kind of felt like there was a much larger group of bands that were affected that were much bigger than certainly we were, that were also affected by the same thing in the same way or even worse. Other than the ‘too big to fail’ type like Metallica, Bon Jovi, Van Halen, AC/DC bands — even bands like Mötley Crüe were or smaller bands like some of the bands that we have on the YouTube channel were affected by it, if not shut down for a while or even forever for some bands. So we figured it would be better to have other more well known people tell their story and we set out on this journey to do interviews and to interview anybody that was willing to do it, anybody that was relevant that was willing to do it.

And then we got some really great interviews of bands like Guns N’ Roses. We got Vince Neil from Mötley Crüe, Stephen Pearcy and Bobby Blotzer from Ratt, George Lynch, Mark Slaughter, Erik Turner from Warrant… We just last night released Steve Whiteman from KIX and these are just the first part of a multi-part interview with each guy. We have 30 to 40 minutes a piece. All of these guys, part of the story that they are telling is what I started with — how they were affected in the grunge years — but they said so much more. And a lot of it is upbeat and it’s the good years, the good times on the Sunset Strip and Hollywood, getting signed.

So it’s really interesting and what ended up happening was the reason that it’s now a YouTube channel, the labels are making all of their money from that music on licensing and it would have cost a fortune to be able to use the real music of these bands, which was really necessary to have a viable documentary. We were talking with distributors for HBO and for Netflix, and the only way to do it would have been to have the correct music including the music of Nirvana or grunge bands to show the comparison and what was going on, and use that as part of the story. We just couldn’t do it. It would have cost more than any documentary could possibly generate. So we were sitting on all of this material and all of this footage of interviews, and decided — actually, Stevie Rachelle was talking with Drew a few months back and he knows all about it. We actually did an interview with Stevie…

Sleaze Roxx: Cool!

Jim Darby: …that is part of this. He knows all about it and he suggested to Drew [Hannah] and Drew conveyed to me that in their conversation, ‘Why let it sit?’ It’s not going to go anywhere and it’s too good to leave in the basement so we decided to release it this way. We’re really stoked with the response that we have gotten. It’s a baby. It’s in its infant stage so I don’t think that many people know about it. The ones who do seem to be enjoying it. I think that it’s going to do well. Anybody that loves this music I think will appreciate the interviews, and these guys being candid, just being themselves and talking about the real deal, the struggle that they had in those particular years. I think that it’s really interesting and much more so than it would have been to just talk about WildSide.

80’s Metal Recycle Bin Promo video:

Sleaze Roxx: That sounds really cool! Did you know all these guys already before contacting them? You must have known them from your days on the Strip.

Jim Darby: Yeah, a lot of them. A lot of them, we met through — we had our associate producer did a lot of groundwork talking with management, promoters and agents of these folks. But there is a network. You know, we’re all from Hollywood and there’s a lot of guys that we had met directly. Erik Turner for instance, we hung out. All of us for so many years, we were all Hollywood guys kind of doing that — getting signed. They certainly beat us to the punch. And then, we had a lot of industry interviews as well — A&R people, we do Riki Rachtman of Headbanger’s Ball, Eddie Trunk — great interview with Eddie. Some really great stuff!

Sleaze Roxx: Did you find it easier interviewing the guys that you already knew from the past or was it easier to go in cold with someone that you didn’t know as well?

Jim Darby: Good question. I am really great friends with the first guy that I recorded with on a major label which is Kane Roberts. I talk to Kane a couple of times per day and he’s like a stand up comedian. When he’s not playing music, in just normal conversations, the guy is absolutely hilarious. So to do an interview with somebody like that takes a different spin of course because of who he is and it’s hard not to laugh because I know what he’s thinking.

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]

Jim Darby: I actually found the interviews with the guys that we didn’t know to be the most interesting because you know, I was learning something. We didn’t know anything about these guys. Many of them are just so cool. These guys are really — the latest one is Steve Whiteman. Great dude! And Mark Slaughter also, I didn’t know. We had a couple of hours with Dana Strum and he told the most amazing stories. He does impersonations of him helping Ozzy find Randy Rhoads and it’s amazing. It’s really great!

Sleaze Roxx: Cool! Well, I cannot wait to see it. Getting to the band that put you on the map — WildSide — I understand that the band was actually signed to a five album deal with Capitol Records. Is that true?

Jim Darby: That is true. So it was a two album deal with three options. We were touring — non-stop touring — for ‘Under The Influence.’ We started touring before the album came out opening for a band called The Four Horsemen and then we went on the Roxy Blue / Babylon A.D. tour. But we really cut our teeth with The Four Horsemen before the album was released. We didn’t have anything in stores. Nobody knew who we were and we sort of learned how to tour. And we didn’t stop. We just kept on going and going. We’d come home for two weeks and leave for another three months. We weren’t done yet but Capitol wanted us to come home and start our second record. Our manager wasn’t going to have it. They wanted — he wanted to release the ballad “Just Another Night” which was really planned to be our first single. We were holding off and we held off too long.

Capitol was ready to go and certainly, the music was changing. On the point that we just talked about, Capitol had Blind Melon — their new baby — and they had broken already and they were really paying attention to them. Their sentiment was just kind of come home and start working on a second record. Maybe we would be busy for another year while they could concentrate on the bands that they were really interested in. Our manager wasn’t having any of it. We got into a scuffle with the label — legal scuffle — and ended up going our separate ways. So we didn’t even get to the second album which was guaranteed. They bought us out of it.

WildSide‘s “Just Another Night” video:

Sleaze Roxx: Looking back now, do you regret what happened or was it just a matter of fact?

Jim Darby: Yes.

Sleaze Roxx: You do regret it?

Jim Darby: 100%. We should have come home. We should have done the second record. [Guitarist] Brent [Woods], myself, Drew, [bassist] Marc [Simon] — I don’t know where Benny’s musical direction was at that point — but because I lived with Brent on and off the road, it was just getting a little heavier. It was still WildSide. It wasn’t the direction of grunge or where we went with the second album, which I’ll get to, but  we were leaning heavier. Brent was listening to a lot of bands like White Zombie type of stuff and we listened to that stuff on the bus. Tool — some heavy bands that were influencing what would have definitely been another WildSide record that would not have disappointed the fans of ‘Under The Influence’ but I think that it would have been a little bit of a departure that Capitol [Records] would have been pleased with. I think that we would have been better off in hindsight just going back and completing a second album. We were really primed for it. We had been writing a lot of music. Yeah. I do think that it was a mistake.

Sleaze Roxx: When I spoke to Benny almost two years ago, he had mentioned that there really wasn’t any songs in the can to go do that second album when Capitol requested that you get off the road.

Jim Darby: Not true. That’s not true. I just saw something on your site. I mentioned Stevie [Rachelle] and Drew speak often. Benny had some quote about Stevie’s album [WildSide’s ‘The Wasted Years’ which was released in 2003] that was definitely not a bootleg. That was actually a WildSide record but you know, WildSide also, that is a name that we came up with by force. We couldn’t use our original name Young Gunns because the movie ‘Young Guns’ owned the rights to the merchandising. There was all of this legal stuff so we just had to come up with a name. That was the last thing on our minds, thinking of a band name.

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Sure.

Jim Darby: So when somebody says it’s technically not a ‘WildSide’ album — well, whatever that means — it might be songs that had been written before we changed the name or not. I don’t know but we were WildSide and Brent was writing music all of the time. As I said, we lived together so I don’t know that Benny would be even privy to that fact. They weren’t the closest of friends — Brent and Benny. They weren’t adversaries but they just didn’t… Again, I was all the time around Brent — year round and on the road 24/7. I know what he was doing and there were definitely some really great songs. A couple of them are on that ‘[The] Wasted Years’ release that Stevie put out.

Sleaze Roxx: Who did the majority of the writing for the first album then?

Jim Darby: Well, that’s another…. For ‘Under The Influence’?

Sleaze Roxx: Yes.

Jim Darby: That’s another one that you might get different answers along with that question.

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] OK.

Jim Darby: You know, on paper, that is Benny — I would say more Brent, Drew and Benny. However, really, I joined the band, their demo did have “Just Another Night” on it. I think that it had “Hang On Lucy” and then it had some songs that didn’t make the album. We recorded them. There’s a song called “Dance Swing” and a song called “Easy As 1 2 3” that we did record with Andy Johns for potentially ‘Under The Influence’ but they didn’t make the album. So those were there before I joined the band. Like the majority of that record — “Hair of The Dog”, “Clock Strikes”, “Lad In Sin” and “How Many Lies” — those, the parts were worked out. The main parts were worked out by Brent writing the music. Drew writing most of the lyrics. Benny lived with Drew on and off, and they grew up together. So he would contribute to lyrics and to what extent, I wasn’t in the room but I know that he had something to do with that. However, the actual complete song that you hear, that was the whole band. We all worked it out all together. At the end of the day, I think that everybody agrees on that. The main songwriters are Drew and Brent, and Benny did some contributions. We all did the music side of things, especially the arrangements.

WildSide performing live at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio, USA on January 14, 1993 (Part 1 of 2):

WildSide performing live at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio, USA on January 14, 1993 (Part 2 of 2):

Sleaze Roxx: So take me to your second album. Grunge hits. You guys lose your second album deal with Capitol Records, and I understand that Brent and Benny left shortly thereafter. Is that fair enough?

Jim Darby: Well, we can set that record straight. Neither one of them left the band.

Sleaze Roxx: OK.

Jim Darby: Brent would be the first to tell you. They were both — for a lack of better term — fired. Brent was a huge mistake. However, there was just a lot of — we were spending so much time on the road, so much time together on the bus. It got difficult for a full road crew and five band members all the time, always together. We needed some time [apart]. We needed a break. This exploded near the end. There were some times — I think Benny tells the story of when Brent’s fingers were bleeding and we went ahead back on stage. Tempers flared and yeah, we fired Brent. And Brent would be the first guy to tell you that. And we would be the first to tell you it was a mistake. That’s really what happened.

Sleaze Roxx: OK. Did you ever try to get Brent back into the band?

Jim Darby: We did. We’ve done several shows with Brent as WildSide long after all that happened.

Sleaze Roxx: What I mean is did you try to get him back…

Jim Darby: Before the second album?

Sleaze Roxx: Yeah.

Jim Darby: No. He went — by the way, he’s such an amazing guitar player and we all know that. Anyone who has seen him knows that. He’s an amazing songwriter. He’s just great so of course, he went and joined Vince Neil’s band. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The way things worked out with us, it worked out perfect for him timing wise. So no, we did not try to get him back at that time. It ended badly and stayed that way for quite some time. I actually played in another band with Brent with a girl named Sandy Martin. She’s on iTunes I believe. We recorded a full album with the producer of System of A Down. It’s kind of a pop vocal with heavy music behind it so Brent and I, we stayed in touch throughout and of course, we did the WildSide shows way later. There was a time, for a few years, when none of us spoke to one another.

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Fair enough.

Jim Darby: None of us meaning Brent and the rest of the band.

Sandy Martin‘s “Think About Me” video:

Sleaze Roxx: And what happened with Benny in your view?

Jim Darby: Well, what really happened in reality and it’s not just my view — Bruce Draper was the guitar player on the second album. He was also the guitar player in my first band. There’s a band called NRG. We did a record in Texas [USA]. This producer is now famous — Howard Benson. He did right after the NRG album — Bang Tango heard that record, they hired him and went to do their big record. ‘Psycho Café’ I think it’s called. So Bruce was the guitar player of that band and we were looking for somebody. We had Jon E. Love of Love/Hate in the band for about two weeks and we just didn’t get along with him. So we kept the search going. Bruce was a really unique, very good — and that’s why you hear the music the way you hear it — very unique and different [guitarist] kind of like John Frusciante of the [Red Hot] Chili Peppers. It’s really out there, eclectic guitarist who was in his own right also a virtuoso. Those NRG guys ended up becoming The Graveyard Train on Geffen Records. They had broken up when we were looking for a replacement for Brent so we knew Bruce was available, and were well aware of how amazing — albeit different — he was. So we went from Brent to Bruce. They are polar opposite on guitar but both are amazing.

So in terms of the music, it wasn’t just trying to fit with grunge. It was also the guitar player that we had in the band that sort of led the way.  We started to write those songs with Bruce and you know, this is where things get dicey as far as Benny is concerned. Bruce was not feeling compatible playing wise with Benny and frankly, neither did Brent. So we were rehearsing and we were writing songs, and I know as Benny told you, he wasn’t feeling the music but what really happened was that Drew had gone down to Australia for a couple of months to take a break and he went there with his girlfriend at the time. And Benny ended up selling some of Drew’s gear without Drew knowing about it and that’s simply what happened. There was already musical tension with Bruce. Drew came home and found his very beautiful and expensive guitars gone, and we let Benny go.

Sleaze Roxx: Oh wow.

Jim Darby: Him saying that he quit the band is not truthful. This is not meant to be a put down. It’s actually what happened. If that is a put down, then it is I suppose. It is really weird to read — even Brent has said, it is weird for Brent to read that Benny says Brent quit the band. I think that it suits Benny’s story better to say that. But Brent did not quit the band. And Brent will tell you that. He would have no reason to — if he actually did quit, he’d tell you he quit. It’s the real truth. I do a lot of other things now and have done since. Things are great for me. There’s no weirdness for me other than — the weirdness was created by reading these weird stories like he quit the band. That just didn’t happen. He could have left it alone and I would have left it alone. He could have told the truth and then I wouldn’t even have anything to answer to.

Sleaze Roxx: Right. So…

Jim Darby: Sorry dude. You’re right. The idea is not to slam Benny in any way [based on an off the record conversation] but the truth is pretty damning for him unfortunately.

Sleaze Roxx: It is what it is. It is 30 years ago so at the end of the day, I think that everyone has moved on.

Jim Darby: There is that [laughs]!

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]

Jim Darby: There is that too. And that’s the thing. On his Facebook, it seems to be so his everyday life and you know, all of us are doing other things. Not kind of. All of us are doing other things. Brent still plays music for a living every day. God bless him. He should. That’s what we are all meant to do and Brent has found a way to do it. So yeah.

Sleaze Roxx: So Brent is fired. Benny is fired. You have the second album. So who wrote most of the second album?

Jim Darby: All four of us.

Sleaze Roxx: Were you aiming for a certain direction with the album. Like you had said, you wanted to go a little heavier, a little more towards the grunge scene or was it just natural that it ended like that?

Jim Darby: A little bit of all of that and like I said, Bruce was that style of a guitar player. He was this very organic, eccentric but amazing guitar player, and he didn’t play like Brent. They were completely different styles. So it just so happened that the idea that we were just jumping on the bandwagon, that could be partially true. However, we also did, when it came out — I wouldn’t say Nirvana — but we were Alice In Chains fans, Soundgarden. I know somebody made a comment on your site that there seems to be, almost like in politics, it’s either us or them with grunge and metal…

Sleaze Roxx: Sure.

Jim Darby: …which is weird to me because when I grew up, you could like Black Sabbath and The Beatles. You could like Peter Frampton and the Sex Pistols. There was no either that or one or the other. You could like all of it. So when grunge came out, I think that the effect that it had on the rock bands is what made people have so much animosity towards it. I don’t think that it was the lack of decent music. Some of it wasn’t great but I don’t mind — even the grunge years and such — I might not buy the record or put it on to listen to [it] but I’m not going to turn it off when it comes on the radio. However, Alice In Chains, I love them. I love Soundgarden and not grunge, but Rage Against The Machine is one of my favourites. I love those guys. Pantera was not grunge at all and at the heavier end of what we were doing.

But I mentioned that Brent was listening — Brent and I on the bus and Drew — we were listening to all that stuff. So when Bruce joined the band, his guitar playing let itself to playing that style of music much more than Brent’s. Brent would have gone on more towards the White Zombie, Pantera style. So it just so happened that that was the music that was happening, Bruce’s guitar playing was a particular style, and we did that record. I do like that album. However, the mix is horrible. We had these guys producing it on a really bad record label and it really didn’t get served well with a very poor mix. Certainly, people who don’t like that style of music which were the core WildSide fans, we didn’t do them any service either. It was unfortunate. We should have used a different name. I don’t think that we should have called it WildSide because it really wasn’t.

Sleaze Roxx: Did you guys end up doing any touring behind that record?

Jim Darby: We did. We did quite a bit actually. We did some larger venues. We headlined a festival in Lincoln, Nebraska. It was a fly-in where they even flew in all of our gear and I don’t know, we went on three or four tours for that album and it was declining. We saw it happen. It was nothing like the ‘Under The Influence’ tours. But yeah, we still went. The cities that we did well in, we still did well in. Salt Lake City; Denver, Colorado; Lincoln, Nebraska; Milwaukee; Chicago — we still did well in because we still had fans that were into it. And some of them liked the new music but it certainly wasn’t well received for the diehards, for the ‘Under The Influence’ fans. That’s for sure. And I get that.

Sleaze Roxx: What brought the band to a halt then? What made you decide to shut it down?

Jim Darby: Basically, those touring months, those two or three tours that we did, we saw the writing on the wall. We could see that that wasn’t flying. Again, trying to do it as WildSide, it was basically a completely different band. We would have all been better served, including the WidlSide fans, if we would have called it something different and started fresh instead of trying to tap in to those same bands.

Sleaze Roxx: So what year did WildSide disband then?

Jim Darby: I think that it was probably 1996.

Sleaze Roxx: OK. And what did you end up doing after that?

Jim Darby: I went to work for a company that does motion pictures, special effects and animation. It was a really great 13-year career that I had there almost immediately after the break up of the band. We did all of Pixar, Disney’s animated features, all of Industrial Light & Magic’s special effects for movies like ‘Independence Day’ , James Cameron’s ‘The Titanic’ for a company called Digital Domain, and I started working the European market so I started spending my time in Europe over the next 13 years. The big film studios in London [UK], they were also doing American blockbuster movies — ‘Harry Potter’, ‘James Bond’, ‘Laura Croft’, ‘Tomb Raider.’ Those were very special effects heavy movies and there’s a big community of that in London. Nothing like Hollywood but there was enough of it over there that it kept me busy.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Sleaze Roxx‘s interview with Jim Darby to be posted in the coming week.

WildSide‘s “How Many Lies” video: