INTERVIEW WITH BLACK ‘N BLUE SINGER JAIME ST. JAMES
Date: July 15, 2017
Interviewer: Ruben Mosqueda
“THAT’S A PRETTY DAMN GOOD SOUNDING RECORD. I THINK IF WE GOT BACK TOGETHER TOMORROW [WITH THE ORIGINAL LINE-UP], WE’D SOUND JUST LIKE THAT,” SAID THE BLONDE MANED BLACK ‘N BLUE SINGER JAMIE ST. JAMES. THIS OCTOBER 31ST WILL MARK THE 2OTH ANNIVERSARY OF THEIR ‘REUNION SHOW’ AT PORTLAND, OREGON’S KEY LARGO THAT SPAWNED THEIR LIVE ALBUM ‘ONE NIGHT ONLY – LIVE’. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH ST. JAMES THIS PAST MARCH AND ASKED ABOUT THEIR INCREDIBLE LIVE ALBUM (AND THEN SOME). “IT’S A GREAT RECORD. I DON’T KNOW HOW YOU CAN GET IT THESE DAYS. IF YOU FIND THAT THING IN A USED CD BIN, GET IT (LAUGHS)!” AS MOST READERS KNOW, BLACK ‘N BLUE ARE STILL PERFORMING IN 2017. THEY’VE BEEN DOING SO FOR ROUGHLY A DECADE SINCE ‘OFFICIALLY’ REUNITING. BLACK ‘N BLUE CURRENTLY CONSIST OF SINGER JAIME ST. JAMES, BASSIST PATRICK YOUNG, DRUMMER PETE HOLMES, AND GUITARISTS BRANDON COOK AND BOB CAPKA.
Sleaze Roxx: The show you recorded in ‘97 was a reunion show. It wasn’t meant as a reunion, right?
Jaime St. James: Well, what happened was we had an opportunity to make a live record. We hadn’t played a show in a long time. Tommy [Thayer] wanted to do it and we agreed that we should get back together just to do a live record [‘One Night Only – Live’]. That was in the late ’90s and there wasn’t a whole lot happening for bands like us so we went for it. I think the album turned out great.
Sleaze Roxx: Heading into that show, how much preparation time went into that? How much rehearsal time was spent and how? Some of band members were in Portland area and the rest were based out of LA.
Jaime St. James: You’re right. Tommy, Pete [Holmes] and I live in LA and Patrick [Young] and Jeff [Warner] live in Portland. We all met up in Portland and did a couple of rehearsals and then jumped right in. We brought a guy by the name of Pat Reagan who we had worked with in the past in Los Angeles. He actually played keyboards on ‘In Heat.’ He’s an engineer and a producer. We had him do the recording so we were sure it was going to turn out great.
Sleaze Roxx: When it came time to draft a set list, what was that like? You had a lot of stuff to choose from.
Jaime St. James: I remember we were rehearsing in a warehouse. We put together on paper that we felt would just work. One thing about Black ‘N Blue is that it didn’t matter how long it had been since we last played together; it didn’t take but a couple rehearsals for us to get things tight. I recall that it was actually pretty easy. I recall that the setlist that we drafted at rehearsal turned out to be the setlist that we wound up using. We added “Violent Kid” which has never been recorded but we have been performing since day one. We wrote that one in 1981. We wanted to do that just to get it on a record. We have been wanting to record that since our self-titled album in ‘84. Geffen didn’t want that on there and it has always been a crowd favorite ever since we were on the strip playing the club circuit.
“Violent Kid” sounds exactly how we used to play it back in the day. We demoed it a couple times before we were signed but we never changed it. The guitar riff, the vocal melody, the entire thing sounds like it did from day one. We still play that song to this day on occasion. John Kalodner [A&R guru] who signed us to Geffen Records hated that song [laughs]! We were dumb founded by that. We always thought that song was so cool. Who knows who was right. It wasn’t on our first record but I don’t know that it would have changed things.
Sleaze Roxx: That song has a killer groove to it.
Jaime St. James: I know it. I have always loved Kix and that song was influenced by Steve Whiteman. It’s got that rawness to it. I think probably the reason that “Violent Kid” didn’t go through a transformation was that a producer didn’t get a hold of it.
Sleaze Roxx: ‘One Night Only – Live’ was recorded on October 31, 1997 but released in the spring of 1998. The album is currently out of print. Have you considered reissuing it?
Jaime St. James: No. That album is owned by Eon Records and they can do with it what they wish. It’s never going to get re-released. I think you should consider yourself lucky if you have a copy or look on eBay because it’s never getting re-released. I honestly think that some of the songs on that album sound better than the studio versions. I think that “Wicked Bitch” turned out way better on that live record.
Sleaze Roxx: What are the chances we’ll get a new live album by the current Black ‘N Blue line-up?
Jaime St. James: I don’t want to say never. I’m open to the idea. I have even thought about a new record, but it would be for the art and fun of it. I do miss writing a song and watching it come to life in the studio. I miss that. I’m hooked on it and I miss that — a lot. It’s hard to get someone to spend the money to properly release a record like that by a band like Black ‘N Blue. As far as a live DVD or something like that? If we can do it right, I’d love to do that but until that happens, I’m happy getting out there playing live.
Sleaze Roxx: A while back, I caught up with Ron Keel and as I was going over his discography. You popped up a number of times on some of those records. What’s your recollection of cutting “Fool For A Pretty Face?”
Jaime St. James: [Long pause] Boy, I barely remember that actually [laughs]. I’ve done so much work with Keel… I remember the first time Gene [Simmons] threw me into the studio and said “Do something [laughs]!” There were other times where I had more of a say. I hate to say it because Ron is a good friend of mine but I can’t recall much about that. I had Ron come in and sing on our ‘Nasty Nasty’ record on “Best In The West.” He did an incredible job. I’d like to hear some of those songs again! I did some vocals on their last record [‘Streets Of Rock ‘N’ Roll’] and I never heard that. I need to do that [laughs]!
Sleaze Roxx: I’m glad you brought up “Best In The West” because that was the next thing I wanted to ask you about. There’s a lot of cool things happening there. You have Ron Keel, you have Peter Criss of KISS and the album was produced by Gene Simmons of KISS. What was that environment like?
Jaime St. James: That’s an interesting story. I saw Peter Criss and his wife at The Rainbow. I knew we were going to bring in some guests. I spoke with him and said “Hey man, we’re making a record and we’re working with Gene. You should really come down.” Peter said “No, no, no. Gene and I haven’t spoken in years.” Hi wife came up to me afterward and gave me his number and she urged me to make him do it. So I set it up. Peter said “I don’t know. Gene and I don’t really get along.” I finally convinced him to come down and the night he came down, we didn’t record a thing that night [laughs]! It was Gene and Peter sitting around the studio telling stories. It was such a cool thing to be have been a part of. Listening to those stories was almost better than having him on the recording and Peter sounds cool on that recording.
Sleaze Roxx: That was a hell of a way to close out ‘Nasty Nasty.’
Jaime St. James: It was. I remember Gene being shocked when Tommy and I suggested putting brass on “Best In The West.” We hired a horn section to come in and he was like “What?!” After he heard what we had done, he was like “You know what you guys were right. [laughs]”
Sleaze Roxx: You ever listen back to some of your own work? Earlier, you mentioned that there were some guest appearances on Keel records that you didn’t recall or hadn’t even heard.
Jaime St. James: There are people that come up to me and ask me to sign records and I ask “Wait, why am I singing this?” They answer “You’re on it [laughs]!” I don’t even remember that I am. I’ve sang on Ted Nugent records and Loverboy records. I sang on the KISS ‘Revenge’ record. The song “Lovin’ Every Minute Of It” [Loverboy], it’s a Mutt Lange song. I sang those vocals for like 12 hours [laughs]!
Sleaze Roxx: I wasn’t aware of that. I don’t think you were credited on ‘Revenge?’
Jaime St. James: Probably not. I was in there. I sang some of the backgrounds. I was in the room with Paul. I got a chance to sit and talk with Bob Ezrin which was really cool. Getting back to the other part of your question, I listen to some Black ‘N Blue stuff if it shows up on my playlist but I usually fast forward past it.
Sleaze Roxx: You must have a number of unreleased songs in the vault, right?
Jaime St. James: Tommy 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 cassette 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.