JAMIE ALLEN INTERVIEW:
October 9, 2011
American songwriter Jamie Allen has been earning a living by fronting Poison tribute bands Talk Dirty and, more recently, Poison Overdose — so it should come as no surprise then that the Missouri born rocker’s debut album ‘The Storyteller’ has a similar vibe to Bret Michaels’ solo work. With the help of veteran producer Johnny Lima, ‘The Storyteller’ is a collection of well-crafted tales based on Allen’s own life and experiences. Jamie Allen sat down with Sleaze Roxx to talk about the new album, how he feels about being compared to Bret Michaels and the reasoning behind his recent Jani Lane inspired single “Against The Ceiling”.
Sleaze Roxx: You released your debut album ‘The Storyteller’ independently earlier this year. How has the response been to it so far?
Jamie Allen: It’s been pretty good. I get reviews, mostly positive stuff, and it seems every time I get a review I sell a bunch more of them. I get a lot of Bret Michaels’ comparisons but that’s not the worst thing that can happen.
Sleaze Roxx: How did you get Johnny Lima involved with the CD?
Jamie Allen: I’ve liked his stuff for a long time. I sent him an email with a demo of “Reminiscin'” and asked him to let me know if he liked it. He wrote back with 10 different things he would change on it, but the bottom line was he would buy it. We started talking after that. Pretty soon he was going to mix it for us. Then there was a discrepancy with which way the band wanted to go and I decided to do it on my own.
Sleaze Roxx: What was the discrepancy between you and the band?
Jamie Allen: The guitar player mixed and recorded the stuff in his basement. I wanted to get Johnny Lima involved because he wanted to do it. I begged my guitar player to let him produce it and get it to sound like it should really sound, but he is a very negative person and didn’t want to do it. So finally I said Johnny, ‘what about a solo CD?’ and he said, ‘that would be great’.
Sleaze Roxx: Does any particular song on the CD have special meaning for you?
Jamie Allen: They all mean a lot to me. “Reminiscin'” is about an ex-girlfriend, “Back In The Day” is about old friends and “Smoke And Mirrors” is about a manager who ripped me off. They are all pretty much true stories and all have some meaning.
Sleaze Roxx: Now that you have your own album out are you going to do some live shows to promote it?
Jamie Allen: I do some live stuff. I do Poison, then I throw in some of this stuff and will see where it goes. I’m putting together a live band that will do 10 or 12 songs and we are going to do different stuff — anything from Creed and Nickelback to Poison and Motley Crue.
Sleaze Roxx: Maybe some Elvis Presley?
Jamie Allen: Yeah we are going to do “Suspicious Minds” as a matter of fact (laughs) — did you hear that somewhere? (laughs) That’s crazy.
Sleaze Roxx: What are your thoughts on people referring to ‘The Storyteller’ as sounding like a Bret Michaels album?
Jamie Allen: It doesn’t surprise me because I’ve always been told I sound like the guy. When I recorded it I really thought it really sounded like me — I just sang it. It was the first time I didn’t try to sound like anybody but it still sounded like Bret. I have some friends that listened to it and said it didn’t sound like Bret to them.
On the song “That’s Rock ‘N Roll” I did try to sound like Bret to be honest. I wrote it about Bret’s bus and all the girls who hang out after work and stuff like that, so I thought I’m going to put a few Bret-isms into my voice on some of the words for fun, but other than that I didn’t try to sound like him.
Sleaze Roxx: You’ve met Bret in the past. What was he like?
Jamie Allen: He was always really cool — I don’t know if he would be now (laughs). But he’s always been cool… super nice.
Sleaze Roxx: You don’t know if he’s checked out our solo music then?
Jamie Allen: No, I have no idea. C.C. DeVille is a big “Reminiscin'” fan though. He was telling me from the stage one night that he was lovin’ “Reminiscin'” — so that was really cool.
Sleaze Roxx: What was touring with Rock Of Love’s Heather Chadwell like?
Jamie Allen: That was a trip. She’s wild but totally cool at the same time. She can party all night long and hangs out with fans. I’d say she’s not a real good MC. She is supposed to be the MC but she gets up there and says the F-word a lot, it’s almost embarrassing. She is so nice to everybody. Then she can sleep for 2 hours, give her a Bloody Mary and she is ready to go the next day with a smile on her face. It was a lot of fun.
Sleaze Roxx: Seeing as you look a lot like Bret a lot in your promo photos are you often mistaken for him and how many women throw themselves at you thinking you actually are Bret?
Jamie Allen: (laughs) When I go out of town people will come up to me, freak out and take pictures. About 6 years ago there were a couple of times I went with it but I don’t do that anymore. I think here in town everybody knows me so nobody says anything but if I go out of town it’s on. And yeah, a lot of women actually — that happens a lot to me, that’s pretty cool (laughs).
Sleaze Roxx: Are you still playing with the tribute band Poison Overdose?
Jamie Allen: Yes. I’m still doing that twice a month.
Sleaze Roxx: Have you thought of incorporating Bret’s head smash at the Tony Awards into your show?
Jamie Allen: No I haven’t but that is a pretty good idea (laughs). We took a couple of promo shots of our Bobby Dall hitting me in the knee with his bass just for fun before, but we didn’t put them out.
Sleaze Roxx: Was there any truth to the rumors that you were close to replacing Bret in Poison for some shows a few years back?
Jamie Allen: I don’t know if there was any truth to it or not. I was reading that article on Metal Sludge and when I got to the bottom I think I was as surprised as anybody to see my face there and saying it’s a possibility. I have no idea. They haven’t contacted me.
Sleaze Roxx: Being in tribute bands, how often have you had to deal with band mates’ sloppy guitar playing due to booze or drugs?
Jamie Allen: Well, I’m not gonna say it never happens, cause it does! It’s not all the time, but it does happen. What can I say that will not get me into any trouble??? Have you ever met a singer that didn’t blame everything on the guitar player?? Well I’m no different! (laughs)
Sleaze Roxx: How is ‘Rose’ doing? Have you had to put her down due to higher gas prices?
Jamie Allen: No! It’s my guitar player’s bus. He brings it out to shows. (laughs) ‘The Rose’… I don’t know where you got that one, but that’s funny. There is a story about that one. There was this guy who used to be in the band named Randy… and DT was C.C. He decided to make a website, he likes to make things sound and look bigger than they are instead of telling it exactly like it is, and I’m a more tell it like it is guy.
So I go on the website and it says, “We call the bus The Rose”… and I’m thinking, “no we don’t”. My bass player at the time said, ‘DT don’t call it ‘The Rose’, that’s gay’, and he took it as we were calling the bus gay and he won’t let go of it. It’s like a grudge he holds even though the guy hasn’t been in the band for 3 or 4 years now. Every time I see Randy I call him ‘The Rose’. He is even Randy Rose in my phone (laughs). Have you been talking to Randy??
Sleaze Roxx: What did you think of my review of ‘The Storyteller’?It wasn’t the most flattering, but it kind of wrote itself.
Jamie Allen: I really liked your review… I appreciate it.It is what it is and what if I sat here and said I’m not trying to look like Bret at all? I’ve got so used to wearing this damn cowboy hat that I feel stupid with anything else on. You didn’t say the songs sucked, so that was the main thing to me.
Sleaze Roxx: It was definitely better than Bret’s last couple of solo records.
Jamie Allen: I appreciate it. I wrote songs I wanted to hear and I tried to make big hooks and memorable choruses — that was my goal. I wanted it to sound like an album from beginning to end. I didn’t want it to sound like a mixed bag of shit. A couple of songs from here and a couple from over here and you can tell they don’t really go together or weren’t recorded at the same time. It came out pretty much the way I wanted it.
Sleaze Roxx: Were some of the songs that ended up on the CD written a long time ago?
Jamie Allen: They were all written since 2006. Probably five of them we wrote within the last year. I write all the time, but the problem is I write with an acoustic guitar and only know 8 chords. It ends up being ballads, so I’ve got the ballads written for the next three albums (laughs) — there probably won’t be three more.
Sleaze Roxx: Are you already planning a new release?
Jamie Allen: I want to do a new album but there are no plans on starting anytime soon. I’ll always be writing in the meantime. If there was an easier way to record — I wish I had a place here that I could just sit down with the guitar and record stuff in a demo form but I don’t have any way to do that.
Sleaze Roxx: How have sales been for the CD?
Jamie Allen: I’ve sold 400 from out of my house and tons of downloads. I did an interview with Fireworks magazine and there is a CD glued to the front of it with 18 artists on it and “Reminiscin'” is on that. Every time something comes out like that I start selling again.
Sleaze Roxx: Have you thought about putting out a video to promote one of the songs?
Jamie Allen: I’ve definitely thought about it but if I put a video out it wouldn’t be as professional as it needs to be. But I’d definitely like to do something like that. I’m doing a show at the Family Arena, it’s like a hockey arena — this will be Poison but there are usually about 8,000 people there. We are opening for a Bon Jovi tribute and we get an hour and a half and I’m going to record some stuff there. I’m going to do part of “Heaven” from Warrant but make the crowd sing it and get it on video. I can put that on YouTube as a tribute to Jani Lane. I think we might do “Reminiscin'” and I’ll get some live footage of that song.
Sleaze Roxx: What were your thoughts on Jani Lane’s death?
Jamie Allen: He was my favorite. I thought he was the best songwriter of the ’80s… period. That’s where I still live, in the ’80s. I love the guy, I met him a bunch of times and he was super super nice every time. I know he had his problems. I wasn’t totally shocked though, I didn’t think anything would happen but you know all the stuff behind the scenes with the drinking so I guess it’s never a shock, it’s a bummer. I love that Saints Of The Underground album — I thought that was pretty good. I think he has a great voice.
Sleaze Roxx: You just released a Jani Lane tribute song called “Against The Ceiling”. How did that come about?
Jamie Allen: Well, my daughter — Jayme Layne, named after Jani and I — had asked me to write something that would sound Jani Lane-ish for her, and before I got around to it, Jani had passed away! We were both shocked, and later sad from the news. So, as sort of a grieving process, I sat at my bar downstairs, had a margarita, and just tried to put myself in Jani’s place in that hotel room.
To make a long story shorter, “Against The Ceiling” is what resulted from the margarita sessions I had off and on for four days, when I could find time alone in this MAD house. The song is available for free in the music section at www.jamieallenrocks.com and writing it helped me. I hope listening to it helps you the fans of Jani, Warrant, and good rock n roll.