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Black 'N Blue

Interviewed by Larry Toering
Interview with Jaime St.James of Black ‘N Blue from 2011
MSJ:

At what age did you start playing the drums and who were some of your earliest musical influences?

When I was 13 years old I wanted a drum set, but learned guitar first. It was kind of hard but I knew I would be a good drummer. I just started playing at 14 and the first thing I did was "Static." I wanted to sing and not play drums so I made one of those cups with string and stuck it on a cymbal stand,  and the first song I did was “Eighteen” by Alice Cooper. And then I got into songwriting. The Beatles were my earliest influence I remember. We went to my Aunt Ethel's to see them. Everybody should have an aunt Ethel by the way. All I knew was that it was something cool so I was interested.  We watched the famous performance of the Beatles on the “Ed Sullivan Show.” Something did it for me there. Other than that it was Alice Cooper who really influenced me, and I got to see him on the Billion Dollar Babies tour and I was hooked on rock 'n roll from that point on.
MSJ: The first band I remember you being in was Jet. Why did you decide to become a singer and how did that happen?
I played the drums with Danny Kurth and Julian Raymond, who is now vice president of Capitol Records, and Berry Pendergrass and also Walt Van Rheen. Then I went on to sing, and we all went in different directions. You might know about some of that, but I knew a lot of people coming up in Portland back then, including a few along with Pete Holmes, and he and I both briefly also passed through the same band for a bit as they developed before everything took off a little later and the name became “Wild Dogs.” Many great guys in Portland did as well, including Kurth himself. Nothing to do with Jet but those are all great guys and it was getting heavier as I went.
MSJ: Not everyone knows that you actually changed your name, I didn't know you as Jaime until I saw it on the first BNB record, would you care to share anything about it, because we went to the same school and I looked up to you. So, it caught me by surprise and even confused me a bit over the years.
I was born James, so I was Jaime all my life till a teacher said it was a girls name, so they started calling me “Jim” for a couple of years. I didn't want that, and my mom called me “Jaime” so I said "screw you, I'm Jaime." It was a huge insult coming from a teacher, and it all stemmed from that ridiculous person. So I changed it from James Harris Pond, to Jaime St. James, and my middle name is still Harris. I didn't think Pond sounded like a rock star, either, so it was the natural thing to do at that point. You're right I suppose it isn't well known, you're already surprising me with some of the things you know. It's very cool to be so well acknowledged, thanks!
MSJ: How did BNB come together? It seemed to all happen so quickly. You were in Portland for a relatively short time and things just went from there. Pretty soon you had a record deal with Geffen and getting on huge tours - going to Europe and Japan. It must've been like some kind of crazy dream?
Tommy and me were in Movie Star, BNB formed out of that because we wanted to be heavier. Me and Julian went to L.A. and saw Quiet Riot with Randy and Phil Lynott. Without Julian BNB would probably not be what it is. We listened to Queen 2 together and checked out everything that was going on. Went to Music Millennium all the time in Portland and I still love that record store. I grew up in that neighborhood, as you know, because you did too.

But basically Tommy and I took charge and Movie Star became BNB and we went to L.A., but Tommy said if it wasn't for me he wouldn't have done it. We felt kind of kicked out of Portland then really, because it was becoming harder and harder to get gigs playing our kind of music and we quickly started to feel outcas from the clubs. But rock was getting that way in general there, so we split for the better and it paid off for us. We still love Portland and always will, though. It's essentially our home, really, and a few of us still live there. Speaking of Music Millennium, that is how I actually discovered Bon Scott. I practically lived in that place. It was a huge influence on everything and Scott is one of my heroes. So I will never forget that and what they have always done for the music community in Portland. It helped shape our youth and make us love music.
MSJ: What was it like working with Gene Simmons, and did it make any major differences in terms of what direction you were going at that time as a band?
The reason we asked him to produce was because we were getting too corporate all of a sudden. You write forty songs for a record and you select ten to manipulate in a direction, and you can start to feel like you're losing your way. It was my idea, although everything we did Tommy was involved in. So between us we approached Simmons. I love him, he's a great guy and I've been lucky to know him. Paul Stanley is great, as well, and also a very nice guy too. We're all proud to have worked with him and have no regrets there whatsoever. I mean Tommy went on to work for them and now he's actually in Kiss and we wish him the best and still get together and stay in touch. We're all great friends to this day.
MSJ: So once things were over what are some of the projects you did between then and your stint with Warrant.
We never did formally break up. We tried to hold it together for a while after the farewell show at the Starry Night in '88, but we went our own ways. Tommy and I formed the band and we had some success, so things were never bad. But we just moved on to other things. The best thing I did in between was Freight Train Jane. Tommy Bolan of Warlock, Pat Regan (who has worked with many including Deep Purple) are the ones who produced it. It was insanely good. People who have that know how good it is. I also asked to join Cold Gin with Mark Ferarri, it was a tribute band, which was pretty rare in those days. I played the drums, but I said “we must put the make up on.” Stanley and Simmons actually helped us with the make up. Anyone who ever saw us knew we were great. I decided after a while it wasn't my thing, but it was fun and we felt we helped influenced Kiss to put the make up back on.
MSJ: So moving on to your time with Warrant, how did you find yourself in that position and how did it go for you?
I got a call from Jerry. He said Jani Lane wasn't working. I didn't think at first it would be the thing to do, but I did the audition anyway - left Portland while recording what is now BNB's new CD titled “Hell Yeah.” Then I came back and they called and said they wanted me to sing for them. So I convinced myself it was the right thing. It lasted four years, and we had some great times. They always knew if a deal to get Jani back in they would go for it, and he did, and it didn't last, now they have another singer and he is great, too. But I feel their best bet will always be with their original and most recognizable singer, as is the case with any great band, in my opinion. But I'm grateful to be back with BNB for good, and I always will be. Replacement singers just aren't as genuine as the real deal, but working with Warrant was a challenge that helped me get my vocal chops up and that's important. I never considered myself as much of a singer as I did a performer, and I feel that I'm more of both after the experience. It was funny at first because people were claiming that I was using backing tapes to sound like Jani but I wasn't. I worked hard to sound true to those songs and sing them faithfully out of respect for him and the fans and I feel I came out a better singer in the process.
MSJ: Were you happy with the album and the touring you did with them?
I was, and what I really liked was that we were playing all the time, and that's what I needed. It was strange. I nailed it and they wanted me and that was cool. I was pretty well accepted. You know everyone wants to hear “Cherry Pie.” After four years they got the offer to be with Jani again, and all of a sudden it was over. So there was some sadness about not being able to play with those guys and be friends. So it was like a divorce you don't really want, from four wives at once. But it all went well, and it was fun. Would I do it again? No! I'll be with BNB till I die. That is what I am and who I am. I feel Iike I'm the catalyst.
MSJ: You were recently inducted into the Oregon Music Hall Of Fame. It was a smashing show and everyone seemed to rather enjoy the whole night, would I be right about that?
It was fabulous, we had a great time playing and meeting with all the fans. It was really cool. As I said, I felt we were kicked out of Portland all those years ago. so it was a grand return and we loved it. Everyone was so happy to see us and we really appreciated it and had a blast performing. And, of course, Tommy was there to celebrate it with us. It was such a great vibe and an honor to be inducted and invited to perform for our home fans and friends. The guys all have family up there and were glad to see them as well. It was great. Thanks, Portland!
MSJ: What do you think of the Portland music scene overall?
I know nothing about it since I live in L.A., but the L.A. scene itself is also not what it used to be, either. Nobody goes to the Whiskey anymore because it's pay to play. It's kind of sad to say that. But even though it's still the best place on the west coast, it's just not the same anymore.
MSJ: The new BNB guitar player isn't exactly the new guy anymore, but when you replace someone it can seem that you're always the new guy from there out. How did you select Shawn? I'm assuming he was obviously a friend?
He is from Portland. Patrick and him played in a band at one point. They introduced me to him. They love him and I trusted the guys and it turns out he's a great guy and now I love him, too. He is part of us and has been for 8 years now, so we're used to him.
MSJ: He did a great job on the new album. Can you explain why it took so long to finally put it together, other than your stint with Warrant obviously playing its role in that?
It took so long because of living apart, Warrant and Jeff Warner losing his studio.
MSJ: The album is fantastic, much better than I expected, and you've already done some dates including the M3 Rock Festival with Whitesnake and others here in the US. It sounds like you're having a ball, how was that show?
It came out on May 17th, and was sold out at Amazon.com the next day. Whatever it means I'm not sure, but it's moving and that is all we can ask.

As for the gig with Whitesnake, it was great and I want people to cut David Coverdale and singers like that a break. I don't know, maybe he is a bit older by now. I mean he played Cal Jam in 1974, he has to be by now. But he is a very nice guy and always has been. We were at the same label back in the day, so we go back with him. He's a legend and one of the best ever, so go easy on him. We enjoyed the Festival and look forward to more of the same.
MSJ: Are there any tour plans abroad for BNB in the near future?
Not as of yet but we're open to anything as long as it's up our alley, and we only play good cool shows that we fly into and have a great time. We just like to play the bigger shows all we can, not pull the van up to c*** holes everywhere.
MSJ: How do you feel about the whole downloading music factor and its casualties versus its benefits? I mean the illegal variety, more than anything.
I'm pretty oblivious to it. I just want to make new music. On the other hand, you put out new music, the record company advances you and you have to pay them back. So, when you download everything for free… I understand the desire, but when you do that you hurt the future of music. There will be nothing left sooner or later if it goes this way too much longer. I think something will probably somehow be done about it sooner or later or there might be no business left to do someday because of it.

And Youtube is really annoying because it's never anything like being there at all, not one bit. You can't get good quality and better with good equipment and upload it there and it turn out any better than little cell phone clips. Even if you try it doesn't look or sound as good as people think. It's just junk and it detracts from a real good thing is all it does. It's irritating but so many people are doing it, anyway.
MSJ: Pete Holmes is an outstanding drummer. Was there any help from you at all in that department on the new BNB album, and if so, why?
I did some drum tracks on the album as well. I think Pete is better than I am, and I want people to know that because I love the guy. I played on probably 60% of it though. I just want to say that for the record he told me to leave things as is when I asked him what he thought about what I recorded for it. He is one of the best drummers I've ever known in my life, and he's a great guy and friend, always has been and always will be. This record was no quick job so there were a few things just done differently than usual, but it all worked out and we're glad it's finally out.
MSJ: Are there any plans to keep BNB together for more records in the future, or are you taking it one step at a time?
We're going to wait and see what happens. We will be playing live as often as we can and we'll only play cool festivals and stuff like that, as I mentioned. We're back for good, though. I can say that much.
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.
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