House of Lords recently released their 11th studio album “Saint of the Lost Souls” through Frontiers Records. I spoke to guitarist Jimi Bell via Skype on 5th April to chat about the new album, House of Lords, Maxx Explosion, guitars, his influences and more. That interview along with 4 tracks from the new House of Lords album and a Maxx Explosion track was originally broadcast on the Friday NI Rocks Show dated 7th April. That Show is now available on our MixCloud page - https://www.mixcloud.com/NIRocks/interview-with-jimi-bell-from-house-of-lords-on-the-friday-ni-rocks-show-on-7th-april/

 

 


 

 

(Photo by Gail Corrow)

 

The interview has been transcribed and posted below.

There was a recommendation for the new album posted on the Rock Radio NI website - http://www.rockradioni.co.uk/back-stage/music-reviews/3104-ni-rocks-recommends-qsaint-of-the-lost-soulsq-by-house-of-lords.html

 

I posted an interview with House of Lords lead singer James Christian back in 2014 - http://www.rockradioni.co.uk/interviews/1474-ni-rocks-interview-with-james-christian-from-house-of-lords.html

 

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NI ROCKS – Hi Jimi, thanks for taking the time to talk to us here at Rock Radio NI. House of Lords have just released their latest album “Saint of the Lost Souls”. Where was the album recorded and was it once again produced by James Christian?

JIMI – First of all, hello and I’m very honoured to be here. The album is always recorded in different areas. Usually what we start off doing is the records at our drummer’s house; he has a studio there - BJ Zampa. He lives close to me and what I’ll do is write a song and go to his house and present it to him. He’s a writer and arranger himself. Then we’ll work on that and once we have it to a point where we feel it’s a completed song we’ll record it in full. Not as a demo – we record it as if it’s going on a record. Then we send it down to James in Florida. Then if James likes the song, which we’ve been fairly successful at, he will start working on it in his studio. Adding the vocals, keyboards and producing it – making it into a song. Him and BJ worked on the production of the songs together and then they sent them off to the guy that mixed our last record, Ty Sims in Arkansas, and there you have it. We’ve never been in the studio together, not even on the first record that we did – “World Upside Down” in 2005. It’s never been done like that. We always record separately and it works out really well. We’ve got a good system and we’ve been doing it for the last seven records. It seems to work out just fine.


NI ROCKS – The previous six House of Lords albums had been recorded with the same line-up; with the exception of “Cartesian Dreams” which featured Matt McKenna on bass.

JIMI – (interrupts) No, no Matt only did the tour, Matt was not on bass. All the records were the same line-up except for this new one. We have a new bass player - Chris Tristram. Formerly of Jack Russell’s Great White. He joined on because Chris McCarvill had an opportunity to go back and work with Don Dokken. It was just a good financial move for him and he wanted to do it. So we gave him our blessing; and we still have our other project together – Maxx Explosion – with me, BJ and Chris. We have a new bass player for House of Lords and couldn’t be happier because Chris Tristram is a monster player and a great person. He fits right into us really, really well. I couldn’t have prayed for a more perfect person to join House of Lords; so we’re very fortunate.


NI ROCKS – How would you compare “Saint of the Lost Souls” to the previous House of Lords albums that you’ve worked on?

JIMI – We always try to do something a little different on every record. We don’t purposely go in and try to do something like the same record. It’s not the way that I write - I’ll come up with something. I always give James some heavier riffs. This time I had some riffs which weren’t so heavy and he happened to like them. One of the songs on the record, “New Day Breakin’” was recorded a few years back, but it wasn’t right for the “Indestructible” record. “Indestructible” had a few heavier tracks on it and that was the vibe that we were going for on that record, but it happened to fit on this record so we used it. It’s strange, sometimes when you do a record like “Indestructible”, some people are saying it’s a little heavier, it’s not as melodic as they used to be! Then with this record people are saying it’s too melodic or it’s not as heavy as it should be! So you’re in-between. As I said, you have to experiment, you have to try. We’re one of the only bands out there from our genre that is still putting out a record every year and a half. There is not a lot of us out there that are doing that and I’m very proud of that. That we have the opportunity from Frontiers Records to continually put out new records all the time. We work hard on them and most of the reviews on the record have been spectacular; it’s gone really, really well for us.

I like the opening track “Saint of the Lost Souls” – I absolutely love it. Another track that I was unsure of at first was “Reign of Fire”. When I sent it to James -  I’m a huge AC/DC fan, so when I wrote “Reign of Fire” originally it started off kind of like an AC/DC song. Almost like “Live Wire” – I had the bass going at the beginning of it and then big power cords going over it. But when the song came back it sounded nothing like it whatsoever. It all these beautiful keyboards and vocals, and all of a sudden there was a Minimoog on it, and I’m going wow, a Minimoog! You’ve got to understand that we don’t hear the songs being done until James sends them back. So what we send James, we never know what it’s going to come back like. That’s one of the cool things. If we were all in the studio and we heard everything as it was being done, we would be used to it, but I like the element of surprise when I play the song for the first time and you hear it all completed with what James did to it. I always get that wow factor – this is amazing.


NI ROCKS – You and drummer BJ Zampa have a long history of working together. I’ll talk about Maxx Explosion later, but how long have you known each other and what projects have you worked on together?

JIMI – BJ and I have a great history together. He’s not only a great friend, he is an amazing musician. We knew of each other because we’re both from Connecticut here in the States and we were in local bands and we all knew of each other. But our real working relationship started in 1999, when a mutual friend of ours Ted Bullet, who was the singer of the band Thunderhead out of Germany, came home and said he was going to do another Thunderhead record and he wanted us to play on it. They did the record and the guitar player that they had wasn’t working out, so they called me to come in and do the leads. That started our whole thing and we ended up on tour. From the Thunderhead record, we went out on tour with Metal Church. This was when David Wayne had joined the band for the “Masterpeace” record. They did “Masterpeace” and then we went out on tour. We were on a double decker tour bus and David would come and watch us play guitar every show. Then one day on the bus he came and sat down and said listen I’m not going to be staying with this and I’m doing a solo record as soon as the tour is over, would you like to do a record with me? I said absolutely and that’s what started really our whole writing process between BJ and I; it was the David Wayne “Metal Church” record. I know he did some stuff with Mike Vescera, the singer from Loudness and other projects. We stay busy together . We play in tons of local bands together him and I. We have so many projects that we do. He plays with me in at least five bands locally, because that’s what we do. We’re full time musicians, we don’t do anything else except play music so we have to work. When one band is not working, we’re going to work in another band. That’s the way it is.


NI ROCKS – We’ll play a track from “Saint of the Lost Souls” now. Do you want to pick one and tell us something about it?

JIMI – I’d like to pick the title track which is a song that I’m very proud of. I like the guitar solo and everything (laughs). The title track “Saint of the Lost Souls” – I like the guitar riff. It’s kinda weird because I’d experimented in a couple of different keys for this song. I’d originally written it in a whole different key and then I started messing around and dropped the E string down to a D and said let me hear what it sounds like that. When I did that and starting playing all the parts I thought this sounds a lot better with the dropped D going in this key. One thing I did get to do, that I didn’t do on any of the other House of Lords records, was that I worked out all my guitar solos prior to recording them. Usually what happens is that I would go into the studio and we’d get to the solo section of the song and BJ would say let’s do the solo and I’d do one passage and he’d say that was OK but let’s do another one. So we’d do about 3 or 4 solos for each song and he’d say that one was the best and we’d agree which one we want to put on. But this time I actually sat down and recorded the solo track, or the rhythm part of the solo track and worked out a solo section for each song. Now I’m kicking myself for not doing it on all the records because it ended up working out so much better (laughs). So I’m still learning at my age. You’re never too old to learn!

 

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NI ROCKS – There’s quite a bit of keyboards on the new album. They’re provided by Michele Luppi from Secret Sphere. How did you hook up with him? Or did James hook up with him.

JIMI – No, I did actually. It’s a very funny story. My fiancée and I went to see Whitesnake in the smallest state in the US, Rhode Island; they were playing in a casino. There was no opening band so we went up to the front of the stage where they had the big Whitesnake banner and my friend took a photograph of me and my fiancée in front of the stage. Social media being as awesome as it is – we posted it on Facebook, and I woke up in the middle of the night after the show and I grabbed my phone to look at before going back to sleep. I see this message from this guy Michele Luppi and I’m thinking who the heck is this guy? He says hey I didn’t know you were in the audience last night, I’ve been a big fan of House of Lords since the very beginning. I’m thinking who the hell is this? (Laughs). So I looked it up and hit his page and he’s the keyboard player for Whitesnake! I’m going ‘Oh my God!’ and I waken up my fiancée Mandy and say the keyboard player from Whitesnake is messaging me! So I message him back and that started this big friendship that we have. He is an amazing guy and personally, what a sweetheart of a person. His talent is incredible. He really is a die-hard House of Lords fan. He has been a fan from the very beginning. He has the first album in a frame on his wall and even has the House of Lords jacket with the crest on the back of it.

I decided to get a little brazen (laughs) and said Michele, I’d love for you to play on the new House of Lords album. I don’t know if it’s possible, but I know you’re a big Gregg Giuffria fan, why don’t you do a keyboard intro on the new House of Lords record? Come up with an amazing intro and we’ll open the record with it. He was so excited, it was like a childhood dream come true for him as he’s been a fan that long. He wrote this amazing piece for “Harlequin”. Originally he was just going to do the intro, but he ended up playing through the whole song and what he played was mind-blowing. Then I went and pushed a little further and said we’re going to do a video for “Harlequin”, how would you like to be in the House of Lords video? Of course he jumped all over it, but he had to get permission from David; he didn’t want to take a chance on doing anything. But David Coverdale – what a sweet guy! He gave Michele permission to be in our video. How cool is that! So, we have him right at the beginning doing the whole thing and we have him throughout the video. We’re very honoured to have him and I’m very honoured to have him as a friend. He really is a great guy and I wish him all the luck with the new record that he has coming out. (The Secret Sphere album “The Nature of Time” which was released on 2nd June, also via Frontiers - http://www.rockradioni.co.uk/back-stage/music-reviews/3157-ni-rocks-recommends-qthe-nature-of-timeq-by-secret-sphere.html ).


NI ROCKS – I know James is currently working on the new Robin Beck album, so when are the band getting out on the road to support the new album?

JIMI – I don’t know much about Robin’s record, but I know our tour starts at the end of August. It starts in the UK actually, in Hull at the Hair Metal Heaven Festival. That is the start of our European tour. That’s the first show we play, with the exception of a few shows here in the US. We have a new agent, Ashley Talent International, who have taken us on and they’re going to be doing a bunch of shows for us in the US; but they also book Europe and everything else as well. So we’ll be starting our run from there. I’m hoping that there will be more dates in the UK.

NI ROCKS – That was going to be my next question. Hopefully we’ll get some more dates getting added?

JIMI – Yeah, I would love to. I’ve always loved playing in the UK.


NI ROCKS – It’s now ten years since the release of the band’s only live album – “Live In The UK”. There’s been a lot of new tracks since then. When I intereviewed James back in 2014 he was quite keen to do another live album and DVD. Has there been any more thought given to that?

JIMI – Yeah, we’re still talking about that with Frontiers. We played Loud Park in Tokyo, Japan in 2015. We’d like to grab the footage from that. They have that all filmed as well. Cameras on stage, off stage and everything. It would be great to get some of that footage into a DVD. So there is still talk about us doing that, and hopefully soon.


NI ROCKS – Every guitar player I’ve known or spoke to seems to have an addiction to buying guitars. Would you be the same and how many guitars do you reckon you own?

JIMI – (Laughs) My addiction is a little harder because I’m left handed and left handed guitars aren’t that easy to come by for me. Throughout my career of playing I’ve counted up my guitars and I’ve had at least 100 guitars. Pretty much all good ones. And I have still about 50. I’m a big fan of the SG style Gibson, but I have a company that custom builds all my guitars for me in Jacksonville, Florida called Roberts Guitars. He hand makes every guitar for me. They’re pretty much all the same, but they’re set up exactly the way I want them. I have special spots that I need the volume controls and where I need the toggle switch. So even if I had 6 or 7 Gibson SGs sitting downstairs I would have to get them all redone in order for me to play them. I need the volumes closer to me. I don’t keep anything stock.


NI ROCKS – And how many would you take on tour with you? If you were coming to Europe how many would you bring?

JIMI – I always bring two with me. I like the fact that the SG bodies are small and I can put them both into one double gig bag. I can usually, by the grace of God, bring them onto the airplane with me. They’ve been very good about that, because they fit in the overhead, even two of them inside one bag. It fits right into the overhead compartment on most planes. I always try to get an early board so that I can get it up there and let people squish their luggage into it, I don’t care (laughs). Yeah, so I bring two of Dale Roberts guitars with me all the time. I just switched pickups and went back to passive pickups. I used the NGs for the longest time, but I’ve just went back to using the Seymour Duncans and I’m really liking the sound of them a lot. I’m still experimenting.


NI ROCKS – At this point we’ll play another track from “Saint of the Lost Souls”. Again, do you want to pick one and tell us something about it?

JIMI – A song I kinda like a lot is the tune called “Concussion”. It has a different groove to it. I could tell you where I was inspired for it, but I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I stole it; it wasn’t that at all. I was inspired by a Whitesnake song – they have a tune that has that beat to it and when I heard it I thought I love that beat. The song isn’t like it at all, it’s just that I liked that beat. I thought House of Lords doesn’t have a song like that so I’m going to use that. And I liked the solo that I did on “Concussion”.


 

NI ROCKS – The other main project you’re involved in is Maxx Explosion – with BJ Zampa  and Chris McCarvill. How did that band get started?

JIMI – It got started when we were sitting around during breaks. James was doing solo records and he was busy. We looked at each other and said why don’t we do something. Our concept was that the three of us are the meat and potatoes of the band – we’re the bass, guitar and drums so why don’t the three of us play together in another band so that we’ll always be tight. Instead of us only getting together when we’re getting ready to go on tour, why don’t we play together in a band all year round and we’ll be as tight as possible when it comes time for House of Lords. That was the whole idea of it. Originally when we started we were just going to do some covers, but it just didn’t work out. We got in the basement and we’re all writers, so all of a sudden all the ideas start coming. There wasn’t a prayer that the band was ever going to be a covers band, because we all write. It became an all originals project and we’re doing another record.

We don’t have a label right now, so we’re in search of that, but we have a good amount of the songs ready for when that happens. We have some irons in the fire. I really enjoy playing with Maxx; it’s a really great band. Chris does a fabulous job singing and playing bass and I dig the whole trio thing. I’ve always loved trios like Rush and ZZ Top and even back to the Jimi Hendrix Experience. So I’m happy that we are a trio and that we can produce really good music. We do the same thing as we do with House of Lords. We have some backing tracks, like our keyboards in House of Lords are on backing tracks, so if a song needs keyboards we have it all. BJ is a human metronome; he really is. He plays to a click track like nobody else could play to a click track; he’s that good.


NI ROCKS – The band have  two albums – “Forever”  (2013) and “Dirty Angels” (2015) . I’ll play something from Maxx Explosion later in the Show. Which track would you like me to play?

JIMI – Let’s play “Crazy Hot” because I like that tune. We do that tune live and I kinda dig it. We have a video for that one too.


NI ROCKS – A few more general questions now as I know we’re getting close to our time. Firstly, who were your influences when you were started playing guitar?

JIMI – I love this question. I’m older, I’m not to lie to you, I’m 59 years old and I’ve been playing guitar for a really long time. My very first influence was back when I was aged thirteen. I was a drummer from the age 10 to 13 and actually had a scholarship for drums and everything. I was a rudiment drummer like they have in the orchestras playing snare drum. I started jamming with these guys at home and one of them left his guitar there one time and I thought I’d mess with it. I turned it on and he had a old big Muff Fuzz from the 70’s. I turned on the big Muff Fuzz and started hitting the lower E string – I was holding his guitar upside down because I’m left handed – and I was hitting all these notes and thinking oh my God this is incredible. I was getting all these sounds and I fell in love with the guitar instantly. Along with that, they had brought over an album by Johnny Winter that was called “Johnny Winter And”, it was a live record that had him and Rick Derringer. Even to this day I still love that album. That record was the one record that got me into guitar playing. I heard that and I said I want to be a guitar player because there was amazing guitar playing on there.

Then I also listened to a little bit of Grand Funk when they were just a trio – the first Grand Funk live album. I listened to them and then all of a sudden somebody turned me on to Deep Purple and that was it! I was hooked on Richie Blackmore – that was my guy. I said oh my god, this man is a genius on guitar. Everybody thought I was a huge Hendrix fan because I’m left handed and I spell my name like Jimi Hendrix did, but it had nothing to do with that. Richie Blackmore was my guy. I loved Led Zeppelin, but I loved their music; I ended up appreciating Jimmy Page’s guitar playing a lot later in life, not as a young player. I was totally all about Blackmore as a young player.  I was really digging on Black Sabbath, I thought they were cool and me getting to work with Geezer Butler for a while was totally mind-blowing.

So, Johnny Winter and Richie Blackmore and then I got into, all the speed picking that I do comes from Al Di Meola, the jazz guy who worked with Chick Corea. He had the cleanest and fastest picking back then, before there was Yngwie Malmsteen or any of these shred guys, Al Di Meola was the guy and that’s where I learnt everything. I kinda took those three guys and made my own guitar style from it.


NI ROCKS – What music do you listen to now when you get a chance? What would put on your stereo or your iPod or whatever?

JIMI – It’s no secret that I’m a huge AC/DC fan, so when I’m listening to music it’s AC/DC. There’s something about that band, that every song that they play, my foot starts going and that’s what I like. I have an appreciation for every bit music of music that is out there; all the amazing guitar players from Dream Theater to all this other stuff, all the music that is out there. But I’m not a big fan of instrumental records; that’s why I’ve never done one. I get asked to do them all the time, am I going to do an instrumental album – the answer is no, because I get bored listening to instrumental records. I listen to a guy go crazy on a song for about a minute and I want to hear singing, I don’t want to hear this, I want to hear lyrics. That’s why when I throw on an AC/DC record like “For Those About to Rock”; when you hear that, when they first come in and then at the end when the cannons are going off, that’s rock to me. I don’t know, it just does something to me, that band.

 

NI ROCKS – That’s all the questions I have, thanks very much for taking the time to answer them.

JIMI – It was my pleasure.

NI ROCKS - We’ll finish off with another track from the new House of Lords album, and then that track from Maxx Explosion. Which track will you pick from “Saint of the Lost Souls”?

JIMI – What would you like to hear? Let me ask you, what was one of your favourites, other than “Concussion”?

NI ROCKS – I’ve forgotten the name, it’s track 10.

JIMI – “Grains of Sand”, I don’t think I wrote that one.

NI ROCKS – The final track is a good one too.

JIMI – “The Other Option”, yeah that’s a good track. Let’s play that one.

 

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Playlist for Friday NI Rocks Show

SCREAMING EAGLES – Screaming Eagles

HOUSE OF LORDS – Harlequin

Interview with JIMI BELL Part 1(11 minutes)

HOUSE OF LORDS – Saint of the Lost Souls

Interview with JIMI BELL Part 2 (9.5 minutes)

HOUSE OF LORDS - Concussion

Interview with JIMI BELL Part 3(8.5 minutes)

HOUSE OF LORDS – The Other Option

MAXX EXPLOSION – Crazy Hot

THE QUIREBOYS – Killing Time

GASOLINE OUTLAWs – Stand As One

DEEP PURPLE - Stormbringer

 

 

 

Last Updated (Tuesday, 11 July 2017 22:52)