American guitarist and songwriter Eddie St.James has been based in Germany for years. Over the years he’s established himself there with various styles, bands, and releases. His most recent release is titled “Streets Cry Freedom”, and it is a full album of guitar driven hard-rock from this former LA based rocker.
You can check out my review elsewhere at Universal Wheels, but here Eddie talks in depth about his new album, as well as projects he’s worked on over the past few years [including an attempt at a project with former Joshua / Uriah Heep singer Stephen Fontaine], and a look back at his first release when he was still in LA under ‘The Eddie St.James Project’.
For more info, check out : http://eddie-st-james.com/home-en/
*This interview was conducted last year, but I was unable to post it for some time [it was a long year!]. Apologies to Eddie. Enjoy the read [it’s a long one].
Streets Cry Freedom kinda marks your return to hard-rock, ala Out Of Nowhere, so I wanted to go back and
ask what you’d recall of that album [mini-album]? The label, the recording, and how it was received? [And where can people find it these days aside from eBay — can you make it a download at your site?]
ESJ – What’s funny (in a sad way) about that album (EP) „Out of Nowhere“, is that I think it’s my worst solo work I’ve
ever done. What I remember about that CD is having to make a lot of compromises and having to record all
the tracks + overdubs in max. 2 days. There were some people involved that I really did not want to work
with anymore, but just so I could have something to put out, I had to control myself and just push on. It came to
a head and almost lead to a physical fight in the studio. Subsequently after the recording I got fired from
my own band and I was the one with the record deal, contacts, backing-etc. I also made 2 bad decisions, that
were my fault, I experimented by not using a click track at all (I regret that for the drummers sake) and I had far
better songs that I should have recorded. Those songs that are on that EP were originally „North star” songs
that I had written for 2 guitars and was a lot heavier. I think the keyboards just didn’t fit in these songs, but
fit much better in the newer songs that I had written for this type of instrumentation. The good memories are
that we were in a top notch studio (Red Zone, North Hollywood- not around anymore) and „Slaughter” was
recording his 1st album in the studio behind where I was recording and we were sharing the same tech-crew.
We had a couple of really good parties over there and I made it into Billboard magazine-Aug.1989. With the
label (capitol) they were supportive at first, I got to go there and wonder around and watch them by the
mastering-etc. Distribution was of course through the major US stores, Tower Records-etc. I even shot 1
Video for this thing that I decided not to release. They had asked Joe Walsh to make a guest appearance, but
I told them, I only wanted cute girls in the video, that was actually my 3rd and biggest mistake. I was involved
in the editing and we had it finished, then one of the editing chief’s girlfriend didn’t like that we had heavily
featured this particular supermodel babe. So, she told this guy to go back and re-edit the Video, take the girl
out, change everything around and put everything in slow motion. When I found out about this, I wanted to kill
the guy for completely ruining all the hard work and money that went into that Video. They wanted to start
booking gigs for the group, but I had to tell them I didn’t have a band anymore and needed to put it back
together again, from there it all went very quickly down hill- they lost interest and I went into a slump at this
point. I don’t have any plans to do anything with the „Out of nowhere“ EP, except maybe to make it available
as a download CD on iTunes at some point in the near feature. I’m so busy with all the good things that I have
going on now. I guess to sum it all up, it was a bitter sweet experience and I at least learned from my own
mistakes. Wow, that was a long answer, but you also had a 5 part question.
You started a follow-up to that album, but it was never finished!? what happened with that?
Bringing us more up to date…
ESJ – Yes, it was another lesson in frustration- I got along great with the guys I had in the band and it sounded
even better, So far so good. That was about 1991, as usual- I was the guy who did all the song writing and
had all the contacts and my then girlfriend introduced me to the producer for Loren Black (the former
bassist for Great White, unfortunately Loren recently passed away in Sep. 2013-r.i.p) and he and I hit it off,
he liked my material and the vibe and took me on as a spec. deal. I got my band in the Studio to start
recording the follow up CD to O.O.N., (I don’t even think I had a name for the CD) I was just happy to be back
on track again. We recorded the songs and the producer only gave me one song (Demo) for me to listen
back to, he didn’t trust me and didn’t want me to take off and release it and cut him out of any deal that I
might end-up getting. We were gigging all over and it was going good-we were opening for Lynch Mob-etc.
and through the Out of Nowhere CD,
I had gotten some good interest and support from a couple of Local Radio-DJs, they had contacted me and
told me they wanted to set up a showcase for me with Island records and with Polydor. In the meantime,
these guys I had, said they wanted to come over and talk? They then told me they wanted to quit the band
so that they could go join up with an old heroin junkie friend of their’s and “jam“ in his mothers garage. At
first I thought it was a joke, but they were serious. I knew this guy they were talking about and I told them
here’s what going to happen: your all going to end up throwing away what we got going on now so that you
can go and waste your time and jackoff with this guy in his mother’s garage- then go. I went to the
Showcase with a bassist friend of mine and we only had a couple of days to put some songs together that I
could sing, as I had written everything as a guitar player for someone else to sing. So, I did the showcase as
a duo with my electric guitar because I didn’t even have an acoustic guitar at that point. I did some blues
type of originals, I was nervous and embarrassed- I knew that this was not the material or group that they
were expecting to hear, the 2 A&R guys got up after half way through the first song and left, it was the first
time I ever sang as a front man and I was completely unprepared. I never forgave those guys for doing what
they did and never will. They’ve tried to contact me a few times, but I don’t have any interest in talking to
them. I already said everything that I had to say to them when they left and to no surprise of mine, it all
came to fruition. They all work at drywall or some factory and I’m working on a blues rock CD Project with
one of George Harrison’s drummers and a bassist from Crosby Stills and Nash (more on that later). I ended
up reforming the band and was able to recruit none other than Marc Droubay from Survivor, an incredible
drummer. We needed a singer so Marc suggested a guy by the name of Stef Fontaine (ex-Uriah Heep). We
drove over to Stef’s house and told him you are now in our band.
In 2006 you were involved with a reformed ‘London’. What happened with this project and is there any plans
to work with the band again?
ESJ – Yes, I’ve known Nadir for a long time, we go way back to the old Pasadena days 1984. One day in 2006, I
was wondering what had happened to him, so I looked him up and found him. I asked him about London, if
he had any plans for doing any sort of regrouping and he said there were no plans at that time. So, I asked
him if we could maybe do something together and put D’priest/London back together with a new line up. At
that time he mentioned something about the original members were not interested or were busy with other
things. We started writing songs together and we ended up with a handful of tunes and we went back and
forth for almost two years exchanging ideas through the net. I started to realize that it wasn’t going to be so
easy with him over there in the US and me over here in Germany. We even had gotten some press and
people were starting to talk about it, but after about this time period I had noticed that the original members
did end up coming back into the picture. So, I told Nadir that he should do what he feels is best for him as
far as the band goes. I wished him good luck and I say hello to him every once in awhile, they’re out and
playing a lot of shows, they look and sound good. I don’t know if they have any record contract or deal, I hear
that there’s supposed to be a new Album coming out soon from them. I would still like to work with Nadir, in
one form or another -maybe as a guest singer on a track or two for a project CD type of thing, were I would
have a couple of different singers. As far the Band goes, they already have 2 guitar players, I don’t think they
need a 3rd one.
A few years ago there was talk of you working again with Stephen Fontaine. Did anything become of this?
And what are your current status / relationship with Stef? [I see a number of new clips of him on YouTube doing
covers with an acoustic guitar player]
ESJ – You know I love Stef, he’s a very interesting guy and a lot fun to hang out with. it took me 2 years to try to
talk him into coming over to Germany, so that we could gig and record together and make some $$$. I let
the word out and a lot of promoters were interested in booking the band, live, TV, radio-etc. I told him we
can work as a duo and as a band, but we’ll be working in any case and making money. He finally consented
and then changed his mind again, I even had some other well known musicians calling me up on his behalf
and asking me if I was going to stiff him in some way. I thought wow; I don’t know what to say to that, even if
I was insane and planning to screw him over, would I tell him or them that I was planning on doing it, and
what would I gain by doing it? The very last thing that Stef said to me: „why should I go over to Germany just
to play in bars?“ I didn’t bother to answer him, because it sounded like he was now the singer for Journey
and playing in major arenas making good money. So, instead he’s in California doing acoustic duo gigs in
some guys living room and open mic nights or jams at the local beer bar and I know for sure without a doubt
he’s not earning any money in California doing these gigs, he probably doesn’t even get a discount on his
drinks. My relationship with Stef is, as far as the music goes, finished. I don’t have any desire to beg
anybody, it’s a shame, but that’s the way it is and it’s his decision. I have alot of great well known musicians
friends that are eager to work and are 100% dependable and easy to get along with, so I have to go with
You had also recorded [or intended to] a few Uriah Heep songs. what was this project for and will it be
released [details] ?
OK… first Congrats on Streets Cry Freedom! What got you back to this point to record a hard rock / metal
album? [I notice a couple of tracks were written well before this album would’ve been conceived]
ESJ – Yes, the Uriah Heep songs I was planning on doing were with Stef, I prepared an entire album consisting of
some of the old Eddie St.James songs (from the 2nd follow up CD to Out of Nowhere) plus a bunch of new
original titles along with 3 Heep songs (total 14 songs) for us to release as Fontaine/St.James. The CD
is/was entitled „Heavy like a Chevy“ sort of a tip of the hat to „Very eavy and Very umble“ The cover looks
great. I have the CD nearly finished, I stopped working on it after the last „conversation” with Stef. This is
now what I’m thinking about turning into a multiple singer project CD, unfortunately without the Heep songs,
because the connection is now „gone“. Or, maybe you could hook me up with Goalby or Kerslake.
And thank you very much for the encouragement, I know how honest of a music critic you are, I’ve read
some of the other reviews and I know that you don’t hold back.
I thought it was time to go back and do what I originally started out doing which was playing loud, hard rock
music the way that it was meant to be, with a real guitar through a high gain tube amp and songs that say
something more than just about falling in or out of love. Love is a good thing, but there are other important
and interesting topics in life too. The other reason is that you don’t hear this type of music anywhere
anymore and I started to miss it (I don’t think I’m the only one), so I wrote/write this stuff for myself. Yes the 2
oldest songs on the CD are: (1)Johnny got his gun and (2) Children of the (new) revolution, they were both
actually written around 2002. The rest of the songs are fairly new compared to the other 2.
There’s a lot of great riffs / intros solos, etc… Curious if you had stashed up quite a bit of stuff over the years
[ideas]? and how the songs came together?
ESJ – Thank you again for the compliment, I’m lucky in that I have musical ideas running through my head day
and night and every time I pick up the guitar to practice, I end up with a riff or 2 and sometimes almost whole
songs that just jump out at me or catches my ear. Yes I have a large backlog of material plus I get new
ideas for riffs and songs all the time or sometimes I’ll hear something that inspires me to create. There is a
science (or method) to writing songs, but I’ve found it easiest to sit down with either a guitar, bass or piano
and to work out what I’m hearing in my head. Sometimes it just a simple riff, rhythm or a chord progression
or a lyric line. The best thing is to be able to hear the complete section, song or idea in your head, then
translate that to your instrument, vocals-etc.
The songs on this album touch on a lot of social and political issues. What sort of inspires you lyrically,
Where do topics come from, and is this more challenging or interesting to you than writing relationship type
ESJ – Life is a very good inspiration for lyrics, your own experiences or other people’s experiences and conditions-
other than „love-relationships“. Many various topics come from all over, the news, TV, the net-etc., yes this
is a bit more challenging to write about war, hunger, poverty, self-doubt, child slavery, the climate problem,
injustice in the world, political and social tyranny-etc., and have people rock out to it. For me it’s more
interesting to write about the topics that are not so overly prevalent and over used such as your typical
falling in love or break up song. There are a lot of great “relationship songs“, especially the classic stuff, but
The problem is, that’s just about the only topic that any commercially successful artist sings about,
over and over again. I’ve got some relationship songs, but I try to stay away from this topic because it’s
basically the only subject matter that’s on the Radio nowadays.
You chose “Rat Race” to release first
. What can you tell me about this one?
ESJ – This is very simple it was the first song that we had finished mixing, so I jumped on it to do the first promo-
video. I wanted to do Streets cry freedom“ as a video first, but I wanted to have John „JR“ Robinson in the
video, since he drummed the track. The logistics for this would be considerable; I’d have to schedule him,
the video studio, the other musicians, then to fly to California-etc. Rat race is a simple one man, green-
screen editing job, something that I could do here without too much hassle.
“Rock n Roll Ain’t Dead” is a great anthem. Love the line “rock ain’t dead it just smells a little funny”…. What
can you tell me about how this track came about, and what’s your take on the current state of rock n roll? 🙂
ESJ – This is also an easy one, the title was inspired by a Frank Zappa comment: “Jazz ain’t dead it just smells a
little funny“ so I just replaced „Jazz” with „Rock” and I had a song. The current state of rock is exactly the
way the title says, it’s not completely dead but it does smell a little bit funny. There are a lot of people who
still are into this type of music because it’s real and „un-fake” and unpretentious and because it smells like
blood, sweat and tears which is something that every human being can relate to.
“Why Should I Believe” is very nice melodic tune, and obviously asks a number of questions. what sparked
this song [musically & lyrically]?
ESJ – This song was actually inspired by another song from an L.A. band called “Shark Island“(Epic), they had a
song off their album „Law of the order“ called „Why should I believe“. It was a song about self doubt and
the struggle to find one’s way in life, Richards voice and the lyrics sounded raw and desperate in a moving
way- you couldn’t help but believe him, because we’ve all felt this way from time to time. I thought okay, I
won’t only question my own belief’s but also the belief’s of others who demand that I should believe as they
do and to blindly accept someone else’s beliefs. Spencer Sercombe was the guitarist of the band and he
lives over here in Germany, up in Hannover. We know each other so I thought it would be cool to have him
on the track, since he inspired me in the first place.
“St James / James Bond” – I’m a big James Bond fan! Where did this instrumental idea come from? AND
Who’s your favorite Bond [actor] and movie[s]? 🙂
ESJ – I’m also a big J.B. fan and I’ve been doing this Theme song live since 2004, I’ve always messed around
with this riff since I was a kid just starting out on guitar. It’s just such fun piece to play and it sort of fit the
concept idea of „Streets cry freedom“, except that I see the politicians as the real life super criminals and
it would take a man like bond to take care of the problem. Of course that’s just fantasy, what it’s really
going take is that the everyday normal citizens wake up to peacefully insist on their rights. The other thing
is, I don’t think that anybody’s done a hard rock version of this. There’s a jazz, techno and a death metal
version but I haven’t heard of any officially released hard rock version of this.
favorite Bond actor; Pierce Brosnan
Bond movie(s): Where he steals the tank in Russia and chases down the guys that kidnapped the
Russian computer girl, I think that was golden eye. Daniel Craig takes second place.
“Critical Mass” is another instrumental and you really let loose on this one. How much of this is worked
out / rehearsed extensively or is there a lot of in-studio improvisation and jamming?
ESJ – I did this one backwards, by that I mean I had the drum and bass parts finished first, then I just improvised
over the top of it with the guitar. So, the guitar parts were the last thing that I came up with, they sort of fell
into place by themselves. I had the basic structure in my head and just laid it down the way I heard it in my
mind. I basically did a couple of takes in certain sections until I got what I wanted, but most of the song
came together pretty easily.
“Rainbows & Dragons” has it’s own subject matter, but also doubles as a tribute to Ronnie James Dio
[correct?]. Can you tell me what inspired this song, it’s subject, and the idea to tribute it to RJD?
ESJ – That is correct it fits into the concept of the CD, but it doesn’t fit style wise with the rest of the material and
it’s not suppose to because it doubles as a tribute to Ronnie and I wanted it to sound similar to the type of
material that he was doing. I’m only sorry that I didn’t make it sound angrier and heavier than it is. The
inspiration was modern day slavery and in particular child slavery and that Ronnie had also done the
“We’re stars benefit”, which starts off with the line “who will cry for the children, I will”. Now that he’s gone,
I was wondering now who will cry for the children? The title “Rainbows and Dragons” came to me
automatically and it fit the whole Dio vibe, with the heavy riff and the powerful angry type of singing.
His type of voice was the one to best convey the heavy raw feeling for this type of subject matter. Not
saying that I captured his sound, but that it was the inspiration for the vocals and the song.
And speaking of RJD, did you have any dealing with him over the years – musically or socially? and what’s
your favorite work of his? [Rainbow, Sabbath or Dio albums]
ESJ – Yes, I had a lot of contact with his band members, Craig Goldie and Tracy G. I also met him when they
came over to Germany to play, Tracy would always put me on the guest list, give me backstage passes-
etc. I was over at Graig’s house a couple of times; we even recorded a jam session together in his home
studio. I’ve known Tracy G. since high school and we always use to hang out together and play guitar, I just
talked to him not too long ago. Both great guitar players and songwriters. My favorite Dio work is
everything he did, although I tend to favor his solo work just a bit more.
There are a lot of great tracks here, my own faves also include – Shotgun Messiah, Johnny Got A Gun,
Talkin Plenty…. can you give me any notes on any of those tracks and anything you are particularly happy
ESJ – Thank you again for the compliment, „Shotgun Messiah“ is simply an anti war theme as is „Johnny Got His
Gun“ except that Shotgun Messiah is about people who won’t let a government or public opinion morally
blackmail them into going out to kill innocent people because it’s your “patriotic duty“-etc. “Johnny Got
His Gun“ is about the poor bastard that ended up going, although the text sounds like it’s about a street
thug, it doesn’t matter where you do the killing, the point is that it doesn’t take a brave man to pull a
trigger, it only takes a desperate one. Gandhi said: „ there are many causes I would die for, there is
not a single cause that I would kill for“. “Talkin Plenty…“ applies to any and all politicians.
I’m very happy with the guitar solo in “Shotgun Messiah”, I was very happy with the vocal work in „Johnny
Got His Gun” and I’m happy with the overall sound of „Talkin Plenty…”
What’s been the plan for promoting this album? are you playing live [with these songs]?
ESJ – Well, the promotion is very simple, print, radio, the net and the video will be on TV over here soon.
so, that’s not to bad for a guy that is basically a one man operation, I’m the world’s first “one man metal
band“. I haven’t done this CD live yet, that is coming up, I’ve been working with the idea of really going
out as one man and playing to my own backing tracks, of course the guitar and the vocals would be live. I
wanted to do something more than just run through the songs live, I’m thinking about how I could make this
a concept show to make up for the lack of a band. I was also thinking of just doing albums and videos and
not playing live at all. At this point I wanted to concentrate more on producing very good original promo
material and not doing it like I’ve always done it, backwards, first putting a band together and having no
product to promote. By the time you do put promo together, the bands already fallen apart 😦 In closing I
just want to thank the following people for all their effort and support; Michael Leukel (Co-Production/
Keys), Bernie Pershey (Drums), John „JR“ Robinson (Drums), Spencer Sercombe (guitar on why should I
believe) , Hagen Grohe (Bass on why should I believe) and Sven O. Schiebel Foto/Video.