ROCKWiRED NOTES: JAMES PACE BAND
n an age marked by doom and gloom, and I'm just talking about the active rock scene - not COVID-19, it is hard to believe that there was a time when rock n roll was rooted in the blues and had a more transcendental vibe. You could hear it in the likes of JIMI HENDRIX, CREAM and PINK FLOYD. Perhaps it was the spirit of the times that those artists inhabited but there is just as much chaos now as there was in the sixties. Hell, there might be more chaos now given the fact that we are in the rows of a global pandemic and civil unrest. There couldn't be a better time for music from the likes of THE JAMES PACE BAND. If their latest single - the rhythmic HENDRIX-styled rocker - TOUCH THE SKY is any indication, this is a band with a message of love and an electric vibe that can lift spirits and expectations for what modern rock music has to offer. TOUCH THE SKY is an anthem that will perk ears and interests and according to the band's front man and guitarist JAMES PACE, there is more waiting in the wings. Not even a global pandemic can stop the JAMES PACE BAND as they put the finishing touches on their forthcoming album THE SIERRA MADRE SESSIONS which they hope to release sometime this fall. ROCKWIRED had a chance to speak with JAMES PACE of THE JAMES PACE BAND regarding their new single and their forthcoming album. Here is how the interview went.
Before I go on about the new album, I find it amazing that your band was the house band at the STONE PONY in Asbury Park. What was it like playing a legendary venue like that?
Yes we did. You're calling from New Mexico right? Well you've got to remember that I grew up in the area so when the band played at the STONE PONY, at a really young age, I really had no idea that it was this iconic venue and had almost no idea that anyone from outside of the area even knew about the place. When the band got started we were doing a lot of gigs in Long Branch and we were bringing in pretty good sized crowds and as the band grew in reputation someone told us about playing as the house band at the STONE PONY on Sundays where people would come off the beach and hear a band play. We played to small crowds and slightly bigger ones. You also have to remember that this was back in the nineties and at the time Asbury Park had a lot of crime happening. It was during the seventies that the place became legendary and now Asbury Park is like Malibu. But that was where we got our start. We did all of our originals and covers and we did a lot of big gigs there as well with bands like KINGS X. It was fuel for the fire and led us to what it is that we're doing now.
You've got the album THE SIERRA MADRE SESSIONS due for release later this year. What's all going through your head with that album? How anxious are you to get the album out there for people to hear?
We've been working on the SIERRA MADRE SESSIONS since last June so we've been working on this thing for quite a while thanks to COVID-19. We had all of the instruments recorded and ready to go and I was prepared to head back to Los Angeles to record my vocals and have the album ready to the released this Spring. Unfortunately COVID-19 hit and getting to go to LA ended up not working out. So right now I'm working on getting my vocals recorded at my home studio and getting the whole thing mixed. We plan to have the album released in the fall. I'm very excited about the album. It has been quite an undertaking and every song is so different from one another. You've got some songs that are really soulful and funky and you've got songs that have that rock feel. There's even an acoustic song.
CHECK OUT THE SiNGLE TOUCH THE SKY!!!
So far, you've released the single TOUCH THE SKY which comes from those sessions. So far, what kind of reaction have you been able to gauge since the release of that single?
I have been very surprised by the reaction to TOUCH THE SKY. I've seen write ups and have done some phone interviews like this one and hearing these reactions from journalists - one of them is as far away as Brazil - has just been amazing. You never think the music can go that far but it has and that has been really satisfying. Also TOUCH THE SKY is great song. It's a lot of fun to play and it was fun to write and create.
I understand that you have a band for recording and a band for doing live shows. It sounds hard to juggle the two things or is it not a big deal? You tell me.
Yeah it's definitely something different to have a band for recording and a band for doing shows and a lot of that has to do with geography. When I'm out in LA to record I work with some really amazing people like bass player JOHNNY GRIPARIC who was the former bassist in SLASH'S SNAKEPIT and drummer MICHAEL LEASURE who also plays drums for WALTER TROUT and EDGAR WINTER. And on backing vocals I've got PEGGI BLU who has recorded with BOB DYLAN. You couldn't record with a better group of people but seeing as how I'm based in Philadelphia, it's not always possible to tour with these guys so I get guys like CHARLES HEUSER on the bass, ZILL FESSLER and DONTE BLOW on drums and MARK BROWN on the Hammond B3. When you get into the studio it's like you are trying to redo a live show over and over again and that is why it's good to have people like the ones I work in the studio with where I we try to go for that ARETHA meets PINK FLOYD meets HENDRIX vibe. That is is the vibe that we are constantly trying to recreate in the studio.
Who all helped you with production on the SIERRA MADRE SESSIONS?
I worked with BILLY BURKE and he was just fantastic. It was MIKE LEASURE who recommended working with him when I told him that I wanted to cut a record. So MIKE introduced me to BILLY and I flew out to Los Angeles and worked out of a studio in Sierra Madre which is a little past Pasadena. It was fantastic working with him and he brought a lot of ideas to the songs like with TOUCH THE SKY. He's a great producer. Right now he and are working remotely together on getting the vocals recorded and the album mixed.
What was it that made you realize that music making was going to be your thing. What inspired you to pick up the guitar and walk this road?
It was a kind of a instinctual thing. There are certain vibrations in life that are both therapeutic and instinctual. There are some things in life that just feel good. I had just figured that music was something that worked for me. There is something about music that just reinvigorates my soul. There is a therapeutic strength that the vibration gives you. I noticed it for the first time when I was really young in my mom's car and the song YESTERDAY by THE BEATLES was playing and it just struck a chord. And then when I was six I heard the guitar for the first time when my brother was blasting VAN HALEN and I was like, "what is this!" I had never heard anything like it before. What I heard created an incredible sense of meditation. When I was twelve I picked up the guitar and it felt as if I had connected to something bigger than anything else I had ever experienced. Music is a meditative thing for me. That is why I gravitated toward making music and that's why whenever I pick up my guitar in my office and plug it in, it is like physical therapy for me - a transformative thing.
COVID-19 has changed everything. You have even stated that the pandemic has affected the release you your album but I'm sure it's caused other problems. How have you managed to navigate as a musician through these shaky times?
It's been very interesting. It feels like there is this complete tectonic plate shift in the industry and it feels like it is the worse thing ever. We're all left wondering how we're going to get out of this. You've got people in this industry who happen to make that one album that sets them up for life and they don't have to do anything but those people are one in a million. If anyone is going to survive in this industry, pandemic or not, it is really important to have multiple threads of income. Like SLASH for instance. He's a producer, has his own band SLASH'S SNAKEPIT and of course he's got GUNS N' ROSES. Now it's easy to complain about shows getting cancelled and not getting paid but these are opportunistic times. It's important to try to find different ways to make money and and to make a career in music work.
Describe the songwriting process for you. How do you go about it?
Songwriting is an instinctual thing. An idea for a part of a song comes to me in a the first few seconds. That is why it is always important for me to have a guitar handy. Sometimes you come up with something that is crap but then you come up with something that is cool and that is the starting point for building up a song. The music always comes first and then I have to come up with theme for the song and then try to make some words fit into the song. Sometimes I'll hear something in my head and I've got to try to scribble it down or record it onto my phone like I did for the song GOOD TIMES HARD TIMES which I had imagined with some female singers. It started as a recording on my phone and before I knew it we were recording it in a studio and we had PEGGI BLU singing the part of the song that I had envisioned in my head. It is always fun to see a song evolve in that way.
What songs off of the SIERRA MADRE SESSIONS have you the most excited to get people to hear?
I would have to say GOOD TIMES HARD TIMES and TOUCH THE SKY. I'm not going to say that the album is a concept album or anything like that but a lot of the songs are about recovering from being down for so long. It's kind of strange to be releasing an album like that now with everything going on with COVID-19. We've all been through bad times and we're all going through a bad time right now and I think the music could uplift people. Every track has a different flavor.
When the album sees the light of day, what would you like for someone to come away with after they have heard it?
I'd like for someone to go, "Wow! Where did that come from?" That is the kind of response I'd love to hear, especially after hearing a song like TOUCH THE SKY. There isn't a whole lot of music out there that gets me to react that way. I still get a charge out of artists like JEFF BECK, DAVID GILMOUR adn ARETHA FRANKLIN. One artist that does excite me is DOYLE BRAMHALL II who has worked with everybody from ROGER WATERS to ERIC CLAPTON and ELTON JOHN. The stuff that he's been putting out as a solo artist has been amazing. It makes me go, "Wow!" and I would would love for this album to ilicit the same kind of reaction in people.
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