By RUBEN MOSQUEDA // Portland’s own Black ‘N Blue will be making their yearly appearance in The Rose City on September 17th, 2016 at Rock Hard PDX.
Singer Jaime St. James took a few minutes to catch up with Oregon Music News to talk about the upcoming show. Black ‘N Blue former in Portland in the early 80s founded by St. James and Tommy Thayer. The band eventually relocated to Los Angeles where they were signed by Geffen Records. The band went on to release four records on Geffen before disbanding in 1988. Unlike most break ups it wasn’t due to inner band turmoil as St. James explains. “Juan Croucier [former Ratt bassist] said to me once, Man, I wish I was in a band that got along as well as Black ‘N Blue does. I can’t imagine how nice that must be.” [laughs] “We were all friends early on. We went to school together. We still remain friends today,” reiterates the blond maned frontman.
You’ve become staple in Portland again since reuniting. It seems like you just reunited but it’s been several years now.
We try to be. We’ve played in Portland quite a bit. We played the Hawthorne a couples times in the past year and we played at Starry Night with Warrant and [Jack Russell’s] Great White. I called it Starry Night but it’s The Roseland Theater. [laughs] I don’t live in Portland anymore so I need to remind myself of what it’s called now. [laughs] We have a great booking agent and we try to keep the band as busy as possible.
How do you keep things ‘fresh?’ You’re making appearances at U.S. festivals and you’ve become a regular on The Monsters of Rock Cruise. I’m sure at some point you’re sitting there thinking “maybe we should reevaluate the set list?”
It’s become difficult. Pete Holmes [drummer] and I live in Los Angeles and the rest of the guys live in Portland. When Black ‘N Blue landed a record deal we all live in Los Angeles. Pete, Tommy Thayer and I stayed down here and Patrick Young [bassist] and Jeff Warner [guitarist] moved back to Portland.
Patrick, and Shawn [Sonnenschein] and Brandon [Cook] work out the set list. Then they rehearse it and I can sing anything. I know all the lyrics. Pete gets the set list and he practices at home. Then we show up, we play the set and we go off without a glitch. We’re fully aware that there are songs that people want to hear. Like with any band, but we try to mix things up.
There’s been this resurgence in 80s rock music. You’ve seen it based on the demand for appearances at festivals, cruises and fly in shows. There’s been some of your contemporaries that have tried the same route but not every band moves the needle.
There has been. I think it’s because we took the 90s off! [laughs] That’s a good question. It’s really hard to say for sure. We do get our fair share of festival invites. We were on the very first Monsters of Rock Cruise. We were asked the money was ‘okay.’ Our booking agent Sullivan Bigg at Bigg Time Entertainment said “Do it. Trust me, you’ll be making the right decision.” You’re right we get chosen a lot but we have been passed by on a few occasions. It’s really up to the promoters. We have a great booking agency so that helps too.
Also when I see a guy like Frankie Banali [Quiet Riot] he says “Every time I see you it reminds me that you were there from the beginning of this whole thing back in ‘82-’83.” I think we have a little bit more credibility because of that. I had to add that I listen to our albums and they hold water. We put all the money back into the records and it shows. We weren't as big as Motley or Ratt but were were good.
Where are you at with writing new material? You last album ‘Hell Yeah!’ was released in 2011 on Frontiers Records.
Not at the moment. I’m one of major songwriters and contributors in the band. I tell you just how frustrating it is to write, record and release a record isn’t going to get any attention or sell. There’s simply no money in it anymore. It’s all for artistic satisfaction. I love to write, I love being in the studio to record. I love the whole aspect of recording an album. If you do write a record there’s no chance that it will get any airplay at all.
Good point. I’m a Sirius subscriber and I’m an avid listener of the ‘Hair Nation’ channel. They play all the classic stuff from bands from your era. Even they don’t play new material from those artists. You’d think they play something from Cinderella and follow it up with something new from Tom Keifer’s solo album.
That’s so true. It’s like if you weren’t in the club already, by that I mean if you weren’t around during that era you’re not getting in. If there’s a [new] band making music that would fit in that channel, they won’t be playing it. No matter how perfect you and I think they are for the channel---they’re not going to play it.
I just don’t know how [new] bands do this. It’s seems kinda hopeless to me. It’s a new world out there and I just don’t understand it. Let’s just put it that way.
In closing, is there a particular album in the catalog that you think a rock fan that might have not heard Black ‘N Blue should pick up that would give them a nice taste of what the band is about?
Geez, right off the top of my head I’d say ‘The Ultimate Collection’ which a ‘best of’ record that came out in 2004. I think it’s hard for me to say what studio record I’d recommend because they are so different. Some really love the first record [Black ‘N Blue] and some like ‘Without Love.” Both are good records but very different. Then there are a lot of people that say they really enjoy ‘In Heat’ and they say that’s their favorite. Though ‘In Heat’ was our worst selling record. I don’t know it’s hard for me to say so that’s why I say get the best of record.
It’s interesting that you brought up ‘The Ultimate Collection’ because labels typically don’t do a very good job when it comes to compiling a ‘best of’ album. Universal did a fantastic job on that from the track listing to the liners.
I agree they finished product is fantastic. I think part of the reason is that they [Universal] were nice enough to contact Tommy Thayer and I when they were considering putting this out. They sent us a list of songs that they wanted on the record and we changed it a little bit. Tommy then got in touch with some of the photographers that had shot the band and obtained some photos for the liners. They didn’t have to get our input but they were nice enough to ask us and that was very nice of them. We were very happy with the end result.
You know what? I think you might have nailed it. That is a great ‘starter pack’ for a new Black ‘N Blue fan.
I belive so! [laughs]
Not that I want you to reveal what the set list will be in Portland but it’s my recollection that you mix things up on each subsequent appearance here. Will there be more of that this time around?
The night before we will be playing in Denver [Colorado] with Vain. That will be a 45 minute opening set. We are learning some songs for the Portland show that people haven’t heard. I also have to point out that our set in Portland. We’re at Rock Hard PDX, it’s an intimate venue we’re really looking forward to getting back up there with a full headlining set.