Jon Pacella of The Vinyl District recently conducted an interview with former OZZY OSBOURNE/BADLANDS and current RED DRAGON CARTEL guitarist Jake E. Lee. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
The Vinyl District: You've spent some years kind of flying under the radar, as far as the music industry is concerned. What did you do in that time that you were away from the spotlight?
Jake: I didn't do a whole lot. I continued writing, especially with computers. Back in the '90s, starting there, you can do everything at home, you can do everything yourself, so I continued writing music, but I did it for myself. I just had that need to make music, I didn't have the need to make other people listen to it. At the time, I didn't particularly think anybody'd want to hear it. So I just did it of myself. That took up a good portion of my time. I had hobbies. For a while, there was cars, I got really into getting old muscle cars and restoring them and hot-rodding them up. After I got tired of banging my fingers, I got into computers for a while. I'd hot-rod them — I like hot-rodding stuff, I guess. I would hot-rod computers for my friends so they could play games faster and better. I was very fascinated with that for a while. After a while, that became tiresome, so I got out of that. Other than that I just watched a lot of TV. [Laughs]
The Vinyl District: What differences have you seen or experienced playing and touring in the heyday of the '80s and early '90s vs 2014?
Jake: The main difference I've noticed, and it's pretty much a widespread development, is not as much actual live playing as there used to be back then. Back then, you would maybe have a tape for your intro, and maybe you would kind of cheat a little bit by having a singer behind a curtain to help with chorus parts and shit like that. That was pretty much as far as it got in the '80s, when I was last doing this. That was as far as you would go to kind of "fool" the audience. Today, it seems like almost every band that I've talked to, and almost every band that's come through Kevin Churko's studio and Ron's studio, rely heavily on samples and parts that are already played, with the people just sort of mimicking it live. It seems to be every band's goal today to sound as much like the record live, and that's just not the way we did things back in the day. It's still not the way I do it, for better or worse. Everything that RED DRAGON CARTEL does, every sound we make, is being played. The audience is seeing it. We don't use any samples, any tapes, we don't even use a click track to help make sure the beats per minute are the same in every song. Which isn't much of a cheat, but every band I've talked to, they do that. Before the song starts, the drummer listens to a click track so he knows he's playing it at the correct tempo. To me, a live concert should be a live band, and if the song is slower one night, maybe that's the way the song should be that night. If it's faster the next night, maybe that's what it called for that night. I like the variances. I like the possible mistakes, 'cause a lot of times, the mistake turns into something wonderful. It's not like that so much these days. I can't name bands, I can't name names, but it seems to me like everybody's trying to make it a perfect replica of the record, whereas to me, a live performance is a chance to perform these songs in a similar manner, or in a completely different one. You make it work because it is a live situation, and you have a certain amount of instruments, and I like that. I like if the song is different live than it is on the record. That's what I see missing a lot today. Maybe it's just cause I'm an old coot. [Laughs] I would like to see it go back to that, where it's not like going to a concert and watching TV or something.
The Vinyl District: I think you're definitely not alone in that sentiment. The same thing is starting to happen in recording. Before, you had tape, and you had to get it right or you had to do it over and over again. Now, you've got Pro Tools and the like — you just fix it.
Jake: Yeah, and you had to be able to actually sing. It's not in one take or a couple, but there was nothing there to fix it other than you. Like I said, it's probably just 'cause I'm an old coot, but just the way it advances, because even my earliest recordings with Ozzy, it was 24 tracks, and you could go back 25 years and talk to the musicians then. You had to perform it live in the studio and have it recorded, and until everybody did everything right, you had to do it over cause you only had the one take. So they, the people of my era, would have thought that was cheating. Who am I to say that today's version is "not right?" Although it's not. [Laughs] I'm thinking that the next BEATLES, if there is a "next BEATLES," is somebody who takes it back to its basics, and isn't so reliant on shit that makes everybody sound the same.
Read the entire interview from The Vinyl District.