RED DRAGON CARTEL, the band led by former OZZY OSBOURNE and BADLANDS guitarist Jake E. Lee, has parted ways with singer Darren James Smith and has replaced him with Michael Beck.
Smith will shortly hit the road with the veteran Canadian rock outfit HAREM SCAREM, in which he plays drums and sings.
Michael Beck is the owner, engineer, and producer at SoundVision Recording Studio in Mesa, Arizona. He has worked with such acts as SOILWORK, MARILYN MANSON, ABIGAIL WILLIAMS, THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER and DAATH.
Commented Smith: "It is true I left RED DRAGON CARTEL. [It's] kinda complicated, but I think it was the right thing to do. One day I'll comment more. For now, 'that's all, folks!!!'"
A little over a month ago, Smith told "The Shoe With Miles Schuman" Internet radio show about RED DRAGON CARTEL's infamous debut live show in December 2013 at West Hollywood, California's Whisky A Go Go, which was widely panned due to Darren's out-of-tune vocal delivery and seemingly inebriated state: "None of us were ready for that show. We all met in Vegas, we had, maybe, four days rehearsal, we rehearsed the night before until about 4 a.m., got up at 7, drove to the desert, got to L.A. around 4 in the afternoon, or sometime early in the afternoon, and there was fans there and paparazzi from the minute we got there. So it was overwhelming. And the amount of time I had — us being the headliner — until we were on, and just the lack of sleep, and really not knowing what my job really was. Nobody in the band, not even Jake, nobody told me what my job was. It was just, 'Go and do it.' So… I don't know what people want. I just thought they wanted kind of Ozzy and stuff like that, and they wanted a party, they wanted to have fun, but that's not what they want. And at the end of the day, man, on my own terms… I mean, I just said, 'Okay, if they don't want that, I'll do it the other way.' I didn't realize that people would think I'm trying to upstage Jake. I was not; I was just doing what I do. But I got a handle on it. And there was no feeling between me and the band. The next day, I just came back to the drawing board, and then that was that. The very next night, I changed the rules a bit and everything was fine. But, I mean, we just played there [again in November], we'll call it the 'scene of the crime,' and we had a great show, like a phenomenal show. [And there was] not word about it. So we were talking about it afterwards, and it's, like, it was probably the best thing that ever happened to us, was that I set myself up to fail. Because it was nonstop talk. And we do a perfect show, [and there's] not a word about it."
Regarding the negative Internet criticism he received about the first Whisky show, Darren said: "Everybody's a warrior or a soldier when they're sitting on their couch, scratching their balls. I mean, people are so tough and brave when they're in the comfort of their own home, but half these people making comments have never stood on a stage. And the ones that have stood on a stage… A real musician wouldn't shit on a fellow musician. So the way I look at it is, if you've got something to say about a fellow musician, well, you're just a douchebag. [Laughs]"
He continued: "I'll be honest with you, I don't read or any of that shit. I never go online and read about it… I mean, in the beginning I did and it was very hurtful stuff, and it did affect me, but at the end of the day, I know what I'm capable of, Jake knows what I'm capable of, and things have changed. And I get no complaints now. But at the end of the day, I'm still doing this for me. [There are] people out there that still don't like me, but you can't be liked by everybody. You can't go through life trying to please everyone. It's futile."
Asked if thought he "redeemed himself" in the eyes of Jake's fans since the first Whisky show, Darren said: "Less than 24 hours later I did. And I really don't care. And as far as redeeming myself, I'm more comfortable on stage now than I've ever been, and I just had to figure it out for myself. And, like I said, as a band, we were not prepared to play the Whisky. I wish we had done some warm-up shows here and there and figured it all out. I hadn't been on stage fronting a band for that long, for the length of a show, which is also exhausting, I found out [laughs], thus the treadmill before I go on tour. But I had to figure things out for myself. And I'm human, and I'm fallible, and I'm capable of making mistakes, just like every human being is. And the people that were really cruel about it, I could give a flying rat's fuck about it — I just don't care — but the people that like it? You know, cool. Cool. That's great. I'm gonna do it regardless if people like it or not. This is what I'm born to do. This is what I do."
RED DRAGON CARTEL's self-titled debut album sold around 5,000 copies in the United States in its first week of release to debut at position No. 69 on The Billboard 200 chart. Released on January 28, 2014 via Frontiers Records, the CD was recorded at Las Vegas' The Hideout Recording Studio — owned and operated by Kevin Churko (OZZY OSBOURNE, FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH, IN THIS MOMENT) — and was produced by R. Bernard Mann (a.k.a. Ronnie Mancuso) and Jake E. Lee, and executive-produced, mixed and mastered by Churko.
RED DRAGON CARTEL's setlist includes new material like the singles "Feeder" and "Deceived", as well as major hits from Jake E. Lee's glorious past: "Bark At The Moon", "The Ultimate Sin" and "Rock 'N' Roll Rebel" (all originally recorded by OZZY OSBOURNE), as well as "Shine On" and "High Wire" (BADLANDS).
Pictured below: New RED DRAGON CARTEL singer Michael Beck
Video footage of RED DRAGON CARTEL with Darren James Smith performing in Dayton, Ohio: