INTERVIEW with Jimi Bell (House of Lords, Autograph): “I never received a cent for‘ Master of Insanity’!” on November 10, 2020
Here is a guy who should be more recognized than he is, both as a guitarist and songwriter and as a fantastic human to chat with. Jimi Bell, like everyone who depends on live music to make a living, was punished by stasis in the culture promoted by the covid-19 pandemic. Gradually things are returning to normal - or new normal, whatever - but nothing comparable to what promised to be one of the best years for the guy: besides the release of “New World - New Eyes”, House of Lords' new album, Bell was about to hit the road with Autograph, which he joined about a year ago, for a series of shows across North America. From his home in Connecticut, Jimi talked about the current moment of his two main bands, his longtime collaboration with WWE and the music he composed for Black Sabbath and for which he never received a penny from the band. Good reading!
1. Marcelo Vieira: In my review of "New World - New Eyes" I wrote that "it is as if James Christian - who also signs the production - and Jimi Bell made an agreement and worked almost independently". That's right?
~ Jimi Bell: We recorded this album just like we have been doing since 2005. We never met the four of us in a studio to record. Everything has always been done remotely. It works like this: I write some riffs and, often, complete songs, or almost that. So, BJ and I recorded the demo in his home studio and sent it to James' sieve. Curiously, I had no idea what melodic rock was when I joined the House of Lords in 2005. At the time, James asked me if I knew how to write things along these lines and I said yes even without knowing why I really wanted to be part of the band. ! [laughs] Anyway, only after James gave his approval, the song is recorded for real. Regarding the lyrics, James has some outside partners. The family is big. Even his wife, Robin, collaborates from time to time.
2. MV: The album features lyrics that are very suitable for today's world. There are some very strong messages behind it; messages of hope, calls to action, etc. Do you consider maturity in this regard a differential of the House of Lords? ~ JB: James uses external lyricists. Depending on who wrote the lyrics or who he collaborated with, I think so. Now, keep in mind that this album was made well before the pandemic happened. So, for us, it was curious to see how much the lyrics have to do with what is happening today. But it is all a coincidence. As crazy as it sounds.
MV: What, then, do you think are the House of Lords' differentials compared to other melodic rock bands?
~ JB: The House of Lords has always valued diversity. We play from ballads to faster songs, and James is a great vocalist - his voice is pleasant even to the ears of those who are not new to rock - and a born composer, in addition to playing the keyboard very well.
4. MV: In terms of products, I think it is time for Frontiers to launch a box-set containing all House of Lords releases by the label. Do you know if this is in their plans?
~ JB: Not that I know of. Everything is crazy. We were supposed to record the video for “Both of Us” in January. When they finally decided to get the idea off the ground, BJ was unable to participate due to commitments to Dokken. That's why Patrick Johansson appears in the clip.
5. MV: If you had to choose an album, or some House of Lords songs from “World Upside Down” onwards, to present to someone who has never heard the band, which would you choose?
~ JB: I think “Rock Bottom”, “Battle” and “Cartesian Dreams” - in fact, I love this record - are great business cards. I also like “Go to Hell”, “These Are the Times”, “I’m Free” and “Come to My Kingdom”. I think “Big Money” is too cool, and I love playing “I Don’t Wanna Wait All Night” live. Anyway, there are many! Since I joined the band, I recorded eight albums with it. It's a lot. But I would have liked to have done more shows, toured more often. BJ and I always tried to convince James, but for some reason, we never did. This eventually led BJ to accept Dokken's offer.
6. MV: Sometimes I get the impression that James is always doing a million things at the same time. ~ JB: Yes, and that is very bad. That's why Chris, BJ and I formed the Maxx Explosion. The House of Lords would be on the road for a month, sometimes less, and as soon as we got home, James declared work open for the next album. I said, "James, we barely did any shows to promote the previous one and are you already thinking about the next album?" Only it never worked. 7. MV: You told me via email that you haven't spoken to James in a long time. ~ JB: Yes, it's been a while since we last spoke on the phone. Not that we're pissed off at each other. For example, I only knew that the album had been released when I woke up the day receiving all those messages congratulating me etc. I was like, "How?" 8. MV: Weren't you informed of the album's release date? ~ JB: No. Just like the clip, I only knew it when I opened Facebook and saw all those messages. I thought, "ok, right ..." [laughs] This time everything was different. Usually James sent the mixes for me to listen to, but he didn't do it this time. 9. MV: That sucks ... ~ JB: I will not raise false testimony against him. Things are as they are. 10. MV: Did he get jealous of your side projects? ~ JB: Maybe, but joining Autograph was too good an opportunity to refuse. If it weren't for the pandemic, we would be doing one show after another. The schedule was full for the middle of the year. And the cool thing is that we’d be playing at a lot of festivals with a lot of other bands - Vince Neil, Queensrÿche, Slaughter, Stryper, Vixen, Black 'n Blue, Kix - and I love it because it’s always great to play for large audiences!
11. MV: Other than that, how is it going to be part of Autograph? ~ JB: It's been incredible. I love to play with these guys. Randy, the only remnant of the original lineup, is an excellent bass player. Simon is an excellent vocalist and the fact that he plays the guitar is a very interesting addition. Mark is a tremendous drummer, too. I've been writing with these guys and they give me carte blanche to present any ideas I have. The only thing I was asked to do when I joined was that I learn to play the iconic solo from “Turn Up the Radio” as in studio recording. But even if they hadn't asked me to, I would never dare change a note! 12. MV: Since you talked about composition, I found Autograph's new song great! A totally seventies main riff and a gigantic solo that strikes like lightning in the middle of the music! ~ JB: Thank you! When everyone thinks a bridge will come, I come in with the soil kind of out of nowhere! The opening riff, verse and bridge are mine, so Simon and I wrote the chorus via Facetime and put the finishing touches on the phone. 13. MV: Can we consider this song a model of the next ones that you will release? In fact, what can we expect from this partnership? ~ JB: I sent them several ideas and they liked most of them very much. For now, our focus is on the single and trying to reschedule the dates that have fallen because of the pandemic. 14. MV: Still on the single, part of the proceeds will be donated to a charity. Congratulations on this good initiative! ~ JB: Thank you! My fiancee who provided that. She works at Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut, which is part of the Trinity Health program. I believe that this is our way of thanking health professionals for the tireless work they have been doing on the front lines of combating the new coronavirus
15. MV: You recently posted an image on Facebook with the covers of all the albums you played on. As a big fan of pro-wrestling, I need to ask about his relationship with WWE.
~ JB: I started working for them in 2006. I have always been a big fan, just like you. Since WWF times, with Bret Michaels, Andre the Giant, Ultimate Warrior etc. One day the security guard at a house where I played told me he was a WWE cameraman. He asked if I had any promotional material to leave with him. I gave him a promo CD and he got that material into the hands of Jim Johnston, who is the composer of WWE themes. I could hardly believe it! Two days later, I received a call from WWE inviting me to a meeting. They have a first world recording studio there. So whenever Jim needs some nervous guitar solo, call me.
16. MV: What themes do you remember recording?
JB: The first one I recorded was one for Edge that ended up never being used. I was disappointed, but go ahead. Anyway, I recorded numerous themes, including Bret Hart's when he announced his return to the ring and one from D-Generation X, among others. MV: You also recorded a solo on the Brazilian Criss Sexx album, right? JB: Yes! Criss is a great guy. Whenever a record has a birthday, it posts, and that's great.
17. MV: Now, is it true that you are an uncredited author of a Black Sabbath song? ~ JB: Yeah. I wrote "Master of Insanity" by "Dehumanizer" (1992) when playing in the Geezer Butler band. One fine day, Geezer's wife, Gloria, called me to give me the bad news: his MCA contact had been fired and we had lost the record deal. Geezer ended up joining the Ozzy band. After a while, Gloria called me again: “Good news, Jimi. Black Sabbath is meeting with Ronnie James Dio and will record their song ‘Master of Insanity’! ” Imagine my excitement! But she said she couldn't give me credit in writing because Tony Iommi would never let a song that had been written by an outsider be part of a Sabbath record. Geezer would sign as a composer and put special thanks to me in the booklet. I was devastated, but they promised to pay for the music when the tour was over. I went to some shows on this tour, they played my music on everyone and they quoted it frequently in interviews. The tour came to an end and I never got a penny. Do what? 18. MV: And it's not like they can't afford it, is it? ~ JB: Exactly! With all the millions that earned, couldn't they have paid me for music? But this is how it is. For years I ran after it, but then I let it go. Until one day I met Ronnie and introduced myself. He replied: “Jimi Bell, from‘ Master of Insanity ’?” I was right! We spent about 40 minutes chatting. He said that I should have been paid for the song, that it was a slut from the Sabbath guys. But justice was done: some Sabbath biographies included my name as the author of “Master of Insanity”!
19. MV: In closing, let's go back in time, to the night of Hard in Rio II. I was 18 and there, in the front row! What do you remember not only from the House of Lords show itself, but from that weekend in Rio de Janeiro? ~ JB: I didn't know much because they said the city was dangerous! The local promoters were great, they took good care of us. But I ended up staying more at the hotel. The fans then don't even talk. I remember being on stage and watching everyone go crazy. A surreal climate. I will never forget. Not to mention that was when I met Tyketto's Danny Vaughn. I became friends with him and his wife. I hope to work with him again one day! And I hope to return to Brazil soon too! 20. MV: Simon is Brazilian. It might be easier to come with Autograph than come back with House of Lords ... ~ JB: Whatever! Whatever it is to be, I'm in! Let the promoters make that happen!
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