Ralph Beauchamp - March 3rd, 2020
Jimi Bell is a master musician. He is a relentless and forceful guitar player. Throughout his career Jimi has played with the some of the best. Currently lead guitarist for Autograph and House of Lords, Jimi is a staple in the Connecticut and New England music scene. Besides the a fore mentioned national bands, Bell plays in a number of regional groups that perform throughout the northeast. By far, he is one of the hardest working musicians around. All due to his insatiable love of music. The man just wants to play.
Bell‘s life is chock full of milestones. In 1982 he formed Joined Forces, Ct.’s premier metal band playing original music. In 1986, he appeared in the Michael J. Fox and Joan Jett film, “Light Of Day” performing in the movie and contributing to the soundtrack. In 1987, Bell joined bassist Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath in The Geezer Butler Band. He has worked with drummer BJ Zampa on numerous projects including the German band Thunderhead.
Jimi‘s two biggest projects to date are still active today. In 2005, He joined the melodic rockers, House of Lords. Reunited with Zampa and boasting the amazing lead vocals of James Christian the band has released numerous albums with more to come. In late July 2019, Bell was slated for lead guitar duties for the famed group Autograph.
In addition, Jimi has toured extensively with all the acts he has been associated with. Bell is also the “go to” guitarist for studio work at ESPN, WWE and numerous other organizations.
Bell recently received a new accolade. He received word that he will be inducted into the New England Music Hall of Fame being held on Thursday, March 26th, 2020. He will be receiving a well deserved “Achievement Award” at the inaugural event taking place at the Phoenix Dining and Entertainment complex in Pawcatuck, Ct.
I had the pleasure of conducting this phone interview with Bell while he undertook his daily four mile walk.
AMP: What originally led you to become a musician?
Bell: I have to credit my parents for my love of music. They used to put on records to help me fall asleep when I was really young. Even at a early age I knew I wanted to be a musician. Throughout my formative years I played a number of instruments. From the 2nd or 3rd grade till high school I played the stand up bass. Eventually I fell in love with the drums and big band music. I began listening to great drummers like Gene Krupa . I played in several high school bands and since I was the drummer my house was the rehearsal space. One day someone left his guitar and amp at the house and I began to mess around with it. I was blown away. Within one month I gave up the drums and started playing guitar.
AMP: Who were some of your early influences?
Bell: My biggest influence was the incredible Johnny Winters. Not only was he an amazing blues player but he also played with a lot of fire. He combined awesome chops with sizzling fast licks. Ritchie Blackmore from Deep Purple and Al Di Meola are two more guitarists I admired. Di Meola’s picking technique is flawless. I developed my style by combining the artistry of these three players.
AMP: Talk a little bit about the 80’s and Joined Forces?
Bell: Joined Forces was incredible! It was a groundbreaking band in the Ct. music scene in the 80’s. We played a 90 minute set of total originals and we weren’t sure how the audience would react. There was this terrific club called the Agora Ballroom in West Hartford. Our first show there drew about 1000 people. We weren’t sure if they would accept us but it went great. From there the band took off. It was one big party. Astonishingly we got hooked up with a tour supporting Joan Jett even though we hadn’t secured a record contract. Soon Joan Jett’s band was hanging with us on our tour bus. It was insane. That lead to our appearance in the movie with Jett and Michael J Fox. It was really cool.
AMP: What was it like playing with Geezer Butler from Sabbath?
Bell: Honestly, that all came out my Ozzy audition when I came out second to Zakk Wylde. Meeting Ozzy and Sharon was unbelievable. One day I get a call from Geezer. He had seen the tape I sent to Ozzy. He was putting together a new project slightly more on the commercial side than Sabbath. We showcased for a bunch of record guys and got signed to MCA Records. Playing with Geezer was wonderful experience. Just watching him play right next to you was exhilarating. He’s a monster bass player.
AMP: Besides your studio work you play in a host of bands including Autograph and House of Lords. How do you manage your time?
Bell: Well, with the House of Lords it’s all about studio albums. We just finished our eighth record called New World-New Eyes which will be released in May on Frontier Records. After an album release we usually tour in Europe for a few weeks and then it’s back to writing the next one. It would be great to do more dates with the band. Also there are 4-5 local bands I play in . I try to stay busy. All I ever want to do is play. Autograph is fabulous. They were the answer to my prayers. We have a lot of interesting surprises coming up this year. I’m truly grateful to be with them.
AMP: Speaking of Autograph, you are the newest member. How has the experience been so far?
Bell: It’s been incredible. From our very first show their fans accepted me. It was a tough situation. I’m replacing an original member. Not to mention that Steve Lynch was an icon. It started with a three song audition and I ended up playing the entire set. The deal was I was to play the next three gigs with them to see how it went. From the first note at the first show they knew I was their guitarist. As a plus, I also get to sing back up and our voices really mesh. Real harmonies.
AMP: You will be awarded a Certificate of Achievement Award at the inaugural New England Music Hall of Fame ceremony later this month. How does that make you feel?
Bell: That’s really unreal. This is my second award. In 2018 I got a Lifetime Achievement Award from All That Shreds magazine which was a huge honor. I’m totally blown away to be inducted later this month into the N.E. Hall Of Fame. It came as a wonderful surprise.
AMP: If you could reboot one thing from your past, what would it be?
Bell: That’s easy. I would have never touched alcohol or drugs. It really would have been a big advantage if I had kept a clear level head at all times.
AMP: What does the future hold for Jimi Bell?
Bell: There’s a lot of great stuff happening this year. Autograph will be coming out with a new song. We all contributed to it and it’s getting released later his month. The song is called “Souls On Fire”. As opposed to putting out an entire album we figured it’s better to do a song at a time. This song is absolutely killer. I’m very proud of it. Not to mention we have a boat load of shows. We were supposed to play a festival in England but I just heard it’s getting postponed due to the coronavirus. Better to be safe than sorry. I’m also working with Goodman brothers on the Lost Symphony project which is mind blowing.
Amp would like to thank Jimi for his time and thoughtful answers. He is by far a captivating guitarist as well as an outright gentleman.