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Interview with New Autograph Guitarist Jimi Bell (House of Lords, Maxx Explosion)

Sept 9th, 2019 ... By Mick Michaels

COSMICK VIEW: Hello, Jimi! Welcome to The Cosmick View. Thank you for taking some time out of your day to chat with me, it is greatly appreciated.

CV: Through the decades, music has been looked at as both a salvation to some and a scapegoat for others...a sort of soapbox platform to fuel a cause and gain a following. How has music been a salvation for you in your life and what are your thoughts on those who have used music in a negative way for their own personal agendas over the years?

Jimi Bell: Whatever the art form may be, the inspiration or meaning behind it is an individual preference.  Music is no different. Some artists use it as a platform for the enjoyment of others, while some use it to heal.  And of course, there are artists that use it to send messages that are not always uplifting to say the least.  But ultimately, it is the consumers’ choice whether they choose to listen to it. And you are right; music has been a salvation during my lifetime. As a listener and a writer … it is in my blood. I can’t imagine my life without creating music in some capacity. I have been fortunate enough to have had major influences and be influenced by all genres of music. Have a told ya, I am a huge Elvis Fan??

CV: In your experience, does music have the power to heal? JB: Personally, creating and composing music has brought me through some really dark times. It has also been a quick fix when one goes through disappointment in life which I know all musicians can relate. I mean how does one not get pumped hearing the intro to AC/DC’s Thunderstruck?  LOL So yes, it has the power to heal.

CV: Jimi, you recently joined Autograph as the band's new lead guitarist. Congratulations! The band has really soared in the past few years becoming one of the hottest sought-after performers for many festivals and cruises alike. Tells us how your recent recruitment came about? JB: Thank you so much. I can’t tell you enough what an incredible experience it has been so far.  The guys are just top-notch all the way and have been so welcoming from day one. How it came to be? I can tell you this…it came around fast.  It really was a whirlwind of text-messages, Face-Time and conversations with Randy, Simon and Marc in very short-order. They knew me through Steve, and one thing led to another and the rest is history.

CV: What's it like joining a band with a legacy such as the platinum selling Autograph? JB: For me at this stage in my career, the joining of Autograph extends deeper than Autograph’s musical legacy. I need to feel connected with the people I share a stage with.  I need to feel at ease and know that all members of the band are there for one thing and everyone is on the same page. Autograph is deeply connected with their fans; it was evident for me at my first show in Virginia. I have seen Autograph on a few occasions in the past few years, and I have always been impressed with how they engage with their audience and the sheer talent of the group. If the show in Virginia is even a small representation of what to look forward to, I will be a happy camper. 

CV: How do you see Autograph's sound and style evolving now with your inclusion in the band? What do you feel you bring to the group's musical lineage and writing dynamics? JB: Writing music is a natural part of me. I’ve written on the last 7 and soon to be released 8th House Of Lords records. I’m truly looking forward to collaborating on new music with Simon, Randy and Marc. I’ve already played them a few ideas I have written specifically for Autograph and they loved them. 

CV: Speaking of dynamics, joining an already established band can have its share of dynamics.  What do you see, if any, as being the biggest challenge with joining Autograph? JB: I think the biggest challenge in joining an already established band like Autograph is exactly what you are stating.  Although Steve Lynch left voluntarily to start a new musical journey with his fiancé, I recognize it’s not always going to be easy but I accept this and anticipate it. Steve and I are very good friends and we share a mutual respect for each other’s style of playing.

CV: You are no stranger to working with a number of bands and artists with legacy, including House of Lords and Black Sabbath's Geezer Butler and auditioning for Ozzy, thus, carrying a legacy of your own. How has working with so many notable musicians helped define you as a musician and as an artist? JB: At this age, I am definitely not a stranger to working with icons in the industry.  It is ironic that you ask me this question as it was communicated to me that it is my uniqueness as a musician/guitarist that appealed to Autograph.  The fact that I didn’t sound like anyone was a plus. And of course being able to sing harmonies helped tremendously. I have been extremely blessed to have worked alongside the best in the music industry, past and present. 

CV: Jimi, when working with more seasoned musicians, do you find that the levels of inspiration are much higher when it comes to creativity? Is there ever a point of performance anxiety to deliver as the bar is often higher in such situations? JB: Haha, I am OCD when it comes to what I write, how I practice, what my sound is like, certainly my performance on stage and my side-burns, LOL!  I give everything I do, related to music, 100%. Yes, even after all these years, I still experience to some degree some nervousness, but it keeps you on your toes. That extra adrenaline is always working in your favor so one does not become complacent.

CV: There are many artists who prefer working alone when it comes to songwriting even if they are in a band situation. Are you one of those artists or is working in a collaboration environment more to your liking? Is there more to be gained when collaborating with other artists? Does the song benefit more so in the end? JB: The way I have been writing for years now starts as thoughts when I am alone.  Those thoughts turn into riffs, then a chorus and hook and so on.  The beauty of working with seasoned musicians is where the creativity comes in. You spoke of inclusivity before, and that is where this comes into play. It has been my experience that the best songs come from different opinions and certainly compromises as well.  My buddy BJ Zampa of House Of Lords, Maxx Explosion and current Dokken drummer and I have worked that way for years with James Christian on the last severn (7) HOL studio albums and it is a well-oiled machine.  In the end, the product is always better when it is collaborative in nature. And as stated earlier, I can’t wait to start working on ideas with the guys for a new studio album.

CV: Many up and coming original artists have growing concerns about the massive rise of tribute bands in recent years.  Their concern revolves around the rise of tribute bands seemingly starting to box in the original scene and hindering new artists' chances of finding a sustainable audience.  Being in a tribute band yourself, Beyond Purple, do you agree with this belief and do you feel there is such a need for concern? JB: Beyond Purple was a project that came to me in the middle of the night. Deep Purple and Ritchie Blackmore were a major influence in my life. So many great bands and artists have evolved from this one band.  My longtime friend Mike Gill of Livesay has the incredible vocal range that can carry off Deep Purple, Rainbow and Whitesnake with ease. Tribute bands…it is pretty simple; it is a way musicians can earn a living in-between album releases and in between other projects. Tribute bands are in existence because of the public demand for them. I have been to a few recently and quite honestly, I am blown away.  I can see why they are popular right now. I mean it’s not just our generation that is enjoying them.  Tribute bands are pleasing and satisfying a need for multiple generations. If you have not already, go see Shawn Klush.  He is a Graceland endorsed Elvis Tribute Singer and he is the closest thing to the real deal. Only time will tell if this is a fad, or something that will stick. Either way, I have it covered…LOL

CV: Is the world still a big enough place with regards to music and artists finding a fan base regardless of statistics showing that over 24,000 new songs are being released each day...and that number is consistently increasing? Is there enough for everyone to go around? JB: I would like to think yes, but no.  We are saturated with emerging new bands, songs, and so forth.  The birth of YouTube and social media have made it very easy to learn music at record speed and market it just as fast.  Not to mention what the grunge era did for the Rock and Heavy Metal scene…but we won’t go there. LOL  I mean when I see 8 year-olds on social media playing what I played at age 20…I just shake my head.  The amount of talent out there is off-the-hooks. No one listens to a record 100 times over these days to learn a song, note for note… CV: The web has given the world instantaneous gratification...on the internet, so much entertainment is available for free, 24/7, and on a variety of online platforms. In your opinion, has such ease of accessibility and availability made it more difficult for artists and bands to make a living releasing albums, let alone music in general? JB: That would be a definite yes, hence…why I am in a cover band as well. For the consumer it has been great, as an artist, not so much. But I have been fortunate enough to have my hand in a variety of projects that still yield “royalties”.  My work with WWE, ESPN and my Shredneck invention has helped me be a pay grade above “starving artists”. LOL I think with the newer generation, a quick fix and instant gratification goes beyond musical preference and accessibility.  People want what they want and as an entertainer, you have to be fluid enough and be ready to deliver. What form that may be in, who knows, but I feel the classics will always be in demand. 

CV: With free to low cost software, economical home studio solutions and the ability to have music freely and widely distributed online, has the modern digital medium made everyone a wannabe artist on some level in your opinion? And does such convenience detract from those who are working hard to make a real go of it? JB: I think to a point yes, but only artists that are passionate about what they do will sustain.  The music industry that we are in is not for the fickle. You have to work 100 times harder now for the same yield because the competition is that much larger. Time although does help separate the wanna-be’s from true artists.  But like I mentioned before, there is so much talent out there!!  I think where I see frustration is some of the younger artists that are just starting out do not have the patience and don’t want to “pay their dues” so to speak. Some do feel entitled to be in the “spotlight” instantly and really don’t put a lot of time and effort into something before they want instant recognition. But social media has fueled that ideology as well, so I guess, who can blame them? That is the world we live in today. CV: When can fans expect to see a new Autograph album featuring you on lead guitar? JB: As I just had my first show and it’s been a whirlwind up to that point, we have not discussed a new album at any length. Although I’m sure it’s going to happen. I would like to be able to offer some of my talents to making an album with Autograph. We are extremely pumped as a group; we have shows and tours being booked as I speak, so I am sure there will be more to come on that. It truly is a decision that will come from Randy, Marc and Simon. And I am confident I will be part of that conversation as they have been so welcoming and transparent.

CV: What's next for you? JB: I have just finished the last song for my 8th House Of Lords studio album. I am very excited about this Frontiers release as it has the HOL signature sound, with a little something extra that gives the album a rich depth and will rival the much beloved World Upside Down studio release.  As for as Autograph, a big shout out to these brothers.  I am beyond grateful for this opportunity. Randy, Simon and Marc are so genuine and easy to be with…no drama!!  We look forward to performing as much as we can and keep pleasing our fan-base.  I am confident there will be something coming down along the way.  For now, it’s about connecting with people through our music and creating great and lasting experiences for them. My next show with them is at Rock Tember Music Festival in Hinckley, Minnesota next month.

CV: Thank you again Jimi for spending some time talking and sharing with our readers. I wish you all the best and continued success. JB: Thank you, the honor is mine.  I appreciate you reaching out to me. This has been a great, hope we meet again. 


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