EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH EX-EIGHTEEN VISIONS SINGER JAMES HART
Last week MetalSucks had the privilege of sitting down with Ex-Eighteen Visions frontman James Hart. After Eighteen Visions called it quits back in April, singer James Hart released some new rough tracks via his MySpace page in July. At that point we contacted James about doing an interview, to which he replied he’d love to but would be more interested in a few months once the ball got rolling. When the news was announced last week that Hart signed a deal with Island Records we contacted him again, and true to his word he agreed to do the interview. James told us all about his new record deal, the new material, the progression from Eighteen Visions, his thoughts on the current state of the record business, and his love for Bon Jovi.
Click through to read the full interview.
Congrats on your new record deal. How did it come about?
Thanks. You know when 18V was coming to an end, I had discussed the idea of moving forward with or without a band. My manager (who was also 18V’s) really tried keeping the band together. When it finally came to an end, he also wanted me to move forward. He has a couple of bands he works with at Island and approached the label. He wanted me to get together with some writers (which was totally new for me). The label had someone they wanted me to meet and get together with, that being Zac Maloy [of the Nixons]. I went out to Tulsa back in May and did 4 songs with Zac… My manager handed them in to Island and they didn’t hesitate to move forward with me.
What was it about Island that spoke to you, versus say Epic or Trustkill, where you’d been in the past?
Well, Island was a fresh start. I absolutely love Josh and Trustkill. What he did for 18V was great, but I needed a major label behind this. You know, I’m not aiming for something underground. I want to do big tours, have impact at radio and really branch out to more music fans. Epic has some great people at that label. I loved our A&R there. He is still a good friend. Again, I wanted a fresh start. I felt like it was time for something new.
So what will the configuration of the new project be? Will it be billed as “James Hart” or “James Hart and the XYZ’s” or will it be a band name?
I think I’m geared towards just using my name. I haven’t abandoned the idea of the B and C options, but I don’t quite feel like it is a band effort as far as the writing and ideas come. I feel like this is my vision. I’ve worked really hard over the years to get where I’m at. Right now, I’m not totally comfortable having a real band that shares ideas and decisions. So right now, I feel like James Hart is the way to go.
Are you going to have Zac Maloy produce the record? Are there any other producers possibly in the mix? How much say do you have in this as opposed to the label?
Yes, Zac is going to do the record. He’s been there since the birth of all but 2 songs. He knows them well and has put a lot of work in helping write and build them as have I. There are no other producers in the mix. Zac is my guy. And the label has a lot to say about it. They are footing the bill you know, but everyone involved at the label as well as my management has extreme confidence in Zac doing this record.
How far along are you guys in the writing and recording process?
We have finished the writing process and have gotten 16 songs. We are going to narrow that down to 13 or 14 to track. From there we will take it down to 11 or 12 for the album. We are slated to begin tracking in late October, but everything is still TBA at this point.
Any thoughts on musicians to lay the tracks down?
We have been talking to Daniel Adair from Nickelback. I love his drumming. He’s got a great style. Hopefully we can get that locked down and move forward. We are in the late stages of just wrapping everything up with the schedule. So hopefully I can make some official statements soon.
How is the music coming out — and what are your goals — for the sound of this record? how does that compare to 18 visions?
I love all of it… obviously… I’m writing it. It’s going to be a rock record. It’s traditional tuning unlike the 18V stuff. I feel like I am a better vocalist now and have more range with the guitars tuned up rather than down to drop B which is where 18V was. The only song I’d really be able to compare it to from 18V would be “Last Night” from the self-titled album. I really wanted to stay clear of 18V’s sound. I wanted to do something new for myself. I’ts more traditional rock. Lyrically there is more story telling which I totally love. My goals are simple. Put the record out, sell it and tour.
It did seem like more and more towards the end that 18V was moving in a more traditional rock direction. Was that your influence, other members’, or everyone’s?
Everyone’s. Musically we loved the idea of being eclectic. On the last album we had transitioned into a rock band. Of course the more traditional sounding stuff I think was a bit more me, because it was simple. And I like simple, but everyone liked the direction we went. Of course there was always a little compromise on everyone’s part, but that is just how it is being in a band. I like that there is no compromise for me and the upcoming album.
As far as the upcoming album, are there any particular influences of yours that you find yourself channeling often?
Musically, I love the simplicity of traditional rock. So it is simple and easy to follow. I love those old guitar tones too. The traditional Les Paul through a Marshall. As far as vocally, I feel like I’ve come in to my own. I loved the way Axl would layer and stack his vocals. Mercury did that too with Queen, but his was a bit more theatrical. I love different stacked and layered vocals. Lyrically I love the story telling of Bon Jovi. New and old. He really connects.
Let’s change gears here for a minute. What are your thoughts on the current state of the record industry, major labels, and buying / downloading music? And where do you see the record business going in the near future?
It’s hard. Especially if you’re not selling records. It can really kill a band these days. You’re not going to escape downloading. Internet is now. It is the future. The industry will find a way real soon here how to capitalize on that. It’s only a matter of time, but for now majors are real careful about who they sign and what the deals consist of. If you’re on a major and don’t have hits, you could have a hard time. You never know how things will go these days.
What do you think of these so-called “360 degree” deals bands are signing now… where the deal also covers merch, touring, and everything… basically like a management deal, but for a larger advance.
The labels aren’t selling as many records as they were. Everything is on the decline. They need to cover their asses somewhere, right? They can’t just give away big record deals anymore without any compensation. They need to generate something from the new bands. It’s a coin toss these days. Just pumping money into a project to have it flop. Labels lose millions all the time.
Do you think the young bands can win that way, or are they getting fucked?
If they have hits. If they can tour and make money. Everything is give and take. You want the security up front, you gotta give up more in the long run. Of course everyone wants more upfront, but when you get into the touring cycle and aren’t selling as many tix or as much merch as you thought, it could be a real downer. I can’t stress how much a new band needs a hit nowadays.
A band that’s on a major label, anyway. Unless they want to slog it out on the road for years and years.
Yeah. And that could be the way to go. Just not for me. Not now. I’ve done that.
So you’re shooting pretty high with this one, it sounds like. Do you have an approximate timeline for when the record might be out and touring might begin?
Yeah. I shoot high with everything I do. I am a believer. That’s important. I have faith in myself and the people I am working with. If for some reason it doesn’t happen, it wasn’t meant to be and I move on. I’d love to have the album finished by years end and out somewhere between April and June. I’d love to start the touring around late Feb or March.
Cool. Well thanks again for taking the time, James… really appreciate it. Anything extra or any shameless plugs or parting shots before we finish?
Nah man. I’m good. Thank you.
Thank YOU. Good luck with everything.
[Visit James Hart on MySpace]