By Joelle, who became addicted to Eighteen Visions when they toured with Lostprophets.
If anyone is going to help reclaim respectable rock, kick undeserving bands like Nickelback off the throne and teach all the unaware mainstream radio fans that a world of rock so good it’ll spread even if it didn’t have a huge marketing plan behind it does infact exist, James Hart is the man for the job.
We already know from his years of fronting hardcore act Eighteen Visions that Hart commands the stage like the stage kings of yesterday. He’s mastered the mood and the attitude, and the songs on his upcoming solo-effort epitomize the rock for which I’ve been yearning: teetering at the edge of “just hard enough” and edgy but with a cheese-free melody.
Let’s face it, most “rock stars” today are a bit of a disappointment. Luckily, James Hart is around to pick up where everyone fell off track.
As hard as it hit when the news of 18V ending was announced
(read the Planet Verge tribute to the band:
http://www.planetverge.com/pv07/interviews/18Visions.asp), I’m kinda glad because it allowed for these super sexy, power-fueled monstrous songs to be developed.
Here, Hart fills in his fans on his deal with Island Records and all that there is to anticpate.
PV: I like the style of the new songs. Have you had the urge to go solo for a while?
Hart: I'm glad you are liking the new material. You know, going solo was never something I had thought about. Eighteen Visions was coming to an end. I could feel that the band was finished. When the band officially broke up in March, I had gone over several options with my manager about what the next step would be. He knew I still wanted to make music and tour. We talked about finding one or two other guys to write with and actually start a band, but these would be people that I would have no prior relationsip with. It would've been just jumping into a band blindfolded. He also brought up the idea of shopping me as a solo artist. I found this more reasonable. It could be my thing. My ideas. My goals. All of this without the worry of conflicting ideas with other members. So this is the route I chose and here I am.
PV: What has been your inspiration while writing these songs?
Hart: I have always been a rock guy. Musically it has a very classic and blues style rock sound. It has a real vibe to it. Which is something I think today's rock lacks a lot of. Vibe. So we took these classic guitar tones and went with it. Put a little modern edge and touch to make it feel new.
Lyrically I've been inspired by real life events. Over the past few years or even the weeks leading up to me writing the first song for this album months back. I love the story telling of Bon Jovi and U2. Or even a lot of the country stuff out there. The songs paint a picture. They give great visuals. That's what I wanted to do. Tell stories about my life and the people I knew. The events that took place in my life and in theirs. Everything is completely relatable which is what I love most about it.
PV: You signed to a new label pretty fast. Why did you decide to go with Island this time around?
Hart: This has all been so crazy for me. Just to think that eight months ago I was fronting a band that was on a different major label. Now that's gone and I'm here on my own. It all started with my manager. He has a couple of other bands at Island and has a solid relationship with the LA Reid and the rest of the staff over there. The label signed me to a demo deal to go write a few songs and turn them in. When I handed over the songs there was immediate excitement and they offered me a record deal.
PV: When is the album slated for release? Do you have a title yet?
Hart: No album title yet. I will tour and release albums under my name. James Hart.
PV: Do you feel like all eyes are on you now—nervous about how 18 Visions fans will respond to it?
Hart: No. I really don't. This is something completely different than what Eighteen Visions was doing. You will not hear any similarities aside from the style of the vocals. Even then...my songs are now in standard tuning where 18V was in a really low drop tuning. The new tuning has changed everything for me. Where my voice sits, extended range and even more power behind my voice. I know they are great songs and they will speak for themselves. Since it is so different, I don't expect anything from anyone that was an 18V fan. I hope that 18V fans will dig it. If not...that's ok. You can't win em all (unless you're the New England Patriots).
PV: What’s it like being able to write songs without having to worry about input from another band member?
Hart: Amazing!!! You know there were two sides of the coin when it came to writing with Eighteen Visions. The upside was that we were all bringing something different to the table. We individually had different tastes and when we would colaborate it would make for fresh ideas and great songs. It was eclectic.
Unfortunately the plus side was sometimes the down side. It was because we were all so different with our musical tastes that lead to disputes about songs and direction. Compromising great ideas for another's personal taste. It seemed like it was really hard to get on the same page when it came to writing and recording. I feel like everyone in 18V felt that way. I think we were always happy with the end product at the end of the day, but at times I felt like there was this Jekyll and Hyde effect. The back and forth. Sometimes it was hard to grasp our true identity since we had been through so much over the last 10 years.
I don't have to deal with that struggle anymore. I know who I am musically. I know what I want and where I want to go. i really don't have worry about being on the same page with anyone else. I don't have to compromise great songs or ideas for another memeber that might not like where I was going with the song. This is way easier now. Stress free.
PV: Are you writing all the parts—drums, etc?
Hart: I have had 100% input on everything. I am not a guitar player or a drummer, but I was able to write a little on guitar. Putting chords together. Writing some of the leads. Structure and arrangements. Putting together the beats. Stuff like that, but these songs were all co-writes. To me, the idea of a solo album isn't to play every instrument on the album or write every last note. It is me colaboriting with great song writers and musicians to make a great album that represents me and who I am. Maybe if I were Prince, I would've played everything and not let anyone lend ideas or co-write, but I checked my ego at the door and went about this the same way I would've with 18V. The only different was writing with Zac Maloy instead of Keith Barney and Ken Floyd. Oh, and having the say in what the song sounded like. From tempo to even tambourine and everything in between.
PV: Will you be touring in promotion for the album? If so, are you going to just have touring musicians back you or are you going to assemble a full-time band?
Hart: Absolutely. That is why I am doing this. I love making music and being on stage. Sharing the live experience with people. I'm not just trying to release and sell albums just to satisfy my artistic nature. Isn't a let down when you get a great album, love the songs, feel the music, but the artist doesn't tour. I certainly think so.
As for the players, I will hire a touring band. I already have Dr. Neal Tiemann slated to play lead guitar. He is an amazing talent. I will also fill the rythym, bass and drum positions as well with musicians I feel are hard working with great spirit and attitude as well as talented at their respective instrument. It may be a full-time band that tours with me from album to album. It would be the type of band you would see backing Chris Cornell or something.
PV: What was it like working with Zac Maloy and creating an album in Oklahoma?
Hart: It was such a great and refreshing expecience. Zac is a great writer with amazing ideas and understanding for music. This was so different for me. In a good way. We would both just sit with acoustic guitars and build a song from the ground up. Bouncing ideas off each other. Back and forth. Finishing each others lyrical lines and vocal melodies. It was great. It was nice to get away from home. You know, clear my head. I wouldn't have it any other way.
PV: What did you do in your downtime over there? It’s a world away from LA in terms of lifestyle, I’d imagine.
Hart: I'm not into the quick pace of LA. Orange County is fast too, but I keep to myself. I don't go out a lot. I like my private time. So it was a lot of the same over there. I didn't have a ton of free time either. We were always working. I always made time for football on Saturdays and Sundays. I would always make time to go watch Dr. Neal play at the local pubs. I spent a lot of time with Neal. He is an amazing person with a winning attitude. Not to mention a great player and writer. I met a lot of cool people through Neal. Zac's family was great too. Tulsa is my home away from home now.
PV: What songs did Keith work on with you? Do any other 18V members make guest appearances?
Hart: Before 18V broke up we were writing and demoing new material. I loved a couple of the ballads he had. The rockers were great too, but they were a little too 18V for me. The rest of his stuff ended up on the Never Enough album I believe. There was this melodic ballad type song he had that I wrote to called "Fallin Faster." I took it to Tulsa and we tuned up the guitars and Neal played a very cool lead over the chorus making it a little edgier. It came out great. Keith doesn't play on the album, but his creative spirit is there with the song. None of the other members appear on the album or have any songs on the album.
PV: Highlights of working with Syn Gates?
Hart: Gates was awesome. All of the Avenged guys are very good friends. I came to him and Shadows right when the band broke up. They were neck deep in their own album, but Gates whipped up a little music bed for me. I took that one to Tulsa as well and just ran with it. He even took time in between gigs in LA to come up and play on the track he co-wrote with me. He will also make an appearance on "Dirty Little Girl." Those guys are all winners in my book. Just real, genuine people that care about me and what I'm doing.
PV: How did you feel when you stepped off stage after playing the very last 18V show?
Hart: Relieved. Not to say that in a bad way, but the band had been broken up for over a month. I was already moving forward. As were some of the other guys. There was just so much stress involved over the last few months the band was together. Clashing of ideas. The fallout with Epic. Canceled shows and tours. Turning down good show opportunities. It was just really nice to play the shows and show our respects to the fans and move forward with life. We did the shows for the fans. It wasn't something I really wanted to do at first. I'm not a big fan of farewells and reunions unless there are albums being made to back up the tours.
PV: Best album of 2007?
Hart: Avenged Sevenfold S/T. Not being biased either. It's brilliant. That band takes chances and wins. I also love Velvet Revolver "Libertad." I think it's even better than "Contraband." The new Bon Jovi is great and Carrie Underwood has some great songs too. Not kidding.
Listen now: www.myspace.com/jameshart
WATCH PLANET VERGE FOOTAGE OF 18 VISIONS ON WARPED TOUR: