Interviewed by Mark Dean (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
Mgm ”You have a new album just released called ”Risk Everything” with Marc Scherer. Are the songs a joint contribution or solely your own?
Jim “Well you know, Marc and I wrote three of the songs together. “Broken Home” which is essentially his story because he is divorced with two little children. He was telling me about how hard it is .We wrote that from personal experience so that is maybe why he brought so much to the table. We wrote two other songs, as Marc is very good with melody and very good with lyrics. I hope to write more with him. Besides the three I wrote all the songs myself.”
Mgm” I was going to ask you to give me a track by track analysis of the album. Shedding some background on the songs and their composition, if that’s ok?
Jim “Absolutely, not a problem.”
Mgm “Starting with the album’s title track “Risk Everything”
Jim “One of my favourites. I actually thought that might be the first single, with an edit. When Serrafino (head of Frontiers Records) heard “Cold Blooded “he said “No that’s your single” I love “Risk Everything” I wrote it in Rome a year ago. My family was there and we were on vacation. I am walking through the streets and just loving Rome and all of a sudden I just said “You know what, I am just risking everything. I am over here, fck everything and I don’t care what my wife says I am writing a song today. She is always like “You never stop working “When the muse hits ya, you just got to take I’m walking down the street with my wife, I have my IPhone and I’m singing …(starts singing the track)..She is like “Jim put that thing away” I am saying “No, no I got to write this song.” I wrote it all in Rome, got back home and brought Marc Scherer over and showed it to him. He goes “dude that is one of the best choruses that you have ever written.” I said that I don’t know but I like it, so it’s not really about risk. It’s about letting the chips fall where they may and no matter what if you believe in something you just gotta do it. No matter what the critics say, no matter what your wife says-no matter what anybody says..”
Mgm ”Chance of a Lifetime”?
Jim “That holds a really dear place in my heart because when I rediscovered Marc he was singing with another band in my studio. I didn’t know who it was, so I burst into the studio and I met Marc. He was singing with a band called Arc of Angels at that time. I heard this voice through the door and I go “This is a magic voice “We started talking about doing a record but at first I had to convince Serrafino that this guy was really good and that it was time to do a Peterik/Scherer record. So I wrote a song called “Chance of a lifetime “as a demo to show Serrafino and I brought in new musicians. I said that if I am going to do this then I am going to do it right. I brought in the A-Team the Pride of Lions guys. They have been like my core band for all my projects and we did “Chance Of A Lifetime “We sent it to Serrafino and he flipped out, and said “Let’s do a record “That song was the one that got Serrafino on board.”
Mgm”I have chatted to a few artists on the Frontiers label and they all speak highly of him. Is he a very “hands on “guy with the artists on his label?
Jim “He is, he reminds me a lot of John Kalodner who led Survivor to Atlantic back in 78/79. He is very picky and he is very opinionated but he also believes in great music. He believes in your best self. Kalodner would never accept a song that was anything less than excellent. He had very high standards because he knew what I was capable of. Serrafino sometimes really pisses me off because he will reject a song but at the end of the day is usually right. The ones that he does accept you would have a strong confidence that people are going to like them too….”
Mgm ”Cold Blooded “is up next.
Jim “Well sometimes you have to go back in time and meet your younger self. I am sixty four and I went back to when I was thirty three and cutting “Vital Signs” I put myself in that mind frame of a younger man who is trying to make it .We had just discovered a new singer called Jimi Jamison and the way that I was feeling at that time, thinking of broken promises and what made that song tick when I wrote “Cold blooded “for this record. It took some experimentation and I cut that track maybe 2 or 3 times until I got it right. It’s not easy to get that eighties sound again and you really have to work at it.To be that simple-it is a very simple sound .I tried three different drummers on it and then met up with Nick Rich who is a younger guy whose grandfather is Buddy Rich the famous drummer.”
Mgm ”It’s in his genes then?
Jim”Yeah he is the guy that laid down that 2/4 back beat in “Cold blooded “that makes it so deadly you know. Then Marc is just fresh off a divorce and he is thinking of his ex-wife and singing …At the end of that song he is just so ripping his guts out. You can really feel his anger about this girl-this woman being so cold-blooded. That really sells the track. The children pay the price-that’s the sad thing”
Mgm ”Desperate in Love”
Jim” I didn’t realize that it was going to be a duet when I wrote it. Toby was in town and we were doing Pride Of Lions shows prior to this. I told Toby that I had this idea, and at this point it was only Marc “How about a duet”? He said that he would stay an extra day and we did the parts. It turned out to be a perfect duet song. It starts out as a beautiful ballad almost like Peter Cetera with Marc singing it.Then it kicks into high gear and Toby’s more raspy and muscular voice takes over. I think it is just a really great contrast. Even though their voices are similar most of the real fans can tell the difference…..
Mgm”Didn’t Toby and Marc work together also on the Pride Of Lions “Immortal” album?
Jim “Not exactly-the story of that you are thinking of is that Marc did the demos for the album that became”Immortal”The guide vocals-because Marc is in Chicago, Toby is not. In order to get it song-proofed by Serrafino we had to do a demo and Marc sang on that. That’s when I knew what he was really capable of.”
Mgm Track 5 is “Thee Crescendo”
Jim”Ahh one of my favourites, I wrote this in Italy again. We were going through Vatican City and I was in St Peters cathedral with my wife, my son and his wife. Just something in the beauty and the history and the romance of that whole era –the statues the Michelangelo’s and the Rafael’s and I was just overwhelmed. I had my IPhone with me and I started singing this melody which turned out to be the chorus of”Thee Crescendo” We had a tour guide and I am singing into this IPhone and bothering everybody. Tour guide is saying “Shut up, shut up “and I am going “No I am writing a song” (laughs) here I am in the church saying “Go to hell”, but I had to write this song. Just the term “Crescendo “and “Fortissimo “and the terms that I use are very Italian. I think I had to write that song in Italy”
Mgm “Next track up is “The Dying of the Light”
Jim”Ahhhh one of my favourites and one that nobody mentions because …I don’t know why. Melodically I think that the chorus is very strong. To me the main strength of that song is the lyric and that is that we are really all just trying to out distance death. We are all saying we are going to keep going man we are going to party. We are going to burn the candle at both ends, I am going to out distance the Grim Reaper. I am running away from “The Dying of the Light “That’s what the song is all about. It’s trying to live forever basically. That spark that you have when you are fifteen you want to keep that spark and that is really what the song is about.”
Mgm “What about “How long is a Moment”?
Jim “Oh the power ballad? I have got to tell you…It’s no secret that I was very influenced by Journey on that song. I love the writing of Jonathon Cain, and all the great songs…I mean there are so many of them that I can’t even begin to mention. Obviously”Open Arms “you know. I didn’t steal anything but I used the influence of “Open Arms “in terms of the drum feel and to some degree the emotion of it. That was one of my all-time favourite songs so this is kind of my tribute to Journey in a way. Marc just sings the shit out of it.”
Mgm “Brand New Heart “is next…
Jim “This is nothing more than a fun pop song, kind of “It Feels Like Love “by Survivor where you don’t have to think about it much. It’s just fun you know, it’s a love song. It’s nothing heavy but I think its catchy.catchy. That’s important too and it’s got a great up-tempo to it.”
Mgm”Broken Home“ you have already touched on earlier
Jim”Yeah melancholy, feeling of that and what I want to say on that is what I said previously is that Shoshanna Bean this very great female singer who was the lead in “Wicked”( Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman)for a couple of years. She was a friend of Marc’s, I don’t know how he met her actually- she came in to Chicago from LA and did those lovely female parts. I love her voice because it is not striking it is very gentle. They sound like a couple that is trying to work things out.”
Mgm”Milestones is next-that seems a particularly personal song?”
Jim”Milestones was the second song that we recorded after Serrafino signed us as a unit. I am kind of a sentimental guy and I always like to think of relationships (I have been married now for 43 years) to the same woman by the way. I think about the good times and the bad times. No matter if they are good or bad they are milestones, they are things that change you. If you get past them it makes you stronger, if you don’t then you get a divorce. The song is really about me and Karen and thank God mostly good times. (But some bad times too)Either way its part of your life, its part of the soundtrack of your life you know…”
Mgm”Final track now and “Independence Day”
Jim(laughing)”As you may know this is a very important song to me. It tells the story of my break up from Survivor in 96 and that is when I really “risked everything” I was on the road with Survivor,…and…Have you read my book yet Mark?
Mgm”Im sorry I have not.”
Jim “The story is in the book”
Mgm (So I won’t spoil it for those who want to go and check that out for themselves by recounting it here)
Jim “So finally after all these years I wanted to put it in a song and I wanted Marc to be the mouthpiece of this-I didn’t even want to sing it. I wouldn’t have got through it, it’s just so emotional. It’s really the story of me leaving Survivor…”
Mgm”That leads me on nicely to a couple of Survivor related questions. That split must have been personally very difficult because you and Frankie were the song writing team of Survivor.
Jim”Yeah, it’s true it’s true, but I was always the lead songwriter. Basically Frankie was a really great guitar player and he was a great editor of my ideas. If I strayed away from the brand he would be the first one to get me back on track. As the audience can see since I left Survivor I can write very well on my own as well. I miss him in certain senses but in so many other ways I don’t miss the relationship.”
Mgm” I have personally been a Survivor fan for many years. I have often wondered…Why do you feel personally that”Too Hot to Sleep”didn’t perform as successfully as it should have done?
Jim “Well I think that it is all down to promotion Mark I really do. In our country Epic just dropped the ball. It was the end of the eighties, and melodic rock was starting to go downhill with the American public. Grunge was just starting to come in, the Seattle thing and harder rock. It was just on the end of that. In America I think that it suffered, in Europe I don’t know. I think that the record company just dropped the ball worldwide on it.It is one of our better records. “Desperate Dreams”, “She’s a star “and there is so many great songs on there…
Mgm”Across the Miles-that’s an incredible song.
Jim “Across the Miles, yeah it was very shattering to us…”
Mgm”Both with Ides of March and more notably with Survivor you had some music used on movie soundtracks. On reflection was that a good or bad idea –did it help to promote the music or indeed cheapen it?
Jim (chuckles)”Well you know, if we hadn’t have come back with Vital Signs and Proved that we could do it on our own I would say that it’s a bad idea, but that was kind of our proof that we didn’t need Stallone although we appreciated everything that he did for us. We didn’t need him to be a successful band. When Vital Signs came along it said”Ok these guys are for real, they are not a Hollywood band. They are not some kind of put together bullshit. I think that was a turning point…”
Mgm”You have written many classic anthems that have formed a part of many peoples lives. Is there a secret to creating a song that will be timeless? Do you know when you have?
Jim”Well that’s a great question I think that the best answer is that if the listener can see themselves in the lyric then they relate to it and they want to hear it again and again. Songs that I wrote like “Hold on Loosely”for 38 Special there was a little bit of advice in that song. If you are too controlling with a woman or if a woman is too controlling with a man that person tends to back off. So if you can add a little message to the beat and melody to a message then you got some staying power. The “Search is over”there is a little bit of wisdom there. Sometimes you have it all and you just don’t see it because you are too close to it. Sometimes you have to come full circle back home to see it all. Again a little bit of wisdom, a great melody and of course Jimis amazing vocal.”Eye of the Tiger”its motivational its one of the most motivational songs of all time according to all of these polls. I am very proud of, but I guess the answer is that people relate to these songs both lyrically and musically and that is the secret of a long lasting hit record.”
Mgm”When you actually write something like”The Search is Over”do you actually go “Wow that is pretty good”
Jim ”Yeah I knew that one was special, you cant chart a goosebump-you cant plan it. It just comes over you. Every time that we would rehearse that song and it comes to the last chorus(proceeds to sing it to me-wow goosebump moment for me definitely!)I would get a goosebump every time and I would say to Frank”this is a smash”Sometimes you just know it and that was one that I just knew was a hit.”
Mgm”Man against the world”maybe?
Jim”Oh my god, you have named one of my favorites, we actually performed that three weeks ago in Milan at the Frontiers Festival. We did a special homage to Jimi Jamison. Toby Hitchcock was singing and we did a portion of the set, in the middle of Prides set. The first song we did was “High On You”, then we go into”Oceans”because I wanted to pick a deep cut that wasn’t really done that much. Then we did “Man Against the World”and we brought the house down with a ballad. Toby delivered it so well and of course everybody was thinking of Jimi. That was fine because nobody could sing like it Jimi could but Toby did a great job. People kept applauding and they wouldn’t stop until I finally went into”I Cant Hold Back” “Man Against The World”has to be maybe my favorite of all the Survivor songs that Jimi performed.”
Mgm”You mentioned earlier the song that you wrote for 38 Special, indeed you have written for many other artists. Do you find in those situations that you have to immerse yourself completely in the bands back catalogue to fully understand what they are about. Or alternatively do you merely have to follow a set of given directives?
Jim”Another great question. I do think that you have to really pour yourself in the mold of the band, to some extent. At the same time you have to bring what is unique about you to that party. I think what made the collaboration with 38 Special so successful is bringing their Southern Rock rebel spirit to my pop and melodic spirit. The combination was really successful and powerful. When I wrote with Sammy Hagar it was kind of the same thing. I brought some of my lyrical IQ to the party. I think that lyrically I raised the bar for Sammy. He also raised the bar for me because he was so good with the guitar riffs and stuff like that. It was a really good combination. It is a mixture of elements that make a song great.”
Mgm”Do you still operate your own record label?
Jim”I do have World Stage International. Its very tiny and it is more for smaller projects and I don’t have the distribution outlets that I would like to have. The record business is in the toilet anyway. If I have a pet artist I will definitely put a record out.”
Mgm”Have you now finished the promotional book tour?
Jim”Well no the book promotion is ongoing. The Ides Of March have a box set that has just come out”Last Band Standing” It’s a 50 years definitive collection, with 3 new tracks and 75 tracks from the Warner Brothers days and a dvd from House Of Blues. A lot of times we will go into record store/book store and do a twin promotion. I will sign books, the Ides will come in and we will sign boxsets. We did that a few days ago and it really worked out-kind of a cross promotion. That is going to continue throughout the year.”
Mgm”What about the idea of like a spoken words thing which seems to be very popular with artists right now.You tell some stories about your career and play a few songs , is that something that you would consider doing?
Jim”Oh man you have read my mind and I will be doing that next Sunday. Storytellers format with a guitar in a small theater. It’s going to be very intimate. Next week the Ides Of March will be doing that only with all the harmony of the band. There is also a project coming up that I cant really talk about yet. Jim Peterik with songs and stories and it will be on cd/dvd.”
Mgm “Well hopefully you will make it over to Europe/the Uk and also Ireland.
Jim”Until the record takes off, and we get some funds and can hire the right musicians. We are just breaking Marc in a little bit.”
Mgm”Its been great chatting to you Jim, thanks very much. Just to finish with some information for you. There is a melodic rock festival happening in October that may be worth looking in to.”
Jim”Funny you should say that because the guy that runs the whole thing was at the Milan show and we got drunk and who knows?
Mgm”Really appreciate you taking extra time to talk to me this evening, as a long-standing fan its been an absolute pleasure and a delight. Thank you very much.
Jim “Well thank you Mark, you sound really knowledgeable about music and all things that I have been involved with. It was very flattering so thank you. Have a great day Mark, take care.