Words : Adrian Hextall
Hot on the heels of playing the Voice of Humanity on the UK tour of Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds, Nathan James has a new album out. This time, the Inglorious front man is performing with Michael Sweet (guitars), Joel Hoekstra (guitars), Marco Mendoza (bass), Tommy Aldridge (drums), four names that will of course be familiar to any rock fan around the world. The band, created by Serafino Perugino, the founder of Frontiers Records, have a new album out called ‘Second Skin’. It is, as expected, everything we could hope for from a group with the pedigree that the 5 members have. The album also features Alessandro Del Vecchio on keys and in the production chair which makes the end product about as perfect as you could hope for. We spoke to Nathan to see what the plans were for the band.
MGM: It wasn’t many weeks ago that you were there on stage performing with The War of the Worlds shows.
NJ: Yeah, we finished the tour with two shows at the O2, which is amazing. Second time doing that tour and what an incredible room to play. It’s not the biggest venue in the UK but it’s the most special for me because it’s, it’s the one where I’ve grown up seeing all my favourite acts, you know. To be there and be on that stage singing that room where all of my heroes have performed and I’ve met so many of my heroes as well, it’s a real, real buzz. Every time
I love doing it and I hope they do it again. I don’t think Jeff Wayne’s ready to give up so when they do it again, I hope to get the call because it’s so much fun. And [laughs] I like gigs where you only have to do one song.
MGM: Playing The Voice of Humanity and hitting those high notes with “Farewell Thunderchild” – hugely impactful.
NJ: And it’s the end of the first half. That’s the last thing they hear before the second half starts. It’s very impactful and it’s a great song and working with Jeff and getting to work with those legendary musicians, as well. We’ve got Laurie Wisefield from Wishbone Ash and Chris Spedding on guitar as well. I’ve always enjoyed, as you know, working with great musicians. So it’s a real honour.
MGM: Working with great musicians segues beautifully into what we’re here to talk about today, namely Iconic. Now, I will point out because of what you’ve just said, you’re not an unknown yourself. You say about working with your heroes, but they know you and your voice. You’ve as much right to be on that project as they do.
NJ: Well, that’s very kind, but I don’t know. I am a confident person, but I had serious imposter syndrome at the beginning of this project. I thought it was the label treating me like a bit of a charity case. I felt like they were like “let’s make his dreams come true”. I felt like I’d like won a competition genuinely it was a really weird feeling, but now I’m hearing it, I’m seeing, and I’m holding it in my hands, it feels a bit more real. Genuinely if you were to ask me to pick my favourite musicians to be in a band with, these guys would all be up there. All of them. So to me, it’s just incredible. It’s incredible.
MGM: They’ve worked wonderfully around your voice, there’s clearly input from everybody there. And one of the most notable comments in the press release was Michael Sweet saying that he was actually enjoying being the guitarist for once as opposed to having to worry too much about being the front man. He’s clearly happy leaving that to you. I know he’s got some vocal work on there, but it’s your voice predominantly with him doing little bits here and there, isn’t it?
NJ: Yeah, two songs with him. Splitting lead with me. That’s something really cool. When I sing and when Michael sings our voices are so different that they really do complement each other. It’s not shoehorned in; these were written as duos and duets for that reason. It sounds really natural. It’s like the drumming. As soon as you hear the drums on this album, you know, it’s Tommy Aldridge. There’s very few drummers in the world that have that distinctive style but he definitely does.
MGM: It really is the cream of the crop. It’s an interesting blend and it’s the sort of thing Serafino [Perugino – Founder @ Frontiers] does so well He has a knack of finding the artist that are both the right fit and also available as well. As if he knows exactly what’s going to work when it all pulls together.
NJ: Yeah. Here they love doing this clearly. Originally Serafino did contact me to say they were keen for me and Michael to do this project. But it seemed a duo thing initially which I wasn’t too keen on. He’s already got Sweet and Lynch so to do this I hoped it would be something extra special. When they got everyone involved, I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t looking for it, I wasn’t looking to do another project. I’m quite happy doing my band doing Inglorious but this is something you could not say no to.
MGM: The question that you’ll get off everybody including me to be fair, is the one thing that we often see with Serafino’s projects, they’re only ever studio exercises? There is nothing more we would love to see than, you guys playing this live. Are there any opportunities for that?
NJ: Well, we went to the States to do the videos and the photo shoot. I think that was kind of a good test because we’d made the album on different time zones around the world. Then it all came together. It wasn’t until we all got together and actually felt each other out as a group and realized that we actually all get along. We’re really enjoying this.
We would genuinely all be up for doing dates with this. It’s a case of logistics, two of them are on tour on one of the biggest tours on the planet right now [Whitesnake]. Marco’s on tour doing his own thing right now and Michael’s currently on tour with Striper in the US.
So hopefully, that will happen, but fingers are crossed.
MGM: The new album (which is now out) has a couple of lead singles and videos that seem connected. You’ve got ‘Nowhere to run’ and then the other video for ‘Fast as you can’, which has somebody constantly running. There seems to be a theme?
NJ: I actually thought it was kind of weird that the label picks the two videos because the original demo for that second single was just called ‘Run’. So originally it was ‘Nowhere to run’ and ‘Run’. I don’t know why. It’s just what the label picked. Both were shot in LA earlier this year. They flew me over for a week. It was the most amazing time. Imagine having dinner with Michael and Tommy and hearing stories about Ozzy Osbourne, all sorts of amazing stories and things that I will never forget. Then obviously they’ve got a million David [Coverdale] stories that are just incredible.
MGM: Michael is wearing an eyepatch in the video. It’s an unusual look. It is ‘a thing’ or did he actually need it?
NJ: Michael, is a hero and one of the strongest man I’ve ever known. He had a detached retina. And the detached retina happened twice. He had an operation to put it back and then it came away again. So, basically, out of that eye, he can’t see anything, everything is just like a cloudy blur. For the video, with all the lights going on and everything, I think the whole thing was so overwhelming for him and he just nailed it man. That’s why the eye patch is on.
He didn’t complain once at all, just got on with it. He’s just such a wonderful, wonderful man. But he’s the sweetest man. So complimentary so kind and yeah, I loved working with him.
MGM: Tell me about the album title as well. For the unknowing when they see an album called ‘Second Skin’, you almost think “that’s the follow-up, not the first one” from you. If you step back and think well, actually, it’s because you’ve all got day jobs, and this is your second skin as it were.
NJ: Yeah, and I think you’ve got it right there. It’s a song on the album as well, which is my probably my favourite. That’s one of my top three songs on the album.
MGM: We spoke once about the desire to keep Whitesnake going if DC ever retired. This is a close fit with the personnel but the actual job, not something you’d want now I’m guessing?
NJ: I feel like I would be able to sing the Whitesnake material to a standard that I be happy with. But I’m not David for the fans. I just don’t think they would ever fully accept, anyone else. Not, while he’s still alive.
Take a look at Arnel Pineda and Journey. He is an incredible singer, incredible performer. But still hasn’t got the respect from a lot of that fan base. I’ll be honest, with my anxiety, I don’t think I could cope with it after the kind of three years that I’ve been through. The idea of that would, I think, send me over the edge. I don’t think I could cope. That kind of any kind of negativity.
MGM: To deal with the stresses of life, didn’t you buy something either related to like countryside properties or sheep farming or something like that? Where it just took you wholly out of your work zone into something new and more relaxing.
NJ: Yeah I live in Devon. And my parents actually bought this property. For years ago, they wanted to retire down here, instead of running a business. And yeah, be enough to live in a cottage here. And I look after all the animals who have got five alpacas, three Pigs, a sheep, goats, chickens, and peacocks. We’ve got all these animals and this summer, I’ve got a little project because I’ve taken summer off, to convert a building into a holiday home. I want to step back, keep off the phone, off the internet, because it still can be such a poisonous place.
After all the stuff that happened, [referring to Nathan’s public online \ live videos and more that were uploaded to social media] some three years or more ago, I’ve just realized that it’s not worth it, trying to convince people, it’s too much of my energy. No one will ever know fully what went on, and it’s this kind of delusion that some people have that they think they know. But of course they don’t.
They all think they have a right to know and also that their opinion matters. But guess what? No one cares about your opinion. So thoughts don’t need to be shared. I go to tweet something and think that you know what…. no one needs to know that. I won’t tweet and my draft folder on my phone gets bigger again. If, [laughing], one day my drafts folder is shared then I’m in trouble.
People don’t need to know what I’m thinking, and we don’t need to know what they are thinking.
We wrap up shortly thereafter with a final chat about the Iconic album, Second Skin which, for hard rock fans contains the best of the best of the best doing …well, what they do best. Let’s hope they do tour as well as the band, the music and the fans deserve to see and hear this on a stage.
In the meantime, look out for Inglorious on tour in the UK in the autumn – dates below: