House Of Lords: A new decade, a new sound.
The new House Of Lords album has a lot of people talking. Everyone has an opinion on this record, especially two of the people behind the record - bassist Chuck Wright and vocalist James Christian. Here is what they had to say about the recording and release of The Power & The Myth! Both interviews make for an interesting read.
Hey Chuck, thanks for your time.
First off, let me say that I know your web site is probably the most read melodic rock site on the net - congrats on helping to keep the genre alive
ok now the questions.
The House Of Lords album is done....and it's about to be released. Did you think it would ever happen at some stages over the last year or two?
There were a couple points when we almost threw in the towel. In the beginning, we had to deal with the name usage problem which was a major hurdle. We had serious logistical issues having everyone spread all over the country, coast to coast, and scheduling problems to deal with not to mention a tug of war with the label over material and we had a problem for 6 months with funding. You also have to keep in mind, we are and were all very active in our own endeavors to make a living. Then Gregg bailed on us and the label basically took the record out of our hands. We almost called it a day at that point but there was way too much blood, sweat, tears and years put into to getting this record made so we carried on, dealt with the situation and made the best of it.
Believe, dream, will...and put it in the hands of God. That's my motto.
Let's take it right back to the mid-90's. The band entertained thoughts of a re-union then also. I believe you even had an album title and a Japanese deal. How far did you get before it fell apart?
After James, Lanny and I performed in England for the Gods Festival in 1995 we had a firm deal offer but Gene Simmons basically killed that one by wanting 90% of the deal. We recorded 3 songs on The Power And The Myth from that period of time.
You have always kept a close relationship with Lanny Cordola - working together on various projects. In 2000 the wheels began to turn again. What led to this moment?
Yes, Lanny is my best friend and we've covered a lot of musical territory together over the years. James is actually the reason this (original members) House Of Lords reunion came to be a reality. Frontiers contacted him, James called me, I called Ken and Lanny, Ken had been in touch with Gregg , he said yeah, and then we were off to making plans for this record.
So what were the first steps taken to get things rolling again?
We discussed the music we wanted to do stylistically and starting in on the writing process.
We were eager to cross new boundaries and I think we did to a degree. We had tightened reins on us throughout the making of the record however. All in all I do feel that this record stands up to others in the genre and has some amazing performances on it.
Why has it taken over 2 years for those recordings to be finalized?
Under normal circumstances after the songs are chosen and we're all in the same place at the same time, it would take 6 to 8 weeks to record and mix a record. Our debut only took 30 days top to bottom.
James Christian has been living away happily in Florida did you have any first hand contact with him during the recording process?
Well, if first hand means discussing the music, exchanging ideas and sending
music back and forth, then yes.
Given the constraints of working with 2004 budgets - Is there any way the entire band could have recorded together?
Not really. Nowadays you're lucky to get 10% of the budgets bands had in the 80's and people out there still expect the records to measure up sonically. We did the best we could under the circumstances.
The band has always had Gregg Giuffria involved from the outset, how was it different this time around?
He was involved from the outset, he was supposed to be working on his own anyway and then hook up with us. He agreed to participate but unfortunately 6 weeks or so before completion, as we were still awaiting any ideas, keyboard parts, anything whatsoever from Gregg, he signed a solo deal with our label (Frontiers) and said , now that I have my own deal, I'm not doing this House Of Lords record.
He didn't seem that into it anyway since he didn't partake in the new compositions. He did have plenty of opportunity to contribute however - over two years should be enough time to come up with a song idea I would think. After this, the label said our deal was now diminished by what they still owed us because Gregg was not on it so we had to finish the record asap and now being under budgeted, not being able to complete it the way we originally intended. We wanted to add some bigger chorus sections on a
few songs and spend more than one day on finishing the keyboards and a couple days finishing the rest of the guitar overdubs. We were also planning on mixing at a state of the art studio.
Were you disappointed that Gregg chose not to be involved in the end and at the last minute?
Yes, I was shocked, disappointed, stressed and really surprised that our label would cut a side deal with a band member before we had completed our record. Not a very wise move on their part but they don't know Gregg like we do. I would've suggested they wait. We actually recorded a song called Havana because Gregg was a writer on it just to involve him more.
We didn't have to do this. The label didn't even want the song but we pushed for it on his behalf. (The song now appears as a bonus track for Japan.)
How many songs were written for the album and how did you come to decide on this final 10 track line-up?
We wrote a lot of new material, actually over 30 songs. We actually covered Bjorks song Army Of Me and a ballad from a band called The Young Bloods from the late sixties called Darkness, Darkness, but of course our label would have none of that. There was a style and sound we were known for so we had to try and stay within those guide lines to a degree or we would have our material rejected by the label. We found this out in the early goings.
There's a noticeable style change in the band - what were the intentions of the band going into this record?
We tried to make a record that would sound the way we would if we stayed together for the past decade. We are hoping our fans have have grown with us and will listen to the record without expectations. It has been 12 years afterall. Personally, I can't write a song like Looking For Strange and take myself seriously at this point in my life experience.
House Of Lords have never recorded the same album twice - there's always been a twist in your tunes. But in this case, why such a move away from the sounds of the past?
Umm...12 years, a lot of growth, having open minds...and again, if we were able to finish the record the way we wanted to you might feel a bit differently so, you have to look at it for what it is, not for what you wanted it to be or what it could've been.
I understand your points on this - but to add mine in - I think fans are going to miss the big choruses and the big harmonies you are have always been famous for - style aside. Any comments on that?
Well, you should do some research because our two most successful songs,
Can't Find My Way Home and Love Don't Lie do not have harmony vocals
on them at all.
You know the scene in which we all work - does it frustrate you that some don't want any progression in the music at all?
I work in many scenes, in many genres and have always grown as a musician and listener. It's too bad that some people can't enjoy music for what it is, an art form, a hopefully free expression, not a cookie cutter, gotta sound like this band or that band or I'm not even going to give it a chance sound.
Let's talk about the performances. Those of you, Lanny and Ken I think are a definite highlight of the album. How have you three grown as musicians?
We are always nurturing our talents working on one music project or another. We were also able to work directly with each other and fed off of the energy in the studio together which I think comes across big time on this record.
And how did you apply yourself and the more intense and complex arrangements to this recording process?
The same way I always try to do...groove with it and feel it . It was easy really when you work with musicians at this level.
We know Derek Sherinain is a class player - how did you get him involved after Gregg's departure?
Derek's been a friend of mine for a few years. I did the art work for a couple of his CD packages and have seen him live with his band Planet X and with Dream Theater. He was the perfect guy to step on....I mean into Gregg's shoes. Unfortunately Derek had to leave on tour so we only got him on the title track...I bet Gregg's mouth will be on the floor when he hears Derek's solo!!
And Sven Martin and Allan Okuye - how are these guys known to you?
Sven is a friend here in L.A. but he's from Germany. He plays with the band Tattoo and is a writer on the songs Today and Man Who I Am. It made perfect sense to bring him in on those tracks since he was so close to them. He's an awesome orchestrator. I never met Alan until the day I worked with him in the studio. The guy the label hired to take over the record brought him in. He did a good job under the circumstances of only
having hours to create parts for many songs.
No producer attached to this record - were you happy to handle it yourselves?
Lanny, Ken, James and I have all been producing records over the last decade so it made sense. I just really wish we would've been able to see it through and finish it the way we wanted to. It does sound damn good but we had some bigger plans for it.
I think the album is very well produced - nice and evenly mixed. But I do recall some instrumental basics you played me in LA had a little more life in them than the finished product. What do you think?
We didn't master it so that could be the difference. That was done in
Italy by the label.
I've already talked to you and James about the vocals on the album. I think James is a little flat - what do you think and could things have been done any better?
I'm not sure what you mean by flat. He is on pitch so if you mean dryer than our other records.. I agree, that's how it was mixed.
Where does House Of Lords go from here Chuck?
We're currently discussing doing a live DVD or possibly releasing footage from the sessions with some acoustic versions of some of our older material. I'd love to get out there and play live again with this band. We'll see how the record is received by the fans. If it goes as we'd expect it to we'll decide at that time if we can to do a tour.
Besides HOL, you are a busy guy...you recently toured with Alice Cooper - what was that like?
What can I say...The 5 month, 17 country tour I did with Alice was so fulfilling. A great band, great crowds and seeing places like Moscow, Paris, London and Barcelona, who could ask for more. I felt very blessed to have been a part of it.
What else have you been working on mate?
Besides doing all these interviews daily for this HOL release???? Is there time???? lol!
I have a new production company that is involved in a new music driven movie project and we're shopping some music projects overseas.
I've been working with a good friend of mine who's an amazing singer /song writer named David Victor. We've been developing material for a new project. Currently, I'm
working on a web site for bassist Jerry Best (Courtney Love, Lion, Dio) which will be up and on the net soon at www.jerrybest.com, and I've begun work on a CD package for radio personality "The Radio-Chick" out of New York City.
Matt Sorum (from Guns & Roses, The Cult and now in Velvet Revolver) has a solo release called "Hollywood Zen" that I played bass on, created the art work and layout for which is now available through his web site at www.mattsorum.com and will soon be at
I played bass on a couple of songs last year for a singer/songwriter out of Italy named Chris Catena, that just came out on Frontiers Records. Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer of Kiss fame join me on these tracks.
Prior to leaving last fall for the Vanilla Fudge tour , I recorded the bass tracks for French Warner Brothers recording artist Audrey Forrest . She has some amazing material and a very fine voice. Ken's drumming on this one as well. That should be out soon. I just finished a rock rap project called "The Good, The Bad and The Heavy" with Lanny and Pat Torpey. We covered a lot of classic rockers like "The Immigrant Song", "Back In Black", "Paranoid", "Hey Joe" and more with a couple original pieces thrown in for good measure. Rappers from Cypress Hill, Crazy Town and other notables do their take on the tracks.
Everyone should check out Mr. Big's / Influences & Connections that I worked on with Lanny. It's a very unique project in which Mr. Big classic songs have been revisited featuring all star vocalists and guest musicians. The guys in Mr. Big are on it too.
The new CD features Artwork by yourself - and you have done many other packages including my very own CD release Revealed & Revisited - many thanks to you again for that. When did you get started on graphic arts and how did it expand into doing album covers?
You are welcome Andrew...I was always drawing on anything when I was a
child, my desk, the wall etc. I discovered the art programs available on computers about 9 years ago and the sky was the limit. It's been a great way of creative expression for me when I'm not out on the road or in the studio recording. Because of my many music contacts it was a natural step to get into doing CD art work. Oh... how I wish we still had that 10 inch square cover from the old days to work with. In creating the art work for the HOL cover and most of the package, I tried to keep the integrity and feel from our debut and Sahara intact. That's also part of why I came up with the title The Power And The Myth, it has a Lordly feel to it.
Have we missed anything Chuck? Anything you would like to add?
We all hope the rock fans out there will judge this record from a clean slate and not thinking of it as a follow up to Sahara. Just set aside their expectations and enjoy it for what it is. A musical adventure with thought provoking lyrics and kick ass
Thanks again for doing the interview. I know you were pissed with my review of the album as were the label, but you remain a cool guy. Cheers.
You are welcome.
So James, thanks for talking to me. This is a tough interview for me, as I have the utmost respect for you as a writer and performer, but I must confess to being disappointed in the vocals on the House Of Lords album.
Let's go straight to that if you don't mind. In my review, I said I was disappointed and felt that the vocals were too laid back and not as powerful as your solo album and past HOL albums.
How were the vocals recorded for this album?
The vocals for this CD were recorded no differently than any other CD I have done in the past. I used an AKG Microphone which I love and put very little EQ and compression as I like to add that in the Mix. This particular set of songs were a bit of a challenge to sing as they were in much lower keys than I am accustomed to singing in. However the approach that Lanny & Chuck took to writing the songs displayed some very creative moments and I really liked what they were going for. I knew when I heard the tracks that the vocal approach would end up being very different from what most people were used to hearing.
You recorded all of them at your studio in Florida didn't you?
Yes I recorded all the vocals in my home studio which is a Pro-Tools set-up.
Is that an ideal situation?
It is a perfect situation for me as I like to work alone. In the majority of everything I have done, there were few people involved. I sing best when I can do a few tracks, then listen and live with what I have done. I always know what I am looking to accomplish with a vocal.
Did you miss the "band in the studio" environment?
"Band in a studio" is always inspiring when you are laying down tracks, But when the time comes for the Lead Vocal to be done, I like having just bare bones without all the overdubs so that I can have room to experiment.
What form of the tracks were you given to work with and how did you piece it together?
I was given rough mixes of everything on two tracks. Then i would lay out Five open tracks and then take the best of each of those tracks.
Recording process aside, did you approach this album differently than past albums?
The approach is always the same. I like using the same compression and Mikes that I have used in the past. I like to sing in the evening and I like to sing NAKED! (Only Kidding)
And are you personally happy with the results?
I always wish I had done something a little different on a every record I have done, but for the most part, I was happy. This record was not written to produce 5 hit singles and there are no "Commercial Songs" on the CD. The bombastic choruses are not always there but in its place are some very moving and thought provoking moments.
You just have to get past the fact that it sounds different than a typical HOL CD.
My voice is not pushed to the limit on most of the songs because quite frankly, they were more musical pieces than vocal pieces, I did not have a problem with that concept.
We all would do things differently if we had the chance. I try not to look back and keep my focus on the future.
Can you tell us of what involvement you had in the songwriting process for the tracks of The Power & The Myth?
The only song that I contributed was "Living In Silence". I had no idea it was being recorded until Lanny told me. The rest of the material is from Chuck, Lanny and a few other writers. I would have loved to contribute more.
A House Of Lords re-union has been a difficult thing to get done. What was the reasons behind the failed attempt in the mid-late 90's and why did it work out this time?
I think the Mid 90's was too soon for another HOL CD. Music has changed dramatically in the 90's and today there is little left of that type of sound. However with websites like MelodicRock keeping the style alive it seems more appropriate to get together and do a new CD now.
This album was complicated enough, but do you see another House Of Lords album in your or the other guy's plans?
God willing, if there is an opportunity for us to record again, we will.
What else have you been up to James? You have a busy job I know, can you tell us about MRA Associates and your job with them?
I own a Medical Recruiting Firm. My company finds Doctors for Hospitals, Medical Groups and Private Practices. My business allows me to do all the things that matter in my life such as, continuing to write and record songs and spend time with my family.
I hear you are working on a new solo album - can you tell us any of the details behind that and the possible style it might be in? It's been a long while also since Rude Awakening!
Yes I am currently working on the solo CD. The style is very much in the style of Rude Awakening. There are some songs I recorded for Judith & Robin Randall that I always wanted to put on CD and there is also a bonus track of a song I did with Lanny called "Mad Moon Fall" It is one of my favorite vocal performances. I just connected with the lyric and did the lead vocal in one take. So far I am loving it.
I have to ask after Robin...when is her album going to come out?
I remember talking to you a couple of years ago when you and her were working on it and then mid-late last year there was a press release about it and a preview and album and single cover to view - but still no sign of it. When's it going to be available and how?
Robin was just on a show in Germany called Hit Giganten, She was great! Her new single is scheduled to be released in March with the full CD to follow. I produced 8 tracks and had a great time doing it. The single is called "What Is Me".
She has the best female rock voice I have ever heard. I do not say this simply because she is my wife, but because I had the opportunity the sit behind a console and hear let loose. Her range and power are limitless.
Do you have much contact with any other rocks from the "old days" down there in Florida?
I still keep in touch with my music buddies. Most of them come down here for vacations. I live in West Palm Beach which is a resort part of Florida. This is an incredible lifestyle.
How is Mark Baker? Are you still writing and working with him? It's been a while since I heard his name mentioned!
Mark is doing fine. He is working on an Internet project. It has to do with music but I am not exactly sure what it is. I have not written with him in a while.
Anything else going on that you would like to talk about or comment on James?
I would like to say to you that I respect your opinion regarding your comments about this CD. You have always been a major supporter of our music and we appreciate that. I can take criticism as long as it comes from knowledgeable people. Although I totally enjoy listening to this CD.
I still think you are one of the great rock vocalists of all time - do you have a favourite piece of work or song from your vast catalogue of work?
Yes I do. Actually "Child Of Rage" is one of my favorite performances as well as "Can't Find My Way Home & "Remember My Name"
There remain a lot of unreleased James Christian music/demos in circulation from over the years - is there any chance some of that might still see the light of day?
Yes you might hear a few on the new CD.
Thanks for your time James and take care for now.
Take care Andrew, it was a pleasure.
TRACK BY TRACK OVER THE POWER & THE MYTH....by Chuck Wright
After having several of our new songs rejected by our label
(Frontiers) for failing to follow their strict guidelines of that “80’s
corporate rock” required sound, we submitted this outside written song.
There was something about the chorus that reminded me of material from
out debut. This song was not intended to be the opener of the album but
apparently the label president felt it represented the signature HOL
sound best. I guess he didn’t want to confuse people too much. This
resequencing of the songs was a BIG disappointment for us.
2. All Is Gone
This is a new song that Lanny, Pat Torpey and I put
together. We used a an old Jethro Tull type harmony part for the bass
and guitar riff. It has an interesting mid eastern influenced middle
section. A straight ahead mid tempo rocker. Like a lot of the other
material we came up with, Ken finished this song with us in the studio.
3. Am I The Only One
this one is a bit newer. Lanny had the ideas
for this a few years ago. A ballad in 6/8 time. A moody track with East
Indian guitar influences. There’s an outstanding, beautifully melodic
guitar solo from Lanny. One of my favorites,
every note counts on this one.
4. Living In Silence
This song was written by James in the mid 90’s
but we changed the verse from it’s original speaking/rap style to a
melody. A bit of a modern style mixed into the melodic structure with
rockin’ heavier guitar riffs, and a lot of big drums ala the song
“Sahara” The middle section of the song really gets outside. A good one
for head phones.
.5. The Power And The Myth
This song was originally intended to start
It’s a short instrumental filled with majestic melodies that brings back
memories of our
debut, especially the amazing keyboards which are performed by Derek
Sherinian (formerly of Dream Theater) coupled with a tasty Jeff Beck
style melody from Lanny. I came up with the music for this in England
while on tour with Alice Cooper in late 2002.
6. The Rapture
Originally written for the mid 90’s HOL release which
didn’t happen. Lanny plays a lot of unusual exotic instruments like the
Bazouki, Balalaika and Turkish Banjo so we tapped into that. This
instrumentation was integral to getting across the musical landscape and
mood of the lyrics. There’s some amazing violin playing by Charlie
Bissoret (from Bob Dylans band) . All the instrumentation is real, no
samples Sitar, Cello, and ethnic percussion.
7. The Man Who I Am
Another new outside song discovered with the song
Famed rock singer and James Christian’s wife, Robin Beck, shares the
bridge with James on this one. This is probably our most commercial song
on the record.
8. Bitter Sweet Euphoria
This song opens with an assault of slammin’ drumming from Ken Mary. It
is little darker than you ‘d expect from us but has a really strong
melodic chorus that brings to mind The Beatles meets Led Zepplin.
9. Mind Trip
This is a new one that has a seventies retro vibe ala Deep Purple’s
“Machine Head” days. It's very raw and we really get to show off our
10. Child Of Rage
This was written in the early 90’s and we kept
some of the performances from those sessions. By far one of James
Christians best vocal performances ever. A powerfully massive melodic
ballad. It has an almost Gospel feel. A nice closer for the album.