Jimi Jamison: Reaching Out.

After a lackluster and nondescript 2006 interview with myself, vocalist Jimi Jamison comes out fighting...sticking up for his beliefs in this brand new interview with Nick Muller, who covered Jimi's appearance with World Stage in Belgium recently.

Jimi Jamison Interview
(After the World Stage show at Lokeren/Belgium,
August 6, 2007 – to read the review: here )
By Nick Muller

After a long night of playing with World Stage, Jimi Jamison was obviously more than willing to explain his problems with guitarist Frankie Sullivan, which led to his departure from Survivor for the second time in early 2006.

Jimi, when we spoke to each other the last time at the Arrow Rock Festival in 2005, you couldn't speak openly as Frankie Sullivan was there too. But I was always wondering how the two of you got reunited again in the first place, as you told me at the end of the 90s that you were still friends with Jim Peterik, but with Frankie Sullivan never again.
“That's the way it remains too. I went back with those guys because I really had no choice, you know. It was a kind of a legal situation that I was in and that I got hung up in. To avoid even more lawsuits, I just went back with him and everything was forgiven or kind of forgiven, at least that's what I thought it was anyway. That's why I went back with Sullivan in the first place. You know, the reason why I left this last time… everything was ok and we were supposed to split everything 50/50. Everything that the name 'Survivor' brought in was supposed to be split 50/50 between Frankie Sullivan and I. But I would find myself on an airplane and hear my voice singing 'Eye Of The Tiger' in different movies and they never even told me about it. They kept trying to hide stuff, just like in the old days, and I just couldn't take it anymore. So the day we finished the “Reach” album, I left and I told them I wouldn't be coming back. That's pretty much the story on that. I just don't like dishonesty and that they won't tell me the truth. He had plenty of money, so it wasn't that. I don't know what it was. An ego thing or something else I guess, I don't know.” “Or he just didn't want to give it over on Jamo or something like that,” he grins. “So I just left, I couldn't deal with it anymore. And on top of that, the booking agency Paradise Artists was calling me, saying 'Hey, have you been talking to Frankie? He's turning down gig after gig!'. It was ridiculous. I needed to play to be able to make a living. At that time I was living on credit cards. My credit cards were maxed out, because when I joined those guys again, we hardly played and he was turning down shows. So, I had to go. He said he wasn't turning down shows, but he was.”

And on a musical level?
“I couldn't stand the record. Some of the songs on 'Reach' were pretty good, but overall it could have been so much better. So much better! I mean, I wanted to do a record where the people would go 'Wow! Yeah!'. But I didn't have the confidence in it to play it for my relatives, you know. I wouldn't sit down and say 'Hey listen to this.'. I just couldn't do it.”

Why is that?
“I just didn't have the faith in the songs, I think the songs could have been much better. He picked a bunch of songs that I was supposed to have a 50/50 say-so in, and he waited 'till the last moment and brings the songs in that we were supposed to get right together. But we never did. He put it off, put it off, put it off, until we just didn't have time anymore, and we had no choice but to do the songs that were already there. And I wasn't happy with them at all and I think most of the people weren't either. I don't know how well the record's doing… I haven't even been sent a copy of the record. Frontiers, nobody, even sent me a copy of the record once it was finished. I had to go buy one.” “I really did. I bought one just to see what the finished mix sounded like. Can you believe that!? Crazy! Anybody in my position would've left. Anybody.”

I don't understand… I mean, when you returned, you obviously must have had some precise conditions…
“I figured everything would be fair at that point. Because they told me that they were going to be on the up and up and said 'Everything is 50/50, don't worry about anything.'. They just reassured me to the point that I believed them. I tried to trust them, but as I came to find out, I couldn't trust them.”

But 50/50!? I mean, original drummer Marc Droubay was there…
“Marc… He didn't realise it… or I guess he does… I don't think he can play with anybody else… so eh… he's a side man now. That's how he got paid, as a side man. He's paid per gig. At that time they were letting him make 350 bucks, the musicians were being paid $350 a show. I didn't even know that at the time. And Frank was making it sound to them like I was the one that wanted them to pay that little money. He was making it sound like if it was me, and I didn't even know how much they were making. So they were coming over to me, saying 'Hey! Oh yeah, you know how much we're making'. And I said 'Man, I don't even have a clue what you're making. I'm in the dark as much as you'. Just stupid little stuff like that. Things that didn't even have to happen, you know. It was crazy. So there was no way I could stay with that situation. He's collecting royalties now that I'm supposed to be getting. Royalties that I'm not getting.”

You didn't even see a penny of 'Reach'?
“Not a cent! I'm $3,000 in the hole for it, for car rentals and hotels that I had to pay for. So I never got a cent of 'Reach'. In fact, I haven't gotten anything of my version of 'Eye Of The Tiger' that's been used in like 5 different movies so far. You know, it's only fair, I'm not penny-pinching or anything, but I know there was money made and it was supposed to be paid to me, and it wasn't paid to me. It was excuse, after excuse, after excuse, you know, and after a while these excuses get old.” “His accountant handled all our money. Chuck Giovanni, he handled all the money and was acting like everything was straight up. He would give me print-out sheets of the breakdown and everything, and it looked okay. But it wasn't okay,” he sighs. “I think the numbers were like fixed a little, you know. Accountants can do that kind of stuff. Because they would always come up with… when we had to pay taxes it was coming out as losing money, and we didn't lose money. No, we did not lose money,” he grins. “So,” looking in the recording camera, “IRS - go get them!”

Strange, that Marc who was in the same boot with you…
“Yeah, but he was more in the boot with Frank than with me… I don't know what's wrong with him man… Sullivan has some kind of hold over him…, you can ask Jim. Jim couldn't stand… Jim gave up all of his Survivor stuff just to get away from Sullivan. The guy is demonic! I mean, I don't understand why he has to be like that either. If you have something, he wants it. Would it be your wife, would it be money…

“Yeah, big time! He would try anything to control you. That's his only talent, controlling people.” “He's more talented to that than playing the guitar,” he says while bursting in a big laugh. “I'm telling you, a few times it was very embarrassing on stage for me and the bass player, Barry Dunaway, who used to play with Yngwie Malmsteen. Frank would do this 30-minute guitar solo and people would be throwing stuff and say 'Stop! Quit!' and throw paper cups, while we were thinking 'Oh my god. Frank stop!' and he just keeps playing. It was hilarious man. But it was embarrassing too.”

But this controlling and manipulating aspect wasn't that present before?
“Euhm… It was…”

Because Jim, he played with him for years.
“I know. Bless Jim's heart. Jim wrote every song. He wrote all the songs. Frank maybe came up with a line of the song, or a guitar riff here and there, but what songwriting Jim got, he pretty much gave it to him. I don't know if Jim would tell... he might tell you that in an interview, I don't know. But I'm telling you, that's what happened, I was there.”

I remember, one of the reasons that you didn't want to return to the band in the early 90s, was that they didn't give you enough credit for 'Too Hot To Sleep'.
“Yeah, a lot of things. A lot of things they didn't… he didn't want to give me credit for…”

But then also Jim Peterik was…
“Well, Jim was manipulated too. Jim's a great soft-hearted guy. He got manipulated a lot more than me. In terms of money, and a lot of other things too that I can't really go into detail on. So he was a victim, pretty much more than I was.” “When he split up with Frank, he must have felt like a million $. Though I guess, at first when they split up… Survivor was his thing. 'Cause Jim was pretty much, you know, was Survivor, as far as I was concerned. And Frank hated that. He HATED it! You know, the whole time I was in the band with Jim and Frank, I never knew Jim could play guitar like that, I never knew he was a front man. Until recently when I saw him playing, I went 'Damn man! All that time this talent is sitting behind the keyboards, what the hell!'. God! I didn't have a clue man! But Sullivan pushed him somehow slowly back to playing keyboards and not guitar while he's a better guitar player than Sullivan.”

“In my opinion he is.” “I'm givin' you some good dirt here man, I'm tellin' ya,” he laughs.

Can I publish it?
“Pff, I don't care. Yeah, go right ahead! It's the truth. And … right now, Sullivan's trying to keep me from using, from even mentioning, that I was ever in Survivor. I'm supposed to deny, and don't even have the right to tell people, that I was ever in the band, that's what they want me to do. So, when my band plays now, I can't even say 'formerly of Survivor'.”

How did this World Stage appearance come about in the first place? Will you work with Jim Peterik again, or even form a new band with him in the near future?
Thanks to Fergie Frederiksen formerly of Toto, Jim and I did a show together about a year ago and the response was really great. Even all the artists were gathered around the backstage area to watch. It was really a great reunion and we were really glad to see each other. Jim's wife Karen (she is the best) had tears in her eyes when he and I did 'The Search Is Over'... just the two of us on stage.
I immediately suggested that we put a band together, but Jim stays busy with so many projects – World Stage, The Ides of March etc... So a little while later we started talking about working on a solo CD for me with Jim doing the writing and one thing led to another. So now we're performing together a couple of times a year and working on my solo CD and who knows what may happen next. I think we'll be working together in some form for quite a while.

What do you think of Frankie Sullivan's choice of replacing you with Robin McAuley in Survivor?
Not sure. I don't know much about Robin. I've never heard him sing. I know he had to find a replacement quickly after I left so I wish them the best…

What are your concrete plans for the immediate future? With which musicians etc…?
My concrete plan right now is to continue performing live as long as I possibly can which I hope will be a long time. I have other plans which include recording a new CD... I guess you can call that concrete also because I am surely going to do it. I'm in the talking stages of doing some music for a reality show but that's never concrete until it happens.
As far as musicians... I'm leaving that open for right now.