Pride Of Lions: Fulfilling Their Destiny.
Jim Peterik talks about the spirit behind the music and the making of the new Pride Of Lions album, not to mention what else he has in store for 2005.
Ok, Jim - first of all, well done on creating another great slice of classic melodic rock. Thanks Andrew - coming from a man that has "heard it all" in classic rock that is a great compliment!
Going right back to the time following the release of the debut - that album also gained some amazing reviews and personal feedback for yourself. Did you feel any pressure building in the time following that to start work on a follow-up that would have to top the work done on the debut?
I happen to work well under pressure. When Frankie and I were asked to write the theme for Rocky 3, we had one week to write it, record it and mix it! Not to mention rewrite it a few times. If there seems to be more urgency and a fresher sound on this record it is because we didn't have time to over-think it and process it to death. In some cases I would write a song in the morning and be cutting it by 10 o'clock. The band would pick up on the spontaneity and translate it through their playing. The Courage To Love Somebody and Born To Believe In You were both created in that fashion.
When did you start compiling ideas and writing songs for The Destiny Stone?
The first song I wrote for the record was "Second Hand Life" - on Jan 1st 04 at my cottage in Saugatuck Michigan. I know I had a good one and it gave me the confidence to keep going. The next one may have been The Destiny Stone. At this point the concept of the album started taking shape.
You have previously spoke of a phone call from your record label Frontiers asking if a new album could be ready for release some time earlier than anticipated - that being now. What point were you up to when that call arrived and how did that change the way you had been working?
When I got the call from Serafino, the CEO of Frontiers, I had probably written one of two songs. I thought id kick back leisurely all year and maybe put out a Pride Of Lions album in the Spring of 05. After he gave me the challenge I went to work like a banshee and started jamming at the piano and guitar, searching through my idea tapes and going through rafts of notebooks for the best ideas I had.
Can you run us through the recording process for you?
All or most of it at least was done in your own studio with producer and buddy Larry Millas right?
My engineer and co-producer Larry Millas has been my right hand for many years now. We've known each other since 3rd grade and formed the Ides Of March together when we were 14 year olds. I have an all pro-tools HD state of the art system in my home with amazing Neve mic pre-amps and all the plug inns and outboard gear known to man.
But none of that matters without great chemistry between the musicians. The Pride Of Lions band is truly amazing and makes it a pleasure to record. We try and record as much as we can "live" as the song is going down. Usually Toby and I will be singing the guide tracks although these are usually re-done later.
But getting the spontaneity on the tracks is key - the way the musicians play off one another. The little "mistakes" that end up sounding great. Part of the reason the Pride albums sound so good is the quality of the chemistry between us all. I don't go for the theory that friction creates great music - that's never been my experience. The best Survivor albums were where the group was getting along. The weakest ones in my opinion suffered from lack of communication and negative vibes.
At what point did Toby come into action, or was he there from the start?
Toby was there from the start. It isn't long after I've written a song - and sometimes when the song is in progress - that I will play the song for Toby to hear him sing it - to see if it suits his voice and to see if he can get behind the song enough to give it his usual "from the heart" performance.
If he doesn't feel comfortable with the song we scrap it - at least for now.
How has your working relationship with Toby grown from those initial first days?
We are more intuitive with each other now. We have a secret code of jokes, expressions and vocabulary that we draw on to lighten things up. that's what comes from being on the road together and sharing so many hours in the studio. Now we just look at each other and we crack up. In the studio - I can just say - Sammy Hagar - and he'll know I want it grittier - stuff like that.
What does Toby bring to the recording process that no-one else can?
He brings his amazing voice. Also his sense of the absurd. You can't get too serious about it all around Toby. And he's a super hard worker. He can go all day until a song is just right - sometimes he'll do like 3 or 4 songs in one day! His voice never gives out.
Toby has an awesome voice - that goes without saying. But as an experienced campaigner, what do you do to bring the best out in him and in turn, what does he do to encourage you?
I just say - ok that was amazing - now let's beat it. I'll know when he has given his best to a song. With my songs - he'll sometimes question a lyric - like he did on "Light From A Distant Shore" - his instincts are very good. The original lyric was "I'm a ship foundering lost on the ocean" - he said could I change that to "I'm a ship, and I'm lost on the ocean" - he said no one's gonna understand what "foundering" is all about -- and he was right!
You gave me a sensational track by track commentary, but I'd like to touch on a couple of additional things. There are a couple of tracks on the album that have a distinct feel to them - as if they were written for a movie score, or at least, would be perfect in that role (Back To Camelot & Man Behind The Mask).
What drives you to write with that style?
I enjoy making the "big statement". I think cinematically when I write and that comes across in the songs. My biggest success has been in film with rocky 3 and 4 - and I don't think that was pure chance. I love to visualize a story and set it to music.
And from reading your analysis of The Gift Of Song and then listening to the track for the first time - "When Toby did the final take there wasn't a dry eye in the control room - he made it his own. To me the defining line of the song - and one of the recent additions is, 'just let me leave you with one melody the world can sing when I am gone'..." - I absolutely concur! Is this Toby's finest moment to date?
It blows me away every time I hear that line with Toby's delivery - I keep hitting repeat - and its our own album! You can imagine how it sounded as it was going down! There wasn't a dry eye in the studio. Toby comes in at the end and says "how was it?" and we're like all messed up!
And as far as the songwriting goes for this track - wow Jim, where does such a sweeping, passionate epic style come from?
I guess it comes for a passion for life. I have a lot to say before it's all over and I've got no time to waste. There is so much that needs to be said about appreciating each moment and helping each other in life. I feel it's our responsibility to absolutely make the most of whatever gifts we were given in life.
Now there are two albums, I guess we can state that Pride Of Lions has it's own sound - away from Survivor and other projects you have worked on. How would you describe the area in which you work/write?
Really I am not doing anything different than I ever did. I'm the same guy who wrote or co-wrote all those Survivor songs. I feel the same as I did and I look at life in much the same way. I hope I have gained a little wisdom since then. I also don't have Frankie to push me and to keep my instincts on track so I have to work a little harder doing it myself. I use Toby and Larry Millas as my arbiter these days when I have a question of what's cool and what ain't. Also people like Serafino at the label and friends that I trust for an honest musical opinion. I feel that POL is developing a sound of its own - incorporating some of the vibe of Survivor and 38 Special but with a unique identity.
I know there is a certain expectation of the sound and style when Jim Peterik is involved in anything. Pride of Lions sounds as if you are trying to break out of the traditional expected mold, while remaining true to your own history and natural instincts. Can you explain your approach to this?
I think there are parameters in melodic rock. I think you can push those parameters but you must push in the right direction. I would not try to foist country or blues, for instance into the form. I can see stretching things as we have done into more challenging song forms and conceptual concepts. I will always include the radio ready stuff - that is a big part of my background. I love a good 3 or 4 minute commercial-to-down on the car rocker. But I also like to stretch thematically into somewhat deeper realms. I don't think the 2 forms are mutually exclusive - they can coexist on one album in my opinion. Its like we don't stay in one mood through out a typical day. We are alternately carefree, serious, joking and crazy and thoughtful. I like a record that reflects it all.
You are signed to a label which also has to live up to expectations from its followers. And you have previously said that they push you to create your very best work in line with what those expectations I previously spoke of are. The quality of the two albums to date would suggest this works well for you both - do you agree?
We push each other to do our best. Frontiers was a label that came to me and re-confirmed what was the best about my writing. They expect every record to be Vital Signs or better. So I better deliver! I have never worked harder than on these 2 records- but I've never had more fun. Toby is so easy to work with yet he will never sing anything he doesn't believe in. If he can't wrap his heart around it - it's gone.
Jim, I know you have wide and varied tastes and influences in music and have demonstrated the ability to adapt to just about any style. Outside the constraints of label or fan expectations - do you think you would find yourself writing and recording a different album than what you did?
Not for pride of lions. I get to flex my soul and R&B chops with the Ides Of March and with World Stage its pretty much anything goes. When I write with Skynyrd its southern rock - with 38 it's southern pop. So when I come to POL I can stay purely in my favorite and most comfortable genre - melodic rock.
Creatively speaking, do you feel the need to go out and create something that would be "outside the box" from you as an artist - just to express yourself? And if so, how would you go about that now that POL is gaining a really strong following?
I would actually push POL a bit farther next time around. I am considering going in a very dramatic almost conceptually themed album next time around where there would be a real common thread running though every cut. Even more tied together than the Destiny Stone. It would be more progressive with greater echoes of some of the touring greats of the 70's - namely The Who. I have a few exciting concepts now and am trying to decide if this idea would be best suited to POL or World Stage. If it comes out as World Stage it will include Toby as a running player.
With POL I hope to continue to focus the sound and make musical statements that ring true with the audience. As humans we share very common experiences love - lost love - strong emotions politics - concerns and worries over the world situation and the pure joy of forgetting all about the world and getting immersed in the music. There is nothing like music to rejuvenate. That's what I want to do. It's about hope.
Just on that growing following - it must make you very proud to be once again in a position of being described as one of the best in the genre?
At age 54 I feel very blessed to be on life number 4! I guess I have 5 lives left to go. of course the good response only wants me to do even better- I love a good challenge!
Few artists obtain the success you did in Survivor - but not only are you finding a new life with Pride Of Lions, you also did it pre-Survivor with Ides Of March. Now once may be getting lucky, so what do you put your ability for success down to?
It's a combination of hard work, a seed of talent, plenty of great people around me - and damn good luck!
You have written music with some of the very best people in the business - Sammy Hagar, Don Barnes, Kelly Keagy, Kevin Chalfant - just to name a few. From those and the other greats you have written with - who do you think has been the most challenging to work with, who has pushed you furthest?
I think Steven Tyler pushed me perhaps the hardest. Even though the 2 songs we wrote have not come out yet - he pushed me to the limits and we wound up with the best. Kelly Keagy also pushes me. All my best collaborators won't let me up till we have the best!
And which partnership has been the most productive and rewarding for you?
Frankie Sullivan and I obviously had a great writing relationship from '78 to around '95. No matter how we got along in everyday life - when we wrote together it was an island away from the storm. He seemed like a different person at these times and perhaps - so was I.
Is there anyone you would dearly love to write with at some stage still to come?
I think there are many - but more than looking for a person - I am looking for challenging situations to hang my writing on. Movies - rock operas plays - you name it. Obviously the more talented the partner - the better. Todd Rungren would be on my short list!
I must commend you and Frankie and Jimi also for contributing to the excellent Ultimate Survivor compilation released a few months back. You must be very proud of such a hit-drenched package!
It's something we actually collaborated on albeit long-distance. We were pretty much in agreement as to the tunes that had to be on the record. I was disappointed that we couldn't fit Ever Since The World Began on the record - but Man Againt The World won out. It was a hard call.
I know you still hold Jimi Jamison in high regard, but there remained tension with Frankie Sullivan. Do you ever see a time in which Survivor might reform for one particular show, or for any other reason?
If the rock and roll hall of fame ever inducted Survivor - I would certainly be there to acknowledge what we achieved together. I don't know if that will ever happen though.
There is a series of unreleased Survivor songs circulating, being presented under the banner of the Fire Makes Steel title. It's a collection of 15 tracks from the mid-90's period (I think) when the band was recording new material with Dave Bickler. Have you heard of these tracks (Someone Else's Sleepless Nights, One Step Ahead Of The Flame, No Boundaries...etc...) and do you think they might ever see the light of day in a decent quality?
That is up to Frankie really. I heard that he and Survivor re-recorded Fire Makes Steel for a proposed new album. There is some great stuff there that we did with Dave between 93 and 96 - there must be 20 songs that were recorded mostly at my home studio. I particularly like "One Step Ahead Of The Flames."
You are always a man with a lot on his plate - what is on Jim Peterik's calendar for 2005?
We want to get to Europe and Japan and play live with Pride Of Lions. We have a powerful show. Toby is killer onstage and I get to do my thing. Also - there will be a new Ides Of March studio album, also I am going to release probably on Frontiers - "Songs From The Vaults" - master quality versions of the bad bootleg out there now of all the demo work I did between 83 and 2000 (excepting the Survivor demos) - prototypes of Mecca songs - 38 Special - John Wetton - Sammy Hagar- on and on rarities - it will be a 2 disk set. Also - I am doing a big World Stage show on Feb 5th at College of Dupage. I have added some new faces like Rik Emmet of Triumph and Tom Keifer of Cinderella. There will be may regulars there as well - Kevin Chalfant - Toby Hitchcock - The Ides Of March - Jeff Boyle - Cathy Richardson - Anthony Gomes - Kini Hayes - Lisa McClowery (the girl in the Sound Of Home video - I'm just finishing a record with her). And more to be announced. We are also doing a live DVD with Frontiers for Pride Of Lions. There will of course be Ides Of March dates in America as well. We just put out our 40th year anniversary concert DVD and it's selling well. Other than that nothing is happening!
Looking back over an amazing career - what periods in time are the highlights?
I think that this very minute is the highlight!
I know you are a very passionate guy who seems to always look towards the positive in people and in life. With that in mind, looking back again, would you even contemplate any periods where you struggled to enjoy the situation?
I've been through down periods just like anyone else. I usually do some hard searching and some heavy praying to pull me out. I ask for answers and they inevitably come - not always as quick as we'd like. It's funny - but it is the very times when we feel that we can't face God - that we need him the most.
Ok Jim, to wrap up - what's next for Pride Of Lions? Could we see a full band tour?
Yes absolutely. We are looking at 3 major festivals right now.
Anything you would like to add?
Thanks you to you and your readers to keeping this flame alive. I don't do it for the money - I do it for the love of music and getting the message across.
Many thanks again for always making the time to be interrogated!
I never mind being under the hot lights when it comes to music.
I'll sweat it out with the best of 'em. Rock always - rock often - rock steady and above all -- KEEP ROCKING!!!
Check out Jim at: www.jimpeterik.com