Jim Peterik: The Roar Of A Lion.

MelodicRock legend Jim Peterik is one of the true nice guys in the business. It's always great to catch up with him and on this occasion it is to discuss the new Pride Of Lions album as well as Jim's work with Kelly Keagy and Joe Lynn Turner among other things.

Great to talk to you once again Jim. Looking forward to talking about the new Pride Of Lions album. To start though – and this may not be politically correct to ask of you - but what do you think of Robin McAuley now fronting Survivor?
I've never had the courage to listen. I have not yet heard it. I thought it would upset me. I appreciated people sending it to me, but I just never listened. I love Robin……

Me too…
He's great, so I have to plead ignorance. I haven't heard it.

It sounds ok but it does risk not being Survivor anymore.
Right, right I think we were fortunate when we made the transition from Bickler to Jimi because it went so smooth but not every singer can step in and create that sound.

Let's talk about happier things Jim.

(laughing) Sounds good.

Alright mate. I suppose the most important thing is Pride of Lions.
Album number three now, I think the band has very much developed its own little sound…

I think so. We've definitely gelled as a band. There is a Pride of Lions sound. I think there always was but the first album we were just kind of trying out our legs. That first album, still, how did we do that? I don't know. I'm very proud of that record.
The second album I think we strayed a little bit. I love Destiny Stone but it sort of forayed more into the theatrical and epic kind of thing. I think at the time I was very influenced by the stuff my son was listening to which was like Rush, Kansas, Styx. I love all that but it started seeping into my music. This album, like I've said in a few interviews, we're trying to get back to a little more simple hooks and a little more direct melodies. There's still a little bit of theatrics, obviously. I always say I write for the singers I'm producing.
Dave Bickler, he was very street, very rock 'n roll, very raw. When I wrote for Jimi Jamison it was very pop. When I write for Toby, its pop but it's also a little bit of theatricalness because he's got a very dramatic voice that I write for.

In fact, I've raised this with you on a couple of occasions. When is Toby going to Broadway?
(laughing) I know, you said that one time. I think that would be a great move. I love his voice to work with. I think on this record you'd say our sound is solidified. I think part of the reason is Toby's a better singer than ever. I was very, very pleased with his vocals on this record. There are some of his best, most emotional lyrics on these vocals.
Such as, the best vocals on the album, for me are Love's Eternal Flame. It absolutely kills me and I hear a lot of Jamison in his vocals.

Yeah, that's probably the most Survivor-ish song of the whole album.
I agree. That and probably Language of the Heart tap into the Vital Signs sound some as well. It's not like I was consciously trying to clone 1984, but I was listening to Vital Signs around this time trying to tap into what was special about the album and that era.
And of course, Too Hot to Sleep also, I love that record. Love's Eternal Flame was definitely influenced by Desperate Dreams. I feel like there's a kind of a lineage between those two songs. I felt I hit a roll on this album, in terms of writing where I struck a balance between the Vital Signs era, what was good about that, and what's unique about Pride of Lions. You're never going to mistake Pride of Lions for Survivor. There are similarities and differences as well.

Absolutely. You were talking about Toby's vocals there, like the last note on Heaven on Earth. The note itself goes for about a minute!
laughing) I know, I mean the guy's got unbelievable chops. He could sing the phone book and he'd sound great. And you know, he doesn't need any coaching really. He hit that last note and he just blew everybody in the studio away because nobody was expecting it. He does that to us all the time. There's another song on the record. Oh, the end of Tall Ships, he does this stuff, (singing “we are the tall ships”) you know, none of this stuff was planned. That's part of the fun of recording Toby is that he'll always be just surprising us with stuff.

Yep, he's a bit theatrical I think on the Roaring of Dreams. I likened that to something that could have come off the Lion King soundtrack.
There you go, there you go, like I said I like the epic music. I have to really watch myself or else I get too theatrical. I don't mean to, (laughing) but I do get carried away.
I think Pride of Lions will find the audience that it needs and it is important for it to be different than Survivor. If all I wanted to do was clone Survivor I might as well have stayed back in 1985. I love that era but I like to add a unique sound to Pride of Lions and part of that is a little more theatrics. Roaring of Dreams is…I love the message of the song.

I love Roaring of Dreams for, like you said, the message that it brings. Astonish You was another little bit of a sidestep wasn't it?
Well, I love that song and I always try to figure out what was my inspiration on that song and obviously it was Karen [Jim's wife]. I'm always trying to impress her. (laughing)
I'm eternally trying to impress her as much as she impresses me.
But musically, to me, Foreigner's Waiting For a Girl Like You is like probably my all time favorite rock ballad.

It's an absolute classic of course.
And amazing vocal by Lou Gramm.

Oh yes
I had that melody for the chorus and it just stuck in my head. Then I was sitting in the back of a limousine waiting for a show and the rest of the song came. I just couldn't wait to record it two days later. It just has such a mood.

It has, absolutely it's a very, very romantic song.
What do you think of Faithful Heart off the record? Do you remember that? It's a ballad (sings a bit of it).

I love that song. That's a really great song….one of the best on the album.
Thank you. I totally love that song and the story behind that song. With the exception of that song, all these songs were written for Roaring of Dreams in a period of about 3 months, or 4 months, whatever. But that song goes all the way back to 1984.
Whenever the hell we were recording When Seconds Count, anyway '85-'86, and I played that song for [producer] Ron Nevison. It wasn't finished. He flipped. He loved it and we cut a demo of it with Jamison singing. I wish I had it and I can't find it.
But it was not as good as it is now. I wasn't finished. The words were weaker, the bridge was terrible, but I never forgot that song.
Anyway, it never made the record. But it's almost better because in the passage of time I was able to finish the song to my satisfaction and of course Toby did an amazing job on it.

Yeah, I was gonna say, the vocal on that is just extraordinary. Very, very powerful and another one of my favorites on the album Jim, Tall Ships is obviously a great track, a lot of fun and a very pomp sort of style for you guys wasn't it?
But I must ask, what was with the horn in the chorus there?
(laughing) Well, I have to say, whether you like it or you don't like it, and obviously I know how you feel, it's a French horn.
I just felt that that said “the sea”, “the stormy sea” and I know it's not rock and roll, but if the Who can put a French horn on so can I...(laughing)

The first time I listened to it I laughed. Well, that kinda sounds disrespectful, but it surprised me. It really caught me off guard, but I've come to really, really like it.
You know, it's got a mood to it. And again, this is a very spiritual album for me.
Karen's brother Andy died on August 5 of liver cancer, and there were so many things that happened that Andy, after he died really, influenced me. He came to me in a dream and really gave me the song Heaven on Earth. He said “Jimmy, you don't have to wait until you're six feet under, you can have Heaven on Earth.” I heard the melody in my head, I saw his face, I ran downstairs and taped the idea of the melody, I still have the tape, and two days later we recorded it in the studio.
That is really Andy's song. He just was such a great guy and yet he wasted a lot of his life with just, you know, bad habits and things like that. But he's trying to tell me and everyone, do not waste a day. Live every day like it's your last and that's really what that song is all about. Same thing with Tall Ships, he gave me the inspiration for that. He really loved the ships and we used to go down to the harbor and watch the ships come in and out on Lake Michigan and so that's his song too.

The little story you said there about jumping out of bed and running down to record reminds me of when we were in the UK and you've got a tape recorder in your pocket constantly. You were always jotting down notes and singing into this recorder.
Someone else mailed me a neat story a little while back….a Chicago resident who knows you…said they were in a car park and there was a car parked awkwardly in the entrance. They were nearly ran into it and they were going to tell the driver off until they realized it was you (laughing) and you were sitting there jotting down notes to a song.
I would not doubt that for a second.

They stopped to say hello and you had a chat. They couldn't wait to get home and tell me the story.
That is great. Well, for me the best songs come at the most unexpected times. Never at convenient times and never when I sitting at the piano. It's always when I'm driving, or you know, doing just about anything but writing.

When you're free of thought, when you're not under pressure.
Right, because that's when your subconscious mind takes over and you can do amazing things.

I really liked that story and I wanted to tell you because I knew you'd get a laugh out of that. Are there some Pride of Lions shows coming up Jim?
Well we're doing a World Stage on May 18 here in Chicago. Pride of Lions is a part of that of course, along with Kelly Keagy, Rik Emmett, Kevin Chalfant, Kip Winger and people from my immediate world like Jeff Boyle, Lisa McClowry, and of course my son's band.
He's seventeen now and he has a band called Lobster Newburg that are just terrific. His band's on the bill. We're gonna do a jam with the Ides of March and Lobster Newburg. So Pride of Lions is part of that, then we're doing a Belgium festival on August 6 with World Stage also and that's gonna be a very similar bill to the one I just mentioned with the addition of Jimi Jamison.
He's gonna be part of the World Stage in Belgium. So that's gonna be very, very fun. Jimi and I were on stage together about three weeks ago at a cystic fibrosis benefit that Fergie Fredrickson organized. It was just wonderful on stage, to see him. Some magic moments; we did I Can't Hold Back, we did The Search is Over with just an acoustic piano and he and I would trade off vocals, and then we did Eye of the Tiger and just brought the place down.
We started talking and I asked if he'd be interested in being a part of World Stage in Belgium and he said “I'm there”. So that's going to be a lot of fun.

Awesome. That will be a great show!
You commented that the Roaring of Dreams was like a crucial album for you. A few people read into that that 'oh my goodness this might be your last album'. Was that the case?

No, that's not what that meant. This was, I thought, the record to separate the men from the boys. A lot of guys can come out and make a great first record. To follow it up with a third album, that's what separates the good from the great.
It's like with Survivor, Eye of the Tiger was our third record. We proved that we could break through, of course the movie didn't hurt anybody at all, and make a, I don't want to say a better album than one and two but at least keep the quality consistently up from one and two.

You certainly have done that.
That's the challenge. I also saw it as a possible breakthrough record. That's the point I was trying to make, that we all have dreams of a record like this breaking out of the melodic rock niche and some single, whether it's Heaven on Earth, or Love's Eternal Flame or Faithful Heart, that breaks out of the pack and starts getting noticed by the overall radio and buying public. Boy, I'd sure like to see that happen.

I think people are screaming out for something but the media are so closed ranks, you know the mainstream. How in hell are people supposed to hear great new music?

I'm looking for avenues and I'm thinking of doing a video for Heaven on Earth and trying to get that exposed. And I'm looking for movie opportunities for some of these Pride of Lion songs. There are alternate marketing schemes that you can break through with.

I think Faithful Heart lends itself to a movie roll.
That would work.

You've also, I mean you're always writing obviously, but you've been writing quite a bit with Joe Lynn Turner haven't you?
Joe is great, and to be truthful with you, most of the songs on the Joe Lynn Turner album are songs I wrote either on my own or with other writing partners.
We're doing some writing now for a future record. The stuff on the Sunstorm album is stuff that I selected from my catalog that was never recorded basically or were recorded obscurely. Like Arms of Love was on a David Carl record, but most the stuff was written in the early to mid '90s, things like Another You, This is my Heart, Strength Over Time. By the way he just, sometimes I think oh boy, how's this gonna be?
I wasn't involved in the production. I got this record and it blew me away it was so good. I love it. It's one of my favorites of last year. Strength Over Time in particular. I love that song. I'm glad you like it. I think Strength Over Time and Making up For Lost Time is very strong I think too. Maybe my favorite is Strength Over Time but my second favorite would have to be Another You. It's just an amazing voice. I don't think he's sung that well in 10 years.

He's very, very smooth.
It made me realize how good he really is.

I've got his new record Second Hand Life in front of me which is out next month. Oh yeah, that song is a collaboration.

Yeah, what interested me out of that is, it's one of my favorite records of Joe Lynn Turner, is the Deep Purple Slaves and Masters record which you were brought in to write for, but none of the songs written ever made it.
Yeah, they changed titles and kind of wrote me out of some of the stuff that I had written. It was a very confusing time.

That's kind of a shame because as great a record as it was I can hear a couple of these songs being very much at home on there as well. I mean there are only nine songs on the album I think. There's plenty of room.
Yeah, there ya go. I suggested a few to Joe but I don't think he took my advice on that.

But he's smart enough to take the advice now.
Yeah…maybe. (laughter)

Jim, I was talking yesterday on the phone to your old friend, and I know this is another one of those complex situations, but Joe Vana. You know the Mecca album is still a classic. I absolutely love it. It's a shame how things sort if panned out there in the end, with you and Joe going in different directions…
Well he did you know, he was young and inexperienced and he has his own style of doing things and treating people. I think he's very talented and he's a very good singer.

I think he's mellowed somewhat. I think he's got a new found respect for the process that went into making the first record.
I wish him all the tremendous luck in the world…I just hope he does great.

You've got another hand in writing with Kelly Keagy. On his new album I'm Alive - I love that album. I really wanted to talk to you about that.
I really love that record.

It's a great record.
Thank you.

Jim Peterik the guitar hero, who knew? Who knew?
(laughter) I did it because I didn't feel like hiring anybody. (laughing)

I say that who knew, but I know you've always been respected for playing guitar and whatever but you really shred on that record.

Well, obviously all the leads are not mine. I do all the rhythm parts and the leads that are more simple and soulful and of course Reb Beach does the shredding.

Yeah, but there's a really solid rhythm behind the album.
Well thank you. I'll take credit or blame for that and I do all the bass guitar work as well.

Did you really?
There might be the rare exception but it's pretty much Kelly and me. We made the record and then we embellished it with Reb Beach and this other guitar player from Minneapolis. I can't think of his name right now. When I write with Kelly we have such a good time. Obviously I know that I write different for different artists and with different writers. When I get with Kelly he has a positive spirit but he also has a vein of darkness that runs through him.

Yeah I love that bit.
I do too and when I write on my own I'm a different writer. When I'm in the room with him it's like I'm channeling my emotions through him. I'll come up with lyrics that I never would have come up with on my own. Of course he'll come up with a lot on his own as well. There are some really, really strong moments on that record. I'm Alive of course I had the seed of that song. In fact it was gonna be a Pride of Lions song, but when I showed it to Kelly he just went crazy.

That's my favorite.
Thank you and me too. I love Stolen, and from a ballad side I love A Life Worth Remembering. It's a wonderful song.

Then there's Nobody's Looking.
That was the first song we wrote for the record. I was very influenced by, believe it or not, I don't know if you can hear it, but the Who's I Can See For Miles. We were kinda coming from that angle and what I like about that song are the melody and the message. It really is what you do when there's nobody looking. It's what you give when the cameras aren't rolling and you're not getting credit for it. To me that's the measure of a man.

World Before and After is great.
Yeah, that's killer.

Great high energy track, I'd like to see that performed at these shows.
Alright, well that would be a good suggestion. That would be really kickin' ass.

Yeah, that and I'm Alive.
I'm Alive we've gotta do that one.

Those are great live tracks there. But that's a different vibe, a different sound than Pride of Lions, a different sound than Mecca.
It's because of Kelly. He's a very strong personality and he won't take no shit you know. (laughter) He's a sweetheart, but musically he's a tough guy.
He'll speak his mind and we make a great team and we really have a lot of fun.

And you obviously have a lot of respect for each other too.
Oh tremendously, I would say he's one of my favorite people in this business in general and as a person too.

Funny you should say that because I would include you and Kelly as two of my favorite people.
Well, that's very nice. (laughter)

I mean it, I'm serious.
(laughter) I believe you. I'm not fakin' it, but as soon as I met him, I didn't meet him early on, Survivor played with Night Ranger in Puerto Rico when The Search is Over was number one, but I don't remember meeting Kelly, or maybe just a little bit. It wasn't until much later with some incarnation of Night Ranger with that other guy, not Jack Blades..

Gary Moon…
I went this little club to see them and I met him and I said, “Dude, man you sing your ass off.” I had just never realized what an amazing singer he is. He just smiled and said “man, thanks”. I introduced myself and we've been just really good friends ever since.

The camaraderie showed through again when you did the show in the UK, The Gods Festival. Gary Moon, you and Brian and that all singing in the van….I'll take that to my grave.
That was quite the fun show.

It was indeed.
Anything else you want to plug Jim?
I'm just gonna really, really promote this record. I'm gonna get a video going for, probably Heaven on Earth. That song, for me, is a mission statement. I don't care if people think it's a single, I don't care what they think at all, I've got to do that song. I've got to do it for Andy. Miracles might happen and we might break through and have a hit record and then we could write our ticket. We could go on tour and do the whole bit. The response to the record's been just tremendous and I don't have sales figures but I think it's doing pretty well. I'm really pleased but onward and upward.

Yep, and another album next year or something like that?
Well, I'll tell ya, I'll do it when I have enough great songs to make another record. One a year for me is a little bit of a push, but one every year and a half is doable. I'm always writing; you know me.

Yeah, be it in a car lot or in the middle of the night.
Yeah, I write everywhere and in the middle of the night. It's just what I do. I've got a really good life with a great wife and a great son. I'm very blessed, I never forget that.

Absolutely, that's right, important, well alright mate.

Alright, well enjoyed talking to you.

Thanks as always Jim!

c. 2007 MelodicRock.com / Interview By Andrew McNeice / Transcribed By Sherrie
Back To Interviews // Back To Frontpage