A little House talk with this Southpaw axe slinger
Connecticut is a state in southern New England that has a mix of coastal cities and rural areas lined with small towns. Mystic is famed for its Seaport museum filled with century-old ships, and the beluga whale exhibits at the Aquarium. On Long Island Sound, the city of New Haven is known as the home of Yale University and its acclaimed Peabody Museum of Natural History.
Connecticut is also the home-town of Jimi Bell, the incredibly talented Southpaw guitarist for the band, House of Lords. Though not having the same immediate name recognition as other guitarists like Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, Zakk Wylde, or Yngwie Malmsteen. Jimi shares the namesake with another guitar legend, some guy name Hendrix, and the guitar prowess of these legends.
I caught up with Jimi on a cold Winter’s day in Connecticut before he was heading out to go lay down some guitar tracks in the studio. Although the conversation and interview took place over the phone, I felt as though I were sitting across from Jimi, enjoying hearing his life stories over a couple of beers.
TRR: Hi Jimi! This is a real treat. Thanks for taking the time for this interview.
JB: No, thank you. I really appreciate this.
TRR: How’s the weather in Connecticut today? Rumor has it it’s going to be getting pretty cold in that area.
JB: It looks like we’re going to get some more snow this weekend. We’ve been pretty lucky so far with the weather. But, it’s cold out today!
TRR: Yeah, I can relate. It was pretty brutal on the way to my office this morning. 57 degrees! I had to break out the winter jacket and turn on the heat in the car.
JB: (laughing) You guys kill me down there in Florida. My singer from House of Lords lives in Florida, in Wellington.
TRR: (I could tell right away from Jimi’s laugh and easy nature, this was going to be a cool interview) Yeah, Wellington is a very nice area. That’s about an hour and 15 minutes North from where I am. That’s the West Palm Beach area.
JB: I’ve been down to his place once when we were on tour. It was very nice. You can’t beat Florida for the weather. I wish I was there now. If you come up here right now and experience the cold weather we’ve been having, trust me, you’ll turn around and head right back to Florida.
TRR: I like the cold weather, but prefer to be skiing in it. Jimi, I’ve been a House of Lords fan for quite some time and when you joined the band, it seemed to take the band to another level. We’ll get to that in a bit, but first, let’s talk about your upbringing. You were born in Connecticut.
JB: First-off, thanks for the compliment about my being in House of Lords. It’s been a lot of fun over the years. Yes, I was born in Connecticut. I’ve lived in a lot of different places over the years, but Connecticut is my home.
TRR: Did you come from a family with a musical background?
JB: My mom played piano a little bit and in her younger days, when she would be out listening to music at different nightclubs, she would sometimes get up and sing with the bands. My mom liked big band music, so that’s what I grew up listening to. I was a big fan of The Benny Goodman Orchestra, Glen Miller. I loved all that stuff. That’s what I grew up listening to. Keep in mind, when I was younger, my thing was the drums. I loved the drums. As a kid, I had a toy guitar and a toy drum set. I loved the guitar and I loved the drums.
TRR: A quick funny story for you. A few days ago, as I was preparing your interview questions, a client of mine, Euan, my Scottish buddy, walked in. He used to be lead guitarist for a metal band in Britain called Corpse Grinder.
JB: Corpse Grinder? Cool name. Sounds pretty heavy.
TRR: Yeah, they were. They toured a lot, opening for some pretty big bands. I was watching you on YouTube and Euan took one look at you and said in his British accent, “He’s a bloody communist, look at him, he’s a lefty!” I laughed. I know the expression for lefties as Southpaws but never a communist.
JB: (laughing) That’s hysterical! I’ve never heard that either. I love that. That’s beautiful. This is the first time I’ve ever been called a communist. I’ll have to put that as my new Facebook profile.
TRR: (laughing) Well, there you go!
JB: (laughing) Man, that is really funny. I’ve got to share that one. That’s great!
TRR: I think you should. But, you may attract a completely different audience.
JB: (laughing) You may be right.
TRR: Ok. Enough about communism. Back to your playing: You started out playing the drums.
JB: Yeah, I tried a lot of instruments and then I moved on to bass. I actually played stand-up bass for a long time, a little bit of trumpet, took some keyboard lessons, but never got really good at it. Yet, I love keyboard. And then, I really fell in love with the drums, big-time, when I was about 10 years old.
TRR: Do you still play the drums?
JB: Yeah, I can still play. I’ll get behind the set every once in-a-while. I took lessons at this conservatory and won a scholarship for a year of drum lessons, and since I was into big band music, I was a big Gene Krupa fan, and I was actually privileged enough to meet him - before he passed away, and it was one of the great thrills of my life.
TRR: Gene Krupa was a legend! A great Jazz drummer.
JB: He really was. I listened to him a lot as a kid.
TRR: When did you start playing guitar?
JB: There were these guys back in high school, I was in junior high, and they were playing in a band and the guitar player left a guitar out and after those guys left, I turned his guitar on. This was probably around 1971 or ‘72. I turned on the fuzz, and the guitar and the amp, and I flipped out. That was the moment when I said, “Oh my God! This is what I want to do.” I wanted to play guitar. I loved it.
TRR: The guitar that you picked up, I imagine it was right handed.
JB: Yah, it was. I was playing it upside down.
TRR: Just like that other guy named Jimi.
JB: (laughing) Yah, just like that guy.
TRR: And, that was it for you?
JB: Yes. I thought it was incredible. From that moment, that was it. I stopped playing the drums and dropped my scholarship, and after picking up that guitar, it’s never left my hands since. I went full steam with it.
TRR: What did your parents think when you told them you were giving up the drum scholarship to learn to play guitar?
JB: You know, they were always very encouraging and supportive. They never discouraged me from playing music. As a kid, you go through a lot of things before finding what you really enjoy and what you want to focus on. They saw my devotion to the guitar. Once I decided that the guitar was the instrument I wanted to play, I had the guitar in my hands non-stop. There it was everyday before I went to school, as soon as I got home from school. I had very few friends. I really didn’t care at the time if I had any friends. I stayed inside and just played non-stop. That’s all I cared about when I first started playing.
TRR: How old were you when you then?
JB: I was 13 years old but closer to 14.
TRR: Are there any guitarists or songs that really influenced you at the time, once you picked up that guitar?
JB: Oh yah. The first record I listened to that really influenced me was a live record from Johnny Winter. It was called Johnny Winter And. Rick Derringer played on it. Even to this day, it still has some of the best guitar playing on it. I loved Johnny Winter because, even though he was a blues guy, he played a lot of fast stuff. It was the fast stuff I was impressed with. That’s what caught my eye and ear, that he was playing fast. I kind of grew up with that mental state; that if you were going to be a good guitar player, you had to play fast. That was my mind-set. And, even though that’s not the case by any means, that’s what it was when I was starting to play. So, from Johnny Winter someone turned me on to Deep Purple. Once I heard Ritchie Blackmore, that was it. Then, after that, I discovered Al Di Meola. He had a flawless picking hand, and he was extremely accurate - playing all these incredible runs, way before anyone like Yngwie Malmsteen. So, that was my guy. I took a combination of Johhny Winter, Ritchie Blackmore and Al Di Meola, and I kind of blended those 3 guys together to create my own style.
TRR: That’s one heck of a trio to model yourself after.
JB: Granted, I have other favorites. I think a lot of people thought I was a huge Hendrix fan because I spell my name the same way. I was more of a Blackmore fan. Later in life, I grew to really appreciate Jimmy Page. I loved Alvin Lee of Ten Years After because he was a monster guitar player. Not a lot of people knew that. And of course, Michael Schenker, I love his playing. My list can go on and on, of who influenced me, and then I got into country players.
TRR: There’s some tremendous lead guitarists in country.
JB: There sure are. Brent Mason, Roy Clark, Glen Campbell. Even Jerry Reed. People really only knew him from the Smoky and the Bandit movies but let me tell you, he was an amazing, really incredible guitarist.
TRR: Were you self-taught or did you take some lessons?
JB: I’m basically self-taught. I took a few lessons but there was one teacher in particular, and he showed me what I wanted to learn. I did everything on my own, basically. When I tell you that I practiced hours and hours each day, I’m telling you it was just that. I’m not exaggerating. I’ve gone 24 hours sitting there playing my guitar. I still practice for hours.
TRR: What was your first guitar?
JB: Well, my uncle worked for Ovation. That was back in the 70’s. He was the accountant for Ovation. My first guitar I had was an Ovation acoustic, that had actually gotten dropped on the floor, and the round bowl had gotten a crack in it. So, obviously, I got the guitar for a very good deal. And then, my first electric was also an Ovation. It was a semi-hollow body guitar, like a Gibson ES 35.
TRR: Do you still have it?
JB: No, I wish I did though. I’ve gotten rid of so many guitars over the years. I wish I still had that one. My first real electric was of course a Strat. It was a Sunburst Strat with a maple neck. I played that for quite a while. I was really into the Strats for a little bit, and then somewhere along the line, I had a Marshall stack or a half stack. Then, there was this guy I knew who was playing a Gibson SG. I loved that guitar. He wanted a Marshall cabinet. So, I traded him the cabinet for the SG. That guitar became a main guitar for me for a very long time. I ended up playing all kind of things, you can imagine. But, ended up back with the Gibson SG’s, and now have my own design from a company called Viper guitars. That’s like an SG, but the horns are a little bit longer. Also, my buddy Dale Roberts from Jacksonville, Florida makes incredible guitars. I have about 10 of his guitars. They’re all SG body shaped.
TRR: A very cool array of guitars.Tell me about the first band you were with and what it was like the first time you stepped on stage and played in front of an audience.
JB: That was in high school. I was 15 and there was a band I was in called Tree Beard. It got its name from the something in the Lord of the Rings. My first gig was in a strip club. I had to get a note from my parents to play at the bar. There were strippers during the day and live music at night. And, I got the permission to play at the bar, and that was my first encounter with strippers (laughing). Here I am, playing at this strip bar and thinking to myself, “This is so cool.”
TRR: Ok. Hold on a minute. Did you get paid for the gig?
JB: Oh yeah, I got paid.
TRR: So, you’re 15 years old, on stage, playing in a rock band at a strip club, seeing strippers do their thing, and, you get paid. That’s not a bad gig at all!
JB: (laughing) I thought it was a great gig!
TRR: It doesn’t get any better than that. Being on the stage that first time, how did it feel? Were you nervous?
JB: (laughing) Yah, I was nervous, had the goosebumps, the whole deal. But, at 15 and doing a show like that, it kinda sets the pace for the rest of your life. (laughing) I hate to go with the whole cliché’, sex/drugs/rock ‘n roll thing, but it was just so funny being 15 years old. I’m playing in a band, I’m in a nightclub. It was just really cool.
TRR: After all these years performing, do you still get nervous right before you go on stage?
JB: I really do. I still get goosebumps right before I go on stage, but I can’t wait to be there. We did a show in Japan at a massive festival, and we opened at 1pm in the afternoon. I was thinking, “Damn, here we are at this huge festival and no one’s going to be here until later.” Man, was I wrong. We stepped up on stage expecting a handful of people, and the place was freaking packed. In Japan, they are very regimented, everyone gets to their meetings or concerts on time!
TRR: That must have been a real thrill, seeing all those people there to hear you.
JB: It was, and I still get chills thinking about it.
TRR: As a fan, what’s the first concert you attended?
JB: Deep Purple, 1973 at the New Haven Colliseum. This was the original lineup. I remember it being the most incredible thing. They opened with Highway Star. There was dry ice smoke all over the stage and it was extremely loud. The opening act was Billy Preston, wearing this green satin suit and this massive afro. It was so cool!
TRR: I once saw Skynyrd and Kool and the Gang opened for them.
JB: Exactly. No one cares. They just want to see the show and hear great music. It’s all good.
TRR: Tell me about Light of Day.
JB: In 1986, I was in the Michael J Fox / Joan Jett movie Light of Day that was released in 1987. The band I was with at the time, was hooked up with Joan Jett’s management. He put us on the road with her and he was part owner of the tour bus company, so we had our own tour bus, which was really cool. Then, we got the part for the movie. We thought, “Wow, big things are going to happen now!” But, our manager quit- to become Joan Jett’s full-time manager, and things came to a halt.
TRR: Man, bad timing.
JB: Seriously bad timing. But, you know, things happen. So, I’m hanging out working at a music store and Kramer Guitar had just put the Floyd Rose tremolos on their guitars, and I was doing this clinic with one of the guitars; a demonstration for Floyd Rose, and one of their reps was in the audience. This guy came up to me and said, “Man, you are a really great player, you should have an endorsement with Kramer.” I told him I didn’t have a record deal. He said that didn’t matter. So, a few months later, the president of Kramer came around to the store and said to me, “Hey, I hear I should be giving you an endorsement.” That’s where my endorsement deal with Kramer came about.
TRR: In 1986, you were a runner-up to be Ozzy’s guitarist.
JB: Yep. Kramer guitars heard about the Ozzy try-out and they hooked the whole thing up, and I got a call and got sent to L.A. Before I got there, they had already auditioned Zakk Wylde. But, Sharon Osbourne saw my video and really liked my playing. They flew me out to L.A. and I met Zakk and hung out with him and we jammed. I went and auditioned, and Sharon sat in on my audition. I could only audition with the drummer and bass player. She really liked my playing and the next day I played with Ozzy, about 5 songs. When I got done, they said it was between me and Zakk.
TRR: I just saw Zakk recently at the Generation Axe show and he was great. You, on the other hand, are phenomenal. I’m not just saying that to kiss your ass. I’ve watched dozens of your videos and seriously, you are phenomenal. You would have been perfect to be in that show. You would have fit in perfectly.
JB: Well Craig, thanks. I really appreciate you saying that. I would love to be a part of something like that.
TRR: How do you think that would have gone if you were chosen? The reason I ask is that Brad Gillis became Ozzy’s 2nd guitarist after the death of Randy Rhoads. Brad is a pretty damn good guitarist and Ozzy was drinking a lot back then and really treated Brad like shit. And, so did the fans, which was unjustified. Do you think you could or would have tolerated that same verbal abuse Brad dealt with?
JB: When I did the audition, they took me out to dinner afterward. It was a very expensive restaurant somewhere in L.A. Ozzy looked very tired, not sure if he was on some pills. But you know, I would have tried to deal with it and put on the thickest skin in the world. It would have been life-changing, I know that. It would have meant the world to me to be a part of that. If you’re in this business and want to really make it, you do what you have to do a lot of times. So, I would have sucked it up and dealt with it as long as I could.
TRR: How many hours a day do you practice now?
JB: Constantly. Right before you called, I was practicing. When I play, I’m a perfectionist. That’s how I’ve always been. And, I’m still learning. Sometimes I’ll be playing and I’ll get my fingers to stretch real far where I didn’t think I could go and something cool happens and I’ll say to myself, “Wow, what was that? That was pretty magical.”
TRR: Make sure you have your recorder on.
JB: Oh, always. I always keep my iphone voice memo on next to me in case my recorder malfunctions or isn’t around. I always record everything. If I put the guitar down for 5 minutes and walk away and don’t record it, I’ll forget what I did.
TRR: You’ve accomplished a lot in your career. What stands out as your proudest accomplishment as a guitarist?
JB: Wow. That’s a tough question. There’s a lot. I’m really proud that I came in 2nd with the Ozzy audition. Playing with Geezer Butler from Black Sabbath was a thrill. Some of the festivals I’ve done with House of Lords. Playing in Tokyo was probably the biggest highlight, because it was such a huge show. I’m very proud of that. Oh, and one other thing I’m very proud of is having World Wrestling Entertainment feature my guitar playing. A lot of people may not be into that but as a kid, I was a big fan. A buddy of mine who was working for the WWE at the time hooked me up with the music director, and I had the opportunity to play guitar on several of the wrestler’s entrance music. And, there’s millions of people who watch the WWE, so there’s a lot of people who heard my guitar playing and it was pretty cool.
TRR: What’s your biggest accomplishment as a man?
JB: Wow. You’re throwing some tough questions at me. Wow. I don’t know. Hmm. Ok. I’ll say being a positive role model for so many young guitarists and being respected by so many people and guitarists. And, of course, being a father and grandfather, and having an amazing fiancé, Amanda.
TRR: Thinking back, who really stands out as someone you loved performing with?
JB: Someone on the same bill?
TRR: Let’s pull it in a bit. How about, someone you played in a band with, or played lead guitar for in a band.
JB: Well, one would be Geezer Butler. He was really amazing. That was quite a thrill He was such an icon on the bass, a very thunderous bass player. Being in the room and watching him play was outstanding for me. I loved playing with Michael Schenker. I’ve been so fortunate to have played with so many incredible musicians, the list goes on and on - so it’s really hard to narrow it down to one single person.
TRR: Is there anyone you’d like to collaborate with in the future?
JB: The one I really wanted to work with and respected so much was Ronnie James Dio. Unfortunately, he’s no longer with us but that would have been a real thrill. I did write a song that he sang on Black Sabbath’s Dehumanizer CD called Master of Insanity. I didn’t get album credit, but it was a thrill, nonetheless, hearing Ronnie sing my song.
TRR: That’s pretty damn cool. I know the song. Great song. Anyone else you’d like to collaborate with?
JB: Thanks. I’m very proud of that song. And also, for collaborating, I’d like to do something with Michael Sweet and Glen Hughes, there’s so many.
TRR: That would be a cool collaboration.
JB: Yeah, I think it would so, too.
TRR: In 2005, you joined House of Lords. How did that come about?
JB: James Christian, the lead singer, is from Connecticut, originally. He knew who I was from another band I used to play with in Connecticut. When he joined House of Lords, somewhere along the line they did a record called The Power and the Myth. The guys wanted to change their sound, to make it more modern. The record didn’t appeal to the fans as well as their other stuff. Fans get used to a certain kind of sound. So, they did the record and it didn’t go over too well and James contacted me and said they were doing another House of Lords record and they wanted to go back to their very melodic rock sound. He asked me if I had ever written a melodic rock song before. I said “absolutely!” Of course, I never had. (laughing) I didn’t know what a melodic rock song was, but I said, absolutely.
TRR: So, how did you pull that off?
JB: We got together, and everything just seemed to gel. A couple songs I had written previously that were pretty heavy, and once weadded some keyboards and James layered the vocals, and the way that he sings, the song becomes a House of Lords song. I can send him some songs with the heaviest of riffs and he’ll turn them into House of Lords songs. That’s just the way that it is. But, over the years, I’ve learned pretty much how to give him what he’s looking for. Then, the first record I did with them in 2005 and was released in 2006, World Upside Down, was huge. It really put the band back on the map and I’m very proud of that record.
TRR: Alright, let’s talk about your gear. What are you playing on stage? I know you have endorsements with Robert’s, Ovation and Viper. What’s your main guitar?
JB: I’m a Marshall guy, I’ve always been a Marshall guy. Nothing crazy. I don’t bring a lot of stuff when I play locally, usually a half stackand 2 heads. An old JCM 2000, one of the older Marshalls, which I love and a JCM 900 as a backup head. I have very simple pedals. I use 3 Boss pedals on the floor, a Boss Wah Wah, which is programmable and has univibe and a Boss overdrive, and chorus and tuner. I don’t get into delays. It’s not over-processed by any means. That’s what I like, and the people seem to really enjoy the sound too. I used to use SG’s all the time and Flying V style guitars. Now I play Viper guitars and Roberts. Viper contacted me because they wanted to get in the lefty market. I’m very happy with what I’m using.
TRR: I understand you also play in a couple local bands. Tell me about that.
JB: I play in a Deep Purple tribute band called Beyond Purple. We do Deep Purple, Rainbow, Whitesnake. It goes over huge. The guys are great. The singer, Mike Gil is great. Then, I have the other band, Maxx Explosion. It’s all original songs. I’ve got my hands in the fire with a lot of things. I’m still hoping that after James is recovered, he had to have some surgery recently, we’ll get started on the next House of Lords record. And then, hopefully House of Lords will be out on tour sometime this year.
TRR: Are there nights you just want to go on stage and say, “Fuck it” and just plug right into the amp, turn up the gain, maybe add a bit of delay, and maybe just use a wah pedal and go “old school?”
JB: I did just do that, but I used to just play with the amps at higher gains. I keep my Marshalls with an Angus Young type setting that gives a nice fat crunch for the rhythms, and I’ll step on the overdrive pedal for a solo.
TRR: Tell me about the worst experience you’ve ever had performing live.
JB: I was on stage at a place in Connecticut that used to be called the Agora Ballroom. We were being filmed. It was a big show, about 1500 people squeezed into the room. During my solo, which is being filmed for TV, I was trying a new rig, my main head blew up, right in the middle of my guitar solo. Then, I had 3 heads. They plugged in the 2nd one and that one blew up. They got the 3rd one going, I’m doing my guitar solo and a string popped. So, anything you can imagine bad happening during a guitar solo, happened to me within minutes. (laughing) I can laugh about it now.
Then, there was a time we were opening for Lynch Mob. The place is packed. The very first song, boom, one of my strings breaks. My guitar had a Floyd Rose tremolo and when a string breaks on a Floyd Rose, the whole guitar goes out of tune. I’m there trying to do my solo with 5 strings, and the whole guitar is completely out of tune (laughing) and my road guy literally throws me another guitar, and there I am, doing this solo with 2 guitars strapped around my neck.
TRR: Man, that’s crazy. Do you have any video of that? That would be cool to see.
JB: (laughing) I’m sure there’s some video of that somewhere.
TRR: Do you remember the first time you were performing live on stage, looked out at the thousands of people and suddenly it hit you, “Damn, I’m really doing this.”
JB: That was on stage in Japan. Looking out at those thousands and thousands of people who were there to see us (House of Lords) perform for them, that gave me chills. Yeah, I thought to myself, “This is awesome, and I can’t believe I get to do this in front of all these people.”
TRR: What advice do you have for someone just beginning to find their guitar chops who wants to go further.
JB: Oh my god, you don’t even want to know what I tell people who’ve asked me similar questions. Here’s what I tell them; “Do not put all your eggs in one basket, get a real job, get a good education and learn another trade.” I’m suffering dearly because I do not have another trade, all I’ve ever had is my music. And, that’s all I’ve ever done. If I could go back in time and do something different, I would have learned something else other than music. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done really well, but not as well as I needed to do and now, at my age, I’ll be 61 in 2 weeks, I have to just keep plugging with what I know and what I do.
TRR: What’s your thought on the future of rock ‘n roll?
JB: It looks like it’s doing ok. I’ve seen it in a much worse state before. You know, I’m glad guitar solos are making a comeback, because I was nervous for a while. Guitar heroes completely disappeared in the 90’s. People weren’t doing guitar solos anymore. It was really upsetting to me, personally, because, I’ve never stopped shredding. I always kept it going, even during that phase. I was nervous that it may never come back, and I was pretty-excited when it started to materialize again. As long as there are still guitar players, it will exist. Now the record industry, that’s a whole other animal, it’s horrendous. What are you gonna do, that’s the way things are now.
TRR: The Shredneck. That’s a very cool tool you designed. Where did that idea come from?
JB: Here’s how that came about. One time, I broke my hand, my right hand which is my finger board hand, and I wanted an exerciser to work it, and all the ones out there were spring loaded and made my hand feel very tight. I thought to myself, “That’s not how my hand feels when I practice, when I practice my hand and fingers are nice and loose.” So, I had this guy I know build me half a neck with a headstock, and put real strings on it. He designed it so that, when I’d drive around in my car and I’d mess around with it, it was tailored to me. I went to a buddy’s house of mine who’s in the industry and does things like this, and has connections in China and Japan. He looked at it and said, “Hey, what’s that thing?” I told him it’s this little neck I invented, and he goes, “Hey, let’s market this.” And he ran with it. If not for him, it would be sitting around somewhere collecting dust in my car. It does pretty well. I’m proud of it, and it’s cool to have my name on it.
TRR: I think it’s great. Congratulations on that.
JB: Thanks, Craig.
TRR: Tell me about your friend, Lea. She’s quite a photographer and speaks very highly of you.
JB: What’s really funny about meeting Lea, is that I really didn’t know her too well when she first came to a show. I have these buddies of mine in a band and we played with them in Albany. She went to the show to take photos of them. They were opening for us (Beyond Purple), and she took a bunch of pictures and was new at it. She sent some of the pictures to me, and she just has this amazing talent, a natural eye for shooting these pictures. I know so many people who are really great photographers, but she happens to capture musicians in such an amazing way. She always gets some great shots. I’m not an easy person to photograph while I’m on stage, but she has done some incredible work. And before this, she had never photographed rock bands before, yet she’s just a natural. I told her, “Lea, I think you’ve got something here, a natural talent for shooting rock bands.” So, whenever an opportunity comes up for her to take pictures, I let her know, and she’s always very grateful. So as far as Lea, she’s great, very talented, and a really good person.
TRR: Cool story! I’m going to name some famous musicians/bands from Connecticut and I want you to give me your thought in just a couple of words. Some of these may be your favorites. Here we go:
TRR: Michael Bolton
JB: He’s from New Haven. I almost played with him. I’ve seen him perform many times. What people hear now, is so different from what he did years ago. He was a big hard rocker.
TRR: The Carpenters
JB: I didn’t even know they were from Connecticut. Believe it or not, I actually love The Carpenters. I thought they were extremely talented. It wasn’t until recently that I learned that Karen Carpenter was an amazing drummer.
TRR: Rivers Cuomo of Weezer
JB: I know those guys. They’re incredible, an incredible band. We used to rehearse in the same rehearsal room in Manchester. I’m so thrilled they are getting the recognition that they get. They are really wonderful guys. I’ve known them for a long time, and it’s great that they’ve made it so big.
TRR: Deep Banana Blackout (Funk band from Fairfield)
JB: That’s a whole different style of music from what I listen to. Back in the 90’s, those guys and I both won an award through a newspaper called the Hartford Advocate, and they would give out awards. I won for “Best Guitarist” several times, and they won for Best Band. They’re a great party band.
JB: Incredible band. My buddy, Joey Concepcion, from this area, who is an incredible guitarist, plays with their singer in a solo band. Hatebreed is cool.
TRR: John Mayer
JB: I didn’t know he’s from Connecticut. (laughing) I dig his playing. He’s a great player. Listen man, all these people you’re naming have done more than I’ve done. They’ve done either as much or more, and anybody who can do anything out of Connecticut, and make a name for themselves, is great.
TRR: Peter Tork of the Monkees
JB: Oh yah, I ran into him in a music store, at a Guitar Center. It was so cool to meet him in person. I watched the Monkees grow ing up. I was playing a guitar quietly at the store, and Peter comes up and says, “Hey, you sound really good.” I said, “Thank you, what’s your name?” He said his real name, Peter something or other, I can’t remember the last name. And then it all clicked. I said, “Man, I used to watch you as a kid.” He laughed and said, “Of course you did,” being real funny and sarcastic. So, we chatted for a bit. He was pretty cool. I really dug that.
TRR: Steelheart (From Norwalk)
JB: Mike, great singer. I’d love to do a song with him. He came by one time for a House of Lords rehearsal. One other guy you haven’t mentioned who’s also from Connecticut is Mike Vescera of the band Loudness. He also played for Yngwie Malmsteen.
TRR: So there you go, your peers!
JB: (laughing) There we go! Well, that’s a pretty eclectic group you came up with, Craig.
TRR: I aim to please.
TRR: Jimi, what’s on the table for the rest of 2019? Is there going to be another HOL record?
JB: I’m supposed to start recording another House of Lords record, but I’m just waiting to hear from James about his recovery from his surgery. Once we get the thumbs up from him, we’ll be back in the studio.
TRR: What’s something your fans would be very surprised to learn about you?
JB: Not a lot of my fans know that I had prostate cancer. I’ve talked about it in other interviews. That was a little over 5 years ago and things are ok now. I had the prostate removed, and when they checked my PSA levels afterward, they didn’t go down. I had a pretty aggressive case of it, so I had to have 45 doses of radiation. Thank god it wasn’t chemo, so I didn’t lose my hair. Matter of fact, I just had my yearly follow-up 2 days ago and it showed no signs of cancer.
TRR: That’s great. Wow, this interview went into double overtime. Thanks for your time and continuing, while you were driving to the recording studio.
TRR: Last question. Who’s going to win the Superbowl in a few weeks?
JB: (laughing) Superbowl? Man, you won’t believe this but, I don’t follow sports at all. I couldn’t even tell you who’s playing in it. If you asked me about something about wrestling back in the day, I could tell you about that. It’s very rare that I even watch the Superbowl. I just don’t get into it. Just like I don’t get into politics. You’ll never see me posting anything about sports or pol itics. So many people make enemies over these things. I’ve seen so many serious battles de velop over these. I’d rather keep my social media fans and friends, and avoid discussing anything I’m not comfortable talking about if I’m not educated about it. And, that’s what most people should do. It makes life easier and happier.
TRR: Good advice, Jimi. Just keep it to the music.
JB: That’s right. Craig, I want to thank you. This has been a lot of fun, and I really appreciate it. Let’s keep in touch.
TRR: Absolutely. And, hopefully, you’ll get to South Florida soon.
JB: I was there last year with House of Lords. I’m sure we’ll make our way down there again soon. Warm weather would be very nice about now. And, when I do, lets make sure to hook up. I’d really like to meet you in person.
TRR: Likewise! Jimi, this has been great. Keep me posted on when you get started on the next House of Lords record.
JB: Will do. Craig, this has been a real pleasure and again, let’s keep in touch.
Craig Marks, Publisher
Tru Rock Revival Magazine
Jimi Bell photo coutesy of Lea Caffrey of Morningstar Reflection Portrait Photography