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Interview: House of Lords Guitarist Jimi Bell

By Andrew Catania

If you know the House of Lords, then I am confident that you will also know Jimi Bell.  Jimi is a big name in the music industry. And in the music industry, he has worked with the top-notch artists to showcase his talent and worth. Many people call him “a giant on the guitar,” but he does not mind that, and continues performing for the love of his audience.

His very first appearance was in the film “Light of Day,” which starred Joan Jett and Michael J. Fox in 1986. In this movie Jimi Bell, performed both as an actor and played his soundtrack. Later, along with his band, he toured with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.

The year 1987 proved to be an excellent year for Jimi, as he was chosen for the auditions of Ozzy Osbourne. In this audition, there were only two finalists, Jimi and Zakk Wylde. And unfortunately, Jimi wasn’t accepted. Jimi joined the Black Sabbath family tree and became a member of the Geezer Butler’s solo band the Geezer Butler Band. In the BLACK SABBATH’s 1992 “Dehumanizer” album, Jimi wrote a track “Master of Insanity,” but they did not give Jimi Bell credit for that record.

He still follows his passion, worked on Cannata’s CD and performed “Harlequin of LightsTamoro, Myslerium Magnum and Watching the World between 1993 till 2013. He had a strong bond with BJ Zampa, who was a drummer for the German-based Rockers Band Thunderhead. BJ recruited Jimi for their record “Ugly Side.” And this proved to be the foundation stone, for many of their future performances. In collaboration with the METAL CHURCH, THUNDERHEAD toured the whole Europe. For the 2001 album on Nuclear Blast, Jimi Bell and BJ contracted with the David Wayne’s Metal Church project.

For the Rob Rock album “eyes of eternity,” in 2003 Jimi participated as a guest soloist. And in 2003, Jimi and Bj allied with the ex-main vocalist Mike Vascera from Obsession & Loudness Band for the “MVP Project.” The album was released in the following year, 2004 in Japan and Europe.

In his entire career, he does not seem to be working for the same person in the long run, except the House of Lords. And in the mid of 2005, Jimi Bell finally joined House of Lords. After joining this band, Bell does not forget his old friend Bj. He recruited Chris McCarvill as a bassist and recommended BJ the position of a drummer. All of them completed the band of James Christian, who was a vocalist. Then this team toured a lot of countries; they continuously wrote and recorded albums. And some of their famous works are “Big Money,” “Cartesian Dreams”, “Come to My Kingdom”, “World Upside Down” and much more.

Beside this, Jimi also worked for the NASCAR, Impact, Wrestling, WWE, and ESPN: each of them is sports giants. He is the mind behind SHREDNECK, and now a day, Jimi Bell is the member of Roberts Guitar, KickAss Cables, Marshall Amps (Europe), Rocktron, GHS Strings, Ovation Guitars, Dean Guitars and EMG pickups.

I recently caught up with Jimi after the last time I saw him was 28 years ago with Joined Forces.

Jimi are you there?

I’m here buddy? How have you been?

Good!  I haven’t seen you in 28 years!

Has it really been that long?  God, man!  I’m old Andrew!

(laughter)

I’m still out there doing it though man, it’s so funny because I’m doing it more now than I did when I was in my younger days I don’t know, you know.  Sometimes you wish it was reversed because I had all the energy and the youth back then but you know, hey I’ll take it when I can.  I’m still you know, it’s just different, if you keep your life on the straight and narrow you can do this stuff that’s what it’s all about

Yes! I knew you were around I just saw your video on Frontier’s and I was like that’s Jimi Bell.

I’ve been with them since 2005

Time flies
!
Yes! I joined the band in 2005, and I go to Europe every year with them, except last year, I think the singer wanted to take a year off because he had a bunch of family things he was doing, so that’s what we did.  Usually, you know, 2015 I was in Tokyo and played the greatest festival in the world, and I’ve never been to Tokyo in my life, and it’s weird in my late 50’s, and I’m seeing all of the world, from my 50th birthday on, it’s so weird

Are you doing the Wacken Festival in Germany with House Of Lords or no? 

No I don’t think we have.  Wacken Fest is usually a little heavier than House Of Lords I believe than a lot of the bands that play at Wacken.  We would be more likely to be at Sweden Rock than the Wacken Festival.  That hasn’t happened yet but we’re very hopeful.  We’ve done a bunch of festivals, we’ve done a bunch in Sweden, we did Hard Rock Hell that was in Wales and I’ve got a bunch of them at the end of my tongue here I can’t remember.  I’ve got a bunch of posters I need to go through here of the festivals that we’ve already done already.  I know we’re doing Hair Metal Heaven in August in the UK.  I’m really looking forward to that one.  That’s a bunch of great bands

It’s insane all these festivals are over in the Europe.  We don’t get to see it.  We get nothing over here.  All we get is like Carolina Rebellion, Rocklahoma.  All the festivals are the same bands usually.
 

You know what it is?  America is a really tight market you know.  Honestly right now, House Of Lords is doing a big push, this year in fact, to get back into the American market because we haven’t been in it for a long time. When the band first got together and Gene Simmons said sign them. They were out with Cheap Trick and The Scorpions, The Nelsons. I mean they did big festivals, did Colosseum tours and everything back then.  Unfortunately the band came in at the later point of the 80’s like in ‘88 and when the Nirvana scene came the Seattle scene and all the music changed, a lot of the hair metal bands all died out except for the one’s that were really intense that were able to maintain like your Motley Crue and stuff like that.  They already had a legacy even with the change of music they were able to maintain but there were a lot of the bands that couldn’t.  You know the ones that stayed, like Poison and the people that were popular-popular, like Whitesnake.  They all managed to hang in there but a lot of them got crushed.  I’m really honored to be in the band.  I got a call from them in 2005,  the singer, James Christian, said he was putting a whole new group together and the record label, of course Frontiers wanted to go back to the usual House Of Lords sound.  I guess what happened year before, not a year before but a record before called Power And The Myth the band had changed up the sound a little bit.  I guess they tried to go a bit more modern and even though it was an excellent record I guess the fans didn’t accept it as much but there’s a lot of great songs on it but the fans didn’t care for it as much as the earlier record they did and then that kind of put a bad taste in their mouth.  But then we got together we came out with the first record World Upside Down it really took off as we went backwards a little bit and tried to make it more melodic rock again and we’ve been on a good roll ever since 

Are you still doing the Connecticut circuit?  Are you still doing Joined Forces anymore?  Any reunions?

Well, we keep going back and forth.  I have done shows with the second version of Joined Forces with Livio and the guys.  Now we finally actually have located Mark Diamond, who’s been out of circulation for a while, on purpose, he chose not to.  He’s a family guy and a regular working guy and chose to be out of the business, he had it with it.  But now his kids are grown up and he’s been wanting to perform on stage again.  Not full-time at all, he just wanted to do a show.  He wanted his kids to see him play.  He wants his teenager’s to know that he’s something else and not just a working dad.  He wants them to see that part of him that they’ve never seen, which I think is totally great.  My daughter has seen me perform everywhere!  She just pops up out of the blue, ever since she was a baby.  She’s shown up at gigs and stuff, it’s kind of funny.  She gets all proud to see me up there on stage and this is something you know that his kids are even aware that he does.  I mean Mark was an icon with Joined Forces.  So we’re negotiating right now and speaking with Mark Franco and Joey you know just back and forth just hashing out some stuff

Awesome!

So you never know.  I have another original project that I’m involved with Maxx Explosion, which is an all original band which has BJ Zampa who is the drummer in House Of Lords, and with me from the beginning and Chris McCarvill.  Now Chris was the bass player for House Of Lords until last year.  He’s been with us since 2005 as well.  In 2007 he had an opportunity to play with Dokken, and he took it, which is entirely understandable

Jon Levin was my first interview for my website.

Oh really?

Yes!

Jon is still there.  He’s been with Dokken for years now.  Last year they asked Chris to come back and Chris just thought it was a good move for him at the time and it was.  We wished him well.  We’re still buddies and Maxx Explosion is still together even though he is not in House Of Lords anymore.  We took on a new bass player whose name is Chris Tristram, who was Jack Russell’s Great Whites bass player, so he’s with us now

Was that before or after Tony Montana?  Because Tony Montana is his guitarist now and his version of Great White and then we’ve got the original Great White where they’re recording with Tom Wagner, you know the high influential producer from the 80’s, they’re in Tennessee recording with him 

All I know is that as of a year ago, Chris was the bass player for Jack Russell.  So I don’t know what the change was.  As a matter of fact, Chris has some writing credit on some of Jack’s new album that just got released.  So he was in it up to very recently.  He’s been playing bass for them

Ok.  I’m looking at your website.  I see you all over the place.  I see you with Steve Stevens who I just interviewed, I see you with Joel Hockstra, Reb Beach, EVH, Ronnie James Dio.  Are you still playing at Bleachers in Bristol?  Is it still a dump?

What?  The Alley Cat?

(laughter)
Is it Bleachers or the Alley Cat?

It’s Bleachers now, but it’s nice inside.  Years ago it used to be the Alley Cat.  That’s when we used to walk in there, and your feet would stick to the carpet

Yes, it was disgusting!
It was disgusting but it was a great Rock Room.  There were a lot of disgusting rooms back in the 80’s you remember that! I mean none of them were brilliant but it was a place, it was a different time and nobody cared.  But no, it’s been a real nice looking sports bar.  They made it into a sports bar but at least they have bands in there with in-house sound and everything.  The guy is really into music and we do well there.  I even just performed there with House Of Lords.  We usually do a show there right before we have something to do

Awesome

Before going out on tour we’ll play a show there.  The house sound man there happens to be our sound man, Kevin Parkinson,  he comes on the road with us.  He use to be the sound man for The Sting. Remember The Sting back in the day?

Oh my God! That was at the Agora Ballroom.  I just interviewed the guys from Flotsam and Jetsam, and I was going down memory lane with them back in December.  I said do you remember when you opened for them for Megadeth and it was pouring rain in West Hartford, and there was rain coming through and Dave Mustaine came up to their guys there and said you’ve got to move your guitars out of there because there’s rain coming down?

He was like, “Oh my God!” we do remember that!

I said yes.  I was like 12 years old.  I was like pre-pube

(laughter)

Andrew, I miss that, I miss that room man!  I miss that place.  That was a great-great room.  Oh my God so many great memories of playing there.  Unbelievable!

Yes, it was amazing what came over there.  Twisted Sister was there

Yes! Even Aerosmith.  I saw Aerosmith and Ted Nugent there.  They had the big stage in the back.  I had a friend, when Joe Perry and Brad Whitford had left the band.  They had gotten two other guys.  One of the guitarists was Jimmy Crespo I forget the other guys name.  They came out with that song Lightening Strikes and whoever was on that record, it was a good record, that’s when I guess Steve was really having a hard time with the drugs  and everything was during that period.  But that was then and he is incredible still, always has been

I could sit here and talk to you for days.  I know WCCC is no longer.  I know Dick Robinson took them online.  How are they doing?

Who’s that now?  CCC?  iRockRadio?

Yes, iRockRadio.  I know you have a lot to do with them.  Are they doing anything?

Mike Karolyi is doing great with that station

Is he?

Yes! Mike Karolyi is doing great.  I’m telling you man it’s a shame what they did to CCC it really is.  First, they had a few changes.  You know Mike always ran that.  They had a great group there, the whole group of everybody that worked there.  Every DJ that was there, everybody involved, it was a real tight-knit organization and they were all great people, every one of them.  You know they had it down.  They would play what they wanted to play and people loved that station man.  I remember one day, I don’t listen to radio much, I don’t listen to music much anyway period you know because I’m always writing and everything but I happened to turn on the radio and I know I had CCC on and they were playing something weird.  It was like a Steve Miller tune or something and I’m going what the heck’s going on here?  And I kept thinking I was getting a cross-station because I know 105 The River had changed their music format.  I figured it was getting mixed signals or something.  It sounded like something was being crossed over and then I found out that Corporate had come in and made them change the format and so they did.  They kept it turned and then all of a sudden I remember them closing down; it was becoming a Christian rock station

Oh yes

Yes, they took over the building and honestly I don’t even know if that thing is still going.  It was and the building I think is up for sale, the old CCC Building. They took all that down, and yes, they had a lot of changes


I could go down memory lane with you just with CCC.   Mike Karolyi was working overnights, this is when Z Rock out of Texas was a satellite and playing the Hair Metal, and everyone wanted to hear, and I would always argue with Karolyi and say you always wonder why your ratings are in the toilet, I was like why don’t you let John Osterland, do you remember John?

Of course, I do!   

You had Metal Shop, the rock station up in Springfield, 102 played metal stuff on Tuesday nights,  I listened to that. I loved Metal Shop.  You just had different things and there’s no rock station in Hartford that’s on the dial.  I mean you’ve got so much now, you’ve got iTunes, you’ve got Spotify, it’s all different

Yes, everything has changed man, it really has.  Listen, I’ve got to tell you, I’m very grateful to still be doing what I’m doing after all these years and be able to do it you know.  A lot of changes have come about throughout my life and it’s just great to be out there and still doing it and making music and putting out records and stuff.  You know House Of Lords is on a huge label, probably the biggest.  Frontiers is a really big name you know for that genre of music. It really doesn’t get any bigger for that.  They have all the bands from that era you know.

They do!

They are a great machine man.  They are a well-oiled machine!  When they do a release, they do everything.  They know exactly how they’re going to push a band, they know what to do.  I already have a schedule of releases, you see, I know they’re going to release another song, you know they’re going to release something on the 27th  you know, another tune off the record, things like that. It’s cool.  Being a part of it is good.

  You and Chris Impelliteri are friends, aren’t you?

Very well.  I influenced him you know.  I was a big influence in Chris’ life, and he even says it.  Until he heard me play guitar, he never played guitar like that.  He was more of like a Randy Rhoads player, he was into that, and then he saw me play guitar and it flipped him out.  All he wanted to do was become a speed demon, a speed shredder.  I changed the guy’s life.  He’s even said it before in magazine interviews and stuff like that

Wow! I did not know that

Yes, oh yes.  It’s the God’s honest truth, he used to come out and see me play and I literally changed his whole style.  I never gave him lessons but my influence of what I was playing was probably where he always wanted to go but never saw anybody do it yet.  Then he took off with it.  Of course he’s done really well for himself which is great
 

There’s no market here in the USA 

This is what I’m trying to explain to you about House Of Lords.  We want to play the US.  We really do, we’re ready, we’ve been willing.  To get somebody to take us on, to get someone to say alright I’m going to build with you guys in the US, it’s been a really terrible thing.  We just might have hooked up with somebody that’s actually going to do it.  A very reputable agent and I’m waiting to see.  I’m actually going to find out this week if it’s a go but it looks very good.  I’m looking forward to hopefully taking the band and building it in the US at some point.  I’m not expecting it to go to Colosseums or whatever you know what I’m saying but I want to play.  I want to play in the US.

You could play in Orlando at like House of Blues or at Hard Rock.

Absolutely

With a couple of other bands, you know, make it a whole night 

It’s kind of funny because there’s this contest going on for the Monster’s of Rock Cruise down there and our name was put in, and we moved up that contest really far we went up to like the number 8 position out of 100 bands we’re right above Def Leppard right at the moment which was very shocking.  I was surprised.  I mean if you go to my Facebook page you’ll see it.  As a matter of fact, you should vote for us!

(laughter)
What are you trying to extort me to vote for House of Lords?

Yes.  I’m going to extort you like you wouldn’t even believe

Have you worked with Rusty Cooley at all?

Oh, I love Rusty.  I use to talk to him quite a bit. Yes, he’s a friend.  One time somehow we hooked up.  He called me, not personally, not face to face, you know over the internet, and he was telling me he heard about me from a long-long time ago  Much respect for him!  Much respect, a great-great guy too! Real sweetheart of a guy

What do you think of these record labels signing turd bands and leaving the good ones unsigned?

Listen, this is an issue, and I get this now you know, I’m still learning in this business.  I really am, I’m learning.  It doesn’t matter how good you play your instrument it really doesn’t.  It has nothing to do with if you’re the most monster shredder in the world and you’re blowing people’s mind or anything like that.  It all comes down to a catchy song.  You can have a two-note solo in there but these individuals who are signing bands here and they hear a song they don’t give two shits about the guitar solo because honestly the guitar solo as great as it is to us musicians, because we get off on it as guitarists, it doesn’t make a difference to the average person, it really doesn’t and that’s a sad thing.  I still sit and practice my guitar constantly.  I was practicing when you called.  I’ve put years and years and years into my guitar playing but it doesn’t make a difference on what I play on the guitar because it all comes down to the song.  That’s why you’ll find some of the most popular songs have a melody solo that is recognizable something that the average person can sing.  Like the average person that’s just walking along the street that can sing that guitar solo and is not nothing shreddy about it it’s just a memorable piece.  This is what I tried to do believe it or not on the new House Of Lord record on Saint To The Lost Souls that’s coming out, I actually took the time to work out my guitar solo’s which is something I’ve never done ever in my life. I usually record the songs, you know I write them, I work with the drummer BJ and he helps me rearrange the songs and then we send them down to James and then he’ll either start working on them the way they are or he might move a piece, you know put it into the computer into Pro Tools and move a piece around and then I’ll start doing the lyrics for that.  Anyways, we have a system that we do   What I usually do is I go to BJ’s, play the song, and then we go to the solo section and he’d goes OK you ready to do a solo?  And I’d go yes, and we’ll roll it, do a couple of solos and say yes that was OK.  I’ve done every record except for this last one.  This last record I actually took the time and worked out the solos beforehand and it was a big difference and as a matter of fact I am going to have to do it for every record from now on because it’s really great and I remember them, which is better.  I can remember them because I worked them out you know.  Sometimes I go to play a solo when a record comes out and I go “what the hell am I playing?”  I don’t remember this you know

 

What do you think about these YouTube players?  Do you feel in person teaching is better? 

Look, all these guys are really great players.  The ego thing I can do without.  I’ve never had that and I never will because I keep myself in check because I know for a fact that there is an incredible guitar player a lot younger than me just sitting in his basement and playing right now.  In fact, not even in the basement I see them all over YouTube.  I see these young kids on YouTube that utterly destroy me on guitar playing things that I cannot play.  As discouraging as it is, seeing this and knowing that used to be me and I used to be able to play like all that, it also gives me a kick in the ass type of thing again.  It’s at that time I go, you know what, I’m going to push a little harder now regardless.  I can still do this if I play a little harder you know.  It’s good to see these kids and some are so young.  Oh my God these Asian kids just kill me.  I see this young 8-year-old Japanese girl, oh my God, 8 years old! She’s a monster-monster guitar player and I just go oh my God!  There’s a kid in Italy  Michael Manio or something like that, he plays electric guitar with his fingers like a class guitar, he’s a teenager.  He’s probably the most amazing guitarist you’ll ever see in your life.  Then I see this other guy, I mean what are you going to do?  You know back in the day, back in the Joined Forces day when I came out, honestly there wasn’t anybody playing that style.  Yngwie wasn’t even around then when I came back into town when the first Joined Forces started.  He hadn’t even hit the scene yet.  All the stuff I learned how to play guitar from was from Johnny Winter, Al DiMeola things like that.  That’s where I picked up my style.  There was no Yngwie, there was no Eddie Van Halen that didn’t come out until later you know and so it’s a different learning period, there was no internet. I had to learn everything by ear slow slowing down a record.  Putting the record on speed 16 you know to learn a riff.  Not looking at the internet and having somebody show this to you not by note.

 

Yes, I was part of the whole Joined Forces revolution.  Is House Of Lords pretty much your mainstay now?  Are you still doing your side project in between?   

House Of Lords and Maxx Explosion are my two main projects.  Maxx Explosion has 2 records out and like I said we’re writing the third one even though we don’t have a deal right now but we are writing a third one.  But that band is very good, that’s a trio and it’s a real good trio, really powerful.  And House of Lords for me, it’s a cool band.  It’s a great bunch of guys who’s still well known in Europe.  You know I get to go places I’ve never dreamed of.  I’ve been all over the world.  Places I never thought I’d ever get to see, I’ve got to see them with that band and I’m very grateful

What kind of guitar are you playing these days?  It looks like you’re playing Gibsons I see in your picture.  But are you endorsed by a guitar company?   

I have a guy right down in Jacksonville Florida named Dale Roberts, Roberts Guitars.  He’s a one man operation and he used to be from up here in Connecticut.  He makes all my guitars for me.  He builds guitars and of course I do play and have a bunch of Gibson SG’s and I like the SG body so he asked me if I would play guitar.  I told him well you know I’ve got to be honest I love Gibson SG so if you want to make me guitars it has to look like an SG and feel like an SG and all that type of thing and he does.  He does a great job he makes them exactly the way I want them.  I have the bodies made like the old 60’s SG’s with points, with horns on them and now I’ve recently had the power switches moved on to the pic guard changed and one volume

Isn’t that the guitar you’re using in the latest House Of Lords video I saw?

Yes, I’m using two of them.  They are Roberts Guitars.  One of them is half black and half white, and the other is an all white one.  I switch between, you’ll see them in my guitar solo, I use scenes with them both going back and forth.  They are great guitars I’ve got about 7 of them and another one coming up from Florida he’s just finishing it right now

Are you using Randall Amps?


No, unfortunately, I blew them up.  I was using them. I got in touch with the rep, and he wanted me to use them, and I brought them to a gig.  The first night I had them I blew up the amps, And I’ve used my same Marshall’s all of my life.  I’ve had the same Marshall heads since 1999 or 1998.  I’ve never had a problem except for having to replace tubes and stuff like that, so I just said you know what, I’m not going to mess with what I have known.  You get kind of a bad omen when your amp blows up on your very first gig with it 

 Are you endorsed by like a pedal companies, guitar picks, cables?   

Oh yes, I’m a GHS endorse.  Guitar picks no, I change a lot.  I just ended up using as of last year. I started using the little Jazz III picks.  You know the little ones?

 So what are your plans for 2017?  Naturally House of Lords, Maxx Explosion.  Are you going to put out a solo record of sorts? 

Never

You don’t even have one

No.  No desire.  I don’t like instrumentals.  I did do an instrumental on the last Maxx record, a little country type of thing about a minute forty seconds long.  I love country music.  I don’t mean country like ‘hick’ music I’m talking chicken picking like cool guitar country music, that type of stuff.  And I did a solo on the Maxx Explosion Dirty Angels.  It’s the only instrumental I’ve ever written in my life.  I don’t have the desire to ever sit down and do a whole record of an instrumental.  I listen to a favorite guitar player of mine, I can’t even sit through a whole song of an instrumental.  I lose it.  You know any Yngwie instrumentals or anything that gets too long.  I just won’t listen to it.   I’d rather hear a song with singing and then a great short guitar solo. You can understand.  I grew up listening to AC/DC you know with the exception of Deep Purple, you know Deep Purple was my band but I became a huge AC/DC fan and I know a mound of AC/DC songs and my dream band would be like AC/DC with a little more shredding guitar.  You know a guy that sings like Bon Scott or Brian Johnson and then shred the part a bit more and those type of songs I would be the happiest man in the world because I love those big GDH chords you know in the back.  I don’t care if AC/DC uses the same chords over and over again.  I love every one of their songs.  I don’t care, it doesn’t make a shit of difference to me.

Follow Jimi @

http://www.jimibellmusic.com