GUITARIST JAKE E. LEE ON HIS WORK ETHIC, “I WOULD NEVER DO [SOMETHING I DON’T WANT TO JUST] FOR MONEY”
NI Rocks recently spoke with guitarist Jake E. Lee. Portions of the interview appear, below.
NI Rocks: Your label, Frontiers, have quite a reputation for bringing different artists together on musical projects. Like Michael Sweet and George Lynch for example. Is that something you’d be interested in and is there anyone you’d really like to work with on such a project?
Jake: Hmmm, not really. I’m not that kind of guy. I live here in Vegas and Vegas has a whole influx of musicians from my era who have moved to Vegas for whatever reason. It’s like an old musicans graveyard now (laughs). But I’m constantly being asked, because I know the people and I know the clubs, if I want to jam or how about if I do this, or get this kind of band going to make money. That’s not…..I would do something like that if I thought it was musically…if something special would blossom out of it. I would never do it for money. I just feel that doing s–t for money is a very ignoble pursuit, and I’ve always thought that way. George Lynch played here in town recently, well not recently, it was a couple of years ago. I went to see him and he said would you come up and jam with me on stage and I said “No.” And he said why not and I said because I just don’t that; it makes me uncomfortable and I just don’t want to do it. Then he said, what if I give you money? I said that doesn’t make any difference, and I established this for myself a long time ago. Either I want to do something, or I don’t want to do something, and money will never enter into it if I don’t want to do it. It makes choices a lot easier for me. For example, that night with George, he said, “I will give you thousand dollars if you come up and jam one song with me,” and I said “No.” He said “It’s a thousand dollars. you don’t even have to play anything, just be up there with a guitar.” I said, “I don’t care, I don’t want to do it and so it doesn’t matter what amount.” So he said, “Ok, then ten thousand – I’ll go to the band and I’ll drag out ten thousand dollars and I will give it to you.” And I said “No.” He said, “What are you crazy?” I said “I’m not crazy, it’s just that I don’t ever base my decisions on how much money is involved.” And I don’t, and a lot of people don’t believe that. My friends know that it is true, but it makes live much simpler. I don’t have to sit there and wonder where the line is. Will I do something if they give me this much money? I think it makes life easier and better; more honest. If I want to do something, then we can negotiate price (laughs), but if I don’t, then I don’t care how much money you offer me. I’m just not going to do it. It’s a little like..It’s like people that I know, friends or people that I’ve met who were….and there’s nothing wrong with this, it’s not anti-gay or anything….but a straight guy said, “Well I’m not gay, but for a million dollars I’ll suck a d-ck.” They’ll say that and then look at me and say “You wouldn’t?” I’d say “No!” I mean, to be honest I’m not into that; there’s nothing wrong with that and if I was going to do that it wouldn’t be because of the money, it’d be because I want to. Ok, that’s what the quote is going to be right there! (laughs). I either want to do something or I don’t . Sucking a d-ck is not something, today, that I particularly feel like doing. So it doesn’t matter if someone gave me a million dollars, I’m not going to do it (laughs). It’s being a whore basically – if you’re doing something for the money, unless you enjoy it. If you’re enjoying it and it’s something you want to do and you’re making money at it, that’s great. If you’re doing something only because of the money, then it’s whorish and I try to live my live unwhorishly.
NI Rocks: Would you ever think of doing another solo album, or is the focus very much on Red Dragon Cartel?
Jake: Yeah, I don’t really feel any need to do any kind of solo album. I’m really happy with Red Dragon Cartel as it is right now. When I did A Fine Pink Mist it was obviously the first solo album that I did, but it was the first time that I actually wrote songs that I didn’t collaborate in any way with anybody else. It was always a band situation before that and in a band situation you’ll get into arguments. You’ll think “No, the song should do this here;” somebody else will have another viewpoint and you have to finesse your way through; it’s like negotiating for a song. I wanted to do something where no-one would argue with me. I’d always agree with myself (laughs). And so, I played the bass on that and I programmed the drums for it; which some people have given me s–t about, because it’s not real drums, but I feel that I did a hell of a job on it. The drums sound great on there and I don’t care what you say. So, I did everything and it was cathartic; it felt good to be able to do something and know that it was done completely my way. I didn’t have to listen to anybody else. That was the mid-90’s and the whole computer thing with the software that you can do everything by yourself. I continued to do that, but I started to miss the collaboration, because sometimes it’s good to have someone say “No” or “That doesn’t sound good there.” I missed that, and with Red Dragon Cartel…well, I kinda got it (laughs). I didn’t get it that much. Red Dragon Cartel is really good in that it’s not…..how should I word this…..it’s not a completely..separate…band…so to speak. It’s my band; so it’s a nice in-between, where I do still collaborate. All the songs were written by me and Anthony, and I do get to have that situation of people telling me “No, this doesn’t sound good, why don’t we try it this way.” I get to have that collaboration, but because it’s my band, I have the final say. So it’s kinda the perfect combination.
NI Rocks: I was going to ask about Badlands if you don’t mind. A lot of people will know you from your days with Ozzy but Badlands was actually one of my favourite bands at the time. What are your memories now of recording those albums and working with the late Ray Gillen?
Jake: Well, it was great. I was just out of Ozzy and musically everything was beautiful; I loved it. But there was this anticipation of whether or not people were going to buy it, because everybody expected it to be a heavy metal album. Ray had just gotten out of Black Sabbath and Eric Singer had just gotten out of Black Sabbath; and I was out of Ozzy, so everybody just assumed that it was going to be heavy metal, and it wasn’t. The making of the record was beautiful. Everything was working the way I was hoping it would and it came out the way that I wanted it to. It was exciting just because I wanted to see how people reacted to it. It was, musically, one of the highlights of my career. And it was a chance to work with Ray, who to my ears, is one of the greatest rock singers of all time. And to have been able to work with him….yeah, it almost brings tears to my eyes. Well it does, if I think about Ray too much.
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