James Azrael - Court Jester

October 21, 2004

Tell me a little bit about your band.

We call it whiskey rock. The more you drink, the more we rock. We like that title and we're big fans of Jack Daniels and whiskey. Our band's fun. It's more fun that just saying "yeah, we're hard rock."

It's always good to have a gimmick.

What is hard rock anymore? We're whiskey rock. We're the party band. We're in it for a good time.

I think rock and roll should be about having a good time.

And not this whining stuff that "my childhood sucked." I'm not going to name names.

I think we all know.

Excellent.

When did you guys first get together?

It's been six years. '98.

Had you known each other for a while before that?

Not at all. Eric the bassist and I had formed a band. We started filling in pieces.

I understand you're an ordained minister.

I'm an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church.

Is it the Unitarians or something different?

No, it's nondenominational. It takes three minutes of your time online. I can perform weddings and bar mitzvahs. Baptisms. I suppose I can do everything. Mostly weddings though.

You can brush up on everything else later.

I can be Jewish one day, Lutheran the next. It doesn't matter.

That's pretty versatile. Out of curiosity, what led you to become an ordained minister?

So I can tell people I am. So I can perform weddings. Many, many years ago, this guy I know that works in a radio marketing division is an ordained minister as well. He performed a wedding at a GWAR concert. When he told me about that, I had to do that because at some point I want to take people on stage and get them married. It's also great at parties. You get people drunk, get them to say "I do", and then tell them you're a minister and they're married. Not that it's legal but it really freaks the hell out of them. Should the CD ever fail, I can always just move to Vegas and get a drive through wedding chapel going.

I know for a while KISS was letting people get married on stage with them. Tell me a bit about the CD you guys put out.

Gina has been out just about a year now. We're coming up on a year when we come back to Dallas. It'll be a year in a month or so. It was years of chapters of our lives that we finally got nailed down and locked on the CD. "Stand Up" is the single. That is more closely related to our other guitarist Dan. That was his baby. "Stand Up" is just your straight up guitar-driven good time rock and roll song. It's an anthem if you will as other people have been calling it. We're pleased as pigs in shit at that label. An anthem can stick around for a long time.

Yeah, anthems do tend to last.

"Welcome To Hell" is my baby. It's my close song. I first wrote the basics of it in 1992 or 1993. It's just been evolving ever since then. When we went into the studio, it's an old song for me and it just wasn't there so I brought in Jim Miller to lay down keyboards on the album. He just started laying down this funeral organ at the beginning of it and we're sitting there in the booth with our producer and these chills are coming over us. This song got really evil. That was what finally got it. We finally got it the way it should be.

I think it's cool when songs differ from each other. You have songs with different moods in them.

Excellent. I'm glad you noticed that. Pretty much from the beginning, that's always been something that people said when they see us live or listen to us. That song to song, it's not the same thing over and over again. You'll get a lot of that with the bands that are out. Especially live, you hear one song and you don't know when the song is ended and when one is begun. That's bad for a band that's not selling out stadiums.

You get bands where everything has to be deep and dark and bands where everything has to be happy and bright. Mix it up a little bit.

Even in there we mix up a dark song with happy. If you listen to "All Hallow's Eve", that's our ode to Michael Myers. Our song about the Halloween movies.

It's hard to decide if I like the Friday The 13th series, the Halloween series, or the Nightmare On Elm Street series the best.

You can't choose. You can't choose series because there are some really bad movies in those series.

Funny ones anyway.

Halloween is always partial to me. Without Halloween, you wouldn't have gotten your Friday The 13th or your Nightmare On Elm Street. It opened a huge door for that.

I really like the old vampire, werewolf, and Frankenstein movies that were done in black and white because they had more of an eerie feel to them and they were more creepy.

I agree with you on that. Color has taken a lot away from that.

Yeah, it has because I watched the colorized version of some of those old movies and it doesn't have the same creepy atmosphere.

Nah, nothing will ever supersede Alfred Hitchcock's use of Hershey's syrup as blood. That was just perfect. You can't do that in color.

You sure can't. Is this your first CD or do you have prior releases?

First one that we admit to. When we first started out, we recorded a live disc for just the purposes of booking shows and stuff. We didn't just record it. We actually manufactured it and had some minor distribution with it but we don't admit to it. It's pretty bad. We had a bad singer back then too.

"I plead the fifth, man." You guys are going to be on some world wizard tour or something. What is that?

The Wizard World? That's a comic book convention. I guess it's the second largest comic book convention. The largest being the San Diego Comic-Con.

So you guys are real heavy into comics?

You know, we enjoy them. It's more of a direct audience for us. We're the only band that's there. It's a great way for us to get out and party with the fans and just meet them and hang out. There are no tour buses. There's no "okay, we got to jump into the bus and get to the next city." There's no "all right, we might be playing a show." Dave Tedder's taking care of that. There's no break down of gear. It's just a party and that's something that we enjoy because we love to be accessible.

Do you guys get to do cool stuff like that a lot?

Like the Wizard? We do Chicago and we do Texas. This is the second year. We just did the Chicago show in August. That was a blast. The Chicago show is probably about five or six times as big as the Texas show.

You have some guy doing a poster thing for you. It has something to do with that Wizard convention.

Yeah, Tone Rodriguez. We didn't have a new album done yet to bring down there. We wanted something special to release there. Tone is a friend of ours whom we met through the conventions. He does the artistry for John Carpenter's Snake Plissken Chronicle series. He did the DVD art for the Escape From New York DVD. The Predator Vs. Alien collector cards. When we decided we wanted to do something like this, put us more into the comic book genre, we just called him up and he jumped on it and got his buddy Thomas Luth who is an amazing colorist. Worked for Disney. Did the color work and stuff on Usagi Yojimbo which is a samurai rabbit. The poster looks awesome. There's a sneak peek on the website if you jump on there. We're going to release that exclusively at least for now at Wizard Texas and Tone is going to be coming by to sign copies of it for everybody as well. Then there are some other things that I can't mention yet.

At least not right now.

There's part can't really get into it because the i's aren't dotted and the t's aren't crossed and part if you start talking about it, then it won't happen.

Yeah, that's true or it won't happen the way you wanted it to. You guys had this album out for a year so are you working on new material?

We have started to write a little bit. We're looking at collaborating with some other artists in our genre. Names that you'll recognize when you see them. Not being too vague for you? But yeah, we are working on it. We've got one song that's pretty much written. I'm known for my epics. My epic songs that are not radio friendly. Like the song "Court Jester" on the album.

Songs that are 20 minutes long.

Yeah. This one got banned from being on Gina because it was really long and we had two long songs on there already. This is going to be about a 14 minute epic. I don't know how to describe it. It's more of a technical metal than some of the just straight up rock that we do. We're talking to some composer about putting strings and an orchestra on to it so it's going to be wild and something to look forward to on the CD but you'll never hear it on the radio.

I think the longest song on the radio that I ever heard was that "Bye Bye American Pie" song by Don McLean.

Every now and then you'll hear "Negada Da Vida" but we can't compete with that.

You guys will be in Dallas in the next few weeks then.

Two weeks from today. November 5th, 6th, and 7th.

What are your plans after that?

Over Thanksgiving we're going to be down in Jacksonville, Florida at the Connection Festival.

Hopefully there won't be any hurricanes.

It was supposed to be in Pensacola which is the opposite side of the state and they had to move because they got hit by the hurricane.

That was pretty wild. Four hurricanes in a row.

I'm glad I'm in Chicago sometimes. We're really bouncing around on what we're going to do with this next album. We're definitely going to stay, it's hard for me to say similar in style because we jump song to song with what we're doing, but there will definitely be that aspect of it and it's definitely going to be whiskey rock still. You'll be able to pop it in and party down all night.

When do you think the next CD will come out?

Hopefully in 2005. Hopefully before this time next year. In that time we're also trying to get this DVD released from our tour this past summer. We're working on that. We had a rockumentarist, Joe, come with us and just videotaped everything we did. He's putting it together. It'll be like 45 minutes to an hour and tell the story of this crazy band on the road. We enjoy it. We watched all the raw footage which is an incredible amount of time but we're like that. We love to see ourselves on TV.

That's kind of an odd feeling.

We do stuff like that too. Everything we do, we really do it because we want to do it. When we create merchandise or whatever, it's because it's something that we would wear. It's something that we want. Years back we had a beer stein made and for no practical reason except Dan the other guitarist and I wanted a beer stein with our logo on it.

KISS has all their merchandise.

Exactly. We took the pages right out of KISS' book on marketing. We're still trying to get action figures made. With this DVD, it's something that we want and we think people are going to enjoy it. We want it so we'll make it.

Is there a lot of on stage and back stage stuff?

Yeah, there will be a behind the scenes thing from our video shoot for "Stand Up" and a bunch of extras.

Any other thoughts or comments?

www.courtjestermusic.com, the best website on the Net. Everything's on there. We're really pushing. We've got a forum that just got set up so we're really pushing that. Trying to get people to start using it. That's just another way, like I said, we like to be really accessible.

So jump on the forum and start posting stuff.

Yeah, and there's always stuff in there. Our webmaster and our newsletter guy are always in there putting stuff up as soon as things are happening. That gets updated usually before the website.

Check the forum first.

There are lots of fun people on there. Our fans are cool.

Cool bands have cool fans.

Exactly. The Whiskey Clutch.

Like Zakk Wylde and his Black Label Society chapters in every city.

Zakk can drink me under the table.

Court Jester