Ben Jackson - Ben Jackson Group

April 18, 2005

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I was the guitarist in Crimson Glory, one of the founding members. We began in 1986 with our first release and shot to pretty big success over in Europe and Japan. We did pretty well over there in '86 and '88 with our first two releases and since then I did another record with a band called Parish in 1995. We also did pretty well in Europe and Japan. After that band fell apart because the singer wanted to do something different is about the time I decided I wanted to try my stuff at singing and just go as a solo thing for a while. That's what led me to this right now.

What did the singer want to do that was so different?

He wanted to get out of music all together. After we had the band Parish together for a few years, it seemed like I put a lot of effort in it to try to get a deal in Europe and Japan. We all worked hard on the record and just a month or two after the record came out, he left suddenly. He wanted to go back to school and that's cool. That was admirable but I just felt with as many bands as I'd been in, and I always watched how the singer seemed to be the important guy, where if you lose him you're always back to square one. Me being a guitar player in bands mostly, I just wanted to say screw it, I want to step up and be the singer now so nothing can happen this time around to put a stop to my work. I can be more on a mainstream and not have to worry about the setback.

The singer does make the band. That's usually the one people talk about the most.

Yeah and if you can keep a relationship with someone for a long time, then that's great. All the projects I was in just kept falling apart due to some internal issue that wasn't my problem. I just finally wanted to take care of my own business and be a solo. That's why I'm doing the Ben Jackson Group. We're doing well. We're having great fun with it.

You said that in your two bands, you were really successful in Europe and Japan. How about in the States?

Well, my second band Parish didn't really gain too much success in the States because we were just getting going with one release when like I said things fell apart. My first band Crimson Glory did pretty well in the States. We had a hit video called "Lonely" was the name of the song. It was on MTV. They used to play it back in the late '80s on Headbanger's Ball every weekend and we did a little bit of touring around the States. We played Dallas quite a few times and we always did well over there. The metal fans of Texas are definitely some of my favorites. Very cool.

Yes, we love our metal.

We played The Basement over there and a couple of other places. Dallas was a lot of fun. A place called Key Largo in Arlington. We did pretty good in the States but we were more on the headlining club circuit. We didn't really do as well as over in Europe where we'd go over and do big festivals with people like Ozzy and Metallica. Queensryche and people like that.

Tell me a little bit about Crimson Glory and why you guys split up.

In 1986 Crimson Glory came out with our first CD and we were all pretty young back then. Maybe 19 or 20ish and we found ourselves right away going over and touring with bands like Metallica and Anthrax right after our first CD came out. Then our second one came out even stronger with a nice hit on MTV with a song called "Lonely". We found ourselves over in Europe again touring with bands like Queensryche. In 1990 the band broke up because of a lot of the usual things that young bands go through. Not getting along and not seeing eye to eye all the time but that's where we called it quits for almost the whole decade of the '90s. Our big stretch was from '86 to '90.

That was basically the period where there was really good music out.

Yeah, we came right out on time when bands like Metallica were pretty new and bands like Dokken and Motley Crue were the big thing. We were a little more on the heavier side of all that. We were more like Queensryche and Metallica. We weren't so much like the pretty boy bands out there at the time like Poison and Ratt and all them. Our image was a little more like Judas Priest.

You didn't have your hair all puffed up.

We did. We had pretty big hair back then but I don't know if you're familiar with the mask thing we had going on. Back on our first two CDs, we used to wear a chrome silver mask over our faces. It was almost reminiscent of a KISS thing. Everybody was saying "what's this Crimson Glory mask thing?" It was kind of like KISS but everybody had their own silver mask. Each one was shaped a little differently like the Phantom of the Opera kind of look. We would dress all in black and silver and that was our image. We did a lot of big hair and hair spray but we didn't wear makeup and lipstick and stuff like that. We just went more with the black and chrome image.

Lipstick wouldn't have worked.

No.

Who came up with the idea of doing the mask thing?

It was just a crazy idea that the other guitar player, Jon Drenning, and our manager at the time, Warren Wyatt, showed up at my house one afternoon. We were getting ready to do a band photo shoot and they said they had this crazy idea. They stopped at a costume shop on the way here and picked up these masks and they're going to cut them, trim them, and sculpt them all out and try this idea. I thought it was kind of far-fetched at first but I remember the bass player, Jeff Lords, didn't really like the idea at all. He was like what is this. We went with it and we tried a couple of photo shoots with these masks and next thing you know, it grew and it became our thing. When we went on our initial tours over there to Europe, we would wear them at every performance. We wouldn't even do any photo shoots during the day with magazines and such unless we were wearing them. Every photo that you would see in all the fanzines and everything would just be these five guys with their chrome masks on. It kind of lent a lot of mystique to the band. Some fans out there thought it was silly but it seemed like a lot of fans really got caught up in the whole mystique and thought it was really cool.

They got caught up in it when KISS came out with their makeup jobs.

Yeah, we weren't the first ones to do something like that, that's for sure. We put on our own little twist on it.

Now you have Slipknot.

Yeah, they're really going off with it now. They've got some wild masks.

I saw them at Ozzfest last year and when we have Ozzfest here, it's the hottest month in the year it seems. Being in Texas, August is the most hot month of all and these guys wear masks and black uniforms and I kept checking back to see if they had a heat stroke yet.

Yeah, they were probably dying. I remember our drummer, Dana Burnell, used to tour with Crimson and he would just have snot running down his nose. He said it was just from the mask. He said it was some reaction. He said when he wore it and tried to play his drums, his whole face sweats and snot runs down his face. We're like get used to it buddy.

Being the drummer is the hottest job.

Yeah, it's not something you want to sit back behind your drums wearing a mask on your face and trying to play for two hours under the stage lights. It was probably pretty uncomfortable for him.

Tell me a little more about Parish.

After Crimson Glory broke up in 1990, the original drummer Dana Burnell and myself pulled from Crimson Glory and pursued on and formed another band called Parish. We brought in a couple of other local guys. A good guitar player named Dave Edward and we found a singer from up in Rhode Island named John David. We brought them in and we had a pretty good run for about three years playing the local area and writing and performing our originals. Eventually we got out one release in '95 called Envision and that was released in Europe and Japan and it did pretty well in both of those markets but we never really seemed to lift off too well here in America as far as with our record release. Right after '96 I think, the vocalist wanted to go back to college and study to be a graphic designer so it drew the whole band back into the beginning stages of having no singer so that's when I decided to break away from Parish and pursue my own solo path I've been on ever since.

Crimson Glory did this reunion album sort of thing in '99.

Actually in '98 I got a call from a couple of the guys who said they were going to have a go at a reunion CD and at first I didn't really jump at the idea but eventually I ended up getting on board with them and the result was an album called Astronomica that came out in '99. All of us originals except the drummer and lead singer Midnight were on a tour we went on in Europe in 2000 to promote Astronomica. We played seven countries and had a really good tour over there. Then after returning from that tour, Crimson Glory ended up splitting up again for probably the last four or five years. It's been pretty inactive up until recently. There's been talk and maybe some new plans about the band coming back together again. We're all going to have to hold our breaths on that right now.

You have the Judas Priest thing going and Black Sabbath.

I think it's about time.

If you guys do reunite, is it going to be with all the original people?

That's what we're hoping for. There's been a little talking about it to see if everybody is up for it. I think just about everybody is. Our original drummer Dana Burnell may not come in because he hasn't really been playing for several years and he's got a career and a life of his own now that's not so music related so he may or may not want to do it. I hope he does. Outside of him I think everybody else is probably going to come in and give it a try for one more record. Maybe a small tour. We'll see what happens from there.

If you guys reunite again, are we going to have the mask thing?

I'm thinking probably not. That idea will probably be left in the dust.

You had the opportunity to open for Ozzy. I noticed that some of your influences were Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, and Judas Priest. Did you manage to open for some of those bands?

None of those per se. Some of my favorite bands of the '70s were guys like Aerosmith because I grew up liking rock from that era. Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith. Never really got to open with any of those guys but those are my true heroes. Some of the guys in the big bands from the '80s like I mentioned, Ozzy, Queensryche, Metallica, and Anthrax, we did some touring with those guys. That was quite a bit of fun. I looked up to all those guys too.

It must be cool to have all these heroes and then meet them later on.

Yeah, but like Metallica and those guys, they're my same age so they weren't my childhood heroes. It was almost like they were coming out right around the time we were but they became a huge phenomena overnight. We were still on the small scale but it was cool though because we got to tear up with a lot of them and play some big shows.

In 2001 you came out with your first solo release Here I Come. You guys just released a new CD called All Over You in 2005. Why was there a four year period between those two records?

In 2001 we brought out Here I Come and that was basically me doing most of the parts on that CD. The guitars, bass, and vocals. I had a drummer with me who was from Parish, my friend Rich Tabor. When you say a solo project, I guess that really was one because I was doing almost everything on it and it was an experimental thing for me to try to do the vocals for the first time. After that album I really started looking for other members to really fill this band out and make it not so much just a recording thing but a full band. I guess it took me a couple of years just to find the right people in my area and to get the band completed. Also I had a couple of children during that time so I guess that would explain the four year space between Here I Come and the second CD. Now we recorded the second one with our full group. Another guitar player, a bass player, and it was really more like a group effort. Made it much stronger.

Who all do you have in the band and how did you find them?

Rich Tabor the drummer was doing the band Parish with me 10 years ago and he's been with me ever since then. He played on Here I Come. Mark Borgmeyer is the guitar player and he's known around here as just Borgy. Everyone calls him Borgy and he's really an amazing guitar player. I found him here in Sarasota. He's been in a couple of good local bands and a well known guitar player in the area. I scooped him up for the All Over You CD. Another great guy I picked up was Dano Binz on bass. He's been a really good player in our area for years which I've known about so I was lucky enough to get him on board too. Then the last person that we brought in was a young lady named Rose Sexton who joined us initially just to be a back up singer but her involvement got a little more and a little more as we went along and you hear her voice all over the record doing harmonies and backups. It really adds quite a bit of spice to the band now having her involved. You'll be hearing more from her in the future I'm sure.

You live in the same area as the Firehouse guys. Have you guys ever played together?

No I haven't. I've seen the guys around and met them and actually they're nice guys. Sometimes they play in a local club here or sometimes we do. We haven't actually done any shows on the same night with them. Another guy who lives here in town is Brian Johnson from AC/DC and we got a chance to play out with him one night with my band Parish. We were playing out here in Sarasota and he and Brian Howe from Bad Company both popped up and they got up and jammed and did some of their own material. We had a good time meeting them and hanging out. There are a few rock stars living around Sarasota. Crimson Glory and Brian Johnson and Firehouse. It's a good town to live in. When I met Perry, their first bass player, he actually told me he was a Crimson Glory fan. I was kind of surprised. With Crimson Glory, we didn't quite make it to the national level of success they did. We had our share but it was more of an underground kind of lesser known band I think.

Why do you feel that you had more success overseas than you did here?

I don't know. I guess we just caught the right breaks. After we put out our first CD, all the magazine people over there really started writing great things and reviews about our first album. We were invited to go over and do a huge festival with Metallica and Anthrax and some other bands. This was probably only our second or third show we ever played anywhere as a band and it was in front of thousands of people on a great bill like that. From there it spread. We ended up going back to Europe three or four times in those three years we were together in the late '80s and we toured all over the place over there as well as Japan. We went over to Japan in '89 and had a pretty successful headlining tour over there.

With your All Over You CD you put out, you recorded that at the same studio that you had recorded at with Crimson Glory and Parish.

Yeah, Morrisound Recording Studios in Tampa, FL is the place we got our start with Crimson Glory because originally we heard about another hot Florida band called Savatage that was doing their stuff up there. We went up there to do Crimson Glory albums and we were all very young and it's been a very well known studio for heavy metal and all types of metal. Bands from all around the world actually come to Florida to record at Morrisound. It's been a place for bands like Iced Earth and Jag Panzer and Crimson Glory and Savatage and Warrant. A lot of great bands have gone there so that's why I went back there for All Over You. I knew I could get something really great out of it working with those guys up there.

Why is that studio such a hotspot for everyone? You hear a lot about studios in L.A. and the music scene in L.A. so why that particular studio?

I don't know. There's a particular scene that grew up around Tampa in the early and mid '80s and at that particular time, it was just probably the best quality place in town for everybody to go. As all these bands like Savatage and Nasty Savage and Morbid Angel started going over to Morrisound and recording, it just became known as the place to go. Since the '80s it's grown even more and more and more good acts have gone there. There's other topnotch studios in Florida that are world famous in Miami like Criteria and stuff like that but I'd say for the Tampa area of the state, the middle part of the state, there's nothing better than Morrisound and it's pretty well known.

You signed with Screaming Ferret. Is All Over You the first record that you out on that label or did you put out your previous one on that label as well?

The previous was just released through a label called Nightmare Records which is more like an online chop label and it was also on my own website. It wasn't really released as far as distributed in stores throughout the world so a lot of people didn't even really find out about it because as I said it was my first solo thing. My first shot at doing the vocals. It was on a smaller scale but All Over You attracted the attention of Screaming Ferret Records and they're taking us to a whole new level now so it should be great working with them. I think they're a small and up and coming label but they're making big waves and they really work hard on their promotions and everything and they seem to be doing really good things for the band right now.

I noticed that and I've seen other bands on that label. I think when you're a smaller label it's a lot easier for you to put in more time than let's say if you're a bigger label like Sony.

Yeah, exactly. They even said that when I first started talking to them. When you're on a smaller label, you're like a big fish in a small pond. That's a nice way to look at it.

Better than being a little fish in a big ocean.

Yeah, because they were really behind the record and they really liked the band so I know they're going to work hard for us.

Tell me a little about the new record.

It's just a mix up of a lot of my influences and it's been compared to stuff like Skid Row, Black Label Society, and Bon Jovi. Just a bit of everything. It's not all '80s sounding I don't think. Some of it is a little more modern sounding.

People in Europe still like their metal and that '80s type sound. With your new release, it's all over the place. How are people receiving that overseas?

So far, it hasn't been released in Europe. Only in America. It's just coming out over there on May 23. I guess all the press copies have been sent out to the magazine people for reviews and all the reviews I've seen so far have been really good. I'm happy about that. Everybody seems to really dig it. They say it's just a really cool record to listen to and it's got a lot of heavy grooves and harmonious melodies. That was basically what we were trying to give. It's being accepted. So far so good.

I really love the first song on that record.

Yeah, everybody is picking up towards that one. I appreciate your saying that.

Do you get the feeling that people in the States are getting a bit bored with the music scene? They're looking more towards your direction now and bands that are sounding '80s but still sounding current.

I don't know what exactly all the newer bands are thinking or what they're going to do next but it seems like our type of music is still strong in Europe and Japan. America changes from year to year and these new trends seem to come around and next thing you know, there's a handful of bands out that all seem to sound exactly the same. One thing about the '80s rock that was really cool, there was the glam side of metal and then the really heavy side of metal like Metallica and Priest but it was all well produced and really well presented with stage shows and everything. Then in the '90s and sometimes even now, you see these bands that look kind of grungy and sound kind of garagy and I guess that's the cool thing of the day. I would like to see the music come back and be a little more melodic and played with better technique.

People being a little more happier about things.

Yeah, I agree. Some people have even said what's with all the new bands. It sounds like a bunch of angry young men screaming.

Maybe this is an angry time.

There's nothing wrong with having some songs on your CD that display some killer attitude. Maybe have a little screaming. That's part of rock and roll. You don't have to sound like you're so pissed off all the time.

We live in fairly dark times so you need to come up with a positive attitude.

Yeah, that's what Crimson Glory used to write about. Some of our songs and themes were more toward the positive side and I try to do that as well. Hopefully a lot of people will follow suit.

What kind of touring situation are you looking at?

We're going to hopefully get something going on in Europe maybe summer or fall. Go over there for a month and maybe support another band or do something as a headlining group. I'm not sure. Whatever we can get arranged and for the States, we're going to try to do some shows around the States too. Mostly in Florida, up and down the southern East coast, and possibly get a little more widespread as things go. Some of us here have working situations and family situations that don't really allow for us to go out on one of those 10 month tours so we're going to have to do it in small doses for now.

I think it's a bit rough to do these two year world tour things these days.

Yeah, some bands used to put out a record and they'd hit the road for nine months and then not even come home but these days you have to manage it a little better.

Of course that was back in the day when you didn't have a couple of kids, a wife, and a mortgage.

That's true. Most of us all have these kind of responsibilities now.

You guys are working on your third album now.

Yeah, Ben Jackson Group is already halfway into the writing on our third album. It's coming out really good too. We're giving Rose Sexton a chance to sing lead on one song and the material is coming out really heavy. I think we're even going to step it up a notch from the All Over You CD and hopefully surpass it with even a bigger effort.

With the All Over You CD being kind of all over the place muscially, is this new one going to be going in a particular direction?

It is smart I know to have maybe more of your songs be real similar and just have almost a stream like style but it's just a part of who I am to be versatile on my records. You're always going to find a couple of songs that are maybe a little out there. A little different from everything else and it gets a little mixed up stylistically. I've seen a couple of the reviews where the people say this is a great record but this guy's influences are all over the map. I think it's going to lean a little bit more towards the heavier side of what we did on All Over You.

When you're all over the map, there's never a dull moment. You listen to one song and then the next one hits you from left field. It keeps your interest.

I think so too. It is the same band song after song with the same vocalists. You hear Rose and I and the production is similar song to song. You know it is one project. It's not like night and day from song to song. I do like to be versatile. I like to give people different things. Just different vibes throughout what we're doing song to song in the writing so it doesn't sound like just 10 songs that all could just be the same song like some bands I've heard do that. I don't want to mention anybody but sometimes that can be a little stale.

With some bands like Def Leppard or AC/DC that works for them. With others it doesn't and that's when they have to mix it up a little bit.

One of the bands that used to mix it up and really get creative was Queen and I know me and the other guys in Crimson Glory were always influenced by bands like Queen and how innovative they were. Bands like Boston and just the influences come from everywhere for me. All types of rock. Not so much any death metal or anything like though. I just like things more on the positive side. More melodic.

People tell me they listen to one genre of music and won't listen anything else. I like stuff that started back in the '50s up through the 90's and stuff now. I like death metal and black metal and other shit.

Well done. It all can be a joy to listen to. One day I can listen to Sabbath and the next day I can listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd or The Allman Brothers and enjoy that too.

I can sit down tomorrow and listen to Madonna.

There is so much enjoyment to be found in the music. People should just open up their minds.

I think with the CD you put out, they will be able to.

Yeah, hopefully.

Ben Jackson Group