Todd McTavish - Judge Jackson

August 21, 2008

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The last time I talked to you guys you had put out your record One Diamond.

Wow. Weíve got a new record out.

Yes. What have you guys been doing since One Diamond?

Well, weíve played a lot of shows. We ended up getting a new bass player and a new drummer and doing another record, self-titled Judge Jackson. Then we played another 150 shows and weíre getting ready to go back in the studio to do another record, the follow-up to that one.

Wow, you guys are busy as hell.

Thatís basically whatís been going on in a nutshell.

Well, what led to the lineup change and how did you choose the guys that you chose?

Well, the lineup change that just happened was the original rhythm section, the bass player and the drummer. It just ran its course. It wasnít working anymore so we ended up getting the rhythm section of another band that had dissolved around the same time. Theyíd been buddies of ours from the inception of Judge Jackson back in Ď95. One thing led to another but the bass player and the drummer spots were both open and the transition was made and we donít look back. Weíre happier now with this new lineup than ever before as far as that goes. Itís pretty stoking. We finally realized weíve got that chemistry right. We did three records up to One Diamond. That was the third record. Weíve done one since then. Weíre on the verge of doing our next one. It just seems all the writing has come to a mature level and weíve found a real identity as far as our little piece of the pie in the world of the music industry.

I noticed that one of those guys was in two bands whose CDs Iíve reviewed before. Stone and The Rocking Scoundrels.

Yeah, thatís Chewy. Thatís the bass player. Yeah, Brian.

I was like wow, thatís a small world.

Him and the drummer, J.J. They were both in Stone together.

Yeah, I reviewed that CD and did an interview with Brad Wilson.

Right, yeah. He was the third guy, the singer and guitar player of that band.

Thatís really remarkable that you picked up those guys.

Oh, I know. Like I said, weíve known them for a while. It when down with our drummer first and then J.J. came on board. Then we actually did that record and then after the record our bass player just up and quit basically. We were doing a lot of traveling and a lot of biker shows. I think the traveling away from home and the intensity of some of the shows, it really just did get to him. He said he was fed up, bowing out, and heíd had enough. His rock and roll dreams had been fulfilled and this was as far as it goes for him. At that time we got a hold of Chewy and Brian was in that new band, Rocking Scoundrels or whatever it was, but it wasnít his cup of tea completely so when we called and said we were looking for a bass player and with J.J. on board for the last couple of years, it was just a real natural thing. Weíre good now. Weíre getting ready to go to Laughlin tomorrow and do three shows up there at the Edgewater Casino. Then next week we do our first international show. Weíre flying to Canada to do a show in Toronto. Weíre stoked about that. Weíll come back in and do serious pre-production for a new record and weíll go in in October and record it.

What led to this record being a self-titled record instead of having a title from a titled track?

Good question because our very first record was self-titled and then we had a second record called 8068 and then we had One Diamond and then we had this self-titled record again. I wasnít necessarily into it because with me, weíd already done that. So when J.J. came on board, he was the one that lobbied for a self-titled record saying basically that it was a new beginning with this band. That the first three records were a chapter. This is a new chapter so for marketing purposes and shopping purposes, why donít we just do a self-titled and make it real simple. Judge Jackson Judge Jackson. These were some of the things that he had in mind as far as why we should name it self-titled and I guess at the time that was the least of my concerns and I just said whatever. I said thatís fine, letís just do it like that. It starts off the new chapter so thatís what led to that.

I guess I understand that. Itís a new beginning. That almost sounds like a Friday The 13th movie. A new beginning.

I know it sounds corny or whatever is the case but I guess it seemed right at the time and it was like okay, letís just start this fresh again. Lee and I are primarily the songwriters but weíve been through this from the get go but the rhythm section has revolved over the years. But like I said, with Chewy a.k.a. Brian and J.J., it finally feels right. The four of us are all on the same page and itís a pleasure doing shows with these guys.

You still have that enthusiasm that you had the last time.

Yeah, I wouldnít be doing this if I didnít. I still look at myself in the mirror and go ďdo you still got it? Do you still want it? Do you still enjoy that much?Ē Yeah, even more so today than yesterday. Making this record will be the fifth one weíve made and I so enjoy it. I tell you what, as long as I make this record I can die upon my final vocal track but damn it, weíre going to make this record. Thatís how passionate you get towards it. Looking at the songs and thinking ďis this the best we can do? Is this better than anything weíve done on the first four records? Yes, it is.Ē Until itís totally yes, yes, yes, youĎve got to go back to the drawing board and write more of it. I feel weíre in it for the right reasons. Weíre in it because weíre songwriters and we enjoy that process. Weíre not in it to be rock stars. We donít care about that. Weíve got a good presentation and we can deliver what we record just as good as we record it. Weíre in it because we like writing songs and some of our songs have been getting licensed over the last couple of records. Thatís exciting to start making money through those avenues. I donít have a day job anymore. I am a paid musician. This is what I do. Judge Jackson is my only gig and I make money to live off of by that. Iím living a dream. I couldnít ask for anything more. We get one of these songs to break on any one of our records, well that just goes to another level and thatís great. But as it is, weíre playing enough shows and generating enough revenue through our shows, through merchandise, through the licensing, and weíre making a living doing it. What I honestly feel is why weíre still doing it is because weíre songwriters. This is what we do. Weíre not trying to be rock stars. You come out to one of our shows and youíll be thinking ďthese guys are the real deal.Ē In the back of my mind this is all secondary because sure we have fun with it and itís genuine. Thereís no faking it. Itís real as it is. But itís all about the songwriting process and the next record and the next batch of songs as far as Iím concerned. Thatís the most exciting thing to me if youíre asking me.

The last time I talked to you, you guys were really ramped up and you were talking about how you wanted to get to the next level. It seems to me like you guys finally succeeded in that.

Weíre a working band. Weíre always looking for that big break like any artist or any band is. At the same time weíre getting all sorts of breaks. Itís all a matter of perception I guess. For us, weíve got a song on NASCAR. Theyíre still playing that. Youíve got that song off of One Diamond for My Name Is Earl. You start getting the residuals for that and then all of a sudden itís a new record and rock and roll. Theyíre getting played on every sports show. Popping up on here and popping up on there. A lot of the songs are getting picked up on radio stations and getting played regularly on some reputable stations. Thatís exciting as well. There are a lot of songs in the pipeline for licensing. Some big movies havenít come quite through but at the same time our songs are coming right down to the second last selections or whatnot. Weíre proud of that fact. I truly feel like the licensing side of things is where itís at for songwriters. If you can do the presentation and if you donít mind putting in the miles and all that, thatís just a bonus in your situation. We donít mind. We love it. This is not a normal job, Angela. You know that. You live it or you did it or you donít. Itís as simple as that. Itís not a normal nine to five gig. Either youíre into it or youíre not. You canít fake it. You canít fake it for so many years either. You can fake it for a record or two. I like to think if youíre going on your fifth record, youíre not faking it. Obviously youíre doing something in the right direction.

I think people can tell by the enthusiasm you have whenever you do interviews with people. Itís infectious.

It doesnít even matter if Iím talking to you or any interviewer or my friends or just a stranger in a coffee shop, this is the way I would talk about it. The same excitement. Itís so much fun. Itís exciting going into the new record process. Iím beginning to really enjoy that. Itís exciting to do shows that are exciting. Some of these bigger shows weíve done, this last year we opened for Buckcherry at Arizona Stadium where the Cardinals play in Phoenix. That was a total blast. It was a complete thrill. Weíre doing some good biker events. We played the 60th anniversary for the Hells Angels. We were cordially invited into their house. The place where it all started in San Berdu in their clubhouse and we played a gig in front of 3,000 of these guys back in March. That was a thrill. At gigs like that, you canít fake that kind of shit the way I see it. The fact is, we keep getting invited back by certain groups of guys and I take a lot of pride in that. Weíre delivering the goods. Itís an honest band. Thatís what a lot of those biker situations like. We just came out of Sturgis doing six or seven shows up there as well. Thatís the third year weíve been up there. We seem to be generating a lot around these biker events. I donít know why but it seems to work. Some of these events that youíve probably heard of are incredible to be a part of. Especially from the perspective of us. Looking at it and shaking your head and going ďthis is awesome. Now letís get up in there and rock these sons of bitches.Ē

I think itís cool that you have a song on NASCAR. Iím am avid NASCAR fan.

If youíre not you should be. Weíre stoked about all that. Thatís huge for us. When we got that song picked up by NASCAR, Angela, hereís the whole story. You probably already know it but a whole bunch of the reps from FOX came out and saw one of our gigs. They all got wasted and a couple of them talked to me afterwards and said ďyou should write a song for football. Weíre looking for a new song for football. Youíve got this song for NASCAR.Ē Well, I love football. Lee the guitar player is from Dallas and heís a big Cowboys fan. Weíre all big football fans so we wrote a song called ďHail MaryĒ. Itís a ripping tune. We submitted it. We wrote it, recorded it, and submitted it. They picked it up. I did some lyrical changes just like I did in ďKingĒ for the NASCAR version which is actually called ďI Am The ManĒ. Same kind of deal for ďHail MaryĒ which turned into ďGet BusyĒ for the college. They shot a video a couple of weeks ago and itís coming out in a campaign starting next week as far as for FOX college Division 1 football. The theme song is the song we wrote called ďGet BusyĒ. Stuff like that happens and thatís just exciting to be a part of it. A part of the business.

Yeah, you get your stuff out there and thatís what brings in the money and then you can get more of your stuff out there.

You get lucky with your songs and you get a little break and it just takes things to a different level. Thatís all. Thereís just more money to be made and the shows just get a little bit more bigger. Itís rock and roll. It makes you feel good. It makes you feel rad or whatever youíre looking for at that time the way I look at it.

How do you feel that this new record differs from the last one and how do you feel it might be similar?

I think itís a progression from the Judge Jackson one, the fourth one. This is the one weíre about to make. I just think pound for pound all 10 songs are just better. I think weíve really discovered who we are as a band and as songwriters. I think we totally capture that in every song thatís coming up in this new record. I think thereís going to be more calories with this new record. A little more faster tunes with a pulse. I really realize as a lyric writer, itís not what you say. Itís how you say it. The melody line has got to be so important. We really took the time to implement great melody lines with great riffs that we would come up with this time. To be a little bit more disciplined and not just jump at the first hook. Jump at the first line. Really work it through different variations and come up with the best one. We wrote 30 songs for this record and this will be the first time we actually went through that grueling process of picking down to 10.

How do you do that?

Weíre songwriters. Thatís what we do.

That has to be difficult. How do you say ďokay, 20 of these are just going to have to go.Ē

I hate that. Thatís the worst part about it and rarely can I do that. It has to be done for me. Iím learning to be not so personal towards the songs. Thatís one thing Iíve just learned recently. You write a song and it becomes very personal. Itís like a kid. Your kid. When people say itís no good or whatnot, you take that personally. Itís like how dare you. Iím learning not to take them personal. To write them and then disassociate myself with them in a way. I just move on to the next one. Once we get the batch figured out and concentrate a little bit more on those 10 songs until theyíre done, recorded, and then begin the process all over again. Right now itís just all about fine tuning the songs. The 10 that weíve picked. Iím really excited because I know theyíre that good. I feel that confident in saying that. Whether theyíre that good, thatís to be determined but I know that theyíre the best we can write and the best we have written. Damn it, Iím proud of it. Iíll let the record speak for itself. Thatís all I can say about that.

You talk about how youíre working on the next one. Do you find yourself going through that process again of just writing a lot of songs or do you think that some of the songs that didnít make it on this record could be on the next one?

I think theyíre always good enough to be on the next one but then again, Iím so personal to them. I think since we did the last one, we started writing a whole new batch of songs and as songwriters weíve grown. So I donít know. All the material is fresh. Thereís nothing wrong with some of the songs that didnít make those records. Weíve got demos of them and thereís nothing wrong with them. I think we just feel like weíve written even better material just because weíve become better at our craft. I think itís as pure as that. Somewhere along the line we said this is what we do so letís pay attention. Letís learn as much as we can from other songwriters and apply it to our own craft and really be conscious of that for the next record. But yet still be ourselves. Be completely Judge Jackson. Just straight up honest songs about life. Itís basically what they are. Weíre not trying to fool anybody Angela. I always tell people weíre not going to fool them with smoke and mirrors or tattoos. Itís straight up. You either get it or you donít. Thatís about all I can do to describe Judge Jackson. Honest. Either you get it or you donít. If you donít get it bugger off and if you do get it, come on in.

I have to admit I have become a huge fan since I got that first record.

Iím delighted to hear that. Thank you.

Itís always a pleasure to talk to you because youíre so excited and enthusiastic.

Thank you, Angela. Itís always a pleasure to talk to anybody even if they ask questions about the judge. I always enjoy that. Thank you. The pleasure is all mine.

What do you feel the two new guys have brought to the table?

Stability for me and Lee. Theyíre easier to work with. Theyíre team players. Thereís a chemistry involved and they understand what it takes to make it. Whatever your perception of making it is. They understand it. A lot of it is the perception of the music industry and being in a rock and roll band. Itís completely fantasy. The reality is itís a tough industry to crack and thereís a lot of lonely miles out there if you really want to do it. If you think itís autographs and flashes all the time, you have no idea what the reality is. If thatís why youíre doing it, youíre going to be in for a real awakening. If you realize the reality of it, I think you can take it all in stride. Itís what it is but itís always about creating that great record you can play over and over and be proud of it. We all share that same goal so we all cover our bases in a way. What we bring to the table is our instruments and weíre all very conscious of what we can add to that. Lee and I again do the bulk of the writing and the other two guys are aware of that and only contribute to that in a positive way and reinforce it unlike the other guys we used to have. Thatís the difference these guys make. Theyíre more mature. Theyíre more road worthy. Theyíre realistic. They understand the industry. J.J. worked at this magazine. He used to be a fucking rep for Polygram Records for Christís sake back in the 90ís. He understands the industry as well as anybody in the industry because he is the industry. With that knowledge, he basically manages the band. All the bookings and whatnot, they all go through him right now. A lot of that is understanding the business and running this band like a business. Thatís made a big difference and weíre just not flailing around anymore like we were when we put out One Diamond. We were like okay, letís put out a record and hopefully something will happen. Something happened. We realized that you canít just put out a record and think that itís just going to happen. You have to work it however with whatever youíve got to work it with. Again, if youíre in it for the right reasons, youíll put up with a lot of shit but you donít really care because itís doing what you want to do. If weíre playing music, weíre playing music with our brothers and weíre writing our own songs and thatís something we take a lot of pride in.

When you put that record out, you were extremely enthusiastic. You were very energetic about it. I think that did take you somewhere.

Oh, it totally took us somewhere. Iím just talking about how we thought weíd sign a couple million dollar deal and weíll sell 10,000,000 records and when we fly around in our jet itíll be all good by the end of the year. None of that happened. All sorts of great things happened because of One Diamond. We would not have made another record if it werenít for One Diamond. In a way we almost looked at One Diamond as our first record and the Judge Jackson that youíve got as well as our second record which is really our third and fourth record. Things really started with One Diamond. The first two records we can almost write off as glorified demos. Yeah, theyíre CDs. We made those CDs. I donít know if you have a copy of those records. Thereís one record with 11 songs on it and another one with seven songs on it. Iím excited about this new one. Iím as excited as any artist should be going through that process. These are great songs and weíre really happy about this batch. Iíll sit back and listen to these songs unaware that we wrote them. Just listening to them as a consumer thinking these are great songs. You catch yourself doing that and thatís always a good thing. Again weíll see how good they are really when they come out but we are certainly very proud and confident of this batch going into it. Iíll put down my last dime to make this record happen.

Thatís awesome. You have so many great things happening for you and that trip to Canada. Do you foresee more international shows in the future?

Oh, totally. Who wouldnít want to think to say that. Yeah, I think this is just the first of many trips weíll take to Canada and elsewhere. Obviously we want to get over to Europe and we want to do Japan. We want to do those countries. Itís just a matter of those things having the channels to happen but again, the channel to Canada. Itís finally happening. Weíre actually going to another country to play. This is great. Iím stoked. Weíre getting some great press up there and some great radio play as well already in regards to the record. Iím really stoked about that. Everythingís cool. Weíre traveling. I guess you have to like it in a way. If you donít like leaving home youíre not going to like this job. You have to embrace that in a way. I think we do. All four of us are from different places that have all met in Los Angeles. I think we all understand what it is to get up and roll. The four of us being on that same page. Lee has been completely sober now for four years. After One Diamond, he hasnít had a drop. Completed A.A. and things like that I attribute to the stuff happening with us too. Weíre not just floundering and being stupid and getting drunk and stoned. Weíre growing up now I guess if thatís what you want to call it.

Sometimes there are certain things you have to cut out.

Sometimes you just have to wake up and smell the coffee. I think we did that over the last three or four years. We really enjoyed doing this. Letís do it for a little bit longer. Letís cut some of this shit from our lives. Things we just cut right out of our diet all together. That sort of approach is such a healthier approach but all of a sudden weíre getting things done too and itís just a reflection of everything thatís going on and the work too. Letís do that in the next record and itíll be really happening as far as where our heads are now.

When do you foresee the next record coming out?

This one will be recorded in October and it will probably come out in early í09. I would like to have it in hand by Christmas time. It will be coming soon. Early, early í09 is what I would actually say at this point. Iím the most excited. Thatís all I want for Christmas is the record in my hand. Weíre working with the producer now. Weíre going down to where weíre not doing gigs. Weíre tidying it up and weíre ready to go. Weíre picking and reviewing studios at this point. Itís going down and weíre stoked about it. Iím as happy as a pig in shit.

Are you using the same producer that you used for the self-titled one?

Yes, we are. The same guy. This is the second record we do with John Hiler. We developed a really cool chemistry with that one and we want to feel like we can expand on it and our thoughts and his thoughts toward the next record are all in the same department. We want it to be a huge step up. We want it to be a little bit more ear candy like popping off to be able to compete with the big boys. You have to sound like you can throw it on there track for track on the radio and itís going to come out with great songs. If we donít deliver that then we missed the mark. Thatís the way we look at it.

Your songs are nice and melodic and hook driven. Theyíre really pleasant, positive songs that are fun and we need more of that out there.

I hear you. Theyíre just songs about life but theyíre certainly not discouraging songs. There are no messages in them but thereís definitely a positive thread of something in that. Feel good. Whatever thatís supposed to mean. I like to listen to a song that feels good even if I feel sad. Itís like watching a good movie. When itís ended and the first credit rolls, I want to be standing up and feeling good. Feel satisfied.

I think people can definitely look forward to that with you guys.

Iím looking forward to the next record. You get to a point too where with our fifth record, I donít even care if anybody else likes it. I know how much Iím going to like it. To a certain degree weíre just that proud. If you like it too, great. If you donít weíre not going to stop making records. Thatís the way I look at it. If we can turn on a lot of people to our stuff, great. If we canít, weíre still not going to stop. We just love doing it. This is what we do. We bleed that.

I remember Paul Stanley from KISS saying that when they were putting out records in the early 70ís, ďyou donít like that one? How about this one?Ē

If youíre a good songwriter and prolific like that, it should be like that. Weíll just spit out the songs and go ďwhat do you want? What do you need?Ē If you want a song about football, hereís a song about football. If you want a song about nothing, hereís a song about nothing. We had a song called ďNothing At AllĒ. When weíd introduce it, hereís a song about nothing. The chorus was ďnothing at all.Ē It ended up not making One Diamond but it was still a good song.

What sort of future plans do you guys have?

Just getting these shows on the calendar said and done. Get in the studio in October and get the record in the can. Finish up the year with whatever shows are still going to be on the calendar. Get this new record out and just really push it. Weíre going to do a showcase at the Key Club in November. I know that. Weíre going to bring down a couple of music supervisors that like our songs and hopefully we can push some of those songs in the right direction and get that break. Take it to the next level even though the level weíre at is certainly having a good time. I canít really give you a direct answer because I donít know other than weíre going to get this next record out the best we can and get it heard by as many ears as we possibly can with the help of people like yourself. Thatís how thatís going to happen. Thatís all I know weíre going to do as far as the plan. Get it out there. Promote it the best we can. Hopefully maybe we get a lucky break here and there and thatíll just add to that snowball thatís rolling down that hill.

It seems to be picking up momentum.

It is looking a little better. Maybe when we get it down there we can start making a real snowman.

Any other thoughts or comments?

Everything is good. I thank you for your time. I thank you so much for the time and thanks for listening to me ramble on about the Judge.

Judge Jackson