JIM PETERIK (Pride Of Lions)
A Man On A Mission
Music has no borders, no colour, no creed Music is the language of my soul A Technicolor vision on a black and white screen It will always be, yeah! Music and me
I consider him rock royalty; the man who was and still is, the driving force behind classic rock alumnus Ides of March, and the man who single handedly redefined the genre adding his gift for melody and emotion to create what soon would be renamed as melodic rock or AOR. His gift of song is world wide acknowledged and his manual to write a hit single ”Songwriting for dummies’’ is dubbed a `must have’ in the genre he put on the map.
When radio friendly music ruled the airwaves, Peterik and his men were on top of their game alongside other greats such as the jazz-rock influenced Journey, Foreigner and the more progressive Styx, to name just a few. They filled arenas for years with fans bedazzled by their jaw dropping skills and keen ear for melody and showmanship. The combination, which later would sprout wider genres and louder offspring such as hair metal, before losing fans to the paws of a more depressing tone; grunge. The nineties were a weird place for musicians such as Peterik, but their persistence revived the genre fallen prey to darkness. The downscaled guitars would remain grip on metal, but also renewed interest in melody and harmony by those who were teenagers during that arena-rock era. It’s the generation now handling the throttle of society and driving the economy lingering back to the sweet melodies of old. With Mr. Peterik perhaps being responsible for the re-inflicted spark to ignite the flame of melodic and modern rock all together. While his newly formed Pride Of Lions slowly gained momentum, Jim gathered friends and joined forces with those responsible for the sound of the 80’s and early 90’s to re-establish his beloved melodic rock. World Stage was the project finding it’s way into the heart of many rock fans celebrating the heydays of their youth while Peterik himself kept tapping the vein to thrive as a composer and performer.
Thus I present to you all, Jim Peterik: the man on a mission….
Perhaps I am exaggerating a bit, but what’s your take on your place in melodic rock music looking back?
,,First of all: Thanks so much for your wonderful and insightful foreword. It really puts the last few decades into perspective musically speaking. My place in melodic rock I believe is my continuing respect for the genre. I never want to fall into self- parody and by trying to write the best possible material for the melodic market I hope I am doing my part. To me great melodic rock is more than a facsimile of a form- or a stylistic cues-it must have substance, life and breath inside it.’’
Being a songwriter lending your talents to many acts over the last few decades, how do you look back on the sudden rise and fall of grunge music?
,,I believe the rise was a reaction to the often-manufactured slickness of much of the music at that exact time. This Seattle movement was all about raw emotion over technical proficiency, although there were many fine players in this genre. The fall came when people started tiring of doom and gloom and wanted to get back the party at hand!’’
The reason for this interview of course is the new Pride Of Lions CD `Fearless’. Why did it take so long to create this follow up to `Immortal’?
,,`Fearless’ is a result of waiting for inspiration to come. I needed a break for things to feel fresh again. But once I got started the dam burst inside of me. From the first song I wrote for the record ,,All I See Is You’’, which I wrote at my summer cottage in Saugatuck Michigan, to the last song ,,Faster Than A Prayer’’, which I wrote on a ship when the Ides Of March played the Moody Blues Cruise with The Zombies, Vanilla Fudge and many more, it all came quickly from there. The Muse was back!!’’
(Jimi and Toby Hitchcock forming POL)
Following the evolution of Pride Of Lions it struck me that you drove slightly away from the melodic hit single-process. The music became more experimental and slowly had to grow on the listener. The debut was a remarkable collection of ear mingling tunes, which instantly nested in my head, with `The Destiny Stone’ balancing on the wire between progressive rock occasionally and melodic rock in general. `The Roaring Of Dreams’ gripped back to the debut but displayed a more diverse melodic and musical agenda. The music touched boundaries of epic rock and jazz, without losing sight of the typical melodic trademark of you. With the follow-up things slowly started to change… `Immortal’ already took a few spins to reveal it’s power and fine-tuned feeling for melody; `Fearless’ in my opinion takes a step further into the evolution of the band. Where will it end?
,,With `Fearless’ I believe I recaptured what I love most about melodic rock. I’ve always been a fan of the hit record form. To me ‘commercial’ is not a dirty word. It merely means you are connecting with a broad spectrum of people; that they are relating to your music and lyrics. I am such a fan of many forms of melodic rock however that I really enjoyed flexing my more progressive muscles on certain songs on `The Destiny Stone’ (namely the title track and ,,Man Behind The Mask’’) and a few others. On `Fearless’ I went back to basics: simpler chord progressions, more obvious hooks and fewer key modulations. I intend to just keep trying to write the best, most memorable and relatable songs I possibly can. Perhaps being more ‘visual’ than ever.’’
`Fearless’ sums up the endless roar for you as a performer then?
,,Yes indeed! I love recording and creating new records, but the coin of the realm (reference intentional, LOL) is always the live stage. When I am writing a new song I always put it through the filter of “how will it feel performing it in front of a crowd”, this thought inspires me no end. It also keeps me focused.’’
I occasionally hit a biographical lyric, but most of them are `daily life examples’ of all of us. Is this why people relay to your stories and the way you manage to tell them?
,,I find that songs I have actually lived ring the truest. Sometimes I will draw from the stories of other people I have met, or even stories I read in the newspaper, books and magazines. I am a voracious reader of rock autobiographies and sometimes I find myself writing in the style of the person I’m reading about. For example: I wrote most of ,,Silent Music’’ as I was reading the new Phil Collins memoirs. I am writing a new one with Gunnar and Matthew Nelson inspired by the biography of Randy Newman.’’
What’s the most biographical lyric written for Pride Of Lions? ,,Music And Me’’, or ,,Sound Of Home’’ perhaps?
,,Both of these are great examples but if I had to choose one it would definitely be ,,Music And Me’’. Music saved my life as I was developing as a young person. This was before the days where doctors diagnosed your problems with initials and prescribed you a pill. But I definitely had a worry disorder of some kind; always feeling the world was about to end in nuclear explosion or environmental catastrophe. It was only after I learned to play guitar and performed that first time on stage at the Talented Teen Search in my hometown of Berwyn, Illinois (playing Kansas City) hearing the crowds reaction, I began to put my fears into perspective. The only caveat was that I had to perform constantly to keep these fears at bay. To this day, if I go too long without creating or playing music, I slip back into old patterns. My wife of 44 years, Karen and my wonderful son Colin, his wife Meredith (and their newly born daughter Maisy (!)), also keep this grandpa grounded.’’
Pride Of Lions have always been revolving around you and Toby Hitchcock, but since your performances at Lokerse Feesten (BE) I can state this is a real band at work…. What’s your vision on the past, present and future of POL?
,,We are a real band and have dispelled the early notion that we were another project band. We are looking at a European tour as we speak.’’
What’s the involvement of the members of the band on the music of a new CD?
,,On this cd: more than ever! This time around, instead of me teaching the members of the band the songs in the studio, they had weeks to prepare on every song and were able to come up with more riffs -grooves and arrangement ideas. It was a real band, even in the studio.’’
How’s your working relationship with Toby when it comes to recording and composing?
,,He respects my role as the songwriter for Pride of Lions. We only wrote a few songs together. Fortunately he loves my songs, and in the rare instance he does not like one, he will be honest and let me know. I have modified songs in the past to fit his style. With `Fearless’ he came to Chicago so prepared and inspired that he knocked out all the tracks in two days!’’
Being the main composer and songwriter, how hard is it to keep afloat this ‘vehicle’?
,,LOL! Good one! It’s really what I live for. I love having goals and people to please who expect the best of me. In the distant past it was John Kalodner that expected great songs from me. John signed Survivor in 1979 and is responsible for putting me together with 38 Special, Sammy Hagar, Henry Paul, the Outlaws, Steven Tyler and more. Now Serafino Perugino, the head of Frontiers Records, is the man who expects the world from me. And I try to deliver…’’
How hard is it to keep working in so many different directions? You’re still the driving power behind Ides of March and World Stage concerts. In between you re-arranged your music and many of your classic tunes to explore jazz. Where does it ever end for you?
,,Plus my most recent release is called `The Songs’ where I re-imagine 11 of my biggest songs in the Nashville ‘Roots’-style of music, with instruments such as pedal steel, upright bass, fiddle and even banjo on a few. The album was produced in Nashville by the great Fred Mollin. I am now doing dates with this format as well as Ides of March shows, World Stage, Pride Of Lions and Cornerstones of rock, the latter being big concerts featuring the best of the 60’s bands from Chicago: The Ides Of March, The Buckinghams, Shadows of Night, Cryan Shames, Aliota Haynes Jeramiah and The New Colny Six. Fun shows, kinda like a high school reunion!’’
`Lifeforce’ lies 8 years behind us but still sounds like there was more in it musically. I mean; it should have skyrocketed with musicians like Adele taking over the charts. How do you look back on it?
,,I really love that album and genre; I listen to this type of music a lot with Karen when we want to chill out.’’
`Forces At Play’ was the follow-up and touched a more hit sensitive vein rather than the jazz approach without discarding the experimental view of jazz and your music. A logical follow-up, but like `Lifeforce’ I reckoned it would seize more attention.
,,I love this record too. Also I love the two CDs I did with great singer Lisa McClowry: `Time Signatures’ and `Lisa McClowry Sings Acoustic Alchemy’, where I added lyrics to the great instrumentals of that group. I feel they are both worth tracking down.’’
(N.B. Both albums can be explored on the ITunes as well as on platforms like Spotify. Worth listening into getting acquainted with the wide variety of styles Jim has mastered in his long career.)
Have both releases fallen prey to a lack of promotion?
,,I believe that is true. It’s tough out there nowadays, especially for physical product. Sales are always something to strive for but I do these CDs because I am a slave to the Muse…. LOL!’’
Do you have too much time on your hands or does a day have to little time to cover all the music inside of you?
,,Every waking moment (just about) I am working on music. My wife and I went to the auto show the other day and while we were looking at the new models, I was secretly writing a new title song for a soon to be shot motion picture. I sneak into the restroom and sing the melody, etc. into my iPhone recorder.’’
(Jim and Marc Scherer)
Recently you released an album with Marc Scherer, `Risk Anything’. An album with bold as brass melodic anthems, much like the debuting years of Pride Of Lions. Scherer’s voice is a lot more polished than Hitchcock; is this why you moved into this direction?
,,I love Marc’s voice. Different voices bring out a different pallet of melodies and emotions in me. Marc has a certain similarity to the voice of the amazing Dennis Deyoung (Styx). Songs such as ,,Thee Crescend’’” and ,,Desperate In Love’’ are perhaps inspired by the writing of Dennis DeYoung…. and Marc brings it home, big time!’’
What’s your take on the album now, looking back?
,,It’s definitely one of my favourites! ,,Cold Blooded’’ in particular. This song really channels 1984. It would have fit well on Survivor’s `Vital Signs’ or `When Seconds Count’. The Video for that song features Leanne Marie who was the gal in the iconic video for Survivor’s ,,I Can’t Hold Back’’. She still looks amazing!’’
,,Risk Everything’’; what was the title referring to?
,,Putting it all on the line for an unknown artist like Marc Sherer. Sometimes talent trumps all logic. I had to make a great record with him! ,,Cold Blooded’’ has over 75.000 views and counting.’’
Toby’s voice is wider and louder, perhaps being the ideal voice for Pride Of Lions moving into this deeper and bolder direction. Is this why you penned tunes for Peterik/Scherer aside Pride Of Lions, rather than cross blend the both?
,,As I mentioned; for me the voice guides the direction of the song. I wrote different for the great Don Barnes than I did for Jimi or Dave.’’
Then suddenly there is another talent from another place. Bryan Cole managed to surprise friends and enemies of the genre with his debut, which is breathing the grandeur of, … well… you! Bryan also recorded a bunch of Pride Of Lions songs for his remarkable debut. How did you guys get in touch?
,,I love Bryan and his huge talent. I was introduced to him by my friend and song plugger in Nashville; Sherrill Blackman. He was looking for songs for Bryan and sent some JP songs to him. He ended up recording amazing versions such as ,,Burning With A Reason’’! I was blown away.’’
Did you ever meet?
,,Yes! He came into Chicago to do some vocals and guitar work on an album I’m working on right now. He is an incredible musician, singer and human being. I will be able to announce that album soon.’’
Is there a chance of collaborating in the near future? Cole would be an almost generic songwriter/performer to team up with you…..
,,This could happen – for sure!’’
(Jim and Jimi Jamison)
With Peterik having recorded with a variety of jaw dropping vocalists, I’m looking to hear if he’s willing to make a selection. Throughout the years he performed with the biggest and best while his albums have sprouted illustrious names in the genre. From the late Jimi Jamison of Survivor fame, to Scherer and Hitchcock…. Jim being the perfect gentleman doesn’t reveal too much.
Okay, I’m going to be unfriendly now…. See if I can lure you out of the comfort zone: Scherer or Hitchcock?
,,Ouch!!!! I’m not kidding: They each have their divinity. It’s like trying to choose between chocolate and vanilla… or a hot blonde and a tall brunette. LOL!!’’
Dave Bickller or Jimi Jamison?
,,Same reaction. Dave is the gritty street. Jimi Is hot and sweet.’’
Toby or Jimbo? (as a vocalist)
,,I have my place but my range is extremely limited compared to Toby. I try to make up for it with emotion and feeling.’’
In 2006 you also recorded `Above The Storm’ which displayed more of your vocal capacities than I ever expected. A very inspired piece of craftsmanship with you not only writing but also performing without any holds barred. I was stunned to hear you sounding (almost) unleashed at times….
,,Thank you Edwin. I love that record… it’s very personal.’’
You have recorded with a lot of vocalists, musicians and bands over the last few decades, composed with many more even, how do you look back on all these projects and efforts now?
,,Very fondly! All were very rich experiences. So sad that we lost Jimi and Fergie Frederiksen along the way.’’
You recorded with Jimi Jamison with Survivor as well as releasing the Peterik-Jamison album(s). How do you look back on those days and the amazing talents of Jamison?
,,He was one of a kind as a singer and as a human being; one of my dear friends. He had the best natural voice I have ever worked with and brought out the very best in my writing. He auditioned for Survivor in 1984 when we, me and Frankie, taught him ,,Broken Promises’’. He sang it right in my ear at close range. I heard that magic tone and knew we had found our guy.’’
The late Jimi Jamison is closely connected to Jim’s career. They have been recording and composing together frequently from the Survivor classics onwards. Uniting Peterik’s talents for song and Jamison’s feeling and emotion has elevated melodic rock and AOR. Their collaborations are milestones, considered by many fans in the genre, and still stand tall weathering all musical storms. Jimi’s passing hit the melodic rock community hard and Jim afterwards mails to add the recently shed a lot of tears when Toby performed ,,Man Against the World’’ as a tribute to Jimi.
You also recorded with Kelly Keagy (`I’m Alive’ and `Time Passes’); two entirely different sounding albums than the expected Peterik albums and songs. I used to be able to spot your tunes on many albums, but was surprised hearing the diversity in the songs on the Keagy albums. Was Kelly surpassing the typical Peterik sound and vibe, or was the combination of forces leading to this?
,,Kelly is an excellent songwriter on his own. So many of the songs reflect his great input. We wrote ,,It’s The Journey’’ together head to head at an old cathedral across from our hotel when we played a festival in England some years back. Our voices sounded so great bouncing off the church walls, until the Vicar heard the noise, came over… listened for a while and then made us stop!! LOL!!’’
The remarkable tension in the songs was inspiring, how do you see those albums in the light of the present?
,,I played them recently. They stood up very well I thought. ,,I’m Alive’’ is a killer song as is ,,When Nobody’s Watching’’ and ,,Everything I Need In A Woman’’.
With World Stage you recorded and performed live with many more names, from Kelly Keagy and Kevin Chalfant to Kip Winger and Jimi Jamison. What was your favourite moment?
,,So many moments and goose bumps… They are all very special talents. I just recently performed ,,Almost Paradise’’ with the great Mike Reno (Loverboy) and with the über-talented Cathy Richardson and it nearly brought me to tears.’’
I’ve seen and shot (pics) you on the Lokerse Feesten with Pride Of Lions as well as with World Stage. Recently you regrouped with POL to do a one off show at the Frontiers Melodic rock festival. Wasn’t there any more interest from promoters to book you for a short stint across Europe?
,,Like I said: Soon!’’
Frontiers established a reputation as one of the frontrunners to revive melodic rock over the last two decades. They also bring together talents from elusive bands from the past to produce and record albums. Have you ever been asked to join forces with anyone to create more magic?
,,Serafino knows that POL and Marc Scherer is where my heart’s at. He has asked me to produce some of his artists and of course submit songs, such as my song on the current Joe Lynn Turner disk, but never to join or create a new super group.’’
How do you feel about all the current reunions taking shape around us anyway?
,,As long as the music and chemistry is great… I’m all for it!’’
I’m asking you because one of music’s greatest melodic outfits reunited recently for a worldwide tour: The Beach Boys…. And you worked with them and main songwriter Brian Wilson before. How do you look back onto this collaboration and on this reunion tour?
,,The song I co-wrote with Brian (+ producer Joe Thomas and Ides of March leader Larry Millas), ,,That’s Why God Made The Radio”, I consider to be one of the best I’ve been involved in. To hear the Beach Boys perform that song on tour (the Chicago Theater in Chicago) and to hear them do it on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show, was one of the highlights of my career.’’
(Photo by Edwin van Hoof)
How do you look at music in the present?
,,I just heard the new Ed Sheeran album: great stuff! More like that please!!’’
More catching your attention, or inspiring you?
,,Oh, Ed for sure! The theme song for the movie `Lion’ sung by Sia, to name two. Also, I was inspired watching Dennis DeYoung’s show that I opened for at the Star Plaza Theater recently. He’s still got it, and his band totally rocked!’’
You don’t seem to grow any older and I’m surprised by the glamour of Mr. Peterik. You still stand proudly as a musical icon in the present. The biography `Through The Eye Of The Tiger’ hints a long spanning career much to the surprise of many. How do you keep going forward with such momentum?
,,I love what I do and am inspired by life in general. I believe we are all given certain gifts, in my case music, and it is my duty to do write by the great creator who blessed me with that talent. To squander it is a waste. To share your gift is the goal. I think of that every day.’’
The biography isn’t a safe place addressing your entire career, how do you look back on recreating the stories about your career?
,,I had to leave out some stuff… HA! Maybe in the next book! Overall it is a very honest book, but you just can’t cover it all. 66 years is a loooonggg time!’’
Anything unexpected from you we can expect in the next couple of years?
,,I’ll keep surprising you all, and myself!! LOL!’’
I know I asked a lot with this interview, but with so many lives in rock lived, I think one can’t be short on the subject. Thank you Jim!
,,Thanks for the great questions Edwin and your exhaustive knowledge of the songs of my career. May God Bless. Keep Rocking!!!!! Love- Jimbo.’’
Follow Jim Peterik on Facebook and visit the website of Pride Of Lions