This interview has been re-printed with permission from Chris Leibundgut. The interview was originally printed in a German metal publication called ROCK HARD (issue 12/2000). I'd like to thank Chris for his generosity. Letting us re-print the interview here is greatly appreciated!



INTERVIEW WITH JAKE E. LEE - DECEMBER 2000

Chris Leibundgut: The original release of A Fine Pink Mist was more than 4 years ago, in August of '96. Why did it take this long for the album to come out in Europe? Did anyone ever bother shopping it outside of Japan?

Jake E. Lee: No, I don't believe anyone did. I was between managers at the time, and I don't think Pony Canyon knew what to do with it. It was just something they'd let me do before I delivered a more marketable (i.e. with vocals) product. Which is part of the problem I have with them. The only reason I signed the deal was so I could make A Fine Pink Mist. After that I wasn't sure what I was gonna do. A Fine Pink Mist took a lot out of me. I ended up having to record the whole thing twice... for reasons I don't want to get into right now, and I worked my ass off both times. I finally finish it and Pony Canyon basically says, "uh-huh, that's nice. Now... when can we expect a blues-rock type album from you, and, who do you think you'll have singing on it?" Not exactly what I wanted to hear. One of the reasons for the long delay with the Wicked Alliance project (there are quite a few, actually) stems from my disappointment in their handling of the prior work.

Chris Leibundgut: At one time, you did have an offer from Shrapnel Records to release A Fine Pink Mist in the States, but Mike Varney (label CEO - Ed.) took offense with one of the song titles, 'BludFuk'. Why not compromise and make it available to the US fans for a decent price, and make some money while you're at it?

Jake E. Lee: The reason I didn't go with it was because Varney wanted me to change the name of the 'offending' title. He assumed it was a sexual reference. He asked, "how would I explain it to my daughter if she asks me about it?" When I told him that it wasn't sexual, just violent, he seemed a little relieved, but that the 'bad' word was still an offensive one and needed to be changed. Offensive to whom? I had big doubts that his daughter was ever actually gonna listen to it. And if she did and was offended by the 'word'...... well, I dunno what world he plans on having her grow up in, but in mine, reading... or even hearing the word 'fuck' is WAY down on my list of things I find offensive. I believe that finding young, naive talent... flying them out to your studio to record... and then 'fucking' them out of their publishing is offensive. Did I ask him to change anything? No. So it became a matter of principal. And besides, it was a LICENSING deal. He didn't produce, finance, or have anything to do with its creation. I'm not changing anything for him!

Chris Leibundgut: You have been a fixture on the scene since '83 and have always been regarded as one of the premier guitarists around, yet it took until now for you to release a solo album. Is it that you prefer a band-type situation where you can bounce ideas off of other musicians or was it simply a matter of not having the time to do one sooner?

Jake E. Lee: I do like working with other musicians. An idea you may have felt was great, just the way it was, can become even better if you're open to valid suggestions from others. But, by the same token, sometimes they can have a completely opposing view as to how the song should be presented. In Ozzy, he, obviously, was the final say. In BadLands, I'd bend over backwards (figuratively) to try to make everyone in the band happy with what we were doing. It was nice to be able to do an entire album, from start to finish, with no one but myself to answer to. It's also a lot of work, and not something that I plan on doing again in the near future. But then again...

Chris Leibundgut: If I have my facts straight, the songs on A Fine Pink Mist were actually written over a very long period of time. You played Luna Gitana during your Ozzy audition and The Rapture was originally an unreleased Badlands tune named Years Gone By.

Jake E. Lee: Yep. I wrote Luna Gitana when I was 19. Never knew exactly what to do with it before. Must have tried to use it as an intro to various songs several times. I was relieved to have finally found it a home! The Rapture was written, musically, before I was in Ozzy. I presented it to him for Bark at the Moon, along with Rock 'n' Roll Rebel, Bark at the Moon and all the other ones I wrote that I don't get credit for. And although it seemed like a natural, he could never come up with anything to sing over it. Then in Badlands, we tried to make a song out of it, Years Gone By, but the record company hated it so we just shelved it. To prevent myself from becoming doomed to forever asking "hey, can you come up with anything for this?", I stuck it on A Fine Pink Mist.

Chris Leibundgut: Is there anything on the original, unreleased version that feel you didn't quite capture the second time around?

Jake E. Lee: Some of the songs came out almost exactly the same. Others were different, although not strikingly so. The only song I think may have been closer to what I wanted was BludFuk. It seemed to come across more aggressive, heavier, the first time 'round. But it's been awhile, so I may just have an 'idealized' memory of it.

Chris Leibundgut: You used a vast array of pedals and FX on the album. Are there songs that were inspired by a new 'toy', i.e. you getting off on a particular pedal/effect and just jamming out, or do you write the basic song first and then go about 'coloring' it by experimenting with different effects until you're happy with the overall sonic picture?

Jake E. Lee: Yes. There were more than a few times that I'd come home with a new pedal and while seeing what kind of sounds I could pull out of it, end up with an idea or two. Although, like my solos, there isn't any particular pattern that I follow when writing a song. Sometimes I write the entire piece in my head, and then have to figure it out on guitar, sometimes I just stumble on to something, etc., etc. But back to the first part of your question - coincidentally, BludFuk, since that song has come up, was inspired after having purchased 'the Experience' pedal.

Chris Leibundgut: The one thing about A Fine Pink Mist people tend to be put off about (at first) is the fact that you used a drum machine on the whole album rather than real drums. Was this for budgetary reasons or did you plan it that way from the get go?

Jake E. Lee: Originally, I had planned on having a mixture of real drums and the drum machine, like I did with Rice Pudding on the Jeff Beck tribute. I liked the way they played back and forth, and sometimes together on that song. But after having recorded the whole thing for the second time I felt that the drum machine held up pretty well, and that since this would probably be the only truly, 'solo' album I'd do, I might as well keep it 'all me'. And I do believe that the only reason people would be 'put off' about the whole idea is because I stated the fact up front. I put a ridiculous amount of time into the programming and every drummer that I've talked to since has commented on how good it sounds. One reviewer in Japan called me to find out who the drummer was, and why I didn't give him any credit on the album. He thought I was joking when I told him it was all a drum machine. When his review came out, one of the first things he mentioned was how disappointed he was that I didn't use a real drummer. Uh-huh. And years ago, when I was kinda pissed that ZZ Top used a drum machine (and very unimaginatively) instead of their drummer (who I thought was great), everybody else seemed to embrace them and put them on the top of the charts.

Chris Leibundgut: A Fine Pink Mist has a very cinematic feel to it. It's like every song tells a story and paints a different picture. Have you ever considered pursuing soundtrack work like Ry Cooder for example?

Jake E. Lee: There was a time when I thought that would be something I'd like to pursue at some point. However, rumor has it that they like to keep to something called a 'schedule'... which would definitely conflict with my lack of one!

Chris Leibundgut: You have been doing a whole bunch of these tribute albums in recent memory. Whichever song or solo you do usually ends up being the most twisted/removed from the original thing on there, i.e. Rice Pudding on Jeffology. Why do you go through the trouble to come up with an entirely new thing if you could just play it as is, like everyone else? Or is deviating from the original easier for you?

Jake E. Lee: Doing it like the original would definitely be the easier path. It just seems pointless, and a waste of time, to ape the song as a 'tribute' to someone. I think it's far more interesting to hear a musician's personal 'slant', or interpretation, of a piece of music. Otherwise, why not just go out and play in a copy band for your salary.

Chris Leibundgut: On to WICKED ALLIANCE. You and Mandy first got together in 1994 and did some demos as well as a US tour. I guess the response wasn't altogether favorable because a lot of fans expected Badlands II. What is it about Mandy's trip that made you reconnect with him?

Jake E. Lee: Response to Mandy...... wasn't altogether favorable...... mighty diplomatic wording there, nicely done! Hmmm, yes, I'd say that at least half of the crowd showed up to hear something in a Badlands vein, another fourth, or so, was hoping I was headed back into an Ozzy direction... and the other guy was there only because he didn't like drinking in a crowded bar! Mandy, if you take the time to really listen to him, has something unique to offer. I wouldn't even venture to call him a 'singer', more of a 'mad vocal scientist', or something along those lines. He's someone with whom I haven't been involved with musically before. I feel that Ray was one of the very best rock vocalists - ever! For me to try to find someone that could match him, let alone be better, seemed futile. And I didn't want to settle for second best, or almost as good. That'd be a step backwards. With Mandy, granted, a lot of people may not think I'm taking a step forward, but hey... sideways can be just as entertaining!

Chris Leibundgut: Can you shed some light on what you and Mandy are doing in WICKED ALLIANCE in terms of style and the whole approach you're taking on Twisted Beauty? Care to take a guess as to when the album will be DONE and AVAILABLE?

Jake E. Lee: Well, I hate trying to have to define music - especially since when I do attempt to do so, say to a friend, and then they hear it, they almost always tell me, "dude, it doesn't sound anything like that!". With that said, it's definitely heavier... though not so much in an Ozzy way. Uglier... a little weirder, maybe... ah, I give up... As far as a schedule... oh, if I had to... I'd say probably by the end of the year.

Chris Leibundgut: Aside from the earlier tour, WICKED ALLIANCE has strictly been a studio project between you and Mandy. Do you see it evolve into a real band and are you planning on touring behind the record?

Jake E. Lee: Hopefully, yes. I'm even considering taking on a drummer and bassist to record parts of the record, get some outside input into the songs. It's been awhile since I've hit the road, so it would be a nice change of pace to do so when it comes out.

Chris Leibundgut: How do you reconcile the fact that most of the world, the industry included, still sees you as 'Ozzy's ex-guitarist', a heavy metal guy as it were, when the 'real Jake E Lee' has long since moved on to different things?

Jake E. Lee: First off, I'd say it's a fact that most of the industry doesn't bother 'seeing' me at all... let alone the world! With that said - I'm fine with it. It was during that period that I received the most exposure in my career, so it's logical that it would be the way most people would remember me. It was a very exciting and dynamic part of my life, I don't mind people remembering me that way, at all. If I interested anyone enough to bother following my career through whatever paths my muse has misguided me to, I consider it a compliment.

Chris Leibundgut: There is an unofficial Jake E Lee site out of Brazil which had/has full mp3s of all the A Fine Pink Mist songs readily available for downloading. What's your take on what are essentially copyright infringements, which have become a hot topic with the advent of Napster?

Jake E. Lee: Hmmm, just downloaded some Captain Beyond off Napster tonight. I own the CD so it's not really stealing, it was just more convenient to download the song I wanted to hear at the time. And I have downloaded the entire A Perfect Circle release because I liked the one song that I'd heard, and was curious about the rest, and didn't feel like driving somewhere to pick it up... although I do intend to do so in the future. Despite what has been said, I feel the quality of MP3's to be good enough to check shit out, but if it's gonna be something I'll listen to for awhile, I buy the CD. Most of the CDs I've purchased lately have been only after having downloaded a song off the net. I'm all for it. The only ones who would really suffer would be the labels - and even then I don't think it would be very much. They ought to be looking for ways to make it work for them, rather than trying to shut down every site that pops up.

Chris Leibundgut: Your old pal, Stephen Pearcy, just released that Before and Laughter comp thing on his label, which includes a bunch of early demos, some with you on guitar! I always thought you weren't with them very long and didn't record any Ratt demos? Any Rough Cutt demos with you waiting to be unearthed from the vaults of Paul Shortino?

Jake E. Lee: I haven't heard the Before and Laughter CD, and I didn't see any song listings on the website, so I'm not sure if I am on any of it. I have seen one song on Napster, an 'unreleased demo, featuring Jake E Lee on guitar', by the title of Dr. Rock, but I downloaded it and it is DEFINITELY not me! That was a single they put out when they were still in San Diego and went by the name of Mickey Ratt, a few years before I was in the band. I think that it's Chris Hager playing on it. The only thing that Pearcy has with me playing guitar would be a tape we made during rehearsal, in a garage, through a boom box. If he put that out then... well, shame on him. And if Paul does have anything, you can be sure that at some point in time, he'll release it. Whether anyone else involved, with whatever it may be, will ever be made aware of it's release - I doubt it.

Chris Leibundgut: A lot of fans would love to see you do a Badlands-type thing again or even reform the band with another singer. What are the chances of that happening?

Jake E. Lee: None. At least as far as a reformation. Ray was an essential part of Badlands, and I can't ever see performing again, under that name, without him. Someday I may do another 'bluesy rock' kinda project, but I don't have any plans to at the moment.

Chris Leibundgut: Name 5 things you currently listen to!

Jake E. Lee: Slipknot, A Perfect Circle, Senser - Stacked Up, whatever Gigi (Hangach - Jake's girlfriend - Ed.) happens to be singing around the house, and my dog licking herself whenever I ask what she thinks of the song I happen to be working on (Wicked Alliance material, of course).

Chris Leibundgut: Thanks, Jake!