Talks about PRIDE OF LIONS

JIM PETERIK is one of the most important musicians in the AOR scene. He was the man behind SURVIVOR’s success, (co) writing all of their songs, and he actually formed the band back in 1978, orginally as the JIM PETERIK BAND, but adopted the band name SURVIVOR from his own solo record’s liner notes. That particular album ‘Don’t fight the feeling’ by the way has just been re-issued onto CD, with a lot of bonustracks, a review will be up soon. Anyway, Jim even was in a band before SURVIVOR and his solo stuff from 1978, because if we go back even further in time it takes us back to as far back as 1965 when Jim Peterik was just a 14 year old kid. He formed the band THE IDES OF MARCH, with whom he scored a hit in 1966 in the USA, but scored massive with the song “Vehicle”, which brought him and his band fortune and fame, because it went up to the number 1 position in the USA. 10-15 years later Jim would achieve the same success with SURVIVOR and their classics “The eye of the tiger” and “Burning heart”, becoming ultimate classic rocksongs worldwide. The LP ‘Vital signs’ is still till this day, after 20 years it was released, the absolute best album of all times!

Anyway, in 1996 Jim Peterik left SURVIVOR, and went his own way, first with the WORLD STAGE project, but more recently as PRIDE OF LIONS. 2 years ago I did an interview with Jim about the WORLD STAGE project, but his new PRIDE OF LIONS record is an even more interesting project, as this album takes us back to a time when AOR ruled the airwaves, yes the 1980s! So I had to do another interview with Jim about his new project, which is going to launch another new chapter for Jim Peterik. It all started 18 months ago when Jim met TOBY HITCHCOCK, and from that day on a whole new chapter of Jim’s life started, as he has finally a band where he can sing leads, play guitar and keys, write all the songs and take therefore most of the credit, but is accompanied by an amazing singer who sings all the choruses and high notes Jim isn’t capable doing. Toby is his name and he is just 26 years old, but has the voice of an AOR GOD! He sounds like a mix between BOBBY KIMBALL and DENNIS DEYOUNG, with some FERGIE FREDERIKSEN here and there.

The CD Jim and Toby created is called PRIDE OF LIONS and early November it will be released in Europe, and I had a very nice conversation with JIM PETERIK, here’s what went down...

Jim, nice to talk to you, please tell me first about what’s going to happen first with the PRIDE OF LIONS project...
Well, we’re first gonna do a small promotion tour through Europe, we’ll be starting in Munich, Germany on the 9th of November, when the CD is officially released. From there we will visit places in Germany, the UK and Italy. We really want to focus on Europe first, and later also on Japan to see where we can go from there. Maybe and hopefully a US release will also be happening later on.

You just finished shooting the video for “Sound of home”, the first single off the record...
Yes that’s right. We shot “Sound of home” at two places, at the ‘Park West’ club in Chicago, where we also shooted the SURVIVOR video “I can’t hold back” way back in 84. And we filmed back at my house, which was a lot of fun to do. There is this gorgeous girl called Lisa in the videoclip and it just felt like we were a band on the road.

Can we expect it on MTV?
Well, we shot the video and put it as an extra on the CD-single, so people would also buy the single and not only the album. By the way, we also put 2 songs on that CD-single, which aren’t on the CD, so it will be very interesting for the fans to check out that single as well.

That’s just great, now the big question, where did you find Toby, who has got an amazing voice talent...
Well that was more a coincidence, because my nice took her friend one time to the studio where he could sing for a TV-show, and I had this song unfinished called “Love is on the rocks” and asked if he could do some lead vocals on the particular song, so he did and I was AMAZED! It sounded perfect and so I knew this was going to be something special. Toby and I got along really well and as the time progressed we had this project PRIDE OF LIONS going on and after months of recording the CD is now finished!

And it’s probably the best AOR record since the SURVIVOR heydays of the 1980s! Let’s talk about some of the songs, first off “Love is on the rocks”...
Well, as I just told you it was the first song Toby sang on and I was blown away when I heard him singing. It gave me the same feeling I had back in 1983/1984 when we had to find a new lead singer to replace Dave Bickler. After 4 or 5 singers we had for the audition, JIMI JAMISON showed up and we asked him to sing “Broken promises”. I heard him singing the song and I was blown away, and I knew this was the guy I was looking for. He was the man to sing on our upcoming record back then, ‘Vital signs’. With Toby I had the same feeling again, it was like the perfect match! Actually, the song “Love is on the rocks” was a song I had written around that period, but somehow the guys didn’t like it enough to make it on the SURVIVOR record ‘Vital sings’, so it kinda ended up on a cassettetape in my house somewhere, until last year when I was dusting off some of these old tapes and finished the songs, such as “Love is on the rocks”, which is now on the PRIDE OF LIONS record.

And it’s my favourite song!

I really like the 80s vibe in the song, it reminds me of LE ROUX, do you know that band?
Yes, they had a major label release, with FERGIE FREDERIKSEN on vocals...

Yes and strangely enough it reminds me of LE ROUX circa early 1980s
Well, it was indeed written around that time

Another pure early 80s song to me is “Turn to me”, I love this upbeat rocker...
Me too, it was a part of me saying I wanted to write a catchy upbeat rocker in the style of “Caught in the game”, “Rebel girl”, with a guitar riff. The end of the song has this amazing guitarsolo between me and .....

Yeah that is an awesome ending of the song
Funny to say this, but we were doing this song, and after the final choruses ended it was like me and ... doing some great guitarsolos and we kinda liked the idea and just went along and rocked on. So it was us two minutes playing this guitar solos to show off a bit and so there you had the two minutes of us playing on and off (and together) these guitarsolos, twin guitarsounds, it was awesome and it just fitted in there perfectly!

My absolute favourite is “Music and me”
You’re right about that, because it is also my favourite song, and a very special one, because it tells everything I’ve always wanted to do, and is basically showing and including all the parts of music I have loved and lived for the past 40 years. It’s a musical journey and takes me back to 1963 when I played my first song in front of an audience. It was a song called “Kansas City” and after I had played it, the audience applaused and I saw all these smiling faces, for me that was the starting point of my career. I knew I had to make music from then on and never look back. Rock’n’Roll was my life and I had to make the best of it, and so 40 years later I am still doing what my heart says me to do and that’s making Music! I love to write song and hearing the response of people saying the like what I do, that gives me a motivation to continue doing this.

I love the song “Madness of love”, which revails some of your 70s Progrock influences...
I am a huge Progressive Rockfan and this song was for me finally the way to tell everyone I can also make such songs and I love to do it. I love bands like QUEEN, STYX, KANSAS, KING CRIMSON and my all-time favourite YES! I love those 70s Epic Progrocksongs and therefore I wanted “Madness of love” on the album, as this song has got that 70s vibe. Not many people know that SURVIVOR was actually a sort of Progrockband back in the very early stages of the band. SURVIVOR had in 1978/1979 some very Progressive Epic Rocktunes in their set. We played them in clubs once in a while, but actually never recorded them and that’s a pity because these were very progrock kinda songs. “Madness of love” was also a way of showing off, because in the middle there are all these solo’s (bass, keys, guitars, drums), just to show to people we could all play our thing.

Opener “It’s criminal” is a very SURVIVOR sounding uptempo AOR rocker...
Definitely! I actually wrote it, like some of the other songs, back in the SURVIVOR period, around 84 and “It’s criminal” was actually the 10th song delivered for ‘Vital sings’. Ron Nevison liked the song and it was actually gonna be on the ‘Vital sings’ record, but somehow we were told that the album only would contain 9 songs, so we had to scrap “It’s criminal”. Now 20 years later it ended up as the opener for PRIDE OF LIONS.

Well, it’s the best way to start the album, as it picks up where SURVIVOR left almost 20 years ago, which is pure AOR! It’s very good to see you and Toby both singing...
Yeah definitely! It’s something I’ve always loved to do and this is also something I had in mind when forming SURVIVOR back in 78, me doing the leads together with a real singer. Unfortunately this never happened with SURVIVOR, except on the debut on which I also sing some leads. Anyway, I sang lead vocals for IDES OF MARCH back in 1970 and so it felt right that finally after so many years I had found someone like Toby, who was able to co-sing with me. I do most of the verses, while Toby sings the choruses, and in between we sing the bridges together. It works perfect and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Toby is incredible, as he is one of a few singers I know who is able to sing the high notes at the end of the chorus of “The eye of the tiger”. Jimi could sing it, but as far as I know only Toby is able to do this, because my voice is not able to reach that high note. Toby can easily sing those high notes and that’s what makes him so special. Also on stage he is awesome, he isn’t afraid at all and is a real stage talent, so if we’re gonna tour it’s gonna be a blast! Toby is a very nice young talented guy and is starting to like everything a lot, especially when another new good review comes in, then he’s like: “Cool!”.

Well, it’s amazing how such a young guy is singing such 80s related AOR, did he knew SURVIVOR?
Well of course he knew SURVIVOR, and although it wasn’t his favourite all-time band, he loved the well-known songs such as “Burning heart”, “The eye of the tiger”, “I can’t hold back” and his favourite “The search is over”. If we’re gonna do a tour next year, which all depends on the album sales in Europe, we are gonna do a stage show, which we are already preparing. The set of this show will include SURVIVOR and PRIDE OF LIONS songs, and we are at the moment rehearsing some of the old SURVIVOR classics, and going through the entire discography of SURVIVOR to pick out he best songs.

Well it will be fantastic to see you and Toby on stage in Europe someday!
We’re first be coming over this November to Europe, and if sales are good enough we will come over next year March to do an European tour, but it all depends on the sales. Because we want to come over, but don’t want to lose any money, so clubs need to offer enough money to let us come and play without paying extra costs. We are not in it for the money, but also don’t want to lose money. On the other hand, I would love to play some of the samller clubs in Europe, and finally be on stage and tell the people the stories behind my songs.

It’s great to hear SURVIVOR songs will also be included in the set, just to get back to the old SURVIVOR songs, I would like to hear your comments on my favourite SURVIVOR songs, first off my all-time favourite “I see you in everyone”...
That’s also one of my favourite tracks! Thanks! Well, I visited the Cinema with my wife Karen, and we were watching a movie starring James Stewart. The movie was called ‘Vertigo’ by Alfred Hitchcock, and the story was about a man who was fascinated by a woman, and saw her in every other woman he saw. It was about changing identities, and after the movie I wrote down what would become the chorus, and later on showed it to Frankie (Sullivan) and then we basically finished writing the song together.

And “Jackie don’t go”...
Well, it was Frankie’s idea to try a little harder sound, so more edgy with the guitar riff, and I guess you can hear that clearly on the ‘Caught in the game’ record. I tried to sneak in some Pop elements, with my keyboards, and together we wrote this song, basically a rocking popsong!

In that same style we have “Popular girl”...
Ah! That’s one of my favourite SURVIVOR songs. It’s the exact style I love the most to write...

Especially the verse/bridge “It takes a long time to know her...” is perfect!
Thanks! Yeah I like that part also very much, would love to play this song live with PRIDE OF LIONS

When are you gonna be on stage for the fist time as PRIDE OF LIONS actually?
Well, we are opening up for REO SPEEDWAGON in Chicago next month, and we will be playing with the 70s Poprockers of OFF BROADWAY, so that will be interesting and if all goes well next year we will tour Europe!

That would be awesome!
Yeah, and it will also be great to play some of the old SURVIVOR songs again, songs like “Runaway lights”, most of the ‘Vital Signs’ album and even “Burning heart”. Do you know we haven’t played that song much? So I am really looking forward to perform it, and this time with Toby on vocals!

Yeah that would be very interesting to hear, but do you miss the SURVIVOR days?
Of course, but when I left in 1996 I knew I did the right thing, because I wanted to do stuff on my own and not do stuff other people told me, so basically it was just the end for me as a SURVIVOR member. Frankie could use the name and from there it was over and out between me and Frankie. I haven’t spoken a word with either Frankie and Jimi ever since.

But isn’t it strange that when SURVIVOR releases a new CD sometime in the future, your name will not be part of it, even though you actually formed the band 25 years ago...
Of course it is strange not to be part of a band you played in for so long, but I have a new chapter in my life and that’s called PRIDE OF LIONS!

And it’s a very good chapter, probably better than anything the remaining SURVIVOR members will ever make! I haven’t got any info here on who wrote the songs...
I wrote all the songs on the CD, Toby only co-wrote a song with me for the CD-single called “Stand by me”.

You have a lot of experience in the music career...
Yes, I started in the 60s and found out in 1970 what fame and fortune was all about. I was with IDES OF MARCH and we had released our debut LP and our first review by ROLLING STONE was awful, they totally wrote down our record, so we were like 18/19 years old and got such a bad review by this big magazine, and the funny thing was that we were having a number 1 hitsingle, so from that period on I had learned a lot, which is never to listen to critics, and just follow your own heart, write the music you love!

What do you think of the current rockscene in the USA?
Well, it ain’t much actually. The 1980s saw the charts filled with good bands, while nowadays it is hard to find something good on the charts, but I would like to break that barrier and bring back AOR music with PRIDE OF LIONS. Actually AOR is coming back, because we have a new radiostation over here playing the old and new AOR music of the well-known bands, which is a good thing, because we can finally bring back Classic Rock to the youtful. In fact, my 14-year old son is only listening to Classic Rock!

Do you agree that if there’s a huge promotion behind this record it could turn out huge...
Yeah definitely, if only we could get a US deal, because so far the album will only be released in Europe and Japan.

Finally, what are you currently doing?
Later today I am gonna record a demo for JOHNNY and RONNY VAN ZANT, the brothers known for their bands LYNYRD SKYNYRD and 38 SPECIAL. They are gonna do a CD as VAN ZANT, and it’s a little like their 1985 record. The song I wrote is a song that sounds like SURVIVOR meets CHEAP TRICK. And I have 7 songs on the upcoming album of 38 SPECIAL, which will be released in the spring of 2004!

Well, thanks for all the infomation you shared with us, I hope to see you on the road in Europe next year, and let’s hope PRIDE OF LIONS will be the success we all hope for!
I hope so too, thanks for your kind words, bye!