Janet Gardner will be known to many as the front woman of iconic all female rock band Vixen. In August she releases her first solo album, recorded along with her husband Justin James. The album is released via Pavement Music on 18th August. I had the pleasure of speaking to Janet via Skype on 19th July to chat about the new album and much more. That interview is broadcast on the Friday NI Rocks Show uploaded on 19th July along with four tracks from the new album - http://www.rockradioni.co.uk/hosts/ni-rocks-friday-rock-show.html

 

 


The interview will be transcribed and posted below.

 

Playlist

SCREAMING EAGLES – Screaming Eagles

ROSCO’S RIOT – Gypsy Eyes

BIGFOOT – The Fear

VIXEN – Hellraisers

JANET GARDNER – The Grind

Interview with Janet Gardner Part 1 (4 min)

JANET GARDNER – If You Want Me

Interview with Janet Gardner Part 2 (8 min)

JANET GARDNER – Candle

Interview with Janet Gardner Part 3 (9 min)

JANET GARDNER – Rat Hole

MARK SLAUGHTER – Hey You

MR BIG – Defying Gravity

L.A. GUNS – Speed

HELL IN THE CLUB – We Are On Fire

EXIT EDEN – Unfaithful

HALESTORM – Gold Dust Woman

STEVIE NICKS – Edge of Seventeen

 

 

NI ROCKS – Hi Janet, thanks very much for taking the time to talk to Rock Radio NI. I wanted to start by asking about your new solo album which comes out via Pavement Music on 18th August. You’re working with your husband Justin James on the project. Is a solo album something you’ve been wanting to do for some time, and when did the writing process start?

JANET – Well, I never really thought much about it actually. I was always doing other things and it never really occurred to me. Justin and I set up our studio in the house and we came down and we started making music and within a few months we had plenty of songs to release. So we just decided to do it. Even though it’s not really a solo album as I do have a partner in it, we decided just to use my name.


NI ROCKS – Other than Justin who have you worked as far as writing the tracks is concerned  and where was it recorded, mixed etc?

JANET – We did it all ourselves, just the two of us and we did it all right here where I’m sitting right now. So, pretty simple.


NI ROCKS – Was there any thought given to having someone else on the album, as a guest appearance or something?

JANET – We did. As we were recording we would occasionally think maybe we should have so and so to play drums or whatever. Then in the process of just getting the songs together we would re-program things and get everything kinda the way we wanted it and think sounds pretty good the way it is, so we just didn’t. Plus, it would complicate matters because we would have to set up equipment and do things that would cramp our flow a little bit. We were on such a roll, that we just kept moving on and writing more songs. So it didn’t happen; we decided to do it all ourselves.


NI ROCKS – How long then from start to finish to get the album done?

JANET – About three months, which is nothing!


NI ROCKS – Are there any plans to promote the album with some solo gigs in the near future?

JANET – Yes, we have some tour dates here in the States. We’re doing a few in the Mid-West and we’re doing the East Coast. Then we’re going to do one more run in the United States and then we want to come to the UK and Europe.


NI ROCKS – The album isn’t released until 18th August but you’ve released a video containing samples from four tracks which we’ll play on the Show as we go along. Do you want to pick one of those tracks to play now and tell us something about it?

JANET – The second song that is on the teaser video was the first song that we wrote and it’s called “If You Want Me”. It’s kinda special because it’s the first song that we wrote together and we were both very nervous – what if this doesn’t work you know, what if we get mad, if somebody storms out of the room or somebody’s feelings get hurt or we just don’t connect on that level! I was hoping that we would as we connected on every other level. So we got that song done and we listened back to it and were like ‘Yeah, this is working, this is good’. So that is how that song came about. It’s sort of fictitious, based on past relationships and things like that. It’s one of those things that everybody probably goes through – you see a good friend, somebody that you might want to be more than a friend with and they’re in a terrible relationship and you think ‘I’m right here! Can’t you see this? I’m right here! Why are you putting up with all this?’ So that is what the song is about.

 

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NI ROCKS – You’re obviously known to many people as the front-woman for the iconic rock band Vixen. Was recording and releasing a solo album a bit of a daunting prospect in comparison to working together in a band in the past?

JANET – Well it is and it isn’t. The great thing about being in a band is that you get everybody’s input and you get everybody’s opinions. If everybody is on the same page and working together you can create some really magical stuff. A band with a bunch of people who are creative and love what they’re doing. That’s the great thing. But sometimes it also takes a long time and is somewhat restricting because everything is by committee; so everyone has to agree and has to feel good about what you’re doing. It’s more of a process; everything takes longer. This offered me and Justin a lot of freedom. Just a committee of two (laughs) – we only had two people to agree on it and then we were rolling. It was like, ‘ok we both love this, great, let’s keep moving’. So, it’s great because you get more people’s input, but it is kind of liberating when you don’t have all of that. Plus when you’re in a band that establishes a certain something, there are expectations that go along with that. So you have to think if this is what people are going to want to hear from Vixen, whereas I didn’t have to do that. There is no expectation. I’ve never done this, and neither has Justin as far as that goes. Us as a partnership was a brand new, open blank canvas; which was nice.


NI ROCKS – I’ve been listening to the album and it’s very, very good. There are a mix of musical tastes on it. There is a big difference musically between your solo material and the early Vixen tracks. How would you describe the music on the new album?

JANET – Justin and I are both on the same page about what we like in music and the music that we’ve liked growing up. For me it all started with 70’s bands. It started with Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Deep Purple and all those bands. From there it was into the 80’s which was when Vixen were doing our thing, so a lot came from that. And then more into it, I really liked bands like Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, The Foo Fighters; so there is a little bit of that mixed in there. Then moving on there are current bands that I love – Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson and some of the heavier stuff. I love Pantera and bands like that. It all sort of mushed together and comes out in different ways. There’s some melodic stuff, there’s some not melodic stuff.

NI ROCKS – There is quite a diversity. Tracks like “The Grind” are quite heavy and then softer tracks like “Best Friend”.

JANET – Yeah, those are the two extremes.


NI ROCKS - You continue to perform with Vixen of course and recently welcomed guitarist Britt Lightning to the line-up. Was that through a recommendation or how did that come about?

JANET – We knew of her. She was in a band Paradise Kitty which is a Guns n Roses cover band – all female. They had played on a couple of the Monster of Rock cruises that we were on, so we knew of her and saw her around. A few people did recommend her and said she was a great player, a great person and would fit in. We’ve done good.


NI ROCKS – My next question is I’m sure one of the questions that you get asked most often these days. A new Vixen album. I’ve seen some discussion on the various websites. Is there a timeframe for a Vixen album and how are things progressing with writing etc?

JANET – We just had the member change that spoke about. We’re going to do a live release and that is going to happen at a show next month. We’ll get that done and there will be a couple of little surprises on that. Like I talked about before, we have a lot of things that are going to make it hard for us to move quickly on this. Geographically we are all over the States – I’m on the east coast, Britt’s on the west coast, Roxy is somewhere in the middle and Share is in Florida. So it is very challenging to get everybody together, but that is how bands should make music together – speaking together. We are sending e-mails around and trying to get some little irons in the fire before we gather and work on that. So, the timeline I really don’t know, but it is in the works and it’ll be worth waiting for.

NI ROCKS – It will be! The live album, when do you reckon that will come out?

JANET – We were talking about November, but we’ll see how that goes. Things don’t always go according  to schedule, but there is a live date at which it will be recorded; so that we know and it’ll be recorded in August.


NI ROCKS – All the Vixen members have other projects that they’re involved with. How often do you all get together and when it comes to writing and recording will you do that together or will some be done at a distance? You kinda answered that earlier I suppose – you tend to get together to write.

JANET – Like we just talked about, that is ideal; like the way bands are supposed to do it, being in the same room together. We are all over the place so I think our best plan is to send some ideas around so that everyone can familiarise themselves with it and work on things a little bit on their own before getting together to make it all gel. I don’t think it’s good for bands to send in their parts – what’s the point of being in a band if you’re going to do it that way.

NI ROCKS – That’s what I was going to ask – you prefer to all be in the one place recording at the same time? I know it’s very common these days for people to send their bits in and do it that way to bring an album together. The traditional way is to be there together in the studio.

JANET – Yeah, I think it misses something if you’re not doing it that way. I think there is a magic that happens when you’re playing together at the same time that you just don’t get over Skype or e-mail. We’ll fiddle around at sound-check because we’ve got a lot of shows coming up and that’ll give us a little time to jam some things out and hopefully we’ll move as quickly as we can.


NI ROCKS – We’ll get back to your new solo album again now and let you pick another track to play. Which one do you want to play and tell us something about it?

JANET – The song “Candle” is the power ballad. I wrote that about a phase where a lot of people in my life passed away – both my parents within a few years of each other, Jan the original founding member of Vixen and lead guitarist passed away. There was just a whole bunch of that going on all at once. It was definitely therapeutic for me to put it in a song – my feelings; you don’t want to be selfish or keep people here that are not well or able to have a good life, but it’s hard to let go. That’s what that one is about.

 

NI ROCKS – I know that it’s very early days and that the debut solo album hasn’t even been released yet, but is that something that you’d like to do more of in the coming years?

JANET – Oh, absolutely! Justin and I had such a good time writing together. We were nervous that it might cause problems! People who are married and work together – it’s hard. We thought it might be scary or could be a disaster, but the opposite happened – it brought us closer together. We spent so much time laughing and having fun – getting closer through talking about the songs and things that we wanted to express in the songs. So definitely yes; I want more of that.


NI ROCKS – Do you get asked much about appearing as a guest vocalist on other projects or working in collaboration with other artists and is that something you’d be interested in doing?

JANET – Yeah, now and then things come up and that’s another thing that I’ve always been very loyal to Vixen. I never really wanted to do anything that would interfere with Vixen and a lot of times I don’t really like working with people that I don’t know. That sounds kinda weird, but I have to establish some sort of friendship with someone before I feel really comfortable expressing myself in that way. So a lot of time strangers send something in the mail asking if I will sing on it, and I’m just not feeling it. And if I’m not honestly feeling it from my soul it’s not going to be good, it’s not going to be something people want to hear anyway. If there’s a good friend or something that wants to do something I’ll definitely be open to it, but it’s not something I normally jump right on.

NI ROCKS – A linked question. Labels like Frontiers are great at bringing artists together for specific projects. Are there any artists in particular that you’d love to work with on a project or even just for a couple of tracks?

JANET – Well, once again I’d have to have some sort of connection and relationship with whoever I’m working with. I haven’t really put a lot of thought into that, but sure; the guys in Scrap Metal, I love working with them and if they wanted to do something I’d definitely be open to that. I love Mark Slaughter and the Nelson brothers and I’ve got to know Eric Martin a little bit and love his voice and would love to sing something with him. Mark Slaughter, the same thing – I’d love to sing something with him. Gunnar and Mathew Nelson are like my brothers. There are people I really admire – I’d love to sing with David Coverdale, but I don’t know him (laughs), so you know!

NI ROCKS – Maybe we should try to get you on Mark Slaughter’s next solo album? He has released some great solo stuff .

JANET – Yeah, I know. I’m really happy for him. His stuff is sounding great. Same thing – he just does everything himself now and makes it sound amazing. Such a great guy. Good for him!


NI ROCKS – You can’t really measure success in terms of record sales these days. How do you personally measure success when it comes to music?

JANET – Just expressing yourself and putting something out there that you’re proud of. For me, we’ve just done that. Justin and I are just really happy that we were able to do this and have something that people can relate to and enjoy. From here, it’s just icing on the cake. If people like it and people buy it, great. Success. We’re happy, yay! (laughs)


NI ROCKS – You mentioned some artists earlier. Which artists were inspiring or influencing you when you first got into the music scene and are there artists that inspire or influence you today?

JANET – Back in the 70’s I was a huge Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin fan. In the 80’s our peers like Def Leppard and Bon Jovi. There were some bands writing great songs back then. As a vocalist, definitely Ann Wilson of Heart. I heard the first Heart record and I was like ‘what is that!! Wow, that is crazy good singing going on’. That was definitely an inspiration. Also Pat Benatar – she came along and I thought that was awesome. Going back further – Etta James, Janis Joplin – I wasn’t around during that time – I’m not that old (laughs). Going back and hearing what they were doing, long before it was really acceptable to do that. Etta James, everyone knows her for that “At Last” song, but she rocked out; some of her stuff is absolutely bad ass. Going back and hearing that and people who were great at expressing themselves through music. Jimi Hendrix was just awesome, amazing! Guitarists like Stevie Ray Vaughan – same thing. I have a huge, diverse love of music and love band that I love are Slipknot, Sixx A.M., Halestorm and I like a lot of European bands that people have never heard of out here. On the Monsters of Rock Cruise we were just walking by the pool stage and Gotthard were playing – these guys were amazing. I’d heard of them a little bit and I had heard a few songs but man they absolutely killed it. I just love great music and love hearing great bands playing really good songs.


NI ROCKS – I’m always curious to find out what music people are listening to. Do you listen to much music and what artists would you find yourself listening to most – maybe the same list you just mentioned?

JANET – Pretty much yeah, a lot of the same list. Justin is a crazy, crazy music fan and he digs for stuff and finds stuff that nobody knows about. I can’t even remember the name of some of these bands – some weird, experimental stuff. It’s fun to listen to people who obviously have no commercial aspirations what-so-ever. They’re just experimenting and making cool music. So I listen to anything and everything and appreciate anybody trying to do something different.


NI ROCKS – That’s all the questions that I have. It’s been a real pleasure chatting with you. We’ll finish off with another track from the new solo album. Which one would you like to play and tell us something about it.

JANET – The first single is called “Rat Hole” and it is the first song on the teaser video. Justin and I both have three children and it kind of changes the way you think about things. We’re very concerned about some things going on here in America and that is what “Rat Hole” is about. That’s pretty much it.

NI ROCKS – There’s a song “Let It Be Over” which we’re not playing, that obviously deals with the time that we’re in as well. I like that one on the album – it’s a slower track.

JANET – Yeah, that’s something that people might think about things a little bit.

NI ROCKS – Yes it does. Great lyrics. Thanks again for talking to us, it has been a real pleasure.

 

JANET – Thanks so much.

 


Last Updated (Thursday, 03 August 2017 22:15)