Interview with Autograph guitarist Jimi Bell

It has been an exciting year so far for Autograph and Jimi Bell. The band has been playing shows and keeping rock and roll alive. Now the band is starting a new chapter with the addition of Jimi Bell replacing founding member Steve Lynch. I had the opportunity to interview Jimi Bell a guitarist who has had an amazing career. I had the chance to talk to him about joining the band and also being in the movie light of day.
Angel Alamo: How did you get the gig in Autograph?

Jimi Bell: I met Steve and Randy many years back at NAMM.  We reconnected about 5 years ago when Autograph and Maxx Explosion played on the same bill. Steve and I are good friends and when Autograph played close to my area, I would get together with them and hang out.  They are the nicest down-to-Earth guys. When Steve made his departure announcement, I contacted Randy and said I would love an opportunity to audition as guitarist. The rest is history. 

AA: What were the rehearsals like?

JB: Rehearsals were absolutely incredible. From the very first song we played together it was like magic. We instantly connected on all levels, musically, vocally and as friends. Lots of good energy!! 

AA: Had you ever met any of the guys in the band before?
B: Yes ( see question one)

AA: Did you have any concerns replacing a founder member of the band? 
JB: As I stated before, Steve and I are very good friends and we have nothing but the utmost respect for each other. My main concern was to do my absolute best for the band and their fans. Our first show together was amazing. The response was truly overwhelming. They all welcomed me into the Autograph family. I’m so honored. 

AA: How do you manage being involved in multiple musical projects?

JB: Well I have always been a full time musician so I try to stay as busy as possible wether it’s performing or recording. I truly love being a member of Autograph and all their show are top priority. 

AA: You was in the movie light of the day. How did you get that gig?

JB: My band Joined Forces was managed by a member of Blackheart Records at the time. We did an east coast tour with Joan Jett which led to us getting the part in the movie. Joan is incredible and has always treated me great. 

AA: How was it making the movie?

JB: It was an amazing experience being in a national motion picture. I can’t say enough wonderful things about Michael J Fox and Joan Jett.
Up at 4am for makeup which took a couple hours before any filming started. We did about 10 takes of the song then let all the extras in for the scene. What an incredible time we had. 

AA: What was the first studio album that you played on?

JB: Honestly I can’t remember. I know the Joined Forces EP came out in 1984 but I do remember playing on a few other things prior. On my website the covers of all the CDs I played on are posted. At least the ones I can remember. 

AA: Are there any festivals you still want to perform at? 

JB:ALL OF THEM !!! LOL!!! I’m really looking forward to playing as many shows and festivals as possible with AUTOGRAPH for years to come. 

AA: Any plans for new music from Autograph?

JB: All of us are writers. I’m definitely looking forward to collaborating on new music with Simon, Randy and Marc. In fact I have already been laying down ideas for new songs with the band. I actually played one of them for the guys at rehearsal and they loved it. 

Autograph guitarist Steve Lynch Interview

Days before the M3 festival. I had a chance to talk to Autograph guitarist Steve Lynch. The band played twice at M3 festival they played their day 2 of the M3 festival. The best part was hearing Autograph play a short set at the after party at the Sheraton at 2a.m. That was rock n roll for the fans that wanted to rock all night.

Angel Alamo:  How does it feel coming back to play the M3 Festival again this year?

Steve Lynch: Oh it’s fantastic, we’re so glad to be back and seeing our old friends there that run the festival and with Brad and Eric and Bobby and everybody, and our agent Sullivan’s going to be there and then plus all the other bands and everything and I have family up in the area, so. It’s going to be great, it’s going to be a fantastic day.

AA:  You switched instruments from bass to guitar on the date that Jimi Hendrix died. What is the story behind you switching instruments?

SL: Well I started off on bass because there was already another guitar player on the block. I mean, back in ’67 I was only 13 years old, or actually 12 years old, and so he wanted me to play bass. So like, “Okay I’ll learn to play bass” and so I did. But I always wanted to play guitar because of Jimi Hendrix. I’d listened to Jimi faithfully and eventually when he passed away I started noodling around more and more with guitar but when he passed away I just went, “You know what, and I want to do what Jimi Hendrix does. I don’t want to play bass, I want to be able to bend the notes and everything and do all that crazy stuff.” And so I switched to guitar, September 18th, 1970, the day that he died I traded my bass in, got a Stratocaster and that was it. From then on, I quit school and I got kicked out of my house so I lived in a tent and I had a Stratocaster and I had my own tent. I had a little Coleman heater and a lamp in there and cot with a sleeping bag on it, and I was good to go.

AA: Are there any new guitarists out there that you’re a fan of or are impressed with?

SL: You know I don’t listen to a lot of the new music. Chris Broderick is a really good player. Ethan Brosh is a really good player. God I’m trying to think of all the guys. All of my heroes were back in the day, you know with Jeff Beck and of course Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page. And then the last one I really listened to back in the day was Allan Holdsworth really. That’s when I stopped listening to guitar players because every time I listened to guitar players they’d influence you, but that was my bowl of Cheerios that I ate out of everyday. It was listening to those guys.

AA: Can fans expect any new music either this year or in the near future from the band?

SL: Well it’s a couple years ago now but we released the album Get Off Your Ass and we released an EP before that and we’re still, just released a new single called Meet Me Half Way. And we have two other singles that we’ve released already off of that, it’s gotten a lot of radio play. One is the title track Get Off Your Ass and then the other one was Every Generation which also got a lot of YouTube play and a lot of radio play, so. Everything’s going good.

AA: Is this like the band experimenting with whether to put out a new album or just go ahead and just put out singles?

SL: What we’re going to do from this point on is just put out singles. Because it’s like back in the ’80s, I remember this very, very well when the original group was together, and we put out an album. We put out our first album and it had many songs on it that could’ve been singles but back then they just pushed one or two songs off the album and that was it. And we wrote and wrote and wrote to get all these great songs on the first album and the second album and the third album, but then they wanted you to do another album the next. Then I thought, you know what every time this happens all these other songs get ignored.

SL: So you’re basically putting out a 10 song album and only one or two of them are ever going to get heard. I thought, what’s the point in that? And we just released an album. It’s the same thing. A couple of them got heard, like I said we just released the third single, but I think the way to do it is just one single at a time. I mean, but that’s just my opinion. Other people feel differently about it, but that’s just my opinion. And then once you have, say you got 10 singles out then of new material then you release it on a compilation, like on a CD or whichever format you want to release it on.

AA: What was it like opening up for Mötley Crüe on the Theater of Pain tour?

SL: Oh I don’t remember that tour at all. There was a real camaraderie there, but it was over the top partying. As a matter of fact at the end of that tour, I stopped drinking for five years. I mean I never wanted to see another drop of alcohol again, ever. So yeah I just completely quick. I just went, that’s it for me. But it was great. The guys were great. They said “Hey whatever you guys need, whatever you want to use on the PA and everything, lighting whatever,” they just said “Just ask us and we’ll make sure that you got it.” So that was really cool.

SL: With the Van Halen tour it was quite different because I wasn’t allowed to do my two-handed technique which basically I had that and had even written, before I’d even heard of Eddie Van Halen. And so I was kind of perplexed about that and we were only allowed to use one quarter of the PA and just one of the six spotlights and just a fraction of the lighting systems. So they really cut everything back on us. But you know, the tour worked out. We got a record deal because of it, so I’m certainly not going to complain about it but I’m just making a comparison that with the Mötley Crüe tour after the Van Halen tour was completely different as far as accommodating us.

AA: So before that tour started, were you expecting it to be a different experience or expecting it to be different?

SL: The Mötley Crüe one?

AA: No, before the tour started did you expect it to be the same as with Van Halen? Did you expect the band just to be as welcoming and as nice as they were?

SL: We were hoping for something different and it was something completely different. All the rest of the bands that we played with actually were very accommodating. It was only Van Halen that wasn’t, you know. I’m not going to say anything against the personal members, it’s just the way that they operated. It’s just their management and everything, it’s just they said “We got to give the opening band just as little as possible. Don’t even put their name up on the marquee.” So we were not introduced. There was no… Nobody even knew on the tickets or anything that we were with Van Halen. So that was kind of add, that our name wasn’t even on anything. That was one thing that they just didn’t permit whatsoever.

AA: How did the band get involved in the movie soundtrack to Youngblood and Like Father, Like Son?

SL: That was through RCA, and we were actually out touring when they pitched that at us. So we had to write songs while we were touring those movies. What we did was we got a VHS video clip of it, they mailed it out to us, and so what we’d do is we would watch that on the tour bus and we’d sit there and write lyrics and come up with song ideas. I’d be sitting back there in the state room back in the back of the tour bus with my guitar and we’d be hammering out ideas and that’s how the whole movie soundtrack thing came about.

SL: But because of the fact that we kind of had a reputation as being very fast working in the studio and everything, that hey, get these guys to write some songs for this movie, for this movie, for this movie. And then of course we got songs used in different television series too like Miami Vice and co-wrote one of the things for the series Hunter and everything, the theme song and all that. It kind of just went on and on and on with us getting more and more invites from different companies to be involved in the writing and there performance of different songs they used in movies and in television as well.

AA: Did you ever imagine that three decades later you would still be playing music?

SL: Well I knew I’d always be playing guitar and I did release a solo album called Network 23 and that was after Autograph. I actually quit the band and we just fell apart at that point. It was December of 1989 and it’s like, the ’80s were over. I mean literally, the ’80s were over because it was December of 1989. The next month was January of 1990. But the whole thing came in, the grunge scene and everything and it just wiped out the whole ’80s thing. So I quit, we were in the studio actually doing demos for Epic Records for a three album deal with Epic Records but they were having a hard time because they were thinking, oh we got to sign these grunge bands this isn’t what’s happening now.

SL: And we just kind of threw up our hands and I just decided I want to do something else and at that point what I did was I started promoted, I had written three books by then on advanced guitar techniques. They wanted me to go out and to promote the books, and the gear for us it was too at that time, and they distributed and everything Ampeg amps and Crate amps and Alvarez guitars and all that. So I said “Yeah I’ll do some clinics for you” so I ended up doing 325 clinics in a year and a half time and in 20 different countries. So they kept me really busy doing that and then when I got done with all of that is when I actually recorded my solo album Network 23. Then after that I opened up my own music school in Seattle, but I missed playing a lot. When I ran into Randy, the bass player Randy Rand at the NAMM Show in 2011, we started kicking around the idea of putting a version of Autograph together.

SL: In 2013 it came together and we decided to go out and do it again but the original singer declined the offer. He said his voice just wouldn’t be able to sing those parts again, which was unfortunate. But he wished us well and everything. So we got another singer, Simon Daniels who used to be, actually he was Danny back when he played with Jailhouse. The original drummer that we had at the time, Kenny, he wasn’t working out. He had some issues with drugs still and that was very, very unfortunate. He was trying but it just wasn’t working. Anyway so we decided to get another drummer at that point and that’s when Simon said “Hey, good friend of mine Marc Wieland from Switzerland who’s been living in LA here” and he said “Let’s check him.” So he came in and he just fit like a glove. So Simon and Mark just came in and they just absolutely fit in right away.

SL: We decided not to use keyboards, unfortunately the original keyboard player Steve Isham passed away in 2008. So we decided we were going to go for a little bit more of a heavy sound and that’s what happened. So I’ve always been playing guitar, I’ll always play guitar. I actually have a new side project going too, it’s called 222 and that’s with my fiancee, Alena Rae who’s a well-known country singer. We’re starting this project called 222, it’s a side project from Autograph, so. It’s going to be completely different, completely different from anything that has anything to do with the style of music from Autograph. It’s just more world music and very experimental. Just like I kind of did with my solo album. So that’s where it’s at now.

AA: Is there anything in the works with the side project?

SL: Oh yeah, yeah absolutely. We’re writing right now, going into the studio. Actually I’m doing some of the stuff down here in Florida and she’s up in Nashville, she’s working with the producer up there. And then I’m going to be recording some of the stuff from files that are going to be sent down here, then send them back. That’s going to happen in just a couple weeks. Then at the end of May I’m going up there to record on a few more songs. So we’re going to be putting out material pretty soon, and again we’re just going to be putting out one song at a time. Just singles.

AA: For the fans that are overseas, because we noticed on the website you just have on tour dates until the end of summer. Will the band be doing anything overseas in the near future?

SL:Yeah, we’re booked in England in March for another festival. And so all of that’s looking really good. Yeah, so we’ll probably be in Europe a little bit more next year.

AA: I know that they will be happy to hear that because they seem to be really loyal to the bands.

SL: Yeah, absolutely. Every time we play there it’s just been a phenomenal reception from the audience. It’s great here in the States too but they’re really hungry for it over there because it’s like getting a foreign band in to play from abroad, across the Atlantic, and they’re really happy about that.

AA: What band would you like to tour with that you haven’t toured with yet?

SL: Oh boy. Queen? That would be a good one. You know there’s a lot of different ones. So… Gosh I, you know probably doing more shows with Whitesnake. We did some shoes with them in the ’80s and we’re playing with them this Saturday at M3. But yeah, I’ve always really liked Whitesnake so that would be a fun band to tour with. Any of the bands out there, love to tour with any of them. We like that and they like touring with us too, so it’s a great thing.

Angel Alamo with Steve Lynch rocking at 3am.