From signing with Frontiers Records to joining Night Ranger and Skid Row on tour, Toseland seems to be unstoppable. James is definitely proving any doubters wrong by making a success of his second career, on stage tonight he appears to be a very skilled musician and a confident frontman performing with passion and strength. He gives the crowd the best he can, all accompanied by the sound of what we can certainly define a very talented band. From ‘Life Is Beautiful’ to introducing his keyboard during ‘Fingers Burned’, the already crowded venue can’t get enough of Toseland’s music. Night Ranger followed with an amazing performance that went above and beyond everyone’s expectations with Brad Gillis stealing the spotlight several times. The band sounded as tight and as reckless as they were in the 80’s, running around and giving their fans a hell of a show as if the time had stopped for them.
Skid Row concluded the gig with a bang, bringing on stage all the classics with the band fully loaded with great energy and constantly asking their audience to scream and go crazy. I think everyone in Shepherd’s Bush agrees when I call this a night of feeling ‘18 and Life’ because these are the shows worth living and experiencing. Before this fabulous evening started we got to meet with James, Toseland’s frontman, to get all the hot news regarding this tour and his future projects.
RAMzine: How’s this tour with Skid Row going and are you guys fan of the band?
James Toseland: “I didn’t know much about it when the opportunity to support came around, ironically two years ago in Manchester we supported Sebastian Bach and that was my first kind of introduction to who he was, what he had done before and then I got introduced to the band Skid Row because of that. Then I obviously realised about the split that they had and now two years later we are supporting Skid Row, the actual band. I didn’t get much time with Sebastian because it was a one-night event so I don’t know much about his personality, but the Skid Row guys are being really really nice to us.”
“It’s just been a joy because luckily for me the bass player does a bit of racing back in America so we straightaway had a connection and that brought the barriers down. When you support big bands, you know they’ve done it for so many years, so I tend to keep my head down, don’t say anything, get on, get off, make sure I respect stage times etc. They don’t come to the UK very often so it’s been an honour supporting them on this tour.”
RAMzine: Is there any performance you’ve particularly enjoyed throughout your career?
James: “Wow! This is my seventh year now! We supported Deep Purple a couple of years ago and we played at Loreley, which is a beautiful amphitheatre in Germany, very famous within the venues of the world to perform at and that was really special. The place was surrounded by nature, natural stones, carved out the hillside. Essentially because we are a new band we supported a lot so we had the pleasure to support many great bands like Deep Purple, Black Stone Cherry, Little Angels and now Skid Row.”
“It has helped us massively with our fan base, thanks to these amazing bands willing to share their audience and that’s what support is all about. And just being here in Sheperd’s Bush, whether you are performing or headlining, is a massive achievement for us.”
RAMzine: You guys are working on your third album, what can we expect?
James: “I think Renegade was autobiographical and I think any artist talks about internal stories and life experiences. Cradle The Rage was about any stories I’ve done that couldn’t fit in Renegade but after twelve stories I kinda said everything I went through personally so I’m now focusing more on what my interests are, what interests me. The more albums you do the more difficult it is to find what you want to write about because it’s very easy when you start out, you got lots of things that you wanna say but luckily over the past few years, life has thrown a few things at me that made me go through new experiences.”
RAMzine: Can you describe the music making process?
James: “We are just doing the same process again, luckily I’ve had the same band for four years now and because of the loyalty shown from them I want them to be more involved. I wrote the first two albums with Toby Jepson from the Little Angels who is now with Wayward Sons, so I am still working with him but instead of just me and him bringing the songs to the band, everyone is collaborating and feeling more part of it.”
“We have a good thirty ideas at the moment, I think we’ve got ten or eleven that could go out now. We are going to be in the studio during summer with hopefully a November release. Supporting Skid Row is giving us an opportunity to play to more people again with this music before the third album. We have just been signed from an Italian label, Frontiers, which I am really excited about, it gives me the stability to keep on doing what I am doing as the industry out there is supporting us.”
RAMzine: What bands influenced you the most?
James: “The first band was Queen because I was learning the piano when I was young. I studied music for six years when I lived with my grandparents and then my mum’s boyfriend got a new bike when I was ten. But before the new boyfriend came along I was grade four or five on the piano and that was lucky because I got past the crappy stage and when I got past that I really enjoyed playing and that’s why I never gave up even when the racing kicked off my career. It was my mum’s boyfriend who introduced me to what will then become my favourite band, Queen. I will always remember when one day I got in the car and ‘I Got It All’ from Queen played on the radio. The only Queen I knew back then was The Queen (laughs) so it was a great discovery.”
RAMzine: How was the passage from riding motorcycles to making music?
James: “Really difficult because I dedicated my life completely to racing at 16, I was a decent piano player and I just got a professional contract to race around the world. So at 16 I was just finishing my exams at school and I had a definite career path of racing and the piano playing was nowhere near a career path. I chose to dedicate myself at racing and I adored it, I won two World’s Championships, I travelled the world and I loved the lifestyle and the feeling of going on a podium while listening to my national anthem. It provided me a life that was a dream for a kid from Sheffield. So when I had to retire ten years too early because of my injury, yes I did have the piano but it was nowhere near the level I used to ride motorbikes. To start again at the bottom of the ladder and put enough time to dedicate myself and be good enough to make music professionally it was a big challenge. To find the energy was really tough but luckily with the help of Toby and the fact that he got the management involved, in eight months I managed to put a band and a brand new album together.”
RAMzine: Last year you’ve released a new version of the song ‘We’ll Stop At Nothing’ which was then adopted as the anthem for the Special Olympics. How did you come up with this very thoughtful and moving idea?
James: “The production company were asked to find an artist for the song. They rang me up while I was on tour in Italy with Deep Purple and asked me to write a song for the Special Olympics. I said ‘I don’t think I have enough time for that but I think I have one already’. I asked them to listen to ‘We’ll Stop At Nothing’ because that’s my version of ‘We Are The Champions’, I wanted to write a song about not giving up during adversities or tough times. They thought it was perfect but a bit too heavy so we had to release a new version. It was a wonderful opportunity to be involved in such a special event, as soon as they put up the footage of the Special Olympics with our song I was really pleased because it made sense, it represented the music perfectly.”
RAMzine: How is this summer looking like for the band? Are you playing any festivals?
James: We are going to be having a quiet year on festivals because of the album coming up, we are booked on Hell Fest though and that came in about six months ago. That’s a real honour to play one of the biggest festivals in Europe. I’m looking forward to that!