James Young Interview

James Young, or "J.Y." as he is sometimes called, has a new album out. It's titled "City Slicker" (Absolute Records -distributed by Jem/Passport) and its J. Y.'s first solo album. For those who don't know, James plays guitar for one of America's most successful rock groups - " Styx." To date, " Styx" has sold over 20 million records worldwide.

Q. Are you in a position, financially speaking, where you're well off, and don't really need to engage in projects outside of " Styx?"
A. I'm in a position where I don't have to rush off and do just anything for the money. I'm in a position where I can pick and choose. Whether or not I can survive on what I have accumulated, for the rest of my life, I suppose depends on how far I'm willing to cut back my lifestyle. I've turned down sizeable amounts of money to do projects I thought were incorrect. I don't feel it's appropriate for me to answer a question directly about my finances. It's really for the love of creating and being involved in the entertainment field, that I continue to do this.

Q. Why is there a need for everybody in " Styx" to record a solo album? Why not have everybody contribute what they feel is their best material to a " Styx" album?
A. There was not enough breathing room, let's say, on one little 12 black vinyl disc every two or three years from this band to satisfy the need to create and get things out there for people to appreciate. At this stage, I will agree with what you're saying. It certainly couldn't hurt any of us to collect right now and do another " Styx" project. You never know, it might happen. The thing that obviously gets in the way is people, like not having to answer to anybody else. When you're in a group situation, you have to answer to the rest of the individuals in the band, to a greater or lesser extent, depending on what your accomplishments have been in the past.

Q. Is there a leader in " Styx?"
A. In any group situation, the person who has achieved the most success tends to have more weight lent to their words, and Dennis DeYoung clearly has the most success in terms of writing and singing songs out of everyone in " Styx." His influence became very dominant on the 'Kilroy' album.

Q. How long did it take to record "City Slicker?"
A. This album was started in Feb. 1984. It was right when Dennis DeYoung and Tommy Shane were working on their solo albums. I started working with Jan Hammer then. I was in no real rush. With Jan Hammer, I'd go to his studio for a week and work with him, go back home to Chicago for a week, and maybe laze around, or go into a studio and work on the tapes there. It took about five months to get the original recordings and mixings done.

Q. What song seems to be getting the most airplay?
A. 'Something To Remember You By,' which probably sounds the most like ' Styx' on the refrain. I think that's why people picked up on it. I came out much more hard rocking on this album. The whole thing about this album is I wanted people to know I'm dead serious about being a hard rock 'n roller.

Q. There was a time in the late 70's when ' Styx' was not doing interviews because of the complaint of being misquoted. Since I never saw a ' Styx' interview in any magazine during that time, where and when were you misquoted?
A. Our manager felt at the time that we didn't need the press. The press didn't seem to be in love with our group even though we were selling 3 million albums per release. And so it was a sort of thing where, 'If you're not going to say nice things about us, we're not gonna bother to take the time to talk to you.'

Q. How did you feel when "Rolling Stone" described " Styx" along with "Foreigner" and "REO" as being "Faceless Bands?"
A. We weren't in the press. We didn't go out of our way to be seen in a lot of places where the paparazzi hang out. We always returned to our hometown of Chicago and sort of went back to our normal lifestyle. We were never that visible. So, in that sense, we were faceless. I don't disagree with 'Rolling Stone.' We were very visible as a group, but people just weren't aware of the individuals. And, to this day, that still sort of persists. If you want to be visible, you have to get out there, and there has to be a major campaign put behind it. You have to talk to a lot of people. You have to give yourself over almost every waking moment, to be involved in your career. That was something we avoided doing, and it was kind of nice.

Q. Jan Hammer (composer of "Miami Vice" theme song) co-produced your album. Has anyone approached you about doing a " Miami Vice" episode?
A. I had a chance to be on the first episode of last season, if I would've gone to Miami. But, I was in the middle of finishing up touches on this project. It turned out Gene Simmons ("Kiss") did the part anyway. It was the part of a drug dealer on this yacht. There's always a chance that somewhere there down the line, we'll get involved. Certainly that's good and unique stuff. I think it would be better to get a song of mine on the show.

Q. Would that lead to more record sales?
A. Whether or not that actually leads to people buying the record, I think is almost more of a marketing and advertising question. I think it's a way of letting people know you're out there, you're continuing to work, that you're creating new stuff that people can check into what it is you're doing. For my career, it certainly wouldn't be bad to be on “Miami Vice”. It might not be the right thing to do, to go on the 'Muppet Show.' We're talking imaging now. Miami Vice would certainly fit the kind of image I'm trying to create for myself.

© Gary James All Rights Reserved