Niclas Müller-Hansen of Sweden’s Metalshrine recently conducted an interview with guitarist Jake E. Lee (OZZY OSBOURNE, BADLANDS, RED DRAGON CARTEL). A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Metalshrine: Now that the [RED DRAGON CARTEL] album is out and people are writing about it and you’re talking to a lot of people, do you kinda regret not doing this sooner?
Jake: No, no regrets. I was very content with having nothing to do with it for the 15 or 20 years that I didn’t. Now seems right. It seems like if I’m ever gonna do anything, it should be now in my twilight years. In the late ’90s [and] early 2000s, I wasn’t cool. To be Jake E. Lee was to be lumped into hair metal, or at best blues rock, and musically, I’d already done those things and I wanted to expand somehow and not be confined to that. The industry was only gonna relegate that to me at that time. Now it’s been so long, and I’m such a wild card, whether I’m gonna do anything or not, and now it feels more freeing as far as I can do whatever I want and not have to conform to somebody’s preconceptions on what it is I should be playing.
Metalshrine: Still, there were a lot of musicians that went through times when their name wasn’t as exciting anymore and still they kept playing and doing their thing, but you just kinda left it all?
Jake: Yeah, yeah… hmm… that is an interesting observation that nobody else has made. Hmm, I think that my motivation for doing this is solely about the music and the music is entirely how it makes me feel. I started playing piano when I was six, because I asked my parents to buy me a piano because I felt that I needed to play music. If you believe in that kinda shit, I think that’s why I was put on earth. “Here you are, you’re gonna make music!” My motivation was never about being popular, it was never about money and it was never about particularly pleasing the masses. It was about music and what it meant to me and just making an artistic expression. A lot of my contemporaries in the ’80s and early ’90s… I can’t speak for them, but I don’t think their motivation was so much making something they felt was an expression of art, so much as remaining contemporary or making money. I’m not bemoaning them as far as being “Sure, you should be able to make some money and make a living,” but to me, that was never what music was about. It was about doing something with integrity and with some meaning to somebody, as opposed to, “Well, I need to pay this month’s rent.” A lot of people kept on going, but by the early to mid-’90s, I realized nobody was gonna take me seriously as far as what I had to offer and I felt like I had to offer, but everybody was pigeonholing me as far as that being a hair metal guy or at best a blues-rock guy. I didn’t think I was either… I was both of those, but I didn’t think I was only that and since I wasn’t being offered anything that would help me expand musically, I figured I would just bow out.
Metalshrine: I know that Sharon [Osbourne, Ozzy‘s wife/manager] contacted you a couple of times over the years about playing with Ozzy again, but nothing came of it. If she called you six months from now, saying that Gus G. has left, they’re thinking about bringing you back in and do a tour, would you do it?
Jake: No, I don’t think so. I did that for four years and it was a great time in my life. I played at the first Rock In Rio in front of what I think was, like, 500.000 people and I played the US Festival, which was, like, 300,000 people and I played all over the world. It was a wonderful time for me, but I did that. For me to rejoin Ozzy… hmmm… would be like trying to relive my glory days and I don’t feel the need to do that. Musically, I just wanna go where I feel I need to go. It would be like taking a step backwards for me, unless they were willing to do a new record and… hmmm… I would think about it! [laughs] To answer your question, I would think about it, because obviously, the money would be good and although I never ever will preface any decision I make musically on money, because it would be like whoring out the one thing I have to offer the world. I wouldn’t do that for money, but I’m not opposed to it either as long as I can do it with some integrity. Money wouldn’t be a bad thing, I like money, because money buys things… I would consider it, but I don’t think it would ever happen, because artistically I don’t think we could ever come to terms, really.