10 Questions with | Jay Luke
Jay Luke has been performing and writing music since 2003. He has performed gigs with Duff McKagan of Guns N Roses, W.A.S.P., Metal Church, To/Die/For from Finland, Joey Belladonna of Anthrax, and Richie Ramone of The Ramones to name a few. The most recent single "You'll Never Beat The Addiction" was just released on August 19th along with it's music video. Indie Boulevard caught up with Jay Luke to talk about the new single and more.
IB: Hi Jay. Amazing to talk to musicians like you, as you have performed with bands like The MESS, Sorrowsun and ReachForTheSky, Duff McKagan of Guns N Roses, W.A.S.P. How did you manage to find the opportunity to be part of such great bands?
Jay: Thank you for taking the time to talk. For me, to have found myself in certain situations such as being around the musicians I have looked up to as a kid and those I've admired as an adult has been a little bit of luck and a lot of perseverance and drive. Whenever certain artists would be on tour or performing random dates I would seek them out and try to get involved. Sometimes it works and sometimes not but you never know if you don't try. Y'know? The real danger is that old saying "never dive too deep into meeting your heroes, you'll often be let down" and I would be a liar if I said parts of that weren't true, but on the opposite end a lot of them are incredibly cool and humble people that offer advice and are as down to Earth as it gets.
IB: You honed your musical craft and paid your dues performing live, but how did you get into rock music? What is the story behind your music career?
Jay: I was one of the first generation to have been exposed to Music Television (MTV). Back then it was non stop music, not like it is now. For some reason it is all about teen pregnancy shows these days instead of any music and it baffles me very much. But regardless I sat in front of the television and absorbed each any everything I could from so many artists. Learning and studying, what I liked and disliked. Deciphering sounds and what was being done by the artists as if I was preparing for an exam. Without knowing one note on an instrument I knew my music and rock n roll trivia. My parents would be able to go on a vacation and not even need a babysitter for how hypnotized I was watching videos. So almost all of my desire to get into rock music stemmed from that, as well as having cool parents with good musical tastes. They always encouraged me instead of saying "That's silly" or "Focus on getting a real job" which I am incredibly thankful for as it's always let me have the opportunity to keep at it and practice. When I was about 14 I got myself my first guitar and even though I'd taken lessons around 7 or 8yrs old I was quickly discouraged when I wasn't able to learn "Hot For Teacher" by Van Halen and they instead wanted to teach me Happy Birthday instead. That was the brief time I was taking lessons. So when I was 14 is when I decided to take it all serious and basically taught myself by learning through books and guitar magazines instead of a teacher to tell me anything I went right to my heroes.
IB: Let's talk about your releases. In 2016-2017, your debut album "It's About Time" was released. The album sounds fantastic and diverse! But you said that recording the album brought a lot of frustration. How did that come about? What difficulties did you encounter and how did you overcome them?
Jay: When I got to the point of recording my debut album I had been through a period of what felt like eternally waiting to get the right lineup and songs with the bands I'd been in. I was performing out since 2003 and the bands I played in had so much music written. I wrote lyrics and music constantly but for some reason we would always lose a member or some misfortune kept derailing us from making the studio a success in recording anything. It was soooo frustrating. I felt like we were an incredible sports car with a busted wheel all of the time. Being in a band is tough and keeping it together is even tougher, it is almost like being married to 3 or 4 other people that are all trying to grab the steering wheel at the same time to go in different directions. When I finally had enough waiting and letting more time slip by me I booked the studio and just went in alone. I knocked out all of these songs I'd written and the freedom it brought me was exhilarating. I didn't have to wait around for this guy or that guy, there was no time to be wasted. I had been around so many local musicians through the years that I got friends I really respected to come and play a solo here or there on the tracks and it turned into an all star cast with some of my childhood heroes involved such as Carl Canedy of The Rods, and Manowar on drums, and Adam Bomb who'd performed with John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin and Michael Monroe of Hanoi Rocks playing lead guitar. So it was really a turning point for me to know I could do it alone. The album title spoke of that revelation when I entitled it "It's About Time" meaning I wasn't waiting anymore and I was never looking back.
IB: Listening to your songs, I noticed that you quite sound unique in terms of the album concept and also bring in ideas that not every artist dares to approach. In "It's About Time," there's an offstage voice, white noise. And the track "Take the Needle Of" absolutely surprised me. How did you come up with the idea of inserting a monologue?
Jay: I think like a lot of musicians you tend to be influenced by a lot of what you're exposed to. I remember discovering Pink Floyd who intertwined sound effects and concepts brilliantly with the music and it just blew my mind. There was also an album that was a holy grail for me called "The Crimson Idol" by W.A.S.P. which was by all accounts the album that made me want to write music. It was so well crafted and told this story that was very relatable to me. These artists and a few others had this really cool way of weaving story lines into the songs that carried through the whole album. I thought it was so important to add that extra layer of atmosphere into the soundscape. And thank you for mentioning "Take The Needle Off" which was the closing track off the album. Not many people ask me about. It was just kind of my tip of the hat to the bands I mentioned who would include a hidden message somewhere in their album as well as a thank you to the listener.
IB: The EP "Vandalized Memories" came out in 2019. It's more personal in terms of songwriting, and I felt like the tracks were heavier and rougher. What influenced you? Was there any memorable story during the making of this EP?
Jay: During the recording of that release there were a lot of things I was dealing with, my life had gone through quite a bit of changes. I'd just gotten out of a very long relationship, and so much had changed for me personally in such a short time. Right when you seem so used to things going one way life has a way of flipping the raft over and having you start again. I lost quite a lot of friends and family during that time and visited more funeral homes than I cared to. I am the sort of artist that really puts all of my feelings into my music and lyrics so I think that album really explored all of what I was going through and was a way to look at closing certain chapters and beginning new ones.
IB: And the second album "Alone In The Crowd" was released on March 1, 2021. It's much more melodic, but at the same time gloomy, with almost no bright spots. From the beginning to the end, the album sounds like a revelation. How did this record come into being?
Jay: "Alone In The Crowd" came at a time when I was feeling a bit burned out of playing at places and for people I felt no connection with. I often came home at the end of long nights and said to myself "Is it worth it? To give so much onstage and feel so little in return?" I fought this feeling for some time and about 3 or 4 songs into recording this album is when the pandemic hit and the world by and large was shut down. I did manage to put out the single "Trapped In Your Cell" around this time and it turned out to be the most successful release I have to date in terms of streams hitting close to 70,000 plays since it was released. That period gave me a lot of what I guess I needed most, time to myself and out of the club scene. I didn't want to resent audiences but at the same time I felt so dissociated trying to simply relate to people I would have no reason to had it not been for playing music and it really wore me down. So instead of taking it out in a case where I reacted violently or anything like that, I grabbed my pen and guitar and vented it all out. I was worried I might alienate myself in the process but it turned out in the bigger picture that it was a relatable feeling a lot of people connected to as well. Some may ask how you can be so lonely surrounded by so many people? And I was asking how can you not? It is a dualism that seemed the perfect theme for the album and title track. I am really proud of the album overall and the mood swings it has.
IB: You recently released a new single "You'll Never Beat The Addiction". It's a fast killer rock song with a slightly anarchic aftertaste. What is the song about?
Jay: "You'll Never Beat The Addiction" is a song about the dangerous grip addictions of all sorts hold so strongly over human beings. It almost seems unbelievable watching someone lose all they can possibly lose to something like Heroin and then still be a slave to it instead of seeing what it is actually doing and all the damage it is causing. But it is like some black magic that keeps them coming back regardless of the trail of broken dream it leaves behind. The amount of casualties I have known and lost is alarming. There are some things people try or dabble with and then there are death sentences. We all know or heard a story that is a cautionary tale of addiction. I think we live in an age where moderation of anything is foreign. There used to be a time when everything had moderation and it seems like these days are like a Wild West style buffet of overindulgence from food, sex, drugs, etc. When I wrote this song I did it from the point of view of the addiction itself watching the addict return time and time again like a slave to it's master.
IB: The new single is already out, does that mean you are working on a third album? It would be great to know what you're working on right now and what plans you have in the near future.
Jay: At this time the single/music video has been out for 2 months and there are about 4 songs already finished for this new album. So yes, I am thinking it should be finished up sometime in early 2023. As far as what else I am up to at the moment, my band Reach For The Sky is also nearing completion on our 4th album and a band I am in called The Stones Of Atlantis should also have our debut album released very soon once it's mixed and mastered. So it's a very busy time musically.
IB: In these crazy and turbulent times, is there any chance to come to your live performances? Where and when will be the next gig?
Jay: I have been pretty lucky in terms of gigs. I am still steadily doing about two to three gigs per week and that has kept me afloat while so much seems uncertain. The time off during the pandemic has me with a fresh outlook on my performances and the connection with the audiences has been wonderful. My next gig will be October 28th at a place called Breaker Brewing Outpost in Eynon, PA. depending when this will be released that date may be already past but I keep my performance schedule posted on my social media sites.
IB: And the last question. What is your main goal? You have a loyal fan base, you play live, you tour, but is there anything else that will take you further, to new heights?
Jay: I would say that as far as goals go musically and in general it is just to be better than I was yesterday. I feel so far in my life I have been blessed to have some of my musical heroes become my friends, I have been able to play venues I used to go to when I was a young kid and wouldn't imagine someday I would be on that same stage. I have got my music to reach people all over the globe and have them connect to my songs. As an artist I think there is no greater measure of success. Some people think it is money that measures all success but when someone tells you that your song or lyrics got them through a hard time, or when you are performing and people sing the song you wrote back at you that to me is equal to a billion dollars. I just want to thank everyone that has supported me, those that have recently found me though radio or playlists, or those wandering Youtube or Social Media that stumbled on my videos. I am just grateful. I hope that by just keeping it all going forward and not resting on previous success I will hit a new level. When you become too comfortable or satisfied with something you did, you lose drive for what you can do. Satisfaction can be the death of desire and I am always trying to stay hungry for what can be right around the corner for me in this musical journey.
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