"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Interview

Comedian Don Jamieson Bridges Metal and Comedy With Stand Up Album

Metalunderground.com is 1000% devoted to covering the best metal in the underground. Sometimes we even argue if something is fitting enough to be on the site. We rarely cover anything outside of the realm of music, but every now and then something like Don Jamieson “Communication Breakdown” comes out and we feel compelled to cover it.

Not only has Jamieson co-hosted VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show, he is a big metal head and much of his stand up is devoted to heavy metal. He even has a Dave Mustaine riff on the album as a transition to and from the stage. He’s a funny guy who has a special talent of being able to bring two worlds: metal and comedy together, so it only seemed right for us to chat with him a bit about his new stand up album. Also, he’s a big supporter of the metal underground, so we feel it’s only proper to give him a little support.

Rex_84: Now that “Communication Breakdown” has been released, how do you feel?

Don Jamieson: I feel good. We got to number 9 on the iTunes charts thanks to the comedy lovers out there, but part of it is due to the metal underground. I appreciate that. Those are my worlds since I was I was 11-years old. I was into Kiss “Destroyer” and George Carlin “Occupation Fool.” Comedy and metal have always been my world. It’s just a matter of combining them one day. It took a while, but here we are. I put out my album on Metal Blade Records. The comedy audience has come out but so have the metal people. It’s cool when I look out into the crowd. I see people dressed up on dates and the next table has six guys with Slayer shirts and cargo shorts. I’m bringing worlds together with my comedy.

Rex_84: How did you connect with Metal Blade?

Jamieson: That was crazy because Metal Blade is so important for this music that I love. Brian Slagel, the head of the company, is one of my idols. He was releasing albums from over seas that you could never find. He’s the one that put the first Metallica song out. He’s had so many iconic bands on the label—Slayer, King Diamond, the list goes on and on. When he first offered me a record contract, he had seen me on the road opening for one of his bands. Not a lot of comics do that. Not a lot of comics open for metal bands for a good reason. He offered me this deal and I thought he was messing with me. I thought why would this guy want me to be on Metal Blade, not a comic label? Once I realized he wasn’t messing around, I said why not. You can call the album whatever you want as long as it says Metal Blade on it. It could say “Don Jamieson is an a-hole.”

Rex_84: Tell me about the album title. I understand it has a double meaning.

Jamieson: Of course, it’s a comedy album that anybody can enjoy, but I had to put a rock n roll tie into it, so “Communication Breakdown” is a nod to the Led Zeppelin song from their first album. It also goes along with the photo on the front cover, which is my college yearbook photo. I majored in communications. I love the photo because it’s me in 1988 with a feathered mullet, business in the front, party in the back. I saw that picture again after so many years and said that’s the photo for my next album. As soon as I saw “communication,” I just added “breakdown” to the photo and that’s the story of the cover.

Rex_84: The title track is 0:00-seconds long.

Jamieson: That’s another tie in. That’s the last thing you would want as a comedian, to have a communication breakdown. Your whole lifeline is communicating to an audience. It has a bunch of different meanings, but yeah, it all kind of ties together.

Rex_84: What happened to “That Metal Show?” Why did it end up being cancelled?

Jamieson: They cancelled the channel. For people that don’t know, “That Metal Show” was a hard rock and metal show that I did with my two co-hosts Eddie Trunk and Jim Florentine. We did fourteen seasons on VH1 Classic. A lot of people would say “oh, you’re on VH1.” No, we were on VH1 Classic, which was a little further up the dial. We were on the air for fourteen seasons and then they changed the channel to MTV Classic, which was old re-runs of MTV shows. We are looking for a new home, so if you own a TV network we would love to be in business with you.

Rex_84: So they changed the channel and quit playing music?

Jamieson: That’s the sad state of affairs in this country right now and is not a big seller. That’s why I love the title of what you do, Metalunderground, because that’s where we are in a lot of ways. Metal bands have always been pushed to the side. It has always been an underground thing. Every time we get close to coming out of the underground, something hipper comes out and pushes us back out of the way. Rock is not dead, regardless of what anybody says. I go to these festivals all over the world. There are hundreds of thousands of fans at every one. I have a feeling we’ll be back again at some point, you just have to give it some time.

Rex_84: It’s too bad MTV took over the channel. In the ‘80s and even early ‘90s, MTV was a great place for music. Then they just quit playing music.

Jamieson: I think they forgot the “M” stood for music.

Rex_84: What does it stand for now?

Jamieson: I don’t know. Now you have to be pregnant and 16 to be on that channel. I’m 50 and a dude, so they aren’t looking for me.

Rex_84: One thing about the show was it didn’t feature extreme musicians. Would they not allow you to?

Jamieson: Over the seasons, we did start to incorporate more of that into the show, but we were on a channel called VH1 Classic so it had to revolve around the classic bands. If you go to ESPN Classic, you’re not going to find a new game. This was sort of the same thing. But when you’re on a show for 14 seasons, you’ve got to mix it up. Believe it or not, we had more extreme artists than you would imagine. We had Amon Amarth, Dillinger Escape Plan, Volbeat, Hatebreed and so forth. We did have some of the bands representing that spectrum of music that we love, but at the end of the day it was really more a classic metal band-type show.

Rex_84: Who are some of your favorite extreme bands? I know you like Amon Amarth. On the album you talk about meeting them.

Jamieson: Amon Amarth is definitely my top favorite. They are one of the bands I’ve loved the most over years and years. There is a band called Abnormality, which is really technical death metal with a super hot chick who I love. I love this band Destrage from Italy. They’re doing something really cool, unique and thrashy. I really like the new Candiria. It’s very eclectic and experimental metal. There is a pretty wide variety of bands that I love. I love Revocation. Those guys rule. It’s funny, they say the older you get, the more mellow you get. The older I get, the more I search for extreme metal.

Rex_84: More extreme metal is out there now. It’s easier to find.

Jamieson: Yes, exactly. They’ll never play stadiums, but because of the Internet, you can find more of that type of music. That’s great because there is a bigger audience in America than people know.

Rex_84: You talk about rockers and how they aren’t what they used to be. We’ve all turned into pussies. Why do you think society has become that way?

Jamieson: I agree with what Tom Araya said: we’ve become a nation of cry babies. Nobody has any back bone anymore. Everybody is afraid to talk, to say anything. I’m an older dude, I’m 50, I remember the days when the Van Halens of the world ruled. Those guys were rock stars. David Lee Roth would drink a couple bottles of Jack Daniels before the show and they would still put on these kick ass concerts. Now a days, they do Zumba before the show. The bands in the old days would shoot up and now they have Epipens. They have a gluten-free diet. Nobody smashes up tables or hotel rooms anymore. They are looking for safe spaces, so their feelings don’t get hurt.

Rex_84: The funniest thing on the album was the Kiefer Sutherland story. Does he have a reputation for getting drunk? Have you heard about him getting drunk, or was it just that party?

Jamieson: I think you’re the only one who hasn’t heard that about him. You sound surprised that he’s known as a big partier.

Rex_84: No, I just wondered. You are closer to him than I am.

Jamieson: The only reason I’m closer because I was at the same party as him. As I say on the album, I spend some time having some drinks with him, yada yada yada, Jack Bower kissed my neck. We’ll leave it at that. If people want to hear the whole story, they can buy the album.

Rex_84: Did your girlfriend actually think you hooked up with someone else because he gave you a hickey?

Jamieson: Yeah, I got into a lot of trouble that whole night. It was a good story that I thought should be on an album. How many comedians have that good of a story to put on a record?

Rex_84: You rip on Myrtle Beach. Aren’t all beach towns pretty much the same? Are you not into beach culture or is it just the south?

Jamieson: No, I live 600 hundred feet from the beach in Jersey, so I love beach communities, but the story about Myrtle Beach is more about me riding a skateboard, cracking my head open and almost dying in front of my relatives. If I go through any amount of pain as a comedian, then I have to turn it into comedy. That’s why a lot of comics talk about breakups and their divorces, there is a lot of pain there. The good thing is we save a lot of money on therapy by turning our pain into jokes telling strangers about our problems.

Rex_84: So you find it very therapeutic.

Jamieson: Oh yeah, beyond a doubt I saved a lot of money on therapy by being a comedian.

Rex_84: You have some Megadeth riffs at the beginning and ending of your album. Who played the guitar on these tracks?

Jamieson: I’m really happy that Dave Mustaine from Megadeth donated a riff to my album. I saw him at a rewards show in New York and he said if I needed anything from him just to let him know. I don’t know if he meant it or not, but I emailed him anyway and asked him if he would give me a riff to open my album with and he did. I’m super pumped he did that for me because he is definitely a thrash metal legend and it was very cool of him to do that. It was just another thing for my audience.

Rex_84: Right, it’s like That Metal Show opening up with a big heavy metal riff.

Jamieson: Right, and that’s what it’s all about. It’s a riff. Other than punk rock and country, it’s a form of musician where people actually play an instrument. If we can keep that alive, we’ll be ok. .

Rex_84's avatar

An avid metal head for over twenty years, Darren Cowan has written for several metal publications and attended concerts throughout various regions of the U.S.

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