Stand-up comedian Don Jamieson has his fair share of admirers in the comedy world, but he’s perhaps best known as a self-confessed “metal head” and co-presenter of celebrated US TV series That Metal Show. Fronting the cult VH1 Classic show for fourteen seasons along with DJ Eddie Trunk and fellow funny man Jim Florentine, Don has had no shortage of experiences to inform his work outside of the show. Back with a new comedy album in ‘Communication Breakdown’ – appropriately released on Metal Blade records - we caught up with Don for a chat about the disc, his recent trip to Ireland, and the possible return of TMS. Hell Bent for laughter; Eamon O’Neill.
Hi Don, How are you today?
I’m doing awesome. Obviously, I’m pumped up about the album coming out, but honestly, I’m still kind of high from my trip over to Ireland and Scotland as well.
You hooked up with Black Star Riders for a week on that trip; what was touring with those guys like?
Those guys couldn’t have been cooler to me. Obviously, being the Thin Lizzy nut that I am, sharing a bus and hearing stories from Scott Gorham was pretty incredible. And on top of it, spending time in Dublin with Philomena Lynott and visiting [late Thin Lizzy band leader] Phil [Lynott]’s graveside and the cemetery, and then getting to see Northern Ireland as well. Man, I got to say, really I need to come back and do Belfast again – there’s something pretty special about that city. But overall, the whole time was incredible. They made me an unofficial sixth member of the band, so it was all good.
Is there a chance that you could perhaps get Scott Gorham to play on your next album release?
I always have a guitar player do the opening riff on my album, and yeah, Scott would definitely be high on my bucket list.
You managed to snare Megadeth’s Dave Musitaine to open up your new album ‘Communication Breakdown’; that must have been pretty special.
Well, he’s guested on two albums that have just come out; mine and also the Body Count album, so I was pretty psyched that he would do that for me. He told me that if I ever needed a favour to email him, probably thinking I never would, but, whoops, I did it! I wasn’t expecting him to go in the studio with the whole band and cut a whole new track, so I said; “Anything that you put down on tape, I’d be honoured to have it”.
Mustaine is in great company with the others who have opened your previous two releases.
I’ve had Vinnie Moore from UFO play on my last one, and on my first album it was Bumblefoot. Even though it’s a comedy album, I like to keep the rock connection, because obviously, that’s the world that I live in.
Do you find that your audience is primarily from That Metal Show and your love of the music, or is there a separate comedy audience that comes to your show?
It’s funny, because at my shows, you’re going to have the couples that are out on a Friday or Saturday dressed up for the night, and then on the table next to them there’s the four or five guys with camouflaged shorts and Iron Maiden t-shirts on. It’s a pretty diverse crowd that I get.
Have you ever been advised to keep the worlds of comedy and hard rock separate, or does it work in tandem for you?
Well, comics talk about what they know and the world that they live in, and if I don’t talk about music and rock, and all the stuff that I love, then I’m not really being true to myself as a comedian either. Hard rock and metal are a huge part of my word, so that’s going to go into my act just like ‘break ups’, or any other thing that happens in my life; that all makes the album.
The world of rock and metal must have given you a lot of material over the years.
Yeah, sometimes it’s a fine line between rock and roll and Spinal Tap, so it’s fun to walk that line every once in a while!
You co-presented That Metal Show for an incredible fourteen seasons; you must be incredibly proud of how popular it was.
Yes, in so many ways. First of all, all the fans who watched the show, who come up to us every single day, multiple times and contact us on social media and say; “Hey, when is the show coming back?”, or with memories of the show, or how it got them through a certain time – those are great, great moments. From the artists themselves, guys like Dave Mustaine who tell me; “Thank god for you guys, you guys helped us and so many bands whether they were new, or they were established”. Something that I've learned the more and more the more I go overseas, is the international acclaim that the show had, even in Ireland and Scotland where we never really aired; people found the show on the internet, and it was so cool to meet so many fans on that trip who knew That Metal Show.
Does that surprise you, when people in countries outside of the USA know the show?
It’s pretty wild, but I know as a metal head - especially in the early days before you could just download stuff on the internet, when you had to go to the record stores and look through the bins and try to find that one album that you’ve been looking for forever - I know how obsessive we are in seeking out anything hard rock and metal that we love. So, I’m not surprised people found it, but it’s pretty funny, and it’s pretty exciting.
Who were your favourite guests on That Metal Show?
If I had one bucket list hard rock or metal moment, it would be having a Jack and Coke with Lemmy, and I actually got to achieve that more than once, even though he made it very difficult for me to stand up afterwards! Having Lemmy on the show in any context - because he really is one of my idols - was always the greatest. As far as making a TV show? Look, you like the guys who are outspoken, right? You love the Ted Nugents, you love the Dave Mustaines, you love the Phil Anselmos and the Marilyn Mansons; the guys who you’re going to tune in to see, whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em, because you know that they have no boundaries. They say whatever’s on their mind, and that’s what makes great TV.
Who were the most surprising?
Well, I think, as always, there’s never enough females in rock. The first person who ever did That Metal Show was actually Lita Ford. She appeared many times over the years, but to have Lzzy Hale come on in the later years, that was awesome, and to have the ladies from Heart be on our show was really special too. So, as much as it’s a very male-dominated genre, I always liked when we had female rockers on.
You had some fantastic musical guests on the show too. Some seemed to handle it better than others.
These musicians came on, and we weren’t paying anybody. The problem was we couldn’t pay anybody the music rights for them to play their own songs, so the thing that was most surprising to me with some of the guys was; it was hard for them to do those thirty second interludes to commercial when it wasn’t one of their own compositions. So, you would think; “Oh my god, this guy’s normally a virtuoso”, but to just improvise something and make it exciting was actually kind of hard for some people. A guy like John 5 mastered it. He made that thirty seconds; each and every one was its own concert. Other guys struggled with it, but we were grateful for anyone who came on.
Yngwie Malmsteen was another who made it his own.
He’s the original guy that played on our show. In the very early days he brought his guitar and he played us out to commercial. That’s was really where the idea came from, so he sort of created that segment for us.
That musical guest segment proved very popular with fans of the show.
Yeah, and it was one of my favourite things. The minute we went to an hour [long show], that was the first thing I said. I said; “Hey, we have time now, let’s work in the guest musician”. You know, we’re still shopping for a home, and obviously metal is huge worldwide, and I have no doubt we’ll land somewhere again, hopefully sooner, rather than later. We’re not getting younger, but if we’ve got to do it when we’re in our eighties, we’ll change it to ‘That Metal Hip’!
Getting back to your comedy work, and although TMS never made it to Europe, have you any plans of doing a Don Jamieson comedy tour over here?
Hey, you know what? You’re reading my mind right now. I’ve had a couple of trips now over to the UK and Ireland, and I think with a last name like ‘Jamieson’, half my work is already done before I even open my mouth. I think between all my material about bands and music, and let’s face it; sex jokes work all over the world, so I think people over there would get my humour. I’m working on it as we speak, so I appreciate your support over there, and I hope to make a dream come true in the next year.
Finally, what’s next for Don Jamieson?
Ah, I’m probably going to have another cup of coffee and go for a little walk… *laughing* It’s so exciting that the album’s out. It hit No.9 on the iTunes charts today, so it’s doing well. This is a very exciting day for me, but the flipside is, unlike a band, now when people come see me, if they’ve bought the album they don’t want to hear this material again, so now it’s the whole long climb to developing a whole new hour of material to take on the road with me. So, I’m sort of in the middle of that now. Last night I went out and debuted a whole bunch of new material. It takes a while to really hone it and get it all together, so every time you do an album, the next day it’s like starting over again, which keeps you on your toes.
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Don Jamieson’s ‘Communication Breakdown’ is out now via Metal Blade. For more information visit www.donjamieson.com.