If you have been listening to metal or heavy music anytime in the past 3 decades, Jimmy P. Brown II (Deliverance, Jupiter VI, Fearful Symmetry) needs no introduction. His prolific output over the past 33 years stands on its own merits, but has primarily been a “band thing” under the Deliverance moniker. So Jimmy decided to step out from behind the big “D” and do the “solo thing” this time around. And fortunately, for fans of mid-era Deliverance, he has collaborated with Manny Morales, his long-time friend and bassist, and with White Heart drummer Jon Knox (studio drums on Learn). I was fortunate enough to catch up with Jimmy (at a good time for both of us) and in doing so capture some of his impressions and insights into the new record.
Doc: Just for clarity’s sake – is Eraserhead the title of this specific record or is that the name of the project? In other words is this a Jimmy P. Brown II solo project or is Eraserhead the new incarnation/alter ego of Deliverance? Semantics, I know, but readers always ask about this kind of thing as you are aware.
JPBII: Ha! No worries. It does kinda cause a little confusion. This is my solo project! Eraserhead is simply a little inside joke, as I came out of the bathroom from a haircut, my hair was standing straight up and Jon and Manny called me “Eraserhead” … so it kinda stuck as a nickname – I ended up calling the album ERASERHEAD. But, it is a Jimmy P. Brown II release.
Doc: And along those same lines, what is the significance of Eraserhead as a title? Anything to do with David Lynch’s creepy film from the 70’s? And if so, in what ways?
JPBII: Eraserhead, as with most of Lynch’s movies, are some of my favorite. But it had nothing to do with the title of the album, nor is it the name of a band, it’s the name of the album.
Doc: Tell us how this project came about and the process of selecting the musicians?
JPBII: I always choose the musicians with care, as much as I am able to. When I am after a certain sound, I want to deal with those who make those sounds rather than someone who simply mimics sounds. Know what I mean? Jon Knox and Manny Morales are simply one of my favorite rhythm sections I have ever worked with! So, when I wanted to work in a certain direction, I called on them. I was fortunate enough to have secured them both for this recording … I never have to direct them! That is a key component in working with musicians. They just make the sounds you are hearing in your head. Much like for my Jupiter VI project, Movable Walls, I could only hear Jeff Ceyba on guitar. His playing needs no directing, only let them feel what they feel. When I work with musicians, I only offer them my songs and ask them to lend their interpretation to what I wrote. That’s what Manny and Jon do when they hear the songs. It’s quite wonderful.
Doc: In what ways did the songwriting process differ this time around? In what ways did it compare or contrast with the Deliverance writing process, or even from Jupiter VI?
JPBII: Songs come out of me as a result of emotional upheavals I am going through. This particular album was brought out of despair from life choices and where I was living. You can hear sadness, joy, pain, fear, all of those emotions there. With the thrash incarnation of Deliverance, my writing is very one dimensional. I don’t mean that as a knock on myself or the genre, it’s just the way I see it … Metal is aggression! Always has been, always will be. But when you can go beyond that scope and unlock the doors and pass through, you are no longer held by those bars!
Doc: Granted, I’ve only heard digital files up to this point, but this record sounds amazing. As much as the first two Deliverance albums remain seminal points in the history of Christian metal, I have to confess that I have always really loved Stay of Execution, Learn and River Disturbance because of their original sound and progressive vibe. Stay was just a huge departure, but it worked on a deeper level that took some time to appreciate. I am interested in your thoughts on what lead you to move in a creative direction (with Eraserhead) that echoed back somewhat to those releases?
JPBII: The “Creative Years” of Deliverance were my seminal favorite of my writing career. I guess it would only be fitting to harken back to that time … especially since having Jon and Manny with me.
Doc: The sound/mix on Eraserhead feels fresh and organic. Is there anything different about the recording process than what you’ve done in the past?
JPBII: The only thing different is where we recorded it. Otherwise, no sampling, no mass manipulation of tones or sound replacing of any sorts. The sounds you hear are pretty much as they were recorded in the studio. That’s where the real work took place. Mic placement, choice of mics and preamps, compressors, etc. I feel these elements are felt throughout the album and I enjoy the tones more than any other album I have recorded so far.
Doc: Your vocals sound better than ever. How did you decide to use your voice/record the vocals in a more distinctive manner – in a way that would set these songs apart from what you’ve done previously?
JPBII: Thank you so much for that compliment. I was actually scared they wouldn’t come out very well as I was dealing with a health crisis at the time for that entire year. In fact, I asked Eric Clayton to come and help produce my vocals because I wasn’t hearing anything right at the time because of my emotional and physical state. Eric and I have been friends and musical soulmates for a long time. So, I knew he would pull things outta me that I couldn’t imagine. Unfortunately, the 7-8 days he was there, my voice was weak and I wasn’t really able to record anything but scratch tracks. But, we worked on a lot of ideas that I recorded later when he was in Germany. Then I would send him the tracks, and he would give me his input. Thankfully, we did get a lot of “The Watchers” done when he was with me, and in fact I asked him to help with the backing vocals on that track which work wonderfully! Our voices blend very well.
Doc: Agreed. Well, there seems to be a movement in getting drums sounding like drums again and not over-processed machines. How did you accomplish that here and talk a bit about Jon Knox’s performance and contribution on the record. He absolutely shreds during those fills on “The Watchers.”
JPBII: It’s all about micing, placement in the room and compression instead of over use of EQ. Jon just did what he did as always. He is, simply put, amazing! And, I have to add he was sick most of those days we were tracking.
Doc: It is great to hear that this will be released on vinyl, because it just seems like the kind of recording well-suited to a more organic media. Other than inherent differences between digital and vinyl media, is there a separate mix for the vinyl, or is this a digital to analog copy in essence?
JPBII: Mastering is done differently for Vinyl, but the mix is the same…
Illuminate in a dark world
Healing light searches to find
I dedicate myself to rise
Elevate My Mind – “Memoria”
Doc: This has got to be one of the most diverse records you’ve made in your career. And while all of these songs gel extremely well, I might single out a few for comment. (Feel free to expound on any of them, of course).
“A Story of Time” – feels like a nod back to “You Still Smile” – obviously a deeply personal song.
It very much is … just an expression of the way I was feeling about my wife. I had written that song back in 1999, but never recorded it other than in demo format … it was time.
“Indecisive” – did Jimi Hendrix have any influence here, LOL?
Oh Dear God YES! I had been listening to a LOT of Hendrix at that time when writing it … big Inspiration, even in the vocal delivery style. I think it came out as a nice tribute.
“Entertaining Angels” – the perfect cover song, as usual!
I cannot wait for Peter to hear this version. I am particularly proud of the way this song came out. I hope The Newsboys will agree.
“Stained” – groovy riff, and that outrageous guitar solo!
Thanks, Bro. Lots of Zep and Sabbath feel to this and other jams on the album. Thanks for the nod on the solo. This is the first time I did not enlist anyone to play solos for one of my recordings. I really wanted to try and do it all … so, it’s nice someone noticed.
“The Swell Lot of Thieves” – another song with great grooves – care to elaborate on this one?
“Swell” is soooo much fun … VERY influenced by the likes of Zeppelin here … minus the vocals of course. But, when it came to the solo, I kept asking myself “What would Page do here?” I believe it came out marvelous.
“Ego” – song reminds me of a heavier version of Saviour Machine’s “Carnival of Souls,” especially that guitar tone/melody in the softer section. Feels a bit like a song that could have been on Learn or Stay. Just a really great song. Talk a bit about the lyrics and what you are trying to convey here. (See video)
“Ego” is a song about realizing one’s self … sometimes taking a look in the mirror and not liking what we see … who and what we’ve become. “Ego” separates us from everything and everyone important – to your spiritual life, to the friends and loved ones around you. Again, it’s about realizing those things you have to change – inside first, then the rest will follow.
“The Watchers” – this will likely become a classic – it’s like Queensryche meets Saviour Machine – those dual vocals with you and Eric are sublime, and those insane drum fills during the solos section.
Thank You. I guess I don’t hear either of those bands in this song … I hear my writing. But, I don’t take it as an insult since I am a giant fan of the ‘Ryche and Machine. Yes, the end of the song hearing me and Eric say – “The End of Man” – Yeah, it really gives chills … even to me, and I am singing on it LOL. The song itself being a commentary of how the Watchers (the angels mentioned in the Book of Enoch) view us. Yeah, it’s a haunting song and I think it’s the perfect closer to the album.
Doc: Absolutely. So what are your favorite musical moments on the album? Oh wait, scratch that question. All of them right? LOL!
JPMII: LOL … That’s funny … I have to say the interplay between the 3 musicians and how we worked with each other to complement one another. Those are the moments that get me … like the mid-section of “Swell” or the solo section of “Ego” … parts that just work. And they just happened … we didn’t work for hours on them, they were musical magical moments caught.
“This world needs an enema” – Jimmy P. Brown II
Doc: Your lyrics have always been an important part about what makes the music so meaningful. We live in a musical world that doesn’t even care about this anymore because the music has become so loud or distorted? Not only have you delivered an album full of heavy, rhythmic tunes, but your words sing forth with truth and clarity – much needed in our world today. What role and emphasis do you ascribe to lyrics in general?
JPBII: Lyrics are the most important part of the song. I think the music is there to support and help what is being said through the lyrics … even if the lyrics are gibberish, if that makes any sense. A lot has been lost that way unfortunately in modern music. We’ve dumbed it down, and not on purpose. I think people are just not as well read as they used to be. They don’t know poets and writers any longer. They only know personalities and celebrity. It really is a shame. We used to sit and talk and quote “Frost, Blake, Dickenson”… now, its dog singing videos on Youtube and cats farting. This world needs an enema.
Doc: And as a follow up, from a lyrical standpoint, which song or songs from Eraserhead resonate most deeply with you?
JPBII: All of them.
I stained the water clear… – “Stained”
The Saviour Machine Connection
Doc: How did the collaboration with Eric Clayton materialize? I believe you have worked with him in the past, correct? I remember seeing the Desperate Cries And Windows Eyes tour back in ‘93 in San Antonio and that was just an insane show.
JPBII: Eric did backing vocals with me on Stay of Execution. I did backing vocals on Saviour Machine I. We’ve been friends and mates since 1991. It was just a natural inclination for us to work on something together again.
Doc: Cool. Aside from his guest performance on vocals, what other roles did Eric play on Eraserhead?
JPBII: Eric, as I mentioned, assisted me on vocal production. As well as lending his wonderful backing vocals to “The Watchers” and “Digital Postage Stamp.”
“I am grateful for mercy, faithfulness and love. Where would we be without these things???” – Jimmy P. Brown II
Doc: Jimmy, you’ve been doing this music thing now for over 30 years, you’ve worked with a lot of great musicians, you’ve been through a lot personally just doing “life” stuff like family, work, etc. What would you like to share specifically about how you’ve make all that work? What wisdoms about life, in general, you’ve garnered along the way?
JPBII: People and life are strange … I wish I had more wisdom to impart, but that is really all that comes to mind at the moment.
Doc: In what ways has your faith been impacted over the years? What lessons have you learned in this “boot camp life that prepares us for the grave?” (Such a great song by the way).
JPBII: Thanks for the nod to “Learn” … one of my favs. What is faith? Well, without action it’s nothing. So, I guess the best thing I can say is this: I am grateful for mercy, faithfulness and love. Where would we be without these things???
Doc: Where do you see your solo project going from here? Is this a one off or do you feel lead to keep things going in both the Deliverance camp and the solo camp?
JPBII: It’s definitely not a one off … it’s just the beginning. I am through hiding behind band names like Fearful Symmetry, Jupiter VI, etc. Its just Jimmy P Brown II … take it or leave it.
Doc: I’ve often heard many talented and visionary artists (especially in the more progressive genres) state that they are better off and more creative when working with multiple projects and multiple musicians rather than plugging away with the same crew all the time. What are your thoughts?
JPBII: I know for me, I like variety. I have my own sound that I have developed with vocals, guitar stylings and production thumbprints. As far as the musicians, you choose the right tool for the job. Know what I mean? If I want this, I choose that … or if I can do it all myself and be happy (much like Prince recorded most of his albums) Either way, I just want the sound I am searching for to be found.
“Music is a gift to the world. Let them choose what to accept or reject. But don’t put it in a ‘members-only’ box that you need access to get. Just put it all out there and let the world judge for itself. I think we’d be really surprised by the results.” – Jimmy P. Brown II
Doc: Some in our scene have talked about a metal revival of sorts? I certainly think we need to see a focus on crafting meaningful music which is simultaneously executed with brilliance and with clarity of message. In this regard, what are your thoughts on the status of “Christian” metal circa 2018? Where are we going and what would you like to see change in order to make that happen?
JPBII: For me personally, I want the “scene” to end. I have grown weary of the separation, segregation and elitist mentality that has plagued the world of Christian music from the beginning. Music is a gift to the world. Let them choose what to accept or reject. But don’t put it in a members-only box that you need access to get. Just put it all out there and let the world judge for itself. I think we’d be really surprised by the results.
Doc: Amen to that. Final thoughts or words for the readers of Heaven’s Metal?
JPBII: HM has been ours and my personal ally for 30 years. It’s good to know you all still consider me a friend.
Doc: Thanks, Jimmy, for your time and for your music.
JPBII: Thank you … Many Appreciations. I also want to thank Matt Hunt and the Retroactive Records Label for always taking risks, being at the forefront of anything that I do musically!
And speaking of that…
The new album, entitled Jimmy P. II’s Eraserhead, will be available from Retroactive Records around September 18th on CD, vinyl and digital download, so pre-order your copies today!