Interview by Amy Nichole Harris
Jesse James Dupree is the lead singer of Jackyl, a metal band from Kennesaw, Georgia. The band was formed back in 1990 and have given their audience eight studio albums along with two live offerings. Their biggest success came with their self-titled first studio album which went platinum in 1992.
James is the lead singer of the band along with playing the guitar and another obscure instrument that has garnered him much notoriety. James also plays the chainsaw which adds a different sound to their Southern heavy metal sound. He is now most known for his appearances on the TruTV show “Full Throttle Saloon,” where we see his encounters with the owner of the establishment, Mike Ballard.
Jackyl is playing at Bogarts in Cincinnati on Friday, December 10th at 8:00 PM. Come out to see them play their old hits and the new songs off their recently released album, When Moonshine and Dynamite Collide.
Amy: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. We’re trying to preview the show for Friday night at Bogart’s.
Amy: You’ve played in Cincinnati before. Is there anything you like to do here when you’re in town?
Jesse: We played Cincinnati. We always have had great shows in Cincinnati. It’s almost like a second home for us.
Amy: You’re playing at Bogart’s which is a great venue to play in to be close to the crowd. I know you have DMC with you this week. How did that collaboration come about?
Jesse: Well with Jackyl, we just released a new album When Moonshine and Dynamite Collide and there’s a song on the album called “Just Like a Negro” that I had written with three black friends of mine. The song evolved over the course of several years to be honest with you as far as how it ended up with Jackyl playing it. Very organically, it wasn’t anything calculated….we were playing it out live and everybody was asking “When are you going to put that on a record? Put that on a record.” And so we did. Because I sound like cornbread when I open my mouth, people automatically think the title of the song is a negative thing but it’s not. The song has a very positive message. And like I said I wrote it with three black friends of mine who play in a band and one thing led to another and DMC heard the track… Darryl called me up and he said, “Man, you got to me. I love that song. I love everything about it. The message, the sound, the groove, the power, everything. I have to be part of it.” I said OK. We whipped out a version that had DMC putting his spin on the middle of it and we released it to iTunes and it just exploded and took off. Everybody seemed to be excited about it so I invited him to go out on the road with us and he’s been out with us since August.
Amy: I saw you guys perform in Indianapolis over Labor Day Weekend at the Rib Fest. It was amazing because it kind of caught me off guard. I had never heard the song and it was really amazing live. So I’m looking forward to seeing it Friday in Cincinnati. I thought it was interesting because I’m from Tennessee as well and I know there’s a lot of stereotypes in the South where you guys are from in the South so why did you pick that name for the song? You had to know it would be controversial just because where you live, right?
Jesse: No no no. You don’t understand. The song title and the groove of the music had already been written by these three black friends of mine. They were playing it in their band because they’re a black band.
Amy: People do need to listen to the lyrics because it is about people coming together and the history of music and how it ties people together.
Jesse: Yes. When they had written it, it was a different set of lyrics. I did a side project with those guys and we were out playing shows and I said, “Man, I want to play Just Like a Negro” and the bass player, a guy named Wizard said, “Well go write some lyrics for a white dude to sing it.” So I went and wrote the lyrics for a white guy to sing it. I went and sang it for him and he said, ‘I love it. Let’s do it.” So I was playing it with these three guys and we actually came through Cincinnati. We played a place called the Blue Note or something like that. The guys in Jackyl heard it and said “That’s a bad ass song.” So when Jackyl went back on tour, we started playing it and then the crowd loved it and said, “When you going to put it on a record?” So it wasn’t a calculated thing and it just kind of evolved.
Amy: Well there’s a lot of history around Rhythm & Blues here in Cincinnati with Bootsy Collins living here. So there’s a huge kind of musical community. So I’m sure they embraced the song and the whole message.
Amy: I heard that your dad kind of inspired the idea of the chainsaw in the guitar. How did the chainsaw guitar come about? Actually physically fabricating and making it one piece?
Jesse: The chainsaw guitar came about because I had seen The Song Remains the Same,the Led Zeppelin movie, when Jimmy Page is playing the double-neck and he’s got the pants with the dragon embroidered in the leg. And it was so cool. I said, “Man I love that. I should do a double-neck but instead of two guitars I should have a guitar and a chainsaw.” So I started putting the thing together. I found a guy out of Florida that builds Chapin guitars. I talked to him about it and he said, “Yeah, I can build this.” So I sketched out what I wanted it to look like and he created it. Next thing you know, we mounted the chainsaw in and it works.
Amy: How many do you have?
Jesse: Well I just have the one chainsaw.
Amy: It never breaks down on you? I know you’ve also gotten hurt from time to time playing with it and cutting things on stage with the other chainsaws. Have you ever hurt anyone else on the stage? Any bandmates?
Jesse: No. I’ve nicked a few guitars.
Amy: Some gear?
Jesse: Yeah, but that’s about the extent of it.
Amy: You have a lot of stitches from it?
Jesse: I have had 22 stitches.
Amy: Wow. It’s amazing to see. Like I said I had seen it most recently Labor Day Weekend and it’s just a fun show. It’s an amazing rock show. I always appreciate when bands do things different. You guys have worked with AC/DC and DMC now. Is there anybody else out there you would like to collaborate with or work with on new music?
Jesse: Well I’ve been lucky to work with DMC and Brian Johnson, the lead singer of AC/DC. It’s pretty amazing because both of those guys are in the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. So it’s a cool thing.
Amy: Are you writing any new music right now?
Jesse: Yeah. I don’t know when we’re going to be tracking it, but I’ve been writing. I write all the time.
Amy: What inspires you to write? What’s your process for that when you’re on the road?
Jesse: It depends. Sometimes it’s good music and I have to write lyrics for it. Sometimes I pull up some lyric ideas and I have to write music for that. There’s no one set way.
Amy: Do you guys still live in Atlanta or near Atlanta?
Jesse: Yeah, I live 20 minutes north of the city of Atlanta.
Amy: Are you guys football fans?
Jesse: When they’re winning.
Amy: That’s kind of how I feel about the Bengals. So what can we expect from the show on Friday?
Jesse: The equivalent of a man being shot out of a cannon.
Amy: I just saw you on TV. I saw you on Brett Michaels new show on VH1 at Sturgis. I know you’re doing the TruTV series “Full Throttle Saloon.” What’s your favorite moment that has come about because of that show?
Jesse: You know I’m the executive producer of that show and it’s something that I’ve worked on for several years to find a network that was willing to put it on the air. We just got the word back this week that it is the number three cable network program across the board at it’s time slot and it’s number two among the male demographic.
Amy: I guess guys like motorcycles and girls. Do you have a lot of bikes? Do you ride a lot?
Jesse: Yeah. I ride about 20,000 miles a year and guys do love the beautiful girls and motorcycles in the Full Throttle Saloon.
Amy: But have you had a great moment that has come about because of the show that you maybe wouldn’t have had otherwise?
Jesse: Well I was shot out of a cannon this year. So you’ll have to watch the show to find out if I live or not.
Amy: Ok, I’ll have to check it out. I know you like to drink. You have some moonshine in your background and usually have it on hand. What’s your favorite way to drink moonshine? I’ve liked in the past over watermelon.
Jesse: It depends on if you’re talking Eastern Tennessee or Western Tennessee. Are you talking Arkansas moonshine or North Carolina moonshine? It depends on what area of the country the moonshine is coming from.
Amy: Which way do you prefer it? Do you drink it straight or do you mix it?
Jesse: I prefer it straight with the ball-pin hammer straight to the head.
Amy: I have done it once with Powerade and that had an interesting effect.
Jesse: It will kill you.
Amy: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. I look forward to the show on Friday night.
Jesse: Thank you very much.