Monday, April 30, 2012

TALKIN' TRASH WITH...JK Northrup (Interview)

Normally, I wouldn't put up two interviews so close together, but with the hoopla surrounding the new Liberty N Justice CD, Hell Is Coming To Breakfast, which JK had a large hand in completing, I thought now would be a good time to let the Glitter2Gutter readers get to know this man a bit better. So...let's talk some trash with JK Northrup...

G2G: JK, thanks for taking the time to chat with me and the Glitter2Gutter readers. What's been going on in the world of JK Northrup?

JK: Thanks for having me here Arttie, it's an honor! In my world right now, I am working with a lot of amazing artists. Been working and writing A LOT with the great Justin Murr on several projects including the brand new Liberty N' Justice Hell Is Coming To Breakfast album release, and the single "Stayin' Alive" which is just Kip Winger and me (just acoustic and vocal) which is being released on Itunes the same day, April 24th from the next Liberty N Justice two-disc album, The Cigar Chronicles, which doesn't have an official release date just yet. I also just put together the final mix and master of "Hot Child In The City" featuring Justin's daughter, Torrie, also on Itunes April 24. I have to give a shout out to Mark Lanoue and CJ Snare for their talents and contributions!!! Other than that, I'm just trying to fit in time to watch some baseball and spend time with my wife and family.

G2G: Baseball fan, huh? Probably the biggest Royals fan you'll talk to right here! Who do you root, root, root for?

JK: Well, I grew up and have lived most of life in Northern CA, so the answer is pretty obvious....Yankees!!! Just kidding...GO GIANTS!!!!!! Ever since I was a wee lad listening to the great Willie Mays on the radio, I listen to and watch every game I can and go to San Francisco to see them when possible.

G2G: My neighbor across the street flies the Giants flag proudly, so I have to see that black and orange on a regular basis.... I would imagine finding time to hit games has to be difficult, because you are one busy man! You seem to show up on someone's album every couple of months! Everyone else is unemployed, but that's not a problem for you, is it?

JK: (laughing) Very true that I am a bit in demand at the moment, which is complaints here....(JK pretends to fall asleep...) I'm awake now!  It is an honor to be involved with so many great artists, but I will take a day or two to go to the ballpark this year!

Ted Poley "Smile" 2007
G2G: For those who may not know, you have played with such names as Paul Shortino of Rough Cutt and, now, King Kobra...which is another band you have played with. You played with XYZ, with Cage, with Ted Poley of Danger Danger, and of course with Liberty N Justice now... That's an impressive resume... Right place at the right time? Have axe will travel? Huge rolodex of names? What's the scoop?

JK: I actually got my first break in 1982 when Bruce Turgon (bassist, songwriter with Lou Gramm and Foreigner) heard a tape of me playing and flew from LA to Redding, in Northern California, and offered me a spot as guitarist for his album demo for Pasha Records. Billy Thorpe of "Children Of The Sun" fame was producing. Quiet Riot was mixing Metal Health in the next room and got to meet all the guys. Billy had just released his latest album on Pasha and asked Bruce, Frankie Banali and myself to tour for it! From back yard parties to 15,000 people opening for Cheap Trick in one month. That's how it all started. Now, yes I do have a rolodex with quite a few names.

G2G: You sound like Justin Murr...I'd LOVE to see his rolodex! Speaking of Justin, how did you get hooked up with Liberty N Justice?

JK: I have no idea! Just kidding again... I was contacted to play guitars on the LnJ album Light It Up. I played on the title track with Phil Lewis (LA Guns) on vocals, then Justin asked me to do a solo on "Throwing Stones", that Vic Rivera produced. All of a sudden, I get this call from Justin asking, "Who the heck are you"?? (laughing) So then he wanted to see what I can do as a writer/producer and he challenged me to do a version of "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gee's...acoustically!!! I said, "I'll take that challenge" and then he kept giving me more and more...and more! Then asked me to write music to his lyric's and here we are today!

As it turns out, Kip Winger sang on the "Stayin' Alive" track and it's now being released as a sneak preview single on Itunes!! Very proud of that one. Anyway, now we can't stop creating together!!!! Justin is a great man and artist to work with

G2G: That says a lot considering some of the people you have collaborated with. Tell me about working with Paul Shortino on those two Shortino/Northrup discs. How did you get together and was that a studio -only project or did you guys play out some?

JK: I started working on the Back On Track album in 1990. I was signed to an indy label as a solo artist and it was intended to be a studio project. I had multiple drummers and bassists and was going to use different singers. My good friend James Kottak , who had played drums on several songs suggested I have Paul sing on one. I was already a big fan of Paul and had him come in to the studio. He sang on "Bye Bye To Love" and I was floored!!! He brought Sean McNabb (ex-Great White, Quiet Riot, Rough Cutt) to that session, also. Sean and Paul were in Quiet Riot together previously. We all clicked and we agreed that Paul should be the singer and then it became a band project. Paul, Sean, James and I did a lot of shows in the L.A. area and did a cross country tour as well. The Afterlife album was only a studio project, but a lot of great music came out of it! Proud of both albums!!! Paul is a great friend and certainly one of the greatest rock/blues singers in the industry. One of the best singers that I have had the pleasure of working with.

G2G: Yeah, I love that first album a lot...I even reviewed it here on Glitter2Gutter. Great disc. Hey, speaking of that first Shortino/Northrup disc, when or why did you switch your name from Jeff to JK? What gives?

JK: Ha ha, good question. I kind of hit a wall, career-wise, back around 1999-2000. My long time friend Richard Diaz, going back to 1983, kept saying to me, "Jeff, you should go by "JK" (my first and middle initials). He stated, "It just sounds heavier, more like Jake E Lee!!" I never paid much attention until I was contacted to release an old collection of songs with Johnny Edwards on vocals in 2001. The band was simply called Northrup (1987-89). I told the label that I would do it, but under the name "JK Northrup". I am now officially and professionally "JK", although my wife, some older friends and my parents will always call me Jeff. On a side note..Dionne Warwick changed the spelling of her last name in the early 60's from Warrick, to Warwick. The story goes that when she did, her career really took off! I can only dream to someday achieve the status she did, but things really did start clicking when I made the change.

Steffanie "Hideaway" 1985
G2G:  Huh...I tried spelling Arttie as RT for awhile, but I didn't notice an increase in the cool factor!  Anyway, I thought I pretty much owned all your stuff, but I was looking ar your discography and you have worked with some people I have never even heard of. Who the heck is Steffanie?

JK:  Steffanie is of Japanese-Hawaiian decent that was a recording artist from America, and was a star in Japan in the 80's-90's. She was signed to Warner-Pioneer Records. I recorded on and wrote songs for her first two albums...and I do mean VINYL!  Spent a few weeks in Japan doing live shows, recording the first album and shooting her videos. If you look up Steffanie on YouTube you will see several videos with me performing with her. Kind of the "Pat Benatar" of Japan! She is such a wonderful person.  Had my first taste of jokes Japan sitting around the table with the big suits from the label. Great time!!!

G2G:  Wow...vinyl and YouTube mentioned in the same times have changed the music biz, huh? Maybe you see things differently since you are also into the production side of things, so I have to ask: what's your take on the digital download world of music?   Killing the industry or just adapting to give modern music fans what they want?

JK:  That is the million dollar question for sure! For some of us it's more like the $50 question... No doubt the digital download and file sharing has taken it's toll on soooo many great recording artists in a negative way. Geez, I wish there was a way to file share pizza, or sushi, but it would put a lot of people out of work and business! Having said that, the digital domain is here and is not going away. It is a great way for artists to immediately let their fans hear and purchase their music, song by song, or an entire album! So like it or not, it is giving the modern fans what they want. I just wish there were more honest consumers that had more of a conscience.

G2G:  So, going forward, how is JK going to release music? As a digital single here and there, or are you going to hang onto the CD process as long as possible? Personally, I hate not having a disc and liner notes and all that in my hands. You would think there would be a happy medium somewhere...

JK:  Right now for me, it's both hard copies and digital downloads on all albums I have been a part of.   I agree that there is so much more value to any consumer to have a CD in hand...and now they are bringing back vinyl...and being able to read the liner notes. It let's them know more about the album and everyone involved with it. That brings the songs and the process of recording them to life! So much more personal, and I hope this will always continue. For example, "Reality TV" has become so the Kardashians...and it's all crap and fake, but the modern audience wants to know about it.   Music is so much more personal to each individual, so I have to have faith that the listener will want to know more about the behind the scenes of their favorite artists. I will always continue to put out hard copies for those that choose to want to know more about the songs. However, the long winded answer is "YES! There is a happy medium!", because some just want to enjoy the song and nothing else, and I am ok with that as long as they are buying and not pirating.

G2G:  All right, while we are on the topic of new material, tell me about your contributions to the Hell Is Coming To Breakfast release from Liberty N Justice, because you are all over this disc, correct?   I mean, you're on the title track, on "Whack A Mole", "Madhatter", "Stretch Armstrong" are just all over the place! You must have had a lot of fun working on this project, and the upcoming Cigar Chronicles, as these two efforts had to eat up a lot of time and creative juices...

JK:  Ok...I have to pull out the liner notes regarding the Hell Is Coming To Breakfast album (laughing) because I don't have the cd yet!   In a most humble and sincere answer--the songs I wrote with Justin are, "Hell Is Coming To Breakfast", "Mad Hatter", "Whack A Mole", "Nakatomi Plaza", "Stretch Armstrong" and "Sin".   Justin wrote the lyrics and I did the music. I performed all of the instruments on these songs, except for the solos on "Madhatter, "Nakatomi Plaza" and "Stretch Armstrong".   I sang on "Nakatomi Plaza", or at least I tried my best, I mixed and mastered every song except "Your Memory Just Won't Do", which was done by the great CJ Snare, and I only mastered the songs, "Monkey Dance", "Thy Will Be Done" and ”What Do You Believe?" which were mixed by others. A couple more shout-outs to Anthony Gravley for his excellent arrangements and recording of the songs, "Get Down" and "Thankful Heart", and to all of the great artists that brought all of these songs to life!    Fun???? Absolutely had, and am still having a great time with all of these songs.  The Cigar Chronicles is also going to be off the charts amazing!!!! Wow, hard to even express it in words. Justin always inspires me and certainly is the driving force for all that I have had the honor to be involved in on the LnJ records!. Yes, it has eaten up a lot of creative juices and time, but has also replenished them 10 fold!

G2G:  I know all artists say their songs are like children and they could never pick and choose, but can you pick one or two that you are particularly proud of?   Personally, and I have already told Justin this, I LOVE "Sin" and "Nakatomi Plaza" probably as much as any LnJ songs ever, which says a lot, since I have pretty much everything LnJ has ever done. Of course, I also love "Monkey Dance" since my all-time fave singer, Jack Russell, is on there.  What about you?  Any standouts?

JK:  You are right that each song is like we male musicians' version of giving birth...(laughing)! Some are so cute, some are butt ugly, but you still love them...some more than others.   However, as a pure song and the way it turned out stripped down, I would say "Sin" with just Jani and me together is powerful, especially with the lyrical content! I take a lot of personal pride in that one. But I also love the heavier, more modern, twisted stuff like "Stretch Armstrong" and "Whack A Mole". "Hell Is Coming To Breakfast" is just flat out RAWKIN!!! So, sorry I can't answer that question...(laughs)

G2G:  Coward! (Laughing)  When you aren't listening to mixes of all the LnJ songs you're working on, what is JK listening to these days?

JK:  To be honest, I listen to very little music outside of the studio these days!   I know that sounds odd, but I get to a point where I have been writing, mixing, playing etc., that I need to get away from it.   I do a lot of comparison listening to other finished mastered cd's, new and old, while I am working on any given project.  There are sooo many talented bands and artists that I do enjoy, though. I have always listened to almost all styles of music and have a deep appreciation for the classics and many modern bands. From Frank Sinatra to Disturbed, Elvis to The Foo Fighters, as long as it moves me, I will listen! The Beatles are my favorite band of all time. Melody, melody, melody!  My wife plays a wide variety of music at home on weekends, mostly relaxing music.

King Kobra "III" 1988
G2G:  Ever listen to any of your old stuff, like King Kobra or XYZ, stuff like that, or do you leave your stuff in the past and just move forward? I've talked to some artists who don't like to listen to a lot of their old material unless they are touring it, because they don't want to influence current stuff with old stuff.

JK:  I will admit, I do pull out some of the old stuff and listen! I am very proud of all of the past albums I have done and sometimes I need a reminder of the accomplishments I have achieved in my career. This is important because I am always striving to do something different, better, or at least hope I am not taking a step backwards.  I personally feel I am making a positive step forward at this time musically, and even in my playing!

G2G:  Anyone you are really hoping to get the chance to work with as you move forward?

JK:  Well I have put in a few calls to Paul McCartney and Robert Plant, but no call backs yet (laughing). Honestly, I haven't really thought about that. Other than Paul and Robert, there are a few female artists I would love to work with. Boy do I have some songs for Kelly Clarkson, or Carrie Underwood!   A little less rock than you would expect from me, but I write many different styles. I have been very fortunate to have worked with the many great artists already that I don't have much more of a wish list. Having said that, I am sure there will be many more in the near future.  There's just so much talent out there.

G2G:  More plans with LnJ, I'm hoping.

JK:  (Laughing)   I don't think Justin is going to get any sleep for a while.  We're  working on more songs as we speak!!  That is" I don't think Justin is going to let ME get any sleep".

G2G:  Well, JK, I want to thank you for taking the time to chat with us... It's been a lot of fun, and I hope we can do this again sometime. Any closing thoughts or chunks of wisdom to leave Glitter2Gutter readers with?

JK:  Well first of all, thank you so much for having me here, it's been a pleasure for sure.   I would invite all that are interested to keep up to date with what I am up to on Facebook, or at, although I update more on FB.  There are many marvelous albums and projects I am working on coming up...  Stay tuned.....

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