“It’s better to be alone than in bad company” they say. Jay Luke probably knows about this although he also knows how to choose his accomplices in rock’n’roll. Jay’s new album « Alone In The Crowd » offers us 8 songs of well crafted heavy rock with glam and punk influences at times. We were curious to know more about him, his background, music tastes and views on rock’n’roll in this pandemic age.
Can you tell us a bit about your background, what have you released so far?
I have been performing and writing music since 2003. Playing in bands such as The MESS, Sorrowsun, and ReachForTheSky honing my craft and paying my dues in the live circuit.
I have performed gigs with Duff McKagan of Guns N Roses, W.A.S.P., Metal Church, To/Die/For from Finland, Joey Belladonna of Anthrax, and Richie Ramone of The Ramones to name a few.
After much frustration in getting the right lineup secured to release an album with my first two bands, I decided to take the studio time I had left to record the songs I wrote to work on my solo career.
My debut “It’s About Time” was recorded from 2016-2017 and the album’s title is quite appropriate considering my disappointments in depending on other musicians to put out an official band release. I went into the studio and laid down the rhythm tracks and vocals and called upon my favorite musicians to come in and do guest spots.
Artists on the album include the players’ in the East Coast music scene as well as established Rock N Roll artists such as guitarist Adam Bomb, who has worked with John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin and Michael Monroe of Hanoi Rocks and also features drummer Carl Canedy of The Rods and Manowar.
The release showcases the variety and influences I have taken on over the years and really makes for an exciting listening experience.
In 2019 the second album “Vandalized Memories” was released taking a more personal route to the songwriting and featuring a solid lineup of Joe Loftus on bass guitar, and Michael McDonald on lead guitar. The album featured a single called “Keep Your Head Up Kid” that spawned a music video and has been streamed over 15,000 times on Spotify. The title track has also been featured on multiple playlists like the aforementioned single and has been streamed over 12,000 times since its release last year.
Since the COVID 19 pandemic a new album “Alone in the Crowd” was slated for a 2020 release but as the recording studios shut down a new single entitled “Trapped In Your Cell” song was released. It is a symbolic take on how so much of humanity is essentially imprisoned by our cell phones while our attention spans dwindle in this text message generation. This track was released on May 27th and has over 60,000 streams.
January 25th marked the second single “Killing Time” to be released. It is a song about how time is so precious that we must not waste a second. The third album “Alone In The Crowd was just released on March 1st worldwide.
Your new album « Alone In A Crowd » has just been released. Can you tell us about the writing and recording?
The writing for this album I had done pre-pandemic which I intended on releasing last year but like most things Covid sidelined the recording end of it with studios being shut down as well. I had 4 songs recorded and I felt releasing a single as we were on a sort of mandatory house arrest in quarantine it at least kept some momentum up. I ended up releasing “Trapped In Your Cell” and more recently “Killing Time” as singles. The recording process ended up going by fast which made it frustrating that waiting on the studios to reopen took so long.
What are the advantages and drawbacks of doing things alone to you?
This is a great question. The advantages I found relatively quickly in that I always felt in my early band efforts it would be the case of 4 or 5 guys all trying to control the steering wheel of this glamorous car that was great to look at and listen to but would constantly be driven off the road or having a tire blow out. I feel being the sole writer as far as my songs go is a wonderful freedom. I am absolutely not against writing with others or anything of that nature but I know what I have in my head most of the time and I think working in the studio tends to go faster because of that, and not arguing over who’s idea will win out. I like to be as efficient as I can without wasting time. The drawbacks of working solo are that you have to trust in yourself 100% which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but in a group vibe you can be told if you are going off the deep end and in a solo setting you have to really be aware of yourself when no one else is there to tell you so. Like if you’re thinking every eccentric idea you have is brilliant it is good to be either grounded enough to know better or to have good friends that won’t sugar coat the obvious to save your feelings.
You seem to have a particular liking for ballads/slow tempo songs which is quite unusual in 2021. Do you think they are easier to write for you? How did you get into this style?
I’m not sure I have a preference in any particular song style. I guess it comes down to whatever comes out of my guitar when I start to write stuff. I find recently I have been so into alternate tunings and odd chords to liven things up. Most of the time it stems from either a Stones tune or a Led Zeppelin track and I will explore whatever tunings were used to find something interesting out of that. If they tend to have a slower ballad style tempo it isn’t anything intentional. I think it just corroborates with the chord structures and the lyrics color it in. One thing I never wanted to do is paint myself in a corner. I know bands like AC/DC and The Ramones are so glaringly signature as far as recognizing it is them by hearing 3 seconds of any song and while I love both bands I always want to mix things up and have all styles or influences of mine thrown in a blender for my albums so it’s got a bit of everything.
Do you play with a full band for live shows?
In my area of North Eastern Pennsylvania in recent times especially with this cursed pandemic shutting off most artistic outlets it has been very, very tough. I am almost accustomed to doing solo acoustic shows since it seems to be all that is acceptable when the rare chance comes to perform but yes, once things get back to normal (fingers crossed) I absolutely plan to do a lot of full band gigs. This current time is arguably the hardest time to be a live performing artist and musician with all the Covid restrictions plus the way we spend a ton of money to record albums that are essentially given out for free with streaming services. I think I can speak for most musicians in saying I hope there is some new way to get some control of our art in a more efficient way than is currently being done.
You have a lot of streams on Spotify. Do you promote your music mostly on there? Are physical releases still important to you?
I am a visual artist and for me one of the main reasons I got into art was because when I was a kid (and still currently) I would hold the record in my hands, put the album on listen to it as I stared so far into the album cover art that I felt like I was transported into a different world. I care so much to have my lyrics available in each release and interesting packaging or art on them. It is another of the drawbacks we face in the streaming world, for as elaborate as I make my album packaging or releases all that is typically seen is a tiny thumbnail of the album cover. I know it sounds negative towards streaming but in 2021 it is a double edged sword. On one hand my fan base is larger than I could ever have fathomed in part of the Spotify success and the ability to release something that can be instantly heard across the globe. I find it to be fascinating that you put this artform out into the world and you never know where it will catch on. Do I miss the times of physical releases holding more prominence? 100% yes I do but until some new way to give the artists more control comes along we are all in the wild west trying to stay afloat being creative anyway we can. I definitely feel blessed that in such a short time my Spotify streams hit over 200,000 plays and each release seems to build more momentum.
Choose 5 albums you love and tell us why…
1. Hanoi Rocks– Back To Mystery City – To me this band is everything. At their age and in the time in which they existed I don’t believe anyone could have touched them. Andy McCoy is probably my favorite songwriter out there and I can’t stress my respect and admiration for this band. This release to me summed up so much of their originality, style, variety and spirit.
2. Queen– Innuendo- This release was the last to feature Freddie Mercury prior to his tragic passing. And while I love the entire album I think the thing that gives me shivers to this day is the song “The Show Must Go On” his vocals, his lyrics, his conviction in laying the lyrics down is just incredible. A man facing death and wanting to get that last message out. He achieved it 100% and to this date it will always be my favorite song ever written.
3. The Rolling Stones- Undercover- Out of all my picks I know this is probably the oddest. When I was very young this album came out and spawned 2 or 3 MTV music videos that truly captivated me visually and with the sound. I know most fans will pan this release but songs like “Undercover of the Night”, “Too Much Blood”, and Keith Richards “I Wanna Hold You” always hold a very special place in my heart and I listen to this album quite regularly.
4. Guns N Roses– Appetite For Destruction- What else really has to be said about this album that hasn’t been said a billion times? When this came out I recall the music scene pathetic. Every rock band was another watered down version of Hanoi Rocks always trying to play their hair spray bottles better than their music. Everything was lamer and more cheesy than the next and out of nowhere these 5 guys from LA took on the true spirit of Hanoi Rocks and threw a stick of dynamite into a stale scene. The raw vibe, the danger in every breakneck change, the unbeatable attitude they exuded was just so badass. I remember it being so incredible on my first listen and as far as debut releases go I think this one will be impossible to beat by anyone.
5. Led Zeppelin– III – This is a band that has such a larger than life persona and so many interesting songs but I found this release to be the one that inspired me most to play guitar differently with the acoustic vibe and the colorful tunings I think it broke them out of a shell and into a different entity. Very big inspiration in so many ways.
How do you feel about releasing an album in those pandemic days?
I think that as most people suffered through the year without work and with so much hardship I was fortunate in at least one thing, that my musical career really thrived. I started the year out with 52 gigs booked last year and that quickly grinded to a halt, which led me to jump on board something I despised for so long, and that was livestreams. I found them so annoying when you would be getting constant alerts from everyone going live in grocery stores or any ridiculous scenario, but as a live musician it was literally our only hope to still play. As I did a few and made it a weekly thing I found I was reaching at least 10 times larger audiences. People that were unable to see me locally due to their jobs, or situations and people from all over the world were able to watch and comment in real time which was cool and I quickly saw its importance. And I released a single that soon became the most successful song I’d put out to date called “Trapped In Your Cell” crushing all other streaming numbers from my previous tracks in a matter of weeks. All of this led to being invited on radio shows, webisodes, television appearances and so many out of the box ways to keep things going. In these times I guess I am one of the few that saw it as a helpful time to release music and not see it as a dead end.
What’s your views on rock’n’roll in 2021. Have those Covid days changed them?
Rock n roll is ever evolving it seems. Anytime you think you can pin it down it changes. This pandemic has presented a ton of problems for not only musicians but people of all walks of life. In a way it helps to keep us all on our toes and thinking outside of the box. Nothing in life is ever easy but it is how we roll with the punches that is key to survival. I know many of my heroes have commented recently that rock n roll is dead or that the artform of a full length album has also gone the way of the Dodo bird. As someone that is still trying to fly the flag for rock n roll I don’t think it is dead nor are albums dead it is just the way the fast food culture we live in views things. Alice Cooper has one of my favorite quotes where they asked him “If you were to come out today as a young artist and try to be as shocking as you were back in the 60’s what would you do?” he replied “well, you can go out there and cut your arm off onstage. But, you can only do that twice and the truth is by the first ten minutes of the first time you did it you would find the world will be sick of it on the internet and forget it happened.” and I truly believe that is the world we live in today. Trying to be remembered in a world that has amnesia is incredibly difficult but to me the key is to just never quit. Keep writing, keep making music, keep performing and never get discouraged enough to stop. Andy McCoy had said “rock n roll is dead but we are still dying” and that is something I think is symbolic. Rock n roll has been beaten down and so many have tried to kill it off but it always comes back.
Will you tour to promote the album whenever playing live is allowed again?
As I said earlier I had about 50 some gigs all booked up to play last year so I absolutely have the biggest itch to perform these tracks and do live gigs regularly again but time will tell when that day will come again. Hopefully not too much longer.