Durbin Opens Up About "Memories of a Beautiful Disaster",
Superheroes, Mötley Crüe, and More
"Rock 'n' roll feeds my soul," declares James Durbin.
Durbin lives and breathes rock 'n' roll, and that's why his debut album Memories of a Beautiful Disaster is so immortally infectious and incisively impactful. Striking a balance that eludes most singers, Durbin channels classic bombast with an attitude that's decidedly modern. On songs like "Everything Burns," he sounds fierce and focused, while "Right Behind You" illuminates a level of vulnerability that's impossible not to feel. Plus, he's got powerhouse pipes that put him on par with Bruce Dickinson and Axl Rose.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief, James Durbin opens up about Memories of a Beautiful Disaster, talks "Everything Burns", discusses his favorite superheroes, and so much more.
Did you approach Memories of a Beautiful Disaster with one vision?
I didn't want the album to be just one flavor; I wanted it to include many different flavors. There are fun and exciting songs, and then there are slow songs. I aimed for substance. As far as the songs that I chose go, I feel like some of them are a lot different than others, but everything seems to flow together quite nicely. I'm glad it turned out that way. It's all one voice. You can tell that it's me singing every single song. If I sang it from a different area or put a different inflection into certain songs, you wouldn't be able to tell. All of these amazing singers like Robert Plant, Axl Rose, Steven Tyler, and Sebastien Bach is they listen to all different kinds of music. They don't just listen to metal. That's what makes them who they are. I listen to everything. I can pull an influence from everything I hear. That comes from a different place for me. Music is about appreciation of all styles. Music is ever-evolving and ever-changing. I try to listen to any new music. Howard Benson is a great producer. Having his thumb on there made it what it is.
What's the story behind "Everything Burns"?
It's a song written by Ben Moody. It was previously released so it's the only cover on the record. As far as the meaning goes, I took it from a bullying aspect. You hole yourself up in a corner, and you get in that dark mindset. It's about burning it all down. It's a very deep and dark song. I went back to those days and times that I felt like that growing up it. I just felt it.
Where did "Right Behind You" come from?
It just happened. It's a song that brings hopes. Fortunately enough, the U.S. Army reached out to me and they wanted to use the song. They took "Right Behind You" and put it in 100,000 USB bracelets and sent them out to the troops and their families. The song really amounted to something great. I'm really glad I got to be a part of that.
Is it important for you to tell stories with the songs?
I love being able to put that into the music. When you have the music in your ears and you have no visual, you need to be able to see something in front of you. Not if you're driving though, pay attention to the road [Laughs].
What influences you outside of music?
I watch a lot of fantasy movies and films based on comic books. I've always loved being able to escape everyday life and create my own world. That's I stuck with music. I love these stories. I love superheroes like Spider-Man. Peter Parker was a regular ordinary kid. He was bullied like I was, and he discovered this amazing power no one else has. That's how I am with my music. No one else has exactly what I have, and that's what makes me special and different.
If you were to compare Memories of a Beautiful Disaster to a movie or a combination of movies what would you compare it to?
I think it'd be Spider-Man. However, it wouldn't be the old Spider-man. I think it would be The Amazing Spider-Man coming out in July. It has songs about being cast out, different, and bullied as well as songs about wanting to stand up do something. Then, it has songs about love and finding yourself and what makes you who you are.
What was the coolest moment of working with Mick Mars?
I think the coolest moment of working with Mick came just knowing, "Shit, that's Mick Mars right there finding his tone for two hours." [Laughs] It was so cool watching him figure everything out. Everything had to be perfect. Once he finally got the right amp, sound, and mix, it was just beautiful. It was so cool how everything came together. Once he finally got the sound, I was like, "Oh my God, this is so cool!" You hear that real Mick Mars sound. Mick is a class act, and he plays that way. He comes up with these amazingly memorable riffs. I definitely do think he's overlooked, and it's fucked up because he deserves a lot more credit than he gets. The first Mötley Crüe song I heard was "Take Me to the Top" from Too Fast for Love. It was on the radio. The riff gets your heart beating, and it's an extremely fun song. It's hard for me to explain songs that make me feel a certain way. I just feel that way for some strange reason, and I like it. It's my drug of choice.