It took 4 months to finally get Jean in one
place long enough for an exclusive interview but it was well worth the
wait. The Bailey Brothers get up close and really personal with Jean
BB’S Hi Jean, It’s always a pleasure to catch up with
you especially as we go back a couple of decades. First of all can we
start with your roots and Haiti? It was a dreadful start to the year
2010 for you personally with a massive earthquake in your home land
where many of your relatives still live.
Tell me how you reacted and what affect this has had on you?
Jean – It’s a terrible thing that happened and it
seems it came out of nowhere. My family was ok but unfortunately there
were many others that were not. It took a long time to find out since
there was no communication. It made me appreciate the country more and I
really hope that this bad occurrence opens the door for new hope and
brighter future for Haiti.
BB’S Did you feel obliged to try and raise money to help with the relief funds etc?
Jean - Yes, but it’s complicated and you want to do
things that actually get to the people. I have a foundation, called The
Beauvoir Haiti Foundation: www.beauvoirhaitifoundation.org
We plan to rebuild the clinic and do other
interesting things. I have family on the ground and we work together to
get things done. People can go to the website to get more info and see
what they can do to help.
BB’S Have you been back there to witness the devastation?
Jean - I’ve been to Haiti since the quake, I had a
medical clinic in the center of Port-Au-Prince that was destroyed, my
mother had built it and left it to me when she passed away.The
destruction is widespread, hard to believe when you see it…..
BB’S Briefly just out line your blood chain because
even though you were born in Chicago your songs and images reflect some
of your ancestry and maybe outline a few songs where you can see this
Jean – I’m American but of Haitian descent, my Mother and Father were
both born in Haiti. One song is “I Keep Holding On” A Song For Haiti,
the video is on Youtube. “Where the River Runs Deep” (from my solo album
Chameleon). “Feel the Heat” has steel drums; you can find bits in other
songs throughout my career.
BB’S We are not going to go through your career with a
fine tooth comb because it’s so vast so let’s just skim a pebble across
your music pond and see what comes up?
After playing in school bands you left home because your father wasn’t
keen on your chosen profession but you were only 15 when you took off to
New York. Some people would think you are crazy.
Did you have somewhere to go and how did you make a living?
Jean – I actually moved into my friend’s garage at 14,
he had a loft where I could hide out and go to school when his parents
left for work. They didn’t know! I then moved in with my guitar player
who was older, he was a caretaker for a church, I was playing gigs
weekdays and weekends in Long Island NY At that point, I had a whole
business, owned equipment, a truck, the whole nine yards, I was also
touring with Gary US Bonds as his musical director and backing Chuck
Berry and Bo-Diddley.
The Plasmatics was your meal ticket and your first real break, playing
alongside Wendy O Williams. Was it the punk era that gave you the
inspiration for the now trade mark Blonde Mohawk?
Jean – Yes it was! The band definitely inspired it, we
were all about self-expression and making a statement. I was always
different and didn’t want to conform, this was the perfect vehicle to
support my rebellious side.
BB’S Is it fair to say you did your apprenticeship with the Plasmatics?
Jean – Something like that, even though the touring before that with the others was also quite a school.
BB’S What did you learn from that experience?
Jean – After that, I became a better business man! I
was so young that really didn’t know much so things weren’t as they
should be for anyone in the band….. We did work hard; we rehearsed
everyday for hours and toured a lot. The fans were great, I learned what
a fan was, the dedication and the affect that I could have on people,
So with the trade mark hair style came alot of maintenance, what made
you decide it was time to have a new look and did you know what you were
going to do?
Jean – Lots! I was lost once I shaved the Hawk,
actually still don’t feel right. It became so much my identity that I’ve
never felt the same without it.
BB’S Did this feel like a relief; like you could probably appeal to a wider audience?
Jean – I don’t know, to be honest, made me feel normal
but since I had a long period of time where I wasn’t playing, such as
running Steven Van Zandt’s company, it didn’t seem appropriate to go to
BB’S Well to this date my bro that blonde Mowark on a
black man remains one of the most iconic rock images we have ever
witnessed and it’s definitely going in the Bailey Brothers forthcoming
book for sure. Just as a matter of interest what music did you listen to
as a young man?
Jean – Well thanks for that! Very wide, everything from
KISS, Clapton, Janis Joplin, Zeppelin, Beatles, Floyd, Motown,
Classical and those great songs on 7” singles…. Maggie May, Smoke on the
water, all the good stuff….
Ok let’s move on to when the Bailey’s and Jean Beauvoir first hooked up
which was after your two solo records and the forming of the band
Voodoo X; we have said it in many an interview and it’s now 2010 but we
still think Voodoo X were one of the coolest looking bands we have ever
met. We remember having to drop one of our own links in our MTV show and
re-write it to fit you guys on the show as we were already interviewing
Alice Cooper. You came on the show with Tommy and Hoover. Volume One
The Awakening was a cool album with an elaborate but cool video. Did the
cost of that video and the touring have an impact on the longevity of
Voodoo X because for many fans it’s been a shame we never had a follow
Jean – Yeah, it was an
expensive project, we like bigger than life things and wanted to share
these experiences with the audience. It was an extravagant time that I
truly miss. We are talking about doing another Voodoo X CD. It may
BB’S Did it almost feel impossible not to make a video back then?
Jean – It was the video era, bringing the vision to film was important. We really enjoyed shooting my Uncle’s video ceremony in Haiti.
BB’S We have fond memories of when you flew us out to see Voodoo X support Saga in Germany (thanks)
It was cool seeing the band live in front of a large audience.
After the show we ended up in a three car pileup. Uwe (keyboards) was
driving and talking to us and piled into your managers new Mercedes
which then hit the car in front, no one was injured and the police let
us go. You took us to a bar in Essen Germany and after we drank the
place dry we had a row of small glasses of Sambuca lined up on the bar
where we had to down them in one. You guys were just party animals
(Snake still is lol) was it like this all the time? How did you get
these guys up on stage day after day?
Jean – Its rock and roll and we like it, I also
have fond memories of that of when you guys came out to visit, one of
the classic moments! Getting them on stage was easy, we only played
about 45 minutes a night and then had all day to sleep!
BB.S Well Jean the band didn’t last long but those memories will stay with us forever. Briefly outline how Crown Of Thorns came about and how Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons of Kiss etc all got involved?
Jean – Myself, Micki Free and Tony Thompson
always talked about putting a band together, after Voodoo X disbanded, I
moved to LA and was thinking of my next step. Interscope (record
label)had offered me a solo deal but I was into doing a band. I
contacted the guys and Paul Stanley, told him about the idea, Micki
called Gene and everyone got excited, we started having meetings, cut
some music, made the deal then made the record.
BB’S We really dig
Gene Simmons’s worth ethic and you are a very astute business
entrepreneur. Did Gene have any influence on the way you have set about
making sure you have control of your business ventures e.g. Voodoo Island Entertainment Group & Voodoo Island Productions
? (We will talk about renagadenation later), Back then it was still
the norm to get a record deal and just let them see to everything. How
much of the day to day running of these companies were you involved in
and didn’t this eat up valuable creative writing time?
Jean – Definitely in part, I’ve
always been pretty good at business long before that but working
closely with Gene for a long period of time was a great lesson. I ran
those companies completely and since they mostly harnessed my interests,
it wasn’t taking away from my creativity that much. It’s important; you
have to keep your eyes on the biz. As I always say, it’s the music
business, without the business, there’s no music.
BB’S Besides Crown Of Thorns
you have run a successful solo career and your song writing and co
writing credits are very impressive e.g. KISS, The Ramones, N’Sync, John Waite, Deborah Harry, Lionel Richie, The Pretenders. Would you have been creatively imprisoned if you didn’t have this outlet for different genres of writing?
Jean – I enjoy spreading out, it’s great to experience
working with others, getting to do different styles of music, see what
motivates other artists, what makes them tick. I think it is necessary
for me, I also get to help them as well along the way.
BB’S When did you
realize that you had a vibe to write for other artiste of all styles and
who were the first sort of named artiste you wrote for?
Jean – I guess KISS was the first big artist I wrote
for. It came from Paul and I casually hanging out. I loved it and
realized I wanted to do more of it. Then EMI took a song of mine for
John Waite. From then, it just started coming. I still do it as much as
BB’S Do you think you would have had lasted as long just knocking out rock albums?
Jean – Maybe, hard to tell, if I’d put the same effort
just making a Crown of Thorns albums every year and touring to support,
maybe we’d be even bigger.
Ok let’s get back on the COT rock n roll express. Next stop the Bon
Jovi stadium shows.We manage to hook up again on quite a few crown Of
Thorns gigs. One that springs to mind was the time you played with Bon
Jovi; I understand he invited you personally to play with them and Van
Halen etc. That was cool, what is your memories of those shows and did
the record sales increase due to playing to larger crowds?
Jean – It was great… I think we all feel it was one of
our best tours. Record sales did increase and it also spoiled us. After
playing to over a million people, nice big stages, great hotels, you get
very comfortable…. We love stadium gigs.
BB’S I don’t know if you call
it fate but what are the chances of Sylvester Stallone hearing one of
your songs and then choosing it for the film Cobra? Was “Feel The
Heat” a defining moment in your career?
Jean – It was quite a coincidence, the universe was
definitely at work. All the pieces just fell into place, I had a Cobra
in the video as well, he walked by the editing room in Hollywood, see’s
the video and contacts us to use the song as the title track and
commercial for the movie. Pretty wild. Yeah, it showed me I could do it,
it was a long road and having that success made me.
There’s a cool selection of Crown Of Thorns albums to choose from but
the latest album “Faith” was a long time coming. Do you feel you lost a
bit of momentum as it was quite a while to keep the fans waiting?
Jean – I took a break to run Steven Van Zandt’s
company. Sometimes you have to stop doing something to appreciate it. We
lost momentum for sure; we’ll try to make it up!
BB’S How have you managed to keep the band relevant through two decades?
Jean – I’m not sure, it’s the fans that have kept the
band alive. They keep asking for more and we are obliged to respond. My
sister reads cards and she once said to me, even if you try to kill
Crown of Thorns, it will never die.
BB’S You seem to have found a
new enthusiasm for COT, more shows and festivals. Have you missed being
in a touring live band and these guys especially?
Jean – Yes I have, I missed it, missed the fans, the feeling of being on stage, the guys, all of it. Its who I am.
BB’S Ok they say you are only as good as your last
record so let’s briefly touch up on the writing process of Faith. Did
you demo the songs and write them prior to getting together with Tommy
and Michael or did you allow the guys to bring ideas to the table?
Jean – I had some songs written
before, I always have some. Tommy and I have written before for other
CofT records but Michael had some ideas this go round, I listened to all
ideas, co-wrote with them and put the stuff on the record, they turned
BB’S Did you have a definite direction for the way you
wanted this album to sound, probably less experimental than “Destiny
Unknown” which had I thought, some fresh vibe over drum loops?
Jean – Getting away from the records for a bit gives
you perspective. I went back and listened to all of them and it what the
new one should sound like came naturally. Actually, you never really
know if you’re right or wrong!
BB’S How has the album and the band been received by
the fans and the critics considering the time out from touring and album
releases prior to Faith.
Jean – Its been good… Like every record, there have
been fantastic reviews and some not super great but very little
negative. Music is a matter of taste and everyone has their own. The
song “Rock Ready” was put into the game Rock Band in June so you gamers
can rock out to CofT!
BB’S Do you feel touring the US is a must now? Or do you stay where your hard core of fans are in Europe?
Jean – Not really, would be
nice to get as many places as possible but you go wherever the road
leads you. I’d like to tour more in the near future.
BB’S What’s the next stage of the journey for COT?
Will you be writing any material for another album in the near future
after your next solo project maybe?
Jean – Its funny, everyone is asking me about a solo
record lately, must be something in the cards that I don’t yet know
about. I haven’t started writing yet but I’m sure it will come.
BB’S How do you approach writing your solo music? Have you any specific ideas or vibe in mind at the moment?
Jean – I don’t to be honest, I haven’t thought of
doing a solo record, I’m doing a lot of co-writes at the moment, but not
thinking it’s for me. Usually, the inspiration comes and once I get on a
roll, the ideas start pouring into my head.
BB’S Let’s briefly touch up on your business arm
because you brought the album out in the US under the “Renegade Nation
label.” You are the CEO of the company and your long time friend Little
Steven Van Zandt is the chairman. I was surprised to learn that this is
the first time a Crown Of Thorns album has had a domestic release in the
US. Why did you decide to team up with Renegade and tell us briefly
what the aims are for your company? (Ok I know that you have now left
Jean so maybe just still let us know how you got involved and then why
Jean – Steven has worked for years starting with a
worldwide syndicated radio show to help try to help new artists, he
recruited me 6 years ago to help him in this quest. The company has a
label, radio programming, did TV specials, and much more. It’s a great
thing but in the end, I really missed being creative and only doing
business every day. As I mentioned before, sometimes you have to get
away to realize how you appreciate something and I realized that Itruly
missed the creative aspect of my life…..
BB’S With recording low budget
albums becoming affordable and down loads becoming a medium for artiste
to cut out labels or set up their own. Is there still a market for
publishing and record companies?
Jean – There is but it’s getting more difficult. Labels
are opting for 360 deals to acquire multiple artist rights;
Merchandise, touring, etc. This way they benefit from all income
streams. Publishing companies still make good song performance income
when songs are played on radio etc, but with less CD’s being sold and
bands giving music to TV and film for free, the publishing income is
suffering as well as they can no longer demand those fees except for
catalogue of established artists.
BB’S Is there a live arm of Renegade to help get bands out live?
Jean – Renegade Circus is the live arm. It does
sponsored tours with multiple bands usually connected to a brand such as
a Rolling Rock, AT&T, Hard Rock for example as we did in the past.
BB’S Do you still feel the hunger to write and tour or can we see you sat in the office doing business calls all day?
Jean – That’s what I was doing and I have the hunger!
BB’S Thought you may say that, do you still get a buzz when you have created some new music?
Jean – absolutely, I came to realize how important that
is to my mental state. Sitting, listening to a great song or something
that you are creating makes me whole. It’s funny how that works.
BB’S How do you see the future of music from the artiste to the consumer as a writer and also as a CEO of a label?
Jean – There will be changes, actually there have been.
I don’t think it’s necessarily bad. Artists now have a greater control
of their own destiny, they have the ability to reach the entire world
through the internet, there are tracking mechanisms online that are far
superior to those used by major labels in the past to see where a song
or album is getting a response. You can now find out in real time who’s
listening to your song, where in the world for how long, how many times.
It’s pretty incredible. Artists have to now become entrepreneurs and
learn to use all the tools that are available. A lot more competition
but it’s becoming a direct to consumer business with less need for the
BB’S Have you got a message for all the fans of your work around Europe?
Jean – Thanks for staying true and loyal for all these years, we
love you and we hope to see you again, up close and personal, real
BB’S Thanks for taking the time out to talk to us Jean and we wish you and the guys all the best with all your future adventures.
Jean – Thanks and my pleasure as always Guys!!!!!
Interview by The Bailey Bros, baileybros "at" rockunited.com
Photos from the Jean Beauvoir website and Bailey Bros archives