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Jammin' With Jason Peri: The Rock 'n Role Model Interview
By psychologist, Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, aka Dr. B.L.T., The Rock Doc
I met Jason Peri longs ago, when he was starting his own recording studio in a little shack in Fresno, California. Years later, and many CDs later, he has evolved into one of LA's most prolific singer/songwriters.
Jason doesn't know it, but he's been officially inducted into the Rock 'n Role Model Hall of Flame, a longstanding tradition that began back in the late 90s when I interviewed the legendary Barry McGuire. He is the beloved contemporary Christian artist whose career began with the worldwide number one folk-rock 60s hit, “Eve of Destruction,” and the lead role in the hit Broadway musical, Hair. Barry was the man who inspired the interview/profile piece, “The Fire in Barry McGuire,” and, later, a song by the same title by yours truly that he eventually ended up singing back-up on in a live forum. Rock 'n Role Models are inducted into the Hall of Flame for manifesting something that young, aspiring artists can look up to and model after. In Jason's case, it's his masterful execution of multiple styles of music and unique fusions, and of course, the fact that he is so positive and so prolific. His songs tell his story. It's a story of life; a story of love, heartbreak and betrayal. It's a story of feeling lost and finding his way back home with a melody line as his path. It's a story of wonder, a story of beauty, and a story of strength and courage. In short, it's the Jason Peri story. Now, let's let Jason tell the rest of that story.
Thiessen: Jason, I've known you a long time, but I'm wondering how long have you been writing and performing. Would you mind letting us know?
Peri: I've been writing songs for about 30 years, and performing for a few more. I joined my first band in 1972 or ‘73. We played a lot of Rolling Stones and Beatles. We eventually added a horn section and started playing a lot of Chicago. I guess it fell apart after that.
I wrote my first song while I was still in High School. Probably 1974 or ‘5. I think I still have a tape of it somewhere. No, you can't hear it. Sorry.
Thiessen: How did you get started?
Peri: I took drum lessons when I was six or seven years old. That lasted about 6 months. I started guitar lessons a short time later and kept going. I've been playing piano almost as long.
Thiessen: That explains the fact that you are so diverse when it comes to instrumentation. What has been your greatest challenge as an artist?
Peri: Finding a bigger audience. There are about 6 billion people in the world. So, one million CD sales seems like no big deal. No, I haven't sold a million CDs.
Thiessen: What has been the high point and what was the low point in your musical experience?
Peri: A high point that comes to mind is hearing my final project in my instrumentation class at UCLA performed by a live orchestra. It was my birthday too. The assignment was to write a 1 minute piece for an orchestra. I wrote a little thing called "Thunderdrop," which has become one of my personal favorites.
Low point? I guess it would have to be the time I got a rejection letter from Capitol Records in the form of a rubber stamp on my lyric sheet. Very tacky.
Thiessen: O.K., Now here's a hard question. How would you describe your style?
Peri: I'm sort of all over the place. Rock, jazz, orchestral film scores. I write rock ranging from sixties British Invasion type ballads to progressive and hard rock. My jazz varies quite a bit as well. My film scores tend to be dark and scary, mostly because I've worked on a lot of horror films. I don't know what would happen if I tried to do a happy film, but I'm more than willing.
Thiessen: Is there any particular message that you are trying to get out with your music?
Peri: Not really. I just try to be poetic and mysterious. I don't stick to one topic. I try to tell a different story with each new song.
Thiessen: How would you describe your fans?
Peri: Between 5' 5" and 5' 11", medium-length hair, friendly.
Thiessen: Very funny. That sounds like something David Cassidy might say in the days of the Partridge family. Where do the ideas for your songs come from?
Peri: I don't know. I just start strumming and typing. Sometimes it takes a lot of experimentation, other times ideas come quickly. I'm sure I get ideas from anything I've been exposed to, whether it's a book, a news story, or something as simple as a conversation with a stranger.
Thiessen: What do you offer that makes your music unique?
Peri: I always try to do something different. I don't want to sound like other artists just because they're popular. That's not to say that I don't get ideas from other artists. I do, but they are artists that inspire me, whether they're popular or not. There seems to be a lot of music fans that are content hearing the same thing over and over. The rest of us are always searching for something new. That's what I try to offer.
Thiessen: Where have you performed and where are you scheduled to perform?
Peri: I've performed mostly in clubs and coffee houses around L.A. Everything from Highland Grounds to The Troubadour. I lived in Fresno for a while, and performed at a few clubs there, like The Wild Blue, The Oly and Club Fred. I've got some upcoming gigs throughout Southern California with The Inner Limits, a sixties tribute band. We'll be at El Torito in Ontario, Concerts in the Park in Tustin, San Dimas Street Festival, and lots more. The full schedule is at <www.innerlimitsband.htm>www.innerlimitsband.com .
Thiessen: What CDs have you come out with and what are you presently working on?
Peri: I've released about 15 CDs over the years. Some are solo works, and some involved other people. I think the most notable is TOWA, a 2 CD set by The Seventh Triangle, which is basically Dave Tilton and myself. We spent over a year on the project, which includes 30 songs in about 40 different styles. A few years before that we released Diamond Bar. It was more focused, style wise - a Steely Dan kind of sound in some ways. Other CDs that I've released include Please Pass The Jazz, Of The Outside, and Sounds Like Heaven.
I'm actually working on three CD projects at the moment. One is a re-working of Raw Blue Energy, a Blues-Rock album from 2001. I don't like the way I did the drums, so I'm fixing those parts, and going after a better overall mix. Also in the works is a rock project with a sixties feel to it. The third project is shaping up to be a progressive rock thing. Nothing too heavy. Just very melodic stuff with more than 3 chords.
Thiessen: That's incredible! What a journey! Now, how would you define success for yourself as an artist, and where would you like to go from here?
Peri: I've explored many styles of music, and composed pieces that I couldn't have imagined when I was younger. I'd like to just continue writing and recording. If I can keep coming up with fresh stuff, I'll be fine.
Thiessen: As you may know, Jason, The Phantom Tollbooth is an online publication that examines music from a Christian perspective, which is, in many respects, basically a Judeo-Christian one. I realize that you are Jewish. What values do you think Christian and Jewish artists share that, when conveyed in music, could make the world a better place?
Peri: Well, I'm not very religious, but I think a lot of the values taught by many religions are things that a person with a kind heart already lives by. You know, the usual stuff. Be kind to others; turn your anger into forgiveness; don't tailgate. I don't know if music can make the world a better place, but it can certainly make individual lives better on some levels.
Thiessen: Well, I have certainly discovered that your music adds something very special to the world. Now, is there anything I haven't asked you that you feel I need to ask? If so, what is that question and how would you answer it?
Is your music available for downloading?
Peri: Yes, I have some downloads available. Some are MP3's, some are WEED files. Most can be found at <http://www.newhatrecords.com/download.htm>
The entire Diamond Bar CD is also available on iTunes and other download services.
Thiessen: I would like to end this piece with a nice, neat, elegant summary, but that will have to wait. You see, I'm behind on Jason's latest music, and I just can't wait to check out his site and download some of his new material. Catch you on the flip side!