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 Beauvoir.
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 influence?
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.
BB’S 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, Pretty wild….
BB’S 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 business meetings…
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….
BB’S 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 up?
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 happen.
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 possible.
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.
BB’S 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.
BB’S 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 out great.
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 you left?)
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 middle man.
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 soon!
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