February 18, 2020 Interview – Don Jamieson
Famously known as the co-host of VH1 Classic’s popular series That Metal Show, Don Jamieson is a man of many talents. Well-versed in Rock/Metal music, Jamieson successfully added color to That Metal Show for 14 seasons, has established himself as a top-notch stand-up comic, and has even lent his talents to the sports world, winning an Emmy award for his work on HBO’s Inside The NFL.
Impressive, and the best part about it all is he is getting paid to do what he loves! A dream come true for any metalhead, he is now set to release his new stand-up album, Denim & Laughter, on February, 21, 2020. Excited for fans to check it out, Jamieson took the time to talk about his comedy career, his love for Rock/Metal, That Metal Show, and a lot more.
Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in the entertainment world for some time now, working in Comedy, co-hosting That Metal Show, and working in sports talk. Briefly tell us, how would you describe your career, thus far?
Don Jamieson – If you want to take a sports analogy, kind of like a utility player – I can play all the infield spots and left field, too, if you need me. I like to think I can perform in front of just about any crowd; young, old, rockers or non-rockers. You know where my heart is, though; it’s in the world of Hard Rock and Metal. My new Comedy album is a parody of Saxon’s Denim and Leather (1981). I love incorporating that into what I do. I hope people pick up the album: you don’t have to like Rock music to enjoy it, you just have to enjoy Comedy with a Rock attitude.
Cryptic Rock – Agreed, the new album is a lot of fun. At what point did you decide Comedy was the way you wanted to go with your career?
Don Jamieson – I wish I could say Andrew Dice Clay plucked me out of obscurity, took me on the road, and taught me the ropes. The real story is I used to follow Jim Florentine around to his gigs. He was just starting out and he was playing backrooms of bars and such. I always thought about doing it because I’ve loved comics my whole life. Anyway, I remember one night the host of the show went up and bombed mercilessly for 15 minutes. It was like zero reaction from the crowd, he walked off stage, went up to the owner of the club, got paid in cash, and then he went right next door to the strip club. I said, you know what? I can bomb that hard too! (Laughs) I think that night I became a comic.
Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) Sounds like a good gig.
Don Jamieson – Exactly. I always dug what Jim Florentine did. Then, ironically, years later I did end up going on the road with Andrew Dice Clay for about 10 years, which was pretty much the greatest Comedy education you could get.
Cryptic Rock – That is great. Mixing in Rock/Metal with your Comedy, you have toured with bands, as well.
Don Jamieson – Yeah. It was crazy with That Metal Show, bands started saying, “What about coming out on the road and opening?” That used to be cool years ago in the late ’80s and early ’90s with Dice opening for Guns N’ Roses at the Rose Bowl, Sam Kinison with The Wild Thing, and Bobcat Goldthwait opened for Nirvana on their first US tour. Then it was not cool for around 25 years.
I said you know what, I would love to be a part of maybe bringing that back. I think it started with Metallica asking myself, Florentine, and Jim Breuer to play at the Orion Festival. I got a great taste of getting up in front of a big, rowdy Metal crowd and now for the last 6-7 years I have been touring ever year with bands.
Cryptic Rock – Fantastic. It is good to see that happening again. Who said Rock/Metal does not mix with Comedy, they do!
Don Jamieson – Absolutely. Dice, George Carlin, Richard Pryor as comics influence me, but a lot of musicians have influenced me with humor as well; Ozzy Osbourne with his one liners, David Lee Roth is like the Robin Williams of Rock, and Peter Steele of Type O Negative was always so self-deprecating. I always found so much humor in it, and obviously you have the movie This Is Spinal Tap (1984). To me there has always been a fine line between majestic Heavy Metal and kind of ridiculousness.
Cryptic Rock – Totally. So your new album, Denim & Laughter, will be out on February 21st and was recorded in front of 40 people. It is a funny album, so what was it like recording it?
Don Jamieson – With my Comedy albums, I want the vibe of where I am doing it to be part of the album. I did an album at a BYOB club in New Jersey and you can hear beer bottles falling off the tables, and I left all that stuff on the album because I wanted people to get the vibe of the club.
On this new album a friend of mine owns this literal speakeasy, an illegal club in Los Angeles. I thought, how cool is that! We’ll be in there doing Comedy, but at any moment the cops can break down the door and arrest every one of us. Rock-n-Roll has gotta be dangerous so Comedy’s gotta be dangerous too. We had a really fun time. I dug the vibe of how we did it, and we had to keep it a secret event up until the day of, and then we emailed everyone with the address, because again, we didn’t want to get shutdown.
Cryptic Rock – It works well. You worked the crowd into your performance very well, too.
Don Jamieson – Yeah, there were a lot of great characters in the crowd, as well, so we worked them into the show. Everyone had a great time. I could have packed out a theater with 1,500-1,800 people and have recorded the album, but I’ve done that; not on my own, but opening for bigger comics like Dice. For me, if I have 40 hardcore fans in the room, it’s a party.
Cryptic Rock – Yes, you get that good time vibe with it. With the material in the show you refer to the political correctness going on in 2019-20. All that said, is it difficult to be a comic in the current social climate?
Don Jamieson – Yeah. I think the biggest challenge is wanting to rage and vent about this kind of stuff, but also not to be the 70-year-old guy yelling get off my lawn. You don’t want to be that guy either, so I try to really take an absurd take on what’s going on in the PC society. I hope it puts people at ease because when you present it in a really over the top way, then people go ‘I get it.’
I kind of do that through the lenses of our favorite Rock bands like Def Leppard is now Hearing Impaired Leppard, Great White is Great White Privilege. I think when you put it in terms like that people feel at ease after that and go, yeah, we do get a little uptight here at times.
Cryptic Rock – Right, and you round it all out with the fake news story.
Don Jamieson – Thanks. I try to tie everything in with that last bit for the audience. Just leaving everybody feeling good about it. By the way, for anybody who listens to the album, I actually did get that same car as that guy, the hybrid version of it, after his recommendation. Everything sort of worked out in a nice way and the good thing about that is half the crowd gets very tense and the other half kind of see where it’s going. When everybody hears what the ending is they are relieved and everybody’s happy, I hope.
Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) Yes, it all does come together very well. Let’s talk about That Metal Show. You did 14 seasons and had a very successful run. What was it like being a part of that?
Don Jamieson – Just to be a part of Metal history is a complete honor to me. I got to interview all my idols from childhood in terms of music. I got to be on TV with two of my best friends, talk about Hard Rock/Metal and got paid, so god bless America. We definitely did have a good run and 2020 is the year of the Rock reunion, right? I’m always hoping that maybe we’ll be a part of that in 2020.
Cryptic Rock – That would be great to see. Sadly the run ended because VH1 Classic was dissolved.
Don Jamieson – Yeah, exactly. Otherwise we’d still be going. To me it’s not a money thing: it was not I have to have my own dressing room type of thing, it’s because I care so much about this scene. I want to have a place for these musicians to be able come and promote their stuff, it’s so important. Like what you’re doing with your platform, it is helping out the scene. I was really proud we were able to help all these bands, because if this scene dies, what are we listening to? What is out there? It is a wasteland of disposable music. This music that we love will be with us forever, but we’ve gotta support it.
Cryptic Rock – Most definitely. What do you think of the current state of Rock/Metal?
Don Jamieson – I think it’s doing really well. First of all I love that comics are out with bands – I was out with Pop Evil last February, Jim Breuer was out with Metallica, and Larry the Cable Guy was out with Styx! That’s a party right there, Larry the Cable Guy and Styx, buy me front row to that one! I love that they’re mixing up the bills. I love that these young bands are coming in and blazing a trail for other young bands. I love that they are making it cool for young men, and young women, thank you Lizzy Hale, to make it cool to pick up guitars again, take guitar lessons, get on that stage and actually play an instrument.
I was up at SiriusXM recently and they were having a town hall up in the lobby. I couldn’t see who they were interviewing, but all I heard them say was, “I’ve done some cool collaborations lately.” I said that’s nobody I’m going to know, there aren’t that many collaborations in Metal. But anyway, it was the EDM guy deadmau5 they were interviewing. That guy just takes a laptop, puts on a giant mouse head and he is a multi-millionaire. Meanwhile you have these amazing Metal bands out here who are so technically good, masters at their instruments, and they can barely get out on the road; some of these bands lose money or break even. I think there is an upswing, there is a youth movement, and there is a great variety on the scene. I just feel it’s really strong and I’m real optimistic. Again, 2020 is the year of the Rock reunion.
Cryptic Rock – Hopefully it will be a good year for Rock and Metal. You mentioned Lizzy Hale, and she is extremely talented and a great Rock-n-Roll role model for young women and men. It is wonderful to see more equality of men and women in Rock/Metal.
Don Jamieson – Absolutely. I know you can’t get to every show, everyone has a budget, but when you can there is nothing better than a live show. Whether you want to go see a stadium show this summer, catch GNR, or you want to go see a younger band like Greta Van Fleet, Crobot, or Rival Sons, get out and enjoy a live show! That’s the best value you are going to get for your money, and if you really have no money, come see me! (Laughs)
Cryptic Rock – There is a lot of great stuff out there, and people should certainly check you out too! Last question. Of the newer bands out there today, who are some you personally dig?
Don Jamieson – I toured with this band with Pop Evil called Them Evils and I really dig them. They are a great three piece out of Southern California. They are retro sounding, but they have their own thing. They are three young guys who are hungry, great players and showmen.
I love The East Side Gamblers who is Tony Higbee from Tom Keifer’s band. They are phenomenal; just super high energy straight ahead Rock-n-Roll. Also, Crobot, I’ve loved those guys since the beginning, they just knocked it out of the park with their new album Motherbrain (2019). I think 2020 will be a big year for all of them.