February 14, 2014 Interview – Roman James of Blacklite District
Sometimes in life, if we are determined enough, our dreams will become a reality; and for hard rock band Blacklite District that vision became clear in 2013. Combining heavy metal riffs, electronic sounds, and unique scruff vocals, Blacklite District’s style helped them rocket up SiriusXM channel Octane charts in 2013 with the two number one hits “Take Me To The Grave” and “With Me Now”. Wasting no time, the boys went on their first tour with Saving Abel, only stirring up more of a buzz among audiences. Remaining on fire into 2014, many are now calling them one of the hottest bands in hard rock. Ready to take the next step forward in rock stardom, their highly anticipated album Worldwide Controversy will be released in the coming months. Recently, we sat down with the voice behind the band, Roman James, for a look at the beginnings of the Blacklite District, living their dreams, undying love for music, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been working hard with Blacklite District for many years now. In 2013 you experienced a great deal of success with the hit singles “Take Me To The Grave” and “With Me Now” on the SirusXM channel Octane as well as touring with Saving Abel. How would you describe 2013 for Blacklite District?
Roman James – It has been a crazy time. I did not think we would be going on tour right away. We got offered to an acoustic tour, we were not sure how we were going to feel about doing that right away because we had not actually toured before. We talked to our manager, Jeff Hanson, and he said you are going, no excuses. So we went out on tour and they are really cool guys; they taught us a lot. It just exploded after that. We hooked up with Octane and the single got to number 1. At first we wanted to put out “With Me Now” first. That was the reason “Take Me To The Grave” was put out first to give Octane listeners a rock vibe of what we can do, then we switched it up with “With Me Now”. It has been great so far.
CrypticRock.com – It really has been a great run. Yourself and Kyle Pfeiffer started your musical journey early on when you were just 12 years old and it has progressed over the years to what we know today. Tell me a little about the chemistry yourself and Kyle share?
Roman James – Well Kyle and I started when we were in 5th grade. We started playing Black Sabbath tunes. I was big into Linkin Park at the time. I kind of switched around playing different instruments and I just kind of came into singing. Jeff Hanson and Brett Hestla knew these guys Christian Mardini and Oniel Laffitte, we met them, they rehearsed for a week, got the songs down, and just went out on the road. Ever since it has been good; Oniel calls it the honeymoon tour. We get along together, work well together, and it has exploded after that.
CrypticRock.com – Yes it really has worked out well. With the additions of Christian Mardini on drums and Oniel Laffitte on bass, what has the addition these two done for Blacklite District?
Roman James – Well they are a little older than us so they have more experience with different bands, which helps a lot. Kyle and I like to party so they are kind of like parents I guess you can say, and keep us in line with everything (laughs). It has been good, we have our ups and downs here and there, but we work through it and make it happen.
CrypticRock.com – It is good to have that balance and different personalities. You two have stuck together all these years and made the difficult decision to move yourselves and the band from your hometown of Black Hills, SD to Orlando, Fl to further purse your career. Was it a difficult decision leaving home?
Roman James – Yes, because you either go big or go home. I have nothing else I really want to do in life besides music; I never really had a back-up plan. Kyle has always had that drive; he always had the drive from the beginning to get this band going. I already knew that he would do something big someday because he is great songwriter. Ever since then, Kyle’s drive and the connections he has built for us, we just went after that.
CrypticRock.com – Sounds like it is a good balance. Being on tour has its positives and negatives I imagine. Now that you have experienced a few touring cycles around the USA, what have you learned most from being on the road?
Roman James – Just to not drink as much (laughs). We went on tour with Art of Dying and they love to drink. Every night we just watched them, did what they did, meeting the fans and performing, it really helped me out. I am still learning a lot.
CrypticRock.com – It is all a learning experience. Judging by the singles “Take Me To The Grave” and “With Me Now” the band has a diverse sound including industrial elements, hard rock, and metal. There are so many hard rock bands out there now, but you seem to have your own unique qualities to offer. How important is it for the band to distinguish yourself in the genre?
Roman James – I am glad that we moved to electronics and kept our own elements. I have a heavy raspy voice and I am glad we got to keep that. When we went in with Brett Hestla that is what really helped me find myself as a vocalist. We got to hang out and he helped me become the singer that I am supposed to be.
CrypticRock.com – It is great that you are developing and it shows. Brett Hestla is a very talented guy. You will be releasing your new full length album Worldwide Controversy later this year. What was the writing and recording process like for this album?
Roman James – In 2011 with Stephen Short, we had a lot of money put into it and we only had 10 days to record it. It was awesome because it was in a big studio, but the downfall was we all had to go in separately. I had to go in and do vocals separately. It kind of sucked because you don’t have the vibe with the band all there. With Brett Hestla, everyone was there. We would have a beer, hang out, and everyone would let loose. We would take a break sometimes, watch a movie, and get right back to it. That really helped the album with Brett, we just got to go in with the album and have fun. There was no pressure to just be there one at a time and we were all there working together.
CrypticRock.com – That helps a lot because you have more of a live feel with the record when you are all in the studio opposed to being in the studio one at a time. What can fans expect from the record?
Roman James – It is a mix of a lot. It has dance grooves, clean vocals, pieces which are heavy, and some pop. There is a song called “Like Yesterday” which is slower and softer with pianos and some violins. Then we have “Take Me To The Grave” which is really heavy. Then we have “With Me Now” which I consider something like Linkin Park back in the day. It has the kind of hip hop vibe in the vocals which I never thought I would have. It is something that I think is going to keep climbing.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like it is going to be a very diverse record. I would like to know what some of your musical influences are personally.
Roman James – Linkin Park is obviously a big one, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Mötley Crüe as well. I am getting into Gemini Syndrome. I listen to a lot. There is a band called Super Bob which we played a show with. That I really like a lot, it has a hip hop vibe and heavy. I listen to a lot of music.
CrypticRock.com – It is good to keep listening to new stuff and keep things diverse.
Roman James – I really love diversity. With our music our fan base is usually within the 20’s but after our shows people tell me their mom and dad really like our music too. That is really cool that everyone from different age groups can relate and like the music.
CrypticRock.com –That is really cool when you can reach a broad range of people. My last question for you is regarding films. Crypticrock.com is a rock/metal and horror news site so we like to focus on all genres. Are you a fan of horror films and if so what are some of your favorite horror films?
Roman James – Halloween (1978)is one of my favorite. Another big one for me is A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984). I love horror movies. If everything else was gone as far as movies and there was just horror movies left over I would be fine with that.
CrypticRock.com – That is really cool. Horror films are really great. What do you think of newer horror films?
Roman James –They are ok, they obviously do not compare to the classics. I went to see the new Amityville Horror (2005) film with Ryan Reynolds, and I am a fan of his, so I thought it was really cool. It never compares to the classics though when watching horror movies. They are still good, but it takes a lot out of what the classics had.
CrypticRock.com – I agree. While some remakes can be decent, it just does not have the atmosphere the originals had.
Roman James – Yes. I actually went down to the Amityville Horror house when we were down there on Long Island. We went down for the hell of it to check it out.
CrypticRock.com – People actually live there and have for a while. The house was recently put up for sale and the previous home owners claimed they never had any issues while living there.
Roman James – It is kind of crazy that people would live in a house like that where shit like that happen.
Check out some of their music from the forthcoming album Worldwide Controversy: