INTERVIEW: James Williamson Returns to Rock N Roll with ‘Behind The Shade’




Petra Haden, James Williamson and Frank Meyer - Photo by Heather Harris
Petra Haden, James Williamson and Frank Meyer - Photo by Heather Harris

By DONNA BALANCIA, PHOTOS By HEATHER HARRIS

What lies Behind The Shade?

For the new band, James Williamson and The Pink Hearts, a seriously rockin’ collection of music.

Williamson has teamed with Frank Meyer and Petra Haden on a new album, Behind The Shade under the band name James Williamson and The Pink Hearts.

The new band is the latest project from the guitarist who wrote some of the hottest rock anthems in history like “Search and Destroy” and “Raw Power” with lyricist and The Stooges frontman Iggy Pop.

The new band is comprised of violinist and singer Haden and guitarist-lyricist and frontman Meyer and despite its off-color name, it’s Rock N Roll to the core.

James Williamson - Photo by Heather Harris
James Williamson – Photo by Heather Harris

Familiarity Breeds ‘Content’ With The Pink Hearts

“I’ve worked with Petra over the past five years and so I was pretty familiar with her capabilities,” Williamson said. “I ran into Frank with the Re-Licked project.  I used Frank for our Re-Licked show because of course I couldn’t get the singers on the record, but I was impressed by how he handled himself on stage.”

Meyer works with Cheetah Chrome and his band, The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs, along with several others and has a devoted Los Angeles following. He actually is the one responsible for the band name, when he told Williamson about his experience seeing a pink heart-shaped balloon floating across a gray sky.

“I was driving up the 110 freeway towards downtown LA and looking at the gray brown smoggy sunrise of downtown Los Angeles, when this pink heart-shaped balloon cut across the skyline like a glimpse of hope,” Meyer said. “It became this beautiful song on the album and James thought it would make a good band name.”

‘Behind The Shade’ a Few Years in the Making

After the Re-Licked show, a couple of years went by and Williamson wanted to put together another album and Meyer was at the top of the list. That’s mainly because of the work on Re-Licked, the record and revue that enlisted musicians to re-tool songs recorded by Williamson and Iggy Pop.

Video courtesy of Brian James:

“I wanted to make another album and I was looking around for people who can write lyrics,” Williamson said. “I wanted someone who could sing as well. it turned out not only was Frank a prolific lyricist, he’s quick and good but he could also sing em.

“So we started out along those lines. we wrote about four songs of them middle of last year, I had both Petra and Frank sing them.  i was struck by the magic of having both of those voices together.”

Frank Meyer - Photo by Heather Harris Behind The Shade
Frank Meyer – Photo by Heather Harris

A preliminary listen to the record gives us an insight into what it’s like to work with Williamson in this day and age.  The songs run the range from rock and roll, like “Revolution Stomp,” to Americana like “Pink Hearts Across The Sky,” psychedelic like “Destiny Now” and full-on rock and roll like on “Riot on the Strip.”  “Riot” will sound familiar to those who know the work of Williamson, named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his work with Iggy Pop and The Stooges.

Petra Haden - Photo by Heather Harris Behind The Shade
Petra Haden – Photo by Heather Harris

Strong Core Group for ‘Behind The Shade’

The group is rounded out by bassist Jason Carmer and drummer Michael Urbano.

The band is planning a West Coast tour — and possibly beyond — to support the record.

“The songs are a mixed bag,” Williamson said. “The one on the video is up tempo. There are a fair number of mid – to upper tempo and a good sprinkling of ballads. I think it’s a record that’s very ‘listenable.’ You can listen to it over and over, and God knows I have.”

The album is out Jun 22 on vinyl, digital and CD, pre-order available here

Check out the teaser video from Riot on the Strip: