Cleanbreak Interview

Frontiers Music

It has been more than a decade since James Durbin was on American Idol. Since then he has released solo material and was Quiet Riot’s frontman for a couple of years. His latest project is Cleanbreak, whose lineup also includes Stryper’s Perry Richardson and Robert Sweet along with Riot V’s Mike Flyntz. Durbin fills us in on Cleanbreak’s debut album Coming Home along with some other projects he’s involved in.

Chad Bowar: How did the lineup come together?
James Durbin: When I signed with Frontiers in December of 2019, the original plan was for me to do a solo album, which became Durbin – The Beast Awakens, followed by me fronting a group comprised of musicians from other bands. Perry and Robert, respectively, were part of the equation very early on. Mike Flyntz was suggested by Frontiers’ Nick Tieder and was a no brainer.

How did you come up with the band name?
“Cleanbreak” happens to be one of the songs I wrote for the album. We all felt it was an appropriate and kickass sounding band name.

What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
This album was recorded in 2021, still feeling the post quarantine effects, so we all recorded remotely. I think it’s cool that I was able to track all my vocals in my home studio, where I feel the most comfortable and relaxed, as opposed to being in studio. Also, I engineered my own tracking sessions which I also prefer because I know what I hope to get out of the performances and am really able to hone in on specific parts without having to explain it to someone else.

What did you learn from working with veteran musicians such as Mike, Perry and Robert?
I don’t know if I learned anything from them I didn’t already know. Instead, they affirmed things I’ve learned myself, like just being a good human being and being easy to work with, easy to talk to, etc. While we were filming the music videos I said something to the effect of, “isn’t it great when you get to work with great people and not a bunch of assholes?” I think the guys knew when I said that, that despite the age difference between us, we’ve all experienced a whole hell of a lot on our individual musical journeys. It’s refreshing to have had that level of comfortability with your band, especially when sharing the room together for the first time.

How would you characterize the album’s style/sound?
I’ve heard it be called (traditional) American metal, but to me it’s just heavy metal.

What lyrical topics do you cover?
Change is a constant, so that’s definitely reflected in the lyrics. Also the battle between one and one’s self, or what you perceive to be yourself. I can only speak to the songs that I contributed to the album. I’m certain there’s a lot of deep meaning behind all of these songs, whether it’s what the songwriter had felt, what I feel when I sing them or what our fans will feel listening to them. It’s hard to define what they’re about because as soon as they’re released they mean something else to whomever consumes it. That’s the power of music.

How were the video shoots for “Coming Home” and “Cleanbreak?”
As I alluded to previously, that was the first time Mike, Robert, Perry and I were in a room together! I remember they were all there standing together when I pulled up to the film studio. I walked up casually and said, “y’all wanna start a band?” Or something like that. (laughs) We all laughed about the unique situation and just got on immediately. We hit a slump that coffee couldn’t help, then someone turned up with a case of Budweiser and the party continued. (laughs) We filmed both videos in the same day, as well as B-Roll behind the scenes footage for the “Dream Forever” video.

Do you enjoy making videos, or are they a necessary evil?
I absolutely love creating the visual elements that accompany the music. In this case it was working with Enzo Mazzeo and Nlight Productions. The past few music videos and visualizers that I’ve done, I’ve written the treatments, storyboarded, produced, filmed, edited. etc. which is exhausting. So it was really nice coming in to film the Cleanbreak videos because all I had to do was show up and rock. That can be exhausting in its own way, but the experience is unbeatable, especially since we hadn’t performed together or recorded together before the video shoot.

What are your goals and expectations for the album?
We all hope that the fans enjoy what we enjoyed creating and that this is the first of many more Cleanbreak albums to come.

Are there plans to play live shows in support of the record?
I know it’s something that we would all love to do at some point and I think it’s likely that we will at some point, but no plans have been discussed.

Tell us about your band The Lost Boys.
The Lost Boys is my /’70s/’80s dance rock cover band. We play a lot of city and corporate events in our hometown Santa Cruz, CA, which is where the cult classic vampire flick of the same name was filmed. The band was put together for a one off private function I was hired for 8 years ago. Things just clicked and we’ve been going strong ever since.

Are there plans for a follow-up to last year’s Durbin album The Beast Awakens?
Absolutely! I’m working on it as we speak. Durbin is a big passion for me, as it’s 100 percent me writing it, conceptualizing it and demoing it. The Beast Awakens was done during the peak of quarantine, so I had nothing but free time to devote to it. The trick now is getting myself back into that mental space and turning up the pressure!

Are you involved in any other projects?
I’m very happy to be featured on the upcoming Alan Parsons album From The New World. I co-wrote the song “Give Em My Love” (featuring a guitar solo by Joe Bonamassa) with Alan’s longtime business partner Julian Colbeck, for one of Alan’s “Master Class Sessions.” He loved the song and seeing as we’re both with Frontiers, all the pieces were aligned to make it happen. This feature is double exciting for me, as I worked with Alan Parsons and Julian Colbeck back in 2008 for “Alan Parsons’ Art & Science Of Sound Recording.” This is a real full circle moment.

How did your appearances on The AXS TV show Top 10 Revealed come about, and what has the experience been like?
I believe in the Law Of Attraction and The Secret and all that stuff. I simply sent my positive energy into the universe that I wanted to do some form of hosting on a TV show and one day I got an email from The Top Ten Revealed’s producer and host Katie Daryl, asking me if I’d like to be on the next season, at the time. When things manifest like this it’s incredibly exciting, so I jumped at the opportunity and I’ve been doing it ever since. I’ll be filming what I believe is my fourth season later this month.

Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
I’m humbled and grateful to continue working in this business and owe it to my fans that have supported me over the last 11 years since my run on American Idol and all the fans I’ve made along the way, a lot having never seen Idol. It’s a pretty cool feeling when you create something or are a part of something that people enjoy. That’s never lost on me.

Listen To Cleanbreak – Coming Home Album

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