The latest comedy album from Don Jamieson is Denim and Laughter. I spoke with the former That Metal Show co-host about the album, his newest endeavor That Jamieson Show, the challenge of opening for bands as a comedian and other topics.
Chad Bowar: How did you decide on the venue to record Denim and Laughter?
Don Jamieson: On comedy albums I always try to incorporate the vibe of my album into what you hear. For Denim and Laughter, I found out a friend of mine had a speakeasy in Los Angeles, a literal illegal club. I was going to be coming off the Megadeth cruise and I thought it would be such a great place to record a comedy album. Rock and roll isn’t fun unless it’s dangerous, and it’s the same with comedy. When you’re in constant danger of the police breaking down the door and yelling, “This is a raid,” it definitely puts a little edge on the proceedings.
Was it just a random crowd that happened to be there that night, or was it your fans?
The way we had to do it was a Facebook invite. We emailed everybody the morning of the show to give them the location, because we didn’t want to get shut down before we were able to record the album. So they were people who were Don Jamieson-friendly, for sure.
Did you need permission from Saxon for the album title Denim and Laughter?
Yes you do, and luckily Biff (Byford) and I have become good friends over the years. We were having some red wine one night and I was kicking around album titles and thought of Denim and Laughter and he was all on board with that. We continued on and I told him I was going to do it and I got approval for all the artwork. Hopefully they don’t change their minds and come back and sue me now. (laughs) I’m going on tour with Biff in the U.K. and Europe, which is a nice tie-in.
On Denim and Laughter you only do a little bit of political humor. Are you still getting tagged on President Trump’s tweets because you have similar handles?
Absolutely! Some mornings I wake up to these horrific tweets. I’m @realdonjamieson and he’s @realdonaldjtrump, and when people are hate tweeting at Trump, they are so angry and worked up that they end up tagging me accidentally. I usually answer them back with something snarky.
On the album you talk about last year’s Super Bowl halftime show with Maroon 5. What did you think of this year’s with Jennifer Lopez and Shakira?
The halftime show in the last decade is a time to get some food, go drop a deuce, or both. It’s not even acknowledged any more. I didn’t watch a minute of it. I’m sure it was a spectacle, like everything is around the Super Bowl, but not my style.
Your last couple albums have done very well. Do you have any goals or expectations for this one?
You always hope the people will support it. I’m lucky to have two different audiences. There are people who know me from That Metal Show, and people who have followed me as a comic for the last 20 plus years. I’m always hopeful, but I am a comic so I try to set the bar low and hope for the best. I’m on the best record label in the world, Metal Blade, and they do everything they can to make sure people know it’s out there.
You mentioned you’re doing some shows with Biff from Saxon. You’ve opened for a lot of bands over the years. Is that more challenging than a show in a regular comedy venue?
Totally. Opening for a band as a comic, you can’t do any ballads. Everything has to be a killer. I give them what I call the sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll set, and some of that is included on Denim and Laughter. They don’t want to hear about politics, they don’t want to hear about your pets, they want to hear about Ozzy and Alice Cooper and Motley Crue and things like that. I try to make it relatable so we don’t get too far out in left field. My goal is to get them smiling, get them laughing, get them ready for the big boys to knock it down.
Last year you started That Jamieson Show online. How did that come about?
I’ve been asked a million times since That Metal Show went off the air when I was going to do a podcast. Eddie does a podcast, Jim does a podcast. I wanted things to line up a certain way. I didn’t put out a comedy album until Metal Blade offered me a deal. That’s the connection I wanted, a connection with a legendary record label that was so much a part of my youth. I didn’t want to put a podcast out just to put it out. Anybody can do one on their phone.
Anthony Cumia from Opie & Anthony, the legendary radio show, started his own network called Compound Media. A lot of comics have shows on there. Some are political, some are satirical, some are musical, but none of them talk about rock. They threw an offer out to me and I said I’d really like to do it. It’s been a lot of fun. I’m still getting to interview artists, but I’m doing it on my own now, which is an interesting journey. Most of my interviewing career has been with two other guys. It’s fun finding my style.
How would you describe your interviewing style as it’s developing?
It’s a work in progress, but talk to me in ten years and I’ll probably tell you the same thing. It’s getting there. I’m fairly familiar and friendly with most of the people, so I’m at ease with them. But it’s definitely a different animal when all the weight is on your shoulders.
That Jamieson Show is both an audio and video podcast.
Right. That was another appealing thing to me. There’s a whole set there and they have a great staff. It’s a professional TV studio. We’re going to keep doing this. I got renewed for 2020 and am having a lot of fun with it.
Have you had any guests that you did not know previously?
Yes. I reached out to Devin Townsend on Twitter because I dig what the guy does. Besides being a brilliant musician and super creative guy, he’s so funny. You can go down the rabbit hole on YouTube of him on stage saying hilarious stuff. There’s a great video of him in Spain where all the equipment goes down and he does an improv/standup routine for 15 minutes and kills. That was really intriguing to me. He got back to me and was into it, so we had Devin on and he was a lot of fun.
On a recent episode Ripper Owens was talking about the Dio hologram. What’s your take on the hologram concerts?
I love it. I’ve seen it, and think it’s fantastic. Not just visually, but sonically. When you’re talking about taking every track that Ronnie sings from a different concert, from a different year, from a different venue and make it all sound like one concert, plus the live singers on stage, plus the live band, all the screens, it raises the bar.
Are there any other hologram concerts that you’d like to see?
If you do it the right way, I think you could bring anybody back. I think that’s the beauty of it. I see it from the perspective of guy who has seen the artists live. I saw Dio live many times. I also saw the Frank Zappa hologram, and I never saw Frank Zappa live. I still got a thrill out of it because it was like seeing him live, or at least as close as you could.
With so many podcasts out there, how do you make That Jamieson Show stand out and find an audience?
Fans of That Metal Show are so loyal and so passionate, so they’ll come over and check out what I’m doing. It’s similar, kind of my own version of it, but the core of it is still having hard rock and metal musicians on. I’m trying to create unique segments and trying to pay attention to what’s new on the scene as well as focus on what classic bands are still making great music. You don’t want to forget about them, but I love the new wave of rock music that’s happening now and am really excited about it because it helps the whole scene in general.
With the rise of Netflix and other streaming services, there are tons of standup comedy specials for people to watch. Is that good for comedy, or is it siphoning people away from going to see live comedy?
It’s a great thing for comedy. Comedy is bigger than it’s ever been because comics have control over their material. There’s a parallel to the music business where you don’t have to have a deal with Comedy Central or HBO. You can shoot your own special. There’s a video component to Denim and Laughter, and I’m certainly welcome to shop that around and if I get a deal for it I don’t have to give up the rights to this material that I wrote and honed on stages every night to somebody with a suit and an office that doesn’t know anything about comedy and I can find an appropriate home for it. I think it’s great.
(interview published February 24, 2020)