Comedian Don Jamieson just released his latest album Communication Breakdown on Metal Blade Records. I spoke with Jamieson about the album, a new website he’s involved with, the future of That Metal Show and other subjects.
Chad Bowar: What has been the strangest or oddest question that you’ve been asked so far today?
Don Jamieson: I called in for this guy’s show. He was very complimentary. He knew my whole history, and he was a fan. We had this great conversation. He goes, “All right, I always end with your top five masturbation stories, so here we go.” I’m like, “Wait, wait.” That was a left turn out of nowhere.
You’ve been doing a lot of press for the album. You were on Howard Stern’s wrap up show, Eddie Trunk’s show, Jim Florentine’s show. What has been the highlight of all these different venues you’ve been on this week?
The cross section between the comedy press and the hard rock and metal press is what really makes me happy. It’s so great for those worlds to collide. I’ve always dreamed that since I was 11 and had Kiss – Destroyer and George Carlin – Occupation: Foole. These two worlds got to collide at some point. I’m just grateful that I have two different audiences, which is really special to me. Especially since the metal world is my world.
Is the comedy community similar to the metal community as far as a combination of support and ball-busting?
Yeah, exactly. It’s the same thing. I’m one of the few comedians who goes out and tours with bands or opens for bands and it’s the same thing backstage. Everyone’s just breaking balls and having fun. There’s a healthy competitiveness in terms of finding your place in the business, but at the same time, I’m a fan of other comics and I love that bands are generally fans of other bands. It’s good to be competitive, but there’s no need for nastiness, especially in our business because we all find our niche. I would have never thought 20 years ago when I started doing comedy that one day I’d be on TV with two of my best friends, interviewing every musical idol I ever had in my life.
When it came to putting together Communication Breakdown, is the material all new since your last album?
It’s all new material because as you get older, as your life progresses, you have more and more different experiences and particularly on this album I had some real funny stories that I really wanted to put out there. I’ve got things that are very personal to me like my crazy encounter with the actor Kiefer Sutherland and my pathetic attempt at trying to meet Johnny Depp at a party.
Things like that I really wanted to get down, so I’m glad to be able to bring those stories to life onstage because the truth is I’m a horrible storyteller. This album was a real challenge for me to try some things. Keep the essence of what I do but try something different, get out of my comfort zone.
You think you’ll follow more down that storytelling path or will you go back to the shorter, rapid-fire jokes and bits?
I’m always going to have those because I love that. I like there to be a lot of jokes in the time I’m onstage but there is something fun and relaxing about doing a story. As opposed to a band who does an album and then they go out on tour and obviously they’re going to play songs from the album, when you do a comedy album it’s a great, exciting day, my comedy album’s out today but the truth is, I cannot go out now and really do that material because people know it already. I’m on the uphill climb to coming up with a new hour of stuff.
Is it tough to work out material in the age of YouTube?
Not really. You throw stuff out there, you try it. The good thing is after 20 years I can hide the new stuff in between things that I know work, so it doesn’t seem like, “Boy, he bombed the other night, he was just doing all new stuff and it was terrible.” You sneak it in as you go along. When you start out, you don’t have that. You’re just thrown to the wolves.
You’re probably the only comic that comes up onstage to a Dave Mustaine original riff.
That’s another theme that has kept with my albums. I have Bumblefoot from Guns N’ Roses on my first record, I have Vinnie Moore on my last album. On this album, Dave Mustaine was kind enough to donate a riff from what’s probably an extensive riff library and I was really thrilled. He’s really become a good friend over the years and obviously I’m honored that he’s on my album in any way, shape, or form.
Speaking of Megadeth, you recently spent a weekend in Minnesota with Dave Ellefson.
I’m in the Megadeth business these days. David Ellefson’s doing his coffee and he opened up a coffee shop in his hometown of Jackson, Minnesota and he was nice enough to invite me out to perform at the grand opening. I was out playing a comedy club a few hours from there and went down there and I wrote a whole set about coffee. It was an original set of material and he really got a kick out of it. We had tons of fans come down and we had a good time. I broke his balls a little bit. I said, “How could David Ellefson from Megadeth be selling decaf? That’s like taking all the bass off Metallica’s …And Justice For All.”
What does a guy from Jersey think of rural, southern Minnesota?
It was funny because he goes, “I’ll take you for a tour of the town” which it lasted all of about six and a half minutes and I said, “This is the town I grew up in in New Jersey, same thing.” A mile and a half square where everybody in the town knew each other. Everybody married their high school sweethearts and David and I were the guys who got out. I’m also still very much in touch with my hometown like he is. The people there are super proud of him.
You’re now working on a website with Juliet Huddy. How did that come about?
Who knew she was a metalhead? Her last year at Fox News they let her interview Lamb of God and a few other bands so she was like, “You know what, I did 20 years of news. I want to get out, I want to do something that I really have a passion for which is exposing new hard rock and metal bands.” I met her and she’s the real deal and she said, “Hey, why don’t you come do some of the interviews for me?”
The site is Blondeandcrossbones.com. I’ve never interviewed anybody without Jim and Eddie so I’m out there a little bit naked because Jim and Eddie I always knew what they were going to say when they were going to say it, but with Juliet I never know what she’s going to say. It’s fun to develop a new chemistry with somebody else.
Are there any plans to expand that beyond a web site, maybe into a TV show?
You never know. You go into these things because you have a feeling for it, and obviously we hope something will come of it but at the same time That Metal Show is still very much alive in our hearts. It’s still in the process of being shopped around, but it is a hard sell, rock on TV these days. A lot of TV executives now are 30 year old hipsters. They have no clue about metal. It’s like starting over.
I would think that a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu or Amazon would be a perfect place for That Metal Show.
Our producer has the right to the name so he’s really the one that’s out there and he has I guess more of a better sense of what the climate is out there but sure, those would be great homes for us. I thought AXS TV would be a natural fit for us. Mark Cuban knows the show. Apparently he likes the show but I don’t know. If he needs us to come on Shark Tank and pitch it, that’s fine. We’ll do whatever we need to do.
Even if there isn’t ever another That Metal Show, it still sounds like you three guys will always work together in some way, shape, or form.
We still do That Metal Show. We went to see Saxon and UFO the other night and we sat backstage with the guys in the bands and shot the bull with them, but there just wasn’t cameras, that’s all. We still do the show but nobody sees it.
Now that you’ve had a little distance from the last filming, as you look back on it, what are a couple of the highlights over the show’s 14 seasons?
It’s more than just individual interviews, because obviously when you’re making a TV show, the best guests are the most outspoken guests so you’re going to talk about Ted Nugent or Dave Mustaine or Phil Anselmo or Marilyn Manson. Guys who have really no boundaries who will say whatever’s on their mind. They really make for the best TV guests because if you love them or hate them you’re going to tune in because you know that they have no filter. On a personal level, Lemmy, may he rest in peace, lived to 70, which is 140 human years. He could have just come on the show and smoked the whole time and that would have been cooler than anything else in the world.
But more than all that stuff, just to hear back from a lot of these musicians and bands who really give us a lot of credit and just say how much we helped the scene. When you’re in the middle of it you don’t see all that stuff and now with some distance, and the more you hear from guys established or otherwise that we were a big part of helping them and just keeping the scene alive. That’s what means the most.
Last year you released a book. What was the response to that?
I did a joke book called You Might Be A Metalhead. Like the Foxworthy thing, You Might Be A Redneck. It was great. It was a lot of fun to do. A buddy of mine did the illustrations and it’s great. I sell it at my comedy gigs and it’s available on Amazon if people want to check it out. It’s a “two dump classic” is how I explain it.
I know you’re not really a political comic, but what is your take on Trump?
When I do stuff about politics in my act I walk straight down the middle because people are so divided between the Democrats and Republicans; liberals and conservatives. I just want the jokes to be funny so of course I do talk about Trump and Hillary and Anthony Weiner on my new album but I don’t take a side. That’s not what people are into. They want to come to a comedy club and laugh. My life’s not really going to change that much unless Trump decides to build a wall around comedy clubs.
He’s of course known for his tweeting and as a comic, you post a lot on social media. In the current climate do you have to filter yourself?
Yeah, definitely. When I put jokes out there I always save it as a draft and go back to it a few hours later because sometimes you look back and go, “Oh my God, thank God I didn’t hit send on that one.” What’s even funnier about Twitter now, speaking on Trump, is I’m @realdonjamieson and he’s @realdonaldjtrump and I accidentally get tagged in a lot of his hate tweets. People who hate him but accidentally tag me.
I’m looking at my timeline: “Oh, Communication Breakdown‘s great”; “Congratulations, you made the top ten”; “You’re destroying the country.” Wait a minute, what happened here? Oh, okay, thank God. They were yelling at Trump, not me.
Did you see where he had Kid Rock and Ted Nugent at the White House the other day?
Ted wears it on his sleeve. For better or for worse, he’s unapologetic. I will say this, behind the scenes, Ted could not be a cooler guy to Jim and Eddie and I. When he comes to town, he always insists that we come to the show and he sets us up and he treats us really great. I see how he treats the people around him. I don’t want to ruin his street cred, but he really has a big heart and he’s a good dude.
Between That Metal Show and all the various concerts and things you’ve done you’ve met just about everybody. Is there still anybody left on your bucket list that you have not met?
The only bucket list thing I ever had was having a Jack and Coke with Lemmy and I was able to actually do that a few times over the years. I was pretty lucky to actually realize that one.
Bruce Dickinson, did you ever meet him?
We had Steve Harris on the show. We had Adrian. I don’t think I ever met Bruce. That’s a good one, actually. I’d love to go up in a plane with him. I think that’d be a lot of fun. I’m sure that’s a lot safer than flying United so I’d rather be on Flight 666.
(interview published April 23, 2017)