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Articles Home » Music Talk » Heavy Metal Idol - Interview With Vocalist James Durbin By Thomas Amoriello Jr.
Heavy Metal Idol - Interview With Vocalist James Durbin By Thomas Amoriello Jr.

Heavy Metal Idol

Interview With Vocalist James Durbin

By Thomas Amoriello Jr.

Boston Rock Radio



Known throughout the country for his indoctrinating American Idol audiences to classic heavy metal and later appearing with the legendary Quiet Riot on the nostalgia circuit as their touring front man appearing on their last two recordings, James Durbin continues to carry the sword of metal with his February 12th offering The Beast Awakens on the Frontiers label.  Boston Rock Radio caught up with the Santa Cruz, California native for this exclusive interview.


You recently found a home with the Italian label Frontiers for your solo stuff previously being with the Quiet Riot camp.  Please talk about your approach to the lyric writing for the latest.  Do you keep journals from the past? Did you have a concept or theme in mind for this label's debut?

I keep a collection of ideas on my phone, between the Notes & Voice Memos. When I first began to write what would become The Beast Awakens album, I was trying to rework old songs & old ideas. I quickly realized that since I had the chance to start from scratch, I was much more interested in starting with a blank canvas. Frontiers & I had talked about having a classic metal sound, musically & sonically, so I began to write riffs that could have been of that era. Somewhere along the way, I had written “The Prince Of Metal” & “Kings Before You.” I thought maybe this could be a concept album, so from that point on, It was trying to complete the songwriting with the concept in mind, while still just trying to write a kick ass record, if one chooses to follow the concept or not.

Durbin: The Prince of Metal

When all of the live performance restrictions are lifted and the gigs roll in will DURBIN be a band with an official lineup?

This is the question I’ve been asked the most. ☺ This all remains to be seen, but I still give the same answer. The first time these songs will be performed live with a full band, it will be made up of the individuals who made the album what it is. Mike Vanderhule on drums & Barry Sparks on bass. I will not be playing guitars live & will offer that up to those who contributed solos to the album. Beyond that, I can’t say, but fingers crossed this happens sooner than later.

Who are a few of the metal singers out there (past or present) that you have been enjoying lately beyond the Dios, Halfords, Dickinsons and picking up a thing or two?

While the aforementioned are at the top of my list of metal influences, anyone that knows me knows I listen to a lot of styles of music. Lately I’ve been really enjoying Michael McDonald (solo works & Doobie Brothers) as well as the Bee Gees. The musicianship of groups like those blows my mind, the harmonies are incredible & the hooks are endless. There’s a lot there to learn a thing or two.

Do you have any warm up techniques to get your voice where you like it to be?

I do some light warming up during the day to get my voice ready. Sometimes I do nothing & my voice is ready to go. It all depends on the gig really. If it’s in the studio, I’ve got to be fairly warmed up. If it’s an acoustic set, I don’t really bother warming up as that happens as the set unfolds.

Having been in the spotlight and having performed on some major syndicated talk shows in the past, do you have any advice for younger bands on preparing to dealing with that kind of pressure?

It’s all a game. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “fake it till you make it”? Everybody fakes it at first. I’m not sure if it’s the same for younger bands or if it will be the same as time goes by. I got my start in interviews from American Idol 10 years ago! I had done a few before then with local newspapers in my hometown, but nothing compared to what Idol brought me. In that environment, you learn quickly that what you say can & will be used against you on TMZ the following day. lol

Durbin: Kings Before You

Since you have lived the dream and jammed on stage with the mighty Priest do you have a top 5 tracks from the band that are your go to when driving down the highway?

In the last year I’ve realized the full power of Judas Priest’s 1976 album Sad Wings Of Destiny & 1984’s Defenders Of The Faith, both in their entirety. But, if I had to choose my Top 5 Tracks, in no particular order, they would be:

  • “Victim Of Changes” – The live version from Unleashed In The East is fire!
  • “Rock Hard, Ride Free” – I was forever changed when I heard this song. Horns up!!
  • “The Sentinel” – This song was my wakeup alarm for a while till I started sleeping through it.
  • “Dreamer Deceiver/Deceiver” – Take your ears on a psychedelic trip & watch the sunset.
  • “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll” – Classic Priest swagger & attitude with a current message.


James Durbin & Judas Priest on American Idol 


Have you caught any cool metal documentaries on Netflix as of late that you really enjoyed?

I haven’t sought out any Netflix metal docs. My wife & I have really been enjoying the series Down To Earth with Zac Efron, while my son & I love the animated series Hilda. I get my metal consumption with classic concert footage on YouTube but mostly just listening to the music itself.


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