Judge Jackson Speaks Out

Written by on May 23, 2013 in Cover Story, Interviews, May 23, 2013 - Comments Off on Judge Jackson Speaks Out

JUDGE JACKSON lives and breathes the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll.

Judge Jackson - AAM CoverNo one embodies that drive, determination and lifestyle better than this quartet of true believers whose sixth album, 6, boasts a cover depicting a route on a freeway sign that perfectly captures the band’s nomadic 100-plus gigs a year commitment. For more than a decade, through five albums, 1,200 performances (celebrating their milestone 1,000th, appropriately enough, at the 27th Laughlin River Run two years ago), and shows with Tesla, John Waite, Steel Panther, S.U.N., Gov’t Mule, Doobie Bros., Cheap Trick, Buckcherry, Army of Anyone, UFO and Joe Bonamassa, among others, this hard-driving quartet’s music can be heard on a variety of sporting events, including the Super Bowl, NHL and NBA playoffs, as well as NASCAR.

Vocalist/lyricist McTavish, who once played in a band that featured Shania Twain as a back-up vocalist, joined up with guitarist/songwriter Jackson in L.A. to tirelessly play the town’s club circuit, where they steadily built a devoted local following. By 1998, the band released its debut album, followed shortly thereafter by a second CD, 8068. Drummer Garcia joined the group shortly after the release of JUDGE JACKSON’s third CD, One Diamond, which marked the band’s multimedia breakthrough, with “Amazing” receiving airplay on more than 30 stations across the U.S., while “Times Been Changing” was featured on NBC’s popular comedy My Name Is Earl. Still another track, “King,” was the theme to the Speed Channel NASCAR program, Victory Lane, viewed by more than a million fans every Sunday.

From the band’s self-titled fourth album, released in March, 2007 “Lift the Bottle” and “Rock N’ Roll” has been featured on several Fox Sports Network promos and programs. In addition, the group wrote and recorded a brand-new song, “Get Busy,” for Fox Sports’ college football telecasts. That album was named “Best CD of the Year” in the 5th Annual All Access Magazine Awards.

Judge JacksonThe group added bassist Brian James, formerly of The Rocking Scoundrels and Stone, to replace long time member Ryan Rogers in time for their 2010 album, Drive, whose title track was featured on MTV’s popular Buckwild series. Two years ago, Todd and Lee collaborated with Oscar winner Billy Bob Thornton, taking a break from his own band The Boxmasters, to record the holiday single, “Christmas Tree,” with Grammy-winning producer/engineer Jim Mitchell (Guns N’ Roses, Black Crowes) at Thornton’s Beverly Hills home studio, dubbed “The Cave,” originally designed and built by Mitchell for former homeowner Slash. McTavish has also written with and for several other artists, including Motley Crue’s Mick Mars.

Self-produced by the band, with engineer/mixer Billy Baker, 6 is the band’s first album since 2010’s Drive and continues to wear JUDGE JACKSON’s passion for music and the camaraderie of rock on its sleeve. Guitarist Lee Jackson’s slashing power chords, J.J. Garcia’s tub-thumping drums and Brian James’ bass rumble enlivens the Guns N’ Roses salacious swagger of “Done,” “#13” and the edgy “Suck It Up,” while “Dynamite” lives up to its name. The anthemic “Born Free” celebrates “the power of dreaming/the right to succeed” and the propulsive live crowd-pleaser “Rise” takes care of business Bachman-Turner Overdrive style with a plea bound to get every concert-goer to their feet.

With 6, whose cover was designed in an online contest from a submission by winner Laurel Liggera, JUDGE JACKSON have put those 10,000 hours to good use. An eclectic collection that doesn’t just show off their patented hard rock rave-ups on songs like “Top of the World,” which describes the feeling of eutopia and absolute freedom (“I’m on top of the world/What a view I can see/Like a kid in a candy store/And it’s all free”) and “Keep on Truckin’,” with its components of: “All Along the Watchtower” in a tribute to a life lived to and for the pride of working hard. The band’s eclecticism continues with the ZZ Top flavor of “My Word” and the funky Chicago R&B of “January Blues.” The country-flavored “Hold You Tight” and “Cool,” with the emotional acoustic folk of “Laid to Rest,” and the yearning narrative of “California,” lyricist Todd McTavish’s ode to his adopted home having arrived from Canada in 1995 to form the roots of JUDGE JACKSON.

On their newest album, 6, JUDGE JACKSON puts the pedal to the floor with soaring vocals, churning guitars, and a rhythm section that punches you in the gut. A worthy successor to their own stated influences: Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin, Black Crowes, Guns N’ Roses, Tesla, Iron Maiden, Bon Jovi, Allman Brothers and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Sure, they rock, but McTavish and Jackson create indelible melodies, sing-along lyrics and choruses to literally die for. “Live for nothin’/Or die for somethin’,” sings Todd on the soaring R. Crumb/Mr. Natural tribute, “Keep on Truckin’,” and that’s exactly what they continue to do on their latest release, available at iTunes and CD Baby.com

“It ain’t easy/Working for a standing ovation/you’ve got to rise, rise to the occasion/and when you need me/I’ll be turning myself and the stage on,” sings McTavish on the new album’s “Rise.” You couldn’t come up with a better way to describe JUDGE JACKSON’s take-no-prisoners musical approach. Rock ‘n’ roll the way it’s always meant to be.

Todd McTavish – Vocals
Lee Jackson – Guitar
Brian James – Bass, B. Vocals
J.J. Garcia – Drums

‘On Top Of The World’

Interview by Debra Stocker

AAM: First off congratulations, on yet another fabulous album titled 6! Thanks for taking your time from your very busy schedule to grace our cover, and in lighted our readers with the latest and greatest Judge Jackson news.

It’s no secret that the band Judge Jackson and All Access Magazine go wayyyyyy back, But I think the Judge has us beat by a few years right. Just how long has Judge Jackson been together?

Todd McTavish: Lee and I started Judge Jackson in the summer of 1995

AAM: Do you think your music has changed any through the years?

Todd McTavish: No. I think we’ve stayed consistent but we’ve increasingly gotten better at our song writing craft.

AAM: Do you consider your music rock, southern rock or maybe even leaning towards a little country?

Todd McTavish: All of the above. We are influenced by all these genres

AAM: Who writes the lyrics and music for the band?

Todd McTavish: I, (Todd McTavish) write the lyrics and Lee Jackson writes the music.

AAM: Were there any inspirations on your new album?

Todd McTavish: Life in general

AAM: No doubt Judge Jackson has a busy tour season ahead. Where will Judge Jackson be heading?

  • 5/19 Lilac Festival – Pine Mountain Club, CA
  • 6/1 Battle of the Badges / Aqua Caliente – Palm Springs, CA
  • 6/8 Thunder on the Lot w/Great White – Lancaster, CA
  • 6/15 Rockyard @ Fantasy Springs Resort Casino – Indio, CA
  • 6/22 The Dog House – Tehachapi, CA6/29 KCAL Radio Event /San Manaul Casino- Highland, CA 9/14 Taryn’s Run for Life / Skip Fordyce Harley – Riverside, CA
  • 9/28 Rockyard @ Fantasy Springs Resort Casino – Indio, CA

AAM: Can Judge Jackson fans purchase tickets or any cool Judge Jackson swag anywhere?

Todd McTavish: Other than at our live shows, we’re working on launching our merch page in early summer. Check with us at our Facebook page for more details.

AAM: Of all the places Judge Jackson has performed can you tell us your best, and your worst gig or experience you have encountered?

Todd McTavish: There have been many great moments, one opening in front of a sold out audience for U.F.O. at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, and playing the Phoenix Stadium opening up for Buckcherry. But now that I think about it there’s been way too many to recite in this little space here. On the flip side, even in the worst gig situation, we’ve always ended up finding a positive and sharing a chuckle over it.

AAM: Other than the bands “love for the music” can you tell our readers. After all these years, what keeps you all truckin on?

Todd McTavish: Our passion and love for writing, recording and performing music.

AAM: So Judge, what can AAM ask you, that hasn’t ever been ask before? Give our readers a little inside thrill about the Judge Jackson boys?

Todd McTavish: After all these years, I can’t think of a question that I haven’t been asked.

AAM: As you know, AAM sent the word out about your interview in our next issue. So below are a few questions from Judge Jackson fans…

JJ Fan: Why do they call Brian James, “Chewy”?

Todd McTavish: Because he’s 6’7” and has hair down to his ass. The name was given to him by his friend and old roommate Chris Holmes from WASP.

JJ Fan: Any chance you’ll be coming to Canada on your tour?

Todd McTavish: Hoping so, but nothing in stone yet. Maybe 2014 in the spring or summer.

JJ Fan: Is there any chance you’ll be performing in the bay area, near San Francisco??

Todd McTavish: Looking into it and hoping to soon!

JJ Fan: Is it true that Lee Jackson is the only single one in the band?

Todd McTavish: Yes.

JJ Fan: I play the guitar, and I started a band, yet we have to find a singer. My question is playing at the clubs in Hollywood, CA- they all do this “pay to play” thing and it cost a lot. Do you recommend this for bands just getting started?

Todd McTavish: Do what you got to do when you got to do it. There are so many places you can play to build a following that doesn’t require pay to play. Plus with new media outlets like YouTube, etc you can get your name out there so much faster. I personally don’t like to pay to play, but back in the day, many occasions occurred where that was the case.

JJ Fan: I have all your albums I think, but my friend told me he heard an interview and Todd mentioned there is another one after 6. He said it was called unplugged, is that right?

Todd McTavish: No. It’s called Table 7. It’s a five song EP written in the wake of a close friend’s death.

AAM: Again, a “BIG” congrats to Judge Jackson on their just released album, 6. Is there anything you boyz would like to add, or say to your fans?

Todd McTavish: A big thank you for all your support!

Judge Jackson is “On Top Of The World”, and still going strong!

See you June 8th at Thunder on the Lot w/Great White – Lancaster, CA Keep Rockin Judge!

The best way fans can keep up with the Judge: www.judgejackson.net

Scan for a free download of our track “Keep On Truckin’ ” from the new Judge Jackson release “6”!

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