March 2016 interview by Todd Jolicoeur, photos by mintypics.com
Rock and Roll. Whiskey. 'Sloonshine. Full Throttle. Guinness World Records. Chainsaws. Just a few of the more recognizable and commonly thought of words to describe the one and only Jesse James Dupree. Humble. Grounded. Honest. Hard-working. These are a few words I have come to know him by over the years, having watched him perform on small local stages and national festival stages, having interviewed him years ago, and having met him on a couple occasions to say hello, get a handshake, a photo, or an autograph. In the world of rock stars, Jesse James Dupree is the real deal - he loves what he does, who he does it with - his band Jackyl, and who he does it for - the fans. Sit back and let him tell you about what is on tap for Jackyl music in 2016, alcohol, and what compressed music does to your glands...
Toddstar: Thank you so much for taking time out for us Jesse, we really appreciate it, man.
Jesse: Glad to be here. You're up in Michigan, huh?
Toddstar: Yeah, up in Michigan. We're super excited, we know you've got some dates coming up; you've got one special one coming up that we'd love to talk about. Let's talk about Jackyl first, what's going on in the world of Jackyl right now?
Jesse: Life is good so far, we've been very blessed to have so much going on, especially considering the band's been, we've been around for a while. It seems to just continue to grow every year. Of course the TV show, The Full Throttle Saloon, has been a game changer as far as, you know, introducing us to new people and re-introducing us to people that had gotten away to going to listening to country stations or whatever. Whatever the case might be. We've definitely seen the residual benefits of the age group, there's young kids, younger people, older people. For me, it's very rewarding that people in general support straight up rock and roll. That's the one thing that I can pride ourselves on, we've never chased any trends, and we just do what we do. We're unapologetic about it; we're a celebration of the fundamentals of rock and roll. Two guitars, bass and drums, chainsaw if you will, and we don't let up off of it.
Toddstar: Since the first album, you guys have just set the pace for everybody else. How many other rock bands have two Guinness World Records?
Jesse: Well, yeah, I don't know. It was a major undertaking to pull that off, and some might even say foolish. To each his own, we're proud of it. I wouldn't necessarily want to go and undertake that again, because it was a grueling task and nobody will ever, truly know how hard it was.
Toddstar: I'm sure, I can only imagine. I've been lucky enough to see you through the years, whether it be on a small stage or on a festival like Rocklahoma. What's it like, still to be able to get up on that stage and do what you love to do, day in and day out, Jesse?
Jesse: I don't know anything any different. I graduated high school and never looked back. Whether it was playing three, one-hour sets in a bar, five nights a week or to the other extreme of being able to be on a tour bus and walk into a festival with a hundred and fifty thousand watts of lights and huge PA system. I never loved it any more or any less than the other. There's not a night that the intro tape rolls that I, I've never sat there and went, "God, I hate I'm here." It's never happened. It doesn't matter if there are ten people or ten thousand. The energy, just the experience ... I love being on stage with the guys, even during sound checks, which we very rarely do one, but if we were to, we'd find ourselves, sometimes, in there making noise or something, it's a blast. We still look at each other and laugh. You cannot be around this bunch and not laugh your ass off, it's just something constantly.
Toddstar: Well the four of you have been together a long time and you guys are certainly tight when it comes to performing. What are the odds that that tightness is going to generate some new music, any time soon, Jesse?
Jesse: How about this summer? Be ready for something to come out this year.
Toddstar: Oh, man, that's awesome.
Jesse: We're actually playing a couple of new things live now.
Toddstar: It's been a few years since Best In Show, which I loved.
Jesse: Yeah, I think it's time to. The last couple of albums have been received really, really above average. We just really, I think we've reconnected with what made that first album, just because we've road tested these songs before we went out with them. I think that makes a difference.
Toddstar: You talk about road testing and mentioned I'm here in Michigan. You've got a very, very, very special show coming up at, what to me is a very, very special venue. I think it runs true in your blood. The Machine Shop in Flint, Michigan.
Jesse: Yeah, Kevin Zink is a brother. I feel like I've been with him since the beginning. When the doors opened, he and I became fast friends. He is a prime example of how any venue or any business is a reflection of its owner. His personality and his philosophy of life and just him being a great person. Kevin is one of those guys you feel like you're a better person for knowing, I sincerely mean that. I think that it's so, to me, it's just the best example of how a business is a reflection of its owner, because that business reflects every bit of that. I say that sincerely. There's a reason why The Machine Shop, although it's a fairly small venue, it's the reason why it's one of the most sought after places to play. You could be out doing an arena tour and you're going to make time to go by and play The Machine Shop. It's because of Kevin and that philosophy and his personality that mirrors the people in Flint, Michigan. Flint is an amazing town, and it's the people that are still in Flint, are very resilient people. Flint has been hit harder than Detroit in a lot of ways. My opinion is that Flint has been hit in a different way than Detroit. Because Flint is suburbia and it's real America and it's not a big city, so it got hit in a whole different way than Detroit did. To me, Flint is a very special place; because the people that are there, they could not be any more proud... they're so proud to be from Michigan and from Flint. They never crack, it never cracks them or their pride, and they never have a crack in the belief of what they stand for in that city. I'm not saying all that to sound hokey, I'm just saying, I'm in a lot of towns across the country and I sincerely feel a connection, a heart felt connection with Flint. Very proud of the people and proud to know all the people at The Machine Shop.
Toddstar: Flint and The Machine Shop love you; time after time you're able to sell out shows when other bands can't. That love is definitely exchanged.
Jesse: We're wrapping up, I think, the anniversary week, so it's going to be a very special night because of that. I encourage everyone out there that's reading this to make plans and be there. Not just to come out and have fun at a Jackyl show, but to support and say thank you to the guys, and celebrate The Machine Shop.
Toddstar: Yeah. Like you said, Flint's suburbia and set off from Detroit, but it's definitely a destination, and The Machine Shop and all of its shows are definitely reasons to head out to Flint, Michigan, that's for sure. Like I mentioned earlier, I've seen you play Rocklahoma, I've seen you play other venues in Michigan, and even you mentioned the arenas. When you're playing somewhere like The Machine Shop, where you're two feet from the crowd, and you're packed in there like sardines, and everybody's sweating and drinking and just having a great time, how different is that for you, from an artist’s perspective?
Jesse: I get asked that question a lot, it's probably one of the most frequent asked questions. I feel like when we play in front of ten thousand people, I feel like I pull everybody right down right in front of my face. Or I get out there there's a physical difference, obviously, because it's a smaller venue. This is not the answer you're looking for, but the difference for me is, there's a sound compression. An outdoor gig, the sound is not trapped any way and it just goes everywhere. In a room like The Machine Shop, the sound is confined by those walls and there's a compression that builds up. There's a difference, it's that pressure that you feel that vibrates your damn glands, stimulates your glands. I'll just say this, I think that, even in a sexual way, it stimulates your glands, and I would venture to say that if took a comparison between an outdoor venue of ten thousand people and a place like The Machine Shop, there's probably more sex had after a show at The Machine Shop, than at ten thousand people, because your glands get stimulated that much more inside that room. There's a sound pressure that penetrates your body different in a room like that, than outdoors. I'd venture to say that people are more sexually stimulated after a show at The Machine Shop, because of all the vibration on their glands.
Toddstar: That is the perfect answer, man, I appreciate it. You're one of the busiest guys out there. You are so busy; you've mentioned the Full Throttle Saloon and everything going on with that. Hopefully we can plan on a lot more of that in the future after the horrible fire. You're constantly moving, man. You've got your own beverage business, the Jesse James America's Outlaw brands. How is that all coming across and how's that doing in the real world?
Jesse: The bourbon's doing great, the Full Throttle Saloon moonshine's doing great. We're available in Michigan, if you haven't tried the Jesse James Bourbon and the Full Throttle Saloon moonshine, please go out and try it.
Toddstar: I love the whiskey, I've actually got a bottle or two in my own stash. I love this stuff. How about music? Back in the day you put out a solo album, ya great album with Foot Fetish, you did something with Dixie Inc. Is Jackyl your main focus or do you still play around with doing your own thing?
Jesse: There's so much I do that's my own thing, the bourbon, the TV show stuff. Everybody in Jackyl does their own thing, we just happen to do it all together.
Toddstar: Very cool, very cool. Jesse, when you think about going on these short runs, because I know you've got a line of dates coming up with The Machine Shop being the pinnacle of that. What are the few things that you think to yourself, I have to take with me on the road?
Jesse: I got my cell phone, I'm pretty safe. I've got my emails, between my emails and my texts and my phone, I can tend to business anywhere I go. I'll get up in the morning and do a radio interview, promote a bottle signing and then go do a bottle signing that afternoon. Hang out with my distributors, hang out with my friends from the radio station, Tony LaBrie and those guys, there's not a more rocking radio station than the Banana. Do that and then get ready to rock, it's just all energetic.
Toddstar: Awesome. Looking through the Jackyl catalog, Jesse, you've got mainstays that you've got to play. If you ever don't close the show with "The Lumberjack," I think everybody's jaw would drop. What's the song or two that you'd love to pull back into the set, or you'd like to play more often, but you just can't because of time constraints, or you know what the fans want to hear? What are the songs Jesse likes to play?
Jesse: We didn't play "Push Comes To Shove" for a while and we just added it back into the show. We rotate things around. It's hard; obviously it's hard to get to everything. We play a good long show, but we still have a hard time getting to everything. As far as the one song that we do have to play every night, for me, it's "I Stand Alone." If there's only song that I could ever keep, that would be it.
Toddstar: Is that the song that will always be in a Jackyl set list, no matter what?
Jesse: Far as I'm concerned, "I Stand Alone" is a fixture.
Toddstar: I agree. I remember the first time I heard the album back in 1992. That whole album is just one those albums that stuck with you. If you experienced it the right way, it is still stuck in you. Listen, Jesse, I know you're a busy man, so I want to let you get to doing what you do. I appreciate you taking time out again. I cannot wait to see you tear apart, chop apart, and destroy the shit out of a bar stool once again on stage at The Machine Shop, next Saturday [ed: Sunday - my error in speaking], March 13th, part of their 14th anniversary.
Jesse: Yeah, y'all spread the word. I think it's Sunday, isn't it?
Toddstar: It is Sunday the 13th, you're right, you're right.
Jesse: Let's not let that deter us though. Don't go to bed Saturday night, and it'll still be Saturday night.
Toddstar: It's always Saturday night when Jackyl's in the house.
Jesse: Because Saturday nights turn into Sunday mornings. Have a good day, man.
Toddstar: All right, brother. We'll talk to soon, Jesse.
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