Interview: James Hart of Burn Halo

After more than 10 years fronting metal band 18 Vision, James Hart needed a new creative outlet.  In 2007, he landed a deal with Island/Def Jam and began working with Tulsa songwriter Zac Maloy.  Hart says, “I wanted to make a very straightforward rock album.  Something that had commercial appeal, but also something that had a classic, vintage mid ’80s throwback vibe to it.”

When recording began in late 2007, Maloy acted as producer while Hart worked in the studio with a variety of musicians, including Nickelback drummer Daniel Adair, former Jane’s Addiction bassist Chris Chaney, and guitar Niel Tiemann, who tours with Kansas City’s own American Idol winner, David Cook.  When the album was completed in 2008, Island chose not to release it, leaving Hart with the unenviable task of finding a new home for the project.  Eventually, Burn Halo’s manager Bret Bair formed Rawkhead Records to release the self-titled album through Warner Music Group.

Since then, Hart finalized the lineup of the touring band, which he hopes to continue to work with on future albums – Aaron Boheler on bass, Joey Cunha on lead guitar, Brandon Lynn on rhythm guitar and Timmy Russell on drums.  Burn Halo’s hit the road, but Hart found time to talk about this and that.

Describe your sound in your own words.

I would say we are a nice blend of traditional and current rock.  We have something for everyone.  Our ballads really dig into the story-telling aspect of songwriting.  We’ve got some great guitar leads that really sing their own songs, as well as some more metal/edgy guitar leads/riffs.

How did your band form?

We’ve come a long was from point A to point B since officially forming in ’08.  I met our bassist, Aaron, in Tulsa, Oklahoma when I was doing the album.  Our lead guitar player, Joey, was a mutual friend with Papa Roach, so those guys sent him our way.  Our rhythm guitarist, Brandon, has known Aaron from their days in Oklahoma.  When we parted ways with Allen back in May ’08, he was just going to fill in for a tour, but we all just really clicked.  As for drums, we’ve just slated Dillon Ray to take over.  He’s been playing in bands with Aaron for seven years.  They are best buds.  He’s also from Oklahoma.

Who are your musical influences?

The obvious would be STP, Guns ‘n Roses and maybe Aerosmith, but I also have to say that Zac Maloy had a huge impact on the way I now approach songwriting.  I can honestly say that in some way or another, we’re influenced by all genres of music.

How did you come up with your band name?

Halos are very pure and angelic.  Whenever you see them, they are glowing or alit.  Burn Halo to me is the illumination of a halo.

What’s your biggest vice?

Fantasy football.

What’s your musical guilty pleasure?

I have none.  I’m not ashamed or embarrassed about anything I listen to.

If you remember, what was the first album/CD you bought?  Is it something that you still listen to now and would consider one of your influences, or do you look at it and say, “What was I thinking?”

That I purchased, probably Bobby Brown, “My Prerogative.”  I wouldn’t say he’s a huge influence, but I still have that record on my iPod.

Was there an ‘a-ha’ moment when you realized you wanted to be a musician?  A moment when you picked up a guitar (drum sticks, or whatever instrument, microphone) and said, ‘This is it?’

I think when I was recording the last 18 Visions record.  I had really developed my voice and written real melodies.

American Idol – is it  great opportunity for some unknown artist, a guilty pleasure, or the end of civilization as we know it?  Because there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground for most people.

To call it the end of civilization would be taking it overboard.  I look at it as a great opportunity for an unknown artist or singer.

Is there a question that you’ve always hoped someone would ask in an interview, but never does?  And, of course, what’s the answer to the question?

What is best in life?  To crush your enemies, see them driven before you and to hear the lamentation of their women.

You can follow Burn Halo online at Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

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