I’m very excited to bring you this Rock And Roll interview with Australian composer, songwriter, and guitarist Jaime Page. Jaime’s been in the music business for a long time, and has worked with some of the very best in music, including Cozy Powell and Brian May. Jaime’s new solo album ‘Dark Universe’ is set for release in May, and it is a significant album for many reasons.
Huge thanks to Jaime for doing this interview with Rock And Roll, and massive thanks to vocalist, artist, and musician Donna Greene for putting me in touch with Jaime in the first place!
(Photos of Jaime by Don Benson Photography .)
Q. Before we get into details about your very exciting upcoming album release, I’d like to ask you about the very personal revelation that you’ve shared with the world recently: you are transgender. How did you come to the decision to talk about this? Was it a difficult decision? And what has the reaction been from people around you?
Jaime: This question could literally fill a chapter of a book on it’s own! The Transgender Chronicles, ha ha! It was actually a very natural process. I had been undergoing therapy for over a year, with only a very few people knowing about it. I was always expecting to share my situation publicly, but must admit that I thought I might lose everything in the process, especially my music career.
Being able to be my true self transcended all fears in the end, and quite honestly it was not terribly difficult to open up about it. I knew who I was, who I wanted to be, and would give my life to be that person, no matter what came my way. I was on a mission.
I felt that my future might lie with social work, and I felt that by opening up my situation, that of a rock guitarist in a heavily male dominated field, that I could use the scenario to break down barriers, raise awareness and acceptance of those in a similar situation that were maybe less fortunate than I was. I do plan to get involved in as much community work as I can handle.
I have had great support from friends and family despite some difficulties. There are many people that get cast off from their families and suffer terribly. I saw it as the perfect opportunity to do something positive with my life. Transgender people deserve much better from society. So, to be able to stand up and say, yes, I am transgender, I am proud of who I am makes a statement for all of those people like me. If I help pave the way for others then my life is complete.
I feel blessed that I have been able to take the things I love most; Music, art, literature and my transgenderism and roll all into one package that has surpassed all of my wildest dreams.
I also have to add that the support has transcended (no pun intended) all expectations. I learned a valuable lesson about pre-judging what people think and do. I got it very wrong, and can only muse with disbelief at the kindness, care and love that had been shown to me. I am a lucky one and extremely thankful for that.
I could only wish that the world treated all trans people the way my fantastic group of friends and music lovers have treated me. I am seriously humbled and do have a renewed faith in the human race.
Q. How has the decision to be open about this changed you, and your outlook on the world and life? Do you feel like it’s had a positive impact on you?
Jaime: I am a much happier person now. I feel whole. I feel alive and not hiding in a cell of my own making. I am free to be me, and that is worth more than anything to me.
Q. I really love the evocative title of your new album ‘Dark Universe’ (as well as the gorgeous artwork for the album). From reading what you’ve shared online, it’s obvious that this album is very important to you and that it’s also a deeply personal album in many ways. What is the significance of the title ‘Dark Universe’ for you, and what is the significance of this album for you?
Jaime: Dark Universe is my inner world of raw emotions expressed in both music and art. The music was inspired by beautiful images, both real and imagined. I see my music in pictures. Possibly because of my personal makeup I have felt emotions very, very deeply. I love dark, romantic music, books, art and films that make me cry! I soak myself in those emotions and revel in turning those feelings into the deepest, most immersive creations I can. It is not about writing to make money. It is solely about creating music that makes me feel.
The songs on the CD are a true representation of the story of my life. They can be read in many ways. They can be whatever they want in the mind of the listener. This is the real Jaime, from the absolute depths of my being. Music the soul of someone that is not afraid to cry. In fact, I think I will shed a lot of tears during the performance of these songs. They mean so much to me.
Q. Could you tell us a bit about how the album came together, and how long you’ve been working on and crafting the music and the lyrics for ‘Dark Universe’?
Jaime: The catalyst for the album was the song Deepest Black. This was written around four or five years ago. For the first time, I felt that I had captured the essence of my soul in music. Looking back, it seems that it wrote itself. It is about my deepest feelings of longing, romance, sadness, hopelessness, self-destruction and ultimately release.
Deepest Black hit all the nerves at once for me. I played it to album producer Stuart James in my car at work and he doubled over. He felt it too. I did the same for Donna. Likewise, it hit her in much the same way. At that point it became the album project that had to be. A labour of love for all involved.
This song gave birth to a literal universe of new songs.
Dark Universe: About my love of isolation and the dark beauty of melancholia.
Letting Go: A song that is very autobiographical, about being my true self, of letting go and being free.
XXX27: A song of spiritual discovery, female empowerment, the angel of light, longing for release, the power to be set free.
If: Longing for love, another reality, what if…
Goodbye Angel: The fear of losing ones real self.
There are many songs that are being held back for the deluxe version. Alone At The End Of The World, Falling In A Dream, Whatever, Weight Of The World, Bleed Me Dry and more. This would never have fit onto one album, so better to save some for another day.
Some songs feature parts that go back quite a long way. Melodies that stuck with me, that would comfort me when I felt particularly down. They got the release they desired, sometimes 20 years later!
Q. I know that while this is a solo release, you have also worked with a very talented and supportive group of musicians to bring it all to fruition. Tell us a bit about the band True Spirit, and the importance of that support for you, and for how the album turned out.
Jaime: Donna, Craig and I have found each other musically and personally and become pretty much inseparable. We get each other totally. The chemistry is so real and natural. Add Michael Burn to the mix and you have a drummer that plays it as I hear it in my head. I love Bonham , Phil Collins and Ian Paice. Michael nails that perfectly. We have known each other since we were kids. We all go back a long way and have a depth of experience that brings the emotion in the music to life.
I could not work with anyone else. They are my musical soul mates and I love them dearly. Without them I would not be here today doing this and I owe them eternal gratitude.
Q. On your website you talk about this album as being “dark, introspective, very angry in parts, and not really the sort of rock or metal that I have been most associated with”. Were you worried about changing musical styles? Did it feel like a natural change and evolution for you?
Jaime: Great question! There were tiny signs of my real musical path going way back, but it did take a very long time to truly find what is the real me musically. I am not afraid to change styles, and the evolution was totally natural. Whilst there are some seriously heavy moments, there are songs that are quite girly and melodic. Hints of Journey, Toto, Coldplay and Radiohead to name a few influences. I do love being able to mix things up a bit stylistically. That may or may not fit the heavy metal past, but I love it, it is me so just do it I say!
Q. What do you feel are the most significant things that sets this new album apart from your previous work?
Jaime: The depth of emotion is far, far deeper than anything I have done, ever. No comparison at all.
Q. Do you have any favourite tracks on the new album?
Jaime: Every listen there is a new favourite, even amongst the other band members. Deepest Black is my defining moment. Letting Go breaks my heart every time, and I can’t stop playing Dark Universe on my guitar quietly at home in the dark with a drop of wine. I love them all the way you love your children, each a character unto themselves.
Q. You have talked about your love for progressive rock – what is it about that genre that appeals to you? What bands are your main influences in that genre of music?
Jaime: It is the depth and range of emotions explored. Genesis/Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd. Those bands hit me hard when I was younger. I also have an extreme love of Kate Bush. More recent loves include Coldplay, Moby, Radiohead, Lady Gaga, Steven Wilson and Dream Theater.
I was also heavily influenced by Ziggy Stardust era Bowie, Marc Bolan/T-Rex and the glam movement. Add to that the whole Zep/Sabbath/Purple/Hendrix thing, and the more melodic US bands like Journey and Toto and it is a pretty unusual mix!
I also love classical music, music theater and opera.
Q. How did you first get into music? Was there a particular person in your family, or a musician you listened to who inspired you? What were the bands or players that originally ignited your interest and passion for music?
Jaime: My whole family loved music. It was always around. The Beatles, Elvis, Motown and much more. I learned to love everything regardless of style.
With the early glam rock bands I discovered a discreet way to unleash my feminine side and still be accepted. I loved the look and sound. In all honesty, the ultimate decision to play guitar was when I saw the first Led Zeppelin album. Wow, another Jimmy Page. I related to that, to the image, the sound and the music. I wanted to be like that. Maybe the world that would hate me as the weak, feminine girl/boy would love me as the wild long-haired guitar hero. I had found my path that would save me. My guitar has been my lifelong best friend. I had found a way to be accepted.
The guitar got me through when I surely would have not survived the world as such. I played, read and wrote my way to salvation.
As a guitarist, just like my musical tastes, I left no stone unturned. I listened to everything. Jazz, blues, classical, pop, African music (I lived there for four years as a youngster). I devoured Hendrix, Blackmore, Page, Schenker, Van Halen, Steve Hackett and so many others. It is all great stuff.
Q. You were part of outfits like the power metal bands Trilogy and Black Steel, and also Driveshaft. What were those days like? It was the 1980s, which many people still see as the golden age of rock and roll. What was that time like for you, when you look back on it now and can reflect on it?
Jaime: I was in all honestly quite lost through that period and not feeling it. I felt I should be somewhere else. I did experiment a lot with my song writing, but it would take years to understand what I really wanted to do. I found that era very divisive, inhibiting and stifling, as you had to fit labels and straightjackets.
That is just typical me I guess, always wanting to do what I wanted regardless of the prevailing trends. I wanted to blaze my own trail.
Q. You’ve played with a lot of different bands and famous musicians over the years. Including Cozy Powell and Brian May. How did those opportunities come about, and what was it like to work together with them? Do you have any favourite moments, any career highlights, from over the years you’d like to share?
Jaime: I did play in the studio with Cozy. That was highly intimidating at the time. We had some great moments, and there was a great chemistry there. I think I was honestly not able to fit that rock and roll mode though. I was not strong enough to be a part of that world. Cozy and all those in that scene had their own clique. I would not have survived that clique or lifestyle, realized it, and decided that it was not the path for me.
Some of the songs made it to Cozy’s solo album The Drums Are Back, and then by default to Brian May, who Cozy joined up with. I was supposed to play on the song Ride To Win, but was pulled from it as Brian May got the nod. Brian then re-recorded that song (written by moi) and named it Resurection for his solo album Back To The Light. I never played with Brain sadly.
Some songs, like Unchain My Heart remain tragically unreleased. That song was a defining song for me in 1989. Maybe the first hint of what was to come.
Q. What are your thoughts on the vast and sometimes crazy new world of social media? What effects do you think it’s had on musicians and bands, both good and bad?
Jaime: I love social media, computers, the internet and the modern musical environment. It certainly freed me up in many ways. I had zero respect for what record companies were dishing out to musicians and feel that they got what they deserved.
Maybe there are less bands being signed, and it is hard to avoid being ripped of with illegal downloading and the like, but I feel that creativity is strong, and musicians have more control over their destinies.
Q. What are some of your favourite guitar players, musicians and songwriters that inspire you musically?
Jaime: In order of appearance! The Beatles, The Shadows, Led Zeppelin/Jimmy Page, Marc Bolan, Deep Purple, David Bowie, Genesis, Journey, King Crimson, Kate Bush, the list is endless.
Q. What music, bands or artists, do you listen to these days, whether old or new?
Jaime: Kate Bush, Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree, Dream Theater, Coldplay, Joni Mitchell, Steve Hackett/Genesis (still), later Rabin era Yes, Rush and even whatever is on the radio. I love variety and will give all forms of music a fair listen. There is good in everything!
Q. I get a real sense of spiritual depth and almost a spiritual quest when reading posts and statements on your website. I get the feeling that you’ve been searching for a more spiritual way of life for a long time. How has this search for spirituality affected your life and music?
Jaime: I do so love your questions! Yes, yes and yes. I have always loved studying everything, from all forms of religion, the occult, history, the theories of everything. I am a very deep thinker, and love searching for meanings and answers. It is deeply rooted in my music and my life.
I am not pushing any particular form of spirituality but do have a fondness for Zen Buddhism if I had to choose one. I am also rather fascinated by Stephen Hawking and the whole physics thing. Ironically, two of my favourite films have been The Theory Of Everything and The Danish Girl. That sort of sums me up!
Q. On your website you wrote: “I have tried to hide, created a protective shell, denied myself happiness, and channeled that emotion and pain into my music.” That sounds like such a dark and difficult place to be in. How did you get through it and what kept you going in your darkest moments?
Jaime: Another classic question it is! I think I have always had a resilience that has gotten me through, and I have also grown fond of those dark places. It has inspired my music totally, and I am appreciative of that. I have been very lucky, had people around me that love and inspire me.
The battle to be accepted now that I am transgender will no doubt see many more dark places, but I feel much stronger and able to deal with it now.
In short, music saved my life.
Q. Do you have any advice you’d like to share with others who might be in a similarly dark place in their own life?
Jaime: That is so hard as everyone has a different journey to travel. Surround yourself with people that love and care about you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Avoid people that drag you down. Above all respect and believe in yourself. You are beautiful. Be that wonderful you.
Q. What advice would you give to young people out there starting out in the music business? What advice would you give your younger self if you could go back in time and tap yourself on the shoulder?
Jaime: Love what you do first and foremost. Be true to your art and music. Believe in yourself. If you work hard for long enough and stay true to your vision you have a better chance of happiness in your art, which may be the real success? Don’t let people grind you down. Many times I wished I had listened to the voice inside me when I was being fed bullshit.
Treat your fellow players with respect, be patient, and try to stay your course.
Q. What’s up next for you? You have a new album out in May, and I think you’ve got some gigs in connection with that.
Jaime: Yes, there is the big Dark Universe CD launch on April 29. This is no doubt the most important gig I have ever played, and on so many levels. It is the night that I finally get to be the real me. It means so much it is almost impossible to describe. Literally a personal rebirth, as well as a CD launch. Many tears will be shed, and it will be my musical life’s defining moment.
Q. And my final, dreaded question: you’re stuck on a deserted island, you only get to bring three albums with you… which ones do you bring?
Jaime: This is the tough one!
Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused To Sing
Dream Theater – Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence
Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
Thanks again to Jaime for doing this interview!
Dark Universe CD Launch is Friday April 29th at The Charles Hotel in Perth, Australia: get all the details on the event’s Facebook page.