When one thinks about the local music scene in western New York, one of the first names that comes to mind is Jim Crean from Hair Nation. Crean has been rocking bars and niteclubs in the Buffalo area since the eighties. He has opened many a show for such national acts as Bret Michaels, Slaughter, Dokken just to name a few. Crean has played in almost every venue in town that mattered over the years including every Rock N’ Roll Heaven location there ever was (and there’s been plenty). We recently caught up with him and talked about things past, present and future.
Rock Show Critique: You have been extremely busy as of late. Fill us in on what’s going on with your band Hair Nation as well as your solo career.
Jim Crean: We’ve been playing with a lot of nationals recently. We’ve been playing every Friday night at Rock N Roll Heaven so that’s really building that club up. Speaking of which on April 7 we are gonna be playing with Jake E. Lee’s new band Red Dragon Cartel at Rock N Roll Heaven. April 25 myself and Phil Naro who used to be in Talas and The Peter Criss Band are going to be doing an acoustic show with Mike Tramp who used to be in White Lion and Freak of Nature. Me and Mike became real good friends and we are doing a bunch of shows. He does his whole catalog from White Lion, Freak of Nature and of course his awesome solo career. He was kind enough to give me some dates opening for him. I’ll be doing a show in Pennsylvania with him but the big one is right here in Buffalo on April 25 at Rock N Roll Heaven. Hair Nation’s also got a really great show in April opening for Queensryche at the Riviera Theatre. We are doing a two date run with Killer Dwarfs in April. The Jim Crean Band is doing a live taping for the television show Buffalo Night Out at The Evening Star on April 10th. We’ll be playing things from our whole catalog and the new record. It will be recorded and televised on Channel 7. Now I’m also the lead singer with the Carmine & Vinny Appice Drum Wars. Vinny has played in Black Sabbath, Dio and Heaven and Hell. Carmine of course known for being with Rod Stewart, Vanilla Fudge, Ozzy Osbourne, King Kobra and Blue Murder. I’m their lead singer and both guys are monster drummers. We are bringing the show back to Buffalo on April 28 at The Cove. We just finalized the show today. We want people to come out to that one as it will be a big show. April is a big month.
RSC: You definitely have a lot going on.
JC: April is a monster month and as we go down further we’re opening for Stryper.
RSC: Is that Stryper show still at Braun’s?
JC: Yes that one I believe is June 7
RSC: With all that is going on over there, is there a backup plan in case Braun’s can’t have the show?
JC: That I don’t know, I don’t know the logistics of that. I just know we were contracted to do these shows. As far as I’m being told these shows are going to happen. Until I hear otherwise. As long as they are allowed to have live entertainment outdoors, these shows will happen. We had a great run last summer there opening for Bret Michaels, Jackyl, Dokken, Quiet Riot, Slaughter and Skid Row.
RSC: Now that you have us up to date take us back to your humble beginnings of playing out. What was the first gig you can remember in a big Buffalo venue?
JC: I started playing guitar when I was thirteen. I started playing in bands at fifteen I was only in ninth or tenth grade in high school. I remember my first real gig was at a bar called Cougar’s. Before that I played parties and schools and stuff like that. All the rest is a blur I played so many gigs you know I played everywhere.
RSC: What are some of your favorite clubs that you played in?
JC: There was a bar called Sparky’s out in Pittsburgh that was a phenomenal club. I played the Agora Theatre in Chicago. Of course The Whisky A Go Go in Los Angeles that was a big awesome club to play because of the history. Uncle Sam’s was a great one. Spit I don’t know if you remember that? We used to play teen shows there when I was in my high school band. It was really cool, those were good memories. Of course all the Rock N Roll Heavens had many great shows at those. We were always the house band at those and that was cool.
RSC: How many bands have you been a part of over the years?
JC: Metalworks and Hair Nation believe it or not that has been a fifteen year run already. I’ve been doing this professionally for about thirty-three years. I was also in a band called Cry Tough which was really popular locally in the late 80s, early 90s. I was in a band called Concrete Jungle as well which was pretty popular. Then I had the Jim Crean Band we did a lot of stuff with that until Nirvana came along and destroyed everyone’s career.
RSC: Even yours huh?
JC: Yeah especially mine. Another one of my favorite clubs was Sinbads/Septembers/Blind Melons. It was called Sinbads at the time, we used to play there Thursday night, always packed you know, it was always a fun one to do. I remember coming home after being on the road for a few weeks it was like 93’ or 94’ and people were yelling out play some Nirvana or Soundgarden and all that kind of stuff. That’s when I really realized the hair music has kind of faded itself out. That’s when the music scene completely switched over, which was fine because every generation has a different feel to it. It’s so funny how hair music was just killed, it didn’t fade out it was crushed. It was pushed out. Now it did a resurgence and everyone loves hair metal again.
RSC: What prompted you to form a hair band again?
JC: My current agent is Dave Buffamonti and we did a one off show at his bar Rock N Roll Heaven. We did the show and it worked really well. We just did a bunch of eighties hair covers. Dave said “jeez Jim you gotta get back into doing this you do this stuff so well.” This was like 2000. We started booking some shows thinking now we’ll see how it goes and it just took off. Here we are fifteen years later and we do really well and pack the clubs to this day.
RSC: You used to be called Metalworks, what prompted the name change to Hair Nation?
JC: That’s a very good question. When we put Metalworks together Dave and myself we tried to come up with something that was gonna summarize the kind of music we were doing. After four or five years of calling it Metalworks, when you book the band, people go we don’t want a heavy metal band. So we were like we need to come up with a name here that will be less threatening. That word metal in there that really scares club owners and fans off. Their gonna think we are a heavy metal band and we’re playing stuff by Aerosmith and Skid Row and stuff like that. We’re not really doing heavy metal, we’re doing more of the hair stuff. So the radio station “Hair Nation” had just came out and I was driving along and it just made sense. It worked great for us because we are more known for the hair rock we do.
RSC: You and Phil Naro go way back I assume? How did you guys meet and how long have you known him?
JC: I met Phil in 1984, he was in Talas and I was in band called Strutter. My bands used to open up for him all the time. We just became really good friends I was very influenced by him. We started writing songs together and playing in bands together.
Phil’s a great guitar player as well, a lot of people don’t know that about him. When I did my first Jim Crean album back in ’93 he joined the band and he was the guitar player and we harmonized really well together. He’s produced all three of my records as well.
RSC: What’s up next for Jim Crean?
JC: It’s funny you say that because we are in the process of making a new record. The songs are just killer, really good songs. I am really proud of the new record coming out. For those who bought the Velvet Crush record I feel this album is going to be stronger. Hair Nation is plugging along real well. We got a lot of big national bands that we’re gonna be going out with. With the Carmine and Vinnie Appice Drum Wars like I said I am their frontman/singer, we have tons of dates booked. We are going to be taking it all around the United States and their talking about going to Europe with it too. So I’m pretty busy with both projects and my original album so that has been my focus.
RSC: When do you think the album will be out?
JC: We’re gonna go into a national studio by summer time so I really want it to be in 2014. That’s really what I am pushing for.