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Articles Home » 2001 Articles » White Diamond - 2001 Interview with Don Lemmon
 
White Diamond - 2001 Interview with Don Lemmon
WHITE DIAMOND
WHITE DIAMOND The perfect slice of rock
Interview with: Don Lemmon
Written by: Gdazegod
Date: Nov 11th, 2001

Coming out of nowhere is the legacy of an American rock band called White Diamond. Some of you may have seen some interest generated about the band on other Discussion Boards plus even here at HOTR. From our perspective, we were interested in the band, enough to check them out further, based on the strength of their audio material offered up on MP3.COM, and the intrigue written about them on their website. Who are these guys? How did they slip the net? Where did they come from? What happened in their five minutes of fame? Where did it all came unstuck? And more importantly, why has the sunscreen suddenly come out nearly ten years after their first moment in the sun? Surely the horse has bolted? Or has it mysteriously made it's way back to the barn? Questions, questions, questions. There's mystery, intrigue, and associations with some of the biggest stars in rock-dom. The great American Dream?

Their original lineup was Rob Rose - vocals, Tommy Childs - guitars, Bobby Richards - rhythm guitar; Jack Michaels - bass and Bryan Perish - drums. From Ohio, they sought fame and fortune in what was the minefield of the 80's Los Angeles club scene. To tell us more about White Diamond, we talk with a man who has been heavily involved with the band. He's also a very successful individual in the fitness industry too. His name is Don Lemmon. Thanks for taking time out from your busy schedule Don. Fitness and music. Certainly an unusual mix? 'Actually no. The fitness/music thing!' laughs Don. 'I was a personal trainer and heading into medical study at the time. The band was something I had no idea I was entering into at first'. Firstly, so that everyone knows what the connection is, how are you involved with White Diamond? 'I guess the first thing that should be made clear is that I am Jack Michaels. In fact, if you do a little research, you will discover that back in 1990 I was written a ticket for having possession of an open alcohol container in a motor vehicle. The ticket was written to Don Lemmon a.k.a Jack Michaels as I had only my Jack Michaels ID on me since that's what I used for clubs. Why Jack Michaels? Well, I couldn't be Bret Michaels, and my nickname was Jack as in Jack Lemmon since I was 10 years old. I combined the two. I was already called Jack, I just needed a last name. Anyhow, I got the ticket in Ohio. Kent, Ohio. Same place Jani Lane comes from'.

Don tells us how he became involved in rock music. 'I grew up listening to Kiss, Cheap Trick, Rick Springfield, Def Leppard etc. Always thought it seemed easy enough, at least cool, so why not consider it? I took vocal and guitar lessons but never thought of it as much. I wrote a lot of songs in high school. Vinnie Vincent liked one enough to take it from me. 'Sexual Maniac' it was called. He demoed it but never released it. I was 18 then. I knew it was either the health field or music but I was too young to know what my role in either would be. Things just happen sometimes'. I then asked him about the recent huge interest in White Diamond, almost matched by the huge level of intrigue about the material. What would you like to share with the readers on this Don, apart from what we've heard and seen on the White Diamond Demos website already? 'The reason we are talking today is because of the power of the Internet. The band was dropped in 1991. I went directly into the medical field after that. A lot of people found it intriguing that I left Ohio, made a break for the big time, then disappeared only to resurface as a writer. So a lot of people wanted to be updated on 'what happened' and 'if you guys were really any good, why were you dropped'? Well, this led to my telling the story so often, and going nuts trying to explain to people again and again how things really work, that I decided I should put it all in writing and maybe someone could learn from it, other wannabes so to speak.' So, with you being a writer, what was the next step? 'I showed the story to some friends who were intrigued by the music' Don clarifies further. 'And next thing you know, a major movie studio wanted to buy it. Around the time, 'Rock Star' was being filmed and 'Almost Famous' was just released, so they dropped the option to film my story. But here is the thing, with the success of my nutrition program, we just said the hell with everybody, let's release our own CD and finance the film ourselves. So that's what we are doing. Getting our pride
back and getting even with the establishment that's screwed us over twice now in my opinion'.

Though based in Los Angeles, White Diamond's origins were in Ohio. Next to Angie Everhart, the band must have been Ohio's next biggest export to California? 'That's funny! I know Angie's best friend! Hopefully I won't have any soft porn or nude photos of me available anywhere though! Let's not forget that Warrant, the Pretenders, Devo, American Gladiators and so many other great people came from Ohio! Drew Carrey! Donnie Iris! Michael Stanley!' Yeah, even Peter Frampton lives in Cincinatti now. What is the specific timeframe we're talking about here? 'The film picks up with me cruising down a two lane road jamming Bullet Boys in my car on the way to work on a midnight shift at a gas station in October 1989, although the site says November of 88, that's wrong, and concludes with my sitting in the audience watching the Bullet Boys opening for Poison in OUR slot at Irvine Meadows in May of 91'.

You mentioned earlier about Warrant's Jani Lane. What do you know about another Ohio band featuring him? Of course White Diamond do a version of their hit 'Heaven'. Is there a connection? 'Jani is the unsung hero of glam/hair metal in my opinion. He used to leave tickets at my work to see his band Plain Jane I think they were back then. The connection is definitely more of a motivation. If a nerd like him could do it, so could we. And Jani may be a brilliant musician and songwriter, but he's still a nerd!' laughs Don. 'Warrant were the kings of the era in my opinion. My singer loved Warrant and 'Heaven' was the first song I heard him sing with our guitarist. Truth of the matter is, he (Rob Rose) never really left Ohio as far as we were concerned. I personally felt he was never as serious as the rest of us but he was so crucial to our success. And unfortunately, failure too. Anyhow, we recorded 'Heaven' as a demo so the studios knew we could compete'.

Did the band get to play any gigs at the time? 'Sure, Gazzarri's, Roxy, Whiskey, a few Valley clubs and a private show at Universal Ampitheater for the record executives'. L.A was awash with melodic rock bands during that phase. Did White Diamond get caught up in the merry-go-round? 'No, but man, that alone was amazing! We couldn't believe how many bands were just like us! Bands from all around the U.S. were there like we had just came from the college circuit to the minor leagues to learn how to be a bigger fish one day. There were so many bands that just totally sucked and so many that were just great, you know?' remarked Don. 'And most bands had members that came from MIT or some other music school. But that was our advantage. We had our own stuff that really didn't sound a lot like anyone else. Even if we did covers because we were all totally self taught. None of us went through the schools that taught you how to be a puppet or a parrot. It was almost like an assembly line. But I have to say, if we had been big, we would have beat Nirvana to being the first to perform without makeup and glitter! We did one photo shoot dressed like the Tempations, black jackets, slacks, and glitter sleeves, but I don't think we performed once in spandex! In fact, we were so far removed, people either didn't know, or believe we were even part of the scene'. What about some of these other bands then? 'Yeah we weren't the only casualties of the scene. Tuff has a truly interesting story. Lixx Array was cool too. They came to L.A on a labels money, droves Mercedes around with custom plates and then crash. Nothing. They went nowhere. I have discovered a number of sites popping up around the web about bands who hadn't been together for as long as us. The reason a lot of them don't surface is a lack of internet knowledge, computer training, finances, interest. I mean their own interest. Most people don't know how to self promote. Hell, even 'Kiss Online' got online within the past year or so with an official site. You'd think they would have been the first, but no. Even with the Internet being what it is, so many people are now just realizing it'.


What do you think were some of the attributes that would have made White Diamond stand out from the rest of the pack? 'We weren't glam' declares Don. 'We were more denim and leather in a less bubble gum but still 'hair metal' sounding group. The songs that got us signed are still in possession of the record label. We put some stuff together that just sounded different. That got their attention. I am not suggesting better or best or that we changed rock because we didn't. But we were selected based on the fact that change was on the horizon. We fit somewhere between glam and grunge. Were we to be a transitional act? I don't know. But we fit somewhere in between when grunge was just about to be all we heard for four years'.

Ok, lets get back to the present then. Those songs which are up on MP3.COM are all pretty good. What is the background to these particular recordings? 'They each tell a story. Even the cover songs. The lyrics were rewritten to fit the singer's life at the time. Remember, this was 1990-91. These songs in particular were written and recorded but rejected by the label. They are in essence, rejects. If the interest continues to build, we will release the other twenty odd songs we have, which I feel are better anyhow. These were just the ones to test the water. Although the band is technically not a touring band, we did record 'Symbol Of Love' to see what we sounded like after all this time'. Wow, rejects! And you've got other material that's better? Oh boy. What about White Diamond's original material with Atlantic Records. What is the status of those? 'A subsidiary of Atlantic, yes. We will get the rights finalized shortly'. Does that mean they are under lock and key? 'For now yes. But like a few other bands have done lately, like with Sony being sued left and right lately, we will get official licensing back soon. Unfortunately, not before the documentary is done and probably not until after the film, but that is because they want to prevent the songs from succeeding. They are holding out. Fortunate for us, we know they can never release them now, but they can take their time in transferring. It's a long, long, legal story'.


White Diamond - The Lost Demos
Lets touch on the original band for a moment. Apart from the material on the website (which admittedly was particularly scathing about some of the members), what do you think were White Diamond's collective strengths? 'Scathing?' Don chuckles.. 'Well, it takes a group, a team effort, to succeed, and its never just one person's fault that a group effort fails. I did all I could for the band. I brought them together. I wrote their songs. I learned bass to keep the band a family and I did all the mediating when members didn't get along. I got the studio time, I got the management, I did the baby sitting. However, when I first put them together, all I could do is hum or sing what I wanted the music to sound like. Tommy and Bryan could play anything you put in front of them. They knew from instinct what I wanted or needed and they had the freedom and ability to create some cool stuff I never would have been able to. And they did it all around Rob's voice'. Despite the issues, it seems the talent and creativity was there? 'I am not saying again we were the best, or great, but we held our own and did our own. We didn't have 40 people do our stuff, dub and over dub it, what you hear is what you get. Most great bands are MADE by the record label. Compare Poison's first album to their second, third or fourth. Production and studio musicians do a lot for a band. So collectively, we clicked. We just clicked. That's a strength most bands only dream of. Too many members wanting different things is want leads to failure. Personal differences are one thing. That happens. But creatively you have to want the same things. We did. And that was our strength'.

And in a nutshell, what was the catalyst that bought the curtain down? 'The label not letting us be ourselves. We weren't all allowed in the studio together. We were taken to and sent to meetings or parties separate from each other. We belonged together but grew apart because each blamed the other for not being there for the other when that wasn't really the case'. So, do the band members keep in touch after ten years or so? 'We do now. We didn't for a long time. But I didn't want to NOT share in the potential success I may be able to generate for the group'. Who actually wrote the songs? 'I did 90% of the lyrics and general ideas. Composing all came from Tommy and Bryan'. And I note that one of the other band members sold them illegally? 'Yeah, Bryan sold some songs to another Cleveland band for drug money'. 'Actually', Don laughs again, 'what he did was fly home, tell them we were broke up, and the other band, who don't deserve their name in this interview asked if they could cover our songs. Bryan cleverly enough told them yes but they had to sign a waiver and pay $500 a song. One of the guys in the band thought his act could get a label if they used our stuff so got his daddy to pay for them. It's funny now, but back then I was a bit offended to see these clowns playing my music like they owned it. To their defense, they thought they did! This is why if we do any shows, we wont do any covers'. How many songs were offloaded? 'Four'.

Was the band (or you as the principal and original songwriter) able to take legal proceedings against the other party? 'Nobody bothered cause the other band realized they were screwed by my drummer on the deal. What a wild world music is'. The band as an entity, now own all the rights to the songs I understand? 'Us? Yes, technically'. And considering the effort behind the MP3's and the website, does that mean White Diamond are back together in some shape or form? 'We are talking' admitted Don. 'In todays world, we can enter into our own studio, record on our own time, press our own CD's, create our own product, sell it online and get together to do a show here and there for fun and if it goes somewhere, we are ready. But we also have real careers now. We aren't trying to be rock stars. We are just trying to enjoy the fact that other people can actually enjoy what we created once. And if worse comes to worse, we can at least tell the tale of how the industry actually works. We deserve that much.

The White Diamond site makes mention of a Norwegian singer coming in to sing on the demos. Would this have anything to do with the Norwegian band Winter Parade, also featured on HOTR? 'The songs from the Lost Demos were left as you hear them at MP3 when we were dropped by the label with one exception. No vocals! One day I was watching Star Search and this guy was on there singing some Bon Jovi stuff. They said we wouldn't believe how far he came to be there, I figured Ohio' Don laughs, 'but no, Norway. So I tracked him down and asked Winter Parade if I could borrow their singer to finish our tunes. He obliged in trade for a website and a CD cover. Not a bad deal! Of course if it sells, he gets paid. But this is part of the problem now with the entire project. Rob Rose is totally upset over someone else singing his music. I told him it was never his. But I understand his position. So you see, the story only get more interesting'. Some astute people have suggested that it's Winter Parade actually playing this, but in actual fact It's only their vocalist Bjorn-Kjetil Westum singing? 'I can see why. But Winter Parade is a totally different project than White Diamond. Believe me there! Would be hard to say we will do a documentary if 'we' are 10,000 miles away! The music speaks for itself no matter who is singing. There is a distinctive difference between Rob and Bjorn vocally. I hope that doesn't conflict for some fans, but I am sure once all the music is released, we are going to have fans for both bands. Maybe a double bill one of these days!' Thank you. Now the picture becomes clearer. I'm sure everyone appreciates that bit of clarification.

'These songs in particular were written and recorded but rejected by the label.
They are in essence, rejects.
If the interest continues to build, we will release the other twenty odd songs we have,
which I feel are better anyhow. These were just the ones to test the water..'
(Don Lemmon talking about the Lost Demo MP3's curently available)


Let's move on to the film then. Many of us are quite astounded by the fact that there is soon to be a movie about White Diamond's history. Could this be seen as cashing in on the release of 'Rock Star'? 'No way. In fact, due to the aggression between the band, Rob Rose, and myself, the film is on hold. It will happen but hardly in any time frame to compare to 'Rock Star'. Our story is however what inspired Hollywood to go out and make 'Almost Famous' and 'Rock Star'. In fact, 'Rock Star' is about an Ohio rocker too. Ripper Owens used to be in a Judas Priest cover band in Akron. I got in a huge fight with his bassist because I was with his girlfriend not knowing she was his girl. So I started dating someone else only to find out it was his drummers girl! Man, no luck! But yeah, we came first. In fact, Warner Bothers owned AmericanDreamerMovie.com up until they dropped the option for the film. That's public information, found at any 'whois' online'. For the average moviegoer, what would be the attraction of a movie about a band no one knows anything about, let alone a genre of music, which in the USA is so unfashionable now? 'Unfashionable only describes current radio trends' defends Don. 'There are stations that still play elevator music, classical music, swing, dance, christian music, and yet they rarely show up on the top 40 popular charts. There is a following for everything. Anyhow, these bands always sell out the bars around here, Ohio, Vegas, wherever I have seen them. Someone is listening. Thing is, these bands aren't releasing anything. No label support. But I have sold 75,000 copies of my book online. I had no agency supporting me and I had no name either. I built the following. So why would people go see this movie? I doubt they will. It will be straight to video I am sure. But why would they rent it? Same reason I rent anything or you rent anything. Someone saw it, liked it, told you about it. Film and music are timeless my friend. 'Rock Star' was about a band back in 1990 that played 2001 music oddly enough. And 'Almost Famous' was about a band from the 70's'.

In some earlier correspondence you mentioned MGM. How did this 'giant' of the movie industry come about, or are they still even involved considering what you said earlier about the studio dropping the option to buy it? 'My attorney has his own film company at ceefilms.com We will be doing all things through them and him now'. Any 'stars' you can name drop? 'The film won't have any major stars, just some recognizable faces'. The music too is being officially released on CD very soon. What are the specifics on that? 'We are releasing a limited edition run of the nine songs of the Lost Demos. If it gets the attention we hope for, the full finished versions of twelve White Diamond songs will follow. That should be by the first of the year. It's all ready. We are just waiting for the fan support to substantiate it'. The demos will be out prior to Christmas? 'The demo CD will be out by December 15th'.

Just getting back to White Diamond. Again a lot of people have commented on the mysteriousness of the outfit, the history, the band members... everything. What does it all mean? Is there a carefully concealed plan to take the melodic rock world by storm? 'In a sense yes' concurs Don. 'Let's just say that the members of the band do not look now like they did back then and with actors playing them in the film and not all the actors signed on yet, we want to see what the public thinks about the music, not the band's image or who they may think the band is or is not. Truth is always more interesting than fiction, however, Hollywood glamorizes what is seen on film and we don't want the actual band to inhibit the film because we all feel its better than what the actors will deliver... Although the actors are all musicians too... Aah hell, we just aren't sure who to put on the site first... The band or the actors... There.. I said it!' I've been watching the scene for many years but nothings intrigued me this much. What would White Diamond hoped to have achieved let's say a year on from now? 'We want to release the demo CD. See how it goes. From there we are still doing a documentary with myself and the other members speaking on film for the first time together since literally ten years ago. After that we want to release our first official CD, and hopefully the film will begin and be released to at least video stores. The reason we aren't even considering theaters is not just funding. It costs millions to do all the advertising etc, but this is a true story. We don't want critics deterring from the reason we are doing this. We want people to go to it because they got the facts first. You can't get that from Siskel and Egghead. You can only get that from the source etc. We want more control. We won't get rich off of this. But by keeping all the big wigs to a minimum, we get more of it done right.

Well, Don, it's surely been a different sort of interview. Let'?s sit back and enjoy the forthcoming audio and the video perhaps? 'We will film the Documentary next month, by the latest in January. We will release it edited or unedited (probably in both formats) by the middle of January. But mark my words; if we were meant to have any success at all, it will be in 2002!' Thanks for your time. 'Thank you mate!'

Perhaps this is a story best represented from one of their own songs 'American Dreamer'. Are these guys literally American Dreamers? Very likely, but in this case it was a dream worth trying to achieve. A rock 'n' roll dream perhaps... Many bands have tried and failed to make it in the big time. White Diamond's story is but one of these. At least Don has the wherewithall to at least share his story with us, both musically and visually. I think we can all look forward to a couple of CD's if things go well, plus two video projects: the documentary and the film. So, consider yourself forewarned and forearmed, and keep tabs on developments in the White Diamond camp over the coming months. Grab yourself what many are already considering to be a melodic rock gem.. White Diamond no less, indeed a perfect slice of rock. (Nov 2001)

Where can you find more about White Diamond?
Over at www.whitediamond-demos.com
 
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