Interview with American Idol’s James Durbin

James Durbin was a contestant on season 10 of “American Idol”. James recently released his debut full length album titled “Memories of a Beautiful Disaster”. Media Mikes had a chance recently to talk with James about his experience on the show and what it was like singing with Judas Priest.

Adam Lawton: What was the “American Idol” process like for you?
James Durbin: I originally auditioned for season 8 of the show however I was not in the right spot mentally at that time. I just wasn’t there what so ever in my life. During my time between the two auditions I started a family and really got my life and my priorities together. I was working at a Domino’s pizza and had put in for the day off so I could go an audition. No one knew that I wanted to be a singer. Everyone figured I was just going to be one of the joke contestants so my boss said I couldn’t have the day off. Two days before the audition the owners sat all the employees down and told us they would be closing due to not having any more money. Everyone was laid off and we weren’t doing very well financially at the time. My fiancé and I went to San Francisco and waited and waited to audition. I just ended up going for it and never looked back. I had no idea what things were going to be like once I finally got on the show. You do a lot of waiting in between rounds for your chance to sing and then it’s over. The show is almost like a marathon.

AL: Did you start off auditioning for the main judges?
JD: You actually have 3 pre-auditions before you are in front of the cameras. All that they really show on TV is the final round of auditions and tons of people in the stadium. They never show the first round where upwards of 20,000 show up to sing for 5 seconds in hopes of getting their opportunity.

AL: What was your initial reaction when you were told you would be singing with Judas Priest?
JD: I was told right after I sang “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” during the Top 24 guy’s week. Judas Priest had contacted the show stating they really enjoyed my performance and if I made it to the finale would I be interested in signing with them. I thought holy crap! It’s Judas Fucking Priest and they want to play with me. I was in complete shock. I still am.

AL: What can you tell us about your album “Memories of a Beautiful Disaster”?
JD: The album is being released via Wind-Up Records and was produced by Howard Benson. The title comes from me looking back on moments in my life that I thought were disasters. However after meeting my fiancé and having a child those things that bothered me from the past I can now look back on them and see the beauty and the pain. Those events made me who I am today.

AL: What was the recording process like for you?
JD: Everything on the album is entirely new material. I enlisted the help of some writers who wrote songs specifically for me. They call it personalized song writing. All in all I finished the vocals in two and a half weeks as we were working with a deadline in place. I finished way ahead of time. The process of recording was really fun and learning about everything related to recording was great. I had never done anything of this magnitude before.

AL: Can you tell us about your involvement in the film “Different is the New Normal”?
JD: I was asked by a production team if I would be interested in talking to a young man by the name of Ariel Small. Ariel has tourettes syndrome and was in the process of making a documentary about himself. I immediately jumped on the opportunity. The film isn’t just about tourettes but it brings life to tourrettes and makes it well known. Ariel was inspired by me to make this film. I really respect that and am very honored. Meeting Ariel and seeing how much insight he has for such a young man was great. The title of the film actually came from one of my quotes.

AL: What are your plans for 2012?
JD: Surviving the Apocalypse. (Laughs) I am going to just keep living my dream of being able to sing and make a living by doing so. This really is a dream come true. Huge thanks goes to everyone who has helped me in the process especially my family and fans. I owe everything to my fans. I am working on securing the right tour for 2012 as album sales have been going well so knock on wood things will keep going well.

Interview with Horror Idol’s Neal DeConte

Neal DeConte is the owner of Horror Idols, a division of DeConte Prototype & Modelwork, Inc. The company specializes in originally-sculpted, pre-painted, autographed figurines of the characters of modern horror films.  Media Mikes has had the pleasure of knowing the Neal and his crew for many years and took some time to chat about their work and whats to come in the near future.

Mike Gencarelli: First question has to be why horror?
Neal DeConte: I LOVE horror! Grew up watching horror movies, Creature Double Feature on the weekends in New England and all the late night horror movies on TV. My parents hated them, I was allowed to watch them, but they didn’t care for them. I try to keep up to date with all the new ones out and that are coming out.

MG: What was your inspiration to start this company “Horror Idols”?
ND: It was for personal gratification, I wanted to produce pieces that I wanted for my own collection! I started many years ago as a figure model builder, I was getting tired with what was out there, I was always re-posing, re-sculpting or modifying what I was purchasing . I figured, what the hell, I’m just going to do my own take on them! We also wanted to give back to the actor/actress that were involved in the character also. I feel that they’re not nearly compensated enough for what they endure/put up with as far as some of these characters, buried under prostectics and such. Each of our figurines are signed by the actor/actress and they receive a percentage of what we make.

MG: These are limited edition pieces correct?
ND: Yes, these are limited to ONLY 20 of each being produced! Once the 20 are produced, the molds and originals are destroyed, no others will be made. Each has a solid oak base, autographed by the actor/actress, an acrylic case to keep it dust free and a certificate of authenticity. We also create one of each figurine for Horror Idols and one for the actor/actress. For each piece we try to work in something from the actual movie, so far it’s been gravel from the actual movie locations.

MG: What’s your background for what you do, what schooling do you have?
ND: Schooling? I graduated high school by the skin of my teeth, hated school. Even back then, loved to create with my hands, it was drawing/painting then, found it fulfilling, but had no idea how I would convey that into a career. I’m self taught on everything I do, want to learn something……pick a book up, check info on-line, learn by mistakes. Best way to learn I believe.

MG: Tell us about your process to create these fantastic unique pieces of art?
ND: So here’s the quick breakdown: First what are we going to do? I find a new project and talk to the actor/actress to see if their on board with the project…..We don’t do a project without them being part of it. We discuss what we want to see out of it, pose and such and set out to make it in 3D. We start digging out reference material, we get any insight from the actor/actress on it, see if they have any good photos to work from, check on-line to see what we can find, and do screen captures from the DVD’s. We gather up as much reference as possible, can never have enough!
Sculpting is next, we don’t sketch out first, just start sculpting. We go back and forth with the actor/actress to make sure we’re meeting their expectations also……haven’t disappointed yet. Once we get the sculpt done and approved it’s onto molding and casting. We make high quality silicone molds off the sculpture. This starts by breaking down the figurine to make sure it’s moldable and get the molds done. Next is casting, we cast the figurines as a solid, high quality urethane. Now that the castings are done, it onto cleanup, assembly, and painting/detailing. We take the castings and give them a good bath to remove the mold release from the molding process and clean up what excess material there is from the molding process.
The painting/detailing process can be somewhat complicated depending on the actual piece. Could be stitching up fabric for clothing, and/or dying lambs wool to use for hair. We also have to build the oak bases and the acrylic cases, all of the above work is done in our shop here in Rhode Island….USA.

MG: How long would you say it takes you to do a piece like The Every 23rd Spring or Leatherhead from start to end?
ND: Every 23rd Spring was 275 hours to sculpt, that’s the figure and the wings, Leatherhead was about 150 hours. Leatherhead was my first full figure sculpture. To build each one, Every 23rd Spring 175 hour, leatherhead 125 hours. These numbers don’t include the molding or casting process, figure another 40-80 hours for this.

MG: What would you say has been your most difficult project to date?
ND: I’d have to say Victor Crowley from the movie hatchet. Victor is time consuming to build each one with the fabric farmer jeans, each of those are 18 pieces of fabric which are stitched together…..yes, I do sew also.

MG: Do you take on commission work as well and if so what are some of the pieces you have done?
ND: If we have time, we take on commission work. We’ll do one of a kind sculptures, model build ups for customers, you name it, we’ll do it. We also have our other company DeConte Prototype & Modelwork which we do this type of work under. We do prototype for some of the major companies and independent inventors across the US from figure work, product development, prototype models and everything in between.

MG: Rumor has it you are signing a licensing deal on the “Behind the Mask” movies, what can you tell us?
ND: LOL! Word spreads fast! Yea, this is huge for us, we’ll be doing the Horror Idols figurine and also……We just announced DeConte Toys & Collectibles which is our toy company division and Leslie Vernon is going to be our first 7” mass produced action figure! We’re looking at doing a line of Behind the Mask action figures and collectibles. Leslie will be available in Jan/Feb 2012.
Glen Echo Entertainment is receiving a percentage of all these sales that will help fund part 2 of the movie series!

MG: What other projects are you working on and what next for Horror Idols & DeConte Toys & Collectibles?
ND: Horror Idols just released the Gloved and Zombie Hand DVD holders and have a couple projects in the works with Michael Madsen……One being one of him with the chopper he owns that he used in the movie Hell Ride. This is our standard ¼ scale figure, so the chopper will be about 25.5” long! As far as DeConte Toys & Collectibles, we’re also releasing the first figure in our “Cinematic Heroes” line which will be Kane Hodder, this will be out early next year. And we’re also doing one with SpiderOne, lead singer from Powerman 5000, both of these prototypes will be with us at the Rock & Shock convention in Worecester MA, Oct 14 -16, along with the Behind the mask prototypes. We’ll also have Leslie Vernon himself, Nathan Baesel with us at the Horror Idols booth! Our good friends at Fright Rags & Horror Idols have teamed up to bring Nathan out for the convention, he’ll be there with us Saturday & Sunday only. There’s plenty of other exciting things hitting for us in the not too distant future…… Check us out on Facebook and visit for more info!