SAN JOSE — James Durbin.
What comes to mind when you think of Durbin, his run on American Idol Season 10 and his fourth-place finish?
Running around in the audience during performances?
The outlandish punk outfits?
The shock at meeting pro wrestler Hulk Hogan on stage?
His love of metal music and his interpretation of a Judas Priest song when we got down to the Top 24?
You probably recall a little bit of all the above.
His love for the “metal” genre was unabashed. At one point he even launched the Idol crowd into a “Give metal a chance” chant.
So, does he really feel that his career path is paved to stardom with “metal” music?
“I’m all over the place, not just strictly metal,” Durbin admitted prior to the American Idol Summer Tour performance here last week. “Yes, the metal route is risky, but everything I did on the show was taking a risk. And it all paid off. So, no matter what I do and no matter where I go I’m always gonna feel satisfied.”
Metal, rock, ballads, soulful singing. It’s doubtful anything could change Durbin’s energy. Last Wednesday night he paraded through the crowd of 12,000, many from his hometown of nearby Santa Cruz, to make his way to the stage. And by the time he arrived to do his versions of “Sweet Child o’ Mine” (Guns & Roses) and “Uprising” (Muse) he had them in a frenzy.
He suffers from Aspergers and Tourette’s Syndrome which are apparent in an interview but disappears while he is performing.
Has he ever been so much as nervous on stage?
“Never, not once,” he explains.
And maybe part of that was in his genes. His father, Willy, was a bass player in a Santa Cruz area band. Willy died of a drug overdose when James was nine. James admitted he had a few memories of his father but not many.
“Before all this Idol stuff,” Durbin said, “I had never really heard or seen any videos of him playing. Now people are coming from everywhere looking back at his stuff and saying, ‘Oh, my God, I have these pictures and these videos.’
“There’s this one lady who has all these tracks, all these live tracks and she had them mastered and sent them to me.
“Yes, it gave me cold chills to watch them. I got this one video of him, I can’t remember what the band was called, but they were the opener for another band playing at UCSC (UC Santa Cruz).
“And the band they were opening for … the bass player was Randy Jackson. I mentioned that to Randy and he remembered the gig.”
And while the memories of watching his dad perform live hardly exist except on tape, the influence of his father is with him on stage.
“He (Willy) was a bass player and sang a lot of backups. Maybe that’s why I am so comfortable on stage, because of him.
“I am always amped and pumped and excited, adrenaline is just pulsating through my entire body … especially when Hulk Hogan is around.”
Durbin started laughing as his own aside.
When Hogan appeared on the Idol stage during the March 24th episode, Durbin came unglued, falling to his knees in mock worship to Hogan.
“That was incredible,” Durbin said of the Hogan moment. And for a wrestling fan, Durbin has been able to live his dream.
“I once drank a beer with the Iron Shiek, and went out on the town with Chris Jericho. I had dinner with Chris and then WWE champion The Miz. That was a very, very crazy night. We were in L.A. on the Sunset Strip at a restaurant called Boas. We went and saw Rod Stewart and Stevie Nix and then the New York Dolls, Poison and Motley Crew.”
And now his musical dream continues.
“I was in a lot of plays as a kid, a lot of musicals, my dad was a bass player. I grew up kinda watching that and it rubbed off on me. I wanted to do it (perform) from the first moment I saw it.”