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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Jade Starling Continues To Dominate Dance Floors
Wednesday, August 20, 2014

In today’s rapidly changing music industry artists have two choices – evolve, or fade away. Jade Starling, of the 80s group Pretty Poison, chose the former, and it’s put her right in the middle of today’s vibrant EDM scene.

For Starling, the evolution can be viewed as a natural one, as Pretty Poison’s era defining hit, “Catch Me I’m Falling,” packed dance floors in the late 80s. Now, nearly thirty years later, Starling is packing dance floors again with her just released album, Captive.

I caught up with Starling to find out more about her musical evolution, and how being a queen of the 90s rave scene helped make it an easy transition. Starling also discussed the drug aspect of that scene, and how close she recently was to the spirit of a legendary gangster.

Adam Bernard: You just released a new album, Captive, which is your first solo effort. Do you consider this a comeback, or, in the immortal words of LL Cool J, “Don’t call it a comeback, I've been here for years?”

Jade Starling: It’s not a comeback, it’s just a reintroduction for me as a solo artist, but it was still written and produced by Whey Cooler of Pretty Poison, plus Lee Dagger from Bimbo Jones, Laszlo, and Franck Dona.

Lee Dagger from Bimbo Jones reached out to us, and he was a big fan of our music, and we asked if he could send some tracks, and if we could possibly do some collaborating. We ended up writing about a dozen songs with him, mostly through Skype, and a lot of back and forth, because he’s in the UK. Then there were four songs where we collaborated with Laszlo, who’s actually from Hungary, and then Franck Dona, who’s from France, so it’s a very Euro sounding record. It’s very contemporary, very relative to what’s going on now, but I truly believe that we’ve been doing electronic dance music since day one, now it just has a genre, and it’s called EDM.

Adam Bernard: Other than the collaborations with producers, what was going on in your life that inspired Captive? The title, and the leather outfit you’re wearing on the cover, are a bit dominatrix-y.

Jade Starling: {laughs} Well, I felt a captive of my own ambition throughout the whole writing process of this album, and we decided to go into Eastern State Penitentiary here in Philadelphia with a local photographer, Gretchen Johnson Photography, and we shot this whole concept ... these very beautiful, but very haunting photos, and it’s really what I felt.

Adam Bernard: Tell me more about this prison.

Jade Starling: It’s not actually an operating prison, but it was the house to Al Capone back in the day, so there’s a lot of spirits in there. For me, I felt a connection to the place, and it just felt perfect as a back-scape, or a landscape for the album cover and the book inside.

Adam Bernard: The music industry has been changing at a ridiculously rapid rate since “Catch Me I’m Falling” was a top ten hit for you back in 1987. Is there anything you learned from your time in the industry in the 80s that you’ve found still applies today?

Jade Starling: Absolutely. One thing that really stands out to me is a hit song is a hit song. A good song can be performed bare bones with a piano, or a guitar. That's how these songs (on Captive) were written, and I really wanted to make sure that every song on the record was honed as a good song. Great hooks, lyrics, melodies, no filler.

I’ve also learned that when you have a big hit it’s really hard to live up to it. “Catch Me I’m Falling,” of course, it’s a blessing, really. It has continued to reinvent itself over the years. It was recently used in the last season of Breaking Bad, and also on Ridiculousness a couple months ago. I think, too, in that way, we wanted to make Captive my solo record so people wouldn't have this preconceived notion about a Pretty Poison record and what it should be, and what it should sound like.

Adam Bernard: The 80s were a time of extreme excess. Every artist I’ve spoken with, and every autobiography I’ve read, has featured a number of incredible stories involving partying harder than most can imagine. You, however, still look great, so I have to ask, did you not have ANY fun in the 80s, or have you just hidden it really well?

Jade Starling: {laughs} I had a lot of fun in the 80s, and in the 90s. I’m still having fun, but for me, honestly, alcohol is not an issue with me. I’m not a drinker. Yes, I partied hard, and I did my share of drugs. I was the queen of the rave scene throughout the 90s, and I did quite a bit of ecstasy, and I did experiment a lot, and I still enjoy smoking weed, it helps me in my writing process, but it’s not an everyday thing for me, and it’s not something that I need as a crutch.

I’m on a natural high because I love what I do. I have a passion for what I do, as a singer-songwriter and a performer. I love my fans, they keep me energized and alive, and honestly, on a daily basis I go to the gym, I work out, I do kickboxing, yoga, I try to eat right, I drink tons of water while everyone else is drinking martinis. I mean, I like martinis, too, don’t get me wrong, but I’m like a one drink maximum, if I do that at all, and I really prefer good champagne if I’m going to drink.

Adam Bernard: If you’re only having one drink you might as well have something really really good.

Jade Starling: Yeah, so I’ll drink a cosmo, or I’ll drink a good champagne, but like I said, alcohol is not really my poison, so to speak, but I do enjoy the other things, and I’ve had my share, I’ve gone through my drug phases, so I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on anything. The thing I do try to do is rest when I need rest. Although I am an insomniac, if I stay up all night I’m going to sleep during the day like a vampire.

Adam Bernard: You mentioned being part of the rave scene in the 90s, and you’re part of the EDM scene now. Am I crazy for thinking the drugs are worse today even though they go by the same names, or is it just that responsibility is not what it used to be in terms of usage?

Jade Starling: I’m not sure if the drugs today, like Molly, and things like that, I’m not sure what they contain as far as ecstasy, or heroin. I’m not sure what the mixture is, but I do believe that it is the responsibility of the individual.

I’ll tell you the truth, I’ve been to many raves across the country, and drugs are a big part of it, ecstasy was a big part of it, and I was definitely a part of it, too, but you have to drink water, because if you become dehydrated that’s when you start passing out, and that’s when you’re going to the hospital. The problem is you’re doing E, or you’re doing a Molly, you’re dancing all night, you’re sweating, and you’re not replenishing your fluids, and that’s why these kids are passing out and dying.

The key is, and I’m not recommending kids do drugs, (but if you’re going to) make sure you drink water, or orange juice. You have to keep your electrolytes replenished if you’re going to be dancing and doing drugs all night, and make sure you’re getting your (drugs) from somebody you trust, because if you’re buying them off a stranger you never know what you’re gonna get.

Unfortunately, you gotta live and learn. We’ve all been young and foolish, I’ve been young and stupid, but you know what, I wouldn't trade it for the world. I have those experiences, and I’ve lived to tell, to be able to talk to you about it today.

Adam Bernard: Give me one story from that time that you look back on and think, “I was young, I was dumb, and I’m glad I didn’t know any better, because if I did I wouldn’t have THIS memory.”

Jade Starling: Oooh. {laughs} I was at a rave early on and someone was passing around something called GHP. I didn’t know. It was mixed with orange juice, and that’s what the kids were drinking. I got so wasted I was passed out in the corner of this club, and I could hear everything that was going on around me, yet I was incapacitated. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak. I had all these people walking by me yelling, “Oh hi Jade!” I could hear them saying hello to me.

Usually they don’t let people lay on a sofa, but I laid on the sofa, and everyone let me just lay there, and everyone just helped me out, and supported me on this, and when I came to, I came to to the DJ playing my record at the time, which was called “Let Freedom Ring.” It kind of brought me to life. I heard it like in fuzz, and then all of a sudden it was on.

I have to tell you I did puke my guts out (that night), and I learned never to trust somebody just handing you something in a bottle, or a cup, even if they’re your good friend.

Adam Bernard: You woke up to your own song? That’s amazing.

Jade Starling: It’s interesting. It’s almost like my own song brought me out of a coma.

Adam Bernard: Staying on the topic of being young and foolish, is there anything from your musical past, be it a song, a video, or a look, that makes you cringe?

Jade Starling: Well, I mean anything during the 80s, any of my videos in the 80s. I look back and I’m like, “What was I thinking?” but I had a glam squad back then who were creating those looks for me. Back then it was the higher the hair the closer to Jesus. It was totally on trend, but of course I look back now and I cringe.

I look at things from back then, videos, photos, etc., and I think I look better now. I think I look younger now. Maybe it’s because I’m a Capricorn, and we kind of get younger as we get older. I feel very blessed I share a birthday with Janis Joplin, Edgar Allen Poe, Dolly Parton, and Federico Fellini. January 19th, it’s a very blessed day.

Adam Bernard: If you had to choose one look to go with again, would it be the higher the hair the closer to Jesus, or the 90s raver pants with the 75 inch cuffs?

Jade Starling: {laughs} I don’t know. You know what, during the 90s I had my own brand of club wear clothing I designed called Jade Wear.

Adam Bernard: So you didn’t have to go with JNCOs?

Jade Starling: No, I actually had really cool outfits that were designed with holograms; tight fitting crop tops with bellbottom pants that laced up the front. I have my own style, and I always try to remain, as the gays call me, “iconic.” I always like to create my own style. I like to set the trend, not follow it.

Adam Bernard: Finally, it seems like you’ve always had an idea of where you want to go with your career. Was there any aspect of fame you weren’t prepared for?

Jade Starling: I don't know if anyone ever is prepared, but “Catch Me I’m Falling,” as it started to really cross over from the club chart to the pop chart, we were on Virgin Records at the time, and they had us flying around doing a lot of promotional shows for radio stations. I remember flying to Michigan, and I was sick as a dog, and I remember the label saying, “If you don’t go and do this appearance they’re gonna drop your record (from rotation),” so I did go, sick as a dog, and it paid off because we ended up going to number one on that station.

There are trials and tribulations, and sometimes things that you have to do, and yes, it was very overwhelming, but at the same time, looking back on it, very rewarding, and I’m so glad that I did everything then. It prepared me.

Interview originally ran on Arena.com.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 1:32 PM  
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