Paris Black was well known in the 80’s as a teen heartthrob and poster boy. Black had instant success with his debut pop dance LP “Secret Seduction”, that went gold with singles like “Better get Ready”, “Lover” and “Buried Alive’. In 1989 Black released his self titled LP “Paris Black” on I.S.B.A. records and started national tours and graced the pages of teen mags across the country.
Along the way the affable Black met many friends on the road including the late Kenny MacLean who not only became a great friend but would also be influential in Black’s musical direction later in his career.
With stardom in sight and a blossoming modeling career, Black abruptly dropped out of the limelight and out of sight. Most fans felt he’d gone to the US for better things and so did we. Years later we find him still rocking the stages but as one of the world’s best tribute artists doing “Billy Idol” and in a more interesting profession of “Live Art Modeling” which is utilized in his live stage show.
Similar to Canadian rocker “Alanis Morissette” who metamorphosed from her debut Dance LP of 1991 simply called “Alanis” to a new alter ego of punk grunge Diva with the 1995 multi platinum release of “Jagged Little Pill”, Black is now on the hard rock edge, breaking out with his latest release, the single “Breathe “from new CD “I’m Not Jesus”. The album boasts an array of killer tunes sure to put Black back on the right track.
Cashbox Canada had a chance to meet up with and ask Paris Black about his life as a teen idol, the missing years, his new rocker image and the CD that goes to radio is today.
Cashbox Canada: Paris Black, you located to Canada at the young age of 10 years from Denmark via England, with an awkward family life that soon found you fending for yourself on the streets of Toronto at the age of 15. Did this have any influence on the direction you took to, as it is a time in one’s life between that of being a kid but growing into a young adult and are still in a way “sheltered.”
I would say it was on the one hand a marvelous bit of good luck. I don't like to think of what roads I might have gone down had I not gotten the chances I did. I was into the fight game. (Boxing a bit at that time) and harbored an unbelievable anger that found it’s satiation in the political TV shows (Youth Focus and People With A Purpose) as well as charities. As far as music went I always wanted to have a harder edge. But who was I kidding? On some nights I made huge money. Remember I was literally sleeping in apartment building lobbies and stairwells. I was freaking grateful.
CB: Was there any one in our family that had a musical background that may have put you in that direction and did they support your goals and dreams?
Black; Yes for sure a couple of stepfathers. Jerry Dupere a cameras man at CBC, and Arnold Paris a reggae singer; he also gave me the name Paris Black, get it? Both of them and really everybody around thought I should be some sort of performer for sure.
CB: You were quite a talented young artist and you actually wanted to do of all things “Stand up comedy” was this some type of escape from reality for you and where did it go from there?
Black: Really it was visual art I was best at; my paintings and drawings have been in galleries since I was 12. However my, neediness or desire to be constantly performing got in the way of spending weeks on end on paintings. The second place I made money was doing impersonations for radio commercials, of actors and singers. I was doing these jobs at 12 and 13 so I assumed I was supposed to just do that and it did pay off in the future because I was very comfortable hosting TV shows and acting in movies later on. I'm quite sure it has contributed big time to my shows being fun. I love to be a clown up there. In this time period I shared stages with the biggest names in pop and rock M. C. Hammer to Aerosmith.
CB: You had quite the success as a teen model how did you end up in the 80’s becoming a kind of Justin Beiber teen heart throb with several hits off your first album “Secret Seduction” going gold and magazine photo shoots and poster requests?
Black: Man I got so lucky on that, I was out buying a shirt to do a show at “Catch a Rising Star” in New York. A woman who was a booker for Wilhelmina modeling agency asked me to come in and do test shoots. I really had never even given it a thought in my life, but suddenly I was doing really well. Pretty soon I was going between New York, Houston and Toronto doing jobs. Bob and Karen Parr who owned Austons modeling of Toronto really got behind me believing in me as more than a model, if not for them again my life would have been different.
Steve Sexton (a Grammy winning producer from Toronto) really put his heart and soul into producing “Secret Seduction.” The videos were done by David McNally (The director of the Hollywood blockbuster Coyote Ugly) and Alan Novak who actually won the Norman Jewison award for most promising director at that time. Everyone was fabulous and my career was launched.
CB: After your second album, the self titled debut in 1989 you had some more solid hits and you were up in the big league with touring date. Is this when you became friends with the late Kenny MacLean of Platinum Blonde.?
Black: The follow up album was where I first met Kenny MacLean and Mark Berry as we were working on Paris Black for I.S.B.A. Sony. What a crazy time. At concerts teenage girls used to line up for kisses as they bought their posters for an autograph. I, of course was a teenager myself at the time so it wasn't freaky, but my old friends from the “Lansdowne boxing club” were really impressed. It was great being that age and taking limos everywhere.
It's unbelievable to people that knew Kenny (he wasn't one to sit around drinking tea at least not all the time) that he was actually in charge of keeping me out of one sort of trouble or another. At the time film crews from Much Music’s “Rock n Talk”, got me running around all over the Victoria hotel in Vancouver wearing only a towel and just up to no good.... it was all too much.
Kenny was always watching out for me. I was always grateful and always tried to be a good guy. I started the charity “Chill OUT” at this time with Marilyn Belyea that later merged into “Project Warmth”. I would always support and give all my friends’ money to start there own businesses but really I kind of over did everything and became pretty destructive to myself.
CB: Suddenly at the peak of this ‘Teen Idol” run it seemed that you disappeared and most of us thought you may have gone States side as there were no more follow up works and no more Paris Black. What happened and what were you doing in the time between Paris the pop singer and the new reincarnation of Paris Black the Rocker?
Black: I felt really awful as my career and life hit a speed bump big time at around twenty. A tour of Japan didn't go well and everything seemed to be falling apart; my friends started to waste my money, my habits pushed loved ones away. But then I got lucky again with a second modeling career and a ton of hosting jobs, had a seven year run hosting a dating show on the beach in Miami Florida. I was still around the music scene, I produced an album called “Beat blast 97” that did well for BMG, and I put out a single called "Hold on Tight" that had hundred of thousands of copies sold in streets around the world.
Roger Moore, Mickey Dolenz, Tia Carrera, Lorenzo Lamas, and many big stars appeared in a commercial promoting this.
That was in 2000, I also did a small tour at this time, but my singing, my music in general was really awful at this point. I got a mini break I suppose by getting an unbelievable well paying job as a” Human Statue” at the “Fallsview Casino” for five years. During this time I did feature films as well as short stint in soaps. Also some pretty big modeling campaigns, but the only music I did was impersonating Billy Idol all over the world (that was huge fun) During this time and right back to the Florida days I used to send song ideas back and forth to Kenny MacLean and I re-did "Don't Look Back" in a dance version and put it in one of my infomercials (thank you Tony)
“It was the show ending that brought me home, but like most adversity it worked as a blessing in disguise. I had further to fall though; I lost the casino gig on one day’s notice, lost my condo and all my stuff in a flood that was in the basement I moved into! Really I was left with my faith, my friends and my abilities.
“Many friends helped me begin my comeback. Kenny’s dying spun me out, but somehow made me ten times as determined. New friends like Denis Martel, Sasha Tukarsch, Bonnie Fudge, Tracey Green, Danny and Julia Rosso, and all the guys I played with pulled this together, it's amazing and once again, I'm so grateful.
CB: Your story almost parallels that of “Alanis Morisette” where in the 80’s she came out as a pop singer “Alanis” with the Madonna wave and then years later after a long hiatus transformed into a million seller rock diva with “Jagged little Pill” and a new image. Did you ever think back than when it was a roller coaster ride that you would be where you are today on a harder pathway to get to the top and with a totally different image than your fans would remember?
Black: Yes her for sure I did shows with her back in the day we were both teen icons. I have always believed in this and more so, I have never given up and this album is great. I must say Mark Berry, Jimmy Zolis, Gary Honnes and if course all the musicians on the album were all amazing. It feels like Kenny started it and Denis brought it home. Jeff Burns whom I knew from my old days from Sony and Mark Nakamura as well Elaine Tennyson and you guys are going to launch it out of the park.
CB: So you teamed up again with Mark Berry on the “New Paris Black” project “I’m Not Jesus”. Who came up with the name and what does it mean to you?
Black: Mark did a great job again. The name "I'm Not Jesus" was from Denis; before this look caught on here I had been to Europe twice. Had my life threatened by thugs, my boxing training came in handy there, thanks George Chuvalo and Florida Jack, seriously it was hard but some really big time music people like Yuergen Kramer, Paul Schindler, Denis Martel and all the guys at Raw Media believed in me so here I am. "I'm Not Jesus” is about getting off the canvas again and again. Nobody did that like Jesus and never could but we all do our best don't we?
CB: You have a number of great tunes on the CD. Who writes the songs and who comes up with the video concepts to follow them.
Black: Mark Berry saved up some humdingers from the top hit writers in the world. Thank you Mark! The rest Denis and I write, it’s an interesting combination that seems to be working. We pull in opposite directions, but with respect. The videos so far are great. "Take Me Home' was shot by “Frederico 72” in Italy. It was part of a shoot for Vanity Fair Europe and this was his second music video .I finished the video here with a great Director Vadic; Tony Morrone actually helped me blend them into one. The idea for the video was modeled after Billy Idol’s ‘Rock The Cradle’ with the moving in frame pics. The video for "Sexy Girl" has a heck of a lot of hits.
Andrew Agudelo totally got that one together. I’m just finding a video for "Wrecked" on a soft release in USA. I think it's not quite edited but has a cool little story line; again great work from Andrew Agudelo of Casa films” and of course my Mexican hermano Gabriel Regullera, I'm right now thinking of ideas for "Breathe"; just heard the remastered single from the lacquer channel OMG. It's a hit.
CB: Breathe is soon to hit the airwaves this month. Will there be a support tour and what can we expect next from “Paris Black”
Black: Well I'm at Remy's for the whole film fest doing a show every night with Denis and some surprise guests. It's amazing how the who’s who of the biz is here in Canada and showing up at my gigs!!! I can't wait to tour, stay tuned for the details.
“ I’m looking at some showcases before heading across this land, then Europe and of course America. One thing I could always do was put on an exciting, super high energy show, look bloody good doing it as well as be funny and all that.
“Guys like Denis and Sash as well Sheldon Thomas and Jason Farrar have forced me to get way tighter than I've ever been. My voice, it's wild, I'm shocking myself daily. That’s the influence of Denis Martel; he's really got me reacquainted with my pipes, other great Toronto artists like Owen Tennyson, Mark Macpherson, Patricia and others are inspiring me to go for more while focusing on the tight harmonies this work requires.
“ I have learned a lot from the buskers and street musicians I've worked with over the years. There are no boundaries, everything goes. You must lose yourself in the music the movement, the joy of expression of your highest thought or darkest desire. They, the audience are telling you what they want live!!! What could be better? What could most resemble the human spirit, free and larger than life? Than there is this freedom between audience and performer? It's an agreement to act honestly, it's Rockin Out, it's a feeling of having a great time.
CB: If a young struggling musician would ask you for some guidance and advice what would you tell him?
Black: To a struggling musician I’d say. Learn patience, it's a hard one. Balance getting out there with getting if right. Go for quality over quantity in your recordings as much as possible. Don’t call a demo a CD and most importantly don't give up. Nobody could ever convince me that there is ever enough good music in the world. If you’re good they will find you... if they aren't standing there watching, you’re not good enough yet. Keep working, when you’re good enough one way or another you’re going to get lucky.
CB: Good luck and keep on rockin.