Q&A with eclectic singer Jimmy Kunes of Cactus, worked with numerous Hard Rock and Heavy Blues bands

"As with any facet of that goes, I think it’s (Cactus music) in the quality and consistency of the songs. Incendiary performances also seal the deal!"

Jimmy Kunes: Rockin' Blues Acrobat

'70s classic rock legends CACTUS released their new album, "Tightrope" (2021) by Cleopatra Records. CACTUS came to be known as "the American LED ZEPPELIN," a moniker they owned by virtue of their explosive blues rock stylings, subdued yet undeniably brilliant musicianship, not to mention their energetic and vivacious stage presence which made them a staple of arena rock venues around the globe. Now the band has returned with a smashing new album called "Tightrope" that strikes a delicate balance between powerful, driving rockers and more complex, heady album tracks. Still led by iconic drummer Carmine Appice alongside longtime members Jimmy Kunes on vocals and Randy Pratt on harmonica. From playing to production and songs, we really took a step up." They are joined by new lead guitarist/vocalist Paul Warren (ex-Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, Joe Cocker) and James Caputo on bass. "Tightrope" will also give longtime CACTUS fans a reason to cheer as it includes special guest appearances from original CACTUS guitarist Jim McCarty and singer Phil Naro.

(Jimmy Kunes / Photo © by Jeffrey Clark Crossman)

Lead vocalist of Cactus Jimmy Kunes, joined when the band re-grouped in 2006 remain in the line-up. Jimmy Kunes served his musical apprenticeship in The U.K., playing with numerous bands honing a style which could be best described as Acoustic/Electric Hard Rock/Heavy Blues. Fronting and touring with such acts as Savoy Brown, Silent Partner, EXCITER (Canada), HILFIRE (w/ Andy and Billy Hilfiger and Jimmy Cacala), as well as his outfit "LOVE TRAIN" which includes Rick Ventura. Currently at work in the studio finishing recording his second record, "GATE OF ALL SAINTS", which includes guest drummers Simon Kirke , Steve Gorman, and Carmine Appice.

Interview by Michael Limnios         Special Thanks: Billy James (Glass Onyon PR)

How has the Rock n' Roll Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

But is rock and blues music countercultural? Hmmm. It seems that classic rock and blues has been part of the tapestry for so long that we tend to associate phases of our lives with songs embedded in our memories. This is what shapes us! And a great record collection of course!!!

How do you think that you have grown as an artist since you first started and what has remained the same?

I’ve always grown up with and around music. From my parents’ eclectic musical tastes, (even bubble gum music was killer in the 70’s)! To my mom played piano and organ at her father and my grandfather’s church, to my Aunt & Uncle DeMarte’s Bar and Grill in my hometown (Lock Haven, Pa.). It was the hypnotic forcefield of the Wurlitzer jukebox that dragged me in! I still have all the Beatles Capitol swirl 45’s from that jukebox!

Since 2006, you're a member and singer of Cactus. How did that relationship come about?

I had just finished basic tracking for my 2nd record “Gate Of All Saints”, thanks to Randy Pratt who allowed me to record both of my albums at his studio (he also played bass on my 1st one). I tracked live basics with Robert Kearns, Simon Kirke, Steve Gorman... Anyway, right about the time I was finishing that project, Randy had Jim, Tim & Carmine coming into the studio. They had started to record ideas, and they wanted some lyrics & vocals for the 3-4 tracks they had completed... I went in armed with my pen and legal pad and wrote Shine, Electric Blue and I believe 2 other lyrics. And it sounded killer! Subsequently, I got a call from Randy that Carmine was gonna call asking me to join Cactus in Feb/March of 2006. They acquired a record deal with Escapi Records and an upcoming appearance at Sweden Rock Festival. And who was I to say no!?!

"I’m very proud of Cactus V, Black Dawn and of course “Tightrope”. We were lucky in that we pretty much had all basics and most overdubs done before the halt of lockdown, so we basically mixed like we have done before. Back and forth with mixes, etc. Other than that, too many highs to mention! And we don’t have enough time haha." (Photo: Cactus, Jimmy Kunes joined when the band re-grouped in 2006)

What do you love most about the making and song list of the new album "Tightrope"?

I like the diversity of styles. I always do. Paul Warren brought a lot of melody and finesse to the band. I also found I could stretch out into more spacey themes (All Shook Up, Everlong/ All The Madmen). More lyrics leaning towards imagery. But, then again, the colour of the song always dictates the subject matter to me. The tempo, the light & shade... the heaviness, the bluesiness... So, I’ve always done that in approach. There just seemed to be more for me to feast upon this time around...

Why do you think that the Cactus music continues to generate such a devoted following?

As with any facet of that goes, I think it’s in the quality and consistency of the songs. Incendiary performances also seal the deal!

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?

Well, certainly after what the world has been through in the past year +, one tends to wax philosophical upon such things. Sweden Rock was a major buzz. 3 of the best days of my life. I’m very proud of Cactus V, Black Dawn and of course “Tightrope”. We were lucky in that we pretty much had all basics and most overdubs done before the halt of lockdown, so we basically mixed like we have done before. Back and forth with mixes, etc. Other than that, too many highs to mention! And we don’t have enough time haha.

Are there any exclusively specific memorable moments with people that you’ve performed with either live or in the studio?

Playing with Tony Franklin in Venezuela and Italy was rather exotic! What a lovely guy as well as an astonishing musician. And what a treat to play with him, rehearse with him, hang with him... and in Italy we stayed at a farm-to-table exclusive country inn, so the meals were incomparable! Doesn’t get much better than that!!!

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?               (Jimmy Kunes / Photo © by Jeffrey Clark Crossman)

Well, as far as the past goes, I always try to approach what I do now in relation to the 60’s & 70’s. I don’t really miss much about it, because I’m forever writing, forever in search of that next song... but I do miss the band FREE!

"But is rock and blues music countercultural? Hmmm. It seems that classic rock and blues has been part of the tapestry for so long that we tend to associate phases of our lives with songs embedded in our memories. This is what shapes us! And a great record collection of course!!!"

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Any change for anybody is purely up to them. I’m quite content in where I’m standing right here and right now.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Be nice! Have fun! Enjoy your ride. That’s what you’re here for, isn’t it?!?

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