Interview with Herman Ze German’s James Duke Jackson

Few metal drummers have a name as recognizable as Herman ze German Rarebell. And with good reason – after all, it was Rarebell’s drumming that helped propel the Scorpions into one of the 1980’s most successful rock bands (as well as co-penning the all-time classic, “Rock You Like A Hurricane”). And Herman is back once more with his latest album, ‘Take It As it Comes’ (and lead-off single, “Let Me Rock You”), which was recently released via Dark Star Records. Recently, Herman ze German Rarebell’s guitarist, James Duke Jackson, chatted with Guitarsite.

When did you start playing guitar?

I started playing guitar in 1974. My brother was a drummer and he'd invite his older friends over to jam in the garage, once they heard me play lead they recruited me in to the band. I would sit in my room all day and copy guitar riffs from Robin Trower, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Michael Schenker, Uli Roth, and other 60s, 70s, and 80s     guitarists.

What’s your musical background, and how did you get in touch with Herman Rarebell?

I first contacted Herman in 2001 about him signing my band “Strikeforce” to his Monoco record label. The label was dissolving, and Herman was considering some other projects, so my bass player, Berry Payton, and I flew to Munich in 2003 to meet Herman and discuss starting a new rock band. Herman had just started “Art Meets Music”, and his solo project with his wife Claudia. So I was slowly looking for singer, until Herman’s commitments were finished, so we could get started back to the harder side of rock. We kept in touch, and finally in 2008, we were invited to play the Rocklahoma Festival in America. I contacted Timexx Nasty – a local singer I knew from the “Drivin Rain” band, and Joe Council, a bass guitar player who played with the St. Louis-based “Push” and was also playing bass in “Strikeforce”. Strikeforce had been my band for 25 years – – we've toured and played arenas, clubs, and festivals, as special guests to just about every major hard rock/heavy metal act – Dokken, Dio, Survivor, Michael Schenker, .38 Special, UFO, Zebra, Joan Jett, Britney Fox, Blue Oyster Cult, and many other major acts. Strikeforce also has 5 releases and tons of national and international compilations. I’m very proud of Strikeforce and we continue to play reunion shows and concerts. We just played Melodicrockfest 2 in Chicago with Winger, Y&T, and Danger Danger – it was a killer fest.

When did you start playing with Herman?

Herman and I did some demos at my home studio last year. We co-wrote 5 songs together. They're killer hard rock songs. We hope to get “HZG” into a proper studio with killer producer to really unleash our originals and secure a label deal for HZG, but we're gonna tour for a while and support Herman’s new solo release. It’s great playing in a band with Herman – the Scorpions were a major influence on me. Herman has made my dream come true. 

What guitars and amps do you use?

I’m currently endorsed by Ran Guitars in Europe. They made me 2 custom made guitars, and they are great. Seymour Duncan-George Lynch pickups, with Schaller hardware, and great rosewood necks. Ran Guitars are like a European ESP. For amps, I use Ampeg 100 watt tube heads (old ones), Marshall cabinets, and Marshall heads (JVC 1000 and 100 watt heads) provided by Backline at a lot of bigger shows.

Who are some modern day guitarists you enjoy?

Some of the most recent modern guitarists I enjoy are John 5 (solo, Rob Zombie), Yngwie Malmsteen, Reb Beach (Winger), Steve Vai, and the cats from Godsmack (I love their guitar tones). I can’t wait to get out on tour with Herman Ze German, people are gonna really be surprised. We have a killer band, and aren’t afraid to prove it. We bring some hard edges to the Scorpions’ classics. Herman says we play “Another Piece of Meat” better then the Scorpions ever did. We have a killer live version of that, it probably will be released some time down the road. 

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13 thoughts on “Interview with Herman Ze German’s James Duke Jackson”

  1. Re: Few metal drummers have a name as recognizable as Herman... Interview with Herman Ze German’s James Duke Jackson
    mike mosley elgin,illinois

    seen duke and the boys with strikeforce at melodicrockfest 2 in chicago! they rocked! i seen herman rarebell and band at rocklahoma, they were good, but strikeforce with travis wyant original singer was way better at melodicrockfest! thanks to andrew for bring strikeforce to chicago! the guys in strikeforce were very cool! and duke jackson rocks on guitar! i heard dukes got a radio metal show too, so cool! i would go see herman again, he rocks!

  2. Re: Few metal drummers have a name as recognizable as Herman... Interview with Herman Ze German’s James Duke Jackson
    killer metal singer from cape

    i love Hzg duke,joe and herman rock! timexx nasty needs some work i seen these guys in southern illinois last year! if timexx would stop posing and start singing! hed be way better! the guy who said timexx rocks must have been timexx on here! timexx jumps around to much and forgets the words! im a lead singer from timexx town! hell if i would have known hzg needed singer, i would have got the job! timexx’s drivin rain band are a bunch of nobodys from down south! timexx’s short venture with strikeforce and hzg was the best thing that ever happened to that dude!lets hope this time he gets his shit together! there was rumors floating he was being replaced in hzg!duke rocks on lead and herman well you know is a ledgend!i have a couple strikeforce cds and they rock! strikeforce has sold more reocrds then drivin rain and herman rarebell! keep an eye on these guys- when theyre on it! theyre killer!

  3. Re: Few metal drummers have a name as recognizable as Herman... Interview with Herman Ze German’s James Duke Jackson
    dave metalfreak

    hzg had the biggest side stage audience at rocklahoma 09! herman and the boys kicked ass all over ratt,night ranger, and the other burnout bands that were there! i just seen duke and the guys in strikeforce at the melodicrockfest2 in chicago, afew weeks back with winger,y+t,danger danger! it was a great show and strikeforce,y+y and winger were the best bands there, all weekend! duke rips on guitar! he told me ran guitars were made in germany and poland custom made just for duke! hes one of 3 guitarist in the world endosed by ran! check out strikeforce at and hzg at these cats rock live! herman still is one of the greatest drummers in the world, and with duke on lead! these guys destroy live! hope to see them again in rocklahoma! hi herman and duke ! from dave from rocklahoma

  4. Re: Few metal drummers have a name as recognizable as Herman... Interview with Herman Ze German’s James Duke Jackson
    big scooby

    i now the guys in HZG They are a killer band! herman plays some of the scorps better then the scorps! duke kills on lead guitar always loved his work in strikeforce! these guys do scorpions classics and some herman solo and even some strikeforce songs! hope to see them on tour! rock on duke,herman,and timexx! see you soon! scooby from indy i love scorps and hzg band

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