PROFILE: James Norman, The Quake
by Anne E. O’Malley
James Norman is all over that stage, those early influences of James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Paul Rodgers from Bad Company and David Coverdale from Whitesnake pouring out of him in a folk/rock/soul voice. At the Feral Pig in Nawiliwili, Trees Lounge in Kapa`a, at Malama Pono’s Kaua`i Sings! events — Norman’s vocals are tops.
“I have a lot of confidence in myself but not to the point of being conceited,” says the New York City-born and San Francisco-raised front man and lead vocalist of The Quake who, at age 12, started singing songs off the radio, began cutting school and got all over the place.
“I started singing mostly karaoke at a young age, later was in a rock band, Ready and Willing, for three years in Sweden, and we did what I’m doing now, rock and roll, like Whitesnake and Queen covers.”
Returning to San Francisco, Norman started his first Quake band in the ‘90s, sang for numerous bands and starting a tribute band to The Who, calling it The Who Too.
After arriving here, he recreated The Quake. Band members include Mark Leon, drums; Bill Mello, lead guitar; Paul Foti, bass guitar, Hank Curtis, keyboard; and Carey Valentine, percussion.
“We make money, we’re doing good, for almost three years now,” says Norman about the band. If he could, would he leave behind Norman’s Overhead Doors, his business through which he installs garage doors, automatic and custom gates?
“Oh my god, yes,” he says.
The Quake does five to seven gigs a month, spread among nightspots, weddings and corporate affairs — “just people who come to see my show.”
He uses an email list of 250 strong, and posts on facebook to let The Quake fans know where the band will appear.
“The word gets around,” he says.
He records some, he says, but primarily sings other people’s stuff.
“It’s a long haul to make it doing original music,” says Norman. “I’m fulfilled doing what I do.”
At the same time, he says he sees the band going statewide “as an energetic, in-your-face, band.”
“I try to stay very humble,” says Norman. “People say, ‘you’re the best band on island,’ and I say we’re best at what we do. You can’t discredit others.”
With a full time business he operates out of Kapa`a, begun in California and still drawing income from there; and with a wife, Katerina, five poi dogs, numerous gigs with the band, he still finds time for charity.
He says, “Charity — never turn it down. Giving to the community, giving back to people not as fortunate as I am, is extremely important.”
As an honorary member of the Vietnam Vets/Legacy Motorcycle Club, he does charity rides to raise funds for POW and MIA causes. As well, he’s a member of the Rotary Club of Kapa`a, of which his wife is president.
In all he does, Norman claims satisfaction. But perhaps there’s nothing quite like those moments on the mic, when he’s pouring his heart and soul out to the audience.
“It’s great therapy. I sweat a lot, get rid of toxins, and like laughing, crying — incredible expressions of relieving tension.
“When I can do songs in my own version and get people’s attention, it’s the ultimate satisfaction. I get it all the time.
Nobody on the island does what I do. There are a lot of incredible musicians — but they don’t do what I do.”
Next up for The Quake is a performance at Trees Lounge, Kapa`a toward the end of the month. Click here to check out The Quake facebook site.