'American Idol' Alum James Durbin Picked as New Singer of Quiet Riot

James Durbin
Courtesy of Freeman Promotions

James Durbin

Drummer Frankie Banali confirms vocalist Seann Nicols is out after short stint.

Billboard has confirmed that American Idol alumnus James Durbin has replaced Seann Nicols as the singer of Quiet Riot. Nicols, formerly of Adler’s Appetite, was with Quiet Riot for just a few months, but long enough to record the vocals for the band’s upcoming album Road Rage (due April 21 on Frontiers Music).

"After doing all of five live shows [with Nicols], it became apparent to everybody that it really wasn't going to work," Quiet Riot drummer/bandleader Frankie Banali tells Billboard. "There were some serious creative and personal differences. I'm not the type of person who will stay in a bad marriage for the kids -- the kids in this case being Quiet Riot. It was unanimous it could not go any further."

The frontman change does, of course, create an odd situation for Road Rage. "There's no comfortable thing about this situation," acknowledges Banali. "I think the record turned out great. But it's not that band anymore, so we have to deal with it. Is it troublesome? Absolutely. Is it risky? Absolutely. Is it the right thing to do? Absolutely!"

But Banali is excited about the band’s new addition. He recalls seeing Durbin sing Judas Priest’s "You've Got Another Thing Comin’" during season 10 of American Idol. "I said, 'This guy is really talented,'" recalls Banali. "He was so passionate about the whole metal [scene], the whole rock scene. At the time, I didn't have a crystal ball that told me, 'You're going to be working with him in the future.'"

Chris Ameruoso
Frankie Banali

The future is now for Durbin and Quiet Riot. The California-born singer, who placed fourth on Idol, will make his live debut March 18 in Wichita, Kansas, at The Cotillion as the band does a handful of North American dates during the next two months. Durbin was, in fact, the singer Banali went after during fall 2015 when the act was between singers, but Durbin was unavailable because he was contracted to do the One Epic Night residency in Las Vegas. Fatefully, Durbin met current Quiet Riot guitarist Alex Grossi there, and the two began writing songs together that led to the February release of the five-song EP Maps to the Hollywood Scars: Volume 1.

Durbin notes that "Quiet Riot was the first band that made metal accessible back in '83,” when its Metal Health album knocked The Police’s Synchronicity off the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200. Being 28, Durbin wasn't even born at the time: He first heard Quiet Riot during the early ’00s via the video game Legends of Wrestling, which featured the group's "Bang Your Head (Metal Health)" on its soundtrack. "The game sucked, but I kept the disc because I wanted to listen to that song. Then years later, as I started to develop my singing voice and stage personality and everything, I was compared to two people: Geoff Tate of Queensryche and Kevin DuBrow of Quiet Riot. That always stuck with me, so this makes total sense."

Durbin says Quiet Riot probably won't perform any of the Road Rage songs live, leaning instead on the group's heritage of hard-rock favorites that he's anxious to wrap his pipes around.

"I think there's some really awesome gems in the Quiet Riot catalog that are really overlooked," says Durbin. "I love 'Put Up or Shut Up.' I love 'Condition Critical' and 'Thunderbird,' even the song 'It Sucks to Be You' from the Quiet Riot documentary [Well Now You’re Here, There’s No Way Back]. I'm really looking forward to putting my spin on it as a singer. I feel I'm much more melodic in my singing than some of the singers Quiet Riot has featured in the past, so I'm looking forward to soaring those vocals over the crowd."

Quiet Riot is also planning to return to the studio sooner rather than later to start the recording era of Durbin in the band. "Alex and James have been working on some songs together that are not in the Quiet Riot style, but it showed me clearly that James is a very prolific writer, and he's really good," says Banali. "He's really quick, and he really pours everything he has into every time he does a track. I expect to start writing soon. I don't know if we'll do another record next year or not. You can't predict, but we're certainly going to start writing probably in the next month or so in preparing for another record."

Quiet Riot has experienced multiple changes in the frontman position since the death of longtime singer DuBrow in 2007. His replacements have included Jizzy Pearl (Ratt, L.A. Guns) and Keith St. John, formerly of Montrose.