Jim Breuer on hard rock, comedy, and his ‘surreal’ time with AC/DC’s Brian Johnson

Comedian Jim Breuer may be a family man these days, but that doesn’t mean he’s rocking any less. In fact, even with three kids and a wife in the idyllic New Jersey suburbs, he’s more metal than ever.

Breuer recently released Songs From the Garage, his first album of music, with backing band The Loud & Rowdy on Metal Blade Records. Something of a dream project for Breuer, the album had him collaborating with hard rock royalty like AC/DC's Brian Johnson and Rob Caggiano of Volbeat and Anthrax.

The comedy, however, hasn’t stopped either. Now, Breuer is set to take his act on the road with a combination of alternating stand-up dates and musical performances with The Loud & Rowdy through October.

Breuer will bring his tour through the area with a stand-up comedy gig on Saturday, July 16 at the The Music Box at the Borgata Hotel & Casino. Philly.com recently caught up with Breuer about his album, making the jump from stand-up to music, and more.

It feels like Songs From the Garage has been a long time coming. How have fans responded to the album?

Every hard rock and metal outlet magazine review has been over the top. I was a little taken aback by that. It’s not Iron Maiden; it’s family-dad hard rock. The music cranks, the lyrics are relatable, and I’m psyched for this thing — to tour it, to put it out there, because I think the more it goes out there, the more people are going to accept it and be aware of it.

In some ways, it’s like a comedy concept album, which is a unique approach to a record. Were you concerned about confusing fans?

A little bit, yeah. If something new comes out and it’s different and off the grid, people try to put it in the square or the circle like “It doesn’t fit here. I don’t understand where this fits. What is this?” To me, it’s a one-man life story told through hard rock and metal. That’s the best way to describe it.   

Do you have any plans to extend that concept out into future touring dates? Something more theatrical?

I want it to look like literally Rock of Ages meets the heavy metal dad. The show starts with me waking up, nobody’s home, and my wife says, “You have an hour-and-a-half, please be productive, please do these things.” And then, as she’s saying that, the garage slowly lights up and I walk into the garage, put on headphones, plug in my iPhone, and we’re off and running in the show. I think that that’s the way to do it.

How long had you toyed with the idea of making the jump to full-on rock before putting it into motion?

I’ve been trying to do this for about 15 years. The first song we had is now called “Family Warrior,” but that one started way back in 1999. So, a lot of these songs have been around for a while, but not until around 2010 did I start putting things together. “Raising Teenage Girls” and “Thrash” were the first songs that I was really pecking at, and then the rest all I ended up writing in the last two or three years.

Jeez, 15 years seems like huge amount of time to be plugging away at a project. 

It is. Back then, it was full-blown comedy. It took a long time to get the confidence to go, “Don’t be afraid to go off the grid to make a real song. Just go for it.” That is the hump I had to get over.

Traditionally, you are known as a stand-up comedian and actor. Did that perception hold you back from pursuing music at all? 

Yeah, it’s wrapping your head around a comedian doing this. It’s, “All right, I only know this guy from Half Baked” or “That’s the goat guy, the guy who played a goat boy on SNL." I knew all that was going to come into play, but I also know at the end of the day, it’s the product. I knew once that music was powerhouse, it didn’t matter.

How has playing with the Loud & Rowdy been different from performing solo as a stand up comedian? 

As a stand up, I’m able to go and work out. I don’t understand the band’s world. They go in a rehearsal studio and they tour. I want to be able to work out the songs. I want to be able to see how they react. I want to see what they think of the order. I want to be able to be interactive.

What was it like working with AC/DC’s Brian Johnson for the album? 

When he came to record it, we had five microphones set up; we had this big room. He comes in, and goes “I’m not going in that room. I sing in front of the fellas, with a handheld mic listening to speakers. I don’t use headphones. Headphones are for cheaters.” He gets the microphone and he starts recording just standing in front of us like he’s in concert. That’s when it became surreal because I saw the guy singing “Back In Black” and “Thunderstruck” exactly the way he does it on stage.

Were you nervous about letting down one of your idols? 

I kept saying, “Brian, you get first look at this, and if you hate it…” He’s like “Listen, Jimmy my son, I trust you. I trust you.” Those three words made me go back and re-record the entire album. 

Your upcoming Borgata show is comedy only. What can fans expect?

All comedy. The Borgata is cool because I think I do about 40 or 45 minutes of pure improv every year that I’m there. It’s a special place. I can’t explain it. I feel like I’m home. I’m more topical when I’m there rather than when I’m touring and have my set going.

In the last few years, you’ve settled into your “hard rock dad” voice as a comedian. Where to next? 

My voice will just get stronger. I know myself.  I know my boundaries. I know the strike zone. I watched my dad get old and start to crap himself. When that happens, I’m going to talk about it onstage. That’s something I always want to do—have that interaction with people. There’s nothing more enjoyable than going up and having people react to what you’re saying. And they get it, and they can relate to you.