Black Stone Cherry rocks without getting hammered

A few weeks ago, we had John Fred Young – Black Stone Cherry’s drummer – on the phone. He had just come back from a tour, opening for Alter Bridge.

Having an erratic phone-line, this interview was hard to process. It was scheduled to take place two days earlier and had to be postponed for the following reason, which we laughed about with our contact from the record label: “Listen, I’m sorry, we’ll have to postpone the interview: we lost him, we don’t know where he is.” Many labels and managers probably get to experience this surreal situation pretty often when having to deal with somewhat absent-minded musicians who tend to disappear without a warning. Anyway, this was one of those interviews that could have never been published on Radio Metal.

First of all, we mentioned their amazing new album Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea, which is the first to have been recorded in a different context than when the band had been used to. An experience Young described as cool, as they had never taken the time to get away from every thing to write some music: “The first album we did, we did that in Kentucky with my dad, he produced the album with us. For the second record, we went to Nashville and recorded it with Bob Marlette. And for this one of course we went to Los Angeles and worked with Howard Benson, and we went home for a whole year. Our label had us spend a whole year writing. We were ready to get back on the road after about the third month. It was kind of hard, we went through a lot of hard work trying to get those songs the best we possibly could. It’s also the first album where we worked with outside writers and that was pretty different too. It came out really good though, we had a really good time making friends and having outside guys coming and bringing in a little bit of their talent to the songwriting. I think we’ve grown as people and also as musicians.”

This is indeed a very special album, described in a press-release as “the summary of a year in the life of the band – every emotion, triumph, loss, romance and everything in between”. About that, Young does confirm that 2010 was a big year for them, hence the need to write about it.

But, beyond the band’s talent to write stroner/rock anthems that you simply can’t get out of your head, the Kentucky based four-piece really comes into its own on stage. To the point where they sometimes steal the show from the headliner. The drummer states: “For us, live music is such an important thing. You have to be a great player, you have to be a great musician to be a great live band. Look at bands like [Led] Zeppelin, The [Rolling] Stones, The Who: all those bands are great players. That’s how we strive to be like. We spend a lot of time working and trying to perfect our live shows, we’re always trying to think about our set-list, what songs we should play. There’s been a lot of work going into it.”

Aside from the band’s undeniable success and tours as the opening act for some of the world’s most prestigious bands (Def Leppard, Alter Bridge, Nickelback…), the band manages to keep it real, as the band members aren’t distracted by all the glitter of the music industry and know where their priorities are: “ it’s a wonderful life we have, we love going out there, opening for bands, recording, making albums. […] We’ve opened for a lot of really big bands that are awesome players but the only thing I don’t like about doing what we do is being away from home I think. I think everybody would say that in our band because we’re pretty big family people.” Later on, John Fred told us about how easy technology has made it for musicians to write music on the road, with ProTools and Garage Band. By the way, the band will be in Paris on Friday March the 2nd at the Maroquinerie (the venue is already sold out).

« We’re not that talented besides music. »

At the end of the interview, we spoke about the band’s relashionship with alcohol and about the strength of the original line-up :

Radio Metal : You do not drink alcohol at all on tour apparently. Can you tell us why and what motivated this decision?

John Fred Young (drums) : When we first started out, we didn’t drink, we were very, very young. We were driving ourselves in America and we were driving a lot and we wanted to be really responsible and we were very fortunate. We were very blessed to go out and get a record deal, so we just didn’t want to mess it up, we just wanted to do the best we could and tried stay focused. But everybody kind of has a drink once a while. We’re not the best party band, but yeah, we drink, we’re pretty normal.

Is it hard to resist to temptations coming from the other bands or the fans or people thinking that « not drinking is not being cool » ?

No, when we were younger, I definitely think that once we got a bus we started drinking a little bit. Now, I guess when you first start touring you’re like “Man, we’ve got to party!” and it got really old. We do drink from time to time but it’s kind of stupid to drink and waste your opportunities to do something great. It’s not really that important, it’s not a big, big priority to go get hammered [laughs]. I’d rather go home and spend time with my family.

It’s not often we see a band keeping its original line-up. What is your secret ?

I think it’s because nobody else will play with us [laughs]. We’ve been together so long, we just actually had our ten-year birthday last year. It’s pretty remarkable for four dudes from a small town in Kentucky to be able to say that they’ve been together in a rock band for ten years, we started in 2001, on Chris [Robertson] our singer’s sixteenth birthday.

Does this mean that this line-up cannot change ?

No, it couldn’t change, it would be probably over if the line-up changed. God forbid, anybody dies. But I don’t think anybody is gonna quit because we don’t have anything else to do, man! We’re not that talented besides music.

Interview conducted on january, 13th, by phone.
Transcription : Stan & Saff’

Black Stone Cherry’s website : www.blackstonecherry.com

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