Black Stone Cherry har gjort sig ett namn överallt förutom i hemlandet USA. De blev sparkade från förra skivbolaget trots framgångar, men har inte tappat fart för det utan är tillbaka starkare än tidigare. Senaste albumet “Kentucky” går tillbaka till ursprunget och spelades dessutom in på hemmaplan precis som debuten. Vi satte oss ned med basisten Jon Lawhon när bandet nyligen besökte Sverige och han berättade då bl a om en kul turné med Motörhead i Tyskland:
The funniest thing from the whole tour was that all of them would offer us whisky and coke every day. Not coke, but cocaine. We were like “We can get down with the whisky, but with the cocaine, we´re alright.”, but it was every day that they would offer it to us and every day we told them and got the same speech every day, “Can´t believe you´re in rock and roll and don´t do caocaine.” and we were just like “We just talked about this yesterday.” (laughs) They just didn´t realize they had just said the same thing to us the day before.
13 songs on this album too. You´re not superstitious I guess?
Jon: No, we´ve done 13 songs on every record with the exception of one. The one we didn´t do 13 songs on, was because our record label just fought and fought about it.
The title “Kentucky”, was that something that came early on or was it something you worked on for a while?
Jon: No, we came up with about a million horrible ideas and then our manager, of all people, was like “You know what? It´s the first time you´re recording in Kentucky since your first record, all you guys are from Kentucky, your families are from Kentucky, every extra musician you got to be on the record is from Kentucky, so it´s kinda yelling at ya.” And we were like “Yeah, you´re right. Wow! We really are that dumb.” (laughs)
Is it hard coming up with an album title?
Jon: Absolutely. I feel it´s the hardest part. You have music that can dictate what the songs are gonna be called and the way it needs to feel, but when it comes to the title, you have a collection of songs and they´re all pointing to one thing and you kinda have to decipher what that one thing is. It´s the last piece of the puzzle that is the hardest, for some reason. We always write the songs first, the performance of it and how it´s gonna affect our band in a live setting. Once we get all that stuff figured out, then we start tracking it and making all the other magic happen and all that crap.
Other bands I´ve talked to have mentioned that when writing for a new album, you´re kinda waiting for that one song that will get the flow going. Same for you?
Jon: Not really, honestly. It´s usually just song after song after song and when we have X number of really hard rock songs and X number of hard rock songs that aren´t quite that heavy and maybe like a ballad, we just try to make sure the record´s balanced and then the rest falls into place really. We´re never like “Oh, we need this one particular kinda song.” and then keep chasing it until we get it. We don´t really do that. It always just kinda is what it is.
What made you, in a way, go back to the roots with this album?
Jon: The biggest thing was that we weren´t at Roadrunner anymore. I think we were the first band in history to headline a very successful arena tour in the UK and then come home and sit for two months and then get dropped from the record label. Ultimately what happened with Roadrunner… the stages of it… Cees Wessels, the guy that owned Roadrunner originally, he sold off a portion of it to Warner and Atlantic Records kinda became the power house behind it. As time went on, they ended up buying more of Roadrunner and ended up consuming the entire thing. The US chapter of Atlantic decided that they were gonna do away with all of the European Roadrunner people. The European people were exceptional, especially England and Germany. Out of this world. When they let them go we all went “Yeah, things are not looking good.” They let them all go and ended up hiring them back but not like full time employees. It was better for them actually, because they´re making more money now for doing the same thing they were doing before. Then they closed the Roadrunner office in America and moved it into the Atlantic building and gave them a floor basically. Fired half of that staff and a lot of the people they fired were good ones and they kinda kept the ones that weren´t that great, with the exception of a couple that I believe are still working there. Good that they kept them at least. But yeah, they just kinda wrecked Roadrunner. The whole family vibe the label had, it didn´t have anymore, so we kinda knew as we were cycling towards the end of “Magic mountain” that “Yeah, they´re gonna drop us.” because we´re a successful touring band, we´re a successful band everywhere in the world with the exception of the US, because we just kinda refuse to do drink from the same pool as the rest of the generic crap that is on radio. If you don´t kiss the butts of those three dudes that run the major radio entities in America, you just don´t get radio. It´s just how it works. We´re gonna do it our way or no way at all. So yeah, we kinda saw it coming, but once we parted ways with them, we were like “Ok, new deal. Let´s find whoever.” We talked to a bunch of different labels and Mascot came to us and said “ Licence deal.” and we were like “Oh, you don´t want our masters?” Imagine that. We got to keep our masters, we produced it ourselves, we wrote 99% of the songs on the record by ourselves, except for a few that we wrote with buddies that we chose to work with. We were like “This is a sweet deal.” We just kinda dove head first into this “Kentucky” record and it just kinda ballooned into what it is.
A lot of people probably don´t realize that there´s a lot of politics involved.
Jon: When it comes to the record business… there are more politics involved in the record business than what´s going on between Trump and everybody in the States right now. It´s super political. If you don´t play the game the way that they want you to play, they will try to squash you anyway they can. The only way you can survive is to smoke everybody every time you go on the deck. It´s the only thing you can do if you wanna try and avoid that whole gambit.
Despite things being the way they are, do you still have a positive look on the business that you´re in?
Jon: Yeah, I have a positive look for music, not as much for the business itself. Eventually America will kinda figure it out. You had the great era of the 70´s and then you had the 80´s and in my opinion, the majority of that got a little weird. That whole hair metal scene? Not a fan. When the 90´s came around and the whole Seattle scene, America had it together. In the mid 90´s there were tons of bands like Counting Crows and Hootie and the Blowfish. Not everybody´s cup of tea, but there was great music and then the whole pop thing started in the States with Britney Spears and all that.
You can blame the Swedes for that one.
Jon: (laughs) Yeah! It was all kind of downhill from there, but Max Martin is a brilliant, brilliant man.
A final thing. We´re losing a lot of the real stars these days, like Lemmy and Bowie. It´ll be interesting to see who will take over when all the AC/DCs and Iron Maidens and Black Sabbaths are gone. What´s your take on that?
Jon: I don´t know. With all the downloading and everything, this business is not a business where you make millions of dollars in. You´re lucky if you make enough money to survive. Like me, I do photography and film and a lot of graphic design. I did all the artwork for the record and everything you see anything visual from our band, I´ve got my fingers all over it. I do that for other bands as well. A lot of the time I make more money doing that than I do playing music. You kinda have to find your own way to survive. People don´t realise that when you download somebody´s record illegally, you´re killing that band. You´re giving that band one or two records and then you are never gonna hear that music again. If you´re cool with completely destroying your favorite band, go ahead and download it. If you want them to be around, so you can listen to them year after year, go buy the record or at least buy the t-shirt or buy the concert ticket. Buy something, because they have to make money to survive. We´re all just trying to make it from paycheck to paycheck like everybody else. As far as who´s gonna take over? I don´t know. One of the biggest honors we´ve ever had is when Ricky Medlocke (Blackfoot, Lynyrd Skynyrd) was asked what was gonna happen to southern rock when Lynyrd Skynyrd finally retire and his response was “Southern rock is safe in the hands of Black Stone Cherry and Blackberry Smoke.” Right there he kinda passed the torch to us and Blackberry Smoke. They are way more of the quintessential southern band than we are. We are more like, “bash you over the head with a bottle of Bourbon southern rock”. It´s funny that you mention Lemmy because we toured with Motörhead in Germany in the winter time. It was just cold and wet. Beautiful country, but terrible time of the year to be there. We toured with them through one of the hardest seasons and they were always fantastic to us. We did meet Lemmy and spoke with him and the funniest thing from the whole tour was that all of them would offer us whisky and coke every day. Not coke, but cocaine. We were like “We can get down with the whisky, but with the cocaine, we´re alright.”, but it was every day that they would offer it to us and every day we told them and got the same speech every day, “Can´t believe you´re in rock and roll and don´t do caocaine.” and we were just like “We just talked about this yesterday.” (laughs) They just didn´t realize they had just said the same thing to us the day before. (laughs) Everything you imagined Lemmy to be and Motörhead to be, they were. He called you a jackass in a heartbeat. (laughs) He didn´t care and he had no remorse what so ever. We tried to be as PC as possible, but we eventually got tired of that. (laughs) We´ve always considered ourselves like the southern rock Motörhead, because we won our fans the same way they won theirs. Just be honest, play the live show, don´t suck. If you suck, you lose fans, so we work really hard trying to make our live shows as good as possible.
Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen
Foto: Therés Stephansdotter Björk