Black Stone Cherry - Cherry is just a little something for the ladies
This interview may differ a bit from others on our website because I basically didn’t have to ask that many questions (I had them on paper though). John Fred Young and Jon Lawhon , two very talkative guys from the band Black Stone Cherry, were kind enough to provide me the answers before I even asked to certain things. I had the best interview I’ve ever done in my life because these two guys have been very, very nice to me. You can read the result below.
How are you doing?
John Fred: ‘We’re doing great! Glad to be here. We landed in Stockholm on the 23rd I believe, then we went to Hamburg, Berlin, Cologne, Munich and we got here last night. Tomorrow we’ll leave for Paris and after that we’ll play in the UK.’
So how are the reactions so far?
John Fred: ‘They’ve been great! Of course coming over here is like starting all over again ‘cause nobody heard us here before which is cool because you get back to those small clubs again and you really get back to where it started. We met all these people who are saying stuff that we don’t understand at all but we try, hehe!
To the people still unfamiliar with BSC, please introduce yourself? [*note: here John Fred answers numerous others questions I had prepared so it’s quite a lengthy answer]
John Fred: ‘Well, the best way to do that would be to say that ehm…Black Stone Cherry is a band from Kentucky, Edmonton, a small place with about 1,600 people. So you could fit all those people in this room (*which was a quite small one). We have a farm house, called a practise house where we do our rehearsals in. It was given to us by my father and my uncle, who are members of Kentucky Headhunters. They were a really big band in the early nineties. They even got Grammies. They play country and won a country music award. They’re still making records but they don’t tour as much now, so in 2000 they gave me the practise house because I wanted to start a band. I had known Chris since my birth and we were good friends with Jon so we started practising in our practise house but all we really did was just jamming. Finally, in 2001, Ben came along. We met him through our guitar-tech David, with who I was in a play together. We used to dress up like girls, haha. We were both interested in rock music so he said to us, why don’t you try Ben? So we were like, ok that’s cool, so we tried him out one night and we had a good party. The next day, he was in our band.’
Jon: ‘That was June 4th, 2001. That day the four of us came together, we wrote a song and were like: “Alright, let’s take over the world!”.’
John Fred: ‘That was actually Chris’ birthday so that was really cool. So, my dad is a rhythm guitarist in Kentucky Headhunters and my uncle is a drummer. My father, Richard, produced our album and ehm…before we got signed we used to play like some of the most awful places and now that we’re with Roadrunner and we released our debut album Black Stone Cherry July 18th 2006 in the US. And we’ve just released the album over here as well.’
Here we got a small discussion started where I got asked to my favourite songs of the album and I returned to the interview by asking them how they would describe their own music.
John Fred: ‘Well, you know, there are a lot of bands out there that are very reminiscent to The [Rolling] Stones and The Beatles and stuff like that. They really try to recreate that. But we grew up on The Beatles, The Stones, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and anything you can possibly imagine. We never sat down and were like “Okay, we wanna be this kind of rock band.” We always said we’re gonna write the best music, the best lyrics we can possibly come up with and be the best rock band in the world. It is all we said we’re gonna do. We don’t wanna mimic or copy anybody else. We wanna do our own things and let the world figure it out of their own.’
Alright, but if you really DO have to compare yourself with one band, which one would that be?
Jon: ‘Oh, ehm…I could say three but not one, haha! The Almond Brothers [here it’s hard to hear what John Fred says], Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, but that would just be me.’
John Fred: ‘I would say that ehm…Black Sabbath and Aerosmith but then I would have to say The Almond Brothers too, haha! You really can’t just compare it to one band. We got so much roots. Like for example at the practise house, it’s such an essential part of the band because of all those posters that are hanging there. There are posters of Joe Cocker, Thin Lizzy, Cactus and all these really underground bands. And we grew up also listening to all kinds of music: blues, heavy metal, hard rock, southern rock. But I just think we sound like Black Stone Cherry. We just try to be normal without imitating other bands.’
How did you come up with the name Black Stone Cherry anyway?
Jon: ‘Well, we were just kids and we just started with the band. Back then we used to smoke cigars and I was the only one old enough to buy those. So we were like, let’s get some cigars. So I rushed into town and grabbed a box of Black Stone cigars with cherry flavour. So I brought them down to the practise house and we smoked cigars there. There were like one or two left in the box and I left them at John Fred. So Ben went to stay at John Fred’s house for the night and Chris spent the night at my house so that we could work on new material and come back and collaborate the next day. The next morning, me and Chris woke up and the other guys were calling us asking us “What do you guys think of the name Black Stone Cherry?” We thought it was perfect. So over night, they build a whole private website and it was just perfect. ‘Cause when you really dig into it, the Black points back to our roots. Stone stands for Rock ‘n’ Roll and Cherry is just a little something for the ladies, haha!’
About the song Lonely Train then. It’s a song about a soldier leaving to fight in the war. Is that song based on personal experiences or did you get influenced by other American families?
John Fred: ‘Well, we all write the songs, it’s not like just one guy writes them. We all write the music and lyrics together. But the thing is, we had a bunch of friends who went over to Iraq and some of them didn’t make it back. Some of them are still there. We grew up with those guys, went to high school with them. And we were just like…well…we’re not gonna say that war is bad or war is good. It’s awful when people have to fight and loose their lives, for anything. We basically wrote the song for giving hope to the families back home. It’s not necessarily about war, it’s just about violence. We’re anti-violence. It’s just an in-your-face, positive anthem. A kind of turn-the-negative-into-the-positive song.’
Jon: ‘In another way, we also wrote that song for our friends who did pass away. Kinda like a tribute.’
So what are the other influences for your lyrics? For example the first song of the album, ‘Rain Wizard’.
Jon: ‘That’s actually an old story that John Fred’s dad used to tell us.’
John Fred: ‘Yeah, that story is from 1986, I was like two years old. Where I live, there’s a crossroad and we have an old general store. So a lot of people passed through our village, to pass by the store which was owned by my great-grandparents. So there was also this old black man, who was like an uncle to me ‘cause he lived with us. He always kept an eye on everything and one day there was this weird man walking down the road with a wizard hat on this head. So Jakey, the old black man, he went to my dad and said “Man, you gotta come check this out!”. So they walked to the man and asked him if he needed help but the guy wasn’t talking. He was just mumbling this weird language. So when they drove to him again, he then just passed over the mountain, he was gone. And that’s really weird ‘cause behind the mountain there’s this huge plain area.
So over the years, there has been a lot of myths going on about rain wizards. Weird men who passed by through the village and brought rain with them. It’s kinda mystical. But we were just kids back then and we were like “That’s crazy man, what the hell are you talking about?”. And so we wrote a song about it.’
How did you get signed to Roadrunner Records?
John Fred: ‘Well, first we signed with In De Goot and they set up two showcases for us; one privately for Roadrunner and then one for another bunch of labels. Roadrunner seemed to be so laidback and genuinely enjoy the music that we really thought that RR would be the right choice for us. They are as laidback as we are so we wanted to be on a label that just feels like home.
Besides that, they have lots of great bands signed. Black metal, death metal, all kinds of metal and they’re all great bands. And we thought it would be cool for us to be on such a label because they focus on the metal genre only. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with other types of music ‘cause we are as well influenced by all kinds of music. But they just give a 100% for you at Roadrunner. And the people at RR are really nice, here in Europe too.’
So coming back to the recording of the album. Why did you decide to record the album back home with your dad?
John Fred: ‘Well, we always recorded in Glasgow, Kentucky, which is in the county Chris, Jon and I live in. Ben lives in the next county. But anyways, we recorded all of our demos there as well. So, and that’s another good thing of Roadrunner, they let us recording our album where we had always done that.
Of course it’s cool to have a producer come it from outside but that wouldn’t really work for us. What makes us so close it that it’s only this group of people. And a person from outside the group would probably completely alter the sound. Roadrunner was kind enough, and smart enough, to let us do it the way we always did it and let us record the album with Richard [Young, John Fred’s dad]. He’s really good at song structures and that was really cool for us. You know, just that guidance and his knowledge. He’s a real music mastermind. And of course you can’t fire your dad, haha!’
Jon: ‘He’s always been with the group and we’re all like brothers. And we just like to torment the hell out of each other. It’s actually good that we do that because in that way we learned not to bother about someone criticising us. Nobody is gonna be smart enough and well enough to get us to the nerves the way we know.’
In one sentence, I know it’s gonna be hard, but one sentence only; why should people check out your album?
John Fred: ‘One sentence…ehm…well…ehm…I don’t know, hahaha! Well, because it’s something…ok…Black Stone Cherry’s music touches people…I don’t know man!
Jon: ‘Black Stone Cherry’s music is better than a tall cup of coffee!’ [John Fred just figured out how the coffee-machine worked.]
John Fred: ‘Hmm…what are we gonna say?’
Jon: ‘Buy the record and we’ll hunt you down!’
John Fred: ‘But the record and we come and get you! No seriously: because it’s real, true rock music, straight from the heart. And we wear women’s pants! Only on the weekends!’
So, now you’re in Amsterdam, a city every band would love to play in I believe, what can we expect from tonight’s show?
John Fred: ‘A lot of energy! We’re gonna use chickens and lamas and…hahaha! Let me ask you a question then, how is the crowd here anyway?’ [*At this moment we get a whole discussion started on types of crowds, previous tours with Buckcherry and Saliva, Metalrage.com]
Ok, now a question I’d like to ask an many bands as possible. There’s this DVD called: “Metal: A Headbangers Journey”. It’s a documentary I think every metalfan should check out at least once. The question the documentary is based on is: “Why is metal music consistently stereotyped, dismissed and condemned?” Why do you think it is that way?
Jon: ‘Because people are too narrow-minded to see that it’s actually a great form of art. If people would be more open-minded they would be able to see a lot more than just metal music. Smaller example; Everybody in America told us we were gonna hate the food here in Europe. So far, everything we’ve been eating we’ve loved. Everything! You just have to be open minded.’
John Fred: ‘Yeah, open minded people will like metal music, blues, classic rock, rap music, everything! Those people probably live a little bit easier as well. Unless the music is not good, I mean, there’s some music that just sucks, but basically every form of music is good. A while ago somebody – I think it was Josey from Saliva - was telling me that he asked one of his little nephews “What music do you like?” And his nephew answered “Good music”. And I think the best person to ask whether music is good or not is a kid. ‘Cause they won’t lie.’
[At this moment the guys have to leave for a sound check but of course I asked them one last famous questions.] Here’s a stupid question a friend of mine likes to ask bands. In movies, who do you prefer? Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone?
Jon: ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger! He gets all the chicks’
John Fred: ‘I think I’m gonna have to go with Nicholas Cage. No, I don’t know man. I like both of them. I think Arnold acting’s better.’
And so a very laidback interview came to an end. I wanna thank these guys for taking so much time for me. I had a great time talking to them and after that night’s show I turned from somebody who hardly knew anything about Black Stone Cherry into a big fan of theirs in just two days time. You gotta be great to do that! If you’re able to check out their album, which you can do at their website, do so!