MARK TAYLOR'S BIG CITY NIGHTS
BLACK STONE CHERRY: "THESE SHOWS ARE FOR THE DIE-HARD FANS..."
Words: Mark Taylor, Colour Picture: Mick Hutson
After performing in the UK arenas at the beginning of the year and headlining the Ramblin' Man Fair last summer, Black Stone Cherry return to the UK one again, this time to perform intimate dates in theatres across the land, starting in Cardiff on November 19th and ending in Norwich on December 8th.
Billed as 'An Evening With Black Stone Cherry', these special shows will give fans the chance to 'Experience Kentucky', the home of the band and the birthplace of their latest studio album, 'Kentucky'.
As the band were busy packing their bags for the trip, MetalTalk's Mark Taylor got on the blower to speak to guitarist Ben Wells to find out more about the forthcoming tour.
This tour is billed as 'An Evening With Black Stone Cherry... Experience Kentucky'. What can fans expect from these shows?
"You know it's funny, because even I don't know what to expect. We've done these incredible shows in the UK, including the arenas twice just in the last two years alone. This time we want to take a different approach, it's just us, just the band, there's no support but we're going to do songs we haven't done before, do songs in a different style, some acoustic, whereas in the arenas we don't get that kind of luxury where we can try something a little off guard. These shows are for the die-hard fans.
"We're doing two sets, something which we haven't done before, we're kinda opening up for ourselves in a way. I don't want to give too much away but this is something that we may not get the chance to do again in the future."
What makes you more nervous, playing the arenas or the more intimate shows?
"I get nervous before every show, obviously at the big ones because I think you're more cautious that something can go wrong because of the bigger production and because there's more people to depend on to make the show happen. But for me personally I get butterflies in my stomach before every show because we never want to let anyone down.
"When it comes to a Black Stone Cherry show, what you see is what you get, four guys making live music with no backing tracks. There's a nervous energy that makes it happen."
Well you certainly don't show any nerves on stage from what I've seen of you.
"Yeah! Once you get on stage and kick in, those nerves go away after a song or two. It's a feeling like no other; it's rather spectacular."
This tour actually ends next February in Budapest. When you're on tour for such long periods of time, how do you keep your sanity?
"Well, we do these shows in the UK first then we'll come home for Christmas, then we go back over to mainland Europe in January. You do miss home, you miss your loved ones, family, wife and kids but you also love the experience with your fans so it's a very bittersweet thing. We just try and take the positives; we're all family on the road. The great thing is that as a band we all grew up together and there's a strong bond and friendship between us all."
Your new studio album is called 'Kentucky' and for this tour you've invited fans to 'Experience Kentucky', so if any fans from the UK wanted to visit your homeland, what advice and suggestions would you give them?
"I would say visit Mammoth Cave National Park which is one of the natural wonders of the world. We live about twenty miles away from there. It's the world's largest natural cave system. We take it for granted but people come from all over the world to see it. There's also the Kentucky Derby and the Bourbon Whiskey trail. It's a great place to visit."
You recorded the album in a place called Glasgow. How does Glasgow in Kentucky compare to its namesake, Glasgow in Scotland?
"Well one is big and one is small. You know I live in Glasgow, Kentucky and it's a small town and we've just recently passed the bill so that restaurants could sell liquor to the public, that's how small the town is."
Wow, that really does express how the two Glasgows are totally different from each other.
"I guess ours is a little more country... and their's is a little more... Scottish."
On your new album 'Kentucky', there's a cover version, a surprising choice of Edwin Starr's 'War'. Why did you choose to do that song?
"We were going back and forth deciding what cover to do. People would expect us to do a Lynyrd Skynyrd song or something like that, but with 'War' it would catch people off guard and it came out so good that we wanted to put it on the album rather than just use it as a bonus track. With the climate of the current times of the world we live in, and it was just a fun and catchy song to do, and this version is a little more rocking."
Talking of cover versions, Black Stone Cherry headlined the Sunday at the Ramblin' Man Fair this year and I think you surprised many people by performing a tribute to Lemmy with a version of 'Ace Of Spades'. What did he mean to you?
"Well, we toured with Motörhead in 2009 in Germany. It was incredible. They were one of the last titans of rock'n'roll. They weren't writing songs for success or critical acclaim, they wrote songs for themselves and their fans. We try and model ourselves on that. Motörhead have the most die-hard and most dedicated fans and for us it was a tip of the hat to Lemmy for his music and for being a bad ass rock star."
When Black Stone Cherry first started, you rehearsed in the garage of the Kentucky Headhunters who feature drummer John Fred Young's father in the band. What did it mean to you that you could return the favour by them finally coming to the UK and sharing a stage with you at this year's Ramblin' Man Fair?
"It was incredible, especially as it was something I thought that would never happen. It was almost surreal... they taught us so much when we started and now it was like we were opening the door for them. I've got so much respect for them."
You shot a video for 'The Rambler' and it features Billy Ray Cyrus acting in it. How did he become involved?
"Our director of the video is a good friend with Billy and he played him the song and asked him to star in it. He loved the song and immediately agreed to do it. When the director told us, there was no question about it and we were totally honoured. Billy Ray Cyrus has championed and supported the band and I think the video really turned out great."
What other country rock bands can you advise fans to listen to?
"I would say Cadillac Three - I was listening to them just last night. Blackberry Smoke, there's a new band called Whiskey Myers, a Southern rock band from Texas who are really good. We just toured with them in the summer. Theres also a heavy blues rock band from my home town called Otis who are well worth checking out. I like them very much."
Well hopefully you can bring Otis over with you next time.
"I would love to do that."
Thanks Ben, it's been great talking to you, I'm really looking forward to seeing you at the Shepherds Bush Empire in London.
"We've never played that venue before but we've heard so many nice things about that place so I'm really looking forward to that too."
To celebrate the kick off of their UK tour, Black Stone Cherry have unveiled this great lyric video for 'Shakin' My Cage', taken from 'Kentucky'.
Click here for another 370 and counting gig lowdowns, interviews and more on Mark Taylor's Big City Nights.