Posted March, 2010
When I launched Boomerocity.com almost a year ago, it was my original intent to have the occasional interview with an icon or two from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s. So far, we’ve had a pretty good run of it and have a lot more planned for the future.
However, in the course of my networking for interviews, reviews and stories, I quickly learned that I was doing a great disservice to you, our very loyal readers. See, here’s the deal: There are some great bands and artists out there that have a sound that we Boomer’s would love if we were just exposed to them. If you were to listen to all this new talent, you’d swear that they are from our day. Black Robot is just such a band.
Black Robot is a band you’re really going to love. Why? Well, they’re like a tasty desert with all sorts of your favorite ingredients mixed in. When you devour the tasty treat, your taste buds will recognize each ingredient without one flavor dominating the others. Black Robot is much like the decadent desert I just described.
Do you like AC/DC and Black Sabbath? You’ll love Black Robot. Do you like Lynard Skynard? You’ll love Black Robot. Do you love Cream, Clapton and Harrison? You’re gonna love Black Robot. Do you love the Partridge Family? Then you WON’T love Black Robot.
I was just seeing if you were paying attention.
Black Robot is the brainchild and creation of JB Brightman and lead singer, Huck Johns. Does Brightman’s name sound familiar? If it does, it’s because JB was a founding member and former bassist for the band, Buckcherry.
I recently had the distinct privilege to chat with Brightman about his new band. At the outset of our conversation, I noted the various classic rock influences that I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago.
“I think that we were heavily influenced by the generations that were before us. I would say to myself, ‘Man! I wish that I was born just a little earlier and could’ve seen all the cool stuff that you saw, you know? A lot of people I know that are my age, or younger, are wishing that we were there for all that cool stuff.”
JB’s answer was pretty much matter-of-fact when I asked him for the “Reader’s Digest” version of the story behind the creation of Black Robot?
“I played in a band called Buckcherry. I was the founder of that band. We had a really good run for a point in time. We made two records together but then we just couldn’t stay together as a band. So, we broke up in 2001. We had been through a lot and saw a lot. It was, basically, a bad experience for some of us. That’s why we had to get rid of the band.
“I kept in touch with some of my old band mates and we talked about getting together and making some music. I was introduced to our singer, Huck Johns, through some of the guys in Kid Rock’s band. They said, ‘You’ve got to hear this guy. He’s out of Detroit and he’s a great singer.’
“We became friends and we spent a couple of years putting songs together, getting together whenever we could. The guitar player on this record, Yogi (Lonich), who was in Buckcherry with me, was touring with an artist, Chris Cornell, from Soundgarden (and former lead singer for Audioslave), so it was REALLY hard to get everybody together to do this.
“We finally got together, booked a couple of weeks in a studio, and we said, ‘Hey, let’s make this record the way The Rolling Stones use to make records – the way we heard people use to do – and just go in there with no ideas and just start jamming and rockin’. We’ll just do it the old fashion way.’
“So, we put together the record. We got vintage equipment and vintage amplifiers and vintage microphones and we just started rockin’ out. We recorded everything during 12 to 14 hour days and nights. We just kicked it down. It was an exhausting process but our whole goal was to make a record in the way that older records in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s were made because we thought a lot of the music was degenerating. We wanted to restore some of the feeling of traditional, classic rock and roll. We thought that we could make something that would stand up if you played it 10, 20 or 30 years ago or 10, 20 or 30 years from now. That was our objective and we feel that we hit the mark.”
I used that comment to jump into a discussion about one of the more poignant songs, Mamma Don’t Cry, which sounds like a throwback to the late 60’s or early 70’s with a Hendrix meets Lynard Skynard feel to it. I told JB that I could’ve sworn that the song this was a cover of an older song but my search couldn’t find it, thus, telling me that it was a new, original song by Black Robot.
“You definitely get it. You got us on that one. When people say that they pick up where we’re coming from, then we like that. We think that’s great.
With the exception of the J.J. Cale classic, Cocaine, all of the tunes on this disc are original Black Robot creations. I wondered if the band has had a chance to preview the songs in a live setting and, if so, is there a particular song that resonates with the audience?
“We’ve done these songs live before. We live in the Hollywood area and we’ve been playing shows just in this area for now. We just love it because people out here are a little bit more discriminating and there are a lot of people in the audience that are musicians. So, once they’ve got themselves open to the idea of having a good time, then they seem to like it (the songs from the disc).
“It’s kind of weird. We’ve had this music available for preview and sold a couple of copies from when we had an independent version. Now we have a major release of this project. We booked some shows and we were surprised because people were singing along with the lyrics. The one that everyone likes to sing along with is ‘Cocaine’. It’s high energy and they, at that point in the game, they just start rockin’ out with us.”
I ventured a guess that one of many of my favorite songs, Dissatisfaction, was a real crowd pleaser.
“Yeah, that one definitely rocks. We have a couple of slower songs and people catch that. But, if we have a shorter set then we go right to our rockers. I think it’s really easy music to rock out with.
“A lot of bands want to get more complicated or have a competition of who can do something more elaborate. But we’re just here to be straight up and straight forward and make it really easy to rock with. As you said, you can hear the influences so that makes it even easier for everyone to have a good time because it’s just good time rock and roll.”
Yep, well, it’s definitely ‘there’ – the hooks are there to – it has legs and will be around for a very long time. I gave Brightman my prediction that, in ten years, would be featured music on a future version of Guitar Hero or Rock Band.
“I hope so. I really do. It’s funny that you mention that. For a while, I wasn’t hearing a lot of rock and roll that was new that was in this way. I saw these kids that must’ve been 10 years old, singing these songs from bands like ‘Mountain’ whenever I was in Best Buy. If they’re exposed to rock and roll, they’re going to embrace it.”
I brought the conversation back around to ‘Mamma Don’t Cry’. With the wars going on today and the Vietnam feel of the song, I wanted to know what influenced the creation of that song.
“We all grew up with the impact of Vietnam in our lives - me, particularly, my mother, after her divorce, wound up with a Vietnam veteran who was a Green Beret. He was shell shocked. I had been exposed to that and a lot of us who had grown up in the 70’s, including our singer, did, too. We have a feeling that war is tragic so we’re very aware. Though we’ve never served, we have friends who are in the military.
This song, in particular, is based on a story about a letter to Huck’s mother that he had read. He decided that he wanted to put something on the record that had meaning – that we can kind of give back. We’ve had some people in the military – some military wives – who have discovered our music. It’s really cool to have music that people appreciate that you’re writing about what’s going on in their lives.”
The very well written, I’m In Love, intrigued me so I asked what inspired it.
“With that song, we just really wanted to connect with that feeling of love, what it feels like for anyone to have those feelings. When you try to translate them into songs, it’s really difficult. But, we’ve been through enough relationships that we were able to come together on that. “
When I mused that this song must really have the girls in the audience eating out of their hands, JB responds with a laugh.
“That’s interesting because our girls were all saying, ‘You wrote that about me, right?’ We were all, like, ‘Yes! We did! We wrote it about YOU! EXACTLY about you!’
“Of course, we did, in all seriousness. It’s good because the way we made the record, we wanted to have all different feelings. When you play the record from start to finish – if you can imagine playing a vinyl record the way you use to, you would go through these different feelings – different tempos. We wanted to take it there.”
Thinking that another song on the disc, Stop The World, was another love song, Brightman’s comments about it caught me by surprise.
“Well, that’s actually a song about our singer, Huck. He’s got a child in Michigan and, unfortunately, he can’t be with him because he’s got to work and play music which requires him to live out here (in California). It eats away at him that he can’t be with his son when he wants to be. He wrote that song to talk about him being a dad to let his son knows that he misses him every single day.
“It’s one of those songs, when you miss someone or are thinking of someone, it could be interpreted as something romantic or the feeling you get when you miss someone in your life in general.”
Black Sabbath and Ozzy fans are going to love, 23 Days of Night. When I mentioned to JB that the song put me in mind of Sabbath’s, Killing Yourself To Live, he chuckled and said, “That is SO on the money! I think when we get in there and we have something that sounds like something from other artists, our goal is to write the song they didn’t have the chance to write. We’re, like, ‘This is a song that Black Sabbath never got a chance to write!’”
Well, the boys definitely met and exceeded that objective.
The final cut on the CD, Nervous Breakdown, is one of the most intense songs that I have heard in quite awile. I asked Brightman to fill me in on some of the background of it.
“With that one, we all connected because we’ve all had REALLY bad relationships, as everyone does. It’s part of the learning process. We sat down and talked about things before we started writing lyrics together. It’s just a song that we were all able to throw in our mutual experiences, talk about it, and then approached it in the song. It’s about when things are really, really good with someone and really, really bad with someone. It’s a difficult thing.”
When asked about touring plans and other supporting projects, JB indicates that, “We’re going to try to hit everywhere in the U.S. We’re making that a priority. Since we live on the West Coast, we’re going to start with some dates nearby and maybe on up near Seattle. We’ll get out to Las Vegas and other cities in the West. We do plan on making a couple of trips to the Midwest and to the South, as well. We’ve just got to work it all out.
“Texas is a great place to play. It just takes awhile to get through there. I was thinking about getting a one week mini tour going. Now that you mention it, it’s something that I should focus on.
“We’re also working on a concept video right now. I don’t want to blow the surprise but it’s going to really bring some interest to the band. It’s a pretty good concept. Anyone can keep up with us at our website, blackrobotmusic.com, and we’ve got Twitter and Facebook. We’ll have our video posted on YouTube, as well.”
You’ll definitely want to keep your eye on Black Robot. They’ll are already a band that commands attention wherever they perform. As long as they maintain their high level of songwriting excellence, we’ll be hearing from JB and the boys for years to come.
They’re self-titled debut album will be available April 13, 2010, on Rocket Science Ventures.