(This week we continue you our look back at some past Bands of the Week with Blacklist Union from November 2008)
This week’s Band of the Week is Hollywood, California’s Blacklist Union. I had a brief chat with vocalist Tony West and drummer Sean Davidson about the band, their motivation and living in Hollywood.
Rock and Roll Report: I like to use the term Rock and Roll instead of just plain rock since I find it to be more inclusive. I think it is cool that you literally shuffled from the East coast New York punk scene to the West Coast hard rock/metal scene in your formative years. What is your definition of rock and roll?
Tony West: Rock N Roll is sticking to your own vision NO MATTER WHAT. Not selling out your art and music to some corporate giant that doesn’t give a fuck about art in the first place….
Sean Davidson: To me it is any music that makes you want to drink, fuck, and fight. I don’t care about all the sub genres and bull shit call it what ever you like. For me either music is good or bad.
RRR: I think it is safe to say that you are a Hollywood band through and through. I mean the personal drama combined with the shit you have gone through as a band up to know sounds like the clichéd Hollywood experience. Now I know you are a very outspoken musician in a town that loves to praise you on the one hand and stab you in the back on the other. How do you deal with it all?
TW: I don’t involve myself with drama especially Hollywood drama. It means nothing. I just want to make music and hang out with my 2 year old son and my girl Amber. I run from drama.
SD: There will always be haters, thats all there is to it. You can’t please everyone and you can’t loose focus of what you are trying to do just because someone says something bad about your band, fuck them they are probably to scared to be in an original band and put themselves out there to be judged, so their opinion means nothing to me. No band in history has been loved by everyone. Do you think Marilyn Manson cares that people buy his records just to burn them in protest? HELL NO! they are boosting his sales and actually driving their kids to listen to him. The saying, “there is no such thing as bad press” I firmly believe that. Some of things I hear from random people about Tony honestly blow my mind.
RRR: It is obvious from listening to a song like Sixty Five Steps Away that music for you is very cathartic and allows you to deal with some pretty heavy emotions. I still believe in the redemptive powers of great music but in this day and age of the disposable pop song you sometimes have to wonder. What do you think music brings to our experience? Why is music necessary?
TW: Music heals. It heals my pain and it gives others hope and the kind of relatedness one might need when they cant relate to anyone at all.
SD: Music is universal, there has always been music since the beginning of time.. I love the way that you can play a song for ten people and it will touch each one in a different way. That is what is so amazing to me, the fact that Tony’s lyrics may pull some back from the edge, or that some couple might have one of our songs as “their song”. or maybe a fighter listens to us before he gets in the ring, is so humbling and such an honor.
It is amazing to get emails from people across the world saying they are into our music. I hear music everywhere you don’t need amps or drums to have music just walk outside your front door. Trees rustling, the rhythm of traffic, it’s all music.
RRR: Tell us a bit about the band, how you got started and who the members are now.
TW: I started Blacklist Union in 2004. Having a band in Hollywood is a lot like having a wife in Hollywood….It takes a few times to get it right. We got Tony West on Vox (that’s me), Carmine D’Amico on lead guitar, Nicky Shad on rythym guitar, Blitch 66 on bass and Sean Davidson on Drums.
SD: I joined in January of ’07, after my band 8KOunt out of Ohio opened for Blacklist a couple of times. I saw on myspace that they were looking for a drummer, so i called and talked to Tony, he said he remembered me and that i should come out for a week and tryout. I came out and met the guys and have been with them ever since. The energy this lineup puts out on stage is nuts. People don’t know who to watch and I love it.
RRR: You have self-released “Breakin’ Bread with the Devil” after some not so great experiences with Wright Records. This is the kind of shit that happens every day. What do you tell a band faced with the same sort of situation today?
TW: Record companies need you a hell of a lot more than you need them. Don’t be desperate. If they aren’t giving you what you want walk away.
SD: Don’t sign anything with out having a good lawyer look at it first and make sure there is always an out for you. I hear about so many young bands that sign there lives away for nothing and are in these insane contracts that they can’t get out of just because they wanted sign a deal so bad they barely even read through it. For us we just were not getting the quality of recording that we needed. Since “After the Mourning” was so well received we now had a mark that we had to at least match, but that we wanted to blow past. The bottom line is we were not going to put out something we weren’t %100 happy with, so we parted ways.
RRR: Some people will argue ’till the cows come home that rock and roll is dead or on its death bed. What do you think?
TW: Rock n Roll aint noise pollution. Rock ‘n Roll will never die, never has, never will. Plus there are a whole new generation of kids that want the rock star back. Well, here we are!
SD: I think they are fucking stupid!!!!!!! I was talking to some little 9 year old kid the other day and he was telling me about how he is in to old school rock, like Chuck Berry. My jaw dropped, a nine year old kid. So many kid are getting turned on to a lot of great rock thanks to things like rock band and guitar hero, they hear some of these great old songs and then get on their computers and start finding all these great bands they didn’t know
were out there. Once you get over what MTV is trying to shove down your throat, which i can barely call music. you can find alot of great music out there. Music is so easily available these days it is great.
RRR: How has your reception been since “Breaking Bread with the Devil” has been released? Do you feel that it is an authentic statement of where Blacklist Union is today?
TW: Breakin’ Bread With The Devil is about a road traveled. Exorcising and casting out demons and getting up after being thrown on the floor over and over. Getting up and dusting yourself off to continue walking again. It was where we were before, we are up to new things now. 65 Steps Away was a very profound song for me and I get to let go of a pain that almost killed me.
SD: I do, this is not the same band that wrote “After the Mourning”, but most people would never know. I think that is hard thing to pull off. I think we wrote some great songs, and the response at our shows since we started playing the new stuff has been great. People are freaking out over the new stuff and i am very proud of the record we made. For all the bullshit we had to go through to get this thing out, it was all worth it.
RRR: What are your plans for the remainder of the year and going into 2009?
TW: We are gonna be touring throughout 2009. We will be going to Europe, Japan and South America as well.
SD: Things usually slow down towards the end of the year for us. We are planning total world domination for next year. We are planning shows in South America, Europe, and Japan. We can’t wait to hit the entire world in the
face with our music.
RRR: How do you feel about the new world of MySpace, podcasting, iPods and Web 2.0? Have you been using any of this stuff to spread the Blacklist Union sound?
TW: I love MySpace and all the Internet tools of networking available today.
SD: Absolutely, it is all free, you would have to be an idiot not to. I can post a message, song, or video on myspace and have 50,000 people check it out instantly. How great is that. We use myspace a lot to help us network with bands in the areas we are touring through. If you rely on the radio to play you new music you are living in a cave. I can’t tell you how many bands I have been turned on to thanks to the internet.
RRR: Tony, you state “Somewhere out there is a kid, like me, who has a fucked-up family and doesn’t know how to escape except through music. If our music brings hope to that one kid, I’ve done my job – I swear to God.” Pretty powerful stuff. Is this still the overriding reason why you are a musician?
TW: That’s why I got into music and it aint gonna change now. I was that kid that got fire and hope from music and somewhere, some place there is a kid that I am reaching, probably at this very moment….
SD: Tony said it, but I agree %100. I know music has saved me many times. I have been sitting there feeling like a piece of shit, when a song will come on that will make me realize it’s not that bad. Maybe you lost some one close to you, maybe you are in a fight with someone you care about, and a song will come on and the lyrics are describing everything you are feeling, it’s almost like that band wrote that song just for you, to tell you “shitty stuff happens to good people, but you can’t let it stop you”. I can say I have felt every emotion possible while listening to music.
RRR: Anything you want to add?
SD: If one of these fucks walks up to you on the street or at a show and tells you rock is dead. Punch them in the throat and tell them it was from Blacklist Union!!!
LONG LIVE ROCK N ROLL
Courtesy of the band here is one of my favourite tracks for your listening pleasure. This is Wicked Love Song from Breakin’ Bread With the Devil