Interview: Black Stone Cherry
Fri, 29 Aug 2008 10:01:16
Black Stone Cherry Videos
Black Stone Cherry's Ben Wells is an old school axeslinger in the purist sense of the word. His fretwork bares the trappings of old school blues and southern rock, but he's got a distinctly modern flair. Black Stone Cherry's sophomore record for Roadrunner, Folklore & Superstition, weaves a new Southern lore all its own, via big rock choruses and downright tasty riffs. In this exclusive interview, Ben took some time to talk to ARTISTdirect about Folklore, his favorite Kentucky legends, cave exploring and much more.
Folklore & Superstition feels like a real step up from your first record. What was the making of it like?
It was a lot of fun. It took about a month to record it. We did it in Nashville. We're from Kentucky, so it's not that far from us at all. It was great to go to Nashville and record. We were at a studio called Blackbird, which is owned by John & Martina McBride. It's actually one of the most premiere studios in the states right now. The studio has such a great collection of vintage microphones and equipment—anything you want. It was great trying new things.
The album has a real eclectic vibe in terms of the tone. Do you think being in that studio and using a lot of the vintage equipment helped with that?
I think that's always going to be a part of us. The studio was surrounded by Beatles stuff, so that really helped too [Laughs]. We used a lot of Les Paul and Gretsch guitars—anything that sounded good. When we recorded, we got to use a lot of vintage stuff, which makes that classic sound on the record. We like to keep our minds open. We've even thought about doing acoustic shows. Playing acoustic is how I learned harmonies.
You come up with such great riffs. Are the riffs the foundation for your songwriting process?
Yeah, pretty much. Everything pretty much starts with an initial riff. We're usually working on something and always messing around on our guitars.
One of the standout tracks is "Sunrise." It has a reggae feel.
We actually had that song for a while. We were practicing it one night, and then we played the chorus and made it into reggae. We never heard a rock song that sounded like reggae, and we wanted to do something like that. We really tried to set the bar higher for ourselves.
You hear something like "D'Yer Maker" by Led Zeppelin, and it's got that old school vibe where anything goes on the record. You're drawing from that sentiment. Another track that stood out was "Ghost of Floyd Collins." Who is Floyd Collins?
He's a really famous cave explorer from Kentucky. Back in the 1920s, he was widely known for trying to find passages in the Mammoth Cave. While trying to find a passage in the Mammoth Cave, he got hung up inside a sand cave, and he was trapped there. His family sent food and water down for him. The press got a hold of it came down to report, always try to keep local stories and local traditions. That's where we took this story from. People say that his ghost still haunts that area.
It's a pretty crazy story. Have you spent any time in those caves at all?
Yeah, it's not that far from where I live. It's just a few miles.
The songs have a really narrative vibe based on the local characters you choose to write about. Would you say that's the case?
Yeah, there's a lot of scenery in the songs. I feel like people get a kick out of that. "Reverend Wrinkle" is about a few people back home, and their personalities are reflected in the song. I think everybody has people who are a little different in their lives like that. We always have stories.
Do you feel like you embrace your roots more on this one?
I think so. Our producer brought a lot of that out of is. It's not something we're gonna go away from, just make it more prominent. It's what the people like because you don't see that southern rock anymore.
Only a few bands make it happen. How do the new songs sound live?
They're going really good man. People are really digging the music. We're still working them into the set, but people really like them.
Why was the album called Folklore & Superstition?
It reflects the overall vibe of the record. We like to tell stories, hence the "Folklore." The "Superstitions" thing is just a thing that has always been a part of the South. It's just the vibe of the record and the mentality we want people to have while listening to it. For me, music is taking a story and turning it into a song.