Interview: Jet Black Stare
Sat, 19 Jul 2008 17:54:16
"I'm not your typical rock singer," laughs Jet Black Stare's Rod Black. That's an understatement, and he quickly proves it. "My background's the stock market, believe it or not. I used to work with brokers. I'd have to be up super early when the market was open. I dealt with brokers on the East Coast and the West Coast. Check this out. When the day was over, the guys on the East Coast would be going on their yachts, and on the West Coast, they'd be going surfing. It was the funniest thing. I set up contracts to finance my music career. I had a CD store, and I sold it. I wanted a small business, but I decided it was taking away too much time from my music. I got into the stock market by fluke, and the money was really good. I'm a little different." However, Rod's diverse experience has given him quite a palette to draw inspiration from for Jet Black Stare's debut, In This Life [Island/Def Jam]. The Vancouver native has crafted a rollicking rock record chock full of fast riffs and big grooves somewhere between early Motley Crue and Nickelback. His band rocks just as hard as he does, combining high-powered guitar licks and bass-heavy rhythms. It's the perfect soundtrack for summer cruising. Right now, Rod's on the road with Staind, Hinder and 3 Doors Down, but he's taken some time from enjoying the sun in Missouri to talk to ARTISTdirect about his trip from Wall Street to the "Highway to Hell."
You worked with producer Jeff Johnson very closely on the album. What's the creative chemistry like between you two?
Jeff and I have been buddies forever. I had just left another band and started writing songs on my own. He was getting into producing at the time, and he said he'd love to produce my stuff. So I sent him some of my tracks just to get his feedback. We got together, and we just decided to write more. He had some music ideas, and I had some vocal ideas. Pretty soon, we had an album's worth of material. It got shopped to the majors, and I signed with Island/Def Jam in September. The rest is history. We went into the studio right away and put the band together. I didn't have a full band to begin with. Daniel Adair from Nickelback played on half the album, and our drummer Dan Swinimer played on the other half. It's been an interesting road, because we didn't know what to expect. It's cool though.
It's such riff-driven music. Do you guys usually start writing the riffs?
Jeff is a master of that, to be honest with you. I'm more about chords. You can hear it on "Fly" and "In this Life"—those kinds of songs. The riff songs are Jeff's forte. We just combine ideas, and then we've got songs. The chemistry is incredible.
Would you say it's really organic?
Oh yeah, we sit down, and we'll just say, "Ok, this is the idea I have for a song." Then we'll just put it into place. Some of the songs on this album are a lot more personal. "I'm Breathin'" is about me flatlining when I was 19. But, some songs like "Ready to Roll" are just about a good time. You've been working nine-to-five all week, and you want to jump in your car, takeoff and feel good along the way. That's pretty much what that's all about.
What's the story behind "I'm Breathin'"?
Well, I was 19-years-old, and I was trying to impress some girls at a party, so I drank 190-proof moonshine. It was a good amount of moonshine too. I got rushed to the emergency room, and I was pronounced dead. The doctors and everyone in the room thought they were going to lose me. I was thinking that I was in a dream. It was just very surreal. I woke up the next day in a hospital room thinking, "That was a weird dream." I was still in a daze, because I drank a lot of alcohol. However, the doctor came in and said, "We lost you last night. You died, and we brought you back." I was like, "What?" You think that's strange. A few months later, I went to a party, not even thinking about drinking, because that changed my life forever. I just wanted to get out, but I was in a car accident that night. I was the passenger in the back seat. We flipped around six or seven times in a farmer's field, and I wasn't wearing a seatbelt. The driver and passenger flew out on the first roll, and I stayed in the car. It was kind of like NASCAR, when they're locked in the cockpit. I got wedged between the driver's seat and the windshield, and I kept rolling with it. You could say I look at music differently. I don't look at it as the mighty dollar. Because I worked in the stock market, I didn't want any of that. That wasn't my purpose. If the money comes, great, but I do it because I love it. I got the opportunity, and I did it. I'm very fortunate to be around this.
“You could say I look at music differently. I don't look at it as the mighty dollar.”
Even though there is some heavy subject matter, the record's a lot of fun at the same time.
It's all about being positive. Everybody's got a story to tell. The story I have to tell may be out of the norm, but I'm sure people have been through similar situations—car accidents and stuff like that. It's about a positive experience though. Enjoy everyday while you're here on this earth. That's why we named it In this Life. Treat people the way you wanted to be treated. That's life. Enjoy it. Have you listened to "Poster Princess?"
Yeah, it's a really solid rock tune!
Well, that's a totally different side of us. That's about a stripper. The story behind that is everyone wants to go home with a stripper, but they don't realize that girl's on stage because she's saving money for college tuition or something like that. Everyone's got a different idea of it. Our idea was this girl's going home to a man, but it's a little boy. She's trying to support her son. People look at strippers like, "Oh, give me a break," but they're still humans too. There's a sexiness to this album, but there's a seriousness as well.
You can vibe with so many different themes.
I try. Jeff is an amazing songwriting partner, and we're going to continue to work together. We've already started working with other artists too. When you have that kind of chemistry with someone, you can go, "You know what, dude? I want this to be a positive album. There are stories, but they need to be put in a positive light." Jeff was like, "I totally agree with you." Maybe that has a lot to do with our chemistry. The credit goes out to him just as much. The band I have is amazing. I'm honored to be on stage with these guys everyday. They're also the nicest guys.
You have a very traditional mentality.
It's an honest show. We're not faking that we're into the songs. As long as you're honest about it, people will be into it. There was this negative side to rock for so long. It's anger. To me, it's going to go back to stadium rock over the next four or five years. It's going to be people having a good time. You can have a beer with your girlfriend, wife or whatever. It's all about a good song. Going back to Led Zeppelin, a good song is a good song. If stuff's written for money, people can see through that. People want to be entertained.
You've got the right venue to entertain now, being on tour with bands like Staind and 3 Doors Down.
We're ready to learn on these tours, whatever we can do to make it easy for the headliners. We've been given an opportunity. So we're not going to blow it. We're going to enjoy it. I'm here, because I believed in myself, and my family was behind me. Family is key. A lot of people don't realize that. I talk to my mom all the time!