The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world




JUNE 2016



KENTUCKY is BLACK STONE CHERRY's Best album so far, the band went all the way back to their roots to put together a searing slab of Southern-tinged rock. It may just be the album to take them all the way to the major leagues. We caught up wth bassist John Lawhon in the third of four individual interviews with the band as the tour approaches...

The Rockpit: Many thanks for talking to The Rockpit today John.


John: Absolutely, thank you for talking to me.


The Rockpit: The fantastic fourth BLACK STONE CHERRY album KENTUCKY has been out for a while now and it’s so far our favourite release of the year. Tell us a little about the feedback so far? John: So far so good, it debuted at number one over here in the Rock charts and number one in the UK, 15th overall in the US and 5th overall in the UK and it charted again in 20 or 30 other countries so no complaints as far as chart positions, but more importantly the fans really seem to enjoy it, I was just talking to a few last night and they were really excited about the album and insisting from now we always produce our own stuff! They felt that it was the best record that we’d ever put out and the production quality didn’t dip at al. They thought it was rawer and more organic sounding, which is what they liked. So no complaints and we’ll keep playing and pushing forward!


The Rockpit: It’s definitely our favourite Black Stone Cherry as well, and going down pretty good here too, all looking good for your first visit Downunder?


John: Yeah we have a week of before we get on the plane and fly those 24 hours it takes to see you guys (laughs). Australia has been on our bucket list for a real long time. The Rockpit: That’s great to hear. You played with Buckcherry over in the US and you’re over here with Steel Panther who are a regular visitor to our shores, have you played with those guys before? John: We never played with them on a tour; we did a few Festivals and got to play the Golden God awards in the UK earlier in the year where they were the announcers and giving out the awards! They were really great fun!


The Rockpit: Getting right onto Kentucky, probably the heaviest thing you’ve done to date…


John: Oh yeah!


The Rockpit: You went back to your hometown and recorded with the same engineer in the same studio where it all began and produced the album yourselves. Tell us the thinking behind that move was it a desire to get back to basics, reconnect with your roots and blow away a few cobwebs after ten busy years?


John: Well we left the label Roadrunner in January of last year after we finished a headlining tour. It was a great tour for us, we headlined the first time in the UK and everything was either sold out or 98% sold so it was a great time for us. Then we parted with the label on mutual terms as Roadrunner had recently been consumed by Warner, and Warner is really more programmed for pop and mainstream Rock radio stuff and that’s not really us. We’re more salt of the earth, we grew up playing music it wasn’t like we grew up learning how to program music, we grew up as players. So then were started looking at each other and wondering, ‘now what’? What do we do? We thought that we might not sign for another label, or maybe do a license deal or something like that, and that’s pretty much what we ended up doing, we got a license deal with Mascot so we own our own maters and get to call the shots. And those guys are super helpful, really energetic and motivated and really good at getting the right thing done at the right time. So it worked out really well for us. And in terms of the new record we decided that we wanted to go home, why spend $250,000 on a record when we knew for a fact that we could achieve the same thing or better right here at home. We could do it here and go home to our wives and our kids at night and be in a working environment that was comfortable and not pressured for time, so it just made a lot of sense for us to return home and do it the way that we did it. That’s also kind of where the title came with too, so it did end up being a return to the original and rejuvenating spirit of the band.


The Rockpit: There’s some great songs on there everything from the first single ‘The Way of the Future’ which really hits the ball out of the park to ‘In Our Dreams’ and ‘Soul Machine’ which I was really glad you released as a single. It’s the cover of ‘War’ though that might surprise a few, such an iconic song and one you guys really put your own stamp on?


John: Thank you, yeah a lot of people probably don’t realise the sort of roots we have and where we come from and Motown has always been an influence on all of us, especially me as a bass player James Jamerson (the uncredited bassist on most Motown hits of the 60’s and early 70’s) has always been a humungous influence on me. That guy! He invented the proper style of how to play bass! So when we were looking through songs to have as B-sides that one kinda came up and we thought it was cool, but when we played it that one in particular as we were tracking it sounded great, it sounded like us, felt right and absolutely fits the times we’re in today. And when we were half way done with it we were like ‘yes, this definitely has to be on the record’.


The Rockpit: It’s a great song on a great album. It must be hard with this being the first time you’re coming down to see us in Australia to pick a set? Are you going to be pretty much playing the current set, or doing something a little different for us?


John: I think it will be pretty much what we’re doing in the rest of the world and we’ll try to get as much of Kentucky on there as possible. I mean I know we’ve released other records down there in the past, but there’s never been a major push on those so we’ll try to play as much as possible but there are of course the hits we’ve had in the past that we’ll have to do too. But more than anything it’s just great to be able to come down there and play in Australia and show people what we can do in a live setting because it’s not your typical show: It’s a performance, a real live show where everything you hear is coming directly off the deck, no tracks, no machines! If anyone makes a mistake you hear it! If somebody falls down and drops a guitar that goes away (laughs). There’s nothing artificial about us, we’re a very organic, real live band.


The Rockpit: I loved watching the Live DVD from last year’s UK Tour that was a great taste of what we’re going to get in June. A really great concert DVD.


John: Why thank you.


The Rockpit: You mentioned earlier that Motown’s James Jamison was a great influence on you as a bass player, who did you also look to growing up as a musician? John: Oh gosh, everything from Classic rock, Motown, Blues, Jazz. We have a real strong Southern and Classic Rock backbone to the band as we all grew up on Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith, Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers and stuff like that. And some more obscure stuff like one of the cover versions we did was ‘Evil’ but it was the version that Cactus did back in the day rather than the Howlin’ Wolf original. And that was a great song for us as it encapsulated two different genres of music that are very important to us, it was originally a Blues song and then it was redone by a Classic Rock band. Our version is more like that later version, and a lot of people don’t even realise that which is kind of a shame as a lot of people don’t even recognise Cactus these days. As a player though for me though it’s Tom Hamilton (of Aerosmith) and James Jamison, I’m a big Aerosmith fan, but the list could go on for days! But I’d bore you to death (laughs)!



The Rockpit: I think the whole band has a real affinity with those guys, and I could talk Aerosmith all day long!


John: Me too! We’ve always wanted to tour with them but the opportunity has never come up, though we’ve played Festivals with them. We’ve been lucky enough to catch up with everybody except Joe Perry and Steve Tyler sadly, but Brad Whitford and Tom Hamilton, Tom Hamilton actually talked to us when we played our first festival in the UK, it was raining and he had an umbrella and was on the phone with his wife, when he saw us he came up to us started talking to us and told his wife he’d call her back as he had a really cool band he wanted to talk to! And that was a huge honour for us; we couldn’t believe that Tom Hamilton had got off the phone to his wife to talk to us of all people! (laughs)


The Rockpit: (laughs) As well as Aerosmith you’ve played with some great bands over the years, who has been the most inspiring to play with so far?


John: Oh man, that’s difficult. The highlight tour for us that we always go back to was we did the Bad Company, Lynyrd Skynyrd Tour back in 2013 here in the states, and we’ve always been big fans of Skynyrd, but also Bad Company too so that was really cool. But aside from that we also did Whitesnake and Def Leppard in the UK, and that tour was a big influence on us, I mean none of us are humungous Whitesnake or Def Leppard fans but we’ve always had great respect for them. But when we did the tour David Coverdale came into our dressing room day one, shaving (laughs) just kinda walked in with is electric razor, wandered in, ‘hey guys’ welcome to the tour’ he was just very gracious, a very kind human being, and all of the Def Leppard guys when you went into catering would be like ‘Boys, come and sit down and talk to us’. It’s not every day that you get to be with rock icons like that and they’re that kind.


The Rockpit: You must have made a great impression and I guess that kind of class doesn’t come with every headliner! Just to close, a couple of quick questions for you: If you could have been a fly on the wall for the creation of any great album just to see how the magic happened and the songs came together what would it have been for you and why?


John: Probably ‘Abbey Road’, The Beatles have always been a massive, massive influence on us, especially lyrically, and their harmonies too, and that’s something a lot of bands don’t do, but everyone in our and sings. One of the first things we ever learned to do was sing ‘Nowhere Man’ acapella, the whole point of it was (aside from the fact that we loved the song) was that we wanted to be able to sing, and sing well together. It was a really important thing for us and listening to The Beatles definitely helps! But Abbey Road would be the one, and we were very fortunate to have the opportunity to go to the Abbey Road studios and check it out, and we did the walk, did the album cover! Very touristy, but very good for us.


The Rockpit: It’s pretty hard to resist isn’t it, I did that walk myself once with a few friends. John: It is I even walked the crossing with a cigarette! The Rockpit: So you were Mr McCartney! (Paul McCartney walks the crossing with a cigarette on the cover of the album and was of course The Beatles bass-player) That’s pretty cool. John: Oh yes!


The Rockpit: One final question for you then John, a pretty easy one! What is the meaning of life?


John: Try to leave it a little bit better than you found it. That’s the best I can describe it.


The Rockpit: Thank you so much for talking to us today John, see you soon and have a safe flight. John: Thank you very much, thanks for taking the time.



Black Stone Cherry play with Steel Panther on their Australian Tour June 2016

Friday, 17th June - Big Top, Sydney
Tickets: Oztix

Saturday, 18th June - Festival Hall, Melbourne
Tickets: Ticketmaster

Monday, 20th June - Eatons Hill Hotel, Brisbane
Tickets: Oztix

Wednesday, 22nd June - Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide
Tickets: Ticketmaster

Thursday, 23rd June - Metro City, Perth
Tickets: Megatix

Sunday, 26th June - Powerstation, Auckland



Want more Black Stone Cherry?




CLICK HERE to read our KENTUCKY review 2016



John Lawhon spoke to Mark Rockpit - June 2016  


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