BLACKBERRY SMOKE (Richard Turner)-Interview from the past (2005)
This is a long gone interview with BLACKBERRY SMOKE from 2005 . I heard about BS at a online webstore. Maybe it as CD baby. I bought the album and wrote a review at the Metal Invader webzine. By the time they found out,they send a thank you email and we arrange an online (email) interview. The webzine is long gone (actually works the last few years under new management). I decided to repost the interview (i manged to retrieve from my old archives) mostly because it is among the first ones in European press. Long before Classic Rock discover the hype of Southern rock, a webzine in Greece, carried the confederacy flag of Southern rock and i hope you like what you ll read. A promising band at their first steps. Thank you Mr.Turner and co for all the good music and vibes.
There Is no smoke without fire
BLACBERRY SMOKE are one of these bands ,that they need all the luck they can get. They are from the South, playing hard kicking ass southern hard rock, and have released a cd that has been reviewed In METAL INVADER and came as a surprise In the dry land of last years production. They got the music and the attitude, but how far can you go, when you are not In the hype. Hopefully too far as long as people like us like good music and looking for It and bands like BLACKBERRY SMOKE producing It. They found some to to be more accurate Mr.Richard Turner, the bass player, to explain us a few things, about what it likes to play southern rock In 2005.A man of his words speaks freely, about the difficulties of being a musician and what racism, means or not for a Southern. Enjoy a true musician and as It seems a fine man also (as long as you don’t mess with his wife)
At last I found some time for the questions
First of all a few words about the band, a short bio, when did you start the band, where and why?
We were resurrected from the burnt ashes of alt-country band BUFFALO NICKEL of Universal Records fame…Guitarist-Charlie Starr, brothers Drummer-Brit Turner and Bassist-Richard Turner reformed as a trio for a short period, adding a second guitarist Paul Jackson to form what is now known around the world as BLACBERRY SMOKE. Formed in Atlanta, Georgia in 2002 and named by none other than Chris Robinson of the BLACK CROWES/NEW EARTH MUD fame
I guess for anyone listening to the cd the influences are obvious, but what about those who don’t know you, who you will describe as influence and how?
We are very influenced by local legends the ALLMAN BROTHERS, LYNYRD SKYNYRD, ATLANTA RHYTHM SECTION, as well as some west coast bands such as LITTLE FEAT and the EAGLES. We are very proud of a fella from Waycross, Georgia by the name of Gram Parsons. And who can forget “the Band”? What a great volume of work.
You are releasing a self financed album, how did you choose this option and not using a company?
Having been signed to a number of labels over the years, we came to decide, “Who needs ‘em?” Promises broken, bills blown WAY out of proportion…you’ve heard the horror stories.
Having toured with SKYNYRD,or just open a few concerts for them, how did you get the gig? What is the feeling to play before the living legends of Southern rock?
I was listening to the radio in my car and heard the SKYNYRD show announcement for Lakewood Amphitheater in Atlanta, and I called our agent Craig Newman of A.P.A in Los Angeles, and just out of curiosity asked if he could get us on the show. He called their agent and initially all was good, then the promoter refused us on the bill, so SKYNYRD ,out of consideration, offered us a show in Dallas, Texas. Several other shows came and went and we all got along great, and the rest is history.
All in all, the feeling of standing in front of about 20,000 people is awesome.
On your album you choose to cover a song from another underrated southern/hard rock band, GEORGIA SATELLITES, why?
Well you can’t deny it’s great music, and we like to associate ourselves with great music, so it’s very natural that we would cover a lesser known artist, and speaking of the SATELLITES, I hung out with guitarist Rick Richards last night and invited him to come play on our new record we’re currently working on.
Tell us a little about your album producer, did he bring the experience from JACKAL, did he interfere with the songs?
Jesse Dupree offered us his studio for REAL CHEAP and we accepted and you can hear the lack of funding in the recording, but hell, it was a lot of fun and a great experience and we to this day play shows together and he actually lives about 2 miles from me, so we remain close friends.
You include a few live recordings, I assuming right that it was financial reasons that didn’t let you do proper recordings of these songs in the studio?
I’m going to come clean about this for the first time ever…as you are probably well aware, lot’s of bands fake the audience, or DUB it in…Peter Frampton, is the biggest example. Shooter Jennings' latest record has a canned audience on at least one track. The crowd you are hearing on our record, is from the 1970’s off the ZZTOP live record! You can actually hear someone yelling “ZZTOP!” in the audience if you listen real closely.
Your songs are always about the troubled side of life. Are BLACKBERRY SMOKE a bunch of street kids with heavy southern accent, or the warm hearted guys, South used to be famous for?
A little of both I suppose, we’re not strangers to the occasional bar-fight and were actually attacked between sets on one show a few years ago, but that’s rock and roll! Our philosophy is, we’re all here to have a good time, but if you lay a hand on our women, you will get your teeth kicked in. Pretty simple really.
Playing southern rock in our days is probably the most unfashionable thing you could ever imagine. Why you didn’t prefer some sleaze rock direction or a country direction as both would sell probably more?
Bucking the system is why I was put on earth it seems. Following the trend is suicide, usually, because by the time the trend reveals itself, it’s already over. Plus we were never really hip on wearing makeup and the like. And breaking into country is like robbing a bank, Nashville is filled to the top with the very finest unemployed musicians in the world and if they don’t fit a very particular format, they get ignored.
Who is responsible for the photo and the artwork. Let me guess from your email address you work at some kind of design office , so it has to be you?
You are very correct!
What is the reaction to the album till now?
We steadily sell out of records on tour, and our website is working very well to get the cd into a lot of international hands, like yours.
Are there any plans for a second album, and better promotion?
We are working on the second record right now, as we have some time off. Bradford Todd (Faith Evans #2 Billboard debut) and Sean Groves (SEVEN DUST/COLLECTIVE SOUL) will produce and engineer, and a good handful of talent will be on hand to lend piano, etc. (Joey Huffman of MATCHBOX20/SOUL ASYLUM/WILD CHERRY and Keith Richards, etc.). Rick Richards of the GEORGIA SATELLITES may join in for some guitar ripping as well.
Your sound is guitar oriented, is there any possibility to mix it with some piano or keyboards in the future, to get that honky tonk sound a lot of southern bands use?
When we can afford it! Well actually we are adding a little dobro, more piano/hammond as I already stated and perhaps a bit of banjo and pedal steel.
As a young band you may have heard of DRIVE BY TRUCKERS, MY MORNING JACKET, KINGS OF LEON, get praised by the magazines as the future of southern rock. On the other hand bands like you and the ALLIGATOR STEW, RAGING SLAB, seem to be forgotten, how do you feel about it?
I keep a list of all the people I’m going to punch in the mouth for giving praise to crap.
Do you think the success of bands like NASVILLE PUSSY could give some help to bands like yours?
We have done several shows with NASVILLE PUSSY and will continue to do so, as soon as Blaine and Rhyder get their guitars replaced, (they were just stolen at the Atlanta Airport upon return from France last week!)
How did you felt reading a review good one, for your album in a webzine in Greece?
We add it to the pile of other great reviews we get from overseas…it seems that the road is paved for us to come over to Europe, etc. and deliver the goods. We are always truly thrilled to get a review period.
Your wildest dream as a musician?
Four women in the bed at once…uh…that’s no longer a dream…so it has to be the ability to not worry about financing and to support my family and see the world doing what I LOVE to do.
Any plans for touring outside US?
Absolutely. We’d really like to get on a USO tour, or support some huge assed band like U2 or the Stones, etc.
Southern people are accused a lot of time for conservatism, and racism, gives us your opinion on that ?
Racism exists everywhere…for instance you cannot say the “N” word in Toronto Canada without getting in a fight with a white person… this I have actually witnessed. But it’s a free-for-all to insult the Pakistani man for coming into Canada and taking a job from a Canadian. To continue to single out the South as racist is just plain ridiculous. And as far as conservatism goes, I was taught to turn the light off when I left the room and that was to conserve electricity. That is how I define conservatism. I am a pro-life, pro-family, white-boy and realize that it’s the differences in all of us that make the world a truly wonderful place and I do not believe that I am ‘right’ and the other guy is ‘wrong’, I just do what is right for me and let the other guy do what is right for him. We all have our politics, but to think our own beliefs are the best or to impose them on others is to disregard the differences that make life worth living. Now if the other guy thinks touching my wife in an inappropriate manner is ‘right’, then we have a problem.
Thanks for your time and I hope the next album will give us a chance to speak in person
Thanks for the opportunity and we look forward to meeting you!