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Black Bonzo

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Joakim Karlsson of Black Bonzo from 2007


MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Can you catch the readers up a bit on your musical history?
That's a tough one, we have all played in a lot of different bands with lot of different sounds. Punk rock, heavy metal, death metal, plain pop, progressive metal, jazz, blues and stuff like that. No point in namedropping any of the bands as they didn't make any bigger impact. But the first time we all did play together as a band was in Gypsy Sons Of magic, a sort of 70's groove oriented rock outfit. We only recorded a couple of demos as Gypsy Sons of Magic, and it didn't sound anything like Black Bonzo.

Our new bass player Anthon Johansson did a record with a band called Moon Safari before he left his guitar duties with them and became a bass player in Black Bonzo. Our original bassplayer Patrick Leandersson decided to leave the band after Lady of the light due to personal reasons.

MSJ: I know artists are not crazy about having their music pigeon-holed, but how would you describe your sound?
It's not that we don't like it, it's just a little hard to be objective
when you are talking about your own music, but i would say we play a sort of heavy rock with progressive influences.
MSJ: Who do you see as musical influences?
We are mainly influenced by bands such as Queen, King Crimson, Uriah Heep, Jethro Tull, Yes and The Beatles and many many bands from that particular era. And of course each other, when everyone within the band are quite a songwriting talent it's hard to ignore the fact that it becomes like a competition, where we always attempt to outdo each other songwriting-wise and musicaly, but in a friendly manner. So, i think that's what keeps us on edge.

MSJ: Where did the name for the band come from?
Despite what everyone thinks it got nothing to do with the late great drummer of Led Zeppelin. I just thought that The Bonzo Dog Do-Dah band was a really cool name so we lifted Bonzo out of there and added some color, and there you go - Black Bonzo was born.
MSJ: What's ahead for you?
We have a mini tour coming up in September. After that we are going to start recording our third album, which hopefully will be released May / June sometime next year. We've already written all the material and it's going to be a little different. Then we are going to Philadelphia to play The Rites of spring festival in March next year. That's gonna be our first visit to USA so we are really excited about that.

MSJ: Are there musicians you'd like to play with in the future?
I wouldn't mind playing some riffs with Brian May, or do some organ/guitar duelling with Ken Hensley.
MSJ: Do you think that downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians? It's been said by the major labels that it's essentially the heart of all the problems they are having in terms of lower sales - would you agree?
I think a little bit of both, I mean it's easier to get your music out there but it's harder for the record companies to actually make some money. But there's no point in whining about it, it was the same thing with cassette tapes. Maybe not in the same extent as it is with downloads. You just have to learn to get around the problem, which I think the musicians are doing but the record companies are not, they are stuck in their well oiled machine. They are making themselves obsolete when focusing only on the problem rather than, like the musicians, focusing on the solution. From where I'm standing, as a musician, the only real losers are the record labels that refuse to see the possibilities with the internet. The times change, you can't do anything about that, just try to keep up.
MSJ: In a related question how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?
It's fine by me, if they like the music that much to go through all the trouble of sneaking in recording equipment and what not, they deserve it. Even if they do it only for the money it's still fine becouse someone who likes the music will buy it or trade it in the end. We dont do this for the money, it would be nice to make some money but the thing we want the most is that people listen to our music.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought, or what have you been listening to lately?
Hmmm? I think the last albums I bought were Queen - Hot Space and Flash Gordon soundtrack on LP. Rarely buy CD's I have been listening alot to Steve Marriott stuff like Humble Pie and Small Faces, a little Ten Years After and Riot's Narita and Fire Down Under. Robert Johnsson have had quite a few spinns on the turntable, too.
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Man! I can't remember, you don't really have time to attend concerts whenyour out on the road all the time. But I can tell you about one of the best concerts i ever attended was Saxon - '97 they played in a small club in Umea (a town in northen parts of sweden) what a show, they played for 2.5 hours and since they always been hard-rocking heroes of mine it was fantastic.
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
I don't know where to begin, perhaps when we forgot half our gear and the PA system at home and didn't realize it until we were about to do the soundcheck. Or the time we couldn't find Stockholm (capitol of Sweden!) - we drove past it several times. I mean, how can you miss a whole city of that size. I even lived there for almost a year so I should be able to find it!

MSJ: Finally, are there any closing thoughts you'd like to get out there?
Come visit us at blackbonzo.com or at myspace.com/blackbonzo, you can also check out the videos posted on youtube.com. And be sure to catch us on the road!

Rock'n'Roll

 
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