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Non-Prog Interviews

Black Bone Child

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Donny James and Kenneth M. of Black Bone Child from 2010
MSJ:

Can you catch the readers up on the history of the group and your involvement in music?

Donny James: Kenneth and I met a long time ago in high school in San Diego, California.  We were both really big fans of music and met through a mutual friend.  Kenneth actually came to try out to be the lead singer in the garage band I was in.  One day during practice our drummer took a break. Kenneth and I stayed in the garage and he sat down at the drum kit.  We definitely clicked, so we decided to start our own band.  We spent a good deal of our youth trying to write songs, “trying” being the key word.  After many years of playing together I decided to move out to Austin.  California was dead.  There was just no scene so it made it really hard to succeed as a musician.  Right around the time I was moving, Kenneth and I decided to keep writing and we came up with the idea of Black Bone Child.  We wrote the first album through email when he was in San Diego and I was in Austin.  He moved out here shortly there after and we put together what is now the live band recruiting local artists Steve Hudson and Jason King.
MSJ: Where does the name Black Bone Child come from? Is there some significance to it?

Kenneth M.: Before we started this band Donny and I both lived in San Diego which iswhere we came up with the concept of Black Bone Child. We had sound, and a general idea of what the band would be about but we didn't have a name. Making a band name is such a hard process, for us at least, because it's really easy to come up with stupid band names to make each other laugh, but to come up with one seriously and actually suggest it is a whole other thing. One day we were at lunch in San Diego and talking about our idea for a band and were just tossing names across the table to each other, half joking, half hoping to actually get a name solidified. Then out of nowhere I just said "How about Black Bone Child?" We both kind of looked at each other with the "Did we just find the band name?" look, and we eventually agreed on it. As far as having any significance, it doesn't mean anything yet it still(I believe) describes the sound of the band. bluesy, gritty, etc... Don't ask me how I get that from Black Bone Child, but it’s there somewhere.

MSJ: If you weren’t involved in music what do you think you’d be doing?

Donny James: Trying to be involved in music.  I would be on the road one way or another, even if I was a bus driver.  There is just no other profession on this planet for me.  I have wanted this since I was very young and I can't imagine doing anything else.

MSJ: How would you describe the sound of Black Bone Child?

Kenneth M.: Originally our idea of the band originally was to have a NIN sounding blues band. Two things we loved, smashed up. But as it turns out us trying to play blues turns out to be rock and roll. People have described our sound as "Swamp Rock" which I think is a great term. It’s just upbeat, sometimes dancey, sometimes bluesy, high energy, rock and roll.

MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences - both as a group and individually? 
Donny James: Kenneth and I have similar musical tastes.  He and I were both heavily influenced by Tool, Nine Inch Nails, Led Zeppelin, Portishead, Black  Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Eagles of Death Metal and Tom Waits.  I personally have always been into darker music.  Metallica is one of my heavy influences strictly because I learned how to play guitar on most of there songs.  From there I drifted around in different genres but they all had similar themes.  I didn't even really pay that much attention to styles of music until I picked up an instrument.  I listened to everything when I was young.  I have tried to hold on to that.  Right now I'm really into country music like Miranda Lambert and Jason Aldean.  I think it's always important as an artist to broaden your horizons and think with an open mind.  I'm not really sure what the other guys are into.  I know that Steve is a metal head.  He listens to 80's metal.  And Jason is a Pearl Jam fan.  With all of that time in the van I never noticed that we don't talk much about personal influences, we just get together and play.
MSJ: What’s ahead for you?
Kenneth M.: We are looking forward to getting out on the road again for the tour to support our new releases this summer. Looking forward to playing the southwest and getting back through the south again.
MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?

Donny James: I've always wanted to work with other artists in the studio but no one specifically.  I love the idea of musicians from different backgrounds sharing their ideas and seeing what comes out of it. I guess I won't know until I meet them.  A lot of working together has to do with whether or not your personalities click.  We'll just have to see what happens and who we run into.

MSJ:

Do you think that illegal 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?

Kenneth M.: I would agree with the majors in that illegal downloading killed their old business model, and large profit margins. but the fact is that file sharing is unavoidable now, and they are trying to put out a forest fire with a garden hose. The sooner they embrace file sharing and think of the music as the promotional product and not the end product, the sooner we will start to see a new era. As far as helping or hurting artists goes, it goes both ways. For young artists like myself, file sharing is helpful because it raises awareness, but for larger artists who already have main stream awareness, it hurts their ability to profit from the awareness and demand of their product. To say the least it’s a double edged sword, but its a sword that is not going away, so you might as well put it on your belt and use it as a weapon. 
MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?

Donny James: In the years prior to MTV and the Internet, you used to only be able to see artists perform when you went to go see them at their concert. This  lead to a lot of profit and sold out coliseums.  There was a sense of urgency to getting tickets.  I think that television and the Internet has taken away that mystery of "who are these guys and what do they look like?"  However, you are seeing a lot more household name artists.  The mega stars of today could not do it without the Internet.  Shows like “American Idol” have shown the industry that there are other ways to sell records than the old business model.   As a fan, I love being able to check out shows from other artists, it makes me want to be there and therefore purchase a ticket.  I think change is good because it opens doors.  With all of the new mobile technology out there, we would be kidding ourselves to think that we could control this thing.  Making the fans part of the experience has always been the concern for us.  If you love us enough to want to bring us home with you and show your friends, that is a good thing.

MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?

Kenneth M.:Justin Bieber because he is better looking and more talented than we are. He is basically doing the same thing we are, if you take away the instruments, the music, the band, our sound, and between the four of us a combined 30-40 years of life experience.

MSJ: If you were to put together your ultimate band, who would be in it and why?

Donny James: The reason I like all of the artists that I do is because of the band that they are in, it's because of their interaction with the other members that makes it so good.  I think that the vibe would be lost if you plucked several artists and put them together in a room and said "write!" i.e. Audioslave.  Sound Garden and Rage Against the Machine were both better in my eyes and I wouldn't want to ruin that magic.  A band is a machine and it can't operate without one of its wheels.  So for my answer, Donny James, Kenneth M, Jason King, and Steve Hudson.

MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?
Kenneth M.: Tom Waits, PJ Harvey, Eagles Of Death Metal, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, NIN, Jeff Greene, Janes Addiction... I don't know. These would be on my list for sure. 
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?

Donny James: I haven't bought a CD in over a year.  I can't remember the last one that I bought.  I have been using iTunes for quite a while now.  Son House Father of the Delta Blues was the last album I purchased.  I go in and out of different musical styles.  Country is my new frontier.

MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?

Kenneth M.: Motorhead

MSJ: Do you have a musical "guilty pleasure?"

Donny James: Carrie Underwood.  It's hard for me to say that because of “American Idol” and everything but she really is good and always catches my attention.

MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment? 
Kenneth M.: Being on tour for two weeks with six guys and one hotel room a night. Enough said.

 

 

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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