Jonathan Brightman - Black Robot & Pierre Tomkvist - Helltrain
Jonathan Brightman - Black Robot
Black Robot are about to explode on the scene officially through their S/T Rocket Science released debut. If you thought meat and potatoes rock was dead you are about to get a rude awakening. Jonathan Brightman, an original member of Buckcherry and the trigger behind Black Robot, gave his time for a Q&A with Metal Exiles to give the world an inside view of a great force in Rock N Roll.
Jonathan Brightman of Black Robot
By Jeffrey Easton
Metal Exiles: First of all, congratulations on the new act. When were the seeds of Black Robot first planted?
Jonathan Brightman: In 2001, Yogi, Devon and I met Huck through a few guys in Kid Rock’s band. We jammed a bit and wrote some music with him when we were on the road. When Huck moved to L.A. in 2002 we started talking about making a record.
Metal Exiles: Band names can make or break an act. What will Black Robot do for you?
JB: The Black Robot name hopefully will be defined through the music and our audience.
Metal Exiles: The record is a stunning mix of fused classic AC/DC gestures that nods at the Black Crowes. What were your plans for the sound when you were putting the act together?
JB: It’s no secret we’re big fans of AC/DC and the Crowes. Our main goal when making this record was to make a classic. We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, just keep it rolling.
Metal Exiles: When the band started it was comprised with Yogi Lonich and Devon Glenn. Why did they decide to leave and how hard was it to replace their talents?
JB: Yogi and Devon are great friends of Black Robot. When Huck and I were making the record we invited them to join us. Yogi, Devon and I played in a band together for years so it was easy to find the chemistry. We completed the band by adding permanent members. Our guitar players Andy and Staffan are from the same school of rock and they are really making this band take shape. Our drummer Possum is probably the closest I’ve ever heard to John Bonham.
Metal Exiles: Huck is flat out one of the best singers that rock has produced in quite awhile. Where did you find him and what has he brought to the fold?
JB: Huck is a true professional. He cares about all aspects of the music and he is a real team player. He’s definitely much more than a typical singer and he is extremely artistic and musical.
Metal Exiles: When you first went in to record the debut you did it without the backing of a label. How hard is it to pull off the making and marketing of a CD in this market without outside help?
JB: It took a lot of sacrifice to make this record. Anything worthwhile usually does. We believe in this record and rock and roll. Record companies have been neglecting rock music for way too long and everyone wants to rock. Right?
Metal Exiles: When did the song writing process start for this record and what did each member bring to the table as far as contributions?
JB: Our plan was to make the Black Robot record in the same exact way a lot of classic records of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s were made. The Rolling Stones used to jam until the songs took shape. We entered the studio with no songs written and we all made contributions. We did most of the record within two weeks. It was great fun, but hard work.
Metal Exiles: You have a cover of J.J. Cale’s Cocaine that was made famous of course by Eric Clapton. Why this cover and what is the significance of the tune to Black Robot?
JB: It was hard deciding on a cover song. Huck and I both agreed how cool it would be to make a new version of that song for 2010.
Metal Exiles: The album kicks off hard and fast with Baddass. Were you responsible for the sequencing of the record to keep up the high profile it started with?
JB: The band collectively agreed to sequence the record in a way that gives the listener a feeling that he/she is on a journey. We hope people listen to the record in its entirety every time.
Metal Exiles: With the new release of the debut you recorded two new stunning tracks with Girls Kissing Girls and 23 Days of Night. Where did the new tracks come from and what inspired them?
JB: I told Huck a story about a time when I was on tour and I stumbled into the wrong bar on the right night and there was nothing but girls kissing girls all over the place. There’s more to the story, but the night inspired the song. Our guitarist Andy brought in the concept for 23 Days of Night. We just thought the record needed a little “EVIL”!
Metal Exiles: The new deal with Rocket Science is great for you guys so why did you reissue the first record with extra tracks instead of doing a new record?
JB: Rocket Science is an amazing company. As an independent band we only had resources to reach thousands of rock listeners. Rocket Science has the resources to expose this record to millions. The Rocket Science/Formosa Records version is going to be our official major release.
Metal Exiles: There was a piece about you and Guitar Hero. Where as it does introduce kids to older material by classic bands do you think it introduces a “lazy element” when it comes to practicing real instruments?
JB: I think Guitar Hero and Rock Band are the best things that have happened for Rock and Roll music in a long time. It gives kids a chance to discover Rock and Roll for the first time. Radio Stations don’t play enough of it and Record Labels have been concentrating on rap and hip hop too much.
Metal Exiles: Since you were a starting member for Buckcherry, how would you stack Black Robot up against your old band?
JB: The original version of Buckcherry was an amazing band. I think Black Robot is a more true rock and roll band. Huck can REALLY sing. But to answer your question, it’s probably apples to oranges. Or apples to lemons. And the Robot is the apple…if you know what I mean.
Metal Exiles: With the record about to hit the streets via Rocket Science, what are the plans as far as touring, etc?
JB: We’re going to do some North American dates this year and some Europe and Japan touring towards the end of this year.
Metal Exiles: What can we expect in the future from Black Robot?
JB: More music and live shows. Also lots of action, adventure and drama!
At the end of the day we all need a solid blast of rock and Black Robot are the band to deliver the blow…..
BUY BLACK ROBOT!
BUY BATTLE FOR TOKYO!
Pierre Tomkvist - Helltrain
by Rob ”Bubbs” Harris
Helltrain first grabbed my attention with their debut Route 666. At the time, I was convinced that there would never be another album as magnificent as this one was. Well, that was true for a while, but Helltrain put together another absolute ball-buster to kick my ass and steal my heart. What makes it even better is the fact that the crew from Sweden worked closely with Jimmy Pop (Yes, the very same Jimmy Pop who fronts up the legendary Bloodhound Gang.) to record and release Rock’N’Roll Devil, which happened to nab the top spot on my best albums list of 2009, and they’re giving it away for free! That’s like a sore dick, my friends,…..you just can’t beat it. Pierre Törnkvist, leader of Satan’s Party Crew, was so very kind enough to lend Metal Exiles a bit of his time to answer a few questions for us. Have fun reading good citizens.
Metal Exiles: Let me start by saying that Rock’N’Roll Devil is a magnificent record. In fact, it was my #1 pick for album of the year for 2009.
Pierre: Well…thanks for that, I’m so glad you like the album, we put a lot of work into it.
Metal Exiles: There are a lot of different nuances on Rock’N’Roll Devil that weren’t on Route 666, yet it is still distinctly Helltrain. How important was it to not make the same record over again?
Pierre: I think it’s always important to find something new, something that can be classified as development, it would be boring for the listener to have the same shit over and over again. Still, we definitely want to keep things the “Helltrain-way” but we always look to improve in different areas. I think that RNRD is a more varied album, there are some low-tempo songs, some punkier tunes and some up-tempo metal stuff as well. Still, it’s very much a Helltrain-album. The biggest difference is sound-wise and the vocal arrangements, we had the opportunity to work more intensely with Daniel Bergstrand for this album than we did on the previous one.
Metal Exiles: “My Little Stars” is an absolutely beautiful song, despite being very heavy. I get all teary eyed every time I hear it, because it makes me think of my two small children. What was the inspiration behind this song? I think I know, but I want to hear it from you.
Pierre: Well, I wrote the lyrics for my children. I have a boy who is 8 and a girl who is 5, I love them very much. So I wanted to write something for them, lyrically it’s about being proud of your children and it´s also dealing with the fact that they won’t be around you forever, they will grow and eventually leave you one day. And one day I will die, but I will die a happy person, in pride of who they are and what they have become and accomplished in life. Its a difficult song to play live because of the emotion it creates. I also try to give a little “speech” before we play this song, a little message about the importance of telling your children that you love them every day. I think that is a lot more important to this world than all surveillance cameras, policemen, security systems etc…
Metal Exiles: Another tune that I identify with personally is “You’re the Man”. Can you tell me what brought about the lyrics for that?
Pierre: Well, I’m so fucking tired of reading the newspapers EVERY FUCKING DAY about MEN that constantly beat the shit out of their women, and sometimes children as well. They are the lowest form of life, I think they are on equal terms of child molesters and rapists, I hate them with all my heart.
Metal Exiles: Helltrain has seen a few members come and go over the past few years. Are there any certain qualifications you look for when recruiting new members to Satan’s party crew?
Pierre: Well, actually we have not had that many line-up changes. It’s more like we have added members. For a long time it was just me, my brother Patrik and Oskar. But demands on live performances made us start looking around. So at first we had Mikael Sandorf (The Duskfall etc..) coming in and helping us out on guitars + Raised Fist bassist Josse. But we figured that Josse will be touring a lot with Raised Fist so it would not be a long-term solution. So we asked Matte from The Duskfall as well. At first he and Mikael was just live-members but we’re all band members on equal terms now. It´s working out great. All of us except Matte are childhood friends meaning we have known each other for some 20 years. Oskar met Matte on a Raised Fist tour and got to know him, then he played with him and Mikael in the Duskfall so he was a natural choice when it came to find a suitable bass player. He handles his instrument very well and is a wonderful person to hang around with.
Metal Exiles: I like the fact that you employ the organ as a primary instrument. What is it about this instrument that you dig so much, other than it sounds creepy?
Pierre: I just love it, and it brings something special into the “Helltrain-sound”. It’s great that you also recognize it as an organ, because it’s the real Hammond sound. Some fucking idiot at the Swedish magazine Close-Up referred to it as a “synthesizer”…how intelligent. The same moron also claimed that we had “nonsense-lyrics”... We basically started fooling around with the Hammond for the first demo we made and thought that it suited very much to the punk rock n roll style of metal that we play, it´s essential for our sound.
Metal Exiles: The video for “Ghouls” is really spooky. I read that the place where you shot it was really a haunted asylum. Can you elaborate a little bit on that?
Pierre: Yeah, I’m so glad that my shots were made in studio and not in that place. It was the film crew that came up with the idea of shooting parts of the video there. Some of them were scared shit, I can tell you that. The rumors say that the place is haunted, and yes it’s an old “sanatorium”, so there has been going on some strange shit there for sure.
Metal Exiles: Who plays the piano solo on “Great Halls of Fire”? That shit is gnarly!
Pierre: It’s my brother Patrik who plays all piano/organ stuff, when we play live we have a sequencer doing that shit since he is handling the guitar live.
Metal Exiles: You guys have a big show coming up with Behemoth, Hypocrisy and Lamb of God at the House of Metal fest. Other than that, I can’t find any tour dates anywhere. What’s keeping the Helltrain from rolling on to the rest of the world?
Pierre: Well, we are slow starters…haha. No, really, it´s a difficult situation trying to combine everything, work, kids, you know…and we are really not making any money on Helltrain so we have to pay the bills by working here. We will try to play some more show, and actually we have increased the number of shows if we compare to the earlier years when we did not perform live at all. We’re really looking forward to the House of Metal festival, it will be awesome!
Metal Exiles: A common question amongst metal/punk fans lately is “Who the fuck is Jimmy Franks?”. How did you end up on such an odd label?
Pierre: Haha…it’s a really bizarre story. It was just before we were going to release “Route 666” on Nuclear Blast, we just had the demo out on www.mp3.com and hit the metal charts there. So this guy calls me up, tells me he is from the U.S and is named Jimmy…he talks for a while, telling me he has a band named The Bloodhound Gang (some bells start to ring but I really don’t get it at once….). Anyway, I sit myself at the computer and checks this “Bloodhound Gang band” up…well…they just sold 10 million copies or so…and Jimmy Franks is the vocalist Jimmy Pop. We have parted ways now as he is closing down his label but Jim has been great with us, very supportive and he loves the music we create which could not be said about some of the labels we have worked with in the past.
Metal Exiles: I feel that Helltrain has succeeded in striking the perfect balance between metal and punk rock. That has been something that many bands have tried and failed miserably at doing. What makes the Helltrain sound come so easily for you?
Pierre: It could be due to the fact that when we grew up all punks, hardcore & metal people hung together. We’ve listened to punk rock as The Exploited as well as the hardcore shit created by Minor Threat along with death- and black metal gods as Morbid Angel and Mayhem. So we have a very varied background with all kinds of musical references.
Metal Exiles: Are you indeed a Satanist? The only reason I ask is because there are a lot of bands that claim to walk the left hand path, but in reality, they are just a couple of bozos who don’t believe a word of what they are saying.”
Pierre: No, I’m not a Satanist! I’ve never been and will never be. Satan to me is a more of a metaphor of “anti-religion”. I do not support any kind of religious behavior, or as some would call it, “flock-mentality”. I believe in the individual, not necessarily shutting out anything that would be called “godly”, but “godly” to me is something very individual and not something that should be practiced in “flocks”. Some of my ideas might probably get along with some “satanic” aspects of life, but I prefer to not label things.
Metal Exiles: Thanks for doing this interview. Hopefully, Helltrain will come to America so we can pound some booze and smash some skulls together. Cheers!
Pierre: Thanks for the support man! We also hope to tour the US one day. Until then, take care!