A publicist recently asked me what bands I’m currently listening to – and I know she expected me to name some “new” bands, but I had to confess that the bulk of music I’ve been loading on my iPod or adding to my collection in recent months is music from the 1970s. Because, from The Beatles through Glam, Prog Rock, Classic Rock, Hard Rock, the onset of Electronica, Punk Rock and New Wave, the Seventies really had it all. This realization actually brought back an awkward memory of the time an editor (whom I still affectionately refer to as Iron Nuts) accused me of being “desperate to like a modern band.” Okay, guilty as charged. Still, I’m not going to apologize for it.
Black Stone Cherry: John Fred is the Hunky One with All the Hair
Today my friend John Fred turns 23, having been born on December 11th, 1984. John Fred plays drums for the awesome hard rock band, Black Stone Cherry, and he is just hilarious. Earlier this afternoon I called him up at his home in Kentucky to wish him Birthday specialness and he told me, in his nearly-impenetrable Kentucky accent, that he had been outside hunting. Rock guys who hunt. Hilarious.
Top CDs of 2006, According to Me!
Initially, I was very resistant to the idea of Kentucky-based, Southern Rock Revivalists, Black Stone Cherry for two sharply pointed reasons. One being that unless a “Southern Rock” band is going to improve on Molly Hatchet’s “Flirting With Disaster” or Greg Allman’s “I’m No Angel,” why even bother? The other being that 99% of modern hard rock sounds like ass. But Black Stone Cherry come on like Soundgarden-meets-The Allman Brothers. My god, what a much needed gasp of fresh air in the vacuum! Not to mention, but you can see I am about to, their drummer, John Fred Young (check out the guy on the far left with that crazy mane of dark curly hair) is what we used to call in my day a stone solid fox. And having a little eye candy in the band never hurts.
Remember back when music that passed for adult contemporary rock actually had balls? Neither do I. But if I were programming the Adult Contemporary format at radio today I’d scrap the Kelly Clarkson and Michael Bolton and flood it with songs by amazing bands like The Verve Pipe and Earlymay. Little Answers comes highly recommended if you like U2 but wish Bono would just get over himself already.
I wasn’t much of a fan of LoveSpitLove, former Psychedelic Furs frontman Richard Butler’s first post-Furs outting. But on Butler’s sublime debut solo excursion, he won me over with moody, soporific songs that sound like they were written by a less acid-damaged version of Julian Cope rather than a guy who was once married to notorious groupie Bebe Buell for about fifteen minutes. Downside: Abysmal cover art that makes him look like he has the plague, or something worse.
The Blank Stares are a band from San Francisco who contacted me through Myspace and asked if they could send me their CD. Now, I don’t want all you independent, undiscovered, unsigned, un-good bands out there to get any ideas, but if your shit sounds like The Beatles, feel free to look me up.
A Power-Quarter based in NYC that also features rock chick bass legend Emm Gryner, Hot One “observes the tradition of rock and roll as a medium for social protest, a la the Clash, Public Enemy, Psychic TV, Woody Guthrie, Minor Threat, the MC5.” I took that statement off their Myspace page. I love Hot One’s sexy glam rock/power pop amalgam (favorite cut, “Sexy Soldier”), but I also dig that they throw in a little George Bush hating on the side.
Is there a serious metal head alive who doesn’t/didn’t worship Kyuss? Because if there is I want to know who they are so I beat their faces in. Former Kyuss bassist Scott Reeder is a fucking genius for making the best Pink Floyd album since Wish You Were Here. Heavy Mettle indeed.
Six Words: “Nintendo Game Theme Song Cover Band.” Nothing more needs to be said. This CD is brilliant from start to finish. And I’ve never played Nintendo in my life.
Canadian Rockers Crash Kelly excell at producing stellar Modern Glam Trash for people like me who go out of their way to live in the past.
Seriously, how can you possibly go wrong if you’re already Def Leppard — who are, without a doubt, a genius band — and you decide to make an album of covers that includes Badfinger’s “No Matter What” and Mott The Hoople’s “Golden Age of Rock & Roll”? How can you go wrong, I ask yez?
I have to thank n=my buddy Frank Griggs for sending me this Sloan album on the fly when he was doing their publicity last fall, because otherwise I never would have heard the BEST ALBUM OF 2006! No amount of clever compound adjectives can fully describe how awesome this CD is. Those tasteless dicks over at Rolling Stone only gave Never Hear The End Of It three-out-of-five stars, but here’s their review:
“For more than a decade, Sloan have been big in their native Canada without even reaching Guided by Voices-level fame stateside. With thirty, count-’em, thirty songs (several of which bleed together and clock in under two minutes), their eighth studio album is a power-pop record that flows like the Minutemen’s Double Nickels on the Dime — but with glam rock and acoustic balladry in the mix.”
So just go out and buy it already.
These are some genius discs that didn’t quite make into the Top Ten, mostly because I could only fit ten selections into a list of ten. Logistics, you know.
1. Benevento Russo Duo, Play, Pause, Stop
2. Dirty Royals, Obsessed America EP
3. David Gilmour, On An Island
4. Ambulance, New English EP
5. Gosling, Here Is…
6. Hellacopters, Rock & Roll is Dead
7. American Hearthbreak
8. Barrett Martin, Earthspeaker
9. Wired All Wrong, Break Out The Battle Tapes
10. (Guilty Pleasure) Taylor Hicks
Don’t even start with me on this one. I may be a self-confessed huge fan of American Idol, but nobody was more surprised than me when I fell in love with former spazz Taylor Hick’s fake Elvis swagger and his “Takin’ It To The Streets” mock-soul funk. This album is probably the best piece of commercial “product” that the big corporate machine has crapped out since I even listened to mainstream pop radio. And thank god someone got him to dye his hair.
Combining Soundgarden’s post-modern heavy metal attack with the classic, southern rock song craft of The Allman Brothers, Blackstone Cherry have arrived from south central Kentucky to give hard rock a serious kick in the ass. Since the summer 2006 release of its self titled debut, this quartet of high school friends has been on the road nearly non-stop with rock heavyweights such as Buckcherry, Staind and Black Label Society, winning diehard converts at every venue. “You can sit here and talk about it,” says 21-year old drummer John Fred Young, “but when people see us live they go, ‘Oh my god, this band’s the real thing.’” Raised on the music of ‘70s legends like Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin, John Fred is actually part of country rock legacy: his father Richard and Uncle Fred are guitarist and drummer, respectively, for the Grammy award-wining band The Kentucky Headhunters. “My uncle Fred got me a kit of drums when I was five years old,” he explains. “Besides John Bonham, he is definitely my biggest influence.” With more tours booked and the album still selling well, 2007 looks like another great year for this talented band of southern rockers, as John Fred confesses, “I think Blackstone Cherry is really just at the very beginning of where we’re going to go.”
Metal Edge: When recording the album, did you come up against any challenges in the studio?
John Fred Young: There were some challenging songs, because we don’t play with a click track, so everything – including the drums – is cut live. We just go back, do the vocals and add maybe a couple of guitar overdubs. It’s kind of like back in the day when Ray Charles was making albums: you just do it in one take. When you make albums in that manner I feel like they come off so much more from the heart.
Metal Edge: What songs are your favorites to play live?
John Fred Young: I think one of the funnest songs to play live is probably “Drive.” It’s such a high-octane groove that’s just in-your-face, and on the last part of the drums it goes a little berserk. One of the biggest compliments I’ve gotten about the record is when kids ask me ‘What kind of double kick pedal do you use?’ And I’ll say, ‘It’s an invisible one, because I use a single pedal’ (laughs). That’s a cool compliment. I guess [my footwork] comes from listening to my uncle Fred and Bonham play. I like doing a lot of fast footwork, but I’m definitely a better fisherman (laughs).
Metal Edge: With your fast footwork, did you previously play a double bass kit?
John Fred Young: I like messing around with double bass, but I’m really not good at it. I can do a really good standard metal roll; the digga digga digga, but that’s it. I think if I played double bass I would rather play it like Tommy Aldridge, Alex Van Halen or my uncle Fred. Those guys incorporated such different, unusual footwork besides just your standard, metal double kick. Then you’ve got guys like Vinnie Paul from Pantera; that guy’s insane. There are so many good double bass drummers coming up on the scene. I listen to them and I’m like, Jeezus, how the hell do you get that fast with your feet? I wish that I could play double bass like that, but if I switch then that’s not me. So I’m doing my own, unique little thing here on the farm.
Metal Edge: Your playing is not only fast but also very precise. Do you have any playing tips for drummers on how improve the speed and precision of their playing?
John Fred Young: My advice on how to build up speed and power is just to start out doing stuff slow. You can play a beat at a really high tempo, but you have to make it clean and you have to be able to really have a formula for how you start out your rolls and different rudiments. Everything for me is about practice. I may not practice for five hours straight, but I’m always drumming on something or I have pair of sticks in my hands. I think that Buddy Rich said something like, ‘As long as you can practice fifteen minutes a day you’re fine.’ That’s so cool, because Buddy Rich is the greatest drummer of all time. He’s undeniably the best and if I had a fingernail of the talent that he did, I would be set (laughs). He was very awesome.
Metal Edge: Some of your parts are very busy: do you ever worry about stepping on the vocal?
John Fred: I pretty much overplay all the time (laughs). I definitely I try to play for the song and make the groove, but sometimes I get caught up with so much raw energy that I lose where I’m at. Then I’m like, ‘Oh god.’ But I do feel like I over play a lot, and I don’t know if that’s good or bad. The thing is, when you’re doing something really hard, you’ve got to make it look easy, and you’ve got to make the easy stuff look hard. That’s the ticket.
John Fred’s Gear:
Drums: Ludwig Green Sparkle Kit
Sizes: 26” Kick, 12”x14” Rack Tom, 16”x16” and 18”x18” Floor Toms, 6”x14” Snare
This article was originally written for Metal Edge Magazine as part of a monthly column by Gail Worley (under the pen name Jayne Rollins). With the magazines’ dissolution, the article has been added to the content base of The Worley Gig for our readers’ enjoyment.