Monday, October 4, 2010

Shooter Jennings Interview: Shooter talks Black Ribbons

Shooter Jennings and Hierophant are out on tour cutting a path and winding their way through America in support of their latest release "Black Ribbons".  Musically, "Black Ribbons" is a continuation of some of the cosmic rock material he has sprinkled in on some of his previous releases.  "Black Ribbons" is a concept release that follows late night talk show host Will 'O The Wisp, who is narrarated by Stephen King, on his last broadcast as the nation sits in a police state and the public airwaves are about to be silenced.  He is the voice of the movement of the resistance and for his last broadcast he chooses to play music from the exiled band Hierophant with the presmise of injecting a ray of light or hope for the resistance.  But will it come at a price???.

Shooter checked in from the road to talk a little bit about "Black Ribbons".  The next stop on the tour is on Tuesday Oct. 5 at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio.  Information for that show and remaining dates is down below.

Mydenrocks: What was the genesis or the initial spark to tackle the conceptional theme behind "Black Ribbons"?
Shooter Jennings: I'll tell you how it kind of came about.  It started with me leaving my other label and kind of cutting my ties with Nashville.  I had been starting to work on some music.  I had some very weird periods of time that I kind of emotionally went through.  "Black Ribbons" was one of the songs I wrote back then.  I was angry.  There were other times I was like ambivalent.  It just kind of went through different phases.  I had knew I was going to experiment in the studio and just see what came out.....kind of with the original intention of going in because even though I had some ideas about songs and stuff I knew they would kind of take a different shape once I started working on it.  I had always had this idea that I wanted to tie a record together with a voice.  It kind of actually came...funny time we were on tour and that show "City Confidential" came on.  It had Paul Winfield, who is dead now.  I thought "this guy's voice was so cool sounding and wouldn't be cool if a record had a voice like that tying it together."  That was kind of like the initial spark of it.  Then as I was out on the road I was writing stuff.  I wroted the "The Illuminated" in a weird moment of...kind of...I guess at that point...I can't remember where that falls into the actual time scale because that I know once I left New York and I was going to relocate my family to L.A. we drove cross country...and I am a huge Coast to Coast fan...and we were driving 6,7 days and I was driving the whole way...up late at night and listening to Coast to Coast and other radio programs.  A day into that trip is when the whole economy collapsed...Lehman Brothers and all that shit happened and just all fell apart.  Those kind of talk radio programs were just lit up with that kind of stuff.  People like David Icke, crazy writers, philosphers, and political people and whatnot all over the place talking about all kinds of stuff - the impending elections, police state talk, conspiracy talk, etc..  All this stuff and it just really kind of freaked me out.  But, it also made me really appreciative of what I had, my family, kind of where I was at...all of that kind of compounded into this feeling after I got to L.A.  I started doing alot of research and reading alot of books on the "off" days and going to the studio on the "on" days and started constructing this idea.  We went into the studio - me and Dave Cobb for about 6 months and really worked out the music or the landscape musically of the record and songs that I was working on.  Some songs we created from scratch depending on what the record felt like it needed.  As it went along I was researching and forming opinions and goals and things about the record...and it just kind of all came together in a way.  It was really weird.  Like the fact that I was writing it for a fictional band - I had that idea in my mind the whole time...trying to figure out band names and stuff.  At the same time it completely freed me up from thinking about like what my next record was to be....It was all generated by the story and came together as this really pure project.  It was just me and my close friends and family that was around when I was doing it.  So it was this really pure experience.

M: Was it a conscious decision to lean the music towards a more "cosmic" rock direction on "Black Ribbons"?
SJ: I love that stuff.  I definately lean towards all these influences and things sonically of how I want to sound.  I wanted to blend all these different kind of things like rock and different types of music together.  This is always something that I have done.  Even on the old records like a song like "Bad Magick" where it would be like ... really out there and kind of  psychedlic or droney.  I love that stuff.  This was an opportunity to just run with that inside of my personality and make a whole record of it.

M: Since you've came on the scene, I've enjoyed how you stick to the formula of pretty much putting out an album an year old school style,
SJ: I have.  This was the biggest gap though we've had though.  It was 3 years for "Black Ribbons" because it was the end of 2007 when "The Wolf" came out.  We hadn't put a record out except that for that "Bad Magick" collection that the label put out.  That had nothing to do with me.  The "Waylon Forever" one came out too in the interim.  We had been done with that one for a long time - since '06.  It took a long time to get a deal in place to get it out.  We're trying to pad away to go and start recording another record right now.  I can't too stale on myself.  I have to keep in motion.  It feels crazy to stop after you do something.

M: Shed a little light on the "Living Album" project you have
SJ: We've recorded a bunch of shows and they're on this "Living Album" thing that we're selling.  It's a USB of "Black Ribbons" that has this link that through the internet gives you access to all these shows that we played and recorded.  I think there's 15 on there right now and we're planning on recording the Nashville show coming up.  You can get it on our website or at the shows.

M: How did you get Stephen King involved to do the Will 'O The Wisp part?
SJ:  He was the first person that popped into my mind.  What happened is that I just had a feeling because I knew he was a fan.  He had written some nice things about our records in his Entertainment Weekly column and he actually wrote my name in one of his book, which was actually kind of a weird thing.  I reached out to him.  I couldn't get him forever.  So, I was doing an interview with this nice lady at EW online - someone who worked there passed a note to him and he wrote me back immediately.  He was like "I'm a fan (and all this stuff), but I'm really, really busy right now so I don't know if I'm going to be able to do this"...because of the way I described it.  It was really hard to describe to someone.  He said "If you're not too discouraged, still send me something."  So I sent him a 3/4 finished record...some instrumental tracks and he was actually missing some songs at that point.  It was just a taste of it.  He was like "Whoa!  This is a dynamite record!  There's definately no Waylon or McMurtry here.  I was like "I know.  I know.  I know it's crazy."  He said he was interested and we kept talking.  We never spoke or met.  It was all email.  We still haven't met or spoke.  It's been all email interaction and sending stuff in the mail.  One day I had written him a little script.  I was having a little hard time describing it to him because I kept saying dj and that was the first mistake because he's not really a dj.  He's like a talk radio personality.  More of like a late night day and taking calls or whatever.  So I wrote this little mock script up one day describing the vibe of what I was imagining and sent it to him.  He took that...all the names and stuff...he used all of it and made it a way better script out of it.  It turned out really good.

M: So Stephen did the recording himself?  He captured that vibe pretty good.
SJ: He did it all and sent it to me.  I got it in the mail one day - a cd, a transcript of it, and a picture of him in the studio sitting at the board in a Maine sweatshirt.  I heard it the first time in the house alone for the first time.  I was in my pajamas and I put it on...sat there and just listened to him do it alone.  I was like "Holy shit! This is a trip because I couldn't believe it came together." because I thought I was going to have to chop it up and piece it together.  I just couldn't believe how it came out.  I had this music that I had made like a year before on my computer.  I'm a big sci-fi fan.  Blade Runner is like my favorite movie of all time.  Vangelis did the soundtrack.  That was one of the coolest soundtracks and set the bar for the sci-fi soundtracks.  I was kind of creating some music like that.  I had made that on my garage bands playing the computer keys on the keyboard.  I had that music set aside.  So I was alright "I'm going to use this for his background music".  I just felt like it was the perfect vibe - spacey, out there, and dark.  The chord progression in that section I then wrote it in to "Everything Else is Illusion" and "Triskadekaphobia".  They both have those progressions going on behind Will 'O The Wisp so it was kind of a cool reocurring theme thing.

M:  Especially the ending....(you'll have to listen to "Black Ribbons" to find out)
SJ: That was his idea.  I loved it.  You start to like the guy alot throughout the record so when that happens it kind of sets you up for a fall.  His charisma really made that happen.

M: Since these songs were written at different times, was it tough to piece together the songs and storyline on the cd to make it all work as one concept theme?
SJ: It kind of really grew from the outside out.  For real.  It really did.  There were moments where it was crazy.  For instance, one of the toughest decisions of a record is the order.  I had to figure out the band name and the order...and all of it...halfway through the creation of the record so that Stephen King could do his parts.  So, I had to have the whole thing solidified pretty much by the time that Stephen King was going to do it.  That was like a rush.  I sat up all night one night with my lady Drea (de Matteo) and our friend Ginger Gonzalex, who lives with us out there in L.A.  We sat up all night ordering this record correctly and the right way.  I didn't want the whole record to be politico kind of songs.  It needed to just be sprinkled in there to go in conjuction with Stephen King because he was/is playing shit across their entire theory.  So I knew nothing had to sound like they were off the same record.  Nothing had to be that cohesive musically.  But, there had to be the songs that he was going to introduce to kind of set up the theme of the record in a way.  There was definately alot of calculating that went on.

M: This is a concept that really isn't that far fetched from reality.
SJ: I wanted it to be not too far in the future.  I wanted to stay way far away from all the 2112 b.s.  What am I talking about 2112?  I'm mean 2012.  That's a great record though!  (laughing)  I was thinking that this could be right around the corner...a police state is declared and they could take over.  That was another thing.  There were things that I had written in and used in the script that I had cut out...little comments like an early intro where he originally said something about curfews being instated.  I was know what?  If these people are living in these times, everyone is well aware that there is curfews.  So we took that out.  There were things that I wanted to do so that it was really vague and realistic for someone in that time.

M: Do you think that musically, with "Black Ribbons", you're finding this might be the "Shooter Jennings" sound from here on out?
SJ: If I really had it my way, I would have done it without any music.  You know what I mean?  In a way, it was the Will 'O The Wisp part about this record that was so captivating to me that had this late night experience.  To capture that feeling that I had in the car that night.  That kind of a feeling is cool as hell to me.  I loved the "War of the Worlds" thing when they did that and I love old radio theater...all the shows and stuff.  I feel that every step of the way I've been 100 heart has been in every bit of music that I've put out there.  I feel that I'm growing as a person.  I'm a dad now.  I'm turning into or becoming my own human being and coming to terms with who I am in alot of ways.  This record was opening doors for me and is a reflection of that.

M: What would your dad think of the record?
SJ: I think he would love it for sure.  He would definatley be like "Man!  You put some thought into this".  He had the same policital views that I have.  Do the right thing was his thing.  Whoever did the right thing I think he would get behind.

M: What can someone who has never been to a Shooter Jennings show expect?
SJ: A pretty awesome balls to the wall set that has most of the new record.  We alternate out a couple of songs.  There's some of the old stuff and even some new stuff we've been kicking around in there.  It's been acutally one of those tours where we've been working up new songs and evolving the entire experience.  I feel like we're really hitting a groove finally.

M: ...and what would you do to convince someone who doesn't know Shooter Jennings to buy the new record?
SJ:  It's got Stephen King on it!  (laughing)  Seriously.  It's hard to explain the record to people.  The people that know me really well, wrote me and said this record was so me.  So, just trust me.  You'll like it.

M: Is there any charities or causes you like to plug?
SJ:  I have two things - diabetes research because that's why my dad died and that's something that he would want.  The other thing is the Iraq war vets.  They're coming back and it's tough or going to be tough for them.

To get the most up to date news, tour dates, and more on Shooter, log onto his offical website here or at

Here are more upcoming dates on the tour.  If you plan on going to the shows, be sure to pick up a copy of Black Ribbons.  Inside you will find a numbered Archetype card.  If your number appears next to the tour date, take your card with you to the show.  This is your pass to personally meet Shooter and the band.

Beachland Ballroom & Tavern  Website link
15711 Waterloo Rd.
Cleveland, OH 44110
(216) 383-1124

Tue, Oct 5| 8 PM (7 PM door)
Shooter Jennings & Hierophant
J-Roddy Walston & The Business

$16.00 adv / $18.00 dos
Ballroom | All Ages 

1o.5.2o1o_ Cleveland , OH_Beachland Ballroom
Buy Tickets
Archetype Card: 1

1o.6.2o1o_ Dekalb, IL_Ottos
Buy Tickets
Archetype Card: 3
1o.7.2o1o_ Indianapolis, IN_Vogue
Buy Tickets
Archetype Card: 1
1o.8.2o1o_ Nashville, TN_Exit In
Buy Tickets
Archetype Card: 2
1o.9.2o1o_ Louisville , KY_Headliners
Buy Tickets

Archetype Card: 4