On the day of the presidential election – November 4th 2016 – and prior to Black Stone Cherry’s upcoming UK tour commencing on 18th November…
I had a chat with the ever friendly Black Stone Cherry drummer John Fred Young about the bands heritage, their up-and-coming tour, the joys of family life and his informative and honest opinion about the US Presidential election. I managed to reach him after a couple of attempts while he was finishing up a previous interview, after asking how he was “today”, this is what he had to say…
I’m doing great man. Today is the vote for one of the worst choices in Presidential History… I’m hanging out I’m having coffee and I’m just like, man… I’ve been doing interviews all morning, this is like my fourth one and I’m so sorry I didn’t answer man (he was busy on the phone while I tried calling him prior to him calling me back) I was on the phone with one and I was trying to kinda get to a point where I could tell them to hang on and switch over to you and say hey man, just to hang on… I’m going to come back, but I couldn’t get to you. I’m sorry, but you got me now man, I’m all yours.
Oh Definitely I can’t wait, it’s going to be brilliant! I believe you’ve got an interview in about twenty minutes, so I won’t be too long with you… I believe that your father and your uncle were members of the Kentucky Headhunters?
Yes! Yes they’re still touring, alive and well man, they just turned out a new record, called “On Safari”, that came out three days ago here in the states and worldwide, it’s really cool man, cause obviously if you don’t know too much about the history, we grew up practicing in the Kentucky Headhunters practice house and my dad plays rhythm guitar… his name’s Richard and Fred is the drummer… my uncle, so when I was like 15, I got a drum set and Chris our lead singer he got a guitar from his dad and we went to the practice house and we started jamming man.
Chris and I we’ve been best friends since Kindergarten so it was a match made man! John our bass player came up from Florida when we were in 8th grade and we met Ben, our Blonde headed stage runner about 2001, so it’s been a cool thing man, because the Headhunters they put so many cool rock n roll posters up in the practice house to keep the heat in man… this is an old farmhouse probably like 1920’s, 1930’s. They really didn’t insulate the walls very well, man it was cracked, you could stand there and peek through the walls you know… so they put up all these posters to keep the heat in and albums and doing that, you know when we first started playing, I remember us all sitting back and looking at all these posters man, like Mott the Hoople and you know Aretha Franklin and just stuff man, legendary stuff, oh! and Zeppelin and the faces and it could go on for days man and Ray Charles. So we grew up kinda like old men, we had all these great American R&B artists looking at us everyday and we had the British sound with the Beatles, Stones and Faces, Yardbirds and then we had the Southern Rock stuff..the Skynyrd, Marshall Tucker and we really had a huge, I mean like education that a lot of young musicians didn’t really have and that was what was so spectacular about growing up in that house and going out and playing music and realizing that, we’ve got this different sound.
So when we got a record deal back in 2005 with Roadrunner records and man that was cool for a couple of years and then they got bought out…..and this new record “Kentucky” literally man we were home, we got the release date and we had just came of the damn road, on an almost sold out UK arena tour headlining it and we were like yeah! we just killed it… and we were told, well we’ll let you guys go! It was probably the first time in their history that had happened pretty bad but… it was really a good thing man because we needed that ability to feel like ok…OK we don’t have anybody over us anymore, nobody is telling us what to sound like… we’re just going to make a record man for us and our fans and to be genuine to the music you know and a lot of the stuff came out in the record, it’s pretty heavy! We had some angst to get out a little bit, you know some teen angst… I’m speaking about a younger band…we’re kinda getting on with some little wrinkles on our face, I guess we’re the old man angst… I tell you what, looking back on it now, I’m like man we made our first record in 2005, came out in 2006… that’s 10 years ago!
What’s been the musical influences for the band, is it the stuff you grew up listening to, when you listened to your dad and uncle play, or was it the Led Zeppelins, the Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd… has it all been a mash up of all of them, that have been an inspiration?
It’s a mash up man, cause yeah! Because growing up with the headhunters you know we’ve definitely been influenced by their brand of Southern Rock, American Blues, Country… and for us it’s like yeah man we’ve got… everything that they were jamming on in that house, it was kinda like it was a time capsule, you know when we started, we were listening too a lot of the same stuff that they grew up listening too but, we had also, other heavy bands we were listening to like Chord, Metallica and Soundgarden, stuff that gave us the heavy edge… you know man, one band that we leave out all the time that really influenced… I mean that really influenced Chris and I was Van Halen.
You know we were talking the other night about… how do you have a band that is that successful, with two different amazing singers? I mean I love… love David Lee Roth and then you turn around and you got Sammy Hagar! We toured with Chickenfoot probably 2011… I want to tell you something man… he’s a baaad ass! I mean yeah! He’s gotta be about 70 years old!.. or 68 or something and he’s up there just killing it… Now you’re… are you from Glasgow?
I’m from Glasgow yes and are you from Glasgow in Kentucky by any chance or roundabout that area?
I’ll tell you what! I’m about 10 miles west of it, in a place called Edmonton, it’s where Chris myself and Jon are based and Ben our guitar player lives in the next county over called Berring county and that is where Glasgow is… they borrowed that from you guys. It’s funny they have the Glasgow highland games there every year and a lot of people from Scotland and all over the country come… I tell you what I love Scotland, I’m not just saying that because you’re on the phone and just telling you that to be cool. You know we had a kind of tour I think it was I think 2013, we had 4 shows… we were in Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen and there was one more… one more place.
The best places are the three you remember!
Yeah ok… well maybe it was, it might have just been three! Normally, we’d just go Glasgow, we used to play The Cathouse when we were first started.
Oh… The Cathouse is great.
Ah!.. I love the Barrowlands man, that to me is incredible..that tour I’ll tell you something it was pretty awesome. The tour we did in 2014, the arena tour…we did the Hydro and you know, I’ve gotta be honest with you walking in the hallways… you’re headlining at a place and you see who played it… like Dolly Parton and your like, man you know, that’s incredible, an incredible feeling and man I’ll say this and you can put me on record, you are some insane… insane rock fans… and I don’t know man if it’s just… you know…
It’s in the water!
I don’t know… yeah! I think It’s in the water! I think it goes back to… you, know man, just that primal Braveheart stuff man… I tell you what it’s a treat!
You know if it hadn’t been for us touring outside of the United States… you know man we would have been flipping burgers… and I don’t mean that mean, because in america it got so hard for us because we were struggling so bad. I tell you what, the American rock radio is so just homogenised with like… I don’t mean it’s bad… it’s just labels put out these bands who sound just like the other one and it’s like if your not on the radio, you’re struggling… but us… what was so great was that we have literally just said, look we’re not playing this radio game and when we got released from roadrunner, we signed with Mascot Records and they have been the coolest label. We told them that we don’t want anybody overseeing our records, we want to make our own music and that’s the way we want to do it and it was so cool, because the owner would sit down with us, his name’s Ed… and at lunch in Switzerland one day, and I’ll never forget, the first thing the guy asked was what kind of guitars you guys play?… and I’m like… what the hell! and he’s like what kind of pick ups you guys use with your guitars… and that’s when I knew he was serious, I mean this guy was a musician!… because these people at the record labels… they don’t even know who the band members are. You know what I’m saying… it’s so corporate. This guy is coming to us and going look you know I had a guitar, you know I have background company and all kinds of stuff… he says I love music, I sign two bands a year… and I’m gonna tell you something we have seen so much hard work out of this label. They’re music lovers man, it’s not a bunch of mindless corporate [people… that’s when] it’s horrible, it’s not just the music business, it’s every business… it takes out the artistry very quick, when you got a product and you think everybody likes it, you want to make ten million other products just like that but you can’t because you’ve already got that product! There’s only one Nickelback… there’s only one Motely Crue… there’s only one Led Zeppelin… there’s only one Black Stone Cherry, you know we can’t be anything else. I’m not saying we’re as good as Led Zeppelin, but you’ve got to let artists be what they are and they’ve done that so well with us and allowed us to be who we are.
Where we are in our space, we’re fixing to come and do some shows. We’re doing the Cathouse (18th Novemeber)… we’re doing the Nordoff Robbins Charity, I’ll tell you what, that place is amazing. There’s been a lot of stories with our band in that club… we’ve had a lot of Kentucky boys pass out on dumpsters. It’s a great place man (genuine enthusiasm builds in his voice) and I’m glad we’re going to do this charity show and I’m glad we’re going to be able to do this charity show and I’m glad we’re going to be able to give back and to help.
What is the [Nordoff Robbins] Charity for that your helping out?
It’s the Nordoff Robbins Charity, it’s for the kids who are Mentally Handicapped , they teach music therapy and it’s really cool. I think the website is just Nordoff Robbins, but I don’t even know if that’s been announced yet…
You’ve just confirmed it so, that’s always good.
Ok cool cool, I know sometimes they try to do stuff last minute and make it a special secret thing, but I think yea your right, It’s been announced so that’s good..and that’s kind of our warm up show, it’s going to be cool man, It’ll be really cool, Oh Yea!
You’ve been on tour in Glasgow a few times, you’ve toured with the likes of Def Leppard and Whitesnake (SECC 2008) and others…Who’s been you’re favourite artist that you’ve toured with, also who’s been the most influential on the tour?
I’ll tell you what, it’s amazing because we toured with so many great bands I mean, The Whitesnake, Def Leppard tour… Unreal! That tour was so great, it was the first time we had really toured that massive an arena. We did an arena tour in America before that not on that level with those type of artists and they were so nice man… those guys just down to earth and really cool guys. The Nickelback tour… once again a great tour, did that in 2009, all the guys are great, great musicians, yeah I know they had the huge pop songs and stuff but at the end of the day those guys are killer rock players… and so yeah we did that, see we get so many cool tours over there.
We did a tour with Motorhead in Germany… that was WOW! DUDE… I mean just getting to watch those guys… one of the greatest, greatest… I mean the energy… it was just… it was great… it was legendary! I’ll tell you another tour that was killer man, was the Alterbridge tour… I’m telling you man, I never, ever thought growing up as a kid, watching MTV as a teenager and seeing Creed on there… everybody knew Creed, it’s like Creed were the biggest band since Guns ‘N Roses, they’re totally different you know but opening for those guys [in] 2011, we started touring with Alterbridge, in like March in the States and then they did a headline run… we opened for them and then that summer, we did a festival with them here in the States and then we did that full arena tour opening up for them.
I tell you it just got to be like family with those guys and I tell you their playing is unreal and their singing, you know Myles and Mark are just great and out of all the tours that one has probably been the one that I will cherish the most because… we invited all of our wives on that tour and man it was like before anybody has babies and half of us weren’t married we were still fiances and it was so much fun, we went looking at castles and just seeing the countryside and the shows and my wife just said to me yesterday… she goes “Gosh!, I wish that we could do another tour”,she just said to me today, she said… course we’ve got a little girl… she’s going to be 2 this coming week… she’s a monster drummer, I’m telling you! She (his wife) said, you know I wish I could just go with you and see the show. It’s just hard, because you’ve got little ones man, you can’t. I remember going on the road with my dad, when the Headhunters were touring… during summertime, I could go with them… God man it was such a trip, doing that… our kids will be able to do that too and they do in the States our kids travel with us, you know, go and see shows. It’s kind of like all ages shows, it’s hard to get the kids in the bars they don’t do those…but it’s just like the outdoors festivals. But yeah man I tell you when we had kids, it is different because you think about them all along, you know like, what’s my next move, what do I do, you know… how am I gonna make that work… but man being a parent, being a dad is awesome (he says with joy in his voice)! My damn back hurts all the time, but I wouldn’t trade it for nothing!
Has it gave you another perspective on life, having a family now…toward your music career..has it given you more focus on life, than just being solely motivated by music?
Man we’ve been such a family band since the beginning, it’s actually tighter now, because we all have kids… Ben is the only one who doesn’t have any kids yet, but they’re working on that and they’ve got a houseful of beagle hounds. Chris has a little boy, Jon has two little girls and I have a little girl so, you know we have a special situation because our band is family in all except blood because we’ve been together longer than marriages…and we’ve been through some shit too man! Like depression back in 2012 and it was rough man!
Have you came out the other side much closer and much more of a unit as a band now?
You know what it did for us man it took us down to rock bottom to where we were like literally in a Mexican restaurant going… OK! Are we going to be a band anymore. are these shows coming up going to be the last shows we’re going to do. and it was I tell you man… the human experience it really, it’s a testament to your brotherhood and to your love you have for each other, one of your four legs at the table get a crack in it and it really, it proves how strong you are, when you saw now look, we’re gonna fix this shit and make it right. It’s not gonna affect you man. and that’s the thing about brotherhood, its like you gotta stand by and make sure that they know man , if you could ride around with me on a daily basis or any of the other guys, you’d go man you guys are really boring!
(Laughs)… Not like Rock n roll!
We’re no different from anybody else man… taking out trash, paying bills… clean up the kitchen probably, changing diapers… that is who I am (enjoying the non rock n’ roll, family life style) on a daily basis. Until I get on that tour bus and go rock n roll. It’s so funny we’re definitely on a different platform or stage, if you will. Our growth as men it’s not like that 21 year old Black Stone Cherry… we were out there just rock n rolling, no care in the world..were we had just one bill maybe two bills at home, you know…it’s a non stop rat race man but you know.
I’m just so thankful that we have each other and we got our fans. Tell you what it’s funny, we joke all the time. We’re like Man, we gotta be the one band that’s out there headlining arenas and nobody’s gonna be out front… everybody’s gonna be backstage drinking beers, because we’ve made so many friends and it’s the truth man, our guest list is the biggest pain in the ass now (tongue-in-cheek) because we’ve made so many friends… these promoters, they (laughs), get so pissed off with us, because we have our guest list is people we’ve made friends with over the years and it’s like, it’s just hard man you want everybody to hang out and have a good time but you can’t put everybody on the guest list….but it’s a good problem to have.
You sound like humble people and you’re down to earth….One last thing I was going to ask you…since it’s a big day in America today… you can answer truthfully if you like or you can dodge the question… Are you Trump or Clinton?
(John-Fred Young Laughs Loudly)… I’ve done 3 interviews, but I’ll answer very truthfully for you.. Umm!.. I don’t have all the answers for how you run a nation, but i do know that the things that the everyday normal citizen, including myself!..see on a television that represent that we are programmed to believe as truth are very far from true… we will never really know the true agenda of what is going on behind very high up government doors and it’s going to always be like that.
It’s the same over here in the UK.
Yeah! That’s not just America, you guys know….but I feel that we have been very desencitized over here in America.. by reality tv, I feel like if our forefathers who founded this country could watch CNN, Fox or any of the debate, they would roll over in their damn graves. I feel like our country is a wonderful country, I feel that we have problems just like anywhere else, but I feel like that putting… erm… making us choose between two people that we really don’t need in those positions right now…I feel like we as a country could have put a much better choice… to be honest with you I know being as an American that it is my right and I should go vote today because people have fought and died for the freedom of what they..you know..they thought they were doing the right thing and I don’t want to disrespect that and not go vote. but man it’s like do you drink?
Are you asking me personally?
Do you drink arsenic? (Rhetorical Question)… or anthrax? It’s like what do you do! So I don’t really… and I consider myself a very, very liked intelligent person, I don’t claim to be the smartest, but you know man, there is just a bunch of…eh!, it’s comical, it’s really comical. I think that in a lot of the political world it’s like that!
We won’t pressure you into anything, it was a great answer, better than I could have expected. Thank you very much for your time today and it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you.
Yea sir, Thank you Liam I appreciate it… come up to that Nordoff Robbins thing.
Oh we will, me and my friends will be up there and we’ll be supporting
you and we’ll be at the Royal concert hall in Glasgow as well. There will be a lot of people there to see you and we can’t wait for it. Enjoy the rest of your day.
Thank you man!
Thank you very much for your time. It’s been an absolute pleasure!
Yeah yeah… sorry man I got this American phone service and it’s a heap load of shit! I’m gonna tell you what, it’s a lot cheaper than this other [phone] company we have, man I’m telling you what you might as well take an old ham radio from the 1950’s and plug it into your car and try to talk with it because [the phone company] it’s just junk… but I hope I sound OK with the phone and everything!
You sound absolutely great.
You take care of yourself.
You too, hopefully they don’t tie you up with too many interviews.
Oh I’ve got about six more (Laughs)..You have a wonderful, wonderful rest of the year.
You too and we look forward to seeing you in Glasgow very soon.
Alright, bye man!
You can see John Fred Young and the rest of Black Stone Cherry rocking it out at the “In Aid of Nordoff Robbins” charity gig at The Cathouse in Glasgow on 18th November (this Friday), they will also be playing at The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall the following Friday (25th of November). They will both be nights that you won’t want to miss.
Cardiff St David’s Hall – Sat 19th
Portsmouth Guildhall – Mon 21st
Woverhampton Civic Hall – Tue 22nd
Manchester O2 Apollo – Thu 24th
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall Fri 25th
Newcastle City Hall – Sun 27th
Sheffield City Hall – Mon 28th
Brighton Dome – Wed 30th
Nottingham Royal Concert Hall – Thu 1st
Bristol Colston Hall – Fri 2nd
Planet Rockstock – Sun 4th
London O2 Shepherds Bush Empire – Mon 5th
London O2 Shepherds Bush Empire – Tue 6th
Norwich UEA – Thu 8th