The Black Crowes – Interview

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The Black Crowes

Where have the Black Crowes been? What’s going on with their new album? Who’s idea was it to play at the Super Bowl? I recently had the opportunity to chat with their drummer, Steve Gorman, and he offered all kinds of insight into the “most rock n’ roll rock n’ roll band in the world” today. Here’s how it all went down…

What’s going on in the Black Crowes world?

This, man, this is what’s going on!

Congratulations on the Super Bowl gig. How did you get hooked up with that?

They just called and said, ‘Are you guys interested in coming down?’ We said yes. It was definitely cool. The Falcons were in, but of course it was not cool that they decided not to play.

Do you think the exposure helped?

Who knows, really. That’s the kind of thing that if over time people are coming up to us and saying, ‘Man, I saw that. It was great and I went out and bought the record,’ we’d be appreciative. I guess you hope for that. And it’s certainly [seen by] a lot of people that might not normally be checking out the Black Crowes. We’ll just wait and see.

The new album is great. Did you try to do anything different from your other releases?

No. I think every record has a common thread through it. That is, they’re all very honest records. They’re all very accurate and are straight portrayals of where we are as people. I mean, the mindset of the band and how we feel emotionally and spiritually and mentally. All those things affect the kind of music we write and play. I think this record is a very positive record. It’s good feeling and very confident. We finally figured out what we’re doing now and we’re enjoying it. And we’re very appreciative of the fact that we’ve been able to do this for as long as we have.

Did you use the same producer?

This is the first time we’ve worked with this guy.

How was it?

It was great. We haven’t had a full-on producer since our first album. We had co-produced and engineered the whole time, so that [difference is] a big part of the album’s feel and sound. We were hoping to find somebody that we could trust enough. Their opinion would warrant something. That’s what a producer really is, someone you can trust. He’s taking our songs and putting in his input and we have to make sure we’re all in a similar mindset. With Kevin, it was apparent from the first time we met him he was going to be a great guy to work with. We all had a very similar mindset of what we wanted to do based on what the songs were in the writing process: what they should sound like, what the record should sound like. We were all in agreement the whole time.

Do you have a ton of songs to choose from?

Yes. There’s always a big batch. We had from thirty to forty songs in the fall of 1997 and winter of 1998. We had a huge number of songs and when we went up to New York in March to start putting the record together, we kind of trimmed it down to twenty. Of that twenty, eleven made the record.

Your music has evolved a lot over the course of your career, but you guys have stuck to your roots. Can you explain your continuity?

We’re not ever going to be phased by the cycles of popular music. We’re not a pop band; we’re a rock n’ roll band. To us, rock n’ roll is a combination of different elements. All the different Southern American traditional music forms: country and folk, Appalachian music, bluegrass. Then on the other side you have blues, funk, r&b, gospel music, jazz, and b-bop. All of those things combined make up rock n’ roll and we take that very seriously. We can go as far into our roots as time will allow us to and never come out on the other side. Those musical forms are eternal, they’re infinite. So, if that’s where we’re coming from, that’s going to be the same thing for our music. It’s not going to be, ‘well, we’re not going to be dictated by what is fashionable one year.’ Rock n’ roll is rock n’ roll. There’s always a fashion to rock n’ roll, but it’ll never be the most fashionable thing. Throughout rock history, you think of the great rock albums [and] if you look at when those records were at their biggest, something really silly was number one on the singles chart. When Led Zeppelin were selling more albums than anyone, the Carpenters were number one on the chart.

I heard a rumor you were playing at the Million Man March being put on by NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) in New York City and Washington, D.C. on May 2nd and 3rd.

We played one show that NORML put on in 1992, but we’ve never aligned ourselves with NORML or the legalization movement; we’ve just voiced our opinions on it. We certainly have gotten that image that we’re in sync with NORML at all times, but we really have nothing to do with them. That’s their organization and we’re just a rock n’ roll band who speaks their minds.

Would you guys ever consider playing something like the Further Festival again?

Steve: If the lineup is there. We’d consider anything. The thing about doing that kind of festival [is that] we were a harder edged band than a lot of the bands there. I think people might wonder why we do something like that. To us, I mean getting back to the wider range of musical forms, I think it’s cool when you can put a rock n’ roll band on stage with Bruce Hornsby, a big percussive group like Planet Drum, and then have any number of other artists. You can get kind of a different range like that. It was just a great show.

Have you heard about Woodstock ’99?

No. We’re just focused on what we’re doing now. I mean, if there is going to be something like that, I’m sure we’ll hear of it eventually.

What plans do you have for the rest of the year?

We’re going to be on tour the whole year. We start the tour on the 11th [of February] in Milwaukee and we want to be out throughout ’99 and into 2000. And that’s all around the world.

Anything planned for the new millennium?

Not a thing, but we’ll see. It’s just a lot of hype. We’re going to wake up the next day, the sun will still be there, but nothing’s really going to change, except a few people’s computers won’t catch up.

Do you take care of your website?

We don’t take care of it, but we do have input into it. I write all those notes, but I don’t implement them, and I do answer all my questions.

Do you feel the presence of the Internet has helped your fans to stay connected?

I’m sure it has on some levels. I don’t know how many people get on and surf every day or if it’s part of their everyday life. I know if it is, it’s a very important tool. It certainly doesn’t hurt any. For the people who are out there, it lets them know what is going on. But again, we don’t know how much it really helps.

Well that’s about it. Do you have anything to add?

Not really. We’ll be all over the US and into Europe and Japan later this year, so we’ll be around.

Good luck to you guys. I’m looking forward to seeing you again.

Thanks a lot, man. Have a good one.

+ rick hinkson

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