Managing to blend many of the current trends in rock music with quite a bit of the sensibilities and, perhaps, stylized sound of 90s artists such as The Smashing Pumpkins or Stabbing Westward, Nick Black and his band, the Nick Black Band, don’t exactly reinvent the wheel — but they do manage to take it out for a damned decent spin.
Curious about the man and his music, I began to email Nick Black and inquire as to whether or not he might be willing to answer some of my questions, as well as allow me to review his current album, Hollow. Extremely polite and, I think, amused at the idea that someone would request such a thing out of the blue and from Arkansas no less, he graciously agreed.
The decision to name the band Nick Black; was it because you wanted there to be no separation between yourself and your music, or was it something else entirely?
Fair enough. Who are the individual members of the Nick Black Band? How did you all meet and eventually come together to make music?
The band consists of Clay Davies, Jaedis, Robin, and Myself. The project was mostly Clay and I, as far as composing/arranging the songs, all the way up to the point when we went in the studio to record. Robin was a mutual friend and a great session drummer so we brought him in to track the drums. Jaedis wasn't added until later, when the full concept of the band was in place, and we decided on having a female bass player.
What was the first song that everyone played together? Was it an original or a cover? I think the reason I ask this, really, is that I've fallen in love with your version of Heart's "Barracuda" on your new album, and I was just wondering.
Actually I think the first song we played together was “Want You More,” a song that is on the album itself. Glad to hear you like Barracuda, though.
Can you remember the first original song you wrote? Was it something you wrote with this band? If not, can you remember the first song that happened once everyone was together?
Being fascinated with the idea of writing something and then eventually seeing it come to life, I'd like to know what it felt like the first time you worked out a song and then actually played it live. What did that feel like? Having something that began as a simple idea, and then watching it transform into something tangible that connected everyone in the band into one?
It's truly a great feeling, mostly when you see people react to it, groove to it, and compliment you on it. Nothing compares! Without the reactions of others, composing music would be FAR less rewarding.
Changing subjects slightly, how long did it take you guys to get to the point where you were ready to go into the studio to record your new album, Hollow?
Clay and I spent about 8 months writing and defining our sound before we went into the studio.
Did you already have the songs written or were they created during the recording process? Also, were there other songs recorded that for one reason or another didn't make the final cut for the album?
We had everything written with the exception of a few bridges and solos prior to stepping foot into the studio. And, there was one song that got dropped, actually. It was (dropped) mostly because it didn't "mesh" with the rest of the tracks.
The packaging of the album, from the songs, the artwork, the story and vision that seem to tie everything together, where did that come from? Was it something that was intended from the outset or was it something that germinated from the process of putting these songs down in the studio?
All of the concepts that went into the artwork were actually thought up after we finished recording and mixing the album; it took another several months to pull it all together into the package we have now.
As for the artwork itself, who is the artist responsible for it? Whether on the album itself, the official website for the band, or your myspace page, it seems such an integral part of the band's persona, that I'm just curious about it all.
A good friend of mine, Lance, did all of the illustrations with my direction. That is to say, I had the ideas for the characters, and what they were to look like and so forth, and I worked with Lance to get the final images.
I've actually noticed that there seems to be a plan to create a comic book for each of the songs on the album. Where did that idea come from, and is that something that looks like it will actually be happening? If the answer is yes, would these comics be something that fans could purchase, either via an actual physical comic, or by something downloaded?
Again, I had the idea to create a comic for each song on the album, to tell a story, which is more or less a symbolic tale of events that happened in my own life to inspire the writing on the record. The first comic should be done in the near future, and will be available on nickblack.net.
Continuing the idea of this all being tied in together how did each of the band members evolve, within the context of the album and the band's story, into their respective characters?
For the most part, the characters are not far off in personality to the members in the band. So, it really kind of fell into place rather easily.
Your music is very emotional, and in some small way seems to echo the power and energy of other bands, that also wear their emotions and emotional attachments to their fans on their sleeves, such as My Chemical Romance, for instance. Was it something done consciously, this reaching out on an emotional level to listeners? Or, was it simply the way the songs came out, reflecting yourself more than any of your conscious planning?
To be perfectly honest, the songs are what they are without any conscious efforts in any direction. Everything came out just the way you hear it.
And that, really, was where the “interview” portion of our emails ended. Near the end of the final email, though, I included a comment to Nick that he seemed to get a kick out of, so I’ll drop it in.
"Nick, I have to tell you that I've listened to your album many many times, and I've just fallen in love with it. Of course, most of the time I have to hunt for it, as my eighteen-year-old sister seems intent on stealing it for herself, so that's easier said than done."
Nick: "LOL, well I'm VERY happy to hear that both of you like it so much!"
"I want to thank you for putting up with me and for taking the time to answer these questions. My sister, on the other hand, is reading this as I type and is wondering if she might be able to get an autograph? LOL."
"Nick: LOL. We'll have to see what we can do on that. "
Normally, I’d never include such a comment at the end of an interview, but it was something that actually happened. Standing over my shoulder, my sister pretty much demanded that I ask him for his autograph.
I think that speaks a lot for Nick and his band. Ever since our mother passed away this past September, music has been something that has allowed my sister to drown out some of the fears and frustrations that can overwhelm you. Usually she gravitates toward her favorite bands, but ever since I’ve had my copy of Nick’s album, she’s been listening to it non-stop.
Maybe it’s that Nick is not bad on the eyes — so she tells me– or that his album is built on solid musicianship; or maybe the album’s lyrics and all that they encompass have managed to connect with her in some profound way. Personally, I think it’s just that he made something that is rarer than you think, nowadays.
A damned-good rock and roll album.