He’s been one of the brightest young things in blues rock for years but the prolific Joe Bonamassa is ready to take his game to the next level. We caught up with the Black Country Communion guitar hero.
rushonrock: After your High Voltage set this summer you were straight off stage and meeting your fans – is that relationship more difficult to sustain the more popular you become?
Joe Bonamassa: It used to be the case that when I was playing clubs of 200 or 300 people I could finish the gig and sit at a table and meet the people who were there. There’d always be half of the crowd still milling around at the end and I’d set an hour or so aside to talk to them. I’ve always had a great relationship with my fans and many of them have become my friends. I’m never happier than when I’m chatting after gigs and swapping anecdotes. I find out people have danced their first wedding dance to one of my songs and stuff like that. I never take that kind of thing for granted. I might be playing big venues and festivals now but I’m always grateful when people ask me for a handshake or some other kind of gesture. What happened after High Voltage just seemed like the most natural thing to do.
rushonrock: But you didn’t even have time for a shower…
JB: I came off and saw this gaggle of people hanging onto a huge wire gate. They were shouting ‘Joe, Joe’ and I was feeling fine. I wasn’t tired – I’d only played an hour instead of my usual two-and-a-half hour show. So I just wandered over. For me there’s no line between artist and fan. My security guy and the High Voltage team might have felt a little different. But these are the people who pay for the tickets which make these events possible. When you look at it like that there’s no argument.
rushonrock: How excited are you that the long awaited Black Country Communion record is finally out there?
JB: I’m happy that people are finally getting to hear it from start to finish. We released a single a couple of weeks before the album but then other songs were leaked – as a musician I want people to hear it in its entirety so thy can make a measured judgement. I think when you listen to the album it becomes clear just how much fun the five of us (the band and producer Kevin Shirley) had making the album. It’s one of my proudest achievements.
rushonrock: Can you describe the atmosphere working within your so-called supergroup?
JB: Having all of these guys who are so good at their job in one room working together was incredible. Creating and reacting to ideas was a blast. Everyone was swinging a heavy bat and playing at the top of their game. We came together from different backgrounds but the aim was always to make a real band record. And that’s what BCC is – it’s very much a real band.
rushonrock: So is this the future for you?
JB: I don’t think people were ever going to give up their solo careers for this band but as long as we’re here we’ll give it our all. There are no guarantees in this world and reaction to the record could have swung the other way. But I’m delighted it’s been so well received. There’s no obvious demand for a band which puts out a record full of songs that people don’t know. But if that demand is there then it simplifies things a great deal as far as the future is concerned.
rushonrock: Is your heavier approach to playing with BCC representative of the direction you could take as a solo artist?
JB: Not really. First and foremost I’m a blues based artist. We’ve had a huge amount of success taking the blues and developing it. We’ve created a sub-genre and I have to give great credit to Kevin Shirley for coming up with the whole concept of modern blues. That’s my sound. I like the fact that when I’m making a solo record I’m not under pressure to adhere to any particular genre. But 12 songs down the line records tend to make sense. With BCC I could play a rock style that I do dabble with and flirt with from time to time but wouldn’t work on my solo albums. I brought out the Marshall and just shredded for a while. It was fun.
rushonrock: Did you ever imagine you’d have a Top 14 UK album in your latest solo record Black Rock?
JB: When we cracked the Top 40 in America and the Top 20 almost everywhere else in the world it was like ‘oh man!’. But when it comes down to it that just reflects a lot of hard work by a lot of people. I’m so glad that fans like the Black Rock record but I’m glad we built a loyal fan base from the start. And I’m pleased that each album we do is selling better than the last! I’m extremely honoured to have had the success we’ve had in the UK – the seed we sowed all those years ago has grown from Britain and reached every other country in the world. I never imagined 10 years ago that we’d get to this point but you know what – I take very few days off.
rushonrock: And you’re not taking many more off in the next few months…
JB: No, mentally and physically in can take its toll. I’ve been lucky enough to stay fairly fit and healthy for a number of years. I don’t use a personal trainer or anything like that but I’ve been touring for 20 years and I know how to take care of myself – that’s the key. It’s not a party, it’s a job. You don’t go to work and drink or go to work and fail to take your job seriously. I need to look after myself for my sake and for the sake of the fans. This year has been a real test – we’ve already toured Australia and Japan and we’ll have done two tours of America before the year is out. We’ve done five UK shows in 2010 already this year and that’s not including the High Voltage festival. We’re going into Israel again this year and we’ve already done Russia. But I’m thinking of having a three-and-a-half week break after December 12.
rushonrock: And after that?
JB: After that I’ll finish the new solo album that we started writing in August. And then, who knows, it might be time to hook up with the Black Country Communion guys again…