With new album Head Down due out in August and current long player Pressure & Time still winning new converts every week these are exciting times for Jay Buchanan and his retro-fuelled buddies.
This year’s tour with Black Stone Cherry is still fresh in the minds of UK fans and Sunday’s Castle Donington slot should draw a sizeable crowd to the Zippo Encore stage.
RUSHONROCK editor Simon Rushworth caught up with Buchanan to bring you yet another exclusive interview. And look out for the return of our essential Download – The ‘Load Down series all this week as we preview the must-see acts at this year’s rock and metal shindig!
rushonrock: The last time we saw you in the UK was opening up for Black Stone Cherry – how did you feel that partnership worked?
Jay Buchanan: That was a great tour. We weren’t really familiar with their music before then but our agents put it together and they thought it would be a great bill. It was a pleasure getting to know them – they’re real sweethearts and between their crowd and our crowd it made for some pretty great shows. Everywhere sold out and the response from BSC’s audience to us was tremendous.
rushonrock: Can you explain the disparity in BSC’s popularity over here compared to in the US?
JB: The market in the United States is really flooded but I think there’s a few contributing factors as to why bands like Black Stone Cherry are bigger in the UK than they are back home. Rock n roll is synonymous with the UK – it came from America but we’re so inundated with so many things over there. Also there’s the geographical aspect. Everywhere is so spread out that touring is endless and you can’t get everywhere. You might start in New York and go through all of these land locked states – hundreds of thousands of miles – and maybe visit Wisconsin, Utah and Colorado – and then it’s time to move on. In the UK everything is so compact that it’s possible to see a lot more people in a shorter space of time. You can cover a lot of ground in the UK and Europe and build up a big fan base quickly.
rushonrock: Are you making an impact on the US scene?
JB: As far as we’re concerned it’s very much the same as Black Stone Cherry. We spent most of the time between the Judas Priest tour and the BSC tour in the UK and Europe. We did a couple of short US tours. We went out on the road with Evanescence and as odd as we thought that pairing would be it turned out to be fantastic and their fans really took to us. So our fan base is growing back home but the growth’s nowhere near as fast as in the UK.
rushonrock: Are you supported by radio back home?
JB: The monopoly on radio in the US is very frustrating – the power is in a very few hands as far as who determines what is played and when. We don’t have the money to make sure we get played. They say that payola is dead but it’s far from it. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in – palm gracing has always been prevalent.
rushonrock: Does the UK feel like your spiritual home?
JB: Well as far as a home is concerned it barely exists back in the US. Period. I have a family back home – I have a young son – and we’re just never home. We just live the FedEx package lifestyle where we’re always in transit. But the UK works just like everywhere else – you instantly love the people that love and like any wild animal you go to where the water is. People have been so welcoming in the UK and the fan base has been so Richter Scale crazy that how could we not absolutely love coming over to Britian?
rushonrock: Are you proud of the fact that you’ve made a connection with British audiences so early in your career?
JB: Our rap sheet for the UK is that we’ve never not sold out. We’ve sold out every time we’ve played there – from our very first one right up to our last one. That makes you feel very good as a musician. It’s validating but to actually know you’re appreciated gives you the strength to get in there and make another record and keep it going. It keeps the fire burning.
rushonrock: Does the welcome you’ve had from UK fans make life as a touring musician more bearable?
JB: It makes it a little easier spending so much time away from my family. If we were playing to five or six people and the bartender it would be dismal. I would be drunk all the time. It would be a very depressing scene. But come to think of it I wouldn’t even be doing those shows. Five or six people and we keep on touring even though nothing’s happening? I don’t know what the plan would be there….
rushonrock: But are you able to keep in touch with your family on the road?
JB: With modern technology I get to see my son every day. And my sister had a baby earlier this year so I was able to feel like I was part of that even though I was a long way from home. We were back in April and I got to meet my new nephew then but I already felt like I knew him to an extent.
rushonrock: Earlier this month your label announced the follow-up to Pressure & Time is incoming. Is that true?
JB: The new album is already recorded and ready to be released. It’s done. We slept in the studio and in 20 days we wrote and recorded a new record. When we first set out we did the Pressure & Time record like that and if we hadn’t done then it could easily have got away from us. None of us had made a record like that before but we had the audacity and the hubris to do it. It could have gone horribly wrong but we found out we could actually do it. And if we can do it then so can everybody else. We have no prodigy in the band or anything like that – we’re just guys who love music and putting yourself under extreme pressure gets results. There’s no reason to burn the midnight oil every night and think about what you’re going to do – just get it done!
rushonrock: Surely some people have put pressure on you to reassess your approach to recording?
JB: I was talking to Kid Rock about it. He had me over to dinner a while ago and I was telling him about recording the new album. He thought I was an idiot! He said that’s now how you make a record – he said ‘you really need to rethink that. You’re wasting an opportunity.’ And I said ‘man, you’re really wrong about that. Bob, you’re just wrong.’
rushonrock: Is it an approach to recording that you’ll be sticking with?
JB: As long as this band stays together we want to make real rock n roll that has that immediacy and has that danger. Pressure & Time is a record of all first and second takes. The songs are really fresh and nobody is really certain about what they’re doing. On the new record it was the same thing – even more new takes if anything.
rushonrock: When can we expect to see the new record?
JB: The label bosses were always talking about the new album hitting stores in late summer. That’s what they’ve been shooting for and it’s slated for late August now. It’s called Head Down. But people forget that Pressure & Time has only been out for a year so that’s pretty good going!
rushonrock: It was also reissued with some bonus material at the time you toured the UK with BSC – how did you feel about that?
JB: The label just didn’t want the success of Pressure & Time to die – they’re an independent label that hates spending money on anything! But if they’re coming to us and saying that they want to re-release our debut then who are we to argue? I know there were some fans who weren’t too happy that there was another version of Pressure & Time on the market but if they didn’t want it they didn’t have to buy it. Nobody had them in an arm lock forcing them to part with their cash!