Here’s the tricky part. With the demise of The White Stripes, the inevitable search will begin for the next band to fill their shoes. Frankly, we’d prefer a band that shares that same love of blues-tinged rock and roll, but finds their own way to win our hearts. It’s been a long time since a new band has blown me away with their passion, songwriting and musicianship. Black Pistol Fire are one of the most exciting bands I’ve heard since the inception of this website. The two-piece from Austin’s soon-to-be-released debut, fills the speakers with an intensity that would leave your proto-typical four-piece gasping for air. They seem to understand that the brilliance of the blues is that ability to recognize that those moments of quiet can be just as intense as those filled with fire and brimstone. While the Stripes hailed from Detroit, it’s Kevin McKeown on guitar/lead vocals and Eric Owen on drums who seem to have spent their youth listening to early Stooges records, finding a way to incorporate that punk ethos into their sound. The result is a band that exudes smoke, sweat and whiskey…. and these are just a few of our favorite things. Eric took a few moments to talk about our plans for their global domination.
TDOA: I’m originally from Detroit, so your decision to record this album there has special significance to me. What led to the decision to record there?
EO: Nice. Well, Detroit has such a rich musical history. You go back to Motown and then the garage movements of Iggy and The Stooges and MC5 in the 70’s. Then The White Stripes, Von Bondies and Greenhorns in the late 90’s. I wish I could say that was the main reason, but there’s more to it. We knew there was a powerful sound that we had live and we wanted to be able to capture it on record. A studio in Detroit was the place we were able to do that.
TDOA: Despite being a two-piece, the sonics of this record are incredible. Who produced the record and how did you get such a dense sound?
EO: This is actually why we went to Detroit. The producer on most of the record is our good friend Michael Rocha of Roachmouth Records. He is from Toronto and he really helped with songs, arrangements, and keeping us on our toes. Detroit has Mr. Jim Diamond who recorded, mixed, and mastered the entire LP. He worked on a lot of the records that we were really into at the time and we knew he could capture the sound that we wanted. We met him in Austin and it seemed like the right fit. A big part of the sound comes from the way that we play and the energy that the two of us share and reflect back to the other. We also record on to tape and do most of the stuff live off the floor. His studio is this big room in what looks like an abandoned building that lends itself to this type of music. Kevin and I are both pretty powerful in the way that we play and Jim is the best at capturing it. We will definitely be working with both of those guys again.
TDOA: Mind satisfying the guitar geeks out there and tell us about your guitar and amp set-up?
EO: 57 princeton reverb amp, 4 10 hot rod deville amp, es 335 hollow body epiphone. tube screamer and a fuzz pedal, thats it!
TDOA: Inevitably, people are going to compare you to The White Stripes and Black Keys, due to your two-piece lineup and blues-tinged feel. Do you like to be compared to other bands or do you feel like it diminishes what you’re trying to accomplish?
EO: Don’t really mind being compared to those bands, as we are fans of both. Obviously there are some similarities with us and them but we don’t feel like we particularly sound a like. We didn’t plan on being a duo, it just happened. We went through a few bass players in the past and it just never seemed to work out. We thought we would see how things go with just the two of us. We play as if we weren’t a duo. We play with the comfort that players in a bigger band would feel because we trust each other to back up whatever the other is putting out there. There’s not always the need to fill space….. sonically speaking of course. Those comparisons will come, but once people see us live they will see just how vastly different we are from both the Keys and Stripes. For one, we typically play at a much quicker tempo. And a lot of our music is more conducive to dancing. Plus we really feed off each other and improvise A LOT when we play live.
TDOA: I’m not sure people understand the roots of the music that you’re making. What do you deem to be your influences?
EO: I know that Kevin grew up on old Rock and Roll like Elvis, Carl Perkins, Little Richard, and Buddy Holly. Then he progressed to The Beatles, The Band, and Dylan. Derek and the Dominoes and Hendrix really turned him onto guitar. I grew up listening to a lot of grunge and punk rock. I started with Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Bad Religion, and Rancid. Then I really got into Southern Jam bands like the Allman Brothers, Widespread Panic, My Morning Jacket, and Gov’t Mule. But I’d say the biggest influences on us as a band would be CCR, Zeppelin, and the first 2 Kings of Leon albums. And there’s so much more music that we love but that it would just take way too long to list.
TDOA: How do you view the music scene in Austin compared to your hometown of Toronto? Everyone knows that Austin’s a great music town, but Toronto has a good scene too, right?
EO: I’ve been asked this before. Both definitely have great music scenes although they differ significantly. They both have every genre but I would say that Toronto gears a lot more towards Indie Rock and Electronic music. Austin leans a little more toward Rock and Roll, Blues, Bluegrass, Funk etc. I would say that the musicians in Austin are probably better as a whole although it’s close. You can go out to a random club on a Tuesday or Wednesday night and maybe see the best fiddler, banjo player, or bassist that you’ve ever seen. I do think that being in a band in Toronto is a little more special because the majority of people aren’t in one. In Austin, it seems as though everyone is in a band or knows 10 people in bands and so when inform someone that you are, they aren’t as impressed. I would say there is more of a local scene in Austin and people really make an attempt to support live music. There is a lot more of the music industry and opportunity in Toronto. I’d say a big difference is that most musicians come to Austin to experience the music, learn and collaborate. They don’t necessarily come to “make it” while a lot would move to Toronto for that reason. We do really love both cities though.
TDOA: At a time when I think all the good band names have been taken, you’ve come up with a great one. How’d you come up with it?
EO: We were in a band called The Shenanigans for a long time and even used that name for a while after we became a two-piece. We were playing totally new songs and had a very different sound and decided that we needed to get a new name that also suited our sound and left that band as it was. We brainstormed for a while and came up with a bunch. We figured that combining a color (or shade in this case), a weapon, and an element would yield a very powerful sounding name. A statement! Kevin came up with Black Fire Pistol and then we reworded it to Black Pistol Fire. It was down to the two and we called our designer Kiel Perchinig and our producer Michael Rocha to see which one they thought sounded best. We trust those guys and between the four of us, the decision was unanimous… Black Pistol Fire was born that day. The baptism is still on the way though.
TDOA: I know you’ve got a few shows booked and are playing SXSW, but do you plan on doing a more extensive tour?
EO: Definitely! We’re a live band first and foremost. That is where we thrive. We need to play live, it’s an addiction. We get to go all out, improvise and jam on some of the songs, and even toss in some crunchy covers. We’ll be touring all over the US and Canada come May. I still have to get word on dates but we’ll be coming to your area so look out! It’ll be a party. The shows will mainly be in Texas and the near Southern states until April.We were supposed to tour Europe (France and Germany) in April but that hasn’t been finalized. I actually saw that someone is advertising and promoting a Black Pistol Fire show in Amsterdam. Our picture is on all websites and everything. It’s news to us.
TDOA: I’ve watched a few live videos of you guys performing, but do you plan to make a video?
EO: We are in the process of making one right now for the song “Suffocation Blues”. It’s going to be a dark and grisly animated video. It will revolve around the life of a “stick up” man in West Texas circa 1956. He is a fucking bad dude. Kevin and I aren’t really into acting like we’re rock stars and posing for the cameras, so this was the best option. I thought of the concept and then my girlfriend Abby and I story boarded the whole thing. I’ve hired a local animator who is working on it as we speak. It should be complete and online around our record release date. I’ve seen some of the drawings and it looks bad-ass.
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