Few hours before the Baroness co-headlining gig with Kyelsa at Copenhagen’s Stengade 30 I met up Baroness’ singer/guitarist John Baizley in the basement under the club.
The band that has been very active in underground circles in the pas five years has with the latest album, The Red Album, gained huge critical acclaim from the press around the world. Baizley was very friendly and it was interesting to hear his views on the band’s music, touring, artwork, internet and what not.
MR: Would you mind starting off by saying bit about Baroness for those of our readers who aren’t familiar with the band?
John Baizley: We started in 2003 in Savannah, Georgia, just four guys wanting to create something for themselves, something unique and fast forward four five years and here we are in Denmark. So basically things are going very well for the band.
MR: So this is not your first time headlining in Europe?
JB: No this out third time in Europe. We are co-headlining with Kylesa. Year and a half we did a co-headlining tour with Miami band called Torche and Year and half before that we did a co-headlining tour of UK with the band called The Capricorns.
MR: So can you tell me bit about the new album. It got some great reviews, as far as I can remember it was called album of the year in Revolver Magazine.
JB: The response we got in the press was great and we are grateful for journalists who give a shit of what we are doing. But honestly it is much more important for me the reaction that we get for out fanbase. So, yes I am happy that magazines and websites are catching up on what we are doing, but I am happier at the shows where we get that reaction from the fans and gaining access to the new fans.
MR: I guess that reaction from the fans was great too?
JB: The reaction from the fans on this tour has been great, the best one so far. It has all been very overwhelming; the number of people who come out and seem to care about the band, the positive response we get from people, the new connections that we make, It has been absolutely fantastic.
MR: Basically you have just answered my next question, which was about this tour (laughing).
JB: Yeah (laughing). It has just been, you know…We haven’t had a bummer show on this tour yet. The people come out to talk to us after the show and everyone is just happy abut it and that is exactly what we want. We feel so positively and so great about the record and playing it on stage is the most important thing for us. To get that great response from the crowd it’s just perfect.
MR: Isn’t it kind of weird getting that response, even thou you are in a completely different kind of a world, far away from home?
JB: It is not weird at this point anymore because at this point we have played close to a thousand shows and we have been touring constantly for five years, so it is not necessarily surprising, but it’s consistently great and as a musician that is all you need.
MR: Would you say that there is a certain difference when it comes to crowds for example in Europe and in USA?
JB: Yeah. I mean, out American crowd is little bit different because they don’t treat us as…I mean, we have played most of the US cities six to ten times and some well over twenty. So in the US there is always portion of the crowd that I know will be at the show; people that I have met people that we have shared experiences with and even slept in their houses. So it feels bit more like a family with all the ups and downs that a family has. And over here, since we are not from here; people have a genuine…you know what I mean, they feel bit more tangible, people who honestly enjoy our music and enjoy what we have to offer on the stage and seam well informed on what we are doing. Our fans here seam more interested; they read what we said in magazines or websites and follow us closely. Europe is defiantly our strong point.
MR: Could you say something about the album? Personally I think it is avery good album , but also very interesting and in lots of ways I would have a hard time describing it. Maybe would be better at that being that you are part of it?
JB: Oh I am the last person you should ask about that (laughs), because I don’t think about the songs in terms of what they sound like, their style, speed or their atmosphere. Those songs for me are like a representation of certain points; representing the time when you wrote it. And the way we write is that we try to express whatever has been happening to us at that time so, you know, certain songs remind me of certain situations. At the time when we were writing The Red Album there was so many things happening to us and this gave the different colors to each song. If it was a good week we were writing a positive song and if some of us were struggling with something then some darker songs would come out of that. We never point ourselves to one direction; we never say “We have to write something in this direction”. We just get to our rehearsal space and play.
MR: I guess that is the best way and it represents one’s life best, because doesn’t always suck and it doesn’t always go well.
JB: Yes, that is something we have played a lot of attention to. Basically what we are feeling that is what we write about. Chances are, if I am feeling something and I am trying to express that…I succeed.
MR: I would like to hear bit more about the cover of the album and also about your graphical work for the other bands.
JB: Sure. I don’t like to over explain anything that we do, but essentially when we stated working on this album…I mean the art goes hand in hand with music for me, they are both very important and all of our prior releases and all the visual things I have done with a full trust from the band. There was very little artistic direction, but mostly approval at the end of the project and since The Red Album was shaping up to be a very personal to each member, what I asked them to do was to come up with something, like an image or a idea that represented their feeling about this album. And the whole idea was to make it intentionally difficult and very important. I didn’t ask anyone to explain what their idea was; just hoping that the ideas from four persons would mean something that can represent the album I thin that has happened. Honestly I can’t explain what that drawing is about because it represents three other guys in the band.
MR: What about working on graphical stuff for other bands and how does that come along?
JB: The only way that I consider it a job is because that is all that I do. I don’t have a normal job. But I have been very fortunate in past few years to work with bands that I either know or respect musically with every ounce of admiration so you know, 100% of the time that I am working I am grateful. It is a great mutual experience for the bands and me.
MB: Working on graphics are there some certain people that inspire you?
JB: Ultimately it comes from the inside. I am putting out my personality out there, that is the key point, but in terms of admiration I have huge admiration for lots of fine art artist out there. When I was growing up some of my favorite album covers from back then were Roger Dean, who did all the Yes covers, then all those amazing Pink Floyd covers and of course when I was growing up I’ve listened to lots of metal so I loved lots of those covers and many punk rock artist as well. I love Doug Johnson who did those Judas Pries covers and Joe Pitagno who did the Motorhead covers.
MR: So talking about the bands that you admire, could you name some of the bands that you admire and maybe listen at the time?
JB: There are so many of them. First and foremost, Torche is one of my favorite bands and if you asked me three years ago about what my chances of working with them was
I would say “none”. I was so honored. I basically I am very lucky that I don’t need to make any sacrifices; I work with the bands that I love and respect.
MR: That has to be a great feeling.
JB: Yeas it is, I have no complains at all. It has been a great year, very enriching year.
MR: What about the band that inspired you for going into music?
JB: When I was young, really young, I was listening to what my parents were playing. You know my original inspirations where very typical I guess; Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were huge influences on me. As I grew older and into my teenage years I got little bit angrier or started seeing through whole shit then I developed the interest in punk rock, hardcore and metal. That is when bands like Metallica and Nirvana were sort of a gateway for me to get into bands like The Melvins and The Jesus Lizard who basically though me about music. From that point I was very open-minded; anything from Morbid Angel to Radiohead, it is all good music. it is all music to me, it is inspiring and soulful.
MR: I was wondering about your views on music on internet. Not just distributing, but promoting and spreading the word and how did Internet influence Baroness’ career?
JB: I could go on a whole day about downloading of free music, but that is evil that cannot be stopped. We have no means to stop that by happening in any way. So that is hurting the record sales for labels, that is making in it more difficult for bands so touring is essentially the only way that we can survive on tour and be able to eat. You know also selling t-shirts and CD’s. It hurts us and everybody feels that from Columbia Records down to smallest punk rock labels. But those of us that take a realistic view on that are able to see that there are some fine points to it;
One: You no longer require a big label with international distribution for people in far out places to listen to our music. For instance we have what I consider a fairly sizeable fan base in Southeast Asia. That is because people are able to download the music and infor themselves on what is going on in music. Whether anyone out here decides to buy the record themselves, as an artist that is where my job comes in.
On secondary note, here is distribution and the level of understanding that kids now have for greater music scene out here it’s just spreading out widely that people everywhere know what is happening.
MR: As far as I know you don’t have a regular homepage, just MySpace page?
JB: We do technically have an official website we just don’t have a domain for it at the time. But also lots of people prefer MySpace pages and that is where they go directly, you know. it can be used in very unethical sort of promotional way, but in the end of the day it is just the easiest way for anyone to get hold of your band. The music on it doesn’t sound like the CD sounds or like the LP sounds, but it gives somebody who otherwise wouldn’t give you band a chance, that much more of an entrance.
MR: Also the feeling that fans get when they are on the band’s friend list on MySpace, it gives them some kind of feeling of two way communication.
JB: Yes and again, our fans can be anywhere in the world and they can communicate with us.
MR: So what about the future plans for Baroness? Touring, touring, touring?
JB: We have done a year around touring cycle enough to know it is difficult on our psyches, you know. It becomes tiring and too much touring effects us and we loose bit of a passion on the stage so recently we’ve cut down our touring from nine months out of a year to about five-six months. So basically yes, we are planning on coming back to Europe as often as possible. We will be doing some festivals this summer, in June…Germany, France and Norway and next fall or winter we are coming back…come hell or high water.