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18 02 2018

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An interview with BlackJack PDF Print E-mail
Written by Connor Mullins   
08 04 2014
ImageBlackjack Interview: ‘If it sounds good  - it is good.'

‘We're like that dog on a lead in a cage that just wants to get out. We've been in this cage for so long, doing the same shit."

When you witness Blackjack live on stage, a few things stick out. One is how closely-knit they are as a band. Singer Ian Robertson sings from the heart of the group, while the rest bounce off each other, running through their own catalogue of tracks as well as encore favourites Rock and Roll and Free Bird, which typify the 70's rock era that the band could almost have derived from.

The other is their energetic, tight, rock-blues sound, honed over the last five years. A few influences stick out, mainly Led Zeppelin and AC/DC, and as Ian says, they've certainly assisted in helping the band create and establish their own sound.

"You see the music and you hear Zeppelin," says Ian.

"Our influences and our idols span the 50-60 year gap from when music came about. We like the blues, the pop, the funk, but we definitely derive from that 70's rock sound as we fell that was the most energetic, the most captured era. We're not trying to recreate anything, but create music and the way we've done that is by covering the greats, late or not, from Foo Fighters to Ozzy to AC/DC. If it sounds good, it is good. We try and make our own sound out of everything that we know that sounds good.

"Robert Plant, Ian Gillan, Angus Young - he's not a singer but he's one of the greatest frontmen to ever walk the stage. You can see the insanity I put into a performance, nearly all of it's from people like them."

Ian, along with guitarist James Knott and his brother David, who plays drums, have just come off stage after the five-piece finished their gig at Newcastle's Think Tank? In support of LA rock band Love/Hate, and the group are delighted at the turn out.

"Quality - a really good gig for a Thursday night in town. There was a good sound on stage," says James.

"It's always good supporting an established band on tour because you always get the good sound and they've got a lot of fans that come and watch you and you always get interest with them, it's nice when their fans come up to you and say stuff like ‘really loved you, can I get CD,'" says David. 

"Personally, I'd really have to like a band, for a Thursday night, to pay £15 to go and see them."

"It's cool supporting a band from LA as well," adds James.

They're out of our little bubble of the world of music we've got in the centre of Newcastle; it's cool just having that accent around backstage," adds Ian.

"Our following is just spreading. We're doing everything we can, and, you know, it's the whole ‘you tell two friends, they tell two friends thing' - that's how everything works."

It was Kevin Morris who got in touch with the band and asked if they wanted to play on the bill in support of Love/Hate, with the band running through a set of all their own tracks.

"It's pretty cool, obviously he's heard of us through various gigs around town and he likes the band. He knows we've got quite a few fans in this area," says James.

"We've toured last year on our own backs, just to spread word, it's obviously working because people are now getting in contact with us and saying, ‘do you want to do this gig," said Ian.

In fact, just two weeks prior to the gig at Think Tank? Blackjack played a sold-out show in the upstairs venue at Newcastle's o2 Academy, in release of their single The Gent.

"It was the best gig that we've played yet," said David. "It was insane to see everyone who has ever seen us and liked us, all of our friends - everyone was there. 

"It was great; there was a professional feel to it."

"It was the next step up from what we're used to doing, and it showed that it worked from the amount of people that turned up tonight," added James. But what about the inspiration behind the song, which sums up Blackjack as a band through its classic 70's rock blues sound, a "mean" tune, as Ian describes it, leading up to the distorted guitar-driven sound of its catchy chorus.

"David Coverdale was the ‘the prime creator,'" explains Ian.

"Really, it was made at a party," says James. "We were having a laugh and were thinking, ‘David Coverdale, he's such a Gent the way he goes on, on stage.' Then we first started naming other gents, and it grew from that. A song was written and it became, ‘he's a gentlemen, better than the best of them, smoother than the rest of them.'

"It's quite cool - it's different."

"It's a concept based on a gentleman's attributes within the rock world, like David Coverdale," says Ian.

"We promoted it as ‘which Blackjack song is your favourite and which one do you want pushed globally etc.' By public vote we did through the Internet, The Gent was voted."

"It's such a mean, ballsy tune."

"We want to release the single properly. The first two EP's we did, we didn't push any of the songs from those EP's as a single. We just recorded the songs and sold them at gigs, there was no release," says James.

"Now comes the tight work where we're trying to get in touch with labels and management, trying to get picked up by representation to see whether labels have got interest because the next step is to make it with a label," adds David.

Now that we've got the o2 gig behind us, we're going to have that music video for the gent as well as the single to promote it, and now hitting these recording studios; they've got something serious to look at," Ian says.

"We mean fucking business!" 

Blackjack actually started out playing their favourite cover tracks in venues across the North East, before introducing their own material in 2011. Their first EP, entitled Three Piece Boots and Cowboy Suits, was released in early 2012, and the group have pushed on from there in developing a setlist of all their own songs.

"We much prefer playing our music to covers," explains James. "As much as it's influenced us, it's time to move away and do our thing."

"The covers have really assisted us in creating and establishing our own sound," says Ian. "By playing great music we do our best to write great music. It's up to whoever is listening to it whether it's great or not, but we won't put anything out there that we're not 100% happy with, and we make sure that all five opinions are heard. We keep each other on track. 

"We all want to make it, we all want to make the difference and be in Blackjack and for that to be both our hobby and financial support. We want to be playing gigs in front of thousands of people."

That is, indeed, the dream. Their single, The Gent, is certainly a song you could imagine being played in front of large crowds, and, along with their other EP I Told You, the band are starting to gain recognition and support for their rock ‘n' roll sound. But what would be their dream gigs to play?

"Download for me," says Ian.

"But worldwide ones; any festival in America is worth our time and worth their time."
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