Indie Music Interviews: The Blackfire Revelation
The overwhelming climate of New Orleans during the summer months can, at times, bring about near out-of-body tortures. The heat is nearly inescapable even through the winter months. Strange and merciless weather like this can only be expected from a city underwater. The weather in every characteristic composes itself through those that walk the streets, that sit comfortable in the high risers, or that live in the 9th ward. J.R. Fields of New Orleans blues-metal duo, The Blackfire Revelation, acknowledges the effect New Orleans has on the music, particularly metal as opposed to the traditional tourist attractions, the Preservation Hall and others. Earlier this summer, the Blackfire discography has been re-released digitally after a long hiatus. The Revelation is in active at the moment, but Fields is still at work bringing together a new project The Snake and Pony Show.
Gravy and Biscuits: So the entire Blackfire catalog has been digitally released. How does it feel, now that everything has reached a new level of exposure?
JR: Yeah its cool man. I know it’s my own music, but I’ve kinda rediscovered it, if you will. It deserves to be out there and I’m glad it is.
G&B: Definitely. You have your debut full-length and then you might as well get Gold and Guns on 51 up there too, I guess.
JR: Exactly, well, Fat Possum, they never did a digital release of it. When in it came out in 2005 it’only six years ago, but in terms of music business, it was almost a different era. There was no facebook there was no Soundcloud, Reverbnation and the other trillion social media sites there are now. You couldn’t just whip-out your iphone and just buy a record and walk down the street and listen to it right then.
G&B: On the other spectrum of that had you planned, in the future possibly, getting it on wax?
JR- I’m sure I will. If it’s financially feasible, I’ll make it happen. But, yeah, I’m up for doing anything in the future.
G&B: Right now you’re on a bit of a hiatus at the moment, correct?
JR- Yeah, I have a new project called The Snake and Pony Show. I’m trying to have a record out by the summer of 2012, and start doing some shows again.
G&B- If the world doesn’t end right? Like a couple months later.
JR- Yeah. Or, if it does, hell, we’ll be the only band rockin’ the fucking aftermath.
G&B- Only the apocalyptic are allowed to live. (Laughs)
JR- Hell yeah.
G&B- I would love to touch on Katrina. The story is pretty epic, in itself. You guys get on the road for the first time and the, all of a sudden, this disaster happens and you have to go back. Where exactly were you at the time when it hit?
JR- Actually, it was my birthday. My birthday is August 27th and Katrina hit like the 28th or 29th. We played a show in Hickory, NC and after the show it was about 2 or 3 in the morning, we went and checked into a hotel, took a shower, sat down on the bed and flicked on the weather channel just because we had seen that this storm was headed toward New Orleans. We’d heard about it all week, but there’s so many people in New Orleans and storms come and go they come, they tell you you should evacuate, or to buckle down and you do and then they hit some roofs get blown off some trees fall down and it’s just business as usual a week later. But we were sitting in this hotel and we flicked on the TV and we saw this monster that was about to devour the city. I looked at Hank and said, “Fuck man. Let’s get home.” I think we checked in at 2 and checked out at 3, got our money back, and made a b-line for New Orleans. We left North Carolina, by the time we got halfway through Mississippi, all of the interstates were closed going down. All four lanes were going away. That kind of started our journey.
G&B: After you made it back to New Orleans, did you get back on the road and finish the tour?
JR: I think we had a week or so left in the tour. We wound up just cancelling it. Really, for the next three months just being homeless. Kind of like nomads wandering the southeastern United States. We’d pick up a show here and there. We lived in Jackson Mississsippi, Memphis, then Atlanta for awhile. We’re in Oxford at the Fat Possum headquaters staying in a trailer behind one of their studios.
G&B: When you think of New Orleans, the first thing that comes to mind is that deep-rooted tradition of music. How does a blues-metal, sludgy, doomy band survive in a place surrounded by these strong old-world traditions of jazz and blues?
JR: Well, you know, jazz and blues is just one side of the coin down here. If you turn it over, there is this pretty deep seated, really gritty fucking grimy metal scene down here. Look at bands like Soilent Green, Eyehategod, or even going back to Pantera or Down. Part of this is….
G&B: It’s there.
JR: It’s there man, I mean, it’s dirty gritty and grime down here, you know, you can’t really hold that shit down. Maybe a part of it in some way is a rebellion against all that [tradition]. There’s definitely an appreciation for it..
G&B- The traditional music definitely goes hand-in-hand with the mystique of the town and I’m sure there’s something in your music or with like minded musicians you’re surrounded by where the atmosphere of New Orleans plays a large part.
JR: It is. New Orleans is known as the birthplace of jazz, but I feel that a more accurate description would be that it is the birthplace of the “hustle.”
G&B: Of the hustle?
JR: Right, of the hustle. Everybody is hustling down here (Laughs) Everybody’s got something to sling you know and when we sling it it’s usually pretty unbridle.
G&B: There is an atmosphere of New Orleans that is in a way cutthroat. And it’s not my town so I find it hard to speak about it because I haven’t lived there like you have, but it has this presence that’s kind of overwhelming you can’t put your finger on what it is.
JR: Yeah, well we are kind of isolated down here, you know? And when you step back from it, it is, pretty much, a town that shouldn’t even be here. Which everway you drive-in, or fly-in, you do so over a swamp. It’s just this island in a swamp. And that isolation lends itself to some wickedness.
G&B: I really want to talk about southern rock, where it is now. In the indie-world scheme of things—and I get sick of the word indie now, it’s been adapted, abused, stretched—
JR: It’s still an accurate description though.
G&B: It is in terms of the artists intentions and how they go about doing the their work. Alongside other indie music, do you think southern rock gets stabbed at for not being as crafted as its contemporaries? To this day southern rock attains this stereotype of being whiskey soaked, confederate flag waving, anti-intellectual, etc.
JR: I can testify that our music is definitely whiskey soaked. (Laughs) It definitely becomes this kind of pigeon holed thing. I choose to live and make my music in the south, naturally that is going to come out in my music in some way. For me, I see Lynyrd Skynyrd, Allman Brothers, those bands are a part of the musical heritage down here.
G&B: It’s unshakable.
JR: Yeah, it’s unshakable. You know, I would never go so far as to call us a southern rock band, I’m basically a 70’s blues rocker. I have as many southern rock tendencies as I do noise rock tendencies.
G&B: Has blues always been metal?
JR: I think it has. I mean, if you go back and look at the subject matter.
G&B: The mantra.
JR: Yeah, the mantra. You know, the boozing, women, dealing with demons. Whether its directly the devil, I never think anyone’s directly addressing the devil, so to speak, but demons, booze, and women. Doesn’t really get much more bluesy than that, more metal than that.
G&B: Going back to the last question, the derogatory criticism you typically hear about southern rock is that it’s formulaic. I really think, and maybe you’ll agree, is that a lot of people don’t understand blues, or the repetition of blues. For example, you don’t say one thing in blues once, you say it over and over again until it builds. Much like in a lot of your songs, Act Like A Believer Redux, is one where I hear this build. You say one thing but you’re not done saying it.
JR: To me all the best metal is an extension of the blues. My favorite bands, from the 60s and 70s, basically took the blues and ran it through a full-stack. Like Hendrix, Sabbath, or Blue Cheer. It’s my favorite music, favorite music to listen to.
G&B: You eventually added a bass player to Blackfire Revelation, Tom Beehan.
JR: He was the bassist in Blackfire Revelation during the last six months of the band.
G&B: It’s still a duo right now? Are you going to try and bring in another bass player?
JR: Well, with the Snake and Pony Show, it will be me with a full band. We’re moving forward, there is no telling how many people will be in the band.
G&B: So, the albums are released we can get them on iTunes, Amazon, Napster.
JR: Pretty much any retailer.
G&B: We will see you next with the Snake and Pony Show.
JR: Yes. Any future performances will be with Snake and Pony Show.
G&B: Can you give us an idea what the project is like?
JR: It’ll be in the same vain as Blackfire Revelation. It is just what I do. For or better or worse, I kind of got a one-trick pony, one speed, with some slide variation. It’s heavy blues metal. I tried to record some acoustic stuff, experiment with some different kinds of music, but in the end of the day it just bores the shit out of me. I like full-volume rock n’roll. That’s where it’s at.
You can get your hands on both Blackfire Releases via iTunes and Amazon.com amongst others. Check out BFR on their Myspace.
Written by Casey Morris