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On Tour with Black Lips – Interview and Photos

By ; April 21, 2011 at 2:18 AM 

Photos by Ivy Lovell

“God, God. It was God’s idea,” started Joe Bradley in the dressing room of the Phoenix Concert Hall. It was close to eight on Saturday night and my interview with Black Lips had just started. “I mean, the guy has won three Grammys, why would anyone ever speculate past that or think badly of that?” was the follow up given by Ian St. Pe. I had asked who had approached who in terms of the collaboration with Mark Ronson, producer of their new album, as it had attracted much attention as well as speculation. I was curious of whether or not Mark had contacted them or if Black Lips had contacted Mark. Jared stepped in to clear things up and answered the question, “it was kind of God, it was Suroosh of Vice Records who came up with the idea. We had thrown out some big names when we discussed working with a producer and he suggested Mark and contacted him himself. Dre was busy, so we agreed and went with Mark.”

Mark Ronson has produced Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen and many other poppy acts. He’s also produced major hip hop names such as GZA, and as Ian had previously stated, has won three Grammys. Thinking too hard and connecting Black Lips collaboration with GZA and their recent involvement with Mark Ronson to Mark Ronson producing GZA, I asked the guys if Mark’s contacts in the music industry sweetened the deal and was automatically shot down by Jared who said “no, not really,” and Ian who restated “I mean, three Grammys is good enough.”

“Go Out and Get It” is the first track that has been released off of Black Lips’ new album, and was one of the few that was not produced by Mark Ronson; although the band gives most of the credit to Mark, he only really produced a (larger) handful of tracks off the album. I mentioned that in previous interviews, Mark has admitted to being a fan of the band as well as being afraid and nervous about fucking anything up. With the first track released not being produced by him, and Mark admitting to nerves about messing around and messing up Arabia Mountain, I wanted to know how he contributed to the band’s newest album. Jared, who was actually the most talkative during this interview, stepped up first to explain the situation, “we’ve always had complete control over the music we’re creating and we wanted it to stay that way. Mark allowed us to maintain this freedom, he was just there to help us out, suggest and put his spin on things.”

“Mark helped us polish our sound and take it places we’ve never gone with our music before,” added Alexander Cole, before swatting a white balloon he had been drawing a pair of Black Lips on. I swatted it back, and Jared helped close the response to the question, “he also brought us a bunch of wicked instruments to play around with for this record, which was a lot of fun.”

After hearing “Go Out and Get It,” I was reminded of Black Lips in the days of Good Bad Not Evil, and even before; the surf-y garage-y sound and the vocals which harmonized as they clashed made me think of albums and material the band had put out in previous years. I was curious as to why the band was taking steps back into their more vintage sound and not moving forward towards the progressive sound the band had released with 200 Million Thousand. Again, Jared was the first to speak, “200 Million Thousand was kind of an accident, so nothing we do from now on will ever sound like that.”

“We were recording and living in a warehouse for that record. It was in the summer and 180 degrees in the place every day. It made for a really strange time, and we just wanted to get it done,” Cole explained further. Joe Bradley wrapped up the question by summing up the experience like this, “We scheduled a really long tour and were working on 200 Million before we left for it. When we got it done, we figured, ‘alright, it’s done and okay so release it.’ I mean if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Our future records will not be done the same way.”

On the topic of future, I asked the boys, as a group, what could be expected from the band in the future, where they planned on taking their sound, and who they wanted to collaborate with in the future. “We want to take our sound ABOVE AND BEYOND,” Joe Bradley yelled, in the dressing room of the Phoenix Concert Hall. Jared explained that they were hopeful in collaborating with Tyler, the Creator. Cole closed the interview by sharing this information: “What can you expect? We want to play in places we’ve never played before, we want to play on all 7 continents, and we’re so close to doing it. We have a gig lined up in Antarctica on a military base in the near future as well as one in Egypt.”

Black Lips played for more than an hour and ensured that the classics balanced out the modern in their set. There has been lots of speculation over the band going more “mainstream,” but this show proved that there was nothing to worry about — Ronson or no Ronson, the Black Lips have remained the high-energy, crowd-stimulating, asses-baring group of guys they were in the earlier days, before Vice had even considered signing them. The set was filled with sweat, the crowd reacted extremely well to the band, and lots of stage diving took place. The stagediving highlight of the night was when Ian Manhire from White Wires ran from backstage and dove off the stage in the middle of Black Lips’ set. After a long set consisting of new songs and classics such as “Cold Hands,” “Dirty Hands,” and a cover of Jacques Dutronc’s “Hippie Hippie Hoorah,” the band came out and did a relatively long encore which included tracks like “Not a Problem,” a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business” and “Bad Kids.” The set was entertaining, and the band demonstrated the same energy they always have, playing every song like it was the last of their set. Black Lips proved that although their sound may be changing, they are still the same kids from Atlanta Georgia who are just trying to make it while having the most fun possible; and they are succeeding in doing so.


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