|Black Joe Lewis – ‘Electric Slave’
By Walter Price & Alle Royale
This is a world where, every time someone dares achieving a little success showing nuances of unadulterated spirit, all is reduced to a product to copy and reproduce grand-scale; Black Joe Lewis, fortunately, is still a joyous exception to the rule, still maintaining his own identity and primal rawness.
With also two EPs under his belt, “Electric Slave” is Black Joe’s fourth proper album, and if “Scandalous” had ringed all the right bells a couple of years ago, now the time seems right for putting to shame all the domesticated rock blues infesting the charts, definitively.
Exuberant, that’s the first word coming to mind to describe the electric turmoil agitating the dark waters where Joe, with his crew of soulful mariners, sails the waves of the most exhilarating funk, commanding the sea foams of vicious garage rock with the blues authority of a veteran.
We had the chance to chat-up the BJL and here is our conversation…
Before you picked up that guitar, what were you doing in life?
Just working bad day jobs. I dropped out of high school and got my GED and slept on my mom’s couch.
I know its cliché, but who the hell were your true influences? Your recordings are portraits of music history in compositions.
Iggy Pop, Lightning Hopkins, Hound Dog Taylor, James Brown, Elmore James, Rocket From The Tombs
How did you come to get signed to an Italian label early on?
The guy that owned it was a fan and friend of Walter Daniels, he used to play harmonica and sax in my old band. It wasn’t really a full on deal. He made some copies on vinyl for us and I kinda lost touch with him, I wonder how it did…
What were the early recording and touring years like for you?
A lot of fun touring, it was my first time to go to all these new places and countries and new people. I still love it and hope I can do it forever.
How have the same things changed now?
There are new people in my band and I feel like I know how things work more now. I’ve also gotten to know how different people work and how to deal with them. You have to watch your back in this business!
What inspires you and makes you picking up a guitar and starting to write a new song?
Nothing really, I just try to write every day and sometimes I make a song sometimes I make crap, just gotta keep trying…
Are you the main decider responsible for the final form of the songs, or do the other band members bring suggestions and ideas to the whole picture?
Mostly me and the bass player arrange the material and I start the ideas mostly I guess.
Do you think you have found a definitive way of expression or would you like to experiment something different in the future?
For now I’m good I don’t really do anything else.
“Electric Slave” sounds alive and vibrant, like a raw live recording; how does the studio differ from the stage for you?
The studio is more going back and forth to make things sound perfect but live it’s time to put on a show like a play I guess. It’s funner.
Would you like to reach a much wider audience or do you think it could compromise your freedom of choice and expression?
I like to get my music to everyone and they can decide for themselves. I think you sell yourself short when you only target one scene. We have all kinds of different fans.
When I left Austin in the early/mid 90s it was booming in population. Do you think the growth has changed the music scene?
It’s grown so much that it’s not what it used to be. The rent has gone sky high and the yuppies are taking over complaining about the noise. I think Austin is about to lose what made it unique in the first place. Now it’s a real city.
You seem to have a great relationship with the guys in Okkervil River, what’s the history there?
We have the same management and we toured together in the past. From the same town too.
Would you ever put an armadillo and a glass of tequila on one of your album covers?
Naw too cliché…
Let’s say that we’re in High School with The Doobie Brothers and Sly & the Family Stone, who wins the battle of the bands at The Spring Fling?
Sly for sure, The Doobies are ok but too soft…
Hey man, thanks for answering our questions!
Get it started…
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