HIT CHANNEL INTERVIEW: December 2010. We had the honour to contact with Justin Greaves from progressive/space/Floyd rock titans Crippled Black Phoenix, one of the top bands of our days.Read carefully the amazing things he told us.UPDATE:12-1-2011.Justin answered to a lot more questions we wanted to ask!!!!! The new part in below the ‘Update’ word. Thanks Justin!!
Can you describe us how the writing of ‘I,Vigilante’ happened? Did you try something in studio for the first time?
The music was written in much the same way as always, it’s an on-going process for me, i don’t see it as writing each individual album. I basically just write music constantly and then try to make sense of it all when putting together an album. I have a lot of ideas that exist in demo form, and these ideas can be expanded on and developed as and when i feel like they work best, but also i try to capture what’s in my mind at the time of each album and this can throw up totally new material too, so i guess it’s a case of trying to be as natural as possible and making the music as honest as possible too. I definatly don’t try to come up with something new for the sake of it. The one thing we did on ‘I, Vigilante’ that was different to the previous albums is that we took more care over the lyrics, i think this time the words have more purpose and speak out alot more about the subject of the songs, and also the way the songs were actually recorded was a little different too, it was recorded more live which gave the album a slightly more rough edge. So i like to think that i can learn from every albums process and progress with every recording, in that way, every album will always be slightly different from the last.
‘I,Vigilante’ is your most ‘epic’ album in my opinion. Do you accept this description? If yes,this happened consciously or the songs led you to this way?
If it is more ‘epic’ then it was definitely the songs leading it that way. I always live by the rule of ‘the song comes first’, the music is the most important thing to me and i try not to think too much about what direction it takes, I think it’s just a matter of development and i’m always going to develop the music i’ve written which i find the most connection with, i believe that you can’t force anything to happen, and if you do then it will sound contrived, people can hear it whether they realise it or not. There’s a subconscious level that people connect with music and when there’s less honesty, you can feel that. I’m not sure if ‘I, Vigilante’ is the most epic, but it is the most exposed and natural album to date.
Your September 2009 Athens show blew many minds! What memories do you have from Athens show? Is it possible to see you again in near future?
I really enjoyed the trip to Greece both times we visited, i think it was one of the first times we had more of a connection with the audience, and i think it was where the sing-a-long for ‘Burnt Reynolds’ started to gain more momentum, i remember people joining in and just carrying on through the end of the song, that was suprising and really great, it may sound like cheesey stadium-rock, but really it’s just amazing to have that kind of vibe with the crowd. I love Athens and always enjoy visiting, so i hope we come back very soon. There has been some talk of some shows in Greece for early 2011, but nothing confirmed yet.
CBP is my only full-time band, in fact, i’m the only one in the band that does this full-time, that does concern me and it can be pretty frustrating too, i mean, i would be recording or touring every day of the year if i could. I’m trying to get things sorted so the band can be more active, but this band is a strange beast and is quite hard to manage. We’re definalty not a part-time band though, and we’re absolutely not a ‘side-project’, there’s alot of misconceptions about CBP… that i find frustrating, it seems sometimes, even though all the correct information is out there, people seem to ignore it, especially in the major press, people still think that this band is just a project of some guys from other bands (who i won’t mention). The truth is that CBP was my outlet for some music and kind of therapy when i went through some really dark times around 2001-2004, i’ve had help from some great friends and musicians along the way, but i’ve never had a full line-up of dedicated and commited band members. Joe & Chipper are the only ones in the band that have been with me since the first album was recorded, i can’t believe they have both stuck with it, but it’s great that they have. So you see, i’ve always treated CBP as a band and not a solo project because that’s what i prefere, i believe it’s about the music and not who plays the music, but the longer it continues, the more i think people should know the facts and stop thinking of this band as a ‘collective’ or a ‘side-project’. I don’t blame anyone for this belief but it’s wrong. If the press got the facts straight, then maybe things would be different because i think the name-dropping when talking about CBP and making it out to be somekind of ‘supergroup’ has put people off and kept listeners away.
What music do you hear this period?
I listen to a lot of film soundtrack music (films such as Conan The Barbarian, Mad Max, Rollerball and a lot of war films). Artists such as Vangelis, Goblin & Ry Cooder. When i comes to bands… recently i’ve been listening to : Munly & The Lupercalians, NoMeansNo, Status Quo (’72-’76 period), Jane (the old German band) and also some Joe Meek produced music such as John Leyton, The Tornados & Lonnie Donegan.
As some musicians have told me ‘independent’ labels are equally greedy to major ones (less cost for them, and the biggest profit). Do you share this view? Had you face any problem with your recording labels?
Each record label is different, it doesn’t matter whether they’re independent or major, most labels are greedy but it’s to what extent. I don’t think the independent labels have much choice to be greedy, some of the biiger ones probably, but they now perform much the same as the major labels. One good thing with smaller labels is that the artist gets a lot more freedom and a lot more say over the products, but to be honest…if you sign with any label, you’ll always get screwed, it’s just how hard that’s the difference. It’s a shame really because i much prefer to work with a label than try to become something out of nothing, like most new bands nowadays, using the internet to claim millions of imaginary ‘fans’… The music industry is in a sad state and i’d be here writing for days about it….but i will stop there.
Do you think Radiohead is the greatest band in our days? (Myself says yes)
I say no.
Ha, yeah, Scott Walker would be pretty interesting… I never really think about this kind of thing, but if i had to choose…. Rob & John Wright (NoMeansNo)
Send a message to your many Greek fans who are waiting you!
I hope we get over to Greece to play some shows soon…and thanks for the support, it’s appreciated.
Here’s my rule for life – Faced with complete failure, utter defiance is the only response. …
UPDATE 12-1-2011 Read below the new part of the interview!!!
I think ‘I,Vigilante’ is also the most diverse musically CBP album. For example the cover in Journey’s ‘Of A Lifetime’ and the brilliant almost surf-rock ‘Burning Bridges’!! How these ideas came up? Was there any hesitation from bandmates who thought these decisions quite ‘risky’?
Yes, there was hesitation, in fact most of the others didn’t know the originals or just didn’t want to play the songs, but i guess i put my foot down, especially with ‘Burning Bridges’. I basically wanted to cover something that had influenced me when growing up, i had a shortlist of songs that i was playing to the others in the band, but there was a couple of songs i really wanted to do because they mean a bit more, so ‘Of A Lifetime’ was one of those, i wanted to pay my respects because i remember that song from the late 70’s when my dad opened his own independent record shop and played that album all the time to customers, so it stuck in my mind and brings back a good feeling. I’m glad we ended up doing that song, Karl wanted to do it also, so it wasn’t so difficult to pursuade everyone else, i’m also glad Daisy sang it, she’s got a good voice and i guess you wouldn’t normally expect us to do a classic rock song with female vocals, but if it sounds good we do it. The ‘Burning Bridges’ thing was my tribute to the lyrics of the song, which i find close to home sometimes or in the past, but also it’s another tribute to something that influenced my life. Nobody wanted to play it and now the album is out, some people just don’t get it, and they regard it as part of the album, but that’s the trouble with downloading tracks from the internet, that song is hidden on the CD and there’s good reason why… so when it gets taken out of context or misunderstood, i can’t help but laugh, because it’s not meant for those people… they hate it and i love that they hate it… Go cry!!
Spoken word samples play in important CBP music. I guess some of them are original recordings you have made for your albums and some of them are taken from films. Am I correct? Can you explain us this subject? For example, ‘Time Of Ye Life..’ from where is taken?
Some of them we make, some of them i’ve found and some of them Mark found, but they all tie in with what the song subject is about, i never put spoken word on a song just for effect or for the sake of it. So the one on ‘Time of Ye Life’ is one i found of Evel Kneivel, i have an old vinyl album of him giving speaches and interviews, that particular speach which we used was Evil giving a talk to school kids, it’s like a motivational speach, but it sounds really sinister, what i like the most about it the fact that Kneivel was a real rogue, he got time in jail for spousal battery (beating his wife), he was an all round bad man, but he believed what he preached and in his later years he turned his life around but never felt the need to regret anything. Redemption is what it’s about really, being able to be yourself and learn from life experiences.
Do you feel privileged that CBP participated in Jeffrey Lee Pierce Project? How happened to have David Eugene Edwards doing vocals in ‘Just Like A Mexican Love’ songs? Are you a fan of his work with 16Horsepower and WovenHand? I’d love to see you on stage with him some day..
We actually played a show with Wovenhand in London last year, it was a direct result from collaborating with DEE on the song, so that was amazing and we got on really well. As i am indeed a big fan of DEEs work with both 16HP and WH, i feel very lucky to work with him, we did talk about another collaboration and there is another JLP Project album coming out which we’re definitely involved with, so watch this space.
Which artist/band you’d like CBP to cover? I imagine a spacey Tom Waits cover as equal to what Hendrix did to Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’. Have you ever thought of this?
There so many artists and bands i’d like to cover, but CBP is not really big on doing cover versions, even though we’ve done a few now, i really like to keep it down to only covering something for good reason and not just for the sake of it. I have a shortlist of songs i’d like to do at some point, all of which mean something to me or have been a big influence. I’ve never thought of covering Tom Waits though…but who knows!
Who would you say inspired you the most, in your life? (Me, Roger Waters)
I’d say life exprerience has influenced me the most, i generally take on things outside of music, but having grown up heavily involved in music my whole life, i can’t help being influenced by so many different artists. I think it’s obvious that Pink Floyd (Waters/Gilmour era) has been a big part of my life, but a lot of punk & hardcore has had an effect, a lot of my old bands were pretty heavy, so i still have that kind of attitude to music. If i were to list influences, it would be a big list. I think at some point i got to the point where i am now and not being so concerned about playing a particular kind of sound, i like to think that life makes good writing material more than anything.
What one band would you love to see return for an album and tour?
Adam & The Ants, they are the reason i am doing music at all, my first performance ever was when i was 10 years old and i played the drums along with ‘Kings Of The Wild Frontier’ at school, that got me into drumming and i never looked back, it’s one of the reasons i started playing in bands at an early age… but, i never saw them play live and they recorded relatively little music with the classic line-up, so that would be one return i would definitly pay to see.
What word do you hate? (Me,the word ‘never’)
I hate the words ‘lush’ and ‘cunt’… they just don’t ever need to be spoken.
Do you believe in the previous decades (60s,70s, even 80s for some) there was generally better and more original music being made?
Definately, not because it’s trendy though, but simply it was the time when music was original, a lot of bands were playing things for the first time, and people were hearing some great music with no prejudice, there were less references, and when bands experimented it was in the spirit of the music, not to look cool. The sad fact is that there’s not much genuinely original music being made nowadays because it seems everything has been done, all we can do now is to make music that is honest, i think honest music is getting rare these days, so maybe that is carrying on the spirit of the bands of the 60s/70s & 80s, just make music you want to hear. I don’t hear much good new music, it’s mostly too contrived, so i find myself listening to older stuff just because it fells more genuine.
What scares you more than anything?
The music industry these days, it’s on a big downward spiral thanks to the kids on the internet. … that and the state of the UK right now, the government, the people in power and the corrupt nature of the world.
How familiar are you today with the music you were playing in your previous bands? Do you enjoy the last Electric Wizard albums?
I haven’t heard the last couple of EW albums, it’s not that i have avoided them, i just don’t really care, i want to hear something new. I do keep all the music i’ve done in the past, there’s only a couple of bands from my past that i’m truly proud of, but i don’t generally listen to it, no point in being stuck in the past i guess. Although, i find it nice but weird to get people asking about my old bands, so i’m not fussy, i just don’t think about it too much.
In a recent post you made at CBP official forum you are talking about a late April-May Europe tour of CBP and you mentioned the whole Europe,except Greece. Can we still expect a CBP concert soon?
I really hope so, there’s a couple of promoters who have made offers or are interested in us coming back for some shows, but i’ve not heard anything for a while, so if those promoters are reading this…get in touch!! We don’t bite! … anyway, we’ll see, i will do my best to get back to Greece as soon as we can, i love it there! I guess it’s not easy to get a band like this to fly out for shows, mainly because there’s so many of us, so i understand the logistics of it, but it’s worked twice previously, so fingers crossed we can make it work again.
Special thanks to Justin Greaves for his great answes.It’s always a pleasure to talk with a true artist as Justin!Hope to meet you soon.