Black State Highway Interview with Olie Trethewey
BM: Good morning.
Ollie: Good morning mate. How’s it going?
Good thanks. My name is Pete Sargeant and I write for Blues Matters magazine and our new website Just Listen to This.co.uk which we’ve just launched.
We got 2,000 hits in the first ten hours which is pretty good.
Wow. Thanks for the review by the way.
Did you read it?
That’s genuinely what I thought of the record. How did the band view the review?
We thought it was great.
I was trying to get the names right.
(Laughs) Yeah we’ve all got long stupid names.
In fact that’s a good name for a band ‘Long Stupid Names’
I thought it sounded fresh. With me, one minute I’m talking to Buddy Guy, Chris Rea and Paul Rodgers and the next I’m listening to a new band. It doesn’t matter about the budget, it matters about the soul of the record.
We were really amazed about how we were being reviewed on the level that people who are established artists who spend a lot more money. To even being compared on that level we were just amazed.
I’m telling you, in my case that’s very deliberate because I’m lucky and the people such as Robin Trower and Jeff Beck like their stuff to be reviewed as contemporary music.
Therefore, they want to be reviewed in with the new artists so they are in the here and now and not just relics. The young artists like being taken seriously exactly as you said as they are putting everything into it and hoping for some reaction.
My job as a writer, I’m trying to connect you with your future audience.
We appreciate that.
I wanna see you guys live at some point.
Sure just pick a date.
Let’s talk about your band and the record. Tell me a little bit Ollie about each member of the band starting with you.
So I’m twenty four and I started playing guitar when I was six or seven because my dad just had good records and I used to just sit and watch Hendrix videos and things and I just decided I wanted to do that. I was really fortunate enough that my family were ok and they’d never question.
You’re very lucky. My son’s very lucky he’s got a house full of wonderful recordings and DVDs in the house as well. It wasn’t an act of rebellion in my case, it was a case of rebellion as my parents hated my music and I had to buy all of my own instruments. You’ve come from a family that loves music.
I found when I was a kid, I just loved whatever my dad played and it was Hendrix, Stones and Beatles.
Amongst other stuff like Ian Drury and things like that. Throughout the teenage years I rebelled and listened to loads of metal and then I found myself going back into my dad’s music again.
You guys probably meet around Buckcherry.
They’re a great band. Have you met them?
They’re a lovely bunch of guys.
I walked past them and I thought ‘Should I say hello?’ and then I thought ‘No they’re probably sick of people saying hello.
Keith Nelson, the main guitar player is the nicest man. When they came over here, I interviewed him and he said come to the show and we went and he took us backstage. What a lovely bunch of guys who are very into what they’re doing and audience-friendly. They entertain. They don’t just stand there and play they make sure they connect with their audience. What instrument do you play on this record?
… I’m guitar.
No what make?
(Laughs) Oh! The guitar I was playing on that is an 87’ Les Paul which is my main one.
It’s just Les Paul and Marshall basically.
Oh yeah I saw the video! Two things I would never own; Marshall or Gibson. Who’s your other guitar player?
He’s playing what?
He plays a Strat. He’s got a really nice cream Strat and he plays it through a Fender Deluxe. So it’s that nice grunty thing. It sounds great. I think he uses a tube screamer as well but he’s always fiddling with his gear.
It’s quite a jagged sound he gets isn’t?
Yeah he’s got quite a meddly, nosy sound if that makes sense. We compliment each other.
In many ways, it makes the band because he doesn’t cut across the vocalist. The dynamic there is he’s actually a good band player and I think a lot of your sound is down to him.
Jon’s great. He’s really thoughtful.
Yes that’s what I’m saying. He’s not out to push himself up and he wants the band to sound good. Right, your lady singer who is excellent is…
Where’s she from?
She’s from Latvia. She came over about a year ago but we met at college in Reading and she turned up. She opened up her mouth and started singing and everyone was like ‘F***!’ We started playing in clubs around Reading in a band. Eventually we formed Black State Highway together.
(Laughs) She’s got proper bollocks!
Yeah it’s absolutely vital to what you do. Your drummer is who?
Harry who I’ve known for years and he’s from Reading originally. He’s one of the best drummers I’ve ever played with. He’s a great rock drummer ‘cause he loves to hit hard and he loves a good groove.
I’m friends with Living Colour and every now and again there’s this Living Colour thing he does ‘Edge of Funk’ that I like.
I don’t know if he’s a fan of Living Colour, they have great drummers obviously but he’s definitely listened to that stuff I think.
I think he grew up on Chad Smith we always used to take the p*** out of him for that! But actually you can sometimes tell because he’s got that kind of… Chad Smith is quite a big lump of a bloke and Harry is as well.
Chad Smith is good friends with a friend of ours Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple.
Glenn loves Chad and he says ‘Chad will work at it till it’s right’. Glenn Hughes has got a very good work ethic. Have you heard the California Breed album?
Yeah I have but I’ve only listened to it once all the way through. But I can’t stop listening to that one track.
Yeah that’s Gordon Duncan. He’s a bit like Harry in some ways as he’s a solid man. (Laughs) His nickname was ‘House’ because he was just unmovable. We went to music school, and you’d get a lot of fancy widdly [layers and Gordon could just show up and play one string. He’d smash them all.
Understood. I think he’s got a very good Bad Company thing going there where he keeps the groove going.
I say Bad Company because we know Andy Fraser the bass player of Free and Bad Company’s bass sound was so different from Free that it had a whole other thing going so Paul (Rodgers) could write different kinds of songs which is good.
Gordon is quite into the fat sound, he’s not too overstated but he likes just being there and getting everything out.
The band for that are the very original James Gang with Joe Walsh.
The very early James Gang albums have that really fat ‘I know what I’m doing’ bass sound. If you’re gonna learn bass that’s a great place to start. ‘The James Gang’ and ‘The James Gang Rides Again’.
I’ve just started getting into Joe Walsh. (Laughs) I know it’s late!
It’s never too late man. That’s the thing, you could work into an art gallery and see a three hundred year old painting and go ‘Wow!’ Now you’re never gonna meet that artist but he’s left his mark on you.
(Laughs) Yeah there’s just not enough time to listen to everything!
Tell me about it! Now this record, do you have a favourite track?
Yeah my favourite is the song ‘Free’ because it’s a bit different and it’s the newest one. We’d just written it, rehearsed it once and recorded it. I was listening to quite a lot of stoner rock stuff and I like it because it’s different and it’s not just rock. It doesn’t really cover normal structure but I like to think it works. We’ll have a good swan heavy track and I think every album needs one of them.
Yes I agree. It plays very well and I said that in the album review. You can use any of the album review as long as you credit the website.
Cool thanks. I’ll make sure we have mentioned it on our Twitter and Facebook.
Thanks. What I would like is for people to go on the website to read about someone such as Joe Bonamassa and then stumble onto Black State Highway. We get thousands of hits from Joe’s stuff and he is a nice guy and he is very good to us. His fans really want new music.
He asks us to tell him about all the new music coming up.
Did you say Joe does?
I met him at Download Festival as I’m a big fan of his. I watched his set and it was brilliant. I went backstage to see if I could say hello and I got a bit star-struck. Then I thought ‘F*** it! I’m gonna go and say hello.’ My manager came up to me and said ‘Oi! What are you doing?’ He was talking to Myles Kennedy from Alter Bridge and I nearly interrupted their conversation. Eventually, I got a photo and a scribble. Backstage they are not expecting people to turn up.
Yeah we think Joe is a lovely guy.
His band is really friendly as well.
They’re great guys especially Carmen. So tell me about promoting this record, are you doing anything live at all?
Yeah well we’ve just sort of finished our tour but we’ve still got loads of dates for this year. We’ve got a show in London and Hard Rock Hell which we’re really happy to be on. We’re surprised they invited us to play because it’s last minute.
The fun about playing on a festival type thing is being the band that’s different. In a mass of bands that sound similar you wanna be ‘They had a great girl singer and two guitar players’. It’s a wonderful chance to be the band that people remember.
Yeah and you’ve got half an hour. So that people remember you.
Thank you for all of this.
Cheers Pete we really appreciate it.
See you later.
Black State Highway’s debut self-titled album is out now on HNE Recordings/Cherry Red Records
For more information visit: www.blackstatehighway.co.uk