For those who’ve never heard of Elijah Black, let me be the first to introduce you. Elijah is an Akron, Ohio native that plays old school gritty no-nonsense hard rock. Bad Dream is his brand new third solo album. While those only familiar with his last album Better Man may be surprised how heavy this album is overall, this is really Elijah getting back to the sound he loves best that hit so hard on his first album Naked ‘Gainst the Blue Sky. I will be reviewing the album separately this week (spoiler… I love it!). But I was also lucky enough to get Elijah to agree to answer some questions about what he’s been up to, this album, and other goofy stuff. So here it is:
10 Questions with Elijah Black
A few years have passed between your last album Better Man and Bad Dream and you seem to be in a much more positive place on this album. What’s changed in your life since then that’s contributed to that?
Bad Dream was actually the album I was writing before Sammy (ed: his former partner) passed away, leading to the writing of the Better Man Record. Some of these songs were written prior to Better Man, but both Matt (Cleary, producer) and I agreed that those tracks would have to be set aside so when Better Man was done, we already had a great start on Bad Dream. My life’s so different now that Better Man seems like 100 years ago. I’m in a very positive and strong relationship and that really helped me heal.
The songs on this album are much heavier than on Better Man. Was that deliberate, or just a happy accident?
Better Man came out of nowhere, I’d say Bad Dream is the record that was meant to be out 4 years ago. This record is definitely more suited to me and what I do and have done most of my career. I started seeing where this record was going and definitely decided to keep it uptempo and more “in your face”, purposefully staying away from the way I approached Better Man.
One of my favorite songs on Bad Dream, called “Dope Show” is a pretty big statement about love and equality. That’s not something often heard in heavier music. Do you feel that it’s a responsibility of musicians who are out to the public to speak up and be seen?
Music has always echoed the culture and had influence in what was happening in society. With politics being so extreme, music is a welcome expression where a point can be made without screaming and insulting everybody. I think music has a way of making things simple and basic. After you hear “Dope Show” I hope what sticks is “Heartache does not discriminate”. Certainly everybody feels that human emotion at the same level. What I’m seeing is it is no longer a gay or straight issue, it’s becoming a civil liberties issue which at it’s basic core, makes it more universal. As our American history tells us, civil issues seem to affect everybody at some point.
Both Better Man and Bad Dream have had some great paintings as cover art. What’s the story behind the painting on the cover of Bad Dream?
I was in the studio one evening and my phone rang. On the other end was Larry Camp and he was at my house in Akron. He said that he remembered I had a large painting that I did not really like and he wanted to “recycle” it. I had no idea what he meant because I was in the studio working and probably only heard half of what he said. When I got home I was shocked and amazed at what he had done. Basically he painted completely over the old painting and I absolutely loved what he did. Over the next couple days he continued to work on it and change things but when I saw the completed painting I knew I had just seen the new cover for Bad Dream. Larry named/titled the art painting “Asia”.
You recently have become an actor as well! Tell us a bit about how that came about. And where can we see your movies?
I did a lot of acting in college and studied it as well at Baldwin-Wallace College in Ohio. When I graduated I started a band and the band took off which left me no time for acting. When I got to New York my management company encouraged me to take a screen test and I guess I did alright, as the next day I was out auditioning. I got lucky. I landed a great gig doing the Capital One Vikings commercials. I then booked an indie film called Shadow Boxing. I expect that movie to be out at the end of the summer 2013. I play an evil biker who terrorizes a boxer. It is a psychological thriller and I am excited being in it. The real exciting news for me is a movie called The Legend of Jimi Lazer that I filmed in Toronto, Niagara Falls and surrounding Canadian cities in April and May of 2012. It’s an adult fairy tale about a magic guitar and a rock band in which I am the bass player. It’s a big role for me and I’m excited. The trailer for the movie is being released this week. Both movies I am in will be premiering in national and international film festivals. I am also working closely with the producers of The Legend of Jimi Lazer to have a premiere in Akron so I hope that will also be happening this summer/fall. I use Facebook a lot to promote what I do so I will definitely post the trailer and any premiere information I have when I get it. Facebook.com/ElijahBlack or my band page Facebook.com/ElijahBlackBand
What’s the craziest thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
I think all musicians put up with personal items (bras, underwear, etc.) being thrown up on stage. One of the craziest things though to happen to me used to happen more when I played electric guitar. Sometimes my mouth would hit the microphone and I would get a shock that went all through my body. I could never figure out if it was my guitar amp or the venue, but one time I got shocked and blacked out for a few seconds. I didn’t fall down, but it took me a while to catch up with the rest of the band.
If you were able to assemble a band from musicians that are alive, other than musicians in your band or your former band Peace Tree, who would they be and why?
I think I could see myself singing with Alice in Chains or even Soundgarden. I love what those bands do and how they write. I think Jerry Cantrell (guitar, Alice In Chains) and I would get along creatively quite well. Like Jerry, one of my favorite records is (the Beatles’) The White Album. I’m also a huge Kings X fan, though they don’t need a 4th member, I would volunteer to be it.. LOL
The opening track “Waiting” *has* to have an interesting back story. Can you talk about what drove you to write that song?
“Waiting” is a culmination of many things and people. Matt (Cleary) and I wrote that towards the end of the recording sessions, when we were really in an upswing. The latter half of the record was very smooth and I was so happy with how the tracks were sounding in their early demo form. I decided to fire basically my entire band except Matt in the beginning of the recording sessions which is crazy, but it had to be done. “Waiting”, one of the last tracks written, kinda shows my struggle up the mountain. When “Waiting” was written I was so happy I felt like I was almost at the top of the mountain. That song was written for everybody that became a thorn in my side. I had nobody specifically singled out when I wrote it. It’s one of those “if the shoe fits, wear it” type of sentiments. One of my favorite lyrics is in this song “I don’t like you as a person, but the concept’s okay”. That kinda says it all.
Of the bands or musicians you’ve met on the road, who was your favorite to meet, who was a let down or not like you hoped, and who surprised you the most?
Doug Pinnick is my favorite. I’ve done shows with him and Kings X which is a dream come true for me. Not only is he an unbelievable musician but a wonderful soul. He’s got an energy that makes him very strong. I’d rather not say the let downs or disappointments as I still work with some of them.. LOL
What do you consider the biggest achievement in your music career so far?
Bad Dream is my biggest achievement as far as how I feel about the body of work. I hand picked every lyric and for Matt and I, it seems like this is the record we set out to write when we first started working together 12 years ago. I’m also very proud of the success Better Man had especially with “Smile For Me” being a top ten video of 2008. I never thought I would have that sort of popularity. But no doubt that set the whole ball in motion. It’s what got me to New York. I also think it helped set me apart from other musicians that Matt (Cleary) was producing at the same time.
The Beatles or The Stones?
The Beatles and within The Beatles I’m a McCartney guy.
CDs or Vinyl?
CDs for sure. I’m not that old school, the quality can’t be beat….
Driving or Flying?
Driving under 6 hours, anything over I hope I’m flying!
City life or Non-city life?
Having experienced both I’m definitely a NON-City guy…
and lastly..Boxers or briefs?
I had a hernia years ago, definitely briefs.. LOL
You can pick up Elijah’s new album Bad Dream and hear previews HERE!
And here’s some videos of some great songs from his first two albums:
“Smile For Me”