If I review a funkier, sexier collection of rock songs than those which appear on Volume 1 by Black Belt Karate this year, I’ll apply for the position of One Direction’s Head Eunuch. The four piece infinitely aware of requirements for laying down filthy distorted grooves, Mudkiss quickly making the loin loosening debut, EP of the month for August.
Determined to discover more about exactly what makes BBK so hip quaveringly awesome, we met in a virtual den of cumulus iniquity, high above the Atlantic between Manchester and Los Angeles. There, we found ourselves entranced by tales of Montana Ninja’s, legions of children named Ryan Ostrem Achilles and shooting up Pixie Stick Dust whilst maintaining the old adage according to Stewart, Gouldman, Godley and Creme, “Be quiet, Big Boys Don’t Cry.” Confused….. we were, and so will you……..
ANDY: You guys all play in some pretty cool bands, what made you decide you wanted to get together and create Black Belt Karate?
HARRY: In regards to BBK and my decision to join the band, the old adage “When one door closes, another opens,” is completely fitting. I put so much heart and soul into my old band that I didn’t think I had it in me for another go around. But at the end of the day, I will ALWAYS be in a rock band. I have to be. The most important thing for me is to be involved in projects that I sincerely enjoy as both an artist and as a performer. I am happy to say that BBK satisfies both of these conditions.
JASON: Girls, fame, money. Something artistic. Mostly girls.
ANDY: Do you consider yourselves a Super Group?
HARRY: Nah! “Super Groups” are comprised of guys from bands that have been established for quite some time. We’re not Asia or Bad Company! None of the bands I have been in were ever stable monetarily or had the resources to reach people all over the world, although most these bands were great. Black Belt Karate is not a “Super Group”, but it is a band made of pro musicians who have played a shit-ton of gigs and are respected by other musicians. I am definitely proud to say this.
ANDY: And why Black Belt Karate, are you all martial arts experts or is it just a random kickass name?
HARRY: What people don’t realize, especially those on this side of the Atlantic, is that my home state of Montana is infested by a large population of ninjas. A man has to protect himself. In order to keep the ninja menace at bay and avenge my father’s death, I became an expert in the martial arts and joined this band.
JASON: He’s not kidding. Ninjas…all over the place. It’s fucking insane.
ANDY: Which bands influenced you? The EP’s obviously very rocky, but there’s also huge slabs of funk in there.
HARRY: Thanks for noticing the groove! As a bassist, I love funk. Besides drawing inspiration from John Paul Jones and John Entwistle, I have always loved Bernard Edwards, Louis Johnson and all the 70’s bassists. If any of that gets translated into our music, then I have done my job.
JASON: We should add that if Harry DOESN’T do his job, there are some pretty severe repercussions. Waterboarding is still defined as “acceptable means” of influence on a rhythm section…
ANDY: Volume 1 is a very sexy record, do you have any worries of a Lawsuit being drawn up along the lines of “I didn’t want to get my girlfriend pregnant, but the subliminal messages hidden in the sheer pelvic thrusting funkiness of Black Belt Karate made me do it?”
HARRY: That’s always a risk. The hip-thrusting element of Black Belt Karate can lead to both unexpected and hopefully consensual sexual situations. We’re not here to cause chaos in the lives of happy couples, but we are here to help sexually frustrated couples relearn how to “Get it on!” as Chris Farley once touted.
JASON: David Lee Roth famously had paternity insurance drawn up during the early / mid 80’s of his touring career with the mighty Van Halen…while I wouldn’t say we are attempting to illustrate anything quite that gauche, nevertheless you are right in that a good party is one in which everyone gets laid. I would say the responsibility of band members (directly or indirectly) in regards to new parenting is conversely proportional to the amount of kids out there named Ryan Ostrem Achilles, or something along those lines…but otherwise, those good folks are on their own.
ANDY: One of many standout aspects of the record is your filthy distorted guitar sound Jason. What are you using equipment wise to produce that?
JASON: Thank you man. It’s a very simple but unique combination of pickup / amp / cabinet. It’s actually a bit tricky to record, because the sound is so “filthy” as you say…but after a number of years and some good experience working as a producer / engineer here in LA, I think I finally got it figured out pretty well. The tone basically got dialled in during a time when I was living in San Francisco, years ago. A bit of custom work in there, with regards to the cabinet and guitar, even the right (or wrong) cable makes a notable difference. But yeah, no pedals or trickery. Some folks ask if I use a fuzz pedal, but no it is all guitar & amp.
HARRY: Blah blah blah.
ANDY: What does the next few months bring for Black Belt Karate. Any plans for another record and even a trip to the U.K?
HARRY: We need to get to Europe. That will undoubtedly happen at some point. What I find most encouraging about this band and the structure that Jason has created, is that we are always doing something new. Whether it is an awesome line-up of shows, an analogue recording session, or a music video, the band continuously spurts out new material. It is super enjoyable and keeps all of us inspired for BBK’s next step.
JASON: 100% agreed. European tastes are (we believe) right in line with what this band delivers…your audiences are supportive, there is a genuine love of rock n roll and we plan to be a part of it. Your summer festival circuits are the stuff of legend over here, we aim to be a big part of it.
ANDY: On a more general note, how does the L.A rock scene shape up these days? I guess in the U.K, we still tend to refer back to the hedonistic excesses of the late eighties / early nineties when we think of L.A. Has it changed massively over the years or are you just less public about it all these days?
HARRY: Besides shooting up 10CC’s of Pixie Stick dust into my left arm every morning while listening to 10CC’s “I’m Not In Love” (A great English group I might add), it’s calmed down a bit. The lack of record deals has made it quite clear that money is not shooting out of an invisible corporate music machine, hence, no money for drugs. Rather, music is done out of love and the hope of staying together long enough to be relevant.
JASON: And for the girls, yes.
Lock up your wife’s, daughters, ninja’s and rhythm sections people, this pelvic grinding, waterboarding, funk laden L.A based bunch of groove meisters are heading your way, determined to funk you completely up to the max.
Interview with Jason Achilles Mezilis (guitar / producer) and Harry Ostrem (bass, moustache) by Andy Barnes (QWERTY keyboard / Beard)