First off, I give you the advice to be not confused by the name STONER KINGS. These aren't any bandwaggon-jumpers with silly lyrics about tits, cars and dope-smoking. It's not easy to describe the high octane brew of the band. Of course, it's r'n'r and its heavy but performed in a very original way and that's not easy in this times. There's a sleazy touch in their music and especially singer Starbuck is sometimes sounding as Axl Rose. The debut "Brimstone Blues" is an album with a lot of diversity and the very special humour of this band. Check out this high informative interview with singer Starbuck and you know the secrets behind this band.
Hello, Starbuck! First off, you were born in Canada, so what's the reason for a Canadian vocalist to move from Canada to Finland to form a band? Have you played in any other Canadian bands before?
I used to jam with some friends in Canada, but we never officially had a band. I basically moved to Finland since my regular job back in Ontario didn´t bring in enough money and the job market back in 1996 was the shits. Even though I wrestled for independent promoters in Canada and the US, there weren´t enough shows to make a living off of either. So I took a crazy chance and moved to Finland, since my folks are Finnish, and decided to try forming my own business as an artist. I thought my chances would be better in Finland, and I couldn´t just sit around waiting for the sun to shine back in Canada. Little did I know that Finland was very socialistic in its general atmosphere and it was very hard to make money as an entrepreneur here. Then I ran into the guys who I would gather Stoner Kings from, so Finland wasn´t a total lemon.
You've formed the band in the fall of 2000.How did you get together with the other four guys of STONER KINGS?
I had put the word out that I was interested in forming a band and I had shitloads of songs written, but I needed musicians who would be interested in playing the kind of music that I wrote and loved. So anyway, our drummer Crash called me up after he got my number from a mutual friend and said he´d really be interested in doing something. He heard that I was a big fan of Motley Crue and Iron Maiden, and those were a couple of his favorite bands. It took a while before I contacted him again, because I hadn´t found any suitable bassists or guitarists. I checked out a few, but they never clicked right. Then about a year later I found out that Crash´s former bandmate Shank had left his old band and was available, so I got a hold of him pronto.
I had seen Shank in his old death metal band and he was an animal on stage! I knew he´d be perfect for my band, so I wanted him to be part of Stoner Kings. So originally it was just me and Shank and Crash, no bassist, and I showed these guys about a dozen of my songs and they liked what they heard. So we tried the tunes out in a jam session and the chemistry was instantaneous! There was magic in the air, we just knew that this was the right thing for us. After that I asked Wolf to join as the second guitarist, since I knew him from a heavy metal band that I had been around. Gonzo, our bassist, was a friend of Shank´s and he was willing to try out with us, and it was pretty clear right from the get-go that he was the right man for the job. All of these guys are superb showmen and fantastic musicians, and it is a genuine honor to play with them and have them as members in Stoner Kings.
At the beginning of 2002 the band appeared on the scene with the refreshing and energetic debut "Brimstone Blues" on Rebel Breed Recordings. What kind of responses did you receive for it?
I have been totally blown away by the INCREDIBLE critical response by the worldwide media to Brimstone Blues!!! People everywhere are finding it and loving it, hands down. I am very, VERY pleased at the mass response to our album, as many critics have penned it to have a classic "Guns N´ Roses attitude", which is about the highest honor anyone can give a smashing debut album. From Brazil to Germany and North America to Australia, we´ve been getting KILLER reviews and superb press. It´s like a snowball gathering speed on its way down a mountain slope, growing bigger and bigger. It´s been a hell of a ride and it seems to have just begun!
Is Rebel Breed Recordings the bands own label?
Yeah, Rebel Breed is my own little label - - kind of a way to give the "finger" to the commercial music industry and labels that only want to sign bands that are blatant rip-offs of other "popular" bands. Rebel Breed is a true outlaw label, just like Motley Crue had in the beginning with Leathür Records and like The Hellacopters had with Psychout. Sometimes when you want something done right you have to do it yourself.
Have you found a good distribution for the album? Where can people get it?
We just reached a deal with Nightmare Records in the USA for distribution all across North America plus Germany and other countries in Europe, and even in Japan. It´s a great deal and we are really excited about all the great things happening for us right now! If you don´t see Brimstone Blues at your local record shop, tell them to stock it and order through Nightmare (www.nightmare-records.com). You can also see a bunch of great online retailers at our website www.stonerkings.net through whom you can order the album. Raising Cain Imports is distributing us in Canada and Water Dragon is doing our distro in France, and both markets have been selling very well.
Everybody who's aware of the last 30 years of Rock and Metal history, will easily find out the acts that have influenced the STONER KINGS but you've created your own thing out of it that's far away from any Retro-style. One of the exciting facts about few of the songs is the crushing groove ("Cobblestone Road" or "Cosmic Dancer" f.e.) and this aggressive but still positive energy in all tracks. If I had to describe your music and that's not really easy, I would say uplifting heavy-glam-metal-blues. What's your own point of view about the band? Can you agree with me and is there any kind of musical philosophy behind the band ?
I would say that the Stoner Kings sound lies somewhere between the attitude of Motley Crue and Guns N´ Roses, the heaviness of Entombed, the groove of Spiritual Beggars and the soul of Trouble. If you listen carefully, you will find many 70´s groove rock elements in there too, plus a lot of sarcasm in my lyrics. I think your description is pretty damn good actually! We most definitely DO NOT sound like anyone else out there. I have made a point of sounding as original and authentic as humanly possible. If there´s one thing I cannot stand, it´s bands that ride the coat-tails of established bands. You know, bands that sound just like Limp Bizkit or In Flames or Kyuss or whoever. I think it shows a total lack of creativity and heart. With Stoner Kings we took a HUGE chance by taking a name like that and then basically creating our totally own, unique sound.
So it´s been really interesting to see how the critics have taken to us - - there´s the group that hates us for the name alone and then there´s the group that praises us for doing something so gutsy and original and then there´s the group that just appreciates hearing a band that makes incredibly good music. Fortunately, those who dislike us are in the considerable minority, because I can pretty much guarantee you that if we called ourselves something other than the Stoner Kings they would have no problem with us. But honestly, I could give a rats ass what uptight naysayers think about us, because the vast majority out there sees the big picture - - and they all say we rock like hell! Honestly, most critics don´t get hung up on the name. And I see that as the mark of a true professional.
What I like about the album is the diversity of the material and the organic and strong production. I think, you've used old vintage recording equipment, due to the excellent result. How much time have you spend for the whole recordings and production ?
We spent a fairly small amount of time in the studio recording Brimstone Blues, because I knew exactly what I wanted the album to sound like. I knew intuitively what kind of monster we were creating. We used real instruments in real time, from Marshall Amps to Ernie Ball strings. The only sample we used on the whole album is the sound of an astronaut dying in outer space coupled with a shuttle launch countdown to open the album. I had written most of the songs we recorded several years ago, so nothing was unclear. Plus, the guys did a fantastic job and everthing pretty much went in the can in 1-2 takes. Our producer, Art Sarvanne of Studio Watercastle, did a fantastic job and we owe him a lot of praise for making the album shine so brilliantly. The sound is absolutley crushing, like a lot of critics have put it, a "Metallica Black album" sound. And that wasn´t even my intention - - to try copying Metallica´s sound or anything - - but it just turned out sounding so HUGE! I think that we spent a period of maybe 2 weeks max in the studio overall during the course of several months. It took a while to get the whole thing done since I paid the studio time out of my own pocket. But it was worth it...every last penny.
You haven't printed the lyrics in the CD-booklet. Aren't they important to you or what's the reason for it? Can you please explain lyrics like "Stonehenge" or "Postmortem Blues" to the readers?
I didn´t bother printing the lyrics since I figure that people can understand my enunciation well enough. I mean, I AM Canadian, so english is my native language, and I think I sing very clearly. I think it takes away from the mystique of a band if they give everything away. So I kept my Pandora´s Box shut and let the music do the talking. I think people can find out for themselves what I´m talking about in the songs. Just let it flow through the mind, it´ll come to you. Stonehenge is about people who believe in divination and mystic arts and think that there are answers in that bullshit. Everything from horoscopes to palm reading to Ouija boards to witchcraft, it is a fucking waste of time! Rewind and repeat if necessary.
Stonehenge takes the mystery of the island in question and uses it as a catalyst in making the point in this little equasion: "I´ve got this premonition and it just won´t go away...I´ve been confused for all my life, what´s the deal with Stonehenge anyway?" I think the chorus sums it up pretty good. People just get their lives messed up when they screw around with that kind of shit. Postmortem Blues is about the fact that everyone is going to die, and I honestly believe that the vast majority of people are going to be in for something they would not want to believe exists. It´s basically about being stuck in neverending eternity, lost in the deep black. I could give a fuck if no one sees it my way, you don´t have to believe me, but hey - - what if I´m right? It´s a very sarcastic song.
Have you played a lot of local gigs since you've started out?
We´ve played all around Finland, which has been great. Now we are concentrating on gigs outside of Finland.
Why did you chose the name STONER KINGS? Is it more meant as an provoking term or what's the idea behind it?
I love this question!!! There are so many poor, deluded souls out there who think we are trying to put down Kyuss or Fu Manchu by calling ourselves the Stoner Kings. We have never made statements like that. That is total bullshit. Stoner Kings as a name describes the colossal nature of our music and sound. It is meant to show that our band has the Godzilla-sized balls to do justice to that name. Stoner Kings as a name is a daring shot at being unique and sounding totally original, standing on our own, totally apart from the rest of the pack. No one can say that we are blatant copies of any band out there. We are totally our own entity, and in so doing, we have taken a name that separates us from the pack. We´re not saying we´re better than someones favorite band - - since that is a question of musical taste, and no one can account for individual taste - - but we are 100% solid in doing our own style of what I consider to be stoner rock when you get down to it.
If we didn´t have the faith to back up our words, maybe we would have called ourselves something else. It´s too bad some bands out there feel threatened by us and try to avoid us. But that´s not our problem, that´s their problem. We are just damn good at what we do, and that is why we are the Stoner Kings. Some people in today´s androgenous, unisex society just can´t stand individuals - - make that REAL men - - who have real balls. We´ve got some of that old time barbarian testosterone in us, and it can´t help but show. We just swing that battle axe and if someone doesn´t want to get hit, then don´t stand in the way!
Do you feel like a part of the so-called "stoner"-scene?
I feel that we are very much a "stoner rock" band, although some of our contemporaries might feel differently. I am proud to carry the stoner label, because stoner rock is some of the best music known to man. I know Michael Amott from the Spiritual Beggars doesn´t like the term "stoner rock", but I consider Spiritual Beggars - - and especially their album Ad Astra - - to be one of the greatest stoner albums of all time. It is just a pure classic, not one bad song. Stoner rock is a very wide genre. The Quill is considered stoner rock, but I might disagree. They are great at what they do though. Cathedral is considered stoner rock, but someone might disagree also. So just by taking those two extremes as an example, I´d say we fit very nicely in the "stoner" scene. We just take the concept a bit further by incorporating hard rock and metal influences.
Aside of the spiritual energy of the music are there any other values for you in life? What gives you strength to carry on?
I am a very principle-driven person. I highly believe in the saying "what comes around goes around". You reap what you sow. I actively seek the truth and I try to live my life by principles that are in line with the truth. I believe in absolutes. Like absolute black and absolute white. Life is not just a melting pot of greys. I believe that there is a God and there is a devil, there is a source of good and a source of evil. Nothing exists purely of itself. Someone might call it karma or whatever. It´s kind of like Michael Kiske from Helloween sang "I believe what JC said, I´ve got it all here in my head". If I explained my personal philosophy in detail I think the vast majority of people would think that I was crazy. So I won´t bother elaborating - - Haha!!!
What are you doing, when you don't make music? Have you a job or any other interests ?
I love pro wrestling, and I follow it religiously. My good friends Chris Jericho and Lance Storm wrestle for the world´s biggest wrestling company, the WWF, and I like to keep in touch with what´s happening in the world of wrestling. I still plan to wrestle again some day. I wrestled last in the UK in the fall of 2000. I also like weight training, it´s like a lifestyle to me. I like drawing and painting, since I have a God-given gift for that. I´m a very good artist, even if I say so myself. Other than that I pretty much immerse myself in music. I love heavy music, everything from death metal to hard rock. Sometimes I just like to work out on the punching bag, depending on the mood I´m in, slap in something like the latest Sodom CD and it get in the groove, so to speak. Other than that I like watching movies too. Al Pachino, Arnold, you know - - movies for the real man.
In May 2002 the STONER KINGS are starting their first small European tour. Is it the first time, that you are playing outside Finland and what do you expect from this tour ?
Yeah, our May-June tour of Germany, Holland, Belgium and Austria is our first tour outside of Finland. We are really hyped for this tour since we are playing in a lot of high-profile clubs and there will be a lot of important people at those shows. We are going to work towards making some great contacts on this tour, and I don´t want to spill the beans on the whole thing, so all I can say is be sure to come and see us if you are in those countries and near those clubs at which we´ll be performing. Check our webiste www.stonerkings.net for dates and also our booker www.zmusic.be Anyone interested in having Stoner Kings rock their club to the ground should contact Pascal Zander at contact(at)zmusic.be and set something up!
What can the people expect from a STONER KINGS show?
People can expect total rock chaos and intensity so thick you can cut it with a knife. We have a reputation in Finland for putting on some of the most testosterone-charged, aggressive shows that anyone has seen. I have said that we are the musical equivalent of pro wrestling, and that is a pretty damned good way of putting it! People can expect to get their asses kicked by the power of our live music. People can expect to get blown away. People can expect a fantastic rock n´ roll show from start to finish. We live up the hype, and you get your money´s worth. People can also expect to have a screaming good time and they are welcome to dance and groove till they drop!
Aside of the tour, what are your other plans for this year (new releases, etc.) ?
It´s hard to say at this point. We´re constantly making our way into new territory and new surprises, and exciting turns keep coming up. We´re looking into gigging in many different places, and I just can´t say where we´ll be in 6 months. I cannot predict the future, all I can say is that it looks very bright and I am really excited. For example, North America´s huge Brave Words and Bloody Knuclkes magazine has our song The Ebb And The Flow on their current issues CD sampler and we are reaching an ENORMOUS audience through that! I can only sit back and wait to see what that will bring with it. All I can say is BUY our album if you don´t have it already, and keep checking back at our website for news and happenings! 2002 is going to be a fantastic year for us.
Ok, Starbuck thanks a lot for the answers! I wish you and the STONER KINGS all the best for the future.May we see us on tour!
Thanks Klaus, it´s been a real pleasure to chat with you! Hope to see you along with hordes of headbanging German heavy rock lovers on our Brimstone Blues tour in May-June!!! Stay heavy, bro!