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BlackTop Mojo Interview

BlackTop Mojo


Interviewer: Bryan Almaguer


Rock is dead! Rock is dead! This is a recurring theme found throughout countless online media outlets as of late. They would have you believe that the state of original rock music is in decline, perhaps headed toward extinction. However, I believe they couldn’t be more wrong. As proof, I offer you the band BlackTop Mojo.  


Hailing from Palestine Texas, BlackTop Mojo is an original rock band on the cusp of greatness. Having recently released their sophomore album ‘Burn The Ships’ BlackTop Mojo is touring the country spreading their brand of hard-­‐hitting, soulful rock music. Members include founders Matt James on vocals, and Nathan Gillis on drums, plus lead guitarist Ryan Kiefer, rhythm guitarist Kenneth Irwin, and bassist Matt Curtis. I had the chance to speak with them recently, after their performance at The Rusty Spur in Ft. Wayne Indiana.  If you have the opportunity to catch this band live, do not miss it! They put on a high energy, polished performance from start to finish, and you will not be disappointed. The following is a transcript of my brief interview with the band.  They were friendly and gracious gents.


Me: Give me a little background on the band.  How did you guys meet?


Matt: Me and Nathan met after I graduated college, I was working in a little coffee shop in Palestine Texas. We have mutual friends and I invited him to play one day.  He showed up with a couple if his buddies and watched the set. After that, he invited me over to his house, so I came over with a big bottle of whiskey and brought my guitar. I tried to make a good impression, ya know (laughs)? We ended up hitting it off. He had a drum kit set up in his living room and we got to jamming and I thought, this is cool – we need to start a band.


Me: Cool, and that about what time frame -­‐   what year? Matt: That was in September 2012.

Me: Whoa wait… you guys have only been a band for that long? That’s impressive! Matt: Yeah, (laughs) we played our first real show in December of 2012.

Me: Man, that’s great  -­‐ good for you guys!  And I think you said it on stage tonight,

that you guys started out playing covers, is that right?


Matt: Yeah, we started out playing a lot of covers, and we maybe had one or two originals in the first few shows. I knew KI (rhythm guitarist Kenneth Irwin) in high school, he played in a bunch of metal bands – they actually played at a pep rally one time, which was pretty awesome. So, I knew he played guitar and I invited him to come and jam with us, so we started playing shows. We had a bass player at the time that left the band to start a family.  Chris Davis, he left the band and started a


family, and has a precious little baby girl now. She just turned one year old. We’re still good friends, we mess with him all the time haha.


Ryan: We stole Keifer from his band (laughs). Matt: Yeah, we stole Keifer from his band…

Matt Curtis: and I was in another band so they stole me from that band (laughs)! Ryan: We’ve broke up a lot of bands (laughs)

Me: Well, that’s usually how it works, right (laughs)? You have to recruit for your

band. It’s like forming a ball team – ya gotta recruit the talent.


Me: So, Burn The Ships is your second full-­‐length album. Tell me a little about your debut album.


Matt: We released an album in 2013 called ‘I Am’.  It was our first time in a studio. We met with our producer Phillip Mosley, he’s a guy from our hometown. He’s a genius, a diamond in the rough. Don’t quote me as saying he’s a genius though, I hate that guy (laughs). Just kidding! We like to give our producers a lot of crap (laughs). But yeah, we cut that record in a week, and that was kind of our first time in the studio. We were really green and fresh…


Me: The studio can be intimidating. Being in the studio is fun. I love it, but it can be a little daunting… and it’s expensive. Unless you find a guy, or have a hook up.


Matt: We recorded in Rosewood Studios in Tyler Texas, it’s a really nice studio. That’s where Leann Rimes cut some of her stuff.


Me: Very cool! Is that the studio that’s in the footage of the Dream On video?


Matt: That studio is actually a place called Audio Works. It’s in Palestine where we live. A good friends of ours lets us rehearse there and use it.


Me: Right on. Great video by the way.


Matt: Thanks. That’s where we cut all of our demos and stuff for the second album, which took us about a year and a half to get all that together. Then we went in and recorded over a couple months, and we got to record with Jimmy Johnson from the Muscle Shoals Swampers and his engineer Steve Milton. We recorded two songs with Jimmy at Fame Studios down in Muscle Shoals, including our single Where The Wind Blows, which is on the radio right now in Alabama.


Me: Oh snap! So you guys are Bama fans, huh? Crimson Tide? Or Longhorn fans? I’m a Buckeye (laughs)! I probably should’ve waited until the end until I told you guys that (laughs)!


Matt: (laughs) Well he’s (Ryan) from Alabama so there you go!


Ryan: Roll tide! (laughs)


Matt: Anyway, we hit it off with Steve that day and he ended up engineering the rest of our second album.  We recorded that at Sound Emporium in Nashville.


Me: As a straight up music fan… that album crushes! It just sounds so good man. Great stuff!


Matt: Thanks man!


Me: I’ve been listening to it pretty much nonstop. The title track “Burn The Ships’ is one of my favorites. What’s you favorite track to play?


Matt: My favorite one to play is Pyromaniac, that last one we played tonight… that’s my jam. That’s the one that throws out my neck at the end of the night (laughs)!


Me: I like the riff in Burn The Ships – the title track… man that’s a great hook. It just sticks in my head. They’re all great though… all great songs.


Matt: Thank you! He (Ryan) wrote that one.


Matt Curtis: We actually wrote the verse part first, like it was a jam and then he was like hey, I have this riff maybe we can start up the song with it.


Me: Right on. Do you normally do that? Do you usually start jamming to loosen up and then things just become songs… kind of a natural flow?


Ryan: Yeah, I would say that’s how a lot of our songs are written. Matt: Yeah, I would say about 70% of em.

Me: Do you record all of your rehearsals? Do you have something rolling all the time like a phone or whatever, to record?

Ryan: Yeah if something pops out at us we get the phone out and hit record. Matt: We bother Phil until he lets us record. Phil’s the only one that can run the

studio out there. We don’t know how to work it… we’re like a monkey trying to fly a rocket ship (laughs)! So we bother him until he lets us go in there and record an actual demo.


Me: Awesome. So I guess, just to wrap up, your album Burn The Ships is available thru pretty much all digital outlets… iTunes, Amazon, Google Play… etc. Is it available in stores?


Ryan: It’s not in stores yet, we’re actually hoping to work that out soon. Me: When was the actual release date on that?

Matt: March 10th  of this year.


Me: So you’re out touring with Shaman’s Harvest then?


Ryan: Actually not, that’s just who we happened to be playing with tonight. We’re on our own tour.


Me: Nice! How lucky am I? I’m a big fan, so this worked out for me to open for you guys. Awesome!


Matt: This is actually our first national tour. We’re actually going around and playing free shows for all the radio stations that are playing our stuff right now. We’re an independent band, we have our own record label that we’ve started called Cuhmon Records. So we’ve been going around and playing for all these radio stations that have helped us get on the Billboard.


Ryan: 98.9 The Bear has been playing us, so that’s how we got on this show. Matt: and we’re huge fans of Shaman’s Harvest so that’s how this worked out.

Me: That’s awesome. Well, I won’t keep you fellas anymore. It’s been a pleasure, and thanks for taking the time to talk. Enjoy the rest of the tour.

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