Ray BLK was the winner of the BBC Sound of 2017 award beating other promising artist such as Rag ’n’ Bone Man, The Amazons and Declan McKenna to name but a few. She was also nominated for best newcomer at the 2016 MOBO awards and came to prominence after a stunning performance of Later With Jools Holland last year. Ray BLK and her band, which includes Blackstar endorsee Gaetan Judd on guitar, will be supporting Emili Sande on her European tour kicking off in Brixton this week. Gaetan will be using his Artist 30 combo.
Gus G. on tour in Europe
While Firewind is currently on tour in Europe promoting their highly successful new album "Immortals", Gus G. has also announced his next European solo tour for April. This run of dates supporting Steve Stevens will see Gus teaming up with James-Paul Luna (Holy Grail) for some special acoustic sets. Before this Gus will be playing two shows in Japan, Tokyo and Osaka followed by a show in Seoul, South Korea. For more information visit http://www.gusgofficial.com/home.html
The SXSW festival which takes place in Austin, Texas every year is underway. The music festival is the largest of its kind in the world with more than 2200 official performers and bands playing in more than 100 venues. One of these venues is the British Music Embassy which is the hub for all the years British music activity. Blackstar will be providing amps for this venue once again and this year we will also be providing equipment for the Loudwire and CLRVYNT event at Townsquare HQ along with the Laguntas and Flood Magazine events. It promises to be another amazing festival and Blackstar will be there in full force!
Backyard Babies Tour
With 20 years behind them Backyard Babies have not only developed into one of Sweden’s best rock bands but also reached the rest of the world. The band returned to the rock scene after a five years hiatus in 2015, releasing the critically acclaimed album “Four By Four” and they are ready to hit the UK roads once more. The band will join Black Star Riders on a full regional tour and kick off the UK leg in Glasgow this week. Singer and guitarist Nicke Borg is a longterm Blackstar endorsee and will be using his Series One rig for the tour. For more information on the band and the tour visit http://backyardbabies.com
Sex Pistols guitarist and Jonsey's Juke Box host, Steve Jones stopped by the Korg USA/Blackstar artist lounge in LA to pick up his handwired Artisan 30. Steve has been loving the tone of the host of Blackstar artists using the Artisan Series and wanted to get one for himself.
Young Guns European Tour
Young Guns are kicking off their European co-headline tour with Lower Than Atlantis this weekend. The tour will see them play twelve dates across the Europe with the UK leg of the tour starting in Norwich next week. Young Guns guitarist Fraser Taylor is a longterm Blackstar Endorsee and will be using his Series One rig for the tour. For more information visit http://www.weareyoungguns.com
Press To MECO UK Tour
Press To MECO are heading out on a short UK headline tour travelling through Leeds, Glasgow, Birmingham and London. Frontman and guitarist Luke is using a Blackstar Series One 200 for the heart of his tone.
Biters are heading out on a EU/UK tour in support of Blackberry Smoke kicking off March 7th in Madrid and ending on April 8th in Southsea. Guitarists Tuk and Gabs will be using a Series One 100 and HT Club 50 for the duration of the tour.
Iggy Pop - Mexico City
The legend that is Iggy Pop will be performing three shows in Mexico this week in support of Metallica as part of their World Wired tour. The shows are taking place at Foro Sol in Mexico City and there will be around 65,000 at each show enjoying what promises to be three amazing nights. Both of Iggy’s guitarist are Blackstar endorsees with Kevin Armstrong using a pair of Artisan 30’s and Seamus Beaghen using a pair of HT Studio 20’s. For more information on Iggy Pop and his upcoming shows visit http://iggypop.com
The Guitar Show 2017
The Guitar Show returns to Birmingham this weekend. The show is currently the UK’s largest guitar exhibition and is held at Bingley Hall, Birmingham, on the last weekend of February each year. Blackstar will be there in force with all the brands we represent, Alvarez, Auden, Dean Markley and Gordon Smith. Over the weekend there will also be performances from Blackstar artists including Ron Sayer, Joan of Arc and Krissy Matthews. For more information on the show visit http://www.theguitarshow.co.uk
After touring extensively and building up a loyal fanbase Counterfeit are ready to release their debut album, Together We Are Stronger on 17th March. All three guitarist in the band, Jamie Bower, Sam Bower and Tristan Marmont are Blackstar endorsees and we caught up with them to ask a few questions about the process of writing and recording the album, their Blackstar gear and their plans for the future.
- ‘Together We Are Stronger’ is due for release on March 17th. Could you tell us a little about the recording process?
It took us a total of 25 days to record the entirety of the record. Roughly 5 days for the drums, 12 days for the guitars and the rest was spent on miscellaneous recordings and vocals. Usually we went in with a fleshed out demo that we'd already played in a live setting, so most of the kinks had already been ironed out. We did however have one incomplete song that was finished halfway through the recording process. That song required a lot more attention and a different approach, but came out really strong in the end despite pushing us to the edge of our recording time.
- Where was it recorded?
We recorded the album at Broadfields Studio in Watford. A few other bits were done at VADA studios in Stratford-Upon-Avon, which included some live percussion tracks and a live recording.
- Who produced it?
Thomas Mitchener produced/engineered & mixed the record. He'd previously worked with the likes of Frank Carter, The Haunts & Dead! So we knew exactly the level of raw power and quality we were going to be able to achieve. Aside from being a talented recording engineer, he is such a kind accommodating person who really squeezed the best out of all of us, I don't think we could have found a more perfect fit for our debut record.
- What Blackstar equipment was used on the recording?
We used 2 types of Blackstar Amp/Cab combos, one was the HT Metal 100 with the angled 412A/B cabinet and the other was the Series One 1046L6 with the standard flat 412 cabinet. Each combo has their own niche. The Series One excels with the bright air/presence frequencies giving the guitar tone bite and grit, and the HT Metal 100 has these crisp, chunky, clean mids. Together, when balanced right in the mix they produce this monstrous meaty tone
- How does the writing process work within the band?
The writing process starts with myself (Jamie) at home thrashing chords out to a simple programmed drumbeat. What usually happens is I'll wake up early either with an impending sense of doom or a need to get something out of me. I'll know in my head how I want it to sound and feel before even thinking about chord structure. From there I'll sit for an hour or so furiously fighting with both my mind and my instrument until miraculously I have a verse and chorus. I'll then find a way to get from my verses to the chorus and then the bones are there. Normally I'll send a rough sketch over to the boys and see if they're digging it at lunch and if everyone likes it I'll continue to add parts until it's feeling more like a musical story rather than a botched collection of ideas. Once the bones are there I'll go to my notepad, which I tend to carry with me at all times, and flick through my most recent thoughts or single lines of text and see what fits to the song. I figure that if I'm feeling the need to write it's probably started a day or two before with me writing something down in my notepad and that then percolates into a desire to exorcise something from within. From there the song is half born and the rest of the boys come in and add their own unique flavour to the track or ideas / changes. It's really important to me that each member of this band adds their own touch to a track. After most of the guitar lines are sorted we then hand it over to Jimmy who'll throw some nuts beats down and it'll almost be ready. We tend to tweak and make changes right up until the last minute just to make sure it's representative of who we are as individuals as well as a band. And voila a song is born.
- You are on tour in Europe and the UK from March 23rd, where outside of the UK do you like to play the most/get the best reaction?
Germany and Italy are two stand out countries because of the turnout, but even the smaller countries we go to bring the same level of passion to our shows. Those small, up close and personal shows can get wild. Being able to see straight into peoples eyes is kinda scary, but it gives a stronger connection to the fans in comparison to a big 1,500 cap venue.
- Do you prefer playing live or being in the studio and why?
The band was born in the studio, but we feel much more at home sharing the stage with the fans, the music really lends itself to the live setting too. It's raw, fast and loud.
- What Blackstar equipment do you use on the road and how does it stand up to the rigours of touring?
We all use the same Blackstar gear on the road as we did in the studio. Jamie: Series One 1046L6 w/angled 412 cab, Tristan: HT Metal 100 w/angled 412 cab and Sam: Series One 1046L6 w/flat 412 cab. We created such a strong blend of guitars for the first tour and album that we've stuck with it for now, and will have the same set up for the tour in March/April. The gear we use needs to be able to not only withstand the rigours of touring (I.e loading in and out and transit) but also be able to hold up against a rather energetic live show. Blackstar amps provide us with both the sonic quality we want and also the durability needed to play our live show. They're loud and tough in both sound and resilience that for us is why we love them so much.
- What have you got planned for the future?
World domination, all roads lead to that same answer. We have a few festivals confirmed in England and Germany, with a bunch of others we're working on. It’s looking like it will be a busy summer for us!
Ihsahn - Complexity Festival
Longterm Blackstar endorsee and lord of black metal, Ihsahn, is headlining the Complexity Festival in Haarlem, Netherlands this week. Ihsahn, who is best known for his work with Norwegian black metal band Emperor, will be using a Series One 200 rig. Ihsahn will be in the UK to headline the Ritual Festival in April and then he will be playing a number of festivals across Europe with Emperor later in the year. For more information visit http://www.ihsahn.com
Richard Hawley - Brits Week 2017
This week Richard Hawley will be playing a special show at the Union Chapel as part of the War Child Brits Week. Richard is a longterm Blackstar endorsee and uses the Artisan 30 and Artisan 15 in the studio and on the stage. Richard also uses the Fly3 amp when performing his acoustic shows. Money raised by the show will aid War Child’s vital work to help children affected by war. For more information on the show and for your chance to donate visit https://www.warchild.org.uk
David Bowie Blackstar
Since the release of David Bowie’s album ‘Blackstar’ in 2016 there has been many rumours and theories surrounding the name of the album. It was Bowie’s twenty-fifth and final studio album as two days after its release the legendary artist sadly passed away. Francis Whately, director of the BBC documentary David Bowie: The Last Five Years, when recently interviewed on Radio 6 Music, confirmed that the album was named after the Blackstar amp that was in the studio when the album was recorded. All at Blackstar were thrilled to hear this and are so proud to be involved in a small piece of David’s legacy. To hear the interview visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04ny4v5