Benjamin Booker is in the midst of a tour that was booked long before he was on Sound Opinions and Jack White raved about him. Blank Range is opening for some of the tour. We saw both bands at a sold-out U Hall show and dug both bands. So we asked them to have a chat. If you’re in NYC you have the chance to see both bands this Thursday at Mercury Lounge and Friday at Baby’s All Right. We encourage your attendance.
Let’s begin with Blank Range guitarist and singer Jon Childers interviewing Benjamin Booker.
Jon Childers: I’ve heard you say that you love the Greyhound bus. Is there a particular Greyhound memory that sticks out in your mind?
Benjamin Booker: I took a Greyhound bus from from Tampa to Wyoming that was 52 hours when I was a kid. It may sound terrible but I liked stopping in a bunch of sleepy towns.
Jon Childers: A lot of driving on tour can consist of strip malls, McDonald’s and cornfields; Other times the views might be breathtaking. Have you seen any good landscapes out there lately?
We recently drove through western Virginia and it was beautiful. We pulled over and ate lunch near some rolling hills. I was born in Virginia Beach but had no idea it was so nice out there.
Jon Childers: Do ya’ll listen to Podcasts?
I’m obsessed with podcasts and listen to them all the time in the car. The band hates it. They usually put on their headphones.
Jon Childers: During soundcheck I’ve heard you say you want the guitar to sound like “Modern Metal” in the house. Is there a band that’s influencing that choice?
I tend to like it really loud in the house. I always tell the sound guys to pretend we’re a metal band and melt some faces.
Jon Childers: Economy Hotels, what’s your go to?
RED ROOF INN!!!!! They just remodeled a lot of them so they are really nice but also super cheap.
Jon Childers: What do you like to do on your days off (besides drive)?
We like to do outdoor stuff when we have time. In San Francisco we climbed a mountain and watched the sunset. It was terrifying!
Jon Childers: The Beatles vs The Rolling Stones, The Who vs Led Zeppelin, REO vs ELO… The rock world is rife with rivalries. Who out there do you see as the yin to your yang?
Because I’m a black guy who plays guitar people bring up Gary Clarke Jr. a lot but we really don’t sound anything alike to me.
Jon Childers: Have you seen my son?
Yeah, I heard he’s wearing dresses these days.
See what they did there? See how that ended? Clever. Very clever. Let’s move on to Benjamin interviewing Jon.
Benjamin Booker: You seem like the kind of guy who likes to be comfortable (Tevas, drinkholder on stage). Does that help you to perform? Also what would you like to have to be even more comfy on stage?
Jon Childers: It’s good to feel comfortable in front of an audience, I think the more you can forget what you’re wearing once your up on stage the more energy you can send toward the audience. The shows I like the best are the ones where it seems like the set is over before it’s started, when you lose yourself in the performance. As far as the drink holder goes, that’s a Swirlygig and I’ve been using them for years. It really cuts down on changeover time between songs when you can soothe your throat with a regional lager without ever bending over.
Benjamin Booker: I really dig your voice. When did you start singing and are there any singers you look up to?
Jon Childers: Thanks Ben! Same to you man. I’ve been singing as long as I can remember, in church, in choir and in camping with the Boy Scouts. I developed my “individual timbre” at the end of high school and early in college when I started playing acoustic guitar and could play songs over and over, figuring out how to fit melodies with my voice. There are so many singers I look up to it’s hard to pick a couple. Billie Holiday’s voice always brings me back to a place I’ve probably never been. Stevie Nicks has a wonderful nostalgia to her vocals and her melodies. Jim James has an incredible range, both in terms of octave and personalities, that I stand in awe of.
Benjamin Booker: What’s the best venue you’ve ever played and why?
Jon Childers: The best venue I’ve played is probably a sweaty basement somewhere in the Midwest where the beer was flowing, the music was loud and the people were moving. There’s something about a house show that gets everybody in the right frame of mind to surrender themselves to the communal experience of a concert.
Benjamin Booker: Why are your questions so much better than mine?
Jon Childers: Haha, probably that Journalism 101 class I took in 2007.