Andy Black: The 10 Records The Changed My Life
When MusicRadar speaks with Andy Black, the Black Veil Brides frontman is in the thick of an intense period of plate spinning.
“There's a Black Veil Brides record on the horizon,” he explains. “We're about a third of the way through that. I've got my hands in a lot of different places right now, I've just finished my first leading role in a feature film as well so there's a lot going on. I have never worked as hard as I have this past nine months.”
"I have never worked as hard."
But what has been taking up the lion's share of Andy's time in this past year is his debut solo album, The Shadow Side. The record, due for release on 6 May, sees Andy indulge his love of '80s pop and new wave alongside his obvious passion for rock. The latter saw him recruit a bunch of his punk rock buddies to collaborate on the record.
“The easiest route would be to write the record on ProTools and then bring session guys in to play the parts. That felt a little impersonal and didn't give me the chance to collaborate. If it was just me without anyone else's opinion then that felt too self indulgent. It started by bringing in Quinn Allman, long-time guitar player for The Used. Then we had Patrick Stump come in, Gerard Way and Mikey Way came in, Matt Skiba. It was like having a new band every day. It was fun.”
Perhaps one of the more unexpected names amongst the records liner notes is Ashton Irwin, drummer for pop arena-fillers 5 Seconds of Summer. Andy admits that he may have been hasty in pre-judging the Aussie sticksman.
“I felt so stupid watching this guy play everything so much better than I could ever hope to play it.'
“Ashton came in and played multiple instruments on the record. I can admit that I probably had a bias against him because I'm a guy that toured for years in vans and played clubs and he's a guy that joined a pop band that immediately went to a scale that very few of us will ever see. You immediately have this bias against him and you assume that he can't play.
“I felt so stupid watching this guy play everything so much better than I could ever hope to play it. I'm sitting in the booth while the guy is playing a fuckin' African djembe perfectly and I don't even know which way to hold it!”
So there you go, never judge a book by its cover. And that seems a fitting introduction into the ten records that changed Andy's life, as the frontman talks rock anthems, punk rock classics and theatrical powerhouses.
KISS – Revenge (1992)
“We might as well start at the beginning. The first record that I purchased was the KISS album Revenge.
“I got that on cassette as a kid from a used record store near my house that I grew up in. The owner was an old lady who found it very amusing that I was a five year old obsessed with rock and punk rock music so she would give me deals.
“I remember getting KISS' Revenge and I got a Damned compilation, the Smash It Up compilation on CD. That one was a double CD and it was terrible quality. I believe it was a bootleg prior to them releasing the real one. I found out later in life that most of the music I owned as a kid was bootlegs being sold by that crazy lady illegally.”
The Damned - Smash It Up (1979)
“Revenge and Smash It Up by The Damned were the first two records I bought and there's an interesting juxtaposition between The Damned and KISS.
“One of them being an original '77 punk band and them being so different musically to KISS but as a kid I saw David Vanian wearing make-up and I saw KISS wearing make-up and I thought they were in the same genre of music.
“Aesthetically that was something that got me into music. I take umbrage with people that get mad about young kids finding an aesthetic reason to get into music. When you're a young kid and you see the Ninja Turtles, how many little kids got into the Ninja Turtles for their great backstory? Or, how many got into them because they looked fun?
“Admittedly as a young kid I got into hard rock and punk rock because of the theatrical flair. I loved the look and the feel of it. Even though I didn't know what the fuck they were talking about in the songs it just looked and sounded really cool.
“In that capacity KISS and the Damned were the bridge for me, The Damned helped me find The Misfits and goth groups like Sisters of Mercy and KISS was my bridge into Mötley Crüe, WASP, AC/DC, Aerosmith and all of those other things I loved as a kid.”
Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run (1975)
“The Bruce Springsteen Born To Run record was something my mum got for me when I was very young and I absolutely fell in love with it. To this day I will always cite Springsteen among the top three influences on me.
“That's because from an early age I was into all of this music that was loud but had no depth. It was fun to me as a kid to listen to songs with my mom and then talk about the lyrics. In the same way I would listen to the Elton John song Daniel and my mom would explain to me what the lyrics were about.
“As a little kid that was so fun for me and Springsteen delivered so many opportunities for me to hear about this guy and his life and the town he grew up in. Ultimately there were so many things that ended up resonating with me in a real way.”
Social Distortion – Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll (2004)
“Into my adolescence I really started getting into '50s inspired rock bands. That started with the punk stuff like Social Distortion who had a little bit of rockabilly and then really going for it with Brian Setzer.
“But, the first record that really inspired all of that I got while I was a freshman in high school, I was in eighth grade or something and I got the Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll record by Social Distortion. Again, that introduced something new but also built on what I had already heard.”
AFI – Sing The Sorrow (2003)
“Shortly after getting into Social Distortion I discovered the Sing The Sorrow record by AFI. Then I went back and went through their whole back catalogue and I love The Art of Drowning and all of those records.”
Alkaline Trio – From Here To Infirmary (2001)
“What really inspired me to start writing my own songs was getting my first Alkaline Trio record, From Here To Infirmary. That record blew my mind.
“Sometimes you can't put your finger on why something resonates with you and is so important to you but it just makes you want to make music, Alkaline Trio was that band to me.
“I had Matt Skiba singing on Stay Alive on my new record, Alkaline Trio was my first tattoo, they will always be my favourite band. They weren't the first band that I discovered but they are the band that meant the most to me. Those records are like a time capsule
Phantom of the Opera and Sweeney Todd Original Cast Recordings (1987, 1979)
“I want to say two things that are very different to the image people might have of me but they were very important to me.
“I became a singer by just singing along to things and one thing I would sing all the time was the original cast recording of Phantom of the Opera with Michael Crawford and also the original cast recording of Sweeney Todd.
“I had double CDs of those of those as a very young kid and I would sing them front to back and make my whole family watch me sing. While I don't today pop those in my car currently, when I look back at why I became the guy that stands behind the microphone it has to do with my love of singing and these were key to that.
“Of course, my voice didn't happen to grow into the beautiful Michael Crawford voice that I had anticipated but very early on it got me interested in singing. In that way both of those record hugely influenced where I ended up and helped me land in theatrical rock.”
Billy Idol - Don't Stop (1981)
“Billy Idol and everything surrounding Billy Idol was really interesting to me as a kid. People look at Billy Idol as a hard rock icon, when you think of Billy Idol you don't think of a pop guy, you think of a rock 'n' roll guy.
“But if you listen to Mony Mony and Eyes Without A Face and most of his big hits, if you strip away the leather jacket and the hair it is essentially light '80s pop music.
“I always loved that he presented this imagery and he had the background to back it up, Generation X was a genuine punk band that had credibility, so he had that and he then presented this continuation of that visual but made music that was popular and able to be listened to by any audience.”
Adam and the Ants – Prince Charming (1981)
“Adam Ant was the same, he and Billy Idol did something that has never since been replicated. They both came from the punk rock world, they retained their imagery and roots but made songs that had mass appeal and were hugely popular.
“They did that without ever losing their rock 'n' roll credibility. Not many people have ever done that and I think it is a hugely underrated feat. Pick out any Billy Idol record and any Adam Ant record and you will see how important they are to my new solo record.”
Andy Black – The Shadow Side
Andy had so much to say about his new record that we've got a little bonus content for you below.
“There was a genre of music that I have never been able to delve into,” Andy says of his love of '80s pop and new wave. “Today I've shared with you my ten favourite records and I don't think I listed a single heavy metal record and the reason for that is that I don't care about that genre of music, particularly.
“It never resonated with me as a kid in the way that classic rock did. I listened to AC/DC, KISS and Aerosmith as a kid but I never owned a Megadeth or Anthrax record, I never cared about shredding. I developed an interest in all of that as I got older after meeting all of these guitar players that loved that stuff.
“I thought it would be cool for me to combine that stuff with what I loved and that really was what Black Veil Brides was. But I have always yearned to make the music that was more representative of what I was as a kid. If you had asked me in high school what kind of record I would make I would have described a record like this.”