On 30 October, Southern rock four-piece Black Stone Cherry will unveil their first ever live DVD, Thank You: Livin’ Live, and guitar slinger Ben Wells couldn’t be more excited about it.
“To bring out an album is something that we all dream of as musicians, but then to be in a band and be able to put out an actual concert DVD… to me, that always seemed like the next level!”, he enthuses.
“When I was really young and I saw a band had a DVD, I’d be, ‘Oh man, that’s awesome!’ so for us to be able to finally put one out after all these years and to film it in the UK is very humbling.”
The gig the band decided to earmark for their DVD debut was at the Birmingham LG Arena, exactly a year prior to the disc’s release date. But why Brum?
“For us, Birmingham has always been a special city in the UK,” Ben explains. “They’re all special, don’t get me wrong, but Birmingham was one of the first places we played in the UK where it really felt like we hit a chord with the people there. And you know, shit, it’s the birthplace of heavy metal with Sabbath and Judas Priest and other stuff!
“Everybody has a DVD that comes from London, and we just kind of wanted to do something different. We wanted to show that there are other places in the UK that rock just as hard as Wembley!”
Before we quiz Ben about the 10 records that changed his life, we just have time to ask him what fans can expect from Black Stone Cherry’s next tour, which will be hitting these shores in early 2016…
“We are very excited about it,” he says. “We’re in the studio right now finishing up recording our fifth album, so we’re going to have some new songs to debut.
“It’s going to be a different show, we’re going to freshen things up and the other bands on the bill are incredible. People can expect a night full of hard rock bad ass music, basically from start to finish!”
Black Stone Cherry Tour Dates 2016
Thu 28th Jan - CARDIFF Motorpoint Arena
Fri 29th Jan - NOTTINGHAM Capital FM Arena
Sat 30th Jan - LIVERPOOL Echo Arena
Mon 1st Feb - GLASGOW SSE Hydro
Tue 2nd Feb - BIRMINGHAM Barclaycard Arena
Thu 4th Feb - LONDON Wembley SSE Arena
Fri 5th Feb - LEEDS First Direct Arena
Sat 6th Feb - MANCHESTER Arena
Black Stone Cherry's live DVD Thank You: Livin’ Live will be released via Eagle Vision on 30 October 2015.
1. Elvis Presley - Greatest Hits
“The first one is a Greatest Hits Elvis Presley album that my mom and dad got me when I was really little. I’m a huge Elvis fan - a huge Elvis fan! When I first got that, it was actually on a cassette tape.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always just been infatuated with Elvis, and I grew up doing impersonations and this and that, so that Greatest Hits had a lot to do with me wanting to get into music because it influenced me to want to perform and, you know, entertain, so that would be my number one.
“One of the first songs of Elvis’s I heard was Heartbreak Hotel when I was probably six or seven years old, and hearing that was life-changing, which is pretty strange because you don’t hear a lot of six-to-seven year-old kids listening to Heartbreak Hotel! And then I got more into him and I started to listen to all his music and, ever since then, it’s just been a snowball effect. Now, I know everything there is to know about him!”
2. Aerosmith - Toys In The Attic (1975)
“I remember getting that album when I was a little bit older, probably around 11 or 12. I got it in a shopping mall in our home town and I kind of got it on a whim. I knew of Aerosmith, but then I heard Sweet Emotion and I had to go get that album, and that kind of started another lifelong love relationship.
“Aerosmith is my favourite band of all time so, when I heard that, I ran out and literally bought every single one of their albums and I’ve been a fan ever since. I’ve seen them live several times and we’ve been fortunate enough to share some festival bills with them in the UK.
“That album especially made me want to learn how to play the guitar more. I was playing already; I was playing ever since I got into Elvis, but once I got into Aerosmith, that encouraged me to want to know more about the guitar and play those solos and things like that.”
3. Elvis Presley - Peace In The Valley (1957)
“I love gospel music, and this is a gospel set by Elvis, and it’s absolutely fantastic because all of his gospel work, to me, is where he really shines. I can listen to him sing Hound Dog and Suspicious Minds and things like that but when he sings something like How Great Thou Art, that’s a whole different world and it hits me in a different way.
“There are some great gospel songs sung by Elvis on here. I grew up going to church and listening to hymns, and once I started hearing him singing those songs, it was just absolutely incredible.”
4. Creedence Clearwater Revival - Chronicle, Vol.1 (1976)
“I love Creedence Clearwater Revival, and they’ve got a greatest hits called Chronicle, Vol.1. All their albums are great, but I remember having that one when I got my first car at 16. My mum got me that CD to go with it because it had a CD player in it.
“I’ve always loved their music, and I love John Fogerty. That was a pretty special album. I just love the swampiness, you know. They do have that Southern swampy boogie sound, and that’s something that’s in our blood, as well, so we’ve taken a lot of influence from them.”
5. Led Zeppelin - IV (1971)
“I could say any Zeppelin album. Zeppelin I is a fantastic album, and it’s hard for me because I love them all… but I guess the one that I love the most was the Zoso album [or Led Zeppelin IV], the one that had Stairway on it and Black Dog and Rock And Roll and Four Sticks. All those songs right there are just incredible riffs and then there’s When the Levee Breaks. Shit, that’s just an incredible album.
“The first Zeppelin song I remember being familiar with was Kashmir, but I don’t remember how old I was. I remember hearing that riff and being like, ‘This is incredible! I have to have it’ and I went out and searched for it and then I got into Led Zeppelin. I was still in sixth grade, probably.”
6. Jimi Hendrix - Live At Woodstock (1999)
“The first time I heard Hendrix do The Star Spangled Banner on his guitar, it was just insane… and he played it nasty! To me, for any guitar players, there has to be an appreciation of Jimi Hendrix. He was an innovator and he literally changes the way you hear and think about guitar.
“Hendrix is great all the time, but I think hearing him live is just such an experience. Obviously, I never got to see Hendrix live, but to get to hear him live on CD… you can just sit down and just close your eyes and listen to him play and then try and put yourself in his mindset. He just totally commanded the guitar!”
7. Brian Setzer - Rockabilly Riot! All Original (2014)
“I love Brian Setzer. I love the Stray Cats and I love everything Brian Setzer does, but I’m really listening to his last album right now, Rockabilly Riot!. He kind of went back to what he started out doing as far as the rockabilly stuff goes. It sounds really good, like the early Stray Cats.
“I would definitely say that album is pretty special to me, just because he’s one of my favourite guitar players. I first heard him with The Brian Setzer Orchestra, and they had that Jump, Jive an’ Wail song. Then, as I got older, I started to appreciate rockabilly guitar and jazz guitar and then country guitar, and that’s when I got more familiar with him and I started to really appreciate his talent.”
8. Aerosmith - Get A Grip (1993)
“That came out in the early '90s, and it’s a fantastic album from them. I remember first seeing the cover of that album, which is strange because it has that cow’s udder!
“It has Livin’ On The Edge and Cryin’ and Crazy and Eat The Rich - all of those excellent Aerosmith classic songs. It’s one of the essential Aerosmith albums, I believe.”
9. Hillsong United - Zion (2013)
“You’re probably not familiar with Hillsong United, but they’re a praise and worship group from Australia. Their new album’s called Empires, but the album that really got me turned on to them is called Zion. It’s just really good.
“Like I said, it’s Christian rock and praise and worship music. They’re excellent musicians and they’re excellent songwriters. I can put that album on and it always makes me feel at peace, so it’s very special to me. Ever since I first heard them, I’ve just been in love with their music and their message.”
10. Various Artists - O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
“One of my favourite soundtracks of all time is the O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack. It’s an incredible movie and something just draws me to that music and the time period that they were capturing.
“I always remember when that movie first came out and I first heard songs like I'll Fly Away and Keep On The Sunny Side. There’s old country and Appalachian songs, and some of them are gospel and some of them are kind of spooky like the Ralph Stanley murder ballad. Ever since then, I’ve listened to more of that music and more artists that are like that.”