Posted On 13 Jun 2017
Get to know the rockers RadioBlack, who put a modern twist on the rock greats of the 90s: Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Incubus. They just released their debut self-titled album, much of which was recorded at the Foo Fighters’ private recording facility, Studio 606, on May 12th.
You can check out latest singles “Thread (I Am)” on Loudwire, and “Sunny Daze” on Guitar World, as well as the full album on PureVolume.
RadioBlack is led by singer/guitarist TJ Courtney, whose vocals and melodic songwriting blend grunge and 90’s inspired alternative rock. With drummer Derek Gledhill (founding member of Smile Empty Soul) and bassist Hayato Takano, a seasoned touring player, the ensemble makes for a powerhouse trio.
Prior to this new line-up, Courtney recorded tracks at Studio 606 with producer John “Lou” Lousteau and a lineup of studio players including Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters), Rudy Sarzo (Ozzy), Chris Chaney (Jane’s Addiction), and Mick Murphy (My Ruin, Chevy Metal). The production team was rounded out by Fireball Ministry front-man and “Sound City” documentary producer Jim Rota, and Brad Smith of Blind Melon. The recordings have since evolved into Radioblack’s debut album – a head-banging and energetic collection of tracks.
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Learn more about Radioblack in the following All Access interview:
What are some words you would use to describe 2017 for this band and your music? What were some of the highlights? What has been the most exciting part about this year?
Full speed ahead… everything has come together this year. We finished our album and released it, started our touring career, and finally saw fans start to latch on to what we’re doing. It was so cool to see people get excited for our album release. Last year was really all about planning for this year – writing, recording, figuring out how we were going to get ourselves out on the road and out in front of the right fans. This year its all in motion and we’re doing it. Its a good feeling.
Growing up, did you all always want to be musicians? Can you recall the moment you realized that you could really make music together and be a band? How did you all first meet each other?
All three of us were drawn to music early on and knew we wanted to create it in some sense. I think we’ve all gotten frustrated with it at different times in our lives and set it aside… but we all kept circling back to it. Having all been in different bands before this we definitely knew the creation side was possible — I think what we’re most in awe of is the fact that we found the right band-mates to do this with and that our debut album turned out exactly how we wanted it and is getting out there. I personally can’t say that for any other project I’ve been involved with. The band really started with a recording session at Studio 606, and I was honored to have some great players back me in those sessions. But I knew I needed and wanted the right full-time members. The assistant engineer over there gave me Derek’s name, and we were on the same page right away. It took us a while, but eventually we found Hayato through a Craigslist ad – the last place I thought a great band member would come from.
Was it hard to narrow down a band name? How did you finally decide? What other names were you considering?
I’ve been a bit of a control freak since I started down this path first as a solo artist… but I knew once I brought the other guys in I had to start letting go of that. So we did it democratically and all came up with names and threw them in a hat and voted it down to the top 3 or 4… RadioBlack won out after we all talked it through. I remember us just thinking it was a simple catchy name at first, and the more we talked about it we unpacked a lot of meaning from it. For us it represents the cluttering of the airwaves – television, radio, social media, etc. with misinformation and distraction. In a sense, its as if they’ve gone silent or gone black. Once we had that conversation we knew that was the name we wanted to go with. I can only remember one other major contender in my mind which was “Greyscale.”
So what was it like recording your debut self-titled album that was recently released at the Foo Fighters’ private recording facility Studio 606? How did that all happen?
At the time I was trying out different producers and recording arrangements set up through a management company that had signed me as a solo artist. My early sessions were more over-produced, solo-artist rock, almost like a Chris Daughtry or David Cook, and that just wasn’t feeling right. I remember having a meeting with my management and saying I needed to get it back toward organic rock, which led them to reach out to 606 with some new demos of mine. The house producer / engineer there was into it and wanted to bring me in to record, and Taylor Hawkins was hanging around the studio and volunteered to play drums. That spurred all these other players to come on board, like Mick Murphy, an incredible guitarist, Rudy Sarzo and Chris Chaney. We started to get back to that organic sound I was looking for, and after doing a few songs there I knew it was the start of something new and I had to find band members. Soon after I found the guys and the rest of the album and RadioBlack really fell into place.
Did anything surprise you guys about putting your debut album together? How long did it take from beginning to end?
Honestly, it took a couple years because I had a few songs out of the gates with the 606 sessions, and then I knew I wanted to pull a band together, which took a little while. We took a little bit to just play out together a few times, ran a Kickstarter campaign for funding, and finally went back in to finish the record. I would say the biggest surprise was how stalled things were at times, when the inspiration was always there. We ran into some big obstacles along the way which were unexpected — mostly related to the fact that we were pretty under-funded and trying to really do the record right. I had to step in at the end and finish off some of the final production touches from my apartment studio, simply because we couldn’t pay anyone to do it. But in the end, it all came together and we couldn’t be more excited about how it came out.
What was the inspiration for the songs on this collection? Can you talk about how singles like “Thread (I Am)” and “Sunny Daze” got written?
Really the core of the inspiration is subconscious expression – I had some rocky times the years leading up to this album, depression, destructive relationships, and so on, and each song was an attempt to deal with those things and unravel some specific situations. The subconscious has a way of clustering together —similar hurts, similar pain induced by others — in a way we can’t always consciously identify, and that happened often throughout this album. I just let myself write and afterwards realized what I had tapped into – and sometimes it was a few different things melded together. Then musically the band put its stamp on the songs, and the guys help to identify which parts and which lyrics were more universal. Those became the things we focused on. But the most important thing for us is to allow the process to happen naturally – its starts with me just trying to be expressive and get a melody out and feel my way through lyrics, and ends up with the guys saying here’s where you connected with us, here’s how we’re going to connect with other people. Thread and Sunny Daze definitely came about in that way, with Sunny Daze sneaking through in a feel-good moment which was rare for me at the time.
TJ, I am curious to know how the sound of RadioBlack is different or similar to previous music that you have recorded with other musicians?
I think it goes back to what I was saying above — for a long time I felt like a rock singer with pop backing musicians… everything always sounded great, but something was lost in that. Its so much different to have musicians committed to the sound of a band, instead of studio players there for a day or two. RadioBlack is much more organic and I feel much better about that, because that’s really where I’m rooted as a musician.
Who are some of your favorite artists? Who would you all to work with in the future? What would be a dream collaboration for each of you and RadioBlack?
Unfortunately an all-time favorite for all three of us just passed… Chris Cornell. That would have been a dream collaboration for us. We were very distraught when we heard that news. My favorites will always be what got me excited about music when I was young – Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Silverchair, Red Hot Chilli Peppers — as for more current bands, we’re into a band called Highly Suspect right now… Bring Me The Horizon is great as well. Honestly, jamming with Taylor Hawkins & having him play on some tracks checked one dream collaboration off my bucket list!
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people take away from your songs?
The message is to not ignore the dark corners of your mind, and to hopefully help people connect and acknowledge that no one is immune to feeling alone and isolated at times. Music helped me get through those times in my life, and so did writing this album. So much of pop right now is about numbing your problems not addressing them… we like to think this album tackles them head on and goes to some pretty dark places, but finds some hope in spite of them. There’s angst there and a willingness to fight back.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about this band or your music?
Just that if you support us as a fan, we’ll be very good to you. We’re trying to bring back a sense of community to music and to our album release, our shows, etc. It makes the whole thing more enjoyable for us. So give the album a listen and if you get into it, let us know and we’ll hook you up!