Speaking with BB, Rhythm guitarist and band leader for BACK:N:BLACK. The Ultimate All-Girl Tribute to AC/DC. Starting in 2010, the band has played for audiences as large as 6,000, and as small as 100. Five girls, one vision: to rock.
Hi dear BB, thank you so much for taking your time for an interview. Hope you are fine? Here are some questions for you:
BB: Hi Susi, doing very well, thank you!
With all due respect to the Gods of Rock N Roll, why do you want to copy a bunch of old men?
BB: Of course, we are not trying to copy a bunch of old men! First of all, we would have a gender and age problem…! We play AC/DC’s music for one reason: because we love the songs! AC/DC has been going strong for more than 40 years now, and their music is still very relevant to people of all places, genders and ages. They have a massive fan base–probably the biggest in rock. We all are part of this fan base and want to share our love for this music with other fans. Rock’n’roll is best when played live. When we are on stage playing these songs, the energy exchange with the people from the audience who love this music as much as we do is fantastic. It is electric. It is high voltage. This is how we pay tribute to AC/DC.
You are all over the internet – where are most of your fans based?
BB: Most of the people at our shows are from around the way, but our fans come from all over the world –Norway, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, UK, USA, Brazil, even Indonesia!! The support is overwhelming! What is amazing is that even if people don’t share a common spoken language, so many people from so many places around the world speak the language of rock’n’roll! It is crazy when you type „LTBR“ (Let There Be Rock) and people all over the planet know what it means and start feeling the same adrenaline-rush!
Where can the fans buy band merchandise like a BACK:N:BLACK T-Shirt / DVD/ poster?
BB: We try to always have t-shirts and DVDs at our shows. For those who cannot make it, they can order them on our website http://www.backnblackgirls.com to help us pay for gas to drive to our shows and spread the BLACK! We have a really cool section on our Facebook page where you can see fans from all over the world showing off their BACK:N:BLACK pride. It is really heart-warming.
Are there any upcoming tours? When is your next live show?
BB: We just had a year of great shows in Switzerland and the UK. We even played at the legendary Montreux Jazz Festival, along with Deep Purple and Brian May! This was an extraordinary experience for us and we are truly thankful for this opportunity. I can’t even begin to explain to you how it felt to stay in front of the same stages where Stevie Ray Vaughan, Nirvana, and even Prince played! What an honor! I’m just glad that none of us peed our pants!
Another highlight was the Verbier Bike Fest where we played for the third year in a row. I have a very special place in my heart for the Verbier stage. With so many fans, and so many friends, it is like a homecoming for us when we play.
Next year, we will continue touring in Switzerland and probably go back to the UK, because our first concert at the Big Red in London has been a great success. We also look forward to shows in Italy, France and all over Europe. I think it would be a real kick in the balls to play cool places like Turkey and Greece where we could hang out at the beach (and of course, play a concert is absolutely necessary)!
What was the biggest show you ever played?
BB: Just considering the size of the audience, I think the biggest show we have played to date was Rock Oz’Arènes in Avenches, Switzerland, when we rocked right after ZZ Top. We were the last band of the night, and the whole ZZ Top crowd came to see us too! I like to look at it as a wild rock’n’roll party with a few thousand of our closest friends. Seriously, there were about 6000 people there, I would guess. But I can tell you, after you see the first ten rows of people going absolutely apeshit-crazy, it doesn’t matter how many people exactly are there!
You have lots of pictures with BNB fans. Do you like meeting fans?
BB: Yes, we love to meet fans and talk about AC/DC! The cool thing is that we are all fans of the same thing. Personally, I always hated it when bands refused to talk to fans, or pretended they were somehow superior to the people who are watching them. If you ask us, we are all here because of one reason: because AC/DC rocks balls! If you look on YouTube, you can find a video where Brian Johnson even talks about one of his worst memories in rock’n’roll: when he asked Chuck Berry for his signature. Apparently, Chuck Berry treated Brian Johnson like absolute garbage. And now, 40 years later, Brian Johnson the fan has never forgotten it.
Please tell us some funny backstage story.
BB: I can tell you two stories. The first one is funny and the second one is tragic.
One time when we were playing at a beer fest, our „backstage“ was located right beside the men’s bathroom. And, unfortunately, there was no way to lock the door at all! Now, at a beer fest, if you are in the audience, the basic concept is very simple: you try to visit the bar as frequently as possible, take whatever liquid is available there, pass it through digestive system, then try to dispose of it into the closest urinal as fast as you can — then repeat. Of course, if you’re in the band, the basic concept is to try to change your clothes as fast as possible before one of these drunk concert-goers accidentally comes backstage. I think we all learned two important tips that night: 1) that it is possible to change your bra and panties in less than 4 seconds, and 2) that most men actually jump the gun, so to speak, and take matters into their hands before they even get through the door of the bathroom. The combination of shock, surprise, embarrassment and guttural fear of giant tattooed bikers afraid of peeing their pants is something I don’t think I will ever forget! I won’t even start to explain what was in the cups backstage there, or why there was a stuffed beer-head on the couch.
The sad story just happened about a week ago. This time, the backstage was up on the 4th floor and we had no elevator to carry up all of our stuff. Roberta, who was playing lead guitar that night, finally slipped after the 20th march up and down the stairs and twisted her ankle badly. She wanted to play while sitting on a chair, but we insisted that she had to go to the hospital. In the end, she got a giant cast all the way up her leg, and is recuperating from a broken ankle. When they said it was a long way to the top if you wanna rock’n’roll, they didn’t lie. By my calculations, it’s about 160 flights of stairs…
Are there any other tribute bands in your surrounding?
BB: Yes, we have played a few shows with the best Aerosmith tribute in Europe: Eurosmith! They are amazingly talented musicians and Luca, their singer looks so uncannily like Steven Tyler you won’t believe your ears or eyes.
Very recently we played a show in Switzerland, with a band called Reckless Roses. They are a Guns N’Roses tribute band from Hungary, and very cool guys! Not only do they sound like GN’R, they also look a lot like them! It was a great show! Also, when Carrie had a problem with her voice and couldn’t be there, Norbi (“Axl”) helped us by singing some songs with us on stage. That was the same night when Roberta broke her foot falling down the stairs backstage. The people were waiting to hear some AC/DC, so Randy (our most excellent constant tour companion and close friend) and Csabi (“Slash”) jumped onstage and did their best Angus style guitar playing with Kat, Angie and me. They saved the show! If there is one thing that I have learned on the long road of rock’n’roll, is that good deeds (and bad ones) are never forgotten. On the road, and onstage, everyone is a family, and helps make the show as cool as possible for the audience, no matter what happens.
Do you know AC/DC personally?
BB: I actually have met Angus Young. He was a very friendly guy, taking his time to meet fans and take pictures. I would love to meet the other guys too. It would be a dream come true to be able to sit down and talk to Malcolm about his stage setup, sound, and songwriting.
Does AC/DC care that you cover their songs?
BB: Brian Johnson said once in an interview that he loves all AC/DC tribute bands, so I guess they don’t mind. I would not understand how any band would mind another an other band playing their songs. It is a sign that they touch people’s souls so deeply with their music that they want to play it themselves. Also, I don’t think that AC/DC is afraid of our taking over the scene. Because there is only one AC/DC! We know this, our fans know this, and AC/DC knows this. One of my favorite videos on YouTube is of Brian Johnson just jumping onstage with a small bar band who was playing AC/DC songs at a local pub. You can tell by the look on Brian’s face that he just loves rock’n’roll, no matter how big the audience.
BB You sound a lot like Malcolm Young. Tell us about your guitar rig. What is your secret?
BB: Thanks! I don’t use the same guitar and amp as Malcolm Young. I use a Les Paul Custom Shop and a Marshall JVM210 because this has a very nice crunchy sound. I play mostly in loud mid-range, that is to say not too bassy and not too trebly. Many people feel that the most important part of getting a good AC/DC sound is to buy this equipment or that vintage equipment. But for me, the most important thing is to have your own sonic space in the band and that no one competes with the others‘ frequencies. If you have two people playing the exact same amp with the exact same settings, they will probably bury each other, even if they have the most classic awesome vintage signature special whatever amps. But apart from equipment, the “secret”, if you want to call it that, is that I have listened to Malcolm Young’s playing obsessively. To me, how he moves his right hand is even more important than the guitar or even the amp he plays. His right hand is the secret to how he and Angus complement each other’s lines. It is how Malcolm stays rock solid in the back and fills the song with his ballsy riffs while Angus fiddles away like a madman. Many people may not realize it, but Malcolm Young is as important to Angus Young sounding cool as Angus himself is.
Do you use a wireless on stage?
BB: Yes, I do. I love that this is possible. Sometimes I like to jump off the stage and bang my head with the people in the audience. Even if the stage is giant, I’m going to jump off that stage the first chance I get and rock out with people eye to eye.
How long have you been playing?
BB: BACK:N:BLACK has been playing AC/DC since 2010. I have been playing for 10 years. I started with classical guitar, but had to give that up because they made me put my foot on a little stand and told me I had to sit still. So I got my first very ugly electric guitar and taught myself to rock. That same guitar is hanging on my wall right now, albeit in three pieces.
Where and when was your latest video filmed?
BB: Our latest video was filmed at the Verbier Bike Fest. The atmosphere was really great — we all had a great time! It’s always such a pleasure to play that place! Friendly people, mountains, rock’n’roll…! Good times! Although Randy, who was filming us on the stage had a little misunderstanding with a biker during the show and almost kicked that guy’s ass. I am glad this didn’t happen and everything went smooth and happy. We love to play bike fests and get along great with bikers!
What are you spitting at the audience at the middle of the video?
BB: If you want blood… you’ve got it!!
Your singer looks like a serious headbanger. Is she into Slayer or what?
BB: Hahah, good question! Carrie gets really into it when she’s on stage. It’s so much fun to play with her, she has a really good energy and enjoys being onstage and singing these songs. I never asked her about Slayer, but I know she listens to a lot of different music, including some pretty heavy metal. For all of us in BACK:N:BLACK, we just bring to the stage the passion and rock’n’roll that is in our hearts and blood, so what you see in the videos is what you get on stage. No camera tricks, no patched-up sound, no studio guitars, no MTV magic, just straight-ahead rock’n’roll: dirty, sweaty, sexy and loud – just like we like it!
What is that guy doing in your video? I thought you kicked people in the head if they tried to climb on stage!
BB: That guy’s name is Bison and he was there to help us do that show. Carrie unfortunately had a really nasty infection on her vocal chords and couldn’t sing all of the songs, so Bison stepped in to help. I do kick people off the stage when they dare come into our space. I love AC/DC, it’s true, but I also love Nashville Pussy. And if you have ever seen how Ruyter takes care of drunks and fools who try to weasel onto her stage, you will think twice about getting on our stage uninvited! This being said, stick to the front row at our shows because you never know when we’re going to share our beer with you, or you even get a free one, compliments of the Ladies from Hades.
Now the floor is yours… please leave a message for all your fans!
BB: All us girls in BACK:N:BLACK would like to thank our fans for the great support that we have gotten over years now. We are totally blown away! We hope to see you all on the road very soon! And don’t forget: If you want us to not only be friends on Facebook, tell your local clubs and venues about us – we’d love to come over and rock your socks (and your panties) off!
Thank you so much for the interview dear BB was nice talking to you… keep up the awesome work and rock the nations. Susi
BB: Thanks Susi! Thank you also for your great support to the rock’n’roll scene! Rock’n’Roll… It will survive!