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A Dirty Dozen with TOM KELLY and SHAWN COX of BLACK DAWN – May 2019

According to a recent press release: “NYC metal/hard rock band Black Dawn is back with their latest EP, On Blackened Wings, available worldwide via Pavement Entertainment. Stream and download the EP on iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon. On Blackened Wings is the band’s follow-up to their 2014 EP, Until We Meet. On Blackened Wings was engineered and mixed by Joe Cincotta. In mid-April, Black Dawn released the official music video for “Help Me,” a single from the new EP. This hard rock anthem helps reminds us all of how help can come from the most unexpected places.” We get guitarist Tom and bassist Shawn to discuss new music, influences, and much more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets the band put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Tom: There’s no embedded or “hidden” content per se.  No satanic messages would be uncovered if you were to play the album in reverse.  We are looking forward to hearing about what people take away from this, which song and which parts were their favorites. On Blackened Wings has become, production-wise, my favorite album.  I believe it to be Black Dawn’s best work to date, and the preliminary feedback has been quite favorable.  Release has been delayed several years (most of the recording took place in 2015) due to financial and other circumstantial conditions. “Thoughts of Yesterday” was written in the early 90’s and was originally released in demo form in 1996.  All the other songs are new.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

Tom: I first got into music when I learned how to play a record.  I was maybe four or five years old at that time?  I was listening to the radio and building a collection of 45’s of the greatest radio hits.  This was, of course, back when there were record stores that sold the top singles on 45’s.  When I was about nine or ten, my best friend at that time showed me his older brother’s record collection.  His brother did not take very good care of his LP collection, so all his records were badly scratched.  His collection included albums from The Cramps, Iggy and the Stooges, Bad Company, Van Halen, etc..  The album he wanted to show me was Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy.  He said, “You’ve got to check this out!”.  I heard the needle placed on the vinyl, followed by nothing but scratches and pops at first, and then the opening organ tones of “No Quarter”.  I never heard this before, as it hadn’t been played on any FM radio stations I knew of.  I liked it right away.  That record collection became my very first outlet into bands, albums, and songs that I didn’t know about.  Then came MTV, which became an everyday thing for me.  I knew then that I wanted to be in a band that had a video like the ones I saw on MTV.

Shawn: Well I was always a musician since playing the trumpet in like the 4th grade.  The moment I wanted to be a musician was the first time I picked up a guitar and learned the intro to “One” by Metallica.  I was 15.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

Tom: It began with Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy and continued with Jimi Hendrix, Van Halen, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Metallica, and many other bands that I have since discovered.  I am always looking for new bands to listen to, and so far as I can tell, there will be new bands for me to discover for the rest of my life.  It will be interesting to see what’s coming in the future!

Shawn: I’ve always been into pretty much every type of music you can think of.  After high school I was leaning more towards jazz as I was playing the sax mostly.  What made up my mind to love metal the most was when I was going to SUNY Albany and was invited to the QE2 downtown.  A local Long Island band named Internal Bleeding was playing.  I was destroyed mentally and physically!  That’s when my mind was made up.  That’s what I wanted to do.  Not to mention that I got my bottom lip busted wide open at the show so that was it for my sax days anyway.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

Tom: So many bands have influenced me!  If you wanted me to name five guitarists, I would say that Jimmy Page, Zakk Wylde, Jimi Hendrix, Randy Rhoads, and Dimebag Darrell have encouraged and inspred me the most.

Shawn: In no particular order: Metallica, Pantera, Rush, Sepultura, Iron Maiden.

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Tom: I always thought it would be a bonus for our fans if we could get a superstar guest to record on one of our albums.  If I could have my pick of absolutely any one musician to record with, I would record a song with the guitarist who first inspired me to start playing guitar, Jimmy Page.

Shawn: Max Cavalera.  He is the one musician that can make simple riffs powerful, catchy, and heavy with groove!  Once Ozzy kicks it, Max is next in succession!

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

Tom: In a manner that doesn’t too closely duplicate any one of these bands, I would say that our music has the melodic qualities of Alice In Chains and Breaking Benjamin, while infusing the power and groove of bands like White Zombie and Godsmack.  I don’t like when a review says that a part was too long or a song was to repetitive.  That makes me think that we didn’t do enough in the studio to keep it interesting.

Shawn: I’ve heard Black Sabbath too often for my comfort.

7. What’s the best thing about being a musician?

Tom: The idea that hundreds or even thousands of people can come together and be happy because of a song that you wrote is astounding to me.  Music gets buried in your brain if it makes any sort of impression, especially when an association is made with a specific part of your life.  Then one day, like finding an old photograph, hearing that song again brings you right back to that memory which otherwise never would have been recalled.  Becoming a part of the soundtrack to someone’s life is a way to make your mark in this world in a meaningful way.

Shawn: Helping people get away from their daily grind even for 30 minutes while they listen to your music.

8. When the band are all hanging out together, who cooks; who gets the drinks in; and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Tom: Band practice is always a relaxing time.  A retreat, so to speak, from the rest of our lives and anything that each of us may be worrying about at that time.  There is always beer and bourbon at the practices.  In over 25 years of going to practice with him, Matt has always brought beer.  He always has the cooler with him, with whatever beer is in season.  Bud Light lime in the summer, Octoberfest when football starts, something stronger and tastier in the winter like Warsteiner or Hefeweizen.

9. When was the last time you were star struck and who was it?

Tom: Probably when I met Dee Snider with my wife some years ago after one of his Long Island performances of Van Helsing’s Curse.

Shawn: A few months ago I met Kirk Windstein of Crowbar.  It was the second time actually.  First time was 20 years ago but still…

10. If you weren’t a musician, what would be your dream job?

Tom: If I couldn’t work on the stage, I would work near it.  Perhaps as a stage hand or working in the sound booth.

Shawn: A guitar tech / roadie.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over”, even if it didn’t change your current situation?

Tom: No one specific situation, but I think we could have gained more exposure sooner if we had learned more about recording better albums earlier on.  I also think we played too many shows that really didn’t do a lot for us.  It’s very important to not waste your time playing shows that aren’t going to help you.  Stay specific to your own genre, get in front of larger crowds, and make sure you put on a damn good show!

Shawn: Allowing my first band Lostvision to break up so easily.  We would have just replaced the few guys that wanted to leave and kept working.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

Tom: I would like to have recorded on Houses of the Holy.  That album is the same age as me, includes the guitarist that inspired me to play guitar, and it is the album that started me looking for bands that I haven’t already found yet.  Not to mention that it is still a great album overall.

Shawn: As Real As It Gets by Sworn Enemy.  I would go back and record my bass tracks for the album.  I left the band toward the end of the writing sessions before the album was recorded.  It was ground breaking.  It’s a staple for the NY Hardcore metal scene.  It was our first full length album and was a culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice.  It will always mean a lot to me.

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Todd ‘ToddStar’ Jolicoeur

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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