All Aboard The Black Diamond Express


Posted by in July's Magazine

Edinburgh’s very own Black Diamond Express have built up a reputation over the past six years for the raw power and energy of their live performances. The Leither caught up with Toby and Cameron as they geared up for a host of live shows and to talk to them about their well received debut album, Brimstone for Hell, which in characteristically maverick style is both self-released and a live recording.

I asked them how they felt about the album, “I think that time has really allowed us to develop our sound and our show, and I believe the album is testament to this. It’s a tricky balance, right now we sound tight, we’re rehearsed but the music is energetic and spontaneous so a live album seemed obvious to us at this point in time.”

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Cameron continues, explaining the thinking behind its self-release even though they’d had interest from labels, “It was at a time in the band’s career when we just weren’t ready for it. It would’ve been bloody dangerous for a band like ours to get all starry-eyed over attention from major labels. We were still getting to know each other socially and musically, we knew we had to form our sound ourselves and there was serious concern that the labels would take this freedom away. The very fact that our debut album is a live one is something most labels would have baulked at but it’s something that we felt was essential and right and proper.”

Toby elaborates further, “If you get signed then you may be lucky enough to have the label bankroll your recordings and tour etc. But then you’re in debt and anything you earn goes into paying off that debt. I think bands struggle to make any money in that position – unless you sell millions of records. The internet has had a massive impact on the way music is distributed and promoted, now it is possible to reach a wider audience without the aid of a record label.”

So of course, I asked Toby how BDE planned to spread the word, “In a word… Legwork! We have to invest faith in the idea that quality is important to people. If there isn’t a place in the modern industry for music with integrity then we’re screwed. I think the most important thing for an unsigned band is to be pro-active, nobody is going to come knocking on your door, you have to go out there yourself and do some knocking, and it seems that the hard work hasn’t been in vain as some pretty serious backers are again pricking up their ears.” Gigs are clearly where the band are in their element, so I wondered if that’s what prompted the release of a live album, “I think most bands sound better live. Part of the battle in the studio is to capture some of the raw energy you have when performing and when you play before an audience different things happen, you make different decisions.” Toby pauses to think and then continues. “Recording live means you only get one shot at getting it right, but if you nail it you’ll have captured something special. I don’t think you can ever be completely happy with any recording you make, you always feel you could’ve done something differently, or better.”

The first track on their album might be blues, but don’t make the mistake of simply calling them a blues band: “Blues is the reason I got into playing music, and it’s deeply embedded in our sound. That said, I try not to refer to the band as such. The blues is an ever evolving form, from the early delta sounds, to jazz, rock, hip hop and beyond, it has continued to change and incorporate new things into what we understand to be ‘blues’.” He coughs and considers, “So I think giving any music one name is a rather misleading thing to do, it’s more of a patchwork of many styles, anything you care to think of.”

Whilst world tours are the norm for the superstars, things are a lot different for the majority of gigging bands, and although they’ve toured with The Mavericks and opened for The Magic Band, BDE are realistic, “With the summer festival season rapidly approaching, that’ll really be the mainstay of our ‘touring’ until later in the year. Between day jobs, families and festival gigs almost every weekend, there is little time for conventional touring in that sense. We’re discussing international touring, and we’ll certainly be getting round as much of Britain as we can in 2013.”

Lastly, I asked them what they hope to achieve with this album. “It was never our intention to get rich off this but if the album funds future projects and allows us the continued freedom to make the music we want to, then it’s safe to say it’s done its job.”

Info: Black Diamond Express play the midnight slot at Assembly Rooms every Saturday during the Fringe. The Brimstone for Hell album is available at theblackdiamondexpress.com

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