Featured Artist

Cosmic Rock

 

Tonight on sunday eventide our Featured Artist on Cosmic-Rock.com is the mighty Suzi Uzi. Suzi hails from Chicago and is the singer/dynamic frontwoman of the popular retro group Black Road. A striking figure in underground music in recent years with her singing and artistic presence, Suzi met up with us to discuss her influences, history, her band and long time friends in Black Road and thoughts on many subjects. Dig this exclusive interview with Suzi and check out the band's new single out now.

 

1.Hey Suzi, its good to speak with you how have you been?

 

Great to speak with you, too! I have been pretty good, all things considered. Life has its ups and downs, and mine is no different. I just try and keep my head up and always make the most of each day. As far as the band is concerned, I am over the moon and cannot complain!

 

2. Yeah for sure and good to hear. Tell us a little about your background, did you grow up in Chicago IL? How did you get into playing music?

 

I am from a Southside neighborhood of Chicago on the western border, called Cicero. Most people say they have heard of it because of Al Capone and the days of prohibition in the United States. We then moved to Berwyn once I started grade school, so I basically grew up there. Ironically enough, Black Road’s guitarist Tim and I were born at the same hospital, and grew up in the next town over from one another. I think he and I were both meant to play music, based on stories we have shared. I was literally born head banging to my father’s rock music. I loved to dance, and was always considered a little “performer” for the family. My dad would take me to music stores and I was able to keep a beat on a drum kit at 4 years old. My grandma gave me a keyboard for Christmas when I was very young, however my father ended up letting it go one time when we moved. We were never very well-off so I had to take choir instead of playing an instrument once I was offered music class in grade school. I was always singing in private. I joined the middle school band and played the entire percussion section minus the drum kit. Once in high school I took a semester of guitar sophomore year, and my friend even let me borrow a guitar finally on my 16th birthday. I only had it for about 2 years at the most, and sadly never picked up another instrument (aside from playing people’s keyboards here and there). I ended up living in Chicago and working there for many years during my twenties, where I reconnected with Tim after being out of high school for 8 years. It wasn’t until I started dating Tim that I was able to have instruments at my disposal and really discover music for myself.

 

3. Great. Any classic concerts you saw back in the day that inspired you and in what way?

 

I have always been enthralled by music videos and musical movies. I grew up with MTV on my screen all hours of the day and night, when I wasn’t watching The Blue Brothers, cartoons or The Simpsons. My dad had a somewhat limited musical taste, but he loved rock-n-roll and blues. He would always play KISS concerts, AC/DC concerts, Aerosmith, and basically anything huge with pyrotechnics. I had a more diverse taste, and seemed more interested in the psychedelic side. People used to call me a Flower Child. Although it is not a concert, I absolutely loved The Wall by Pink Floyd. I was so intrigued by the footage from Woodstock. I loved everything I saw by The Doors and Jimi Hendrix, and was mesmerized by Led Zeppelin. Then again, I was extremely interested in Michael Jackson and even Queen. I was very open-minded when it came to music and I think as long as it was real and organic, it translated to me.

 

4.What were some of your favorite classic albums over the years?

 

“Dark Side of the Moon” is probably the most obvious favorite I can recall as far back as I can remember. I loved anything and everything I heard from Pink Floyd. My favorite Metallica album was always “…And Justice For All” but I thought Metallica could do no wrong up until a point in my childhood. I always enjoyed “American Beauty” by Grateful Dead.

 

5.Thats awesome. I'm a big Dead fan and love to hear when artists in heavier genres can give them a kind mention too.  Metallica and Grateful Dead, it's all music to me for sure. Yeah classic Pink Floyd. You are the singer for the group Black Road. How did you form the band?

 

Black Road was formed by Tim and I so we could get Tim’s ideas out into the world instead of just in his head. I wanted to make sure they did not go to waste. He did not want to compromise anymore, and wanted to write the kind of music he’d always loved. One thing Tim expressed was the desire to not have to sing and wanting to solely play guitar. This is what pushed me to start singing full-time. We started out playing funkier and jazzier songs, because I was unable to sing over the heavier and louder metal riffs Tim wanted to play. I quit smoking cigarettes after almost 13 years just to get stronger vocally. After about a year of practice, I told Tim I was ready. We began writing heavier songs, and formed our final lineup we have today. We are now right where we had hoped.

 

6.Excellent. He's a great guitar player. You guys create some really cool sounds together. Now you guys have a new record coming out? Tell us about the new single “Witch Of The Future”.

 

Our drummer Robert introduced us to his buddy John Becker. We met him at his spot called Roosterbat Studio in Antioch, Illinois to give it a test run. We decided to record “Witch of the Future” because it is dynamic, and long. It even includes tambourine which was not recorded or added as percussion in the first EP, so we were unsure of how it would sound. It gave us a great feel for exactly what John’s style is as far as recording, mixing, and producing. Our hope was to nail down a studio to record our upcoming debut full-length album. After the great experience we had at Roosterbat, we all decided it was the studio for us and will be tracking and recording everything there. We will also be having John Becker mix the whole album because he made the single sound great! The album will be released on the two labels with which we released our debut EP, vinyl with DHU Records (Netherlands) and on CD with Bloodrock Records (Italy). Currently the single for "Witch of the Future" can be found on our Bandcamp page, Youtube, Soundcloud, and coming soon streaming on all platforms and apps (iTunes, Spotify, etc.).

 

7.Right on. How would you describe Black Road’s sound to new listeners?

 

Black Road’s sound is bluesy and soulful, powerful and fuzzy, sometimes psychedelic, and slightly progressive as far as riffs and structure. The main focus is Tim with a single lead guitar, writing almost all the riffs. There is enough breathing room for intricate and melodic leads, as well as shredding guitar solos. My vocals are soft and bluesy at times, with powerful parts and a variation of timbre. Tim and I share melodies and harmonies with one another in certain songs, creating a larger sound. Because there is only one guitarist, our bassist Casey has a lot of freedom as well. He does very effective and killer bass runs, and always finds an interesting way to hold down the rhythm. Our drums sound and feel so big and powerful because of the size of Robert’s kit and the ferocity of his playing. He is a heavy hitter and if I had to pick one main person he reminds me a lot of when he plays, it would be JPG from Clutch.

 

8.Do you write lyrics and if so what inspires your songwriting?

 

I have written all of our lyrics so far. The main inspiration I get is from personal experience. I do not like to be so obvious or straightforward with the themes, but sometimes it’s fun just to go right for the subject - like in “Bloody Mary”. I think with each song it is a different approach, and the more songs we write the more chances I will have to try every single thing I am waiting to attempt. Sometimes Tim will start playing a riff that evokes an emotion within me and sets the tone for the words I use to describe the feeling. “From Hell” was an example of a song in which personal experience created the lyrics, but they were brought about by the riff Tim started playing at band practice one day. It was as if the theme and the riff were already one but we just hadn’t put them together yet.

 

9.If you could see any artist from rock history in concert who would you choose and why?

 

I would absolutely love to go back in time and be there to see Pink Floyd live in the late 1960s or 1970s.

 

10.Yeah for real. What are some of your favorite films?

 

I love comedies and (crappy) horror films mainly, as well as musicals. I love the Naked Gun movies, Jim Carrey films like Liar Liar, The Wedding Singer and Waterboy, Stephen King’s Pet Sematary and Creepshow and Cat’s Eye, The People Under the Stairs, Pineapple Express, Martyrs, Grumpy/Grumpier Old Men, Little Shop of Horrors, the South Park movie, and even the 1962 classic, Gypsy.

 

12.Favorite books?

 

It’s hard for me to pick a favorite, but anything by Stephen King is awesome. I also love all the classic stories like Jungle Book, Swiss Family Robinson, Catcher in the Rye, and Where The Red Fern Grows. Tim is the one who reads the most and his favorites are anything by George R. R. Martin, Stephen King, Joe Abercrombie, and Bernard Cornwell.

 

 

13.Yeah those classics are so timeless. What is one life skill you think everyone should have?

 

I think everyone should know how to prepare food for themselves. My first thought was we should all know how to start a fire without any tools, but you could also just eat a raw diet if you knew how to do so. I take cooking very seriously, but there is so much more I need to learn.

 

14.How do you feel about the music business today with social media and the current era of underground music? What advice would you give a new artist just starting out?

 

I feel the music business has shifted completely now thanks to social media. You do not need to even pay for a website anymore in the age where most people have a Facebook. Of course, there are advantages to having your own URL and directing people there instead of relying on the algorithms and hoping they work in your favor. Underground music has a better chance now to be heard because of our social network. We are all connecting and sharing, and are now able to spread our reach further than ever, and easier than ever. It is a wonderful tool to help plan a tour, book shows with bands, and connect with fans. On the opposite spectrum, it is also a way for your music to be spread without your getting paid. For a new band starting out I would recommend definitely having your music published so that you can receive royalties. Make sure you get your music on all the streaming sites because some people are exclusively listening to things on Spotify and might never give you a chance unless they can hear you there, for example. My greatest resource so far has been Bandcamp, and I would wholeheartedly recommend every band starting a page there, and placing your merchandise for sale as well on your page. This is what helps make money and keep the income generating so you can keep the band growing.

 

15.Looking back at your musical journey thus far what do you see as your victories and mistakes, great moments or challenges along the way?

 

Our first victories were definitely starting the band with our friends. It made practices so fun and we have so many amazing memories from the times we shared, making music and writing songs. As far as mistakes, we did not have a clear direction for our recording process. We had never attempted anything like that as a band and it was much different than our past experiences with small recordings. Our main challenge was we did not have the capital to initially get done what we envisioned, so we tried to make the most out of what we had and what we could offer. Some smart things we did were promoting and sharing our music as much as possible. I think this is mainly my doing, since I am the one running all the accounts… but I couldn’t have done it without quality material. I have a great band and they make all this worth while. Everything we do now feels like a victory in some way, and I know we will only continue to grow and get stronger. We have had amazing moments so far, such as opening for bands we consider huge inspirations and some of our favorites like Elder, Horisont, The Obsessed, Wo Fat, Year of the Cobra, Mos Generator, and more! The next challenge is in our near future - our first summer of touring! We have dates lined up and can’t wait to get on the road. Another huge victory I feel we have accomplished is beginning to play music festivals. This was a goal of mine for sure. Playing Indianapolis Doomed & Stoned Fest in 2018 was so incredible. We got to perform at our first two outdoors fests as well, Black Mass Vol. 1 at Soundgrowler Brewing Co. in Tinley Park, IL, as well as Psychobilly Nightmare Freakshow in Rockford, IL. It was also a great moment to share the stage with our friends at our favorite venue, the Chicago Doomed & Stoned Festival at Reggies Rock Club. I had the honor of being a part of the crew organizing the festival with Doomed & Stoned, and can't wait to see what the second annual festival will be like in 2019!

 

16.Really great. Any other creative activity you are interested in? Art, writing, etc?

 

I have always considered myself an artist in some ways I suppose. I have somewhat switched exclusively to digital graphics, and my new passion is creating artwork layouts for album releases. I love to edit photos and create graphics. I have always enjoyed video editing as well, and started at 14 years of age. This experience helped me be able to smoothly transition into audio editing and engineering once I started trying to record and mix demos for Black Road and Tim’s solo songs. The programs are very similar considering the interface and how they’re laid out. I write all the lyrics for the band and always enjoyed writing. I have even gone as far as writing my own teleplay. I am unsure as to when I would pursue my dream of being a writer, but I do consider it something I feel the need to do at some point in my life.

 

17.Do you guys have some shows coming up? New England Stoner and Doom fest 2019?

 

We are planning our very first tour in March, and centering it around a festival to which we have been accepted. It has not been announced yet so I cannot spoil the surprise! Haha! Hopefully we can announce all of our 2019 plans as soon as possible. New England Stoner and Doom Fest 2019 is taking place in Connecticut. We will be traveling from the Chicagoland area all the way to the eastern edge of the country to rock with all those amazing bands. We are very excited! It will take place during the weekend of May 3-5, 2019. Our bassist Casey’s birthday just so happens to be May 5th, so we are going to be able to celebrate altogether for our first time on the east coast! We also have word we will be back at our favorite brewery in our area called Soundgrowler for another blowout at some point… stay tuned for more on that! The debut LP should be coming out at some point in 2019, and hopefully we can get out on the road and spread to tunes with tons more people. There are big things set in motion and I am anxious but excited for it to happen.

 

18. That sounds awesome. Any last words or news for your fans?

 

There are many things that come to mind, but most importantly I would love to announce that we have decided to go with our amazing and talented bud Nick Gurley once again to do our album artwork! If you guys have not checked out “Nick Gurley Artwork”, please do! He did our EP cover (vinyl and CD), a stellar t-shirt design, and even one piece we have not officially released yet that we are holding in our back pocket. The one thing I find so fascinating and inspiring about Nick is not only his extremely kind and hilarious personality, but his ability to take my concepts and create almost exact visions of what I see in my head, translated onto paper. He will try and give me credit, saying I am good at describing my ideas and that it’s half the battle being able to summon these thoughts into words or have the ideas at all… but I am just in awe of everyone’s individual talents and strengths and how art can be created by complimentary aspects of one another. Tim’s riffs create a feeling for my lyrics and vocal melodies, which Casey perfectly captures and accompanies, and Robert gives feeling and power to while creating a rhythm and vibe… all culminating into a dark but psychedelic experience that isn’t trying to be anything in particular except what sounds right and feels good. Nick somehow hears this and can make a sound become an image, that fits and somehow accents the duality of life we cannot escape. Okay, maybe I am reading into this a little too much… haha! But seriously, I am excited to show you all what we are working on and I hope you like it too! Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you.

Really awesome Suzi of course and anytime. Keep us updated on your news, G