An Interview With Finger Eleven’s James Black

Originally posted on: Lithium Magazine

By: Kat Harlton

The release of Finger Eleven‘s Five Crooked Lines on July 31st, led to the band kicking off a Canadian tour, called Fall of the Hammer,  in late October. The tour brings the band to Toronto on Nov 20th, to play the Phoenix Concert Theatre.  In the meantime, the album’s first single, “Wolves and Doors” is garnering attention.

I had the opportunity to discuss the new album with guitarist/vocalist James Black, and get the lowdown on the inspiration and experience.

Kat: What was the inspiration behind Five Crooked Lines?

J.B: The inspiration behind the sound of Five Crooked Lines was to keep it raw and basic; five guys playing rock and roll in a room.  The inspiration behind the title comes from a lyrical idea Scott had.  Five bent sticks can be arranged in such a way as to make the shape of a star – something glorious made out of nothing.  But then, the star can only burn so long, can only fly for so long before crashing down.  Glory is fleeting so you have to appreciate it while it’s happening.  You are blessed with great luck to have any moment of glory.

Kat: What do you feel this album has to offer, that perhaps your previous work didn’t?

J.B: The recording process was a lot rawer, and I think that sets it apart from our other albums.  Though we had taken a long time to write the songs we only had a short amount of time to record – 16 days in Nashville, at Dave Cobb (producer)’s studio to record and mix the entire thing.  The lesson was… if you want to make a spontaneous, alive sounding record, you have to capture real moments and let the performance be, rather than use studio tricks to make a false perfection.  I think this record represents the band’s live energy more than any previous record.

Kat: What was the most challenging part of the creative process for the album and why?

J.B: The songwriting is the hardest part.  Making something new that doesn’t repeat what you’ve said before, musically or lyrically.  I’m looking to be surprised by the song; some part of it that is unpredictable.  It’s hard to surprise yourself when you’re the mind creating it, but it’s possible and that’s the best feeling.  That’s what I’m looking for.

Kat: How have fans reacted to the new music? How much of an influence do fans have in terms of the finished product?

J.B: So far, it seems like the hardcore fans are really freaking out to the new track, everyone has a different favourite track, which is great.  We are the first to admire and acknowledge the importance of fans and how vital they are to our existence, but our creative process takes place in a sealed bubble.  We don’t really let the outside world in.  Our music is for ourselves at first.  Once we are pleased with it we let the rest of the world in.

Kat: What can fans expect to see on tour?

J.B: A band firing on all cylinders.  Playing real rock and roll with high energy.  No tracks, no lip-syncing or faking.  Real raw rock and roll.

Kat: What can fans expect from Finger 11 in the future? More music, or any other creative projects?

J.B: Certainly, more F11 music.  More records.  More concerts.  With this record we opened up a whole new way of writing, which still has a lot of unexplored avenues.  In addition to F11 music, I put out a solo record called MoonBootCocoon, which I intend to follow up with another in the next year or so.  And there’s Blackie Jackett Jr. (mine and Rick’s country band) we’re working on a record too.  So lots of creativity going on.  But the main focus right now is letting the world know that FIVE CROOKED LINES exists.  It’s out there and is waiting to kick your ass by way of your ears.

Kat: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?

J.B : Be persistent in all areas, with your instrument, with your songs writing, with your live shows – with all of it.  Hard work is not the enemy.  And hold yourself to a high standard.  Reach for the edge of your abilities or just beyond, that’s the only way to get better.

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