Black Powder County, an up and coming hard rock band from Monroe, Oregon, has an explosive modern rock feel, while still paying homage to the hard-hitting, punchy, raw sounds made famous by bands like Aerosmith, AC/DC, Metallica, Black Sabbath, and Rose Tattoo. They have a sense of danger and that untamed beauty that was synonymous in bands like Guns n’ Roses and Velvet Revolver; in the band’s opinion has been a sound and an energy that has been missing from the music arena for far too long.
Formed in early 2012 Black Powder County was comprised of Jake Strasheim (vocals, guitar), Tim “Decoy’ De Quilettes (guitar, backing vocals), Manny Narkrong (bass), John “Turbo” Leitch (drums, backing vocals). They have recently added Derek “D-Zane” Zane (vocals, guitar) to the mix to sub for Jake. This band has literally been there and back musically in a very short time, and through dedication and perseverance this supercharged group has morphed into a well-oiled, fast-moving hard rock machine with an incredibly slick sound, the band has come out of it all as a durable and entertaining act in the Pacific Northwest. Their debut album “The BPC Syndicate” is an electrifying compilation of original tracks that highlight their rock roots irresistible guitar riffs and life relating lyrics.
Decoy was kind enough to spare some time over the busy holiday season to talk to us and bring us up-to-date on the band’s current activities and their plans for 2016.
BPC Syndicate was released in July 2014, what has the response been?
Exceptional! We followed up the release with a relentless show schedule that had us darting all over the country, which turned more folks onto our music & the EP.
How about at your live shows – how have fans been responding to your original music?
We have been making sure to bring an energetic vibe to all our performances to & encapsulate the audience in it, and by doing that they have responded to the music well as it is pretty catchy stuff!
I know Jake’s on sabbatical and Derek is subbing on vocals right now, but you’ve had other changes to your line up….right?
Jake has stepped down at this juncture and Derek has done a tremendous job stepping up to the task and the fan base has had a positive understanding through the changes. No other changes have come about, at least not in the last 2 yrs.
How are your new member(s) integrating?
The integration was a little different at first as Jake’s voice brought a unique characteristic to the band; however Derek has bought not only a great new voice to our sound, but also a complimentary guitar style that will allow us to venture into some different areas musically.
That’s great! Has there been any noticeable reaction from your fans?
At first there were some doubts and a very small handful of fans that were not too pleased, but after we did some concerts especially in our core fan base’s area, we or should I say Derek won them over.
How do you plan to integrate Derek’s vocals and guitar work into the BPC sound once Jake returns?
Jake’s return is not really a viable direction right now with what he has going on in his life, to which we support and admire fully.
Of course we at TNWU wish Jake only the best. I would think that Derek’s addition would help open up new channels for your original songs (as well as covers)….am I right?
Derek’s addition to the group has and will have us exploring new ideas while keeping the core Black Powder County sound and live experience everyone is used to.
There seem to be a number of touring bands that using two vocalists, even in the same song, out there; do you see BPC incorporating this into future recorded and live performances?
Well we already do that with a lot of our songs, from a backup vocal prospective, but at this time we will be using just one Lead vocalist.
When I look at your Facebook page I can see that y’all have done a number of live shows over the past year. I would imagine that getting out there in front of your audience is both energizing and exhausting! I know that your new EP has been recorded live; do you feel that your live shows helped to drive the writing for this EP?
Yes the upcoming live EP was an idea spawned from the reactions and energy the band & crowd create, as it is something that you just can’t capture in the studio, it has more of that raw element, which is what our sound is pretty much based off of.
I personally can’t wait for the live EP. What kind of relationship do y’all feel you have with your audience?
We connect with the audience as soon as we hit the stage, we have to be able to get your attention then keep it while maintaining the overall vibe. A lot of what we do off the stage is where that connection is the most important, as we believe having a close relationship with our fan base is the key to longevity in this industry, and the fact we have awesome fans!
We talked previously about you taking inspiration from some of the band’s favorite movies and TV shows for the music on BPC Syndicate; can we look forward to more of that on the new release?
Absolutely, by being avid TV watchers while on the road, aside from writing/practicing we have a broad list of shows we like, but the core shows do provide inspirations!
Want to offer our readers any hints?
Ok just a few! We have a song inspired from Supernatural called “Doomsday Party” which is set for the next studio album release. Also we have another song called “The Walkers” inspired by The Walking Dead, also to be on the upcoming studio album. There is at least two more, but that’s enough hints for now.
Nice! Thanks for sharing. I know the Walking Dead fandom will be interested in your take on that ‘verse. I have to admit to being completely clueless about the songwriting process – will you help educate me (and the readers)? Does the melody come first or the words?
It truly is a creative process & can be inspired from many different avenues, sometimes the words, simply just in a line can come first, or a guitar riff, and sometimes even complete band collaboration just from jamming; honestly all of our songs have had a different approach every time. There really is no set methodology and it is different for each of us
How collaborative is the effort?
Depends on how the inspiration occurred, sometimes one of us will come to the table with a melody or some lyrics, and present to the entire group and we’ll all contribute, and sometimes it is brought to the entire band as a finished product that we just polish up and make changes based on group input, but ultimately there is always collaboration.
Are changes ever made after the first few times a new piece is played?
Yes until we hit record in the studio, there is always room for improvements, even after the initial recording phase.
Does the end result differ substantially from the original germ of an idea or do they stay pretty close to each other?
This has varied on pretty much most of our material, but once we have a foundation we tend to keep it and mold around that.
Do changes to a piece happen once you start performing them live? If so, how often does that occur?
We have had that happen, sometimes by accident, or just being totally in sync with each other onstage that something magical occurred & we add it to just our live performances to give the audience something that they don’t hear on the original recordings.
Which band or musician would each of you list as an influence as you perfected your craft?
To be fair we’ll list just one each, mine (Decoy) would be hands down Slash & all the groups he was associated with & most certainly his style influence is certainly fused in my own style of playing. Manny is currently into Muse, Derek loves KISS, and Turbo is a huge Neil Peart fan.
Would you say that some of that early influence can still be heard in your music?
Absolutely, and because we clearly have more inspirations than just listed above it has been a blending of all our musical influences that have made our sound quiet unique.
Did the direction of the band’s music change from your original concept or would you say you’ve stayed pretty close to that ideal?
We have stayed pretty close to the raw power feel of Rock N Roll & what we consider “Our” sound.
What are some of your favorite covers?
Another loaded question that could result in pages! Well for me Sweet Child O’ Mine (Guns N’ Roses), Master Of Puppets (Metallica), Run To The Hills (Iron Maiden), Afterlife (Avenged Sevenfold), Life Without You (Stevie Ray Vaughn), Rainbow In The Dark (Dio), Hysteria (Def Leppard), Hold On To 18 (Black N’ Blue) & The Mob Rules (Black Sabbath) to name just a few right of the cuff.
And it is no wonder I was drawn to your music as that could easily be my own list! So, power ballads yay or nay? 😉
Yay of course! In fact we have one called “Never Began”, quiet a tear jerker actually; we have a great concert recorded version out there on YouTube.
Is BPC a full-time job for you? If not, can you share with us what you do when you’re not in your musician head space?
It is not a full-time job for me, so when I am not doing the music thang, I am a Senior Engineer in the IT industry & raising my Family.
Decoy, you are a transplant from down under – what was the impetus for your move to the Pacific Northwest, USA?
I had actually been coming to the USA on and off since 1998, but made it my home in 2004.
Did you know any of the other band members prior to your move?
I did not; in fact I had been on a 3 year hiatus from music all together as I was in Military before and during that break.
So how did you guys come together as a band – give us your creation story (so to speak).
Basically around 2010 I met Jake via his dad’s construction company (who were) building my house, and in 2012 I invited him to join a bar covers band I was in. Within 2 months we realized we had an amazing musical chemistry and started writing and recording all several BPC tunes, to which we recorded all the instruments initially for the demos. I then sent the demos out to industry professionals & contacts I had in major national bands to solicit their input, and to our surprise they were all very excited about our sound.
So with verbal endorsements from successful people in the industry that was enough for us to go “Hey, we might actually be able to make this a reality” so Jake and I started auditioning for drums and bass, and we picked up Josh Betschart our original drummer after about a month of auditions, and he bought along his roommate Manny, who ended up also being a bass player, so it was fate in a one two punch.
Turbo, Manny and Derek– what drew each of you to this project?
DECOY – Well Jake & I started it so, just our own enthusiasm & writing chemistry.
MANNY – Josh mainly, but when I heard these guys play and the material the two of them (Decoy & Jake) had written, I knew this was special & I wanted to be a part of it!
TURBO – When Josh left the group to pursue a great opportunity touring with some major artists, I had heard of this band Black Powder County, I hadn’t (heard) their music or seen them play as I live in WA, but I had heard of this group of guys that just took the Pacific NW by storm literally overnight, and an originals group at that! I got wind of them looking for a new drummer to replace Josh, which was a feat for most and I lived so far away so I dismissed it, until I saw Tim (Decoy) and I was sold. Even acoustically I could see and hear the power & passion in the performance and like Manny said it was special, so I had a grueling 6 weeks audition process with other drummers and got the gig!
DEREK – Well it was weird actually as I got this VM from an Aussie saying he had heard about me from the professional circle of friends Decoy has (you would be surprised at who this guy knows) that one of them saw me perform live with my old band. So Tim hunted me down & as I said contacted me out of the blue, so I had no idea who this guy was, he never mentioned the band, so I kind of ignored it until he kept calling, so I finally talked to him and once I knew that it was a call from BPC I was pretty excited.
At first it was for a fill in position to see out some shows that Jake was unable to do due to his personal circumstances. Little did I know that the shows were some major music festivals in front of thousands of people, so it was a jump into the fire scenario. As Decoy explained it has now fallen into a more permanent position for me so I feel blessed at the opportunity to stay on with these guys.
Also, I know plenty of musicians who can play almost every instrument ever made, what other instruments (if any) do you each play?
Derek can play bass, drums and keyboards. Manny can also play the guitar and sings. Turbo is purely stick & skin bound, but can sing backups. Myself, I can play bass, drums, ukulele and sing.
Is there any possibility that we’ll see some of those other instruments used to flesh out a particular song(s)?
You will see some piano; in fact we have Piano in “Never Began”.
Is there an instrument you don’t play but would like to learn?
I would personally like to be able to play the piano.
You’ve had a chance to play alongside some pretty popular bands…I won’t ask you for a favorite! However, I am curious to know who – if you had a chance to choose – who you’d like to appear with on your first US tour?
Yes we have and continue to get to play with most of the bands that inspired us and we look up to, so it has been humbling and surreal. Well looking at who’s currently touring I would say AC/DC, Motley Crue, but with the most recent reunion rumors, Guns N’ Roses are a must!
And now, just for fun….
We’re meeting up after a show – what am I buying you boys to drink?
Turbo – Fireball baby, Manny – Beer or shot of Whiskey, Derek – Water/Coffee…Ok a shot of Whiskey because it is after the gig, Decoy – Scotch or Bourbon please.
BPC’s website is currently undergoing a complete overhaul but will be back in 2016 with new features for 2016 so keep checking www.blackpowdercounty.com for updates!
You can also find Black Powder County at:
Posted Music at Soundcloud
Live Videos & Music Videos/Slides/Audio
When The Devil Knows Your Name (fan made audio/slideshow)
Rockin’ the Three Rivers (performance)