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Interview: The Black Lips

The Black Lips

If the Black Lips are known for anything, it's their wild stage antics and their unique punk and blues-rock sound. The band released their sixth album in June and is already on its way to being one of the best of 2011. I spoke to lead singer Cole Alexander about their new album, collaborating with Ke$ha, and the time they were chased out of India.

The Black Lips - Family Tree


ET: I saw you guys earlier this year in D.C. and I've never seen a crowd as crazy as that night. You guys have a reputation for this - how did this happen?

CA: It seems like everywhere we go the crowd kind of acts the same, it’s a universal response. I don’t know what causes that – when we first started we would go crazy and it invited the crowd to go crazy. I think it established a reputation – people would come with the intention of like, going wild. I think us acting like that comes from the crowd as well – it’s really rare that the crowd will just stand there. If they’re going crazy, we’re going to get more into it. 


ET: So your new album [Black Arabia] came out in June – how is it different than your other albums and how was it working with bigger producers such as Mark Ronson? 

CA: It’s more or less the same but using a producer, it’s the first time we’ve ever done that, and that was a lot different. It almost like having another band member – Mark Ronson would have input, he’d do something new to a song and we’d be like “Cool!”. We’ve always had like a closed-door policy and not gotten a lot of feedback so it was cool to have an outside perspective. 


ET: Do you think you’ll work with a producer again on future albums?

CA: Yeah I kind of want to, I’d like to work with John Cale – he produced the first Stooges album and was in the Velvet Underground.

ET: You’re basically done with your tour now, was there any particular show that was especially exciting? 

CA: Lollapalloza that we just did was pretty fun – it’s cool playing for a lot of people.

 ET: Are you working on any other side projects or collaborations now that you’re done with promoting the album? 

CA: I want to start doing that but we haven’t really had much time because of the tour but I think I’m going to work on some solo stuff and collaborations but I haven’t started anything yet.

ET: Is there anyone in particular you want to work with?

 CA: Yeah, we want to write something for Ke$ha for shits and giggles and to do something different because she’s a fan – I might try to work on that. We thought it would be funny to write a pop song but she’d have to accept it first so that’s something I’m going to work on. There’s no one else really in particular, I’ll just be writing songs when I can. 


ET: What’s your favorite show that you’ve been to in the span of time you’ve been making music?

 CA: There’s a band from Japan I really like called DMBQ, they’re like a psych-rock band. Cerebal Ballsy is good, but I think DMBQ puts on the best shows. 


ET: You mentioned Lollapalooza earlier- what’s it like playing at a huge festival versus an intimate venue? Did you meet anyone cool?

CA: It’s harder to get everyone to move and to control such a large audience unlike a small crowd when you can get everybody dancing and now it’s like, 2,000 people and it’s hard to get them all dancing. It’s more of a challenge to be on a big stage and perform instead of somewhere more intimate. We were so busy that we didn’t even get to see any bands. We played one after party and I didn’t really get to meet anybody though, we were just busy for a lot of it.

ET: One more thing I have to ask about – could you talk about the incident in India that happened on a tour? 

CA: We were doing a tour and it was a culture shock - going there was pretty different. There were a lot of metal bands so the crowd started moshing and it got really crazy. Richard Gere recently kissed a Bollywood actress and had to flee the country so you could imagine what two guys kissing was like - it was punishable  by like, four years in jail I think. So our promoter told us they called the cops so we needed to flee the whole region of Chennai. Once we got out of there the other promoters found out about it and cancelled our tour because we were a liability. We had nowhere to go so we just went back home but I think I'd do it over again.