Sunday, 9 March 2014

Interview with Eric Wagner

Few can really claim or perhaps would want to be referred as a legend within any scene of music; it is hardly the moniker you set out to aspire too, as any budding musician.  “Hey, I’m going to be the next Jimi Hendrix, or Jimmy Page,” Instead for any emerging artist, you dedicate yourself to create your art, based upon the inspiration of your favourite artist or musician and if the plaudits come, well Hey, it can only help in their endeavors to forge a path for themselves.

Eric Wagner, current singer with Blackfinger and more recently, The Skull, is perhaps best known for his work with the band, Trouble formed in 1979.  Leaving the band in the mid nineties, to replaced by Danny Cavanagh, Eric would return to Trouble again some 3-4 years later, releasing his final album with the band in 2007. Held and revered by many, he was recruited as one of the many guests for Dave Grohl’s revered side project, Probot which was released in 2004.  Wagner’s tenure with Trouble would eventually come to an end in the late 00’s.  It has to be said that Eric has appeared on classic doom records, such as Psalm 9, The Skull, indeed the 2007 Simple Mind Condition by Trouble is a much underrated record.  This guy is indeed a legend within doom metal circles.

Fast forward to 2014 and Wagner is currently part of Blackfinger and what has been described as a spin off band called, The Skull, due in no small part  to presence of  former Trouble members, messers Holzner and Olson.  It is the former, which we are concentrating on today, Blackfinger.  Their S/T debut issued via The Church Within records back in January, is a classic doom record in waiting and sees Eric Wagner et al deliver one of the best debut record this year.  Indeed, Richard Maw described it best in his review “I cannot recommend this highly enough. The album, as I describe it here, may sound rooted in the 70's and classic rock/proto-metal- but there is much more to it than that. There are hooks, great performances and so on, but there is also the intangible “vibe”. I can't define it, but there is something unusual at work here. Give it a go and you may well think the same. For all those who underestimated this release: You bastards are gonna pay!” 

Well it is not often, we get to talk to doom metal royalty, until now that is.  It gives me great pleasure to present, my interview with Eric Wagner.  So sit back, light up and Doom on!!

(SL) Eric, a warm welcome to The Sludgelord.  A real pleasure to talk to you.   First of all, Congratulations! Your new record is excellent.  You must reflect upon it with a sense of a pride? 

EW) Thanks yeah I’m really proud of this record, it took a long time but it's finally here, the one thing I did learn from all this was patience,  because I wasn't born with it that's for sure

SL) What can fans look forward to from you in 2014? How is your schedule shaping up?

EW). Well the album came out on the 31st of Jan and we are starting to book some shows. If people want to hear this live, I’d be more than happy to oblige

(SL) You’ve been involved in the music for over 30 years, could you perhaps summarise your own musical journey (s) to this point and the roots behind the inception of Blackfinger?

EW). Wow it's really been 30 yrs? Man time flies when you're having fun and I guess the Blackfinger album would have never been made, if not for everything that has happened before it.  It has all lead me right here, right now I am exactly where I'm supposed to be

(SL) What springs to mind when you think about the completion of your new record, given that they were perhaps your first original songs?

EW). That it's finally finished, it took a long time from start to finish and there were times I thought it would never be done.  I guess I’ll take the blame, I just wanted it to be good.

(SL) Who handled song writing duties?

EW). I had a lot of the lyrics and melodies written before I actually put the band together.  Then we all locked ourselves in a room and worked out the music together. Everyone contributed; I love that about this album

(SL) How long was the gestation of your new/current opus from conception to delivery?  

EW).   5 long years. One thing I learned though, was patience because I sure wasn't born with it.

(SL) Using your time with Trouble as a reference point, did those experiences form the basis of the direction you wanted to take the band and how you approached writing for Blackfinger?

EW). Not really, I've never tried to write a certain way just the way I feel or what I see in that particular moment in time.  If you listen to every record I’ve done from start to finish you will see that it's all one life

(SL) The artwork is really great, was it designed with a particular physical format in mind? Who designed it?

EW). Chuck Robinson, Trouble's former bassist did it.  He sent it to me one day and asked if I wanted to use it, I thought it was great.  Little did I know at the time that it would be a glimpse into the future?

(SL) As a music fan yourself and given that music seems to be so disposal at times, how important is it to offer a great package to your fans, and yet not alienate them by producing something which is not affordable. What are your thoughts on the finished physical product? What format is/will be available? 

EW) It is available on CD and Vinyl, that's one of the reasons it took a little longer.  It was a little over time wise for 1 LP, so they wanted to make it a double.  I didn't do that, I wanted everyone to be able to afford it, so it took a while to figure it out, but we did it

(SL) .  You’re releasing this record via The Church Within Records, what particularly resonated with you in terms of working with that label? 

EW).  They just made me believe that they wanted the record more than the others that were interested 

(SL) Over the years what is the best and worst things about being in a band (s)?

EW). My favorite thing about being in a band is writing and recording a new record; I love it. The worst thing is being a poor struggling musician because of it, but I guess there is a price for everything

(SL) What are your thoughts on the current doom scene you have been affiliated with for over 30 yrs? 

EW). Its great isn't it? Gives me the opportunity to continue doing what I love. I can't believe people still want to hear what my big mouth has to say.

(SL) Influences and heroes, what are turn offs and turn on’s?

EW). Lennon, Waters and Morrison are my heroes and I love coming across music that I never heard before or that i forgot about.  It turns me on! What I hate the most is watching TV and a commercial comes on with the music of a band I grew up listening too.  The other day I saw a car commercial playing a Hendrix song; does he really need the money that bad?

(SL) The last album that kicked your arse?

EW). Don't know? I think I’d have to say the first Black Country Communion record, it reminded me of early seventies hard rock and I thought Glen Hughes sounds better than ever.

(SL) What was your first musical experience and how did that influence you in terms of wanting to be a front man?

EW). When I was about 7 or 8 my parents let me stay up late and watch Jailhouse Rock and when Elvis came sliding down that pole singing that song, I thought that's a good job.

(SL) Has their been much opportunity for Blackfinger to do live shows and is playing live  still as important today given the influences of the web and social media ?

EW). I think so, but it definitely doesn’t help me any, maybe more so with the younger audience since they grew up with it.  Us older fucks still like getting out of the house once in a while, we've done a few shows around Chicago, whenever it's time get out and have some fun

(SL) What are your survival tips for the road?

EW). Sleeping bag, flashlight, matches and aspirin.

(C) Sven Mihlan

(SL) Who are some your favourite bands you have toured with and what have been your band highlight (s) thus far

EW) There is just so much to choose from I still haven't processed it all.  It's all been good and I wouldn't change a thing, but if I had to pick a highlight I'd have to say Dynamo Open Air in 95, playing for 100,000 people was rush.

(SL) Vinyl Junkie or Ipod flunky? Discuss   

EW Vinyl junkie, I always loved looking at the album covers and everything, whilst listening to the record.  It was almost as important as the music and I'll bet my Deep Purple; Made in Japan still has seeds in it from cleaning my weed.

(SL) Finally, do you have any final comments/word of wisdom you’d like to bestow upon us?

EW). Everything is going to be alright, I promise

Words and Interview by : Aaron Pickford

You can check out our review here and for more information check out the links below.  Thanks to Eric Wagner for taking the time to talk to us. 

For more information :