Q&A with drummer Brian Mullins of The Cold Stares, Indiana based hard-rocking, southern-rock inspired band

"I hope music is a release from those exact things that divide us. All music. I want to get as far away from that division as I can, personally. Many acts I love have had political statements, lyrics, causes, platforms and so on. That doesn’t have anything to do with what I love about their art, whether I agree with them or not."

Brian Mullins: Southern Rock Blues Ways

The Cold Stares is a hard-rocking, southern-rock inspired band that is built around catchy riffs, solid vocals and big sounding drums. Upon hearing The Cold Stares, you might be surprised to learn that the band is a duet comprised of guitarists/vocalist Chris Tapps and Brian Mullin on drums. The Cold Stares released a string of EPs (fall of 2019), with each creating a full collective album “WAYS” (October 2019), recorded at legendary Sam Phillips studio in Memphis Tennessee and containing thirteen tracks. Authenticity. A word that is frequently used in describing The Cold Stares, and frequently missing from modern music discussions..

There is a power and a realness that is arrived at by just doing what you do best. The Cold Stares do that. Formed in 2008 after the duo had spent a number of years in other bands, Chris Tapp and Brian Mullins got together for the sole reason to just jam. No preconceived notions on what the project should be. Just do what comes naturally. The result is a hard rocking, story-based brand of rock and roll that is sung from the soul. Chris’ unique guitar rig, along with Mullin’s giant bass drum provides a visual and sonic landscape for the two to travel on different paths than other acts. In fact, you may find yourself looking for another member behind the curtains but it’s just these two men.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues and Rock counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Brian: The blues and rock counterculture have enabled me to experience those views and journeys. I never really looked at it as counterculture, but I suppose it is by today’s metrics. For me personally, I just wanted to make records. I wanted to play live music. I wanted to be around people that wanted those same things. Coming from a small town in Kentucky, I realize I’m lucky to have found someone in Chris that wants those same things. Some of the places that we have been able to go, and things we have been able to see because of this thing we chase has been a blessing. I don’t feel that one can travel abroad, to several different countries and not obtain a different perspective. For me I hope it comes across as genuine gratitude.

What touched (emotionally) you from Sam Phillips studio in Memphis TN? What characterize "Ways" album?

Brian: One thing that really stuck with me after The Sam Phillips experience was the pace of being there and the fact that Memphis runs on its own time. Everything closes on Sunday except for church and Sam Phillips Recording. It took us a bit to get acclimated to the pacing. We generally work fast. We’re maybe not the most laid-back people you’d ever meet. Having a budget and a deadline, we felt a certain amount of pressure to start fast. It seems kind of silly now how uptight we were the first day and a half there. We were totally unaware that we were in the right studio with the right people to make the right record. The combination of Wesley Graham, Matt Qualls, and Greg Pearce in Sam Phillips seemed to be just what we needed. I realized it fully when I heard Chris playing the Hammond organ with the Leslie cabinet on “I Was A Fool”. I’m generally quick to dismiss folklore that accompanies studios, but there was something there that our record needed.

"The blues and rock counterculture have enabled me to experience those views and journeys. I never really looked at it as counterculture, but I suppose it is by today’s metrics. For me personally, I just wanted to make records. I wanted to play live music." (Photo: Brian Mullin, Sam Phillips studio, Memphis)

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Brian: There are many, but I still laugh about this one: We were recording at Blackbird in Nashville with Mark Needham and his assistant. We had just met Mark and it was our first time working with someone that had that kind of a track record. He has worked on so many big albums, and it was a little intimidating. Mark and his assistant were messing with the guitar amp in the tracking room, and Chris and I were in the control room. The guitar was tuned oddly for the song “Monroe Doctrine. The assistant was trying to play it so Mark could tweak the amp. Not knowing the tuning, and not really being a guitar player, it sounded pretty rough. Chris leaned up to the console and pressed the talk back mic and started saying ridiculous shit like “If that’s your best “Back in Black” you’re never going to get out of Tennessee.”  They couldn’t hear him; he didn’t hit the right button, they weren’t wearing headphones and what not, but it was hilarious.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Brian: I miss liner notes. I would pour over those things. I wanted to know where it was recorded, who wrote it, who engineered. Now more than ever I guess that information is available in one form or another, but I liked the physical product experience. I think anyone playing real wooden instruments, guitars, keys horns, drums what have you, has a fear that hearing real playing will be a thing of the past. Maybe not a thing of the past, but just become a novelty. I hope people feed their brains with tones from human hands and appreciate the craft.

"I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall for the Live at Fillmore East recordings by The Allman Brothers Band in 1971. The chance to see Tom Dowd, Bill Graham, and the best southern rock band of all time all in their element would have been special, I’d imagine." (Photo: Brian Mullin, Memphis TN)

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Brian: I think I’d like to remove whatever it is that makes an artist suffer. That angst, discomfort, depression, self-destructiveness thing. I believe that nebulous black cloud of whatever feeds the the art. I understand that is most likely the catalyst for some. It would be great if we could have the product of that without the collateral damage. I’d love to hear what Jeff Buckley would be doing. I’d love to hear what John Bonham would have done ten years later. Another twenty years of Charlie Parker’s contributions to music would be fine with me.

What is the impact of Blues n' Rock music and culture to the racial, political, and socio-cultural implications?

Brian: I hope music is a release from those exact things that divide us. All music. I want to get as far away from that division as I can, personally. Many acts I love have had political statements, lyrics, causes, platforms and so on. That doesn’t have anything to do with what I love about their art, whether I agree with them or not.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Brian: I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall for the Live at Fillmore East recordings by The Allman Brothers Band in 1971. The chance to see Tom Dowd, Bill Graham, and the best southern rock band of all time all in their element would have been special, I’d imagine.

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