Bluesdoodles chatted to Aaron Buchanan whose new band Aaron Buchanan & The Cult Classics released a Special Edition of the album The Man With Stars On His Knees
BD: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak to me today.
BD: Before we talk about the release of the special Edition of your album. Let’s go back to the beginning what music inspired you in the early days and what drives you now?
AB:It was a happy accident my Grandfather played keys. In fact I still have got the organ. When I was very young, 4, 5 and 6 I loved musicals. I would sing and dance and the family saw I loved singing so I did drama classes at school. I was the exposed to rock bands and artists and became a fresh fan of Queen. I hung around studios soldering cables, with lots of coffee, beer etc. I then found the Emo scene which was dominant, bands like Thrice, Coheed and Cambria, I loved the work of the frontman Claudio Sanchez and from Wales Funeral For a Friend. The scene was booming in 2004/5 everyone was trying and producing a lot of music.
The current boom is Classic Rock, I am fed up with revisiting, the pentatonic licks. I want to be an English band doing something original. There are bands out there doing that and they excite me like Alabama Shakes, they are different and I loved it.
BD: Many people will have found Aaron Buchanan & The Cult Classics through you being vocalist for Heaven’s Basement. How did you decide on your band members?
AB: It was a different line-up in the beginning. Tom McCarthy, the guitarist was in one of my bands ten years ago and we had always stayed in touch, so he was an obvious choice as I wanted a band with two guitars and two singers. My sister was a happy accident she was out of work at the time having worked at the Royal Opera Production Suite, she loved her job. As she had time-off I asked if she wanted to do this I thought Tom and her would get along and the guitars would work together. They hit it off. I invited bassist Chris Guyatt and Kev Hickman on drums. The rhythm section is the basis of a band the kick, snare and bass have to work together lock in and be perfect otherwise you do not have a strong sound. They just didn’t work well together despite being great musicians. I talked to tour manger and friend Luke Bell do you know any drummers? He said try Paul White who had played with Defiled an Industrial Metal Band. He had pizzazz and made the sound I was envisaging so now we needed a bassist, and along came Mart Trail. They have played with the band for a couple of years and do a phenomenal job. They have the right personality making it the best band to be in.
BD: The two constants in the Cult Classics are your guitarist Tom McCarthy and your sister Laurie. Is there any sibling rivalry on an off stage?
AB: Not really. We used to argue like cat and mouse as kids. Then when she was 15/16 she was really smashing it as a guitarist. Laurie started off on acoustic so has lots of strength and flexibility in her fret hand. We now have mutual respect. I moved away for about five years living in Los Angeles and travelling. My parents’ home is reasonably close to Heathrow so stayed with them when back in the country. My sister had become a riff lord. I said to her then you will end out on the road with me it is all about timing. I was at that point fully committed to Heaven’s Basement. When I quit Heaven’s Basement it was the right time. My sister is a good mathematician, good producer, she also has good ears. On the album, she picked up production clicks we missed while immersed in the music. We work well together I will bring in the money and my sister spends it.
BD:On leaving Heaven’s Basement, you immediately went into the studio with your new band. Aaron Buchanan & The Cult Classics, why the name could be mistaken as a cover/tribute band?
AB: We are definitely not a Cult Cover band! I never want my name but my booking agent who I have a good working relationship with said it was a condition that I used my name to book shows during first album cycle. I took his advice it worked, it had the necessary punch and poke to get tours booked. The Cult Classics are movies. There so many classics, from Taxi Driver with Danny DeVito, Kill Bill, Reservoir Dogs etc. They influence the way we dress and put ourselves about. The album The Man with Stars on His Knees is not a happy album. It is an emotionally charged piece of music it is poisonous. The sound is both extravagant and furious.
BD: Have you always wanted to be the singer of songs upfront? How did crowd surfing of the stage become part of the act, is it as risky as it looks relaying on the audience to catch you?
AB: Every day we live is a risk. Anything could happen when we get in a car and drive. It isn’t really a risk in falling into 100 people’s hands. It brings people closer to our show. For me, it is what rock music is about. Need to make a statement as not a massive independent/underground scene you need to go out and destroy other bands on the circuit to get people to buy tickets for your shows. I was always a singer. I did pick up and play guitar, bass and piano but never going to be good enough. Upfront and singing is where I belong. When I write I predominately use a guitar. But for the new album, I have written using a piano and it is very different.
BD: You have told us about your influences how have they shaped the music that is on your debut album The Man With Stars On His Knees?
AB: It wasn’t the influences from my earlier years, we talked about earlier. I was with Heaven’s Basement for five years which is a long time. Influences include Sound Garden, Alice in Chains and more definitely lots of grunge influences. Other influences are Heaven’s Basement and Skunk Anansie.
I am fed up with pretending the classic rock thing; it is not what I am. Classic Rock is in the past I want to create something new. Bring a little mayhem. Trying to find a different angle for lyrics. The album reflects my five years with Heaven’s Basement. It was at times torturous, with great moments and awful times. When I left Basement I felt like a shadow of myself, I know my family were worried about me. It was time to reassert myself. I quit the band, fired my manager within a week and then started on the album it was a massive week.
BD: The song, The Man With Stars On His Knees, is intriguing what is the meaning and why did you decide on this as the album title?
AB: It is a reference to Russian Prisoners tattoos. Stars, when tattooed on knees, are a sign that the prisoner commands respect. It has the meaning I will never kneel down to anyone.
BD: What prompted you to undergo this mammoth re-release of the album now early 2019 after your successful 2018 festival appearances and tour.
AB: The album had sold 200,000 before we signed to Listenable Records. When we signed with the extended reach of Listenable to a few million the decision was to re-release as an Extended Edition, to reach a new extended audience. With the album known it will help the profile and sales of our second album. It is an opportunity to capitalise on A Man With Stars On His Knees, a great album and made sense as a business model.
BD:Final question, a new one for 2019. Your house is on fire you can only save three albums what would they be?
AB: Coheed and Cambria – Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness.
Queen – A Night at the Opera
ABBA – The first ABBA album I can grab.
BD: Thank you for your time.
Aaron Buchanan & The Cult Classics release the Special Edition of The Man With Stars On His Knees on Friday 22nd February via Listenable Records.