Interview with Jacksonville’s Blistur
HappyJack is back – this time a interview with Jacksonville’s own Blistur who were on the 2014 Grammy Awards Ballot for best metal group.
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Happyjack – We are happy to have you guys take a short break while you’re in the studio and on the road to answer a few questions for the fans. Hey the New CD is really explosive – great tunes that really grab you! The fans have been lining up to see you and we are happy to have the opportunity to chat with you.
Happyjack – What was your first big break as a professional band ?
Chris Kellam – Guitars / Lead Vocals -I think just being able to play as a full time band rather than work a regular 40 hour week is a big deal to me. But Being placed on the Grammy ballot last year was the biggest break so far.
Dom Berti – Bass Guitar / Vocals – being flown out to Guantanamo Bay to play for the troops there.
Neal Gupton – Drums / Vocals – There have been a few. Probably the biggest boost in fans early on happened when we played Planetfest in Jacksonville with Hinder, Shinedown, Puddle of Mudd, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and Rehab. We got out to thousands of new fans who still follow us to this day.
Happyjack – What’s your current instrument gear ?
Kellam – (Guitar) Fender Stratocaster with D’Addario strings (10-46), (Amplifier) Peavey Triple X Tube Amp with a 4X12 Cabinet.
Fender basses, Ampeg and TC Electronic rigs
Gupton – Yamaha Maple Custom drum kit, Paiste Signature cymbals, Yamaha DTX12 Multi electronic pads, EV and AKG microphones, Evans heads, Zildjian sticks.
Happyjack – Highlight of your career so far ?
Kellam – I think the highlight of my career was playing to 10,000 people in a very popular venue in the middle of my hometown of Jacksonville Florida.
Berti – being submitted for a nomination for The Grammys
Gupton – There have been some great ones.. For me though – my sentimental favorite – was playing the Florida Theater. That was a venue I grew up watching some of my favorite bands play in and I never thought I’d get the chance to do it myself. The sound and crew were top notch, and the crowd was electric.
Happyjack – Who inspired you to begin making music ?
Kellam – My stepfather, Ronnie Perry (aka PW) was a bassist in a local band and he taught me how to be a professional musician.
Berti – Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke
Gupton – There were no professional musicians in our house growing up so there wasn’t a family or friend influence. My dad used to listen to big band music from the 40’s. Benny Goodman, Count Basie, etc. When I heard Sing Sing Sing with Gene Krupa I knew I was a drummer. When I heard Foreigner from my older brother’s stereo I knew I’d be a rock drummer. When I hear Neil Peart from Rush, I knew I needed to practice!
Happyjack – What’s next for BLISTUR in 2015 ?
Kellam – Fame and fortune! Haha. Seriously though, we are going to record the best album yet for our loyal fans and will vigorously pursue connected management and labels.
Berti – Being signed and going on a world tour.
Gupton – Working with Al Gomes of Big Noise last year on a one year contract, we were honored to be placed on the 2014 Grammy ballot under the “Best Rock Performance” category for our song, “Make Up Your Mind”. We are currently entertaining offers to either work with Big Noise again, or perhaps a new management company. We are also in the writing phase of a new CD and not ready to set a release date yet. Hopefully by summer a new CD will be ready. As far as live shows, we are actively booking shows from the club level all the way up to headlining at Daytona Bike Week. There are spots on our calendar left open for Sturgis, SD Bike Week and other festivals that we are trying to secure now.
Happyjack – I’d never perform without …
Kellam – Warming up my vocals and making sure I have room temperature bottled water. Oh, and of course, my guitar!
Berti – Without playing one of my own basses.
Gupton – A decent snare drum! Really though, a good sound system and great sounding instruments is so important. Live performance is our resume’. We never like submitting it on a handwritten piece of steno pad (crappy drums, crappy backlined amps, crappy sound system, crappy sound engineer).
Happyjack – My favorite track on the New “BLISTUR” CD is…
Kellam – Shadow
Berti – Shadow
Gupton – Shadow ! It’s epic and we are all proud of that one.
Happyjack – The best gift I ever received in this band is –
Kellam – Loyalty from our fans
Gupton – A fan in New Zealand who calls herself “Silk Sunrise” on social media took it upon herself to create life-size, museum quality canvas paintings of us and sent it internationally to our front doors. An unbelievable gesture of random kindness I will never forget.
Happyjack – My most treasured instrument is…
Kellam – My Fender Stratocaster that I’ve had since 1989.
Berti – 1973 Fender Jazz bass
Gupton – My maple custom Yamaha’s. By far.
Happyjack – My favorite Music Artists to listen to …
Kellam – It varies from Avenged Sevenfold to Stevie Ray Vaughn and anything that has a lot of guitar in it.
Berti – Jaco Pastorius , Word of Mouth and SMV
Gupton – There are so many and I listen to most everything. But I’d have to start with Rush, Dream Theater, Pink Floyd, Foo Fighters, Buddy Rich, Chic Corea, Live, Tool, Foreigner (especially the album cuts off the first two albums).. I could go on for days. Rock, metal, jazz, fusion, swing.
Happyjack – When I’m looking to get inspired I…
Kellam – Pick up the acoustic guitar and just let my fingers play whatever I fell at that moment.
Berti – try to listen to as much Fusion as I can
Gupton – Plug in Dream Theater’s “Metropolis 2000 – Scenes From a Memory” DVD. Also, Rush “Beyond the Lighted Stage” documentary and “Buddy Rich – Jazz Legend” DVDs
Happyjack – My favorite travel destination is…
Kellam – St. Maarten
Berti – Europe
Gupton – Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. A close second would be the island of St. Maarten. If I’m not performing, then Kauai, Hawaii.
Happyjack – The last song I listened to was…
Kellam – Master of Puppets by Metallica
Berti – Elegant People by Jaco Pastorius
Gupton – Subdivisions by Rush –
Happyjack – The best fans are the ones that…
Kellam – Sing along with Blistur songs!
Gupton – Travel great lengths to support us. We are ever grateful to them.-
Happyjack – The city that has the best Fans is ..
Kellam – Our hometown, Jacksonville Florida
Berti – Jacksonville
Gupton – Hard to answer without making other cities mad. I must say though that Fernandina Beach, FL really comes out every time we play there.
Happyjack – When did you start playing ?
Kellam – I was 9 years old when I began playing guitar
Berti – When I was 17 years old
Gupton – was 8 years old. I didn’t have a drum set until age 17, so I became proficient at playing the couch, coffee table and practice pad.
Happyjack – Is it easy for you to agree on the songs ?
Kellam – Yes
Berti – Yes because musically we all think alike.
Gupton – Yes. Even if one of us writes something and someone else takes it in a direction that wasn’t intended.. We are usually open minded about all things and will see where it leads. It’s a real advantage that no one gets their feelings hurt if the rest of the band rejects a song.
Happyjack – What does a new artist need to break out in the current Rock biz ?
Kellam – Pursue your passion and NEVER give up.
Berti – to have real staying power they need more talent and less gimmicks.
Gupton – If I knew I’d write a best seller. My best guess is the whole “it’s who you know”. We’ve all read about the big labels not signing anyone, or making 360 deals with bands to take more income from areas the band used to get.. Like live performance and merchandise. Because they are suffering due to piracy and streaming and lack of CD sales. So the Internet age has allowed us all to get our music out there, which is a great thing. But there are a lot of minnows in that ocean. I watch The Tonight Show and really scratch my head at some of the new bands he puts on there. And I think, that band must know somebody! –
Happyjack – How much input did you personally put into the recording of your new CD?
Kellam – I am the producer/engineer, guitarist and singer, so I have to say I put in a great deal of input into all of our original material. LOL
Berti – As a bass player I write all the bass lines for the songs and some of the melodies
Gupton – A lot. Chris has proven to be an outstanding engineer, writer and producer (aside from being an incredible musician). I’m there though all the tracking, mixing, mastering helping to listen for timing issues, instrument out of tune, etc. My role is like Robin (without the tights)… I just try to pick up that extra criminal that Batman didn’t see behind him.
Happyjack – Why should Major Bands select you guys to open the shows ?
Kellam – We are professional and musically as tight as a band can be. Not to mention we are extremely easy to get along with.
Berti – Because they would never be disappointed in our performances and they would receive 100% professionalism from each one of us.
Gupton – Because we are ultimate professionals. Our band is excellent and we take the job seriously. We don’t get drunk, start late or end late. None of that. We demand the highest of ourselves and stick to the contract. If we need to adapt and overcome, we’ve done our share of that as well.
Happyjack – Today’s songwriters lack inspiration, where do you as songwriters get that inspiration ?
Kellam – True events, family, friends etc.. Theres so much material right in front of us if we simply open our eyes.
Berti – t depends on the individual as to where he or she gets their inspiration from.
Gupton – I like non-typical themes to write about. But things I have some personal experience with or a subject that I have a studied opinion on. There’s plenty of things like that if I pay attention to the world around me. If I try to write a song without having some personal stake in it.. It usually comes off poorly. In the end, there is an emotion I am trying to tap into. Happy, sad, mad.. Whatever. If the music and lyrics fit the emotion behind it that, to me, is when a song really comes together.
Happyjack – Why do you think there is such an interest in Rock music now ?
Kellam – I think the interest in rock will never die as long as the songwriters stay true to themselves musically
Berti – Everything goes in a circle. The cycle comes around with every generation.
Gupton – I hear that Country is the most popular music now around the USA. But take a look at any rock festival and it packs out. I think there is always an interest in GOOD music, no matter the genre
Happyjack – Where did you guys first meet with each other ?
Kellam – I met Neal around 15 years ago in Jacksonville as we were in different bands and playing the same venues. We got together around 10 years ago and met up with Dom about 5 years ago through a mutual friend in Jacksonville.
Gupton – I connected with Chris in a different band twelve years ago. We formed Blistur in November of 2005. But I had seen him play in previous bands and had hoped someday we could work together. He was such a next level guitarist and singer. Luckily I found myself out of a band at a time when his band was looking for a drummer. We connected with Dom Berti about five years ago after parting ways with the previous bass player. He had moved here from Bronx, NY and a friend referred him. We got lucky that the first guy to audition for the spot was him. Dom opened up an entire new spectrum for us with his bass playing. Just a brilliant musician. And our songwriting morphed into something much deeper musically.
Happyjack – Did you get to enjoy yourself in the studio ? Highlights ?
Kellam – Absolutely! We streamed our Scars and Stripes recording process for our fans to watch live and it was a blast.
Berti – I enjoyed myself very much. I really enjoyed watching Chris producing the CD and i enjoy the musicianship of them both.
Gupton – Yes.. A big advantage is that we built our own studio. So there is no tension when recording, thinking about that clock ticking at $60-$100 an hour. Plus, with Chris‘ studio skills we all get exactly what we are going for as far as sound, arrangement, etc. During recording of our “Scars and Stripes” CD, we streamed it live on the Internet and invited fans to join in. That was fun.. Especially the chat room and some of the wise cracks our fans were making. I warned them it was like watching grass grow.. But they tuned in anyway. Some of them were probably supposed to be working. Other highlights would be… How we made the “boots marching” sound on “Make Up Your Mind”. We couldn’t find suitable samples of soldiers marching on the Internet, so we recorded two plastic cups against plastic bags that were sitting on the aforementioned canvas painting. Recorded about three tracks of that and it sounded like boots marching. Crazy! Plus other Easter eggs on our CD’s like reading from Moby Dick in a British accent behind the music. People would be surprised at some of the creative stuff that is in the songs they are listening to.
Happyjack – How important is it for a new up and coming band to have articles in print and web stories ?
Kellam – New media is one of the main ways to get your band out there to people that would otherwise not know who that band is.
Gupton – I saw a quote once attributed to Bill Gates. To paraphrase: ‘If I had two dollars left to invest in my business, I would spend one on PR’. I saw that on the Internet, so who knows if Bill said it, but I liked the quote. Obviously, for a band fans are everything. Getting known through live performance, print media, social media, blogs, radio.. It is everything. And that can be one of the hardest parts to keep up with. –
Happyjack – Describe what this band is all about – and the future goals – of each member
Kellam – This band is all about the music!
Berti – the band Blistur is all about the music. no shortcuts and no games. I can really only speak for myself but my goal is to go on tour with Blistur because when we do go out we really have a lot of fun with each other. In the future I would like to become a studio recording artist and also teach.
Gupton – Our strength is musicianship. This band is about excellence in playing, performing and songwriting. I’ve been in so many bands, and never stuck around if the band wasn’t at least very good. Among all those great bands I have been a part of, Blistur is the best of the best. I really want to go as far as we can. I have no doubt that if we find a way to a mass audience through touring, radio, media, viral video, whatever.. That the rest will take care of itself.
Happyjack – Your birthplace ? Any brothers or sisters ? Married today ?
Kellam – Columbia SC is my birthplace and I have 2 step brothers and yes, I’m married with a 9 year old daughter.
Berti – Bronx, NY, a brother and a sister, yes I’m married to my best friend and my lifetime partner my wife.
Gupton – I am married. Born in St. Augustine, FL . One older brother, two older sisters
Happyjack – Any final thoughts ?
Berti – I would like to thank all the fans who come to our shows. Somehow to us they are more family than fans.
Gupton – As always, I never take for granted that I am doing what I love for a living. Without people liking the music, and making such efforts to come hear us play it..I would be driving a forklift. Nothing wrong with forklifts, but playing drums is much better. A big thank you to all of those who have supported us for so long. We strive to make you all proud.
Thank you guys for the interview – the fans are super excited to hear from you today and can’t wait to see you soon on tour. We are all pulling for you guys to win many Grammy’s – You guys rock !
Thanks to the Band’s Management Team and to BLISTUR for a great interview. Catch the band on tour in 2015 – and grab the new CD ! http://blistur.com/music/ Also iTunes and CD Baby Outlets !
As always , Happyjack will be back soon with another interview article for our favorite bands right here on Rarasfarm.com. If you enjoy these articles – tell you friends and “Like Us” on Facebook !
Happyjack – Jacksonville’s Insider on what’s happening in music today !
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