By STEVE MASCORD
ARYN Jonathan Black says he doesn’t just hear and feel music. “I see music,” the Scorpion Child frontman insists.
“It’s hard to explain. There’s images involved. Ever since I was an infant, when I (hear) a song I see shapes, and I see colors and personality.
“Sounds like an Aryn LSD trip, doesn’t it? It’s definitely weird.”
Given that Hot Metal’s number two album of 2016 is called Acid Roulette, there is a relation to the hallucinogen. The concept album is a maligned genre but the Austin, Texas, five-piece have made it work by putting together a group of songs which each stand on their own.
Another thing that’s “definitely weird”? The actual story behind the concept.
“Basically, it chronicles the life of a man who’s a traveler and a writer, who comes home to find out that his wife is having an affair with another man, and yes, they have two children together, him and his wife, and this man is a very rich and powerful man, and he has figured out a way to frame the subject, who is the husband, to get him to confess to a murder, and he ends up going to trial and getting put away from life, so he could be happy with this subject man’s wife, and take the kids away from this man.
“So, it’s basically about a guy who’s imprisoned and has lost everything that he’s ever loved, and the different moods that he goes through throughout the course of a twelve-month period, twelve songs on the record, three songs per season, broken into four different seasons over a twelve-year period that he’s incarcerated. So, his insanity, his mind continues to unravel, and basically, it’s from that perspective that this album was written.”
Acid Roulette is a reference to the practice of taking several tabs of the drug and not know which is ‘loaded’. It’s a ritual the central character resorts to in prison to forget his fate.
Scorpion Child are frequently pigeon-holed as “acid rock” or “stoner rock” and the concept album paradigm only serves to make them seem even more obtuse and inaccessible. But acid rock frontmen ain’t what they used to be. Like Crobot’s Brandon Yeagley, Black is a stadium rock dynamo live, reminding audiences of no-one more than a preening Robert Plant. The introspection seems reserved for the writing process.
And that process begot a wonderful record in Acid Roulette. Each song is soaring hard rock; without a lyric sheet you’d be unaware of their relation to each other but blow away nonetheless by the power and poise on display. Scorpion Child were named after a lyric from the Cult’s “Li’l Devil”. One suspects they could have just as even chosen Cyclone Kiss, except perhaps for fear of a Gene Simmons lawsuit. The line-up is rounded out by Christopher Jay Cowart (lead guitar) Jon “Charn” Rice (drums), Alec Caballero Padron (bass) and Aaron John “A.J.” Vincent (keyboards).
“I think these guys understand that every record that I write for is going to be conceptual in one way or another,” Black explains. “I see the whole pie rather than a collection of songs, which is like one piece of the pie. (continued below)
“I think there was only one thing I could do in my life well, and it was this. I really don’t … ever since I was young, my mom would tell me to perform just a little thing, like a little dance and song to family and friends that would come over, and it would always really embarrass me, and I would be like, ‘Mom.’ She’d be like, ‘Oh, honey, but you’re so talented, you just need to show people that.’
“So one day I was like, ‘You know what? Maybe I can do this.’ So what did I do? I started a hardcore band, or punk band, in the basement and just played and screamed my head off and made a bunch of racket, and then she wasn’t so into it anymore. And she was like ‘Why don’t you try your hand at college and athletics’ and whatnot and that didn’t work either, so she finally just had to accept the fact that I was going to do this.
And she supports it now. She loves it. My parents, they’ve flown to France to see us play Hellfest, and they’re very supportive now that they’ve realized that everything else is just kind of a failed attempt to try and get me to conform.”
Aside from his stage persona, the other thing that’s far from alternative about Black is his attitude to the crowd-funding of records.
“Bands talk about, ‘Man, if this label doesn’t work out, why don’t we just go and put our next record out with a Kickstarter campaign?’ No, it just feels gross to me as an artist in my own band.
When I make music, and Alec, and John, and AJ, and Chris and I are in a room together making music, I want people to be able to invest in that after they decide that they’re wanting to invest in it, rather than just pushing that expectation on people. Now, they have the option to invest in it by buying an album, and I think it’s really important that that gets preserved. I don’t want it to change so much. Like, I guess it’s an old-school way of thinking, and just being kind of hard headed and rebellious, but I just feel like it cheapens what we’re doing, like ‘let’s push this on you and make you invest in something’ and then hopefully they’re still feeling it in the end.”
Have a listen to Scorpion Child’s second record. You’d probably be willing to fund their third – sight unseen, sound unheard – if asked.