Jack Sobel (Black Swan Lane) - musician & lead singer
" If you want to measure the spiritual depth of society, make sure to mark its music." – Plato
Yet, music and society aren’t always in sync. Think of the life of Mozart ! He spent quite a lot of his time ill and debt-ridden and he died young. Yes, he made amazing music but only played for A-list people on a very limited territory. Most of his contemporaries had not heard any of his melodies… What a shame !
I heard this once : music is incapable of sustaining life but it’s the type of things we say alive for ! Music tells us a lot about the way we feel. That is why I like Black Swan Lane so much.
Led by Jack Sobel and John Kolbeck and involving lots of other talented artists like Andy Whitaker or Kwasi Asante to name just a few, BSL is a collective band that makes music for the heart and the soul. And why is that ? Probably because of the eclectic and uncommon personalities of the very band members…
As you will read in the interview below, Jack Sobel is a dreamer in between two worlds. The real one, and the one above. Whenever possible, he unplugs himself from the mundane worklife and dives into the realm of creation.
Listening to the music of BSL is a journey within. It builds up as you go along. And if you take the road again, you’re rewarded twice. You’re simply not quite the same after you’ve heard one of their albums… They are rhythmic, hypnotic and uplifting.
Their new album is out and available here : //blackswanlane.com/store/ or here : https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-last-time-in-your-light/id637255887
Now I’m sure you’re all eager to read a little bit more about the man with the deep deep voice. Jack Sobel was kind enough to answer my questions candidly. Enjoy !
When did you start playing music ?
I was banging on my parents furniture when I was five years old with Lego sticks. My mother and father purchased me a snare drum for Christmas when I was six years old in order to save their furniture from further abuse. After being extremely bored with one drum, my father let me earn my way up to having a full kit by age eight. I was terrible at practicing my essential drum rudiments and basically failed at drum lessons. When my instructor realized I had not practiced what I was supposed to, we played to Beatles records for the rest of my sessions. I became a drummer in bands all throughout my school days and up to my first year of college. I switched to guitar and keyboards around age 18. This was mostly due to the fact that I wanted to create and write songs and not just be a player. I am basically self-taught on guitar, piano, drums, bass and vocals. When I first tried to sing, it was an abomination. Years later, along with thousands of cigarettes, my voice has seemed to improve a bit.
Could you describe yourself in four or five words max ?
No. Okay, I'll try.
Persevering. Anxious. Sleepless. Loving. Weary.
What are your main influences ?
There are quite a few. When I was a boy, I was infatuated with hard rock and some heavy metal bands. Everything from Zeppelin to Sabbath to Iron Maiden. Maiden was my first big concert at the age of 12. I suppose I have to acknowledge my admiration of the band KISS when I was a small boy. I would dance around for hours with headphones on and a tennis racket in my arms pretending to play guitar to the big rock bands of the day. By the mid-teen years, I switched entirely to new-wave music. Depeche Mode, New Order, Nitzer Ebb, Front 242, Kraftwerk, Xmal Deutschland, etc. I started being a DJ throughout high school for all the big dances. I soon learned that I wanted to play music instead of spin records and I joined a punk band called Subliminal Voice. Our influences then were bands like the Dead Kennedys, DRI, the Sex Pistols and The Vandals. A couple of years later, I met up with a friend of mine at his house one afternoon while talking about forming a new band. He put a record on that changed my world. The song was called swamp thing by the Chameleons UK. The overall sound, the melodies, and the stimulating lyrics were definitely inspiring for me. It struck a nerve and changed my direction for years to come. From that point on, my biggest influences have been: The Chameleons UK, The Stone Roses, Kitchens of Distinction, The Cult, Bauhaus, Joy Division, The Smiths, Catherine Wheel and of course, The Beatles.
What part of your art do you like the best ?
Definitely the creation. However, the best part of the entire process is when something comes together quickly and wonderfully and then you take a step back and listen – and it gives you the chills. If you do not have that sensation, you scrap the whole song.
What do you like to do when you're not playing music ?
I'm completely insane when it comes to watching movies. After I'm done with work and putting the family to bed, I stay up for hours and hours watching films. I should be sleeping a bit more. In the films I view, I keep thinking how much better they would sound with Black Swan Lane as the backing music. I have always written music with soundtracks and films in mind. Maybe Guy Ritchie will place us in his next big film...
What are you most proud of so far ?
It would be natural to talk about the music and the records we have done and the movies we have been associated with, but my biggest accomplishment and what I am most proud of is my son, Jacob. He is absolutely incredible. I am coaching his U10 soccer team and he is the star of the team. When he sings along to my records in the backseat of my car, I just smile.
Is there a message or a goal and your art ?
I could easily write happy go lucky pop songs, but I don't. There is a dark mood that flows through the songs that can make a person cry at times. I always try to create something that is stimulating and intelligent. Lately, I am questioning life, karma and the validity of spirituality in some of the songs. There is a purposeful desperation that lives in the music which some find both uplifting and exhausting.
What is keeping you motivated ?
I suppose it would have to be my love of creating music. I have abruptly stopped several times but it always sucks me back in. When The Messengers split up, I got a real job out of necessity and excelled at what I did. My creative side helped me to become a chef at a successful fine dining restaurant. I was quite proficient, however, I hated not being able to create music. When I had the opportunity to join up with Mark Burgess of The Chameleons and play music again in 2004, I jumped at the chance and have kept things going since with BLACK SWAN LANE.
What's your biggest regret or main concern ?
This may sound a bit crazy. I regret going to college. I have always wondered what would've happened if I pursued music to my fullest potential right out of high school and skipped college. I played in bands throughout college, but we never really had enough money to produce anything wonderful and keep at it. I was always pushed away from pursuing music by my father and I wound up with jobs that I absolutely despised doing. Recently, I was told by a top A&R representative in California that our music was magical, but at the age of 40, we were too old to deal with. That is when I start thinking about what could have been if I had started and stuck with it when I was younger. College did not make me any more intelligent or financially stable. College did not prepare me for life or for my future accomplishments. It was a waste of time and a huge expense. By the time I finished college, I had to find a real job in the real world and quit music for the next decade. Ironically, hard work gave me the opportunity to pursue music again later in life. But now, we are considered dinosaurs in the world of teen pop idols.
What is your next project ?
After our new 2013 album comes out, I hope to work on a number of things. I would like to go backwards a bit and work on a best of album for The Messengers. Some of the material is out-of-print and I would like to re-record some of the stuff. I am also focused on producing and publishing at the moment with Wanderland Music. My hope is that we can find some great music to add to our publishing house. Adding Andy Whitaker last year was very hard work and challenging at times, but a huge accomplishment for us. We have done a lot of charity stuff this year and I hope to do a lot more in the coming years. I love the element of surprising and wowing people out of the blue.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you ?
Some days are a 1 and some days are a 10. One's mind can play tricks at times.
The Bernard Pivot questionnaire
What is your favorite word ?
What is the word that you hate the most ?
What is your favorite drug ?
Is Belgian chocolate a drug? The only unfortunate thing I am still addicted to is nicotine and smoking cigarettes. Beyond that, I am drug and alcohol free now which has made writing lyrics a whole lot tougher.
What is the sound or noise you like the best ?
I have to put white noise on in order to fall asleep at night on my nifty sleep machine, so I guess I will go with that as my final answer. I could say the ocean, but that would obviously be too cliché. The noise that bothers me the most in the entire world is the sound of ambulance sirens. I moved far away from the metropolitan center to avoid hearing them.
What's your favorite swearing ?
Fucking hell. Because it reminds me of being on the tour bus with eight lads from England watching a Manchester City football match.
Choose a man or woman to be on a bank note.
Maybe Dennis Rodman since he is closer at negotiating a peace treaty with North Korea than our prior Presidents.
What job would you have not liked to do ?
Easy. The front desk of a hotel. The public find it necessary to yell at you constantly and there is nowhere to escape and run off to. Washing dishes in a restaurant was more fun than that.
In which plant, tree or animal would you like to be reincarnated ?
Now my brain is going into overdrive. I don't want to die and I don't want to be reincarnated. I want to live forever.
If God exists, what would you like him to tell you after your death ?
Relax and breathe.