Interview: One Bad Son
There's nothing bad about Saskatoon's One Bad Son. They put the bad in badass, and like the title of their latest album, they were Made In The Name of Rock n Roll. I spoke with lead singer Shane Volk [pictured above, left] about their latest record, the creative process behind their music videos, and what it's been like to tour with bands like Def Leppard and Judas Priest.
You’re only a day into tour, but how has touring with Shinedown and In This Moment been so far? It’s quite the lineup!
It’s awesome, and another American band, 10 Years is on the bill with us as well. It’s been awesome, it’s always a bit of a whirlwind getting everything sorted out and in it’s proper place but once the show started, it went off.
You guys have had the opportunity to play with bands like Judas Priest and Def Leppard, what were those experiences like and were there any moments that stuck out?
First of all, it was amazing. Any time you’re playing arenas, you can’t complain about it. It was a learning experience for us playing to crowds that big and being on a stage that big. The one thing that always sticks out and it happens every night is when the lights go out, the crowd gets fired up for us and you walk out and see that sea of people, nothing beats it.
Congrats on the latest record, Made in the Name of Rock n Roll. This is the fifth full length album from One Bad Son, so you guys are no strangers to the recording process. Was anything different this time around?
We went with a new producer. Gavin Brown produced this record, and pretty much the whole thing was different in the way we wrote the songs, to a lot of the recording, which is great. Every producer has their own style and we were looking to get out of our comfort zone and he definitely got us out of our comfort zone. The music definitely reflects that; it’s a little bit different for us and it’s exactly what we were looking for.
You never want to make the same record twice, and One Bad Son’s sound has definitely evolved over the years. Would you say that is the source or inspiration behind that?
A little bit, but I think it’s more so where you’re headed. Especially when you write as a band, it’s more about where everyone is at that moment in time, how we’re feeling and what we want to accomplish. We got our first #1 off of this record, and the goal of this record was to write something that could possibly chart that high. In that, there’s a lot of growing and learning to do. It’s not that you don’t want to repeat the past, but you want to show your growth.
Where would you say that you draw the most inspiration from, being on the road, touring, or in allotted time in recording studios, etc?
It comes from everywhere. I’ve learned to calm down about when and where writing happens, cause you can be sitting at breakfast one morning and just be hit with the craziest idea. Even on this tour, when In This Moment was playing I was sitting backstage and I just got struck with this cool riff. It’s not like you need to get into some meditational headspace, at least, not from my experience. You just let those ideas flow when they’re flowing.
You guys moved from Saskatoon to Vancouver in 2010. While it’s not uncommon for bands to make moves to bigger cities for their careers, what was making that decision like and was it a big adjustment?
It was. We’ve since moved back to Saskatoon, but I think our time out there really served it’s purpose. We were at a point in our career where the label we were looking to get on was out there, and we wanted to show how serious we were. Personally, we just wanted to grow as a band and do something a bit extreme like that, and it really solidified the band. You’re either gonna grow or die when you uproot your life and just go somewhere else. It worked out great, we put out two records while we were there, and then came home back to Saskatoon - that’s where the guys live, I live in Calgary now. Our touring is pretty gruelling, so where you fall asleep at night isn’t the biggest deal as long as you’re getting together to write and play the shows. It definitely was worth going out there, and I miss it.
You’ve had a hand in directing some of One Bad Son’s music videos (“Black Buffalo” and “Psycho Killer”). What was that experience like?
It was cool, it was cool that they let me do that. We were gonna put those songs out and the label didn’t really have the budget to do a video. You don’t have to do a video for every song, we had already had enough success off the record at that point. I just figured hey, why not. I do graphic art and all sorts of other stuff. I have interests everywhere. Basically, if it’s art, I’m into it. They let me grab a camera and it turned out pretty cool, we had a really good time making them. We just released a video for “Hurricane” and working with filmmakers who do that full-time is really cool for me because I’m into that stuff and just to see what their tricks are. I love this job, man. There’s nothing I do in a day that isn’t exciting.
How does the creative process behind music videos differ from the creative process of songwriting, and how much say do you get in terms of what the final product looks like? I feel like the visual is so important to a band’s music as an accompaniment, some people might say that music videos are dead but I definitely don’t think so.
Everyone is on YouTube every day, so I think music videos are probably bigger than they’ve ever been, it’s just different than the old MTV days - it’s just a different delivery system. No one’s spoon feeding you stuff you don’t want to see which is the great thing. All creative processes are very similar. When we write, we write collectively, and we’ve been writing more collectively. Our producer had a hand in writing some of the songs. So when we move on to music videos, we take that same approach. They’re professionals at what they do, and it’s a lot of trust. You’re in front of the camera doing your thing and you hope they know what they’re doing. Like any band, we’ve had some turn out better than others, and that’s just part of the learning process. I’m stoked on “Hurricane,” we’re all really happy with how it turned out, which is always nice when the final product comes back and you see that it was all worth it.
You guys have been together for about 14 years as of this year. How would you say the bond between you guys has evolved over the years, is there that sense of brotherhood and camaraderie?
You can’t be in a band or any relationship for as long as we have and not have that. Of course, our personal lives have evolved since we were in our early 20s, and we’ve kind of been there for each other through a ton of different things. The thing that we all have in common is the love of music, the love of rock and roll and the love of this band. It’s cool, it’s stronger than it’s ever been, to be honest, and that gives me hope for the future.
What achievements as a band would you say you’re most proud of, and what does One Bad Son still strive to achieve?
Honestly, besides obvious numerical things - we’ve had our first #1 hit, we’ve played arenas and played with big bands, those are the things you want to keep doing as a band as benchmarks. Awards have never been our thing, whether you get a JUNO or you don’t is so out of your control. If those things come along, great, and it’s good to get the recognition. But if they don’t, you can’t really strive towards those things, you can only really strive for what’s in your control which is your songwriting. For the future, I just want to keep this band strong, keep our writing moving along, and keep playing bigger shows. We’re proud of the connection we have with our fans, our fanbase is incredible. One of the best in rock, I have no doubt about that. No matter where the band goes or how big it gets, we just always want to keep that personal connection with our fans. If that happens, we’ve got a career. Keeping that connection with our fans and keeping rock and roll alive is the biggest thing for One Bad Son, always.
Made In The Name of Rock n Roll is available now through 604 Records. Check out our gallery below of photos from when One Bad Son were in town on March 31st at the Grey Eagle Event Centre!