Teen-a-rama- The Ben Blackwell Interview

Over the past month, I’ve been able to talk to Ben Blackwell, the so-called ‘Pinball Wizard’ at Third Man Records, the record label started in 2009 by Jack White III. Mr. White is a former member of The White Stripes, and member of The Dead Weather and The Raconteurs. Third Man holds true to the vinyl format, releasing 45’s and 33 1/3’s regularly. The label also has a subscription only Vault membership, where you can get exclusive content and records that are not available anywhere else. During the past 12 years, Blackwell has been a drummer for The Dirtbombs, and has established his own record label Cass Records. Blackwell released his first solo album, “I Remember When All This Was Trees” in 2010.

 

Jarrett Koral: Has there been any rivalry between Cass and Third Man? Even an occasional friendly one?

Ben Blackwell: No, there’s not a rivalry between Cass and Third Man. It’s kind of hard to have a rivalry between two things you are a part of.

 

JK: I know you’ve been asked in every single interview, but how did Cass Records start out?

BB:I noticed a lot of music that I liked wasn’t being released right around the same time my mom refinanced her house. It all worked out pretty well from there.

 

JK: Have you gotten used to the Dirtbombs shows after all these years? Does the energy ever fade out?

BB: After 12 years, yes, I feel like I’ve finally gotten used to it. But those first ten years…those were arduous.

 

JK: At the moment, do you have a favorite new band?

BB: I really like D. Watusi from Nashville.

 

JK: Thinking about any new solo work after your last album?

BB: I tested myself with a cover of Beck’s “Pay No Mind” that is currently just languishing on my laptop.

The cover of Blackwell's 2010 solo album

 

JK: Why has Cass never released Record Store Day exclusive items? Is it a big enough label to have a major release?

BB: At Cass Records, every day is Record Store Day.

 

JK: Will there ever be a TMR staff jam session with Jack White, Ben Swank (of the Soledad Brothers) and yourself?

BB: Still waiting for this one. Someday.

 

JK: How do you feel about Detroit’s music scene?

BB: I love it. I miss it.

 

JK: What is the favorite record in your collection?

BB: It’s always changing, but I’m always pretty fond of my hand-painted “Lafayette Blues” single

 

JK: What can we expect next from Cass Records?

BB: In the making for over 8 years, I will finally be able to release the Vegetarian Cannibals recordings.

 

JK: One of the Cass releases is by a band called Tin Knocker, which was never available for sale. Can you tell us anything about this mysterious record?

BB: An awesome band. My uncle and a family friend who did some solid jams in the garage. One of my favorite things I’ve ever released.

 

JK: Aside from your favorite new group, what band has/had the best ever stage presence?

BB: That’s a really good question, and a difficult one to answer. Instinct dictates the MC5 and/or the Stooges, but a to dig beneath the surface bands like the Cramps, Viva L’American Death Ray Music and the Clone Defects were all pretty amazing in their own way.

 

JK: Could you name your top 5 favorite albums of all time right here right now?

BB:

CW Stoneking “Jungle Blues”

Richard Ristagno and Soular self-titled

April in the Orange “The Glittering Fish Were Stars”

Dan Sartain “Too Tough To Live”

The Hentchmen “Ultra Hentch”

 

JK: On every Third Man release, there is a message in the dead wax of the vinyl. Sometimes they make no sense, but sometimes they’re complete genius…

BB: It’s the best way to communicate a secret, there’s a meaning behind all of them.

-Jarrett Koral

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