Bona Fide Rock, Synergy found in Josh Kennedy and
The Black Moods
A Path of Rock 'n Roll Synchronicity
By: Abbe Davis April 27, 2021
My ears can't believe it! An original, soulful, authentic new sound in Rock music. I almost jump out of my chair, each song is better than the next, yet the sum of the parts that easily come together is a synchronistic thumbprint called, The Black Moods. This is what legends are born from. This band embodies chemistry and excellent songwriting. Songs like "Sunshine," "Home," "Bella Donna," and there's more, yet you need to hear them to see what I mean. From Tempe, Arizona, the band is vocalist and guitarist Josh Kennedy, bassist Jordan Hoffman, and drummer Chico Diaz. They will play Rockfest in Wisconsin in mid July, and will be at Aftershock in October, with other Summer shows between. I honestly yearn to hear them live. You won't find gimmicks or layers of production clogging their energy, yet you will hear craftsmanship and raw emotion and bona fide Rock. This is a pivotal band. Josh Kennedy is great to speak with, and stories that drip off of his tongue like second nature, and a well-lived life. It felt natural talking to him, no walls up, just like his sound. He's in it for the music, and it shows in his extreme gratitude for the people he has met along the way, and a strong loyalty to his band, his brethren. I had no idea this would be such a great Rock 'n Roll story. So here we go:
AD: Where are you now?
JK: I'm in the Ozarks, actually, can you hear me OK?
AD: Yeah, I can. Cool man, I like that show.
JK: Healls yeah, man. That's pretty much where I grew up. Some cool things on that show (laughing)
AD: How is it to grow up around there and do music, did you feel isolated?
JK: No, actually the opposite. I grew up in a town of like 600 people, and my dad was in a band, so I was born into all of this. Guys were hanging out around the kitchen table playing songs on acoustic, with my dad. They were weekend warriors. They'd go play Fridays and Saturdays. My mom's water broke at one of my dad's gigs when I was almost born.
AD: (LMAO!) Now that is really born into it! (laughing) She was excited, man, she was dancing, right?
JK: Yes, exactly.
AD: So what kind of music did your dad's band play?
JK: They were, from '79-'89, one of the biggest regional bands in Southwest Missouri. They call it the Four State area, so it's Missouri, Kansas City, Arkansas and Oklahoma. They were original, but they were more along the lines of Alabama, Exile, that kind of sound.
AD: I love Alabama, their ballads are so good.
JK: Yes. I grew up on those guys. So, my dad's band just worked, and then they went to Nashville and made a record, went to radio with it, and all that kind of stuff. I got to see a little bit of that.
AD: What does your dad think now? Is he alive?
JK: Yeah, he's really supportive, but my dad pushes. He would go play gigs at bars, and I'd be at home in my room playing guitar when he left at 7pm at night. Then, when he got home at 2am, I'd still be playing my guitar, and he'd say, "You know a real guitar player could play the SOLOS to "Hotel California," or he always was like, " a real guitar player could..." And so, every time I'd figure out what he would challenge me to do. It was always something else, and neverending. It's still like that today.
AD: Do you ever say anything to him like, "Dad, can you just. let it be.."
JK: Oh, yeah. He has that shit-eating grin, and he laughs his ass off. He's a lot easier on the guys in the band than he is on me.
AD: Ha. Family. I love your new single, "Home."
JK: Thanks. That is the last one we put out, off of the Sunshine record. We didn't go to radio with it, it just meant so much to each of us, yet, it was a lot different than the rest of the tracks on the album.
AD: (my phone slides off of the small desk I'm using) Oh, hold on, I just dropped you, sorry.
JK: I'm here, that's okay. I've been dropped a lot harder than that, I promise you.
AD: (laughing) We'll get to that. Yeah, let's talk about that in one of your songs. Is that your daughter in the video of "Home?"
JK: That's actually my son.(laughing)
AD: OMG! His hair! I'm sorry...well, you have a beautiful kid. (laughing)
JK: (laughing) That's okay, thank you so much. It's so funny cause, when I was growing up around here, in Southwest Missouri, I never had long hair. Then, when I moved to Phoenix, I'd play around with how I couldn't afford a haircut and I let my hair grow out. So, when we had Finn, my son, I said, "We are not cutting his hair."
AD: That's so funny, I have a Finn in my family, my cousin's son is named Finn.
JK: No way! I have only heard about three people to say that. My buddy from the Bob and Tom show, Tom Griswold, he's got a daughter named Finn.
AD: Well with my cousin it was about finishing the line, cause she didn't want her son to be the IV from his dad's name, so she said, "Now it is finished, we will now call him Finn,"
JK: Oh that's awesome! (laughing)
AD: Does your son jam out and dance to your Rock music?
JK: Yeah, he's awesome with it. He's got his own little kid guitar. He picks 'n chooses. He's good about it,
but sometimes (I mean, he is only three) and he calls me "Daaa" yet the one word that is crystal clear is "Noo" if I pick up his guitar to ask him if he wants to play it sometimes.
AD: Yeah, kids know how to let you know what they want, I know about that. I hear you guys are out there in the Ozarks recording all week, tracking in Tempe, AZ, and is it true that you guys do that and then relax on the boat on the weekend?
JK: Yeah, it's a hard life, but we try to manage. (laughing)
AD: Poor you, ha. "Home" is so beautiful. I love all of those melodic lines, is that Viola on there, the melodic lines are beautiful.
JK: Yeah, that is Johnny K. our producer. I initially just tracked it with acoustic guitar and some keys for production, but Johnny stepped it up.
AD: (Suddenly I can hear Josh more clearly) Hey, whatever you did, I can hear you better, just stay there.
JK: How's that? I took out my ear buds, can you hear me now?
AD: Great! Now you are in the room with me, it's that clear. So, who played the viola on "Home?"
JK: I only did the harmonies, the keys and guitar and stuff. We didn't do the production part, that was added after the fact. So, when we got it back, we were blown away. It was like the "Beth" production from KISS. We weren't expecting that.
AD: It sounds great. But you guys are so original, the way you write, all of it. When you were growing up, did you always sing?
JK: Well, I always wanted to be "Jimmy Page" in my guitar playing. Then, what are the odds, in a town of 600 people, that I find two music brothers? One who plays bass, and the other sings, so they moved out to Tempe with me from Missouri. We were a four piece for a while, and then our singer got sick with Chron's Disease, and he couldn't tour. Which was just brutal cause he was my best friend and my songwriting partner, like a Joe Perry and Steven Tyler type of thing, I think of myself as a guitar player first. So when he couldn't tour we had to audition people. I was writing all the songs anyway, so I just got frustrated enough that I said, "Screw it" and I just did it. It took me a while to get comfortable. I mean, I was always singing harmonies, and I was doing a song once in a while. We'd do four or five hours a night, like everyone does to hone their chops.
AD: So how did you initially meet up?
JK: I grew up with local friends, and once we got good enough, my dad started playing drums for us. For about five years until I moved to Tempeh. Then I went out there to go to the Conservatory of the Recording Arts and Sciences, and wound up interning for the Gin Blossoms.
AD: Wow, Cool!
JK: I became a huge Gin Blossoms fan, but before that, I was in my room playing "Cocaine" by Eric Clapton for 16 hours straight. My mom, you can't even play that song now, to where she doesn't get pissed off if she hears it. But back then, I was playing guitar in my room, and my family (they call me "Bub") and my dad was like, "Bub get in here!" On TV the Gin Blossoms were on the American Music Awards playing "Hey Jealousy," and my dad thought it was the best. Cause at the time, we were all transitioning from finger-tapping bands like Ratt, and then here come these guys in the 90's. So my dad said to me, "This is a great song, this is a great band, and you can write stuff like that." I mean up until that time, I'd hear and see the finger-tapping virtuosity, and it got ridiculous! As a little kid playing guitar,iIt was intimidating! I kept saying, "OMG, I can't do all of that shit, what happened to Credence?!" So, when the Blossoms came around I was 13 when I first saw them, and I just decided then, that I was gonna play guitar with the Gin Blossoms. Everybody knew how I felt, I told everybody I knew. After the Gin Blossoms broke up, Robin Wilson, he had another band, and they were playing in Springfield, Missouri. I got my band tickets for all of us to go see them. After the show, I mean it was a dead night, you could tell Robin was frustrated, so we got him stoned in our van. We told him what huge fans were were. I know he hit on my girlfriend, I was 17.
AD: LMAO! "Hey take my girlfriend, just let me go on the road with you!"
JK: Ha, Yeah! He was really nice, but all he kept saying was, "Don't get in the music business, do something else." So I walked him back to his tour bus, and we burned a joint and he said, "I know you're not gonna listen to me, but if you're ever in Tempeh, look me up." So a few years later I went to Tempeh, to go to school at the Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences, I found out where he was playing an acoustic show, but I was underage and they kicked me out of the bar. Flash forward to ten years later, I'm getting ready to do my internship, and up on the board at school, on the last day of school, there was a flyer that read, "Wanted! Conservatory student from Missouri, Smokey Van required!" cause Robin didn't remember my name. I called my dad, and he was like, "Just call him!" The rest of my buddies from school were messing with me about it, cause I'm such a Blossoms fan. So he picks up the phone and he goes, "No, the cat I'm looking for is...look, we've had a lot of calls and..." So I go, "Robin! It's JOSH, I got you stoned in my van and you hit on my girlfriend!" And he goes, "Josh!! I been looking for you!"
AD: (laughing) OMG, this story kicks ass!!
JK: (laughing) I wound up going to the studio, instead of moving to Nashville, and I interned for him. Then the Blossoms wound up getting back together and doing some shows, and I wound up being their guitar tech. And for my 21st birthday they got me on stage. That's how I met Chico, thru a regional drummer friend we had. I was in the studio writing some songs, and I needed a drummer to be in the band.
AD: Since then have you done shows alongside of the Gin Blossoms?
JK: Eventually. This was 2005. Then I quit being a guitar tech for the Gin Blossoms, and years later, the Blossoms invited us to go on the road with them. Our band took a break, and then we called the Blossoms and they asked us. We went out on the road with them.
AD: Wow. What a story of synchronicity! You have also shared the stage with some other big Rock names, right? Jane's Addiction, Shinedown, Whitesnake, you've toured with a lot of groups, right?
JK: God, I don't know, they all start to run together, ya know?
AD: I love your version of the Tom Petty cover, "I Need to Know," yet you guys do it in your own style. I think Tom Petty would really dig your version of it. Any odd things go on, like "I wonder if he would like it?"
JK: I think that he would absolutely love it! You know, anything I do, I really am always thinking, "Would Petty like this?"
JK: Oh yeah, I honestly do. He was such a great songwriter.
AD: Which songs did you feel people would be drawn to as you guys were on the climb?
JK: We thought "Bella Donna" was crazy and our management company wasn't the best then. When we were recording Medicine.
AD: They told you you weren't a "radio band" but then why sign you?
JK: They said that they were doing our producer, Jim Kaufman, a favor. The office for the label was around the corner from the studio, where we were, so random people would pop in, and label guys from Century Media would come hear us, they were Metal, and going into Alt and more Rock, so they offered us a deal. It was not a bad deal, but they didn't like us after we signed. It was a tough time, they didn't know what to do with us.
AD: So they got you, but didn't know what to do with you?
JK: Right, I don't blame them, but someone bought them out, and it was then a major label. In those mergers, things fall through the cracks, so that was just our deal. We don't hold any grudges.
AD: I hear you. When did you meet Johnny Karkazis, aka "Johnny K"?
JK: We met him later, when we were out with Adelita's Way, we hit it off with Rick DeJesus, the singer, when we were making the record. Initially, we wanted to get Josh Homey from Queens of the Stone Age, yet his record had just come out, and we didn't have the money to even get him. So, Rick told us how we should work with Johnny K.
AD: Oh, cool! (hearing noise outside from my side of the call) Sorry for the lawn maintenance noise.
JK: Hey, I'm out here walking on a dirt road, and tractors keep coming by me. It's alright.
AD: Ha. On "Sunshine" I love the groove in it, pliable rock, the guitar parts smack me over the head. Who arranged that?
JK: I guess that would be me. What is funny about it, when we toured in a van way back when, our tour guy was a writer, so we'd get back from a tour, Nick would sit with me, and he'd show me electronic keyboard pads for me to listen to. So, we got back from a show, and it was a cool Awol Nation type of thing. Like "American Woman," kind of keyboard groove, so I put that over this piano part I had, that's how the song happened.
AD: How do you write in the moment?
JK: I hit my voice memo, I have about 500 - 600 songs, to just get it out (he starts vamping vocal guitar parts) The band lives together, so we work on tunes a lot. Then we all go home for two weeks to see our families.
AD: Wow. So you knew "Bella Donna, " or "Whatcha Got" would do well or not?
JK: "Bella Donna" we thought was the strongest one, but the last manager didn't feel that way. They wanted us on radio, so, in hindsight, to us, "Bad News" would have been first to us, where we felt "Bella Donna" should have been second. But Active Rock is the main one for Alternative, etc. We were seeing what would blend best.
AD: Ah, OK. When you play out which tunes do you guys now think most represent your authentic sound?
JK: "Bella Donna" is great, especially live in the breakdown section, where we can do our stuff and stretch it out a bit.
AD: How about Eddie Kramer, how did you link up with him for production? (Eddie Kramer has collaborated with legendary artists: the Beatles, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, the Kinks, Kiss, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, John Mellencamp, and Carlos Santana).
JK: At first, I knew Eddie Kramer from when I was at the Conservatory, through school. Then I went for a while between bands, when The Black Moods took a break, I went to LA for auditions. Then, I wound up mixing with Gene Simmons from KISS. I went out to LA to audition for Katie Perry, Puddle of Mudd....I was on a short list of guitar players then. It was very weird.
AD: That's cool, but look at you guys now.
JK: Yeah, those experiences help you manage that type of pressure. I auditioned for Slash's band. When I did that Nick Simmons (Gene's son) was forming a band, so he and I hit it off. I wound up living at their house when I was in LA, and I got to spend a lot of time with Gene. I mean, I grew up on KISS. During the Grammy's a few years ago, I got to their house at like 3 AM. I was staying at their house that weekend. I get a knock on my door, and there's Gene Simmons standing there dressed to the nines cause of the Grammy's. So he goes, "Do you know who Eddie Kramer is?" And I just woke up, so I was standing there in my underwear, and I was like, "Yeah I know who Eddie Kramer is," and he goes, "Put your pants on, he'll be here in 30 minutes." So I got dressed and went downstairs, and hung out with him, and we sat there talking for a while.
AD: That is just wild, what are the odds?
JK: Later on down the road, Eddie wound up working with us, with me and Nick and the project that they were working on. I kept in touch with Eddie, cause he's such a legend, and he's a really nice guy. So when NAMM was still going on, he would have me demo some of the newer pedals he had. We just started talking, and I had a song that I thought would be great if he worked on it. Oh there's a tractor going on, so sorry about the noise. We're quite the pair.
AD: (laughing) That's fine. Yeah.
JK: So Eddie and I were kicking around a song, but the pandemic hit, and he was out in Toronto. So, he said . "Let's do this remotely." We haven't released it yet, but we will, as a single.
AD: Can't wait to hear it! Has Eddie ever told you stories about Zeppelin or the Beatles, having worked with them?
JK: Oh yeah! Eddie told me about how it was when they were staying at Headley Grange (in the 70's Led Zeppelin recorded "Stairway to Heaven" there, and other groups like Genesis, Fleetwood Mac, Bad Company, The Pretty Things, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Elvis Costello and Clover have since recorded there). We did so much work with Eddie and he wouldn't tell us any stories, so one day we said "OK , we want a story." I hope he doesn't mind us telling this story, but one night at Headley Grange, Eddie went to bed-ahem- and wasn't alone in his room, and then the door was kicked open, and John Bonham threw a bucket of water on him, as they were laying in bed. Of course, the girl he was with thought it was awesome, cause it was John Bonham of Led Zeppelin. Then, everything calmed down and of course, ten minutes later, John Bonham poured another bucket of water on him. I could write an entire book on just the stories that he has told me.
AD: That is so cool, from short list guitarist to working with him, and your band's music. Your songwriting is truly a kick butt brand of new Rock. It's great that you guys are creating these tunes, and your vocal is your own, do you hear that from people?
JK: Thank you, that means a lot, cause I don't feel that I'm a singer, I'm just getting the song across. I consider myself to be a guitar player, so thanks.
AD: Aw, man, I should be thanking you, this is sheer Rock 'n Roll, and a variety of great songwriting. You guys will be in Tempe, AZ (your home town) on May 21st at the Marquee Theater, then a slew of festivals: Rockfest in July in Cadott, WI, then the Snake River Festival in early August, and in October it is Aftershock Music Festival in Cali. Is there anything I'm missing?
JK: I think they added something with Buck Cherry in July, but you know my schedule better than I do.
AD: OK, well I'm letting you know where we will need to be, so...(laughing)
JK: (laughing) Aww, you're the best...
AD: Ha. What do you guys think makes the magic of your band?
JK: We are best friends. There is a chemistry that arises, cause we know we don't wanna play with anyone else. And we have fucking fun, no matter where we are, or what we are doing, You can stick us in a bar corner and we will block everything else out, move pool tables around, and just play Music.
AD: That's what it is all about, that's why you began in this.
JK: The new record is done, it's mixing down so I'll get some tunes out to you.
AD: Oh yea! Can't wait to hear the singles! I'm a big fan now. You guys have to stay together forever.
JK: (laughing) Thanks so much! Yes, we will.
AD: Keep rocking it!
JK: Thanks, have a good one, hon.
Abbe Davis, Editor, TRR, Musician
Abbe Davis is the lead singer and songwriter for Sordid Fable, a Hard Rock band, currently recording an album for release in 21/22. Abbe has played alongside Buddy Guy at the River Walk Blues Festival in South Florida, and in the northeast with prior band, Day of Colors. She loves promoting Rock music, and co-hosts the livestream Tru Rock Show with Kreig Marks.