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Black Swan Lane - Interview

Interview with: Jack Sobel
Conducted by: Miguel

Black Swan Lane, an USA/UK based band was founded in 2007 by Jack Sobel and John Kolbeck (both formerly of The Messengers), and and Mark Burgess (formerly of The Chameleons, The Sun And The Moon, and Bird). The first Black Swan Lane album, A Long Way From Home (2007), was really more of an experiment and collaboration of different artists with no definite direction and nobody had ever imagined the band would take on it’s own unique sound and keep going years later. It really wasn’t until the third album and Mark’s last with the band that Black Swan Lane would find it’s niche. Since the formation Black Swan Lane already released six full-lenght albums and are now busy on working on a successor to the amazing A Moment Of Happiness which was released in 2014 by Eden Records. Their music is often labeled as alternative/indie rock but with a dark note that brings them close also to fans of post-punk, dark wave and gothic rock. Miguel did an interesting interview with Black Swan Lane founder Jack, who is also the main man at Wanderland Music Publishing, Inc. and its sub-label Eden Records. The talk is mostly about the upcoming album, about general things concerning the band, their influences and future plans.

Miguel: What were your expectations when all began?
: None. When Mark Burgess and I hooked up to record some music together, it was really just anexploratory session to see what happened. When we started recording, I was still involved with The Messengers. Mark was involved in the very last Messengers album, Abundant Sunshine, which is only available now online at Wanderland Music. The Black Swan Lane experiment started when we got together for additional sessions and included some of Mark's backup musicians - Kwasi Asante, Achim Faerber and Yves Altana. Anna-Lynn Williams, from Trespassers William joined in a song as well. We then decided to bring the original members of The Sun And The Moon to the states for the first time to play a one off show in Atlanta and do additional recordings. The Sun And The Moon sessions was another project album that included myself, John Kolbeck, Mark Burgess, Andy Whitaker and Andy Clegg. During these recordings, the song, "In The Ether", off of our first album made it into the major motion picture, 'Adventureland', which gave us an international audience. The royalties that started streaming in helped us take album number 3, Things You Know And Love, a lot more seriously. Tykal shaped who we were exactly and defined the Black Swan Lane sound for years to come. There are some great songs on the first two albums, however, there is a dramatic difference in sound quality and production on albums 3,4,5 and 6. In addition to dollars, we spent a lot more time on the later albums perfecting the Black Swan Lane sound.
Miguel: Why the name Black Swan Lane? What does it mean?
Jack: During The Messengers years, Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots produced one of our albums, Queen Today, and wanted us to change the name to Big Time Alysa. BTA. Like STP. He said he liked band names with three words. I rejected the idea, not because he was wasted out of his mind at the time, but simply because I didn't want to do it. Years later when we knew it was time to change the name and concept, we wrote down about 70 ideas. None of them really stuck. Here's the story of the name, Black Swan Lane. I moved out of Atlanta to the outskirts of town to find less expensive real estate that had a large basement to convert into a music studio and offices. The first house I fell in love with was on a beautiful street named Black Swan Lane. Our realtor screwed up our offer and we lost the house. I then found a home in an area called The Aviary. When I searched the term Aviary onthe web, the first thing that appeared on the screen was a magnificent black swan. It hit me immediately that Black Swan Lane fit all the necessary criteria.

Miguel: And what are the main differences from now to when you guys began?
Jack: There are several differences. We now have better recording equipment and a professional mixer and engineer working with us. John Kolbeck and I, for practical reasons, have included some very talented musicians from the immediate area in lieu of flying in our friends from the UK. The last album we did with Mark Burgess was the third record, Things You Know And Love. He decided to go back to playing The Chameleons UK songs and formed Chameleons Vox along with the original drummer, John Lever. We remained close and wound up doing an 8000 mile joint tour together around the entire USA.
Miguel: I see, now please tell me what are the main things that influences your music and lyrics?
Jack: It is sometimes hard to explain. Black Swan Lane's music is lush, ethereal, hard and can also be beautiful at times, but the words over the beauty, can often be harsh. The vocals often sound low and soothing, but contain echos of darkness in meaning. The Chameleons U.K. were my ultimate inspiration in the late 80s, but we have never tried to emulate or replicate their sound. Music flows out of me. To make the lyrics intellectually stimulating and flow with the music is the tough part.
Miguel: Do you consider yourself an alternative/indie band?
Jack: Sure. We have also been described as alternative rock, shoegaze, dark wave, post-punk, indie rock, alternative, etc. Take your pick...
Miguel: When can we expect a new album from Black Swan Lane be released? 
Jack: We have been working on album 7 for the last couple of years. A few things set us back from releasing in 2016. I had a couple of surgeries and John Kolbeck's mom passed away. John, who has played with me since 1993, needed several months to grieve. We are back and aggressively recording now and hope to have something released by mid 2017.
Miguel: What are your plans for the future?
Jack: My immediate plan is to get our new album completed. I've also been recording and producing other acts which can be both rewarding and excruciating. I want to expand Wanderland Music Publishing, Inc. and sign new acts to the label. I just haven't heard anything yet that has been submitted that's been fantastic enough to produce. I want to reissue and re-master the first The Messengers album, Queen Today, which is out of print and out of stock currently. I desperately want to get Black Swan Lane into more films. The dramatic nature of our music fits perfectly with movies.
Miguel: Now imagine that you guys are recording a new album and can choose anyone to be your special guest. Who would it be?
Jack: That's hard. What's been brilliant so far is that I've already had so many of my idols over to the studio to work with me. If you had asked me in 1987 while I was singing along to The Chameleons song, "Swamp Thing", if I would ever be in the same studio with them, I would have laughed. If I had to pick someone today, I would go with Johnny Marr of The Smiths.
Miguel: Interesting and cool choice. Please define Black Swan Lane in only one word.
Jack: Andy Whitaker, of The Sun And The Moon, on his radio show, The Mid-Life Dementia Show, once announced one of our songs as "music to make love to". So I'll go with... Penetrating.
Miguel: You guys must have a good relation with Eden Records/Wanderland Music Publishing, Inc.?
Jack: I'm not only the founder of Black Swan Lane, but I also own Wanderland Music Publishing, Inc. and started Eden Records; not to be confused with the religious label that was founded after us by the same name. I was told by London Records, as the vocalist, I needed to go for it more. I'm guessing they wanted more screaming? MCA Universal said we were magic and nothing happened. Warner Brothers brought us to their Nashville office to sign us but the deal fell apart when they wanted us to sound like U2. We hit number one in the Netherlands with a record company that shall remain nameless and we were never paid. The rights to our The Messengers albums were stolen. It finally made logical sense to start our own studio, label and publishing company. It is a lot more work to have to manage a corporation, but in the end, we are in complete control. In addition to the Black Swan Lane albums, we played on and produced a phenomenal solo album by Andy Whitaker called Things That Happened On Earth.
Miguel: Would you like to leave any special words for your fans?
Jack: Please continue to share our music to friends so we can continue making music that will touch your soul. Love and light!

Black Swan Lane links: Official website, Facebook