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Checking Into The No-Tell Hotel with Black Diamonds

Checking Into The No-Tell Hotel with Black Diamonds

Checking Into The No-Tell Hotel with Black Diamonds

Black Diamonds is a hard rocking band based out of Switzerland ready to enrapture an entire world with this raging anthems.  In the grand tradition of classic acts such as Mötley Crüe and Poison, Black Diamonds has just unleashed No-Tell Hotel, their brand new album now available via Metalapolis Records.  Founded back in 2004 by singer Mich Kehl and bassist Andy Barrels, Black Diamonds has opened for the likes of H.E.A.T. and  Crystal Ball, and are slated to appear at the Glam Slam Festival in Belgium with One Desire and Crash Diet in Septmeber.  Highwire Daze recently checked in with bassist Andi Barrels to find out more about Black Diamonds and their rocking No-Tell Hotel magnum opus.  Read on…

Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Black Diamonds, and how long the band has been together.
Hey Ken, this is Andi Barrels and I’m the bass player in Black Diamonds. I got introduced to rock music while I was still in middle school and that fascination didn’t chance ever since. Michael and I would play in our school band together until graduation. A few years later we decided to form a new band, since we missed playing music so much. That was the birth of the Black Diamonds. Now 17 years later we released three albums, a live album and our fourth record is just about to come out.

Where are you based out of and what is your local music scene like there?
We are based in eastern Switzerland right next to Germany and Austria. But since our country is so small, explaining the situation in detail is probably like describing where a certain phone booth used to be located in the greater California area. So I’ll spare you the details, hahaha. Like in many other countries our local music scene is not very rock oriented anymore. I’d say singer-songwriter stuff has become quite big, while the radio plays pop songs by artists I have never heard of and don’t care for. Nevertheless there is something like an underground rock community in both Switzerland and the rest of Europe. This is pretty cool, because it is like a big family and a lot of friends that you just haven’t met yet.

How did you wind up signing with Metalapolis Records?
When we were out on tour with our Swiss colleagues from Crystal Ball, the road manager Tom Hinz took us aside one night and said he needed to talk to us. At first we were afraid we would get some shit or something…but then he told us how he really loved what we were doing out there and that he sees so much potential in us. We were totally struck, this came really unexpected. He told us that he would love to sign us with his label Metalapolis and wanted to approach his partners about it. But first he wanted to know if we would be interested at all. They were not a big label, but would really care for the artists they sign. We said ‘yes’ right away and that was it, although the contract got signed much later. And we did not regret it any second, they really made good of that promise to take good care of us.

Is there any overall story or concept behind the No-Tell Hotel title?
No, not really. No-Tell Hotel was written as a song first – evolving completely from the title. I read something about a filthy no-tell motel. I liked the sound of those words, but wanted to make it more exclusive, grander, bigger. That’s how the lyrics came together.

When we discussed album titles, we all agreed we wanted something that would make a great visual and would capture attention. No-Tell Hotel offered so much room for creativity and we got fixed on the idea of having that 80’s Las Vegas Hotel with lots of neon on the front of the album. Then we thought of each song as a room in that hotel. They are all different and tell their own stories – we loved it and obviously the choice was made very fast.

Select two songs from the No-Tell Hotel album and what inspired the lyrics.
We wanted to write a song that helps people through difficult times. Something to give them strength and power to go on. A reminder not to give yourself up even if things are rough, because once you do, all is lost for sure. Reaching For The Stars is the song that finally resulted.
Only after the song was recorded we realized that it actually reflects much more of our own life experiences than we wanted to admit. When we compared our previous album Once Upon A Time with the new material, the older lyrics were much darker. Michael and I both just came out of relationships at the time we wrote the songs for it. Back then we learned what life is like when things are not exactly working in your favor and you’re stuck in a rut.  Writing those songs helped us get through. So in retrospect Reaching For The Stars deals with our past although it happened unintentionally. But maybe it can help somebody else as well.

You might have seen the video to Evil Twin. The inspiration for that song came from a friend outside the band. We would go to festivals and parties together and whenever he drank, he got totally crazy. Whatever happened that night was none of his doing and he would blame it on his evil twin. He told us numerous times that one day he would write a song about that.

Years later he sent me that reaaally long e-mail with lines after lines of lyrics. I loved the title and the idea from the start, so I took my guitar and I came up with the opening riff and the verse. They captured the essence really well but the words were just not fitting in. So I started to rewrite everything while keeping the original idea. Michael and I wrote the chorus later on and we knew we had something special. But we were not sure who should sing it. The verse part was not working that well with his voice, while the pre-chorus and chorus were not made for mine. That’s when we decided to split the lead vocals and treat it like two personalities sang differently.

Tell me about your new guitarist Chris Johnson and what bands was he in prior to Black Diamonds and what is his music background?
When Dee announced his departure, we were totally shocked, it came out of the blue. Manu told his wife about it and she said she knew just the guy to step in. In fact, she was so convinced that she texted both Michael and myself as well. She urged and begged us to check out Chris, saying he would fit like a glove. I suppose he got similar messages as well and just 1 week later he auditioned and got the gig right away. Not only did he blow us away musically, but with his kind and funny character we found exactly what we were looking for. His heavily Yngwie Malmsteen and Paul Gilbert influenced style would blend perfectly with our sound and also our vision.

What has it been like to record and release new music in the middle of a pandemic and so much social unrest in the world?
Well, I can say we were very lucky. We started recording the album just about the time when the lockdown started. With less distractions and an empty agenda, we had all the time in the world to focus on the recording process. The album was completely done around October, but the release had already been postponed to March. Instead of sitting around waiting, we went to work on the music videos and also focused on rehearsals. In fact Chris had not really had a chance to play the older material with us, because we started recording soon after he joined the band. Now we’re at the point where the itching is getting worse and worse…we miss playing live and we want to show our new material.

What is a live Black Diamonds show like, and have you been able to play at all during the pandemic?
That is an interesting question, since the band has not played a single show yet in the current line-up, although Chris has been in for more than a year now, haha. But what can you expect? Well in our understanding a show is both an audible and visual treatment. It’s all about energy and entertainment. You’ll get make-up, leather and 80s fashion rock n’ roll. Just what the doctor ordered for your heart.

What was the experience like opening for Crystal Ball and did you get to meet or hang out with them at all?
Oh we had an amazing time with Crystal Ball, they were very nice people and a lot of fun to be around. We all traveled together in a tour bus so the time was spent on limited space. But things worked very amicably and everybody did their share. After the shows we hung out in the bus together, had a drink or two and just talked and talked. It was a great experience.

What are you looking forward to the most about the Glam Slam Festival with One Desire and Crash Diet?
We were already super excited when we got the invitation to play there. It’s been 4 years since our last show in Belgium. I really like a lot of the other bands there and it’s supercool to share the stage with them. I also believe we fit the bill pretty well, so hopefully we get the chance to win a new fan or two as well. Oh and Belgium has a large variety of good beer, which is like the cherry on top of the cake. I’m really looking forward to it and hope that the show can take place as planned.

If Black Diamonds could open for any band either now or from the past, who would it be and why?
Oh, well, I was a huge Guns N’ Roses fan ever since the age of 12. So for me that would be the obvious choice. Opening for KISS or Def Leppard would also be massive. But there are so many great bands out there and I’m still just as much a fan as an artist.

Are you involved with any other bands or projects outside of Black Diamonds?
Not really. Michael and I play some local pub gigs as an acoustic duo. On these occasions we only do cover songs and this is really just for fun. My heart and passion is with Black Diamonds, this is all-in, make or break. I’m totally committed to it.

What do you hope 2021 brings for you and Black Diamonds?
Hopefully we get the chance to go out and play the new album live. This is what the songs were written for, they were meant for the stage. Of course we hope people will enjoy the new material as much as we do. Personally I can’t wait to just go to a pub with friends, have a beer, talk nonsense

Any final words of wisdom?
I just wanted to thank you for the opportunity to speak out and wish all the Highwire Daze readers a rocking day. Thanks for keeping up the music we all love.

(Interview by Ken Morton)

Black Diamonds is:
★ Mich Kehl – vocals/guitar
★ Andi Barrels – bass/vocals
★ Manu Peng – drums/vocals
★ Chris Blade Johnson – guitar/vocals

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