Discover more from Volatile Weekly
Interview with Bastion Rose
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
My dad got me into playing music. He loved classic rock and really gave me the same enthusiasm for bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Pink Floyd, etc. He encouraged me to pick up an instrument, and I poured those influences into my songwriting.
I don’t like to think about my life without songwriting and guitar-playing in it, but I am interested in all kinds of things so I’m sure I would be obsessed with something if not music!
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I love to cook and to travel. I love spending time with my wife and my dog. I enjoy reading and gaming (Zelda at the moment). I really enjoy researching various topics and just learning in general. I especially love fiction novels. I’ve recently finished Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, which is a great masterpiece of American literature. I’m reading a book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez now called Love In The Time of Cholera.
I think it’s important to take time away from the instrument and from songwriting to have experiences in the world. Life itself generates the source material for songs that are truly honest. I draw inspiration from the things I’m going through in life at any given moment, and from connections I make with others.
How long has your band been around?
Bastion Rose was formed in the spring of 2022 and we played our first show together at The Bluebird in Bloomington, IN on August 20, 2022. So the band is very young.
However, it’s also the continuation of my work as a songwriter. For about 9 years, I wrote for my previous band, Blue Rising and released 3 full-length albums and 3 EPs. The catalog is about 40 original tracks which still live out in stream space for those who are interested in my previous work.
Bastion Rose is the natural continuation of my work, and draws on all I’ve learned as a songwriter. I continue to learn every day and playing with Steve, John, Barrett, and Mudd always offers me to opportunity to grow as a player and a musician.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
Bastion Rose is based in Bloomington, Indiana USA. John Mellencamp is also from our town and still lives here. People in this area love rock music, and there are a lot of people who grew up listening to southern rock music, my dad included. I think that is probably an influence that I gained simply from growing up in rural, midwestern United States. My dad and I split firewood, worked outside, fixed things, and Q95, the Indianapolis classic rock station, was the soundtrack to our lives.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
When my dad passed away in December of 2019, I underwent a painful grieving process that brought me face to face with the darkest parts of myself. I planted a white rose for him in the spring. In March of 2020, I received a call informing me that my mother had passed away. During the spring and summer of 2020, my world was bleak, and it was difficult to imagine that I would ever feel real hope or pleasure again. Still, I cared for the rose. In late summer, the rose bloomed its first blossom. I took a photograph of that bloom and it later became the rose you see in the Bastion Rose logo.
In October of 2020, I received a cancer diagnosis. In a flash, in the very instant that I was given the news, like divine inspiration, I came to a powerful realisation: I wanted to live. Life is worth living. Moments are worth having. I underwent surgery and treatment for thyroid cancer and by spring of 2021, I was cancer free and on my way to full recovery.
The white rose became a symbol for me that represents the preciousness of life and its transient, fragile nature. We are destined to face unimaginable hardships. All of us. But in the rose, I find a reminder that while temporary and destined to end, life is worth it. Moments are sacred.
As life goes on, I try to protect that idea. To let it by my fortress against life’s inevitable woes. A bastion of truth amid life’s distractions.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
It’s always most memorable when you play that first show as a headliner. As a local independent act, it’s quite a feat to generate enough interest in your band to bring a large crowd to the venue without the help from a promotion company, especially with original music.
With Bastion Rose and Blue Rising, I have done just that. Twice. To draw hundreds of people who love the music that I wrote, that the guys in the band and I worked on and polished. They come out and sing the lyrics and have a great time. It’s just such a good feeling.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
The Bluebird in Bloomington, IN is my home stage. I love it there and it feels so familiar from all of the performances and musical growth that I’ve had the privilege to experience on that stage.
A big dream of mine would be to play at the Indianapolis amphitheater. It’s called Ruoff Home Mortgage Amphitheater today but it’s always changing names. When I was a kid, it was called Verizon Wireless Music Center and I saw Ozzy, Godsmack, Steve Miller Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Disturbed, Black Label Society, Coheed and Cambria, The Dave Matthews Band, Jack Johnson and too many bands to even count there. It would be a childhood dream come true to hit that stage.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
It would be Bastion Rose opening for Foo Fighters or Metallica.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
I would say not to take yourself too seriously. It’s a fine line of course because you want to do the best you can and take your work seriously, but don’t let your sense of self be wrapped up in your notions of musical success. The approach should be simple. Just play music because you love it. If you find that you don’t naturally go back to the instrument because you love it, that it’s more of a struggle and a discipline than a joy, maybe you are doing it for the wrong reasons anyway. Don’t do it because you view yourself as a musician and if you stop you won’t be one anymore. Do it because the feel of the strings on your fingers or the sticks in your hands makes you feel good. Do it because you love it.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
I took music lessons for a few years early on and I wish I had never stopped. You progress more quickly with a mentor, and the time I spent with my mentor, Chuck Hobson, when I was young was invaluable to my foundational understanding of music and the instrument.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
The title track from our upcoming debut EP, Fade To Blue, means a lot to me. It came about as a result of my healing process after my parents passed away and I recovered from thyroid cancer. It represents a sort of emerging from the abyss of my own grief and sadness.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
War Pigs has always been one of my favorite covers to play. Right now, I think Fever is my favorite original to play. It’s the next single from the Fade To Blue EP.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
I write the song and bring it to the guys who play with me in Bastion Rose and we work out the finer details of the arrangement in the room together. Something may happen once we are playing for real that takes the song in a slightly different direction, or I may have lessons learned from the jam session to take back to my studio for round 2 of demoing.
Hard times inspire the music of Bastion Rose. It’s the same philosophy as blues music. To me, I’m basically singing the blues. Just another branch in the huge tree that came from blues music.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
That hard times fade. This too shall pass. Be strong. Keep breathing. You can do it.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
Thankfully we don’t ever really disagree in any meaningful way! Our relationship is very reliable and our friendship grows more and more all the time.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
I am constantly writing music and creating demos. I demo very quickly and have a large, growing back catalogue of music that is in development as well as lots of music Bastion Rose is ready to record for the next release. “Fade To Blue,” “Halo Devil,” “Fever,” and “Coming For You” comprise the tracklist on the debut Fade To Blue EP we did with David Bottrill. Other songs that are staples of our live set are “Wild Honey,” “Humble Me,” “Dry Leaf Clover,” and “Brother Sun.” Then there are some of my favourite new songs that we will bring to the stage in the coming months like “Atlas Slumbers,” “Traces of Gold,” and “Cinnamon Fire.” New music is what makes me tick!
From my perspective, the next step for the Bastion Rose is to build a team of professionals to support the band in all of the various important areas like booking management and public relations, and perhaps partner with a label to release the Fade To Blue EP and go back into the studio for the follow up. Playing shows in different markets, continuing to release music indefinitely, and partnering with the right professionals in the industry to grow Bastion Rose is my vision of the future.