Diving for cover from the rain, we caught up with Jon Lawhon from Black Stone Cherry, following their cracking second stage headline slot the previous evening… slip and slide anyone?

Here we are at Download Festival with Jon from Black Stone Cherry, and unlike past times we’ve caught up, we normally interview you before you play your show…

Yeah right, we’ve already played

So how was it last night?

It was great, it was like playing on a slip and slide…

How wet is it for guys up there, I mean we’re out in the crowd without shelter, but expect you’re covered a bit yourselves?

It was soaked, it was wet. Ben’s pedal board went for a swim around the middle of the first song, so it was in and out for the first half of the show. So finally his guitar tech just decided to strike the whole pedal board, went wireless to amp… done. You know no special effects on anything from there on, but Ben was still able to run across the stage, do his leg kicks, you know and still put on a show!

So, it’s been your second time headlining the second, stage, and both times you’ve been against Slipknot…

Yeah (laughing) Odd, right. I don’t know we wonder if we have some, like secret turmoil! Nah, no not at all, Slipknot’s great!

Do you ever look at the schedule, and just think… “ahh shit”?

Oh yeah, yeah we do. I mean for that one, we did it in 2013 and it was really nerve wracking. I mean they went on 15 or 20 minutes before we did and they finished 10 minutes after we did. So our entire show was in the middle of theirs. So we were really like “Oh God, we really hope people will actually show up”. But it turned out well, you know. We had forty some thousand people there or something show up. But this year, it was just us, we went on and it was just us until I think the last 10 minutes when I think Slipknot started. You know when people started leaving to go over to their show. I expected like a humungous mass of people leave , but I didn’t see that much. You know I saw a few people leave here and there, and like a slow line that kind of straggled off. But I think for the most part, 95 percent of the crowd stayed for our set, and that was a big honour in itself!

I think it shows that you really have your own solid fan base over here anyway. I mean what does Download mean to you?

Oh God (laughing) I know it’s always going to be wet…

I’m sure you’ve played here when it hasn’t been wet? On the main stage…

Yeah, I think that’s like the second year we played it, and that’s the only time (laughing), but it’s usually wet, the crowd is always insane. You know, there’s always going to be things you know are going to happen, but a lot of Download is unexpected… it’s kind of a crap shoot (laughing).

Fair enough, one way of describing it (laughing). So you aired one of the new ones last night, and you’ve explained about the guitar issues… I was going to say it sounded “rawer”, but that might explain it… what is the next album going to sound like?

Well so far we’ve only really written like really heavy stuff, but that’s how we usually go into the writing process. It starts off with everything really heavy, and then as time goes on we start to get a burn on that, and tha’ts when we start getting the “Things My Father Said”, “Peace Is Free” and “Sometimes”, songs like that start coming out at that point because we’ve “broken the hard rock bone” for a little while, and right now we’re really with the heavy stuff. “Roadrunner” we played yesterday which is one of the heavier ones, you know it’s going to be a jam packed rock record. Hopefully like we always do.

And last night we got all the slap funk bass… are we going to be getting that?

(laughing) Nah, that’s just for fun. For our band, as far as a bass player goes, it’s more of a pick driven big humbucker into an Ampeg, you know kind of driven vibe. That’s what we are, so that was just a bit of fun.

You guys always look like you’re having fun…

Oh man, it’s because we are!

But have ever had any really bad festival experiences?

No, not really. I mean, even with all the technical issues yesterday we were still having a ball! I mean it’s kind of hard not to, when you are standing in front of a Download crowd! I mean there have been some times in the States, playing some of the smaller rooms, you know with a really bad PA, and a crowd that just doesn’t care. I mean it was more in the earlier stages, and we are like “Oh my God, can this show just be over”. But not often does that happen , and it’s been a while since it has.

So, obviously we have to talk about The Carnival Of Madness, because quite honestly that’s one hell of a line up.

Oh yeah, it’s going to be a good tour!

You guys, Shinedown and Halestorm.

Yeah, and we have another band in front of it called Highly Suspect. These guys are an awesome rock band.

Have you picked them yourselves?

No actually we didn’t. Carnival of Madness is actually a festival and a tour. It’s an odd thing but it’s a festival that tours different cities. It’s owned by Bill McGathy who owns In De Goot Management. In De Goot manages us and all the other bands that are on it. So it’s kind of like Bill’s way of putting those bands together and letting one band help the next. So he’s basically asked us to help Shinedown, to help Halestorm and Highly Suspect increase their fanbase by headlining this festival. We are like, “of course, let’s do it”. I mean the original line up of Shinedown with Jason Todd playing guitar, the UK never got to see that version of Shinedown unfortunately, but the original line up of Shinedown is the reason that we ended up with our management company and why we got a record deal. I mean Jason and Brent were beating the door down at In De Goot, and Atlantic, saying “you’ve got to sign this band”. From there it all kind of snowballed, so this is us kind of saying thankyou to Brent and hopefully it all works out… it’s good Karma.

Do you think it will be a bit weird? I mean I presume if this was touring in the Staes it would be the other way round?

Oh yeah definitely, it would be Highly Suspect, Black Stone Cherry, Halestorm then Shinedown.

So why do you think the British public have taken to you guys so much?

Honestly, I think it’s because we’re genuine, just like the British public. In America, everything is really snobby and more like conformed to certain radio formats, and with that, there’s no room for originality. Over here, everyone thrives on the lifestyle, the bands and the originality of it. No it doesn’t sound like this that and the other thing. I mean Five Finger Death Punch played here yesterday afternoon, and in the States they are massive. They are an active, quote unquote, rock band. Active Rock is a radio format in America. So, if you fit that niche then you are going to be successful in the States. We are not an active rock band.

Are you bothered about being one?

Couldn’t care less. You know, here’s the thing, we are not going to conform to any radio format for the sake of conforming. I say thank God for the UK audience, because with the UK audience, we are allowed to be ourselves. We write the music we want to write, they appreciate the music, and they appreciate us as people. We can make enough money where we can survive, so we don’t have to conform to this stuffed shirt kind of band. We’re not going to do that. We are going to continue this way for the rest of our lives.

You’d better keep to that! I caught up with you a few years back and asked you about your plans. You told me you wanted to move from the clubs to the arenas, and you managed that!

Yeah, and we’ve actually got a DVD coming out in October. It was recorded from our Arena tour with Airbourne in direct support, and Theory Of A Deadman. We shot a DVD in Birmingham, and that’s coming out October time.

And what about a new album?

New album should be round about the time we do our next arena tour.

Do you feel pressured to get it written for then?

Oh, we’ve already got much of it written, we’ve got half a dozen that are done, and a few more that are waiting to be finished, so we’re in a good place. We’ll be ready.

Excellent, So, whilst you are here at Download is there anyone you are wanting to see?

Yeah, I want to see Muse, surprisingly enough. I think they are going to be killer. I watched their DVD a couple of years ago I guess it was now, and they just looked really good live. Faith No More are going to be awesome too. I just hope our press stuff is wrapped up in time for me to see them.

Well, we’ll let you get on then so you can catch Faith No More and Muse, and we’ll catch up again next year on the Carnival Of Madness tour.

Awesome, thanks very much, look forward to catching you then.

The Carnival Of Madness 2016 UK run is as follows:

Thu 28th Jan – CARDIFF Motorpoint Arena
Fri 29th Jan – NOTTINGHAM Capital FM Arena
Sat 30th Jan – LIVERPOOL Echo Arena
Mon 1st Feb – GLASGOW SSE Hydro
Tue 2nd Feb – BIRMINGHAM Barclaycard Arena
Thu 4th Feb – LONDON SSE Wembley Arena
Fri 5th Feb – LEEDS First Direct Arena
Sat 6th Feb – MANCHESTER Arena

Photo Credit: Derek Bremner