An interview with American Minor’s Josh Knox

American Minor is holding a release party for their brand new CD on August 26 at the Canopy Club, with special guests Thee Shams and Lorenzo Goetz. Drummer Josh Knox was cool enough to answer some questions about life on a major label, playing live, the American Minor song catalog and more for Buzz in preparation for the event.

buzz: Why did you guys originally come to Illinois? josh: Well, our lead singer, Robert, was accepted into the U of I Law School and his wife into the dance program. The band was starting to get a little more serious and there wasn’t too much going on in West Virginia, so we packed up and moved to Champaign to keep the band together. Rob ended up deferring his acceptance so we could focus on the band.

buzz: You’re having release parties at both the Canopy Club and at the Monkey Bar in West Virginia, and you seem to be very true to both places. Do you notice any differences in the two audiences? josh: Of course, West Virginia is consistently a bit rowdier than Champaign, although we’ve had some great ones here. Champaign shows seem to be filled with younger, more music-oriented people in general, whereas West Virginia shows are more of a blue-collar social event that consist equally of friends, family and music fans. Probably the biggest difference is the absence of PBR at West Virginia shows. That’s Budweiser country.

buzz: What, if anything, has changed since being signed to Jive? josh: Simply being paid to be a musician, just like someone’s paid to work in an office. I have to say, it’s great. We don’t have to work part-time jobs to get by. Besides that, not that much else has changed. We can afford to tour without having to crash on floors. We don’t have to sweat each month when bills are due. We got some sweet road cases for our gear. Jive did actually buy us a new transmission for the van once…and some haircuts. You can’t beat that shit.

buzz: In a way, American Minor music defies categorization. Songs such as “Don’t Jump the Gun” or “Walk On” might be considered Southern rock, but at the same time are not confined to that label. What is it about the band that makes for that sound? josh: I would give two reasons for that. The first being the wide variety of music that inspires us. Of course, you have the bands that have obviously influenced us…but there’s also some that you might not pick up on. You’ve got everything from stuff like the Staple Singers and Bill Withers, Albert King and the Temptations…You know, we all grew up with the backdrop of classic rock radio, but we didn’t really come back to that until a few years ago. We were kind of in denial. It’s not exactly cool to be into Bad Company when you’re 14, at least it wasn’t when I was. There were years filled with artists like Radiohead, Beck, Ryan Adams, Superdrag, Weezer and Wilco.

The second being the various styles of musicians within

the band…Bud is the quintessential guitar player. Bruno and I are pretty much self-taught and come at things from our own perspectives. Gragg’s great with a melody and is really into the singer/songwriter aspect of things. Robert tends to draw inspiration from different places than the rest of us sometimes, as well as having a great talent for writing lyrics and melodies. Somehow, it all seems to fit. We’re just 5 guys from West Virginia with different musical personalities that happen to compliment each other. It could be due to the fact that we’ve known each other and played together for so many years, or that we shared similar life experiences growing up.

buzz: “Buffalo Creek” is one of the most lyrically interesting songs on the disc. What’s the story behind it? josh: The song is about a flood that occurred in West Virginia due to negligent mining practices. On Feb. 26, 1972, a faulty dam built to contain coal wastewater ruptured, releasing millions of gallon of black water down the Buffalo Creek hollow in the form of a 20-foot wave. It was actually one of the worst industrial disasters in United States’ history. The coal companies all but erased this from state history, and it was essentially forgotten. We thought it’d be a great awareness piece. The vibe of the music seemed to fit the lyrical theme really well.

buzz: Craziest tour story so far? josh: Probably the first tour with Bud. It was his 21st birthday. He ditched his finals and we picked him up in West Virginia. The van broke down (in the ghetto) in Memphis on the way to Louisiana. We had to pay ultra-sketchy drug addicts to fix the van. We missed the ‘money’ show in Louisiana that was going to finance the entire tour. We ended up sleeping on the beach in Buloxi, Mississippi and limping back home in the van.

buzz: There are lots of songs in the American Minor canon that are not only unreleased, but have been abandoned at live shows. Any plans to revisit them while either recording or touring? josh: Sure. We would never rule anything out completely. We’re always into reworking old tunes. Anybody who has seen us over the past few years knows that. If something is so terrible that it couldn’t ever be played or used in the band in some way, we probably wouldn’t have ever finished writing it in the first place. It’s all fair game. You never know, we could pull something out when you least expect it.

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