Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Interview: Justin Furstenfeld of BLUE OCTOBER

Photo by Scott Martin

Since the release of their eighth studio full-length, Home, in April of 2016, American alt-rockers Blue October have been touring in support of the album. During their UK tour, Antihero Magazine’s senior journalist, Mark Dean, caught up with Blue October frontman and founding member, Justin Furstenfeld, for chat while the band stopped in Manchester.

Mark Dean: Okay, straight on, you started the tour last night in Birmingham. I just wondered how it all went?

Justin Furstenfeld: It went really well. A lot of people were there. It was more than I thought.

Mark Dean: Are you doing a wide ranging set list taking in all of the bands previous albums?

Justin Furstenfeld: Yeah.

Mark Dean: Does it dip into all the old ones?

Justin Furstenfeld: All the old ones, all the new ones. We’re playing like 20-something songs. It’s going to be a long show. It’s a good one. Most of the stuff that we’re playing is … It’s more about positive stuff.

Mark Dean: I saw today you got a new tattoo in Manchester on your Facebook page ?

Justin Furstenfeld: I did.

Mark Dean: I was going to ask you, what did you get?

Justin Furstenfeld: It’s a Union Jack. Let me show you. I can probably take it off by now, fuck it. It was bleeding like a motherfucker, isn’t it? Excuse me, I need to probably get in the shower soon. Yeah, it’s a Union Jack.

Blue October
Photo by Scott Martin

Mark Dean: Has the UK a special significance for you personally?

Justin Furstenfeld: Yeah, mainly because most of the bands that I grew up on were from the UK like The Smiths, The Cure, Joy Division, and the Cocteau Twins, and all that kind of stuff. Growing up in Texas, and listening to bands that were from Manchester and from London and from all these amazing places – it’s such a trip when you finally get to come over here because it’s just really amazing. It’s like wow this is the stomping grounds of all my favorite bands. Do you know what I’m saying?

Mark Dean: So you do have a personal connection where it’s not just a case of another date on the tour?

Justin Furstenfeld: Yeah, a personal connection and plus it gets … Like I say, it’s just romantic. You get over here and you’re like wow this is where the Smiths played. This is where the Cure walked around. Then you look at all the history…

Mark Dean: You don’t mention Oasis then  at all.

Justin Furstenfeld: I wasn’t really an Oasis fan. I got more into slower stuff when Oasis came out. The Smiths, and the Cure, and Joy Division, and the Cocteau Twins, Peter Gabriel, those were all my jams.

Mark Dean: I understand you’re an artist as well. Do you see music and art as a form of therapy?

Justin Furstenfeld: I do. I do see it as a form of that. It’s hard to explain because it’s like … It is therapeutic because sometimes you just got to get stuff out. It is kind of healing to be able to write about it and express yourself, you know? Because that’s what they taught you when we were kids, was to express yourself. I think that’s one of the things that we do most these days is bottle everything up. Music is always, yeah, we could definitely say music is therapy.

Mark Dean: Art as well.

Justin Furstenfeld: Art is therapy. Art is therapy because it’s meant to make you feel. I think it’s one of the most precious things that we have in the world – music, film, visual arts, comedy, any kind of art. Performance art is some of the most impactful art. I think it’s amazing.

Mark Dean: You’ve collaborated with a few artists over the year. For example, Tarja – if we could ask you about that. How did that come about?

Justin Furstenfeld: She just liked my voice. Yeah, she just liked my voice and then reached out and said, “Would you like to do something with me?” I’ve always been a big fan of musical theater. She’s got that real “Ah”. I was like, “Ah, it’s fun to do this.” It was really cool. It was really amazing.

Mark Dean: Have you got any other collaboration or projects?

Justin Furstenfeld: Imogen Heap, I did a collaboration with Imogen Heap from Frou Frou. She’s from over here too. I want to do a collaboration with Peter Gabriel. God, that would be epic. I’m trying. I’m trying.

Mark Dean: The music of the band or the musics style has changed from those earlier, heavier sounds. I was just wondering if you ever see a return to that sound or is that a case of that door is closed and you’ve moved on and evolved as a band and as an artist?

Justin Furstenfeld: You know, I like heavy rock. I love metal. I love metal. I love rock. I love alternative rock. I just like good music. I think the reason that we’ve changed so much is just to change with the times. Once alternative radio played rock and roll music, now alternative radio doesn’t play rock and roll music very much. We kind of roll with the times. Our roots are based on good rock and roll and good song writing. Will we ever make a rock album again? Hell yes, we will.

Mark Dean: Right, that’s a definite yeah?

Justin Furstenfeld: Oh, yeah, it’s a definite yes because that’s where our roots come from.

Mark Dean: Yeah, so you still write in that different mindset?

Justin Furstenfeld: Yeah, the next album I want to make is going to be like a double album. Half of it’s going to be acoustic and “love-songy”, and then the other half will be just punch rock.

Blue October
Photo by Scott Martin

Mark Dean: What would be your greatest regret?

Justin Furstenfeld: My greatest regret? I don’t know, man. I’ve got a few regrets. I would have to say my greatest regret is amidst of all my craziness and drinking and drugging how I treated people. That’s my greatest regret, how I disrespected my friends and family. That’s my greatest regret.

Mark Dean: Of course, you got an extended family now with kids and stuff of your own? That puts you in a good place mentally I assume-to be a father?

Justin Furstenfeld: With the gift of sobriety and the gift of recovery it gives you the knowledge to know what you might have done before. My only regret in life, I don’t even regret using the drugs and drinking, I just regret the way I acted on it and what I did to people. As far as that goes I’m working on making that better.

Mark Dean: What about the secret to your  longevity in the music business? How come after all you’ve gone through you’re still here, still playing shows and still selling  more records.You also seem to be still enjoying it?

Justin Furstenfeld: I so love it. I love it even more nowadays because it’s just once you … It’s like once you lose your path, and you can lose your path and drink, I done tried it really quick, you can always do that but you don’t love it. When you stop, you start remembering what it is to be a kid again. You totally fully you start finding Santa Clause again. Do you know what I’m saying? You start believing in things again. That’s what the beauty to stand up there with five dudes just rocking out, sometimes you look around, you’re just like, “Oh, God, yes.” It’s pretty amazing.

Mark Dean: What in your life are you most proud of?Would it be something that you have achieved in your career?Or indeed something else?

Justin Furstenfeld: My kids. Yeah, my kids. I’m most proud of my kids. The second would be my friends and my wife.

Mark Dean: It must be difficult again being on tour, being separated  from them?

Justin Furstenfeld: I’m with them so much that when I’m on tour my wife is such a damn badass that she’s just like, “Go get you some, dude. Go work out there. Go bring home the bacon. Go put our kids in college.” She’s got my back 100%.

Mark Dean: Are you happy in your life right now? Is the glass not even half full is it totally full?

Justin Furstenfeld: The glass will never be completely full. I’m always going to be out there trying to find more ways to get peace and more ways to find happiness. I love my life. I’m obsessed with the passion of living and spreading that to my friends and being there for them now instead of just being the guy that always needed something.

Mark Dean: With fame comes the loss of privacy? Do you feel that’s a fair price to pay?

Justin Furstenfeld: I don’t think I’m famous. I don’t. I just walked all the way to I Am Pho, like two miles away and nobody’s stopping me. It’s dope. I’m like right there with number 25. I’m good right there. I don’t want to be number one.

Mark Dean: There’s no time at all even when you’re back home with family and people are hounding you and bugging you, when you just want to have your own private family time-outside the bubble?

Justin Furstenfeld: They don’t bug me. Without them… they’re the reason that I’m here. I better stop in Target when I’m shopping and say hi to them and take a picture with their kids. Come on, they bought your fucking album. Man-the-fuck-up, stop being such a pussy, you know?

Mark Dean: Do you still have hopes and dreams and goals?

Justin Furstenfeld: Oh, yeah. I want to make more beautiful albums. I want to write more books. I want to write plays. I want to do a musical. I want to do acting.

Mark Dean: Do you have anything lined up like a book? Do you write songs when you’re on the road?

Justin Furstenfeld: Oh, yeah. I’ve got a whole new album right now ready.

Mark Dean: Is that the heavy one or the other one?

Justin Furstenfeld: Both.

Mark Dean: How do you feel about your own musical legacy? Do you look at some of those earlier albums and go what was I doing there?

Justin Furstenfeld: I don’t worry about my life. I guess they’re just little windows into each part of my life and each part of each band in my life, some of them more dramatic than others, some of them happier than others, some of them more confident and at peace than others.

Mark Dean: What is the meaning of life?

Justin Furstenfeld: The meaning of life to be happy, joyous, and free.

Mark Dean: How would you like to be remembered after you go?

Justin Furstenfeld: As an honest, kind, hard-working man who loved his family and friends.

Mark Dean: What’s next for the band? Then after these gigs the tour manager was telling me you’re off to Germany?

Justin Furstenfeld: Yeah, then we’re touring in the United States and then we’re going to be putting out a documentary and then we’re going to be putting out another album and then we’re just going to keep on going. It’s going to keep going.

Mark Dean: Who would you like to sit down one-on-one and interview? Maybe not a musician, but personal hero, icon, maybe an inspiration, someone that’s inspired you?

Justin Furstenfeld: Wow, Peter Gabriel.

Mark Dean: I thought that you would have said that based on your earlier replies. Okay, that’s great, thank you very much.

About Mark Dean

I'm a 40+ music fan. Fond mostly of rock and metal - my staple musical food delights. Originally from Northern Ireland, I am now based in the UK-Manchester. I have a hectic musical existence with regular shows and interviews. Been writing freelance for five years now with several international websites. Passionate about what I do, I have been fortunate already to interview many of my all-time musical heroes. My music passion was first created by seeing Status Quo at the tender age of 15. While I still am passionate about my rock and metal, I have found that with age my taste has diversified so that now I am actually dipping into different musical genres and styles for the first time. Photo: Mark Dean with Jeff Kendrick of Devildriver - Photography by Olga Kuzmenko

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