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Cosmic Conspiracy

An interview with Chris Kosnik of Black NASA (and Atomic Bitchwax)

By Bob Ignizio

For the past 11 years, Bass player/vocalist Chris Kosnik has played in the band Atomic Bitchwax, a band that also includes Monster Magnet six-stringer Ed Mundell.  But the Bitchwax often experiences downtime while Ed records and tours with Monster Magnet.  Rather than sit idle, about 3 Ĺ years ago Chris got together with guitarist Duane Hutter and drummer Corey Stubblefield to form the band Black NASA.   

While both of Chrisí bands share an affinity for seventies riff rock, Black NASA tends to focus more on hooks and catchy songwriting than the more jam oriented Atomic Bitchwax.  Black NASAís debut self-titled album was released by Tee Pee Records in 2002, and was followed by the aptly titled ĎDeuceí, released by Meteor City Records this past April.   

Utter Trash:  So where does the name Black NASA come from?
Chris Kosnik:  It was a conspiracy theory I heard that we never went to the moon, and it was all done on a stage. The narrator referred to NASA as ďBlack NASAĒ.  I thought it was a pretty cool name at the time, so it kind of stuck. 

UT:  Do you believe that theory?
CK:  Itís a hard call.  Think about all the money they spent on it back then.  Youíd like to think that they did get there, but then you ask yourself why we havenít been back in the last 30 years.  Maybe itís because we canít do it. (laughs) 

UT:  How long has Black NASA been a band?
CK:  About 3 Ĺ or 4 years now. 

UT:  And thatís been going along at the same time as Atomic Bitchwax?
CK:  Bitchwax has been going on for almost 11 years now.  Ed, the Bitchwax guitar player, is also the guitar player in Monster Magnet.  Heíd take off on these long tours, so I just got together with some other guys locally a couple years back and started another group. 

UT:  So why is New Jersey is such a hotbed for seventies influenced bands?
CK:  I donít know if itís entirely New Jersey, but definitely the town I live in.  Thereís definitely a lot of bands.  Magnet is the biggest one, and thereís bands like Solace, and Shovelhead, and Solarized, and Halfway to Gone.  Thereís quite a few of Ďem around here.  We all know each other too.  Weíve all played in each otherís band at one time or another. 

UT:  So itís a pretty supportive scene?
CK:  I donít see any kind of competition around here.  Everybody supports everybody. We all go to see each otherís bands.  Itís hard to get discouraged because everybodyís so into it. 

UT:  Obviously the title ĎDeuceí refers to this being your second album.  Was that also chosen because of the Kiss song?
CK:  I love that song, and Iíd like to tell you yeah.  But itís just because it was the second record.  With Bitchwax, we did a self titled album, and the second one was II.  We were kind of following the whole Zeppelin I, II, III thing.  For Black NASA, I was like, letís call it ĎDeuceí.  I wish there was a more interesting story, butÖ (laughs) 

UT:  Black NASA gets lumped in with the stoner rock bands to some degree, but youíre sound is really more of a melodic seventies hard rock thing, isnít it?
CK:  Thatís a big part of it.  Thereís so many bands that are thrown in to the stoner rock genre that cover a large area.  Itís not just slow, sludgy, Kyuss kind of riffs.  It can be anything with a riff in it, I guess.  Itís just rock.  I donít know why anybody calls it stoner rock.  It kind of puts it down, in a way.  I guess the record industry needed a name.  They couldnít call it grunge, they couldnít call it metal.   

UT:  How much touring have you done with Black NASA?
CK:  We did a European tour last fall, and then we did a small US tour in June and July of last summer.  We just got back from a tour in Europe a couple weeks ago, actually.  Then weíve got a tour coming up in September for the states. 

UT:  Where do you get the best response, outside of your hometown?
CK:  Europe.  Theyíre not as segregated as they are here.  Here, you have guys that go to clubs, or guys who go to rock shows.   In Europe, theyíre the same.  One person can do both, and be just as happy.  They just want to have a good time, whether itís at a rock show or a dance club.  It kind of opens up the audience a lot more.   

UT:  Does it bother you that itís harder for a band to get on MTV or the radio these days?
CK:  I would like to see the music get out in every possible medium it can.  But itís actually a better time now than ever.  With the internet, you have so many more possibilities to promote your band.  Think about being Aerosmith in the seventies, and there was no internet.   Just getting the word out, youíd have to buy newspaper space or magazine space, or put flyers on peopleís cars.  You can let people know about your band a lot faster than you used to be able to. 

UT:  So would you describe Black NASA as being ďyourĒ band, or is it an even collaboration?
CK:  Itís a group collaboration.  A lot of people seem to think that, just because I played in Bitchwax, it must be my side project.  Thatís really unfair to say, because Duane and Corey put just as much time into the band as I do.  One of the reasons people might think that, too, is that Iím the singer.  But we all share in it.  Itís no oneís band. 

UT:  Do you handle the majority of the writing?
CK:  Yeah, I guess I could say that.  What Iíll do is 4-track a song at home, and Iíll bring it to practice, give those guys CDs of it, and theyíll listen to it and play their own interpretation of it.  I donít ever tell them what leads to play or what fills to play.  

UT:  Any favorite songs on the new album?
CK: ďThanks AnywayĒ came out a lot better than I thought it was gonnaí.  I had another guitar player, from this band Shovelhead, who came in and played this really great lead on it, and it made the whole song.  Thereís another song, called ďKamikazeĒ, which just has a really good hook, I think.  Itís funny how a song starts as just a riff or something like that, and then 6 months later itís all arranged.  Thereís leads, and back-up vocals, and harmonies, and all this other stuff going on.  Itís just funny how something like that grows from something as simple as sitting around and noodling on your guitar. 

UT:  Other than music, what sort of things inspire your music?
CK:  Iím one of those guys who will be humming a riff under my breath when Iím at work, thinking about getting home and recording it.  I donít necessarily know that I get it from being in any particular situation or place.  But as far as lyrics go, I think itís best to write what you know about.  Almost every single song, itís pretty general, the girl who dumped you kind of things.  Not really sad songs.  Just good, upbeat, girl-hating songs (laughs).  So some guy that just got dumped by his chick, he can put on the record and thereís something there for him to empathize with.  That would have to be it, really.  If you pick a topic that you donít know about, or youíre going to tell a story about something that you had nothing to do with, that ends up sounding kind of hollow and shallow.  

UT:  So are your girl problems behind you now?
CK:  Theyíre behind me, and itís kind of funny because Iím running out of stuff to write about.  My current girlfriend asked me why I donít write any happy songs.  I was like, no one wants to hear that. (laughs).  Who knows, maybe Iíll write a Christmas album when Iím an old man. 

UT:  So what are your goals as a musician?
CK:  As long as I can keep busy between both bandsÖyou have to tour, thatís the key to the whole thing.  You can put out records every year, but if you donít tour, theyíre not gonna sell, and the labelís going to drop you.  So you really have to stay on the road as much as you can.  You donít necessarily have to be on MTV or in magazines or on the radio to make a living at this.  You can make a pretty decent living if you put in the time and do it with your head screwed on.  Iím happy with the way things are.  Iíd like things to get bigger, but Iím not going to die if it doesnít happen.  Things are good.   

Atomic Bitchwax plays The Pirateís Cove in Cleveland on August 2, 2004.

Black NASA plays on the Stoner Hands of Doom 6 festival at The Nyabinghi in Youngstown on September 5th, 2004. 

Visit the Black NASA website.