An interview with Chris Kosnik of
Black NASA (and Atomic Bitchwax)
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
Utter Trash: So where does the name Black NASA come
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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