13 November 2019

Biilmann stepping out of the shade with new sounds

| Michael Weaver
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The Biilmann band

Jack Biilmann during the recent bushfire benefit concert in Tathra. The Biilmann band will play there next year. Photo: Julie Fox.

“Sun don’t shine in the shade,” sings Canberra singer/songwriter Jack Biilmann in his latest song Shade.

It’s been a little while since the battle-hardened Biilmann stepped into the limelight and on to a stage in Canberra, but this Saturday night he’ll do just that at Smith’s Alternative in Civic. The show will also be the last chance that Canberrans will have to hear his blues/roots sounds in solo format.

Next year, Biilmann is actually stepping out of the shade to unleash something that has been brewing for quite a while. And it has nothing to do with his sponsorship with Jindabyne Brewing (he actually has a beer named after him). Biilmann is getting the band together and the music will be a definite departure from what he’s served up on two solo albums.

Region Media caught up with Jack Biilmann to chat about the new directions and be among the first to hear the band’s five-song EP. Rest assured that the rumours about turning up the amplifiers are very true.

“The blues/roots and acoustic thing is always going to be a big part of my life, but there’s a side to me that wants to just rock out,” says Jack.

Notably, the inspiration came from his trusty Marshall amplifier, an electric guitar and channelling of the late Chris Cornell, who fronted rock bands Soundgarden and Audioslave.

“I saw Chris Cornell at Llewellyn Hall here in Canberra and I’ve always loved that guy. His show blew me away, and at home, I was mucking around with my JCM 800 Marshall amp and you’ve got to crank those things.

“So to sing over the amp, I had to give it everything and I found a new part of my voice that just came out of me. I realised I couldn’t recreate that sound unless I had the guitar absolutely firing back. It’s like I had to try and climb over it,” Jack said.

“I told myself that if you want to rock out, it’s not going to be half-arsed rock n roll, it’s going to be proper.”

Jack’s brother Joe is a hard rock drummer who was more than happy for his sibling to “finally see the light”.

Biilmann's back on stage in Canberra

Canberra singer/songwriter Jack Biilmann is back on stage in Canberra at Smith’s Alternative this Saturday night. Photo: Supplied.

So, with Joe on drums, Todd Gregory on bass and Jack on guitar, they recorded a few demos, but he needed another guitarist to complete the sound he was looking for.

Jack, a self-confessed guitar nerd, could talk guitars all day. While looking at a guitar for sale, Jack met Pat Quinn, who had as many guitars as Jack did.

“It was a meeting of the minds,” Jack said. “He started playing and, straight away, he had the chops. We had a jam and now he’s in the band.

“He’s a technically brilliant guitarist and knows all the theories, whereas I’m a self-taught wild force who plays by ear. Whatever we come up with, he just knows how to enhance it.”

With the Biilmann band EP in the bag, Jack says there is a tour in the works, along with plans to record an entire album. However, he knows he has to start again – to literally step out of the shade and give back to the Canberra music scene that has given him two albums. He’s also had national and international acclaim via his song Forever Unbeaten, about fallen cricketer Phillip Hughes.

“I’ve always made sure that I’ll never be a musician who is one-dimensional,” he says.

“It’s just that side of me that’s wanted to come out for ages, so this solo tour is the last time to play my show and talk to the crowd, have a laugh and let everyone know that things are changing.”

There are less than 40 tickets left to Jack’s solo show at Smith’s Alternative in Civic, promoting his latest single Shade, which also experiments with some new production styles.

Shade is like a splice of my beginnings as a musician with a kind of hip-hop production style. It’s basically southern rock, blues guitar and all my early influences mixed some great beats.

“No matter how much you want things to change, it’s about starting to live life again and just stepping out of the shade.”

You can find out more about Biilmann’s solo tour on his website, which links to his social media sites. Tickets to the gig this Saturday night at Smith’s Alternative are available here, or watch the video below about the making of his latest song Shade.

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