"...[Blacktop Badge] maintain a steadfast, original vibe in their music, and it''s obvious from the moaning slide-intro on album opener/working man''s booze/blues shuffle "The Grind" that these cats aren''t here to end once and for all the Hendrix vs. Stevie Ray Vaughan debate...but to bury you alive in the driving, spit-n-fire style they''ve forged all on their own." - Tom Hallett, The Pulse of the Twin Cities Magazine
"This band gets you movin''! The hooks are great and you''ll be singing along from the first time you ever hear their music." - Kevin Hendrickson, 96.1 FM The Fox, Grand Forks, ND
Blacktop Badge is a Minneapolis based rock group that performs electric blues influenced music. They''re a hard drivin’ five piece, with twin guitars, a soulful, talented young singer, lots of slide guitar and a big, clean Marshall tone. It’s a radio friendly, groove oriented vintage rock sound.
Songs vary from the harder, contemporary sounds of "Broke Down Engine" and the Jimmy Page tribute riffed "Star Spangled Man," to the slower grooves of "Sun Inside" and "Cannery", and the open road, windows down, drive it like you stole it songs like "Gone", "Grind" and "Good Thing."
FROM BIG JUNK FUNK...TO BLACKTOP BLISS
Blacktop Badge got its start in 2001, when Minneapolis actor Adam Whisner put the word out that he was looking to start a band. His quest led him to new Minnesota resident Dave Schermerhorn, a bass player from Wisconsin with 10 years of live band experience. Dave brought in Aaron Biggar, a towering, 6''5" beast of a drummer he met over a keg.
Their goal was to revitalize late 60''s soul covers with a modern twist, hoping to wrangle a horn section, keyboard player, and a wailin'' singer, but it was not to be. All the best horn sections, keyboard players, and wailin'' singers in the Twin Cities seemed to be busy gigging.
"Why don''t we just rock out?"
Right on, Dave. They shared a passion for soul music, but decades of hard rock influence was in their blood. They crafted a hard, funky power-trio sound that sounded like "the Les Claypool Blues Explosion." In 2002, they dubbed themselves Big Junk and played around the Twin Cities. In 2003, they recorded a homespun five song demo called "Not Yet But Soon," (which you can probably still get a copy of...for cheap).
By 2004, they were playing 20 original songs and 10 covers, but something was missing. They were losing steam. Big Junk was too eclectic. They had no defining vibe. Stretched too thin in 2005, they were on the edge of dissolving the band.
"Why don''t we get a lead singer and second guitar player and just rock out?!"
Dave called it again. A five piece. Like Aerosmith or AC/DC. A big, huge, in your face, dueling guitars rock machine with some hot-shot singer out front shakin'' his ass. Hell yeah. The auditions began in January of 2006.
After nearly a month of searching, they still hadn''t found what they were looking for. That is, until 23-year-old singer Aaron McMenamy jumped the backyard fence and blew everyone away. McMenamy was one part Chris Robinson, one part Chris Cornell, and one part can of Red Bull. Shaken. No one had come close. He was their man.
That same fateful day was the first time they heard Cory Jesok play his Fender Stratocaster. Cory had an ear for blending chords and weaving guitar lines that fit into their songs like puzzle pieces, not to mention years playing live under his belt and a vast knowledge of musical instrument and gear technology. No contest. These guys were perfect.
"Plus they showed up on time, were prepared, and had mostly reliable transportation. Always a bonus," said Dave. "Except when Mac locks his keys in his truck. That''s like a weekly ritual for that guy."
These were the guys. Not just new band members, but new friends. New family. The toast went up, the beer fridge was emptied, and they went to work.
In the following months they practiced hard and developed a new sound, reinventing some of Big Junk''s stronger tunes and scrapping the rest in search of new music they would write together. The energy was high. This band would be about powerful, soulful vocals, thick, old-school guitar tones, and heavy rock beats. They''d play some covers of songs that inspired them, but the emphasis would be on writing new hard rock music with a familiar feel. It became clear that this was an entirely new band, not a five-piece version of Big Junk. They needed a new name.
"A blacktop badge is a term I made up for the scars left by road rash, those nasty skin burns you get when you crash your motorcycle and burn through your jeans as you slide down the pavement into that oncoming guard rail," says Whisner, who has earned a few badges himself. "Crashing your motorcycle is BAD. Wear your leather, kids."
In the summer of 2006, through McMenamy''s contacts at the Institute of Production and Recording in Minneapolis, the newly dubbed Blacktop Badge was able to grab some studio time. With a 4-song demo in mind, they started recording at 11am. Eighteen hours later, they had 9 songs in the can. All in a day''s work.
Today the band is gigging with some regularity, supported by radio play in cities like Grand Forks, Thief River Falls, and the Fargo/Moorhead area, as well as national exposure on the syndicated blues and blues rock radio program Blues Deluxe. After winning the "Rumble At Renegades" battle of the bands at Renegades Bar & Grill in November 2006, they''ve found themselves regularly playing shows with local favorites Scarlet Haze, as well as making connections with like-minded hard rock acts like The Passion of Gordy. With manager Chris Ryding at the helm (considered a 6th "non-musical" member of the band), there''s nothing stopping Blacktop Badge from making its mark as the essential good old Minnesota hard rock band to check out.
The toast goes up, the beer fridge gets emptied, and they''re on their way.
Originally from a place called Chicagoland, ADAM "WHIZBANG" WHISNER has been playing electric blues and rock guitar for most of his life, listening closely to players like Angus and Malcolm Young and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Whizbang also has a talent for racking up speeding tickets.
DAVE "DINO" SCHERMERHORN spent his formative years on the frozen shores of North America''s greatest inland sea. As a teenager, he taught himself to play bass in the traditions of Stax and Chess. After a sit down chat with Tommy Shannon, Dino knew playing bass was all he wanted to do.
AARON "BIGGIE" BIGGAR is a Minneapolis native who has been beating the skins since the age of 10. Inspired by numerous drummers from the past, such as Buddy Rich and John Bonham, Biggie is happiest behind a drum kit, eating steak, or eating steak behind a drum kit.
Following in the footsteps of his father and brothers, music is AARON "MAC" MCMENAMY''s biggest passion. After the death of his older brother, the man he considers his personal hero,Mac made a promise to his brother''s band that he would sing his ass off until his dying day.
Born and raised in Minneapolis, CORY "CORY" JESOK spent the last 10 years cutting his teeth in local bands and recording projects. Jesok became obsessed with guitarists like Hendrix and Page at age 14 and hasn''t looked back since.
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