By ERIC SCHELKOPF
After taking a four-year musical hiatus, Chicago musician Frank "Bang" Blinkal - he now goes by the stage name Frank Bang - is busier than ever these days.
Bang, www.frankbang.net, has been touring with Otis Taylor on his European tour. Bang and his band The Secret Stash also recently released a new album, "Double Dare."
Bang on July 20, he will perform in front of a hometown crowd when he plays as part of the all-day Vans Warped Tour at First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, 19100 S. Ridgeland Ave., Tinley Park.
Tickets are $47.50, available at www.livenation.com.
Bang's blues roots are deep. He was once a member of Buddy Guy's band, giving him the opportunity to play alongside other musical legends like Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton and Robert Plant.
I had the chance to talk to Bang about his illustrious career and his current activities.
Q - How is the tour going with Otis Taylor?
Well, Otis and his entire band are great musicians and his sense of family, (which carries over from Cassie his daughter being in past bands), is overwhelming. He is teaching me a lot about the core, the family on the road.
Which I am not new to, just more in tune with now, after 13 years of being a father myself. Show wise, his style is so different. I am having a great time as a musician.
It is a beautiful and powerful show. I saw a man in Lithuania so happy he was holding back tears, till the joy overwhelmed him and he started to cry. Powerful stuff.
Q - How do the audiences compare with those in the United States?
I am a music lover first then a musician. In the states, music lovers are the minority. Overseas, people really celebrate the arts.
So as a musician, it's truly a joy. I know the travel can be hard, but I just try to embrace it and enjoy the ride.
Q - Was it strange celebrating 4th of July in Lithuania?
Well, you know that old song, if ya can't be with the one you love, love the one your with.
The folks in Lithuania took us on the Fourth of July to a Lithuania /American 4th of July party. And while the fireworks were a little different, I couldn't help but appreciate our freedom in the states, while being in a country that's only enjoyed its independence from Russia for a couple decades.
A great culture that I'm so glad I got to experience.
Q - It's a busy month for you. You will be playing in Tinley Park July 20 as part of the Vans Warped Tour. That festival is typically associated with punk bands. Do you think it will be hard to connect with concert goers?
We are the punks on the Warped Tour. I'm just gonna bring it hard like we do every night.
I really want the Secret Stash to grow. We could play a different set each night.
So I dig being on shows/tours where we are the different act. And I'm here to tell ya, we can bring it as hard as anybody.
Q - It's also been a busy year for you. "Double Dare" was released in May after you recorded it in 2009. Was this just the right time to release the album? What were your goals for the album and do you think you accomplished them?
I'm a big believer in that everything happens for a reason. And so the timing of "Double Dare" coming out now works for me. I told everyone who asked me when I going to start playing again that I would once I found the right manager, booking agent, etc.
And I did, and technically I'm starting over after four years off, so it's all good. I am a little blown away that every song on the record has gotten airplay.
Eleven songs were liked enough by radio to be selected by the station and played. I mean, who does that? That was something I never dreamed of.
My goals were to start my career over the right way, and I think we are doing that, so yeah mission accomplished, now let's keep getting better at everything and get ready for the ride.
Q - I understand that you were considering hanging it up as a musician after recording the album. What made you change your mind? Do you view "Double Dare" as a comeback album?
Q - What changed my mind was my oldest son, who grew up with his dad the musician, and folks who reached out to me to let me know my music helped them.
Once a couple folks made connections like that with me, it was on. And yes I do consider it a comeback , even thought I was home all the time, and I didn't really go anywhere but home.
I needed to empty the cup of 20 odd years of being on the road. Now I am so grateful to be back doing what I love to do
Q - Of course, you have a deep connection with Buddy Guy. You started out as a doorman at Buddy Guy's Legends, and would play together after hours at the club with Wayne Baker Brooks. What were those days like and what did you learn from the musicians that graced the stage at Buddy Guy's?
I smile the biggest smile whenever I think of the good ole days at Legends, even when a couple of guys who took over for me and my brother kind of black balled me in a weird twisted way.
When they got fired, I started hanging round again, and I'm glad I did. The stuff I learned from the musicians I met is so ingrained in me.
I could write a book just about the old place and the wonderful folks who took me under their wing, if you will. So many great memories , I was made into who I am because of the old 754 S. Wabash club
Playing with Buddy Guy was my dream job, and I would still be there if I could of been. I just loved it so much.
Q - What was your reaction when Buddy Guy asked you to join his band? What did you learn from the experience, and playing alongside Guy and other legends like Carlos Santana?
What can I say about Buddy? He is my musical father, even helped me learn how to be a dad, brother, etc. and be a musician.
Playing with Carlos Santana a couple times was by far my favorite Buddy Guy experience. I had to pick him up off the floor when he started bowing to me.
I was like, there is NO WAY CARLOS SANTANA is allowed to bow to me. He hung with us a couple times and he is a true beauty, playing and talking to Robert Plant about how we were to get a hold of Hubert Sumlin.
I mean ya can't make this stuff up, and it was like that all the time in Buddy's band.
Q - Where do you see yourself fitting into the blues scene? What other artists out there, blues or otherwise, are you listening to these days?
Well Eric, I honestly don't think of me and my band as blues. I personally think I play music that comes from the blues, but I feel I'm a blues rocker maybe, without the 10 minute guitar solos.
When we get lucky enough to play on those kind of shows, it's the same mind frame as playing Warped Tour, we're gonna bring it hard.
Johnny Winter's manager, Paul Nelson, told me Johnny liked us because our band brings it hard every night like folks did it in the old days.
As far as what I'm listening too, well I'm digging deep into Otis Taylor, which is awesome because I really dig his diversity.
I love the new CD by Jason Isbell and the new Ryan Bingham.
I can't enough of the new ZZ Top and Dale Watson albums, and that Willie Nelson disc, "Heroes," is freaking amazing and his son, wow.
I'm also really digging the New Ben Harper/Charlie Musselwhite disc and we would have killed with them on a double bill.
Someday I will make a blues record. It's something I really want to do, with the right guys and the right songs.
Q - Are you working on new music? When can people expect a new album? Do you have any dream collaborations?
I am always writing. For me it's a constant, like a painter looking at the fine details of the world around him before he sits down and puts his vision to canvas.
I have a lot of songs, and have even been playing one or two of them on acoustic from time to time at our shows. I want to keep finding more Daniel Johnston songs to do.
I love having my own label. It's probably not the smartest thing to do, financially, but it does allow me to do whatever I want to do.
I also love working with my producer Manny Sanchez, so we will be doing more of that in the future.
If I could do any collaborations, my god the list would go on forever, but let's see...Warren Haynes, Larry McCray, Ben Harper, Dale Watson, Willie Nelson.
I really would love to be produced by Warren someday, as well as produced by Doyle Bramhall II.
Q - What are your short-term and long-term goals?
My short term goals are to be back playing to people every night, and making connections with music lovers.
My long term goals are to watch my kids grow up and be with my lovely woman, for the rest of my life, while carving out a place for me in this crazy world of music