INTERVIEW: JOSH KISKA of GRETA VAN FLEET – May 2017

According to a recent press release: “”Highway Tune,” the debut track from Michigan’s Greta Van Fleet, is a tasty slab of rock’n’roll the way it was always meant to be – loaded with bravado and flair, a righteous attitude of defiance, of love, and a simultaneous kinship with alienation and belonging.  “Greta Van Fleet is the future of real Rock & Roll,” said Jason Flom, President of Lava Records, who personally signed the band.  “They’ve got the chops, the swagger and the songs to make their mark as the band of their generation.””  With upcoming tour dates with The Struts on the books, we grabbed a little time from singer Josh Kiska while he was driving to MI from a show in TN…

Toddstar: Well listen, I really appreciate you taking the time out. You’re kind of captive audience right now because you’re driving, but I appreciate you taking the time out for us.

Josh: Yes, thank you.

Toddstar: So, tell us about the latest release? You’ve got a killer EP that Greta Van Fleet is releasing – what can you tell us about this release? What kind of things might the fans find the second time through?

Josh: Well, I would have to say that Black Smoke Rising is kind of about the lessons of history and that man doesn’t always learn from the lessons of history, and that there’s tyrants in wars of ages past, and victims of blind hate. And I think, really, ultimately, there’s a unity in humanity, and that’s really the theme of that album, if you were to listen to it.

Toddstar: I’ve been lucky enough to listen to it and I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of Led Zeppelin, but I dig this even though there seems to be quite a bit of Led Zeppelin influence, especially in the vocals. But I also like that there’s like this more soulful groove underneath. How do you guys kind of blend those two different sounds and feels and come up with what you did?

Josh: Well, it’s a hugely eclectic bunch of influences involved in creating the elements that is Greta Van Fleet. Personally, I think Joe Cocker is one of my influences, and James Brown, and Sam and Dave. I really liked Motown and Funk, and soul, and that kind of that. That probably translates a little bit into what you were saying.

Toddstar: With that said, what kind of got you into music, Josh? What was that moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

Josh: I don’t think I ever had one of those moments. I think that that was just something that naturally happened, I never set out to do it. It wasn’t on the radar. I was a film maker and I loved theater, and I loved painting, and all of these things. One day I walked into the garage and ended up getting taken away into that whole thing. It just happened by itself, more or less, just an interest. It took flight and turned into something very real.

Toddstar: It’s definitely real. With that said, you mentioned Joe Cocker, who would you consider to be your main five musical influences?

Josh: Well, John Denver oddly enough is up there. I love the purity and power of his voice and I always have. I think he’s a majorly underrated artist. I never really was a rock and roll guy, really. I didn’t really start even listening to rock and roll until about five years ago when the band came into fruition, and I can’t say that I really am the rocker of the group to this moment either. But, yeah, John Denver, Joe Cocker probably because of his super power ability to convey emotion in his vocal, you know? Robert Plant. I really loved the power behind Sam and Dave. I mean, they were kicking Plant’s ass anyway, as far as I’m concerned. They were really hitting amazing power notes. And I love Wilson Picket, probably Wilson Picket would have to be up there.

Toddstar: That’s a good eclectic mix, that’s for sure.

Josh: I listen to about everything, you know. Unless it’s shit, then I don’t listen to it.

Toddstar: It makes for a well-rounded sound from you though. With all that said, if you could call on a collaborator to do a song with whether it was writing or singing, who would you want to pair up with Josh?

Josh: Oh, man. That’s a great question. I think there’s a lot of people. Probably George Harrison would be great. I loved his solo career, his work. I like the spiritual element about it.

Toddstar: Very cool. If you had to, and not to draw comparisons to you and any other band, but how would you describe the sound of Greta Van Fleet to someone who hadn’t heard you guys yet?

Josh: I’d probably say it’s eclectic, no doubt. They’re dealing with a lot of different elements in sound and tonality. And then it’s unique, in a great deal, to itself. It reminisces of a great, probably elder days of rock and roll, but reflects somehow on contemporary elements as well. Things that are newer in music.

Toddstar: Looking at what you do on a daily basis with recording and live and everything else, what do you feel is the best thing about being a musician?

Josh: Performing in front of an audience for sure. Sharing that sort of cosmic energy. The very visceral thing that you get feeding off of an audience, and an audience feeding off of you. You know, sharing stories, things like that.

Toddstar: In about three weeks or so, you’ve got a, we won’t call it a hometown show because you’re from Frankenmuth, but you guys have a show coming up at The World Famous Machine Shop in Flint, Michigan.

Josh: Yeah. We played The Machine Shop years ago when we were very young.

Toddstar: Is that something that when you guys saw or heard you that you thought, awesome, another shot at The Shop? What is it about a place like The Machine Shop that draws bands in?

Josh: Yeah. There’s something special about The Machine Shop, no doubt. When we first played there, it’s like you’re kind of mystified by a place like that. There’s a certain expectation that goes with performing there. And it’s an amazing venue, no doubt. The sound was probably the best I can remember. You know, you get a lot of bad sounds from time to time. But, yeah, it was a good place. Full of really good people too. I really liked that. And it was intimidating, no doubt, but it was a blast.

Toddstar: And now that you’re a little more road tested, maybe you’ll be able to go in and enjoy it a little bit more than the last time.

Josh: Yeah, no doubt, I think it’s going to be great. There’s amazing musicians that go in and out of those doors every day and to be able to play ball with the big boys is a great privilege, and a great honor, and a lot of fun.

Toddstar: Awesome. When you guys are hanging out and not on stage, but who does the cooking? Who does the drinking? Who’s the first to grab an acoustic guitar for a sing-along?

Josh: Well, Jake is a great fan of drinking and he is always on the guitar. That’s like something that’s almost an extension of his body, it’s connected to him. I love writing. I love reading. Everybody in the group does. We all have a sense of humor. We like to sort of shake up an environment as we go through it just to watch the reaction. Yeah, I’m extremely privileged to work with three genius, amazing people, and have a great team. I’m very lucky for that too.

Toddstar: That doesn’t hurt, for sure. You know, you mentioned you were on your way to some kind of a career with film, this was not a blip on the radar. So if you had to choose and you weren’t going to be a musician, what kind of career would you want?

Josh: I would be a filmmaker. I can’t say there’s anybody very specifically one director that I was always looking up to, but there might be sort of an ulterior thing about my films, because they could be stylized like Kubrick or Tarantino, or Olive Stone. I appreciated their films, no doubt. So, I don’t know, I’d probably be making film with a lot of elements in them like drama. Well, you know, that’s pretty much a film, you have to dramatize a situation. But, yeah, I would probably most definitely be a film maker.

Toddstar: Josh, looking back over your career, like you said, you’ve only been doing this a few years. But, you’ve been doing it a few years, you guys have some experiences under your belt. Is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep for you guys or that you guys would like to have a do over on?

Josh: No. I can’t say that there is to be honest with you. Everything seems like it happened for a reason very strangely enough. We definitely got to walk away from every experience with something knowledgeable, you know? Wiser for it, you know?

Toddstar: With everything else said and we’ve talked about some of your influences, we’ve talked about where you’ve drawn from, we’ve talked about you a little bit, but if you could magically go back in time and be part of the recording session of any one record in history what would you choose?

Josh: Howlin’ Wolf, definitely.

Toddstar: Wow that rolled right off without any hesitation.

Josh: Yeah, I am amazed by, I mean, really by a lot of those blues guys. Howlin’ Wolf is a huge influence for me I guess, really in a lot of ways but as a singer you know, I can’t say. I just think a lot of his energy is there on a lot of his tracks. It’s heavy. It’s amazing.

Toddstar: Did you try and bring some of that to the table when you guys were recording Black Smoke Rising?

Josh: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, yeah. It’s unique, the guitar player is a blues freak, you know? All of us have a lot of that influence. My father always played music when we were growing up and that was Booker T. and the M.G.’s. Sam & Dave or Wilson Pickett, you know that’s what we were listening to and he played a lot of blues stuff and that’s where Jake got into it. We learned from Hendrix which was a great part of the blues at that time and other artists like that, you know? Leadbelly and John Lee Hooker and all of those guys. Yeah, and I think Safari Song has a great feel of blues influence. It’s sort of like a little example of our great appreciation for that genre. Can’t have rock and roll without the blues man, you know?

Toddstar: That’s true. I was just going to say, just listening to the EP you can tell that you guys really wove your guys’ soul and influences into the music. It’s not caught in the eye, not every song is a regurgitation of the next. You guys actually put some thought and some heart into the music. Well listen man, we wish you the best. Safe travels today, we know you’re on the road today. Safe travels, be careful out there. We can’t wait to see you hitting the road with The Struts here in May and especially when you hit The Machine Shop in Flint, Michigan just down a stretch from where you’re at in Frankenmuth.

Josh: Yeah, really, yeah. Very much appreciate it.

Toddstar: No problem, man. Again, be safe and hopefully we’ll see you up at The Machine Shop.

Josh: Absolutely.

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INTERVIEW: JOSH KISKA of GRETA VAN FLEET - May 2017

Filed Under: Interviews

About the Author: ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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