INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS BIERSACK BY JEREMY SAFFER
PHOTOS COURTESY OF CHRIS BIERSACK
For Father’s Day we spoke with Black Veil Brides’ first tour manager, merch manager, lighting director, driver, roadie, and so much more… Andy’s father Chris Biersack. With a daily active online presence of support for Andy, we had to find out more about the history of Chris and Andy’s incredible father son bond. From growing up coached by his father in hockey, being told he can’t sing by his vocal teachers, where Andy found the drive, determination, and support that helped lead him to where he is today, and, of course, some incredible stories and amazing advice we can all take to heart. Andy also left a little surprise for his dad at the end of this interview.
What first got you into music?
The bands I liked when I was a kid were mostly hard rock bands. I was one of those kids who loved to sing. I was in choirs and as a natural progression, I started playing some instruments, too. I’m 56-years-old, so probably most of my interest in music came from singing at school or singing in the church choir. My dad was a cantor, which was the lead singer in our church choir. I used to go and watch him sing all the time, and I thought he was fantastic. And that’s really what first got me into music. My path took me to rock ‘n’ roll and being in rock bands and punk bands.
What are some of the bands you grew up listening to?
Originally, I was drawn to bands like Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones. Kiss was a huge thing that just blew up to me, and I was like, “Oh my god! I’ve never seen anything like this.” I wouldn’t say they were similar to some of the other 70s bands musically, but visually they were completely different than anything that I had ever seen, and when you’re a kid, there are a lot of things that appeal to you. The visual aesthetic is important and especially at a certain age when you start to discover rock magazines and you start to see pictures of these larger than life characters, that has a big impact on you. Ultimately, I reached a certain age and that was about the time that punk rock, particularly the classic rock in both America and England, particularly England when you had bands like The Sex Pistols, The Clash, and The Damned. Here in the United States you had The Dead Boys. I liked the Irish band Stiff Little Fingers. There were a lot of bands in the punk movement that I really enjoyed.
What were some of the bands or some of the music playing in the house as Andy was growing up?
When he was a kid, there was probably a lot of Kiss. He found my Kiss trading cards when he was a little kid. I had all kinds of collectables, and he discovered this box of baseball, football, and basketball cards, but there was also Kiss cards in there and he absolutely loved them. So, we would play the Kiss albums for him. I remember one Halloween, around the time he was starting to get more interested in music, Kiss came out with this acoustic performance that they did for MTV. The night that they showed that was Halloween night of 95, and Andy was a little trick or treater. We came in the house and he kind of knew about Kiss, and then we sat down and watched the acoustic show and shortly after they made an announcement that they were going to put the makeup back on and they were going to go back out. That was probably a lot of the music that he heard growing up. He heard the punk rock music that I had, he heard a lot of Pistol’s and bands like Lords of the New Church, which was kind of a punk supergroup. They had guys from The Damned—Brian James from The Damned was in that band. They had Stiv Bators from The Dead Boys. They were kind of an amalgam of different bands I liked. They had a rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic. The look was much more theatrical than most of the punk rock bands. They had keyboards, they were good players, and they all came from some of the most classic punk bands of all-time, particularly The Damned and The Dead Boys.
“Every single day I would ask him, ‘What did you do today to make your dream come true?’ It might be something as simple as, ‘I drew a stage set design, it’s something I want to do for my band,’ or, ‘I drew costume ideas,’ or, ‘I learned how to play this song,’ or, ‘I put a flyer up at the music store looking for bandmates.’ It didn’t matter what it was but it was always going to be something he did every day working toward his dreams.”
Was Andy musically inclined at a young age?
He liked to sing from as far back as I can remember. That was something that we used to always say that Andy had. You know how people have their self-awareness? Sometimes to a crippling level, where they know that people are watching them and that kind of makes them sheepish about stepping up and stepping out? Andy never had that. To him, there would be no reason why you wouldn’t wanna watch him perform, and that was a blessing for him when he started and he wasn’t that good of singer yet. He would tell you to this day he’s not a good singer. I think that he’s improved a lot, and I think he’s his own harshest critic, which is a good thing for him because it’s made him want to improve. You talk about people like David Johansen from the New York Dolls, Mick Jagger, and Bruce Springsteen, they weren’t the greatest singers either, but they were incredible storytellers and they had charisma and personality. Somebody probably told all of those guys along the way, “You can’t sing,” and maybe if they went to a vocal coach in a music school they might be told the same thing Andy was told, which was, “You can’t sing.” But they kept at it, and so did Andy. I think this was born out of our family. What we all believe is, “Yeah, a lot of people are going to tell you that you stink” And I’m being nice about the words. There were other words people would say, but you’ve got to persevere, and if you want something bad enough, you’ll continue to move forward with it. We had this thing when Andy was a kid and first started in music. He was a young kid, maybe 13 or 14 and was just learning how to play guitar. He was always saying how he needed a band and this and that, so he would practice every day. People have seen the videos of him at home practicing. They are out there. We had this thing where every day I would come home and ask him, “What did you do today to make your dream come true?” And it was almost like a little joke, but it was also true to what he was trying to do. It became like his mantra. Every single day I would ask him, “What did you do today to make your dream come true?” It might be something as simple as, “I drew a stage set design. It’s something I want to do for my band,” or, “I drew costume ideas,” or, “I learned how to play this song,” or, “I put a flyer up at the music store looking for bandmates.” It didn’t matter what it was, but it was always going to be something he did every day working toward his dreams. Then when social media hit and you had MySpace, which is what he utilized, he was able to use that on a pretty regular basis to promote his brand. He was able to promote it well enough that by the time he actually made a legitimate music video, the “Knives and Pens” video, there was an audience for it and it became a viral sensation that actually drew record labels to a band that really didn’t even exist at that time.
“Andy went though an audition the very first day at the school, and he didn’t have anything prepared so he sang ‘Dig Up Her Bones’ from The Misfits”
Music aside, Andy was also into acting at a really early age wasn’t he?
Yes. He went to this school for performing arts and he always wanted to act in plays when he was in junior high and even earlier, but he went to a catholic school and they either had plays he wasn’t allowed to be in because he wasn’t “catholic school material” or somehow, someway his interests, his ambitions, his wanting to be the center of attention was off-putting to some of the theater teachers in middle school, so they wouldn’t let him do it. He went to this high school that was literally for kids who had auditioned to get in. It’s the second highest rated performing arts high school in the country. But this school, Cincinnati School for Creative and Performing Arts is known to churn out a lot of Broadway and musical theater type of folks. Andy went through an audition the very first day at the school, and he didn’t have anything prepared so he sang “Dig Up Her Bones” from The Misfits. The director had a ton of people that wanted to be in his shows because SCPA shows are actually very well known and respected here in Cincinnati. A lot of people go to them and they don’t look at it as a high school show. The director picked Andy to be the lead in Harvey, which was the production they were doing at that time, and he played the Jimmy Stewart role, but I can’t remember the name of the character. It was funny because he didn’t really go there for acting. When he went to that school, he wanted to learn to play instruments better, write his own songs, and he wanted to be a singer. Obviously, singing was his interest, but when he auditioned for the vocal program they wouldn’t take him because they said he couldn’t sing.
“Obviously singing was his interest but when he auditioned for the vocal program they wouldn’t take him because they said he couldn’t sing.”
And look at him now.
Yeah, we laugh about it now. Andy is a very humble person when it comes to his voice, but we’ve never thought that Andy was going to be an opera singer and we never thought that he was significantly better than a lot of people that go on these talent driven TV shows or whatever you want to call them. We never really thought he was the best singer, but we also knew that Andy had a certain charisma. There is something about him that always made people want to watch him even at a very young age. If he’s given a chance and people get to see him, whether it’s in music or as an actor doing a movie or doing a TV show or any path that he’s on, he draws people in because there’s something about him that is hard to define, but you know it when you see it. I remember John Feldmann told me the first time I ever met him, he said “The first time I ever saw Andy, we were at The Whisky and he came walking out of his dressing room heading toward the stage and I was like, ‘Oh, my god, that’s a rock star.” That’s the same thing Dee Snider said when he first met Andy and he saw him backstage at Bamboozle in New Jersey, this big outdoor festival. I’ve talked to Dee a number of times since then, and he said to me, “I know what a rock star looks like, and as soon as I saw Andy, I was like, ‘Oh, my god, it’s that.” It’s all been fun to know that the guys Andy watched videos of and admired like Dee and Sebastian Bach and later on guys like Matt Skiba from Alkaline Trio, Nikki Sixx, Paul Stanley… and I hate to name drop all this stuff, but these are guys that Andy absolutely admired. He had their photos and posters on his wall and every single one of these guys has been so complimentary to him. Alice Cooper, too! He has been so complimentary and so nice to Andy. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact Andy is easy to like. He is an easygoing person. He’s a recluse, if you will. He’s not an outgoing person by nature but he’s a genuine person.
“I used to sit in my car in a parking lot outside of an alley keeping my eye on my 13 or 14-year-old son while he stood outside of a bus trying to meet his favorite rock stars after shows. But that was something I thought was important for him.”
Do you remember what the first concerts he attended were, and did you go to shows with him often when he was younger?
I can tell you the first show he ever saw was Billy Idol at an outdoor amusement park amphitheater called Timber Wolves in Cincinnati in Kings Island. It was the first concert that he ever went to. That was a good first concert for him because he loves Billy Idol still to this day. Ultimately, he saw what we call the “shed bands,” the bands that play in the big arenas like Kiss, Aerosmith, etc. He wound up going to theaters and going to see bands like Danzig and Marilyn Manson. At clubs, he always wanted to stay after and meet the bands. Now they have VIP, and you pay $100 and you get into the venue early and you get a guaranteed spot, meet the band, take a picture with you, first in like for merch, maybe you get limited edition merch. Whatever the equivalent to $100 is… I would have paid that any day of the week back then for him. I used to sit in my car in a parking lot outside in an alley keeping my eye on my 13 or 14-year-old son while he stood outside of a bus trying to meet his favorite rock stars after shows. But that was something I thought was important for him. I thought that it was important that there was a lot of things that we did together. I coached a lot of his sports teams. He played travel hockey for a number of years. He was a really good goalie, but he and I knew that hockey was not going to be his passion moving forward. I remember when he quit playing hockey, and the coaches would say, “What? Are you kidding me? This kid could get a college scholarship!” This was right around high school, and he actually got an offer from a local high school to be the goalie and they were going to pay for him. It wasn’t a full tuition, but they were going to pay for part of his tuition if he went to that school, but Andy just walked away from it and said, “No. I want to start a band.” And I think a lot of people tried to stop him, saying it was nuts. They kind of thought I was nuts because I helped coach the team, so I was involved with the team, but I just knew, Amy [Andy’s mom] and I knew that’s what he wanted to do and that’s what he was going to do. When you’re a kid you can’t be in a rock band… well, you could be, but who’s going to take you seriously? You have to have a certain look, a certain image. The School of Creative and Performing Arts brought talent agents in, and these talent agents would see your kid. Then they would try to recruit them to go to Hollywood to audition for commercials and TV pilots, which Andy did. I remember Andy and I met with the agencies that were interested in him, when he was a kid, and they were all pitching him on the idea of Disney and Nickelodeon shows. I told them at that time that I know that he could do some of those things right now, but you could stick this kid in front of a backing band right now at the age of 14 or 15, he would get onstage, and it would be legitimate. They were looking at me like, “What are you talking about?” And I said, “I’m not trying to be negative about what you guys think he should do, but I know where his heart is.”
When he was growing up and starting to do all of this music and acting, did you two ever butt heads on anything? Did he ever get in trouble or grounded for anything?
Well, you know I’m not an easy mark. I won’t say I’m a disciplinarian, but I was pretty strict with Andy on a lot of things, and it was because I coached his sports teams and everything else. We didn’t really have loose interpretations of the rules. My job by nature is just that. I’m the labor relations manager for a major county, and I’m in charge of employee disciplinary matters, including the suspensions and removals for people who aren’t following the rules and policies of the employers that they work for. So, I’m not really the kind of person that allows for a lot of things, but that just wasn’t Andy’s personality. He wasn’t an instigator. He wasn’t somebody who needed to push back or test the waters. He was a very quiet kid and he was looking for other people who he could connect with, which was very difficult for him. He was much more of a loner for the vast majority of his childhood, so we don’t really have any of those crazy stories about “this one time he did this or this one time he did that.” That didn’t really exist. Andy was a good kid, a really good kid, and I wish I had some crazy stories to share with you, but I don’t. In that respect, I’m happy that I don’t. The only stories aren’t really trouble. When he got to be a teenager and he started dating, there were a couple of girls that he liked and he didn’t want them to know that mom and dad dropped him off so he would have us drop him off two blocks away from where they were meeting and then he would want us to come pick him up later at night, but it’s hard to do that when you don’t know where the person actually lives. We didn’t have cell phones in those days, so it was very difficult to coordinate all of that stuff, at least he didn’t have a cell phone. I don’t think I had a flip phone until the very early 2000s.
Do you remember what his first public performance was like?
Yes. He did some plays, which was really incredible to watch how excited he was, that he was as good as he was. His first show as a band he played in a place called The Artists Warehouse in Cincinnati. We booked the venue and we got a bunch of local bands to play. Some of the bands were fairly well known in Cincinnati at the time, and the plan was for Andy’s band, which was called Biersack—really creative name, but that was the name we came up with and we went with—to play either first or second and have these older bands finish the bill out. But there were so many people that came to see Andy from his school and from MySpace that we packed up The Artist Warehouse so the other bands agreed that Andy and his band should play last and headline. It was really fun. It was his first time playing a show, and the band wasn’t very good, but it was more fun just to see the process, getting ready for it, how that whole thing came together, and how it turned out, which was a lot of people showed and Andy got to do his thing in front of a lot of folks. I still go by that Artist Warehouse every once in awhile cause it’s relatively close to where Andy and I live.
How did you feel seeing him perform live in front of an audience?
I felt like it was inevitable. It wasn’t like Andy put a band together and boom that was it. This guy said he wanted to be in the band, and they would rehearse in our garage for x amount of time, and then that guy would drop out and we would have to get somebody else in there. So to see him with a full band, a guitarist, a bass player, and a drummer along with himself finally getting an opportunity at the age of 16 to do that… I know that sounds weird to people, but if you start doing this when you’re 12 or 13 and you’re constantly trying to make it happen, when you finally get to do it, that’s everything. It was a lot of fun for Andy and I. We just kind of felt like the more Andy would do these things, the bigger this would get for him because that’s how driven he was. Not just driven in the musical standpoint but driven from every other angle of it, from promoting it and letting people know about it and making sure that his vision was shared by everybody in the band to the point Andy would dress his bandmates. He would have clothing for them that he would want them to wear and he would help them with their makeup. Some of these guys had never put makeup on before, and he came up with the original stage props that the band would use for a year or two. He understood all of that other stuff that goes into a band, even at a really young age, that these things would be interesting to people visually. Ultimately, when you’re a kid in a young band, you’re never going to be that good when you first start. You’re playing Social Distortion songs and you’re playing punk, trying your best to sound as good as you can as a kid, but what can set you apart is a certain visual aesthetic or something that is exciting for people to go see. And Andy has always had that in spades from the very beginning.
And that’s probably taken a bit from growing up on Kiss.
Yeah, it had a lot to do with it. He was a big fan of Mötley Crüe, but he was also a fan of Lords of the New Church, he was a big fan of The Damned, he was a big fan of The Misfits, particularly the Michale Graves era Misfits. He loved them. He had posters of The Graves era Misfits lineup all over his wall with Doyle, Jerry, and Robo. Ultimately, that was another group of people, Jerry in particular, that became good friends with Andy. People are inclined to want to befriend you and work with you or do things with you if you’re a genuine person and good on your word. You don’t have to be the life of the party, which Andy certainly isn’t. You don’t need to be the funniest guy in the room, but when you say you’re going to do something, you need to do it. I’ll give you a good example of that with Andy. We were on the very first tour Black Veil ever did, and they had a show at the famous Whiskey A Go Go in Los Angeles. Their very first show at The Whiskey was a part of this tour. It was the back end of the tour and it was going to be The Whiskey in LA and Chain Reaction in Anaheim as the last two shows of the tour. They had played a show in I think it was Albuquerque and were going to Flagstaff. I don’t know if you know much about Flagstaff, but it’s not a major market. There was a major snow storm and everybody was debating cancelling the Flagstaff show, the bandmates in particular wanted to cancel. Andy was 18 at the time, and they were just saying, “We should just bag this one and head straight to LA, because LA is the big show and we’re playing The Whiskey and it’s our first time playing The Whiskey.” Andy at the age of 18 stood up and was like, “No. We made a commitment. We have to go. We have to play.” And we did, probably about 20 kids total showed up. They sold The Whiskey out the next night in LA, but we had to drive straight up through the night from Flagstaff to get to Los Angeles, but that just shows you what Andy was made up of. Even at 18, he was convincing his band members to abide by their commitments.
“I was driving the U-Hauls and the vans to the shows, I was onstage during the set and doing the lights and the fog machine, I was selling the merch, you know, whatever I could do. I was even collecting the payment from the venue, all of that that was my role.”
As Black Veil started touring, getting signed, and doing more, how did you feel? Did you have any concerns?
No, I was really happy. I got Andy and the band to a certain point as far as I could possibly take them. That was me being involved in every capacity of the band when he was in Cincinnati. I was driving the U-Hauls and the vans to the shows, I was onstage during the set and doing the lights and the fog machine, I was selling the merch, you know, whatever I could do. I was even collecting the payment from the venue, all of that that was my role. When he got to LA and he had an opportunity to meet with Blasko and then he had legitimate management, that was beautiful and I was ecstatic. Blasko’s been around for a long time especially with his affiliation with Ozzy Osbourne as his bass player, and I just felt like that Blasko was a good older brother scenario for Andy that Andy never had. I think not only did Blasko help Andy and Black Veil as far as their career, but I just think he’s a good person for Andy to have been around in Andy’s formative years as an adult because he’s been a good role model for Andy. It’s one thing to have your role model be your dad, but when you have somebody you are working with directly day after day who’s not in your family that you have to put trust in, and the guy turns out to be a good person in addition to helping you with your career, that’s something that you wish for, you hope for, but in the music business that doesn’t always happen. It’s pretty rare. There are a lot of people in the industry who will steer you down the wrong path and then drop you and let you go. Then there are a lot of people that only care about the money and they might lead you on the right path, but there’s no personal relationship. Andy’s relationship with Blasko is really special. We owe a lot to Blasko.
“Be a warrior!”
During the hard times, of which there are many in the music world, how did you support and encourage Andy? Were there any words of encouragement you can remember giving him?
One of the things that we’ve always talked about is the ability to focus on the positives as much as possible. There was a period of time when Andy was growing as an adult when I didn’t have any direct contact too often. We do have a close relationship, but he was touring 200 days a year or more and he’s out on the road with guys, some were more than 10 years his senior as an 18 or 19-year-old. This is his first taste of being an adult, so he was trying to live up to an image and he was trying to prove that he was this rock ‘n’ roll, larger than life, character. You have to bring yourself back to who you really are so you can be a complete person. So one of the things that we would talk about is not to get lost in the idea of a rock star, don’t get too egotistical because people are praising your album and you’re on magazine covers and you are doing a variety of things that you’ve always dreamed of doing, but also don’t get too hard on yourself when people say things on social media about you that are completely and totally without any validity to what they are saying. People make up stories and say things, and those people don’t feel like there is a human being at the other end reading it. So those are the kind of things that I would always tell him, but the main thing was I would always say to him and I’ve said this since he was a little kid, “Be a warrior!” Which was my way of saying never feel sorry for yourself. I think that stemmed out of him playing hockey when he was a goalie, because if you don’t have the mentality of being a warrior, you don’t have the mentality for the next step or phase of your life. Moving forward is going to be something better than dwelling on, in that case, goals that went in the net, or something bad that happened that day. You just have to focus and stop the next puck. That’s all you’ve got to do. But even with that advice, Andy is so driven. He doesn’t want to look back. He doesn’t sit around the room looking at 100 magazine covers he’s been on or his awards he’s won. He just keeps making things, albums, comic books, movies, TV shows, books.
“Not bad for a kid who dropped out of high school before he graduated.”
What are some of your proudest moments in Andy’s career so far?
I would say the first time Andy was on the cover of AP magazine, because he grew up as a kid reading it. When he was on the cover of Kerrang! it was really cool because they had just gone to the UK for the first time. They opened on tour with Wednesday 13 and Murderdolls, who Andy was a fan of growing up. The British press just fell in love with them, and the reviews that they got on that tour were crazy. Seeing him headline Warped Tour many times was a big thing for both of us because I used to take Andy to Warped shows when he was a kid and he went to meet the bands. That was one of the things I always wanted to do with him, meeting the bands. Like when we went to Warped Tour in particular because bands were so accessible. He was, I wouldn’t say a shy kid, but he wasn’t that outgoing. I would have him talk to these guys in these bands. I remember Matt Heafy of Trivium was one of the bands he talked to, and I just wanted Andy to understand that they were just guys that busted their butts and they were willing to pay the price. They aren’t gods who came down on chariots from high to become who they are. They are just guys like any one of us and they never gave up. They wanted something and they went for it, and that’s how you get what you want. You have to keep going for it, even when people say you aren’t any good. Obviously, it was nice to be there in LA when they got their gold record this past fall. That was a big achievement for a band that doesn’t get any radio airplay. He’s sold millions of records and he’s never had a song that’s had commercial airplay on radio in the United States. A 10 year career, he’s had seven albums and all of them have charted on Billboard, he’s won a dozen different awards at rock ‘n’ roll award ceremonies over the years between his band and himself. I think probably the proudest that I ever was of Andy was when he hosted the Alternative Press Music Awards. I think that showed people a completely different side of Andy that they had never seen before. Most people know him as the crazy guy up on stage who is yelling at people and over-the-top, but that’s really not the Andy we know. The Andy we know is the guy who’s got a funny sense of humor, who loves to talk sports to anyone you can imagine. He was just on the Rich Eisen show not too long ago, and this pretty much happens any time Andy is on any kind of radio or TV show. If it’s a sports related show, they will love him. They love him to the point that WEBN in Cincinnati asked him to do a little thing about the Bengals last year when Andy came into town. They interviewed him and loved him so much, they asked him to do the pregame shows for all of the road games for the rest of the year. Andy is a very well rounded person, not bad for a kid who dropped out of high school before he graduated.
What are your favorite Black Veil Brides or Andy Black songs?
Black Veil songs I really love, “I Am Bulletproof” from Wretched and Divine, that’s the opening song. They used to play that song as their opener for several tours. I always thought that was a fantastic song. Clearly “In The End” is going to be a favorite just because of the fact it is their biggest hit and it their gold record that they have, so I’m really happy that that record got them a certified gold, which bands in this day and age it isn’t easy to get gold. You have to sell a lot of records and people know those albums and if you look at YouTube videos you’d see that “Knives and Pens” has 120 million views, which by the way is not accurate. It’s pretty close to 200 million views because Stand By Records had a separate YouTube channel for a number of years until ultimately they had to take it down, but they were competing one video against the other. If you took those two videos and combined them, it’s well over 200 million views for that music video alone. So, “Knives and Pens,” that’s really what started it, so I guess that would be a song I really love. More recently I’d say Vale had some really good songs, and I think that album is often underrated because it didn’t have the fanfare, it didn’t have a hit single or anything like that, but I would say “The Last One” is an unbelievably good song. I love that song. As far as ballads, I think “When They Call My Name” from that album was probably one of their best ballads that they’ve ever written. As far as Andy Black’s concerned, well, “We Don’t Have To Dance” is clearly a favorite. “Ribcage” from The Shadow Side is a song I’ve always liked from when I first heard it. I was lucky enough to be able to hear all of the songs way before anybody else does. Andy sends not only his demos, but while a song is being mixed, then the final mix he also sends to us to listen to in advance, so that’s always nice. I’d say the other one is “Louder Than Your Love,” and I love that song just because I know Andy wrote it with somebody who was a hero of his. I think it’s a great song, and that was with Gerard Way from My Chemical Romance. He and Andy wrote that song together. As far as Ghost of Ohio, I would have to say “The Promise” and I love that song because I know that Andy’s Bruce Springsteen influences had never really shown particularly when it comes to Black Veil, but he’s a big fan of Bruce Springsteen. He probably listened to him just as much as anybody else, and I love that song because that and “The Wind & The Spark” both have an E Street Band vibe and then Andy’s buddy JR from Less Than Jake plays the saxophone at the end. I love it. So that, and I’m listening to “Heroes We Were” and “Know One” are the two others I probably put on repeat the most.
“Ultimately you mean more than just your music. You mean good memories for people; you mean something that they can look back on that strengthened them as individuals. For all of us those are the kinds of memories that mean something to us and maybe Andy’s music is that for some people in their lives.”
You are very active socially, replying to fans almost full time. I think you might be the most supportive parent in the entire industry. What made you decide to stay so involved and stay so active with Andy’s career?
I do it as a way to acknowledge the fans, to acknowledge the kids. I remember when Andy was a kid and he used to write his favorite bands and for whatever reason he never got a response from anyone. I’m not going to say he was losing his mind or sitting in a corner crying or anything, but to a kid that can be a huge thing for them to get acknowledged by their favorite people. What Andy and I started doing when Andy moved to LA and was trying to take it to a more national level was, we started responding to all the letters that would be sent to Andy and all the emails from the time he was 17 18 years old. I started responding to everybody that said something positive about him or about each other. I don’t know if you’ve noticed in social media a lot of times I try to establish with the fans that they can support one another. Kids often times say they feel that nobody else understands them or nobody wants to go see this band they love or they don’t know anybody in my city or my town who likes this band so they don’t want to go to the show or whatever. We try to encourage kids to use social media to support each other and then often times these kids will end up going to shows and they meet other kids they’ve talked to or that they’ve communicated with via Twitter or Instagram or whatever and they actually become this own little community of friends and they feel very close to each other. They may live in other cities and only see each other once in a blue moon but they feel very close to one another and it doesn’t just stem around worshiping the rock guy or a band it’s all about other things they do in their life. Not everybody can be in a band but everybody can be kind and try to be supportive of other people. If that’s what your band and your message is based upon ultimately you mean more than just your music. You mean good memories for people; you mean something that they can look back on that strengthened them as individuals. For all of us those are the kinds of memories that mean something to us and maybe Andy’s music is that for some people in their lives.
“Trust me, Andy doesn’t need anybody to fight his battles for him.”
What were some of the most difficult moments you’ve had to deal with because of his career?
Andy has had injuries on tour and as a parent you really worry. When he shattered his ribs in a fall right before the Set the World on Fire album came out. That was really scary. Amy had to fly out to be with him in the hospital. He’s been on tour where he’s had physical ailments that required him to get medication that would have knocked an elephant out, but they had to play shows. I’d say the hardest thing, and it’s not really that hard, but it’s dealing with the people on social media. Social media is full of people that are so starved for attention that they will literally say the most insane things just so somebody says anything to them. “You’re an idiot, you’re an asshole,” whatever it is. That’s where they get their value. I know it sounds weird, but to them they are getting attention and that’s all that matters, even negative attention. When you see things on social media that are just heinous, as far as someone saying something that I wouldn’t say to anyone about anyone, it’s difficult not to respond to them. I’ve learned not to respond, but I wasn’t good at that at the beginning. There was a certain period of time way back when I would see things and I would call some people out and say, “Why would you say that? What kind of a world are we living in where you think that that’s okay?” What happens is that gets turned on the person who is trying to be civil. That gets turned into, “Oh, look at Andy’s dad fighting his battles for him,” which, trust me, Andy doesn’t need anybody to fight his battles for him. I tell people all the time when someone says, “Oh, I could kick his ass,” I’d be like, “You’d be surprised, that kid could fight.” He played hockey for all those years and he played other sports, particularly football, and he wouldn’t walk away from it as someone who was willing to have a little conflict every once in awhile. That’s not in his DNA. We aren’t known to be wallflowers in this family.
“Going to Warped Tour with him standing out in 100 degree heat when he was 13, 14, and making sure there was somebody who could get to him if he needed something but who stayed out of the way so they wouldn’t embarrass him in front of these other kids… it means a lot”
If you could give any advice to any kid who has a disapproving parent who doesn’t support their dreams of becoming any sort of artist, what would you say to that kid?
I would say you have to find a champion somewhere but it doesn’t always have to be your parents. It’s nice when it’s a family member; it’s nice when it’s a parent. I wish more parents would be supportive of their kid’s dreams and let their kids find their own happiness and be supportive, doing everything you possibly can to help them. Ultimately the best stories that we as parents could have can stem from the events that we shared with our kid. I have a history with my son that’s based upon me doing things that probably in many instances wasn’t what I wanted to do at 12 o’clock at night. Sitting in an alley in the car waiting for my son to potentially get to meet the guys from Alkaline Trio or Rancid or Dropkick Murphy’s or whomever he was going to see. But I can tell you that meant a lot to Andy. Going to Warped Tour with him standing out in 100 degree heat when he was 13, 14, and making sure there was somebody who could get to him if he needed something but who stayed out of the way so they wouldn’t embarrass him in front of these other kids… it means a lot to him. So just put yourself out there that’s what I would say to a parent. As far as a kid is concerned I would say that if you don’t have somebody like that in your life, find somebody, one person who believes in you and focus on that. Don’t focus on anything else. As long as you have one person who believes in you and that you can do this, you can do it. You just have to want it bad enough that no matter what your parents say or if some friend or anyone else says your can’t do it, keep going. Andy came from Delhi, Ohio, which is a tiny little neighborhood in western hills Cincinnati that never put out a rock star in the history of the city. It never occurred to Andy as a kid that you couldn’t become what you wanted to be if you wanted it bad enough. If more kids thought that way they would be better off. Not just in a musical stand point, not just athletics or anything “high profile”, but in anything you want to do. If you want to become a doctor, if you want to become a lawyer, if you want to become a vet, whatever you want to do, if that’s what you want to do, learn as much as you can about it, educate yourself and go for it.
“If your kid says I want to go to this show and that is inspiring to them, you can’t say, ‘I don’t like that band.’ It’s not for you, it’s for them. What is for you is your kid’s recollection and appreciation for the fact you put yourself out there for them.”
On the flipside to that, what would you say to parents of aspiring artists? What would you say is the key to being a supportive parent of an artist?
You have to be willing to put yourself out there for your kids and not base their interests on your willingness to do things. If your kid says, “I want to go to this show,” and that is inspiring to them, you can’t say, “I don’t like that band.” It’s not for you, it’s for them. What is for you is your kid’s recollection and appreciation for the fact you put yourself out there for them. Not whether or not you personally like a band. There were a lot of bands Andy introduced me to when he was younger that I didn’t know anything about. There were plenty of bands when Andy first started out that I couldn’t stand. I was very happy that Andy never was in a band that was just straight screaming from beginning to end, but I would sit through those shows and I would be thinking to myself, “I don’t know when one song ends and the other begins because there is no melody, there is no chorus here,” but I went because it was important to him to be there and to be in that scene and to make connections and then some of those connections turned into kids he wound up being in bands with. Even something as simple as when he was 15 or 16, he went to Bogarts in Cincinnati and this was at the very beginning of Ronnie’s run with Escape the Fate. Andy got in and pretty much convinced everyone in the venue that he was one of the band members, and he got backstage and was hanging out with Ronnie. There are a ton of pictures of 15 or 16 year old Andy and Ronnie at the very beginning of Escape the Fate and then years later, the two of them are still at it and doing their thing in the scene living their dreams. That’s a nice little bridge there between Andy as a kid and Andy the long haired Mötley Crüe-ish looking frontman of Black Veil Brides to Andy Black, the more Billy Idol style pop rock that he does. Both of those guys are still doing their things, and Andy has a lot of respect not only for Ronnie, but for all of the guys and girls in this scene who have been doing it for years. I think it’s kind of cool that you have people like Haley Williams, Kellin Quinn, Oli Sykes, Andy, Ronnie Radke, and the list goes on, but when you look at it, they’ve been doing this for awhile. It’s not like they are kids anymore. They are adults now and they are still popular and they are still doing a fantastic job.
If you could go back and give a younger Andy any advice what would you say to him?
If I could go back to when he was 12, I would tell him don’t listen to that old man screaming at you at your practices at hockey. None of this stuff is going to matter when you get older, so I probably shouldn’t be so hard on you as a coach. When it came to a young Andy in music, I would say to him you have no idea how proud I’m going to be of you when you become a man because of all of the things you have done. Not only musically, not only in the entertainment world, but as a man and as a caring person. I’ve seen you with fans for over 10 years and how you treat your fans every single day, how genuinely sincere you are when you meet people, how you make an effort to try to make those people feel that they are important and they are valued. You go out of your way to do that and that makes me prouder than anything you’ve accomplished from a musical standpoint because of the kind of person that you are.