An Interview with Dinst of The Black Tibetans

It is rare these days for one to come across a band that isn’t molded to meet some prepackaged market criteria for success, from costumed stadium pop to the modern incarnation of psychedelia, but there are some bands that punch through and grab you by the throat and need no explanation. The Black Tibetans is one of those bands. Their brand of no-nonsense rock ‘n’ roll is like a fist punching through a window to the past. From the razor sharp drums of Ryan KH, to the growling bass of Tammi Tibetan, to the vocals and chainsaw guitar of Dinst, The Black Tibetans mean business and their new single suggests so. Following up their self-titled debut album, they hit the studio with Grammy-winning Producer of the Year, Dan Auerbach, to record their new single, The Nashville Session. Dinst took a few moments from his busy schedule to talk to Tuff Gnarl about several badass subjects, most prominently among them rock ‘n’ roll and motorcycles.

Dinst of The Black Tibetans.

Dinst of The Black Tibetans. Photo: Larry Niehues

Tuff Gnarl: The Black Tibetans, ToughMFs, DicE Magazine, Tri-Co… You don’t like down time, huh?

Dinst: It’s crazy to think that I have all that stuff going on because I consider myself an extremely lazy person! I think it’s because all of the things I do are highly enjoyable and not considered “a real job.”

The Black Tibetans is a band formed for one reason only…to have fun! The ToughMFs is the same deal, a fun weekend session with friends recorded for the love of rock ‘n’ roll. The magazine was started by me and my best friend when we lived in London, England and we never dreamed people would actually start buying it! The store just seemed to be the obvious next step and again, people seem to like it. I am extremely lucky that I have dodged having a real job since I left school and basically get to mess about for a living.

Anything else you’ve got in the works?

At the moment we are just waiting for the release of the new Black Tibetans single which we recorded with Dan Auerbach in Nashville and finishing our second album which we hope to release in October 2014. Ryan KH is a tennis fanatic and is more nervous about his next match than any gig we could ever play, so he is busy with that. Tammi is really getting more into riding her dirt bike and just got back from racing in Japan and generally being a bad ass. I am constantly thinking up ways to dodge having a real job.

How/when did the band get started?

The band started after I moved back to Los Angeles in 2007. I had been living in Berlin where I toured for two years in a big rock ‘n’ roll band and we were signed to Universal Records and touring non-stop and playing to thousands of people a night and making pretty good music. Basically it was what I had always dreamed of doing, but after doing it for two years I realized it wasn’t what I expected. When a true passion becomes a full time job, it gets old fast and it really ripped my soul out as far as playing music for fun. It took me a good year after I left the band to even look at my guitar. When I did decide to make music again was when I went on a quest to form The Black Tibetans. It took 2 years just to find a decent drummer and bass player that were good and not in a million other bands! I had known Tammi for years and didn’t even know she played bass until I was telling her my drama for not being able to find anyone. She turned up for the first rehearsal and took out her Gibson Thunderbird and we gave her the job before she even plugged in. Ryan KH was actually found from an advert on Craigslist and he blew us away from the first rehearsal! He was a guitar player forever and just decided that he wanted to play drums, and boom, he’s the best drummer ever! It was very important when we started that it would be for the love of playing music and no other reason. No major label, no constant touring, nobody telling us what to do. Just a rock ‘n’ roll band doing exactly what we want, when we want. If people like it, great…if not, oh well….because we love it and that’s the main thing!

What’s been your biggest show to date?

The biggest show to date was with The Arctic Monkeys at The Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles. I really wish I didn’t tell Alex Turner where I got my hair cut and where I got my clothes from because now he looks like me.

Japanese vs. English vs. American crowds?

We sell more records in Japan than anywhere else and when we went there to play some shows it was packed but the audience was very reserved. When we played in England people went absolutely mental and that’s always the best because the more that the crowd go crazy, the more we go crazy. As far as USA crowd, it varies from town to town. We’ve had some wild shows all over, but the crowds in New York and San Francisco are definitely harder to win over because they are too cool to clap or let themselves enjoy anything! Haha.

How did you come about recording with reigning “Producer of the Year” Dan Auerbach?

He has been a subscriber to DicE for a long time and I have got to know him through motorcycles and just developed a friendship with him because we are both into similar things…old bikes…old leather jackets…old rock ‘n’ roll, etc! I didn’t even talk to him about music for the longest time because I didn’t want to be another guy asking him stupid questions about The Black Keys or telling him I had a band, etc. It happened by accident really because we were supposed to be in Nashville for a show and I hit him up about doing a day in the studio while we were there. He was hyped at the idea and we couldn’t believe our luck. The gig fell through but it didn’t matter!! So the session was purely done for fun for him and us, which is always the best way to make music!

Did you get to use any rare/vintage gear of his in the studio? What was your favorite?

Yes he wanted us to use all of his stuff in the studio, so we just brought guitars and drum sticks. All of his gear is top notch old stuff and he had me playing through a variety of weird and cool amps. His studio is for family and friends only and it really was a huge honor to have the whole experience. We never expected him play on the record either, he just got so into it he started playing with us! Talk about cray!

What did you learn from Dan that you can take away and possibly use on your next recording?

We need to stop cutting corners and drink expensive Tequila instead of shitty beer.

Did you record analog or digital?

All vintage gear and analog, but then run through Pro Tools just to have the modern formatting.

Tammi Tibetan of The Black Tibetans

Tammi Tibetan of The Black Tibetans. Photo: Larry Niehues

Did you go to Mas Tacos?

Yes! Amazing!!!

Tell me about your current stage setup. Silverface Fender and a Telecaster?

I have a 1952 Tele reissue from 1980. I bought it in England as a spare guitar for 350 quid in the late 1990’s. One of the cheapest guitars I have ever bought and it has been through a lot. It’s not especially rare or expensive but it’s priceless to me. I have played in various bands with it, smashed it up on stage, recorded lots of records, written all my songs on it etc. I have had a few nice vintage guitars over the years and it really does make you realize that it’s not the guitar you play…it’s how you play it. You could own a 1960 flame top Les Paul that’s worth $200k, but if you don’t know how to play it, what’s the point?! My amp is a 1972 Fender Super Reverb Silverface and it has the pull out master volume for added crunchiness! I’m not a really big ‘pedal’ guy so I only have three pedals. Boss Tuner, Volume boost (for solos), Tube Screamer (that is constantly on).

Any other vintage guitars/gear in your quiver?

I’m a weirdo because every time I have a rare vintage guitar I’m too scared to play it live in case it gets damaged, so they sit under the bed for two years and then I always end up selling them.

First guitar as a kid?

My first guitar was a 1960 Club 50 Hofner semi acoustic that my Mum painted ‘F’ holes on for me! That was quickly followed by a 1959 Gretsch Anniversay. 2 tone green and bought by my dad for 640 quid at ‘Rock Bottom’ in Croydon, England.

Dream guitar?

Probably a 1955 Gretsch 6120 G brand…with the western hard case, naturally! But it would sit under my bed forever.

No skinny jeans/hipster beard/psych synthesizers? Are you trying to not be popular?

I can’t grow a good beard and you should see my skinny little chicken legs…people would laugh their balls off.

Ryan KH of the Black Tibetans.

Ryan KH of the Black Tibetans. Photo: Larry Niehues

Musical influences growing up?

Elvis Presley was my first ever huge influence and classic 1950’s rock ‘n’ Roll….Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Johnny Kidd & The Pirates etc. This is because it was all the music my Mum & Dad listened to. He was also in a rock ‘n’ roll band that would play in various pubs and clubs around London, so I grew up traveling with his band, that’s why it came easy when it was my turn. Then as I became a teenager I discovered The Sonics and 70’s English ‘Pub’ rock ‘n’ roll bands like Crazy Cavan, Dr Feelgood, The Pirates…still classic rock ‘n’ roll, just a little heavier and dirty!

Top 3 Favorite albums?

That’s a REALLY difficult question!!! Not sure…but here are some albums I love.

  • Here Are The Sonics
  • Elvis’ Sun Sessions
  • Johnny Burnette & The Rock ‘n Roll Trio
  • AC DC’s High Voltage
  • Queens of the Stone Age’s Songs For The Deaf
  • The Black Keys’ El Camino
  • The Bronx

I could go on…but basically I love roots rock ‘n’ roll based music no matter what year it was made.

Who’s the better rider, Tammi or you?

My attorney advised me to say “No comment” to this one.

First motorcycle as a kid?

11 years old, 1951 Royal Enfield 125cc “Flying Flea.” It had a 3 speed shifter on the tank! Rockabilly as fuck!

Favorite motorcycle? (or one you would like the most, if money wasn’t a concern)

I have my favorite motorcycle in my garage right now…my 1957 Harley Panhead Chopper. #truelove

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Christian Clarke

When Christian isn't writing or playing in his band, The Riot Act, he is riding his '69 Triumph Bonneville.

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