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Book Of Numbers' Kevin Schuhmacher: "The tune "Kissing Laughter" was a dream, my wife had to shake me awake and I ran and wrote it down before I forgot it and that story is "Kissing Laughter"."

Interview with Kevin Schuhmacher & Brent Barker from Book Of Numbers
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 17 August 2021, 10:31 PM

It has been a while since such a tremendous passion for creating music by two musicians has been evident, at least for yours truly. Such a partnership, a collaboration, no less than friendship, between two spirits, burning minds that think alike, now that is the essence of creating music. The newly generated band, Book Of Numbers, which has ties with a number of profound tributes to Black Sabbath, Dio, Ozzy and more, created by Kevin Schuhmacher and Brent Barker, is a revamp of classic Doom Metal at its best. Steinmetal had a great talk with both musicians about the band's new album "Magick", released by Pride & Joy Music, and boy they quite stories to tell in such enthusiasm.

Greetings gents, it is great to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you guys been doing?

Schuhmacher: Thank you Lior, it's an honor to be speaking with you. We have been doing great out here in the Arizona desert with "tacos, margaritas and Deep Fried Rattlesnake!". We hope all is well with you and everyone else out there!

Barker: Thanks Lior! I appreciate you talking with Book of Numbers!

It has begun heating up again with this damned pandemic, as if when you find ways to overcome it, like a hydra, it grows another head and attempts to bite your behind again. Do you think that it will continue to be like a sort of a cat & music catch game for years to come or we are going to get through this?

Schuhmacher: The pandemic will only slow the human race down a bit, we will prevail. Music will survive.

Barker: If you look at history, people in the past have been through a lot worse. For us as artists, it gives us more material to write about, along with the time to continue to hone our craft until everything fully opens back up with touring, festivals, and shows.

Since I understand that you guys have been involved with tribute bands, whether to Black Sabbath or Ozzy Osbourne, and certainly there are no shows, did it have any effect on your ability to train your skills, each to his own of course?

Schuhmacher:  I started "I Don't Know" The Ozzy Experience, fourteen years ago and it has been a wild ride let me tell you! My current lineup is the best it has ever been.

One time we were directly supporting The Atomic Punks a tribute to Van Halen and at this time it was fronted by Michael Star currently fronting Steel Panther, anyways Starr, (Ralph) came up to me after my show and said, "hey man I've seen a lot of Ozzy tributes out there and you by far are the best I have ever seen" … I love walking in the Ozzy shadow. Ozzy is so unique and he also, like Dio, is a force to be reckoned with.

The pandemic caused us to lose all of our casino shows and some travel work. But currently we are starting to get shows out here in the USA, we are opening up across the country here. Slowly. We hope to perform over there for you as well.

Barker: I started playing in clubs when I was 14, and became a full time musician when I was 16. My very first show the set list was things like, “I Don’t Know, Flying High Again, Mr. Crowley, War Pigs,”, etc. So doing the Ozzy tribute is to me, just playing my roots. It is my absolute favorite music, outside of doing Book of Numbers.

Eventually, you two comrades made quite a step together, completing to write original material for a new outfit that became to be Book Of Numbers. I must say that this is the ultimate platform to truly show what you got. Did this venture come out of the blue or was there a conscious decision that it was time to evolve to the next level, songwriting and not just orchestrated arrangement of classic songs?

Schuhmacher: Good question, Brent and I met when he walked into an acoustic project I was part of as second guitarist and we started playing I thought, "second guitarist? this guy doesn't need another guitarist". So after practice I got home and pulled up Brent Barker on the internet and discovered his solo stuff and thought, " how can I get this guy into my Ozzy tribute band?". …

Well we did get together but the first thing we did was learn both the Heaven and Hell album and the Mob Rules album in two weeks. When we got together we played them note per note flawlessly, and right then and there we both knew there was magick in the air. I knew that this was one of those moments that only comes once in a lifetime. Brent had suggested that we start to write originals and I agreed. A couple of weeks went by and Brent would bring over a completed song and I would write the melodies/harmonies and lyrics for them. The first tune we wrote together was "Optimism". When writing for Book Of Numbers it was like the melodies and then the lyrics were written already, like the stuff was always and always will be.

Barker: I totally agree with Kevin, there was a magic in the air from the first time we started working together. When I heard him sing the melodies and lyrics to Optimism for the first time, I knew this was destiny- a once in a lifetime moment when a guitarist and singer complement each other so well it can’t help but be something special. And it is effortless. We both seem to have this ability to step inside of the song itself and create, as it were, Magick.

Other than being inspired by the likes and sounds of Black Sabbath and Dio, whose influence on Doom Metal has been off the charts, in your view, what is the main idea that stands behind Book Of Numbers?

Schuhmacher: My influences in the Doom Metal genre goes like this- Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Dio, & Ozzy.

The main idea of Book Of Numbers is to create music from within our very souls, to create something that will outlive us all, something to pass down in time and appreciate over and over again each generation.

Barker: I believe that artists should be capable of creating energy transference between themselves and the listener. It goes beyond just playing music. We are fully committed to making something that will stand the test of time.

An off topic, talking about Dio, even prior to the pandemic, there were plenty of announcements and advertising about a Dio Returns tour, with Dio as hologram. Since I believe that you are die-hard fans of the legendary vocalist, I wonder what are your thoughts about this project?

Schuhmacher: The Dio Returns Hologram Tour: I saw that show, I loved it!  Angela, my wife didn't have the opportunity to see Ronnie James Dio when he was still with us so at the least I had to take her to the show but hey, Tim "Ripper" Owens and Oni Logan killed it!! Killer vocalists as an homage to Dio… I'm in!!!  Our bassist Dennis Hayes was in several bands with Ripper Owens, Beyond Fear was one of them. Wendy Dio at Niji Mgmt, had them on their label for a while.  Great show to pay tribute to the amazing Ronnie James Dio.

Barker: Anything that keeps Dio and his legacy alive for people to enjoy is a good thing. He was more than a vocalist. He was magical, monstrous. You can literally feel his heart in the songs and performances.

And we are back in the game, what can you tell about the image of Book Of Numbers, if there is an image of course?

Schuhmacher: The image of "Book Of Numbers" is whatever the listener wants it to be. Listen to the music and listen or read the lyrics and you tell me.

Titled as “Magick”, I assumed that the word game led you to strike hard and swiftly, mentioning, and criticizing the ailments of the world, with mankind at the center. If that is the case, how bad is our situation?  And if not, what is it about “Magick” that makes it conceptually horrifying?

Schuhmacher: Yes, putting a K on the end of magic could be construed as a game.  One can never tell. Hard strike indeed. Everything is as planned. All of us in "Book Of Numbers" are simply carrying the torch that has been passed down to us. Our concept is to write killer tunes over pie and coffee.

Barker: Pie and Coffee fuels our super powers!

Truth be told, the artwork helped me build my perception about the album, yet not only, the music also helped and let’s also add the themes that I could comprehend. What were you trying to reflect through the artwork? How did you wish to shock whoever looks at it?

Schuhmacher:  Thank you for this question, the cover art comes from the Old Testament in the book of Numbers and The book of Kings. Nehushtan & The Bronze Serpent.

When the Israelites rebelled against God & Moses God sent fiery serpents among them and many died, God told Moses to build a bronze serpent of his own and place it on a pole and it shall come to pass that everyone bitten by it shall live. Just like the Isrealites and Moses with the fiery serpents so like today, Covid 19 as the fiery serpents and the vaccine as the serpent of Moses with the cure to live…  Michael Angelo painted his version of this event in 1511 Fresco Cappella Sistina, Vatican. Each page representing each song is an interpretation of what the lyrics are written about, the subject or the theme or the madness.

Circling Doom Metal, of its classic years, with the mentioned influences, you were able to recreate through “Magick”, both chills and warmth of the subgenre. How do you feel that the work on “Magick” improved your abilities as songwriters? How did it affect your approach towards a song, structure, melodies and sorts?

Schuhmacher: Chills & Warmth, AWESOME!!! Thank you again Lior! Writing vocal melodies and harmonies is what I do, it's my thing in life, it's what I was created to do. When Brent brought over each tune for me to write I almost instantly had a melody and the lyrics too, I mean it, I wrote some of these tunes in five minutes, it was like the songs were being fed to me from somewhere else or from something else. My wife will attest to this. The tune Kissing Laughter was a dream, my wife had to shake me awake and I ran and wrote it down before I forgot it and that story is Kissing Laughter.

Barker: Working with Kevin was really effortless. When you have exactly the right chemistry between guitarist and vocalist, the music writes itself. It’s almost like the songs are already written and waiting to be brought in the world. We don’t dictate it, try to make it a certain way, or overthink it. We channel it from somewhere outside of ourselves.

Brent, your riffs, and adding to it, your guitar sound, are as if Tony Iommi was playing, such a strong influence that enabled you to produce music that also crossed that Sabbath threshold. As a musician, how did “Magick” take you forward, ability wise?

Barker: Hey thank you! I learned a lot from Tony Iommi about how to structure a riff and play rhythm guitar with power and authority. I learned about Lead guitar from Randy Rhoads, so he is my biggest influence there. Working on this album brought forward my ability to make sure that each riff, chord progression, and lead guitar solo would give energy to the listener and tell a story through sound, without being too repetitive from one song to the next.

Kevin, what I like about your singing is that you sound natural, there are a few Dio driven patterns in your voice, yet those were just a supplement to a voice that is quite varied in styles. What can you tell about channeling those strong emotions, along with enabling the variety of tones that you have, into the songs?

Schuhmacher: Thank you so very much …. I've met Ronnie James Dio a few times and you know every time I met him he remembered my name, now that guy was a class act. I've met Ozzy four times and he caught my EPK video from my Ozzy tribute band and loved it. One time with Ozzy he looked at me and said "holy SH** It's me". I've covered Dio, Ozzy Dickinson, Halford, Klaus, Tate, Mercury Plant and Dokken, man I've covered all the greats. I love them all!

As far as my vocals on the album, I recorded everything raw, OLD SCHOOL… No pitch correction ever.  All my vocals were recorded with zero effects and most of them are first takes, almost a live feeling… Once again OLD SCHOOL. "White Turns Black To Grey" tracks were the scratch tracks, I did so well we had Clarke Rigsby use them for the final tracks they were so good, it was truly the first take.

We recorded my vocals just like you would have done back in the 1970's or the 1980's, raw, just me with a mic and a cable plugged in. Once we gave the tracks to David Thoener he put all the sauce on it. He's a master and our album turned out KILLER! Low and Slow We Go!

One of the album’s stories is the sound, as if you guys were able to come up with a summary of the Black Sabbath 80s discography in a single record. You employed some of the finest people to work your sound, and certainly, it turned out to be quite a delight. Was this pattern your initial vision of how the band would sound? When you listen to the album, how many memories of the past does it bring?

Schuhmacher: Thank you! If we truly summed up all of the Black Sabbath's material from the 1980's in one album and our first album at that, then we have truly achieved something amazing and special and we are standing amongst the Gods and this is one of those moments that we can be proud of. Thank you so much man!

Brent worked with David Thoener on his solo stuff and they had good chemistry together so Brent got Thoener to come on board with us. Having David Thoener mix and produce our album was amazing, this guy has rockstar credits and we are so very proud to be a part of that.

Thoener compared working with "Book Of Numbers' was like him working with Ritchie Blackmore and Ronnie James Dio back in the 1970's on the Rainbow Rising album. Now that is cool!

When I listen to our tunes or perform them it doesn't give me memories of the past however it does make me feel like I'm in my very first heavy metal band back in my grade school days, it feels like home.

Barker: Thanks Lior! I believe that when you have exactly the right chemistry in the band, it already sounds great without a lot of effort. Kevin and I have the same musical influences, background, and vision for the band. Our very first run through of the songs on this album with just guitar and vocals sounded great the very first time we played them. That’s how you know you are on to something.

When David Thoener first heard our tracks, he immediately called me and said he knew it would be great. We put him in charge of mixing it. Just as Kevin and I are experts in Vocals and Guitar, so David has been doing records for the biggest names in music and is the expert in mixing. We considered him to be kind of like our fifth member. We didn’t try to tell him how to mix it or give him direction on what it should sound like, we just let him do his thing and trusted him to do his job. When he told me he felt just like he did mixing the Rainbow Rising album and how much he thought we were going to love his mix, I had a really good feeling!

Covering “Children Of The Sea” sounded as if it was a natural thing for you guys to do, closing one’s eyes while listening and at times it was like listening to the original. Was this track your first pick that you followed or was it truly a hard voting? As for the experience, since you are in tribute bands for Sabbath, was it a walk in a park or rather the song received a different treatment?

Schuhmacher: Children Of The Sea - It was a natural thing for me. The Heaven & Hell album is an electric church man. So glad you like our version of the tune. This tune deserved to be re-recorded with dignity and respect for the original but to try and make it our own at the same time. It was a walk in the park.

Barker: That song really set the bar on what great classic metal can be. The dynamics, vocal performance, guitar tone, the song writing, are all on such a high level. We kind of see ourselves and carrying the torch people that love that era of Sabbath.

I believe that the self-titled track reflects the might of your music, your appreciation to the old days, and also presents a form of diversity in songwriting that makes it different from most of the record. What is your take on this track? How does it reflect on the overall spirit of the album?

Schuhmacher: Ah Yes Our Self-Titled track: "Magick" ~The old days and the present days and the days to come. The lyrics talk about people talking too much and not knowing a thing, it talks about finding and losing religion, it talks about living under one rule to do what you want, total freedom. It talks about discovering a little magick.

Barker: For me musically, it is about energy transference from the band to the listener. It takes you on a journey, lifts you up, and empowers you.

Once you fully gather your forces, can Book Of Numbers be rendered as a full time band that is bound to take on stages or rather a studio project that harnesses following from merely releasing records?

Schuhmacher: "Book Of Numbers" is standing by and ready to take over the world! We're currently working on our sophomore album, so get ready!

Barker: I prefer playing live to the studio any day. We have a full band lineup now with Dwain Miller (Keel, Rox Diamond) on drums. We have shows booked already here. As soon as it makes sense to do so, we want to get across the pond to Europe and play the stages there for all of you!

Guys, it was a pleasure to have you for this conversation, I thank you for your time and effort both on the interview and on this stellar album. Cheers

Schuhmacher and Barker: Thank you too Lior! Cheers!


 



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