Americana Highways is hosting this video premiere of Emanuel Casablanca’s song “In Blood” (featuring Paul Gilbert), from his forthcoming release Blood on My Hands, scheduled to be available on August 19th via Kings County Blues Ventures. The album was produced by Emanuel Casablanca and Paul Howells; engineered, mixed and mastered by Paul Howells.
Musicians on “In Blood” are Emanuel Casablanca on guitar and vocals; Maximillian Sebastian on bass; Theodore Augustine on drums; and Paul Gilbert on guitar.
The video was produced by Vlad Tipicidi of NYC Musicians; directed by Vlad Tipicidi and Emanuel Casablanca. All footage was shot at The Artist Factory in Paterson, New Jersey.
We also had a chance to chat with Emanuel Casablanca about the song and a few other topics. Enjoy the interview, and the video appears just beneath it.
Americana Highways: What was the recording session like for this song, “In Blood”? Any stories in particular about recording this song?
Emanuel Casablanca: I wanted a moody song and to me, there is nothing that sets a mood more than a thunder storm. I don’t have any recording session specifics, but I did track this song roughly six to seven times, just so we could get in the groove and get the feeling of the song. I developed the riff for this song and wanted to go dark and moody.
AH: Can you give us some more background on the inspiration and the evolution of that track?
EC: “In Blood” took me a couple of days to write. I knew I wanted a 1/4/5 in Em blues, however, I know I needed a riff, specifically something simple so that there could be a lot of improv expression over it, which is where Paul came in. I couldn’t find that riff for the life of me so I started listening to a lot of acoustic Delta blues tracks from various different performers and that sliding triplet that I use at the beginning there was a variation so commonly used in so many of these songs. It was simple and kept the track open for Paul and myself to do our thing. In reference to the content of the song, as per the aforementioned, I really wanted a moody track. It was storming the night that I started developing the lyrics and all the pieces just started coming together.
AH: How did you link up with Paul Gilbert and what’s it like working with him?
EC: I have been a fan of Paul’s since I saw him play his rendition of Muddy Waters’ Got My Mojo Working on the Guitar Center Sessions a long time years ago. I actually met and procured the contact of Tim Heyne, his manager years ago, but never stayed in contact with him. When I wrote In Blood, a 1/4/5 blues song with a lot of open space for soloing, I couldn’t help but hear Paul ripping it up on that track. I remember that I had Tim’s contact, reached out and we locked it in.
Working with Paul was great. He and his team were very professional and responsive. There was no ego involved. He did three takes that he sent me and he kept asking me to listen and make sure the track was good enough and if not, he would re-cut it if needed. I was thinking, that this is one of the greatest guitarists alive, every track he sent me was incredible. I wish I could have made the song 12-minutes long just to include every track that he recorded.
AH: Can you give the readers some record recommendations of albums that you’re really into lately?
EC: I am a huge Dan Auerbach fan, so I am constantly listening to The Arcs and Black Keys projects. My playlists have a lot of Nina Simone, Buddy Guy, Slim Harpo, Bobby Womack, Bootsy Collins, Curtis Mayfield, Darlene Love, The Rolling Stones, The RZA, Ellmore James, Follow The Nomad, Freddie King, Gucci Mane, Grace Bowens, Christina Vane, Gerard Way, Jack White, Jimmy Duck Holmes, Julian Casablanca, Michael Kiwanuka, Miles Davis, Mos Def, Muddy Waters, Eric Gales, Paul Gilbert, Kat Riggins, Mike Zito, Tab Benoit, Jimmy Carpenter, Albert Castiglia, Felix Slim, The New York Dolls, Nichelle Nichols and so many more.
AH: What is something that has come out of your musical journey that you could have never anticipated when you chose to take this creative path?
EC: Playing the blues. When I began playing music as a child, it was all about being loud, fast and aggressive for me. Although I was influenced by many genres, my genres of choice were mainly alternative and garage rock. As I started settling into my playing, I would play more blues music and it simply stuck. Many years ago, there was an older guy in my neighborhood (Bed-Stuy) who would sit on his stoop and play blues guitar for hours each day, we called him Wood. One day I stopped by and asked him, why he chose to play blues out of all genres of music. I didn’t understand it at the time, but he told me, “you don’t choose the blues, the blues chooses you.”
AH: What was your production process for the album and what was the most fun thing that happened while working on it? Or more than one, if there are a few?
EC: So I began recording this album a while back. Tracks like Blood On My Hands, Sunday Talks and others were completed roughly three years ago. The label that I was signed to at the time didn’t want to hear much blues music coming from me, in turn, they wanted me to venture more along the lines of the soul music-genre. So with that being said, there was a battle that I had which I felt was: A music career vs. My creativity and that affected me moving forward with initial production. I was able to get out of that contract and just as I was about to go full force with recording and finalizing the record, COVID-19 pandemic came about. In New York City there was a mandatory Work From Home Order that prohibited me from going to the building where the recording studio I was working out of was located. I even thought of sneaking in and trying to do some work, but my engineer was actually fined (I don’t know how much) because he was caught going into the building to get some of his equipment, so I knew this was serious and I needed to just stay put. With that being stated, for over a year and a half, I sat on those recordings, however it allowed me to write tracks like In Blood. This was the longest it ever took for me to create a project, but as my father always told me, “the fastest way to get where you’re going is slowly.” There was a lot of character building and patience in this record.
Regarding the technical aspect of production, each time I went into the studio I cut bass, drums and guitar live. After rhythm was recorded for all the songs, then I spent about two weeks doing overdubs for various instruments. Furthermore, I spent about two weeks collecting features from the different musicians appearing on this record and I took a few days to finalize vocals.
The most fun thing for me was getting people like Paul, Eric, Jimmy, Albert and Kat on this record. The fact that I would send these guys tracks and they enjoyed them so much that they wanted to play on these songs was just a real ego booster and made me feel good about what I was doing.
AH: What are you most proud of with the album as a whole, and why?
EC: What makes me happiest about this record is the fact that I feel like I get to be me. The album as a whole has a collection of tracks that are roughly 75-80% blues, 5% Americana and the remainder rock and roll. I have so many more blues songs and could have easily made this record a straight, Blues record, however, I didn’t want to be just stuck in a class. As this being my debut LP, I want to share with the world various parts of where I come from musically.
Purchase the music here: https://music.apple.com/album/in-blood-feat-paul-gilbert-single/1629946523?app=itunes&ls=1
Blinking footage imitates the old style of film, and the smoky background and hazy lighting put you in exactly the setting you need to be for this song. Emmanuel Casablanca has a fluid playing style, and while there’s groove, there’s also palpable intellect in his music. Enjoy!