WTFIMB?

M ick Blankenship is the new voice behind a familiar face. He’s been the singer/frontman for several cover bands over the years, including War of Change from 2011 to 2016, mostly performing songs by hard rock/metal bands such as Stone Temple Pilots, Seether, Godsmack, Papa Roach, Avenged Sevenfold, and so forth. He has the strong […]

Transcend the Machine with Mick Blankenship at JD Legends


Daniel Laverde, Mick Blankenship, Jack Ryan, and Larry Beavan (l-r). Photo: Keri Parker.

By Gary McBride

Mick Blankenship is the new voice behind a familiar face. He’s been the singer/frontman for several cover bands over the years, including War of Change from 2011 to 2016, mostly performing songs by hard rock/metal bands such as Stone Temple Pilots, Seether, Godsmack, Papa Roach, Avenged Sevenfold, and so forth. He has the strong stage presence and the heavyweight vocal chops for the genre, to be sure.

Parallel to his time in those bands, Blankenship had a 12-year career as a police officer in Nashville, Cincinnati, and elsewhere in Ohio—a position that took its toll on his state of mind, leading to depression, OCD, and PTSD. With the support of his wife and his family, he stepped away from law enforcement (and cover bands) to make creating music his career. “I had no clue how I was going to do it, but I just knew I was going to do it,” he says.

His experience with depression and PTSD comes through loud and clear in several of his songs, such as “Worthless Me,” “Flashback Crash” and the title track “Crown of Apathy.”

“I saw a LOT in those 12 years [as a police officer], there’s a LOT of inspiration to pull from,” he recalls, managing a chuckle. “Unfortunately most of it was negative, but that’s not always a bad thing when it comes to writing hard rock music. I try not to be that gloom and doom writer, but some of my songs are a little dark.” That’s an understatement, but time and perspective and recovery have allowed him to mix in a good measure of hopeful aspiration and encouragement, a message of break the chains.

His writing is very personal, although he does at times write from different perspectives. “My single ‘Transcend the Machine’ was written in character, but I think it all stems from personal experience. I have a song called ‘Flashback Crash’ that is directly related to the PTSD that I deal with, and when I’ve presented that song to other law enforcement officers and military people, there’s just an instant connection for those people. It’s still a rock song, but if you listen to the content of the lyrics, I’m talking very specifically about something that I deal with.”

“The symptoms are all intertwined and related in some form or fashion, so music, I treat it as a therapy. Sometimes, we as people don’t have the right words to express ourselves, and I think it’s very common for a grown man to be sitting in his doctor’s office and not be able to tell the doctor what he’s dealing with. It’s hard to find the words to articulate that inner demon, so to speak. So I use the music to do it, and it not only comes out in lyrics, it also comes out in tone, in notes, in drumbeats and things like that. I noticed from a very early age that I had those notes and those lyrics and melodies constantly processing in my head. It almost never stops. So releasing that is therapeutic and a form of inner peace that I get.”

When the time came for him to find his own voice, he started writing and recording his own songs, and stepped away from the cover band comfort zone. “I had no interest in being a bar band or a cover band, I did that for years, and I watched my dad do it for many years, and to me it seemed like an endless cycle of insanity, and I didn’t get it. Some people do it and they love it, but that’s not what I wanted to do.”

He didn’t initially set out to record a full-length album, but instead was planning to record and release songs as they were completed. The lead track “Transcend the Machine” was released in April of 2017, followed by several more tracks, until it made sense to release a complete album. “It was only supposed to be a three-song thing, like a demo, and I was looking for an avenue where I could just jump into [a project] that was already formed. I looked for that, and looked, and looked, and it just never came to fruition. So my only choice was to make my own path—it took about three years to get to this point, but I built my own small empire of sorts, and chose the path that I wanted to go, and finally found people that believe in it as much as I do. When you get the people behind you, that’s when things really start to happen.”

He writes, sings, and plays virtually all the instruments on his recordings, and worked with co-producer John Moyer (bassist for Disturbed and Art of Anarchy) on his debut album Crown of Apathy. Released in February, the album features Guns N’ Roses guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal on the track “Eye for an Eye” along with a few other guest contributors, but it’s essentially all Blankenship.

Despite playing most of the parts in the studio, Blankenship doesn’t play an instrument on stage. “I prefer to be a front man, I don’t want to just be a lead singer, so I brought in these guys to learn my music and perform it with me live, so I can deliver at full scale. To me there’s a difference between someone who plays and sings, and a front man who delivers the show.”

When he started writing and recording his own music, it was about music for its own sake. “In the beginning I had no intention of touring or being a live act at all, I was just trying to prove something to myself that I could do it, I got tired of trying to count on other people, which is why I did it the way I did. It grew into something that I had no anticipation of doing. Once the album was completed, I got a lot of encouragement to go and perform the album. So I put an ad on Craigslist, and reached out to friends, and I tried a bunch of people out. Then I found these guys, and it was supposed to be for one show, then it ended up turning into something more. They believed in it, and I got some management into it, and we just started booking these shows, got in front of some national acts, and it just snowballed from there.”

Looking at the band he’s assembled, bassist Jack Ryan and drummer Daniel Laverde appear to be remarkably young. “Yes, they’re adults,” Blankenship confirms with a laugh. “I didn’t even want to let these guys audition because of their age, but I remember being that age and how good I was, and how nobody would ever give me a chance, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt. To be honest with you, they not only blew my mind, but they blew away just about everybody that auditioned. To be frank, they’re different, they’re prodigies in their own right, and I’m alright with that. I don’t want people who are normal, I want people who are different. And I didn’t want any grouchy old men who are set in their ways, I didn’t want anyone older than me. When these guys auditioned for the band, I gave them the hardest three songs to learn, and they just killed it.”

Equally skilled, guitarist Larry Beavan is almost like an animated character, and a great foil to Blankenship, with tremendous energy and personality and a twinkle of madness behind his on-stage goggles.

While Team Blankenship has the requisite presence on Facebook, Bandcamp, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, and so forth, Mick is wary of what he calls “Social Media Disease.”

“I’ve seen relationships and marriages destroyed, all based on this garbage. I’ve seen people who were friends for years end their friendship because of this stuff, and it’s all just white noise,” bemoans Blankenship. “Just set your phone down and turn the damn TV off, go outside, talk to your neighbor, call up your cousin who you haven’t seen in 12 years and have dinner with him, or visit your family that you THINK that you have a relationship with.”

WTFIMB?

Blankenship is still building a name for himself, playing locally and on the road, and lining up spots opening for national acts, such a series of dates opening for Puddle of Mudd. He even sells a T-shirt bearing the question “Who the f*** is Mick Blankenship?”

“That’s hilarious, ain’t it?” he says with a chuckle. “When JD Legends asked me to open the show for Bret Michaels (which I thought was awesome), somebody posted that on Facebook. I was like ‘you know what? I’m going to put that on a T-shirt.’ I almost sold out of them at the Bret Michaels show, and I ordered a bunch more, and we sold a ton of them in Myrtle Beach.”

So, find out for yourself who he is. You’ll find there’s a lot more to him than a witty T-shirt.

Mick Blankenship is headlining at JD Legends, 65 Millard Dr, Franklin, on Friday, August 31, at 8 p.m. with opening support from Life After This. Advance tickets start at $5. For details, visit JDLegends.com or www.mickblankenship.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Gary McBride at GaryMcBride@DaytonCityPaper.com

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