You have no power over me: Q & A with Benny Chang of Ten Second Pistol

El Paso, Texas. It’s a fair trek from New Zealand. Recently, though, I received a tip-off about a new guitar-based trio from this US state on the border of Mexico. The band is Ten Second Pistol, and they have just released their debut album, You have no power over me. To find out about the album and the guitars behind it, I corresponded with the band’s leader, singer and guitarist, Benny Chang.

How long has the band been together?

I formed this band in February of 2017. I wrote four or five songs, and then went into my studio and recorded all instrumentation and vocals. I had a great time doing all of that—now, that’s my jam! When I finished that demo, I went to musicians and asked them to listen to my music. Then I would tell them about my plan and ask if they wanted in.

Does the name ‘Ten Second Pistol’ mean anything?

Yeah, the name means a bit. My ‘uncle,’ so we called him, who is a former police officer, I believe. He is a close family friend and would show up and joke around with my dad. He ‘d tell him, “This is the way to get their attention” (meaning the kids). And he would say, “Hey! You all have ten seconds to straighten out, or I’m gonna use this pistol,” pointing at his not-so-concealed weapon, and boy would we ever! So, that has always stuck in my head — the ten-second-pistol deal. When I started this project, I happily named it Ten Second Pistol.

How would you describe the music on the new album?

Modern blues  —some songs are soulful and bluesy, some are blues rock. It {the album} has a taste of the old and the new. In some places you will hear raw blues rock, a little psychedelic haze, then a soulful blues inspired by some jazz friends of mine

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Where did you record the album?

In my studio. It probably took me a little over six months to finish, I would say. I call this studio 306 Records or 306 Studios.

Who produced?

I produced the album, mixed and mastered it. I had a great time.

Are you aligned with a record company?

No, this has been a do-it-yourself project for me. I want to say that it is under my own independent label, 306 records, for now.

Ten Second Pistol playing live in Texas.

How would you describe your guitar playing style?

Well, I have been influenced by all the greats — Robert Johnson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, Bonnie Raitt, plus new guys like Joe Bonamassa, Gary Clark Jr. and John Mayer. I would call my style raw, soulful and honest sweetness. I like to make a couple of notes just fly and caress the soul.

What guitars do you play on the album?

A Fender Stratocaster, Epiphone Casino and a Fender Telecaster. I am so grateful for the people who have supported my journey, as I received those three guitars as gifts or endorsements.

A track from the album You have no power over me.

Have you made modifications to your guitars?

Sure have. I rewired the Strat completely when I got it. Oh, man, it sounded terrible. Of course, having no money, I went to YouTube and Googled for DIYs. The ugliest hum would come out of that guitar. As far as the others, I have used paint, tape and sandpaper to obtain the look I want on all my guitars, so there are no others like them. I enjoyed touching them up, and I mean a lot! Of course, I love what I ended up with.

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What guitar effects do you use?

I use an overdrive, a wah, a tremolo, an octofuzz and a sonic stomp. The octofuzz I only use at the beginning of one song. The tremolo I use at the beginning of two songs. My go-to’s are the overdrive and a little reverb. That’s it, and the overdrive its barely at 25%. The wah I use in a couple of songs.

What amplifiers do you use?

A Fender Bassbreaker tube amp — kind of like the one Joe Bonamassa uses.

Describe the recording process for the album

Challenging, but exciting! I remember tracking drums; I would use a metronome, set it and run to the drums and start playing them.

One time, I was so excited when I was recording the bass that I broke a damn bass string! I was all getting into it in the middle of a song and POP! It missed my face by a hair! Wow! I tried to maybe fix it, but, no, I couldn’t make it work, so I had to drive to the nearest music store and buy a whole damn set. I remember thinking: bass string set or gas for my car? Well, I walked half the way back to the studio, excited with new strings in hand thinking this is gonna sound amazing! And it sure did. I was so pleased with the sound that I ended up re-recording some songs with the new strings. I went to go pick up my car up the next day.

With the guitar, I had a lot of fun—I could have been there forever. I was always saying, “Oh, man, I think I will add this now.” I finally gave in and said, “Okay, I’m done! “

How would you describe your writing process?

I take a little from everything — personal life experiences, social issues to friends’ stories. The song Hold On, everyone thinks is about a girl, and how I was badly hurt ‘cause it talks about me hurting on the bottle and how to become one, etc. You know, when I think about it, that could be true. It truly sounds like a couple heartbreak song, but it’s not. The song is about an uncle of mine who passed away due to alcoholism. He would always say, “I’m hurting on the bottle,” and the part where I sing, “When two become one,”  I got from him saying, “Look, I’m going to drink this, and that’s when we bond, and we become one. I remember him asking me, “Look inside (he meant the empty bottle); is my heart still there, huh? Is it!?” I had no answer. So, I made a song about wanting to hold on to our own issue or lost love. Years later after his passing, I found out he had a true love that got away.

What challenges do you and the band face as musicians in today’s industry?

I think we need to take our music seriously first. Yes, have fun with it, but take it seriously. That is the mistake I think a lot of people make. When you book in advance, you prepare in advance with merchandise — CDs, etc., and an online presence. We all know beforehand where we are headed, and you can attach yourself to the venue you are performing at with videos or flyers promoting your

When you join a band, you make a commitment. You represent the band. Everyone is important in a band.  EVERYONE! We must all put in the same effort for everything. It is an obligation; all must be involved in social media, engaging people, fans, strangers —  it doesn’t matter. The point is to create a monster!

Do you have any advice for aspiring guitarists?

Just be true to who you are — don’t pretend to be someone you are not. When your work is finished, and you enjoyed it, others will enjoy it as well. Make sure you have an A+ product: a good song with great-quality production, an online presence with legit designs and photos and a professional-looking music video. If you want to be considered with the top, you must represent like the top.”

Ten Second Pistol is currently promoting You have no power over me at music festivals in Texas and New Mexico. You can pre-order a copy of the album through iTunes, Amazon Music Store and Google Music.

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Andrew Healey

Editor

Andrew is an Auckland-based writer and musician.

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