By Richard Thomas
One thing I’m discovering in doing interviews with creative folks is just how true the stereotype is that musicians, actors, writers and artists love good drink. So it is with Midnight High, a reggae- and hip hop-influenced rock band from Astoria in Queens, New York. The trio of Ben, Kurt and Bogger are whiskey drinkers with tastes that range from the rarefied to humble mixers, and they were good enough to tell The Whiskey Reviewer all about their love of “the water of life.”
RT: The three of you are lovers of the whisk(e)y mainstays: scotch and bourbon. What sort of thing makes you think “I’ll have a dram scotch” over “I’ll have a shot of bourbon,” or visa versa?
Ben: Well the setting and price are a big part of that choice. If I’m outdoors or at a relaxed party I’ll go with the bourbon. If I’m relaxing in a living room or in a nicer setting I’ll go with the best scotch I can afford.
Kurt: Nothing puts me in the zone to write, record, relax, go to the bank, do whatever the hell I’m supposed to do that day like some scotch.
Bogger: If I’m going to relax and sip on something, then scotch on the rocks it is; smooth and bold. If i’m out at a bar a Bourbon mixed drink is my choice.
RT: What are your go-to whiskeys, your standards of choice?
Ben: Again it all depends. The go-to shot has always been Jameson. My whiskey of choice when I’m visiting my parents upstate is Crown Royal. My go-to Bourbons are Bulleit and Maker’s Mark. For scotch, I’m a big fan of Glenfiddich and Glenivet (12 and beyond when I can afford it). I’m not picky with my whiskey, though. If it’s available I’ll have a glass.
Kurt: Love me the Glenlivet or just some good old Black Label. If I’m not drinking scotch, I’ll have some Maker’s any day.
Bogger: I order Jameson all the time, it’s my go-to. Jameson and Ginger… I could probably drink 20 of those!
RT: I’m told you have a song out that is about whiskey. Could you tell me about that?
Ben: Well we used to play a song called Sweet Nectar of life which was all about whiskey. I believe every song we ever played as a band is either subjectively about or inspired by whiskey.
Kurt: Definitely Sweet Nectar! Song’s about whiskey but I’d just as soon let people believe it’s about heroin in order to be taken a little more seriously as musicians. I think I’ll stick to the booze.
Bogger: Sweet Nectar is one of our old time faves.. we definitely wrote that on a nice whiskey buzz.
RT: Drink and creativity being intertwined are a stereotype for a lot pursuits, including both musicians and writers. Do you ever find a good whiskey helps you overcome a block or spur you along in some way?
Ben: A couple drinks always helps loosen things up. You shouldn’t over-think rock – play hard and play free. Whiskey helps a lot with that. You just have to ride the line.
Kurt: A glass or two of my favorite whiskey keeps me relaxed and confident enough to get over the writing hump!
Bogger: We took Maker’s Mark into one of our first recording sessions… it definitely helps.
RT: Whiskey bars in New York get a lot of attention, but you guys are from Astoria in Queens, and I don’t think that part of the city gets mentioned quite so much. So let’s say I’m in your Astoria stomping grounds. Where do I go to find a good selection of whiskey on the bar shelf?
Ben: I think Sweet Afton was mentioned on a few lists as a great place to order whiskey and that was our main bar for a long time. So I’ll add to their notoriety. God knows they’ve put up with enough shit from me; they deserve all the praise they can get. The Strand Smokehouse is great for Bourbon and Bluegrass. If you want cocktails – Front Towards Enemy is a great. I had a few whiskey-inspired beers at Sunswick 3535 which were awesome! All the liquor stores have a pretty good selection. Astoria Wine and Spirits usually has a great selection of everything.
Kurt: I have to agree with Benjamin. Good suggestions.
Bogger: I think whiskey runs in the veins of NYC. There is definitely no shortage in Astoria. Out in Rego Park you can check out Bridey’s or Woodhaven House.