Here at the flag we spend our time bouncing between high profile album launches, stadium rock shows and midnight flights to Vegas, and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s all about the fame, fortune and women 24/7, but you’d be wrong. For us it’s about the music, and you’ll be thinking that sounds a bit cliche but in reality what keeps the Black Flag flying is a genuine love for music and the people that make it.
Every now and again we are lucky enough to stumble across real talent, real musical passion and to top it all, beautiful women who play a mean guitar. That’s exactly what I found when I came across a video of the amazing Cheetah Black on the FaceBook page of Animal Hands singer/songwriter Danielle Whalebone. I knew that if Miss Whalebone loved it then I would to, so I had a listen and was blown away by what I heard. I set out to find out more about this fantastic woman and my life has been enriched because of it. Here is the chat I was lucky enough to have with Pamela Stashak, also known as Cheetah Black.
TBF: Pamela thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Can you tell us about your early years, where you were born, what life was like, etc.
CB: Well, I definitely come from humbled beginnings. I was born in Newport News, Virginia by a mother who had me at an early age as a teenager. My biological father chose not to be present in our lives. It was hard growing up because in my early years I lived in a household watching my Mama being physically and mentally abused by her first husband. Those were horrific and very unhappy times for me. When she divorced him we were living on welfare (public assistance) and I watched her struggle just trying to make ends meet. It was hard and there was a lot we didn’t have including food sometimes, but my Mama did the best she could, which I applaud her for still to this day. She later married again to her second husband who was serving in the Air Force. We had to move to England when I was 12 for his 3 year tour and when that was over, we moved back to the United States to Fayetteville, North Carolina where I graduated from High School, later moving back to Newport News, Virginia living with my Grandparents for a very short time and then living on my own for 5 years. I later decided to move to Maryland where my immediate family already resided.
TBF: What music did you listen to growing up?
CB: I’ve always been into music I think since I was born. It’s something I can never live without. Our house was always filled with music because my mama was always playing her albums of Soul and R&B mainly, but there were other genres of music played such as Rap, Hip Hop, Pop, and yes some disco. I’m really trying not to tell my age here hahaha. But the genres of music that was not played in my household was Rock and Metal so I have no idea where this comes from inside of me. My mama did play some rock funk by Wild Cherry and a few others, but no hard rock. While living in our apartment (before the time of my mama remarrying and all of us moving to England) I remember a moment when this lady who lived in our building wanted my mama to hold on to many of her albums until she returned. That box was full of Rock and Metal albums. She had groups like AC/DC, Aerosmith, Queen, and many others. I played some of them and loved the distorted sound of the guitars. I really think that’s when I fell in love with the sound of Hard Rock. It was aggressive, dark, and mysterious sounding. The sound was something I related to somehow and I didn’t know where that was coming from, but from that moment on it was a part of me. When I lived in England during the beginning of my teenage years, the music there was my biggest fascination. I was listening to a lot of Pop music as well as Rock such as Depeche Mode, Toyah, ABC, AC/DC, Kim Wilde, Michael Jackson, Kraftwerk, The Human League, The Police, Queen, Japan, The Scorpions, Adam Ant, Def Leppard, Duran Duran, Robert Palmer, and so many more. I remember waiting desperately every week to see the show “Top of the Pops” on T.V. I loved that show.
TBF: What made you want to start learning to play your own music?
CB: Think I’ve always wanted to play my own music since I was young, but I didn’t have an instrument to play. Just the music in my head and pen and paper to write my lyrics down. I was always secretly writing songs as a young girl, which continued into my adulthood. But music was always in my head whether it was a song I heard on the radio or a song I created in my head. I always said I was born to entertain because music was always my joy and fully a part of me. I wanted to be involved with it somehow whether it was dancing to it (which I also loved) or creating my own original music. I also used to Rap back in the day and have a couple of songs on a demo cassette tape that I did in the studio. When Run-D.M.C and Aerosmith did “Walk this Way” I was in heaven. I loved Rock and I loved Rap/Hip Hop. Together, the sound was explosive!!!! Love, Love, Love It!!
TBF: When did you learn guitar and who taught you?
CB: I’m a self taught guitarist. No one taught me. Just me, myself, and I. I have used self help books and when learning to play songs such as Deftones, I use either guitar tab booklets or learn it by ear. I don’t know how to read music. I’ve never had lessons in my life. I simply have a passion to play. It’s as simple as that. It’s just in me I always say. There’s a lot of musical talent on my mama’s side of the family and I don’t know about my biological father’s side. But no one in my family (that I’m aware of ) plays hard rock and metal music besides myself. On the real, I asked for an electric guitar for my 16th birthday and I got one. One of the happiest days of my life. My parents also bought me a small practice Peavey amp. I was in love…but I had no skill at all to play the thing lol. I remember having a self starter book that they purchased for me where I started learning parts of the guitar, chords, etc. I was often behind closed doors in my room trying to learn the guitar on my own. I was trying to learn parts of the song “Shout” by Tears for Fears. But seriously I don’t think I was very good at that time and I also wasn’t open to anyone hearing me play to tell me if I was good or not. I wanted to play, but I don’t think I was putting my best foot forward into learning songs I knew and even creating my own music. When I lived in Virginia I had a boyfriend that I wanted to buy an expensive gift for but I didn’t quite have all the money, so I made a very stupid move and sold my guitar. A very stupid move because it was the only guitar I had and that boyfriend did not stick around. It wasn’t until years later that I started back playing guitar again after being married and raising my two girls who are now grown. There I am telling my age again hahaha. Heading full force into achieving my dream of playing guitar to audiences, I gradually started purchasing guitars until I ended up with 7 of them: Five 6 String, One 7 String, and One 8 String.
TBF: When did you start performing for people?
CB: Honestly, I haven’t started performing in front of an audience of people yet. I’ve only performed in front of the camera and for family so far. But I plan to start playing hopefully this coming September or October at some spots here in Maryland I’ve been checking out. I’m ready to achieve my dream. I waited until after raising my family and now I feel like it’s my time to move forward. I never want to see myself as being too old to achieve a dream. I feel this is my path and it’s up to me to make the moves to achieve what I have longed for. Dreams don’t come to you freely. You have to make it happen and for anyone out there that feel like their time has passed and their too old to do anything about it, I say get rid of that negative thinking. You’re never too old. Just go for it and see what happens. In my mind, it will happen. I just don’t know when.
TBF: Who would you describe as your biggest influences?
CB: My Biggest musical influence are my Idols, Deftones. I love their music and I love them so much. They are truly the reason for me going back to playing guitar. “Be Quiet and Drive” was the first song of theirs that I learned to play on guitar from beginning to end and learning to play their songs continued from there.
TBF: Tell me about your obsession with Deftones, what’s that about?
CB: Obsessed…Yes I am. Their music to me is so Extraordinary, So Awesome. To me, it’s perfection. I always say their music is both hard and soft with much rhythmic harmony, sort of like I see myself. The sound of their music is hypnotic, therapeutic, and imaginative to me. My Obsession, yes, is truly Deftones Music. Their music is played on my ride in to work and back home, which is a 2 hour commute total. Their music is also played all day in my office at work. I also work out to their CDs. Needless to say, every day for me is a Deftones music event. It truly helps me through the day without question. One of my dreams is to be on stage with them playing next to Stef or even open for them one day…OMG!!!! I would probably pass out from the overwhelming feeling of excitement.
TBF: Do you have a favourite track to listen to?
CB: It’s hard to label one of Deftones tracks “a favorite” because for me I have so many. If I had to name a few of my favorites, it would be Headup, Root, Be Quiet and Drive, Ihabia, Around the Fur, Lovers, Sextape, Knife Party, Battle-Axe, Risk, Engine No. 9, Beware, Change in the House of Flies, Digital Bath, Poltergeist, Ghosts, Street Carp, Entombed, Goon Squad, Swerve City, Leathers, My Own Summer, What Happened to You, Rosemary, RX Queen, Romantic Dreams, Prince……listen, I could go on and on lol. But these are just a few that I love by Deftones.
TBF: How about a favourite to play?
CB: My favorite songs to play by Deftones is Change in the House of Flies, Street Carp, My Own Summer, Leathers, and Be Quiet and Drive.
TBF: What made you decide to start posting YouTube videos?
CB: Well, a few people at my place of business gave me the idea to post my videos on YouTube. I was concerned at first and didn’t really like the idea because I wasn’t used to putting my work out there to the public to view and scared that I would get a lot of negative comments. But after some vigorous thought, I figured, hey why not. If I want to be a professional musician, I can’t be afraid to fail. I have to be fearless and accept negative as well as positive reactions. So I did it and I’m very happy I did.
TBF: What was the response like?
CB: Overall, the responses have been very good and fair in judgment. I have received 2 comments about “Leathers” not being played exactly right or something about my picking technique on “My Own Summer ” needs work. When people are judging, it just all comes down to style and what style they approve of and that’s alright. Speaking of my “Leathers” cover, it is merely a cover of the song and no it’s not played exactly like the song because there’s no possible way I can achieve that. I’m using one guitar opposed to the two guitars that are played by Stef and Chino together in the song. I tried to play it as close to the sound as possible. I strictly learned it by ear and it’s played my way from the heart.
TBF: Have you had feedback from any of the Deftones guys?
CB: So far I haven’t received any responses from Deftones. They have been doing a lot of touring so I don’t expect they would have the time to watch them. Although if they ever got a chance to view my video covers of their songs, I would be out of this world happy and excited. That would be so Awesome and I would probably pass out for sure.
TBF: Can you tell us more about the guitar you play in the videos?
CB: For Leathers, I play Stef’s Signature ESP LTD 8 String Baritone Guitar and I also play the same guitar for my original song Keep Rockin. It’s Majorly Awesome and it’s the best guitar I own. My Own Summer, Street Carp, and Change in the House of Flies covers are played on my Schecter Diamond Series Omen-6 String as well as my original song GIRLFIRE. I love the deep sound of that guitar. My Original Songs Sweat, Blood, and Darkness and Dark Beauty are played on my Ibanez RG-Series 6 String guitar and my original song “So Fly” is played on my Schecter Diamond Series C-1 Custom.
TBF: You smash those covers, when did you decide to post original compositions?
CB: Thank you so very much for the compliment. I decided to post my original music because I wanted to see what kind of responses I would get since the covers were getting good responses. It gave me some confidence, so I gave it a shot. Plus I wanted to demonstrate that I am a true musician with my own original music. I’m not a technical person and I don’t consider myself a technical guitarist. I don’t have the skill level that others have that have been playing for years and that have been taught technically. But what I have is the passion, the heart, and the thrive to play. I can’t read music, but I have the talent to write and create music. Although some call me a shredder, I don’t match up to a serious shredder. I can’t put myself in a category. I just play guitar. Anything that is in my head to play, it’s coming out on the guitar.
TBF: Do you get hassle from guys who don’t like the fact you play better than them?
CB: Overall I have had great responses from guys that have seen me play and I get a lot of questions about my gear. I have had a couple of posts in the past that were negative and those were deleted just because the responses did not come across as constructive criticism. They came across as disliking the fact that I’m playing Rock/Metal music. I mean, I don’t fit into the mold of what a guitarist looks like playing Rock and Metal music from a physical standpoint. I know I’m different from what people are used to seeing. This is the music I love to play and I will continue for the rest of my life. I’m not trying to fit into a mold. I’ve been different all my life and I prefer to stay that way. I expect criticism and I expect not everyone is going to like or be accepting of what I play, but that’s alright. That’s life and everyone is not going to agree on what you do and how you do it. I don’t trip over things like that. I just keep it moving and do what I do best.
TBF: How about vocals do you enjoy singing as much as playing?
CB: I don’t enjoy vocals as much as playing guitar lol. I enjoy guitar over everything. But I like that my songs come to life when I sing my lyrics. I was so intimidated to sing and play guitar at the same time. Just fearful because I am a perfectionist and I want everything to be exactly right. I definitely don’t claim to be a singer. I’m a guitarist first most definitely.
TBF: What does the future hold for Cheetah Black? Can we expect an EP?
CB: Yes I plan to do an EP. That’s great for promoting my music.
TBF: Will you continue to go solo or are you looking for band members?
CB: You know, I’m definitely open to joining a group or even creating one. It would be awesome to be able to contribute a part of me within a band. I have a very personable mentality and I actually work well in groups. I don’t know…it would be great if I can make it out here as a musician either way I think. As long as I’m able to contribute and bring some ideas to the table within a group, I’m game.
TBF: Is there anywhere we can see you play live soon?
CB: I don’t have anything booked yet, but I’m currently working on it. I plan to start playing in a couple of places here in Maryland sometime in October hopefully, but I’m still currently checking these places out. I have to get better at my craft and that won’t happen without playing in front of audiences. I really can’t wait. Although it’s intimidating, I can do this because I want this bad. I have nothing holding me back now. My kids are raised and now I have the freedom to get out there and do my thing where ever it is. I won’t give up on my dream. If I do that, I fail myself.
TBF: Lastly, where can our readers find out more about Cheetah Black?
CB: If anyone would like to connect with me by becoming friends on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Pamela.Stashak.9
My YouTube Channel is: Cheetah Black – YouTube
My Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Just a note: I’m always very appreciative of anyone who takes the time to view my channel. So I would like to take this time to say Thank You so very much from the bottom of my heart to all of those who have been viewing my videos. OneLove Always!
TBF: Thanks again, Machine Steve
Well thre you go people the amazing and talented Cheetah Black. It’s been a real pleasure for me to talk to this lovely lady and I am looking forward to hearing lots more from her in the future. We here at The Black Flag will be plaing her videos non stop and looking forward to the first EP. Be sure to go over and see more of Cheetah Black on her YouTube and support her on FaceBook. For now here is the very video that made me fall head over heels with Cheetah Black: