Led by piano player and singer, Sunny Promyotin, The Black Pack can be found by following the groove resounding from Sideboard Neighborhood Kitchen and Coffee Bar in Danville every first and third Wednesday of the month. Or you can join the thousands of others who can’t get enough of their YouTube videos.
MICHELLE LASSLE: WHEN DID YOU FIRST BECOME INTERESTED IN MUSIC?
SUNNY PROMYOTIN: I was 16 years old. I had never played any instruments and never had any lessons. I was going through some rough times with family, and I was very emotional. I kept hearing music in my head. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew that I wanted to sing something and something wanted to come out of me. So I went to the piano at school, sat down, and just started to tinker. Within 15 minutes something happened with my visualization, and I was able to see shapes and colors in the notes that made sense to me. It was almost like geometry. I could tell the notes were connected; I could tell there were sections. It made sense. Within 20 minutes I had my first song.
ML: YOU HAD NEVER PLAYED BEFORE?
SP: Never. I was just kind of lucky; to be inspired, that something pushed me and made me want to express. In that very day I had 10 songs, and by the end of the month I had over 100 songs. At the end of the year I had over 1,000. They were all instrumental piano, but I was writing nonstop. It kind of saved my life. All my friends were turning to drugs and alcohol, and I turned right to music. It was like I had no choice. It took me in and carried me. My passion for it defined my life and so much of the direction I was going to start walking in. It definitely contributed to everything that I am today.
ML: WHERE DID IT TAKE YOU FROM THERE?
SP: I made a good friend who was musical, and we started teaming up and doing duet jazz concerts all over Monterey. I was also doing solo piano. By the time I was 17, I was pro. I was getting paid to play hotels, concerts, festivals, everything. It was awesome.
ML: IS THERE A CERTAIN ERA OF MUSIC THAT INSPIRES YOU THE MOST?
SP: I literally love every kind of music. I’m a little ashamed to say, but I find myself appreciating some kinds of elevator music if it grooves enough. In general my requirement for music is that it be good. I love jazz, hip hop, R&B, gospel, choir, baroque. There’s no genre of music I don’t like, as long as it has soul, expression, and honesty. That’s the most important thing that I ask for.
ML: WHEN DID YOU TRANSITION INTO WRITING AND PRODUCING?
SP: By the time I was maybe 18 I had a very special night where some movie stars picked me up from one of my gigs. A friend of mine who I was working with had some connections in Hollywood. It happened to be the entire cast of Beverly Hills 90210. They all swung by my hotel, picked me up, and we went to the opening of Jason Priestley’s restaurant called La Gondola in Carmel. I was playing the piano there, and this guy came up and leaned on the piano. He looked really pretentious to me at the time. I was a judgmental kid and didn’t know any better. He had a baseball cap on with a suit, and he was kind of getting in my space. He said something to me, but I totally shooed him away. Afterwards my friend introduced him to me as Steven Spielberg. I did not believe him! I thought there was no way it could be him. I felt so stupid. Long story short, that was the beginning of my producing and the different connections that I started to make.
I began ghost writing and ghost producing. I was working with different artists from all over. Then I moved to San Francisco when I was 19 and continued to produce. It was a dream of mine that I would retire when I was 26, but I ended up taking my step back at 28. That’s when I moved to Thailand. Little did I know I was not going to retire at all. I went to Thailand only to open a record label and reenter the music scene by storm. I met somebody who was an artist, and she really inspired me to get back into it. I felt like Thailand had not reached the musical point it needed to be at and thought I could contribute by bringing some western talent and some new ideas that would expand their music. So I took on quite a few artists. We cross-market and work with people in the United States. We work with a huge roster of talent. Some of our people have even done videos with Snoop Dogg.
ML: DID YOU BUILD IT FOR THEM TO HAVE A FAN BASE IN THAILAND OR DID YOU BRING THEM OVERSEAS?
SP: We wanted to give the opportunity to Asia based talent to expand worldwide. In Asia the artists are very limited by their labels, and they’re seen as products that can only be pushed in their country. But a lot of the artists are bilingual. They have huge international appeal; they’re just not given the chance. We would try to bring them overseas if we could, and we would also bring local talent to Thailand.
ML: HOW LONG WERE YOU IN THAILAND?
SP: I was there for 5-7 years. Before I left originally, I fell in love and had a long distance relationship for the entire time I was in Thailand. We ended up getting married, and she was planning to move there but it was unstable. If I was going to have a family, I wanted to be safe. All of the businesses I had were always so risky, in a sense, that if the government decided there would be a coup or black out I could easily be affected. One of my companies suffered four months of revenue because we couldn’t get to the shopping mall to sell our products. My pipeline to the people had been cut, and the mall got burned down. After that I didn’t want to live there anymore.
ML: HOW DID YOU FORM THE BLACK PACK?
SP: I had been producing all my life and not getting credit for songs. There’s a trade off in making money. Managing artists is not very fun at times. When we moved back, because our artist base was in Thailand still, we decided that we would turn the tables and take what we had been doing for so long out onto the stage. We had been producing and writing hit songs, stuff that would top charts and get seven million views in a day. We wanted to bring that to the American stage. We turned from The Black Pack being a group of producers into a performing group. It’s done something really incredible for us.
We had been working with most of the core group, which is Jake Stockley, his father Eric, Logan Buck, and I. We work with a couple other vocalists, backup singers, a rapper. They’re all people we’ve worked with, produced with, or friends of Jake’s. We didn’t do a super search because most of the talent was already close to us.
ML: DO YOU HAVE A SET NUMBER OF BAND MEMBERS OR DOES IT FLUCTUATE?
SP: The core is really the four of us, but it can change. We want to be music that can accommodate any situation. We don’t want to limit ourselves to a seven person band. We’re willing to break it up. If we have to go with just me and Jake, we’ll do that. We can strip it down. We have different people on different instruments, even singers who had never played before. A lot of people come to us and say how gifted we are and that we have something unique. I’ve always believed that music is something that can be acquired by anyone. You just have to really want it. When I was 17 I was teaching people how to write music. I didn’t teach them how to read it or how to perform; I would teach them how to play and create their own music. I proved that even an 80 year old woman who had no exposure to music was able to write a song within two weeks. I did the same thing for a seven year old kid. Given the chance I think everybody can learn to play music.
ML: HOW DID YOU COME TO THE NAME THE BLACK PACK?
SP: The Black Pack was this thing that I had in my head that I didn’t understand until I opened Black Media Company Limited in Thailand. The idea behind the company is that we are the color black. Black to me is defined by taking all the colors in a painter’s palette and mixing them together. That’s how we view our music and philosophy. At press conferences they ask us what kind of music we would classify ourselves as. We’re every kind of music. The most important thing is not the single color of the music but the quality. We wanted to make sure that the outcome would be spectacular. We don’t discriminate; we have everything. Once we formed our production group, there was no choice but to be The Black Pack. We each represent a different color and we all bring something special to the table.
ML: DO YOU PERFORM A MIXTURE OF ORIGINAL AND COVER PIECES?
SP: In today’s market it would be great to do a set of all originals, but I love music. There are some great songs out there that I’d love to be a part of. I enjoy what we call canvassing. We take songs and try to make them a new version that is our own. We have a version of Thriller that we just introduced that’s very unique. We also have an original song called Chocolate Covered Kisses. We’ll do a set with half covers, half originals. People come up to us after our set and the first thing they say is that they love that song. It’s the greatest feeling ever.
ML: DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE SONG TO PERFORM, COVER OR NOT?
SP: Right now it seems like by popular demand it’s going to be Chocolate Covered Kisses. It’s a light song, not super serious, but a love song about even when things go bad you’ve got to remember the sweet. I think one of my favorite covers is Castle on a Cloud from Les Miserables. We do a version that’s extremely crazy. There’s a rap in it and a battle solo. It draws people to the stage.
ML: DO YOU HAVE A HOPE FOR THE FUTURE OF THE BLACK PACK?
SP: My personal goal is for us to ultimately be able to reach a position where we can touch everyone. I want to share our music, message, confidence, beliefs, and inspire other people. I’ve done so many crazy things in my life, and they’re all based on the principle that anything is possible. That’s what drives my music and is the core of what we do. People doubt so much, but we do it. The end result is magic.