Issue 37 of Stencil Mag

Page 1

Interview with Will

Can you tell us about the formation of Black Peaks? Well Joe had been traveling for a few years and came back wanting to form a band. He had seen our drummer (Liam) playing in a few other projects and really liked what he did. Liam got Goz (Bass) involved and then Goz suggested that I come and join in the fun. I said yes and we all kind of hit it off from there really.

How did you get to the band name Black Peaks and what does it mean to you? Well we used to be called SHRINE but there were too many projects with the same name and so we spent months trying to think of a new name. We got really stuck in this process and were even looking at constellations and the names of stars and all sorts. We then started looking at mountain ranges and volcanoes and came across Black Peak which is a super volcano in Alaska. We spent a while chatting about it and decided we all really liked the name. It’s quite grand and majestic at the same time as being quite dark. I think it fits us and our sound very well.

Black Peaks instantly stand out as you have a sound that just can't be defined. We felt a mix of Finch, At The Drive-In, Hell Is For Heroes, Thrice, to name a few, so can you tell us a bit about how you first discovered your sound as a band? Wow thanks, Finch and Hell Is For Heroes, that's a new one! Well we first started off jamming very angular and jagged kinds of sounds (very At The Drive-In and Volta kind of stuff) when we very first got together, I'm glad that you can hear that in our sound as not many people pick that out. Then I guess as the writing progressed we got heavier and more of the Mastodon, Dillinger vibes started coming out. We've never really tried to sound like anyone in particular though, it’s just what putting four of us in a room together sounds like.

For you, what bands have really influenced you over the years, and why? I would say Mastodon and The Mars Volta have always played a very heavy influence on our band. It’s just such epic music and both bands tick all the boxes for us musically. It’s heavy, melodic, progressive and both those bands have so many moments that just make you go 'YEEAAAAAHHHH MAAAAANNNNN' if you know what i mean? That's what music is all about - those moments!

photo credit: Michael Jordan Lee

So how did your recent headline tour go, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? The headline tour was just spectacular, many of the shows were sold out or close to which was just fantastic and very humbling. I would say my first highlight was sharing a van with our best buddies The Physics House Band on the first leg of the tour, that was just continuous laughter, partying and jokes. We just had such a bloody good time. I think we almost forgot at points that we were actually there to be playing shows not just hanging out and having fun, it’s so good to have them back and playing music again. In the second leg I think getting to play with and watch two of the best bands in the UK (Toska and Palm Reader) Every single night was just unbelievable. It was just crazy being part of one of the best gigs, every single night of the week for ten days. Just ludicrous musicians and such nice guys all of them. It’s going to be weird going on the road with other bands or on our own later this year !

How did you get to the album title 'Statues', and what does it mean to you? The title originally came from one of the tracks 'Statues of Shame'. I think I can speak for all of us in saying that 'Statues' means everything to us. We poured every last drop of our souls into making that record, and it nearly destroyed all of us over the course of a year and a half, so yeah, ‘Statues’ is pretty important to us.

Which song was the hardest for you guys to put together, and why? I think ‘Statues of Shame’ was probably the most difficult song for us to be happy with. We had been fiddling with it for years. It started off as a track called 'Light', which we then pulled apart and mashed with some other bits that now ended up in 'White Eyes'. We have been playing that song in various shapes and forms for nearly three years now which just seems crazy! It nearly didn't make it onto the album as well because there were some sections that we still felt didn't sit right, but we managed to sort it out in the end.

What else can you tell us about the recording process for this album? We recorded with Mark Roberts at Middle Farm Studios. We managed to cram the whole recording process into two weeks which was mental. I think on average we were working for about 17 hours a day to get the beast done. Joe (guitar) developed a strange condition we have only seen in that studio, which we called 'prog eye'. For some reason he was always tracking his guitar at a certain time and his eyes would get all red and puffy after a while and he would go really quiet. It was pretty funny but also slightly concerning at the same time.

How did the music video for 'Glass Built Castles' come together, and what do you want it to mean to your fans? Well we shot the video for ‘GBC’ while we were touring. Some bits of it were done when we weren't there but we smashed it down from Newcastle in one day so we could be there for some of the scenes. If you look really carefully in the bit where there is a riot scene you can see Liam in the background holding a flare and me at the back of the crowd pushing people. I think this video is a bit like a super short cut explanation for some of the story that rides through the record. It was really awesome doing this as we managed to get a whole bunch of our fans involved in shooting the video and that was really fun.

What else can we expect to see from Black Peaks in 2016? Well our calendar for the summer is pretty bloody jam packed. We are going to be flying all over Europe playing in Denmark, Czech Republic, Hungary and all sorts so that's going to be ace. We’re also playing Download Festival which is going to be bloody brilliant. That just happens to be on the same day as DEFTONES and BLACK SABBATH which is just great. Expect to see us out on tour again around the UK as well later on in the year. Very, very exciting stuff .

What made you want to release 'Burn It Down' first from 'Survivor's Guilt' and can you tell us about the meaning behind the track? 'Burn It Down' is kind of a commentary. I'm talking to friends, and I'm watching them do certain things, thinking "man that might not be the best decision for your life" but we all need to make our own decisions. As I was writing that, I was like well look in the mirror, look at yourself. You're doing the same thing, you're doing something that might not be the best decision, but it's the best thing for you at this time. Musically it really works as an opener, it comes in with a punch, and that's the way I wanted to start the record. That one stood out as a really solid opener, short and to the point, and that's a good way to start a record.

So how did you get to the album title 'Survivor's Guilt', and what does it mean to you? Our friends and family that have gone before us, I think that they would be slapping us around if they could. When we are not taking advantage of the life that we've been given, regardless on if it’s perfect, or if it's really difficult like, they don't have that chance that we do, so we need to live for them. Get up and do something, because you can!

‘Survivor's Guilt’ isn't a solo record in the same way that 'City By The Sea' is, as you play electric guitar at points and members of I Am The Avalanche joined you to create a more full band set up. So how did they end up joining you, and how would you say musically you've progressed since your EP? I just wrote songs, and I wanted to do them justice by hearing them the way I thought they should sound. I didn't want to stifle them at all because it's a solo record. If things needed the full band execution then that's what I was going to do. So that's the way everything started to turn out with the record. As soon as I knew we were going to be a full band on the record, I immediately asked Kellen (the best player I know). The Ratt was already producing the record, so it made a lot of sense for him to play drums, aside from the fact that he is the best drummer that I know! With Steve Choi him and I collaborated on my last EP and I defiantly wanted him to help me expand my sound a little bit. He is a really great multi-instrumentalist kind of guy. I had the dream team, I had a lot of talented friends that were willing to help out, and be a part of the record. I couldn't of done it without those guys.

Brett Romnes also produced and mixed the record, so what made you want to work with him for that process, and how would you say he helped shape the record? He is one of my best buds, and the studio that he works out of is where we recorded the last I Am The Avalanche record, and I knew that I wanted to record there. There's a lot of really great gear, he is a great producer, and there's tons of resources at my disposal. When I'm recording in a studio like that, the record also sounds better. We were talking about going out to California, which seemed like a lot of fun, but it's not about going to have fun and being in a nice place. However we were eventually in a nice place, as the studio is on a lake in New Jersey, it's great.

You said that “you had to live life for a while before you were ready to write these songs�, so can you elaborate on how the writing process compares for you on this release to anything you've done before? I just think as a songwriter, I haven't gotten to the place yet, and I think you never get to it. You should never get to the place where you're like "this is it, I'm as good as I'm going to be". But I really feel like when I started writing this record, I saw it take shape, and I thought wow this is defiantly a milestone for me when it comes to how far I've got as a songwriter. It's where I want to be, I'm going in the right direction, and that's a really good feeling. You have to go through everything, and then you have to process everything, this is just life, not just poor me, it's like the good and the bad. Then you need to get to a place of maturity to process everything, and also take things on board. Like fully learn from your experiences and your mistakes, and that stuff came full circle, so I was able to write & say it the way I wanted to. More so, than ever.

When you come up with lyrics, how did you go about deciding which band/project is best for them? I write the lyrics second, so I don't have the lyrics and say that this will be for any project. I'll have the music, and be like "this will be solo material", and then I'll write lyrics later. So I'm not thinking these aren't good lyrics for a solo record. The whole lyric process happens after the song is written, most of the time.

How did the album artwork for 'Survivor's Guilt' come together, and what does it mean to you? I called Tom Gilmour who did the 'City By The Sea' cover, and the 'Wolverines' cover for I Am The Avalanche. I discussed it with him, and was like "hey I want old English letters, classic, but I don't want the old English letters that everyone knows, I want you to make old English letters". So he made new letters, his own old English letters. Then he like hand drew them, and scanned them and everything. Then I wanted to add a coffin, and a cloud with some rain over it. Tom Gilmour has some really complex work that he has already done, like if he showed me the cover for my album, I'd be like "you made this?". He gave me way more involved designs as well, but I chose the really simple one. I said "This is perfect, I'm not going to mess with it". So he said "alright, so what do you want changed?" and was like "nothing, this is it!". Tom's great, and hopefully I get to work with him on more projects. Every time it's time for artwork, I don't think of anybody else.

How did your recent UK tour go with The Movielife, and what was it like to perform your new song 'Future Feeling'? The tour was sick, The Movielife shows are always fun. People were happy in the crowd, so we're happy! Playing 'Future Feeling' is like a breath of fresh air. We kind of put it in the middle of the set on this tour, which is fantastic. It’s been in-between some songs that we've played a FEW times in our life! We love the song, and the way it came out. We want to show everybody what The Movielife apparently sounds like in 2016!

Will you guys be releasing further material in the future? Yeah, Brandon and I have been writing music. That was released because it was ready at the time, so we didn't want to rush it. It's great, and the content is coming out really good. We don’t want to rush it, and we just want to make sure that it's what we need it to be. We'd like to put out more music, so that's the goal for The Movielife, as well as playing more shows.

Are I Am The Avalanche working on anything new just yet? If so, what can fans expect? We will make more music. I Am The Avalanche is like purely recreational. We went out and toured after two of our guys quit. They needed to pay more attention to their life at home, and their careers. We were never making enough money from the band to support a full grown man living in the most expensive city in the world. Everybody would go home and work. I would never do that, I would hit the road on my own as I'm a full time musician, nobody else in the band was. We toured for a year, without two of our bros who we founded the band with. When we get home from the 'Wolverines' tour. Branden was like "I'm done, and I wish you the best". So Ratt and I were like "we didn't really want to do this with other dudes". Ratt’s producing career is taking off, he is working with all types of sick bands. Brandon and I had been talking about doing The Movielife, and I knew I was going to start writing my solo record. So Ratt and I were like "let's just rest the Avalanche right now, it's not like we're breaking up, because we're not". I don't think Avalanche will ever not be a band, we'll just play when we feel like it. We've played three shows this year. I want to try and arrange for us to come back to the UK, which is easier said than done, but I think we can make it work. So yeah, Avalanche is more like "you guys want do some shows six months from now?" everybody says yes, gets those days clear on their schedule, and then five best buddies play a show together. There's not motive behind the Avalanche, it's just purely fun. We pride ourselves on having records that we love and are proud of.

What will the live set up be for your solo tour? Ratt from the Avalanche playing drums. Brandon from The Movielife playing bass, and Steve Choi from RX Bandits/The Sound of Animals Fighting playing keyboards and lead guitar. I don't know if that's going to be the line-up in the UK, it's probably going to rotate as we go, as people have lives to live, but I'll do whatever I can to keep that gang together.

What else can we expect to see from you in 2016? I’ll do five weeks in the US with a full band backing me. Playing a lot of solo material, with probably a couple of Movielife and Avalanche tunes. I plan on coming back to the UK doing the same thing. I'll always come back and do solo shows with just my acoustic guitar, but the next time I come back for this record, it'll be with a band backing me. So I'm going to tour for a while on this, there'll be The Movielife shows here and there. Avalanche shows here and there. That's just the cycle of my life. I've also begun to write songs for other artists, who need help writing their songs, like major label artists, which has been fun. It's just another thing that I do. When you're not a complete rock star, you need to do a lot to make a living as a musician.

Interview with Jarrod

Can you tell us about the formation of Massive? It basically started with a conversation myself and Brad had about our common goal of getting out of Australia and touring the world. Something that neither of our respective bands were doing at the time. So we started jamming and writing together in my attic which we turned into a makeshift recording studio. That's where ‘Full Throttle’ was written. We recorded demos of the songs and set out to find a lead guitarist and bassist to complete the line up. We met Ben Laguda through our great friend Kristy Jinx who was singing with him in an acoustic duo at the time. She said we should come down and check him out one night. We were obviously impressed with his guitar playing and asked him to come have a jam with us! He came down and jammed and loved the tunes and said his brother would be keen to play bass if we wanted to try him out. Aaron Laguda has been a Melbourne session guitarist for 100s of touring artists over the past 15 years, so to have him come in as our bassist was just unreal! And that's pretty much it...

How did you get to the band name of Massive, and what do you want it to mean to your fans? Well we were helping Ben move out of this tiny studio place he was living in. It was about 4am and he was supposed to be out by 9am that day. So we were all in there giving him a hand, we stumbled across this dusty old banner buried under a bunch of other stuff. It said Massive on it. He said he used to be in some band called Massive when he was younger. We'd been trying to think of a name for a few weeks but had no good ideas. And we all kind of just thought "hmm that could work!". It kind of sums us up in a lot of ways. We're a big, loud, fast, crazy over the top rock n roll band. Our sound is just a wall of guitars, big ass drums, wailing vocals.. So the name suits us I'd say!

So how did you get to the album title 'Destination Somewhere', and what does it mean to you? ‘Destination Somewhere’ is the perfect way to describe this band right now. We want to tour every corner of the globe. We don't want to go home. It's all about playing live to as many different people in as many different cities in as many different countries as we can and partying all the way and not knowing where we are going to sleep or where we are going to wake up, and having the absolute time of our lives doing it. I love the idea of heading into the unknown. It's exciting to me. We don't know where we're going but we'll drink all the beer when we get there!

How would you say this record compares overall to what you did on your debut album 'Full Throttle'? I'd say this record shows signs of a band who has been living on the road. We have more stories to tell. More life experiences. This album was written all over the world, from hostels in Nuremberg to the back of the van driving through outback Australia. ‘Full Throttle’ was written, for the most part, before the band had even played a single gig! It's loose and wild and fun. ‘Destination Somewhere’ has that element of reckless abandon and madness but then there are some moments of, dare I say it, maturity. Brendan's song ‘Beaten Dog’ is a good example of that.

Can you tell us about the recording process for 'Destination Somewhere'? We recorded this album with Ricki Rae, who also produced ‘Full Throttle’, at Light Hill studio, which he owns. It was a fairly easy decision for us because we knew we could trust him and we loved what he'd done on the first record. He knows what this band is all about and we all enjoy the process of recording with him so I think we all put down better performances because of it. We don't experiment too much in the studio, we basically go in there and track the songs exactly as we play them live. So it sounds like a real rock band and isn't too overproduced or whatever... It's a fairly quick process actually.

There are some really awesome structures and solos on this record, so can you tell us about how a song normally comes together for Massive? Most of the time it'll be an idea that Brad has been playing around with and we'll jam on it and the song just comes from those jams. He might have a chorus and riff or something and then we'll kind of play around and structure it up. But we all contribute music and riffs. Brendan wrote most of the music on 'One for the Road'. It only takes a riff and someone else might hear it and go with and then we're away! Brendan is one of those dudes that just knows exactly what to play and what not to play. He has a great feel for what the song needs and how he can compliment it with a guitar part. 2doggs hears a song once and just nails a bass line right on the spot and usually that's what he sticks with because it's so spot on!

Also, can you tell us about the main themes and influences that run throughout this record? I guess the main theme is really in the title. Leaving home, living on the road, doing what you want to do and what you love, chasing your dreams... Overcoming adversary and being the person you want to be. Was that all too cheesy clichĂŠ? Ah well...

How did Brendan Forward end up joining Massive, and what has he been like to work with so far? Brendan Forward moved to Melbourne from Newcastle (Australia) a couple of years ago to make a career as a musician. He'd been busking in the city and gigging all around Melbourne as a solo blues guy... He got a job as the sound guy at the Whole Lotta Love bar, which our manager owns. So one night I was down there absolutely hammered while Brad was playing an acoustic set while 2doggs was working behind the bar and we basically asked him to join. The next morning he woke up in the tour van halfway to Newcastle with us for his first show! How ironic! He's just the best dude. Funny as hell, super talented and doesn't mind a quiet drink or two....

How excited are you to be a part of this year's Hard Rock Hell, and what can attending fans expect from your performance? We're pumped to be invited back there again this year! 2014 was a great time there and we can't wait to see lots of familiar faces and make plenty of new friends too! Fans can expect us to be jumping all over the place, drinking everything in sight and playing a full tilt rock n roll show! I hope they're okay with that!

What bands have really influenced you over the last couple of years, and why? I've been loving the Winery Dogs debut record. A lot of supergroups can forget to actually write good songs because they're too busy trying to out shred each other, but I really rate that first record. The Answer's album ‘Revival’ has been a favourite since I first heard it maybe four years ago. Black Country Communion I think have been one of the best rock bands to come out in the last 10 years for sure! Melbourne band Dirt River Radio are probably my favourite Oz band right now. Just great rootsy, classic, bluesy rock n roll...

What else can we expect to see from Massive in 2016? Plenty of touring. Firstly around Aus with our buddies The Screaming Jets, then off to Europe a little later in the year! We don't plan on stopping anytime soon...

Interview with Joe

Can you tell us a bit about your latest music video for ‘Hands & Tongues’. Yeah well it’s about time we did a video that we weren’t in, because we all hate being in them! Me more so than anyone. Because there’s no natural way to mime, and not look like an idiot. So I was like “let’s stop doing performance videos because we’ve done like three now”. The first one was at the 2 Pigs pub in Cheltenham on the hottest day of the year. We went in, and did like four hours of the most hardcore, intense thrashing around. I was given this T-shirt that said Stay Lucky on it. I was so sweaty and so grim by the end that the actual print had come off. It was actually so hot that we fried an SD card in the heat too, so we all had to go back the next week and do it all again. Of course I had to get them to send me another Tee to use which I ruined again even more so! Our latest video was done all around Cheltenham, and it was shot like a David Lynch film. The genuine thing about our videos is that they are never ever planned. But with that one, it was properly planned out and it looks better for it. Even when the actor showed up we were kinda like ‘Hmmmmmm he kind of looks like Christian Bale….’ but then he got into wardrobe, I mean, he basically put a suit on and did his hair and we were like “oh! He DOES look like Christian Bale!” The first shot we did was him walking down the street past the offices, we looked at the camera and watched that on playback and I were like “Yes - I think we’re going to pull it off”.

Can you tell us about your musical upbringing? I started when I was really young, my dad was a drummer so I started hitting stuff when I was about five. My first band was when I was eleven. A kid at school in a music lesson pulled out an acoustic guitar and everyone went nuts for it, so I was like “I’ll have a bit of that please, thank you”. This same kid got me into Nirvana and the Manics and Steve Vai. It was good. The first performance we did was at a school party, we played with the most haggard gear. It was a really, really lame like Argos kit, I was on this horrible school kit. I didn’t have a kick drum, so I used the floor tom as a kick drum. It was awesome and we just played one song ‘Australia’ by the Manic Street Preachers, I just fell in love from then on. But my first real proper band was a band called the Divine Secret. I met our drummer (Ben) at school and he was listening to a lot of Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, that was the first time I’d met anyone who was listening to that music, and that was the first time we had a proper musical connection. It was cool. We played 2000 Trees as our final show in 2011. I had a little cry. It was kind of over for everyone and we we’re like “Let’s do this, and go out on a bang”. The other thing I’m involved with at the moment is called Cupcake Diaz and the Felttip Pens - Laura Mitchell’s vocals will blow your mind. It’s more Yeah Yeah Yeah’s meets The Velvet Underground. I can’t wait for people to hear it. Empire came about through [James] L’esteve (Guitar) really. I think he’d seen everyone that’s in Empire in other bands, and when he wanted to throw Empire together. They kind of handpicked people. I wasn’t actually going to do it. I took like a year, or two years, but then I was like “ok then I’ll come and see you Jam”. I was so focused on other projects, and so it’s strange to look back and think I could have missed the boat.

You guys unfortunately still have to pick up a little not-so-creative work to make ends meat, however do you think your ultimate destination is still achievable? Well I don’t know. I just have to make it work, graft and it’s going to be late nights and long weekends. Be prepared to lose money. Because being the band means you miss out on work, but it’s all good. I mean we’re really lucky to be in the position where Empire can self-sustain. We’ve got a great booking agent and it’s just nice to be in the situation when you’re not calving out your wages. I mean it’s worth it, it really is, but it’s also nice to buy like, new trousers you know? It’s the same as booking the shows too. I used to love it. Back in the day when it wasn’t about Facebook or emails, I was ringing everyone up. Promoters can be interesting at times, especially when it comes to payment. When they’re hyping the night up and saying like “yeah just come on down, it’ll be a busy night.” You get there and you’re playing to about three people... There’s something about having an agent, they handle all the money so they just sort it out. Thankfully Daily Dischord totally have our best interests at heart. I mean it’s hard when someone asks you to play a show, and you’re like ‘erm, I can’t say yes I’ve just got to ask my booking agent. Most people are cool, but you do get some when they’re like – “why can’t you just say yeah,?”. Playing with other bands is always a good way to do it too. Good additions to the CV.

You have played countless times around our humble island, and further afield in Europe also. Touring is a staple test of any band worth their chops. So what do you think of the process? I love touring on the road! I have the best sleeps. It must be something of the noise of the road, and the close, coffin nature of the bunk. I don’t know, it’s just peaceful. I used to be like “yeah! Let's party all night”. Now, the prospect of getting in the van and falling asleep is like the best thing ever. I’m that big on the party any more, I’m more like oooh sleep! Napping is a big part of my life! The Spanish have got it spot on! Hahah.

With such rigorous touring and high profile support slots, you guys have certainly experienced your fair share of highs and lows. So can you give us some moments that have stood out to you? We played with HIM on the day after Boxing day. It was a good gig, but they’re not particularly nice people. That Villo guy was a bit of an arsehole. Obviously they’ve got like Super die hard fans. The queue was out the door. These sweet fans had clearly made him something; they’d managed to get it onto the stage. He’d picked it up and put it to one side and was like “thank you so much guys, I really appreciate it”, but after they played – he just left it. Right there. I just think that’s the worst thing ever. I mean what the fuck? You’ve just broke their heart. But It’s when people come up to me and complement our music, I just say “No, thank YOU for appreciating what we do”. These people have no obligation to come up to me and tell me what they think. But they do, and I really appreciate anyone who does that. I end up becoming their fan! It’s so cool. So when someone has spent money to come to a gig and make you something, and you don’t even take it home it’s like - what the...? I mean, you don’t have to keep it. Just take it out of the venue and make it look like you’re taking it! I just found it disgusting. But, oddly enough, that show was amazing too. It was at Nottingham Rock City. It’s always a bit difficult with an established cult band, but we had a decent enough following and people cared after the gig. It was the same with Download, that was something else. I know bands say it all the time that it felt like a dream, but it genuinely did. It still feels like we didn’t do it. It was awesome!

Can you tell us some other stories from life on the road? Someone gave me a peacock feather last night actually. No one ever gives me anything, but that was there. It’s in my little book of lyrics. She was like “I found this for you”. I was like “Thanks”. Then she was like “You can put it in your hair”. I didn’t but I was like, “that’s very sweet – I’ll put it in my book. I mean there’s some sentimental stuff in there, so you’ve made the cut!” As for strange occurrences, last year we did a gig at the London Barfly then it was over to Belgium so we did two gigs within a 24 hour period. Which was horrible and amazing, and very surreal. So we did the first night in London, drove to the ferry, got on the ferry – delirious and tired. Then I slept all through France and Belgium, just feeling completely out of it. So again feeling in a surreal dream state I got into the toilet of the dressing room, which wasn’t just for us, it was for everyone – and I just got completely naked. I just stayed naked for 10 mins, and was like “this will be alright”. It’s like that episode of the simpsons when Mr Burns sees everyone as an alien. Actually on that same excursion one evening I had got so hammered, climbed up to the top bunk in our van, and during the night, fell out of the top bunk ripped my pants off and broke our table, then got back into bed completely naked next to L’esteve. The next morning everyone was like “who broke the table” and me not remembering anything was like “Yeah, who broke the fucking table! What a bunch of idiots!”. I genuinely didn’t think I did anything. Turns out I broke the table.

With the release of your new EP ‘Our Simple Truths’ now completed, what’s next for you guys? I imagine after that more PR things. We’re away for June trying to write stuff. Then we’re out in July for a run, and then I don’t know! Who knows? We’ve missed the boat on festivals this year unfortunately after our last booking agent. It’s a shame. But, next year. I mean it was a weird time. Nothing was coming in, we’d lost our agent, I genuinely thought this band had like two months left before everyone was just going to be like ‘f*ck this’. Then literally, just after that run we got management and a booking agent at the end of the week, so it was like ‘Huzzah’!. We’ll see if we can rub shoulders with the right people. I mean, I feel like the more industry people you meet, the less you want to be in a band. But, that’s part of the beast. Most people are cool but there’s just those “you scratch my back, I’ll nosh you off”. I mean, it’s the nature of the beast, and it seems to get worse the higher you get.

Interview with Connor

Can you tell us a bit about the story behind your track, 'Mr Murder'? 'Mr Murder' was written about my best friend Matt, who passed away last year. He was one of my biggest influences and inspirations. We played music together, toured for years together. Matt was battling heath problems for many years and finally I think he just had enough of the struggle. 'Mr Murder' was written in tribute to him. I wanted to immortalize him and his memory.

Also, how did you end up working with Brock Lindow on the track, and what was he like to work with? Brock has been a dear friend of ours for many years, along with all the 36 Crazyfists guys. We knew we wanted him on the record before we started. After 'Mr Murder' was written that's when we were sure that would be the song he should be on, as he and Matt were friends as well. So the song has one of my best friends on it and it pays tribute to the best man I've ever known.

What was your UK tour like with 36 Crazyfists, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road with them? The UK tour was one of the best times we have ever had. To be able to go to another country, so far away with all your brothers is such a blessing. Just waking up every morning in a new city that is hundreds of years old is such an amazing experience. To wake up and walk off your bus and just turn a corner and see what you find. That is the thing I most love about touring!

So how did you get to the album title 'Screams From A Black Wilderness', and what does it mean to you? 'Screams...' came from my friend Matt. I was having a hard time coming up with a proper title, one that would fit the overall atmosphere of the record. I wanted to incorporate something scary, but beautiful as well. As soon as he said it, I knew that was the right one!

Can you elaborate on some of the main themes and influences that run throughout the record? We've always tried to not be too influenced by things around us. I want our listeners to escape everyday life and dive into the record. Put some headphones on and listen all the way through. Our songs are different stories in a larger book. Each one painting a different picture with sounds and lyrics.

This album ties in with your self-titled album, so can you tell us a bit about how that idea came together? The idea came when we started writing 'Before the Flames'. As soon as we got to the first chorus, I knew that this would work perfectly as the prequel to 'After The Great Fire' (a track from our debut album). It is told from the perspective of the children and tells the story leading up to the fire being set. We also have a song called 'Lady of the Night'. It is the sequel to 'The Art of Mourning'.

Can you tell us what your current line-up is, and what it has been like to write & record with this now solidified version of All Hail The Yeti? Alan Stokes - Guitar/vocals Ryan 'Junior' Kittlitz - Drums Nick Diltz - Bass/vocals Connor Garritty - Vocals This writing process was amazing. These songs were written by the four of us together, whereas our first record had numerous writers because of the length of time it took us to finish it. Alan and I started writing in my home studio as soon as we got back from the tour with 36 Crazyfists. It was amazing to be involved so closely with someone during the writing process. We really connected and we produced an amazing record that we are very proud of.

How did you end up working with Matt Hyde, and what was he like to work with? Matt Hyde lives in Los Angeles and I'm a fan of his work. We reached out to him and he was familiar with the band. He was just finishing up on the new Deftones record and had the time available. He was on board right away and it was amazing to work with him. Matt instantly felt like a part of the family. We worked very hard to end up with the product we have.

Can you tell us a bit about the conceptual two-part video series you put out, and what it was like to work with Brian Cox of Flarelight Films? These two songs tied together while we were writing. When the label decided that they wanted 'Before the Flames' to be the first single, I instantly knew I wanted to tie both songs together visually as well. We shot both videos in one day and it was an amazing experience. Brian and I worked very closely to get the final product. Making videos is a whole new art-form that I've fallen in love with.

What was the hardest part about putting 'Screams From A Black Wilderness' together for you guys, and why? There really wasn't anything hard about it at all. Everything came together so smoothly and flawlessly. We were very fortunate to have the team we did!

How did the album artwork for 'Screams From A Black Wilderness' come together, and what does it mean to you? The artwork was done by my brother Liam. He has done both records now and he basically handled it all. I told him my vision and he nailed it. I wanted a different picture for each song, instead of using the lyrics to tell the story. Almost like a picture book. He used the subject matter from each song to create the picture in the booklet.

You guys re-released your self-titled album, so what made you want to do that, and what do you think that record has done for the representation of All Hail The Yeti? This was something the label wanted to do and we felt that it was a great idea. The first record never received the attention it deserved. The old label we were on didn't put the right push into it, so we felt that with the new record coming out, the self-titled would get a second chance. We added some demos on the end as well, to give our fans something extra to listen to.

What else can we expect to see from All Hail The Yeti in 2016? Touring! Lots of touring! No UK dates just yet, but they are coming soon!! We will be back for sure!

Interview with Richie

How was your recent UK tour, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road here? Oh, it was killer! We started out with the Cancer Bats and that tour went off! We were all really good friends before the tour so we were fired up for that one. It was sold-out shows every night and the fans really got into our music. One highlight from that run was having Liam Cormier (Cancer Bats frontman) jamming 'Rightful Spot' each night. That's a song he guested on vocals for on our last album ('Up In Hell'). That tour was 19 shows in 19 days so we got to rage! Right after that, we did 10 more UK shows with Soulfly and King Parrot. That tour was awesome, because we got to play a lot of the same cities that we just did with Cancer Bats, so fans were really pumped. All in all, it was a great time.

How did you get to the album title 'Oppression', and what does it mean to you? I have always felt very oppressed - from the band, to critiques, to life on a personal level, and I think with every album I let that out. I think whenever I do a record it's a release of emotion from my past years. Once it's created, I feel a huge weight off my shoulders, only to be replaced with new problems or challenges. I wanted a one word title that spoke for the album and 'Oppression' is what felt right and summed up the album as a whole.

Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout the album? A lot is personal emotion. From songs like 'Stagnant', which is about friends and drugs and how their lives never progress. Or songs like 'Oppression', which is about how people need to wake up to what's going on around them. A lot of bad shit is going on in the world and most people are just on cruise control. Also songs like 'Silenced'... I've learned to ignore a lot of the media and reviews of our music because in the long run, one person's opinion doesn't really mean a lot to me or to the larger picture of what we want to accomplish. So this album really has a wide range of topics, but all are close to the heart and real things that I see or feel.

How did you end up working with Steve Evetts, and what was he like to work with? He was awesome - a musical genius! He took what we we were doing to a whole new level. We had more time and a bigger budget, so we were able to do things we'd never done before. We did all real takes, no copy/paste bullshit, to make it more natural and organic. He was like a fifth member to us. He had killer ideas and loved the ones we had, the vibe was awesome. He's a great person, very easy to work with and very cool to talk music with.

How would you say this record compares musically to anything you've done before? I think it has a lot of the vibe that Incite is known for. We aren't going to drop a record with ballads, or DJ stuff. But at the same time, we don't want to just make the same record over and over. With this one we definitely take everything up a notch. I think we continue to grow, so the songs become more tight and we lose a lot of the wasted trash that we might have had before. We used to have a lot of breakdowns that did nothing, but now they're filled with killer solos or drum fills or lyrics so it's fuller sounding overall. We have bass which has been lacking on the previous CDs, the drums fit better now having Lennon, who's more of a thrash drummer than our previous guy. So it's everything old fans will love and new ones will appreciate as well. It's the Incite record they've been waiting for.

How did you end up working with Connor Garrity & Jose Mangin, and how would you say they shaped the tracks they contributed on? With Jose, he has always been a great friend and the voice of metal on the radio. He has been a supporter of the band since day one, so we really wanted to show him we care about what he does. So we had him come in and lay down that famous “Heavy Fucking Metal” scream to start 'I Want It All'. It's great, because that song rips! He also did some chorus yells and it turned out to be amazing. He made that song a stand-out on the record for sure. With Connor, we wanted him to do this song because it had the more sludgy vibe and we felt he would sound killer on the part we had for him. We became friends on a tour we did back in 2014 and since then it has grown so they are now label mates with us which is awesome. So to have a friend and label mate on the record was cool.

How did the album artwork for 'Oppression' come together, and what does it mean to you? It was very easy to get together. We used Dan Seagrave who also did (our last album) 'Up in Hell'. He blew us away with that cover, so we wanted to use him again. I sent him a few songs and the lyrics and told him the colours and feel I wanted and he came back with this. I loved it from day one. He paints them, and the detail and feel it has is insane. It speaks 'Oppression', but you see the fire that always burns inside us all, waiting to be released. That's how I've always lived. No matter how low I am, the fire always burns inside to keep me going.

What was the hardest part about putting 'Oppression' together for you guys, and why? I would say picking the B-side tracks we had to cut off the album to be released later. That's always hard because you grow attached to all the songs. To ask “What are your two least favourite..?” is always difficult. I second guess myself constantly about it, but I think we have made the right choice. I hope to release a Bsides album one day, because there are seven brilliant unreleased Incite songs waiting to be heard!

Lyric wise, what song means the most to you on this record, and why? I would say 'Stagnant'. When you're in a touring band, you're gone constantly and your friends go through a lot of struggles that I maybe didn't have to go through because I was gone. So that song means a lot to me every time I sing it, hoping my friends can make the changes to better their lives.

What else can we expect to see from Incite in 2016? We are about to start a huge US tour with DevilDriver. After that we plan to return to the UK and Europe for more touring, and then back to the US to end the year. Time to get it done, non stop!

You're in the UK for an extensive tour right now, you're really taking in all corners of the country on this one? That's how we do it, man, we've been doing it like that since 2003 or so, just sort of pushing tours to the far corners. We weren't crazy about the nine cities in nine days routine and flying home, we wanted to get out and tour it up, so we did!

You're playing some very intimate venues right now, including some new ones such as the Hydro! We've been looking for the local every time we come over, gimme a list of 30/40 locals that we can hit. Those events always turn into this wonderful fans turning to friends, turning to family and there is a lot of trust there and we try to give people a show that they are glad they paid for. When I go over I get excited about getting used to fish and chips and English and Scottish breakfasts, we try to sync ourselves in as deep as we can to the culture and the places to the point where we jump off the bus in some of these places and we already know where we're headed, we do play places like Carlisle and Scunthorpe. We try to get into the little spots where people live their lives.

Interview with Brendan

I don't really want to talk about ‘Teenage Dirt Bag’ too much but it was such a monster hit for the band back in 2000 that it is hard not to, it still pops up every couple of years in the UK charts! Various bands of various genres have covered it, there aren't many songs that have achieved that over the last 15/16 years... It's this thing that has allowed us to be an independent band, it goes out there and does the work of a manager or a label, it draws attention and maintains a good relationship with people who are not our fans. You mentioned the die hards, they don't come to the shows to hear ‘Teenage Dirtbag’, sure, they like it but they come to shout out the names of the other songs that they know, if we hear them, we'll play them, it's their setlist, we don't do set-lists, they shout them out! The fact is that ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ takes all this pressure off of us, a lot of bands have to have a guy who is on the phone all the time reminding people who the band is and why they should book them. We don't need that when we have a song to do it. We got really lucky.

At what point did you realise you had such a mega smash hit on your hands? Wow, that's tough, I don't know. There is different versions of that all along the line, before it was a hit, we had the opportunity to play CBGBs, the only time we did before it closed, it was because Joey Ramone had invited us to open up for him because he'd heard it. So we had that happen in the summer of 2000, that was an interesting start to the whole thing, to be invited by a guy like that because he heard your song! Then later on down the road we nabbed a spot opening for James Brown in Belgium in the spring of 2001 and that was absolutely shattering emotionally! We couldn't believe that the song had taken us there, eventually you open up a catalogue of places, people and events and interactions that the song allowed us to have and that becomes the proof that it's doing what you designed it to do, or hoped it would do. As far as a singular moment, there really isn't one, it's ongoing.

The band came through at a time when the industry was beginning to not just change, but change massively, what do you think looking back on that period of time? We got lucky, we got really lucky. We got out of a major label deal right before it really hit the fan, we were able to walk with the masters for our second album, we had a little bit of time in the change to figure out what the internet was going to do, and what we could do with it. We made some big mistakes and we had the chance to dismantle and reconstruct something that had been designed for an earlier age so, we really had the perfect chance to go into hiding for 2003/04 and 2005 was our third album release and that was where we started to finally figure it out. We then did the donation download system in 2007 which was one of the first, maybe even the first of its kind where we asked people what they wanted to pay and told them they could pay nothing if they wanted, we were trying it all out. Like I say, we made mistakes but the whole time we were trying to figure out how to distribute our music post major label. We were also developing stage shows that the labels would never have been excited about which was the crowd calling out the songs. By the time 2005 rolled around we had 30+ songs in the bag and we didn't want to have tracks set that we'd play, we wanted to be ready to play them all. The way James Brown's band was able, the way Prince was able and it's a really high bar but we worked our asses off to get as close to it as we could. Now all these years later, these club kids know that we do that and they come with an agenda and they know they are going to contribute to this performance, that the weird song they want to hear is something they can ask us to play. That's a huge, huge difference to the way we started out, I would never go back.

I believe there are plans to start on the new album following the tour? So are there any details you can drop at this point on what to expect? We started it already, we weren't sure we were getting the Busted tour in December and January and February so we dove into the recording! We got two of the songs started and as is the case usually, we start with the most difficult one incase we need to come back and redo it. It's kind of like, this really heavy hitting, double kick drum arrangement, big, big, big loud guitars. The melody is very much shaped around something like Judy Garland would have done in the 30s and 40s, a very jazz standard but pop melody. Sonically, I've been coming back to Metallica, and the ‘Justice For All record’ which is odd because it doesn't have any bass on it. The songs themselves are great still. It's my favourite Metallica record, it's so good but we're trying to reference that for a start point for the tonality of the record while balancing the equation that would provide for the bass to have its own space on the, which Justice does not... I know that sounds like we're trying to sound like Metallica, just for the record, that is impossible and will certainly not be what winds up coming out! As an engineer, I'm interested in that as a referential start point but after that it certainly won't be like anything Metallica have done or that we've done, it'll be some sort of inspired side road. So, we're just in the process of getting that ship out at sea when we got the call to do the Busted tour. We had to pull it all in and hit pause. I was really happy with the initial result, I was just about to put vocals down for these two songs. There's about 14/15 songs that I have written for it that will eventually be on the album. The album is tentatively titled, ‘Beasts of the Unknown’. That is because of a fictional television show that James Bourne and I came up with in London one time, we were both taking a pee at the urinal and we were staring at this huge moth that was up on the wall. It looked really exotic for London, a peculiar looking moth and we were both narrating its T.V show about strange beasts called ‘Beasts of the Unknown’ and we've had this joke going between us for ten years or so now.

Interview with Todd

How did you end up signing with Nuclear Blast Records, and what have they been like to work with so far? Monte Connor hit us up on recommendation from Greg from Dillinger Escape Plan/Killer Be Killed. Nuclear Blast has been a dream to work with so far. No complaints, all praise.

So, how did you get to the album title 'You Will Never Be One Of Us', and what does it mean to you? It's something I thought of late at night. Generally all my ideas come to me later at night. ‘You Will Never Be One Of Us’ is about what it's like to be involved in something you love and have someone attach themselves to it and disrespect it. It's not an exclusionary thing, it's inclusive, but it's about pride. It's about honor. It's about respect.

Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'You Will Never Be One Of Us'? Alienation, frustration, being dismissed. Just more songs from our perspective about how being a human being can be challenging at times.

What was the hardest part about putting 'You Will Never Be One Of Us' together for you guys, and why? The hardest part was making 10 songs that were cohesive and complimented each other and fit on a full length LP. We put a lot of time and effort into making our records. It's not an easy process.

How did you end up working with Kurt Ballou, and how would you say he helped shaped the record? I've been friends with Kurt for a long time. I just texted him and asked him to do our record and he was down. His production has undoubtedly helped shape our sound and peoples perspective of the band. He is without a doubt an invaluable asset to our band. We'll most likely do all our records with him, as long as he is down to do them. He might get bored of Nails and start recording ska bands who knows.

You've said that "This record represents NAILS more so than any of our other records" so can you elaborate on why you think that is, as well as how this release compares to anything you've done before? The vision I had in my head for this band when we first started is most realized on this album. Just a mixture of a metal and punk and hardcore. Long hairs headbanging, punks slamming, hardcore kids stage diving. An almalgamation of my favorite music.

Looking back on 'Abandon All Life', how happy are you with this record still, and what do you think it has done for the representation of NAILS? 'Abandon All Life' is an important record for us and we still love it. When that record came out, it seemed to really 'pop' and get us a lot of new fans and new attention. I'm proud that AAL is a part of our discography.

How did the album artwork for 'You Will Never Be One Of Us' come together, and what does it mean to you? Since we started the band I always wanted WHTHD to do an album cover for us. I actually put in a lot of work to have him do our first album cover but nothing came of it. For this new album, I contacted a mutual friend and had him contact Jef and basically give him a heads up that I was going to e-mail him and Jef ended up getting back to me and we worked everything out. The album cover to me is basically a bunch of parasites trying to attack one person. That encompasses the album title very well. HAILS to WHTHD and STV.

How did the music video for 'You Will Never Be One Of Us' come together, and what was it like to work with Jimmy Hubbard? My homie Nath was real good friends with Jimmy and I saw Jimmy worked with Slayer so I hit up Nath to see if Jimmy was down to work with us and he was. Since then we did a few photo shoots, he came to the studio with us, and we made a video. He's a friend to us now. He's got a great personaity, likes music we like, and is obviously extremely talented. He is able to make photos/videos of us and make us not look corny. HA.

How excited are you to be coming back to the UK in November, and what can attending fans expect? The most excited. The people in the UK are actual maniacs and our best shows are in the UK because of that. The fans can expect us to rage with them. We'll be playing 8/9 songs from our new album, half of ‘Unsilent Death’, 3/4 songs off of ‘Abandon All Life’. Maybe a GBH cover. Maybe an Exploited cover. Who knows?.

What else can we expect to see from NAILS in 2016? Not much else other than ‘You Will Never Be One Of Us’ and some touring. Maybe a split 7"... :)

Interview with Joe

What made you want to release 'Supermoon' first, and can you tell us a bit about how it came together? We didn’t really give it too much thought. ‘Supermoon’ is from our soundtrack to the computer game ‘No Man’s Sky’ and that game is being released by Sony, and so a simple decision like “let’s release a track as a taster of what’s on our new record” now has to be sanctioned by a chain of fifteen or so people, most of whom we’ve never met, some of whom are overseas and at least one of whom is a lawyer (we think). Whereas in the past we simply had to go “let’s release a track as a taster of what’s on our new record” and then we could do that. Because of this, we chose Supermoon as a version of it had already been released and therefore it was easier to persuade these fifteen (approx) people that it was, if not their idea and therefore possibly not a good idea, then at least not a “terrible thing”. We chose (drumroll) ‘The Path of Least Resistance’. None of this, by the way, is necessarily anything to complain about, it’s just the reality of making music for a hugely anticipated computer game distributed by a major entertainment corporation rather than on a small independent label as with some of our other albums. It’s a great track that we’re really proud of, and indicative of the more accessible moments of the new record.

So how did you end up working with the people behind 'No Man’s Sky'? About three years ago we were in a van or a dressing room somewhere and we received an email from a company called Hello Games requesting to use a track called ‘Debutante’ from our album ‘We Were Exploding Anyway’ as the music in a trailer for a game they were launching. We agreed to this, but were also a little intrigued, so we asked to hear more about the game. They sent us some screenshots and a little email about its concept, and based on that we decided to do everything in our power to persuade them that we should be the people to make the soundtrack to their game. Luckily for us, I think they were thinking the same thing, or at least a less enthusiastic version of the same thing. Paul (from 65daysofstatic) left the Northern Powerhouse where we live, and got a day visa to go to London and meet Sean (Murray) from Hello Games. Everything else is, as they say, a temporally framed forward movement of human events (history).

Can you tell us a bit about the narrative behind the game, as well as what you find the most exciting about it? The game appeals to us because of its scope and its aesthetic. I don’t want to project lofty metaphors onto it, but I think it’s using the isolation of lone space travel as a shorthand for the loneliness of modern hyperconnected modern life. Something about the way the scale of the game interacts with the aesthetic, the idea that the whole universe is a playground sort of fast becomes overwhelming in your head. I think trying to suggest that with sound is daunting, but hugely exciting. There’s also maybe something in the colour palette and the design of the ships and stuff that means we can get away with just that hint of bombast and grandiosity we’ve spent so long failing to rid ourselves of as musicians.

What is it like to work on the soundtrack for a video game then? Do they tell you exactly what they want, or is it maybe a completely different process? The only instruction we ever received from Hello Games was “just write a 65daysofstatic record”. We can only assume that this isn’t normal for a project of this size, and therefore that the experience we’ve just had is unique, rather than a universal indication of how writing a soundtrack to order might be. We did of course send them some demos of what we were writing to check we were on the right track, and they were favourably received. I think at that point we did get a few notes about what they liked, and which way they’d like us to push the music, and it was all good stuff we were up for doing. I think the most difficult part of this first stage was the time frame. We had quite an early deadline to finish the record and so we had to trust ourselves a lot, and put together a record in about a third of the time we normally would. Since then, we’ve spent a year writing more freeform ‘sound design’ stuff for the game, and the last couple of months have involved deconstructing that material, as well as the album material, adding to it, and feeding it into the game. Although the feeding of the game has actually been done by ‘No Man’s Sky’ audio director Paul Weir, who has designed the software that generates the in-game music. Obviously a lot of that stuff isn’t normal band stuff, but it is sort of normal 65daysofstatic stuff, because we’re a bit geeky, and we sometimes make art installations or build our own music software or do live coding. So in that sense, I suppose we were well placed to actually get actively involved in the project, and we were able to find a way to sort of ‘fake’ the generative aspect of the game’s software without having access to it, just using software like FMOD and Max, to make sure it was sounding suitably strange and 65-like.

How would you say putting together 'No Man's Sky: Music for an Infinite Universe' compares overall to what you did on 'Silent Running'? If ‘Silent Running’ was an early outpost in our soundtrack career, a one-horse mining town with a hotel, a post office and a general store, then ‘No Man’s Sky’ is a sprawling metropolis that can be seen from space.

The game has a self-generating soundtrack, so how hard or easy was that for you guys to work on? Making something that could be used again, but also felt refreshing to the gamer? Very difficult of course, with its own inbuilt problems. A lot of this is about making separate moments of music on different instruments relate to each other. I think it’s something we’ll continue to work on right up to the release.

Are there any new instruments/sounds that you have brought to this record, and if so can you tell us a bit about how they became a part of the release? Yes I think so. As a band we’re pretty financially restrained by never selling any records and trying to pay the rent and make sure we can tour and rehearse and all that stuff, so we’re not really in a position to just buy a bunch of new stuff as and when. But I don’t think we would anyway. Most musicians I know have pedals or amps or techniques they’ve picked up that they carry with them for years, because they rely on them to do certain things, and in certain combinations do unique things. As a guitarist for instance, there are all sorts of broken or semi broken pedals that sound amazing or two pedals that are the same but made a year or so apart that sound inarguably different, where one does stuff the other won’t do. You start to have relationships with individual bits of gear. And I think we just pick up little bits here and there like that and add them to our collection of things. But there’s other stuff we’ve been doing in the past few years which ended up being fed into ‘No Man’s Sky’. Paul has been doing a bunch of live coding, for instance, and I think the parameters of that have pushed some of his programming in ways they wouldn’t otherwise have gone. Simon has also been building a lot of his own modular synth stuff, and we use some of that stuff a lot to create new sounds and textures. We also did a project a couple of years ago, an installation, where we hacked a lot of e-bows, and controlled them with midi, using them to play three guitars tuned to a chord to create this very intense experience in a black room we built for an arts festival in Sheffield. -

- We still have the technology we built to make that, so we used some of those e-bows to get a certain sort of sound we wanted out of the guitar in the studio. You can hear that on ‘Red Parallax’ on the record I think. And probably buried elsewhere. It’s techniques like that, really, that start becoming important in soundtracking. Things that shouldn’t be relied on, can’t be used as the foundation of composition, but that used sparingly within new material make all the difference to the texture of the music being made.

How did you end up working with Dave Sanderson, and can you tell us about what he was like to work with? We’ve worked with Dave for years, actually, and we met him through a studio called 2Fly Studios in Sheffield, where the first five 65dos records were made. We had an excellent time working with Dave, and made a lot of music we’re really proud of and that’s why we’ve worked with him so often. We can record really fast with him on more fully formed ideas, and that leaves a maximum amount of time to work on sound design, arrangement, unfinished stuff. It’s a very subtle relationship I think, he’s not a sort of “you’ve got to do this now” producer, more just someone who slots into the group dynamic and suggests things we wouldn’t have thought about doing. Or is able to render sounds that are in our heads in reality with astonishing ease. Even disagreeing vehemently with him often leads us to make strong choices rather than trying to have the best of both worlds. Like us, Dave will sacrifice all to ensure that a piece of music works, that it isn’t enough for something to be well written, to hang together, it needs to transcend the sum of its component parts, (or at least try!).

Interview with Chris

Where did it all start for you? When did you first sing or pick up a guitar? I first started playing guitar when I was around 13 years old, but that was after playing cello for seven years. I just played in the orchestra in school, and I liked it very much, but it wasn’t until I heard Led Zeppelin that I wanted to play my own music. And it was from there that I got myself a classical guitar and taught myself ‘Stairway To Heaven’. I never intended to be a singer, but a few friends of mine asked me to come over at the weekends to play some music and write the songs, so with that I was the one who knew how the words should go, so it ended up being me that did that – singing and playing guitar. We did in fact go through the process of having a singer, but it was always easier with me singing the parts instead of me explaining it to someone.

Do you remember your first song? I remember the first time I tried to write lyrics, and I was trying to be something like Rage Against The Machine (fast paced political rap), it was plainly terrible, but a lot of fun. It was from there that I knew I liked writing songs!

Did it all come naturally to you, or was it something you had to work at? You know, I didn’t realise I had a knack for it until later on when I realised I could do it without thinking, which was awesome. But, it wasn’t until later on in the craft where I worked with layers and got excited that I could do that. Very, very early on I just had so much fun with it, it was all I ever wanted to do. I would play for hours and hours – it just came on its own.

So, with that in mind do you have a song writing process? For me, I just hear things in my head and then pop them down onto a voice recorder, and then when I have guitar around I will try and figure out what the idea was trying to do. It is the same with words, I notice little phrases that I like and note them down. I have a little book that I carry around, but I typically use the phone. However, I make sure I always have pen and paper as it always feels better to write it down.

What was your drive to be on stage? That really comes down to my friends at school again, they asked me to come over and play covers with them, which was fun for about one practice, for me. I just always really liked coming up with little ideas and so we went on to do that. From there we were having a really great time, and our drummer (Bryan Newman first drummer of Saves The Day) was desperate to start booking shows. We became the band that played the shows in people’s gardens or at little events, and really I don’t think that would ever have occurred to me. I was just happy to play guitar, I had found my own world within it, so thinking of playing together never really crossed my mind, it was fortunate that they invited me over. It was Bryan who always had the ambition and eventually when we started making demos and CD’s, he was also the guy with all the contacts for labels and management. I was just a shy kid, it took me a long time to realise my role in this band – it was almost like it was a dream, and I was suddenly on stage!

When you were younger who couldn’t you stop listening to? It had to be Areosmith after hearing the song ‘What Does It Take’, I just had to listen to it more and more. As I listened to the older stuff and Led Zeppelin I realised that both bands had pieces that touched upon classical music as well, so I feel that my ears had been trained to pick that up, which is why I could have liked it so much.

With that in mind, do you feel your orchestral past helped you become the composer of music that you are today? It certainly didn’t hurt. But, what I feel it did was expand my ear – the ability to hear the complexity of music. I was also taught the Suzuki Method, where they don’t let you read music, you have to learn by your ears. They would send me home with little tapes for cello to develop my ears. When I got to play guitar I did the same, and I just loved coming up with little ideas constantly. I would then every day write a new song, or even three or four – it was my favourite thing to do. So, I know that the training did help my ability to hear music, but the knack and joy is something I couldn’t have asked for. Finding my way on the guitar was one of the best times of my life.

It is clear that you have a unique voice; where would you say it was birthed from? It is personally my natural range, but I have worked hard over the years to increase it. When I first started I was really emulating people I really loved. One of my heroes back then was Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins and another band was Sunny Day Real Estate, those two were huge for me, so if you put both their singers together there are certain similarities that make me. Plus, guttural motion! Of course it has changed over time, I mean I have done thousands of shows, so I had to learn how to be on stage and sing for three hours at a time. There have been some ups and downs, but really I feel I am finally where I want to be now, so I am happy to keep singing forever.

How was school for you? I loved it, I went to a great school that was artistically orientated, where I learned the cello. My favourite class I took was philosophy. I also did poetry, which totally changed my life, as I was starting to write songs that were going to become Saves The Day. Through these poetry classes, I learnt how to hone my skills as a writer and to make the words artistic as well as the music. From there I took many similar courses in creative writing too – I really, really loved it and was going to do it in university, but Saves The Day came along.

Have you ever thought of writing books or a graphic novel? I have thought of that, and I do think I shall do more of that in the future. My buddy Max Bemis (singer of Say Anything) has written a graphic novel and does a lot of different writing projects – that is very appealing to me. I like short stories and plays, so we shall see about the future.

Did you have love for reading as a kid? I did yeah. For me it seemed to always be biographies, something about Jimi Hendrix or bands and such. But as a little kid I loved Garfield!

When your daughter was younger did you get to read to her much? No matter where I was, even on tour, I would always read to her. We would bring Harry Potter on the bus and I would sit down and read to her.

For your album ‘Day Break’, you had a documentary created, which for me felt so honest and raw, how did it feel to watch it back? Thanks man. I watched it and I very much enjoyed it. I am proud of my ability to be honest and how real it makes me. I think it is a good thing for people to know, like I did, that your heroes are human beings with real dilemmas and situations that are tough. It is important to let people know that we are all doing this crazy thing together.

You mention heroes, have you bumped into any of yours now? Some of them for sure. I did meet Billy Corgan and he was so awesome. He was a huge idol of mine; in school I was given a book which I could decorate however I wanted and I put a picture of Billy on there and wrote, Billy Corgan, in big letters. He is still a huge hero for me.

What, for you, makes a song right? How do you know when it works? For me it is very much a feeling. It is when it makes me personally excited, and I think it is technically songs that are not cookie cutter ideas. There are times when I play a new idea and look down at the guitar and realise what it is doing and I think, “that is so cool”. Technically it can be something I find interesting in the melody, but usually it is what is going on underneath it; what I can do with the guitar. There are subtle little tricks that I have been refining over the years that make me thrilled. If I was to boil it down, my style is being deceptively simple. So, if you listen to it you really don’t realise that it is very complex, but if you look down at the guitar you can see the layers and the mathematics behind it all. And for me, it has to be catchy, which I think is where it comes off as a simple song, but really it is not.

Are there any songs in the charts that you are enjoying right now? Right now, I love the Rhianna song ‘Work’. It is so weird as I do not understand why I cannot get enough of it – I feel like it’s infectious. These are not really the songs I get to hear, but my friends show me them and I am fascinated by them. A lot of them can be pretty empty with nothing there, but at times some of them really can have feeling within them.

It is clear from your history that you choose music over money; why do you think that is and how does it affect the band and songs? It is how I am naturally. Coming from two parents who were judges; they never had a million dollars but they were never wanting, so they were able to be supportive. In the early year of Saves The Day we were bought a van, so we definitely got a head start over others. And so, because I grew up in that environment when the band started making money some members wanted to just worry about being successful, whereas I just wanted to have fun – times like this were a major source of contention for the band. I felt that I never wanted to change the songs we were doing and that I didn’t care. So it has been a problem in the band many times over, which is one of the reasons why we have had more than 21 members come and go in the band, except for me. The members in Saves The Day now, have been the longest in the band because they feel the same way as me, and really love music!

When it comes to your lyrics, they seem to have an undertone of darkness surrounded by an upbeat feel, was that intentional? It is an abstract of my deposition. My demeanour is that I am very happy and a buoyant person. And I think my pain in life is not finding that in the community of humanity, the ability of being happy. So, when I was at school I was a little heavy and got singled out and picked on. This made me sad because I was a happy and nice kid. So once I was able to put my words into music, I was able to speak of being alone and wanting community, and wanting to be happy with everyone. That is where my positivity in my music comes from, it is the wanting of things to be better.

Making a long story short, your album ‘In Reverie’ was not received well by critics and the label; with something so hard how did you continue on? That was a time when I was all shook up, and I would sit there with my guitar and it was no longer that joyous experience I was used to – everything I did felt nightmare-ish to me. At times I almost resented having to make these songs as it had become very impulsive. So, the way I really brought myself back was by practice therapy, I forced myself to write even when I hated it. I knew that the negative voice that I could hear was blocking parts that I knew were going to be thrilling. The ideas on the part of your unconscious mind was always the exciting part of it for me, so I had to force myself back to that point. So I locked myself in the garage with the lights off and played the C chord for an hour – I played it every way you could imagine and refused to play anything else. I had to combat my conscious side of my mind and tell it “no, I won’t listen to you”. Once I had broken through that a little bit, to a point I wasn’t throwing my guitar out of a window I would slowly put songs together, even if I didn’t like it – this would have taken months, if not half a year. Eventually I got to recording a song every single day, and just all of a sudden I came across an idea that I was excited about. I found that joy I once knew. By the time I had rehabilitated myself I looked back and found that I had 86 songs, and that was just by forcing myself to go through it. So I think if you find yourself in a hard place, creatively or with life, it is important that you try to get to the bottom of what is going on and consciously help yourself get out of there, rather than wallowing or disappearing.

Interview with Keith

How did your tour go with Ash at the end of last year, and what was it like to tour with those guys? It was awesome. We've been friends with those dudes for a very, very long time. I met Tim in New York I'm guessing in 2007 or 2008, and he has been one of my best friends in the city ever since then. So we'd done a few shows with them in the past, we'd played in Japan, and we did a very brief Australian tour maybe 4-5 years ago. But this was the first long term tour we'd done. It was good, it sort of felt exactly like doing a We Are Scientists show, just with more people! Our concept for the co-headline tour, was that with every show we would end by doing a big super group cover. So every day we learned a brand new cover song, and by the end of the tour, I think the cover set was longer than either of our actual sets. Which is pretty fun. We also played some Ash & We Are Scientists songs together!

You just released 'Too Late', so can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind the track? It started out as a specifically kind of romantic song, when I first started writing the record I was single for the first time in ages. I had been dating again, and really hated dating, it's really annoying. So I think it was sort of a song about perseverance and not getting hung up on annoyances in the moment. I tried to make it not specifically romantic, as there are enough whiny love songs in the world. I tried to make a more general persevering tune.

Also, can you tell us how the music video idea for 'Buckle' came together? Looks like Chris had an interesting time on that one! An old friend of ours from way back when all of us were jobless kids in New York City. Has now parallel to our career grown up and owns his own production company that does a lot of advertising productions, commercials etc. We were talking to him about potentially working on a video together, because we like shooting videos with personal friends of ours. I think we've only ever made one video with someone that we didn't know in the past. It's just always more fun, because shooting videos isn't actually all that fun, it's fun to come up with the idea, and have the music video, but actually shooting a video is a real pain in the ass. We were talking to him about it because it seemed like it would be fun to work with him. He was like “okay well do you have any specific ideas for this?”, and we were like “no, not really we figured we'd all talk about it and try to come up with something”. He went over all of the specific equipment that he had as a means of spurring inspiration, and one of the things that he has is a camera that shot at an incredibly fast frame rate and can do really great looking slow mo. We were like "say no more! Let's get the slow mo video going”.

Also, sort of leading on from that, then how would you say this record compares musically to anything you've done before? It continues on an arc that we've been following for the past few records. We've spent so long doing pretty aggressive, super up tempo, loud tunes. With every album we wonder a little more what it would be like to slow it down a little and explore a little more space in the songs, just really focus on the melodies and the lyrics. Not that the older songs simply just focused on the rhythm and the drive of it, but to kind of place a lot the emphasize on melody and big hooks. That's a lot of what we've been on to. It's funny to me, because as our songs get poppier, they feel weirder to us, and kind of more like a crazy experiment, because that's not our standard method of operation. So even though it seems like making a poppier record would constitute taking a less experimental route for us, it feels more crazier and more like "holy cow! What is happening here!?".

How did you end up on 100% Records, and what have they been like to work with over the years? They've been fans of ours. On our last few records we've just kind of been doing one album deals. Because we make our records totally on our own. Our second record we made with EMI, and that's the only record we've done where we already had a label in place kind of overseeing everything, and it was really different to have a label involved, kind of chiming in. They didn’t really change that record very much, they just made everything way harder to do, because it had to go through so many business channels before anything got done. So we kind of have tried to do what we did with our first record 'With Love and Squalor' which was just make the record by ourselves, and say "hey! who wants this record that we've made, sorry we can't change it now, you're taking it as it is". We made 'TV En Francais’ and those guys heard it, they had been into We Are Scientists in the past, and really liked the record. They chimed in, we had a few phone calls with them, and we really liked their take on it, and we like the people that run it a lot. They've been great to work with, they are very hands on and collaborative at the same time which is cool. On this record it's pretty funny, as we've never had this level of personal constant interaction with the label. For about the past two months, we've pretty much had daily conference calls, we all just hop on the phone and talk about how things are going, like "did this interview happen?", and I'll be like "nope, I forgot to do that interview" and they're like "alright! You gotta do that interview". Or we're making a video and every day they'll say "how did todays edit go" and we're like "oh no! We forgot to edit!". So it's pretty good, we have a really close relationship with 100%.

How did you end up working with your ex-keyboard player Max Hart, and what was he like to work with? Like shooting a video (well recording an album is much more fun than shooting a video) it's similarly kind of a pain in the butt. If you're not working with someone that you actually really like, and kind of have a built in respect for, then I would imagine that it could be a pretty harrowing experience. Sort of like with our music videos, we have never made an album with someone that wasn't already a friend of ours. We would never make a record with a friend who wasn't also an awesome producer. We know a lot of awesome producers who are not our friends, and who we would not want to make our record with. We've known Max for a long time, he was our keyboardist on our second album tour, and the only reason that he is not playing with us, is because that we decided that being a three piece kind of suited us a little better, and made the live shows a little bit more fun and stuff. We've remained very close with him, he spent the past five years touring with Katy Perry as her keyboardist, kind of learning a lot of the tricks of the pop music trade whilst doing that. So he finally kind of felt like being Katy Perry's touring keyboardist was eating a lot time that he could otherwise spend being creative. So he finally, very pleasantly quit that job, to pursue making records. That happened to coincide with us just finishing up writing the record, and he moved back to New York and was like "hey what are you guys up to", and we were like "well I think we're just about ready to start recording this record". He was like “okay, let me pitch you an idea, if I build a studio in Brooklyn what if we just spend three months hanging out, working on the songs, figuring it out together" and we thought that sounded like a pretty fun approach. So we did that and kind of took a very leisurely three months in our own studio, essentially working regular business days. Coming in every day, listening to what we did the day before, screwing around, not necessarily feeling any pressure that day to nail anything. It was a pretty fun way to work. It like we were all hanging out in our club house making a record.

How did the front cover for 'Helter Seltzer' come together, and what does it mean to you? The artist is a friend of ours named Dylan Haley who has worked with us a bunch. He laid out the artwork for the last album, which was mainly photographs taken by someone else, but he did all the layouts, and so we met him through that and he has designed a lot of our merchandise since then. He is a really awesome artist, and a fun designer to be creative with, which is kind of something that we never really had in the past. We always just told designers what we want, and they'd return with something and we'd either be like "yeah that's it" or "no that's terrible, forget it". But Dylan has always been really fun to knock ideas back and forth with. He made a piece of merchandise on the last album that was a tea towel, that had sort of the theme of the artwork for the last album which was like this weirdy, seedy, tropical, kind of thing. He did a tea towel that incorporated all of those weird elements. A collage of a tea towel that is my favorite piece of merchandise that we've ever had. So I think the idea for the album cover was like, "what if the album cover was like a tea towel, but here are the elements that we want on the tea towel". So we went with the cult idea that Helter Skelter evokes, Charles Manson kind of thing, and we said "it should be sinister, but kind of beautiful" and the first idea was really close to what he came up with. We chose a couple of elements, as I really wanted the helicopter on there, and the reference that we used for that helicopter was Arnold Schwarzenegger's helicopter from the Running Man, I don't know if you can tell. So yeah it was a pretty big collaboration between us and Dylan, but he is really awesome.

Interview with Brent

'Found in Far Away Places' has nearly been out a year, so how happy have you been with the feedback to the record so far, and what do you think it has done for the representation of?August?Burns?Red?? We’ve been very happy with the feedback. The record has a Grammy nomination, a top 10 debut, and 4 Alternative Press Award nominations. I think it represents the band in a great way. It is still super heavy, but also branches out in a lot of cool musical directions.

What songs are you really enjoying performing live from the album at the moment, and why?? I really like playing ‘Majoring in the Minors’ and ‘Ghosts’ for opposite reasons. ‘Majoring’ is just a fun all over the place song, and ‘Ghost’ is really heavy and groovy.

Have you guys started working on any new material just yet? If so, how's that coming along, and what do you think fans can expect to hear from it?? Yes we have, but it’s only just begun. At this point there is just one song finished. We haven’t really gotten to the point where we can say what the album will sound like as a whole.

'Identity' was nominated for a Grammy, and 'Found in Far Away Places' was also your second top 10 album. So how rewarding do you find these sort of achievements when you reflect back over the career of the band, and how much do they mean to you personally? ? I mean for us, both of those accolades are very cool and obviously unexpected, but I think I still get more excited when we sell out a show in a place we wouldn’t expect. For example, we sold out a legendary venue in Norfolk, VA last year, and we NEVER expected that it would of happened.

How excited are you for your upcoming European tour, and what can attending fans expect?? We LOVE playing the European festivals. Great bands, great catering, huge crowds. Everything a band could want. I would expect a very hard hitting and balls to the walls performance. We are trying to cram as many songs as we can into our time slots.

Throwing it back a bit here, but what was it like to come to Europe for the first time ever as?August?Burns?Red, and what do you remember the most from that experience?? Our first trip in Europe wasn’t the best. Fans were really excited for us to come over for the first time so that was awesome, but the way we had to travel and where we had to sleep to make ends meet were less than desirable. I don’t think a lot of people realize how many filthy floors you’ll have to sleep on when they first dream about being in a band. Sadly the thing I remember most is when our driver’s entire tour pay got stolen FROM HIS POCKET while he slept at a hostel.

Can you tell us a bit about the amps/equipment you use on a live basis, as well as how this has changed for you over the last couple of albums?? I use a Kemper Amp, and I guess that could be labeled as a “change,” but since I used a modeled Peavey 5150 as my tone I feel like it really hasn’t changed at all over the last decade. We use Mesa cabs and Carvin power amps. That’s pretty much it. We used to go a lot more crazy with all of the gear we had, but making the move to digital amps, with everything built in, really lightens your load.

With seven studio albums now complete, then how would you say the sound of?August Burns?Red has grown/progressed since you first started out?? We used to be a band that just wrote parts and then mashed them into songs. Now we try and make sure that everything flows smoothly and feels great as a whole. That’s the biggest difference.

You guys manage to put out albums pretty fast, so what's the key to putting out consistently strong material that maintains a fresh approach on each release?? I think it’s just a matter of taking your time. We take fairly long breaks in between tours, and that’s when a lot of the writing happens. We don’t write on the road, and we don’t really listen to much metal music, so I think what the listener hears is what the members of ABR want a metal band to sound like.

What else can we expect to see from?August?Burns?Red in 2016?? We are actually having a really light year this year. The end of 2015 was insanely busy for us, so after these shows in Europe we only have 27 more booked for the rest of the year and then we’ll be taking some time off to just chill and slowly work on some new music.

Interview with Dan

You recently did a $5 tour where you performed in skateparks, record stores and even bowling alleys! So how did this idea come about, and can you tell us what this whole experience was like for you guys? We've been extremely lucky, everybody else in the band would agree. We have been given awesome opportunites because there are people that decide they like our music, and that they want to support it. We've been able to do some really crazy stuff, we are playing main stage Warped Tour this year, which is something that we never thought we’d get a chance to do. A couple of years ago we did two - three weeks just on the California part of the run, and at that point we were like “wow, we get to go to California” we’re lucky enough to just make it over there. These shows were kind of our way to say thank you, and give like a little bit more of an intimate setting than some people might people be used to. Because there are people that have seen us transition into the band that we are now, and there are people who haven't been able to see that. So it was kind of to give them, maybe their first chance to see us in this way, that they maybe missed out on at an earlier time. A lot of the places that we played in were DIY venues. We have a lot of younger fans, and I feel like some of them might not of been able to see shows at these venues, or might not of even heard about them. So maybe these shows would get their foot in the door when it comes to these kind of venues/gigs. In Portland, we played in the bar that was in the front part of a theater, batting cages in Philly, and a wrestling ring in Long Island. Those are a couple of the places that host shows regularly, that people found because of the shows.

What was it like for you to go back to that setting? It was just awesome, to be able to go back and play in these type of venues again, just to be out there, face to face interaction. The only drawback at our shows now is that sometimes having a barricade, or a stage that's five feet up, maybe 15 - 20 feet away from the crowd, there's just this divide. So with that tour we were able to take that barrier down for those couple shows.

With the lyrics, you've got more songs on this album that are actually fully done by you. So how was that process, and do you think it will give a new perspective or dynamic when people listen to the album? There’s a lot of things that we keep to ourselves, and sometimes maybe ourselves are the only people we feel comfortable sharing certain things with. A lot of stuff on the album, feels like the idea of your expectations vs the reality of what's going on. When you're younger (high school/college) these are the years where you decide what you want to be, who you want to be, how you are going to do it, where you're going to do it. Everything. You have it perfectly figured out, and you're going to follow it to a t. And, that's just not how real life works. Things are going to get steered, and you are going to lose people along the way, whether that be to death or your own differences. People in your life are going to either let you down or surprise you in different ways. People that you look at, as these stable pillars, it's kind of this foundation that has led you to be able to be who you are, just realising that they are also people. All of these things happening, dealing with their future, and getting it all figured out, I think that's what all of it means to me.

When it came to deciding that you wanted to contribute more lyrics to the record, did it just happen naturally, or did maybe Kyle suggest it? I asked Kyle a while ago, not that I felt like I would be kind of getting in on his turf or trying to tell him what to do. But I just asked him if it would be cool if I started collaborating more with lyrics. I think, like you said, to have a second perspective, to have someone else looking at it in a different light, and he was like "yeah" you know, "that would be great!". He said that he had wanted to bring that up anyway. How everything would work before was that Kyle would write the lyrics, and then I would go ahead and change everything, sometimes it would be, I would paraphrase everything, and technically re-write it, as it's still saying the same thing, or you know I wouldn't touch a word. In some cases, I was part of the lyric process anyway, but I think this time around I had stuff that I was confident in myself. Before this album I had only written about a song and a half for this band, and I wrote six for this album, and four are actually on the album. The thing with Kyle is that when he sends you lyrics he knows exactly what the song is going to be about, and this time around I would just have like sets of lyrics in front of me, that I had written, and I would cut out whatever sections were the best and then I'd just send them over to him. Kind of like, he'd be going into it blind, and luckily everything worked out. I'm excited to have my own lyrics out there with Real Friends.

I guess a lot of people assume that you're the one who has done all of the lyrics? Yeah a lot of people will come up to me and say "when you wrote this song, or this song" they're talking to the wrong guy. If you want to thank anyone, then go thank Kyle.

What was the hardest song to put together on 'The Home Inside My Head'? There's a song called ‘Eastwick’ on the album, it's towards the end. We had originally written it as an acoustic song, and then we wrote it as a full band song, but with different music. This one had subject matter relating to my grandmother, who had passed away. We scrapped a song that I had a set of lyrics on about that already, so it was very important to me, that I had included that on the album. That song was written last, and it was while we were in the studio. I put the vocals together, and reworked it from its previous version. So I would say that one, just to have to re-work it over two versions. It's a thing where you're dealing with those emotions again, like she's passing again. Just giving that song a new light, was a little more difficult for me. I compare it to those couple of months, after she passed as we were moving furniture from the condo that she lived in, so everyday just walking into the house, and seeing misplaced furniture, that shouldn't be where it was, all the memories coming back.

So after the huge response to 'Maybe This Place..' then was there any pressure when it came to creating 'The Home Inside My Head'? Yeah. There is a lot of pressure! Even with 'Maybe This Place Is the Same and We're Just Changing' we had announced that we were doing Warped Tour, the whole thing for the first time. The album was after we had signed to Fearless, and as soon as we had finished recording that we had no extra time to finish recording it, as we went to Australia to promote it. It's awesome that people like it, and that we are able to do what we were doing for it. The thing that was nice this time around with 'The Home Inside My Head' was that we gave ourselves a little more time, that maybe we didn't have with 'Maybe This Place Is The Same', and we started writing it in the winter of 2014, a few months, at the end of the year. Dave & Eric & Kyle would write a bit, and what we’d do, is we would sit on them, each time we got together, instead of writing out an entire song in one sitting, or getting one song done as fast as we can, we would get half a song done, and kind of let them sit. We'd come back from a tour with fresh ears which helped as we didn’t let anything slip through the cracks. So a lot more time, we were working on tour also, in the fall I was putting together vocal melodies, and they were getting music together. We defiantly analyzed our time a lot better. Also, in the past I would set up my phone in the corner of my room, turn on the voice memo and then have my speakers go in with the music. I would be in another corner of the room singing and hoping it would sound good, so that I could send it to everybody, and be like "yeah this is an idea I have for this part, do you like it, do you understand it, did you get any of that?", so it worked that way for an extent. Now I have a laptop, and a microphone that I can actually create demos with. So I can show everybody them, which is much better as I can hear how everything comes together instead of being like "oh yeah, I have a couple of audio clips that I can kind of piece together...”. It was definitely a lot easier to get the idea of the album as a whole, because we have actual demos that were sent around. There was still a lot of pressure with this album, but we evolved as song writers and musicians enough to give ourselves an idea of what the album was going to be, instead of having small fragments of it in front of us until we go into record.

How did you end up working with Steve Evetts, and what was it like to work with a producer for the first time? We got in touch with Steve through Fearless. We had a list of people that we wanted to work with, we talked to a couple of people over the phone throughout the second half of last year. Steve just had this energy while we were talking, he just really wanted to be a part of the record. What sold us with him was that he didn't want to change anything that we were doing. The thing is with producers is that they can suggest whatever they want, and when you have someone involved with an album, you trust their judgement, and know that their contributions are only going to make the album better, but we have the final say at the end of the day as to what gets changed. He said that he didn't want to change anything, he just wanted to make the best possible version of Real Friends that we can be at this point in time. So that was definitely why we went with Steve. He wanted to do it, it was fun for him, and just something that he was up for. We had also worked with Mike Green doing some co-writing and 'Colder Quicker’ was actually one of the songs we did with him. We did three with him, and then eleven with Steve (nine on the record). 'Maybe This Place Is The Same' and all of our EPs, (except for the first acoustic EP) were recorded with the same dude Seth Henderson, Kyle recorded his old bands with him, before Real Friends, and there's been a relationship with him for a very long time. As we've grown as a band he has grown with his studio, building renovations, there's a lounge in there, so yeah that was all amazing working with him, but with this one we needed to go in with somebody different, we felt was critical. We did pre-production for the first time, which is really weird having the songs under a microscope like that. Everything up to that point, like technically, we also self-produced as Real Friends, we never had anyone else going in, and suggesting radical changes to the music. We had this little rehearsal space that we rented for four or five days with Steve and one of the really cool things is that I felt like we were really immersed and getting physically more into it, like we would be at a show, while we were playing. So seeing Steve’s foot tapping, jumping up and down and stuff, while we're playing the songs, he was pretty much emerging himself as well. So we could tell, from the energy he was giving off from pre-production that he really cared about every single aspect of what was going on. He was in it for the same reasons that we were. We don't have to do this, we shouldn’t look at it like it's a job, we get to do this. His work ethic, and everything, his overall excitedness about it, I think really shows.

How did you end up working with Mike Green then? Since we had agreed to kind of broaden our horizons by going in with Steve as the producer, and experience different stuff like that. It was a suggestion from Fearless, they never want to make us do anything that we're not comfortable with. They've been very accepting of what Real Friends is, ever since we signed with them. They were like, “it might be a beneficial experience to see how someone else writes and to collaborate with people on a song”. So I think about a month before we recorded the album we went out to LA for a couple of days, they all got the music together with Mike, and then Kyle and I had some lyrics. It was really weird how similar Mike did things, like it was just a new experience for us, and it was also because we were able to see how someone else writes music, we were able to have that extra little voice. Sometimes when people collaborate they let the other one do all of the work, but we all held our own coming into it. It didn’t feel like we were buying a song from someone.

So, how did the artwork for 'The Home Inside My Head' come together, and what does it mean to you? We were shooting in the studio, just kind of sketching out ideas. Everything that we were coming up with had this image of something that should be familiar to you. Like the difference between having a house, and a home. A home is some place special, or some place you go to, it's your space, you feel comfortable there. To see it, not necessarily broken in. This idea of a space that should be special, and not necessarily having this quality to it. You see the picture frames which should have special moments in, with family, or children, intimate moments of your life. It's a place where you built these memories, or you built a family, spend time with people that you care about. Instead it's just kind of, we wanted to show a piece that was more barren and isolated. Going back to that idea that not everything pans out the way you want it to.

I really enjoyed The Starting Line cover you did for ‘Island’. So what made you want to cover this particular Starting Line track, and what was it like to bring a Real Friends approach to it? We actually argued a lot over what we should cover when we were doing that EP. We were just throwing ideas back and forth, left and right. I think, Kyle was like “The Starting Line would be the easiest to do, as that's one band that we all agree on”. We didn't want to cover a song where people were like "oh man, come on!". Not that it would be a bad song that we would cover, We just wanted everyone to be excited about it. Obviously I love the song. Going back to Warped Tour in 2007 I had seen The Starting Line for the first time and it was one of the first times that I didn't feel like I had to go upfront and jump up and down, scream my voice out, and get crazy. I used to be the kid that had to be like front and center, going off. For this one I wanted to stay back and watch it, and just appreciate it from a different view point. That was the first time I had heard 'Island' live, it was just one of those moments where everything was perfect, I felt nothing bad about anything going on in my life, and all that mattered was me and all of these people who were just here for the music, and that was it. Like nobody had anything else on their mind, it was just those couple of dudes, up on stage, sharing those experiences with all the people that we were with. It was just a really special moment. So be able to have us cover that song, and give our perspective of it, is awesome. I have such an incredible memory of that song at Warped Tour. It just kind of shows that people can appreciate things in different ways. Just because you've got someone at the back, taking everything in, doesn't mean they appreciate it any less than someone who is at the front/center screaming every word.

How excited are you to be performing on the whole of the Warped Tour this year, and what has it been like to perform there in the past? Warped Tour for me, I have seen most, or if not all of my favourite bands there growing up. This will be my tenth year going to Warped Tour in some capacity. You know, like I said earlier that's just something that we never thought would happen. Three years ago, getting to play the first two and half weeks out on the West Coast I just thought that it couldn't get any better than that, anything that happens after it would just be the cherry on top. So then getting to play the full thing in 2014 was absolutely mind blowing, to get to play the same festival where I got to see The Matches, Four Year Strong, The Starting Line, Circa Survive, Senses Fail, Motion City Soundtrack. All these bands, we were a part of something that made me feel very special earlier on, that was my Christmas every year, (coming to London was my Santa Claus). That was the one thing that I looked forward to, because it felt like whether there were three bands or thirty bands I felt like they always justified the ticket price, it didn't matter what you listened to, it was just people coming together and appreciating the music. So be able to experience it both as a fan and an artist is just absolutely surreal. Something that I never thought would happen, in my wildest dreams.

What else can we expect to see from Real Friends in 2016? Well we’ve got the UK tour in December! We've got the new record, so that's new music, then we've got touring, that's really it. The fact that we've been able to continue doing it is crazy!

Interview with Arejay

Recently ‘The Strange Case Of...’ album got certified gold, along with your ‘self-titled’ debut which already had this status – congrats, how does that make you feel? Yes thank you, both the records, ‘self-titled’ and ‘The Strange Case Of...’ just finally went gold. It’s great! It took like over six years. We live in a world now where nobody buys music anymore, that’s fine, that’s just the way music is evolving, we’ve embraced it. We have all our music on all the streaming sites, Spotify and Apple. We’re all about getting the music out there to the listener and if they like it, they can buy a ticket to the show and come see us live. You can always buy our music, music is out there, people are going to get it somehow so you can’t fight it. So the fact they actually went gold in sales is almost unheard of nowadays. I’m very grateful.

What was the recording and writing process like for ‘Into the Wild Life’? Well we were all together in Nashville and you know it was kind of nice to do it in Nashville, Tennessee, as our first two records were out in LA. I love LA, I live there, it’s great, but going to Nashville was exceptionally nice for me, as it was kind of a getaway, and it was living in a different environment. In Nashville there’s all kinds of different, incredible musicians, and all different genres too, like in LA it’s mostly pop music, hip hop and rap, there’s not really a big rock and roll scene out there at the moment, but in Nashville there’s a great rock and roll scene, there’s a great country scene, there’s bluegrass, there’s blues, there’s folk, all kinds of stuff like that. So just to be there, those elements started creeping into our song writing and especially for me personally, like I was starting to write the most. I started realising that I have a very sensitive side. Instead of me being mr big crazy drummer and acting like an idiot animal, I was playing like these were very intimate songs. Me personally, I came to developing my own writing by being in that environment, and by being away from my little girl who was at home. I didn’t see her for like three months so things were very hard for me and her, so a lot of personal things started coming out of me.-

-When we were writing, and recording and making that last record I felt like I actually went really into my soul, I was kind of like “man I think I’m becoming a legit song writer”, as I felt like I could actually express myself in words and in music. With the last two records it was very processed with Howard Benson, he was great but we did a lot of co-writing, because we followed the motions of how to make a record, you know A,B,C, D. On this record we were able to enjoy it, in Nashville in this church, it was a completely different process. We recorded everything live, altogether, we worked on every song individually from the ground up until we got it right, it was a much more kind of independent process, making a record for us I believe as a band. I feel like we built up the courage to step in the studio with the producer and actually just start working on songs, our music and record them as we go in.

This year will be your 3rd time playing Download Festival, and your first time playing on the main stage, how excited are you for this? Oh yeah! OH MY GOD!! I’m excited about that, are you kidding me! I feel like Christmas is coming, that is one of my most favourite festivals in the world. I am beyond belief!

You’re on the same day and stage as Shinedown, any chance of a guest appearance? I’m not sure! I love collaborating on stage, I love bringing people up and jamming with them, we’re very much all about that. Any time we have a chance to jam and bring them up, it’s always a great hang. One of my favourite drummers is John Fred Young from Black Stone Cherry, he’s one of the best dudes and just an amazing drummer. We did the last UK tour with them and Shinedown, and John and I at the very end of tour started a two man drum solo, it was a lot of fun. It was a very good co-operative comradery.

What are your favourite songs to play live right now? If there’s one thing that I love even more than playing drums, then that’s singing. When I’m home I love singing. I have done some guest vocals on a couple of records. When I’m writing songs, I like to lay down vocals. I like to go and sing karaoke because it’s fun. If you’re ever at a Halestorm show, you might find me at the nearest karaoke bar after! A lot of my favourite Halestorm songs to do live, are ones where I get to do backing vocals, as it’s really, really fun for me. One of my favourites is ‘The Reckoning’, and I think it’s my favourite song on the record. It’s the most intimate song that we have ever written, it comes straight from the heart for all of us, like all of us had gone through severe heartache, especially being on tour, for being musicians, being away from home all the time, and yeah, that one is just very close to me. I was very fortunate to get to sing really fun backing vocals on that song in the studio and live.

As a band you have done quite a few cover songs, including ‘Reanimate: The Covers EP’, what has been your favourite song to cover so far and why? My favourite songs that we covered are the more kind of modern pop songs that we did. I think my favourite one to date was ‘Get Lucky’ by Daft Punk, I love the song and I love Daft Punk, so I was pretty stoked to cover it. We also covered Lady Gaga with ‘Bad Romance’, and believe it or not, that was a blast! We love that song.

Have you started working on any news songs for your fourth album yet? You know we’ve never really stopped writing, I mean all of us individually. I feel so lucky to a part of a band, with band mates that are so proactive, all of us have been writing on our own and writing together, we’ve been jamming in the dressing room before the show and getting song ideas out and doing stuff like that, so yeah we haven’t really been writing specifically for the next record, we’re writing just to write, that’s how we have always done it. For me personally, the songs that I write probably wouldn’t be Halestorm songs, but I’m constantly writing and working on music. I have my travel studio with me, in my backpack I’ve got a laptop with logic, and I use my guitar, my little microphone and even though it’s difficult on the road I always try and sit down and try to get the ideas in my head down and demoed up. So when it comes to producing songs for the next record I have a good handful of songs that I can put to the rest of my band. It’s a long way away, like thinking about it it’s like, “fourth record, oh god”!

How do you think Halestorm’s sound will progress, or is too soon to say? I feel like with every Halestorm record it gets more and more dark, and more and more real, you get to hear more of the real Halestorm.... I am hoping as we go on we can keep making records that will just be more honest, you’ll get to hear more of our actual life, and the music that’s from the heart. Musically I think we want to like open it up a little bit more, have a little more space, not make the musicianship so busy, as sometimes less is more!

What would you say your biggest music and creative influences are collectively as a band and personally right now? Well our all-time influences stem from our previous generation, the music our parents listen to. I grew up on Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix, Cream and The Who, stuff like that. Now I listen to absolutely everything, it’s very vast, I’m listening to pop music, hip hop, electronic music, even like some country and bluegrass and folk music. I love the new Mumford and Sons record. That was very inspiring for me as a lyricist, I think Marcus Mumford is one of the best lyricists ever. So right now as far as my inspiration for creating music is very all over the place. There’s this new band from Russia, called Ocean Jet that I have been really digging as well.

What else can we expect to see from Halestorm in 2016? Probably a lot more touring, that’s our life! We are hoping to do more headline tours in the UK and Europe and, hopefully just a lot more countries that we have never been to.

Interview with Justin

We understand you’re midway through a Canadian tour at the moment. How’s that going so far? It’s been really cool. It’s clear that there’s great support and we’re definitely really enjoying it. I don’t know if you’ve heard about it, but there have been some wildfires up in the North West. It’s been pretty crazy – one of the shows that we were supposed to play was pretty much at the epicentre of the wildfires and at least a good portion of the area got burnt down. The wildfire really took off in the area we were supposed to play, so obviously the show had to be cancelled, and consequently we met a lot of refugees, which added a huge personal and interactional element to it.

We saw that you played a benefit show for those affected in Fort McMurray and raised almost $10,000. What can you tell us about that? Definitely one of the things that I love about Punk Rock is the fact that when people in these communities see a problem, they see an opportunity to do anything about it to make the most of it. We had a day off before that show and saw that Fort McMurray had been cancelled, so we put our heads together with some of the local Punk Rock promoters and had less than 24 hours to put on the benefit show and to get the word out. It was just a really amazing example of Punk Rock organising, taking action and it working. We put on an acoustic show with a couple of local Punk Rock bands and it did really, really well. What was really cool about it is at the end of the whole thing, the government matched the funds – there’s been over $20,000 dollars raised now. We met a lot of people and it’s really crazy – they came up to us like “my house burned down”, “my family’s home burned down” – so it was just a great way for people to come together and feel like they had someone that cared about them. Also, to have a place to escape to for a little while, where they were able to let go and forget about the issues they’re experiencing.

What else have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from the road? We played Mexico City pretty recently and that was a great experience: it was a show to probably about 10,000 people, and going there over the time that Donald Trump is running for president, that was an interesting experience. People in Mexico are flawed in that there’s someone on the national stage of the United States that is saying the kind of things that Donald Trump has said about Mexican people. For us, it was the perfect place to go in that we wanted to let the people of Mexico know that we stand with them; that Donald Trump is a bigot; that he disgusts us as much as he disgusts them, and that there are people in the US that are standing up for them and speaking out against his kind of bigotry. That was important for us, just to go to Mexico and realise that most of the people are exactly the same. We really need to look out for each other. It was interesting: I would hear from distant relatives or people over here “be careful” or when we came home, people would ask “did you feel unsafe?”. Just to be able to say to those people “no, I never felt unsafe.” You go to Mexico City and it’s like any other city in the world; there’s a lot of really, really good people there. You can walk down the street during the day or at night, and it’s safe. I’m sure there are neighbourhoods in Mexico City that I wouldn’t want to go to, and they’re the same as neighbourhoods where I live in Pennsylvania that I wouldn’t want to go to. That was a pretty wild experience, to say the least.

Looking back on 'American Spring', how happy have you been with the feedback to the record so far, and what do you think it has done for the representation of AntiFlag? You know, I think it was definitely another high water marker, and people received the record really well. Hopefully, it’s a record that when people look back on the band, they will think about. We worked very hard making it, and we’re very proud of it. It was fun; we worked and collaborated with some friends; Tim Armstrong from Rancid and Tom Morello from Rage Against The Machine. I think anytime that you collaborate on something it’s exciting. Overall, I was really happy with how it went and it how it turned out.

Can you tell us a bit about the essays that were included with 'American Spring', as well as how the idea came about? We’re a band that’s always kind of writing essays to explain what we were thinking about when we started writing a song. So, if a song is maybe three minutes long, there’s only so much about a topic that you can say in that amount of time. A lot of the issues that we tackled on the record are bigger than a three-minute song; we want people to know where our inspiration is coming from and we wanted people to have a little more insight into what we were thinking. It’s also a great way to introduce people into some areas that maybe they were unaware of, whether it’s areas of activism or whether it’s people who are philosophers of the day, people who influence us. In the first song, ‘Fabled World’, we include an essay by an activist and an academic named Cornell West and he is a really, really amazing political thinker. He’s someone that has had a lot of influence on me. By including something that he’s written, that relates to the song, I think that if other people have maybe never heard of him, it serves as an introduction to him and maybe they’ll look deeper into his ideas. That’s ultimately what we’re about; sharing ideas.

What songs are you really enjoying performing live of that record at the moment, and why? We’re playing ‘Fabled World’; we’re playing ‘Sky Is Falling’ ‘All of the Poison, All of the Pain’, ‘Brandenburg Gate’. Those are kind of the staples that we’re enjoying playing. Then, we’re playing a good other six songs from the record; we’ve played all of the songs at least a couple of times, but there are songs that we gravitate towards that we enjoy playing more than others.

How did you end up working with Spinefarm Records for the release, and what have they been like to work with so far? It just came about because a friend introduced us to somebody at Spinefarm and we really hit it off. They were really excited about the project and excited about what we were trying to do. It’s about that simple, it just seemed like a really good fit at the moment and for that reason we just decided to go for it.

It must have been really refreshing and quite a nice feeling to settle in that well? Yeah! It’s kind of crazy. We were working on a record and we almost had the record done; that’s when someone came to us and said “I know of a record label and they’re growing, they’re a label where people that work there are up the alley of what you guys are doing. Would you be interested in talking to them?” It just went from there. It really came out of the blue, even for us. It was kind of unexpected, but it worked out.

You guys are always on form when it comes to discussing subjects that people should be more aware of and we’ve already mentioned Donald Trump. So, can you tell us a bit about some of the subjects that have just really annoyed you personally lately? I think that, obviously, the environment and the state of the global health of the planet are so huge, right now. We’re just polluting the planet on epic levels, you know. I feel like that’s something that needs to be front and centre and be addressed. At this point, what human beings are doing to the planet is totally unsustainable and it ties into global warming, it ties into how much garbage and chemicals are being dumped into the water, rivers and oceans. There’s only so much damage this planet can take before we start to see some major, major problems. For me, personally, I know it feels like as an individual, there’s little you can do to take on the issues, because they’re so huge. You know, one simple thing that people can do is become vegetarian or even better, to become vegan. Everything tied to food production, especially the resources it takes to raise livestock so that people can eat meat; that’s one of the most destructive things to the planet on multiple levels. If you want to be an environmentalist, an easy way to do is that is to become a vegetarian or vegan. It’s one thing that a person can do as an individual and it’s actually a really huge move. It’s something that makes a profound impact.

As a songwriter, can you tell us a bit about how you normally construct the lyrics when it comes to being a part of Anti-Flag? Anti-Flag has always been a band that has written about the things that we see or experience and feel that need to change. I’ve always been a person that’s been very inspired by injustice and we need to try to make a difference. When we started the band a long time ago, there were definitely issues that were really prevalent in our society – racism, sexism and homophobia – bigotry on a lot of levels. What I think Punk Rock has done well is helped to put those issues into the mainstream and help make people aware that being a bigot is something that should be unacceptable. It’s interesting to me: I don’t think that if you write a song today or tomorrow that something changes, but what I do know is that music has an effect on people and people change the world. I’ve seen first hand that when you write a song, it can have an effect on the person and it might even change the direction that person takes in their life. In that way, I really believe that music does change the world, even though it’s incremental and it’s often very slow. For that reason, any time there’s an issue that I think is something that people should know about, I usually write about issues that aren’t so broad, that I don’t think people are quite aware of. There are issues that recently have become bigger, the US presidential election and the issue of prisons and the prison industrial complex. That’s an issue that we wrote about on this most recent record and I think it’s one of those examples where it’s an issue that artists have been speaking out about and the mainstream is now starting to catch up. So, when I’m writing a song, I’ll always try to find something that I think is a little outside of the mainstream and hopefully use our art to push it into the mainstream.

This may be a hard one, but for you personally, what's been the most difficult song for you to write in terms of its lyrical content, over the last two albums, and why? To be honest with you, I don’t really have a song like that. For me, the songs write themselves. I think that on this record, the song that is most important to me is ‘Fabled World’. It’s a song that really speaks to you about the lie that everyone is born with an equal chance. We’re currently in a society where not everyone has an equal chance. Especially in America, we’re quite often fed this idea that if you’re born an American and you work hard, that they have an equal opportunity to have the same things as everyone else. What I do know is that there are less than 50 Americans that have more wealth than the bottom half of the rest of the world, and that’s not a level playing field. That’s not everybody having an equal opportunity to do well. That’s a problem; it’s definitely something that we need to address. For me, on this record, that song speaks a lot of truth to a lie and it’s important to me for that reason.

'For Blood and Empire’ has just passed its ten year anniversary, so what do you remember the most about putting that record together, and how do you think the record compares to anything else you've done? It was during the time that was the most hectic in the band, and that was the craziest record. What I really think that record did was mark a turning point in the band, kind of finding ourselves as to who we were and for that reason I think it’s one of our most important records. It’s the one that we’re most known for and when you look at it, especially the issues that we talk about on it, it really addressed a lot of things that turned out to be true. We were bringing up a lot of issues on the record that at the time were really just question marks. For example, a lot of people were questioning “should we, or should we not go with the Iraq war?” We were saying “absolutely not! We should not go to the Iraq war!”. I think that turned out to be true and I think that there are many issues like that on the record that we addressed, and in that way, it’s pretty prophetic. In that respect, it’s an important record.

Finally, how excited are you to be performing at this year's Download Festival, and what can attending fans expect? Oh yeah! Well, Download Festival is going to be awesome. It’s huge and we’ll definitely be bringing our Agame. We think people that are really familiar with the band will be really excited for our show. For people that aren’t familiar, we’ll definitely turn a lot of heads and they’ll be surprised. I’m excited to be a part of it, there’s no doubt about it.

Interview with Scot

What made you want to release ‘Hollow Bones Part 1’ as the first single from your upcoming album 'Hollow Bones', and can you tell us about the narrative behind the track? I think we grow close to the songs in a different way, and although we have some intuition about what we think, we suspected this one could be a single. There are a couple others on the record that we thought might be front runners in front of it. You test the song with the radio, label people, different journos you trust. The people we trusted all kind of came back and said that they wanted to run with this song, so we agreed to it! It's cool for it to go first, as it’s the general running theme with this band, 'Great Western Valkyrie' with 'Electric Man', 'Head Down' with 'Keep On Swinging'. So there's this thing that we always open our next chapter with the point of focus. It makes sense that way.

How did you originally end up working with Dave Cobb, and what is it you like so much about working with him? Dave is a friend, he is like family now. We've been together for a while. I met Dave before 'Before the Fire', there wasn't even a group yet, different singer, but Michael and I were in the group though. So we go way, way back. It was an extraordinary experience that time, it was a real beat down in how to do things differently. Working with him changed the way I did things permanently, recording more in a live format, and really killing your darlings by not keeping things too precious in the hopes that you'll get something very pure, raw, real & exciting. In the end I found that was exactly what it was. I liked the process with Dave, as much as I hated it, as it was difficult to grown into. So yeah, when Jay got in the group, it was very natural, and we were like "yeah we should try this again" working with him, it was difficult again, but something really interesting also happened again on the EP. So then we signed a deal with Earache and decided that we had to give it another shot with Dave, because we liked what we were doing so far with him, and this is our first release on a bigger level, that will be moved around the world a little bit more. It was getting better and better, working with Dave over the years, so it was just a natural progression. By this point, we had really learned how to work together, we were kind of cracking open new avenues with the process, and that's how it's been the whole time. He is basically our fifth member, as it should be! I would say that if you're using a producer, somebody you trust, that you respect, and are paying but are not acting like a fifth member, then you've probably got the wrong producer. Thank goodness for us, we have the right one. I think there are very few producers left that can record the way he is doing it, correctly. That know how to do it, and that want to work that way. It's more like capturing a wild animal, compared to the way people do it now with a digital recording. For years it's kind of been like constructing an album. Architecturally building an album, constructing a song, constructing takes, parts, and you construct this thing like you're building a high rise, and that's not so much how we do it. It's much more like a band, than a song, the performance is a wild animal, and we are basically throwing a net over it, and trying to capture it. So it's not as much about constructing something from the ground up, as it is capturing the performance. Few people can do that nowadays, and that's a strong reason to work with Dave Cobb.

You put this whole record together in a month, so can you tell us a bit about how Rival Sons work together when it comes to being in the studio? We write in the moment. We don't really share anything before we get in. So when we get into the studio I will have some ideas kind of backlogged. Jay usually has ideas backlogged. Michael & Dave will do their research and have ideas and Dave Cobb will have ideas, then we all kind of keep our ideas to our self until we get together. We then get some sounds that we like for all of the instruments, tones, and just the sound of the record basically. If we are going to use tape, what mics we are going to use, what amps we are going to use, the drum sound, the room, everything like that, the technical stuff. Once we have that, we can basically go into that room at any time, and work. Write & record stuff, and get things going. We get the sound up, and start the next day, and we'll throw ideas at each other, and we'll see what sticks. Only the best stuff will stick.

What was the hardest part about putting 'Hollow Bones' together for you personally, and why? It's always difficult doing art as like a committee. Most people are doing art like a painter or a sculptor. Mostly anything, it's a one man job when you work with art. It's your idea, and you use all of your inspiration, put all your time into this piece of art, and it expresses everything you want it to say in the end if you're lucky. So there's something profound if you're indeed lucky. It's really strange, it's four (five with Cobb), five people working by committee to create one common goal, it's super difficult, and it's just difficult every time. It's like one day you're so excited that you've all worked together so well, you're writing your Grammy speech, and the next day it's so difficult you're writing your resignation letter. There are a lot of highs and lows with it. A lot of emotions run really hot. You might feel something very powerful about a song, and somebody else might feel really cold about it, and vice versa. Someone might come in with this thing that they think is a really great idea, and you'll hear it and go “that's really rubbish!�. That's really rare for us, and it's a harsh way to put it. You can end up hurting their feelings so yeah, it's very difficult to do art by committee. That's what we've done for all of our records, and 'Hollow Bones' is no different. To make everyone happy, and everyone's voice heard, and make sure at the same time that your voice is heard, and you're not kicking people in the balls, but making sure the right thing happens and the right points come across. Certainly for me, I'm making sure things guide in the right way, and at the end of the day I want it to be something that I'm very proud of, and that I can stand behind. Luckily I think we've done that every time!

This is your second record with Dave on bass, so how has that been, and what has he brought to Rival Sons? I think it's been fantastic. Comparing him, you know people are obviously still invested in the records that Robin played on. Robin is a fantastic player, as Dave is. The difference really, is a simple one. Dave is a much more pocketed, team player as a bass player. I think he really helps glue the band together, in a really strong way. His groove sits in a different spot, and it's very complimentary to the band. Certainly his personality, he is a great fit. Great to tour with, and just a great dude. So yeah, that's what he is bringing to the group. He certainly has his own musical style and choices he makes, and a lot of those have been fantastic with the music and for the show as well.

Looking back on your last album 'Great Western Valkyrie', how happy have you been with the huge response to the album, and what do you think it has done for Rival Sons overall? I think the album was really well received. Our career has grown, and our fan base has grown. The vibe of the band is probably coming across as any band. As you work, and expand the sound of the band, and you kind of dig your heels in a little bit deeper, and let people know it's not just some flash in the pan, that you actually have something good to say, some kind of consistency. We are continually winning over journos, fans, which is great, and we felt really good as a group about 'Great Western Valkyrie' when it was finished. We were going to be the band we are either way, if people didn't like that record, or if they love that record. As we knew what we made, and we approved of the record. So we could of just been scratching our heads if people didn't like it, going "really, what do people like then?", I don't know what people like, because we like this, and it would just be like that for us. It maybe gives you a little comfort knowing that at least our fans are staying with us. So it feels like "oh good, you understood that". It's always encouraging if we take some left turns, or do some things that are a little far out in our our opinion, and the fans totally get it. You think "oh cool, good, so we'll do some more of that!". Because, if they can stay with us, then we'll let a little bit more of the line out, like flying a kite, we're going to fly the kite a tiny little bit higher next time, let a little bit more string out, because you're staying with us, which is cool. So that's the scrub, on how a positive response has felt.

How did you end up working with Martin Wittfooth for the album cover for 'Hollow Bones', and can you tell us a bit about what the cover means to you? Martin is fantastic, if anybody looks at what he is doing as a whole, he is making a beautiful statement, it's really strong, but that's really his thing. What I can say about the album cover, and the painting. We were working about half way through the record, and I was looking for different art, because of the nature of how quick we were working, I have to kind of have stuff on deck, and ready by the time we're done, because we're going back on tour, and to get the record out on time, we have to have things prepared. So whilst I was in the control room listening to playback, doing tracking, I was looking at art at the same time. I came across Martin’s work, and I Immediately saw ‘Rainsong’! I didn’t even know if we could get it, or what's up with it, but I was pretty sure that this was the cover of the record, I was positive even. I didn't tell anyone, I just kept it to myself until we had 'Hollow Bones' written, and then I shared it with David Cobb, and he loved it. Then we wrote 'Hollow Parts Pt 2' and I said "that's it!" because this picture looked like it would be titled 'Hollow Bones' not ‘Rainsong’! So I presented the idea to Jay, and he just really liked it immediately, he loved it, he thought it was perfect, like the painting, the name, everything. So that was really how it went, everyone was collectively like "great", "awesome", "yes!". So we went to Martin, and he was very happy to work with us, and cool about everything, he did the whole layout for us, so it was very quick. And it's hard to say, I think it's better to leave it ambiguous, than saying what it means exactly to me. Like all art, everyone is going to read it different ways, and that's the beautiful thing about a painting like that, you can have your interpretation. You can also listen to the music, and then look at that picture, and people will get their own idea of why it's all connected, and I'll be interested to hear what people think over the coming year.

How did you get the support slot for the Black Sabbath world tour? We actually played an award show in LA, for Classic Rock Magazine. We just played a couple of songs, and they happened to be in the audience, Sharon and Ozzy, and their family. We played alright, people liked it enough that they gave us a standing ovation. We left the stage, and they came back to our trailer to meet everyone, which was an honor. They gave us some beautiful compliments, and Sharon presented the idea that Sabbath would be doing another tour, and that she'd love for us to open it. We loved that idea certainly. So we agreed on the spot, like "hell yes we'll do that, if you're offering that to us, we'll take that for sure". All of the suits talked business, and we made it all come together. As far as people. They've been fantastic, they've been really, really great. The band, the crew, everybody on their team has been really kind to us. The fans have been unbelievable, it's great to see that we have a little contiguousy out every night. You can see people in our shirts, and you can feel the crowd on stage, they're there for us to. Of course, the grand majority is going to be Black Sabbath fans as it's their last tour. That's exactly what we want to play to anyway, it gives us a chance to really prove ourselves. To really play to a huge audience every night, and really have to turn them.

How excited are you for your upcoming performance at Download Festival, and what can attending fans expect? Yeah, we've had a relationship with the Download Festival for a long time now. To almost the beginning of our career. Maybe the first year, when the band were touring through Europe, we missed it, because I think we did the High Voltage festival instead. We actually played two stages, because Electric Wizard got stuck in Norway, so we played our slot on the main stage, and then headlined the Metal Hammer stage. So our introduction to UK festivals was pretty beautiful, great right out of the gate. Playing Download has been like, out of control, Andy the promoter is a good friend, a great teammate to this band, and our career, and just has been the whole time. Elated with the slot, and how Download is looking, can't wait, one of the big ones for me this summer.

And finally, what else can we expect to see from Rival Sons in 2016? It's going to be a busy year. The Sabbath tour should take us through the whole year, but we'll try and do as many headline shows as possible. If you catch any of the headlines, then you'll see a good portion, if not all of 'Hollow Bones' being performed, as we normally do when we put a new record out. Bigger shows, everything, bigger, badder, more, more, more! It should just be getting more interesting every time around. So hopefully this one doesn't let anyone down, and just pumps it up!

Interview with Tom

How did you get to the album title 'All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us'? I have no idea where it came from, it's a bit like asking where the music comes from, I don't think anyone that creates truly knows 'where' it comes from. It feels like the album title was given to us, I don't even recall thinking it up. I do remember thinking that I MUST have stolen it from somewhere without realising, but after doing some research I concluded that it must have just drifted into my consciousness one day. And I'm thankful for that, because I love the title. For me it's about the world that we live in today, particularly western culture. It's not pro atheist or pro theist, but it is an assertion of the sense of godlessness that we have today. Where once we may have had a connection with the esoteric to guide us through our lives, we now have gossip magazines and talent shows. I don't think that I'm the only one who has a deep sense that “something is missing”. I'm not saying that it's religion that is missing, but we are devoid of any spiritual connection. Transfixed by the external world and not just disconnected from what lies within us, but many of us are frightened of what we might find in there. I'm certain that we live to a fraction of our potential and that the way in which we are hyponotised by the material world serves the existing system to grind onwards towards inevitable calamity. Probably time to try something new, unless we're all cool with being responsible for the demise of humanity, and ultimately, maybe we are cool with that? I think the scope of the entire universe, the human race existing or not isn't of any particular importance.

Lyric wise, can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us'? One thing that I've talked about with Sam a few times since we recorded the record is that much of the content comes from the notion that we must cultivate more love in the world. love for our planet, love for ourselves and love for each other. We must go from being selfish, to not being selfish. To stop taking and start giving. I often think of the homeless people we walk by in the streets, if we all took the time just give the smallest amount of change, we could pick them up and give them a second chance. And if that failed, pick them up again, and again, and again. There's no excuse for the way we treat the people who've fallen off the bottom of the capitalist ladder. We actually treat these people with scorn, with distain. It's shameful. People say "They'll just blow what we give them on drugs/booze", but don't see the hypocrisy when they're down the pub 5 nights a week drowning their own sorrows. I'm slightly...ashamed (maybe?) to admit that there is a sense of hopelessness in the lyrics. I don't think that it's a helpful attitude and I'm not taking the attitude of “If you can't beat them join them”, but we need a major shift and we need it soon. I think things will have to get worse before they get better. Evolution happens when our backs are against the wall.

We've read that this is the heaviest album you guys have done so far, so musically, can you tell us a bit about what we can expect to hear from this album? Yeah, maybe it's our heaviest, I don't know. I'm not sure how you measure that sort of concept! It's heavy though, sure. Heavy is easy though, anyone can tune a guitar down to X and scream over the top of it. I want to make music that punches people in the gut, music that moves people in some way. I hope we've done that, although it's up to the listener to decide. It will resonate with some people and not with others. I think it's our biggest sounding record, there is a lot going on. In the studio Fredrik would say “more is more”. A bit of a joke, of course, but that's kind of the approach we took on this one.

You guys have a brilliant dynamic between heavy & melodic, so can you talk a bit about how you feel your sound has grown over the years, as well as what you think makes you guys sound so unique? Thank you! The sound has taken a really natural evolution I think. We've explored a lot of different sides to our band, and in doing that we've gradually felt out who we are. Some bands get it on the first record, some on the first song! But we've spent ten years forging our identity and I'm proud of that. I feel as if we can write anything we like at this point and it'd sound like Architects. We couldn't not sound like Architects if we tried. I don't know what makes our sound unique. That's the beauty of music/art. It's any expression of the artist. It's just the way that person, or that group's hearts beat. There's something indefinable about it. Of course we're blessed with an amazing singer, Sam's voice is a huge defining characteristic of our sound.

What was the hardest part about putting 'All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us' together for you guys, and why? The recording. Committing ideas can feel like a big step. It's all fun and games when you're at home writting, but the moment you're in the studio and you have to say "it's done", I personally can find that to be challenging. Often you lose sight of what's good and what's bad. Sometimes I'll think something doesn't cut it but everyone else LOVES it. It's not until months later that I see everyone else was right. That's the great thing about being in a band though, even though I write the material, it's priceless to have other people who can pull you aside and say "you've lost it".

How did the album artwork for 'All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us' come together, and what does it mean to you? The album art was a bit of a hectic experience actually, for a while we couldn't quite find the aesthetic we wanted. But again, one day I stumbled across this idea of an inverted eclipse and before we knew it we had the cover. For me it is representative of many things. It could be that our true selves are elipsed by our egos. Or that Love is eclipsed by hate. Either way, it doesn't mean those things are ever gone, they're only obscured, waiting for us to rediscover them.

What was it like to work with Jeb Hardwick on the 'Gone With The Wind' music video, and can you tell us about the meaning behind the track? Working with Jeb was a pleasure. We'd never worked with him before and stumbled across some of his work because we'd met him many years ago at a party. He's a real artist, someone who has a vision. Another person that we feel we can trust to create the right visual for the music. The song is one of the more introspective songs on the record, but not necessarily about myself personally, although it does apply to my life. It's about that internal conflict, that constant chatter. I've spent much of my life at war with myself, almost bullying myself. We are the wardens of our own prisons and we have the power to liberate ourselves. Meditation is one of the ways in which we can work to free ourselves from the mental patterns that keep us from expressing who we really are, and that's become a really important part of my life. I believe that we are responsible for most of, if not all our suffering. If you say 'I'm just a negative person' - I think that is nonsense. You're just trapped inside a pattern of negativity, but that cycle can be broken. And what is hidden beneath all that negativity? Peace, joy, contentment. It's all there waiting for us. Our ego's want to control everything, because they don't trust that life will work for us if we just surrender to the flow of things. That’s what I mean by “God knows, I lost all my faith”. We make life a battle for ourselves.

Looking back on 'Lo think it has done for

Yes! Absolutely, I am sup true and we're thankful fo graduation. I hope we ca

How excited are you Can you tell us a bit about the amps/equipment you use on a live basis, as well as maybe how that might of changed over the tour cycles for the last couple of albums? Golly, well two years ago we were lugging amps around in card board boxes with no crew and now...if I'm honest I'm lost! I just like playing guitar, at this point I don't even know how my own equipment works!! It was simple for nine years and then it all changed. I try not to clutter my mind with information that I don't need to know. I use Diezel amps and Mayones guitars though, they're both great, check them out!

Of course, we're so excit comes out so I'm sure it'l expect us at our best! We last year. I can't wait.

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ost Forever, Lost Together' how happy are you with that album still, and what do you r representation of Architects?

per proud of that record. It changed our lives, everything that we had dreamed of for the previous decade came or it every single day. For me it was us finally realising our potential, and I'll always see it as our moment of n continue to build on what we did there.

u to be a part of this year's Download Festival, and what can attending fans expect?

ed to play. We have great memories of playing Download all the way back to '07. It's right after the record l be an exciting time for us and a chance for fans to hear some new songs for the first time. I suppose fans can e'll be fired up to do our new record justice and kind of announce ourselves as “back� after touring so little in the

xpect to see from Architects in 2016?

he world, trying to get our music to as many ears as possible. I don't plan or think past today though, so I'm the be a great year though!

Interview with Jason

What made you want to release ‘Good Morning America’ first from your upcoming album, and can you tell us about the meaning behind the track? Essentially we went through the series of songs we had written on the new record and tried to figure out which one would translate without a large knowledge of the track prior to hearing it, and what would resonate the best live. That ended up being the track that we thought would carry itself in the best manner live. So we were doing that live for a couple of months, and figured that it would be a strong one to release. We wanted it to have that same impact as a first track, as it does live. So yeah, that's why we chose that really... Not to mention the subject matter is something I wanted to get out and to have I guess reintroduce us with that in mind. A lot of people can take that it discusses very current events with the powers that be, whether that be exertion of authority or other powers that seem to institutionally try to subjugate certain people. But ultimately it’s rooted in the idea of policy and power and not just like the idea of a police officer being our enemy, but more so the policies that allow these forces to be dispatched and handle civilians and humans the way that they do, a result of policy and not just the actual person with the badge. These are things that are happening that are so ostensible, so so obvious and for some strange reason, musically I don't hear many people talking about it, especially in rock music and in this demographic of art. I was just thinking that it’s about time someone spoke, these views are not particularly unique to myself, these are feelings that a lot of people have and I just wanted to be the mouth piece and talk about it.

With the music video how did that come together and who did you guys work with for that? That was just our label, the funny thing about that is we had filmed a music video for that song and another song and we just didn't quite reach what we were trying to accomplish with it. What we were getting with the resources we couldn't accomplish what we were trying to, so we actually went back to the drawing board with the label and the art guy that we had been working with for all of the aesthetics for the record and just put our heads together and tried to think of a way to - with X amount of money (which is very little) - work on a video that could serve as a visual component for this song. It’s cool, First we had this ambitious idea for this crazy cinematic narrative for the song and then when we couldn't accomplish it through the resources we found out that we could just make something that looked cool, and said the thing we were trying to say, so that's what we did.

How did you get to the album title ‘If I’m the Devil...’ and what does it mean to you? It’s an offering to the listener to finish the title, it’s supposed to be an ‘If, Then’ statement. It’s about perception, it’s about how we view each other and ourselves. Personally, I have found myself in a few situations throughout my life where I was seen as the adversary, the enemy or less than and that was all due to perception. It’s almost like asking the question “well if that's what I am, what does that make the real evil? If I’m the devil, then what are these things that we deem to actually be damaging to our humanity and our earth” and so on. The over arching theme there is perception, in this world we decide and categorise people and things due to how we feel and sometimes those reasons we feel that way is because of fear and misunderstanding, which creates some of the most negative parts of all of our societies. Which are rooted in fear, so that's sort of a call to that with the album title.

We read that on this record you finally developed the sound that is letlive. So musically can you elaborate on how this release compares to anything you have done before? Musically, we found a way to incorporate all of those things we had been borrowing from or trying to honour on our last records and really enhance them and put them together in a very tasteful way. A very deliberate and intentional way this time so that it shows that we have got all of these different influences and different sort of respects for different forms of music. We tried to find a way to put our signature on it and make it our own and take the example of build upon that and put it through the letlive lens. With the last couple of records, I always talk about the organic evolution of that and with this record although it’s very organic and authentic it’s what we wanted to do, but I think it was much more deliberate. Our objective is a lot more clear on this record with what we were trying to do sonically and ideologically with the messages.

With letlive, you guys have always put music together the way you have wanted to which has been a part of your success. How important do you think it is for bands that they try to write music for themselves and not try to let their record labels or their fans influence their direction? Well there’s a part of all musicians that want to indulge their desires musically and artistically, you should always lead with that. You should write what you want to write and how you want to. When you consider those that listen to your music, you would hope that you have cultivated a sort of relationship with your listeners that when you grow they grow. They trust in you as an artist and that you set examples and show them new ways to listen to music and new things about your own music. As far as the label goes, I’ve got much love and respect for our label but you shouldn’t let a label tell you to do anything to be honest. I guess it could be subjective. The owner of our label, he’s got a really great ear and a really good taste. So when he enjoys something, we know that we have written something that is worth people’s time. If the label as an entity, were to tell us something that goes against how we thought we should be represented ourselves as artists, that's when you stop listening. you know what you’re supposed to say and you know what you’re trying to do. If you don't then you’re just creating music blindly and you have got a much bigger problem than someone just telling you how to make music, you have to figure out what you want to do first.

We have read that you are singing more than screaming on this record, So what can we expect from your vocal performance on ‘If I’m the Devil...’? I grew up singing, that's what I did, and I spent a lot of time trying to discover my voice and developing my voice and having a signature on what I do vocally. So as far as my performance on this record it’s again another honest representation of how I felt that these songs needed to be serviced. The melodies were always being considered with everything I was writing. If I had thought of a melody first vocally, then I would write a guitar part or a bass line to the melody or vice versa. I’d do things to sort of prop up the melody I was trying to sing. If people have ever thought when I was singing or performing in letlive that it was something genuine or authentic - I haven’t lost that. If anything, I have found a way to be even more comfortable with my voice and who I am as an artist, and I try to just honour that essence that people have hopefully enjoyed in the past.

Leading on from that, can you tell us what sort of music you listened to growing up and how it paved the way to letlive? My father was a musician and he did some pretty cool stuff. He played with some cool bands and from that he was kind of my example of a man who was also an artist, and that's where I got my first taste of music. The type of music he was playing was kind of soul rock and roll, so I grew up listening to Earth, Wind, Fire, Tower Power, James Brown, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye. Those are collectively the corner stones of my musical tastes. From then I actually started skateboarding and through that I listened to the punk rock movement which ran right through me and I loved it, I really embraced it and that’s kind of where the idea of letlive came from. When I got into high school, I wanted to create this soul/R&B enthused punk band. It took me a few years to actually figure out how to do that and I went through a couple of records really early on. At the beginning of college when I was trying to figure out what the sound of letlive was, I think we got on the right foot with ‘Fake History’ and now we have created ‘If I’m the Devil...’. That sort of punk enthused soul idea is being realised now - which I’m really excited about.

We read that you guys had so many ideas when putting the record together that it eventually became a struggle, so with that in mind what was the hardest part about creating this record for you and why? First and foremost, us working together and putting our own personal ideas to the side in order to do right by the song itself. Figuring out that we needed to answer the call of a song as opposed to a single idea that we were trying to get out personally. That was the hardest thing for us as a unit, coming together and sort of listening to what the song was, what it sounded like as opposed to what we wanted it to sound like. Once we got past that, it was pretty good. The other things that we dealt with were personal subjects. I can only speak for myself of course, I had a lot of growing to do as a person. I was actually going through a really large both existential and emotional transformative period for myself and it caused me to question a lot of things. It was inhibiting a lot of productivity for me at the beginning. Once I was transparent and honest about it with my band, I was able to finally get past that and start creating.

Recording wise, Did this album take a lot longer to come together compared to the other two? When we were actually recording we got through it pretty easily, the studio was pretty straight. It was more of getting the songs together to go into the studio. These songs had so many iterations and so many evolutions of themselves. It was a year of writing intermittently and then it was a few months of actually sitting down and writing songs. It was kind of difficult to find the end all of each song. We realised that some of us work well with arrangements, some of us work good with riffs, and some of us are good putting together the percussive elements. So it was trusting each other to make our element of the song the best we possibly could.

How did you end up working with Justyn Pilbrow and how did he help shape the record? I remember one day I was sitting with my wife in her apartment and we were listening to the band The Neighbourhood and I was just really into the elements they had incorporated into the record ‘I Love You’. They had a couple of producers on there and one of them was Justyn. Justyn by a way of fate was a New Zealander as well as my wife, and New Zealand being a very small country, she knew someone who knew him! She told me that she could probably get me clicked up with him and sure enough I presented the idea to the band and eventually we were all pretty into it, and we thought it would be cool to try and start integrating these new elements into our music. So I actually met with him one on one first and then we started talking about getting him into the studio. At first, he actually had some stuff he had to do in New York which is where he was at the time, so we didn't have him, but then things turned around and we had him back. So then we got him back to the studio, locked him in with us to work on this record. The coolest thing about Justyn is that he’s so open and that he genuinely wants to know what your ideas are and sincerely wants to help you find them. He’s really good at chasing sounds and finding these sonic spaces that we have always been really curious about and tried to fill up. Whether that be with effects or different tones or certain approaches to songs that we hadn’t really explored yet. I think he was able to facilitate those movements for us and help us navigate where they would be best placed in the songs. I really appreciate Justyn and his inclusion on the record and loved working with him, it was great.

Leading on from that, this is your first record to feature Loniel as a permanent member how was that and how would you say he contributed to the record? Loniel comes from a background where the groove and soul of the song was first and foremost – it was at the front of what you do – and that's how I view music. Him being the pulse of the band and having that sort of culture that runs through him when he performs, as a musician is fantastic. Him and I, when we were writing together it’s easy for us because we speak the same language when we are trying to explain things. With the band, it was just helping him find a place within the unit, he made it happen. He’s got a pulse, two drummers can play the same thing and it can sound completely different. Loniel is the kind of drummer that can play a simple or complex beat and it will grab you. That's just the truth. I’m really excited for people to hear his inclusion on this record and I really would like to shed some light on that because his element of the band is crucial. It’s going to be great, what people hear is going to be awesome, I love it. It’s like us working together to show him his place within this band, and once he found it, it was awesome.

How did you end up working with Mishka Bier and what has he been like to work with? He is an old friend of mine, RJ’s and Jeff - but RJ and I have known Mishka since we were 15/16, we have known him for a long time. He was in RJ’s band a long time ago and it was this metalcore band that they had back in the day. Old letlive used to play with his old band and he kind of branched off and started doing jazz and more rhythm and blues guitar. He was in a band that I really liked from home called Black Suns and I was trying to produce them, I wanted them to become the next Queens of the Stone Age and that's how we came to work with him. He’s currently out here touring with us and he has been a pleasure to work with. It’s been really cool, it’s good to be able to share these things with friends, we have so much history it makes it a lot easier for us to travel and make creative leaps with each other.

Can you tell us about the emotional zone you get into when performing. When the band starts playing is it like a switch that goes off? For the most part, it’s pretty visceral. Not much thought really goes into it, it’s more so a projection of whatever the things that I usually can’t really say, do or feel, that's the moment I get to sort of liberate those feelings and that's essentially what’s happening on stage. On top of wanting to service and perfrom the songs properly. As a musician, I want the sounds to sound and feel at a optimum level. As far as the emotional realm of it all, it’s just me being honest, I’m not trying to fake anything and if that's just how I am made to feel when I play certain songs, that's the reason I do, say and act the way I do when I perform.

What’s your worst injury while performing? I had to get microsurgery on my arm. I stupidly put my hand through a window, and a piece of glass went through my arm and severed my flexor tendon which connects to my median nerve. I had surgery and now I have lost the feeling in half of my right hand, which is my dominant hand, but I still play guitar and hold a mic so, so far so good! I still bear the consequences every day when I try to pick something up and I can’t feel it on my thumb or middle of my hand.

When your climbing up high or running to the back of a venue to sing, some might think your drunk, but that's the cool thing about you, you’re actually sober, so it’s a different kind of high – right? Totally man, it’s exactly that. I don’t partake in other drugs and inhibiting elements like that, but when I’m performing there’s a release of serotonin or dopamine or maybe just a little bit of idiocy that make it quite exciting and fun. It’s a little bit almost like I’m out of my own body and mind for a little bit just enjoying whatever that feeling is, which is indescribable. So that’s part of the whole excitement of it, I don’t even know exactly what it is, it's just a feeling.

Looking back on ‘The Blackest Beautiful’ how happy are you with that record still and what do you think it’s done for the representation of letlive? I love it, I think that again it’s the record that we were supposed to do at that time. The one thing that always gets brought up is the mixing of the record, it’s something that people seem to have an issue with which is totally fine, and everyone is entitled to their opinions. I personally feel like it was a time in our careers where we felt like everything was so sterilised, so homogenized that it was actually quite boring, and so this was our attempt to disrupt that monotonous sound, that continuous, vanilla loop. We wanted to put out a record that sounded the way it did when we were playing in a room. That’s the way it sounded and those songs are the songs we wrote at the time because that's the way that we felt. So I think that there’s only so much you can do as an artist to attempt to please everyone. At that time we were just trying to make, in a way a sonic statement. I’m not saying that we did it perfectly, and I’m not saying that I apologise for it, it’s just the record that we wrote, and I stand by it.

As a writer and as the band continues to get bigger, how hard has it been over the years to share such personal meanings to you with the rest of the world? I never think about how many people are going to listen and I can’t think about what people are going to think. That's why I may have been reticent or apprehensive to speak about certain things in the past. Perhaps I was thinking that maybe the climate or the environment at the time wasn't the right time to say it. Now I feel as we get larger, I think the only thing left to do to is to represent the needs and the issues of others that we experience and we find them to be real.

How did you end up working on ‘Stained Glass Ceilings’ which is a collaboration with the Wonder Years? Soupy and I met a few years back and we shared a very similar regard for punk and the state of music and the scene we’re in. With that, we tried to tour, it didn’t work a few times over the years, and then he gave me a call and discussed a song that he had been writing. It spoke very loudly to me, it was something I had experienced as well but from a different side of the story. It was really cool and unique to write with somebody to speak about two different ends of the spectrum about the same issue. I went in, wrote my part, after Soupy explained his part to me, and the rest is history.

What else can we expect to see from letlive in 2016? A lot of touring, a lot of different ways to represent this record. We are going to really try and create different mediums by which you can hear and see the record and try to make it a little more tactile in certain ways. Just different methods of actually listening and being a part of ‘If I’m The Devil...’ . And just trying to be better artists, this is what you can expect in the next year.

You played the first ever UK Carnival of Madness earlier this year with your friends Halestorm & Black Stone Cherry, how was it for you? And how did it compare to the US version? We had a blast! Over there Black Stone are so popular, they were headlining, whereas usually we headline the Carnival here in the states, so that was a little different, but it was fun, we got to actually relax a little bit instead of having the pressure of being the headliner. So we could just play our shows.

Speaking of, you’re playing the US leg of this tour again in the summer, how excited are you for this? And what can attending fans expect? We’re very excited, we’re just kind of finishing it and putting it altogether. They can expect the usual Shinedown doing way too much stuff and having a good time, but it’s going to be a little different this time, and it will be fun to have Halestorm and Black Stone Cherry back with us over in the states, as we haven’t toured with them in quite a while state side. It’s always fun with those guys and gals, because we’ve been friends for a long time, so it’s like a big family reunion backstage. There’s no egos or anything, we all just get up there and have a good time, both on and off stage. It’s a lot of fun and it will be hot. It’s going to be a hot summer.

What are some other bands that you really enjoy touring with? And what bands would you like to tour with in the future potentially? Man, pretty much every band we have toured with has been a good time. There’s been very few that I can count on one hand of bands that we didn’t get on with or have a good time with. Papa Roach is always a favourite of ours, they are just a great band and also good people, love to tour with them. I would love to tour with 3 Doors Down again, as we haven’t done that in a long time. I would love to do a tour with Foo Fighters or Muse, because I’m a fan of the bands, that would be great! There’s a few others that we haven’t done, those would be two that we haven’t done that I would love to do, and other than that just anybody who wants to get out there and tour and have a good time with us.

What are your favourite songs to play live right now, and why? Live I like the more high energy songs, so it’s always fun to play songs like ‘Enemies’ or ‘Cut The Cord’ or ‘Asking For It’, because they are just in your face rock songs. But it’s also cool to play things like, ‘State Of My Head’ or ‘Black Cadillac’. ‘Black Cadillac’ I love because of the groove of it, and in the UK it was a single, but it was never a single here in the states, so it’s fun to play, because over here they didn’t hear it as much. Anything that gets the crowd moving and going is fun for me, because being the drummer, I don’t get to see the crowd as much as the other guys. I’m kind of tucked in the back, so when it’s one of those songs when they’re really going for it, I get to see a little bit more action from the crowd.

So you’re playing the first ever Download Festival in Paris on June 11th, how does it feel to be playing the first Paris debut of such as big established festival? We’re excited, you never know what to expect on the first run of a festival. It could be really disorganised and a horrible time, or it could be the best time ever! But we’re excited to be in Paris, as we haven’t really played Paris that much, so for us being who we are, it’s fun to break in the newer territories. I think we have only played Paris maybe twice, and they were very small clubs, so this will put us in front of a lot of people that maybe didn’t know who we are.

And then you’re returning to the UK festival the next day, which will be your third time at Download, what do you enjoy most about this festival? 100,000 people! That’s always a good thing. I enjoy seeing all the different bands, it’s cool to go overseas and see such a variety of bands on the same day, you don’t get that here in the states, usually it’s just a rock festival or just a pop festival, they don’t really mix the two together, so to go over there and just see everything is really cool. And it’s cool to look out in the audience and see not only a sea of people, but people with flags, they don’t do that in the states, they don’t do the flags with your name on it or something. It’s going to fun, I think this is our first time on the main stage!

Have you got any particular Download Festival highlights? The last time was seeing Ghost in all their make-up in the hot sun, and making their way to the stage was pretty funny, that was enjoyable because they are this satanic metal band, and you see a bunch of guys that are really hot and sweaty in their make-up try and get on stage. They walk around the whole time in full costume, and they act the part, it’s kind of like KISS, when they put on the make-up they’re acting the part. It was neat.

You are playing a lot of other European festivals, which ones are you most looking forward to, and how do the UK festivals compare to the US? I’m looking forward to all of them, we haven’t played any of these in such a long time, and a lot of the festivals we have never played before, so we’re really, really looking forward to it, and just getting out there. This time of year over there is just beautiful, I just can’t wait to see all the different countries, and some places we haven’t been to in a long time and some places we haven’t been to at all. I know we’re doing two headline shows in Russia, we’ve never done that before. As far as the festivals, much like Download, it’s just such a wide variety and some we’re on the bill with really heavy bands so hopefully we come across okay!…you know when you got Marilyn Manson and Slayer or whatever else, and then you got Shinedown, it’s a little different, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.

So your latest album is 2015’s Threat To Survival, what was the recording and writing process like for this? It was actually a lot of fun this time round, typically Shinedown writing and especially then us recording in the studio is like pulling teeth, we end up getting in fights, it’s just not a fun time, but the end product is always really good. This time we actually had a really good time, we had fun writing it and recording we did a little different as we had multiple producers, and multiple engineers, just whoever kind of fit the song, instead of the whole album. So by doing that I could be in one studio with Eric recording drums and bass, while Zak’s in another studio doing guitars, and then Brent comes in and does vocals, so we weren’t right on top of each other. It made for a happy environment, rather than everyone standing there looking at you while you’re doing your part and being like hurry up so I can do mine. It was a lot more fun and we we’re able to breathe a little bit and try some new things, not only drum wise, but with all the other instrumentation. Speaking from my perspective to be able to go in and try different sounds and different textures and recording techniques that we wouldn’t have allowed ourselves time before, when it’s just one producer and everybody is in that pressure cooker.

Shinedown have sold over 6 million records worldwide! Congrats! What is your favourite album of your career, and which one is the biggest milestone for you as a band, as well as personally? That’s tough, I mean there are special moments and special times, you can look back at each record, and remember where we were and what was happening and who we were as people, how much we have grown, so it’s hard to pick a favourite record. I think the latest record was my favourite because it was so much fun to make and I like the songs, I like the grooves on the record, but I will always have a nostalgia for ‘Leave A Whisper’, the first record, because that was my first major release, and my first time in a major studio. I was 25 then, I’m much older now. I have good memories of that. I think the turning point for the band though was, ‘The Sound Of Madness’ record, that’s what really catapulted us to another level and solidified us as a rock band that’s going to be around for a while, even though the band itself was in such horrible inner turmoil, and had line-up changes and massive drug issues with some of us, it really catapulted us in a good way.

You Formed back in 2001, and yourself, along with Brent are the only two remaining original members. As you have been together for 15 years, how do you think the music industry has changed since you started out, and how have you evolved as a band? Well the music industry has lost it! Honestly I feel bad for any new band trying to start out these days, it’s tough. Back in 2001 the internet was happening, but it wasn’t happening on the scale that it is now, you didn’t have Pandora, Spotify and Facebook. Everyone growing up these days, the generation below us…music is free, everything is free and that’s great and even in my way, using those services, I have been turned on to new bands a lot easier than what it used to be, when you used to go into the CD store and try and find something. So it has its benefits and its downsides. The downside is the artists don’t really get paid anymore. I’m not saying everyone needs to be rich and millionaires, billionaires but unless you tour, you really don’t make money. You know we joke that we’re a glorified Hot Topic, we’re just selling t-shirts! That’s how we pay our bills, I have a great income, I have a wonderful home, but I’m not riding around in Bentley’s, I didn’t get into it for that. I got into it because I love playing drums and playing music, but with anything it’s a job and you’ve got bills to pay, and a family to support, so it’s made it harder in that respect and it’s also hurt the labels, they are not willing to take as much risk anymore, they want the quick sale, they want the instant hit, they’re not going to put their weight behind an artist and I think that’s why you don’t see as much rock ‘n’ roll as you used to, because rock ‘n’ roll takes time to develop, it’s not just a hip hop song or a rap song where you can have it on clubs and it does well and it disappears and nobody cares. It’s different for rock bands, that being said, rock bands have the internet now so you can self-promote and do a lot more and grow in a different way, rather than needing major label support. So it’s different, I can’t believe how much has changed in 15 years, it’s crazy.

This year you made it onto the Modern Drummer Magazine front cover, which you said was a ‘bucket list’ achievement, with that in mind, what else as a musician and as a band, is on your list of things to accomplish? I’m still pinching myself! There’s a million things that I still want to accomplish. That was a big one for me personally, like I had a subscription to that magazine since the early 80s. I’ve read that magazine forever, and to be able to be put in that league of people I’m honoured, and almost don’t feel worthy to be honest, so that was a big one for me. Aside from that, selling out Wembley Stadium & Madison Square Garden, those kind of things. I want to get to different countries that we haven’t been to before, New Zealand, more of the Asian countries, and South America we really haven’t done a lot of that. A headlining run in Australia would be great, because we have only been there once, and that was for festivals. There’s a lot more we want to do and a lot more we want to accomplish, and I think that’s what keeps us going as we’re never really satisfied, we always want to achieve more, experience more and do more, and just get our band out there. We’re not sitting here going, “Oh wow we’ve made it” we’re going, “what’s next?”.

You have been playing drums for 30 years now, what would you say your biggest influences were when first starting out, and what are they now? It’s a tough one, it’s been a long time. Starting out it was, Nicko McBrain from Iron Maiden, a lot of the 80s music was big on me, Stuart Copeland from The Police, as well as Def Leppard, Faith No More, those kind of bands were really formative in my early years. Then from there, I had private lessons and studied in school and stuff, so I got turned onto a lot of jazz and other drummers. I really branched out pretty quick and learnt a lot about different styles of music and different drummers, and gained a respect for them as well. Steve Smith, Louie Bellson, and Buddy Rich, and all the modern and classic jazz guys. On top of being a rock guy, it’s grown from there, there’s so many great drummers out there, and as a benefit of the internet you get to see a lot more and the kids are growing at a rapid rate as far as their skills because there is so much information available that we didn’t have growing up. You were lucky enough to get a VHS tape with drum lessons on it, that was cool, and those didn’t really start happening until the late 80s, early 90s, and nowadays you can turn on YouTube. There’s just so much out there, some of the modern drummers that I’m into include: Jojo Mayor & Benny Greb.

Have you started working on any new material yet, and if so, can you give us any insight to this? Absolutely not, we just got this one out there! We don’t really write on the road, there’s so much going on on the road, by the time you’re done with the day, the last thing you want to do is pick up an instrument and think. So we don’t start writing until the touring is over for this record, and we got a lot more to do on this record, and we’ve got to make this record successful in order to make it to the next record. We have got a lot of work to do.

Can you tell us some personal highlights of touring in the UK since starting out? For us, I think it’s first and foremost the fans. The fans over there are a lot more devoted, you gain the fans and they stick with you, and that’s really special and kind of unique compared to stateside where it’s very fly by night. We have a lot of dedicated fans here from over the years, but they tend to forget about you easier, they don’t stick with you over the long haul, as much. That’s definitely a large generalisation, we do have some die-hard fans that have been with us from the beginning over here. Other than that, our country is so young, we don’t have a lot of history that you guys do. Like just to walk around in the streets and see the buildings of that age and the history behind them, the castles, there are no castles here, those kind of things, just blow my mind. I’m a big history buff, I love history, so to be able to walk in those footsteps and see all the tourist traps from London, Buckingham Palace and all that, it’s great. We walked around the streets of Nottingham and found a bar where they let you go down underneath, there’s catacombs under there, and we were like “wow this is amazing!”, we just don’t have those things. That’s probably, aside from the shows, my favourite part of the tour, having the day off to go wonder a city and see what you wind up in.

Interview with Robby

Can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind the song 'So Alive', which you just released? That was actually the last song we recorded for the album. John was working on it in New York with Gregg Wattenburg. He has worked with us on the last few records, he co-wrote a song with John a couple of records ago, and worked on five songs on the last record. So John and Greg wrote the song, it's their last minute observations about the process, since the last record.

So how did you get to the album title 'Boxes' and what does it mean to you? ‘Boxes’ is a song from the record. Our manager, when we go to him for advice, generally what he says to us is “make it short and memorable if you can”. So we were just going through the song titles and came across that. As far as finding a meaning to the word boxes, it's empty, there's nothing in it, and it doesn't describe much of anything. You can fill it with what you want. So that was sort of the notion that lead us to choosing a title.

We've read that this record is "pushing new boundaries in terms of sound and production" so can you tell us about how it compares musically to anything you've done before? With the dawn of the digital age, being a band that was born in the days of tape and microphones. These days, we are in the age of software and being able to digitally manipulate sound in ways you wouldn't of even thought of fifteen years ago. So I think on the last record we really decided we were going to embrace the technology a little bit more, and see what was out there. 'Magnetic' to me, feels like a bit of a learning process with that concept and I think with this record we knew what to expect a little bit more. We're a little bit more ready go in and do something that felt comfortable to us in that area.

What was it like to record at the Bear Creek Studio, and how would you say the process compared to the way you've recorded before? Yeah we did some stuff up at Bear Creek. We actually recorded in Washington, LA, New York & Buffalo, so we were all over the place with this one. It's interesting because if you go through and read the linear notes you can see what we've done and where, but to me I can defiantly feel like a West Coast & an East Coast vibe on the songs which is kind of cool for us.

So just a great combination of different vibes? Yeah, and different ideas. Which is one of those things that we were looking to do a little bit more of. Getting ourselves out of the bubble that had been Goo Goo Dolls for the past 30 years, and seeing what things were out there for us to play around with.

How did you end up working with Gregg Wattenberg, Derek Fuhrmann, Drew Pearson & how would you say they helped shape the record? Well luckily for Greg we had done some work with him in the past on 'Let Love In' and 'Magnetic'. So we were kind of familiar with his style. Derick is Gregg’s work partner. They work out of Quad studios in New York which is a pretty historic studio. It's kind of cool to be in there, as it's right in the middle of Times Square, it's got a lot of vibe. Drew Pearson is someone that we met just recently actually. John had met him in LA, and just kind of got to writing a couple of things with him. We actually had a great time working with him at Henson studios. Which is the old A&M Records...which is actually the old Charlie Chaplin studios in Hollywood! So once again we worked in some pretty cool places, which were nostalgic and infamous, it was great. Also, having all those opinions in the process really makes for a pretty varied listen.

How did you end up working with Sydney on the track 'Flood', and what was she like to work with? We had worked on a version of the song that, I don't know if it was meant to come out that way but it was interesting once you put a female voice on it. The whole idea of the song kind of changed, with the whole back and forth. At some point in this record cycle I'm sure we'll be able to perform that with her, at least I hope so.

Can you tell us about the songs that you sing lead vocals on with this record (Free of Me & Prayer In My Pocket), as well as how they came together? Those are two of a batch of 5-6 songs that I put together for this record. I worked on them in New York with Gregg & Derrick, I did some string stuff on one of them at our studio in Buffalo, with some talented string players, so it was nice to get them on the album as well. The general vibe of this record, not to pick each song apart, but it’s just sort of hope, optimism for the future, the world is in need of that, and we can do our part by spreading some good will. That's what we tried to do with this one.

I guess that comes back to the album title ‘Boxes’, as you can sort of take what you want from it? I was talking to John. It's funny sometimes when you write a song, I don't think you write about anything, you're just writing what's inside of you, and at some point you have to figure out what that was. It's an interesting process for a writer to have to go back and think "oh my god, what did I mean by that?". But if you look at these songs as a whole, there's a message to the album for sure.

You also co-wrote ‘Over and Over’, so how was that, and can you tell us a bit about the track? The past few records, John would write some songs, I would write some songs. We'd come together and we'd make an album. It's probably been ten years since him and I have sat down together and thought what could we do here. There's defiantly a new twist on it. It's oddly reminiscent of 'Time Gone By' that’s been incorporated into that. I thought it turned out really well, and it's probably one of my favourites on the record.

Can you tell us about the current touring members for Goo Goo Dolls, as well as most recently what it's been like to work with Craig Macintyre? Craig has been awesome. He has been playing with us for almost two years now. So we've done an awful lot of shows with him already, and got to spend some time with him in the studio for the first time, which was great. He is a really creative thinker. Brad Femquist is on guitar. He has been with us for almost ten years now. Korel Tunador as well, has also been with us for about ten years. It's been a good ride with those guys, they fit in really well. So out here in the states with Collective Soul and Tribe Society, we've got over 60 shows booked here and in Canada. We're also coming over to the UK in October!

How did the front cover for 'Boxes' come together, and what do you want it to mean to your fans? The cover was actually done by a local guy here from Buffalo. His name is Brian Grunert, he has got a company called White Bicycle, it's been nominated, and won a couple of awards for the stuff that Brian had done for another Buffalo artist, called Ani Difranco. I have an indie label that releases Japenese music in the states, and he had done some work for me in the past. We were just waiting for the right time for everything to line-up. He came to us with a few ideas, and we just thought that the image that we chose was kind of iconic. There's a lot of questions around what it is, and why it is. Once again it's that kind of thing where hopefully you listen to the album and all of those things are answered for you, as you're making your way through the songs.

Can you tell us about your indie lable? As well as what that’s been like to run at the same time as Goo Goo Dolls? It makes me appreciate being in Goo Goo Dolls. I get to spend some time travelling around with the bands that we deal with. One of them, a band called Shonen Knife from Osaka has been around for about thirty years, so they are a little bit more established in the States. But the other bands that we are working with, they're coming here, to a foreign land, trying to make it work playing to groups of people from 5 - 500, you never know. Sometimes I jump in the van with them and drive around with them. So yeah like I said, it makes me really appreciate what we've built here over the past few decades. Watching the major labels trying to deal with a lot of the same kind of things that we're trying to deal with, just as a little label with my wife and I running it. Some of the same problems exist, and sometimes I think that their huge infrastructure slows them down a little bit. We've been on Warner for about 25 years. They've always been great for us, and we appreciate having a home like that for sure.

It’s amazing to have that view where you’re part of an established band, but you can still go out there with these smaller bands, and see what it’s like to start from the ground up once more? The first time I did it. I started the label about ten years ago. We were rolling around in a fleet of buses, trucks, and flying everywhere. When Shonen Knife first came over we had an issue with their tour manager. I just happened to be off for the month and a half that they were here. So I jumped in the van and started driving, basically around the whole of the US. I got back and our tour was just about to start after that, and I was like “oh my god this is nuts man!”. There's something about that energy and excitement that's in your heart when you're out there playing pirate. Getting from club to club on what you can. But like I said, it really makes me appreciate and understand how lucky we got to be here for 30 years. Come on, who does that, not many people. So I appreciate it, and at the same time it's kind of nice to have something to struggle along with as well, it's fun.

You just celebrated 20 years of 'A Boy Named Goo', so with that in mind, can you tell us about how much this record means to you now, as well as why you think fans react to it so well? 'Boy Named Goo' was a big changing point for us. People got an idea somewhere along the way that we wrote some acoustic type songs as well, we were a pretty heavy band back in that time. So we would get a song on the radio in a town, and a bunch of office workers would hear it on the radio and that would be the one song that they knew by us, the song 'Name'. So they would think they were coming to see an acoustic band, they would show up, and we would quite literally blow them against the back walls. Just hammering out rock music, so it was an incredibly interesting time for us. We had a big song, but what our band did really wasn't big. It took about ten years for people to kind of understand what they were coming to see. You look at our first three hit songs, they were acoustic songs as it happens, so we had to wait for the band to catch up with those songs in a way. It was a great moment, and it changed our lives entirely. It just came out on vinyl as well, it sounds great, and it’s the first time I ever heard it on vinyl, so that's kind of exciting for me.

Looking back on Magnetic, how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it has done for the representation of Goo Goo Dolls? I'm pretty sure you will get a different answer from John, but for me I felt like we were growing into a new phase, and I feel like that record felt like a learning process in a way, to getting to the point where we are right now. If you listen to our first album that we put out in 1986, and then you listen to the latest record, there's been a lot of learning going on in that process. We've been able to make that awkward record without completely alienating our fan base which is kind of a tall order in a lot of ways. We've somehow been able to do that, I may be saying the same thing about this record after we make the next record. I guess every record is a bit of an awkward step from the last one, but that's what I feel about 'Magnetic'. It's got some great songs, and it was a bridge that got us from, what ended up being a kind of dark place in Goo Goo Dolls land. Through 'Something for the Rest of Us' they weren't necessarily happy albums. We did our best to do a bit of a rest over the past couple of records, and it's not necessarily just musically, just in general we've tried to do a bit of a rest. We're super happy with what we've come up with this time.

Music should always be a work in progress? It shouldn’t be like you just do one album and then feel like you’ve done everything? Yeah sometimes people can get to the point where they go "what's next, and there's no answer?" we've been lucky enough to have John. You know you see it all the time, all of a sudden a band makes 4-5 stale records, they just don't move on. John has always been really good about trying to move on, and seeing what the next thing for him is. When we started playing, the bands that we were idolizing were selling two - four thousand records, and that was a successful run for those bands. That was mainly because we were, in our minds then looking forward in the music, trying to think about the things that other people didn't think about. John’s mind is still there, even though in a strange sort of way we became mainstream for a little while, I think he was always reaching forward still at that time, to try and find something that was just a little bit different to what we'd done before. We feel when it's finished, we look at it and go “okay, we've accomplished something”. Regardless of whether or not it's a commercial success or whatever, to be able to feel that gain in your own heart, that's a mini victory on its own.

What else can we expect to see from the Goo Goo Doll sin 2016? Tons and tons of show. It's going to be an exciting year for us, this one happened a lot quicker, we're usually about four years between records. But we're getting older so it's good for it to come out quicker! I can't wait to get around and play these songs for people, bring them the old favorites too, that's always a super great part to it.

Interview with Riley

How did thrice originally end up going on a hiatus? It got to a point where we had been making records and touring pretty heavily for fourteen or fifteen years. Teppei & Dustin were both starting families. They just needed to take a break and Dustin was the one who brought the idea up and suggested that we should take a hiatus. He said he needed to take a breather and felt the need to do other things and be around for family. He said he just can’t stay on this schedule of making a record, touring for two years, and being away from home, it’s just not sustainable. That's what started it, as a band we decided early on that if Thrice wasn’t the four of us then it wouldn’t be anything, We didn’t want to replace anyone. We want people to remember all four members like a collective and without the four of us all being there then there is really no point in us doing it. So when he said we needed to take a break, we took a break.

What was it like when this happened for you personally? I wasn’t really ready for it, but I don't think I really ever could have been ready for it. You spend so much time and effort and you make so many sacrifices to make the band thing work. Whether it’s how much time you devote to it and not being around for friends and families’ birthdays. So to have it all go away so quickly it kind of leaves you confused as to where you’re supposed to go. As if it was a small business or something with some buddies of yours, you put in all of this hard work and all of a sudden it’s gone, you’re like “what do I do next, what am I supposed to do?”. Playing drums is not the greatest thing to have on your resume if you need to get a 9-5 job as it turns out.

So what did you get up to then in the break? For me personally, I just jumped from job to job trying to find something that was stable, that wasn’t soul sucking. I did a fair share of freelance writing for different publications and websites. I did the corporate 9-5 thing where I was working as a sales rep for a really high end bespoke tailor who made suits and shirts for really wealthy businessmen – which was like a complete 180 from band life, I hated that job. I wanted to see if I could do it though, you get curious, like why don’t I just try something totally different? I wondered if I would be able to pull it off and the answer to that was no. I worked for an athletic apparel start up, I did some drum teching and bass teching for Weezer and Jimmy Eat World, so I got back into the music world on the production and tech side of things which was cool. I was just trying to find something that worked.

With a band like Thrice, you would have thought that you guys could do whatever you want within the break. So how hard is it to tread water within the industry these days? It’s really tough, I feel like people outside of the music industry, don't really understand the amount of work and effort that goes into being a band, it’s like starting a small business. When you sit down in an interview, with say corporate America and you say that you have marketing and copy editing skills, and social media management skills, and that you work well with people, and they say “well where have you worked?” And you’re like “I’ve been in this band for half of my adult life”, most people just say “oh okay, so you played bars on the weekends or something? That’s cool”. It’s not like a pitch, so it’s hard to get out the skills you developed being in a band on the business side of things to try and translate to people who are just completely unaware of how that world works. They just think you go hit drums and party all the time, but it’s really not what creating a sustainable business, and a sustainable band is all about.

When did the discussion come about that you guys should come back? Dustin and Teppei were both living up near Seattle and they got together to go to a Brand New show and that night, Eddie and I got a text from Dustin which said “Hey, I love you guys and I miss you guys, I think we should probably start making music again, I will talk to you soon” and I just didn't expect that at all. Then a week or two weeks later, we all got on the phone and Dustin and Teppei were both out here in South California for the holidays, I think this was in 2014. We got together for dinner and just kind of talked about the hiatus and the things we wanted to do moving forward. We set a plan in motion to do the shows and festivals we did last year. We discussed a timeline for making a record and getting back into a little more normal, but more manageable touring cycle.

‘Black Honey’ was one of the first tracks that you guys started working on for the new album, so what was that like to be in the studio with everyone again, and can you tell us a little bit behind the meaning of this song? I think it was on that same trip where they were down here in Southern California and we met for dinner. Teppei had that opening riff for ‘Black Honey’ on a voice memo on his phone, we were in our little rehearsal space and he was like “oh, I have this clip, let’s see what happens if we jam over it” . So we jammed over it and that was the first thing that we started working on. It went through many alterations between then and when we actually got into the studio, but it was cool. I was a little worried, you spend so much time playing with the same three guys and it almost becomes like second nature, but you wonder like with anything in life, if you don't do a certain thing for three - four years, how much is going to be lost? You have to practice, you have got to say sharp - no matter what your craft is. So I was worried that we would come in and either the vibe would be wrong or everybody would suck. But it was just like riding a bike, like “oh wow, this feels totally normal even though I haven’t done it for three - four years”. It just felt like we practiced last week or something. As far as the meaning of ‘Black Honey’ – there are a lot of different things you can take away from it. If you want to be a little more direct, it could be about US foreign policy and how we continue to do the same type of thing in that foreign policy and nothing seems to be resolved, it seem to be getting worse or staying the same and we wonder why, when we are not changing our actions. On a broader scope, and the way the song speaks to me is just about someone doing the same thing, over and over because it suits themselves but not realizing that in doing that it’s hurting them and it’s hurting the people around them, so that could be anything. That could be somebody with a terrible personality or somebody who has a drinking problem or something like that. It’s just people being selfish and greedy, and doing things that suit them.

With some of the guys living further away for a bit, then did this make a difference to the recording process? Not recording wise, because by the time we recorded Dustin had moved back to Southern California and Teppei was strongly considering moving back. I think he actually moved back in the middle of the recording process. It did make the writing process a little challenging, because Teppei was still up in Seattle and we were writing around the festival shows we were doing last year, so we were getting together to rehearse for the show, we would book three or four days of writing time on either end of that show. So we would fly Teppei out and rehearse for the show and then write for a few days and then the rest of the writing was done via file sharing, we would put down a demo of the song in logic and pass the logic sessions around and then everybody would spend time in their home studio, on their parts or working on different arrangements for songs. Which is a new way of doing things for us and a challenge in some ways, but very beneficial in others.

You said this is the most creative you have been in the studio since Alchemy Index so can you elaborate on how putting this record together musically compares to the rest of your albums? What I mean by that, is that with ‘Beggars’ and ‘Major Minor’ we had a much clearer picture of what the songs were going to sound like and what the final arrangements were going to be before we actually started recording. This time around, the ideas were a little bit less developed. We had a pretty clear idea of what we wanted us to sound like or be like but we were very open to experimenting and to change, which made it exciting. There was a lot of creation and a lot of experimenting in the studio, which is why it’s a bit like how ‘Alchemy’ came together. As far as how the music compares to other records, it’s all over the place as usual. I think this record is a little bit more anthemic than previous records but there are songs on this record that I don’t think would feel out of place on any of the last four or five records. There are songs on this record that you could sneak into the sequencing of ‘The Artist and the Ambulance’ and it wouldn't be like, “woah, this doesn't make any sense” . But you can do that with any record between then and now. - so I’m psyched. I think it's a strong record from top to bottom, it’s diverse and it’s strangely catchy. Our records aren’t usually that catchy.

How did you end up working with Eric Palmquist and what was he like to work with? Eric was awesome; I really enjoyed working with him on the new album. He had the perfect demeanor for us, he wasn't really heavy handed but he was suggestive. He would give us suggestions and instead of it being this whip-cracking producer, it was much more of a free flowing conversation. It’s not like “You should do this and that”, it was more like “what if you did this, what if you tried that? I like that, let’s try to develop that”. So it was really cool to have an extra set of ears in the process, somebody who could filter through the good and bad ideas that we had and push us to develop the good ideas and shelve the bad ones. He was actually a suggestion of the label, they had used him on a few other records but none of those records were like a heavy band. He had done some more indie sounding stuff, some alternative stuff, and we just wanted to see what would happen If we worked with somebody who wasn’t the perfect fit sonically. I think we have done that in the past like with Vheissu, we worked with Steve Osbourne who had done U2 and Massive Attack and KT Tuntstall, and it was a really cool kind of mix of us doing our heavy thing, and him pulling and pushing us to do things that were out of our comfort zones, the end result was really cool. I think the same thing happened with Eric, he pushed us to try some stuff that we wouldn’t normally try and I had a really good time working with him.

Each record you’ve done stands alone with its own sound – which is definitely a part of your success. So how important do you think it is that bands progress naturally instead of listening to outside pressures? I can only speak for Thrice, but I think it’s been essential to our longevity. I know there are bands like “hey this is what we sound like and we are going to make music for 30 years, and it’s going to sound exactly like this”. For us it’s been really important to allow ourselves to do whatever we want to do at a certain time. We are all a part of the writing process and we all have different influences. We all want to incorporate those influences into what we are doing and if any one of us felt like we were being stifled either by other band members or by public opinion it wouldn't be as fun anymore. We are in this to have fun and to be creative, and that's the most important thing.

What’s it been like to become a father alongside the return of the band? It’s crazy and awesome, and it’s exhausting. It’s the most tired I have ever been in my entire life but it’s also the best kind of tired. Nothing makes me happier than my boy, and there’s just an added sense of purpose. When you’re untethered and you don't have a wife or a kid, you can kind of float and be less responsible. Once you have a little person who is 100% reliant on you, it kind of changes your priorities, and changes what’s important.

So how did you get to the album title 'To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere' and what does it mean to you? It was something that Dustin suggested, I think it’s taken from a philosopher named Seneca, The Younger. It speaks to the negative side of where technology is at right now, where information is at. Where you can have the whole world in your pocket, on your phone but it’s really not enhancing our lives that much. There’s something exceedingly important about being present where you are and I feel like your phone or your computer, or the internet gives the ability to pull people out of that moment so easily and you can get so lost in not what’s happening in front of you, that It can be dangerous. So yeah to be everywhere is to have the ability to be anywhere and know anything. But you’re not really where you need to be, which is present. I think Dustyn said something like “with all this knowledge that we have at our fingertips, people are kind of knowledgeable about a lot of things, but not really good at anything”. Don’t quote me on that!

As a drummer, how would you say this release compares to what you have done before in the band? My playing is subdued but not in a bad way. Something that Eric and I talked about very early on in the writing process was feel and playing in the pocket. He actually sent me a playlist of John Bonham tracks and it was just like “listen to these, learn these, think about the fills, and the dynamics”. I already love Bonham’s playing so I was pretty much just thinking about Bonham for a lot of the songs and just trying to lay stuff down, as fat and greasy and pockety as possible. Making the fills be tasteful and serving the song first. I just want to support the song and have stuff be tasteful, and I think I accomplished a lot of that on this record. There are other songs on this record where I’m channeling less Bonham and trying to channel some more progressive stuff. I had the moment to do the odd time fancy fill stuff and then moments where I really just needed to lay back, so it was fun.

Also, this comeback is permanent right, you guys are going to stay after this album? That's the plan, we are not going anywhere.

Interview with Anthony

Can you explain why you parted ways with Saosin originally? I was young, there were a lot of reasons, it wasn't just one thing. When I was living in California, I just didn't like what I was doing, and who I was becoming. I started over fresh out there, and I didn't really have anybody that knew me long term. The band was getting bigger & bigger and making these huge decisions. I wasn't sure how I felt about some of the decisions that they were making, and I just went home to re-group, to see my family etc. I started talking to my friends about starting another band, and it felt like it was something I needed to do. It wasn't anything against them, it was just at the time, I was more excited about doing something new, that I would be in charge of, other than the way things were going. We didn't really know how to communicate that well, and I think that's what it boils down to. When you're young, you don't really know how to say things sometimes, and it's easier to just ghost it. I didn’t know how to express to them what I was feeling, and what I was going through. Things just weren't going how I wanted them to go with myself, and they weren't going how I wanted them to go in the band, and rather than be an adult and try to communicate that, I just went and started another situation with people I felt like I could communicate better with. Now after all these years, with all of us growing up a little bit, and being full time musicians, we've learned how to communicate, be respectful, and how to say things to each other in a way where everybody understands or doesn’t feel left out.

Okay, so fast forward to the last couple of years, how did you end up becoming the lead singer of Saosin once more? A long time ago, right when they fired their singer Cove, (we are friends so I was talking to him throughout that whole time), Chris their bass player, was talking to me about what they were going to do, and kind of mentioned that maybe I could help write some new songs or something if they found a new singer, or even help them find a new singer. I listened to some of the music that they had, they sent me some of the demos, and they were really good, and I liked them. I said “why don't you just let me have a go at it, and we'll maybe call it something else, we won't call it Saosin?”. We talked about it for a while, and it kind of get set in motion, but I was still really busy with Circa. I wasn't even sure I was going to do the record, I just liked the idea of playing music with them again. The idea of doing a new Saosin record was scary to me. When we started playing the shows, we were just going to play a couple of shows, and have that be it. We got together and were like "maybe it would be fun to just keep doing this as almost like a side project for every body". There's no reason to put a label on it, we can just go have fun every couple of years, make a heavy record if we want to, and just not have any body to answer to.

What was it like to perform with these guys live for the first time in a while in 2014? It was super fun. Those songs were always really energetic, and always had that really unique energy to them. I had secretly missed playing them for a really long time. So it was cool to be playing them again.

What was the first track you recorded for 'Along The Shadow', and what was it like to create music as Saosin again? I think the first track that I recorded was called 'Racing Toward A Red Light'. The second track that I recorded was 'The Silver String', and with 'The Silver String' song I did the vocals at home with my producer Will Yip. When we were working on the vocals, I remember getting the track instrumentally from Saosin’s producer Beau and guitar player thinking "wow, this is a really special song, I really like this!". Then when I was working on the vocals with Will, that was when I realized that it was an important step for me to do this. It was an important thing, to do this record for me, because it was something that I really wanted it in my life, music that sounded like that. I wanted to be involved with something that was a little bit heavier, and a little bit more aggressive.

Was there any pressure on the band when it came to putting this record together? With every record I've ever done there's pressure to do your best, and to have it be like this thing that you're really proud of. I mean if that pressure isn't there, then what the hell? I like that pressure, if it wasn't for that pressure, then nobody would ever move forward. We weren't trying to recapture anything from the early years of the band. We let all of the music just happen, and let it be what it was. It wasn't like we felt pressured to do better than we did before, or do something different. We all sat around and listened, if we all liked it we would then moved forward with it. We didn't overthink anything.

One incredible change for you since you were last in Saosin is the fact that you now have a family. So as you balance bands alongside this, then what kind of effect has this had on you as a musician? Before I had a family, I had all the time in the world to do anything I wanted. When you have that time in your life, as a young person, you sort of take it for granted, and I did for sure. I remember writing the Circa albums before I had children where it would take me forever to do the vocals, or write a melody. And I felt like I was blocked, and that I couldn't do it. Then when I started having children I needed to start managing my time differently, so that I had a chance to do the thing that I do. Your time is so monopolized, it's willingly monopolized. You want to be there for your kids all the time, so I was like, “I have to get this done, it needs to be done by tomorrow, I'm going to finish it, and I'm not going to flake”. So I had to start making time to do things. Now that I make time, and manage my time a little better, I'm actually able to do more now that I have kids, than I was able to do before them. When you really sit down, and you focus your energy at certain times, you get the most out of you, out of your time & focus. So I feel like my kids have taught me to waste less time, and really help me focus.

What made you want to release 'Racing Toward a Red Light' second as your most recent music video, and can you tell us about the narrative behind the track? A lot of the songs on the album, and that one in particular, are about pretty interpersonal relationships I had with people in my life, so it's hard to get really specific about what they're about. There's a reason why if they're not spelled out for you there, it's because I don't necessarily want to hurt anyone's feelings. There's things that I couldn't say even if I did talk to the person about it, or people, or whomever. It's like an expression for me, and I don't want to go in and ruin it, and ruin a friendship/s or whatever. But for me that song could of been released first or second, it was more the label heard the songs and said "hey, we're going to release them in this order!", and I couldn't of cared less, I believe in all of the songs, and I don't have that strategic mind for like an album roll out. If it was up to me, the album would just come out! There wouldn't be like a pre-order, you would just get it finished, we'd put it on the internet, let people know it was out, and you'd keep letting them know for a little while, and then you'd be done. But that's not how a company that sells records strategically does it. So they just chose the album in a certain order, I don't know if it was based on catchyness, or whatever but I do love that song, so I was happy that they put it out!

How did you get to the album title 'Along The Shadow' and what does it mean to you? There's a lot of symbolism behind that. The bass player and I were throwing around ideas for what the album meant to us, and ‘Along The Shadow’ is the light. It's like, you have to see the negative space, and it's sort of a different way of looking at the relationship between the light and dark.

What was it like to work with your very own Beau Burchell, as well as Will Yip? Working with those two guys was great. The communication was pretty awesome, and easy. I was recording and writing with Will, I was home and didn't have to fly out to California which made it a lot easier. We would send notes back and forth to each other. It was a real easy process, I just think that with our age, and ability to communicate now, and having done this for so long we all know each others's eccentricities, and were able to get the best out of each other.

How would you say the sound of Saosin compares overall now to when you were originally a part of the line up? I feel like it sort of changes like a person changes. When you're a young kid, you look at things a certain way, and you kind of express yourself in a certain way. It might be a little bit more calculated. Everything that they are writing musically, and everything reflects what I'm doing vocally on the album sort of reflects a little bit more focus and maturity. The songs are stronger structurally, and they're melodically a little bit more figured out. Like I mentioned earlier, it just has to do with our age, and our time as musicians before playing together again, as it kind of really helped experience wise, and formulate what's going on with us now. With Saosin and their older singer, they did a lot stuff that was very radio friendly, and that's just not something that I'm that good at doing. I feel like it was nice and a lot easier to come in and write a bunch of stuff that we liked, rather than thinking about whether or not we were going to be able to gain more fans with it.

How does writing and recording with Saosin compare to the way you do it with Circa Survive? It's not that bad. That's a good question. I think there's different songs, and there's different people in the band so it's of course different in that way. I can't say that they're that different. It's just like dealing with a different person, some people are less sensitive about some things than others. Some people are hyper sensitive about some things. So it's hard to pin point exactly how it's different other than that it's different people. It's writing music with people which is the whole point of it. It's fun for me, some guys take things a little more serious, some guys don't. Some things are easier, or harder for both projects. Neither of them are a tremendous challenge, because it's really fun playing music. They're all great people, and they're all really great musicians, so it's all a pretty wonderful experience!

How did Phil Sgrosso become a part of Saosin, and what has he been like to work with so far? I think Phil was friends with Chris & Beau. Circa had played some shows with As I Lay Dying back in the day, and I'm a fan of Wovenwar. We were talking about someone to fill in, because I don't know if we're ever going to get a full time guitarist. I'm not sure, that was the idea at the beginning, but you never know, things might change. Originally we were thinking of having a different guy play on every tour but that becomes hard on scheduling. Phil is just so good, he is so incredible. It's not only that he is just technically really good, it's also that he is cool to be around, he is funny and mellow. They knew him before, so they asked him if he wanted to come and practice. I knew they tried a couple of people out, but he was the obvious dude to do it.

How did the album artwork come together, and what does it mean to you? That was all Chris. He sent me a couple of different ideas of things that he was thinking about, and there were some really cool pictures in there, including the photo that is on the cover. I said "yeah, I kind of like this one a lot, this is my favourite thing out of all of them”. He was like “yeah it's my favorite thing as well, I'm thinking about using that for the cover", and I said "Let's do it!". The next thing we knew, it was done!

How excited are you for Taste of Chaos, and on a live basis, what can fans expect to see from Saosin this year? Really excited for Taste of Chaos. The last couple tours that I've been a part of, have all been like headlining tours, and so to go out and be second on the bill, playing a thirty minute set, you can really go out, and break your back by putting all of your energy into it. You don't have to pace yourself, and I think that's something I'm really excited to do. Just excited to go out, and go nuts for thirty minutes, and just have a lot of fun playing music with my friends. A lot of people that we’ve been really good friends with for a long time are on that tour so it's just going to be so much fun to be there. If you're coming to a Saosin show you should just expect to bring a lot of energy, that's one of the things, it's so cathartic, and so much fun for us to just kind of go crazy.

So is Saosin permanent? It's going to be something that we just do whenever we have time. We've carved out a little bit of time to do this, we'll do a couple of shows this year, we'll play Taste of Chaos, we'll put the record out and we'll see what happens next. I think I'm going to go back into Circa mode next year for a little while, I have a solo record that’s coming out in August, so I’ve got to try and pace myself a little bit. I don't want to get too burnt out.

Finally, what else can we expect to see from Saosin in 2016? There's a possibility of doing a split, or doing some kind of compilation, or a single after this record comes out. We are going to tour a little bit, play some festivals, obviously come back to the UK, and come and do a couple of little shows, but it's hard for me to say. The future is hard for me to see.

How did you first get into voice acting? My path was a little bit more unique than most, I think. As I tripped backwards into this. I was in a band and we were doing our album in a studio and just round the corner they were doing car adverts and so I popped my head in the door, and I was like “hey, I want to be on the radio?” and they were like “hey, get out.” Two weeks later I got a call from them, and they said if you’re still interested in doing this, let’s see what you got. So I went down there, I had no idea what I was doing, and just started reading and doing things like I had always heard on the radio. It just so happened that I was in the right place at the right time. It’s literally been one thing after the next that's kept me working and I still have to do the hard work, I still have to prove to people that I can do whatever job they have entrusted to me. But a lot of it has been luck. Somebody asked me once “what are my keys to success?” And I said “I have no idea but I can certainly show you my doors to failure” - because it’s not my successes that have taught me things, it’s my failures.

What was your first major project as a voice actor and what was that like for you at that time? My first major one was a game for Gearbox called ‘Brothers In Arms’. I had done a couple of one offs for anime’s, but nothing that could be ongoing. One of my good friends worked for Gearbox as an audio director and he said “you can talk cool, do you want to go in this closet and talk like Matt Baker?” and I was like “sure!”. I had no idea what it would grow into. So the whole thing was cool, shrugging our shoulders going “I think that works” and it did and then we came back and I did a little bit of the second one, and the third one actually has some of my favourite cut scenes of any games I have ever done. So yeah that was my first major one.

What was it like to do the voice of the Joker and how did you prepare for this iconic role? Honestly a lot of the groundwork was already done for me. Fortunately what they needed was a younger, less focused version of the joker that we have seen. Not only in the animated series, but specifically in the Arkham universe. Mark Hamill is my joker so that was easy for me to at least point towards. All I wanted to do was something that would honour and reflect what he had done so brilliantly for so long, 25 years almost. So originally I said no to it, I was scared out of my mind because I had a pretty good run, and so far I had succeeded. If I failed at this, that to me would of been a death sentence; It was all fear based and ego. I said no twice and then the person in charge of all Warner Brothers and DC properties bought me into his office and sat me down and made me listen to my own audition and he said “if we believe you can do this, who are you to say no?”. So I crossed my fingers and thought every session that I did I was going to get fired and that they would end up just getting Mark to come in. You never want to seek validation when it comes to making art, but I will say this – this last December I was in Vegas at the DICE awards and Mark Hamill took a second to say “I really like what you have done and I had to double check and make sure that wasn’t me, because it was pretty spot on”. So that’s all the validation I needed.

We read that your audition for Pagan Min in Far Cry 4 got weird, when an assistant walked in – can you tell us a bit about that? Yeah, It was quite embellished. When we came in, Ubisoft were really cool, they said you can do whatever you want and that’s the worst thing you can tell an actor in a meeting like that. There was this moment where I wanted to show them that it wasn't about the resonation of the lines or ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ them with acting. It was like can I convince these people that this person is now in the room?. While we were right in the middle of the scene, a lovely girl came in to just replenish the coffee and tea and I just was in the moment and I said IN MIN’S VOICE - “I’m sorry, who is that, why is she here? I might rip her face off” and she was just like “what?”. That was the moment where they were like; this dude can pull this off. I apologized to the girl, and was like “sorry I was just caught up in the moment”, and of course the journalists ran away with the story and were like “he threatened to kill a girl” and obviously that wasn’t the case, it just made for good reading.

What was it like to do the voice of Batman in the Lego games and how did you approach such a legendary character? I’m glad that I got to play the Lego Batman because the Lego Batman is pretty much the combination of every Batman there has ever been. The Batman has been going for about 75 years now, and in that time you have got everyone from Adam West to Christian Bale to Val Kilmer to George Clooney and they have got all of these different iconic moments to pull from, and the key with the DC games and also Warner Brothers animation is that they do such a great job of really pulling those things together in the writing. So at times I would say “oh this needs to be a little bit more Adam Westy”. It’s really just me taking everyone’s favourite moments from everyone’s favourite Batman of the past, whether that is in a movie franchise or a game. So I’m glad I was able to do that.

Alternatively, which Marvel character has been the most fun for you to play and why? Well, Loki as he’s just that classical, whimsical character. I also actually really love being Hawkeye because he is one of my favourite Avengers; he’s just a dude that’s really good at what he does. In The Ultimates there’s a moment where he rips his fingenails off and uses them as weapons. He’s a total badass, he doesn't have any machines, any God like powers, or any mutant powers he’s just really good at what he does. Those are the two characters that people have let me continue to do, I have done a lot of one off’s but for these people to go “alright we’re going to do this show, it’s going to run for three seasons, here’s this character, also we want you to be able to play this character in every alliteration that we’re doing, whether that be Guardians of the Galaxy or Spider-man, Avengers, or even a Christmas Special” where they’d let me play Loki in that, it’s like “that’s awesome!”. I get to have a little bit of ownership over the characters.

What was it like to work on BioShock Infinite, and what did you enjoy the most about doing the voice for Booker? Man, when I first played BioShock, there were few games that really scared the hell out of me. I guess there are some old PC rom games that I could go back to that were true horror games. It wasn’t like Bioshock was full of jump scares, it was just horrific, and just such a dark toned game, and you felt so claustrophobic, so I became a huge fan of BioShock. When I got a chance to work with Kevin Levine it was cool because he really brought Courtnee and I into the process. I think it was interesting because I have never been told by a director “I’m not going to tell you what the ending of the game is, I just need you to trust me”. It was a huge exercise in trust, because there would be times when the natural inclination would be for Booker to kind of warm up a little bit more to Elizabeth and make it a little bit more flirtatious, and he was like “you really can’t do that, but you’ll understand why!”. It was a really cool process, and I think everybody would say that our favourite moment is when Ken decided that he wanted to put a little moment in the game, where if you went down these steps then Booker would find a guitar and Liz would start humming ‘Will The Circle Be Unbroken’. So that day, when we were recording it, it felt like it was everyone’s favorite moment. It was such a cool thing, especially how it plays in the game, and the connection that people have had in that moment. That’s probably my favourite moment from when we made that game.

Can you elaborate on how that idea come about? It was totally random, and thrown on us last minute. Ken was like “I’ve got this great idea, and I have chosen a song that I think will work”. A lot of the credit goes to Courtnee, because this song is about losing loved ones, what happens to us after we die, kind of finding the comfort in that. She was going through the process of her grandfather dying, literally at that moment, and so she is singing this song, whilst fighting back tears. That’s the audio that we ended up using in the game. So Courtnee’s performance was so grounded, with what she was really going through. I just sat back and played some really simple chords to support it. It was funny because we originally kind of played it, and it was a little better, and Ken goes “I don’t think Booker is that good a guitarist”. So I dialed it back a little bit, kept it simple. It was such a favourite moment of mine, and that’s why I decided to also put it on my record ‘Sitting in the Fire’. Even in the same way it was a last minute decision, we were about to tear down all the mics in the studio that we built. And I think the guitarist just started playing, then with the band in one take, unrehearsed, completely live, we recorded it, and that’s what’s on the record.

What was it like to do the voice for Ocelot in Metal Gear Solid V? Fortunately, I had great people to work with. Kris Zimmerman, who has been with the franchise almost since the beginning, was the director for this as well working hand in hand with Kojima. I am a huge fan of the Metal Gear franchise and what’s so great about Ocelot is that he is such a complex, complicated character as long as you keep the essence of who Ocelot is, his function in every game changes. Sometimes he’s a friend, sometimes he’s a foe, and sometimes he’s both. So for me it was really trusting what Kojima wanted Ocelot to be in this game, just as he was crafting a specific Snake for this game. It was cool because Kris Zimmerman whose husband Patric Zimmerman was the one who played the original Ocelot. She was with us for the first session and just stopped and put her head down and was like “it’s so scary, you remind me of him in this role” so I feel like once I had that I thought “cool, maybe I can actually pull this off”.

What was it like to work with Kevin Spacey on Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare? With Kevin and I, I don’t know how this came to be, but we had like a long conference table off to the side of the stage, where all the actors could grab a coffee, go on their iPad, whatever, and I was kind of posted up at one corner of the table. When Kevin came in on his first day of shooting he just walked right next to me and sat down and was like “this is where I’m going to be”, it was great. So we had like our little corner, Kevin and I would trade music back and forth, as he was putting out an album as well, so we would listen to each other’s music and see what we thought. We just had so much fun. It was so cool to watch him understand the process of breaking it down, because it’s just like theatre, he didn’t miss anything, or go on autopilot, he had questions about the character, questions about the script, he was up for changes, he would listen to the director, and he was just incredibly giving in the scenes. My favourite scene with him, is when he walks in, pulls out the bottle and he is basically just hanging around with the guys having a drink. And it was so much fun, because it kind of had nothing to do with a Call of Duty game. It was just the moment, it was very real. Kevin and I still talk, I’ll check in with him, he’ll check in with me. He is a really solid dude.

You got to embrace the Middle Earth atmosphere on Shadow of Mordor, so how was that and can you tell us a bit about your character Talion? Of course, so the biggest challenge that we had, especially when we were making Shadow of Mordor, we had to make sure that we were keeping Warner Brothers happy, Toilken fans happy, and Peter Jackson happy. What’s really interesting, and I don’t think a lof of people know this is that. You know the story of Final Fantasy, the reason why it’s called Final Fantasy, because they thought it was the last game they were going to make. This is the same situation with Monolith, they were like “it’s one last game, we’re going to go for broke, whether it tanks, or succeeds, but we are banking on the side that it’s not going to do well”. It ended up being a runaway hit, it was so cool to see all these people just literally give every last drop of blood, sweat and tears they had into one game. I think it’s the same thing with The Last of Us, if you really do something with your heart, as opposed to trying to please people, it resonates, people get into it. It was a challenge because, this was set right after The Hobbit, and before The Lord of the Rings, so we were in this really ambiguous place. A lot of our material was based on silmarillion, which is in line with the Tolkien works. The stamp of approval that we got was when we found out that we were a part of the official cannon, we are now are part of The Lord of the Rings, and that’s amazing.

Uncharted 4 is out, so how excited are you to have this game out, and what can we expect from Samuel Drake? Man, I can’t tell you how excited I am, and that’s not a platitude. I’m literally, every day, I think about sitting in that hotel room in 2007, which is when I first played Uncharted. And I was like, “I want to do what those people do”, and I never thought that, you know ten years later that this is where I would be, not only being in an Uncharted game, but being in the final chapter of Uncharted, and not only being in the final chapter, but to be Nick Drakes older brother. I don’t get to be just a red shirt that gets shot, which was all I cared about originally, like if I could do that, that will be an accomplishment. Samuel is a really interesting, compelling character, that really helps bring a lot of context to Nathan. There’s one scene that, we had the wrap party the other night, and everyone kept saying “that’s my favourite scene”. It’s a very simple scene, it’s kind of what we were talking about before, not a scene that you would think, but there’s one specific scene where it’s just the two brothers talking, that’s my favourite scene. The fact that I get that moment, is probably the best reward, pat on the back I could ever get by being in that scene in Uncharted.

What was it like to work alongside Nolan North? Chaotic, he is such a genius. I drive him crazy, he drives me crazy. We goof off more than we are working, but I tell you what, when the chips are down, and when there’s a real moment that’s happening in the game. That guy steps up in such an unbelievable way. He brings the best out in me, and in other people, and that’s the kind of person you want to work with.

Can you tell us about the themes/influences that run through your solo album ‘Sitting in the Fire?’ It’s kind of cemented by the quote that is on the actual disc. You open it up, and there is an actual quote from my best friend Travis Willingham. There was a conversation that we had which was one of the most influential conversations I have ever had. When he said It was because I was going through a lot in my life and the framework that he put it in was “there is a fire that is burning in your life right now, and if you will just sit in it, it will make you better, because it’s there to burn away all the impurities” and for me especially with this album and with what I was going through in my life I think it’s something that speaks to a lot of people. It’s understanding that adversity is not your enemy; it’s your friend. It’s there to make you be better, it’s there to make you stronger. That's kind of the context of this record. That this has been a journey, not like I just wrote some songs and recorded an album. It’s taken me a long time to finish these songs. If you sit and listen to it and lose yourself for 44 minutes, I think you might kind of get what it’s about. There’s a lot of mixed influences, for me with Bowie, U2 (especially the Achtung Baby era), Jeff Buckley. but one of the cool things about the album is that it wasn’t just my influences, but the people that we assembled to make this album with, were of such high calibre, that they brought in not only the influences from all of the albums that they listen to, but also their level of musicianship and songwriting. That really helped, as it was such a collaborative effort. We made something that all of us were proud of, these guys didn’t just go “okay, where’s my part?” It was more like, “I really think I could make this part be this if you let me do it”. It was an honour and a privilige to work with them, as in my opinion they are some of the greatest musicians that are out there right now. We are working on another album, we will see how long it takes. This one took a long time to make, but hopefully it won’t take ten years to do this one...

How did you get the role of Joel in the Last of Us and what was it like to work on his voice in the survival horror game? Someone asked me how I found the voice for Joel, I don't think I found it, I think Joel did. To me my challenge was to find the character, there was nothing on the paper that said he had a southern accent, or has this gruff voice. There wasn’t anything, it was just when I looked at the guy I understood something about the character and that’s just what kind of came out. So it wasn’t even a conscious choice to make him sound the way that he does.-

-I like anybody else auditioned for the role and in my mind, I was the totally wrong person for it. I think they saw 150 Joel’s and there was just one thing that I connected with Joel that maybe nobody else did - at least not in the way that I did - and that connection is what Neil and Bruce and everybody at Naughty Dog saw and they were like “hey, we can work with this”. Just like anybody else I had to audition it out, until I got the call that said, “hey, you’re going to be this guy”.

The Last of Us game is a huge hit, so what do you think it is about this game that the fans love so much? Neil wrote a hell of a story, I think that everyone’s connection is different. First and foremost he wrote from such an honest place and he also had so many years of experience of making games, of watching them succeed/fail and working in so many different aspects of making a game from design to coding to writing to character art. He has done everything, so I think it was the perfect storm of being able to create something that would be relevant to the culture. He operated from such a place of faith. He was like “I don't care if I fail; I’m going to be honest and true”, and that comes through. He gave people characters, not so much Joel and Ellie but Tess, Bill and Marlene, he gave all of these people characters to connect with and they gave it such a complete story. I think that if the Last of Us had come out three years earlier, I don't know if it would have been received as well. It was the perfect time for it to come out. The personal stories people have with the connection to the game, is something I have never experienced before. There’s more tears than smiles when people are talking about The Last of Us!

When do you think the world can expect to see the Last of us 2? If they decide to do The Last of Us 2, then I’m completely for it, because that means that there’s a story to tell. If they don’t, that game can just stand on its own as a singular work, and they’ll go off and create something new. The world is their oyster right now, the sky is the limit. They are going to put Uncharted to bed, and then decide what they want to do next. I know that whatever they want to make, is going to be the game they can make, and the game that needs to be made.

There’s a film coming out as well right? Neil Druckmann said It’s in the same place that every film trying to get made is, it’s just in development hell! The challenge is how do you take a twelve hour experience, turn it into a two hour experience, and have it have the same impact. Neil wrote the first three drafts of the script, and they still have a lot of approval that they have to do with their casting, so they’re not going to let that thing just be a movie. It’s not a cash grab. It’s more about they are their babies, they are not going to let anyone interrupt this story, we are going to be in charge of it. At the same time they have also been really focused on finishing Uncharted 4. Maybe it will speed up after this game.

Who would you want to play you in The Last of Us? I talked to Josh Brolin about it 3-4 years ago, he and I have bumped into each other over the years, through different projects, and that’s still someone that would do a really good job. To me, he looks like the part, and it’s about finding the person who understands who Joel is, and respects that. Who can also hopefully show me something different about the character, that I never expected.

What else can we expect to see from Troy Baker in 2016? We’ll find out some more stuff at E3. There’s some stuff that I think will at least be announced. There’s some really cool stuff on the horizon, and what’s cool is that, kind of going back to your earlier question, there are some people that have been really cool and given me a seat at the table to talk about what kind of game I want to be involved in making, how I can help craft the character. So it’s no longer about just stepping up on stage and saying some lines about my character. People are starting to ask me what I think, and that to me is a huge compliment, a huge responsibility and something that I don’t take lightly.

When did you first get into composing?? A much smaller and younger version of me was incredibly interested in “doing music”, but I didn’t think of it as composing. At first it was just playing, but very soon I realized I could do my own variations - and after a while the first compositions appeared. Nothing major though, and I sort of practiced it quite some time before being able to say the outcome resembled a song…Basic stuff, in a way, but there was the inner “I want to”, kicking and pounding. The will and ambition led to finding out about structures and arrangements, and I think I sort of grasped the idea of both producing and composing at the same time. As long as I can remember, I’ve imagined a whole track at once, like finding a radio station with unheard music, and I thought that was common and normal - now, talk to a teacher about that, and…Anyway, it took quite a while before allowing myself to write lyrics, too, and for some reasons I’ve always felt Finnish (my native language) wasn’t suitable for my material. Of course, I’ve done that as well, but it’s a very different mindset and for some reason with Finnish lyrics, I always write them in Swedish or English first. If that’s not odd, I don’t know what is. I find making music very therapeutic, energizing, enabling, and I think I’m a much more balanced person because of my job. This is easily one of the coolest jobs I know.

What was your first major project, and what was that like for you at the time?? I think Alan Wake would be my first “big thing” as I’m not willing to count any ad agency gigs or daily pop stuff as “big”. Right from the start it felt like a door was opened and lots of light and fresh air were rushing in. It was rather releasing, actually, as nobody had put any limits into my work, and so the exploration begun - and went on for many years, five and half, actually. I’ve spent over 11 years with Remedy now, and I feel I’m learning new stuff all the time. I had to learn how to work with the development team, with different departments, about decision making, style guidance…it took a while but we never had any trouble getting along, Remedy and myself. It felt natural and easy right away, and I think they trusted me right from the start. Because I had spent the preceding 16 years in the pop world, writing songs, it initially was a bit confusing to think of something more than just a mere 3 minute piece. But, because my past is what it is: classical music, piano, church organ, lots of other things, too, it was soon very familiar to me. No more forcing a verse into 8 or 16 bars, I could let go. It was very invigorating and releasing, and slowly I was able to fade any subconscious structure limits. Dobby was finally free! Sméagol?had his ring! That feeling.

How did you end up working on?Alan Wake, and can you tell us a bit about what that game was like to work on?? A friend used to work at Futuremark, a company partially owned by Remedy, and at their mutual summer party someone from Remedy asked this friend of mine whether he knew any decent modern orchestral music composers - and the guy gave them my name and number. It took a little while before anything was actually happening but about a week afterwards, my phone rang - it was Petri Järvilehto from Remedy calling. We arranged a meeting for the following week and I had heard from a friend that what they had been preparing was going to be really great. They showed me a few early pictures and a cinematic prepared by them - a surprisingly polished clip which showed a serene autumn morning in a distant US North-Western little town called Bright Falls… although in the final scene, the town sign had a name “Night Springs”, which, to Alan Wake enthusiasts might ring a bell… After seeing the clip, I felt there was something important about it, and drafted a track onto the clip almost immediately after my visit. I had nothing to lose so I worked rather fearlessly and decorated the clip with something I felt had to be there. It turned out later on, that it was what they had been looking for, and I got the gig! Actually, a while ago I came across the clip again. It looked surprisingly coherent and felt “in time” with the cinematic itself, and the music sounded like it could’ve been in the game, but it was never used anywhere, for one reason or another. For a long time, everything felt new - and still is, it hasn’t really changed. It was a very rewarding phase in my life.

You also got to work on Nightwish’s?Imaginaerum The Movie, so what was it like to work in that fantasy world?? It was incredibly cool! First, the guys were cool, very knowledgeable, and, after a demo, they gave me totally free reign to do whatever I wanted. I don’t know what they thought of some of my rather radical changes in the material, but I never received any change requests - however I must emphasize they didn’t exactly let things through easily, quite the contrary, really. I opened up each ProTools document they had made for the original album itself, listened through each track they had on the timeline and created a library of usable parts from what were (in my opinion) the interesting parts. Some were eventually manipulated, some survived as is, but I felt privileged to peek into their songs, and their producer’s Mikko Karmila’s bag of tricks. Lots of the trickery was commonly known but some tiny things popped out here and there, and especially their use of orchestra and percussion was really interesting. Of course, knowing their production style, the ProTools documents were huge, swarming with takes and tracks, and each was meticulously edited. Later I learned they really don’t need that much editing or polishing. The fantasyland gig was probably the longest and hardest remix gig ever as they gave me the possibility to alter each Imaginaerum (the album version) track into something totally different, and there are quite a few tracks of which I’m really proud of. I got a bit lost with their material at some point as the amount of data in their backup drive is HUGE. On some songs, there were up to over 1,100 usable tiny clips, each worth stretching apart (or just stretching an incredible amount) or to be edited, turned into something more than what they are. I used my Kyma system a lot on this project, tested all possible (and impossible, too) algorithms and base models, and it paid off in the end: I had lots of material to start building onto. Some versions were thrown back and forth with the band, but as I said, they rarely wanted to even change anything.

What was your first meeting like with the?Quantum Break team when they got you to work on the game?? It was quite casual, actually. Saku Lehtinen (Art Director) arrived at my place, we chatted for a while, then I made some lattes with my coffee monster and we got into a conversation about what the future might bring. “we’ve got a concept for a… lemme show you…this!” I stared at a presentation on his laptop screen and he started telling me the pitch speak. They had a brilliant idea, that was clear from the start, and the twists and turns of the plot were going to make it one heck of a game, eventually. They needed music for the presentation and the accompanying cinematic, and they both looked like top end productions already back then. I think Saku knew from the start that I’d be eager to put my full energy and voice into it, and back then we were even thinking about using a whole band for the soundtrack. Of course, plans and screenplays and events change, but the basic ideas stuck until the end. Later, I was very happy to realize some of the strongest themes in Quantum Break were composed in 2011-2012. So, after the coffee was done and Saku had finished my Jelly Belly machine’s contents, we started talking about the possible project and its scope. I didn’t know if the gig was going to land on me, but I hoped so. I wanted so much to do that score, thinking “ah well, it’ll be out in 2013”. How wrong was I, again? They hadn’t said anything about release dates, actually, not until 2014 that is, but before that everything was just speculation of third parties. “Would you like to d-“ “SHUT UP I’M IN!” That pretty much, I think, sealed the question about my desires. Shortly after, I was at work.

We read that the main story needs a "character toolkit", so as a composer can you tell us a bit about that process?? It’s gathering together crucial information, piece by piece, a bit like what police detectives do, when they’re trying to get into what has happened to whom and when - and by whom. “where has he been? How was he as a child? Where did they live? How were his school years? Has he loved anyone? How did it end? Does he play any instrument or paint or take photos?” That and many other questions create the basis of a toolkit, which is then supported by current events, character analysis (aggressive/submissive, settler/firestarter etc.) and a possible or known future. Those help me create the instrumentation set. It’s a mixture of different things, to make a character memorable and stick in your head; I’m calling that “character abrasion”. The friction provided by good and bad stuff in a character prevents him or her just slipping by. I wouldn’t use bagpipes in anything, but it would be a great tool to provide further irritation to an otherwise arrogant person…Talk about character abrasion at its worst! I like to “live” the character’s life, just to find how he or she thinks as they all can be good and bad. How their move affects some tempos and BPMs, how they appear can affect the instrumentation and even some basic scales, harmony, etc. It’s a complicated process, and with processes like those, I’ve learnt to trust my gut feeling, my intuition more and more. You can’t really write a book of rules down, but maybe that’s doable after thinking about it longer. But, yeah, that’s the basic flow of going deeper. Utterly simplified. And, if all else fails, this leaves me with a personal toolkit, enabling me to work in a circus as a mentalist…what I just explained sounds a lot like that.

How would you say working on this game compares to anything you've done before?? Well, nothing can level up to Quantum Break in terms of the length, the production values, the number of “eureka!” moments, and in some cases the sheer number of audio tracks - it is one-of-a-kind in many ways. It can probably be compared to only Alan Wake and maybe Imaginaerum, but I’m not entirely sure about the latter as it was a shorter gig and by its scope, a little easier to do. I think for Alan Wake a lot of the music was spontaneous, but in Quantum Break we had to be more thoughtful, for many reasons - as the surroundings in which the events happen, are quite unlike Alan Wake’s which allowed a slightly grander scale. Open forests, height differences provided by terrain, it was somewhat easier to include some sonic weight whereas with Quantum Break, even the fights were usually happening in a location where you could see or feel the walls, closed circuit fights were happening. This affects music somewhat, as does the industrial suburban area. The effect is much more psychological, however, rather than physical, but it can be heard there.-

-In some cases, the choreography of a scene played a crucial role - again, a bit differently here than with my past projects, and one of the rather low-key scenes was a clip where Beth runs after Serene, slips, covers herself, rises up, Serene jumps through a window frame, then rushes away. The moment passes you by very quickly, but the level of animation there and how it was put together and executed in the game engine…wow. It was almost like a modern ballet, and the audio scene in the background is more sound effect-like than music, but still: it flows to a beat. Those moments were awesome throughout the whole development phase, and I enjoyed them greatly. Also, they provided a good ground for hidden audio jokes. Behind that scene there’s a riser that’s actually someone saying “shiiieeeeeet”, only slowed down, pitch-ramped and filtered whilst the sound is climbing. It fits perfectly under the whole scene, especially since Serene escapes. And, I’m sure nobody wouldn’t have recognized it if I had kept my mouth shut. Oh, there are dozens of audio Easter eggs like that; I like to do that for each project, but nothing on this scale. So, a bit like the game itself - giving out more and more, and the more you explore and find emails, notes, books, tv clips - the more you’ll find underneath, hidden within my bits and pieces.

What else can we expect to see from?Petri Alanko in 2016?? Well. I’m hoping to say “a leftover album”, but that happens only if there’s enough time available as right now almost all of my time is being consumed by a concert on August, 26th. I’ve got this hobby, playing trance classics on a grand piano with orchestral arrangements, and I’ve made two albums and now there’s going to be a concert during Helsinki Festive Week with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and a choir – held at the Helsinki Music House! It’s going to be very, very interesting, as I’m turning a few classics into new arrangements, so there’s going to be a lot of new material featured. When that is done, I’ll spend all my time to take care of the album. Most tracks are composed already, but I need to spend a good while to get the production right. There’s the material I’ve composed especially for the album - I started writing it about some 14-15 months ago already - plus some delicious leftovers from Quantum Break that nobody has ever heard, material that didn’t fit in. I’m not expecting it to be a Top Ten album; instead it would be really cool to have an albumful of syncable tracks, so I’m taking it seriously.

How did the chance come up to work at Marvel, and can you tell us about what they're like to work with? I got my first pro break into comic at marvel UK on Knights of Pendragon. I had been sending samples of my work in to them and when an opening came up on the book they invited me to be the new penciller on the book, and off course I jumped at the chance. I had read the first series of the book and enjoyed it. Marvel were great to work for and it was an exciting time with new titles in development. I also got to work with many pros whose work I liked a great deal. I was lucky enough to work with some great writers Including Dan Abnett , John Tomlinson and Simon Furman

When it comes to the films, how do you feel about the way the characters have been portrayed on the big screen? I'm a fan of Both Marvel and DC characters but on the whole the Marvel movies have been much more enjoyable to me with Winter Soilder and Civil War being two of my personal favourites. I strongly disliked Batman V Superman, I was really disappointed in the whole mess!

Can you tell us about your time working on Wolverine: Evolution, as well as what it was like to take your own approach on this legendary character? It was great fun but very hectic, I had to do it in a very fast turnaround of just over a few weeks, working from loose layouts from Mark Texira. But it also then led to some work on Marvel’s X-Men spin off title Excalibur.

You went on to work with DC, so how would you say working with them compares to working with Marvel!? I enjoyed working on Robin and found them similar and good to work for. I would have liked doing work on a few more DC books but Marvel just kept me busy. I read both companies comics as a kid but was slightly more in the Marvel camp in regards to my favourite titles and characters

You then came back to Marvel and worked on the Spectacular Spider-Man Adventures comics, so what was it like to give your own "spin" on this absolutely huge character? After taking a break from drawing comics it was a thrill to land work on Spider-Man and fairly quickly I found my drawing feet again. Again a great team of writers, inkers and colourist to team up with and I think we did some fun Spider-Man stories aimed at the younger readers. I have had a number of teenagers come up to me at the comic cons I'm a guest at to say how much they enjoyed reading my stories as a kid etc, hearing that is very rewarding. To think I may have drawn a story they enjoyed reading as much as I did when I was growing up, and that they remember parts of the story or certain panels, wow, that really is cool and humbling!

Can you tell us a bit about what it was like to work on Stan Lee's Alexa? Also, what is it like to work alongside someone as huge as that in the Marvel universe? It's fun and the script I worked from was based on Stan's paperback book of the title, Dave Gibbons and Dan Jurgens also drew chapters from the book. It's a shame the publisher didn't do more issues.

How did you end up working on Danger Girl/G.I. Joe, and what have you enjoyed the most about working on this project? Danger Girl is an all time favourite series of mine and when IDW started publishing some new ones I sent in some Danger Girl type samples. When I was offered the Danger Girl /G.I.Joe series I was thrilled and got to work with the talented Andy Hartnell (writer and DG co-creator), Phil Moy (inker) and Rom (colourist) I also love drawing sexy bond type spy ladies, so it was made for me.

What's the hardest part about what you did on this project? Drawing the large cast of G.I. Joe characters as I didn't know who they really were at the time as I hadn't read any of the classic American series in the UK. Andy was brilliant and brought me up to speed and was a big help, sending character details and correct costume reference for me to base them on.

Alternatively, what's the most rewarding part about being a part of it? The whole project, although hard work and very long days was a dream come true job for me, the series ticked all the boxes I love, and drawing my fav DG girls a joy! Also the creative team on the book was rewarding and everyone worked hard and enjoyed working together.

Can you give us one or two moments comic book wise that have just been extremely rewarding for you to put together in your career, and why? The last Danger Girl series I penciled called Mayday was the most rewarding project I've worked on. Andy let us bring Danger Girl 'Natalia' back from the dead. It also dipped into her origin and starts a few hours after the end of the original series. I also enjoyed co-creating the new supporting character to the series, who I love so much.

What else can we expect to see from John Royle in 2016? Due to neck/shoulder problems from years of long hours at the drawing board. I've had to cut back on interiors and have been working on more comic book covers, magazine illustration work and advertising illustration. I have had great fun working on the illustrations for Kim Newman's column in Empire pitting him each month against the horror characters from his film reviews. The recent series of G.I. Joe covers I pencilled for IDW where a total blast and I look forward to seeing them hit the book shelves at the start of July!!

Saosin – Along The Shadow ‘Along the Shadow’ is the third full-length release by Saosin, marking the end of a five year hiatus for the band. The album also marks the departure of lead guitarist Justin Shekoski (with Phil Sgrosso filling in), and the return of original lead vocalist, Anthony Green (also front-man of alt rock band Circa Survive), who first joined in 2003 until 2004, only to re-join a decade later, making this a big and anticipated release for Saosin going back to their roots. ‘The Silver String’ opens the album, with piercing vocals, showcasing Anthony Green’s mighty return with his distinguish vocals. To take things up a notch ‘Ideology If Theft’ follows, featuring ambient and alluring vocals, which quickly turn to manic screams from Green, surrounded by sweet melodic guitars, this has the makings of a new anthem for the band. A stand out moment, comes from ‘Racing Toward A Red Light’ with its demanding intro, which grabs you, and continues throughout, especially with the powerful dual contrasting vocals. This is a prime example of Saosin at their best, as it steams ahead in what is a heavier offering than opening tracks, with Green highlighting his more aggressive side. To soften things up ‘Sore Distress’ is appropriately placed, and is a moving number, with a dreamy ethereal sound, emotive and well written heartfelt lyrics, which are executed wonderfully by Green who tones down to use softer vocals to convey this. ‘Illusion & Control’ acts as another anthem to add to the collection, with an all-consuming sound, atmosphere and charged riffs and changeable drums. Along with a lulling echoey vocal break down before it goes into overdrive with intense vocals. The final blow and latest single, ‘Control The Urge To Pray’ creates the perfect mood to fit the tone of the instruments and the song, which is something they always accomplish. This latest release resonates with their early material, but has a new energy driving it too, making it the perfect comeback that should bring them out of the shadows and well and truly back into the limelight. CL

Goo Goo Dolls - Boxes This American rock duo consisting of John Rzeznik and Robby Takac from Buffalo, New York have been reaping commercial success for nearly three decades now, and in that time have impressively sold over twelve million albums. ‘Boxes’ marks their eleventh studio album, which is something in itself. Single and album opener, ‘Over & Over’ is immediately joyful, with upbeat rhythms running through it, along with infectious applause and a big fuzzy anthemic chorus, a winning formula and an instant hit to add to their vast collection. Latest release, ‘So Alive’ has stand out piano, brilliant lyrics and melodies, again making for a feel good radio hit. Title track, ‘Boxes’ deviates away from what we have heard in a more chilled and ambient vibe, resulting in a beautiful heartfelt offering. We end with Closer, ‘Long Way Home’ which thumps along in an ecstatic manner, ending on a seriously strong note, showing what the Goo Goo Dolls have and always do best. They are back and mean business, and assert that after all this time, there is no shortage of talent and creative craft, and hopefully this should appease existing long-time fans, as well earning some fresh fans. It is refreshing to have honest, inspiring and uplifting sensitive mainstream rock, which moves you and immediately gets your attention. This is one for the masses to enjoy, not to box in to specific audiences or genres, there’s something for everyone. CL

Deftones - Gore Alt Metal veterans from California have been delivering their blissful yet brutal campaign to us for nearly three decades now, and they return with their first release in four years ‘Gore’ to continue this tradition. They are forever battling between mellow moments and experimental dark sounds, to the somewhat dismay of some band members. First single, ‘Prayers/Triangles’ highlights this, with its enthralling ambience and powerful euphoric chorus. Whereas ‘Doomed User’ nods at the heavy side of the band, with nu metal and punk sounds coming through, along with Chino Moreno’s signature screams in contrast to his soothing vocals. Latest offering, ‘Hearts/Wires’ washes over you and progresses in a minimalistic, yet highly effective way. ‘Gore’ displays mesmerizing sonic ambience and swirling atmospheres that push boundaries and dive into new territories, whilst maintaining their pure essence. The album is extremely fluid and coherent, creating one exquisite package of the definite Deftones with some extra surprises and creativity, perfectly moulded to take you on a journey of emotional turmoil and dark charm. Due to the complexities of the music, this latest release needs to be played a couple of times to unveil its true brilliance, let it creep slowly into your mind and invade in a spectacular way. CL

Armonite - The Sun Is New Each Day Instrumental progressive rockers shine on latest release with the help of debut Muse producer, Paul Reeve. This intriguing and peculiar quartet have an eclectic taste in music, from The Beatles to progressive masters, Dream Theater which aids their diverse and exciting sound. The beauty of having no vocals, means that the instruments really have to engage and portray a message or story, and you get this sense strongly, even if the message is of fun nostalgia, like in the gleeful arcade game inspired, ‘Insert Coin’. Then they exhibit something entirely different, such as dramatic classical elements in, ‘Die Grauen Herren’, or the beautiful piano driven, ‘Le Temps Qui Fait Ta Rose’ which is heightened by the skilful violins, as seen throughout the album. ‘Connect Four’ really stands out for its bizarre electronics, which takes us on ups and downs in terms of tempo, mood and rhythm in a charming and clever fashion. This album is an unpredictable musical rollercoaster, with each individual having their moment in the spotlight and collectively as a unit they are super talented. This is instrumental rock as it should be, and one that you need to hear. CL

All Hail The Yeti - Scream from a Black Wilderness LA Metal act offer up an interesting and thrilling concept album, inspired by campfire horror stories. Their blend of groove, stoner and hardcore music has led to a unique sound which they have earnt a lot of admiration for in the scene, as well as continuing to captivate all with their strange antics. Consisting of a sinister 13 songs (for effect, although only 12 really), the opener, ‘Before The Flames’ is sorrowful, with noises of distraught children and noises, with metallic solid screams dominating with hell bent lyrics and power melodies, making this a chilling and eye popping start… ‘Mr Murder’ is a must hear, it features Brent Lindow of 36 Crazyfists, so we get some brilliant dual vocals and variation in this extremely melodic dark anthem. This is actually a tribute song from vocalist Connor Garrity for his best friend who sadly passed away last year, who Brent knew also, so a fitting way to pay respects. Keeping things (ahem) light as always, ‘Witch Is Dead’ is deliciously evil and infectiously catchy and will etch itself into your mind, with bleak and dark lyrics that are straight to the point. ‘Angels Envy’ is slower paced and throws out some groovy brass and crushing guitars with agitated vocals and has a hard grunge vibe. An impactful and memorable ending to their frightful stories. This is an eerie chill to the bone release. Perhaps they should dub themselves as scary metal, either way this is a powerful and intriguing album, so jump on board the fright fest and buckle up for an unforgettable experience. CL

Magnolia – Familiar Sounds Indie Punk Rock trio from North Carolina release divergent short new album. ‘Drinking With Ghosts’ creeps in with simple yet effective driving melodic riffs and high impact dual contrasting vocals, all in all, this is an enjoyable high shock to kick off with. ‘Home’ changes the vibe, injecting some more fun, in this fast bouncy number and again has some stand out fierce vocals that help add more breadth. Keeping things mixed up ‘Anchored’ displays a darker side, with an indie influence. This is an emotive stand out song, with well written lyrics, which takes up on many turns, like an unsettled sea changing direction.

To close, we have ‘Dependency’ which lyrically is thoughtful and mature, and cleverly links back to the opening song, with the mention of ghosts, singing, “there’s a ghost in the back of my head, and it knows the secrets I’ve kept”. This is an appeasing and perfect way to end, especially being well rounded and in keeping with the rest of the album. ‘Familiar Sounds’ is an appropriate description, although this is an enjoyable release, it’s not ground breaking, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and on the contrary the vocal changes help to add more depth and give them a more signature sound. The lyrical content is very well composed and it will be interesting and exciting to see what is next for Magnolia. CL

Martyr – You Are Next Thrash Metal Veterans from The Netherlands strike hard with fourth comeback album, and first in five years, injecting the best elements of thrash and power metal in one merciless offering. Opener, ‘Into The Darkest Of All Realms’ begins with a creepy child talking to grab attention before charging into classic thrash sounds that make you nostalgic, with impressive fast shred guitars and soaring flawless vocals that fit the instrumentation like a glove, this is a crushing start. ‘Inch By Inch’ ramps up the heavy believe it or not. This is destructive metal as it should be, with relentless stomping riffage, and aggressive demanding vocals that are unpredictable and mould to the twist and turns of the hell bent instruments. ‘Souls Breathe’ explodes into the highest gear, with high piercing guitars, mental growled bursts of noise, and far reaching clean vocals, the result an intense power thrash metal at its best, this must be heard. ‘Crawl’ has a suspenseful atmospheric eerie spoken intro before all hell breaks loose, with blazing guitars, in your face fierce vocals with complex rhythms and instruments, this is one of the most brutal offerings. To end this exhilarating album, they unconventionally close on a speedy cover of ‘Don’t Need Your Money’ by British Heavy Metal band, Raven, which they pull of wonderfully in a discordant and extremely melodic manner. Good job for us that Martyr triumphantly reformed back in 2001, as after all this time they are tearing up the thrash metal scene spectacularly by fusing together classic feel good metal with modern twists, creating powerful passionate and brutal metal that all can ravage. CL

Dead By Wednesday – Darkest of Angels This Metal act have been going for a decade, but have had some trials and tribulations recently, and gone through a transformation. In 2015 frontman, Joe Morbidelli departed the band due to his battle with addiction. The bands response and reaction to this is the basis of new album, ‘Darkest Of Angels’, with the theme centred around this dark issue in honour of him. But not only that, each song features a guest vocalist from well-known metal bands, old and new, including past and present vocalists of Shadow's Fall, Exodus, Generation Kill, Mushroom Head, Flotsam & Jetsam and more. The album also introduces new singer, Rob Roy from Ma and other members Joey Concepcion on guitar (who also plays in Armageddon), Opus on drums (who also plays with Marc Rizzo of Soulfly) and Mike Modeste on bass, so quite a lot of talent flying around, making them a mighty force to be reckoned with. So let’s dive in to this vast pit of metal goodies... To start with have, ‘Live Again’ with Brian Fair of Shadows Fall & Overcast, this is a hard hitting melodic fierce rampage, which does an excellent job of kicking things off and is one of the stand out moments on the album. ‘Donner’s Pass’ follows, the guest here is Rob Dukes of Generation Kill/ex-Exodus, who sings dark horrific lyrics such as “I’m a cannibal, feasting on human flesh”, add in blazing guitars and heavy as hell instruments and you have a killer song that you won’t forget in a hurry. ‘The Surgeon’ is the only song to feature their new vocalist, Rob Roy, who has a soothing voice, that leaves you hanging on to every word intently, with his impressive capabilities in this sorrowful rock acoustic. It also features some grand, almost exotic sounding guitar work which is very pleasing. This song is not what you expect from a song titled ‘surgeon’, especially considering an earlier song mentioned ‘cannibal’. This again is another must hear, and seems the band picked a worthy and highly adept singer to take the spotlight. We see a massive change of sound in ‘Defining Fire’, featuring Anthony Armageddon & Waylon Reavis formerly of Mushroom head, with demonic vocals from Waylon who sounds like a crazied pyromaniac, with energetic riffs and nice contrasting clean vocals, this is extremely flammable, I mean infectious. Closing song, ‘Real When I’m Dead’, sees AK of Flotsam & Jetsam step up to present a heavy slab of hard rock at its best, in an alarming ensemble of brutality. The song is well thought out and constructed, and fittingly seems to stop and then come back with a vengeance. CL

My Native Spell - You Are Not My NME - EP This female fronted heavy alt and melodic metal quartet from Salt Lake City, Utah formed in 2012, they have a vast range of musical influences, aiding their own diverse and deep sound. Opener, ‘You’ is powerful and unpredictable, with emotive stand out vocals, and is well produced, featuring skilful guitar sections and tense atmospheric streaks running through it, a striking start to the EP. Next song ‘Patch’ has a different vibe, with groovy bass and possesses a bluesy hard rock ‘n’ roll sound, it has chilled and sultry moments of vulnerability, and displays the band can be varied, whilst in keeping with their overall sound. This lustful love songs rhythms and melodies flow seamlessly and fit wonderfully with the vocal delivery. ‘NME’ opens with a striking driving riff, pounding dominant drums and forceful instrumentals, to back up the melodic memorable vocals, it is highly persuasive to win you over, to have you as a friend rather than an enemy. ‘Why’ highlights soaring and blissful vocals, perhaps displaying, Staci Nelson’s best capabilities here. Whilst ‘Blisters’ continues to blast hard rock riffs and consuming melodies. Final song is a delicate passionate acoustic, ‘Memo’ with strong chord structures and varied sharp vocals with beautiful guitar work. This is just as strong as their full pelting numbers, and again highlights the bands musicianship and song writing talents. This is a deadly combination of heavy and melodic metal, which they effortlessly and perfectly churn out, it will go down a treat with the masses. The quality and skill in this EP should hopefully get them the attention they deserve. I don’t think they will have many enemies once people check them out. CL

Into It. Over It. - Standards Evan Weiss the brains and braun behind Into It. Over It. has basically never taken a break in his musical career. As well as being a bassist in several bands he also currently fronts Their/They’re/There an indie rock band. It’s a miracle he even had time to put together his latest album ‘Standards’, but it’s great that he did. Though the album begins slow with some acoustic guitar work in ‘Open Casket’ it quickly switches up the tempo and before long it becomes an awesome piece of pop punk that resonates with some of the classic bands out there. The album soon picks up with fast paced, hard hitting tracks like ‘Closing Argument’ and ‘No EQ’. The vocals provided by Evan Weiss are unique and for me they’re in comparison to Jesse Lacey, just one of those voices that would be a struggle to try to imitate or copy in any way. Dare I use the word “emo”, but that is the only way that Into It. Over It. can be described and though it holds a certain stigma to it, a lot of people would still be proud to have this in their music collection. At points this one man band can have the fun energetic side of Motion City Soundtrack, the dark brooding half of Taking Back Sunday and the complex lyrics that would seem at home on an old Fall Out Boy track. Throw that all together in one mix and you’ve got Evan Weiss’ and his band. This is a man who knows how to make compelling emotional music one minute and fun pop punk the next. ‘Standards’ is an excellent album and one that I’m sure will boost his already expansive career to the next level. RO

Actual Villains – self titled EP There alt rockers from Cincinnati, OH formed in 2015 and were past members of the successful post-hardcore band, Close To Home and now they begin their new adventure. To introduce us to their new ventures is, ‘Wasted Youth’, which is honest and has a powerful uplifting sound, but with serious lyrical content, with lines such as, “I hit the bottle cause it helps me to get on, I drown my sorrows cause it’s easier than staring down my demons”, this is emotive and relatable about the dangers of drink. The use of upbeat sounds paired with dark lyrics help lighten the mood, but make for full impact. ‘Lie To Me’ opens on soaring resonate shouts from the talented, Andrew Deneef, it grabs you straight away and continues to hold you throughout. Debut single ‘Cave In’ is a fuzzy flawless offering, with high energy positive melodies that are easy on the ears and leave you wanting more, the whole package works impeccably, and as a unit they smash it. Closing song, ‘Everything I Know’ is ambient and heartfelt, with aggressive outbursts that are well placed, seamlessly changing, and creating a very sonic inspiring and motivating song, ending on a belter for a number of reasons. It’s a good job they carried on, with lines like, “I knew I was meant for so much more, so I kept singing” hitting hard. I for one am extremely pleased they stuck at it, as this is a fantastic release. Out of the ashes of another band they have risen to create a refreshing desired sound, and show they are fighting hard to make a new name for themselves, this is well and truly accomplished, especially as they manage to stand out from the crowd, largely through the talented vocal delivers, passion and depth they bring, and the ability to produce all the right notes in harmony with the tone and feel needed. There are no villains here, only heroes. CL

Franklin Dealers – One Way (single) These hard rock ‘n’ rollers from Vancouver, Canada formed in 2012 take us back to the best of rock but also bring something new to the mix. Single, ‘One Way’ has an immediate classic hard rock feel, with loud impressive guitars, which drive the song, along with attitude packed gritty vocals, the whole thing oozes with swagger and style. This has the makings of a great anthem that crowds can go wild for, especially with true rock lyrics like, “turn up those damn guitars, let’s hear some slamming drums hit hard”. I will take a leaf out of their book and say with their nostalgic hard rock and their fresh unique take on it that they are certainly here to, “raise some hell, and rock this land”. CL

Matchstick Men - Numb (single) The chorus for Numb is catchy and addictive but goes on for slightly too long, after the third or fourth time of hearing ‘you leave me’ it does get a bit tired. However that’s probably the only gripe I have with this song. The classic elements of metal fused with almost Disturbed sounding vocals is something that’s been done many times before but this is one of the few bands that seem to have pulled it off. The deep and ranged vocals from the lead singer are excellent and the guitar solos featured are tricky and at times hard to keep up with but that’s how rock/metal should be. The end of this song comes along far too soon and that’s insane considering it’s five minutes long. Matchstick Men really manage to throw old school metal with rock and roll and create a fantastic song. RO

Max Raptor - Self-Titled When I first saw Max Raptor I asked the supporting band (We Are Fiction) what they were like, and they replied by saying that they were “a British Billy Talent”. I was intrigued and went into their set with this only in mind. What I was left with was an impression of an old style punk band intersperced with elements of Frank Turner. I was hooked. Their ‘self-titled’ effort is the third album they’ve put out and it’s just as punky and gritty as they’ve always been. A unique selling point of Max Raptor is most noticeably Wil Ray’s vocals, a combination of pop punk and pure old school punk. The screams he gives out are pure and powerful creating a perfect combination. Of course it’s not just the vocals that make this band great, the guitar and drum work is also fantastic. The first song ‘Keep the Peace’ features a very awesome guitar solo as the song climaxes to a brilliant end. ‘Torch Led’ is a non stop adrenaline fueled rollercoaster of mayhem that would get any old school punk into a circle pit screaming ‘Torch led! Spoon fed’. A true dedication to the sound of the old English ways. An almost Kaiser Chiefs sound can be heard on’ Damage Appreciation’, that kind of catchy toe tapping guitar rhythm combined with an upbeat drum tempo, with fast paced singing. ‘Big Divide’ has a classic DIY sound to it, it’s an unpolished piece of music that goes extremely well on an album like this. It’s clear that Max Raptor don’t want to have an album that sounds like it’s been produced in a record studio. This can be heard on on ‘When I Was A Gentleman’ also. The ending result of Max Raptor’s self titled album is a twelve song raging bull that doesn’t stop bucking until you’ve given in to the punk ways! RO

We Are Scientists - Helter Seltzer I remember when We Are Scientists broke the mould and got through to the mainstream and they were just fantastic. Their style of American indie was something I fell in love with almost instantly. Anthems such as ‘The Great Escape’ and ‘It’s a Hit’ were given radio time all over and they developed a huge fan base. It’s evident that We Are Scientists are possibly taking a step back from their previous material and going for something a bit slower, it’s still brilliant though. The album kicks off with ‘Buckle’ and while it’s not as rocky as their other songs it’s still a decent opening track that allows room for the rest of the album to grow and adapt. ‘Too Late’ carries on the album with a bit of a push, the catchy chorus of “don’t stop now it’s never too late” resonates well and becomes a stand out track on this release. A retro electronica theme is present on ‘Hold On’ and while it is noticeably slower than a lot of songs on the album it does offer something quite unique. The way the overbearing guitars fuse well into the soft almost silent drums is a wonderful technique. ‘Want For Nothing’ begins as a slow acoustic song which allows a break to be put on the rocking indie tracks. The vocals of Keith Murray are very dominant on this number and it’s amazing to see how ranged his voice can be and slowly it becomes a brilliant ballad that any music lover would enjoy. Though It seems they’ve left part of their old selves behind with this latest album, the guitar solos are still there in full force and the vocals are still as good as always. I doesn’t seem as hard hitting as their previous efforts have, but perhaps these guys are just progressing in a new way. RO

Weezer - The White album It can’t have been nice for Weezer to see that someone was actually raising money so they wouldn’t put out a new album, after their last few have been less than lacklustre. Even though this turned out to be a joke, they’ve clearly taken these comments into consideration and have made a comeback with ‘White Album’ which truly goes back to this band’s roots. Weezer are a rock band through and through, they don’t conform to whatever is popular at the moment or try to reinvent themselves, they just stick to what they know and that’s just making steady rock music. ‘The Wind in Our Sails’ features an amazingly upbeat and catchy piano medley that introduces the song on a happy note and sticks with it all the way through. Almost like a mouse is running across the keys repeatedly. It’s quite easy to see why ‘Thank God for Girls’ was the single they initially released for this album. It almost sounds like The Hooziers (only good) in the way that it has the upbeat keyboard theme at the beginning and then being covered by high pitched vocals. You know those dream sequences in films where a couple will run across a field toward one another in slow motion? Well I’d say ‘(Girl We Got A) Good Thing’ is literally the perfect song for a scene just like that. The 80s kind of hippy vibe attached to it is just relaxing and easy listening and then even the hard hitting ending for when the dream sequence fails. I really enjoyed listening to this album because it reminded me of how good a band Weezer are. Their fantastic guitar riffs combined with the ever amazing voice of Rivers Cuomo is just something that doesn’t get old. This is particularly noticable on ‘King of the World’ and ‘Do You Wanna Get High’, the classic guitar sound produced is just pure nostalgia and really accentuates what this band are capable of. It’s nice to see Weezer are back to what they’re best at, this album is great and I think it’s a step in the right direction to get the old Weezer back. I’ve got my “hash pipe”, anyone else? RO

Nails - You Will Never Be One Of Us California hardcore titans Nails bring a mighty dose of no messing about to their new release, not that the previous ones haven't had that, this one just seems more in your face and venomous. It may seem hard to imagine, if you are already familiar with their work you will know what I mean. Right from the brutal and pulverising title track opening the album there is no doubt that these boys indeed aren't messing around, you already need a breath, only you don't have a chance. It only takes four or so minutes to get through the first four songs and it is a total mind game. The bruising continues on 'Violence is Forever' which doesn't bring any let up, it is ferocious and the sound of the snare drum is like a gun shot. There are some nice elements of old school death metal in the solos which brings the closest thing to melody that they get. Nails are breaking new ground in the extreme metal style, there is nothing pretty about this album. It is ugly, dark and probably has more in common with early black metal at times than anything else. So many bands that say they are hardcore may well change their minds and broaden their descriptions upon hearing this, the anger, the aggression the shear viciousness of them sets them apart from everyone else. With no exaggeration, this is music to hate to. AN

March of Fate - Let The Ritual Begin Birmingham natives March of Fate put a different spin on the fantasy metal with a more riff orientated slant than the epic multi section style that is often associated with the genre. 'Son of Lucifer' opens with a nice grooving riff before moving into a more driving melody that is underpinned by a guitar melody that acts as harmony behind the vocal followed by a similar sounding groove with 'Devil in My Ear' that sees the vocal take on a rougher tone in parts pushing it toward the black metal spectrum but still always able to be understood at all times which is good. 'The Beast Within' is where they begin to hit a good flow, with a gradual build they set the structure out in a much better way than the previous two and it allows it to become more organic and memorable. There is more structure to the song with more chapters but managing to keep the balance of doing what is right for the song and not over indulging like many bands of the style often do. March of Fate take in a wide array of characters into their stories and it may be that this E.P would have been better served as part of an album, the first half is largely forgettable while the second half pricks up the ears, especially the hints of punk that make their way in at times. It is enough to keep an eye on what they will do next! AN

Black Peaks - Statues Brighton's hottest property at the moment as they tear up the U.K with an album that is among the most eagerly anticipated of the year. They manage to cross the musical divides with a sound and style that flows between indie, hardcore, metal and very prog in moments and, they do it without missing a beat. The support they have received from the biggest radio stations in advance with songs such as 'White Eyes' and 'Set in Stone' has pushed the anticipation and they need to deliver. Which they do with style. The guitar work is able to add numerous dimensions to the songs which are well constructed and flow, they are able to push the dynamic so well that songs tend to breeze past and require a few listens to take in. They also sound HUGE when they need to and reign it back in when needed, giving those mammoth moments even more of a kick. There is an immense vocal performance throughout from Will Gardner, he can be soothing and tender before moving into a full on beast mode in a beat as the atmosphere of the song calls for. It is of course nothing new to do that but while many vocalists are great at one part, they are not always as good at the other part. Gardner is, and he is really good at it.

Black Peaks have a big reputation to live up to now. If they can reproduce this live then that will make for some very good shows, which will serve them well when they hit the road with Cancer Bats. AN

Rival Sons - Hollow Bones If there is one band that has been able to be more consistent than other bands it is undoubtedly Rival Sons. Not just in the music they have produced but their live performances which have always been powerful and able to capture their albums superbly in the switch from studio to stage. The opener, which splits the album into the first of two parts begins with a sludgy staccato beat before becoming a slow, grinding rhythm and the soulful voice of Jay Buchanan begins to stamp his mark once again. With 'Tied Up' there is no easy way to describe their sound, it has a very doom style over hang but also manages to incorporate a distinct jazz feel that progresses into a bluesy outro. The blend of styles continues into 'Thundering Voices' with another fuzz laden groove along with some tender and soulful break downs dropped in a very fluid fashion along with superb vocal melodies. There is a reason why there are such high hopes for this band, quite apart from the quality of the songs, great songwriting is only one part of the process, the passion that is poured into each of these songs is immense and serves to make great songs even better. Among all the layers on this record, there is a great deal of soulful moments, 'Pretty Face’ has some big moments but it is the slower and stripped back moments that make this a big song as it leads into the haunting, melancholic tones of 'Fade Out' beautifully. As 'Hollow Bones pt.2' begins to wind the album down, it’s clear to see that Rival Sons have taken a big step up to be being one of rocks biggest names, with massive songs. The closer ‘All That I Want' is immense. One that strips everything right back and finds Buchanan's voice showing the range of raw emotion that it possesses. This album will elevate them higher than they've yet been, where things go following their tour opening for Black Sabbath is going to be very interesting. AN

Massive – Destination Somewhere Much has been said in the media of AC/DC in the past few years. Beginning with Malcolm Young’s retirement in 2014 and going into overdrive with Brian Johnson’s recent departure, replaced by the walking – sorry, sitting – calamity that is Axl Rose. Yet, while their soap opera unfolds, bands like Massive continue to fly the flag for hard hitting, no nonsense Australian rock n’ roll. The only drama revolving around this band is in their music and ‘Destination Somewhere’, their second full length release, provides many thrills for lovers of good old fashioned rock music. AC/DC’s gruff three chord shuffle provide the foundation for their own debaucherous recordings, but Brendan Forward’s lead guitar playing channels the spirit of Slash and Joe Perry wonderfully. On songs like the simplistic but devilishly catchy ‘Blood Money Blues’ he wreaks havoc across his fretboard, searing licks sprinkling glitter all over a high octane rhythm section and Brad Marr’s chanting refrains. ‘Sinking Ship’s’ booze soaked boogie, reminiscent of Appetite… era Guns N’ Roses mixed with the rough n’ ready romp of Powerage era ‘DC, could and very probably will become the soundtrack to teenage house parties the world over. The parties of early booze and drug experimentation, where the distant dream of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll claws itself into the foreground. ‘Up In Smoke’ and ‘Circus’ hinge on thumping, foot-to-the-floor riffs which are instantly commonplace yet thorough, their dumb frivolity are all the better for it. These aren’t so much tracks to challenge you as they are to persuade you to have another pint and even the token ballad, ‘Made of Stone’, is a solid song. It’s nothing ground breaking but here is a band finding success with the “if it aint broke, why fix it?” mantra. And fair play to them. PW

65daysofstatic - Music for an Infinite Universe It's always good to do new things, for 65daysofstatic it is creating the soundtrack to a new game, for me it is sitting down to review it. It creates an interesting thought in how to approach it, so having watched game trailers for ‘No Man's Sky’ and watching some of the game play videos, that has made it a bit easier. It is indeed an epic looking game filled with atmospheric landscapes and it needs a suitably epic and atmospheric soundtrack, which is exactly what 65daysofstatic have done. It is an ambitious undertaking especially with a game as grand and as massive as ‘No Man's Sky’ appears to be, the songs take in numerous tones with some adopting a cascading flow of effects alongside the more ready flow of straight up music that makes this double album as much of an exploration as the game itself. The blends of sounds make for a multiple listen scenario and I'd love to know how some of these effects were made because they are not the regular effects a musician would be exploring as the norm, there is some very outside the box thinking particularly on the ‘Soundscapes’ portion of the album. Six songs that range from nine to 12 minutes that although at times is tough to keep going with, make for interesting listening and I suspect the only way to go through them is by pure concentration on what they have created or just the most casual of lay back and listens. There isn't an in-between. ‘The Music For an Infinite Universe’ section takes more of an out and out soundtrack roll with a much more regulated structure which while being no less interesting or challenging, makes for a far easier and relaxed listen. The songs provide more incident and take tones of menace, the unknown and the sublimely trippy at times, the shift between the heavier 'Asimov' and the more atmosphere building 'Blueprint for a Slow Machine' is very marked and as any good soundtrack should, it takes you on contrasting paths and tells its own story. 65daysofstatic have put some serious graft in on this collection, it is indeed an album as epic as the game it provides the sound for, and from what I've seen of the game, the two will go hand in hand for what should be an all round triumph for all concerned in the entire process. AN

A Devil’s Din – Skylight Occasionally here at Stencil HQ we get an album through that takes a few listens for us to get the gist of it. We very rarely however, get albums such as Skylight that make us scratch our heads as much as we have been. It’s quite hard to know what to make of this album. Whilst there’s absolutely nothing bad to hear, there’s also nothing entirely stand-out on it. It just seems to exist. Nine tracks go by and then at the end you’re left wondering what the hell just happened to you. Skylight is a very confusing mix of rock, prog, indie, and all kinds of other things, all jumbled in together. There’s nods to all kinds of bands – Kasabian, Pink Floyd, Muse, Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles, The Who, you can hear them all in here. Now on their second album, A Devil’s Din will be a very interesting one to watch indeed for the future. AL

Maple Hill – Headspace If you’re a band writing a Pop-Punk album in 2016, you may not have the hardest time crafting the songs, due to their typically simple structures. What you will have, however, is a battle to create music that is in some way distinctive from the hundreds of ever-so-slightly-different whiny bands that pump out paint-bynumbers standard garbage. Upon a first listen to the voice of Kristian WoodGaiger, you could be fooled into thinking that Maple Hill’s first full-length album ‘Headspace’ is set to fall into the trap that seems to encompass most aspiring Pop-Punk outfits. He has clean, higher pitch vocals that are glossed over with an extremely slick production. If that production were stripped back just a couple of layers, it may actually add further texture to the record and provide more substance to the lyrics, giving some raw emotion. Moving through the first three songs, though, and we are treated gradually more and more, as the songs improve with each passing minute. The album potentially reaches its climax, or at least one of its most climactic points during ‘Jack Blinked’. It offers a gentle set of chords to open things up, before launching into angsty, punchy vocals and a catchy as hell hook. The bassline that follows the chorus is filthily good and that chorus returns several times to smack you in the face with considerable impact. It’s a gem. Maple Hill are currently amidst a campaign to perform at the Syracuse, NY leg of the Vans Warped Tour 2016, and this song just screams to be heard ringing out in a car park full of hundreds of bouncing kids; so, here’s to hoping.

‘Headspace’ is largely a mixed bag, with diversity in its standard of musicianship and displays of both songwriting maturity and Pop-Punk boyishness. We have a smattering of somewhat cliché, but brilliant all the same gang vocal choruses; some deeper lyrical themes and well constructed lines; winding guitar solos and some outstanding harmonies. There are, however, some tracks that lower the tone. The opening lyrical content of ‘Sometimes I Doubt Your Commitment To Sparkle Motion’ leaves much to be desired – whilst honest writing is often the most effective and gripping, it most certainly is not when the song merely speaks of accidentally pushing the singer’s girlfriend off of a “futon” and how funny the day was. For me, this song is filler, and ‘Argyle’ is little better – they certainly detract from the standard of material Maple Hill show they’re capable of on other tracks. That said, ‘From Cradle To Grave’ has much more substance, evident in lines like “we’re all lost because what we have isn’t what we crave, it’s in our nature from cradle to grave”. Those are the sort of lyrics that find their way to being inked into skin and printed on t-shirts that are sold to the masses. Similarly, ‘Streetlights’ is a mini PopPunk ballad, if that can even be considered to be a thing? The acapella harmonies that draw the song to a close are illustrative of the identity and individuality that Maple Hill have already set out to pioneer, even on their debut album. This is certainly a record to be proud of, especially when considering the difficulties in carving a fresh path in the over-saturated Pop-Punk universe. They’re by no means there yet, but this is Maple Hill’s first step towards Pop-Punk stardom. ND

Circle of Reason - Faith or Theory Circle of Reason are five years, several EPs and multiple singles deep. 2016 marks the debut of what is set to be their biggest release yet – the mini-album ‘Faith or Theory’. In an interview with Wonderbox Metal, the Southampton rockers describe the album as “an insight into where we are as a band right now. It’s more personal than previous work; it’s more thought out and also more to the point. We wanted to make an album that we would want to listen to and were excited to play each song on it”. Kicking things off are the urgent, pounding drums and jagged guitars of ‘Never Enough’, before they are dissected by the brilliant Matt Bellamy-esque vocals of frontman Simon Osman. This opening track etches those vocals into Circle of Reason’s music as a staple element of their unique sound; with a sound that is so clean, consistent and singular. It’s not only the vocals, though – the tapestry of guitars and drums are extremely dense and the intricate layering creates a very immersive soundscape. It’s heavy at the core, yet chiefly melodic and before there’s time to recover from the dive into the first track, you are launched into the rapid and incessantly rhythmic opening guitar line of ‘Questions’. ‘Questions’ essentially takes things from where they were left off, and boasts riffs that Queens of The Stone Age would be proud to put their name to (sorry for another comparison, but they would). The track also certainly follows on in that it is unrelenting for its entirety and pulls you into it for an all-encompassing four minutes. Before long, the breath that you could not catch in ‘Questions’ is finally provided in the form of ‘My Emergency’. At first, it has the air of the previous songs with what sounds like the setup for more pounding guitars, before it drops the tone and tempo to make way for Simon’s crystal vocals. Whilst the tempo drops a couple of notches, the quality of the music certainly does not. The track is characterised by its disjointedness and it’s unbelievable pace switch ups – whilst it may not retain the heaviness of the prior two tracks, it’s a refreshing and different offering.

Moving forwards into ‘Clarity’ and we have some wonderfully heavy guitar tones, but most notably some beautiful harmonies towards the song’s lattermost part – they don’t last long, but they really should do. From the offset, ‘In Other Words’ is the softest, lightest song, with the guitar sound altering entirely for the most part. The softer feel to the song makes way for a larger focus on the vocals, which more than deserve the room they get here. They’re huge and lofty; towering above the song’s other elements. ‘In Other Words’ reintroduces the more familiar heavy and passive-aggressive sound towards its close as it swells to a climax. ‘Tie Up The Sky’ makes up the penultimate track of ‘Faith or Theory’, and it begins to tie things up pretty nicely *cough cough*. It hammers straight in with a typically crushing riff and progresses throughout with haunting vocals and heavy, heavy drums. It’s a showcase of the outfit’s innovative, aggressive yet somehow calm vibe (don’t ask me how that works, but listen to it and you’ll know). Their intricate and expansive musicianship may suggest that their recent Facebook verification status will soon lead to their verification as one of the UK’s hottest new prospects. In affirmation of which, the already heard single ‘Colours’ rounds things off and acts perfectly as a conclusion. It sums up the album’s finest elements; it retains the consistent, sterling vocals, it combines all the best bits of the heavier and softer aspects Circle of Reason have in their arsenal and it typifies exactly where they are, as they put out their finest release to date. ND

If It Was My Band I’d… by Emma Scott (Book review) This is an enjoyable read with some humour and higher aspirations added in for good measure, to cover all eventualities, as well as simply convey author, Emma Scott’s own desires if she was in a band and what to aspire to. Due to her background in the music industry, she is able to write from a band member’s perspective, which is a clever and effective way to write, giving a fun and easy to read break down of a light hearted and yet serious guide of information. The book is honest about the reality of the industry, but offers steady advice of how to make a living as a musician and the pitfalls to avoid. It is an essential resource for beginner bands and musicians, which includes a great collection of tips, information and crucial advice for any musician or band starting out. I’m an inspiring musician who would like to start a band, so I found it very useful and interesting to read. It’s well thought out, but concise (being just 128 pages) and to the point. It is clear that author Emma has great knowledge and has done a lot of research to back up her advice, by using key quotes from legendary musicians, such as Kurt Cobain, Paul McCartney and more, as well as short little accounts of how artists like Madonna and Oasis came to rise to the status they are now, giving you more inspiration and motivation. It’s a great formula, which is simple but effective, and the structure is easy to read, as it’s broken down into short snappy paragraphs offering advice, making it very appealing to read. Being even more considerate to the reader, the end of the book includes a handy summary checklist, to help monitor your success and achievements easily, as well as a helpful glossary of music terms and useful websites and contacts. So off you go, there is no excuse now, stop waiting around and break into the music industry and become a professional full time musician with any luck. CL

Sundays – Wørds Sundays, whilst being the hardest band in the world to search for online, are a Belgian Hardcore outfit comprising of members from The Ignored, Omerta and Amokachi. Wørds marked the band’s first full-length release and surfaced in autumn of last year via White Russian Records. Upon first listen, it becomes apparent that this record must be viewed at face value of what it is; a run of the mill Hardcore record. It deals with themes of personal struggles, war, hatred and American patriotism – none of which are original, but all the same they’re worked in very well. Sundays sound angry throughout; they’re emotional, desperate and melodramatic. Bert Vandaele strains as he viciously spits venom for a solid twenty minutes or so, whilst his friends Maarten, Jonas, Bastiaan and Tijs thrash drums and guitars at pace. There are well composed slow guitar parts that feed nicely into heavier, angrier sounds, progressing into the emotion found in the singer’s voice. Wørds is consistent through, but finds its pinnacle in ‘My Flag, My Song’. It parodies American patriotism and the way that elitist, bigoted rednecks view their country in a light that ignores everything else and all the flaws that it has. Its opening verse is powerful and honest, exemplifying Sundays’ ability to carve meaningful lyrics at ease: “This is just another redneck song about pledging allegiance to a flag About the oath you took How your country makes you proud How your lifestyle is the only way ‘Cause you and you alone speak the truth How does it feel behind those glassy eyes?” Whilst the band may not have pioneered an album that innovates and carves a new path in the Hardcore world, Wørds is a record to be proud of and one that achieves strong lyrical content and a standard of song writing that many will never attain. ND

'Fix Us' E.P. Out Now! New Music Coming Later this June!

Thrice - To Be Everywhere, Is To Be Nowhere It’s hard to think that when my generation were playing with Pokemon cards and tamagotchis the hugely influential Thrice were making their debut. As they reach nearly 18 years in the industry they’ve put out their ninth record ‘To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere’ and it’s everything the fans want it to be and more. Their brand of statement rock and roll is something that has worked for these pioneers for many years and still continues. This is evident on brand new single ‘Blood on the Sand’, of which lead singer Dustin said: “After watching a year of fear make people do terrible things, and now on the precipice of more of the same, this song is an anthem for anyone that’s had enough of it” and it definitely does that with it’s insightful and in your face lyrics this is definitely a classic in the making. All of the songs on the album have that hook to draw you in and carry on listening and that’s what true rock needs to do. There’s not one moment that makes you think “this could be better” they go 100% all the way through. ‘Wake Up’ has a brilliantly catchy guitar rhythm all the way through it and displays the talent this band has. It almost calls into their ability to diversify and change their sound as and when they want to.

While ‘Stay With Me’ begins quite slow it quickly picks up pace and holds certain elements of that classic indie sound that only a few can create successfully without sounding like a complete rip off. The vocals are the very epitome of Rock and Roll and collectively the instrument work by each member is complimented well by one another. The lyrics are thought provoking and it really gives you a sense of when the genre meant something and rock was rebellious and unique. RO

Explicit Silence – Condemned To Struggle Anger. Fury. Rage. All synonyms for one another of course, but all words that would be apt to describe the new release from thrash/death metal shooting stars Explicit Silence. The fact that, on their SoundCloud page all of their tracks are in block capitals, makes perfect sense for a band that is this downright angry. The thrash riffs and harsh, half-scream half-shout vocals crash together like two tanker trucks in a Bad Boys car chase scene, and with about as much weight behind them. It’s entirely possible that songs like ‘Beaten Minds Broken Dreams’ will just be too much for some people, but if you think you can withstand a barrage of riffs and savage drum beats then ‘Condemnded To Struggle’ practically dares you to try. AL

Real Friends - The Home Inside My Head Right now when people think about the pioneers of pop punk we’re greeted with the likes of Green Day, Sum 41 and of course the mighty Blink 182. However someday these names will fade slightly. Thankfully with bands like Real Friends leading the way for the new generation of pop punk fans this is not a sad realisation but a sigh of relief to know this mighty genre will carry on for decades to come. Catchy guitar rhythm? Check. Angsty lyrics to speak to every single teen in the land? (”if I built a boat with apologies I’ve got, I’d have a sorry looking raft”) Check. Energetic vocals to compliment the first two checks. Check. Real Friends tick all boxes when it comes to making a great pop punk album. Produced by Steve Evetts, an amazing individual who has produced albums for the likes of Architects, The Wonder Years and Dillinger Escape Plan how could this new material not sound amazing. From the very start of ‘Stay in One Place’ the Illinois group seem to throw all their chips into the middle of the table and display all they’ve got. It’s a fantastic powerful opening and sets the scene for this album. ‘Keep Lying to Me’ has a brilliant hook for the chorus and will quickly be repeated by you involuntarily, it’s one of those songs that doesn’t leave your head for days. One thing that is trademark for pop punk outfits is that they always wear their hearts on their sleaves, the lyrics are totally outrageous but mind blowingly brilliant at the same time. “I live in the middle of a lake and I can’t swim” is a line mentioned on ‘Isolating Everything’ and for me it just symbolises the pure odd talent that oozes from this band. ‘Scared To Be Alone’ feels like a darker turn for the pop punk happy go lucky guys, the dark and brooding emotional whispers at the beginning are quite a switch up and comes as a shock to the unexpected listener, however if you’re versed with Real Friends already you’ll know it’s all part of the package. I find that on a lot of pop punk albums these days the songs seem to just fade into each other and become a half hour tyrade of noise and whines. Real Friends break that tradition and each song is notable and unique. There are certainly speedier songs such as ‘Empty Picture Frames’ and ‘Mess’, compared with ‘Mokena’ which is a beautiful slower song that still holds elements of fun punk guitar work. Real Friends are doing an amazing job of being the pioneers for the new generation of pop punk and with this new album, a spot on Warped Tour and shows at Slam Dunk this year it’s clear this band are dominating. RO

Jack The Envious – Pull You Down EP Jack The Envious are what would happen if you mixed The Used, Asking Alexandria, Funeral For A Friend and AFI in a blender and then hurled it forward a decade. There isn’t really much on their debut EP ‘Pull You Down’ that you won’t have heard before, but the integrity of their delivery and quality of their songwriting makes what would otherwise be a generic mish-mash of ideas (plus a slightly questionable cover of Gorillaz’ Feel Good Inc.) into something more than listenable. The guys are not quite the finished article, but with a sound that can easily appeal to plenty of people there’s no reason why Jack The Envious could not be a much bigger name further down the line. AL

Vinnie Caruana - Survivor's Guilt Vinnie Caruana’s voice feels like it belongs on the old Tony Hawk’s games. The style of his voice is what would definitely now be referred to as retro in a lot of people’s eyes. It’s soothing and yet quite rock filled. It’s clear that in his history he’s been in projects that are a lot heavier than his solo stuff. ‘Angel of the North’ seems designed to just speak to British people. It begins with an extremely false statement “England isn’t getting any less grey”, we all know it’s not true. He then goes on to discuss being in Brighton and how people don’t know he’s American with last night’s Sunday roast in his stomach. All the while a smooth guitar rhythm is following the words elegantly accompanied by a high hat filled drum beat. The next song ‘Heavy Weighs the Summer’ definitely brings his more aggresive punk rock style to the surface,. Most notably from his Peace’d Out days. The hard, rough vocals are powerful and certainly change the mood up at this point on the album. A light piano melody can be heard to be almost dancing above the intricate guitar work on the titular track. Vinnie’s vocals have gone down a notch, there’s still the hint of the gruff but it feels a lot cleaner and smoother compared to the previous track. Vinnie Caruana is just one to watch with intrigue, not only has he been the lead singer for Los Angeles hardcore group Peace’d Out as already mentioned but he was also the driving force behind The Movielife. RO

Paradox – The Honest Lie Dover-based punk rockers Paradox’s umpteenth album since their inception in 1997 is a joyous blend of rock sensibilities and uplifting punk melodies. Yes, it’s not the most intricate or innovative music ever created, but nor is it supposed to be. ‘The Honest Lie’ is intended to be a simple but honest collection of good songs, which is exactly what it delivers. There may not be an overwhelming amount of call for this kind of music anymore, but songs the calibre of ‘It Only Hurts When I Breathe’ and ‘All Crazy Now’ would be criminal to ignore. ‘The Honest Lie’ is far from a perfect album, but as an album packed with good choruses and bouncy rock riffs, it pretty much hits the nail on the head. AL

Upon Those Dying – Upon Those Dying EP Deathcore is, by its very nature, a rather ridiculous genre. Often it’s simple without being honest, it takes itself overly too seriously, and it sounds like what people who don’t listen to metal think all metal sounds like. This is exactly what we find on Upon Those Dying’s debut, ‘self-titled’ EP. If it was aiming to be an over-thetop embodiment of the word “aggression” then that is exactly what they have managed to achieve. It’s hard to see this becoming particularly massive. The beatdown scene is supposed to be small, held in pub basements for about 20 people a show, and Upon Those Dying are so aggro, so ludicrously heavy that 90% of metal fans will just find them unpalatable. AL

Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost Modern Baseball are back with their third full length record following the successful ‘You’re Gonna Miss It All’ in 2014 and the super fun ‘Sports’ in 2012. The title track kicks off the new record, a short echoic acoustic number with not a lot of substance but it flows nicely into the second track ‘Wedding Singer’ which has a real summery feel a storytelling vocal effort, and a Blink-182 esque style with a simple yet effective chorus. ‘Note to Self’ follows in a very similar fashion with a simple bass line and moderate lyrics, this track is a little untidy in flow with several changes in tempo, however it does help reduce the band’s predictability, the end of this track is particularly enjoyable with increased emotion in the vocals. ‘Mass’ is a short but very pleasing track with an addictive hook of “my baby’s in Massachusetts”; it reminds me a lot of The Menzingers with the Modern Baseball members reflecting on good times and bringing the listener into their world. ‘Everyday’ shows some of the band’s more emo influences, a darker number it’s a little dreary at times but again the band are showing a new found versatility to their sound. ‘Hiding’ is a track I imagine creating a very powerful moment on the live stage, the instrumental is beautiful in this track with its American Football style, this song confirms the very personal feeling surrounding this record. ‘Coding These to Lukens’ reminds me a lot of early Transit with the dual vocals and enigmatic instrumental, I only wish the track had been longer as it’s only a short promising snippet. The band change gears with the more aggressive ‘Breathing in Stereo’ – the vocalist seems a bit out of place with more aggression but it does add character to the song, the second half is particularly catchy with the gang vocals and punchy drum beat. ‘Apple Cider, I Don’t Mind’ continues the more aggressive theme and the straining vocals are certainly something new to the band’s ammunition; the song is saved by a flowing riff and a strong ending. ‘What If’ is another unorthodox venture, however the chorus is ridiculously enjoyable and it creates one of the strongest numbers on the album. The album concludes with ‘Just Another Face’ which begins with an eccentric mix of riffs and guitar feedback overlapping disconsolate vocals, the song closes the album in style with the incredibly memorable chorus, one that Taking Back Sunday or Saves The Day would be pleased with. The record is a tale of two halves with the more subdued first half which blends excellently with the second half of the album; where the band’s true emotional side comes through with some memorable moments. Overall it’s a solid effort and the band have shown their versatility which is a positive sign of their progression as a band in a competitive genre as pop punk has become in recent years. JP

Daima – Resurgence EP Instrumental music seems to be making a rather welcome uprising in modern music. Following the rise in popularity of bands like Explosions In The Sky, Maybeshewill and God Is An Astronaut, a veritable slew of bands are now forgoing having vocals as a “necessity” and writing brilliant post-rock which captures both the interesting hooks and the higher class of musicianship demonstrated by the aforementioned bands. Daima are not quite there yet. They have some way to go before they are in the same class as God Is An Astronaut or Mogwai, but nonetheless Resurgence is a quality starting place for a band that clearly have a lot more to offer the world of post-rock. AL

Cardinal Point - Spit On Trust And Reliance Hailing from Vranje, Serbia, Cardinal Point are a four-piece whose genre is something I’m not too familiar with – the outmost stretches of my knowledge of Hard/Southern Rock entail Black Stone Cherry, Shinedown and (I guess) Nickelback. It’s never been a genre that I’ve disliked, it’s just struck me as an area of music that I couldn’t see myself listening to frequently until I hit a certain age, or unless I found myself somewhere southern in the US (not to stereotype). That said, Cardinal Point’s debut album ‘Spit On Trust And Reliance’ is pretty damn enjoyable. They reel you in with some light cymbals and a funky little bassline, before they introduce their signature winding guitars, meaty riffs and Miodrag Dimitrijevic Shima’ outstanding vocals. Cardinal Point have a consistent sound and retain it for the entirety of the album, with no track standing as a cut above the rest, but, equally, no track dropping below the standard they set in the opening tracks. In ‘Breath’, the vocalist showcases even gruffer and more gravelly tones, which tear through the song, it’s fantastic. ‘Inception’ paves the way with the catchiest, heaviest riffs that ‘Spit On Trust And Reliance’ has displayed so far, although, they are somewhat reminiscent of Nickelback’s earlier material. The consistency of the album’s sound is only intersected during ‘My Lament’ and bonus track ‘They Say’, which are much gentler and ballad-like offerings, and personally, the weaker songs on the album. This isn’t to say that they’re bad songs, they just don’t quite live up to the rest. Similarly, ‘Jester Doll’ is a weaker track and goes on just a bit too long, totting up just over eight minutes of playtime. There is, however, at the other end of the scale, ‘GodDamn’. It runs for just under two minutes and despite this, it is potentially the album’s most exciting song. There’s a scarce amount of lyrics, too, but it’s just so heavy, yet so catchy. It’s the song from the album that makes you think “I really wanna see this song live!”. For a guy that really isn’t into the whole Southern Rock genre, the Cardinal Point album is in short, a banger. It may well be relatively easy listening and doesn’t tread too far from the roots of the genre, but it sticks to a tried and tested formula which just works. ND

Chisel Beeches - In A Week, On A Whim Surrey alternative rockers bringing an interesting spin on the style by bringing melody along with heavy hitting riffs and showing a very competent ability to make it all flow very nicely and make it sound completely relaxed, organic way. It's a tight rope, get it wrong and it will sound forced and out of place, they make it sound the most natural thing in the world and it makes for a great listening experience, especially when you can't predict what's going to happen next. Vocally it is very clean for the most part but even they can surprise you, opening song, 'Take You Home' which by the way opens with a massive riff that made me think I was in for something completely different, the vocal was not what you would think it would be until he breaks into a roar that matches the riffs which morph into a harmony at points making for a great dynamic opening. These are six songs that manage to move through the styles at will, they make for an exhilarating listen and show there is some real ability with these fellas. If the right ears fall on them, they could do well. AN

letlive - If I’m the Devil... “We all came to watch your world as it burns” these words put a final brilliant completion on letlive.’s new album ‘If I’m the Devil...’. It’s been three long years since this diverse band have released any new material and if three years was what they needed then this is certainly worth it. The album begins with the extremely powerful ‘I’ve Learned to Love Myself’. This introduction is a slow burn but builds into an incredible piece and feels as if you’re listening to lead singer Jason’s inner demons coming to life. It culminates with an almost orchestral ending. When bands say they’re influenced by all music it usually means they like different tastes but still play one genre. letlive. break the walls between music and embrace all styles to individually call them their own. To just put a contrast on this album, ‘A Weak Ago’ begins with a very jazzy r&b vibe that would not be out of place on a Quentin Tarantino movie, whereas ‘Another Offensive Son’g is basically an all out metal track. Designed it seems for the band and listener to lose all inhibitions and cut loose. The differences are vast, the start of ‘Who You Are Not ‘features an awesome hip hop moment before laying down an almost indie-esque guitar line. The ending result of this track is a brilliant hooky “woah” combined with religious lyrics blasted out by Butler’s incredible vocals. This definitely makes it a standout song on this album. It’s difficult to discuss letlive. without talking about the vocals. Jason Butler goes from good, to amazing to oh my God in a matter of seconds and it all seems so flawlessly easy to him. At times he can reach the heights of Michael Jackson and others he let out a blood curdling scream that would put anyone to shame. When the single Good Mourning America was released it meant one thing, letlive. were back. The backdrop of the single is a shooting in what is suggested to be a primary black area by a cop. Obviously still a major issue in America. Followed by the infectiously catchy lyrics “we ain’t so different now are we, said the cop to the killer inside of me’” carried on by “we’ve got the right to take a life so do just what you’re told”. This was a brilliant comeback. I was eager to see what the rest of the album would hold and was not disappointed. They’ve done what they’ve always done with their music and took risks. A few slower songs on the album such as ‘Foreign Cab Rides’ and ‘Reluctantly Dead’ break up the album nicely and allow a smooth flow to the proceeding. letlive. have been out of the limelight for a while and with good reason. ‘If I’m the Devil...’ is a game changing album, they were already on the cusp of breaking it and they’ve grabbed on with all hands and are not letting go. RO

Falcon – Gather Up The Chaps People have been saying punk rock is dead for years now haven’t they? These people clearly just aren’t looking hard enough. The Falcon, are keeping it going. A mere ten years after their previous album, The Falcon are now back with a collection of songs that, though uncohesive overall, are still perfectly acceptable on their own merit. ‘Gather Up The Chaps’ is a fast, punky ride the likes of which has not been seen since the early days of Rancid. Though the album is good for the most part, the lack of cohesion, particularly in the vocals means that it can be difficult to find a sound that is undeniably “theirs”. Nonetheless, ‘Gather Up The Chaps’ contains sprinklings of some really good songs, particularly for those who lament the days of punk long past. AL

The Road Atlas - Tall Tales (EP) I'll be the first to admit that Costa Rica isn't the first place I think of when thinking of thriving rock scenes, which when I think about it is pretty bad really when you see the size of the crowds the likes of Iron Maiden, Anthrax and the likes command when they head there. After listening to The Road Atlas and their emotive and raw punk rock that is something that may need to be remedied because these guys have an energy about them that provides some cracking songs with solid structures and catchy bass runs. One thing that is great about The Road Atlas is the ability to take you back to the early 90's punk/alternative vibe and the fact that 'Laura Says' and 'Come Undone' could just be pulled from the Mallrats or Empire Records soundtracks. It was a sound that suffered with the trends and sound of the time but it was criminally underutilised but with this set of songs, there is hope that there is still a chance for it be appreciated as it should. The Road Atlas took a different road and one that should hopefully pay off. AN

Cute Cute Death - Vessels It is an immense explosion of sound that greets you on the debut Cute Cute Death album, the title track is straight out of the blocks and hitting hard with powerful riffs and in your face vocals. 'Alarm!' brings more atmosphere with intricate melodies among the still continuing carnage that continues tenfold in the ferocious 'Pockets' which is a take no prisoners slug fest that sees the vocals take on a far more aggressive tone even with the cleaning singing. The guitar work that fills the gaps is melodic and provides the perfect underbelly to the crushing riffs that take the full beef of the songs and take each section on further with catchy grooves.

The sound is diverse and the time changes mid song are well done allowing time to build up for the next blistering moment which are well teased at times, the moment you expect it, it is pulled away and then it comes crashing around, 'Red Lights' plays this dynamic to perfection. The album creates a myriad of sound, from the crushingly heavy to the double take causing 'Statue'. An acoustic led and emotional song that is a surprising moment on an album as heavy as this which shows off the vocal ability again and leads in to a different sound again with 'Leave This City'. A song that moves into more Hundred Reasons territory. The change in sound does make it a stranger album, the closer returns to the sound of the start and most of the album, the detour makes it seem slightly disjointed but it doesn't take much away as they are some of the best songs on the album. AN

The Dirty Clergy - Rattlesnake The Dirty Clergy have been around since 2010 and have gotten on with creating dynamic, melodic and soulful music that takes in elements of old fashioned rock n roll with poppy hooks that has seen them gain some good success's, particularly in 2012 when they were getting around every where in the States. Opener 'Decades' makes great use of the poppy hooks with a good display of atmospheric rock that continues in to 'All I Need' albeit with a distinctly darker vibe than the happy go lucky feel of the opener. The vocal is darker and the backings add a nice layer of harmony to it. It is a much simpler song but I love a good stripped back song. There is more than just a touch of the 60s vibe with these songs, they have a timeless quality to them which at points would make them hard to place into any particular era, the passion in the voice and the simplistic structure of the songs is very catchy. A good song is a good song whether it has 20 different structures and sections or when it is kept nice and simple as this is. By allowing the songs to grow and be the way they are, they have placed an organic sound that is sadly lacking at times today, even with a standard blues progression at times, they are able to make it their own. The Dirty Clergy show what can be done when things are kept reasonably simple, they have a great album, laden with hooks in unexpected ways, they aren't doing it the standard the way and long may that continue. They are all the better with their own unique stamp. AN

Kath and the Kicks – 20 Years Of Screaming (EP) This Alt rock trio from Leeds, UK bring new powerful raw sound in latest EP. Opener, ‘Basement Bullets’ has a slight crazy unhinged sound in the greatest sense, that along with electrifying solid guitar work and powerful authoritative vocals from front woman, Kath Edmonds makes quite the first impression… Single ‘All My Time’ is extremely catchy with great hooks and brilliant rhythms. The varied vocal delivery matches the instruments perfectly, making this a must hear song. The comically titled, ‘Bernard’s In A Ditch’ is provoking and is their most aggressive and dark song featured, with well executed attitude induced vocals, with lines like, “I’m better when I’m filled with rage, I’m not alone, I’m a woman out of my cage”, and some psychedelic vibes coming through in the production and instrumentation. There are a lot of different genres and influences seeping through these four songs, making it hard to pinpoint their style, but this in itself is impressive and a sign that they are on to something. To see us out is, “The Lethal Parrot” which has some weird trippy lyrics, and vocals to enhance a certain deranged feeling yet again, with strange well written lyrics that you intently listen to, like “I made friends with a parrot in the corner of the kitchen, I think her name was Lucifer”. This is very powerful and memorable in a number of ways, with some heavy grunge influences and well-structured transitions. They have an exhilarating stand out sound, which is strong, well composed, with brilliant unconventional lyrics that add to the raw and fresh sound they have moulded for themselves, along with the spirit and attitude of grunge, punk rock and rockabilly. They make a high impact in just four songs, kicking and screaming in style, so imagine what they can do in a full release. CL

Elessar UK - Reflections (EP) Alt rock quartet from Gloucestershire, UK have elements of tenacious emo and spirit of punk to stand out from the crowd on debut EP. New on the scene, only releasing three singles and touring for the last 12 months, they have been working hard and impressing audiences. Now armed with their new EP they are ready to take things to the next level. Opening song, ‘Arrogance’ makes for a good compelling introduction to the band, asserting their powerful melodies and well written lyrics, with lines like, “she’s a little piece of heaven, with the devil inside”. ‘My Skin’ is the most diverse song featured, being intelligible with lots going on and more influences running through it. It has an anthemic hard hitting sound, with all the components fitting like a puzzle, from the vocal changes to the tone of the guitars.

Last song, ‘Goodwill’ is highly resonant with soaring melodic guitars, good rhythms, beats, and features a range of well delivered vocals. It cleverly progresses as it goes on with lots of layers, ending on a striking and memorable note. This is a smooth and solid debut, with varied dynamics, strong harmonies, catchy singalong hooks and choruses. They seamlessly shift between clean crisp rock to a more aggressive sound, all entangled in an intriguing atmosphere, setting the bar high for their next, no doubt anticipated release. CL

Grand Rezerva - Hell And High Water Swedish Hard Rockers aim to triumph with classic rock fans through sophomore album, ‘Hell And High Water’. They are ready to unleash their high calibre rock ‘n’ roll once again. Title track, ‘Hell And High Water’ is an instant hard rock anthem, with infectious stand out riffs that will get you head banging, along with strong commanding vocals demanding, like “Where the hell were you?!”, delivered with a rock ‘n’ roll attitude that seeps with class, as seen throughout the album. ‘War’ is all consuming, with depthful instrumentation, impressive guitar work and group vocals to give more muster. ‘Crimson Ground’ again highlights their anthemic strong group effects to deliver a mighty hard hitting chorus, surrounded by fast fluid driving riffs, whilst having a hell of a time, exhibiting a fun high spirited vibe, in an effortless confident style. Their aim was to win over fans of 70s and 80s classic rock, setting out on a driven rampage to capture the true essence of the genre, these 11 songs certainly do that, and with their melodic boisterous sound, they should gain fans way beyond their goals as well. CL

PVRIS - Concorde 2, Brighton – 1st April 2016 They have recently finished supporting Fall Out Boy in the US and now they take the main spotlight in their first ever UK headline tour, and this being their opening show of the tour, the venue is packed and full of anticipation… They open with ‘Mirrors’ behind the well know mirror backdrop visuals that you come to know as a fan, being part of their album artwork and video themes, and creating an air of moody darkness and mystery to fit their sound. They are on top form, and towards the end Lynn belts out “I know you’re dead inside, but you make me feel alive!” with such power, showing off her aggressive raw capabilities and impressing all, in what is a stunning entrance… Half way in we are treated to some stripped down versions of ‘One Love’ from their first EP and ‘Ghosts’ to slow things down and show of Lynn’s powerful pipes and Alex’s guitar work. ‘Fire’ gets everyone pumped and moving and creates some powerful red imagery to go along with it, this differs from the record version, but still packs a feisty punch! They have outdone themselves in terms of production and visuals tonight, something they seem to pride themselves on, and use to heighten their sound. They have a unique heavy atmospheric presence that is characteristic, and can go from enthralling mystery to a fun rave vibe in a beat! The crowd constantly, shouting, swaying, jumping, and acting on command of Lynn’s requests, and even when not prompted, especially with fan favourite, ‘Let Them In’, being their heaviest and most assertive song. The end part of the set, sees them at their best, truly into the groove and proving they are worthy of the headliner status. After an electrifying ‘Eyelids’, they tease that this is their last song of the set and leave the stage, luckily they don’t leave us hanging long, as they come back to announce that they have two songs to go, with Lynn explaining “they were doing that headliner thing, whatever the fuck that means!” before playing the haunting new single, ‘You And I’, and of course their most popular rock anthem, ‘My House’ which gets the crowd going mad, all jumping and shouting in succession, “It’s my house, I think It’s time to get out!”, creating a brilliant atmosphere where all was united, the band and fans feeding off each other’s energy. The show ended in a soaring victory that leaves you certain that Pvris will soon be blasting out their cinematic alt electronic rock sounds in bigger venues and that their stage presence will only grow. The applause and cheers of gratitude and excitement say it all as they finish, the only complaint being that for a headliner slot, this was far too short! CL

Moose Blood - Bristol Fleece - April 13th The Winter Passing take to the stage first to share their infectious fusion of indie pop. They are a strong opener, display plenty of energy like they actually want to be there, and in short, they are just an awesome upcoming act. Check out the following tracks: 'Daisy' & 'Flowerpot'. It's safe to say that Moose Blood are starting to explode all across the planet. The first time we saw them was when they opened up the main stage at the now legendary Hevy Fest. With most of this tour being sold out, this is a another clear indication of just how well these guys are doing. They take to the stage, and simply have everyone singing along straight away. At points it becomes hard to hear Eddy as the crowd are just so loud. They treat us with some songs from their upcoming album 'Blush' such as 'Honey' & 'Glow' which judging by the response from the crowd will certainly stay in their setlist for a long time. Tracks like 'I Hope You're Miserable' display just how talented the band are as musicians, with its slow, but impressive approach. 'Gum' 'Boston' 'Cherry' 'Bukowski' all send the crowd into a frenzy, and show just how many great songs these guys already have. Now, it's clear that the band love Brand New, and a lot of people compare them to that, but would it hurt to have a British version of that doing well? Certainly not, and if that's the destiny for these guys, then an awesome future certainly awaits them. We can't wait to see these guys again! AD

Derren Brown - Bristol Hippodrome - May 12th So here's a new one, writing a review, where we can't give anything that happens in the show away! This makes sense however when you're talking about Derren Brown, because I for one wouldn't want to spoil the show 'Miracle' for you, as you should only witness what happens by heading down to his current tour as soon as possible! Anyway, I'll try to give you a bit about what to expect. What makes an illusionist great, is one that can be a bit more "real" than you'd expect. As well as his stage shows Derren Brown is known for his TV shows where we've seen him predict the lottery, create an apocalypse environment for just one man to experience and believe in, and even convince members of the public that they are faith healers. One of the things I like the most about him is that he isn't perfect at what he does, not every trick he has ever done has gone 100% right, and by being aware of this, Derren actually comes across as being a lot more believable than others in the same field. We are in the Bristol Hippodrome tonight, which is simply one of the most stunning venues in the town. Its history, and architecture create the perfect environment for Derren to perform in. Also, Derren lived here for a while, so he should feel well and truly at home as soon as he takes the stage. The show is set into two segments of around an hour each, and the first sign that I know his performance is going great is when he announces that the end of the first half is already here, time flies when you're having fun right? What he does will simply have you glued to the stage throughout (sometimes you might find yourself looking away with horror/disbelief though...), and what I really enjoyed was actually how funny Derren is, he had the crowd laughing a lot more than I thought he would (how many funny illusionists do you know?!). The final layer to all of this can only be described as uplifting, but you'll get what I mean if you head down to the tour... By the end of it, you'll simply be talking with whoever you went with about it for days to come (I highly recommend not going by yourself, you'll have no one to talk to, and the last thing we want is spoilers on the internet in an attempt to get someone to discuss the show with you!). This was my first time seeing Derren perform live, and it was much more than what I hoped it would be. I can't wait to see what he does next! AD

Lucky Chops - Bristol Fleece - May 16th When you listen to music it's always good to not just listen to the same genre over and over. So if you want to try something different, that you will instantly fall in love with, then putting Lucky Chops on whilst you drive to work, or take a afternoon walk in the park, is a great place to start. I stumbled across this talented bunch when a video of them performing in the NYC underground came onto my Facebook news feed. They are just a bunch of talented mainly woodwind/brass performers that clearly enjoy what they do, and with the interesting fusion of covers and original tracks, then I simply became intrigued into seeing when or if these guys will be touring in the not too distant future. I was in luck, as they had just announced a tour in the UK/Europe, and I was able to get myself down to the Bristol leg of the run... Lucky Chops harness an insane amount of energy, as an alto saxophone player myself, I know how much effort it takes to stand up and play it for half an hour. However, these guys were running around with a tenor sax, baritone sax, a trombone, and even a tuba. When it comes to instrumental bands/acts it's always difficult to maintain the crowd interaction, but these guys achieve that with ease as now and then they talk to the crowd, tell them just how excited they are to be there, whilst at the same time being in everyone's face as they perform. A lot of their set were high energy covers including 'Problem' 'I'm Not the Only One' 'I Feel Good' 'Turn The Beat Around' which all went down very well with the crowd, and cover wise, to give the setlist some dynamic they also added in a powerful cover of 'Hello' by Adele. They have their own material as well, which for me shows that these guys aren't just an "internet hit" or an act that will rise and go overnight, they obviously want to stay around for as long as possible, and show that they can actually create influential music, as well as covering it. I'm so excited to see what these guys do, and I have no doubt that they'll be playing in much bigger venues when they visit the UK again! AD

Rammstein I have seen a lot of bands live, but nothing quite compares to their menacing dark antics and pyro technics! The fact that headlining the opening Friday night of Download Festival is going to mean more mental visuals and insane amounts of fire and just general bizarre but exceptional moments. The way the crowds chant and shout is astonishing, deafening and unforgettable, especially as singing in German, it’s not just the band that are nuts – it’s the fans too! We are in for a hell of a set! As we aren’t likely to get new material until 2017, we should hear all the classic hits, such as ‘Sonne’, ‘Mutter’ and ‘Feuer Frei!’! Did I mention there is going to be a lot of fire?!

Disturbed After an agonising four year hiatus, hard groove metallers, Disturbed returned last year, releasing their first album in five years titled, ‘Immortalized’. They came back with a bang, as the album marked their fifth number one debut in the US charts. The album is quintessentially Disturbed doing what they do best, but also offers a softer and more diverse side to them than previous releases. Including the hugely successful and unsuspecting cover of ‘The Sound Of Silence’, the Simon & Garfunkel cover. Let’s hope they grace us with a mighty and moving performance of this, along with the classic mosh pits hits, such as ‘Down With The Sickness’ and ‘Stupify’ to name a few! They have some catching up to do and I think they will do so in a dramatic way and memorable way!

Deftones These alt metal veterans have played many a festival during their career which spans nearly three decades and are admired by all for their metal movement, breaking away from the more conventional nu-metal scene they originally were part of. They deliver a unique brand of metal, with mellow dream like elements and hard rock anthems, such as the extremely popular, ‘Back To School’ and the great festival hit, ‘My Own Summer’ (Shove It), which I’m sure fans will embrace literally, along with some moshing! They are still going strong and pioneering alt metal with the new eighth album, ‘Gore’, debuting at number one in New Zealand and Australia’s top album charts at number two in the US! Marking their fifth album to debut within the top ten and their highest charting since their self-titled 2003 release. They are second headliners below Black Sabbath at Download Festival, showing their rock royalty status!

Halestorm Hard rockers from Pennsylvania are no strangers to Download, this will be their third performance, but 2016 is their most important, as it marks their first time on main stage, and boy are they excited about this! This is one of their favourite festivals and they aim to please, so you don’t want to miss them. They have plenty of anthems to knock out, including from their latest and dynamic album, ‘Into The Wild Life’, with their heaviest song, ‘Mayhem’ and the powerful, ‘I Am The Fire’! They have recently gone gold certified with their self-titled debut and second and most successful album, ‘The Strange Case Of…’, and the new album looks set to achieve this, with their relentless rampage.

Shinedown This American hard rock act, know how to please the crowds, and never fail to impress with their melodic anthems and powerhouse belters, such as ‘Devour’, ‘Second Chance’ as well as latest hits, ‘Cut The Cord’ and ‘State Of My Head’, taken from their current fifth album, ‘Threat To Survival’. The album peaked at number one in the US Top Hard Rock Albums and number two in the Rock Albums! It’s not hard to see why they have been invited back to Download Festival to play the main stage for the first time! In the summer they are headlining the popular, Carnival of Madness stateside with friends Halestorm and Black Stone Cherry and then in the fall of 2016 touring with Five Finger Death Punch until the end of the year! They are never satisfied and are known for their production at shows, so join them and have a good time!

Black Sabbath What is there still to say about Black Sabbath? Well not much so I will keep this one simple. Black Sabbath are in the midst of their farewell tour, it has been thought they were done a few times in the past but I'd be inclined to believe this really will be it after this tour. They have built an incredible setlist over their time as a band, and it’s one that will keep the crowd on its feet throughout. They have earned this slot by being extremely gifted/talented at what they do. It’s such a shame to see them calling it a day.

You will NOT get many more chances to see Sabbath, so do it while you have the chance!!

Iron Maiden Flying high on top of the world and once again returning to the hallowed Donnington turf to bring the ‘Book of Souls’ to a British stage, Iron Maiden are a band that remain as big as they have ever been in their long, illustrious history and Donnington has been a very special event for them since they first appeared in 1988. They have always brought something special to their sets here and after the air raid siren flew himself to the show in a Spitfire the last time, there can only be excitement at what they have in mind this time. Hopefully a long over due full UK tour won't be far behind.

Nightwish No strangers to Download over the years, Nightwish return backed up by possibly their most critically acclaimed album so far in ‘Endless Forms Most Beautiful’ and some highly regarded live performances after a superb translation from the studio to the live arena with the album. The band may not be to all tastes but will certainly bring a great performance, continue to add to a rapidly rising reputation and cement their place as one of the greatest symphonic metal bands around.

Royal Republic Imagine if Electric Six were ever so slightly better at playing their respective instruments and you have Swedish garage rockers Royal Republic. What they do is daft – they sing songs about being in love with the President’s daughter and wanting pretty girls to “do me like a Tommy gun, baby” – but in the sun basked (hopefully) fields of Donnington Park after a few shandies, what could be better? ‘Weekend Man’, released in February, is a shamelessly fun record. It’ll make you dance, it’ll make you laugh and, moreover, there is a musical richness embedded in their tongue in cheek songs, a musicianship downright brilliant at concocting crafty melodies and earworms. Sure, they’re hardly Sabbath or Maiden, but while the day is young and you recklessly pass the time, bands like Royal Republic provide awesome entertainment value.

Graveyard Graveyard play the blues. But, this isn’t a singular, one dimensional take on the time yellowed pages of the blues rulebook. Flavouring it with everything from the shadowy voraciousness of black metal to jazz, Buddy Guy fashioned heartfelt balladry and punch drunk rock n’ roll, there are few bands as special as these guys. An irresistible soulfulness is inherent, omnipresent within their music and they possess the ability to make a crowd full of even the most fickle music fans to dance and fall in love with them. If you’re in a Burzum or a BB King shirt, you’ll find something great within their snaking and shuffling sound.

Ghost There are rumours that masked ghouls Ghost penned their first three albums before releasing any of their material, systematically charting an evolution that would fast track their pure rock theatre to the upper echelons of the business. Be that true or not, Meliora was a crowning moment for the band and their rise to power has been awe inspiring. Growing in stature, reputation and ability, they are the lovechild of Alice Cooper’s pantomime horror, the shaded occulticisms of Sabbath and Blue Oyster Cult, all the while boasting melodies as infectious as their native ABBA. It would hardly be a surprise to see this band headlining the festival and many of the other elite European metal festivals, and it won’t be long considering how fast they are gaining disciples, but for now their sermon on the Sunday, under the shelter of the tented third stage, is not one you’ll want to miss.

Beartooth It's safe to say that Beartooth are one massive act at the moment. Last year they had a sell out tour and a packed out tent at Download festival. What makes them so unique is lead singer Caleb’s insanely diverse vocals. Their new song ‘Aggressive’ is going down a storm everywhere and this seems to be a moving freight train that has no sign of slowing down. Graduating to main stage this year it will show whether this band has the capacity to hold an audience outside of a tent. Only time will tell.

Gojira In 2015 the Duplantier brother’s mother passed away, derailing the writing and recording of the band’s follow up to 2012’s ‘L'Enfant Sauvage’. For guitarist/vocalist Joe and drummer Mario, the death of their mother, the woman who raised them, nurtured them was always going to have an impact on the shape of their sixth full length album. The result is a more brooding, darker sound that manages to find light in its prevailing darkness, a truly beautiful thing. Spearheaded by the stunning thump of lead single ‘Stranded’, ‘Magma’ provides the bedrock for their appearance on the hallowed turf of Donnington Park. The French act approach their songwriting with something of a disregard for the rulebook. Their progressive take on technical death metal, dragging it, kicking and screaming into more eerie and euphoric territories has captured the hearts of so many throughout their history, songs like the tumultuous ‘Oroborus’ and the luciditygroove-infested-chaos of ‘Flying Whales’ their crowning moments. A band that have never truly received the mass acclaim they deserve, expect their cult following to be out in force on the third stage.

Kadavar Amid a horde of 70s rock worshipping revivalist acts, Kadavar add a touch of Krautrock and pyschdelia to their staunch retro riffage. Not the most original band on the plane, granted, but one who, in the flesh are simply animalistic. They play with a free-flowing rarity to behold – drummer Simon "Dragon" Bouteloup channelling the unhinged spirit of John Bonham and Christoph "Lupus" Lindemann unleashing riff after ingenious and infectious riff. Think The Groundhogs, 13th Floor Elevators and The Grateful Dead jamming in a room together, ferocity and expression fizzing together in the air. There is an electricity to their live performances, the kind of sparks simply not present on their records. Highly recommended.

Periphery Periphery are the epitome of what modern metal has become. With all members producers and self-obsessed tech nerds they are a band who utilise cutting edge technology to create cyber, intergalactic metallic warfare. From the technical wizardry of Meshuggah to the searing choruses of metalcore via every bi-road they come across, the progressive sextet blend a variety of styles and, in the process, are flying the flag for the ever rapidly growing djent movement. Always ones to self-produce their music, such is the quality that home recording is at nowadays, forthcoming record ‘Periphery III: Select Difficulty’ – recently teased across the member’s respective social media channels promises to keep djent’s flame burning brightly. Though, on the surface, they may appear somewhat of a hipster band due to their sub-genre’s current “in vogue” status, this is a band of humble but hugely talented musicians. Perhaps too many cooks spoil their broth at times, each member possessing their own fickle tastes and influences, but when they get it right their multi-dimensional aesthetics can raise the roof of any venue they play. They are, however, playing the second stage this year so they’llre will be no roof to blow off, but they’ll sure as hell try.

Korn Korn have been to Download more times than I care to remember. In an age where lineups see so many revisions and changes, their appearance once again in 2016 is only a testament to their legacy. Although it’s been awhile since their last release ‘The Paradigm Shift’, Korn continue to rely on their extensive back catalogue of memorable moments from the founders of Nu-Metal. Nostalgia or not, Korn will deliver a set which is both memorable and refreshing for old and new fans alike. So be a part of it. Watch as Jonathan Davis grabs that H.R Giger mic stand, swings those locks around, and get swept up in the music which defined a generation.

Billy Talent Canadian alternative rockers Billy Talent are back in the UK after a 2 year absence and they will be ready to bring an insane show. With their fourth album ‘Dead Silence’ now being put to rest as they embark on their next effort ‘Afraid of Heights’ Donington seems the perfect place to test some new material. As well as bring out the classics from their past. They’ve also been a pleasure to watch live. If you just head over to YouTube to check out videos of them performing live at Download Festival or Rock Am Ring in the past, then you’ll find yourself instantly excited to see these guys live if you haven’t done so already. Get involved!

Breaking Benjamin I imagine a lot of people have hinged buying a ticket this year on the fact that the organisers have managed to get Breaking Benjamin. Once only thought to be a fantasy because of the leads crippling fear of flying the American rockers are gracing the UK shores with a mini tour and a stop at Download. With incredible tracks like ‘Home’ and the ever brilliant ‘Diary of Jane’ this will be a brilliant show! Get ready!


Last time the Brighton metalcore group were at Download they were killing it on the main stage and the question is how couldn't they? ‘Gravedigger’, ‘Alpha Omega’ and ‘Early Grave’ are all crowd pleasers and with their new album hotly anticipated to drop this year I think Architects are only just getting started. Catch them destroy the second stage this year! It’s been great to have this band feature in the magazine over the years. We’ve watched them grow from a band that performs in tiny venues across the UK, to arenas & festivals! They deserve this attention.

Tesseract MK based prog-metallers TESSERACT will make a fantastic midafternoon haze out this year. Tesseract seemed to have settled their polyrhythmic riffs, and staggered time signatures help layer a sound which is atmospheric and all-encompassing on record, and one which would be awe inspiring to see live. Their music provides a wealth of depth, and exploration with each and every listen, and their most recent 2015 release ‘Polaris’ continues to inspire With a career which has seen more vocalist changes than an X-Factor episode, Tesseract seemed to have found their feet with old vocalist Daniel Tompkins, and the band are moving from strength to strength. Tesseract are for fans of anything post rock instrumental, or generally progressive. They’re a fantastic act which have toured the world, supported anyone who matters in the genre, and are still slaying it.

Megadeth Part of the original thrash metallers, and an institution in metal to anyone worth their salt, Megadeth return to Donington for another year. Now no strangers to the hallowed ground, be it Monsters of Rock or Download, the hair is still long, the music is still loud and Mustaine and his merry men are still hitting all the right marks. 2016 saw the release of their 15th album ‘Dystopia’, and with putting everything these guys have been through behind them, Megadeth continue to march on. There’s something rather magical about Download having those signature tracks, and that signature hair swinging around on the main stage, and it’s good to know that 2016 is no exception. Megadeth are considered as one of the core founders of thrash metal, and rightly so.

Milk Teeth Forgive the pun, but Milk Teeth aren’t so long in the tooth, with their debut release seeing daylight only back in 2013 - it’s been an explosively short rise to the likes of Donnington. But if there’s one group of talented musicians, with enough venom, punch, energy, passion and genuinely, I mean genuinely awesome songs - look no further than Milk Teeth. I personally tip this band as one of the highlights of the weekend, and I guarantee that anyone who decides to witness what they can do in that tent will not be disappointed. Milk Teeth blend the magic of the golden era of grunge, sprinkled with a dash of screamo punk, but fill their live performance with the energy of a hardcore show. Thier debut album ‘Vile Child’ released in January this year is 12 tracks of pure adventure and a clear rise in quality of modern musicianship. Their lightning quick rise to fame only cements this talent. So to all fans of good music out there. I implore you to spend the time to check these guys out. You’ll see some of the finest musicians in the game, and take a deep breath of relief knowing that if we can still keep producing music of this calibre, we are still in very good hands.


Alien Ant Farm Who doesn't remember hearing ‘Movies’ and the cover of’ Smooth Criminal’ back in the day? Since then the band have put out some further impressive albums, whilst building themselves a fan base all across the globe. We got to see Alien Ant Farm on their last UK tour, and it was very impressive to say the least. So make sure you don’t miss out, and these guys are just great fun to watch!

2016 is THE year for superhero movies with Deadpool rocking Valentines day, X-Men Apocalypse and obviously Bat of Gotham fighting Son of Krypton. However Civil War has hands down beaten all of these films. With its tongue in cheek humour, incredible action scenes and compelling story it pushes the Marvel franchise to the next level. As with all Marvel films you need to have seen all the ones that precede it, in order to understand that Thanos is coming...but that’s not for here. This is an extension of Winter Soldier, once again Sebastian Stan is on hand playing this bizzare and mixed up character and bringing tension between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers who are already at loggerheads. The Government have given the Avengers a new initiative that reads like a very unclassy booty call - “when we need you, we’ll call you”. Tony agrees. Cap doesn’t. Civil War. This only gets worse when the Winter Soldier is seen to blow up an embassy building. Meanwhile Black Panther comes on the scene in incredible fashion and makes for an amazing chase scene through a busy tunnel, with Cap right on his trail. Tensions fly high with the first Avenger and Tony Stark and ultimately when there’s a chance Cap rescues his vigilante friend and seeks help for him. He enlists help from previous Avengers and also brings in Ant-Man for the ride. Paul Rudd once again is on form playing this character, the excitement on his face when he realises what he’s about to do is amazing and this is only overshadowed by Tom Holland as Peter Parker and SpiderMan.

The chemistry between Stark and Parker is brilliant and it gives us a brief glimpse of the wall crawler playing the nerdy teen as well as the heroic friendly neighbourhood vigilante. Once Spidey joins in the fight it becomes evident that Holland is perfect for this role. “woah you have a metal arm? That is so cool’” he says to the Winter Soldier as they fight to the death. It’s nice to have a Spider-Man who can do the nerd side as well as the aggressive side. One moment in the film was designed to tug on the heartstrings, the Iron Patriot is shot down and nearly dies. This would have been more devastating if he didn’t spend his time digging a hole and sticking up for Iron Man. His power is basically agree with Tony so if he had have died it wouldn’t be a loss.

There’s no major “bad guy” in Civil War but there is a maniacal man who’s just hell bent on revenge. The twists and turns he puts the Avengers through are brilliant and when his gameplan is revealed everything goes down! The end result of Civil War is a two hour ride of action scenes, comedy and there’s also some tear jerking moments. It’s an exciting time in Marvel land, we’re two years away from Infinity War and next year we get Spider-Man: Homecoming. Bring it on.