How did your recent slot at Slam Dunk Festival go? It was great & I was pretty shocked at the turn out for the three shows too! It’s definitely getting to a point where people are singing songs back to me, so it’s really nice to be able to hear that in an acoustic environment too.
How important do you think festivals like Slam Dunk are to the UK? Yeah I definitely think they have their place in the UK scene of things. You get a lot of international bands coming over & it’s usually one of the only places to see them. For me personally, it’s great - because I feel like I don’t quite “fit in” in with some of the pop punk side of things - but this kind of festival allows people to see what I do, in a place where they might usually not expect. For example, my next festival is opening 2000 Trees Festival, which essentially is a completely different genre/style of festival - but I love them both!
Touring wise, what else have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? Off the back of a few tours & spot headline shows last year, I’ve been focusing quite a lot on my recording side of things in this first half of the year, but I’ve got co-headline & support shows coming up in July, August, September & hopefully some more touring in October this year too around a 2nd release! The last tour we did with Emarosa was a good eye-opener to see how many people we actually knew at shows, and it’s so cool to see people travelling from all over to the most randomly located gigs!
How would you say the sound of Grumble Bee has grown/changed since you first started out? Well I wasn’t planning on doing any acoustic/piano things what-so-ever. That just panned out of a demo of a piano version for ‘Francium’, which now somehow leads the way on Spotify, at over 210k plays. So I’ve tried to keep people happy with spreading further into acoustic tracks, piano tracks & ultimately pushing my initial passion for the full band stuff.
Can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind 'Bravest Soul', as well as how it came together? This track is quite literal and to the point to be honest, unlike a lot of my other songs, which have metaphors and quite a lot of hiding behind lyrics. It’s quite simply about a break-up, which pretty much allowed me to write the verse/chorus & lyrics in one evening on acoustic guitar. I always like to make sure my songs can still work “well” in their minimalist form - and this was one of those tracks that instantly worked for me, from the start.
Also, what was it like to work with John Howe, and what does the music video mean to you? Thanks for calling it a “Music Video” - which I totally agree it is, but you wouldn’t believe how some people call it a lyric video, because it has literally two sentences in the whole thing! So thanks for that! John Howe is a great guy, and a pretty rare talent when it comes to complete originality in my opinion. He did the video for ‘H.C.A.D.C’ & I loved his elaborate efforts there, so I really wanted this music video to be a specific follow-on video from the last - as it’s ultimately about a very similar topic & the same person. But I definitely didn’t want to give him too much detail on what I wanted from this video, other than it could maybe have hints back to my previous stuff and follow a similar vibe on building the character’s stories. Other than that, it was completely free-reign, so I was excited to see the final result from his perspective.
Photo credit: Jenny McCord
How did the track 'Heron' (piano version) come together? The full band version of ‘Heron’ is quite a lot heavier & in a different key/structure & pretty much everything else differs from the piano version, other than the vocal melodies/lyrics. I knew I was doing sort of alternative acoustic versions of some of the songs off my first EP & 2nd EP, so I wanted to make sure this track (in this version) was as far-reaching as possible, so I put some pretty straight forward chords down, went for a super minimalist production with just one vocal track & one piano and hoped for the best when I released it haha! The main difference with this track, is that I made this version with the absolute intention of this being (hopefully) accepted by anyone of any age, into any genre of music.
You've got a double sided EP coming up! Can you tell us about that, as well as what we can expect from it? This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while now, and although it takes a good few months to turn around a bunch of pressed vinyl, I’m looking forward to the finished result! It’ll be a single vinyl with one side, full band singles & the other side acoustic/piano versions of EP #1 & EP #2. I’m actually re-mastering all of the tracks together at the minute, specifically to suit the EQ curve & certain dynamic qualities of vinyl, so the tracks will actually sound different to the digital ones, not that you’d be able to tell off the bat - but I just felt if I’m going to press to vinyl, I may as well try to get it as best I can! I think it’ll be a sort of bridge between my debut EP & my debut album, which I’m hoping to release next year too.
What is it like to produce your own work? It must be cool to have so much creative control? Yeah I thought that at the beginning, as it’s massively freeing, but it’s also a huge weight to know everyone is waiting on just me now, and no-one else haha! I absolutely love the amount I’m learning daily in the production world, and it never was something I was massively interested in a couple of years ago, but I just sort of fell into it when I started to demo my first EP at home and when it came to demoing my second - I had a lot more knowledge about how things work. It’s definitely not something people can learn over night & I know a bunch of top-end producers/engineers who always claim they’re still learning things. So whilst, it’s definitely harder to work on my own songs, I think ultimately the end goal is more rewarding.
You've got your first ever headline acoustic show coming up! So how excited are you for that, and what can attending fans expect? I can’t wait for this! It’s sold out! I’m going to put everything I’m able to do and spread them out across piano & acoustic guitar, in an environment where I think the acoustic will help massively. I’ve played a few churches before, but this one is perfectly located (opposite Kings Cross Station) & gives me something to challenge myself. I’m absolutely not an acoustic artist, and I fully appreciate the guys & girls who spend their life making it sound amazing, but while there’s an opportunity to try it out, I think I have to see how it goes.. while I’m still enjoying it, at least!
What's been the hardest song for you to put together, and why? At the minute, live? It’s proving to be ‘Heron’ - the full band version! But I’m sure with some more planning around the tones of the song, we’ll get there in the end. On the recording’s I’ve done personally, it was probably “Red”, as it was my first ever full band/self-recorded thing to be released. I had absolutely no idea what people would make of the song or the production & had no real idea if I was producing it “correctly” as well. There’s so much stuff online about getting tracks perfectly recorded or sitting well on radio, it seemed near impossible under that pressure of “standards” to get something everyone would like. But I actually found, pretty much everyone had positive things to say about the song & production, which shocked me a bit, but I guess ultimately as long as the production doesn’t hinder the song itself, people can always hear a song & make their decisions whether they like it or not, based on that.
What else can we expect to see from Grumble Bee in 2017? So I’ll be releasing that second double EP at some point down the year, quite probably around a tour or set of support shows, whilst continuing to release singles (both full band & acoustic) from that record over the next few weeks and sequentially after that too. I’ve also got a bunch of festivals, including; opening 2000 Trees (on the massive Cave stage this year), Y Not Festival, Fat Lip festival (acoustic), a bunch of headliners and supports through August/September & a co-headline for Kerrang! // Alex Baker at the Borderline in London with WSTR & Hey Charlie in October too - which I’m hoping will pan out around a tour as well.
Interview with Becky
Can you tell us about the formation of Milk Teeth? So we all took a music technology btec in college. Three of us at Stroud, one of us in Gloucester. Chris was a friend of our ex guitarists and got roped in and stolen out from his previous band. We hung out and wrote some songs, recorded them at our college and put them on bandcamp.
How did you get to the band name Milk Teeth, and what does it mean to you? It’s a bunch of things with no specific reason, Chris has rotted little teeth, we are all big Japanese voyeurs fans, and they have a song called ‘Milk Teeth’. Also, the sweets taste good....
What is it like to be a part of the music scene in Stroud? We are super proud to come from Stroud. It's not really a place where rock music usually comes out of. There's a great live scene but not for what we do. It's cool to represent a small place, I love living here.
At what point did you realize that you had the potential to be more than just an upcoming band? we’re so self-deprecating, we always doubt our own abilities. More recently with the signing to Roadrunner there was a change and a shift in that we have a little more faith and confidence in what we do and a pride in our work that maybe wasn't as prominent before.
How did you end up signing to Roadrunner Records, and can you tell us a bit about what they've been like to work with so far? We had a couple of offers come in and we were all super excited by the Roadrunner deal as we grew up listening to their roster of artists. They're pioneering the next generation of rock and alternative music and we are stoked to be involved and a part of that. Working with them is easy. They support our crazy creative ideas and make them achievable and work so hard to make the vision and ideas we have materialise into something real. It's great to have so many people fighting your corner.
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? So far this year we have supported Creeper on their album release tour over the UK and Europe which was a blast. We all know Cologne far too well as we spent three days in a car park there and all got cabin fever and lost our minds. We went to Coretex records in Berlin while we were there which was rad. There's so many punk rarities we could have all come home penniless. There was a stray bird that flew into the venue in Vienna and shit on a bunch of Merch, that was really funny!
So, how did you get to the EP title 'Be Nice', and what does it mean to you? “Be nice or go away” has always been a Milk Teeth mantra since the early days and it's stuck. There's some irony there, we will always fight our corner when it's necessary but as a rule play nice and then life is good.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'Be Nice'? A lot of early Green Day inspired some of the tracks - ‘Insomniac’ and ‘Dookie’ era, Distillers ‘Coral Fang’ was also a big inspiration. Key themes throughout ‘Be Nice’ are that each song is about a specific person, the last one being about myself. It wasn't intentional that those tracks got grouped together but I like that it's how it worked out. Lyrically it's angry and frustrated and the songs portray my feelings towards people that have done me or the band wrong over the past couple years.
How happy have you been with the response to 'Vile Child' so far, and what do you think it has done for the representation of Milk Teeth? The response to ‘Vile Child’ was such a boost. It was our debut album and we had no clue as to how it would be received. The support for that record has been overwhelming particularly seeing people singing at the shows. It was a reflection record about a decade of my life that was a struggle and it was very much like a diary laid bare. There was some anxiety putting that out into a public space but people seem to have engaged and related to it which makes me feel like it's served some sort of wider purpose outside of me selfishly venting about my life.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Vile Child' at the moment, and why? ‘Brain Food’ is always fun to play live as it gets people turned on and moving. I don't enjoy singing ‘Kabuki’ as it's a hard place to go to when performing it but it's really clicked with our fans and it's humbling seeing that other people understand that sadness. It makes me feel less alone.
What else can we expect to see from Milk Teeth in 2017? We go on a headline tour in July/ August around the UK with Wallflower and Employed To Serve which is going to be insane! It gets me out of bed every day. It's the first time we will be playing ‘Be Nice’ live and I'm excited to see how people react. We have a few festivals booked and are playing the main stage on Saturday at 2000 Trees Festival. It's local to us so it's a big deal to have been asked.
Interview with Todd
Can you tell us about the formation of Bloodclot? John had asked me to fill in on guitar for a Cro Mags show, and we started talking about doing some new music together, what our dream line up would be. Joey and I had played together in Danzig, Joey suggested Nick, and the first time we got in a room to play it was explosive. We knew we had something special.
How did you get to the band name Bloodclot, and what does it mean to you? John used to roadie for the Bad Brains, and when something would go wrong they'd yell bloodclat!! which is Jamaican slang, John and the other Bad Brains roadies started a band and called it Bloodclot, so when we were kicking around names I said why don't we just use Bloodclot,I like that it reminds me of the past and itâ€™s a nod to the greatest band of all time, the Bad Brains
Can you tell us a bit about your local music scene? Well I live in Los Angeles so there's like a million different scenes here,its a big melting pot
For an unfamiliar reader, how would you describe your sound? I just read someone describe us as sounding like Negative Approach with 2017 production, I thought that was cool.
What musicians/bands have influenced you the most since you started out, and why? For me it all goes back to the Bad Brains, my first show was seeing them at CBGB's in 1982, and from that moment on my life was never the same, musically everything I've learned,I learned from them,they taught me about spirituality, vegetarianism, and not being a part of the shitstem
How did you end up signing to Metal Blade, and can you tell us a bit about what they've been like to work with so far? A friend of ours, Tal who is a famous vegan chef, is friends with Brian Slagel, he passed our demo on to Brian, and Brian got what we were doing. He really believed in us as musicians, so far so good
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? We are starting our first tour on July 14th in NYC with Negative Approach here in the states. I'm super excited about the last three shows of the tour as it's going to be Nails, Negative Approach, Bloodclot and Final Conflict!
So, how did you get to the album title 'Up in Arms', and what does it mean to you? It means we are fed up with this bullshit system they have in place to keep people poor, feeding us poison, polluting our planet, the crooked politicians and bankers.
How did you end up working with Zeuss, and how would you say he helped shape the album? He was recommended by the label, and to be honest there wasn't much "producing" to be done. We had everything worked out before we set foot in the studio, so all he had to do was press play and record, just capture the lightning as it was going down
How does recording/writing with Bloodcot, compare to anything you've done before in your previous band/s? I just do what I always do, throw some riff ideas around see what John comes up with, and that usually will spark the next idea. Before you know it, BLAM!!! New song!
What else can we expect to see from Bloodcot in 2017? Touring touring touring!!!
Interview with Sammy
Can you tell us about the formation of Employed To Serve? Sure, well the band originally started as a two piece recording project between me and our vocalist, Justine. We did two EP’s/demos just the two of us but the idea was always to evolve into a proper band. We recruited our drummer, Robbie back in the spring of 2013 and the band we have today took shape from then on.
How did you get to the band name Employed To Serve, and what does it mean to you? Initially the idea for the name came from working jobs that we disliked just to make an income, and how so many people work jobs they hate just to get by. Even though our songs don’t revolve around employment in the literal sense now I feel it is still relevant to some of our lyrical themes in the sense that a lot of people are scared to live out the lives they truly want to because they’re scared to deviate from traditional life patterns. You are born to serve out the norm then die.
Also, can you tell us about how you originally found your sound? I don’t want to sound cheesy but in a way we kind of fell into to it. When we first started we basically just wanted to be Converge/The Chariot, which I think is quite apparent when you listen to our 2013 EP ‘Change Nothing, Regret Everything’. Then I feel that for us, the jump in song writing from that EP to our debut album, ‘Greyer Than You Remember’, was huge. We’d got to a point where we knew what we wanted from our songs and I feel our latest record further expands upon that.
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? We kick-started the year with a 20 day run across the UK, Ireland and Mainland Europe. It was two tours back to back. The UK and Ireland was with Black Peaks and Tiger Cub, and the Mainland was with Mare. We’ve also done a few one offs since then and we toured Ireland again with Heck about a month ago. If I had to pick my highlight so far it would have to be the two album release shows we just did in London and Brighton. Those shows were really special for all of us in the band.
So, how did you get to the album title 'The Warmth of a Dying Sun', and what does it mean to you? The title is supposed to portray something in your life that you love with all your heart but you know it won’t last forever. I like song and album titles to be open to interpretation, and have their own meaning to the listener but it actually originated from my personal situation of playing heavy music and building my life around something that really isn’t profitable. I’m very happy doing what I do, and I intend to carry on but there’s always this slight fear of uncertainty for what the future holds. But I suppose everyone has that in their life.
Can you elaborate on some of the main themes and influences that run throughout 'The Warmth of a Dying Sun'? Apart from the aforementioned theme of building your life around something you love no matter the outcome, the album touches upon many social and mental topics such as depression, homelessness, family related struggles and life making you become jaded and losing sight of what you want from your time on this planet. This is really skimming the top of the songs though as they really hold a more personal and in depth meaning. All of our songs may give the impression that we are very negative people, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is life isn’t always perfect and music is a great outlet for its imperfections.
How did the artwork for 'The Warmth of a Dying Sun' come together, and can you tell us about what it means to you? So we knew from the title that we definitely wanted a sun of some description. We played about with a lot of different ideas, from photos to different artists, but nothing was really clicking. We knew we had to love it! I came across a random tarot card whilst googling and I thought it looked really cool. With that as a rough idea for a starting point I then thought of contacting Garry at Bite Radius Designs. I knew of Garry because of the awesome work he’d done for some of my favourite bands like Pig Destroyer and Napalm Death. He set to doing us a few rough sketches and we knew very early on that he was the man for the job, and we weren’t wrong because we couldn’t be happier with the finished piece. When you spend so much time crafting the songs and recording it you really need the artwork that you love and justifies your hard work.
How excited are you for your upcoming slot at ArcTanGent, and what can attending fans expect from the set? Massively excited! Arctangent has been a festival we’ve wanted to play for ages so we’re very honoured to be a part of it this year. The crowd should expect a lot of new songs, and probably expect me to climb all over them and shout at them a lot.
What else can we expect to see from Employed To Serve in 2017? Loads more touring! Our next tour is with Milk Teeth and Wallflower around the UK this summer! Check our Facebook for the dates. Other than that more touring and more writing.
Interview with Tom
Can you tell us about the formation of Casey? So Liam and I have known each other since we were like 12. We were in our very first band together. We’ve kind of been making music together on and off for the last ten or so years. Our most recent bands before Casey split up. I said that I wanted to take a step back from music for a while, but then he messaged me on Facebook and was like “hey want to make a new band” and I was like “kind of, I’d rather just me and you do some music together, and then we’ll see how we feel about it, then if it goes on and it feels good we’ll get some other people involved, take it from there!” So that’s initially what happened. Liam and I went to a friends studio, and just wrote some songs. We were like “Yeah, these are pretty cool! Let’s see if anyone else will be interested in joining”. This is when we messaged Toby, Max, and our old bass player Scott, they were all keen to join. So we took it to a practice room, but we said initially that we weren’t going to play any shows, or do anything with it, we just want to write some songs, and play them for ourself. Then after two practices we were like “actually, this sounds pretty good! Let’s see where it goes!”. We shot a music video, recorded a couple of singles. We played two shows under a different name. Then I auditioned to join Northlane. I got down to the final eleven, it was insane. I was driving back from my girlfriends house at the time, I only looked because Liam said that I should audition, and I was like “why, I’m already in a band?” and he said “Yeah but it will be funny won’t it!” so I said, “alright, fine!”. So I went to the same friend that we’d been recording with, I just messaged him saying “hey I want to do a cover, is that alright”, and he was like “Yeah, no worries!” I went down, did it in a day, put it up on YouTube, and I didn’t hear anything back about it after that.
Then I was driving back from girlfriends house and my phone started going nuts, all these messages started coming through, I was like “what’s happened!” So I pulled over and looked at it, loads of people were saying “Congratulations” “This is such good news” etc. I was thinking “what?” So I messaged one of my friends back asking them what they were on about, they said “have I not seen the announcement?” I was like “No!” He sent me a screenshot showing that I’d got down to the final eleven for the new Northlane vocalist. Obviously Marcus was in there, and Erik from Loathe was in there as well. I was like “oh my god!” So I said to the guys that there’s no point in pushing this band, because what if I move to Sydney in two months time. So they said sure, we’ll take a back seat for now. Coincidentally at the time, under the name Well Wisher, another band of the same name from Manchester after they had broken up started messaging us saying that we can’t steal their name, fans might get confused. But they weren’t on Spotify, Itunes or anything. They had like 900 likes on Facebook. I was like “Come on man, give it up!”, they said “No we had it first!” so I just said “Fine, whatever” we’ll go on a hiatus and come back with a new name. So obviously Northlane went to Marcus, which is completely deserved because he is incredible. Then we sat down, got a new name, shot a new music video, we just started from scratch. We wrote and recorded the music video for ‘Hell’, and it’s just gone from there.
How did you get to the band name Casey, and what does it mean to you? We actually had three names in a hat, it was Casey, Magnolia, and I can never remember the third one, but four of us hated it. I think it was our old bass player that put it in, but we had like twenty names originally, and just narrowed it down to three, and put it in a hat. But Casey is from two sources, one of them, it’s the name of an album by The Rise of Science. A really small band from America, it’s the only album they ever did, but it’s one of my favorite records. So I just really wanted to pay homage to that. The other one is that Hawthorne Heights are Liams favorite band, so it’s in dedication to their deceased guitarist Casey Calvert who died in 2007.
What was it like to be an upcoming band in South Wales, and how much do you miss Newport TJ’s? I spent a lot of my childhood in TJ’s. The best show I’ve ever been to was in in there, it was Parkway Drive, Suicide Silence, Bury Your Dead, and Shaped By Fate. Now the scene in South Wales is incredible, it’s so vibrant, it’s really making a good strong come back. It was crazy to see the rise and fall of post hardcore in South Wales. There were so many bands at one point, that were just huge, Funeral For A Friend, Lostprophets, The Guns, Kids In Glass Houses, The Blackout. Then all of a sudden it just disintegrated, TJ’s closed, the Barfly closed. So many things just came and went, at one point it seemed like there was nothing. We didn’t start the band with the intention of “we are going to revive the scene”, but it’s nice to now be coming through with a whole host of new bands that are kind of doing really well. Bands like Holding Absence, Nightlives, and there’s just other things going on in South Wales that are just really pushing the boundaries. They are being recognized for it, which is great.
How did you end up signing to Hassle Records, and what have they been like to work with so far? So off the back of the Capsize, 68 tour we were approached by a few labels, but with Liam and I our previous bands were both signed to majors. In all honestly we had a bit of a rough time. So we were a bit sceptical when these new offers started coming through. We didn’t want to get locked into a deal we’re not comfortable with. We didn’t want to jump at the first thing that was offered to us. So we laid off a little bit, we wanted to write some material ourselves, and then see where it went. Then when we went up to record the album at the Monnow Valley studio the owner Jo is a really good friend of Wes who co-runs hassle records. She said that they’re really nice guys, they do everything independently. I think that you’d fit really well on their rooster. So we said “okay, put us in touch, we’ll go up and we’ll have a chat, see where it goes”. So the next week Toby and I went up to London, met with Wes, Mease and Nigel who run it together, it just felt like a really comfortable fit. They really shared the vision, ethos that we had for the band. That’s what we were concerned about. We’ve always kept Casey quite at a close nit thing, all of our management, we’ve always known very personally. We’ve had the same photographer for the last god knows how many months. We try and find people that we like working with and stick with, we develop a good relationship with them. That’s what we wanted from a label. With our old labels, Liams was based in Scotland, and mine was based in Chicago, so we never met any of them. It just felt really sterile, and detached. We wanted a relationship that was more tangible, so we met them and felt like it was a really good fit, so we went with it.
How did your tour go with Boston Manor? It’s been really good. Before we went into the Heaven and Hell tour recently, we were a bit apprehensive, because it was the first time that we had ever played to more of a divided demographic. Obviously before that we’d tour with Being As An Ocean, Capsize, and we were always playing for fans of melodic/emotive hardcore music. So it was never really that difficult to win a crowd over. They were expecting you to play a similar style of music, and they were there for that kind of music. Which suited us down to the crowd. Then we went away with Thy Art Is Murder and Miss May I, and there were a lot of metal fans in the crowd who perhaps aren’t going to listen to our music. Before we went away we were like “shall we play all of our fast songs, or try and play a heavier set to appeal to these fans” In the end we kind of decided that actually we can’t do that forever. We normally play quite an eclectic mix anyway, mixing in heavier and lighter stuff at shows. So we just kind of said that we should just do whatever we are comfortable with, play the songs that we want to play. If they like it, they like it. If they don’t, there’s no loss really. So we came back of that tour, and we were really well received, everybody was very respectful. So we just thought well, going into the Boston Manor tour we’ll just do the same. We mixed the set up a little bit, played some new songs, swapped some out. We wanted to play some songs that have got just screaming in them, and some songs that have got just singing in them. Every show we’ve played we’ve had a full room. The guys in Boston Manor have been incredible, they’ve been so nice, they are really easy to get along with, and we got some new friends out of it.
I heard you guys had a fire on your bus at one point! Yeah, so on the way to the third show, we blew two tires, we had to miss a day then. It was a bank holiday Monday, so we couldn’t get it fixed in time. Then later on into the tour, when we were on our way into Poland, I was sleeping in the back of the bus, I was super ill. Just before we went away I was in hospital for quite a long time. Then coming out of hospital I was on some new medication that really makes me quite rough. So I was sleeping as often as I could, we had bunks on our bus. I was sleeping on our bus on the way to Poland, then all of a sudden Adam runs up and starts shaking me, saying that I’ve got to get out of the bus. I was like “oh man, speak to someone else whatever it is I don’t want to deal with it” he was like “no man, you’ve got to get up” I was like “Why!” I was so annoyed. He said “The bus is on fire!” and I was like “What?!” “Yeah, the bus is on fire, you need to get up!” I stuck my head out of the bunk, and there was just smoke everywhere. I thought I was going to die. It wasn’t how I pictured the end of my life. I got off the bus, we were quite fortunate as it was just an electrical fire. I say “just”, but it was still a fire. It was a lot of burning plastic, and smoke, but not a lot of actual damage as such. We managed to get it patched up, drove to Poland, played the show, and then we started driving towards Budapest. It started smoking again so our driver pulled over and sat us all he down. He said “look, we’ve got two options, I can either really push it, go to Budapest, but the bus might catch fire again and we’ll be stuck in the middle of nowhere in Eastern Europe. Or we miss the show, get it fixed properly and we’ll finish the rest of the tour. We’ll get home safe. ”It sucks to miss a show, but it made sense to do that, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. The other bands were really great about it. I messaged CJ from Thy Art Is Murder saying sorry we’re going to miss the show tonight, and he was like “man we’ve missed whole halves of tours because of problems, we’d rather you get there safe!”
Congratulations on your HMA nomination! How exciting is that for you guys? That was insane! I’d seen it being set up, by Dave Bradley, the promoter of Download. I saw bits and pieces about it before the nominations came out, but we didn’t hear anything about it, until the day of the nomination. It was similar to the Northlane thing, we just had a load of traffic coming through our Twitter, people saying that they couldn’t believe it. We looked it up, and we were like “oh my god” we had no idea about it, and no one told us that we were being considered for the award. It’s the first thing we’ve ever been nominated for. To be considered alongside bands like Black Foxxes, Black Peaks, it’s insane!
How did the music video for 'Little Bird' come together, and can you tell us a bit about the meaning? Our music videos aren’t necessarily a direct correlation to the meaning behind the songs, because a lot of the meanings are quite similar. To portray them visually it’s quite cliché. It’s generally a guy and a girl, etc. So we’ve always tried to just think of things that are interesting to watch. The fact that there’s a song in the background is quite nice. The meaning behind ‘Little Bird’. It’s to do with emotional naivety, and not really knowing how to deal with the situation that you’ve found yourself in.-
-It’s written in terms of a relationship. Where you kind of progress blindly into something that’s believed to be love, and then by the time you’re so far into it that it’s difficult to get out of it again, that’s when you realize that it might be slightly more detrimental that you’re giving it credit for. It’s kind of about not really knowing how to console somebody who is in that situation, not knowing how to get out of it, feeling trapped. The music video itself, it’s set up as a euthanasia clinic, to catch the life flashing before your eyes moments. The metaphor behind it is that going to the same coping mechanisms becomes counter productive, because as the music video goes on, every time they try to go back to this clinic, the memory becomes less consistent, it becomes more nightmareish. The tangent between them is running back to the same situation/coping mechanisms after a while becomes detrimental/counterproductive.
So, how happy have you been with the reception to 'Love Is Not Enough' so far, and what do you think it has done for the representation of Casey? It’s been great, the best thing for me is that it has been a very staggered release. It came out in the UK/Europe last September. Then a couple of months ago it came out in mainland Europe, two months ago it came out in North America, and then two weeks ago it came out in Australia and Asia. So we’ve had fresh feedback at consistent intervals. It’s been generally very positive. It’s been really cool to have new people coming back saying that they’ve just heard the record, I really enjoy it. Obviously for us it’s kind of old now, so just knowing that there’s fresh fans coming into it. The people from Asia/North America actually waited for the record to come out, rather than pirating it/YouTubeing it etc. So that’s really cool. We’re really happy with it. Expectationally, and as the feedback has been coming in we’ve grown. We do see like a boost in our interaction on Facebook/Twitter. We see a wave of fresh interaction coming in.
How did the artwork for 'Love Is Not Enough' come together, and what does it mean to you? It’s actually a drawing by my friend Sophie Jeffcot. Her and I went on holiday together a couple of years ago. She’s an artist, and she kind of just doodles on and off, I just noticed it as she was flicking through her book. I was like “hey what’s that!” and she just said that it’s a drawing she did. I asked if I could have it, and she said that was fine, she gave it to me. Then a couple of months later, we started putting the album together. It was just a happy coincide. It’s centered around the idea of love, and more often or not two individuals, whether it is boyfriend/girlfriend boyfriend/boyfriend, or between a parent/child, siblings. It was always centered around two people. Then the title ‘Love Is Not Enough’ came together out of one of the songs on the album. Obviously the abbreviation for that is line, so it was just something that when we were throwing the ideas around for the artwork I just found the drawing again. It tied in really well, it’s a line drawing of two individuals. If we manipulated it, and made it into something quite cool, then it could really work. I showed it to the guys, they were really happy with it.
How important do you think festivals like Slam Dunk are to the UK? Incredibly important. I’ve been hanging around with Sam from Ocean Grove, they are from the East coast of Australia. The first thing he said walking around was that they’ve got nothing like this. They’ve got one major alternative festival. He said that alternative music is kind of creeping into mainstream festivals out there, but for the most part, it doesn’t happen in Australia. It’s their first show out of Australia, and he was like “this is incredible.” It’s amazing to have it be an indoor festival as well, as we have so many great outdoor festivals, there’s 2000 Trees, Green Man, Reading/Leeds, Download. Where there has been a demise in festivals like Ghostfest, Hevy Fest, still having these huge gatherings where alternative music does come together, is just so important. It’s such a huge platform. For bands like us, this is the first big festival show we’ve played in the UK. They gave a chance to local bands to win a slot on it as well, which is such an insane platform for them.
What else can we expect to see from Casey in 2017? Reading/Leeds, we are doing some other German festivals in the summer. Then we’ve got some more touring to do towards the end of the year, that’s getting announced at the end of the summer. Then it will just be setting us up for the next year then. We are doing some more touring then, at the start of 2018. Then we might start to think about a new record at some point. But it’s not a pressure point at the minute.
Interview with Ed & Paul G
Can you tell us about the formation of Devil Sold His Soul? In a nutshell, before DSHS, Rick, Jonny and our original drummer Tom all played in a band together called Mahumodo, and that band came to quite an unexpected and quick end. The guys decided straight away that they wanted to keep doing what they love, so they kicked off DSHS with old friend PK on Samples. They then auditioned for a Vocalist and a Bassist, which ended up being myself and Iain, together we made ‘Darkness Prevails’ and the rest is history!
What was it like to be an upcoming band in London? Its funny, we're sort of a London band and sort of not. We've always been completely spread out along the M4, so we've never really properly had a home. That said, with a few of the band living there, London is as much a home town as this band ever had when we started! We used to do a lot of practicing in London and a very good proportion of our shows were out and about London in the early days, I think we were basically the in house band at the Barfly in Camden for a while! Times were very different back then, Myspace hadn't quite hit and booking / playing shows was much more a traditional affair than it evolved into. You'd have to book shows through “actual” promoters, when I say actual I mean not a child on myspace who has called themselves a promoter and doesn't have the money to front the show! The music scene felt really different, I think there were maybe more genuine bands about, trends didn't feel as over bearing or aggressive as they then turned into, it was much more “okay” to be doing your own thing. The main thing I really remember is that we basically played most weekends to nobody in stale and sticky venue basements!
Was there a particular moment when you realized that you were becoming more than just an upcoming band, if so what was that whole experience like for you guys? It's funny, you never really think like that, the goal is always in front of you and things change without you even realising it! I do remember the first few times we were in Kerrang being a massive thing, seeing you and your mates faces printed in a magazine is totally weird and awesome, it's hard to describe. Maybe that's when I first realised people were paying attention? I mean it's not like we've ever been a massive band, but it's almost impossible to get a handle on anyone else's perception of you as a band. It still blows my mind that anyone ever has or does listen to our songs!
How did your recent tour go, where you performed 'A Fragile Hope' in its entirety, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? The recent AFH shows were amazing, just some of the most fun DSHS shows I've ever been involved with. Being able to play these songs again with the guys and sharing the vocals with PG really felt special, and definitely a band highlight for me! On top of that, we've never played those songs back to back, not even while we were writing it, as we arranged the tracklist after we recorded the album. It really hit me how well that album flows together, it's nearly an hour long and the shows felt like they were over in a flash!
What was it like to rehearse for the tour then? Were there any songs that you found particularly interesting to re-visit maybe? It felt a bit like riding a bike! Aside from the fact I had to learn how to scream again, the songs are etched into my brain, I could remember all my parts and lyrics pretty well. I think it was a fairly different affair for PG as he hadn't played many of those songs before, so had an awful lot to learn! He bust a gut and fuckin' nailed it though! It’s hard to explain, but the album felt a lot more fun this time around, maybe it's all psychological, I'm not sure, but it certainly felt less bleak!
Looking back on 'A Fragile Hope', what do you remember the most about putting it together, and how would you say it compares to anything else you've done? I remember that we went over those songs with a fine tooth comb, maybe to a fault, but it was our first full length and we didn't want to put anything at all weak out. I think we learnt a lot about song writing that we took with us onto everything we wrote subsequently. I mean, that’s true of anything you do in life, but we certainly learnt a lot of lessons making AFH. We learnt to be a bit quicker in the studio after that, not in a less care sort of way, more that you can really go down the rabbit hole without even realising when you're recording and lose your perspective. Writing an album that was that dark is probably what prompted us to explore the more uplifting side of the band too, we wouldn't be the same band had we not made ‘A Fragile Hope’.
Looking back on 'Belong â‰ Betray' how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it has done for the representation of Devil Sold His Soul? I'm really proud of â€˜Belong Betrayâ€™ still, I left it for a while as I over played it at first, and recently went back to listen to it - head phones on one evening. I put a lot of heart into the tracks and I feel it still shows. I actually have no idea what it's done for our representation, I don't really get caught up in that but I'm really happy with how it was and has since been received and how the songs are sung back so passionately by our audiences
How excited are you for your upcoming slot at ArcTanGent, and what can attending fans expect from the show? Really really excited! We played in its first year and fell in love with the event. I think what stands out is the type of people & bands that attend. The bands that tend to play are not your run of the mill, music by numbers type bands. The creativity and progressive nature of the music tends to bring people that understand music better and appreciate the complexity just that bit more and I love that. As for our set, we'll be mixing it up with old & new, and Ed will be joining us on stage again which has added so much more to the live show & general vibe.
What else can we expect to see from Devil Sold His Soul in 2017? Some more shows, some more music & some good times x
Interview with Mikee
Can you tell us how Sikth originally got together? Well first Dan, Pin and myself were in the band with three other members, we formed through the Watford scene. Then we decided to get better instrumentalists in, which were Dan Foord, James Leach and Justin Hill. We knew these guys through local bands and connections . There was a thriving scene in Watford, UK back in the day. .
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Watford? There was a great scene back then, I ran it myself so we were in the best position we could be. I did gig swaps around the country with other promoters who had bands. There was a great vibe and we rose very quickly.
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? Looking back a bit more than a year we played with Slipknot on their UK arena tour in Feb 2016, then our first ever US tour in August 2016 with Periphery, then at the beginning of this year we did a six week tour in Europe with Trivium. The tour I enjoyed the most by far was Periphery in USA. Love the dudes, loved being in USA and playing to so many wild fans. It was great! But I also have good memories of some shows in Europe like Milan, Marseille, Oslo, Copenhagen, Paris and Santiago.
So how did you get to the album title 'The Future In Whose Eyes?', and what does it mean to you? This title is open to interpretation 1: about humanity evolving with technology but also devolving in authenticity and creation. 2: Whoever is pulling the strings we don't always know and everyone's vision of the future is different.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'The Future In Whose Eyes?'? I talk about love and loss. Then also social media suppression, mind manipulation, evil and good, sanitising cities, power mungers, blood hungry hoards and many more moons of thought. I also ask many questions throughout the album.
What would you say was the hardest part about putting 'The Future In Whose Eyes?' together for you guys, and why? Somehow it all became manic due to a very tight schedule towards the end, totally pushed me far over my limit! I just wrote the vocals and lyrics pretty much nonstop, seriously, not much fun was had at all!
How did the front cover for 'The Future In Whose Eyes?' come together, and can you tell us a bit about what it means to you? The amazing cover was created by Meats Meier's a genius based in LA. It is about humanity evolving with technology but also devolving in authenticity and creation.
The vocals were recorded at your very own studio, so what is it like to have that creative control as a band? I write all the vocals and lyrics on my own, I've always done it that way myself actually. It's just how I get the way out of myself. We went to Adrian Smith's (Iron Maiden) RNR Studios in Uxbridge so that we could record Joe’s vocals.
How did Joe Rosser end up joining Sikth, and how would you say he has helped shape your music so far? We knew of him, as he was in Aliases with Pin. Justin actually approved of him as well so that was good. He hasn’t written anything on the new album but has a great versatile voice and a good sense of rhythm.
How did Spencer Sotelo end up joining you for 'Cracks Of Light' and can you tell us a bit about what he was like to work with? Yeah he was great, a really nice dude. We discussed working together when we were on the Periphery tour in August – then just flew him over and went to RNR studios in Uxbridge again. It was very quick, he totally nailed it pretty much straight away.
Looking back on 'Opacities' how happy are you with this EP still, and what do you think it has done for the representation of Sikth? I am personally really happy with this and particularly ‘Philistine Philosophies’, ‘Behind The Doors’, ‘Tokyo Lights’ and of course ‘Days are Dreamed’. I love this EP .
What else can we expect to see from Sikth in 2017? We have to wait and see, we hope to tour the UK again and also Japan and USA.
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year? We've done a hell of a lot of touring this year and I think the highlight so far was probably headlining Boston music rooms in London. The whole place just went and it was off the chain. To see that many people in London coming to see your show and knowing your music is just insane. We also had our entire crew with us which was magic and made the gig super easy.
Looking back on 'Statues' how happy have you been with the feedback to the album so far, and what do you think it has done for the representation of Black Peaks? I think it's gone better than we could have possibly imagined. We spent so much time worrying about how things were going to be perceived I think we've been overwhelmed by the response. It's definitely taken us to amazing places as a band and continues to do so every day. â€˜Statuesâ€™ was a great starting point for us but we still have a long way to come!
Interview with Will What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Statues' at the moment, and why? For some reason ‘Saviour’ is still my favorite tune to play off ‘Statues’ at the moment. That's also weird as it's the oldest one we play. I'm also well into playing ‘White Eyes’ at the moment. The big man breakdown at the end never gets old.
Have you guys started work on any new material just yet, if so, what do you think fans can expect from it? Oh yeah man. We are deep into writing album two right now. I don't want to give too much away so I'll say it’s heavy it's catchy and it's a lot of fun. just expect to hear a hell of a lot more Black Peaks!
How would you say the sound of Black Peaks has grown/changed since you first started out? We have definitely developed and got into the groove of things now. We are a lot more aware of our sound and we know each other very well now so writing often flows very easily. Touring can sometimes be really hard and you need to have people that are looking out for you and know your limits. We really look after each other now and that makes a huge difference when you're spending a lot of time together. We are like brothers.
What music video has been the most fun for you to put together, and why? Doing the ‘Glass Built Castles’ video was the most fun we've had filming and playing. We got a whole load of people down to the beach to film the scene with flares. We had a bunch of mates and whiskey and drinks it was great fun.
How excited are you for your upcoming slot at 2000 Trees Festival, and what can attending fans expect? We were honored to be asked to come and play the main stage at Trees. We've been lucky enough to play the last couple of years at the Cave and now we've built our way to the prestigious main stage. That day we will be sharing the stage with some of our heroes of UK rock (Frank Carter, Jamie Lenman) We literally can't wait. This show also marks the end of our summer season so it promises to be the biggest finale of the year for us. I reckon we'll play a pretty even mix of songs from ‘Statues’ and also some new shit. Can’t wait !
Also, how important do you think festivals like 2000 Trees are to the UK? Festivals like 2000 Trees are the lifeblood of the UK music industry. Especially ones like 2000 Trees that have come from a grass roots background and grown into something huge. We owe Trees and the fans who go there a lot for our growth over the last few years .
What else can we expect to see from Black Peaks in 2017? We follow June up with a farewell to ‘Statues’ UK run in July, leading up to 2000 Trees. After that we are going to knuckle down and finish writing our second record for the rest of the year .
Interview with Jayden
How did With Confidence originally get together? Myself and the drummer Josh went to high school together. It was originally just like we got drunk together, and said that we should jam. Then we went to study music at college. Where Josh and I met Luke and Inigo. It all just came together from there. It just happened.
How did you get to the band name With Confidence, and what does it mean to you? When you start out as a band. I think the best thing to do is to play covers you like by bands you like. One of the covers we used to play was called ‘Of Confidence’ by The Dangerous Summer. We really liked that name, but we felt like With Confidence was more suitable because this was something that we wanted to approach “With Confidence”. At the time we were like 18-19. We didn’t know what we were doing with our lives. We wanted to go head first into this, and that’s how it happened.
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Sydney? It’s hard man, it’s always hard. Especially in Australia. It’s really long drives, ten hours from city to city. But it’s really good, we enjoyed every moment of it, we really did. Just playing those smaller shows, and slowly working your way up. Watching twenty more kids coming out to your show each time you play. I can complain about the small things, the drives, sleeping on the floor. All the little things. At the end of the day we love it, it’s all been great.
There’s a bit of distance between gigs isn’t there? Yeah, America is the exact same. You play 30-40 shows. Two hour drives. I’m like really glad that we did it, as we are well trained for it. We did the grind, and now when we do these sort of tours with three hour drives. Where the locals would be like “oh, that’s a bit of a long drive”. For us it’s nothing, it made the whole process so much nicer. So any time we get a little bit of luxury, it’s incredible, and we get to truly appreciate it.
Was there a particular moment when you realized that you were going to much more than just an upcoming band? We always wanted to be a band that would do it forever, like go into their 40s-50s and still release music and stuff. I think the moment that we knew we had a career ahead of us, was probably the moment when we got the call from our manager that Hopeless Records were interested, and that they wanted to call us and talk. As soon as we all heard that, we were like “Wow, this could take us around the world, this could be something.” We had the call, and it’s something now!
How did you originally sign with Hopeless Records, and what have they been like to work with so far? It’s incredible, and I can’t say a bad word about Hopeless. They are like super great to work with. They’ve got an incredible team. They’ve really prioritized us as a band, and they’ve really done us justice. They’ve taken us so much further than we would of done by ourselves. Even if we had gone with a different label. Hopeless have done some really incredible things. We are friends with some of their staff now, it’s like broken that border. One of our first interactions with Hopeless, when we went into the office we recorded the video for ‘Voldemort’ next door, then after that we just got drunk in the office, and one of the girls started vomiting in the trash bin. It’s just moments like that, where it’s like “We work together, but you’re a friend” small little things. I think only UK guys would get that! We love Hopeless.
Can you tell us a bit about how you originally found your sound as With Confidence? As a band we’ve never really tried to sound like anybody. We are big advocates of bands doing things naturally and organically, and I think that the way we found our sound was by just culminating our influences together, and then just jamming as a band. That’s how we wrote a lot of our first songs, by just jamming. Then something popped out. I love pop music and I love pop melodies. I love pop punk, and between us the tastes vary, from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to emo music. You just put them all together, and then you’ve got something that doesn’t sound like anything. So that natural brew of all of these influences, that’s how we found our sound.
You were here earlier in the year for a headline run right? So how was that! It blew my mind man, honestly. It was also one of those moments where you like step back, and you’re like “Wo!”, it was only our second time touring in the UK, and before that we had only done a support run and Slam Dunk. It’s a little nerve wracking to go out and do a headline a tour, because what if the tickets don’t sell, and people don’t come, it looks bad for the band. But we sold out London Underworld, and that was 500 for us, which might seem small for other bands, but for our second time in London we were blown away. A few more shows kept selling out, we went on the tour and the crowd were rowdy, loud and passionate. I don’t think there’s a show on that tour that I didn’t enjoy. Honestly, it was incredible. The lyrics that we wrote in our bedrooms are being screamed at us in London, LA or Italy.
Looking back on 'Better Weather', how happy have you been with the response to the album so far, and what do you think it has done for the representation of With Confidence? I’m really stoked with how it’s gone. It’s also really nerve wracking to be releasing a debut album. It’s a big thing for a band to do. It’s strange. I expected to release an album, get some initial hype, and then fizzle out until you release a new album. I felt like organically that’s how it would work. It’s just grown exponentially. It got a great initial response, but then it slowly got better and better and better. More people are listening to our band now, than when we released the album. I guess it comes from doing headline tours, and touring around the world. For example we just came off the US run with State Champs, we released the album on Warped Tour last year, and between Warped Tour and this tour I would say that some nights there were a thousand people in the room that knew who we were, and were screaming our lyrics in the US. It’s weird seeing that progression, and I have to say that I’m stoked with it. I couldn’t of asked for our debut album to of gone any better. I think we can do better now, 100%. It’s good for where we were, but for the next album we are going to keep trying to step it up.
What was the hardest part about putting 'Better Weather' together? Writing and recording an album is not easy, it’s such an incredible creative process. For me the hardest part were probably the lyrics and the recording for the vocals. I’m really particular and honest with our lyric writing. I can be really hard on myself. Trying to get the lyrics finished and at a point where I can say “I’m happy with this” and I’m okay to let this out into the world, and let it be free and leave it. Because true art is never finished, it’s just abandoned. You have to let that go. That was kind of hard for me. In the vocal booth recording those lyrics. You really struggle as a singer, you’re constantly pushing yourself, and I’m really hard on myself. So trying to get those vocal takes, and pushing myself further than I had been before. It can be sort of demoralizing as you’re telling yourself it’s not good enough, and that you want to do the song justice. I think that was the hardest part. But when it’s all done at the end of the process, you can look back and be really proud. I’m really proud of what we’ve done.
What was it like to tour with Five Seconds To Summer? It’s great, we are friends with those guys back from the earlier days. Josh the drummer went to school with Michael and Calum and Luke, then we went to study music in college, we studied with Michael as well. We became really close friends, and would hang out. Our first show was with Five Seconds, we played a five hundred cap venue and the tour more recently was incredible. It’s really cool to see friends from Sydney do really well. That was a cool thing for us. It’s always nice in the music industry. What we gained from that, was I guess just playing to really big crowds. I don’t really get nervous any more when I walk onto the stage. One of the shows was in front of about 8,000 people. It’s kind of just like if I play to 1,000 people, it’s like “this is easy, I can do this.” There’s no nerves, and I got a lot more confident on stage from doing that tour.
You guys were a part of the Motion City Soundtrack farewell set of shows, so how was that, and can you tell us a bit about what this band mean to you guys? It was emotional, as we are all Motion City Soundtrack fans. Luke from our band is a big Motion City Soundtrack fan, he has got the Dinosaur Life tattoo on his arm. He had to hide it during the shows, because it made him nervous, and he didn’t want them to think he was a fan boy. It was really cool, it was kind of like a special thing. It was a little sad, seeing a band that has had such a long and fruitful career have to call it quits, and not want to do it any more. It was a little sad, but it was special, and I’m glad that we could play those shows, be on that tour, and experience that. It’s a different side, and you don’t always see those situations in front of you.
How did the music video for 'Long Night' come together? The video came together when we were in LA actually, we were crashing at one of our label representatives house, Tobin. We were sleeping in the backyard in a tent. It was sick. He has this old piano inside. I just sat down, playing this slightly out of tune piano. Piano is my first instrument. I play it and I get emotional when I’m getting into it. Then Tobin came in, sat down, and was listening. When I finished, it was like “So we should record that” and I was like “Record what?” “like for ‘Long Night’, we should film this”, and I was like “I never thought about this, but OK sure!” Before we left, we only had a few days left, but he organized for a crew of people to come into his house, and film me playing ‘Long Night’. So it was very natural, as it again stemmed from a very organic moment! That’s what it was, when I wrote that song, it was just me and my piano.
How important do you think festivals like Slam Dunk are to the UK? When it comes to this music scene, you do have your Download and your Reading/Leeds. For this scene of music, the punkier/heavier scene, whatever you want to call it. It’s so essential, and just so important. Live music is so alive in the UK, we’ve seen live music around the world at this point, and we think that you guys are doing a really good job. If you can keep festivals like this around, then you guys will be just fine.
What else can we expect to see from With Confidence in 2017? We’ve got a few big tours that we are announcing really soon, and then at the end of the year we are going to try and get into the studio.
Interview with John and Callum
Can you tell us about the formation of Trophy Eyes? Callum: I guess it started about three and half years ago now, almost four. It was at the end of 2012. Most of the guys, apart from John, we all went to school together. So it was just like the high school bands formed into this band. Then we found John on Facebook, and then it all went from there.
John: They had something going on. Callum was going to sing, but he was the only one out of everyone who could play drums. So I did some New Found Glory covers with them, as a kind of audition I guess. I was worried, like “I don’t know if I’ll get the spot!” it was my first ever band too. Then they were like “alright, come back next week, and we’ll write some songs!” so I was like “Oh! I got in!”. That’s how it happened.
How did you get to the band name Trophy Eyes , and what does it mean to you? John: It means literally nothing. Callum: The name was a You Me At Six song name that I had in my iTunes. I was just going through one day trying to find different band names, because I heard that bands did that, so that was literally it! I remember getting a burnt CD for the song ‘Liquid Confidence’ from one of You Me At Six’s albums, and ‘Trophy Eyes’ was another song that was in there. But yeah it was just in my iTunes, so I wrote it down as a possibility, and we just went with it. We put it up on Facebook the next night, saying that we needed a band name. We took a vote, and we ended up with Trophy Eyes.
John: We had a whole bunch of names, and that was the one that we hated the least. We heard it originally, and we were like “nah!” and that was the end of that. Then we went to Early Days, Broadside (which is a band now), and then for some reason, we were recording our demo, and we still didn’t have a name. At one of our old producers place he had a white board, and we wrote all of the possible names on it, and we were like “okay, let’s just do Trophy Eyes.”
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Newcastle Australia? John: Apparently it was flourishing just before I moved there.Then when I showed up, it was just kind of dying off. With like the little success we had early on, it was very quick, so within the space of a month we changed from a local band to an interstate touring band. In Newcastle there was no where to play, everyone was doing it themselves. There would be people that liked hardcore, who worked in a pub, so they’d put on a show in a Hamilton pub, and we’d play there. There was only one real venue outside of high school that anyone could play, called the Cambridge, and it was still like a 800 cap room, so when you’ve only got only 30 people turning up, it’s hard. There were a couple of heavy bands that came out around the same time, like Rivalries, just a whole bunch of bands that came out of Newcastle that got noticed. Some have stopped, but we survived because we were the only ones who didn’t mind sleeping in the dirt.
Callum: There was a place in Newcastle called Hombre records it was a friend of mines, Mitch. That sort of helped kick things off, that really helped the Newcastle scene. It was like an old shop that he ripped the guts out off, it ended up helping a whole bunch. It was an awkward city to come out of. It all started when Hombre started going off, because that was like a good bridging size venue. After that, if you sold that out, then you can play the Cambridge. Etc. We made a conscious effort to not only play in Newcastle, as soon as we could we went interstate and to the other side of America.
Was there a moment when you felt like you were more than just an upcoming band? Callum: No it was kind of natural. I still feel like it’s like that. I guess there was a point where we got our first big tour, and that was a big deal, and then after that we got a label offer, that was a really big moment. Then after that it all sort of kicked off from there. But there was never really an actual point.
John: The jump from a local band happened within the space of a few months. We started writing, and people liked us. A booking agent said that if we can get a crowd out, then you can tour with Neck Deep, because they are going to come down, they were gaining a lot of traction at that time, and still are now, but then they were just starting to pick up. So they came down, and we got that tour. We were just jumping the steps that most little bands normally take. We were in the kitchen of a venue and our manager was like “hey Hopeless records wants to sign you!” and I was like “Wow, what do you mean?” I bit my hand! I was ecstatic. That was like a defining moment in knowing that we weren’t going to just be playing Newcastle any more. That changed things up.
How did you end up signing to Hopeless Records, and what are they like to work with? Callum: Nothing but good. They’re friendly, no pressure. We have total creative rights. But it’s also like, if you chat to them about the record, they’re not afraid to say “hey, why not try this then?” it’s creative input/ideas, from people that have been doing it for a long time. So we do put trust in them. It’s been great!
It must be crazy to be on the otherside of the world, and have people singing your songs? John: It’s pretty wild, it’s been pretty crazy. I remember when we first started I wanted to play there was a tiny venue in Newcastle called The Loft, we went there to watch a band before we had even played our first show, and I thought “I just want to get there, I want to play The Loft, and that’s it!” that was my goal. Now we’ve just played Slam Dunk, and there was however many people at the front singing along, it never gets old. It’s like wow, what’s going on!
Callum: Yeah, I thought that today was a little bit of a landmark. The first time in the UK that something of that magnitude happened. There’s been a couple of milestones this year.
You guys got to tour here before with Anti-Flag, so what was that like? Callum: They are a good bunch of dudes. It was a weird one for us in the sense that we’re a newer punk band, and they have people in the audience who are in their 50s with massive mohawks and massive boots. It was awkward. There was a lot of folded arms looking at us. They killed it every night. There were a couple of good shows, like Amsterdam. All of the shows in the UK sucked, they hated us. Italy was alright, a couple of good shows. Then we got to play a couple of our own headline shows after that. We went to Bratislava as well, and that was cool.
John: People were pretty cross with us. We went through Europe as well, and people were like “You’re not a real punk band” it’s Anti-Flag. We were calling ourselves a punk band as well. After the first show, watching them play, they were great, super tight, they had their show down, and were just super professional. It’s really great to watch. For us, it was incredibly awkward, I had a terrible time.
What did you learn the most from that tour? Callum: Don’t over estimate the amount of merch you are going to sell. We came here with Neck Deep before, and we were like “Yeah, we’re going to make $1000 a night on merch, or whatever” then we came here with Anti-Flag, and we sold two shirts. So that was kind of a big thing. We just couldn’t bridge their fan base. We were meant to be going to Scandinavia on the last week of that tour, but we had to cancel those dates and fly home. It wasn’t worth the gas money to drive there. We couldn’t do it. It was the middle of winter, and it was cold and depressing. That was the worst tour we’ve ever done, but it was a good growing experience. That’s the thing, we skipped a lot of steps, we always had good things, and then this happened.
John: By the end of that run, we found ourselves in Eastern Europe with not enough money to fly home. It was like “This sucks, I want to go home!”. I think what I learnt the most from that tour was, just because someone plays punk or just because we listen to that band, that it doesn’t mean their fans are going to like us. That was a big thing, if we were asked to tour with blink-182 now, I don’t know if that bridge would gap.
How would you describe ‘Chemical Miracle’ to someone who hasn’t picked it up yet? John: I would say it’s hard felt lyrics, with a rocky/slash poppy vibe. With some good high energy, passion. Better written songs than we did last time. Catchiness, we focused a lot on that, we didn’t want to sacrifice the substance of the song though. We don’t want to be like Justin Bieber. We wanted it to be like heartfelt, but at the same time it would have catchy hooks, and things that people can enjoy. Because not all punk rock has to be, fast beats, we just wanted to write music for everybody. I guess it’s getting that way, it’s not quite for everybody yet, parents, and some people that don’t like yelling. I mean, I got called a screeching owl on twitter the other day, so for people that don’t like owls, don’t listen to us.
‘Breathe You In’ was recorded while you were on the road with Anti-Flag, can you tell us about that? John: It was changed many times, the initial idea of the lyrics that I wrote. I was walking around, and I had had too many drinks. It was cold. The tour was quite unsuccessful for us, we were all kind of down emotionally. We had already been touring a lot that year, so it was a hard slog. I was ready to go home, and I was lonely, I just met my girlfriend a little while before that. I met her on Warped, and it was the next tour after that. I hadn’t seen her in like four months, and it was going to be two more before I’d see her again. I was pretty lost, really down. I was in Newcastle, and all these bars were closed, closing up. I was knocking on the door, asking if I could have a coffee, and they’d be like “No”. I just couldn’t drink another beer at that point, I was going to lose my mind, I was in a dark spot. I guess that’s helped, me, and when I feel empty, there’s something wrong with me, those lyrics are about that initial time. Walking up and down the channel in Newcastle. After that it was good, I saw her. It was nice. We’re still a happy couple! It’s a nice ending.
How did you end up working with Shane Edwards? Callum: He is the key part. He is like the sixth member of Trophy Eyes before anything else. He is pretty much part of the band. We went to him with a bunch of skeleton and half written songs, and he just made it what it is. He didn’t just press buttons on the record, he helped write it, finish it all off. He got the best out of it. Everything else we do is a vote I guess. There’s five of us, so three out of two would win, but that all went away, and now we just try what Shane says. Even if all five of us loved it, we’d be like “What do you think Shane?” and if he says “No, that’s rubbish!” then we’d change it.
John: He is also like emotionally invested. I’d call him one of my best friends. To think that like, you get to go there with these fresh ears, he hasn’t heard the record yet, and he’s like “Wow, yes!” There’s a bunch of things to add on to, change around. With our first record ‘Mend, Move On’, it was difficult, we butted heads a lot, like “this needs to be different” “we like it that way” etc. Then the next time, we were like “Shane has been doing this a long time, let’s trust the professional”. We went down, gave him the songs, and he was like “you should do this” and we just said “okay”. It worked. He gave us a phenomenal record. I don’t think I would of liked it as much as I do, with anyone else. I feel like anybody else would have been like “give me your cash, I’ll record it, cya later.” Shane would get the best take out of you. He’s a perfectionist. We challenged him one time with this riff, and it was so simple, it was like a hammer off riff. Shane said “That sounds rubbish!”, but we were trying to be as diplomatic as possible, like, we really liked it, let’s do it this way. He said “okay!” and he sat there with his hands over his eyes. We were playing it, and he was like “NO”, and he hit the space bar, “I can’t do it, it’s just going to ruin the record!”, and we were like “alright!” we trusted him, as he felt that strongly about it. It was as much his, as it is ours.
Looking back on 'Mend, Move On', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it has done for the representation of Trophy Eyes? Callum: It’s got us to the point where we can release the next album in the hopes that everyone will forget about that record. It got us on a platform to be like “here’s a good record!” there are some alright songs on it, and we still play a song or two from it when we can. Because there are people that like it more than others. It was a good stepping stone.
John: It has always kind of been our thing to say that we don’t want to be a pop punk band, or a hardcore band. We just want to play this weird mix of everything we like. Everyone listens to different stuff. For each individual song it has an influence from everybody coming in at a different angle saying “We should try this”. That record was supposed to be a mashup. When it came out, we were disappointed with the song writing, it wasn’t what we were aiming for. But it was still great, and it still got us far enough. It let us keep touring, it got us onto Warped Tour. It gave our listeners something to listen to while we were still touring. It was a good bridge. I think now, ‘Chemical Miracle’ is what ‘Mend, Move On’ was supposed to me. We learnt a lot from that record.
What else can we expect to see from Trophy Eyes in 2017? Callum: We are going to do the whole of the Warped Tour, we’ve got a bandwagon this time, so we’ve got air conditioning! Then a headline tour back in Australia, play a bunch of festivals, and then try and get back to America at the end of the year. Then we’ll probably wrap it up, and go in to record another record.
What bands really influenced you in the early days of finding your sound? Personally, I don’t think we’ve found our sound yet. We tried to avoid taking any direct influence from any artists, as we never want to be a regurgitation of another band/second best. However, my musical influences heavily lie in early 00’s rap/ nu metal. Cypress Hill / Limp Bizkit / Linkin Park / Rage against the Machine etc.
How did your recent tour with Trivium go, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? The whole six weeks were one big blur of highlights really. Every night we got better and better and as I mentioned earlier, it literally transformed this band. My personal favourite shows have to be the countries less travelled on EU tours, such as Italy / Spain. Milan & Madrid especially were wild. We can’t wait to go back there. Other than that, Ryan falling backwards & headfirst down the stairs of the bus into a pile of sick was an interesting one… Dark, but very memorable.
Looking back on 'Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair.' how happy have you been with the response to the record so far, and what do you think it has done for representation of SHVPES? It’s been great! Due to our touring cycle since, it’s been a bit of a slow burner to catch on with people. It feels like we’re only starting to really see the impact it’s had on people now. I suppose we were a pretty small band when we released it 6/7 months ago. We’ve now been to Europe twice, toured the UK multiple times & our music is starting to reach new audiences and we’re getting all the feedback that we never really had a great deal of when we initially released it. People are turning up in countries we’re visiting for the first time with CD’s to sign, a few people have got the artwork tattooed. It’s really starting to kick off now, which is incredible! The thing I love about that record is that it doesn’t in anyway define us. We can take this next record in so many different directions, so I think it did exactly what it needed to do as our debut.
What songs are you still really enjoying performing live from 'Pain. Joy. Ecstasy. Despair.', and why?
Two Minutes of Hate’ & ‘False Teeth’ are my favourites in the set. ‘False Teeth’ because it’s so quick/ rappy and is usually the song we open with, so I normally have the most energy for that track! ‘Two Minutes’ is usually just the odd one out of the set, it’s a bit slower in parts and each instrument plays a really pivotal role in the music. It also seems to be a crowd favourite.
Can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind your latest track to be released 'False Teeth'? ‘False Teeth’ is basically a song that’s laughing in the face of the internet generation. The people that are hellbent on up keeping/ creating this online facade like they’ve never seen a drop of rain, stepped in dog shit or been knocked back & all they do is drink refined basil for breakfast and Interview with Griff snort kale through this orofis you wouldn’t even know about yet because you haven’t reached the next level of instagram based meme -spirituality.
How excited are you for your upcoming slot at 2000 Trees Festival, and what can attending fans expect? We’re going to bring the party. You’ve just got to be there. I’ve heard about 2000 Trees for a while now, so we’re very excited to come and see what it’s all about.
How important do you think festivals like 2000 Trees are to the UK? Where radio & major mainstream events throughout the UK fail, is where festivals like 2000 Trees, Slam Dunk, Download etc. really are important. There’s an entire segment of the music industry and resulting culture that is not being catered for by the mainstream events. So without festivals such as these, there would be nowhere for these communities to hang out and ultimately, exist.
What else can we expect to see from SHVPES in 2017? We head back out to Europe in a few days time for some of the biggest festivals we’ve ever played. Then we head out on tour with While She Sleeps / Northlane to Eastern Europe / Germany for a bit - that should be insane! We’ve got a few more UK festivals coming up for the rest of the year, including 2000 Trees Festival, but other than that we’re writing our second album.
Interview with Kenta and Hiroki
Can you tell us about the formation of Crossfaith? Kenta: We started this band in 2006, Kazuki, Terufumi and I were in another band. Which was like a nu-metal band, we covered Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, and we made a couple of original songs. We broke up when I was a high school student. I still wanted to sing in a band, and I loved metal music as well. Then, I was trying to find a drummer, which I guess is the most important for a metal band. In high school I found Tatso, he was a new student. I was asking him to come to our studio, to rehearse. My boys loved him, so then we picked him up, that’s how we started Crossfaith.
Hiroki: I was just a big fan of them, we were from the same town. I used to go to their shows a lot. At our bands fair well show, finding out that they were going to play together, I was really happy, and after the show I hung out with them. I gave them my contact, then I got called one month later. They brought me to their home town, I went there, it was the first time riding on a different train at like 17-18, and I went to their house and partied. The next morning they brought us to McDonalds, and they asked me “Hey do you want to join Crossfaith?” and I was like “Yes!”
It must of been emotional to end a band, and then join another?! Hrioki: It’s crazy, I felt at the time that I couldn’t be in the band any more, I was thinking about going to be a graphic designer or something, but I quit that, for them, and I’m here now!
How did you originally get to the band name Crossfaith, and what does it mean to you? Kenta: Every person in Crossfaith has their own faith for their music, lifestyle, everything. They are crossing. Hrioki: In this metal scene, everyone in the band has the same style. Some people love it, but it should be more about having your own style, in the band. Everyone should find inspiration from each other. That’s Crossfaith!
When did you first realize that you were going to be a career lasting band? Kenta: It was probably at this Japense metal festival we did back in 2009. That was the first festival experience for us as Crossfaith. At the time we were going to sign with Sony music as well. That was definitely a turning point for us.
Hiroki: It’s the biggest metal festival in Japan. We were kind of the opener for it. Before we came onto the stage, we checked and there was like 50-100 people, but then when we came on there was over 10,000 people! I couldn’t see the crowd from the lighting, but that was the first time I felt like that. It was blowing my mind. I loved it.
What does it take for a Japanese band to make it over here in the UK? Hiroki: I feel like there are only a few bands that are trying to make it outside of Japan. In Japan we always have the same question from the interviewer, like “Why did you guys decide to get out of Japan?” For us, it was normal. When we grew up, we were watching Green Day & The Used touring DVDs, they are touring around the world. So for us, to do that, is just normal.
Will you ever bring some Japanese bands over here? Hiroki: Maybe, that depends on them! We do what we want, but if they want we will bring them. Kenta: I’d love to bring some Japense bands to this country and the rest of Europe. We have so many good Japanese bands in Japan. It is hard, and it’s going to take a lot of money as well. But if they want to!
Touring wise, what else are you up to this year? Kenta: We go back to Japan after this. We get one day off, then the next day we go back to Osaka, and then have a couple of shows in Tokyo, tour tour tour. Then it’s off to Australia with In Hearts Wake, While She Sleeps, then back to LA. So much stuff is going on!
Looking back on ‘Xeno’, how happy are you with this record still? Kenta: Before we wrote it, I was thinking that Crossfaith was about to lose control. Losing the balance. Because we had a bad time, and Kazuki suffered a haemorrhage. Then, before working with David Bendeth wasn’t that good for us. Crossfaith was also on a turning point from older Crossfaith to the new Crossfaith. Everyone was very sensitive with each other. ‘Xeno’ binded us again. That’s why we love ‘Xeno’. The general message of ‘Xeno’ is that human is always alone. If you have your friends around you, you are still always alone. It’s kind of hard to explain. I was just describing about human from my view.
What can we expect from the next Crossfaith release? Kenta: This time it just sounds so different from ‘Xeno’. It sounds very bright. It’s very different. The writing process has stayed the same, the main songwriter will bring the riff or the shape of the song, and we bring our own part as well. It’s slightly different on every album, but there’s no big sounding point.
What else can we expect to see from Crossfaith in 2017? Kenta: A new release, and touring!
Interview with Chris
Can you tell us a bit about the formation of Motionless In White? In 2017, this band has reached its 11th year of being a band. We started when we were in high school, but I am the only original member left. We originally started out by just playing together in our garages and playing cover songs, but after a year of that we decided to change the band name to Motionless In White and start writing original music. It was a simple story of friends from school all wanting to get together and play music for fun, and there became a passion to create and tour.
How did you get to the name Motionless In White, and what does it mean to you? The name is derived from a song title called ‘Motionless And White’ by one of our favourite bands called Eighteen Visions. When we started out, they were a really influential band for us in the way they sounded and in the way that they looked. We were trying to find a solid band name and we loved that song of theirs, so we changed one word of it and it became our name. I’m so happy that it remained our name through our career because Eighteen Visions are just a massive influence for us.
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Scranton, Pennsylvania? It was a really pleasant experience because our local scene was so gigantic. There were shows every weekend. It was always friends hanging out with friends and the same bands played at a different venue every weekend. It was family. We weren’t the most beloved band from our area, but we pushed past it and we are sadly the only ones left from those early days. There was a lot of great talent and friendship for a lot of years, and that helped us build a solid foundation for the band.
Was there a particular moment when you realized that you were going to be a career lasting band? I think when we signed our first record deal with Fearless Records it felt like it COULD BE a career as long as we were willing to put the time and energy into it. There's never been a “we made it!” moment, but there have been a lot of times that have helped motivate us and keep us working hard and feeling like what we’re doing is right.
How did you end up joining Roadrunner Records, and what have they been like to work with so far? When it came time to sign with a new label, they expressed interest pretty early on. They were the label that we’ve always wanted to be signed to and it’s been incredible so far. They have been very encouraging that we keep being the band that we want to be. They haven’t tried to change the band in any way, and that's been the most important part for us. They are very professional and insightful and have helped the band reach a lot of new fans and it hasn’t even been a year with them yet.
So how did you get to the album title 'Graveyard Shift', and what does it mean to you? The title represents what we are most proud of about our band. Our 'work hard' mentality and overall work ethic. We have made this band a 24/7, 365 days a week commitment for 11 years now and we are very proud of where we’ve come from and the things we’ve accomplished together.
Can you elaborate on some of the main themes and influences that run throughout 'Graveyard Shift'? There are a few songs that stray away from the overall themes. Songs that were meant to just be fun and entertaining tracks. But the songs that all work together and follow a theme are songs that revolve about life in general. Things that we all experience throughout our lifetimes. Things that really mean a lot to me that I have a musical outlet to speak about. Relationships, my observations on the world overall, individuality and being the underdog.
How did you end up working with WZRD BLD, and how did he shape the album? He and I have collaborated in the past on albums and he has a really great understanding of what Motionless In White is. I wanted a chance to work on a full album with him and see how far we could push each other to be better and help each other grow. It was such a great experience, because there was total freedom to explore every option we were faced with and really take our time to decide what felt best. He is a great producer and I already know that I want to work with him on the next album.
'Eternally Yours' has fan-designed single artwork. So how did this idea come about, and how rewarding was this process for you guys? We generally try to include fans in some process of every album, and this time we decided we wanted them to submit artwork that could potentially be used for the cover of the album. The 'Eternally Yours' artwork was a submission for 'Graveyard Shift' that we loved, but didnâ€™t think was right for the album sleeve, but felt great for that particular song. So that's why we used it. It was really cool to see all the submissions and was a pretty complicated process to pick just one as the winner.
How did the music video idea for '570' come together, and can you tell us a bit about what it was like to put together? We wanted to have a video that was a visual representation of what our early days were like. The song is about the early days of the bands career, and the video reminds us of the shows we played on the floors of venues with people surrounding us. The really intimate, sweaty, emotional shows that live in my memory just as clear today as they did years and years ago. Itâ€™s about the closeness that I feel we share with our fans.
How did Jonathan Davis end up joining you for the track 'Necessary Evil', and can you tell us about what he was like to work with? It was as simple as this. I just reached out and asked if he was interested in doing it. I didn’t think he would be, but I just wanted to ask anyway. Korn has been such an influential band for MIW and it’s always been a dream to have him on one of our tracks. He was super easy to work with, I just sent him a list of the vocals and I left it open for him to do and he chose the parts he felt comfortable with. I was blown away when I heard it for the first time.
Looking back on 'Creatures' what do you remember the most about putting the record together, and how would you say it compares to anything else Motionless In White have done? The biggest difference was that we were so inexperienced and everything was in that “new and exciting” phase, but was also stressful because we'd never done a full record with a producer we didn’t know. It was a huge learning experience. One of my favourite memories is when I stepped up to the mic for the first time to start tracking vocals, and then Andrew Wade (our producer) played it back for me and and I heard every one in the band in the next room talking about how awesome it sounded. It filled me with confidence and I think my vocal performances on that album were stronger because everyone seemed to enjoy what I was doing.
What else can we expect to see from Motionless In White in 2017? We’re going to be touring nonstop for likely the next 2 years. I know we’re going to push for a few more music videos and for a few headliners across the globe, so that's our top priority.
Interview with Jesse So how did you get to the album title 'The Phoenix', and what does it mean to you? It’s a desert bird that dies and gets reborn from the ashes of its predecessor, and that’s basically the vibe we felt while making this album while in the middle of the desert.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout 'The Phoenix'? Battling one’s inner demons, the beauty of revenge, enemies, friends, all the necessary ingredients to create a proper rock n’ roll album.
You've said that this album is a direct follow up to 'Infiltrate•Destroy•Rebuild', so can you elaborate on that, as well as maybe musically what fans can expect from the record? The last two records, we wrote a lot of the material in the studio which we have learned is not the best way to do things. This album is more like ‘Vol 1’ and ‘IDR’ in the respect that we had all the songs ready to go before we recorded them.
What has it been like for Chad I Ginsburg to take on lead vocals, and what has this brought to the 'The Phoenix'? Chad is the catâ€™s pyjamas regarding anything music, and as a record producer heâ€™s like George Martin, Quincy Jones and Phil Spector rolled into one. Except he never went to prison for murder as far as I know.
You got to work on a couple of tracks in Abbey Road right? So can you tell us a bit about your experience there, as well as what you enjoyed the most about it? Abbey Road only had a small window of available days, so we went with Rancho De La Luna, which is like the Abbey Road of the desert!
How did you end up working with Brent Hinds on the track 'Days of Self Destruction', and how would you say he helped shape the song? Brent is one of the coolest motherfuckers in rock and roll, how could we not have him play on the record? He helped the song by melting my face off trading bars with Chad!
What was it like to work with Daniel Davies, and will that material ever be released? I would love for it to be released eventually, under a different name, who knows.
How did the front cover for 'The Phoenix' come together, and can you tell us a bit about what it means to you? Our good friend Adam Wallacavage is a very talented sculptor, he has made quite a name for himself. He really dug the album and offered to sculpt a Phoenix for us even though I would never be able to afford any of his work ever.
In reference to an earlier question, Looking back on 'Infiltrate•Destroy•Rebuild' how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it has done for the representation of CKY? It’s a great record that has stood the test of time, after 15 years of performing it live I still like playing it.
What else can we expect to see from CKY in 2017? We will be playing shows everywhere all over the world, I hope to see you there.
How did your recent performance at Slam Dunk Festival go, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time at the event? Slam Dunk was incredible! I haven't seen that sort of reaction since the early 2000's. There was an electricity about the shows that weren't just nostalgia they were younger kids that have never seen my band. My favorite moment was in Leeds when we had 8,000 kids jumping all together like it was Reading festival, 2002.
How important do you think festivals like Slam Dunk are to the UK? When I think of the UK, I think of festivals! I remember the first time I played the Leeds festival in 1998. There were people that had been up for three days straight! People had passed out and duct taped cases of beer to their arms! I've never seen anything like it in my life. It was incredible. We had NOTHING like it in the states. All the different styles of music. Foo Fighters, The Prodigy, the Cardigans, Goldfinger. It was epic.
What made you want to release 'Put The Knife Away' first, and can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind the track? ‘Put the Knife Away’ was the song Craig Ericson at Rise records picked as the first single. It was a song I wrote about being in a long-term relationship when it's in a downcycle. “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?” That is the question I always ask myself when I get in a fight with my wife. The truth is I want to be both ha! But it really is a song about picking your battles, and surviving the good and the bad stuff!
You've said that you've made the most "concise" Goldfinger record to date, so can you elaborate on that, as well as how you think it compares to anything else you've done before? 23 years into Goldfinger's career I have a pretty good idea of who we are. We've made a punk rock album, a rock album, a covers album, a ska album. So with this album I really wanted to do what I know goes over well live (the punk rock and ska songs) and what I know people think Goldfinger is. I needed to write some songs for myself (’Milla’/’Orthodontist Girl’/’Million Miles’) and I recorded the bulk of the album around the same time. We had one man mix the whole record (Zakk Cervini) in a week. This was also the first record I had no interference from a record label or management for band members that I butted heads with. It was really my vision from the beginning.
How did the current formation of Goldfinger come together for the recording process to 'The Knife', and can you tell us a bit about what Travis, Mike and Phil have been like to work with?
Travis Barker is the best drummer of all time. It was an incredible joy to work with him, he would listen to the song a couple times and then just go do his thing. He brought so many of the songs to life in ways I could've never imagine. Mike Herrera is quite possibly the most handsome and nicest man I have ever met. He's an incredible bass player and an incredible singer. He brought his own Pacific Northwest style to this album. Phil Sneed is one of my oldest and dearest friends and quite possibly one of the best singers I have ever worked with. He is in a plethora of amazing bands and I've always wanted to play music with him since the nterview with John day we met. We both like the Police as much as each other, they are my favorite band so we get along amazing!
There are some great special guests on this record, including Mark Hoppus, Nick Hexum, Nate Albert, Josh Dun. So can you tell us about how maybe one or two of the collaborations for the record came about, as well as how you think these guests have helped shape the record? Mark Hoppus and I have a really unique relationship. I've known him for a long time and he is arguably the smartest man I know, the most well read and well spoken. I really wanted to collaborate with him on a song I wrote called ‘See You Around’. I wrote it about the post punk era of music (The Replacements specifically). I knew this was an era of music that had a soft spot in Mark's heart. My friend Caleb from Beartooth turned me on to twentyone pilots before they were signed. We became fast friends and Josh and I have stayed in touch through the years I really loved recording Josh on drums, he's one of my favorite people in the world! I had just produced a few songs for the new 311 album and Nick Hexum has been a long time friend of mine. We toured together back in 1987. I had always wanted him to sing on one of my songs because he has such a unique voice and is such an awesome guy. I have always loved Nate Albert back in the day and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Goldfinger played shows together. Those guys were always so nice to me, he hit me up and said he wanted to write a song so we came up with something that I think is incredible!
How did you get to the album title 'The Knife', and what does it mean to you? Like the cover art on the album a lot of times I feel like I am ready to apologize and my wife still wants to keep going. Partly about being in a long-term relationship and also partly about losing business relationships and old friends due to money or miscommunication or unreturned phone calls etc. etc. The cover was a T-shirt design a friend of mine did that I used to sell shoes with that had the same idea behind it back in 1994. I always loved the idea of the cover art but we were never able to use it in the past. I love it!
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes and influences that run throughout the album? ‘A Million Miles’ is talking about where do I belong in music in 2017. Where does this style of punk rock fit in. ‘Get What I Need’ is a nostalgic storytelling journey of me growing up in the bay area in the 80s. ‘Tijuana Sunrise’ is about my old drinking days down in Mexico and all the trouble I got in and the near misses that could have really destroyed me. ‘Beacon’ is a song I wrote about seeking out the meaning of life. ‘Don't Let Me Go’ came together over a bass riff I had written, and that one could be my favorite song on the album. ‘Say It Out Loud’ came about because I really wanted to do something like the Jam 'A Town Called Malice', like a 60s dance track, and this is what I came up with!
It's been twenty years since the release of 'Hang-Ups'. So what do you remember the most about putting it together, and how would you say it compares to anything else you guys have done? ‘Hangups’ was my tribute to the Beatles to a certain extent, I had written both ‘Question’ and ‘Superman’ as one song. It was a big concept song. Tony Hawk requested a song for a skateboarding video game so we recorded ‘Superman’ as one song because we couldn't give him an eight minute concept song! That ended up being the first song on the album. Aaron from Reel Big Fish is singing all the harmonies on that one. I really wanted to make an album that recognized my roots in Jamaican music. ‘Carlita’, ‘Chris Cayton’, ‘Superman’, ‘This Lonely Place’ and ‘I Need To Know’ were all in that direction.
What video game would you want one of your new tracks to be on from 'The Knife', and why? Anything related to Clash Of Clans or Clash Royale because that's all my son plays!
What do you remember the most from the first time you ever toured in the UK? The first time we toured the UK we were opening for the Bloodhound Gang. I remember it was 1997 and the audience was average and then we played ‘Superman’ and everyone went crazy. I realized the power of video game music! I also became addicted to sparkling water in the UK because the first tour I did they didn't have flat water and I was so thirsty from the jet lag I drank so much sparkling water and now it's all I drink!
What else can we expect to see from Goldfinger in 2017? I am really hoping to tour a bunch this year. We have East Coast dates and a bunch of Midwest dates as well, I know we are going to do a headlining West Coast tour as well!
Interview with Matty
Touring wise, what have you been up to this year? 2017 has been great so far! We did a headline tour & brought out Bless The Fall, The Color Morale, Sylar, & Bad Seed Rising! All the shows were awesome but the Tampa, FL show might have been the most insane show we've ever played.
Looking back on 'This Light I Hold', how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it has done for the representation of Memphis May Fire? We are still SO excited about the release of TLIH! This record was a big step forward for us as a band & definitely a representation of the direction we're headed. We just dropped a video for â€˜Wanting Moreâ€™ & we have two more videos on the way!
What songs are you still enjoying performing live from 'This Light I Hold' at the moment and why? The title track & ‘Carry On’ are so much fun to play! We just added ‘That's Just Life’ to the set as well & the response has been great!
What do you want the listener to take from listening to 'This Light I Hold'? TLIH is all about being honest about the season that we're in & standing up for who we are & what we believe. I hope our listeners find hope & inspiration when listening to the record!
How did the music video for 'Wanting More' come together, and can you tell us a bit about the meaning behind the track? The ‘Wanting More’ video was directed by Bryson Roatch. We shot the video while we were on tour so we had a lot of one on one time to discuss the concept. The song is about how greed can eat away at our souls & take our eyes off of what matters most. The video starts out with us having been consumed by money, power, lust, etc... then halfway through the song we realize what we've become, so we strip off the layers of ego & guilt & return to our roots for an epic garage performance.
How would you say the sound of Memphis May Fire has grown/changed since you first started out? We are always evolving with age & experience. Our taste in music changes over time as well. TLIH is definitely more "rock" driven than our previous records & so much more mature all around.
How excited are you to be on Warped Tour this year, and for us in the UK, can you tell us a little bit about what this tour is like? This will be our 4th time on Warped Tour! There's no better American summer tour for a band like us so we are always excited to play it. Warped Tour brings such an eclectic vibe to the festival world because there are so many different types of bands & fans! The days are long & hot, but they are some of the best days of our lives!
Leading on from that, how would you say performing in the UK compares to anywhere else in the world? The UK is so unique! We've been all over the world & never experienced another culture quite like it. We love the people, the food, & the shows so much that we consider the UK to be a 2nd home for us.
Also, can you give us one or two of your personal highlights from performing in the UK over the years? Koko in London is one of my favorite venues in the entire world! We've played two headlining shows there & both times have been magical to say the least.
What else can we expect to see from Memphis May Fire in 2017? Lots of touring! And we might have even recorded a new song!
Interview with Levi
How did your recent European tour go, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road? The last tour in Europe was amazing! We haven’t been back to Europe in quite some time and coming back on a new album felt great. We were nervous at first but the first day fans were singing along to the new album and that set the tone for the tour! Impericon Fest in Leipzig was for sure the biggest highlight because there was twelve thousand people and Parkway Drive headlined which is a band favorite of ours.
How did you end up joining Sharptone Records, and can you tell us a bit about what they've been like to work with so far? Sharptone has been amazing! We really wanted something new and fresh and Sharptone are such a young label that they are as hungry as we are which felt great because we are usually the weird ones with crazy ideas but now we are both on the same page with crazy ambitious ideas.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Shadows Inside', and what does it mean to you? The title ‘Shadows Inside’ stands for your past. The entire record is about the changes and the past Miss May I has behind us and we are showing our shadows we have inside by doing that. Everyone has a past and a shadow whether it is positive or not it is inevitable.
Can you elaborate on some of the other main themes on 'Shadows Inside’? A new theme on ‘Shadows Inside’ that we have never really touched base on was self-doubt. We were really taken advantage of in the last five years and it made us stop believing in ourselves which we knew was wrong. But that self-doubt is not easy to go away when you live with it every day. Going into this record I wanted to really address and show people it’s not all butterflies and ambition all the time and that there is inner struggles that are inside of us.
How did the music video for 'Lost In The Grey' come together? The music video is about a child losing hope (being in the grey) and then finding that hope within the lion mask aka the band Miss May I. Once he finds the mask he carries it with him throughout his life and finds others who have also found Miss May I.
How would you say the sound of the band has grown/changed since the release of 'Deathless’? The biggest change was our honesty. This record had a lot of time put into it and with that we really opened up in a way we have never done in the past. I had a lot more time to work on the vocals personally and focused on every little detail making sure everything was perfect and felt honest.
How did you end up working with Drew Fulk & Nick Sampson for 'Shadows Inside', and how would you say they helped shape the album? Drew was our first vocal producer we have ever worked with. We really wanted to take this record to a higher level our band has not reached yet. We wanted to have the best of the best for both departments of the record. Knowing Nick from our last record ‘Deathless’ we knew he was the best person to produce the instruments and knew where we were as a band and where we wanted to go. Both of them combined made these songs the most ambitious songs in our whole career.
We've read that you "challenged each other to work from outside of their comfort zone." So can you elaborate on that, as well as how the creative process compares on this album to anything you've done before? There was a lot of parts in past Miss May I records that never saw the light of day because we thought it was too far and not safe at the time. When going into tracking I explained that to Drew and he told us not to delete those parts but showed us that those parts are special and actually the key to great songs! So we really put ourselves in a mindset of being dare devils when we wrote and it was somewhat uncomfortable but brought out the best in us.
What was the hardest part about putting 'Shadows Inside' together for you, and why? The hardest part of this record was being satellite from the rest of the guys. The entire album was written over email for the guys and I. I never got to see the guys until the entire record was finished and that was very difficult for us but we thankfully pulled together and made it work.
Also, looking back on 'Deathless' how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it has done for the representation of Miss May I? We love ‘Deathless’ and we are so thankful we got to document that time in our lives the way we did. That was probably the darkest time for us and getting that off of our chest on that record was really important for us and showed us a whole new side of ourselves. Plus it’s the heaviest Miss May I album \m/
What else can we expect to see from Miss May I in 2017? Miss May I really wants to bring a show to our fans this year. Not just the normal Miss May I performance but an actual show and the experience that ‘Shadows Inside’ is made for. We are taking a lot of time building something special for our fans and we cannot wait to show it to the world!
Interview with Matt
Can you tell us about the formation of Dropkick Murphys? Four guys in a barbershop cellar trying to do Clash, SLF, and Generation X covers, and carving out a pretty unique sound while they were at it. We love early Boston hardcore, the Pogues and Dubliners, ’77 American, UK and Irish punk, the early Oi! stuff, AC/DC, the Macc Lads, classic rock, stuff like the Clancy Brothers and Wolfetones, and so many others, and I think somehow all those influences are audible on any Dropkicks record in one capacity or another. Our early output was described as the “Pogues beating the crap out of the Ramones” or something like that. That sort of describes some of our more rudimentary songs, which are usually the most popular, haha.
How did you get to the band name Dropkick Murphys, and what does it mean to you? John “Dropkick” Murphy was a football player, pro wrestler, and boxing coach, who in his later years opened a notorious and primitive detox clinic for booze bags of every social and economic stripe. Early methods of combatting the DT’s were strapping a fellow down to a bed and giving him horse tranquilizers. The stories of this joint became infamous and passed into local legend and folklore. Parents would warn kids, “don’t let me catch you drinking again, or we’re going to throw you in Dropkick Murphy’s place!” A few years back we met a fellow who was checked into Mr. Murphy’s clinic (on a farm in Central Mass at the time), and the story of his time there inspired the song ‘The Sunshine Highway’, which was the road littered with broken booze bottles that led to Dropkick’s clinic.
Can you tell us about some of the main themes and influences that run throughout '11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory'? The Pain: opiate addiction, adversity, love lost, and the bombing at the Boston Marathon in 2013. The Glory: childhood shenanigans and gratitude, memories.
Can you tell us about your work with The Claddagh Fund? Well the Claddagh Fund (claddaghfund.org) is our charity. It raises money through the generosity of our supporters and others to help children’s charities, drug and alcohol recovery programs, and programs for returning veterans. Proceeds from our tours go to it, and we often hold events and fundraisers. Ken (the founder of the band) had the idea and spearheads it.
How did you end up working with Ted Hutt? We liked some of his prior work, and asked him if he’d be down to do it. We met up with him while touring in Southern California, and we knew we would click. He has the uncanny ability, through a subtle blend of psychology and extreme violence, to get the absolute best out of each and every one of us. He’d push us to explore different ideas both lyrically and musically, steering the ship while letting us do our thing.
What made you want to cover 'You'll Never Walk Alone' and can you tell us a bit about what we can expect from the Dropkick Murphys approach to it? First and foremost, it’s a great song, and we love and respect the bands of the past. Second, over the last few years, pretty much everybody in the band has been touched by the opiate crisis here in New England, whether it be a friend or a family member. We’ve witnessed lives going down the drain, and often lives lost. The song’s lyrics seemed to have a theme of hope that we could relate to— and that we believe those going through the horrors of addiction can find strength. Musically, our version is a beefy, hard-edged take on the original.
What kind of changes have you seen in Boston since the marathon Bombing, and also what was it like put the song '4-15-13' together? I’ve seen people get on with their lives and not let terrorism or the threat thereof ruin their lives. The people of Boston are made from hearty stuff, which you can see four years after those horrors were perpetrated on our Town. The song was tricky. We wanted neither to play on people’s then still-raw emotions by making a ballad, a la “Forever”, nor did we want to seem disrespectful by writing a fired-up, high-energy number. I think the result, ‘4-15-13’ shows restrained power, dignity, and pride, so I for one am proud of how it turned out.
It's been ten years since the release of 'The Meanest of Times'! So looking back on the album, what do you remember the most about putting it together, and how would you say it compares to anything else you've done? CRIKEY!!! Wow, that is insane. It certainly doesn’t SEEM like a decade. It came out soon after we’d toured the UK and Ireland with the Pogues and had had the pleasure of meeting the late Ronny Drew. Both he and Spider Stacey (of the Pogues) did guest vocals on ‘(F)lannigan’s Ball’, so that was very exciting. I believe that it was Mr. Drew’s final vocal recording. Also, we were in our old practice space, which we divided into a “music” room and a “lyric” room (the “war room”). The space was awful, and spending twelve or so hours a day in there was pretty nasty. Looking back on it, we wrote some really fun songs, songs we still play ten years later, so we must have done SOMETHING right! Four to six of those songs typically feature in a setlist on any given night, so people seem to dig ‘em!
What else can we expect to see from Dropkick Murphys in 2017? Well we’re off to Europe in a couple weeks for festivals, and soon thereafter we have a U.S. co-headlining tour with Rancid and some great opening bands. After that I think we’ll continue writing for a new album. Keep your eyes open though, because we may have a couple cool tricks up our sleeves!
Interview with Jenna and Whakaio
What was it like to be an upcoming band in Sydney Australia? Jenna: It was fun, there were heaps of us. There were so many bands at the time. Every Thursday, Friday, Saturday it felt like there were gigs on. They would have six bands per night, maybe more. There were so many council events, like fairs and festivals. Just small club shows. They were all under-age, so there were no issues when it came to who could go to the show. There were even bands that had lines outside of the venue into the street just to get in. Because there was such a demand for the music. We were the only female fronted band at the time, there were a couple, but not within our immediate scene. We were kind of outcasts, but we loved what we did. We were supporting hardcore bands all of the time, metal bands. There were just boys everywhere, no girls. It was a strange beginning, but we donâ€™t know anything different.
Whakaio: Thatâ€™s where we get our live show from I guess. Because we had to compete with these headbanging bands.
Was there a particular changing point, where you realized that you were going to be more than just an upcoming band? Jenna: We wanted to be, that was the plan from the beginning. We wanted to be an international touring band. We were like “we have to go to America”. All of our favorite bands were from America, so we knew we were going to do everything for as long as possible, to the furthest kind of extreme.
Whakaio: When we were youthful, I guess we just never thought that it wouldn’t work. There was never a backup plan in our mind. We were just the band that wanted to do it. We were so involved with everything, and it was all so encompassing. It’s different now, as we get older. At the time, I just remember loving it all. Really enjoying everything that we were doing. We were having so much fun, and it seemed to be growing, because we were just doing it with our best friends. I know that sounds cliché, but like the band probably wouldn’t be together, if we weren’t such great friends. From all the things that have happened to us, and all of the things that we have gone through. The fact remains that we still have that rock that is Tonight Alive!
What was it like to tour in the UK for the first time ever? Whakaio: The UK has been so fantastic to us. It was really the first territory to take us under its wing, and really back the band. Even in Australia we still don’t really have that. In the UK, like Kerrang! Really got on board straight away the first time we came over. So it felt like a second home. We came over like three or four times a year for a couple of years. We just absolutely love it here. We just think that you guys do rock music right. All your bands are so good, it’s so nice. With British and Australian people it’s the same kind of humour. Americans are really quite different. We really feel at home here.
How did your recent tour go with You Me At Six, and can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your time on the road with them? Jenna: Epic! Like half of enjoying a tour is what goes on behind backstage. What goes on onstage is defiantly a part of it, but when you are all friends. It fills your heart. It’s just nice that you can go in and out of each other’s room, and eat together. Eating together is a big thing, that’s what families do. So if you’re having meals together for lunch and dinner, and you’re sitting at a table chatting about what’s going on in your life. Then you go to work together. You go and play this show, hang out after. It’s fun, kind of like being in a dorm room. There’s this good moral, and community feeling on tour. Like The Breakfast Club! We are not going to wait until a week in to introduce ourselves.
Whakaio: It doesn’t take that awkward week or two, trying to get to know someone. We’ve done a bunch of stuff with the You Me At Six guys, and I count them as my friends. They are just such great guys. We are pretty open people, we always go into a tour with the mindset that we want to have some kind of connection. Some people don’t like that, and that’s fine, but we are who we are, and that’s how we want to live our lives. That works really well with a lot of people, cutting through that talk like “Hey how are you!” and all that crap that no one cares about.
photo credit: Vicki DiAddezio
So looking back on 'Limitless' how happy are you with this album still, and what do you think it has done for the representation of Tonight Alive? Jenna: For us it felt like a step in a sophisticated direction, we really cared about the musicality a lot, we had a lot of goals. One of them might sound quite strange to some people, but it was to not palm mute on the record. So it forced Whakaio to be creative in the way he used his instrument. To just find ways to be melodic that don’t clash with what the vocals do. We just went to a lot of different lengths. We wrote for two years on the lead up to that record, and we just said “Let’s not have as many rules as we’ve had in the past, just write what comes naturally to us.” And that’s what that whole record cycle felt like. Do what comes naturally. There were a lot trials through that time as well, people had different agendas when it came to what they wanted to come out of that record. I think it scared fans as well, it was a really multidimensional experience, I think we freaked a lot of people out. It didn’t sound like ‘The Other Side’, and David Bendeth really drew that out of us. I feel like he saw this little gold chord, and pulled it out of our bodies. It was painful, he saw something in us, that we didn’t know was there. I really enjoyed that whole year of touring the record. I felt like I was being the most genuine I’ve ever been, it helped me become more transparent with fans. It’s like the sonic expression of my personal development. So where I am at now is the result of going through ‘Limitless’.
You guys scrapped a whole record right? Whakaio: We are only going to write a certain amount of albums in our lifetime, and I never want want to do the same thing twice. I love writing, and I am a writer outside of the band as well. For me doing the same thing is such a waste of time. A waste of the opportunity to grow. When we did the whole palm muting thing it’s like, we kind of didn’t want to do want we did for ‘The Other Side’ or ‘What Are You So Scared Of?’ I wanted to do something that was completely different. I think now, going into doing this next album, we’ve figured out what we like from our records, as well as what we love about being a live band, and that’s what this next one is going to be.
Jenna: We wrote like 14-15 songs, and I was like “This is the record, I love these songs” I was ready. Then we were encouraged to keep writing. I don’t resent that moment, I feel like it had to happen.
Can you tell us a bit about how David Bendeth helped shape 'Limitless'? Whakaio: He is a psycho psychologist! He is all about finding the deepest darkest thing in you, and bringing it out, and seeing what that is. Not being afraid to see what that is. Breaking you down to the lowest point in your life so that you rise from the ashes. Whatever that is. We met up with him, it wasn’t like an interview or anything, but he can kind of sense whether there is something there that he can work with. We were so lost at that time, we wanted a lot of different things. He had that light at the end of the tunnel for us. That was a really big thing for me, as I didn’t know what it was at the end. I’m such a big control freak, and I was freaking out not knowing what the album was going to be. But I trusted him, and he lead us into something that I’m really proud of. It was really hard man, every day was really difficult. We were just tired all of the time. Not like a tiredness that you could sleep off. Such an emotionally, physically draining thing. I would do it again, because the person that I became writing wise, or in the studio, or me myself from that experience. I could never take that back.
Jenna: He ground us down. He was persistant, relentless and frustrating as all hell. How is your new album coming along then? Jenna: We’ve made different choices this time, based on the experience we want to have in the studio. Whakaio: I know what it’s going to be. Jenna: That’s exciting!
What made you want to join a new record label then? Whakaio: I think we were just on a roll, and we didn’t want to stop. We did Warped Tour then a full year of touring ‘Limitless’. Our deals ended with Sony and Fearless. So it just felt like we wanted to kick off on our own and start fresh. We’ve had that same team for so long, they were great at some things, but not really great at a lot of things as well. Now we have a team that really understands who we are and what we are trying to do. Which is really exiting.
Yeah, so how did you end up on UNFD and Hopeless Records then? Whakaio: Erik from Hopeless was trying to sign us at the start of our career. We’ve known him for so long, and now we are working with him, it’s so exciting. We are able to do what we want to do, and just facilitate that. I guess we have been able to do what we wanted to do, but there have been other people...
Jenna: Yeah, meetings in the middle. I don’t think we are ever going to have to do that or compromise again. That’s something I said on ‘Limitless’ like “I’ll never compromise again!” intervene free. The lyrics in ‘Oxygen’ I listen to now, I feel a bit sad because of the business relationships we were in then, I couldn’t be fully true to my self at all times. So it saddens me looking back, because I was fighting so hard for that. But no we’re at that point where everything from the past feels like it’s finished. It’s a new playing field.
What was it like to work with Dave Petrovic on ‘World Away’? Whakaio: He did our first two EPs and he did ‘The Edge’ and ‘The Other Side’. So Dave is pretty much the sixth member of the band. We really moulded out what Tonight Alive was at the beginning with him. We just live around the corner from him in Australia. As I said before, because I know what this needs to be, then David is like perfect for that. He just gets the best out of us, we just want to enjoy ourselves, grow. We don’t want to grow painfully because we feel like we’ve done that.
It’s always important to have the producer feel like an extra member right? Whakaio: Yeah, 100% trust and respect is everything. If you don’t trust them, if you don’t believe in their opinion, then you shouldn’t be working with them. You’re hiring them to tell you that “this needs to be better etc.” You need them to tell you the things that you can’t tell yourself. You really have to have that level of trust and respect for the person to allow them to give your creation criticism. That’s really a hard thing to hear, about this thing that you have created. As I said, even with like being friends with You Me At Six, you kind of cut through that rubbish. So just like working with Dave, there’s not going to be a two/three week trial between us.
So it’s a good indication of what we can expect next then? Jenna: Definitely. It’s a good indication of what people can expect from the record. Whakaio: I think we are going to do some like heavier things. There are a few like heavier riffs on there! What else can we expect to see from you in 2017? Whakaio: We are going to record the album, we only have like a few scheduled tours. Then I guess we’ll start again next year.
Jenna: We’ll be releasing all of our tour dates, that’s what is coming up for us. We’ll be a little more quiet this year, so that we can prepare everything for our world tour when the record comes out!
Interview with Jaret
So what was it like to tour with Steel Panther? It was a blast, I think the one thing about them that a lot of people wouldn’t realize is that they are really, really professional. Every thing was really well run, and they take it very seriously. They treated us amazingly. For us, it was great. We went on at 8pm every day, and then by 9pm the night is over, we’re just watching them, and having beers. It was kind of a dream tour. Whereas here at Slam Dunk we are on last so we kind of have to pace ourselves a little bit. That tour was great, to be able to play some of those arenas, it was about as stellar as it gets.
Looking back on 'Drunk Dynasty', how happy have you been with the feedback to the album so far, and what do you thinkit has done for the representation of Bowling For Soup? You know what, it’s so funny. I’ve been amazed at the feedback, because to be honest, I don’t feel like we’ve given it the attention we needed to. That was a pledge album, it was crowdfunded so it had a date that it had to come out on whether we were ready or not. So we haven’t released any music videos for it yet, that’s all still about to happen. So I mean the reviews have been awesome, and the fan response has been great. Honestly it’s its own little organic organism. The response has been great. I’m excited to put some promotion into it, and get it out there, because I don’t feel like we’ve done that yet. We followed that up right away with the acoustic album, and then it was the end of the year, and we’ve all got kids, then it was the Steel Panther tour etc.
How did you end up working with Crowdfunded then? We’ve been doing that since early on. I did a kickstarter with my other band Jarinus, sort of when it first started. It was a learning curve, because we had no idea what we were doing. So it was just taking what I learned from that, and being able to partner up with pledge music. Kickstarter are more like “Hey, I’ve got this idea, I’m going to crowd fund it”. Pledge Music is like “Hey this is music, we’re going to work together” it’s essentially just a badass pre-sale that lasts six-eight months. I think this is our third Bowling For Soup album that we’ve crowd funded. It’s nice to have the funds to do the album without coming up with that yourself, but really the best part about it is the interaction with the fans. We are literally putting out stuff the day we are recording it. Like “Here’s Gary recording the drums to this song”, or “Here’s me singing this song”, etc. So for the fan, it’s something that they’ve never seen before. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s definitely made us a lot of friends out there. It’s very interactive. It forces the band to be more involved with their own stuff.
How did you end up working with Kelly Ogden on the track 'As Happy as Happy Gets', and what was she like to work with? She’s great, we also did a song called ‘Love ya Love ya Love ya’, a couple of albums ago. She and I are actually going to start working on a duet record, which we want to have out by the end of the year! We’ll see what happens. We just have a really common interest in music. I think our voices sound really good together. I’m looking forward to it, it will be a lot of fun.
It's been just over ten years since the release of ‘The Great Burrito Extortion Case’, so what do you remember the most about putting this album together, and how would you say it compares to anything else you guys have done? That one was a really fun one for us to do, because we were coming off of ‘A Hangover You Don’t Deserve’ being such a huge album. It was our fourth album on Jive Records. It was our fourth major label record. So by the time you get to that point, the budget for what you can spend is just crazy. If you don’t spend it, it’s not like you get the money. You basically have this allotted amount of money, if you spend it, you spend it. If you don’t, you don’t. We did, it was crazy. We did two weeks in Atlanta, two weeks in Tulsa, and two weeks in LA on that album. We moved all of our gear from place to place, we just had the most fun. It was awesome. Everywhere we would go, it was like getting acclimated again, different friends coming out to the studio. We had a really great time doing that record. So that was probably the most memorable aspect of it, as that was probably the only album that we’ve done where it was like “We can do whatever we want, the funds are there.” It’s not like we are a hard band to record. We can do whatever we want now. There was a time when there was a lot of pencil pushers, people trying to get their voice in, explaining their jobs. I’m not bitter or jaded. there’s a time and a place for labels for sure, but I’m happier where we are now.
What music video would you say has been the most fun for you to do with Bowling For Soup, and why? That’s hard. ‘1985’ was the most fun one to do. We got to play dress up all day, looking like Motley Crue. We had a rotating drum stage in somebodies garage. We rented a neighbourhood for crying out loud. It was so much fun to make that one, a close second would be ‘When We Die’ because just having Lee Major as the six million dollar man to play my dad was pretty amazing. But yeah, ‘1985’ was definitely the most fun.
So let's talk about your upcoming tour, it's a mix of questions, music, and comedy? So can you elaborate on this, as well as maybe what attending fans can expect from the show? It’s like a story tellers kind of thing. I’ll play songs, and I’ll dive into it. Then sometimes I might tell the audience what the song is about, or the effects that the song has had on my life, or to other people. Then other times I’ll tell you how it was recorded/written, and things like that. Just different stories about these songs, that a lot of people have been listening to for most of their lives.
Can people just shout out song requests then? It will be a little bit more structured, as I’ll have an idea of which stories I want to tell. Because quite frankly not every song has an elaborate story, there’s a cool thing that happens when you take some of the bigger hits, and talk about how those were written, and then you can talk about the songs that have more of the emotional depth or whatever. You start to tell those stories, and there’s this connection that starts to happen with the audience. It’s pretty magical man. I’m a fart joke guy, I’m up there hiding behind being hilarious all the time. So to put myself out there, and tell some stories about the passing away of my best friend and things like that, it’s therapeutic. If nothing else. I’ve recently made public my own battles with depression. So since it’s all out there, there are things that I can put in the show that might connect to someone who might have some problems of their own, and it could make them go and talk to somebody. There’s a lot of aspects to it being just me and a guitar, there’s a freedom there. It’s going to be really cool. It’ll be fun. A lot of funny, a little bit of sad. It’s good stuff.
How did the song 'Today is Gonna Be a Great Day' come together, and what have you enjoyed the most about working on the Phineas and Ferb show? Okay yeah, the creators of the show were big fans of Bowling For Soup. They sought me out, they brought me in for a meeting, I got to watch some of the shows before they were even done animating them. I connected with it instantly, I thought it was great. I had a childhood where we were just running around the neighbourhood all the time. So they already had the theme song, it was already done. They wanted me to take that theme song and put it into a two and a half, three minute single. So essentially I took what they had, wrote the chorus, another verse, chorus/bridge, and made it into ‘Today is Going To Be a great day’. But I will say this, it’s funny when label guys are right, because there was a label guy who was involved in this, as it was Disney. Originally it was called ‘This Could Possibly be the Best Day Ever’ because that’s what I say in the song. So I was just going to call it ‘Best Day Ever’, and the guy was like “Yeah but it’s got to end with today is going to be a great day”, and I’m like “I don’t know about that!” In hindsight, he was right. You know, when label guys are right, I feel like they should get to do a victory dance. It doesn’t happen a lot.
How did the idea for Jaret Goes to the Movies come together, and what films have you really been enjoying this year? So I was doing a podcast on my own. I didn’t do it regularly, it would be just sporadic and all over the place. Then my wife’s best friend came to me, and was like “Dude you need to do a podcast, you’ve got to do this, on a regular basis, you need to make a theme instead of being all over the place, you should do like a movie podcast” I said “I’ll do it, if you do it with me!” He was like “No that’s not what I had in mind!” Turns out, like a year and half later, we are 80 episodes in. We watch a movie, and talk through it, play clips from the movie. Tell you whether we liked it or if we didn’t. It can be from any time. We go back into our childhood, we do a lot of the modern films as well. For example if Guardians of the Galaxy has a new one coming out, then we do the original one. Also when Star Wars released Rogue One, we did the first Star Wars. It’s growing and growing, it’s getting really big. What we are finding out is that with a lot of people, even if they haven’t seen the film that we are talking about, they are finding them entertaining. As we’ve developed this whole repertoire back and forth. The whole movie almost becomes secondary now. It’s just basically us talking rubbish!
How did you end up working on Saving The Tin Man, and what was that like? A friend of my daughter, her dad basically decided that he wanted to make movies. He threw caution to the wind and just decided to do it. He wrote this part for me. To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect. I acted when I was a kid through high school and college and stuff. But yeah, I really didn’t know if I would like it, or take to it or whatever. I really did, I had a lot of fun doing it, and I can’t wait for it to actually come out and into the world. It’s a good movie, with a good message. It’s something that I’m excited about.
How important do you think festivals like Slam Dunk are to the UK? First of all, just music in general is such a huge part of the culture here. I was doing an interview for a South African radio station, and they were asking about the UK, and I said “You have to understand that music is such a big part of their every day life. Families save up all of their money to go on vacation to a festival for three or four days.” I don’t think that happens much in any other country around the world. It’s common here, so it’s like not to get off topic, but with the whole thing at the Manchester Arena recently, I think that people don’t understand what a huge blow that is, not just because a huge tragedy happened at a concert. What a huge blow that is to the culture of the United Kingdom, because music is a safe haven. The festivals are run so well, nobody gets hurt, and there’s no fighting. Obviously, things like that happen in the campground because people get drunk. But that’s going to happen when you get drunk people together. So back to your question. These festivals are insanely important. I think what Slam Dunk does is, something that I haven’t seen a lot of other festivals do, is that these stages are divided into genres. At least this year for sure. Our stage is crazy, I told Mike from MXPX who is playing with Goldfinger, that it’s like everybody from our genre who didn’t make it to play arenas. They are all on our stage. The only ones that we are missing are like Good Charlotte, Blink-182, the ones that are just too big to be here. I mean, with bands like Less Than Jake, we’ve been doing shows with them off and on for twenty years! What’s going on! Goldfinger were like heroes of ours, we’d go see them constantly. Reel Big Fish too! We did our first show with them about twenty years ago as well. It’s a great festival, and it’s our first time here. Super stoked.
What else can we expect to see from you and Bowling For Soup in 2017? Finish out all of the touring that we are doing. We’re doing Warped Tour, I’ve got my solo tour over here in September, tickets are on sale now. We’re doing the Warped Tour cruise over Halloween, then it’s a bit sporadic, we’re playing some shows at home etc.
Looking back on your self-titled album, how happy have you been with the response to the record so far, and what do you think it has done for the representation of Evanescence? It is personally my favorite of the Evanescence records. I believe the musicianship, songwriting, and performance of the self-titled surpasses previous albums. Of course my opinion on this is biased since this was the first record that I was a part of writing!
What songs are you still enjoying performing live from your self-titled album at the moment, and why? I really love performing ‘The Change’ and ‘The Other Side’. ‘The Change’ because for me it’s centered on some very fun to play, groovy bass lines. ‘The Other Side’ because I love the heaviness of the guitar riffs/bass lines.
Can you tell us about your current rig/set up? Hey now, we don't just hand out our tricks of the trade! (joking). I use Ampeg SVT4 amps with AMPEG 8x10 speaker cabinets with Ernie Ball Musicman Basses.
How long does it take to find that perfect set up, or is it just a constant work in progress? Well, I have been playing for many years and my rig has somewhat remained the same. There is always new toys to add in to the mix here and there to alter the sound or kick it up to the next level. I'm currently using an old Marshall guitar pre-amp for my distorted tone. I won't tell you which one though.
For those that haven't picked it up just yet, what can they expect from 'The Ultimate Collection' on vinyl, and how exciting was this to put together? This collection is great! I think it's awesome to experience Evanescence music on a platform that we have not seen yet - vinyl.
Why do you think vinyl has become so relevant again? Well for me it's nostalgia. I grew up listening to my dad's LPs and that was my intro to music. For others I can't really say. Some audiophiles may argue that it's sound quality. Perhaps it boils down to "cool points", haha.
How would you say touring the UK compares to anywhere else? Well, the U.K. is primarily English speaking so it's definitely a little easier. The fans are great, the cities are great, the venues are awesome. It's an excellent time overall.
What do you remember the most about your first time touring in the UK? The first time I toured the U.K. was in 2002. I was in a smaller band opening for large acts and I was in constant awe. I had grown up hearing stories about the U.K. And had nterview with Tim always wanted to visit. My ancestry is Irish/Scottish so the first visit there was a little deeper than going to play some rock shows.
You’ve been doing VIP packages at recent shows! So how did this idea come about, and how important do you feel it is to have this kind of interaction with your fans? I honestly don't know how the idea came about but I think fan interaction is essential. We get to meet and connect with our fans and supporters on a more personal level.
Touring wise, can you give us one or two shows that have just really stood out to you, and maybe a bit about why that is? I loved Athens in 2007 and Buenos Aires in Argentina. Athens because it was a MASSIVE crowd who were super energetic the entire show, I also wore a Greek war helmet on stage, which is still funny to me. Buenos Aires because the fans were amazing and the show took place during heavy rainfall. Something about playing to a passionate crowd in the rain was just magic.
How would you say the sound of Evanescence has grown/changed since you first started out? I would say the musicianship has grown quite a bit in songwriting. This band isn't afraid to push the envelope and try new things, I find that very important.
What else can we expect to see from Evanescence in 2017? Some kick ass live shows and of course ‘Synthesis’!
Interview with Joe
Can you tell us a bit about the formation of Rise Against? So I had an old band called 88 Fingers Louie. That band broke up and the guitar player and I wanted to continue playing music so we formed Rise Against, and it took us a long time to track down a singer that we liked and a drummer, but I knew Tim just from his old band and I ran into him at a show so asked him to try out and that worked. Then we spent a year trying to find a solid drummer, and then we found Brandon and that was it, we were up and running but at that point we had already signed with Fat Wreck Chords, because we recorded a demo with another drummer so we did a record deal already. So everything happened very quickly at the beginning.
How did you get to the band name Rise Against, and what does it mean to you? It’s funny because we were debating a name for like four months and then our old drummer thought of Rise Against and at first I was like “I don’t know, there has to be a band called Rise Against already”…it seemed like too obvious, and then there wasn’t as we were researching it and then we were like alright let’s just name the band Rise Against. It’s good because it describes exactly the intent of the band, like a way to speak up for yourself and to have a voice. It’s to inspire change by using your voice. That’s what it means to me.
When did you first realise that you were going to be a career lasting band? It was when ‘The Sufferer & the Witness’ came out, we toured Europe right before that record officially came out and I remember like all our shows got jumped up to bigger venues and then we started playing songs like ‘Prayer of the Refugee’ before the record came out and the reaction to it was insane, I was like “Woah"and I just remember that on that tour I was thinking we have something with this record ‘Suffer..’. It’s kind of like a milestone for me, it was great and ever since then it just kept getting better and better, so in hindsight it was this slow gradual increase of popularity and success but at that time it seemed very sudden. It really wasn’t because years went by without touring to build that, but it hit me around that tour, that things were kind of happening for real.
So, how did you get to the album title 'Wolves', and what does it mean to you? That came from the song ‘Wolves', Tim has always written all of our lyrics so when he started finishing lyrics for the songs for the record, when he was recording vocals, he was tossing around a few different ideas and then he told me we should name the record ‘Wolves'. To me that's amazing, and it goes right along with the ethos of the band, it shows listeners that people, in general, have a voice, that voice should be feared by people in positions of authority. I mean when there's a peaceful protest, people should be listening, the people in government should be listening instead of blowing it off and making fun of it on Twitter. The people’s voice has inspired change for years and years so we wanted to keep up that vibe and let people know that you can inspire change by speaking up. To me that’s what ‘Wolves’ symbolises. It’s like a very general way to describe it, but I think that kind of sums it up!
Lyrically, can you elaborate on some of the main themes and influences that run throughout 'Wolves'? It’s always difficult for me to comment on lyrics in general because Tim writes all the lyrics, he always has, no one can describe lyrics better than he can, because he’s writing them from a very personal perspective and how he sees the world through his own eyes. Generally speaking though, I do feel like this record is no different than other Rise records where you cover social issues, political issues, personal relationships. You always have those elements on these records, and that carried over into ‘Wolves’, that’s just how we write songs, it’s how Tim writes lyrics. Tim definitely spent a lot of time making sure the lyrics were perfect in every way, for me personally I think it shows on this record, nothing sounds forced to me, it’s very well written. I know it doesn’t really answer your question fully but lyrically it is a very strong record. It’s hard because you are on your eighth record, I can’t even imagine what the lyricist goes through to try and one up the previous record, it must be a very difficult process. But I know those elements are very present on ‘Wolves’, so we cover all basis.
What made you want to release 'The Violence' first, and can you tell us about the meaning behind the track? For me personally, musically that song is different for us where it's very straight forward and very simple.That song is to make people think about making better choices in their everyday lives, it's like you can go down one route, a destructive route or you can think of a better way to get what you want in a non-violent way. So it’s about good and bad choices.
How did you end up working with Nick Raskulinecz? We have done five records with Bill Stevenson so he is basically like the fifth member of the band, so it felt like it was time for a change and it just so happened to work out as Bill was super busy, he wasn’t even around to record the record. So we were like that’s obviously a sign, so we started interviewing a few different producers and Nick was on the list. He knew our manager and we liked the fact that he had done some great records for the likes of Mastodon, Deftones, and Foo Fighters. So we thought it would be worth a try, we met with him, liked him and felt like he got the band. It was a good decision because he kept pushing us to maintain the rawness and the punk rock roots, he kind of reminded us, "you guys are a punk rock band, like own it…you guys do it really well, so let's keep up the energy", and he did a great job with us trying to get us to not slow songs down and making sure the tempos were right. The songs weren't starting and stopping too frequently and things like that kept the train moving. I really feel like it's very noticeable on the record, it was a very successful decision. It was mission accomplished with the reasons why we wanted to switch producers!
How did the artwork for 'Wolves' come together, and can you tell us a bit about what it means to you? We wanted something that was menacing, kind of like the lyrics on ‘Wolves’ and the music, something that reflects that but we didn’t want something cheesy that would look like it was from a Twilight movie with wolves. So we went through a bunch of different art directors, but Tim settled on the company that ended up doing the record. I think we started this process with somebody else and they weren’t quite getting the vibe, and we just wanted something that looked like dirty looking, and that’s why we settled on what we have now for the artwork for ‘Wolves’. To me, it looks like a punk rock record cover, and it's not cheesy, it's tastefully done.
So, how would you guys say you've grown musically on 'Wolves'? There is no way to avoid being a band for so long and just growing as musicians and as songwriters. For me personally, when I write a song now there's a very specific way I want the guitar to be with the bass. I was very vocal about the way I wanted the guitar, whereas in the past I have given a bit more leeway. Not to say it was a control thing, it was more like here's the vibe of the song and I know Tim has the same kind of feeling, where you write something and you have this vision. So I guess we are better about seeing the vision through, especially on ‘The Violence' which Tim wrote, like that riff had to have this mechanical vibe, this repetitive vibe and he didn't want to deviate from that, this reoccurring riff. So things like that, I think we just know what we want more now and we take less time getting to a point from start to finish.
It's been just over ten years since 'The Sufferer & the Witness' was released, what do you remember the most about putting this album together, and how would you say it compares to anything else you've done? I remember thinking when we were writing that record it was very easy. I remember thinking how it was coming together really great and I felt like we really had something, like it was a definite milestone for our songwriting, we started to develop our sound. We established our sound with that record for sure. Because with ‘Siren Song of the Counter Culture' we went into our first major record and we were very nervous and we used a producer that didn't quite understand the sound of the band. So with ‘The Sufferer & the Witness' we went back to Bill Stevenson and it was very comfortable and we went ahead. I remember thinking this is the established sound of the band and it never let up, we played the label the record, everyone was getting really excited and the momentum never let up. We finally had something that could be the record that we jump up on and get bigger venues, things like that. it was a great feeling as we were we on the radio and playing a lot of radio festivals with bands that we were not only friends with, but with bands that were very radio friendly. Our friend Tony in particular, he plays drums in a few bands including Papa Roach, and I have known him for years from like the Fat Wreck Chord and Epitaph days. I remember him saying to me “man you’re like this punk rock band and you’re all over the radio, that's something to be proud of, you still sound like you, you didn't give into writing a radio single, you are who you are and you’re successful, that's amazing!” I'll never forget that he said that to me.
What do you remember the most from touring the UK for the first time? When we first started playing in the UK we had a rough go trying to get fans, you guys definitely made us work for it, but I think those are the best fans when you can win an audience over like that, they’re kind of fans for life. I mean now we have such amazing fans there, but yeah the first couple of times, our first tour ever was with Sick Of It All, a very hardcore crowd, so no one cared about us. I mean, I get it, we were just this young band. I wouldn’t have cared about us if I was in the crowd, but yeah it was definitely a lot of hard work. Playing places like Brixton, it’s just so great for me to be able to sell that place out. The history that places like London and Manchester have, I just love being surrounded by that vibe.
How excited are you for your upcoming tour with Deftones and Thrice, and what can attending fans expect from your live show this year? As a listener that bill is amazing, I don’t think you could be bored at all as a concert goer, it’s very well rounded, everyone on that bill are all friends so it’s going to be a good vibe. That’s what I like about it, I like that Thrice, Rise Against and Deftones all have something different to offer, it makes for a better concert experience. It will be fun in that sense for sure.
What else can we expect to see from Rise Against in 2017? A tonne of touring, we are excited for the record, we are ready to start touring everywhere, we definitely plan on touring a lot for a couple of years, I’m just excited for all of that!
So how did you first get into writing? As it always is with such situations, it’s down to a large measure of luck and perseverance. I had always wanted to work in the vaguely nebulous world that is “the entertainment industry”, weaving stories and essentially having fun, and writing seemed an achievable goal for a working-class kid from Liverpool. The catalyst came when my brother, Peter, wrote a stunning spec script which Fox snapped up. That was Alien vs Predator. It propelled him into the spotlight while I was still dragging my heels in college. We went on working together on a number of projects while both pursuing our own specific interests – even enjoying a fantastic time in our office on the Paramount lot (the office of The Godfather’s Robert Evans, in fact) working with Stan Lee on a pet project of his, FOREVERMAN.
What was your first major project, and what was that like for you at the time? I had a clash of, frankly, good luck. I was working with Bruce Timm and Greg Novak on a (sadly later shelved) AQUAMAN movie for Warners Animation, when I landed an eight-book deal for my Middle Grade superhero duel series: HERO.COM and VILLAIN.NET. As a writer living in the UK and working in LA, I decided to cast my writing net further so I didn’t get mired simply writing film and TV projects. So I chased the Golden Snitch and decided to create as many of my own IPs as possible. That sprang me into the world of writing comics and novels. Now I’m really happy to be able to bounce across all types of media. It keeps my mind fresh and I avoid the pit of Writer’s Block. It was around the time I started writing a bunch of SyFy films – CREATURE (later retitled to RISE OF THE GARGOYLE, was, I believe at the time, the biggest budget SyFy original). Combined with movie re-write work and a host of books to deliver, my first comic RITUAL, being inked, it was an exciting time. To be honest, it’s kind of followed that pattern ever since. I guess that’s mostly because I don’t like to sit back and wait for projects to come to me. I prefer hammering on doors and seeing what adventures lurk beyond.
What do you like the most about writing for Judge Dredd? It was a short but sweet time with Ed Pressman, before Stallone was ever on-board. My brother and I worked on the JUDGE DEATH version of the story. I remember Pete was on a call when he received the classic Hollywood line: “this is so good, we’ll save it for the sequel”. The Gods of the Box Office had other ideas. However, despite that movie (which was fun) and the subsequent DREDD, I find it truly astonishing nobody has decided to tackle the fan-favorite storyline. In my view it symbolizes everything that Dredd should be. 2000 AD is a comic I was brought up on as a kid – so it needs some middle ground between NC-17 certificated dullness and catering for everybody as a tent-pole does. And maybe the time wasn’t right for JUDGE DREDD, it was pre-CGI. And the budget certainly wasn’t right for DREDD, so it’s time will come. It’s definitely a character I would love to revisit.
You also worked on Freddy Vs Jason, so what was that like, and how did it compare to anything else you've ever done? Again, another project with Pete that was insane fun to work on. Binge watching all the movies and picking out common threads and ways of interlocking the characters’ histories was a blast. Thinking about it, that, out of everything I have worked on, felt more like an academic pursuit than plotting a movie. As you can see from Pete’s AvP script, we are both sticklers for keeping fans happy – we are fan boys, so spent a long time creating a script that was immensely faithful to what had gone before it – but opened a whole new world, with a third new villain… just was a joy to work on.
So what made you want to reboot Tarzan, and can you tell us a bit about what we can expect from the books you put out about the character? If I wasn’t reading 2000 AD, Daredevil or Spiderman – I was reading Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan books and sat in front of my TV, dreaming of visiting the jungle. My first real jungle trip was in the north Amazon and it was one of the most astonishing experiences I have ever had. It was there I came up with the concept for LEGENDARY, but Tarzan was always buzzing at the back of my mind. When it appeared on a list of “out of copyright” properties, the studios were circulating, I jumped on it – only to discover it was a sticky mess of ownership rights. It was in the public domain in the USA, not the rest of the world, and Tarzan is a registered Trademark – so it was off limits. Still, after visiting modern jungles and realizing that no matter how much hi-tech equipment you bring, the dangers of the jungles have changed very little over the decades. Sure, uncontacted tribes may have mostly been replaced with illegal loggers, swords with chainsaws, but… So I approached the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ estate and pitched my idea for a new contemporary Tarzan. Definitely NOT Tarzan in the big city, but a story driven by Jane, now the daughter of an illegal logger, who meets Tarzan in the depths of the Congo. This is not a “young Tarzan”, which some of the hard-core fans accused me of. After all, ages are never stated in Burroughs’ books, but if you analyze them it’s clear both Tarzan and Jane are in their late teens. This was a reboot of the property, aimed at bringing it to life for the younger generation who are sadly not reading Burroughs’ superb originals. In the three books you will find all the action and adventure you expect for the King of the Jungle, but with a veneer of modern dangers and a Jane that is much stronger than any that have come before her. I remember being interviewed in a British newspaper about the books and I simply stated that without Jane, there would be no Tarzan. He would just be a guy grunting in the jungle. The next day my inbox was full of women’s right groups applauding that. But it is true – the property may be called Tarzan, but it’s every inch Jane’s story too.
What do you enjoy the most about writing for Tarzan? Aside from the excuse to visit more jungles and roam the savannahs of Africa? Like Dredd, I was now being allowed to play with a childhood hero. I revisited the movies and books, added my own research then had the freedom to bring these iconic characters to life in a way that was both familiar and new. With the Tarzan centenary looming as our publication date, it was a nail-biting race against time. When we announced the official reboot of the property to publishers at the London Book Fair, it was the week the Icelandic volcano exploded and grounded flights across the world. As a result, all the commissioning editors were stranded around the globe, unable to make the Book Fair and directly bid for the property. It was an oddly auspicious launch that felt right for our wild hero. Another aspect, in Canada, Australia and the UK at least, was that I managed to convince my publisher, Faber, to donate some of the proceeds from the book launch to an ape conservation charity. It felt good that Tarzan was finally giving back to the endangered beasts that had helped make him famous.
How did you end up landing an eight book deal with Hero.com and Villain.net, and can you tell us a bit about what they've been like to work with so far? I think Hero and Villain are concepts that sold themselves without any effort from me. HERO.COM is about a bunch of friends who discover a website from which they can temporarily download superpowers. Of course, it all goes wrong. VILLAIN.NET is, technically, a separate series. It’s about the High School bully who receives a spam email – “Click here if you want to rule the world!” So he does. What would the world be like if the worst kid in your school could run it? But rather than write two separate series, I pitched to my publisher the idea that they are parallel series. The first Hero book takes place roughly the same time as the first Villain, and so on. As a result, the 4-books in each series have characters passing through – from book-to-book – to affect the plot, before they disappear back into their own book. It was incredibly challenging to plot, but to my surprise, it worked. As a result you have some scenes outside a building, which are influenced by scenes in a separate book (and following a separate storyline) that take place inside the building. But you won’t know that unless you read both books. And of course, it’s super-fun to have characters swap side and decide they’re more at home in the rival series…
How did the idea for Dinocorps come together, and what have you enjoyed the most about working in that world? DINOCORPS is my first all-ages graphic novel and is was born out of frustration. Comics are my childhood – from Dredd to X-Men – yet why is that fewer kids are reading the comics? Because the comics aged with the creators and became darker, weightier and more… adult. Not a bad thing in itself. Except everybody had forgotten about the younger readers. Read an old Stan Lee Spiderman comic – a self-contained story that didn’t span across 12 months, and gave you a larger than life kick that made you feel good. Sadly, that magic is rapidly slipping from modern comics – and there is still an audience for it, desperate for it, in fact. So DINOCORPS was my salvo into the days of more contained storylines that allowed the average kid on the street to enjoy an escapist storyline. And it has dinosaurs in it. Come on… I’m working on a number of comics and graphic novels at the moment – my latest is MADISON DARK, a kind of Chuthulu-esque homage. Before that were the two RITUAL books, that were more Elm Street gruesome horror. But DINOCORPS was the one that made me smile when I wrote it, a smile that got bigger when I saw Bob Molesworth’s stunning artwork. So, there are a few more all-ages graphic novels coming soon…
What was it like to work on Legendary with Scott Adkins and Dolph Lundgren, and for those that haven't seen it just yet, what can they can expect from the film? I was deep in the South American jungle, heading to Angel Falls, when we stopped at a native village. I steered the conversation on to their beliefs – and what they claim to regularly see out in the jungle. For them, legends are facts. No matter what scientists say, they have seen some seriously strange things out there. And that is when LEGENDARY came to life. The story is about rival cryptozoologists – one desperate to lay claim to a new discovery, the other concerned about preserving potentially rare discoveries. Think TWISTER, but with monsters. I had originally intended it to be a mini-series, but the opportunity came to launch it as a feature. It was a wonderful experience – and my first step as an Executive Producer, which was a refreshing change from being just the writer. It’s amusing to see Hollywood’s race to work in China, when we were the first independent UK/Chinese co-production to actually succeed and make money. We were also fortunate to get Scott and Dolph straight off the back of Simon West’s EXPENDABLES 2. Scott is such an impressively physical man and Dolph oozes villainous charm, so working with them was delightful. As an independent film, we struggled with all the usual distribution problems, but pushed through and I take great delight knowing that we beat OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN (a movie I adore) at the Chinese box office. There is still more fun to be had with LEGENDARY…
What's the hardest part about what you do? Every writer I know can list endless gripes about the job, and they are all valid points. We work in an industry that is made up of a high-percentage of rejection, dream projects that go nowhere, or slowly die in development hell. But we all know, and often hate to admit, it’s great fun too. Edging into the world of producing brings greater challenges, even more disappointments, and puts a bigger smile on my face than ever before and you get to see some amazing things and work with some of the most talented people around. Considering my entire career has been a pinball game with no clear steering from me, I have to say I’m pretty happy so far and would recommend it to anybody.
What else can we expect to see from you in 2017? 2017 is shaping up to be a busy year! I am drawing to the end of my latest book series – THE INVENTORY, the third of which, BLACK KNIGHT, was released this spring. The fourth book in the series will be finished shortly. The last two issues of MADISON DARK should be out later this year then the trade paperback will be released. Towards the end of the year, my movie CROWHURST will hit cinemas (directed by Simon Rumley), which is based on Donald Crowhurst’s ill-fated yacht race. We’re in a real David and Goliath race with the bigger budget Colin Firth movie, but we wrapped the day they started their shoot. And it’s a story about a man on a boat, trapped within his own mind, so I am confident that our little movie will shine bright. As we speak, SUPERVIZED is now shooting in Ireland. Directed by Steve Barron, it’s a heartfelt tale of a retirement home for superheroes who are desperate for one last adventure. We have an awesome cast: Tom Berenger, Beau Bridges, Lou Gossett Jnr, Fionnula Flanagan and Fiona Glascott. Later in the year another movie I wrote and Exec Produced should be rolling, WAR WOLF, directed by Simon West. I can’t wait to tell you more about this…
So how did you first get into the comic book world Well… It was mostly by accident, at first. Around 2010; I got a nervous desease that meant I couldn’t work anymore, and led me to stay for four months at the hospital. Back at home, I didn’t know what to do, and begun drawing. I’ve always drawn, from my childhood to my art and cinema schools. Always wrote – short stories, novels, screenplays too. It wasn’t a passion, but a lovely hobby. One day, someone asked me for a (paid) commission, and I knew there was something to do with that. At least, my stuff was good enough to please some people. I never stopped since.
What was your first major project, and what was that like for you at the time? I consider any new project as a major one, as they’re all absolutely exciting, but I see two of them above all that. The first one is my first title ever, Lips, written by my friend David Owain Hughes. I was contacted by Deadstar Publishing (set in Cardiff) to draw a black & white ten page story based upon a short novel David wrote. That was the very first time I thought I could make a living from my art. I was not bad, but not good either, to be honest. I loved any of these pages, and I still do. I quiclky became friends with the Deadstar Publishing editing team, and David is still one of my closest friends today; I design the covers of any of his novels or stories, and always with the same pleasure. He saw me growing with my style. The other one was The Heindrich Project: Ground Zero, I published at Hound Comics. The Heindrich Project was a webcomic originally created and written by Canadian writer and creator Keith Foo. With time, he let me create my own stories in his universe, including a second webcomic set in Paris. In 2014, I got to work as a colorist for Hound Comics, in USA, and proposed Ground Zero. It was a one shot I wrote, penciled, inked and coloured by myself, and was supposed to be the beginning of a huge Heindrich Project franchise we wanted to set through tabletop games, comics and short stories. Only Ground Zero came out in the end: Keith had his second baby, and my fiancée got pregnant. In the end, I think both of us were, after four years, a bit tired about such gore stories. We both wanted to show something else to our babies. I do still love that story, as it marks the passing of time in my life, and my still only published writing. Coming as a writer is much more hard than coming as an artist, in the end, and my limits when talking or writing in English are still there.
How did you end up doing illustration for Anno Dracula, and what was that like? To be fair, I’m « only » the colorist on Anno Dracula. A job I love. Paul McCaffrey does a stunning job at penciling it, seconded by inker Bambos Georgiou. They’re absolutely amazing, with a great sense of detail, and make my work so much easier. I love that series, and it’s probably one of the best I’ve worked on so far. I was finishing working on Vikings: Uprising when editor David Leach contacted me: he knew I was about to get free and, as anybody now knows at Titan, I love working on various titles at the same time. Paul had begun working on the pages, but was still looking for the right style. In the end, I came and adapted quite easily my style to his. The result is really cool: the ambiance varies from a scene to another, and we both have fun rendering that fantasy Victorian era we both learnt from movies. The whole universe created by Kim Newman is amazing, and it’s a pleasure working with such a talented creator. As you may know, he’s also a famous cinema lover and critique, and I hope we’ll have a chance to talk about that a bit more when the series will be done and we’ll both have more time.
If they turned Anno Dracula into a film, what would you want to see from it? First, I’d love to see Kim Newman writing it. And probably my self directing it. More seriously, I don’t see many writers able to handle that universe. It’s such a deep mixture between reality and fiction, between History and writing… Only Kim would know what’s important or not, and how to properly set the characters. Pretty much J.K. Rowling with Harry Potter. As a cinema professionnal, he would know how to tell such a story. Ultimately, I’d love to see the movie be a mix between Albert and Allen Hughes’ From Hell and Alex Proyas’ Dark City, with a bit of Pakula’s All the President’s Men. Dark, gritty, with a modern political look, and still a bit gore. There’s something of a dark fate in Anno Dracula. You know it can’t end well. I’d love to see Nosferatu returning, too. He’s one of my favorite monsters.
You also got to work on Dawn of War, so how was that? Dawn of War, and the whole Warhammer 40.000 is a huge, incredible franchise. I didn’t even imagine how much when I begun. It makes it a bit harder than usual, too. Ryan O’Sullivan’s writing and Daniel Indro’s penciling really get the famous game to a whole new level, and coloring it is both a chance and an everyday challenge. I love that series. But there are so many fans around the world, and the franchise itself is strictly observed, it’s hard to lay back and work from our imagination. Everything you see on any page comes from strict references, for Ryan in his scripts, for Daniel in his art and for me as the colourist. But it’s a great exercice for all of us. It’s also a matter of respect, both for the franchise and for the thousands of fans who would read the series. But Andrew James, our editor on the title, is really kind with us, and always speaks for us. I have to say, working with Titan, and I’ve now worked with four or five editors there, is the best experience I’ve had in my professionnal career. They really take care of us, and they know how we work.
So how did you first get involved with the Alien world? Late 2013, Upper Deck Entertainment contacted my agent, Richard Boom, seeking a bunch of artists to work on an upcoming game, Legendary Encounters: Alien. There was around 300 cards to create, and they needed many, many people. I jumped on the occasion to show my work, as an Alien fan. And it worked. In a few months, I came from half a dozen illustrations to create nearly a hundred. It was huge, but my ability to draw these scenes quite quickly made a difference. I’ve also had the chance to color some illustrations from artists like Vincenzo Cucca. Fully created or only colored, I think I’ve worked on around 125 cards in the end. For now, I’ve made more than two hundred cards both for the game and its expansions. And I’ll be there if Upper Deck creates a new set, of course. Working with them was really a great time, and I learnt a lot.
How did you approach illustrating the iconic Xenomorph character? Well… Nobody can come after HR Giger’s art. It’s not a matter of talent, but a matter of what you have in your mind. He was twisted, and he admitted he was in needing of therapy. But the core of his art came from his mind. I’m not as twisted, although it could be debated, so my approach was mostly to pay him hommage. I know these creatures by art. From the chestbuster to the adult xenomorph. By heart. But my goal wasn’t to copy his style, or the movies’ visuals. I wanted to give each illustration a particular effect and an ambiance that reflected the movie and the scene it came from, but not exactly it. It’s hard to possess something you’ have so much respect for and, if it wasn’t for an editor, I would have probably deleted half of my illustrations. I’m more confident, now. I know how to adapt my style to these creatures and make them mine. I’ll never get bored at drawing them, and I know I’ll never draw them as perfectly as I’d love to.
Which Alien film is your favorite, and why? The first one. It’s actually one of my favorite films ever, along with Tod Browning’s Freaks and David Lynch’s Elephant Man, and a few others. The first Alien is nearly a perfect film. Everything’s in it. I wrote a 150 pages mémoire on it when I entered cinema school, and it wasn’t even complete. Here’s a movie you could learn from, frame by frame. It reminds me of some films like Blade Runner or Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. They were so close to a cinematographic perfection, you know it’ll be teached in cinema schools for decades, like we learn Rubens or Da Vinci in art.
You also worked on the Vikings comic! So how was that, and how does it compare to anything else you've done before? Working on Vikings was a really great experience. I had discovered the series shortly before I got contacted by Titan to colour the comics, and I loved that universe. I have some Scottish and North origins and, although I’ve never paid attention to where I came from, it has always been something I felt connected to. The celtics references, the runes and all other details speaks to me, so much I can’t help playing with them from time to time. Again, Daniel Indro did an amazing job penciling the series, and it was a pleasure working with writer Cavan Scott, who’s one of the nicest men I’ve met, also a great writer. Again, it was quite strict, because the series was set in the middle of the fourth season, and we couldn’t alter the events of the series. But Cavan developed a really great story around the character of Lagertha, and she really became such a badass heroin.
What is it like to illustrate the legendary Darth Vader, and how did you go about bringing your own approach to it? As a huge Star Wars fan, I’ve always dreamt about working on such an iconic character. Vader is the master of all villains. Mostly any cinema since 1977 comes from him, and his legacy is impressive. The first time I was asked to draw him was for some promotionnal set for a French convention called Geekopolis. The idea was to create a tarot card with him. The good thing is that Vader is mostly black. So you can hide whatever you want. But you don’t, in the end: the costume is a part of the character, and you want to show it in its whole splendor. That illustration took me some few days: how should I display the various light reflections? How could I play with the lightsaber’s light? It’s easier now. I drew a commission of him a few days ago, and the character comes quite easily. In the end, Vader IS Vader, whatever you do. So the main thing is, I think, to have fun at re-creating him.
What's the most rewarding project you have illustrated on, and why? I don’t know. I was proud when The Heindrich Project: Ground Zero came out, but I’m not even sure we sold 50 copies. At least, I’m proud of having done it. I think one of the most rewarding projects I’ve worked on was, weirdly, Puss in Boots. I was called to replace a colourist. I had fun finishing the first few pages of the first issue, and came back for the next two. In the end, Titan kept me for Vikings, Anno Dracula and Warhammer. As I said earlier, I love working with them, and I’ll work there for as long as they’ll want me. It feels like having a home for your art, and it’s comfortable. Also for the money side: I’m too old to play with such things.
You are also working as a cinema production designer, and story boarder. So how is that going, and what are you up to right now? The cinema industry is quite weird, actually. You can be both in and out at the same time. Cinema has always been my first love. My soul mate. But reaching it as a goal is hard. I directed a few short films a while back, did some storyboarding work for films, short films and commercials. I have some varied projects in progress, but nothing sure yet. And I hope it’ll move this year. I’ve also begun being a speaker and advisor in a cinema class in high school this year, and found that fascinating. My next step is to finish writing my own film, sell it and direct it. Easy, right?
What can you tell us about The Outlaws!? The Outlaws is my second baby. It’s a hard, gritty space opera. Think The Wild Bunch or Unforgiven in space, with a mix of retro-futuristic designs, laser guns and cowboys hats. I had that story in mind for years, and it’s a pleasure for me to develop it now. Specially since I’m a father: I know what I want to tell to my son about the good and the bad, or the bad and the worst in this case. The project’s still in developpment, though. I’ve passed it to my editors at Titan to have a look, so we’ll see how it turns out. I really hope they’ll like it. Some readers may enjoy it in a not too distant future.
What else can we expect to see from you in 2017? To be honest, I don’t know yet. As I said, I have a bunch of exciting projects coming up: two with Titan I can’t talk about yet (beside The Outlaws), a film I’m writing, my class… I’ll also try to join an animation studio in France, I’d like to learn how to animate and work on that kind of art. I’ll also be at the upcoming London Film & Comic Con at the end of July. I’d also like to have some rest at the moment. I miss having some time to watch movies and, more important: I want to be sure I’m here for my son and my family. I’m always there for them, but they deserve much more from me.
SINGLE BY SUNDAY
Rise Against - Wolves Popular American heavyweight punk rock quartet are back with their eighth album ‘Wolves’ which features their characteristic protest songs and themes of social and political issues, this time largely aided by their own countries turmoil and their President Donald Trump. After eighteen years on the rock scene, they still have plenty to write about and messages to convey. The album swings into action with the title track ‘Wolves’ which has interesting rhythms and beats. There is a sense of urgency which is aided by Tim McIlrath’s powerful raw fierce vocals, which particularly stand out at the end, being some of the harshest yet. This is an instant fan favourite that packs a punch, whilst remaining dangerously catchy with memorable riffs that pull you in straight away and shows the band on top form. It has that sense of unity like trying to rally everyone together, the same can be said of first single ‘The Violence’ which again is seriously melodic with brilliant harmonies which rile you up with a motivating feel running through it. The very ethos of the album as bassist Joe Principe described is that “it shows listeners that people, in general, have a voice, that voice should be feared by people in positions of authority… we wanted to keep up that vibe and let people know that you can inspire change by speaking up and to me that’s what ‘Wolves’ symbolises.” Going back to their more familiar punk rock roots is ‘Welcome To The Breakdown’ which is fast, frantic and manages to keep momentum and is excessively catchy. While ‘Politics Of Love’ shows another side to the band, offering a ballad type number that although stripped back and slower paced, it is just as hard-hitting and engaging.
Despite its title ‘Mourning In Amerika’ actually, it has a hopeful upbeat vibe with impressive melodies that you come to expect to get their message across. The especially politically charged offerings ‘How Many Walls’, ‘Wolves’ and ‘Welcome to the Breakdown’ particularly highlight the American elections and are some of the strongest songs spurred on by this. Closing song ‘Miracle’ offers up another uplifting and motivational message and with some interesting instrumentation to make it stand out further. A fitting and inspiring way to end. Rise Against are constantly consistent, I don’t think they could ever write a bad album. They excel at what they do best, which is churning out political punk rock anthems that inspire and bring hope, and still possess an unwavering determination after all these years. This may be their most mainstream offering, but they never lose their signature style and new producer Grammy Award winner Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Alice in Chains, Deftones) helped them harness their raw and punk roots. Lyrically and vocally front man Tim is at his best, displaying his best capabilities and range whilst delivering passionate driven meaningful lyrics as you expect from a band that stand out and pride themselves on lyrical themes. ‘Wolves’ is a solid and strong album and it clearly gets its desired message across which is “about recognising the power within; it's a primal call for the prey to become the hunters.” CL
The Dollyrots - Whiplash Splash The Dollyrots are a rock ‘n’ roll duo from Los Angeles, consisting of partners Kelly Ogden (vocals/bass) and Luis Cabezas (Guitar/vocals). ‘Whiplash Splash’ marks their sixth studio LP and is their first since 2013’s ‘Barefoot and Pregnant’. They only had three months to whip this up following their Pledge music campaign and the birth of their new daughter Daisy. The album is fun and uplifting from the off and they just can’t contain their excitement with vocalist Kelly shouting “Whoo”! to kick off the opener ‘I Do’ and the positivity and pop driven melodies continue throughout, making for a fuzzy compelling start. ‘Babbling Idiot’ shows they aren’t afraid to poke fun at themselves along with straight talking ‘Just Because I’m Blonde’ where Kelly brings her attitude and wits, with angsty vocals whilst delivering lines such as “It only takes one of me to screw in a freakin’ light bulb,” as she has clearly heard it all and gets to vent her frustrations. ‘Mermaid’ starts with a calming guitar intro before Luis swings into full gear with Kelly’s soft yet powerful tones matching the instruments perfectly. It is quite a diverse and varied song, showing different moods and styles, with Kelly’s vocals packing more of a punch towards the end. Whilst ‘This Addiction’ has a different vibe and tempo, being slower paced, in contrast to ‘Dance Like A Maniac’ which is an infectious alt party anthem and shows them at their best with great bass lines and bouncy riffs. A great one to let loose too and go mental to this swagger injected track. ‘Saturday Morning’ continues the party themes and is also one of the most dynamic songs. Changing things up is ‘Jump Start This Heart’ which takes a more serious reframe both musically and lyrically with some interesting electronic and synth sounds, giving it an 80s pop feel, with Kelly showing off her more sorrow ridden tones. They close the album in true style with a surprising cover of the hit song by Katrina and the Waves ‘Walking on Sunshine’, which mirrors the very opening track, again with Kelly’s first word being “Whoo!” and then the song is instantly recognisable, but they deliver with a more sassy vibe that suits The Dollyrots perfectly. What a fitting and amazingly fun way to finish with a “splash”! This is a delightful fun album that has an edge to it also, it is hard to resist their positive enthralling tones, and they have crafted their pop punk driven songs wonderfully, making this a refreshing and uplifting listen. CL
Biters - The Future Ain't What It Used To Be I’ve never really been a big fan of the older generation of rock, the likes of Alice Cooper and Thin Lizzy haven’t ever really appealed to me. However I’m thinking that as time has gone on my tastes may have changed a bit. This brings me to Biters, they have captured the essence of old school rock in a single album and god help me. I like it. No, love it. The infectious rambunctiousness of this band are laid out in the first song. The catchy chorus “Let it rock, let it roll” is so easy to remember that I was on their side before I’d finished listening to it. ‘Stone Cold Love’ carries on with this old school rock trip down memory lane. ‘Callin’ You Home’ has that softer rock element to it, the slow drum beat and careful strumming before escelating into a proper rock track. Again it has that ridiculously catchy chorus to go along with it too. It seems as if these guys are just made to produce amazing rock ballads. Every single song on this album is perfection, they’ve managed to encapsulate the energy of the classics and also place their own mark as well. Each song seems to have that “sing along” moment and they all will get stuck in your head. From ‘Gypsy Rose’ to ‘Don’t Turn This Good Heart Bad’. Bands have tried previously drawing inspiration from the likes of Bowie and Cheap Trick and they end up sounding like awful karaoke on a Saturday night at the pub. Biters have nailed it though, their off the cuff writing combined with rock style has allowed them to make their own mark on the classic rock world. Even receiving praise from the likes of Nikki Sixx and Motley Crue. Though they’ve only been around since 2015 they’ve managed to produce two albums and if the second one is this good then the first must be incredible.
Protest The Hero - Pacific Myth Canadian progressive metallers from Ontario explored different means of releasing new music with their latest EP ‘Pacific Myth’ which was a subscriptionlike platform, where fans would get a new song every month. This release marked the band's first release with Cam McLellan on bass and Mike Ieradi on drums. First song ‘Tidal’ is frantic and brimming with depth and intricate guitar work along with soaring distinctive vocals from frontman Rody Walker. A great and blistering way to kick things off. The first song unleashed ‘Ragging Tooth’ fires off even more rapidly, before going between slower tempos and wonderful chaotic rhythms with dancing groove ridden melodies. Fiercer vocals are present here, giving it further bite. ‘Cold Water’ is a sonic and complex stand out track, with exquisite progressive musicianship hitting you in waves of musical layers and texture. Whilst ‘Cataract’ takes the progression to a new level, being one of the heaviest and weighty offerings and features guest vocals from a friend of the band and lead vocalist of Mandroid Echostar, Michael Ciccia, making it more dynamic.
‘Harbinger’ brings a different direction in sound with a haunting dramatic piano intro before harsh growled vocals come in. Saving the longest track they have ever produced to last with ‘Caravan’ they highlight all their best and definitive characteristics in an epic fashion, with sweet melodies that transcend into developing manic outbursts that increase in power and consume all. Protest The Hero produce another finely crafted sturdy release with this EP, which will tide fans over until the next full release as well as no doubt bridging the gap between an exploration of new sounds to come from them. This is mighty and expansive as ever, and will certainly satisfy existing fans with their typical intelligible and frenzied tones. CL
Purusa - Soundtrack This is a combination between soft rock and country that is not very attention grabbing and is somewhat forgettable. Once you are past the slow whirring very apt film like opening it goes into a generic drum beat that slows into the verse. After a few bars of the verse the country rock guitar lead starts to scream above all else, it is super loud in comparison to the rhythm section. The mixing here is odd as the very loud lead guitar that is only matched by the vocals really do draw all the focus from the listener as the other musicianship is being drowned out. You can’t really blame the group though as they wish to highlight a guitar solo and the strength of the vocals but sadly there isn’t much to highlight as they are too mediocre. EJ
Seether - Poison the Parish South African grunge rockers Seether are back with their seventh album and prove that they are still going strong after fifteen years. Opening track ‘Stoke The Fire’ creeps in with distant anguished vocals and lyrics from Shaun Morgan in the verses before blasting fully to life in the chorus, building in ferocity as it nears the end. This acts as a great scene setter and assertive return from the band. Shaun’s gravelly vocals with angst driven lyrics continue to make an impact with instant melodic hits, especially evident in the must hear and characteristically Seether sounding tracks ‘Betray And Degrade’, featuring a great heavy outburst, single ‘Let You Down’ and ‘Saviours’. ‘Nothing Left’ is darker and fiercer with impressive screamed vocals, with an unhinged feel to it, with resonant sounds and a brooding atmosphere, whilst the latest single ‘Count Me Out’ is ridden with grunge riffs and vibes with a crushing rumbling chorus that hits hard. Closing song ‘Sell My Soul’ is a sombre stripped back offering with tuneful and well-crafted guitar work throughout and fitting passionate and despairing vocals. This is a brilliant composition and shows another side to the band’s sound, and although more subtle, it makes a powerful and memorable end note. Seether do what they have always done and do best, produce distressed rock anthems. Except for this time round it’s a heavier and hefty affair, vocally and lyrically exploring bleaker territory, which works extremely well for them, making it all the more effective. This is another consistently great album to add to their back catalogue. CL
Sikth - The Future In Whose Eyes British progressive metallers Sikth formed back in 1999 and were highly influential in the scene at the time alongside heavy hitters Meshuggah. Now the six-piece are back with their third album and first full-length release in eleven years, since their hiatus from 2008-2013 and follows their return EP ‘Opacities’. To make this even more momentous for the band, it is also the first album to feature new vocalist Joe Rosser who replaced Justin Hill in 2016. First song ‘Vivid’ quickly makes an impact with massive grooves, ferocious riffs and immense and unstable energy, aided by the dual vocals from Joe Rosser and Mike Goodman which pummels you, with resonant guitar riffs madly dancing around. This opener leaves you hungry and anxious for more. ‘The Aura’ opens on mysterious spoken vocals and electrifying ambience and unstoppable riffs and batters in every direction. Later in the album, they enlist the likes of lead vocalist Spencer Sotelo of Periphery for the infectious track ‘Cracks Of Light’ which is blistering with stomping riffs and rhythms. It has very sinister tones and has the hushed tones of a mad man. Spencer’s contrasting and strong vocals give it some extra clout and depth. Single ‘No Wishbones’ is perhaps the most manic and unrelenting, whilst at the same time having a wave or serene calmness almost, aided by the strong vocals, which exhibit a real mix of emotions and energy all winding together to create an unforgettable lead track. To end this whirlwind affair is the slow-paced and reflective ‘When It Rains’ which is an effective spoken word outro with ethereal sounds to accompany, which addresses some interesting matters such as reincarnation, fairies, demons and other life sensations. A fittingly odd and surprising end to this extreme release that takes you on many twists and turns. This is a great modern metal masterpiece, which is riddled with frantic peculiar djent sounds and experimentalism. The new line-up has clearly given them more boundless creativity and reinvigorated energy, to help them create an expansive eccentric and mental album. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait so long for the next chapter of chaos and confusion. CL
Have Mercy - Make The Best of It What have the Baltimore band done on their third outing? The short answer is a decent job. The band are in the mould of emo, pop punk bands like (early) Brand New and All Time Low so if you are familiar with those bands then you may have an inkling of what this album sounds like. Plus if you are a fan of both or either of those groups then there is certainly something for you to like here too. Have Mercy tread on the same ground as many other bands who occupy the same musical space, evidence of this is ‘Drive’, an angsty song about the memory of a former love who has now grown up and how people’s lives go down different paths. The emotion comes across and it really does feel like the lyrics and words come from the heart. All of the lyrics on this record do. This genre has been defined by meaningful lyrics that are relatable to fans. So it is a very good thing that they do as other bands sound rather pathetic at times. It also helps that the voice that the singer possess has a gritty quality that sets him apart from the pack, in a way it adds to the emotion he is able to portray. They are most noticeable on ‘Disagree’ where the vocals go from the clean more common post punk style to the gritty often in one word. It differs from other formats where lines are alternated clean/gruff or it is gritty for the chorus to add something. The track ‘Ghost’ has a nice picked reverbed guitar backed by rising distorted fuzz setting up the eventual mid paced track. There is also a very pleasant guitar in ‘American Bliss’ to check out. ‘Make The Best Of It’ is a good album that I implore fans of pop punk will get a lot of enjoyment from and even if you are not there are tracks that you’ll like (e.g. ‘Good Christian Man’) and that is a testament to what Have Mercy have recorded. EJ
Vukovi - Self titled Smash poppy vocals with crunchy guitars, driving drums and some good old fashioned attitude together and you get the great Vokovia. ‘La Di Da’, song number one, the entry point, what an entry point it is. ‘La Di Da’ is catchy rock at its very finest; there is so much to love here. On show is the bands chemistry it’s effortless, and you can really tell that they have been together for 7 years, refining what sound they want to put out. A sound that is hard hitting in places but unbelievably hooky in others. ‘Target Practise’ is sublime straight from the off it has you as it punches you in the jaw with its ferocity, stabbing guitar before it exits leaving the rhythm section to put the groove down. What is interesting about this song is it was released way back when the band was very new. It is good to see that they did not leave it as it was but instead reimaging it then having the belief in it to place it on the album (it’s same with ‘Bouncy Castle’). ‘Wander’ leans on the more pop side of Vokovia’s music dialling back on the distortion relying on more melody than outright rock. The singing always offers great melodies and all the way through the album Janinie has a good voice, the way it is incorporated into every track is a quality many bands would wish to have. Their eponymous debut takes the best pop hooks and merges them with some killer riffs and smashing drums plus bass to create an album that frankly I cannot fathom why it isn’t all over the radio. They can play, they are unique both sound wise and aesthetically, and surely it can only be a matter of time before they explode, especially on the back of this top debut. EJ
Hit The Shadows - Triumph A five track EP that shows a band that are talented, a band that on their social media sites classify themselves as a metalcore band but that is not all they are. The song that is undeniably a metalcore song of the five is song number three ‘Manalore’. It has the guttural vocals. The band is as good at this as they are at the more traditional metal styles they show on ‘Triumph’ and ‘Day In Day Out’ which are more in the vein of classic metal. These more classic sounding songs are worth a listen as they have the standard elements played well bouncing off one another. Harnessing the grandiose melodrama on ‘Shadow Puppets’ works in the bands favour as it fits the lead vocals. They are deep in pitch again adding yet another operatic feel to the song and EP; it is the crux to the extended play without that element it would be nowhere near as appealing as it is. It would be extremely standard and generic but the ability to sing in that lower register makes it a little different from the common high pitched screeches you hear in other tracks in this genre (I am not saying that they are less impressive or talented just more common). ‘Triumph’ is a good EP that Hit the Shadows have made the most of to prepare for an album, it will gain its fair share of fans that will get a kick out of it. I would recommend checking it out if you are a metalhead. EJ
Born of Osiris - The Eternal Reign Born of Osiris is not a band that I would typically listen to. I have seen them live a few times, simply because they were on a tour I was going to see. And I always thought they were good and put on a good show, just not a band I would go see on my own. I can now say that has changed. After listening to their new album, ‘The Eternal Reign’ I am a fan. This album is that good. I would recommend this to anyone that enjoys metal, especially technical precise metal. Right off the bat with the first track ‘Rosecrance’, we are welcomed with some brutal screams. Screams that any Born of Osiris fan would already be used to. What these guys bring to the plate is nothing new, they just do it well. Probably better than most in the genre. And this is clear in the first track. Besides the blood-curdling screams of Ronnie Canizaro, the drumming of Cameron Losch is on point and I catch myself playing air drums constantly. Speaking of the drumming, the double bass on ‘Empires Erased’ is second to none. It is also on this track that we get the first real taste of that technical guitar playing courtesy of Lee McKinney. But he really shines on ‘Open Arms to Damnation’. One of the best tracks on the album is ‘The Takeover’. Musically it shines but it’s the lyrical content that really sticks out here. If you like metal with some thought provoking lyrics, start with that track. Overall this album is solid. While it may not be anything new or different, they just do a really good job showcasing what metal in 2017 sounds like. Nothing fancy, just straight in your face metal. RM
Jon Tessier - Like The Sun Ibiza’s fresh singer/song writer/producer, Jon Tessier dropped ‘Like The Sun’ as one of his two singles that are currently out right now. The single is a reach towards alt-rock with classic rock influences and a hint of indie punk that shines through. Reminiscent of some elements of Red Hot Chili Peppers and old school soft rock, ‘Like the Sun’ should for sure be on your radar as an up and coming single that takes it back to old school vibes with a contemporary twist. LD
Create To Inspire - Sickness Create to Inspire are another in the long line of UK bands to try and harness the sound of post-hardcore. We’ve had many attempts over the years and many fails and where others have lost this band are on their way to being victorious. The screaming vocals on the second track ‘Recluse’ alone are enough for people to see that these boys are different. Strangely they don’t sound like any other vocals out there, which is very rare for a band these days. The insane vocals combined with the incredible breakdowns means this truly stands out as a great metal track. ‘Loss’ begins with an intricately played guitar melody and a soft drum beat which would make any other song an almost relaxing experience. However with the once again incredible if not overbearing vocals being screamed relentlessly you know it’s only a matter of time before it kicks in and it’s not a disappointing climax. The melodic vocals join in at the perfect time and create an amazing semblance. Without doubt the best track on this album is the awesome and incredible ‘Sinking’. The perfect mix of melodic vocals along with the screaming is timed perfectly and the amazing instrument work accompanying is incredible to listen to. Create to Inspire are an awesome post-hardcore act who definitely have what it takes to be up there with the top dogs of the genre. Their blend of melodic vocals and screaming is awe inspiring, this is their first album and they’ve done a fantastic job. I’m eager to see what the future holds. RO
Patent Pending - Other People's Greatest Hits So I was left with a predicament with this review, how do you review a whole album of covers? Everyone knows the song and most people will know that Patent Pending are just a rock/pop punk group so basically you combine pop classics and new hits with that...odd. I loved this album. It’s clear that some part of this they collectively decided that some tracks they would dedicate to up to date relevant pop songs but then others they chose the cheesiest ones they could. The first track is a combination of Tiesto’s ‘Wasted’ and Avicii’s ‘Wake Me Up’ (I had to google both of those names) and it works surprisingly well. Just at the second hook for ‘Wasted’ it kicks into ‘Wake Me Up’ and though it’s not quite as seamless as a DJ transition it brings the two tracks together with style. Picture the biggest metal head you know, or that you’ve ever seen. I’ve got news for you, if he’s around 25-28 then he would have spent a small part of his childhood enjoying ‘Spice Girls’. Fact. Strange as it may be PP’s cover of ‘Spice Up Your Life’ still manages to harness all the sassiness of the original and the classic “la’s” littered throughout are done with so much energy and passion it’s infectious. If you’re going to do a collection of cheesy pop ballads then you just can’t leave out Rick Ross, it would be some sort of crime. True his hit has become more of a meme than an actual song but it still gets the dancing started at a lot of parties and Patent Pending do it a great justice. Up next the insanely brilliant and still amazing ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’, the best thing about this is the awesome guitar melody. It almost feels like it was designed to be a rock song, obviously it wasn’t but these boys just have a talent of being able to turn anything into a banging track. The last few tracks are more dedicated to the up to date songs of the later years, ‘Mr Brightside’ leads the final few and it took me a while to guess it was the Killers signature track, making the keyboard one tempo faster can do a lot of damage. This is quickly followed by one of the biggest tracks in the world ‘Shape of You’ by Mr Ed Sheeran and again these guys just make it even more awesome than it already is. The keyboard is replaced with an almost synth sound and the bass guitar is very dominant but it works very well. Whether this album was done as a joke or as a serious project is yet to be seen but Patent Pending have proved that they can take any song in the world and turn it into an amazing rock track. RO
Tall Ships - Impressions My music taste these days is mostly metal/punk or a cross between metalcore and other genres however my roots will always belong with indie and that is why I love Tall Ships new album ‘Impressions’. A slow starting song ‘Road Not Taken’ calls the listener into this album, as I listened intently I began to think, “When does it actually start?” and before I knew it I was listening to a myriad of sounds all coming together to create a fantastic piece of music. The lead vocals from Ric Phethean are almost of an Interpol descent but with a little bit more life to them, this is a band that actually sound like they’re enjoying what they do. Which for a lot of indie bands can be a difficult task. This is a very mixed bag of goodies album, there are the upbeat almost dance worthy tracks like ‘Will to Live’ and ‘Petrichor’. They’re the ones that have the more high pitched vocals along with faster drum beats and a more rocky guitar backing them up. On the flip side you then have tracks like ‘Home’ and ‘Lucille’, which retain the same kind of pace as each other. Slow. They blend into the album almost seamlessly and add that extra layer to the experience of the album as a whole. The final track on the album ‘Day by Day’ is a wonderful rock ballad and just makes you feel like cracking open a cold drink and sitting in a field on a summer’s day. It has that catchy rhythm that somehow manages to stay in your head even if it is mellow and slow. Tall Ships capture the heart and soul of Indie rock and their new album is an excellent addition to their previous album ‘Everything Touching’. RO
Lullwater - Seattle Sessions ‘The Seattle Sessions’ from Athens, GA based four piece Lullwater was recorded at London Bridge Studios in Seattle, WA (2013) during several dates of their spring 2013 tour. The four song EP takes a different twist on the previously released tracks and brings the raw passion from a live set right to your headphones. ‘A Forgotten Name’ rolls in with a classic grunge rock feel and opens the door to strong driven riffs and gritty - down and dirty like singing that pairs perfectly with a cold beer and a dimly lit bar to chill out on a Friday night. ‘Let Me Out’ takes a more upbeat tone and then slows it down over the bridge to a more jazz influenced - blues like rhythm. Buildup in this song is huge and doesn't disappoint in transitions between the varied tempos and continued energy packed into the vocals. ‘Broken Wings’ moves into a swinging, blues-y type riff at the forthcoming and then puts those gritty vocals to work with the slowed and prolonged riffs over verses to give you a perfect beat to nod to whether you’re on the bus or driving - perfect eminence of a live set from these rowdy guys. ‘Release’ as the finisher of the EP is their edition of the Pearl Jam hit which made its publicized debut with a video performing the song with Pearl Jam drummer Dave Krusen. Overall the song makes an excellent choice as the finisher, because who doesn’t love Pearl Jam and who doesn’t love an equally awesome cover with impressive sound. As a self proclaimed nerd about live albums, it’s no surprise I was fond of this EP however as someone who also listens to quite a bit of live recorded songs, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this one conveyed. LD
Matty Mullins - Unstoppable Matty Mullins of Memphis May Fire definitely takes a new approach to musical stylings with his most recent release of ‘Unstoppable’. Bringing in a pop like sound to his Christian Rock digs, the project differs from his work in Memphis May Fire but speaks to his versatility as a musician. The ten track piece makes its faith based direction apparent however appealing to all audiences. Hints and touches of country and soul come out in tracks like ‘The Best is yet to Come’ and ‘Until I Need You’. ‘Brand New Fire’ is more of a pure pop sound, at the fifth spot in the track list. Arguably this is one of the “poppiest” songs on the album, second to ‘The Great Unknown’ which both keep the upbeat tone and classic catchy chorus which rivals that of a radio hit. Wrapping up with ‘Until I Need You’ as one of the more mellow tracks, the chorus is an uplifting and triumphant melody that finishes out with closure; an appropriate choice for the album finisher. While entirely possible you might hear these tracks on your local pop radio station, they are an excellent listen even if entirely different from what the name may entail for metal core fans. Even for listeners that are not particularly religious, these songs make for a great listen and I would recommend you give it a shot nonetheless. LD
Maxdmyz - Alchemical Metal Classic metal inspired project MAXDMYZ and their new EP ‘Alchemical Metal’ are bringing back old school vibes and head banging tunes for you to jam out to in your car at that red light while you pretend no one is watching you, even though they definitely are. ‘All to Hell’ rounds off their self described influences of “Music, life events, history, unexplained phenomena, sex, alcohol, fetishes, religion, fine wallpaper, politics, important figures, subliminal messages, propaganda and stuff that generally really pisses us off!” Opening up mysterious, and downplayed, then packing on in a wind up for the heavy nature of this track and dense riffs, this song makes a fantastic open with very distinct vocals that borer the edge of a psychedelic sound. ‘Reason to Live’ contains a tormented, haunting sound that replicates a denser, and slower version of some goblin-metal, and then brings about a swinging and rhythmic chorus. While channeling a classic metal sound, these guys are also breaking bounds with the combination and tempo of the vocals mixed with the riffs that in this track especially flip back and forth a fair bit to move the listener through an up and down frequency. At four minutes and forty five seconds, this is the shortest song on the EP. ‘Ex-Deo’ opens with a new age psychedelic sound, which then takes its time to drop down into a drum line and then into a riff which is heavier set, but with a slower tempo. The verses move slowly, and quietly, however setting the chorus up for their prolonged intensity. This track was my favorite off the EP for the reason being that it takes its time to set itself up through the entire track, while becoming increasingly more intense and anticipation rather than boring because nothing ever came of it. ‘Down in the Dirt’ opens with beach sounds and a bass line, which is significantly different than the past three tracks however the creative risk pans out. With a blues and jazz like feel, the song quickly pans out into an upbeat and flying pace that makes this song a track of extremes and antics. I’m sure this song is a crowd pleaser for live sets and overall is a great choice for the finisher. As a relatively low key band, this EP does a fantastic job of bringing something fresh to the table and definitely made me want to catch them live and see what’s happening with these guys. For fans of heavier set hypnotic tunes, with a hint of psychedelia, or for those who are curious these guys are now a go to listen for me. LD
Divinex - Create. Affect. Repeat. Progressive metal/ experimental project Divinex out of Rochester, New York released ‘Create. Affect. Repeat.’ On June 1, 2017. While lacking a vocalist, the psychedelic like metal project takes a new dimensional through transportational riffs, drums, and bass lines. The problem with a project lacking vocals is that the tracks can be hard to differentiate, which is not ideal in any work and in some aspects becomes even harder when there is one less factor that goes into the equation. As a result of this I didn’t dig the album as much as I hoped I would, and I simply enjoyed the technical thinking behind it. It is a very well layered and complex thinking piece that was obviously worked very hard on, however I can’t find myself transported away from it as much as I would hope it would. These upstate New Yorkers are impressive with blistering riffs and well timed progression, and I hope that with time I come to find myself liking this piece even more as it was obviously a harmonious audio painting, however the unconventionality of it made it hard to fall head over heels. The nine track album is a product of many thoughts and equations in the brains of members Jay, Jon, and Pat. With all being said, I think it’s important to note that the unconventionality of these tracks is not a negative thing and rather thought provoking - a reaction to the “norm” of musicians to have a vocalist. All three of these members are clearly very talented which is reflected in the intertwined and challenging nature of these songs. Each track does take you on a different journey where you may not have achieved that through vocals; despite the fact that I did not feel the effects of that as much as I would have liked to. Overall, I think these guys did a really good job regardless of my eyebrows raised take on their progressive metal project. I would be extremely curious to see how these guys are live, and am excited to think and mull over this piece more to get the full experience from this album! LD
Eighteen Visions - XVIII After nearly a decade of inactivity following their breakup in 2007, Eighteen Visions hailing from Orange County, CA have released their newest project titled ‘XVIII’ which is absolutely brutal, insane, and on the brink of industrial innovation. While only a three piece now, and bass lines recycled from live sets of Mick Morris (bassist) as a tribute to him in memorial of his passing in 2013. Now making a home at Rise Records, these guys are reviving old school metal memories with a new school twist. Songs like ‘Spit’, ‘Picture Perfect’, and ‘Fake Leather Jacket’ are all prime examples of this band’s talents and a gentle reminder of who exactly we were missing all these years. ‘Spit’ is a grooving, dense soul inspired track that imagines brutality and a country like feel through the verses to perfect slow and rowdy riffs; impossible to get out of your head and impossible for anyone to hate. The same screams and cleans fill the space while pulling and roundabout riffs toy in the gaps, a recipe for success and hands down my favorite track off the entire ten track album. ‘Picture Perfect’ rolls in at two minutes and thirty seven seconds to one of the most challenging songs on the album. While it is not flaunt-y or filled with frills, this track definitely gives you a good reason to feel the bass all the way up and groove to these rhythmic riffs. Although the third shortest track on the album, this one packs a huge punch for intensity. ‘Fake Leather Jacket’ opens with a dialogue, which is not the first time this occurs on the track. I have come to quite like the intros where it is more of a conversation that then drops into the same dueling riffs and vocals that Eighteen Visions always delivers on. While these three songs come at a high personal recommendation, (from Lia at Stencil, to all the wonderful readers at home) the songs ‘Underneath my Gun’, ‘Live Again’, and ‘Oath’ made a distinct impression on me. ‘Underneath My Gun’ channels a nostalgic sound that reminisces old school thrash and aggression undermining day to day mentality. ‘Live Again’ is the most unsuspecting of the ten tracks on this album. It opens with earthly tones and continues this theme throughout the entire piece, contrasting with its abrasive nature of flying riffs. ‘Oath’ is just fast and furious, hard and heavy all the way through. For the blistering metal head in you, this one is your number one. Overall I am incredibly pleased with the outcome of ‘XVIII’ from Eighteen Visions, after a long time off these guys did an excellent job of making a comeback and lived up to their already legendary name. LD
Defences - With Might and Main One of my favorite things in the world is discovering new bands, new music. There is something relaxing and exciting about it at the same time. Defences, an alt-metal band from Hertfordshire are the latest band I have come across and let me tell you their album, ‘With Might and Main’ is something special. It is one of those albums I will be listening to over and over for a few weeks and then afterwards it will be part of my rotation. The first track, ‘Re Emerge’ is more or so an instrumental track. It starts with some soft piano playing before some cool effects are added in along with some light vocals. It is a nice little quick number to start the album, the calm before the storm so to speak. It is on the next track, ‘The Takeover’ that we get the full effect of what this band is fully capable of. One of the standouts are the dual vocals of Cherry Duesbury and Calum Wilmot. This is something I have always been a fan of, be it Underoath, Dance Gavin Dance, or Blink-182. However, these two may be the best I have heard in a long time. It was the track, ‘Let you In’ that really caught my ear. It has a sound that is very infectious and the chorus is one that I have been singing in my head the past few days. If you want to see what this alt-metal band is truly capable of then look no further than the track, ‘Beneath the Surface’. This track showcases everything that is amazing about this young group. Every aspect of this song is golden and is what it should be. If any track has a chance to help them break out here in the US, then it is going to be this one. This is a band that has so much potential. They just need the right opportunity. And that comes in the form of a tour. It’s a shame that Chiodos are no longer because they would pair well with them. But regardless this is a band that will go places, and this is an album that needs to be heard. RM
Miss May I - Shadows Inside ‘Shadows Inside’ is the sixth release by this metalcore unit from Troy, OH. And they do not hold back at all. This album is full of intensity and fire. These guys know what they are doing. They waste no time getting to what they do best. Right from the start we are welcomed with a force so powerful that even the most casual metal fan will be rocking out. The album starts with the title track, ‘Shadows Inside’. It truly sucks you in instantly. I feel nowadays bands don’t start albums with a banger. Albums should pull you in from the start and that happens here. You will be head banging from that initial note or wanting to start a mosh pit in your living room. One of the best songs on the album isn’t even a metal song. With the song ‘Never Let Me Say’ Miss May I shows how diverse they can be. The vocals remind me a lot of Chester from Linkin Park. The music itself is also a bit calmer. This is what a metalcore ballad would sound like. The one song that I catch myself singing all the time is ‘My Destruction’. This song is so powerful and fun. Powerful and fun, two words that shouldn’t go together but somehow Miss May I brings them together and it is a thing a beauty. Another standout track is ‘Lost in the Grey’. This one has that classic Miss May I feel that we know and adore. It’s one of those hard hitting tracks that are right up in your face and you have no choice but to like it. And the message is also a good one. There is a line in the song that goes, “We are greater than this, we are stronger than before. There’s no locking us in, we’re not hopeless”. If that does not ring true right now then I don’t know what does. This is the anthem on this album. Overall ‘Shadows Inside’ is a very solid release. It is everything that a metalcore album in 2017 should be. Miss May I have upped the ante and it is going to be hard to touch this release. That’s how good it is. RM
Daisyhead- In Case You Missed it Our Nashville, TN friends most recently released ‘In Case You Missed It’ via No Sleep Records. Coming in at eleven tracks, the entire summation works together as an alt-rock project channeling a nostalgic, and vulnerable sound. The title track ‘In Case You Missed It’ has a softly spoken and a quiet tonal intro to the broader sound of the song which moves into a brasher transition and then settles into an emotion driven progression. ‘Don’t Feel Bad’ brings the heavier set elements of rock into play with a fast paced intro and drum heavy progression, a stark contrast from the previous softer side of the tracks.
These guys truly have talent and clearly spent a long time in making this their own album, however my only gripe about this is that there tends to be only two kinds of songs where it’s either a soft spoken and more emotive driven track or something that is brash and more upbeat. I would have loved to see some differentiation as the more I listened the more it started to sound two sided. There were clear differences however I would've liked to see them play a little more with different influences and sounds. LD
Gnarwolves- Outsiders For fans of textbook skate punk, and good times in a bar with friends and timeless music, ‘Outsiders’ by Gnarwolves does not disappoint. The Brighton three piece released ‘Outsiders’ on May 5, 2017 via Tangled Talk Records, the ten track banger following their self titled release in 2014. Through pop like melodies and skate/garage punk tones, the entire album creates a tone of down and dirty just good old punk music. Opening with ‘Straitjacket’, the track captures the essence of punk culture and the feelings of many that “I was born in a straitjacket.” Moving into ‘Wires’ and ‘Paint Me a Martyr’ bring about tracks that are a little more upbeat and energetic. The sixth track, ‘Argument’, takes a little more of a rhythmic or melodic take on the brash and unmistakably punk attitude of these guys. At the middle of the album, the track placement on this song is a strong choice as it takes a step in a different direction from the prior tracks and sets up the tracks to come for a build up. Wrapping up the album with ‘Shut Up’, this is arguably one of the most mellow and rocking horse rhythm-like tracks on the entire album. Coming in at just under seven minutes, the track covers subject matter of pain and hurt through the minor key and raw vocals. This song out of the entire album was my favorite, and an extremely strong choice as they wrap up the track to finish out this album. Overall these guys did a great job on this release, however I wish I had seen a bit more differentiation in tracks within the beginning of the album. For fans of classic skate and garage punk, this is a must listen. LD
In Hearts Wake- Ark Metalcore received a gift from the gods on May 26, 2017 with ‘Ark’ from In Hearts Wake in Byron Bay. The twelve track slammer is making waves in the core community and immediately starts out strong with ‘Passage’. With a guttural scream heavy progression and a grooving heavy tone, this track would make a banger of an opener for any show and sets the stage for the vibe these guys are putting out there. ‘Frequency’ takes a bit of a lighter approach, with a not so scream heavy track and melodic catchy tune to round out the chorus. However this is immediately followed by ‘Warcry’, and as the name suggests there is nothing light about this track. An anthem for this generation, this song is a pit worthy slammer and one of my favorites with its catchy chorus and growl-rich verses. ‘Arrow’ is one of the more ballad like tracks that take a quieter and emotive approach. I love that despite the stark contrast between the past tracks and this raw, exposed track, In Hearts Wake still made its mark on everything between as it being theirs. This is unmistakably written and recorded by In Hearts Wake, and that isn’t always easy to tell when there is such a diversity between tracks on an album. The next track ‘Flow’, makes a good transition from ‘Arrow’ back into the heavier set finisher with clean vocals and the occasional scream as opposed to the other way around. This song takes on the same raw and exposed nature, however adding in a couple more heavier set riffs and screams. Finishing out this 12 track masterpiece is ‘Now’, which rolls in with a galactic like sound for the first 45 seconds and swells into triumphant tones. Reminiscent of an atmospherical black metal project, minus the scream tones, this remedial 3:22 take finishes out the album in a noteworthy and memorable way. ‘Ark’ comes highly recommended for our fans of melodic metalcore! LD Retro Youth - BRAVE Alternative-rock trio Retro Youth are combining bubblegum pop elements with punk and an alt- rock twist to their most recent release of the twelve track full length, ‘B.R.A.V.E.’ With hooks that immediately catch you and influences from all over, Retro Youth certainly takes a new twist on alt rock; sometimes sounding like a smooth and sexy R&B reminiscent tone or coming through a pop punk styling. ‘The Lost and Found’ and ‘Hometown Homesick’ are tracks that are a little more pop sounding, reminiscent of heavier set pop punk. For fans of As It Is these tracks should be your go to kick off for this full length. ‘Love: The Monster’ is a prime example of the R&B influence shining through with swinging vocals, and a rich, deep bass line that takes an underground and mysterious approach on the catchy track. ‘Bruises’ as the second to last track of the album introduces a heavier rock sound that is a controlled, quite, vibe but dialed up on the intensity. Through the chorus we get the same controlled intensity that makes this the most true to rock sound on the album.
All of the tracks come in around three minutes and thirty seconds, with the exception of a few, however they all are sure to pack a punch. While these guys have only been around since 2015, ‘B. R.A.V.E’ wraps up their sound well and plays between many different influences and genres. For fans of heavier set pop punk with a rock heavy twist, Retro Youth should for sure be on your radar! LD
Cky - The Phoenix It’s been eight years since CKY last released an album and with the departure of Deron Miller from the mic duties and the arrival of Chad Ginsburg, it marks something of a new dawn for the band. Opener ‘Replaceable’ is catchy and kicks the record off with a real swagger, stomping and grooving its way through some nice licks and a great hook in the organ. They work well moving into time changes and sounds, going from rough and raw to epic and massive and back again seamlessly. It’s a cracking start that takes you into the riff heavy ‘Days of Self-Destruction’. Again, the sounds are crisp and sweet, Ginsburg is also showing himself more than worthy of his spot. There are going to be plenty of ears on him for this and he is smashing it. With a voice, as deep as his he gets a lot of character and depth from it. There is a certain amount of blues on this album and a bit of a funky, psychedelic tinge which is executed very well. It keeps things catchy and provides no shortage of hooks. When it does kick in to the riff heavy moments, they are tight and dynamic providing a bit of something of everything really. Near 20 years as a band is no mean feat, they’ve had the bumps on the way but in 2017, things are looking pretty good for CKY and they have an album to be proud of and just like a phoenix, they have certainly risen again. AN
Authority Zero - Broadcasting to the Nations A lot of the music I like now was based on what I listened to as I grew up, most of this influence came from the Tony Hawk’s games. When you go back and look at the tracklist on all these games they were so fucking good and yet I’d never heard these guys or even heard of them. Authority Zero have if I could describe them in any way would be a heavier Offspring. At least that’s what I get from the first two tracks ‘First One in the Pit’ and ‘Reconciliation’. If anyone were to tell me that Ska isn’t the most fun music of all time then I would proclaim that person a liar, hung drawn and quartered in a town square, maybe a bit far but I love ska! Luckily it seems as if this awesome band are as in love with the genre as I am. They’ve sprinkled a few ska tracks in, the first being the titular track and the next being ‘Revolution Riot’. Both have that awesome bounce to make you want to start skanking randomly. I was sat down to write this but my legs were bounding like an octopus on speed.
‘Summer Sickness’ is an extremely toned down track to follow the excitement and fun of the previous one, it holds a very reggae feel with it’s funky guitar playing and mellowed down drum beat. The lead vocals really add the authenticity of a reggae track as well. And the introduction of a trumpet is the icing on the cake. While the Ska and laid back tracks are great on this album there’s still nothing like a straight up punk track, this is covered by the likes of ‘Sevens’ and ‘When We Rule The World’. Fast drum beat, aggressive vocals and obviously kick ass guitar riffs. The forumla to perfect tracks. ‘Broadcasting to the Nations’ is a great album and I would recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a truly diverse album. To dive from Ska to pop punk is something a lot of bands fail at but when you find a band who are awesome at it you stick with them. RO
Keys To The City - It's Time To Feel Alive Only forming in 2015, Keys’ have managed to carve out a great sound, bringing hardcore and metalcore together nicely with melodic undertones among crushing riffs and drums. Having a female singer for the clean section also gives them something to stand out, all too often a screamer can’t quite manage the clean vocals and vice versa but having a female voice and one that is as good really takes away any of those potential problems. They are able to bounce off each other well, the one problem comes with both vocals being a little too high in the mix for my taste at times. There is a lot of great melodic guitar work being delivered on a song like the brilliantly titled ‘Tattoos Don’t Make You A Rock Star’. A stand out comes with ‘Vehement’ which almost takes them into ballad territory if you took away the effects and screams, it takes full advantage of the quality of Jocelyn’s voice which really stands out and makes the melodies even better. It’s a good start for their first EP, there’s work to do but they are very much on the right path! AN
Malevolence - Self Supremacy A real hardcore riff machine, that’s the first thing that always strikes me with Malevolence, groovy riffs which are then replaced by bowel loosening breakdowns. They’ve always had that mix of Pantera/Hatebreed down to a tee but still give it a personal stamp that makes them who they are. With ‘Self Supremacy’ it is no different and right off, despite a quieter, bluesier start, they are soon off and pounding, the title track taking little jabs before delivering the hay maker and kicking into full on brutality and there is no taking the foot off the throat with the monstrous ‘Trial by Fire’. It takes a bit more of a thrash vibe but never loses the identity they have built, it has just been given a severe kicking Malevolence style. ‘Wasted Breath’ has a more measured approach, taking the tempo down a few beats but the power and energy never saps. ‘Body Count’ opens by showing the quality of the guitar work with dual harmonies kicking in and coming in, in various ways throughout the song along with moments of break neck drumming.
For me, 2013s ‘Reign of Suffering’ should have been a seriously hard act to follow, that album blew me away with its raw power, however this one has topped it and sees a band with four more years’ experience and has seen them make a genre definer. This is a banger, these songs live will be monsters and in my younger days I’d be in the pit for these but being older and more (in some ways anyway) sensible I’ll be sticking well clear because it will be, like this album, vicious. AN
Blood Command - Cult Drugs ABBA, In Flames, The Hives, Meshuggah, and Refused all have two things in common. Well, one is an opinion and the other is a fact. The first is that they all are really incredible bands. The fact is that they all are from Sweden. While there are others, of course, one band from Sweden has caught my attention and that band is Blood Command. Upon seeing their name and not knowing anything about them, I kind of assumed they were a dream pop or synth pop band. Boy was I wrong. The first track, ‘Ctrl+Art+Delete’, also threw me off. It started out sounding like an industrial band, which I would have been okay with. Once again, WRONG!!!!!! Once the vocals hit I was instantly reminded of Refused. ‘Cult Drugs’ is the 3rd full length from this hardcore punk four piece. And while I haven’t listened to the others I can honestly say this is a very good album and I’m interested in their growth, so I will be listening to the first two. Anyways back to this release. As I mentioned above it starts with a banger of a track in ‘Ctrl+Art+Delete’ This track does an excellent job of setting the pace for the album. It lets you know what you are in for, once you get past the industrial metal intro. The other cool thing about this track is it segues into the next track, ‘Cult Drugs’, which is also the title track. I like this track because it has a few pop tendencies. Which is cool to hear. As Sweden has had some really amazing pop acts throughout the years. One of my favorite tracks, ‘Nervous Laughter’ has a Paramore feel to it. Not old Paramore but ‘Hard Times’ Paramore. And it fits with the flow of the release. The more I listened to the album I picked up on their pop tendencies more and more. And I have to say, they do it well. They pick up the intensity with ‘You Can’t Sit With Us’. It’s a very in your face type of track. Which makes sense with the name of it. ‘White Skin//Tanned Teeth’ is hands down one of the hardest tracks on the album. And at the same time showcases the vocals of Karina Ljone very well. Overall this is a very solid release and it should appeal to fans of a few genres. Something that should help them stick out and gain fans along the way. I know they have gained one in me. RM
All Time Low - Last Young Renegade A few things you can’t deny the sky is blue, wasps are dicks and All Time Low are continuously getting bigger and bigger. Even with the dramatic change to their sound I still think their hold on the world will not loosen. It’s good to see that during their career they’ve not really faltered from what they do, this is evident on the song ‘Last Young Renegade’. Lead singer Alex’s vocals are still on top form and their ability to create catchy anthems is still alive and kicking. The stand out moment in ‘Last Young Renegade’ for me came on the second song ‘Drugs and Candy’, although the title is quite innocent and childish the tone of the track is a lot quieter than the songs they usually produce. It’s nice to see them taking an older sounding approach to their music. In one way I can see why they would release ‘Dirty Laundry’ as the rhythm behind it is very catchy and would appeal to a lot of people, the only issue I have with the track is the lyrics. The incessant repeating of “Dirty laundry” was far too much for me to take and in the end I had to abandon the track, probably the only moment of the album where I grew bored. One thing this band are amazing at is producing songs that work at their live shows, be it the fast tracks to get people bouncing or the slow tracks for a beautiful anthem. This is what ‘Good Times’ is for this album, a mellow rock ballad for the fans. It’s clear that they’re not the kids who broke onto the scene with ‘Dear Maria’... these are men who have been in the industry a long time and have gone out of the “hate girls” stage of their careers. The songs that highlight this are ‘Dark Side of Your Room’ and ‘Nightmares’. They’ve become the pop punk band for the younger generation and this mantle has not been handled with carelessness. Their ballads are unforgettable, fun and dancy. They’ve proved they can play massive main stages and tiny venues to boot, this is a band that get what’s going on. RO
Emma Blackery - Magnetised I’m a big fan of naturally voiced female singers, not the ones that have that x factor style voice where being able to do little squawks and move through half a dozen pitches in one word. Ones that have a natural voice and don’t need the gimmicky bullshit that years of shitty TV reality talent shows have landed the music world into what it is today. That is everything this young lady is not. Emma Blackery has a natural voice free from all of that, she does not have the voice that the mainstream deem to be tear jerking or whatever other crap they expect, she has a naturally good voice and it has character. Plenty of it. Full of expression and there is certainly no shortage of talent in getting the emotion of the song across. Her story is an organic one by the standards of the tools available in the modern world, she has developed a big following and with songs such as the opener ‘Nothing Without You’ is well deserved. She’s telling stories and in an expressive and emotive way. The songs are slick and thought provoking with sing-along moments galore and in the closer ‘Human Behaviour’ she has a real beauty of a song. Emma Blackery may just have given me my new musical guilty pleasure but it shouldn’t be seen as such. If you appreciate good music and a great voice then she fits the bill perfectly. AN
Aeraco - Baptized By Fire This is an album flying so many flags in the rock genre, there isn’t much these guys don’t cover. ‘Back With A Vengence’ taps into classic metal with fairly obvious influences as they crash and riff their way through five minutes of powerful groove laden metal before ‘Cum to Rock’ enters into an 80s metal swagger, pack with hooks and melody and slightly tongue in cheek lyrics. It works really well! This is a band that takes everything great about rock and metal and moulds them together, there is a timeless sound with them and it is just really good fun to listen to. The musicianship is top notch too, able to pluck the riffs out and create melodies that bind it all together in a fluid and organic way.
‘Tequila and Lime’ finds them firing out plenty of rock clichés but in a way, that takes out any potential cheese factor that could be associated to making a superb rock song, the lyrics crack a smirk or two and the solo shreds things up nicely. These guys have a great work ethic, self-financed in every way and hard-working, they know how to write great rock songs and how to deliver them. They make rock what it should be, fun and enjoyable and they tick both boxes along with plenty more. This record deserves plenty of attention. AN
Iron Bastards - Fast & Dangerous There is no mistaking the influence on Strasbourg’s, Iron Bastard, straight from the pulverising opening of last years album ‘Fast and Dangerous’ it is immediately clear that if you are a Motorhead fan then this is going to be right up your street. ‘Fast and Furious’ complete with groove and overdriven bass, it is mile a minute stuff that doesn’t allow for any let up. Songs such as ‘Rock o’ Clock’ are catchy while never allowing the heaviness to slacken off keeping the hand gripped round the throat while the Phil Campbell solos are covered to great effect.
The entire album is essentially a tribute to Motorhead albeit with original songs, they do them very well and while there is no signature sound to make themselves stand out, it is a cracking album. I’m not sure it’s one I’d come back to often but one thing it does do is put me in the mood to crack out the Motorhead records and get them turned up to 10. They are passionate, that comes through in spades and for that, and keeping the flame burning? They deserve plenty of credit. AN
Crimson Guardian - Sands of Time Taking a mix of classic metal and adding elements of 80s thrash, Oregon’s Crimson Guardian bring a modern tinge on the essential metal styles. One thing that stands out straight away is the production, while metal bands these days have a polished and crystal clear sound, Crimson Guardian have a raw and dirty sound. It doesn’t sound sonically perfect and initial impressions that makes it an even better listen. The bass is booming while not over powering the guitar work although at points the vocals just don’t cut through, be that production or lack of power in the voice I’m not sure but the vocals need something to boost them. As for the songs, each one has its moments of quality but they never manage to deliver a truly knock out punch, it is by the numbers rock and metal that is fairly uninspiring. One song that has moments where you think it is going to kick into high gear is ‘Nightmare’ which suffers from the raw production, the middle eight sounds empty and takes away the momentum when it kicks back into the groove and should have been a beast of a riff. A decent album for old school metal fans to check out it comes close enough but just doesn’t quite cut it. I love a raw sound on a metal album but it still needs to have meat and that initial enjoyment of the rawer sound gave way fairly quickly. This one needed more boom and it suffers for the lack of it. AN
Given the atrocities that went ahead recently it was a surprise Slam Dunk was as big a success as it actually was, in actual fact I think this may have been the best in the festival’s history in terms of atmosphere. This was a place where people gathered to fight back and live and it was an incredible day. Security was noticeably different but once all the checks had been done it was time to party down. Up first on the Fireball Stage a classic band Fenix TX, the pop punk band from way back in the day were surprised to see such a large crowd turn out given they were the first act. Everyone was waiting for their classic track ‘Threesome’, which spurned a mass sing along but this band proved they’re more than just a one hit wonder and played a great show to kick off the day. Over to the Jagermeister stage and Japan’s Crossfaith are proving they have more than what it takes to be main stage material. Their energy on stage is intoxicating and they are clearly throwing all of what they have into the performance. A highlight of the set was bringing out ‘Caleb from Beartooth’ (I think that’s his birth name) for their insane track ‘Ghost in the Mirror’. This was followed up by a cover of The Prodigy’s ‘Omen’ and it was a surprise there was a main arena left after the chaos that ensued. Once again this band go above and beyond expectation. As lead singer Ali said to a roaring crowd “this is the fourth year in a row Zeebrahead have played Slam Dunk.” Unfortunately due to mic and guitar issues it was not their best, but they still managed to do an incredible job with what they had to work with. At one point Ben Odsmunson was chatting away into the mic and it took the guitarist Matty to say “we can’t hear you” three times before he finally understood. It was a light hearted cut down set but with the hits such as ‘Hello Tomorrow’ and ‘Save Your Breath’ it was still a damn fine time to see this amazing act. Over to the Impericon stage where Ice Nine Kills had an unacceptably small crowd, still large enough for the lead singer to stand on (that’s right, stand on) but just not what they deserve. Kicking off with ‘Communion of the Cursed’ and then into ‘Hell in the Hallways’ these guys were on a roll. The crowd were singing along to every word and the pits were getting bigger. “This is a track we released yesterday. It’s based on the Shining” lead singer Spencer announced with a look of menace and they roared into the brand new track ‘Enjoy Your Slay’. ‘Me, Myself and Hyde’ finished the set with ferocity and the band left the stage. These guys haven’t begun to break the UK yet...but they will. Back to the main stage and Beartooth are proving to everyone why they’re still relevant in the alternative music scene. After their first album I lost the hardcore group but as I stood and watched their tenacity and pure malevolence I knew this band weren’t going to be lost again. They threw out all the hits, ‘Body Bag’, ‘The Lines’ and of course ‘In Between’. Not only do this band prove they’ve still got it but that they can dominate a main stage slot. I think it’s become a Slam Dunk tradition for me to miss one of the acts I was most excited about, I Prevail played the Impericon stage and fifteen minutes before they started I could not get in. I was not the only one, the crowd backed on for what seemed like forever and due to safety were restricted. I think Slam Dunk underestimated this band massively. Perhaps next year. A plus side of missing I Prevail was seeing Deaf Havana on the main stage, they’ve been out of the game a long time and this was almost a reunion party for them and they’ve come back with more fire and determination than I’ve ever seen from them. They started with ‘Ashes, Ashes’ and lead singer James stopped and said the room was giving him “An anxiety attack” but it didn’t let anything throw him off. Their set consisted of all new tracks including ‘Trigger’ and ‘Fever’. This was Deaf Havana proving they have what it takes to headline Slam Dunk one day, but to not play any of their older tracks was a bit of a kick in the teeth for all DH fans out there. The Fireball stage was packed, skanking was happening, trumpets were blaring, it could only be Reel Big Fish. This is an act that have proved time and time again that they are one of the best in the business, forgotten a little by the younger generation this is a band for the older Slam Dunk crowd and they know exactly how to appeal to them. If their hit ‘Beer’ wasn’t enough to get everyone into the party spirit then slipping off into a rendition of Offspring’s ‘Self Esteem’ certainly did the trick.
“Everyone remember our hit from the 90s?” the lead singer said before breaking into ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, ‘My Own Worst Enemy’ and ‘The Impression I Get’ which got huge laughs from the crowd. Heading back to their own tracks they did ‘Sell Out’ and their covers of ‘Take On Me’ and ‘Monkey Man’, ending the set and leaving the crowd hungry for more. Taking all precautions I could to be in the main arena for Enter Shikari I headed over to Don Broco’s set and was astounded for two reasons. One: I couldn’t believe how big these guys had become and Two: How amazing their live performance had become. To say this band have only ever released two albums they take no prisoners. The huge responses came from singles ‘Priorities’ and ‘Automatic’ but their latest single ‘Pretty’ saw lead singer Rob and Drummer Matty seperate the crowd themselves and end with a wall of death leaving the two band members in the crowd. A fantastic end to an incredible set. Every single band of the day was about to be blown out of the water. It was an electrifying atmosphere, the ‘Take to the Skies’ banner had been risen on the stage and all that was left was for that spine tingling moment when the lights go down. Even the intro ‘Stand Your Ground; This is Ancient Land’ was enough to get screams and then the chorus of “shit!” for Enter Shikari was something else entirely. “Straight in at the deep end” Rou said as the band kicked into the outrageous ‘Mothership’ followed by fan favourite ‘Anything Can Happen in the Next Half Hour...’ this was nostalgia through and through. These guys have been doing this tour for the best part of this year and they still look like they’re loving every single minute.
Having never been a band to do things conventionally, not content with playing their album in full back to back they sprinkle in some singles such as ‘Juggernauts’ and ‘Last Garrison’. “Up until this tour we’d never done this song live and I hope we can do it justice” Rou said before playing ‘Today Won’t Go Down in History’ which was a beautiful moment. A beautiful and poignant moment of the show was when Rou took to the stage with an acoustic guitar and said “Live music is probably the only thing left that can bring everyone together. So they, whoever they are. If they want to pick a fight with live music they are always going to lose” this was met with a huge roar and cheer from the crowd. It was an indescribable moment. He then completed a rendition of ‘Half the World Away’ and dedicated it to Manchester before kicking into ‘Adieu’. The almost poppy track ‘Redshift’ was up first for the encore, this does have an incredible sing along moment though and watching everyone light up their phones was amazing. Finishing off ‘Take to the Skies’ it could only be ‘Ok Time For Plan B’ and ending with the lose your shit moment playing ‘The Appeal and the Mindsweep II’ ending the set in style. Everyone left sweaty and exhausted and more than anything proud that they’d stood up for what they believed in. Slam Dunk this year wasn’t just a music festival it was a movement to show that nothing can ever bring down the community and the spirit of people in this country. RO
MACHINE GUN KELLY It did feel a little odd watching an act that had a song with Little Mix at Download Festival, but Machine Gun Kelly did pull out all the stops to win the crowd over. He’d evidently rocked up his act a bit with more guitars and jumping into the crowd (including a quite racy interaction with one lady on the front row). Not the most standout performance of the weekend, but more fun than I was expecting.
CODE ORANGE The crowd reaction to Code Orange alone is more than convincing enough that they won’t be on this size stage at this time for very long. Within a few seconds the whole tent was a seething mass of flying bodies and limbs, and that energy level kept up throughout the whole set. Jami Morgan and Reba Meyers are two very impressive and impassioned individuals, and with the songs off ‘Forever’ under their belt they now have enough absolute bangers to do a great set, and the ability to pull them off perfectly live as well.
SUICIDAL TENDENCIES Old-school crossover thrash, in the middle of the day, in the sun. It’s harder to think of a more sure-fire crowdpleaser at Download. Suicidal Tendencies don’t show their age one bit, and throwing out all of their classic material in a half-hour set that did the old guard proud.
BARONESS Baroness might just have been one of the most surprisingly good sets of the weekend. Despite there not being as many people at the stage as they deserved, and new guitarist Gina Gleason having been with the band for only a matter of weeks, the band were absolutely stunning. Hearing the material from ‘Purple’ played that well, in the sun, was a real treat. The band didn’t interact with the crowd all that much, but they didn’t need to; it was clear from the expression on Pete Baizley’s face that they were all having just as good a time as the crowd.
VENOM PRISON Speaking of not interacting much with the crowd, Venom Prison are becoming quite famous for just turning up, smashing their set and leaving, with no breaks in between songs. That’s exactly what they did here and by God was it good. There’s no pretence or bullshit with Venom Prison - they are a straight-up death metal band, with enough anger in them to overflow into each and every member of the crowd.
PROPHETS OF RAGE I was somewhat skeptical when it came to Prophets Of Rage. The recorded material they released was lacklustre at best, and I didn’t want to see the classic Rage Against The Machine material played by a load of old men who would ruin it. They were pretty good however: the sound was good, B-Real and Chuck D did Zack de la Roche a decent service, and it turns out that those classic RATM songs are good no matter who is playing them.
SYSTEM OF A DOWN In quite a controversial statement, System Of A Down may have been one of the biggest disappointments of the weekend. Yes it was lovely to hear them play those songs, but they were an absolute horror to watch on stage. Daron Malakian moved all of two feet throughout the entire set, preferring to just stare at the crowd from underneath his hat and Serj Tankian only seemed to be there 50% of the time, sometimes not even bothering to sing and not even giving the pretence that he was letting the crowd do it for him. Shavo Odadjian did provide crowd interaction though. SOAD have so many great songs, but when played without passion they lose something so important.
HACKTIVIST Talk about throwing your new members in at the deep end; Jot Maxi has only been with Hacktivist for two weeks, which is probably why he didn’t look entirely comfortable with them. The skill in the band is undeniable though, Jay and Jot blasting out their individual parts with gusto and absolutely nailing it, and guitarist Timfy James managing to pull off his guitar parts and impressive clean singing parts with apparent ease, all whilst wearing a Donald Duck shirt and matching shorts. It maybe would have been better if they had been in the 3rd stage tent later on in the day, but it was hard to find fault with what they did on the main stage.
CREEPER Even though it had just gone noon there was already a quite sizeable crowd at the main stage for Creeper. If the sound had been slightly better it would have been a pretty much perfect set, with the whole band pulling out all the stops to impress everyone who had turned up. It feels like Creeper are a thing that is going to happen no matter what, and honestly if they keep playing songs that are as good as the ones off ‘Eternity, In Your Arms’, I’m ok with that.
RAVENEYE Even though they played last year, RavenEye have returned to show people that a) rock and roll is not dead, and b) that they are a young band with so much to give. It was genuinely difficult to find a negative to what they did. There was plenty of great crowd interaction, a 30 minute set of absolute ragers, the band looked like they were having the time of their lives, and the crowd that had turned up to watch them were, to a man, loving every second of it. Those songs off last year’s ‘Nova’ are just so great, and to hear them played so well by a band who love being a band, was a heartwarming thing to behold.
EVERY TIME I DIE It is a fact well acknowledged that there are some bands who, if you give them a 30/45 minute slot at Download will just turn up and smash the shit out of it. Every Time I Die are one such band. They don’t have a bad album, and have been in the game long enough to be honed to the Nth degree at what they do. It was a slight shame the sound wasn’t brilliant, but as soon as the opening cowbell to ‘We’rewolf’ chimed in you know everyone was having a lovely time.
A DAY TO REMEMBER Bad sound was a recurring factor this weekend. A Day To Remember have so many songs that fit so well on the main stage of Download, especially with all your mates in the sun, and it seemed like everyone and their mates had turned up to watch them. The band sounded pretty on-point, but it was sometimes hard to hear Jeremy McKinnon. That didn’t matter when the crowd was singing every word to every song, and the band’s setlist was straight out of heaven, but it felt like it could have been a bit better if it was easier to hear everything that was going on.
BIFFY CLYRO When Biffy were announced as headliners, a lot of people were quite angry. I hope those people watched their set and shut their damn mouths. Biffy were astoundingly brilliant, with a massive stage set-up that leant a real sense of gravitas to the occasion, not to mention songs that are definitely Rock Music anyway, and played with the guitars ramped right up to 11 so no one could possibly forget it. Admittedly there were about as many people watching Biffy as A Day To Remember on before them, but that may have had something to do with Rob Zombie being on the 2nd stage at the same time, and who doesn’t love Zombie?
BLOOD YOUTH As one of the standout rising bands in the hardcore scene, it was inevitable that Blood Youth were going to smash it. The band were phenomenal as always, and the songs off ‘Beyond Repair’ are sounding bigger and better than ever. It was hard not to draw parallels with Every Time I Die from the evening before, just a lot younger and from Harrogate.
STEEL PANTHER Whether or not you like Steel Panther rests very much on whether or not you think their joke has started to wear thin. As much as their recorded output is bog-standard classic rock with more jokes about having sex than a Carry On film, live they are definitely still A Very Good Time. The banter the members have is still funny, the stage invasions are still absolutely ludicrous and they are clearly very good musicians in their own right.
OPETH Opeth’s music isn’t naturally suited to outdoor festival shows, as not that many people are capable of standing in one spot for ten minutes at a time to listen to people play a mix of death metal and prog. The Swedes were actually very good - as much as Mikael Akerfeldt might not want to make the heavier stuff any more, he is still very capable of doing it, and it was the heavier stuff that got the best crowd reactions. Funny, that, for a heavy music festival...
ALTER BRIDGE If there was a band that you had to tip to be the next band to make the leap to Download headliner, a lot of people’s money would be on Alter Bridge, and it’s easy to see why. Myles Kennedy is such an engaging and talented frontman, and backed up by Mark Tremonti and the rest of the gang they can pack one hell of a punch. Myles’ vocals were, as always, fantastic, and though their set only had a few songs from their last album, that’s because it was full of crowd-pleasers that the very noticeably large amount of people present were more than happy to sing back.
THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN This weekend we were saying goodbye to not just one, but two bands who have said they will be leaving to never return to Download Festival. One group of innovators, who challenged and changed alternative music just by doing what they do, with a frontman who is a genuine icon with an incredible voice... and Aerosmith. Har har. Dillinger have always been known as a tornado of destruction live and they did not let down. Once again, sound problems hounded the start of their set, but they were ironed out to let The Dillinger Escape plan do what they do best. Greg Puciato and Ben Weinman went above and beyond to make their last Download appearance their best, throwing themselves around with no thought for their safety. Greg and Ben spent a decent chunk of the set in the crowd, Greg even leaving the stage entirely to finish off ‘43% Burnt’ in with the rest of us. The number of bangers Dillinger threw out was bordering on unfair on the rest of the bands. ‘Milk Lizard’, ‘Sunshine The Werewolf’, ‘One Of Us Is The Killer’, ‘Prancer’, ‘Farewell Mona Lisa’, ‘Black Bubblegum’, the list goes on. I thought about going to watch Aerosmith round out the weekend, but after seeing something as perfect as Dillinger, there was no way I wouldn’t be disappointed. AL
This is the UK’s biggest modern pop culture event and is even the third largest event of its kind in the world. This year marked their 31st show which is impressive and the event just seems to get bigger and better. It’s for that reason that 130,212 sci-fi fans, gamers, comic collectors, movie buffs and anime enthusiasts attended the action-packed three-day pop culture fest. I arrived a bit later after the opening times but there was still a fair queue but fortunately it went down quickly and efficiently despite the extra security checks and measures in place, it was all very well run and the presence of police was reassuring, however at times to be honest it was hard to tell if they were real police or just part of the cosplay and costume extravaganza that you expect and get at these huge fun events. This was my second time attending the MCM comic con in London after first going last year. I have visited another convention similar in London, but nothing compares to the magnitude of this one. It literally takes you all day to look around at all the weird and wonderful stalls, which range from comics, signed TV and film memorabilia to board games and lots of interesting and varied food stalls. As well as retro games and indie games being played or screened you also get the chance to play new upcoming games yourself, and I was fortunate enough to have a go of the new Tekken 7 game on the Playstation 4 which was great fun. It was hectic with people playing games throughout the whole day as well as a live exhibition of fans battling it out in an arena style setting, with commentary which brought in a big crowd and provided some great entertainment. The event also hosts a great and exciting line-up of guests each year, and this year was no exception, pulling in some notable guests, with the main star being action star and martial arts legend Donnie Yen (Ip Man, Hero) who recently starred in Star Wars: Rogue One as Chirrut Îmwe. Other popular guests included Doctor Who companion and comedian Catherine Tate who had a big queue of eager fans and was happily greeting them throughout the day, as did the two Firefly cast members Summer Glau and Sean Maher from Joss Whedon’s much-loved cult western sci-fi and its film follow-up Serenity. They were joined by stars whose appearances included screenplay in Doctor Strange, The Bourne Ultimatum and The Expendables 2, Game of Thrones, Arrow, Star Wars, The Hobbit, Adventure Time, as well as stars from NCIS: Los Angeles, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Originals, Power Rangers and Red Dwarf. As well as taking autographs and photos with the stars, some also participated in talks and panels where fans would get a chance to ask them questions. The queues for meeting the guests seemed well organised and fans weren’t kept waiting too long, so everyone was happy. Of course, at this type of expo, you expect a range of interesting and bizarre costumes, and fans didn’t disappoint. Ranging from cosplay of Deadpool, Batman character’s, Mario brothers, anime characters and a whole load more. It’s one of the main attractions in itself and is what makes the event have such a fun and friendly atmosphere, with people admiring their efforts and bringing them together to discuss their favourite games, comics, TV shows, anime and films. For anyone who has never attended anything like this and who enjoys pop culture, this is definitely an event to make note of and go along too and immerse yourself in the crazy and wonderful vibes of this massive fun-filled and entertaining event. It gets bigger every year, bringing in dedicated regular fans as well as hordes of new ones and it is easy to see why. CL
If you've been to Walker Stalker Con, then you may already know what to expect when it comes to Heroes and Villains Fan Fest as itâ€™s the same company. This new event mainly focuses on stars from Arrow, Gotham, The Flash whilst also having guests like Michael Rooker to make sure that there is truly something for everybody. If you've never been to an event like this before, then please let me tell you a bit about what to expect. Guests! You can go and meet "guests" who are obviously the actors from the show, now, sadly to keep events like this running, then you'll need to pay, the prices vary depending on the guest you'd like to meet, and as they get more well known, then you can expect to see a higher price bracket. You can opt for an autograph, or photo (these may need to be booked in advance, so just check the website!). Surrounding this, you have talks where fans of the show in the crowd can ask questions about their favorite characters, and in some cases, they can get put on the spot with a funny question. Always worth a look. Then you have the stalls, LOTS of stalls promoting some of the best alternative shops in the UK, and you will find no short of pop vinyls on display here. Heroes and Villains Fan Fest got all of this spot on, as far as we could see there wasn't much waiting time to meet any of the guests, and to add to this, the staff were all exceptionally nice to speak to, and obviously due to the events in Manchester, the event increased the security to ensure that everyone felt like they were in the safest possible environment. My highlights of the day were the talks, the stalls, and the overall environment of the event. With the talks I got to see Stephen Amell (Arrow) get asked a stack of questions from the crowd about his time on the show, and find out a whole bunch of stuff that will surely find its way into the imdb trivia section shortly. It was great to see this kind of intimate interaction with the fans, and this will no doubt bring people back next year. Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy) continued this in a similar vein with his talk later on in the day, and had everyone laughing through the majority of his interview. A really cool thing to witness. Marry Poppins ya'll! With the stalls, I'm not talking about the franchise shops like Forbidden Planet etc. I'm talking about the ones where it's a little independent company that has started its own idea, wether that be art, a new story, or something else of a similar style. It's always exciting to see the amount of upcoming talent at events like this, and Heroes and Villains Fan Fest has brought this by the bucket load. Finally, the environment. It's great to be in a place where people can turn up in a Flash costume and that be the norm. Why can't people wear whatever the want to work everyday, or just down the high street is absolutely beyond me. Everyone is so accepting of each other, and it's amazing to see the positive effect that TV shows can have on people. Events like this are so important to the UK, and we can't wait to see Heroes and Villains Fan Fest grow on what they've achieved already this year. AD
Published on Jun 29, 2017
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