Category Archives: British rock music

Review – Matt Mitchell and The Coldhearts

MM&TC album cover

Well, it’s always better late than never and although I’m a somewhat tardy arrival to this particular party, this album has been on repeat ever since I received it.

You may know British singer and guitar player Matt Mitchell’s name from the ashes of bands such as Pride, Furyon and Colour of Noise; this solo project is the latest weapon in Matt’s armory to continue a steady trajectory to the rock and roll hall of fame. Due out at the end of this month, the eponymously titled debut has had an army of support from the likes of Planet Rock, who took ‘Black Diamonds‘ to their hearts for their ‘A’ playlist on heavy rotation.

That song is the first of twelve on the album and it started off with a sexy little lick, a strong, rhythmic beat and some cowbell; couple that with some sweet, gravelly vocals and a bluesy, classic rock feel and you have a winning formula for a banging track.

Third track, ‘On and On’, felt a little bit more pop rock to me than other tracks on the album, but I liked the easy flow to the song and the vocal harmonies deployed on the chorus.  In fact, quite a few of the tracks on the album were more pop rock/indie than bluesy rock; not usually my sort of genre, really, but I liked Matt’s unpretentious vocals and dare I say it, the easy listening quality.  The vocals are interesting, the melodies are striking and it has that sort of quality to it that, when you’re listening, you feel like you’re part of something bigger, that you could go anywhere and do anything you want to – that’s hard to explain, but certain songs and albums have that effect on me.

MM&TC Matt pic

Tracks such as ‘Unavailable‘ and ‘Do You Wanna Be My God‘ had a compelling, bouncy time signature to them and the big choruses will have you up and dancing around.  Equally, the more chilled out tracks were uplifting, such as the laid back ‘Old Enough and Ugly Enough’ and ‘Keep Me Safe’.

This is the sort of album that you can put on to get ready to go out, or to end a great night out, or to have a chilled out night at home.  It’s versatile, professional and a bit of a triumph.  The production is spot on, as you would expect, being recorded at Rockfield’s Quadrangle Studio with Nick Brine (Stereophonics, The Darkness and Thunder) at the helm. Matt writes songs about everyday life and sometimes, “Just for the love of rock and roll.” I can’t argue with that.

I really enjoyed listening to this album; it’s a great debut and I would thoroughly recommend that you give it a go.  Let me know what you think!

You can catch Matt Mitchell and the Coldhearts live: –

  • May 11 – Corporation, Sheffield – supporting Cats In Space
  • May 24 – O2 Academy, Islington – supporting Hollowstar
  • May 31 – Star and Garter, Manchester – supporting Hollowstar
  • June 3 – Cambridge Junction – supporting Hollowstar
  • December 6 – Trecco Bay, Wales – Planet Rockstock

Track listing: –

1. Black Diamonds
2. Home
3. On & On
4. Dare You To Watch
5. Kings & Queens
6. Unavailable
7. Do You Wanna Be My God
8. Old Enough & Ugly Enough
9. Wave Goodbye
10. Everything To You
11. Keep Me Safe
12. Waiting For The Sun

Released on 31 May via MMRecording Works – you can pre-order the album and merch here

Matt Mitchell and The Coldhearts: –

  • Matt Mitchell – vocals and guitars
  • Mauro Laconi – guitars
  • Dom Ladd – bass
  • Matt Cherry – drums
  • Stevie Watts – keys
  • Queen of Rock rating – 8.5 / 10
  • Stand out tracks – Black Diamonds; Dare You To Watch; Kings and Queens; Keep Me Safe
All text is the property of Vikkie Richmond, a.k.a Queen of Rock.  No part of this review must be reproduced, either in part or in full, without the explicit permission to do so. Failure to observe this will result in a report to the relevant authorities for breach of intellectual property rights.

 

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Interview with Hawxx, 3 February 2019

You may not have heard of Hawxx.  I myself wasn’t familiar with them, until I saw them perform in support of Salvation Jayne at the ‘Lady Luck’ in Canterbury late last year.  This female foursome of raucous rockers reside in London and they’re ready to grab the music world by the short and curlies, taking no prisoners along the way.  They were happy to chat about their biggest influences, their clear love of all things foody and the fact that love really is a bitch.  Read on for more insights …

Queen of Rock: Why the name ‘HAWXX’?

Hannah: We love a bird of prey but Eagles was taken and XX symbolises the female chromosome.

Hawxx logo
QoR: Summarise your journey so far; who are HAWXX and how did you get here?

Anna: The band is made up of myself on vocals and guitar, Hannah on guitar and backing vocals, Iman on bass and backing vocals and Jessica on drums. We come from all over; I’m from Greece, Hannah is from Wales, Iman is from Bahrain and Jessica is from Sussex.

The band started at the beginning of 2018. I met Hannah when she was working at Alaska Studios in Waterloo. I lured her in for a jam and that’s where the band was born. Shortly after, we met Iman and then Jess. We’re really lucky that we all work so well together; we have such good chemistry, both musically and in terms of how absolutely insane we all are. We started off gigging as much as we could while writing songs along the way and in November, we ended up working with the amazing producer Larry Hibbit (Hundred Reasons, Marmozets, Nothing but Thieves) for our first single … and it’s about to drop!

QoR: What’s your creative process? Do you all write together? How do you find inspiration for new songs?

Anna: One of the things I love about the band is that there is a relaxed and open minded environment when it comes to writing songs – we all write together. Usually how it works is that one of us will bring an idea to rehearsal (whether that be a riff, bass line or even a fully formed song) and then we will take it on and carry it through to the end all together! In terms of inspiration, I think all our songs are very direct, [they are] about real life situations – whether personal or political. We have songs that span from giving the finger to institutionalised religion, the deterioration of the NHS, how love’s a bitch (COMING SOON!), when your mind gets trapped in dark places and not existing for anybody’s pleasure.

QoR: Tell us about the debut single, ‘Love’s A Bitch’

Anna: ‘Love’s A Bitch’ drops on February 14th as an anti-Valentines Day anthem. The track is about an all-or-nothing attitude to love and the fight to connect with those we love.  I wrote the lyrics to this song when I was in Mexico in 2017 and I was fighting with my boyfriend. I felt such a pull between wanting to get up and leave but also such strong love that I would do anything to fight for it and make it work, hence the chorus, “The dogs of love fight to the death.” By complete coincidence, a couple of days later I watched the movie ‘Amores Perros’, which means ‘Love’s a bitch’ – a film about love AND dog fighting! I knew that we had to call the track ‘Love’s A Bitch’.

QoR: Who are your musical idols and how did they influence you to write music?

Jess: My influences are endless! I’m really into the blues/rock and ‎psychedelic bands from the 60’s and 70’s. Mitch Mitchell and Ginger Baker are two of my drumming heroes. I also love Lightning Bolt and anything super creative and a bit mental!

Iman: Deftones for the overall sound, Bjork for her innovation, Ani DiFranco for her direct brashness.

Anna: Currently Anna Calvi – I’ve always resonated with her being a female guitarist and been in love with her music, but then I went to see her live in June and it changed my life. I’d never seen anybody with such power on stage before. Also Kate Tempest and Patti Smith.

Hannah: Metallica are probably my biggest influence as they were my gateway ‘drug’ into heavy music – I like the way they have different sounds, from thrash tracks to ballads, to the collaboration with the San Francisco Symphony … there’s more than one way to do ‘heavy’.

QoR: What’s been your biggest highlight so far?

Anna: Recording our debut single with Larry Hibbit was a great achievement. We couldn’t be happier with the choice of producer for our first single and we are so happy with how it’s sounding. We can’t wait to share it!!

Hannah: Also playing KOKO in Camden! Didn’t think we’d be able to do that in the first year of our career. It felt amazing to have that much space on stage and feel Jess’ double kicks in your chest! Also the absolutely massive stack of Domino’s Pizza waiting for us in the green room after.

Hawxx in live action
Photo © Aaron Thompson

QoR: Being an all female band, have you encountered issues with discrimination and prejudice?

Iman: I’ve been told, “I play bass with the skill and conviction of a man” (apparently female bassists lack conviction and skill).

Jess: I have also been told that I play like a man as a compliment!

Anna: I remember talking to a professional male musician about HAWXX right at the beginning and he said, “You’re an all female band? You’ve got to be careful with that though because it could come across as gimmicky.” When I pointed out that you wouldn’t say that about an all male band, there was a long pause and some head scratching, but we’ve been pretty pleased with how these moments have then turned into respect after we perform.

QoR: Whats the most important thing a band can do to kickstart their career?

Hannah: When you find out, can you tell us please?

QoR: If you had to pick one festival to perform at, which one would you choose?

Hawxx: Download.

QoR: If the world was ending one hour from now, how would you spend your last 60 minutes?

Hannah: Is it definitely ending? While hiding under a desk (as is the advice for earthquakes and nuclear threats), I’d try to remember all the survival knowledge I’ve gained from watching Bear Grylls and ‘Walking Dead’, in case I survived.

Iman: I would probably spend the last 60 minutes getting as high as possible whilst riding a Harley around the countryside at top speed … and I’d give my mum a hug.

Jess: I’d probably just eat lots of ice cream.

Anna: I’d quite like to jump on Iman’s Harley – it sounds fun, as long as we can stop at Spice Village in Tooting for a curry. We could pick up Jess on the way and bring a takeaway to your desk, Hannah.

QoR:  Couple of ‘quick fire’ questions …
Download or Bloodstock?

Hannah: Download, baby … wouldn’t kick Bloodstock out of bed though.

QoR: PowerPlay or Metal Hammer?

Hannah: I’m directly quoting from my neck tattoo … ‘PowerPlay all the way’.

QoR: Greta van Fleet or Rival Sons?

Iman: They can fight to the death for my vote.

QoR: Jager or Fireball?

Hannah: Fireball actually; I haven’t ruined it as a drink by being horrifically hungover after [drinking] it.

Jess: HAWXX tend to enjoy red wine and olives.

QoR: Cheese or chocolate?

Hannah: If I can’t have both then I won’t bother hiding under the desk and trying to survive five questions ago …

Hawxx
Photo © Adam Razvi

You can catch Hawxx at: –

Fighting Cocks, Kingston – 16 February
New Cross Inn, London – 17 February
Esquires, Bedford – 22 February
Lot 7 , Ashford – 28 February

Watch ‘The Death of Silence (Live)’ from Hawxx’ gig at The Monarch in Camden, 17 January 2019 © Dan Maguire, via YouTube

Thank you for reading!  

 

All text is the property of Vikkie Richmond, a.k.a Queen of Rock.  No part of this review must be reproduced, either in part or in full, without the express and explicit permission to do so.  Failure to observe this will result in a report to the relevant authorities for breach of intellectual property rights.

 

Live review: Diamond Head, New Cross Inn, 5/10/18

In the edgy corner of London that is New Cross, there sits a large, dark, seemingly well frequented establishment known as the ‘New Cross Inn’.  This is a venue that I hadn’t patronised before, what with it being a bit far away from the backwaters of Kent, however on this particular weekend, the New Cross Inn was playing host to the ‘Four Sticks Classic Rock Weekender’; with 20+ bands playing over three days for the bargain price of £40.  Alas, I was only able to attend the first night, but what an opener it was!

IMG_4871

My first band of the night was Neuronspoiler, a hard rocking native London quintet who took to the stage with some amazingly high vocals and a classic sound.  Judging from the moshing that was going on over in the corner, this band are building a bit of a following and they rocked a short but sweet set.

Four sticks neuronspoiler

Next up came my hometown compatriots, purveyors of fun rock and generally all round nice guys, Saints of Sin. Having not seen them for around four years, I was expecting a slightly different sort of set from them, but they didn’t disappoint and launched straight into ‘Welcome to the Circus‘, from the latest album of the same title.  Featuring such crowd-pleasers such as ‘Feed the Fire‘, ‘Animal‘ and ‘Wasted Nights‘, plus a random yet awesome cover of Bruno Mars’ ‘Uptown Funk’, the Saints put in a good, energetic performance and probably picked up yet more fans at the same time.  I said it years ago and I still maintain that they are ones to watch for the future.

Four sticks SOS 1

Penultimate band of the night fell to Northern dad rockers, Burnt Out Wreck.  Not having seen them before, in no way did I expect to hear the voice that came out of Gary Moat’s mouth, especially as I struggled to hear and understand what he was saying between songs.  They belted out track after track, including ‘Swallow‘, new single ‘Flames‘, ‘Pulling It Out‘ and ‘Rock Ain’t Dead‘; it certainly wasn’t as BOW finished with a passable cover of the classic ‘Highway to Hell‘.

Four sticks burnt out wreck 1

And so to the headliner, Diamond Head.  This was an eagerly awaited gig and I would say from the outset that each and every member of the band looked thrilled to be on the stage, even Brian Tatler in his understated way.  They kicked off a lengthy and somewhat sweaty set with ‘Shout at the Devil‘, swiftly following it up with ‘Borrowed Time‘ and ‘Dead Reckoning‘.

DH collage

Four sticks DH3

By that time I was flagging, although everybody else was loving it (some a bit too much, judging by some of the beer-soaked chaps sloshing the amber nectar over everyone in the second row) but the brutal songs just kept on coming (set list in picture above).

By the time they got three-quarters of the way through the set, the crowd nearly lost it when Rasmus announced they were going to play a rarely outed song from the “Canterbury” album, ‘Knight of the Swords‘ and they didn’t really get it back during ‘Lightning to the Nations‘.

Four Sticks DH1

By the time Rasmus started giving us the, “this man, Brian Tatler, wrote this song”,  speech, the crowd shouldn’t have still been standing, with the amount of ale they’d consumed, but they were more than ready for that song; as Brian took centre stage, spot-lit and menacing for the intro of ‘Am I Evil‘, the patrons of the New Cross Inn lost their shit all over again; perhaps not as energetic as they were at the start of the set, but they made up for it in enthusiasm and fine voice.

Basically, Diamond Head have still got it, in absolute spades.  They’re incredibly tight as a band, they know how to work together to engage the crowd and they rocked our asses off, as did the bands that played before them.  I wish we had been able to get back up to the Inn for the other two days of the Classic Rock Weekender, but I heard from colleagues that it was a blinder.  Well done to the promoters and well done to all of the bands and also the venue.  This is keeping rock music real and keeping it alive.  I’ll be there for the next one!

All photographs courtesy of @kriswhite a.k.a Dirty Rock Photography.  Thanks to Natalie Loren Conway of TAG Publicity.  Thank YOU for reading!

All text is the property of Vikkie Richmond, Queen of Rock.  Photographs are the property of Chris White, a.k.a. Dirty Rock Photography.  No part of this review must be reproduced, either in part or in full, without the express and explicit permission to do so.  Failure to observe this will result in a report to the relevant authorities for breach of intellectual property rights.

Interview: Brian Tatler of Diamond Head

Diamond Head logo

Recently we got excited over the news that British NWOBHM legends, Diamond Head, are to embark on a European tour this autumn.  Never one to miss an opportunity, I managed to catch up with Brian Tatler,  guitarist and co-founder of the band to talk about how influential their music has been and what he is looking forward to the most about touring again.

Brian Tatler
Brian Tatler performing at Amplified Festival, 2017 –

 Picture courtesy of Chris White @ Dirty Rock Photography

Queen of Rock: How are you feeling about the upcoming UK/Europe tour?  Do you have any favourite venues or cities on the list?

Brian Tatler: It’s a very long tour, it will be the longest European tour I have ever done. There are about forty dates now. I am looking forward to it and looking forward to playing some new territories for Diamond Head like Zandaam, Flensburg, Bochum, Potsdam, Krakow, Poznan, Budapest, Turin, Zaragoza etc. My favourite venues on the list are a tie between The Robin – Bilston, La Belle Angelle – Edinburgh and The 1865 – Southampton. I like Barcelona and Madrid as vibrant cities.

QoR: What’s the most enjoyable thing about touring and making music now that you’re older and wiser?

BT: That’s a tough question. It’s not really more enjoyable now. In the beginning it’s all very exciting. My first gig, my first festival, my first tour, my first trip abroad, all super exciting. Now I have done all that some thirty-five years ago, it’s more a case of going to new countries and staying in nice hotels (with a pool, hopefully).  I have learnt many things about life on the road. I like to eat two to three hours before a show so I can digest the food. I have to warm up before I play, so often sit in the dressing room for up to an hour before show time. I like to mix the set up whenever possible as it’s easy to get stuck on a set that you know works; having a few different tunes in the set helps to keep it fresh. It’s nothing like as glamorous as I thought it would be.  It’s important to eat healthily, I like Italian food but sometimes on the road the only thing open at 2am is McDonald’s and I can only eat so many filet ‘o’ fish. Recording is much cheaper now than it used to be, we can do it all ourselves and pay for it ourselves. That takes a lot of pressure off and allows a freedom to create what we want with no outside influence. Also, we are better players now and can get ideas across and onto tape quicker.

QoR: What three things could you not live without whilst you’re on tour?

BT: I could not live without food or sleep so that’s two … sorry, I am being pedantic. A book, I like to read on tour it helps pass the longer hours spent in vans. I like to have music on in the van so [I] take CDs. I need my phone to call home and often it’s a lifeline to what’s going on, also very useful to send messages like ‘sound check is at 5.30pm’. I can do emails on my new phone so I try to keep up with press and guest lists, etc.

QoR: If someone had told you back in 1980, when ‘Lightning To The Nations’ was released, that you would still be touring and making music 38 years later, what would have been your reaction?

BT: Disbelief, I could not see myself still making albums and touring in my 50s. I remember in 1981 thinking we may only do four albums because we will run out of song ideas. I never saw Diamond Head as a long-term musical career, my perception was that bands are young and full of fire, that their time was short and sweet. The Rolling Stones really have set a precedent, in that rock and roll musicians can continue as long as they wish to. Rock till you drop!

Diamond Head band pic

QoR: Album number eight is on the way later this year; how was the writing and recording process? You’ve toured a lot recently – was it written on the road or did you lock yourselves away and just do it?

BT: I cannot write on the road. I like to be at home when working on ideas. I make home demos on my ProTools LE rig, I play them to Ras and he selects which ones we work on. He will filter out songs that he thinks he can get a vocal melody to and ones that have a certain Diamond Head style. For this album I went down to Ras’s home studio in Acton several times and we made new demos of many of the songs before going into rehearsal. Once in rehearsal we all learn the songs and do any re-arranging and adding new parts. Ras records all the rehearsals and listens to them at home, slowly working on lyrics.

QoR: What is your favourite DH album so far, and why? 

BT: I still like ‘Lightning To The Nations’, it’s full of good songs and has loads of ideas. Diamond Head play six songs live even now from that debut album. We play more songs from LTTN than from any of the others. I also like ‘Death & Progress’ from 1993; it’s very well produced and Sean is on great form. I also like our last release, ‘Diamond Head’ from 2016. It’s a re-birth for the band, everything came together quite painlessly and the album was very well received by both fans and press alike.  That was very satisfying after such a long spell away from the studio.

QoR: If you had to pick three DH songs to introduce a new fan to your music, which would you choose and why?

BT: I would pick 1) ‘Am I Evil?’ – it has great dynamics, it lasts 7 minutes 40 seconds and is an epic that takes the listener on a journey, that song took a long time to write and is still our biggest song.  2) ‘Bones‘ from the self-titled album. It has a great vocal from Ras and is an interesting song, we always play this one live. I remember when it came together in the rehearsal room, we were literally jumping up and down, it was very exciting, it felt like we had the lead track for the album.  3) ‘In The Heat Of The Night‘ is another live favourite that I always enjoy playing, it has a triplet groove and a different feel to a lot of the other faster songs. Unlike a lot of Diamond Head songs it does not rely on a riff, it’s just chords and a great melody.

QoR: Are you proud that Diamond Head was such a major influence on some of the biggest bands of our time, such as Metallica, Megadeth, etc?

BT: Of course, it’s a great feeling to know that you have been influential to the next generation of bands and players. The Diamond Head legacy was given huge credibility by both Metallica and Megadeth. They have helped spread the name to all four corners of the globe. It works both ways, Diamond Head inspired them and in return we have been able to continue making music and playing shows all over the world.

QoR: It’s unusual for a band to achieve such longevity with only seven albums released over such a long time span.  To what do you attribute your ongoing popularity?

BT: The songs still sound good now, whenever we play live the crowds respond to the songs. Diamond Head never sold that many records but the songs live on. Metallica have performed ‘Am I Evil?’ on stage more times than I have.

QoR: You’ve seen a lot of changes over the years, how do you feel about the current direction of the music industry and rock/metal genre specifically?

BT: Heavy metal is much more popular now than it used to be. Whole festivals, magazines and web sites [are] devoted to the genre. I feel a lot of the new bands sound the same or are trying to sound like whatever is popular. I hear lots of bands that sound like Metallica or Iron Maiden. I see lots of bands that are using image to get noticed rather than the music. Music is faster and darker than it used to be, guitars with eight strings tuned down to low A, drummers with double kick pedals using them in every song from the start of the show, I feel this leaves nowhere else to go. One of the many things I love about Led Zeppelin was their brilliant use of dynamics, not many bands do that now, they seem scared to go soft in case they lose the crowd. I see lots of metal fans who just want to mosh, as long as it’s fast, heavy and angry then they love it. Nothing wrong with that but that’s not how it used to be.

QoR: What does the future hold for Diamond Head?

BT: Right now the new album is mixed but we have to master it and finalise artwork. We have a forty date European tour starting at the end of September. We have to rehearse songs from the new album to play live, we have not really rehearsed the new songs since they were recorded, we have to learn how to play them live and then see if they work. We are still working on getting a record deal and expect the new album to be released early 2019 so more touring in support of that will be necessary.

QoR: Thanks very much for answering my questions – do you have anything else that you would like to say to readers?

BT: Come and see Diamond Head, all the dates are on the web site.

You can also see full tour dates on my Diamond Head tour preview post here

Link to the original Diamond Head version of ‘Am I Evil?’

Thank you to Brian Tatler and also to Natalie Conway of TAG Publicity.

 

All text is the property of Vikkie Richmond, Queen of Rock.  Photograph of Brian Tatler is the property of Chris White, Dirty Rock Photography.  No part of this interview must be reproduced, either in part or full, without the express and explicit permission to do so. Failure to observe this will result in you being reported to the relevant authorities for breach of intellectual property rights.

 

Interview: Chantel McGregor

So.  Hands up who has been waiting for this one for a while?  It’s been, as Machine Head would say, all about the blood, the sweat, the tears …

For one reason and another, it has taken me way too long to produce this, mainly because I am trying to fit too much in.  Studying, working full-time and living life to the full, because you never know what is around the corner.  It’s also because I decided to do this one differently and put it up online as a video, with pictures from Chris, my partner in rock shenanigans.  I’ve never been so frustrated trying to produce something, and all I can say is, thank goodness for the Audacity programme – it saved my life!

So, here is the interview – I really hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed making it (!) and feel free to feed back, either here or on YouTube.  Share, share and share again!  Thanks for your interest, as ever and a BIG thank you to Chantel for putting up with my inane questions and being charming and gracious as usual.

**** Look out for the Fragile Things interview, also coming soon on YouTube (when I’ve submitted my latest OU assignment!) ****

http://www.chantelmcgregor.com/

http://www.dirtyrockphotography.com

 

Interview: Massive Wagons – 12/10/17

I recently had the good fortune to catch up with Baz Mills, vocalist of band-of-the-moment, Massive Wagons.  Grab yourself a brew, put your feet up and have a right good read …

 

massive wagons logo

 

Queen of Rock – How did you decide on the band name?

Baz Mills – Haha, the classic, age-old band name question.  Ay, well firstly I can categorically confirm it’s nowt to do with wagons big or small!  A lot of the early band meets, including the session from whenst this whole band idea originated, were held at our local, the Station Hotel in their back room drinking hole, and said hole had a rather  (there’s no way of saying this without sounding crass) ‘well formed’ young lady serving the drinks, if you catch my drift, it was our code name for her.  Rather childish, I realise  but there you go, she is a good friend of ours and digs the fact, you really don’t wanna hear the other options we had!

QoR – If you were introducing someone to your music, which two tracks would you pick and why?

BM – Hmmm, tough one.  I think it would have to be something classic and something new; I think the first track would be ‘Fight The System‘ – it really was the bands signature tune for a long time, seemed to be a real crowd fave too.  We just kick up a notch when playing it live, and I think when we wrote it, we knew then we had something going with the band, it’s a real milestone track.  Secondly I’d say ‘Back To The Stack‘, we wrote it for the late, great Rick Parfitt; the news of his death was a real kick in the spuds, he was an icon, still is.  We felt he’s given us enough great times over the years so the least we could do is write a song in his memory; we released it and it’s absolutely been the most successful track we’ve put out, every penny goes to the Teenage Cancer Trust, it was picked up by Planet Rock and embraced by the hardcore Quo fans.  We simply couldn’t have asked for more.

QoR – What’s your favourite track to perform live?

BM – Haha, I’ve a few! ‘Fight The System‘ and ‘Black Witch‘ have always been faves of mine live,  but currently I’d say ‘Back To The Stack‘ or ‘Fe Fi‘, both are really fun to go bananas to.  I’ve a feeling some of these brand new ones will become favourites – we’ve written a song called ‘China Plates‘ which I love rehearsing.

QoR – Do you have a favourite venue or city that feels like ‘home’?

BM – Anywhere at all with a good stage and good sound, and as long as whoever is there is enjoying it, then it’s all I care about.  As for cities, we amazingly seem to have been taken to the heart of a lot of places, but for me personally, I couldn’t separate Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester or Belfast, guaranteed party time in any of those places!

QoR – How did the Lancaster Library gig come to fruition?

BM – Lancaster is our home city, we haven’t done anything there for quite a while now.  There is a mega rock boozer there [which is] aptly named  ‘The Pub’ and we have played dozens of gigs there over the years.  I think all rock bands have a kind of spiritual home, well that’s ours, but we wanted to play a homecoming gig on a larger scale; Lancaster has a rich history in rock gigs, the University back in the day had Queen, Slade and The Clash, but sadly the great hall gigs are no more.  I mean, we didn’t want to put anything on of that scale, but just wanted to kick things up the arse a bit and try bring some big riff music back to the heart of Lancaster.  There is a lack of medium-sized venues so we had to try and be clever, harder than you might think for us that!  We remembered gigs being held there years ago – Adele, believe it or not played there – but they’ve never had a rock band apparently or associated rockers, beer or volume.   Let’s hope we don’t wreck the joint, that could go down in local history for totally the wrong reasons, haha. We’ve got Motorhead’s Roadcrew ale and Cloven Hoof rum on board so it’s set to be a top night, I reckon.

QoR – How much did you manage to raise from releasing ‘Back To The Stack‘ and how did you decide which charity to support?

BM – It’s still ticking up nicely, it’s somewhere between £500 – £1,000, I think.  We wanna make the donation at a nice round number, but yeah, massive, massive love and thanks to everyone who has bought it so far, it means a lot.  The charity was a fairly easy decision for us really, apart from the obvious rock music connection they have with Noel Gallagher, Roger Daltrey and the shows they put on, which I’m a big fan of, for me the words ‘cancer in children’ sealed it, a no brainer for me; I’m a new dad so it really hit home.

QoR – How is album number four coming along? What’s your writing process or rituals?

BM – Album four is absolutely going great guns; personally I love song writing, it’s just been flowing, we have just about an album’s worth now, bar maybe a song but we are  writing hard, so it won’t be long.  We’ve booked the first studio session too, so it’s full steam ahead.  We did think at the start of album four is there any pressure on us, ‘Welcome To The World’ did really well for us, it was received really well by our amazing fan base, so we thought, what do we do now?  The answer is just keep on doing the same!

The songs have just flowed out, it’s a bit of a different vibe maybe, not too different, the songs are again totally individual, all have the Wagons’ stamp and big hooks in them, personally I couldn’t be happier with them; we’ve definitely matured as writers, musically and lyrically, we are just buzzing to get it released.  The process is fairly straight forward for us, we are lucky as we are all totally on the same page musically, all have a wide range of tastes and all appreciate great songs.   The lads all have their input, everything’s open to negotiation, we all get on well and nothing’s precious; we all respect each other’s opinion and try ideas out even if we maybe at first don’t think the same way, getting along is the key, if you can work well together you’ve cracked it.

QoR – Do you have any plans to re-release your debut album?

BM – Absolutely! The day draws ever closer, it’s being remastered as we speak – old skool Wagons! Heavy and down-tuned. It’s a very raw album, and very much a band [who are] at the start of things, but I’m immensely proud of it, we are here now because of that album, a huge chunk of our fan base have never heard those songs so it will be great to hear people’s reaction, good or bad, haha.

QoR – Who has been your biggest influence in the music world?

BM – Cor blimey, that is a question and a half!  I’m influenced hugely by all sorts! From the obvious AC/DC, Airbourne, UFO, etc, to country music, Dolly, Cash, Jennings, right through to hip hop – NWA, Cube, Wu Tang, Cypress Hill, I dig the lot! Good songs are good songs and good lyrics are the same. Currently though the biggest influence has to be Ginger Wildheart; lyrically, he is the main man, his lyrics say so much with so many words but they never ever seem over blown or complicated, not a wasted word.  At the moment I’d defo say Ginger – his ‘The Year of the Fanclub’ album is one of my all time faves.

QoR – If you could collaborate with anyone, who would you choose and why?

BM – Hmmm, any of the above.  I think maybe a woman, to be honest, I love the ballsy rock men/women collars; Ike and Tina, Meatloaf and Cher … ‘Dead Ringer For Love‘ is unreal, maybe a cover of that with someone, any takers? Haha.

QoR – What are you listening to at the moment and can you recommend any new music?

BM – Got the last Tequila Mockingbird album in at the moment and that is absolutely rockin! A new band called Marble Parlour from Wales are also epic – look out for them! I’m always listening to Pearl Jam too, it never stops with them at the mo. The new music scene is alive as hell, it maybe is underground, but it’s thriving [with] so much talent; Mason Hill, King Lot, Bigfoot, Empyre, Lupus Dei … the list goes on and on and on, I’d really urge folk to get on Facebook and just search these bands out, it doesn’t take long to find them and look at the bands, you won’t be disappointed.

QoR – You’ve been at this game for nearly ten years – what advice would you give to bands that are just starting out?

BM – Advice, ay, I could probably write pages on the subject, largely non-sensical boring rubbish, haha.  If I had to impart a few key pearls of my wisdom though – make sure you’re enjoying what you’re doing, do what you wanna do and not what you think you should be doing, or what other bands are doing.  Good songs are good songs whatever the genre, style, etc, if you’re writing good songs and you’re enjoying it then you’re halfway there.  Don’t focus on other bands and what they are doing, what success they are having; I can guarantee behind Facebook they are never far away from what you’re doing even if it seems that way, stressing about other bands will make you bitter and not enjoy band life. Remember your band mates are your mates! Open yourself to others opinions and don’t get offended if people don’t like your ideas, fall outs and arguments will kill your band dead.

Listen to all genres of music, ideas, vibes, sounds, styles, it’s all the same notes! Be creative.  Be one of the good guys, be nice to people, even if you maybe think someone didn’t deserve it, if they are an ass, chances are they will fail or are failing already, be cool, be sound and don’t let shit bother you.  Work hard! If you wanna do this, then graft, nothing worth having ever came easy.  We played 300 plus gigs in the first three years, all with full time jobs, maybe doesn’t sound a lot to some but it was hard work, but now we have an amazing, rock-solid reliable fan base, absolutely priceless that. Make sure you are awesome live!!  Lastly, I’d say if you’re writing lyrics and the next line comes too easy to you, then don’t use it, haha, use the third or fourth ‘cos you’ve had to think hard for it.

QoR – What do you see as the biggest barrier to moving forward in the music business?

BM – Haha, money!

QoR – You’ve got plenty of gigs coming up – which are you most looking forward to and why?

BM – We love playing live, we totally dig everything about it so I’d say all of them, they will all kick ass in their own way, they are always different.  The Lancaster gig has been a big challenge so to see that go ahead will be a huge deal for us, we’ve had to organise the whole thing from beer to bins and it’s been an experience – a great one, mind. Apart from that, obviously the HRH awards is a biggy and then Planet Rock’s Rockstock!! Big stages, big sound, what’s not to like, haha, it’s a great way to round out the year.

QoR – So much awesome! Anything else you would like to say?

BM – Just thank you over and over to everyone who’s been involved with this band; from people downloading a track, to reviewers, the fans, photographers, radio folk … all just a massive thank you and much love and respect for assisting with what we do.  Rock on and long may it continue!

Massive Wagons tour dates

Links: –

 

Review: Dendera, ‘Part One, Blood Red Sky’ (EP)

Dendera are a heavy metal outfit hailing from the South West of the UK, who have been producing their brand of caustic rock since their debut EP release in 2011.  Two blistering albums followed; 2013’s awesome “The Killing Floor” and 2015’s quality follow up, “Pillars of Creation”.

The band are no strangers to the live stage, indeed that is where their musical ability really shines; they have graced the same stages as rock royalty such as Saxon, UFO, Alestorm, Orange Goblin, Gloryhammer and Soulfly, to name but a few.  “Blood Red Sky” is the first instalment in a two-part set of EP’s.

Dendera Blood Red Sky

The first track on the EP is “The Awakening”, which came as a bit of a surprise.  Coming in at a mere one minute and forty four seconds, it is an instrumental bruiser which showcases some nice guitar work; it’s a solid introduction into what to expect for the rest of this five track offering.

The first track proper, “Final Warning” begins at a wicked pace and Ashley jumps in feet first with his distinct vocals almost straight away.  There are some sweet pinch harmonics hidden away in there and there is no let-up in energy all the way through.  The instrumental bridge is followed by some first class technical drumming and a blistering guitar solo.  It’s a shame when the track ends, really.

Title track “Blood Red Sky” showcases more of the same, galloping along at breakneck speed.  There are some mad vocals towards the end of this track and Ashley does have that knack of slipping into a range almost high enough to shatter crystal.  The penultimate song comes in the form of the manic “Age of Agony”, with some thought provoking, anger inducing lyrics, ending abruptly with the dying crash of a defiant cymbal.

All too soon, the last track comes around and “When All Is Lost” is a fitting end, a bruising chugfest of a song – almost eleven minutes long – that captures the essence of Dendera perfectly.  I particularly like the way the action is taken down several notches halfway through, before ramping back up for a semi-dramatic finish.

I believe that Dendera have passed into another league with this EP.  “Blood Red Sky” is not only unique; it is a masterclass in tight musical ability and dedication to the craft from some very talented people.  You can also hear the obvious progression for them as a band which has elevated them another notch on the ladder to rock glory, with a perfectly produced and formed record.

The only thing I’m disappointed about is that this is only four tracks, if you discount the short intro piece.  I wanted to hear more and I’m pretty sure with the form they appear to be in at present, Dendera could have produced a full length album, rather than releasing two EP’s at separate times.  That’s not a criticism, just a desire to see more of what they can do.

Dendera band & EP cover

Track list: –

  1. The Awakening
  2. Final Warning
  3. Blood Red Sky
  4. Age of Agony
  5. When All Is Lost

Blood Red Sky” is released 5 June on Metalbox Recordings – you can pre-order here

Band: –

  • Ashley Edison – Vocals
  • Stephen Main – Lead Guitar
  • David Stanton – Lead Guitar
  • Bradley Edison – Bass
  • Andy Finch – Drums

Media: –

Interview: Stone Broken – 26/02/17

I was lucky enough to catch up with rock’s hot new band, Stone Broken, before their set on the last day of Planet Rock’s Winter’s End Festival. Read on to find out what they think of Black Stone Cherry, their fans and their incredible journey so far. 

Stone Broken live 1Picture courtesy of Chris White, Dirty Rock Photography

Queen of Rock: We can’t pick up a magazine or turn on the radio these days without hearing about Stone Broken!  How have you suddenly taken the music world by storm?

Rich:  Well, we’ve been a band for about four years but in January 2016 we released our debut album, ‘All In Time‘.  About three months before that we released our first single from it and it took off from there.  Planet Rock have grabbed every single that we’ve had and they’ve run with it, it’s been phenomenal and that’s been one of the major players in the rise of us, really.  That’s then led on to other things and we got booked for bigger shows and festivals, so it’s been very organic.  We haven’t got a massive PR company behind us; we went in to it with the hope that someone might pick it up.

Chris:  We were hoping that word of mouth would do it.

Stone Broken, All In Time

QoR: Well, you’ve done that alright! People are certainly talking about you.  You mentioned festivals … any festival appearances that you’re allowed to talk about?

Rich:  We’ve been confirmed for Download and we’re doing Steelhouse Festival.  We’re also doing a couple of newer ones.  We’re doing Summer in the City, which we’re headlining and also Subterranean Festival in Cambridge.  We’re also doing Camden Rocks, but that’s all we can talk about. There are a few others that are in the pipeline and on the way, so do keep an eye out for those  (NOTE: Since the interview took place, they have also been confirmed for Ramblin’ Man, Helsfest and Warton Festivals).

QoR – Well, that will do to start with!  Have you been here at Winter’s End all weekend?

Rich:  We just got off tour with Glenn Hughes and we drove from the Netherlands directly to here on Friday.  We got in fairly late, but we caught most of Toseland and a little bit of Bernie [Marsden] as well. We’ve been trying to catch as many bands, but we came here to speak to fans and we just love talking!

QoR: I’ve seen lots of fan pics up on twitter, you seem really amenable to fans doing selfies.

Rich: At the end of the day, the fans are the people that help grow the band; if you didn’t have any fans, you wouldn’t be able to do any of this.  We try and give back as much as we can and it’s nothing to go and speak to people, it doesn’t cost us anything.  We get a lot of people say, “Thank you for letting us come up and have a chat with you, it’s been a great fifteen minutes” and I’m thinking to myself well no, we appreciate it.  We love speaking to the fans and it’s a two-way street.

QoR: That’s good to hear because a lot of bands don’t think like that. You said you’ve been touring with Glenn Hughes, which is massive.  What was that like?

All: It was amazing, yeah.

Kieron: He nicknamed us ‘kids’.

Chris: We called him Papa Glenn, although it changed to Uncle Glenn.

Rich:  As soon as we walked into the first show – it was Newcastle – and we had just loaded our gear into the venue and they were sound checking. He just turns around and he says, “Hi kids.” We all just waved, you know! He just said, glad to have you on board and that kind of set the tone for the whole tour.  He gave us a few pearls of wisdom and he’s a human being … he’s a legendary human being, but a human being and backstage you get to see that side of him.  There was emotional times because of things that had happened and there was some awesome times when he was just on point and had an amazing show.  Every show was amazing, but sometimes you could just feel the energy when he came off stage.  The one thing that he said a lot was music is the healer and love is the answer; he actually put that into his performance and it was brilliant.  It’s given us the knowledge and the tools to go and do more things like that – it was a masterclass of how to tour, going on the road with those guys and they looked after us.

Robyn: We all got on like a house on fire, didn’t we? Then there was the crew and everybody else, we just all had a great time.

Chris: You [was] having drum battles with Glenn’s drummer!

Robyn: Yeah! He was like, “You get on my kit and I’ll get on yours.” This lanky giant just sat behind my kit and was going for it! It was awesome, just crazy.

Rich: They would ask us for favours, like tools or spare guitar strings and vice versa. I had an issue with the neck on my guitar and their guitar tech just fixed it up.  It was great.

Stone Broken Robyn live

Robyn live at Winter’s End Fest, courtesy of Chris White, Dirty Rock Photography

QoR: You couldn’t ask for a better experience, by the sounds of it! You’ve had an EP and album out, is there any new stuff in the pipeline?

Rich: We’ve got another show with Black Star Riders and after that we’re locking ourselves out from the world and we’re nailing down the next album.  We’ve been road testing a few songs on the tour and they’ve gone down great, so that’s encouraging.  We’re probably at our creative peak at the moment; we’ve done six solid weeks of pure music, so we’re going to get back and harvest that creativity and create the new album.

QoR: What would be your favourite Stone Broken song to play live?

Robyn:Not Your Enemy’.

Chris:  Yeah, ‘Not Your Enemy’ for me.

Rich: Okay, I’ll go for a different one … I would say ‘Wait For You’ just because, especially at our own shows, I don’t have to sing the chorus – the audience just take over.

QoR: If you had to pick one or two tracks to introduce a new fan to your music, which would you pick?

Kieron:Wait For You’ and ‘Not Your Enemy’.

Robyn:Not your Enemy’ is right in your face; it’s what we’re all about.

Rich: It’s the first track on the album and there’s a reason we chose it.  It’s got a bit of everything.

QoR: Do you prefer playing live to being in the studio?

Rich:  I do, I love playing live because you just get the buzz off of the audience, especially when they’re hyped up; it’s like an adrenaline shot.

Kieron: Especially when you’re on tour, because you get to do it every night.

Robyn: We’ve had two days off here and already we want to get back on stage, we can’t wait.

Rich: So glad that we’re playing tonight!  Also, on the other side of that, I love seeing the record come together and in the studio, it’s the only place that you can actually see it all come together.

Chris: It’s completely different when you’re making a record, you get to try out new ideas.  Live, you have one take and if it doesn’t work, you don’t do it in the next show!

Rich:  To summarise that, I think we just love being in a band … we love every part of it.

QoR:  What inspires you when you’re writing?

Rich:  For me personally, its life, that’s the inspiration.  Everyone’s life is different which is why you get different bands, they’ve all had their own experiences.  I get inspired by listening to different kinds of music as well.  Lyrically, I’m inspired by different situations that I’ve either been in or that you can see happening elsewhere.  Even if you just want to get a message across; we’ve got a song called ‘Better’ and that’s all about being positive and just don’t let anything hold you back.  ‘This Life’ is again just about going out there and doing what you love doing.  I just draw on feelings, emotions and life.

QoR:  You were runners-up in the Planet Rock awards for Best New Band last year, sum up for us how that made you feel.

Chris: Shocked!  We knew we were being put forward, but we just thought we would be towards the back, but coming second …

Rich:  At first, we didn’t know that we were being nominated, so that was a shock in itself.  We put a few posts out to our fans saying that we had been nominated and – we have the best fans in the world – they just jumped on it, sharing it and that.  We all got up to listen to the results and they announced the third band and we thought we hadn’t got anything. When they said the runner-up was Stone Broken …

Robyn:  We couldn’t believe it.

Rich: It was such a mix of emotions, like ecstatic, surprised, shocked.

Kieron:  We still see ourselves as a small band, so for us to have that type of impact is mind-blowing.

Rich: We’ve had a lot of guys saying how good the exposure has been, but we haven’t caught up with it because we’re just doing it, but we’re landing bigger and better shows, so we know something is happening! Sometimes I do say to the guys to cast their minds back twelve months ago; did you think that we would be here having breakfast with Paul Anthony?  It’s mad and it’s crazy, but we love it.

QoR:  What has been the highlight of the Stone Broken journey so far?

Kieron:  Touring Europe, that was definitely a big highlight for me.

Chris:  Listening to your song on the radio without expecting it.

Rich: When you get put on to a lot of the unsigned shows, they tell you [when] you’re going to be played.  I was at work and I had a message come through telling me we’d just been played on Planet Rock and then more messages came through and I was like, ‘Oh my God’.  It’s one thing having your songs played on the radio and you’re aware of it, it’s another thing to have it just come on when you’re not expecting it.

Robyn:  the highlight for me is I’ve basically become friends with John Fred Young from Black Stone Cherry, well we all have, to be fair.  We played Ramblin’ Man last year and we met him, thanks to Paul Anthony and we met up with them again at Rockstock. I was literally stood right next to John Fred on stage and he was talking to me all through the set.  It was just amazing.

Rich:  They’re the most down to earth, humble guys.  They’re an inspiration to us because they’re probably the band that we’ve been able to get closest to at that level.  You just get so many different experiences, that you wouldn’t have if you weren’t in a band, so the highlight is just being able to do it.

QoR:  So, what’s next?

Robyn:  Writing the new album and then hitting festival season.

Rich:  We’ve got some things for the back-end of the year which aren’t finalised yet.

Chris:  It’s just keeping the foot on the pedal and going forward.

QoR:  What would be your ultimate, though?  If you had the chance to do anything or play with anyone, or go anywhere, what would it be?

Chris:  I think it’s the States, getting over to America.

Robyn:  Getting on the Carnival of Madness tour.

Rich:  That would be awesome, I mean even just to play a few of the festivals over there.

Robyn:  As a band, you want to play everywhere; you don’t want to leave anywhere out and you just want to go and travel the whole world and see everything.

Rich:  You know what, we just want to play shows.

Vikkie and Stone Broken

Chris, Rich, Me, Robyn and Kieron at Winter’s End Festival, Feb 2017

Stone Broken:

Catch the official ‘All In Time’ album commentary video here

Thanks to Peter Keevil of TMR Band Management and also to tour manager Fliss.

Interview: Alex from Damn Dice, 04.06.16 at the Buck’s Head, Camden

Damn Dice recently released their self-funded, debut album ‘The Great Unknown’.  Fresh from a triumphant tour with Black Rain, and today’s amazing Camden Rocks set at the Electric Ballroom, I caught up with vocalist Alex for a beer and a chat about the merits of physical CD’s versus downloads, festivals and wrestling …

damn-dice-band

Vikkie: You just played the Electric Ballroom for Camden Rocks Festival – how was it for you?  It sounded pretty good from where I was standing!

Alex:  It was amazing – I don’t think we expected such a turn out; you were there, you saw how busy it was.  That always spurs you on but we always try to give everything.

V: You always give 110% and you’re all about the live show.  When you have to take time out to record, do you enjoy it, or would you rather be out on stage?

A:  We enjoy it, definitely.  Of course, it’s good to play live but when you’re writing the songs and they come together, you get that excitement, like when you first join a band.  You want to play them live and people don’t know them but the recording and writing process is fun, not so much in the studio as there is a lot of waiting around, especially for me as I go last!  It’s a good experience.

damn-dice-live-2

V:  Where did you record ‘The Great Unknown’?

A:  We recorded at Angry Bee studios in Hackney, which is my home turf.

V:  It’s a fantastic album, quite different to the EP.  You all write together, so what influences do you draw upon?

A:  Most of the bulk of the music comes from Wallis and François (Fourmy, brothers) and then we get together to do the vocal stuff. I do the lyrics and most of the vocals.  I don’t think there’s one moment where you think ‘Oh yeah, I want to write about this’, but you just draw on things you’ve noticed, things that have happened, experiences that you’ve had.

V: I didn’t actually realise that Wallis and François are brothers – François designed the website, didn’t he?

A:  He did, he does all of the visual stuff; he’s a dab hand at Photoshop and he did the editing for the videos … he’s really good at that stuff!

V:  Talented!  So, in terms of a follow up to ‘The Great Unknown’, when might we expect a follow up?

A:  We hope to get the majority of it, at least the writing, done in the second half of this year.  As to the recording, we still have to find a way to realise that in terms of money.

V:  Do you find that it’s harder to reach people, as you aren’t signed to a record label?

A:  I don’t know … a record label, what can they do really, apart from chucking a whole load of money behind you and getting you in the magazines?  Otherwise it’s social media these days, isn’t it?  For example, if you are going to check out a band, you’re going to go to Facebook, Twitter …

V:  I found you through Twitter originally, there are some great bands to be discovered in that way!

A:  It’s easier to update.  It’s good to have the website because you can put a lot of stuff there, like a shop, information – obviously you can’t do that with 140 characters on Twitter!  You kind of need a website.

V:  You added your fifth member of the band – Diego – in August last year.  What was behind the decision to bring in another member?  Why go from a four piece to a five piece?

A:  Sound, basically.  What often happens is many of the songs have a key change in the solo and if you haven’t got a good bass sound, it’s difficult for the listener to hear what’s going on.  You might change key and the guitar player starts soloing and people think it’s in the wrong key or it sounds bad because you can’t hear the bass properly.  We decided to have another guitar player to give it that foundation.  When we recorded, we recorded a guitar track under the solos anyway, which is obviously not do-able live with one guitar player so we decided to bring [Diego] in to make sure we have the full sound that we needed for the live shows.

V:  Do you not find it hard, with four of you bouncing around on stage?

A:  It depends on the stage!  The Electric Ballroom is quite a big stage.  At the Barfly, you do knock into each other a bit.

damn-dice-live

V:  If you had to pick two or three of your songs to introduce you to a new fan, who had never seen or heard you before, which would you pick?

A:  Maybe ‘What Now?’ because that’s one of the newer songs that we wrote and I think it represents the direction that we are going in more than the others.  I have a soft spot for ‘Caught In the Ride’ as it’s the first song that we wrote together and I love that song.

V:  We’re into festival season, Camden Rocks kicks off just before Download … haven’t seen you on the bill for Download?  Anything else lined up in Europe?

A:  Unfortunately not.  Maybe this is where labels and having outside representation can help you.  Contacting people directly … I feel like there’s a guy who sits there on his computer and gets 10,000 emails from unsigned bands … that’s how it feels.  Hopefully we will be doing that next year.

V:  Do you all take your turn at networking and keep an ear out for opportunities?

A:  We all actively contact people and get them to contact us.  We try as much as we can, of course, we have to.  If we’re not there, it’s not for want of trying!  We are going to have a bit of a break in August, though.  There are so many things to do and you can’t just concentrate on one thing.  When you are in the situation that we are, you have to do everything yourselves.  Contacting people, following up, promotion, social media, developing graphics and pictures, video … and all that goes with it.

V:  It’s a lot of work.  What’s next for Damn Dice though?  You’ve said that you’re going to have a break, you’ve hinted that you might possibly have a new album.

A:  We want to just gig as much as we can, just get out there.  I think the best thing you can do as a band is just play as much as you can.  Sometimes we might be spending money, on travelling and other stuff, but ultimately it’s an investment. You can’t just sit at home, you have to push your product, basically.

V:  I’m glad you said that, because so many bands do just sit at home, thinking that it’s too hard.  It’s totally the wrong attitude and it’s probably why so many bands just die on the wayside.

A:  You need to put the effort in.  When you’re a five piece band … we split everything.  We split costs, it’s not that bad, but the most important thing is getting out there to play because if no-one knows who you are, what’s the point?  Your Mum’s always going to be a fan, but you need more than that!

V: I had a question from a fan on twitter, which was, “Would you rather play at Madison Square Garden, do a film soundtrack, or open for Bruce Springsteen”?

A:  The Garden, definitely the Garden.  It’s iconic and I’m a big pro-wrestling fan and Madison Square Garden is the spiritual home of WrestleMania.

V:  So … you’re a wrestling fan, you play classical guitar and you have really bad eyesight … that’s what I’ve learned about you today!  Anything else you would like to put out there that people don’t know about you?

A:  I think that about covers it!

V:  Do you download music or do you like to have that physical CD in your hand?

A:  I download music.  I can’t remember the last time I bought a physical CD.  I have a lot of CD’s at home, but I listen through my computer – I don’t have a separate CD player and I definitely don’t have a record player.  I think there’s a generation who grew up not knowing physical music, so the concept of listening to an album probably doesn’t exist for a lot of young people. The dynamic has changed as well because if you go back to vinyl, you have two sides, a side-A and a side-B and the album was structured based on that idea so there would be certain songs faster or slower and arranged in a particular way.  When it went to CD with just a long stream of music that had a certain dynamic as well.  Now, I think people don’t listen to ‘albums’ from start to finish, they like this song and that song, so they will download those.

V:  So when you’re writing an album you don’t have in mind that you’ll start with a particular song …

A:  Yeah, we still do.  We put a lot of thought into the track listing.

V:  Do you have any messages for Damn Dice fans?

A:  Everyone that’s already a fan, thank you so much for supporting us.  The most important thing is support local music, get out to the gigs if you can.  You know if you like the music, buy it, because ultimately it helps.  If I like a band, I will buy their music because it’s a way of supporting the band.  If an album costs £10, I’m going to buy it; I’ve just bought two beers, which cost nearly £10 and I value music more than I value beer!  Support local bands, get out there because it does make a difference to the band.  When you see people there and they like the music it does make a difference to us, to the bands.  When I go to see a band that I like, it means a lot to me to see these guys.  £1 is not much to spend for a song that you like and every little helps.  Support your local scene and have fun.  We have fun, so we want to invite everyone else to have fun with us!

vik-and-alex-damn-dice

You can find out more about Damn Dice via their websiteFacebook page or Twitter

Check out the videos for Rock (Like You Mean It)What Now? and my personal favourite, Driven

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Review of Download Festival, 10-12 June 2016

Yet again, the rain came, the mud grew ankle deep and tents got washed away in the campsites.  The traffic queues for the day ticket holders were appalling and people moaned about the line up.  I’m not entirely sure why we still put ourselves through it every year, but it’s like some sort of addiction; Download just has to be done.  It’s one of those quintessentially British things, like having to wait in a queue (don’t mention the toilets), or stoically paying a fiver for a pint …

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Anyhow, as I have always said, it is ALL about the music.  Except … it really wasn’t.  Last year, I didn’t review the festival because we had an exceptionally good time with friends and it was all about networking and enjoying the social side.  This year, we didn’t really see any friends, we didn’t see many bands, but … well, it was still good.  The Mockney and I sunbathed, we had a really good laugh and I made some new friends.  I will tell you about the bands that we did see … but here are some numbers to ease you in gently.

Number of …

  • Miles to get there and back – 404
  • Trips between the campsite and car park – 8 in total
  • Hours that it took to put the new tent up – 2
  • Beers consumed whilst trying to put said tent up – 6
  • Bands that cancelled their performance – 3
  • Bands that I wanted to see – 32
  • Bands that we actually saw – 11
  • Pints of lager/beer/cider consumed – Somewhere between too many and not enough
  • Decent nights’ sleep – 0
  • Pounds spent on mediocre, nutritionally bad food – approx. £65
  • Times we have been to Download – 7 between us (10 if you count ‘Monsters of Rock’ back in the day)
  • Times we got rained on – oh, please – I’m still trying to dry out now. Standard.
  • Episodes of tent springing a leak – 0 (thanks, Go Outdoors!)

Phew.  Now, let’s get to the serious bit …

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RavenEye on the Zippo Encore stage, 10 June 2016 – Photo courtesy of Dirty Rock Photography

First band to be seen on Friday was RavenEye (7/10), kicking things off on the Zippo Encore stage.  This was their first time at Download and many people hadn’t seen them before, hence the singer advising, “We can pop this cherry together”.  They seemed nervy to start with, but soon got into the swing of things, with a big groove and an appreciative audience.  A swift beer stop and a trek over to the undercover Maverick stage saw us in front of Zoax (8/10), fresh from an appearance at last weekend’s Camden Rocks Fest.  I can’t remember if it was raining at this point, but even if it had been, this band still would have packed out the considerably sized tent.  Blatantly pleased to be there, they belted out quite a few bruisers but also slowed it down with new track ‘The Wave’ from the newly released, eponymously titled album.  A pleasing set, with Adam singing from the crowd, rather than in front of them.  They loved it and so did I.

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Zoax on the Maverick stage, 10 June 2016 – Photo courtesy of Dirty Rock Photography

Next up were The Wildhearts (10/10).  A band that is very close to my heart, one of my earliest memories of being a rocker is playing ‘Earth vs The Wildhearts’ to death.  Having seen Ginger play a very different set in Camden last week, it was a real pleasure to hear such songs as ‘I Wanna Go Where The People Go’, ‘TV Tan’, and ‘Suckerpunch’, as well as the ever awesome ‘Caffeine Bomb’, which was dedicated to the late, great Lemmy.  Energetic, musically tight and humble, The Wildhearts absolutely knocked it out of the park.

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The Wildhearts on the Maverick stage, 10 June 2016 – Photo courtesy of Dirty Rock Photography

With a few hours to kill and the rain not letting up, we spent a couple of hours chilling out undercover in the guest area before stopping at the Lemmy stage to see Rammstein (8/10).  I don’t have too much to say about their performance; if you have seen them before, you’ll know how compelling they are on the live stage.  Although they had some technical issues, they blasted through favourites such as ‘Reise, Reise’, ‘Seemann’ and ‘Du Hast’.  If you haven’t seen them, put it on your bucket list as everybody should see them at least once.  This was my first time and I wasn’t disappointed.

Saturday dawned with bright sunshine and a balmy temperature; we were slow to get going, so the first band we caught sight of was Inglorious (6/10) on the Encore stage.  They were one of the bands that I had marked as a must-see, but to be honest, I wasn’t that enamoured with their set.  To be fair to them, we were hungover and hungry; we also bumped into a friend, so I didn’t give 100% focus.

Turbowolf

Turbowolf on the Maverick stage, 11 June 2016

A band that did manage to keep my attention was Turbowolf (8/10) back at the Maverick stage.  I couldn’t tell you any of the songs they played, only that they gave 150% in a mad, whirlwind of a performance that went down extremely well.  I’ve seen these guys before, but they’re so good live – always worth catching if you can because they rock hard.  It’s worth it just for the keyboard action!

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Sixx:AM on the Lemmy stage, 11 June 2016 – Photo courtesy of Dirty Rock Photography

Band of the day for me was Sixx:AM (9/10) on the main stage; the only reason they didn’t get a 10/10 is because I fail to see the relevance of two scantily dressed backing singers whose vocals we actually couldn’t hear.  Anyway, they smashed it out of the park with tracks such as ‘Rise’ and ‘Life is Beautiful’, also showcasing new songs from the recently released album, “Prayers For The Damned”.  Loved their set, can’t wait to get the new album and I hope that I get to see them again soon – outstanding.

It’s no secret that I am a massive Rival Sons (8/10) fan – I have seen them many times and I love their music.  However, much as I really wanted to give them top marks, I just can’t.  They looked sharp and they sounded almost perfect, but it appeared to be lacking something that I can’t put my finger on.  Don’t get me wrong, it was a great set, with some real crowd pleasers such as ‘Electric Man’, ‘Secret’ and ‘Pressure and Time’ but … I wasn’t feeling it as much as I normally would. Perhaps it was because I haven’t yet got the new album, “Hollow Bones”, and they played a couple of songs from it, including the title track. Maybe I’d just had too much sun at that point. I can’t wait, however, to get my paws on that album and I look forward to seeing them with Black Sabbath on their farewell tour next year.

Rival Sons

Rival Sons on the Lemmy stage, 11 June 2016

Which brings me neatly on to the Saturday headliner.  After I had just caught Megadeth’s ‘Symphony of Destruction’, the clouds were darkening ominously once more.  We experienced what can only be described as a cloudburst shortly afterwards and changing into dry clothes didn’t cheer me up.  By the time Black Sabbath (9/10) exploded onto the stage, my mood was blacker than the sky.  Quite fitting,  then, that they should kick off with ‘Black Sabbath’.  That iconic intro ratcheted up the excitement levels in the crowd and the atmosphere in the arena was intense as Ozzy did his usual manic run from one side of the stage to the other.

Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath on the Lemmy stage, 11 June 2016

They were clearly enjoying themselves as they cranked through a surprisingly short (only 15 songs), but nostalgic set.  The soggy crowd didn’t seem to mind the downpour, moshing along to classics such as ‘Snowblind’, ‘War Pigs’, ‘Rat Salad’ and ‘Iron Man’.  The outpouring of affection for Birmingham’s most famous rockers almost  brought a tear to my eye, as they encored with ‘Paranoid’ and the arena erupted. We left at that point, but I believe that they ended a triumphant set with the introspective “Zeitgeist”, perhaps a strange choice.  Step up and pay your money, ladies and gents – ‘The End’ farewell tour tickets go on sale on Friday 17th June at 9am from Live Nation.

By the time Sunday limped around, we were pretty broken and quite looking forward to going home; having already packed the car, by 11 o’clock it was pouring down again and we were pretty miserable.  We did manage to catch The Raven Age (8/10).  They absolutely killed their set, which I thoroughly enjoyed, although I’m baffled as to why the singer kept disappearing every five minutes.  Hard, heavy and sweaty, every single member of this band played and sang their arses off and were rewarded with a very appreciative audience.  I’ll definitely catch them again if I have the chance.

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The Raven Age on the Maverick stage, 12 June 2016

Last band of the day for us was The Temperance Movement (9/10); a band who I have followed with interest over the last couple of years.  Having grown exponentially in fanbase and confidence, TTM played a blinding set on the Lemmy stage (last time I saw them, they played the Zippo Encore stage), it’s just a shame that there weren’t as many people watching them as there should have been (let’s not mention the day ticket traffic).  My favourite song, ‘Midnight Black’ had me dancing in the mud!

mud!

That’s it!  Bands I didn’t get to see, who I heard good things about included Skillet, Savage Messiah, Santa Cruz, Reigning Days, Juliette and the Licks, Cane Hill and of course, the mighty Disturbed.  Gutted I didn’t see them.  I also hear that a little band called Iron Maiden went over extremely well on Sunday evening …

I moaned about the mud and the severe lack of straw to soak it up, but I really do have to hand it to Andy Copping; the Download organisers continue to learn from things that have gone awry in the previous years and  tried to put it right.    I do think that the whole event could be moved to later in the year to try and avoid the ‘Drownload’ syndrome, but that’s a whole other article … I’ve already booked a hotel for next year so bring it on!