Category Archives: Classic rock

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.

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.

Review: Alter Bridge, ‘The Last Hero’ 09.10.16

At last.  All of the anticipation, the teaser trailers and the hype have led to this moment.  I have in my hot little hands a copy of the new Alter Bridge album, ‘The Last Hero‘.  The boyfriend bought it for me yesterday afternoon; I left it in my bag, waiting for the right moment in which to reverentially unwrap the cellophane, smell the ‘newness’, read the liner notes and take time to study the whole package … it’s now Sunday; it’s a glorious, sunny, chilly morning and there’s not a sound to be heard except for the birds on the rooftops.  This is the time.  I’ve got my headphones on, I’m sitting back with a cup of tea … so, read on, dear follower, read on.

alter-bridge-the-last-hero-cover

So.  Alter Bridge five is here.  ‘The Last Hero‘ has been eagerly anticipated for months; produced and mixed by Michael ‘Elvis’ Baskette (as well as previously working with Alter Bridge, Baskette has also worked with Tremonti, Slash and Trivium, among many others), it is a 13 track opus (14 tracks if you have the special edition CD) that screams ‘platinum seller’ at the top of its lungs.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is a stunning masterpiece of an album that will uplift, thrill and delight you.  Let’s take a closer look …

Opening track ‘Show Me A Leader’ catapults us straight into the action with a nice guitar lead in. This is a huge song; it has an upbeat, uptempo feel and makes for a pretty thrilling introduction to AB5, making you excited as to what might come next, which is …

‘The Writing On The Wall’ intro has a military feel to it, with some immense drums – there are just layers of sound here that made me want to listen again and again. This is a track with plenty of attitude which sounds quite dark.

Third song ‘The Other Side’ is a pretty sexy track; it has a good, chuggy feel to it and I think it has real crossover appeal to fans of other genres as again, it is quite dark.  There are some naughty sounding vocals from Myles and it’s just a full on, stunning track.  I’ve listened to it five or six times already and it’s a firm favourite; if they don’t play it live in November, I’ll be really disappointed!

‘My Champion’, ‘Poison In Your Veins’, ‘Cradle To The Grave’ and ‘Losing Patience’ are all bangers; any and all of these songs will go over very well live.  They are also unmistakably ‘Alter Bridge’, featuring some nice harmonics. ‘My Champion’ is particularly uplifting.

Eighth offering, ‘This Side of Fate’ is a huge track.  With beautiful vocals and a lovely melodic guitar sound, it’s part ballad and part epic masterpiece. The song has a particularly rousing bridge, which reminded me a tiny bit of early Muse, but the whole thing just soars in your ears, making your heart pound and your fingers tap … it made me a little bit sad when the song came to an end.

The melodic ‘You Will Be Remembered’ brought tears to my eyes as it got me thinking about my Dad – a lovely song which is well followed up by the bruising ‘Crows On A Wire’; taking you straight back into the action with a heavy intro featuring some choice pinch harmonics, it’s another definite favourite of mine already.

‘Twilight’ is a powerful and melodic song that is a pleasure on the ears, with some thoughtful lyrics and again, that big, big sound.  ‘Island Of Fools’ and bonus track ‘Last Of Our Kind’ are two more great tracks and ‘The Last Hero’ is also stunning, with some marvellous vocals.

alter-bridge-band-pic

Alter Bridge (Source: teamrock.com)

To sum up, ‘The Last Hero‘ is pretty much everything I hoped it would be and so much more.  It’s epic and immense.   Baskette has done an amazing job with the production and this album has undoubtedly taken Alter Bridge to the next level.  I would have given it 10 out of 10, but … well, where would be left for them to go with number 6?!

There is no doubt that non-fans of Alter Bridge (which is in itself an alien concept – I mean, who wouldn’t be, right?) will say that there is nothing new in this record, that it sound like, well, Alter Bridge.  If you are a fan and have even one other album, you will agree that it sounds like AB.  But you will also realise that there is so much more to ‘The Last Hero‘; it’s a brilliant, themed journey from start to finish, rather than just a random collection of good songs.

Roll on November – I can’t wait to hear the new material and to be part of the Alter Bridge live experience once again.

Track listing: –

  1. Show Me A Leader
  2. The Writing On The Wall
  3. The Other Side
  4. My Champion
  5. Poison In Your Veins
  6. Cradle To The Grave
  7. Losing Patience
  8. This Side Of Fate
  9. You Will Be Remembered
  10. Crows On A Wire
  11. Twilight
  12. Island Of Fools
  13. The Last Hero
  14. Last Of Our Kind (Bonus Track)

Alter Bridge: –

  • Myles Kennedy – vocals and guitar
  • Brian Marshall – bass
  • Scott ‘Flip’ Phillips – drums
  • Mark Tremonti – guitar and vocals

The Last Hero: –

  • For fans of – Alter Bridge (nobody else sounds quite like them!)
  • Queen of Rock rating – 9.5/10
  • Stand out tracks – Show Me A Leader; The Other Side; This Side Of Fate; Crows On A Wire; Twilight; The Last Hero

Lyric video for ‘Show Me A Leader’ – here

Video (audio) for ‘The Other Side’ – here

Alter Bridge website

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Interview with Jay Buchanan, Rival Sons December 2014

(ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON CULTNOISE.COM, 10.12.14)

It’s been a belter of a year for Californian rock and rollers Rival Sons.  With their fourth album, ‘Great Western Valkyrie’ released to critical acclaim and nominated for Classic Rock Magazine’s ‘Best Album’, as well as numerous tour dates (including a triumphant performance at Download Festival), it seems as though their star is shining more brightly than ever.  We were honoured to be able to sit down with vocalist Jay Buchanan to talk about the recording process, life and the universe in general.

CultNoise: You’ve been touring Europe, now you’re on the UK leg.  How’s it been so far?

Jay Buchanan:  I’ve had terrible insomnia over the last two nights.  We flew in from Barcelona to go and do the Wembley show. Yesterday was our day off, but I had to travel to Bath to do some studio work for an artist, so I was gone all day. I got back last night and I couldn’t sleep.

CN: You mentioned Wembley – Rival Sons shared a bill with the legend that is Lenny Kravitz.  Did you enjoy it?

JB: It was great getting to finally play Wembley Arena, I’ve wanted to play there for a long time, so that was nice. You speak of Lenny Kravitz being a legend- I don’t know what it is, if it’s the colour of his skin, but the general regular rock and roll audience, they don’t talk about Lenny Kravitz when they talk about rock and roll, which seems pretty crazy to me.  That guy has fought really hard to keep rock and roll at the forefront, all the way from the late 80’s. I thought he gave a great show, but at the end of the day it’s just another show.

CN: Your latest album, ‘Great Western Valkyrie’, has been very well received. You’ve done four albums now, but suddenly Rival Sons seem to be everywhere.  What do you think it is about this album that has made that happen?

JB: I think that there are a couple of answers to that.  We’ve been touring relentlessly for almost four years now and it takes a while to really get your name out there. With our third record (second full length album – there was an EP in between), ‘Pressure and Time’, we were getting a lot of attention then and people were saying the same thing. The same happened with the record after that, ‘Head Down’, because at the same time you have the records, you have all of the touring.  The touring is going to beget its own growth, from person to person and word of mouth.  We just keep working and touring, and we make another record and people saw that. To me it makes perfect sense because it is true, we are much further along with this record than we were with the previous one.

If you’re asking about the quality of the record itself, I think that it’s our best; I think that it’s our most cohesive sounding record, thematically and sound-wise, I think it’s good.  I’ve heard people say that it’s slick production which is crazy, because we do all of our records the same way.  With GWV we gave ourselves two additional weeks, but that was just two more weeks of doing the same thing that we always did.  There was no greater benefit to being in there for an extra two weeks, other than having time to write more songs that you can decide to throw away and not put on the record.  I was really excited about the prospect of having longer to do it, but the whole process is such a hair-raising and gut-wrenching experience for me. I have to write around the clock, twenty-four-seven, so I’m always at work whenever we’re in the studio, writing and helping to arrange things that the other guys are writing – everyone is putting songs together. There’s no rest and it’s constant- you’re in the hot seat. I think it took a toll on me personally, but the record itself I think is something special.

People have worked really hard to call us a ‘classic’ rock band, not even in a pejorative sense, but dismissing us as a 70’s Led Zeppelin style.  The further that we’re able to purvey our own style, I believe that people will understand that we have no concern of that. I most of all couldn’t care less about the 70’s, or even rock and roll for that matter.  My love affair is with this band and what we’re capable of doing.

CN: Is it your favourite record?  It’s a lot more mature and tighter musically than the previous albums and it’s evidently a progression.

JB: I wouldn’t even trust myself to answer because every time, you have to go through different stages when you’re making the record, typically.  You’re scratching your head, asking “Is this going to be any good?”  Time passes and you’re able to step away from it and you appreciate it for a little bit; you listen to it again and you don’t really like it.  You listen to it a little while later and you’re like, “Man, that’s the best record.” I think they all have their own charm, I don’t know that I like this one best.

CN: How have things changed for you since GWV came out?  Do people treat you any differently?

JB: Sometimes it takes longer to get from the bus to the venue, because people want to take pictures and have you sign things. I used to go out and thank the audience after our shows, and when we were on a smaller scale it was easier, but I’ve chosen to no longer do that, just because of the viciousness that can happen out there – people just being too selfish and not remembering that you’re a person, like, giving you one compliment and following it with two critiques. I don’t really care, but people get liquored up and they’ll get that shameful sense of self-entitlement.

Overall, I don’t think it’s that big of a change.  When we’re out on the road, it’s a very insular environment, because we’re on the bus, we’re travelling, trying to get caught up on some sleep and then we’re at the venue, giving interviews and talking to people about ourselves.  Then we have sound check and a little bit of time to maybe walk around the city, but there’s no Rival Sons ‘mania’ going on.  Things at home, they stay the same – in an experiment, your home would be considered your control [environment], the constant.  We certainly haven’t gotten rich doing this, there’s not a lot of money to be made in music in general.

Rival Sons

CN: It’s not about the money though, is it?

JB: When you have a family, something has to be about money. They get hungry, they need food and shelter, you have to pay bills. As much as we musicians are supposed to be selfless martyrs that are in it for the art, whilst everyone else does a nine to five job, if we care about money we’re selling out. I think that people have a very skewed sense of what that is because we’re humans and we have families.

When you have a family and you’re gone all the time, you need to make some serious money, but I figure at some point it will come along for us and I’ll do something as crazy as owning a home!  I’ll be making music until I’m dead.

CN: Rival Sons are often categorised as a ‘Southern’ rock band, do you think the genre is over-saturated?

JB: People also say we’re ‘classic’ rock, which doesn’t make sense because we’re not ‘classic’ – we’re barely even six years old as a band, so we’re literally not classic rock – a band has to be around for a couple of decades at least. The ‘Southern’ rock thing I really don’t understand, that really throws me every time. We’ll get that more here, because here if you hear a slide guitar, it’s like “Ooh, the South”. In America, ‘Southern’ rock is like Lynyrd Skynyrd and that kind of stuff.  I definitely don’t see us as Southern rock.

CN: Maybe people say ‘classic’ rock because of comparisons you mentioned earlier and the influence of the 70’s era in your music, e.g. Led Zeppelin?

JB: We’re dominated by guitar solos and rock and roll guitar riffs, that’s the type of band we are. I understand that people would draw that because it’s uncommon for people to actually play rock and roll. I do understand when people look at us and think it’s kind of a throwback, because we’re actually making our records and playing live on the records and trying to capture that energy.  When we play live, we do it for real.

CN: What made you decide to sign with Earache Records?

JB: Earache Records pursued us and it was very surprising because, at that time, the only bands that they had on their label were metal and death metal, that’s it. There were no other rock and roll bands so we looked at the opportunity, like, I don’t know… how we fit into this world of death metal, but they want to work with us really bad and they were very persistent about courting us.

CN: I think it was quite a visionary move on their part, really?

JB: I think so, it was a great idea – how maverick can you be, we’re going to be the only rock and roll band that isn’t metal. We figured we would get good attention and good effort and that was the truth, they were very attentive. Now they’ve signed a couple of other bands that aren’t metal. I think they do a good job.

CN: Do you have any advice for new, up-and-coming bands?

JB: You had better be sure that you’re in it for the right reasons because you’re never going to be done paying your dues. You better be sure that this is what you want to do, because it’s going to be a really long, hard road. You have to do it for the art first and then once you have a family, although the art comes first, you have to make sure that you can be smart enough to not be taken advantage of. The arts used to be a great treasure, but the world is very unkind to artists in general.

For these young bands just getting started, just be sure that the calling better be wired deep inside you, because I’ve seen people that didn’t stay the course – they burn out and make very bad decisions, or when they’re not consumed with the art, they’ll turn to things like drinking too much, or drugs, and just get burned out or die. Make sure this is what you need to do and make sure that you’re good at it.

CN: That’s good advice.  If the world was to end here in one hour, how would you spend your last sixty minutes?

JB: I’d probably try to call home and say goodbye. I would probably spend it in prayer and meditation, preparing to leave my body, just being at peace with it. We’ve never been faced with anything remotely like that so I would like to prepare, have a good journey and leave under the best circumstances.

CN: Much has been made about the ‘state’ of the music industry.  Where do you see it going?

JB: People need to keep themselves occupied talking about something. If they’re not talking about how great something is, they’re talking about how bad something is; if something has been around long enough they get sentimental on how legendary and great it is and then there’s a scandal. People talk shit, period. Where are things going to go? We play rock and roll – rock music in general could fall off a cliff and die, if it were up to me. If it isn’t based on the blues, I can’t think of one good ‘rock’ band that I like – it has to be rock and roll. ‘Rock’ is just not my cup of tea at all, but at the same time, that rock music is making other people happy; if it’s going to bring joy into people’s lives, cool. Everybody likes something different.

The state of the industry… it is changing at such a rapid rate that the model is changing, it’s in flux and I don’t know when it’s going to level out. It surprises me to be in a successful band that is starting to do well – we haven’t ‘made’ it, but I feel like we’re on a trajectory, if we keep doing this then we’ll be able to make something of ourselves.

Technology is changing at such a rapid pace in the availability of music and I think this is a really interesting time, where the power is taken away from the industry and is placed in the hands of everyone. When I talk about feeling a little bit disillusioned, we work really hard to make these songs and the only time we’re going to see a penny is if people come to see us play live. At the same time, look how beautiful it is that everyone is given a greater chance and it’s no longer in the hands of a few record labels and distributors.

CN: If you could share a stage with anyone, alive or dead, who would you choose and why?

JB: Probably my dad and my brother, just jamming at home. I miss my family a lot, my mom sings and my sister sings, everybody plays instruments- we get together. In the living room we pull out the amps, the drum kit and microphones and we just get down and have a good time. I can’t think of anyone out there that I would love to share the stage with more than just sitting and watching them do something.

I think about the great vocalists that I hear out there, someone like Leonard Cohen.  Do I want to collaborate with Leonard Cohen? No, he’s Leonard Cohen and I wouldn’t feel the need to sit in with him, because that’s him. I’ve got a lot of respect for the people that I have a lot of respect for.

CN: Finally, what are Rival Sons plans for 2015?

JB: It’s going to be just like this:  We’re going to tour, hopefully we can make our next record- it depends how long we have to sit on GWV, but I want to make another record. I feel like this is a good band, we have an interesting cocktail of personalities and skills sets and I want to know what we’re capable of being.

Live, this is a great band, but creatively we need to give ourselves more fuel for the stage and also we need to see if we can reach whatever potential that we’re capable of, to see if we can turn into a band that transcends or becomes more of ourselves. I really just want us to get better; I want us to write more songs. That’s more important than dominating the world – how good are we and how good can we get?  It’s so much fun.

Vikkie and Rival Sons, Pie and Vinyl

 

www.rivalsons.com

www.twitter.com/rivalsons

Review of Ramblin’ Man Fair, 23-24 July 2016, Mote Park, Maidstone

It’s certainly a novelty for the sun to be shining on a festival weekend, but Saturday 23 July dawned bright and full of the promise of a sultry smasher.  Having secured guest VIP passes, we took our time getting to the site at Mote Park, enjoying the feel of the sun on our backs as we walked from the train station at Maidstone.

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Much has been said about the queues to get in on the Saturday, but we only had to queue for 10 minutes or so before we were in; breathing in the familiar smell of BBQ meat and hearing the background noise of a sound check still taking place … walking into that field felt like coming home.

The Fair had four stages, set across a fairly large piece of the park; the main stage, the Outlaw Country stage (which became the Blues stage on the Sunday), the Prog in the Park stage and the Rising stage.  I already knew who I wanted to see across both days, thanks to the Ramblin’ Man app (much better, it must be said, than some other festivals), so we kicked back in the VIP bar for an hour or so, enjoying some people watching.

The Dead Daisies kicked things off for me on the main stage with their blend of 70’s and modern rock, opening a shining set with ‘Midnight Moses’.  Next track, a cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Evil’ went down a storm, with people actually getting out of their folding camping chairs to take a get better look. The title track of the new album, ‘Make Some Noise‘ came next, followed by a great cover of John Fogarty’s ‘Fortunate Son’.  A competent, funky performance from this supergroup earned them much applause when their set finished – well worth buying tickets to see them tour with The Answer later this year (8/10).

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The Dead Daisies, Main stage

Next up on the Outlaw country stage were Arizona four-piece Hogjaw; their set kicked some English butt and they played a short but very sweet set to a packed tent, kicking off with the frenetic ‘Rollin Thunder’.  Just as the crowd was getting into it, they slowed it right down with ‘This Whiskey’, before ramping up the pace with ‘Gitsum’.  I couldn’t actually get into the tent to see them, but Hogjaw rocked the very appreciative crowd and they’re my hot tip of the weekend (8/10).

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Hogjaw, Outlaw Country stage

I stayed where I was to listen to Whiskey Myers; I don’t know any of the track names as I’d not come across them before, but they sounded pretty good; a cool, mellow, bluesy sounding band.  Another one to watch, I think (7/10).

At this point it was so hot that I flaked out on the grass and sent my colleague from Dirty Rock Photography to buy lunch.  This meant that I missed Terrorvision, although I could still hear them and see them on the big screens.  I have a special place in my heart for these chaps as much of the soundtrack to my misspent youth came via their albums’Formaldehyde’ and ‘How To Make Friends and Influence People’.  They romped through classics like ‘Alice …’, ‘Pretend Best Friend’ and ‘Oblivion’.  I rocked out as much as I could whilst grazing on a yummy, but somewhat overpriced, ostrich burger (8/10).

All I can say about old school old timers, Europe, is that they didn’t disappoint the predominantly middle-aged audience.  Wheeling out and dusting off such classics as ‘Rock The Night’, ‘Superstitious’ and ‘Cherokee’, the crowd was lapping it up.  The set ended, of course, with the obligatory crowd-pleaser ‘The Final Countdown’.  Cue lots of 40-somethings plugging in their air guitars and moshing with imaginary hair for one of the most anthemic songs of our time (8.5/10)… all I really remember is Joey Tempest’s stunningly white teeth blocking out the sun from the big screens.  Can someone please get me the number for his dentist?!

The rest of Saturday passed in a bit of a blur, with sterling sets from Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake, who capped off a virtually perfect day of rock in the sunshine.

 

Sunday turned out to be another beautiful day, although thankfully there was a miniscule amount of cloud cover which kept me from getting sunburned for a second time (and yes, I was using sunscreen!).  First act up for me on the main stage was old school, unashamedly southern The Kentucky Headhunters.  I knew about this band purely for the Black Stone Cherry connection, but I had never heard any of their music before.  Consisting of four mature, long-haired gents, this band absolutely smashed it out of the park, garnering appreciation from all four corners of a somewhat drowsy site.   I mean, who else comes out to play the drums with what looked like a fully stuffed raccoon sitting atop their snowy white locks?  These guys rocked it up with tracks from their not inconsiderable back catalogue, including ‘Walking With The Wolf’ and Freddie King’s ‘Have You Ever Loved A Woman’.  They played tracks from their latest album ‘Meet Me in Bluesland’, giving a touching tribute to the late almost-family member and fellow musician, Johnnie Johnson.

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The Kentucky Headhunters, Main stage

I’d already departed for the next band when I heard the crowd singing along to the Beatles’ ‘Hey, Jude’; I was gutted to find out later that BSC’s Ben Wells had made an appearance on stage with the Headhunters.  Overall, this was an outstanding set from a band that have only just made it to the UK; I think the Ramblin’ Man crowd made them suitably welcome (9/10).

Over on the Rising Stage, however, it was time for Illustr8tors (formerly BlackWolf) to kick off an energetic, if slightly tentative set.  I believe it was the first time that this band have played since their ‘rebrand’ and they eased into it, looking more comfortable as they dispatched each song, including new offering ‘Something Biblical’ and new single ‘Your Animal’.  Sounding sharp, singer Scott and co pulled in a decent sized crowd and pulled off a quietly triumphant debut appearance (8/10).  Look out for them touring later this year with the excellent Toseland.

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Illustr8tors, Rising stage

I stayed at the Rising Stage, although I could hear the most excellent Irish rockers, The Answer over on the main stage.  I was waiting for Dirty Thrills, a long time favourite of mine (you can find the interview I did with them here), although we had already been treated to an impromptu acoustic performance over in the VIP area a couple of hours beforehand.  As it happened, due to circumstance, I only managed to catch one song, filled with energy and attitude, with a pride-inducing large crowd gathered from the first note. I think it’s fair to say that Dirty Thrills are definitely on the up (8/10).

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Dirty Thrills, Rising stage

It was with great impatience that I weaved my way nearly to the front of the crowd over at main stage for The Cadillac Three; this is a band who I discovered a couple of years ago through Classic Rock Mag, but never had the opportunity to see.  Wearing shades and baseball caps, looking achingly cool and effortless up there on that huge stage, TC3 kicked off a sublime set with the sultry ‘Peace Love and Dixie’ from the EP of the same name. Such immense blues/country/rock tracks as ‘Tennessee Mojo’, ‘I’m Southern’ and ‘Back It Up’ showcased fantastic musicianship and genuine love for playing live (9.5). They had a fantastic and well deserved reaction from the crowd and I’m seriously excited for their tour later this year – I would highly recommend that you get tickets.

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The Cadillac Three, Main stage

I was in two minds about seeing Thunder; I’ve seen them so many times and they always put on a good show, so I settled for sitting at the edge of the VIP area and watching them on the big screens.  There were newer songs in the set, but also they rolled out absolute classics such as ‘Higher Ground’, ‘Backstreet Symphony’ and ‘Love Walked In’, finishing with the banging ‘Dirty Love’.  The issues they had with the sound didn’t seem to dampen the atmosphere and once again their set was competent and accomplished (7/10).

So far, so epic.  A fantastic weekend of music, beer, friends and the most glorious sunshine.  How on earth could an already amazing memorable two days get any better?  Well, it turns out it just needed three little words … Black. Stone. Cherry. I believe this was my fourth BSC gig and the third time I’ve seen them at a festival, although this was the first time they have headlined a UK festival.  The anticipation was almost palpable as Chris, Ben, John Fred and Jon took to the stage with an explosion of House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’.

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Black Stone Cherry, Main stage

Going straight into ‘Me and Mary Jane’, with the crowd knowing the words and singing along, the whole band were on superb form and sounding note perfect.  The energetic ‘Blind Man’ followed and ‘Rain Wizard’ drew a most favourable response from the assembled fans.  Chris took the opportunity to introduce the band, before launching into the epic ‘Soul Machine’ followed by a very competent cover of George Thorogood’s ‘Bad to the Bone’.  ‘Soulcreek’, ‘Maybe Someday’ and ‘Rescue Me’ followed, leading to an emotional rendition of ‘It’s In My Blood’, with Chris leading the audience in a repeat of the chorus of the track, having shared some confidences about depression and his personal struggles with thousands of people as if he was talking alone to his best mate.  I have to confess that I did shed a few tears during ‘Things My Father Said’; as I recently marked the two-year anniversary of my Dad’s death it was a rather poignant moment for me. Thankfully the pace picked up after that  with the marvellous ‘Cheaper To Drink Alone’ – the first live performance of that track.

Last two songs were the crowd pleasing ‘White Trash Millionaire’ and ‘Blame It on The Boom Boom’, which finished an epic and highly emotive set.  The reflective, beautiful track ‘The Rambler’ – closing song on the new album ‘Kentucky‘ – kicked off a three song encore;  the anthemic ‘Lonely Train’ leading to a final and fitting tribute to late Motorhead front-man Lemmy with ‘Ace of Spades’.  I think BSC can be forgiven for getting emotional on what was, frankly, a triumphant and engaging first headline festival appearance.  Many people present had not seen them before and I’m 100% sure that they made a lot of new fans based on the performance they gave (10/10).

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Black Stone Cherry, Main stage

We couldn’t have asked for a better finish to a festival that, despite some teething problems (more toilets and please, please give the stewards better information about queuing to get in next year!) is rapidly rising to challenge other, bigger festivals in the UK for the title of the best.  This was only the second year of Ramblin’ Man and I was blown away by the nice atmosphere and the overall laid back attitude that pervaded the site across the two days.  I already have my ticket for next year so I hope to see you there!

Thank you to Chris at Dirty Rock Photography for the fab photos!

 

Footage of Illustr8tors – https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fthemusicjourno%2Fvideos%2F1257576554283347%2F&show_text=1&width=560” target=”_blank”>Illustr8tors

Footage of Dirty Thrills – https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fthemusicjourno%2Fvideos%2F1257606827613653%2F&show_text=1&width=560” target=”_blank”>Dirty Thrills