Last weekend I attended Planet Rock’s new weekend festival, Winter’s End, at Sandford Holiday Park in Poole, Dorset. The review should be published via PowerPlay magazine, however I had the chance to interview rock’s rising young stars, Stone Broken. It will be up soon, so keep checking back!
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.
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 (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: –
- Show Me A Leader
- The Writing On The Wall
- The Other Side
- My Champion
- Poison In Your Veins
- Cradle To The Grave
- Losing Patience
- This Side Of Fate
- You Will Be Remembered
- Crows On A Wire
- Island Of Fools
- The Last Hero
- 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
Hailing from the hallowed turf of Orange County, the Californian hard rock trio Idlewar have finally unveiled their full length, debut album, ‘Impulse‘. Produced by Idlewar drummer Pete Pagonis and mastered by Brian Lucey (Ghost ‘Meliora‘, Black Keys ‘El Camino‘ and Arctic Monkeys ‘AM‘), the album was released last Friday, 30 September via PHD.
With forthcoming appearances lined up in November as support to Stone Broken, Idlewar are setting the airwaves abuzz, indeed Classic Rock Magazine have hailed the talented three-piece as ‘immense’. Here is my humble opinion of the album, for your pleasure …
The album kicks off with ‘Stone In My Heel’; a moody, QOTSA-esque offering that does nothing to ease the listener in gently to the general ambience of this ten track journey. There aren’t many lyrics and what there is certainly reinforces the title of the song.
Second song ‘Soul’ begins with a funk-tastic riff with some meandering vocals over the top. This is bound to be a hit in the rock clubs; it has that chuggy, stompy feel to it that nobody will be able to resist and it’s probably one of my favourites for that very reason.
‘Criminal’ is the first track released from ‘Impulse‘ and again, it’s a stompy, attitude laden piece that should translate well live. Make sure that you check out the video (link below). ‘All That I’ve Got’ begins with a heavy, de-tuned feel and at first listen, it seems to be a bit of a ballad (how we hate that word). There are some tidy vocals from James Blake here, even if it might be a bit ponderous until the solo guitar work kicks in at nearly four minutes into the track.
The rest of the album continues in the same vein, with the best of the rest for me being ‘Glory’ (always love a song that starts with strong drums and a dirty riff), ‘Apathy’ for the cool guitar work and a fitting finale, ‘On Our Knees’. That last track (the second single) is pacy, upbeat and a satisfying last slice to finish off the yummy pie that is ‘Impulse‘.
Overall, this is a tidy, accomplished offering from a band who are obviously passionate about music and who are poised on the cusp of good things. As debut albums go, it’s not a bad start, indeed it is a solid follow up to the ‘Dig In‘ EP. Did I love it? Well, I thought it to be more of a grower; it’s the sort of album that you will find something different in each time you listen to it. I would certainly like to check out these gentlemen on stage to see how the music translates in the live experience; unfortunately Planet Rock Radio’s ‘RockStock’ is sold out, however it will be worth heading to a Stone Broken show later this year, where Idlewar will, I’m sure, do a sterling support job. I have just literally just heard today that The Black Heart, London is sold out … better move fast if you want to catch these guys!
Idlewar UK Tour With Stone Broken: –
24th Nov – NORWICH – Brickmakers Arms
25th Nov – SHEFFIELD – The Corporation
26th Nov – LONDON – The Black Heart
28th Nov – BRIGHTON – The Hope And Ruin
29th Nov – NEWCASTLE – The Cluny
30th Nov – EDINBURGH – Bannermans
1st Dec – MANCHESTER – Rebellion
3rd Dec – PLANET ROCKSTOCK (SOLD OUT) – Idlewar only
Track listing: –
- Stone In My Heel
- All That I’ve Got
- On Our Knees
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 …
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.
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.
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!
You can also check out the album of photos of Damn Dice at Camden Rocks Festival by Chris of Dirty Rock Photography here
So, regular readers will remember that I recently introduced you to Into The Fire; a super-group featuring members of SOiL, Evanescence and The Union Underground. I’ve got my grubby paws on a copy of their self titled EP as promised and here I review it, for your pleasure!
First track ‘Spit You Out’ (also the first video from the band) kicks us straight into the fray and at first listen it sounds pretty modern. Although Into The Fire have a style all of their own, this is unmistakably a ‘now’ sound. It’s catchy, high on riffage and overall, it’s aurally pleasing. It’s a good length song that proves to be a good opener for the EP.
Second track ‘From The Medicine’ starts off all atmospheric and moody, however it morphs into a solid modern rock track with some nice vocals and some competent musicianship behind it. The third and last track is an alternate version of ‘Spit You Out’.
If I’m honest, I would have liked to see a couple more songs on this EP. The band has a great sound and it’s commercially appealing to a crossover audience; it’s not so heavy that it’s going to alienate a less ‘rock’ audience, however I can see these tracks going over well in rock clubs across the board. It certainly made me want to get up and dance …
The ‘Spit You Out’ video is scheduled to be released as part of a special EP bundle, due out on 30 September 2016 through Pavement Entertainment. Bryan Scott engineered, produced and mixed both tracks, with James Murphy having mastered them. The EP is described as a ‘raw and stripped down rock sound with modern elements’.
Check out the EP trailer here
- For fans of – Theory Of A Deadman, Sixx:AM
- Review score – 8/10
The whole world has heard of Alter Bridge, right? With their 5th album due, anticipation couldn’t really get any higher, after the 2014 smash hit ‘Fortress’. So, if you have four competent musicians who are fervent AB fans, including a singer who bears more than a passing resemblance to Myles Kennedy (and sounds like him, too), it seems natural that they would form a tribute band. Enter Altered Bridge.
Billed as ‘the UK’s first and only AB tribute band’, Altered Bridge hail from the south of England and before this gig, had performed as a band a grand total of two shows. No pressure, then, when you are booked to play a legendary UK venue.
Just getting to Chinnery’s from Bournemouth was apparently a mission; traffic was hideous, but our fabulous foursome battled through and made it in good time. There was no support band, so the beer was flowing and the tunes were playing to warm up what could be described as a bit of a scant crowd. The die-hard rockers that did make it, however were most appreciative of Baz and Co’s efforts, as they kicked off their set with the stonking ‘Come to Life’, followed by the immense ‘Bleed It Dry’. Anthem followed anthem in a very accomplished set, taking material from across the spectrum of AB albums.
Myles (Baz) looked the part, to be sure, although he seemed a tad nervous in places, especially when bantering with the crowd.
I wish there had been some more bodies there to soak up the atmosphere and make it a better gig for them, but there was definite appreciation from all corners of the room, especially when the epic track ‘Addicted to Pain’ popped up.
The iconic ‘Blackbird’ was despatched with efficiency and then the rest of the band melted away, leaving Baz solo to pick up an acoustic for a beautiful version of ‘Wonderful Life’ and ‘Watch Over You’.
I particularly enjoyed ‘Isolation’ and the ever thoughtful ‘Ghost of Days Gone By’. A big cheer erupted when Baz asked who had tickets to see our silky haired hero and his beloved band mates later this year, so I guess pretty much the whole room were counting down the days to an Alter Bridge gig in November.
So, basically you can’t go wrong if you love Alter Bridge; these guys know how to rock a room, they’re very competent, the ticket price was ridiculously cheap for musicians of this calibre and with more gigs under their collective belts, I can see them packing out bigger venues and possibly even attracting attention from the real thing. If I had any criticism at all, I would just say that Baz needs to load up the ends of the songs with some more vocals; occasionally he was content to just play rather than sing to the end. He has a great voice – we want to hear more of it!
Set list –
- Come To Life
- Bleed It Dry
- Farther Than The Sun
- Find The Real
- White Knuckles
- Addicted To Pain
- Broken Wings
- Cry of Achilles
- Wonderful Life/Watch Over You (Acoustic)
- Rise Today
- Ghost of Days Gone By
- Open Your Eyes
- Baz Edmondson – Vocals/guitar
- Dave Beckwith – Lead guitar
- Kris Venzi-James – Bass
- Justin Young – Drums
You can watch the video for ‘Addicted to Pain’ at Chinnery’s – it’s a little bit dark! – here
Thanks to Dirty Rock Photography for the pics – click the link to see the whole album!
What do you get if you take one part The Union Underground, two parts SOiL and one part Evanescence and blend it all up in one big musical melting pot? Well, you get something pretty awesome, let me tell you.
The concept of Into The Fire was the 2013 brainchild of SOiL’s bassist Tim King, The Union Underground vocalist Bryan Scott and guitarist Adam Zadel, also from SOiL. Friend and stick man, Will Hunt (Evanescence) completed the line up.
“I was sitting around with Adam one day talking about who would be great to jam with”, states bassist Tim King. “I shot Bryan Scott a text message and Into The Fire was born a day later.”
As Bryan puts it “As soon as Tim sent me the material, I immediately had ideas and started putting vocals down. The music had the perfect vibe for what I wanted to do.”
The first video from the American hard rock quartet, ‘Spit You Out’ is scheduled to be released as part of a special EP bundle, due out on 30 September 2016 through Pavement Entertainment. Bryan Scott engineered, produced and mixed that track, as well as the second release from the EP, ‘From The Medicine’. Both tracks were mastered by James Murphy and are described as a ‘raw and stripped down rock sound with modern elements’.
Check out the EP trailer here and be sure to keep your eyes peeled as I’ll be reviewing Into The Fire for your pleasure in the not too distant future!
Social media links: –
(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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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’.
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).
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!
- Ramblin’ Man Fair
- Dirty Rock Photography
- The Dead Daisies
- Whiskey Myers
- Thin Lizzy
- The Kentucky Headhunters
- Dirty Thrills
- The Cadillac Three
- Black Stone Cherry
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
I’m an okay photographer … I’ve taken some great band pictures over the years, but some people just seem to have that knack of taking a decent photograph; right place, right time! I don’t seem to have that innate ability.
So, to bring my reviews to life and to try and better capture the atmosphere of the mostly fantastic gigs I go to, I thought it would be cool to work in partnership with someone who can concentrate on the images, whilst I look after the words.
I’m therefore proud to introduce you to Dirty Rock Photography; you may have seen a flurry of tweets back and forth this week with some great pics from Download Fest, many of which were shot by Chris of DRP. He’s currently building his site and he has literally hundreds of photographs from last weekend and also from Camden Rocks the weekend before. So, head on over to his Website and check him out. Be sure to bookmark the site and check back as he adds more fabulous pics.
He usually accompanies me to most of my review gigs so you’ll be seeing a lot more of both of us. Glad you’re still on board because life is about to get a lot more exciting …