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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.

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

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

damn-dice-band

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

damn-dice-live

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A:  I think that about covers it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

vik-and-alex-damn-dice

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

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

You can also check out the album of photos of Damn Dice at Camden Rocks Festival by Chris of Dirty Rock Photography here

Review of Download Festival, 10-12 June 2016

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

Download_2016_lineup_WEB_1000px_wide

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

Number of …

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

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

raven eye

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

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

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

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

the wildhearts 2

 

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

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

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

Turbowolf

Turbowolf on the Maverick stage, 11 June 2016

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

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

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

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

Rival Sons

Rival Sons on the Lemmy stage, 11 June 2016

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

Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath on the Lemmy stage, 11 June 2016

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

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

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The Raven Age on the Maverick stage, 12 June 2016

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

mud!

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

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

Interview with Sid Glover of Heaven’s Basement, 06.12.14

British rockers Heaven’s Basement have been labelled as the ‘hardest touring band in rock’, and that’s pretty much what the last two years have been about for them; playing globally to promote their debut full-length album, ‘Filthy Empire’.  The recent one-day Winter Rocks Festival in Sheffield was their last performance of the year, and also probably the last before the second album is released at some point next year (although, with these guys you never know – they’re all about the live shows).  I managed to catch up with guitarist Sid Glover before they hit the stage to talk about touring, guitar heroes and flying planes.  Enjoy! 

HB indiv band pic

How’s the writing been going for the second record?

Yeah, good.  We started writing individually because I’ve been getting some ideas together and I think Rob had probably been doing the same, but we are all together now with writing hats on.  We’re not recording yet, just writing.  Recording doesn’t take long, we did ‘Filthy Empire’ in seven or eight days, I think.

Is it hard for you to switch off when you get back from a tour?

It’s crazy, I’m a fucking nightmare person to live with, but I have a rigorous routine of catching up with friends and writing songs.

You don’t sleep very well, do you?  You’re always posting on twitter at stupid o’clock …

I just get loads of ideas at night, which is good.  We’ll do loads of jamming during the day and I’ll sit down and get loads of ideas at night and I’ll record vocal ideas which pisses everyone off!  I’m down there wailing away at 6am and everyone’s like “Shut the fuck up!” I just get on a roll but when you tour, you get energy at weird times, like I’ll get energy between 10 and 6 in the morning.  If you leave me alone, I’ll live a thirty eight hour day.  I can sleep, once I go to sleep I can sleep like a fucking dead person, but I need a thirty hour day.  Every now and then it flips so I have to have a roll over day.

How else do you switch off?

I’ll probably watch a film with a couple of drinks but it’s all about writing songs, really.  That keeps me up longer because I’m a bit of a perfectionist – I can’t leave an idea half-finished, so I’ll stay up all night, but the pay-off is awesome and when it’s done, it’s done.

Who are your ultimate guitar heroes and musical influences?

Jimi Hendrix was first, then Stevie Ray Vaughan probably came along and Rory Gallagher, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and David Gilmour.  That’s pretty much all you really need!

Have you always known that you wanted to ‘do’ music?

Yes.  I didn’t always know I wanted to do it, it was always just assumed that I would – it was never a question.  Ever since I was about four, I was just [playing the] guitar and nobody knows why; I was just attracted to it and gravitated to it.  It’s very odd, no-one else in my family is musical, so it’s a bit strange.

cropped-hb2.jpgElectric Ballroom, Camden, March 2014

Any musical ancestors?

I think my [Great-Grandmother] was a bit of a child prodigy on the piano; she was a concert pianist at the age of thirteen.

So you’ve never done anything else, job-wise, apart from music?

No, I was always doing music, as soon as I found a path, I went down it.  I think I sabotaged my own life so that I had to make it work.

Moving on, you recently flew a plane whilst you were at the Red Bull Air Race in Austria.  Did you enjoy it?  You looked a little bit scared …

No, I wasn’t scared – I love flying.  If I looked a little bit off colour it’s because I’d been at Chris’ (Rivers, drummer of HB) stag party a few hours previously and I hadn’t slept.  It was a bit of a heavy night and then, getting in a plane that goes 250 miles an hour upside down … it was the best hangover cure I think I’ve ever had.  I wasn’t scared but I was trying not to pass out.

Would you do it again?  Is it something that you would like to do as a hobby?

We went and played in Austria and we saw the pilots in the bar and I was like, “Take us up!”  I spoke to the English guy that won and he said he’ll take us up because he lives nearby.  I kind of did it when I was a kid – my Dad always flew, so I’ve always been around planes.  It’s not a passion of mine, but it’s fun.

Talking of fun, what was your favourite video to record off of Filthy Empire, and why?

‘Lights Out In London’ because we just took over Brick Lane.  We hired out two of the biggest bars in Brick Lane, invited people down and threw an all-night party.  I stayed until the end and watched all of the storyline footage getting shot, which was fun.  ‘Fire Fire’ and ‘Nothing Left To Lose’ were cool, because they were the first ones that we’d ever done.  We were in the desert and it was kind of cool, a novelty experience.

Why do you dislike having your picture taken so much?

I don’t dislike having my picture taken!  I probably have my picture taken a hundred times a day.  Everyone says that I look miserable in photos, but I am smiling on the inside.  Even when I think I’m smiling, people are like “You look fucking miserable, Sid.” I’m just not a photogenic smiler!

Heaven's Basement Nosturi 261113 w 030

Nosturi, Helsinki, November 2013 (Photo courtesy of Karen Chappell, http://www.fotoadventures.co.uk)

For you personally, what are the best and worst aspects of touring?

Pros are constant stimulation and massive adrenaline highs every day.  If you like that stuff then there’s not really any cons.  It depends what level of touring you’re at.  We’ve done everything from driving ourselves in a van when we started out, to touring on buses and planes.  You don’t really see your friends much, but you’re on tour with friends and meeting new people all of the time.

Who’s the biggest pain in the arse on tour, and why?

Aaron, because he likes to try and chill and look after himself, whereas I don’t, so that’s an issue.  I think that probably means I’m the pain in the arse!

Who gets in the most trouble?

Shit happens all the time.  We like to leave our sound guy behind quite a lot, that’s fun.  I don’t think I’ve ever been left behind, although our drummer often does [get left].  In Manchester, when we were on tour with Papa Roach, I went for a drink with them on their bus, but didn’t realise their bus left so I ended up in Newcastle and we were meant to go somewhere else for a day off.  It’s all good; we can’t get into that much trouble!  Although, I did get stuck in this place in America once; we ended up in this seedy shop that was clearly a front for a drugs den.  There was this minute of being held up, a gunpoint kind of thing … that was me and our sound guy.  That was pretty hairy, but we managed to make them all our best friends and everyone loved us.  We managed to get the fuck out of there, but that was pretty close.

What’s the weirdest thing that you’ve ever been given by a fan?

There are no weird things, just really nice stuff.  Our fans give us cool things, like paintings they’ve done, or drawings, or really sweet letters … jewellery or alcohol.  All of those things are good!  We’ve been fairly lucky, there’s never been severed heads, or anything like that.  No voodoo dolls made of hair or anything … actually, no, there was a doll once which was made of hair – that was kind of weird.

Not your hair, though?!

I hope not.  I didn’t think about that!

If you could work with just one artist, band or producer, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

George Martin, the Beatles producer.    He was a big part of the Beatles developing their recording sound and I would love to see how he works.

Any new bands that you can recommend to us?  Anyone cool that you’re listening to?

I’m fairly uninspired with most of the new stuff I’ve heard recently.  I’ll tell you what I do like though, we are well into the new Kasabian album.  I know that’s not an underground thing that nobody’s heard of, but they seem to have blended pilled-up dance music with elements of classic rock and I think that’s quite a good combination.  I listen to anything that’s got a soul to it, anything that’s good, mainly blues and rock, but anything that doesn’t scream of ‘cookie cutter’ fake music, which is most stuff these days.

What’s been your biggest Heaven’s Basement highlight, to date?

Probably the London show (Electric Ballroom) on our last headline tour; when it was booked, I told everyone that they were stupid because I thought it was way too big.  We’ve only ever supported bands there that are on their third or fourth album who we considered quite successful bands, so to do it on our first album … it was four or five times bigger than our previous headline show, so it was nice to be proven wrong.

I have a few ‘fan’ questions for you.  First up, what’s been your best and worst gig?

We did Montreal and Dallas on the tour with The Pretty Reckless – they were wicked shows, performance and energy wise, everything gelled and it was just devastating.  Nostalgia-wise, things like the Electric Ballroom show, Download second stage, Kansas City Rock Fest … the ‘big’ gigs, that’s great.  The worst gig … there was one gig where I accidentally got hammered beyond belief.  We were just hanging out in the day, and had forgotten that we were playing and there’s a moment when you walk on stage and it’s past the point of ‘cool’. You have a few drinks to loosen up and get in the mood and then realise you have zero control over this.  It is one of the most terrifying feelings in the world, to know that you then have to entertain these people, but not let on too much to the band that you’re hammered!  It turned out to be a great show so I can’t really complain, but … that moment of fear!

There was also a gig in Germany once where everything broke.  Every part of my rig broke so, most of the show the band was playing whilst I was swapping gear out.  It got to the point where I was literally down to just trousers – my belt snapped, my guitar strap snapped, all the heads had gone on my amp so there was one tiny cable linked up to one amp, no guitar strap, no belt.  I raised my pick to play the last note and the singer leant up to the crowd and knocked the guitar pick out of my hand!  But that was a good gig, too – when things are going wrong it usually adds to the energy.

Is there any news, 2015 festival-wise, that you’re allowed to mention?

To be honest, our priority is on the album, so it kind of depends when we do that.

Why do you use the name ‘Sid’, rather than your real name of Andrew Edward?  Was it something to do with Sid Vicious?

No, definitely not!  None of the men in my family are known by their real names, it’s a very strange thing.  It’s like they’re given a name when they’re born and instantly it’s changed!  I found out recently that my Dad’s name is not his real name, his Father’s name, isn’t his name.  It is what I am, it’s just an odd tradition.

It suits you, though … I can’t imagine you as an ‘Andrew’.

Nobody can … that’s not my name!

Do you have a ‘favourite’ guitar to use?  If so, which one?

Not really, they all serve their purpose.  My ‘favourite’ guitar is probably the one I got when I was four and has a string missing.  I dabble, depending on how I’m feeling at a certain time, I’ll use a certain guitar; they’re flavours to be played with.

Sid guitar

“When things go wrong, it usually adds to the energy”

Is there anything that you would like to add?

Yeah, to anyone that has come out to a show for the last couple of years, thank you for supporting us.  We’ll be back next year with a new album.

You can buy a copy of ‘Filthy Empire’ at record stores or via the usual online outlets.  iTunes also have the two previous EP’s available –  ‘Heaven’s Basement’ and ‘Unbreakable’ – both highly recommended!  Keep an eye out for HB2 in 2015; in the meantime, check out some HB videos below to keep you going!

http://heavensbasement.com

http://www.facebook.com/heavensbasement

‘Lights Out In London’ – http://youtu.be/-UwsGZCeIro

‘Can’t Let Go’ – http://youtu.be/VwVkRMWOsZc

‘Heartbreaking Son Of A Bitch’ – http://youtu.be/Q6Yq5i3WDfw

‘Nothing Left To Lose’ – http://youtu.be/kP1u79wSdDY

‘I Am Electric’ – http://youtu.be/XjRaKId4Rps

‘Fire Fire’ – http://youtu.be/zgz_vmwEp_0

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The awesome 2014 – a personal year in numbers

Well … What. A. Year.  I think I can safely say that 2014 has, without a doubt, been both the best and the worst year of my life.  I have been to some amazing venues this year, seen some truly awesome bands and some not-so-good ones, too.  I got to interview some idols, made some new friends and contacts, but I also lost my very dear and treasured Dad, whom I miss dreadfully.  As I write this, am looking at a very uncertain, scary but exciting future, due to the decision to uproot my life and move on.  I guess, as my God-mother recently told me, I’m not one to do things by halves …

Rival Sons Pie and Vinyl         

With Rival Sons at a record signing session, Pie and Vinyl, Portsmouth, 08.12.14

Overall this year, so far I have had 75 pieces of writing published via Rock Regeneration, Do More Magazine, Get Your Rock Out, Bournemouth Echo, CultNoise Magazine, Red Dragon Records and my blog.  I have seen 138 bands – of those, 114 of them I hadn’t seen before, and I have also managed to cross 17 bands off of my ‘essential must-see’ list.  I went to 7 festivals, most of which were one day affairs.  I also hit 2,000 views on my blog which I’m chuffed with.

There were several contenders for overall gig of the year, but there is no outright winner; I would have to say the Heaven’s Basement gig at the Electric Ballroom in March was epic, Download Festival was completely awesome (and I’m chuffed I saw so many bands to review) and the Winter Rocks Festival last week will go down as a highlight, purely because I got to meet some of my online friends who are also part of the Heaven’s Basement unofficial ‘family’ and of course, I got to see the band themselves play probably one of the sweatiest gigs ever (which was my 13th HB show, and hopefully not the last).  There was also the small matter of finally being able to interview my favourite guitarist …

Smily Sid and Vix

With Sid Glover, post-Winter Rocks Festival

Speaking of interviews, I conducted 32 of them, some by email, most face to face.  I discovered so many fantastic bands this year that I had not seen or heard of previously, including Royal Blood, Butcher Babies, Anti-Mortem, Liberty Lies, Killer Be Killed, Feral Sun, The Killing Lights, The Answer, The Treatment, Dendera, Blackwolf, Blues Pills, California Breed, Dirty Thrills, Diamond Days, I Divide, Massive, Nothing More, Skillet, Theory Of A Deadman, The Vintage Caravan, Regulus, Glamour Of The Kill, Die So Fluid, Bad Touch, Brother and Bones, Reignwolf, The Family Ruin, Twenty Two Hundred and Wovenwar, just to name the ones that immediately spring to mind.

Vix and Scott of Blackwolf

With Scott Sharp of Blackwolf

I made my radio presenting debut on Hope FM (which was sadly not repeated!), I had my first press wristband with Takedown Festival and my first AAA pass as Press Area Manager at ButserFest.  I also got to interview Shappi Khorsandi and review her live show, which  was fantastic, as I’m a big fan!  I’ve applied to 5 magazines, two record companies and one PR company for work experience, all of whom I never heard back from, but I’ll keep trying.

There are people I know who have done phenomenally better than me this year, but I’m extremely proud of what I have achieved – mainly because most of what I have written has come out of me being cheeky, asking for review passes, badgering bands for interviews and basically making a nuisance of myself with PR companies.  Although I have done nowhere near as much studying as I would have liked, I am still enrolled and it is my plan to press ahead with that in the new year, therefore I intend to cut right back on the reviewing (and yes, I mean it this time!).  I hope to have the NCTJ Diploma in Journalism by the end of 2015.

Download 3

I already have tickets for next year to see Glamour Of The Kill, Slipknot, Queen and Adam Lambert and for Download Festival, so 2015 is shaping up to rock even harder than this year.  I have also had confirmation that I’m part of the official Takedown Festival Media Team, which has made my Christmas.

To those who thought I was doing this as a ‘hobby’ and that I would ‘get it out of my system’, I would like to say that I’ve had the best year, music-wise and I have no intention whatsoever of sitting back and using 2014 as a bunch of nice memories and nothing else.  I passed that fork in the road and made my decision and now, I have every intention of heading in the right direction.  I can’t wait for the next twelve months and I hope you’ll continue to share the journey with me!  Bring. It. On.

Merry Christmas!

MerryMetalChristmas(1)

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Interview with Buffalo Summer, 07.10.14

So, only Fools and Horses, Orange Goblin, Space Raiders (of the crisp variety) and Game of Thrones … these are just some of the things that are currently powering Welsh southern-rockers Buffalo Summer around the British Isles.  The European leg of the tour may have been indefinitely postponed by headliners The Treatment, but our wonders of Wales are quite happy as long as they’ve got a TV and some potato-based snacks.  Bassist Darren King tore himself away from the google-box long enough to have a quick chat …

Buffalo Summer band pic

– You’ve had some epic shows this year with the likes of Skid Row, Buckcherry and Phil Campbell. Do any of those shows particularly stand out for you and why?

We enjoy all the shows! Madrid with Buckcherry & Skid Row was a definite highlight on that tour though. It’s the second time we’d played there and it was amazing to see Buffalo t-shirts in the crowd!

– How did it feel to be sharing a bill with the mighty Black Sabbath in Hyde Park?

There are no words to describe it! We had a blast throughout the day and got to hang out with Motörhead and Soundgarden for a bit … unreal! A big tick for the bucket list there.

– The new tour with The Treatment and Massive kicks off tomorrow, are you excited for it?

Hell yeah! We’ve been good buds with The Treatment boys for a few years, but we’ve never toured together. When the opportunity arose we jumped at the chance.

 – Any places you’re particularly looking forward to visiting?

We always look forward to places we’ve never played, which on this tour is only Northampton and Rotterdam! That being said we always look forward to Glasgow, Liverpool and Sheffield as we’ve always had an awesome reception there. The same could be said for most places though!

– What are you listening to on the road? Any new music we should check out?

The new Orange Goblin album is decimating my ears as I type! Surely got to be one the albums of the year and it only came out yesterday! The new Mastodon record has been getting pretty heavy spinnage in the van over the summer too and the States And Empires album – It’s Neil from The Phil Campbell All Starr Band’s new project!

– How do you chill out during your downtime? Is the travelling harmonious and do you all get on?

It’s about as un-rock and roll as you’d think! We usually mooch about watching films and TV shoes. We’re all really into Game of Thrones and stuff.  Can’t go wrong with a bit of Only Fools & Horses on a rainy afternoon in Hamburg though!

Because we’ve all known each other since childhood more-or-less, we all have the measure of each other and it makes being cooped up together that much easier. There’s minimal feuding going on … unless someone’s gone and polished off the last packet of Space Raiders!

Buffalo%20Summer%20album%20cover

– Who or what do you draw influence from when you’re writing new material?

Lyrically a lot of Andrew’s influence comes directly from our current circumstances. The perils and pit-falls of life on the road, with the overwhelming love of doing it. He’s also really ecologically conscious so there’s some stuff come from that angle too. Musically, we just write really organically.

In the first instance we don’t put much though into it – it just happens. Once we have a rough song floating about, then we’ll get the microscopes out and really scrutinise the parts. Everything gets refined from there.

– Is a new album in the pipeline?  If so, when might we expect it and what can we expect from it?

The new album is done! We’re in the process of getting it mix and mastered and hopefully it’ll be out at the beginning of next year!

– If you had to pick two songs to introduce a new fan to Buffalo Summer, which would you pick and why?

I would say the songs ‘Down To The River’ and ‘A Horse Called Freedom’. With ‘River’, it’s already one of our signature songs and displays our unashamed love of all things Southern. With ‘Horse, it’s one of the first songs we wrote and it has a bit more hoof to it, with a big sing-a-long chorus. Those two are fan favourites for sure.

– You are playing HRH in Wales in November which you must be looking forward to. Any festivals  in the pipeline for next year?

It’s early days yet, so we can’t say much … the new record will be out though so we should have some extra momentum!

– What’s your take on the current state of the music industry and do you feel that rock music as we know it is a dying genre?

It’s a difficult place to do business, that’s for sure. Then again – everyone and their Nana knows this. So when I see bands complaining about it I think “Did no one tell you? Did you not get the memo?” You have to have a fundamental and deep rooted love of living this life otherwise it’ll break you.  Of course, over time it becomes hard enough to break the best of them. There’s two sides to everything. Personally, I think rock is in a more diverse and vibrant place than it has been for a really long time. It’s as alive as it ever was!

– Biggest Buffalo Summer highlight so far?

Playing Download last year was indescribable. Our agent was there and he said “If there’s 200/300 people out there, I’ll be happy”. We walked out to a sea of Buffalo Summer tees and like, 2000 people. Shame I was so hung-over I can’t remember much else!  I blame Iron Maiden.

– What’s next for the band?

We’re on the road for a month now then we head back to Wales to get the album sorted and ready to roll. Also, we need to buy a new van!  Dear Santa …

You can catch Buffalo Summer on the rest of their UK tour with The Treatment and Massive, dates below: –

B Summer tour poster

October –

16th – London, Underworld

17th – Colchester, Arts Centre

19th – Norwich, Studio

20th – Southampton, Joiners

21st – Exeter, Cavern

23rd – Brighton, Audio

www.buffalosummer.net

www.facebook.com/buffalosummer

Review of Download Festival 2014

Review of Download Festival, 13/14/15 June 2014

Arriving on the Thursday night at Donington Park in bright sunshine just felt … wrong, somehow.  Where was the rain?  The mud?  Why was I sitting round a BBQ with a beer instead of huddling miserably inside my tent?  I decided I would live with it, although I was strangely comforted when I was woken by the sound of rain during the night …

Download 3

FRIDAY

Expecting a sodden swamp, I stumbled out of my tent to find a few clouds but no mud, no rain and it was ridiculously warm.  Perfect weather for a beer and some live music so I wandered into the arena just as Miss May I took to the main stage.  The American five-piece band brought their brand of metalcore to a bright eyed and bushy-tailed Download crowd who seemed to enjoy the interaction and thundering music on the main stage.  I left them to it and headed to the Red Bull Studios tent, which is where I pretty much spent my whole weekend.  The first band on that stage were Goldray and I must admit when I saw the guitarist’s spangly jacket, coupled with the long red dress and headdress the vocalist was sporting, I nearly turned tail and walked out.  They weren’t bad, however, sort of a less heavy Die So Fluid and the vocalist had good ability.

I found next band, Bad Touch on twitter some months ago and I was eager to see them up close and personal.  I have to say they didn’t disappoint, however I found them to be similar to Irish rockers, The Answer.  There was a good crowd, however and singer Stevie did a great job of engaging their audience.  A short walk took me over to the Jägermeister acoustic stage for Brother and Bones.    They had drawn a very decent-sized crowd and were playing out of their skin with their funky, melodic rock.  The performance was pretty intense, with the entire band absolutely rocking out and the crowd was lapping it up, totally engaged with the fresh sound.  Their set was wrapped up after some first class musicianship and vocals and there was some pretty nice guitar sliding going on too.  One of my highlights of the weekend, for sure.

Brother and Bones

Brother and Bones

Chilling out on the grass with a beer, I managed to catch the set from Mia Klose, albeit from ground level.  Swedish Mia’s voice is somewhat of an acquired taste and whilst I can see why the band is generating a buzz, it wasn’t really my thing.  I also thought their cover of Guns ‘n’ Roses classic ‘Paradise City’ to be a bit weak.  Another band I caught by ear only was They Say Fall – a packed Red Bull tent was chanting for them and their post hardcore style went over very well with the crowd.  All I could hear from outside the tent was distorted guitars; I can only imagine how it sounded from the inside.

I headed over to the Zippo Encore stage to meet up with some friends and happened upon The Answer.  I’ve seen them before and thought they were really good performers live, however I felt that this set was a little samey, although featuring some superb guitar solos and vocals.  There was a decent size crowd to pay homage to their Irish rock roots however and they seemed to go down a storm.  The next band had my full attention and they absolutely smashed the Zippo stage.  The Temperance Movement gave a stunning performance, although I thought the crowd could have been bigger considering the buzz that the band has been generating over the last eighteen months.  The set featured a supremely funky bass guitar solo and last track ‘Midnight Black’ was sublime, ensuring that they ended with rapturous applause.

TTM 4

The Temperance Movement

I thought it couldn’t get much better, but I was proved wrong straight away by Californian groove rockers Rival Sons, who kicked off with a raunchy number and didn’t look back as they grabbed the crowd by their collective short and curlies and took us on a roller coaster of rock.  They’ve just released a new album, ‘Great Western Valkyrie’ and I’ll be buying it as soon as.  Definitely ones to watch – they’re going to be huge.

Rival Sons

Rival Sons

It’s taken me 20 years to get to see Rob Zombie live on stage and although he was worth waiting for, I did feel that his set lacked a little something.  It certainly wasn’t energy; he was running around the stage like a man half his age, chancing his arm by walking along the front barrier in the crowd, collecting a blow up sex doll and taking it back to the stage.  My favourite track, ‘Thunder Kiss ‘65’’ was included and an encore brought out the crowd pleasing ‘Dragula’.

At this point, the sky began to darken ominously, right on cue for Avenged Sevenfold.  With a theatrical backdrop and pyrotechnics aplenty, this was always going to be a spectacular set given how popular this band has become, with the release of ‘Hail to the King’ cementing their status as one of the decade’s most celebrted rock acts.  Kicking off the fun and games with ‘Shepherd of Fire’ from the aforementioned album, the crowd were straight into the performance, all singing along and enjoying a bit of banter from front man M Shadows.  The set featured some older material, such as ‘Burn It Down’ from the ‘City of Evil’ album and ‘Buried Alive’.  There was an emotional tribute to fallen hero Jimmy Sullivan in ‘So Far Away’, but the set ended on a massive high with yet more  pyros and some fireworks, bringing an epic first day to a close.

A7X 2

Avenged Sevenfold

Saturday

Everyone was talking about the enigmatic Iceman Thesis on Saturday morning, with rumours abounding as to who could possibly be in the band, as they were playing on two stages simultaneously.  Our group split in half and I got to the Red Bull tent to see a mannequin on stage, with a hessian sack over the head, an IT tee-shirt adorning the body.  When the band took to the stage, they sported full black face masks so it was impossible to tell who they were.  After ten minutes of brutality in a packed tent, the set ended as abruptly as it had begun, with members of the band throwing bits of mannequin and hessian head sacks into the audience.  Nobody was any the wiser.

It must have been hard for the next act to follow that, but Cytota managed admirably.  Heavy and very popular, judging by the amount of people crammed in to see them, the band had an amazing energy about them and the guitarist got up close and personal with the crowd, demanding that they start a circle.  Not a bad start to the day and I can’t wait to see what they do next.  Breathe In The Silence followed and it as frustrating that I couldn’t really hear the vocals properly.  The singer lost vocals anyway; as he swung his mic round the end flew off into the crowd and he had to wait a little bit before we could actually hear something again.  They certainly made up for any lack of substance in enthusiasm and gave a great lesson in how to carry on when things go wrong.

I headed over to the main stage again to catch a bit of Bury Tomorrow.  The lead singer was inciting people to start circles, even though technically, that wasn’t allowed this year.  I did like the fact that he told us all that the band “don’t take themselves too seriously” and then asked everyone to lie down and jump up at the count of 4.  They even had separate ‘girl’ pits and ‘dude’ pits going, which worked for about 20 seconds and was fairly amusing.  I left halfway through their set to go and catch Chasing Cadence on the Red Bull stage.  Playing to an empty tent is never a good sign, but more people gradually started to drift in as CC got  down and dirty on stage.  They were very enthusiastic performers with some eager supporters in the crowd and they belted out fan favourites such as ‘A Sight For Sore Eyes’ and latest single ‘Paper Sails’.  They also threw some free stuff out into the crowd, which always goes down well.  These guys were clearly stoked to be playing Download and that’s what it’s about; a sterling performance from them.  Japanese metalcore outfit Coldrain followed and they had the crowd bouncing from the very first scream.  I only saw three songs from them, but they were well received and I would like to catch another gig to see them properly.

Chasing Cadence 2

Chasing Cadence

Killswitch Engage are a band I’ve never really got into, although I‘ve only ever heard good things about them.  I always thought they were a bit heavy for me, but I caught most of their set and I loved it.  It was awesome the way they incited the crowd to “engage in responsible forms of dancing”, i.e., to get a pit going and look out for one another.  The crowd were well into them and very appreciative and they created a good atmosphere.

Although by now I was flagging a bit (not enough beer …), I headed back to my second home of the Red Bull tent to catch Nothing More who recently featured on the Introducing page in Kerrang! Magazine.  I thought the sparse crowd were a bit lukewarm, however it did start to fill up quite quickly once they got going.  They had a second, basic drum kit at the front of the stage and after the second or third song, the bassist clamped his guitar to a stand attached to it, whilst three of them proceeded to play it.  It was a strange set, but the crowd ended up loving them and I think we’ll see big things from these guys.  Certainly I would catch them again.

Finally, it was time for the big set of the day for me.  I had been looking forward to Bring Me The Horizon for weeks and although they were on quite early, there was still a massive crowd waiting for Oli Sykes & Co.  They kicked proceedings off with huge track ‘Shadow Moses’, from last year’s immense album ‘Sempiternal’.  The crowd went mad at the front, with sneering front man Oli inciting a wall of death.  ‘The House of Wolves’ followed with Oli imploring the crowd to jump.  More awesome power tracks from the album of last year followed, including ‘Go To Hell, For Heaven’s Sake’, ‘Empire (Let Them Sing)’ and ‘Can You Feel My Heart’.  Oli had everybody down on the floor, springing up to ‘Antivist’, finally concluding a stellar set with ‘Sleepwalking’.  This was a set that stuck a middle finger up to the haters and showed the world that BMTH should, and probably will, be headlining Download very soon.  In the meantime, we have the massive Wembley show in December to look forward to – a fact that Mr Sykes didn’t let us forget.

BMTH 3

Bring Me The Horizon

Penultimate band of the night was electro-punk rockers The Howling, back in the Red Bull tent.  Blacky, Rev and the boys were in fine form, opening up a storming set with ‘Rock ‘n’ Roller’.  Considering they clashed with main stage headliners Linkin Park, they drew a considerable crowd and proceeded to rip through a killer set, with outstanding energy and enthusiasm.  I particularly liked the way they had somebody moving through the crowd handing out fake AAA passes, it was a nice touch that ensured people wouldn’t forget their set, but frankly that would have been hard to do anyway.

I couldn’t not head back to catch some of Linkin Park; ‘Hybrid Theory’ was a seminal work that I listened to non-stop when it came out and I was rewarded with just over half the album in all of its live, blistering glory.  I still know the words and I sang along quite happily with the rest of the songs.  I found the rest of their set a little bit tedious, probably only because I wasn’t familiar with the newer work, but I heard a few mutterings along the same lines as I made my way back to the camp site.  Still, it was great to see Linkin Park live as I had never seen them before, so again, I finished the night a happy bunny!

Sunday

I have to confess, I was feeling pretty hung over on the Sunday morning, so we were late getting into the arena, however operating on the ‘go hard or go home’ theory, I grabbed a beer and headed straight to the Pepsi Max tent to see screamers The Charm The Fury.  They’re a female-fronted outfit from The Netherlands and not only is the lead singer an amazing vocal talent, but the musicians around her were also first class.  They hammered through a competent set which saw a packed tent showing their whole-hearted appreciation.  I stayed in Pepsi Max to see some of The Graveltones’ set, however it wasn’t really my sort of thing so I left after about three songs, but their funky, punk-rock stylings seemed to have quite a few fans in the tent.

Buckcherry were up next on the main stage, just after the heavens opened for a legendary Download shower.  They rolled through some of their best songs, including ‘Lit Up’ and ‘All Night Long’, but to be honest, I just wasn’t feeling it.  Maybe it was the rain, maybe it was the thought of going home that night, but I just couldn’t get into them.  Likewise with Richie Sambora, I was watching him, but he wasn’t really holding my attention.  I found his set kind of mellow and I appreciated the Bon Jovi covers of ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’ and ‘Dead Or Alive’.  I also really liked ‘Stranger In This Town’, but I’m not sure I would have chosen to see him outside of Download.  Joe Bonamassa on the other hand, had my full attention.  I’d not seen him before although of course I had heard about his legendary guitar playing.  I also thought he had an awesome voice and I thoroughly enjoyed his set, which included tracks such as ‘Slow Train’ and ‘Who Killed John Henry’.

‘Secret’ band Black Stone Cherry absolutely brought the house down at the Pepsi Max tent.  I understand they were a last minute addition to the bill, hence the placing on a small stage.  It turns out that there were around 20,000 people in and around the tent for their performance and I can well believe it – I couldn’t get anywhere near as I made the mistake of sitting down for five minutes beforehand.  I did hear them though and they completely killed it with tracks such as ‘Me and Mary Jane’, ‘White Trash Millionaire’ and ‘Blame It On The Boom Boom’.  All I could see was a sea of hands in the air as the crowd sang along to every track – absolutely awesome.

I almost didn’t head back to the Red Bull tent for the last time, however I wanted to see Canadian Reignwolf.  I almost missed them, but I’m so glad I didn’t.  I saw singer/guitarist Jordan Cook standing on a branded bass drum at the front of the stage and this seemed to be bluesy, dirty rock and roll at its finest.  By the time they were on their fourth song, the tent was well over half full and the crowd were going mad for it.  Jordan then decided to play the drums, whilst still playing his guitar – I’ve never seen anything like it.  He got short shrift from security though, when he climbed up on the amps to play; they were there like a shot to get him down.  The set finished with a track called ‘This Is The Time’ – rather appropriate for Reignwolf, I think.

Reignwolf

Reignwolf

On a bit of a high, I headed back to the main stage to see my band of the moment, Alter Bridge.  I had been waiting all weekend for this and as Myles Kennedy and Co appeared on stage and launched into the opening notes of ‘Addicted To Pain’, I remembered why I come to Download every year.  ‘White Knuckles’ and ‘Cry of Achilles’ followed and all I could do was sing along and stare helplessly up at the big screens as the band pumped out one belting track after another as the crowd revelled in singing along with Myles.  Halfway through the set he introduced the band, walking out along the barrier, singing to one lucky lady in the front row.  A stunning rendition of ‘Blackbird’ followed and I was moved to tears by ‘Watch Over You’.  Mark Tremonti did a sterling job with ‘Waters Rising’ and as they brought their set to a close, Mr Kennedy was looking suitably humbled and pleased with such a great reaction.  It was a truly awesome set and I found it hard to believe that Aerosmith would be able to top it …

Alter Bridge 3

Alter Bridge

So, we came to the headliners.  Aerosmith headlined Donington Monsters of Rock in ’94, which was the last time I saw them.  When they came out on stage, I found myself thinking that there was no way these guys could put on a good show –  after all, nobody is getting any younger right?  So. Wrong.  Aerosmith exploded on to the stage with ‘Train Kept A Rollin’; Steven Tyler resplendent in an Indian head-dress and an all-white outfit, still looking every inch the rock star.  Hit after hit followed, including ‘Eat The Rich’, the iconic ‘Love In An Elevator’, ‘Cryin’’ and ‘Living on the Edge’.  Unfortunately, we had a very long drive back home, so we had to leave at that point, but I could still hear them playing as we headed back to the car and I can only say that, from what I saw and heard, Aerosmith were pretty as much as good live now as they were all those years ago and I’m a bit gutted that we didn’t stay until the end.

Overall, it was a fantastic weekend, with only a few minor band clashes.  The toilets were clean, the stewards, for the most part, were polite and helpful and there were only small queues in the beer tents.  Download just keeps improving every year and although it will be hard to top the last three years, I’ll still be buying a ticket for 2015.  Why?  Because it’s where I feel at home, standing in a crowd with thousands of other people, singing along to my favourite songs, watching my idols up there on that stage.  As the Kiss song goes “This is my music, it makes me proud, these are my people and this is my crowd …”.  So yes, I’ll be back next year for sure.  With bells on.