Tag Archives: Electric Ballroom

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 …

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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.

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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!

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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

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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!

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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

http://www.facebook.com/themusicjourno