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Interview: Brian Tatler of Diamond Head

Diamond Head logo

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

Brian Tatler
Brian Tatler performing at Amplified Festival, 2017 –

 Picture courtesy of Chris White @ Dirty Rock Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diamond Head band pic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QoR: What does the future hold for Diamond Head?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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Interview with Villains’ Matt Steane

Following the triumphant release of their first single, ‘The Fall’, Chelmsford rockers Villains are back to caress our ears with a new tune, ‘Wicked Ways’.  I managed to grab five minutes to interrogate guitarist Matt about the latest happenings in their world.

Villains group shot

Your new single, ‘Wicked Ways’, has had over 1,600 views so far and seems to be creating a buzz on social media.  How does it feel knowing that people are getting into your music?

It’s one of the best feelings in the world! We played a hometown show on Saturday and it was great to see so many people singing along. Wicked Ways is one my favourites from the album and was always seen as a potential single, so to see that people are picking up on that and enjoying it means the world to us.

Did you enjoy playing Ipfest and did you catch any new bands that you can recommend?

Ipfest was an awesome show. We’d actually shot a video during the day for our next single so we were all pretty shattered by the time we got to the show. But when we went on there were a fair few people down the front and that definitely gave us the boost needed to play. Because we got there a bit later we didn’t get to catch all of the bands, which was a shame, but I can safely say that people need to check out WHEN GIANTS FALL.  I don’t listen to much heavy music these days but I was well impressed with these guys. I think it can be difficult to make decent heavy music without being typecast as one thing or another so it was really refreshing to see them putting their own slant on it.

You’ve supported some pretty big names on tour like Soil, Blitz Kids and Fearless Vampire Killers; who has been the best band to tour with so far?

I think they’ve all been great for different reasons. The Soil/Fozzy tour was the first tour we did and it was a great opportunity to get out there and to play to a lot of people in different places around the UK. Playing with Blitz Kids was awesome as well; they’re good friends of ours and being asked to play their album release show was a really great moment for us. It coincided with our single release at the time as well which was perfect really. The guys in FVK are awesome too; some of the nicest guys in rock music to be honest. So I couldn’t really pick a favourite if I’m being honest. Every tour we’ve done has been great for different reasons.

Are you planning on doing any more dates this year?

We’re always keen to get out there and play to new people. We’re hoping that we might get the opportunity to hit up some more support tours later on this year and play in some new towns that we haven’t visited before.

If you had to pick one band to tour with, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

From a completely personal point view it would be The Who. In my eyes they are the greatest band in the world so it’s pretty self-explanatory as to why I’d want to tour with them! I can’t imagine the rest of the boys would necessarily agree with me on that one but hey, I’m doing the interview so I’m answering the questions!

Who or what inspires you when you’re writing songs?

When it comes to song writing I think the key for us has always been to write about things that you can relate to. We all listen to a variety of music and that blends well to create a sound that we would typify as ours. Renz writes the lyrics and a lot of what he writes is auto-biographical and is based on events that have happened directly to him or were close to him. He writes in quite an open-ended way though, which means that his lyrics are always open to interpretation. That still happens with me sometimes; I’ll ask him what a song is about and it will often be something very different to what I thought originally!

Might we expect an album any time soon?

We’re writing at the moment with a look to record a few more songs at the end of the summer. So we hope that they will be available for people to listen to in the not-too-distant future. That’s all I can say about that at the moment….

What’s your take on the state of the music industry right now?

That’s a good question. I think it’s very difficult to judge really. One minute you can be on the up and all of a sudden it is ripped from under your feet. I think British rock music in general is amazing at the moment. There are so many great bands out there that are absolutely smashing it, but how many bands have you seen come and go in the last few years? I think it’s very much a case of living for the moment when you’re in a band these days, because one minute you can have the world at your feet, and the next you’re back stacking shelves at Tesco.

What are you listening to at the moment?

I’ve been spinning the latest Canterbury album a fair bit recently. It’s unbelievably good. The new album from our friends in Verses is also incredible and well worth checking out.

What’s next for Villains?

As I mentioned, we’re writing and recording towards the end of the summer. We’re then hoping to get out on the road towards the end of the year on a support tour or two. We’ve also got another single coming out towards the end of the summer which we shot the video for the other week, so we’re all pretty excited about all of that.

We’re excited too!  You can check out the video for ‘Wicked Ways’ at the link below, as well as the band’s Facebook page.  Look out for some tour dates and some more music later this year!

http://www.muzu.tv/villains/villains-wicked-ways-music-video/2266781/

www.facebook.com/villainsofficial