Tag Archives: Southampton

Interview with James Cassells of Asking Alexandria, 5/11/14, Southampton

Asking Alexandria are one of the biggest bands to come out of the UK rock scene over the last few years and, whilst they’ve had their well documented issues, they’ve made it out the other side and lived to tell the tale.  Now based in America, they’ve been touring around the world for what seems like forever, but they finally hit Southampton at the start of this month.  I was very privileged to grab twenty minutes of drummer James Cassell’s pre-gig time.  It’s a good one (and I’m particularly proud of it!), so kick back, grab a cold one and have a read.  Enjoy!

asking alex pic

So, James. You’ve nearly finished one tour and then you’re off to America for another?

Yeah, we’ve done about 5 weeks of this tour, we’ve got a couple of weeks left. We’ve got five days off and then we start a month-long tour of mainly North America and Canada.  We’ve never done a full Canadian tour, so it’s hitting a lot of cities that we haven’t hit before – we’re looking forward to it.

Awesome. You have The Family Ruin supporting?

Yeah, great band and cool dudes as well!

Let’s talk about ‘From Death To Destiny’, Asking Alexandria’s most recent album. It’s been very well received but how do you feel about it?  Do you think you’ve matured as a band with this record?

Definitely, I’ve always said it’s a much more mature album, especially considering the previous albums. The first one was very … not immature, but you can tell it was by teenagers.  The next album was very angry and with this one, we’re finding out our place in life, almost, so it’s a much more mature outlook on music and ourselves.  When we started the band, we were all teenagers; now we’re in our twenties, we have wives and houses, we are adults now – back then we were just kids on tour and were a mess, pretty much.

From_Death_to_Destiny pic

How does your writing and recording process work, do you all get together from the start?

Usually Ben will come to me with a guitar riff, or a chorus idea and we’ll work it, develop it and make a song and then we’ll approach Danny and the other guys. A lot of the songs on the previous albums have been mainly written by me and Ben.  This one was going about it a little bit differently and we wanted everyone to be a little more on board with the writing process, so it was a little bit more organic and not quite so disjointed.  It’s weird – a lot of bands sit in a practice room and just work it out and get songs, we don’t really do that.  We write ideas for songs and the first time we actually play it properly, is when it’s going to be recorded.  Even when we’re recording, we’ve never actually played it together.  With the next album we’re going to do that, we’re going to go about it in more of an original way.

Ah, I was going to ask about plans for the next album. Any timescales?

We’ll take the first half of next year off and in that time we’ll have a little bit of a break because we’ve been touring so much, we’ve hit pretty much every continent in the world this year, but we are also going to be in the studio recording album number four and we’re hoping to set a release date for summer.

Presumably that will coincide with a festival appearance?

Yes, we might be doing some festivals … if anyone looks back at our past touring schedules, you’ll notice that we do Europe in the summer and this summer, we did America. Last year we played Download, this year we did the Mayhem Festival in America.

You’ve launched the ‘AA Family’ website, like a fan forum type of thing. Tell me a bit more about that.

A lot of artists and bands, they have fan websites, but they charge their fans. We aren’t charging anyone anything. It’s a new concept.   We have 5 million followers on Facebook; if we post something on Facebook, it goes to a tiny percent of people and we were like, what’s the point?  So we said we were going to do our own thing, so we can actually reach our fans, when we want to reach them.

It’s also a place where they can access to new merch designs, pre-orders, chances to win tickets and we’re all on it. It’s still in its infancy at the moment, but we’re going to really step it up and we’re going to be doing loads of stuff that fans just want to see.  Hopefully it will become something really great.  I really hope it catches on because it’s a much better way for us to reach our fans and for them to interact with us and each other.

You’ve got many fans across Europe and the USA. Do you find there are any specific differences in the way that they react to you in the different countries?

A lot of people ask us that and honestly, the only thing that’s different is, for me, the accents or the language. The fans are usually very similar and its only when you go to somewhere like Japan, where in between songs they’re dead silent because the respectful thing for them to do, it’s their culture, everywhere else is very much the same, I find.  People love to sing along, some people like to rock out, some people like to just enjoy the music.  Maybe some places are louder or more extreme, but everywhere is the same.

Are they different when they meet the band?

We did a signing in the Philippines which was completely insane because they never see us – we’ve played there once, it was just crazy. People were trying to grab us … yet we’ll do the same thing in the UK or in America and it’s a lot different, people are a lot more respectful.

Well, we British are very good at queueing! Tell me what you’re listening to at the moment as you’re travelling round?  Any new bands to recommend?

I’ve been listening to The Family Ruin’s album (Dearly Departed) a lot, as I said they’re good friends of ours so I’ve been checking that out. I listen to a lot of electronic shit, especially if I’m in my bunk and just trying to chill out and sleep … it’s not verse, chorus, hooks and catchiness, it’s constant, background noise.  We listen to so much old school rock and classics, especially if we’re just drinking on the bus.

TFR USA tour pic

Who is the worst behaved person on tour?

What do you mean by “worst behaved”?

Like, who throws their toys out of the pram the most?

Ben can be a bit of a nightmare when he’s spat his dummy out, but it doesn’t happen often.   We’re all pretty bad, but to be honest, we’re not half as bad as we used to be.  When we were touring on the ‘Reckless and Relentless’ album, we were a complete train wreck, I’m surprised one of us didn’t die.  Now we’re a lot calmer, not as insane.  We’re all equally a bit older and a bit lamer, like I’m drinking Cup-A-Soup right now …

Not very rock and roll, James! Who is the best behaved and most chilled out?

Probably me.

Well, you would say that! In terms of Asking Alexandria as a band, where do you hope to be in five years’ time?

A lot of artists will have a market or a country where they are massive and everywhere else is lukewarm. We have a pretty solid fan base everywhere we go in the world and every time we go, we’re slowly creeping up.  We had a massive burst in North America to begin with and since then every notch, every album has gone a little bit further.

In five years, I just want to still be doing a vigorous touring schedule, but on a bigger scale. Bigger shows, more people, more albums sold.  For instance this tour we’re doing, this place is like, 1,700 or something, London will be about 5,000.  I’m hoping we can move to doing arenas and outdoor ampitheatres and whatnot. On this tour, we’ve so many dates very close together, so I’m really surprised we’re doing as many tickets as we are, it’s a great tour and the majority of it has been sold out.  In total I think we’re playing to about 28,000 people which is the biggest tour we’ve ever done and we’re reaching more people.  The last headline tour we did was only Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham and London and all of those were sold out.

What’s been the biggest highlight so far?

Download Festival and selling out Brixton early last year – that was amazing. That’s a venue that all of us wanted to play and then we found out we had sold out on pre-sale, that was really cool.  We actually recorded a DVD there that’s finally coming out, in time for Christmas, I think.

You’ve been together as a band for some time, what’s the secret to your longevity? What tips would you give to up and coming bands?

We’ve never had a line-up change, which is pretty strange for a band of our age that’s been around for this long. Some might say that what we did was reckless or stupid, but we just put all of our chips on black.  We moved to America with nothing and just managed to scramble our way to something.  You’ve got to be, like, if you want to do this, it’s what you do and you have to devote a few years of your life to nothing else.  You have to be very prepared that you’re going to wade through shit for a long time before you get anything.  You’re not going to make any money and everyone will tell you that you should have stayed in school, should have got a job … just persistence and hard work.

Wow. Thanks for your time, James.  Great answers, great tats and it was also a great show!  Check out the Asking Alexandria sites below, don’t forget they’re about to head out on ‘The Moving On Tour’ with The Family Ruin, Blessthefall, Chelsea Grin and Upon A Burning Body across North America and Canada.

Vik and James Cassells

www.askingalexandria.com

www.facebook.com/askingalexandria

You can place pre-orders for the two-disc ‘Live From Brixton and Beyond’ here – http://http://www.sumerianmerch.com/ and catch the trailer herehttp://http://youtu.be/BdJDdPNMpAk

Advertisements

Interview with I Divide, Southampton, 11.10.14

It was with great pleasure that I got the opportunity to have a chat with three fifths of Exeter rockers, I Divide, before their show with The Dirty Youth back in October.  Standing in a freezing car park next to a dodgy looking church, Josh (guitar), Henry (guitar) and Kristen (bass) waxed lyrical about festivals, social media and what their plans are for world domination.  Or something like that … enjoy!

I Divide band pic

How did you enjoy your appearance at the recent alcohol and drug-free Butserfest?

Josh:  Yeah, it was awesome.  We’d never been there before so we didn’t really know what to expect – I’d seen some stuff online but yes, we really enjoyed the set and it was a good crowd.  We hadn’t played for a few weeks, so it was just nice to get back on stage and play a show.

You also did an acoustic set, which was awesome and one of the best sets of the day. How was it for you?

Josh:  It was cool.  Although we’ve done some acoustic sets before, we never really done one in front of a live audience as it’s normally for radio or for a video interview. To do it in front of a little audience was really nice!

Henry:  I didn’t expect there to be that many people there, really.  Walking outside and seeing the queue and realising they were for us …

Awesome. So, you’ve been supporting the Dirty Youth on their UK tour, has it been enjoyable?

Henry: We get on with them really well, we’ve had a few messy nights out with them but it’s been a really fun tour over quite a lot of dates. You get a mix of tours where some you only do a handful of dates across bigger cities, but it’s nice to actually go to a few more places on this one.  We’re covering the span of the UK, we went up to Aberdeen …

I’ve heard that the Scots like to party …

Henry:  We love the Scots!

Josh: They’re amazing!

You’ve had a pretty good year, really – you’ve toured with some big names and you’ve done Takedown and Butserfest … what’s been the highlight so far for you?

Henry:  Belgium was pretty cool, we played a festival over there with some awesome bands like Heart in Hand, Anavae, Carcer City …

Josh:  Loads of British bands!  We got to play with some big American bands over there as well though.

Henry:  We haven’t done a lot of European touring, so it was nice to go over there and play to a big crowd.

Your debut album, ‘Last One Standing’ is excellent. Have you had positive feedback?

Henry:  Thank you!  Yes, we’ve had loads of good feedback so far.

I Divide album artwork

You released an EP before that, there was a bit of a gap in between the two?

Josh:  Yes, not quite two years in between them. We released ‘What’s Worth More’ in 2012, it was nine tracks, seven ‘proper’ songs and two instrumentals.  A few of us played in a band before and some songs on that CD were written before we really, properly formed I Divide.  What we began with was to get some music out there and some songs to play live, whereas ‘Last One Standing’ was us sitting down and writing an album, recording it together and that was the one we wanted as our debut album.  To answer your question, the reaction has been wicked and we’ve had some really good reviews for it.  It did really well in the iTunes chart.

Henry:  We didn’t expect that, really.  We weren’t sure what to expect!

What’s your favourite track to play off of the album?

Kristen:  I like ‘Tell Me Something’.

Henry:  I really like ‘Tell Me Something’ as well.

Josh:  I really like quite a few to play live – ‘Runaway’, we’ve been playing that for quite some time, as we wrote it quite early on. It’s a really bouncy song, really energetic, it’s the one that makes me sweat the most!  I really like playing all the songs off the album.  ‘Monster In Me’ is a bouncy one and ‘I’m Not Leaving’ is a good one to jump to.

Kristen:  It’s been good this tour – we’ve got a whole new set and everyone’s singing along, they know the words.

(At this point Kristen is stretching like a pro-athlete in the car park and it’s clear that they take this VERY seriously …)

Josh:  When you play a load of live shows in a row, we always warm up anyway but …

Henry: The last few nights I haven’t warmed up and I regret it quite a bit now.

Kristen: We’re getting older now, as well.

Oh, come on – you’re only 23! Anyway, moving swiftly on to a boring question, who are your biggest musical influences when you write and who does most of the writing?

Henry:  I would say Josh, mainly.  He writes a lot of the lyrics and the music.  I just kind of come along and get my guitar and start writing lead stuff.

Josh:  I’m not the best guitarist in the world, but I love song-writing.  I’ll sit down and write the rhythm, the lyrics and the melody – obviously I’ll get Tom involved for the melodies and the lyrics, then we’ll grab these guys and get the instrumental stuff put in.

You put a lot of pictures up on Facebook and you use twitter too, do you tend to interact with your fans a lot, or do you not really bother? You seem to be quite sociable and open to people.

Josh:  We try and put a lot of effort in to talk to our fans.  We do a lot of stuff on social media and spend a lot of time trying to write back whenever people tweet us and message us, to make sure people’s questions are answered and they feel like they have that interaction with the band.  I’ve been speaking to a lot of people tonight who can’t believe that we message them back!  Obviously it’s getting harder and harder as we progress as a band and we get more and more messages.  We were just chatting to some guys at the bar, one’s been a fan of the band for ages and wanted to buy us a drink and every night that we play a show we always go down and just talk to everyone, take photos with everyone and get involved and make sure that everyone who wants to meet us at a show can definitely meet us; we don’t ever want anyone to go away and say that they didn’t get the chance.

Well, that’s going to get harder as your popularity increases! Let me throw in a question to mix things up a bit.  Who’s the biggest pain in the arse on tour?!

Josh:  Henry’s the biggest drinker.  We went out in Sheffield the other night and Henry got himself into a bit of a state where he couldn’t really stand up and we had to carry him halfway across Sheffield to get him back!  He then decided to sleep on the floor of the van.

Henry:  It was £2.50 for triple vodka and cokes with free shots and the Jagerbombs were £1.00.

Kristen:  To be fair, we were all sick that night …

That brings me neatly to the next question. What are the best and worst aspects of what you do?

Henry:  It’s great to get out and meet people, to have connections with the music and stuff.  It’s an honour.  We had fans who came from Cornwall going up to Aberdeen to see us and they spent two days travelling. Sometimes people don’t understand how much it means to us to see people from home when you’re this far away.

Josh:  One girl has travelled from Paris today to see us, she flew in to London and got a train down here.  We were like, we had better play well!  There aren’t many bad aspects to it though, apart from missing home, that’s the only difficult thing.  When we were away in Belgium I had some family stuff going on and I found that quite difficult.  Being away from my girlfriend is always hard.

You’re playing the Zombie Ball at Halloween – what does it mean to you to be playing alongside bands such as Skindred and Glamour Of The Kill?

Josh:  Skindred are getting so big now, it’s ridiculous. It’s going to be sick, we’re really looking forward to that show.   We’ve always loved playing shows on Halloween because it gives us an excuse to dress up as absolute idiots and Skindred are one of my favourite bands to watch live. I got given a ticket to see them down in Exeter and now I’ve seen them about ten times.

So what’s next and what’s your long-term plan for the band?

Kristen:  Just getting our name out there, and to start writing for the next album.

Any festivals lined up for next year?

Josh:  That’s kind of where we are – at this point in time, over the next few months we’ll be looking to get festivals.  I was saying to Kristen earlier that next year is just going to be the year where we do try and get on to every festival going.  We’re obviously going to be thinking about album number two and doing bits and pieces for that, but we’ll be touring as much as we possibly can and just keeping busy.

Do you have any longer-term goals or ambitions that you want to cross off of your lists, or do you take things as they come and enjoy it?

Josh:  We all want to travel the world with the band – if we can get to the stage where we get enough international followers to make it worthwhile enough for us to fly around and see the world doing this, we would be happy.

Henry:  If we make it as far as Australia that would be awesome.

Indeed, it would. Finally, a question I should have asked at the start – how did you arrive at the name I Divide?

Henry:  We get asked that loads, but there is no answer – we need to make one up.

Kristen:  We need some kind of epic story …

Josh:  It’s lyrics from a Brand New song, actually.  We came to the decision because we all came up with about thirty or forty names each that we thought were good, put them into a massive list and took it in turns to cross names off.  We wanted something short and snappy that didn’t really mean much else that people would quickly associate the words with us.  We really need to make up a better answer for this question!

Well, I had a blast chatting to these guys and although they’re not currently touring as such, they have just announced a show on 28th November at the Zombie Hut in Corby – check their Facebook page for more details and tickets.  You can also buy a physical copy of their album from the usual outlets, or online at iTunes.

www.idivideband.com

www.facebook.com/idivideband

Check out the videos for ‘I’m Not Leaving’ and ‘Follow Me’ here –

http://youtu.be/YEcA_EsnBek?list=PLsqIiBny50NvR1K_bTTpJT-AwJKO75yb1

http://youtu.be/rNobv67EEnQ

DEAD! announce September tour – interview here!!

DEAD!

Dead band shot

Southampton punk rockers DEAD! have announced an eight-date headline tour in September to coincide with the release of the video for ‘Phantom‘,  the second single off of their ‘Tu Me Manques’ EP.  Produced by Dan Weller, the EP has been well received; indeed it was streamed by Rock Sound exclusively on their website earlier this year, when the band toured with Fearless Vampire Killers.

I had a chat with the guys before they head out around the country to talk about band naming, fantasy touring partners and what it really means to them to be ‘living  the dream’ …

 
 

– How was New Age Fest?  Did you get to catch many of the other bands?

We’re still quite new to the festival circuit so it feels chaotic to us!  It was really cool to be a part of a smaller DIY festival – that really resonates with how our band operates.  We’re all really bummed that we didn’t get to catch The Computers, those guys have such a crazy aesthetic live. You feel like you’re in a film.

– You’re heading out on a headline tour of the UK in September, how are you feeling about that?

There really aren’t many words to describe how we feel about it, we’ve chosen venues that we think are going to look and feel like people are in our latest music video.  After a bunch of festival slots and a support tour with Fearless Vampire Killers, we’re actually really looking forward to playing longer sets, and we really hope our fans are looking forward to that too.

– If you could pick any line up of bands to tour with, who would you pick, and why?

We saw Finch the other night, so we’ll take them just because they were impeccable live.  Let’s put Taking Back Sunday on as headline and throw in Reuben (back from the dead).  Fuck.  Looks like we’re on first for that one.

– You describe your genre of music as ‘punk ‘n’ roll’, what can new fans expect from your live show?

We really enjoy the sensibilities of good pop song writing, but we’re a bunch of energetic, passionate young guys, so its just not going to be played in a traditional pop way ha!  Come along, stand down the front, we dare you …

– How did you decide on your band name?

It’s actually an odd story – when guitarist Sam had just had his first band implode and thought “Oh shit, what if I get hit by a bus tomorrow and didn’t release any music I was proud of”, he saved everything in a folder on his laptop just named ‘dead’.  The idea was partly inspired by a Madina Lake lyric, but everyone ended up with the folder on their laptops to hear the demos and we just stuck with it.

– New single ‘Phantom’ is the 2nd off of your EP, ‘Tu Me Manques’, when might we expect a full-length studio album?

It’s really hard for an unsigned band to fund that kind of thing, and we’ve always been fans of natural growth so when its ready to happen it’ll happen.  That’s not to say we haven’t been writing, there’s tons of new material and some is insanely vicious, we can’t wait to get into a studio and see how it turns out.

– Dan Weller, who produced your EP, has worked with the likes of Enter Shikari and Sikth; did you enjoy the recording process?

We’d always dreamed of working with Dan, given his track record, so it was a nerve-wracking experience at first.  We actually all got on really well as soon as we got in the room, Dan completely got our sound and what we wanted to do.  He knew how to hype us up for the recording process; most of the CD is just us playing live whilst having tequila poured down our faces.  That’s why the vibe is so wild and on tracks like ‘We Are Dead’ you can really hear that.

– What does it mean to you to know that people are listening to your music and buying tickets to come and see you headline?

Literally everything. It’s so surreal, we’ll never get used to it.  The Dead! family is turning into some giant team trying to breathe some excitement back into the music scene and make live music what it used to be.

– What’s been the highlight for Dead! so far?

There’s too many to mention.  Radio One was pretty insane, we kind of got picked up by accident before the track was even finished.  ‘We Are Dead’ was never meant to be a single, it just happened!  It was a bit odd walking home from the tube station and seeing we were tweeted by Dan P Carter as his ‘Single Of The Week’ on a song we’d been finishing the vocals for half an hour earlier!  Our first gig in Glasgow was definitely a highlight, but you’ll have to come see us play in Scotland to understand that.

– How do you feel the local/national rock scene is evolving?  Is the future of rock and metal bright?

It looks that way, especially with bands like Bring Me The Horizon keeping metal at the forefront of popular culture.  Just look at the Jamie Lenman come back – everyone really gave a fuck about a dude from the past whose band never ‘made it’, and thats awesome.  It’s great to be a small part of it.

– What’s next for DEAD!?

Songs!  Studio!  Video!  But first we’re just going to try to get through this tour without being hit by another truck …

You can catch DEAD! on tour at the following venues through September: –

24/09/2014  SOUTHAMPTON – The Cellar 

25/09/2014  BRISTOL – The Gryphon 

26/09/2014  BIRMINGHAM – Alfie Birds 

27/09/2014  LEEDS – Temple Of Boom 

29/09/2014  DURHAM – Fish Tank 

30/09/2014  GLASGOW – Old Hairdressers

01/10/2014  BOLTON – The Alma

02/10/2014  NOTTINGHAM – The Dog House 

03/10/2014  LONDON – The Garage (upstairs) 

 
 

Dead tour poster

You can find the video for ‘Phantom‘ here –  http://youtu.be/i3Xbs2i0ovU

www.facebook.com/StayClassyStayDead

Interview with Dendera

 Stalwarts of the Hampshire metal scene, DENDERA smashed their headline gig at the Joiners at the end of July – I caught up with them for a brief chat beforehand.

Dendera band pic

Your first album, ‘The Killing Floor’ was well received; what can we expect from album no. 2 and when might it be released?

The album will hopefully be released in the first half of 2015. We are really excited about the new album, the new material is sounding heavier, bigger and maybe a bit more modern, but still has a distinct Dendera sound.

How do you keep your writing innovative and fresh when people come to expect a certain style from you?

Our influences are always developing and changing with what we are into at the moment, but when we write together the end result is consistent with the sound we are aiming for.

You cite many influences as a band, including Iron Maiden and I’ve heard many people say that you sound like them.  Does that bother you or do you take it as a compliment?

Any comparison to one of the best metal bands in the world can only be taken as compliment. We write music that we love and like to play, and so our influences will always come into the music. But that’s not to say we will always sound the same as we are always striving to find our own niche.

Have you any touring plans for the rest of this year?

If an opportunity arises we will definitely take it, however our priority is making the best album possible.

You’ve played with some big names, including Saxon, Soulfly and Gloryhammer.  Who have you most enjoyed sharing a bill with?

We’ve loved sharing the stage with all those acts and the Gloryhammer tour was definitely a highlight. I think we will all have our own personal favourites for example, Steve playing with one of his guitar heroes Vivian Campbell with Last in Line.

If you had to choose one Dendera track to introduce a new fan to the band, which would it be and why?

If we had to choose one it would be Senlac Hill, we feel this shows our own sound and where we come from and our influences in one package.

You already have an existing, loyal fan base; how do you engage with people to promote the band?  Do you think social media helps or hinders bands’ growth?

Social media is a valuable tool and allows bands to directly connect with their fans all over the world. It’s helped us to grow our fan base and reach people that would never had, had the opportunity to see us live at this point. In terms of engaging with fans we are a very social band at live shows and always try and interact with our fans.

What’s been the biggest Dendera highlight so far?

It would be hard to decide between releasing our debut album or the UK tour with Gloryhammer.

Dendera the killing floor

If you could tour or record with any band or artist (current or past), who would it be and why?

You would probably expect us to say Iron Maiden and that would be amazing, but we all have our own particular favourites! Whilst Tony would say Van Halen, Steve would say Dream theater.

I watched the Gloryhammer tour diary from last year – most amusing!  You’re like one big family; who throws the toys out of their pram the most when you’re touring?

Thanks for watching our tour documentary! Others can watch it at the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpIZnbzc5Jc . In all honesty, on the road we all get along so well so there aren’t many toys being thrown. If we were to pick something though Andy doesn’t seem to enjoy falling flat on his arse in the shower whilst hungover!

What’s your opinion of the state of the local/national music scene?

Based on our most recent headline show the local music scene seems to be doing well. That being said, it takes a lot of effort from bands and fans alike to keep it going. We all need to pull together to help it thrive.

What’s next for Dendera?

After recently joining AMP Management, the new album on the horizon and big tour plans for next year it’s a really exciting time. We can’t wait to show everybody what we have got coming. Can we also take this time to thank everybody who has supported us so far. We love you all!

See the link below for the Rock Regeneration review of Dendera’s headline gig last month at the Joiners in Southampton.  You can catch them again when they support Phil Campbell’s All Starr Band back at the Joiners on 29th August 2014 – it’s sure to be a huge gig and tickets have been flying out – message Dendera via their Facebook page for further details!

www.facebook.com/DenderaUK

www.dendera.co.uk

http://www.rock-regeneration.co.uk/wordpress/2014/07/denderatoledo-steeldeath-headscreaming-steel/

Interview with Matt Jones of Grenades – 10.06.14

I caught up with Matt Jones (a.k.a Django Black) of Grenades after their May show at the Talking Heads in Southampton, where they supported Pulled Apart By Horses.  Here’s what he had to say about the local music scene, his hopes for a future album and the state of the music industry in general …

Grenades logo pic

Couple of quick fire questions to warm you up …

Download or Sonisphere?

I would have to say neither, we’re more ATP kinda guys; private chalets and shellac.

North or South?

Both have their merits.  Leeds have got some cool bands at the moment, obviously PABH are from there, but it’s also home to my new favourite band, Eagulls.  Of course, we’re from the South though, so it has a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ in comparison. Some might say a mystical allure..

Jägermeister or Firewater?

I’m not entirely sure what Firewater is, but if I wanna get proper grotesque I’ll go with a cocktail of absinthe and chemicals, followed by a self-loathing chaser.  I often abuse myself before writing, like an anti-chastigation to filthy the soul.

Classic Rock or Rock Sound?

I couldn’t say, I don’t read the music press.  The irony isn’t lost on me.

South Park or Family Guy?

I’m religiously South Park.  It’s so clever on so many levels. If someone just wants gross-out humour, then it’s there, but it also has cutting satire, stemming from socio-political observations that challenge the way we look at culture.  I think that if someone has a platform to express worthy, well informed opinions that question the way by which society behaves, then I can only commend them for doing so, and if they make it funny at the same time that’s even better. Family Guy’s good too though and I really enjoyed Ted.

Now, down to serious business ….

Are you finding that you have the same faces turning up to gigs, i.e., are you building a solid fan base?

To be honest with you we’re lucky for anyone to turn up at all. The crowd were wonderful at the PABH + Wytches show, but they hadn’t come to see us. Hopefully we entertained them though. Winchester has a brilliant venue called The Railway which puts on some really cool acts, I recently saw Nick Oliveri down there who was raw and awesome, but there just doesn’t seem to be any kind of scene. There are some excellent bands about like Cavaliers and The Wynona Ryders, but there’s just no consistent crowd of people who seem to go out for live music. It’s amazing when you consider that students make up about a quarter of the city’s population. Obviously, I’m not talking about every student, but the majority don’t seem to be very inquisitive, supportive of local art, or interested in what else is happening outside of their Uni bubble.

It’s quite worrying that presumably the future generation of leaders and professionals seem disinterested and unengaged with what’s going on around them.  After all, the arts at their grass roots are what define our culture. So for anyone who might be reading this, don’t just sit in your room listening to music on the internet, don’t just attend the already well attended festivals, don’t just sit on your bum, in front of the TV obsessing over glorified karaoke contests, head down to your local venue and check out who’s playing. That’s where you’ll see the magic, unspoiled, pure creativity before the corporate machine chews ’em up and spits ’em out. These guys ain’t doing it for a job, this ain’t their 9 – 5, they’re doing it because they love it, and I for one think it’s amazing to experience that first-hand, because once you take part, you become part of the history and that’s how legends are made.  I appreciate every single person who has spent their time and money on coming to see us play, do you think that Mr Rock & Roll feels the same way when he’s performing to a sea of anonymous faces, made up of lads and Dorises at some Disney Land festival sponsored by the Devil.  I’m not saying don’t go and see your favourite bands, I’m saying do both, because there’s great stuff happening on your doorstep.

Well said and entirely agreed with!   When you’re writing, what influences you?

I think the most obvious influences are the Pixies, Nirvana and Fugazi. Essentially, I’d become pretty bored of the indie-pop bands that were dominating the alternative music scene. Don’t get me wrong, I really like acts such as The Maccabees, Bombay Bicycle Club and Bloc Party, in fact, Grenades’ early material fell far closer to that camp. It’s just not my passion. Simply, I want to make music like the music I grew up on and I have a lot to say. After graduating from Uni last year, Chris De Roux and myself really struggled to find employment and were forced to sign on.  Now, Winchester is an expensive place to live so what we received in benefits didn’t cover our outgoings. Once rent and bills went out we were left with about £15 a week for everything else; food, toiletries, clothing, washing up liquid, etc. I had to go out administering hand jobs in public toilets just so I could eat and apparently I’ve been told that’s illegal work, like I enjoyed it or something …

Anyways, during my sordid year of living in poverty I became acutely aware of so many social and political injustices. Why do the rich exploit the poor? Why can’t people look after the environment? Why do people kill each other over things like idealism and religion? What the hell is racism all about? Racists are weird. The list can go on and on and that’s what the songs are about. The funny thing is, as a teenager and young adult I was very much concerned with these themes in my first band Yenpox, but over the years I guess my lifestyle became more comfortable and I suppose I became apathetic, losing my edge. Maybe falling on hard times was a blessing in disguise because I got my mojo back.

If you had to pick two of your tracks to turn a new fan on to Grenades, which two would it be?

My favourite track that we do is probably ‘Santa Maria’, I think it’s cool, visceral and gnarly. The others see it as more of a fan favourite, but I would want to release it as a first single. I think it would really announce the band. The others like ‘The Mark of Cain’ best. I think the other one I really like is ‘The Rapture’. Actually, this is a tough question, it’s like Sophie’s Choice. I really enjoy playing ‘Babel’ too and can be heard singing it in the shower.

What are you listening to at the moment?

Obviously, I’ve already mentioned a few bands, but the others I’m digging at the moment are Men of Good Fortune from Hackney Wick and Royal Blood from Worthing; both excellent. The cat’s out of the bag regarding Royal Blood but MOGF are equally worth listening to.  On top of Grenades I also do quite a bit of acoustic stuff under the name Django Black (I have a Soundcloud) so often pay attention to that scene as well. At the moment I’m listening to guys like Chris Simmons, George McCanna and Greg Vernon, who are all really talented songwriters.

What’s the weirdest thing a fan has ever given you?

I don’t think anyone’s ever given me anything weird. In truth, I’m far more likely to give them something weird, weird and unexpected. It weirds me out when people ask for autographs though. It really isn’t worth anything. If it was I’d be selling it myself, I’m completely broke.

What’s the best/worst thing about being in a band on the local music scene?

The best thing about playing in local venues is there’s no driving involved, therefore we can all get pissed. The worst thing is limited exposure – obviously, I want to be performing to as wide an audience as possible.

Grenades

Grenades supporting The Wytches and Pulled Apart By Horses at The Talking Heads, Southampton, 10.05.14

Have you had any notable ‘celebrity’ band moments?

I’m not sure what you mean by ‘celebrity’? The most star struck I’ve ever been was supporting Eric Bachmann of The Archers of Loaf. They’re one of my all-time favourite bands, and he made a point of watching me play. With his permission, I even did a rendition of ‘Web in Front’ during my set. It was a special night for me, and I’d like to give Andy Rossiter at Love Thy Neighbour in Brighton a shout out for booking me, thanks man.  If you mean the reverse of that scenario I always love it when other people cover my songs. It’s a massive compliment and reaffirms to me that I’m doing something right, even if I don’t get paid for it.

How do you see the music industry evolving in the next 5-10 years?

Who can say? I think rock music will actually start rocking again. I think for the last 15 years roughly, rock music has been very tame and more like pop. That’s not to say there haven’t been some fantastic acts, it’s just I think it’s time the pendulum swung back the other way. Commercially I hope that more people start paying for music again. If you don’t buy the music, the artists don’t get paid, they have to work day jobs to fund living and ultimately the quality dips. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the moment people stopped paying for music it became a bit more shit.

Can Grenades fans expect an album in the near future?

I would very much like to put a record together. We have some small label interest, but we’ll see. I would like a certain amount of autonomy over the recordings, so doing it ourselves might be for the best. I want it to be as filthy and gnarly as possible. Basically, I want my parents to hate it. That’ll learn yer for getting me an Admiral Akbar instead of Boba Fett for Christmas 1984, I still carry these scars.

What’s next for Grenades?

Over the next couple of months we’ve all got bits and bobs here and there, but I’ll probably write a few more tunes over the summer. I just need to get angry and induce some alcohol-fuelled misery and pain.

Check out the Grenades facebook page at www.facebook.com/GrenadesMusic