interview

INTERVIEW: “Oh-Hell-YeeHaw!” WhiskeyDick are coming to the UK!

Cult favourites WhiskeyDick return to the UK this March to blow minds with a double barrel blast of dreadnaught shredding and hillbilly bellowing that makes you want to knock back a shot, stand up tall, and holler “Oh-Hell-YeeHaw!”

The Fort Worth duo carry on the Texas traditions of super-powered guitar slinging and clever songwriting that make lone star music a worldwide curiosity, except Reverend Johnson will remind you more of Dimebag Darrell than Billy Gibbons and Fritz remains more lyrically akin to David Allen Coe than Robert Earl Keen.

WhiskeyDick’s live show is a true spectacle: two giant, tattooed, mean-looking dudes saunter on stage and sit down on 2 chairs, then pick up acoustic guitars and proceed to amaze everyone by generating more power than a full band by means of Fritz’s deep, rich vocals, Johnson’s unapproachable acoustic guitar heroics, and their triumphant songwriting.

It’s their approach to music and the message they carry that’s resonating with the legion of Dimebag Darrell’s fans and viewers of hit tv show ‘Sons Of Anarchy’ which has resulted in the duo’s song ‘Drunk As Hell’ fast approaching 1 MILLION views on Youtube.

WhiskeyDick release their best of album ‘Welcome To YeeHaw County’ 24th April 2015 via record label Rusty Knuckles. We spoke to Fritz ahead of their forthcoming UK Tour.

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MJ: Welcome to the Classic Rock Show, Fritz. How on earth does a name like WhiskeyDick come about, firstly?

300x300F: Thank you. Man, I appreciate it. Yeah the band name. Well, we kind of did some drinking a couple of nights in a row and we were playing some shows and didn’t really have a band name, this was about ten years ago, a little more than ten years ago, actually, and after one night of the heavy drunken debauchery, we had a couple of names floating around in our heads and we knew we liked whiskey, and we were on our way to a show, actually, and I was sitting in the back seat of the vehicle and it just kind of hit me and I blurted it out real loud as we were going down the road. And actually Reverend Johnson (Whiskeydisck’s lead guitarist) wasn’t really happy, didn’t really like the name right off the bat, but kind of stuck after a couple of minutes and then kind of I called the venue right then and said we’re coming, we’re ready to play, and we’re Whiskey Dick and it just kind of stuck. And here we are ten years later with the same band name.

MJ: We’re talking via Skype and I can’t help noticing a poster behind you of the big man himself Hank Williams. I guess you are a big fan of Hank and of country music in general. I dare say there’s a Doc Watson photo or poster somewhere in the Fritz household.

F:  Yeah, there is one out in the studio somewhere. This is a gift. I am a huge fan of the [Hank Williams] Senior and we come from metal roots but we always loved our Country [music] that we’ve grown up with and it’s kind of a way of life around here, where we’re from, so kind of born and bred into it.

10250038_855339887864339_3721610910997277075_nMJ: How much of those guys influence you?

F: I tell you, I’m very heavily influenced in the old country stuff, Hank Williams and Waylon Jennings, and I think a lot of it comes from growing up and listening to the music on old vinyl records. Wasn’t just the old country, but it was Allman Brothers and Bob Dylan and a whole slew of amazing artists growing up. And I think that my vocal range was more in that register, you know, with the way I have a very low twang, I guess, I think I mumble, [laughs] but the old sound and kind of really honed in on that. So I try to surround myself with all of the music that I’ve been influenced by my whole life. My writing style and all that stuff and taking shape and mould it into my own. But there’s always a little piece of Hank Senior in my head and Waylon Jennings floating around there too. Heavily influenced by those guys and the way they lived, they lived their music. So that’s what me and Reverend do. We live every minute of it. So, the night I spoke it and it kind of goes hand in hand.

MJ: You share song writing duties?

F: Yeah. The way we write, you know, we take life experiences that we’ve lived through, you know, and take them and sometimes alter them a little bit so they don’t sound so drab or anything. But you know, things that we’ve lived through and come out alive still, are amazing, some of the stuff that we’ve gone through and try to take some of that and use it to our advantage and our music. And I think that’s another reason why when we play live it’s more of an emotional thing for us because we’re really tapping into some stuff that we’ve been through all together and being apart and being together we’ve gone through a lot of stuff. And to me, real good soul music, music from the soul, is good for the soul. And we try to incorporate that as much as we can in our music. Because I mean it’s all we do. We live it and then we write about it. You know? That’s the way they did it back in the old days.

MJ: “Drunk as Hell” written some few years ago now, has really came to prominence on the back of having been on the soundtrack to “Sons of Anarchy” episode. For a two-piece band to get a song on a mainstream TV show, tell us about how you felt the reaction yourselves?

F: You know, it’s still kind of shocking. Just for them to even contact us and want to use our music was mind-blowing to us! We’re just two dudes and you know for someone, for anybody, for that matter, to take something that we’ve written from in here in our souls and our hearts and actually like it enough to want to use it for a show was, we were floored by that, you know. We’ve always been a two-piece and so it’s just the two of us and kind of look at each other like, wow! [laughs] I don’t think some of it has even set in all the way yet, you know, all together, how far we’ve come and just doing it with hard work and lots of hard work and sticking with it. And fighting through whatever it is that comes our way and got to overcome all of that stuff. So I think as a two-piece we’ve been able to do that pretty successfully.

yeehawcountyfrontgoodMJ: You guys have been together for not far short of 10 years. Five studio albums and a live album as well, you can rattle through quite a number of tracks, what can the audience look forward to?

F: We try to mix it up and do a little bit off of every album. We’re doing a lot of songs, like I think four songs and five songs in our set from our Drunk as Hell album which is our third release that we released in 2010 and “Drunk as Hell” is actually the title track of the album. So, that one we always try to incorporate in our set just because it’s fun to play and the people seem to really like it and relate to it. We have a couple new songs off of the Devil’s Boots album that we’ve really been playing live a lot, “Yee-Haw” is one of them and it’s another acoustic metal kind of feel to it, over here in the States we call it like a Southern Metal groove kind of song. There are some songs from our Wicked Roots album which is our fourth release that we released in 2012 and that was more of an acoustic-driven song. There’s no distortion or anything on that whole album. “Murder Love Song” is one, “Mountain Town,” from the First Class White Trash album. And we do “Train Riding and Gun Totin’” [laughs] and that one is always good because it gets everyone moving and wanting to drink some beers with us. So we try to mix it up a little bit. This tour we have got a compilation album that we’re putting out called ‘Welcome To YeeHaw County’, only released over in the UK and it’s 13 songs and I believe we’ve got at least 3 songs from each album. So we’ve been playing a lot of those songs, too. We’ve got some old songs that we’re going to pull out that we haven’t played even in the States in a while and as we realised the other day, as of right now we’ve got 74 original songs so we’re trying to weed through them all and pick out the ones that we really want to focus on and play them to the best of our abilities.

MJ: You were over here in August/September last year [2014]. What are you looking forward to most when you come back to the UK?

WDUKTOURPOSTERF: We’re really looking forward to getting back over there and playing some music and meeting the people and having a good time. It’s what it’s really all about, you know? We’ve had a boost of fans from our last tour online and stuff and a bunch of them are planning to come out to a lot of the shows and we’re just really looking forward to meeting the people and playing and putting on a good show for them and really kind of putting our foot down and saying here we are, we hope you like us, and let’s have a beer. That’s the goal of ours, to frequent over there and tour over there as much as we can. It’s a new area and we’ve been touring the States here for almost the last five years pretty much non-stop. And it’s a whole other world over there. The first time we went over we absolutely fell in love with everything about it. So we’re really looking forward to getting back over there and putting on some good shows and having a good time with everybody and raise a little hell.

MJ: Great to finally hook up with you Fritz. Good luck with the UK Tour and the compilation album

F: Yeah, I believe we’re playing, we haven’t really set everything in stone yet but we’re already trying to come back in the fall.

F: Just want to thank you for having me on and really, really appreciate it and we’re looking forward to getting over there and playing some good ole southern acoustic metal/country hillbilly yee-haw music. We are going to have a lot of new merchandise with us on this tour. Some hats, some shirts coming with us and some of the new compilation album which we’re really happy about. Just looking forward to getting over there and doing out thing, man. And like I said I really appreciate you having me on, MJ.

WhiskeyDick release their best of album ‘Welcome To YeeHaw County’ 24th April 2015 via record label Rusty Knuckles.
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WhiskeyDick March 2015 Tour Dates:
Thu 19th – LONDON – The Big Red
Fri 20th – PETERBOROUGH – Iron Horse Ranch House
Sun 22nd – SHEFFIELD – South Sea
Mon 23rd – LIVERPOOL – Caledonia
Tue 24th – DARLINGTON – The Quakehouse
Wed 25th – EDINBURGH – Bannermans
Thu 26th – BRISTOL – Maverick Studios
Fri 27th – CARDIFF – The Moon Club
Sat 28th – BOURNEMOUTH – The Anvil
Fritz and Johnson return to the UK in May 2015:
Sat 2nd – OXFORD – The Wheatsheaf
Sun 3rd – MILTON KEYNES – Craufurd Arms
Hit ‘em up!

INTERVIEW: The sound and philosophy behind Venrez ‘Children Of The Drones’ + March UK Tour news

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Los Angeles hard rockers Venrez caused a buzz with their 2013 album release, ‘American Illusion’ which saw the band tour across the USA and UK/Europe with Slash, Alice Cooper and Buckcherry.
They’re now set to go over the top with their forthcoming new album ‘Children of the Drones’ and new music video ‘Hang The Predator’, Directed by Christopher Coppola (nephew to ‘The Godfather Trilogy’ Director Francis Ford Coppola) the new video and song serve as the perfect taster for Venrez’s forthcoming album.
I managed to catch up with Venrez singer/songwriter/frontman Ven before he, together the rest of the band, flew out to begin their UK tour.
Jason Womack [L] and Ven [R]

Jason Womack [L] and Ven [R]

MJ: I’ve been listening to the new Venrez album Children of the Drones [set for release on 24th April 2015 via Monarch Music Group] and it’s got quite a feel to it. Take us through how the album came about? V: This is our third album and there were some unique differences with it that I’ll get to, but I think that the biggest difference as far as being a great natural progression forward is that the lyrics are still dark that I’m writing, the melodies are still there, it’s heavy but we’ve added more of a psychedelic sound. On the first album, Soul Alive, the outro track, “My Only Light” had a kind of Pink Floyd-y feel of psychedelicness to it. We did it again with “Temptress of the Moon” the outgoing track on the last album, American Illusion. And we just kind of sprinkled a little of psychedelicness into the heavy kind of 90s groove that we had for Children of the Drones. And I think finally stamped a signature on the Venrez sound with this album.

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MJ: What does Children Of The Drones mean?

V: Well, my wife and I actually turned vegan a year ago, after watching some different videos and the cruelty to animal factory farming. And then you know just what’s going on in society and how important bees are to the ecosystem and things of that particular nature so I wanted to write a song about it. And Children of the Drones talks about it: “Concrete for the trees as they poison the bees”. And you know there’s a message and we put it on the album cover and besides those messages, the biggest message is, on the album cover the drones have a barcode on the back of their heads and there’s talk of us all having chips in our bodies at some point. I look at it like stepping out of that line. If you’re looking at the album cover you’re in line with the drones heading to the pyramid. So the message is step out of the line, be independent, think for yourself and don’t be controlled. And you know, that’s the song that I take a shot at corporations and government on every record. On this record it’s “Children of the Drones.” I think the world is the most dangerous world it’s been since World War II. And if there’s ever been a time for the younger generations of people around the world to step up I think now is the time to be doing it. And you know I could cheapen up the lyrics, we could go real poppy and crack into corporate suit control pop radio and pop rock, you know, but I haven’t sold out and it’s taken us a long path going into our 6th year now to really start getting somewhere but I’m proud of it because we’ve stuck to our guns, we haven’t sold out, we continue to write songs that we feel teach lesson and deliver messages that need to be delivered and I’m just not going to stop doing it.

MJ: Accompanying your lead single “Hang the Predator” is a video directed by Christopher Coppola, Francis Ford Coppola’s nephew. How did that collaboration come about?

V: I might add that his brother is the famous actor Nicholas Cage. It’s really kind of a funny thing. US actor comedian, Andy Dick, is a very good friend of mine and he wanted me on the Andy Dick Live show. He flew out to Ohio to see us open for Alice Cooper back in 2012 at the France Pavilion in Dayton. He wanted me on the show to promote Venrez and the producers had wanted to book Chris Coppola, the comedian but by accident they booked Christopher Coppola, the director. And so he was on the show with me and we just instantly hit it off like we were past life samurai warriors or something together. And we became best friends. So when it came to wanting to start getting some good videos directed, I asked Christopher to direct them. And I think he just did a great job with this new video, “Hang the Predator.”

MJ: It’s got quite a dramatic beginning, with ants attacking a scorpion. Can you explain that metaphor?

V: “Hang the Predator” is my shot at corporate greed and government control. So the predator is who tries to control us and take our freedom back. And so that is my biggest shot at it. With what is going on in the world with North Korea and even our country with police brutality, I’ve seen plenty of craziness going on in the UK, you know the issues in Syria and Iraq and with ISIS…these monsters we’ve created we now have to deal with. Ee need to step up and do something to change the world for the positive. I really do think that we’re facing some serious dangers throughout the world based on human kind being out of control in an aggressive manner.

MJ: There’s an interesting story, is there not, behind the lyrics to “Hang the Predator” because by all accounts these were quite old lyrics that you had sent to your guitarist Jason Womack and he found them one day?

V: [Laughs] Yeah, they were. The way I work is I write lyrics and send them to Jason he puts music to them and sings the demo and then we work it out with the band. The other way is he sends me music and I write lyrics to the music. Now, what happens is I’m usually writing in my studio office at my house , I immediately email to him and save it to a file. But sometimes we’re on the road and when we’re on the road and I’m writing I use my iPhone and what I usually do is copy, paste, email it to him and save it. For some reason with “Hang the Predator” it was the one out of a few hundred songs that I forgot to do it with. And as we were about to record this record Jason had an old phone, cause I wrote the song probably two and a half years ago, and before he was going to dispose of the phone he booted it up just to make sure there was nothing on the phone that he wanted to make sure he saved. And there were the lyrics! He sent them to me and of course I had never saved them and it is pretty funny and ironic that it ended up being the single to the new album. A lot of times we’ll be jamming and sometimes we’ll record it and sometimes we don’t. Usually every time you’re not recording, you come up with something great and say I bet you can’t remember, and you say ah we gave that one to the gods. Well we tried to give this one to the gods but the gods gave it back! [Laughs]

MJ: Is it fair to say that Venrez have now found their sound with this album?

V: Yeah, I think so. I think so. We have four records now, but what happened when I formed the band in 2009 we had a very different lineup and it was another guy on guitar who was writing the lyrics and the sound and it became evident to me that we weren’t going to go anywhere unless I started writing my own songs. So, we had a change around and Jason stayed and we made an agreement to work together. Then I brought in the guys who had toured with us up until now, Alex Cane and Michael Bradford on bass, and Ed Davis on drums, who were not in the band at that time. And we went on a hodge podge of writing at the time called Witch’s Brew, which is a lot of different types of songs and sounds. And then we started trying to tailor it from Sell The Lie to American Illusion and so it’s been a four album process. I say this is our third record because the first one, Witch’s Brew, was just a different band and sounds and songs that are good but not really where Venrez was going. So I think with Children of the Drones, it’s evolved. In other words, Sell The Lie was the baby, American Illusion was the teenager, and Children of the Drones is the full-on adult and we’re now 28 years old and for the next 10 or 15 years we’re going to give you a whole lot more of that kind of stuff.

Ven and The Coop

Ven and The Coop

MJ: You’re going to be opening a UK tour on the second of March down at the Windmill in London. It’s not your first foray into the UK, but this is your first headline tour.

V: This is our first headline tour anywhere in the world! And you know, there’s a few really nice club venues we’re heading to. Some of them are pubs and bars, you’ve got to start somewhere. We’ve been playing arenas and huge venues with bands like Slash, Alice Cooper, the last tour of Europe with Buckcherry, we were at Koko’s in London. The thing about going back to a smaller club tour it is so intimate, we do have a lot of fans in the UK, we’ve been there four or five times on tour, and I’m really looking forward to showcasing the band in a smaller, intimate venue-type situation and I look forward to it being very successful. We’re very excited about it. We leave in two days. It’s Wednesday here today and we’ll leave Friday and land in London Saturday, the 28th February and that we’ll start on the 2nd March in London and end up at Bathgate, Scotland on the 12th.

MJ: What are we going to be hearing?

V: You’re going to get the full-on Venrez show! And you’re going to get a good smattering of five songs off the new record and then some of our fan favorites, from Sell The Lie and American Illusion. Some songs we haven’t play in 2-3 years live, and I think Jason put together a brilliant set. It just rocks from the first to the last song and it’s going to give fans a nice mixture of the current album and the last two records.

MJ: Ven, thanks for chatting with The Classic Rock Show.

V: You’re welcome. I’m really looking forward to coming back to the UK. I just want to thank all of our fans for supporting rock and roll. I think a lot of artists forget they wouldn’t have a career and wouldn’t be able to enjoy what they do without the fans. The first thing I always want to do is thank the fans for supporting rock music. Without you, there is no rock and roll!

‘Hang The Predator’ is now available on iTunes. ‘Children Of The Drones’ is released 24th April 2015 via Monarch Music Group.
Venrez UK Tour March 2015:
2nd – LONDON – The Windmill
3rd – SWANSEA – The Scene
4th – NOTTINGHAM – Old Salutation Inn
5th – BIRMINGHAM – The Asylum 2
6th – BOLTON – Railway Venue
7th – MANCHESTER – Bangkok Bar
9th – GLASGOW – Audio
11th – INVERNESS – Mad Hatters/Hootananny
12th – BATHGATE – Dreadnought Rock
Venrez are:
Ven – Lead vocals
Jason Womack – Guitars/backing vocals
Nico D’Arnese – Bass
Ed Davis – Drums
Hit ‘em up!

INTERVIEW: Crobot’s singer Brandon Yeagley talks to The Classic Rock Show

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Since the release of their debut album ‘Something Supernatural’, US retro-rockers Crobot, hailing from Pottsville, Pennsylvania, have been steadily winning over gig-going rock fans; struck by their energy and the super solid rhythm section of Jake Figueroa on Bass and Paul Figueroa on Drums, trick-heavy riffmaster Chris Bishop on guitar and dynamic singer Brandon Yeagley who’s not only a great vocalist, but a very switched on frontman.

Crobot stepped in front of UK audiences for the first time last year when they came over to support the Virginmarys. Such was the feedback that they were soon booked to support for the current Black Label Society tour along with Black Tusk (interview with James May here).

Crobot

Before they took to the Norwich UEA stage (18/3/2015), I met up with Brandon for a quick chat:

MJ: Welcome to The Classic Rock Show. You’re here on tour with Black Label Society and Black Tusk. You had a day off yesterday, what did you fellas get up to?

Brandone Yeagly CrobotBY: We just walked around Leeds and eventually ended up crawling through a few pubs. And making our way back to the  hotel. It was a nice day. We just walked around, checked out some really cool buildings and the local market. Really reminded me of back home, we have a similar market. Market stalls everywhere, people selling everything from meat to fly-swatters and everything in between. So it was really cool to see.

MJ: What do you think of the beer over here compared to what you’re used to over in the USA.

BY: I’m not much of a beer guy. Bishop tho’, he’s into the beers.

At this point Bishop looks up from his warm-up guitar exercises…

CB: Little weaker, a little bit weaker, but you still find some Hoegarten’s and stuff like that. These things are very high quality, I have to say.

BY: I guess that was our fifth day in a row, so it was nice to recharge the batteries a little bit and get some z’s in there.

Photo credit: Joe Winn

MJ: What’s in store for the guys and girls turning up tonight?

BY: It’s going to be sweaty. It’s going to be dirty. Going to be riffy. Actually don’t know what the set looks like yet, so I’ll be surprised as well to see what goes on the set list.

Something-Supernatural-CrobotMJ: You have been allocated a 30 minute set…how easy is it to keep a set sounding fresh?

BY: Not too bad at all, it’s more like oh man we only have thirty minutes. “What do we cut?” We’ve got a pretty strong set though, regardless of how many we can fit in there.

MJ: I guess you’re really pushing Something Supernatural?

BY: We have some new songs floating around in there in the rotation. In a few months we’ll be releasing a deluxe version of the album which will include some tracks that didn’t make the album. One that actually is a new song all together, a live version of it, and we might start throwing some of those songs in the set.  Maybe tonight we’ll throw a curveball.

MJ: How have the UK audiences been so far for you?

BLS_Black_Tusk_tourBY: It’s been great being out with Black Label Society. First off, we heard that we got the tour and we’re just ecstatic about it. They’re huge over here and they haven’t been over in a while so we knew that their fans would be out in numbers to see them. It’s cool to see so many of their fans coming out early and checking us out as well. So, the reaction has been pretty positive thus far, from the start to finish. We see more heads bobbing as the night goes on, so that’s always good to see.

MJ: A USA/Canada tour next with Volbeat? That’s quite a matchup, Crobot and Volbeat. And, of course, not forgetting you’ve Anthrax on the bill too.

BY: Yeah, Anthrax is also on the bill, that’s right. Going to be a huge tour for us. It’s a big year, from this tour with BLS to that tour is going to be a crazy year. Volbeat are huge in the states and to be picked to play with those guys and Anthrax is really an honour. The return of that legendary band is something we’re really excited about as well.

MJ: You’ve got to get back to the UK a little later on in the year, surely?

BC: Hopefully, hopefully. We have our fingers crossed for festival season that we can make a run happen.

MJ: You’re taking in quite a few countries across mainland Europe. That’s going to be quite an experience. And of course a different vibe with the crowd, as well. I think is fair to say, the audiences here have loved you and really gotten into you and from the feedback I’ve been getting, I think they are really going to stick with you.

BC: That would really be cool. You know, we’d love any excuse to come back over, really.

MJ: We’re going to leave you fellas to it, to unwind a little bit. Thanks ever so much for chatting with us, Brandon, on The Classic Rock Show. Good luck with that and the rest of the tour. We’ll look forward to seeing you a little later on in the year.

BC: Thanks, we appreciate it.

Later that evening, Crobot went on to entertain the Norwich crowd with a thoroughly engaging set.

Check ‘em out: Crobot Official Website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.

Website: www.TheClassicRockShow.co.uk
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INTERVIEW: James May (Black Tusk) on Athon, BLS tour and new album ‘Pillars Of Ash’

810466_logoFor the current Black label Society European Tour (2015) , Zakk Wylde has brought along with him two bands with uniquely different sounds – Black Tusk and Crobot.

869ab2221cFor Black Tusk, this tour comes hard on the heels of a tragic loss. Their bassist, Jonathan Athon, died in November last year as a consequence of injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident in their hometown of Savannah, Georgia.

The swamp metal trio had not long finished recording a new album (‘Pillars Of Ash’ is set for release mid-2015 through Relapse Records). Corey Barhorst (ex-Kylesa) has the unenviable task of picking up the reins left by Athon’s passing. A formidably powerful bass player in his own right, Barhorst’s long-standing friendship with the remaining members will hopefully serve him well.

I caught up with drummer/singer and founding member of Black Tusk, James May at their recent appearance at Norwich UEA (18/2/2015). It’s never easy to talk with someone on the subject of lost a friend or brother, but I was struck by James’ outlook and positivity, whilst still coming to terms with Athon’s loss.

BLS_Black_Tusk_tourMJ: Welcome to the Classic Rock Show, James.

JM: Thank you.

MJ: Black Tusk on tour with Black Label Society and Crobot along as well. How’s the tour been going so far?

JM: It’s been good. We started off in Budapest and we played five shows before we got on this tour. And then, since we got on this tour, Black Label kind of has a different crowd than what we’re used to. At first you’re a little “How’s it going to be taken?”, but it’s been taken very well. So the tour has ended up being great for us. The crew is really nice to us, everyone one is cool with it, so there’s no problems at all. We like it, man.

MJ: Sorry to bring this up, but it’s been a difficult time for you of late. I guess there’s no such thing as great timing in any of these events. Especially on the eve of a tour such as this one. You lost a very dear beloved band member.

JM: A brother, more than anything.

MJ: Tell us about how you’ve been coping with it.

James May - Black TuskJM: Your own ways you get through it. Like I said, it wasn’t like a band member. Black Tusk was like a three-headed monster. You know what I mean? It’s been just us since the beginning. We’ve all known each other since we’ve been younger and when the band started. So it’s not even three guys that hooked up three years ago. It was before that. I’ve known Athon, knew him more than I had not known him at that point. You know what I mean? So, it was horrible. But we had to do what was good for the band. Me and Andrew both said, like, if it was me, I would want you guys to keep going. You know? Just things happen. There’s nothing you can do about it. And the band, to stop because of it, no, I mean we did think about it of course. We were thinking how could we even replace him? It’s always been us. And it would have always been us. But, on a lighter note, we’ve got Cory now. He’s great. Thankfully for him, he can come tour with us and he was interested in doing it and looking like he is going to end up working out for the full time for the future. But we have known him a long time, as well. Like since before, since before the band started, when he was coming to see our older bands play. So he’s always been around. It was a lot easier to have someone we already knew and that was around, than have someone come in that was just going to try out for Black Tusk. You know what I mean? You know, no one ever wants something like that to happen. We dealt with it the best way we could.

MJ: It’s got to be different.

JM: It’s different. We’re still getting used to it. The first night was really weird. The first, in Budapest, it was the first time we had ever played together in front of a live crowd as this new setup of Black Tusk. But, at least the crowd was so good to us that they made it really easy for us. They were going nuts and everything. They made it really easy for us to have our first show. So shout out to them for that.

MJ: You’ve a few more dates in the UK, then you head over for an extensive tour of mainland Europe. That’s a lot of contact with a lot of fans out there, different crowd as well for you and the boys in Black Tusk to perform in front of. What is it you look forward to most on tours like these?

JM: The reason to take a tour like this is so you don’t keep playing to the same niche of people. Your band is never going to grow when, you know when we first started, it’s safe to play in front of like metal punks. Because you know they’re going to like it. And after a while, you hit a ceiling, it’s only going to get so big, you’ve got to go on tour with another band that has a different crowd and win them over and that’s what we’ve done the past six years is just go on tour with bigger bands and try to get some of their crowd, too, because that’s how you build this thing to get bigger and bigger. The first four years you spend around in shitholes playing to people that you know. I don’t have any problem with them. They make sense. As long as the people are cool that are on the tour, the actual bands and crew and everything that makes it so much easier.

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MJ: Music wise for Black Tusk, it goes without saying that it’s been a challenge rehearsal-wise and prepping a setlist?

JM: We were kind of freaking out a little bit in getting this stuff together before this tour. And also, you know, no one wanted to go to that space. We didn’t want to play. But we had to. We had to get the stuff together for the tour. But me and Andrew were like dreading going to the practice space again. It didn’t feel right, without Athon there, so, but we pulled through it. We got it done.

MJ: Where is the main body of music coming on? Off of your last album? Tell us about that.

JM: It’s pretty much, we’re starting the set with some Taste The Sin stuff, then we have this new 7″ out, Vulture’s Eye, that would be new to anyone over here. It’s a few months old. And we do those two songs from that. Because our band is the type of band where we always do an album and then something in the middle, a seven-inch or an EP until we get another album. We just have always done that. So, we do that, then we go into Set The Dial stuff, and then we go into Tend No Wounds stuff, and then there are a couple of new songs thrown into that that are going to be on the new album coming out in the end of summer.

MJ: You’ve recorded a new album with Joel Grind (from Toxic Holocaust) at the controls. The album’s completed?

JM: Man, that album is done. Mastered, everything. And I am so glad that Athon got through that album with us. I mean it’s all him on there, no one had to come in and finish it for him. That is the old Black Tusk on that album. And we are stoked about it. If you like Black Tusk, you will like this album. It’s not like the last EP. The last EP was experimental. We kind of did some different stuff on that, that’s why we didn’t make it an album. We just wanted to do some other stuff that we usually don’t do. We weren’t going to make that the official album. This is the new album. You know what I mean? It sounds great. We did it with Joel and Brad Boatright (from Ashes Rise) mixed it. It sounds really big and it’s called Pillars Of Ash. That’s the name of the album.

MJ: Some serious EQ then?.

JM: Yeah, it’s ‘Boom! Boom! Boom!’ you know? John Baizley’s going to do the artwork cause it’s, you know, whenever it is a full length release he does the artwork. I got to use the Paul Burdette’s (from Tragedy) drum set for it, so the drums are amazing and we’re excited about it. The only thing about it is by the time it comes out we’ll have had it for eight months. So those are the old songs to us by the time they start getting played.

1307467MJ: So, John Baizley’s back to do your album art? He’s been doing that now for some time, right?

JM: Yeah, and he’s going to, he’s taking his time with it because this album is also going to be a tribute album. You know what I mean? So we’re making sure that this is going to be done right. He wants all the layout to look really impressive and really good, so that’s why we’re just waiting to put it out. We’re not going to push it. It would be nice to have it for this tour, but it can wait as long as it gets done right. You know? We’re going to be playing a bunch of festivals over here so we’ll have it with us when we come back.

MJ: Well, James, Black Tusk, thank you for affording ‘The Classic Rock Show’ your time. Best of luck with the rest of this tour and we hope to see you again soon.

JM: Thanks man. It’s been a pleasure.

This was arguably one of the most difficult interviews I’ve ever done. Not, I hasten to add, because of the artist…far from it…James is a really straight up guy, but because of the subject we spoke of first; the tragic death of their band mate Athon. I hope that the deep sense of loss for a ‘Brother’ transcribes fully onto the page. The band is still grieving, yet they have somehow managed not to let that get in the way when playing ‘live’. Judging by the Norwich UEA set they played, Black Tusk are well worth checking out if you haven’t seen them before. I can’t wait to get my hands on the new album.

MJx

Go get some Black Tusk: Black Tusk Official Website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

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AUDIO INTERVIEW: Danny Bowes and Luke Morley on the making of ‘Wonder Days’

thunder-wonderdaysThunder are to release their latest album ‘Wonder Days’ through earMUSIC on February 16th (UK/EU). Fans have had quite a wait for anything new to come out of the Thunder camp, but the wait was worth it. Judging by the reaction our listeners gave when they heard the single ‘Wonder Days’, it’s clear to anyone with a pulse that they are back with a belter of an album.

Recorded at the infamous Rockfield Studios, from start to finish, the songs on the album seem to have this ability to form an instant bond with the listener, grabbing your attention right from the opening riff, through to the dying notes. It’s this rare gift that has served them well, ever since the day they recorded as a band and in Luke Morley, us Brits have a songwriter we can be rightly proud of.

1423648496mzdI sat down with Danny Bowes and Luke Morley at a studio in London to ask how ‘Wonder Days’ was put together. Always willing to fully answer any questions thrown at them, we began by asking after Ben Matthews’ health. Listening to their answers, you immediately sense that their ambition is as strong as ever it was and that they are proud, rightly so, of the way they have adapted to the new approach to recording an album and what they’ve achieved in the studio with ‘Wonder Days’.

INTERVIEW: Danny Bowes and Luke Morley of Thunder on the new album 'Wonder Days' by Classicrockshow on Mixcloud

There are very few rock bands out there, less than a handful in my experience, that can ignite such a positive reaction from listeners when played on ‘The Classic Rock Show’ as Thunder can…and I’d put them at the top of that list. ‘Wonder Days’ will only ensure they stay there for a long time to come.

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10974271_10205462304024229_8031492333728492368_oReach out to Thunder via Facebook, Twitter and their Official Website…grab a copy of ‘Wonder Days’ while you’re there. MJx

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INTERVIEW: ‘We Are The Brave’ is the new EP from Skarlett Riot. We hear all about it from Skarlett herself.

sr_logo_jpg_hi_resIt’s fair to say that UK quartet Skarlett Riot don’t lack confidence. As anyone that’s had the pleasure of witnessing this young four-piece live will attest to.

In an already jam-packed career Skarlett Riot have wowed audiences at Download (earning a 4K live review from Kerrang!) and Bloodstock, and have shared stages across the UK with the likes of Wednesday 13, D-A-D, Reckless Love, Heaven’s Basement, Periphery, Firewind, Black Spiders, Edguy, Taking Dawn, L.A Guns, Glamour Of The Kill, Crashdiet, Vains Of Jenna, Deaf Havana, Francesqa plus many more, including the prestigious Reading and Leeds festivals to their live resume.

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The band’s debut EP, the critically acclaimed “Villain”, set the benchmark high and led to glowing praise within the rock community. In 2013, they released their first album ‘Tear Me Down’, once again, it was received well by press and fans. Now, they’re about to release another EP entitle ‘We Are The Brave’, a collection of songs with big riffs, and strong themes.

I recently got talking to Skarlett, the lead singer, about the EP and I began by asking her about the new video which has been circulating on Scuzz TV.

MJ: Skarlett…welcome to The Classic Rock Show. How are you doing?

S: Yeah, I’m good, thank you.

MJ: Busy time for you all. You’ve a new video out for the song “Rising”.  It’s a track off your We Are The Brave EP which is out on February the 16th. Tell us about the video.

S: Basically, we filmed it about six months ago. And we wanted like something silhouette-y, so you can only see the band at the end of the video. So it’s all blacked out, and the idea of it is the song is called “Rising,” obviously, and the lyrics are about getting revenge on someone, saying you’ll be back again. Having power in the lyrics. So we wanted to keep it all silhouetted out, and then at the end have the world kind of exposed so it looks more powerful, at the end, I guess. So we just got it on Scuzz TV as well which we’re really excited about too.

MJ: How long has the We Are The Brave EP been in the making?

S: I would say about a year. We’ve just been writing as much as possible since the Turn Down album in 2013. We had been thinking of doing a second album, but we said no, let’s put the best of what we’ve written so far into one EP. So we wrote about 10 songs and we picked about five to go on the EP, which has brought us up until now, really.

Riot Individual1MJ: We’ve talked about “Rising”, but as you mentioned there’s five tracks on the EP: “Divide Us,” “Cascade,” “Wake Up,” and “Are You Alive?” Take us through each of those.

S: All the tracks, apart from “Rising” are about living life to the full and not wasting any time. Like “Wake Up”, “Are you Alive?” and “Cascade”. The lyrics to “Cascade” are about time slipping through the hourglass and having no time to spare. You know, it’s the sand in the hourglass is never going to stop, just like time itself. So, the back message is live your life and enjoy it and don’t listen to what anyone else says…just do what makes you happy.

MJ: Last year, of course you were seen at a number of festivals and on tours. How is 2015 looking for Skarlett Riot?

S: Yeah, we’re continuing to raise our profile and get as many fans and people knowing the name as possible. We’re touring with Gus G in February and then we’ve a few headline dates. We’ve got a sold out show at the O2 Academy Islington with Kamelot and Gus G in March. We’ll be with Slam Cartel in April…and a couple festivals here and there…so far, so good.

MJ: Going back to the EP, the front of the EP is a depiction of a lion’s head, which has been hand-drawn. Is that Helen Hebenton‘s work again?

S: Yeah, that’s right. We’ve known Helen for quite a while and worked with her before, way back to the Villian EP cover and the Villain t-shirts. She’s also responsible for designing the band’s new logo. We wanted the style of the new EP cover have a vintage look, with black and gray artwork. Helen was a perfect choice. She did a great job with the EP, the cover. It was largely her idea to use the lion it would best represent power and strength. I think it has come across really well.

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MJ: You’re obviously going to be pushing the tracks on the EP in your ‘live’ set?

S: Yeah, we’ve been practicing like crazy. It’ll be like three or four of the new EP tracks and then we’ll be mixing it in with a couple of the Tear Me Down tracks. So, they’ll be a lot of new material in there, but we’ll be putting in a couple of what we think are the best tracks from the Tear Me Down album as well.

Riot-5 copyMJ: Any plans to release an album, or more videos on the back of this EP?

S: Yeah, I think we’ll be releasing a couple more singles off of the back of the EP. We wanted this EP to last the full year. But in between that we’ll be writing some more while the EP is circulating. We’re hoping to be writing an album, too, but we’re not sure when that will be released yet. For the moment, we all feel that we need to have the right material in place first. Make sure it’s 100% and that we’re all 100% happy with it.

MJ: Any last little things that you want to get over to the fans?

S: Just thank you very much for supporting us. We had such a great response to the pre-order for We Are The Brave. You can order it on www.skarlettriot.bigcartel.com. Yeah, thanks for the support and we’ll see you on the road!

You can reach Skarlett Riot through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the official website.

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INTERVIEW: Perttu Kivilaakso of Apocalyptica explains “‘Shadowmaker’ is a strong journey”

 

logoApocalyptica is a Finnish cello-rock band from Helsinki, formed in 1993. The band is composed of classically trained cellists Eicca Toppinen, Paavo Lötjönen, Perttu Kivilaakso and drummer Mikko Sirén. Their music borrows elements from a wide variety of genres including classical music, metal, world, folk and progressive rock. They have sold over four million albums to date. The band’s recent albums included both instrumentals and collaborations with various singers, such as Corey Taylor, Adam Gontier and Cristina Scabbia.

Apocalyptica have recently recruited an official vocalist, Franky Perez, who was part of Scars on Broadway, Pusher Jones and appeared on Slash’s first solo record.

apocalyptica with frankyThe band will release their eighth studio album ‘Shadowmaker’ in April through Eleven Seven Music. We have had a taste of what’s to come as a lyric video of the album’s title track has been released. They’ll be releasing a single, ‘Cold Blood’, mid-Feb along with a video directed by Lisa Mann who has directed a number of Apocalyptica videos.

I got to speak with Perttu Kivilaakso the other day after they had shot a new video for a future single release ‘Cold Blood’ out mid-February.

MJ: A very warm welcome to ‘The Classic Rock Show’, Perttu.

PK: Thank you!

MJ: Bands such as Electric Light Orchestra, Eloy, Genesis, Emerson Lake & Palmer, The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Sky, etc., have all used heavily orchestrated arrangements within their work and have been cited as having influenced many an artist/band both then and still do so to this day. What music being created today influences you and how has it manifested itself in the music you have written and recorded?

PK: The band have a large taste when it comes to all kinds of music. We cellists naturally grew amongst classical music, symphony orchestras. I personally have loved opera, especially 19th century Italian, my whole life. I would say that everything we have listened to and loved has had an influence to what we are doing. I still listen to opera and bands like Arch Enemy, Slipknot, as well as Muse, Ellie Goulding, Owl City.

MJ: Apocalyptica perform live shows the world over, and to a heavy schedule. We all think that guitars, keyboards and drums are pretty robust instruments these days. How do the Cellos bear up to the stresses and strains of travel by air/sea?

PK: We have such a great flight cases for the cellos that ever since years back when we started using them, none of the instruments has been destroyed in cargo.

MJ: Do you have any tips on how to keep them in shape and what do you need to look out for?

PK: Cellos are very sensitive instruments and usually need careful handling,keeping them off from heat/cold etc…BUT we are not really a good example for that, so if you watch Apocalyptica banging them cellos, try to avoid all that and you’ll do just fine! [laughs]

apocalypticashadowmakeralbumcoverMJ: Your new album, entitled ‘Shadowmaker’, was recorded in Nashville, TN; not somewhere you’d instantly recognise as a haven for Symphonic Rock bands. Why there?

PK: We went to Nashville just because of Mr Raskulinecz’s studio. We had a clear vision how we would want the album to sound and approach and our choice for producer was very obvious for us.

MJ: As you have mentioned, Nick Raskulinecz has produced the album. He’s previously worked with the likes of Rush, Alice In Chains, Evanescence, Mastodon and Foo Fighters to name but a few. What was it like working with him and his team?

PK: Nick is definitely one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever worked with in the business. He was able to help us find an entire new level for our group, in ways of playing as well as our thinking. This time we were better prepared for the recordings than ever, after months of rehearsing and pre-production, practicing and yet more arranging and jamming together. So, when it came to the final recordings, everything was clear. And Nick concentrated to achieve magical performances from all of us.

MJ: Can you share any instances that occurred in the studio where he got you to think differently about your approach, for example, to a certain section of work?

PK: He had a big impact in how we set out our arrangements. We discovered many cool progressive and brave solutions. In fact our motto for this recordings was “Be Brave”.

MJ: How soon into the recordings was it before you came to realise that you really had made the right choice with Nick as your producer?

PK: I think we all realised it already in pre-production, We had a strong vision for the album, but already from the start Nick encouraged us to follow our hearts and not to worry about anything else, like pressures from outside our band. So this time it is easy to say that the album is absolutely as we felt while composing, arranging and recording. Nick was able to set us on fire!

MJ: How would you describe the album?

PK: Shadowmaker is a strong journey, a story that brings you through various emotions. The album is somehow more serious, it is also totally a “band record”…we wanted to have just one voice, one vocalist, to bind all…better together.

MJ: You’ve already given us a taste of what’s to come by releasing a lyric video. Tell us about how the title track ‘Shadowmaker’ came about?

PK: The Shadowmaker song was so determined; one of the most powerful tracks we did that we wanted it to be album title as well. It is a cool example of the musical variety we have, from sweet vocal choruses to dark metal, pure cello sounds collapsing with horrific distortions. That pretty much sums up what it is to be “Apocalyptica”.

MJ: As on previous albums, you’ve chosen to work with other musicians. How did your collaboration with Franky Perez come about?

PK: We really wanted to concentrate on our band this time around and not to focus anymore with all the “featuring stuff” etc. We wanted to bring in a vocalist who is able to join us for all tours ahead; one guy to sing the album and perform with us ‘live’.

We had quite a big closed audition to find a person who would fit in perfectly. I have to say that we are more than happy having Franky, as besides him being an amazing vocalist, so versatile, handsome and stuff, he is also the nicest guy on earth.

Perttu on set of Cold Blood videoMJ: Which songs from the album will you look to play ‘live’ and do you have a personal favourite?

PK: Of course we’d like to play most of them, if not all ‘live’. I think the whole album is just so cool. As for a personal favourite; I have a close relation with ‘Dead Man’s Eyes’, and that will be so emotional to play ‘live’ as well. I feel like I sacrificed a part of my soul while composing those melodies and making them come alive!

MJ: We’ve come to the end of our chat. It’s clear to me listening to you that the recording of this album and the prospect of what lies ahead for Apocalyptica, has had a significant impact on both you and the rest of the band. I’m curious to learn, therefore, what have you taken from this experience?

PK: Personally, I once again found out few more tricks to play cello differently than I’ve ever done before. Some ultimately fast passages which felt impossible at the time [laughs].  This experience has made me love music even more. I am so excited for the band, for the release of Shadowmaker, all the forthcoming tours, my other musical projects and life in general!

You would have to be brain-dead not to have picked up on Perttu’s enthusiasm. He certainly left me in no doubt whatsoever that the band are a strong outfit. What they’ve seemingly accomplished with this new album is something more than just a great piece of work, of which they’re rightly proud…I sense it’s a new beginning.

The album ‘Shadowmaker’ is set for release in April 2015…and we can’t wait to hear it!

Want more Apocalyptica? Check out the following links: Official website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube

Cheers!

MJx

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