It’s not all sunshine and roses being a young musician in this day and age, juggling work, education and music all at once…it ain’t easy. Because of this, it was important for Firestone to make funding for recording a part of the prize for last year’s Firestone Battle of the Bands winners, Fire Fences. Based in Bridgend, Wales, Fire Fences decided on Northstone Studios, beautifully located within the Court Colman Manor, and conveniently ten minutes down the road from their homes.

The studio, which is a modern-vintage residential studio, was built by Welsh musician and producer Jayce Lewis, who, funnily enough used to be managed by David Prowse, the original DARTH VADER, so let’s just leave it with that – he had us at Darth Vader.

This is a such a beautiful studio, how did you find it?
We randomly came across it while looking for places to record and couldn’t believe how close it was to home, which is about ten minutes down the road, and it just had the most incredible sound! As we had a bit of money to play around with at the time, we decided to splurge out and give it a go. The first time we recorded here we got quite close with Jayce, who’s almost become some sort of mentor for us. He’s helped us a lot, and now that he knows the band and the music he’s really stepped up as an important figure for the band. It really means a lot to get that help and input from someone like him with where he’s at in his career. He’s done it all before, and wants to support us to be the best we can be, which is great! Finding a place like this and a guy like Jayce so close to home…we’ve been incredibly lucky.


As I sit back to observe the recording and producing process, I discover the love between Jayce and the band – no sugar coatin’ anything here, in the best possible way. He pushes them to be their best selves, and it’s clear that they’ve already built up a strong relationship. Meanwhile, the band all have different approaches to recording, communicating and playing, with James taking his time to think things through, explain things and do everything to perfection, while the other three will boil the kettle, drink tea, have naps and go for long walks on the beach while James will go into detail to answer all my questions. For example, why did the back of his drumsticks look like they had been chewed to pieces?

I haven’t chewed them, I played them the other way around. Ironically these are Buddy Rich sticks, and they got like that from playing a technique I learnt from watching Buddy Rich play. As a jazz drummer he would play using a traditional jazz grip, but when watching videos of him playing I noticed that when he went onto the floor tom, he’d quickly flip his sticks around for more power and force, which is a technique I ended up picking up on myself.

“Ya could have just given her the short answer ya know? “I play ‘em backwards for more power”…”

Luckily, writers love a long answer, as short ones make making journalistic pieces pretty hard.

How long have you got here to record?
We’re here for a full week, Monday to Friday, which is the longest we’ve ever been able to be in the studio for, so it’s allowed us a lot more time to experiment with drums and all that. We recorded our last EP here as well, but had to get it all done in three days strictly due to financial reasons. Luckily Firestone’s helped out a lot this time around, so we get to take our time to actually enjoy the recording process and experience, and not just rush right through it. We’re able to take our shoes off, put our feet up, and rip into each other. We got some tinnies for the day as well, a couple of Red Stripes to keep us hydrated. We’re all firm believers that hydration is key.

What can you tell us about the upcoming release and the foreseeable future?
We’re doing four songs this time around, two are already done and we’ve got two to go, and honestly, the two we’ve got down so far are too good to be ours. We’re so unbelievably excited for the release and to see what the future brings. Firestone’s helping out with the artwork as well which is great, and we’ve got some very exciting things coming up over the next couple of months. For example, Noel Gallagher’s playing Birmingham Arena May 1st, and we get to play in the foyer before the show on the Firestone Unsigned Stage, where everyone will be passing through to get inside the main venue – that’s 20,000 people, to most of which we’ll be completely unknown, such an amazing way of getting out there and reaching a new audience. The added media presence of this and playing on the same night as an act like Noel Gallagher is an honour, and will probably make a lot of people take us more seriously. Having Firestone and also Orange on our side really helps a lot as well, and we reckon we’re gonna get to do some great things with their help and support!

Photo courtesy of Fluffer Pit Parties.

You released your latest album ‘Near to the Wild Heart of Life’ in January, a record I find – not necessarily more tidy, but more polished than a lot of your previous stuff.
I feel like when we started the band we wanted to be one kind of band and make one style of music, and that’s kind of what we did. We’d write a certain kind of song, record it a certain kind of way, play a certain kind of show, and we did that for several years, two records and about 500 shows. I think by the time we finished that we were both older and had been doing it for a while, and we’d discovered new music and kind of just began to be interested in doing things a bit differently. We were looking for a way to keep the band going, but also to keep ourselves very excited and interested in it. It’s easy, when you find success with a certain sound or certain kind of song to continue to do that indefinitely. Most people are glad The Ramones or AC/DC never drastically changed their songs or style of playing, as they’re both bands that do what they do incredibly well, that you don’t want them to stray from that, then there’s other bands that are equally as great, where part of their greatness comes from them deciding to switch things up and explore sonic territory with different kinds of songs, and those bands wouldn’t be as great if they didn’t do that. David Bowie wouldn’t be who he was, if he continued making the same record for 40 years. There’s that adventurous and rebellious nature in making music that can lead to spectacular failures, but also spectacular success, and I think we kind of looked at ourselves and the band and decided that for the third record, we could be going into either of those directions, but we had been in the game long enough to feel comfortable taking that risk.

Things that never used to interest us we began to find very interesting, changing the way we write songs, how we record them – just experiment more. Try to break out of our comfort zones. It’s our third record but in many ways it feels like our first record all over again, because we kind of just decided to ignore our past and do whatever we thought felt good, sounded good and what we were interested in, and in that process there was a lot of learnings both good and bad, but I think that’s what kept it interesting for us. Now that we’ve got that one record where we’ve started drifting away from what we were doing before, now it’s ok to explore some more. We play in a two piece band, and when a lot of people think of two piece bands, I think they typically think of minimalism, that the songs and recording will be done in a very minimal manner, and I think we’ve always had that opposite attitude where we’ve always wanted to see how big we could make everything sound, even if it was just the two of us, and I think that’s where we’re at now, with how we record those songs now. We did the minimal and lo-fi thing for a while and it was great, but for us there was no more adventure left in that. We know how to do that, and there’s no risk.


“There’s that adventurous and rebellious nature in making music that can lead to spectacular failures, but also spectacular success, and I think we kind of looked at ourselves and the band and decided that for the third record, we could be going into either of those directions, but we had been in the game long enough to feel comfortable taking that risk.”
Brian King, Japandroids


With this album we knew that it would alienate some people who were really into the old records, but at the same time, most great artists alienate people along the way. That’s just what makes their careers as a whole so great, that they’re bold and adventurous artists, and that’s the sort of the company we want to be in. I think my point is, that we don’t want to be that sort of band where you can reduce our sound to one simple song or record. As I mentioned before with David Bowie, not that I’m comparing us to him in any way, but with him – you cant just play someone a song and say ‘this is David Bowie’, you have to play them at least twenty songs as he covered a lot of ground.

You mention exploring new musical territory – I know you recently played a show with At the Drive In, a band which sound is pretty different from yours, is that one of those newly found sounds or someone you’ve been listening to for a while?
At The Drive In is a band Dave and I was really into ages ago when they first were around, so to get to play with them was really cool as they were a band we’ve always looked up to and idolized. Even though our music is very different from theirs, we share a similar ideology behind the music and how we play it. Both bands go out on stage and try to perform as intensely as possible. Dave and I always go on stage and try to give everything we have to give, and those guys do the same thing, the difference is that there’s five of them, and when you have five guys giving their all to their instrument, and giving it as tight as those guys do, it’s pretty fucking spectacular. There’s some sort of release that goes on when they play, they physically let go and give their entire body to perform that song and that set, and that’s what we have in common with them.

Photo by Joao Machado via Fluffer Pit Parties

With you guys only being a two piece, there is a lot of pressure on you as a guitarist – what do you look for when selecting your amps, and what do you take into consideration?
When we first started playing together we had drums, one guitar and one amp and double microphones, very minimalistic, but that’s sort of all you really need. The White Stripes proved that you can be very minimal but still write great songs and put on a great show, and become one of the biggest bands i the world in their time, and that’s how we started. As I mentioned earlier though with us changing up our sound and what we do, we decided that instead of embracing that minimalism, we wanted to sound bigger than we really were capable of sounding. First, we added a second amp, and then a bass amp. After that, a third amp. What you start doing is creating this Frankenstein monster of amplifiers, and the idea is that each one is creating a different sound that on it’s own, necessarily isn’t anything special, but as a whole becomes something really big, really massive. Another thing we take into consideration is if the amps can actually survive to be an tour with us, as we treat our gear pretty rough. We’ve been using Orange cabs for quite some time now and they sure can take a beating.

In a few hours, you’re about to play one of the Fluffer Pit Parties, as show that’s set up completely different than a normal gig, with the stage and band in the middle of the room and the crowd 360, how is your approach to that?
99,99999% of the shows we play this year, we’ll be facing the crowd, so the fact that we have to re-think the way we set up, and the way we perform means that it wont be a typical show. There will be people here who’ve never seen us before and might not ever get the chance to do so ever again, so we’ll be trying to bring our ‘normal’ and proper Japandroids experience, then there’s people who might see us every time we’re in town, so we also want to give them a different experience than what they’ve seen from us in the past. We’re gonna set the amps up on the floor and have the stage pretty clear, which is very untypical for us as it’s normally pretty tight and we’re a bit boxed in, so I guess there will be a lot more room for me to spin around and play. Just given the set up and the fact that we’ve never actually played this way, I cant say how it’s going to go. I think it will very much be one of those ‘in the moment’ situations where you just get up there and get on with it and see where the vibe takes you and lay the land as you go along.

 


 

Photo by Bennett Raglin

You were very young when you started this band, how did it all come about, and how did you get into this kind of music in the first place?
We got into metal from hearing the background music in anime cartoons like Naruto, and in WWE. Jared was already playing drums at this point, and I had just started having guitar lessons, then Jarad just had the idea of starting a band.

Unlocking the Truth’s first claim to fame was playing in Times Square which gained you a lot of social media attention – who’s idea was it to take the band to the streets?
It was my parents’ idea to take us to Times Square, they knew we had talent and wanted to get us the best exposure, and what’s a better place than being in the center of Times Square with tourists from all around the world? People with cameras and phones taking pictures and recording? It just made sense.

You’ve got some incredible accomplishments for such a young age, is there anything in specific that pops to mind as a highlight, or a ‘pinch me’ moment?
Everything should have been “pinch-me” moment like performing at Coachella, Bonnaroo, opening for Manson, Motörhead, Living Colour and Metallica. I guess we were so young and didn’t know how big of a deal these things were. Now when I look back, I realize most people will never get to say things like they opened for these bands – and we have accomplished all that before high school. It’s really amazing to think about and it keeps me going.

You’ve also had a documentary ‘Breaking a Monster’ made about yourselves, how was the experience of having someone so up and close in your lives, and sharing it all with the world?
I had fun shooting the documentary. The cameras weren’t as personal as you might think. They were pretty much like flies on the wall and sometimes I forgot  they were even there.

Now to the reason we’re both here – Orange Amps! You’re an Orange ambassador, and we’re very excited to have you! What’s your history with the brand?
I’m very excited and proud to be an Orange Ambassador, it’s such a great brand! The first time I heard about Orange was in a tutorial video by Slipknot’s Jim Root, I loved the rawness of Orange, whether it’s the smooth clean or rich and but distorted tones. I also remember skyping Alex Auxier (Orange A&R) back in 2014, where he asked us a bunch of questions about which bands we liked and what sound we were going for to give him a better idea of what we really needed. The next thing I knew, these giant boxes arrived, including the Jim Root amp and speaker cab, and I just screamed! Later I graduated to the Dual Dark 100 and 4 x 12 cabs. My guitar sounded so real, everywhere I perform, I must have an Orange Amp.  It just sounds right – it sounds perfect!

You released your debut album ‘Chaos’ last year, and you recently independently released your single ‘My Chains’, can you tell us a bit about the song?
Yes, we independently released My Chains on August 29th.  This song came about while recording demos at home in my basement, it started out with the main riff and then I built the electronics, verses and chorus around that. After a few days of testing different song structures, we had a solid song idea which was enhanced once again by our producer, Kenta Yonesaka (Germano Studios NY). I love this song because it’s something new and a little different from the stuff we usually do, we’re finding our own sound and I think people can tell, so expect more change and growth from Unlocking The Truth, this is only the beginning.

With the release of this single we have to ask – can we expect a follow up to ‘Chaos’ in the next foreseeable future?
I don’t want to give away too much information as of yet because we are still planning, but we sure will have more music coming in the very near future, so stay tuned.

In three days, Prong’s due to release their 12th studio album “Zero Days”, which will be the fifth in five years, and I can assure you it’s pretty damn great. While in London, I had a quick chat to frontman and founder Tommy Victor before their headline set at Camden’s Underworld.

Now, I’m pretty sure I’ve heard you originally started out as a bassist, how does that influence and affect your style of playing, and maybe more than anything, your sound?
I used to think about it more, I’ve always been more of a rhythmic player and never focused on solos that much, although I’ve learned how to do them over the years. I think it might be a simplicity thing, I have a problem writing with guitar players as they seem to go in this tangent where all they want to to is shred, and I don’t fucking give a fuck, I just want to write a song, I’ve got a different mentality, I wanna write a riff, you know? Something that’s memorable. I don’t care how many guitar players are out there watching me do my thing, I’m not out there looking to impress anybody. I’d rather have a guy set his guitar on fire than to be there and sweep all over it, as that just doesn’t do anything for me. I appreciate their talent and it’s great, and it’s all god-given. I mean, you could practice for twenty years, like my older brother who still sucks at the guitar, he’s been playing forever and still can’t play a scale, then there’s me, his younger brother who barely ever practiced but somehow ended up in a band he’s managed to make a living from. I don’t take credit for any of this, it’s all god-given, the whole thing is.

…and I guess, maybe some practice…
Yeah, but being able to practice, is god-given.

Anyway, let’s talk Orange Amps!
I love the cabinets, man! They’re unbelivable, 4×12 is all I use and they sound amazing. Monte Pittman turned me onto them, he plays guitar for Madonna and used to play bass in Prong, and he told me to give them a go and they just sounded really good. Then Alex (Alex Auxier, Orange artists relations) hit me up and asked if I was keen to check out some amps, and I told him I really wanted a cabinet.


 

Brother-sister rock’n’roll duo White Mystery have been on a “forever” tour since 2008, and drop a new album every year on 4/20. Experience the glamor and horror of touring as Miss Alex White, Orange Amplifiers artist, with her Fireglo Rickenbacker 330 axe, Orange Rockerverb MKIII 50 watt head and super special 4×12 white Orange 117-pound cabinet. This “day-in-the life” features White Mystery on the road with fellow Chicago rockers Twin Peaks, and all-girl pop group Hinds from Spain.

Pre-order the new explicitly titled White Mystery album on iTunes here. https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/f-y-m-s/id1222107021

And on vinyl here. http://whitemysteryband.storenvy.com/collections/20071-all-products/products/19078981-vinyl-f-y-m-s

 

 

10am Wake up in Vancouver, British Columbia. Need shower.

11am Drink coffee at Fraser’s house. Talk about Legos with his niece.

12pm Wash off the filth. Put on the craziest clothes possible in preparation for crossing the border back into the USA.

1pm Go to Whatsup Dog hot dogs for breakfast. Cuz ya know, we’re from Chicago.

2pm Cross back into the USA, dressed as Captain America and Lady Uncle Sam. With a stroke of luck, I re-entered the United States the day my passport expires— April 10, 2017. Close call!!!

3pm Listen to Dwight Twilley and La Peste.

4pm Sit in Seattle traffic. Needless to say, it’s raining.

4:30pm Visit Solstice Cannabis to see how weed is grown. Check out the free smells!!! (Remember: It’s legal here kids!)

 

 

 

6:30pm Roll up to sold out Crocodile show in Seattle. Twin Peaks boys are on the sidewalk. Load in.

 

 

6:45pm Order spicy pepperoni & pineapple pizzas, plus cheeze bread and good ol’fashioned Coca Colas.

7:30pm There’s a line down the block that wraps around the corner of wet kiddos in the Seattle drizzle.

8pm Sound-check under 5 minutes. Venue staff is delighted. Just blast the Orange cab, share the Ludwig Vistalites with Hinds + TP, request slapback on vocals for the house, and amplify vocals only (and as loud as possible) in the monitors.

 

 

8:30pm People file into the room and rush to the barricade for front row spots.

9pm Rage through a 30 minute set of 13 songs. Sing the White Mystery “Birthday” song for Colin, keyboardist of Twin Peaks. The crowd bops into a frenzy.

 

 

9:30pm Run off the stage and sell merch. Tom Jenkot from Wizards of the Coast, who we met in Japan, delivers a booster box of Magic the Gathering cards for my brother Francis. We love gifts, thank you!

10pm Hinds from Madrid, Spain perform for their adoring fans!

11pm Twin Peaks turn up the audience. Crowd surfers!

11:30pm Sneak to the bar next door and sing karaoke. “Gimme Shelter” usually brings the house down.

11:45pm Sell White Mystery coffee by Metropolis to a dude named David who works at Starbucks corporate headquarters. Patent pending!

12am Twin Peaks encore with “Dead Flowers” by the Rolling Stones.

1am Party in the green room. Hang with my Seattle pals Johnny & Pete, plus my brother/bandmate/best friend Francis Scott Key White. Load out as a team.

1:15am Realize we are almost out of gas and squeak into a gas station.

1:25am After-party with Twin Peaks at rock’n’roll bar called the Screwdriver. Ran into a childhood friend and former bandmate from Chicago on the sidewalk in front of bar.

1:30am Rock AC/DC Pinball. Multiball and an extra game, though the bar closes before I can play the freebie.

1:45am Split ways with Fran, then walk across the street to the Ace Hotel to knock boots.

11am Wake up and eat hardboiled eggs + ice cream for breakfast.

 

 

John Lennon once said; “If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry’.”, and boy was he right –  Where does one even begin trying to pay homage to a man such as him? In the fifties, I guess. While in Chicago in May 1955, a young Berry met blues singer and guitarist Muddy Waters who suggested Berry to get in touch with Leonard Chess of Chess Records, which led to Berry later that month recording his own adaption of ‘Ida Red’ under the name ‘Maybellene’ selling over a million copies worldwide – and the rest is, as they say, history. With hits such as ‘You Never Can Tell’, ‘Johnny B Goode’ and ‘Rock and Roll Music’, Berry redefined rhythm and blues and added guitar solos, creating what we all know as rock ’n’ roll.

“[My mama] said, ‘You and Elvis are pretty good, but you’re no Chuck Berry.’”
— Jerry Lee Lewis

“Chuck Berry is a musical scientist who discovered a cure for the blues.”
— Anthony Kiedis, Red Hot Chili Peppers

“Of all the early breakthrough rock and roll artists, none is more important to the development of the music than Chuck Berry. He is its greatest songwriter, the main shaper of its instrumental voice, one of its greatest guitarists, and one of its greatest performers.”
— Cub Koda

With a career expanding over six decades, Berry inspired generations of musicians and not just opened doors for a new era of music, but kicked the whole god damn door down. The list of bands that wouldn’t be here today without Chuck Berry is absolutely endless – The Beatles? No way. Stones? Absolutely not, Keith Richards even said; «To me, Chuck Berry always was the epitome of rhythm and blues playing, rock and roll playing. It was beautiful, effortless, and his timing was perfection. He is rhythm supreme.»

Although we were all incredibly saddened to hear that Chuck left us last night, we are so grateful for everything he left us with – his legacy of rock ‘n’ roll and music that will live on forever – even in space. Rest in peace Berry, and thank you for the tunes!

How did you come up with the circuit?
It was during a night of terror. A lizard appeared and looked me right in the eyes. In his deep marble eyes I saw an amp next to an A4 pad of paper. He was a tiny terror. [Adrian wanted to design an amp that could “fit on an A4 pad of paper.”]

What’s the ethos behind the circuit?
Everybody wants to play a show and have a couple of beers without having to drive. The Tiny Terror allows you to do just that because you can easily carry it. Call up one of the other bands on the bill and ask if it’s cool to borrow their 4×12. Play the show with volume on 10, tone on 10, gain around 12 to 2 o’clock and get right into the output tubes. The guy you borrowed the 4×12 from has a 100 watt marshall with the pre-amp on 9 and the volume on 2 sounding like a dentist. Your cranked TT geetar sound is SOOO good that you attract the attention of some of the laydeez :) You wind up going to a party with them, still carrying your Tiny Terror and your geetar and your night suddenly gets even better :)

How does the circuit work?
Simply, it’s this, the first gang of the gain pot increases the gain of the first stage. The second gang of the gain pot increases the impedance of the second stage. This results in the signal pushing into the output tubes evenly all the way up. The phase inverters in a lot of amps is complete snollygoster. The one in the TT is perfect. The EL84s have the best distortion sound, the cathode biasing gives you more smerge swomp. This results in the pancakes being thick in treacle [molasses]. Thicker than the dude you borrowed the 4×12 off of.

Technical Director Adrian Emsley (Left) with Dr. Damon "I Wear Bike Shorts In The Winter" McCartney (Right)

Technical Director Adrian Emsley (Left) with
Dr. Damon “I Wear Bike Shorts In The Winter” McCartney (Right)

Interview by Dr. Damon McCartney