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Anthony outside Bristol’s Electric Ladyland

To just dive right in there and continue where I left it off at my last post; we left Bristol slightly later than expected, and after a quick pit stop at Electric Ladyland we set sail towards the land of Black Sabbath – Birmingham. A few hours of blasting Birmingham’s finest kings of darkness in the tour van, and we rolled up to the The Castle & Falcon, which apparently up to very recently, used to host mainly bands playing Irish music.

Support bands for the evening were local bands Luna & The Moonhounds and You Dirty Blue, and I’ll be honest with you – I missed out on pretty much both of their sets for the sole reason that we had a TV that could play youtube videos in the backstage area, and I choose to spend that time horizontal on the sofa while requesting live videos of Grand Funk Railroad – that Paul would refuse to play as he was already knee deep in old Captain Beyond. Fair enough.

All the way from Stoke-On-Trent band Psyence’s Jamie and Jamie had embarked on an hour long car journey to attend the gig, leaving one Jamie to indulge in all the booze while the other one had to soberly watch him do so. As Radio Moscow started playing, I had the pleasure of watching both of their reactions to their first ever Radio Moscow experience, and it was pure joy and excitement in their eyes;

«Radio Moscow. Hands down the best gig I have ever been to. The man is like Hendrix reincarnated!»
Jamie Bellingham, Psyence bassist.


Photo by JT Rhoades

When the night ended we packed up our stuff and headed to the swanky hotel we were meant to stay at, only to find out a mix up had been made and that there was no more rooms left. That was ok though, who wants soft, comfy beds at 1am anyway when you can be stranded in the rain instead? We headed back to The Castle & Falcon where they took us in with open arms and sorted us out in the cozy backstage area by re-stocking the fridge we’d previously emptied for beer, making sure we’d stay hydrated through out the night. At this point, we were all pretty much partied out, and Netflix seemed like a great idea. I broke out my brightly coloured green sleeping bag yet again as we all tuned in to watch Ozark, and it took me about 15 minutes before I crashed, burned and fell asleep on the floor.

Parker and Riley backstage at The Castle & Falcon

Photo by JT Rhoades

Last night was the third and final night with the Groundhogs, and I dare say it’s been the best night so far. There’s been a lot of speculations around Groundhogs touring without founding member and original frontman Tony McPhee, and to be fair, I wasn’t around to experience ‘em back in the day, but personally, I cant imagine them ever being any better than they are now with current frontman and lead guitarist Chris D’Avoine, who’s boosting as much charisma as he is talent.

As mentioned in my last post, there were rumours going that Radio Moscow guitarist Parker Griggs would join the Groundhogs on stage, and after having a sneak peak during soundcheck, I got even more excited for the show. Groundhogs played an impeccable set before being joined by Parker on stage for the final hurrah, ‘Cherry Red’, of their 1971 album ‘Split’, and just when you thought Groundhogs couldn’t be louder and more powerful – they did. Three guitars, extended solos and jamming galore. Damn, I almost needed a cigarette after that and I don’t even smoke.

Once everyone’d had some time to gather the pieces from their blown minds, it was yet again time for Radio Moscow to take the stage, and it pretty quickly dawned upon me that they’re either getting better and better every night, or that my brain just haven’t been evolved enough to wrap my head around their humongous musical talent, and is only becoming so now as I’ve been exposed to it over an extended period of time. I could go on about how good they are and draw insane comparisons, but let’s be honest, I’m with them for another day and I cant make ‘em too big for their boots just yet.


Photo by JT Rhoades

While sat in the backstage area after the show, I ended up chatting to Groundhogs drummer Ken Pustelnik who asked me if I’d heard the story about how himself and Parker originally met;

«It was a late night in Bristol when I saw these three long haired guys who looked totally out of place in an area they shouldn’t be wandering around in, so I walked up them and asked if they were alright, as they looked a bit lost; ‘Are you looking for the train station?’ ‘No, we’ve just played our first ever gigs over here in the UK, and we didn’t get paid. We’re struggling a bit as we can’t get back home to Iowa.’ So we ended up taking them back to ours, and I got them a few gigs, their first ever paid ones in Britain, and eventually they managed to make the money to get back to the states. Parker was about 17 at the time, and we’ve stayed in touch ever since.»

What are the odds – three seventeen year old broke musicians in a foreign country with no place to stay or way to get home gets approached by a guy who just happens to be Ken from the Groundhogs, someone kind enough to house them, and has the connections to get them paid gigs and back on their feet. What a guy!

As we left I pretty much crashed in the van while everyone else was ready to party it up at the house. When we arrived, it didn’t take long before Anthony fell asleep under the kitchen table – that guy can sleep pretty much anywhere and through anything, which is a skill I highly admire. I hung out for a bit, before retracting myself upstairs and into my borrowed brightly colored green sleeping bag around 3am, while listening in on something that sounded like Rage Against the Machine blasting out from the speakers downstairs. Five hours later, I wake up to find photographer JT stretched out on the floor, as Parker climbs into the other bed having been carried away in conversations about ‘life and music’ with drummer Paul until the light of day – which means heading to bed about two hours before we were meant to pack up and go at 10.30.

10.42am and still no sign of life…

Who are you, and what are you about? Can you give us the low-down?
My name is Shaun Cooper, I play bass in Taking Back Sunday. My parents introduced me to rock ’n’ roll music when I was a little kid, and I remember hearing The Beatles and I just connected immediately – hearing John Lennon’s voice was just like ‘Ok, I get this, and I really like it.’ My mum would always sing around the house and play a little bit of piano and my dad plays the accordion – you can’t really rock out with an accordion, although Dropkick Murphys figured out how to do. I guess people in my family were always into music and would play at least a little bit. I started playing bass when I was 12 years old, and I dont know what it was or why, but I just fell in love with it. I started using Orange exclusively three or four years ago and I’m currently using OBC810 and the AD200. At the time I had been trying out a few different things, and while on tour over here I was playing Orange and then my sound guy was like ‘come on man, you gotta make the switch, this sounds so good!’ So I talked to my manager and put in an order, and the rest is, as they say, history, and here we are now.

Ok – so that is pretty much the entire interview done…

It’s been nearly two decades since you originally joined the band, did you ever dream that it’d take you this far and that you’d still be going by now?
Sure, I always dreamt that, but I never had any idea that it could possibly happen. It seemed so far out of reach growing up. I assumed we’d maybe release one album, tour a bit over summer, then go back to school and then get a normal job, because that’s what people do. I never really had any hope that we’d make it a ‘thing’, as I didn’t know anyone that had actually made it or made a career out of it, but then again, here we are, as you said, nearly twenty years later, and we seem to be going strong. There’s been plenty of ups and downs, but we seem to be on a pretty good ‘up’ at the moment, and we’re just enjoying the ride. We all get along really well and have figured out how to interact with each other and to write better and better music as we progress as people, musicians and songwriters, and I’m very grateful that I’m able to be in this position.

When not touring, how do you guys work? Do you get together on a regular basis, or do you have intense sessions where you just ram it all out at once?
Mark and I live very close to each other, and so does John and Adam, so a few of us will get together and work like that. We’ll also email ideas around and set a time where we’ll all get in the studio and put those all those ideas together and work on new music. It seems to work out pretty well to do it like that, we’ve learned how to work well together and not waste time in the studio, something that’s become better with maturity and age – we’ve stopped dicking around.

You mentioned you started today by rolling into London half asleep, is that normally how you start your days when on the road?
Yeah that’s pretty much it, you get into town and the crew starts loading in the gear, I’ll roll out of bed and maybe go for a walk around town, get a coffee, get the lay of the lands, see where we’re at – that sort of stuff. I normally call home as well, I’ve got two little kids so FaceTime and all this technology is making touring so much easier as I get to see their little faces. Besides that it’s mostly about getting ready for the show, playing is always the best part of the day and what we gear up for. In the States we normally do two hour long sets, the UK and European ones tend to be a bit shorter but still intense and full on, so after the shows you try to rest, relax and recover for the next day. We love playing, so we’re very fortunate we’re still able to do so!

Photo by Ella Stormark

You recently released your eight studio album, and I’ve noticed a pattern where you release a new record every other year – can you run us through the process and cycle of recording, releasing and touring?
Well, you basically said it, that’s kind of how Every Time I Die work. You write for a few months, you record for a month, month and a half, release the record and then tour two, two and a half years on it non stop, that’s the formula the band’s been following for the last eighteen years. Our fans pretty much expect a new record every two to three years, followed by touring Europe, Australia and America. We feel pretty fortunate to still be able to do that and that we still have people coming to our shows and buying the records.

You’re notoriously known for your intense and insane live performances, so after eighteen years of touring excessively for two years at a time, are you not absolutely, unbelievably exhausted?
Oh, we are! Don’t let anyone fool you, we’re not getting any younger either. That said, I think we kind of just know what we need to do to mentally prepare and get in the zone. Years ago it was easy to get wasted every day, wake up and not feel any effect, but now that shit’s just out the window. I know Keith took the summer of drinking, and our drummer took the entire year off. If I drink I need to have a day off after. We cant do what we were doing before, I think we’re focusing all our energy on that one hour on stage, the you’ve got 23 hours to decompress and get back into the mind frame of playing live. We’re not the kinda band that just gets up there and picks up a guitar, you know? There’s a lot of energy between the crowd and us. I think it’s very much a mental thing, and then we do keep the partying to a minimum these days.

Photo by Ella Stormark

So you’ve got 23 hours of build up between shows, how do you spend that time?
We all kind of know how to stand out of each others hair and just do our own thing – Jordan’s really into drawing and his artwork so he will be off doing that, Keith’s got his book stuff so he’s constantly writing, I’ll listen to some podcast or just goof around online, and Andy’s into working out as he’s got his wrestling and things, so we’ve all just got our own thing that keeps us busy. A couple of hours before the show we just get into this routine where a couple of people will have a drink or two to take the edge of, and I’ve got my stretching routine… It’s really not as crazy as you think it would be – we’ve got our own ways to unwind and get in the zone, and that’s about it, nothing too crazy.

I think a lot of people expect you guys to act like savages at all times…
Yeah, it’s hard to live down some of those young kids in the DVDs setting their hair on fire and stuff like that, but that portraits the band in a completely different era. It’s still there though for everyone to see, so people will watch it and almost be like ‘dude why isn’t your hair on fire?’ when we meet, and then I’m just ‘Weeell, it’s been 12 years, and we’ve got a long drive tomorrow, so…’ It’s kind of funny how we’re always gonna be perceived as that crazy band, and in some aspects we still are, but it’s not as intense and 1000 miles per hour as it was back then. We’l have kids approaching us like ‘Yeeeah, do some shots!’, and all you can think is ‘Oh, no.. My back hurts, my shoulders are killing me..’ We tend to focus the craziness on the shows and performance, and all that extra curriculum? I don’t want to let you down, but we’re old men. We’re trying to keep up, but we’ll be in walkers pretty soon.

Photo by Ella Stormark

Except for the obvious punk / hardcore sound to your music, I pick up on elements from various genres such as stoner rock, and even blues. What kind of music got you into playing in the first place?
Every single person in this band would have a completely different answer. I know my parents, and Keith and Jordan’s parents loved The Beatles, Andy’s parents loved The Who, so you had all these influences around you. I started going to shows in the early nineties just as we got MTV, so you had stuff liken Headbanger’s Ball and all this music would blow me away, bands such as Nirvana, Rage Against The Machine, Rancid and Green Day. Then you’d start looking at the back catalogue to all these bands’ records labels and that way come across even more bands you liked. We’re all huge Zeppelin and Sabbath fans, so there is a lot of different influences that contributes to what this band have become today. When we started, bands like Converge and Dillinger Escape Plan were the kind of bands that we’d go see and be blown away by, that’s what we wanted to do. If we could ever play a show and kids were going that crazy to our music? That was the goal when this band started, those guys were our heroes. As far as our songwriting’s come today, that’s just the evolution of all kinds of genres blended together. Our newest record got a bit more of a rock vibe as Keith’s got a lot more actual singing, but we’re not gonna lose that crazy, hardcore sound.

Photo by Ella stormark

So obviously, you play Orange Amps – do you remember your first ever encounter with the brand?
You know, that’s a really good question, and the first thought I have now that you’ve brought that up… I think there was a Weezer video in 1994 or 1995, it might have been ‘Say it ain’t so’, and they were in someone’s living room or house, and I think one of the guitarists were playing through an Orange, and all I remember seeing when I was growing up was Marshall amps and stuff like that, so this Orange one looked so cool as it stood right out. I’m gonna have to look this up though as soon as this interview’s over, and if I’m wrong, well, I’m sorry.

I don’t think I plugged into an Orange bass wise, myself, until about four years ago. I’m not a big bells and whistles kind of guy, I like the easy to use, set it and forget it kinda stuff. It’s consistent, and I know what I’ll get out of it every time I turn it on, so that’s what I love about it.

What’s your set up for tonight?
I run two rigs, on stage left I have an AD200 bass head with 8×10 cabs, and on stage right I have the bass terror through 8×10 cabs. That’s my ‘England set up’, back home I just recently got the OB1500, and that sounds great too! It’s basically like the bass terror, but with this extra little boost on it that I really like, it’s kind of got this ability for the highs to come through a little bit better, without taking away from the lows and I really need that playing with Every Time I Die as Andy and Jordan’s guitars are so loud it’s like being at an airport and you’re surrounded by jet engines. I gotta be able to cut through and keep up with the guitars.

Photo by Ella Stormark

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During the first night of their two sold out co-headline shows at London’s Boston Music Room, I caught up with Black Peak’s Andrew Gosden and HECK’s Matt Reynolds to find out how life on the road is, and how it is sharing the spotlight. But more importantly, what their weapon of choice would be during a potential zombie apocalypse.

How is it being on a co-headliner tour compared to touring on your own?
Andrew: This tour has been great so far. It’s really interesting and exciting playing a co-headliner, you get the opportunity to play in front of people who may not necessarily buy tickets to see you, a bit like playing at a festival. It feels like the audiences have been open and accepting of both bands. I think it is a great mix of music with something for everyone. You can have a sing and rock out to our songs, and also experience the pure insanity and awesomeness of HECK!
Matt: At the very start of the tour I imagined it was  going to be incredibly nerve wracking going up against Black Peaks every night. They’re such an enormous sounding live band that it was a daunting prospect. After a few days of the tour that all faded away, although we’re both very different bands it became very evident quite quickly that we play off each other very well, both of our fan bases have come together in a wonderful way too. Having four guys that we now consider our brothers in Black Peaks side stage every night only spurs us on and feeds our appetite for carnage. I’ve been in the pit for Peaks nearly every night… Having said that, that bass guy, Guss or something I think they call him, he’s a bit of a prick.

Where did the idea of the tour come from?
Matt:
We made friends over the festival season, both Black Peaks and us were playing a lot of the same stages and I guess subliminally it just made us want to recreate that dynamic between us on a tour. It just seems to make sense, it’s like kicking an audiences ass in two very different ways every night.
Andrew: The idea of doing this co-headliner had been floating around for a while. As soon as the opportunity to play with HECK became a reality we jumped at it. We are all huge fans of the band and thought it would be great fun. They are such lovely guys!

You’re both in pretty heavy bands, is there any bands or artists you’ve been influenced by that plays music completely different to the one you play yourself?
Andrew: I listen to such a varied mix of music that I guess even subconsciously I will be taking influence from so many different genres. I am a huge fan of 70’s prog rock. Bands such as Yes, Gentle Giant, King Crimson, Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull are in constant rotation on my iPod. I am also a huge fan of bands like Autolux, Young Widows and Bjork who are very different to the music we play.
Matt: LOADS! Our van playlists are pretty much entirely made up of wonderful, luscious, over-produced pop, Steely Dan and Hall and Oates are particular favourites. Our van is chock packed full to the rafters with wall-to-wall bangers! Influences wise I’ve always listened to tonnes of blues music too, which has definitely shaped the way I write and play

Any guilty pleasures?
Andrew: I own a copy of Madonnas ‘like a virgin’ record. It’s such a great album. I guess that can be classed as a guilty pleasure..
Matt: I’d argue to the death that You’re the Voice by John Farnham is the greatest song ever written. It’s also unfollowable, there’s not a track in the world that can be played after that doesn’t then sound flat and lifeless. Robbie has been creeping in an awful lot recently too, the cheeky badger.

How does a day in the life of HECK and Black Peaks on the road look like?
Andrew: At the beginning of the tour it started off quite civilised. Now it has descended into a torrent of passive aggressive abuse and sarcastic banter.
Matt: Toil and bedlam. With a pub lunch at Weatherspoons for an hour at about 6pm-ish.

Do you remember your first ever encounter with Orange, whether it was seeing it or playing it yourself?
Matt:
I just remember seeing them on stages and in videos as a kid and thinking that they were just so damn cool and iconic. All of the coolest bands seemed to use them, it was only a matter of time until I took the plunge and got one too, I’ve played through nothing else since. When I was old enough to have a full-time job I spent my entire first month’s wages on a Rocker 30 and 2×12. I bunged it in my tiny box of a bedroom and used to give the neighbours and my ear drums hell, it was really dumb and definitely too big for my bedroom, the door couldn’t even open fully with it in there, I just had to kind of side step my way through. But I loved it and I’ve not looked back since!
Andrew: The first time I really noticed Orange amps was when I saw Converge for the first time. That iconic look and sound gripped me and I knew they were the amps I wanted to use from then on.

What do you look for in an amp?
Andrew: Something that sounds great is simple to use and reliable.
Matt:  Yeah, something that sounds huge and can withstand the horror that I throw at it! With Orange it’s all about crushing bottom end and unashamed ballsyness.

What’s your current set up, amps and pedals?
Andrew: I am currently using my AD200 and a Thunderverb 50, each running through an Orange 4×10 cab. I run the AD200 relatively clean and have the Thunderverb running really dirty. I am using the Orange amp detonator to split my signal between the 2 amps. I have the AD200 running all the time and kick in the Thunderverb for heavy sections and parts where Joe is soloing or playing lead lines.
Matt: I currently use a Thunderverb 200 (the greatest and most ridiculous guitar amp ever made) through a 2×12 and 4×12 loaded with V30s. I have a fairly simple pedalboard, but some absolutely choice little bits of wizardry on there. My favourite of which is my original Russian big muff, built like a tank and flattens like a steamroller. I couple it with a Electro-Harmonix Octave Multiplexer to achieve some ridiculously gnarly square-waved sub bass madness. I also use a EHX pitchfork and a Disaster Transport modulated delay by Earthquaker for gentler moments.

It’s the zombie apocalypse – choose your weapon of choice and explain your reasoning.
Andrew: It depends what kind of zombies we are talking about?! I think I would have to go for a crossbow. You don’t have to worry too much about ammo running out as you can reuse the arrows, you can pick them off at a safe distance and use it as a melee weapon up close. I’d like to think I’d be a badass like Darryl from The Walking Dead. In reality I don’t think I’d last too long……
Matt: I’m going with (Dillinger Escape Plan’s) Greg Puciato’s eternally punching arms. I’m not sure exactly how that would work, I guess I’d just attach them to my chest and let them punch away. They’re like a horse’s legs with hammers attached. I can just imagine them relentlessly punching away reducing zombies to rubble. No one would fuck with a guy with hammer-horse-legged arms sticking out of his chest. I’d shit ’em.