WEAK13 (from l-r): Neel Parmar (drums), Nick J. Townsend (vocals/guitar), Wesley Smith (bass)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
Midlands three-piece WEAK13 have been going for nearly twenty years now, but the success and praise they have worked so hard for has only come relatively recently.
Led by vocalist/guitarist Nick J. Townsend, a man with many talents, the band have a sound that is a real mix of grunge, punk and metal, drawn from a wide variety of influences.
Their recently released debut album ‘They Live’ has had nothing but rave reviews, with many noting its strength and depth musically and lyrically.
Therefore, it is little wonder that WEAK13 are seen as one of the biggest names on the British underground music scene.
However, they have refused to let all of this go to their head, with them heading straight back into the studio to put together their eagerly anticipated follow-up.
I chatted with Nick about their journey so far, their latest offering and what the future holds for the outfit.
How did the band get together initially?
WEAK13 was founded years ago, but it wasn’t until around 2010 that the current line up got together and began writing songs for what has now become our debut studio album ‘They Live’.
All of us have played in different bands over the years and I think as we all have so many influences to put on the table that its helped WEAK13 craft its own unique sound. The massive amount of praise and positive album reviews reflects this.
How did the band name come about?
There’s about a dozen interviews where I’ve explained this in great detail, but the bare bones of it is that we wanted the best band name and now we have it.
To somebody discovering your sound for the first time, how would you describe it to them?
Imagine a band that plays and records good rock songs, writes about stuff that you can relate to and doesn’t answer to a record company, isn’t fed with a silver spoon, works their nuts off to ensure you get good music videos to make you laugh or think outside the box. I guess that’s WEAK13.
If we’re talking music taste, then there’s something for people with a punk attitude who love solid metal guitar riffs cloaked in a commercial sound, we write about serious subjects that most can identify with, and we have a lot of fun at the expense of the psychopathic control freaks who run this planet.
What are the band’s musical influences?
If you enjoyed the guitar bands of the 1990s, then you’ll arguably love WEAK13 as the band grew up with Beavis & Butthead.
Bands like Soundgarden, Nirvana and Pearl Jam have had a massive influence musically but lyrically it’s a totally different ball game as we write about harsh reality.
WEAK13 songs can be inspired from anything we see as in the interest of the public. A theme for a new tune can be about something we come into direct contact with that we feel strongly about, a satirical opinion on a government decision that will harm millions, watching a Peekay Truth YouTube video, witnessing news media fabricating lies to the masses, the death of a loved one, hope for humanity – influences are all around you, but you have to be aware of your own strengths and embrace your original ideas.
What is your approach to songwriting?
Every WEAK13 song is a separate entity with a strong life force. We’ve never written the same song twice, why would you?
Songwriting to us is an art form and each song serves a purpose. For example, ‘Ashes In Autumn’ from the ‘They Live’ album focuses on loss but there’s a strong sense of happiness, hope and moving on forward conveyed in the lyrics; the song is almost like therapy for someone trying to cope with bereavement.
The tune narrative throws you into the depths of dealing with death, attempts to help release the pain you have bottled up inside you and then we hope musically gives the listener a sense of direction to move forward; making music that you can shape around a story such as that took a lot of time.
How we record in the studio is another process to assist the songwriting; when we were recording a set of vocals for ‘Ashes In Autumn’, I broke down in tears but continued to sing. We then recorded another take where I sang the same thing in a more happier and optimistic state; in the final mix both versions were used by the engineer John Stewart for key moments during the song and your heart strings tug in so many directions when you hear the lyrics. There are many layers of thought to a WEAK13 song.
Where does the inspiration come from for the band’s lyrics?
I think a good songwriter has to start with a subject before writing anything and when you’ve decided what you want to talk about in a song, then it’s a good call to do some research on it; that might sound boring to some, but you’ll trust the opinion more of someone who knows exactly what they’re talking about rather than somebody with a vague amount of knowledge of a subject and singing as if they have a dick in their mouth.
Now I know that a lot of mainstream rock bands have songwriters who do their dirty work for them and I think that’s why so many of them sound so uncompassionate on a record.
A voice is very telling; I don’t care how good a singer you think you are, but if you’re singing about being almost beaten to death, yet you’ve never even had anything like that happen to you, then in most instances, the listener will not hear a real sense of honesty or real passion and feeling in your voice.
Your vocals are like a unique fingerprint and you can often tell when a lyric sung by someone has a deeper backstory to it by the way the vocalist has expressed it.
Working with a good engineer in the recording studio is important too. When John Stewart worked on the ‘They Live’ album with us, we had someone else in the room to offer advice on how to get the best result from a performance.
‘They Live’, which was your debut album, came out recently. How’s the reaction been to it so far?
We knew we had a strong album, but once the reviews came pouring in, we couldn’t believe how well it’s been received. Reviewers have been so positive; they have said great things about WEAK13, so we know that for the next album we have to make them proud as we now have a strong reputation.
A lot of people are impressed that we also self-released and financed an album as professional sounding as ‘They Live’ and also the fact that we have not allowed it to be streamed.
People have to buy a physical album from the band website weak13official.com and it has surprised us how popular it’s becoming, it shows that fans love CDs still and they want all the lyrics and artwork, so we make sure they have it all.
What’s the band’s experience playing live?
We love playing live, because that’s how every band really begins and when you’ve written new songs, it is so wonderful to see how a crowd reacts to them.
We’re a damn good band live and we really appreciate all the opportunities we get to play with really cool musicians.
I think every band has weaknesses and strengths playing live, but we put on a good show and we always are privileged seeing others love what we do.
Recently, we’ve had a string of really great live shows and worked with a variety of different very skilled drummers live such as Sean Ty Dell and Justin James from the band Buzzard.
I think since recording an album, we’ve become a much stronger live band.
What have you got planned for the near future?
There’s a lot of big plans we have, but we take our time on our own terms when it comes to making anything public.
We are currently writing the second WEAK13 album and it’s sounding rather good to be honest; every time we write a new song that we’re all happy with, we compare it to songs from our debut, and we just know how happy it’s going to make the people who’ve enjoyed the ‘They Live’ album. When they hear the new record, they’re going to smile.
What is the band’s long-term aim?
I think it’s harder to answer that question with each year; we’ve already made so many impossibilities a reality, so anything is possible for us.
The band began in the gutter, but now we’re at a stage where credible music journalists are taking us very seriously.
I think the long-term aim is to be able to eventually look back at a long career in music, but keep moving forward regardless.
WEAK13 has grown so much in recent years, and we’ve no intention of slowing down.
WEAK13’S DEBUT ALBUM, ‘THEY LIVE’ IS AVAILABLE TO PURCHASE FROM THE BAND’S OFFICIAL WEBSITE weak13official.com
THEIR NEXT ALBUM WILL BE RELEASED AT A DATE TO BE CONFIRMED.
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