BLACK STAR BULLET – The Rigger, Newcastle-under-Lyme, 07/01/2017

SUPPORT: Jesse’s Divide, Infinity



The Rigger, a rock venue on the outskirts of Newcastle-under-Lyme, played host to three bands who were the perfect cure for the January blues.

Being the first full weekend of 2017 and after the festivities of Christmas and New Year, it would have been understandable if the attendance had been sparser than usual, but I saw absolutely no evidence of this, with a sizable audience, a real mix of young and more seasoned rockers, packing into the intimate space.

Local outfits Jesse’s Divide and Infinity were the best possible warm-ups, both playing a big, crowd pleasing sound, led by two frontmen who were naturals in this position, showing much confidence with their rallying of the patrons, but crucially, not letting themselves overshadow the music.

Infinity were great as always, they seem to have really grown as a band since I first saw them last year, with the whole group on top form, playing well their style of melodic hard rock.

Jesse’s Divide were an outfit who showed total concentration, perfecting their blend of progressive metal and alternative rock, containing some brilliant guitar solos.

However, this did not stop them from having fun, with vocalist/guitarist Simon Ward interacting freely with the audience, even throwing in some free custard doughnuts for them to enjoy.

Therefore, it must have been quite a job for Coventry headliners Black Star Bullet to top all that, but they rose to the challenge and easily succeeded, wowing the crowd with a set consisting mainly of good old fashioned, no frills heavy rock, which was of no doubt of high and wide appeal.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable evening watching three Midlands bands who vary in experience, but all have these important common factors: they definitely know how to play to an audience, and are all of immense talent.
















The American state of Tennessee is perhaps better known for giving the world Elvis Presley and being the home of country music than for its heavy rock bands, but five-piece Divided We Stand are determined to change that.

Since their formation six years ago, the Knoxville outfit have worked hard at crafting a high quality sound that is an infectious blend of rock, metal, groove and folk.

With this, they have gained a devoted following in the States, appealing to proper music lovers who want a refreshing antidote to the shallow, autotuned pop that is out there currently.

I spoke to them as they were putting together their eagerly anticipated EP, due for release later this year.

How did the band get together initially?

It started out with Mike Russell (drums), Phil Zimny (guitar) and Trevor Tucker (guitar) jamming out and writing songs.

Later, they added Randy Krouse (bass) after a random try out. Joe Turner was just hanging out with the band one night and asked to play a song for us. To our surprise, he had a golden voice and we quickly added him to the band.

After Trevor left to pursue other ventures, we had a few guitarists come and go on until we found Jake Wilson. He was in other bands that we had played shows with and he caught our attention with his strong stage presence.

How did the band name come about?

We have such different views and ideals in politics, religion, and just about everything.

While we were in the first phases of our band, we had so many different ideas of what direction to go in. Someone said “Don’t be so divided” and the name dawned on us, ‘Divided We Stand’.

To somebody discovering your sound for the first time, how would you describe it to them?

We listen to a wide range of music but we never try to take from other artists. We try to play whatever direction our emotions lead us. Some of our favorite bands include but not limited to are Avenged Sevenfold, U2, Ghost, Fear Factory, Poison The Well, All That Remains, Deftones, the list could go on for days!

What is the band’s approach to songwriting?

We try to listen to our emotions and reflect them in our music. We want to make music that can unite individuals who would otherwise remain separated.

Music has moved toward a digital sound but when you programme music instead of playing your instruments, you lose the emotion that made the music great before. We want to stay true in our song writing by playing our instruments in the studio and by not auto tuning our vocals.

Live, we actually play our instruments and sing instead of lip synching, which most mainstream music does now. They auto tune and programme their tracks because they can’t really sing and play.

Where does the inspiration come from for your lyrics?

Each song has a different message but all have a poignant life lesson. We write about the unmitigated truths about being alive. We try to come up with a simple singular idea to start off with. It helps set the tone for the whole process, and gives a default  emotion to build each instrument around.

As the song takes shape, the lyrics start to form. First, we come up with melodies and one liners, then more poignant phrases and hooks come into play. Sometimes, one of the writers already has some riffs or some poetry to set the pace. Sometimes, it’s just a statement we want to reflect though our music. We try to follow our emotions during the writing process.

Last year, the band released a single. How did it go for you?

We recorded at the award-winning Spider Studios in Ohio, and we released it with a theatrical music video and distributed it on Spotify, iTunes, and more.

We learned a lot and found some new allies for promotion and distributions this time around and really boosted our stats for 2016.

We hope to grow even more in 2017 with the edition of some new ideas, opportunities, and friends.

You have an EP coming out soon. How is that going?

We’ve had these songs for a while and had plans to record them a few years ago, but we had issues with keeping a second guitar player and went in a different direction.

Now that the role is filled, we revisited these songs and sent the tracks to a producer in Mexico, who is in the process of mixing and mastering our tracks for the songs ‘Baptism By Fire’ and ‘Shred The Memory’, which will make up our next EP.

What is the band’s experiences of playing live?

There is nothing like playing music for people who love music. You get to satisfy a need by expressing your artist emotions. Being on stage is exhilarating, there is so more energy being exuded, especially if the crowd is into your music, it’s like you feed off of their reactions.

Before and after the show, meeting people and making friends is very rewarding, and those people are the reason any musician gets to play a show in the first place. If you’re out on the road, you have to make friends, as those are the people who come back to see you when you come back through their area. Trying new food and beer is a great perk of playing shows.

Getting to hear new music from other artists from different places and backgrounds is very awesome. We live, support, and grow up in our music scenes and for us, it is very special to be able to become a part of so many different ones.

What have you got lined up in the near future?

We actually have a pretty busy year ahead of us. We will be releasing a new EP soon and we will be recording a video for our lead track.

We have a tour booked for March, and we might also be going to Mexico for a few shows and recording later on in the year.

What is the band’s long-term aim?

We want to further ourselves as musicians, and we want to be able to keep expanding our brand.

We plan on playing 75+ shows a year and touring in different regions of the United States and even start to venture into other countries like Canada and Mexico.

We plan on releasing a few small EPs a year or one full album, and we will make cool music videos for our main singles.

We will also make merchandise for each tour and/or music releases, promote and distribute our brand and keep pushing forward.

Music is our lives and we don’t plan on quitting anytime soon.


















ARCADIA (from l-r): Josh Holmes (bass), Jake Ferchal (lead guitar), James Whitehurst (drums), Seb Clarke (vocals/rhythm guitar)


Arcadia (not to be confused with the 1980’s Duran Duran side project) are an indie/alternative four-piece from Stoke-on-Trent.

The outfit has experienced a lot of comings and goings in the two years they have been together, but now with frontman Seb Clarke and bassist Josh Holmes on board, they have some much needed stability.

With this, they seem sure to build on the strong foundations they have already laid with their sublime live performances and latest EP ‘Canopy’, which has received rave reviews and been nominated for a local music award.

I spoke to them just before Christmas, backstage at their gig in Hanley.

How did the band get together initially?

The band initially started in January 2015 under a different name, Jake and James were two of the founding members, and other members have come and gone since, we’ve been together as Arcadia since October 2015.

How did the name Arcadia come about?

We think it was something to do with James, he just suggested it one day and that was that!

How would you describe your sound?

A mishmash of all our different influences, a sort of grungey, upbeat dancing feeling.

What are the band’s musical influences?

Mainly small indie bands around today, such as Peace, JAWS, Sundara Karma and The 1975 to a certain extent. There are also some influences from bigger bands of course, but not as obvious as the others.

What is the inspiration behind your lyrics?

We think the lyrics mainly describe life experiences from the members of the band, whether that be relationships, family issues or just going out and getting leathered!

The band are all from Stoke-on-Trent. What is your opinion of the music scene there currently?

Stoke-on-Trent has one of the most up and coming music scenes around, there is everything from indie to heavy metal, rap to country and everything in between, and it’s great to see so much diversity from a small city such as ours.

Your EP ‘Canopy’ came out a few months back. How was it recording it?

Recording ‘Canopy’ was a brilliant experience for all of us and we thoroughly enjoyed it, it was something we would recommend anybody to do, It’s so freeing to get your music recorded and out there for people to hear.

How has the reaction been so far?

The initial reaction blew us away, we couldn’t believe how many people said they liked or loved it, they even asked us when there would be more, it has died down a bit now obviously but we’re still proud of it.

How is it playing live?

Playing live is our favourite thing to do, as we imagine it is for most bands, the feeling you get when people are dancing to your songs and singing your lyrics back to you is almost euphoric, and we’d do it every day if we could.

Anything planned for the near future at all?

Well, we’re currently working on our tour, which will be in mid February, we’re also planning to write new material and gearing up for the Music Awards of Staffordshire and Cheshire next month.

What is the band’s long-term aim?

We’d say the same as any independent local band, to be recognised as a hard working group of musicians and playing our music to thousands.



















HEART AVAIL – ‘Heart Avail’ (4/5)




‘Heart Avail’ is the self-titled debut release from the Washington symphonic rock four-piece.

In a recent interview I conducted with the band, vocalist Aleisha Simpson told me that recording the EP had “acted as a sort of therapy session” for her, and this can easily be heard.

With lyrics that are frank and personal, dealing with an overall sensitive theme of the loss of loved ones, Simpson pours her heart out with an emotional, melodic vocal delivery, which at times, resembles that of Evanescence frontwoman Amy Lee.

The vocals are just one of the highlights of an offering that has clearly been crafted with much love.

The heavy but catchy guitar riffery also plays an important role in the make-up of the sound, with strong solos, courtesy of guitarist Greg Hanson, featuring throughout, also acting as a bookend to each of the five tracks.

Every song has been well put together, substantial in both length and depth, and it seems that the outfit have recorded these with one eye on how they would go down at a live show.

An example of this is the seven minute epic ‘Always’, which for almost the first two minutes, contains a haunting Fields of the Nephilim-style instrumental.

With this robust debut, it will be interesting to see how Heart Avail, who should appeal to fans of bands such as Evanescence and Nightwish, will go from here.

Hopefully, in time, they will scale the same heights of the two outfits just mentioned.

TOP TRACK: ‘Always’














Jupiter’s Beard are a four-piece from Stoke-on-Trent, comprising of vocalist/guitarist Spencer Arnold, lead guitarist Adam Knipe, bassist Luke Brown and drummer Simon Lowe.

Having only formed in late 2015, the fledging outfit have already made an impact on their local music scene, with a sound that is unique and diverse, influenced by such bands as The Beatles, The Stone Roses and Stereophonics.

With an eagerly anticipated debut EP, ’10:33′, out later this month, I chatted with them, discussing such things as their approach to songwriting, and what we can expect from their forthcoming offering.

How did the band get together initially?

Jupiter’s Beard started off in late 2015, when our singer/guitarist Spencer, and drummer Simon started jamming classic rock tunes in their garages, such as ‘Back in Black’, ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ etc…

With both of them taking music as a subject at school, the two of them spent most music lessons jamming out Beatles songs such as ‘Lady Madonna’ together in a tiny practice room, with nothing but a piano and an old drum kit. Having also taken music, lead guitarist Adam and bassist Luke filled the empty roles and joined them.

We then weren’t officially a band for another month until our music teacher suggested we played ‘Lady Madonna’ at the school’s Christmas concert after hearing us play it through.

We didn’t then have a gig for seven months, when at last, we had our first proper gig at The Exchange in Hanley last July, where we supported fellow local band ALMA.

In those seven months before the first gig, nothing really happened, we were trying to develop as songwriters and experimenting, trying to find our sound. We have only been a gigging band for five months.

How did the name Jupiter’s Beard come about?

Originally, we were stuck with naming the band. After weeks on end of trying to decide, we decided on the name ‘Nebula’, but then we realised there was another band with that name, so we were back to square one.

A few days later, Simon suggested the name ‘Jupiter’s Beard’. We all agreed that the name was the best of a bad situation. Although at first we all disliked the name, it has definitely grown on us, we’ve found that its originality has been helpful. It is also the name of a flower, and has other meanings attached to it.

How would you describe your sound?

We have a unique energetic sound, consisting of classic rock elements with punk/pop rhythms with indie, melodic vocals. Being a four-piece band, the texture is not too thick, resulting in easy listening without being excessively heavy.

What are the band’s musical influences?

Our musical influences, of course start off with The Beatles. We (especially Spencer and Simon) love them, and we try to incorporate catchy melodies into our songs, like they did.

Other influences include bands such as The Stone Roses. You can especially hear their influence in our song ‘Amy’, which will be on our forthcoming EP.

Oasis are another big influence on us, as their songs are just so catchy, simple and easy to listen to, but still carry that rock ‘n’ roll vibe, with distorted guitars.

We think this is important, as we want people to remember our songs after a first listen, and make sure they find it easy to listen and sing along to.

On the song ‘Stand Around’, you can hear a slight influence of Stereophonics, especially in the verses.

What is your approach to songwriting?

Our approach and our quality of song writing has definitely improved over the last few months. Compared to the songs we were coming out with before any of our gigs, in the first few months of the band, which were down right awful, we think we’ve made a massive leap.

Our songwriting approach differs every time we write. We don’t have a set formula. Like when Spencer and Simon say, “Right, we are going to sit down and write a song”, it is never any good, because it is forced.

The song ‘Prevail’, which is about leaving your home, came about when Adam came into the room and said, “Hey, listen to this”. He then played the main riff to the song. Adam is always good at that, he comes up with some wicked riffs that just sound amazing and fit perfectly.

Spencer then wrote the lyrics and put some chords to the chorus, which fitted around Adam’s riff. We then jammed it out, and Simon always comes up with a different idea on the drums. Actually, the intro of the song was his idea. Without him, the songs would all sound the same.

The song ‘Electrified’ was written in a French lesson (better than doing French though), and it’s about feeling on top of the world and going up your own road, not following anyone else. The song is different to the rest of the upbeat songs, as it is much slower and has a ballad-like feel to it.

We all pitch in musically, each adding our own take on the song with Spencer writing the vocal parts and lyrics.

However, some of our unrecorded songs such as our very first original, ‘Gettin’ Old’, was written by Simon. Also, Luke wrote one of them, which we called ‘Luke’s Song’, because we had no idea what to call it. It always gets a good reaction when we play that live.

Your debut EP, ’10:33′, is coming out later this month. How has the recording process been?

It’s been really fun rehearsing for it! We haven’t actually recorded it yet, we are recording this weekend.

We are recording the EP live to capture the energy of our live performances, layering the vocals over the live instruments afterwards. We’ve really enjoyed ourselves preparing for it, and we’re sure we’ll enjoy recording it all.

What can we expect from ’10:33′?

’10:33′ will be a four track recording, with songs ranging from a slow ballad-like track, using clean guitar sounds, to one that is more fast-paced rock.

One of our oldest songs, ‘Amy’, will make an appearance halfway through the EP, people who have come to our gigs will recognise its distinctive sound and massive chorus.

We also have two new songs, ‘Prevail’ and ‘Electrified’. On ‘Prevail’, we have taken a more rock-influenced route, making it fast-paced with its memorable riff.

We have a wide range of tracks on our EP, this will make it more appealing to a wider audience, having something for everyone on it.

You’re all from Stoke-on-Trent. What is the band’s opinion of the music scene there currently?

The music scene around Stoke, in our opinions, is one of the most underrated scenes in the country. It’s thriving at the moment, with lots of unrecognised talent, ranging from brilliant bands and great solo artists.

The three main venues we have played in Hanley are The Sugarmill, The Underground (where our first headliner will be on January 27th), and The Exchange, which have all always been packed with people supporting and listening to the up-and-coming acts.

Without the people that come to watch, none of these bands would be able to perform, and we are extremely grateful to everyone that has come to watch us up to now.

What is the band’s experience of playing live?

We enjoy playing live very much! Obviously, there are good gigs and bad gigs, but considering our first one was only five months ago, we think in that time, we have improved a significant amount.

We always seem to know if a gig is a good one to us personally, if we know we sound good and see everyone having a great time. It’s always great looking out and seeing people enjoying themselves.

However, it’s all about consistency; we believe we should sound the same and have the same attitude, whether we are playing to ten people or a thousand.

Along with the EP, what else have you got lined up in the near future?

We obviously have our headline gig coming up on January 27th at The Underground in Hanley, and ’10:33′ will be released on the 20th, but after that, we want to get out of the Stoke scene, still headline there occasionally, but move to places such as Birmingham to get a bigger audience and try something new. We would like to hope that the people outside of Stoke-on-Trent like our sound as much as the locals.

What is the band’s long-term aim?

We have the same view on our long-term aim, which is to get as much recognition as possible, to hopefully one day secure a record deal, and for people to just enjoy listening to us, and we want them to enjoy the live shows as much as we do.



























WEAK13 (from l-r): Neel Parmar (drums), Nick J. Townsend (vocals/guitar), Wesley Smith (bass)


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 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.