ALTER EDEN (from l-r): Alex Coleman (guitar), Aled Roberts (bass), Nick Pilgrim (vocals), Simon Whitney (drums)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
Alter Eden are an alternative rock/metal four-piece from Stoke-on-Trent.
Two years ago, the band burst onto the scene with their well-received debut ‘Fearless’, which showcased a sound that was heavy, fast-paced and spanned the sub-genres of metal.
Earlier this year, they returned with their second offering ‘Tigers and Lambs’, which saw them make a real step up, both musically and lyrically.
The Potteries quartet have also built up a loyal and ever expanding following, with their electric live shows and active presence on social media.
Before they played a set at the Your City festival in their home city over the Easter weekend, I chatted with them in-depth about all this and more.
How did the band get together initially?
NICK PILGRIM (vocals): That’s a long story, so we’ll give you the abridged version. Me and Alex, years ago, got drunk in a field, and we decided we wanted to do a musical project together.
First, we did it as a little side project, where we also did a small EP, but then, we left it for a couple of years while we did other projects.
A few years later, we decided to give it another go when our other bands had dissolved. We tracked down Simon, and we took it from there.
How did the name Alter Eden come about?
ALEX COLEMAN (guitar): The name came to me in a dream once. I woke up from it, and the only thing I could literally remember was the name Alter Eden. I knew it meant something, but I wasn’t quite sure what. I then put it as my MSN Messenger screen name… (The rest of the band laugh)…because obviously, that’s what you do with really important things.
In my mind, it was sort of unofficial copyright, so nobody else could steal it from me. (The rest of the band laugh) That was in 2008, and I kept hold of the name for quite a few years, until MSN stopped being cool.
When we were looking for a name for mine and Nick’s musical project, and we were drunk in a field, I brought up the name and he said: “Yeah, that sounds great! We’ll go with that.”
In your own words, how would you describe your sound?
NICK: I think our sound is punk rock with more of an accessible edge to it. We kind of toe that line between heavy and sort of, I don’t really like the word ‘progressive’, but I guess, I’m not sure what the word is for it, but it’s something that has accessible hooks and looks at finding ways of imparting that sound that makes it a bit more catchy.
ALED ROBERTS (bass): It’s like the heaviest old rock band, mixed with the lightest old metal band.
ALEX: I like to think of it as if you are eating something, and instead of putting mayonnaise on it, you put salad cream on it. Now, it isn’t what you are expecting, but the combination works rather well. If you just give it a go, you find you might like it.
NICK: There you go, vegetarian progressive grindcore!
What are the band’s musical influences?
NICK: There’s a couple of big ones, Black Peaks, Marmozets, Muse, older bands such as Queen, also, Deftones, a band called Reuben, they’re really, really good, by the way. I think that’s pretty much covered it.
What would you say was your approach to songwriting?
NICK: Arguments! (All laugh)
ALEX: It can be very formulaic at times, because we spend a lot of time fixating, not just on one major part, but all of these intertwining bits that we do together.
We find that that is probably the hardest part to write. We can put together a really good sounding verse, a really good sounding chorus, but it’s the little links in between that’s the hardest, and we’ll spend weeks chopping and changing things around.
For example, one minute, we’ll be really happy with something, the next, when we’ve pre-recorded it, we’ll scratch our heads, going: “This isn’t really working“, and sometimes, the subtlest thing we can do is by taking something out, but then, it’s that under the microscope approach.
NICK: We’re quite lucky in that all of us can play guitar to some extent, so we can all kind of put together ideas and concepts, and discuss them. That kind of works out as a good thing, in that we will never ever have a “that’ll do” approach to songwriting, there will always be something that we care about.
You’re here as part of the Your City festival. In what way do you think this is a good thing for Stoke-on-Trent, considering that the city is currently bidding to be UK City of Culture in 2021?
NICK: The Stoke-on-Trent music scene can be the most sporadic and the most unified scene in the whole of this country. I’ve personally seen people really trying to pull bands together into something similar to this and Oxjam, but so far, nobody’s been able to do it to the same extent as the Your City team have, and what I find amazing is that there finally seems to be some champions who are really unifying the local scene and pulling all the different bands from the city together. It’s not just one band from one genre, one from the other, it’s a real mix of genres.
Your City is a great way of saying to people that Stoke-on-Trent has an amazing music scene, personally, I think it’s the best in the Midlands, at least. If you think about it per capita, the amount of brilliant bands in Stoke is better and higher than anywhere else in the country.
ALEX: There’s plenty of good musicians, unsung heroes. Things like Your City, and obviously, The Honey Box, have exposed me to local bands that I didn’t even know were from around here.
In February, you released your sophomore EP ‘Tigers and Lambs’. How was the recording process?
NICK: We spent a long time working on ‘Tigers and Lambs’, a good two years actually. We found Mark Roberts, the EP’s producer, after searching on Twitter for him. We had heard the guy on BBC Radio 1, and we all went: “We really want this guy to produce our record“.
We then tracked him down, we did a number of tracks down south in Brighton, and we got him to do a few tracks with us as well.
It was absolutely amazing, because we threw everything into it, every ounce of ourselves, every resource we had, to try and make it the best record that we could possibly make.
SIMON WHITNEY (drums): It definitely came from a sort of personal space, I think, for all of us, like certain parts of the songs, I can remember, came from the frames of mind we were all in at that moment in time. There was a lot of frustration in there, a lot of pensive sort of things going on. It sounds a bit cliched, but it really accounts for it in this case. It definitely came out while we were recording, definitely.
How has the reaction been to the EP since its release?
NICK: Very good. We had some really good press from it, we had some good airplay as well, which was quite nice, but that bit is peripheral.
The most important thing for us was that people who have followed the band for a while really liked it. They came up and said to us afterwards that they really enjoyed listening to it, and that they had been sharing it online and talking about it to their friends, they really tried to support it as much as they could.
To be honest, more than anything, that’s the reason why we create music, and if they like it, then as far as we’re concerned, it’s a success.
ALEX: I think there’s been a really big jump, between sort of having people liking our music because we asked them or that they’ve known us previously, to people that have never met us finding the music, liking it, sharing it, and interacting with it.
We have no idea who these people are, so when the music is doing all the talking for you, then that for me is an indication that it is our own thing now, and it’s doing its own job.
SIMON: People have now definitely seen how much we have grown from the first EP to this one, and that’s kind of the biggest thing for me, because we know how much we have matured as a band, and that some of the people who have followed us for a while have seen that and pointed it out to us.
That’s the biggest achievement for me, the fact that we have managed to focus on that progression, more than anything.
ALED: I don’t know about you guys, I wasn’t around for the first EP, but when we did the release show for ‘Tigers and Lambs’, people were coming up just to buy it, because they had been waiting for it, and some were actually purchasing three at a time.
I don’t know what the reaction to the first one was like, but it was really good just to see people handing over their cash just to buy our EP.
How, for the band, is playing live and touring?
NICK: We make sure we put on the best possible live show that we can, because there is a big difference between listening to a record and seeing a band live.
A band that has a great recorded sound might not sound as good live, but we don’t want that, we want to put everything we can into our live performances, and if we’re not sweating like motherfuckers at the end of the set, then we haven’t done it properly.
SIMON: Unless the venue has really good air conditioning! (All laugh)
NICK: That would be amazing!
ALEX: Playing live is such a massive part now, easily 50% of being in a band, because we’ve got this sort of an idea that music isn’t really worth anything anymore, it doesn’t really sell, so now, 50% of your reputation and fan base relies on how well you perform live, because it isn’t enough any more to solely rely on your recorded stuff.
Therefore, performing live is now as important, if not maybe more, because there are bands that musically, I don’t think are that good, but live, they are stellar, and because of that, they stick in my head as being a good band, even though musically, I wouldn’t go and listen to them on the internet, per se, I would definitely go and watch them, and that’s where the revenue streams come in, so now, it is so important to be energetic and engaging.
NICK: We always make sure that we put in the same amount of effort with each show, so like, we’ve played big venues with large crowds, and then, we’ve also played really small shows, where there has been only around ten people watching us, but we have probably had a better time playing to those ten people, because you want to make god damn sure that they leave the venue wanting to buy our merchandise and come to our next show.
ALEX: We’ve done that, though. I remember one gig we did, we only played to, you could have counted the people that were there on two hands, but of those people, the majority of them then bought something, spoke to us, and signed up to things, so I’d rather impress eight out of ten people in a room, than have fifty people there and impress just three of them.
Is there anything you’ve got lined up in the near future at all?
NICK: Yeah, we’ve got a run of dates shortly. One of the big things we are doing at the moment, compared to what other bands do, is that we have this idea that bands should be connected to their fans all the time, with everything that they do.
I do think that some bands do this anyway, but the way we’re trying to connect with our fans is by uploading content that they can enjoy. We create new videos every Monday and Thursday, and we’re quite lucky in that we know some filmmakers and sound engineers, so we spend a lot of time basically putting together, either it could be some new musical content or some new video content, to kind of pull people in and keep them up to date with what we’re doing, so it’s a lot of work, but that’s the big thing we’re doing at the moment, we’re finding something on which to grow our fan base, and a way in which to do it.
ALED: I’ve never seen a band put so much out, compared to what we do. The organic reach we’re getting now is crazy.
NICK: Yeah, I still get surprised when someone comes up to us, says: “I saw that video you did, where the mic stand fell on the drummer!“, and we go: “Oh okay, thank you!“. It is genuine surprise.
ALEX: I was playing football a few days ago, and as I was walking with my mates after the match had finished, one of them said to me, and he’s not really that musically minded, he said: “Mate, your band’s getting better and better!“, and I was like: “I didn’t even know you had watched any of our stuff.” He also said that one of our videos was funny, another one was even funnier, and I was taken aback by that.
SIMON: That’s kind of the big point for us, because we wanted to do a thing where, it’s not that we don’t take ourselves seriously, we wanted to keep ourselves grounded, and stay on the same wavelength as our fans, so a lot of the videos we do aren’t meant to be serious, but at the same time, we try to…
NICK: It all ties in, because the age of the haughty rock star, living in their golden castle, are over. They don’t really exist any more, and if they do, they’re douches that we don’t want anything to do with.
So, in order to be successful, you need to be the kind of guy that people can come up and talk to at the end of a show, somebody to have a chat and a beer with. You should give yourself, as an artist, to the people who are consuming your music.
What is the band’s long-term aim?
NICK: To be honest, to grow our fan base. Most bands will say that their main long-term aim is to get a record deal. Well, I wonder, how are you going to get a record deal without having a large fan base? I ask them: “Why is your approach that way?”.
You need to build up a following, try and engage as many people in your music as you can.
ALEX: We’re slightly inspired by a chap named Damian Keyes, who’s got this, not revolutionary, but an interesting, approach towards the music industry. He has sort of floated this idea around of a subscription-based, direct to the artist, revenue stream, so if you had, say a million fans, and 10,000 of them were hardcore, and they all paid £10 a year, and for that £10, they get new videos every week, early access to songs, EPs, albums.
As a subscription-based service, for say, £2 a month, and 10,000 sign up for it, that is a direct source of income to the band, no middle men, marketing, A&R, record label. You are making music and giving it directly to the fans, so our sort of idea is to create a reach and fan base big enough, through social media channels, live music and that, to a point where we don’t need to have a record label, we can just give the content out to our fans, and if they want to pay for it, we can do it that way, and that makes more sense to us.
NICK: Yeah, it should about the fans, making music for, and engaging with them. It should never be about this mythical music industry god in the clouds, who bands send stuff to, and they go: “Sign us, please!“. You should really be doing it for the fans, not for some guy in a suit.
‘TIGERS AND LAMBS’, ALTER EDEN’S SOPHOMORE EP, IS AVAILABLE NOW.
TO KEEP FULLY UPDATED ON THE BAND, CHECK OUT THEIR OFFICIAL WEBSITE www.altereden.co.uk AND FOLLOW THE LINKS TO THEIR SOCIAL MEDIA PAGES & OTHER SITES.