SKAM (from l-r): Neal Hill (drums/backing vocals), Steve Hill (lead vocals/guitar), Matt Gilmore (bass/backing vocals)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
From Leicester, three-piece SKAM have become known for a bold and direct style of hard rock that is a contemporary take on classic rock and the new wave of British heavy metal.
Over the last couple of years, the band have steadily built up a strong following with this, as well as their frequent touring across the UK.
They have been championed by the likes of Planet Rock, which made third studio album, ‘The Amazing Memoirs Of Geoffrey Goddard’, one of their top twenty of 2017.
Currently supporting RavenEye on the British and Irish leg of the band’s European tour, the trio went in-depth about their recent release, including how it was put together, the challenges they faced, and how the reaction has been to it so far, before their set in Hanley.
How did the band form?
STEVE HILL (lead vocals/guitar): Well, me and Matt actually met at Air Cadets, and I met Neal when he was born, as he’s my little brother.
SKAM formed when we were dead young. I played a bit of guitar in a band in Leicester, we were awful! One Christmas, Matt got a bass, and he rang me, saying, “Do you want to come round and jam?“, and I went, “Yeah, okay“, so that Boxing Day, I went round, we wrote some horrific songs, and then, we came up with this hare-brained idea to form a band together.
We started off as a five-piece, there was a guitarist who was much, much better than I, and a female singer. Over time, they realised how shit we were and left, so in the end, it was me, Matt, and a guy called Kieran on drums.
After him, it was another guy called Ray, but he decided to leave, so then we felt we had no option but to disband SKAM. However, Neal stepped in on drums, that was three years ago now, and here we are.
How did the name SKAM come about?
MATT GILMORE (bass/backing vocals): It was from the initials of the band members at the time, we had a different name, but we decided that we needed to change it, just to try and get a few more gigs and whatnot, so we had a drunken evening round a friend’s house, wrote out a load of different names, and in the end, we came up with SKAM, which stood for Steve, Kieran and Matthew. (Steve and Neal laugh) It’s that glamorous.
It’s just one of those things, we had that name while we were gigging, and as our profile started to rise, we became known by that name. I like it, it’s a one syllable name, it’s easy to remember, but in our early days, people seemed to think we were a ska band.
STEVE: When we first started the band, we were called The A.I.D’s, which wasn’t a great name. We started getting some negativity from people who thought we were some kind of punk protest band, and venues wouldn’t book us on the strength of that name.
I remember talking about the fact that we wanted a name that almost meant nothing, we wanted something where no-one would look at it and go, “Oh, yeah“, because we didn’t even want a name that sounded like a hard rock band name, just something non-descript, so we called ourselves SKAM. It’s just one syllable, that’s all we need.
What would you say was your songwriting approach?
NEAL HILL (drums/backing vocals): It’s been changing, really, I would say. I know before I joined the band that Steve would probably write most of the stuff, and Matt has contributed to some of the lyrics in the past.
For our last album, we all sat together and collaborated on the whole thing. Steve comes up with the majority of the riffs, I’ve been trying to contribute some guitar work myself. As this was an album about a person, and it had a storyline, it was a real collaborative effort.
STEVE: It was the first time, really, that we all sat together in a room and penned some lyrics.
MATT: We did a Metallica special. We sat there with a pen and notepad, we knew the content, we knew the back story to each track, so we just wrote some lyrics for them. It’s a masterpiece. (Steve and Neal laugh)
STEVE: Normally, a song will be sculpted in a similar way in that we practice every week, someone will come in with an idea for just a riff or a little lick, we’ll jam it out, and just mess around with it…
MATT: Have an argument.
STEVE (laughing): Yeah, have an argument, and then if it’s got a good hook to it, we’ll do it again the following week, and it kind of evolves into something we feel like, and then the lyrics almost come after.
NEAL: It’s a weird thing, because sometimes, it’ll take a couple of weeks. I know some songs on the album, we must have been playing for something like six, seven months.
One song, we finished a week before we went into the studio, so it’s just a strange process. You have to have the right people in the room to make it happen, you know what I mean?
STEVE: There was one song on the album called ‘Bring The Rain’, and we had this lick, we were playing with it, but it also needed a good chorus. We must have banded it around for probably weeks, months, just trying different stuff out.
At one point, it wasn’t even going to be on the record, but then we just managed to strike gold on one thing and stuck with it, but every week, we were trying different bits out, and it just wasn’t working, we felt like it wasn’t any good, but eventually, we got to the stage where we knew what we wanted to do with it, so that’s what we did.
What inspires the band lyrically?
STEVE: Well, obviously with our last album being a concept album, we had a lot of content to talk about, so Goddard and the whole story behind that, his travels through time, the different things he experiences, so that was a lot easier, I found, because it gave us a real starting point.
In the past, myself writing lyrics, they were all based around what I call “the big three” – beer, birds, and rock n’ roll, and that was pretty much it.
MATT: We had a few tracks that has different meanings and whatnot, so yeah, that was generally it. That was why the concept album was something that we all threw ourselves into. It was a two-year project, and the backstory helped to mould all the tunes together.
STEVE: When you had been sitting there writing all of these different songs for a few years about old girlfriends and playing rock, and then all of a sudden, you can sit down and write a story about a thirty-something test pilot finding himself in Japan, and getting caught in a battle between two rival tribes, that’s a pretty good starting point, don’t you think? (Matt and Neal laugh)
‘The Amazing Memoirs Of Geoffrey Goddard’, that was your third studio album. One thing about it we haven’t talked about yet was the reaction that it got. How do you all think it has been up to now?
MATT: It’s been great. Steve’s just summed it up with the songwriting approach. There are a lot of rock bands out there, it’s coming back into fashion, you know, the long hair, the leather, and singing about beer and girls, and we wanted to approach that in a different way.
I mean, can you remember the last time a rock band brought out a concept album? I can’t.
It was something we really threw ourselves into. It’s not just the music, it’s also the full packaging, the artwork, the story, the vinyl, the merchandise, everything, it’s just gone with this project. We just wanted to take rock back to a time before people wanted to play in bands to get birds.
NEAL: We were worried about the reaction it was going to get, because a lot of the bands at our level are just releasing albums, which is good, and the albums are great, but like Matt’s just said, we wanted to do something that was a bit special, because it was the third one that we’ve put out. The other two were just, “Let’s record an album“, so we put a lot more into it.
STEVE: It’s gone down really well. I think what Matt said about the artwork in particular, you know, the more seasoned rock fans, they remember a time where it wasn’t just a throw-away thing, you know, bands like Iron Maiden were into that sort of image, creating something special, getting hold of the booklet that came with the album, and that’s what we really wanted to do, so I think it’s gone down a treat.
The band are currently supporting RavenEye on the British and Irish leg of their headline tour. How is the experience, for you all, of playing live and touring?
MATT: That’s what we do it for, that’s why we’re all in a band. Playing live is kind of…It makes you want to pick up a bass, guitar or drum kit in the first place, so it’s something you just want to keep going back to.
The idea with the albums, and obviously having the killer tunes, it’s just to help the progression, so again, over the past few years, we’ve just built up that live profile, and hoping that everyone agrees that we’re a good live band.
We try our best to put on a good show, and that’s also reflected in the bands we’ve played with over the last two years.
STEVE: I say this without any kind of arrogance, but I’m the best guitarist in the world! (All laugh) Not at all, I think I’m the complete opposite, but when I play, I cannot help but have a massive grin on my face, you know? It’s the best part, and I say that to a lot of people, the sets are the best 40 minutes of my day, so why would you not want to do it?
It’s worth the miles, and what you do in between, just to get that time at the end of the day.
NEAL: Matt in the studio, compared to Matt live, it’s like a completely different person! (All laugh) When he plays live, he likes to play a few licks and just go crazy, but in the studio, he’s a right miserable bastard! (All laugh)
What have you got planned for after the tour?
MATT: We are going to play a few headline dates, starting in March. We haven’t announced the full details yet, that won’t be until we have finished this tour, but that should take us all over the UK again.
We’re going to continue pushing the recent album, and then over the summer, it will be festival season, which seems to start earlier and finish later every year, then in October, November, we’ll be playing some more gigs to finish off the year.
We’re hoping to get to that magic total of 100 gigs this year. It’s what we’re pushing for.
‘THE AMAZING MEMOIRS OF GEOFFREY GODDARD’, THE THIRD STUDIO ALBUM FROM SKAM, IS NOW AVAILABLE ON CD & DOUBLE VINYL, AND CAN BE STREAMED, DOWNLOADED OR PURCHASED FROM SPOTIFY, AMAZON MUSIC, APPLE MUSIC, DEEZER & THE BAND’S OFFICIAL WEBSITE www.skamuk.com
SKAM ARE ALSO CURRENTLY SUPPORTING RAVENEYE ON THE BRITISH AND IRISH LEG OF THEIR HEADLINE TOUR. FURTHER DETAILS ARE BELOW:
FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND BY CHECKING OUT THEIR SOCIAL MEDIA PAGES: