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KILL THE MASTERS

kill the masters band photo

KILL THE MASTERS (from l-r): Rebecca Broughton (drums), Oli (vocals/guitar), Sam Cummins (bass/vocals)

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

From Bolton, a small Lancashire town just north of the city of Manchester, Kill The Masters initially formed with the intention of becoming a serious political band, rallying against the right-wing establishment with a punk sound that also contains an assortment of ska, hardcore, rap, and any other genre they can fit in.

However, even though that is still the ultimate aim, the emerging three-piece are gaining a reputation for being more fun-oriented.

Having unveiled their debut EP, ‘Everything Hurts’, in the run-up to last Christmas, the collective spoke to me in-depth about that, the experience of supporting Crazy Town last summer, and much more.

How did the band form?

OLI (vocals/guitar): Me and Sam were friends at school, and we were in punk bands together as teenagers, which never materialised too much, and Sam continued to play in several other bands, while I stopped playing guitar music for a few years, and tried to learn how to produce electronic stuff (which I failed, as it was too hard).

As we’re both very interested in left-wing politics, the dragging of mainstream political discourse even further to the right in recent years both offended and inspired us, so we resolved to go back to our roots, start a political punk band, and put the world to rights.

SAM CUMMINS (bass/vocals): Yeah, Oli was actually in my first ever band, the wonderfully named Massive Head Trauma, when we were both about 13, but that fizzled out after we went to college, uni, etc, and once I got back to Bolton, we were talking about doing something together for a good year or two before it actually happened.

As for Broughts (Rebecca Broughton, drums), I met her in a nightclub in Bolton, and she ended up joining one of my bands from uni, mediocre pop-punks We Were Kings, and as soon as Oli and I started getting serious, she was my go-to to fill the drum throne.

REBECCA BROUGHTON (drums): Yeah, Sam has already explained how we met, and he introduced me to Oli a few years back after mentioning starting up a new band, as I had been out of practice for about a year, and I was looking for any reason to start playing again, so here we are. Worked out pretty well, I think.

How did the name Kill The Masters come about?

OLI: We spent a long time coming up with different ideas, but nothing really seemed to suit us.

Again, the intention was to form a political punk band, and our politics revolves around the removal of pre-existing power structures in favour of horizontally-organised, worker-led systems, and we felt that it was important that the name represented the message we wanted to put out there.

In the end, we took the name from Game of Thrones, from the series where the slave army rises up and overthrow their masters, and there’s a scene prior to the rebellion where there’s some agitation scrawled in blood on the wall, “Kill The Masters“.

SAM: I actually thought Kill The Masters was a stroke of genius entirely down to Oli, and it was only a few months later, when I actually watched Game of Thrones, that I realised he’d stolen it. I should’ve known, really!

What would you say was the band’s main musical influences?

OLI: I’m a massive fan of Streetlight Manifesto, and whilst we’re not a ska band, we definitely incorporate elements of ska punk.

Lyrically, I’m mainly inspired by rap music, particularly Akala, he’s a great rapper, socially conscious, and so intelligent, and far and beyond my favourite lyricist is Tomas Kalnoky, who I wish I could write more like.

Musically, my main inspirations include Rise Against, The Clash, Leftover Crack, AFI, and Jaya the Cat.

SAM: Broadly similar to Oli, although my first ventures into punk and ska was more the British bands of the late 70s/early 80s, with bands like Stiff Little Fingers and the Specials being huge influences growing up.

I’m also a shameless fan of the sleazier American glam-punk bands like Motley Crue and Guns N Roses, and, like Oli, I’m partial to both British and US hip-hop, with Kendrick, Ocean Wisdom, Akala, and Lowkey being some of my favourites.

I’d like to give a shout out to Enter Shikari too, who I firmly believe to be the most innovative British band of my generation. I don’t think we’ll ever sound like them, but they blow my mind with how much they’ve spanned genres and sounds over the years.

You initially formed with the intention of becoming a serious political punk band, yet you are becoming known for having a more fun-oriented sound. What made you switch to that? 

We wanted to get gigging as soon as we could, so we basically spent the first few months nailing as many songs as we could without taking too much time over the songs.

Our plan was to get gigging, and then get more into the serious political side when we’d established ourselves a bit. I’d say we’re at this point now, so the next lot of songs will be more on the serious side, whether that be political or social.

That said, we are pretty stupid, so I’d be surprised if we left the fun stuff behind entirely.

SAM: I feel like we’ve got something to say for ourselves politically, hence tunes like ‘No Apologies’, but we’ve never been good enough musicians or songwriters to take ourselves too seriously, as for every angry political song, there’ll be one about how much I love my toolbox, or something daft like that.

What would you say was your approach to songwriting? 

OLI: It varies. Me and Sam have written all of our songs so far, but Broughton has some in the pipeline.

Usually, I’ll write the lyrics and guitar on acoustic, and then get the whole structure sorted along with a simple bassline, which I’ll then take to practice and show the others, and then, they’ll sort their own parts out. I can’t write bass or drums anywhere near as good as they can, so that works well.

On ‘No Apologies’, I wrote the music to Sam’s lyrics, and on ‘Drugs in the Sun’, I wrote the lyrics to Sam’s melody, so there’s no real set system, but generally, one of us will bring in a song that’s nearly done, and then we will work together to turn it into a full ensemble.

SAM: Yeah, Oli has pretty much covered it there. One of us will have an idea for a riff, melody, or a set of lyrics, and we tend to build on that from there.

From my point of view, being a bass player, I don’t have the same ear for melodies that Oli does, so I do tend to give him a lot of my lyrics for him to work into pieces of music, but it doesn’t always turn out that way.

REBECCA: As a drummer, I’ve mostly been adding to other people’s work in rehearsals, as I’ve only recently got into songwriting after being involved with the band, and being inspired by some of the subjects the lads have touched upon.

I tend to get an idea of a topic, and start writing some lyrics down, before working on any kind of melody or chord structure. My skills on guitar are pretty limited, but I’m hoping the lads will be able to guide me with the creation of these new tunes.

It’ll be a new experience for me writing songs, and it’s great that the lads are being so supportive in me getting more hands-on in regards to the the songwriting for the band.

Towards the end of last year, the band unveiled their debut EP, ‘Everything Hurts’. How was the recording process for that? 

OLI: We recorded it with Dave at Red City Recordings, and he was fantastic, a truly awesome guy who is amazing at his craft. We loved every minute of the process, and if I could do that every day for a job, I’d jump at the chance.

SAM: I loved it. Dave was great to work with, he was able to make us sound way better than we actually are, and I got to catch up on loads of sleep while the other two recorded their parts.

What stood out for me was how much Dave pushed us into getting things perfect, because I’d think that I had nailed a take, and he’d come back with “Do that again, but better...”.

It certainly got the best out of us, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

REBECCA: We had an amazing time working with Dave, and I enjoyed being pushed for each and every take for each song. I definitely crushed it harder than both the lads, though, so I guess they need to put a bit more practice in.

And how has the reaction been to the EP so far?

SAM: I like it, my mates like it, and even my mum doesn’t hate it, so that’ll do for me, and anything else will just be a massive bonus.

REBECCA: Yeah, my mum also mentioned enjoying it, as well, which was pretty great.

Up to now, you have mainly performed live in your home town of Bolton. How is the music scene there currently, in your opinion? 

OLI: It was amazing a few years ago, as there were a massive variety of local bands, full of sound people, but now, we’ve only got one venue left, to be honest, and the people who are trying to keep it alive are ace, but the scene has really suffered over the past few years.

We love the venue that is left, but the other real institution in our town tragically closed down, leaving a lot of the less heavy bands without any real home.

SAM: Having been in a couple of Bolton bands over the years, the scene has certainly declined, mainly due to the lack of venues.

There are still some great bands doing bits, but you see a lot of overspill these days from and to other towns, but stuff like that tends to move in cycles, though, as bands and venues will always come and go.

Last summer, the band supported Crazy Town in Bolton. That must have been quite an experience for you all. 

SAM: It was an honour. I was blown away by their set, which, with the greatest of respect to them, I wasn’t expecting.

REBECCA: It was probably the best experience I’ve had being a part of a band. The whole night was loads of fun, and sharing the stage with a band that have literally had a smash hit was amazing. We all had a proper decent night together as a band, and as mates, as well.

Also, how is it overall, for the band, playing on stage?

OLI: Good, but I’m not much of a performer, so there’s a lot of room for improvement in my opinion. We have a lot of ambitions to improve the show in the future, in order to make it more than just us playing a bunch of songs.

SAM: At the risk of disappearing up my own arse, it’s my happy place, as there’s nothing else in the world that comes close. I’ve been in and around the live music scene for the best part of a decade now, and it never gets old or boring.

It can be a slog, though, dragging yourself down to Sheffield, or up to Lancaster to play a set, especially when you have a raging hangover, but the minute we play that first note, it’s worth it a million times over.

REBECCA: It’s a dream playing with Sam and Oli, and I’ve always enjoyed sharing a stage with Sam, as we really work well together performance-wise. It’s nice watching Oli go for it as well, and I would like to say to him that he’s doing great, and is also a real sweetie.

And finally, what are your plans for the year ahead?

OLI: Another EP, I think, which we’re in the planning stages for right now. We also want to try and get gigs outside of the North West, so we can get our name further out there.

REBECCA: Gigs, gigs, and more gigs. I’m gonna start having some drum tuition again this year, as well, and I’ll see if I can get down a 250bpm hardcore beat down, so wish me luck!

kill the masters ep cover

‘EVERYTHING HURTS’, THE DEBUT EP FROM KILL THE MASTERS, IS AVAILABLE NOW.

FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

FACEBOOK

BANDCAMP

YOUTUBE

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ASLEEP AT THE HELM

asleep at the helm band photo

ASLEEP AT THE HELM (from l-r): Adam Kenyon (guitar/vocals), Brandon Carson (guitar/vocals), Dylan Barrett (lead vocals), Alex Dawson (drums), Ryan Johnson (bass/vocals)

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

PHOTO by LUKE ROBIN

Coming up to exactly one year since their formation, Asleep At The Helm truly made a mark on the metal scene of Manchester, their home city, in 2018, and things are very much looking up for them in 2019, having already received much positive feedback for debut album, ‘Dissonance’, which came out just before Christmas.

I recently chatted with the band’s lead vocalist, Dylan Barrett, and guitarist, Brandon Carson, to find out more about their experiences up to now, as well as what they have planned next.

How did the band initially get together?

DYLAN BARRETT (lead vocals): The band initially formed from me and Brandon trying to do a farewell thing with an old band, like a little EP, and then when the songs started to come together the way they did, we were surprised at how good some of the stuff was that we were writing, and then from there, Brandon got in touch with everyone else, and it just sort of fell into place.

How did the name Asleep At The Helm come about?

DYLAN: I’m sure the name came from Adam just firing out an endless list of band names, and we were pretty unsure about any of them, actually at one point, we were gonna go with the name Eyes Wide Shut, but then someone said Asleep At The Helm, and it just felt right!

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

DYLAN: In terms of songwriting, I can’t really comment for anything other than lyrics, but I feel the general approach is just Brandon and Adam spitballing ideas, and the ones we all like, we work on bit-by-bit and try to develop to a point where we all eel confident we have something we can call a song.

What inspires the band lyrically?

DYLAN: A lot of the lyrics are drawn from experiences, I wouldn’t say specific past experiences, but more in the sense of how something may have happened in life, and it made us feel a certain way, and then the rest is just finding other words that don’t sound cliched or absolutely stupid!

Just before Christmas, you brought out your debut album, ‘Dissonance’. How was the recording process for that?

DYLAN: The recording process was for the best part really fun, but there were days, especially for me, recording when we would have a full day’s worth of recording behind us, but I still wasn’t feeling like I was getting the right sounds to do the songs justice, and those days felt like a proper test, but we did it, we grinned and bared it, and stuck at it.

BRANDON CARSON (guitar/vocals): We produced the album by ourselves mainly, we tracked all of Alex’s drums at my old college I now work at (Bury College), who we would like to thank, by the way!

Tracking drums can be the hardest part during the recording stage of an EP or an album, so they really helped us out in that aspect with the tracking.

We did all of the guitars at Adam’s house, we then did the bass at my house, and then, we went back to Adam’s to do all the vocals there. We then sent all of our tracks off to Oskar Sutton at Infinite Audio, who did an incredible job mixing and mastering the album, and he is someone we would also like to thank!

And how has the reaction been to the album so far?

DYLAN: The reaction so far has been much better than what we could have expected, we’re hardly overnight sensations, but some of the reach the album has got and the support we’ve in turn received from all over has been breathtaking, and again, we couldn’t be more grateful for the people who have listened and enjoyed because ultimately it’s them who give us success.

BRANDON: We’ve also had great feedback from people who are in established bands in the metalcore scene such as Our Hollow, Our Home and InVisions, which we’re very blown away by!

The band hail from Manchester, a city that is better known for its indie music rather than its metal bands/artists. How is the metalcore scene there currently, in your opinion?

DYLAN: Honestly, the metal scene in Manchester used to be a lot bigger, but it’s the general musical influence of the city that allows us to get as many gigs as possible, as Manchester will always be a place where you will always find somewhere to gig, and it’s been that way since I can remember, and me and Brandon have gigged in Manchester since we were 15/16.

How is the overall experience, for you all, of playing live?

DYLAN: Playing live with the band, for me, is bliss. There’s simply no other way of putting it, because I feel like I’m completely unstoppable when I’m on stage with them, whether we’re playing to a small room of people or even just a couple of our friends at a local show, every gig just has that energy, and it’s incomparable to most other feelings.

What are the band’s plans for the year ahead?

DYLAN: So the year ahead for us is just practice, gig, and push the album as hard as we can, as we want ‘Dissonance’ to speak volumes for the work we’ve put in, which subsequently means putting more work in, but I speak for all of us when I say we’re ready for that!

BRANDON: The plan for the Asleep At The Helm camp this year is to just get out there really, we’re gonna be going further out in to new cities like Sheffield, Blackpool, and a few other places, which we will be announcing about very soon.

We’re more than ready to really hammer this year and pull in a lot of new listeners, possible new fans, and hopefully start touring!

And finally, what is your long-term aim?

DYLAN: The long-term aim is to make the music we love, with the people we love, for as long as possible.

Obviously, everyone dreams of seeing their name in big lights and having thousands of fans screaming at them when they play, but honestly, I would still be content with playing the local Manchester shows with the boys.

asleep at the helm album cover

‘DISSONANCE’, THE DEBUT ALBUM FROM ASLEEP AT THE HELM, IS AVAILABLE NOW.

FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

INSTAGRAM

SOUNDCLOUD

YOUTUBE

 

 

SILKRATS

silkrats band photo

SILKRATS (from l-r): Lewis Merrin (drums), Luna Valentine (lead vocals), Adam Kenney (guitar/vocals), Matt Nowak (bass)

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

An up-and-coming alternative rock band from Nottingham, Silkrats had a productive end to 2018, having released a first single, ‘Partners In Crime’, as well as making their live debut in the band’s home city, and they have a determination, in 2019, to keep up the momentum that has so far been generated.

Here’s what the quartet had to say to me when we chatted recently:

How did the band form?

MATT NOWAK (bass): The three dudes in the band have been friends for a very long time. We met when we were at school, and we were in a (terrible) band together back then too. We remain the very best of friends after all these years, and the band only gives us another reason to hang out together, other than just getting pissed.

Silkrats formed when Adam persuaded Lewis and myself to give being a band another try – and we did take some persuading, to be honest, as unlike Adam, we had both taken a step back from playing music publicly, having grown disillusioned after the breakdown of previous projects, but we’re very glad that he talked us round.

We met Luna online, and she gelled with us remarkably quickly and easily, both musically, and as a bandmate, but it can’t have been easy for her entering the old and tight friendship that the other three members of the band hold. She’s done an amazing job so far.

How did the name Silkrats come about?

MATT: Honestly, it doesn’t really mean anything. For some reason, we thought it would be cool to have something with an animal in the name, and our drummer eventually suggested the name Silkrats.

By that time, we were about ready to book gigs and start releasing some tunes, so we had reached a stage where we just needed a name, any name, and thought it would do. I wish we had a cooler story behind it, to be honest, but we don’t.

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

MATT: So far, we’ve written as a group mostly, and I like it that way, as I think it works for us. Personally, I prefer working on something together, rather than one of us bringing a complete idea to the other guys and saying, “Here’s the song, learn it“, and collaborating this way means we all have more of a shared attachment to the songs.

My style is more “riff arrangement“, whereas Adam has a great ear for hooks and choruses. Together, I think we make a decent team, and are able to fill in the holes in each other’s ideas.

Up until now, Adam has written all of the vocals/lyrics, but the vocal melodies inevitably change a bit once Luna gets her hands on them – it’s always a very pleasant surprise to hear her take them on.

What inspires the band lyrically?

ADAM KENNEY (guitar): I’ve always hated writing lyrics, but bringing in Luna has been liberating – I don’t have to feel self-conscious about it, because I’m not the one singing them!

Lyrically, no song is about one particular thing, as there are multiple themes in most of the songs. I get very bored writing about one singular subject, so there’s usually a line about one thing, and then another about something completely different.

Recently, you brought out your debut single, ‘Partners In Crime’. How was the recording process for that?

MATT: We actually did it ourselves – hopefully, it’s not too obvious! We were on a bit of a budget, so we recorded the song at home using fairly entry level microphones, a MacBook Air, and Logic Pro X.

It’s been years since I recorded anything “properly“, the last time being when I did my music tech A-level about ten years ago, but it was fun shaking off the cobwebs and re-teaching myself how to use various plug-ins, etc.

We wanted to self-record, so that we could take our time, both tracking and mixing, so that we could be pickier about the artistic side of things without the time pressures of working in a “proper” studio, and given the circumstances, I’m extremely proud of what we’ve produced.

And how has the reaction been to the track so far?

LUNA VALENTINE (lead vocals): The reception has been overwhelmingly positive. I think there’s no better feeling in this world than seeing other people enjoy something that we’ve created.

The band hail from Nottingham. What is the state of the alternative rock scene in the city, in your opinion, currently?

LUNA: It depends on what lens you’re looking at it through. From a punter’s perspective, it’s pretty great, as we have several venues that put on touring bands (courtesy of the DHP group – Rock City, The Bodega, Rescue Rooms), as well as an arena for larger acts, and a couple of annual urban festivals (Dot To Dot, Hockley Hustle, Beat The Streets).

As a band though, it can be difficult to find a respectable venue (ie. not a pub with a bit of spare floor space) that will put on emerging local acts, there’s only a handful of those. Huge shout out to The Maze though – they gave us our first gig, and are always willing to give local artists a chance.

And you recently made your live debut in your home city. How was that as an experience?

It went really well! It was great to finally get out there, and show people what we’ve been working on all this time, and we think it was pretty well-received too. We can’t wait to do it again.

And finally, what are the band’s plans for the year ahead?

We’re just trying to get ourselves out there, and we would love to play more gigs! We have five other songs in production already, and the plan at the moment is to release them one at a time as singles, but we’ll see.

silkrats single cover

‘PARTNERS IN CRIME’, THE DEBUT SINGLE FROM SILKRATS, IS AVAILABLE NOW.

FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

INSTAGRAM

BANDCAMP

SOUNDCLOUD

HOLDING OUT

Holding Out band photo

HOLDING OUT (from l-r): Jason Toward (guitar/vocals), Tomm Money (bass/vocals), Ellis Paul (vocals/guitar), Ryan Hubbard (former drummer)

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

PHOTO by NICO DRYSDALE

Since forming in 2016, Holding Out, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, have evolved from being an melodic acoustic act to an outfit armed with a sound that mixes in different elements from the genres of alternative rock and punk, allowing for music that is much darker and heavier, but retaining some melody.

With this, the band are currently garnering a devoted following in their home city, having played several sold-out headline gigs, as well as supporting the likes of Tiny Moving Parts and Muncie Girls.

Despite drummer Ryan Hubbard recently deciding to depart, the three who remain are still determined to keep Holding Out going, having earlier this month unveiled their debut EP, ‘FED.UP’, and I spoke to frontman Ellis Paul about all this, and more.

How did the band get together?

Our former drummer and I used to jam together in my garage, and we wrote what would become Holding Out’s first songs. We met Jason through Facebook, and went through several bassists before we met Tomm.

How did the name Holding Out come about? 

Me and my friends used to get drunk and watch the Shrek movies together, and I think the name stemmed from the ending scene of Shrek 2.

You started out as an acoustic act. What made you switch to the alternative rock/punk sound you have now? 

Having more members join us. Once more people jumped on board, we became something a bit heavier and more well-rounded, although, we may be temporarily revisiting our old style, due to the recent departure of a key band member.

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

I write lyrics in my own time, away from the band. Lyric writing is a personal experience for me, and I can’t do it in a group environment. The music is mainly written through jam sessions, or by me and Tomm experimenting with weird sounds together.

What inspires the band lyrically? 

Lyrically, my focus is things that affect me in day-to-day life, mental health, relationships, etc. My lyrics often delve into more political and social issues, depending on what I’m writing about.

Recently, you unveiled your debut EP, ‘FED.UP’. How was the recording process for that?

Writing was as standard. We’d hang out in my garage and just jam until we’d come up with something we felt was impactful enough to record. We then hung out in a back room of a church with our buddy Joe, who recorded and produced it all.

The recording process is always a laid-back experience for us.

And for those who have yet to listen to the EP, what can they expect from it?

Surprises. There’s a huge variety of styles and influences we’ve thrown into the mix, which I really think people will love. We’ve experimented hugely, and I think that’s really benefited our sound.

The band have played several sold-out headline shows in their home city, and have also supported the likes of Tiny Moving Parts and Muncie Girls. How were they as experiences?

Our headline shows are always a party, and there’s always a really strong sense of community, which I believe music is all about. People sing our songs with us, members of different support acts get up and sing each other’s songs together, it’s just really wholesome.

Supporting Tiny Moving Parts was awesome. They were the biggest band we’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing a stage with, and they’re such down-to-earth, welcoming guys.

And how is it overall, for you all, performing live?

Performing always feels like an out-of-body experience for myself. I have this energy and carelessness, which I lack in day-to-day life. It’s a therapeutic experience where I can really let off steam and not care about how I look, as everyone is there to just enjoy the music.

I can’t speak for the other guys, but I would think, for them, it’s probably something less pretentious.

Now the EP has been released, what are your plans now?

Well, recently, our drummer, and one of our founding members, has parted ways with us, which has put our plans on hold a bit. However, we’re trying to get back on our feet by planning some special acoustic shows, and really venturing into new styles with our music.

And finally, what is your long-term aim?

There really isn’t one, as we’re just here to make music, and to make friends. We don’t care about making a certain amount of money, or playing to a certain amount of people, as we’re here to do what we love, and to pour our passion into creating something beautiful that we can all be proud of.

Holding Out EP Cover

‘FED.UP’, THE DEBUT EP FROM HOLDING OUT, IS AVAILABLE NOW.

FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

INSTAGRAM

YOUTUBE

MELISSA VANFLEET

Melissa VanFleet photo

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

Hailing from the American city of Philadelphia, Melissa VanFleet is a person of multiple talents.

In addition to being a guitarist, pianist, and a trained dancer, VanFleet also specialises in crafting atmospheric alternative metal songs which naturally gravitate lyrically towards dark themes and topics, led by an emotionally intense vocal delivery, which has led to favourable comparisons to the likes of Adele, Alanis Morissette, and Amy Lee of Evanescence.

Having recently brought out a new album, entitled ‘Ode To The Dark’, which was produced by the team behind Lacuna Coil’s sublime 2016 offering, ‘Delirium’, and saw her collaborate with Doug Blair, lead guitarist of legendary Los Angeles metal collective W.A.S.P., and has so far garnered much critical acclaim, Melissa chatted to me, frankly and in-depth, about that, her journey up to now, as well as a little of what she has planned for the forthcoming year.

What was the first musical experience that you can recall?

Every memory I have from my childhood was accompanied by some sort of music, and my favourite activity as a two-year old was standing on a tiny makeshift stage in front of the TV, singing along with Alice Cooper and Lita Ford into a toy microphone, and I can vividly remember pretending that I was them performing on stage.

Are your parents musical at all?

My dad played piano and trombone, but most importantly, they both instilled in me a deep connection to music by surrounding me by all different types constantly.

The most prevalent genre was heavy metal, and some of my earliest memories involve my dad rocking me to sleep to Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Shot In The Dark’, or teaching me names of musicians in his favourite bands.

My mom has an amazing ear, and she also amazes me with her knowledge of lyrics.

As a child, you wrote poetry and lyrics to help deal with the complications of having a parent with a chronic illness. I can imagine that was a rather tough experience for you to have to go through growing up. 

It definitely was, and continues to be challenging, but I believe it has made me a stronger person. I have always strived for optimism, and writing helped me to stay positive.

As I got older, I started playing instruments, and therefore, I could finally put melodies to the lyrics I was writing.

When was the moment you realised that you wanted to pursue a career as a musician?

My first studio recording was at age 12, and I knew then that I wanted to be a vocalist and musician. I was actually accepted into several schools to study dance, but decided at the last minute to focus on my music instead.

What are your main musical influences?

I have always been drawn to bands with powerful and unique vocalists. I remember watching a Ronnie James Dio concert videotape with my dad when I was in the fourth grade, and thinking I wanted to be up on a stage like that some day.

He had a huge dragon prop, and captivated the audience with his unbelievable vocals and performance.

Around the same time, I discovered Alanis Morissette, and I was immediately empowered by how she was so unapologetically herself in her music, and I am also obsessed with darker classical music, especially ‘Swan Lake’ by Tchaikovsky.

Working with Marco Coti-Zelati and the team behind Lacuna Coil’s latest release ‘Delirium’ has been very influential to the music I’ve been making, as well. I listen to so many different types of music, and lately I’ve been listening to witch house and dark electronic, because it has such a definitive mood, and is perfect to play in the background.

You are also a trained dancer, in all styles. What attracted you to that?

I began dancing when I was three years old. My mom found a local studio, because I was dancing and singing around the house, and she thought I would pick it up easily.

I am so grateful for my dance training, as it has taught me discipline, which in turn,  is an integral part of having a career as an independent musician.

And do you still dance professionally, in addition to your musical career?

I teach master classes in dance, as well as exploratory classes for young children in every style.

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

My songs usually begin with a chord progression or a melody idea, interlaced with abstract lyrics and thoughts, and it eventually develops into its own entity.

Melodically, I prefer to write on piano, as I find it more emotive and powerful for my writing style. When I have the structure of the song finished, I record a demo to get my ideas down, and then listen to it a week later to see if I really like it, and decide if it might have the potential to be as strong as some of my better songs.

And in regards to lyrics, you tend to naturally gravitate towards dark themes. Why is that?

The dark subject matter correlates with the melodies I come up with, and consequently, the lyrics and music feel cohesive.

I tend to write from a biographical standpoint, and typically research an idea of something that interests me to find out more information about it, and then write the lyrics as if I was the person experiencing the topic.

I have obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety, as well, and I’ve learned over time that it is cathartic to channel that darkness through my music.

In 2012, you recorded a piano cover of legendary Los Angeles metal outfit W.A.S.P.’s 1984 ballad, ‘Sleeping (In The Fire)’, for your father’s birthday. What made you decide to do that specific track?

It is one of my dad’s favourite songs. I recorded it in an hour, and never intended for anyone to hear it other than him, but he convinced me to put it on YouTube, so others could hear it.

You then subsequently uploaded that onto YouTube, where it got much positive feedback, most notably from members of W.A.S.P. themselves, past and present. Was that something you were rather taken aback by initially?

I was definitely not expecting it! After the W.A.S.P. cover, I recorded a Black Sabbath song, and that helped me to realise that the response from the other video wasn’t only a one-time occurrence.

I began to focus my attention on more metal covers, and released an album called ‘Metal Lullabies’ in 2015, with piano versions of some of my favourite metal songs, and acoustic original songs, as well.

That year, after bringing out ‘Metal Lullabies’, you were invited to perform on the Wacken Full Metal Cruise, alongside the likes of Wolfsbane and former Iron Maiden frontman Blaze Bayley, and Swedish heavy metallers Hammerfall. How was that as an experience?

It was so much fun. The crowd energy was unbelievable. Having conversations with the other bands and artists, as well as the fans aboard the ship, was an experience that I’ll never forget.

You’ve just brought out a new album, ‘Ode To The Dark’, which you recorded with the team behind Lacuna Coil’s 2016 album, ‘Delirium’. How did that come about?

I have been a fan of Lacuna Coil for over 15 years, and after listening to ‘Delirium’, produced by Marco Coti-Zelati, I couldn’t believe how the arrangements were exactly what I heard in my mind with the new collection of songs I was writing.

I was very fortunate to work with the entire team behind that album, including Marco Barusso, Dario Valentini, and Marco D’Agostino.

And during the recording process for the album, you collaborated with W.A.S.P’s lead guitarist, Doug Blair. That must have been quite an experience for you.

Doug is an insanely talented musician with such intense emotion behind his guitar playing, and it is always an honour to work with him.

And for those who have yet to listen to ‘Ode To The Dark’, how does it differ to ‘Metal Lullabies’?

‘Metal Lullabies’ was an acoustic album of metal covers and original songs. I was strictly an acoustic artist for a long time, and it was solely my piano and myself from the writing process to performing.

‘Ode To The Dark’ builds off of the same organic writing style, but incorporates heavy instrumentation, as well as atmospheric and gothic elements, however, despite the fuller sound of my new music, I’ll never lose that raw foundation, because my approach to songwriting has not changed.

You hail from the city of Philadelphia. How is the music scene there currently?

Philadelphia is the epitome of an arts-driven community, and it is inspired to be surrounded by such individuality is inspiring.

What are your initial plans for 2019?

Several new musical collaborations are going to be released in the winter. I am also looking to continue writing new material, and moving forward with touring and live show ideas.

And finally, what advice would you give to any bands/artists who are currently trying to break through?

I would say be true to yourself, not only in your art, but also in your career decisions. I know it might sound cliché, but it is so important. I would suggest, as well, to go with your initial instincts when you meet someone that wants to be part of your team.

Lastly, I’ve learned that no-one will ever care as much about your career as you do, so it is absolutely vital that you are content and confident with the music you are releasing.

Melissa VanFleet Album Cover

‘ODE TO THE DARK’, THE LATEST ALBUM FROM MELISSA VANFLEET, IS AVAILABLE NOW.

FURTHER INFO ON MELISSA CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

INSTAGRAM

YOUTUBE

 

 

VULGORE

Vulgore band photo

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

Vulgore are a five-piece from Stoke-on-Trent, comprising of vocalist Ian Bennett, lead guitarist David Jones, rhythm guitarist Andy Lovatt, bassist Sam Williams, and drummer Hayden Ball.

Influenced by such bands as Black Sabbath, Lamb Of God, and Gojira, the outfit play a loud, brash heavy metal sound, laden with grooves and melodies, and since they unveiled their debut EP, ‘Bliss’, earlier this year, the collective have risen rapidly, having gained a growing devoted following, as well as performing a set at this summer’s Bloodstock festival.

Vulgore told me more about all of this prior to a recent set supporting American black metallers Abigail Williams in their home city.

How did the band get together?

DAVID JONES (lead guitar): I got bored of not being in a band after a few years, so I decided to set one up, and I started looking around for other members. I found Hayden first, as we had been in a band together before, then Sam came in, then Andy joined, and finally, Ian.

We all immediately gelled, and it went from there. We’ve now been going for a year-and-a-half.

How did the name Vulgore come about?

DAVID: To be honest, it was just a random name that came to us, and we all liked the sound of it.

What would you say was your songwriting approach?

DAVID: Really, we just throw stuff around, see what works best, and we just work from there.

What inspires the band lyrically?

DAVID: What goes on in everyone’s heads. It depends, really, for example, if we do a faster-paced song, the lyrics tend to be darker.

SAM WILLIAMS (bass): Mentally, we’re all quite similar.

ANDY LOVATT (rhythm guitar): Yeah, we all have a mental age of around 12!

(The band all laugh)

IAN BENNETT (vocals): I would write lyrics more often, but I think I would be thrown into prison if I did!

(The band all laugh)

Earlier this year, you brought out your debut EP, ‘Bliss’. How was the reaction to that?

SAM: The reaction was decent, it got some pretty good reviews, but having played a lot of gigs since then, including a set at Bloodstock, I think it’s now starting to get a lot more attention.

IAN: Yeah, the more people we play to, the more who will listen to it.

The band entered their local Metal To The Masses, which they won. That must have been a good feeling for you all.

SAM: It was strange, because we genuinely had no idea, as the first heat of that was actually the first gig we had ever played as Vulgore, and we won that, and got through to the final.

DAVID: We were genuinely surprised, more so when we actually won the final. It was unreal.

IAN: We were fortunate, though, because it was the first time that Metal To The Masses had been held in Stoke-on-Trent, therefore, there weren’t as many heats as there could have been, but that’s not to take away the fact that there were some really good bands who were also in the competition.

And the prize for winning Metal To The Masses was a set at this year’s Bloodstock festival. How was that as an experience?

SAM: To be honest, until we walked out onto the stage at Bloodstock, none of it felt real.

IAN: It only really hit us when we saw a sea of people watching us come on. It was just crazy.

DAVID: The weather was on our side that day, as well, as it was raining, and as the stage we were playing on was in a tent, loads of people were coming in.

SAM: It was great to be representing Stoke-on-Trent there, as well.

Also, the band have supported the likes of Infernal Conflict and Proteus, and you’re playing with Abigail Williams this evening. How is it, for you all, performing live?

DAVID: We love it, as there’s literally nothing better. We’ve got to a point now where we kind of base our lives around our live sets, which sounds crazy, but it’s worth it.

2019 is just around the corner. What are your initial plans?

SAM: We’ve already got quite a lot planned for next year, we’re going to get some new material out, and we’re also going to play as much as we possibly can, to as many places.

DAVID: We’ve also got our second EP in the pipeline.

And finally, what is the band’s long-term aim?

SAM: Our long-term aim is to dominate the world!

(The band all laugh)

To be honest, we just want to make this our full-time career.

DAVID: And if we manage to play with some really monstrous bands, then that would be a dream come true for all of us.

SAM: Also, it would be great to use those as opportunities to really big up the metal scene in Stoke-on-Trent.

Vulgore EP Cover

‘BLISS’, THE DEBUT EP FROM VULGORE, IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND THE BAND’S SECOND EP WILL BE RELEASED AT SOME POINT NEXT YEAR.

VULGORE WILL ALSO BE HEADLINING THE SUGARMILL, IN THEIR HOME CITY, ON JANUARY 19, MORE DETAILS OF WHICH CAN BE FOUND BELOW:

Vulgore gig poster

FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THEIR FACEBOOK AND SOUNDCLOUD PAGES.

 

TIDES OF RUIN

Tides Of Ruin band photo

TIDES OF RUIN (from l-r): Dom Birkin (bass), “Lankie McTall” (vocals/guitar), Dan Smallwood (guitar/vocals), Leighton Reed (drums)

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

From Stoke-on-Trent, four-piece Tides Of Ruin have their sights firmly set on domination of the metal world with a unique metalcore sound.

Before that, though, the band’s main aim is to get their debut EP recorded and released, and I spoke to them about that, and more, prior to the quartet’s recent set supporting American black metal juggernauts Abigail Williams in their home city.

How did the band get together?

DAN SMALLWOOD (guitar/vocals): We rose from the ashes of a previous band, Behead The Bride, and we’ve had a few line-up changes since we formed, but our current line-up is the most stable one we’ve had.

How did the name Tides Of Ruin come about?

DAN: Well, it came out of two names we had initially seriously considered. Lankie wanted the band to be called Throes Of Ruin, whereas I wanted us to be called The Conflicting Tides, so we decided to take parts of both names, and put them together.

What would you say was your songwriting approach?

DAN: Originally, I just brought songs to the table, but I think, as a band, you need everyone to bring some of their own input, so now, we all bring ideas to our practice sessions, which we will then jam out.

DOM BIRKIN (bass): Everyone sort of brings their own key things to the songwriting process, for example, Dan and Lankie will be thinking of guitar riffs, whereas obviously for me, as a bassist, I will be thinking more of structures, like “Shall we slow things down, or shall we speed things up?“, and stuff like that.

What inspires the band lyrically?

DAN: A lot of things, really.

DOM: Some songs have a political edge to them, actually, one of our songs, ‘Iceni’, is about the tribe of Boudica, so that’s historical.

DAN: Yeah, the idea for that came from a comic that Lankie had drawn on the subject.

DOM: Another one of our songs deals with mental health.

DAN: It’s kind of the stuff that we are all passionate about.

“LANKIE McTALL” (vocals/guitar): Another song we’ve done is about FGM, female genital mutilation, which is a really fucked-up concept, and happens in countries all around the world.

DAN: It’s something we all feel very strongly about.

Your main aim is to get your debut EP recorded and released. How far are you off achieving that at the moment?

DOM: We’ve been saying we’re going to get that out for the past two years!

DAN: It will come out eventually.

DOM: We’re aiming to get it out at some point next year, it’s just a case of time and money.

DAN: Our main aim, in addition to that, is to make sure that we don’t run out of things to do before we do get it out.

DOM: We’re definitely more of a gigging band, and obviously, you have bands who get stuff out every year or two, but we prefer to just focus on the gigging.

DAN: We do actually have some stuff recorded, some of which was taken from our live sets, but I suppose you could call ‘Iceni’ a single, as we recorded that earlier this year, and that’s something of ours that you can listen to at the moment, but you really do have to see us to get the full experience.

DOM: Yeah, that’s where it lies.

How is the experience, for you all, of playing live?

DOM: The best thing about being in a band, by far.

DAN: On stage, you can be, not necessarily somebody that you’re not, but you can afford to be more extravagant.

DOM: The day after a gig, though, is always the fucking worst, because your neck is absolutely killing you.

DAN: Too much headbanging, I reckon.

And finally, what is the band’s long-term aim?

DOM: I don’t think we’ve actually got that far, to be honest.

DAN: To get the EP recorded!

Tides Of Ruin Single Cover

‘ICENI’, THE LATEST SINGLE FROM TIDES OF RUIN, IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND THE BAND’S DEBUT EP WILL BE RELEASED AT SOME POINT IN 2019.

FURTHER INFO ON TIDES OF RUIN CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

SOUNDCLOUD