Tag Archives: Hard Rock


Empty Friend band photo


Taking their name from an album track by Los Angeles alternative rock collective Failure, four-piece Empty Friend are an outfit who have truly made a mark on the London underground music scene in the last couple of years with a heavy yet melodic combination of grunge, hard rock, stoner, and metal.

With the band having recently signed up to the MAS Records development programme, as well as having recorded a much-anticipated follow-up to last year’s debut EP ‘Saltwater‘, the quartet’s vocalist Dave Kirk and guitarist Ryan O’Hare chatted to me in-depth about these positive developments, and much more.

How did the band first get together?

DAVE KIRK (vocals): Well, Ryan and Karl have been mates since they were teenagers, and played in a band together a long while back, but Empty Friend really started to form at a Soundgarden reunion show in Hyde Park in London.

Ryan and Karl were there, and I was there with a close friend and bandmate from a previous band, so we all met up and experienced that amazing show together, and it all spiralled from there, really!

While we all come from different musical backgrounds, Soundgarden was, and still is, a special band for all of us. You can hear that in our music to a certain extent, and we still talk about that show.

While we all have different musical backgrounds, Soundgarden was and still is a special band for all of us. You can hear that in our music to a certain extent, and we still talk about that show.

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

RYAN O’HARE (guitar): For me, it’s basically, “That sounds good. Let’s play it again!Dave and I swap riffs all the time, and regularly spend time working through stuff on an acoustic – so we put a lot of work in to get it sounding right, but at the same time, the four of us can turn up to a band practice with something embryonic, and in a few minutes, we have the bulk of a song structure. What takes the time is carving it into our “style“.

What inspires the band lyrically?

DAVE: I almost always take on lyric writing duties, as I find it quite hard to channel real energy and emotion through someone else’s words. I often to take a positive approach to lyrics, writing about resistance and empowerment, but I also draw on ideas and observations from books, my own life experiences, or what I see around me in the world.

Sometimes, Ryan will pitch in with a title, idea, or key line that he has in his head from the riff writing stage. He really liked the idea of ‘Falter‘ being the keyword for our single, and so I took it off in my own direction from that word.

It’s pretty much the only “political” lyric I’ve written – one reviewer called it a “protest song of sorts“, and I like that, as I see so much anger and injustice in the world at the moment that I had to investigate it through the songwriting process.

Trying to match Ryan‘s enormous riff, the lyrics ended up being this huge vitriolic release of anger and hatred towards dictators and authoritarian regimes around the world who lie, kill, oppress, disappear, and muzzle their people all for the sake of their own ego, power, and greed.

On the subject of ‘Falter’, which was your recent single, how has the response been to it so far?

RYAN: It’s been great! Way more than we could have hoped for.

DAVE: We’ve had some play on Amazing Radio, Hard Rock Hell Radio, and some other cool stations, as well as some great feedback from several reviewers and rock music blogs, which has blown us away, really!

Also, the track was the first to be taken from the band’s upcoming second EP of the same name. How was the recording process for that?

RYAN: It was intense! We recorded and mixed everything in one weekend. At the end, we were doubling guitar parts in single takes, screaming our lungs out on vocal takes, and pretty much crashed out on the floor, but we had a great producer (Tom Hill), and it came together really well.

DAVE: Karl and Davvers really brought their A-game to the drums and bass – you have to be ridiculously tight musically when you are recording, as little things can really come back to haunt you when they are on record, and the studio can be an unforgiving place if you’re not ready, but Tom did a great job of making it as relaxing as possible, though, and he’s a very chilled guy.

How will the EP differ stylistically to your debut release, last year’s ‘Saltwater’?

RYAN: I think it’s a completely different sound from ‘Saltwater‘ – it’s more aggressive and edgy. It’s meant we’ve had to bring new life to some of our older tunes, and spurred us on to write more tunes which push things forward a bit more, and that’s a good thing. We really like it, and we hope others will as well.

DAVE: I totally agree – this new EP is very ambitious, and we have all really been pushing ourselves musically since last year. I think that comes across in the songs, as they have become bigger, bolder, and more direct.

And when are the band thinking of getting it out by?

DAVE: Good question! We’re due to put out one more single in the coming weeks, but you can expect the full EP to be out by Christmas/early New Year. Exciting times!

The band recently signed up to the MAS Records development programme, whose patrons include Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, and Ricky Wilson of the Kaiser Chiefs. How did that come about?

DAVE: Myself and Karl have, on-and-off, been going to Rooz Studios on Old Street for practice for the last ten years. We know Gerry pretty well, and he has kept an eye on us since we played our first show there a few years back, and he recommended that we apply this year, as he knows the people at MAS, and we are so excited to have been picked for this.

The idea that Robert Plant or Ricky Wilson might know, hear, or even like our tracks is the stuff of dreams, as Led Zeppelin, especially, are one of my all-time favourite bands.

And how is it going for you all so far?

RYAN: It’s still early in the process, but we’re happy to be on board. We’re really looking forward to the months ahead, and taking full advantage of the opportunity.

DAVE: It feels great to have some official support behind us, as we have been an underground DIY band building our own following since 2015, and we really hope that MAS will be able to help us reach a wider audience of the UK outside of London.

The band have performed at venues across much of London. How is playing on stage as an experience for all of you?

RYAN: We love it, and we just try to play our hearts out for every show. We’ve been really lucky to have some great support from friends, family, partners, and other bands, who enjoy supporting live music and want to be part of a growing scene, so thanks to everyone who has (and still does!) come to see us!

Live music, especially heavy rock, is in a bit of a funny place at the moment. There’s loads of bands and live music, but many venues are being priced out of London by rent increases, commercial development, etc, so it means we’ve lost some really iconic venues (Big Red, 12 Bar Club, the Alley Cat).

I think most people want to hold on to these great venues, but at the same time, in London, we might think £6 for a night of live music is steep, yet not think twice about forking out £5 for a beer! If we want to keep music alive in the city, then we’ve got to get out there and support it – and that means venues, promoters, and especially bands too. Support each other, and stick around for each others’ sets!

DAVE: There’s nothing quite like the buzz you get from a good live show with a raucous crowd. Your mind goes to some weird place, and you are completely alive in the moment. We come off stage sweating, occasionally bleeding, and completely knackered. I find a ton of bruises the next day. We leave absolutely nothing in the tank.

For me as a frontman, you are performing, sure, but it is actually a really honest experience at the same time, as you have to put across your most secret, and sometimes darkest, thoughts and admissions to complete strangers in the crowd.

In smaller venues, you can see their faces and the whites of their eyes, and a real rock crowd knows fake bullshit and posturing in the first 30 seconds of a song – if you are not 100% ready and genuine, you are done.

For that half-hour or hour I’m on stage, I become my real self, as the rest of the time, I feel caged somehow, and I think the lads feel that way too.

EP aside, what are your plans for the near future?

DAVE: We’ve got a lot on the horizon – we are long overdue some touring, and we are hoping to put that into action next year. We are mad keen to play some local rock festivals now that we are really ready.

We will be playing our first Camden Rocks Presents all-dayer on December 7, with a fantastic bill, and we are hoping that this will lead to us performing at Camden Rocks 2020, as we have been along to festival in the crowd so many times, and to actually play it next year is our biggest target.

We are also starting to make plans for a debut album, and for the past year, we have been part of Civil War London, which is a rock night, and also a collective of grunge, stoner, and metal bands who we know from the city’s scene, and these quarterly shows have helped to pull together some great underground heavy bands.

We would also love to get involved with Desertscene, who cater more specifically for the heavy rock and metal crowds.

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

DAVE: In the long-term, we really want to write better and better songs, and to establish ourselves as a recognised band in the London and UK heavy rock scenes. We have put in a lot of work over the years, and we are ready to play bigger stages, festivals, and support some touring bands.

We don’t care about cheap manufactured fame – we just want to play more great shows, make our mark, and maybe influence some of the next generation of great young bands on the scene that we have been meeting along the way.

Earlier this year, Ryan and I saw Fu-Manchu at Desertfest, and they are a great example of a band with enduring underground appeal, as they have been going for nearly 35 years now, and they still managed to pack out the Camden Roundhouse.

They’re not really a household name outside of the heavy rock scene, but they probably don’t give a shit!

Empty Friend Single Cover























A Ritual Spirit band photo


Having formed from the ashes of a previous band in their home city of Edinburgh, four-piece A Ritual Spirit burst onto the scene in 2013 with debut album ‘Carnival Carnivorous‘.

Ever since then, the collective – comprising of vocalist/guitarist Oli Bowker, guitarist Fraser McIntosh, bassist/vocalist Martin Gray, and drummer Dave Cumming – have amassed a devoted legion of followers with a well-crafted heavy rock sound, and tightly-packed live sets.

With the quartet’s eagerly-anticipated EP – entitled ‘The Antidote’ – having recently been unveiled, I spoke to Oli about this, and a host of other band-related topics.

How did the band first get together?

Our original guitarist Stevie, bassist Iain, and myself were previously in a band together during 2008 and 2009, and as that band crumbled, we formed A Ritual Spirit.

We jammed with several drummers until Dave brandished his sticks at us in early 2010, and he had played in several other bands, so was only supposed to just help us out while we recorded some demo tracks, but here we are almost a decade later, and he’s still behind the kit, and it’s kind of a band in-joke that he’s never “officially” joined.

How did the name A Ritual Spirit come about?

We spent ages throwing different ideas around, and we wanted a name that we all felt confident with. At one point, we all wrote ten words on different scraps on paper and threw them into a pile, then picked out two or three at a time to see what came out…and Raging Squirrel Garden just wasn’t going to make the cut, but then one day, Stevie suggested Ritual Spirit, and I just had to add an “A” for the comedy value of abbreviating to ARS.

We’ve been told that it sounds like the name of a cult or a Christian rock band, but if you do a bit of research, you’ll find its true meaning, and also Massive Attackstole” it for the name of their EP a few years back, which is both reassuring and frustrating in equal measures.

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

As a band, Stevie and myself originally wrote together. We would bounce ideas back and forth, and finish each other’s half-songs, jamming them with the rest of the band along the way.

Martin joined on bass in 2016, and began to immediately have an input into the songwriting – actually, we recorded the first song he brought to the table, but other than a single spin on local radio during a live interview, we’ve never released it, and for the past year, since Stevie left the band, myself and Martin have done the majority of the writing – these are the songs that appear on our new EP.

Also, in the past few months, we’ve been jamming some of our new guitarist Fraser‘s ideas, so I imagine that any of our future recordings will feature original material from all three of us.

What inspires the band lyrically?

Injustice, melancholy, anything that has or can provoke an emotional reaction, really. We have songs about break-ups, serial killers, suicide, addiction, politics, just to name a few, but you wouldn’t necessarily realise that’s what they are about.

Personally, writing lyrics and songwriting, as a whole, is a cathartic experience – and I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that – as it helps clear my subconscious of whatever might be bouncing around in it, and processes it through my conscious.

I have stacks of lyric books that I’ve filled over the years, and reading through them – for me, at least – is like reading a diary. I often try to steer away from being too obvious with the lyrics, and leave them open to interpretation to a certain extent, but for every lyric I have out there, I can tell you what personal state of mind and/or event triggered me to write it.

You recently unveiled a new EP – entitled ‘The Antidote’. How was the recording process for that?

It was one of the smoothest we’ve ever had. We recorded in a beautiful location in East Lothian overlooking Edinburgh and the Forth across to Fife, so it was a very relaxed atmosphere, and everything just pretty much flowed without too many issues.

Bryan is a fantastic producer, and he worked us hard at times, but without a doubt, he brought the best out of us.

And how does the new release differ stylistically to the band’s 2013 album, ‘Carnival Carnivorous’?

As previously mentioned, I shared the songwriting with Martin for ‘The Antidote‘, whereas ‘Carnival Carnivorous‘ was predominantly written by myself and Stevie, but I think the ethos is still the same as it always has been – plenty of guitar riffs and catchy vocal melodies – we’ve always been a band that’s straddled several genres, and I think that’s still apparent.

Aesthetically, we wanted ‘Carnival Carnivorous‘ to have a natural sound, as if the band was actually there in front of you playing in your living room, whereas I guess for ‘The Antidote‘, we wanted to transfer you to a sweaty venue to witness us playing a show.

You have performed at venues across the UK, supporting the likes of Sworn To Oath and Warrior Soul, and you have also featured at festivals such as Wildfire and Bloodstock. How were they as experiences?

Playing live is ultimately what being in a band is all about, and sharing stages or festival bills with amazing bands from across the world makes the experience even more special and worthwhile.

Unfortunately, we’re not big enough to do this for a living, but if I could stay on tour for the rest of my life, then I would be pretty content.

And how is it overall playing live on stage?

It’s a cliche, but you become someone else on stage, as it’s almost like an out-of-body experience, but it always ends too quickly!

As a band, you put in hours and hours of rehearsal time for that 45-minute slot, or however long you’re playing, but when you’re all in the groove churning out a tight set to an appreciative audience, there’s nothing else like it, and that’s why we keeping doing what we do.

It’ll probably sound strange, especially coming from a frontman, but I’m not a massive fan of being in the spotlight. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing live, but I don’t particularly enjoy the talking in between songs part of it.

Sometimes, I wish we could pull the early Pink Floyd stunt, hide behind smoke and lasers, and not say a word, but Martin‘s pretty good at forcing me to banter with him between songs nowadays, though, so we get through it okay.

And lastly, EP aside, what are the band’s plans for the near future?

We have a few upcoming shows announced, and a few more unannounced…We’ll be playing at the Opium in Edinburgh on November 21, Bannermans in Edinburgh on January 24 next year, and The Vault in Newton Stewart on April 4, and all going to plan, we should be announcing some more tour dates shortly, and like I said earlier, we’re currently jamming some new tunes, so once we have enough material, then I imagine we’ll hit the studio again and record a second album.

A Ritual Spirit EP Cover








LOUZADA – ‘The Z Files’

Louzada EP Cover


When I interviewed London collective Louzada recently, they told me that ‘The Z Files‘ – their debut EP – would “mark a paradigm shift in the music world“, and would “prove that rock is still very much alive“, which were rather bold statements to make from a band who up until this point had only brought out a couple of singles, but each of the five tracks that comprise this first offering provide justification – in their own way – for the outfit’s pre-release confidence.

A powerful statement of intent is made with opener ‘All Over The World‘, which sees the collective take from one of their key musical influences – in this case, AC/DC – and put a unique spin on it, resulting in a truly engaging mix of semi-melodic vocals, mesmerising guitar riffery, chunky bass lines, and pounding drum beats.

Dreaming Of You‘ continues in this retro vein, albeit with lighter, more positive tones, with poppier choruses and layered vocal deliveries accompanying lyrical content that perfectly captures what it is like to be young and in love.

Third number ‘Drown‘ is pretty much the antithesis of this, a proper anthem in the style of the Foo Fighters, containing aggressive vibes, an overall faster pace, and lyrics which frankly cover life in an abusive relationship, along with the resulting deterioration in mental health that often brings.

What’s Coming Now‘ sees the band continue down the intense, anthemic route, and the track is a bit of a headbanger, what with its high energy, frequent chanting, and vocals that are almost being screamed out.

Closer ‘Demons‘ is a song of two halves, with the first part dealing with an individual’s battle with their personal demons, conveyed through emotive vocals, and accompanied by a slow tempo. However, the second half sees the collective turn this on its head, with everything quickly gathering pace, and building in intensity, until the track reaches an earth-shattering climax done at almost breakneck speed, which effectively represents the individual’s determination to rid themselves of the demons present within them.

Overall, ‘The Z Files‘, with its well-crafted songs and relatable, thought-provoking lyrics, has to be one of the strongest debut EPs I have heard in a long time, and it makes me wonder just how much better Louzada could get in the future.








Louzada band photo


Louzada will be unveiling debut EP ‘The Z Files‘ this Friday, and with it being highly-anticipated by the London hard rock outfit’s rapidly-growing legion of followers, the band recently took the time to go through the upcoming release with me.


Our idea for ‘The Z Files‘ was to create something striking, in terms of both how it looked and how it sounded. We enlisted the services of Visual Decay Art & Design to create the wanted poster-style front cover.

The title fitted well, because it portrayed the band as being on the run and showing off our new breed of rock and roll everywhere we go. It sounds clichéd, but we feel this concept, and who we are matched perfectly!


This song is simply a powerful expression of who we are and what we aspire to do, therefore we deemed it to be the perfect opener for the EP. Lots of our idols started off their albums in the exact same fashion!

We basically wrote this song with one question in mind, “How can we make this song sound as much like AC/DC as possible?” Obviously the subject of this song is something that those guys have been doing for so many years, so we thought it was the perfect formula to follow! Everything about this song screams AC/DC from start to finish.


This is definitely our most commercially successful song on the EP. Every band has their sing-along favourite, and this is ours! This one has a summer vibe to it; it’s about meeting a girl and falling in love!

In terms of musicality, we took our hard rock sound and incorporated blues and a pop-style chorus into it, as these are two things that many music fans can instantly identify. We took our inspiration from 80’s glam bands such as Whitesnake and Mötley Crüe in both the instrumentation and vocal styles.


This is another song that we intended to relate with our listeners on an emotional level, and another one with a story behind it that many people can relate to. It portrays the situation of an abusive relationship, where one party is being controlled, used, and lied to by the other, and the lyrics depict the feelings and thoughts of the sufferer as the situation progresses.

The title of the song speaks for itself; anybody in an abusive situation feels their sanity and mental health slowly deteriorating. It also depicts the moment that the sufferer says enough is enough and fights back. The melodies and chord progressions here were largely inspired by modern alternative rock bands such as the Foo Fighters and Nickelback.


This is the most aggressive track on the EP, and it really shows off our influences from bands such as Metallica and Motörhead. This one can be interpreted in several ways, for example, some may interpret it as our response to current issues in the world, and the chaos that ensues as a result.

However, others may interpret it in a more music-oriented way. The chorus starts with the line, “The world isn’t ready for what’s coming now…“. In this way, it refers to our new rock sound, which we want to show off to the world.


This one is the most complex song on the EP. The changes in the groove and tempo in the second half of the song, and the intense playing style of all the instruments make it a suitable closing track.

It talks about mental health, which is something that continues to be a huge issue, especially in the music industry, and the first half portrays an individual battling the demons in his head, feeling like he has nowhere to go, and nobody to turn to, however, the second half of the song portrays the person’s determination to battle his demons and ultimately win his fight.

Bands such as Avenged Sevenfold, Helloween, and Alice In Chains were a huge influence on us when writing this song with the slow-to-fast tempo change, the guitar melodies, the vocal styles, and the intense double kick drum towards the end.

In summary, this song is our way of encouraging those who are struggling that they can and will overcome any obstacle, no matter the size.

Louzada EP Cover




Louzada band logo


This Friday, London collective Louzada will be releasing their debut EP – entitled ‘The Z Files‘ – which will undoubtedly see the band build on their rapidly-growing reputation.

Formed in the autumn of 2017 by vocalist Jason Payne, bassist Ted Phipps, and drummer Izzy Taylor, who were all students at the UK capital’s British And Irish Modern Music Institute (or BIMM for short) campus, the then-trio – whose name originated from Jason‘s home town in his native Portugal – got to work straight away, meeting on a daily basis to rehearse.

However, the wheels would only be put into further motion when the outfit began to collaborate with esteemed producer Stuart Epps – who has worked in the past with such legendary musical names as Led Zeppelin, Oasis, and George Harrison.

We enjoyed the time we spent with Stuart“, the band say, “He really helped us to grow in regards to both our sound, and as musicians.

This experience gave the collective the confidence to further develop a diversely-influenced hard rock sound that takes no prisoners, strikes the right balance of retro and contemporary, and is accompanied by lyrical content inspired by issues that are relatable to listeners everywhere, which is something that they first effectively showcased last year with inaugural track, ‘Dreaming Of You‘.

That song was a real game-changer, because as a result of that, we came to be one of the most streamed London bands on ReverbNation, and we started to get plenty of invitations to play live shows.

From there, Louzada began to really make a mark on the city’s underground live music scene, impressing crowds with mesmerising, high-energy sets, including one at the Camden Rocks Festival earlier this summer, and this is something that the outfit – who recently added rhythm guitarist Johnny Hail to their ranks – are keen to capture with the upcoming release.

The EP will mark a paradigm shift in the music world. It has a very powerful sound with a driving pulse, and it’s going to show the world that rock isn’t dead – it is actually very much alive and well.

It is a bold statement from a band who have so far only brought out a handful of singles, however, having now successfully broken through into a scene where many musicians have gone before, and have failed spectacularly, it has to be justified.

Louzada EP Cover




Louzada band photo

LOUZADA (from l-r): Jason Payne (vocals/lead guitar), Johnny Hail (rhythm guitar), Izzy Taylor (drums/vocals), Ted Phipps (bass/vocals)


From LondonLouzada have firmly established themselves on the city’s underground live music scene since forming in late 2017 with a no-holds-barred hard rock sound that truly manages to strike the right balance of retro and contemporary, and now, with a highly-anticipated debut EP – entitled ‘The Z Files‘ – set for release later this week, the band went into detail with me about that, as well as themselves.

How did the band initially form?

The band started in September 2017, with the three original members: Jason, Ted, and Izzy. We were fellow BIMM London students, and we started straight away, rehearsing every day, and recently, we met our new member, Johnny, who is currently filling the role of rhythm guitarist.

How did the name Louzada come about?

We wanted to pay homage to a Portuguese town called Lousada, since our lead singer is from there. We love to perform here, and our first international show was there at a festival known as Grandiosas 18.

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

Jason usually writes the main riff, or the first idea for a song, then the band all get together to start the arrangements, adding more instrumentation to the main idea. We could say that our music is very much influenced by our idols, but we add our own messages that we want to get across, as well as our own personality.

In effect, we add a 21st century vibe to our 80’s hard rock sound, the 80’s being the era that has influenced us the most.

What inspires the band lyrically?

We could say that we get inspired by everything that it is real in this world, for example, our current political issues, things we like and do, as well as what isn’t real and can’t be seen so clearly, for example, the search for our purpose in life, more metaphysical and philosophical themes, and our imagination of what surrounds us mentally and physically.

Last year, you brought out your debut single, entitled ‘Dreaming Of You’. How was the immediate response to it?

As a result of that song, we came to be one of the most streamed London bands on ReverbNation, and we started to get plenty of invitations to play shows.

And shortly, the band will be unveiling ‘The Z Files’, their first EP. How was the recording process for that?

We entered the studio with everything very organised and well structured, but from the first day onwards, every song started to change. Our producer got involved both lyrically, and in the songwriting, and we all think it is safe to say that we gained a lot of experience, and developed our music to get a unique sound that anybody will easily identify as a Louzada song.

Also, the new release was produced by Alessio Garavello, who has worked with the likes of A New Tomorrow and Dragonforce. How was working with him as an experience?

Working with Alessio was fantastic since he put his heart and soul into the making of the album, he pushed us towards a very good musical direction, and he always demanded the best version of the musicians we are.

And what can be expected from the EP?

The Z Files‘ will mark a paradigm shift in the music world. It has a very powerful, energetic sound with a driving pulse, and it is going to show the world that rock isn’t dead – it is very much alive and well.

The band performed at the Camden Rocks festival earlier this summer, and have also played at venues across London. How is the overall live experience for you all?

It has been a very pleasant experience for us, and it made it possible for us to grow as musicians, and as human beings.

EP aside, what are your plans for the near future?

We will keep on rolling with the shows- we actually have a very special one at the O2 Academy Islington in December! We’ll keep on engaging with our fans doing all kinds of musical activities during the rest of this year, and next year, we’ll start our first big tour. Also, we have some surprises coming soon for our fans.

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

We want to establish ourselves as a very well respected band in the music industry, we also want to keep expanding our horizons in the art we create, as well as in the distances our music and shows can achieve.

Louzada EP Cover












A band photo



Since first forming as A back in 1993, the Suffolk alternative rock outfit have been on an eventful journey that has seen highs – signing their first record contract, releasing a string of critically and commercially successful albums, and playing gigs and festivals at venues across the world – and lows – the record label they were a part of suddenly collapsing, getting into a dispute with the label that took over their contract, resulting in them being dropped, and the band splitting up for three years in the mid-2000’s.

However, they have risen above those past negative events to become a collective who are highly-respected by their musical peers, and still bring much fun and enjoyment to their live shows.

Following the current five-piece’s set at the Electric Ballroom – as part of the recent Camden Rocks Festival – I went backstage to speak with frontman Jason Perry, who spoke to me frankly about his and the rest of the band’s experiences over the years.

How did the band initially form?

In the womb! Me and Adam (Perry, drums) are twins, then Giles (Perry, keyboards/vocals) popped out four years later. We were always into creating and playing music, which then eventually evolved into us starting a jam covers band when me and Adam were 11, and that was it, really, as we’ve just carried on ever since.

How did the name A come about?

We wanted a name that didn’t really mean anything, which wasn’t pretentious or anything, easy to remember, and wouldn’t tie us down to a specific genre. Also, we wanted a name that looked good on a T-shirt.

What would you say was your songwriting approach?

I don’t know, to be honest. Mainly, I will walk around, an idea will suddenly come into my head, and I’ll put it down on my phone or whatever.

We’ve never just sat down and written a song. Mark (Chapman, guitarist) will often come up with a bit of music, so did Dan (P. Carter, former bassist), when he was in the band, back in the day, and then we’ll join up all of the different dots to create a song. That’s the way we’ve always done it.

In 2002, the band brought out their third album, ‘Hi-Fi Serious’, which did really well critically and commercially. How did you all deal with the response to it at the time?

Honestly, we wanted it to do better! (laughs) No, it did well, but we thought it was going to take off in America, because we had been touring there a lot, putting down all of the groundwork, and a few of our tracks had been played on K-ROQ (an influential radio station in Los Angeles, which specialises in playing alternative rock), which was a big deal, so just before the album came out, we were really excited, all of us were thinking, “This is going to be it! We’re going to crack America!“, but unfortunately, Mammoth Records – the label we were with at the time – suddenly collapsed.

We first heard that news while we were all in France, snowboarding with Jo Whiley of BBC Radio 1, and Mis-Teeq, who were this pop group. We had had a great couple of days, but then we got this call about the label collapsing, and that it had been taken over by Disney, so we had gone from being part of this really cool record label, to being part of Hollywood Records, which was owned by Disney.

You went on to have a dispute with them, didn’t you?

Yeah, we did. We were gutted, because we had brought out a big album, which was doing well here in the UK, it was also doing well in Japan, Germany, France, all of these different markets, and when the MTV Awards were being held that year – I think it was hosted by Jack Black – and they were giving out the award for best band, they played one of our songs, yet in the middle of all that, our label had collapsed, and we subsequently lost our record deal, so it was really bad luck.

In 2005, the band decided to take a break. At the time, was it just meant to be that, or did you honestly think this was the end of A?

We had just brought out another album (‘Teen Dance Ordination‘), which didn’t do very well, it didn’t land anywhere, and when you had had a big album on a major label, to then come back and not get any radio play, it wasn’t good.

We did another tour after that, but we didn’t want to end up being this band that just kept hanging around, complaining all the time, so we decided to take the “no complaining” route, and during our break, I began to write and produce music for other bands.

Over the years, you’ve toured all over the world, playing numerous venues and festivals. What have been your main highlights from those times?

I think touring Japan was our best experience, and the rest of the band would probably say that as well. The main reasons being were that the audiences were cool, and we also got an amazing amount of time off.

We were over there with The Streets – who were our label mates at the time – and The Wildhearts, and we also played with The Offspring and Guns N’ Roses, and on our days off, we would hang out with Mike (Skinner, The Streets frontman) and the other guys from The Streets, and I remember just having an amazing time, as we all had lots of fun. It was really cool.

Also, playing at festivals in Germany, and on the main stage of Reading & Leeds, they were high points for us as well.

When the band first formed, did you ever expect it to still be going now?

No, not now. We wanted to be big, we wanted to write big songs, we wanted to play big venues, but along the way, we scored a few own goals, as we were just silly, because we spent more time trying to make each other laugh rather than doing other things, and I think – looking back – that was detrimental to our careers.

However, having said that, we have always been able to put on a good gig, for example, today could have been a complete disaster, but it ended up being fun, and I think we’ve always been good at being able to do that, as well as connecting with crowds, and that’s always been our favourite things to do as part of being in this band, because at the end of the day, the crowd are cooler than we are, and we’ve always thought that.

I don’t know why, but playing live has always come so naturally to us, as we’re the same on the stage as we are off it, also, we don’t rehearse for any of our gigs, so what you see on stage is genuinely real. In the early days of the band, our manager would try and get us to rehearse, but we quickly got bored and just went to sleep! (laughs)

What are your plans for the near future?

We’ve just written two new songs, which we think are really good, so we’ll soon be recording them in the studio, and then we’ll be going back on tour in November, playing the ‘Monkey Kong‘ album in full.

Will the band be releasing another album at all in the future?

An album seems so old-fashioned to do nowadays, so we’ll just keep on getting out new singles, because it does actually cost a lot of money to record a professional-sounding album, so it would really be of no use for us to release an album that sounded crap.

Also, there’s some really good music about at the moment, and we seem to be heading towards another great era.

And lastly, what advice would you give to any emerging bands and artists out there?

Don’t split up! It sounds obvious, but the best way to succeed is by not developing massive egos, and they say the first rule of business is to stay in business, because some bands tend to forget that at the end of the day, they are actually businesses, so it’s no use arguing over songwriting credits, royalties, etc, because that could result in a band splitting up.

I think everyone who is in a band now needs to find their own specific role to play. It doesn’t necessarily have to be music-related, as now, as well as being a musician, you need to also be an entrepreneur, so finding a role to play is now as important as anything else to do with being in a band.


A tour poster










Royal Tusk band photo

ROYAL TUSK (from l-r): Calen Stuckel (drums), Quinn Cyrankiewicz (guitar), Dan Carriere (vocals), Sandy MacKinnon (bass)


Armed with their own unique brand of heavy, no-frills rock n’ roll, along with brutally honest lyrical content, four-piece Royal Tusk have already gained a devoted legion of followers from both sides of the Atlantic, and the band’s stock has just kept on rising since the release of their positively-received second album, ‘Tusk II‘, last October.

With the quartet about to embark on a tour of the UK and continental Europe, supporting fellow Canadian rock collective Monster Truck, bassist Sandy MacKinnon told me about the journey he and his bandmates have been on to get to the point they’re at currently, and a host of other topics related to Royal Tusk.

How did the band initially form?

Myself and Dan have been playing in bands together for over 15 years, touring the world and writing music together. After our last band dissolved, it seemed to be a natural progression that we form a new one, focusing on music that was more to our taste.

We enlisted the musicianship of both Calen and Quinn, what with both of them being monsters on their respective instruments, and they also had the same goals, so it was a no-brainer, really.

How did the name Royal Tusk come about?

Well, the truth of the matter is, there is nothing royal about us at all! (laughs) The word “tusk” really kind of evokes the idea of being large, like larger than life, like a giant elephant with massive tusks, or a bad-ass warthog, who are sort of the kings of their lands.

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

It really depends on the song itself. Some come together so quickly with everyone in our rehearsal space, and ideas will come spilling out, but then there are others that can take what feels like an eternity to get fleshed out.

At the root of it all, it either starts with a banging guitar riff, or a vocal lyric that sounds way too good to not write a song around.

What inspires the band lyrically?

Every song on ‘Tusk II‘ (the band’s second album, released last October) had its own story or message. With so much going on in our world today – good and bad – itʼs hard for us to just stand on the sidelines and not say anything about it.

Look, we’re not trying to change the world, or tell people how to think, however, we want to speak our minds.

How was the recording process for ‘Tusk II’?

As opposed to other records weʼve made in the past, where we would take about a
month in a studio, spending every day working on it, we did this record in two different sessions, where we would do five songs each.

At the time I was hoping we could do it all in one, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as we were able to take time between the sessions to review the songs we had just recorded, and also fine-tune the ones we were getting ready to put down.

And how was the reaction to that, in comparison to the band’s previous releases?

I think everyone – right off the bat – were able to notice that we got substantially heavier, and that the content was angrier as well. I think the reaction has been
very positive across the board, and I think maybe people were starved for a little no bullshit rock n’ roll.

The transition was easy for us, we just wrote music, and it happened to naturally veer towards a heavier sound, and the reaction at our shows has been amazing, with people banging their heads and screaming our words right back at us, itʼs been fucking magical!

You’re just about to embark on a tour of the UK and continental Europe supporting fellow Canadian rock collective Monster Truck. For those who are yet to see the band perform, what can they expect from your live sets?

Anyone who happens to be in the crowd at one of our shows, whether we are supporting or headlining, are going to witness a true blue collar rock n’ roll band.

We are going to leave it all up there, whether it’s to a packed house or a half-full club, and itʼs going to be a real bonafide rock n’ roll show, which is the least we can do for the people in the crowd who are making it possible for us to live our dream.

And this July, the band will be performing at the Rock USA festival in Wisconsin, which is being headlined by Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, and Disturbed. I can imagine that’s something you’re all looking forward to.

The moment we got the offer, and I saw that we were going to be playing on the same day as Mastodon, the little fanboy in me came out, and to be mentioned alongside those kinds of artists is just surreal.

And finally, you’ve achieved much these past couple of years. Honestly, did any of you expect all of that to happen when the band initially got together?

When Iʼm on stage and I look at all the other fellas there with me, Iʼm not that surprised, as we’re a group of hungry musicians that want it more than anyone.

We still have the same goals, and we want to achieve them writing good, honest rock n’ roll music, and like I said earlier, itʼs the people who send us messages online, listen to our music, come to our shows, who are making it possible for us to live our dream, so from the bottom of our hearts, thank you, you all fucking rule, and we’ll see you on the road!

Royal Tusk Album Cover



Royal Tusk tour poster