It’s not every day that a hardcore act is asked by one of Bloodstock‘s organisers to play the festival – and on the hallowed Hobgoblin New Blood stage, at that. Melanie Brehaut sat down with the band’s bassist Chris McDowell (and briefly, guitarist Paul Bam) about the band’s ambitions, influences and being a Northern Irish band at an internationally renowned festival (warning: some NSFW language from Mr Bam!).
► So, how was your set?
Chris: It was really good! Obviously we were very nervous before we played and all, but more so about how the sound would be like onstage. It wasn’t great but the sound guys were good, once we got the sound down it was all good. As long as we could hear everyone you know? So yeah, we’re very pleased with how the set went: there was no major screw ups, everyone played what they were supposed to play, which is all you can ask. The crew were brilliant; I must say the crew here have been fantastic. So in all it was a good set, I really enjoyed it.
► How does it feel to be one of the few Northern Irish bands at Bloodstock?
Actually very proud! It’s brilliant when you consider how many bands are here from all around the world, just to have ourselves and Overoth here representing Northern Ireland – it’s just brilliant. We’re very proud, I have to be honest with you, very proud.
► You’re also one of the few hardcore bands here, but you’re in good company with the likes of Napalm Death! Is that the sort of band that inspires you?
Personally, I draw my inspiration from a lot of different places. I enjoyed seeing Napalm, they were outstanding, but my background’s much more…when I grew up and starting taking the bass more seriously it was guys like Paul Fraser from Free, and a guy called Berry Oakley who used to play for the Allman Brothers. So I had a more blues background, Sabbath, things like that. And believe it or not, that’s the sort of thing I want to bring to BAM. I don’t claim to be as good as those bands, but there’s four musicians in BAM and I want to hear four instruments rather than all four of us just playing the same riffs, playing the same thing. So just try and bring different things. We’re not reinventing the wheel by any stretch of the imagination, but I’d definitely try and bring that old school rock and blues into what we do.
► Obviously hardcore differs from metal sonically. How do you get that proper hardcore sound? What gear do you use?
Well obviously we de-tune down to ‘C’ so you have to use a heavier gauge of string, which takes awhile to get used to, and obviously there’s a looser feel to the strings. I play an Ernie Ball Music Man Stringray bass – the only bass to play this kind of music, you need that really low end and the Ernie Ball can handle it. I also use Mesa Boogie cabs – again, a superb piece of equipment. I know Paul (guitarist) uses Gibsons and Marshalls, he’s very traditional and sort of an old school sound.
► How have the two new members been settling in?
Really good, actually. We’ve had a turbulent couple of years with members in and out. Gavin (Brown) came in on drums and has done really well, and (vocalist) Paul (Docs) almost overnight has fit into the band – in fact, his rehearsal for the band was a gig! I was really nervous about it; I’m not one of these people that likes to get onstage and just wing it, I like to rehearse. I think it’s only fair to the fans who have paid their money and come to see you – but he put on a really good performance. So, personally I was really nervous about Paul doing a gig with us for the first time ever, but he proved me wrong one hundred percent: we had a great gig and it was like he’d been in the band for months from his first night with us. He was absolutely brilliant. So both guys have settled in lovely, we’re a bit more settled now so we can start looking to move forward.
► What is next for the band now?
We’ve a few cover slots coming up in the next few months, and we’ve five or six new tunes – we played some today – so we’ll keep writing those and hopefully (maybe) get an album out by the end of the year. Well, an EP at least, and by early next year at the latest. We’ll get there!
► Where do you see the band going? What are your goals?
To be honest with you, it’s not that we don’t have goals and aspirations for the band, but we kind of take it one day at a time you know? I think…it’s not that you don’t want to aim high, but this is a cut throat industry and I started playing music because I enjoyed it and I want to keep doing so. So as long as I’m turning up to practice with a smile on my face and getting to play gigs like this, whatever will be will be, then we just move on to the next one.
► Enjoy the moment?
Absolutely. Life’s too short to just make plans; you end up missing out on the present.
► That’s true. Ok, final question: who would be on your ideal festival lineup if you got to choose the bands?
Oh! Mine would be very eclectic, that’s an odd one (laughs). I have nothing against someone who only wants to listen to one style of music, that’s grand. But personally, I know I can speak for Paul when I say I can get into the van and there will be jazz playing, there’s blues playing, a little rock…so, just anything and everything –
► (At this point of the interview guitarist Paul appeared and made a HIGHLY inappropriate joke involving an accidental fall and a certain part of his anatomy meeting Chris’ anatomy…we won’t go into detail!).
Well, the first band I really got influenced by, and they’ll never get old for me is Iron Maiden, so they would definitely be on there. Another would be – and funny enough we’re going to see them tonight – is Black Label Society; what a band, you don’t get much better than that. If you could, the Allman Brothers, I’m heavily influenced by them. Unfortunately most of them are dead now, but…again, Free, I was heavily influenced by them growing up as a bass player, so I love to see those kind of guys.
Paul (interjecting): there not so much the Allman Brothers these days as the Allman Brother (laughs).
Chris: yeah…just that old school stuff you know? When music was music.
► What about you, Paul? If you could choose a festival lineup, who would you choose?
Paul: Dead or alive?
► Doesn’t matter. Your dream lineup.
Paul: my dream lineup…The Doors, Stevie Ray Vaughan, AC/DC with Bon Scott, Quo, Motorhead, Black Label Society, Down, Orange Goblin…
Chris: just me, playing bass for an hour? (laughs)
Paul: oh yeah yeah. A solo session.
Chris: a cry wank!
Paul: a cry wank (mock tears) “Are you proud of me now mum? Are you proud of me now? I’ve made it big!” (laughs).
Chris: into your tearstained mattress (laughs).
Paul: Yeah, I’ll drag my tearstained mattress on the stage (laughs). That would pretty much be it, I reckon. Oh, and Black Sabbath with Ozzy as well.