They came from the four corners of England to talk to MaF in a tent in Australia...
As the sun beats down rather more relentlessly than we'd been promised it would at the latest renewal of Melbourne's version of Soundwave 2014 I'm joined in the media area by three likely looking lads who are in the market for a bit of a chat. Heavens Basement's drummer Chris Rivers, Rob Ellershaw (bass) and guitarist Sid Glover are glowing from an early morning tent performance that, if nothing else, certainly loosened the wax from any unsuspecting passers by who caught their largely unheralded though excellent, energetic set.
'Welcome to Australia!' seems a bit of an odd greeting from one Englishman to three other Englishmen, but it at least affords a little laugh and breaks the ice. The boys tell me they met up with MaF lensman Jed Burke at their warm up show in Sydney, and then, preliminaries over, we get into the important stuff.
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"Are you having a good time?" Sid laughs. "A dangerously good time!" To which Chris adds, in his broad Yorkshire tones "We like making leagues up of countries. Australia is now number one!"
It's better than you thought it would be then? Sid, though wearing a rather nifty pair of aviator shades, can't hide his enthusiasm. "It's fucking insane!"
Rivers explains futher: "It's such a great festival, so well organised, we've had a great time with all the other bands." You realise if England had have won the Ashes earlier this summer you'd have been treated like scum? More laughter, before Rivers generously offers "Australia is a great country! You can keep the fucking Ashes!"
I'm not sure I can agree with the entirety of that sentiment, so I move on. Have any of you been to Australia before as 'normal' people? Sid shakes his head. "None of us, we were told this was the best way to do it – see all the major cities, play with a lot of other bands- " and get someone else to pay for it! Chris Rivers is nodding his head furiously. "That's right, most people would have to work really hard for a year to be able to come down here. We get to do it with our music. Recording our album (last year's excellent Filthy Empire)... it's been like a travel certificate to get to all these other countries."
And Soundwave has become something of a destination festival now, hasn't it? In the old days as metal fans living in England, the most we would hope for is a hop across the Channel to Dynamo in Holland or maybe Wacken. Now everybody's coming down here! Sid? "Well, every band that we talk to that has come down for Soundwave has been complimentary about it. All the bands travel together, stay in the same hotels together, there's all this bonding. It's a non-stop party! As much as bands might say touring is a party, there are always times when you get tired, or need to slow down. But this is a non-stop party. It's fucking amazing!"
So maybe a trek down here under your own steam might be in order? Rivers looks ready to bite my hand off, even though it's not within my gift to offer such a tour. "Yes! We'd love to come back. The album's out, the reaction from the shows we've played has been amazing so hopefully by the end of the year we can get back down here." So after you get back from Soundwave you head out on the road straight away? "Yes, as soon as we get back we go out on our first ever headline tour of mainland Europe. After that we go to the States for some festivals, back to Europe for the Summer, then probably back to the States again, then we'll see. It's going to be a very busy year for us all."
Going back to Soundwave and festivals in general, it's a very varied bill here isn't it? Do you think that harms a band like you? Would you rather play on a bill of perhaps more similar-sounding bands where there's a fair chance the punters there will be more immediately open to what you're doing? Rivers is doubtful. "We're playing on a stage with GWAR and Less Than Jake!" He's obviously enthused by this. "When we've toured we've supported, you know, hardcore metal bands, old school metal bands, we like to float around all the genres of hard rock."
I guess you're pretty heavy live, aren't you? Rob Ellershaw clarifies the point for me. "We're aggressive live."
There's a difference between aggression and for-the-sake-of-it heaviness then? Rivers thinks so. "That's the issue for some of us, yes. You see some of these more hardcore bands, and then with us... we just put on a high energy show." To which Glover adds "It's more like Guns n'Roses. They weren't a heavy band, but there was aggression."
They had their moments! And Sid's mentioning of the mighty gunners gives me a nice in to my next point – you're young blokes. It's an unusual thing to find four blokes (the band is rounded out by vocalist Aaron Buchanan, who isn't on interview duty today) your age playing aggressive, high energy rock n'roll. Most people your age on the bill are playing something altogether more 'modern' sounding... "That's why we came together!" it's that man Rivers again.
"We came together from four different parts of the country! Because there's not many people you find playing the same kind of stuff in the same kind of way! We're all old school players in the way we approach our instruments" Glover adds "It's just what we grew up listening to. I grew up listening to blues, Pink Floyd, Zeppelin and Hendrix so that influence is naturally in my playing; So then when you meet a guy who is basically a stadium drummer and guy from the John Paul Jones school of bass playing it's going to have some of those things rubbing off on you. But I think it's also a form of mentality. Because we approach our live shows quite differently from, for instance, a lot of the bands on this bill; A lot of the other bands in our age bracket have a different approach. But we're very much of the play it loud, play it live, wear it all on your sleeve and just go out and have a fucking good time attitude."
And well it shows. Today was the first time I've seen you live and it was a storming set. So how hard was it to get this far – you say you came from four corners of England; how did that come about? Rivers takes the reins again."Well I knew Sid in about 2006, before Heavens Basement started – the band started in 2008 – so we've known each other for a while now. We actually met Rob in 2009 when HB played some shows with the band he was in (at which point Glover helpfully points out that these shows were played under the alias of Thunderdonkey), and we met Aaron in 2011, But England is very small" It is. And that makes thing a little easier in Ellershaw's opinion. "The type of music we play, in England, the scene is very small. You know all the bands, you know all the guys that have something about them." Glover helps out again. "Yeah. And we couldn't get them so we got him."
Oh, the laughs... We've established you've got a busy year – will that stop you writing new material? Do you write on the road? "We sketch on the road" says Sid. Do you find it hard? "Oh, it's not that we find it hard it's just that other things occupy your time! I come up with a lot of lyrics on the road... well, taglines, rather than full songs. I write them down, record them. Then when we get time off I go through them to see which ones might become full songs. But we're not sitting down and writing the second album with each other yet. We had an evening of playing one another our ideas when we were hammered one night in America a little while ago. We were on a long drive and had some time to kill. It's like asking a girl out for the first time! Don't break my heart! Don't judge me on this!"
Ellershaw: "We made sure we got drunk before we did it." That's a very English thing to do! "You have to. We wrote the first album for ourselves. You never want to over think what you are doing and end up writing for other people. We'll just record everything and see how it takes shape".
Well, if it's anything like the first one, you've got nothing to worry about...