||INTERVIEW WITH IRON KNIGHTS
Johnny Main: Photos by Carlan Braid.
Rising from the remnants of Stuka Squadron, life seems to have settled down for British Heavy Metal band Iron Knights who have evolved from the theatrical band of the past into a solid and powerful band.
With the self-titled album about to be released to an eager public, I caught up with the band to see how they are moving on from the past, what the future plans the band have and what they really think of social media.
With regards to their upcoming tour, I ask them how the band are finding the rigours of life on the road?
Larry: "It's good. Y'know, This will be the second time that this line ups been out live because we've already had a short tour in March and it's been a good growing experience from when we rehearsed together for the first few times to being onstage now, we've growing on stage and getting used to each other, y'know. We haven't actually split up yet (laughs).
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With the new 'Iron Knights' album about to be released, how does that feel?
Larry: "Speaking for myself, I'm really happy with the album and the whole direction of the band, y'know, so it's really cool to take it out there and play it live. We're kind of dismissing the first album ('New Sound of War', released in November 2012) so we're pretty much starting again with this new album. It's like we're drawing a line with the new album and we'll stand behind it because we're all happy with it."
The 'Destroyer' single was given away earlier in the year as a free download wasn't it?
Larry: "Yeah, it went down really well, actually. It was a statement of intent because there's kind of two Iron Knights. There's the old one, which is history, which was Stuka Squadron and all that kind of stuff and then once the line up changed dramatically. It's kind of a completely new band now. We've kind of got the history of it but it's totally new with a different vibe and different attitude, y'know?
"With the 'Destroyer' single we were kind of saying to people 'This is where we're going' and ironically it started off as part of a song we wrote in the old band when it was about German night fighters and stuff and it morphed into the 'Destroyer' track that we have now which Jamie (Gibson, Vocals/Guitar) came up with (laughs).
"Jamie writes all the lyrics and stuff and we thought it's going to be a while till the album's going to come out so we just fired it out as a free download. The thing was that once it was announced, hundreds and hundreds of people were downloading it, y'know, and the vibes coming back have been really positive. We've seen people singing along to it, so that's always a good sign!"
The band have recently recruited vocalist Jamie Gibson and Wayne Mann on guitar, so I ask if the band is a bit more cohesive than it had been in the past?
Larry: "I don't know, you should ask the new fellas (laughs). I think so, yeah, it great with ourselves, but the real test is when you stick four or five guys in a van and they don't wanna throttle each other! So far so good! (laughs)."
Paul: "The thing for me with this line up is that before, it was a real preconceived idea about what we were doing and where we were going and how we were going to look. This is the complete opposite. We're going to do what comes naturally and just evolve naturally."
Larry: "All that make up and vampire stuff, that's all gone. All gone for the show but what we do in our hotel room is nobody else's business! (laughs)."
So the band are back to being just a regular Hard Rock/Heavy Metal band then?
Larry: "It's all about Heavy Metal - we're a Heavy Metal band! There's no need for a particular image. We actually found when we were part of that vampire thing, that it was just getting in the way of the music. That was starting to be the focus of some people's drive and the music was definitely suffering as a result, in my opinion.
"It showed us on the tour we did with Vicious Rumours (in May 2013) because they were a band that we hadn't paid much attention to for an awful long time, but they were just a really good Heavy Metal band, y'know, really solid and no fancy imagery - just a good Metal band, so when these guys (gestures towards Jamie and Wayne) came onboard, I think they were the same as us that we don't want to dress up in frilly shirts and vampire teeth and all that."
Paul: "Apart from Wayne - but he does that off stage! (laughs)"
So how did Wayne and Jamie come to join the band?
Jamie: "I played in another band and one of our very first gigs was supporting the Iron Knights, and then about two months later I got a phone call offering me the job as a vocalist, so I said "Yeah" (laughs)."
Larry: "The thing was that we were looking for a new vocalist and I was thinking of all these folk I'd played with or seen on stage who were pretty good and Jamie seemed like the best fit. Originally he just joined as the vocalist with an eye to doing some guitar later on, because we had another guy on guitar but then he buggered off so Jamie kind of leapt in there. (Points at Wayne) We couldn't get rid of him (laughs)."
Wayne: "We'd played together in other bands on and off for years, and Larry called up one day saying he was looking for a guitar player."
With the band now in place and the album out, they are undertaking a short UK tour to support it, so does the band have any pre-gig rituals?
Paul: "(raises a pint of beer) You're looking at it! (laughs)."
Larry: "No, there are no prayer circles or group hugs or anything like that. We just take the piss out of Wayne for a while if that counts (laughs). I guess there are habits you get into like you don't eat immediately before going on, that kind of stuff, but we don't do all that standing round holding hands like we're doing it for the kids, y'know. It's not really us all that stuff. 'Cos we don't do all the blood and all that shit anymore - we're back to being a good old fashioned honest Heavy Metal band and we stand or fall on the merits of the music, y'know!"
So how is the vibe on stage with this line up?
Larry: "As a band, everyone has their individual abilities onstage but it takes a while for everything to gel and work on their stagecraft and it's come on in leaps and bounds so it was much more comfortable on our last tour in March. The first time we had a small technical disaster was on the very first night of that tour (laughs)"
Jamie: "My guitar decided to be in a completely different tuning to the one everyone else was playing in. It's quite amusing trying to tune a guitar whilst sing two songs (laughs)".
Larry: "It's been good though because with stuff like that you never find out till it happens, what people are gonna do and all this kind of stuff, y'know, how you communicate on stage and for the last tour we did in March. 'Effortless' is the word that keeps popping up. It all just slotted in and no-one told anyone particularly how to do things - we all seem to know what we're doing and we're all on the same sort of wavelength both musically and performance-wise. It's great and that's why we want to play more gigs so we can get better and better."
So how does the band feel about social media applications like Facebook/Twitter?
Larry: "It's a double edged sword, in my opinion because, it's important whether you like it or not and it's here to stay. A lot of people base a lot on it, because it's a lot of people's window on the world, y'know, for good or bad. That's just how it is. If you're a small band and you don't use it at all or don't use it well then you're kind of shooting yourself in the foot.
"The flipside if you're a small band is that if you believe everything you read on it and believe these people who live in fucking Russia but will be at your gig in Bristol, if you believe all that then you're just stupid and it's not going to work for you."
Larry: "You have to use your brain with it and be intelligent with it, but to me, I use it to promote the band, y'know, and I have some genuine friends that I have on there as well, but for people you don't know, it's kind of like a free mail shot. It's like, this is what we're about and this is what we're doing. Mail shots have a shocking statistic that something like only four percent actually hit home and get taken notice of and Facebook and Twitter are kind of the same - it's so fast and everything is so fleeting but I do think it helps to get the name out there. Some media guru will probably come out with all this brand recognition shit, and although it pains me to say it, they're probably right."
Larry: "We're all the same - we hear a band name and think we recognise it but it's probably been flicking up somewhere. I think it's misplaced to have this complete trust in it, though, it is what it is and the sooner people realise what it is, y'know, it's a very powerful tool and it's very cool. You "meet" a lot of people with the same interests and that's great - that's the power of the internet. I wrote to Bob Daisley (ex-Ozzy Osbourne bass player from 1979-1991) and I couldn't believe it when he replied!"
Paul: "I think for me, is that it's all about the music and when the stuff around starts detracting from it, and when the focus is more on the social media and all of that stuff, than the actual music and the gigs and the stuff that in my eyes is "real", that's when the problem comes from. When people are losing of track of what it's all about."
Jamie: "I don't think it's any kind of substitute for playing live, though, because I think you give off so much more as a live band and I've seen bands on Facebook who have great promotion and you think 'Wow, these guys are gonna be really good' and you see them live and it's like (pauses) like a Wonderbra, y'know, it all looks really great from the outside but the reality doesn't quite match up It's disappointing but that's the name of the game."
Larry: "It's quite interesting now with this situation where bands are buying "Likes" on Facebook. Y'know, they say 'We have five thousand people who like our band and ten thousand people following us' and then they post something and two people actually click the "Like" button (laughs). There's no point to that - it's just people starting to believe that that's actually the real world, and it's not.
"The same with videos too, they are part of the game but that's not what this music is about. This music is about blowing people's bollocks off on stage and that's the game. That's what Heavy Metal's always been about for me. Music videos are good but they're no match for seeing a band live on stage."
How does the band feel about modern technologies used by bands in the studio these days?
Larry: "We had a conversation about that earlier today about stuff like auto-tune and sound replacement, all that kind of stuff, y'know, even now it's getting a bit murky on albums. There was a certain band who we've been involved with recently and their last album was ninety percent not done by the band - it was done by the Producer, a drum machine and auto-tune and you think 'well, what's the point?' because when you go and see them they can't do it live and that's why the whole live thing is so important.
"People keep saying that the record industry is dead but it isn't - it's just changed. The emphasis is now back on live music and this is where bands will stand or fall. If you can't do it onstage then go away. Heavy Metal was always about the live experience and that's why with this band even though we were working on the new album, we made the effort to go out and play some shows and you think it this the right thing to do, and we decided it works for this band. That's the game and that's how it is and it's exciting."
Bringing our chat to an end, I ask what's next for the band?
Larry: "We're hoping to do some shows with (Newcastle based Metal band) Def Con One, y'know, maybe a double header type thing and have a trawl around the UK and see what we can do with that but it's still in the early planning stages and then hopefully another UK tour in September/October and we're also going to pick up odd gigs here and there like SOPHIE-Fest and Rock and Metal Circus. The new album is where it's all that so once that's out we're hoping to get on a few festival bills too."
The new self titled Iron Knights album is available from Monday 5th May on Metalbox Records.
You can hear the track 'Destroyer' here:
You can catch Iron Knights live here:
Sunday 25th May – SOPHIE Fest (Rock Bar), Tamworth
Saturday 31st May – Rock Haven, Lincoln
Sunday 14th May – Rock & Metal Circus, Sywell Aerodrome Northamptonshire
Iron Knights are:
Jamie Gibson - Vocals/Guitar
Wayne Mann - Guitar
Paul 'Beam' Robbie - Bass Guitar
Larry Paterson - Drums
Iron Knights Online:
Thanks very much to Jamie, Wayne, Paul and Larry for their time and to Anna Di Laurenzio for arranging the interview.