||INTERVIEW WITH ATTICA RAGE
Johnny Main: Photos by Carlan Braid.
Attica Rage are a Glasgow based four piece who have been getting quite a name for themselves in recent years and have played in places as diverse as Slovenia, Ibiza and Shetland.
The band's latest album, '88MPH' is out now and I caught up with the band to find out more about the album, their novel approach to publicising the release and what the world of Attica Rage is really like.
The current line up of front man and guitarist Jonny Parr, lead guitarist Stephen Bell along with Colin Wilson and Richie Rage on bass guitar and drums respectively, has been in place since 2012. Having started originally in 2003, I ask them what they have achieved as a band so far? Richie is first to answer telling me: "Recognition. Over a long hard time! Like all bands have to, to be saluted as a 'complete' rock band through dedication and perseverance!"
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Jonny: "Yeah, longevity! So many of the bands that were around when we first started have long since disappeared, so the fact that we're still going is an achievement in itself, and we're still making progress and building the profile. It's a slow burner but we're still on the right side of the mountain because we're getting bigger audiences every year.
"We've released three albums with the last two being extremely well-received by the fans and pretty much high scores across the board from the critics. We've also played hundreds of shows on numerous UK tours and appeared at some amazing festivals in the UK and over in Europe too – something we want to do more of."
So, what are the musical influences behind the Attica Rage sound?
Jonny: "We're all into a wide variety of Rock and Metal that influences each of us individually. Collectively, we'd all agree on the likes of Sabbath, Ozzy, Metallica, Alice in Chains and Black Label Society but personally, I'm an Ozzy nut so his influence tends to dominate, whether we like it or not! My other main influences are Motörhead, Iron Maiden, The Almighty, Anthrax, Pantera and on the lighter side, there's Queen, Pink Floyd and Dave Gilmour. I've also only recently discovered Killing Joke's back catalogue - 30 years late (laughs)."
Colin: "I've got far too many to mention in one list but the main ones are Mastodon, Tool, Black Sabbath, Jeff Buckley and Primus."
When asked about their song writing, it's Jonny who takes the lead saying: "I've written the majority of the songs so far but there's no set monopoly on the song writing - we just throw everything in the pot to start with and see what works out. Stevie contributed two to the 'Road Dog' album ('Ashamed' and 'Altered Reality') and Colin wrote two on the '88MPH' album ('Close Shave' and the title track) and comes up with a lot of riffs. Richie has contributed to a few songs over the years too like 'Back to the Old School', 'Dark City' and he co-wrote the acoustic instrumental 'Altea' but his speciality is helping with arrangements in rehearsals."
Jonny: "I'll typically demo full songs at home, recording the riffs and vocal melodies along with basic drum rhythms, then send them round the rest of the guys. We'll flesh them out in the rehearsal studio with each of us developing and building our own parts. Sometimes the songs will stick largely to the original demo idea and others turn into something quite different. We've learned a lot about song structures over the last two albums and we can be quite ruthless with editing sections for the benefit of the song as a whole."
When asked what the bands lyrical themes/inspirations are, Colin is quick off the mark saying: "I like to come in to 'The A-Team' theme!"
Jonny takes the question a bit more seriously telling me: "Over the last three albums we've covered love, death, depression, global destruction, government conspiracies, politics, guilt, fear and phobias, anger, rock 'n roll excesses, y'know, all the usual rock band clichés! (laughs).
"We tend to write about what we know or have experienced - some of it is from personal life, some of it is based elsewhere while some of it relates to the band's journey. Not all our themes are doom and gloom though! There's more to life than all the tired old topics of death and destruction - what interests me more are the funny, odd absurdities of life. The darker stuff just tends to fit naturally with heavy music, but it's not the only things dwelling in our minds."
Jonny: "We live, breathe and eat music - from all genres, so we're constantly inspired by old and new stuff we hear. Lyrically, the inspiration usually comes from what is affecting us in our personal lives at the time of writing, whether it's relationships, politics or the endless curiosities that you read about, it all feeds our inspiration. We can also be quite reflective, or indulgent, depending on your view, and a lot of that comes from what we experience as a band.
"The only thing I make a conscious effort with lyrically is to write them from an honest, personal perspective. There might be the odd cliché along the way and there's a liberal use of poetic licence for sure, but none are generic. Every lyric is deliberate and considered, even if it seems flippant on the surface, and that's important to me."
The bands most recent album. '88MPH' was released in December 2012, so what was the overall reaction to the release?
Jonny: "There was a natural pressure on us after the success of 'Road Dog' but all the reviews for '88MPH' were really positive. The fans have really taken to it and sales have been pretty decent. In fact, we sold just as much in Europe than in the UK, and that's without any touring. I think that's telling us we need to get back over there as soon as we can!"
Colin: "Yeah we had pretty decent reviews overall. For the time it's taken us to write and record it, there was probably no way it should have worked, but it did and the fans have really taken to it. We're looking forward to getting in and writing the next one, and with a couple of years under our belts with the current line-up we're all quite used to each other now and know how to bounce of each other a lot better. So it's exciting times ahead."
The band also had a novel approach to advertising the release by sending a physical copy of the album around the world – in eighty eight days – so I ask them how the idea came about?
Jonny: "We've got fans all over the world and they're always asking us when we are going to tour their country. We really can't wait for the day when we embark on our own world tour but it spurred the thought: even if we can't physically tour the world at the moment, it doesn't mean our music can't! So we came up with the idea to encourage our fans to pass one copy of the album around the world and make it a sort of heavy metal chain letter."
The next question is an obvious one – how successful was the whole exercise?
Jonny: "The aim was to try and get it to as many countries as possible within eighty eight days. Each recipient got the CD plus a world map and stickers - they marked their own location on the map then they mailed it all off to another fan in another country and so on. We sent it on its journey from Scotland and within eighty eight days it had already travelled to five countries over three continents including North America, Slovenia, Germany, Wales and Australia! By that point many more people had signed up and wanted to be a part of it. So we decided to extend the challenge to one hundred and eighty eight days. We'll keep it running and hopefully reach many more countries. It's since been sent from New Zealand to Finland and is now winging its way back on its 'long ride home' to Scotland as we speak."
With the album (literally) still doing the rounds, does the band have any plans for a follow up release?
Jonny: "We're going to be releasing a live album this summer. Our label (Off Yer Rocka Records) recorded a few of our festival sets over the last year including our set at Hammerfest 2014, and we'll be selecting the best tracks from all the recordings to form a definitive live album."
The band finished their tour in support of the '88MPH' album late last year, so I ask how the tour went?
Colin: "There are lots of good memories of all the tour so it's hard to point any specific moment out. Playing with the Fantasist guys was a highlight for me and the hours and hours and hours of travelling. It's awesome (laughs)"
Richie: "I'd say overall, it's been great. Yes, midweek gigs always gonna be a problem, such is life, but that's why any gig we play, we give it our heaviest!! For those people that made the journey out, say.... on a Thursday night in Kendal... We salute you!"
Jonny: "Getting our mate Marko up on stage at the Glasgow show to batter a beer keg with a baseball bat during 'Killer Carousel' stands out as a special moment for me and having Chris Anderson guest on keyboards for some of the songs at Glasgow too. It was our first visit to Cardiff on this tour and the turnout was a lot bigger than we expected - one of the highlight nights of the tour, really. One of the stranger gigs was playing in the middle of a large snooker hall in Surrey, but the organisers and audience were very hospitable and welcoming and it ended up a fun night actually."
It's Stephen who has the last word adding: "If the wee tart who stole ma beanie in Manchester is reading this, gonna send it back please? (laughs)."
I ask them if there are any places on the current schedule they enjoyed playing and you get offered the usual answers of London, Manchester and, of course, the boys hometown of Glasgow gets a mention from them all but Jonny notes that "The Diamond Rock Club in Ahoghill, Ballymena is a total blast and always make us very welcome. New locations are always fun to visit though - there are still so many places we want to get to”.
So where do the band want to play that they haven't yet?
Richie: "The Barrowlands, Glasgow!" before Jonny offers up: "Loads of places in England like Sheffield, Bristol and the south-west especially are all due a visit plus more places in Wales and Ireland. Germany would be good for us and I think we all daydream of touring across the States in a big shiny Nightliner bus plus Japan too – they go nuts for every band so there's room there for some Attica love out there!"
So, what's next for Attica Rage?
Jonny: "There's the live album we spoke about earlier and we've started writing the next studio album. We've also just confirmed the first batch of dates for a UK and European tour in September and October with more dates to be added."
They have already achieved a lot, but I press them for their realistic ambitions for the band?
Stephen: "A main support tour for us with a prominent touring band – it has to happen! Hello, Anthrax or Motorhead?"
Richie: "Just to be a household name throughout the world, to tour the planet for a living and ensure I stay happy travelling the earth with as a band."
Jonny: "It's about climbing the ladder and not falling off. As long as we're going in the right direction, we're doing something right. If we can get to a level where we're still writing and performing music that we're proud of and that our fans love and we're lucky enough to be doing it a professional full-time level, then we'll have achieved a goal. But what you find once you move a few rungs up the ladder is that you face new challenges and you have to re-align your goals.
"We are lucky to have very supportive families behind us and our management and label are committed to pushing us forward too. In the short-term, touring is still going to be the priority. It's still the only real way to build a profile and a reputation - especially for our kind of music. If we can turn it into a full-time career in the process, we'll be doing alright. Then it's about tackling the next set of rungs on the ladder."
Bringing the chat to an end, I'm reminded there are four very different characters that make up the Attica Rage unit, so (expecting some very different answers), I ask them each what songs do they wish they'd written?
Colin: "Excellent question (pause) ooh that's hard! For me, it would be either 'Sleeping Giant' by Mastodon or 'Sic' by Slipknot."
Richie goes for the classic 'Freebird' by Skynyrd before adding on 'Woman' by the Anti Nowhere League. Stephen plays it safer telling me "Pretty much anything off the first Van Halen album, almost everything Steve Vai has ever written and for the bank balance - any of the big Bon Jovi hits of the eighties or nineties."
The last word comes from Jonny who gives it the most thought – "Probably Pink Floyds 'Comfortably Numb' or 'Hotel California' by The Eagles, but there are a hundred more. 'Walk' by Pantera has one of those riffs that you just wish you'd come up with but then there's the full Sabbath back catalogue - every one of Iommi's riffs basically! If I was a bit shrewder, I'd say probably say something like 'White Christmas' cos I'd have earned a multi-million fortune from the performance royalties!"
Thanks to all four members of the band: Jonny, Stephen, Colin and Richie for their time.
You can see Attica Rage live here:
Thursday 18th September – Mad Hatters, Inverness
Friday 19th September – The Moorings, Aberdeen
Friday 20th September – Bannermans, Edinburgh
Thursday 25th September – Vine Bar, Workington
Friday 26th September – Scruffy Murphys, Birmingham
Saturday 27th September – Satans Hollow, Manchester
Sunday 28th September – The Corporation, Sheffield
Thursday 2nd October – Trillians, Newcastle
Friday 3rd October – The Classic Grand, Glasgow
Thursday 9th October – The Underworld, Glasgow
Friday 10th October – The Cave, Amsterdam
Saturday 11th October – De Verlichte Geest, Roseelabre
Attica Rage are:
Jonny Parr – Vocals/Guitars
Stephen Bell – Lead Guitars
Colin Wilson – Bass
Richie Rage – Drums
Attica Rage Online:
Official Website: www.atticarage.com/
Attica Logo and promo shot - (c) Attica Rage 2013
Attica Rage live in Ballymena - (c) Nathan Whitehouse 2013