Last year at the Download Pilot, every band that was playing there had two jobs: to put on a great show and to act as onstage therapists for the thousands of people attending who were parched of live music and in dire need to feel any kind of normalcy. Massive Wagons were one of those bands; unsurprisingly, they were unequivocally entertaining, producing one of the weekend’s most memorable sets.
Massive Wagons, Download 2022
Words: Monty Sewell
Today at Download Festival 2022, it’s no different. Taking up an early afternoon Sunday slot, Barry ‘Baz’ Mills launches himself onstage, which sees Adam ‘Bowz’ Bouskill and Alex ‘Roy’ Thistlethwaite on drums and bass, both stationed together on a raised platform whilst guitarists Adam Thistlethwaite and Stevie Holl remain on stage level.
Mills’s signature firecracker energy level is there as the band takes us through Billy Balloon Head, The Curry Song and In It Together. House Of Noise also makes a hefty appearance whilst a memorable moment comes when playing their soon-to-be-released single (to be followed by an album), Fuck The Haters. With a few guitar changes here and there and grand use of every corner of the Opus stage, Massive Wagons are always reliable when looking for a good time with a good sound.
Following the show, I was able to sit down with lead guitarist Adam Thistlethwaite.
You have to congratulate Massive Wagons on an amazing show, just brilliant as always. “Thanks, I really enjoyed it,” Adam says. “I mean, you always build this kind of gig up in your head but we’ve reached the point of experience now where you can put that aside and just crack on. We really enjoyed it.”
And a step up from last year’s pilot? “Well, we didn’t get much of a mooch around the festival at the pilot because everyone was super twitchy about it, but gig-wise it was almost identical. It felt really similar, actually.”
Thistlethwaite was using a gorgeous white Flying V today. “It’s funny,” he says, “because I’m not actually that into guitars in the sense of where it comes from and all that. For me, it’s just about how it feels and how it sounds. It doesn’t matter what it is! That white V I’ve had it for about ten years now. Probably done more gigs on that than any other guitar. I got it for about 700 quid back in the day; it’s been through the wars.”
The upcoming new album does not feature the Flying V. “I was very fortunate to borrow from the studio,” Adam says. “You never know what’s gonna be the best option, so you take what you’ve got and audition it in this studio, but I borrowed a custom Gibson Les Paul with a soft cherry finish. Straight away, when I plugged it in, it sounded amazing. It really opened my eyes to Les Paul customs because I’ve enjoyed standards as I play quite hard, but that one just fit like a glove. I recorded the entire album on it, and it was actually hard to have to hand it back to my friend afterwards.”
Adams says that now is a good time to be a guitarist. “There used to be a time when you had to spend quite a lot to play something good,’ he says. “I’ve played brands nowadays that have a bit of a bad reputation, but I think if it plays well, it plays well.”
This goes against the saying many guitarists have that you can only play good on good quality.
“That’s it,” he says. “I mean, I don’t think I’ll ever buy American unless I win the lottery or something. You get some brands like Schecter that I think make some really solid stuff. Even Harley Benton has some super-budget stuff that’s really good. Pick-ups and electrics can always be changed, but it’s the little things like staying in tune that defines it. I’ve had expensive guitars just not stay in tune.”
Does Adam think there is still a bit of a stigma with various instrument brands? “Well, at the end of the day, you get it in any industry,” he says. “With amps, devices and even computers, anything. But in almost any walk of life, when you’re working with something full time, the best thing is to use whatever works for you and whatever gets the right results.”
Adam says the upcoming new single, Fuck The Haters, was quickly written. “Baz came to us with the idea,” he says, “and he specifically wanted to write a song for festivals. We never thought in a billion years, when we showed the album to the label, they would want to use it as the first single. We’re not really about messages, but there is an element of anti-bullying and just doing what you want to do, what feels right.”
It is a very memorable, anthemic song. “With festivals, you’re playing to please half the people that know your songs,” Adam says, “and the other half that you were lucky enough to grab the attention of, so we want something to stick in their minds.”
At Download 2022, it was a real pleasure to see the band perform again.
Massive Wagons’ new album will be out in October 2022.
MetalTalk Download 2022 coverage can be found at MetalTalk.net/tag/download-2022
Download 2023 will see the festival celebrate its 20th anniversary with an additional day, meaning four days of live music in total. Limited early bird tickets are on sale now at downloadfestival.co.uk
Highlights of this year’s Download Festival will be broadcast on SKY ARTS on 9th and 10th July at 9pm. Download Festival 2023 was a record breaking year.