Part Two of the Massive Wagons kicked off in Norwich last night to a packed and excited crowd. MetalTalk’s Paul Monkhouse spoke with Barry ‘Baz’ Mills after the show at Epic Studios, once the superbly energetic frontman had returned his heart rate back to normal.
Epic Studios is a great venue. Wonderfully open, there are great views all around, and the acoustics are superb. The venue was almost full, and it’s fair to say that Norwich loved Massive Wagons last night.
“It’s a place that sometimes gets missed off by bands, as it’s fairly out of the way,” Baz said. “There’s some great venues in Norwich and a lot of great people. Unfortunately, we had to ditch the last gig because I was ill. But I’m glad we got to come back.”
There is a lot of history about Epic. A former TV studio, some years ago, it was also a cinema. “It’s a great venue,” Baz said. “It reminds me a bit of KK’s Steel Mill. It’s a similar sort of vibe. A big stage and the video wall that is purpose-made.”
Baz is excited to get the second leg of the UK tour underway. “We hadn’t played for a while. It is a bit weird when you play a gig after a massive gap. We blew all the cobwebs out. It was good. We came out a bit blunderous. There’s a bit of a demand on you to give it loads of energy, and it’s hard work. For the first half of the tour, we came out to a different song [Gone Are the Days]. It was a bit easier on the old on the energy levels. But no, it’s all good.”
With a Norwich report to follow soon at MetalTalk, right from the opening of Back To The Stack, Baz and the guys were really pushing themselves. “It’s hard work because I do understand it’s a weeknight,” Baz says. “It’s Tuesday night, and people aren’t drinking. It’s not party night. It’s not Friday or Saturday. People have got work tomorrow. But they were soaking it up. I’m there waving my ass around, looking at people’s faces, trying to get them to dance. But as long as people enjoyed it. I didn’t see anyone leave anyway. So that was a success.”
I say I have friends who were raving about Massive Wagons ten years ago. This is a band that has worked incredibly hard to get where they are. So, it must be great to come to a place like this and to see so many people.
“Norwich, especially,” Baz says, “as we’ve never been here for our own show before. We came here with The Wildhearts for the first time years ago and then supported The Darkness a couple of years ago. This is the first headline one off the top of my head.”
Massive Wagons have been consistent, putting out an album every two years and then touring to support. It’s not been their plan, though. “It just seems to be how long it takes,” Baz says. “It doesn’t matter how fast we try and write songs. It always seems to take two years. I don’t know why. But we have kicked ourselves up the ass this time, and we’re recording a new one in January. We can’t write them fast enough. You don’t have time, amongst other things. But yeah, we’re recording in January.”
The first time I saw Massive Wagons was when they were supporting Status Quo and Lynyrd Skynyrd. How does Baz look back at the early days and how the band have progressed?
“That’s probably the single biggest set of gigs where we picked up the most fans, I would say. It was only four dates. The amount of people that have said, we saw you with Skynyrd. We get it all the time. It was an amazing thing to get to do, really. It was very worthwhile, even though it was only four dates. It was difficult because we were only playing 20 minutes or whatever it was.”
I say that 20 minutes is almost as if when you have finished, you are just getting warmed up. “But it was amazing,” Baz says. “It was absolutely mind-blowing. Playing Manchester especially. I mean, I know Wembley is a big one. But we are from up there. I’ve seen loads of bands at Manchester Arena. So to play there, frigging hell, what a place. Colossal.”
There is a sense of history about Manchester Arena, and to tread the same boards was special. “I’ve seen some of my favourite bands there over the years,” Baz said. “Just getting to see these places in general. The backstage, the catering and the dressing rooms and sandwiches. Fuck it. Bloody hell, Skynyrd, they don’t mess around these Americans.
“No sandwiches. It’s all a la carte menus. Steaks and stuff, whatever you want. We go to the catering room, and it’s big piles of fruit, big piles of sweets, big piles of cakes, biscuits. Because there’s a massive amount of crew. There’s all the riggers and all that. Everybody eats in there. So it’s a massive affair.”
MassiveMassive Wagons Wagons have built on those early days in an organic style. Last night in Norwich, the crowd were up for it, and the place was heaving. It’s a real pat on the back for the band and an inspiration for others. “It’s amazing,” Baz says. “That’s what we set out for. That’s the goal, isn’t it? That’s the absolute goal. People have paid their money, and I don’t want to be wasting their money. I want them to remember it, and I want them to come next time. To tell their mates and come with more people. I do it to give people enjoyment.”
It’s a traditional style of building the band. “I’ve always said we’ve always been on an upward incline. It’s always been like that. It’s a tiny one, but it’s always been up, which is good. You know, we always said if it ever starts to drop off, we’ll knock it on the head. It’s not worth doing then because we’ve got families. We will know when to call it a day. But it’s always been getting bigger and better.”
As the band has been growing and growing, does Baz think they could push more to the US or Europe? If new American bands want to be Van Halen or Guns N’ Roses, then one of Massive Wagons’ biggest strengths is their very British sound. “I’ve never played in America,” Baz says. “We play in Germany a lot, and they seem to love it. It’s growing over there. Every time we go back, there are more people.
“It seems to be the slower it builds, the more solid it is. It’s always been like that. It’s always been slow, but it’s always been solid. It’s like the bands we always admired back in the day. Bands like Quo, The Wildhearts and Thunder. Those three bands, in particular for me, always seem to have the most dedicated loyal fan base.
“They’ll follow you through fire, crap albums and good albums and members leaving and members joining. The Wildhearts, especially their fans, are absolutely nutty for them. They’ve got that nailed.”
One thing that stood out in Norwich last night was the mix of people. There were young people and old farts like me and a mix of genders. It must be nice looking out and seeing that sort of demographic. Massive Wagons are a band catching so many different people.
“Biker rallies were our thing back in the day,” Baz says. “We used to play them all the time when we did the covers stuff. The bikers are really loyal. If they like it, they’ll turn up to gigs in minibuses. Travel miles on a weeknight and turn up a little venue to watch you play ten songs. They’re all of a certain age, and that’s amazing.
“We did get to a point where we thought we don’t really pick younger people up. Then we got booked for Download. To be honest, playing Download really kicked off this younger demographic. I always thought these are good songs. People like good songs. I don’t care how old you are. Good songs are good songs, aren’t they?
“Playing Download was the real point that younger people started appearing. The pilot, especially when that happened. At shows afterwards, people would say they saw us at the pilot. It was great. Since then, it’s kind of 50/50 now. It’s younger people and people over 50.”
Massive Wagons are a leading band in the NWOCR movement. Their journey is bringing rock back. “Our aim has always been to bring classic rock back,” Baz says. “But to modernize it and make it more attractive to younger people. Singing about things younger people might know. I don’t want to sing about the devil. I don’t want to sing about whiskey, and I don’t want to sing about women. I don’t want to wear a bandana.
“I get all that, but it’s been and gone. I think the music is strong enough and is good enough to still be around, but I think a lot of younger people are put off by retro bands. I try my best not to be that. There’s not anything wrong with that, of course. I try to make it a bit fresher.”
A refresh of Massive Wagons Welcome To The World is due next year. “The reason we did it was because we basically ran out of stock,” Baz says. “That’s an album we own. That’s one of the few albums we actually own.”
Many may have just reprinted the same album again, but not the Wagons. This is a full remix/remaster. The original album was recorded, mixed and mastered in twelve days, which Baz says was ridiculous. “Because we had no money, and we all had full-time jobs at the time. We had days off work. Go whenever you can.
“The guy at the studio still had all the old files and all the old takes of the solos and bits of guitars and drums. Me and Adam spent a few days going through it, just listening to the songs over and over, thinking, well, what could we have done? What would we have done back then if we had a few more days? Rather than rush it through.
“We added some bits and tried to make it attractive for people to buy again. A reason to buy it. Bands, there’s nothing wrong with remixing and remastering, but it’s all just a bit, ‘Oh, they’re trying to make more money’. We are trying to make money. We’ve got to survive. But I want to give people a reason to buy it. Value for money.
“We put some extra tracks on it as well that were around at the time. They were bonus tracks for singles. There’s a cover song on there that was part of the pledge campaign. Mr Crowley was part of a cover CD that we gave away with the pledge. Just trying to make it a bit more attractive and give people a reason to buy it.”
This new album version has not had any character taken away from it. “It’s been made into what we probably wanted it to be at the time, had we had a bit more time,” Baz says.
There is a Warrington show next year where the band will play the entire album. Baz says they have yet to rehearse it. Everybody Dies, a bonus track from the album, might need a bit of work. “We haven’t played a lot of them for a long time, but we have played them a lot over the years,” he says. “We played a song called Buck [from Fire It Up, 2011] on the first half of the tour. We had not played that, for it must be ten years. A couple of run-throughs, and it was fine. Practice it at home, then come to the room, and everybody’s learned it.”
There have been podcasts to keep the fans busy. “Talking absolute crap, we know nothing about,” Baz says. “We never plan it. It’s just basically what you want to talk about this week. I think people like it because it’s not planned. Sometimes, things nowadays are too filtered, too censored, and a bit too careful. We know not to overstep the mark. But you’ve got to be a bit bold with your statements. You’re allowed to have an opinion on what’s shit and what’s not.”
The exciting news is about the new album. “There’s music on it,” Baz says, smiling when we ask if he can spill the beans. “We set out with a bit more of a direction in mind this time. We just write songs that we like. We always have done. There’s never been a direction. We like country music, we like Thrash, we like punk, we like pop. We like everything, and we just end up writing this mishmash of style. I don’t know why.
“This album’s got a bit more direction. A bit heavier, to be honest. It’s a bit more Thrashy sort of Metal. Maybe there’s a couple of sort of punk songs on there. I wouldn’t call us punk. The Wildhearts, as you know, are a punk band. I’m a massive Anti-Nowhere League fan. I think they are absolutely mint. I love them. A bit of attitude.
“We’re going to record it somewhere new this time. We’ve gone to a new producer. We’re trying to make it a bit different. You can’t stick in the same groove all the time. It’s the growth and the evolution of the band.” A new album from Massive Wagons is definitely something to look forward to next year.
The Massive Wagons UK Tour Part Two continues tonight in Swansea.