Given the level of response to Guns For Hire from Tailgunner, Paul Hutchings asked Tom what he was expecting with reviews. I realise it’s a tough question because if he says yes, then he presents as arrogant, and if he says no, then where is his confidence in his band? “I know” he agrees. “But no, we didn’t expect it at all.
Tailgunner – Thomas Hewson Interview, Part Two.
“To be honest, all you can do is make something that you believe in, and then if you genuinely, deep down, enjoy what you do, then other people will as well. We didn’t expect it to chart, and that was just ridiculous. You know, the label that we’re on is a subsidiary of a bigger label, but it still only started last year.
“We made this whole album. With all the engineering, the photos, the artwork, everything for £2,500, and we played a genre of music that peaked in popularity 40 years ago. So, to go into the top 50, well, it doesn’t really happen these days. It was extremely, extremely cool.”
It turns out that Tailgunner were being tracked all over the world. Tom explains that the band ended up on TV in Japan with a world-famous music presenter whose name escapes both of us. “He has a TV show and a radio show, and we had to film some bits for that. They played a couple of videos and things. When you watch that sort of thing and all your names are in Japanese, and you can’t even read what it’s saying, that felt truly a little bit weird. Something I wrote in my mum’s garage five years ago, and now it’s on TV!”
With the band in their 20s, I suggest that they are very attuned to the demands of social media. Tom confirms that he’s the main force behind the band’s relentless postings. “I take charge of the social media, but I love it. It can be a pain to do when you’ve got to just reply to comments or whatever for a couple of hours every evening. But at the same time, it’s a great way to interact with your fans, and I feel like at this level, there’s not really any excuse.
“I understand when bands that are massive can’t reply to every comment because you’d just be a slave to your phone. But at this level, it’s a really great thing to do. We love interacting with people. The aim was always to post something every day when we started the band, and we kept up. If we can give our fans something engaging, even if it’s only for 30 seconds every single day, then I think that’s a positive thing.
“We may play an old school sound, but in that sense, with social media, we try to be very, very modern and up to date. It’s funny because it changes so fast. We’re in our mid-20s and thought we were doing well, and then obviously, Rhea joined the band in the spring, and she’s 19. She showed us all this stuff. It’s all gone to TikTok, so that’s something else that we’ve had to learn, and it will be different again in five years.”
Tom then explains about the video that the band did when they opened for KK’s Priest. It showed what it was like to be at the side of the stage about to go on, and the excitement when the lights go down, the nerves, etc. “It was such a big show for us, and to share that with our fans and say, look at this. The fact that you like us has got us to this point, and if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to walk on stage in front of 2,000 people, here you go. Come with us and see it. Being able to bring your fans along in ways that you never could in the past, I think, is probably the most positive thing that we can take from it.”
Of course, every moment of joy can be balanced by other challenges and none more so than when the band had to decide on their future in the summer when they needed to remove one member from the band. It’s been covered elsewhere and doesn’t need to be repeated here. It is a testimony to the band’s resilience that they dealt with the issue so promptly.
Tom is genuinely humble here, but you can see the drive within him as he explains. “Well, as far as what we had to do and the necessary steps, we were all in agreement. We had to do it. It was extremely stressful because, like any band, I like to maintain this image that it’s all sort of rosy and like brilliant. We have no problems and no stress at all.
“Obviously, everyone knows it’s not really like that. But you want to maintain a certain sort of feel to the whole thing. So, because we’ve been doing so well, and all of the momentum we had, for that to suddenly drop was like, oh shit. I think it makes you stronger as a band to go through something like that. Anyone can do the easy times. It’s the hard times like that and how you come through it.
“It was the most stressful week I’ve ever had, to be honest. Not just that situation, but then all of the little bits and pieces that go around it and then, oh, he’s saying this now on Facebook, and you just worry. Because until you come out and take your stance and explain yourself as a band and everything…it’s like we had our label coming to us and saying, well, this festival’s read this, and now they’re not sure about having you on the bill. We went, hang on a minute.
“It’s worked out well because Rhea is such an excellent guitarist and has really improved the band. There were so many guitar parts I wrote for the album that I’ve forgotten about because the previous guy didn’t play them properly live, and she’s come in and improved it. She’s just an excellent player, and it’s worked out well in the end.
“That whole situation happened on a Monday, and we had a festival on the Sunday. She came in, cancelled a holiday to Greece, learned our set in three days and went and played it. When someone does that, you go fucking hell. The last guy wouldn’t have done that, you know.”
As they say, behind every cloud is a silver lining. “Yeah, definitely,” says Tom. “It’s funny because we did so much behind closed doors before we started the band that there are things that you don’t have to encounter until you go public. We had a big conversation in January where we just laid everything out and addressed all of the problems. Now we’ve got this culture within the band of just being brutally honest with each other.
“You know if something’s not working for someone, or you hear something this way or whatever. As I say, it’s made us stronger because now any little bit of bullshit that may be in the past we’ve gone, we don’t wanna deal with that right now because we got a show next week. Now we’ve got the stability as a band to address things like that straight away and just be totally open with each other. So that’s important.”
This would appear to be a much healthier position for the band to be in. I noticed that the forthcoming tour has local bands attached to each show. In Cardiff, we have Rites To Ruin, Helldown and Madicide on a stacked bill. Who was responsible for booking the supports, I ask Tom. “I’ve booked all the supports for this tour,” he explains. “This tour was booked in August of last year before we had our agent or anything.
“It’s nice, sometimes, to book stuff yourself because you have a bit more freedom in what you’re gonna do and how it’s all gonna work out. So, we’ve got two or three local supports for each place, and yeah, I’m really looking forward to it. We got some killer bands on with us. So, it’s going to be cool.”
Unlike a lot of bands, the Euro trip won’t be as fraught with the dreaded carnets and challenges for Tailgunner, although, as Tom reminds me, there are still six of them in a van with all their gear. “Fortunately, with our label being German, things like the merch we can get delivered to the first show. And we’re not providing the backline either for this run. We’ve got two support bands in Germany, both really cool bands making a lot of noise over there. So, they’re splitting/providing all the backline for these shows.
“We’re only going over with our guitars, a few cymbals, and a change of clothes, and then everything else is getting delivered to us there or being provided by someone else. We’re not going to deal with that sort of thing just yet. When we must, that’s why we’ve got an agent now to help.”
With that, it’s time to wrap up and let Tom prepare for the tour. I’ll be at the show in Cardiff for MetalTalk in a few weeks on what promises to be a fantastic evening. Hopefully, I’ll catch up with Tom and the band and get the lowdown on how Keep It True and the rest of the tour has gone.
Until then, if you haven’t, then check out Sophie’s Guns For Hire review and get your tickets for what promises to be one of the best tours of 2023.