It’s the hottest day of the year so far: the mercury’s teetering in the top twenties and I’ve had a hectic and predictably crap day at work. The train from York to Leeds is fucking rammed, and I almost melt as I make my way from the station to the little underground space that is Leeds’ primary dedicated rock venue, The Key Club. At least I can attribute my heavy perspiration to atmospherics rather than anxiety over interviewing full-throttle sludge metal masters Raging Speedhorn. The simple fact is, I don’t know what, or who, to expect.
In the event, tour manager Jim is as welcoming and affable guy as you’re likely to meet, and while I’m amazed just how busy it is backstage – it seems the entire world ants to interview Raging Speedhorn tonight, and the press are out in droves for video interviews and other kind of features – things are simultaneously organised but laid back. It’s not surprising it’s busy: the release of their first new album in nine years, which also sees Frank Regan return to the fold, has reignited interest in the band.
I’ve been booked in to chat with drummer Gordon Morison, and I’m reminded of the first interview I conducted with a ‘proper’ band, (the local bands I shot the breeze with for the local paper back in the 90s really don’t count) when I waited an age outside The Well in Leeds to interview Rolo Tomassi and was given some five minutes with drummer Edward Dutton. In the event, he was cool and eloquent, while I was shamefully anxious and anything but cool.
Settling into some big leather sofas at the back of the venue’s extended backstage area – really, the backstage area is bigger than the public space, but then, there’s a lot of kit in for these bands, and I expect that’s not uncommon – I immediately feel at ease: there’s no pretence or celebrity bullshit here. Nevertheless, I promise a quickfire Q&A, not least of all because I like to get in and out as efficiently as possible, and without outstaying my welcome. Besides, I have to transcribe the exchange afterwards, and wading through over half an hour of audio is a real chew. And so, with the thunderous drums of By Any Means soundchecking, we quickly get down to business:
AA: You’re back on tour: how have the shows gone down so far?
GM: Really good. It’s just been really nice to get back out and play some more shows. This is the longest we’ve been out, probably the longest tour since we’ve been back together, so it’s hard – we’re not used to it any more – but…
AA: Does it get harder as you get older?
GM: I think it does, but…
AA: Everything does?
GM: Yeah… I think the alcohol numbs the pain until the next morning, and then you’re feeling it again but yeah, it’s been really, really good.
AA: You’re playing some pretty small venues this time around, but you’ve also played some big festival sets since returning to the live arena. Do you enjoy the intensity of the more intimate shows, getting up close and personal with the fans?
GM: Yeah, we’d rather play the small venues, to be honest. But sometimes it’s not really up to us. We’ve got to work with our agent, and it’s got to be about the fees and stuff.
AA: Well, you’re not going to turn down a major festival show.
GM: No, I mean, the major festivals, we’ve been blown away by what we’ve done… headlined a stage at Sonisphere, headlined a stage at Download this year… So it’s moving in the right direction of where we want the band to go. We’re getting back to where we want the band to be now, and it’s better now, because we’re in charge of the whole situation. There’s no-one telling us we have to do this, or we have to do that. We decide as a group if we want to do it or not.
AA: Your new album, Lost Ritual, was crowd-funded through PledgeMusic and smashed the target. How does that feel?
GM: Awesome. Amazing. I mean, it was just a little idea, like ‘should we do a new record?’ and it just… It took a while to get to the target, and we were a bit nervy about it, but then as soon we get to the target, and then it went ‘Boom!’ and it went crazy. I think the crowdfunding this is the best way, especially for our band, because we’ve been signed to these big major labels and sometimes it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be.
AA: There’s no question that the Internet has revolutionised the music industry? A lot of people – a lot of them major artists and industry people – complain about it, but you’d say that for some people, like yourselves, it’s a change for the best?
GM: Yeah. I think that PledgeMusic is the best way for bands to do it. It’s quite stressful, and if you’ve got a manager it’s easier, but me and Jim manage the band, so we have to deal with day-to-day stuff. And it’s great, because you actually see the product from nothing to having it in your hand, and that’s amazing.
AA: And the end product is amazing. Lost Ritual is a belter, one seriously intense record. Historically, you’ve a reputation for songs about nihilism drugs of various kinds. What was the inspiration and driving force behind the new album?
GM: The only thing we really wanted to do was go back to our roots, like the sound of what made the band successful in the first place, the first two records. Especially ‘cause Frankie’s come back into the band.
AA: What was it like being back in the studio with the original twin vocal assault reinstated? Was it a powerful feeling?
GM: Yeah. To be fair, I love Kev, and he’s still one of my best friends now, but it was never Raging Speedhorn without Frankie being in the band. And I think he needed the break, and I think we needed the break, not from him, but other things were going on at that time. It’s just the best thing we’ve done. we all got in a room and practiced, and finally thought ‘this is gonna work’. So yeah, it’s great.
AA: You emerged from the Nu-Metal scene, but were never actually a Nu-Metal band. How do you think the metal scene, particularly in the UK, has changed since you first started out?
GM: It’s changed a lot, definitely. I think it’s changed… I don’t know if it’s changed for the better. I think it’s a lot better for the UK bands now because they seem to be getting out there a lot more than when we first started, it was all American bands coming over here.
AA: It also seems a lot more grass roots now, with bands emerging from local scenes with bands getting up and doing things for themselves.
AA: So the drive has changed, with things moving from the bottom up. And I think in the current climate, people are angry, and metal is a response to that in a way.
GM: Certainly, especially with what’ going on. I think it’s going to turn out some fucking bangin’ bands. There’s amazing young bands coming out, not only in the metal scene, but in the rockier scene as well. I see it a lot because I work with bands, I tour manage bands. I have my own splitter van company [vanmorisontours]. So I see it first-hand, seeing bands going from no-one really giving a shit to being quite biggish bands, and it’s great. There’s a band called Milk Teeth now, they’re more grungy, and they’re fucking great. I work with them quite a bit, and it’s just so good to see these bands just doing it on their own.
AA: What do you think it is about Raging Speedhorn that sets you apart, and has been the main factor in your enduring appeal?
GM: I think it’s just because we’re completely different. I mean, there are bands around like us, but we’re just lucky we got through the mainstream and had that for a while, I think it’s just that in this scene, there’s no one-one really sounds like us. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a band that sounds like us.
AA: And perhaps the ferocity gives you the edge?
GM: Yeah, I think it’s the attitude. I just don’t think people get what we’re all about, and I don’t think we know what we’re all about. We’re just a bunch of six guys out to have a fucking good time. But then, I read an interview the other day that said we’ve got a ‘yobbish’ attitude, and it made me laugh because I’d never thought of it in that way. Basically they said that we were like six chavs playing metal. I suppose it could be seen as yobbish ‘cause we don’t really care.
AA: Who wants middle-class metal?
GM: Exactly, and that’s just it. We’re all from complete working-class backgrounds, so we’re just who we are, and we don’t really care if anyone likes it or not. But luckily people do, so I think that must be the appeal, I think it’s ‘cause we’re just normal people. When you go to these big festivals, you see bands going backstage and they won’t go out front and don’t hang out with people, we just go straight out, we’ll go and see our mates in the camp, we don’t really care. The only thing that’s different between me and the people watching us is that I’m up there playing drums, so why the fuck shouldn’t I go and speak to people? It’s stupid, really.
AA: Your Facebook page describes the band as a ‘12 legged, beer fuelled hate machine’, which I’d take over an 8-legged groove machine any day. But what’s your beer of choice?
GM: Oh! There’s too many now. I’ve really go me and James, our guitarist, really into ales now. It’s unbelievable. I love it all, to be fair. There’s not really many beers I don’t like. I love Brewdog stuff. I live in Wales, so there’s loads of really nice ales. I like more pale ale kind of vibes. But I just love it all. We were drinking white Russians last night till five in the morning. Frank literally hasn’t stopped since we got out, so the last five days…
AA: Got to keep the momentum.
GM: Yeah, you’ve got to, ‘cause if you don’t then you crash and burn. This morning I was thinking ‘I’m going to be fucked today’, but I feel alright again now. But they’ve just been drinking. Jim, our tour manager, and Frank, came with these big stein glasses. We’d stopped at Morrisons earlier on, then they had a bottle of… something, and poured it into these steins, and then orange juice, strawberries, in the van. Fucking hell. They’ve already started smashing it. Idiots!
He laughs. I applaud the band’s commitment to living the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle on the road. It seems a good time to wrap up, not least of all because it’s sweltering and all this talk of beer is making me all the more thirsty for a pint of something fresh and hoppy.