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MANCHESTER METAL PART TWO: THE BANDS - THE RELEASES - THE GIGS - THE DIY ETHIC - INTERVIEW BY ANDY BARNES

 
In Part two of the Manchester Metal interview, we focus on the bands themselves, the releases, the gigs, the tours, forthcoming material and in the current climate, the general state of the music industry, the best way to control and release music. Still present, Paul (Noz) Norrington from Skratch the Surface PR and Management,  Daniel Mucs -Guitar with Wolfcrusher, Drums with Not Above Evil,  Chris (Mitch) Mitchell-Taylor -Bass with Wolfcrusher,  John Curran - Drums with Incassum, Chris Taylor Guitar with Incassum, Paul Sadler vocals & guitar with Spires and Al – Bass with Spires.

ANDY : And from an individual band basis, what do you all have on the go at the moment.  Daniel, how about you with Wolfcrusher.

DANIEL: [photo] For Wolfcrusher, we’ve got a few gigs booked at the moment……just trying to get out of town as well, but it’s really hard to gig out of town because first question of the promoter is like, OK how many tickets can you sell, you know, how many people can you bring…..and that’s why we like to go out of town to play to people in the first place…….to get some people there….. so we’re looking for a support slot, but of course promoters are looking mainly for bands that can sell more tickets, get more people in the bar etc, etc……..so yeah… it’s a tough one.  Other than that, just promoting the Virgin Tapestry album at the moment…… it came out in July……so just trying to get reviews, send it to radio stations.... Noz and Ryan (Ryan Barlow, Noz’s business partner in Skratch the Surface) are doing very good PR for it so, we’re just kinda like gigging and waiting for reviews and then see what will be leading from there. 

ANDY : Tell me a little bit about the video, the “No Chance” video.

DANIEL: Oh, the “No Chance” video…….yeah, that was an odd one…..I just sent the album to my Dad, so I wouldn’t expect he would like anything, (Laughing)  but it’s like this is what I’m up to, and he just came back…… his favourite track was “Moving Mountains” which is probably the most brutal track on the album anyway (Laughter) so he did a video of that as well because he’s just…………for a living I do  kind of programming…….he’s doing it for a hobby and he’s awesome at programming and editing videos, images, he’s just brilliant…..he learnt it all by himself……. yeah, he just did a video for “No Chance” as well.

MITCH: [photo] Is that the one with tanks?     

DANIEL: Yeah, with the tanks, with all the kinda like revolutions happening in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Greece and all that footage from those times and he just put together and he didn’t really even listen to the lyrics, what it was about, and it’s a perfect match……totally, totally random thing……and that’s how that video ended up, also the “Moving Mountains” video is the same story.

ANDY : It’s a very moving video, that footage with the soundtrack gives an extremely powerful piece of film.

DANIEL: The lyrics are about that as well….and it’s especially interesting because my Dad lived through that in Hungary……the Soviet army came in, in 1956 and many of his friends were shot etc, etc.  It was just a peaceful protest and the Soviet Union came in with tanks and everything and just kicked off….. shooting into the crowd and all that stuff…….and it happened in other countries as well…..something from the history books. www.youtube.com/watch?v=1JQHlUmR0xw

ANDY: And just put your Not Above Evil head on now.

DANIEL: Not Above Evil as well we have just released our new EP “The Transcendental Signified”…..is it an EP?  45 minutes, 8 tracks yesterday…… so again just starting promotion on that, booking gigs and getting back on the road……we took like three months off to write it, record it and now it’s out there, this is our third release, so looking forward to getting reviews for this as well and moving forward with Not Above Evil as well.

ANDY : That did confuse me slightly, as I streamed the EP, found as you say, eight tracks, 45 minutes, while Wolfcrusher have a seven track album?

DANIEL: Yeah, it was a matter of…..because we released our first album with Not Above Evil last Summer and really started doing PR when we approached Noz with it this April….. and we knew that we were going to put out the new release as well…..and it was like, should we call it an album again because some reviews didn’t really come in and you know they will get the next CD and say here’s another album , what’s wrong with these guys……we’re not really Devin Townsend to be able to get away with it I think…..so we just you know, called it an EP…..it’s a pretty long EP.

ANDY : It certainly is…….and Incassum, you’re recorded a new album I believe?

JOHN: [photo] We are indeed.

ANDY: And how’s that going?

JOHN: It’s going great…….stressful sometimes (laughing)…it’s a big project you know, we’ve got thirteen songs we’re just nailing through really……most of the guitars done now and bass is pretty much there.

CHRIS: Yeah pretty much on the way……. hopefully we’ll be starting vocals very soon. We’re taking our time a little bit more than we did with our last record where we kind of booked in three weekends, nailed it start to finish and that was it really….we want a bit more of a thought out approach for this one….we really want to take our time, just really come out with the best thing we can you know……it’s been quite a while in the running so we don’t feel any need to rush it now I think…..it’d be nice to get it out soon but we don’t want to compromise on the quality of the songs.

PAUL: Are you doing all the recording yourself?

CHRIS: [photo] No, we’re recording most of it up in Gracie Land in Rochdale, which is a brilliant studio….that’s where we did the drums so far, but we’re tracking all the guitars at my house and then we’re going to end up re-amping those later and stuff…….that’s saving a bit of money but when you  don’t have the clock to work to, sometimes  it’s quite easy to procrastinate…….if you know Hollyoaks  is on or whatever, just watch that for a bit. (Laughing)

ANDY : Do you have any idea of a potential release date, or is it a case of see how it goes?

JOHN: Aiming…….It would be nice to almost complete it before the tour…..that’s what we’re pushing for really….even if we’ve got two tracks to take away with us, we want a product to try and sell.

NOZ: That’s partly what the tour with Spires is about from the Incassum side of it…….a bit of ground work before the release…..you know the guys are going to be done with it….sort of mid winterish……so from my point of view you know,  if it comes out…… tail end of the year maybe, if it comes out early new year not a disaster, it’s all about whatever’s going to be best for the release but we’ve at least got the tour to wake the press back up, get em to a few new cities and just start pimping it…… and then obviously there’ll be full on touring come the other side of the release but this is a nice way to get those guys back out there and work everyone back up a bit and hopefully get a lot of new fans in front of them.

ANDY : And Spires, apart from the tour at the end of November with Incassum.

 

PAUL: Yeah, well tour…..and then at the moment, it’s just all about new stuff really.

ANDY : Have you actually written new material then?

PAUL: Yeah, yeah.

AL: It takes us a little while to get songs together though.

PAUL: It does yeah. (Laughing)

AL: They tend to be quite convoluted……. I don’t know whether you’d noticed.  (Laughing)

ANDY: I had noticed ( Also laughing)

PAUL: [photo] We’ve probably got about………I don’t know……….we’ve got sort of about 20 minutes of new stuff  like.

ANDY & CHRIS IN UNISON : That’ll be one song then. (Laughter)

PAUL: Two songs (Also laughing) but yeah, it’s just purely not that at the minute obviously…….last album was released tail end of last year so you know, we’ve obviously  been promoting that for ages.

ANDY: You’re still seeing reviews coming through on the Spiral to Ascension album aren’t you?

PAUL: Yeah, yeah……….Noz? (Laughing)

NOZ: Partly what I was saying to you when he had a bit of an epic e-mail exchange a few weeks ago. Nowadays you’ve almost got a sort of grey area, where you’re standard thing is, you’ve got a release coming out you start PR’ing it eight to twelve weeks ahead of the official release date….you know then get your release date, it’ll come out physically, it’ll come out digitally and you’ll have your standard, if you will, campaign where you tour it, you keep the press going and that can be anything from sort of six months to 24 months depending  how well it goes or not…what rate the band are working on the follow up at and what touring comes along or not……..but with a lot of the younger bands coming out nowadays, it’s such a quagmire between labels and distribution, you know the whole illegal downloading, CD sales are declining….a lot of people don’t know that to do now and a lot of the labels themselves don’t really know what to do, a lot of big management don’t really have the answer…… there’s no best way anymore, is it still better to get a big advance off a major label, is it better to own all your own stuff and do it yourself, is it better to go straight to dist, is it better to go in the middle with a little label. You know as a manager and a PR guy, there’s a million and one pros and cons to each way, it’s more about how you develop the business model than what your profile is and that kind of thing. With a lot of these bands now, they’re happier to make a CD….record the CD…… press it….press the first thousand, start selling it at gigs, start selling it on line and come to us for press.  For a couple of years we were sort of stand offish about it, but it’s reached a point now where, A, we can’t ignore it cos we’d lose us too much business…. I’m not going to lie, there’s money in it…..that’s how we make a living,  if we didn’t make a living that way we couldn’t do the labour of love management stuff……so one comes with the other for us as a company. And, B, At the same time I can see why they’re doing it now and there’s a case for it……If you’ve got a decent product and you believe in it and you’re going to go out there and tour it, you’re going to take that D.I.Y stance you know…….let’s just do it this way, there’s a case for doing it, because with Spires………I’m choosing Spires for a lot of these examples but I’m not playing favourites, it’s just they’re naturally eight to ten months down the line, doing a lot of the stuff these guys are going to go and do…..I mean Incassum have done it with “In Vain” in 2008 but they weren’t with me then……no, that came off wrong (laughing)….. there’s things I do differently to how it was done with those guys back then so that’ll change ……..but that happened with Spires basically…….they came to us with the CD to press in November 2010…….and we said this is released November 2010….factually speaking the release was available by Big Cartel and on sale at gigs..... that’s your release. Some people will think that’s not enough, some people think it is….. I’m one of the ones that thinks it’s enough to get going with.

PAUL: It’s much better to just own your own stuff.......a lot of the interviews I’ve done recently has been how come you guys aren’t on a label........well, what’s the point.  The stage we’re at now, it would be probably quite nice for a label....... a decent label.....if we got offered something good, ....... we’d probably take it.....but I think we’ve done exactly the right thing.

AL: [photo] We’re not going to jump on any old thing.       

PAUL: Yeah, it’s the same with all of us....all the bands....it’s much better to just do it yourself, own your stuff not answer to anyone and you know........ get someone like Noz and Ryan in to help promote it.....wouldn’t change that for a second.

NOZ: [photo] To touch back on your original question, that’s why there’s still press coming out now because it’s been done in a sort of almost unofficial, in quote marks, kinda way where we started doing the press around the release but with the release being such basic conditions we’ve got total freedom to kind of be fluid and malleable with it as we go....... and what’s happened with Spires is, they started getting the reviews, they were really good reviews, we got a lot of interviews in off the back of it, but for the first few months it is was exclusively web orientated....it was web and radio……and it took us while to wake the magazines up to it because one thing that is slightly harder with that kind of  D.I.Y tag on it or that unsigned tag on it, is getting into the magazines and is getting into the large national radio  that does become a lot harder without that official label and distributor angle on paper ……but with Spires, it’s just been a natural build, they believed in it, we believed in it, the press was great review wise on the web, we got a lot of interviews in….. they gigged about….now I’m sort of as a manager I’m sceptical to let bands gig too much before there’s a bit of meat on the bones  press wise, otherwise you’ll kill yourself and there’s no longevity there……but these guys did it in sensible way were they weren’t really asking for big guarantees, they weren’t bothered about what rider or fee they were getting  it was just, we’ll be realistic, we’ll go out and play as many shows as we can, build it up logically…….and as much as I’m cynical about that, I didn’t worry with these guys  cos they did it in a kind of really educated way where it was sort of…..we’re in Manchester so we’ll do Manchester, Salford, Wakefield, Liverpool……..you know places like that……and then they slowly branched it out…….Bradford….. boom, boom, boom……..and then cos that was happening while their press was going on, people started to get turned on to it, web store sales were good and like Paul says, cos there’s a lot of press overseas in areas where there’s still a bit more of grass roots and fanzine culture, fanzines still get really big readership in places like Scandinavia and Germany……you know compared to over here……. Like the fanzines over here apart from bigger stuff maybe like Planet Loud, Sonic Shocks, Thrashhits and a couple more,  probably get 2-300 views on most of the articles if that,  Imperiumi the biggest Scandinavian zine takes 20,000 hits a day……Metal DE in Germany takes 800 to 2,000 hits a day, you know it’s bigger over there…….and we started shifting units and it’s not sort of dropped off as they’ve gone….. and they ‘ve been shifting units at gigs and yeah it’s two here and five there but they were knocking out so many gigs for a good sort of 18 months worth of groundwork, that even two here and five has now built up to the point where out of the first 1,000 pressing and we’ve put probably maybe 200 to 220 something like that…..maybe I’m being be slightly conservative there, but I’ll say 220, sounds good…… to promo…… so yeah, we’ve sold the other sort of just under 800….and they’re about to re-press.  And because it’s sort of built up in this logical kind of way, when they did the mini tour with Talanas…..because Talanas had already had a bit of attention from Terrorizer and done some things on a national level……  that turned a few magazine people on to it.

PAUL: That was a good thing to do that Talanas tour.

NOZ: Yeah, when I’m talking about bands bringing each other up, you don’t have to be from the same city to do that….if there’s a band from another city that you’ve got a good sound with and you get on with as people and you can go out and have a laugh and play some good shows……it makes it more interesting for the press you know……when you’re pushing a band on my end of the game….cos I’m not Craig Jennings at Raw Power Management, I’m not like one of these big guys with big bands…..I mean that guys brilliant at what he does, I’d love to be him in ten years,  I’m not knocking it…… but what I do is more kind of guerrilla tactics, it’s like we’re an extra pair of hands rather than somebody opening big doors from day one you know….we’re sort of  down in the trenches with bands, just slogging it and going through all the bullshit with em…..we’ve cut through a lot of the initial crap with Spires now and I’m not saying it’s easy life, cos it’s not…..but it just sort of lined up right, the Talanas tour turned some magazines onto it and the magazines got into em off their own bats…..now, we’ve done things, we’ve done a few national ad’s and we’ve done a few covermount CD’s and the reality of the business is….well that’s the word isn’t it, the business….you spend a bit of money with these magazines and other doors open with features and what not forthcoming……and I’m not knocking the magazines cos they’re having a hard time of it same as……they’re feeling the squeeze same as the labels are…..issues aren’t  selling as much as they once did, people can read about this stuff on line……alright, Metal Hammer and Kerrang are still big circulation…….Rock Sound are biggish……..Big Cheese.. it’s alright…..Terrorizer’s alright……but you know once you get to your Big Cheese and your Terrorizer it is niche stuff……so for someone like Terrorizer……that’s why they’re willing…..it’s a big national brand, an international brand it’s respected, but they’re still in touch enough with the grass roots side of it, the D.I.Y side of it to do something cool and put their name to the Spires / Incassum tour and from our point of view that’s the sort of thing that helps, because to labels it looks good but yeah, you’re right, we’ve still got press coming out on the Spires thing and it’s not slowing down……. I’ve just sent out a fresh load of stuff to Germany, a fresh load of stuff to Scandinavia, we’re doing a bit of American College radio work now……..you know and none of it’s the sort of stuff that’s going to change the bands life overnight but it’s all the sort of stuff that if we don’t do it, there’s a million and one bands there on bigger labels that are doing it…..so a lot of what my ethos is to sort of get this press for the bands that bands on smaller labels wouldn’t get…… what myself and Ryan do, work in Europe, not a lot of people do that, they’ll work the U.K and they’ll have local people in Europe do it and my attitude is, I’ve been trying it with local distributors and local PR’s over there for years and some of them are good at what they do and some of them are not so good and I’ll give em a wide berth next time round……we just sort of went sod it, let’s just do everything ourselves within reason you know…..these guys don’t have a booking agent yet, so either I get agents I’m friendly with to do it for me, I call in favours or grease the odd palm here and there in a smaller way or I’ll book it myself……so it’s not going to slow down for em and the press will still keep coming out…..and even though they’re concentrating on the next release now…… cos they did it in such a basic way, we don’t even have digital distribution with these guys yet, so we’re sorting that out at the moment for October. I mean that gives us something formal on paper to keep pushing the magazines with…..it’s quite nice actually, cos we’ve got valid, genuine reasons to still be knocking on press doors you know, we’ve just put it out to some magazines in Germany and some magazines in Belgium.  In some ways it’s almost been a radio / web campaign exclusively and the magazines have come in a lot later down the line than with a lot of bands……but that’s the thing, the breaks are different with every band…..Wolfcrusher have got into the magazines quite fast, well one of them so far with a lot more very imminent. 

DANIEL: Yeah, PowerPlay did a Bloodstock review.

NOZ: So yeah, two of em……well Legacy we know is happening, so three of em.  That’s the thing, there’s grey areas now, sometimes they can hold you back but in other ways they can be exploited and that’s what we’re using the unsigned tag for at the moment, is to sort of push a band, but take advantage of the freedom of the unsigned tag, rather than see it as something that holds them back……..right now we’re talking to labels about these guys saying well we’ve done a fair few hundred of our own bat, we know in the bigger picture if you put us next to Slipknot or a lot of Century Media and Roadrunner bands it’s laughable amounts of numbers, but the fact they’re doing those numbers before very little proper money’s going to it…….I’m not knocking it, these guys put in what they can……you know what I mean, it’s grass roots……the fact they’re getting the reaction they are…..we’re sat here, it’s October the 1st and I know  these guys are in Classic Rock on October the 5th they just did a four out of five in Zero Tolerance, we’ve got an eight date tour booked…..you know, it’s all small things, but it’s lot’s of small things all adding up….and then next year it’s big things.

PAUL: Absolutely, it should be. (Laughing)

ANDY: Let’s hope so.

NOZ: If people like yourself keep getting excited, then it helps….so it’s good.     

ANDY: Well, I’ll keep getting excited and interested for certain.

As we bring the discussion to a conclusion, Noz apologising profusely for talking over everyone, in true Manchester Metal Scene style, the guys head into town for a communal pint in the sun.  Unfortunately due to other commitments, I don’t have the time to join them, although will be catching up with each and every one over the coming weeks at Spires, Wolfcrusher, Incassum and Not Above Evil gigs.

http://spiresband.co.uk
www.wolfcrusher.com
www.incassum.com
www.myspace.com/notaboveevil

Today however is just a snapshot of current bands from the city, others, I-DEF-I, Skin the Pig, Hellfighter and Visitor to name just a few, producing top quality, extreme music from a North Westerly location. Surely, along with bands from other areas, Bring Me the Horizon from Sheffield, Talanas in London, Huron in Plymouth, Illuminatus from Nottingham, Sworn to Oath in Stoke or Brighton’s Plague of Ashitaka for example, the time has arrived when the music industry in general awakes to appreciate the U.K is producing incredible metal, deserving of recognition to a wider audience. 

It doesn’t take much in the way of research to also reveal Noz as completely correct, while the current crop of bands are undoubtedly impressive,  Manchester and metal have been soul mates much longer than I’d imagined.  Profane, Kill 2 This, Dearly Beheaded, I-Remain and Beecher, names well worthy of investigation. Even if only posthumously, they deserve it.

Interview by Andy Barnes
Photographs by Mel