EXCLUSIVE – BITERS INTERVIEW
Biters are the buzz band on the rock and roll scene as they lay waste to British shores on their first headline tour of the UK.
RUSHONROCK editor Simon Rushworth chewed the fat with frontman Tuk – taLking retro rock, Electric Blood and puppy love.
RUSHONROCK: Are the rumours true that you have a soft spot for our four-legged friends?
TUK: I like my dogs more than I like people. I don’t know what I’ll do if anything ever happens to them. My wife takes care of them when I’m away but I miss them so much. We have a dog door on the house so they can come and go as they please – within reason. But we’re always happiest when everyone’s at home. When I’m away I get sent pictures of the dogs all of the time. I couldn’t live without them. They’re so loyal and trusting.
RUSHONROCK: There’s a real buzz about Biters in the UK right now but how come it’s taken so long for the band to make an impression over here?
TUK: We’ve had a small fan base in the UK for some time. But we’ve only played over here once before and it wasn’t a major tour. It was more an underground kind of thing because we’d had no press or anything. A band can be doing one thing and have no press and some people go ‘that’s a great band’. And in a way that means more. It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon and follow a band when they’re in magazines and getting great publicity. It’s almost like you get validated because you’ve had some good press. I’m grateful for it but it hasn’t changed us one bit. We’re still the same band that you didn’t know about a couple of years ago!
RUSHONROCK: Electric Blood benefits from a really energetic production: was the recording process a lively affair?
TUK: We just didn’t slow down. We just played. We didn’t use a drum programme or vocal timing or any of that. We used vintage amps and didn’t rely on any of the production trickery you get these days. It makes the record a little harder – it’s got that raw, flash sound that I love. I really like the record and I love the recording process. I like writing songs and recording them more than I like touring if I’m honest. Being on the road is just so hard for us. It’s not limousines and big backstage parties. But some of the guys love that side of things. Some of us prefer the recording process and some of us have a harder time adjusting to life on the road. But both are part and parcel of being in a band and we understand that. I write most of the stuff. I’ll usually write a song with the drums and then give it to the guys to give their views. Some stuff will change but the basic songs are there.
RUSHONROCK: Does modern technology interfere with your inherently retro sound?
TUK: There’s not as much money in the music business as there was – especially when it comes to rock and roll. Unless you’re one of the bigger, older bands time isn’t on your side when you enter the studio. Most bands are recording their own stuff without much help – it’s not like Biters are Def Leppard and we can spend two or three years getting things right! We had two weeks to record Electric Blood and technology can speed things up when you’re on a budget. We know that. We use it when we need to but a lot of bands use new technology as a crutch. If you do that then the music you make will sound really, really dated further down the line. Just look at that 80s sound – the plate reverb on the snare drum sounds terrible these days. It doesn’t sound good at all. But certain albums remain classics forever. Biters don’t ever want to get caught up in fair-weather trends that other people are into. We’re proud of our own identity.
RUSHONROCK: What is it about 70s music that so inspires the band?
TUK: I grew up in a really small town and when I did discover music I got into punk rock. I first heard Circle Jerks and from there I traced punk’s 80s roots back to the UK and then I was able to figure out where the Sex Pistols and The Clash fitted in. I discovered The Boys and from there the New York Dolls – to me it was just an entire decade of incredibly inspiring music. You had punk but you had the garage rock of MC5 and The Stooges and glitter rock. I got into Slade and Sweet and the obvious glam bands but at the same time the US had Aerosmith and then there was Rose Tattoo. There were some great bands around back then and I guess I couldn’t help but get caught up in a bad-ass decade for rock.
RUSHONROCK: Are there current bands that excite you quite as much as your 70s heroes?
TUK: There are a few bands that I’m really into. None of them are really big. It’s mostly my friends’ bands that are doing stuff and I’m just hoping they get the credit they deserve. I don’t even think there needs to be a revival in 70s rock as such. There just needs to be a shift in attitude. The last thing rock and roll needs right now is another party band. It just needs something a little different – a different vibe and a different colour. A lot of reviewers seem to think that the be all and end all of rock is Los Angeles circa 1984 (Ed – that’s me. Guilty as accused) but Biters aren’t trying to be sleazy. I’m just trying to write good songs and make music and I’m not trying to recreate any genre or decade whatsoever. A lot of interviewers and journalists have lost touch and try to put everything into a genre – they’re always trying to cram more and more into the same box. That’s not the way rock music works.
RUSHONROCK: You’re signed to Earache in the UK – a really eclectic label and home to bands as diverse as Rival Sons and Evile. What attracted you to them?
TUK: Earache came to us and at first I thought it was a little weird. They already had the Temperance Movement, Rival Sons and Blackberry Smoke and I wasn’t sure where we’d fit in. I’ve just done a cameo in a video with Blackberry Smoke as it happens! But when Earache were starting out and doing all the crazy metal stuff that wasn’t popular I never imagined we’d be on their roster! Having said that they have a reputation – and always have had – for signing bands that take pride in doing their own thing. That’s the kind of ambition and attitude I really, really like. I really respect that so Earache is the right place for Biters right now.
RUSHONROCK: How did the Blackberry Smoke hook-up come about?
TUK: I knew of the guys from way back. I lived in Atlanta for eight or nine years and the rocker guys I hung out with were always talking about them back in the day. One of our roadies used to work with them and they started reaching out when Biters signed with Earache. I got to hang out with them on the video shoot and it’s a kind of cool little community. Brit the drummer let me wear his $100 cowboy hat and then he just gave it to me. That’s the kind of guys they are.
RUSHONROCK: Did you always dream of heading out on a headline tour of the UK?
TUK: I’m torn thinking about it really. Sometimes you really believe in yourself and you think you can take over the world and sometimes you’re in El Paso playing in front of 25 people and you question whether it’s all worthwhile. I suppose you have to maintain a positive mental attitude. When I’m well rested I think we have the potential to do a lot of things with this band. I’m very excited to be in the UK and it’s a big opportunity for Biters.
RUSHONROCK: What are the most serious setbacks you’ve experienced in your career?
TUK: You name it we’ve been through it. For starters we haven’t had any real financial backing up to 2014. When you’re in a band and you’re playing rock and roll you have to be rally crazy to even think about doing it. Constantly being surrounded by alcoholics and drug addicts starts to wear on your soul. Coming back home and washing dishes or selling drugs or mooching off some girl just to get by – that sucks. But you just do what you have to do. You never know if you’re ever going to find a record label or strike a deal. Biters has been on hiatus before. Members of the band have been locked up for a certain period of time. It’s been hell but where there’s a little chink of light at the end of the tunnel you keep going.
RUSHONROCK: If you could return to the UK in 2016 to support any band which band would it be?
TUK: How about Turbonegro? Or The Darkness? Or The Hives? It can be a slippery slope if you start to think about something like that too much. But I really like a lot of the stuff on the new Darkness record.
I’m a journalist specialising in sport and rock music. Can’t play either so I write about them instead.