The Temperance Movement’s Phil Campbell gives brutally honest interview
The Temperance Movement have become a firm favourite of RUSHONROCK since their formation in 2011. Their raw, bluesy rock sound incorporates all the roll of the Stones, The Faces and Zeppellin, with a beautiful modern spin, making for a truly refreshing band at a time when rock music is seeking a rebirth.
RUSHONROCK co-editor Adam Keys caught up with The Temperance Movement’s Phil Campbell for an exclusive interview before the bands Newcastle show last month:
RUSHONROCK – The Temperance Movement have been through a lot of change over the last couple of years, along with a lot of personal change for you. How’s everything going with you and the band?
Phil Campbell – It’s great being back out there, and the way my mind-set is at the minute, I canny wait to go back to somewhere like New York, where I can go and see culturally relevant things that I’m excited about, rather than drug dealers bars I can hide myself away in.
I had started drinking again at the beginning of 2016, after seven years dry, and rather than saying ‘okay guys, I’m drinking again’, I was trying to hide it. I was too cowardly about it, and let my pride get in the way. I was hiding it, literally hiding it down the side of the bed. You think one knows, but I think a lot of the time no one said anything.
It’s a lonely existence, and once you get over the hump of drink and drugs, you realise its okay. The things I want to get drunk for, the things I want to get high for are generally feelings of anxiety, discomfort with people, and going onstage. When the band first started, I went on stage, and I was a bit kind of self-aware, but I enjoyed it and I learned how to be a stand up singer from a troubadour guitar player, but when my work started getting harder, my neck started hurting my shoulders started hurting, it was excuse after excuse; and then I started getting high and I found that it added a certain sense of excitement. Once you’ve learnt the muscle memory for the songs, you can get high and go on stage, play around with it and have great fun being above where you usually are.
RUSHONROCK – When it came to real life, and the band, how did you adapt from the drink and drugs of touring?
Phil Campbell – All the time I knew I was wearing someone else’s jacket, because it’s not real, and the real difficulty is stopping. You can get back to ease and comfort, but it’s hard when you rely on drugs and booze for two or three years like I was. And, it doesn’t work with life. You end up very disgruntled and very frustrated with the people that love you and want you to be a good dad, a good husband and a good son.
That said, there are rules in life for folk, and sometimes we need to give into them. For me, I can have a wife and kids, be in a band and tour the world, so anything else, and wanting more, is just greedy.
Sometimes the truest thing for me was the lyrics for Only Friend – trouble WAS my only friend. Sometimes all I could do was to drink and get high, and I did it for the video of White Bear. The only way I could act like that and perform like that was to drink. I couldn’t have put as much energy into it if I wasn’t drinking. I was powerless, and I needed to find the thing that got me back there.
RUSHONROCK – This time led to White Bear, an album that was filled with drugs and alcohol. What has been the main influence behind A Deeper Cut?
Phil Campbell – I think this is the aftermath. It’s also a personal tale about our little rock and roll band that we started in 2011, after an email from Luke Potashnick, who introduced me to his friend Paul Sayer. He sent me a couple of MP3s with guitar, and I went to a quiet place and put a vocal over the top, and sent it back. How on earth it got to the stage when the boy that started it wants out, I don’t know. There was just too much pressure. We were going through a second album that wasn’t as well received as the first one, it didn’t chart as well as the first one and it was us trying to be harder.
The Stones are a rock band hailed from everyone from Moterhead to Marylin Manson, but there nowhere near as heavy as bands like ACDC, Napalm Death, Rage Against The Machine. They were a kind of rolling review band, and that’s what I wanted The Temperance Movement to be – that form that changes. From the pitches of Tina Turner, the fast paced rock and roll, to suddenly I want to be Glen Campbell or Dolly Parton. That’s want I want us to be.
But, suddenly when you do this, you can’t be categorised because you’re not heavy enough for Kerrang, you’re not bloody enough. You’re not death, fucking dark death rock. You’re a fucking pussy band because you sing a ballad. Hang on, it’s not a ballad – a ballad is Michael Bolton, Whitney Houston. Our songs are quieter, slower rock songs! I mean, what about Wild Horses?! It’s the second song on Sticky Fingers, one of the Stones’ heaviest albums!
I bang on about the Stones, The Faces, but they’re my favourite bands, and they put together rock and roll. They put the show business into it, and they, along with Elton John, Delaney & Bonnie and Little Feat inspired this album.
RUSHONROCK – The album has earned rave reviews, but it’s also been performing in the charts. Tell us a bit about this:
Phil Campbell – I’m not sure on individual songs, but it album itself, was up to number six in ACTUAL chart, which is incredible. That’s down to our fan base and their age. They’re all nineties kids. They want to buy something, have it in their hands, read the lyrics and get us to sign it. If we had a young, hip fan base, we wouldn’t have achieved that. They wouldn’t have been buying it; they’d have been downloading or streaming it!
There are a few softer songs on there, like Backwater Zoo, that I wrote because my baby daughter smiled at me, and I wrote something positive, that aren’t for everyone. We get some folks coming up to us after the show, usually in double denim, saying there’s a few songs that aren’t for them, but then my mum says this is her favourite album, because she doesn’t like the heavy stuff.
RUSHONROCK – Tell us a bit more about the constant moving form for The Temperance Movement:
Phil Campbell – I would hope whatever direction we take with the next album, will lead to us producing our greatest record. I want every album we make to be our greatest record.
With this record, the new line up meant a change in the writing dynamic, and an opportunity to try new things. When we went out on the acoustic tour, we took the piano with us for the first time, and that’s my thing and I thought I wanted to do more of it.
RUSHONROCK – Backwater Zoo features a beautiful piano opening. Will we see more piano with the Temp?
Phil Campbell – Definitely – there’s nothing like the sound of the piano. There’s no digital alternative that sounds like the real deal, and it’s my dream with The Temperance Movement to have a fucking truck to transport one round in.
But, I don’t honestly like staying put on a stool anymore, because I’ve become so used to being free on stage. I used to watch Freddie Mercury play the piano opening of Bohemian Rhapsody, and he couldn’t wait to stand up. He was a very, very musical man, but he couldn’t wait to entertain, even if the piano was his link to operatic classics.
Playing Backwater Zoo in Glasgow was incredible. It was written for my wee girl about Glasgow. I wrote it in January and playing it and hearing people sing it back – man, that’s success! I wrote it, recorded a demo and sent it to my best mate, and he came back and said ‘man that’s incredible. That’s the first positive song you’ve written for ages.
RUSHONROCK – Tell us a bit about the recording process of this album:
Phil Campbell – When I was a solo artist, I spent hours recording in my house, using Pro Tools and various other technologies, but with the Temp it’s different. It’s live, it’s all about the performance, it’s ‘tell me you got that’ kind of stuff.
The album itself took about two years. We started writing it in America, and there were a few songs that didn’t make it on to the record, but we only actually recorded one of those. Love and Devotion, we started recording when we were in Syracuse, when we were rehearsing in a venue – it goes back that far. We played some songs on the acoustic tour that I wrote (Children and There’s Still Time), both of which Matt loved, which give me a lot of confidence.
With everything going on, the process was disjointed, and there was a gap between me and Paul. For a long time he struggled to write, due to everything that was happening at home and with the business, but he takes care and protects the band like a manager. This led to him losing his creative touch, because he was doing too much, but then this broke and he started writing guitar riffs again. I started being sent stuff over, and then songs started to get written.
RUSHONROCK – How close did the band come to calling it a day at this point?
Phil Campbell – Very close, and I’d say I was probably the closest. I wasn’t making good decisions and I felt terribly regretful about my part in what had happened to this beautiful little band that we started.
I struck up a friendship with Steve Gorman from The Black Crows, and I reached out to him, saying I felt terrible, what should I do?! He said ‘you’ve got to stick together and you’ve got to move on, you guys are worth it.’ The Black Crows were my favourite band growing up, and that honesty really helped me because I know that The Temp is the best thing that’s ever happened for me.
Northumbria University Journalism graduate, rock and roll enthusiast and co-editor of RUSHONROCK.com.