Massive Wagons drop the hotly anticipated House Of Noise this week. After teasing fans with a spate of singalong singles, Rushonrock editor Simon Rushworth found out more from main man Barry Mills.
Rushonrock: How do feel you’ve adapted to life in lockdown?
Barry Mills: Obviously the virus has taken away the lifeblood of musicians in terms of live shows. That’s Massive Wagons’ main outlet and it’s been tough not gigging. On the other hand we can count ourselves lucky that we finished recording the album before lockdown – it would have been a disaster if we’d not managed to get House Of Noise in the can before everything shut down. As a band we’re used to facing challenges. We’ve had plenty of uphill struggles during the last 10 years and coronavirus is just another thing to deal with as best we can. In many ways it’s more serious than anything we’ve faced in the past but as a band and as people we can’t let it defeat us. We have to stay positive and stay in touch with our fans. We’ve been active on social media and started the Wagons World community on Patreon – I think that’s kept our fans entertained! The alternative would have been doing nothing and that was never an option. It’s a case of adapting. It’s do or die. Letting this thing beat us would have been a total waste of the last 10 years.
Rushonrock: Might a situation like this have beaten the band in the past?
BM: Maybe. We’re lucky that we’ve managed to get to a level where we can survive. Our manager Terri is super passionate about everything that we do and she would never let us bury our heads in the sand. She regularly gives us a collective kick up the arse. But if coronavirus had come along three or four years ago and stopped us in our tracks back then it might have been a different story. Would we have had the motivation or the support to carry on? Who knows? It could have ended us. Right now, it’s incredibly tough for bands who don’t have any gigs or any money and you can understand it if they lose a lot of their motivation for making music. It’s been hard to keep in touch with bands who we’d normally bump into on the road or at festivals and so I’m not sure how everyone else is getting on. I am worried that some bands seem to have fallen off the radar and I just hope that’s not a permanent thing.
Rushonrock: There are musicians who have used their time off the road to write new music – do you think we’ll look back on the first six months of 2020 as a fertile time for songwriting?
BM: I would think so. Having said that we haven’t done much writing at all! In our defence we’ve been busy doing loads of other stuff and building up to the release of House Of Noise. But I hope that there is something positive to come out of this terrible situation and that might be a bunch of brilliant songs. There have already been some fantastic new albums released by British bands this year – the new records by Bad Touch and Those Damn Crows are just a couple of examples. I’ve seen nothing but good things said about both of those albums. Hopefully we’ll look back on 2020 as a golden year for new music.
Rushonrock: House Of Noise sounds like the ultimate Massive Wagons album title – how did it come about?
BM: We actually took the line from the song called Pressure, off the new album. But the line refers to ‘church of noise’ and we thought the whole church of noise thing had been done to death. So we settled on House Of Noise. In the past we’ve taken album titles from songs on the record but that wasn’t originally the case with this one. It was only at the last minute – when the new album had been more or less finished – that Adam [Thistlethwaite, guitar] came up with the song House Of Noise. I love it as a song and as an album title. And we wanted something simple and in-your-face on the cover – something completely different to the Full Nelson artwork. That cover was incredible but this time we wanted bright and bold. And you couldn’t get much brighter or bolder!
Rushonrock: The bright and bold album cover isn’t the only thing that’s different to Full Nelson – is it fair to say there are more bangers on the new Massive Wagons record?
BM: I’d say so. It’s the first time that we’ve been able to put everything into a record. Maybe this is the first real full length Massive Wagons record. We took as much time as we needed and used the best gear possible. At the same time the writing process felt really good. It sounds like a mixture of Welcome To The World and Full Nelson – the best bits of both. Hopefully it will appeal to fans of both records…and maybe it will strike a chord with some new fans.
Rushonrock: You take no prisoners with the stories underpinning House Of Noise – what’s Professional Creep all about for starters?
BM: It’s actually about a guy who I used to work with and I wasn’t a big fan of his. Glorious is the same kind of song. As long as what I’m writing is honest then I have no problem if the lyrics are a little close to the bone. I write the truth. I always have done. If people have treated us like crap over the years then they’ve got it coming! Generally, people who’ve pissed me off are fair game. I’m not a bitter person at all but if you want to make a point of annoying me then that’s your problem. I don’t really care.
Rushonrock: And you’ve just released the hilarious Curry Song. Has that been on the Massive Wagons menu for some time now?
BM: No, it’s something that Stevie [Holl, guitar] brought to the table. He’s contributed around five songs to the new album and it’s been great seeing him come into his own as a songwriter. I just liked the riff from day one and ended up writing three or four songs around it. I kept thinking ‘this isn’t good enough’ until I finally settled on The Curry Song. It’s definitely got a bit of Terrorvision about it and I love that band. I wanted it to be a light hearted song and I wanted it to be about something you enjoy doing together as a group of mates. Once I settled on going for a curry the lyrics just poured out. I did worry about what the rest of the lads might make of it but it seemed to go down pretty well.
Rushonrock: And then there’s Matter Of Time – a bold piece of work that clocks in at eight minutes and sets the seal on House Of Noise…
BM: The music comes from a song that we just couldn’t finish around the time we were putting Full Nelson together. We just lost our drive with it and couldn’t pull it together. But when we were looking to write the House Of Noise album, Adam brought the riff back and we remembered how much we loved it. I don’t really know how Matter Of Time happened in the end and I have no idea how it morphed into this eight-minute epic. But it’s a song that means a lot to me – it’s a message that I wrote to my daughter. I didn’t want it to be too cheesy or throwaway and so it took me a long time to get the lyrics just right. We’re big fans of Blackberry Smoke and The Wildhearts and there are all sorts of styles and genres wrapped up in that song. We write what we want and hope somebody likes it!
Rushonrock: Ramblin’ Man Fair might have fallen by the wayside this weekend but you’ll be back next year…and you’ve just been named as one of the headliners at the inaugural HRH NWOCR festival…
BM: It’s an absolute honour to have been added to that bill. It’s an amazing feeling to be flying the flag for the NWOCR movement but it still feels strange to be in that position. We’d been going for six or seven years before anyone coined that phrase and thought to put us in that genre. We were never really in that box but it’s nice to be there now. It’s come at the right time for us and a few other British bands. It’s cemented our reputation and the NWOCR name gets mentioned all of the time on radio and in the rock magazines. It’s brought together the bands that have been grinding it out for a few years now and the new bands that need to get a foot on the ladder. Fair play to the person that coined NWOCR – what a great decision that proved to be!
*House Of Noise is released via Earache Records on Friday. The remaining limited edition vinyl versions are available here.