The Off Yer Rocker On The Road tour kicks off in Newcastle this week showcasing the very best emerging British rock bands. RUSHONROCK Editor Simon Rushworth caught up with Massive Wagons’ frontman Barry Mills ahead of what promises to be a riff-fuelled party.
RUSHONROCK: Is Welcome To The World the album you imagined you’d make after Fight The System?
BARRY MILLS: It’s actually everything we wanted it to be. I don’t think we really have a preconceived vision when we start off writing an album. We just get into a groove and go with it. We did go about writing Welcome To The World differently because we were more focused and went through the whole process in a shorter space of time. The previous album featured songs from way back – some that could have made the first record! But this record was written as one and in terms of overall quality and production it’s a huge step forward. Being in a band is a learning process – we simply don’t get to spend time in a studio very often and every time we do we make sure we take new stuff on board. This time we knew a lot ore about the art of production and we felt confident enough to have a real input. We were a bit braver in terms of putting our ideas across and making our point.
RUSHONROCK: There’s genuine diversity within the album – from track to track you keep the listener guessing. Is that a typical Massive Wagons ploy?
BM: We’ve always been like that. Maybe the first album was more consistent in style but Fight The System was equally diverse. We just like good songs regardless of the genre. As a band we listen to – and like – so much stuff that it’s bound to rub off on our own work. We’ve always been influenced by so many different bands and so many different styles. We like AOR, country music and right now bands like Blackberry Smoke and Airbourne. People have tried pigeon-holing us and struggled. But because all of the songs on the album are different it means people have different favourites. That’s great.
RUSHONROCK: On Tokyo you sing ‘You won’t play us on the radio’. It is a protest song?
BM: Well maybe, to an extent. It’s just such hard work making your way in a band. It’s just a song about being in a band and the challenges you face. We know how hard it is to get on and get noticed and get people to pay attention to what we’re doing. But we think we’re doing quite well! There are lots of radio stations who do play our stuff but some of the bigger commercial stations are difficult to break. Tokyo isn’t a dig at anyone really. It’s just the truth.
RUSHONROCK: So how tough is it for young British bands to break through right now?
BM: I never expected it to be any different so I’m not complaining. Not at all. I never thought it would be easy. And sometimes you actually lose perspective of what you have achieved as a band. When I sit down and look back at everything we have achieved I think that maybe we’re doing ok. Sometimes you get caught up in the moment or see what another band is doing and you lose sight of reality. But it is hard. And I don’t think anyone would argue against that. A lot of it can come down to money. If you can afford the right PR person or the right manager and you can influence certain people then you might have a better shot at progressing more quickly. If you don’t have the money or the contacts – like Massive Wagons – then so much comes down to your music and how you perform live. And it’s a gradual process. But we’ve played a lot of great shows in the last few years and we have a label that’s got our back and wants to help us. That all helps.
RUSHONROCK: When you see a band like Black Stone Cherry break the UK top five with their new album does it give you hope that all the hard work can pay off?
BM: Definitely. They’ve really set the bar in terms of their work ethic and the quality of their music. But there’s a glut of US bands that really seem to be getting more and more popular right now. I can think of Shinedown and Rival Sons as well as BSC. Three great bands who keep putting in the work and making great records. For us Airbourne are an even better example. They’re the reason that we’re all in a band and making music. They are a band we really identify with. We follow their career really closely – they’re a group of really grounded, normal and honest guys who have built their reputation on a great live show. They didn’t have a lot of breaks early on. But they persevered.
RUSHONROCK: Can you see some of Airbourne in Massive Wagons?
BM: I think so. We saw them for the first time playing with Black Spiders and the intensity of their live performance just blew us away. Watching the way they worked the stage was a lesson for us all. Live is where it’s at as far as Airbourne is concerned. I suppose it’s nice for them to sell a few albums but they have got to where they are on the back of a great live show. That’s how it should be. We might not be able to guarantee mainstream airplay or great reviews or huge albums sales but what we can do is blow the audience away with our live shows. That’s in our hands. It’s something we can influence. I like to think that’s why we keep getting asked back to play the same venues and the same festivals – people know we can deliver live and it’s the same with Airbourne.
RUSHONROCK: Is there a better showcase of emerging British talent than the Off Yer Rocker On The Road tour this month?
BM: I doubt it! Trucker Diablo and Screaming Eagles are fantastic bands. I couldn’t be happier going out on the road with them. I know exactly how hard they work and exactly what they’ll bring to the table when we play together. It’s a shame that Trucker can’t make all of the dates but Thirteen Stars and Skam are two more exciting bands on our label. All of us are on Off Yer Rocker for a reason and this is a chance to show people what the label’s doing right now.
RUSHONROCK: Labels and management don’t have a great name in rock. Why are Off Yer Rocker so different?
BM: I think they’ve been a shot in the arm for rock and roll in this country. What Jonni (Davis, OYR owner) has done for bands and live music is incredible really. On the one hand he’s bring back all of these bands from back in the day and the Hard Rock Hell line-ups go from strength to strength. On the other side of the coin he’s offering a platform for younger bands to get started and make their mark. One of the reasons that we signed for Off Yer Rocker is what Jonni is doing with the festivals. He put us on the same stage as Black Label Society – we were on straight after them and played in front of thousands of fans at a packed venue. A few years ago when we were playing the Dog And Duck I could never have imagined we’d be sharing a stage with Zakk Wylde.
RUSHONROCK: So can fans expect a set spanning all three albums when the tour kicks off in Newcastle?
BM: We’ve been playing three new songs for a while now but we added another three off Welcome To The World in Cardiff earlier this month and I think we’ll stick with six if we can. We have around 50 minutes so there’s plenty of time to pack a load of songs in. For those fans who see a lot of us it’s nice to throw some new tunes in every now and again.