Inglorious release fourth album We Will Ride this week. Rushonrock editor Simon Rushworth checked in with frontman and founder Nathan James.
Rushonrock: You worked with a producer [Romesh Gogandoda] for the first time on We Will Ride…why now?
Nathan James: Working with someone like Romesh has so many advantages. He’s worked with some really great and commercially successful acts and I kept meeting him at parties and various awards ceremonies when he would remind me he was a massive fan of Inglorious and would love to work with the band. I just didn’t think we could afford to work with a producer of his calibre but when I went through the figures for the new album I thought there might just be a chance. Romesh agreed and it was all systems go. Due to the fact that we’re living through a global pandemic we were always going to have to do things differently anyway. In that respect the timing was right. It was so cool to work with him and I felt he was the person to help us get to the next level.
Rushonrock: Did you always feel there was much more to come from Inglorious?
NJ: The first three albums were fantastic and the guys in the different line-ups all did a great job. At the time that was the best we could be and all three albums are records which people still like and listen to. But there have been big changes in the last two years and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to attack things in a different way. The band formed a bubble with Romesh in the studio in Cardiff and we spent three weeks living and working together. Romesh operated out of one studio and his engineer was next door. It wasn’t possible to have everyone in the studio at the same time so the first week was drums and bass and the other guys were just stuck in the flat not really knowing what was happening. Then it was their turn to record and they’d realise what was taking shape. We had a lovely apartment overlooking Cardiff Bay and we’d all get together at the end of the day and talk about the new songs. There was real excitement and it was a fun time.
Rushonrock: What was the highlight of living together for three weeks?
NJ: We played Come Dine With Me every night. The guys who’d been in the studio would come back to find a meal ready for them and we’d mark it out of 10. It was a brilliant experience and I’m so pleased we did it that way. It’s no secret that Danny [Dela Cruz, lead guitar] is a phenomenal chef. As if he’s not talented enough as a guitar player he also creates the most incredible Filipino cuisine. We were so spoiled when it was Danny’s turn to cook…and just a little disappointed when we realised it was his turn to be in the studio!
Rushonrock: With the new album in the bag how frustrated are you that playing the new songs still seems some way off?
NJ: It’s heartbreaking. There’s no other word for it. Performing live is what I live for. On stage and in front of a crowd is where I’m happiest. We’ve always written songs for this band with the live show in mind so it’s going to be incredibly frustrating biding our time. I’m just treating it like the ultimate tease. With each day that goes by the suspense is ramping up so when we do get to run out at that first gig or that first festival it’s going to be fucking amazing. When we do perform in front of that first room packed full of people — all with their Covid jabs — we’re going to have awesome time. It’s going to be an incredibly emotional experience for everyone.
Rushonrock: You’re treating it as a big tease but the last year must have taken its toll on you emotionally?
NJ: It’s not been easy. But I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on how lucky I am. I feel blessed that I have so much space where I live. I haven’t felt that sense of claustrophobia that has affected so many people. I’ve just been bored and itching to get back out there. We had such a great year on the road before everything shut down last year. We’d played something like 52 shows and made it on to the main stage at Graspop but then it suddenly came to a halt. It did hit me hard to begin with. But I’m so lucky that I’m surrounded by animals and they’ve been having babies. When you’re staring at a baby alpaca or a baby pigmy goat it’s hard to feel anything but joy. I got a puppy a few weeks ago and that’s kept me busy! I’ve just tried to focus on the positives but that wasn’t easy to start with. This time last year I was focusing on making the new album but I didn’t feel like I was in the best place to write music. I honestly thought that our industry was done and that I’d never sing again. I was feeling very sorry for myself and on the back of my well documented mental health problems I really didn’t need 2020 to happen. It was tough. But now the album is coming out and that’s all people want to talk about. It makes me feel so happy and so optimistic. I know the music I love is on its way back but for now it remains tantalisingly out of reach.
Rushonrock: The music industry will survive but can it thrive again?
NJ: I think it can. Everyone is gagging for a gig again. Even those people who used to take live shows for granted — and maybe missed the odd one or two knowing there’d be another around the corner — are desperate for gig. I’m one of those people! When I lived in London I could have watched a gig every night before lockdown and now I wish I’d done that. I’ve really missed that buzz you get as a fan when your favourite band steps on stage or there’s a new band you’ve never seen before. As far as Inglorious is concerned I’m confident we can play our part. The reaction to the new music we’ve released so far has been so positive and I think people want to hear it live. It will be an incredible party and I think fans will want to support bands and help them to get back on their feet again. They know that live music is where we make our living. It’s not like in the 80s where bands could survive comfortably on multi-million album sales. We have to be in front of people and I think there are enough people out there who want to see us back where we belong.
Rushonrock: We Will Ride is the first Inglorious album to feature the band’s ‘new’ line-up — how proud are you of what you’ve achieved together?
NJ: I’m hugely proud. Given the circumstances surrounding the recording of the album — coupled with the fact that the boys knew they had big shoes to fill — I couldn’t be happier. Rest assured, this band is still rocking! I think Danny, Dan [Stevens, rhythm guitar] and Vinnie [Colla, bass] felt the pressure more than me and Phil because of those big shoes to fill. When they were writing and recording the new album they knew that there would be inevitable comparisons to previous line-ups but it was cool to see how hungry that made them. It still amazes me to think that Danny is just 21 and We Will Ride features the first songs that he’s written and recorded. He wrote the riff to She Won’t Let You Go three years ago and now it’s out there as a single and getting a great reaction. I’m so proud of him and of all of the boys and We Will Ride reflects a band that’s in a really good place and full of confidence.
Rushonrock: Sonically We Will Ride is a different animal to previous Inglorious albums. Is that down to Romesh, the new members or a combination of both?
NJ: It’s definitely more advanced sonically than anything we’ve attempted in the past. For instance, it’s the first time anyone has heard more than two guitars on an Inglorious track at the same time. On some tracks there are as many as 10 guitars because we were able to record in a different way. It’s made a hell of a difference. The exciting thing for us now is working out how we recreate that sound live. In the past an Inglorious live show sounded very much like the record and that’s no bad thing. But We Will Ride challenges us as musicians to see what’s possible in the live arena. Of course we can’t play 10 guitar parts at the same time but we can look at how we can develop the live shows.
Rushonrock: Perhaps Danny could manage to play 10 guitar parts and cook a Filipino feast at the same time? How much of an impact has he made in the last two years?
NJ: I mentioned his age before. That’s just one thing to consider. But he’s been amazing. As well as being an integral part of Inglorious, Danny is one of my best friends. I’ve watched him grow up in a very short space of time and it’s been great to see. When he was 15 he covered Until I Die on YouTube and from there he went on to become our guitar tech. Now he’s in the band. It’s a great story. I guess you could say he’s been preparing for this opportunity: he’s watched how to do things and how not to do things! He’s so mature and he’s got his head screwed on. We’re two Leos and we just instinctively know what each other is thinking. I’m so proud of him and I can’t wait for people to hear his solos on We Will Ride. They’re so memorable and so advanced. There are grown men with years of experience in the business who can’t pull off the things he does on this record. He’s got a lot to prove but he’s quietly and confidently going about his business and shutting a few people up.
Rushonrock: There are elements of Malmsteen, Bettencourt and Blackmore in his best work…
NJ: He’s just an unbelievably talented guy. He has a taste and feel for the music and he plays for the song rather than for himself. That’s incredibly rare in someone of Danny’s age. He puts aside his ego and focuses on writing what works for the song and something which captures the mood. There’s this little guitar lick on Medusa, which is probably only three seconds long, and when you listen to it you can conjure up perfectly the image and message we’re trying to get across. To be able to do that at any age is special. To be able to do it at 21 is just crazy.
Rushonrock: As if a new Inglorious record isn’t enough, you’ve started work on your new record with Michael Sweet, Joel Hoekstra, Marco Mendoza, Tommy Aldridge and Alessandro Del Vecchio! Tell us more.
NJ: [Inglorious’ record label] Frontiers has been encouraging me to get involved in an extra project for some time but I was just waiting for the right group of people. I didn’t want to say ‘yes’ to something until I’d seen who else was going to be involved but I needn’t have worried! When I saw the names you can just imagine the look on my face. I’m in a band with two current members and one former member of Whitesnake for starters. Then there’s Michael Sweet — he and I are good friends and I’ve wanted to work with him for a while. We all have the same kind of vision and we’re working towards creating that classic 70s-influenced British blues rock record.
Rushonrock: How has the project progressed so far?
NJ: I’m buzzing about it. I’ve had some really positive conversations with Joel and I know he’s been writing a lot of riffs. His new album is out this week too so we’re both on a bit of a high right now! I’m going to be recoding my parts in the UK as things stand but I can’t wait to get together with the rest of the band. I suppose what I’m really excited about is the possibility of this becoming a live band. I think a line-up like that would be a pretty hot ticket. I’m aware that I’m only the monkey at the front but I’d pay to see the rest of those guys play live together! It’s just nice to have something else to do.
Rushonrock: Might you consider putting Inglorious on the back burner?
NJ: Not at all. Inglorious is my baby and it always will be. But it’s five years since we released the first album and I’m in the right place in my career and life to look at doing something different again. I think the idea first came to me when I was performing in War Of The Worlds — I’ll never take my eye off the ball with Inglorious but it’s no bad thing having another outlet and a secondary focus. Being part of this new Frontiers project is 100% positive and it might even help Inglorious to pick up some new fans in America and elsewhere.
We Will Ride is released via Frontiers Records on Friday February 12.