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Interview with Phil Campbell, The Temperance Movement – by Karan Dutta

Interview with Phil Campbell by Karan Dutta

On 9th March The Temperance Movement lit up the Kentish Town forum with yet another stellar performance promoting their 2018 release, A Deeper Cut. Before their gig that evening, frontman Phil Campbell took some time to talk to MGM in a candid interview about the band’s journey since their last release, including some insights into their tumultuous voyage and how the band has bounced back over the past couple of years.

KD (MJM): Phil, thanks for taking some time out to chat with us. The band’s been through so much since y’all started out, having to replace Luke and Damon which, must have been unimaginably difficult given their being part of the foundation of the band. How did the band work through that process? How did you go about finding the right replacements and how did you go about selecting the right musicians to fill that void?

Phil Campbell: Luke and Damon left a year apart. So Damon was still in the band when we met Matt White. 

Phil Campbell: Matt was the last person that we saw after we did a couple of days of just auditioning guitar players, which was incredibly hard. We saw as many people had been suggesting that Paul knew, Nick knew, Damon knew and they all get players but they just went as great as either Paul or Luke. There would have had to be a huge bit of education before we could have got to the same level, and we realized how sort of unique a thing we had.

When you’ve got two guitars, I mean if we’d not had two guitars we could have been (set-up) like Free or Led Zepplin or Reef or something and just, we had this kind of thing where the boys bounced off each other and those two, Luke and Paul, had a particularly good relationship, that the guitarist and musicians really appreciate. I think, Matt got his first ever gig from Paul years ago, we’re all sessions guys and we’ve all got sessions pasts as did Eric Clapton and all those guys in the past. They were all great sessions players/ They all did great session [inaudible]. Matt was playing Pop for about 13 years or something with James Morrison. I had met him a couple of times because I knew a bass player in Morrison band. I wasn’t there at the audition for Matt. We hadn’t seen anybody and it was getting late, and we had to get somebody and Paul went, “right, we gonna go get Matt White. He’s a fuckin’ safe pair of hands.” …and I arrived at the first rehearsal for the show and there was Matt playing and he’d already learnt all this stuff and he is a very, very different guitar player from Luke, but what we needed at that time was somebody was going to come in and (play what we needed). Unfortunately for Matt, he was coming in a band of sessions musicians that had freed themselves from being sessions musicians and then become a band, and we were asking that basically be a session musician. It was just a bit awkward, but we needed somebody to come in and kind of help us to play White Bear.

We were gutted that Luke left, I was gutted that Luke had left and he was not going to play it with us. After all that hammers and fucking tongs it was to get the thing done. Luke’s last thing he did was this album. He was like “I have got to make the album, I have got to finish the album, I am going to get it right. Ok, I’m going! And I was like, “What?” So Matt came in and took on all these parts and then it turns out that he was an absolutely fuckin’ incredible guitar player. Some that I could bounce off on stage, something that I was not able to do with either Paul or Luke. He has got this kinda rockabilly, heavy metal kind of charm about him, he’s got a character that he plays, and mind you Matt’s a massive big guy, but he can do some rock and roll shapes, and [we got on] very, very well, both personally and musically, and from [moment we] started touring and that was going to America again, going to Canada again, cuttin’ the video for White Bear. We started writing together as well. He started coming up with things and love and devotion was started. We came up with that where we were in tour in America, and it was cool, it was cool.

The end of the year, 2016 in the end of that year, Damon left. He just, after the tour, after we came home from Canada, Damon just phoned up, just like Luke had done and said, “I’m out.” And I was like, ah for fuck sake, because I love bands that keep the drummer. Yeah, I do not care who comes in and out, but if they keep the drummer that’s kinda like the core of it to me. At the time I had become pals with Steve Gorman with the Black Crowes at the time and I was like, “What the fuck are we going to do Steve?” and he was like, “Just hold it together man”. I was still in shock from Luke leaving, to be honest with you. When Damon left. I just realized that the band was just going to need to let it go somehow, but I didn’t really know how to let it go. I mean it was really hard process of letting go.

The way that we got Simon into the band was that we had decided that we are going to do just three acoustic shows do all the stuff just mellow and quiet, and that’s how Simon came in and when we are doing those, we realized, because we are doing the thing acoustic, we can play some songs we do not usually play, a different pace, and we realised, “Wow, this is great. This is really great”. Simon had been up for the drummer position years before. We did an audition [with Simon but] we’d gone with Damon because he was just more upfront or something. Simon just kind of opened up and we have had together with Simon and his particular style, he sounds a lot like Kenny Jones from the Faces and having a piano on stage, It just opened up with and there was this whole other side to the band that we had not really seen here that has come to life now with these two new guys. So that in part is for A Deeper Cut about and that is why we have got Backwater Zoo, Children and things like that because we tried Children one night on tour and that was Matt very much going, “that is a great song, you should play it. Just play it and I will join you on the acoustic.”

So it is strains, different dynamics happening and Paul as well, Paul kinda lost his head in the managing of the band for a long time before he was free enough to start writing again, and when he started to write, it was like an avalanche of ideas that make up the majority of the record. Without that cohesive set of focus from myself and from Paul, and letting Matt come in to, it was very difficult to see what we were going to do. So be managed to get it together, we got ourselves to a place, where basically we thought, “Hey shit. Is this over? Is that gonna work or not?” and we were right down in the skids which was a good place to start again. It was good feeling like we had to do this in order to survive because it brought us together a little bit in the way that we had been at the start like, “Let’s do something. Let’s do something, it doesn’t really matter. I just wanna do something for the hell of it because I love music.” I think when we were doing A Deeper Cut, we felt like “Right. We need to do this. We need to do the best that we can possible can or otherwise this band isn’t gonna be around next year!”

KD (MJM): So what has been different about the writing process on A Deeper Cut versus the first two? You mentioned Paul came up with a backlog of all his thoughts but had been busy with managing the band and things like that, and then Matt brings in new energy. So how’s the writing been different this time?

Phil Campbell: Matt brings Smashing Pumpkins. He brings Queens of the Stone Age. He’s got a range of effects and textures that he likes, unique to him. The interplay between Paul and Matt is something which I instantly enjoy. They have a fun personal relationship as well. They are both guitar bores and I just think its quite amusing what they talk about and they’re always borrowing gear off each other and then saying that it actually belongs to the him, nah, its not your amp, I actually bought that from you, you know all that kinda stuff. Its fun.

The change is that we can kind of write a lot on our own. We learnt that you don’t necessarily have to sit down together, which was one of the most beautiful things about our first record, but that stopped working after a while. What was great was sitting down, me, Paul and Luke eventually and that was how the first one was done. Second record, that became quite difficult to do for some reason. Paul and I kinda like, “What happened, whats wrong?” And then at some point, I am writing things, I am showing up with songs and Paul is coming in with almost fully formed ideas just need me to sing something on it and I think, the dynamics just changed because we lost one of the writers and we lost his input and all his influence. But we gained somebody else, two other people. Both combined, fresh and with an enthusiasm that over the rest of us might have waned a little which helps us to enjoy it afresh. 

KD (MJM): With that new energy, surely with what you have gone through to re-energize even your own musical writing process with new people coming in. You mentioned when you did an interview recently when this new album came out, about your personal battles with substances of how that was impacting performance and things like that. We do not have to talk about it if you do not want, but I am interested in how you’ve found your onstage presence change in light of that?

Phil Campbell: It was very easy to take up drugs as a means to make the show more enjoyable for myself. It is easy to find a character within that you know,it was very easy to take a drink, take a line, have a smoke before going on, getting high and then go on and then you just follow through and you just like follow through from the start, you know and the rest of the band are like, “What the fuck is going on with this guy?” They are just half mast and I am like raaaaaaarrrrh! Because that is what I thought I had to do and I was basically making up the fact that I lacked a lot of power to just be that, to find that energy. In America, gig after gig after gig, radio performance after radio performance, interviews, thats what I thought I had to do and I think that is what I used to get through it, plus I was away from home and I felt like I was just alone. And It got terrible in part because it wore away at my relationship between myself and Luke Potashnick, and the rest of the guys you know. I’d come into the thing all sober and clean and I’d already done all that and here I was again and something it was really working and I was doing drugs again. It put a lot of pressure because folk didn’t like it, Damon was pissed cause he did not want us to get caught with anything when we are on the road and ruin our chances, all these kinda boring realities, that what the Temperance Movement is, its sensible people and in the midst of it I was being a bit of a fuckin’ fanny. It is not as hard, I mean it wasn’t fuckin’ Motley Crue, nothing like that. For me it was, smoking weed and in that drinking and trying to hide that from everybody else after Luke left, it was just, it had a terrible impact because I would go and I would get high and some of those gigs would be good, but the difficulty is when you can lose it all, you get to point and you’re like, shit right, I could lose everything here. I could lose this job. I could lose this band. I could lose my wife. I could lose my kids. I could lose everything. So I better stop and then you try go on without and everything is very difficult.

Going on stage from not being able to do it high, going on to start all over has been a re-education – you got this awareness of not doing it again. This tour has been a lot to do with that. I have found a lot of confidence just from doing it and feeling it and learning; why did I feel so heavy, oh it was because I was wearing Doc Martin shoes and I shouldn’t have been, I should be wearing lighter shoes. Feeling the reward of a great show and everybody’s going “now that was fucking killer” and you know that you are straight. For me that is very, very important. The rest of the guys, they can all drink you know, I don’t have any problems with that kind of thing. I tend to just kind of like, I’m pretty tired after most of the shows. I like the routine, I just kinda work through and get on the bus or whatever. And like tonight, I’ll have a nice time because it is the last night of the show, you know Glasgow we had a good time cause its the last night of the show, it was a good show and we had a party afterwards. But the best thing about the band is the music and this feeling that we are, to some people, as good as some great bands of the past and that makes you feel, you wake up in the morning and think, “Wow, it’s brilliant.”

KD (MJM): I am sure it is. If you could collaborate with a musician or a group of musicians, who would it be?

Phil Campbell: Thomas Wynn and The Believers. I like those guys. I like where they’re coming from. I love the fact that they could set up and do an hour and a half worth of band songs. Just the band, they could play the entire Last Waltz that is where they have come from. I think they do Springsteen as well. They do a lot. We are talking about it the other night and they do this great version Atlantic City and they do and I said to them, “Do you ever listen to The Band?” and they said “Shit man. We can do whole set of bands.” And they did a concert after everyone had died where they did all this music and then the next night they played The Shape I’m In from the Last Waltz. I just felt “Is it amazing? Absolutely amazing.” I would love to work with them because we could do some lovely sort of harmony vocal thing and Olivia and Thomas can sing so well together. We sing together in their set. They come on and they do Love in the Ocean with us. I was talking to Thomas the other day and I was saying, “hey we should write something together”

KD (MJM): Cool. What is the best and worst part of being on tour?

Phil Campbell: The best and worst part is the bubble that you are in. There is this rider of lovely food and you have got a bus. You get away from your responsibilities. All of that is good and bad because you kinda have to keep one eye or one foot in there and the life at home. Otherwise when you go back, it has just been an absolute shock because the bubble always burst, you have to come down, you have to go on with normal things. But it is great to have that because, you have to get your hands in the catching sink at home to do the job properly. I appreciate what touring is and the time it gives me to just focus on singing and being in the band and then I can go home and do I was asked of me. {They’re calling you for soundcheck} You got everything you need?

KD (MJM): Give me one last question. If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Phil Campbell: To fly. I would love to fly. I know it is a bit boring, but I like Superman when I was a kid, that was a common book here that I read. I would love to do flying. It would be much less expensive and you do not have to go through security.

KD (MJM): Fair enough. Awesome. That is great man. Thank you so much.

Phil Campbell: Thank you. Thank you, that was awesome.

Thanks again Phil for a wonderful half hour of conversation, biscuits and tea. Hope to see you again soon and good luck with the tour.

Our Review of the gig is here: 

THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT LIVE @ O2 Forum, Kentish Town, London, 9 March 2018

Our review of A Deeper Cut is here: 

The Temperance Movement – A Deeper Cut review

 

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