Interviewed by Mark Dean (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
Firstly how come a band from Bournemouth has gone with a N.ireland based Pr company.How did you come to hook up with Black Cat pr.What do both parties bring to the partnership,and how is it working so far?
Law – I first contacted Phil after he gave our album an excellent review for Fame Magazine and his own website. I knew of Phil from my previous time working on a Pro Wrestling Radio show, we were Facebook friends etc.
I contacted him asking if he would be interested in an interview with us to help promote the album, and we went on from there. Working with Phil and Black Cat has been great, he has been working his ass off promoting our show in Belfast on July 6th and we have got many more plans for the future.
Did the fact that Phil from Black cat has a long standing interest in wrestling help to contribute to the New Deal With Ring Of Honor Wrestling?
Law – No we already had our deal in place with ROH for one of our older songs, I contacted them once the album was finished asking if they would be interested in hearing it. The great news was they loved it and now 9 songs from the album will be featured on their TV, Pay Per View and more.
Voodoo Vegas play a brand of rock music that appeals to the older generation of classic rock fans like myself.In fact you probably do classic rock better than some of the classic rock bands back in the day.What music did you grow up listening to in Bournemouth,and what inspires the bands sound?
NICK – The first band that I really got into was AC/DC when I was around 14ish. I couldn’t sleep one night and an old ‘Monsters of Rock’ was on – totally loved it so I went out the next weekend and bought Highway to Hell from HMV. Remember them? Listened to it nonstop and got all their albums after that. I really dig Back in Black Its a classic!! The other band that really interested me was Black Sabbath. I love the heavy riffs and in my opinion the tone is killer, all except Masters of Reality which isn’t so good. As for the first bands that were in Bournemouth when I first started going to gigs, the best band around at that time for me was Mr Fungus, they had so much energy and great songs. Another local band I liked was Fevertree, a really cool rock band with awesome riffs. All the band members like kind of different things. I am really into the 70s rock, Lawrence likes Aerosmith and Bon Jovi, Ash is a big Chili’s fan, Matt is into loads of punk bands and Meryl loves classic rock. So the band’s sound is just a mix of all that put together.
Individually what were the first bands that each of you went to see live?
Law – My first gig I went to was The Toxic Twin Towers Ball at Wembley Stadium, Aerosmith, Lenny Kravitz, The Black Crows, Stereophonics and 3 Colours Red. Not a bad line up for your first gig.
NICK – The first big rock gig I went to was the Manic Street Preachers. I got totally crushed but loved it!!!!
Matt – Blur, in London..
Ash – Download festival in 2006
Meryl – I didn’t really get into rock music and pick up a guitar until I was in my early-mid twenties, so my first gig was at Party In The Park Festival in 1997 when I was at school, people like Boyzone, Eternal and Desree performed, not really my sort of thing now though lol, I’ve evolved a lot since! But I loved it at the time.
Since the bands inception you have managed to play a few high profile tours including with Glenn Hughes,Uriah Heep,Wildhearts and Fozzy.As performers and fans what are your feelings about playing gigs like these with some legends of the musical scene.Did they share any career advice with the band?
Meryl – I have had some amazing journeys and experiences playing and touring with some high profile bands, we get to meet so many great people all over the place on our travels and these gigs really help Voodoo Vegas gain more fans which is great. None of the bands we’ve played with have ever given us any advice though, I guess each band just concentrates on themselves, in order to do what they do to the best they can do it.
Your album “release has certainly moved the band up to another level.How do you feel that the band have progressed musically since you first started out.Have steps been taken with regard to recording a follow up to your debut release?
Ash – Our approach to writing has matured very much since recording the album. Typically as musicians when we first started writing we would all try to play the best bass line or coolest guitar riff serving ourselves as individuals. Since recording we have very much learned to think of the music as a whole and write individual parts for a defined purpose. Learning when not to play and being able to determine what is most appropriate to play for the song as a whole is very much the way to write songs.
The most important part to any song is the vocal melody and lyrics, if the music doesn’t work for these and compliment them it’s not worth doing.
We are currently working on new material for a follow up album next year and from what’s been written so far I think its going to be a new class of music from ourselves.
Is there such a thing as a typical writing process for a track by Voodoo Vegas or does each vary-Is it something that you all contribute individually to?
Nick – There is no real set way we do things but most of the time we just start to jam something and if it sounds cool then we will work on it and maybe it will become a song. Most of the time it will start with a riff which we jam on and change around. Sometimes when the song is finished the original riff might not even make it.
Going back to musical tastes what are the band members currently listening to individually-Any new bands that you have heard that you can recommend?
Law – Im loving the latest Richie Sambora album ‘Aftermath Of The Lowdown’, he’s obviously not a new artist, but his latest album is amazing.
Meryl – Well I will always love all the classic rock bands from the 60’s up to the 80’s but when it comes to newer bands I really love Blackstone Cherry, The Answer, Airbourne, Alter Bridge and the Temperance movement.
What did the band hope to achieve with “Rise of Jimmy Silver”when you headed into the studio and was it everything that you hoped for?
Ash – I think individually everyone’s hopes would have been slightly different. Personally it was about turning our band from being amateur to semi pro. We were good and had good songs but it was definitely time to up the game. I really looked forward to the production, ironing out the creases and refining the songs. Its easy to love your own music but what’s better is to hear it after someone with trained ears has polished it. I think undergoing the production process also really benefits the writing process.
For me it was also about encapsulating the songs in an indelible state. With the help of Producer Pedro Ferreira we got the songs sounding great, it was now time to record them and keep them there forever.
I wanted the album to reflect our natural gig sound, a lot of the time things can get over produced and tones changed to the detriment of the bands sound. But luckily he got us, sounding like us, amped up to the next level.
I didn’t want it to be like previous recordings. Usually being recorded in a cheap studio with cheap equipment by someone who does it as more of a hobby. I wanted it to sound like a proper album, none of the BS.
Having a producer was definitely the way forward. It stops guitarists from going mad and putting layers all over the place, stops me from playing unnecessary bass lines all over, reigns in the drums and most importantly highlights the key element, vocals.
Personally I wanted this album to be professional, grown up and refined. That’s what we got!! Its all thanks to Pedro.
There must have been some ups and down since the band first started.What have been your personal highs and lows of being on the road?
Law – A high of being on the road has to our first trip abroad, it was something I always wanted to do, and in the summer of 2009 we got to do it. Also our tour with Fozzy in summer 2011, the gigs we played with them were some of the best shows the band has ever played, we are certainly looking forward to going back out with them this summer.
Whats the best rock n roll story you can tell me?
Law – I think the crazy lock in at a Biker Bar in Bristol, the sound man was beaten up by the bikers, the gig was outside in freezing February night, and lots of stuff we cant talk about in case the bikers come to get us.
Or it has to be giving Gilby Clarke a lift to Gatwick Airport after we played a show with him last year. He was a great dude and had so many awesome stories about his days in G’n’R. We are all huge G’n’R fans so to hang out with a dude like that was certainly something I thought I would never do. Although he does owe me for a coffee next time we see him.
When not playing music how do the individual band members relax ,any outside interests or hobbies?
Law – Im a big fan of comic books I really enjoy reading them, my love of comics was one of the reasons we choose Jim Boswell to do the artwork for the album.
Meryl – I love going running, no matter what the weather, even if its snowing! I listen to all my favourite bands through my headphones whilst running around in the fresh air, giving me time to think. I get a real buzz from it which I’m addicted to. I also love the usual things like shopping, cinema, seeing friends. I love art but I rarely have time to draw any more, I hope to get back to it one day though.
If you could pick a n individual hero to interview, who would it be, why would you pick them and what 1 question would you ask them?
Meryl – It might sound like an obvious choice but it would be Slash, he’s whole guitar style and song writing has really inspired me over the years. I love his phrasing and the more delicate subtleties that aren’t so obvious in his work. I would ask him ‘can you please listen, The Rise Of Jimmy Silver, then tell me what you think’.
If I could choose a dead hero it would be Jimmy Hendrix and if it had a to be a new one it would be Orianthi.
What are the bands opinions on so-called talent shows such as”Xfactor” and “The Voice”how do you think that they have affected the younger generations perception of music?
Matt – I am not really a fan of these so-called talent show’s I find it misleads people into thinking its the only way into the music industry which is a sham. No one seems to want to put the blood sweat and tears into music anymore.
How has the influx of the so-called digital age affected your career,I note you were able to benefit from the pledge -music campaign?but on the flip side there is the issues with downloading and piracy?
LAW- There will always be issues with pirate downloads, I wont lie, when I hear of anyone doing it I get really angry, especially when I’ve heard of anyone stealing our music or a bands like ours.
One real positive of the digital age, someone can come and watch you or see you online and they can get hold of your music (hopefully legally) in an instant.
Is it harder for musicians to make a living these days?
Meryl – I think it must be. The internet has revolutionized the music industry. In some ways its a good thing but when it comes to album sales its a bad thing. A band will spend a lot of time and money making an album but then find they loose a lot of money from people illegally downloading it. A lot of venues don’t pay bands to perform either as there’s always a band out there who will do it for free and Promoters and Sound Engineers need paying for their services too.
What modern musician apart from Voodoo Vegas can save the much media-reported death of rock+roll?
Matt – There are too many bands to name that are saving the so called death of music, if I had to name one it would probably be The Smoking Hearts I love their new album, they’re nice blokes and their live show is something to be seen by all.
If not a musician what would be your career?
Meryl – I would be a Graphic Design Teacher, I studied Graphic’s at University and I have 8 years experience teaching. I love Graphic’s and I love teaching so it would be good to combine them both together.
Where does your passion for music come from A voyage of self-discovery, peers that you grew up with or did you come from a musical family?
Matt – My passion for music comes from all over the place. I had family members that are involved in the music industry but my taste in music its self comes from self discovery and friends that introduced bands to me that I might not have discovered on my own.
Any advice for young musicians just starting out?
Ash – If I were starting out again now. I would work towards getting enough good material to write an album. I would gig a lot and save until I had enough money to record the album professionally and with a proved known producer. Once the album was complete and ready to go, I would gig whenever and wherever I can to get the music heard and potentially meet people that open small doors along the way. Having material recorded is so important. It is all very well to play and play to build up a fan base but you need to back it up with something that the fans can take home. It is amazing what having a good, well produced album can do for the band. It may not lead immediately to a big break and give you world fame but it certainly provides a useful tool for promotion, exposure and review. It may even replenish some of those hard earned pennies you spent along the way. We worked with a PR company when our album was complete and this really helped to get it under peoples noses, on web based radio, rock news sites, rock fanzines and even the likes of Classic Rock. Magazine The “noise” that you can create from working with a known producer, backing it up with PR and having a solid finely tuned album will only benefit the band.
Like I said you are not going to get famous immediately, no-one appears to sign, there is no magic person in the back row, there appears to be no right-place-right-time anymore.
Unfortunately these days it seems to be about how much of your own money you are willing to put in. If you have good solid material and you gig it you will build your fans whilst also being able to earn some money back.
Getting the album on many forms of media is also important. ITunes, Amazon, Sainsbury’s etc. If people don’t buy your material at the gig they may well look to buy it when they get home. The easiest way to get this done is to find a distribution company who will offer you a deal to get the music out there.
Social media is incredibly important these days and is a really handy tool. Get on Facebook, on twitter and plug all of what you do even down to the band getting a new van. If you build up followers and they leave you comments etc., reply to them, make them feel included. The more you talk to people and put yourself in front of people the bigger your presence in the public eye.
Our frontman Lawrence is the King of self promotion and social exposure. From what he tells me his process is fairly straight forward. He will Google internet radio, promoters in London, venues, managers etc. and then email every single one of them, down to page 200 of the results, until he gets even one reply. It is a long hard process that can be disheartening but that one email could lead to something. On the social media side he runs our Facebook and literally spreads the word on everything. The thing that works is getting the fans involved and feeling part of the family, when he posts, people respond.
Get a website, put all of your upcoming dates on there and link any merchandise you have to it. Don’t forget to plug your website and Facebook etc. at all gigs.
Last piece of advise, don’t give anyone any money without signing a contract. If you do look to sign a management contract working on percentage deal is better as in order to get their money, they actually have to work for you and get you paid gigs etc. Giving a management company money straight up means they can just take your money and then not bother doing anything… this does happen.
If you had 5 mins before the end of the world which song either by yourself or another artist would you choose as the farewell soundtrack?
Matt – I think if I had 5 mins before the end of the world I would be playing my drums not a CD it would be best to go out doing what you love. Playing drums is what I was born to do so its only fitting that iIdie doing it to.
You have both a Uk club tour with Fozzy and also some festivals from Cambridge, France Holland and Switzerland. Which do u enjoy playing more club shows or festivals?
Law -As long as there is a good crowd wanting to have a good time I will play anywhere, obviously festivals are cool but I like playing anywhere and spreading the name of the band.
You have had quite a bit of success already into your career,with major support tours-but what for you would be the definition of success?
LAW – I’ve not got a definition of success we have achieved more than I could of imagined when I first started doing music. All I keep doing is working hard and hustling trying to make the name of the band grow. Even if we play an amazing show, the next morning I wont be happy, I’ll just be looking forward thinking what’s next.
Perhaps that’s why I drive myself crazy, but like you said it lead to quite a bit of early success.
what would you have as your final meal?
Nick – Beef Wellington.
Do you have religious,or political views or is rock+roll your religion and sole belief?
Matt – I don’t waste time on religion and political view’s its all about the rock and roll.
What are your short term realistic goals for the band..do you have a career path already mapped out in your head, or take a day at a time.?
Meryl – I generally just want the band to grow bigger and bigger to a point where we could headline shows all around the UK playing to large audiences. We would love to play the next years Hard Rock Hell Festival and Download Festival too. I’d love us to be played regularly on radio shows like Planet Rock and I’d like the mainstream magazine to pay more attention to us too. Although I cant complain, we have so many great things coming up this year. Playing 8 countries and a 1 week tour with Fozzy, also we’re headlining the second stage at Cambridge Rock Festival. We’ve also just won Best New British Band with Classic Rock Magazine.
I detect elements of several eighties bands in your sound what are your views on the eighties bands that wont die and keep reforming sometimes with 1 or even no original members-tarnishing their legacy or bringing classic tunes to a new generation?
Ash – I don’t know if I like bands reforming without original members. I think I’d be pretty hacked off if my band started up without me. I guess it depends on the lifetime of the band, if certain members chose to leave off their own accord then the band reforms later with the person who replaced them then that’s fair enough. However bands reforming with completely new members….. not too sure. Seems a little bit like they need to write their own music to me….
The biggest thing that winds me up about all of these classic bands that never die… THEY DONT CHAMPION NEW MUSIC!!! If they love classic rock so much, damn well listen to some new material!