Interview with Tax the Heat – London, album launch show April 2016

Tax The Heat’s album is out now, catch them at Ramblin’ Man in July as well as Steelhouse Festival the same weekend. If you like your RnB, true RnB...

Interview by Adrian Hextall / Picture Credit, Adrian Hextall / MindHex Media

The Islington pub in London is a great venue to launch an album, intimate but with enough room to pack a decent crowd in, the venue also stocks some good beers and is just far enough off the main strip to make the night feel really special for those in attendance.

Before the band take to the stage to play the début album in full, I got the opportunity to speak to Jack, Alex and Antonio about the last couple of years that had seen them move from playing early doors slots at Camden Rocks to supporting some of the biggest names in rock in a remarkably short space of time.

MGM:  So let’s go back to 2014, because that’s a great starting point for me.

Alex: Yes.

MGM: Camden Rocks, 2014, you played I think it was at 12:30 in the afternoon. Did you know then it was going to grow, move onwards and upwards and end up as you are tonight, with your launch show, debut album?

Jack: Yeah, that was always the plan.

Alex: It was always a hope and a plan, yeah.

Jack: But it was– it was just time really. It was a when sort of thing. But actually, the way it’s kind of happened is great, because the songs that have ended up on the album– because when you’re in a band, a lot of the times you want to do things now and all of that, but because of when it happened some of the songs that made it onto the album weren’t even an idea at that point. So, yeah, it’s definitely the right time for us to be doing this.

Alex: Yeah, it’s been a really nice road I guess since then. We’ve had some great opportunities and stuff like that. It’s all kind of going really nicely and building like you said. We can be happy about it really.

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MGM: As you say in terms of the building side of things, you’ve had no shortage of decent tours to join haven’t you? I was looking through some of the other gigs that I’ve seen you play. At the time you were just on verge of touring with, I think, the Virgin Marys.

The last time I saw you play was with Europe at Shepherds Bush Empire and I remember the fondly because I was the one in the pit and it was just me. Because, you know, for whatever reason, I had made it there before all the other photographers and there was no security, nothing.

So I had the best seat in the house. That’s was fantastic.

Alex: That was good wasn’t it? That was a good night.

MGM: It was great. But you had already played with Black Star Riders. You guys had just toured with just them.

Alex: Yeah, we did a tour with those guys which was great and those guys have been a massive part of supporting us and the build I guess. They’ve been really good to us and helped us out on occasions. I guess they just got the wind of the music, really liked it and they’ve been really good to us too, to help us out along the way.

MGM: Yeah. I mean I’ve seen various quotes from Scott for example and he’s was really championing to what you guys have been doing.

Alex: Yeah, exactly.

Jack: Yeah, it’s crazy really– like I don’t know. When you are kid listening to like Thin Lizzy, you never know that something like that is going to happen. You don’t ever really ever think like that. I don’t think but it’s quite great

MGM: Because typically, you’ll probably pick up your inspirations from bands of yesteryear. I mean I was looking at the list we went through previously and I think we’ve got The Kinks and the Stones listed in there.

Alex: Yeah, man.

MGM: It’s the ones that you’ve picked up on. You never think, “But what about the youngsters coming after you?”

Alex: Sure.

MGM: That’s clearly what he’s done there, is he’s looking at what’s the future rather than what’s been done in the past, isn’t it?

Alex: Absolutely. I think he just got what we we’re about which is really taking the energy of those bands which Thin Lizzy did great. They put across that energy of rock n roll onto records and live shows great, and those bands like The Kinks, the Yardbirds, the Stones, they did that as well and that’s what we’re really trying to do. And I think you just recognized that I guess. So yeah, yeah.

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MGM: And again, at the time, I think there was a four track EP that was just coming out.

Alex: Yeah.

MGM: Your producer on that– was Chris…?

Alex: Yeah, it was, Chris Goss.

Jack: Chris Goss.

MGM: Now, as I recall, he was top of the list of producers that you wanted to work with.

Jack: That’s it.

MGM: Different producer this time for the album.

Jack: Yes.

MGM: Was that more out of your control or just number two on the list.

Jack: There was quite a lot of factors going into making the album and a lot of it is out of your control. When we worked with Chris the first time, everything just lined up perfectly. You could not have planned it. You just couldn’t have planned it. It just happened that way. He was finishing a tour in Europe. He jumped across to Bath, near where we are and it just lined up. And we doing this there, it just couldn’t happen.

So the year before that, we went into the studio and we cut a single called Highway Home, which was a big part of us getting a record deal with Nuclear Blast and that was produced by a guy called Evansson. So it wasn’t like a kind of a choice thing, like who’s top? It was like we’re just going to do it with Evansson for this and that’s how it’s going to be. It works. We can do it in England. We can do it on this budget and all that sort of stuff.

MGM: So it’s not like it was forced upon you. I mean you had already worked with this guy and it was just natural to work again?

Alex: Yeah. It was just a natural way to go for the album. It worked. We wanted to get into a studio and just play live all looking at each other, get the songs done in a few days and that was just the way to do it. It worked and we still speak to Chris, Chris Goss, who is an awesome guy. And he’s still behind what we’re doing as well, which is amazing. And so yeah, it all just happened really nicely.

MGM: And as far as the development of the albums, inspiration, life experiences presumably from two years ago to now. You’re saying obviously some of those tracks, they weren’t even in your heads at that point?

Alex: Exactly.

Jack: Yeah, some of them have been around for a while and some of them were literally written just before we went into the studio.

Alex: Yeah. Like a couple of weeks that we just throw up a few mics. There was enough about these songs to give them a bash in the studio and Evansson heard all the demos and they made it, all four of those made it into the album. But I don’t know, it’s a luxury in a way, doing your first album because you’ve got all that time and you can pick the best moments. I mean we went into the studio cutting back from like 30, 40 songs down to 12, which is a hard thing to do because you get attached to them in different ways. So there’s– that’s why it flows the way it does. It’s the highlights of that time.

MGM: got you. And those that you discard, would they make it in B side? Would they ever turn up in live sets as rarities for the fans?

Jack: I’ve not really thought it about too much, because I really don’t want to go into the second album and be like, “Yeah, you know that one we left off the first?” I don’t want it to be like that. It should always be the best thing that you’ve got.

Alex: That you’ve got going. Yeah, man.

MGM: When you’re stadium fillers — you know at some point we’ll want the rarities and unreleased tracks, a box set….  

Alex: The original idea was we were going to record 12 tracks. We were going to put 10 on the record and so we were going to have two tracks that were going to be maybe for B side or whatever. No one could decide which two tracks to leave off the record. We just had to go with all 12. It flowed so nicely all of them. That’s just the way it worked out and it was just obvious that we picked the right 12 tracks, because it just worked. So that’s the way it is and those are the ones for now.

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MGM: What’s your running time on the album with the 12 roughly?

Jack: It’s just under 45. I think its 40 actually.

Alex: Yeah, 40 minutes.

MGM: So if you had gone to 10, you’d have had a few people moaning presumably?

Alex: Maybe. Maybe, who knows? We just loved the idea of a 10 track. Like that was the classic thing, a 10 track album, five on one side, five on the other. But I don’t know. It’s actually the greatest– it’s a great length.

We’re always thinking in vinyl. That’s the thing. That’s always in our heads.

MGM: In my head, I’m now taping it. I’m thinking, “Well, I filled one side of a C90 cassette.  

Alex: Yeah, exactly. It worked. It worked. So yeah, it’s worked out really well. We couldn’t leave anything. They all have that place on the album definitely.

MGM: Definitely. I mean on the vinyl side– I mean my copy is sitting at home having come from the record store website.

Alex: Yeah. Awesome!

MGM: We like that. It fits with the look and feel of you guys as well, doesn’t it?

You feel like you should be a vinyl band.

Alex: Sure. It’s got to be done. I mean that’s where those bands that we like really look to are sort of big inspiration. It’s all on vinyl because that’s the way it was then, but also, we listen to vinyl. That’s our preferred way of listening to music, so it seems like the natural thing to do really.

MGM: And it works perfectly. I’ve linked my system around the house, it does mean I get to stop after 20 minutes, flip it and carry on again.

Alex: So that’s the thing. It’s a great length, isn’t? That’s the way an album should be.

Jack:  There’s nothing like that interaction of having to change it over and hearing that realness in the hisses and all those kinds of things.

MGM: But also, when you want that time alone, you plug in the headphones, you sit in the armchair, but then you’ve got the inner sleeve in front of you and then you spend time with it, don’t you?

Alex: I think that’s why it’s important. That was a big thing for us putting that back into– well, putting it into what we do, but I think it’s a bit of a statement isn’t it? I mean it was right down to the way we recorded the album. We tracked it playing in a room live and those kinds of things come across really well on vinyl as well. So yeah, we wanted to make it the full works debut album. You don’t know how many chances you get an album. So make it as good as you possibly can.

MGM: Absolutely. I mean you’ve still got to play it live though when you’re recording presumably, at the point you’ve said, “Yeah, this one works.” You also know it’s going to work at the live environment as well.

Alex: Yeah, totally. I mean that’s a big thing for us. We are like a live band. That’s what we live for is playing shows. So the songs are obviously written for that really and we want to get that live energy across on the record as well. So yeah, for sure.

MGM: Are you excited or nervous about tonight [the album launch show]?

Alex: Not nervous, really looking forward to it.

Jack: Yeah, I’m just so excited.

Alex: Pumped and excited rather than—excited, nervous because you are sold out, so it’s good.

Jack: Yeah. It’s going to be great. It’s going to be sweaty up there.

Alex: It just feels like this week’s just been– I mean it’s been crazy and this is a really good way to round off the week I guess like since it coming out last Friday and seeing the reaction and like on Monday it was in the Top 100 charts. It was like 50, so just amazing things. It’s been like that all week seeing all this stuff. So, yeah, it’s a good way to end it.

Jack: We’re just going with it and having a good time.

MGM: Nice one. Oh, by the way thank you for releasing the album on my birthday as well [April 8].

Jack: Our pleasure.

Alex: Well, that was all planned. I’m glad that fit in. I’m glad that fitted in for you.

MGM: In terms of where you are now and the trek that you’ve gone through to get here, what’s been the biggest challenges?

Jack: Biggest challenges? I don’t know.

MGM: Has it just been an absolute breeze and you’re thinking “I didn’t expect it to be this easy?” [laughter]

Jack: Being in a band is easy. No, I don’t really think there’s been a challenge, really. Would you?

Alex: Not really. I mean there’s times I when it’s busy you’re up against the wall and stuff like that but when you get to do the things that we get to do, and kind of have the job that we’ve got. It’s all worth it.

Jack: The bottom line is we all get on really well and I’ve played in bands like for years and if you get on well — that’s what I’ve learned from this, then you don’t have like dramas and issues. It’s when like one of the links in the chain starts to come loose or something, then you’ve got problems. But we’ve just worked together really well as a team and we take everything with a good sense of humour, because there’re moments where things might go, I don’t know, you’re up against it or whatever. But it’s never tough.

Alex: Those are the bands where you’ve got like a prima donna lead vocalist or something like that.

MGM: So you’re the wrong person to ask at this point aren’t you? [Laughter]

Alex: So if you’re wondering. It was me, all right. I’ve changed a lot and I’ve learned my lessons and I apologize to everybody I’ve worked with, okay.

MGM: Jack, seems to be sat at the back shivering just scared to answer this question.

Alex: The other guys haven’t eaten anything. I’ve whipped them.

MGM: You’re there in your mansion and they’ve got a shared flat between the three of them.

Alex: That’s right. That’s it. That’s the way it should be.

MGM: But that’s got to be the key. You guys must– work together, you’re friends as well. You enjoy each other’s company. You get on.

Alex: Yeah.

Jack: Absolutely. That’s so conducive to making good music.

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MGM: What’s next after tonight, the album is out…?

Alex: We retire tomorrow. That’s it.

Antonio: [sitting in the corner, listening quietly] Which is the approach, the band always said we’d take wasn’t it?

Jack: Yeah.

Alex: One album, sell a million, we’re done.

Jack: Yeah, we’re going to do that. Done.

Alex: Well, nobody else has said that for 20 odd years.

Jack: So I’m going to say it now. Thank you and good night. I don’t know. We’re just going to keep touring and promote the hell out of this album really and see what we can do and look to the next one as well like while we’re doing all that. Lots of touring this year I hope.

MGM: Where have we got you heading this summer?

Alex: We’re at Ramblin’ Man Festival. We’re at Steelhouse Festival and we’re at…

MGM: That’s one day after the other I believe.

Alex: Correct.

Jack: They couldn’t be further apart.

Alex: Nice drive across the country and we’re also at TruckFest in Oxford, and they’ve all got great line ups and I think they’re all going to be really good fun. We’re looking forward to it.

Alex: The Saturday is Steelhouse and Sunday, Ramblin’ Man. We’re on the Blues stage.

MGM: You’ll enjoy that.

MGM: And then obviously promoting this, tonight where do you go with this in terms of headline shows?

Jack: Well, the plan is to do a few support slots from now really as far as headline shows. I’m sure there will be a few that crop up along the way, but yeah, we’re going to be jumping on some tours. We’re not sure exactly what yet. Need talk over a few things first.

Alex: Yeah. We’re going to keep ourselves busy. We haven’t got anything just kind of announced at the moment or anything like that. I think we will be doing lots more at the end of the year and early next year, but we’ll be keeping ourselves busy, so.

MGM: Get the festival season out of the way then start bringing these solo dates or whatever, right?

Alex: Yeah. Exactly, we just take the opportunities as they come and see how it all works out and like I said, just keep ourselves as busy as we can really.

Tax The Heat’s album is out now, catch them at Ramblin’ Man in July as well as Steelhouse Festival the same weekend. If you like your RnB, true RnB from the 60s, bringing to mind The Who, The Kinks and more, then Tax The Heat are for you.

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Photo Credit: Chris Rugowski

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