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“How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice!?” – The Howling and Hey! Hello! guitarist The Rev speaks out.

Interview by Adrian Hextall – writer \ photographer MyGlobalMind Magazine

How does one handle the fall out when you’ve put everything into a band only to lose your lead singer not once but twice in succession?

You could follow the approach that John McClane takes in the Die Hard movies……. or you could find the important things in life that matter most to you, refocus and come back stronger than ever, without mowing down dozens of bad guys with machine guns in the process.

With the re-recorded release of Hey! Hello! Too! now available and in the stores, Adrian Hextall spoke to The Rev about life, music, band mates and how fate has conspired against him twice now…

MGM: The last time we actually managed to have a natter was in 2014 I think? Camden Rocks, you and Blacky (lead singer of The Howling).

REV: Yeah, when we… where did we meet, in a boozer somewhere.

MGM: it was in the boozer opposite the Worlds End pub in Camden.

REV: That’s right, yeah we did. That’s some time ago now, isn’t it? Couple years ago.

MGM: At the time you were trying to catch me out , with talk about how “the second album’s already written and ready to go”.

REV: Oh, yeah, the second Howling album. Oh well, the first one didn’t even come out.

MGM: I know, I know, exactly. Well, what happened to it? Is it ever going to see the light of day, do you think?

REV: I’m intending to just put it out there for people to sort of be able to listen to and get all up in there, but a number of people have been sending various messages over the past couple of years since the band disintegrated around May, some are saying, “When’s it going to come out,” “Is it going to be released”, various guises.

In truth, really, we did have a proper release strategy planned for it, we were going for that elusive record deal, getting very, very close to getting the band signed, and then unfortunately with the singer’s health issues and then various complications between members in the band, it ended up folding not before I tried to save it as much as I possibly could. And then I just went for a period of a couple of years where I was pretty pissed off with the way things had gone, and I kind of ended up pulling out of anything to do with it, really, which was a big shame at the time, because I was the only one keeping it going.

I couldn’t get the singer to agree on a strategy to put it out, I wanted to run a pledge campaign just to get the album out there. He wasn’t having any of it. We kind of fell out in a way that we stopped communicating.

MGM: That’s a shame, isn’t it?

REV: It is, yeah. But to be honest, he became a very, very difficult character to work with, and when you’re in a band for 3 years together, you put all this hard work and time and effort into something and then it goes the way that it does, obviously it has an emotional effect on you. I basically became a bit pissed off and disillusioned with it all, really.

MGM: I’m not surprised, I mean you were so close, the video had just gone out as I recall, just before it all went south, and it was very professional looking, it had caught the attention of everybody, you were getting coverage in the Team Rock newsletters and the like, so it was just on the brink, wasn’t it?

REV: That’s right, I mean we had William Luff, who’s Iron Maiden’s press guy (http://wilfulpublicity.co.uk/), working for us for an extremely reduced rate, and to get a guy of that stature doing your press for you and opening all these doors for you was amazing, and like I said, I remember the day where it all went south, we actually just had a meeting with him, the Kerrang! introducing feature had come out, the video was getting really good feedback, the album was all mixed, mastered and ready to go, and then all of this and there’s no band, so it was a real hard pill to swallow, really, for me, and the way I dealt with it was to get out of it.

On reflection, I’ve tried, over the last couple of years, to come up with a way of getting it out there, but like I said, the communication with Blacky who’s the front man, was putting all sorts of stops and getting quite pissy about things, and didn’t want to release it, and various little bits and pieces, and then at the end I just got tired of trying to negotiate with him, really.

It came to the point where there wasn’t any agreeable route to put it out there, I mean it just fell by the wayside, and the band disbanded – we initially said we were going on a hiatus; the idea was to give Blacky the time that he requested to get well again, and in my eyes, once he got well, let’s try to start the conversation about getting the album out again.

He just wasn’t interested. I did throw up a link for a few weeks for people to download it for free, and met with a fair whack of abuse from that, and in the end, just for the sake of saving what was left of our friendship, we just agreed to disagree on things, and it’s just been left there on the shelf, really. And that’s a shame, but –

MGM: It is, especially when its gathering dust like you say….,

REV: Yeah, I mean we had a producer there, we had a studio that had put a lot of time into it… we had a management team, we had a press team, and for me to have to go and say, and come up with an explanation as to why it wasn’t happening was very difficult, because the truth of it was that I was dealing with somebody who was literally throwing his clothes out the front.

I’m not the kind of person that would go to the press and go to people and air dirty laundry, not in public. I just agreed to say, “Well, if you’re not going to come with an agreeable situation then let’s just leave it then.”

MGM: Yeah, and move on.

REV: Yeah, and then obviously a lot happened (Hey! Hello!).

MGM: Absolutely, it was my next point, and of course, as soon as you kicked that off, a few gigs in, and then it’s a small addition to the family as well……

REV: Well, it kind of happened at the right time; I was kind of in a situation where the three years of The Howling, that was my life and soul, that was all I concentrated on, and went through a relationship at the time was ending, I met somebody new, we were getting along great, really supportive, and then yeah, accidentally fell pregnant and we found out we were having a little boy!

So, it kind of shifted focus a little bit for me and made me think about what is actually important to me at that time, and it very much was a period of taking stock of what I wanted to do now, rather than thinking about the best ways for four people, five people, in a band, it was kind of like, if no one’s on board with the team anymore, maybe it’s time for me to take a bit of time and just look out for myself.

MGM: I was going to say, presumably, the little guy just puts a smile on your face as well, which has got to make it worthwhile, isn’t it.

REV: Oh, 100%, I mean I left London, I was playing with the idea of me moving out of London for some time, it was getting a bit claustrophobic.

I didn’t feel like I needed to be in London anymore, it was getting a bit suffocating, financially and rental prices and all the various bits and pieces, and I thought I better get out of here before I fall out of love with the place, and on a personal level, I felt I got out at the right time, and things happen for a reason.

I’m a lot more settled and I’m a lot happier and I’ve got a lot more focus and a clearer head. You know, where am I going to go next?

Because I’ve spent a lot of time being pissed off and annoyed and down about the way things had gone, and my coping mechanism I guess, was to remove myself from it and re-evaluate the situation, and start again, really.

MGM: So on the Hey! Hello! side, it seems, you’ve also experienced what can only be described as a bit of a second test of faith, shall we say?

REV: Well, when it all kicked off, when Hey Hello! got going again, and Hollis got involved and we started doing the new album, for me, it was a lifeline again, I was like, “alright, okay, well here we go, Ginger’s back on board with it all,” it was a real exciting period, and it was a real sort of… yeah, a lifeline, like, alright, there’s still music to be made, and then, you know 6-8 months down the line, an album recorded, I mean, my boy was 4 weeks old when we went into the studio to record the album, so we would have the family out at the studio with the guys in the band, and we recorded the album, and it was great.

And then we just finished that, we were all in a big buzz, we were all on a big high, coming back from Japan, really successful shows, and I thought, “Life is grand, there’s a rainbow at the end of the storm,” and then shit hit the fan again, as it were.

I thought to myself, “fucking hell, how have I ended up back in this again”, so it was two lead singers trying to pull the plug in two consecutive bands, so it’s not something I’ve dealt with before, but it was very much a feeling of how on earth have I got to this position again, really.

MGM: I suppose that time around though, you got the support, and very tight support by the looks of it, Toshi, Ai and Ginger as well though, and that sort of collective that the four of you must have made it a lot easier to sit down and decide, “Well, okay, what are we going to do next?”

REV: Very much so. If it wasn’t for the friendship that we all have collectively, and it is a band like no other, really, we’re more like family in terms of band-mates, and we’re all very, very close on and off the stage. If it wasn’t for that network of friendship, and the relationship that we all have together, as well as James (Sorry Jane, I blame the transcription service again!), the manager, being so supportive, I think what we went through as a band would have broken most bands, but we’ve just got pure resilience behind us, and we’ve all been in situations before where things like this had happened, and we just weren’t prepared to let it happen to us, really. So, we really did battle but I’m not going to lie, there were times where even we started doubting whether this was going to ever see the light of day again.

I remember some long, long weeks and months at the beginning of this year when the news hit that Hollis turned on her heel and decided to walk away, it was some long period where we were all just hanging on by the skin of our teeth, basically.

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MGM: Coming after that, at some point you sat down, you decided to get a plan together, how did that plan shape up, because of course, from our perspective, we’re watching what happens on the forums and things like that, we see nothing until, “we’re going to audition for a new lead singer”, and it got us to the last six. How did that all come together?

REV: Well, initially our main train of thought was how can we save this, how can we continue with the rules and regulations that Holly should lay down on us?

I mean she was talking about – she was permanently relocating to America, and if we wanted her to continue in the band, we were going to have to fly her in and out for every show and rehearsal from LA, pay for flights etcetera.

At the time, we were kind of like, “How do we work this, how can we make this work financially viable, how can we sort of continue,” and again, we were met with literally just brick wall after brick wall, and it dragged on for a couple of months until we literally realised that there was absolutely no way that this could possibly work. We couldn’t afford to do it. It was unacceptable behaviour what she was asking us to agree to, and then it came down to the fact that how do we save this, how do we go about this. Our main intention at the time was, we thought let’s audition people, let’s see who’s out there, let’s try and find a permanent replacement for Hollis.

But as the audition process went on and we started to sort of see who was out there and we started to audition people, in the back of our minds, we just felt that we just hadn’t found anybody who could slip into the family as it were, and take the and be the lead voice of the band, really. We went through the audition process, we came across some great singers, some great people, every single person that auditioned was definitely with the shot, but we just felt that because we’d built this relationship up with Hollis, and it was pretty much not Hollis coming in, in terms of a band vibe, we just couldn’t find anybody that was going to replace her that at that time.

Well, we were looking, obviously, for somebody who was as committed, as available, as connected to the band and the music as we were, but we were sort of blinded by the fact that we lived this and we’d written this album over a good period of time, we’d already done shows, we’d already launched ourselves as Hey! Hello! with Hollis being the new  front-woman and we just couldn’t decide, we just couldn’t agree and be a 100% agreeable on a new replacement.

That again, threw more swords and spanners in the work in terms of where does that leave us now, if we can’t find somebody that is going to be the voice of the whole album, what do we do? And we went around the houses, we literally tried and tested every single option that was available to us, long conversations, meeting after meeting, really trying to get, trying to find that right person, and in the end, we were just like, “This isn’t working.”

MGM: Presumably, the opening of the final 6, the fan base as well, probably confused the position even more, didn’t it?

REV: We did. I mean, it was an idea that was brought to the table with the best of intentions; we had a selection of singers up with auditions that we liked, we were undecided and with the way that Ginger has always brought in the fan base into the inner sanctum as it were, and sharing inside information on how things go and really kind of being open and respecting the fan’s input, it was an idea from Ginger; that why don’t we see what everybody else thinks, because we were literally, we were so keen to make sure that this was the right move and to not lose the support of the fans.

At the same time, in hindsight, probably wasn’t the best move to make. However, at that stage, we were in a position where we were willing to try anything to get this moving forward. The end result actually became the best result, because we actually ended up going, “Well, maybe we’re not looking for somebody to replace Hollis as the new front-woman, maybe what this album needs is to be re-evaluated as a collection of really good songs, really well written, well-orchestrated tunes that needs the right person singing each tune.”

So we were deliberating over the littlest of things, like you know, when you write an album with a singer, you write the album around that singer’s voice, as such, and particular songs some people were singing great, and others weren’t just quite working, so we were kind of like, if we were to go with one particular person, we all had our favourites that we wanted to go forward with, but it would’ve meant a complete rewrite of the album around that person, and at that stage, a lot of money had gone into the recording of the album, if we’d known we’d have to re-record it – so at the time, we’re looking at finding somebody who was going to be able to slip onto the album with ease.

We just didn’t find that in one person in particular. And then, Ginger had the masterstroke of using everybody.

MGM: And interestingly, the masterstroke was telling the fan base he was going to do it, then sing everything himself that shook everybody else up, didn’t it?

REV: It certainly did, yeah. Because obviously we’d drawn out the fans and said, “Who does everybody think is the best singer?” we were met with feedback that again completely went against what we were collectively thinking as a band, and then we were confused – it confused matters even more so for the band. A lot of deliberating was going on between us all, like, “Oh yeah, this could work,” and “This wouldn’t really fit in the vibe,” of particular people off stage, and compared to how it was when we were playing together. We kind of lost ourselves; we lost what it was all about. You know…  To build a relationship with somebody in the studio and to record an album and to go halfway across the world and have to do some really successful shows in Japan, and essentially, already promoting the album as the band, and then to have the plug pulled, a really key moment, it was heart-breaking and it was a massive, massive shock for us all.

I think it extended into a bit of a slippery slope, into a hole that we felt we were slipping deeper into, and we couldn’t quite get out of. To be honest with you, even up until the album was recently being released, we were all kind of feeling, when you would create a good album and all the singers we’ve got on the album have done a really good job, and we were really happy with it, but we still had reservations about how this was going to be received. How were we now going to promote this, how we were going to come back. The more time that was passing, we were thinking, “How is this going to work?” We were kind of all just a bit like, “Well, now we just gotta go with the ground, we gotta stop giving too much of the game away now and get it sorted out, and then come back.”

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MGM: Which of course you managed to do, because up until the day before or the day before that, a little before the listening party, when we all got the press copies for review, it’s like, hang on a minute, all I’m getting from PR on the press side is that, “Oh yeah, they’ve used a variety of female singers”. So it was a real case of detective work to be able to write something about the vocalists, I was chatting to a couple of others, and eventually I got enough to be able to put it into the article.

The end result took everybody by surprise, with a very positive reaction, but of course, everybody’s now listening to the lyrical content, and certainly, the changes to the words in the lyrics and the like – has it been a cleansing process? Has it allowed you to say, “Right, draw a line, this explains what we’re on, this is what we’re going to tell you, and now we can move on and just carry on again.”

REV: Very much so, when it all kind of happened, there were a lot of opinions voiced on the Ginger Wildheart fan forum, there were obviously Hollis supporters, she’d been doing quite a lot of talking to particular people on social media and giving her side of the story, and the way that the band, the 4 of us had handled it was, again, we weren’t prepared to start airing dirty laundry and to be afraid of terms of the truth behind; the situation that we’d found ourselves in when we decided that we were going to – we immediately decided once Hollis walked that we’d re-record the album. Like I said, our intention was to find somebody who would re-voice the album as it was, slip straight onto it and pick up from where we left off in a way, but it never happened that way.

Yeah I guess…we had to look at it and go: some particular songs, some particular lyrics were you know… parts were written by Hollis. She had some important, some particular songs and we then knew – because obviously we’d released the album with her on it to the pledgers (PledgeMusic.com) long before she decided that she wasn’t going to continue – when we went back to the drawing board and we got back into the studio, it very much was a bit of a re-writing process, recording a few tunes and yeah, our way – particularly, Ginger’s way, lyrically – in getting the thoughts and feelings of what’s actually happened across came out in the lyrics.

There are a couple of songs on there, the likes of Perfect and Loud And Fucking Clear very much tell the story of what we went through, which was anguish and hurt and betrayal and someone who we brought in and made part of the family and gave our time, energy and effort to support when she was over here and kind of, you know really bringing her in, for someone to really cold-heartedly turn on her heels and go off on her merry way, only looking out for herself, yeah, I guess it is a cleansing process, really.

We’re all really proud of how it turned out, even though it’s been a bit of a… it felt like a slight anti-climax, really, if that’s one way of putting it.

MGM: Okay, so it’s opened your eyes to all the things that you’re doing as well, because Perfect’s your baby, isn’t it? You did the lead vocals on it?

REV: Ginger wrote the tune, I sang it, yeah.

Ginger wrote the song, but as soon as he’d demo-ed the tune, it was actually Toshi that said this is Rev’s song, cause a lot of the lyrical content came from my feelings and attitude towards what had happened, and Ginger written this song, and then all of a sudden it was like that sort of fits well with my voice and the way I was feeling particularly as well as the other guys were at the time.

That song in itself pretty much tells a story of what happened – you couldn’t write it better. I was really touched that Ginger had asked me to sing that one on the record, first time on lead vocals, which has led to some of the stuff that I’ll be doing myself, with Toshi as well.

MGM: Was that sort of the instigator for the Lupus Dei music as well, then?

REV: Very much so, yeah I mean, we had a lot of plans in place for the release of Hey! Hello! Two; a touring strategy, you know an album promote campaign, we had 4 dates in the days that had to be cancelled subsequently because of Hollis’s leaving, and it just left a massive gap, and a massive void, in our diaries, really. And then again you know, you go from having a full diary and a full plan for the year, to nothing – a few spot shows, and then to be having to try and save the band. At that time, I started going back, going, “Well, there was a few moments where we weren’t sure whether this was going to work, whether this was going to go forward, whether this was going to see the light of day. The heart and the dedication was always with Hey! Hello! but conversations with Ginger – I look up to Ginger a lot in the way that he’s handled his career over the years, I’ve had so many people after the demise of The Howling say to me, “Why don’t you front The Howling, why don’t you sing, we’ve heard you sing before, why don’t you do this,” and at the time, I guess the self-confidence wasn’t there, or I was feeling too much with the aftershock of bands disbanding and singer leaving – it just wasn’t in my remit to consider.

Once we’d started to re-record the Hey! Hello! record and I did my session with Perfect, Ginger and Toshi and the rest of the team all said, “You sound great on record,” and I’d have so many songs lying around for the second Howling album would you believe it? I just said, well, fuck it man, I’ve got nothing to lose, everything to gain, let’s do it!

So yeah, in the down time that we’ve got between Hey! Hello! stuff going on, we just popped in the studio recently and we’ll do our first show opening for the Halloween Hootenanny.

MGM: Will we get you elsewhere in the country later in the year?

REV: Hopefully. I’ve spoken to Jane and Ginger about maybe hopping on a few of the other shows. I know that the Wildhearts have just announced a few dates, but my plan is for the Halloween show to be the launch of it, there’ll be the first song will be dropping in the next couple of weeks, I’ll be putting that online for the people to hear. And then, we’ll be announcing a pledge campaign for an EP which we’ll record with Dave Draper, and the idea is to cram a few more shows in before the end of the year, and to put together a press campaign and an EP strategy. My main intention with this is to record an EP that has no restrictions, record for the love of recording music, get it out there and see how it flies with people, really, and just have that sunk in there, that’s just releasing that creativity that I’ve always had really. And being the singer, no one can fucking let me down. I’ve kept it as a three piece, because myself and Toshi, we just work so well at everything. We just all slot together really quickly. It’s a new baby, it’s a new thing, the support from Ginger and Jane and the rest of the guys has been great. Yeah, it’s really the feel of why the hell not, you know? Why the hell not write some music, record some tunes and see what the people think of it?

MGM: Absolutely. Well, I’m sure you’ve got a receptive crowd there, because they pretty much like everything with anything from the family, as it were, they’re eagerly waiting to hear what you’ve got to say and what you’re going to do with it all.

REV: Very much so, yeah, I mean if it wasn’t for all the support from Ginger, he really has given me that little push you know: go on, why not? It’s as if we both know how much Ginger releases and how many different projects he’s involved in, and you know and just through conversation and conversation after shows with Ginger, and that’s his way of releasing all his other ideas that he has, and to me, it’s kind of like it’s therapy, again.

I’ve always had that drive to be in a band and to be on stage and to be recording, and I guess with the way The Howling went, and then the recent issues that we had with getting Hey! Hello! back on track, it’s very much like the time is now, so it’s good to know that support is there. Like you say, they’re such a receptive bunch of people who support Ginger and gratefully supported what myself and Toshi and Ai and the rest of the guys do as well. If anything, we consider it as a bit of a side project, really.

MGM: Finally, it would be wrong of me not to also stop for a shameless little plug for you at the end of all of this – of course you’ve got the silver guitar control knobs as well.

REV: Yeah. That’s been an idea for a couple of years now. I recently started working on it with Ren from the Great Frog. I was working alongside Gibson trying to get these things produced. I was met with reel of red tape after red tape, and Great Frog was getting extremely busy, and again, hit a bit of a brick wall with that.

A few months back, met a guy called Simon Card, pitched the idea for him and long and behold, we smashed it out and we officially launch on, officially launch on Saturday at the tattoo convention in London (the event took place on September 24 2016)

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We’ll be exhibiting the first set which has been mounted on my guitar.

We’ve already started taking orders – we’ve got a few bands already online who’ve put orders in. Bullet For My Valentine, Brian May of all people, expressed interest in getting a set on their guitars as well.

It’s something that I’ve always had this vision of handcrafting, because I’m very much into my solid silver jewellery. I’ve always had this dream of having this guitar encrusted in solid silverware. And the school volume and tone knobs were the first stage of that, and we’re developing more parts of the guitar, soon we’ll have toggle switches, and then we’ll have strap locks and tuning peg nuts and just a lot of covers and we’re going to release a whole range of bits and pieces for the guitar. But yeah, the skull knobs are the first of that. They’re a high end, handcrafted, solid silver piece of jewellery for your guitar, really.

The hand crafted silver guitar knobs can be seen and ordered here:

https://www.facebook.com/SkullControl-296545244042089/?fref=ts&ref=br_tf

The Official Hey! Hello! Too! Site is here:

http://www.heyhello.net/

Lupus Dei, The Rev and Toshi’s new band can be found here:

https://twitter.com/thehowlingmusic

Fans of The Howling, www.myglobalmind.com will be reviewing the album very soon. If you want to see it released, make your views known here:

https://www.facebook.com/thehowlingofficial/

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