Words & Pictures: Adrian Hextall \ MindHex Media
Mason Hill has its origins in the Glasgow rock scene. Originally in a teenage band, long time high school friends Scott and James had success in a European battle of the bands competition, ‘Surface Festival’, winning the Scottish section beating 12,000 other bands, which led to them playing The O2 in London.
Following that success they formed Mason Hill and after Scott & James recorded 3 demos as a tool to advertise for other musicians, Craig joined the band in 2013. The line up has gone through other changes until it was settled when Matthew started to play with the band in 2015.
Marc Montgomery later joined in Feb 2016 to complete the line up as it is today making in many ways the bands true birth being since Feb 2016.
Signed to Frontiers Records, the band are now label mates with classic rock flag bearers Inglorious and MGM took the time to interview Scott in their dressing room before the Inglorious II launch show in London at the Islington Assembly Hall.
MGM: Everybody I’m sure, starts up the questions about the battle of bands that you won, it’s not unreasonable I suppose. Aside from the battle of the bands piece, how close were you to, you know, the right path anyway? Was it pretty much there or was that really the thing that kick started it?
ST: Well, the competition was a wee bit of a surprise too to be honest. And something we’d been contacted about, we’ve been kinda asked to come along and join the event and so I would say it was a major help, it’s not something we planned. Naturally we’d been told about it, we’d been told to go to Sheffield to do the final and we just thought it was a working opportunity so we are going to have some fun. And that was great, we don’t really expect that.
MGM: You can’t knock an opportunity like that.
ST: Of course you can’t knock it, I mean it is a good thing. While I would say it was definitely one of the great things to do, it was the thing that, I mean we all had the same mentality since the band EP came out 2015 but the band really kept the motivation from kind of 2016.
When we completed the line up, Mike and Dominic, since then we have adapted the main set and that settled us. It is getting there. Our answer to your question is that it’s not just one thing, it is not just one battle of the bands even though that helped.
MGM: Did your path change as a result though? Have you done things slightly differently? You would have potentially done something slightly different?
ST: I would say things have happened quicker as well. I would say that was kind of a real good thing about that and that competition. Paul Logue our manager has been brilliant as well He’s helped speed things up and put us onto people’s radar that maybe hadn’t heard of an unsigned band with four songs from Scotland which you know we got to kind of pinch ourselves sometimes and remember that we absolutely only have four songs on the EP right now and so the success of having that was so amazing.
MGM: That is expanding though, presumably, to a full length release.
ST: I don’t know the actual date. I think we can narrow it to the first half of 2018. Definitely there. We’ll go and release the confirmed EP and I expect we’re now just going to a room and work on and release this album. This is what we’ve been waiting for for years.
MGM: I was going to say because your tour dates look minimal when typically you would be out in the summer.
ST: We really need to prepare for this and make sure that for this debut album…. I mean this is the start of a professional career which really got a chance that’s the number one priority right now.
MGM: 12 hours a day in the studio.
ST: Love it.
MGM: Till it’s all ready, what’s wrong with that.
ST: Exactly. Let’s just hope the end result was good.
MGM: Now a few years before the rest of the guys joined, you and James were school friends I believe?
ST: Yeah, yeah Clinkbank High School.
MGM: To have that relationship for so long, that’s got to test everything from time to time presumably. Do the rest of the lads wade in just to cool things down. How do you deal with a bit of conflict? Because its got to be that, occasionally, the two of you disagree.
ST: You know in the eight years I have been kind of best friends with James, I think once we’ve disagreed. If we disagree at the start, we convince each other. That’s the way I would say, I would say I can’t remember a time where it has been proper. We are quite a happy band, I would say yeah, very happy. At the end of the day everyone is going towards the same path so everyone has got the best interest you know, we may just have different approaches.
MGM: [Looking across the room at Marc Montgomery] This is the bit Marc, where you can jump in with the truth obviously.
ST: I’m doing alright.
Mark: About 60%.
ST: There’s been a few fist fights but I know its’s the same as in a relationship.
MGM: Absolutely, yeah. But it’s as blood is thicker than water. I mean that sort of thing.
ST: Of course, yeah. I view them as kind as my family. I view these guys as family as well and it’s just great, it’s really great. So yeah, there is a bad thing but the good things are one million times better. These guys are amazing.
MGM: I like that. What’s changed with the way the band works as a group because obviously now you’ve got more personality there as well? How do you all interact? Is the writing process going to be different as a result?
ST: The writing proves that size has been predominantly James and myself. But the kind of writing, it’s kind of subject to what the songs are, you know? It doesn’t matter who comes up with a song, you know. If the song is there, the song is there and that’s what we value. But as for me getting the songs…
MGM: If there is a “how about try this and if it works it works”.
ST: Just I mean look not everyone can write a hundred great songs but people can really, they can just catch you off guard and they can come up with some amazing stuff. Why would you want to send them away when they can do that. That’s, so whoever comes up with it that’s we check it out. I mean if the band are eager that’s the song we should be doing. Then why not? Ah…. Hallo Nathan.
At this point lead vocalist with headliners Inglorious, Nathan James walks in to the room with a smile on his face and a kettle in his hand. Rock star or not, no one is clearly above making cups of tea for everyone in the band.
ST: Nathan James, how are you?
Nathan: I feel amazing.
ST: Are you alright?
Nathan: Am I interrupting?
ST: Just a wee interview?
MGM: Come and give an view on Mason Hill.
Nathan pauses for a moment and with a wry smile simply states “Don’t Be Shit”. With a laugh he’s gone again. So lads…..
MGM: No pressure at all then. I can just picture it in a few years as you headline Wembley Arena, Scott’s opening line “We were told by a man a few years ago not to be shit… and here we are today”. Sage advice then.
ST: Well, we have Inglorious who are an incredible rock band and they’re doing amazing. That is massive inspiration for us because, you know, we hear all the things about rock culture’s dead, all that kind of stuff. Well, hey, look where we are tonight, this isn’t quite dead is it. And we are here [in a venue that would later be confirmed to be completely sold out].
MGM: You need people to carry the torch, well that’s what I mean for the next 20 years.
ST: Exactly. As a band we really, I reckon a box get ticked at the start of 2016 and say “okay guys, you may actually have a chance at this so let’s really do that” and since then Inglorious that was kind of them that brought our first album, and from then we’ve played with them a few times and we’ve just kind of watched them grow. It’s really pumped us to kind of do that as well because it is that kind of thing that if they can do it, it we can do it. Let’s do this. It’s belief.
MGM: Is it tough in rock these days?
ST: Of course yes.
MGM: So you need to see young bands don’t you that can actually crack it and keep the music going.
ST: Yeah, especially with their genre as well because it’s just going to contradict what people say, when obviously it’s not. Inglorious is straight up classic rock.
MGM: Number one in the rock chats this week I believe and possibly top 20 in the national chats as well.
ST: I wouldn’t be surprised.
MGM: You would take that wouldn’t you?
ST: Of course you would so that gives a band like us, you know, we’ve just seen their record deal, they are two albums ahead of us, that gives us so much belief.
MGM: As I was going to say if anybody can push that genre it has got to be Frontiers [Inglorious / Mason Hill record label].
ST: They are doing it well and we are just so excited to be a part of that.
MGM: And getting people wanting new music. Prior to the album is another EP due?
ST: I don’t know about another EP yet but I’m absolutely in awe of some of the achievements we’ve been able to do without a record deal only to get released two weeks ago. We’ve played things so many festivals, things like Download, that’s a dream. I could never have believed that. So now that we finally get the opportunity to be the band we want so let’s do it.
MGM: To be able to put that sort of thing on your CV that’s pretty cool isn’t it? I mean it is almost Download as you say.
ST: That’s so true, that’s so true. I mean not everyone puts a four track EP band on at Download festival.
MGM: No, very true. Now we first saw you on Rising Star stage at Ramblin’ Man Festival last year.
ST: It was great. It was a learning experience as that was our first. Kind of lets go, It’s such a professional show and to see ourselves as part of the whole festival and it was a great experience. I did miss the Dead Daisies as they were playing at the same time.
MGM: When you say again we need somebody to carry that genre music for the next, however long, you can’t be waiting for the day when somebody has got to come and see you guys and realise that you are going to be next.
ST: There is room for a band like ours who would literally just gaze out over Scotland, no music connections, no nothing like that, there is the opportunity for that which I can’t ask for anymore.
MGM: If you look back to when some of these other classic bands were around first time around, you won’t get much out of Scotland at the time.
ST: No, you won’t.
MGM: GUN springs to mind as probably one of the most commercially successful bands, you know, even they are doing round two now as it were.
ST: They are great friends and have been very helpful to us as well and, yeah, I suppose Scotland, what we’ve noticed last year is that some great bands are coming out of Scotland. Biffy Clyro headlining Download, I can’t remember the last time that happened. I know it is something amazing and I can’t wait to see what its like in 20 years. Can’t wait. Hopefully we’ll be there.
MGM: Tonight’s show, the audience out there potentially quite a tough one because on album launch show, there is going to be a lot of rabid fans for Inglorious. What can you pull out of the bag with a front that is supporting the band that has influenced you as well?
ST: What, I’m not sure of the rest of the guys, I don’t feel that pressure tonight, I feel we’re getting such an amazing opportunity. I feel that we get to go and play our first show in London to certainly a hundred people supporting one of our friends, I think that is amazing. Not every band gets to go to that for the first show in London. We have nothing to lose at the show, we are just going to do what we always do and hope that people like us. They are here to see Inglorious and that’s great but you know no one in the world just likes one band.
MGM: Typically for your first London show, you would be in a smaller venue so this is quite a good starting point.
ST: Something yeah, maybe someone could have used maybe a small place in Camden or something as the usual or even the Underworld if you are lucky but it’s great. I can speak for the guys tonight, at the end of the yea,r we need to be sort kind of business like others in the industry but at the end of the day we just love doing what we are doing, we’ve not been doing otherwise.
In front of 800 people we will be smiling the entire time.
MGM: Is the EP getting a push after these few dates?
ST: Yeah, yeah definitely that EP has been our saviour, that EP has been an absolute saviour. That has got so many network opportunities and connections through out and up until the other one comes out, we will still be pushing.
MGM: Just enough to carry for another six months so that people can latch on to the band.
ST: Exactly yeah, definitely people will because if they have to want to see us, everyone to hear us, it is there as a great tune and after that one has come out then we will see what happens then but it’s not a priority for us because that is a wee bit of a slow year for tours and dates as we’ve been talking about earlier.
MGM: A few shows at the end of the year to keep you fresh in people’s minds?
ST: Yeah of course. I’m trying to figure out what’s been announced and what’s not been announced-
MGM: There is always something in the pipeline, isn’t there?
ST: There is always something but yeah, we are planning some shows and another single at the end of the year. Watch this space!
MASON HILL can be found at https://www.masonhillofficial.com/
Mason Hill are:
Scott Taylor – Vocals,
James Bird – Guitar,
Marc Montgomery – Guitar,
Matthew Ward – Bass Guitar,
Craig McFetridge – Drums,