Interview by Karen Hetherington
Photos: (C) Sophie Hextall / MindHex Media
After making a substantial impact on the rock scene, five-piece band Piston seemed all too quiet on the live gig front while they were hard at it behind the scenes in their pursuit of musical perfection.
It may have seemed a long time in production, but their long awaited, self-titled debut album is due for release on 13th September 2019 and with a heavy touring schedule thereafter, the band are definitely back in the spotlight and firing on all cylinders…
Still on a high, following a monumental performance at Ramblin’ Man Fair, I had a chat with Guitarist Jack Edwards, Bassist Stuart Egan and Drummer Brad Newlands about making music, the importance of the right producer and maintaining the rock legacy of men behaving badly…
KH: You were voted to play on the Rising Stage today, how do you feel about that and what do you think it says about the fan base you have already established?
Jack Edwards: Well I did a little thing on stage and I said literally if it weren’t for you we wouldn’t be here and I’m so glad it went that way, it says something for a festival to contact you and ask if you want to be put on but it says something else for ..we got 2200 votes, for us…
Stuart Egan: That’s more than family and friends, that’s the demand of the audience, that’s what was overwhelming for me.
Jack Edwards: When we got the actual results in it was like “holy crap, what has happened?” and it just shows that we are going on the right path, in the right direction and it was quite like, that was their show not our show, that was for them, not us.
Stuart Egan: And it showed by the amount of people who were there, “were you there?”
KH: I was there, and I voted for you as well, I first saw the band supporting Dirty Thrills in the Big Red, I think it was back in 2016.
Stuart Egan: Wow that was ages ago.
ED: Here’s the review from that gig back in 2016
KH: So how did you find the experience today? I think considering the time of day you played you pulled in a really big crowd.
Stuart Egan: Yeah, we had a great crowd, honestly, I’m still buzzing, I think that’s one of the best gigs we’ve ever done.
Jack Edwards: The thing is that we are in this position now – it’s pretty well publicised that we didn’t do anything for a while and we are all really great friends again, we were always great friends but we are all solid, we love each other and that’s why we are all here, because it’s all worked out and that’s a really nice position to be in right now and everyone is getting on and when everyone gets on the band sounds amazing, we couldn’t ask for anything more.
KH: It’s to do with being tight as a band then?
Jack Edwards: Just as personalities as well because we’ve got really fiery personalities in the band too, Stu is really calm but between me, Brad and Rob, if it goes South then it can be really bad.
Stuart Egan: We’ve got five lads from five different backgrounds and when you combine that together and get what you’ve seen today, it’s that collective effort, it’s no one person, all we ask in the band is do what you can, some lads work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, some don’t – so the ones who don’t do more, but the ones that do proper jobs and whatever outside of the band, they put more money into it.
Jack Edwards: We all pull our own weight in different ways.
Stuart Egan: It’s a system that sort of works, it’s an agreement.
Jack Edwards: Today is kind of surreal really, we know what it’s like to be there and have nothing happening and we know what it’s like to have loads of hype and then die down and be at the bottom of the food chain again and now we are at a point where we are the best and we are at the biggest peak that we have ever been at as a band and we know to just take this and just enjoy every moment of it, it doesn’t last forever sometimes, at the minute we are riding this wave and we are loving every minute of it. Today, the crowd were great, we played great and everyone like yourself have been great towards us.
KH: The album is due to be released on Friday 13th is that deliberate?
Jack Edwards: That wasn’t intentional, I picked 13th September as it was a nice date and then I realised it was actually Friday 13th.
Stuart Egan: But it’s all OK, because if it all goes wrong and the sales are really bad we can blame it on superstition.
KH: I bet you’ve had loads of people asking you for a long time when the album is coming out?
Stuart Egan: Every single show people are asking to have you got a CD.
Jack Edwards: It was the biggest weight on our shoulders, every day I’d wake up and think, we haven’t got anything, every day for years.
Stuart Egan: I can’t believe how far we’ve got on the ‘Playing with Fire’ EP, we milked that for everything we have.
Brad Newlands: Have you told her about the fact that we scrapped a whole album?
KH: I was going to ask you about that next
Jack Edwards: Yeah, so we wrote a whole album two years ago and we scrapped the lot, everything – because we listened back to it and we thought, this isn’t us, this isn’t what we do, there was like 11 guitar tracks on one song and then when we went to play it in a rehearsal, there are only two guitar players in the band and we were like, we can’t do this.
Brad Newlands: Its true, I love Rush, Rush are one of my favourite bands ever and they said they don’t do anything in the studio that they can’t do live so like 11 guitar tracks… imagine getting that many people on stage.
Jack Edwards: I don’t know 11 guitar players
Stuart Egan: It would be like a Jethro Tull gig.
KH: It sounds very proggy doesn’t it
Jack Edwards: Do you know what, in its own right that record was great for over production but when we went back in to re-record it and rewrite the songs it was just like…
Stuart Egan: Well we recorded it and gave it out to people for their opinion, before we had even pressed it or anything and they just said, ‘It’s OK..’ And we thought, well its cost us thousands we kinda want better than that and we had two choices, we could either go through with it or listen to people who know what they are talking about and just start again.
KH: You really need to get in and make an impression with your first one, don’t you? You don’t want your first album coming out and people saying it’s just OK?
Stuart Egan: It’s so important
Brad Newlands: it’s very important
KH: It must have been so difficult to decide not to go ahead with it though?
Stuart Egan: If you don’t know what’s wrong with your car or your roof might be damaged on your house you would get a professional in, wouldn’t you? And you would take that professional’s opinion and their advice, if you don’t take their advice you risk ruin, so in the music industry if you put it out to these same types of professionals and they say your albums not going to cut it…what do you do?
We made the decision to redo it, it was a really hard decision, I think it’s the hardest but the best decision we’ve ever made.
Jack Edwards: We got in with a producer called Dan Swift and he’s incredible.
He turned up, we had this band practice in a studio in High Wickham and he turned up on a bicycle, he’s so quirky, he looks like Rolf Harris, he turned up and he said, “hi I’m Dan, are you Piston?” And we were like never – and that guy is a genius, he’s worked with Kasabian, Snow Patrol, Iggy Pop, Depeche Mode… so completely different to what we are used to cos we’ve always gone for rock producers and they usually just go for loud snare drum, loud bass drum, something that’s completely over produced, so to go for someone who’s completely different.
Stuart Egan: He would just sit there on the sofa wouldn’t he and go, “now that riffs good, but just carry on with that riff, don’t play the next bit”, we learnt a lot. Jack and Luke just used to play all the time constantly, like there would be guitar part, guitar part, guitar part and we listened back to it and we thought it was great at the time…
Brad Newlands: Then Dan said to Jack, right don’t play there for four bars and Jack was like “what do you mean don’t play?” and he was like, “yeah don’t play”, Jack had his guitar and he went to touch it and Dan said, “DON’T PLAY” and Jack was like “what do I do?” He was amazing, he really was…
KH: Sometimes it’s good to get someone who makes you see things from a different angle isn’t it?
Jack Edwards: We write a lot of our songs without lyrics so what we are guilty of doing is overcompensating with the music before the lyrics are put in.
Jack Edwards: It will start off with me and Luke the other guitar player will have some ideas and then we will get these ideas and sit down together and go through some things and we’ll have a rehearsal and Stu will do his own thing with the bass and Brad will put some drum parts into it and then we kinda create a structure and now it’s very different because at the time when we started writing songs, we used to fall out about it all the time but now we will take one section and we will milk that section for as long as we can and then after that we will change to the next one so everything is simplified so then once we have a rough recording of that song we will send it to Rob our singer because he lives 3 hours away from us, we are not even from the same town and he has loads of ideas which he works on every single day and he will say right “we will use that melody and these lyrics” and then bang, we’ve got a song and then we meet and we play it.
Stuart Egan: There’s been a real ego tone down, like, you’ll do a good part and we appreciate it and then you’ll step back and let the drums and the bass take over.
Brad Newlands: Jack used to get a riff that he loved and he so wanted it in that song and we were like “Jack, it doesn’t go” and really Dan has made us realise that that cool riff that he’s got is A whole other song, but it doesn’t need to be in that one, do you know what I mean?
But the interesting thing with Dan is, we had these 3 songs, we sent them to him from the old album and we sat down with him and he changed them, they are completely different, he changed them all and then we took on board what he had said and we wrote 3 new songs and came back to him and he said “I wouldn’t really change anything on there” so it had sunk in.
Jack Edwards: And then by the end we were sitting there, and Dan would go that’s a good hook you should stick with it.
Brad Newlands: Is that the one I ballsed up earlier? I forgot where I was.
Jack Edwards: He was loving the crowd that much and I could see him enjoying himself and I’m going “don’t forget this part, don’t forget this part, okay, he’s forgot the part, OK were jamming” …
KH: But only you would notice…
Jack Edwards: Yeah no one else would notice because no-one’s heard the song yet.
Brad Newlands: You get this thing sometimes when you’re playing live and you are really enjoying yourself and you think “Hang on, where am I?”
Jack’s a perfectionist, if something went wrong at a gig he used to beat himself up to hell about it but now you understand that with a live show, the imperfections are what make it.
Jack Edwards: My favourite ever live concert is Guns N’ Roses at the Ritz in 88′ and there are so many fuck ups in that concert and I’m watching it and I’m like Axls’ not even singing and I’m fucking loving it and I’m listening to Rocket Queen without a whole like… two verses and you realise, as long as you can be seen to be having a good time and the audience are responding it doesn’t matter.
Even if the singer drops out for a verse, if you’re in with the crowd, it’s not just about the songs in a live show, it’s about everything, everyone vibing off each other, I’ve watched that DVD so many times, and I don’t care that he’s not singing, it’s just amazing and that’s what it’s all about.
KH: Who would your influences be both collectively and individually?
Stuart Egan: That’s difficult collectively, is there one band common collectively? Motorhead?
Jack Edwards: I hate Motorhead, I’m not a fan.
Brad Newlands: The Cult, we all love The Cult, but the best band in the world is undoubtedly AC/DC.
Jack Edwards: It’s all different, my routes are The Cult and Guns n’ Roses and those anthemic rock bands.
Stuart Egan: I grew up on The Moody Blues and Slade and Pink Floyd and that but generally, if I like it I listen to it, I wouldn’t have a solid “I’ve got to listen to this because its heavy metal”, I’ll listen to anything.
Brad Newlands: I just listen to rock and Northern Soul, AC/DC
Dr Feelgood, Wilko Johnston, Airbourne.
Stuart Egan: I’ve been to The Civic Hall to watch Motorhead and I’ve also been to Ibiza and watched Chase n Status.
Brad Newlands: We can’t go to Ibiza anymore, when we went to Ibiza last time, with the band he sessioned that hard that he came back vegetated.
Jack Edwards: See these bands, these new bands, well we are all new bands, but I’m not a drinker so I’m usually quite reserved and Stu, Brad, Luke and Rob, they are big drinkers and I mean they can DRINK and I’m sat there and I’m just watching this and these bands think they can keep up and I’m just thinking you have no idea what your letting yourself in for and I’m just watching and then they start fighting and there are beers going everywhere and the other bands start running its off, it’s only play fighting though.
KH: That’s bound to give you great amusement
Jack Edwards: I love it, it isn’t serious
Stuart Egan: We don’t fight other people, we fight each other
Brad Newlands: We love each other
Brad Newlands: Do you know the band Bad Touch?
Brad Newlands: So we played in France with them and we were at this hotel and the only thing that this hotel served was champagne, cheap nasty champagne, no soft drinks in sight, they were like 10 Euro’s a bottle so we kept having them, kept drinking them and we were upstairs and it kicked off in the hallway and there was fighting, we were fighting each other and there was stuff getting thrown everywhere, beds getting turned over and this guy who was with us from Bad Touch, he ran down the corridor away from us, just legged it, I’ve never seen him since, I’ve never seen the bloke since.
Jack Edwards: And at the very first Planet Rock stop that we ever did and it was a big deal for us as we hadn’t done many gigs, and we played a belter, we played a good show and then everyone just got tanked up and this was in the day when we didn’t really know how to behave, now I think we are a lot more professional, well we ARE more professional and Brad went “watch this, watch this” and he said “I’m gonna jump that merch table”, and this thing was piled high with T shirts and I thought here we go and he ran and he dived over it, T shirts going everywhere and someone said “Right Piston, get out of here now, you’re banned!” and then we played a gig a few years later and this guy said, “oh my god, we still talk about you to this day at these parties”.
KH: You are saying you are more professional now, but professional musicians are badly behaved are they not?
Brad Newlands: That’s right and with the recent release of The Dirt, everyone’s just gonna go off the rails again aren’t they?
KH: I love it
Brad Newlands: Me and my girlfriend were sitting watching ‘The Dirt’, and I was like I’m just gonna get pissed, and she’s got blonde hair, so she was pretending to be Vince Neil, I was pretending to be Tommy Lee and I’m a barber, so I just went upstairs and started cutting all my hair off.
Stuart Egan: I did the same
Jack Edwards: Stu used to have really beautiful curls back in the early days, but he rocked so hard that it all just fell off.
KH: What year did you actually start off?
Stuart Egan: 2012. 2015 with Rob.
Jack Edwards: This IS the line-up of Piston, we love each other, but we hate each other but we love each other but right now the whole band are in a really great place.
Stuart Egan: We still hate each other but we know how to manage each other.
KH: You are going on a UK tour in October, to promote the album
Jack Edwards: Yeah, so we’ve got dates with Collateral which is a UK headline tour with Collateral and then literally a couple of weeks after that we go out and tour with the Planet Rock Roadstars.
Stuart Egan: We’ve got like 18 gigs in 5 weeks.
Jack Edwards: We’ve got a lot of shows and then we’ve got festivals too, this being one of them, then we’ve got headline shows at the end of the year, so yeah, we are packed out.
Stuart Egan: So, if you thought we were good today, come and see us at the end of October, we will be fucking tight.
KH: You’re gonna be really busy
Brad Newlands: We might even be sick of lager by then
KH: They will be ready to make a film about you by then!
KH: Jack, you’ve just been endorsed by Gretsch, congratulations on that.
Jack Edwards: Thank you, it really is like a dream to be associated with that company, I could never afford that Gretsch and when I was 11 years I went to watch The Cult it was my first ever gig and it just blew me away, and I said I want to do that and I want to use that guitar and I want to bring that guitar back into rock, no one has done it since him and now here I am at 25 and I’ve done it and that guitar is back and then Duffy – Billy Duffy himself he said “I really love what you’re doing” and then Gretsch got involved so it’s sort of come from an 11 year old kid who sort of had a dream to be like that, and it’s come full circle and I think everyone has responded to it really well, you see these bands and a lot of manufactured stories, but that, at heart is everything I’ve ever worked for.
Brad Newlands: If I can just say if there are any drumstick manufacturers who want to endorse me because I can’t afford to keep throwing them out to the audience!
KH: Thanks very much guys
Piston: It’s been a pleasure.
I for one, am hoping to see Piston back at Ramblin’ Man next year, on the Main Stage!
Piston head out on tour with Collateral in September \ October
Tickets can be purchased here:
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019 UK TOUR
The Musician, Leicester
Thursday 12th September 2019
The Station, Cannock
Friday 13th September 2019
Saturday 14th September 2019
The Asylum 2, Birmingham
Friday 20th September 2019
Rock City Basement, Nottingham
Saturday 21st September 2019
Sunday 22nd September 2019
Thursday 26th September 2019
Ravenfest, The Boulevard, Wigan
Friday 27th September 2019
The Big Red, London
Saturday 28th September 2019
Leo’s Red Lion, Gravesend
Friday 4th October 2019