Ahead of their homecoming gig this weekend and their return to Leeds next weekend we caught up with A Joker’s Rage drummer Matt Collinge to talk about the amazing year that A Joker’s Rage have had and to look forward to the next twelve months.
Before we kick off the article, though – HUGE congratulations to Matt and his other half on the birth of a little baby Joker, from all of us here! Whoop!
Since being featured as our Band of the Day back in 2014 the band seems to have been gaining ever more popularity. For those who still don’t know you yet could you give us a brief history of the band?
A Joker’s Rage actually began in Glasgow a few years back when Zakk was living up there with some musician friends and the original sound was very different – a real funky feel to it! When Zakk moved back to York he started looking for some musicians to continue gigging and writing – Adz is recognisably one of the best guitarists in Yorkshire and so naturally Zakk started talking to him. I was living with Adz at the time and so I got involved through him. As for bassists, we’d tried out a number of bassists before finding the perfect one under our nose – because of the funky nature of the tracks back then we’d been looking for real virtuoso playing, however when we’d begun to write the new music, with the new line-up our sound moved on dramatically. Geordie was living with Zakk at the time and playing in some other bands locally so he’d been filling in – as he started writing the new bass parts with us he became the natural choice. We played as a five piece for quite a while however in the last six months we’ve found playing as a four piece suits us better so we’re sticking with that.
The last couple of years has been about creating our sound, writing music and building a chemistry between us by performing mainly in the north of England. 2016 however has really been the breakout year for us and we’ve been asked to play numerous festivals all over the country to some amazing crowds.
Following Rippers pulling out of the Wildfire Festival this summer you were elevated to headliners. Was this your first time headlining a festival and how did you find it?
Yes, Wildfire was huge for us. Whilst we’re no strangers to headlining gigs, this was the first time we’d headlined a festival – the buzz was intense and the crowd were incredible! All the AJR guys are natural performers and so the occasion didn’t faze us, however given the situation with Rippers we wanted to go onstage and give the crowd something really special. The energy in the room and the feedback we got from the crowd that night is not something any of us will forget for a long time.
The Wildfire set was highly praised and one aspect was the choice of two covers which went down a storm, one was Queens “The Show Must Go On” and the other was a cross genre California Love originally by 2Pac which was universally raved about. How do you choose your covers and did they work by accident is or is there something you are looking for in a song that you know will work with A Joker’s Rage?
Choosing covers is an interesting one for us, given our eclectic style. We’re of the opinion that if you’re going to play a cover live it needs to be different, it needs to be special. So many bands choose a song from a band that their sound is similar to and play it in the same style as the original, but where is the creativity in that? We all listen to very different music and often we’ll hear a track that is nothing like AJR and think ‘wouldn’t it be great if…’. In any case, we choose tracks that we think will connect with the crowd and that once we’re done messing with it, will stand up live against our own material. As of yet, we’re yet to find a track that we haven’t been able to twist and make our own.
What other festivals did you play this summer and what were your highlights?
We’ve played so many great festivals this year, Rockmantic, Rockwich, Breaking Bands, Redemption, SOS, Hammerfest to name but a few. The highlights have always been the crowd reaction and participation – for us there is no better feeling than launching into that first track and building the energy between the band and the crowd. The fact we’re now starting to see familiar faces and AJR t-shirts when we look out from onstage is such a rush and really supports and encourages us in what we do.
If you could choose anyone to appear on your record who would you choose and why?
Great question – I think this would differ depending on who in the band you ask! I think Matt Bellamy from Muse would probably get mine and Adz’s vote. In terms of bands and musicians who push boundaries, Muse are a band who seem to be in a constant state of reinvention with each album and I’d love to see what a collaboration between AJR and Muse could create. Or Frank Sinatra… because he’s Frank.
You are known for your pretty unique look, how did this come about, is there story behind it?
Yeah the ‘gameface’ is something that has always been with us since the band formed. What began as a suggestion from Zakk ahead of our first show (which I originally took as a joke before I arrived at the gig and realised he was being serious) has evolved into something much more. For us, gameface is about stepping away from the usual day to day grind, its about how we escape from everything life throws at us and step into that moment. The physical act is putting on the makeup and stepping onto the stage but the mentality behind it is becoming the person you want to be, where anything is possible.
Your Blogs you occasionally publish on your own website are pretty powerful reading, is this ideology behind the band a driving force when it comes to writing lyrics.
Definitely. When it comes to writing songs, the inspiration can come from anywhere and all the band bring something different – I don’t believe the AJR sound would be anything like what it is if the writing didn’t come from all of us. Lyrically however, Zakk writes from personal experiences and the world around us – and what a crazy fucked up world it is. Behind what you see on stage, we’re four normal guys, experiencing the same bullshit in life as everyone else. We have jobs, families, we’ve got to pay bills and struggle through life the same as anyone. Our songs touch on personal circumstance and reflection but also on an underlying theme of just embracing life, doing what you want because you want to, not because it’s expected of you or considered ‘the norm’ – what’s the norm anyways?
How would you describe this ideology?
Simple – life is what you make of it and only you can decide your future. Fuck what everyone else thinks, just be yourself.
I see you have been added to the Ibiza Road Trip gig next year with The Quireboys and Gun amongst others, how much are you looking forward to that?
We’re over the moon to be asked to play – the lineup is awesome and we can’t wait to get over there, live and breath music with like-minded people in an incredible location.
So what has been the highlight of the year so far you?
I think the highlight has been blazing every gig, walking off stage and having people come and ask us to play another festival – the music industry is so cut throat and saturated we’re very familiar with how hard bands have to work to get noticed. This year we’ve been fortunate that all the gig opportunities have come to us and that means a hell of a lot to us.
What are your ambitions for the next 12 months?
For us the next 12 months is about keeping the momentum going, bringing our music to more and more people. We’re excited to be lined up for some new festivals and returning to some of the festivals from this year. In addition, we’re currently writing our debut full length album so completing that and then promoting the hell out of it!
What are you most proud of in your career so far?
It would have to be how we have converted crowds this year – as artists we never take for granted that engagement between the crowd, the band and the music – it’s what we live for. We thrive on hitting a stage in front of people who have never heard us before and 30 minutes later they’re dancing, singing along and looking forward to seeing us again.
You have been working really hard gigging up and down the country what other bands have you shared the stage with this year you think we should be watching out for?
There’s so many! There’s the usual guys who are on everyone’s list, Bigfoot, Massive Wagons, Knock Out Kaine, there’s a few that we are touring with later this year including Rusted Hero, As Siren’s Fall, Die No More and Bulletproof Rose, and then there’s a few we’ve had the pleasure of seeing first hand such as Hell’s Addiction and Chasing Dragons who I’m sure we’ll be seeing much more of next year.
What has been the highlight of these gigs so far, any stories to tell form your time on the road?
Actually time on the road is usually time we get to just chill and take time out of the usual hustle and bustle of life – there’s something quite therapeutic about sitting on the minibus, listening to tunes on the way to a gig. The most stressful for me would have to be a couple of weeks ago after Redemption Festival in Wakefield – I had to run straight off stage after we played because my partner was going into labour! Luckily I got back in time for the birth!
When can we expect an album for your guys?
We’re current writing the new tracks, have recorded one and in writing / pre-production for the others but we’re not going to rush anything. We had anticipated getting the album out this year however with all the gigs we’ve pushed expected release date back to Q1 next year
How would you describe one of your live shows?
Energetic, fun and different – we are always pushing ourselves to expand our live show and give the crowd an experience, a buzz – something that they wouldn’t normally see or feel outside an arena or stadium gig. When we’re on stage we come alive and it’s like nothing else matters; we want everyone in that room to feel the same.
Tour Dates 2016:
- 24th September – York, Fibbers
- 30th September – Leeds, Brudenell Social Club
- 9th October – Newcastle, Trillians
- 26th November – Manchester, Rebellion Bar (Sophie Fest)
- 10th December – London, The Black Heart