I caught up with Alex, vocalist and guitarist with Tax The Heat, a few minutes after the band got off stage in Glasgow. They’d just opened for Terrorvision on the first night of their UK tour and he looked surprisingly fresh-faced for a man who’d just driven around 1200 miles. With only a short time before the headliners took to the stage themselves, we got right down to the questions and answers…
Yes! The first cassette I ever bought was Regular Urban Survivors! I got it along with Waynes World 2 and they actually got me into playing guitar. I went to see the film when I was about ten and saw Aerosmith playing in it. I was like… “I want to learn to play guitar.” That was literally it. I bought the soundtrack tape and that was it.
We actually have a copy of the film in the tour bus. Completely unplanned – it’s just there!
Tax the Heat – a fairly young band…?
I think in January it will be four years we’ve spent together. Since the first gig, anyway. Our first album, Fed To The Lions, came out in early April this year. It’s been really, really well recieved. We had a lot of build-up – three years as a band before it, regular gigging, building up the fan base. We put up the pre-orders and sat and waited, but it did really well. Into the rock charts at number 11, top 50 in the album charts. Amazing to see.
So where are you guys from, other than “Down South”?
JP and Anton live in Bristol. Jack and I live about an hour away in a little town called Frome. Nice, chilled out part of the world.
You’re in cider country then?
How did you get started as a band? I gather that you and Jack knew each other from school?
I grew up in the same village – not Frome at the time. I knew Jack from then. We weren’t close friends growing up, but we knew each other. All these years later, I’d finished playing in a band and he was looking for something to do. We met in a record shop in Frome, where we both lived then, and got chatting. Started demo-ing a little after that. Met Anton and JP through friends of friends and it just wen from there.
One of you worked on the soundtrack for the TV show Episodes?
Yes, that was me! I do some session guitar work for a composer and he needed some things laid down for it. I was working with him on something else and we had some spare time. He mentioned he might be doing something for this TV show that was coming on and could I lay down some chords or something. So that’s how that happened. I haven’t seen it for years, but people say it’s really funny. My input is basically three chords and a couple of melodies but I can hear myself, that’s what counts!
Where does the band’s name come from?
It comes from “Tax Man” by The Beatles. It’s in the lyrics. We wanted something with a retro feel to it, and this is the name Jack came up with. We checked online to make sure nobody else had taken the name and – brilliant – it was free. My last band was called The Operation and we picked that name without even thinking about the Internet. It wasn’t really a thing at that point, but nobody would find us now.
You’re just back from Europe where you played shows with Europe. How did those gigs some about?
We played two dates with them last year and they invited us over to play with them again this year. We just finished. We left Milan yesterday and it’s been a loooong drive. 22 hours with a stop-off in Birmingham. It’s been brutal. We’re definitely feeling a little bit tired. We’re back in Wolved tomorrow then we have a full day off. We’ve been gigging in travelling since the start of November and that will be our first day off.
Yes, a little reference to the Sixties. When we were kids, we’d all been in bands and there was no separation between the audience and the band. We loved the Sixties bands and their approach. There was a smartness to the bands – the Stones, the Kinks… We started to find our own feet as well, which is how it happened.
So how was it touring with a huge band like Europe?
It was amazing. I really didn’t know a lot about Europe before we took the gigs, just the big songs like “Final Countdown”, but they’re massive music fans. Joey is a huge fan of what we do and we got invited to do the shows. They’re the nicest people, and the gigs themselves were in amazing venues to huge crowds. We were so well looked after and it made the whole thing a dream experience. It’s great being with someone you get on so well with, because life on the road with a band who treat you like shit – it’s not happened to us, but you do hear stories – must make life really difficult.
Did you even remotely think, three years ago, that you could be playing venues that size overseas?
I think the smallest was 1000 capacity all the way up to 5000. Very cool! I don’t think I ever thought that far ahead! Just… we need to do this… so let’s do this! I totally envisioned us doing huge stuff because that’s your dream. So next up is headlining Download.
Have you noticed that you have a German Wikipedia page, but you don’t have an English one?
You know what, my mum texted me about that the other day. How weird is that? I read it and I don’t know if it’s been changed, but it used to have details about someone I lived with. I don’t know how they got this information, but someone in Germany is writing about a house a mate and I lived in three years ago! I’d love to know who wrote it!
I would love to be on a bill at a varied festival where we would be in the middle of… The Hives, Queens of the Stone Age, the Who from 1968 (full of energy, ripping your face off). And Led Zep. Led Zep would be the dream gig.
One of my mate’s bands is a complete noise punk duo. They wouldn’t really go on a bill with us but I’ve got to give them a shout because he’s my best mate and they’re really good at what they do. They’re called Ghost of the Avalanche. They’re real funny guys. They have done a show with us. Some of the crowd were loving it, some were just terrified.
Do you have any advice you could offer a young band, just starting off as you were some years ago?
There’s a lot, really. This is my first band that’s had a deal and toured with a booking agent, but before that I was in bands for fifteen years just slogging it everywhere, doing it all ourselves. The first thing I’ve learned is to surround yourself with good people, people you can trust. If you get stuck, and you’re touring with people you don’t like it would be horrific.
Also, make sure you record a killer demo. Spend money, get a great recording.