#ROADTOBOA Interview: Attica Rage

Bloodstock 2016 logoHere we go again… Last year we covered every band on the Hobgoblin New Blood and Jagermeister stages in the run-up to Bloodstock 2015. This year, we’re going one better and aim to have interviews from all the bands on those two stages as well as all of those on the SOPHIE stage prior to the event kicking off on August 11th. That’s almost 100 interviews to get online for you lucky people over the course of the next couple of weeks. I bloody love this job, but you lot owe me a beer at Catton Hall, right?

Thanks to all the bands who’ve taken the time to respond!

Attica Rage – Jagermeister Stage, Sunday

Questions answered by singer Johnny Parr

Simple things first – where are you guys from?

We’re based in Glasgow, Scotland but some of us live in Ayrshire, Inverclyde and South Lanarkshire.

How did you meet?

Drummer Richie Rage and I are brothers so we grew up together and had played in an earlier version of the band before starting this band up.  Stevie Bell had been a fan at our early gigs in the first few years and we got to know him through the local Glasgow gig scene.  He eventually joined the band as lead guitarist in 2007.  Matthew Ward had been playing in another local band, Komatoze, who had supported us a few times but, luckily, when we were looking for a new bassist in 2014, he was available and we offered him the full-time gig after a short rehearsal jam, under the premise of temping for our UK & European tour that year.

How long have you been playing together as a band?

In a nutshell, the band started in 2003 but Richie and I have been playing in bands for a lot longer.  In fact, because of this earlier history, there is often some confusion and misconception about when Attica Rage actually started, so I’ll take this opportunity to set the record straight:

Richie had been a founding member and the drummer of a thrash metal band called Attica Rage around the Scottish metal scene in the late 80s / early 90s.  They’d recorded a few demos and a music video and had had airplay on Tommy Vance’s Radio 1 Rock Show and Tom Russell’s Clyde FM Rock Show as well as some decent headline gigs.  They’d established themselves in Scotland and were one of the only bands at the time playing the heavier style of metal.  New Glasgow bands of the time like The Almighty were more a looser, open-chord, dirty rock n roll style – sort of Motörhead & The Cult – but Attica Rage were a lot heavier, tighter, more akin to the likes of And Justice…-era Metallica, Megadeth, Testament and Pantera.  But they had a revolving door with vocalists.  I joined as their singer in time to record a demo and a run of gigs before the band eventually split up in 1994. And that was that, pretty much.  Attica Rage ceased to exist.

Richie gave up drums, cut his hair and found beer and football!  I played in a few bands as guitarist and recorded some demos, with a few failed attempts at starting my own band.  I just couldn’t find any good drummers.  At the end of 2002, my school mate & bassist Colin Walls and I were jamming Black Sabbath covers just for the fun of it but we still couldn’t find a decent drummer.  Over the years, we had kept trying to persuade Richie to get back behind the kit and we eventually convinced him in early 2003.  For the first year, we were just jamming covers on a Saturday afternoon, going to the Solid Rock Café before and after for some beers.  It was just a hobby and fun to be playing together again. We’d play Sabbath, Motörhead, Thin Lizzy, Black Label Society, AC/DC.  We’d also recruited one of the guitarists from the old band and by 2004, had a 3-song demo of original material.  Despite 3 of the members having played together in the old band, it was a completely new band with a new sound and style.

Funnily enough, The Almighty and their style of heavy rock had become a major influence to me so this was the sound we were going for – a looser, bluesier, heavy rock/metal vibe.  But we just couldn’t think of a new band name so – with the old band been well and truly defunct and largely forgotten about – we decided to re-use the Attica Rage name, along with the logo and skull mascot that Richie had designed.  We liked the name and all the artwork but it was also an attempt to reach out to any of the fans of the previous band to get them to come to our gigs.  Which they did but in hindsight, we should probably have picked a new name because to this day, some people still think it’s the same band and that we’re still going all these 20+ years later!   When in reality, the only connection is the name and the fact that Richie was the drummer.   The first version of the band was a completely different line-up doing a different style of music.   Of course, this version of the band is now established in our own right and most of our fans know that we started in 2003, so it would be wrong to change the name now.  But we still come across guys  that own Ye Olde Attica’s early demos and assume we’re the same band and, much to my frustration, a recent review in a German webzine incorrectly assumes that the band has only released a demo and 4 albums since 1989……completely wrong but understandable if you didn’t know the difference.  Two different bands, same name, same drummer but completely different styles and new song catalogues.

Where does the name of the band come from?

The short answer is one of my brother’s mates came up with the name in a pub in West Kilbride many moons ago, they chose it and it stuck.  But the name itself refers to the infamous riots in the Attica State Penitentiary in Attica, New York in 1971 where inmates rebelled against the poor living conditions and lack of rehab opportunities, taking the prison under siege and several wardens hostage.  The whole event escalated badly to the point that the state police were firing into the prison killing many of the prisoners and hostages.  It was a catastrophic handling of events and it’s often referred to as the turning point in American prison systems.  Things like living conditions and treatment of prisoners changed after that, the buildings were upgraded and proper rehabilitation programmes were introduced.  There are some interesting videos on YouTube about it, so it’s worth a look.  So Attica Rage is just a play on words from Attica Riots.

What are your influences – individually or as a band?

As a group, we’d all agree on bands like Metallica, Maiden, Ozzy solo & Sabbath, Motörhead, Megadeth & Anthrax being a common influence.   Also, rock classics like AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, Van Halen, and KISS etc..  Individually, we’re all bring some other wider influences into the mix too – whether it’s Southern rock, thrash, stoner, goth, punk, acoustic, orchestral.  We love a huge variety of music, not just in the rock/metal genres, so everything creeps in and influences us.

Describe your music. What makes you unique?

Catchy, heavy rock with metal riffs, melodies and whole lotta variety.  Variety is probably what makes us unique from a lot of the other bands out just now.  We consider it one of our strengths, although some may call it a weakness as it prevents them from pigeon-holing us into a neat sub-genre description.  We don’t put out the same album from one to the next and within each album, we’ll have rock songs, heavier metal riffs, acoustic guitars, orchestral ballads, instrumentals and unusual instrumentation.   We like to stretch ourselves a bit musically and hate being pigeon-holed…..we’ve been called everything from power metal to biker rock over the years but in reality, we’re a bit of a pick n mix of rock & metal subgenres.  Thing is, all our favourite bands and albums have had a great variety of song styles – from Queen to Sabbath to Metallica.  Even Motörhead put a ballad on every album pretty much.  So we don’t see it as a problem and our fans get it, even if the industry have to scratch their heads over how to categorise us.

What’s your live show like – why should the baying hordes troop over to the stage you’re playing on to watch you?

The live show is what it’s all about for us – we’re a live band and have toured extensively over the years, from Shetland to Slovenia and (almost) everywhere in between.  We always play every show like we’re headlining Donington – whether it’s an 80-capacity venue in Bournemouth or a festival stage in front of thousands and we pour all our energy into our live performances.  Our sound is much more raw and intense live than it is on album.  Studio recordings allow you the opportunity to layer the recordings with guitars, keyboards, strings, vocal harmonies etc…. A  lot of frills and sonic enhancements.  But when it comes to our live shows, it’s 4 guys up on stage pummelling the shit out our guitars and drums like our lives depended on it.  Our main aim at every show is to entertain our audience, win new fans and give our die-hard fans a great night out.

When/how did you find out you’d been selected to play at Bloodstock?

We’ve known Simon Hall since a gig we played at the Queens Hall, Nuneaton way back in 2007 and his band Beholder and Attica have crossed paths at festivals a few times over the years.  We kept in touch and had been speaking about a possible slot at Bloodstock over the last couple of years.  Then at the start of this year, we finally got an offer to headline the Jagermeister Stage and we were over the moon.  What people maybe don’t realise is that is our first ever appearance at Bloodstock – we have wanted to play the festival pretty much since day 1 but for various reasons, it just never happened.  So this has been a long-time coming for us and we are absolutely psyched to finally be a part of it this year.

What sort of setlist can we expect?

Fast, loud and heavy.  No ballads for this gig, haha!  We’ll be playing some classic Attica fan-favourites, a couple of songs from the new album Warheads Ltd and a special set-closer that every metalhead should appreciate.  But yeah, it’s pretty much a full-force Attica Rage setlist from start to finish.

Which main stage band do you most hope you’re not clashing with so you can see them play?

The beauty with the Jagermeister Stage is that the slots don’t clash with the main stage – Attica Rage start as soon as Anthrax finish on the RJD stage and our 40-minute set ends just 5 mins before Slayer!  That’s a serious metal sandwich to fill.  We’ll be setting up while Anthrax are on but hopefully we’ll still see most of their set as they are one of our favourite bands all weekend. And we’ll be getting our gear packed away as quickly as possible to get out front for Slayer, another of our long-time favourites.

What are you working on at the moment?

Our new album Warheads Ltd was just released in June via Off Yer Rocka Recordings and we’re currently mixing bonus tracks for our next two singles scheduled for later in the year.  We headlined the Saturday night at SOS Festival, Manchester in July; we’ve got our Bloodstock debut coming up, then we’re headlining RockWich festival in Cheshire at the end of the month before a run of tour dates across the UK and Ireland between September and November.

What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen or done on tour?

Too many to mention – we’ve been touring since 2007 and could write a book!  It’s usually to do with the demon drink it has to be said…… getting wasted on cocktails in Ibiza in 2010, passing out, being picked up by ambulance and delivered to a private medical centre where it cost 250 euros in hospital charges just to leave the building (with 150 euros cash and my mobile phone having being stolen at some point en route)….

Or then there was the 12-hour after-show bender at HRH in Prestatyn which ended up with me drinking White Russians out a Pontins-issue teapot at 8am, passing out under the urinals in the gents in the main building and being escorted back to the chalet by site security (3 hours before our first proper meeting with our then-new management and later that day, due to be playing a set inside a competition-winners’ chalet!).

There have been some really cool moments too though like having good chat and beers with Kirk & Pepper from Down at a beach bar at 3am in Slovenia or when we played on a boat sailing down the River Thames with Fozzy, Shadows Fall, While She Sleeps and Evil Scarecrow as part of the Metal Hammer Golden Gods and getting to hang out with members of Maiden, Anthrax, Amon Amarth, Vinnie Paul and Dimebag’s wife Rita at the aftershow.

What advice would you give to a young band just starting out today?

Again, we could write a book, we’ve learnt so much along the way. And we’re still learning!

But four bits of advice I think that young bands starting out have to take on board is first of all, spend time really perfecting your musicianship – individually and as band – and keep developing your song-writing.  More than anything, your songs are going to be the currency that what will make or break you.  You can be brilliant musicians, great live performers and have all the money to chuck at production or promotion, but more important than anything else, is the quality of your songs.   Whatever genre or subgenre of music, we all need to accept that it’s going to sound like something that’s already been put out – we’re 100 years into the catalogues of popular music, everything has been done already and that’s OK – so you’ve got to have really strong songs that people will want to hear.  The quality of songs and song-writing is what lets down most bands – especially in rock and metal – and it’s something that we are continually trying to improve on from one album to the next.   You need to learn to not be so precious about songs too. Write them, play them, bin them, move on and write some more.  The more songs you write, the better they become.

Once you’ve got great songs – and you’ll know when you do – and you’re rehearsing regularly, you want to start gigging locally but I would recommend you still wait until you’re truly ready to put yourself out in public eye, especially the wider UK scene.  Growing organically in your home town or city is best, take it step by step.  It’s never been easier to record decent quality offerings and promote yourself online but you only really get one chance to make an impact. Don’t be too eager to jump in at the deep end too soon.  There are a hundred million other bands doing the same thing as you.  You need to be ready to break into the wider scene with a strong collection of songs, a really tight live set, some professional images and ready-made branding and an interesting promotional angle that media will want to write about and potential new fans will want to hear about.  Anything less, you’re selling yourselves short and not giving yourself the best opportunity.  Once you put your EP out or a video or any content, there’s no going back…..

Remember Facebook is only one of many social media avenues and don’t build your entire fanbase on it alone.  Once upon a time, every band had MySpace page and look what happened to that!  Use Facebook for fan interaction and promotion but if Facebook goes the way of MySpace in the future, you’ll have to start from scratch.  Every band should have their own website and an email sign-up mailing list.  Having a few hundred mailing list subscribers who want to know about your news that you can send emails to directly is worth far more than a few thousand hokey Facebook likes.  Having said that, Facebook likes is something the industry look at too so the idea is to build your fanbase across all platforms simultaneously. But too many bands use Facebook as their sole identity online and they’re just missing out on a huge chunk of potential fans by narrowing themselves to one social media site.

Finally…..my last bit of advice would be that you need to be prepared to spend money. And then some.  To compete at any level of the music industry, you need to invest ££££ whether it’s in CD production, video production, merchandise printing, PR & promotion, touring etc.  The bigger you get, the more you’ll need to spend too so use any money or investment wisely and again, don’t rush into things too early on.  You’ll wish you had it further down the line so be prepared to spend and invest but do it conservatively and with a view on the long-term.

If you could be part of any 3-band line-up who else would you have on the bill? One band above you and one below – a chance to plug a smaller, unsigned act!

Metallica, Attica Rage and Mason Hill (one of the best new rock bands from Scotland worth checking out, featuring our bassist Matthew Ward. They’re supporting Attica on some of our tour-dates this year.)

What stage / time are you playing at Bloodstock (if you have your slot yet!)

Sunday 14th August – 20:15 – Jagermeister Stage (as soon as Anthrax finish and before Slayer start!)


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