Interview: George Harris of The Raven Age

Glasgow. It looks cold and wet even when it isn’t. I arrived at Barrowlands bang on time for my interview with The Raven Age’s George and was met on the street by the band’s singer Michael Burrough. He ushered me upstairs and introduced me to George… who seemed a little more “tanned” than when I’d spoken to him at Bloodstock. “Ha! That’s not George! That’s George!” laughed Michael as the real Mr Harris stepped out from behind drummer Jai Patel. “We pull that on people all the time!”

(c) Bukavac Photography

The rock and roll lifestyle, eh? Jai, incidentally, is apparently the least Indian Indian in the band having never set foot in India, according to his bandmates. He’s a damn fine drummer, though, as evidenced later in the evening. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Plonking down on the sofa, I had an enjoyable if rushed chat with George before he was called off to do the band’s soundcheck.

Six dates in on this tour with Anthrax. Are you doing the European dates as well?

Yes, I think it’s 29 dates in all.

So what’s the reception been like for you guys?

It’s been really positive. We were a bit unsure because we’ve not played to a thrash metal audience before. It was a little nerve wracking but so far it’s been brilliant. London was a sell-out, as was Bristol. Manchester I think sold out in the end as well. And tonight’s a sell-out. It’s been a brilliant tour to be a part of. This is our first time to play the Barrowlands. Every time we come up to Glasgow, people tell us about this legendary venue and how we need to play it.

You formed, or at least two of you met, in 2009. How long did it take you to get the band together?

Dan and I met in 2009, but we played our first gig in 2013.

And your first full album comes out on March 17th. There are three tracks on there that were on your debut EP. Have they been re-recorded for the album?

Yes, the guitars have been re-tracked – remixed, remastered. They’re a bit fresher and fit better with the rest of the album. It’s not just the same three songs plonked onto the album.

Do you feel your sound’s changed over the last couple of years to make the re-recording necessary, or is it more down to having more experience and wanting that to reflect in the recording?

I guess it’s experience. Going from the EP to the album, we just wanted things to be slightly different. I used a different guitar after that EP to record the album tracks and I preferred how it sounded, so I needed to re-record them. I spoke to Matt Hyde and he was up for remixing things. Originally the EP tracks were standing out a bit and we wanted the whole thing to flow.

Who writes the tracks? Is it a band effort, or is there a core of you like with Anthrax?

It’s myself and Dan, the other guitar player, who do all the writing just because that’s how we started out. We got together as guitarists writing riffs, and it snowballed from there so it’s just stayed that way. It’s not necessarily going to stay that way – I’m sure the other guys may want to get involved – but we’re constantly writing. We already had the EP songs when the others joined the band and after that we were just writing and writing. So it’s not “this is our job”, that’s just how it’s worked out at the moment.

To refer to the obvious family link, do you ever find yourself writing and actively thinking “I don’t want this to sound like Iron Maiden”?

No, not at all. One thing we try to do is go into writing with a completely clear head. If you start thinking that we can’t sound like this, or we need to sound more like that, then the results don’t come out naturally. I’ve never begun writing thinking about going in one direction or another. Basically, one of us will come up with a riff and if it’s any good we’ll get it down and branch out from there.

What’s it like touring with another bunch of old guys? I mean, you toured with Maiden and they’re even older than me. Anthrax are about the same age. Are you trying to keep up with them, or are they trying to keep up with you…?

[Laughs] It’s actually pretty inspiring to be able to see how much they’re giving it every night. At their age, no offence! But they’re proper on it, putting on such a cool show.

When you were younger, what was it like having your dad away for weeks or months at a time on tour?

I didn’t really know any different. I don’t have any bad memories of being at home and being upset about it. What I do have are loads of great memories of the times I got to spend with him on the tour bus. It was such an exciting thing as a little kid! All those bunk beds and stuff!

The first time I saw Anthrax live was when they toured with Maiden on the No Prayer / Persistence of Time tour. What’s your favourite Anthrax album or track?

From watching them, I like “Madhouse”. Everyone gets involved with that one and the vibe of the room is pretty crazy. I think my favourite at the moment, though, is one of the newer ones – “Blood Eagle Wings”. The chorus is so catchy. We’ve been humming it on the tour bus.

What do you have on the stereo on the tour bus at the moment?

A bit of everything, but we’ve not had the chance to listen to much music. We’ve had a fair bit of tour bus trouble. We got this great new bus, all kitted out and everything. We were all excited about it… we went literally 25 miles up the road in it and it broke down. Fortunately it turned out to be something small and silly so it’s all fixed! But we’re in a splitter van now, so there’s not much in the way of access to a decent stereo. Mike, our singer, has been playing Five Finger Death Punch as usual. We’ve had the new Bring Me The Horizon album on… a little bit of everything.

Am I right in saying that your sister was in one of their recent videos?

Yeah! She was in the video for “Oh No”. She was a recording engineer or something.

You toured with your dad when he did his British Lion project a while ago. Would there be a chance of revisiting that and bringing Lauren along as well, making it a family outing? Are there any other Harris’s kicking about that we’ve not discovered yet?

No! Not into this kind of music anyway. My little brother’s more into his dance and electronic stuff. Lauren’s not really doing much music now, either. She’s concentrating on her acting career. She graduated from drama college recently and she’s moving more in that direction. I’m not sure if we’d tour with Maiden or British Lion again. We’ve been a bit greedy!

You’ve now got great experience across the board at playing different venues – smaller ones with British Lion and Delaine, arenas with Iron Maiden, large halls on this tour… do you adapt to the different venues, change your set or anything?

No, we’re pretty much sticking to the same thing at the moment. The only thing really to adapt to is the stage itself. Here we’ve got a bit more room to move around and squeeze in front of the drums. We don’t really adapt in any other way. The last tour was six months, but even then we didn’t settle in the the frame of mind of “that’s it, we’re used to playing huge venues – we can’t go back to small ones” or anything. Tonight’s not small by any stretch. It’s, what, 2000? [2100 – Mosh] So we still have a hard job to fill it up and get the crowd going.

What mad or memorable moments spring to mind from being on tour?

Mike had this thing during one of our songs where he kept jumping down into the crowd. When we were in South America we were playing these huge stadiums with a parting in the middle. Mike jumped down there and my little brother was doing some camerawork, filming it all on GoPro. He darted after Mike to get it all on video, and jumped off the stage which must have been six foot high… and landed flat on his face. I was right there staring down at him, crying with laughter and trying to keep playing this song we were in the middle of.

Have you got any advice for younger bands starting off now? Other than “have a family member already in the business!”?

One piece of advice I got right at the start that’s turned out to be vital is stick to your guns in terms of creativity and vision. As you do more stuff and more people get involved, so many more opinions get thrown as you. “Try this sound”, “change your artwork”… Only you know what your band needs. Stay headstrong and keep to your vision.

How do you find sticking to that advice when you go into the studio and you have a producer advising you to try different things?

Matt is very easy going and totally gets what we’re going for. He wasn’t forceful, but he was good at giving us ideas. If we didn’t like them, he was totally cool with that, but he did come up with some good ones that we took on board. We got on really well which is why I think the album’s turned out as well as it has.

Having had a listen to the album, the track that stands out is “Salem’s Fate”. It has a bit of everything in it, and you chose it as the lead single.

We did choose that song for the single and video for that exact reason. If someone asked us to pick a song that describes The Raven Age then I’d put that one forward. It’s got that big, epic, build-up intro, then it smacks in with that heavy riff. It’s got a soaring chorus… it’s got everything in there. The EP was a snippet of what we have. The album’s the whole package.

Darkness Will Rise is out on March 17th

The Raven Age: officialfacebook | twitter

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