Canadians Monster Truck have been making big noises since bursting out of Ontario in 2010. Releasing a pair of Eps as well as two full length albums including 2016’s ‘Sittin’ Heavy’, the four-piece have worked hard to bring their seventies-influenced hard rock sound to the masses. Bagging some high profile support slots with the likes of Slash, Nickelback and Deep Purple, they’ve also earned the respect of their peers. We sat down with drummer Steve Kiely in Dublin to talk about touring, influences, and the next steps. For the people; Eamon O’Neill.
How are you today Steve?
I’m doing well. I seem to be getting over the jetlag pretty quickly. We finished our Canadian run about a week ago. We had less than a week at home before we headed over here to do this.
Was it a big jaunt across Canada?
It’s always a big jaunt because it’s so massive [the country], but there’s not that many major markets to play in Canada. You can pretty much hit all the major markets in about eight or nine shows, maybe ten. It was like two and a half weeks or something like that, so it wasn’t that long, especially compared to what we’ve been doing lately.
Is it a pretty big deal touring your homeland, especially given that you had a number six charting album thee with ‘Sittin’ Heavy’?
We were opening up for fellow Canadians Billy Talent, but we were direct support for them, and we had a lot of our fans out as well. It was all arenas, so it was awesome; quite a bit different from these clubs that we’re playing over here. It’s just a different thing.
Going back, and one of the first trips you made to Dublin was on the Slash tour. You must have picked up a few new fans on that run.
Every time we come over to Europe, we always find that we have a pretty high rate of turning over new fans. We’ve gotten some great opportunities on some really great support slots out here, and people over here really like rock music. That’s kind of a thing here; if you put on a good show and you keep coming back, people will keep coming out. It’s a little different from how it works back home and in North America. It’s awesome. We’d prefer it to be like that. We’ve been over here a lot, but it’s paying off.
You’ve also played Download Festival not once, but twice.
Yeah, we played last summer, and I think three years ago. Last summer we opened it up on the man stage. I remember specifically that day being a bit of a shit-show, pardon my language. I think Iron Maiden was headlining that stage that night, and they were still doing the finishing touches on the set-up an hour before doors opened, so we were half sound checking as the crowd was pouring in. And it was really raining too - people were saying it was one of the rainiest Downloads in history! So that day was a bit of a shit-show, but we pulled it off, and it was pretty awesome playing on that stage.
The band’s hard rock sound seems to have captured the imagination in Europe.
Yeah, it seems like there’s a lot of fans of that style and that era. To me, that’s like the real true rock and roll, like the bands of the seventies; your Deep Purple and Grand Funk and Zeppelin and Sabbath. That to me is really, truly rock and roll, and yeah, you’re right, people over here really like it. I think that’s definitely a huge contributing factor to why things are picking up for us.
You mentioned Deep Purple there, who you’re about to join up with for their 'inFinite The Long Goodbye’ tour.
Yeah, that’s pretty crazy, considering when the four of us talked about starting this band we literally put on ‘Space Trucking’ and we were like; “This is what we want to sound like, with the rock organ, and riffs”. And not long after that we got a chance to open up three shows for them near our home town. But it’s a far cry from doing a full five week European leg of their farewell tour.
Is it a big thing for you to get the exposure that these big tours bring, given the harsh nature of the music industry today?
It is. I mean, we’re really lucky, and we’re willing to go out and work as much as we can. We’re away from home so often, and we were kind of hoping to be done with our album cycle around now, but we kept getting tours. We were going to end it with this headline run, but we kept getting other tours and pushing this headline run back, and now we’ve got this Deep Purple extensive European tour. It’s not really fitting in with our plan, but the thing is, you can’t turn down a Deep Purple tour. Other bands, especially Canadian bands, aren’t getting these opportunities. We have to take them; we have to embrace every chance we get, because like you said, the industry is in a weird spot right now where it’s really tough for bands to make a career out of it.
So touring is fundamentally important to you?
Touring is the main sort of income these days - it’s not record sales anymore, so to be given opportunities to be out on big tours where we’re making fans and growing our name, it’s great, because it’s a well spent time; we’re not banging our heads at two hundred seater clubs that we’re not filling, and just being discouraged every night.
With two full length albums released, it must be great to be able to play longer sets when you are headlining.
Yeah, we’re finally at that point where we can’t play everything we want to play in a set. It’s frustrating in its own right, because every once in a while someone won’t get to play a song that they love playing. But it’s a good problem to have. It’s a far cry from when we first started and we could only play a half hour set because that’s all the songs we knew. It’s nice to be able to put together a set list and be fully confident in everything that you’re playing; you’re not having to put in filler, or some deep album track that no one’s going to care about.
You’re here in Dublin tonight, and being fans of classic rock, are you into some of the Irish greats?
I love Rory Gallagher; ‘Live In Europe’ is one of my most played records back at home. And Thin Lizzy are a massive, massive influence on us as well. I forgot to cite them as a reference when I was talking about the beginnings of our sound, with the bass playing singer too, you know? I love the Irish roots in rock, for sure.
Have you heard of the Rory Gallagher International Tribute Festival that takes place in Ballyshannon every year?
Really? He was born in Rock Hospital? No way! Wow, maybe that’s why he became what he did! That’s awesome. Maybe one day that would be great to play. If it fitted in with coming over here, then yeah!
With the touring cycle coming to an end after the Deep Purple run, are thoughts turning to a new album?
Oh yeah, big time, very much so. We’re in talks with potential producers right now, and we’ve got a good twenty song ideas. We’re trying to work as hard as we can on the road on our song writing and getting ready for the album. In the past we’ve always toured, toured, toured and then it’s like; “Right, time to make a new album”, and then we write the whole album just before we record it, whereas now, we’re going to be pooling from a collection of tunes that have been written over the past year. The earliest demos we have are from January last year.
So you’ve been actively working up to the new album while out on the tour?
When we’re on tour, when we have a big enough dressing room we try to jam in there. When we’re doing arenas we have like a whole jam rig where we play and record. When we’re doing headline shows in clubs here we have two hour sound checks, and we’ll go over ideas and get rough recordings. So that’s what’s on everyone’s mind right now. I think we’re hoping to get it recorded in the summer or fall. It would be great to have another album out in a years’ time.
If you could pick a dream producer to work with, who would it be?
I don’t know. I haven’t put too much thought into that. I just would love to work with a producer who is really going to take an active part in making our album bigger than we can just make it on our own. Like, some really wild, outrageous song changing ideas, that are maybe initially going to throw us off, piss us off, but then we throw trust in it, and we change it and at the end it turns into: “Obviously, we had to do that”! I can’t narrow it down to just one, but that’s my dream producer, that’s who we’re looking for.
A producer who will get you take some chances?
Yeah, someone who’s not just going to facilitate us to make what we can make. There’s something to be said for that, but we’re at the point we’re we need to make our biggest album yet, and we need to pull out the stops in trying to accomplish that. All the stuff we have done before has been co-production with us and the producer, but I think we need to give a little more of our production hat to the producer and try and follow his lead a little bit. You never want to abandon what you feel, but you’ve also got to be confident enough in what you do to give the reins to someone else every once in a while, and see what they’re take on it is, or what kind of flavour they would like to have. You can’t be afraid to do that, because that’s how some of the greatest albums ever were made.
Back to the present, and how long does this current tout go on for?
The last show is in Bilbao, Spain on April 9th. We’ve got almost a month, and I think we’ve got twenty-one or twenty-two shows. We’re still getting used to playing and hour and a half a night. We’ve been doing the old half hour / forty-five minute opening slots the past six months, so we’re just falling into the groove of things.
Finally, where have you found the most enthusiastic Monster Truck fans in Europe?
You know what, in the UK, they’re great fans. They really like to have a great time and are really responsive. I feel like Ireland could be like that. We haven’t been here nearly as often as we have in the UK. Germany, as well, Germany is always really crazy fans – they love their rock and roll there. That’s where the biggest shows are going to be on this run, and they’re always a really good time.
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Monster Truck’s headline tour rumbles on across Europe now. Check out the full list of dates below.
Monster Truck 2017 European Headline Dates:
Mar 28 – Melkweg, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Mar 29 - Rockfabrik, Ludwigsburg, Germany
Mar 30 – Rockhal, Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Apr 1 - Columbia Theater, Berlin, Germany
Apr 2 - Uebel & Gefahrlich, Hamburg, Germany
Apr 3 - Theatrefabrik, Munich, Germany
Apr 5 – Schüür, Lucerne, Switzerland
Apr 7 - Bikini, Barcelona, Spain
Apr 8 – Caracol, Madrid, Spain
Apr 9 - Kafe Antzokia, Bilbao, Spain