I am good. We’ve been back on the road for just over a week and it has been fantastic playing live again.
How does it feel to be releasing your third album ‘The Hammer Falls’?
It has been a long journey to reach this point. I started writing it during the first lockdown back in 2020, with a couple of songs (Gunslinger and Angel of Death) demoed pretty early on. The bulk of it was written over that summer as things started to open back up, and we tracked it pretty much live over the course of five days at Momentum Studios in the September.
I then I wrote a couple of more songs, and due to everything then closing down again was afforded more time to work on the production. My previous albums were all done really quickly as they were recorded in between tours, whereas this one was created over 18 months. We couldn’t gig, so I had more time to really figure out the song structures, write lots of intricate guitar parts and also write vocal melodies that take the listener on twists and turns. I can hear that attention to detail in the final results.
You’ve said the aim was to “the best elements of my first two solo albums, and take it up another level”; was this a big challenge, and do you think you’ve achieved it?
I think every artist claims their newest album is their best, and I’m sure they all think it is. But I know this one is. To me, it feels like every track could be a single and there is no let up from start to finish. I’m sure fans of Paint No Fiction and Who Feeds The Wolf? Would disagree, but with every album you want it to get better and better. The Hammer Falls is definitely a step up. I know because everyone seems to know the lyrics to the songs at the live shows…and it’s only been out a week!
We’re loving the descending riffs and the vocal harmonies in ‘Halo’; talk to me a little about that one.
I wrote the riff and verses to Halo way back when I was working on my very first album with The Boom Boom Brotherhood, back in about 2016. I could never come up with a suitably good chorus, but then last year went through a bit of an Abba phase, really when I was doing the overdubs on the album. So this pop chorus came out which completed the song. I knew instantly it would be a single.
You made a video for ‘Call of the Wild’ as well. Where did you record it, and was it fun?
We actually shot that on the site of Loverocks festival down in Bournemouth. It was the day after we’d finished recording the last two songs I wrote for the album – What Doesn’t Kill You and The Ravens Crow – so we were all pretty fried from being in the studio. So letting some energy out in a big field was great fun. I’m still surprised I didn’t get decapitated by the drone the director used though.
Yes, I’ve been a fan of Zakk really since the first couple of Black Label Society albums came out. When I was a teenager I jammed along with Stronger Than Death and 1919 Eternal a lot. But Zakk also introduced me to other guitar players that have influenced my playing, such as Frank Marino and Al Di Meola. In fact the latter played a big part in me developing my alternate picking technique. Basically I try to play every single note, avoiding hammer ons. I just absolutely loved the accuracy of Do Meola’s playing, and although I’m nowhere near that level, it’s something I have been striving towards for 20 odd years now. I still sit on my sofa watching horror films or whatever late at night with a metronome practicing alternate picking, and that’s all down to Zakk Wylde.
Click here to read eonmusic's 2018 interview with Zakk Wylde.
As we speak, you’re in the middle of your album release tour; how have the dates gone?
They’ve been fantastic. The launch show at O2 Islington was perhaps my biggest headline show to date, which felt phenomenal. We’ve upped the size of the venues on this run, which is a risk, but the response has been great. I think a lot of people have just had enough and want to get back out there, let loose and listen to some honest, heavy rock n roll. Long may it continue.
One thing that we’ve attempted to do is persevere with shows no matter what. We’ve probably benefitted from the fact that a lot of bands cancelled their January and February dates. It was risk to keep going as we didn’t know how this new variant was going to effect things. But we stuck to our guns and it has paid off.
What bands would you love to tour with; who do you think you’d slot in nicely alongside?
I’ve always wanted to go on the road with Blackberry Smoke. They are probably my favourite band of the last decade or so. Charlie Starr…if you’re listening give me a call. I’d also quite like to do a double header style tour with another guitarist similar to me, where we can trade places each night and then maybe come together for a jam at the end. Answers on a post card.
Any festival dates planned for the summer?
The focus for the summer months is international. I’m heading to the US in late May, followed by some dates in Europe. We’ll then head back to the UK for some autumn tour dates. I’m hoping to squeeze in a short acoustic run too at some point, where I play stripped back versions of tracks from my albums. We’ll see if there is space for that.
Finally, what’s next for you?
We are just going to tour the hell out of the new album for the foreseeable future. Eventually I’ll start work on my next album, but for now I want to breath life into these 10 tracks that make up The Hammer Falls. They deserve to be heard.
‘The Hammer Falls’ is available now via Eyesore Merch and digitally courtesy of Earache Records on all platforms.