It’s been a busy time in the Monster Truck camp since the band last spoke to eonmusic in March 2017. Since then, there’s been more headline shows, a stint opening for Deep Purple on their ‘Long Goodbye’ tour, and the small matter of work on their third full-length release. Back at Download festival to reclaim their place in the Sun, we caught up with drummer Steve Kiely to chat the Canadians’ evolution. The enforcer; Eamon O’Neill.
Hi Steve, how are you today?
I’m well, how the hell are you doing?
You’re once again at Download Festival; is it good to be back?
It certainly is, especially as we haven’t been playing that much in the last while, so it’s nice to be at a festival and especially one that’s run so well. I’m really excited to be here.
You’re back on the main stage this weekend, aren’t you?
That’s right. We opened the main stage two years ago here, and now I think we’ve bumped up the bill a couple of spots. And hopefully the weather’s a bit nicer; it was the rainiest Download in history last time we played here.
The last time we spoke, you referred to Download 2016 as; “A real shit show!”
Yeah, that sounds like something I would say! We played on the Sunday, and I remember we were on tour here doing festivals, and I remember we were real excited about this one, and we were checking the weather every day leading up to it, and it just rained from like, Thursday, Friday, Saturday – it did not stop raining the whole time, and like, actual rain, not like drizzle. So, by the time Sunday came around, we were walking through ten inches of liquid.
Going back to the club tour in March 2017, and how did you enjoy those shows?
It was great. Those were our first headline shows ever in Ireland, and it might have been only our second time ever playing there, because we opened up for Nickelback at the 3Arena. Oh, and we did the Slash show at the 3Arena as well. But it was really cool. I really like playing in those smaller club shows. There’s a different vibe and energy that you can’t get otherwise. I remember the Irish fans being really great with us.
What have you been up to since then?
After that tour we toured with Deep Purple. They were awesome. We did five weeks in Europe with them, but we didn’t do the U.K. part. It was awesome; they were really accommodating to us, the band and crew, and it was a really easy tour to do. And it’s pretty cool getting to watch those guys play those songs. They were one of the main influences on us starting the band, so that was a pretty cool experience.
You’ve recently released the single ‘Evolution’, which is extremely aptly titled.
Yeah, that was a pretty blatant attempt at trying something new, trying something with sounds more mainstream, radio rock, kind of. We never automatically write under that pretence, but we kind of were given a bit of direction to do so, and it ended up being an interesting experiment. It’s polarised our fans on their opinions on it. To be honest, that’s never happened with us, and I don’t think it’s all bad. It sparks conversation.
The sound hasn’t deviated massively; it still fits the Monster Truck mould, doesn’t it?
Yeah, and that’s the thing; I think when we think we’re doing something different, it’s not as different as we think it is. So it’s interesting to do something a bit out of our comfort zone to see how we can make it a Monster Truck song.
How did you feel about it personally as a drummer, given the sampled beats on the track?
It was the weirdest way I’ve ever recorded drums, with Gavin Brown who produced that song. I think there’s a fair amount of processing on the drums on that beat to suit the style of the song. But yeah, the drums were tuned very weird, and I had to play cymbals and drums separately so he could process the hell out of them. It was really weird. It was tough, but it was only for a couple of songs, so like I said, it was kind of like an experiment, almost, and it ended up diversifying the album a little bit.
It’s interesting, given the approach of the single, that the album is called ‘True Rockers’.
Yeah, and that kind of wasn’t planned like that. The song ‘Evolution’ came so late in the game, there’s no way anyone had an early plan for it to be our first single; that came into fruition in the last month or so. So it is interesting; that’s kind of the first thing I thought of too! But there’s definitely a good dose of tried and tested Monster Truck formula songs that we’ve done over the years.
So the single isn’t indicative of the album as a whole?
No, no. Like we always try and do, there’s a couple of places where we veer off the path and try something new like with ‘Evolution’, and a couple of other songs. We always try and play rock music, we can’t help it; that’s what our DNA is, we always end up making it sound like us a little bit, somehow.
With a track like ‘Evolution’, is it a challenge to recreate that sound live?
No, we have a lot of faith in our sound guy, and the guys have great guitar tones, and obviously the keyboard, that thickens things up a lot too; it adds a lot of depth to the tone. It’s going to be a little different live, but that’s just how it is with us. And I don’t mind that, because we don’t run any [pre-recorded] tracks when we play, and a consequence of doing that is, sometimes your live version of some of your songs is going to be missing maybe a little part here and there, but you make up for that with the live atmosphere that you’re creating. The sound of a live guitar and the bass and the kick-drum and the keyboards coming out of a four storey speaker stack and a row of subs is pretty massive, you know what I mean?
What are the band's touring plans going forward?
We’ve got a fairly quiet summer. The album’s not out until September – September 14th, it’s out - and then in the fall, we’re going to be touring with Black Stone Cherry. That’s the U.K. I think we’re going to be doing Europe dates too, but I’m not sure if they’re announced yet, and I don’t even remember the details of it anyway. Buy yeah, us and The Cadillac Three, and Black Stone Cherry. I’m looking forward to that.
Are you hoping that the new album will lift the band up another league?
Yeah, it’s always the goal, whether we’ve accomplished it or not with each album. But we’re really confident with the team we have working with us, and that’s a lot of it too; like getting it out there, and your label, and we’re happy, and yeah, we’ve just got to get busy again. I think we’ve made the best album we’ve ever made, so as long as we keep doing that, we’ll keep building.
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Monster Truck’s 'True Rockers' is released on 14th September 2018, via Mascot Records.