RSJ Speak To SonicAbuse

 

Photo: Jola Stiles

You’ve had a ten year career and you’ve had steady growth over that time, you even managed to get Dom Lawson to write your biography, which is a coup in itself…

That took some doing, I can tell you. He’s not an easy man to pin down… he’s a busy man (a very busy man)… he’s a good lad.

The description is ‘left-field’ metal, so rather more atypical influences…

Not the band Leftfield

… so I was wondering what your primary influences were when forming the band?

Well, none of us like the same shit. We do like the heavy stuff but we’re all into different stuff and I was saying to somebody earlier that we’ve got that many different tastes in music. I listen to different things, Greg listens to different things, Dan listens to different things, other Dan listens to different stuff and it’s that build-up of different influences that come into it. There’s a few bands that we all like, for example meshuggah, but I wouldn’t say we’re influenced by them particularly. It’s a smorgasbord of many different things because we all listen to that stuff.

An artist I was talking to said that what he felt made his music unique was that he (and his band) all listened to different things, and particularly things outside of metal, and I guess that’s true for you as well…

Yeah. If five people listen to Metallica and form a band,  you’ll have a band that sounds like Metallica… or Megadeth.

On the album, what was the recording process? Is it one or two people doing the bulk of the writing or do you jam things out?

Two things. When we’re writing, we rehearse every week and we just come in and we’ll have four or five different songs and we’ll arrange things in the rehearsals, so everything gets structured in a non-linear way. Then we’ll have random things, like a random number generator which’ll tell us how many times to repeat to try and make things a little bit off the wall.

But the recording process was live, all in one take. Each song was a lump, apart from the vocals, they were done afterwards, because we were doing four or five hours per song and we just record everything, with all of us in different rooms and we were just nodding at each other like “go there!” That’s where the bits in between the songs and stuff we added them in because that’s literally how it was… we just stuck some mics up and we played.

That’s a very challenging way to record because you have to be tight as hell before you even consider that…

It’s a test. We’re often told we’re a very tight band but anyone can be tight with a computer! We wanted to show that you can do it. That’s how everyone used to record all the time, there’s nothing unusual about it, it’s all that new stuff that’s unusual… and we’re from Yorkshire, we’re known to be tight…

So with the production, you wanted that very raw and organic feel…

Yeah, we were just there for a week and by the end of the week we’d pretty much done it all. We had to go down and drop a few little bits in, but other than that the main parts of the songs was just us plugging in and playing. The mix wasn’t really a thing because we spent two days getting sounds and guitars right and how we wanted it to sound and then we just recorded it in, so the mix was not really needed. We sent it away to a place in New York for the mastering. We got a couple back and had to change a few things, maybe the compression was a bit heavy, there wasn’t any adding x amount of DB on the treble… it was already done.

What I liked about the recording process was that it wasn’t “Let’s see what effect we can whack on there…” It was actually “That might sound better on that guitar…” or “let’s get some of the gain off those amps…” or “let’s try a different bit there…”

There was a stack of amps, all going through these Orange cabs, so you’d get this massive set up and then it was like “that’ll do!” It was very organic.

All the pedals were laid out on the floor, the guitarists dancing around all over the place.

Having had such control over the album, it’s interesting you then sent it off for mastering because that process can make or sink a record really…

We sent it to somebody whose albums we listen to, so we were pretty confident he’d do it right. We gave him a brief of the stuff we like listening to, so he had a bit of an idea of where we wanted it to be and he just came back with that and we were like “well, that was easy!”

In terms of creating the album, it’s very brutal but it also has a clear flow to it and I was wondering if you spent much time considering the way that the album should be sequenced or if that came from the writing?

There’s a reason why the songs are in the order they’re in and why the first song is like it is and the second one is like that and so on… there’s a very structured reason why it was the way it was. We quite like the albums that have the less-is-more mentality. You sort of think “Well, they could have done this, but there’s a reason why they didn’t do it…” and I think there’s quite a bit of it on our album where it’s like that. Even listening back I’ve thought “Ah, I wish I’d done this a bit differently or had a bit more distortion on here…” I think that’s a good example of the less-is-more philosophy. I wish I’d done it a different way from one side but then on the other hand I’m glad that I didn’t because it might have detracted from what the finished record is. You can tinker too much – you can spend years tweaking a record… maybe for the remaster in 10 years’ time… You can sit there quantizing everything but it’d be an absolute mess!

You’ve toured with a number of well-known bands – how far has that helped you, do you think, to raise the profile of the band and given you an opportunity to reach audiences you may not have done?

Oh, definitely it’s helped a lot. We’ve toured with Evil Scarecrow, and they’re amazing guys and they’re doing incredibly well at the moment and it’s given us the opportunity to play to people who are not our crowd, or maybe 90% of it isn’t, but just getting up there and doing what we do is really nice. Those people possibly wouldn’t normally come across us. It’s definitely worth it because we sell a lot of the merch. People maybe don’t expect it, but they might just enjoy it, think we’re pretty cool, but they’re actually coming and buying stuff which means they’re appreciating what we do. It does help, definitely. We did a few dates with Skindred in the run up to this and, again, a completely different crowd. But it always helps to spread the wings and play with different bands. Our fan base has always been, not funny, but a bit strange We always expect younger kids to get into it and the younger kids don’t like it. Our average fan is maybe 35-40-50… yeah, hoary old rockers! But it’s amazing! They enjoy it and look like they’re Motorhead fans and then the younger kids are like “why is nobody singing?” “where’s the fucking beat down?”

Is some of that because you work to create an album which is more important, perhaps, to people of an older generation?

We’ve never thought about it like that, but you might be right about that because kids nowadays just download songs, whereas when we were young we bought the full thing and listened all the way through. I think that I’ve always come, recording wise, that I want to make an album that sounds like the shit that I want to listen to. I don’t pretend to particularly give a toss about what anybody else wants me to listen to, but it’s kind of perfect to write the sort of stuff that I want to do. The stuff I’d sit at home and listen to.

And that, again, is perhaps what makes you stand out…

Possibly, yeah.

You had John Laughlin on the album, how did that come about?

Me and Dan had been friends with them for ages. We were in a different band before RSJ and we’ve been friends with them for years and we always kept in contact and something we always thought would be really cool would be if we could get him to do some vocals. Funnily enough he was well up for it. So, we went down to Corby with a little thing with a microphone, told him to shout into it and that was one of the drop ins because it was quite late in the day when we got the OK. It was literally just a matter of ringing up and he was like “yeah, yeah of course!” Then it was like “Do you want to do a video?” “Yeah, yeah, of course!” Then, live, because we’ve been touring with them, we got him to come out with us and do it live. It’s just because he’s a friend and the music industry’s a bit like that. Also, Dan’s been out on tour with Speedhorn for the last few weeks filling in for Frank, so it’s crossed over a bit. There’s nothing more to it than that. We asked him and he said he’d love to. We’ve got Ollie Simmonds as well on the album, which is the only bit of singing on the album, Ollie’s with the qemists who are, again, a band who are totally different to us but it’s really cool to play with them.  

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