"Sounds like an advancing storm." The Guardian
The noise loving Newcastle-Upon-Tyne quintet featuring Matt Baty, Sam Grant, Adam Ian Sykes, John-Michael Hedley and Christopher Morley.
Powerful, primal, passionate music-making. An infectious, ambitious, raucous, riff-driven record. A workout of sheer musical magnitude and absolutely their best yet.
Hey Colossus, Part Chimp, Flat Worms, Heavy Lungs, IDLES, Girl Band, Black Sabbath
Five minutes with....Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs
Congratulations on Viscerals, your third album and our Album of the Month for April! We hope you're all keeping well under the circumstances, but hope that the arrival of the new record offers a big lift to yourselves, your fans and beyond.
The album is being released during an extraordinary time, where much is uncertain and the world feels temporarily suspended. How are you approaching this altered landscape as a band?
Adam Ian Sykes (guitar): It’s a strange time to be releasing an album, no doubt, but the reception and support we’ve had from people has been incredible. It’s odd spending months preparing for a long period of touring an album for that to be pulled from underneath from you but despite that, we’ve really enjoyed the run up to release and we’re still excited to get it out there for people to hear.
Christopher Morley (drums): We are still trying to figure out what we can do together, which isn't a whole lot, comparatively.
I have a whole load of drum ideas recorded on my phone, so i will soon be pinging those around in emails so we can start writing album 4 before we have played a note of album 3 in a live setting. Extraordinary times.
Matt Baty (vocals): We're trying to keep busy and staying positive. We're still excited about the release but of course, our plans have altered a little now so we're trying to think up as many things we can do collectively to celebrate it with everyone.
We're seeing nice reactions to the album which lifts our spirits and we're chatting to plenty of people about it too which is keeping us busy at a time when we'd be otherwise twiddling our thumbs and building model aircraft or something.
Sam Grant (guitar/producer): It’s pretty surreal, it’s an enormous shift of dynamic globally, and it’s maybe a bit bigger than my head can make sense of in the moment. I imagine with some time and space I’ll understand the implications to the band a bit more. But, I feel pretty reluctant to try and quantify or measure the impact on us as a group. We have to respect the relative nature of the situation, and not dwell on alternative realities.
I’ve been thinking about how, as individuals and as a group, we’ve always been uncompromising in our efforts to make music for us, and make music that speaks to our craving for an outlet. So regardless of environmental context we’ve already had that privilege, and made an album we’re really proud of.
I should also add that, with the support of people like Rough Trade, we’re still able to reach an audience, albeit online or via physical sales, which isn’t possible right now for a lot of bands who need some support. So for that we’re really grateful!
John-Michael Hedley (bass): Thank you so much for making Viscerals your album of the month! It really is a huge honour. Your support over the last few years has been massively appreciated by us all and we can't wait to eventually get ourselves back into your loving arms for our rearranged instore shows later this year.
It really is a crazy time, this was supposed to be the busiest year of my life. Then all of a sudden it's now the quietest. I'm still adjusting to not being on the go at full throttle all the time, but now is a rare opportunity to stop and take stock on all of the amazing things that we've done over the last couple of years, which I'm seeing as a positive. Things have been so hectic for us of late, so having time to look back on and reflect is quite nice as well.
As a band we're still relentlessly badgering our manager Brad and each other via whatsapp on a daily basis and trying to come up with ideas of how to keep things moving during these weird times on conference calls too. It's also an opportunity for us to individually work on new ideas for the next album. I've got a few riffs in my back pocket that are slowly starting to formulate, so I think before long we'll try and have some sort of practice over facetime... Also Matt's booked a virtual bass lesson with me, so I can teach him the rest of ‘Iron Man’ by Black Sabbath. Me and Adam have decided that online gaming is our new thing too, so we've been honing our Fortnite Squad Battles skills most days, DM us if you fancy joining us one night :)
Have you refined any kind of method or new techniques to the way you work since making King Of Cowards?
Adam Ian Sykes: We approached Viscerals a little differently, there was a little more focus on creating more melodic pieces, albeit a semi-conscious focus. Personally, I often wait to write my lead lines until we’re in the studio recording and while that was still the case with the solos, there was more interplay between me and Sam that we worked on during the writing sessions. One day we’ll fully explore the Thin Lizzy guitar harmonies.
Christopher Morley: I guess the only thing that changed in the method was giving ourselves less time to write and just as little time to record
Matt Baty: We've not tried to reinvent the wheel too much. We know what we're good at and we know what we enjoy so it feels like it'd be a fruitless task trying to mess around with our approach too much. Sam always has a clear vision of how he'd like our albums to finish up texturally and dynamically. With each album he's come up with great ways of giving them their own character. A lot of elements of this album were run through a huge old school plate reverb that he built himself. He's also a dab hand at DIY.
We also had the album mastered at Abbey Road too which was a nice day out.
Sam Grant: With regards to the recording and production side of things I’ve committed to some new techniques that really heavily fed into this album, yeah. For this record, and for Richard Dawson’s 2020, I became really focused on creating process restrictions that limit the tools available and force creative choices within a smaller landscape. With Viscerals, for example, I built a plate reverb, which was (as a rule) to be used as a primary reverb, and focused on a particular ribbon mic which had to be used on every source to some degree. I’ve been finding that this limiting of options, and the subsequent need for creativity with a limited palette, really helps in defining the sonics and giving the album a personality. For Viscerals I feel like it’s created a more characterful and focused sounding record this time around.
John-Michael Hedley: For me I think the method was fairly similar to King of Cowards. We each come up with a bunch of riff ideas and bring them to the table once we're all booked in together. I suppose one little difference would be that Chris and I spent a couple of practices together going over ideas. He sent me a rough recording of a beat he'd come up with and we met up to work something out. I went to the practice with very little in the way of ideas in mind, but as soon as he started playing his drums the riffs just flew out of my gangly limbs. After a half hour jam we had the bones of 'Reducer' written.
How did you know when Viscerals was complete?
Adam Ian Sykes: We’ll know when it’s released.
Christopher Morley: When the 2 weeks in the studio was over.
Matt Baty: When the Gods Of Rock turned all of the power off in the studio we knew we had pleased them and it was complete.
Sam Grant: That’s a tricky question. We demoed the album, bar a few bits here and there, and we were fairly confident with how things felt before we started the recording process. So to some extent we knew then. But that feeling of things being complete exists in different forms, and I guess right up until mastering there was always a sense that X or Y isn’t quite there yet, or some part here or there could do with some more attention.
I guess a definitive moment though came with the mastering. We were really lucky to get to go to Abbey Road and master the record with Christian Wright. I think hearing it at that point, through the eyes/ears of someone like Christian, and feeling a confidence in the music as it was played through was a good moment, and one that probably signified that feeling of a conclusion.
John-Michael Hedley: When Sam finally peels himself away from the mixing desk and gives us the nod. He's always the first one one in the studio and the last one to leave. We've played together since we were kids and in that time he's really grown into a finely tuned engineering and production wizard. I massively trust his judgement and vision when it comes to producing albums.
You're a band with personality in abundance, which we adore by the way. How much do your individual personalities inform the music you produce?
Adam Ian Sykes: I like to think Johnny’s mullet really comes through on the record.
Christopher Morley: Thanks. I think the need to lock into a heavy groove, with or without a massive riff, informs the music far more than any of us as individual personalities do.
That said, I guess the diversity of this album has been shaped by the 5 of us pulling a little harder in whatever direction we happened to be facing at the time, which stretched things out somewhat.
Matt Baty: I like to think amongst all the absurdity and theatrics of our music there's an honesty to it. We're intense, passionate (and daft) people and I definitely think there's a reflection of that in our recordings and live, for sure.
Sam Grant: I think it informs the music enormously. I guess personality coming across in that way suggests a confidence in ourselves, which helps massively when it comes to something as subjective as creativity. I should say, it’s definitely the case that we each have dips mentally, and occasionally we all have periods where we’re a little less assured or outspoken, but by-and-large we know what we want to do with our music - both individually and collectively - and that personality finds its way into the process constantly.
It makes things really fun as well, and that’s possibly just as important, if not more important, than the outcome being any good!
John-Michael Hedley: I think there's a good balance of seriousness and fun in this band, which I feel comes across on record and live. I recently saw a comment by someone stating that they couldn't work us out because we "look like a bunch of sixth-formers, sound like my mother’s worst nightmare and now there is a sensible accountant working from home. Don’t ever change; I love you guys." We're not really trying to project any type of image, we're just being who we are. I like the fact that we don't look like we fit into the type of music we're playing. 6th formers have got the riffs, man. I'm not sure if I've answered that question...
What will most surprise fans when listening to Viscerals?
Adam Ian Sykes: From an inside perspective it’s hard to say but ‘Blood and Butter’ surprised us while we were making it.
Christopher Morley: I think how varied all the tracks are, sonically and style wise.
Matt Baty: I think there's scope for some of the new songs to engage big stadium style sing-alongs at live shows, especially ‘World Crust’ and ‘Crazy In Blood’. We just need to be able to fill those stadiums somehow now. Might email the NFL and see if there's a half time slot available for next year's Super Bowl. Could be a big one that I reckon.
Sam Grant: I guess ‘Blood and Butter’ might raise a few eyebrows, as it’s a bit of a diversion from any of the output on the previous records.
John-Michael Hedley: ‘World Crust’, without a doubt... Also maybe the uncomfortable length and harshness of ‘New Body’ so early on in the album. Actually, hopefully they make it to ‘World Crust’. One thing that surprised me about the album is that I listened to it so much after it was finished... I rarely give my own music so many listens once it's done. I'm going to take that as a good sign. I'm gonna say it... It's an absolute banger m8.
The video for Rubbernecker is quite something, visually stunning and an awesome concept. Can you talk us through how it was devised?
Matt: The album artwork and some of the lyrics throughout the album have a 70s B-Movie horror style to them and we thought the video for Rubbernecker would be a perfect opportunity to play around with that concept some more. A lot of the credit should go to Rafael Bonilla Jr for taking the ball and running with it. Here's some words from the man himself: "The video is about the band being trapped in limbo and forced to perform in a circus for the dead kids that reside there. They are watched over by a clown that kills them off one by one, kind of like a slasher film, which entertains the kids more than the circus acts. A lot of the imagery in the video is inspired by the painting "The Harrowing of Hell" by Hieronymous Bosch."
Christopher Morley: We heard the track and we all very quickly decided to go down the circus/clowning route, but obviously keeping in key with the dark nature of the lyrics and music. A few months later and we had a class video to go with our song, complete with us all in claymation!
Sam Grant: Yeah, we’re really chuffed with how that video came out. We came across Raf, who made the video, via Brad our manager, and it was felt pretty immediately that we should work with him to make a video. So when it came to what the video would be, and given Matt’s lyrics about the circus, tight rope and what not, some sort of interpretation of that world felt like the way to go.
I was keen on the idea of us being members of the circus - the cliched troupe of performers in some sort of other-world - and was also big into the idea of us all being killed in gruesome ways while [unsuccessfully] tackling some sort of threat, and the inclusion of a huge spider!
So we thought about some more of the details this end and gave Raf a loose idea of it all, from which he stitched it all together into the world in the video. He totally nailed it!
John-Michael Hedley: If I remember rightly the idea was devised over a couple of pints with all kinds of weird and wonderful ideas being thrown at the wall. Brad had alerted us to the amazing Rafael Bonilla Jr and we immediately wanted them on board. Luckily they were really into it and started on it straight away. The end product is incredible, I'm very proud to have been immortalised in clay and laid to waste by some creepy clown.
What’s the most important thing making music has taught you?
Adam Ian Sykes: If I can do it, anyone can.
Christopher Morley: You can never go back
Matt Baty: Me and Johnny were in an old band who supported RZA when he played in Barrow In Furness one time (I'm not even making this up). When he was onstage he said to the audience "If you're not having a good time, you're wasting your time". That's something that's always stuck with me and is a philosophy I try to carry alongside making music. Thanks RZA.
Sam Grant: It’s constantly teaching me things. But maybe the most important lesson is to stay in the moment, and be in the now as much as possible. When we play live or in practice, or when I’m mixing stuff, it’s such a magic head space to be in. It can be so cathartic and therapeutic, and is no doubt really positive for my mental health. So I guess the most important thing making music has taught me is to keep making music!
John-Michael Hedley: Music for me is about having fun. It taught me that when I first picked up a bass 20 years ago, that still applies today.