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Interview with The Answer
04 March 2015
THE ANSWER Raise A Little Hell!
Call your album 'Raise A Little Hell' and you better mean business. Well, Northern Ireland's The Answer always mean what they say and they're always ready for business - something another lengthy and imminent UK tour illustrates perfectly. With their new (and fifth) album so titled, it was up to bassist Micky Waters to stick his money where his band's mouth is. Rocktopia's Steven Reid is your hell-raiser!
So, Micky 'Raise A Little Hell'? That's a statement of intent is it not??
Ha, It is! And that's exactly what we intend to do. This album certainly reflects where our heads are at right now; our love for writing and performing Rock music has never been stronger...
We are playing a lot of the new material on this tour, really shaking up our set on this run. We can't wait to get up there to rip it up, let our audience let their hair down and raise a little hell with us, its healthy!
However if the album title is a statement of intent, then the album opener 'Long Live The Renegades' lives up to that and then some. It's as though you're laying down the gauntlet - 'This is The Answer can you take it!?'
Yeah, that song has something about it that captures the best parts of our band, not to mention a face melting solo, first time I heard it back I was blown away. It is a very vibe driven album and we didn't over think our parts. We just trusted each other to put the best performance we could on each track. It was a lot of fun to record, as Rock n' Roll should be. We think that helps to create a feel good factor over the whole album that we hope the listener will enjoy...
Yes, the overriding feeling that comes across with this album is that it sounds like you all had a blast putting it together...
It was. We love playing music, we love the studio experience and we have a lot of fun hanging out together. These ingredients are what make The Answer, it is not without dramas but it's mostly a very positive and fun place to be. The album certainly reflects that feeling.
What's impressed me most about 'Raise A Little Hell' is the cohesive diversity it contains. 'Last Days Of Summer' is a huge groove of intensity, 'Aristocrat' sits on an almighty staccato riff, while 'Strange Kinda Nothing' seems almost cinematic in its scope. Was adding a twist of diversity to the unmistakable Answer sound important to you on this album?
You know, we cant help that! It's just something that happens when we write together. We purposely took a different writing approach on 'New Horizon', a more direct and clinical approach which came out with some great results. For this one though, we decided on a more open and free attitude to the song writing. There is a lot of soul in this band, everyone works very hard to bring fresh ideas to the table and capturing a groove on tracks like 'Last Days Of Summer', or creating a track with a cinematic scope like 'Strange Kinda Nothing' is exactly what makes us tick, puts a big smile on our faces and makes all that hard work worthwhile. So yes, diversity is important to us, it keeps it interesting and fresh for us and we believe also for the listener.
During the build up to the album I was struck by a couple of things that were mentioned by Paul Mahon (guitarist) and Cormac Neeson (vocalist)... with Paul saying "Our third album 'Revival' wasn't what people wanted from us. We paid attention and it set us on our way. On 'New Horizon' we cleared the decks and the trauma of all the changes is left behind us", while Cormac stated the new album is "A return to the hard ass Blues Rock n' Roll we hold so dear". Can you describe what it is exactly that you wanted to recapture with 'Raise A Little Hell'?
We still have the same enthusiasm for music as we had when we were 15 - when we first started this band we were playing a lot of Blues based Rock with a Punky attitude. I wouldn't say we lost that on 'Revival' but we certainly over thought things a little. We spent a lot of time on it, a lot! As a bunch of musicians its probably our fave record, but on this album it feels like we have that 'Rise' attitude back. We really just set out to capture some fresh ideas and see where they would take us; it certainly keeps it all very exciting.
So it's your favourite album but you've come away from that 'Revival' approach. Was that album an error of judgement?
Certainly not! We made the music we wanted to make at that moment in time, we may have taken a little too long about getting it out, but there were many changes going on in our camp at that time... it's a great album full of inspired performances that we can only be proud of.
You co-produced your last album 'New Horizon' with the in demand Toby Jepson, however you've worked with Guillermo 'Will' Maya (who was involved with the mixing of 'New Horizon') this time. The results are superb; was there a specific reason why you wanted to work with Guillermo on this album?
Guillermo has worked with us for as far back as the 'Keep Believin'' EP in 2005, few know us better. He is a fun guy and a good friend, we are always very happy to work with him. He has his own residential studio in Spain up in the mountains north of Madrid, a great place for a bunch of musicians to escape to to record a Rock n' Roll album.
And what were the differences between working with Toby and Guillermo - and the differences in the end result?
Yeah it was a different experience, each record always is... With Toby we achieved exactly what set out to record. With Guillermo, we didn't really set an agenda, just that there was none! For this one on some tracks we used the studio as an instrument, like on 'Strange Kinda Nothing'; 'Whiplash' we layered up effects and changed the live room around for different drum sounds for each section to build the track up to a euphoric climax, and on some like 'I Am What I Am' we just focused on capturing a groove by having a few beers and just jamming really...
You've re-signed with Napalm Records for this album. I take it the you must be happy with the relationship that's been built up between yourselves and the label?
Yeah, we have a great relationship, they understand us and let us do our thing and we trust them to work our album and do their best to spread the word and get our Rock out there!
However you've also run a Pledge campaign alongside working with Napalm. I notice that this is an increasingly popular way of doing things - a Pledge campaign and record deal. Is this, in effect, a pre-order/promotion system with the added extras of exclusive videos, song snippets and in-the-studio footage for the fans to engage with?
Pledge is a great vehicle to engage with our fans, so that they can feel involved with the whole process. We are very lucky to have such great fans, and they deserve it to be part of the experience.
In that sense, do you think that Pledge has evolved from being a platform for bands to purely raise money to allow them to actually record and release an album independently? As, I believe that this album was actually recorded prior to the Pledge campaign beginning?
It was recorded before, but we had decided to work with Pledge long before the campaign began, hence all the footage showing how we put the album together and that... Yes, I think Pledge is a great way to independently fund and release a record as long as you have realistic expectations..
'New Horizon' had the distinction of having one of the last covers worked on by the legendary Storm Thorgerson. However 'Raise A Little Hell' goes in a completely different direction with a stunning, fun, piece of artwork by Sebastian Jerke. Again it feels like a change, or refocus, in style for the band. Was that the feel you were hoping for?
Yeah, change is good.. it was really just an idea we passed to Sebastian to conjure up the image of little monsters rising up from hell to beat up peoples ears with our Rock music. He took that and developed it into the finished cover, talented guy, right!
As ever you have a good old fashioned, lengthy, UK & Ireland tour lined up for next month. You clearly believe in taking the music to the masses, rather than expecting them to come to you, as bands who do four date "tours" tend to?
Damn right, from Grimsby to Exeter, we are just happy to be out playing!
And I take it you're champing at the bit to get these new songs out there in the live environment, where The Answer always thrive?
Hell yeah! Heading out on a new tour gives us that visceral excitement that got us interested in playing Rock music in the first place. The new stuff is made for live performance, we can't wait to get out there and play it!
And finally do you have any festival dates lined up for the summer?
Yeah, Hellfest, Wacken, Nova Rock, Green Fields to name a few, we should be pretty tight by then! [laughs!]