Skype Interview with Luke Appleton – Sunday 3rd September – Somewhere around lunch time, with a cup of tea!
Interview by Beth Jones and Rick Tilley
For those of you who have not encountered the Appleton family, they are a beacon of professionalism and dedication in the hectic UK Metal scene. Today we had the pleasure of interviewing the baby of the clan, Luke, the rhythm guitarist with Absolva, in preparation for their up and coming European tour. It was great to chat to Luke to find out all about the tour, his journey with Iced Earth, and his views and experiences of the past, present and future of his career.
Ever Metal: It is lovely to be able to catch up with you again – it has been a while since we last spoke. So, the new album with Absolva, ‘Defiance’ came out about a month ago – tell us how that’s going down and how’s it has been accepted by everyone?
Luke: It’s been fantastic actually! We’re really happy with the response all the fans have given us. We’re very proud of this album. It’s been a very pleasurable experience in the studio recording it with everyone. Myself and Chris – my brother, we’ve been working very hard on the writing – a lot more together more than ever actually. On ‘Never A Good Day To Die’, our previous album, we co-wrote a lot of the songs together. However, this time I think we did it even more; I think you can tell that we’ve taken a lot of influence from the Iced Earth side, and the Blaze Bayley side, and kind of fused them together. I think that definitely shows with ‘Defiance’. It’s been a brilliant experience so far, and all the fans have taking it very well. I can’t wait for the tour really and to play all these new songs live!
Beth: That was my next question! The European Tour is starting 15th September – tell us all about that?
Luke: Well! Big European Tour!! It’s been a while since we’ve toured together due to our other commitments, but we’re very excited about it. We’ve got a good bunch of dates; a lot of these places we’ve been to quite a few times before and had some amazing crowds. We are returning to Germany, France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Czech Republic and we’re doing some shows in the UK in December as well. But we’ve got a very good hardcore following in France at the moment, which has been building for the last few years. We’ve got a very special show in Chez Paulette, for example, that’s going to be really good, we’re selling a lot of tickets for that! It’s always been full of die-hard Absolva fans, so we’re especially looking forward to that. But the whole tour is filled with amazing venues that we’ve been through in the past. It’s almost like a ‘best of’ tour kind of thing, but it’s going to be really good to tour this album. We’re extreme excited to get all the new songs out there.
Beth: So, at the moment the rest of the guys are in America touring with Blaze; What have you been doing while they’re out there?!
RICK: In case people don’t know, of course, you also do another job!
Luke: Yeah! Well whilst the boys have been out over in the States with The Blaze Bayley Band – they’ve been out there for a while now, but they’re coming home soon – I’ve been keeping busy with Iced Earth as I’m the bass player. I have been doing the summer festivals with them, which has been very fun actually! We’ve only just finished a few weeks ago, but we had about 12 festivals all over Europe. We did some really amazing ones. One of my personal highlights was Alcatraz Festival in Belgium. Belgium has always been kind of a second home for me. I’m sure the Belgium beer has something to do with that!! (lots of laughing) But the people are amazing.
We did Metaldays in Slovenia, and Sweden Rocks Festival. We did some amazing stuff, and we were out there promoting our new album, ‘Incorruptible’, which was released only a couple of months ago again. So, it’s been fantastic to tour that album a little bit and get to see all the Iced Earth boys again!
Beth: How does the balance between Absolva and Iced Earth work?
Luke: It’s surprisingly easy! The scheduling has been pretty amazing! As soon as I joined Iced Earth I thought, ‘everything is going to be 110 percent Iced Earth’, which in a lot of ways it is – Iced Earth is the priority for me – but I just thought I’d have no time for anything else. My down time would be just me sitting at home waiting for the next Iced Earth tour! But, it’s worked out well, so in between those gaps I’ve had with Iced Earth, we’ve been able to plan Absolva tours with my brother (Chris Appleton – Absolva singer and lead guitarist) and so far, we haven’t really had any clashes, so it’s worked out very well – if I’m on tour with Iced Earth for a couple of months, it’s usually the case that my brother and the rest of the Absolva band are on tour with Blaze. It’s got such so much potential to become very messy, and we could clash a lot of the tour dates, but so far, it’s worked out really brilliantly! Fingers crossed that it will carry on like that for the coming years.
RICK: Does John (John Schaffer – founder member of Iced Earth) mind? Because I seem to remember when you first joined that there was a thought that you wouldn’t be able to do other stuff, but in the last couple of years, especially, I’ve seen, you more and more with Absolva. So, is he still happy with you moving across and doing other stuff?
Luke: Yeah. I basically just asked his permission, and what he thought about this thing, and he was perfectly fine with it. He was always fine with me doing recordings with the band and then as Absolva grew, I did more tours with them. Obviously, the past few years Iced Earth haven’t been completely full on, so I’ve been able to do more and more Absolva tours. Iced Earth are going to get ramped up again next year and do a full on proper tour for ‘Incorruptible’. That’s more potential for things to clash, se we are going to have to prioritize and plan out with a bit more care. But so far so good! I’m very happy with the way I can balance everything out and it’s been good. I think everybody’s happy about that.
Beth: So, you’ve had a pretty crazy year, so far; What’s been your highlight of this year?
Luke: Well, playing live is my main drive in the music business really. I love playing live and to play at these festivals this past summer has been fantastic really. There’s been some amazing audiences; some huge crowds we’ve done, so that is always my biggest adrenaline rush. That’s always going to be a highlight for me. At the beginning of the year, it was quite hectic because I was recording two albums!! I was recording ‘Incorruptible’ for Iced Earth, and ‘Defiance’ for Absolva. We did ‘Defiance’ first, I think it was the end of December beginning of January, something like that, then literally a few days after I finished in the studio with Absolva, I flew out to the States to record ‘Incorruptible’. So, it was ‘right I’ve got to switch from Absolva a mode and go in to Iced Earth mode’ which I found really fun, because it was just a good solid month or two just on the songwriting and recording. It was brilliant to just zone out everything else and focus purely on the songs, and to go over to the States and stay with John and the boys for a little over a week or so, record my bass parts and just hang out – that was really nice. It’s something we don’t get much chance to do because we all live so far away from each other – everybody lives in the States, the singer lives in Canada, and I live here in England. So, it’s great to just hook up and do some song writing and get to hang out a bit.
Beth: How do you keep going with the schedule you have?! Do you ever sleep?!!
Rick: Not just you – it’s Chris and the boys too, as well as Mark and Lynne – you just never stop!!
Luke: That’s the way we like it! When Chris had some down time, he decided ‘I don’t want to have down time – I’m going to record an acoustic album and going to call it Restless!!’ So, it kind of like that with all our lives really, because we just don’t really want to stop! Whatever opportunity we get, we’ll always find something to do – go on tour, write an album, do something you know, whether it’s within the grounds of our bands and what we do; Me and Chris have similar kind of goals and aspects with what we do – our main thing again is playing live really. We want to play as many shows as possible, but also make sure the quality of those shows is the best possible. So those are our goals, and I think in this tour with Absolva coming up in a couple weeks, that is definitely going to show. It’s going to be fantastic to play this new album because I think this is going to be a big album for Absolva. We both have that same feeling and hope for this tour.
Beth: It is a superb album. We were listening to it again last night. I love it – it’s brilliant!
Luke: Thank you. We are very, very proud of it.
Rick: Well there aren’t many bands, nowadays, that can do four studio albums and a live album in basically five years is there? I can’t think of any other bands that could work at that schedule. It’s very old school isn’t it – it’s how it used to work?
Luke: Yeah exactly. It’s just an album a year we kind of used to work off, and whether it’s a live album or a studio album, we’ve just done it. We’re very, very pleased with it. And again, it’s something we want to do – we want to keep busy, keep the fans entertained, keep the material coming out – every time we release an album, a couple of months down the line, they ask ‘when’s the next one out?’! We haven’t even toured this one yet!!! (lots of laughing)
Beth: So, what’s next in the long term? Your plans for the next year with Absolva and Iced Earth?
Rick: You’ve mentioned Iced Earth touring much more next year, so if Absolva tour again, they will be going out without you, we assume?
Luke: We try and avoid that as much as possible – It has happened where Absolva have done it without me, I think it was SOS last year – SOS Festival which is the Appleton run festival in Manchester -Absolva did it without me and they just performed as a three piece because I was playing at Bang Your Head Festival in Germany with Iced Earth. That’s probably one of the only times we’ve ever done it, but we try and avoid that as much as possible and plan ahead as much as possible so that we can all be together, because the line -up is us four in Absolva now, we’ve established that, it’s not a three piece. It’s definitely us four as a band. So, we like to try and make that happen as much as possible.
There is going to be more Iced Earth touring because we really want to push the new album ‘Incorruptible’. Plans are going to come to a head for next year, but whilst that’s going to happen, the rest of the boys in Absolva have got another album to do with Blaze Bayley, which I believe they are recording at the end of this year. That will kind of finalize the trilogy of the Blaze Bayley’s story. They are going to tour that heavily, pretty much do exactly the same as they’ve done this year and last year, just do a mega tour for this as a finale of his trilogy. I think the scheduling is going to line up pretty similarly again. Iced Earth are going to be on tour whilst Blaze are on tour so it’s impossible to do any Absolva in that time. But something probably will happen for Absolva – we’ve just got to plan it and finalize it. It’s definitely worth keeping an eye out for.
Beth: You are playing in Sound Control, Manchester in December as part of the Absolva tour. How much are you looking forward to that– your home coming gig?
Luke: Very much so actually! Because even though we live here, we don’t actually get to play it that much, so it’s really nice that to finish the tour off, the last two shows of the December run, after Newcastle and Glasgow, are Manchester which is mine, Chris’ and Martin’s home town, and then we’ve got Swindon, which is Karl, our Bass player’s home town, so it’s really cool! We get to finish the whole tour off with two hometown shows. I think that’s going to be really special – there’s going to be a lot of good vibes, a lot of friends, family and a lot of really good hardcore fans there. I’m looking forward to that because it’s going to be a very good celebration, and home coming, if you want to say that, after a big long tour. It’s going to be good – definitely a highlight.
Beth: With you all being so busy, is it difficult to find a good work / life balance? Or does it just become your life?!
Luke: It’s pretty much become my life. Whenever I’m at home, I’ve got some hardcore friends and whatnot who really have stuck by and supported me throughout the years, since we really started to be honest, but the band comes first. There’s so many birthdays and family occasions that we’ve missed because the band always comes first. Many relationships with the boys have come and gone, kind of thing, but you know – it’s a hard life to handle, but we’ve got our eye on the prize!
Beth: An interesting one for you here – Will we ever see a Fury UK gig again for nostalgia’s sake?
Luke: We get asked this quite a lot actually! I really like the idea of it. However, it’s just finding the time to do it! Obviously, we’ve got three bands to balance with, so throwing a fourth in there – there are only a certain amount days in the year, you know! I would really like it to be honest. My dream plan would be getting Fury UK to headline at SOS Festival one year and make a little mini tour around that – a lot of people in the UK ask for it and a lot of people in Belgium were really keen on Fury UK, so it would be really good to do that again; to bring back all those lovely memories that we had, and to treat the fans. A lot of those Fury UK fans have gone on to follow Absolva and keep on backing the band. We still get people coming to Iced Earth shows even with an old Fury UK CD, wanting me to sign that. So, the fans still remember! It would be really cool to do that one day and we’ve talked about it a few times, it’s just finding the time and the place really. I think it will definitely happen. We’ll just discuss it and figure it out first.
Beth: If you had one story, from your career so far, that you’d want to tell the grandkids in years to come, what would it be?
Luke: A non-explicit one probably!! (Lots of laughing) I think one of my most memorable times was in Iced Earth, I would say. It was my first show with the band. We were in Toronto Canada, and we were opening for the band Volbeat. This was my first tour with the band, I think about five years ago now. It was an unbelievably nice but scary feeling. Just before the show I was crazily nervous, because Iced Earth had been one of my favourite bands for many years, and I was over the moon when they offered me the job. I knew a lot of the songs already, and when I was rehearsing and everything, I’m like ‘this is great! I’m playing some of my favourite songs, playing with my favourite band’. Then when it came to the day, maybe 10 minutes before the intro was going to start, I was just so nervous – my whole body was shaking – I was just unbelievably nervous and I remember John just coming over to me and giving me a big hug and just saying ‘you’re going to be all right. You’re going to do really well – have fun, just be natural out there’, and then I went on stage, played the first note and the fear went away and adrenaline took over. I think if I ever have grandkids, that would be one story to tell, because that was just such a monumental part of my life and experience. The way I look at it is just overcome your nervousness and your fear, and just go for it and then, ultimately, you will prevail – and something amazing has come out of that. That would be a story that I would like to tell one day.
Beth: You’ve already mentioned next year you going to have a heavier schedule again with Iced Earth in the summer. Have you got any festivals lined up that you can tell us about yet that have already been announced?
Luke: Not at the moment. We’ve not got anything concrete yet. Anything that I would be able to say has to be announced first, but we’ve got some very good plans. I’ve heard a lot of cool discussions about what we’re going to be doing next year. It’s very, very exciting, and it’s killing me that I can’t say it!
Rick: I want you at Bloodstock!
Luke: Yeah, that would be nice. I would love that!! I feel like it’s like a Game Of Thrones spoiler kind of thing! (laughing)
Beth: What about with Absolva – have you got anything with them that is already announced that you can fill us in on?
Luke: At the moment, we’re just focusing on this next tour for Absolva. We want to build a big hype for this and focus really on the shows. Stuff will happen for Absolva again next year – a particular festival in Manchester may happen as well! Everyone can read between the lines there Maybe!! But no, there’s going to be a lot of good stuff coming up and it will be announced very soon, so we’re very excited! Again, it’s going to be Iced Earth and Blaze Bayley; they’re the priorities for the first half of the year and then we’re going to dig into some more Absolva stuff.
Beth: If you were forming a super group, who would your perfect members be?
Luke: OOOh Yes! I’m going to be good at this question because my friend asked me that not too long ago! Is it anybody I can have? (Anybody! Anyone.) Anybody right? Well. Me on bass! Bit biased there, but me on bass. I’d have Tony Iommi on guitar. Glenn Hughes on vocals, ooh, drummer – not thought about that…Oh Mikkey Dee would be a good drummer, from Motorhead, I think that’s a good start for a super group! I suppose I can have another guitarist in there – I’ll have John Schaffer!
Beth: I’d pay good money to see that!
Luke: I think I’d pay good money just to be in the band!! (laughing)
Beth: What’s in your essentials bag for the tour bus?
Luke: No adventurous things. Lots of socks!! Lots of Socks – but I just take general stuff, you know, clothes and everything. I don’t go anywhere without my laptop – that’s my baby!! I always take a little interface with me as well, so I can actually plug my guitar into the interface, into my music program on my laptop, so I can just jam away in the dressing room, or if I’m in a hotel room, or something like that. So, inspiration can spark up anywhere kind of thing. The rider is much better than what I put in my bag actually! Bottles of rum and beers everywhere! That’s more like it!! (laughing)
Beth: What’s the most random thing you’ve ever had on a rider then?
Luke: Well Blaze likes to put a pair of socks on his rider!!! We don’t like doing laundry on tour, you see, so if we get a pair of socks every gig we’re all right!!! There was a funny one, one time; it was something to do with a banana! It had to be chopped in a particular way. The theory behind it was if you put this strange thing on the rider, the tour manager walks into the dressing room and sees that the promoter has done this crazy thing with the rider, he doesn’t need to check everything else because if they have done this really stupid thing, then they must have done all the normal things! That was the theory behind the M&M trick, you know, putting all the green M&Ms in a cup or something. So, yeah, that was probably the weird one with the banana!
Beth: We have seen a couple of instances recently of 80s pop icons singing with metal bands – Kim Wilde with Lawnmower Deth, then last week Rick Astley sung with The Foo Fighters. Who would you pick to sing with you?
Luke: I’m not very good with knowing who’s from which era… erm…. Was Bonnie Tyler from the eighties? Sorry – I’m a baby! Yeah, I’ll say Bonnie Tyler! We played a gig with her once actually, so it was very close to happening! It was cool because we played this festival in Sweden with Iced Earth. It was a very eclectic festival – there was all sorts of stuff going on – so it was Bonnie Tyler and then us!! I didn’t really know how it was going to go, but then all these swarms of metal heads came in after all the Bonnie Tyler fans!! It was quite a sight to see!
Rick: There’s one thing I’d like to ask – I have read about it in the magazine you did with the new Absolva album! Swapping between bass and guitar – how do you find it? I used to drum and it’s all I could do to remember the drum parts sometimes, but you’re going from one band playing bass to another band playing guitar – how do you find it? And I know you get on well with Karl (Bass player in Absolva) but how does the relationship work there?
Luke: Changing in-between the instruments I find quite fun, because it’s good to get a perspective on both sides of what you’re playing. With Absolva, I think it works very well because I do twin lead guitar solos and whatnot with Chris but I’m mainly the rhythm guitar player, so I’m all about staying with the bass and the drums. So, I’m still on the rhythm section page.
My relationship with Karl is very good, we get along really well, we have a lot in common, but we also have this little friendly rivalry going on. If we’re playing an Absolva a song that I demoed and wrote the bassline for, I’ll say, ‘Come on Karl – you need to play this properly!’ and then he will return and say, ‘you may have written the bassline but I improved it!’. So, there’s this little friendly rivalry and jokes going on but it’s all friendly you know – we never start punching each other or anything!! Not maliciously anyway!
But, the swapping between guitar and bass Is fine. I find it very fun. I love playing guitar. I find it a lot easier to write a song on a guitar than I do a bass. However, I prefer playing a bass because I feel like I have a little bit more freedom; improvising with the drums, and whatever fills the drummer does, I feel like I should follow. With a guitar, I believe that you’re a little bit more limited with what you play, because it’s all about the melodies really, and the guitar you can hear playing those melodies a lot more than a bass player would do. As long as I’m staying within the groove of the song, I like to throw in a lot of fills with what the drummer is playing whether that’s Iced Earth, Fury UK, Whatever. The best way of describing it is what John says; I believe the bassist has to be the rock of the band. It needs to be together with the drums and the glue between the drummer and guitar player. That’s the best way of describing it in my opinion because it really is the base of the band – it’s like creating a house; You’ve got your base, then your upper levels and your singer is your roof. I had a comment when I went into the studio with John and I was playing bass and he said, ‘right snap out of guitar mode get into bass mode’! So sometimes I do just have to say, ‘right, okay, I’m playing bass right now’! But I find it fun, more often than not!
Ever Metal: Well that is it Luke. Thanks so much for talking to us today and we are really looking forward to the tour, and hopefully we will get to the Manchester date to come and see you.
Luke: Thank you for taking the time to talk to me and we’ll have a beer in Manchester!
The Absolva ‘Defiance’ tour 2017 kicks of next week in Germany and, from listening to the album and knowing how hard these boys work, we can pretty much tell you now with 100% confidence that it is going to be amazing. If you can make one of the dates, do, because we promise you won’t be disappointed!! We would like to thank Luke again for his time talking to us, and wish him and the rest of Absolva immense luck and success for the tour and beyond.
For more information on the Band, the tour, and of course their other bands, Iced Earth and Blaze Bayley, here are the links you need:
Disclaimer: This interview is solely the property of Richard Tilley, Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to do adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities