Disclaimer: This photo album is solely the property of Beth Jones. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of these images, unless you have the strict permission of said party. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.
Pentre Fest 2020 Day Two
Mcleans, Pentre, North Wales
Review by Rick Tilley, Alun Jones and Beth Jones
Pictures by Beth Jones
Saturday’s Pentre Fest, Day Two review is a collaborative affair between myself, Alun and Beth. I’ve made it clear who wrote what and I would like to thank them for their help, as well as looking after a broken 52 year old (me!) who cannot get around as quickly as he used to!
On the Saturday morning, pleasantly surprised that we weren’t hurting as much as we thought we might, we set off back to Mcleans, pausing only to pick up Powerzone’s Dani Maguire on the way, ready for a full day of Metal and Acoustic performances. It was noticeably quieter upon arriving, but a fair amount of alcohol had been consumed on the Friday, so I imagine there were a few sore heads! However, the always faithful had dragged themselves out of bed to watch the opening band of the day on the main stage…
Pop/Punker Cheerfully Undiagnosed (aka Adam Robinson) had also performed early on the Saturday at Pentre Fest the previous year, waking everyone up and putting a smile on our collective faces. Now expanded to a two piece, (with the addition of a drummer) they did the same this year. Vocalist/Guitarist Adam will probably be the first to admit that the material is simple, but he performs it with a huge glint of fun in his eyes and is very comical to boot. Getting a selection of hungover and tired metallers to sing along to tracks such as ‘I’ve Just Been Sick’ and ‘Unsolicited Dick Pic’ was hilarious to watch and take part in and it’s just the sort of thing you need to kick your day into gear!
One person we certainly hadn’t expected to see was Edd Case. In the week running up to Pentre Fest Edd had been taken ill, spending two days in hospital, so to see him turn up on the Saturday with his guitar, looking like death warmed up was a bit of a shock. After telling him off, he proceeded to blow us all away on the acoustic stage with a short set of songs, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him play or sound better. His original songs are beautifully written and any covers he plays are turned completely on their head, always recognisable but played in a way only he can. He was excellent but, like Brian, he was still ‘a very naughty boy’ for turning up!
Next up on the main stage we were due to get our first proper Metal fix of the day from a band I hadn’t seen live before but was really looking forward to, Manchester based NWOTHM four piece Stormrider and ‘by the power of Greyskull’ did they deliver. If, like me, you love a good dose of Trad Metal, mixed up with some Power and Thrash influences, played as tightly as a gnat’s chuff and delivered with the force of a Challenger Tank then you’ll love Stormrider. Their not long enough set was excellent and looking around at the growing crowd it was clear I wasn’t the only one who thought so. Afterwards I immediately went and bought their EP and hope it isn’t too long before we see them again!
I nipped outside for a breather and immediately got caught up talking to people. For my sins I missed most of the next artist on the acoustic stage but, luckily, Alun didn’t so here are his thoughts on Rhiannon.
Rhiannon Petrou (Why’d You Wanna Know)
Sadly, Pentre Fest suffered a few casualties this year. One such example was on the acoustic stage, where Rachel Sian Roberts, one half of the newly formed duo, Why’d You Wanna Know, was hospitalised and (obviously) unable to perform. But the show must go on: and Rhiannon performed a short but enjoyable set on the acoustic stage. Admittedly out of her comfort zone, playing guitar as well as singing (having only started to learn guitar a month ago) she soldiered on and won plaudits for her effort. Only a few minor mistakes were noticed – and easily forgiven. Possessing a beautiful singing voice she even managed to add a ghostly, ethereal sheen to a cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ – making it sound good for the first time ever!
Having seen the end of Rhiannon’s set and thinking what a beautiful voice she had, I headed back to the main stage to get another blast of METAL, this time from Huddersfield Thrashers RipTide, another band I hadn’t seen live before. Now Thrash is one of my favourite genres. I’m old enough to have been around when it all began and saw bands such as Exciter, Exodus, Testament and Destruction etc play when they were starting out. I was also lucky enough to see Sy Keeler’s first gig singing with Onslaught, which still stands as one of the best live performances I’ve ever witnessed. Why am I on a trip down memory lane you may ask? Well, RipTide filled me with that same sense of open-mouthed awe I got as a teenager witnessing my idols for the first time. They possess everything a Thrash band needs and they do it with style. There’s definitely an old-school ‘Bay Area’ element to their sound, but it’s mixed with a modern-day twist and slightly harsher vocals, which brings everything into the 21st Century. They were incredibly tight, playing at break neck speed when they needed to, but slowing down and leaving space for the groove as well. A highlight of the weekend, you must not miss them if they gig near you!
Mine and Beth’s recent return to Ever Metal, for some reason, seemed to be going down well for many people attending and I got chatting again outside after Riptide. This meant I missed the beginning of Mike West’s set on the acoustic stage. Having seen him before I knew he was good, but Alun hadn’t, so here’s what he thought!
If the connection between metal and outlaw country isn’t obvious to any readers, I can only pity you. I’ve never witnessed Mike West before, but his amalgamation of southern rock, dusty country and swampy blues was a delight to my old whiskey-soaked soul. Mike delivers his songs with a hard rockin’ swagger, as if he’s just busted out of Tombstone jail and is riding across the plains, lamenting women and fortunes lost. A great voice and an outstanding presence, Mike is one to catch when you can. Has anyone done a “Wild West” gag yet? If not, there’s a headline for us there!
After Mike’s great set, it wasn’t long before our Master of Ceremonies ‘Beany’ was rounding everyone up to head back to the main stage. He didn’t have to coerce me because I had been looking forward to seeing Forlorn Hope for about a year. Historical Heavy Metal may sound odd to some (although, it’s never done Sabaton any harm) but Forlorn Hope manage it with aplomb. They have been described as “a musical version of Bernard Cornwall’s ‘Sharpe’ novels” and I couldn’t put it any better myself. They haven’t been together that long, but arrived on stage like a much more seasoned outfit. Their Classic Heavy Metal sound mixed with Military History of the Peninsular War of 1807-1814 lyrics and a little in-between song humour from vocalist/rhythm guitarist Chris Simpson works perfectly and you should really seek them out. If there is one negative it is that keyboard player Jade McKenna doesn’t get more involved or smile. Her playing is more than acceptable, and the keyboards definitely add something to the music, but she looks very ‘stiff’ on stage compared to the rest of the band!
By this point my spine was starting to groan and I needed a break, so I’ll leave you in the more than capable hands of Beth who went to check out Ben MIlford on the Acoustic Stage.
Normally we’re used to seeing Ben shredding in the shadows, as he’s the super skilled, but incredibly humble, guitarist in OMV. His acoustic performance wasn’t just a new experience for us – it was also the first time he’d done an acoustic set on his own. Talking to him beforehand, we discovered that he was pretty nervous about it, because it meant stepping out of his comfort zone by singing as well as playing. He needn’t have been nervous though, because his performance was brilliant, and he has a lovely voice. On a couple of songs, he had extra vocal support from his band mate Richie, front man of OMV, and the unstoppable Edd Case! To be honest though, he didn’t need it. He did a fabulous job on his own, and we got to see another side of him, which we really liked.
Scars Of Remembrance
Sore back or not, I wasn’t going to miss our friends in Scars Of Remembrance, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made for a long time, so I hope you don’t mind me waxing lyrical! Since vocalist Mike Edwards’ departure from the band late last year, SOR have been without a steady frontman. They’d decided that, for this gig, guitarist Mark Harris was going to sing (he already does backing vocals and has a good voice), but it was clear beforehand that he was in pain. It turns out he had cracked two ribs in a fall and wasn’t able to play guitar, and I think there were nerves within the band as to how this was going to go down.
They needn’t have worried, because within half a song, the now much more healthy crowd was looking at the stage and at each other in astonishment. Regardless of the pain he was in, which must have been very uncomfortable and deserves a medal on its own, no-one could quite believe the voice (both clean and screamed) that was coming from Mark’s lungs. He is a very quiet individual off stage, but this was an absolutely mesmerising performance, and easily the best I had ever seen Scars Of Remembrance play. Having just four of them on stage gives them more space. Bassist Karl Ditcher certainly came out of his shell (he also joined in on backing vocals presenting an excellent bear-like roar), guitarist Daniel Dawson admirably covered the missing guitar with his riffing, and drummer Ben Burke played like a man possessed, thumping the living daylights out of the kit. However, Mark was the star of the show and it’s quite obvious that they don’t need to find a new singer!
Afterwards, many people spent an awful lot of time telling them this, and I really hope they listen. I already thought they were a great band, but this performance elevated them to the next level! My band of the weekend bar none!
Back at the acoustic stage it was time for Adam Robinson to play a set and I shall leave Beth to tell you about that.
Adam Robinson (Cheerfully Undiagnosed)
Still stoked from what I’d just seen on the main stage, I headed back to the acoustic room to watch Adam Robinson deliver his second set of the day, this time acoustically and on his own. It was no less cheerful than his earlier offering, and his witty banter and repartee kept the crowd enthralled. Again, his chosen songs weren’t overly fussy or complex, just good fun. He is a great act if the audience need a bit of a giggle and a livener, and his endearing stage persona could warm the hearts of even the coldest of souls!
At this point, along with Dani from Powerzone, we had arranged to interview the bonafide superstar, and absolute gentleman, that is Luke Appleton (Iced Earth & Absolva), alongside Rishi Mehta (Babylon Fire) who would be performing an acoustic set together later that day. While we did that Alun was watching OMV and here are his thoughts!
On the main stage, OMV entered dressed like a bunch of West Coast gangsters in masks and bandanas. Introduced as “hardcore street metal”, these guys definitely showed some great musical skills and energy. Somewhere between Bodycount, Suicidal Tendencies and Biohazard is where I’d stack them. Either way, OMV delivered some brutal songs and bounced around with massive crossover riffs. They were very entertaining, although hugely confrontational onstage – I wasn’t sure if they were actually going to pistol whip the audience into submission. The music has enough intensity and power to speak for itself.
While I took a plethora of pain killers, washed down with a pint (don’t have a go at me) Beth headed to the acoustic stage to watch the second performance of the weekend from the excellent Cry For Mercy.
Cry For Mercy Acoustic
We’re quickly running out of adjectives to describe these guys, but I’ll have a bash at a few more here, to describe their set on the acoustic stage! We’re big fans of these guys at Ever Metal, and have seen them many times now, but not stripped back like this. As usual though, their performance was a masterclass in how to deliver a great acoustic rock and blues set. Drummer Steven Taylor kept the rhythms going on Cajon, which gave the set that extra acoustic feel, and the grooves were upheld by guitarist Andy Cutty and bassist/vocalist Kev Plant. This set upheld their super-tight musicianship, with all of them on point all of the time. One of the things I like most about them is how comfortable they look when they play. The feel they give to the music is both smooth and charismatic, and you can’t help being drawn into it, making toe-tapping and head nodding obligatory! This set was so chilled that it would not have been out of place on a ‘hideout’ stage at a midsummer festival somewhere in the Texas Deep South. It oozed groove and proved just how versatile these guys are.
By now I was going numb so I knew I could manage some more music and I went back to the main stage to watch Son Of Boar, however Alun rather enjoyed their set (I did too), so he’s written this short, but very complimentary review.
Son Of Boar
They have a cool name, and they looked pretty cool on stage in matching denim battle-vests. From the very first notes of the bass rumbling on the very first song, I had a feeling that Son of Boar would be something special. I wasn’t wrong. These Bradford bruisers have everything in spades: they’re unfeasibly heavy; they have slow, doomy riffs with a Sabbath-like infectiousness and they have a sludgy, swampy groove that can pack an aggressive punk punch. The best band of Pentre Fest 2020 as far as I was concerned, Son of Boar were superb. I even bought a t-shirt!
At this point Edd Case played a second set on the acoustic stage and it was the one time, all weekend, we missed a performance. However, as we’d seen him earlier in the day and he was still a very naughty boy for even turning up, he’s going to forgive us…aren’t you Edd?
Back at the main stage it was time for the awesome Severenth to play and, once again, they showed why it is so good to have them back on the scene. When these guys were around the first time they toured the US and played the hallowed Wacken Open Air, among others and their pedigree shone through from start to finish. Vocalist Peet Bailey is a wonderful frontman, possessing a huge voice and bags of energy, Ben Jones thunders on the bass, guitarists Jack Somers and Adam Sidor are the perfect foils for each other, and drummer Dave Roberts is a mass of arms and rhythm. Together they a make a brutal, but very catchy team, and the sooner they release a new album the better!
We were now heading towards the climax of the Festival, but there were still two performances to go. First up were the headliners on the acoustic stage, namely Luke Appleton (Iced Earth, Absolva) and Rishi Mehta (Babylon Fire) who put on a wonderful performance. As Alun hadn’t seen Luke acoustically before he kindly supplied the write-up of the set!
Luke Appleton and Rishi Mehta
A really fantastic set was delivered by Mr Luke Appleton on the acoustic stage. In truth, this was a duo performance with Rishi Mehta (of Babylon Fire) playing too, and it was a genuine highlight of Pentre Fest 2020. Dubbed “acoustic metal”, the songs were both suitably laidback, yet delivered with a metal edge. Expertly performed, we had tunes from Luke’s solo “Snake Eyes” project, plus of course some Iced Earth and Absolva numbers. Not to mention a bit of Dio and Tenacious D for good measure! A real class act in every sense of the word, and both very talented and down-to-earth gentlemen.
After a short break, where some of us braved the horrendous wind that was pummelling Mcleans outside (actually, now I think about it, bearing in mind who was due to appear onstage, it could well have been the ‘True Metal wind of Joey DeMaio’s 24 string bass guitar), we headed back to the main stage to witness the climax of Pentre Fest 2020 – WomenOwar!! Now, there had been rumblings (no, not from my stomach) that WomenOwar were threatening to pull out of their performance as there’d been a massive argument between Floss The Boss and Davina Shenkles over who was going to wear the deep blue eyeliner and baby oil, but luckily tragedy was averted! Of course, had this been the real Manowar we would all have been sat twiddling our thumbs calling Joey a complete and utter wan…!
Yes I’m joking, sort of! WomenOwar are an ‘all women, not all women’ Manowar Tribute band and they were absolutely brilliant! Formed for a one-off performance in 2018 they now find themselves in demand, possibly because Manowar really do argue over who is going to wield the He-Man sword and get the best painted on six-pack, but more likely because they are very funny and play the songs superbly!
Made up from members of the awesome Dakesis, Fury and Christgrinder you just knew the musical prowess was going to be top notch, and so it proved to be. Armed with a wig and mascara collection that Steel Panther would be proud of (in fact Manowar would be proud of it as well), they proceeded to blow us all away with a majestic set of Manowar classics that the crowd lapped up! It was the perfect climax to a wonderful weekend. As it says on their website “the band have weathered even the most unconquerable challenges to consistently bring you 100% of the Manowar for 1% of the price of actual Manowar”, and that says everything really. Go see them! You won’t be disappointed, because WomenOwar will actually turn up and play!!
So, that’s Pentre Fest wrapped up for another year. In all seriousness, it was incredible and everyone I spoke to enjoyed themselves immensely. Sound was perfect all weekend on both stages and the only thing that let us down was the weather but having the sometimes ‘not acoustic’ stage inside really worked well!
Massive thanks must go to the team at North East Wales Metal Productions for assembling another cracking line-up of bands and acoustic artists, and especially to Fozzy for getting through what must have been an awful weekend for him.
We were all well looked after by Pat and the staff at Mcleans, they do a sterling job, the bands were friendly and approachable all weekend and, of course, it wouldn’t be the same without all of you who turned up to watch.
Pentre Fest is a wonderful grass roots event and it should be thoroughly applauded. I’m already primed for 2021!
Disclaimer: This review and photographs are solely the property of 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 adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.
Snake Eyes Acoustic Tour 2019
G21 At The Saddle Rock Bar, Chester
Review and Pictures by Beth Jones
After not being to any live music for about six weeks, Rick and I were starting to get cabin fever, and were very glad to be getting out to one of our new favourite local venues, The G21 at The Saddle Rock Bar, Chester. This intimate venue is quirky and basic, but has an awesome feel about it and we were glad to be getting to see not only our favourite local acoustic legend, Edd Case, but also a stalwart of the scene, Luke Appleton, who is nearing the end of his 2019 ‘Snake Eyes’ acoustic tour. Here, he would be joined by the equally hard working and talented Becky Baldwin to add an extra depth to his acoustic set. But more importantly than all this, it was Ian ‘Beany’ North’s birthday, and we were intrigued to see how much he could drink!
We arrived to find everyone in high spirits, which instantly gave us that warm feeling of home that we had missed out on over the last few weeks. The stage was set, the drinks chilled, and the lighting delicately poised to make it possible to take pictures! First up to serenade us was Edd Case.
I have said it before and I will say it again, if you haven’t heard of Edd Case, and you are from round these parts, have you been living under a rock?! Edd is a multi-faceted individual, who has the perfect mix of comedy, seriousness, personality and humility. Having stared death in the face just over a year ago, he has bounced back and used this experience to give him extra passion. He plays a range of covers and original tracks, putting his own spin on everything. Here he played some crowd pleasers, and also introduced a couple of new original tracks, one of which, ‘The Underdog’, is now my second favourite of his original tracks, the first being ‘Letters Back Home’, which he played again in this set, and which brought the room to a hush – it is such an emotive song that the whole place, including me, had a communal lump in our throat and you could have heard a pin drop – THAT is how to gauge a special song. We love Edd. Simple as!
Our main event of the evening was the metal world’s answer to a Dynamo, Luke Appleton, with a special guest appearance from Becky Baldwin. These two musicians have got to be the hardest working pair on the scene at the moment. Down time is something that doesn’t exist in their world, which does two things. Firstly, and most importantly, it makes them fabulously tight and consummately professional – here they took us through 70 minutes of ‘Acoustic Metal’, which was fast paced, impeccably played, and planned to the nth degree, including the links between songs. The set list was comprised of Luke’s original acoustic material from his “Snake Eyes” album and more, along with tracks from Iced Earth and Absolva, both with which Luke is an integral part of. There is no denying that both Luke and Becky are insatiable musicians who ooze talent and always put on a great show, whether they are playing to ten people or ten thousand people – this performance, musically, being no exception.
For me, the second thing that their non-stop pace does is make them tired, and I’m not talking just physically tired, that goes without saying, but more of an emotional and creative weariness. Whilst this performance was undoubtedly a brilliant musical performance technically, for me something was missing. They looked shattered, and their eyes told a different story to their smiles. I love and admire both these musicians immensely, but this performance left me feeling an odd kind of melancholy which I didn’t like. Maybe I’m just being far too sensitive, but I would really encourage them to seriously consider taking some time off, so they can refresh their passion for music, as it would be an absolute travesty to see talent like theirs burn out.
All that being said, it was a great night of music, and what a way for Beany to celebrate his birthday – that is class – having THE Luke Appleton play your birthday! The only question left is – Beany, how can you top that next year?! Thanks again to Fozzy and Beany for their hard work putting on these shows, and also to Edd Case, Luke Appleton and Becky Baldwin for bringing us the music.
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of 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 adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.
All photos courtesy of Beth Jones and PhotograBee Images
Skype Interview with Luke Appleton
Sunday 3rd September 2017
Somewhere around lunchtime, 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