EMQ’s with MAD SPANNER
Hi Everyone. Welcome to our new EMQ’s interview with another Ever Metal favourite, the wonderful Mad Spanner who reside somewhere in the brain of Michael Randall and what a wonderful brain it is. Huge thanks to Michael, Dan and Ben for taking part!
What is your name, what do you play and can you tell us a little bit about the history of the band?
My name is Michael Randall, I play bass in the band but started out playing everything and writing most of the material. I’ll try and be brief as the history of Mad Spanner has many different factors and I’m not even the most reliable orator of its story!
Mad Spanner was rooted out of mental anguish, from a time I was recovering a mental breakdown…a week-long episode completely de-railed my life and personality which took years to recover. In those seasons in the abyss thinking nothing, feeling nothing on and off all kinds of different medication whilst also dropping out of university, I felt I had lost all my dreams and aspirations save for playing live in a band. I could already play drums but it was hugely cathartic solely focussing on learning bass, guitar and piano day in, day out because there was nothing else, it the only thing I could set my mind on. It led to the release of the demo-album ‘Wrong Shade Of Orange’ on Bandcamp, though the realisation that none of it matters crushed me entirely and had me suicidal at the River Severn. It would be the first and worst time I felt the metaphor of Sisyphus’s boulder, MY boulder, hopelessly roll back down the hill. But the decision to push the metaphorical boulder back up the hill and accept the absurdity of life has been a huge part of what informs the approach to Mad Spanner, as well as my own mental health. Struggle Humour is a big part of it too, taking focus onto the little things in life and amplifying them well out of proportion delivered with the fury of a receding hairline. Mad Spanner is a celebration of being alive.
I found excellent musicians and new friends in Shrewsbury with Dan Ashley and Ben Codd and they have greatly improved the demo songs through collaboration where Mad Spanner stopped being a solo project and became a fully democratic band. I think we have an edge because we avoid parody – the rage comes from a very real place but it’s channelled in a positive way with a sense of humour. We have been enjoying bringing the absurd intensity to audiences since!
How did you come up with your band name?
I honestly can’t remember. I remember MAD was based on my own initials (MAD Randall) like an egocentric self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s probably for the best it remains nonsensical, at least it stuck well!
What country are you from and what is the metal scene like there?
I’m from Wales and Dan and Ben live in Shrewsbury, England. I was quite frustrated in my hometown of Aberystwyth that there was no live rock music; it was all singer-songwriter folk-acoustic bollocks. I’d spend a fortune travelling and staying nights in Birmingham for my metal concerts and try my best to find musicians in Aber or pester venues to book rock bands but nothing really came besides Evile in 2010 – one of my favourite bands I went batshit for! I moved away to Shrewsbury late 2016 for a change of pace and to focus on music with help from a close friend (who a couple months later became a vocalist for some band in the making ‘Ashen Crown’). There wasn’t much in Shrewsbury either as Mad Spanner seems closer tied with the Birmingham and Wolverhampton scenes but with the events organisation I co-manage ‘Born To Lose’, I hope to turn Shrewsbury into a metal hotspot in a couple of years of steady growth. The scene here is growing and we encourage local bands and try and give them a helping hand.
I have a deep respect of Birmingham’s rich history with metal (Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Napalm Death, Godflesh, Anaal Nathrakh, Ashen Crown) and the Manchester scene is a joy to see, I still have a lot of love for anything going on in Wales. North East Wales Promotions are doing a fantastic job and I heard great things in Machynlleth and Cardiff too. Even Aberystwyth have started metal nights since I have left so I would love to see more Welsh metal emerging, kicking and screaming to attention!
What is your latest release (Album, EP, Single, Video)
We are extremely proud of our debut album ‘Life Absurd’ that came out on Bandcamp a few weeks ago. The reception it’s had has been fantastic and I’m really happy people are getting a kick out of it! These songs have been tried and tested in the live arena and we are chuffed as hell this album captured that energy – Bens drumming is fucking merciless! We were also lucky enough to get Doug Stanhope’s blessing to open the album which was huge as he’s a big hero of mine. We’ve also released a stop-motion animation video for ‘Wrongshade’ which I hope shows what you can do on a budget of a pack of biros, 80 pages and a lot of effort!!
Who have been your greatest influences?
That is a very difficult question to answer because we take influence from everything – thrash, death metal, grindcore, black metal, hardcore punk, philosophy and stand-up comedy! Dan and Ben both bring wildly different influences which is fantastic. Dan’s really into Devin Townsend and Matt Heafy’s guitar playing. Ben takes a lot of cues from Joey Jordison, Chris Penny and Dave Mclain. Strapping Young Lad and Discharge are the closest comparisons we have to direct influences but I like to think we are ripping off a hundred of our favourite bands at the same time so it sounds somewhat original!
I have to say that everything started when listening to Scumfaces split EP with Footprints In The Custard though! The opener resonated on me in such a deep, profound way – “ahem, *clears throat* – AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!”. It gave the idea to do as many short songs as possible trimmed of all fat but instead of punk I would try as many musical ideas as I could fit…you could experiment and if it sounded shit, you just move on to the next 2 minute song no problem!
What first got you into music?
Guitar Hero for me – I was completely obsessed!! When I heard ‘Symphony Of Destruction’ for the first time it was just game over – the quest to find the most badass riff had begun and yet nothing has come close to the first time one knocked me for six! I heard a wide range of rock and metals history through those games and the later iterations even taught me how to play drums. Dan’s dad got him into metal through NWOBHM records and Ben kind of just fell into it randomly all of a sudden from the Eagles right into Slipknot, as you do!
If you could collaborate with a current band or musician who would it be?
I love artistic collaborations and doing one-off specials…the dream for me would be Devin Townsend or Ihsahn as they are visionaries in their craft pushing boundaries. Otherwise I would love to collaborate with anyone with a dedication to art and willing to do something completely off the wall, be it filming, photography or playing a niche instrument. Collaborating with people outside of metal and helping give it a fresh new perspective is exciting to me.
If you could play any festival in the world, which would you choose and why?
Dan chose MetalDays and Ben went for Wacken. But why not non-music festivals? What about festivals celebrating cheese, or Oktoberfest, or the Kanamara Penis Festival in Japan? Those festivals could be a hell of a lot of fun to play!
(But seriously, it’s Wacken.)
What’s the weirdest gift you have ever received from a fan?
So far we have only been given nice things, Thrashatouille baked us some congratulatory cakes on our album launch party, that was pretty awesome! In fact, I reckon we are the weird and obsessed fans other bands should look out for! I turn into an embarrassing anxious jelly talking to musicians I admire and Dan takes fandom to hilarious levels, owning and wearing Mankinis used by Footprints In The Custard, as well as owning a shirt of every gig he has ever been to and at least one band shirt of every gig we have played. Don’t get us started on our music collections…
If you had one message for your fans, what would it be?
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts – we love all of you and we always appreciate all your support. I will always say it given any opportunity and the message never dilutes over time. I maintain that as soon as bands think they are above their fans or take them for granted, they will be underneath them in a flash.
If you could bring one rock star back from the dead, who would it be?
I wouldn’t want to if I could. Let the past be and focus on the present.
What do you enjoy the most about being a musician? And what do you hate?
Playing live, that was a slam-dunk answer! That is the greatest thing, where the music is fully experienced with the audience, feeding back from each other…it’s fucking magic. There has never been a gig where I don’t leave full of sweat completely exhausted after giving absolutely everything, I enjoy the adrenaline as well as the cathartic release.
I’m not sure I hate anything about being a musician otherwise I wouldn’t do it but being a heavy handed bass player has had me banned from borrowing Dans guitars in fear of snapping yet another string!
If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
Great question…I really don’t have a lot of confidence in Spotify with their recent decision not to increase the rate artists get paid to a point remotely considered fair. Music has been seriously devalued and I think that it is worth more attention. It’s great playing music as a hobby but so unrealistic to make it as a living that it has become the new dream. Albums cost a lot of money to make and it’s hard to break even when CD’s are no longer relevant and streaming barely pays at all. In this industry, I’m not a musician as much as a glorified T-shirt salesman.
Name one of your all-time favourite albums?
I have too many, there’s nothing better than a great album start to finish, except playing a show of course! Keeping it current, my favourites of 2018 were Boss Keloids “Melted On The Inch” and Primordials “Exile Amongst The Ruins” and I’m loving “Syntheosis” by Waste Of Space Orchestra at the moment. Dan’s favourites are Anathemas “Judgement” as well as Alcests “Les Voyages De Lame” and Ben’s are Soilworks “Stabbing The Drama”, Iron Maiden’s “Killers” and Slipknots “Iowa”.
What’s best? Vinyl, Cassettes, CD’s or Downloads?
Downloads is just the most efficient way of listening to music and there is no getting around it. But fuck, for full immersion of the gigantic art…getting involved with the music giving it your undivided attention…it has to be vinyl, even if finding the time dedicating to it gets harder and harder. Dan and I both have record collections and I’m always on the hunt for something obscure. Once in Cardiff I bought a record “Palace Of Visions” by the band ‘Saviours’ just on the incredible art alone – and it rocked like a bastard!
What’s the best gig that you have played to date?
Pentrefest, Rock N Bowl Festival, our Halloween party…
We have had particular highlights but nothing has topped our hometown shows…yet! The metal scene in Shrewsbury is growing and our album release show was completely crazy. It was a hot day, but the heat inside the venue with the photographers lights blaring and the audience packed in toward the front like sardines it was a freaking oven! Things went wild – a hyperactive and constant moshpit…there was a human pyramid and stage invasions and our first wall of death, it was a miracle nothing got damaged! Rows of heads banging in unison was so freaking cool to see…It was the most unbelievable show and thankfully some of it was filmed – you can see the highlights on Youtube. Right at the climax of our last song ‘Escape Into Reality’, the fire alarm went off and we were forced to silence our set and evacuate the building, no encores! It was a bit anticlimactic, if eventful but every time we play Shrewsbury things get nuttier than before and it’s those kind of close up sweat-fests where we are closer to our fans that I relish most.
If you weren’t a musician, what else would you be doing?
I have no idea. I have a strong work ethic so I would get on fine and soon get promoted in boring careers that would grind my spirit down. I’ve always wanted to be an artist and express and articulate my thoughts; if it wasn’t music then it would be film, theatre, comedy or writing. As long as I have a room over my head, enough to eat and save money then I would rather work my ass off in any creative pursuit and find fulfilment getting a fresh project off the ground.
Which five people would you invite to a dinner party?
Me: Brian Blessed
Dan: Rhod Gilbert
Ben: Steve Buscemi
What’s next for the band?
We are playing Colwyn Bay next week which is cool – I love visiting new places in Wales, especially music venues! We also have a huge gig opening for Footprints In The Custard’s album release show on June 1st which is mental! Dan and I are massive Footprints fans but I’m also a huge fan of Raised By Owls who are also on the bill so I’m freaking out a bit that I’m even typing this! Otherwise we have nothing booked in May onwards so get in touch if you would like us to play in your town! We are also going to be filming and putting out a new music video. We haven’t decided the song yet but you can be sure it will be bizarre!
What Social Media/Website links do you use to get your music out to people?
We are active on social media but I try and battle through anxiety networking by word of mouth. I’ll list some links below where you can find us!
Official Website/EPK: http://artistecard.com/madspanner
Jaffa Cakes? Are they a cake or a biscuit?
I wouldn’t mind if they released Jaffa Biscuits!
Thank you for your time. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Much love and jaffa biscuits, see you in the pit!
Disclaimer: This interview is solely the property of 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.