Hi everyone! Welcome
to our new EMQ’s interview with Wirral, UK based Acoustic Heavy Blues/Rock
artist, Mike West. Huge thanks to him for taking part.
What is your name,
what do you play, and can you tell us a little bit about the history of the
I am Mike West. I play what I call Bastard Country that
fuses my love for Rock and Metal with Country, Delta Blues and Folk and it
means I get to weave in and out of the different genres and scenes I love and
play with so many great artists.
are you from and what is the Metal/Rock scene like there?
I’m from the Wirral in the North West of England and it’s
an interesting one. Being right on the wrong side of the River Mersey casts a
Beatles sized shadow over modern artists coming from this region, and you have
to work tirelessly to establish yourself as a unique voice in a sea of tribute
bands and cover singers.
The Rock and Metal scene is slowly but surely gaining
traction and there are so many great bands coming out of it, like Raised by
Wolves and Riptide Messiah, that hopefully in a few years will have the same
foothold as the Punk scene, which is great in Liverpool.
What is your latest
release? (Album, EP, Single, Video)
My latest release was ‘Dead Fish’, a single that came out
alongside a Kickstarter campaign for Griff Gristle, a comic book by Madius
Comics, that is great. It’s a Folk Punk Sea Shanty that was super fun to do and
is available on all streaming platforms now!
Who have been your
Ace Frehley made me pick up a guitar, and Johnny Cash
made me switch to an acoustic. KISS and Johnny Cash have some great ideas to
take away as a songwriter to keep it simple, keep it honest, and keep it
engaging. If you can keep that in mind when writing a song, you should be ok.
After that it is Blues musicians like Robert Johnson and
Howlin’ Wolf alongside Kris Kristofferson, Black Sabbath and Nirvana to all
blend together to do whatever it is I do.
What first got you
Finding “Destroyer” by KISS in my dad’s record collection
definitely kick started it all, and then watching their DVDs. There’s something about sitting down and
listening to a full record that can definitely be taken for granted and just
sitting there for a while and actually listening to something helps you connect
with music in such a personal way. That’s why I don’t like listening to singles
or if someone dares hit “shuffle” on an album, I’ll start it from the
If you could
collaborate with a current band or musician who would it be?
I don’t know if I have any names but I’d love to
collaborate with a Black or Death metal band and create some weird ambient
noise together, or I’d like to put something together with some of the best UK
Country and Rock acts, to show people what this scene has to offer.
If you could play any
festival in the world, which would you choose and why?
Download. It’s massively mainstream, but at the end of
the day its Donington and to play such an iconic festival and place would be a
What’s the weirdest
gift you have ever received from a fan?
I haven’t got anything weird, but I had a fan in
Blackpool give me an illustration of me on stage, and that was amazing. To
think someone took the time to draw it and give it to me was humbling and so
cool. It’s hanging up next to all my tour posters.
If you had one
message for your fans, what would it be?
Stay open minded. It’s so easy to fall into traps of
“this genre is better than that genre”, or “this is mainstream, so I don’t want
to listen”, and all you do is deprive yourself of finding some incredible
music. I wouldn’t be where I am if I only cared about one type of music and I
love discovering something that will surprise me. Stay open minded and don’t
write anything off you haven’t actually listened to.
If you could bring
one rock star back from the dead, who would it be?
Lemmy. It’s still weird that the Motorhead tour that
happened every winter doesn’t happen anymore, and it still bums me out that
what was once such a constant in the music scene isn’t there anymore. Robert
Johnson would be interesting too. One of those musicians who wasn’t appreciated
till after he died. To show him what he meant to the world would be amazing.
What do you enjoy the
most about being a musician? And what do you hate?
Writing something personal and honest that connects with
someone else is brilliant. It shows that we are never as alone as we think we
are and, if you just reach out to someone, the odds are they will reach out
back. Everyone wants to connect and it’s a beautiful thing to share.
The tribute band/cover act culture that decimates
original music in venues is heart breaking. As an acoustic artist, most venues
want acts to play cover songs while getting talked over and ignored by drunk
people screaming out of tune to Sweet Caroline. It’s why live venues and pubs
are slowly diminishing and takes its toll on the artists playing. Music has
been so devalued to the point of being almost worthless that it will take a big
shift for it to change. No matter how much you try and explain that all the
huge acts started out somewhere so give original independent music a chance, at
the end of the day they will just want you to shut the fuck up and play Jolene.
If you could change
one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
In 2018, the UK Music industry contributed £5.2billion to
the economy yet venues are closing down, musicians have day jobs and can’t
afford to gig regularly, and anyone who isn’t an arena act is struggling.
Regulate ticket sales and abolish ticket touts and websites. Cap the highest
price of arena acts, which sucks up all disposable income for the smaller acts
and venues, and just put more money into keeping the small venues and clubs
open. Everything starts at grassroots level and it so easily forgotten.
Name one of your
all-time favourite albums?
Black Sabbath – “Paranoid”.
What’s best? Vinyl,
Cassettes, CD’s or Downloads?
Whichever is the easiest way for someone to get music is
the best. I didn’t shit myself over hearing War Pigs for the first time and
wonder if this was the best format for it. I do enjoy sitting and listening to
records for an evening and having that as the sole focus.
What’s the best gig
that you have played to date?
I did a great hometown show in Liverpool with Amigo the
Devil at the beginning of the year which was awesome. I’m a huge fan of Amigo
the Devil and to get to do a gig locally as well is always a trip.
If you weren’t a
musician, what else would you be doing?
I write and draw my own comics when I have a chance and
just launched a podcast called ‘Into the Van’, so it would still be something
creative and engaging. If you can connect with someone and create something
that helps explore what you believe in, then you have to go for it.
Which five people
would you invite to a dinner party?
I’d want to throw a BBQ and invite my mates round to just
hang out. Music is important but sometimes you need an off day with a decent
burger and some whiskey. It would be awkward to invite your heroes round and
then accidentally poison them with undercooked food because you were worried
about missing the story of Johnny Cash getting arrested for flower picking!
If one of my mates dropped out though, I’d get Bigfoot!
What’s next for the
“The Next Life” is coming out this year, my first full
length record that expands on my sound and adds fiddle, pedal steel, slide
guitar, and brings a new depth and level to these songs you haven’t heard yet!
Then I’ll be touring the UK and Europe and popping up at some independent
festivals along the way!
Media/Website links do you use to get your music out to people?
Head to https://mike333west.com/
and you can get free music there along with links to all my socials. Sign up to
my newsletter while you’re there!
Jaffa Cakes? Are they
a cake or a biscuit?
Well they ain’t called Jaffa Biscuits…
Thank you for your
time. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
It’s easy to go negative in the music scene. Envy can
always rear its head when you see a band/promoter/whatever doing well, and it’s
so easy to throw stones in this day and age, on and offline. It’s so important
to remember we are all in this together and that the rising tide lifts all
boats. Positivity and encouragement will be what builds this scene to greatness
and supporting the upcoming bands will make it last. Stay Heavy my friends!
Disclaimer: This interview is solely the property of Ever
Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this interview, 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.
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 22/02/2020 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
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…
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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.