Say Hello To… The Howling

March 12, 2012
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Would you say the audience you’re looking to promote this new band to are the same people that were coming along to your previous bands’ shows?

Blacky: Not necessarily! We were keen for it to be natural and honest to what we liked musically, because

anything else is bound to fall flat after a short time. It had to be what we liked; and we both enjoyed our projects before so certainly some of our fans are bound to like this new band. We wanted to branch out more this time though. We wanted to be a bit more modern.

How did you work out your sound? Was it ‘on purpose’ or did it just come together through songwriting sessions?

Blacky: The first conversation we had is that there is a gap in the market for something that we were naturally good at (Rock and Electronic)… With my sound-tracking experience and Rev hanging around Liam [Howlett], and his

Rev on stage with Liam Howlett, The Prodigy
Rev on stage with Liam Howlett, The Prodigy

DJiing… the New Wave stuff just naturally moved into our sound. Right from the start it seemed to work amazingly! Then we got Chappell involved and he was good at making the tea for us [laughs] – I’m one sugar ain’t I Chappell?

[Guitarist, Chappell, has been sitting quietly in the corner working on a Mac computer]

Chappell: I thought it was two! [laughs]

Blacky: [Laughs] OK so he still needs a little work! Nah, yeah, Chappell is really good with the electronic side of things – he’s absolutely amazing with programming; he knows that side of things inside and out…

Rev: It was quite daunting to start off with… We went very

far over to the electronic side at one point, and then turned back because we realised that it wasn’t us and didn’t sit right. So we brought the sound back to rock and eventually found our happy medium by just playing around. Last year was all about finding that right balance and finding the right people to complete the line-up. We’ve been teaching ourselves a lot, and have learned a lot through our exploration of music this past year especially.

What is the plan for 2012?

Blacky: 2012 is… working through all the songs we’ve written and choosing the elite ones to record. We are in the studio with a top line producer called Dan Weller [Young Guns, Enter Shikari] – he’s great! Choosing a producer took just as long as the other pieces of the puzzle, to get right. We’ve been waiting to get it all right before going and speaking to people about the band. We’re not 16 years old anymore so it’s not about playing small gigs to three people. We’re taking it seriously and looking towards agents, managers, the festival circuit…

It must feel good to finally be out there on the scene after spending all that time locked away, practicing…

Rev: This projects been going on for a while, and when Chappell relocated to London last year that really kicked things into a higher gear! One of the hardest things for us was to hold off on the playing because we were creating something we knew was going to be exciting. We wanted to share it as soon as we had a sets worth of tunes; but we figured it’d be a good idea to hold on and continue with the plan we had set in place. There was always a clear set of goals and ambitions… its all quite meticulously planned out.

Yes there’s a maturity to your approach.

Rev: Its experience.

Talking of experience, would you say that when coming in to a band, a little older, you have to be more careful with the mistakes you make?

Blacky: Very much so, yes.

Rev: I made some great mistakes. But its learning from those mistakes. Best lesson I’ve ever learned is to work with the right people from the start. Its really important to have your ambitions as a collective ironed down; and to be really open and honest with one another about your views and plans. Honesty is a massive thing in this band. If anyone has got an issue with any member, or someone’s not quite pulling their weight, or if someone is dragging their heels; missing rehearsals for one reason or another… we’re onto it. These may sound like quite trivial things, but if that’s not working with the band from the beginning, then its going to fail, I think. So we keep a close eye on that… The last thing you want to do is get two years in to a project and realise that you’re playing or working with someone you just can’t handle!

Yeah and then they pull out and you’ve invested two years into something that just goes into thin air! I get that!

Rev: Yeah then you’re fucked! I’m a lot more mature now than back when I was running around

getting fucked with Towers! And the same thing with Blacky! We are both a lot more mature now, and we have goals and ambitions. Its all about the music really. It has shifted a lot from it being about going out and finding the party and doing great shows off your face… now we want to actually create something that is solid and can stand the test of time. We don’t want to just be going and doing one big album; we are looking to have a proper career. That’s quite a lesson to learn but one that I respect and can look back on now.

Any other past experiences that have affected the way you approach business now, as a band? I remember you saying about your experiences as a DJ, Rev?

Rev: Yeah, I mean in relation to choosing gigs, we got so fed up at one point – so tired and bored of shit promoters and club nights! I started putting my own club nights on because I was so sick and tired of hearing about bands that were paying to play or of going to a club night, with an eight band bill just because the promoter thought if they put eight bands on there would be a bigger crowd! So I got tired and I started to do my own nights, at the Barfly, Fly Bar, 333, Ninty three feet east, and then I started on Kingston road with unlicensed bars so it would be BYOB… it was quite a dirty underground scene! But it was through that experience of running my own nights that I realised how much work goes in to successful event promotion , and helps to know exactly what we’re looking for now… Everything down to PA systems, sound-checks, sound crew…

Blacky, you mentioned that the band’s electronic influences come from Rev’s deejaying, and time with the Prodigy, and also from your sound-tracking experiences and then Chappells input. How would you describe The Howling’s sound to someone who hasn’t seen a live show?

Blacky: I would say its like a very modern take on nostalgic rock. You’ve got your old school style thrash out punk, but because of the rise of the DJs and electronics we have that too. It’s a five piece band but the music coming out has a new current sound. We could have put a rock album out ages ago because we have so many tunes, but we didn’t want to just have a generic sound. We knew we wanted to work out something different and that’s why its taken the amount of time that it has taken..

Rev: I’d call it ‘New Ground Rock’…

What music were you guys raised on?

Blacky: I was raised on singer songwriters really, Paul Simon… That’s lyrically where I come from! The best thing I have learned is to write about something you’re actually experiencing and not sit there and talk about the sun and the moon! You have to write about something that’s happened to you and something you’re going through for the audience to relate and react to the music.

Rev: I was always just brought up idolising big Hair Metal/Rock and roll bands. Punk bands like the Ramones.. I’m a massive Ramones fan. I always wanted to just be in a band and play guitar, and be a bit of a lead guitar hero really!

Blacky: Paul Simon and Punk! Match made in heaven [laughs]

Rev: I was always heavily leaning towards the performance side of things from day one really. When it comes to the writing side of things, I have to be in band with people who are competent songwriters. People who can write tunes, and that brings out my guitar solos I think… As long as they can give me an opening for my guitar parts, it works really…

You both seem to have a very clear idea of what you expect from each other, is this the same with the other members of The Howling?

Rev: Yes, one thing with this band is that everyone knows their position. We don’t feel that we need all of us in the room to craft a song. So long as we know what we have to bring to the table when we hear a new tune then it works out well. Two or three of us will get the basics of the songs ironed out and then the others can jump in. Blacky will bring the tune in, Chappell the electronics, I’ll do the lead guitar parts, and then the other two…

Black of The Howling - photo Stuart Nicholls
Rev – photo Stuart Nicholls

How do you find the ego situation? Lead guitarists often have a similar personality to lead singers! Both are known to have rather big egos – no offense! Who rules the roost? How do you handle that balance? It sounds like a couple question! [laughs] But I guess it is in a way!

Blacky: Its very much like a relationship! A love and hate thing! There are a few arguments in there; but between the two of us, and obviously Chappell as well, we are the best of mates. Any argument you allow will be about passion for the band, and within about two or three minutes we realise that and always find a way to resolve the issue. You need that though, you need that passion from everybody in the band… Passions never a bad thing .

Rev: Speaking of passion, any arguments that are in this band are rectified pretty quickly because we are just so open with each other. Even if shit’s flung around, it’ll be sorted out quickly… we’re best mates. If you’re in a band with people you can’t have arguments with, that’s saying a lot about the communication there. Arguments are good, as long as they are resolved; and ours are always quickly resolved!

Tell me about this rehearsal space of yours. You guys have really put your stamp on this place. There is a definite ‘Howling’ vibe going on here!

Blacky: Anything to do with the band comes from this room; from rehearsals, to meetings, brainstorming sessions. Its our base. We know when we come here we are here to focus on the band and nothing else. I think its important to have that. You can just plug in and play and without having to spend ages setting up.

Rev: I think its a good idea for any band to have a base. For years we rolled in different studios. Sometimes we’ll go to a bigger studio in South London to rehearse for big shows, but its important for us to have this space to feel connected to the band. We can come down here and once we are in here its work. Its like having a job. Without taking all the fun out of it, you have to have some kind of regimentation. Even if we have got shows to promote we’d be down here on the macs working on promotion together. We like to be together in the same room so we can talk and chat things through face to face, even if we are multitasking at the same time. As long as we are all here, stuff gets done quicker.

Like a hub? As long as you are here you know what is on the agenda?

Rev: Its like going to work! Same thing just a different uniform! We take it as serious as that. When we come down here we are here to work and that’s that.

© Ngawara Madison, Music Vice

The Howling – “Pitbull” (live):

Internet links: The Howling
Live photos credit Stuart Nicholls

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