We’re not just about the old Gods here at Sentinel Daily; If there are some young pups we think you ought to know about, then we’ll offer the oxygen of publicity to them too, so it was of course a pleasure as well as our duty to highlight the upcoming existence of a new album from Melbourne’s Massive, a band on whose shoulders a lot of expectation has been heaped, not least by the band themselves. Vocalist/guitarist Brad Marr chewed the fat with me on a sunny Canberra afternoon about all things massive…
There’s still a little while before the album comes out – is this the time for nervousness or are you just excited? “I was excited until about two weeks ago, when I realised that actually the release date wasn’t far away… you get a bit nervous now, two weeks before the launch; we’re in the process of messaging everyone we know, telling them to get onboard, or to pre-order the album, or come down to the gigs, it’s full steam ahead! It’s hectic at this time”.
You’re quite forthright about where you see yourselves placed in the tradition of Aussie rock and metal; with this album, though it’s similar to the first, I do hear progression within its grooves – is it important for you to progress from release to release? Or, within the parameters that you’ve set yourselves do you tend towards the thought ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’? “I think you progress naturally anyway; I don’t think we would be able to produce the exact same album over and over again. We’re more mature as musicians and we’ve spent a lot of time together now. The first album was literally the first eleven songs we ever wrote. This is three years later, we’ve travelled all around Australia many times, we’ve been overseas, we’ve been to places we never ever thought we’d visit. Just that alone means you’ve got different experiences, stories and influences to change the sound a bit. We’re always going to be rock n’rollers; we’re always going to write rock n’roll music which I guess is the thing that puts the two albums into the same category but life changes things and that’s the result – a different sounding but similar album”.
Different sounding but similar. Nicely put. It seems to me that’s it’s getting increasingly difficult for young Australian rock bands to make their way – there’s little or no support from mainstream TV or radio, everywhere you go in the big cities it seems like local councils are trying to close venues down – as you said a moment ago you’ve done a lot of touring in Australia. Have you noticed that the situation is getting worse? “Australia’s so big and vast yet there aren’t many opportunities. So you have to go overseas. If Aussie TV or radio picked up on a local band I’d guarantee they’d be able to fill 600-1000 seater venues. But the reality is TV and radio here follow Europe and America, so that’s why Australian bands go there. If you make it big in Europe then you’re obviously ten times better off”.
I’m interested you say that, as the growing perception I sense from the Australian bands I talk to is that you gain a certain amount of legitimacy as an Aussie act only if you’ve made it to some extent overseas. You’d agree with that? “Absolutely. But it’s been that way since the seventies – AC/DC had to go to Europe to break it. It doesn’t mean that people here have stopped enjoying Australian music, it’s just the way it is. It’s a shame, because some of the talent you can hear playing up the road in the pub to fifteen people on a Wednesday night is World Class; but if that’s what it takes, if what makes a good Aussie band a great Aussie band is going overseas then so be it. It’s just part of the process I guess”.
That being as it is, how important was it for you to secure a deal with a European label (Earache Records) early on as opposed to going the route favoured by so many bands these days and doing it yourself? Was it very much part of your strategy or just a nice piece of happenstance? “You know, it was definitely the endgame. It was definitely what we wanted to do, I don’t know if we thought that we’d be able to do it. The first album did get released independently at first, we did that ourselves. We hooked up with an independent label here and they shopped us around overseas, and we were very very lucky. A million things could have gone a different way. Whilst we’re stoked to be on Earache it could have been a different story and we could have been releasing this album independently also. It’s a great thing though, because we want to base ourselves in Europe, we want to be there anyway; so having the support on the ground already means that side of the work is already done. We just have to get ourselves over there and find the right shows to play, and they worry about the promotion and getting CDs in the stores. Like I said, we’re stoked”.
What is it in this Aussie sound do you think that foreigners love so much? What is it in that comparatively basic format- voice, a couple of guitars, bass and drums – that resonates with people do you think? “I guess Aussies are pretty laid back people. We tend to see the lighter side of life and go with the flow. Everyone you meet goes (adopts American accent) ‘I love Aussies!’ I think it’s just our lifestyle they like. We write simple rock n’roll songs, there’s no agenda, it’s just fun to make music and I think that rubs off on people. If we’re having fun, making music that we like to rock out to, hopefully that transfers to the punters in the front row and everybody has a good time. That’s the main thing really”.
It becomes self-defeating to complicate matters too much? “Absolutely. You shouldn’t have to have a thesis to make an album. You’re writing music to listen to, and if it appeases the ears then it’s good”.
Yes. Now you’ve got an album launch show in Melbourne on your own, then you head out for a tour supporting the Screaming Jets – will that be it live-wise for Australia for a while? Or will you do your own headline tour as well? “That’ll probably be it for a couple of months, and we’re looking at being in Europe by late September; We might do a run just before we go as a farewell run, but this will be the album tour in Australia. But as I said Europe and the rest of the world is the endgame and we’ll be focussing a lot over there. But for Australia the Jets are the perfect band for us to tour with… they have the same music tastes as us, and they like to party. Even though they are all around fifty they party just as hard as us!”
That’s something you have to take into account if you’re going to be stuck out on the road with someone. “You’ve got to enjoy each others’ company that’s for sure. We toured with each other last year; we don’t book accommodation – we live in the van, or we make friends and crash at peoples’ houses. They saw we were sometimes kipping in the venue car parks. Just making up beds in the van and passing out there. By the end of the tour the Jets guys, probably because they felt more sorry for us than anything else, were letting us into their hotel rooms to sleep on their floors. They just took us in and by the end of the tour we were best mates sharing band rooms, so it will be good to go back out on the road with them”.
I’ve been struck by a phrase which crops up on your website – ‘riff your face off’. Could you perhaps recommend to our overseas readers an Aussie rock or metal album – preferably not too well known – that has the ability to riff someone’s face off? “Probably Down to the Bone by Electric Mary. They are the riffmasters. If you haven’t heard that album, listen to it. We played with them in the UK last time we were there. Every time we played with them we were scared to go on because they are the riff kings. Everything we do is just a simpler version of them. Put that on your stereo!”
One final question – Should Axl be the next singer of AC/DC? “I love the gunners. They are probably my favourite band. They are definitely the band that I put on when I’m driving. If it was for the right reasons – and I don’t know if it is – and it’s only for ten shows and it’s just because Angus wants to keep playing those shows, then I don’t see the harm in it. But if it’s just for the few million they’ll make for playing those shows… the legacy of AC/DC is over if Brian Johnson isn’t there”.
That legacy is too important isn’t it? “Absolutely. If it’s just to keep Angus playing then go out as Angus Young, play some shows in Vegas or something. Don’t finish on a sour note”.
Agreed that’s how I think of it. “I think everyone does”. That’s as may be, but the people closest to Angus don’t appear to be able to say it!
Whatever happens in the increasingly bewildering AC/DC saga, you can rely on the fact that Massive will be riffing a face off in a venue near you soon. Make sure you’re there.