Neuronspoiler are one of the leading lights in the resurgence of ‘true’ heavy metal in Britain at the moment; So when I was in the UK last month I sought an audience with the band’s engaging frontman JR to find out what it’s like to be in a band at Neuronspoiler’s level in 2018…
JR – lovely to meet you and thanks for taking the time to sit in a pub with me to drink beer and talk metal! Although the received wisdom is that the recording industry is dead, there seem to be more ‘boutique’ labels than ever before looking to snap up talent. You put your last album out through the Dissonance imprint – what prompted your decision to go through them rather than on of the other of the plethora of labels currently operating? “What you say is probably true – there are a lot of outfits reissuing and remastering old records and calling themselves ‘labels’, and offering limited scope. But the truth is it took us ten years to sign to any label at all; We were fiercely independent for all that time. But there was a gap in the market because there were no labels really signing British metal. You either had to go to Germany, or go to Germany! So… I have a kind of pet theory about the kind of music they deliver there. It’s really involved with the high turnover of bands, there isn’t any longevity, and the labels take the authority and power away from the artists. Also, despite the fact that metal was invented here there was a period of time when it didn’t really seem to be cool to be a British band playing metal. I think that’s changed now”.
So Dissonance came along at the right time for you? “Dissonance came along in time to release Second Sight. It took us a bloody long time to get from Emergence in 2013 to Second Sight last year. They had signed Diamond Head and Steve Grimmett’s Grim Reaper so we were pleased to be there. And Steve (Beattie, label head) is a force of nature! You can’t argue with him. He said ‘sign for us’ so we did!”
There’s no denying that Dissonance do what they do very well – they have great PR and are able to reach further than you’d have been able to manage working the album on your own. “Yes. And one of the greatest challenges for us was physical product. (Dissonance’s parent company) Plastic Head is the seventh largest distributor of anything in the UK. When our guitarist Pierre went back to his home near Bordeaux in France he found the album in the record shop there. You can’t get that sort of coverage as an independent band. The record will be available in US stores soon as well”.
There’s an undeniable enthusiasm for the music too. “Yes. Steve has built a great team around him. And he loves the music. I see him at the shows of bands that he’s signed singing along. He knows all the lyrics. That’s great to see”.
You still manage yourselves at this point though. “Yes, because I don’t think at this point there is a manager that could work towards what we are doing. How do you define success? We see it as keeping the band going, achieving longevity. I’ve seen too many people get to the level of, say, playing the Bloodstock Festival… they then think ‘well, it’s not going to get any better than this, is it?’ and they pack it in. We don’t want to be like that. But for now, there is no manager who can take a band like us and say ‘I have the blueprint for success’, because it doesn’t exist. We aren’t doing this for the money, because we don’t make anything like the money people think a band of our size makes. We do it for the rush. We’ll be playing music well into our eighties if we’re still alive!”
There’s a strong conviction I have that the music industry acts as a magnet for a large number of idiots who think it’s an easy route to big money. “It’s true, but on the other hand we as bands are often just as big idiots. Just tweak our egos a little! And you get taken for a ride. And we have been, many times. We’re fucking morons!” (laughs)
So how far does the DIY ethic take a band? DIY doesn’t put much food on the table, or pay the rent. What about production? Will you continue to self-produce? “A lot of the bands on Dissonance self-produce. But we are maybe a little further along than many of those that have an album out – we are approaching album number three. We self-produce because all of the greats self-produced. But there is something in having a producer. When you have this baby that is a verse, chorus, middle eight, out – what else is there? Nothing? Of course there is, and that’s what the producer will bring out”.
The producer is the person who has the idea to record somebody shaking a tray full of cutlery! “Precisely! It’s like soldiers marching, right?”
I’ve often thought Chris Tsangarides would have been a good producer for Neuronspoiler. “We tried to get something going with him a couple of times but for whatever reason he wasn’t really interested. I tried to work with Tom Allom. To me the best drum sound ever recorded was on Rough Cutt’s debut album”.
I hate the drum sound on that record. “NO!!!! You do not! The drums are amazing!”
They’re too boomy. “Boomy is the point!”
For me the best eighties drum sound is on Everybody’s Crazy by Michael Bolton. But it’s a drum machine. The first song, Save Our Love, has magnificent drums. Did you actually make contact with Tom Allom? “I was just about to when it was announced that he was reuniting with Judas Priest to work on Firepower, so it never actually happened”.
But we’ve digressed. Let’s talk a bit more about heavy metal. “What’s happened to our religion? Why do people think that producing shit is good? They take the low-brow, lofi black metal sensibilities and they transfer then to heavy metal. No thank you! You can’t sing? You growl. Can’t play? Don’t play solos. Please fuck off. That’s not heavy metal”.
Surely heavy metal has to have guitar solos you can whistle and choruses you can sing along to? “Melody. Absolutely”.
Good songwriting will always be important. As bands like Judas Priest and Saxon have always shown. People may have laughed at them when they played on Top of The Pops in the eighties, but they were selling hundreds of thousands of albums!
Anyway. We’ve digressed again. Let’s summarise the state of play for Neuronspoiler – a state of your union if you will. “It’s difficult. As a band you do stuff on your own, you do a lot of things for free in the hope that it will gel things together; there are always life obstacles getting in the way. Band members come and go, which is like losing a family member. You’ve been through experiences with these people, then they go, and you have to re-explain yourself to a new ‘family’ member; But we’re lucky enough now I think to have five people who are ready for whatever life throws at us, and we want to achieve. We want to succeed. And whatever that success looks like we’ll just keep going towards it”.
You said the album is going to be launched in America – will you be there for that? “I don’t think we’ll be able to manage that. But I think the Americans will love us. They love bombast, and they can smell bullshit a mile off!”
And with that our time runs out – Neuronspoiler, as noted, are one of the best and brightest hopes of British metal in it’s 2018 iteration; and with some big news we’re not allowed to tell you about being revealed during this interview it looks like the tide of fortune might be turning in the band’s favour. Let’s hope so, for they surely deserve it…