‘Classic hard rock will be the cool thing again’: an interview with The Answer

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The Answer recently visited Southampton for the first time in their 14 years together, to show us that classic rock is still alive and well with a fantastic set at The Brook. I had a chat to a couple of the guys before the show.

You’re about half way through your current tour, how has it been for you so far?

Mickey Waters [Bass]: Yeah, it’s been good to go to some places we’ve never been before, like Southampton, and some other places that we haven’t been in a while. It’s all going well. We had a good run in Germany in the middle. It’s always nice to break it up. We’ve been excited about the shows; it’s always good to see people coming out and enjoying the new stuff.

You’re out supporting your latest album New Horizon; would you say that title is descriptive of the current mindset of the band?

MW: Yeah, the title came from a few things actually: at the time, our management, record label, agents, the whole business side of our band, was changing. So that song [the title track]kind of reflects what was going on there, but also in our personal lives. We’ve been doing this for quite a while now; everyone’s changed a little bit individually and a lot of the songs on the record reflect our experiences and thoughts from the last couple of years, really.

Who came up with the idea for the ‘Spectacular’ music video?

MW: I can’t remember, was it Cormac [Neeson, singer], or the director?

Paul Mahon [guitar]: It was the director.

MW: We only turned up at midnight, and there were all these drunk kids getting steaming! And we played for like, three hours, maybe four hours actually! And they’d been partying since about three o’clock in the afternoon!

The genuine article then!

MW: Yeah, but we missed all the best scenes! We turned up and they were just outside partying and jumping on bouncy castles. It was a good laugh anyway!

I’m guessing it’s not the same guy that came up with the ‘New Horizon drinking sessions’ then?

MW: No, that was definitely Cormac! [Both laugh] His excuse for a night out on the piss in Belfast, or a day out in Belfast! It was a fun day, but it wasn’t so easy getting home that day; everyone was a bit worse for wear!

The artwork on New Horizon was one of the last pieces ever done by legendary artist Storm Thorgerson [Pink Floyd/Led Zeppelin/Muse]. What was it like working with him?

MW: It was good; he’s someone who’s work we’re fans of, and we’d always wanted to work with him, so when the new record label suggested him and he said he was interested in working with us, it was great! He took the record and listened to it for a while, and then sort of interviewed each of us about our thoughts and feelings on the album, about where we’ve been, where we’re going. So he took all that information away and came up with ten or twelve ideas, and we narrowed it down to that one. He starts off with all these little sketches and then he finds a way of making a kind of photograph of it in a unique way. I think he passed before it was complete, but he’d done the concept and brought it together for his team to finish off. It’s nice to be the last one he worked on, too.

Was it the very last one then?

MW: Yeah officially. He had an exhibition at the Tate Modern in London and it was the last piece in his exhibition.

Well you’ve made your mark on history there then!

MW: Yeah, being such a fan of his work, it’s amazing! See anything of his on vinyl – I want to have it!

The first time I saw you guys, you were opening up for AC/DC at Wembley Stadium [2008]. How does playing those massive venues compare to a smaller gig like this?

PM: It’s different… With the bigger ones it’s more of a show; to reach all the people out there you want to throw it up around the stage a bit more, make your gestures a bit bigger. Then in these smaller venues, everyone’s more in your face; it’s more about the vibe and the attitude. It took us a while to learn how to play the bigger venues, but we’d done two runs of arenas with them in the States, a run of arenas in Europe, and then stadiums, so we kind of became quite accustomed to it. I remember at one point going from the stadiums back to arenas for the last leg, and it almost felt like it was small again! We’d become that comfortable with it.

AC/DC are admittedly hard to top, but if you could choose any other act to tour with, living or dead, who would it be?

MW: I guess it would be cool to tour with a band from when we were kids. Soundgarden, or Pearl Jam; a band like that would be cool.

Well that’s still technically possible!

MW: Yeah, you never know! That would be something cool for us, because when we were growing up those were our favourite groups. Van Halen would be pretty good too!

Well hopefully they’ll come around again at some point soon! Can you ever picture a time when classic rock reaches the same levels of popularity it did back in the glory days of the 70’s?

PM: Of course, yeah! Music just goes in cycles and trends. Stuff that’s popular now, I don’t think it’s brand new, it’s sort of recycled. At the moment the NME is stuck in the sort of early 80’s New Wave kind of thing. That’s the thing at the moment, but classic hard rock will come around and seem brand new again, be the cool thing. I’m sure it’ll be hyped up and hopefully there’s a band good enough that can take it to the masses again, kind of like The Darkness did for a while. They kind of burned out too quickly. But I certainly can see that happening.

Finally, what’s next for The Answer?

MW: We’re on this tour for about another month or so, and then we’ve got a bit of… not down-time exactly, but we’ve got our studio back home where we’ll be working away on the next record. And then we start festivals for a few months, and then September hopefully we’ll be in Japan and the States for a little stint, and then we’ll do the album. We’ll be keeping busy, but I think the first festival in the UK is Download this year anyway. We’re there on the Friday night so we’ll see some of you there!

The Answer’s latest album New Horizon is out now on Napalm Records. Read my review of the gig here.

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