Luckily, it was the latter and as we both get to know each other, the Atlanta native opens up about his approach to the writing process on the new album, touring with Blackberry Smoke and his direct, no-bones opinion regarding the current state of the music industry.
OD – The follow up to ‘Electric Blood’ is in the can and ready for release in May, can you tell me a little about ‘The Future Ain’t What it Used to Be’ and the meaning behind the title?
TUK – I get asked this question nearly every day and it’s kind of hard to explain. I’m really into reincarnation and learning lessons that can help me incarnate into a higher being. So on the album, each one of the songs has a little story that takes you on a kind of journey. The start of the record kicks off with a really fired-up feel to it and by the last song, it’s kind of like you’ve been defeated and life has beaten you down.
There are songs about life, personal struggles, love etc and all of the freaky feelings that we go through in our lives. I tried to make the album almost as kind of a timeline of someone’s life who is discovering and learning these things and also, on a cosmic scale I try to sprinkle a little bit of that here and there without getting too weird!
I’m obsessed with 70’s dystopian sci-fi and I thought it would be cool to kind of have that element on the record. I feel that it’s a real journey, both sonically and mentally.
OD – Was there anything different about the way you approached the writing/recording of this album as I know this time around you brought in Scott Stephens when did you come to the conclusion that you were going to do this?
TUK – I’m always writing because I have deadlines and there’s shit to be done! I think if you have to write songs, you don’t necessarily say “okay, I need to go write some songs” it’s more like something that I just do naturally. If you write songs or play basketball, you just do it you know? It’s like people that suddenly claim to be some kind of wordsmith or something. Being a songwriter is something that is just a natural thing and if you have the gift to do it, then you would be doing it already.
We have a new manager this year and he told is that there is nothing wrong with co-writing with other people. This was something that I was interested in trying and began co-writing with lots of different people and it was a great experience. When you have a particular niche sound like we do, it’s kind of strange to get someone else’s take on it.
The whole process was very inspirational not only for the music but for me personally as I learned so much and adapted new perspective’s on the art of songwriting and melodies. To be honest, it was kind of like going to school in some ways. There’s no college that can teach you how to write songs, as I mentioned – it’s just something that you do.
So, when I was writing with Scott (Stephens) the experience was invaluable. To find someone who is just as obsessed with the process of writing and who also get’s the concept of the sound I’m trying to achieve was just incredible. I’ll sit there all fucking day! I don’t even care if I’m hungry, I’ll just keep writing until I get that vibe I need for whatever track I’m working on.
If you’re the main writer within a band, it’s really nice to have a new set of ears of somebody you can trust. Not just any idiot on the nearest bar stool or some jackass that’s got a loud mouth, I’m talking about someone that knows what they are doing and understands the delicate process of songwriting.
Songwriting to me, is deeply personal and so many folks don’t have personal style or taste, so if you surround yourself with people who are constructive critics and not ass-kissers the outcome can become very positive. I’m a fan of collaboration man! Two brains are better than one.
OD – You have truly embraced the spirit of the 70’s glam rock sound on this album, did you seek out any specific studio gear to capture that authentic sound?
TUK – I think the trick is to capture that vibe, feeling and colour that those classic albums had back in the day, but also we knew that we had to compete from a modern perspective. I want the youth of toady to be into rock n’ roll, so I wanted to take some of the elements of the vibe of artists of that era and introduce them the kids of today, but with our own original version of things.
We brought in a couple of vintage amps for the studio recording, for instance, the guitar parts were mainly recorded with a beautiful ’73 Ibanez Lawsuit guitar and some old analogue amps. We didn’t have the luxury of the recording time that that bands in the ’70’s used to have. I mean, just listen to Queen man, they sound fucking amazing, but how long did they have in the studio to record?
Using Pro-Tools to our advantage helped with the sound that we wanted as we just don’t have the time and budget like those bands from the 70’s. Dont’ get me wrong, we used Pro-Tools to get things done quicker but under no circumstances did we (or ever will) use it as a crutch. I referenced a lot of Dave Sardy (Wolfmother, JET) and I was like “we can beat this” because I’m heavily involved in the production side of things. The overall goal was to keep one foot in the past and the other one in the future.
OD – When recording, did you all just set up in a live room and jam out the tracks?
TUK – No, because I wanted it to be really tight and talking from experience, we’ve done that in the past and it actually works out to be a more complicated and time-consuming way of recording. I really wanted a massive-sounding record and to get it like that you need to track separate instruments. There’s just no other way of doing so.
All of the tracks on the album were part of a series of demos I did. There were about 30 tracks to choose from and when I would move to the next track, I would programme the drums before going into the studio where we would then remove the drum tracks and Joey would then lay down the live kit tracks.
OD – Dan Dixon is back on engineering duties, I’m guessing that you have a good working relationship together, what is it that really makes Dan the right choice for Biters?
TUK – There were a lot of people that reached out to us offering to produce the album, but I’m very selective when it comes to this, as it’s really easy to fuck the sound up and ruin it. To find someone who’s got the ears and the mind, as well as the understanding of just how BITERS are, is a really big challenge.
Dan (Dixon – engineer) has known me for some time now and go way back with him in terms of working together. Dan came to me and really showed enthusiasm for working with us on this album. To me, this just showed integrity not to mention that he totally gets who we are and what we are about. Dan did such a great job in mixing this album and in my opinion, whipped the asses of some really big “celebrity producers”.
With Dan and Scott on board the songs stepped up, the production and the overall vibe of the album just really began to flourish.
OD – The recent tour with Blackberry Smoke seemed to go well. How did the Blackberry Smoke crowds take to Biters, as it’s a little different from what those guys do?
TUK – We sold a good amount of merchandise on the tour which is a good indication that we went down well (laughs). Although we are different, there is a common thread here between both bands with the likes of AC/DC and Tom Petty for instance. I have to admit, the crowds have been a little older than I had predicted but that’s no reflection on who great it was to get out there and tour with those guys Tom Petty (below) for instance. I have to admit, the crowds have been a little older than I had predicted but that’s no reflection on how great it was to get out there and tour with those guys.
Some of the shows there were some people there that were as old as my Grandparents in attendance but to see them alongside kids from all ages right up to my age group is just insane. It was really cool, but I noticed that some of the guys were looking at me kind of like I’m too androgynous or something. It’s like “hey man, this is fucking rock n’ roll dude”!
That’s me looking at the negative but to be honest the whole experience has been super positive. Charlie (Starr – Blackberry Smoke, vocals/guitar) is one of the nicest dudes you could ever meet. Those guys are fans of Biters and likewise, we all really love Blackberry Smoke.
I grew up on old school country and southern rock n’ roll and they all grew up on rock n’ roll so there was a really great balance, not only from the stage for the fans but also backstage between all of the bands.
OD – Have you been trying out some new material from the forthcoming album?
There is a growing number of new bands emerging with that ‘classic rock’ sound lately, do you find that there is a bigger demand for the genre now rather than say 10 years ago?
TUK – One of the reasons I wanted to get out on the road with Blackberry Smoke was to get used to playing some of the new material from the album in a live setting. We haven’t really been able to air the material as a full live band due to the way we recorded. It’s been hard, I’m not gonna lie.
The tracks were built in a way that we have to yet figure out when playing live. For instance, we built the drums in the studio with kick drum being recorded separately and the tom’s also. We didn’t use any fake stuff when recording, it’s more just the method we recorded the tracks is a little tricky to translate live as a four piece as don’t use backing tracks or anything like that.
I mean there are moments on the album have at least eight vocal stacks (laughing) and we have to figure out the best way to bring that to the stage without faking it. This was really a challenge when we first went on the road as we went out with too many new songs. We eventually trimmed back the new stuff as we knew that we had to work on the live arrangement a little more. I think we set out with the intention of playing five tracks from the album but then trimmed it back to three a few dates into the tour.
Our sound guy said, “I’ve never seen a band go out on a major tour and do a fucking band rehearsal on stage” (laughing) We rehearsed prior to going on tour but, there is nothing like playing in front of an audience. It’s a totally different feeling/vibe.
You can see that when we were playing anything off ‘Electric Blood‘ we’re kicking ass and then the new material comes in and we’re all looking at each other and not moving around the stage too much. That’s the same with any new material, it just becomes an extension of your body/mind and all slots into place after a short while.
OD – There is no question that we are losing some of the greatest musicians of our generation but do you feel positive about the future of the classic rock/rock/metal genre?
TUCK – To be honest, I don’t see it at all. We did the Kerrang! Tour a while back with Sum 41, because we wanted to tap into that younger audience and they couldn’t have given a fuck less about what we did! They were standing in front if us with hoodies and sweatpants to the shows and that was just bizarre to me. When I was a kid going to shows I’de be dressed up in my rock n’ roll gear and be fucking psyched for the gig. Also, they just stand there on their fucking phones the whole time! What the fuck is wrong with these kids?
Rock n’ Roll is a very small genre in the context of music and especially in America. It’s a little different over here with the younger people being more into the classic stuff, but ultimately the electronic/dance/DJ shit reigns supreme.
The only hope right now for the future is for the parents to pass on their music collections to their kids and show them the quality of music back then to the shit that’s out there now. They will see the difference themselves. We couldn’t even get signed and I was going to quit the band. It’s just impossible to sustain any kind of future in this business these days.
Thankfully Earache Records come and helped us out, but before that, it was not looking good at all man. When were making “Electric Blood” I remember working on the last four songs with the intention that this was going to be our last EP as I just couldn’t see the future of that band progressing because the main interest for new music was all happening in different genres. I was asking myself, “how long can I sustain myself before getting to the next tier“. So many bands come out and then they break up and you never hear of them ever again. There is barely an infrastructure there for rock n’ roll anymore and that’s just really fucking depressing man.
There are lots of labels out there with good intentions but just don’t have the money to support the artists. Can you imagine if David Bowie’s label didn’t finance him while he was going through his phases? That’s proof that things can change and morph into beautiful, amazing things. There just has to be some breathing room for the artists to express themselves and try new things. Nowadays, there has to be a turnkey of sorts like you need a certain amount of social networking likes, you have to be seen to be able to tour with this band and that band etc. I mean, can you picture Bon Scott taking a selfie? No fucking way man. It’s all bullshit. It’s a different fucking ballgame and only seems to be getting worse as each year rolls by.
The mysteriousness of rock n’ roll has been taken away with the increase of social technology. You can go on your phone and get onto a band’s facebook page and troll them out like “hey! You Fucking suck”. Everybody thinks they are entitled to give their statement or critique on something without actually really bothering to understand the essence of what it is they are shitting on.
OD – Do you see a lot of that happening?
TUK – We have people now saying to us, “You guys have changed since you’ve been making money” and by that, they mean since we got signed to Earache Records. People are just so fucking stupid and they don’t need a fucking licence to get online and publish their bullshit. Just because you sign a record deal doesn’t make you rich!
I’m probably poorer now than I have ever been in my life because I can’t work part-time. That’s the fucking reality of rock n’ roll 2017 kids! (laughing) I don’t play rock n’ roll for the fucking money or the fame – I do it because I love it and it makes me feel alive!
It’s not a gimmick, because who would want to live like this? If I just wanted to be “cool”, I would do something else for a living. Yeah, there’s a big misconception when it comes to this business. Hopefully, something changes in the music industry and people just get sick of the fucking garbage that is flooding the charts. I can only hope man.
OD – What’s on the schedule now that you’ve finished up with the Blackberry Smoke tour?
TUK – Well, we can’t find anyone to tour with, so we’re just gonna go out on our own and do an American tour. I’m just so thankful that Blackberry Smoke took us out on that tour because it’s been difficult to find bands to take us out that are kind of the same genre, but bigger and more established.
We’ve been touring the bars and clubs of America since we started, so we’ll just get back on that horse again and ride hard from city to city. We really just want to get on some really good support tours, as it helps us reach a bigger audience and to play in places that we normally wouldn’t get the chance to otherwise.
There really is no budget for support bands anymore and I keep hearing about “buy-on” now which is a shame. The Raskins got onto the Motley Crue tour with a price tag that was fucking insane. You’ll find that a lot of bands will have children from famous rock stars in them and they miraculously seem to be getting a lot of really high profile touring support slots. I don’t like to focus on negativity but the other side of it, I don’t want to fucking lie. There are things in this business that are just so fucked up and not straight forward and that really needs to change.
OD – Given the chance, who would you love to jam with and on what particular tour in what year?
TUK – I would love to write a song with Tom Petty because he’s one of my all time favourite songwriters as well as Rick Nelson (Cheap Trick). I even like Ryan Adams also you know? I’m not all about the ROCK all the time (laughing). I just like really good music that’s written from the soul.
Most people tend to forget that under the famous facades that people like Bowie or Marc Bolan (T-Rex) had, they were master songwriters, through and through! That’s the stuff I really care about, bands of today don’t really craft their songwriting ability enough and it reflects in the music. The heavy music of today is based on breakdowns and who can sound more heavy-as-fuck without putting a real craft into it and letting the lyrics/music breath. They just string together a bunch of silly-ass parts and call it a song, instead of actually painting something that could be timeless.
That’s one of my goals as a musician. I just want the songs to be so good that they feel timeless. You have to understand I’m trying so hard to achieve this and it’s fucking hard man. The world is expanding faster and things are changing at a rapid rate and I just want to try my best to make something last amongst all of the madness and chaotic frenzy.
OD – Are you a vinyl collector and if so do you have a record that is very special to you?
TUK – All of my favourite things in life came out before I was born. So yeah, I’m a huge vinyl collector. One of my favourite things to do is get jacked up on coffee and go vinyl shopping. I’m a huge fan of Silverhead and one time when I was in Buffalo, NY and I had been saving my per diem to go vinyl shopping. I was in this store and low and behold they had both Silverhead records I was looking for! That was a good fucking day man. I have those albums framed. I love those albums.
For more information on Biters, please click here.
BITERS – ‘THE FUTURE AIN’T WHAT IT USED TO BE’ MAY 19th VIA EARACHE.
© OVERDRIVE.IE 2017