As we finally enter the (thankfully) warm venue, a hub of activity bursts from all around us as stage techs, security and merch staff beaver away before the 6.30pm doors. The Raven Age will be opening for the mighty Anthrax tonight making this their second show on the tour and more importantly a hometown gig for the London five piece. No pressure then!
We are greeted by a chirpy and pleasant George Harris, who of all people, is used to this environment due to his Dad’s slightly successful legacy, as world renowned bass player for the one and only Iron Maiden. With all the chit-chat aside, we settle down and get up to speed on all the recent happenings withing The Raven Age camp.
OD – Firstly let’s get a little background on the band as I know you’ve had your fair share of tours to date. When did you get to a point when you were going out on the road with the likes of Maiden?
GEORGE – We went out with Maiden last year for six months which was just amazing for such a young band. We visited six continents and was just whizzing around on Ed Force One. The whole experience was just mind-blowing, to be honest. For us, as musicians, it was just incredible. Getting that type of experience in front of crowds of that size did so much for us personally as a band. We played with some really great bands over the years with the likes of Mastodon, Ghost, Tremonti and Opeth which we are just so grateful for. Considering we played our first show in 2013, we can’t get over the amount of experience we have had and the opportunities that have come our way.
OD– That’s a very impressive tour legacy for such a young band?
GEORGE – Yes, I know it is and I’m beyond grateful for each and every one of those shows. We released our first EP back in 2014 and the day it came out, we were actually playing Sonisphere and it was our drummer’s birthday, so the entire day was just so special to all of us. Looking back, it’s just been an amazing roller coaster ride so far.
OD – Speaking of Maiden, how do you even comprehend playing on the same bill as a legendary band like that? I’m just thinking about the size of the venues which must have been mind- blowing?
GEORGE – It is really weird. Before we actually did any shows with Maiden the biggest show we had ever played was with Tremonti and that was something like 2,500 punters. The the first Iron Maiden show was in a hockey stadium in Fort Lauderdale in America and it was 22,000. Can you imagine walking out on a stage that size? To be honest there weren’t 22,000 punters there when we played but it was still just insane to be playing to a venue that size.
That was the very first show we did with Maiden and we were so nervous. I remember there being a problem with the ticket scanners and people were delayed coming into the venue, which just added to the pre-performance nerves. It took us a few gigs to get settled in and then once we were, the shows then began down in South American in football stadiums and that was just a whole new level of mental (laughing).
OD – What did you take away in terms of experience from playing those massive shows? Was there any one key experience for you personally or for the band in general?
GEORGE – I think really is was kind of intimidating, to begin with, especially the vast size of the stage. I was very self-conscious of not just standing there playing. We knew we had to fill that stage and bring a little presence to the show. There was something like five meters on either side from where we were all playing which was very strange for us as we’re used to way smaller stages. Although we were playing the same set of songs we had to express ourselves in a different way which was kind of alien to us. It was weird but a good kind of weird (laughing).
OD – So you have just been signed to BMG, how long had you been floating for a label prior to the announcement last week?
GEORGE – Well, we knew about it for quite a while. After the Maiden tour, there were a few labels that were showing a bit of interest and during the time we were dead set on doing things by ourselves. We really wanted to release the album independently and were aiming for December 2016 but BMG became involved around October.
The appeal for us towards BMG was they liked how we had been working and managing ourselves. We actually still don’t have a manager and do everything ourselves. BMG just really like everything we had been doing from our artwork to the way we had been touring as much as possible.
OD – So it would be right to say that The Raven Age have done a lot of “grass rooted” stuff during your short, however successful legacy?
GEORGE – Yeah, they just really saw all of that as part of who we are as a band. The reason that things took so long for an official announcement to be made was due to contracts and all of that legal business end of things. We had originally planned to make our deal with BMG public before Christmas but a few things happened and it got pushed back even further, but the most important thing is that it’s finally happened and is out there, so we can just move forward now at the pace we want to.
OD – Speaking of Darkness Will Rise, it’s a great big whopper of an album with 13 tracks. How much material did you actually have prior to putting the final track listing together?
GEORGE – We had an album’s worth of material well before hitting the studio. We actually included some of the material from our first EP because it just worked so well, dynamically alongside the new material we had written. They are remastered versions of the tracks and are very important with reference to who The Raven Age are as a band. Some of the tracks are slightly different, just to let you know! It’s not like we just lifted material from the EP and slung it on the new album (laughing).
OD – It’s probably a good thing to now look at all of your recorded material as one body of work with reference to moving forward and writing in the future. Almost releasing the shackles of a young band into maturity.
GEORGE – Yeah, that exactly right! It’s just such a great feeling to get the album out and know that we have 13 tracks lasting just over 77 minutes of who we are and where we came from with reference to our musical journey both past and present. Kind of like a marriage of then and now.
OD – Can you talk me through the general concept of the album in terms of lyrics and sense of emotion that you wanted to capture?
GEORGE – Actually, we did something that ended up being a great tool to help us with the decision of the track listing. We all happened to be on a Skype call and agreed to make a list of 1 through 13 and decide what tracks should go where and in what order. The catch was none of us was going to confide with one another and just submit our individual lists.
It was so weird as myself and Dan (Wright – Guitar) had picked the exact first seven songs exactly the same. It was one of the strangest things and to be honest we were all pretty much thinking the same in terms of the tracklisting which made things a little easier.
OD – When you began working with Matt Hyde (Producer) in Barnyard Studio’s did you find yourself totally prepared or was there a lot of changes that occurred from working with Matt?
GEORGE – We pretty much had everything down and with only a few changes here and there. The structure was totally there from when we started working with Matt, so it was really just a few issues regarding tone and atmosphere. Matt is really great to work with as he was with us when we did our EP. He really get’s the band and what we are going for all the while keeping things open for us to change and throw ideas around.
OD – You’ve just released “Salem’s Fate” with quite a large production video. Will we be seeing more extravagant videos coming from the album over the coming months?
GEORGE – Yes, there are more plans for another video. After we get off this tour with Anthrax, we’ll be getting things started with that. We have been talking about a few cool ideas that might work with our video director but for now, it’s just all talk.
We seem to be drawn to the whole “epic” storylines when it comes to doing videos, which you can definitely see with “Salem’s Fate” (laughing). We really like to show really good visuals with something different rather than a group of guys just playing instruments. You will absolutely see more videos are taken from the album in the coming months, that for sure.
OD – So this is a hometown show for you tonight (London), you have played in a vast amount of countries since the bands formed in 2013. Would you agree that just getting out there and playing live is the best thing that any band can do these days?
GEORGE – Yes, I totally believe that getting out there and doing it the old school way really is the best way. I know there are lots of bands that sit there twiddling their thumbs thinking “are we playing live too much?” I tend to think that the more you play live, the better musician you become. It’s really a simple concept that works. You can build up your confidence that will then reflect not only in your live performance but also in your songwriting and composition writing.
I can say from experience that we have entered tours thinking “yeah, I feel great about our performance and confidence as a band” and then when we finish the tour and look back we feel ten steps above where we were when we did that opening night of the tour.
OD – When you’re done with this tour with Anthrax, what is on the cards for the coming months? Are there any festival dates have yet to be announced?
GEORGE – Well, when it comes to the Summer we are hoping to be playing some of the festivals and doing some of our own shows. Nothing is confirmed as of yet, so it’s early days.
OD -From all the experience you have over the last four years touring the world, is there anything that you would change given the chance?
GEORGE – I wish we documented things a little better. We have been really crap at capturing footage of us on the road and especially some of those huge shows we did in South America. We’ve just done so much and I wish we had done more to document it. We’ve done a few tour diaries here and these but nothing that captures the true essence of when have experienced so far.
OD – In terms of goals, do you have any personal one’s that you would like to see happen in the near future when the album comes out?
GEORGE – Releasing our debut album under a major label can now be ticked off the bucket list (laughing). I think the next thing I would really like to see is us doing a headline tour. We’re still looking at some possible supports if that happens and once we get back to normal life after this run of dates with Anthrax, we’ll be talking about a headline tour for sure.
Catch The Raven Age on tour with Anthrax across Europe. Click here for latest tour dates.
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