As we are led into the backstage matrix of dressing rooms and production offices in Ireland’s 3Arena, there is a hive of activity in preparation for tonight’s Nickelback / Monster Truck show. While crew members and venue staff brace themselves for the masses of punters who wait patiently for the doors to open, we find Monster Truck’s vocalist / bassist Jon Harvey and Brandon Bliss (keys) in the far more tranquil setting of their comfortable dressing room.
OD – First of all, let’s talk about this killer new album of yours. Sittin Heavy has been out now for the guts of a year and has seen you guys touring the material on said album, do you find that the arrangements of the songs have changed a little because of your familiarity with them since you first recorded them?
JON – I not really, I guess the more we are playing that material, the more we get comfortable with it and can kind of jam with it a little. The vocal melodies are something that we sometimes have a little fun with. Other than that, there really is not that much a difference from what you are hearing on the album.
BRANDON – I tend to record more than I can play with two hands, so my stuff changes slightly when playing live, but once I find that balance of translating it live, it just kind of settles into its own groove, so to speak. I think everything evolves over time and in this case, it’s just ever so slightly.
OD – This particular tour with Nickleback seems to be going well. Have there been any highlights or lowlights that you would like to comment on?
JON – Things have been really great. We have had a lot of time off, to be honest, which has been nice.
BRANDON – I guess when you tour on a tour of this scale, the crew can be working for anything up to 16 hours a day, so it’s not really possible to be able to do five shows a week like we’re used to when playing in clubs. We are just not used to the gap between shows and usually go from one show to the other, so while the Nickelback crew have been taking a few days off here and there, we have continued to work, doing some side shows here and there. For example, the tour has had five days off, so we continued and did some shows over in France and some press in London which was awesome. So we haven’t really had any kind of a break. But that’s the way we like it! (laughing)
In some ways, it actually feels like a tour that we are more familiar with, having one thing happening after another and a constant flow of momentum.
OD – I can only assume that one of the benefits of doing a big arena tour like this, is that you get to splinter away and do some smaller club shows in territories that you would normally not get to?
JON – Yeah totally. I mean as long as the headlining band don’t care then it’s cool. In this case, Nickelback didn’t have a scheduled French date, so it the whole thing just made perfect sense for us to do. You have to understand that we are a long way from home right now and we need to make the most of all opportunities that are presented to us. It’s so expensive to take a band out on the road and when we are doing a tour like this and we have the option to play in cities and towns that we normally wouldn’t be able to get to, we’re gonna grab that opportunity with two hands.
BRANDON – It costs a whole bunch of money to get over here, so when we’re here, we want to take advantage of the situation.
OD – Speaking of the side shows, how did they go for you?
BRANDON – Those French shows were great! We are lucky enough to have a great press team in Mascot, who have been working really hard to get our name out there. Mascot sub-contract press for different areas and they had the absolute guru of press working our French dates, so the reception we received at the shows was fantastic.
France is one of the countries that has really been “business as usual” for us since Furiosity came out and even though we changed labels during that time, things have just been progressively getting better over there for Monster Truck. I think it’s got something to do with their annual metal / rock festival Hellfest, which just keeps growing and getting bigger and better every year. People can see that the more interest then has in going to the shows or the festivals, the more bands will come to their country to tour.
OD – There is no question that Hellfest is one of the supreme metal festivals in Europe as they always manage to get a sensational line-up of bands each year. Have you guys ever played Hellfest or had the offer to be part of it?
JON – No we have never had the opportunity to play Hellfest and it’s something that we all would really like to happen in the near future. For us living in Canada can be troublesome at times as we would love to play all the festivals in Europe but as Brandon said earlier, it’s so expensive to make that journey halfway across the globe.
OD – Speaking of shows, Monster Truck have been on some fantastic tours. The last time you were here in Ireland was with Slash and I believe that you have toured with Alice Cooper, Deep Purple and a host of many classic bands.
BRANDON – Deep Purple was one of the very first “big” shows that we had done. I think that was almost five years ago now, which was just such an incredible experience. We also played with Alice In Chains and a short run of dates with Alterbridge and also Rival Sons. We are just trying to play with as many of these iconic bands as possible and we are so lucky that those bands really like us and want us to come back for m0re dates.
For instance, this is our second time out on the road with Nickelback, as we did Australia with them in May of last year.
OD – When you find yourself on these large arena tours with bands that have been in the game for a long time, do you find yourself paying attention to the way everything is being run behind the scenes, as I know there is a great deal of logistics involved when taking a tour, of not only this magnitude but any size out on the road?
BRANDON – We totally pay attention to the way things are being operated. It’s fascinating to see the way these massive tours are budgeted and all the intrinsic planning for each date is composed and executed.
JON – In a lot of cases, these big tours are very different to the touring situations that we are normally used to. It’s very interesting to be around and see how it’s all put together. Hopefully one day we’ll be headlining large arena’s with a healthy tour budget. (laughing).
BRANDON – There’s a reason why bands of this size are playing in arena-sized venues and have a large budget and we are trying to pick up on the subtleties of the working model for getting to this level.
OD – So this is your second time performing in Ireland and there are not many bands that can say the only venue that has played in any particular country is an arena! What are the chances of seeing an extensive European headline tour for Monster Truck in the near future?
JON – (laughing) I know man, it’s crazy! We have been to Ireland a total of two times and both shows have been in an arena!
BRANDON – I think that we have just been so busy trying to work the album in all the different territories that whenever we come over here (Europe), there are just so many places to go to and only a certain amount of time and money to do it. It’s very difficult to make it to all the different cities and towns in Europe and can be a logistical nightmare at times. We really haven’t done any extensive tours of any kind really, including the UK, which we have played the most in terms of away from home.
Maybe it’s time to star thinking about doing a long extensive European tour and making it over to places that we normally can’t usually get to.
JON – It will happen one day. It’s just got to be the right time for us as a band. We are finding ourselves over here more frequent now and with more interest in the band, it’s bound to happen sooner rather than later.
OD – Talking about the album Sittin’ Heavy and the decision to with Mascot Label Group for the distribution, did you find that there was a dramatic difference as soon as you brought out the album as opposed to just going through Dine Alone Records (Canadian distribution) on Furiosity?
BRANON – Actually yeah! Mascot only put Sittin Heavy out in Europe and the UK and we have really noticed a difference with things on this particular release. The album was released by Dine Alone Records in Canada and America and is sub-licenced to South American and Australia etc. Mascot really knows the Europen market really well and have offices in a bunch of key European locations which is a huge bonus for us. They have had a lot of success and are just super-cool to work with.
Because of that, we have noticed a big difference in working with Mascot. The shows have been steadily getting bigger and the general interest in the band is starting to gather momentum, much more than what we experienced with the previous album, Furiosity which is just great to see.
OD – There seems to be a real locality with bands in Canada given the vast size of the country. Would it be right to assume that the metal / rock scene crosses paths quite a bit?
JON – There’s always some kind of music event happen over there like Canadian Music Week, which is kind of like SXSW and you get to meet a lot of the other bands, which is cool. We’re kind of out of the punk and metal scene now in Canada and more in the mainstream scene so it’s more likely that we would be running into Michael Bublé now rather than the guys in Annihilator. (laughing)
OD – Finally, can you both tell us your essential selection of albums that you don’t go on tour without?
BRANDON – I would have to say Bat Out of Hell (Meatloaf) which has been a part of my life since I was a kid. That album was actually the first time I was introduced to the sound of a guitar running through a Marshall amplifier!
JON – My Dad has a huge record collection. I’m not joking! He has something like 12,000 in the basement and like 30,000 upstairs in the house! It’s fucking crazy man. My parents just moved house and he had to hire a moving company, just for his records! He has just about everything you could think of like mono Beatles stuff, mono Rolling Stones stuff. You name it, he probably has it.
He’s got relly old Library of Congress and Leadbelly Recordings stuff up to John Lee Hooker releases on Impulse Jazz label. He’s got it all, seriously you just name it and he’s most likely gonna have it. He’s a total nutbar! (laughing) In his older age, he’s started getting into super-obscure prog and sometimes when I’m home all I can hear is this totally far-out stuff. In saying that, I really grew up with so much music at my disposal but what really got me into playing music was Fugazi. That was totally my jam.
I remember the first time I heard them and I was a little punk who was listening to the Ramones all the time and I had this work placement job in a record label during high school and my buddy was like: “come down to the basement, I got something for you to hear”. At the time I was a total straight-edge and he gets this record and puts it on the turntable, lit a joint and we just sat there listening to Fugazi and I got totally baked and as they say, the rest is history! (laughing)
It totally changed my life and I was like: “I guess I have to be in a band now!” So, basically, I don’t really leave home without some Fugazi tunes. They are the reason why I started playing music.
Monster Truck are currently on tour with Nickelback across Europe and the UK. Check out the dates on the graphic below. Sittin’ Heavy is out now via Mascot Label Group and Dine Alone Records, get your copy here.
© OVERDRIVE 2016